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2013-05-07 Raspberry Pi WiFi

Summary: Install wicd-curses. Run it. Press the right arrow on the wireless network you want to use. Check automatically connect to this network. Switch to WPA 1/2 (Passphrase) and provide your password. Hit F10 (or Command F10 on a Mac). Hit C to connect. You’ll see messages about it generating config files (/etc/wicd/wireless-settings.conf), validating authentication and obtaining an IP address (use ifconfig to verify that you have an “inet addr”).

Ignore the rest on this page.

Reading Raspberry Pi: WLAN einrichten… I bought the Nano-WLAN-USB-Stick 150 Mbps by hama.

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ lsusb
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0424:9512 Standard Microsystems Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0424:ec00 Standard Microsystems Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0bda:8176 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL8188CUS 802.11n WLAN Adapter
pi@raspberrypi ~ $ sudo apt-get install firmware-realtek
Paketlisten werden gelesen... Fertig
Abhängigkeitsbaum wird aufgebaut.       
Statusinformationen werden eingelesen.... Fertig
firmware-realtek ist schon die neueste Version.
0 aktualisiert, 0 neu installiert, 0 zu entfernen und 0 nicht aktualisiert.

Apparently I installed it already. iwlist wlan0 scan results in a lot of output. Including the network I’m looking for:

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ iwlist wlan0 scan | grep Schroeder
                    ESSID:"Schroeder"

Set your network and password using sudo nano /etc/wpa.conf. This is what you want:

network={
 ssid="YOUR-SSID"
 proto=RSN
 key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
 pairwise=CCMP TKIP
 group=CCMP TKIP
 psk="WPA-PASSWORD"
}

Edit the list of interfaces using sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces and append the following:

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-conf /etc/wpa.conf

I was astonished to find some stuff relating to wlan0 in the file already. Anyway, I followed the instructions…

Restart and check:

pi@raspberrypi ~ $ ifconfig
eth0      Link encap:Ethernet  Hardware Adresse b8:27:eb:81:a6:af  
          inet Adresse:192.168.2.3  Bcast:192.168.2.255  Maske:255.255.255.0
          UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metrik:1
          RX packets:114 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:94 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          Kollisionen:0 Sendewarteschlangenlänge:1000 
          RX bytes:17450 (17.0 KiB)  TX bytes:14232 (13.8 KiB)

lo        Link encap:Lokale Schleife  
          inet Adresse:127.0.0.1  Maske:255.0.0.0
          UP LOOPBACK RUNNING  MTU:16436  Metrik:1
          RX packets:8 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:8 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          Kollisionen:0 Sendewarteschlangenlänge:0 
          RX bytes:1104 (1.0 KiB)  TX bytes:1104 (1.0 KiB)

wlan0     Link encap:Ethernet  Hardware Adresse 80:1f:02:8f:91:26  
          UP BROADCAST MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metrik:1
          RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          Kollisionen:0 Sendewarteschlangenlänge:1000 
          RX bytes:0 (0.0 B)  TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

The last entry is shows that we didn’t get an IP number. Oops! It turns out that there is some other stuff in the /etc/network/interfaces file that might interfere. Commenting them out, I have:

auto lo

iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp

# allow-hotplug wlan0
# iface wlan0 inet manual
# wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
# iface default inet dhcp

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-conf /etc/wpa.conf

Still doesn’t work, however. I tried a few variants for the config files. Nothing seemed to work. This makes me so tired. I’m not sure I’m learning much. This is “fiddling with GNU/Linux” and frustrating. 😟

Then I read How to install Wifi on a Raspberry Pi which tells you to install wicd-curses.

That seemed to work! Suddenly ifconfig provided me with an IP number for wlan0. I removed the ethernet cable, rebootet, and was unable to connect. Did the IP number change? Is DHCP taking too long? Why is bonjour not working? Patience! It just takes forever to boot. After a minute—long enough to write this paragraph--it suddenly worked:

alex@Pyrobombus ~$ ssh pi@raspberrypi.local
pi@raspberrypi.local's password: 
Linux raspberrypi 3.6.11+ #371 PREEMPT Thu Feb 7 16:31:35 GMT 2013 armv6l

Yay!

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Comments on 2013-05-07 Raspberry Pi WiFi

If you start X, there is a GUI app on the desktop to set up the wifi :)

Radomir Dopieralski 2013-05-08 08:07 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Hah. The problem there is how to provide keyboard, mouse and wifi all at the same time without a USB hub. I think I need a hub.

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-08 10:17 UTC


If you get a powered hub, your Pi will take power from it too!

Radomir Dopieralski 2013-05-16 18:15 UTC

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2013-05-07 WMA to MP3

This is based on How to Convert Unprotected WMA Files Into MP3 Files. I’m leaving the instructions here for my future self. 😊

for file in *.wma; do
  mplayer -vo null -vc dummy -af resample=44100 \
    -ao pcm:file="${file%%.[Ww][Mm][Aa]}.wav" "$file"
  lame --preset standard "${file%%.[Ww][Mm][Aa]}.wav" \
    "${file%%.[Ww][Mm][Aa]}.mp3"
done 

Use locate lame|grep 'lame$' and locate mplayer|grep 'mplayer$' to find the location of your executables. On a Mac, they’re probably not on your PATH… I installed MPlayer OSX and iTunes-LAME to get the executables. You’ll need to do something similar.

