Inspired by a link to LaTeX templates Brad Murray had posted recently on Google+, I decided to try and spend a few hours moving a German FATE variant of mine (inspired by the simplicity of the Diaspora core but with skills appropriate for a Mesopotamia or Ancient Greece setting) to LaTeX. I really wanted to use the Tufte template.
I really hate editing the text such that section beginnings and endings fall on page breaks! But I think it worked. I’m not quite sure whether it it actually significantly better. After having spent a few hours refreshing my LaTeX skills, I guess I’m just happy it’s done! What do you think of the layout?
Update: Now on GitHub.
What it does is the following:
cloudaction runs the old code (text representation).
tagcloudaction runs the new code.
tagaction which shows the last blog pages with that tag.
I just leafed through it and I liked what I saw! It makes me want to add an African-inspired section to my campaign right now.
I liked the art. The pieces fit together, had a unified style, made me want to play or meet those characters.
Remember, I didn’t read those 180 pages. But some of my impressions regarding the rules: standard six attributes but smaller modifiers: 3 → -2; 4–7 → -1; 14–17 → +1; 18 → +2. There are four cultures with half a page of background followed by a large number of interesting one-paragraph character backgrounds that grant you a number of skills. Skills go from 0–4. I’m not a big friend of skill systems, but it doesn’t bother me too much.
There are four classes: warriors (fighters) and three classes with magical abilities—griots (bards), marabouts (clerics) and ngangas (magic users).
The “fighters” have access to a very simple feat system. I’m no friend of the feats in D&D 3.5 or Adventure Conqueror King, but this system here only takes a single page and doesn’t constitute a feat tree and only concerns fighters. I think this works for me.
There are three kinds of “bard” songs (minor, great, ancient) and characters get access to the more powerful variants at 4th and at 7th level. I like the simplicity of the system. The effects of these songs persists for as long as they are being sung.
The “clerics” can invoke miracles (spells) from a variety of spheres. They are spontaneous casters with a certain number of miracles/day limit. Each sphere comes with a list of spells. Thus, by gaining access to more spheres they get more choice in spells. Their favorite sphere gets them a minor magical ability.
The power of “magic users” comes in the form of rituals and spells. Known rituals can be performed as long as the characters have the necessary time and resources (many cost money). Spells are “memorized” by creating little fetishes and “cast” by triggering them.
The various classes are an excellent demonstration of how to rewrite the standard descriptions to conjure up a different atmosphere and invoke the new setting.
There is a one-page quick reference after the rules section. Excellent idea.
There is a lot of material explaining how to run a sandbox campaign without just copying what he said in Red Tide and An Echo Resounding. Excellent!
Three pages on how to play—responsibility of players, responsibility of the referee, how to start the first session, this kind of stuff, short and succinct. Another three pages on typical pitfalls: how to use combat in your game, how to handle character death, how to handle investigative games, how to handle magic items, how to handle unfamiliarity with the setting. All of these are a great introduction to people unfamiliar with sandbox play, I think. Thinking back to my recent game mastering career and remembering the D&D 3.5 Dungeon Master Guide, I’d say that these pages here come with all the relevant advice that you need.
The domain game uses Might, Trouble and Treasure as the kingdom stats. In An Echo Resounding the three stats were Military, Social and Wealth. If you’re interested in a short overview of An Echo Resounding, check out my summary. The concepts are similar. These stats are used to resolve the kingdom turns. The game does not come with units, resources to build, mass combat and all the other things An Echo Resounding introduced.
As for creating adventures: the book comes with an empty map for a dungeon, a building, an estate, a shrine, a cave; it comes with tables for cults, magic user spells, non-player characters, cultures, names, adventure elements; domain game rules incl. building costs, henchmen, hirelings, magic items, treasures, monsters—all suitably themed! I think this is awesome. The book also comes with a lot of advice on how to go about creating adventures, how to think about the set (the place), the actors (denizens, non-player characters) and props (treasure, items), and how to put the three together. Skimming through this section, I found myself nodding along.
There is an index, which is something I appreciate. There’s also an annotated bibliography for fiction, history, mythology, religion and pictures. This should be useful for people like me with practically no experience with Africa.
All in all, I think this book would be an excellent book. With its 180 pages it looks much like a slightly expanded B/X D&D with an African theme. It has plenty of good advice and ideas for beginners and sandbox newbies. Personally, I think many games lack the succinct guidance a new referee needs. The D&D 3.5 DM’s guide didn’t have it. I don’t think my favorite variant of the game has it, either: Labyrinth Lord is quite bare bones. At the same time, Spears of Dawn is not simply a collection of house rules tacked onto B/X D&D. The infusion of the African setting into every paragraph and its strong focus on teaching the reader how to run a sandbox campaign sets it appart.
I highly recommend it. Then again, remember I haven’t read it in depth (and I probably won’t unless the campaign moves into an African direction).
These days my players are exploring the Forgotten Depths. I added Tower of the Changer (from Metal Earth). It mentions Dilvashti the Carrion-Sculptor (from Planet Algol). Looking at my campaign and the existing Frankenstein arts, I decided that a level 14 Vivimancer using Theorems & Thaumaturgy (from The City of Iron) would be ideal.
