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2010-02-01 Random Encounters in a Mid Level Sandbox

In my Alder King game most players have reached level 7; most of them have at least one follower (Entourage Approach). I’ve noticed how I’ve started increasing the difficulties of random wilderness encounters. The party has been traveling through the same nine hexes for most of the campaign. Thus, this change in difficulty needs some explaining. I want to avoid the Oblivion effect where the surroundings level up as the main character does.

Until now I’ve used the following rule: One hex per day, with a 1 in 6 chance of a random encounter; during the night there is another 1 in 6 chance of a random encounter. This is a D&D 3.5 game, so I also ask for a Survival check DC 20 or there’ll be a third 1 in 6 chance of a random encounter.

Recently the survival skills have grown to such levels that I no longer require the check. That already reduces the chances to two rolls of a d6. And given how the power level has changed with the death priest having installed himself in the chest of a three-armed giant skeleton and related stuff, I’ll reduce the change to 1 in 12 during the day and 1 in 12 during the night. That’s because all the small enemies will just run like hell when the party/war-band starts approaching.

At the moment the story is approaching a big battle (→ 2009-12-27 Mass Combat) so larger groups of enemies moving about make sense. I’m happy I announced at the beginning of the campaign that characters will be retired at the end of level 10. If they manage gain control over a settlement, then that’s what they’ll be for the rest of their days, where as the others will remain vagabonds and wanderers. Occasionally these high-level characters can still meet and go on an adventure, but the focus will be on the new guys from their entourage.

Thus, I’ll reduce the number of encounters to make the more difficult encounters more plausible, and I’ll reduce those encounters when the big battle is over.

And if they go on adventure later, there will be no more combat-oriented random encounters with a pair of lizardmen. Those will be social encounters.

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Comments on 2010-02-01 Random Encounters in a Mid Level Sandbox

I quite like your idea that the random encounters change because the PCs get a reputation for being too powerful to defeat, and thus only bigger and badder monsters are willing to take a chance. You can even add to this effect by having occasional random encounters that consist of weak opponents that used to trouble the PCs (orcs, lizardmen, etc.) coming to offer gifts or trying to swear fealty to the PCs . . .

Jhaeman 2010-02-01 22:54 UTC


Hehe, I thought about orcs and lizardmen attempting to talk to the PCs, just as the PCs would have tried to talk to the blue dragon they met back when they were 5th level, but offering gifts and swearing fealty? Priceless, haha. I must try that!

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-01 23:08 UTC

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2010-02-02 Reputation Mechanics

I’m playing D&D 3.5 but the following is more or less edition agnostic. Some time back I mentioned that player actions will eventually attract the attention of the gods. I’ve been using the same mechanic to track reputation with factions and other powerful figures in the area.

Typically this would involve items (1), lives (2), settlements (4), favors on the top level (8). These types usually don’t stack, in other words, two objects stolen are not equivalent to a person killed.

In my campaign, if you’ve been raised from the dead, you gain a +2 lives reputation reward from Orcus. If you then kill an elf, that doesn’t increase your bonus any further. If you reclaim an Orcus mace from the village and return it a temple of Orcus, you gain the +1 item reward. If you then betray the elven village to the orcs and help to kill them in the name of Orcus, you gain the +4 settlement reward. Your total reputation is now +7 as far as Orcus is concerned.

This involves a lot of eyeballing, of course. All I care about is ranges and adventure seeds: Fanatical servants who’ve done personal favors to their gods will have a reputation of +15. That also means that as soon as your reputation reachdes +4 the gods and the heads of factions must be showing a personal interest. The leader of the thieves guild, the lord of the castle, the head of the temple will start taking an interest in you, eventually providing you with opportunities to perform the favors you need to transcend into the reaches of +8 and higher.

The reputation acts as a circumstance bonus for Diplomacy & Bluff checks or as a penalty for Sense Motive & Intimidate checks.

For clerics, the reputation also indicates the highest spell level they can cast.

We’ll see how that goes. I’ll try that in my Alder King game. It forces clerics to get involved, and it forces referees to have the movers and shakers react to the player characters. Reputation will often suggest quests to perform: If the reputation of a character is in the range from -1 to +1, then maybe there should be a mission involving the rescue, abduction, escort, or assassination of a person.

I used to have a different mechanic. The following may be a system to return to if players are bored by reputation and need some dice rolling, or if the decisions of the referee seem to arbitrary.

Your reputation with every faction started out with your charisma score. When performing a service, you got to do a reputation check with the DC being your current score. D&D 3.5 example: If you had a charisma of 14 (+2) and performed your first good deed for the village priest, you got to make a check with a +2 bonus and a DC of 15.

Players liked rolling these reputation checks. The problem was that there was no “negative” reputation. I would have to assume that reputation smaller than 10 was a negative reputation. For negative events, I started to use a reputation check to prevent the loss of a reputation point. It was sometimes weird. Did Orcus like low Charisma scores? I had no answer. That’s why I reworked the system a bit.