This is the result I just used for some files with upper case file extension:

for file in *.WMA; do
  "/Applications/MPlayer OSX.app/Contents/Resources/External_Binaries/mplayer_intel.app/Contents/MacOS/mplayer" \
    -vo null -vc dummy -af resample=44100 \
    -ao pcm:file="${file%%.[Ww][Mm][Aa]}.wav" "$file"
  "/Applications/iTunes-LAME.app/Contents/Resources/lame" \
    --preset standard "${file%%.[Ww][Mm][Aa]}.wav" \
    "${file%%.[Ww][Mm][Aa]}.mp3"
done 

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2013-05-07 iPhone Sync and Not Enough Disk Space

Once again, I’m syncing my wife’s iPhone 4S using iTunes and half way through the process it claims that it can’t do it because the computer is out of disk space. With more than 9 GB on the main hard disk and much more on the external hard disk (and a link from ~/Library/Application Support/MobilySync to the external hard disk), this is simply impossible. Strangely enough, synchronization continues anyway.

Luckily I remembered what to do: open preferences, find the backup for my wife’s device and delete it. Done. Now I can sync without any messages interrupting it. Strange.

Update: August 1, 2013. Same problem. Same solution.

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2013-05-08 Distributing XP With Emacs

This topic ties together two topics that probably don’t see too much overlap.

  1. I play role-playing games of the D&D old school variety.
  2. I use Emacs to help me do simple stuff on a daily basis.

The problem: the party of characters my players run is huge. Even if there are usually only around ten characters that are part of a single session, there are more than thirty primary and secondary characters on the status page. Given the wiki table for the status page, how can I quickly add up the correct XP and gold values? Any XP gained is shared equally amongst the characters that took part in the session but any gold gained is distributed according to each characters share. Primary characters get a full share, secondary characters get a third of a share.

I used Emacs widget mode to create a page like this:

XP total:   805          
Gold total: 7191         
[X] Schalk
[ ] Uluf
[ ] Witschik
[X] Schachtmann
[ ] Sirius
[X] Logard
[X] Arnd
[X] Tinaya
[ ] Pyrula
[ ] Pijo
[ ] Garo
[X] Zeta
[ ] Pipo
[X] Fusstritt
[ ] Thor
[ ] Jack
[ ] Gloria
[ ] Hermann
[ ] Urs
[ ] Alpha
[ ] Beta
[ ] Gamma
[ ] Boden
[ ] Basel
[ ] Bern
[X] Nuschka
[ ] Moranor
[ ] Axirios Hectaxius

[Go!]

And here’s the code to do it:

(defconst fünf-winde-regexp "^\\(|\\[\\[\\(.*?\\)\\]\\][ \t]*|[ \t]*\\(1\\|1/3\\)[ \t]*\\)|\\([ \t]*[0-9]+[ \t]*\\)|\\([ \t]*[0-9]+[ \t]*\\)"
  "Regular expression to parse the Status page.
\(let ((str (match-string 1))
      (name (match-string 2))
      (share (match-string 3))
      (xp (match-string 4))
      (gold (match-string 5)))
    ...\)")

(defvar fünf-winde-buf nil
  "Source buffer.")

(defvar fünf-winde-xp nil
  "XP share.")

(defvar fünf-winde-gold nil
  "Gold share.")

(defvar fünf-winde-party nil
  "Charakters in the party.")

(defun fünf-winde-xp-and-gold ()
  "Hand out Gold and XP."
  (interactive)
  (let ((buf (current-buffer))
	(names))
    (save-excursion
      (goto-char (point-min))
      (while (re-search-forward fünf-winde-regexp nil t)
	(setq names (cons (match-string 2) names))))
    (switch-to-buffer "*Fünf Winde*")
    (kill-all-local-variables)
    (set (make-local-variable 'fünf-winde-buf) buf)
    (make-local-variable 'fünf-winde-xp)
    (make-local-variable 'fünf-winde-gold)
    (make-local-variable 'fünf-winde-party)
    (let ((inhibit-read-only t))
      (erase-buffer))
    (remove-overlays)
    (setq fünf-winde-xp
	  (widget-create 'integer
			 :size 13
			 :format "XP total:   %v\n"
			 0))
    (setq fünf-winde-gold
	  (widget-create 'integer
			 :size 13
			 :format "Gold total: %v\n"
			 0))
    (setq fünf-winde-party
	  (apply 'widget-create 'checklist
		 (mapcar (lambda (name)
			   `(item ,name))
			 (nreverse names))))
    (widget-insert "\n")
    (widget-create 'push-button
		   :notify (lambda (&rest ignore)
			     (fünf-winde-process
			      fünf-winde-buf
			      (widget-value fünf-winde-xp)
			      (widget-value fünf-winde-gold)
			      (widget-value fünf-winde-party)))
		   "Go!")
    (widget-insert "\n")
    (use-local-map widget-keymap)
    (local-set-key (kbd "q") 'bury-buffer)
    (local-set-key (kbd "SPC") 'widget-button-press)
    (local-set-key (kbd "<left>") 'widget-backward)
    (local-set-key (kbd "<up>") 'widget-backward)
    (local-set-key (kbd "<right>") 'widget-forward)
    (local-set-key (kbd "<down>") 'widget-forward)
    (widget-setup)
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (widget-forward 1)))

