Diary

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This is both a wiki (a website editable by all) and a blog (an online diary about the stuff Alex Schroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

2019-02-22 Magic Items

I was recently thinking about Hex Describe again. There, I needed a way to generate magic items. In addition to that, I wanted the generated items to be my magic items – the kind I’d happily hand out in my campaign. And so I wrote random tables to generate them. But now I have the problem that I can’t really print the tables on my blog. The look like this:

;magic item
1,A [potion].
1,A [scroll].
1,[magic weapon]
1,[magic armour]
1,[wondrous item]

;magic weapon
5,[magic weapon for magic user]
10,An elven *long sword* +1 with [elven inscription]
5,An elven *long bow* +1.
5,A dwarven *short sword* +2 with [dwarven inscription]
2,A dwarven *crossbow* +2.
2,A goblin assassin’s black iron *crossbow* +1, decorated with the seven heads of Set.
1,A goblin assassin’s *short bow* +1 with plenty of notches along its side.
1,An orcish *zweihänder* +1/+3 vs. city dwellers, in the [orc sword tradition].

And on an on... So I’ve done something else. There’s a way to use Hex Describe without a map. The output is HTML but it was easy to convert that back to Markdown for posting on this site. And thus, 100 example magic items. 🙂

The one hundred magic items of Old Eilif of Trazadan

  1. A prayer of safety (transports the reader and up to ten targets back to the last temple the reader entered).
  2. A scroll of fire ball (6d6, save vs. spells for half).
  3. A potion of healing (1d6+1, rose, smelling like rotten eggs).
  4. A potion of silver tongue (1h, everybody who hears your voice must save vs. spells or be charmed, rose).
  5. The ring of the tengu, summons the tengu Halberd of Terrible Endings, always willing to talk and offer advice (HD 5+1 AC 6 1d8 F10 MV 15 ML 8; flying); the ring’s magic is lost when the tengu is killed.
  6. A horn of the tengus (summons 3 tengus led by the master swordsman Spear of Terrible Endings: HD 5+1 AC 6 1d8 F10 MV 15 ML 8; flying: HD 5+1 AC 6 1d8 F10 MV 15 ML 8; flying; when killed, they are released from their bond to the horn).
  7. A potion of fire resistance (1h, foamy green, smelling like pee).
  8. A map to 5 jewels hidden in a secret compartment in the dwarven forge Grimmfather.
  9. A potion of silver tongue (1h, everybody who hears your voice must save vs. spells or be charmed, foamy orange).
  10. A potion of flying (1h, dark orange, smelling like the sea).
  11. A potion of fire resistance (1h, dark red, smelling like smoke).
  12. A potion of fire belching (20min, 3d6, save vs. dragon breath for half, foamy rose).
  13. An elven long bow +1.
  14. An orcish mace +1 with the orcish runes of dominance and power.
  15. A scroll of fog (1km, within 10min, for 1h, visibility 10ft).
  16. A potion of silver tongue (1h, everybody who hears your voice must save vs. spells or be charmed, foamy rose).
  17. A golden necklace +2 dedicated to Mitra.
  18. An orcish mace +1 marked with the runes of Hel.
  19. The staff of the minotaur, summons the minotaur Spririt Guide, always willing to talk and offer advice (HD 6 AC 6 2d6 F6 MV 12; mesmerize any listeners at will, i.e. listeners must save vs. spells or cease all hostilities and speak nothing but the truth; immune to sleep and charm); the staff’s magic is lost when the minotaur is killed.
  20. A dwarven shield +2 with dwarven runes naming its maker: Alrún Ironsmasher of Old Grind.
  21. A living silver tatoo +1 dedicated to Thor.
  22. A map to the hidden ancestral shrine of Tórunn Platebearer (in a nearby location) with the promise of 2000 gold coins to be found.
  23. An amulet of shape changing, blessed by Loki (horse, allows you to ride).
  24. A map to the hidden ancestral shrine of Star Life (in a nearby location) with the promise of 3000 gold coins to be found.
  25. The two handed Icekiller +3, forged by the frost giant Winter’s Bone in Jotunheim; when the blade is drawn, snow flakes form; when it is stuck into water, a layer of ice forms (10ft); when left unsheathed, a glacier will eventually form.
  26. A scroll of unlocking doors (unlocks and unbars a door up to 2m wide).
  27. An elven dagger +1 with elven runes in memory of Fir Strong.
  28. A ring of the bully which allows you to shove anybody and anything within 60ft, and if this puts your victim in harm’s way then they must save vs. death or suffer the consequence.
  29. A potion of fire belching (20min, 3d6, save vs. dragon breath for half, foamy purple, smelling like mango).
  30. A potion of flying (1h, sparkling rose).
  31. A scroll of fire ball (6d6, save vs. spells for half).
  32. A scroll of fire ball (6d6, save vs. spells for half).
  33. A ring of the bully which allows you to shove anybody and anything within 60ft, and if this puts your victim in harm’s way then they must save vs. death or suffer the consequence.
  34. A potion of fire resistance (1h, red, silvery flakes).
  35. A dwarven short sword +2 with dwarven runes naming its maker: Milja Shieldfriend of Grimmlight.
  36. An elven long sword +1 with elven runes naming its owner: Lush Flower.
  37. A ring of the bully which allows you to shove anybody and anything within 60ft, and if this puts your victim in harm’s way then they must save vs. death or suffer the consequence.
  38. A crystal of starlight (60ft).
  39. A map to the hidden crypt of Kali the Terrible of Trazadan (in a nearby location) with the promise of 5000 gold coins to be found.
  40. A compass of hell, blessed by Hel (it has two pointers: one points to the nearest danger, the other to the nearest safe place).
  41. A potion of fire belching (20min, 3d6, save vs. dragon breath for half, light blue).
