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# 2008-04-03 More 3.5 Goodness

At the end of the D&D 3.5 era, there are still interesting offerings to be had.

Not much seems to be going on at Necromancer Games. And Clark Peterson has announced his strong support for 4E.

I have no idea what Goodman Games are doing. Last I heard they were going to do 4E. I think I shall buy some of their old Dungeon Crawl Classics 2nd hand on Ebay…

Anybody I should be checking out?

I’m sort of interested in what Expeditious Retreat Press is doing because of their one-on-one line [1] and because of their flagship A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe (which I still haven’t bought) (a 2nd edition of the book was recently released).

I have no idea what Inner Circle Games is up to. I was interested in their Violet Dawn setting, but now I’m no longer sure.

I think settings require a high buy-in. That’s just not the kind of DM I am. I’m totally focused on adventures, right here, right now. Settings are dreamlike visions that help you write adventures or flesh out backgrounds. I’d rather buy more adventures, I think. Necromancer Games’ CityOfBrass, for example, is about the limit of how much setting I can take. The box is about ⅓ urban setting with shops, names, locations, ⅓ adventure with rooms, npcs, (tiny) maps, and ⅓ NPC stats and monsters.

Oh, and I’m still hoping to quell the urge of having to buy more adventures than I will be able to play in a lifetime!

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Comments on 2008-04-03 More 3.5 Goodness

Wow. I think you’ve got everything covered when it comes to adventures, Alex 😊

I highly recommend Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics - I’ve yet to find one that isn’t playable, and they’re great value for money. Just add the Mother of All Treasure Table, Mother of All Encounter Tables, Tome of Horrors and/or Monster Geographica series for a little more Monster variety, and you’ll have plenty of gaming material for years to come.

greywulf 2008-04-03 10:45 UTC

I think the Eberron Campaign Setting is very cool. There are many sourcebooks, but just the core setting is enough to launch you into a full-fledged campaign, and I find myself often ignoring the canon material released in later supplements in favor of my interpretation of the world. Most D&D adventures can be easily adapted to Eberron (one of the core design conceits of Eberron is “if it’s in D&D, it has a place in Eberron”).

# 2008-04-04 High Level Traps

I guess this should be advice but I basically just lifted it from a EN World thread called Trap an Egyptian-Style Pyramid. Celebrim’s answer stood out from the rest of them when I read through the thread. Celebrim is also behind the The Explicatae Incompositae - Being A Bestairy of the Sometime Lords of Chaos – Slaad Lord goodness! Anyway, this is what he wrote:

Ok… high level traps.

1. High level traps can’t be passive. All high level traps must actively attack the players. For example:
2. Pit traps must ‘suck’ like vacuum cleaners.
3. Traps should be accompanied by other problems. For example, a incindery cloud trap could be accompanied by creatures immune to flame, a room that fills with sand should have incorporeal creatures, a room that empties of air with creatures that don’t need to breathe, the symbol of stunning is enscribed on a stone golem, and so forth.
4. Traps should often act like monsters, reseting and attacking each round whether with a spell or a volley of poisoned darts.
5. Don’t be afraid of traps that release monsters. In particular, don’t be afraid to design nasty unique monsters that the party won’t immediately know how to react to.
6. Remember that its virtually impossible to get a high level party to walk anywhere or on anything. Corridor traps generally won’t work. Most of the traps should protect portals, keys, levers, and other things that must be touched.
2. It should be designed to defeat ‘find the path’. It should have rooms and corridors that spin, passages that open and close at intervals (thus changing the path), one way doors, conveyers, and so forth. It should have puzzles/door that require spoken words and other non-motion keys. It should have traps triggered by contact that must be disarmed by non-physical means (mage hand, spoken words, etc.) It should have large deadly monsters placed along the straightest ‘safe’ paths.
3. You have to do something to prevent the Bellock approach (dig up the whole thing), and the scry and fry approach (teleport in). There should be a proactive antagonist that will direct minions against the party if they stop to rest in the environment. I suggest something like a greater mummy that is an 18th level spellcaster. Additionally, the pyramid should be somewhat capable of defending itself. It should have spell resistance roughly near party level. It should regenerate damage through some means (either directly or with hard working minions). It should have random voids in it filled with nastiness to catch people tunnelling. Rooms should be lined in lead to limit scrying. The few rooms that can be scryed should be permenently screened so as to conceal some of the worst death traps in the whole structure - bait for the unwary. There should be unhallowed zones tied to spells like dimension anchor (I’d unhallow the whole structure) or dispel magic (good for the scry and fry bait rooms). The pyramid (or its near double) should exist on the ethereal plane (its probably been there long enough). In fact, one way to defeat ‘find the path’ is have the only way to get through part of the pyramid is to move to the ethereal double for a section, before returning. This would mean that there is no path.
4. Require the party to expend resources to even see the trap. Rooms should have magical darkness, be covered with illusions, be filled with mists, be half filled with water, have six inches of sand in them, and so forth. Make them use thier spells. Make them use thier divinations. Debuff the party actively and passively. I’m particularly fond of glyphs of warding tied to dispel magic. Hit the party with a greater dispel magic tied to a situations where magical buffs would be important. The party will likely go in with death ward. So try to debuff them before hitting them with some negative energy attack. They’ll likely go in with freedom of movement. So try to debuff them before hitting them with a heavy grappler. And so forth.

Remember that before this can work, you’ve got to be an order of magnitude more lethal than Tomb of Horrors.

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Weird. I just discovered a Skype API Plugin for Pidgin/libpurple/Adium. It doesn’t really speak Skype: It requires Skype to be running in order to interface with it, apparently. Not quite what I was looking for, but I might give it a try anyway…

Update: I deinstalled it again because it required Skype to be running, and because chatting in Adium generated a duplicate chat window in Skype with the exact same content. I think I’d rather not use Skype on the Mac Mini where I don’t have a headset anyway!

