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2012-05-06 One Page Dungeon Contest Submissions Available

We got 107 submissions this year!

2009201020112012
Number of submissions1126471107

Wohoo! :) vee :D

Download the archive with All One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 Submissions, or visit the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 page and download individual submissions. Don’t forget to check out the authors’ blog posts, if available. Let me know if you discover items that I should be linking from that page.

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6142/5946182797_9a4cbabaf1_n.jpg

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2012-05-07 iPhoto and Facebook Privacy Disaster

I created a new album on Facebook and picked a particular list of people to share this album with. I used iPhoto to share pictures on Facebook using this album. After some clicking back and forth I noticed that my album was no longer restricted the list of people I had picked! The album had been reset to the default visibility settings for albums.

What a major fuck-up! danger attention sucks evil

I have resolved to delete all the Facebook albums with non-standard permissions.

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Comments on 2012-05-07 iPhoto and Facebook Privacy Disaster

das muesstest du speziell auf facebook publik machen! Die versuchen alles um an deine privat informationen zu kommen: und ich will nicht jedem auf facebook zugaenglich sein… also bitte von mir keine fotos auf facebook!

– mom 2012-05-08 20:56 UTC


Apart from the reprehensible FB behaviour, which is par for the course, after all, you are not the customer, you are the product being sold, how do you alter the letter spacing in “no longer” and “major fuck-up” ?

It’s a nice way of emphasis on the screen. It might not work so well in print. It showed up in the RSS feed too.

AlokSingh 2012-05-09 03:49 UTC


Ah, letter-spacing…

AlokSingh 2012-05-09 03:59 UTC



AlexSchroeder
The emphasis style is called Sperrsatz and was used in German for fonts without italics. Some older fonts, like Garamond, didn’t have bold and italic variants if I remember correctly. Thus, some texts still use letter spacing for emphasis. To be honest, I’ve only seen it in reprints of philosophy books. Here’s an example from Nietzsche:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7077/7164254600_4869a4fb68.jpg

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-09 12:15 UTC

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2012-05-09 Commenting As I Go (1PDC)

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7223/7166381138_7ebbe9f361.jpg

I’m currently reading through the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 submissions and just finished #21. It takes a while!

I’m just one of the judges and we don’t have an agreed upon list of criteria. I’m hoping this will better reflect the breadth of our hobby. Based on an earlier blog post, I prepared a list of things I would be looking for:

  • NPCs with names, motivations, mannerisms or whatever else makes me want to role-play with them
  • third parties, allies, factions (simply having prisoners doesn’t qualify, there must be some extra information that will make me care about them, eg. a name, a family, looks)
  • relationships between any of the above (basically a bonus point!)
  • intelligent opposition (humanoids instead of undead or slimes, for example)
  • interesting abilities for enemies (eg. a dust wight controlling four hell hounds or wall climbing enemies in a flooded area)
  • a beautiful map (as I’ve said before, a nice map helps but isn’t a guaranteed win)
  • notes on the map itself (a separate key is the standard, but I prefer map and key to be as integrated as possible)
  • map key with bold keywords (I usually don’t care about the room names being bold: I need my attention drawn to monsters, traps or treasure instead)
  • multiple exits or entrances (specially obvious entrances and hidden back entrances that a party may discover if appropriate measures are taken)
  • multiple goals (the reservation regarding prisoners I made above also applies here)
  • a secret to discover about the dungeon (eg. a strange obelisk behind in a temple with a hidden inscription that will summon something)
  • interesting terrain that complicates movement or combat (eg. slippery floor or flooded areas)
  • opportunities for tactical players (since I’m a tactical doofus, these opportunities must be at least hinted at in the text, eg. if it says that the goblins can shoot from this room across the shaft into another room 20 ft. below, I will be reminded of the fact that players can do the same)
  • opportunities for sneaky players (since I’m also a sneaky doofus, these opportunities must also be at least hinted at in the text, eg. if it says that dogs will recognize strangers, I will be reminded of the opportunity for player characters disguise themselves as cultists)
  • memorable magic items (a ring of protection is not enough, a lance of law has potential)
  • rewarding experimentation or practical riddles (eg. activating certain levers will flood certain parts of the dungeon)
  • interesting traps (pit traps are not enough but a falling portculis with skeleton archers or an illusionary cave in would qualify)
  • long term change (eg. a construction manual for golems, a rewiring of a character’s brain)
  • a nice theme (eg. undead guarding a necromancer, various scenes due to a rift in time and space, a museum)
  • a potential campaign starter scenario (a little goblin lair is not enough, it has to be something more interesting such as the trigger of an undead uprising; it’s difficult to pull off, I know)

As you will notice from the list above, I’m not a big friend of random dungeon generators and mini-games. Maybe some of the other judges are?

Ok, given all the above, which of the entries are looking good? Here’s what I’m liking so far. All of these entries got five points from the above list.

And now I’m going back to reading some more!

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Comments on 2012-05-09 Commenting As I Go (1PDC)


AlexSchroeder
Some other things I noticed:

  • more ants, snails and slimes than last year! ok
  • less undead than last year! ok
  • a strange shift from dungeon generators (a mini-game for the game master) to mini-games for the entire table

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-09 21:46 UTC

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2012-05-11 Using One Page Dungeons

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5324/7178224796_2a558e358d.jpg

In the Labyrinth Lord campaign I run for a good friend and his three kids plus his godson, I was using the Wildlands, the first region in Points of Light by Rob Conley. They had been to Yellzurthi, travelled to Curnitha, visited Delen, protected the elves of Arish a’ Ahon against the ogres along The Maiden Gorge, they had freed slaves from the Dark Guard, searched the first two or three levels of Dyson’s Delve for the remains of St. Ulther, had descended into The Ruination of Tenamen (a favorite One Page Dungeon of mine), had found the Well of the Worm by Harley Stroh and Doug Kovacs and they had found the Lair of the White Salamander by Phillip Larwood and Stefan Poag, two small adventures from Dungeon Crawl Classics #29, and they had been to the Tomb of the Iron God by Matt Finch – it has been a busy campaign! I also recommend the posts on Roles, Rules, and Rools regarding the Tomb of the Iron God.

It was time for a change. Luckily enough they had expressed interest in “traveling to another dimension” looking for allies in their fight against the priests of Set. Excellent!

I improvised a setup based on The Sage’s Tower by Darcy Stratton – another favorite One Page Dungeon of mine – which tricked them into following the trail of Bolothous, the mage who had created the six golems guarding Delen. As the destination I wanted a hex region that was small and dense and I turned once more to the One Page Dungeon Contest. The Forgotten Depths by Aos was the ideal solution. The gate led to the island in hex 0506. Soon they had cut open the small silver dirigible in order to create a boat, defeated some Blood Monkeys and sailed north-east… A new chapter of the campaign has begun!

P.S. I just realized that the campaign itself actually started with Moritz Mehlem’s Mountain King and Dolm River adventures. Good times!

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2012-05-12 More One Page Dungeon Recommendations

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7217/7182433116_09fee9c54e.jpg

I think my system of having about twenty criteria to assign to the various submission is working out, although it seems that some of these criteria are either hard to find or figments of my imagination, ie. I want the dungeons to offer a challenge for sneaky characters but then I’m not a player of sneaky characters and that’s why I don’t see the opportunities. I wonder.

Well, here are some more One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 entries I really enjoyed:

And now back to the pile! :)

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2012-05-12 Stupid Leeches

By chance, I run my leech-detector script and find the following:

aschroeder@thinkmo:~$ leech-detector < logs/access.log | head
           IP Number       hits bandw. hits% interv. status code distrib.
      184.82.236.206      14368   118K  17%    4.8s  301 (49%), 200 (49%), 404 (0%), 302 (0%), 403 (0%)
      125.199.78.207       3419    11K   4%   20.2s  200 (52%), 404 (43%), 302 (2%), 400 (1%), 301 (0%), 304 (0%)
                 ...

