Diary SiteMap RecentChanges About Contact Calendar


Matching Pages:

Page Collection for ^2013-09

2013-09-05 Treasure

Courtney recently talked about treasure design on his blog. I use treasure for advancement and I agree with his assessment: random generation is what makes players come back for more.

Random treasure is also an opportunity to develop your world. How do you explain a dozen hobgoblins carrying 5000 gold pieces? When I rolled it up, I decided that a bunch of hobgoblins were on their way to pay taxes to their overlord. The party then stole the treasure, inadvertedly visited the hobgoblin overlord (an evil wizard) and gifted him the gold by throwing a huge party (in order to gain XP), saw the same hobgoblins arrive at court (!) and had to think about a way of preventing the hoboblins from telling their master what had happened. Luckily, they had a cursed potion of conflict and quickly poured it into the wine used to welcome the hobgoblins. They started squabbling immediately and the party made a getaway. I loved it.

Courtney also says that one should “avoid blurring the line between treasure and junk lying around”. I agree completely! It’s boring. That’s why I don’t allow selling used armor and weapons for half price. It’s junk. Get me some new treasure if you want XP.

In a sandbox, there’s some tension between player goals that involve treasure and player goals that involve plot advancement. What happened to the elves? If there are no dangerous monsters with a lot of treasure, discovering the truth about the elves can be boring. My solution is to make sure that wherever there is plot, there is also danger and treasure. Thus, if the missing elves are all petriefied in a hall (as in my Wilderlands game), there must be gorgons, medusas or basilisks nearby with appropriate treasure. If there are armies of hobgoblins on the march (as in my Red Hand of Doom game), then the dragons accompanying them will have their usual treasure along on the march, carried by the footmen or by slaves.

It’s weird, I know. My sandbox has monsters and treasures wherever the interesting plot elements are. That’s simply how D&D World is. Every peaceful mission goes into dangerous territory, every army carries loot, every museum houses monsters. If there are no monsters and no treasure, I'll try and handle it in two sentences. “You sail down the coast to Tlan and talk to the sage. Two weeks later, you’re standing at the harbor. <insert what the party learns>. Now what do you do?”

If you find that you have a lot of players with a lot of hirelings—on a typical session of mine there will be between ten and twenty characters in the party even though we have only four or five actual players at the table—you’ll find that they can easily defeat “level appropriate monsters” in a dungeon and yet they are easily defeated themselves by higher level monsters such as gorgons, medusas, basilisks and dragons. I find that using a lot of weak enemies works best for me. When they recently investigated a forest hut, I rolled up a random encounter with 6d10 goblins. These attacked in waves of around 15 each, spaced a few rounds appart. It worked very well and there was a decent chance for treasure. It ended up being 11000 copper pieces… Oh well!


Add Comment

2013-09-06 Crypto

Concerned by all the Snowden stuff? I am. I’ve had some friends use encrypted mail. Thanks!

I use GPG and you can download my public keys from a public keyserver. I’d be happy to keep our communications encrypted.

I’m also thinking of using the Raspberry Pi I got as a mail server. It would be always on. I think I’d like that. I recently found some instructions on how to do that in a German magazine (behind a paywall). Some alternative articles I’ll be reading later:

I really like what Bruce Schneier has to say. This, for example:

The NSA has turned the fabric of the internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical. They’re limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.

Trust the math. Encryption is your friend. Use it well, and do your best to ensure that nothing can compromise it. That’s how you can remain secure even in the face of the NSA.

– Bruce Schneier, How to remain secure against NSA surveillance

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

– Bruce Schneier, The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back

I remember when Richard Stallman started saying people should pay with cash, not credit and debit cards. I thought it was paranoid but cool. There was no need for me to follow suit.

I’ve been reducing my use of credit and debit cards in recent weeks.


Comments on 2013-09-06 Crypto

So now I’m trying to convert the PiMAME SD card I have into a card suitable for the mail server. There is a lot of unnecessary stuff to remove. Right now I feel that debfoster is my friend.

I’ve setup Dovecot. It seems to work. I’ll need to write it up one day. I’m using my alex@gnu.org account to test it all. I’m already getting a lot of spam. Aaargh, that’s what Gmail is best at: spam filtering!

Reading mail within my WLAN works. Now I need to investigate FreeDNS.


Are you having an issues with mail being rejected? I’ve heard that if you run a mail server on a home Internet connection one could have this issue.

re: Swiss hosting (I saw your previous post): I recently opened an account with edis.at and choose a Swiss hosted VPS. So far so good.

Personally, I like the BeagleBone Black over the RPi, but something else you can do with the little guy is run a tor relay on it.

