Mike Shea, 27 April 2010
Facebook's new "like" system is another method for Facebook to capitalize off of my attention. I don't mind this too much but I mind that I can't get my own micro-content back OUT of Facebook once I have given it over. It may seem like a binary bit of data we're giving out, but that bit of data, has VALUE and it's a value that we are giving away for free to a company that is profiting from it.
Think about how you spend the value of your attention and how you can keep that value in your own control. Do you really own your micro-content? How can you get it back?
There's a lot of articles written about the new "like" button that Facebook is spreading across the internets like the Spanish flu in 1918. Very soon, if not already, websites will have a "Like" button. When you click it, Facebook passes the page you liked to your friends on your status update. It can also track how many people liked it and share that as well.
Pretty benign, sure. Who really cares. It's a nice fast way to share what you're looking at, what you're enjoying with your friends. How can that be bad?
Of course there's a marketing component to this on Facebook's end. They can watch trends, focus product advertisements, and sell terabytes of marketing data to third parties. I'm not really bothered by that. They go through the trouble of building the infrastructure; let them have the data.
But I want it too. You see, even that little single "like" click is a piece of data I have created. It might not seem like much, but it's a piece of micro-content that I should own. For nuts like me who want to control and archive their data, that's a piece of data I would like to preserve. I want to know what I "liked" back ten years ago. I want to store that with every other bit of content I'm creating including blog posts, tweets, Flickr photos, even my Xbox 360 habits. This is my data and I want it.
This is where Facebook chaps my ass. They say they're running an "open" platform but there's nothing open about it. It's a one-way funnel into their massive databases with no ability for me to draw my data back out again.
People give Apple all sorts of shit for a closed proprietary platform. They probably deserve the reputation. My justification for embracing Apple stuff like I do is that at least my data are my own. This is becoming less and less true as I buy more TV shows from iTunes, but my music, my podcasts, my documents, my pictures; I can pull all of this out and stick it somewhere else. I can cram it onto a hard drive, seal it in an argon-filled titanium canister and bury it in my back yard for 10,000 years.
I can't do that with my Facebook stuff, though. There isn't a "get all your crap out of Facebook" button. There isn't an ability to share my data with other systems I might want to feed it to. The data ceases to become my own and instead becomes the property of Facebook. Again, most people probably don't care. They think Facebook will be around forever or they think their stuff isn't important so what do they care?
But I care.
I don't really have a solution for something like this. I use Ping.fm to post items instead of Facebook, so I can push to Twitter and Facebook. I have a web script that reaches out and pulls all my tweets and blogs and favorites and what-not and sticks them into a single flat HTML file. This can all be found at my autojournal site. It's not perfect. The data is all stripped from context and removed from the stream, but it's something.
We need to take ownership of our data again, however small it is. We need to stop just assuming sites know how to hold it and preserve it. I think it will take a major loss of data to wake people up to the situation. Flickr will have to explode or Gmail will have to purge a bunch of email before people realize how fragile this whole cloud thing is.
In the mean time, however, I won't be clicking on any "like" buttons. I'll be using a hodgepodge of Bitly and Ping.FM to let you know what I like. It's far from perfect but at least my data is still my own.
When writing the script for his films, Quinten Tarrantino likes to sit in his music room spinning 78s of his favorite yet forgotten tunes to get his mind wandering.
“I am always looking for some cool song that I could use as a big set piece. I’ll finish work and I’ll go into my record room and I’ll put on some song, and literally, I can see it on the screen.” Tarrantino says.
Like a great soundtrack to an action movie, music can have a big impact on our D&D games. Today we’re going to look at three ways to use music to make our D&D games better.
Music for Storybuilding
Writers have long known that the actual act of story building often occurs far away from the keyboard. Our imaginations are always working, stealing little bits and pieces from every aspect of our lives. Sometimes we need a bit of a catalyst, though. Something to make the creative flow run a little smoother. Music serves this purpose very well. The music doesn’t always need to make sense. I wrote an entire fantasy novel around the music of Elliott Smith and Nouvelle Vauge, putting it together scene by scene during my daily commute.
Music lets our mind wander. It sets us free to explore our imaginations without requiring our attention to actually directly listen. It drowns out the interruptions we might otherwise take in. Like Tarrantino, take the time to just sit and spin your favorite tunes while letting your mind wander
The Eclectic Musical Soundtrack
A lot of DMs use period music or classical video game music to set the background for their games. This is a great use for music and helps build a great backdrop for their story. This isn’t the only way, however. Like Tarrantino’s use of Cat People in the middle of Inglourious Basterds, the music doesn’t always have to make sense. Does Madonna’s Hung Up seem to fit the them of your Kurosawa-style Seven Samurai campaign? Use it and don’t look back!
I find that a good mix of classical and instrumental music mixed with some 70s, 80s, 90s, and modern pop tunes keeps the tempo and pace of my game moving along well. In my current D&D mix, I have a mix of Rolling Stones, 80s one-hit wonders, Midnight Syndicate instrumental music, game soundtracks from Halo, Diablo 2, and Mass Effect, and, Gods help me, even a little taste of Lady Gaga. Find your own ideal mix of tunes to work in the backdrop of your campaign.
Music works best when its transparent in your game. Don’t make it too loud and keep the speakers directed AWAY from your gaming group. Ambiance is the key. I keep a pair of amplified speakers on the floor of our dining room where we play, muffled by our chairs, our bodies, and the bottom of the table. It keeps the focus where it should be, on the game itself.
PC Theme Song Mechanics
I first heard about this idea from Greg Bilsland’s house rules. Essentially there is no reason you can’t have music actually directly effect your game. In Bilsland’s example, characters gain a free action point usable on their next turn any time their character’s theme song comes up. I’ve modified this slightly into the following power:
Your heart surges as your theme music comes into play, filling you with an unstoppable power.