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# 2008-04-07 DM Advice – Speed Up Combat

In response to a thread on EN World about Suggestions for Speeding Up Combat I provided the following list:

• Let one of the players handle Initiative.
• Let one or two players handle rule questions. I was both lucky and unlucky for having rule lawyers in my group. The bad part is that they really want to play it by the book. The good part is that they bring their books along and are willing to look things up when it is not their turn. Fight fire with fire, I say! Works for me…
• Roll as many dice together as possible.
• Provide “combat sheets” for your players where they can write down their to hit, damage, etc. for the various common buff combos. No more mumbling “well… +7 to hit, +1 because of Bless, don’t forget Prayer, Protection of Evil, and now I’m Enlarged, or does that cancel? Uhm… and favorite enemy… Uhhh…” Let them compute it once and write it down. Some people can add up lots of numbers very quickly. I’m not one of them, and neither are some of my players. This is for us.
• Suggest a common-sense action or Delay if they aren’t sure what to do. I find this helps the not-so-tactically-minded players. I suggest “Ready an action to hit the first monster to come within range!” and they’ll brighten up and nod. Great! Avoid providing more choice. More choice results in more time spent making a decision.
• All spellcasters should have Spell Record Sheets. Spellcasters are not allowed at my table unless they bring those sheets along!

None of the players liked the idea of there being a real timer or the DM hustling the players along.

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Looks good to me, Alex

greywulf 2008-04-07 19:56 UTC

I love me some PeerReview! Thanks, GreyWulf.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-07 23:06 UTC

One thing we did that worked well – we’d call out who was up on initiative as well as the next person. The next person was supposed to start thinking about their action while the person currently up actually rolled their dice and stated their moves, etc.

Everything you mention is something we did in our games and worked well.

# 2008-04-08 RPG Podcast Update

Time for a podcast update… Last update: 2007-07-28 More Roleplaying Game Podcasts .

Check out RPG Podcasts if you’re looking for more.

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# 2008-04-08 Temptation – Spirit of the Century

I keep thinking about Spirit of the Century by Evil Hat Productions. It’s a game that uses the Fate rules, and Fate is essentially Fudge. I was in love with Fudge in the days when all we had was Gopher servers and Usenet… I think. I don’t really remember any details. I reviewed Gatecrasher by Grey Ghost Press on 1998-01-06. [1] Ok, maybe we did have the web by by then. But still. I wrote that over ten years ago… Time flies.

Anyway, Fudge, Fate, open gaming… Fate 1.0 apparently was a particular rule set based on the Fudge toolkit, Fate 2.0 was a rewrite using the OGL, and Fate 3.0 was used for Spirit of the Century. And with that, we’re finally back on topic!

I was considering buying Spirit of the Century. But I don’t think I’d find enough people around here interested in trying a Fudge game. That’s why I’ve been able to resist temptation. USD 30 for the 420 page softcover and PDF + USD 16 for shipping… Yikes!

But wait, there is a Spirit of the Century SRD available. You can also get it as a PDF from the Fate RPG download page. The version by Abrahm Simons uses a two column layout. Very nice.

What I’ll do is browse the SRD, think about it, check to see whether anybody is interested, wait a little, and figure out what to do.

Open gaming rocks.

If only shipping weren’t so expensive.

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Comments on 2008-04-08 Temptation – Spirit of the Century

I was in the same position a while ago. I’d love to run an SoTC game, but convincing players to deviate from d20 is a real challenge. It’s D&D, d20 Modern or nothing these days 😊 I think FUDGE’s openness frightens people. Wonder where I’ve heard that before……….

Reading through the rulebook, it’s great and very evocative of the setting. If you can get the players on board, I say go for it. Wish I was there to join in!

greywulf 2008-04-08 22:37 UTC

# 2008-04-09 Hub City Stompers

The Independent Insurgency uses a song by the Hub City Stompers called Chatterbox. When I understood some of the lyrics, I laughed out loud:

The time has come to ask you “have we met”?
We must have from the way you talk shit on the internet.
Saying things I never knew about myself.
Now I sense a destiny: your ass and my size 12.
I know that you’re the guy to spread said lies.
I’ve seen it in Helvetica right before my eyes.
[…]
Saying things whether or not you know them true.
Now you’re standing silent when I’m here in front of you.
You’re dealing with a person, not a screen.
[…]

Hilarious. Reggae music (or Ska?) about the internet. It even mentions Helvetica!

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I have an embedded link to Google Analytics on this site. Here are some interesting stats for the last month:

 Browswer Visits % visits Firefox 1,278 54.41% Internet Explorer 691 29.42% Safari 159 6.77%

With all that talk about IE still being the market leader… I don’t know. Perhaps this means that corporate people are stuck with IE but at home people use Firefox?

 Sources Visits % visits google (organic) 1,169 49.77% (direct) ((none)) 519 22.09% enworld.org (referral) 107 4.56% mediamac.comon.dk (referral) 80 3.41% google.com (referral) 41 1.75%

I wonder what “organic” means in this context. I don’t post a lot to EN World but apparently my sig has some enticing links. The mediamac.comon.dk referrals are due to a Danish person posting a link to 2008-03-21 Send iTunes Tracks To SqueezeBox.

 Source Visits google 1,169 yahoo 32 search 11

The Google predominance is amazing. I’m assuming “search” refers to search.ch. They have a nice alternative to Google Maps: map.search.ch.

