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Page Collection for ^2008-08

2008-08-03 Soul Calibur IV

So, Zeno and I have been playing the new version for quite a while. My fingers are about to fall off.

  • In Soul Calibur III we always ended up playing Mitsurugi vs Kilik, because we felt those were the best characters.
  • Today we played a lot of other characters. In the end we played a lot of Sophitia vs Siegfried
  • Setsuka didn’t suck at all.
  • Big slow fighters like Rock still suck.
  • Guard blocks and counters are still difficult as hell.

In other news, GreyWulf mentioned De Bellis Antiquitatis in his blog [1] – now I want to own the rules and play some. But I still have Battle Lore and Tide of Iron at home, and they’re not seeing much play either. Aaargh.

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Comments on 2008-08-03 Soul Calibur IV

Heh. You could always give DBA Online a try 😊

GreyWulf 2008-08-03 08:27 UTC

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2008-08-04 Psi Powers

I was feeling nervous about work. I’m going back to the office August 18, and started worrying. There’s a course to teach, stuff to prepare, a new release of the development platform… I start writing mails.

17:52 I send mail to the product manager.

17:58 I send mail to the infrastructure manager.

18:01 I start chatting with the project manager.

I say: “I haven’t read any mails. Any changes to the course at the end of August?”
He says: “Huh? You haven’t read any mails?”
I say: “Nope.”
He says: “I just sent you a mail!”
I say: “Huh? Right now?”
He says: “17:55 to be exact.”

This is creepy.

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Comments on 2008-08-04 Psi Powers

It’s when you get precog spam you need to worry :)

greywulf 2008-08-04 17:09 UTC


I’ve had a few such occurences. I want to call Claudia, pick up the phone, and she’s already on because she dialed by number at just the right moment. That’s awesome, and you think “Wow, I’ve got a supernatural link with my soulmate.”

But now I have a supernatural link to my project manager. D’Oh!!

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-04 21:06 UTC


So now the only remaining question is, which of you is the familiar?

– Marco 2008-08-05 07:16 UTC


Man, I got all excited when I saw the title! I thought Alex was going to finally let me use my uber-twinked half-giant psychic warrior…

– Adrian 2008-08-05 11:02 UTC

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2008-08-06 Old Maps

Trask has posted about old maps in Archaic Cartography as Art and Gaming Realia and Archaic Cartography as Art Part II. A neat collection of links for all those mapomaniacs out there. Some links point to online archives where you can get some nice inspirations for your own maps, some links point to shops that sell actual prints of the maps – not so useful for your games, probably.

I odered this item from one of the shops:

ARMENIA, MESOPOTAMIA, BABYLONIA ET ASSYRIA, CUM ADJENTICIBUS REGIONIBUS: includes the route of Xenophon and the 10, 000’s Anabasis. From Spruner’s Atlas of Antiquities, by Justus Perez, Gotha, Germany, c. 1880. Steel engraving of the highest order, very fine colouring. Scales in German and Roman miles, Greek stadia and Persian parasangs. [1]

And then I’ll reread the Anabasis by Xenophon. :)

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Comments on 2008-08-06 Old Maps

…and me knee deep in Persian history right now too. The internet is just too full of fun stuff sometimes :)

greywulf 2008-08-06 13:31 UTC


You are? What are you reading? I’ve yet to meet another ancient history geek! :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-06 14:09 UTC


I’m re-reading my Osprey books, getting ready to paint my Imperial Persian figures. Among others, there’s The Persian Army 560–330 BC and The Greek and Persian Wars 500–323 BC. All Osprey books are pretty readable, and they give a decent overview of the era they cover - and they cover a lot :)

I’ve also got a copy of the Greek Wars:The Failure of Persia (link to Google Books) by George Cawkwell from the Oxford Univeristy Press. If you can track it down, it’s a superb book.

greywulf 2008-08-06 14:44 UTC

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2008-08-06 Retro Clones

Well, somebody asked the question on EN World: Retro-clones - explain?

And Philotomy Jurament has a very nice answer [1]:

  • Swords & Wizardy (White Box) – OD&D74 without Supplements. Should be very close.
  • Swords & Wizardry (Core) – OD&D74 + Supplements. Mostly compatible with TSR D&D, in general.
  • OSRIC – 1e AD&D. Very close.
  • Labyrinth Lord – Classic D&D (similar to B/X). Very close.
  • BFRPG – not really a clone. Mostly like Classic, but more of a mix (separate class/race, d20-style AC, etc)
  • GORE – BRP (Runequest/Call of Cthulhu). Very close.
  • Mutant Future – similar to Gamma World, but not really a clone (awesome game, though)
  • ZeFRS – Conan
  • C&C – not really a clone, more like a via media between TSR D&D and WotC D&D, favoring TSR D&D, IMO. Or like the “AD&D 3rd Edition” that never was.

Thanks, Philotomy!

I’ve played LL before (→ 2008-04-20 Palace of the Silver Princess) and decided at the time that I didn’t like it because of the high attrition rate. My hope is that the next time I run an old-school one-shot I’ll be using one of the adventures that actually made it into the various best-of lists out there. [2] [3] [4]

When I started my current gaming in late 2006 I used GreyWulf’s M20 rules – they are basically D&D 3E (very!) light rules, not a true retro game. Then again, at least one person has rewritten these rules to be more old-school resulting in M74.

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2008-08-07 Fight On

I got my first two issues of Fight On today. I like them! It makes me want to pull out my M20 Hard Core rules and start playing.

I also realized that my mapping skills with Inkscape are probably not so bad after all. Maybe I should submit some maps? My maps are easy to reproduce on black and white. Perhaps I should contact some of the authors and submit maps? Or contact the publisher and editor, Ignatius Ümlaut. (I wonder whether that’s his real name.)

Perhaps I should submit some of my maps I have on Flickr?

Also, things I wanted to add regarding the magazines themselves:

I really like the print quality. It’s black and white on the inside, with lots of text. It has little dungeons, wilderness maps, trait tables for dwarves (issue #1) and elves (issue #2) to use as inspiration for your own games, magic items, short interviews, reports on gaming in the 70s, and black and white art. It’s not professional – I think the art gives it away – but the amateur approach also has its charm. And I like the fact that this is overt: No glossy covering up. No, this is by gamers for gamers, with no art budget.

We who read and write for this magazine are a community of role-playing enthusiasts unified by our love of the freewheeling, do-it-yourself approach that birthed this hobby back in the 1970’s. – Ignatius Ümlaut, Publisher and Editor [1]

Anyway, the nice quality makes me want to switch my Kobold Quarterly subscription from PDF to print.

Another thing I noticed. You know me: I’m always interested in prices, shipping, etc. On 2008-07-28 First Lulu Order I wrote about the shipping cost: $10.06. Imagine my surprise when the magazines arrived via UPS! The delivery man said it himself: This would have cost around USD 200 if sent from Switzerland. This is amazing. They must have either a. made an expensive mistake, or b. have excellent purchasing agents.

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Comments on 2008-08-07 Fight On

I vote yes. Submit away! :)

greywulf 2008-08-07 22:28 UTC


What’s the reason UPS should have cost $200(US) and not $10(US)?

AaronHawley 2008-08-08 16:55 UTC


Because there’s a person driving a druck to your door to pick it up, and a person driving a druck to the recipient’s door. I went to the UPS website and used the following information: From Switzerland to Spain (providing the appropriate zip codes), 0.35 kg, declared value EUR 20 (all taken from their invoice) and got two quotes:

  • UPS Express Saver → CHF 174
  • UPS Standard → CHF 152

The exchange rate between CHF and USD is about 1:1 at the moment. While not as expensive as my estimate, this is still far more expensive than your estimate.

Assuming this was not an error by Lulu, I can think of the following explanations:

  • UPS Europe is different from what you are used to.
  • Prices in Switzerland are over the top.
  • Lulu is not using a standard UPS service. Maybe they use them only for delivery.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-08 21:47 UTC

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2008-08-07 Hard Core M20

I’m reaching equilibrium with my M20 Hard Core Rules. You only need the first two pages to play. Page 3 has notes on spells, and page 4 has the OGL. Source is available. [1]

So, what have I changed from the original M20 by GreyWulf?

