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2013-11-08 Adventure Design Contest

Bryce Lynch is running an adventure design contest.

Bryce is a harsh critic of RPG modules. He doesn’t mince words. I happen to agree with his taste, however, which is why I generally enjoy reading his reviews.

I'm thinking of making a nice, English variant of these notes I used a while ago. I made a one-page adventure based on these notes for a session back in May.


Update: Done!

Can you spot any typos and layout or font problems? Download problems? License misapplied?

Update: Results are in! Bryce likes it

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Comments on 2013-11-08 Adventure Design Contest

Yes please! My 10% success on a “Comprehend Languages: German” check tells me I would like it! :-)

– Spiralbound 2013-11-09 13:00 UTC

Thanks! It’s about two thirds done.

The (English) session report that goes along with it: 2013-05-15 Treasure Hunting In Niflheim.

AlexSchroeder 2013-11-09 15:46 UTC

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2013-11-13 RPG Geek

I recently learned about Bryce Lynch’s adventure design contest which he is holding on RPG Geek. He said he wanted the contributions to be added to the database, and so I added mine. And I realized once again, what a wonderful resource this. Apparently every single adventure, every little house rule collection, every fantasy heartbreaker, they can all be entered into the database. I think I’m going to do this. A kind soul already added the Fight On! issues to RPG Geek. And so I think I’m going to start adding stuff I was involved in. A kind soul already added Stonehell Dungeon, where I acted as an editor.

I just submitted the following:

I like it.

Sometimes I get the feeling that people online are asking for a comprehensive RPG database of artists, editors, and so on. Well, as far as I can tell, RPG Geek serves the purpose.

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Comments on 2013-11-13 RPG Geek

Rod Batten
It’s user driven, too. So the more people adding stuff the more useful it will be!

I’ve entered a fair amount of OSR material, but not exclusively OSR, I add anything I find that isn’t in the database already. There’s so much excellent content out there, it really deserves to be recognised and catalogued.

Rod Batten 2013-11-13 21:44 UTC

Thanks for the link Alex! (I’d thought of adding some of my stuff there before, but was too lazy to create a user account ;)

Gavin Norman 2013-11-14 07:05 UTC

@Gavin: Now you just need to create a username, claim the designer Person and your user account are the same, and upload a nice picture. :)

@Rod: In my mind, there still are some fuzzy issues. How small is too small for a DB entry, for example? I felt weird adding an entry for a one page adventure, for example. The number of one page PDF files out there is staggering. I think it’s also weird that RPG Geek doesn’t allow “deep links” to PDF files directly. I need to upload the files. How “deep” does a link have to be in order to be “too deep”? A link to a github page where one could download the PDF was accepted, for example. I need to get a better feel for the expectations RPG Geek has.

I just checked the One Page Dungeon Contest series on RPG Geek and how it links the PDFs with the winners, the print issues, and many or all of the individual entries. This is amazing!

AlexSchroeder 2013-11-14 09:32 UTC

I said that I needed a better feel for the RPG Geek expectations. Well, I’m currently somewhat confused by the picture upload policy.

I uploaded a public domain map of Mesopotamia for a game that is about playing heroes in a mythical Mesopotamia. It was rejected.

I uploaded a map I had drawn for an adventure of mine. It was rejected.

I uploaded a “logo” I wanted to provide as a relevant image of a PDF of mine that has no cover image. It was rejected.

There were always reasons provided but I think for the moment I’m done with uploading images. I just don’t a feel for the images they like to see.

When I considered uploading images of PDF products by other people, I was told that I needed to get the permission of the authors. I guess it’s not good enough to assume an implicit permission to use miniature cover pages. That was bit too much effort to spend in it. Yeah, I’m done with uploading images for the moment.

AlexSchroeder 2013-11-16 20:52 UTC

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2013-11-16 How To Run A Contest

I’ve recently received an email by somebody who wondered whether I’d be willing to spread the word of his contest and whether I knew anybody willing to sponsor prizes. When I started running the One Page Dungeon Contest I decided that I’d document my “process” and make this information public so that anybody who is willing to put in the hours can kickstart their own process.

