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Dom Mooney's Website

November 2006

Fudging the Issue

Spirit of the Century, the pulp RPG which I'm reading at the moment, uses a game system called FATE. This is in turn derived from a game system called FUDGE. For the gaming literate amongst you, FUDGE and FATE both use a ladder system of ability ratings for skills and the success and failure assessment. This is used in combination with special D6s (normal dice to non-gamers) which are marked with 2 pluses, 2 minuses and 2 blanks. Four FUDGE dice are rolled together at the same time, giving a distribution up and down the ladder system of +/-4 steps. Simple and elegant.

Fudge Dice (Improvised)

Spirit of the Century has a real buzz about it on the various roleplaying forums, and rightly so. It's elegant, well written and looks like a load of pulpy fun. If that means little to you, think Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow, Indiana Jones, or The Mummy to get a feel for the genre. I suspect the buzz has resulted in me not being able to find FUDGE dice anywhere in the UK. Anyhow, I've ordered some from the USA and, in the mean time, have improvised using a marker pin and some guidance of a website. I'm particularly proud of the red dice! They may be Heath Robinson, but they work well!

(I know that the Deryni Dice are FUDGE dice, but I wanted some colours, not just black and white!)

Mellow Yellow

I've just finished off painting the walls of the nursery what seems to be a bright yellow, but is allegedly 'Pale Citrus'. I'll have to see how it has settled down in the morning. This means that only the gloss needs doing, which should be reasonably simple as I've rubbed the paint-work down already. This means that the major bits and pieces which are changing in the house are nearly done.

The past weekend, we went to the shop where we bought the 'travel system' (as I must call it, not a pram or push-chair) in the hope of finding a decently priced, solid and drop-sided cot bed in a dark colour to match the rocking chair which Jill is being given by her sister. We were pretty shocked – especially after fruitless searches at Mothercare, Babies R Us and Mamas & Papas – to find exactly what we wanted the moment we walked in. Sometimes it just happens that way! It was even more of a surprise to find that it was in stock, so we bought it. It fitted well into the Avensis boot (which reminds me why we bought the 'sensible' car) and is now safely home, awaiting assembly. Fortunately, that isn't time critical as my mother is recommissioning the cot that my sister and I, and my nieces and nephews used.

I got some good news tonight - Sam, my brother in law, has finally got his promotion to Staff Sergeant. The downside to this is that they may not be coming back to UK after all, and could end up in Canada or Germany for the next two to three years after they leave Cyprus. Exciting times for my sister's family, no doubt, and a well deserved promotion for Sam.

Currently feeling: A lot better - just a dry tickle of a cough, and some tiredness.
Currently listening to: Muse "Black Holes and Revelations"
Currently reading: Spirit of the Century RPG and 'The Riddle of the Sands' by Erskine Childers.

Woken Furies


Richard Morgan's Woken Furies is his fourth novel, and the third in the sequence with Takeshi Kovacs in. It's not a trilogy, so you could pick up any of them as a starting point.

It's very enjoyable and tautly paced with some interesting ideas. The ending is kind of a deux-ex-machina, but – unlike Peter 'I can't finish a full length novel well' Hamilton – there are sufficient hints and pointers along the way to make it a plausible surprise.

The big difference in technology from most modern cyberpunk is the use of 'stacks'. These are implants at the back of the skull that most people have which download their personality. So if you are killed, you can always be downloaded into a new body aka sleeve. And interstellar travel is mainly by needlecast - people are beamed and downloaded into new bodies. You don't die unless your stack is destroyed.

Kovacs is an ex-UN Envoy. Which means that he's a very nasty warrior who is now freelancing, as the Envoys are the UN Protectorate's enforcement arm. The UN is effectively the world government. In the novel, Kovacs has returned to the world of his birth (Harlan's World) which is a water world run by an oppressive regime. When the story starts he's carrying out a one man vendetta against a sect on the planet. Complications ensue, including the return of a 300 year dead terrorist... And then there are the orbitals that cordon of the skies of the world, built by the 'Martians', destroying any aircraft moving too high or fast with 'angelfire'...

Recommended.

Another review salvaged from my posts at The Tavern.

5 weeks to go

On the way to the ante-natal class on Wednesday, Jill reminded me that it was only 5 weeks to go until our life changes completely, and that's assuming that we don't get blessed with an early arrival. That means that it's even more important that I get the nursery stripped and painted this weekend, something which hasn't been helped by catching man-flu (!) off one of my team earlier in the week. I should be asleep now, but I'm pretty heavily blocked up and suffering from it.

The clear out has increased the size of the pile of stuff for eBay, with some Call of Cthulhu material being added because I can't see myself ever playing with it. It's gorgeous, but all it does is eat shelf space! I'm dreading putting the material up (the time needed!) so it's going to wait until after I get the room done.

