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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Wizard of Aus' LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
8:52 pm
Aus's Suggestions for Navigating the Gaming Seas
(Also known as 'Aus's Rules for Char Loft RPG Adventuring')

1) The most important aspect of any game is to have fun -- if you're not having fun, something's wrong. Not every adventure will appeal to everyone - and I'm not likely to improve if nobody tells me what I'm doing wrong, so if the game isn't keeping your attention, or is bothering you, let me know why, and if it's something I can fix, I will.

2) That said, I tend to focus highly on improvisational game-mastering, with a framework for an adventure that is then adjusted and tweaked and twisted as befits the situation and what aspects the characters and their players are interested in.

This means that many adventures are likely to pattern to you and to what you do within it - characters who lean towards the violent aspects are more likely to be confronted with physical warfare (and weaponry with which to dish it out), while a group that focuses on parley will find more diplomatic options available. Granted, a zombie apocalypse story isn't likely to shy entirely away from the zombie killing (but you may need to rally survivors to fight with you), and a diplomatic mission isn't likely to turn into a bloodbath (unless they lock you in a gas chamber and try to kill you and you have to hack your way out with laser swords), but I do try to make sure that people's skills are considered, at least on my more plot-related adventures. The more you look for a plot, the more likely you are to find one...

3) If you can convince me that something's a good idea, you may just get to try it, no matter how peculiar. I may ask for a tough skill roll - or a Drama Point - or both, but if you can make it sound good (or better, funny), that's the first step. The more detailed you are in your description of what you are trying to accomplish, the more likely you are to evade penalties (and possibly even acquire bonuses); likewise, if you are vague in your intent, you may suffer penalties. In noncombat situations, particularly, a very good description may keep you from having to make a skill check at all.

4) There are almost always multiple ways to approach a problem, or to accomplish an overall goal. Some of these paths will be obvious; others the PCs will have to find (or create) for themselves. In dealing with a zombie horde as an obstacle, one could go the direct combat route, for instance, or look for escape, or try to get a vehicle to crash straight through, or take to the rooftops, or the sewers... or try to possess one. It's all in your abilities and skills and how you make use of them.

5) To a certain extent, the GM will scale the difficulty of combats and other activities to match your party and your objectives. If you have multiple highly powerful combatants in the party, the GM will plan accordingly to keep things interesting; likewise, every now and then those obscure skills just might come in handy. You may regret leaving the Music Trivia buff behind when the Black Knight challenges you to a Duel of Jazz Knowledge...

6) Speaking of adversarial confrontations, some adversaries do have skills - even those whom use a single Combat score for most things may use a modified score for others (for example, a Goblin Gunslinger might have a Combat of 12 normally, but a 16 with his Twin Cave Spider pistols.) Be ye duly warned.

7) Adversaries, even those unstatted, do indeed sometimes have their own Drama Points to spend. Whether they use them to elicit a swift escape or call in the cavalry (Plot Twist), recover after being trounced or severely battered (I Think I'm Okay), pull off an impossible defense or a damnably accurate lucky shot (Heroic Feat), or even go berserk and fight with every ounce of strength remaining (Righteous Fury), they can and will use them to save their own necks.

8) If a player character can have an advantage or drawback or skill, so can an enemy -- and they may or may not be polite enough to make what they can do clear before they do it. Surprise! Of course, perceptive characters who pay attention to detail might get some forewarning...

9) If your character (or the entire party!) is in trouble and a situation seems to be leading to semi-evitable doom, it may be cheaper to spend one Drama Point on a Plot Twist to attempt to change the scope of the situation, rather than to use up multiple Drama Points on Heroic Feats to win through sheer drama-power.

10) I handle Plot Twists in a peculiar manner -- you can suggest an overall goal that you want the Plot Twist to take, and the less specific you are, the more likely it is to be helpful in some fashion. (Demanding that the enemy leader's head be crushed by a falling rock for no good reason probably won't work. Inquiring as to whether the infantry that went into hiding at the beginning of the fight might return to assist at a dramatic moment, on the other hand, very well might.) Likewise, Plot Twists will require some effort on the part of the character in order to realize their full potential - if you use a Plot Twist to be knocked out and taken prisoner instead of getting killed, you may be able to use this to learn some useful information out, or make new friends... or just stew until your buddies can hopefully find you. Plot Twists will generally always have a net beneficial effect - they're wonderful things - but they will not solve an adventure on their own. (They might, however, help you find a clue you're missing, though, or a new source of information if you are completely stuck.)