(defun fünf-winde-process (buf total-xp total-gold party)
  (message "(fünf-winde-process (get-buffer \"%s\") %d %d '%S)"
	   buf total-xp total-gold party)
  (switch-to-buffer buf)
  (save-excursion
    (let ((xp-shares 0)
	  (xp-share nil)
	  (gold-shares 0)
	  (gold-share nil))
      (goto-char (point-min))
      (while (re-search-forward fünf-winde-regexp nil t)
	(let ((name (match-string 2))
	      (share (match-string 3)))
	  (when (member name party)
	    (setq gold-shares (+ gold-shares
				 (cond ((string= share "1/2") 0.5)
				       ((string= share "1/3") (/ 1.0 3))
				       (t (string-to-number share))))
		  xp-shares (1+ xp-shares)))))
      (setq gold-share (/ total-gold gold-shares)
	    xp-share (/ total-xp xp-shares))
      (goto-char (point-min))
      (while (re-search-forward fünf-winde-regexp nil t)
	(let ((str (match-string 1))
	      (name (match-string 2))
	      (share (match-string 3))
	      (xp (match-string 4))
	      (gold (match-string 5)))
	  (when (member name party)
	    (setq gold (format (concat "%9d")
			       (+  (string-to-number gold)
				   (* gold-share (cond ((string= share "1/2") 0.5)
						       ((string= share "1/3") (/ 1.0 3))
						       (t (string-to-number share))))))
		  xp (format (concat "%9d")
			     (+  (string-to-number xp)
				 xp-share)))
	    (replace-match (concat str
				   "|" xp
				   "|" gold))))))))

I’m not sure I’m spending my time wisely, but there you go. I used to have a simpler piece of code that helped me distribute XP and gold separately. The drawback was that it would ask me for every person in the table “was this character in the party? (y/n)” and that’s a lot of yes and no replies if you go through the list twice.

It’s also a stark reminder that simpler old rules doesn’t automatically mean less work for the referee. With D&D 3.5, I had a spreadsheet to compute the XP gained based on challenge rating and character level. It wasn’t something to do quickly without a book in front of me. Now the complexity of the task has been reduced, but the number of characters has exploded to compensate!

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2013-05-13 My One Page Dungeon Contest Nominations

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7318/8735009164_dbb6eb8e7c_n.jpg

I’ve finished reading the submissions to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2013. As always, an interesting mix of styles. Less tombs than in previous years. The ever popular “get into the dungeon and trigger a trap” is there. Bandits, undead, but no pirates! This year’s popular rare monster must have been the gibbernig mouther. It showed up in three submissions. :)

Gibbering Mouthers:

I wanted to comment on my nominations for the contest winners. I’ve done this before (2010, 2011, 2012). Writing it all down helps me think it through.

  • Daniel O'Donnell, Down Among the Dead Men: beautiful map; lovely visuals such as a well surmounted by the jaws of a giant shark or acolytes on stilts “tending” the undead in the water. It’s gruesome. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Gus L., The Brittlestone Parapets: a lovely amalgam of trench warfare, undead soldiers, Beowulf, D&D as an implied post-apocalyptic setting; and it comes with an inspiring map, an interesting list of random encounters, the witch comes with the list of spells prepared, one faction can be hired for a few weeks. It’s fascinating. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Jobe Bittman, Into The Demon Idol: an iconic image, a beautiful map, the giant grab pincer. Best of all: the option of reanimating it! A potential long-term change for your campaign. It’s tempting. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Misha Favorov, Court of the King of No Men: a map that allows multiple approaches; the most important notes are on the map itself. That’s what I love! The two simple magic items are interesting without being overengineered: a sword dealing wounds that heal within 24h, a hammer that can be thrown once a day, a rod that allows you to control the movement of an opponent (but nothing else). It’s sylvan. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Paul Gorman, Faery Ring to Alpha Ari: not the only adventure using myconids and various fungus effects, but what I liked in particular was the strange mix of fantasy and present day space exploration; the observatory and the tiny island on the one hand and a map that looks appropriate for a Mars colony. I also like how enemies come in all sizes from pixies to giant. I’m not sure it would simply fit into my campaign.
  • Ramsey Hong, Something Happened At The Temple Near Glourm: a beautiful map with village and five dungeon levels; multiple stairs and entrances; notes on the map itself. This dungeon is beautiful. It’s terrifying. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Rob S, Citadel of the Severed Hand: another beautiful map with notes on the map itself; it also features myconids and “shroom effects”. The part I like is the tragic figure of the orc boss with his staghelm who hates the torturer demon because she has his son in her power. The entire setup with the two slaves is genious. It’s evil. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Roger SG Sorolla, Devil's Acre: when I first read about it on the author’s blog I thought that it was an interesting take on the complex of sin, vigil, prayer, temptation, saint and devils, and all of that in a D&D context. My campaign hasn’t featured these topics, however, so I’m not sure how well it would work for me.
  • S. J. Harris, The Baleful Spring: a small tower always comes in handy. This one has a tower with an evil master and a ship with a neutral captain. I like the framing story: two diplomats trying to secure a peace accord have gone missing. It’s nothing fancy with a functional map. It’s useful. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.
  • Simon Forster, Church of Consumption: a beatiful map; another cult trying to raise a demon. Unfortunately it’s very linear. Strangely enough it appears to be open on both ends with major treasure sitting right next to one of the two entrances. But… it’s so beautiful. And I love the imagery of the cultists eating their dead god, the meat grinder, the ghouls dreaming about eating the same dead god, one day… It’s gruesome. It stands on its own and can be placed in my campaign.