Based on M74 by Randall S. Stukey who based his game on OD&D from 1974, I’ve made the following changes:

  • I’ve added Randall’s design notes
  • I’ve switched to 1d6 for all weapons (obviating a weapon list)
  • I got rid of skills ← very important change!
  • Wizards are limited to 6th level spells
  • Clerics are limited to 5th level spells
  • Clerics are also limited to health oriented spells
  • You get XP for spending money “in frivolous ways”

I’ve also made some changes:

  • Shadow Walk got switched with Teleport
  • I’ve added Dream World
  • There are no more ranged touch attacks – use magic defense all the way
  • I replaced saving throws with magic defense – roll Magic Attack vs. 10 + Level + relevant stat bonus of unwilling targets
  • No more STR bonus to hit with melee weapons – DEX makes hitting with ranged weapons easier, STR adds to damage with melee weapons
  • No more multiple attacks – fighters just get a bonus to-hit and damage; they get it every four levels instead of every five levels to compensate
  • No more thief or rogue class because there are no more skills
  • Turn undead is gone – I never liked it anyway
  • Since there are no more skills, I’m granting humans +1 to two stats of their choosing instead of +2 any particular stat – not sure I like this but I like demihuman level limits even less
  • Clerics may use shields
  • Use 3d6 instead of 4d6-drop-lowest

I think I still have to add small notes to spells regarding duration. I’m not sure how much info to add, here. Generally I’d prefer to keep it vague (while concentrating, short, daily, or permanent). The same is true for distances. Just fudge it! We’ll see. Basically “while concentrating” means that you can’t cast any other spells or fight, everything else goes on for a while and allows you to cast more spells (eg. Spider Climb or Light), and then there’s the interesting stuff: Permanent effects! :)

For a while I toyed with the following: “Clerics can wear any armor. Clerics may not use magic weapons.” (Replacing the restriction of only being able to use blunt weapons.) In a way intelligent magic swords were the most awesome weapons, and thus forbidden to clerics. This would have replaced the old arbitrary restriction with a new arbitrary restriction, which is why I don’t feel good about it. Introducing a different base attack progression for clerics and wizards would have been the alternative. I’m not sure I would have liked that. That’s why I stuck with the armor restriction, even though I’m not sure I like it. I guess the in-game answer is “training”. :/

I’m still looking for a way to prevent relying on high stat bonuses. I can already hear people complaining that they cannot be a fighter because their STR is less than 15.

Other things on my mind: Add surprise rules (surprised on 1-2 on a d6), add encumbrance rules (my favorite would be something like a carrying capacity of 12 items).

Well, all I’m lacking is a group to playtest these rules! :D

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Comments on 2008-08-07 Hard Core M20

Looks good to me! :)

greywulf 2008-08-07 15:24 UTC


Good stuff - the only thing I’m unsure about is the recovery time for all hit points being minutes (seems so short!) - but I’ll give it a shot.

– Sean 2008-08-14 05:17 UTC


The reason I added this was that in my games, the first thing players do after combat is heal up to their maximum. It just seems so pointless. “Who needs another healing?” – “Have some goodberries.” – “I’m still missing 24 hitpoints.” If they don’t have the means to heal up, they’ll stop for the day. Also note that hit points spent to cast spells remain lost until rested for 8h.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-14 06:29 UTC


Sound reasoning there Alex - the ‘stop for ages to heal up’ thing can be a bit much if the players always do that (unless you get round it by having them in a race against time, or a pursuit. So it makes the lesser healing spells more a thing for healing STR and also allows low HP characters not to feel too stunted from the start. I really like the combat rules - fighters feel special, but clerics and wizards don’t feel too limited either. It’s a good balance, and I like how choosing races allows a little tweaking - rolled up a DEX 18 character, made him a halfling fighter, equipped him and then grinned as I worked out the AC.

– Sean 2008-08-14 11:50 UTC


Hehehe. Think Yoda! :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-14 13:10 UTC


Think I may add a rule for wielding 2 weapons - maybe adding DEX bonus. So the options are there for greater chance to hit(2 weapons), better defence(weapon and shield) or more damage(two-handed weapon).

– Sean 2008-08-16 11:28 UTC


Yeah, the original M20 rules have that: “Fighters and Rogues can use DEX bonus + Level as Melee attack bonus instead if wielding a light weapon. Fighters and Rogues can wield 2 light weapons and attack with both in a round if they take a -2 penalty on all attack rolls that round. Rapiers count as light weapons, but you cannot wield two rapiers at the same time.”

Part of my intent was to make abilities less important. The old rules allowed a double bonus. If you’re strong, get a bonus to hit and to damage (specially with a two-handed weapon). If you’re dextrous, get a bonus to hit (with a light weapon), and a bonus to AC. My hard core rules grant melee fighters less bonuses: Strength will only add to damage, and Dexterity will only add to AC.

If people want to play the fencing archtype, I tell them to focus on dexterity for AC and gain some levels in order to improve their attack bonus. This is important to me: A high stat bonus should not be the equivalent of having gained some levels. Gaining levels must remain very important. Spell levels being tied to character level makes gaining levels very important for spell casters anyway, but fighters could get away with having high ability bonuses instead. My hard core rules try to limit that.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-16 12:10 UTC


I rolled up a few characters to test it out and the DEX bonus did make a huge difference - a bit too powerful for a Level 1 character. My gaming group are giving the hard core rules a go tomorrow.

– Sean 2008-08-16 18:38 UTC


I rolled up three fourth level characters the other day and sent them against a red dragon.

First one: STR 13, DEX 12, MIND 17. I decided to make him an elven wizard, add +1 to MIND at fourth level, resulting in MIND 20 and a magic attack bonus of +9. He’ll be using acid arrow doing 2d4 for two rounds a lot. I called him Fnord. Rolling 13 on 4d6 this resulted in 26 HP. No armor results in AC 11.

Second one: STR 8, DEX 8, MIND 9. I decided to make him a dwarven fighter, add +1 to MIND, resulting in STR 10, DEX 8, and MIND 10. Rolling 13 on 4d6 this resulted in 23 HP. I called him Bliss. He has +4 to hit and does 1d6 damage. With no STR bonus and bad DEX, this guy needs armor. I give him platemail and a shield resulting in AC 16.

Third one: STR 9, DEX 11, MIND 11. This will be the human cleric, adding +1 to every stat, resulting in STR 10, DEX 12, and MIND 12. I roll badly for hitpoints (9) resulting in 19 HP. With plate, shield, and a DEX bonus his AC is 18. I called him Rübe (“nob”).

We roll initiative, adding the DEX bonus (no DEX bonus for the dragon because monsters don’t have stats). This made me realize that I haven’t found a good rule for monster stats. It seems to me that monsters should not have any stats, and no bonus to damage. Melee fighting monsters don’t use a STR stat for more damage, they use additional attacks. The current monster list doesn’t reflect that, yet. Thus:

How to create a monster
Assign level, pick dice type (d4 for small critters like kobolds, d6 for humanoids, d8 for beasts), roll for hitpoints; attack bonus = level, damage = weapon equivalent (1d4 for small critters like kobolds, 1d6 for humanoids, 1d8 for beasts, use multiple dice for big and strong foes), pick AC as appropriate; pick special abilities as the level increases.

Anyway, back to the game. We roll initiative. All party members beat the dragon and go first.

First round: Rübe rolls a 1, Bliss rolls a 3, Fnord casts an acid arrow, rolls 11, adds 9, and hits. The dragon’s magic defense is 10 + level = 20. This does 6 damage. The dragon has 10d8 = 36 and is down to 30 HP.

Then the dragon breathes some hellfire! Magic defense is 10 + level + DEX bonus: Fnord 15, Bliss 13, Rübe 15. The dragon rolls 4 + 10 = 14 and only Bliss takes full damage. 10d6 = 41, half is 20. Bliss is at 26 - 41 and dies horribly. Rübe is at 19 - 20 and drops screaming and is bleeding to death. Fnord is at 26 - 20 = 6 and still standing.

Second round: The dragon takes another 5 damage from the acid arrow and is down to 25 HP. Rübe casts another acid arrow and rolls 5 + 9 = 14 which is not enough. A miss!

The dragon now enters melee and hits three times for 22 damage. This is enough to bring Fnord into the negatives.

The dragon then treats the wounds of the two survivors, strips them, and chains their naked bodies to the cave walls. Two more prisoners! Om nom nom nom…

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-16 23:43 UTC

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2008-08-07 Hochzeitsfestbilder

Pictures of our marriage party are available from http://tinyurl.com/claudiaundalex. We had a little over fifty guests. As you can see, we had quite a number of dance performances. Not surprising, considering that Claudia teaches oriental dancing. :)

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Comments on 2008-08-07 Hochzeitsfestbilder

Congratulations once again. :)

NoufalIbrahim 2008-08-07 16:26 UTC


Thank you thank you. :)

Compared to aadis’ & V’s marriage, we certainly had far fewer guests, at a far more central location (haha!), with a far shorter party over all, no religious elements at all, most guests made a contribution to our “honeymoon trip” via a bank transfer, several people participated in dance performances, and we got a very small number of actual physical presents. Food was also far more formal with tables, dishes, courses, etc.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-07 17:00 UTC

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2008-08-08 RPG Bloggers Network

My feed got accepted by RPG Bloggers Network. I had to make a change to the wiki engine I'm using. Traditionally the creation date is part of the page name since blog posts live in the same namespace as ordinary wiki pages, thus every page name has to be unique. This might look a bit weird in a feed aggregator because these usually also report a date. Oddmuse provides the date of the last major change for this field; so in most cases readers would see two dates, one being part of the item title, the other being generated based on the publication date. The requirements of their RPG “planet” forced me to finally jump ship and fix this little usability problem in Oddmuse RSS feeds. A note on terminology: As far as I can tell, a “planet” in the blogging world is a blog-of-blogs – just as PlanetEmacsen is a collection of blogs about Emacs. Planet Emacsen uses Planet Venus as the software. It looks easy and straight forward to use. I don’t know about the technical backbone of the RPG Bloggers Network.

