Quarterly Goals – September Pivot

Sometimes it’s stronger to pivot onto a new course than to endure a mistake.

Gray Asphalt Road Surrounded by Tall Trees
Dark road at dawn from Pexels.com

After some serious consideration, it’s best that I alter my goals for this quarter early before we continue too long.

A few things have been on my mind: a shoulder injury hampering sleep, work, and working out (it’s a pain to type this); what to do now that I’ve hit certain financial milestones; and, the benefits of small mental exercises.

To that end, I’m going to take more control over my day-to-day and work more in value-add activities for my future.

Here’s how I’ll do that:

The Cuts

  1. RPGs
    1. Close-up Photography of Tarot Cards
      Tarot cards from Pexels.com

      Funny that I write this on Free RPG Day (June 15th). Anyway, I’m backing off on the investigation / design / development of potential solutions to D&D-style Dungeon Master problems. Yes, this could reduce other people’s suffering; no, this is more a fun pastime than ought to be a full-focus goal.

      As for making an RPG? In honor of RPG Day, I’ll take a few minutes to make a whitepaper on the tank commander idea mentioned earlier.

  2. Books and LeetCode
    1. Again, these are pastimes. I’m going to read the books anyway, so they shouldn’t be a goal. Neither LeetCode – I am studying the problems over lunch at the ol’ day-job despite having the sincere thought that tackling programming riddles isn’t what I want to be doing with my spare time.

The Keeps

Black Text on Gray Background
Words on the page from Pexels.com
  1. Outlines
    1. I’m nearly done with this one and might finish it in days. My plan will be to put my outlines aside, work on other things (maybe even add in more outlines!), then revisit these in August.What I have so far (working titles and loglines):
      1. Nightmare Jack – The undying queen of the damned encounters the land of the living and with it, death.
      2. Aladdin – Aladdin, a slave to become eunuch, loves Badour, heir to the empire, but when the power of Jinn overtakes him, Aladdin will battle magical armies and a greater danger to them all: himself.
      3. Gem Heist – Pirates looting treasure don’t expect to meet the former owners.
  2. Edits
    1. It’d be nice to have something that could be sold. That, and editing the fan fiction into my ‘own’ short story will help guide writing future stories inspired by preexisting intellectual properties.
  3. This Blog
    1. Hello there! I’m going to cut back to one dedicated post a week with others coming as the inspiration hits.

The Adds

  1. $$$$$
    1. U.s Dollar Bills Pin Down on the Ground
      Planted money from Pexels.com

      Last month I had a ‘secret’ goal. I’m transforming that goal into a broad topic: Make more money. It’s up to my creative performance to see what I can offer; discipline will then deliver. By saying “no” to more things, I can perhaps pursue two of these every month:

      1. The secret thing from before. I’ll start with this and #2; if they turn out, great! If they don’t, I’ll be dropping them heading into July.
      2. The stock market. I’ve a nice table showing the top percentage gains over time of major technology and entertainment brands. Using that, I’ll drop a few extra dollars on stocks vs. mutual funds to see if my simple system turns a profit.
      3. Real estate. This may not be a thing. Real estate scares me something terrible. Any move will only be done after serious (serious) review of the market. Still, might be quaint to finally purchase a residence-to-be-rental.
        1. Ran the numbers on this for two hours after writing this post. The goal in buying property would be to eventually turn it into a rental. To effectively do that, I ought to follow the 1% [or greater] Rule of rental-to-purchase values. On the West side of my town where I’d want to live right now, the percents on houses/condos is .6-.7%, clearly failing the 1% Rule. Thus, real estate just isn’t for me at this time. Glad to know I won’t need to worry about that!
      4. My voice. I learned what it means to voice act late last year. Throwing myself out there, this could mean a lot more.
      5. Writing. Probably would be writing for others. It’d be writing regardless. I can type quickly (500-600 words / hour) and can quickly research any topic (don’t get me started on knitting; omg).
      6. Fiverr. Fiverr went on IPO the other day to great gains. If I’m going to be part of the “gig economy”, let me perform in its marketplace. An idea here would be to sell my company, my time, my conversation. That, or send physical, handwritten letters (hey, there are romantics out there). I’ll think of something…

Why I’m Doing This

My overall goal is to pursue any goal, any time. To do that, I see financial independence as the gateway, where more money is always better than less money. At some point, investments (whatever those happen to be) will become self-sustaining, thus not requiring myself to work for anything but personal interest all the time.

Thus, today’s pleasures need to be geared towards that end. It’s a race to the professional finish, a race I will win.

Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 2

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Start at the beginning.

Foul booby traps secreted from the Skitarii’s scanners triggered at the first contact with the database. Explosions ripped through both gaunt Infiltrators and armored Vanguards. The Ranger groups fared little better. Worse, the device holding eons of data ruptured in a torrent of shrapnel and flame. IB-13 held the rearguard, thus survived to witness the carnage that came immediately after.

At least the information was no longer in filthy xenos hands. Better forgotten than perverted outside the Omnissiah’s intentions.

IB-13 nearly tripped as static hissed over the Skitarii network band. It immediately settled into an encrypted invitation for silicon communion. Transferring all secondary processing to the receiver, her rush to respond fouled the first attempt at cracking the lock – something that imprecise would have had the commanding Centurion temporarily deactivate her. A partial lobotomy wouldn’t be out of the question, though at least the surgery would bestow additional circuitry to the Ranger. No matter – her Centurion had evaporated under the snaking tendril of some unclassified alien energy weapon.