  42. A diadem of the slaver (when targeted by a spell, it is redirected to a person within 10ft if you save vs. spells).
  43. A ring of invisibility which turns you invisible until you attempt to harm somebody.
  44. A suit of elven plate armour +1 with elven runes naming its maker: Snow Valley.
  45. A potion of strength (20min, strength 18, sparkling orange).
  46. A scroll of crashing gates (destroy one door up to 20m wide).
  47. A pair of gloves of strength (strength 18).
  48. A scroll of live burial (60ft, the earth opens up underneath a person, save vs. death to avoid getting pulled into the depths to certain death).
  49. An elven long sword +1 with elven runes naming its maker: Fox Light.
  50. A suit of dwarven plate armour +2 with dwarven runes commemorating the slaying of the white dragon Cold End the Sleeper.
  51. An elven long sword +1 with elven runes in memory of Fir Father.
  52. A compass of hell, blessed by Hel (it has two pointers: one points to the nearest danger, the other to the nearest safe place).
  53. A pair of nightvision goggles (60ft).
  54. A dwarven short sword +2 with dwarven runes naming its maker: Hori Ironeater of High Grimm.
  55. The long sword Moonfire +1/+3 vs. lycanthropes, inscribed with silver runes of death and banishment, forged by the high inquisitors of Merlen.
  56. A map to the hidden crypt of Old Thyia of Ouria (in a nearby location) with the promise of 11000 gold coins to be found.
  57. An elven cloak (5 in 6 chance of hiding in the wilderness using magic camouflage when standing still).
  58. A suit of dwarven plate armour cold resistance +1 made with scales of the white dragon Snow End the Sleeper, forged by Arna Swordmaker of Moon.
  59. An amulet of shape changing, blessed by Loki (sea lion, allows you to swim).
  60. A flying carpet (four people).
  61. A suit of elven plate armour +1 with elven runes naming its maker: Star Light.
  62. A potion of cold resistance (1h, deep blue).
  63. A scroll of moving ice (grow an ice bridge up to 30m long from existing snow or ice).
  64. A potion of fire belching (20min, 3d6, save vs. dragon breath for half, foamy rose, smelling like vomit).
  65. A goblin assassin’s short bow +1 with plenty of notches along its side.
  66. An elven long bow +1.
  67. A map to 4 jewels hidden in a secret compartment in the dwarven forge Great Hammer.
  68. A potion of flying (1h, sparkling green, smelling like smoke).
  69. A compass of hell, blessed by Hel (it has two pointers: one points to the nearest danger, the other to the nearest safe place).
  70. A map to the hidden ancestral shrine of Fróia Plateeater (in a nearby location) with the promise of 6000 gold coins to be found.
  71. A diadem of the slaver (when targeted by a spell, it is redirected to a person within 10ft if you save vs. spells).
  72. A potion of fire resistance (1h, deep green).
  73. A potion of flying (1h, foamy blue).
  74. A potion of flying (1h, light purple, smelling like tree resin).
  75. A scroll of moving ice (grow an ice bridge up to 30m long from existing snow or ice).
  76. A scroll of crashing gates (destroy one door up to 20m wide).
  77. A suit of dwarven plate armour +2 with dwarven runes commemorating the slaying of the red dragon Hot Despair the Eternal.
  78. A helmet of the bull, grants an extra attack when charging into a fight on a hit, an opponent no larger than yourself is thrown to the ground such that your allies get a +4 to attack them.
  79. A scroll of live burial (60ft, the earth opens up underneath a person, save vs. death to avoid getting pulled into the depths to certain death).
  80. The ring of the tengu, summons the tengu Blade of Terrible Endings, always willing to talk and offer advice (HD 5+1 AC 6 1d8 F10 MV 15 ML 8; flying); the ring’s magic is lost when the tengu is killed.
  81. The necklace of dharma allows you to borrow actions from your future self: act twice this round to do what needs to be done but skip the next round.
  82. A potion of cold resistance (1h, light green).
  83. A suit of elven plate armour of fire resistance +1 made with scales of the red dragon Fire End the Eternal, forged by Star Heart.
  84. A scroll of fire ball (6d6, save vs. spells for half).
  85. A suit of dwarven plate armour +2 with dwarven runes naming its maker: Sólva Shieldmaker of Hammer.
  86. A map to 7 jewels hidden in a secret compartment in the dwarven forge High Grimm.
  87. An elven long sword +1 with elven runes naming its owner: Eagle Life.
  88. A potion of fire resistance (1h, green, black residue, smelling like vomit).
  89. A suit of elven plate armour +1 with elven runes in memory of Trunk Forest.
  90. The dagger Heart Eater +1/+3 vs. humans, with etchings on its blade showing a human sacrifice.
  91. A potion of fire belching (20min, 3d6, save vs. dragon breath for half, sparkling green).
  92. A dwarven short sword +2 with dwarven runes naming the owner: Mjothin Shieldmaker of Thunderfather.
  93. A scroll of bashing walls (punch a hole 20m wide and deep into anything made of wood, earth or stone; living things, textiles, leather, metal, and all that are not affected).
  94. A dwarven shield +2 with dwarven runes commemorating the slaying of the red dragon Ash Death of the Mountain.
  95. A golden necklace +2 dedicated to Mitra.
  96. A prayer of summoning (the troll Sickness, from Ejudnir, Hel’s hall in Niflheim: HD 6+1 AC 4 1d6/1d6/1d10 F6 MV 12; regenerate when slain unless burned or dissolved in acid).
  97. A crystal of starlight (60ft).
  98. A map to the hidden ancestral shrine of Hergrímur Steelfriend (in a nearby location) with the promise of 3000 gold coins to be found.
  99. A map to the hidden ancestral shrine of Lush Sea (in a nearby location) with the promise of 4000 gold coins to be found.
  100. A prayer of safety (transports the reader and up to ten targets back to the last temple the reader entered).