Anyway, the RPG Bloggers Network also displays a logo of participating blogs. Except that my blog doesn’t have a real name except my own – Alex Schroeder, and the RPG category doesn’t have a separate logo, and even if I took the site’s black and white X-Face, its 48 × 48 pixels are not enough: The logos ought to be 170 × 50. I whipped out Inkscape, loaded the map for my Alder King game in a second layer and started experimenting. I wanted a bit of that old school hex map feeling as part of my logo. I had to increase the contrast for the map, but I think the result looks ok:

Alex RPG Logo

I’ve added the RPG Bloggers Network to my Firefox toolbar. I’m not going to read all the posts in there (specially since I already read a lot of these blogs), but I like to quickly skim the front page and follow one or two of the links that seem interesting. I ended up on some new RPG blogs and have made some additions to my list! Try this OPML file if you want to check out all the gaming feeds I’m subscribed to: Alex Gaming.opml. The one that really made a lasting impression on me is Grognardia. I actually read the entire archive. Wow! (The articles about book covers are not my thing, but sometimes James uses them to discuss interesting related topics. The other stuff is gold, though.) Right now I’m clicking myself through the archive of Jeff’s Gameblog.

Oh the joys of interesting RPG blogs! :)

Anyway:

http://rpgbloggers.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/rpgbloggers_banner_x1.png

Enjoy!

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Comments on 2008-08-08 RPG Bloggers Network

I’m finding the RPG Bloggers Network to be fantastic! THIS is what social networking should be all about - like-minded folks sharing what they already do and spreading the word. Terrific stuff.

I’m glad you made the changes to oddmuse too - I’ll be looking into them more closely when I get my new wiki off the ground :)

greywulf 2008-08-09 11:29 UTC


I must confess it beats scanning the thread titles on EN World. :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-09 21:09 UTC

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2008-08-09 Rating Blog Entries

I recently had the RPG category of my blog added to the RPG Bloggers Network. Their front page lists about a dozen new RPG related posts, about half of the starting paragraph, a link to the full entry, and a little widget to rate the article. This is what it said about my joining article:

★★★★☆ (3 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)

When rating other articles I ask myself: Is this an article I’d recommend to others?

  • Five stars if it’s a must-read, challenging, an eye-opener.
  • Four stars if interesting.
  • Three stars if neat entertainment and better than work.
  • Two stars if too long, rambling, if I ended up skipping a lot.
  • One star if it’s a waste of time. It might be a good article in the context of the original blog, but in the context of the RPG Bloggers Network, it’s not working.

I realize that size is a killer.

~I should keep my articles short. And stop right here.~

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Comments on 2008-08-09 Rating Blog Entries

Damn. Now I feel the need to separate my RPG articles into “fit for the network” and just “local” articles. This sucks.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-10 19:17 UTC


Nah. Just post and be happy.

It’s a community, so needs a bit of community noise in there to keep things alive. Not every post needs to be (nor should be) a top-class article on how to role-play. They’re nice too, but I reckon the place would get elitist too quickly everyone tried too hard.

So make some noise :)

greywulf 2008-08-10 19:40 UTC


Good advice. I see that they removed the scoring in the latest incarnation of RPG Bloggers.

I’m not sure what to think of that. I guess I’m relieved. The control freak in me still thinks “long and rambling” or “better than work” or “interesting” and wants to go back and rate those stories. But I guess in a way we were never enough people rating to actually make a difference. And getting rid of the rating lifts some of the weight I mentioned in my post from my own shoulders. A whiff of fresh air.

On a related note, I shall try to post more German RPG stories in the RSP section. We’ll see how that works out.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-20 10:24 UTC

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2008-08-10 AdBlock Plus Ethics

I spend a lot of time on EN World. I even paid USD 40 for a membership of many years. They use old school banner ads. In a way I’m interested in exactly the ads they show: {RPG stuff. That’s why I’m not blocking all the ads. But I am determined to ruthlessly eliminate all the epileptic seizure inducing blinking animated nervous slideshow banner ads. I don’t mind nice colors, interesting glimpses – but I hate movement in my peripheral field of vision while I’m trying to read.

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Comments on 2008-08-10 AdBlock Plus Ethics

I think you can make all the animated gifs go through their sequence only once (or disable animation altogether). Things are harder with flash – I guess blocking all flash banners in this case gives a good partial solution.

Then again, putting up banners when they already get paid is a little… not nice.

RadomirDopieralski 2008-08-10 18:18 UTC

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2008-08-10 The Return of the Cockroach

Today I found and killed a cockroach in our living room.

I’m thinking of 2007-11-20 Bad Start:(

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2008-08-11 Old School Fantasy Reading List

Old School Inspirational Reading List by Kellri is over sixty pages of short author bios and blurbs for books or short stories – and any obvious influences they may have had on D&D. I guess it’s inspired by Gygax’ reading list in the famous Appendix N of the AD&D 1st ed Dungeon Master Guide. Then Uncle Bear suggested a wiki. Now, creating a dedicated wiki is easy. I did just that and called it Appendix N. But it really needs people willing to step up and adopt it.

I’m not sure I want to act as a founder for that wiki. WikiFounding is a tricky business and involves lots of SeedPosting. I’m not sure I’m up to it. We need a CommittedFounder.

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2008-08-11 Planet Stories and other Sword and Sorcery Books

A new delivery of books has arrived:

The last one is the only book not from the Planet Stories but from Fantasy Masterworks.

I really enjoyed the first volume of the Conan Chronicles. I was less enthusiastic about Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore. In fact I haven’t finished the last story in that book.

As time allows I’ll try going through some of the books in the Old School Fantasy Reading List recently published by Kellri. (Real name Scot Hoover?)

I am excited! And my collector’s heart also laments the fact that I already gave away some books in these two series via BookMooch:

Then again I also got some fantasy and science fiction books via the same service, so I guess it evens out.

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2008-08-12 It’s For The Children

I just stumbled accross Trollsmyth’s old Whither D&D post (April 2008) and the discussion he had with “Wart”. Interesting points made:

  1. “If new players aren’t being invited to join in the fun, that’s bad for the hobby as a whole.”
  2. “The hobby is still heavily, predominantly male, in spite of the fact that women seem to buy and read more escapist fantasy than men do.”
  3. “What’s more disturbing is the apparent abandonment of the traditional golden years of D&D play: ten to fifteen-year-olds.”
  4. “Was any generation better primed to love D&D than the one that grew up reading Harry Potter, made Eragon and The Golden Compass best sellers, and who packed the movie theaters to watch Jackson’s LotR flicks? If that’s true, then what happened to them?”
  5. “I hesitate to call these things [fanfic freeform roleplaying] ‘games’, because there doesn’t seem to be much of a ‘game’ element - it’s all about the characterisation and storytelling. Hence why I think the people interested in it probably wouldn’t be much interested in traditional RPGs - they get what they want out of their medium, and adding dice rolls and a structured ruled system would just hamper their creativity, from their POV.”

Gold! Also note his current follow-up article Where the Kids Are.

I wondered, for a while: What’s going to introduce kids to roleplaying? Will it be Faery’s Tale Deluxe? Or does it need the weight of D&D but stripped down – maybe Legends & Labyrinths? Or a return to old games and retro clones such as Labyrinth Lord? Or just super microlite M20?

Then I realized: It’s still going to be the kids’ friends and relatives.

I really should ask my best friend whether he’d like to try us teaching his kids how to play M20. M20 Hard Core, actually.

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2008-08-13 EN World

Gah! EN World gets slower and slower. At the same time, RPG Bloggers loads faster and has better articles. Gah, and all of that a few days after they have finally activated my community supporter account. It took them something like eight months to do it.

  1. I donated USD 10 earlier last year 2007-05-28
  2. I paid for the community supporter account 2007-10-26
  3. I sent my first mail reporting the problem 2007-12-19
  4. The first time I posted it on the Meta thread was 2008-04-23 [1]
  5. They resolved it 2008-07-18 [2]
  6. And in August 2008, the site is breaking down due to load (maybe caused by an upgrade of the software?)

It makes me want to cry!

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Comments on 2008-08-13 EN World

Yep. The new ENW2 seems to be buclking a lot under the strain, hence the big $1 sale push to get new servers. Personally, I preferred the original look and feel of the site, but that’s just me. Hopefully they’ll resolve it soon though.

Then there’s the impact of 10,000 screaming voices leaving Gleemax. That can’t be helping, I’m sure.

GreyWulf 2008-08-13 23:52 UTC


I’m also wondering about server load, software upgrade, and the move to a new server: Shouldn’t we look for a bottleneck in the software, first?

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-14 06:26 UTC


You’d have thought so, yes.