Her second attempt bridged the connection. IB-13 felt a flood of information pour through her wire-fused organics. Authority she’d taken for granted from decades of indoctrination calmed nerves in welcome, cooling sensation. Out of it all came the glorious figure of an ordained Magos tech-priest of Mars, emissary of the Omnissiah’s unknowable Will. They were garbed in flowing robes of red and white, outlined in ever-churning data exloads. Mechadendrites coiled and unfurled as if to conduct the the orchestra of information. On their head was a cap, tall and high which obscured from view sensors and devices the Ranger could only speculate at. In the pitch dark of the hood whirled the spectacles that poured what they saw into the algorithms crafted by the Omnissiah itself. Though only a mental simulation of a being some unknown distance away, IB-13 had never been more ready and earnest for this connection of the factual, of the Omnissiah’s word-made-digital in the galaxy.

IB-13, report.

The Skitarii began to dump banks of memory into the thought stream. With only a fractional amount beginning to exload, it was still too much for the tentative link. When the digital form of the tech-priest cut out for a moment, the cyborg almost felt the first emotion in half a century: Despair.

The Skitarii darted into a crushed hollow that was once a laboratory. Inside lay cracked workbenches, punctured pressure tanks, and other detritus. No threats. It didn’t matter. Only the connection mattered.

Holding position, she focuses all resources to getting the signal back. Hydraulic limbs froze, the respirator switched to blood-oxygen reserves, and pumps cranked to a halt. To any on the outside she would have appeared as a statue of gears and armor, all shadowed by her tattered crimson cape.

Near-death comatose was far outweighed by the elation of the return of the network and the Magos. This time, the mental image downgraded from its previous glory to a pixelated silhouette of muted hues and indistinct shapes. It shimmered as it sent meaning to her.

IB-13, have you secured the Standard Template Construct?

The STC had been their target. It and other hyper-computers of its type held the secrets of Humankind’s past. Their manufacture came in a time of darkness when Humanity sent its envoys into the void of the galaxy without knowledge of the Omnissiah. A dark age. The Omnissiah nevertheless bestowed sacred knowledge even to those that were ignorant of what they held. Technologies resided within STC databases that could allow crops to grow a hundred times their yield, build vaccines to cure ageless plagues, erect cities kilometers high on worlds made ripe by STC terraforming. Or, the knowledge could unleash terrible weapons of havoc not witnessed for ten thousand years. It was the Adeptus Mechanicus’s duty and privilege to own it all outright.

IB-13 didn’t need to know how to operate an STC. Doing so would be a terrible heresy. Only the priesthood, and even then a small selection of the ordained, could enact the proper rights of access. IB-13 only needed to claim items like the STCs for the glory of Mars.

That was why theft by the T’au was of such a terrible nature. A fleet of warships had stalked the STC and its cowardly burglars across systems. Worlds burned where the T’au’s allies had lain. Finally, the escaping vessel was brought down in this unperturbed planet’s gravity well. IB-13 and a hundred other augmented shocktroopers had infiltrated the craft imprisoning the STC while another thousand scoured the wastelands outside. All the effort only to have the artifact destroyed…

She couldn’t care about how her failures in the mission might be be perceived – there was only truth to offer in the bliss of networking. IB-13 relayed without hesitation the data-beats of the STC’s destruction. Landing on a dusty plain, breaching the ruined hull, stalking through crushed halls, location of and entrance into the STC chamber, the fatal boobytraps. Nothing more, nothing less.

Her virtual audience acknowledged receipt but gave no indication of praise or wrath at IB-13’s efforts. Multiple machine processing cycles passed. Finally, a torrent of sentiment distilled itself into one word.

Disappointing,” said the priest. Thus judgement was passed. That was the sum total of the Skitarii Ranger’s worth. IB-13’s mind twitched. A pang of what might have been mental anguish stilled in the microsecond before her lapse of discipline revealed itself. The Omnissiah’s messenger continued.

Regardless, the ends defer intention. Better the knowledge of our forefathers be forgotten than perverted by xenos… Tinkering.” Had it not been for the opiate haze of communion, IB-13 may have registered a shudder in the envoy. “Why are there no other Skitarii linking with me now? Not all of our warriors were destroyed by the explosion that consumed the STC. By this deduction, you will finish your report.

Before she could begin a second spurt of data, storms of static dropped the communication. IB-13 reinitiated passive sensory input of her surroundings with the impression her physical body was under attack.

About her were the dead robot eyes, the red color of alien glass. Objectively, the place was a sort of mechanics laboratory. To IB-13’s small selection of sensibilities, it was macab. The very walls housed abominable intelligences, horrors forbidden for millennia older than the records which held the warnings of AI. That they also were utilized by the heathen T’au spoke of the irredeemable nature of the blue race. If only there were time, IB-13 might have smashed every circuit and board in the place.

Her senses picked up the sound of a massive, booming roar. The violence had to be huge and close, something titanic, for the vibrations to reach her in the ship through a nearly nonexistent atmosphere. Moments later, a thunderous rumble shook her foundations, vestibular motors keeping the cyborg upright. Most of dust lifted and fell off the unblinking lenses staring back at her. Besides the battle roiling outside, nothing else was amiss.

