Monday Pointers

D4: Feds funds musical by mime troupe

No, that’s not the story headline but it is the part that jumped out at me. NEA funds weird left-wing political musical is a "what else is new" headline. But how do mimes perform a musical?

D6: Worried about Russian hackers try paper ballots

After 2000 I really pushed for lever machines for many of the same reasons but I have come around to paper ballots. In fact, I think I'll detail my broader idea on self-receipting and auditing paper ballots in a post.

D8: Chekhov’s Tribble

The Everyday Novelist (which you should listen to everyday if you are a young writer) reads a David Gerrold essay on making sure you only put important stuff on screen in your story. I tried to find it on Gerrold’s Facebook but sadly, like much of Facebook, it is highly politicized and I gave up before finding it.

As an aside, one reason I don’t put too much politics here is I think it is a way to drive off readers if politics is not your main focus. Perhaps if Mr. Gerrold had put half the energy he spends on politics on the War Against the Chtorr series it would be moving ahead instead of languishing so long (over 20 years) that people have lost interest.

Regardless, Gerrold’s advice is timeless and worth a listen.

D13: Collect all the pixels

As always, a D13 is a shameless plug. For those who haven’t seen the link I figured I would point out the new mailing list. Right now it is a monthly newsletter published on the 23rd.

2D13: The Visions of Cireb

The Visions of Cireb is now available on Amazon both for purchase and for Kindle Unlimited.

Video of the Week:

While I did not become a quant until two years after the crisis what both caused the financial crisis of 2008 and why it become so all encompassing are issues of great interest to me. The later is a bit puzzling as during the early 80s banks suffered bigger loses and lower capitalization but it did not become a contagion threatening the entire economy.

While correlation is not causation I think Brian S. Wesbury makes a case to at least look into the influence of the return of market to market accounting rules via Dodd-Frank as a possible vector for the mortgage sickness to affect the entire economy.

The T&T Rogue in OD&D

Like OD&D Tunnels & Trolls has fighting-men (called warriors), magic-users (called wizards), and a hybrid class. For OD&D that is the cleric. In T&ampT it is the rogue.

While in terms of background and inspiration this class is much more like the later transformation of the thief in D&D than the cleric he is a combined fighter and spellcaster. Unlike the cleric he uses the same spell list as the wizard but begins knowing no spells. He must learn all his spells from a wizard and cannot do spell research. His prime attribution, to the degree T&T even has such a concept, is luck to align him with the saving roll system which is a generic system of attempt resolution.

I think replacing the cleric in OD&D with the rogue could be an interesting experiment.

First, before we get to the class itself we need to decide what to do with the cleric’s spell lists. Spells that exist on both lists are covered. Noticing the general pattern that clerical spells do not do damage (except for some reversed spells) and magic-user spells do damage on odd spell levels I would transfer cleric spells to the magic-user list at twice their stated level. This does mean fourth and fifth level clerical spells are lost from the game as OD&D capped at sixth level for magic-users (if you are using Greyhawk fourth level cleric spells would come over).

I would allow reversable spells but each would have to be learned separately. Cure light wounds and Cause light wounds would both appear but be separate spells. Some spells, bless comes to mind, might do well with a renaming.

The biggest consequence would be delaying the party having healing spells until the magic-user if third level instead of until the cleric is second level. Given the latter occurs before the magic-user is even second this is a long span.

Now for the rogue himself. For the record I used Erin Smale's Building the Perfect Class, which is intended for RC, to help come up with the XP totals. However, this was as a guide as many features aren't present in OD&D. My notes on my choices are in paranthesis.

The Rogue

The rogue, or rogue wizard, is someone with magical talent who never completed magical training and has been living by his wits. He may have started as a wizard’s apprentice but is it is not necessary. The Grey Mouser and Cugel the Clever are archetypical rogues.

Weapons: The rogue can use all weapons except for magical swords (see OD&D Commentary Part I for my conention that all classes can use all non-magical weapons. The restriction on magical swords is to reflect their distinctiveness in the LBB).

Armor: The rogue may use magical armor of a +1 bonus (in T&T fifth edition warriors get an armor bonus due to training. This is my translation into OD&D terms).

