Monday, September 17, 2012

Non-transitive Dice with Cards

Non-transitive dice are a fascinating phenomenon. However, I don't really want to buy more dice*, especially dice that look, at a glance, like all my other dice. So I've been trying to think up a way to have non-transitive dice without actually needing new dice.

Example of non-transitive dice (opposite sides are same) (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons).

By far the simplest thing I've found, is to make each "die" from a stack of playing cards. This has several advantages:
  • If all piles are the same size, then they will appear identical when face-down. This means that each pile can be chosen with incomplete knowledge or assigned at random.
  • As cards are played, they may be discarded by some rule. Thus, while the stacks may initially be non-transitive, their relation can change over the course of a game.
  • Playing cards are readily available, and can be used to emulate any set of dice that doesn't need numbers higher than 13.

I don't personally have a use for them yet, but if you come up with one I'd love to know.

* = This is a lie.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Scattered Thoughts

Notes from my summer activities and my first month of blogging. Mostly with at least half-hearted attempts to make them gaming-relevant.

Summer Reading:

The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength)
An exciting classic "science fiction" trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although at times the overt Christian themes were grating on my secular humanist upbringing. The villains in That Hideous Strength were particularly strong, and I hope my own games can have villains that good. I also took extensive notes on the language as I went, and eventually I'll share those somehow (hopefully without diluting the content of this blog).

The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter & Terry Pratchett

A grand exploration of infinity, with some bizarre characters. Reminded me that dinosaurs are awesome.

Railsea by China MiƩville

Great world-building with good proportions of secrets, bizarre new things, and enough familiar things to stay grounded.

Doc Savage Stories

I got back to my pulp roots with some old Doc Savage books ("The Land of Always-Night", "Mad Mesa", "The Dust of Death", and "The Stone Man"). This directly inspired Pulp Materials.

Things in Museums:

My favorite part of visiting the UK is the museums. Here are some things I thought it worth making a note of when I saw them.
  • A German "schwerdt" (which unhelpfully appears to mean sword) was 4-6' long, and was not used in heavy over-head swings, but for fencing. The technique was to keep your off-hand just under the hilt as a pivot, and to control the motion of it with your good hand from the pommel. (Pitt-Rivers Museum)
  • War quoits (chakrams) are basically sharpened rings, thrown like Frisbees held from the inside. I imagine they'd just be like exotic throwing knives in a game. (Pitt-Rivers Museum)
  • In Guyana, traditional duels involve each participant standing close to the other and pressing their shields together. The first to lose their footing loses the duel. (Pitt-Rivers Museum)
  • Instead of a traditional knife-bayonet, some early pistols had a sort of mace-head attachment on the barrel. I wish I'd taken a picture of this. (Tower of London)
  • Before the formalization of molar theory, molar equivalencies were found using a slide-rule with salts marked in the positions of their molar weights. (Museum of the History of Science)
  • When Copernicus first proposed his heliocentric model, people started using it for its accuracy, while simultaneously denying the validity of its assumptions. Essentially, it was used as an empirical model, but its implications ignored. (Museum of the History of Science)

Old Music:

  • Long John effected an escape wearing shoes with a heel in front and a heel behind. Consequently, he was very difficult to track.

A Month of Blogging:

In my eagerness to post, or general confusion, I seem to have missed some things.


Quench bears are obviously inspired by Smokey Bear. I would have used an image, except that I couldn't for the life of me parse the Smokey Bear Act, and decided to err on the side of caution.

Snake Oil

I could not remember for the whole time I was composing that table that the name I was looking for was "patent medicine". If I revisit the table someday, I'll keep that in mind.

Spider Racial Track

The post was going to have an image, but I forgot it. I'm just editing it in now . . .

Pulp Materials

Somewhere between Fire!Fire! and here, I forgot how to make a table in Blogger. Maybe I did it directly in html? At any rate, the table isn't really big enough to justify its seclusion in a Google Doc.

Pub Names

Nonsensical pub names are apparently a long tradition--and just as old a complaint. From what I understand they are frequently mutations of older names that may have made more sense.

The Future:

Classes have started now, but it remains to be seen what effect this might have on this blog. On the one hand, I'll have less time to myself and more other work to be doing. But on the two hand, I'll probably actually get a game going, and be doing more directly involving gaming. As I have no set schedule for the blog anyway, I don't expect any of these changes will be noticed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Debasing Mage Knight

I've got a pile of old Mage Knight figures, and there's really not a whole lot you can do with them. No stores will touch them, nobody will buy them, the bases are too large to play nice with other figures, and a lot of the sculpts and paint-jobs are decidedly mediocre. After pledging to the Reaper Bones Kickstarter*, I thought maybe I'd use them to practice my (non-existant) painting skills until May when the bones ship.

An outline of the process I'm looking at:
  1. Remove the figures from their bases.
  2. Remove the paint from the figures.
  3. Attach the figures to new bases.
  4. Paint the figures.
In this post, I am just considering the first step: removing the figures from their bases.
From this . . .

. . . to this.

This process is about as simple as it seems, the figures pry off of their bases fairly easily with a craft knife. I recommend practising on some figures you don't care about first, such as these "Feral Bloodsuckers" (I chose the same ones because I plan to test solvents on them, so they should all be similar).

There are a few tips I can offer however:
  • Freezing the minis does help them come off easier (unless they're wet from washing, then the ice just mucks things up).
  • Wear gloves. You will cut yourself. You'll cut away from your hands, you'll keep the mini in a clamp, you'll think "I'm smarter than that", and then you'll go and cut up a finger.
  • The motion isn't really a "cutting" motion so much as a "prying" motion. Which isn't to say that you should pry the figure off with the craft knife, but that the gap is already there and you just need to widen it.

Join me at an indeterminate point in the future, when I test an array of household (and exotic) solvents and cleaners on these.

* - Incidentally, if you missed out on the kickstarter, it looks like you can still get in here.