What can I say? Some of the best stuff out there is free. Thank you, RPG bloggers!
Also, my blog needs more metal.
I just read a rant about Emacs Wiki and it’s alternative: The Wikemacs Experiment: 300 Days Later. Check out How Emacs Wiki Works for some context from my point of view. Anyway, the anonymous author says: “Maybe someone could work with Alex to add gist-style code snippets to Oddmuse, and make it so that code can be cited inline on Wiki pages, so that anyone visiting the page is automatically looking at the most up to date version of the code.”
(setq abg-elisp-external-dir (expand-file-name "external" abg-elisp-dir)) ; ... ; Add external projects to load path (dolist (project (directory-files abg-elisp-external-dir t "\\w+")) (when (file-directory-p project) (add-to-list 'load-path project)))
Actually, I added an Emacs Wiki feature using two lines of code that add support for fancy inclusion:
<include gist "https://gist.github.com/1236665">
It only works over there, however. See EmacsWiki:Gists.
Anyway, the same also works for Lisppaste:
<include text "http://paste.lisp.org/display/134703/raw">
;; Set XTERM resources as so ;; ;; metaSendsEscape: false ;; altSendsEscape: false ;; eightBitInput: true ;; Verify with cat > /dev/null command that pressing alt-a ;; alt-b and so on produces single >128bit char (will look ;; like a with a hat ;; once above is working in emacs do ;; Prevent pressing esc O from triggering binding (define-key (get-input-decode-map) "\eO" nil) ;; tell emacs Meta is 8th bit (cond ((fboundp 'set-input-meta-mode) (set-input-meta-mode t)) (t (set-input-mode t nil t)))
I don’t think there’s a nice way to include the colored version, unfortunately.
Update: I added support and minimal Lisp highlighting for the following:
<include lisppaste "http://paste.lisp.org/display/134703">
It only works over there, of course.
I replaced the lens cover on my iPhone 4!
I had to order two lens covers because the minimum order is 10 CHF (about 10 USD):
|iPhone 4 Kamera Halter mit Chrom Ring und Linse||R1-B-030||2||11,80 CHF|
|iPhone 5 / 4S / 4 Werkzeugset 5in1||Tool-IP4-Rot||1||3,90 CHF|
In the anonymous rant The Wikemacs Experiment: 300 Days Later, the author claims “The biggest problem is that it is insecure. […] Anyone can edit any of the pages that contain Elisp code.” The same sentiment was expressed by Alex Bennée in a comment on Google+: “What is really needed is a way to be sure that the source for the emacs extension your updating hasn’t been subverted by someone else with ill intent.”
Experiences and ideas of “what is really necessary” vary. As for myself, I’ve installed code from all over the Internet without reviewing the source. Installing it from a gist or git repo is hardly a different experience. If you want to figure out whether a source is trustworthy, you do the usual things: do people link to the code, how long has it been around, what about recent checkins, that sort of thing. Or you get into the crypto business of signing releases.
You could of course say that every day that passes without a problem increases our false sense of security… I have no answer to that. All I can say is that if security is your problem, using gists and github is not the solution (as you say yourself). The source of the insecurity is our habits, our culture of downloading and installing anything and everything. I’m not sure how you’ll ever make sure “that the source for the emacs extension your updating hasn’t been subverted by someone else with ill intent.” That seems pretty impossible to me unless you limit yourself to the core Emacs distribution (and even that’s not a guarantee).
People on the #emacs channel keep asking “is there way to do X” and thus my impression is that finding stuff is a more pressing problem. I feel that encouraging people to create a page on the wiki saying “here is code to help you do something” is the solution to that problem.
But then again, I guess we all differ in what we consider to be the most pressing problem.
Alex Bennée the correctly points out that using “a user locked solution like a gist or git repo you can at least be assured what you’re installing has come through one person who you’ve trusted to a degree before.” I guess that’s true. We’ll see whether people start switching over to using gists instead of editing wiki pages. I said in an earlier comment:
I added gist support […] because it was easy to do, not because it will encourage existing authors to move their elisp code on wiki pages to github. If at all, it might encourage future elisp authors to transclude a gist… But then again, there’s nothing preventing them from linking to a gist right now. Perhaps it’s also a generational thing. People that have been living without github and gists don’t feel a particular need to start using it.