Follow-up: 2012-07-10 Reputation Revisited

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2010-02-03 Sounds Podcast

The Indie radio show of my younger years is still on the air, but I hardly ever listened to it. But they finally saw the light and make their episodes available as a podcast. Virtual tears of joy are running down my cheeks.

I feel like buying the latest Eels CD.

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Comments on 2010-02-03 Sounds Podcast

Hi Alex!

– Anonymous 2010-02-21 08:25 UTC

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2010-02-05 Quality Dungeons

What do I personally like about small dungeons? The kind that keep us busy for a session or two? The kind that would make appropriate entries into the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010?

  • A handfull of named NPCs with goals and quirks to interact with.
  • Potential allies for the more politically inclined players.
  • Maybe even a third party beyond the party and the enemies.
  • Relations between these NPCs in a sentence or two. A is hiding from B. C really hates D. E escaped from the prison run by F.
  • Factions that these NPCs belong to. Actions will have long term consequences if factions are involved.
  • Intelligent opposition. If the monsters are too stupid, no amount of trickery will help.
  • If monsters are not intelligent, make them interesting. Slimes are more interesting than low-level undead because we’ve seen so many of those.
  • Good looking maps. A good looking map appeals to the referee and says “Pick me! Pick me!”
  • Notes on the map itself make it easier to get an overview of the place.
  • Multiple entrances for players to choose from.
  • Multiple exits for referees to append to.
  • A map that suggests multiple goals. Rescue prisoner here, kill boss there, find hidden treasure over there. That adds replayability.
  • A map key that is easy to skim by using bold keywords for monsters and other stuff of prime importance to players.
  • A setup that can be exploited in combat by tactically minded players. A bottleneck, a ledge, a bridge, a fortified position, a sally port.
  • An opportunity to spy on enemies for the stealthily minded players. A murder hole, a grate, a tiny tunnel, a scrying ball.
  • A map that could potentially work as the beginning of a campaign. It suggests greater things beyond its edge.
  • Memorable magic items. A rod of thunder and lightning is better than a something +1
  • Stuff to interact with for players who like to experiment. Add suggestions for possible reactions.
  • Traps that trick players such as finding amulets from a faction and the suggestion to wear them somewhere, and then realizing that an opposing faction built a trap for fools just like that.
  • Opportunity for long-term change to the player characters. Getting a title, an extra arm, the blessing of a god, a fancy familiar.

These thoughts culled from my comments on some of my favorite submissions in last year’s contest: 2009-07-01 Personal Favorites, 2009-07-02 More of my 1PDC Favorites, 2009-07-19 One Page Dungeon Contest Favorites, and 2009-08-23 The Last Bunch Of Favorites.

Do you agree? Do you have other preferences?

PS: There’s still time to submit your entry to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 – we have tons of prizes and I have only received two submissions until now. You still have a bit more than three weeks to work on it. Deadline is the first second of March 1, 0:00 GMT (careful about the timezone!)

PPS: Don’t let the list intimidate you. I’m just one of the seven judges. And my own submission to last year’s contest was in no way close :)

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Comments on 2010-02-05 Quality Dungeons

I like finding +1 items, they’re real workhorses!

Blair 2010-02-06 00:48 UTC


Related links:

A nice collection! :)

Update:

Interesting additions by another blogger:

  • a secret that the players can figure out about the dungeon itself, or some similar concept.
  • interesting terrain to make things more memorable and more challenging.

Update:

2012-11-17 How To Build A Dungeon

AlexSchroeder

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2010-02-06 The Dubliners

I’ve written about my love for The Pogues and Flogging Molly. And anybody who looks at my Last FM stats would know that The Dubliners are moving up.

Artist Overall
Tom Waits 1,760
The Cure 1,335
The Pogues 1,217
Belle and Sebastian 1,022
Radiohead 775
Nightwish 673
The Dubliners631
Bruce Springsteen 602
Flogging Molly 443
U2441
16 Horsepower 419
The Strokes 401
Madredeus 370
Tricky 355

Friday night I saw them in concert. I haven’t been to a live concert in ages. I generally think these concerts are too expensive (eg. U2). At the same time I think bands should earn their living from live appearances instead of relying on album sales. The future of music listening belongs to file-sharing, I hope.

I was surprised to learn that the concert actually had a break. Wow! I bought the three oldest CDs, the latest CD, a video with TV performances of Luke Kelly, spending twice as much money as I spent on the ticket, surprising myself.

These guys are old! Barny was barely able to walk. That had me dumbstruck for a while. I had recently seen Giulias Verschwinden. A Swiss/German movie about growing old. Seeing these old men performing reminded me of the misery of decay. When I returned home, I watched the videos with Luke Kelly, one of the founders who died in the eighties. That highlighted the age difference. During the concert they dedicated songs to deceased band members and recited poems. Again, I was so surprised I didn’t know what to think of it.

The Dubliners I saw were still playing the same songs they played forty years ago. That’s amazing! Clearly this band didn’t work like other artists. This was not a tour presenting a new album. This was a tour of artists entertaining their audience with songs they had been hearing for decades. The new album was an “upgrade” of the old songs with new vocals and the like. Maybe traditional music doesn’t need to “evolve” and reinvent itself every so many years?

