The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

A couple days ago I drew a Gloranthan duck. So, err, here it is!

Transit System of the Year

A couple weeks ago, the APTA awarded the 2019 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award to Vancouver’s Translink. Woohooo!

LEGO bus

This was picked up, slightly incorrectly, as news that we have the best transit system in North America by a couple of local news outlets. While it’s mostly correct, I guess, it’s more accurately an award for Translink having, between 2016 and 2018, the best combination of ridership growth, operational efficiency, customer service, financial management, marketing, sustainability. In particular, ridership increased a lot during that period (although population also grew a lot so it’s unclear if the APTA was normalizing this figure before comparing with other cities or not).

Of course, the news was not met very favourably by Vancouverites. To me this mostly shows that:

  1. Vancouverites are pretty entitled and don’t know when they have something good.
  2. Public transit infrastructure is pretty bad in the US in general so I don’t think there’s much competition coming from there from what I’ve experienced. My memories of the Montreal public transit are pretty good though, but, again, the award isn’t really about who’s “best” (what does that mean anyway?) but about who performed the best on specific metrics in the two years since 2016. Different things.

That said, having lived in a half dozen cities in France and Canada, I can tell you that:

  1. Buses always suck. There’s just no way around it. At least, some North American cities (like Vancouver) have HOV lanes that make the buses slightly less unreliable than in Europe (where they often make it up by having more of them). The only significantly bad thing about Translink buses is that Vancouverites just don’t know how to move to the back of the fucking bus. If you’re not feeling uncomfortable, then there’s still room!
  2. Automated subway trains are awesome, and not a lot of cities have this. My hometown of Lille (in northern France) actually had one of the first ever automated system of its kind, so I’m pretty happy to find a similar system here in Vancouver. It comes with a lot of advantages that many locals seem to forget after 2 days.
  3. If you think public transit is dirty and smells bad here, you should visit Paris. Let’s talk about people peeing in trashcans, puking on the ground, or masturbating in public.
  4. It didn’t use to be very crowded when we first moved here 12 years ago, but the population and ridership growth are showing now. That said, if people wanted appropriate infrastructure investment to catch up, maybe they shouldn’t have voted “no” in the transit tax referendum 2 years ago.

So overall, frankly, I don’t care who’s best or not, I just care about having decent public transit where I live. Nothing’s ever perfect but at least I’m seeing continued investment and improvements, and I hope that continues. Maybe we should celebrate that every now and then.

I’m considering getting some gaming mat. Anybody got recommendations between Quiver mats, Tabletop Companion, and Big Viking mats?

Some Comments on the Ennie Award Winners

Gen Con 2019 is over and the Ennie Award winners have been announced!

My first thought while going through the list is that the venerable Masks of Nyarlathotep has still got it. The new edition grabbed the Best Adventure award, probably thanks to Chaosium not only further expanding the text but also adding high quality art and fixing some of the most egregious problems with the gender and ethnicity of NPCs. Plus, the HPLHS got 2 Masks-related awards, one for their prop set (which, sadly, I got only after my group ended the campaign…) and one for their radio show, which is a lot of fun to listen to.

Call of Cthulhu in general was well represented with a bunch of other awards for the new Terror Australis edition, the excellent Starter Set, and the new Cthulhu Invictus guide.

Some “Call of Cthulhu-adjacent” things also won a few spots, with The Fall of DELTA GREEN nicely grabbing the Best Setting award, and other awards going to the Miskatonic University Restricted Collection board game, Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5E, Seth Skorkowsky’s YouTube channel (I only started recently but I like it so far), and the ever entertaining and informative Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast.

Finally, Chaosium grabbed a few other non-Cthulhu-related wins with the gorgeous RuneQuest slipcase winning Best Interior Art and, again, overall Best Publisher award (this time gold!).

So yeah, Chaosium and Call of Cthulhu did quite well this year… Eric Tenkar was asking over in his tavern why that is, but if you look at the past two years of Ennie awards, they had also been doing quite well back then too. That said, I think there’s a few factors at play:

  1. The fairly recent 7th edition line is chugging along nicely, and is very well done overall. On a personal level, it’s actually the first time I’m genuinely interested in running CoC with the vanilla rules, instead of using something else like GURPS.
  2. The rise of podcasts and actual plays came with a fairly high portion dedicated (or adjacent) to horror roleplaying in general and CoC in particular, including past Ennie nominees and winners.
  3. With Pathfinder and D&D 5e being smashing successes, the explosion of actual play podcasts and videos, and pop culture pushing RPGs back in the zeitgest, it seems like the hobby grew a lot in the past decade… and surely, by now, a good chunk of these new gamers must be looking for new/different stuff to play. CoC is a frequently recommended thing to try to anybody asking if there’s anything else after D&D.

There were a few surprises for me:

  • The Invisible Sun Black Box not winning the Best Production Values award. I mean, have you seen this thing? It’s the most fucking impressive thing on my bookshelves, but I guess very few people own it given the high price point, hence the lack of votes, maybe.
  • The RuneQuest slipcase not being even nominated for Best Cover Art, and The Fall of DELTA GREEN not being nominated for Best Layout and Design. Such a shame.

The point of the Ennies is also partly about discovering some new cool stuff:

  • Mothership: I hadn’t heard about this one before but hey, if “_sci-fi horror RPG_” wasn’t enough, you got me at “_dangerous derelict spacecrafts_”.
  • Forbidden Lands: I had been wondering about getting that one since it’s bound to be as gorgeous as the Tales from the Loop books, and I like dark fantasy. I guess it’s next on my shopping list!
  • Kids on Bikes: I already had the PDF but hadn’t read much of it. It’s now next on the reading list.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and KULT: Divinity Lost: I hadn’t thought or heard of Warhammer or KULT for a long time, so I was surprised to see them coming back with new editions. Nice!

That’s it! Now if only I could some day make it to Gen Con…

I love that when we go to the nearby parc for a quick picnic, our cat Lestat comes with us!