The One Page Dungeon Contest is just so damn useful it amazes me every year.

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Comments on 2013-05-13 My One Page Dungeon Contest Nominations


B. Pace
The Demon Idol is my favorite - although I’m a bit biased since that is my favorite old school book cover :)

B. Pace 2013-05-16 03:16 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Having painted the Otherworld Miniatures demon idol, I concur! Best old school cover. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-16 08:17 UTC

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2013-05-13 Other Favorite Entries

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7294/8733961353_32f503d211_n.jpg

I just posted my nominations for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2013. I also liked the following entries.

I saw Roger the GS’ recommendations the other day. What about your favorites?

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Comments on 2013-05-13 Other Favorite Entries


Paul Gorman
Your link to your nominations points to the Edit page.

Paul Gorman 2013-05-13 19:32 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Oops, fixed. Thanks!

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-13 21:15 UTC

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2013-05-14 Scrobbling Fail

Ever since I stopped listening to music on iTunes, scrobbling is absolutely broken. I listen to music on at least three different Apple devices, sync them with iTunes every now and then, checked “Enable iPod submissions” using playlist “zuletzt gespielt” which is defined as matching both of these rules: “last played in the last 3 months” and “media kind is not podcast” with live updating. I listen to music practically constantly. If you check my profile, you’ll note huge gaps everywhere. Why is that? Are the devices “overwriting” each other? iScrobbler says 586 items queued. Ok… All I’m seeing is two new items. 😟

Update: Apparently I'm an idiot. It just takes a long time (a day?) to process the tracks submitted. Yikes, sorry for the bad press, iScrobbler!

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7286/8738643028_80349f0e2e_o.png

That’s a lot of titles…

You’ll notice that The Beatles have made a big comeback in 2013. 😊

2013

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7282/8737525023_225628fc02_o.png

2012

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7281/8737525275_9d48546b9d_o.png

Update: Apparently there's another abandoned scrobbler… ScrobblePod.

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2013-05-14 When To Roll

Recently I left a comment on Philip Watson's thread on Google+ where he wondered whether players should know when their thief failed to hide. I said:

I let them roll in the open but will delay the roll until immediate consequences are at hand. Player says their character is hiding, no roll required. Orcs are coming. Now you roll—and if you fail, they spot you.

Consequences happen right after the result of the die roll is known. As a referee, I have have no “information advantage” and thus the question of unfairness doesn’t come up.

I was reminded of Courtney Campbell’s blog post On Skill Deconstruction: Why Roll for Resolution? He lists five reasons for rolling dice.

  1. time constraints
  2. in conflict with another entity
  3. a serious consequence for failure
  4. impossible to model at the table
  5. (partial results can make the procedure more exciting)

I’m trying to have thieves succeed automatically whenever possible. I’m going to opt for dice rolling when the conditions listed above are true. If the dungeon has wandering monsters, each failed roll to open a door or unlock a chest means one check for wandering monsters. If there are no monsters, we don’t need to know how long the thief takes to unlock the chest. It will succeed eventually.

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Comments on 2013-05-14 When To Roll


-C
I still struggle with this often.

Extra rolls are a fast route to a dull game. Normally I roll for opening doors just once, on a failure there is no chance of surprise. The attempt always draws a wandering monster roll.