Truly, an interesting experience.

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2010-02-07 Lulu Shipment Lost

I have a habit of reporting on my Lulu issues. Just click on the Lulu tag below… :)

Anyway. My last order was the following:

Wyrms & Warlocks: Medusa's Hunger - Daniel Proctor (Printed)                  $7.45        
Tomb of the Iron God - Matthew Finch (Printed)                                $7.61        
The Outpost On The Edge Of The Far Reaches - Paul Fini (Printed)              $7.35        
The People of the Pit - Alphonso Warden (Printed)                            $12.00       
Labyrinth Lord: Revised Edition (perfect bound) - Daniel Proctor (Printed)   $21.95       
Supplement VI The Majestic Wilderlands - Robert Conley (Printed)             $12.00       
Fight On! #7 Fall 2009 - Ignatius Umlaut (Printed)                            $9.00        
Coupon Savings HOHOHO: 	 	  	 				    $-15.47
Subtotal:      								     $61.89
Shipping: 								     $35.68
Total: 									     $97.57

Not bad, eh?

The strange thing is that they split the order into two shipments: Supplement VI The Majestic Wilderlands, and everything else. Everything else arrived just fine.

I have never lost anything in the mail ever since the early nineties when we lived in Bangkok.

Did the printer just get money for just a single package and decided not to post the second package? I have no idea.

No Supplement VI. This sucks.

And yet… I just ordered the following:

Savage Swords of Athanor - Doug Easterly (Printed)                      $8.00        
Supplement VI The Majestic Wilderlands - Robert Conley (Printed)       $12.00        
Advanced Edition Companion (Perfect bound) - Daniel Proctor (Printed)  $22.95        
Subtotal:                                                              $42.95
Shipping:                                                              $24.45
Total:                                                                 $67.40

There appears to be no cost-effective alternative.

Yes, I ordered Supplement VI again. Should I get the first Supplement VI after all, I’ll donate it as a prize for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010. An excellent opportunity to get rid of some stuff. :)

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Comments on 2010-02-07 Lulu Shipment Lost

Contact Lulu and have them refund the purchase or send a new one at their cost. If they refuse to cooperate, contact your credit card company, explain what happened, and they will issue a charge back.

CrusssDaddy 2010-02-07 02:57 UTC


Well what they said was this:

Orders shipped via Mail are not traceable and can take up to 6 weeks to be delivered.  The delivery time may be affected by several factors, including incorrect delivery addresses or Post Office delivery restrictions.
Your package has shipped as two separate packages, One on 2009-12-20 and the next on 2009-12-23. It should still be on its way to you. If it is returned to our offices we will contact you and refund you for your order.

From a Swiss perspective I think they are right. They could send me free replacement but it’d be simply goodwill, not my right. I could have chosen some other shipping method. But those are so outrageously expensive that it’s still cheaper to loose a shipment every now and then. And in this case I lost only (?) $12 + shipping of that part of the package. Oh well. Sucks. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-07 06:17 UTC


Regardless of what Lulu says, your credit card company offers specific protections for purchases - it’s really the only area where they offer exceptional customer service. If your package does not arrive within six weeks, contact your credit card company and they will issue a charge back.

CrusssDaddy 2010-02-07 17:20 UTC


Sorry to hear that. The only consolation I can offer is that RPGNow is moving on their Print on Demand service so there will be alternatives to Lulu for RPG Products.

Rob Conley 2010-02-07 22:56 UTC


Cruss – hm, I hadn’t thought of checking whether they insure this kind of stuff. I’ll look at the contract again.

Rob – yeah, I can’t wait for that Print on Demand service to get going! There are three Necromancer Games modules I want to get in print form. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-08 13:47 UTC


Weird. I just got an email saying that part of my latest order shipped, Supplement VI: The Majestic Wilderlands. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-09 23:48 UTC

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2010-02-08 Character Death

I think that the fear of death and the risk of death are part of the core experience of D&D. Michael Curtis recently quoted Roger E. Moore from Dragon #144 who wrote about a lone paladin fighting a demon and winning. It’s an awesome story. The fear of death and a good story involving death or survival are important.

The antithesis of this is out-of-character complaining about the rules, asking for reconsiderations or rerolls because of this or that. That sucks all the drama out of the scene. Specially since we’re playing D&D and there’s nearly always a means of getting raised. All you loose is a level. Due to how XP work in D&D, you’re basically falling behind your peers for a few sessions only.

My personal motto:

“I prefer dying unfairly at the hands of a tough DM to living in shame, protected by a merciful DM!”

I’m not a masochist. I just want to be proud of the achievement. I can’t be proud of a gift given to me by a magnanimous GM. For best effect, the game rewards avoiding risky situations such as XP for gold or a sandbox wilderness or megadungeons where players get to choose their risk and reward levels themselves.

I’m well aware that not everybody shares this point of view, which is why players in my games can recheck the exact numbers surrounding character death, check whether they gained a level before dying, etc. I accept it because these players enjoy a different aspect of the game.

