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.

2019-01-16 List::Util

This is annoying: can’t upgrade the thing that needs upgrading. Now what do I do?

alex@melanobombus:~/src/halberds-and-helmets$ cpanm List::Util
ListUtil.c: loadable library and perl binaries are mismatched (got handshake key 0xde00080, needed 0xce00080)

Right now, I’m confused by my own Perl setup. In my ~/.bashrc I seem to be set up for perlbrew – but I only use it on the Mac and on the server, not on this laptop. I guess at one point using perlbrew was planned but then never acted upon.

# Perl 5: use perlbrew
source ~/perl5/perlbrew/etc/bashrc
PATH="/home/alex/perl5/bin${PATH:+:${PATH}}"; export PATH;
PERL5LIB="/home/alex/perl5/lib/perl5${PERL5LIB:+:${PERL5LIB}}"; export PERL5LIB;
PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT="/home/alex/perl5${PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT:+:${PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT}}"; export PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT;
PERL_MB_OPT="--install_base \"/home/alex/perl5\""; export PERL_MB_OPT;
PERL_MM_OPT="INSTALL_BASE=/home/alex/perl5"; export PERL_MM_OPT;

When I try and list the versions I have, I’ve got nothing:

alex@melanobombus:~$ perlbrew list

No reply. But I think this is unrelated. Back to the ~/perl5 directory which probably contains modules that no longer work with the current version of Perl, which is a problem if the tool used to update the modules requires them. In theory, I guess this shouldn’t happen because List::Util is a core module and thus I shouldn’t be installing it anyway. But I did. 🤷

I guess I should do away with my ~/perl5 directory if I don’t use perlbrew and try and use the Perl packages provided by my package manager? I bet this isn’t going to end well.

Let’s try a manual uninstall, first:

alex@melanobombus:~$ find perl5 -name List
perl5/lib/perl5/x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi/List
perl5/lib/perl5/x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi/auto/List
alex@melanobombus:~$ ls perl5/lib/perl5/x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi/List
Util  Util.pm
alex@melanobombus:~$ ls perl5/lib/perl5/x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi/auto/List
Util
alex@melanobombus:~$ rm -rf perl5/lib/perl5/x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi/List perl5/lib/perl5/x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi/auto/List

That seems to have done the trick.

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2019-01-16 In Character Knowledge

Been listening to @Judd’s podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons. He talks about character knowledge. Here’s how I handle it:

  • If the you knows it, your character knows it, if you want to. That takes care of everyday knowledge about monsters (orcs, trolls).
  • If I remember that your characters have heard it before in this campaign, I’ll provide a hint (”I think some told you about this before...”) and if then find it in your notes or the campaign wiki, you know it.
  • If everybody knows it in the setting, you know it.
  • If it belongs to your character’s background, you know it. If you haven’t picked a background, tell us about it and write it down, and then you know it.
  • If you ask non-player characters, they’ll provide unreliable information that depends on their in-game situation. Sages and the like will often know more than peasants, obviously.

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2019-01-15 Orcs

@lula wrote a blog post about Tolkien’s orcs and find that Tolkien poured all the anti-Asian sentiments into it. Orcs, Britons, and the Martial Race Myth, Part I: A Species Built for Racial Terror.

I like his test: “Show me a fantasy game with orcs in it, and my first question is whether I can play as one.”

Gotta check my orcs, now. I feel like there a few influences in my game:

  • orcs are pig people like minotaurs are cow people, basically humans with animal heads (and they call humans “monkey people” because we’re like them, except with monkey heads)
  • pigs have a good sense of smell
  • they are a classic non-civilized people, in the sense that they are not city dwellers, not farmers, they are hunter gatherers (to be fair, their peaceful hunting and gathering doesn’t show up a lot in my game, but perhaps it should)
  • they are tribal with the Tolkien heraldry (“white hand”, “red eye”)
  • they are macho in that they portray themselves as violent in their tribe names (“cracked skull”)

In my last campaign, the orcs from the dungeon got killed, resettled, betrayed, and killed some more by the player characters. Uuuugh. Another orc tribe attacked their castle construction site and that led to some killing. The orcs from the wilderness got treated well, and turned into allies, on the other hand. So... sort of OK, I guess?

Generally speaking, I don’t think there’s too much racism in my game. The inherent problem is, of course, that the major fault line between Law and Chaos is the same old city dwellers vs. nomads conflict, except that almost all the humans and dwarves are on one side and everybody else is on the other side. Race stands in for civilization and progress. Although I hope that as a referee I manage to avoid equating chaos with evil.

