Advanced Tactical Voting

There are a lot of people at this (and every other) election talking of voting tactically. Whether you should is an interesting ethical question – and one outside the scope of this blog post. The only thing I’ll say on the ethics is that many people voted Lib Dem at the last election to keep the Tories out. This is a guide coming from a keen amateur game designer for the would be tactical voters to making the best use of your vote under the First Past the Post system. A system designed for game playing rather than getting representative results. Continue reading

The Corral: Gold and Fiat Currencies

Money is a consensual myth. We currently have fiat money – money that is ultimately imaginary and only worth something because a government says it is, and people believe it and choose to treat it as if the money were real. And people work this out and think it’s ridiculous (it is). And that because it can print more money the government can devalue your savings (if your savings are in a sock under the bed it can; a house remains a house and a company a company regardless).

They then jump from there to one of a number of solutions – normally the Gold Standard, but there are other functionally indistinguishable ones including the Silver Standard, a price-fix based on a basket of commodities, and Bitcoin. And they all have the same flaws as fiat currency – you can’t eat them or take shelter under them and are only worth what people think they are. But rather than having a potential for the government printing more and thus reducing savings, they all suffer from the same thing. The Scrooge McDuck tax on everyone’s work.
Scrooge McDuck jumping into a pile of money

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A guide to tactical voting for pragmatists

“I want to vote Green, but it might let the Tories/Lib Dems in.” – a common refrain for anyone who spends long round the Green Party. I used to hear simmilar round the Liberal Democrats, and I’m sure some UKIP supporters hear the same thing.This is very seldom the case as our First Past the Post system has many issues.

In March 2015, the Electoral Reform Society declared the results of 364 of the 650 (56%) seats being contested. Their equivalent prediction in 2010 was 99.5% accurate (they  can’t predict personal scandals in the run up to the election). It’s unusually low this year due to the unprecidented rise of the SNP.

So where does tactical voting make sense? And in specific where will voting Green give the Tories a chance of getting in? To find out, we’re going to look at the Labour Party’s own numbers, as leaked to Buzzfeed last month. Continue reading

And I said “Now pretend you’ve got no money”

It’s coming up to Christmas – and I’ve already spoken about the Salvation Army.  There’s one other Christmas warning: Monopoly is only slightly a more suitable game than bare knuckle boxing.  Just don’t do it.

There are plenty of people who say monopoly sucks.  And as a game played at Christmas they are right.  But Monopoly is very good at what it was designed to do (part of why it’s lasted).  It’s just not suited for a family game (but is far better if you use the actual rules).

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Forward Thinking: Pragmatic Utopian Ideals

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

– Martin Luther King

This  is the first Forward Thinking project I consider genuinely easy.  What would I do for a safety net if I ruled the world?  Simple.  Single Payer Healthcare Free at Point of Delivery plus Guaranteed Income.  And then look for anyone who slipped between the cracks or didn’t get the help they needed and fix that.

Sounds utopian?  Possibly it is.  The NHS is quite simply much more cost efficient than almost any other healthcare model out there with the possible exception of Japan.  Its main problems stem from having two thirds the per capita funding of France or Germany and less per capita government funding than the US healthcare model; I’ve been into this in more detail on my blog previously.  And trials of Citizen’s Income/Negative Income Tax such as Mincome (Canada) and BigNam (Namibia) have generally been spectacularly successful in terms of outcome to the recipients.

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Weaving worlds: Yes but games should produce stories

In my penultimate post in this series I mentioned Ron Edwards and the Forge.  The Forge closed down in 2005, having done its job (and Ron Edwards ensuring that he was controversial  by talking about bad games giving people brain damage) – and most of the community there moved to Story-Games.  And they’ve been producing interesting enough games that they are worth the final post in this series.  Story Games tend to have seven aspects; three which are common in the Forge-ist narrative RPGs of my previous article and almost ubiquitous in the Story-Games wave, and four that are almost distinguishing features of what are often referred to as Story Games.

The three that are common in the Forge-ist RPGs are:

  • Challenge Based Resolution
  • Fail Forward
  • Everyone designing the universe

And the four that are almost distinguishing marks of this wave are:

  • “Yes-but” resolution
  • Intentional, rules-mediated inter-PC drama
  • Less, or even no role for the GM
  • Actions matter more than potential

I’m also going to mention four games in this category (or three and one hybrid toolkit game) and why they are awesome to illustrate this wave of games:

  • Leverage
  • Monsterhearts
  • Fiasco
  • WFRP 3e

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Forging Motivation: Game Design Is Mind Control

(Game Design is Mind Control was the title of a talk given by Luke Crane; one of the best things on the internet about game design this side of Mark Rosewater’s blog on Magic the Gathering).

Where I left things last time was with D&D and White Wolf largely dominating the market.  There were good games being produced – but the market was being dominated by the two major game systems.  And people were noticing that the so-called Storyteller system didn’t really bring anything to help you tell stories or make them more intense, or even help you really get into character – which wasn’t a good thing for something that was supposedly a roleplaying game.  Something needed fixing.  And (arguably) something was.

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But we’re gonna smash that bastard, make him want to change his name…

Like a number of my blog essays, this is a response to a Forward Thinking prompt – this one on the subject of cruelty.  I also might entirely be heading off in the wrong direction here.  (The blog title comes from the opening to the musical Chess).

I started out thinking of the topic of cruelty by doing the obvious – a websearch to see what people had said.  Although the Psychology Today column was interesting nothing I turned up whether vanilla or kinky had much to say on why people are cruel.  And searching for cruelty’s very close cousin, teasing, produced even less useful results (and a lot more kink).  But I don’t think you can get to grips with cruelty without understanding teasing.  I think I have an answer – but this is only what I can come up with.

Cruelty and teasing are both about security. Continue reading

Storyteller tell me a Story: Major RPG Business models of the 90s and 00s

Where we left my history of the trends in RPGs last time we were in the 1980s and looking at toolbox games such as GURPS that were (in theory) able to handle anything.  In theory.  In practice the running joke is that it doesn’t matter which setting you’re playing GURPS in, it feels like GURPS.

The 1990s were a completely different decade as far as roleplaying games go, and dominated almost entirely by two companies.  TSR, makers of D&D, and the new kids on the block, White Wolf Publishing, makers of Vampire the Masquerade and other related games.  By the end of the 1990s, TSR lay dead from a self-inflicted wound, and White Wolf were taken over a handful of years later despite at one point (with very favourable circumstances) outselling TSR.  In both cases these grievous wounds were, in my opinion, a consequence of their publishing model – and Wizards of the Coast, who bought the bankrupt TSR (and I’ll deal with D&D 3e in this post), would echo  White Wolf’s self-inflicted wound with D&D 4e.

There were good games, improvements on what came before or innovations being published in the 1990s; Over the Edge, Everway, Feng Shui (what better name for an action movie RPG than the art of furniture arrangement?), and FUDGE (we’ll come back to a game based on it next time) to name the first few that spring to mind.  There were also dozens of Fantasy Heartbreakers; D&D derivatives that made one or two major innovations but were basically houseruled D&D.

But really the story of 90s and early 00s roleplaying is dominated by D&D (both TSR and Wizards of the Coast), White Wolf, and their business models and how they all ultimately lead to major self-inflicted wounds on the parent company.

  • TSR and AD&D 2e

  • White Wolf, Vampire: the Masquerade, and the rest of the World of Darkness

  • Wizards of the Coast and D&D 3e

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