All merciless or all generous are the simple cases. What about mixed groups, I wonder. Does your group experience a similar pull in different directions? How do you handle it?

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Comments on 2010-02-08 Character Death

I love character death.

At my last session we had some new players. I told them up-front that character death is a likely possibility; that their characters are not any more super-human than they are… for now. Despite the warning, a couple of players decided their characters were rather heroic and tried some pretty spectacular stunts against an owl-bear they encountered while running through a forest. One of them succeeded and managed to really take a good chunk out of the beast; but enraged it struck back at him and made him a smear on the forest floor.

The upside of playing an older edition however was that characters take 5 minutes to generate so the player of this ill-fated character had a new one ready and joined right back in.

No one has forgotten that scene.

j_king 2010-02-08 17:49 UTC


In my D&D campaign, dead is dead – no resurrection, no raising, nada. As a result, the PCs think very carefully about what they want to do, how to minimize the risk of death in overcoming challenges, or even what challenges to not take on.

– Bevin Flannery 2010-02-08 19:52 UTC


Have any of your players ever objected? If so, how did you handle that tension between their desire for playing safe and your tendency to be tough? It sounds as if you said “I’m tough, if you don’t like it, don’t play.”

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-09 09:07 UTC


I still think you need some kind of permanent damage if you got killed and reraised. Like one attribut goes down by 1. Player decides which attribut. Of course everybody will pick his dumpstat, but I still think this could be fun. Charisma 4, Int 5….

– Sektat 2010-02-09 12:00 UTC


Hehe, yes, in the old days I think you lost 1 Con every time. Now you just loose 1 Con if you die at first level.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-09 12:24 UTC


Another death-related post, but only tangentially relevant to my discussion of different death expectations: Assumptions, Balance, and Death by Trollsmyth.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-09 12:45 UTC


I find myself pulled in different directions. Sometimes death seems an entirely appropriate end, given what happened, other times not so much. The AD&D DMG gives some advice as regards this, when players who made every decision right and still ended up dead.

Matthew James Stanham 2010-02-09 13:49 UTC


Have any of your players ever objected? If so, how did you handle that tension between their desire for playing safe and your tendency to be tough? It sounds as if you said “I’m tough, if you don’t like it, don’t play.”

Not sure if this was directed at me …

I’ve never cared for the “death isn’t permanent” thing in the types of campaigns/stories our group runs. If the PCs can come back, then so can the BBEG. No victory is really permanent, no loss has any significant impact beyond sheer mechanics. I’m not interested in comic book or soap opera deaths. If you manage to put the bad guy down, then he’s down for good. Similarly, if he puts you down, then your friends and family mourn (assuming you weren’t the sort they were glad to get rid of, of course), and go on without you.

That said, I’m not actually all that tough. I’m not a “me-vs-them” GM who tries to figure out how to kill the characters. If it ever came up (it hasn’t yet), I wouldn’t let a random dice roll by an NPC be the reason a PC died. I’ve also adopted Pathfinder rules for the save-or-die spells.

However, I do want the players to understand there are consequences for the decisions the PCs make including the decision to put themselves in a situation where they have to rely on their own random dice rolls for their survival. Further, the opponents are going to be whatever power level they are, and the opposition isn’t necessarily going to scale evenly with the PCs. The players can’t assume every encounter will be something they can defeat through sheer firepower.

If the barbarian decides he actually wants to try to mutilate and/or kill the NPC thief who is taunting him while she is standing right in front of a city guardhouse with a guard looking on, then he needs to understand what the likely outcome will be. Sure, he’ll probably manage to kill a dozen or so guards, too, but that just means the local authorities will bring out the big guns. This isn’t a hypothetical. I had a player do this – he’s the sort who likes to see how much he can get away with while still avoiding “punishment.” I made clear to him the likely course of events if he decided his barbarian would attack, and the other players made clear that their PCs would not go out of their way to protect him from the backlash.

Similarly, when the group was facing four landwyrms and a dragon, while searching for a religious artifact that the dragon had in his hoard, they could have tried fighting (with the odds stacked heavily against them) or do what they actually did … bargain to get what they wanted.

– Bevin Flannery 2010-02-09 15:36 UTC

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2010-02-11 Just in Time and Space Dungeon

For my Traveller game I have been using just-in-time dungeons: I invent atmosphere and details on the fly and skip right to the one or two encounters in the base, ruin, ship, city, or space station. It seems to work, but I still don’t feel too comfortable. Something’s wrong.

Is this a game about exploration? Science fiction stories are often about the what-if – but that alone a good adventure does not make.

I’d love to see some submissions for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 using Traveller or a similar science fiction background. I find it hard to write science fiction adventures. I have plenty of role models, examples, and discussion of fantasy adventures. It would be great to see some 1PDC submissions to teach newcomers how to design a very simple science fiction adventure for a session or three.

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Comments on 2010-02-11 Just in Time and Space Dungeon

I’ll show you sometime next time when I’m around and not killed by work and jetlag.