What the hell is this guy doing causing 17% of all my hits?

aschroeder@thinkmo:~$ tail -f logs/access.log | grep 184.82.236.206
184.82.236.206 - - [13/May/2012:01:44:12 +0200] "GET /emacs?action=browse;id=icicles.el;revision=835 HTTP/1.0" 301 447 "http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/?action=rc&all=1&showedit=1&from=1&rcuseronly=DrewAdams" "Wget/1.12 (linux-gnu)"
184.82.236.206 - - [13/May/2012:01:44:16 +0200] "GET /emacs/?action=browse;id=icicles.el;revision=835 HTTP/1.0" 200 127350 "http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/?action=rc&all=1&showedit=1&from=1&rcuseronly=DrewAdams" "Wget/1.12 (linux-gnu)"
184.82.236.206 - - [13/May/2012:01:44:21 +0200] "GET /emacs?action=browse;diff=2;id=icicles-cmd2.el;diffrevision=55 HTTP/1.0" 301 462 "http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/?action=rc&all=1&showedit=1&from=1&rcuseronly=DrewAdams" "Wget/1.12 (linux-gnu)"
184.82.236.206 - - [13/May/2012:01:44:25 +0200] "GET /emacs/?action=browse;diff=2;id=icicles-cmd2.el;diffrevision=55 HTTP/1.0" 200 482243 "http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/?action=rc&all=1&showedit=1&from=1&rcuseronly=DrewAdams" "Wget/1.12 (linux-gnu)"

Ahhh! A stupid leech using wget to pull the entire site, following all the links, ignoring the rel=“nofollow” rules… Maybe a dude that didn’t read the WikiDownload page. It also looks to me as if the links are listed in the site’s robots.txt file.

Oh well. The solution, unfortunately, seems to involve editing cgi-bin/.htaccess and adding the following:

# using wget to get everything including actions, old stuff, etc.                                                                            
Deny from 184.82.236.206

:(

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2012-05-13 More Recommended Dungeons

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7103/7191608798_8aa1593b8b.jpg

Limiting my nominations to less than twenty entries is going to be difficult! I’ve read fifty submissions and already I want to nominate twelve entries!

New entries I’d like to recommend:

Previous recommended entries are here and here. The first post in this series also has the scheme I devised to figure out which dungeons I like and why I like them. According to this system, my nominations mostly got five, one entry got six points and two other entries got seven points.

Actually, let me list the entries that I’d support if other judges are going to nominate them. These entries got four points according to my scheme.

  • Alan Brodie’s Splashdown in Fiend’s Fen
  • C.M. Lebrun’s The Ichor of Vercingetorix
  • Chris Olson’s Tomb of the Vampire Pricess Sword
  • Dan Roy’s The Final Battle Ground
  • Eran Aviram and Aviv Or’s One Last Tribute
  • Greengoat’s Devil Gut Rock
  • Jeff R.’s Baron Fel’s Vault

If you’re the author of a particular entry amongst the first fifty dungeons and you’d like to hear a few more words about it, let me know. I hope I’ll be writing a paragraph about all the dungeons I’m going to nominate in the end – but if you want to hear about your dungeon right away, I’ll be happy to talk.

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Comments on 2012-05-13 More Recommended Dungeons


Greengoat
Oh, I got four points for Devil Gut Rock. Thanks for the nomination. I like criticism. I am also writing up my dungeon stats for ACKS right now. I should probably post that on my blog soon now that I am “official”.

Greengoat 2012-06-01 01:39 UTC

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2012-05-15 The Forgotten Depths

As I wrote a few days ago, I’m using Metal Earth’s The Forgotten Depths for one of my campaigns. The blessing and curse of all the One Page Dungeon Contest submissions is that the monsters lack stats. Well, time to think something up. As most of the players are kids and their characters range from level 3 to 5, I’ve started using the following stats:

  • Andrewsarchus HD 10, AC 5, bite 2d6, SV 9, MV 15, ML 5; on a 20: bone crushing bite breaks shield arm (mending takes 2d4+9 weeks or a regeneration spell)
  • Ape, cave HD 4, AC 6, two fists 1d6, SV 15, MV 12 and climb 6, ML 7; savage and desparate
  • Ape, war HD 5, AC 6, two fists 1d6 or 2H sword 2d6, SV 14, MV 12 and climb 6, ML 8
  • Apes, giant HD 3, AC 7, two fists 1d6, SV 16, MV 12 and climb 6, ML 5
  • Apes, snow HD 2, AC 6, laser blaster 1d6, SV 17, MV 12 and climb 6, ML 10; laser blaster ignores armor and every wound deals an extra 1d6 heat damage in the following round
  • Archelon HD 10, AC 2, bite 3d6, SV 9, MV 3 swim 9; on a 20: destroys any wooden structure the victim is standing on or clinging to
  • Bandit, mutated HD 1, AC 7, sickle sword or mace 1d6, SV 18, MV 12, ML 6; 1 in 10 with telepathic abilities
  • Bear, cave HD 8, AC 6, two claws and bite 1d6, SV 11, MV 9, ML 5; if both claws hit, bear hug for an additional 2d6
  • Beastkin HD 1, AC 7, spear or javelin 1d6, SV 18, MV 12, ML 7; often accompanied by a war dog
  • Blood cloud HD 6; AC 9; SV 11; MV 3; ML 12; contact drains blood for 1d6 and requires a save vs. paralysis or inability to move; affects all creatures in a 10 ft. radius; requires +1 weapon to hit
  • Blood monkey HD 1, AC 7, bite 1d6, SV 18, MV 12, ML 6; on a 20: start sucking blood for 1d6 per round until slain
  • Boilers HD 1, AC 8, hatchet 1d6, SV 18, MV 6, ML 7; telethermostic power lets blood boil at will within 30 ft.: 1d6 damage, save vs. spells for half
  • Burrower apparently peaceful human controlled by a worm and trying to spread its progeny; when touched, save vs. death or be infected by the worm; on the first two rounds, an infection can be stopped by amputation
  • Cone of hunger HD 7, AC 2, shredding 2d6, SV 10, MV 12, ML 12; on a 20: suck opponent into shredder for automatic shredding damage until slain and turned into compost
  • Crocodile, giant HD 4, AC 3, bite 2d6, SV 15, MV sprint 12 swim 6, ML 5
  • Demontree HD 15, AC 3, eight branches and roots 1d6, SV 4, MV 0, ML 12; the branches are loaded with twitching corpses: twelve armless ghouls are hanging up there, unable to free themselves
  • Devilgoat HD 5, AC 5, horns 1d6, SV 14, MV 15 and climb 3, ML 6; head butt charge for 2d6, will reform and pursue unless killed by a silver weapon
  • Dog, war HD 2, AC 7, bite 1d6, SV 16, MV 12, ML 7; morale increased to 9 when near beastkin
  • Dreambeast HD 12, AC 7, two hoves 1d6, SV 5, MV 5; anybody hearing their moaning takes 1d6 damage due to gut wrenching and must save vs. paralysis or remain inactive (and therefore unable to escape the moaning); rainbow mist forces spellcasters to save vs. spells or loose their spell when casting; anybody sleeping in the vicinity is haunted by nightmares and loses 1d6 instead of natural healing
  • Entelodont HD 8, AC 6, bite 2d6, SV 11, MV 15, ML 8; terminator pig charge +2 for an extra 1d6 damage
  • Frogman HD 2, AC 8, two sickles or crossbow 1d6, SV 17, MV 9, ML 6; the crossbow can charge a total of ten bolts before needing to be recharged; charged bolts deal an extra 1d6 electricity damage; jumping charge for +2 with both sickles; cruel servants of the sharkmen with nimble fingers and access to technology
  • Gastornis HD 9, AC 7, bite 2d6, SV 10, MV 15, ML 5; prefers to peck at heads without helmets
  • Ghouls, armless HD 2, AC 9, bite 1d6; MV 12, ML 12; when bitten, save vs. paralysis or drop helpless for 2d6 rounds
  • Grasping bloat HD 7, AC 9, multiple grasping hands and acid rain 1d6, SV 10, MV 3, ML 5; hides beneath rocks over a big area; surprises on 5 out of 6; grasping hands attack all victims on foot for 1d6; acid spit sprays all victims in the area, save vs. dragon breath or suffer 1d6; requires +1 weapon to hit
  • Greathorn HD 2, AC 8, two hoves 1d6, SV 17, MV 12, ML 2; when attacked, a stampede is created; without proper precautions, this results in 10 greathorns having a free trample attack the next round for anything in its way
  • Hag, swamp HD 5, AC 6, two claws 1d6, SV 14, MV 6 fly 15 on broom; on a 20: magic water fills victim’s lung, save vs. death or drown; can cast charm male 3×/day, kiss of mind control 1×/day (24h duration), invisibility 3×/day, beautiful appearance at will
  • Hippo HD 12, AC 6, multiple trample 3d6, SV 7, MV 15, ML 11; when trampled, victims can choose to take half damage and giv up their next attack; trample affects anybody standing in the hippo’s way
  • Hyenadon HD 11, AC 5, bite 3d6, SV 8, MV 12, ML 6; on a 20: razor teeth amputate shield arm (apply tourniquet within three rounds or die, regrow using regeneration spell)
  • Lurk HD 3, AC 8, short sword or longbow 1d6, SV 16, MV 12, ML 7; psionic powers (6×/day): dominate person, levitate, read thoughts.
  • Minotaur HD 6, AC 5, 2H axe or heavy javelin 2d6, SV 13, MV 12, ML 9; extra attack with horns for 1d6 when charging
  • Moonwraith HD 4, AC 2, lance 2d6, SV 13, MV 15 fly, ML 10; requires +1 weapon to hit; upon hearing their horn blowing, save vs. paralysis or remain where you are instead of seeking cover in an enclosure; moonwraiths cannot enter enclosures
  • Mudbug HD 3, AC 2, two pincers 1d6, SV 16, ML 5; when both pincers hit, deal an additional 1d6 damage
  • Priests HD 1, AC 9, dagger 1d6, MV 12, ML 11; three can get together and call down lightning 1×/day for 6d6
  • Pterosaur, adult HD 6, AC 5, beak 3d6, SV 13, MV 3 and fly 15, ML 5; 20 ft. wingspan
  • Pterosaur, young HD 2, AC 6, beak 1d6, SV 17, MV 3 and fly 15, ML 3 10 ft. wingspan
  • Reptile vermin HD 1, AC 8, bite 1, SV 18, MV 12, ML 4; after the fight anybody bitten must save vs. poison or contract skin rot: no more natural healing and loose 1d6 every night
  • Robot, crazy HD 5, AC 2, punch 1d6, SV 12, MV 9, ML 12; on a 20: laugh and turn away, abandoning the fight if possible
  • Rocketman HD 6, AC 2, ray gun 1d6, SV 13, MV 12 and fly 15, ML 9; ray gun ignores armor; aloof
  • Rockworm HD 8, AC 3, stone bite 2d6, SV 9, MV 3 burrow 3, ML 12; only fights when engaged in melee; when attacked from range, burrows
  • Sasquatch HD 3, AC 6, two fists 1d6, SV 15, MV 12, ML 3; hide and surprise 5 in 6; very shy
  • Sharkmen HD 4, AC 5, bite 2d6 and barbed drilling harpoon 1d6, SV 15, MV 12, ML 10; evil tyrants with space suits and huge maws; harpoon mechanism keeps dealing 1d6 damage until removed; removal itself deals an additional 2d6 damage
  • Snake, giant HD 7, AC 5, bite 1d6, SV 12, MV 6, ML 6; when bitten, save vs. poison or be paralyzed and die in ten rounds; on a 20: be constricted: in subsequent rounds, save vs. death and free yourself or remain helpless and suffer 1d6
  • Snakeman HD 3, AC 6, spear or macahuitl 1d6, SV 14, MV 9, ML 7; on a 20: grapple and constric for 1d6 per round until slain; born hunters, always hungry, stuck in the stone-age, fear the sharkmen
  • Spider, giant HD 3, AC 4, bite 1d6, SV 16, MV 12 climb 6, ML 4; when bitten, save vs. poison or be paralyzed and die in ten rounds
  • Squid, tree HD 4, AC 7, three tentacles 1d6, SV 15, MV 3, ML 5; on a 20: strangle and lift victim into the air; save vs. death every round or faint unless flying
  • Tentacle thing four tentacles with HD 4, AC 6, crushing blow 1d6, MV 0, ML 7; on a 19: throws victim over board (if wearing metal armor: save vs. death every round or drown); on a 20: destroys any wooden structure the victim is standing on or clinging to (possibly resulting in the victim falling over board); will retreat below the waves and devour its first kill as soon as possible
  • Thing in the Lake, transdimensional monstrosity; fighting it requires a special binding spell since it will simply disappear and return hours or days later; if contacted telepathically, it may divulge a planar secret but the question asker must save vs. death or be catatonic for a week
  • Vampire grass 1d6 damage per mile travelled on foot unless wearing iron boots
  • Wolf, vile HD 3, AC 8, bite 1d6, SV 16, MV 12, ML 7
  • Yeti HD 4, AC 6, two fists 1d6, SV 15, MV 12, ML 4; hide in snow 5 in 6; very shy
  • Zombie, piranha HD 1, AC 7, bite 1d6, SV 18, MV swim 12, ML 12
  • Zombies, cyborg HD 5; AC 3; Atk slam 1d6; SV 12; MV 6; ML 12; if defeated, the prosthetic arms, legs and the occasional head can be reattached to characters; if attaching prosthetic limbs where none are missing, the extra limbs are not under the player’s control; casting remove curse will inactivate these independent limbs for a day; they can only be removed safely when casting regeneration