Gerade eben sah ich eine Frage von Thorsten Panknin auf Google+ zum Thema Burning Wheel. Ich habe mit Burning Wheel Revised zwei Einzelspiele geleitet (einmal Heian, einmal das Zombiebäreneinführungsabenteuer aus einem der Bücher), eine kurze Kampagne über das Netz geleitet (nur zwei Mitspieler, ein Abend Welterschaffung, sechs Abende für die Kampagne, Campaign:Krythos), und einmal in einer kurzen Kampagne am Tisch mitgespielt (wieder sechs Abende, Campaign:BurningSix). Was ich ihm auf alle Fälle geschrieben habe:
Ich wollte Burning Wheel immer gerne haben, habe Burning Wheel Revised gekauft, Zusatzbänder, Heian Setting, Jihad Setting, wollte meine Freunde überreden, es auszuprobieren… und als ich es dann probiert habe, war es lasch: die einfachen Dinge zu kompliziert (sobald man beim Kämpfen das einfache Gegeneinanderwürfeln weglässt), soziale Konflikte wollte ich lieber ausdiskutieren statt mit LSD-Schere-Stein-Papier auswürfeln, die Charaktererschaffung war langwierig und mühsam (endlose Zahlenschaufelei und tausend Fehlerquellen, dabei war die Anzahl Karriereschritte und die von ihnen vorgegebenen und erlaubten Fertigkeiten das einzig Interessante), überhaupt: Rüstungsverfall, Trefferregionen, Deckung… Da schläft mir das Gesicht ein, bis wir weiter kommen. Grundsätzlich mit extrem viel Meta Diskussion, weil die einzelnen Schritte nicht trivial sind oder gar ausgehandelt werden müssen, und demzufolge fehlt mir die Immersion. Ein Metaspiel mit Artha (Heldenpunkte) finde ich immer noch schrecklich, weil damit ein Teil der Spannung wegfällt, die Konflikte verlängert werden, der Spieler irgendwie entmündigt wird (kann er nicht richtig spielen kriegt er keine Punkte?). Der Tonfall des Autors, die Emo Magie, Lebenspfade, diese öfter kritisierten Elemente finde ich immer noch gut.
The problem with Google+ used to be that joining it gave you nothing. You needed to circle some people. Those people could potentially read what you wrote. For them to actually see it in their stream, however, they would have to circle you back. Alternatively, you could just post for all to see, but that doesn’t announce yourself to others, thus they won’t circle you, thus they’ll never see you in their stream.
Now, if you keep posting to your circles, and somebody new stumbles upon your profile, they see nothing. If you did not any public posts, then there’s nothing to see. That’s why people kept saying that you had to list your interests on your profile for others to figure out which circle to put you in. Hopefully you would in turn—based on their posts you saw—put them in the appropriate circles. This situation was better if you posted publicly, but it also tended to annoy some people: they just want to see posts on a particular topic, not see your political ranting and all that.
I sent Google feedback saying that I wanted to announce some of my circles on my profile such that people would automatically know how to sign up for them. Instead, we got Communities.
I think that in addition of working like instant forums, Communities can work just as I intended. Here’s how: Pick a circle like RPG. Instead of posting to the circle, post to the RPG Community. Tell others that this is what you are doing, eg. on your profile. The others add you to their circle and join the RPG Community. Now they’ll see your RPG posts without ever going to the Community. In fact, neither you nor they will ever “look at the Community”. All you’re doing is tagging the posts. This works because if you have circled people and they post in Communities both of you joined, you’ll see their posts in your stream. This way, the simple membership expresses interest in a circle. What do you think? It sounds like an excellent solution to me.
The benefit is that you, as the author, don’t need to circle your readers. At the same time, newcomers can go to the Communities, check out who writes interesting stuff and circle the authors. It’s no longer symmetric.
The drawback is that now all your posts are effectively public—and obviously so since you posted to a public Community. If you want to draw a thin line, you can switch of the setting “Show your Google+ communities posts on the Posts tab of your Google+ profile.” Unfortunately, this also stops announcing your interests unless you link the communities you are posting to from your profile.
There is also the additional drawback of potentially annoying the people that want to treat communities like a forum. I’ll have to try it in order to know for sure.
Yet another drawback is that people that have me circled but haven’t joined any of the Communities I am using will not see those posts. I used to post to the RPG Circle, but now I’m posting to the RPG Community. If they are in my RPG Circle but haven’t joined the RPG Community, they won’t see the post unless they visit my profile. Well, to be honest I haven’t posted much of anything at all, but that would be the plan.
My current RPG communities:
I don’t think joining communities for systems I don’t use or Google+ Hangouts makes much sense (since I get to play a lot offline).
My current software oriented Communities:
Any other suggestions?
When: 23 January, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))
Where: Bistro Lochergut (tram 2+3 ‘Lochergut’)
Book description (from Amazon): An astonishingly inventive, wonderfully exuberant novel that takes us from the shimmering dunes of ancient Egypt to the war-torn streets of twenty-first-century Lebanon.
In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father’s deathbed. The city is a shell of the Beirut Osama remembers, but he and his friends and family take solace in the things that have always sustained them: gossip, laughter, and, above all, stories.
Osama’s grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching stories—of his arrival in Lebanon, an orphan of the Turkish wars, and of how he earned the name al-Kharrat, the fibster—are interwoven with classic tales of the Middle East, stunningly reimagined. Here are Abraham and Isaac; Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes; the ancient, fabled Fatima; and Baybars, the slave prince who vanquished the Crusaders. Here, too, are contemporary Lebanese whose stories tell a larger, heartbreaking tale of seemingly endless war—and of survival.
Like a true hakawati, Rabih Alameddine has given us an Arabian Nights for this century—a funny, captivating novel that enchants and dazzles from its very first lines: “Listen. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.”