/project/multiplexer

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” -- Carl Sagan

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Day 96: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

I’m here to help the Biden campaign!  I’ve generated some taglines for the campaign!

  • Joe Biden: Will not tell you to drink bleach.
  • Joe Biden: Will not endorse massive concentration camps.
  • Joe Biden: Will not sell out US farmers to the Chinese.
  • Joe Biden: Will not do horrible things just to do horrible things.

These are all good reasons to Vote for Joe.

I’ve been reading the leaks around the Bolton book — a book that, at this point, he should simply leak online.  Either everything in that book is true, and thus classifiable, or lies, and not classifiable.  They cannot be both classifiable and not simultaneously.  (I played the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Infocom Game back in the day.  The final puzzle was being able to hold TEA and NO TEA simultaneously.  Reading the response to the Bolton book feels like that puzzle.)

One thing we have learned is that:

  • SOMEONE in the White House keeps hiring these terrible people!
  • These terrible people get angry and quit and write books!
  • And then it’s revealed they are terrible!  Surprise!

John Bolton is a straight up terrible person but he had a front row seat to even more horrible people and for all his horribleness he never endorsed putting Uighurs into concentration camps — unlike, apparently, Trump, who is totally ok with it.

Also, Trump has decided:

  • His thing in Tulsa is to be a giant super spreader jamboree.
  • Wearing masks is a sign of being anti-Trump.
  • Testing is bad because it makes his numbers look bad.
  • No one should know about people dying from COVID-19.

Here’s a quote:

President Trump was asked about his upcoming indoor campaign rally by Gray Television’s Jacqueline Policastro:

POLICASTRO: Coronavirus cases are rising in 22 states, including Oklahoma, where you plan to hold a big rally this week. Aren’t you worried about people getting sick?

TRUMP: No, because if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It’s dying out.

That’s going to go on his tombstone.

I’m reaching a point where I am honestly confused why anyone supports this guy any more.  I don’t know.  I don’t get it.  I watch the Trump apologists roll out the same game plan time after time after time.  And I don’t get it.

I’m just at a point where I don’t understand at all.  And yet 38% of voters out there do.  I’m totally ok if that 38% gets together, maskless, in an enclosed arena, and gets all sweaty together — as long as they stay the hell away from the rest of us.

Trump is busy raging on Twitter about SCOTUS.  Pretty sure John Roberts is giving him the finger for fun.  “I kept DACA because of a paperwork error” indeed.

538 has started with all their election stats.

Stats:

  • 24,937,877 tested for covid.
  • 2,145,963 cases found.
  • 118,199 dead.
  • 62,675 cases in MD with  3,032 dead
  • 1 in 136 have it in Howard County — didn’t creep any closer today.

 

 

 

 

Day 95: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

Yikes!  I forgot to write anything yesterday!

I had such a horrible case of ennui.  After work, all I did was play Rune Factory 4 Special.  All I wanted to do was plant and fish with a side of monster murder.  I got trapped in the plant -> dungeon cycle.  I literally wanted to do nothing else.  Not code, not work on a project, not even watch TV.

Mmmmm delicious burrrrrnout.

We’ve been hearing some high praise for SotS.  And Kevin has been chunking out content like a machine for the game.  That’s really made everything better the last few days.  I want to take SotS and try to write some little tiny interactive story in ink. (As I’ve said before, I like Ink because it has Unity hooks.)  I probably won’t release it for Reasons but I’d like the idea of writing it. But I have to get past ennui for any projects and I have a bazillion half-finished projects lying around.  I should finish something.

I’m still having some ennui problems today.  Bleh.  I just want to go lay on the bed or sit outside and read Murderbot.

The news is all bad, as usual.  Surprising no one, coronavirus is starting its second wave.  We never finished the first wave.  We simply declared the first wave over.  We’re awful close to 120,000 people dead — 60% in nursing homes.  (That’s 72,000 seniors in nursing homes wiped out.)  We’ve decided to accelerate the timeline to 200,000 dead.

And we’re all ok with that.