11) Does the area description sound sparse? Typically, characters get as much description as they are overtly paying attention to to notice - if they are distracted, in particular, they often get a much less descriptive result than if they are carefully inspecting every inch of the room. If something hasn't been properly described yet and you're curious about it, ask! You may find that all it takes is looking in the right direction or sniffing the right object.

12) Still stuck in a tight spot? Don't forget that many skills have multiple applications - and many situations have multiple skills that might apply to them. While the GM will call for a roll in situations that obviously warrant it (trying to puzzle out the workings of an odd machine, attempting to decipher the writing on a door), sometimes you have to come up with your own ideas. Ask if you think you might have a skill that's applicable here - even if you're wrong, you might get an explanation of why that might hint at what you should be trying. (Perception + Sports -2 may give you some insight in the marching tactics of soldiers if they happen to resemble football strategies, for example; Perception and Sports won't typically help you figure out why the red light on the nuclear reactor is flashing, though.) You never know until you try.

13) Feel like you've overlooked something? Maybe you have. Perception plus Notice (and an applicable sense) is one of the simplest ways to get a feel for your environment. Of course, even a high roll won't help if you don't have the skills to interpret the information you find... but Perception plus the proper skill often will.

14) Find yourself struggling when trying to decide on a battle plan? Try putting some points in the Tactics skill - it effectively lets your character get some idea of whether their plan is a good or bad idea. (Granted, this is 'in the eyes of the GM'; just because a plan isn't a good idea doesn't necessarily mean it'll fail.)

15) Skill Checks are also occasionally used in situations where the character probably knows what they're doing, but the player(s) and/or GM don't necessarily bear the same level of wisdom. The player doesn't need to know how a nuclear reactor works - just that his character has the skills to explain it. (A bit of witticism on the subject almost never hurts, either.)

16) Playing online on a nonscheduled basis has its own unique problems - one of the big ones is that people may enter and leave at odd moments, nevermind that the Black Queen of Shadowmoor is about to disrobe and show her true form. How this is handled depends on the GM - here's my take on it.

If a substantial number of the party has to lose their players simultaneously -- game's paused. Period. Typically, combat and other challenges are geared or adjusted to handle the current size of the party, so if it drops rapidly, a fight that might've just been challenging becomes practically impossible with insufficient manpower.

Likewise, new characters wanting to join in an active adventure will typically have to wait until the current scene has been resolved or has reached a point where they can logically interrupt or arrive. This is mostly for the GM's sanity - it's much harder to handwave someone popping up in the middle of a combat, and not particularly fair, either.

If a character has to lose their player in the middle of a situation where their presence was vital (say, the combat monster in the middle of a massive brawl, or the party thief in the midst of a dungeon dripping with deathtraps), they will become an NPC (or possibly be played by a willing player temporarily, if allowed) for the duration. Characters whose players are absent earn no experience, and do not spend Drama Points (excepting to save their own lives), or earn Drama Points (even if the entire party is screwed over.)

17) XP and DP are earned for adventure segments - a significant amount of progress in an adventure (one to three sessions is a good average) - depending on what is accomplished in that time period.

Experience Points are awarded based on the amount of time the character was involved in the adventure, what they accomplished, whether they performed particularly well, and how well they participated. Extra experience may be awarded to specific skills used (or attempted) during the segment at the GM's option.

Drama Points are awarded based on participation and roleplaying at the end of a segment. Players can also earn one Drama Point per session for a particularly inspired (or funny) bit of roleplaying; for playing their character foibles and flaws to the hilt; for supporting their friends and companions in times of crisis; and for being the plot's victim (see below.)

18) Bad things do sometimes happen to good people. In some cases, this is a matter of difficult challenges - and in some cases, the plot just plain hoses you. Depending on how your characters handle it, and how badly hosed they are, the amount of drama points can vary - you might earn a base amount for the incident and bonuses for roleplaying, for instance. Remember, everyone has a day when things don't go smooth -- the question is whether they can win out even when misfortunes occur.

19) If you do not have a character sheet, the GM will assign your character some temporary stats. These will be reasonable, but less beneficial than if you'd filled out a sheet. Further, you cannot spend drama points unless you earn them during the session, and you cannot spend experience points earned unless you make a character sheet.

20) Yes, I know you hate the Random Number God, especially if it isn't rolling in your favor. However, I did program SpARCy, and really, it's just random numbers -- don't take it too hard if he happens to be rolling low or high on any particular day. That's just the way luck works - it's as fair as it can get.