Since I invented the stats, I’m making them available for free, no strings attached, public domain. The names of the monsters are from the key of the adventure and might therefore conceivably fall under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.

Let me know if anything needs fixing!

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Comments on 2012-05-15 The Forgotten Depths


Aos
Great job!

Aos 2012-05-18 23:54 UTC


Thanks!

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-19 01:16 UTC

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2012-05-16 Blog Napping

Ok, so I wanted a local copy of Metal Earth in order to better prepare for my game. Based on previous work I had done, this proved to be fairly easy and I improved my scripts along the way. Yay!

The Metal Earth is a blogspot blog with full page content in the Atom feed.

To identify the blog, look at the source of any page. The HTML header will contain a line like the following: <link rel="service.post" type="application/atom+xml" title="..." href="http://www.blogger.com/feeds/XXX/posts/default" /> – this is where you get the number from. In this case, the number is 2248254789731612355.

download.sh – this file downloads the atom feed files:

#! /bin/sh
for i in `seq 40`; do
  start=$((($i-1)*25+1))
  curl -o foo-$i.atom "http://www.blogger.com/feeds/2248254789731612355/posts/default?start-index=$start&amp;max-results=25"
done

You’ll find that you only need to keep the first four of them.

extract.sh – this file calls the Perl script for every Atom file. You can use the -f option to force it to overwrite existing files.

#! /bin/sh
for f in *.atom; do
    perl extract.pl "$*" < $f
done

extract.pl – this file has several CPAN dependencies. It will parse the Atom file, look at each entry, and write it into a separate file. If the entry doesn’t have a title, it will parse the HTML content and try to guess a title (looking at the first H1 or the first SPAN element). It will warn you about duplicate names. It will also try to set the last modification time of the file to the update timestamp in the Atom file.

#!/usr/bin/perl
use strict;
use XML::LibXML;
use HTML::HTML5::Parser;
use Getopt::Std;
use DateTime::Format::W3CDTF;
use DateTime;
our $opt_f;
getopts('f');
undef $/;
my $data = <STDIN>;
my $parser = XML::LibXML->new();
my $doc = $parser->parse_string($data);
die $@ if $@;
my $encoding = $doc->actualEncoding();
my $context = XML::LibXML::XPathContext->new($doc);
$context->registerNs('atom', 'http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom');
my $html_parser;
foreach my $entry ($context->findnodes('//atom:entry')) {
  my $content = $entry->getChildrenByTagName('content')->[0]->to_literal;
  my $title = $entry->getChildrenByTagName('title')->[0]->to_literal;
  $title =~ s!/!_!gi;
  $title =~ s!&amp;!&!gi;
  $title =~ s!&#(\d+);!chr($1)!ge;
  if (not $title) {
    if (not $html_parser) {
      $html_parser = HTML::HTML5::Parser->new;
    }
    my $html_doc = $html_parser->parse_string($content);
    # we don't know the HTML namespace for certain
    my $html_ns = $html_doc->documentElement->namespaceURI();
    my $html_context = XML::LibXML::XPathContext->new($html_doc);
    $html_context->registerNs('html', $html_ns);
    $title = $html_context->findnodes('//html:h1')->[0];
    $title = $html_context->findnodes('//html:span')->[0] unless $title;
    $title = $title->to_literal if $title;
    warn "Guessed missing title: $title\n";
  }
  my $f = DateTime::Format::W3CDTF->new;
  my $dt = $f->parse_datetime($entry->getChildrenByTagName('updated')->[0]->to_literal)->epoch;
  my $file = $title . ".html";
  if (-f $file and ! $opt_f) {
    warn "$file exists\n";
  } else {
    open(F, ">:encoding($encoding)", $file) or die $! . ' ' . $file;
    print F <<EOT;
<html>
<head>
<meta content='text/html; charset=$encoding' http-equiv='Content-Type'/>
</head>
<body>
$content
</body>
</html>
EOT
    close F;
    utime $dt, $dt, $file;
  }
}

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2012-05-16 MANPATH

I’m using Emacs on Mac OSX.

Apparently the correct solution for using man and all the related tools is to make sure your /etc/man.conf file is correct. Mine was missing the following line:

MANPATH	/usr/local/man

You can ignore the rest of this page. :)

Thank you, Phil Hudson.

