heron61: (Hat)
My adventures in molecular gastronomy continue. I tried chicken soup. Given the basic philosophy, the recipe involved cooking all ingredients separately and assembling them at the end. Step 1 was making the chicken stock, which requires 90 minutes in a pressure cooker. The recipe claimed to make 5 cups of stock and called for 1.5 lb of chicken wings and 1.5 lb of ground chicken (both of which you throw away at the end), which struck me as too wasteful. So I used

1 lb chicken wings (blanch them in boiling water for a minute first and throw out the water)
0.75 lb of ground chicken
100 g sliced onion
50 g sliced carrot
50 g sliced leek
1.5 TBS sliced garlic
½ tsp whole black pepper
1 liter water

Cook in a pressure cooker for 90 minutes. Presumably because I have a $40 pressure cooker and not a fancy $120 one, more steam escaped, so I ended up with 3 cups of stock, but it was 3 cups of seriously awesome stock. I'm used to good chicken stock thickening in the fridge, but this stuff became the consistency of almost set jello – it glopped rather than poured, which at one point almost ending up with half of it glopping on the floor.
So, I supplemented it with 2 cups of good store bought broth, and the next day cooked all that with herbs (adding the herbs at the end preserves more of their smell).

Then, I cooked whole carrots and whole leeks (white parts only) in a pressure cooker (the recipe said 5 minutes, I didn't trust it, so I went with 6 minutes and mildly overcooked them. Also, next time I'll only use carrots that are uniformly thick, the thin parts overcooked even more. If you want a way to cook veggies fast this is it – put a little water in the bottom, place the veggies on a raised platform above (not in) the water, and pressure cook.

At the same time, I tried home sous vide cooking the chicken. Place each boneless chicken breast in a baggie (immerse the baggie in water before closing to get the air out), and cook on the stove at 146-150 F for 50 minutes. I used a dutch oven mostly filled with water, because of the large surface area and large thermal mass. After getting it up to temperature, lowering the stove to the lowest simmer setting, and moving the pot 1/3 of the way off the burner, I got a constant temperature, and put in the chicken. The result was delicious & perfectly cooked. Then, instead of homemade noodle, I asked [livejournal.com profile] teaotter to make her delicious dumplings in 2/3 of the 5 cups of broth, and in the other third I cooked rice noodles for [livejournal.com profile] amberite. The result was very impressive indeed. Not cheap by any means, but a wonderful treat or dish to show off to guests.

The equally wonderful novel is Ancillary Sword by Anne Leckie, sequel to her Hugo, Nebula, & British SF Award winning awesome first novel, Ancillary Justice. I'm 1/3 of the way through and loving this novel as much as the first one. If you like SF at all, buy and read these novels.

Also, as I was getting ready for bed at 2:50 [livejournal.com profile] amberite mentioned a friend of hers in LA said that there was a total lunar eclipse going on. By chance, the sky was actually clear here, and so we both stood out in the yard for half an hour watching a total lunar eclipse, which is the only total lunar eclipse I've ever seen.

Also, as a final and entirely unrelated to any of the above note, after seeing a thread about playing shapeshifters in fantasy games on rpg.net, I wrote up (and added to) a shapeshifter character class that I helped create and extensively played in the early 80s. Because it seems to be the best and most popular extant D&D version, I wrote it up for Pathfinder (ie mildly improved D&D 3.5)
heron61: (Gaming)
At long last, and a year to the day after the Kickstarter ended, Eldritch Skies is now available as a PDF on drivethru RPG. I'm exceptionally proud of it, the art and layout look awesome, [livejournal.com profile] amberite's fiction pieces are excellent and I really hope people enjoy the book (and buy lots of copies, especially since I get half of the profits for each book :)

Pre-orders for the print book will start very soon.
heron61: (Gaming)
My latest project was just made public, The Laundry RPG, based on Charles Stross' wonderfully fun "Bob Howard/Laundry series". The game is being put out by Cubicle 7 Games, a relatively new British company that's making a big name for itself. Predictably, I wrote the magic system and the gadgets (both magical and not), and I think I did a very nice job. The game uses the BRP system, but is most definitely not a version of Call of Cthulhu – to fit the novels, I created a completely new magic system, which was an interesting challenge that I think worked out very well. I'm especially pleased that Cubicle 7 put the author's names on the cover. I always love having cover credit for a game.
heron61: (Gaming)
As I mentioned in my post yesterday, one of the primary criticisms of Blue Rose I have heard was that the setting was "too optimistic". I find this very odd for several reasons. The nation of Aldis (the heroic kingdom in the setting) is essentially a fantasy version of one of the more prosperous & egalitarian nations of Western Europe, and that's clearly ludicrously optimistic for many gamers. I can see two primary reasons for this idea.

One of them is specific to gaming, and as [livejournal.com profile] roseembolism mentions in a comment to my previous post, "gamers prefer crapsack worlds out of equal parts cynicism and a desire to have a world where their character's violent sociopathy can't be said to have negative consequences". The 2nd of these points is specific to gaming, and seems due to the fact that many (and perhaps most) gamers enjoy games where their characters act like brutal thugs and where causal murder is a common occurrence. There's certainly a place for such games, and there's honestly not much else you can do with any version of D&D, but I would like to think that many gamers, like myself, also enjoy other sorts of games, where the characters are either reasonably moral, or at least not quite so bloodthirsty. Of course, my own gaming style usually results in combat occurring no more than every four or five sessions, and usually less frequently. For example, in the last scenario I ran in the Star Trek game Becca and I have been alternating GMing, there were four sessions and the only violence in the entire scenario was a brief drunken brawl arranged as a diversion to allow two characters to escape pursuit.