Compare:

 Landing Page Entrances Diary 258 RecentChanges 251 MondayGroup 168 ShackledCity 154 2008-03-21_Send_iTunes_Tracks_To_SqueezeBox 104 Oddmuse_and_WebDAV 39 SlackWare 36 AtlantisGames 35

I guess the two D&D campaign pages come as no surprise. The iTunes page we already mentioned. The rest are surprise: Oddmuse and WebDAV? Yikes, that was a lot of time wasted! And I haven’t played any Atlantis in years, nor have I used Slackware…

Oh well. What do I learn from all this?

1. Look at those landing pages and make sure they are self-contained.
3. What the hell does “organic” mean in this context?

Uhm… I dunno. What do you use Google Analytics for?

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I might be responsible for many of the landings on the ShackledCity page. That is the page I have in my bookmarks, but then I usually just navigate to RecentChanges to see your latest game reports and musings on RPGing.

Hm, so you’re not using an RSS feed reader? I think my fingers would fall off without BlogLines (or whatever other tool or service you choose to keep up with changes all over the net).

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-11 15:32 UTC

# 2008-04-12 American Gods

I suggested American Gods by Neil Gaiman to the English bookclub a while back [1] and I’m reading it right now. Unfortunately I have a German translation because the German publisher did not translate the title. I visited Amazon Germany, searched for American Gods, and ordered a cheap copy. And it turns out it was German. Oh well.

I’m nearly through, and I’m not too enthusiastic about it. Somehow there’s just not enough going on in the book. Hanging from a tree and references to old mythology can be great. Just look at The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ll finish the book now that I’ve nearly made it. But I don’t think I can recommend it.

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…and I rate this as one of my favourite books of all time. Each to their own, eh? I dunno. Maybe something got lost in translation

GreyWulf 2008-04-12 16:31 UTC

I enjoyed it as well, though I can’t specifically say what I liked about it now, for some reason. I do know that reading American Gods led me to read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which I absolutely loved.

I found American Gods pretty good too. Made me go out and buy other Neil stuff. And don’t get me started on Terry Pratchett, I have pretty much everything by him…

Hm. I wonder what part of American Gods I missed. Did you look up the gods and wonder whether the were well represented? Was it the story about the kobold and the backwater town? The final battle? Odin being a cheap trickster? The thought of modern gods of TV and news?

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-13 20:29 UTC

IIRC (in fact I know IRC because I searched your blog ) You also didn’t like “The Sandman”, maybe Neil Gaiman isn’t just for you. This sometimes happen, I personally don’t like asimov too much….

PierreGaston 2008-04-14 09:38 UTC

Indeed… 2007-10-19 Sandman.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-14 09:53 UTC

Hello Neil Gaiman is freeing one of his books and if I remember correctly it is American Gods. Head to his blog http://www.neilgaiman.com/ (very good, updated often) to find out more.

Dragica 2008-04-17 15:56 UTC

I just saw that you run a one-woman game-coding company very close to where I live and work. If you have a cool project, let me know…

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-17 16:43 UTC

# 2008-04-12 Prestige Classes and Feats

Lately I’ve been thinking about prestige classes and new feats. I’d really like to get a lot of bang for my buck, and I’m not sure I like what I hear about the Complete series by Wizards of the Coast. Blackdirge Publishing has a few PDF products out there for around USD 2 each containing prestige classes (the Master at Arms series). The Order of the Stick forums have a review of some of the prestige classes.

Hm… In Peter’s Dragon Coast game I’m playing a swashbuckler and apparently I’m going to be the “tank” – this is not going well from a powergaming perspective, I can tell. 😊 :D

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Comments on 2008-04-12 Prestige Classes and Feats

The prestige classes in the Complete series are of widely varying quality, but I think this is true of every supplement from every publisher. I think the problem with prestige classes is that what each player wants out of them is very different. Do you want the most powerful combo for the least skill/feat/multiclassing investment? Do you want to represent a specific organization in your game world? Do you want to realize a character concept that cannot be effectively achieved with feats and multiclassing alone? Even if a prestige class is well-designed, if it has nothing to do with a character you are playing (or will play in the future), then it is worthless to you.

In terms of feats, I really like Complete Warrior and Player's Handbook 2 because they vastly increase the options for fighters. Complete Adventurer has some good feats, too. Complete Divine and Complete Arcane are just mediocre, but they do open up a lot more options in terms of metamagic feats and alternate uses for turn undead (in fact, Complete Divine includes some pretty abusive stuff – Divine Metamagic and Divine Spell Power can be used to outrageous ends), and the warlock core class in the arcane book is really well done, I think. Complete Mage introduces reserve feats, which are an attempt to address the resource management issues experienced by spellcasters, and I think they are a pretty good patch, though not a true fix.

# 2008-04-13 Loose Ends

Only two players show up. Corian and Belflin solve the body snatcher problem up in Bostwick and find the missing miners in the Thorfax mines.

One player is in Brazil, another is sick, and a third can’t come. It’s just Marco and Claudia! All three of us went to the same bakery to get croissants and bread or cake, and we spent two hours on the balcony eating breakfast and basking in the April sun. Good times.

Belflin and Corian decide to investigate the missing body up in Bostwick and with Flax’ help they discover the secret passage down into an old crypt. Behind a secret door they find the bones they were looking for, a fresh corps, and four ghouls. An easy fight!

Behind the double door they find an Unholy Blight trap and two wraiths. They retreat as fast as they can, organize Jeffar and “mayor” Wycheck (even though the two don’t seem to like each other). Together, they beat the wraiths and discover the amazing Rod of Death. This rod would be worth about 75,000 gp to a priest of Nergul, god of death.

A 150 ft drop into the Underdark is ignored.