In my /.bashrc:

# MANPATH
# there's no MANPATH by default, and manpath(1) just prints /usr/share/man
if [ -z "$MANPATH" ]; then
    export MANPATH=/opt/local/man:/usr/local/man:/usr/local/share/man:/usr/X11R6/man:/usr/share/man
fi

In my /.emacs:

;; man
(unless (getenv "MANPATH")
  (setenv "MANPATH"
	  (with-temp-buffer
	    (insert-file-contents-literally "~/.bashrc")
	    (when (re-search-forward "MANPATH=\\(.*\\)" nil t)
	      (match-string 1)))))

And finally my little rebinding of C-h f for Perl mode works for modules as well:

(add-hook 'cperl-mode-hook
	  (lambda ()
	    (local-set-key (kbd "C-h f") 'cperl-perldoc)))

This calls perldoc which in turn calls man which uses MANPATH.

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Comments on 2012-05-16 MANPATH


PhilHudson
Bizarrely, the Right Thing under OS X since 10.4 is to unset MANPATH. The correct place to declare man path mappings is /usr/share/misc/man.conf; scripts and stuff should call ‘manpath’ rather than examine $MANPATH. Do `man manpath’ for further info. Emacs should DTRT – I use the MacPorts version.

PhilHudson 2012-05-16 16:23 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Hm. I hadn’t realized. I think my main problem is that manpath doesn’t list /usr/local/man by default. I need to look at his /etc/man.conf file… (time passes) Yes, works!

Thanks.

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-16 16:59 UTC

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2012-05-18 iBook G4 moving from Ubuntu to Debian

In 2009, I installed Ubuntu on my old iBook G4. Today I decided I wanted to move to Debian because I wanted to have the same system at home as on my web hosting provider.

So, I downloaded debian-6.0.5-powerpc-CD-1.iso using bittorrent and booted the laptop from CD. I forgot a crucial sentence from my 2009 blog post: “When I installed it while connected to the network via ethernet cable, it offered to download and install the necessary driver for the wireless card.”

My laptop wasn’t connected to the network and now it’s like a computing brick: Even when I plug in the cable and reboot, I can’t ping anything. :( ← sad face in case you didn’t notice. Yes, I am very sad. Grrrr.

Also, my network uses WPA2 Personal encryption. I’m not sure I’m going to use Gnome or KDE (the last Orientalibombus setup I used was based on ratpoison. This is why I wanted a wireless network usable from the command line.

The solution was this:

  alex@subterraneobombus:~$ sudo cat /etc/network/interfaces 
  [sudo] password for alex: 
  # This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
  # and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).
  
  # The loopback network interface
  auto lo
  iface lo inet loopback
  
  iface eth0 inet dhcp
  
  allow-hotplug wlan0
  iface wlan0 inet dhcp
    wpa-ssid Schroeder
    wpa-psk *secret*

By plugging in the cable and using ifup eth0 I was able to download stuff from the Internet.

Stuff from the Debian Wiki I used:

  1. add non-free to your sources.list as described in the b43 section
  2. install wireless-tools
  3. install wpasupplicant
  4. install firmware-b43-installer
  5. run iwconfig and verify that wlan0 is there
  6. run iwlist scan as described in the command line section of the WiFi/HowToUse page

Use ifdown eth0 and ifup wlan0 to switch to the wireless network. To be honest, I needed to reboot in order for this to work. No idea why this was necessary.

On a Swiss-German Macintosh keyboard, I need the Alt key to access stuff like number sign, pipe, brackets and bracers.

! Alt key is used to access #[]|{}
keycode 64 = ISO_Level3_Shift
remove mod1 = ISO_Level3_Shift

! Command key is alt/meta
remove mod4 = Super_L
keycode 133 = Meta_L

! check out /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ch
! keycodes:  normal shifted    ignored  ignored  Alt            Shift-Alt
! prevent shift-space from inserting an unbreakable space: it's too easy
keycode 65 = space  space      NoSymbol NoSymbol nobreakspace   NoSymbol
! use an endash instead of a hyphen for Alt Minus
keycode 61 = minus  underscore NoSymbol NoSymbol endash         emdash

Mozilla: Edit source.list and update… Except that it didn’t help with Google+. Watch out for the instructions on how to get the keyring (pkg-mozilla-archive-keyring). Don’t do that! Instead, install the User Agent Switcher and download the big list of user agents. Import it, replacing what you already have and switch to Firefox 12 or whatever.

Graphics performance: Based Installing Debian Linux on PPC Part IV - Configuring Stuff I did the following:

$ sudo aptitude install firmware-linux-nonfree ttf-mscorefonts-installer pommed mesa-utils
$ glxgears

This installs some fonts, firmware drivers, activates the buttons to dimm the brightness, and a tool to test the performance of the graphics card: glxgears. It shows less than 100 fps. Add the following file:

$ cat /etc/modprobe.d/radeon-kms.conf 
options radeon modeset=0

Restarted and now glxgears is giving me tenfold performance. Weird!

Web server: lighttpd and Oddmuse setup… first you need to install lighttpd, then:

$ sudo /usr/sbin/lighty-enable-mod 
$ sudo /etc/init.d/lighttpd force-reload

And finally create /var/www/cgi-bin/wiki# (forget about /usr/lib/cgi-bin) with the appropriate path to the Oddmuse script:

#!/usr/bin/perl
package OddMuse;
$DataDir = "/var/oddmuse";
do "/home/alex/src/oddmuse/wiki.pl";

Create the directory and a config file, too:

$ sudo mkdir /var/oddmuse
$ sudo chown www-data.www-data /var/oddmuse
$ sudo editor /var/oddmuse/config

Content of the config file:

$StyleSheet = "/wiki.css";'

Feel free to create a CSS file – for the moment I’m just making sure that the default CSS isn’t fetched from oddmuse.org.

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2012-05-20 Unregelmässige Spieler

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7221/6890967284_bf5071d544_n.jpg

Als ich vor kurzem einen Google+ Beitrag zum Thema fehlende Spieler und die dazugehörigen Kommentare las, wunderte ich mich. Ich hatte den Eindruck, dass die Spielleiter, die sich dort zu Wort meldeten, eine Gruppe von fixen Spielern die immer zum Spiel erscheinen, ideal finden. Klar fände ich das auch super – aber ich kann mir gar nicht vorstellen, wie das funktionieren soll. Ich fürchte, mit so einer Erwartungshaltung würde ich mich unglücklich machen. Auf dieser Seite versuche ich zu erklären, wie ich meine Kampagne gegen unregelmässige Spieler immunisiere.

Wenn ich die Kämpfe nicht genau planen kann, weil nicht immer alle da sein werden, dann müssen sich die Spieler wie in einem Dungeon oder einer Sandbox alter Schule die Kämpfe selber wählen. Sind alle da, geht es gegen den Drachen. Sind wir nur drei Spieler ohne Krieger, wählen wir uns ein anderes Ziel.

Wenn Schlüsselfiguren nicht immer da sein können, darf es auch keine Flaschenhälse geben – kein Abenteuer, wo es eine gewisse Figur zwingend braucht. Wenn der Dämon nur durch einen Zauber besiegt werden kann und wenn der Dämon unbedingt jetzt besiegt werden muss, dann habe ich mir selber ein Problem eingebrockt.

Persönlich finde ich das auch in Ordnung: Wer dafür belohnt wird, dass er am Anfang die richtige Charakterklasse oder Fähigkeit gewählt hat, der wird das nächste Mal noch vorsichtiger zu Werke gehen. So ziehe ich mir ja die Charakteroptimierer gleich selber auf. Da lasse ich den Lösungsweg lieber offen und improvisiere (und wem das nicht liegt, der muss halt in den sauren Apfel beissen und mehrere Lösungswege ausarbeiten). Damit fördere ich nämlich die kreativen und flexiblen Spieler.

Kreative und flexible Spieler können auch ohne Heiler auskommen, können auch spielen, wenn alle Krieger fehlen – kein Charakter ist unersetzlich, weil diese Spieler bereit sind, andere Ziele zu verfolgen und andere Methoden anzuwenden. Eine Burg kann man durch Waffengewalt oder durch List erobern – und wenn beides nicht geht, dann sucht man sich eben eine leichtere Beute. Es ist nur eine Frage der Zeit.