-C 2013-05-15 08:58 UTC

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2013-05-15 Treasure Hunting In Niflheim

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7282/8739860841_54fe5d2a6a.jpg

The party had just finished The Eternal Boundary and had found a treasure map that would lead them into The Gray Waste. I prepared a very linear adventure that you can see on the on the right. I decided that the map represented an incomplete list of dangers to be overcome:

  • near the roots of Yggrasil sleeps the dragon Níðhöggr…
  • in the woods the “children” of Hekate roam freely, the trolls of Niflheim (I’m claiming that Hel and Hekate are the same)
  • there are big, flightless birds in the swamps with big hands instead of wings and they are called Diakka…
  • there is a plain where nightmares ride, the mighty horses of black riders…
  • the larval petitioners live in the sea of fog…
  • the island of the black trees is the realm of a ghoul-witch

I also had a number of NPCs in mind:

  • Njal, a priest and a drinker and a melancholy man who would act as a guide, if they wanted to pursue their connections with priestess Anja of the Freya temple
  • Raud, another priest and a gloomy, apathetic victim of Hades, who can provide them with information about Hades and who’ll offer to lead them to Hopelessness and through its gate to Hades (but this is a false lead since this gate will lead to the upper layer called Oinos where the Blood War rages)
  • Lissandra “gate-seeker” will contact them if they brag about the portal they know; she is described in Uncaged: Faces of Sigil; she can lead them to Alluvias Ruskin (in the same book) who will sell them “the holy axe with the wooden root-grip of wisdom” which will be required to travel to Niflheim via Yggdrasil

This was the first challenge: figure out whom to trust and discover through questions that Raud would lead them to the wrong layer on Hades since Oinos ≠ Niflheim. This was also the opportunity for them to learn about the apathy of Hades. One player expertly decided to spend 100gp on books with jokes, fart machines and other ludicrous things to drive away apathy and despair.

They don’t contact Njal but they do talk to Raud and end up going with Lissandra. They made such a good impression on her, in fact, that she decides to tell them about a merchant called Kherion Mallibrun (described in the section about Death of Innocence in the Planes of Conflic box). In return, he wants them to protect him from Hekate’s trolls.

This was the second challenge: take along a guide and avoid fighting rock pythons and giant squirrels on the branches of Yggdrasil.

The dragon is easy: the third challenge is simply to be quiet. The cleric is prepared and casts silence. No problem.

The woods and trolls present the fourth challenge: unbeknownst to the players, I had decided that the forest houses both wolves and trolls. Even though the party was silenced, the wolves had picked up their scent and the trolls were following the wolves. One player who plays a character that can fly decided to take a listen and fly overhead. He soon discovers the wolves and using the fillings of a little rocket full of itching powder they disable the wolves’ scent ability and the flying character distracts and enrages the trolls until they break off the chase.

In the village, they see that the merchant is selling colorful textiles and the fifth challenge is finding a guide to the island. They discover that there is a hunter of nightmares who will lead them in exchange for the funny articles one of the characters had bought. This part was all improvised but it worked well.

He warns them of the giant, flightless birds. Luckily they are slow. The party buys horses for the three characters in plate armor and can thus outrun the the sixth challenge, the Diakka birds.

I had thought that the nightmares would be the next challenge but at the table I suddenly felt strange using the nightmares as predators. As I had seen one of the players get really excited about the prospect of catching and taming a nightmare, I decided that the seventh challenge would be the temptation of catching a nightmare. The party would have to start a fight. And they didn’t…

The eight challenge had not been listed on the “treasure map”: flying yeth hounds. The party moved away from their baying (it’s effect only works within 100 ft.) and decided to avoid the dogs. It worked.

At the edge of the sea of fog, they left their guide who, when asked, said that all they had to do was ignore the larva. And they did. No talking, no eye contact, no listening. Again, the party used silence to bypass the ninth challenge. It worked.

Finally, they reached the witch, the tenth challenge. I decided to use witches from the Shark Den section of the Caverns of Slime, Vialashta and Kurmatesha, the four lesser witches, the tengu horn, and my own treasure I had rolled up. As you can see, I had prepared a different night hag in my notes (including a 65% magic resistance)… Oh well. There was a lot of talking, bluffing and haggling involved, a short discussion on the merits of both Odin and Hekate, but in the end, the orc witch has charmed the talking character and disappeared into the tent and the fight was on.

The party consisted of a cleric 5, a fighter 4, an elf 2, and some henchmen: two giant apes, a cleric 4, a fighter 2, and a magic-user 1.

The enemies:

  • Vialashta, the one-eyed crow priestess of the orcs (HD 9; AC 8; Atk 1 orcish hammer (1d6); MV 9; curse at will, roll d6: 1. slowed, 2. blind, 3. stupid like an ox, 4. weak as a baby, 5. contract the plague, 6. crippling pain; save vs. spells to avoid)
  • her four witches (HD 5; AC 8; Atk 1 cudgel (1d6); MV 9; curse 3×/day as above)
  • Kurmatesha, the orc witch (HD 9; AC 9; Atk 1 staff (1d6); MV 9; spells as per her spellbook below); she has the horn of the mountain cedar which summons twelve tengu once per day: crow-headed, flying swordsmen (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 1 two handed glass swords (2d6); MV 9 fly); if attacked she will polymorph into a shadow wolf (HD 9; AC 7; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 12; howl of pain (anybody touching the ground within 60 ft. must save vs. petrification or be stunned for a round and save vs. death or suffer 1d6 damage from bleeding ears)
  • the hanging tree (HD 15; AC 3; Atk 8 branches and roots (1d6 each); MV 0); the branches of the hanging tree are loaded with twitching corpses: twelve armless ghouls are hanging up there, unable to free themselves (HD 2; AC 9; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 12)

Kurmatesha is reduced to less than 10 hit-points in two rounds. She, in turn, blows the horn and summons the tengus, then polymorphs into a shadow wolf. The party then kills her and have a quick chat with the tengu. They want the horn (and their freedom), but one character is close enough to the horn to blow it again, at which point I decide that the tengu are all dispelled.

