One thousand lightbulbs

Idle Dreaming

I’ve just finished yet another iteration of my favourite roleplaying game, Society of Dreamers. It’s a prepless, GMless game, which as someone with a one-and-a-half-year-old I can say is a godsend for my recovering gaming hobby.

Like many GMless games that emulate the traditional GMed roleplaying game framework, Society doesn’t as much eliminate the roll of GM as it does spread it out amongst the group. Specifically, the role of GM as scene-framer is instilled into the role of the “instructor”, which rotates between players. This is great, as almost all of the rules in the game provide the instructor with the relevant structure and prompts to do their job of framing their scene, working out who’s there, etc. In other words, the instructor’s job is less about coming up with the next scene whole cloth, and more about taking the constraints, prompts, and so on provided by the game, and working out what the next scene looks like.

ChatGPT for roleplaying - what can it do?

It feels like over the past six months OpenAI’s various products - particularly ChatGPT - have gotten a bunch of press. ChatGPT is a large language model, which (as far as I understand) basically means you feed it a whole honking bunch of text, and it extracts information from that text and is able to then respond to questions by putting words together into something coherent. Basically, it’s faking being a functional human being, but then this is 2023, give it a break, that’s all of us.

You can go read all about its predicted impact on writing, art, school exams, creativity, and every other sphere if you want, I kind of feel 10% of the web now is articles like that. I don’t particularly feel like consolidating a paragraph of media responses to the technology, though - I want to write about things that interest me.

Like roleplaying games. Given ChatGPT can take basically any prompt we give it, and spit back something that sounds vaguely coherent, how can we use it to make roleplaying games better? After all, most roleplaying games are basically a bunch of words, right?

Four books I enjoyed - Winter/Spring 2022

The latter half of 2022 was a roller coaster ride, with a kid approaching one year old and the family shifting cities. I spent a good deal of my reading year re-reading the Hornblower novels, which debuted in my 2020 list. Books tend to take one of two roles for me - either stretching me out, or providing comfort - and a re-read of the whole series was an exercise in comfort food for a trying time.

Unfortunately, a number of factors - including my journey through all of C. S. Forester’s flagship (hah) series, a couple of forays through longer books that I really didn’t enjoy, and the general disruption of a child-ful existence, meant I didn’t get through as much reading as I’d really like to do. Still, I did manage to get some good books read. Rather than try to expand this list to five and add in something sub-par, I’m going to cut one out just keep to the meat.

Email penpals

Recently I’ve been sending novella-length emails back and forth with a few friends, and it’s been invigorating. I figured I could (should?) talk a bit about why, the way I’ve gone about it, and how it’s panned out.

Writing emails like its 1999

Kat Vellos’ We Should Get Together has been on my to-read list for a few months, and when I got to it I absolutely blew through it. Sometimes you’re in the right mood for a book and it’s less like reading and more like having a conversation in your head. The book itself is about building friendships as an adult, and one of the themes that comes through time and time again is the requirement that you and your new friend can just talk without a specific goal in mind.

Five books I enjoyed - Summer/Autumn 2022

In November last year, we had a kid. It turns out that being a parent means saying good bye to almost all your free time for a decently long while, and that’s meant a real downturn in the already my already low posting frequency. But we’re just about to shift into the back half of the year, and so I figured I could get a little momentum back with another what I’m reading post. So given that - and given the fact that many days right now I’m crashing into bed at 9:30pm, tired out of my gourd and ready to go to sleep without even thinking of opening my e-reader - what’s been top of my reading list?

Gradient background images with ruby and chunky_png

I recently decided that I wanted to make a series of solid colour backgrounds for my laptop. The reasons are nominally grounded in productivity1, but given that the whole exercise sent me down a rabbit-hole of writing code and then this blog post, let’s just call it a little experiment to see what we can do, shall we?

Step 1: Making a solid colour PNG

Our first step will be to create a solid colour PNG of the right size. I’m going to use the ruby gem ChunkyPNG to do all the heavy lifting. Let’s get started!

If at first you don't succeed...

Early last year, I wrote about my 2021 journalling setup - pocket notebook, project journal, page-a-day journal.

And then, late last year, I wrote about how my page-a-day habit fell off. At the end of that post, I mentioned how I thought it was important to let personal obligations go when they become a drag.

Which is why on January 2nd this year I went out and bought another page-a-day journal for this year. OK, I know, this is starting to sound like an abusive relationship, but hear me out.

Ten books I enjoyed this year - 2021 edition

Last year I published a list of ten books that I’d enjoyed over 2020. I quite liked doing it - plus I get to post little book cover images and make the whole thing look pretty - so I’m doing it again!

I like to read widely - which when I say it like that sounds wankier than I mean it. But given an ever-increasing pool of public domain writing, ready access to a public library system that’s embraced ebooks, and a pretty good global second-hand book sale network1, there’s never been an easier time to pick up a book published in the 1850s and really get stuck into it. I mean, think about it - some of the greatest works of English literature are available to you right now either for a pittance, all said, or - if they’re out of copyright - for free.

One of the themes of this year was reading through some of these classics. In fact, of all the books on this list, only two were published this year. There is value in retreading old ground, in re-reading a favourite book and seeing what you think of it now. And there is value in re-visiting something you skipped the first time: now all the hype has died down, was that book just a fad,, or is it also good?

Anyway, enough navel-gazing. Some books:

Building an object model in Vue.js

Over the past six months or so I’ve been learning Vue.js. It’s a real interesting trip - back when I started getting interested in programming Ruby on Rails was the New Hotness™, and I spent a lot of time mucking about with MVC-styled apps and WidgetControllers and the like. Now, some fifteen years later, everything is client-side and javascript!1

Anyway, if there’s one thing harder than getting someone to latch onto an idea, it’s getting someone to let go of it. That’s why, as soon as I got past the “how does it work?” phase of learning Vue, I started building things using ye olde CRUD patterns and object models that look suspiciously like rails’ ActiveRecord.