I think there's a lot of potential for games of the Great Slave War against the Roman Republic
marjaerwin
For example:

1. A roleplaying game set in the revolt, with the player-characters as paricipants. Of course, it'll run into the usual problems of historical campaigns and of armed campaigns. First the characters would be a few amid tens of thousands [amid one hundred and fifty thousand, if we can trust the Roman sources]. If there is something a few people can do to change history, why would it be something the characters are trusted and able to do? Second, the characters could get killed and shouldn't reasonably have plot armor.

2. A battle game covering the battles of the war. Unfortunately, we don't know where most of the recorded battles took place, though Barry Strauss has suggested some in his The Spartacus War.

3. A campaign game covering the whole conflict in Italy, with an expansion or another game covering a possible escape into the Balkans.

I am a bit literal...
marjaerwin
I can't predict who will misread my words, or when, or how. I remember one argument, where I'd described the deportation of the Crimean Tatars as unfortunate, and someone took that to say I was supporting that deportation, instead of denouncing that. I said it was unfortunate, A wrong thing. I remember those other arguments about life expectancy, and some people took that to say I was supporting colonialism, instead of denouncing that and questioning some claims about past life expectancies.

So when someone misreads my words, I can't offer any honest apology. And I don't think any of you should unless you feel you can predict these things, and can be responsible for how other people read what you write.

Life Expectancy
marjaerwin
I've done a bit of demographic research, mostly on the Mediterranean and Europe. Anyway, typical estimates of life expectancy:

Hellas, 330s B.C.E.: 25 years. (Mogens Herman Hansen, The Shotgun Method, p. 55.)

England, 1270s: 25 years. (Quoted in Ole Benedictow, The Black Death, p. 252.)

Europe, 1390s to 1540s: 20-25 years. (Benedictow, p. 251.)

Norway, 1660s: <26 years. (Benedictow, p. 250.)

France, 1700: 25 years. (Benedictow, p. 250.)

Norway, 1750s, 35 years. (Benedictow, p. 250.)

France, 1780s: 29 years. (Benedictow, p. 250.)

India, 1911: 22-24 years under colonialism. (Benedictow, p. 250.)

Of course, Europe had a particularly bad disease environment. It's quite likely that the Americas had on the whole a higher life expectancy, before European colonization, smallpox, and other European diseases. I don't know how to eveluate the sources available; some papers suggest 20 years, but that's worse than Europe, when the disease environment was better than Europe, so that seems less-than-trustworthy. I just don't see how it's racist or colonialist to think in terms of 40 years instead of 80 years.

Scrolling Solutions?
marjaerwin
As I’ve mentioned, I’m clumsy, and I’m suffering from hand and arm injuries. I’ve ordered a new computer which should be a bit more accessible than my old one, and shouldn’t fall apart. I’m sometimes going to hook up a seperate keyboard and mouse because that usually offers better ergonomics than using a built-in keyboard and touchpad. But there’s one big problem: scrolling.

I’m too clumsy to be able to click on narrow scrollbars. I’ve messed about with Linux fixes for wider scrollbars. I’m annoyed that it can be so hard to set up wider scrollbars. I’d like to be able to scroll up and down, and possibly also side to side, without having to click on any scrollbars though.

At this point, the usual fixes are touchpad gestures, which are hard on clumsy people, and scroll wheels, which are hard on bio-organic people with pain and weak bio-organic tendons.

I’m wondering if anyone can suggest a good ergonomic mouse that is comfortable, that allows decent point control for clumsy people, and that allows scrolling without using pain wheels. Any ideas?

What's going on with Kant anyway?
marjaerwin
It kinda amazes me that he could come up with both brilliant moral philosophy, such as his attempts to define a/the categorical imperative, and atrocious moral philosophy, such as his defense of revenge, or his support for white supremacy.

I am just going to point out two formulations of his categorical imperative, and how his oft-cited support for revenge/retribution contradicts this. I don't understand the third, but the first two cover the important ground:

In one formulation, he said that we should act only according to that maxim which we could, at the same time, will to be a universal law.

In another, he said that we should always treat humanity as an end in itself, never as a mere means.

Any form of revenge/retribution/returning evil for evil means treating revenge as an end in itself and the humanity of the target of the revenge as a mere means. Because it is pointless cruelty, it violates the formula of humanity. Because it is an evil for an evil, if it is consistent, then it leads to an endless cycle of evil, and it isn't good regardless of any formula; if it is inconsistent, it fails the formula of universal law.