Hit Dice, Fighting Capability, Saving Throws: As a cleric of the same level.

Spell Casting: The rogue begins the game about to cast spells as a magic-user one half his level (rounding up). However, the rogue knows no spells to begin with and must learn spells from a magic-user. A rogue cannot do any magical research including learning spells from scrolls, creating new spells, and creating magic items.

Experience: For level two 2100 experience points. Afterwards follow the pattern for clerics.

The one thing I haven&8217;t figured out is a use for the turn undead table which I would like to do. You could use the classic thief skills but that doesn’ fit as well. I am tempted to look through my various editions of T&T and steal ideas from the illustrations related to rogues and saving rolls.

This has not be play tested and subject to a lot of change. I would love to hear people’s thoughts.

Note: Newsletter/Mailing List

I am starting to put out a newsletter, mostly for fans of my writing. You can read the author’s notes for my first published story and find the actual story on Amazon (both to buy and on KU). While the sign-up page promises to send no more than one a week right now the plan is to send on the 23rd of each month. The content will not be the same as the blog although I will probably link to highlights since the last newsletter.

I would like you to join me there as well as here.

Everything is Grist

Writers always get asked, "where do you get your ideas?"

New writers, like me, probably ask it more than regular people. You want to figure out what things to do so you don’t stare at a blank page wondering, "What words should go there?"

I am starting to realize everything is grist for the ideal mill.

The example that crystalized what should be an obvious fact hit this morning. I was casting about for an idea for “Puritans in Space” for an early story in the Articles of Faith universe. I mean, okay, so very religious Protestants gather their funds via one or more megachurches and build the first O’Neil Cylinder at Earth-Moon L5. That’s nice. What’s the story?

Late last week I came across a documentary about the Tulip Bubble on Curiosity Stream. My wife didn'’t know what the bubble was so we watched it. While I was familiar with that first modern financial crisis in economic terms I learned a few things. For one, I did not realize it was built around future contracts for delivery of bulbs currently buried in a given location and not for a physical bulb changing hands at the moment of auction.

The key item I did not know was why tulips became a craze among the Dutch in the early Seventeenth Century. It turns out the first financial bubble has its roots (or would that be its bulb) in Reform Protestantism. In the first quarter of the Seventeenth Century Netherlands was a wealthy country due to trade inhabited by people who were part of a strict Reform Church. The faith in that time and place limited the acceptable ways to display wealth. This dichotomy is the source of a history of the early Dutch Republic, The Embarrassment of Riches.

One of the acceptable ways to display wealth was gardening. Gardening, by engaging the natural world and working with it, glorified God. Thus, Dutch burgers would compete to grow the most beautiful gardens. About the same time this started the tulip arrived in the Netherlands. Originally a flower from Central Asia it had over a couple of centuries moved to western Europe.

The addition of these beautiful flowers added to the glorification of the Dutch garden. Competition for daughter bulbs from the most beautiful tulips, which would grow identical plants, began.

So, out of limitations on how to express wealth inline with religious beliefs tulip bulbs became the original of which the 2007 mortgage failure was a descendent.

Now I have Puritans, Reform Protestants, in space making their living by trade with Earth.

What are their tulips? What are their gardens? What thing will they find out among the asteroids or on the surface of the Moon or even just ship up in limited qualities from Earth that allows them to show off wealth without offending God? Will the competition for that item create the first financial bubble off the surface of the Earth?

I do not know but I am taking notes. One day I may write a story or even a novel about the first financial bubble in space because I watched a documentary.

A documentary about tulip bulbs.

Author Notes: The Visions of Cireb

I am surprised no one felt certain they had read The Visions of Cireb before. It was directly inspired by, and modeled on, Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book by M. R. James. Late last year while trying to do the reading part of a Bradbury Challenge a volume of James’s complete ghost stories provided the short story one evening. My only note on it was, "how could I do this as science fiction?"

Eventually I typed out the first few paragraphs sometime around New Year’s and promptly forgot about them. In my new drive to take writing seriously after Frolicon, and specifically the Ink Track, I put it in my word in progress folder. Deciding I wanted to try for a short story a week for a year (sadly, I am closer to one a fortnight), which is the other side of the Bradbury Challenge, I took it out.