The Trumpster is going ahead with his Oklahoma Rally because that empty sucking place where his soul should be requires people shouting at him in adulation.  I dunno.  I’m kind of copacetic here.  If a bunch of people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 want to invite themselves to a super spreader event, despite having to sign a release saying they know they’ll get it and they won’t sue, and knowing it may kill them, then I’m getting to a point where we as a society can only stop so many people running headlong to their Darwin Award.

Popular Mechanics has an instruction manual on how to topple a statue.  In case you find yourself standing near a statue that needs toppling.

Stats:

  • 24,449,307 have been tested.
  • 2,145,963 have the crawling disease.
  • 118,199 are dead from it.  This number has slowed down but I think it’s because NYC got it under control and not because we’re free.
  • 62,675 cases in MD with 3,032 dead
  • 1 in every 136 has it in Howard County

DID YOU KNOW that if we STOP TESTING we will find FEWER SICK PEOPLE?  It’s TRUE!!!  And if we STOP TESTING ENTIRELY the virus will GO AWAY!

Day 90: My Game Design Theory of Fun

It’s my birthday!  Happy birthday to me!

Also, I have blogged something every day for 90 days through this crazy pandemic.  I’m not certain I’ll be able to keep up that performance for the next 90 days.  I’ll likely keep blogging regularly since I’ve now spiffed the place up, fixed the popped nails, and cleaned up the detritus around here.  But it may go to either weekdays (M-F) since I have little to say on the weekends or a three day a week schedule (M-W-F) so I will have more to talk about.  We’ll see.

Back in the day when we were working on Elder Scrolls Online, we had Friday afternoon playtests.  The entire studio would stop and everyone would patch up to that week’s build and play the current weekly build on the internal prod server (which was not, in fact, prod) for several hours.  Then, we were required to give feedback.

This entire process made me squirrelly and it was because, at the time, the game was not fun.  It was a game, and it played, and you could cast spells and swing a sword and hit things and do damage but as a whole, it was not fun. And that led me to run around talking with game people about “what is fun?”  The result of those conversations led to conversations when making SotS with me saying, “Always do the fun thing and make the fun choice.”

One thing I believe in strongly when designing a game is that it must be fun and, fun is the #1 priority when making design considerations.  Creating fun is a selfless act — it’s the act of making design choices, based on listening to feedback, that might not be in your wheelhouse but will bring joy to N other people.  Your job is to make N other people happy.

What do I mean by fun?  When I’m talking about fun in RPGs, I’m thinking about:

  1. Is the game easy to understand and written in a clear, concise manner?  Do I have to expend a ton of effort to work through your rules?  Clarity helps get to fun.
  2. Are the game rules confusing? I call the time between reading rules, understanding rules, and applying rules friction.  The more friction the game has, the less fun it is.  By the way, that doesn’t mean that game cannot be complex or loaded with content.  Take D&D5, a low-friction system.  It has a zillion rules but it’s core mechanic of “roll a d20 and add to it for skill, attack, and saving throws” is shockingly simple to understand.  Friction is the killer.
  3. Are the rules engaging? What I mean here are they appealing and interesting enough that they make you want to learn more.
  4. Are the game rules flexible enough to apply to fun and creative situations?  Can the players bend, break, abuse, or misuse rules in creative ways and the game rules respond well?  We did horrible things to Blades in the Dark, but the roll your d6s and let’s see what happens worked well. The Dungeon World “succeed, succeed with consequences, or fail hilariously” mechanic also lent itself well to player abuse.
  5. Do the rules inspire storytelling or support storytelling?
  6. Do the rules support each other?  This one is not obvious.  The magic system must work with the combat system and must work with the skill system.  Back in Shadowrun 2nd Ed days — published gloriously in 1992 — the only thing the decking system had in common with everyone else is that it used d6s and use the power of 6 rule.  Decking might as well been its own game.
  7. Are the rules overly jargon?  Having actually written on White Wolf titles, I still can’t tell you those damn rules.
  8. Is the setting cool?  Is it engaging?  Does it even need a setting/ You cannot have Shadowrun without its goofy cyberpunk setting.  You can do Blades without Duskvol, but you’d need to run it in, say, Eversink.  Most games that are not a generic toolkit like FATE have some sort of setting or at least bring in an overlay on the real world.  Trails of Cthulhu is setting (real world) with Cthulhu overlay, while Nights Black Agents is setting (real world, future) with Vampires.
  9. Does the setting support the rules and vice versa?  Do they resonate with one another?
  10. And, the most important rule, do the playtesters enjoy playing the game and engage with the game during the playtest?  Are they having actual fun? Because, at the end of the day, the game is written by you, the game designer, but the only way to make it fun is through collecting as much feedback as possible and iterating your way to fun.

