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26 February 2011 @ 02:40 pm
Game Supplies and OS Wars  
Gaming Geekery:

Years ago, on a whim, I picked up a big bag of plastic "gold pirate coins" from a Halloween store during their big November 1st sale. I've found they make terrific game counters; they're big and shiny and, compared to those defective marbles flat glass beads that most people use, much lighter to tote around and much harder to lose.

A year or two ago, I wandered through a party store around Mardi Gras time, and noted that they had even bigger bags of Mardi Gras coins, in gold, metallic green, and metallic purple.

So, after noting earlier in the week that Mardi Gras was in early March this year, I stopped by a local party store last week and got a bag.

I'm ab out to start a game of DC Adventures (a.k.a. Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition). DCA/M&M makes extensive use of "Hero Points", which allow PCs to do Cool Things Above and Beyond Their Character Sheet. They also have a "Luck Control" power which bestows Expendable Resources that aren't quite as flexible as a full Hero Point.

M&M originated the "Toughness Save" wound mechanic. Every time you fail a Toughness roll in DCA, you take a Wound, which gives you a -1 on further Toughness checks (and makes you more likely to take additional Conditions that lead up to Unconsciousness).

I've been using counters for Hero Points since M&M 1st Edition. M&M1 gave PCs a lot of Hero Points, and not only was it a lot easier to keep track of them when we used counters ... there was something viscerally satisfying about the sound they made when you dropped the glass-bead counter in the Big Jar. There's a psychological edge to using something tangible that you don't get just from marking a tally on a piece of paper.

While I was hypnotized by the shinies looking over three different colors of coins, I immediately designated Gold as Hero Points, and Green for Luck was a no-brainer. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the purple ones, at first, until I remembered that keeping track of Wounds was a bit of bookkeeping that would also benefit from counters. Just tossing a player a purple coin (or stacking one up on an NPC sheet) will make it a lot easier to track. "What's my penalty?" "How many coins do you have in your stack?"

And Purple is a vaguely bruise-like color, after all.

Computer Geekery:

After three-plus years of using Ubuntu Linux and Open Office on my home systems, I have just spent my first three weeks at a job where I am obligated to use industry-standard Microsoft products: Windows, Office, all the Usual Suspects.

I have to say ... I regret nothing! After running smoothly for more than two weeks, Office decided to be Inexplicably Glitchy this past week. Word just randomly slows to a stop periodically, interrupting my work flow to herald me with the icon that normanrafferty has so eloquently described as "a toilet-flushing circle".1 Excel, for its part, has decided that I don't really need cell heights to adjust automatically unless I close Excel entirely and re-open the worksheet in a fresh instance.

None of these quirks would be quite so irksome if the applications hadn't run just fine right up until Wednesday or Thursday.

I will say that there are a couple of Excel features that OpenOffice Calc doesn't implement quite as elegantly, most particularly in the little "cell border" button up in the toolbar. In Calc, that just calls up the "Format Border" dialogue. Excel lets you pick from an array of commonly-used border choices (such as "surround all these cells with a thick black line"), which makes it much simpler and faster to insure that your tables all have a uniform appearance. Still, Excel gives me just as many "why won't you do this simple obvious thing that Calc does?" moments as vice versa.

Oh, and Microsoft Visio is a gem of a layout/floorplan program that seems to have no direct Linux equivalent. In fact, it doesn't seem to have any significant Windows competitors. Nothing else seems to combine that "here's a bunch of commonly-used icons to drag and drop onto your layout" interface with the crisp, elegant lines that Viso produces.

Of course, the only credit Microsoft gets is for having the savvy to buy out the company and rebrand the software.

1 Obviously, the toilet is stopped up, since the circle doesn't change in size at all ...
I feel: geekygeeky
Hafochafoc on February 27th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
Purple for wounds because when you're wounded you get a Purple Heart. Or Purple Hurt, as the case may be.
The Weasel Kingtheweaselking on February 27th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Visio is damn near unique. NOBODY does Visio except Microsoft.

(And, really, buying the company and rebranding it? TOTALLY WORKS, the way MS does it. 99% of all the awesome possible in Server 2008 via Group Policy comes from MS buying and integrating a simply indispensible third-party GP editing tool. As a counterexample of doing it wrong, I give you Symantec (who bought-and-ruined Norton) and Primus (who bought-and-ruined.... uh... EVERYONE who had a customer they wanted.))
Yasha-tauryasha_taur on February 27th, 2011 06:05 am (UTC)
There is a rough equivalent for Visio drawing/orgcharting/flowcharting on the Mac. Check out OmniGraffle. But the Visio database tie-ins are pretty unique.
KehzaFox: sciencekfops on February 27th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
I've used Visio, but I've never really went looking for an equivalent.

OpenOffice does have the "draw" application which does offer things like connector-lines, so I don't know if that offers similar flow-charting capabilities.

With all of OpenOffice, I'm now following LibreOffice more closely. It sounds like we may see a lot more advancement and a lot less bureaucracy as far as implementing features and fixes. At least that's my hope!
KehzaFox: Potatoes on firekfops on February 27th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
... and for being a knob and reply to my own post, there is a quick-button in Calc for doing borders... though it is still a two-click process.

The unfortunate thing about the border button is it is represented by a white square (oh, how very intuitive) that you can click and then gives you border options. If the button isn't visible I think it can be enabled by having your Formatting toolbar visible (View -> Toolbars -> Formatting).
Your Obedient Serpent: Eye - VKathelind on February 28th, 2011 01:45 am (UTC)
As I said, In Calc, that just calls up the "Format Border" dialogue. Surrounding a selection of cells in a thick black border is at LEAST a four-click process:
  1. Click border button
  2. Click line thickness
  3. Click "Surround cells" button
  4. Click "OK"

  5. ...plus you have to make sure that you get the same thickness every single time.
KehzaFox: Squishedkfops on February 28th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
Ah, I believe I over-thought myself. From programming I didn't consider Calc's choice box a dialogue as much as a fly-out, but that's splitting hairs. When I read dialogue I thought of the big dialogue you get when you right-click and hit "format cells".

Though maybe not as flexible/fast as Excel, you could format one cell the way you want and the open up the Style and Formatting toolbox (F11) and click the "New Style From Selection" button on the top-right of that toolbox. Then when-ever you want cells formatted that way, you just double-click the style you created.

It speeds you up a bit, but definitely isn't as fast and easy as the Excel way.
Your Obedient Serpent: Eye: RCA Magic Eyeathelind on February 28th, 2011 01:50 am (UTC)
I'm keeping an eye on LibreOffice, too. Word is that Ubuntu's head honcho has made loud and bold statements supporting the Libre fork, and the grapevine says that it's going to get bundled as the default app suite in one of the next Ubuntu version releases (April or October).

I'll keep my ears open for buzz on LO; unless it, like, cures cancer or something, though, waiting until April is no biggie.