The party then turns south and decides to investigate the missing workers in the Thorfax mines. I had planted this seed myself in order to introduce a beholder outpost. But with only two characters in the party (a ranger level 7 and a sorcerer level 8), I had to switch plans. I had already been toying with a cloaker outpost, Belflin already hated cloakers with a passion, and KoboldQuarterly #4 featured a “Cloaker Ecology” – I hadn’t really read the article, but there it featured stats for a so-called dread cloaker. Cool.

So I quickly invented some caves and let the party know where five miners had disappeared in the last few days and weeks. I figured that these miners had been kidnapped (“grappled” by a cloaker and carried away) and they had tried to drop some of their items, trying to lead their fellow men to the cloakers. It turns out that the end result was too confusing and I pointed them towards the caves with extra high ceilings. Corian knows the Fly spell so finding a tunnel leading towards a separate set of caves with the five miners and five cloakers was no problem.

The party fought one cloaker guarding the access to the caves, another cloaker guarding the miners, and three cloakers pursuing them. The last fight was a very close call. When one of the cloakers had the archer paralyzed I wondered what to do – coup de grâce? Then I figured that it would try to enslave Belflin instead. It carried him back to the slave pit, took all his gear, and moved away. Beflin was unable to stop it.

In the mean time, Corian was fighting the last cloaker with the help of his fourth level cohort. The sorcerer prevented the cloaker from grappling him, withstood a stupor moan, and brought the cloaker down with some Magic Missiles and Flax flanking. Who would have thought that we have such a tough sorcerer in our party?

The party brings the miners back to safety, get an ordinary longbow and some arrows for Belflin, and the next day they go looking for some cloaker butt to kick. It doesn’t take them long to find the dread cloaker in his lair. They beat him eventually…

## XP

Challenges overcome: Four ghouls CR 1, two wraiths CR 5 (XP shared with two NPCs), trap CR 4, five cloakers CR 5, a dread cloaker CR 7.

Corian
32955 + 3900 = 36855 (Sor-9)
Belflin
27920 + 5076 = 32996 (Rng-8)
Karamutenga
30577 (Brb-8)
Silas
28919 (Cle-8)
Auroleva
28872 (Drd-4/Clr-4)
Flax
9960 + 3900*4/8 = 11910 (Rog-5)

# 2008-04-14 Disfunctionality Extolled

For anybody who loves to watch people talk, to think about all the crap people blather, who likes to join dysfunctional conversations with nonsensical comments and find out that they are a perfect fit, I recommend:

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# 2008-04-14 Expelled

Smerdyakov mentioned Expelled! (2008) on #hcoop and with some googling I found a review by John Rennie subtitled No Integrity Displayed. for Scientific American.

I remember two books by Richard Dawkins on the subject. I’d recommend The Blind Watchmaker.

I used to be subscribed to Scientific American. I stopped reading it when I realized that I still didn’t get the articles on Physics where as the articles on Biology seemed boring and trivial.

As I grow older, I might have to take it up again. 😊

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# 2008-04-15 A Distant Mirror

I’m listening to A Distant Mirror: Comparing the 14th Century to the 20th by Barbara Tuchman. eMusic had a promotion allowing me to download 25 songs and one audiobook. This was the audiobook I picked.

I like history, but I’ve never been too interested in medieval history. But I’ve slowly been working my way up from AncientHistory to Byzantine history and on to the medieval ages. My renewed interest is certainly also due to the incredible 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast.

Maybe I should look at the Medieval Sourcebook again. Back in the days – when the web had just started – this was an incredible collection of links.

Also note how lousy it is to name your files as follows:

   Barbara W. Tuchman_A Distant Mirror_359_Part 359 of 541.mp3
Barbara W. Tuchman_A Distant Mirror_35_Part 35 of 541.mp3
Barbara W. Tuchman_A Distant Mirror_360_Part 360 of 541.mp3

I’m listening to the audiobook on my iAUDIO instead of my iPod because I didn’t want to import the entire 700MB of the book into iTunes. The reason being that I want to keep my iTunes library on my primary harddisk because the external disk’s ventilation is just so damn loud. The primary harddisk has only 60GB of space, and the iTunes library is already taking 33GB. Hence the complication. I’m assuming this would not have bothered the iPod. But then again, who knows. My iPod still has tons of free space. But I can’t copy the audiobook to it without breaking iTunes synchronization. I think. Maybe I’ll look into this again.

Comments on 2008-04-15 A Distant Mirror

So I reorganized the 542 files into folders containing ten files each using some shell scripting and some sed power. Cool!

Today I pulled the iAUDIO G3 out of my pocket and wanted to listen to it. I was greeted with a blinking logo. WTF? Uhm… Some googling around leads me to hints about limitations of the little bugger – “limits of 650 song files and 50 folders.” I download the manual and scan it… Nothing is mentioned.

But there it is, on their forum: “There are limitations in total number of PLAYABLE media files including folders supported by iAUDIO players: […] 50 folders and 650 files. [1]

Uhhh… 542 files, ten per folder… That’s right. 55 folders!

I think I just got teleported back into the electronic dark ages.

Oh and firmware upgrade? Needs Windows.

This is insane.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-16 17:12 UTC

Isn’t wine’s ASPI good enough to do firmware updates ?

AlokSingh 2008-04-17 08:40 UTC

Wow. Apparently Wine does in fact support OSX. I’m surprised. The Wine download page seems to support OSX only as the commercial CrossOver by CodeWeavers, however. [2]

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-17 14:53 UTC

Next try. Rename the files. Create twenty subdirectories. Go through all the files in order using some shell scripting.

ls B*.mp3 | sed 's/^$$.*$$$$Part .*$$$/mv "\1\2" "\2"/' | sh for d in seq 19; do mkdir$d; done

i=0; d=1; for f in *.mp3; do ((i++)); mv "$f" "$d"; if ((\$i==30)); then ((d++)); i=0; fi; done

I think it’s working now!

