Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Shades of Grey

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

GrondOkay, the Empire in Star Wars had a lot of bad guys. Palpatine wasn’t exactly the warm grandfatherly type. Gran Moff Tarkin was practically a caricature of antisocial personality disorder. And Vader didn’t just have a bad publicist.

But… was the Empire really “bad” versus the Rebel Alliance being the “good guys”?

I’m no Star Wars expert, but I don’t remember the Empire waging war or attacking anyone except Rebels. The Empire built a relatively stable infrastructure (off the back of the Old Republic, yes) that kept most citizens relatively content and basic needs met, with the opportunity for improvement. Case in point: the Rebels were a pretty small group, meaning very little popular support. That’s a good indicator of a content populace, overall, in such a large and widespread nation.


Being friends with that idiot Jar Jar is a good indicator of evilness.

Xenophobia wasn’t portrayed as common in the movies. While not many non-humans served in the Imperial Armed Forces, non-humans were treated as citizens. Even brainless teddy bears like the Ewoks were left in relative peace.

Endor may not have been prime real estate, but the Empire’s urban sprawl could have easily spread to a hospitable moon. Evidence suggests that the Empire had a fairly complex – yet fair – legal system, that took into account the needs of varying species.

Even Darth Ani’s motivations were based on long-term stability and peace:

“With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”

Everything adds up to the Empire being a bureaucratic snarl, like any government in history, but it wasn’t bad in itself. As always, individual actions can be morally repugnant, but that isn’t a product of the system.

I’ve thought about this a lot when we were creating the story world for Grand Arena of Serndall.

It’s too easy in worldbuilding to clearly define “evil” and “good” in social, political, or moral structures. It was something we wanted to avoid – there really isn’t a lot of clearly definable black and white, bad versus good, in complex systems like that.

In this case, the Brotherhood of the Ebon Circle.

Their purpose is beyond unsavory – they’re slave traders with a corporate structure to make slavery as efficient and profit-making as possible. Everyone is a potential saleable asset to them. Very few people outside the Brotherhood express approval of what they do… that supporter might bring a big profit if they were in chains.

Yet, the Brotherhood is still tolerated in Serndall. And not just tolerated, but endorsed in many ways. Why?

For one thing, they spend a lot of gold which supports the local economy. It’s hard for a tavern owner to stick to moral superiority when a large percentage of the tavern’s income is derived from serving slavers. The Brotherhood has a corporation-like efficiency and structure, requiring a lot of external hiring for mundane tasks: chefs, accountants, armorers, etc.

There is also a level of social responsibility the Brotherhood displays. They support the games in the Grand Arena as a form of popular entertainment. They don’t directly attack members of the Crimson Legion in the city proper. They adhere to local laws, even when it’s against their immediate interests.

So is the Brotherhood evil or the bad guys? I believe that’s a personal moral judgment on the player’s part.

Which makes people think. And that’s a good thing for any game, we believe.

Dave’s Return from the Dead

Friday, March 21st, 2014

GrondToday is the day I do something I told Smitty I’d only do as a sign of the impending apocalypse…rejoining Facebook after over two years away.

I’ve been planning this for a while, actually. I just haven’t had the gumption (or incentive?) to do it.

I originally left Facebook because, simply, it was a time sink. An obsessive one that I didn’t see giving much back for the time spent. So I made a conscious choice to break off my relationship with Facebook, hoping that it didn’t break the relationships with the people who used that as a primary contact point with me. Severing from that community, so to speak.


At first it was difficult; it had grown to be a natural part of my social community needs. I found myself actively having to resist checking… to forcibly extract myself from the environment.

Over time, it became progressively easier. In part, due to the changes wrought by Facebook as the service matured. Also, with being able to stand back and look objectively at it, I realized that a lot of the ties created by Facebook were simply ties created by Facebook. A self-replicating system of networking.

Now, I understand that it’s so far from my realm of current experience that rejoining will include – no, require – relearning that mode of community. A new experience, in essence, as many of my predetermined ideas about Facebook and Facebook community are no longer valid.

So why rejoin?

I believe I’m ready to rejoin that community. I’m different – more mature perhaps? – than I was when I left; I see it through a different lens, which means I’ll use and interact with it in a different way. That’s a good thing, I believe.

Besides that, I see it as important for Barbed Arrow. Rather than isolating myself from that community – a community that has given Barbed Arrow a lot of roots – I believe now I am ready to embrace that again. So not only for myself, but for Barbed Arrow and gaming in general.

Okay, who am I kidding?

The reason I’m coming back is much more basic than all that lofty shit: Pixie is making me do it.

Why the Death Star is so big

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Being a geek often leaves you asking really trivial questions. Being an INTJ often leaves you pondering really odd connections. INTJ geeks? Some of the weirdest – and most inane – questions out there.

I woke this morning with the metaphorical light bulb over my head: I finally figured out why the Death Star is so big.

A couple years ago I remember reading an article that did the math related to the logistics around building the Death Star. Those geeks figured it would take over 800,000 years and zillion of today’s dollars to build it.


Comparing the death star to the Empire State Building

Even with an empire spanning the broadest reaches of the galaxy, that kind of investment in the military industrial complex would bankrupt the Empire in short order. So why would the Emperor and Vader go through that twice?

Like most things, it boils down to… crap.

According to the murkiest geek sources on the Intarwebs, there are twenty million alien species that are part of the Empire. Lets say that only 1% of those species have members in the Imperial military. That’s still 200,000 different species that require logistical support. Bathrooms.

Jabba the Hutt from Return of the Jedi

Jabba getting ready to slam a toilet shot.

Even if humans, Wookies, and Gungans could theoretically all use the same crapper, you still have to take into account non-humanoid aliens like Jabba the Hutt. There is zero chance Jabba could use a human toilet. Unless he was going to use it as a shot glass – which may not be too far of a stretch, now that I think about it.

“But, but, but! It’s the future – they have toilets that have built in magical disintegration technology!” scream the fan boys in anguish.

Probably not.

The trash compactor scene in the first Star Wars movie (not gonna call it Episode 4, no way) requires a garbage pit filled with organic slop, right?

Star Wars and wading through the fecal mess in the garbage chute scene.

“Something smells bad, Luke.”
“Gungan shit, princess. It’s vile.”

Having a trash compactor designed and built in to a massive undertaking like the Death Star usually means a need for a system to dispose of said organic slop, i.e. poop. (Note, an alternative explanation: it could be the influence of Jar Jar Binks‘ idiocy on Vader’s youth. “Meesa say, playing in garbage is fun, Ani!”)

So there you have it.

The Death Star: a 140-kilometer wide rest stop.