I’m going to give you an example which Kevin has mentioned in public a few times: the rewrite of the trap rules in Swords of the Serpentine right at the end.  I, myself, tripped over the original version of the trap rules.  You know what is rarely exercised in running a playtest?  Trap rules.  You know what you run over backward with a car, repeatedly, when trying to figure out how to make a dungeon encounter dangerous?  Trap rules.

The trap rules were really stodgy.  I’m not a super big fan of D&D5’s trap rules, either, because they reflect a 70s mentality and have to carry some ancient assumptions, and these were even less flexible.  Basically poison traps, magic, things that explode, that sort of thing.  I sort of wanted something, like, someone to touch a lock and then a ghost trapped in the lock oozed out and started chewing on someone’s face, but I could not figure out how to make that work.  And I had made an offhand, not particularly useful, playtest comment of:

“The trap rules are garbage.”

Because I am a terrible playtester and despite have a ton of playtest credits I’m really no help sometimes. If you ever playtest someone’s rules, don’t just write “X rule is garbage” because it’s not actionable.

The trap rules broke several of my rules above: Not engaging, not flexible, didn’t support storytelling.  My only clarification was: “Here we should do the fun thing.”  Luckily, Kevin had better playtester than me, and right before the manuscript was shipped, the rules were fixed and the traps are much better now.

I have read and do have a copy of Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun.  It’s a large essay in bound form.  I recommend people buy it and read it.  He wrote it way back in the day and it got spiffed a few years ago.  It’s useful to read.  But really, the way to understand fun is to design something, put it in front of people, and try to gauge their confusion.  You’re looking for:

  • Low confusion (friction)
  • High engagement
  • Flexibility
  • Supports storytelling

This doesn’t matter if the game is story-heavy, rules-heavy, rules-free.  It makes no difference.  It’s on you, the game designer, to hit those high notes and bring joy to someone else’s life.

Go make fun.

Stats:

  • 21,933,301 completed tests.
  • 2,046,806 tested positive.
  • 115,104 confirmed dead.
  • 60,826 positive cases and  2,940 dead in MD.  (Looks like we’re finding them)
  • 1 out of every 140 people have it in Howard County

rt.live shows the virus spreading in 15 states.  Stay safe out there.

Day 89: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

Hello friends!  Today I am going to talk about American history and why I strongly support the tearing down of Confederate Statues and the renaming of military bases.

I feel pretty comfortable about this, because it’s white people are awful history.

Americans aren’t taught their whole history.  They’re taught the Great White Man of History Highlight reel.  Here’s what’s in an AP American History book:

George Washington wins the Revolution!  Smart dudes ratify the Constitution!  Everything is great until we hit the Civil War which was about “state’s rights” but we never really talk about which right we’re talking about.  (Hint: it was over the expansion of slavery into the Western Territories — ie, the state’s right to own other human beings.)  Then absolutely nothing happens until America gloriously swoops down into Europe and wins WWI.  Then we have the Depression, and that’s sad, but then we rise like a goddamn phoenix to smash some Nazis.  Then we screw up Korea and there’s oh nevermind those wars are lame and now you are here!

I’m putting on my teacher hat to talk about Reconstruction.

Reconstruction was the period between 1865-1877 where America thought very hard about one day fixing some of its wrongs.  It had its genesis in Lincoln’s post-war plan.  He wanted to rebuild America.