Action Point, triggered when this PC’s theme song comes up
Gain one action point which can only be used during this character’s next turn. This action point gains any benefits any action point would receive. In addition, any attack roll made using this action point gains an increase in critical hit threat range by 1. For example, if a character’s attack would normally crit on 19 and 20, on this attack it crits on 18, 19, or 20.
This sort of effect adds exactly the sort of cinematic scene we can imagine in a good action flick. The theme song comes on, our hero in the spotlight pushes everyone out of the way, and in a slow motion leap, cuts deep into the villainous mastermind with a wide-bladed axe.
The key to success is to add these theme songs to a good-sized playlist that is long but not too long. While I’m still tweaking it, a four to 7 hour play list (about 100 songs) will give one to two theme songs per game. You will want this play list long enough so a theme song comes up once or twice a game, although you can adjust to taste.
The exact song a player chooses can have as wide a range as you can imagine. One paladin might choose O Fortuna while a Warlord might choose Yackety Sax.
Music can have a big impact on your game. Whether you use it to help you generate ideas for your story, use it as a backdrop for the game itself, or actually use it as a mechanic in your game, spend some time considering how music can help your own game.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider using these links to purchase Corvus Corax’s Viator, the Midnight Syndicate’s Dungeons and Dragons soundtrack, or Mass Effect 2 Soundtrack. All excellent musical tracks to fill in your D&D game playlists. You can also use this link to purchase anything from Amazon. You can also visit Troll and Toad, an official Sly Flourish sponsor for any of your gaming supply needs.
Newbiedm, Sly Flourish and I have all been talking about making Solo monsters with a bit more kick. The best model that I can conjure up for how solos should feel is on basis of World of warcraft. Im not saying that you should need an army of PCs to fight a solo (though Rob Donoghue did a good take on this some time back). MMO bosses are great to study because they are consistently fun. Any time something is consistently fun you have something that you can find patterns in and build off of.
So what do MMOs have that we want?
I promised Limit Break monsters some time ago, buut the journey had been much longer than I anticipated. But now I present worldbreakers and lawbreakers. Both types of solos can be used in any campaign to make a solo that jumps off of the battlemat and engages the players in new ways.
Worldbreakers are creatures of such physical or supernatural power that they are capable of transforming and altering the environment with their powers. With one action, the worldbreaker solo can change the whole map or cause a massive status effect to all opponents. Worldbreakers typically represent solos that are Large or bigger, capturing their presence and raw power.
Lawbreakers have incredible talents and unique abilities that allow them to transform reality and game physics around them. Lawbreakers maintain an aura around them that changes the rules of the game. Lawbreakers are meant for standard humanoids of Large or less side, highlighting talents or abilities taken to an extreme.
In this article we will deal with worldbreaker solos.
A WorldBreaker Solo has powers with the keyword worldbreaker.
Whenever a power with that Keyword is used, all negative status effects and conditions that require a save are removed.
All Worldbreaker powers have a number after the keyword (worldbreaker 2, worldbreaker 3, etc) . This is the breaker timer, which decrements at the beginning of the creatures turn. When the counter has reached 0, the power can be used again. So worldbreaker 4 can be used every fourth round. Worldbreaker powers effect every creature on the map unless stated otherwise.
A worldbreaker power will cause either a change to terrain, a status effect to be temporarily applied to some or all players, or a mix of both.Worldbreaker effects should last 1d4 turns at the most.
Each worldbreaker power also has one to two powers that can be used only while the worldbreaker power is in effect. These powers are followup special attacks that represents what the monster does once it changes the world.
When creating the initial world breaker power, you want to do one of the following:
NOTE:The worldbreaker power does not roll to hit! This power applies its effects automatically. It is crucial to limit damage output if there is any. The initial power changes the battlefield and sets up the followup powers that can do damage.
Youll want to pick themes that represent what the monster does best. A monster that is based on cold damage might slow or temporarily petrify foes, while a fire monster may create several fire hazards on the board.
Next we create powers that can be used only during the duration of the worldbreaker. Such powers can and should get rreally creative. Suggestions for the attack are:
Follow up powers should never apply effects automatically, requiring a test of some sort whether it is an attack roll from the solo or a skill check from players.
Bilfaaz the White Dragon has the worldbreaker power Winters Fury. He uses this power to create a brief but intense snowstorm that lasts for 1d4 turns, blinding and slowing all characters on the battlemap. Bilfaaz is removed from the map, and now has access to two new powers: Snowblind Pounce and FrostDread. Snowblind Pounce forces an opposed check between the PCs Perception and tthe Dragons Stealth. Every PC that rolls lower than Bilfaazs Stealth is hit by the dragon and takes extra damage. FrostDread creates snow tendrils that attempt to attack the PCs and strangle them. This is represented by a short skill challenge.
Thrune the Gorgon has the worldbreaker power Thundering Earth. Thrune stomps his hooves and sets up termors underneath the earth, placing three tremor hazards around the board. And player affected by the trap gets pushed and knocked prone. While Thundering Earth is in effect, Thrune can use Gorgons Legion or GoreStorm Trample. Gorgons Legion creates several minions based of Thrunes petrifying gas. Each minion is immune to the tremors of Thundering Earth and can deliver the effect of the petrifying gaze on hit. Gorestorm Trample allows the gorgon to perform a trample attack for increased damage to one PC in range of a tremor hazard.
Hewlett-Packard has killed off its much ballyhooed Windows 7 tablet computer, says a source whos been briefed on the matter.
If true, that means Steve Ballmer got up on stage for his CES keynote to promote a slate that will never actually ship.