A full second passed before the Magos reasserted control. Warmth passed over the cyborg’s connection, mind, and attention. Her rude hovel disappeared into oblivion. She was elated but the enthusiasm quickly became blunted. Things weren’t as they had been for the priest and their environment. Instead of screeds of data filling her view, machine slaves and augment-mantled operators dashed to and fro in roiling smoke. Warning lights blazed. And then there was the figure who’d summoned her. Its stead, no longer ordained in electronic grace, was replaced by the hunched amalgamation of worming tubes, choking wires, snapping pistons, and bulbous nodules that served as the thing’s eyes. A robe of crimson as dark as IB-13’s own oil and blood encrusted cloak swaddled the entire collection. This was the servant of the Omnissiah in their truer, more beautiful form.

IB-13 had lost the ability to cry for joy decades prior.

The priest seemed distracted, its attention drawn elsewhere, a thousand thousand places. A packet of data leaked into the stream from the priest’s end. Distress. “We are withdrawing, IB-13. The war on the planet for now goes ill.” Klaxon warnings of a ship under attack crept through the inload. “Final orders: Terminate all –” Static. “The Omnissiah knows of your –

More code feedback interrupted the connection. IB-13 heard banging and sirens. She tensed, prepared in all capacities to receive the divine commands that were coming. Had to be coming.

An audio snippet slipped through: “Lord Omnissiah, those things! How dare they!? What are –” The connection crashed with a screech of overloaded feedback.

She pinged a thousand times to reestablish contact. Nothing.

Independent probabilities arrived at the same conclusion. IB-13 was alone. So alone.

The situation triggered latent plans in the cyborg’s mind. When in the absence of temporary mission, there was the Universal Law: The Soulless sentience is the enemy of all life. What stalked outside, that had killed her kin, certainly counted as such.

IB-13 jump-started all of her combat programs for a price suffered by her non-vital organs and tangential brain functions. Physical nonviolence systems dropped power requests, the excess expense shunted to readiness and targeting operations. She was dying, the flesh withering. In steel and silicon the Skitarii would live a while longer to carry on the Omnissiah’s intention.

Her ocular lenses came into focus on a corner of the hideaway. There was something wrong among the red lenses of the T’au drones. It wasn’t a drone mono-eye. Instead, a cluster of green lenses stared back. They sat bundled atop an insect-like carapace no bigger than the Skitarii’s own torso. The eyes glowed eerily in the dim. Somehow, the ebony beetle-thing knew she was aware. It twitched.

Continued in part 3.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

 

The Orc and the Pie Pt. 1 – A Breakdown of RPGs

Just the other day I was introduced to the role-playing game The Orc and the Pie. Written by Monte Cook of Dungeons & Dragons fame, it’s the world’s most popular and shortest-yet-technically-complete RPG adventure game. The only things a player knows is that:

You see an orc with a pie.

The room is 10 feet by 10 feet.

The rest is up to the imagination of the player with guidance from the Game Master (GM).

Pretty cool, eh? Simple, straight to the point, and offers creative freedom.

Let’s take that freedom and run. (Oh, and look at pie ~)

Baked Pie
Pie from Pexels.com

The World

Looking at The Orc and the Pie, we see the following elements of the game world:

  1. Potential Obstacle: The orc.
  2. Object: The pie.
  3. Context: The 10×10 room.

The Potential Obstacle is an implied conflict. There’s nothing in the scenario that indicates that the orc will do anything. Maybe it’s a coward, maybe it wants to sell the players the pie, maybe it’s minding its own business.

Our Object is also the implied goal. The players should want pie and acquire it in any way they deem fit.

The Context is merely a setting for the space. It could be a moon, the bottom of the ocean, or nowhere specific – everything ‘just is’.

Going Further

Ignoring the players for now, we can boil the game world down.

Silver Kettle over Burner
Boiling kettles from Pexels.com

First, let’s toss out Context. A setting is interchangeable and largely only a consequence of how players might exist and act in relation to other characters / objects.

Next, I thought the RPG might be about the player, a goal (the Object), and some conflict (our orc) of getting that goal. However, the conflict between the player and a goal is merely a chance of failure of attaining the goal. The goal itself is a player want, whatever that ought to be.

Nixing Context and consolidating the Object and Potential, we’re left with:

  1. Want: Whatever the player seeks to objectively say they’ve succeeded.
  2. Chance: However likely the player gets what they want. The fairest chance is 50% to get it, 50% to not.

Gone Too Far

At this high-level view of The Orc and the Pie (and all RPGs for that matter [heck, even just games!]), we have the following synopsis:

Something is wanted.

The chance of getting what is wanted is 50%.

Our distillation of the game has been chopped up to a coin toss. “I want heads, which has a 50% chance of happening.”

Kinda lame.

Coming Back

It seems The Orc and the Pie has hit the formula of world creation pretty precisely. However, ‘world’ as environmental Context is not necessary. We can rely on players to develop their own Context.

But Potential Obstacle and Object? We need these. Chance and Want respectively are their ghosts, such that a chance to succeed in overcoming any Potential Obstacle exists and an Object can be implied to be the Want of the players.

Let’s keep our Potential Obstacle (orc) and Want (pie). How do players engage with these things?

The Players

We’re missing our live-action cast for the role-play. In D&D for which The Orc and the Pie was made for, players sit in front of something like this:

DnD_Character_Sheet.jpg
DnD character sheet from Wizards.com

Click the link above to see the full thing and spend a good 15 minutes just reading the section titles. We have, in no specific nor complete order: Class, Name, Alignment, Strength, Strength (again, but different), Ideals, Flaws, Equipment with “PP” (???), Wisdom, Wisdom again (passive this time), and a whole lot more.

