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2013-10-10 More Troll Questions

Random Wizard has done it again. Questions to troll the bloggers, to ring the echo chamber, to offer us all the possibility to pontificate… And I can’t resist! :)

  1. Should energy drain take away one level of experience points from the character? Yes. Take away their XP and have them reroll their hit-points. Keep the new total if lower than their current hit-points. Conversely, when people gain a level, they reroll their hit-points and keep it if higher than their current hit-points.
  2. Should the oil used in lanterns do significant damage (more than 1 hp in damage) if thrown on an opponent and set on fire? Yes. I’m using 1d8 this round and 1d8 next round. It also takes two actions: throwing the oil and throwing the torch. Both need to succeed at a ranged attack vs. AC 9 (no armor). Thus, the damage is similar to the use of a weapon, except it’s easier to hit. I think this appropriate considering the weight and price of every pint of oil.
  3. Should poison give a save or die roll, with a fail rolled indicating instant death? Yes. At higher levels, the game is no longer about hit-points but about save-or-die traps and spells and the appropriate counter-measures.
  4. Do characters die when they reach 0 hit points? No. When they reach 0 hit-points and every time they are hit thereafter, they roll on the Death and Dismemberment table. This reinforces the idea that hit-points is just the will to live and getting hit with 0 hit-points is when the injuries happen.
  5. Does the primary spell mechanic for a magic user consist of a “memorize and forget system” (aka Vancian)? Yes. It’s simpler that way. When I tried a free form magic system, my player kept casting the same spell. That’s great, but not much different from Vancian magic. Therefore it stays.
  6. Should all weapons do 1d6 damage or should different weapons have varying dice (1d4, 1d8, etc…) for damage? 1d6 to rule them all. It works. I use varying dice for monsters.
  7. Should a character that has a high ability score in their prime requisite receive an experience point bonus? No. Distributing experience points is already a chore. Don’t make it more complicated. The bonus stems from a time when the ability gave no other benefit. It’s no longer necessary.
  8. Should a character with 18 constitution get a +3 bonus to hit points, or a +2 bonus to hit points, or a +1 bonus to hit points or no bonus to hit points? +3. Moldvay knows best. Beyond Strengh and Dexterity: Wisdom provides a bonus to saves against Spells. Intelligence provides bonus languages and Charisma provides a reaction roll bonus and an upper limit on henchmen, and it determines their morale.
  9. Should a character have 1 unified saving throw number, or 3 saving throw types based on ability scores (reflex, fortitude, will), or 5 types based on potential game effects (magic wand, poison attacks)? 5 types works for me. When I write down monsters, however, I will often just use 19-HD plus or minus two or four depending on resilience. Who cares about the fiddly details when fighting monsters? Not I!
  10. Should a cleric get (A) 1 spell at 1st level (B) no spells at 1st level (C) more than 1 spell at 1st level? None. In my game, they are supposed to get none for their first adventure only. Then, hopefully having gained some grace, they get the one spell the rules accord them.

My house rules are based on Labyrinth Lord: Halberds and Helmets.

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2013-10-16 Knowledge Skill and Narration Rights

Recently I happened upon a discussion on Google+ regarding the introduction of facts by players. The example given involved an Indiana Jones character spontaneously identifying snakes. Does the referee determine the kind of snakes or does the player determine the kind of snakes?

Wilhelm Person suggested a skill check to get narration rights:

When you roll for knowledge skills. If you succeed you get to decide what the truth is.

If you fail the GM tells you what the truth is. Sometimes the GM lies.

Here’s what I wrote:

If you manage to foster the right atmosphere at the gaming table, it can be just a matter of using an ellipsis, a pause, a knowing look—and players will interject cool ideas by themselves. That’s how I try to have it work at my table. The obvious benefit to me is that we don’t need a skill. Another benefit is that it limits itself to situations where players actually have cool ideas. Otherwise—particularly if you’re not playing a story game—you might get a helpless shrug or an empty stare in response to a success on the knowledge skill check. Players are not always ready to spew forth the Apocalypse.