The second half of the battle is a running battle as the witches are standing under the hanging tree, cursing all that approach. With a desperate rush, a character delivers the arrow that has silence cast on it to the witches. The witches start releasing ghouls but they are being turned as fast as they are being released. Finally, when the crow witch Vialashta is finally held using magic, the remaining lesser witches flee into the sea of fog.

The witch tells them that the hanging tree is guarding the treasure and since they stocked up on oil and hadn’t used any of it, I decided that burning a 15 HD tree required 15 flasks of oil—and having bought 20 flasks of oil without having to use them against the trolls, that was no problem at all…

  • 20’000 gold pieces
  • 10 gems worth 1980 gold pieces (1000, 10, 50, 10, 10, 500, 100, 100, 50, 100)
  • two pieces of jewelry (“the crown and sceptre of the Ulfides”)
  • a halfling chain +1 and a small shield +1 (“the magic armor of a halfling hero with the heraldry of the Oxwrestler clan”)
  • the horn of the mountain cedar (I already fear that this item might be too powerful!)

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Comments on 2013-05-15 Treasure Hunting In Niflheim

What does the horn of the mountain cedar do?

– Harald 2013-05-15 11:40 UTC



Ynas Midgard
@ Alex Nice game 😊 What a memorable treasure trove.

@ Harald “summons twelve tengu once per day: crow-headed, flying swordsmen (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 1 two handed glass swords (2d6); MV 9 fly)”

Ynas Midgard 2013-05-15 15:43 UTC

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2013-05-17 Pendragon RPG

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8413/8746075723_1d6720b08a_o.jpg

Recently Joshua Petronis-Akins asked in the Pendragon RPG Google+ community: Could anyone sell me on Pendragon? What makes it cool?

Coming from a D&D background, this is what made us want to play Pendragon RPG and The Great Pendragon Campaign:

  • a multi-generation campaign—play your knights, their sons, and their grandsons
  • the annual cycle—every session is about the adventures during the summer and the “levelling up” in winter
  • personality traits—knights have multiple traits that come in opposing pairs such as just vs. arbitrary and usually whenever you increase one, the other decreases; these traits sometimes get used to determine what the character does in spite of what the player might wish

I really like the combat system: your skill is a number; roll below this number to succeed, roll the exact number to succeed critically. In a round, there is no need to roll for initiative. It’s all opposed checks. If you want to fight multiple opponents, you must split your skill between all your opponents and roll for each one. This is devastating. If you hit, roll damage. The opponent checks whether this value is higher than their knockback stat. If so, succeed at a horsemanship test or fall off the horse. Armor reduces damage. You can further reduce damage using a shield, but only if you had a “partial success”—only if you succeeded in your check but lost against an opponent who succeeded with a higher roll.

Critical hits count as 20. If your skill rises above 20, just add that much to your roll. If your skill is 23, you roll 1d20+3. Thus, your crit range in effect is 17–20.

It’s interesting, it’s different, and it still works.

Our campaign is still in the Anarchy period.

There’s a German campaign wiki, if you want to take a look: Ritter von Salisbury.

Things we’re not that much into:

  • the resources game—gaining manors, building fortifications, hiring men, the minutiae of earning your taxes, paying for upkeep
  • the family events—we switched from the table in the rulebook to Telecanter’s Dramarama (with a few changes once we discovered that too many of our relatives kept eloping with butchers and tax men)

I bought the books in 2011 from RPG Now, and they’re still doing fine:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8231/8539404868_eaab402d46_n.jpg http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8244/8539409258_dd5be18586_n.jpg http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8101/8538296923_732dc0d2d7_n.jpg

Comments on 2013-05-17 Pendragon RPG

I played Pendragon like when I was around 15 (that is >20 years ago, 1st edition…) and it’s one of the RPG I remember because it was really thematic. I don’t know if playing a D&D campaign with a paste up Arthurian universe would make you feel like a knight nearly as well as Pendragon

– Pierre Gaston 2013-05-27 11:11 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I’m convinced that it wouldn’t work as well. I’ve never bought books that proposed to add the Arthurian flair, however: HR2 Charlemagne's Paladins Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd ed.

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-27 14:15 UTC

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2013-05-23 One Page Dungeon Contest Status Update

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3749/8798868810_8a186e3ffb_m.jpg
Google Spreadsheet is my friend…

We’ve been tallying the nominations, looking at our favorites and comparing notes for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2013. It looks like we’re going to have 17 winners this year. This looks about right, compared to previous years. In 2009 there were a lot of honorable mentions and runner-ups but only three winners. I personally like to spread prizes around and celebrate the sheer variety of submissions we get every year. It’s a win for everyone.

Year Entries Winners
20137217
201210724
20117115
20106418
20091123/6/12

I hope we’ll be able to finalize the list soon enough!