Josh 2013-09-24 22:16 UTC

I have no problems with mail getting rejected since I use a gnu.org SMTP server to send mail. For testing purposes and in order to get system stuff delivered, I have exim4 sending stuff—but I only ever send mail to my gnu.org account, so that’s hardly a test of my rejection rate.

As for servers: my problem is that the company has Austrian roots and therefore falls under EU and under Austrian jurisdiction, and the server falls under Swiss jurisdiction. Doesn’t that open you up to more privacy invasion? I’m not sure but that’s why I wanted to avoid them. Better to keep it all in the same jurisdiction.

A Tor relay is a noble idea but I remember there being a case in Germany with a guy being arrested because of a Tor server he was running. Sadly, my hesitation—and my wife’s hesitation—are an indication of the chilling effects already in effect.

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-25 07:13 UTC

I think I understand your setup now. I’ve heard some people running SpamAssassian on the Pi, which I think is GPLv2. I assume you are running Raspian?

re servers: Yeah, edis.at is not ideal. I was also looking for a pure swiss server. I had previously used hoststar.ch and it was fine for my tiny website and a mailing list. This time I wanted a VPS (to run a Tor relay) and edis.at came recommended. Did you pick a new hosting provider yet?

re tor: It sounds like he was running an exit node, although it doesn’t say. In the U.S. (at least for now…) it is believed you are ok running a non-exit relay [1]. I am not running an exit relay for these reasons.

[1] https://www.torproject.org/eff/tor-legal-faq.html.en

Josh 2013-09-25 13:02 UTC

Yeah, I’m running Raspian; and no, I haven’t picked a provider yet. I have talked it over with my wife, however. It’s just a matter of time, I think.

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-25 15:23 UTC

Add Comment

2013-09-18 Broken Ribs

I use a Death & Dismemberment table in my game. One entry is for broken limbs. You roll again and may break your sword arm, your shield arm, a leg, or your ribs, with appropriate effects. No sword arm, can’t attack. No shield arm, can’t wield one. No leg, need a wooden leg (but no further effect once you do). But what about broken ribs? I read somewhere that you can’t strain yourself because the broken ribs might puncture your lung. So that’s what I use: can’t fight or you’ll die.

It’s a long setup, I know. Last session, my players met a dwarf pirate named Sawty with a saw mounted on his helmet. Uluf has a tengu horn which is way too powerful, summoned the flying swordsmen, killed half of Sawty’s crew and took over. A reaction roll showed that Sawty really liked Uluf. I decided that Sawty wanted to get rid of the guy who runs the show, Black Dagger. Uluf and his horn seemed like the perfect tools. Uluf wanted to get the treasure of the Bastille of Terror. Sawty convinces the reluctant Uluf to follow him and use the tengu horn in Black Dagger’s hall, kill him, and split the treasure fifty-fifty. Reluctantly, the players agree. Uluf leads the way. Sawty does his part, Uluf blows the horn, Black Dagger is killed by the tengus and the player characters cheer. Sawty is cackling triumphantly and leads Uluf to Black Dagger’s treasure hoard. The other player characters trail after them.

Sawty is a true pirate. He shows no regard for his fellow pirates, kicking their corpses out of the way, laughing. All he thinks about is gold and ruling this place. Uluf feels bad. Sawty quickly finds the treasure and disarms the trap. As half the treasure is spilled before Uluf’s feet by the pirate dwarf, Uluf snaps and decides to kill Sawty. A player backstabbing the honest pirate! A pirate who was as ruthless as they were. It was tense. Uluf’s player felt perhaps like a lot of murder was being committed in his character’s name. Uluf and Sawty fight.

When the other player characters offer help and healing, Uluf says no. This is a duel. Initiative is rolled again and again. By strange luck of the dice, both Sawty and Uluf end up in with two or three hit points each. Sawty scores a critical. Broken ribs!


Uluf’s player: “I don’t care. Sawty has to die!” And he rolls and he hits and he runs Sawty through, just as the broken ribs pierce his lungs and the pink foam starts showing. They both die amidst the spilled coins of the pirates’ hoard.

I loved it.


Comments on 2013-09-18 Broken Ribs

That’s really cool ….. Where did you get the table from? …. I’d like to use it too.

– Anonymous 2013-09-18 22:19 UTC

I started with Death and Dismemberment by Trollsmyth. My version is practically unchanged.

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-19 06:19 UTC

That’s fantastic!

David 2013-09-19 11:49 UTC

Add Comment

2013-09-23 Furkapass

Furkapass by kensanata, on Flickr

On the Furka road towards the Canton of Uri, looking back towards the evening sun. The Vallais starts here with Obergoms and the Rhone. The road to the right is the Grimsel (map)

I like the new camera, an Olympus E-P5 with the 17mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko lens.