I have a hard enough time understanding why anyone would support revenge, but I have a harder time understanding someone who actually thought about moral philosophy and contributed good ideas to moral philosophy would have supported revenge.

Has anyone been able to convert Pathfinder adventures to other systems?
marjaerwin
Last December, I tried testing a roleplaying campaign for my brother. I had to stop partway through, because of some unresolved story issues, because of sickness, and because of the massive frustration of using an adventure designed for the Pathfinder system, which I don’t like, and don’t have the required supplements for, with the core rules for the Basic Roleplaying system, which I kinda like.

*headdesk*

I hope to restart sometime if and when I recover from this sickness. I hope to be able to get a bit farther with this adventure, though it’s not my preferred style of adventure, and try to run some other Pathfinder-conversion adventures which might be. I don’t know what to do though.

I think that trying to convert things from one detailed old-school-updated system to another detailed old-school-updated system has been more trouble than it’s worth.

I wrote up several pages of house rules and conversion rules and was always running into gaps.

I managed to convert over the non-player characters, but I have way too much trouble trying to convert over the accursed bestiary. I don’t have the required Pathfinder bestiaries, multiple volumes including third-party volumes, I can’t use the appropriate Pathfinder websites, and I have to convert everything before I can use anything.

I also ran into Basic Roleplaying rules issues. Like poison and healing and first aid.

I also had to deal with some campaign-specific rules, figuring them out, debugging them, clarifying them, and then converting them.

Tatchanka!
marjaerwin
Hi.

I think I've already mentioned that I'm working on Tatchanka!, a game of two campaigns of the Ukrainian Revolution and Civil War, in 1917 to 1921. I just wanted to give you a heads-up. A pre-order would help me, of course, and if you have any playtesting experience, that could help the game and the other players.

It's on the publisher's website here: http://www.legionwargames.com/legion_tatchanka.html

I should add that Tatchanka! is only a game of part of the military revolution, capturing weapons, forming armies, fighting opposing armies, and seizing or liberating territory; it is not a game of the social revolution, and players will not be redistributing land, rebuilding society amid the war.

Legion Wargames is a small mainstream publisher.

Tatchanka includes four scenarios depicting two key military campaigns of the Ukrainian Revolution, when independence forces, first the nationalist-led Directory, and second the anarchist-led Makhnovists, had their best chance to hold off both the Red Army and the Armed Forces of South Russia, to win either independence or autonomy and the continuation of the Ukrainian revolution.

Fall of the Directory depicts the crisis between December 1918 and March 1919, as the Directory tried to consolidate their position, while the Bolsheviks and the Volunteers invaded Ukraine. Three players control the opposing armies.

The Road to Freedom? depicts the period between September 1919 and November 1919, as the Makhnovist forces broke through the Volunteer positions, returned to their home ground near Katerynoslav, Oleksandrisk and Hulyai Pole, and raided Volunteer supply bases and headquarters. Two players control the opposing armies.

The Bolshevik Advance depicts the period between December 1919 and January 1920, as the Bolsheviks pursued the Volunteer Army after taking Orel, Kyiv and Kharkiv, and the Bolsheviks tried to regain control of Ukraine. At the same time the Volunteers tried to crush the Makhnovists and to stop the Bolsheviks. Three players control the opposing armies.

Rising Against the Volunteer Army depicts the entire period from September 1919 through January 1920, combining The Road to Freedom? and The Bolshevik Advance. Two or three players may control the opposing armies.

Tatchanka! provides each side with troop units, mostly infantry and cavalry, as well as some tatchanka or cart-mounted machine gun units, in proportion to the numbers they were able to recruit, train, and, this was the decisive problem, equip. Each troop unit represents about two thousand combatants; given that regimental strengths varied wildly, that would be one of the stronger infantry regiments, two or more of the weaker infantry regiments, one of the stronger cavalry brigades, or two or more of the weaker cavalry brigades. Tatchanka! also provides each side with limited numbers of gunboat units, train units, and in some cases tank units, army headquarters, and arms stockpiles. Tatchanka! does not include supply units, apart from the arms stockpiles, but gives the better-supplied forces, especially the Entente-supported Volunteers and the rest of the Armed Forces of South Russia with combat bonuses.

Tatchanka! does not include the tactical-operational problems of the period, although it tries to cover the strategic problems facing each side. The combat system should still yield historical advance rates, breakthroughs, and losses, with average luck and historical strategies. The movement system does allow historical advance rates, the ability to slip through thinly-screened sectors of the enemy line, and the ability to use rail, river, and sea movement.

Tatchanka! includes two maps, covering the areas of each campaign. Tatchanka! allows about seven to eight days per turn and twenty miles/thirty-two kilometers per hex.

Tatchanka! is fairly simple by wargame standards, but it could still be hard to learn the game without wargaming experience. I don't know.

Tatchanka! also includes some red counters for the Bolsheviks and green counters for the Zelenyists. I have asked and been assured that the shades are distinct enough for colorblind players, but even so, I think I need to be up front in case it is an issue for some players.

A few ideas to make computers more accessible for clumsy users
marjaerwin
Cross-posted from Tumblr: http://ananiujitha.tumblr.com/post/81514629549/a-few-ideas-to-make-computers-more-accessible-for

1. Ergonomics matter.

2. Anything should be accessible using either mouse, touchpad, or keyboard. Nothing should require two-handed keyboard use, or excessive stretching during one-handed keyboard use. Nothing should require tapping, gestures, or exceptional coordination during touchpad use, because users slip. Nothing schould require painful scrollwheels. Therefore:

3. Whenever input requires coordination, either make everything bigger and easier-to-use, or break complicated maneuvers into simpler ones, or allow typed input instead of coordination based input. For example:

3A. You should be able to use bigger buttons and wider scrollbars.

3B. You should be able to break complex multi-layered menus, which collapse if users slip, into multiple smaller menus, or you can allow users to open the menu into its own window.

3C. You should be able to supplement sliders and other tools requiring precise inputs, with typed alternatives to slider control. Users may face issues with LibreOffice, YouTube, and power management settings, among others.

3D. If these are a challenge to programmers, the idea is to make these less of a challenge to ordinary disabled users.

4. From personal experience, I’ve found Gnome 2 and MacOS relatively accessible, with certain fixes [although MacOS scrollbars are too narrow], and Unity, Xfce, Kde, and Windows relatively inaccessible for various reasons. I find it very helpful to be able to use the Gnome 2 top panel to open stuff and the Gnome 2 bottom panel to switch between stuff. I also find it helpful to have all the menus in the top panel, and to have open finder windows persist from one login to the next. I find it very unhelpful to have to navigate through various multi-layered menus, based in one corner of the screen, to reach anything.

4A. I am currently using a Mint live usb to try to see if I can configure similar panels. I have been able to set up a top panel, with three menus, instead of one oversided menu in Mate; it requires installing an extra applet in Cinnamon. I have not yet been able to set up Gnome 2 style functionality for the bottom panel. I have not yet found a way to specify the panels in each medu, left to right, without the clumsy and clumsy-inacessible need to manualy slide items to their places on the panel, in Mate. No good, that.

Has anyone else had trouble with Linux screen brightness and power management?
marjaerwin
cross-posted from tumblr http://ananiujitha.tumblr.com/post/81458611611/has-anyone-else-had-trouble-with-linux-screen

It seems to depend on the exact combination of distribution, desktop, and hardware. I am clumsy and have injuries and sensory issues, so I am trying to find a more accessible desktop, distro, and computer. I was just trying Linux Mint 16, both Mate and Cinnamon, to identify bugs and fixes before installing anything.

Mate: Screen brightness uses both the brightness keys and the power management tools. The brightness keys work, but they don’t cover the full range, and there are no settings between blacked out and somewhat too bright. The power management tools and associated screen brightness applet both rely on sliders, which are incredibly unergonomic, and sometimes either leave the screen blacked out, without the brightness keys helping, or flashing between blacked out and full brightness, again without the brightness keys helping. Obviously the flashing screen is even worse than the ordinary too-bright screen.

Cinnamon: Screen brightness uses the brightness keys integrated with the brightness applet, and does not use power management. The brightness keys work, but against they don’t cover the full range, and there are no settings between blacked out and far too bright. Ergonomic problems were also much worse than with Mate.

How can backup beeps possibly be safe, let alone be safety features?
marjaerwin
Backup beeps are painful, disorienting, and often incapacitating.

I once collapsed, to the ground, unable to crawl, let alone walk away, under the sensory assault from backup beeps somewhere far on the other side of the road. I have tried earplugs and ear protectors, with mixed success against other noises, but no success against backup beeps.

I understand that backup beeps are intended to warn people. But what good is a warning device which is so painful can disorient and even incapacitate people? what good is a warning device which inflicts so much pain that people want to die to escape the infernal stabbing beeping pain?

If you want to save lives, it'd be better to have more observers and better fields of view, instead of too few observers, restricted fields of view, and people disoriented and/or collapsed around dangerous equipment.

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