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-18 16:32 UTC

Oh and did I mention I think I like muCommander?

Norton Commander!!

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-18 16:33 UTC

# 2008-04-15 ENnie Awards

The ENnie Awards are a “an annual fan-based” set of awards given to “game designers, writers and artists […] and the final winners are voted upon by the gaming public at EN World.”

With the PDF market so big, and gaming time so limited, many people depend on reviews. I do, too. And when a product gets nominated for an award, or gets an award, or makes first place, that is important to me. That how I pick how to spend my gaming bucks.

Via Crothian [1], who has been a judge for many years.

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# 2008-04-15 Lame

So I clicked on that “Custom” button in iTunes for the encoding rate. I used to have it set to 160 kbps. Apparently this meant CBR. The new dialog offered VBR, various quality settings, and so on. So I started googling and once again I was told that LAME was the only encoder to use. But… I have a Mac! I like iTunes!

Well, it turns out that there is a LAME bridge for iTunes! Which I installed. And now I use --alt-preset standard understanding as little as before, but feeling much better about it.

LAME rocks!! :D

Hahaha…

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# 2008-04-16 Steampunk Star Wars

Oh man, look at these pictures!

Via ChattyDM. [1]

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Comments on 2008-04-16 Steampunk Star Wars

You should also take a look at [1] and related posts on his site. Enjoy.

NoufalIbrahim 2008-04-16 11:55 UTC

Sillof’s work is awesome, isn’t it? I’m partial to his Gaslight Justice League too.

GreyWulf 2008-04-16 11:56 UTC

Those are pretty freakin’ awesome.

Totally unrelated, but this is also totally awesome.

# 2008-04-17 Old Skool Coming Up

James, our ShackledCity DM is unavailable this Sunday. I proposed to play some old skool D&D in honor of Gary Gygax.

I’ve decided to pick up an old version of the D&D rules. Check out the Editions of Dungeons &amp; Dragons and look for “Red Box” and the “Rules Cyclopedia”. We’re going to use the Labyrinth Lord rules, which reimplement those rules. When I bought the Rules Cyclopedia PDF, it turned out that the quality of the PDF was not too exciting. That’s why I’m picking this OGL (en) reimplementation. It can be printed without problems.

But back to the Red Box.

I fondly remember my astonishment back then. A Canadian friend called Jason Burford introduced us to AD&D and that was our system. A while later a guy called Igor Simonides invited us to a game of D&D using the Red Box rules. There was no distinction between race and class! There was just 3d6, in order! It was weird. We didn’t want to play it. But now I really want to take another look.

The irony is that Gary Gygax wrote the AD&D rules where as the Red Box was a revision by Frank Mentzer of a revision by Tom Moldvay of a revision by John Eric Holmes of the original rules by Gygax and Arneson…

So we’re only indirectly using the rules of Gary Gygax. Then again, Labyrinth Lord is dedicated to Tom Moldvay, so take a look at Robert Fisher’s D&D ID overview to figure out where we stand.

And we’re going to play Palace of the Silver Princess. In fact, we’re going to play the original, orange-cover edition of that adventure by Jean Wells. I’ll have to check it for playability, though.

I’m going to prepare a few spellbooks, some standard equipment, a few options, and a few sets of arms and armor to make character creation quick and easy.

This is going to be fun!

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Comments on 2008-04-17 Old Skool Coming Up

Basic D&D (and the whole BECMI series, by Frank Mentzer) is the D&D I cut my teeth on, when I first started playing in the summer before my first year of middle school (1989). My first character was a fighter named Redhammer. I quickly moved on to AD&D 1st edition, somehow snagging the early printings with the extremely old skool covers; I played my half-elf thief, Slyeth Foxfingers, and his life-drinking intelligent short sword, Leech. Two years later I was playing AD&D 2nd edition (which had been out almost since I started playing D&D) as Garric, human fighter with 18/00 (ogre!) strength. But BECMI D&D was where it all started for me. I even DMed for the first time in Basic D&D, for solo campaigns involving an elf, and Redhammer’s younger brother, Redsword (gawd my names were awful back then).

Oh, there’s an online Labyrinth Lord character creator!

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-17 22:27 UTC

I absolutely loved red box D&D; It was by far my favorite.

I played 2nd Ed. AD&D as well, but it always seemed more complicated; I found myself spending more time reading & trying to figure out the rules, whereas with Red Box, I focused more time on making creative dungeons.

So my favor definitely went to red box & Mystara.

LionKimbro 2008-04-22 07:10 UTC

# 2008-04-19 Sodomy

In the idle hours of spring, the mind wanders… There’s a slight difference between the English word “Sodomy” and the German word “Sodomie” – even Wikipedia mentions it: “From this biblical narrative the word ‘Sodomy’ is derived and has henceforth come to be synonymous with anal intercourse (particularly between two males) and sometimes also to describe human-animal sexual intercourse (also known as bestiality or zoophilia); this is the primary meaning of the cognate German language word Sodomie.” [1]

Anyway, today I was looking for music by The Pogues. One of their albums is called Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash (1985). Today I also looked at the iTunes store. And guess what they call the album? If you guessed “Rum Sy & the Lash” you win as many laundry machines as you can carry.

Hilarious.

There’s even a Wikipedia article about the album: Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash – Wikipedia claims that the title is “adapted from a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill” and provides this quote: “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash.”

I love it.

The quote. I’m talking about the quote.