– Harald Wagener 2010-02-11 07:06 UTC


I think a lot of people share this feeling. I’ve tried to convince my players to try Traveller, and some of them are resistant, with the most common sentiment being “but what would I do?”

mthomas768 2010-02-11 13:22 UTC


And what is your reply, Mark? Right now the party seems to be heading into Mutant Chronicles territory. They have shown interest in aliens, been shooting yetis on an ice world, grew an interest in Giger-like dead aliens, found an abandoned space station and faced four undead soldiers…

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-12 01:06 UTC


This is a very common problem with Traveller. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing what types of adventures your players like and structuring the game in that direction. A lot of people who don’t play Traveller regularly (or haven’t been playing for years) get caught up in the Imperium setting and the underpinned merchant trader campaign arc and don’t see the appeal. For my part, I’ve not used either since the 1980’s. The game is an incredibly flexible (and simple) ruleset that will allow you to go in a thousand different directions.

I entered the one page dungeon contest last year and it didn’t even occur to me to do a Traveller adventure. I might have to take that up this time around.

Tim 2010-02-21 19:18 UTC


Please do and help save my Traveller campaign! :)

I think part of the problem is that none of us has ever played Traveller before so we were approaching the game like an experiment, waiting to see what kind of gameplay the rules afforded. I think the time has come to tighten up the campaign.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-21 23:44 UTC


I was wondering how to appeal to players with that game. Isn’t it funny that I don’t have a problem using dungeons in fantasy games all the time but fear that using stranded spaceships or space stations is straining it?

Crescent 2010-02-25 03:17 UTC


I’ve used an abandoned station and an abandoned ship in my campaign now, but unlike a dungeon with a defined map to explore I’ve used two or three encounters. “You make your way through the abandoned station at zero G and near zero Kelvin. As you turn around a corner of the corridor you see…” I guess I think of it as a scene in Alien (1979). There, the public also never learns the layout of the place. All that matters are the chains, the water, the cat, and roll for initiative!

Yet, players have asked a few times about a map and all I’ve given them were sketches of the current encounter and vague shapes to illustrate what the scanners are showing.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-25 05:26 UTC


See also this series on the 8:05 p.m. blog:

  1. 5 Traveller Rules
  2. Traveller Rule 1: Adventure – think Han Solo!

AlexSchroeder 2010-03-09 18:52 UTC

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2010-02-12 Lunatics on the Emacs Channel

I sometimes kick people from the Emacs channel on IRC. Often I am dragged into long discussions of whether I abused my power or not.

Then I get stuff like this:

16:59 !!! consolers sent unsupported ctcp: FUCKOFFANDDIE
14:57 !!! consolers sent unsupported ctcp: EATSHITANDDIE

braindamaged / >{ ?

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Comments on 2010-02-12 Lunatics on the Emacs Channel

He does the same everytime he is kicked/banned. I wonder why I didn’t get a pm yet…maybe you haven’t banned him yet.

– pgas 2010-02-12 15:21 UTC


Life’s too short to care about consolers. Random kick/bans are a good way of dealing with him, imho.

AlokSingh 2010-02-15 02:02 UTC


Thanks for keeping the channel useful by upholding community expectations.

AaronHawley 2010-02-15 03:51 UTC


Thanks, guys.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-15 19:50 UTC


14:20 !!! consolers sent unsupported ctcp: EATSHITANDDIE
14:39 !!! consolers sent unsupported ctcp: FUCKOFFANDDIE

I really must add him to my ignore list. That seems to be easier than contacting people on #freenode, I think.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-24 18:04 UTC


The power is with you to keep the channel a nice place. Kicking people like these out is what it’s there for. good job I say. :)

NoufalIbrahim 2010-03-06 09:41 UTC

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2010-02-16 Less Than Two Weeks To Go

In fact, you have about ten days to submit an entry to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010! Get your submissions in as soon as possible and continue working on it until the last minute. That would be February 28, 23:59 GMT. Check out last year's submissions for some inspiration.

And help spread the word! :)

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2010-02-18 Fish, Bird, and Other Favorites

I brought the MP3 player along for our winter holidays. Having a lot of music at our disposal is great. We play fantasy medieval music when we’re playing Dominion. We play the German Captain Future soundtrack when we’re playing Race for the Galaxy. We play Thom York’s The Eraser album and Tom Waits’ Alice album when Claudia and I are on the couch leaning against each other. We hum along when the bird falls in love with the whale, we think of mental illness as poor Edward kills himself, we drift along as a soft voice sings cut up texts about black swans over strange loops and beat box rythms. I remember walking through the sunny village and being blinded by the snow as The Dubliners sing about the McAlpine Fusiliers. There are Balkan Beats waiting for us. There is Karnatic classical music waiting for us. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is there in the morning and Belle & Sebastian are there in the evening. Transglobal Underground’s weird world music transmogrification, Bruce Springsteen’s folk songs, the strange Greek-Turkish Rebetika album we bought in Istanbul years ago, it’s all there, dancing around in our head. Truly the soundtrack of a life.

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Comments on 2010-02-18 Fish, Bird, and Other Favorites

Wo nimmst du all´ die Zeit her um soviel Musik zu hören? Ich habe immer weniger Zeit dafür. Demnächst schmeisse ich den Computer zum Fenster raus, dann wird es sicher besser!!!!!

