Here's a link to a fascinating discussion of story telling across a series of movies:
(Oh, and as to episode 1… it turns out it is not really necessary, and actually interferes with this plan. Maybe we’ll watch it after the others.)
Gaming: I’ve been thinking about the next D&D game I would like to run, and I’ve been looking at the various editions of the game on my bookshelf to ask myself which would be right for my next game. Naturally, I find myself wanting to pull elements from multiple editions to make what I think would be the best D&D. That seems like a daunting piece of work, and one that’s likely to duplicate a lot of the effort a whole team of folks at WotC are now engaged in, so I don’t know if I would really do it or not. It would seem better to pick an edition I like and make some minor modifications to it. Anyway, that whole line of thought got me looking at 3.0 again, and wondering what exactly I would change or houserule to make 3.0 a game I liked better. And the salient thing that stuck out to me was simply, Fix buffing spells.
It’s unfortunately true that buffing spells have been hard to balance throughout the game’s history. In 3.0, they were so strong that they were mandatory for smart play. Many players wouldn’t budge from the inn until the party wizard or cleric had hit ‘em with bull’s strength, stoneskin, fly, false life, death ward, and maybe polymorph other into some useful form like a troll. It was a little beneficial in that it was a system for transferring character power from spellcasters to nonspellcasters, but it was still pretty obnoxious. In fact, we found it so obnoxious that in 3.5 we killed the duration of buff spells to minutes instead of all day so that people wouldn’t have them all running all day. But that just exacerbated the problem of the 5-minute adventuring day and “scry and fry” tactics. So when 4th Edition came around, we ruthlessly expunged anything that gave off the faintest whiff of buffing spell from the system. We finally fixed the problem by shooting it in the head and burying it in the woods… even after we invented a ritual system to do the job. So rituals, instead of being the natural place to harbor buff effects, were nerfed even before the game launched.
I found that answer less than satisfying. There is a lot of coolness and iconic D&D beats in the buffing spells, and I think 4th Edition really misses them.
Anyway, I think I’ve come up with an idea that might fix the problem: the Mantle keyword. Basically, the great majority of buffing spells gain a keyword called [mantle]. A creature can only be affected by one mantle at a time. When you receive a new mantle, whatever you had in the spot goes away (or maybe you get to choose which you keep, whatever). The idea is that your soul, spirit, or psychomagical aura can’t absorb more than one mantle effect at a time. To put it another way, some magic affects you by making a persistent alteration to your psychomagical “true essence.” Just like you can’t paint something red and blue at the same time, you can’t alter someone’s aura in two ways at the same time.
Once we limit folks to one buff at a time, we can restore the long durations of buffing spells from 3.0 days – buffing spells are a LOT less problematic if each character in the party only has one at a time to deal with. You’re not Superman, you’re Ultraboy. Note that it makes dispel magic a lot less tedious, too; you won’t be churning through three or four ongoing buffs.
I could imagine adding another keyword called [benediction] which does the same thing with various sorts of divine blessings – there was always the strange stacking of bless and prayer and recitation in earlier editions, and it would seem to make sense that one blessing or abjuration might overwrite another. But I don’t think short-term buffs are as much of a problem, since they often come with an action cost at a time when you have hard choices about how to spend your actions.
What other elements of D&D 3.0 could stand a little houseruling? I could imagine some work on save DCs, looking for ways to incorporate themes/kits from 2e/4e, or building some at-will attacks for each class. Maybe I’ll make a rainy day project out of it sometime.
Politics/Current Events: Like many people, I followed the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) arguments at the Supreme Court this last week. I think no one really knows how the Court is going to rule on it, but I was gratified to see some very hard questions asked. My opinion (which is worth nothing, of course) is that the Act appears unconstitutional. Throwing it out would be a mess, but keeping it on the books is dangerous. The high-handed regulation-making from HHS Secretary Sebelius that trampled on religious liberty a few weeks back was a pretty good demonstration of what’s at stake. People talk about “the social safety net” all the time—well, the Constitution is a political safety net, designed to prevent the exercise of intrusive power by a government that does not have to answer to the people. We weaken it at our peril.
The Democrats had many options available for moving toward a national health care system that would have been much more sound in Constitutional terms. For example, if they had established a tax authority to pay for it instead of a system of mandates and penalties, they would have been on much more solid ground. Or they could have legislated the system they designed separately in each of the fifty states, since states have the power to create laws that the federal government can’t (that’s why Romneycare is legal in Massachusetts). But the Democratic-controlled Congress tried to minimize the political fallout by using “penalties” instead of taxes and playing games with accounting, and wound up outsmarting themselves by building something that may not pass Constitutional muster. Speaker of the House Pelosi asked “Are you serious?” when challenged on this a couple of years ago. Maybe she should have taken the warning to heart.
So what happens if the Affordable Care Act gets tossed? Well, I think it’s clear that we need *something* to improve the financial underpinnings of our health care system. Off the top of my head, I’d begin with opening up insurance across state lines and examining the question of tort reform. That wouldn’t be enough to fix things, but at least it would be a start.
The Finer Things: Cherry trees. Washington DC is famous for them, but it turns out that the other Washington is darned near ideal for cherry trees too. We have thousands of ‘em in the valley area between Puyallup and Renton. They started really blooming about three weeks ago, so they’re starting to reach the end of their amazing color. But there are so many around here you’ll actually get drifts of petals like patches of pink snow here and there. I never paid much attention to trees, flowers, etc., until I moved out here, but the cherry trees really are something special.