What seems to work best, in my game, is to combine it with a 1 in 6 chance. Most players will immediately suggest something very positive for them. I might make a doubtful face and say “OK, 1 in 6 chance that these cannibals fall for your ridiculous explanation. But what if it doesn’t work?” Usually the table is in brainstorming mode at that point and we all determine the rest before rolling the die. I find that accepting all suggestions at the table and have the dice decide works better than discussing it, looking for consensus—long talk disrupts flow, as far as I am concerned.

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Comments on 2013-10-16 Knowledge Skill and Narration Rights


Ynas Midgard
There are games that revolve around narrative rights; D&D is not one of them. The *World-style skill checks that have been discussed on this blog before may seem like the player has narrative rights, but actually that is just abstracting what the character actually does and caring only about its result.

Ynas Midgard 2013-10-17 12:37 UTC


1-in-6 chances are the best (-:

– Harald Wagener 2013-10-17 13:00 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Ynas, I’m not sure where to start. I think you’re trying to say two things: one, players should have no narrative rights in D&D, and two, skill checks as seen in Apocalypse World don’t really provide narrative rights?

I’ll just assume the above and write my reply. My apologies if it wasn’t what you intended to say. :)

I think that everything not covered by the rules and the Dungeon Master in D&D does involve narrative rights for players. Some examples from the top of my head: how are they hitting, how are they missing, how are they walking, how are they sneaking, how are they searching. These all involve the player character only. Fair enough. The rules don’t really prevent anybody from extending this: Thieves could explain how they disarm the trap and describe the trap details in the process. Fighters could explain how they break down the door and describe the door in the process. Bards could explain how they capture the attention of the audience and describe the audience in the process. Sure, sometimes my players are looking at me for confirmation, but I would consider it poor style to just say “no” to these embellishments. Sure, D&D doesn’t seem to revolve around narrative rights. That doesn’t mean there is no place for them. The original poster was wondering how to add narrative rights and commenting on the lackluster feelings at the table when the Dungeon Master hands out player knowledge. I don’t really like skill checks and still try to do without whenever possible. I think what I described in my post is a sort of social technique to solve the problem that doesn’t require a mechanical underpinning.

As for skill checks in Apocalypse World—I don’t know. You could be right. I don’t think it matters for my Old School D&D, however, and I don’t think Wilhelm wanted to say anything in particular about Apocalypse World.

AlexSchroeder 2013-10-17 13:21 UTC



Ynas Midgard
The first part, I’d like to clarify. Players obviously control some part of the fiction; their characters and the fictional representation of actions initiated by them (and sometimes actions they were forced to take). However, players are generally not given control over facts of the world. For instance, the GM doesn’t ask one of the players “Is the door locked?”, “How many orcs are there?”, or “What dark secret does the Emperor keeps to himself?” (whereas this could happen in other games).

There is one counterexample I myself used to use: I let players decide things that are not really tied to the adventure, that is, flavour-related things. Nowadays I rarely do this kind of question, though.

As for the second part, I wasn’t referring to Apocalypse World but a post you made about how to implement AW-style checks into D&D. *World games generally give much control to players through MC-questioning - but it is an entirely different discussion.

Ynas Midgard 2013-10-17 20:57 UTC

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2013-10-21 1PDC in print

1PDC 2013 After announcing it on Facebook and on Google+ and on Twitter I guess I should announce it here as well: The One Page Dungeon Contest 2013 is available in print!

Woohoo, Brett Bernstein has done it again. Thanks!

The CC Share Alike license makes it possible. This is great. Somewhere in the store you can also get the 2012 book, if you’d like that.

The yearly PDFs with all the entries remains freely available. I’m assuming you know what you’re buying if you’re ordering the book. :)

The main reason I feel the need to post it here, however, is this angry rant.

Here’s a FAQ compiled by -C of Hack & Slash, the result of a discussion on Google+:

Isn’t the content of this book available for free? Yes. The contest is available here.

Are the authors receiving any of the money from the PDF? No, but that is due to the terms under which they released their work, the Creative Commons Share-Alike License.

Is this legal? Yes. It is allowed under the terms of the license. You have the same option to do this as anyone else.

Do the contest managers know? Yes, this work was done with their knowledge and by request.

Can’t I do this at Lulu? Yes, the cost for a 116 page full color softcover book will run you 28.96$. Other complexities due to the nature of the contest make printing this book not easy, due to possible font embedding, transparency, and file size issues.