– der Vater 2010-02-23 12:15 UTC


Oje, das tönt aber gar nicht gut! :)

Wir hören halt viel Musik im Hintergrund: Während dem Essen, Duschen, Lesen – und auch wenn wir am Computer sitzen! vee

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-23 14:45 UTC

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2010-02-19 Another Playlist

A best-of CD by The Dubliners and by Simon & Garfunkel, three albums by Madredeus, three albums by Smog (that’s what I started with), an album by Fairuz, a few Fado pieces by Amália Rodrigues, a few selected tracks by Sinéad O’Connor, and an album by Ibrahim Ferrer. This playlist created because a friend wanted something calmer than Transglobal Underground for the after-dinner game of Pandemic.

Yay portabel music player with small loudspeakers.

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2010-02-22 Support Freenode

I hang out on the EmacsChannel and other channels practically every working day. The current Give £7 for seven program gives me a T-shirt for £21. That’s a lot of money, but then again, I love IRC. :)

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2010-02-23 The Grinding Gear

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The Grinding Gear Alle zwei Wochen treffen sich ein paar Spieler, um neue Rollenspiele auszuprobieren. Wir spielen nicht nur Spiele, die neu erscheinen, sondern auch Spiele, die wir ansonsten selten spielen. Selber biete ich immer wieder mal Herr der Labyrinthe an. Irgendwie will es mir aber nicht gelingen, The Grinding Gear von James Edward Raggi IV alias Lamentations of the Flame Princess zu spielen. Vor einiger Zeit hatte James nach Leuten gefragt, die eine deutsche Rezension seiner Produkte schreiben würden. Ich habe mich gemeldet und habe unter anderem auch dieses kleine, englische A5 Heft zugeschickt bekommen. Das Heft gibt’s im deutschsprachigen Raum bei Spährenmeisters Spiele zu kaufen. Aus oben genannten Gründen ist diese Rezension leider keine Spielrezension sondern eine reine Leserezension.

Zuerst einmal fällt auf, dass das 16-seitige A5 Heft mit drei unbefestigten Pappschirmen geliefert wird. Der ersten Schirm hat aussen den farbigen Heftdeckel und innen eine Karte der Gegend. Der zweiten Schirm hat aussen eine Karte der beiden unterirdischen Stockwerke und innen eine Kurzzusammenfassung des gesamten Abenteuers mit 1-2 Sätzen zu allen Örtlichkeiten. Der dritte Schirm enthält aussen ein einfaches Bild und innen eine Karte mit Notizen für die Spieler.

Die ersten paar Seiten Einleitung und Oberwelt sind ordentlich gemacht: Kurz, prägnant, übersichtlich, Monster, Zufallsbegegnungen, Schätze. Das gefällt.

warning danger warning Der Rest der Rezension enthält leider ein paar Hinweise auf das Abenteuer selber. warning danger warning

Die erste Ebene der Unterwelt ist ebenfalls kurz, prägnant und übersichtlich. Hier unten zeigt sich nun, dass fast alle Räume es den Spielern in irgendeiner Art und Weise erlauben, sich zu schaden. Die Fallen verstecken sich ganz traditionell in Türfallen, Schlössern oder Bodenplatten. Witzigerweise sieht man als Spieler fast immer schon vorher eine Warnung auf einem Schild, ein Monster in einer Grube oder hört eine Stimme hinter der Türe. Das sind die Fallen, die ich mag: Man merkt, dass irgendetwas nicht stimmt und wird immer vorsichtiger. Wem dieser Spielstil nicht gefällt, für den ist das Abenteuer nur bedingt geeignet. Ebenso nötig ist eine Spielleiter, der seine Spieler nicht täuscht sondern die verdächtigen Momente hervorhebt. Das macht ja schliesslich die Spannung aus. Deswegen müssen die Algen schon erstaunlich grün sein, deswegen muss die Kammer schon erstaunlich quadratisch sein, wenn der Knopf entdeckt wird, und so weiter.

In der zweiten Ebene der Unterwelt kann die Gruppe sich den Rückweg abschneiden. Nun ist man auf genaues Buch führen angewiesen, denn die schwindenden Fackeln, Ölfläschchen, Wegrationen und Wasserschläuche tragen nun zum Zeitdruck bei. Freundlicherweise wird man vom Autor schon zu Beginn darauf hingewiesen, dass man hiermit möglichst früh beginnen sollen, damit sich die Spieler nicht hintergangen fühlen. Selber mache ich so Dinge immer mit kleinen Stapeln von Damesteinen und funktioniert ganz gut.

Auch hier geht es um ein paar Fallen, bei denen oft Täuschung im Spiel ist. Hat man die versteckten Tipps gefunden? Und soll man sie befolgen? Spätestens hier sollte den Spielern klar werden, dass sie in einer einzigen, grossen Falle stecken.

Das ganze scheint mir gut geeignet für einen längeren Spielnachmittag am Wochenende oder zwei kurze Spielabende unter der Woche. Als ich nach Mitspielern suchte, schrieb ich das Abenteuer als einen “Fallen-gespickten Dungeon” aus.