Update: Finally I found that Churchill did not utter these words. On Wikipedia’s page on The Pogues there’s a note pointing to Quotes Falsely Attributed To Him by the Churchill Centre, which says that “Churchill’s assistant, Anthony Montague-Browne said that although Churchill had not uttered these words, he wished he had.”

You don’t even like rum?

– Marco 2008-04-19 18:57 UTC

# 2008-04-20 Palace of the Silver Princess

This was also posted to EN World [1].

Today we spent a few hours playing through the orange-cover Palace of the Silver Princess available for free from Wizards of the Coast using the Labyrinth Lord rules. These rules are a “retro-clone game system” designed to take us “back to the basics of old-school fantasy gaming”. The rules are dedicated to Tom Moldvay, author of the Basic Set. Check out the nice list of D&D book covers by Robert Fisher to get some context.

The party managed to steal the ruby in the end!

I had three players. We started with Belfin the elf, Darn the elf, and Marcus the cleric, all on first level. Belfin hired three retainers and promised them that they got to keep the padded armor and short sword he bought them if they came along for this adventure.

Beflin got replaced by Solarus the cleric, Darn got replaced by Darn the second, also an elf, and Marcus got replaced by Wilford the Witless. Later Solarus got replaced by Grump the dwarf, Darn the second got replaced by a nameless cleric, and Wilford got replaced by Archibald the Wise. We lost count of the retainers we lost. Often the party had as much as nine people in it. Ordinary humans came along for armor and weapons, elves and clerics came a long if they got a share of the treasure. Many a cleric died before being able to cast a single spell. More than one retainer ended up turning into a PC. The system is DEADLY.

The last party got to level up in the caves by popular vote of the players. Not much later they found the lair of a harpy that owned over 6000 gp. Remember how the orange book had many empty rooms that you had to stock yourself. I had added this one myself, thinking that the random treasure I had rolled would help them level up. Well, the nameless cleric ended up on level three, so hopes were up again.

The rules left me with some questions. Maybe somebody can help me out.

• Oil flasks turned out to be the most powerful weapons requiring no to-hit roll and doing an automatic 1d8 for two rounds. I guess the second 1d8 was unnecessary. How was this handled in the old days? I ruled that burning oil worked against kobolds, skeletons, orcs, weird amoebas, harpies, and ghosts.
• What would you think was a fair share of treasure for retainers? I ruled that elves, fighters and clerics would come along for half a share of the treasure. Later, when the party had brought the harpy gold back to town I ruled that they’d also come along for arms, armor, and 200 gp. Ordinary humans would come along for as little as 12 gp (padded armor and a short sword). Just curious to hear how others handled this.
• XP due to treasure was a lot more important in terms of XP than monsters defeated. Did I hand out too much treasure? Consider that the goal of the adventure is a ruby worth 10’000 gp an I had thought that the harpy would make a nice early stop if we did not make it to the ruby.
• Is the attrition rate typical? One player character died in the last fight against the ghosts, so he would have created his fourth character that day.
• The adventure has an encounter with two ghosts guarding the ruby having AC 7. At the end of the book ghosts have AC 1.

Other stuff I noticed:

• Charm person is essentually permanent unless you manage to save. If you’re smart you get to save once a day.
• Sleep is really powerful. We never had the situation that wizards announced their intent to cast a spell and enemies then gaining initiative and the ability to silence the spellcaster.
• As the system was so deadly, Cure Light Wounds was not used a lot. If you got hit at first level, you usually didn’t survive.
• The maps were hilarious.
• Monster distribution was not totally crazy. As the orange-cover edition was missing room descriptions for two rooms on the entrance level, I looked at the edition reworked by Moldvay and used Troglodytes. It’s unclear how these got into the caves in the first place, however. Interestingly enough, my players did not mind.
• The random encounter list featured some acolytes that were listed as having AC 2. I rolled up four of them, which gave the party awesome plate mail. Yay!
• Soon enough two player characters fell into a 50 ft. pit filled with murky water. The table on drowning specified a 95% for drowning in plate mail. As one of their friends managed to stay outside, I granted them a 10% bonus, but they didn’t make it. That was short.
• I didn’t like the empty rooms I was supposed to fill with stuff.
• I liked Jean Wells’ original story better. Nobody really knows how the castle ended. Nobody really knows why the tinker has a suite of plate armor in his bedroom. Nobody knows where the dragon went. Nobody knows why the two lovers turned into ghosts. I wanted to expand on it for future adventures, I could do that. And none of the Protector magic, none of that happy ending by releasing the lovers from the ruby.

It was fun for a one-day adventure. We’ll be happy to return to D&D 3.5 in our next session.

The following is stuff I didn’t write in my EN World post.

If I were to compare it to D&D 3.5 directly:

• I liked simplified combat. No talk was wasted on move actions, standard actions, full round actions, spell casting time, damage reduction, incorporeal creatures, and so on.
• I liked the lack of various buff spells.
• I liked how abilities were mostly not significant. As we rolled 3d6 in order, character creation was really simple.
• I didn’t care for the attack tables but in actual play it was no problem.
• I was able to resolve all skill use situations by eyeballing it. Cool.
• The surprise rule worked really well. Each side rolles 1d6. On 1-2 they’re surprised. Never had a problem.
• Thieves are practically useless at low levels when it comes detecting traps.
• The system is very deadly at first and second level. Strangely enough nobody died of poison. But with the average character having between two and four hitpoints, surviving a hit or a fall into a pit was rare. That sucked. If somebody tells me they want grim and gritty, I’ll tell them to play first level characters in a game where you roll 3d6 in order and roll for hit points at first level and die with zero hit points.
• Third editions with the skill system makes me feel like I have to support every decision with a rule reference. I’m also bored by the character optimization mini game in later D&D editions. This never came up.
• The arms and armor list is still a weird collection of things.
• I like how encumbrance doesn’t depend on your strength, but with many items having weight, this makes weight book keeping boring. Just ditch it, or round less than five pounds down to zero. Or just say that you may only take 10 items with you. A quiver with 20 arrows, a box with 10 bolts, 12 spikes, 8 torches, or a bag with 50 coins count as a single “item”, of course. But I’m drifting off…
• Too bad we didn’t get to test the chase rules.
• It’s tricky for a thief to get a backstab. I guess no creature is immune to backstabbing…