In the good column, the Reconstruction period Congress passed three Amendments to the Constitution that are called the “Reconstruction Amendments:” the 13th, 14th, and 15th.  Abolished slavery, established birth citizenship, and explicitly gave the previously (male) enslaved the vote forevermore.  In the bad column, the moment Lincoln was dead, the drive to right those wrongs died with him.

God, what a mess.  Andrew Johnson wanted to hand the power over to the Confederate states to enact the requirements of the peace however they saw fit.  The Confederate States were to abolish slavery, repudiate the confederacy, and abrogate all confederate debt.  But in Johnson’s plan, they could rebuild however they wanted.  There kicks off a very ugly struggle between the Northern Abolitionists who demand liberty for all and the Southern Slaveholders who wanted to get back to the business of shipping cotton and forcing freed-slaves to sign labor agreements that were slavery in everything except name.  Impeachment was tried, and failed by one vote.

(I am looking at an ugly picture of Thaddeus Stevens right now.  That dude is always pissed off. That’s a whole Northern Abolitionist thing.  Being pissed off.)

Thus Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1866 and started Reconstruction, which broke the South into five military districts, the North took full control of Southern Governments, and set about dragging the South kicking and screaming into the 19th century.

There’s alot of crazy and bad things that happen during Reconstruction, and you can go read about them.  But, during that period, the South produced 16 black congressmen and nearly 600 black elected officials.  Huge political and economic opportunity opened up for some.  In reaction, we saw the rise of the Klan. Ulysses S Grant — a President tarred through history by the South as an alcoholic — destroyed them.  Grant won the war and he was damn well going to win the peace.

No one built any statues to or named any military bases for Confederate Generals during Reconstruction.

And then, Grant left office after two terms.  Reconstruction ended.

The end of Reconstruction heralded the beginning of Southern control over their states and segregation.  Look at the dates for when these statues were built or bases established.  They were all built in the 1880-1910 period during rapid expansion and colonialism.  Hilariously, we call this period the “Progressive Age.”

Riding on a wave, Northern factories cranked out Southern Confederate statues for profit and Confederate sympathizers stood them up on street corners as symbols of white oppression.

Naming a military base after a Confederate General simply entrenches the oppression and backs it with the might of the US Army.  When was Fort Bragg named? 1909.

People, an angry two generations who grew up under Reconstruction, were going to have their revenge.

There is nothing good or glorious about those statues.  They are not some revered symbol of the past.  They are not something to be cherished.  They should never have been made in the first place. They’re statues to northern profiteers taking advantage of white racism.

An end to fantasizing about the Confederacy, says I.  It’s not romantic.  It’s not the sign of the “rebel.” The Confederacy is about horrific 17th and 18th century white oppression stretched unreasonably far all the way into the 20th.  It was all about enslaving other human beings.  Anything else is just a lie.

Stats:

We are seeing the Memorial Day spike in COVID-19. Everyone who thought that the virus was gone, well, was wrong.

  • 21,467,820 tested
  • 2,023,762 positive cases
  • 114,242 confirmed dead
  • 60,116 cases in MD with  2,915 dead
  • 1 in 145 people have it in Howard County

Infection rates are tracked at rt.live.

Day 88: Food, Setting Design, and You

“WOAH,” you say.  “YOU CHANGED THE TITLE OF THE BLOG ENTRY TO THE ACTUAL CONTENTS.”

“I know, I know,” I say. “I’m trying to shake it up a little here.”

To honor the Swords of the Serpentine Thread on rpg.net, I am going to write about… food.