Viel Spass. :)

GEFÄLLT: Die angekündigten Fallen machen Spass. Passt ideal für einen oder zwei kurze Spielabende unter der Woche.

MISFÄLLT: Alle Spieler müssen mit der Prämisse des Fallen-gespickten Dungeons einverstanden sein.

QUALITÄT: Sehr gut.

PREIS: 10€ ist an der oberen Grenze

RATING: star star star (3 von 5 Sternen)

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2010-02-24 Trying To Run Wilderness Like A Dungeon

The transition from battlefield adventures to dungeon adventures essentially created RPGs as we known them—the transition from dungeon adventure to wilderness or town adventures introduced the whole idea of “plot” (in the sense of something pre-outlined rather than emergent) to RPGs. – Some More Nice Things About Dungeons by Zak S.

As a kid, I always felt weird when letting my players roam around in the wilderness. I keenly felt the need to lead them by their noses to the adventures I had prepared. Playing the Paizo Adventure Paths in recent years has shown me a solution: big bad is going to happen unless you go right here, right now. I sometimes dislike this sense of urgency because players will usually solve the urgent problems before thinking about their retirement, their castle to build, their temple to found, the guild to run. In a way, it has stifled player plot initiative. Players make no plans if big bad is going to happen real soon.

I did not want to run that kind of game in my Alder King campaign. Instead, I followed this small number of rules for my sandbox wilderness:

  1. there is a conflict between at least three sides, none of them obviously good, and without an obvious big clash coming up in the short term – this eliminates the urgency without removing the option of a showdown at the end of the chapter
  2. the equilibrium situation means that players can easily tip the balance using diplomacy and other means, allowing both referee and players a say in when the chapter should end
  3. travel is one hex a day with random encounters based on nearby lairs and there’s a lair of some sort in practically every hex – the Microlite Campaign idea means that I only need to prepare surrounding hexes while random encounters provide opportunities to learn about foes and potential allies in the area
  4. this makes sure there’s still interesting things in all directions, but it is implied that the players will stay in the area with the three or more side conflict
  5. the limitation given above means that there is in fact an invisible wall around the larger region – moving elsewhere effectively starts a new campaign
  6. making travel difficult also implies that information about remote areas is hard to get by

That still leaves a lot of points raised by Zak unanswered (limited-resource scenario, problem solving, information turning to tactical advantages), but it’s a start.

Update: see also A Method For Making A D&D Sandbox

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2010-02-26 Eine Woche Krank

Schon wieder krank… Bäh! Am letzten Tag der Skiferien fing meine Nase an, leicht zu laufen. Claudia war die gesamten Ferien verschnupft. Am Montag hatte Claudia einen Rückfall, und ich war voll erkältet – Schnupfen und Halsweh. Am Mittwoch ging’s besser, ich war heiser aber fühlte mich gut, hatte Freunde im Haus und verbrachte einen typischen Spielabend mit 3½h reden. Am Abend hatte ich dann verdammte Halsweh, die dann noch aufs Ohr schlugen. Ich konnte nicht richtig schlafen und verbrachte die Zeit von 4:00 bis 7:00 sitzend und dösend auf dem Sofa. Der Arzt sprach nach Blutprobe und Gespräch von einem viralen Infekt ohne Mittelohrentzündung und ohne Angina. Also weiter Lutschtabletten, Tee, und neu auch infektionshemmende Schmerzmittel. Das kann ja heiter werden. Jetzt ist Freitagnachmittag, die Stimme kommt langsam wieder zurück. Der morgige Spielnachmittag ist aufgekündigt.

Fünf Tage nicht arbeiten und Arztzeugnis holen – das letzte Mal ist lange her.

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2010-02-27 One More Day For 1PDC

There are a bit more than 24h left for the last submission to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010. Other people manage to write entire roleplaying games in 24h. If haven’t submitted an entry, there’s still time! :) ok

What’s a One Page Dungeon you ask?

  1. I will print entries on my printer (which uses A4 paper and leaves some margin), scale to fit, and if I can’t read it, then it’s not One Page.
  2. Traditionally, a Dungeon is the map of a connected series of rooms full of monsters, traps, and treasure. Then people proposed random dungeon generators. These had no map, but instructions on how to create a map. Then people started saying that a wilderness, a village, or a big building could also be treated as a dungeon. I don’t think we’ll agree on a single definition of dungeon in the roleplaying context. Thus, in the spirit of “I know it when I see it” we’ll leave the decision up to the judges.

Looking for ideas? Take a look at last year’s entries! There’s a nice looking “Codex” file with all the winning entries, runner ups and honorable mentions in it, and there’s a big “Compendium” with absolutely all entries in it.

It’s cool. You should print them and keep them in a ring binder for ready use. It’s what I do! :D

1PDC 2010

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Comments on 2010-02-27 One More Day For 1PDC

fun thing though… since yesterday the page says “only a few hours left”… hmm.. someone trying to discourage people? :)

Crescent 2010-02-28 04:37 UTC

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2010-02-28 Traveller Subsector Coding Hell

I have this (Mongoose?) Traveller Subsector Mapper. I started thinking that maybe I should start looking at automatically drawing communications and trade routes. I started writing some code that calculates the distance between two hexes. And I started wasting hours. Whoa, big time code failure on my part!