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2019-02-22 I'm not an Expert

I like B/X D&D, i.e. Basic D&D by Moldvay and Expert D&D by David Cook and Steve Marsh, both from 1981. I wanted to fiddle with these rules and publish my fiddling, so I turned to Labyrinth Lord by Daniel Proctor. The revised edition I have is from 2009. And based on the ideas in these books, I wrote Halberds & Helmets.

And now I’m wondering: how much of an Expert am I?

I don’t use actually use level limits in my game because my campaigns usually end before we reach level 10. Thus, the only level limit that would make a difference is the limit of level 8 for halflings and I just never had a halfling that would have qualified for level 9 in my campaigns.

I love reading the level titles for characters but it’s weird to use them in-game and so we don’t.

There are no clerics in my games so I don’t care about turning undead at higher levels. As for spells, I’m writing my own spell books for Spellcasters, obviously many of them inspired by existing spells from various editions, but also many of my own devising.

In my games, movement speed is of very little importance. Overland, I’ve started using a simple “one hex per day” rule (there are no Roman roads) and over sea I just wing it (and I don’t care about the weather).

I also list prices for specialists and mercenaries but don’t go into any details. Or if I do, I no longer remember, and in that case I should excise the info from the house rules anyway.

My procedure for wilderness travel is similar to what it says in order of events in one game day except I also have night time encounters (so I roll 1d6 twice: once for the day and once for the night). I have done away with the evasion table and I also dropped my own chase rule. It was taking up valuable space and wasn’t being used at the table.

I don’t use the combat sequence as written. I do group initiative but I don’t do movement, missile fire, magic spells and melee in separate phases. I just go player by player around the table until they have all gone. Same thing for monsters. They just do whatever they want to do, one after another. Separate phases complicate matters and don’t seem to add much.

I don’t do variable weapon damage. Somehow, it turns out not to matter. I also don’t use holy water, lance combat, naval combat or aerial combat. I do use my own variant of mass combat. Perhaps one day I shall use Delta’s OED: Book of War or Chris Kutalik’s By this Axe.

I use flaming oil but now that I read the rules I find that they leave a whole lot of stuff unexplained. Oil may be thrown as a missile weapon, so does that mean people in armour are harder to hit with oil? I guess so. But then: “The chance of oil catching fire depends on the situation, and is left for the DM to figure out.”

Monsters I don’t use: antelope, blink dog, caecilia, camel, cyclops, dinosaurs, displacer beast, dragon turtle, giant leech, hawk, mastodon, mermen, rhinoceros, rhagodessa, roc, sea dragons, water termite... but it’s interesting to see how many I actually do use. The monsters are iconic!

Treasure types. Tricky! I’ve started using treasure types again in my monster section of the Ref Guide, and I’ve started writing my own table of magic items for Hex Describe, but there still isn’t a canonical list in my book. Perhaps I should start working on that.

I still think that one could extrapolate a whole game from Basic D&D. Up to level 3 is a little bit short, but if it just went up to level 5 (which used to be the limit for my own house rules), that would already make an excellent and “complete” game.

Anyway, I guess I just wanted to leaf through Expert D&D once again.

