Black Box Bosses

Your players have finally confronted a boss in your campaign and one of two things happen: The battle is over so fast that the party wonders why he seemed like such a threat at all. Or, you as the DM pull punches to try and keep the party from being wiped out. Now don’t get me wrong, you might be playing in a group that wants everything to live and die by the dice, and that’s cool. But if you want more feel from the big boss fights in your adventures, this might be a way to accomplish that.

Imagine that you have a orc war-chief that your party is facing. And you want the fight to really sap the party’s resources and push them hard, but you don’t want them to die fighting this opponent. A way to think about this is to give the war-chief a small number of hit points that might normally go down in one or two hits from your players, but only players who are bloodied (at or under half their hit points) can actually damage this boss. This has the potential to really drain the party. Especially if they have potions and healing spells. This orc war-chief could seem all but invincible if the party is working hard to stay at max health. You could even go further by having the war-chief not have any hit points, but instead, only required to be hit 3 times by any bloodied player to be vanquished.

At this point, we’ve made the fight last till we want, but we’ve also possibly just made it worse. If the orc war-chief, for example, can one-shot some of the player characters, this isn’t going to be a fun fight as they each get mowed down. Imagine how you want the war-chief to feel to those he is fighting. In this case, let’s assume we want a plodding, slow, feel to the war-chief that makes the characters feel like they need to keep moving to avoid getting hit. Let’s mark the war-chief a large creature and give his great-axe attacks a reach of at least two. Each turn, the war-chief can only attack with his axe once, but we’re going to treat this more like a spell than a melee attack. The war-chief can target any square within two squares of himself and make an attack, but he can only target where an enemy was at the end of his last turn. The attack should be devastating (1/2 their hit points at least) for anyone who tries to stand toe-to-toe with the war-chief, but if a player has kept moving, they should be safe. And if you really want them to keep moving, you might give the great-axe attack secondary damage to anyone within two squares of it that does half damage (1/4 the target’s hit points at least) and forces a con check to prevent being knocked prone.

At this point, the war-chief needs some more extra abilities to really add some character, but the meat of the boss fight tells us a good story about what kind of enemy this is, it’s beatable, but will come at a cost to the characters. I would consider adding a war-chief shout that can cause fear or something similar. Perhaps even having the chief be able to start with a bow that behaves much like the great-axe, but have him drop it (and switch to the axe) once a player is threatening his space. Maybe even give him a charge or similar attack that bowls the players over if they stick together.

I hope that conveys the idea of a boss that serves your narrative more than a designed enemy that follows the mechanics.

Source: Order of Eris

Volkswagen Atlas

Last year we purchased a new car to replace my eight year old Subaru Outback. We wanted something with more interior room and similar capabilities as the Outback. We wanted to wait for the Ascent, but we couldn’t even see a preview model and 80% of the Ascent’s were already sold before they were available. Below are my thoughts on the Atlas so far.

The Bad

The infotainment system seems to lock up sometimes, and about 20% of the time, there is no audio from my iPhone. When the system locks up, the App function just shows a black screen. The good news is, I discovered I could hold down the power button for about tend seconds and the entire system restarts. That’s a little nicer than having to stop and start the car. When I plug my iPhone in, I can tell there is a problem because the system reports a speaker with an X on it when I try to change the volume. Re-seating the cable to the iPhone fixes it. I’ve tried replacing the cable, and I’ve even changed phones.

Anytime Park Pilot is invoked, it will interrupt CarPlay and “lose its place” for lack of a better term. If you have music playing and GPS is set, it seems to work. But if GPS is waiting for input, Park Pilot seems to reset it. I had a chance to drive a Kia Soul while on a business trip, and it seemed to not suffer from this problem.

Seat position controls and memory for multiple drivers. I don’t even know how to explain the complexity of this system. My wife’s Acura has this feature, and it is very simple and easy to work with. But the Atlas makes you do a key dance to get seats in the right position depending on what key last locked and is now unlocking the car. The Acura just has two buttons, one for each saved setting, that you can press if you used the wrong key, or you are both in the car. The Atlas saves the seat position for the user when the door is locked by their key. And it resets settings to the user based on the key that unlocks the car. So, if my wife has the car set to her settings, and forgets to lock the car, then I have to unlock it with my key to get to my settings. But if I don’t use her key to lock it, it will over-write my settings with hers when I use my key to lock it. So I end up having to get her key, lock it, then unlock it with my key, and it’s back to my settings. It’s a bad system and whoever designed it should feel bad.

Adaptive cruise control has some trouble knowing when a car has moved out of your lane. I’ve never owned a car with adaptive cruise control, so this might be a very common problem that isn’t specific to the Atlas. I know that there really is just one radar sensor up front and it’s not aware of the car it’s monitoring in relation to lanes and other things, so it’s understandable. I just wish it were better. Perhaps other systems are more capable. At a minimum, it would be nice to be able to have a normal cruise control in addition to adaptive cruise control.