That’s just from the first sheet of 3. And this isn’t the only kind of sheet there is! We have Adventure League, starters, D&D Beyond (not my character), and a metric boat-load of homebrew sheets for the myriad RPGs there are in existence.

But what in the world does all this have to do with pie and an orc?

Getting That Pie

Since simplicity is key, let’s get after as few things that’ll do as much as possible. Back to the burner to boil down the essence of player character…

Any character enacting on the physical world has physical attributes. We could divide this into something like Strength, Speed, and Sustainment (“constitution”, “endurance”, whatever; SSS seems like a cool acronym), but for simplicity’s sake, Brawn will be our trait for a brute-force approach to getting pie.

Since we’re not forgoing clever problem solving or thinking about how to get pie, Brain is our second trait. With book smarts and objective study of the world, Brain affects how a character can come up with a solution, notice things, or out-quiz an orc (or pie!) on trivia.

Lastly, Being. This is our health point / resource / whatever might get the players to care about failure. Maybe it’s ego. When a player character fails an action of Brain or Brawn, or when something succeeds against the player (with negative intention, like an attacking orc), their Being decreases. When a player character has no Being, they stop rolling dice or playing cards. They’re done (at least for awhile).

Three Red Dices
Dice from Pexels.com

Brawn. Brain. Being.

(Can’t say that B3 10x fast…)

A Step Too Far?

Shall we go farther? If we break B3 down, we have a single attribute, Chance, that dictates how likely a player is to accomplish whatever they attempt. The value of Chance would be how many coins need to be flipped to success to guarantee overall success.

Chance could have a spot in a very minimal setting. It serves as a nice tracker of ‘status’ (leveling, character health, etc.). The more a player succeeds, the higher Chance they have to continue to succeed! As they fail, those failures cascade into spectacular foibles great for storytelling.

Is Chance too simple? I’d say that depends. What kind of game is being played? If it’s aiming for a modicum of role-play, the B3 system is the way to go. Are you a fast, strong, dexterous character? Or more of the quick witted, perceptive variety?

Heck, Chance could be renamed to Luck where we’d be left with a handy modifier to B3 traits! A trait that doesn’t do anything on its own, existing only to improve the outcomes of others. (“Improve” because positive reinforcement is generally better received than punishment.)

I digress.

Where Are We Now?

The Orc and the Pie is a splendid basis for finding out what role-playing games are, what games can be on a fundamental level before they become too simplistic.

The game world of an RPG is easily set up. We have a (implied) want, chances to attain that want, character traits to alter those chances, and a clear end state for player and non-player characters, divorced from but ready to serve player goals.

AngryOrc2.jpg
Bob, not so bad.

 

Pie.jpg
Your dreams and desires incarnate.

Speaking of players, with a D6, we can fill in our own player character:

PlayerCoolCat.jpg
Player #1

These numbers could be what a person has to role for success (a D6 roll greater than 8-# [“7” so a number of 6 would at least have a chance of failure with a roll of 1]), the number of dice to role to succeed (#D6), the number we have to roll under, or whatever. Lower numbers are bad.

An example of gameplay could end up being:

  1. Coolcat: “I shove Bob to get to the Pie.”
  2. Coolcat rolls a 1, failing the action for their Brawn, instead falling into Bob.
  3. Bob reacts, rolling a 5, a success for Bob’s Brawn.
  4. Bob pushes Coolcat away.
  5. Coolcat falls over, losing a point in Being.
  6. Bob: “What the heck. You’re getting me pretty angry.”
  7. Coolcat chooses to use their Brain to negotiate with Bob.
  8. Coolcat rolls a 6 off their Brain, a critical success!
  9. Coolcat: “Look, Bob, whose name I know because I read your card, I’m sorry. A tasty-looking Pie is over there. Want to share it?”
  10. Bob: “Ah, apologies accepted! Sorry about shoving you so hard. Why sure, let’s split this delicious Pie!”
  11. Bob and Coolcat both get Pie – Scenario complete!

Players are more difficult to cater to because they are people. People are difficult. However, with Brawn and Brain and Being, Potential Obstacles and implied Wants, playing RPGs doesn’t have to be.

The same goes for designing RPGs. In Part 2 of The Orc and the Pie, I’ll take a look at adding onto and into the game’s systems.

 

Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 1

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Detached from their fleet above, they’d slaughter the aggressors. No default state existed apart from that, this Will of their Machine God, the Omnissiah.

Boots pounded the deck plates as a pair of Skitarii super-soldiers ran through the halls. With the aid of their cybernetic limbs, they rushed through empty corridors of alien design, the charred dust of the former owners billowing in their wake. The external din increased the closer they got to a rip that stretched for over eighty meters in the ship’s hull. Sliding under the tear’s lip, IB-13 and IT-XH blurted a set of binary queries and replies to each other. With a thousand transactions a second, they debated the benefits and detriments of the decision before them: fight or flee.

Their delay only came because of the differences in their make. IB-13 was a Ranger meant for more long-range engagements while IT-XH came optimized for the more moderate reprisals of the Skitarii Vanguard. It didn’t help that the Vanguard’s natural output of radiation and the radium weapon she hefted filled IB-13’s receivers with excess static. After a debate transmitted in seconds that might fill a novel, their numbers aligned: They’d bring the offensive to their new, terrible enemy outside.