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2019-02-21 RPG Blog Highlights?

Recently I have created a “merged” RPG Planet. It collects the blog posts colleceted on the the Old School RPG Planet and the Indie RPG Planet and creates a unified feed and web page. It’s pretty cool for people like me who like it both ways! 🙂

And on my Tabletop Social Mastodon account I’ve been occasionally highlighting a post or two that I noticed as I browsed the page.

How to get started with the #osr, by Dungeons and Possums: https://dungeonspossums.blogspot.com/2019/02/how-to-get-started-playing-old-school-d.html

Dungeon maps with ASCII art, and links to adventures. Anne’s blog post: https://diyanddragons.blogspot.com/2019/02/imminent-chuch-engines-ascii-dungeons-i.html Adventure 1: https://laughingpanjandrum.github.io/AilingFlowerChurch.html Adventure 2: https://laughingpanjandrum.github.io/TombOfKingOraine.html

I think bat has been writing up magic items and spells and little vignettes to go along with them on his blog for about ten years. Ten years! The library is ginormous!! Just now, for example: planar orbs. 🙇‍♂️ https://ancientvaults.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/new-magic-item-planar-orbs/

I turned the following into a blog post:

Patrick Stuart writes eloquently about books. I remember him writing so eloquently about Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon that I ended up buying the book (but now that I check only got to page 43). And now he writes a review of the Memoirs of Usama Ibn-Munqidh, “an Arab-Syrian Gentleman in the Period of the Crusades”, translated by Philipp K. Hitti. And already I feel the urge to go and buy it. Must resist! 😆​ https://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2019/02/a-review-of-memoirs-of-usama-ibn-munqidh.html

Michael Prescott has a new mini adventure on his blog. “In every town, village, and hamlet are women who have seen beyond fear, who are strong enough to push back winter and bring new life to the lands. Their power comes from beneath an old, stone shrine, half-forgotten by the people of today. What secrets are known to those who dare pass through the mouth of spring?” http://blog.trilemma.com/2019/02/the-mouth-of-spring.html

Don’t know where I got this one from, must have been Google+?

«If Racinet’s Polychromatic Ornament (1869–1873) was the French answer to The Grammar of Ornament (1856) by Owen Jones, then Heinrich Dolmetsch’s Der Ornamentenschatz (1887) is the German response to both, an equally lavish collection of colour plates showing ornamental decoration through the ages.» http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2019/02/07/dolmetschs-ornamentenschatz/

Also Google+:

The compendium for last years’ One Page Dungeon Contest on DriveThru… https://www.rpgnow.com/product/265210/One-Page-Dungeon-Compendium-2018-Tenth-Anniversary-Print-Edition

I liked the part about skills in this blog post: “it should generally just work unless it’s ridiculous. … you want to pick a lock? Did you buy lockpicks? Then you do it. … Want to bust down a door? You do it … If it’s particularly complicated … maybe refer to the character’s background and make a ruling based on that. … You’re playing Traveller and you want to rappel down a wall? Do you have some rope? Then you do it.” https://ongoingcampaign.blogspot.com/2018/07/an-observation-and-list.html

I just found a PDF with Darkest Dungeon Character Kits. Like Dan says: “a great way to demonstrate to new players that classes are not monolithic: not all fighters are the same.” https://www.docdroid.net/frH5PSU/dd4lotfp.pdf Dan’s blog post: http://throneofsalt.blogspot.com/2019/01/a-few-of-my-favorite-things-plus-extra.html

The discussion on strong female characters by Noisms in his blogpost Strong Female Characters – and in the comments beneath it – is refreshing in that the talk is about the nuances. Having spent my early teenage years reading Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey, I disagree with some of the points made by the OP and still enjoyed the discussion. Food for thought in any case. And I did not know that the casting for ’Alien’ was unisex. http://monstersandmanuals.blogspot.com/2019/02/strong-female-characters.html

It’s a long read and perhaps you want to skip the last section before reading anything else because that last section is fantastic. «If the people of Hegendorf continue their business without a group of Player Characters coming in and interfering with their lives, here’s what happens: […] Hegendorf lies in ruins.» That slow escalation, that meat grinder unleashed, that’s good stuff! http://bernietheflumph.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-village-of-hegendorf.html

«The “adventure” then is not the narrative the player-characters flow through towards an inevitable climax and resolution, but the procession of problems, challenges, etc. they face; the decisions and deliberations they make about what to do about each problem or challenge; and the procedures they enact as part of those decisions, and the consequences of all the above interacting with one another. […] it is a playstyle that can be applied to almost any “roleplaying game”» https://retiredadventurer.blogspot.com/2019/02/adventure-games-what-i-meant-when-i.html

More analysis of the #osr survey by Brendan: «In addition to being related to several other variables that you might expect (such as self-declared participation in the OSR, degree of identification with the OSR, and having bought an OSR product), degree of OSR play behavior also positively predicts blogging about tabletop roleplaying games generally and belief that the OSR welcomes diverse voices.» https://www.necropraxis.com/2019/02/04/osr-play-behavior/

«One plant or animal creature the caster touches suddenly gains human level awareness and intelligence.» http://www.remixesandrevelations.com/2019/02/osr-handsome-wizards.html I love this spell. It’s like the Tolkien elves giving language to the trees and the like.