I think the first thing I will add to my monster handbook is the option of playing an orc. :)

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Comments on 2019-01-15 Orcs

Probably classism in mine. Every time I’ve run orcs it’s been as backwood violent xenophobic rednecks.

Michael Julius 2019-01-15 14:59 UTC


I remember somebody somewhere had orcs all be French cheese connoisseurs. I love the idea.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-16 07:53 UTC

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2019-01-14 Episode 14

Today I used the Remove Clicks and the Compressor plugins in Audacity with the default values to attempt and improve the sound quality. And I edit the file, once again, shortening pauses and removing some uuuhms.

The topic of the day is combat: surprise, initiative, d30 rule, not using variable weapon damage, shields shall be splintered, formations, protection, targeting, retreating, fleeing. And as soon as I stopped talking I remembered a thing or two I would have wanted to add. Oh well!

Links:

page 12

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Comments on 2019-01-14 Episode 14

Things I wanted to mention:

  • covering the retreat is simply some people retreating and others staying behind, blocking the passage
  • in the open field, disengaging is harder: in the first round some people retreat and others stay behind; if the opposition then moves around the people that stayed behind in order to stay in melee with the ones retreating, then it didn’t work: the people retreating might have to resort to fleeing (and thuse to a parting shot)

I really should double check the weapons and their space requirements. See 2018-12-25 Episode 07.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-15 09:29 UTC


danke fuer die podcasts! habe (noch) nicht alle gehoert, die bisherigen haben mir sehr gefallen. inhaltlich und auch “sprachlich”. gut finde ich immer eigene erlebnisse, wie “bei dem und dem spiel haben wir das erlebt, ich so gehandelt.”

– Chris 2019-01-15 14:45 UTC


Heh. Und Intro Jingles mit Pocket Operators selber gemacht. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-15 16:20 UTC


ja, super, PO!

– Chris 2019-01-15 16:23 UTC

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2019-01-13 The Cost and Benefit of Trust

The one thing I’m taking away from all this talk about Free Software author burnout and maintainership transfer to unknown parties and long untrusted dependency chains: it’s fucking incredible how this works! 🎉

Sure, there are bad actors, bad anecdotes, but think about how many times this worked: all the overhead we avoided by simply trusting each other, all the community we experienced because we helped each other.

I guess I’m trying to make a comparison to credit cards and bitcoin: if you don’t trust anybody, financial transactions start costing a whole lot of electricity. Take a look at Comparing Bitcoin’s energy consumption to other payment systems in where “other payment systems” is VISA. “an average Bitcoin transaction requires several thousands of times more energy.” Not trusting fellow humans is expensive.

They have a sister site for Ethereum, too.

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2019-01-11 Tea

It’s been nearly a year since I bought my tea. Today I spent the gift cards my mother in law gifted me for Christmas. They know what I like! I bought this from La Cucina because I didn’t want to mail order from Bern.

  • Sikkim Temi SF
  • Jade Oolong Dung Ti Formosa – I like it!
  • Tamaryo Kucha from Kyushu
  • Bancha Superior from Kyushu
  • Yame-Cha from Yame, Kyushu
  • Gyokuro 1-3 from Uji, Kyoto
  • Sencha Munouyaku Second from Kirishima, Kyushu
  • Matcha Hoshino

They were out of Genmaicha and they couldn’t find their Hojicha from Hoshino. Oh well. :)

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2019-01-11 No Fantasy Heartbreaker

In 2002, Ron Edwards wrote Fantasy Heartbreakers. This was the same year self-publishing started with Lulu, 2002. This was the time when people started hearing about blogs. Movable Type was founded in 2001, Wordpress was founded in 2003, Google bought Blogger in 2003, I founded my website in 2003... Important stuff! :)

In the essay, Ron argued that all those role-playing games that were very close to D&D but not really all that different made him feel heartbroken and sad. Remember that the year before was the founding of RPG Now in 2001, the shop that sold PDFs. Thus, now was the time were everybody could be a publisher and new things could be attempted and in his post he pushed people to do it.

I guess it all depends on how you reacted to it and how you feel about your reaction years later. Personally, I didn’t have much of a reaction to it. I remember not quite understanding whether these games were a good or a bad thing and these days I get the impression that it is still undecided. We want both new and exciting things, but we also want small and incremental changes, we want other people to write glorious stuff for us, and we want to write our own stuff that suits us and our situation particularly well.