Is there any new art or content? No, it is the entries from 2013 along with the winners from 2010 and 2011.

Is this printed using lightning source or a local printer? The publisher has no comment on internal logistics.

Are the authors aware of this project? Some of them, those that have been contacted [by Brett] were supportive.

Will this be available in stores? Yes, retailers can order it through Ingram. Hobby stores that don’t use Ingram will also be able to order through Indie Press Revolution in the next few weeks.

Why doesn’t Amazon mention any of this? They take text from various lookups, which don’t always contain the latest information. Changes can be suggested, but that doesn’t mean they will be made.

Brett also said: “I make enough per book at amazon just to cover printing costs. I did this as a service for the RPG hobby, so people who do not have access to printing services could get this at a reasonable price.” (in the comments of the same Google+ thread)

As for me personally, the CC license is fundamental. I absolutely want people to copy and distribute the resulting dungeons. I want people to be able to host them on their websites even if they (or Google) are making money off of it. I want people to be able to print them even if they (or Lulu) are making money off of it. As far as I am concerned, creating One Page Dungeons for everybody to use and spread as they see fit and without having to ask for a permission is the entire point of the contest. Not everybody needs to share this point of view, of course, but that’s why I run this contest in particular.

If you’re an author, and you still feel disappointed or hoodwinked… I don’t know what to say. I honestly felt that it was obvious enough. Here’s how the instructions to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2013 start:

Submissions: Here’s how to submit your entry.

  1. Create a One Page Dungeon.
  2. Submitting a dungeon to the contest releases it under the Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license with credit to the contest participant.
  3. The submission must have a name, an author, and a link to the license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/).

On the One Page Dungeon there is another section that doesn’t mince words:

License: The PDF doesn’t need an actual clickable link to the Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The URL just has to be readable when printed so that people can look it up if they need to. The license basically says that anybody can copy, change, and distribute your submission, as long as other people can take the new copy and do the same, and as long as they list all the contributing authors. As the author you can distribute copies using a different license, but you cannot revoke the Creative Commons license. Thus you cannot sell “exclusive rights” to somebody else at a later date. See the license itself for more information. :)

“The license basically says that anybody can copy, change, and distribute your submission, as long as other people can take the new copy and do the same, and as long as they list all the contributing authors.” It seems pretty straight forward to me. If you have a suggestion regarding the wording, feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly.

I remember reading Justin Alexander’s One-Page Rip-Off post in 2010 where he said anybody could upload the free PDF to Lulu and buy their own copy. Please do it! You are free to do it. That’s what’s so great about it. There is no need to ask. Unfortunately, nobody stepped forward in 2010 and 2011 to actually do it. Or perhaps they did it and never offered it to anybody else. In 2012, Brett stepped forward and actually made it happen: The 1PDC in print, for those of us who’d like to have it without feeling like doing it ourselves. And he did it again in 2013. Thanks! :)

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Comments on 2013-10-21 1PDC in print


mwschmeer
Thank you, Alex, for addressing the issues I asked about in my “angry rant”.

I think contest entrants need to know that the license allows someone to SELL their work without notification or payment to the original creator. You don’t make that clear in any of the material for the contest, although the license link itself does indicate that others may make commercial use of the material. “anybody can copy, change, and distribute,” is not the same as “anybody can copy, change, distribute, or sell”.

Could you please make that clear for next year’s entrants?

mwschmeer 2013-10-21 13:13 UTC



mwschmeer
As someone without a Google+ account, I can’t access the discussion thread you link to where these issues are discussed. Could someone please post the contents of that thread somewhere?

mwschmeer 2013-10-21 13:27 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Contact -C.

AlexSchroeder 2013-10-21 13:41 UTC

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2013-10-22 Random Names on IRC

Sometimes I wonder whether nicks on IRC give too much away. Sex, cultural background, … So here’s an experiment. Do you treat the people the same if you can’t see their nick names?

The following setup uses colored nicks and random names for <span class="site">Emacs</span><span class="separator">:</span><span class="page">rcirc</span>.

rcirc: Random Names

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2013-10-23 Old School Fanzines

In 2012 I wrote about old school fanzines, and this being a wiki, I sometimes updated the information when I found some more information. Time to start a new page with the real updates, however.