Add Comment

2013-09-26 Campaign Wiki

Campaign Wiki

Ich betreibe für meine eigenen Kampagnen eine “Wiki Farm” namens Campaign Wiki– ein Website, mit dem ich mir für jede Kampagne eine eigene Wiki anlegen kann. Das darf man gerne ausprobieren und funktioniert ganz gut, solange man ähnliche Ansprüche hat wie ich. Wem die Wiki Funktionalität nicht ausreicht, muss dann auf Angebote wie Epic Words und Obsidian Portal ausweichen.

Netterweise wurden alle drei Wiki Alternativen vom Teilzeithelden Blog besprochen:

Kleiner Hinweis zur Campaign Wiki Besprechung: Die Liste aller Seiten einer Wiki erhält man, wenn man unten auf Administration klickt und dann Index aller Seiten wählt.

Tags: RSS

Add Comment

2013-09-26 Free Stuff

Recently, Skeeter Green talked about the race to the bottom regarding the pricing of PDF products in the RPG hobby on Google+. He basically said that digital products require an effort to be made and are thus not “free”. He also said that buying music on iTunes illustrates the point: we’re not getting a tangible product and yet we pay the money because of the content. Thus, why the unwillingness to pay for PDFs?

One could argue that capitalism is inherently unfair. The idea that the price of a product should relate to the effort spent in producing it sounds Marxist to me. These days, it’s supply and demand that determine the price. Here’s what I said in reply to Skeeter Green’s post.

I think there are many factors that come into play. On one level, if many offerings are available for free, then that sets expectations. You can only ask for money if the thing you are publishing is significantly better than what is available for free. If it is only marginally better, then customers are only willing to pay very little. From my point of view, for example, very small dungeons, simple hex maps, old school character classes, price lists and spell lists all have very little monetary value because so many of them are available for free, and I love it.

Another factor is that Free Software has slowly prepared us to accept that a product which can be copied effortlessly is only worth a donation. The thing that really costs money is customization—it’s the service that I’m paying for. Thus, I’m prepared to pay for the act of customizing something for me, joining a Kickstarter, paying an artist to draw a character portrait, and so on. I’m less willing to pay for something that is already there and only needs to be copied. I think that’s also one of the reasons why Kickstarter-as-prepayment “works” for customers. Once the thing is made, I’m more reluctant to spend my money on it.

As for iTunes, I can tell you what I’d prefer: I’d prefer to pay $5 to artists directly via a button on their web page because I don’t feel like supporting the infrastructure and middle-men. The reason I’m willing to pay a few dollars on iTunes is that piracy also comes with a cost: the quality of the download, the quality of the tags, the wait, the smut. Avoiding this is worth a bit of money to me.

As for the value of physical media: Once you start ordering from Lulu you realize that the media, the shipping, the last mile of home delivery is in fact quite expensive. I’m willing to pay $10 to $40 for shipping and handling of something such as the Tome of Horrors or Slumbering Tsar because I know it would cost me a similar amount if I ordered it from Lulu using my PDF.

In this climate, a traditional business model with an intangible product is simply hard to pull off.

Tags: RSS

Comments on 2013-09-26 Free Stuff

I think you’ve really nailed a few things here – the perceived value of digital vs. physical products, the (comparatively) inflated value of artistry, and the consumer’s desire to “cut out the middle man” when it comes to these types of products.

…Though I think I may have inferred more than what you said. ^^;;;

Dither 2013-09-26 17:24 UTC

I think it’s a fair summary. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-26 17:46 UTC

Philo Pharynx
For me, a digital product is worth more than a printed product. If it’s properly index, bookmarked and hyperinked it’s worth a lot more. I simply don’t want to lug books around, store them and have to deal with them. And PDF’s can be searched and bookmarked and annotated.

Looking at it as merely the cost of duplication and media is a little 20th century. After all, movies and music can be copied digitally for nearly no expense either.

I look on products and think about how much use I’m going to get out of them. A module might only be good for a few nights worth of entertainment, but a game system or major supplment will be used for years.

– Philo Pharynx 2013-09-26 21:31 UTC

Steve Winter
I’m with Philo. I find a PDF to be MORE useful than most rulebooks, IF the PDF is properly indexed, bookmarked, and hyperlinked. Far too many of them aren’t, betraying the amateur approach of their publishers. Nor are they properly layered or compressed. I typically spend 10-30 minutes on many of the PDFs I download, both for free and for pay, getting them into the shape they should have been in before I clicked the Download button. I look forward to the day when enough publishers understand what can be done with PDFs and how to do it that I no longer need to do their work for them to make their publications really useful.

