Multitasking Friday

So many things:

  • Took Scully for a long walk this morning to distract her from the fact that my wife was going to work without her. She gets upset if my wife leaves home and leaves her behind – but is okay if I take her out for a walk, and get back home and my wife isn’t here.
  • A bit later I took Scully to doggie daycare, which was the reason why my wife didn’t take her to work like usual.
  • Got home and started working on some comics.
  • Realised I was supposed to do the grocery shopping today! Raced off to the supermarket.
  • Had some sushi for lunch. Since I was out at the shops at lunch time now.
  • Worked some more on comics.
  • Went to pick up Scully from daycare.
  • Went out for dinner to the local pizza place with wife and Scully
  • Now doing inter-calary fortnightly games night online with the guys. We’re playing Draftosaurus.

New content today:

Super surprise escape birthday

Friday night was scheduled fortnightly games night, but the wife of one of our team hijacked it for a special birthday surprise for her husband. She organised an evening for the group beginning with an escape room followed by dinner at a nearby pub. The rest of us arrived at the escape room early, and then the birthday boy showed up, blindfolded, having being driven there by his wife and kids. He had no idea where he was, so it was a good surprise.

We had a team of 7, and we did the hardest room that the company had. The (slightly contrived) premise was that we’d committed a murder. The police had begun investigating, but had gone on lunch break for one hour, and so we had returned to the scene of the crime to retrieve a crucial piece of evidence, before the police find it. So we had an hour to enter the room and find the evidence before leaving.

What followed was a series of three connecting rooms, with an array of puzzles and tricks to navigate. We had to find the combinations of several locks, which opened to give us access to further clues. At one point we realised we needed a battery to power a certain item, and so we had to search the rooms for something that had a battery in it and remove it to use it. There was a computer which we had to break into by finding the password, and once in we had to print a file on the attached printer… but there were no sheets of paper! So we had had to search the rooms and unlock something else to find a sheet of paper. We culminated in figuring out the combination of a safe, which opened to reveal a bloody glove – which was the evidence we needed to retrieve. We completed the challenge in a little over 45 minutes, and it was very satisfying and a lot of fun.

I’d never done an escape room before (I think only two in our group had), but being keen puzzle creators and solvers we never really felt lost at any point, and our teamwork was really good. Everyone contributed, in ideas, in spotting clues that we needed, and in various physical manipulations that we had to do with equipment. It was a really great experience.

A few others joined us at the pub afterwards for dinner, and overall it was a great evening. Thanks to birthday boy’s wife for organising it!

Apart from that, really the inly thing I did earlier in the day was work on my slides for the Human Vision class I’m preparing for Monday. I’m nearly done, but still want to add a couple more.

New content today:

Virtual games night

Tonight is the interstitial virtual games night, between our fortnightly scheduled games night (that was face-to-face last week). I also have freedom to play because my wife is having a girls’ night out with her friends (and Scully).

I spent nearly all day working on Irregular Webcomic! strips, assembling comics form the photos I took on Wednesday. I managed to get all of the strips made, which was a marathon effort – it normally takes pretty much a full day to do this for a batch. I also started writing some of the annotations, but didn’t get far through those.

For dinner for myself I went for a walk to the fish and chip shop. Normally I get lunch here, and this may be the first time I’ve ever gone there to get dinner. It’s a nice change to the regular dinner things.

Now during games night so far we’ve been playing: Can’t Stop, Luxor, 7 Wonders. We’ll probably move on to Scattergories and Sketchful as the night goes on.

New content today:

Long weekend day 2

The heatwave has really hit today. Yesterday was hot, but today was hotter, and also more humid. Fortunately near the coast we had a sea breeze keeping things somewhat cool, and the CBD registered only 34°C, but some outer suburbs reached above 40°C. Over in South Australia Adelaide city reached 43°C and some suburbs got as high as 45°C.