Which magazines released an issue in 2013? Did I miss any? Should I change the description? Leave a comment. In no particular order…

Also note this thread linking many more!

Updates:

  • Crawljammer by Tim Callahan for Dungeon Crawl Classics in Space

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Comments on 2013-10-23 Old School Fanzines


Alexey
Hi Alex,

Thanks for mentioning Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols! and for raising awareness of ‘zines. It can be hard for a home publisher to get the word out, particularly if he can’t stomach promoting himself much. Though WMLP definitely has sci-fi and post-apocalyptic themes at times, it’s probably 90% weird fantasy. Think Night of the Walking Wet and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the kind of adventures/settings to which we aspire.

Cheers!

Alexey (MonK)

Alexey 2013-10-24 17:05 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I’m happy to spread the word, and I amended the description. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-10-25 06:00 UTC



Cyric
Thx for sharing! Great list!

Greetings
Cy

– 2013-10-30 07:18 UTC



Ron Redmond
Finally I’m at the correct list.

Thanks Alex! Trying to spread the AD&D love around with & Magazine, I appreciate the mention! Ron

Ron Redmond 2013-12-30 21:34 UTC

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2013-10-23 Settlements in Sandboxes

Recently, Gregor Vuga talked about the West Marches campaign model on Google+. He summarized the model as “one safe home base + lots of very dangerous wilderness” and wondered about adding cities that are “interesting places where there might be a lot to do”.

Here’s what I wrote, slightly edited.

I run a similar campaign. There are some small differences in how the thing is organized, but in terms of using many cities and other safe havens, I have had no problems. I treat settlements either as safe places and thus as not very interesting with the exception of one, two or three important non-player characters. Or settlements are treated as a simple adventure locale with a handful of “rooms” (one, two or three buildings) with a particular enemy and their minions need to be fought (were rats, cultists, evil tax collectors). The key is that once the adventure is over, the settlement returns to safe place status. There’s never an invitation to spend more time in a settlement. Most adventure and all the treasure is found outside.

I think this is still compatible with the West Marches campaign model because it depends on what you want from it. I want to encourage players to choose a goal or a destination, and go there, and do something. The original West Marches did this by saying the starting village was boring and safe. If the city is teeming with intrigue, then adventure comes to the players. They did not “choose” this adventure. So that’s what I want to avoid. If I treat other cities either like the starting village (boring, safe) or like a dungeon (remote, dangerous), then I am still achieving my goal. Whether you still want to call this “West Marches style” I don’t know.

If I wanted to add cities as interesting places to my campaign, I’d make sure that cities are generally boring and safe but they contain adventuring locales. In my game, for example, the players visited Sigil. It’s a big city, it has factions, it has adventuring locales, and so on. Not a problem, as far as I am concerned. Sigil wasn’t their home base. Players came to Sigil in order to achieve something. They did that, navigated the dangers, visited interesting locales, got involved in intrigue, and left again. Had the players decided to stay in Sigil, perhaps that would have made things more problematic. Will the faction war catch up with them? Will they still get to choose their adventures, session after session? I tried to mitigate this by declaring their guest house to be safe and boring, for example.

I guess what happens is that I just redefine the sandbox. It’s like a fractal. Once you get to Sigil, the thing is self similar: a safe place, adventuring locales, more dangerous when farther away, and so on. Basically “one safe home base + lots of very dangerous wilderness”.

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2013-10-29 How To Run Fate

Recently, Andy McQuoid asked on Google+ for suggestions running a Diaspora campaign with a colossal derelict ship to explore—and that ship is actively trying to kill the characters. He also said, “ I am also unsure if I present the whole ship as one big Social Combat scene, or to break it down into the component areas, i.e., bridge, engineering, medical etc. and run scenes in there. If this was a Traveller game I would draw up the plans of the ship and have the characters proceed room by room. However, I think Diaspora offers a better, story based way of doing this that would be much more satisfying to do, and I want to showcase some of the great things in the minigame toolkit that Diaspora offers.”

I was reminded of my Solar System game and my post on how to prep for it. I wrote the following in response.

I would treat it as an old-school megadungeon and therefore structure game along missions. The session begins and log files show a certain percentage of extra heat radiation. There must be an unknown energy source in the ship. Outer hull sensors report increased infrared around the 1.7km line…

Prepare a sheet of paper with ideas. List NPCs (machines, programs, robots), rooms and the challenges they pose (stuff to reconnect, overcome, evade), tidbits you want to reveal, decisions that need to be made, consequences you’d like to see, and so on.