GreyWulf 2008-08-14 07:30 UTC

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2008-08-14 Licensing Issues

I found some nice small dungeon maps via Dragonfoot in the thread Dungeon Maps. I picked the first map and started adding room descriptions. Then I noticed the license on the homepage: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives. Hm, that’s a surprise. That means I cannot publish the map with my location key because that’s a derivative. Unless I arrange for a separate license. Unfortunately I think that’s too much hassle. It might seem like so little, but in the end it seems to me that I profit more if I learn to quickly draw dungeons myself.

Digital technology has enabled us to copy and publish with ease. Unfortunately that has brought a large segment of the population in contact with copyright law – something that was written for a different time, for a professional target audience. Gah! I’m torn: Should I be happy that a Creative Commons license was used, or should I be frustrated because the license allows me to copy the map (and use it in my game) but doesn’t allow me to easily build on it and contribute back to society? Consider that copyright here in Switzerland doesn’t have a Fair Use exception; instead we have a list of exceptions. One of them is the right to make copies for your own private use amongst your closest friends and family. Thus, personally making a copy for my own game is legal with or without the particular Creative Commons license used. The particular license allows me to mirror the author’s website. Interesting, and valuable in the long term – but not what I need.

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Comments on 2008-08-14 Licensing Issues

Yep; that’s a strange choice of licensing for a map. No-derivatives makes sense for music where you don’t want someone else to mangle your lyrics. But a dungeon map that positively begs to be customized, I’m not convinced.

As you say, for your own game there’s no problem with personalizing the map. It does restrict making your version of the map available for public download, even if it’s released for free. Silly, that.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

GreyWulf 2008-08-14 23:00 UTC


thanks for the links. I think you should contact the author - maybe their just a knucklehead and clicked the wrong box. I’m using CCL for my Dead Queens of Morvena series, but it’s with Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. Maybe that’s what they intended. IMHO its good that people are using CCLs, but i think there’s a lot of misconception about what license people should use.

jonathan 2008-08-15 01:40 UTC


I’m the “knucklehead” author and I originally did it on purpose. I was experimenting/being cautious with the CC license and exploring my options while reading up on CC. With time, I realized that the share-alike option was the best route to follow so I have changed my license to follow suit. If you check you will see that I’m now using a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

Tim 2008-08-15 03:05 UTC


Thank you, Tim!

I also found another comment on the web by David Dorward. He writes:

If the author didn’t publish under a CC license, then normal copyright restrictions would apply. Thus you have gained, so be happy.
CC licenses don’t take anything away from you, and one of the things that they have left you is the ability to request further permissions.

Thus let me continue the discussion of the No-Derivatives license even though the original situation is no more.

I’d argue: Why use CC in the first place? No license would have achieved the same purpose. People wanting to build on your work would have to ask for permission. People wanting to archive your work instead would not have to ask for permission, but I guess I’m a tinkerer at heart. The simple act of copying might be enough for music since I’m not good enough to actually remix it. But I know how to remix code (sometimes), adventures, or maps.

I understand the sentiment of not wanting your work to be used for things you aren’t comfortable with, but I’m not sure that the license is the correct place to express the sentiment. Other licenses don’t do this, either. Imagine a work derived from hundreds of contributions, such as a Free Software project. What would be common denominator of allowed uses? How would we figure it out? And if we had to ask for permission everytime we wanted to make a change, how would it work? I think that controlling the creation of derivatives using the license works but for a very small number of contributors. It’s not something I want to encourage.

The alternative is a legal solution. There are basically two schools of thought regarding copyright – they differ in their regard for moral rights. These would be protected here in Switzerland, for example. As the Berne Convention says, this right allows you

to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation. [1]

Perhaps that’s good enough?

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-15 08:08 UTC


Sounds to me like you might like to get involved in our project, the Free RPG Community:

http://www.freeroleplay.org/

Ricardo 2008-08-15 08:10 UTC


Indeed, I like the idea!

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-15 08:25 UTC


(Ah ha, there is a comments system which I missed when I was looking around earlier)

“In fact I’d argue: Why use CC in the first place? No license would have achieved the same purpose.”

It wouldn’t. The license allows public redistribution, including as part of a collective work. As far as I know, you don’t get that for free under copyright law in most jurisdictions.

“I think that controlling the creation of derivatives using the license works but for a very small number of contributors. It’s not something I want to encourage.”

Speaking for myself - if a project got that big, then I’d consider relicensing it. It comes down to risk / benefit. A project that has enough momentum to keep generating something good gives enough benefit to risk that my work will be used in a way I don’t like.

David Dorward 2008-08-15 08:47 UTC


I wrote up a map key using Tim’s Dungeon Map 001.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-16 11:58 UTC

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2008-08-14 NearbyGamers

I’m feeling lonely here in Zürich. Apparently there is but one “elite roleplayer from northern Germany” (?) in this city.

Register at NearbyGamers.

Please.

On a more technical topic: I really like how their wiki-like tagging works. Add tags yourself. Edit these tags by clicking on them: Either redirect to variant spellings or add a little description for the tag. See how many other people used the same tags. Excellent design, here!

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Comments on 2008-08-14 NearbyGamers

We don’t have very many German campaigns on Obsidian Portal, either. Just check out our map: http://www.obsidianportal.com/map

Micah 2008-08-14 14:01 UTC


Yeah, that’s sad. I guess there are two problems here:

  1. German speakers like to play Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye) instead of D&D.
  2. German speakers are less likely to register with an English speaking community.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-14 14:26 UTC

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2008-08-15 Spieler Finden

Um Spieler zu finden kenne ich zwei Seiten: SpielerZentrale und NearbyGamers. Und NearbyGamers sieht ziemlich gut aus. Wenn sich nur in Mitteleuropa mehr Leute eintragen würden! Ich fühle mich so alleine hier. Anscheinend gibt es hier nur noch einen, der sich als “norddeutscher Eliterollenspieler” bezeichnet…

Dieser Aufruf soll hier mal als der erste deutsche Artikel in der Kategorie RSP stehen. Auf der Seite Rollenspiele war ja bis jetzt nicht arg viel zu finden. Hoffentlich gibt’s hier bald auf Deutsch bald mal ähnlich viel zu lesen wie in der englischen RPG Kategorie.

Und warum das ganze? Weil ein paar Verwegene ein Netzwerk für Deutsche Rollenspielblogs eingerichtet haben, ganz nach dem Muster der RPG Bloggers.

Mal schauen ob’s was wird. Mit Vorteil könnte ich zumindest mein Logo ohne Text wiederverwenden, haha:

Mein Logo 2008 – Klick für das neuere Logo

Bevor ich mich anmelde, sollte ich aber wenigstens einen weiteren Artikel auf Deutsch schreiben!

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2008-08-16 Little Dungeon

I recently wrote about licensing issues (→ 2008-08-14 Licensing Issues). Tim Hartin relicensed his maps under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License and so I wrote up a map key using his Dungeon Map 001.

Spoiler warning for my players!

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Comments on 2008-08-16 Little Dungeon

Love this! Pure old school 😊

GreyWulf 2008-08-16 13:16 UTC

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2008-08-18 Ein Wiki pro Spiel

So langsam werde ich glücklich mit Campaign Wiki. Dort läuft meine Software und erlaubt es jedem, einen eigenen Wiki für seine Rollenspielkampagne zu erstellen.

Jetzt müsste ich nur noch die Texte auf Deutsch übersetzten.

Ich habe den Eindruck, dass die Info Seite etwas überarbeitet werden muss, denn ein paar Benutzer scheinen ab und zu Mühe zu haben.

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2008-08-18 Grosse Anzahl Spieler

Einer der lokalen D&D Spielleiter hier in Zürich hat vor, eine Kampagne in der Art von Ben Robbins West Marches zu lancieren. Auf dem Web gibt’s schon ein paar Seiten zur Grenzmarken Kampagne. Insbesondere die Zusammenfassung der Regeln könnte für Aussenstehende interessant sein.

Der wichtigste Punkt steht gleich zuerst:

Eine offene, kartenbasierte Kampagne: Die Kampagne ist für eine beliebige Zahl Spieler offen und ist ortsbasiert, d.h. sie dreht sich um die Erkundung der wilden Grenzmarken. Ausgangspunkt für die Kampagne ist das Gasthaus „Zum Streitbaren Grenzer“ in der Grenzstadt Myrdahl, in dem sich Abenteurer und Entdecker aus allen Ländern treffen. Während beliebig viele Spieler an der Kampagne teilnehmen können, finden einzelne Abenteuer in der Regel mit 3-5 Spielern von wechselnder Zusammensetzung statt. [1]

Also habe ich ein paar Bekannten aus der Umgebung mal angeschrieben. Meine Hoffnung ist natürlich, dass man mit einer grossen Sammlung von Spielern öfter zu einem Spiel kommt. Klar, es gibt wohl nicht mehr eine tolle Geschichte pro Spieler. Die Abenteuer werden wieder einfacher. Aber das ist ja immer noch besser als gar nicht zu spielen.

