Once again I’ve decided I needed to work on the memoirs of my grandfather Roland Li-Marchetti. I had digitized 16 pages many years ago but his memoirs contain a total of 45 pages of typed text. The last time I worked on this, I was using the OCR software that came with my scanner (a cheap Canon LiDE 25) – but today the scanner was no longer recognized by the operating system. I faintly remember having experienced this before when I upgraded my system. Bit rot!
Anyway, I was in the mood to try something new. Free Software?
(While the stuff is compiling, I am in fact using a free online OCR service.)
Here is the original, taken with my Pentax K100D, loaded into Gimp, rotated, cropped, and auto-adjusted levels.
The tesseract output is pretty cool:
que mes vingt prochaines années soient aussi riches d'aventures et de bonheur auprès des miens, main dans la main avec Agnès mon inséparable complice qui a beaucoup sacrifié et que j'espère pouvoir encore rendre heureuse.
(When I tried it on a direct photo of the page the result was far less pleasing.)
for ((i=20; i<=46; i++)); do tesseract IMGP$((5210+$i)).JPG "page-$i" -l fra done
Brendan Strejcek wrote In Praise of Modules and argued that there are a number of positive aspects to modules.
On his Google+ post linking to the blog post, I left a comment that I’ve copied and edited somewhat.
Lately I find that modules take too damn long to read. Perhaps I’m spoilt by the One Page Dungeon Contest I’ve been trying to keep my own adventure notes very short, and when I wrote the Caverns of Slime for the upcoming issue of Fight On! I tried hard to keep things short.
When I ran the Paizo modules, the two or three I ran went just fine, but I always felt slightly confused. I was already stretched thin. When I ran the Paizo adventure paths, it was worse. I discovered that I didn’t really want to read the modules. It was too much, it took too long, it wasn’t the kind of reading I enjoy. When I ran the Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics for D&D 3.5, I also felt that they would have been great if they had been half as long. The two hard-cover collections of short adventures in the same line, on the other hand, seem perfect!
When modules are too long, I like to jokingly say that I could have written my own in the time it takes me to read it. That’s not true, obviously. Raggi’s argument is a valid one: to run adventures somebody else created is a challenge, a refreshing change of pace, maybe a learning experience. Lately, however, I’ve come to think that I don’t like it enough to spend money on modules. I didn’t invest in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess drive, for example, even though many of the authors caught my attention and many of the adventure blurbs seemed right up my alley.
Do you find your money is well spent when buying adventures? Perhaps my problem is that I didn’t read reviews before buying adventures. I was subscribed to the Paizo modules and the adventure paths both, and when there was a big sale of Dungeon Crawl Classic modules for D&D 3.5 I bought as many as I could get my hands on.
Do you feel the same tension? Some aspects you like – the enthusiasm, the ideas, the art, the change of pace – and some aspects you don’t like – spending money, investing the time, negative surprises.
How do you decide which modules to buy?
I was reading Jim’s Threat Level and Masturbatory Dice Rolling which reminded me of something I once said to my players: “It’s called Dungeons and Dragons, not wanking with Alex.”
Back then I didn’t quite understand that we were having a systemic problem. I was running a D&D 3.5 game and these two players didn’t enjoy the threat level I usually enjoy. I’d rather die at the hands of a tough referee than live under the benevolent smile of a merciful game master.
This is the comment I left on Jim’s post, slightly edited:
I think the attitude that the game master is responsible for the players having fun at the table arose out of the fact that with newer editions of the game, the mechanical aspects of prep started to build up, and at the same time modules ended up very linear, and even if they were not obviously linear (like Red Hand of Doom) then the significant power increase from level to level and thus the increased difficulty of swerving off the planned track all led dungeon masters like me to believe that we were responsible for providing the right threat level.
It took some exposure to dungeon design, sandbox design, a return to threat levels chosen by players based on conventions (dungeon level) or information provided by the referee (rumors for the wilderness) before I understood that I could leave the decision about the threat level of the session up to the players. What a relief it was! Looking back, the technique is simple: increase player agency!
The games I like to run these days are easier to prepare for, they are easier to run, and thus all I need to remember is to provide adequate information the the players regarding the threat levels of locations or events. This will allow my players to pick the threat level they feel comfortable with – and I hope that these days I no longer feel tempted to insult my players.
My websites have not been sending any email notifications out to people who had subscribed to page edits. The reason was that I had switched my Google account to use 2-step verification. Only today did I realize that the error messages were trying to tell me that I needed an application specific password for my script.
Everything should be back in working order.
I feel relieved. For a while I thought I’d have to dig around in the Perl SMTP libraries. Ugh!
And I feel much better with 2-step verification. The Mat Honan story was scary.
People use the word fun a lot when talking about role-playing games. What do we mean by that? Which elements of a game are responsible for people having fun? That is, which elements that we can find in the rules compared to the elements we can find at the table such as props, people, decoration, lighting, music. I’m going to assume that “having fun” results players in coming back session after session and I’m going to assume that this can be explained by behavioral psychology. It seems like a good starting point to me.
A long time ago, I was interested in a play by email game called Atlantis. I decided to learn how to program and translate the game into German. I ran German Atlantis for a long time. I learnt to code, I learnt about Free Software, Emacs, Geocities, HTML, web pages, mail servers, shell scripts and many other things.
