The Monsters Know What They're Doing: an RPG sourcebook for DMs who want to imbue monsters with deep, smart tactics

For years, Keith Ammann has maintained his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing, in which he carefully laid out the logical tactics that the monsters of Dungeons and Dragons would use in combat, based on their alignment, stats, and habitats, creating sophisticated advice for Dungeon Masters hoping to move their combat encounters from rote stab-stab-kill affairs into distinctive, memorable strategy-and-tactics affairs that created not just variety and challenges for players, but also depth and verisimilitude. Now, Ammann's work has been collected in the first of two planned volumes: The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, smart RPG sourcebooks I've ever read.

Watch chef make Baby Sonic cake then slice its adorable face off

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My Baby Sonic Cake! 🥰😍 Watch me make it on my YouTube channel . . . #soniccake #babysoniccake #cake #cakedecorating #cakesofinstagram #cakes #sonicthehedgehog #sonic #cakeboss #cakevideo #cakedesigner #sonicmovie

A post shared by Sugar High Score (@sugarhighscore) on Jan 6, 2020 at 8:53am PST

Sugar High Score makes stunning cakes based around pop culture themes, but it's her Baby Sonic that we're getting a slice of today. Above, the coup de grace; below, the how-to video.

In this video, I am going to show you all the steps in creating this adorable Baby Sonic the Hedgehog CAKE from the new Sonic movie 2020. He turned out so cute! Enjoy. :)

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Royal Mail issues stamps honoring classic British computer games

The U.K.'s Royal Mail is putting out a set of stamps featuring screenshots of classic British-made computer games, from 1984's Elite to the recent Tomb Raider remakes. A basic set is £9 at the Royal Mail's shop, with various collector sets on offer too.

Two First Class stamps, two Second Class stamps, two £1.55 stamps and two £1.60 stamps.

Elite | 1984 | BBC Micro and Acorn Electron Second Class

Dizzy | 1987 | ZX Spectrum £1.60

Populous | 1989 | Commodore Amiga £1.60

Lemmings | 1991 | Commodore Amiga First Class

Micro Machines | 1991 | Sega Mega Drive £1.55

Sensible Soccer | 1992 | Commodore Amiga First Class

Wipeout | 1995 | Sony Playstation £1.55

Worms | 1995 | Commodore Amiga Second Class

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Public Domain Game Jam: what games can you design with the bounty of 1924?

Randy Lubin (previously) writes, "New work is entering the public domain and Mike Masnick and I are hosting a game jam to celebrate. Designers have all of January to design analog and digital games about, inspired by, or remixing works from 1924. We have amazing judges, great prizes, and are excited to see what you make!" Read the rest

In this tic-tac-toe variant played with all X's, the loser is actually the winner

In Misère Tic-tac-toe, getting three-in-a-row means you lose. I can't wait to unleash this game on my kids at our next dinner out.

Here is a wonderfully-named app version: Notakto

Here is a scientific paper on the mathematics of the game: "The Secrets of Notakto: Winning at X-onlyTic-Tac-Toe" by Thane E. Plambeck, Greg Whitehead

And below is part 2 of the Numberphile video. Note from the video description:

Correction from Thane: The configuration with two X's, one in a corner and one in the middle, is a "b" and not a "b^2". It's at 5:24 in the video.

(via Cliff Pickover)

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Totally Accurate Battle Simulator not entirely accurate

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator [Landfall Games] plays out skirmishes between bands of fighters with a state-of-the-art physics engine. This engine is the "totally accurate" part, but if you know anything about physics in games, you'll know that its wobbly ragdoll fingers are crossed firmly behind its back. Instead of gravity and momentum being kept under tight slow cheaty control, as in Total War games, here everything flops wildly free: berserkers leap into the fray, trees block whirling broadswords, mammoths crush all underfoot, cannonballs neatly enfilade rows of infantry.

The cartoon madness of its physics is embraced in its attitude: bulging ragdoll eyes, lurching Foddyesque advances, and dozens of bizarre units to command and place in whatever anachronistic nightmare matchup pleases you. Battles tend to be over in seconds. Players compete to post the most bizarre set-pieces on YouTube.

TABS is still in early-access and has no framing or narrative elements. The campaign is a collection of arbitrary but often cunningly-designed battles; the harder and more specific they get, the more the game feels like a series of puzzles and less like a tactical sim. It is nonetheless hilarious, absorbing and shockingly habit-forming, hours disappearing into the promise of a single coffee-break battle.