There was something about |Δx| div 2 + |Δy| and all that stuff, but there was always some case in which it wouldn’t work. I googled many times, but finally I found what I needed to know in a rec.games.design archive.

  1. transform the stupid Traveller coordinate system into a decent system with one axis tilted by 60°
  2. only consider moves from left to right and transpose start and end point to make it so
  3. if the move has a downwards component add Δx and Δy
  4. else just take the larger of Δx and Δy

And it works!

I guess I’ll look at communications routes next week-end. :/

use POSIX;

sub d {
  my ($x1, $y1, $x2, $y2) = @_;
  if ($x1 > $x2) {
    return d($x2, $y2, $x1, $y1);
  } elsif ($y2>=$y1) {
    return $x2-$x1 + $y2-$y1;
  } else {
    return $x2-$x1 > $y1-$y2 ? $x2-$x1 : $y1-$y2;
  }
}

sub pt {
  my ($x1, $y1, $x2, $y2) = @_;
  my $s = sprintf("%02d%02d:", $x2, $y2);
  # shift coordinate system
  my $y1 = $y1 - POSIX::ceil($x1/2);
  my $y2 = $y2 - POSIX::ceil($x2/2);
  $s .= sprintf("%.1f   ", d($x1, $y1, $x2, $y2));
  return $s;
}

my ($x1, $y1) = (4,5);
foreach my $y (1..10) {
  print join("         ", map { pt($x1, $y1, $_, $y) } (1, 3, 5, 7)), "\n";
  print join("         ", "", map { pt($x1, $y1, $_, $y) } (2, 4, 6, 8)), "\n";
}

Result:

0101:6.0            0301:5.0            0501:5.0            0701:6.0   
         0201:5.0            0401:4.0            0601:5.0            0801:6.0   
0102:5.0            0302:4.0            0502:4.0            0702:5.0   
         0202:4.0            0402:3.0            0602:4.0            0802:5.0   
0103:4.0            0303:3.0            0503:3.0            0703:4.0   
         0203:3.0            0403:2.0            0603:3.0            0803:4.0   
0104:3.0            0304:2.0            0504:2.0            0704:3.0   
         0204:2.0            0404:1.0            0604:2.0            0804:4.0   
0105:3.0            0305:1.0            0505:1.0            0705:3.0   
         0205:2.0            0405:0.0            0605:2.0            0805:4.0   
0106:3.0            0306:1.0            0506:1.0            0706:3.0   
         0206:2.0            0406:1.0            0606:2.0            0806:4.0   
0107:3.0            0307:2.0            0507:2.0            0707:3.0   
         0207:3.0            0407:2.0            0607:3.0            0807:4.0   
0108:4.0            0308:3.0            0508:3.0            0708:4.0   
         0208:4.0            0408:3.0            0608:4.0            0808:5.0   
0109:5.0            0309:4.0            0509:4.0            0709:5.0   
         0209:5.0            0409:4.0            0609:5.0            0809:6.0   
0110:6.0            0310:5.0            0510:5.0            0710:6.0   
         0210:6.0            0410:5.0            0610:6.0            0810:7.0   

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Comments on 2010-02-28 Traveller Subsector Coding Hell

Elegant and interesting!

BeRKA 2010-03-02 08:27 UTC

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2010-02 Book Club

What: The Howling Miller by Arto Paasilinna

When: February 24, 19:30

Where: Movie Restaurant, Beatenplatz 4 (new location!)

A […] novel from Finland’s bestselling literary hero Gunnar Huttunen arrives in North Finland after the war and buys a dilapidated mill. Despite being a decent and hard-working Finn he is also an outsider and an eccentric: prone to mood swings, black depression, high elation, and a general lack of decorum. He puts on performances at the mill for local children at which he specialises in imitating animals and making fun of the village notables.
Everyone loves his brilliant impressions but these feelings soon sour when he starts to howl wildly at night. The villagers reserve most ire for the howling which the local dogs join in delirious chorus. Passionate and outraged by his treatment at the hands of the villagers, it is not long before the accident-prone miller finds that his situation soon spirals out of control. Paasilinna’s riotous book revels in a black, rebellious, deadpan humour. It is also a modern fable about the eternal struggle between freedom and repressive authority. – source unknown

Supporters: Chrissie, Nanda, Karina, Adrian, Valpuri, Alex

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Comments on 2010-02 Book Club

I think I’m going to start writing a few words about the books we’re reading at the book club. Specially when I’m not attending the meetings. Curse you, cold!

I started reading it, got to the nice scene in the middle of the river, skipped to the end, read that, then skimmed a few pages in the middle, resumed with the miller’s arrest and read that up to the end… I wonder what means. I think it means that the book wasn’t tight enough. I felt comfortable skipping large chunks because not much happened and the language was not enticing enough.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-24 15:18 UTC

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