Steve Winter 2013-09-27 00:42 UTC

I’m not sure what to make of this. I agree with the benefits you listed—and the sometimes lacking implementation thereof. How do you explain the perceived unwillingness for people to pay for expensive PDFs? Is the observation simply not true? Or do these people not value them as much as you do? Or do you value your PDFs but end up not being willing to pay twenty, thirty or more Dollars for a PDF? Questions, questions, as I’m trying to understand the PDF market. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-27 09:18 UTC

I buy based on content. If I like what you offer enough I’ll pay $20-$30 bucks for it. I recently bought Numenera for $20. Less than a nickel a page. Okay, I don’t expect to get that kind of deal often. I’ve bought Paizo’s Pathfinder, and they provide their PDF products in four formats when you buy them. Standard, Standard 1 pdf per chapter, Low ink, and Low Ink 1 pdf per chapter. If they’d add a landscape formatted version, I’d marry the company. By the way, Numenera mentioned that the PDF was fully linked. A couple words in the description adds a lot of value to it for people like Steve and I

PhiloPharynx 2013-09-27 13:00 UTC

I think consumers are still adjusting to the digital market as well – indexing, bookmarking, and hyperlinking are all important organizational tools that accompany content processing in the same capacity as copyediting. Every work stands to benefit from a good editor the same way every digital work stands to benefit from indexing, etc.

That’s probably where a degree of “artistry” can influence the value of the product. The PDF industry needs a Stan Lee to tote the heroics of the editor.

Dither 2013-09-27 15:59 UTC

I found another discussion on Google+, this time by Joe Naylor. He wondered “I’d like to know what you think is a reasonable price for a PDF.” Once again I couldn’t stop myself from commenting. :)

I wrote: “I’m willing to pay more–a lot more–for things that aren’t available for free. In other words, practically nothing for OSR rules, classes, spells, small dungeons. Then there’s a big gap and I’m willing to pay $10–$20 for mini-campaigns and adventures and up to $30–$40 for a megadungeon I think I might want to run such as Rappan Athuk. The reason I’m willing to pay so much for the PDF is that buying them in print and shipping them to Switzerland will cost me $100–$120… Thus, if I am willing to buy the PDF, is still right: half the price of the print product. It’s just that I’m not willing to spend much on the low end of the scale as there is so much quality free stuff available.”

AlexSchroeder 2013-10-11 09:27 UTC

Add Comment

2013-09-30 Games on Demand für OerliCon

Ich war am Wochenende auf der OerliCon und habe einen Games on Demand Tisch angeboten.

Die Liste der Kandidaten für mein “Tagesmenü” war lang…

Eher unwahrscheinlich:

  • Montségur 1244 – religiöse Fundamentalisten sind dem Tode geweiht
  • My Life With Master – arme Knechte schuften für den Bösewicht, bis zur Rebellion
  • Fiasco – kaputte Typen auf dem Ritt in den Abgrund


Tipps von Jeremy Friesen auf G+:

I would recommend bringing a few games that you want to run. Provide a durable physical document that has a description of those games. This allows people to see what is happening. I would also make sure to note your schedule. If you can, recruit another GM or two (depending on how many players there might be).

Then be as visible as possible during the lead up and the day of. Use social media, especially the conventions Facebook page (if they have one). You will need to drum up that demand.

Make sure you have an elevator pitch handy for each game. People want to be sold on what thy’ll play.

Also, make sure that you have EVERYTHING that you need to get the game started immediately. Pre-made characters are best, 10 minutes or less for character creation is second best. Also dice, pencils, and paper.

I would also recommend being a very assertive GM regarding the rules. If you are playing Rules as Written, let the players know. But also work to build trust so you can make rulings during the game; Keep things moving at a good pace.

Ich werde mich also auf weniger Spiele beschränken und noch ein Blatt mit einer Kurzinformation zusammenstellen. Für die drei bis vier Spiele, die ich wirklich vorstelle, werde ich Beispielcharaktere bauen und mitnehmen.

Ich glaube meine Favoriten sind:

  • Lady Blackbird
  • Mountain Witch
  • In A Wicked Age
  • Western City


Erster Abend. Die A4 Zusammenfassung der vier Spiele hat keiner gefunden. Vielleicht war einfach zu viel Zeug auf dem Tisch. Wir haben eine lange Runde Lady Blackbird gespielt und es hat allen grossen Spass gemacht.