It's well-worth the $15 price tag, and I've barely scratched the surface of the early-access version--you can make custom maps, units and campaigns, with more features to come. Players interested in customization, in creating ingenious set-pieces and mapping their minds to its demented combat mechanics, are already completely catered for. Read the rest

Longtime Fantasy Flight employees get their likenesses added to the company's games

What a terrific perk, after five years of working at Fantasy Flight Games, employees gets their likenesses added to a game. Below are four examples from the Shadow of the Beanstalk Android sourcebook:

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As some may know, after five years of working at FFG our employees are put into one of our games as a thank you for their amazing work. Today, we would like to share a couple of the fantastic employee-art pieces that appear in Shadow of the Beanstalk, the Android sourcebook for Genesys! #Android #Genesys #RoleplayingGames #TabletopGames #LifeAtFFG

A post shared by Fantasy Flight Games (@fantasyflightgames) on Dec 3, 2019 at 1:14pm PST

Five more examples are collected at Board Game Atlas. Read the rest

The Ikea that exists outside of normal space

Writing for EGM, Alexis Ong looks at Neurocracy, SCP Foundation, and other gameful hypertexts. It reminded me of SCP-3308, which describes a disturbing Ikea.

The location seems to be a typical Ikea, but once you enter, you're transported to an infinite space that looks like, but is not quite an Ikea:

SCP-3008-1 is inhabited by an unknown number of civilians trapped within prior to containment. Gathered data suggests they have formed a rudimentary civilisation within SCP-3008-1, including the construction of settlements and fortifications for the purpose of defending against SCP-3008-2.

SCP-3008-2 are humanoid entities that exist within SCP-3008-1. While superficially resembling humans they possess exaggerated and inconsistent bodily proportions, often described as being too short or too tall. They possess no facial features and in all observed cases wear a yellow shirt and blue trousers consistent with the IKEA employee uniform.

SCP-3008-1 has a rudimentary day-night cycle, determined by the overhead lighting within the space activating and deactivating at times consistent with the opening and closing times of the original retail store. During the "night" instances of SCP-3008-2 will become violent towards all other lifeforms within SCP-3008-1. During these bouts of violence they have been heard to vocalise phrases in English that are typically variations of "The store is now closed, please exit the building". Once "day" begins SCP-3008-2 instances immediately become passive and begin moving throughout SCP-3008-1 seemingly at random. They are unresponsive to questioning or other verbal cues in this state, though will react violently if attacked.

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Current chess champion Magnus Carlsen is also one of the top fantasy soccer players in the world

The Premier League’s official fantasy football league has over seven million entrants. And as of a few days, World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was number one in the league. As of this writing, he's down to third place.

Apparently, Norwegians tend to do well in the league:

Carlsen, like many Norwegians, is obsessed with both the Premier League and its fantasy league spin-off. In 2017, eight players from Norway were in the top 50 FPL players in the world.

Along with a "phenomenal memory for Premier League details," Here's his strategy:

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A legendary point-and-click adventure game has found a new life online.

I remember buying Westwood Studios (miss those guys) point-and-click Blade Runner game to play on my old ThinkPad, back in the late 1990s. It was the first game I can recall owning that spanned multiple disks. While I was surprised to find that the main character in the game neither looked or sounded like Harrison Ford—I didn't know much about how licensing and actor's contracts worked at the time—I was completely hooked from the first time that I turned it on. I finished the game multiple times over the years until, sadly, a friend that I lent the game to moved out of province without returning it to me. By then, I'd moved on to other games and had tired of changing discs just to travel from one area to another. However, every once in a while, I sigh, wistfully, wishing I could give it another go. Today, I found out that this is a very doable thing:

From The Verge:

Blade Runner is beloved to this day, but until very recently, the odds of a digital rerelease seemed almost nonexistent. Westwood lost the original source code in 2003 during a move. So players needed to find one of the game’s increasingly rare hard copies or an unofficially cracked version of it, then go through the considerable trouble of getting it to work on a modern PC.

That started to change this summer when a team started publicly testing ScummVM emulator support. The game became playable through ScummVM in October, but the content still couldn’t be officially found online.

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The Kinship Hybercube and the meaning of progress in Civilization games

Writing for Vice, Gabriel Soares takes a look at Civilization and why a standard playthrough tends to get more boring as the player reaches modern day technology:

what is progress in an historical 4X game? To be blunt, it’s the elimination of difference. The closer you are to “us”, the more you have progressed.

...

Effectively your only decisions are how to advance through a predetermined trajectory culminating with “us”, "the US”. This is easier to perceive in tech trees, but it’s also true of those two other Xs: expand, exterminate. Make the world homogenous, make the world boring. Those early turns players like put them into contact with difference. The rest of the game sees them destroy it.

In the course of discussing what "progress" means, Soares describes an effort to study aboriginal culture. A sociologist had planned to derive the "Elementary Forms of Religious Life" by observing the supposedly simplest religion of Aboriginal Australians:

Problem is, if you’re going to grade different peoples on their relative simplicity like some kind of Olympic judge, you first need to decide what the sport is. Nobody disputes that Indo-Europeans are great at making products, matter of fact “providers of merchandise” or “people of merchandise” is one of the most common names for the “white man” among Amazonian peoples. But what about everything else?