Wen’s interessiert: kensanata@gmail.com – ich leite weiter. :)

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2008-08-18 SketchUp

I must have lived under a rock.

SketchUp is software that you can use to “create, modify and share 3D models”. It is available for Windows 2000/XP/Vista and Mac OS X (10.4+). By Google.

Notice how Google:sketchup+spaceship points you to the Google 3D Warehouse spaceship search.

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2008-08-18 define-derived-mode

Maybe I should post little snippets from my .emacs every now and then. Here’s a simple use of DerivedMode and a basic introduction to FontLock.

(define-derived-mode campaign-wiki-mode fundamental-mode
  "Campaign"
  "Campaign Wiki stuff including Creole Markup and BBCode."
  (setq font-lock-defaults '(campaign-wiki-font-lock-keywords)))

(defvar campaign-wiki-font-lock-keywords
  '(("\\[b\\].*?\\[/b\\]" . 'bold)
    ("\\[i\\].*?\\[/i\\]" . 'italic)
    ("\\*\\*.*?\\*\\*" . 'bold)
    ("\\*.*?\\*" . 'bold)
    ("\\_</.*?/" . 'italic)
    ("|+=?" . font-lock-string-face)
    ("\\\\\\\\[ \t]+" . font-lock-warning-face))
  "Keywords for Campaign Wiki mode.")

This gives me very basic font-locking for Campaign Wiki texts which use a mix of WikiCreole and BBCode. It implements the following:

[b]bold[/b]
[i]italic[/i]
**bold**
*bold*
/italic/
this/that/there is not italic
|= foo
| bar
\\ followed by whitespace gets a warning

It’s not much, but it got me started.

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Comments on 2008-08-18 define-derived-mode

Your .emacs always looked useful, it was always to confusing to tell what it did. Great idea to write small articles about it. Look forward to more.

AaronHawley 2008-08-20 19:32 UTC


Cool. Let’s see how long I can keep it up! :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-21 08:31 UTC

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2008-08-19 Emacs on Windows

Here are some more snippets from my .emacs file. This time from my Windows machine.

I really like Eshell. In fact, I want C-z to switch to it; and since I like toggles, hitting C-z again will bury eshell. Nice.

I also want to use the powers of Emacs when inside eshell, which is why I override some of the default keybindings. I use M-p and N-n to navigate the history. The alternative would be to use C-p and C-n to move up and down in the buffer. I dislike that.

Asking me whether to save the history is a usability problem. Don’t ask, just do the right thing.

The last things are just neat stuff to do. No longer will you be confused if your fingers type emacs, man, or dired into the buffer – Emacs will know what to do.

;;; eshell
(global-set-key (kbd "C-z") 'eshell)
(setq eshell-save-history-on-exit t)
(add-hook 'eshell-mode-hook
	  (lambda ()
	    (local-set-key (kbd "C-z") 'bury-buffer)
	    (local-set-key (kbd "C-a") 'eshell-bol)
	    (local-set-key (kbd "<up>") 'previous-line)
	    (local-set-key (kbd "<down>") 'next-line)))
(defalias 'eshell/emacs 'find-file)
(defun eshell/dired () (dired (eshell/pwd)))

That brings me to another problem. Man pages! I found that woman does everything that man does, but slower. Except that running M-x man on my system causes an error and I’ve been too lazy to track it down.

;;; man using Cygwin seems to fail because no fgets is available.
;;; Use woman instead.

(defalias 'man 'woman)
(defalias 'eshell/man 'woman)
(setq woman-manpath '("c:/cygwin/usr/man"
		      "c:/cygwin/usr/share/man"
		      "c:/cygwin/usr/local/man"))

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Comments on 2008-08-19 Emacs on Windows

> I found that woman does everything that man does, but slower.

That’s dangerous talk there, Alex :)

GreyWulf 2008-08-19 12:22 UTC


Yeah, the authors of that package basically asked for cheesy jokes. :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-19 13:00 UTC


I should put that on EmacsChannelQuotes. Come to the channel and say that kensanata, so that I may satisfy the rules.

AlokSingh 2008-08-28 20:01 UTC


Hahahaha.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-28 20:36 UTC

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2008-08-19 Favorite Simple Markup

The Oddmuse:Markup Extension allows you to add simple ASCII string to Unicode character mappings. I like it!

$MarkupSingles{'\times'} = '&#215;';
$MarkupSingles{'\star'} = '&#9733;';
$MarkupSingles{'<-'} = '&#8592;';
$MarkupSingles{'<--'} = '&#8592;';
$MarkupSingles{'-->'} = '&#x2192;';
$MarkupSingles{'=>'} = '&#8658;';
$MarkupSingles{'==>'} = '&#8658;';
$MarkupSingles{'<=>'} = '&#8660;';
$MarkupSingles{'+/-'} = '&#x00b1;';
$MarkupForcedPairs{'~~'} = 'del';
$MarkupForcedPairs{'++'} = 'ins';

Related: TeX module for Oddmuse.

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2008-08-20 Blog With Oddmuse

The key to painless blogging with Oddmuse is easy page creation. In my Firefox, I defined a bookmark for http://www.emacswiki.org/cgi-bin/alex?action=new with the keyword new. Whenever I type “new” into the address field of my browser, I go to this page.

The page is implemented using a new action. The code below also adds the new action to the Administration menu.

Note how the code will also reject untagged pages.

push(@MyAdminCode, sub {
       my ($id, $menuref, $restref) = @_;
       push(@$menuref, ScriptLink('action=new', T('New'), 'new'));
     });

$Action{new} = \&DoNew;

sub DoNew {
  if (GetParam('tags', '') and GetParam('id', '')) {
    DoEdit(GetParam('id', ''), "\n\n\nTags: "
	   . join (' ', map { "[[tag:$_]]" } split(' ', GetParam('tags', ''))),
	   1);
  } else {
    print GetHeader('', T('New')), $q->start_div({-class=>'content categories'}),
      GetFormStart(undef, 'get', 'cat');
    my ($sec,$min,$hour,$mday,$mon,$year,$wday,$yday) = gmtime();
    my $today = sprintf("%d-%02d-%02d", $year + 1900, $mon + 1, $mday);
    my $go = T('Go!');
    print $q->p(T('Title: '),
		qq{<input type="text" name="id" value="$today" tabindex="1" />},
		GetHiddenValue('action', 'new'));
    print $q->p(T('Tags: '),
		qq{<input type="text" name="tags" tabindex="2" />});
    print $q->p(qq{<input type="submit" value="$go" tabindex="3" />});
    print $q->end_form, $q->end_div();
    PrintFooter();
  }
}

This code also appeared in some of the “blogging” extensions I wrote for Oddmuse.

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2008-08-20 CPerl

Another snippet from my .emacs file. The wiki engine I maintain (Oddmuse) is written in Perl. Some time ago I decided that CPerl Mode was better than Perl Mode. I don’t quite remember why.

The important part is that C-h f calls up Perl documentation instead of Emacs Lisp docs.

;;; perl
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.pl\\'" . cperl-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.t\\'" . cperl-mode))
(add-to-list 'interpreter-mode-alist '("perl" . cperl-mode))
(add-hook 'cperl-mode-hook
	  (lambda ()
	    (local-set-key (kbd "C-h f") 'cperl-perldoc)))

I guess I still have much to learn about CPerl Mode. Maybe I should start with (setq cperl-hairy t). Any other suggestions?

An alternative would be to defalias perl-mode to cperl-mode. The reason I’m not doing this is that my solution allows me to switch back to Perl Mode if the need arises. It never happened, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I like to avoid. I try to restrict my use of defalias to the creation of new symbols. No overwriting of existing stuff except for obvious things like (defalias 'yes-or-no-p 'y-or-n-p) (Yes Or No).

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2008-08-20 Confusion

Last Monday the party fought a mature adult red dragon owning a Chaos Diamond with the ability to cast Word of Chaos. The two non-chaotic characters (our healer and our damage dealer) were soon confused and ran away. This being a high-level fight including two bluespawn godslayers, two blackspawn exterminators, six redspawn arcaniss (all from Monster Manual IV) and about fifty kobolds (these provided the comic relief) taking about 10 rounds meant that they basically didn’t participate at all.

Confusion sucks.

I made sure to not list the spell in my M20 Hard Core rules. And I’m thinking of houseruling it out of my games altogether.

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Comments on 2008-08-20 Confusion

Yeh, Confusion is one of the unfun spells. On the plus side though, Dragonspawn are teh awesome! :D

GreyWulf 2008-08-20 18:39 UTC


Yeah, late pay-off from the Red Hand of Doom. :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-20 18:47 UTC


At the very least, you should make the PC-only spells. ;)

– Marco 2008-08-21 07:07 UTC


Well, Confusion is like all the fear effects. I’m thinking the main problem is that the victim runs away, effectively doubling the penalty and making it very hard for others to actually help. So what I’m thinking of right now is that it’s good enough to take cover or something similar. To take last Monday’s example, have Aurin and Nanami to hide behind the castle walls.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-21 07:57 UTC

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2008-08-20 Labyrinth Lord

I was browsing the net and somehow I ended up on Amazon. I decided to buy some dungeon tiles. Up to now we’ve been using A4 cardboard and a generic grid printed on ordinary paper in transparent sheet protectors with non-permanent markers as a battlemap. We’ll see whether I like it.