Gas tank is too small. I wish it had a larger tank. I knew this when we purchased it. It’s not a deal breaker, but the range till empty in the dashboard is the real kicker. It will say you have 240 miles left, for example. If you reset the trip odometer at that point, it becomes obvious that you really only have 120 miles left. The range till empty gauge appears to have a built in 2x multiplier. Kind of depressing and underhanded.

The gear indicator in the driver display. This is a minor issue, but I think it revealed to me how bad the general user interface is in the Atlas. If I switch to economy mode while driving, the gear indicator will switch from “D” to “E”. Very nice and a good way to know if you are in economy mode. It also can switch to “S” for sport. But if the car starts up cold, and you are in economy, what does that indicator show? “D”. Of course, it never shows what mode you are in unless you switch while the car is running.

Hard to tell if your headlights are on or off in auto mode. This is another bad user interface design that seems to be the hallmark of Volkswagen design. When using the auto setting on the headlights, there is no dash indicator that lights are on or off. There is a high beam indicator, but if it’s raining and you wonder if the lights are actually on, your guess is as good as mine. It actually might be better if you can see the outside of my car.

Remote range is poor. My wife and I decided that with our young child, having remote start would be nice so that on really hot days and very cold days, the car could be cooled off or warmed up before we get in. But we have a garage. And if you are, for example, parked in a giant parking lot on a hot day, you won’t be able to get the car to start until you are about 30 feet away (assuming you have good line of sight to the car). As you can imagine, it makes this feature pretty worthless. Even Volkswagen’s Car-Net app won’t let you remote start the car.

Third row seats are virtually unusable for tall people. With the head-rests down, they dig into your upper back. With them up, they are passable but make me feel like my head is being pushed forward. The third row may not be the most comfortable seat for a larger passenger, but I expected something that was not uncomfortable for a twenty minute ride.

Daylight savings time is a toggle and not automatic. I guess I should be happy I don’t have to hold down a button to change the hour manually. The car has a SIM chip in it for Car-Net to work. So I know it knows the location, time and date. So there’s no reason for this to be a thing to think about.

SD Card media assumes Windows style file formats. When you are traveling to Canada, for example, you don’t want to use up precious bandwidth on your phone streaming music. The local SD card with music on it is a great way to have a backup of local music to listen to on a trip. Unless you own a Mac, or use Linux. Then you have to just through hoops to make sure all your mp3 playlist files are properly formatted to a Windows format.

The good.

Automatic windshield wipers. These work pretty well. I like not having to generally even think about windshield wipers and these allow me to do just that.

Lane assist works well most of the time, even in rain. Lane assist isn’t really all that great, and I assume that’s the case in most cars. When I can’t see the lane indicators is really when I need it, and based on how it works, it can’t see the lane either. But, otherwise, it’s pretty smart and not annoying.

Front seats are pretty comfortable for long trips.

Lots of USB ports. There’s no shortage of places to plug devices in.

Second row seats are easy to use and move. Third row access is good. Getting in and out is easy. There’s lots of good legroom all around. And headroom is good even in the third row.

Looks good. Some people say the Atlas looks like a Ford Explorer, but I think it looks better than that. I do like the look and the profile of the Atlas. It looks stout without being a giant box. I’m often surprised at how small it looks given the interior room.

I towed a 3850 lb camper with brakes and it did ok. I actually suspect the trailer weighed a bit more, but it did a good job. There were a few hills and the VR6 engine did well. I think that over 4000 lbs, I wouldn’t want to tow something across the country. But, something around 3500 lbs might be fine.

Source: Order of Eris

Bioshock Infinite: the video game we deserve

Rating: one out of five


At least it looks pretty

Bioshock Infinite is a video game about shooting guys in the face. It’s a video game about sweet gibs, rad decapitations, and about having all the guns ever. It is a game about magic shields and eating canned goods off of corpses of policemen to restore health. It is a game about drinking potions and having holes appear on your hands and racist vampires who carry coffins and shoot crows at you. It is about having a pet who picks locks but who asks you to pick up lock picks from trash cans. It is about a girl who will periodically interrupt important plot points to throw you a jar of salt. It is a game about robotic George Washingtons chaingunning you.

It is also a game about god rays through windows. About some really pretty flying buildings that explode around you as you shoot black people and Irish people. It is a game about pressing A to throw an apple to an orphan and play a guitar. It is a game about pressing X to hook policemen in the face.

It is a game about shooting a rocket launcher at ghosts.

It is a game about how every person is fundamentally an asshole. About how racists and their oppressed are really the same thing if circumstances are only slightly altered.

It is a game about saving a damsel in distress.

But most of all, Bioshock Infinite is a game about how nothing matters, because there are infinite worlds and you can just move around between them and whatever. Stuff happens for no reason and the rules are arbitrary.  And I guess there are gods.

The only constant is that it is so much a video game.

Source: Order of Eris

Blogger accuses Simon Pegg of sexism, objectifying cosplayers

Here’s blogger Courtney Stoker laying into Simon Pegg for some
appreciative comments he made about Comic-con attendees dressing up like
Princess Leia:

Did Pegg claim the Leia cosplayers were there to fulfill his sexual fantasies? Since Stoker makes the claim multiple times, let’s take a look at that first. Clearly the phrase “sexual fantasies” doesn’t appear in any of his tweets. Did he imply it then? “I’ve got a thing about cosplay girls” he says. “They’re like zombie stormtroopers, a glorious combination of beloved things.” Then he posts the pic and describes Homer Simpsons trademark sound of desire.