So mostly today we rested indoors, trying to keep Scully from wanting to go outside too much. She has a weird thing she does when she goes outside in very hot weather. As soon as she leaves the shade and enters the sunlight, she lies down on the ground. I’m not sure if she likes sunbaking, or if it’s just suddenly all too much and all she can think to do is collapse. She doesn’t lie in the sun in cooler weather.

My wife and I made three more attempts at Codenames Duet Vatican City in our ongoing campaign. The first two games ended quickly as we picked assassins in early turns. But the third game was a nailbiter, and we got down to sudden death time with only one spy left to guess, and I had a clue, but it was very loose, because she’d had to indicate three words with her final clue. Unfortunately I chose the wrong word, and we lost by the closest margin possible. We shall have to give it another go another day.

We also watched the Doctor Who special “Twice Upon a Time” – the one which ends Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor and begins Jodie Whitaker’s. Yes, we’re a few seasons behind still – this is the first time we’ve watched up to this point.

And… for dinner I made potato salad. With purple potatoes. The local supermarket recently renovated a bit and now they have fancy potatoes, so I thought I’d try the purples one. They taste… just like potatoes. But they do look cool!

New content today:

Acronymble, Acro Quick

This morning I had to take the car to a service centre to get it inspected for roadworthiness, prior to renewing the registration. They told me it would take 30-45 minutes, but I ended up waiting for well over an hour. I did take a short walk a couple of blocks to the hardware store to look around and see if there was anything I needed to buy, but I didn’t find anything and that only took about 20 minutes, so I just had to sit around and wait.

Back home, I spent some time helping a friend debug a new Discord game he’s working on. It’s a word game in which players are given a short series of random letters, and a topic prompt, and then have to backform a phrase to fit the letters as an initialism. Examples from actual testing we did:

Disney Movie: DDHM

Answers: Dumbo Drops His Mixtape; Donald Duck Hates Mice

One (non-contributing) player then chooses the best response from the suggestions and the person who submitted it gets a point. The judge role then rotates and you go again. A fairly simple game, and we got the code to a state where we could play it in just a few hours.

In between I worked on writing and making some new Darths & Droids comics. And that was about it.

New content today:

Vatican City failures

My wife and I moved on to Vatican City in our ongoing Codenames Duet campaign game. Things are getting pretty difficult now. We had two attempts at it but failed to win both times. The games were tense and brain-busting.

Otherwise, it was a fairly relaxing day. We took Scully for a nice long walk in the morning.

I watched some cricket… India batted well all day and ended up on 336 runs, just 33 runs behind Australia’s first innings. With two days left to go, it’s going to be difficult for any team to force a win, especially given the forecast rainy weather. It may well be that India has done enough to avoid losing the game, instead forcing another draw, which will draw the 4-game series 1-1. And since they currently hold the Australia-India series trophy, they’ll retain it. Probably.

New content today:

D&D neighbours

I ran into a neighbour from our apartment complex today while we were out walking our respective dogs. His dog is Tex, a chihuahua, and Tex and Scully get along really well. They love playing together, and running rapid circles around the park across the street. It’s always good when they play together, because it wears them both out, and we know they’re going to be exhausted and quiescent during the evening.

Anyway, a few days ago my wife ran into the same guy and he was wearing a Dungeons & Dragons T-shirt. She asked him about it, and told him that I play D&D as well. Today was the first time I’ve seen him since then, so we chatted about it a bit. He said he played when he was a kid, but stopped for many years, only picking it up again recently when 4th Edition was current. And now he organises tournaments and uses them to raise money for charity. So that’s pretty cool.

I’ve noticed for a few years prior to this that another neighbour must be (or have been) into D&D as well. In one of the garages in the basement, a neighbour has a huge pile of D&D books, as well as piles of boxes of gaming miniatures and other stuff. The books there are mostly 2nd Edition, I think, so it’s possible this neighbour hasn’t played for a while. Unless they have more recent editions upstairs in the apartment. So in my building I know there are at least three people (including me) into D&D.

