Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leaving Las Goblinworks, and perceptive mammoths

This week, some professional news: I have given my notice at Goblinworks, and am soon to be an ex-Goblin. I leave Goblinworks and Pathfinder Online with no small regret; it’s a good crew, and I’m very enthusiastic about the game they’re putting together. My only complaint is the fact that my commute up to Redmond averages about 80 minutes one-way. It’s a pretty drive, but I am finding it harder and harder to give away 2-1/2 hours a day that I could be spending on my writing or on Sasquatch games. I have several big, exciting writing projects that I haven’t been able to find the time to start, so I’m going to make the time and give it my best shot.

So, just to reiterate: It’s my idea, we’re parting amicably, and mostly it’s about the really inconvenient commute. I’ve agreed to make myself available to Ryan and the gang if they need any writing or design support I can offer in a remote contracting role.
(Oh, and I’ll add that I am leaving the Emerald Spire superadventure in decent shape. Coordinating fifteen other authors, writing my section, developing the levels as they come in, and making sure the levels talk to each other has been a big part of my time over the last few months. I finished up my Emerald Spire work, and it’s now moving into the capable hands of the Paizo development and editing teams. I wanted to make sure I was happy with it before I hit the road.)

It’s definitely a little scary to step out of a paying gig in the hope that I’m going to light a rocket under my writing career or Sasquatch is going to take off and do big things. (Well, we already have, kind of. More bigger things, I guess.) So, stay tuned, and I’ll see what I can do!

Gaming: I’ve been building a lot of Pathfinder monsters lately. In general, I’m pretty happy with 3.5 era monster creation, especially with the very helpful target numbers Pathfinder presents in its Bestiary monster-building appendices. But man, I wish I wasn’t assigning skill points to dumb monsters with lots of Hit Dice. It’s my fault, at least in part, since I worked on the 3.5 Monster Manual and I standardized the feat and skill point rules to work off HD like they do for characters. But just yesterday evening I was building a mammoth for Primeval Thule, and shaking my head over the +20 Perception score it has compared to the eagle with a +6 Perception score. Yeah, you can cheat that with a hefty racial modifier, but still… should a mammoth really have a great Perception?
I mean, I feel like a 1st-level ranger ought to be able to sneak up on a mammoth, because nothing about “mammoth” suggests that it should be any more perceptive than, say, a housecat. Or a flamingo. Or an alert iguana. The only reason a mammoth should have a high Perception score is because it’s a CR 10 monster, give or take, and to make the interaction with a PC of the appropriate level interesting, it needs a high score. But I guess I’m a simulationist at heart, because I’m OK with saying that a 10th-level ranger *shouldn’t* be tested by sneaking around without being noticed by a mammoth. It would be OK in my D&D world if you could sneak up on mammoths all you want.

I don’t really have a good patch to suggest for this, other than not putting all the mammoth’s skill points into Perception. Maybe D&D Next can finally fix this.

Politics/Current Events: One observation… my personal Obamacare experience is that my insurance is going to get about $210 more expensive every month. That’s how much the cost of my family’s insurance plan increases as of January 1st. Because I’m now a self-employed type, I have to buy individual insurance, and that’s where matters stand. Well, I guess I am keeping my doctor, and I guess I am keeping my insurance that I don’t actively dislike, so Obama got something right back when he was stumping for the ACA. But somehow my insurance got $2500 *more* expensive per year instead of *less* expensive.
Longtime readers will not be surprised to learn that I am, in fact, not surprised. Anybody out there experiencing even a tiny little bit of buyer’s regret yet? I didn't vote for this turkey, so somebody who did owes me $200 a month.

The Finer Things: The Pirates made it to the postseason!  And even though the Cardinals handled them pretty easily in today’s Game 5, I was still happy to see the Pirates playing October baseball. It was really something else to see that beautiful park in downtown Pittsburgh filled with fans in black and gold. That franchise wandered in the wilderness for a very long time indeed—twenty straight years of losing seasons, which is almost Phillies-esque in its organizational futility. (I’m referring to the Phillies’ generally horrible ancient history, as opposed to the great stretch they enjoyed from 2003 to 2011.) Anyway, this isn’t the Pirates’ year to play deep into October… but it’s awesome to see the Pirates back. They paid their dues, and they deserve it.