What will happen next:

  1. assemble a PDF with the winners
  2. publish the list of winners and link to the PDF
  3. celebrate!
  4. notify winners by email and ask them to create a wish-list based on the prizes donated by our sponsors
  5. try and maximize happiness using another spreadsheet
  6. notify sponsors and winners and have sponsors send their prizes directly to the winners (except for the cash prize; I’ll handle that one since the sponsor wants to remain anonymous)
  7. celebrate again! :)

Hopefully my work is done before June 8, because that’s when I’ll leave for a two week vacation to Sardinia. Yay!

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2013-05-25 One Page Dungeon Contest Winners

We have the winners of the One Page Dungeon Contest 2013. Download the PDF!

Author Dungeon Name Category
Andrew and Heleen Durston Only Acrobats Need Apply Best Swashbuckling
bygrinstow Arena of Blood Most Macabre
Caelum Roberts Iron Cloud Best Sci-Fi
Daniel O’Donnell Down Among the Dead Men Best Undead
Gus L.The Brittlestone Parapets Best Wizard Duel
Jens Thuresson The Giant’s Dollhouse Best Fairy-Tale
Jobe Bittman Into The Demon Idol Best Homage
Josh Burnett The Burial Mound of Gilliard Wolfclan Best One Shot
Kaylee Thumann Girly Girl Dungeon Most Original
LSF A Stolen Spring Best Fantasy Mystery
Matthew W. Schmeer Wizard in the Woods Best Non-Traditional Map
Misha Favorov Court of the King of No Men Best Beastmen
Ramsey Hong Something Happened At The Temple Near Glourm Best Map
Rob S Citadel of the Severed Hand Best Myconids
Roger SG Sorolla Devil’s Acre Best Single Location
S. J. Harris The Baleful Spring Best Tower
Simon Forster Church of Consumption Best Religion

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Comments on 2013-05-25 One Page Dungeon Contest Winners


Simon Forster
Wow! I won something :)

Simon Forster 2013-05-25 21:28 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I just sent out the email to all the winners. Choose wisely. Or unwisely. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-25 22:06 UTC



AlexSchroeder
11 of the 17 winners have already sent me their wishlist…

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-27 08:09 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Only one wish list is missing…

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-29 10:49 UTC

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2013-05-26 Gatsby

I saw The Great Gatsby (2013). I had not read the book. I loved Romeo + Juliet (1996). I was less enthused by Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (2001). I recognized the colors, the party, the mania. I enjoyed those parts. I liked the fact the story works on two levels: the rich & powerful form a separate class and will never allow upstarts into their midst, and men objectifying women. Anyway, that’s how I see it: the framing story says Gatsby’s hope was a shining beacon, but to me, Gatsby’s love was obsessive, his imaginings of how things will turn out stronger than his respect for Daisy’s own decisions. In the end, however, my back hurt and the movie just would not end. It was too long. Or perhaps I just could not sympathize with any of the protagonists. I didn’t feel the love.

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Comments on 2013-05-26 Gatsby


Andreas Gohr
I’ve read the book and haven’t seen the film, yet. But from what you describe, the movie seems to be a good adaptation. I was bored by the book and hoped it would end soon ;-)

Andreas Gohr 2013-05-26 18:01 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Hahaha. I laughed out loud. :D

Awesome comment. ok

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-26 19:59 UTC

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2013-05-26 Popularity

For a while now, I’ve been using Google’s +1 button at the bottom of the page. They’re special because they require two clicks: the first click loads the button code from Google, which you then have to click. If you don’t click anything, no code is being loaded from Google and hopefully you’re not being tracked. I also no longer use Google Analytics to track my stats so in theory Google shouldn’t be seeing any of your reading on this site.

Usually my +1 counts are really low—mostly zero, in fact. Recently I noticed a few blog posts with more than ten +1. And now that I’ve announced the winners of a little contest I’m running every year, I see how far up the number could go… if only I blogged stuff that was more relevant to other people. Look at the last entry…

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3795/8841475140_31d134c183_o.png
→ 62 people clicked +1

Oh well. As I’m noticing how much time I’m spending just reading the blogs and Google+ itself, I hesitate before posting on my own blog. Am I really adding much? In a way I felt better when I didn’t think of the audience and felt free to write a two sentence blog post about a movie I saw. These days I often wonder what the readers that come here for RPG posts will think.

Since I don’t know how to make my writing more relevant to my readers, perhaps I should try to make my writing more natural again. We’ll see.

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Comments on 2013-05-26 Popularity


Josh
Ironically, I started following due to some technical post, though I don’t remember exactly what it was now (probably Emacs-related). The RPG posts are bonus material for me. They have reignited my desire to play, which I haven’t done (for a number of reasons) in somewhere around 14 years. Your posts reminded me how much I love it. I haven’t +1’d any of your posts because I mostly read them through my RSS feed reader, but I will make an effort to open the posts on the site and +1 them when I think they’re great. Sorry to bring you down with my lack of feedback.