Atlantis had regions, units, ranged weapons, melee weapons, a simple resource economy, and so on. It also suffered from a design flaw: as your faction kept growing, preparing your turn turned out to be a chore. It took hours if you had thousands of units!
Later, I wanted to write a new game. It’d be limited to a single person per player. It would have magic items such as swords. The swords would record all the owners that had ever owned it. Improving the sword would need ingredients. This would be the economic part. I thought about it, made some notes, and after a while I discovered that the resulting game turned out to be bland and boring.
What had I missed? To bring the topic back to role-playing games: what is it about the games I don’t like?
I think the key here is that what brings me back to the gaming table is the same thing that makes slot machines addictive. It’s called the variable ratio reinforcement schedule: a reinforcement schedule in which the number of responses necessary to produce reinforcement varies from trial to trial, according to Wikipedia. Apparently, the variable ratio reinforcement schedule results in a high and stable rate of responding with the greatest activity of all schedules. I guess that also explains why I’ve been playing Pinball Arcade on my tablet for so many hours. It’s a simple two-button game. How can it be so addictive? It’s the variable ratio reinforcement schedule: sometimes, when you’re skilled and lucky, you amass incredible awards and it makes you want to come back.
In terms of role-playing games: some monsters are tough, some monsters are pushovers. Some treasure is great, sometimes no treasure can be found. Sometimes the lucky dice save your butt, sometimes treacherous dice kick your butt.
Every player wants to win fights, find loot, gain levels and all that. But for the players to experience maximum reinforcement, for the players to be into the game like addicts, for them to come back week after week, for them to exhibit the behavior we would describe as “they must be having fun” the referee should use a variable ratio reinforcement schedule. I’m claiming that unbalanced encounters and a high variance in treasure found result in a more addictive game.
I wrote this a while ago in a comment to a Google+ post by Harald.
I think Burning Wheel character creation takes way too long. The fiddly bits it generates are not important enough, I feel. You will get some skills you don’t want and you will miss some skills you do want. Cool, it adds in-game goals and role-play opportunities. I’m not convinced that the Mental and Physical pool points, the questions to arrive at the Steel points and all that are really necessary. Specially since the time spent has to compete against a simple alternative like this one:
There might be some additional steps you might have to add. I have never tested this procedure. Let me know if you use it.
Given all that you could create characters in five minutes or less. How much less interesting would these characters be compared to ordinary Burning Wheel character creation?
Recently we played Crypts & Things and a giant kraken attacked our ship. The referee basically had various tentacles attack as separate monsters with the main body of the creature staying below the water. We had about 20 people on board, five player characters, the ship owner and his two kids and eleven henchmen, nineteen people in all.
The rule we used was simple: The target of each tentacle was determined by a d20. Every defender of the ship was assigned a target number. If an undefended target number came up the tentacle dealt automatic damage to our ship. As some of the crew died, more tentacles started damaging the ship. We determined that the ship had 10 hit dice. After the fight, we rolled for hit points to determine how broken our ship had been.
It worked very well.
The referee also had a system of determining how many tentacles were currently attacking. Incapacitated victims were thrown overboard and would drown. At one point a player character went down and I don’t exactly remember why he wasn’t thrown overboard. I think it was because another player character killed the tentacle before the end of the round.
After defeating half the tentacles, a morale check was made and the creature retreated. Lucky us! Our longboat was about 80% gone, if I remember correctly.
Recently Michael Gibbons asked on Google+ regarding gaming blogs:
What do you prefer: content or opinion?
I prefer opinion and insight with examples from actual play or things that I will immediately adopt for my own games.
My favorite example for this is the Ode to Black Dougal blog.
A blog in the same category I recently stumbled upon is Untimately.
I will download a lot of content, but it doesn’t get read carefully unless it gets used at the table and that happens rarely. I have huge folders on my hard disk full of PDFs: bears, hats, treasure maps, Vancian spell names and short spell descriptions, alternate classes, one page dungeons, character generation shortcuts… At the gaming table, I can barely remember to use one or two of these.
What kind of stuff cheeses you off enough to stop reading someone’s blog?
I think my reasons for unsubscribing from blogs usually involve one of the following:
Fight On! #13 will hopefully contain a dungeon level of mine. Hopefully it will get published soon. In the mean time, I’ve started to work on a new adventure called Susrael the Great. One of things you can learn is Bear Magic.
|1st circle||2nd circle|
|astonishing growth of ursine hair grants AC 6 for two turns||terrible staying power of mountain bears grants ⅓ of your max hit points for two turns|
|3rd circle||4th circle|
|glowing eyes of ursine hell grants laser beams for two turns: one target per round must save vs. wands or take 1d6 damage (this is a free action)||treacherous abuse of ursine brotherhood forces an unwilling summoned armored polar bear soldier to join for a fight: HD 6; AC 5; 2 steel claws 1d6 bite 2d6; MV 9; ML 12|
|5th circle||6th circle|
|ursine bloodlust adds 1d6 to each claw and bite attack for two turns||flying bar of bears summons 1d6+2 confused and angry flying bears: HD 8; AC 6; 2 claws 1d6 bite 2d6; MV 12 fly; ML 12|
When: 29 August, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))
Where: Bistro Lochergut (tram 2+3 ‘Lochergut’)
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.