Does Simon Pegg have a sexual fantasy regarding Leia cosplayers, and what is it? It’s not clear because he, of course, never mentions sex or sexual fantasies. But here’s the thing: a sexual fantasy by definition involves sex. So it’s really unlikely that just looking at a picture of girls in bikinis fulfills any kind of fantasy. That wouldn’t be much of a fantasy! An actual sexual fantasy would involving having sex with them. Did Simon Pegg say he was going to have sex with them? No. Did he claim that the whole reason they dressed up was to sex him up good and proper? Of course not. Did he suggest that they were “existing solely for [his] fantasies”? Fuck no.

So bullshit count so far: 1.

Stoker’s other initial accusation is one of objectification. She doesn’t entirely explain how Simon objectified them, or what she means by the term. Online dictionaries are rather sparse on its meaning, so let’s see what Wikipedia has to say:

“Sexual objectification refers to the practice of regarding or treating another person merely as an instrument (object) towards one’s sexual pleasure, and a sex object is a person who is regarded simply as an object of sexual gratification or who is sexually attractive. Objectification more broadly is an attitude that regards a person as a commodity or as an object for use, with little or no regard for a person’s personality or sentience.”

In Stoker’s view, how did Simon objectify the women? She doesn’t say in her tweets. She just repeats “objectifying” and “turning women into objects”. Is it expression appreciation, or the way he did it? Here’s what she says on her blog: “This kind of attitude is really common and really destructive. It reduces cosplayers down to objects, and suggests that they are NOT fellow geeks, but actually decoration. They are only there to serve as fantasy fodder for male geeks. You know, the actual PEOPLE in this equation. (A good sign you’re objectifying women: you’re comparing them to food.)” What attitude is she talking about? Saying they’re a combination of beloved things? He never specifies what those beloved things are. It’s probably the donut reference that really got to her.

Except he wasn’t comparing the girls to donuts. Homer Simpson is a notorious oaf who makes a gurgling sound when he sees anything, food or otherwise, that fills him with longing; donuts are probably the most iconic subject. Simon was trying to pick something self-deprecating and humorous that almost everyone would recognize. Was it a crude method of expressing appreciation for beauty? Yeah, definitely. Was he saying that the women are objects, that they’re like food to be eaten? No. God no.

Bullshit count: 2

Finally, she talks about agency. “Sexuality implies some agency on their part.” What I don’t even. As if these women were forced, at gun point, to make and then wear these costumes. The slave Leia costume, worn only in 1 part of 1 Star Wars movie, when Leia was captive of the disgusting Jabba the Hutt and forced to deal with his advances and nasty slimy tongue. An outfit so revealing and sexy that it became an iconic symbol of geek fantasies for decades to follow. (On Friends, Jennifer Aniston’s character even wears it at Ross’ request.) Stoker would have us believe that not only are these cosplayers completely unaware of the history of the costume, they are also completely oblivious to the fact that wearing a bikini costume expresses some kind of sexuality, and then of course she’d also have us believe they had absolutely no choice in the matter.

Bullshit count: 3, 4, 5!

Hopefully, in the future, Simon Pegg will have a little more sense than to try and engage the loonies, assholes, and trolls that go out of their way to pick a fight with him.

Some people call him Maurice

Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:15:17 -0400
From: Ryan North <>
To: Quintin Stone <>


On 14/03/2012 11:33 AM, Quintin Stone wrote:
> Does Spencer speak of the pompitous of love?

Skyrim: Next mod

Here’s some before-and-after shots from the first stage of my next mod
(utility mod, adds new types of weapon stands, containers, some fixes, and

In vanilla Skyrim, there are just some weapons you don’t want to put on
a shield/weapon plaque. Basically anything that’s not symmetrical except
for battleaxes, which they managed to get right.

Skyrim: Q’s Windhelm Basement

Windhelm’s Hjerim is a fine estate, but worthy of The

The true Dovahkiin needs a place to display his prizes, treasures,
trophies, and spoils of war. This mod adds the option to purchase a
basement addition to the house in Windhelm. Within it you’ll find 10 new
mannequins, display cases of assorted sizes, wall plaques, and a dozen
weapon racks. In the corner are 4 tall bookshelves, with a knapsack,
satchel, and locked safe. Extra weapons and armor can be stored in various
chests. A full smithing chamber is provided, complete with smelter and
component storage.

Along the back wall are plaques for your symbols of rank: a wall
for each Hold which can grant the title of Thane. Each plaque is adorned
with a shield to indicate the source of the weapon.

The cases and ranks and mannequins all come empty, waiting for you to
them with your story.

Once the mod is installed, talk to the steward of Windhelm. The
is another decoration option you can purchase. When you do, the ladder
down will be unlocked.

Get from Skyrim

Get from Steam Workshop