Saturday, February 26, 2011

2016 d20 Modern Campaign Primer (2/3)

(Continued from Part 1)

Riots broke out across the nation, most concentrated in the south.  Citizens of Texas began clamoring for secession from the Union, and Oklahoma follwed suit.  In Washington, D.C., the Congressmen from the two states were refused secession rights, but they would not be defeated so easily.  

The state legislators crafted a bill that would allow Texas to secede from the Union.  The bill passed both houses and was signed into law by the governor.  On April 15, 2014, Texas became a sovereign nation, and sparked what would eventually be called the “Second American Revolution.”

Following Texas’s example, other states began considering secession.  California was next, passing a bill of secession on April 29, 2014.  Washington and Oregon joined California on June 2, and the Republic of California was formed by the three former states.  Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana joined with Texas on July 4, to create the Separatist States of America.  September 22 marked the departure of four states from the Union.  Alaska and Maine became Canadian provinces, and Arizona and New Mexico became part of Mexico.  

During this tumultuous period, citizens in Hawaii were also planning to express their discontent.  Dissenters from the military base at Pearl Harbor organized with civilian protesters to reinstate the Hawaiian monarchy.  The military dissenters infiltrated the naval and air force bases and ensured that there would be no military repercussions for their treason.  With a civilian and military effort unprecedented in US history, Hawaiians staged an effective coup against the national government.  On December 7, Hawaii officially declared its independence and allowed all American prisoners to return to the US.  

The Republic of California is a peaceful nation.  It trades with the US and other nations, and citizens of both nations are free to come and go as they please.  Marijuana possession and use is legal and taxed, and authorized vendors are plentiful.  A black market for the herb still exists, but prosecutions and jail sentences are much less severe.  

The Separatist States of America, however, is a guarded and isolationist nation.  US police officers and government officials may be shot or arrested on sight after they have crossed the border.  Warnings are posted advising US citizens to proceed with caution.  Checkpoints exist at each major highway border crossing.  US citizens may enter solely on the condition that they surrender all US identification, disavow their US citizenship, and register as SSA citizens.  

The US does not trade with the SSA, and still holds claim to the airspace above the nation.  As a result, there is no private or commercial air travel over the SSA without a special joint license granted by the FAA and the FBI.  The license requires rigorous written and flying exams, and an extensive FBI background check.

The US does allow AT&T to operate in the SSA, though few customers choose their services.  AT&T is seen as emblematic of the problems with the US.  

International trade is difficult for the SSA, with restricted airspace and limited seaports on the Gulf of Mexico.  Trade by air can come by way of Mexico, but with heavy tariffs encouraged by the US.  Only large corporations can afford to fly goods in through Mexico.  As a result, the SSA largely relies on its own resources to provide for its citizens.  

In 2015, SSA businesses and citizens began demanding access to air travel and transport.  Representatives of the SSA met with US lawmakers in St. Louis in an attempt to make an agreement to use the airspace.  The US agreed to talks, but proposed a fifty percent tariff rate on goods flown in through US airspace.  The US representatives refused to lower the proposed rate, and the talks fell through.  As a result, the SSA vowed to reclaim their airspace with or without US consent.

Soon, the SSA had given several airports the green light to reopen and resume flight services.  Pilots and flight controllers were given explicit orders to refuse demands made by anyone claiming US authority while in SSA airspace.  This led to many tense moments between SSA pilots and USAF fighters.  The skies remained relatively calm until October 4, 2015.


Friday, February 25, 2011

2016 d20 Modern Campaign Primer (1/3)

On December 21, 2012, Congress revoked the two-term limit for the office of President, and made it a position that could only be vacated by resignation, death, or by a supermajority vote in both houses of Congress.  These changes were passed in closed sessions, and weren’t widely known by the public until months later when a private memo from the Secret Service was intercepted and leaked.

Shortly thereafter, social media sites exploded with links and tweets, putting #iranelection, #jan25, and #sudan to shame.  In an unprecedented move, the government allowed AT&T to buy majority shares in all of its US rivals in both the mobile phone and Internet markets.  AT&T then proceeded to merge all of the competitors into the AT&T brand.  In return for this allowance, AT&T agreed to authorize government agencies to censor or block certain sites.