  1. Congratulations on making the move. I know it's a tough call, but I'm sure you'll be glad you made it!

    As for the political element, it'll come as no surprise that I've got a different perspective. I mean, I'm sorry that the cost of your insurance is going up ... but I can't help thinking that you're viewing this from a strange perspective. Without the Affordable Care Act it wouldn't have been possible to keep your insurance at all. And buying that policy on your own in the pre-ACA system would likely have caused more than a $210/mo hike. I'm not trying to paint a smile on a bad situation ... I'm just saying that it's likely that this bad situation is BETTER than it would have been, if not for the ACA.

  2. Thanks for the words of support, Stan -- I wrestled with this for quite a while.

    But... How exactly is the ACA improving my access to health insurance? Before I went to work for Goblinworks, I bought my own individual insurance plan for the family, and paid $740 a month for it. Now that I am leaving Goblinworks, I am re-upping at $740 a month for the rest of this year... and then on Jan 1st, when the ACA takes effect, my insurance company will begin charging me $950 a month for pretty much the same plan. As far as I can tell the ACA had no impact on whether I kept or didn't keep my insurance, and sure didn't make my insurance cheaper.

  3. I wrestled with whether or not to put my initial thoughts up specifically because I didn't know the details of your health insurance situation. (I misunderstood that you were "keeping" the insurance that you had a Goblinworks, not returning to an individual policy you had before.) I know (and knew) that there certainly ARE people whose costs are going up, and I'm very sorry that you're one of them.

    (Out of curiosity, have you checked out whether or not you're eligible for tax credits under the new system? It might still come out cheaper for you overall.)

    But I don't want to turn your blog into a healthcare debate forum. I know we come at this matter from two different philosophies and perspectives, but I bet there are a lot of things we can agree on (not the least of which being that the ACA needs to be improved). Now,if you want to sit down over a bubbly beverage some time and go at the debate more thoroughly (in a "we're all friends here" manner, of course) ... I'm certainly game.


  4. Good luck, Rich. I'm eager to see that rocket take off for you like you hope...especially for Sasquatch. I'll stay out of the ACA discussion, except to say that I don't think it's sufficient for what it set out to do. And, much like Stan, I think there's LOTS of room to improve upon it--just too much of a partisan atmosphere for anyone to make a serious go of it.

    As for your highly-perceptive mammoth dilemma, maybe a negative racial modifier could be imposed to offset the wealth of skill points it gets as a result of its Hit Dice. Of course, that doesn't solve the problem of the now-diminished eyesight of such a high-CR mammoth detecting a stealthy 10th level ranger sneaking up on it. But, maybe that too can be fixed by making the mammoth tough enough to withstand most early attacks, giving it time to invoke some serious rage and ferocity to cause the ranger and his high-level friends to regret disturbing it.

    Food for though, hopefully. :-)

  5. Stan (and Neil): Fair enough. I didn't really want to pick a fight over the ACA with my blogging, but I did want to report what I'd found in my own apples-to-apples comparison. I would certainly agree that the pre-ACA health care situation was pretty suboptimal, too. And I'd love to hoist a cold one sometime and enjoy a friendly debate!

  6. Every argument about healthcare being too expensive is an argument _for_ universal healthcare. :)

  7. Good luck with your move, Rich. I'm a long-time fan and I'm eager to see your work on Primeval Thule and everything else.

    (I'm an Australian so I won't comment on US healthcare. We managed to get that problem squared away about a generation ago....)

  8. Have you checked to see whether your insurer is offering your plan on the Washington health exchange ( You can compare plans on the site without creating an account. I don't know how well the site is running other than that; your state gave the world Microsoft Windows after all.

    Your insurer may be jacking up rates on your individual plan because you're not pooling the new risks they have to take under Obamacare, like they can do on the exchange. The risk pools on the exchanges let insurers take 10 on any given family rather than rolling the die in a 1-on-1 relationship. I know its not what you'd prefer, but it might help you save money. So it might be worth a look at least.

  9. Good luck with your move! Since I am a Thule backer, I hope you'll be able to deliver even more goodness for it in the future; I know, I speak out of selfish interest ;)

    RE: the Pathfinder/3.5 monsters...that was one of the reasons when I want to play d20 D&D, I still only play with the 3.0 rules set. Skill points and feats depending on hit dice for all monster types, make absolutely no sense.

    1. Just for comparison, in 3.0 an animal would have 10-15 skill points. The Elephant listed in the MM 3.0 has Listen+6, Spot+6.