Comments on 2008-04-20 Palace of the Silver Princess

Definitely less treasure than the last time I played BECMI D&D. Then again, it was a total Monty Haul campaign, before I knew it I was 9th level and building a keep and taming a dragon to use as a mount.

I definitely think that D&D has evolved for the better. I will readily admit that I like playing heroes, growing to mythic or superheroic levels. I like growing attached to my character, and having a long, successful run in a campaign. I like PCs that are the central protagonists of the game’s evolving storyline, and not grist in a mill, to be ground down by all the deadly horrors that lurk everywhere. I like the tactical richness and character optimization of 3.x, and not the arbitrary monotony of Basic/AD&D combat.

But that is just me – perhaps I am not as hardcore or old skool as I’d like to think

w00t – they get about 16500 gp on their first session!!

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-21 21:54 UTC

Today I found a note on Mike Hensley’s blog linking to a post in the Help Me Wrap My Head Around Classic thread on Dragonsfoot. The post’s author was Frank Mentzer and it said:

D&D Characters Die Frequently.

Indeed.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-22 18:44 UTC

# 2008-04-22 RPG Superstar

A while ago Paizo ran a contest to find the “RPG Superstar”. Today I was looking for unique magic items and wanted to go back to those contest submissions. They have been taken offline.

Yes, I know that the contributors basically signed off their rights to Paizo when they made their submissions. That gives Paizo legal protection against others taking the submissions. There’s no need to prevent non-publishers from taking these submissions for their own games, however.

What’s up?

2. Or they don’t understand that Cool URIs don't change

Grrr.

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You can check my current status message on a website (and this post used to transclude the text back into Oddmuse again).

The status itself was sent to a Twitter Bot via GTalk, who posted it to Twitter, which got picked up by TwitterAdium and set as the status message for all my accounts in Adium, which in turn was picked up by a JabberLand bot I had added to my contact list, and included on that first page I linked to. Scary.

I’m sort of looking for the way to set all my status messages from a single place. This seems to work!

I still don’t get the Twitter craze, but perhaps I need some more friends on Twitter to appreciate “it”.

This reminds me of LJ Bot (Frank) – if you send him a message using your Talk acount, the message will turn into a LiveJournal blog post.

A long time ago I had a proof of concept using a programmable bot that did the same thing for Oddmuse.

Bots rule.

If you want to add more friends, I recommend using Twubble. It scans your friend’s freinds and lists those that occur in more than one of your friend’s lists. The idea is that if several of your friends like what they say, chances are you will to. And you know what? It works

I picked up around 100 new folks to follow using Twubble, and a fair percentage of those followed me back in return too. Which is nice. The sheer noise of 300 people actively tweeting is terrific!

GreyWulf 2008-04-22 19:06 UTC

And you didn’t think bots checking your contact lists was creepy? I guess I’m still under the influence of events in the Internet dark ages where friends discovered services that kept contact info up to date and started out by sending an email to all your contacts. That was very creepy.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-22 19:10 UTC

That’s one of the (many) things that makes twitter so cool. When everything is public, privacy doesn’t matter.

GreyWulf 2008-04-22 19:46 UTC

Ah… I tried it and now I get it. Not creepy. Plus you’re my only friend on Twitter so Twubble doesn’t find any friends of two friends.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-22 20:13 UTC

Yeh. I’m unsure of those too. There are far too many services requesting your gmail username and password these days. In an ideal world, gmail would provide an rss feed of all your contacts. Now, that would be cool…….

GreyWulf 2008-04-22 21:51 UTC

Ok, it seems that today a friendly American idiot discovered that I have joined and is registering the feeds of a gazillion American politicians as “follower”. Twits, all of them!! If I don’t block them I’m in fact increasing their pagerank. How do I deal with this? I don’t want spammers!

AIM was great in the old days: If somebody did something annoying, the mere doing of the act enabled recipients to give you a “warning” – and that automatically prevented you from adressing anybody whose warning level was less than yours (ie. almost everybody else except for the very people that you warned instead). That meant that as long as you were polite to strangers you had zero warnings and no problems.

I don’t want to just block spammers. I want to block them and deny them the use of the service for a while. That’s true Web 2.0 Spam Protection!

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-24 21:44 UTC

Spammers are the only reason I think guns are a good idea. Them, and politicians. And old people in queues. And…. hmmm. I better stop now.

In twitter, I just ignore the spammers. They’re welcome to follow me, but I won’t do the same back so I don’t get to see what they’re trying to peddle. I don’t care if it gets their pagerank up; that’s Google’s job to fix an abuse of their system.

GreyWulf 2008-04-24 23:12 UTC

Grrr. The blocking cycle requires way too many clicks. Click on the list of followers, wait for reload, click on the block button, click on the ok button, and repeat.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-26 08:40 UTC

Also strange: Several total strangers have started following me. One appears to be a D&D player. Another appears to be a journalist in Zürich. They have no apparent spam agenda, so I’m not blocking them.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-26 22:58 UTC

Hi Alex, I’ve read this and checked if you are already on Twitter. Doing so, I accidently sent you an invitation by e-mail. I hope you don’t mind.