The page Comments on One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 is a good place to start. It has a checklist with all the things you need to think of. It has copies of all the announcements I wrote (click Edit this page at the bottom to get the bbCode format which you can then easily adapt and paste into you own announcements on most forums); it has copies of the postings themselves (effectively listing all the forums I posted to); it also has links to the Twitter account, Facebook page and Google+ page I used to spread the word; it also has copies of the emails I wrote to past and new sponsors. If you want to build a list of sponsors, I think your best bet is to just write to as many publishers as you can think of and post an open call for sponsors in your announcement. It takes time, but the lists of past sponsors gives you a head start.

All of the sponsors I contacted were super nice. The worst that ever happened was that a person I contacted did not reply. No harm done! One prospective sponsor also wanted me to sign a contract I found unacceptable, but the people I was in touch with were all extremely friendly. So, my conclusion is that it never hurts to ask nicely.

I even kept my todo list online. I guess there is not much interesting to learn from that. It was mostly stuff I wanted to write down in the months preceding the official announcement in order to not forget anything. Sponsors that contacted me ahead of time. Judges who volunteered ahead of time.

There are similar pages for 2010, 2011 and 2013. You also need to figure out how to distribute prizes. Back in 2011 I wrote bout the tricky balance of privacy and transparency. You will also need to think about licensing issues. People will discuss it online. No matter how obvious you think it is, there will always be people who don’t understand how it works and who feel entitled to be as rude as they want. You’ll need to be able to handle this, too.

Anyway. Take a look at the notes I wrote in 2012. Anybody can do it. The question is… Do you want to run the One Page Dungeon Contest 2014?

For now, take a look at these two upcoming contests:

ok :)

Case in point, today Stuart’s announcement says “All entries will be collected into one PDF released under the creative commons license.” Given my past interactions with angry dudes on the Internet makes me wonder: Which CC license? And will participants understand that depending on the exact license anybody can take the PDF and release a print product, and ask money for it? I recommend being as precise as possible. ;)

Read Choose a License on the Creative Comons web site.

Allow modifications of your work?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes, as long as others share alike

Allow commercial uses of your work?

  • Yes
  • No

To answer the last question, you might want to read Defining Noncommercial on the Creative Commons website. Consider this sentence in the executive summary, for example: “Both creators and users generally consider uses that earn users money or involve online advertising to be commercial”. Remember how many websites that might offer the PDF for download also involve online advertising.

And then there’s Other criticism of the non-commercial license on Wikipedia to consider…

I also recommend reading Free Culture. :)

The importance of Unprofessionalism.


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2013-11-21 Über das Denken

A note to English readers: If this post showed up in your feed, you should probably switch to a different feed. Some suggestions: RPG only, just English.

Wenn ich beim Frühstück den Monde Diplomatique oder die WOZ lese, habe ich ab und zu das Gefühl, ich hätte etwas begriffen. Ein Satz, zwei Sätze, nur wenig vielleicht, und wie einer, der nach Worten sucht und dem es jetzt auf der Zunge liegt, versuche ich es auszusprechen, mir selber vorzusagen, doch dann kommt noch ein Biss, und noch ein Satz, ein Absatz gar, noch ein Artikel bevor ich mich ins Geschäft aufmache… Und irgendwo war doch noch etwas.

Über den Konsum, die Revolte des Einzelnen, über die Arbeitszeitreduktion, den Produktionsgewinn, die unausweichliche Verteuerung der nicht rationalisierbaren Dienstleistungen und dessen soziologischen Folgen (William Baumol, “The Cost Disease. Why Computers Get Cheapter and Health Care Doesn’t”, zitiert in Wie produktiv ist ein Streichquartett?), über die Muße, über die Klimaerwärmung und unsere Unfähigkeit, Entscheidungen zu treffen.

Das Problem ist nicht nur die Aufmerksamkeit der Informationskonsumenten sondern auch die Konzentrationsfähigkeit der Informationsproduzenten. Alles buhlt um meine Aufmerksamkeit, so dass ich kaum noch weiss, was ich selber denke. Was ich selber denken will.

Mal schauen, ob der Blog hilft, mich zu konzentrieren.

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2013-11-23 Über den Konsum

A note to English readers: If this post showed up in your feed, you should probably switch to a different feed. Some suggestions: RPG only, just English.

Wir sind umringt von Werbung. Verlockende Angebote überall: neue Telefone, neue Spiele, neue Kleider, neue Filme, neue Möbel, neue Musik, Sonderangebote, Sparen beim Kaufen. Der Konsum stützt die Wirtschaft, die Wirtschaft bietet Arbeit, die Arbeit bietet Geld, das Geld ermöglicht den Konsum. So verheizen wir die Umwelt. Deswegen arbeiten wir in den reichsten Ländern der Welt nicht fünfzehn Stunden die Woche sondern vierzig, fünfzig, oder sechzig Stunden die Woche.