21) My goal in running an adventure is to entertain and challenge the players - and to have as much fun as I can in the process. Hopefully I'm doing that when I run a game -- but if you aren't fond of my GM style, why not try running your own adventures? I enjoy playing at least as much as I do GMing, and I'm always interested in seeing how other people handle things. Let's see what stories we can tell, shall we?
Monday, March 12th, 2007
2:04 am
Found out today that a fellow associate died - one I sort of liked/was familiar with, too. Wrote about it here.

55 cents
2 pencils
Saturday, March 10th, 2007
9:36 pm
Quiet day. But much to do tonight.

Get Ozma myspace back up to 2,000 + pending friends
DL Simstuff
DL SimPE new version
Play Drakengard 2

Bubble wand baton
Green Giant cotton gloves
56 cents
Friday, March 9th, 2007
9:26 pm
Haven't really been writing in this as much as I should - I've been writing on my Gather page lately, though. If you're reading this, go look at that. Been trying out the Sims Seasons on L's computer, might do something interesting with that eventually. I really wish I wasn't always tired...

Findings (today/yesterday):
Battered old blue wallet (empty)
Light blue ultra fine point Sharpie
Golden Sharpie
Green mini Sharpie
Mechanical pencil
33 cents
Thursday, March 1st, 2007
9:24 pm
I'm really tired, but hopefully I'll get done what I decided I wanted to work on tonight - playing some old games and maybe getting some reviews done for them. And the usual stuff. Maybe later after I get more energy.

Metal toy truck
Flower earring
Sharpie marker
30 cents
Monday, February 26th, 2007
9:43 pm
So tired. So very, very tired. So many things to work on. So little awake time. So much to do. Blargh.

37 cents
Sunday, February 25th, 2007
9:47 pm
I'm still not fired yet. That's good, right?
Today went by mostly uneventfully, aside from an incident with a co-worker that was rather annoying. I also ran into the store manager a few times, and he didn't have anything to say (except 'hey, can you take these boxes, please?' in regards to some cardboard cases for the trash), so I'm assuming that Wal-Mart has decided on a strategic retreat for the time being. I may be on the knife's edge of termination, but at least it doesn't seem to be about to happen for any non-random reason. Which is good - it gives me time to prepare for the still-very-likely termination. I figure that there's a good chance that if they ARE trying to force me out, this'll have given them a reason to pause for a month or so - and if not, then hopefully I can at least last until my tax refund arrives and replenishes my savings. Considering that, in theory, Wal-Mart could try to prevent me from receiving unemployment for up to five weeks or so, it'd be nice to not starve to death in the interim should that come up.

I've decided that it wouldn't really hurt to start organizing my various meanderings about Wal-Mart into some form of literature; if nothing else,Lulu.com does publication, and I'm sure I could find at least a fewpeople willing to purchase it if it were well edited, so why not? 

73 cents
Saturday, February 24th, 2007
9:29 pm
Mm. Well, I'm not fired... yet. Apparently, though, the store manager left the building sometime less than an hour and 45 minutes after I passed him the letter, so no sign as to whether tomorrow will be catastrophic or not. I'm thinking not, but you never know.

Still, this is as good a motivation as any to start JobQuest: The Quest for a Job That Doesn't Suck. Or, at least, isn't in retail. So on my days off, I think I'm going to be working on job searching. If I can maintain my current job until I get my fully-vested status (whoopee) and the MyShare bonus for the year and whathaveyou, so much the better... but it's definitely time to have an exit strategy. Setting aside enough money for expenses if I suddenly am jobless and with absolutely no income, figuring out what jobs I can get and what I'd need to train for, and so on is definitely something I need to be working on...

Orange sharpie highlighter
Bic Velocity pen
49 cents
Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
7:18 pm
Prolific day.
Okay, I didn't find anything today, because I spent the day at home. But hey, check this out...

Games: Word Association (#002)
GamerArc: Konami Live! Konami Arcade Collection
Meanwhile, at the Drunken Ogre...
Games: The Chain Game (#006)
Commercialist: Verizon Wireless

Five articles so far today. Which is good, because I've posted nothing in the previous two days. Maybe with some inspiration, I'll get one more done before midnight. The more the merrier, right?

Current Mood: creative
1:53 am
Bah. Haven't been keeping up with journaling lately... been tired, though. Very, very tired, and none too thrilled about the working world.