Das zieht natürlich noch weitere Kreise: Wenn ich nicht sicher sein kann, dass alle da sind, kann ich auch nicht sicher sein, dass alle anwesenden Charaktere eine passende Stufe haben. Wenn ich Gegner und Situationen vorbereite, welche nur unter gewissen Umständen zu bezwingen sind, und wenn die Spieler dies erkennen können, dann werden sie diese Gegner und Situationen vielleicht meiden, bis sie sich sicher genug fühlen. Deswegen ist es für mich als Spielleiter wichtig, dass meine vorbereiteten Gegner und Situationen flexibel und langfristig eingesetzt werden können. Wenn es beispielsweise einen blauen Drachen gibt, kann ich kein System brauchen, wo der Drache für die Spieler nur ein spannender Gegner ist, wenn sie auf der siebten Stufe sind. Noch unglücklicher ist die Situation, wenn die Spieler nach ein oder zwei Spielabenden schon auf die achte Stufe aufsteigen. Ich brauche ein System, wo die Charaktere sich nur langsam verbessern, wo sie nur langsam Stufe steigen, wo der Machtunterschied von Stufe zu Stufe nicht so gross ist.

Ebenso wichtig ist eine gewisse Entspannung beim Umgang mit fehlenden Charakteren. Ich rede in diesem Zusammenhang gerne von Regiefehlern. Unser Spiel ist ein schrecklicher B-Movie: Die Kamera schwenkt zum Gegner und zurück auf die Gruppe und plötzlich hat die Hälfte eine andere Frisur und ein paar der Schauspieler wurden ausgewechselt.

Kein Problem, denn mein Spiel ist immunisiert – es kann gar nicht dazu kommen, dass ein Charakter das Spiel über mehrere Spielabende dominiert. Wenn der erste Abend sich nur um das Schmachten für eine Geliebte dreht, wenn der zweite Abend sich nur um eine komplizierte Intrige dreht, wenn der dritte Abend sich nur um ihre Begegnung dreht, dann darf dieser Charakter und der Spieler nie fehlen. Deswegen ist es besser, wenn an jedem Spielabend mehrere Ziele verfolgt werden und mehrere Charaktere im Mittelpunkt stehen. Alle Charaktere sind Protagonisten. Das Spiel darf sich einfach nicht nur um einen Charakter, um ein Problem, um einen Ort handeln. Das macht die ganze Sache anfälliger, zerbrechlicher.

Die Abhängigkeit gewisser Handlungsstränge voneinander ist ein ähnliches Problem. Wenn B bedingt, dass A passiert, dann haben wir ein Problem: Falls A nicht stattfinden kann, weil der entsprechende Spieler fehlt, kann es weitreichende Folgen haben. Wenn Garo beispielsweise seine Räuberbande stärken will und Schalk seinen Meister erlösen will, ist es ungeschickt, wenn Schalk nur weiter kommt, wenn Garo sein Ziel erreicht. Was passiert, wenn Garos Spieler nicht da ist? Überschneidungen können interessant sein; Abhängigkeiten sind ein Risiko.

Die Notlösung in all diesen Fällen heisst: Regiefehler! Billiger B-Movie! Improvisieren! Damit diese unangenehmen Situationen vermieden werden können, hier nochmal die Elemente meiner Immunisierung:

  1. ein System wo Charaktere sich langsam verändern
  2. eine Welt, wo Charaktere sich ihre eigenen Herausforderungen suchen können
  3. eine entspannte Grundhaltung gegenüber der Gruppenzusammenstellung
  4. Charaktere, deren Geschichte nicht ganze Spielabende monopolisieren können
  5. weniger charakterübergreifende Abhängigkeiten der Handlungsstränge

So wird das Spiel robuster gegenüber wechselnden Spielern.

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Comments on 2012-05-20 Unregelmässige Spieler

Ja, das Spiel wird “robuster”, aber auch ein Stück more detached (wie übersetz ich das? losgelöst?) von den Spielern und ihren SC. Das ist die Negativseite bzw. der Preis, der zu zahlen ist.

Shadow 2012-05-21 02:30 UTC



Harald
Aus eigener Erfahrung als Spieler mit unregelmässigen Phasen (arbeitsbedingte Reisen) kann ich sagen, dass so eine immunisierte Runde deutlich weniger Stress bedeutet. Klar, ich bin nicht immer dabei, und ich bin nicht so wichtig, dass alle auf mich warten. Für eine Gruppenaktivität finde ich das aber komplett akzeptabel.

Harald 2012-05-21 05:23 UTC



Jan
…und das alles nur, weil mir ein Spieler ohne Absage einfach nicht zur runde erschien g

Jan 2012-05-21 08:14 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Bei mir sind diesen Sonntag zwei Spieler trotz Erinnerungsmail mit Schlussfrage “Wer kommt, wer kommt nicht?” nicht erschienen und haben sich weder an- noch abgemeldet. Die Frusttoleranz musste ich mir auch erst antrainieren. :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-21 09:49 UTC


Wo wir gerade beim Lamentieren sind: Ich habe in unserer aktuellen Kampagne einmal 3 Absagen von 6 Spielern am Tag meiner Anreise zum Spielort mitgeteilt bekommen. Und alle nur so halbgare Entschuldigungen. Das hat auch nen halben Tag des anvisierten Spielwochenendes an Frust verdauen gebraucht bis wir uns dann durchgerungen haben, eine nette Side Quest zu spielen.

– Gerrit 2012-05-21 12:46 UTC



Doctore Domani
Ich hatte auch lange Jahre die geschilderten Probleme und mich immer geärgert, wenn Spieler nicht da waren – war ein kampflastiges Abenteuer geplant, war mit Sicherheit der Kämpfer nicht anwesend, war sogar ein Abenteuer geplant, dass auf einen speziellen Charakter zugeschnitten war (wir haben mal eine Rückblende in die Jugendzeit eines SC gespielt), hat natürlich ausgerechnet dieser Spieler kurzfristig abgesagt, wurde das Abenteuer mitten in einem großen Dungeon abgebrochen, war beim nächsten Mal die Besetzung eine vollkommen andere und man musste sich einen trifftigen Grund überlegen, warum.

Habe Deine Ideen zum “Immunisieren” ein wenig bei mir wiedergefunden. Ich habe bei mir das Problem vor allem dadurch gelöst, dass ich mehrere Handlungsstränge parallel laufen lasse, so dass sich die SC immer zu Beginn einer Spielsitzung spontan entscheiden können, welchem sie folgen möchten. Ist der Kämpfer nicht da, dann geht es eben nicht in das Dungeon, sondern man macht etwas anderes. Zusätzlich versuche ich stets die Spielsitzung an einem sog. “Exchange Point” enden zu lassen, also einem Punkt, an dem man nicht erst eine komplizierte Erklärung finden muss, warum sich die Zusammensetzung der Gruppe nun ändert, zum Beispiel in einer Stadt oder dem HQ der Charaktere (das mit den “Regiefehlern” finde ich eine lustige Idee, würde in meiner Gruppe aber wohl keinen Anklang finden). Deshalb habe ich zum Beispiel die Länge von Dungeons so gekürzt, dass sie auf jeden Fall innerhalb einer Spielsitzung “gelöst” werden können (sind bei meiner Gruppe 3-5 Räume).

Doctore Domani 2012-05-21 16:03 UTC



AlexSchroeder
@Domani: Die Idee mit den Exchange Points versuche ich auch immer wieder zu bringen, aber weil die Dungeons von mir nicht gekürzt werden, passt dies den anwesenden Spielern meistens nicht so recht. Und ich habe mich noch nie getraut, Jeff Rients’ Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom zu verwenden (siehe das Ende des Artikels Dungeons & Dawn Patrol). :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-21 23:01 UTC

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2012-05-21 Intensives Spielerlebnis

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7121/7037062875_b87492e1b6_n.jpg

Vor kurzem schrieb ich über die Immunisierung einer Kampagne gegen unregelmässige Spieler. Aus meiner Sicht drehte sich der ursprüngliche Google+ Beitrag um folgendes Problem: Spieler fehlen oft, deswegen fällt der Spielabend oft aus, denn nur wenn alle da sind, kommen wir in den Genuss der charakterbezogene Plots. Mein stark vereinfachter Umkehrschluss war: Wenn die Spieler oft fehlen, ich den Spielabend aber nicht ausfallen lassen will, muss ich zwingend auf charakterbezogene Plots verzichten.

Das heisst aber nicht, dass ich auf ein intensives Spielerlebnis verzichten möchte! Natürlich versuche ich auf andere Art und Weise, ein intensives Spielerlebnis herbei zu beschwören. Es basiert nur nicht auf charakterbezogenen Plots.

Ich sprach bereits an, dass ich eine Dungeon oder Sandbox Kampagnenstruktur bevorzuge, in der die Spieler selber wählen oder zu erraten versuchen, welchen Gefahren sie sich aussetzen wollen. Ich erwähnte auch, dass es mir lieb ist, wenn Charaktere nur langsam besser werden, weil dann von mir platzierte Probleme länger aktuell bleiben. Diese Punkte versuche ich auch einzusetzen, um die Intensität zu steigern.