Make special note of mini-games you want to run. I’d suggest none on the first or two session but then one or two for every three hour session you play. This can be a social conflict, a platoon combat, a larger combat with a lot of zones, etc. Prepare those little maps and rules before-hand in order to make it a smooth experience.

The game itself is the structured along the challenges, players looking at their skills and deciding how to go about it, resolving the skill checks, invoking aspects, enforcing consequences, revealing interesting parts of the background and leads to new missions for future sessions.

I also recommend following the Designing an Adventure section of The Shadow of Yesterday.

Every now and then, I’d make sure to add adventures outside the ship. Visiting a system. Contacting other ships, etc. But it all follows the general outline above.

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2013-10-31 New Google Plus Usage

Google+ Communities When I started using Google+, I added a few shared circles full of gamers. I ended up with more than a thousand people in my circles. It felt weird, however. Many of them never posted. Others posted stuff that wasn’t related to role-playing games, politics, or other issues I cared about. Others posted way too much.

At first, I thought all these problems could be solved via Circles. But in practice, that has been harder than I thought. Problems I found:

  1. People don’t automatically know in which circle to put you. You need to have some public posts indicating your interest, or your need to write about them on your profile, and you need to trust other people to take this information into account. There used to be a lot of posts saying “put me in these circles, if you have them”.
  2. If you realized that a person posted about topics you cared about and topics you didn’t care about, it was socially awkward to ask them to remove you from one of their circles. Some people also posted everything public and felt that this was what they were like, as a person, as a whole, and if you didn’t like it then perhaps you were better off uncircling them entirely.
  3. A lot of people never seemed to write a word. Are they even real? Are they snoops, monitoring everything I write? Is my writing different when I believe to write for a private “circle” compared to writing in public? What if these circles have more than a hundred people in them and are essentially a public?
  4. As the circles of sender and recipient are not coordinated, you might put a person writing about topics A and B into the appropriate circles A and B on your side, and if you write about A or B, the right people will get to see the post, but if they write about A or B, their posts will end up in both your A and B circles. Reading circles to sort incoming posts by topic don’t work for people in your circles that post about multiple topics.
  5. When I started uncircling agressively, I realized that it would take forever to get rid of the estimated 950 people in my circles.
  6. Communities seemed to solve many of these problems: Posts are generally on topic. I can read by topic. If I really like a lot of what a person posts, I can still circle them. I expect to do that for a very small number. Communities have their own problems, unfortunately. The thing I find most obnoxious is that some people post things I don’t care for to communities. Do I need to block them in order to curate my community stream? Right now this is just a very minor annoyance.

I needed to figure out whether the effort spent on circle maintenance exceeded the effort needed to curate my communities. Right now, I think that communities work better than big circles. So I did the obvious thing: I ditched my almost all of my circles. No more RPG, Emacs, Copyright & Patents and Typography circles. I’ve uncircled practically everybody. There are but 12 people in my circles right now.

I’m giving communities a try.

If you want to make sure I see a post or comment of yours, you’ll need to plus-mention me. I guess you had to do this when I had a thousand people in my circles, too. 😊

I still read the blogs.

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Comments on 2013-10-31 New Google Plus Usage

I wonder if it would make sense to subscribe to tags instead.

Radomir Dopieralski 2013-10-31 19:21 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Good point. Perhaps the first reason this didn’t cross my mind is that I hardly ever use tags myself. I also just saw on Google+ that Saved Searches are going away (such as for tags). Strange. There’s also the hope that small Communities on Google can turn into “real” communities where you know the people. I don’t know how you’d kickstart this process for tags. How would we discover new tags? Perhaps if Google supported them better. Do you feel that tags work well for Stack Exchange?

AlexSchroeder 2013-10-31 22:31 UTC

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2013-10 Book Club

What: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

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

In 1922, F Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple, intricately patterned”. That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned and, above all, simple novel became

The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s – and his country’s – most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – “ Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace be comes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties and waits for her to appear. When s he does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbour Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem. Credit: Perry Freeman, Amazon.com

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