But while I was browsing around I noticed that Labyrinth Lord was available! I had recently stumbled upon a comparison of Labyrinth Lord and BFRPG (Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game) on The Dwarf and the Basilisk and as I was reworking my monster list for M20 Hard Core I had been going through the monsters in Labyrinth Lord. And the Dwarf and the Basilisk also mentioned that the Indie RPG Awards have awarded Labyrinth Lord a runners-up position for Free Game of the Year 2007.

I need to remind myself that the last time I used Labyrinth Lord was a mixed blessing (2008-04-20 Palace of the Silver Princess). Then again, I keep hoping that it’ll work better next time. And when I started my Kitsunemori campaign November 2006 we used GreyWulf’s M20 rules and they worked really well. So all in all I’m keep being fascinated by the retro games.

As I reworked the M20 Hard Core rules I wrote down what my “monster creation” rules were, by the way:

Creation: Pick a name, assign a level, hit dice = level, hit points = 1d6 per level, magic defense = 10 + level, all attack bonuses = level, damage = 1d6 for ordinary claws, bites, and weapons, 2d6 for large maws, giant clubs, 3d6 for dragon bites and the like, AC = armor equivalent; pick special abilities as the level increases. Special attacks act like magic attacks against an appropriate defense.
Monsters and non-player characters don’t have stats.

Thus, no strength bonus for damage, no dexterity or mind bonus for magic defense, no worries. Simple!

Maybe I should add HUMANS: HD: 1d6 AT: weapon +1 (1d6). Just to be sure.

Oh and how does GreyWulf manage to get his Gravatar into RPG Bloggers? Curious minds want to know. I looked at the feed sources and couldn’t find an image URL, a gravatar id, an email Address, nothing! Weird.

Anyway, I ordered Labyrinth Lord. From Amazon. Cool.

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Comments on 2008-08-20 Labyrinth Lord

I am King of the Wizards and used my mighty Wizard-Kingly Powers! Ha!

(Translation: I’ve no idea how or why either. But it sure it nice to see my face staring back at me :) )

I like the Monster Creation rules. Suitably Hard Core, suitably Microlite, and suitably old-school, all at the same time. Who needs a Monster Manual when you can just pick a Hit Dice, derive all the stats from that and give it a cool description right at the game table?

Talking of tables, it might be worth putting together a table of “standard” monster stats from 1-10 HD. In effect that’ll give you all the monsters you ever need (to level 10, anyhow) right there, ready to use. Nice.

GreyWulf 2008-08-20 22:18 UTC


More damn fine rules ! The table of standard monster stats is a good idea too.

We played a couple of sessions this week and, just like the M74 session the week before, they were great fun - it feels like we’re rediscovering something we lost along the way as game design ‘progressed’ and we adapted our gaming to suit.

– Sean 2008-08-23 11:26 UTC


I’m happy to learn that you had a good time! As my Monday game is slowly crawling towards the end, I’m starting to wonder what to play next and I’m trying to push for the M20 Hard Core rules together with the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-23 11:41 UTC


A cool combination - I’ve been using the Judges Guild Ready Ref PDF for the random tables. We’re thinking of using the ‘Points of Light’ setting guide that just came out for a campaign

– Sean 2008-08-24 07:22 UTC


Ended up making up a little setting pocket-mod - posted it on the Campaign Setting page on the Microlite 20 site.

The NPC generator is a great little tool.

– Sean 2008-08-31 08:22 UTC

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2008-08-21 Monkey Encoding and SQL

Another snippet from my .emacs on the Windows machine. I think I’m going to focus on simple pieces of code, rambling style, and lazy Emacs geek culture (unlike SachaChua’s impressive collection of Emacs posts, hehe).

Generally I don’t want to mess with my machine’s locale because everything else seems to work so well. But inside Emacs, I want UTF-8. Easy! The only problem is that filenames need to be compatible between Emacs and the rest of the system. Here’s how to solve that.

(prefer-coding-system 'utf-8)
(setq default-file-name-coding-system 'cp1252)

Remember last time (→ 2008-08-19 Emacs on Windows) I talked about liking C-z to toggle two tasks – usually editing and the shell (and Eshell in particular). Well, I want the same thing in SQL modes. I want to use C-z to toggle between the “SQL command line” and my SQL code buffer.

(add-hook 'sql-mode-hook
	  (lambda ()
	    (local-set-key (kbd "C-z") 'sql-oracle)))
(add-hook 'sql-interactive-mode-hook
	  (lambda ()
	    (local-set-key (kbd "C-z") 'bury-buffer)
	    (set-process-coding-system (get-buffer-process sql-buffer) 'latin-1 'latin-1)))

Notice that last line mentioning some encoding issues? Back to the main point of this article: SQL*Plus expects me to send and read Latin-1. I guess I could fix this by setting the NLS_LANG environment variable (but only within Emacs since it works just fine outside of Emacs).

That reminds me of another SQL mode problem. When you create a new SQL buffer, it will adopt the current SQLi (the interactive buffer where your interpreter is running) as its own target buffer (to send commands to, for example). If you then kill the SQLi buffer, the original SQL buffer is using a killed buffer as its target. Bad. If you then create a new SQLi buffer, the buffer local sql-buffer variable isn’t fixed automatically. Here’s some code that does it for you:

(add-hook 'sql-interactive-mode-hook 'my-sql-set-buffer)

(defun my-sql-set-buffer ()
  (let ((new-buffer (current-buffer)))
    (dolist (buf (buffer-list))
      (with-current-buffer buf
	(unless (buffer-live-p sql-buffer)
	  (setq sql-buffer new-buffer)
	  (run-hooks 'sql-set-sqli-hook))))))

Let me go back to encoding problems… Where else do they pop up?

Strangely enough, the month names in calendar-month-name-array need to be in Latin-1. I don’t know why. That’s just what I found in my .emacs. Here goes the fix for German speakers trying to localize their calendar:

(setq calendar-week-start-day 1
      calendar-day-name-array ["Sonntag" "Montag" "Dienstag" "Mittwoch"
			       "Donnerstag" "Freitag" "Samstag"]
      calendar-month-name-array
      (apply 'vector
	     (mapcar (lambda (s)
		       (encode-coding-string s 'latin-1))
		     '("Januar" "Februar" "März" "April" "Mai"
		       "Juni" "Juli" "August" "September"
		       "Oktober" "November" "Dezember"))))

Notice that my .emacs file has this on the first line:

;;; .emacs for Alex Schroeder's machine at work -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

The coding cookie makes sure that the entire file (and the contents of all string literals) is decoded as UTF-8. Anyway, I think this might be a bug in CalendarMode. But I’m too lazy to follow up.

The SQL example is an example of an external process not using my favorite encoding. The same is true on IRC. I use rcirc as my IRC client, and the following allows Emacs to try and decode any incoming traffic using its own heuristics (MULE).

(setq rcirc-decode-coding-system 'undecided)

As for encoding outgoing text, you can do that by setting rcirc-encode-coding-system. But doing that in a hurry sucks. So here’s a new command, /encoding. This code is also on rcircEncoding.

(eval-after-load 'rcirc
  '(defun-rcirc-command encoding (arg)
     "Change the encoding coding system
`rcirc-encode-coding-system' for the current buffer only."
     (interactive)
     (if (string= arg "")
	 (rcirc-print process (rcirc-nick process) "NOTICE" target
		      (symbol-name rcirc-encode-coding-system))
       (setq rcirc-encode-coding-system (intern-soft arg)))))

Notice how I use eval-after-load to delay the call to defun-rcirc-command until it will be available, avoiding the need to (require 'rcirc).

Feel free to find the Comments on 2008-08-21 Monkey Encoding and SQL link below and ask questions or make suggestions. :)

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Comments on 2008-08-21 Monkey Encoding and SQL

I noticed the same issue with the SQLi buffer in SQL mode. I’ve always thought of brewing up patch at some point so that it DTRT.

You really use Emacs at work to crank out PL/SQL code all day? That’s wild.

AaronHawley 2008-08-21 18:40 UTC


Haha, not at all. The past few days I’ve been writing a Tutorial for our new development platform (Eclipse stuff), using a simple CRM example with companies, people, meetings, participants. The example uses five or six tables. My most important applications are therefore:

  1. Eclipse, obviously
  2. Word, which is where I write the stuff
  3. sql-mode, in order to test simple SQL statements and insert sample rows
  4. Pidgin, to keep in touch with co-workers
  5. rcirc, to keep in touch with everybody else

Haven’t written PL/SQL in a year, I think.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-21 20:28 UTC


That’s good. You have your health to thank for that. PL/SQL is pretty mind numbing from my few experiences.