Soon, the majority of online dissidents were silenced.

In June 2013, many sites were issued Cease and Desist warnings regarding anti-government posts and topics.  The sites were given a deadline of July 31 to comply with the demands.  Sites that failed to bow to the government’s commands had all access blocked by the government.  Few sites resisted, and the government made good on their word to shut down the ones that did.  Wikipedia, 4chan, Craigslist and similar sites were shut down, as well as file-sharing sites and foreign news agencies.  Sites running forums are allowed, but are populated with government agents monitoring content.

Most sites complied with the demands, and in return were allowed to resume business as usual.  Twitter and Facebook still exist but certain words and hashtags send red flags to the government.  A Twitter user tweeting about government conspiracies could expect a knock on his door in the next 2-3 days.  Initially, Google resisted, but changed course when the government throttled back their bandwidth to pre-56k speeds.

In addition to AT&T’s Internet dominance, their phone network nationwide is equally oppressive.  Government technology allows agents to eavesdrop on any call on the network, and employs thousands of agents solely for this purpose.  Mobile phone web access is restricted to a white-list of approved sites.

Around the same time, Comcast was allowed to purchase its domestic competition in exchange for the government being given complete control of content.  Talk shows and news interviews were no longer allowed to feature guests or opinions critical of the government.  In its place, more reality shows and game shows were created.

On February 9, 2014, a hacker group managed to successfully compromise Comcast’s servers and implant a special program disguised as a Super Bowl advert.  The first ‘commercial’ of Halftime featured a black screen with text being read by a distorted voice.  The three-minute ad recounted how the US had gotten to this place, from the revulsion of the term limit, to the fascistic monopolies of AT&T and Comcast.  The ad revealed that the two companies were planning a merger, which would undoubtedly restrict freedoms even further.  The ad ended by calling for revolutionary action in a revolutionary time.

Before the game had even ended, the creators of the video, as well as the hackers, had been executed.  For the government, though, the damage had already been done.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Puppy Love

You weren't prepared for this.  You knew eventually your daughter would grow up and start liking boys, but you weren't ready this early.  Being caught off-guard, you take a -2 penalty to all dice rolls for the duration of the first day.  The penalty continues each day after, save ends.

Kennedy has recently become very good friends with our friends' son William.  It all started at Taco Bell when he tried to give her the rest of his quesadilla.  I guess she takes after her daddy.  The fastest way to her heart is her stomach!  Too bad these were a little late for valentine's day.  Although, yesterday she was getting smooches from another friend's son.  Shh, we haven't told William yet.  We want to break it to him softly.

I feel the need to re-review the Netflix streaming video service, this time for the PS3.  Since we got the PS3 roughly a week ago, we've watched quite a lot of video, and not once has it paused playback due to "changed bandwidth" or because my internet connection had slowed.  And just before I got the PS3 I called NewWave and had my internet speed reduced to save a bit of money.  I don't believe that my internet connection suddenly got better, which leaves me to conclude that there is a problem with streaming Netflix on Xbox 360.  With the Blu-ray and DVD upscaling, and a superior Netflix experience, the PS3 is quickly becoming the "always-on" console.  The 360 will still be used for gaming, but it will finally be getting a well-deserved break.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Kick-Ass (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)    Slumdog Millionaire [Blu-ray]    Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire [Blu-ray]

On a related note, a local video store has been having a going-out-of-business sale for a week or so, and I finally made it out there to see what they had left.  The game selection was pretty slim, but I managed to snatch the original Phoenix Wright for DS for ten bucks.  I also grabbed Kick Ass, Slumdog Millionaire, and Precious on Blu-ray.  Three Blu-rays and a DS game ran me forty-two dollars.  Thanks to services like Netflix and Redbox, I got a sweet deal, and several people are losing their jobs.  Capitalism at work, folks.

I have today and tomorrow off work.  The first of my two goals is now accomplished (writing a blog).  The other goal is to finish the backstory for my d20 Modern campaign.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blame Angry Birds

You meant to write a blog yesterday, but you played Angry Birds.  You meant to write a blog today, but you played Angry Birds.  Each day going forward, make a Will save.  If you fail, you lose two hours to the game.  If you succeed, you may turn off the game and do something productive.