Annoyingly, I kept writing about food when writing Eversink.  I expended fountains of precious words on meat-onna-stick.  Why?  Was I hungry?  Well yes, but…

  1. Food defines a people, an environment, and a biodome.  People living on mountains eat a diet rich in goat, while people living on the coasts eat a diet rich in oysters.
  2. Food helps define a people.  People who farm and herd cattle are a very different people than those who primarily fish, or hunter-gatherers.  Are people sedentary with huge feudal plantations?  Do they live on lashed together boats?  Do they farm smoky terraces of rice paddies?
  3. Food defines status.  People with a higher status eat much differently than people of a lower status.  Rich people can indulge in delicacies while the poor eat, well, meat-onna-stick.
  4. Food defines a sense of place.  Food markets, food carts, farm plots, grazing plots, fishing ponds, oceans, seas… These are the sounds and sights of a city come to life.  A city with no food is just archeology.
  5. And because of A Better Tomorrow II.

If you haven’t seen A Better Tomorrow II, first, you need to go get educated in classic Gun Fu and the Heroic Bloodshed genre of movies.  Go away and watch it.  I’ll wait.

Here’s the scene I really care about:

This scene has everything.  Chow Yun Fat.  Hong Kong Restaurant Wok Cooking.  Violence. Guns. White guys getting their comeuppance.  And, most importantly, a dissertation on man’s relationship to rice.

It’s the deepest shallow thing ever.

I have this image in my head of PCs parkouring down through Eversink underbasements pursued by some nasty summoned by a Sorcerer and then bursting up through a bathroom and stumbling out, all covered in gore, into a huge, ridiculous, ritzy gala and there, in the center of the gala, is this spread of oysters.   And me, being a curious sort who is in love with travel food shows, goes “ooh? where do the oysters come from?”  Nevermind the underbasements, the nasty, the Sorcerer, or even the benefit gala for poor Tangle Orphans.  What do I care about?  “Where’s the fish market?”

This unspools in a creative weave into building a fish market, and fisheries, and the smell of the docks, and the Tangle itself because the fishermen need to live somewhere and they do not live next to ritzy galas that serve oysters.

I can unweave anything if I start with food.  If, for some reason, the restaurant in Ironcross serves, of all the strange things, steak, and Eversink is on series of islands connected by bridges, where the hell does the steak come from?  And how fresh could it possibly be in a world without refrigeration?  Is there a Sorcerer who specializes in cold enslaved to some horrific Demonic Master and forced to freeze warehouses full of meat sides until the Sorcerer implodes in a giant bloody poof of Corruption?  Or does the Corruption go in the meat?!  How does the Demon smuggle the meat to the warehouse?  Does he also run a Thieves Guild?  Holy jumping jacks, that restaurant is a front for Smuggled in Illegal Demon Meat Loaded with Sorcerous Corruption.  And what happens if you, I dunno, eat it?

Dear God, do not get the special!

Things like this are why my friends think I need help.

I’m fascinated by man’s relationship with food and how it defines their place, their cities, their governments, and their entire ways of life.  Everything about man, space, life, and man’s relationship with food.

I once read this book, a Taste of Conquest.  It’s honestly not the greatest book of all time but I found the section on Venice deeply amusing.  Not for the food!  The food is abhorrent in that book — except these, Venetian Peverini, they look pretty good.

The book inspired me for two reasons:

  1. It lays out the machinations and machinery of how, in the 16th and 17th centuries, various spices start on one side of the world and traveled to the other side of the world, often in musty holds.
  2. The early mania for printing cookbooks.

When the printing press first spread through Europe, one of its first stops was Venice.  While at first, the bookbinders cranked out Bibles, they quickly churned out a more popular seller: cookbooks. (Then after that, you know, porn.)  Bibles people bought once.  Cookbooks people bought every time a new one was released.  Oh rapturous joy, early 16th-century cookbooks.   There are few things more bizarre, confusing, and glorious than a 16th-century cookbook.  They rarely have the ingredients, let alone full recipes!  And mostly they said: “Take a rabbit and roll it in pepper and cinnamon and roast and eat and don’t die.”

It’s glory because it talks about people, and things, and people eating things.  And it is a story of a city, and how the city worked.  And how it wrapped itself around that spice trade so people could eat rabbit rolled in pepper.

Eversink is loaded with food carts because I have a passionate love for street food.  And it’s loaded with food because it’s a place of people, and culture, and where people come together to share in culture.  And also, where the meat might be, just slightly, haunted.