AaronHawley 2008-08-28 20:25 UTC


Hehe. I actually prefer PL/SQL to Java for stored procedures on the database because it will at least integrate seamlessly. Then again, in my free time I prefer not to use databases in the first place, haha.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-28 20:38 UTC

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2008-08-22 Regelleicht oder nicht

So langsam ahne ich das Ende meiner Kurobano And The Dragons Kampagne. Am letzten Spielabend wurde ein Drache CR 18 mit vier Gehilfen CR 10 und diversen kleineren Freunden CR 6 niedergemacht. Ja, es hat zehn Runden gedauert – aber wenn die ersten Spieler dann Stufe 15 erreichen – was bringe ich dann?

Ich glaube es ist langsam an der Zeit, die Kampagne zu beenden. Pazuzus Einmarsch gilt es zu verhindern, Tiamats gilt es wieder hinaus zu werfen, und die guten Drachen werden wieder angesiedelt.

Und dann?

Ich bin mir noch etwas unschlüssig:

Und:

Die primitiven M20 Regeln hätten den Vorteil, dass sich Powergaming ausserhalb des Spielabends nicht mehr lohnt. Eigentlich habe ich ja kein Problem mit den Regeln. Regeldiskussionen gab es schon lange keine mehr. Aber mit dem Magic Item Compendium wurde der Abstand zwischen denjenigen, die vor allem nur mit anderen Leuten am Tisch sitzen wollen, und denjenigen, die sich durch das Buch durcharbeiten, immer grösser. Diejenigen, die sich nicht dafür interessieren, müssen sich dann doch von den anderen Tipps geben lassen (welchen Gegenstand brauche ich?) oder bei Kämpfen eine Nebenrolle spielen. Und ich als Spielleiter finde mich in einer Situation wo der Unterschied zwischen den Starken und dene Schwachen zu gross ist. Jeder weiss schon, für wen die dicken Brocken und für wen die kleinen Fische im Kampf sind. Das gefällt mir nicht.

M20 hätte auch den Vorteil, dass meine überarbeitete Spruchliste mit weniger Buffs zum Tragen käme. Ich werde mal die Spieler fragen, ob das ein Grund wäre, nicht zu spielen.

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Comments on 2008-08-22 Regelleicht oder nicht

> was bringe ich dann?

Ich würde gerne einen Balor sehen…

– Sektat 2008-08-23 18:09 UTC


Back to the roots! :-) M20 und Rollenspielen statt Powergamen. Gruppenziele statt Egoaufblaser. Spezialisierte und vor allem differentierte Charaktere statt alle können alles.

– Tsutomu 2008-08-26 15:00 UTC


Ich vermute aber, dass manch einer hier folgendes versteht: “Spezialisiert” muss heissen, regeltechnische Unterschiede. Und meine M20 Hard Core Regeln würden genau das natürlich nicht bieten – es wäre im Ermessen des DM, Spezialfähigkeiten zu vergeben.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-26 15:30 UTC


> Back to the roots

Hmmm. Was sind unsere roots? ⇒ “Das schwarze Auge”. Dort waren die Regeln auch einfach, oder? Attacke+Parade, kein Skillsystem (das kam erst später dazu glaube ich), wenig Sprüche. Muss mal schauen ob ich mein Regelset dazu noch finde…. Wie gings dann weiter?

DSA ⇒ AD&D ⇒ eigene-regeln ⇒ Regelloses Rollenspiel ⇒ Pause, alle haben aufgehört ⇒ M20 ⇒ D&D 3.5 ⇒ ???

– Sektat 2008-08-26 22:41 UTC


Im Moment bin ich ja in der komfortablen Lage, in fünf Kampagnen zu spielen. Deswegen habe ich keine Hemmungen, mit einer Kampagne auf eine M20 Variante zurück zu wechseln. Und dann gibt’s ja noch Spirit of the Century, Amber RPG und The Burning Wheel – die würde ich auch gerne noch ausprobieren.

Zudem bin ich mir auch nicht sicher, ob es eine gute Idee ist, jeden Montag in der gleichen Kampagne zu spielen. Falls die Grenzmarken Kampagne abgeht, könnte ich ja entweder etwas ähnliches anbieten, oder einfach Co-DM für Peter machen. Oder wir machen 50:50 – die Hälfte der Montage sind kleine Episoden mit verschiedenen Regeln und die andere Hälfte eher traditionell.

Mit einfacheren Regeln hätte ich auf alle Fälle nicht das Gefühl, jedesmal vier Bücher zu brauchen, wenn ich mich auf einen Spielabend vorzubereiten. Das wäre schon mal etwas.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-26 22:46 UTC


Einmal die Woche ein Spiel leiten ist ohnehin tuff und auf Dauer kaum durchzuhalten.

In meinen Augen wird D&D in den höheren Levels, so ab 10 oder 12, zu einem unspielbaren Game für Logistik-Experten. Entscheidend ist doch nur noch, ob man sich mit den richtigen Spells, Items und Waffen auf einen Gegner vorbereitet hat - dann ist der Kampf in 2 Runden vorbei - oder nicht. Dann heisst’s Run&Rest. Und wenn ich mir die Stat-Blöcke eines CR20 Monsters so anschaue mit allen Feats, Spells und Spezialfähigkeiten, so frage ich mich, wie ich das Monster als DM ohne zwei Personal Assitants noch wirkungs- und stimmungsvoll spielen soll. Das alles sage ich allerdings als jemand ohne Spiel- oder Spielleiter-Erfahrung jenseits Level 9…

…unsere Reaktion war bisher darauf, sich auf das Spiel in den unteren Levels zu konzentrieren und dieses durch progressiv langsamere Aufstiege etwas länger zu geniessen. Nach 1-2 Jahren waren die Kampagnen dann ohnehin fertig oder totgelaufen.

Die Vorbereitung finde ich in den unteren Levels nicht so aufwendig. Als DM muss man sich glaubs auch einfach wieder etwas mehr die Freiheit nehmen, sich von all den detaillierten aber letztlich auch nur pseudo-präzis-balancierten Regeln zu lösen. Wenn interessiert’s schon, ob man die Save DC für ein Monster exakt nach der entsprechenden Tabelle ermittelt hat - oder die Skills? Einfach was erfinden, was in etwa Sinn macht. Aber es ist natürlich schon so, dass ich seit 3.x mehr auf die Regeln und Vorgaben achte als früher bei AD&D, wo man Stats rein mit gesundem Menschenverstand zusammenbastelte oder ad hoc erfand.

Für high-powered-Games gibt es wohl bessere Systeme als D&D. Exalted vielleicht? Ich kenne es aber nicht wirklich. Mit Vampire von WW hatten wir früher gute Erfahrungen mit einem high-powered-System gemacht.

Im low-powered Fantasy-Bereich kann ich sonst auch das Warhammer Fantasy RGP, 2. revidierte Edition, empfehlen. Ist stimmungsvoll und hat einen speziellen Horror-Touch. Ausserdem mag ich das Magie-System sehr: Man kann als Magier beliebig oft zaubern, doch je mehr man zaubert und je mächtigere Sprüche man wirkt, desto grösser wird die Gefahr für Zauberpatzer, da man dabei die Kräfte des Chaos anzapft… die Auswirkungen der Patzer reichen dann von saurer Milch in der Umgebung oder leichter Erschöpfung über temporäre Mali bis hin zu permanenten Mutationen und Geisteskrankheiten.

– Peter 2008-08-28 14:08 UTC


Irgendwie reizt es mich natürlich auch, die Kampagne so weit wie möglich zu treiben, weil ich genau weiss, dass die Chancen gering sind, in den nächsten Jahren wieder auf diese hohen Stufen zu kommen (4 × 14. Stufe, 1 × 13. Stufe). Über diese Herausforderung hinaus interessieren mich “high powered games” allerdings nicht besonders. Von mir aus könnte man also das Spiel gut bei Stufe 12 beenden. Ab Stufe 9 sollte man ein Schloss oder eine Festung haben, dann wird noch etwas Land gegen die Nachbarn gesichert und die Nachfolge geregelt – und dann wird der Charakter vom Spielleiter übernommen und die Spieler fangen anderswo wieder an.

Deswegen werde ich mich von alleine nicht für Exaltet, Vampires, oder ein Superhelden System engagieren. Das muss schon ein anderer übernehmen.

Von Warhammer Fantasy 2nd ed. habe ich schon viel Gutes gehört. Steht auch auf meiner Wishlist drauf. :)

Ob (meine) Spieler allerdings an diesem langsamen Niedergang à la Call of Cthulhu Spass haben, kann ich nicht sagen. Ich vermute mal, dass dem nicht so ist. Bis jetzt waren Verlust und Verzweiflung auf alle Fälle keine bestimmenden Elemente in meinen Spielen.