Warum sollten wir ausbrechen wollen? Und wenn man ausbrechen wollte, wo hin? Wo bleibt die viele Freizeit, welche uns der Produktivitätgewinn eigentlich ermöglichen sollte? Das Problem ist, dass wir nicht auf dem Niveau unserer Grosseltern leben wollen. Ich will auch nicht in einem kommunistischen Land leben, dass mich zur Armut zwingt. Ich will mir meinen Konsum nicht verbieten lassen.

Der stete Kampf gegen die Verlockungen des Konsums ist die Herausforderung unserer Zeit. Jeder für sich kann die Konsumgesellschaft etwas kleiner und die Freizeitgesellschaft etwas grösser machen. Es geht darum, selektiv zu konsumieren statt mehr zu arbeiten. Ich mache schöne Ferien und kaufe mir ein iPad, verzichte aber auf das Haus im Grünen und ein Auto. Ich gehe gerne auswärts Essen, kaufe mir aber keinen neuen Fernseher, keine neue Spielkonsole, keine neue Sportausrüstung.

Ich will die Werbung nicht sehen. Ich will im Laden nicht am Regal mit all den leckeren Keksen und der guten Schokolade vorbeilaufen, weil ich in meinem Alter anfange anzusetzen. Als wir jünger waren, haben wir jede Woche eine Schachtel Eis gekauft. Damit ist jetzt leider Schluss. Genau so wenig will ich Berichte über die neusten Spiele lesen, über die neuste wetterfeste Wanderausrüstung, über die neusten Fahrräder, über die exklusiven Ferien, die schönen Stoffe für neue Bettwäsche, die Teetassen und Pfannen, die Computer und Kameras. Ich will wegschauen. Ich muss wegschauen. Meine Antwort auf die ständige Werbung ist Konsumverweigerung.

Als ich im Geschäft einmal gefragt wurde, warum ich nur 60% arbeiten wolle, gab ich zur Antwort, ich tue dies für mein Liebesleben. Meine grösste Angst war schon immer, viel zu Arbeiten, eine Karriere zu machen und dann früh zu sterben, ohne die Früchte meiner Arbeit je genossen zu haben. Ich wollte auf alle Fälle nicht einer von denen sein, der seine Beziehung auf dem Altar der Arbeit opfert. Wenn eine Karriere sich nur für einen hohen Preis erringen lässt, dann lasse ich es lieber sein, trete kürzer, bleibe in der kleinen Wohnung und träume vom schönen Regal aus Massivholz, das ich mir nicht leisten will.

Als ich nach weiterführenden Links gegoogelt habe, fand ich diesen Artikel von Beat Döbeli, der sich vor zwei Wochen zum ebenfalls Gedanken machte: Was machen wir mit den Automatisierungsgewinnen?

Kristian Köhntopp empfiehlt Land of Desire von William R. Leach (2012).

Unheimlicherweise gibt es ein Foto von mir und Beat Döbeli von Eugene. Ich bin verblüfft.

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Comments on 2013-11-23 Über den Konsum

Eugene Eric Kim
Kleine Welt! :-)

Eugene Eric Kim 2013-11-27 15:42 UTC


AlexSchroeder 2013-11-28

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2013-11-26 A Strict Reading of the Magic System

Brendan was thinking about limiting magic users on Google+ and I started thinking about my own house rule…

I’ve been using the strict reading of the B/X spellbook rules for a while in my campaign.

What I’m seeing is that magic users worry about the spells they will eventually pick because they know the number of slots is limited. Read magic is important because it grants access to scrolls and without it scrolls have no value since you can’t copy spells from scrolls.

What I’m also seeing—but I don’t know whether that is related—is very few magic users and the few magic users I’ve seen are all low-level henchmen to player characters of a different class with levels 4–6. It seems to me that magic users die quickly when the whole party is low level and that’s why my players have been avoiding them as primary characters. I don’t think this is due to my house rule.

What I’m not seeing a lot of—even though I hoped to see a lot of it—was player characters seeking out high level magic users and elves in order to gain access to new spells. The characters learn new spells from the few magic users and elves they meet during their adventures. Maybe I need to add rumors about particular spells.