Things I should get done with by Wednesday / work on over the next two days / tonight:
Get Salvation Road second episode transcribed/posted on website
Work on RP plots
Work on Granite City character sheets/site
Work on Arcydea site
Write GamerArc: Konami Live! review
Write Wal-Martians: An Associate's Guide to Co-Workers
Write down notes about Fluid Core concept so it gets out of my head
Work on Myspaces
Sort through game notes/copy things down
Copy random ideas into Gather, call 'em articles, and hope for the best
Clear out Gather group spam

62 cents
A big bouncy ball
A Kenneth Cole men's watch
A Motorola power? adapter thingy
Monday, February 12th, 2007
9:34 pm
Nothing to say here. It's my Friday. Need to rest.

Utility knife
Bouncy ball
2 candies
56 cents
Sunday, February 11th, 2007
9:24 pm
Another day, another step closer to getting fired from Wal-Mart. And another round of listening to my brain remind me of how most everything unfortunate in my life stems from my many personal character flaws. Fortunately, the depression has burned out, and now I'm just tired.

The power went out for about ten minutes at our store today. That's about as close to having a good day as I got.

Store was extremely busy thanks in part to fears of an upcoming snowstorm. (Supposedly, according to people at work, we might get as much as a couple of inches of accumulation. ooh. scary.)

$6.11 (including a $5 bill)
6 candies

Current Mood: exhausted
Saturday, February 10th, 2007
10:55 pm
Akir and the Lady Jeanne...
I attempted to write a story today, just to see if I could. I wasn't fond of the results. I got about half a story - more like a quarter of one - and then some random rambling about items for games or whathaveyou. My brain doesn't seem to like to focus on any one project for long unless it requires little actual thought. Irritating brain.

Akir and the Lady Jeanne, part 1

72 cents
A pen
A little rubber gecko
Friday, February 9th, 2007
9:31 pm
Still tired. Today wasn't quite as bad as yesterday, but I did get 'a discussion' which 'was written down' because I didn't clean something up quite as well as a manager wanted. Fuck them. Too tired to fucking care, just marginally not too tired to manage to be civil and avoid saying something catastrophic to my employment. Still, this is my journal, so I'll say it here. Fuck them, fuck their random side projects, fuck their desire for scrubbing year-old grime off a floor that won't come up with a mop, and fuck their alarm over a moist floor (no, not wet, not 'soaking', but fucking moist!) without a 'hey, this floor might make you slip if you're wearing frictionless soles and running and ...' no, it wasn't even wet enough for that. Fuck them.

30 cents
Mechanical pencil
1:35 am
Long, bad first day back. very tired. fucking hate dip and the dips who break dip jars.

3 pens
22 cents
Wednesday, February 7th, 2007
4:38 pm
The Wizard don't know nothin'.
The Wizard don't know nothin' 'bout Super Mario 3.

Seriously. Watch that movie. Then tell me you're good at playing video games. I dare you.
Monday, February 5th, 2007
6:46 pm
So full of anger.
I have spent the past four hours with a persistent migraine to add to my usual complaints of neck pain, back pain, etc.

Why? The girls. First, for about an hour, they decided to be very loud and shrill and 'playful'. Then, for a half hour, they yelled and screamed and cajoled in an attempt to convince L to take them to Wal-Mart after the visit to the doctor's. All the way to the doctor's, they yelled and babbled and fought. There, there is blessed silence for awhile, followed by a trip to Wal-Mart, since they've almost sort of kind of not-really-but-at-least-maybe-they'll-be-quiet been good enough. We tell them they've got a half hour, though we might let them stay longer if they bring us out a drink first. A half hour later, we call them up (they have a cell phone) and they claim 'they'll be right out.' A half hour after THAT, I have to go in looking for them - perhaps luckily, they got outside shortly after I went in. One decides, on the way out, that she wants to stop and get stickers from a vending machine, then gets pissed when I won't let her. The ride home features snarky bitching about how rude and horrible we are, interspersed with claims that they're spitting on the interior of the new car to spite us for not letting them roll down the windows. (Incidentally, it's about fifteen degrees outside.)

I really, really am not very fond of teenagers right now.

Blood pressure: 140 over 88, 89 beats per minute. I'm a little stressed.

Right now, unsurprisingly, the kids are busy trying to convince my mother-in-law (and L) that it's mostly our fault for being so irrational, and that they should have the right to scream at us and treat us like garbage without any form of recompense. I really dislike this.
Wednesday, January 31st, 2007
8:02 pm
Random access memories
Definitely staying home to take care of L for another week - even the doctor recommends it. L's kinda worried, mostly because -I'm- kinda worried on the money thing, but... eh, can't help worrying. It's in my blood. If everyone here were content to live on 77c pizza and 33c ramen cups, that'd be one thing, but people who aren't me generally seem to object to such a diet.