Jill is bearing up well - it's the first week of her maternity leave, and she has been getting used to the change. She had an expedition to the Mamas & Papas factory shop in Huddersfield, and came back commenting on how expensive everything was. I'm finding it strange not to be meeting her at work anymore at lunch etc. and also getting a lot of questions after her from the ladies in work.

The cat is probably the most disturbed member of the household at the moment - he seems to know that something is going on, and has made me his favourite person now, not Jill. She's a bit put out by this. I don't think he wants to compete with the bump for space or attention!

Weather is lousy, but I guess that really makes me focus on the need to do the nursery!

Currently feeling: Full of cold.
Currently listening to: The Killer's "Sam's Town" and Gorillaz "Demon Days"
Currently reading: Mythic Russia RPG

A return to CAD

Ever since I first got a Mac back in 1996, there have been a number of PC programs I've really wanted to get hold of to try and match the stuff I use at work. The key ones I wanted to replace were CAD, Visio and MS Project.

OmniGraffle has solved the Visio demand - in the latest 'Professional' edition it can export and import Visio XML. The only area it gets let down with is the way Vision handles drop shadows. i did some work for work the other week, and I need to modify it to remove the shadows as they are pretty ugly in XP.

OmniGroup also seem to be closing the gap with the forthcoming OmniPlan. i was involved in the initial beta testing of this, and it is a superb package. It may not have quite all the features of MS Project, but it has all the important ones and is slick and stable, even in beta. If I was still doing Engineering I would be rushing to buy this!

The final part of the gap was closed last week when I got hold of TurboCAD Mac V2. This will import and export to AutoCAD, but has a look and feel very much like Bentley Microstation SE, the package that I spent much of the time that I spent doing CAD on. I'd previously tried to get by through a number of methods. The first was the addition of a plug-in for illustrator (Hot Door CAD Tools 2) but I found it really unstable, and the price to upgrade was somewhat extortionate. I decided not to because there was no guarantee that it would be any better. Next up was using the scale function on OmniGraffle 4. This was excellent, and has been really useful in preparing crude room layouts for the nursery and study, but it was far less intuitive than a CAD package. So TurboCAD looks like it is going to be really useful, especially as I can enter a CAD mindset really easily!

All of a sudden, all the burning advantages that PCs have over Macs for my work have gone!

Merging the Media section

I've just merged all the media reviews etc to try and simplify the website somewhat!

Sleep Deprivation

I'd foolishly thought that sleep deprivation began after the baby arrived, but have been discovering the truth that it starts a lot earlier than that over the last few weeks!

Jill was very restless when she was first pregnant, but settled down. The last fortnight or so have been interesting as she has been restless, but not woken up with it. Rather, she's done a great job at waking me every one to two hours, which is a killer as usually I go straight back to sleep before I think of using the spare bedroom! It happened again tonight, and I feel shattered. In some ways I'm looking forward to the work trip just south of Gatwick as – hopefully – I'll get two good night's rest.

The weekend saw some serious work in the house - most of the study has been relocated from where it was (now to become the nursery) into a smaller room (which used to have the 'library' and spare sofa-bed) to allow us to get on with painting etc. Slowly, everything seems to be coming together.

I was invited out next weekend to see Tom and play some boardgames, but decided to cancel (even though it would've been a great time to try Hammer of the Scots or Crusader Rex face to face). Jill had said yes, but it was pretty clear that she wanted me to get the other room (and the related huge pile of eBay stuff) sorted out. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to actually play some of these kewl games soon!

Currently feeling: Tired
Currently listening to: Kaiser Chiefs 'Modern Way', Mansun 'Wide Open Space'

Post Furnace Thoughts

Furnace was excellent, but partial marred by a bad headache over the Saturday and into the morning of the Sunday. Sadly, this wasn't alcohol induced as I was driving both days – I suspect it was just general tiredness catching up with me. However, this was resolved through the wonders of modern chemistry, and by mid-Sunday afternoon I was back my normal self, if a little tired from the lack of sleep.

I had a really fun time, playing 5 different games (4 of them RPGs) over the weekend and getting to meet up with friends who I more usually hang out with virtually. The venue was superb including the cells – from the building's former role as a jailhouse for the garrison – which we used to game in. They were pretty close and intimate, as you can see from this picture that Tom Zunder grabbed of me running on the Sunday afternoon.

The five games I played were Iliade (a French card game set in the times of the Greek & Trojan wars), Burning Wheel (Graham's excellent take on Middle Earth with the system), Chaosium Basic Role Playing (Loz's demo of the excellent Gwenthia setting), Blake's Seven (run by Nathan, using a rare set of rules) and my own Traveller game. If you're interested in more detail than this, then have a look at my brief comments at The Tavern, which I wrote pretty soon after I got home.

I'm hoping that I'll be allowed to go to this convention again next year! The organisers – Tom, Graham, Darren and Newt – deserve a lot of credit for making this a great gamer's con. Next year, Furnace will be on 20-21st October 2007 at the same venue.