And promptly realized I had even less of a clue of how to structure a short story than I did a novel. I am familiar with the Lester Dent formula but that didn’t seem to fit a treasure hunter on an alien planet meets the devils of a lost race too well. In the end I wrote a rough outline of the inspiration in eight scene descriptions and set out to write my own.

This borrowed outline gave me the space to work. For some reason I decided it fit into the relatively far future of what my notes call the Article of Faith universe. The core idea of that universe are relatively near future and based on the question: “What if the early settlement of the solar system is by religious dissenters similar to many of the British colonies in North America?”

That idea colors the story primarily in Jake’s superior attitude towards religion. I will admit his attitude surprises me, but it seemed natural as I wrote. About two thirds of the way through, however, I realized his not just rationalist rejection of faith, but disdain for it required a stronger reaction to the revelations of the volume than his English gentleman scholar counterpart. The end was written before he even saw the ruined Ek city much less knew the book existed.

This resulted in a modification to a bit already written where he views the book. The description of its form was already in place. I added Jake’s intent to pull an L. Ron Hubbard at this time.

In terms of adding to my notes on the universe this is set far enough in the future to not affect a lot. Reading the first paragraph revising it to reflect hundreds of years is probably in order. The big innovations are The Verge and the Real. The Verge was just a name that came to mind to signify a “Dark Age”. At this point I think it will be where Earth bound nations will be unable to wield effective control over their colonies. The resulting events become The Divergence or The Verge. My model is less the US revolution and more the collapse of European colonial empires from 1918 through the mid-70s.

The Real was just my desire for a unique currency without the normal credits of science fiction. I had already used names from the Portuguese colonial period for some locations. I decided the Portuguese were the first Earth nation to restore contact after The Verge and found an old currency to use. I also conceived of it as being a hard gold currency and used that to transfer the value of the original story as an Easter Egg.

Why Portuguese? I do not have a real reason so I am just going to blame Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia, especially Ms. Hoyt.

I hope this peak behind my curtain was entertaining and, if I am lucky, informative. The story has moved from free to Amazon and is in KU. The next story in the challenge is slated for Sunday and is a modern day tale called In the Darkness Bind Them.

Monday Pointers

D4: Women Have Always Written Space Opera
D6: Why Were They Forgotten?
D8: The Appendix N Answer

I want to say “DUH!” but recent stories about how women are finally allowed (allowed?) to write in various science fiction and fantasy genres are wisdom at cons. What is very sad is several of the women she lists are not only on my “oh, she has new book out” list but were among the first authors on that list. In fact, the only man on it prior to the 90s was Heinlein.

Judith Tarr gave her reason in the first post. I gave mine about a month ago in a post on this blog. Cirsova has his own in the second link. Jeffro also has one over at Castalia House's blog in the third link. If Cirsova and Jeffro are right about Brackett I suspect a transcribing and eBook project is in order. Brackett needs to be remembered for more than her amazing screenplays. The only person who showed us the real Mars even half as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs.

D10: Big Dipper this here’s a Rubber Duck and I’m about to jump to hyperspace

Tim Brannon is working on a new mini-supplement for White Star which is pure 70s rpg insanity. It is the kind of craziness that seems to have bled out of the D&D scene in particular but also rpgs in general. I suspect this is one reason T&T has been my con and pickup game of choice for two decades. It is nearly impossible not to get this kind of craziness in that game.

D12: Meanwhilte at Kotaku

You like to play a different way that’s one thing, but I think if you claim to be a long time D&D fan and despite Gary Gygax’s legacy you are missing the plot. Also, the author either had hugely limited play experience in the early days or, as seems more likely, was not around for those days. I am a pretty poor source for those early days in terms of variety but at least I was there and playing with adults not just my peers. The DM was not a tyrant then and to be brutally honest most players who came in after the release of third edition (a group I suspect includes the author) act a lot less free in their play styles. They are more slaves to the rulesbooks than players were fourty yearts ago.

Oakes shows us with the DMG the mistake behind this article but not as you’d expect.

Video of the Week:

I have mentioned this podcast as a big help in getting over the conceptual leap of writing a novel so why not make it the video of the week.