Meine Grundannahme ist, dass ein intensives Spielerlebnis darauf basiert, die Handlungsfähigkeit der Spieler zu steigern (player agency). Was für mich ganz gut funktioniert:

Ich generiere Information zu Themen, an denen die Charaktere im Spiel Interesse gezeigt haben. Mir ist wichtig, dass es nicht ausreicht, wenn die Spieler Interesse an gewissen Themen anmelden. Reden ist in diesem Sinne zu billig. Erst wenn der Charakter die elfischen Ruinen auch wirklich ein oder zwei mal durchsucht, werde ich mir zum Thema mehr ausdenken. Diese Information wird dann nach und nach zu finden sein und es dem Spielern erlauben, informierte Entscheidungen zu treffen (wo findet man die Nachfahren dieser Elfen, beispielsweise).

Ich gebe den Charakteren viel Handlungsfreiraum. Das bedeutet aber auch, dass es kaum Zeitdruck gibt, der Spielabende überdauert. Den negativen Effekt vom Zeitdruck habe ich in den Paizo Abenteuerpfaden erlebt. Das Material mag oft keinen expliziten Zeitdruck aufbauen, aber implizit erlebte ich es so, dass Spieler und Spielleiter gerne weiter machen, die verbleibenden Bücher durchspielen wollen und sich deswegen hetzen.

Meine Kampagnen laufen wenn möglich in der gleichen Welt, so dass ehemalige Charaktere die Nicht Spieler Charaktere der späteren Gruppen werden. Was man in dieser Kampagne erreicht, das bleibt dem Charakter als NSC in einer späteren Kampagne erhalten. Wer einen grosszügigen Charakter spielt, erlebt in der nächsten Kampagne einen Gönner. Wer eine kompetente Stadtwache spielt, erlebt, wie in der nächsten Kampagne die Stadtwache kompetent agiert. Umsiedeln von Personen, das Gründen von Dörfern, das Bauen von Burgen, all diese Dinge gehören in die Kategorie langfristige Änderungen der Spielwelt. Das sind Konsequenzen, die dem Spiel eine gewisse Tiefe geben.

Diese Intensität des Erlebnisses entsteht auch durch die erlebte Dynamik der Welt. Für eine gewisse Zeit hatte ich es sogar geschafft, zwei Gruppen parallel in der gleichen Region spielen zu lassen. Diese Kontinuität führt ebenfalls zu einer Spannung (und sei es nur die Frage nach den Ereignissen in der Welt seit dem letzten Spieltermin). Hier ist wichtig, dass es sich nicht nur um die Erlebnisse der mitspielenden Charaktere geht, sondern um die langfristigen Änderungen der Spielwelt. Die Welt wird selber Objekt der Spannung. Siehe auch Rob Conleys The Majestic Wilderlands as a persistant campaign Teil 1, Teil 2.

Das wiederum führt zu einem weiteren Effekt: Ich kann im Spiel Belohnungen vergeben, welche nicht an die mechanische Verbesserungen auf dem Charakterblatt gekoppelt sind. Wenn Varna einen Turm erobert und ein Bordell einrichtet, dann hat dies Konsequenzen, auch wenn Varna keine Stufe gestiegen ist. In einer alten D&D 3.5 Runden missglückte dies ein wenig: Die Spieler hatten geholfen, ein Tal zu befrieden. Keiner der Spieler war daran interessiert, seinen Charakter im Tal verbleiben zu lassen, denn der Abenteuerpfad ging wo anders hin. Selbst die Einnahmen waren innert kürzester Zeit wertlos, weil die höhere Stufe dazu führte, dass ein Vielfaches an Geld vorhanden war. Dies gilt es zu vermeiden.

Um nochmal zusammen zu fassen, was ich anstrebe:

  1. informiertes Handeln ermöglichen
  2. Handlungsfreiraum bieten, langfristigen Zeitdruck nehmen
  3. Änderungen der Spielwelt erlauben, alte Charaktere als NSC wieder auftauchen lassen
  4. Kontinuität der Welt, keine kurzen Kampagnen mit immer wechselnder Welt
  5. Belohnung der Charaktere im Spiel statt auf dem Charakterblatt

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2012-05-22 Even More Recommended Dungeons

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7073/7248936152_c23ee44156_o.jpg

As I keep reading through the entries of the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012, my list of recommendations grows. Where did I leave off? Last time I had reached the mid-point. Hm…

Here they are:

There you go – if you don’t have the time to read them all, those are my recommendations for the moment. :)

(I love the logo ravells created for the One Page Dungeon Contest Facebook page. Thanks!)

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2012-05-22 Thinking About Solar System RPG

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7233/6881861780_8647db57f5_n.jpg

A while ago Harald posted on Google+ and wasn’t too sure about the system. We had talked about the Solar System RPG before and so I asked him what had made him change his mind. After all, he had done the German translation of the system. Harald turned the question around and asked me instead: Looking back at the game I ran from character generation to transcendence, what had worked well and what had not?

I want to preserve what I said back then on my blog instead of loosing it in the depths of Google+:

Without thinking about it too long, it seems to me that the system is not quirky enough for me. If the rules are too simple, to unified, then results end up being predictable. With results I’m referring to the game experience at the table. With D&D and other traditional systems, it’s hard to figure out how your game play will change. There are weird spells, weird monsters, all of them with little extra rules that cover their specialty. In their totality, the systems are not rules-light, even if some of them such as the old school D&D variants have simple character generation.

I think this is also related to Changing Gameplay Over Time.

I don’t have much D&D 4E experience, but I’ve seen people complain online about the perfect progression of character’s abilities and monster’s abilities. Old versions had asymmetries over time such as attack bonuses growing faster than armor class, save or die effects eventually dominating hit points.

Furthermore, non-quirkiness promotes abstraction. Abstract combat, abstract conflict resolution, and I’m wondering whether as a gamer, I might prefer more grounding. I’ve heard the same argument from other people, too. Sometimes it is also discussed under the label of Dissociated Mechanics. I end up not liking the abstraction of chess and prefer the speculations at the table that come with such questions as “what do you see when invisible people walk through water” or “can the fire reach me around the corner?” If you have quirky rules such as how fireballs work, then you can draw conclusions as to what happens if obstacles block the fireball’s path and use them in play. If the system is very abstract, then we roll first and interpret or explain the result afterwards.

The end result, therefore, is that the game felt a bit blander than before. The story felt like epic high level D&D without all the pain that high level D&D 3.5 would add, but the actual game experience felt blander than the simple Labyrinth Lord games I like to run.

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Comments on 2012-05-22 Thinking About Solar System RPG


lior
This made me think… a lot.

I feel the same about Solar System, TSoY, Fate etc. But I think the main reason for the different long-term experience compared to D&D/clones is not really the lack of leveling up and related changes in the system. Case in point: I suspect most groups keep returning to play in a specific same range of class levels. According to their tastes. For example I prefer the lowest levels where every goblin matters and some PCs really use short swords, slings or other less-than perfect equipment.

Classic D&D-ish systems are designed from the bottom-up: you have some mechanics for low-level effects (like striking, skill attempts, knowledge checks). It is left to the players to sort out how those effect interact with each other or with the game world. This approach automatically leads to a myriad of possible permutations. Whats more, because classic systems come with huge lists of elements (equipment, skills, spells, monsters, artifacts…) or are easily extended with DIY elements, they also project different possible play flavors to the players. Its not just that fighting the Mummy Contraption in the Marshes of Yuck is very different from any fight you are likely to have experienced before: You know that the GM will introduce new elements with new, possibly weird properties if you go after the Mummy Contraption in the Marshes of Yuck. And those elements will matter mechanically, very much so. That is practically a new game lurking there in the yuck.

Compare that to games like Solar System or Fate which have a top-down design: Here is a generic way of handling everything. Now you can do anything, but mechanically it will feel the same. This is OK, because the events are supposed to mean something different every time. The change in flavor comes from the change of meaning of what your PC is doing. That is great for grand, dramatic play. You have to constantly shake up the PC and her immediate surroundings to make every other conflict really meaningful. Over a sustained period of play, I think this will get tiring. Are you excited to fight the Mummy Contraption in the Marshes of Yuck? You know that mechanically, you’ve probably seen it all so there will be nothing new from that department. What motivates you to really to do it in the end is the meaning of the quest. It is important to your PC (do you have a “best interest” or a “belief” or does it hit a “key” or is you PC motivated by design as in Dogs in the Vinyard and My Life With Master?) or it is important to the game world or maybe you are compelled to act by the system itself (You are supposed to get more XP or you need that loot)?