IT-XH synced a timer between them. As the milliseconds met their mark, IB-13 stepped up to the ledge in mirror to her companion, last of what had been a century. The radium carbine she’d commandeered from a battle-inoperable Skitarii rose with her augmented sight.

In a moment, she unleashed killing rounds while her targeting systems struggled for a lock. Rules of engagement dictated that she ought to have waited the extra cycle time to fire precisely. To bend her ingrained protocols in the context of a normal fight would have required the override of a Skitarii Centurion, leader of an entire cohort of cyborgs. As there was only IB-13 and IT-XH, their own kill-analyses would have to suffice. Regardless, with a ninety-eight-point-seven-nine percent accuracy calculation using only sight, their foe would suffer.

Her aim held minor concern for her. Those outside felt the same. Arcs of energy blistered and boiled the ship’s torn hull around IB-13. By sheer volume, the barrage of return fire nearly blinded the Ranger’s visual receptors. She ducked faster than her original organics could have ever hoped to as the shots corrected their aim towards her. Fluorescent green rounds tore chunks out of the opposite wall, sizzling through the thin air where she’d been.

Her comrade IT-XH continued to shoot, , taking an extra sixteenth of a second more than their firing solution had provided for. Such was the aggression inherent in Vanguard models. Tragic that so useful a drive served so poorly against the overwhelming odds.

IB-13 caught all of the impact through the hyper fidelity of her unblinking eyes. IT-XH’s helmet, for only a moment, split and peeled away from their face. Metal and plastics and flesh and silicon and bone flayed away. The matter disappeared into the crackling white light. At last, the horrific decimation exploded with the sound of a wet egg. The explosion flung cranial fluid and shards of steel about the hall. Something moist and gooey splattered on IB-13’s cloak.

Slack, IT-XH’s rifle fell to the floor with a clatter covered by the wale of eldritch energies scything overhead. The body collapsed with a heavy whoosh of cloak and armor. If IB-13 had the ability to smell in the traditional human way, a sense lost sometime during her innumerable operations to become a Skitarii, the stench of burnt rubbers and tang of carbonized metal would have been logged as a horror peerless in the cyborg’s experience.

While missiles struck above and around her, the Ranger picked through the smoldering robes of the fresh corpse. That she and IT-XH had logged thousands of hours in operation together, that now the Vanguard was so much a pile of meat and wires gave her no pause. Their mission was still not complete. It was the Will of the Omnissiah, the dual-faceted god of the Skitarii, the warriors but a humble branch of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A report needed to be made of their findings inside the crashed vessel so the magi of Mars could add to the records this new threat. The value of battle data alone dictated that she must survive at all costs.

If the scavenging cyborg had access to the network, she could account for the entire inventory of IT-XH’s kit. Without it, she rummaged through the common storage locations on a Vanguard’s body for whatever could be found. The rifle was for her excessive compared to the radium carbine already carried, though she had capacity for an additional grenade which she kept besides her own. IB-13 found no melee substitute for her arc maul, IT-XH having must lost their hand-to-hand weapon in the brutal room-to-room fighting earlier.

Inside a titanium-corded pocket she discovered radium ammo magazines whose radiation tingled through her gauntlets. IB-13’s calculations for expected lifespan ticked-up another notch. Adding these to a digital inventory, something else gave off a slight magnetic signature. IB-13 pulled out a rust-colored talisman, a symbol of faith in the Machine: a skull haloed by a cog wheel. Functionally useless, it was objectively more important than a dozen of her other pieces of armor or garb. She took off in a crouch, securing the pendant as she weaved from cover to cover.

The next hall held more than the last one. The Ranger slipped her way around blue-skinned bodies splayed haphazardly around doors and consoles. Some clawed at locked doors. Others held their throats. It didn’t take IB-13’s post-human abilities of deduction to conclude that these “T’au” had suffocated. They likely died long before the vessel’s crash, though she couldn’t be precise. The Adeptus Mechanicus fleet had been in pursuit for an unacceptably long time, harrying the T’au’s flight with cannons and bombs.

Data was the most holy property of the Adeptus Mechanicus technopriests of Mars, circuitry the most sacred of study for the cyborg Skitarii warriors. These aliens, these thieves, had taken both and paid for it with thousands of their lives. They were easy to kill. They stayed dead. The new enemy that had surprised the Skitarii were far less obliging.

Regardless, the T’au had received divine judgement. Now IB-13 had to find a vantage to exact a toll on those creatures that stalked after her.

The T’au warship seemed a maze. The behemoth, one of the T’au’s largest, was run through by the guns of the Adeptus Mechanicus in their weeks-long chase. Corridors collapsed into others, doors remain locked while other holes cleared through entire decks. The wreckage acted as a tomb now for human cyborgs and T’au crew alike. That the blue-skins dared pull off a swindle of such proportions…

Now the silver monstrosities outside had the position surrounded and infiltrated. IB-13 had reconnoitered the enemy advance with surviving members of the Skitarii retrieval squads. Like ants, the automatons had spilled into the halls, through the deck plating, and translocated in glittery sheens amid the Skitarii’s formations. The Skitarii, living weapons of the Martian Empire, were caught by surprise. She’d been caught by surprise. Though they’d fought with whirling blades of supersonic titanium and arcing lightning guns, over eighty-percent had dissolved into oil-slick smears within moments of the ambush.