Stats:

  • 21,467,820 tested
  • 2,003,107 positive cases.  Yikes!  2M cases!
  • 113,349 dead.  I note we are back up to 1K dead/day.
  • 59,550 cases in MD, 2,885 dead
  • 1 in 147 people have it in Howard County

Day 87: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

We are having ourselves a bit of a cultural moment.  I originally wrote this post with a long diatribe about the history of America and how we teach it.  How we whitewash black lives in our history and then simply wave our hands at Black History Month.  How we disappear both the contributions and the horrors.

And I deleted it because it’s not my place to go off on that sort of history.

Black hands built this country for the last 400 years.  Black slaves built the White House.  Where Lafayette Park now stands, behind where Trump cowers, there was once a slave market.  Slaves were offloaded where we are now building high end condos at Navy Yard.  Now, there’s a Whole Foods.  12 of our Presidents — 12 — owned slaves.  All 12 brought their slaves to serve them while they served their terms.

Black lives were given for our wars.  Black blood was spilled for our great capitalist empire.  Of course black lives matter.  And despite every horrible thing we have done — which is quite a bit — we would not be here without them.

We are way past due for people full of their privilege getting over themselves and turning the horrors of privilege back.  Because that’s what this is all about — domination, racism, and privilege.

There’s a post over on the Atlantic called This is How America Gets Better.  The story of America is the story of struggle.  We were conceived as this equal and perfect union and sunk inequality into the very Constitution itself.  Things are bad but, through social upheaval, things do get better.  Or, at least, different.  The Abolitionist Movement of the 1850s — a movement today that birthed, oddly enough, the Republican Party.  The Socialists of the 1890s. The Suffrage Movement of the 1910s.  The 1960s.  The story of America is little islands of peace between social upheaval.

It’s worth reading.

Way back in the day, back in undergrad, when information on the Internet was hard to find (there was a time!!!), I had a quote file that lived at the root of my home directory on the University of Michigan Engineering servers.  When I found a quote I really liked from a book or wherever, I copied it into the file.

I used to have this Frederick Douglass quote near the top:

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will… Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get.” 

– Frederick Douglass, A Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass

I leave you with a link to Frederick Douglass’s “The Meaning of July the Fourth to the Negro.”  That is your assigned reading and your homework.  There will be a test, goddamnit.  Read that, and reflect on your American Exceptionalism.

Stats:

  • 21,048,183 test results.  This is great, because it means we have good coverage to find COVID.  This is bad, because it’s detecting that the virus is blooming in 14 states.  No, the heat does not slow down or stop COVID-19.  Sorry.
  • 1,983,931 cases.  Looks like we’re going to pass 2M.
  • 112,334 confirmed dead.  Slowed down but still… 112K dead.
  • 59,030 cases in MD with 2,846 dead.  We’re finding it here through the drive-ins.
  • 1 out of 150 people have it in Maryland.

Day 85: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

Happy Sunday!  As a reminder, people are still dying from COVID-19 even though testing has crossed the necessary 500K/day threshold.  We have no tracing program in place and we have no idea who the superspreaders are.  If you’re going out to protest, please, wear a mask.  And if you’re protesting in DC, please contribute to Trump’s conveniently brand newly built new faux-Berlin Wall around the White House at 1600 Black Lives Matter Plaza, DC!

Kevin told me that past me decided Eversink is 1000 years old not 2000 years old, but sinks at a much faster rate than my back-of-the-envelope calculations.  The underbasements are actually 30 stories deep all told with the 6x sinking rate over 1/2 time.  My bad, and past me is always kind of nefarious anyway.  I had good reasons for that choice which are lost in notes somewhere on my desktop here.

But!  Let’s talk about another thing I find delightful about Eversink!  Government Committees and Laws and Traditions!

Ok, I know what you’re thinking right now.  And the thought bubble tree looks something like:

  1. Wut.
  2. Only you can find government committees and wonky political structures fun.

But wait.  They’re actually awesome.