Because those very same Australian aboriginal populations who have been so continuously discriminated against by generations of academics have also developed the most complex kinship systems on the planet.

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New experimental video games controlled by skate board, teeter totter, and a giraffe head

The 2020 Game Developers Conference will include alt.ctrl.GDC, a showcase of video game using unconventional, accessible or alternative physical controls. The 20 finalists include Far Away Cage, an Alien-inspired game where you interact with the ship by sliding on a skateboard:

Ready? Set. Haiya! is a motion-based fighting rhythm game played by interacting with a live-sized kung fu wooden dummy:

And The Sword lets players try to find the Grail in order to pull Excalibur from the stone:

You can see trailers for the 20 finalists here, including a racing game controlled by manipulating a giraffe head, and a milking game that uses udders. Read the rest

AI Dungeon, the "infinite" text adventure is available as a smartphone app

AI Dungeon, a vastly open text adventure that used artificial intelligence to generate responses to your commands, is now available as an easy-to-use smartphone app (the web version was clunky). The Verge has more:

We tested the iOS version briefly, and although there were a few game-breaking errors, it’s generally as easy to use as you’d want. Responses to each input still take a few seconds to process, which rather slows the experience, but it’s definitely quicker than the web version was, and each interaction with the AI is as surprising (and frequently delightful) as before.

There are also helpful tips for newcomers, reminding you to start each of your text commands with a verb, or use quotation marks to indicate when someone is speaking.

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A retrospective on the making of Tie Fighter

Writing for PCGamer, Alex Kane takes a long look at the creation of the video game Tie Fighter, where the player becomes an ace in the Imperial Navy between the Battle of Hoth and Battle of Endor. Supposedly, this was Lucas's reaction when he saw the copy on the package:

As the story goes, George Lucas was shown the packaging for TIE Fighter in a board meeting shortly after the game had come out and had started performing well financially and earning acclaim. Lucas picked up the box, examined the cover, and then turned it over to read the copy on the back. "'Imperial Navy'?" he said. "There's no navy in Star Wars." A moment later: "Well, I guess it doesn't matter."

A key moment in the marketing of the game came when a deal was reached to co-promote the game along the Dodge Neon:

"I think what really helped the game is that we were approached by Dodge, the car company," Gleason says. "I wasn't in much of a bargaining position; I didn't have a whole lot to give in return, other than they get to use Star Wars in their advertising. For the Dodge Neon, which was nothing like a sci-fi or futuristic car. It was from Michigan. There was nothing sexy about it; it looked like a family car. But it was a big win, because we couldn't afford to distribute 400,000 demos on our own, or do a TV commercial."

With an unlikely marketing companion in Dodge, Gleason got a TIE Fighter demo onto the PCs of thousands of gamers.

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Arcade game combines Pop-A-Shot basketball with fighting off zombies

Here's a clever update to the arcade classic Pop-A-Shot basketball. The really Big Crane Company has combined the basketball mechanic with Plants vs. Zombies to create Zombie Jam.

Hit a basket in the proper column to fight off the approaching zombies:

There's also a version for playing Connect 4 by burying shots:

(Via Simon Carless.) Read the rest

Death Stranding Instagram filters

Now you can add some Kojima flavor to selfies or news coverage of the impeachment hearings. Erop has created two different Instagram filters.

And speaking of Death Stranding, check out this limited edition custom PS4 controller and stand:

WeAreRobots:

The controller is themed after Sam’s Bridges delivery uniform featuring custom buttons, metal D-Pad, metal thumb sticks and custom touchpad styled to look like a container. The stand is styled after the BB pod with a detailed baby cast in clear yellow resin. The iconic Odradek Scanner attaches to the back of the stand to hang over the top of the controller when displayed together.

BB and Odradek Scanner come packaged in a custom, high quality hard case container.

Preorder closes at the end of December or once the initial 20 places have been reserved. Controllers will ship as soon as production has been completed which is expected to be March 2020 or earlier.

(Via Attract Mode.) Read the rest

Secret games to play when you're bored in public

This article by Holly Gramazio suggests several ideas for games you can play alone or with friends while in public. My favorite of the lot was posted by a Redditor, and seems like a great way to feel more positive about the world:

When I’m out in public or driving or something, I like to pick a person within my sight and imagine how they’re somebody’s FAVOURITE person, and if that somebody could be where I am in that moment, they’d be overjoyed to see them. I imagine how that person might joke around, or I think about the nice things they might do for their friends or family, and I wonder if there’s someone across the country that wishes more than anything that they could be as near to that stranger as I am now.

Check out more ideas here and here.

(Article via RPS, The Card Players by Lucas van Leyden via Wikipedia.)

(My partner and I have a new, stupid game that makes us smile--when we're watching sports together, we add an "N" to players' last names.) Read the rest

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