– Josh 2013-05-28 14:21 UTC



AlexSchroeder
No worries. The lack of popularity is not bringing me down. :) What I find intriguing, however, is how the imagined audience changes what I feel comfortable writing about. Perhaps the post was a replacement post for a darker collection of thoughts on self-censorship, the balance between tolerance (benevolent reading of others) and intolerance (the blocking, reverting and uncircling of others), vulnerability (linking to posts and comments I want to criticize and naming names, the fear of making enemies, attracting the attention of unwanted readers) and negativity (ranting, negative reviews, complaints)… it’s still very much muddled up.

As for RSS readers: I’m always frustrated by the lack of +1 buttons in Reeder. Google Reader has it and its closing down. :( Don’t feel compelled to click through and +1 posts – that’s too much work and I don’t do it when I read other blogs. Do feel free to leave a comment every now and then, however. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-28 14:37 UTC

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2013-05-29 Decency

A few days ago Jeff Rients wrote How many commandments have you broken? which lists TSR’s Code of Ethics. At the time I said The TSR code is definitely not cool. When asked to elaborate, I said (edited):

Things that are not cool are:

  • language like “peak entertainment value”
  • “All product shall focus on the struggle of good versus injustice and evil” eliminates interesting moral dilemmas and gray areas
  • “shall not present explicit details and methods of crime, weapon construction, drug use, magic, science, or technologies that could be reasonably duplicated” eliminates an aspect of adult entertainment. What is a garrote and how does it work? How does a guillotine work? No smoking of weed, no injection of drugs? Personally, I feel that much of this is relevant to people growing up and learning how to make their own decisions
  • “Agents of law enforcement” cannot be corrupt, cannot be part of a tyranny? How to explore the Nazi terror and fascism? They cannot all be “an exception and the culprit should ultimately be brought to justice.”

And so on. Every single point in that ethical code makes the world a bit safer, cushions us from the choices we need to make in real life. Yes, some of this may not be appropriate for all ages. It may have made sense for TSR to have such a policy. Nevertheless, I personally think that this will result in products that I think are not and will never be cool. Cool as in rebellious, exciting, risqué, exploring what it means to be human.

Zak writes about it as well: Thanks For The List, TSR

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Comments on 2013-05-29 Decency


Rorschachhamster
Zak also remarks how many of this commandments were broken by TSR itself. Maybe it would be an interesting challenge to write an adventure that adheres to the code 100% without beeing boring… ;)

Rorschachhamster 2013-05-29 12:37 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Haha, I have trouble writing adventures with or without the code. Must not make it harder on myself or I won’t get anything done. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-29 16:51 UTC

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2013-05-30 Podcast Update

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fe/Trajan%27s_Column_Panorama.jpeg/151px-Trajan%27s_Column_Panorama.jpeg
Trajan’s Column by Juan
Francisco Adame Lorite
(CC-BY 3.0)

I have occasionally linked the podcasts I listen to both as an effort to remember and as an attempt at recommendation. It has been more than a year since my last update.

I listen to podcasts while walking. I find walking to be ideally suited to listening because it is neither too strenuous to require much attention nor is it too light to let the mind wander.

Looking at iCatcher! on my phone, I see the following podcasts:

  • Fear the Boot. The last RPG podcast I still listen to; it’s what I go to when I need some light entertainment; Dan is long-winded, I also don’t think there’s anything really new to say on the topic. I still laugh along with their jokes.
  • History of Philosphy “without any gaps”. I’ve listened to all the episodes up to Aristotle and I think I’ll continue listening! star
  • In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. This continues to be the most awesome mix of science, philosophy and history. star
  • Musik der Welt. World music on the Swiss radio.
  • Sounds!. Independent music on the Swiss radio.
  • Thinking Allowed. Social science. star
  • This American Life. People stories. star

Any podcasts you are listening to you’d like to recommend?

Once you have listened to this overview, perhaps you’ll be ready for The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire— there’s an old recording on archive.org, or various readers on librivox.org.

Update: If you’re a podcaster, check out this EFF effort: Help Save Podcasting!

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Comments on 2013-05-30 Podcast Update


Andreas Gohr
I enjoy Raumzeit by Tim Pritlove and TankRiot a lot.

Andreas Gohr 2013-05-30 08:52 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Thank you for the recommendation.

I just saw that the author of the History of Philospohy podcast wrote a blog post linking to other history podcasts.

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-30 11:29 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I’ve listened to two podcast series of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History show, the five episodes on the Mongols, “Wrath of the Khans”, and the five episodes on the fall of the Roman Republic, “Death Throws of the Republic”. I enjoyed these so much, I donated $10.

AlexSchroeder 2013-07-16 06:40 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I just donated another $10 to the World War II Podcast.

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-31 21:30 UTC

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2013-05 Book Club

What: Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

When: 22 May, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

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

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller, SOPHIE’S WORLD sets out to draw teenagers into the world of Socrates, Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel and all the great philosophers. A brilliantly original and fascinating story with many twists and turns, it raises profound questions about the meaning of life and the origin of the universe.

First suggested: Sep 2012

Supporters: Louisa, Richie, Katie, Kathleen, Dominique, Leon, Rene

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