Weatherwise, we had more rain again today. Although it was confined to the morning, and the overcast broke up enough for a touch of sunshine around mid-afternoon, before closing in again. Now as I write, it’s sunset, and I can see some patches of blue sky. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get heavy rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon, so perhaps the morning will be dry.

What I really hate about this type of weather is the oppressive, unending humidity. It’s not hot, but it’s always just so sticky. Towels don’t dry – you can have a shower, and 24 hours later your bath towel that’s been hanging up all day is still damp. And hand towels stay damp all day from all the hand washing and drying. The pages of books go all crinkly from the humidity, and I worry about mould growing on stuff around the house. We have calcium chloride damp removers in the wardrobes and linen closet, and they fill up with water from the atmosphere in a few days, so I’m constantly having to change them. But at least you can see they’re removing moisture from the air. I should stick some more in some other storage places, maybe.

I finished writing that batch of Irregular Webcomic! today, ready for photography tomorrow. My wife returns to work tomorrow, so that will give me uninterrupted time to get it done. We were both concerned that she’d be ordered to work from home, given the current COVID situation here, but her work has told her to come into the office.

The news on COVID in Sydney is not good today. It’s been revealed that two staff at a liquor shop were infected and contagious while working several shifts over Christmas. Over 2000 people have been contacted directly from the customer COVID contact tracing register at the store, and they and all their subsequent close contacts (family and friends) have been ordered to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. That adds up to probably well over 10,000 people. Not all will have caught the virus, and hopefully the number will be low, but it’s concerning that the potential number is so high, and that it could easily spread further if some people are not diligent in isolating. We’ll see how this plays out in the next few days.

New content today:

Middle Head walk

The cool wet weather continues. I managed to get out for a decent walk during a break in the rain, driving over to the suburb of Mosman with my wife and Scully at lunch time. We did roughly this walk from Balmoral Beach up to Headland Park and back. There are some excellent views of Sydney Harbour from the top of the hill:

Middle Head panorama

Apart from that I tried to write Irregular Webcomic! scripts, but wasn’t in the groove, so didn’t get many done. More tomorrow!!

(I’m actually writing Friday 1 January’s entry on Saturday morning, because last night was fortnightly games night with my friends. With COVID raging in Sydney again, we did it virtually, playing games on Board Game Arena, followed by the traditional Sketchful.)

New content today:

Codenames progress

I forgot to say yesterday that my wife and I finally conquered the Bangkok city challenge in our ongoing Codenames Duet campaign game. It took us 13 attempts and was getting to be very frustrating, sometimes losing in a sudden death final guess that could easily have gone either way. We were so close to winning many times, but never managed to make it until finally yesterday we cracked it.

Today we moved on to try Los Alamos, and we won it handily on the second attempt. Hopefully this is a sign of more progress towards completing the campaign after getting stuck for so long.

Today is also New Year’s Eve. It’s a weird one, both weather wise with another in the seemingly endless series of cool, overcast, rainy days that Sydney is having, and also with the COVID restrictions essentially putting the kybosh on any sort of outdoor celebrations. All of the harbour foreshore areas that would normally be packed with a million or more people waiting to view the fireworks are completely off-limits and you can be fined for going there. The midnight fireworks display is still happening, but almost nobody is going to be able to watch it in person, and it’s been reduced from the normal 15 minutes or so to a compact 7 minutes. And the 9 pm family preview fireworks have been cancelled completely.

The Sydney COVID outbreak continues to grow in a worrying fashion. The locally acquired cases are up to 144, with 10 new cases added today. The numbers are hovering unsteadily and it’s still not clear what sort of trend we’re currently in. I think there’s a good chance that my next market date, on Sunday 10 January, will be cancelled. Which will be annoying, but better than risking public health.