I also think that part of the impetus for grim settings is for characters to be able to demonstrate their heroism by overthrowing evil, which implies that evil is in control and needs deposing. While that can be fun, I completely fail to see why it's any more fun or even any easier to run than a campaign where the PCs are defending something from evil people and vile plots – this is after all the plot of most action shows set in the modern day. And yet, there seems to be far more interest in overthrowing the evil rulers of a city or kingdom than in protecting a good city or kingdom from evil invaders, terrorists, or whatever, and I don't at all understand why this is – both seem to provide the same opportunities for enjoyable play. I generally prefer the 2nd sort of plots (preserving good, rather than overthrowing evil), but both can be fun. However, overthrowing evil is far more common in RPGs.

Of course, there's also an entire side of this that has nothing to do with gaming. Modern SF&F fiction, & especially SF is fairly grim, which is very odd. We live in troubled times, but the world is also clearly becoming a better place, with all forms of violence being well down from 30 or 40 years ago, the overall level of economic inequality in the world is declining, and the rate of growth of the world's population continues to decline faster than expected. We clearly live in a world filled with problems, but also of hope and wonder. More importantly, the world is not one that is in any way obviously doomed.

However, English language SF (which is all that I read) is filled with grim futures, and there's no shortage of grim fantasy (although it's far less ubiquitous). This grimness is especially common in US SF&F. These days, SF seems more grim, nihilistic, and hopeless than most other fiction, and I don't know why that is. In the early 1950s to late 1960s, SF was definitely the most optimistic form of fiction available, and that seems to be true of SF in China today. However, especially in the US, it's now become one of the gloomiest genres, which is I suspect one of the reasons that readership in SF is somewhat down. I suspect some of that change is due to an aging of the audience and the authors. I don't understand why people in their 40s and older are often so much gloomier than younger people – I'm definitely not. However, that trend is fairly clear. Regardless of the reason, it's far from easy to find SF that is even mildly optimistic and hopeful.

Edit: As I mentioned in a comment, all this is particularly notable, because SF was far less ubiquitously grim in the 90s, and 90s fantasy was also less grim overall

Consider a book that I've preordered: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF, edited by Jetse de Vries. Optimistic SF has become a sufficiently niche market that it's getting a specialized anthology, and while I'll likely love to book, the fact that it exists is a sad statement indeed.
heron61: (Default)
I received my comps of what is definitely my favorite rules-oriented book for the RPG Exalted, the Exalted Players Guide. In addition to my own rules for creating Dragon King (magical humanoid dinosaurs, what's not to love) PCs, there are also rules for powerful mortal sorcerers, and the half-mortal children of gods. Combined with rules and information in The Outcaste for Terrestrial Exalted (the weakest type) who exist independent of the Realm, I have many ideas for running or playing in a game where the PCs were various sorts of such moderate-powered beings working against the vast and dangerous powers like the Realm and the Deathlords. This is much like a standard Exalted campaign, except that unlike the mighty Celestial Exalted, such characters are considerably weaker than their opponents, instead of starting out somewhat stronger and rising to truly incredibly levels of power. In such a campaign, allies and (especially) patrons would become invaluable. My ideal would be to have the PCs be the agents of some god or small group of gods intent on reforming or changing the system. Naturally, the PCs would also not be the only agents that the god or gods had working for them.

I was then reminded of some ideas for SF games I've been musing on, which perhaps indicates nothing more than that I read both the Lensman novels and far too many issues of Green Lantern comics when I was a child and teen. A space travel (preferably STL, if that could be made to work) setting with many settled planets, where once again, PCs work as agents for a post-human AI, and in this case have special powers (genemods &/or implants) as well as various powerful gadgets provided by this being. A mixture of White Wolf's games Trinity and Adventure! (with liberal borrowing from DP9's epic space opera RPG Core Command) would work wonderfully for this game.

Or for the near future, I've been thinking about a shadowy organization in the the near future SF/low power supers setting that I someday hope to get published.

While I occasionally think of different sorts of campaigns, my ideas often run in such directions, regardless of setting. Characters who have considerable powers but are not too far beyond ordinary unpowered humans, who are all working for some organizations. The organization can be highly secret or completely open, but in either case, it provides allies, backup, information, and assignments, and while complexities can arise, it is generally a positive force for social change and the characters are most definitely not in charge of it. Membership in some group that actively promotes metagame considerations like cooperation and party unity, along with moderately defined goals are all features that I very much like in a campaign. Much of this same goal could be accomplished in Traveller, with all of the PCs being co-owners of a good but expensive ship that they need to keep up payments on, and I like that idea, but still prefer organizations or patrons.

I dislike the idea of independent and unattached PCs and have almost never enjoyed playing characters who belong to the wandering groups of freebooters that make up so many RPG parties. I also deeply dislike the idea of PCs who either lack unusual powers or who are so powerful as to be unique and singular beings who can effectively ignore ordinary humans - I find both alternative to intrinsically quite boring. Being a highly introspective person, I'm rather curious about what this might mean about my own psychology that I am so consistently drawn to such games.

I'm also curious to know if any of the (rather many) gamers reading this have similarly consistent types of games that they prefer.
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