IB-13 chanced to inspect her internal network systems. The communication queue held no new messages. All of her outgoing requests were yet pending responses. No data, no direction, no oversight. On her own for over the last hour. Not even IT-XH functioned to share processing capacity.

A hatch led up and the Ranger took it. She needed to keep moving. Anything with the means of slaughtering her kin like so many herdstock would have devices to track a lone warrior in the bowels of a dead ship. Maybe the interference preventing her signals didn’t discriminate and the ambushers were blind too. IB-13 had to optimize for that possibility. It was the only one that predicted her being alive after more than a few minutes.

When no threat appeared, IB-13 allowed her post processing systems power to review the terribleness of the mission. The first indication of trouble had been when their dropship lost all transmissions with the flotilla in orbit. The airwave interference of the vox spread, knocking out dropship-to-dropship traffic. As the strike team made their way inside the downed alien craft, communications with their lander was lost to them as well. Infrared laser messaging, subvocal vibrations, and gestures were all they had left while they sought out the T’au’s holds of plunder.

Despite a lack of transmission mediums, the cyborgs’ tactical progress couldn’t be hampered over such a meager concern. Despite the massive damage to the vessel’s infrastructure, the Skitarii scouted through the mess. By a semi-navigable route, the ancient database of Adeptus Mechanicus was uncovered. It proved too easy.

To be continued in part 2.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

Quarterly Goals – September 2019

The last quarter had some drifting in my focus towards game design and software development and away from writing. It was so impactful, I was thinking of taking a quarter off to see what I naturally drew myself to doing. That train of thought was thrown out posthaste – there’s so much exciting stuff to do, why skip out on what should be some easy accomplishments for myself?

We’re going to split this next quarter into three buckets with three criteria each. Check ’em out:

My Goals Due September 2019

  1. All About Writing
    1. I will produce 1 outline a month. Likely more will be generated, though extra time will be given so I don’t get off track like I did on the in-hiatus Shallow Seas novel. Let’s count an outline as at least 5 pages.
      Person Typing On Typewriter
      Typewriter from Pexels.com
    2. I will rewrite a fanfic so it’s not a fanfic, but something I can really own. People are inspired all the time by others. My They’re Aboard is one such case, though with a bit of tweaking and world-building, it ought to stand well on its own.
    3. I will keep up this blog. That’s going to be things such as a larger post exploring the need for gratuitous weaponry in science fiction and shorter updates on works in process.
  2. Game Time
    1. I will investigate the problems faced by Game / Dungeon Masters (DMs). This all spawned from when I heard someone lament that no one in a Role Playing Game (RPG) wanted to have the responsibility of DMing. I hope to provide some solutions to that, like:
    2. A RPG card-based system to ease campaign setup and running. I’m using Magic the Gathering cards at the moment. They’re surprisingly useful, though more work is needed for items, traps, locations, time of day, distances, weather, etc. I’ve high hopes for this one.
      Person Holding Brown Card
      Man holding card about rules from Pexels.com
    3. I will get a tabletop RPG into a prototype state. Between players acting as tank commanders w/ crew, players being the leaders of space fleets and worlds, or a study of this game The Orc and the Pie, someone somewhere should be able to play something (sometime).
      Man's Holding Swords Clip Art
      Role players from Pexels.com
  3. Evolving My Work
    1. I will study coding on LeetCode. It was suggested to hit-up 50 questions each of the easy, medium, and hard categories. I trust this person’s advice, so I gotta get on it!
    2. I will read two work-related books (with notes!) every month. Despite the list possibly changing, I can look forward to:
      1. The Effective Executive
      2. Tribe of Mentors
      3. Changing on the Job
      4. The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader
      5. The Design of Everyday Things
      6. Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?
        Book title from Amazon.com
    3. I’ve another, but it’s private. JimmyChattin.com may take a hit in contributions if this comes to pass.

That’s it for now. Depending on what comes, I’ll flip the table on all of this. As Captain Barbossa would put it, these are “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”. In the meantime, here’s to a successful quarter!

19SQ3.jpg
Phone lockscreen source image from Pablo Olivera

BONUS

Checking the Toggl (my favorite time tracker) analytics for the last 17 months as it comes to time spent on goals, the numbers are very humbling. (Spoiler: I don’t spend enough time pursuing my goals.)

Last year, I spent an average of 33.6 hours per month on goals (2019 at least is 37.5 hours per month!). In the 17 months I’m referencing, we are at about 35.55 hours a month, or 105 per quarter.

It has taken me about 17 hours to come up with an outline (any draft would be a conservative 500 words per hour). That’s 51 hours out of our 105. 54 left to go.

The blog has, on average, taken 2.5 hours per post. If I keep with 2 posts per week for 12 weeks, that’s 60 hours… Let’s aim more for half that at 30!

Down to 24 hours.

Edits for stories tend to be about 22 hours split between 2 unequal stories. Assuming the They’re Aboard rewrite has more than my typical editing required, let’s assume 22 to be a generous cushion for the changes.

The games will be… problematic. It’s been awhile since I’ve fully designed tabletop games (checkout my mods!). We can say that 8 hours is the most I’ve spent on designs this year in a month, so let’s assume 8 per month, 3 months, for 24 hours total.

Everything else gets wrapped up in my normal studies (LeetCode) or reading.

Ouch. We have -22 hours left over at the end of the quarter if we’re diligent, not counting the quarterly review and next quarter planning. These might be called “stretch goals” 🙂 Whatever the case, time’s ticking!