I was heavily influenced by the actual government of the Republic of Venice, which was not, in fact, a Republic at all but an oppressive oligarchy open to select few.  My core reference on the Great Council of Ten is John Julius Norwich’s eager but barely readable History of Venice, where detail is spread randomly across its near-1000 pages, and a paper copy sits on my shelves.  The Great Council begat other Councils which begat Committees which, in theory, Did Interesting Things.

I borrowed that concept fairly liberally for the Government of Eversink.  But what I also added was Venice’s concept of Ad-Hoc Committees and took it to a very Eversink Extreme.  In Eversink, one has the Triskedane (no Doge nope), then the Main Committees that do important things like the Committee of Defense, and then lots of Little Committees that roll up to the Big Committees and, theoretically, do marginally useful things for the City.

The last thing we want is for the Triskedane to actually do things.  They delegate.  And the big Committees are too busy politicking, so they also are not expected to do things.  They also delegate.  So they begat small committees, which begat smaller committees, and it’s turtles all the way down.

This means, with a clever application of Laws & Traditions, a skill that lets the city be putty in the hands of a PC, the PCs can simply declare themselves spontaneously a Committee and go do Government Things with plausible Government power.  Presumably, without ever contacting the actual Committee they serve who will wake in the morning to a mild surprise.  (Important Note!  NPCs can do this, too!)

This doesn’t mean said Committee that actually exists will give the PCs any sort of real temporal power or resources to do a thing.  But the PCs could, say, waltz into the Opera House and flash around papers declaring themselves the Committee for the Rating and Control of the Hemlines of the Mezzo-Sopranos, and thus, with the Great Power of the Triskedane! All Hail the 13! really demand those seats in the upper left-hand box.

And, perhaps, someone will give it to them.

With a wave of a skill, the PCs could transform themselves into a government committee who really does have the rights via the higher up committees to get into the locked government buildings to get access to paperwork that the hoi polli can’t otherwise see.   Or they can just be a big gang, right out of A Clockwork Orange, calling themselves a committee or they can fight another committee out there on the street in a big government committee vs committee rumble!

Ok, so this sounds like a way to have a gang with a fancy name.  Except!  Except!  Law in Eversink is a malleable thing, and lawyers have real power. Laws & Traditions allows players to also make up laws on the spot so they could be a government entity and then make up laws that support why they’re up to nonsense!

And there’s no reason why said Committee cannot exist one day, get disbanded, and then the PCs be another committee the next!  Hemlines on Tuesday, Hat Control Wednesday!  Except there’s this problem where someone powerful up on top in the actual government gets irked because someone is causing weird mayhem yet again, and come snooping around, and demand to know why the PCs are goofing off with the actual Eversink Government.  Or worse, someone powerful up on top of the actual government might decide the PCs are doing a good job and now the PCs are getting held to an actual standard and have to go do things because this running shaggy dog joke about committees has turned into actual meaningful employment.

The big committees do have real power.  They control real resources and make real life and death decisions over the City.  But PCs can just sort of… step in… and have their own go at it at will.

Stats:

  • 20,235,678 completed COVID tests.
  • 1,947,306 positive found
  • 111,287 confirmed dead.  Have I mentioned this number keeps climbing?!?
  • 58,109 cases in MD with  2,817 dead
  • 1 out of 153 people have it in Howard County.

Day 84: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

I hope all of you who went to the protests today wore a mask.  This is your official reminder: covid-19 is still a thing and it could kill you.  Fight the man but be safe!

I promised I would write something short about the City of Eversink in Swords of the Serpentine.

I have many favorite things in Eversink — wackiness with Laws, food trucks, more food trucks — but one of them are the underbasements.

One of my favorite reference books when thinking about the architecture of a city is Kate Asher’s The Works.   It’s not the cheapest book — it’s $25 on Amazon — but if you’re spending time twirling a pen and thinking about cities, this is one you should have in your library.  (So is New Your City Politics: Governing Gotham but that one is very dry and spends most of its time talking about committees.  It’s one of the two sources for the endless governing committees in Eversink.)  The Works walks through each public city service one by one.  Most of them have an underground component.  Water, sewer, power, natural gas, telecommunications, subway… all underground.