This is not a simple dichotomy. Some game elements in D&D are not very interesting mechanically (like weapons) and a top-down system can have mechanics that produce interesting variations. Fate has skills, but they all use the same mechanics. And of course, you could mix top-down and bottom-up design, to try to have the best of both worlds. I think Burning Wheel might be an example with its beliefs and Artha on the one – top-down – hand, and its life paths and lists of skills and spells on the other.

lior 2012-05-22 15:38 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I agree. The only importance of “changes over time” is that this introduces yet another element to complicate the game mechanics. I also agree that there is a sliding scale between abstract, unified, dissociated mechanics on one side and the detailed, additive, quirky, diy mess of rules on the other side.

All I can say is that the games that have tried to have the best of both worlds didn’t do it for me—but I’m not sure this is due to their position on this slide. Role-playing games are themselves a multi-factored experience depending on other people at the table, setting, adventure, character, yourself, and many other things. Compared to that, the handful of sessions I have played offer no insight.

You already mentioned Burning Wheel with it’s complex life path character generation and it’s many detailed rules for various elements (fighting, talking, shooting, sorcery, miracles, artha, the sheer number of skills) and a very simple core dice mechanic. Rolemaster, Harp and Merp are similar games with long lists of things (equipment, skills, spells, classes) and a very simple core dice mechanic.

I guess in the end this just means that it’s a small, nameless element of game design that I can use to describe why my next campaign is not going to use the Solar System rpg rules; I might also use it to argue why my next campaign is not going to use Fate; I think I can’t use it to predict whether I will like a new set of rules…

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-22 16:31 UTC



Harald
Awesome, insightful thoughts. I am still trying to pull my thoughts about why I don’t want to do Solar System as originally planned, but it seems you two nailed it pretty well so far.

That said, tastes change over time, so my verdict is anything but final (but probably valid for a couple years).

Harald 2012-05-22 18:00 UTC

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2012-05-24 Grep Woes

As I am working on the last issues for my new Oddmuse release, I’ve stumbled upon a strange problem using grep scenario on Mac OS 10.6.8:

$ mkdir /tmp/dir
$ echo schroeder > /tmp/dir/schroeder
$ echo schröder > /tmp/dir/schröder
$ echo SCHRÖDER > /tmp/dir/SCHRÖDER-UP # don't use SCHRÖDER because of HFS
$ grep -rli schröder /tmp/dir
/tmp/dir/schröder
$ grep -rli SCHRÖDER /tmp/dir
/tmp/dir/schröder

Why is grep not finding the upper case variant in the Schröder-Up file?

$ cat /tmp/dir/schröder | od -c
0000000    s   c   h   r   ö  **   d   e   r  \n                        
0000012
$ cat /tmp/dir/SCHRÖDER-UP | od -c
0000000    S   C   H   R   Ö  **   D   E   R  \n                        
0000012

Maybe related in a weird way: HFS uses Normalization Form D. I’ll try on my new Debian system.

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2012-05-25 Persistent Campaign Setting

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Rob Conley is writing about persistent campaign settings and in part 3 he answers some of Brendan’s questions. I think I decided to keep running campaigns in the same setting when I read one of Rob’s older posts back in October of 2008. I’ll call them Rob’s Fantasy Sandbox Rules:

  1. Players should be allowed to have a meaningful impact on the setting both large and small.
  2. The results of past campaigns serve as background for the current campaign.
  3. The focus on establishing their legacy solves many of the problems of high level play.

My Alder King campaign started at around the time: I had created the campaign wiki in June 2008, the first character was posted in August and the first session was in October 2008. I decided to apply Rob’s Fantasy Sandbox Rules and do the same thing. And look what happened: there are two wikis for all these campaigns: The Alder King has 514 pages and Fünf Winde (“Five Winds”) has 249 pages. And the player map connecting Lenap with the Sea of Five Winds is huge.

In his blog post, Brendan asks some questions. Let’s see…

What if multiple groups are playing at the same time and affect each other?
As long as they never meet directly, this is no problem. I just told them some gossip and rumors when we next met. Here’s an example: We had a dwarf from party A leaving a letter for a NPC in a tavern and a thief from party B steal it before it was delivered. The dwarf then posted a sign offering a reward for the thief’s head before he even knew that the thief was a player character from the other party. Another example: Party A and B both have a thief that is building up a guild. At one point, thief A was recruiting new members from thief B’s guild because thief B was adventuring in a different city.
What if one group plays in “the past” with regard to other groups?
I never did that. I think the paradoxes are bad enough with a single group doing time travel. The solution is to keep track of time and synchronize as needed. If group A has an adventure taking a week, then group B meets twice and has adventures taking two weeks, and group A meets again to game, their characters have just spent one week lounging about. I’ll ask them at the beginning of the session if their characters did anything notable. Alternatively, if time goes out of sync because one of the two groups is not returning back to town for a while, then that’s not a problem as long as you keep track of it all. As soon as the two parties return to the same location, you need to sync and one of them has to spend in-game time lounging about.
Another potential issue is that such a setting could become too important.
This is part of the joy for me as a DM. The game is partly about exploring the setting, together, at the table.
Do any of you have a setting that keeps developing as specified above?
Yes!
If so, did you start with a published setting, or did you start from scratch?
The Wilderlands of High Fantasy and the Lenap region in particular.
How many campaigns or groups has your setting supported?
One campaign using D&D 3.5, one campaign using Solar System RPG rules, and two Labyrinth Lord campaigns which eventually merged due to shrinkage.
Have you progressed through multiple historical or technological eras?
No.
What about multiple game systems?
Yes.
Have you ever “upgraded” (or downgraded)?
No idea what that means – if we’re talking about switching from newer rules to older rules: Yes I have.
Do you think the diversity of products available now makes such fidelity unrealistic?
No. If you feel the urge to play in other settings, no problem. Find the time to join other groups. (I run and play in six campaigns of varying intensity at the moment.)
Are there any techniques that you use to record campaign developments?
A campaign wiki with characters and (short) session reports, a growing map, and a growing list of pages of things encountered: NPCs, locations, cultures, powerful magic items.

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Comments on 2012-05-25 Persistent Campaign Setting


Simon Forster
I like the idea of a persistent setting, and I ran my old Greyhawk campaigns this way, although I haven’t done anything like it for a while. Hopefully that’ll change in my next one.

Simon Forster 2012-05-25 09:31 UTC

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2012-05-28 Regarding My Nominations

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We’re close to finishing the list of winners for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012. I’ve sent my nominations, prepared the spreadsheet, did my thing. As the deadline approaches—June 1st—I’m reminded of what I said a few days ago:

If you’re the author of a particular entry amongst the first fifty dungeons and you’d like to hear a few more words about it, let me know. I hope I’ll be writing a paragraph about all the dungeons I’m going to nominate in the end – but if you want to hear about your dungeon right away, I’ll be happy to talk.

Two people got back to me and here’s what I had to say.

The author of The Oracle of Pagebrin was the first who wanted to hear more. He had already read about the things I like to see in a dungeon and knew that it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea.

The problem is this: What should I do with humorous and witty submissions to the contest? As for myself, I run D&D games, various Indie games, Pendragon – and the old school D&D games in particular are full of deadly slapstick. The player characters are murderhobos and killerclowns. It’s neither serious like the Forgotten Realms, not gritty like Warhammer, nor is it meta and funny like Paranoia used to be. That’s why I would never use The Oracle of Pagebrin in my campaign.

There would be a lot of groaning and shaking of fists once the players discover the jokes. There are plenty of these funny moments and I’m sure I missed many as I read the entry: the presence of angry birds, links going on for ever and ever, feeling lucky, and so on. In addition to that, there are no elements that I might lift from this entry to use in my own game. There is no map that I can hand out to the players as treasure, no NPCs I might use, no interesting monster I can import into my game. From my very utilitarian point of view, this is why I cannot nominate The Oracle of Pagebrin.

There was a similar funny entry I remember, the MAZE of NAMCAP (namcap = pacman). It was funny when I saw it and I remember it well; it was named Best Silly Dungeon back in 2009. There was also The Chapel of Priapus, a temple of fertility where the last room was a penis and if you wore the right amulet and said the right prayer, the character would be ejected. Again, an unforgettable entry with a weird sense of humor. Plus, Priapus did in fact exist! Nevertheless, those are not the dungeons that I want to print out and keep in a folder to use for my home game. I remember them – but I would never nominate them. I cannot use silly dungeons at my table.

The authors of Dungeon Town also asked me to “spill the beans.”