Round Black Analog Table Alarm Clock
Clock and coffee from Pexels.com

Quarterly Goals Recap – June 2019

Read the original post here.

Out of four goals, how did we do?

  1. Finish the Draft of Shallow Seas
    1. Failed. Didn’t even touch it. There’s a lot wrong with this almost-draft of my first novel-length work. So much so, and myself still evolving leaps and bounds as a fiction writer, it’s best to put Shallow Seas to rest for now. Maybe after pushing out a few more stories, we can revisit the world of Shallow Seas.
  2. Finish Edits on Two Outstanding Stories
    1. Won. Unblinking Skitarii (a Warhammer 40K fan fiction) and They’re Aboard (also fanfic) are done! Done done! In the near future, these two short stories will be posted. They’re Aboard is also the planned subject of one of my goals for September 2019 – keep an eye out!
  3. Create Lists for Life
    1. Won. I’ll spare you these for their private and very personal nature. This will be a true win if I can live by these guiding bullet points to have a more fulfilled life!
  4. Create and Sustain JimmyChattin.com
    1. Won. WordPress made it really easy to get started and to keep up posts. It was on me to find something(s) to talk about. Getting 11 (now 12) posts out, 3 pages published, and plans for more, this is a definite win.

75% success! It’s been a fantastic last three months. Despite a loss of friends and coworkers, more friends have been made and I’m more secure in just about everything.

Success Text
Success from Pexels.com

Life is good. Let’s see what happens in the next quarter.

May’s Hiatus

Try as I might, a quality post couldn’t be finished for today. Don’t only trust me when I say it’s for a good reason!

Other than next quarter’s goals, I’m taking the rest of May off of blog posting to work on both some big articles and short story writing. These are planned for mid-June, though that totally depends on how much the content balloons.

White and Red Balloons
Balloons from Pexels.com

Here’s a preview:

  • Simplified Dungeon / Game Master session generation.
  • Involving the DM / GM as a ‘god’ needing player ‘belief’ to exist so the DM / GM can bestow boons on the players.
  • A tabletop space-empire RPG.
  • A tabletop tank-squadron RPG.
  • Studies of why gratuitous weaponry is viable in many fictions.
  • New thoughts on story structure.
  • A treatise on converting fan fiction into fiction eligible to be sold.
  • Numerous short story fictions currently in editing.
  • Trying out Twine.
  • Many story outlines, including:
    • The story of Aladdin and his magic demon lamp meets Night on Bald Mountain.
    • Magical Cthulhu girls uncovering the truth of their powers.
    • The last demon on Earth trying to make sense of what happened to get them there.
    • Rapture as the last option for a Heaven losing a war to Hell and a single soul’s discovery of what lies at the bottom of all existence.
    • How the survivors deal with all the suns in the galaxy going out in a span of years.
    • After conquering the lands of death, the queen of horror seeks mythical shores, home to a thing called “life”.
    • More! (Or maybe I’ll screenplay my own Season 8 of Game of Thrones 🙂 )

Am I reaching? Yes. Will I have things to show for it? Yep! Might it be fun? Surely.

Person's Hand in Shallow Photo
Reaching hand from Pexels.com

Thanks for your patience. Check my Twitter @JimmyChattin regularly for updates!

Software Worker’s Dichotomy

Other the years of working in the software industry, I’ve seen a trend towards dichotomy. (This is speculation, mind you.) The theme is that programming folks being hired and kept are starting to fall into two role buckets:

  1. Architect – the person responsible for how all the parts fit together, knowing advanced software engineering concepts, SME on programming languages, and keeping an entire piece of software in their head.
    1. Benefits: Experienced, able to handle abstract problems and make decisions, can have vision, knows how to optimize programs while coding.
    2. Cons: Not enough people like this, rarely seen together with other Architects, detached from day-to-day processes, superiority complexes possible.

      Person Holding Gray Pen Sitting Near Laptop
      Architect from Pexels.com
  2. Code Monkey (CM) – the person told what to do and often how to do it; implementer of code on a line-by-line basis without understanding of how the program ought to work.
    1. Benefits: Cheap, plentiful.
    2. Cons: Unable to grasp conceptual discussions, cannot make meaningful decisions, likely to create more problems of correction for Architects if not given explicit instruction.

      Grayscale Photography of Three Wise Monkey Figurines
      Monkeys from Pexels.com

Hear me out for what I’ve seen.

Let’s start in the 2000’s. From those learning to program along with myself, most had no grasp of the conceptual aspects of code (ie, they were Code Monkeys). They were many. Me, new and naive, could work my way out of a paper bag given enough time, but that’s that; far from Architect, but driven beyond the role of CM and surrounded by them.

Entering banking security, I created new systems from scratch, monitored their performance, and communicated the soul of the work to others. I was an Architect. But I also worked with other Architects (experts at the company), making new projects difficult to integrate.

Following up with healthcare work, I had the privilege to see Architects and CMs working together. Architects needed awe from the CMs because they were never wrong; when they were, things got expensive, dangerous, and people were reprimanded. The company I worked for also desired not Architects but CMs, many of them for cheap. To get the recruitment numbers, fresh college grads and foreign visas were required in astonishing numbers. (At least a strategy of making CMs into Architect-like persons continues to contribute to the long-term success of the company.)