One established fact about Eversink are the sinking buildings.  All buildings save the Haven sink.  Not all at the same time.  Not all at the same rate.  But they do sink into the ground.  There is constant building up, new floors on top of old, as the lower floors sink away and new ones become street level.

It’s a cool thought, but what’s cooler is the concept of a three-dimensional city.  From flipping through the Works, we know that all cities have three-dimensionality even if it’s only a few feet deep.  But Eversink isn’t a mere few feet deep for sewer lines and coax.  Eversink has been sinking for two thousand years.

There’s all sorts of weird things down there.

Let’s think for a moment about the archeology of a truly old city like London or Rome.  When you walked up to the Largo di Torre Argentine in Rome, the spot where Caesar was stabbed to death, you look down.  (Also, it’s currently home to a cat colony.)  Over the last two thousand years, repaving, river silt, people, things, and stuff, Rome is dozens of feet… taller… than it was two thousand years ago.  Check out the Wikipedia page because it has a good comparison between the ruins and the street up above to get the idea.

Now imagine the Largo di Torre Argentina if it sunk an inch a year.  That’s 16 stories (166 feet) beneath street level.  Have silt and pave-over and build up and to get to where Caesar died, if it was in Eversink, is some 20 stories down!

I reflexively go to a place of “ooh so much cool archeology.”

As an added wrinkle, the buildings sunk intact.  The rooms, the doors, the boarded-up windows, they’re all still there.  They’re just underground.  Think about the Tangle, the poor section of town where building is dense and buildings crowd on top of one another.  They all sink at once, in a buried warren of houses and shacks.

Meanwhile, the Canal and Architect’s Guild patches and plows city services underground right through these sunken buildings.

What does this tell me?  It tells me that Eversink is a giant, three-dimensional dungeon.  And, as a PC, I want a high-stakes parkour chase that starts across Eversink roofs and then ducks underground through broken Eversink sunken rooms and then to emerge again on some street and then back on the roofs again.

And there are things down there.  Stuff.  Hidden secrets.  Secrets people both have forgotten and have conveniently buried in some sunken, waterlogged basement.

We can put all kinds of cool and horrible things down there:

  • Cults worshipping forgotten gods
  • Sorcerous cabals
  • Meeting rooms for thieves guilds
  • Floating black markets with the best food stalls
  • Temples to the Old Nameless Gods
  • Random demons from a forgotten time simply lost and eternally wandering
  • Hidden gashes in time
  • Intelligent fungii
  • Swamp things
  • Forgotten libraries
  • Rooms of statues full of angry souls
  • Serpentine holding court plotting their return
  • The occasional small god
  • Government paperwork strangely dry
  • Weapons that can both save and destroy the world
  • Tunnels between major Eversink buildings so people can sneak from place to place
  • Busy Eversink Academics “researching.”

You know, things.  Cool things.  Eversink is kind of like a big mullet on its back.  Business up on top, party underneath.

Spend a few minutes thinking up things that could be down there and it probably is.  Then ask yourself if there’s some way that thing down below could affect the world negatively up above in some horrible way.  If you can think up a way, have it happen, and then point adventurers at it.  You have an adventure in Swords of the Serpentine.

I can think up a dozen more things already because it’s so awesome.

Stats:

  • 19,778,873 covid tests.  This is a huge jump and phenomenally good news.  It looks like we’re getting to 500K tests a day.  We’re definitely testing.  The CVS up the street that is doing tests has a line of people waiting to get nose swapped constantly.
  • 1,925,356 positive tests.  With the huge jump in tests comes the huge jump in finding it.
  • 110,563 confirmed dead.  It is wiping out entire nursing homes.  Arizona’s ICUs are 100% full.
  • 57,407 cases in MD with 2,774 dead
  • 1 out of 155 people have it in Howard County.

Good on testing.  Bad on people keep dying at a good clip.  Wear masks, folks.  Please.

 

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