Stefan Bucher 2008-05-04 15:04 UTC

Of course not.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-04 19:29 UTC

# 2008-04-22 Work

Things that make me uncomfortable:

1. Clients asking for my InstantMessaging contact info so that they we can chat. That means they also get to see when I get up and go to bed, the stupid jokes I put into my status messages, get to ask me questions when I’m at home minding my own business… What to do? A few days ago I created a Skype and MSN account for work only. Maybe I should not have listed them on my Contact page.
2. Co-workers asking me to visit their dojo and practice some Aikido together. Somehow it reminds me of stepping naked into a sauna and finding other people sort of know from work looking at you. What to do? I don’t know. I need some ZenBuddhism enlightenment. Somebody whack me over the head with a bamboo cane and point at the moon. Quick!

Separate, separate, separate.

– Marco 2008-04-23 10:33 UTC

# 2008-04-24 Marriage

Found somewhere on the web. :D :D

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Skip the middleman. Find someone you hate and give them a house.

– Marco 2008-04-25 06:40 UTC

My best friend’s girlfriend asked me to be best man at the wedding she’s planning for my best friend, and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to respond.

LionKimbro 2008-04-25 19:57 UTC

Across time, space, and cultural barriers all I can say is that here in Switzerland the best man is also supposed to help organize the wedding itself. Claudia & I did this for her brother and it was a lot of work.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-25 22:29 UTC

# 2008-04-26 The Pogues

I must be a really old fart, inflexible and set in my ways. When it comes to The Pogues I still love Sodomy, Rum, And The Lash and If I Should Fall From Grace With God and as I listen to all these other discs I find that I don’t really like the new singers (does one say “vocalist” these days?) – Shane MacGowan was teh bestest!

And I love Wikipedia. <3

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# 2008-04-27 Klusko

The second key is found by defeating the ogres!

Belflin, Silas, and Auroleva delve into the Underdark, looking for the temple of Belphegor, the evil god of fire.

On the first day, they meet some Gnolls, but using sign language the two groups pass each other. During the night, the gnolls come back. The party feigns sleeping, and the gnolls decide to attack! The fourteen gnolls did not last long and a chest loaded with 1300 gp was discovered. Some sort of tribute to be paid, maybe?

On the second day, a wraith was fought and bested, and a group of Crushed Skull orcs was met later that day. One of the orcs knew Giant and gave Belflin directions to the ogre caves. The party followed the directions, got overtaken by the orcs by nightfall, but again nothing happened.

On the third day, the party reached a big cave and discovered a red dragon called Thuskamasker in an abandoned Belphegor temple. The dragon graciously agreed to a gift of 1300 gp in a wooden chest and let Belflin go.

The party also found a secret door with an Infernal inscription but did not investigate.

And the party got into a fight with some ogres. Their surviving leader Klusko offered to find a hexagonal gem for 1000 gp after all but two of his clan were killed. Belflin, growing suspicious, decided to search the premise and discovered the very key they were looking for in the ogre’s treasure chest.

Hurray!

The party also befriended a lonesome & lost hobgoblin and finally arranged for him to become Crus’ servant.

## XP

Challenges overcome: thirteen gnolls CR 1, one wraith CR 5, ten ogres CR 3, Klusko CR 7, hobgoblin CR 1

Corian
36855 (Sor-9)
Belflin
32996 + 3066 = 36062 (Rng-9)
Silas
28919 + 3066 = 31985 (Cle-8)
Auroleva
28872 + 3066 = 31938 (Drd-4/Clr-4)
Karamutenga
30577 (Brb-8)
Flax
11910 (Rog-5)

Something’s amis… Belflin’s 9th level and got the same XP as the 8th level guys.

See how honest(/stupid) I am?

– Marco 2008-04-29 06:50 UTC

Sometimes you’re unlucky. But in this case, 36’000 is enough for level nine.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-29 10:13 UTC

# 2008-04-28 CD Ripping

From time to time I get the urge to rip some old CDs and listen to them again in a sort of “genre completion” action. I listen to some old grunge music used for Levis’ ads decades ago (Inside by Stiltskin I think) and realize there must be another CD somewhere with a Levis track (Spaceman by Babylon Zoo). That leads me to look for another CD produced by Tori Amos: Pet. And then my mind travels to Nirvana, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Hendrix (weird, eh?) and ends up with a weird collection of CDs. And I realize that I can no longer find a CD by Mano Negra – the band Manu Chao belonged to before he started singing like a sissy. I must have given it away. I faintly remember giving it to zeno.

Old music is weird.

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You can have a copy of my Levis soundtrack rip if you want.

– Marco 2008-04-29 07:07 UTC

# 2008-04-28 Keinohrhase

I liked Til Schweiger’s movie Keinohrhasen (2007). Simple romantic comedy and I liked it anyway.

I also liked Nora Tschirner. I remember seeing her in Kebab Connection (2005) and liking her very much back then.

Getting older is creepy. It always creeps me out if ordinary people – co-workers, actors, clients – are born in the eighties. Where were they when I listened to Stevie Wonder wagging his head and singing I just called to say I love you... (dominating the charts for week after week after week).

And here’s another creepy thought: Thank God the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited, for Tschirner grew up in East Berlin. I remember feeling old when my little sister didn’t know what the Iron Curtain was. Before long I will have to admit that I was born in the last millennium!!

But you have to admit, it is hard to resist these rabbit guys.

Anyway, I sort of recommend it as light entertainment. Depending on how expensive your local movie theater is, you might want to join a DVD sharing club instead. Here in Switzerland I recommend runDVDrun.

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