For Microsoft, I got to be an Architect again! My insight provided solutions to numerous business cases, be they quarterly goals or daily challenges. This largely worked because I could move fast, deliver apps without butting heads with others, and created documentation such that persons in need could CM their way to a solution on their own for common issues. The rest of development wasn’t so lucky; this is where I saw Architects wielding CMs full-bore in the dichotomy trend.

Later in the gambling industry, I did the kinds of work done for Microsoft at a new company. I was half Architect being self-managed; half of my time was as a CM, maintaining and expanding the work of others from before me. Though, as my responsibilities grew and shifted, I get a front-row seat (too close for comfort?) to the Architect / Code Monkey trend and all its conflicts:

  • Multiple Architects cannot agree on solutions.
  • Architects abandon daily processes.
  • CMs usually cause more work for the Architects in code reviews.
  • CMs require constant check-in to ensure the right work is being done, or will reaffirm any course of action to the point of stagnation.
C++ Screengrab
Code from Pexels.com

Now, there’s bleed between Architects and Code Monkey’s still. As mentioned, I used to both Architect and Code the solutions to problems. Architects and CMs I know typically still code or make design decisions on their own.

But their numbers are few and they are dwindling.

Am I correct in these observations? Really only time will tell. Meanwhile, the software industry I grew up with is shifting in my sight. Instead of agile cooperation between peers who are all on the same level, Architects compete against each other in a rat-race of expanding technologies while Code Monkeys exist as replaceable cogs. It’s George Orwell‘s 1984 worker dichotomy of the Party and the proles.

I hope to be wrong.

Thinking About Trivial Conflict

After seeing Avengers: Endgame and a pivotal episode of Game of Thrones last week, I come away awestruck by the scope of the conflicts.

One deals with half of all beings in the universe (the universe) dying; the other, a seemingly unkillable king of the dead wages war against the living in a hellish blizzard.

It makes superheroes punching each other (Avengers) or bickering about who owns which castle (GoT) just seem… So trivial.

Let’s also take a look at a few other hugely-grossing conflicts:

Yet, our personal stories are still about nations at war, gangsters and the law, the fly in our soup.

We know the vastness that lays before us in the future. With this prescience that extends from the outcome of our own lives to the outcome of our world and species, what are we doing with what is objectively trivial conflict?

It’s called into question my fascination with big space battles and urban tank fights. These are seemingly trivial.

What is there to do?

I don’t know how to handle a shift in focus on the macro-level, but maybe I can adapt to my own predispositions. It can’t be helped who I am, but I can help what I do in my story creation.

From now on I’ll endeavor to set the stakes before I set the conflict. No more senseless violence – if conflict must be acted on, it must be after all nonviolent approaches have been investigated. Never should conflict be glorified. May a person or force in writing do something barbaric, there will be severe, long-lasting, terrible consequences for all involved. A motive will be considered petty if it’s anything less than meaningful to the entirety of a person’s life. And if I can, at the end, despite any suffering caused or endured, there’ll be evidence that it was worth it, that the universe is one step closer to saving itself from entropy.

I can do something about setting the cultural gaze a little higher, a little farther. If I may, I’d beg you to do the same.

Case Study: Iterative Design

Sometimes I get inspired and sometimes that inspiration needs some work.

That’s what happened here when I saw part of Theo Stylianides’s AutoBots, Scattershot:

AutoBots-Scattershot.JPG
Scattershot from AutoBots by Theo Stylianides

The thought that come to mind: “Cool! Put a 5-inch naval gun on a truck! Suppress tanks with rapid fire, stability, and elevation, not to mention artillery support and modular design.”

The way I think is in pictures. Names? I ‘see’ it written. Someone says ‘cat’? Fuzzy cat face that is probably no feline I’ve ever seen. Truck with a cannon? A drawing:

Sketches-Original-Long.jpg

Looking at this, we need to consider street fighting and firing the cannon perpendicular to the axis of the truck. If that cannon fires, the truck will tip over or at least be rocked mightily.

So what can we do? Start simply: Make it so all sides are equal, that the cannon’s force in any direction is supported by the vehicle.

Sketches-Original-Square.jpg

That’s more like it!

Though exposed, the cannon’s firing and reloading mechanisms are automated (see earlier in the video above for how that is done). We can stick a binocular camera set on it and seat the driver and gunner within the vehicle’s hull here.

SketchCrewCab-Clean.jpg

We’ll give it six-wheel drive for the streets and rubble present in urban fighting. On the back is a rack for additional ammo, fuel, or whatever we want. Ammunition is kept under the turret between the crew cabin and the engine at the rear of the vehicle. (A heavy engine’s weight can be made up for with thicker front armor to protect personnel.)

Objectively, this vehicle is pretty big as a target. Point-defense smoke for enemy sensors, lasers for missiles and ablative armor for kinetic rounds should do it. Let’s finally add a remote antipersonnel turret (yes, the lasers could selectively cook baddies too, but what do we do if it’s cloudy?):

Sketches-Side2.jpg

Viola! We have a truck with a naval-grade, rapid-fire, ready-to-be-modularized cannon!

This shows how I value function over form despite function being inspired visually. Have a problem? Change or add to the design to fix it, regardless of aesthetic.

As a happy accident, the weapon platform can join a small, personal fleet of ground fighting vehicles that fit a sci-fi ‘block’ theme:

Sketches-Lineup2.jpg

Thanks for getting this far. How do you get inspired? What do you do when that inspiration hits roadblocks? I’m always looking for ways to improve my problem-solving ability!