«There are several examples in Lord of the Rings where Tolkien could be said to be drawing inspiration from prehistory. His work was very much concerned with capturing an emotional response to the passage of time. Techniques he employed in his construction of languages were designed to evoke, in one with the requisite knowledge of scientific philology, the sense of an extraordinarily long period of time.» http://middenmurk.blogspot.com/2019/02/ago.html

No idea where this one is from:

Here’s a Jargon dictionary compiled in 1812, Australia: “The Author has found it necessary to introduce frequently, in the course if his definitions, technical, or cant words and Phrases. This he could not avoid without much tautology and unpleasing circumlocution.” http://cosmicheroes.space/blog/index.php/2019/01/28/flash-language/

„… and editor of the journal Board Games Studies.“ Best job description in this post about an ancient board game. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/latrunculi-impossible-task-board-games-ancient-mystery-puzzle-monopoly

Carcosa has plenty of colored humans. This is a nice take on them, by Eric Diaz. http://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2019/01/too-many-races-my-carcosa.html

  • Black – Danuvian (Talislanta)
  • Blue – Vedalken (Ravnica)
  • Bone – These look cool the way they are, actually.
  • Brown – Goliath
  • Dolm – Thri-Kreen (Dark Sun)
  • Green – Genasi
  • Jale – Gnolls
  • Orange – Ahazu (Talislanta)
  • Purple – Kenku
  • Red – Red Martians
  • Ulfire – Shén (Tekumel)
  • White – Melniboneans
  • Yellow – Githyanki

And so on. I post a lot of links, now that I look back at my stream. And they hardly ever show up on the blog. I guess I should change that? I’m not sure.

Game Prep

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2019-02-21 Jingles

I’ve been making little jingles for my podcast. You’re free to use them. 🙂

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2019-02-19 The ship is sinking

I’ve been posting stupid memes on Google+ to celebrate its fall.

As they say: it’s all memes from now till the end. 😜

Death of Google Plus Party

Gotta post this #SignalFlare on every first (hah!) of the month until the Googlanic finally breaks apart and sinks, gutted and depleted, all the users gone, all the content deleted.

This post is pinned.

https://wheretofind.me/@kensanata

These days I mostly hang out on Mastodon.
For RPG stuff, that would be https://tabletop.social/@kensanata, for everything else that would be https://octodon.social/@kensanata. If you’re interested, here’s how I suggest you get started: https://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2017-11-16_How_to_Mastodon

I’m also available on Diaspora, as kensanata@pluspora.com. https://pluspora.com/people/e3bd7110b2ee013620f200505608f9fe

My Blog
I also keep a blog/wiki: https://alexschroeder.ch/ – I guess I still like the idea of running my own site.

Yeah, linking was simply pasting URLs and I hated it.

Anyway, that’s not what we’re here for...

Only memes, now. From an private share, appropriately enough. We all die alone, in the end. “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Horned Devil Face

Wow, the end of G+ has truly come! Abuse, shit blogging, everything is on fire and getting worse! How appropriate for it to end like this. 🔥

(That’s when I learned about yourrpgisshit.wordpress.com and Zak Fiasco.)

The answer, appropriately:

Memes until the ship sinks! This one is by James V. West, G+ Going Down Fighting!

The G+ Warrior

The Titanic sinks and yet the band posts memes until the very end!

I hate you

I’ve heard people say that it looks like a nuclear strike is taking out the city and people are watching. Look at the shadows they are casting. Everything about this image is weird and that’s why the comments are particularly appropriate. Some of the people I knew are moving to Pluspora, a Diaspora pod. If you’re there, contact me!

I reshared my pinned message again, the one with the contact info...

The ship is sinking. Some of us are running around in the corridors below deck, keeping the conversation going even though there’s fewer and fewer of us. Some of us are discovering their inner shit poster and scrawling memes on the walls. On deck, people are pointing into the mist and and shout that they can see other ships, bigger ships, newer ships, some tell us to wait for even better ships, and all are shouting and wailing and those who disagree are trying to shout over each other. And finally some of us are holding up signs saying that we should repent. Repent and return to your blogs and you’ll be saved, they say! Here’s where to find me, they sing. But you don’t care. The past is a different country. People were weird and slow back then. Good bye! Good bye! I’ll stay for yet a while and see this fucker go down. I want to see that iceberg. And I’ll enjoy the enraged faces as some try to share this and only get to reshare the shared post and not these entertaining words up here. Take that, fans of the unsinkable Geetanic. The UI has always been shit. And people have always been leaving. You are the last of the last and just as slow. Might as well go back to blogging. Hah!

This post is pinned.

https://wheretofind.me/@kensanata

These days I mostly hang out on Mastodon.
For RPG stuff, that would be https://tabletop.social/@kensanata, for everything else that would be https://octodon.social/@kensanata. If you’re interested, here’s how I suggest you get started: https://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2017-11-16_How_to_Mastodon

I’m also available on Diaspora, as kensanata@pluspora.com. https://pluspora.com/people/e3bd7110b2ee013620f200505608f9fe

My favorite long term project is my blog I also keep a blog/wiki: https://alexschroeder.ch/ – I guess I still like the idea of running my own site. Since 2003, I think.

This [Social Media] truly has become the most useless collection of mine on this sinking ship.

Let’s see how far this can go! 🙈

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2019-02-17 Ten Commandments

I was looking at Patrick Stuart’s blog again. Patrick Stuart writes eloquently about books. I remember him writing so eloquently about Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon that I ended up buying the book (but now that I check only got to page 43). And now he writes a review of the Memoirs of Usama Ibn-Munqidh, “an Arab-Syrian Gentleman in the Period of the Crusades”, translated by Philipp K. Hitti. And already I feel the urge to go and buy it. Must resist! 😆​

Anyway, I started looking through the blog again, followed a link to the False Machine subreddit, and from there back to What is Artpunk? And there, towards the end, I found the “ten commandments” from a post by Scrap Princess on Google+.

Patrick Stuart said: “I broke it the thread down to my top ten aphorisms, with bits stolen from Gregory Blair, Brian Harbron, FM Geist, Zedeck Siew, Brian Murphy, Dirk Detweiler Leichty and Daniel Davis” and then he reposted it on the Artpunk blog post linked above:

  1. This is a game about interacting with this world as if it were a place that exists
  2. Killing things is not the goal
  3. There is nothing that is “supposed” to happen
  4. Unknowability and consequence make everything interesting
  5. You play as your character, not as the screenwriter writing your character
  6. It’s your job to make your character interesting and to make the game interesting for you
  7. If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck
  8. The answer is not on your character sheet
  9. Things are swingy
  10. You will die

I feel like this focus on the qualities of the experience as a player is an interesting complement to my idea of using affordance where I describe what I like about rules and what the intended consequences are.

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Comments on 2019-02-17 Ten Commandments

Rather than You will die, I’d go with something like, You will become more strange - Strange might mean a restless ghost or a forgotten pile of bones a the bottom of a pit or it could mean a demi-god with an axe stolen from hell or a broken peasant who remembers when they delved into the barrow pits but you will become strange.

Judd 2019-02-20 22:30 UTC


Your mileage may vary, of course, but for my games, PC death is more in the realm of “your character is permanently removed from play and you will need to make another one”. That could still mesh with what you suggest +Judd, but the “You will die” thing is more like “hand your character sheet to the GM; it’s no longer yours to play with”. (I suppose some people might even suggest that character death takes the PC out of the hands of anyone at all to play, even the GM.)

– Viktor 2019-02-20 22:36 UTC


In my game, “out of the hands of anyone at all to play” works for me, although I’ve had resurrection happen, usually in exchange for “one last job” or the like. I think the permanent removal of the character and thus the loss of time and energy invested is what gives us the opportunity for heroism.

The transformation into something strange is interesting from a world building perspective, but the examples given make me think that the result is still that the character is out of play. In my game, similar things happen when characters lose too many limbs. Veterans of the Napoleonic wars, they end up in the cities, no longer adventuring, out of play except for the world building aspect.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-21 09:51 UTC


Yeah, it feels like “out of play” is the important bit to me, and adding to the world’s fiction/background other than just “Bob died” is a fine tactic.

Viktor 2019-02-21 14:43 UTC

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2019-02-16 OSR & Indie

I’m interested in seeing whether we can bring indie or story games and OSR or DIY RPG games back together again, now that one of most divisive people in recent years has been unmasked. I knew Zak S was abrasive online but heard that he was nice in one-to-one conversations. I wrote it off as him being socially awkward and I needed the shocking, detailed accounts of his victims to wake me from this magical slumber. See I stand with Mandy by @linkskywalker for some links if you haven’t seen them already.

As I was reading the blogs, I noticed that I wasn’t alone in my liking of both old school and indie gaming. I do blog a lot more about the old school games because that’s what I’m currently running, but I still care about the other games. And now I suddenly realize that the rift between the two communities might have been exacerbated by Zak and I have been led along. I hope I never went as far as joining his tirades, but simply seeing it again and again worked it’s magic on my brain, a bit like ads that warp your perception of the world even if they’re stupid or perhaps even if they’re particularly stupid. The words continue whispering in the back of your brain.

I was recently reminded of this as I read Crossroads by Ben L, where he writes:

But one of the great hopes I have for the OSR is that it can now begin to heal the rift with those parts of the SG [story games] community that are interested in cross-overs. I think this would be very good for the OSR, and that we have many shared interests and overlapping design values, as the success of Fear of A Black Dragon [a podcast] shows. We have a lot to learn from you, if you’ll let us.

There was also what Michael Prescott said in Thank You, Mandy:

Here’s an idea, don’t take community-building advice from people who act like sociopaths.

Then I remembered an interchange with Brad J Murray on Indie or not? where I talked about the two Planets I had created, the Old School RPG Planet and the Indie RPG Planet. He wrote categorizations and explained:

OSR? Story games? Some other category? I don’t buy into the idea of categorization of games. I do buy the categorization of people since most efforts at categorizing games only manage to categorize people, to create an inside and an outside. I consider this destructive. And honestly only the people in a group invested in there being an outside even care.

I had created two planets because the rift between the two communities seemed so deep to me at the time, and now I’m thinking perhaps it had only seemed so deep because of Zak and the counter reaction he provoked. I even listed liking Zak as one possible reason for picking the OSR planet, thinking that all the others were free to choose the other planet, and I didn’t care because I liked them both anyway. Gah, I was such an idiot.

To be sure, there were some very disappointing interchanges. I remember Innovation and the Old School Renaissance, for example. Robert Bohl had asked for examples of innovation in the Old School Renaissance and there were some good answers in his thread. Sadly, it got deleted and so I went ahead and collected the comments I liked.

But now I’m also recalling Ramanan S’ Review: The Perilous Wilds and Brendan S’ Test-driving Dungeon World, and later my posts on fronts, or my love of Lady Blackbird. And Ray Otus’ Plundergrounds podcast often crosses the line between Dungeon World and classic D&D. The line is a lot fuzzier then I was somehow led to believe. Gah, I really was an idiot!

Anyway, so what to do now?

One thing I’m considering is how to merge the two planets! Without too much effort, we can simply merge the data for the two and generate a single web page.

I hooked it all up and it should update every four hours, like the two “source” Planets.

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Comments on 2019-02-16 OSR & Indie

The Planets must Align!

Matthew Haines 2019-02-16 14:52 UTC


Today I learned something new: “One calculation of alignments within around thirty degrees (about as close as they can get) shows that the last such alignment was in 561 BC, and the next will be in 2854. The eight planets plus Pluto are somewhat aligned every 500 years, and are grouped within 30 degrees every one to three alignments.” [1]

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 15:00 UTC


Also, let me know if you want Dark Patterns to be added to the Indie RPG Planet, of course! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 15:01 UTC


I don’t know.

I personally do see a large gulf between indie games/story games and the OSR. I’m not interested in the former, but I am interested in the latter. I’m interested in rulesets which model a fictional reality, but not in rulesets which interact purely (or primarily) with the fiction itself.

There may be some bridgebuilding to do, but I think there are core philosophical differences between indie games/story games and the OSR which mean there isn’t really a lot of common ground. Just my 2c.

Charles Angus 2019-02-16 21:55 UTC


I definitely don’t think that we all end up playing the same play. But there are good ideas everywhere. Looking to turn in-game discussions into a mini game? Take a look at Burning Wheel. Interested in new ways to earn XP? Take a look at The Shadow of Yesterday or Solar System or Lady Blackbird. Interested in how “a short rest” might work at the table? Take a look at The Mountain Witch. Interested in modelling threats in a sandbox without playing it all out behind the screen? Take a look at Dungeon World or Apocalypse World fronts. Or even – considering your last blog post – looking for an alternative to existing initiative systems might lead somebody to look at Dungeon World or Apocalypse World turn structure. Some of these are keepers, others I looked at and decided I didn’t want them, but I sure felt the pull.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 22:43 UTC


Also, can I add your blog to the Old School RPG Planet? 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-16 22:46 UTC


Please do! I’m finishing up a project at work soon and will likely be posting a bit more after that. RPG writing/thinking always continues, but when I’m busy, blogging falls by the wayside.

Re: good ideas. I guess they can be found anywhere - I’ve looked at some of those games you mentioned and personally found them uninteresting. Dead-ends and irrelevant avenues the OSR has examined and discarded, for the most part.

I guess what I’m saying is while I’m all for convivial relations with the neighbours, the fundamental design principles behind the indie/story scene and the OSR scene are antithetical and incompatible. No value judgment - they simply are in two different design spheres.

Charles Angus 2019-02-16 23:37 UTC


Thank you for your work on this Planet and the contributions you make through your blog and podcast.

I would also request that the story/OSR categories remain as two. Charles Angus states it well:

“I’m all for convivial relations with the neighbours, [but] the fundamental design principles behind the indie/story scene and the OSR scene are antithetical and incompatible. No value judgment - they simply are in two different design spheres.”

Thanks again!

– Blunder 2019-02-17 02:35 UTC


Sure, I’m not planning to get rid of the two “source” Planets. But having the combined Planet available opens up an avenue for “mainstream” blogs about D&D 5E (unless they consider themselves to be part of the OSR), Pathfinder, Vampire, or whatever else people are blogging about without thinking of themselves as “old school” or “indie”. One day, maybe! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-17 07:53 UTC

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2019-02-16 Episode 19

No skills. Fewer classes. Quick and random character generation. Smaller bonuses, little damage, few hit points. Rare healing. Simple combat. Treasure is XP. No magic shops. Random encounters.

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Eleven Principles

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2019-02-15 The LaTeX Curse

@gunnar was recently wondering about the title page of his LaTeX document. Was I able to help, since I use LaTeX?

No! LaTeX is hell! What mere mortals like I do is search for a document “class” that does 90% of what we want and then we learn to accept that those remaining 10% weren’t actually all that important. So, I like the Tufte books and back in 2013 I found the Tufte template on LaTeX Templates after @Halfjack recommended the site. It comes with a nice sample handout and a sample book, both as a Tex file and as a PDF file so you can see how everything is done. And all the other classes? Who knows! It’s hard. I’m sorry.

So basically they say LaTeX is good because you don’t fiddle with the layout. LaTeX does it for you. But then again, if you want to fiddle with the layout, the learning curve goes to a new level. If you’re starting out, don’t go there. I’ve been using LaTeX for over twenty years and I don’t go there.

A “beautiful” PDF can mean many things. The solution with Markdown and WeasyPrint that I’m using for Spellcasters project has the nice property of using CSS for many things. In that, it’s like a better HTML with PDF output. LaTeX on the other hand is for super nerds. The beauty is in the typesetting of formulas and the like. But the beauty of RPG tables is tables and graphics, and that’s not where LaTeX shines, in my not so humble opinion. RPG documents really have their own requirements. Which is why many end up with Text and Scribus. 😅​

And back in 2010 I decided that OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) was best. And so of course nearly ten years later, I’m still using LaTeX. 🤪

@PresGas reminded me of the rpg-module class for LaTeX which I had tried back in 2016. I didn’t really like the result. I also tried the much simpler latex-bx class by @phf and ended up not using it.

Anyway. LaTeX is a special hell for typo nerds. It’s so beautiful in all the details that often don’t matter. It’s super tricky to master unless all your requirements are met by some existing class. I go back and forth between tears of joy and desperation.

I liked the comment @emsenn left: “I relaxed so much the first time I heard you say this, because it made me accept that if I was wrong, at least I wasn’t alone in it.”

@Halfjack said: “I am so so sorry.” 😂

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2019-02-15 Soziale Medien

Huch, jetzt fange ich sogar wieder an, auf Deutsch zu schreiben! Grund hierfür ist ein Gespräch von @inAktion und @hfriedx. Es ging darum, ob man ein Krankentagebuch auf Mastodon führen soll.

Erst mal zum konkreten Thema Krankentagebuch: Man auch einen separaten Account für das hierfür führen. Es kommt ein wenig auf die Zielgruppe an.

Ich denke, man sollte das Krankentagebuch vom alltäglichen Konto trennen, falls es eine lange aber hoffentlich vorübergehende Krankheit ist und die Leser eher ebenfalls Kranke sind. In dem Sinne ist geht also erst mal um das Schreiben als Katharsis, zu merken, dass man nicht alleine ist, im Sinne vielleicht von einer Selbsthilfegruppe.

Ich würde Krankentagebuch auf meinem Alltagskonto führen, wenn die Krankheit von mir geworden ist, chronisch ist, wenn es mir unerträglich wäre, wenn Freunde nichts davon wissen wollten. Wer wissen will, was ich so mache, wie es mir so geht, der kommt nicht darum herum.

Die öffentliche Natur der Kommunikation führt mich aber noch weiter. Mir ist besonders wichtig, dass ich weiss, dass alles, was ich schreibe, öffentlich ist und deswegen nach ganz anderen Massstäben gemessen wird als ein privates Gespräch. Siehe auch Speaking in Public, längerer Exkurs auf English von 2014.

Ich möchte zwei Dinge wegen der öffentlichen Natur besonders hervorheben, die im privaten Gespräch keine Rolle spielen:

  1. die entstehende Haftung, insbesondere Rufschädigung anderer, das Preisgeben illegaler Aktivitäten
  2. die entstehende Blösse, die man sich mit allen möglichen Details zum Privatleben gibt

Komplette Anonymität würde natürlich schützen, aber wie gut haben wir unsere Identität versteckt? Ich nicht! Also muss ich immer davon ausgehen, dass Versicherungen, Arbeitskollegen, jetzige und künftige Arbeitgeber, Freunde und Partner mitlesen.

Das ist mit ein Grund, warum ich meine Posts nach ein paar Wochen automatisch lösche. Wie ich das auf der Seite zu meinem Tool geschrieben hatte: Was bringen mir die endlosen Archive aller Posts, die ich je geschrieben habe? Ich finde ja sowieso nichts. Aber meine Feinde finden darin sicher immer Material, das sie gegen mich verwenden können. Ein Fest für alle Möchtegern-Richelieu Kardinäle!

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