For now I’m still happy with how things have turned out even though they didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped for.

More thoughts about reading B/X D&D in the links from my Ode to Ode to Black Dougal.


Comments on 2013-11-26 A Strict Reading of the Magic System

Part of my reason to make spell selection more meta (not treasure that you can find in the game world) is to not make this choice so important. It all happens automatically according to game rules with no explicit justification provided within game play. (The new spells could be justified any number of ways depending on the character.)

As a player, if I needed to decide whether any given spell is worth dedicating a slot to, I would probably dither. What if I was able to find fireball (or whatever) later? So that’s why I prefer the roll/pick method. I think it will help avoid choice paralysis.

There is still plenty of other magic power for magic-users to find while adventuring (wands, scrolls, etc), so I don’t think that prepared spells need to be part of that.

Brendan 2013-11-27 20:03 UTC

Excellent point about choice paralysis. I’ll have to check whether the players running magic users and elves are keeping empty slots because they haven’t found a spell they like, or haven’t had an opportunity to talk about spells with a magic users and elves, or whether they feel paralyzed by choices available to them.

AlexSchroeder 2013-11-27 22:30 UTC

I just realized that Adventure Conqueror King uses a system close to what I use and calls it a magic-user’s “repertoire”.

Arcane spellcasters have only a limited repertoire of spells. The base number and level of spells in an arcane spellcaster’s repertoire is equal to the number and level of spells he can cast per day.

There’s also a long section providing a poetic explanation of the repertoire ending with: “Having a spell in the repertoire is thus an ongoing effort, like maintaining a friendship or remembering a song.” I like it.

As for adding new spells:

Their masters will teach them spells equal to the number and level of spells the caster can use in a single day.

The ACKS is more lenient, however. You can expand your repertoire using scrolls, spell books and research.

If a new spell is found on a scroll, or another arcane spellcaster’s spell book, it may be added to the arcane spellcaster’s repertoire if the character can still learn new spells of that level.

The one big difference I see, however, is that magic-users and elves are not required to memorize their spells:

Unlike other fantasy games, in Adventurer Conqueror King, spellcasters do not have to “memorize” or “prepare” their spells in advance; they can choose which spells to cast at the time of casting from among any and all the spells in their repertoire […].

My rule has always been that you can prepare spells to have them available for combat, or you can leave those spell slots unused and take a turn (ten minutes) to memorize or pray for a spell later during the date. That will obiously preclude their use when being surprised by foes. Maybe I should just switch over to the ACKS rule, since I have noticed that players dislike the need to memorize spells at the beginning of the day and as a player, I have the same problem.

AlexSchroeder 2013-12-07 12:58 UTC

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2013-11-26 Downtime

My websites are hosted on a virtual machine called psithyrus. It was down for many hours and it just came up again. I don’t know what happened. One moment I’m reading mail and nearly two days later it’s rebooting.

Nov 24 04:50:05 psithyrus dovecot: imap(alex): Disconnected: Logged out in=34 out=674
Nov 26 01:27:16 psithyrus kernel: imklog 5.8.11, log source = /proc/kmsg started.

Most of the sites are not terribly important—such as this wiki blog of mine—but I feel bad for the Campaign Wiki users. :(

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2013-11-26 Licenses and Followup Projects

Today I was asked via email whether the author of a One Page Dungeon released under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license could revisit the adventure and release a different (longer?) version using a different license. Here’s what I replied, slightly edited.

You can release everything you ever wrote under as many licenses as you want. Thus, you can work on your previous One Page Dungeon Contest entry, with the same map or a different map, the same or a different text and release it under a proprietary license, a Creative Commons license, or whatever other license you like. The situation is different if you’re building on somebody else’s work: somebody else’s map, somebody else’s monsters, etc. This is true for any other of your One Page Dungeons. You wrote it, you get to change it and release it anyway you want. The only thing you cannot do is prevent other people from building on those old One Page Dungeons that you released under a CC license. But that covers only that particular map, that particular text and doesn’t affect anything else you care to publish.

You’re good to go! :)


Feel free to send me any other licensing questions. I’m not a lawyer but I’ve been thinking about licensing issues for a long time. 8-)


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2013-11-26 Wilderness Encounters

Ian Borchardt recently wrote a lengthy comment in reply to Andy Standfield’s Google+ post about determining CR/EL for monsters. He allowed me to repost it and all he asked for was me mentioning “that it was a G+ comment and therefore not a literary masterpiece – more a stream of thought.” Slightly edited.