I'm working on helping L get Gather friends - I'd like to try my hand at it myself someday, maybe after we see how it goes for L. I like sharing my opinions, and getting paid for them eventually would be nice. And if nobody really reads it, at least I can tell nobody's reading by the lack of points. Heh.

I recieved an odd mail this morning - apparently, I, L, Nikki, and Jim 'play funny'. We tend to build scenes that are open but already include a second person, or scenes where two people are carrying on a conversation through tags... however, I don't really see how this is something the rest of the comm isn't already doing. Mm.

I don't think I'm handling things very well lately - conversations, sudden sources of stress, and the like. I really wish it wasn't that way, but lately it's getting to the point where I'm not really sure whether I'm hurting people's feelings, upsetting them, or whatnot.

I explained some of my past to the girls today, since they were asking. Never really a fun thing. My mother is a pathetic spendthrift witch with occasional Christian tendencies and the desire for kinky sex; my father is a fairly reasonable guy who has a profound chivalry complex. And like it or not, I have to wonder how much of their traits I've inherited. I know about the berserker behavior, and the bad temper... meh. I've never received a bad psych eval that I know of, but I do worry sometimes.

2 cents
Monday, January 29th, 2007
7:19 pm
Ups and Downs
Today was full of ups and downs. All in all, I can't complain too heavily - the ups do outweigh the downs - but the emotional rollercoaster effect is pretty hard on the system...

Down: Last night, I asked where the adapter for the DS was. Turns out L unplugged it because it was poking her before bed, and put it 'somewhere'. After much worry about it that night and the next morning,

Up: I found it while attempting to remove some tangled yarn from the floor in an attempt to clean up the room a little. Then we prepared to head out

Down: with the kid who stayed home because she hadn't gotten around to finishing her report and needed twenty-five facts from books because 'her teacher was going to check the library for them', so we had to drop her off at the library

Up: but before we left, we received a surprise package from the UPS, which contained, of all things, a new LCD monitor (fucking awesome)!,

Down: and then went to drop off the kid at the library, after dealing with her nagging request to play the DS and her many complaints about how the Dell package hadn't been her DS,

Up: then went to Applebee's for lunch (I received a $25 gift card as a present from a coworker for Christmas shortly before all of this), and exchanged my coins for $19.20 in less changely change and cashed L's Rilo Kiley check,

Down: then went to pick up the library girl , and the other kid from home (who both decided to fight and scream over who got to play the DS / whose turn it is, nevermind that it's my/L's DS and half the time we don't get to play with it),

Up: and went to the corner store to fax L's W9 form and for the kids to purchase some candy/etc (which they shared, which was good),

Down: and then to the chiropractors, where the kids and L got crunched and cracked, and where L found out that her CAT scan had indeed turned up some irregular results that hopefully aren't cancer, but resulted in a referral to go see a medical doctor (nice of the hospital not to mention that),

Up: and then to my workplace, where I dropped off the 'please don't fire me, I'm on a leave of absence' form and got some two-liters so we'd have something to drink,

Down: and then towards home, where the kids were loud all the way there (and Brenda decided to announce that 'all religions are Christian' because they all believe in a higher power - which resulted in debate on the subject until L broke down into nervous crying),

Up: but then we got home and everyone went to their own parts, and I settled in to install the monitor and recover two of our speakers that had fallen behind the desk,

Down: and got it installed only after a lot of painful contortions and twists, and some help from the kids in getting the ponderous old monitor out of the way and eventually out of the room,

Up: but the new one is so fucking sleek it's awesome,

Down: but I'm so tired and ragged out and emotionally and physically shaky and L kinda thinks I'm mad at her because I've been stressed most of the day and I should really really really take some medication, but all I've got prescribed is Zantac and naproxen anyhow.

So I'm kinda dazed...

I can't really say it's a bad day, though, because I'm finally looking at a screen that isn't blue, and goddamn if that isn't worth SOMETHING. My eyes are actually unused to it at this point.

To whoever got that for us... thank you. THANK YOU.

Now to relax...

Current Mood: stressed
1:17 am

My kids talk about killing people every day when they're pissed off. Can we have -them- taken to a juvenile facility? Eesh.
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