I took a long walk today with Scully and my wife. We went down to the local golf course, which is a fair walk, and up and down a lot of steep hills. I drive there when I play golf, because it’s too far to go with a full set of clubs, but it’s close enough to walk to otherwise. And I took single club and a few balls, so I could randomly hit a few shots in between players on the course. Scully enjoyed being leash-free on the course. It’s a very casual course and many people walk through it with their dogs all the time, so there was no issue there.

And for New Year’s Eve tonight we’re having a simple night at home. We always do wine and cheese and crackers on NYE, and tonight we decided to skip dinner completely and add fresh fruit—mangos and strawberries and grapes—to make it basically a full meal. Pretty decadent, but it’s fun!

New content today:

Thoughts on designing games

Prompted by an online discussion, I had occasion today to think about designing various types of games. Specifically roleplaying games and board games. (By “roleplaying games” I mean things like Dungeons & Dragons – the original RPGs – not video games that many people nowadays seem to think you mean if say “roleplaying games”.)

I remember when the only RPG I owned was Dungeons & Dragons, but I wanted to play a science fiction game. So I did what many young gamers do and tried to design my own game system to support it. The result wasn’t great.

When you try to design something given only one prior example, you can easily get stuck into thinking that things have to be done the same way, and the design space that you explore tends to be very restricted. When you encounter a different example, suddenly whole worlds of new design space are made evident and open up to you. You don’t have to use 20-sided dice. You don’t have to make rolling higher numbers more desirable. You don’t have to have armour make a defender more difficult to hit. You don’t have to assess damage by subtracting points off some numerical total.

To really get good at designing RPGs, you need to be exposed to a wide variety of designs. You need to read different rule sets and play games with different mechanics. You need a breadth of experience. I have something over 20 different RPGs, possibly up to 30 (which is actually not a lot compared to many gamers), and so I now realise the first attempts I made at designing RPGs were laughably narrow-minded and amateurish.

On the plus side, designing a roleplaying game is actually not as complicated a task as what may seem easier: designing a board game. A board game is much more restricted in what the players can do, whereas an RPG is open-ended and allows players to do virtually anything. But paradoxically this very difference is what makes designing an RPG relatively easy. In an RPG, if a player wants to do something and the rules don’t cover it, you can wing it. If you’re experienced enough, you can even wing it so seamlessly that the players never notice.

In a board game, on the other hand, you need a clear cut rule to cover every possible situation that can arise in the game. You can’t just tell the players to “do whatever makes sense” or for one player to decide what happens. You have to design the rules carefully and meticulously enough that this problem never arises. That’s really hard.

Finally, in a tangentially related topic, I was playing Scattergories online with some friends today and needed to name a title that people can have, beginning with W. Other answers included the valid Wazir and Wizard. I opted for Walgraf, which I honestly thought was a noble title from some European culture.

However, searching the internet for confirmation turned up virtually nothing! The only two seemingly confirmatory hits were the rulebook for a LARP (live action RPG) named Blackspire:

12.12 Titles of Nobility

12.12.6 Viscount/Viscountess

12.12.6.1 Recommended title for serving a term with excellence as Champion in addition to winning the kingdom Weaponmaster tourney.

12.12.6.2 Recipient may substitute an equivalent title name for this rank such as Vicomte, Viconte, Visconte, Vizconde, Visconde, Walgraf or Pasha.

And the second is a campaign log for a D&D game set in the Greyhawk campaign setting:

There are a few snickers in the small crowd of nobles, especially from Lord Galans and Walgraf Deleveu. Lord Galans owns lands that now border on the Watchlands, and Walgraf Deleveu holds title to the lands between the Watchlands and Celene.

Now… it’s odd that both of the references to the noble title of “Walgraf” on the net are related to RPGs. I thought it might be possible that the word was invented by an RPG author and I’d learnt the word from some of the old RPG books I own. I checked the World of Greyhawk books, and they have a list of noble titles, which includes “Graf”, but not “Walgraf”.

So this is a mystery. From where did I learn the word “Walgraf” as a noble title? And why does it appear in two places on the net, both of which are related to fantasy roleplaying games? I am truly stumped.

New content today: