Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 15:17 on 17-01-2012, Jules V.O.
I've seen a lot of those styles of things, most famously BleedingCool's pose comparisons, but also this critique from a contortionist. At the same time, I don't see a lot of the... inverse? obverse? Criticism by *good* example, I mean. Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor needs more company.
at 02:54 on 17-01-2012, Michal
Jim C. Hines imitates poses from various fantasy covers featuring female characters. Mostly to show how ridiculous these poses are.

"My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk."
at 12:23 on 16-01-2012, Andy G
Michael Rosen has written a nice post about the apostrophe thing here.
at 10:42 on 16-01-2012, Arthur B
I guess stirring up pointless babyweeping amongst grammar pedants is an easier way to evoke interest in the brand than, oh, I don't know, getting in a more diverse range of stock, or changing up your eBook service so the products sold there aren't choked with DRM and are provided in a Kindle-readable format, or bringing back the 3 for 2 offer.
at 23:25 on 15-01-2012, Dan H
In other news, Waterstone's have dropped the apostrophe from their official banner. The Daily Mail tell us that this is destroying English.

I'm particularly confused by the line: And with them, meaning will be lost and our ability for articulation of the finer points of thought. For a self-proclaimed lover of words, you think the guy would be able to construct better sentences.
at 19:18 on 15-01-2012, valse de la lune
The guy who started in on "mental health issues" and "sweetheart, dollface" was real charming. It's a shame he uses such a generic handle; I'd love to find out if he shows up anywhere else/has a blog, so as to vitriolically name-and-shame plus avoid it.
at 17:31 on 15-01-2012, Fin
nothing better than drinking the river of tears caused by wounded fanboys. though i must say, that review was positively tame compared to some of the stuff i've been reading lately.

re: house, i'm prepared to put up with house being an arsehole, i'm just concerned that the bet plot will be used as a vehicle to validate his shitty opinions.
at 17:15 on 15-01-2012, Wardog
I'm personally just amused at the idea that there are qualifications for reviewing fantasy novels...

I have a DPhil in Applied Trope Recognition.
at 22:06 on 14-01-2012, Michal
Well, that exploded.

The above being Liz Bourke's review of Theft of Swords, wherein some folks in the comments contend that historians are not qualified to review fantasy novels. Or academics in general.

I guess I'd better change my career path...
at 18:20 on 14-01-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
To be honest, Finbarr, I would not get my hopes up. Insensitivity on House's is a given; this is a character whose core philosophy has always been "everybody lies." More than that, however, is the fact that House has come to bits over the past two years. Last season was dominated by a House/Cuddy romantic arc that really didn't make much sense in terms of the characters and was handled quite poorly all around. Assuming that the writers of the show could handle an issue like this with delicacy and tact is probably a losing bet.

At this point, the only thing really left to do with the show is to keep your expectations lowered, ignore the Patient of the Week, and enjoy the interactions between the main cast.
at 17:34 on 14-01-2012, Andy G
House has been pretty misanthrophic and offensive right from the start, so I doubt this is anything new.
at 16:56 on 14-01-2012, Fin
so, i haven't seen a lot of house, but from what little i know about the show i've gotten the impression that house isn't allowed to be wrong. i'm just wondering if that's an erroneous impression, because someone just directed me to this preview of an upcoming episode and i'd like to have some hope that it won't be made of too much fail.
at 16:17 on 14-01-2012, Dan H
I confess that I wouldn't have been able to swear to the correct spelling of "just des(s)erts" either.

I think it's what Language Log would call an eggcorn - the alternative spelling makes a kind of intuitive sense if you imagine dessert as being the reward you get for eating your main course, then it follows that "just desserts" would mean "the reward or punishment you deserve for your actions, be they good or bad." Also it creates some absolutely *adorable* mental images. "For your crimes, you are sentenced to EVIL PUDDING."

It's also one of those strange two-word phrases you get in English where an otherwise *totally obsolete* word ("desert" as a noun meaning "thing which is deserved") is preserved as part of a collocation. Like "woe betide".
at 13:25 on 14-01-2012, Shim
It's another one of them blasted homophones caused by nicking words off other languages. I can't decide if it's more or less annoying than having a tiny vocabulary.
at 07:44 on 14-01-2012, valse de la lune
Random: I right-clicked for synonyms for "desert" in MS Word. It gave me:

just reward

Boggled I googled it up and discovered "just desserts" is the incorrect phrase and that I've been using it wrong all this time when I should've said "just deserts."