We recently got our tax return, and I got my wife an iPhone.  Once my iTunes account was linked, I bought Angry Birds.  I meant to blog.  I meant to work on my RP.  I'm blaming Angry Birds for my failure to do these things.  It is a great game though, and the price can't be beaten.  One dollar for a game that will easily be played for twenty hours is a steal.

The iPhone has also been great for Kennedy.  Being able to instantly pull up Elmo videos in a waiting room is a godsend.  Although, anyone using online video for their kids should avoid youtube and hit up some kid-friendly alternatives like Kideos or ZuiTube.  We've had too many instances of opening a Sesame Street or Spongebob video only to have it open with and elaborate string of swearing.

We also got a PS3, mainly for the Blu-Ray Disc capabilities.  Our DVD player was on its last legs and with PS3 I won't need to pay a yearly fee just to use Netflix on a console.  Setup was a breeze and the infamous updates weren't nearly as egregious as they were made out to be.  From opening the box to having a working PSN account took less than forty-five minutes.  Aside from the ridiculously lightweight controllers, I think I will like this console.  I'll probably also eventually get a game for it...

Kennedy is crawling forward now, so we got a baby gate and a new, secure entertainment center.  Nights have been a pain lately, and she is scheduled next week to have tubes put in her ears.  Hopefully that will make her feel better so she will actually sleep.  Should actually be updating more often now that the newness of Angry Birds has dies out.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bye Bye to this Teferi Guy

You've been working at this for hours now.  Your eyes are starting to make the screen into a blur.  A seemingly endless stream of cards is being entered into your growing database cataloging your collection of Magic: the Gathering cards.  Roll your Stamina.  If you succeed, you continue to finish the job.  If you fail, you begin to nod off, slowly at first but you will soon go lie down or fall asleep at the desk.

Yes it's true, I've finally decided to sell my Magic: the Gathering collection.  I've played once or twice in the past year and it just seems silly to keep them around when I could make some money from them.  It's not from lack of opportunity, I simply haven't had time.  Having a kid certainly renegotiates your priorities.  Add to that working 40+ hours a week with a forty-minute drive there and back, and my free time limited and prized.

I decided that I will keep two of my favorite decks, just in case the itch strikes amongst my friends and they want to play. They're both five-color decks and rely heavily on Dragon Arch to get multicolor creatures into play.  The decks differ in that one uses these creatures to put the hurt on the opponent, while the other uses them to satisfy the win condition of Coalition Victory.  Using five colors, they are vulnerable during the early game, but they can be particularly nasty in multiplayer if left alone until turn four or five.  With a good opening hand, the beatdown deck can have an Autochthon Wurm in play on turn five.

My mother-in-law was supposed to watch Negligent Mother's daughter today for a little bit.  To refresh, Negligent Mother has been out of her mother's house for one or two months now.  When she dropped off her daughter, her hair and clothes were nasty.  My mother-in-law had to get her clean and get all the clumps out of her hair so they could go get pictures done.  While they were getting pictures, the poor girl kept telling her mom that she had to potty.  Negligent Mother, who was busy texting, said, "I told you to shut the f*** up!"  My mother-in-law marched right over there and slapped her across the mouth.  No matter how bad a day I'm having, I can picture that moment and smile.

Today I'm reviewing Netflix and their streaming service.  Several months ago, we ditched paying roughly fifty dollars each month with cable, and went exclusively to Netflix Streaming.  At the time they didn't offer a streaming-only plan, so we have the one-disc plan which includes streaming.  The selection of available titles is good and is added upon weekly.  I use the service on my Xbox, so watching with a party is possible, but not a feature I have ever used.  And of course, the price of ten bucks a month is a bargain when compared to cable.  

And now for the bad news.  Oftentimes the service will slowdown or reduce your quality.  Other times the service will increase your quality up to HD.  The problem is that each time it raises or lowers your quality, the screen blacks out and returns a few seconds later.  When the service slows down, it kicks you out to a red screen and tells you that the connection has slowed.  On this phase, it takes anywhere from thirty seconds to twenty minutes or longer.  I haven't decided yet whether or not that inconvenience invalidates all the other nice attributes of Netflix streaming, but it is very annoying.