Dass du die Regeln als “pseudo-präzis” bezeichnest liegt genau auf meiner Linie. Auf der einen Seite spielt man ein komplett hirnrissiges System mit Hitpoints und auf der anderen Seite will man nicht auf einfachere Regeln umstellen, weil die komplexeren Regeln irgendwie auch Realismus versprechen. Schlussendlich vermute ich mal – basierend auf diversen Berichten zu D&D 4E wie zum Beispiel den Aufsätzen von Justin Alexander (Playtesting 4th Edition und Dissociated Mechanics – dass die Faszination mit den Regeln einem anderen Spielertyp entsprechen. Der Spass an den Regeln an sich ist die Lust am Verständnis und der Nutzung eines komplexen Systems. Das kann – muss aber nicht – mit der Lust am Erzählen, Zuhören, Blödeln und Vorstellen zusammen einher gehen. Aber ich für mich geniesse die Sache nicht so sehr und werde mir für die nächste Kampagne etwas überlegen.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-28 20:15 UTC

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2008-08-22 bs-show

Yeah yeah, more .emacs goodness! Well. Simple stuff, right? So here’s the thing: In the old days, I switched buffers using buffer-list which is bound to C-x C-b. It does the job. Then I learnt about buffer-menu and bound it to C-x C-b. Time passes. People talk about ibuffer. But it’s too damn complicated. I realized that bs-show is good enough for me.

It lists the buffer the way I want them, and it allows me to quickly cycle through the sets I’m interested in, and it’s easy to define new sets. Use ‘c’ to cycle through the sets.

;;; bs instead of buffer-menu
(global-set-key (kbd "C-x C-b") 'bs-show)

(setq bs-configurations
      '(("all" nil nil nil nil nil)
        ("files" nil nil nil bs-visits-non-file bs-sort-buffer-interns-are-last)
        ("dired" nil nil nil
         (lambda (buf)
           (with-current-buffer buf
             (not (eq major-mode 'dired-mode)))) nil)
        ("rcirc" nil nil nil
         (lambda (buf)
           (with-current-buffer buf
             (not (eq major-mode 'rcirc-mode))))
	 rcirc-sort-buffers)))

(defun rcirc-sort-name (buf)
  "Return server process and buffer name as a string."
  (when (boundp 'rcirc-server-buffer)
    (with-current-buffer buf
      (downcase (concat (if rcirc-server-buffer
			    (buffer-name rcirc-server-buffer)
			  " ")
			" "
			(or rcirc-target ""))))))

(defun rcirc-sort-buffers (a b)
  "Sort buffers A and B using `rcirc-sort-name'."
  (string< (rcirc-sort-name a)
	   (rcirc-sort-name b)))

Notice how the rcirc entry uses a separate sorting routine, and how the sorting routing uses a “SERVER TARGET” to sort buffers. Thus, all targets on a particular server are grouped together. Also note the use of boundp to check whether the rcirc variables exist. If rcirc isn’t loaded, we must avoid “Symbol’s value as variable is void” errors.

I don’t remember any longer why I used the negative test for the major-mode in bs-configurations. If you try to use the positive tests it just doesn’t work. I just tried it. I’m too lazy to investigate. If you figure it out, let me know.

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2008-08-23 Creating New Pages

Another little Oddmuse configuration goodie. I use it on EmacsWiki. If you fisit a page Foo and it doesn’t exist, the page will say “This page does not exist, but you can create it now.”

push(@MyInitVariables, sub {
       my $id = GetId();
       $NewText = Ts('This page does not exist, but you can %s.',
		     '[Self:action=edit;id=' . UrlEncode($id) . ' '
		     . T('create it now') . ']')
	 if $id;
       });

And the way I’ve written it you can translate it, too.

$Translate{'This page does not exist, but you can %s.'}
    = 'Dies Seite existiert nicht. Wollen Sie die Seite %s?';
$Translate{'create it now'} = 'jetzt erstellen';

⇒ Dies Seite existiert nicht. Wollen Sie die Seite jetzt erstellen?

I like it so much I should add it to the Oddmuse core.

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2008-08-24 Love and Honor

We watched the last movie in a series of three movies by Yôji Yamada: Love and Honor (2006). Once again the movie is based on a novel by Shûhei Fujisawa. And once again, I loved it.

As in previous movies, there’s a reluctant samurai bound by love and honor, and there is but a single significant duel. This movie showed some elements of a relationship that I found heart-breaking: A couple keeping secrets from each other trying to protect the other from something they feel would hurt them, and by doing so, hurt them. Growing mistrust. Other people driving a wedge between two lovers. Exploitation.

Maybe I’m just growing old and soft. :)

These sad moments make me appreciate my love even more. Was it Aristotle’s theory on tragedy that said the pain you experience lets you appreciate your own happiness? I think my heart must have been overflowing for hours. <3 <3

Continued from 2007-06-12 Hidden Blade.

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Comments on 2008-08-24 Love and Honor

Two words: Weich. Eyer.

Just think back to the Hidden Blade. You remember the scene when the guy got his hand shot off? That was awesome. You remember how awesome it was? Think. Now hold onto that thought. That thought is your rock. Stabilize yourself with the rock. Concentrate. Stabilize. Deep breath…

Phew, I think I saved you just in time.

– Marco 2008-08-26 16:20 UTC


Habe den ersten Kommentar von dem angegebenen Link gelesen und meine, der Film würde mir auch gefallen. Nur weiss ich nicht, ob er hier in Rio zu sehen sein wird. Mich ergreifen solche Themen ebenfalls. Im Alter wird es dann noch schlimmer! Diesen Film hätte ich lieber gesehen als “Question Humaine”!!

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-08-26 17:09 UTC


Ja, das muss ein schrecklicher Film gewesen sein. Eigentlich lache ich ja immer über die Leute, die im Kino nichts verstehen. Aber so wie du es beschreibst… Da bin ich lieber vorsichtig, haha.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-26 21:40 UTC


Philisophic comment on Marcos comment (my opinion):

If you misunderstand strenght for not letting anything emotional touch, you may have hardness but you’re not strong… Real strenght and power can embrace love as it shows and deal with it (however that might happen…).

Anyway, love you Marco! ;)

– move 2008-08-28 09:57 UTC

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2008-08-29 Black Cat, White Cat

Today we watched Black Cat, White Cat (1998) following a suggestion by a friend of ours. The props, the faces, the set, the chaos everywhere, perfectly caught on film – the result was hilarious!

I totally recommend this movie if you want something crazy & fun. And it has gipsy music. Lots of it. I like it.

I need to listen to more Balkan music. It pains me to remember that my Croatian physiotherapist and movie buff Zoran had given me half a dozen or more CDs full of Balkan music back in the days when I thought MP3s were never going to catch on. I wasn’t ready for the music and didn’t copy any of it. I didn’t even write down any names. The two I remember are Emir Kusturica and Goran Bregović.

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Comments on 2008-08-29 Black Cat, White Cat

Hilarious movie. “Pitbull … Terrier” :D

AlokSingh 2008-09-10 16:41 UTC


Hehe. The visuals were stunning! (And I liked the music as well, of course.)

AlexSchroeder 2008-09-10 21:15 UTC

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2008-08-29 Importance and Work

The web is full of truisms.

As they say, no one lies on their deathbed and thinks, “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” – Monte Cook [1]

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2008-08-30 dired

I’ve grown to like dired. I used to hate it, coming from a Norton Commander background. I haven’t used NortonCommanderMode, Sunrise Commander or any related modes. You want to recommend one?

Here’s what I use for dired:

(setq dired-recursive-deletes 'top
      dired-recursive-copies 'top
      dired-dwim-target t)
(add-hook 'dired-mode-hook (lambda ()
			     (local-set-key (kbd "C-c C-r")
					    'wdired-change-to-wdired-mode)))

Wdired really beats mmv and all the other tools I thought I should learn but never did. Or if I did I’d forget everything about them until I needed them again. Rename files in an Emacs buffer. Look at the result, and the press C-c C-c to make the changes. It doesn’t get any better than that. JohnWiegley also mentioned that you can use C-x C-s, which fits the model of “save my changes” very well. Personally I use C-c C-c because that’s what I use to “commit” changes when writing VersionControl log messages…

I also like recursive deletes and copies, but I see that they can be tricky, which is why I want to be asked. Once.

And the DWIM option allows dired to guess the target of your copy and rename operations by looking at the other dired buffers visible right now. Thus, open location A, split screen using C-x 2, open location B, and Emacs will know that you want to copy from A to B.

Some people really like to keep the number of dired buffers down. I used to worry about it, too. But then I learned to ignore it. Just make sure that your buffer switching doesn’t show you all the dired buffers unless you want to. Remember, I use bs-show.

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2008-08 Book Club

What: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

When: Tuesday (!) August 19, 19:30 @ Hotel Glockenhof courtyard

The first book of this trilogy was turned into the movie A Golden Compass (2007).

Wikipedia: Northern Lights, Philip Pullman.

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Define external redirect: rcirc CalendarMode PerlMode CPerlMode WikiCreole WikiFounding BufferSelection Sunrise Commander DerivedMode CommittedFounder SwitchingBuffers YesOrNoP SqlMode SeedPosting InitFile ListBuffers BufferMenu Eshell NortonCommanderMode IbufferMode FontLock EmacsLisp rcircEncoding Wishlist