When creating a wilderness encounter table for a sandbox game don’t bother with the details. Work out the likelihood of an encounter with creatures that feels right to you and use common sense in the application of the results. Encounters shouldn’t be in “balance” with the party.

Remember that in a sandbox game, an encounter does not actually mean that the characters have an immediate direct combat encounter with the creature. For example, a party of 1st level characters are travelling through the wilderness and you roll up an ancient blue dragon. Instant party death. right?

No. Have them encounter the dragon on the wing, hunting food. The party won’t have enough meat, magic or gold to be worth the dragon’s bother so it will probably keep on the wing. Meanwhile the characters have definitely encountered a blue dragon and can relish the magnificence of the fantasy encounter (or more likely the terror as they huddle under a tree hoping the dragon hasn’t seen them [“Ha!”] and won’t eat them).

But what’s the benefit of this encounter that wasn’t, you may ask? I’m glad you did! The party now know that there might be a lair of ancient blue dragon somewhere in the vicinity (and by that I mean easy flight range) if you are in the wilderness. They might remember this for later, once they are powerful enough to feel they have a good chance of adding dragon slayer to their resume. But in the meantime the presence of the dragon is going to colour the region through which they are travelling. For example any herds in settlements are going to be small to avoid being a tempting target. Towns might even have an arrangement with the dragon were suitable “princesses” are offered up for sacrifice – and they might actually prefer visitors to one of their own daughters. The dragon might even need a set of human hands and be looking for a set of adventurers to do a task for them. Whilst a threat works everyone knows adventurers are mercenaries and will do anything (even kill) for filthy coin.

Ed Simbalist (one of the authors of Chivalry & Sorcery) wrote an excellent essay back in the day (1978): Monsters are people too which really is recommended reading [C&S Companion – hard to get though now]. Monsters aren’t there as adventurer bait, but usually doing their own thing. Role-playing should be important for the monsters as well. For example, the party is at camp roasting a deer they shot earlier in the day, when they “encounter” a goblin patrol. Certainly this could devolve into a fight but what if the reaction roll is friendly? Perhaps the goblin patrol is actually lost and their leader doesn’t want to admit it (but pretty soon his troops, tired and hungry, are going to revolt). And that roasting leg of deer smells sooooo good. Perhaps they can bluff a tax for travelling through “their” lands. Except the people around the fire seem to be rather hard-bitten warriors rather than peasants and are not likely to be particularly surprised or overawed by a mosquito-bitten goblin troop? You now have a role-playing opportunity – never underestimate the benefit of intelligence (in the scouting rather than goblin’s lack of sense) and making friends. Even with goblins.

That’s all up to how you apply the encounters you generate. But there is still the important part of the players reaction to encounters. And that is to use reason. The sandbox game, unlike the heroic story-path game, isn’t there in the world for them. It’s a living breathing world without them, and the encounter table should realise that. At times they are going to encounter stuff that is too tough for them to beat, in which case running away is an important alternative that often seems to be forgotten by a lot of modern players that think the world must be all about them.

Special small regional encounter tables are a good thing too, although they often develop in play – for example one region I kept on rolling dwarves, which lead to the fact that there was a big mining boom going on here, so the regional chart got created with a lot of dwarvish and mining aspects. Including an encounter of gold nuggets in a creek bed. As our different encounter tables for civilised, frontier, and wilderness areas. And don’t forget all the non-monster encounters. For example, encountering an army off to war leads to “you have been recruited” or even “your horses have been recruited – here’s a chit for them (accompanied by the soldiers laughter as they lead your food and horses away)”. And affect the surrounding game. Good sets of encounter tables drive a sandbox game by presenting stuff. Also a good idea is to have a set of unique encounters on file cards. This could be stuff like villages, big monsters in lairs, and the like. When a “unique” encounter is rolled, shuffle and pull a card. That encounter is now there. Replace and top up these file cards occasionally, and remember to keep track of where the used ones were used.

Good stuff.

My own take on wilderness encounters can be found in my Swiss Referee Style Manual.


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2013-11 Book Club

What: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

When: 20 November, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

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

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs – yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_the_Time_of_Cholera

First suggested: June 2013

Supporter(s): Naomi, Nela, Richie, Dominique, Raffaella, Tom, Tim, Yvonne

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