(Yes yes, "deserts" etymologically rooted in "deserves," but...)
at 17:13 on 13-01-2012, Andy G
Did anyone ever play with the SAGA card-based system? I was released for Dragonlance and it seemed rather neat and elegant, though I never actually used it for a game.
at 01:36 on 13-01-2012, Michal
Wow, D&D is so complicated. Just listening to this discussion, it sounds like you need an undergrad-level understanding of calculus just to build a character.

That's why we have Lady Blackbird. It was specifically designed to play while getting progressively more drunk through the evening, I think. And if that was the design goal, it succeeded beautifully the one time I played it.
at 22:43 on 12-01-2012, Axiomatic
Savage worlds! It's a game!
at 20:23 on 12-01-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Wow, D&D is so complicated. Just listening to this discussion, it sounds like you need an undergrad-level understanding of calculus just to build a character.

Well, at least it isn't Starfleet Battles, which requires a comprehensive set of range tables just to fire photon torpedoes.
at 11:03 on 12-01-2012, Shim
Agreed. Precisely balanced classes at all levels is one of those things I find largely unconvincing, and I do feel the 2E approach might be better. I suppose one idea would be, if you have Linear Warriors Quadratic Wizards, why not linear and quadratic levelling? But realistically I can't see them dropping the fixed XP levels, nor multiclassing.

One thing I find interesting is how the rogue has developed from being mostly the traps and locks guy, through the 3E hotchpotch stealth/assassin/trapfinder/whatever but totally not always a criminal, to being a skirmisher in 4E. I'd like them to have a more concrete idea of what they're doing with it, which is not to say lock it down, but think it through. The 3E version attempted to offer every "rogue" archetype through skills and abilities, but had core abilities (agility, sneak attack and trapfinding) that only made sense for certain archetypes. Even alternate ability builds (he says, checking Pathfinder) always retain sneak attack as the core of the class, which says a lot to me. The other three main classes are a lot less locked down, I feel, though monks, barbarians and druids have the same sort of specificity.

I can see an optional skill system working. The yes/no model and the granular model probably balance out overall, and the other one could just be "5 points for Moderate Interpersonal Skills" (60% pass) or some such so they're fairly equivalent. I suppose the other option would be to just pick an allocation of skills and have the chosen ones level up with you, effectively ignoring skill points.
at 10:31 on 12-01-2012, Arthur B
I'd be interested to see how they handle skill stuff in 5th Edition. If they make the skill system optional then they'd really need to either give characters broadly equal access to it (and bolster the thief somewhat in comparison to 3E to compensate for loss of the "I'm the guy with all the skill points niche"), or back away from the idea that the classes need to be balanced.

On the other hand, I think it's more likely that skills won't be optional - but the precise skill system you use might be, if you see what I mean. So everyone gets an allotment of skill points whatever happens, but depending on precisely which skill system you're working with you might be using them to buy nonweapon proficiencies of a fairly simple "either you have 'em or you don't" model, or to buy levels in a number of broad skills covering a wide range of pursuits, or to buy levels in a bunch of very granular skills geared mainly towards dungeoneering.
at 07:45 on 12-01-2012, Shim
@Dan: True, skills are intrinsic to 3E and that does affect their use. The fact that skill points end up being a factor in class balance is a major difference, and highlights how central the devs considered them. I suspect it's because they seem to offer a neat way of tying together lots of disparate activities rather than having unique rules for each. Want to swim across a lake? Make a suit of armour? Pick a lock? Intimidate a bandit? Roll skill. But as you say, it becomes a ruletrap. The 4E introduction of explicit skill challenges mechanically rewards skills as opposed to just combat, which is nice in some ways but further cements the idea.

The skills for dungeoneering are certainly finer-grained than Profession: Butler. As a matter of interest, assuming you were going to use the 3E skill system for some reason, what non-dungeon skills would you like to see? From things you've said previously I get the impression you wouldn't want to get into "social combat", for example (correct me if I'm wrong). Just a finer breakdown of existing ones, or something else?

However! My point was allegedly that 3E wasn't the first complicated skill system out there, and I think that stands regardless of whether NWPs are intrinsic or not. When they wanted to discuss how you did stuff that wasn't combat, the 2E devs offered a complicated set of rules for "skills" and their use. Certainly my impression of reading the 2E rulebook was that their take was: "here are the NWP rules, but if they look like a hassle, you could wing it using broad skill categories, or just use player knowledge", rather than "BTW here are some other rules you could find useful but we don't expect you to use them really". They just were careful not to make them compulsory. However, someone found NWPs sufficiently useful and well-used to make them core for the next edition. I suspect it's one of those examples of Ruleset Creep you sometimes mention.
at 03:37 on 12-01-2012, Michal
*Looks up*

*Blinks a few times*

*Goes back to playing Tunnels and Trolls*