Here’s what I like: I like something to drop into my sandbox campaign or something to run as a one-shot at a convention. I like to use my favorite system to do it (currently that would be Labyrinth Lord). This means that an entry doesn’t have to be an actual dungeon. I’ve used the hexcrawl The Forgotten Depths in a campaign of mine, for example. In this particular case, the things I liked about Dungeon Town:

  1. It has a list of interesting non-player characters: their characterization is incredibly short and evocative. The image is inspiring and short tags such as half-good or “retired” in quotes make me believe that I could role-play these characters and makes me think that I couldn’t have thought up as interesting characters on the spur of the moment. Furthermore, non-player characters are practically always intelligent and thus inherently more interesting than stupid monsters.
  2. It has an inspiring map: a long stair reaching a stalagmite spire town; a slum further down, mines, a market, a tomb—these seem like interesting locales. I’d have to prepare the details for the various locales because of the one page limitation, but the map inspires me to think of something—even if some of them are not great on their own. Tomb? Again?
  3. It has interesting notes on the map: “Ants! Bring honey!” is enough to work as a rumor in town, as a problem, as a suggested solution or a combat encounter. A little comment like “Moistened Horrors (We’ll miss you Jake)” can also serve as a hook to a rumor, and suggest additional situations: recover the body; pacify the ghost, find his last surviving relative, that kind of thing.
  4. The map also hints at multiple goals such as locations to search for.
  5. The list of events and the map notes provide a strong theme.

Unfortunately, the entire reputation mechanic is very much an added layer of rules that I didn’t find very interesting. As far as I’m concerned, I’d probably develop something less abstract. One example is Roll WIS. Low roll is either “framed for theft” or “pocket picked” depending on your current reputation. Using framed for theft for the first encounter and pocket picked for subsequent encounters would work just as well for me. I’m just not interested in the simple reputation mechanic.

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2012-05-30 Bottomless Pit

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Yesterday’s Labyrinth Lord game took place in the Barrowmaze. The party had tracked Nualia (from Rise of the Runelords vol. 1) to her father Kallic (a necromancer of Set in the Barrowmaze). They had tricked Daksin (the drunken mayor of Kerealia in the Sea of Five Winds region of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy) to get the various factions to fight each other. And since the party had thought of everything, it all turned to bloodshed in room 110, and in the end, they shot the surviving necromancer with some crossbow bolts. So far so good.

As they pursue Nualia, the cleric holding the Cup of Arden (a magic item adapted from the Coils of Set adventure) fell into a pit. Roll… a bottomless pit!

Hm. Quick thinking is required! Here’s what I knew:

  1. one of the other player characters is interested in the dead elven god Arden
  2. the elves are one of the campaign themes
  3. the dead god is obviously in the Astral Sea and his corpse has been settled by githyanki
  4. they are interested in new followers of the dead god, which is why they have been sending this player character dreams and visions (a typical example of how my campaigns are slowly influenced by the interests of player characters)

Ok, so I decide that the bottomless pit connects to the Astral Sea. In the Astral Sea, time passes differently. The body does not age, does not hunger, does not thirst. No problem. I just tell the player that his character is falling and keeps on falling. The other players make long faces. I tell them that the darkness in this pit is limitless. No light and no sound escapes it. Stunned silence. A player character gone because he rolled a 1 or 2 on a d6.

I think this is a cool idea to tie the interests of the character who is interested in Arden into the rescue of the character that has fallen into the Astral Sea.

But I wasn’t prepared for my players! The other player character—the one who is interested in Arden—sees the Cup of Arden disappear into the pit and decides that he wants to be thrown into the pit! He demands it! The hireling carrying him refuses, however. You must understand that this player character lost his shield arm, one of his legs (wearing an elven prosthetic leg instead) and he recently got his other leg broken. Truly, Death and Dismemberment. His hireling refuses to do the job, but this cripple rolls and crawls towards the pit and throws himself into it. He wants to recover the Cup of Arden!

I am stunned. Hilarity ensues. “I am going to found a new sect. We will call ourselves Throwers, throwing ourselves into every pit, ever!”

Ok, roll with it, I think to myself. I tell the first character that he can pray for a divine intervention of Freya. Based on his reputation with his god and his golden holy symbol there is a 3% chance of the goddess intervening. She does not. The other character has had to deal with a 0% chance because he had picked to follow a dead god. I announce that in the Astral Sea, there is a 10% chance of a divine intervention. The player is overjoyed. “I will never leave this place! I feel so close to Arden!” The players laugh so hard they have tears in their eyes. But Arden does not intervene.

The end of the session approaches. I announce that from now on, at the beginning of every session they could roll a single d6. If it came up with a 1, “something” would happen. Until then, the two characters would fly through an eternal darkness, separated by fifty meters of nothingness.

Happy faces all around. I think I really like how this campaign is going!

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2012-05-30 New Router

Note to self: Today I replaced my AirPort Express with a new one. The old one was simply unreachable and resetting it made no difference. I bought it back in 2005. It lasted for seven years. That’s pretty good.

I’m once again dreaming of an OpenWlan, specially in the light of recent decisions:

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2012-05-31 One Page Dungeon Contest Winners Announced

One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 The winners have been announced on the contest page. See below for a copy of the list. Feel free to download the PDF with all One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 winners (32 MB) and share it!

Here they are:

Winning Entry Category
Aaron Frost & Mundi King – Meckwick’s Pair O’DiceBest Dungeon Generator
Aaron Kavli – The Return of the Hecate RoseBest Science Fiction
Alan Brodie – Splashdown in Fiend’s FenBest Science Fantasy
Dale Horstman – The Monastery at Dor AmonBest Library
David Gay – Water Genie vs. Undead Mermaid GladiatorBest Gonzo
Eran Aviram and Aviv Or – One Last TributeBest Tomb
Fco. Javier Barrera – The River of StarsBest Ruin
Gene Sollows – Holy SwordMost Fun
Greengoat – Devil Gut RockBest Theme
Jason “Flynn” Kemp – Sell-Swords of MarsBest Wilderness
Jason Shaffer – The First CasualtyBest 1st Level Dungeon
Jeff Shepherd – Four BrothersBest Riddles
Jerry LeNeave – A King With No CrownBest Temple
Kelvin Green – A Rough Night at the Dog & BastardBest Relationship Map
L. S. F. – Fungal InfectionBest Fungoid
Leslie Furlong – The Faerie MarketBest Situation
Lester Ward – Seven Spindles and a McGuffinBest Modifiable Map
Luka Rejec – Deep in the Purple WormBest Integration of Art and Story
PJ Cunningham – Operation Eagle EyeBest Espionage
Ramsey Hong – The Cave of Kull CoveBest Cave
Roger Carbol – The Tomb of Oddli Stone-SquarerBest Multiple Factions
Roger SG Sorolla – Old Bastard’s BarrensBest New Presentation
The Seven-Sided Die – The Tomb of Nesta the MischievousMost Bountiful
Will Doyle – Tomb of Snowbite PassBest Eye Beams

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Comments on 2012-05-31 One Page Dungeon Contest Winners Announced


Roger Carbol
Wow! I am in illustrious company indeed. Thanks to all the judges and especially Alex for herding all the cats on this one.

Roger Carbol 2012-05-31 17:52 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Hehe, congratulation! :)

As for what comes next, in case anybody is wondering: I’ll send an email asking each winner for some items they’d like and for some items they definitely don’t like and then I’ll put this all in a spreadsheet and ponder it for a week or two, trying to maximize happiness for all winners.

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-31 20:06 UTC



thekelvingreen
Congratulations to everyone who took part. It was a really tough competition this year, and it must have been difficult for the judges to pick their favourites.

thekelvingreen 2012-05-31 20:45 UTC



AlexSchroeder
It was!

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-31 21:41 UTC



FJBarrera
Uoooh! I am really, really happy! Thanks to all the judges! Thanks to all!

FJBarrera 2012-06-01 10:37 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I warms my heart to see happy people! :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-06-01 11:08 UTC

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2012-05 Book Club

What: Преступление и наказание – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When: 23 May, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Bistro Lochergut (tram 2+3 ‘Lochergut’)

Another classical one but a bit older and maybe not so well known here.

Book description (Amazon): A desperate young man plans the perfect crime – the murder of a despicable pawnbroker, an old women no one loves and no one will mourn. Is it not just, he reasons, for a man of genius to commit such a crime, to transgress moral law – if it will ultimately benefit humanity? So begins one of the greatest novels ever written: a powerful psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, a fascinating detective thriller infused with philosophical, religious and social commentary. Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in a garret in the gloomy slums of St. Petersburg, carries out his grotesque scheme and plunges into a hell of persecution, madness and terror. Crime And Punishment takes the reader on a journey into the darkest recesses of the criminal and depraved mind, and exposes the soul of a man possessed by both good and evil … a man who cannot escape his own conscience.

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