Zweiter Abend. Die Zusammenfassung wurde mehrmals gelesen und ich habe noch einmal eine lange Session Lady Blackbird und einmal The Mountain Witch geleitet. Ich habe viele, sehr nette Spieler kennengelernt. Lily, Evelyn, Fabienne, Fidel, Samuel, Oliver und alle jene, deren Name ich vergessen habe: Vielen Dank!

Ganz besonders cool fand ich, als Lilly und Evelyn mir ihr System der Heimkampagne vorstellten: M20 Purest Essence! Ich ihnen ganz stolz eine Kopie der deutschen M20 Übersetzung von Dirk Remmecke geschenkt, die er im Namen von Anime Virtual S. A. für die Role Play Convention (RPC) 2008 in Münster gemacht hatte.

Via Google+ wurde ich daran erinnert, dass es eine deutsche Übersetzung von Lady Blackbird gibt. Wenn ich das nur vor dem Con schon gewusst hätte. Noch peinlicher: als ich die deutsche Version abspeichern wollte, musste ich erkennen, dass ich diese schon hatte. Oje. Ich hoffe, meine geplagten Spieler können es mir verzeihen. :)

Was nicht so gut funktioniert hat, aber anscheinend niemanden gestört hat: Das Einschreiben hat nicht wirklich funktioniert, weil die Spielzeiten auf der OerliCon nicht koordiniert werden. Deswegen haben Pascal, der sich vor Ort eingeschrieben hat, oder Carlo, der immer wieder mal vorbeigeschaut hat, beide doch nie einen Platz gefunden. Meine zweite Lady Blackbird Runde habe ich deswegen gnadenlos überzogen, statt wie sonst üblich auf ein Ende innert drei Stunden hinzuarbeiten.

Was für mich gut funktioniert hat: Am Freitag gegen Mitternacht heimgehen, im eigenen Bett schlafen, und am Samstag erst gegen elf wieder dort sein: viele, die dort geblieben sind, haben bis um sechs in der Früh gespielt. Von früh aufstehen konnte keine Rede sein.

Ebenfalls gut funktioniert haben die Visitenkarten, welche ich immer mit auslege. Vielleicht werden nur zwei oder drei mitgenommen, aber als einer der Spieler sagte, er suche eine neue Gruppe, habe ich sofort eine Visitenkarte zücken können. Irgendwie Schade: Selber habe ich weder Fotos gemacht noch Facebook, Twitter oder Google+ Freunde gewonnen, noch Email Adressen ausgetauscht. Daran muss ich das nächste Mal einfach denken.

Ebenfalls gut: einen grossen Beutel mit Bleistiften, Radiergummis und Würfeln für alle am Tisch und Papier zur freien Verwendung. Ich habe allerdings viel zu viel Papier mit geschleppt.


Das nächste Mal sollte ich weniger Dinge mit nehmen. Wenn die Leute etwas in die Hand genommen haben, dann waren es die gut aussehenden Produkte. Vor allem Mouse Guard war ein Blickfang, weil viele die Comics kannten.

Für das nächste Mal also:

  • wie dieses mal eine deutsche Zusammenfassung der vorgestellten Bilder
  • einen grossen Beutel mit Bleistiften, Radiergummis und Würfeln, Notizpapier
  • klare vier Stunden Blöcke ankündigen, separate Anmeldung und immer ein Auge auf die Uhr
  • eine deutsche Übersetzung von Lady Blackbird mit nehmen
  • The Mountain Witch wieder mit nehmen (cool wären deutsche Charakterblätter mit den chinesischen Tierkreiszeichen)
  • Mouse Guard wieder mitnehmen und ein kleines Abenteuer mitnehmen (mit deutschen Charaketerblättern wäre gut)


Add Comment

2013-09 Book Club

What: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

When: 25 September, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

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

There was a review of this book in the paper these days which sounded weird enough in a good way (or good enough in a weird way?) to attract my attention – and a quick search tells me that it just won the 2013 Pulitzer prize as well, so it’s not just our reviewer here. The protagonist grows up as an orphan in North Korea, and is dragged through all the hardship and all the absurdity the author, an American, could come up with to describe a not-so-ordinary life there. Sounds dreary but obiously isn’t: “What we have here are the ingredients of an across-the-board smash hit: sympathetic characters, an exotic, unknowable setting and a plot that will carry you along more convincingly than any of the fictions used by the Democratic People’™s Republic of Korea.” (The Telegraph). Anyone else intrigued?

More reviews: bookish.com, or for something slightly weird in itself, threeguysonebook.com.

First suggested: May 2013

Supporter(s): Uli, Rene, Naomi, Richie, Patty, Dani

Add Comment

Define external redirect: PhiloPharynx SpamAssassian