Anyway, in 2019 Luka Rejec wrote A Bad Turn of Words: Fantasy Heartbreaker. He recommends we stop using the self-deprecating words to talk about our own work.

Authors still self-deprecatingly make a nervous chuckle and say how their little game is “just a fantasy heartbreaker.”

Well, it breaks my heart to see writers and designers use that term.

I have done it, too: Writing Your Own RPG Rules.

When I skim the post by Ron Edwards again these days, I am struck by the intro, because it hits close to home:

“impressive in terms of the drive, commitment, and personal joy that’s evident in both their existence and in their details - yet they are also teeth-grindingly frustrating, in that, like their counterparts from the late 70s, they represent but a single creative step from their source: old-style D&D.”

Yep, that’s me. 😆​

I guess I just didn’t take it too personal. But I’m older now, and much calmer. The reaction you have to the text really is key.

Anyway, Luka then got attacked on Twitter for his blog post and then he wrote a blog post about treating online space like offline space, Talking Online: The Park and the Dark Forest.

“When we are attacked online, we have a right to stand up for ourselves and ask why. When someone makes an accusation, the burden of proof is on them. When somebody harasses us, we have a right to demand a public apology.”

I totally agree with him. And I really like what he writes and draws online. Recommended! Note that if you follow the links I provided you end up on two different blogs.

And if you want to know more about my position on writing online, on providing evidence, on making accusations, an all of that, then you can always read the grab bag about the OSR and DIY D&D from 2016. Yikes!

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2019-01-11 No Advancement

If I were to design a simple new RPG it would not have advancement. Much like Traveller. So how do you get an ever changing game experience? Different spells might be a way. But what I would like to do would be the adding of powerful named enemies. Nobody knows you at first, you have no friends, and no enemies. Later, you know more about the world, you have made friends, and you have made enemies.

Personally, I think that “inner changes” and growth as a person don’t need rule support, that just works as-is. I guess the reason I was thinking of this was a podcast episode by Ray Otus I just heard about Advanced Sellswords and Sorcery. The idea was to have some sort of “advancement” which meant being able to take more wounds (being able to have more negative tags/aspects before being taken out) and I thought to myself: but this just makes combat longer, that’s boring!

Have you ever played Traveller? It doesn’t have any meaningful advancement at all. The only thing that changes over time is that you might have more money, better equipment (including a starship, of course). I still think it has long term appeal.

Same with the basic idea Fate as I see it: you might shuffle the skill pyramid around, but you’re not going to actually get better in absolute terms. And that suits me fine. Even though it’s very different from the D&D family of games. At least, that’s how I remember it. On Mastodon, @hawkjohenson remembered some sort of advancement (adding more skill points to the skill pyramid), but we both didn’t check the books. :)

The Fate rules I read and used were Spirit of the Century, Diaspora (and that Mass Effect game based on Diaspora, not the other one), and some reading of Fate 2 way back when I revised my own Mesopotamian Fate variant (in German) – and I never noticed a way to grow the skill pyramid. I just reread my own Fate variant and it mentions switching skills in the pyramid and removing consequences and the like – but not getting more skill points.

What I am looking for is the promise of changing gameplay over time. Classic D&D achieves this in a way with spell levels. The game with and without fly spell is very different. Same with a host of other spells.

To take a very different example: I love how the gameplay of A Dark Room changes over time. So breaking away from that single axis of change (in the words of @halfjack) is central.

That is also why I don’t want to play a variant of D&D where characters get more and more hit-points and it’s all about the attrition, the slog, the grind, the endless back and forth. This happens if hit points are inflated, or special attacks like level drain and various save-or-die effects (poison, petrification) are removed from the mid-level game. If these are not in effect, then all you are left with is the slow back and forth of melee. Ideally, however, combat is over in two or three rounds when I run the game: at low levels, two or three hits should take people out; at higher levels, it’s spells, save-or-die and level drain and similar attacks that speed things up.

That’s also why I don’t want the armour class of the opponents to increase as the attack bonus of the characters increases. If you do that, nothing changes. I’m fine with fighters hitting every single round at higher levels. It’s supposed to feel different!

Changing gameplay is more important than more staying power, better chances to hit, or similar “advancement”.

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2019-01-11 Episode 13

Skills: class abilities, the roll to open doors and bend bars, the lucky die of fate, and thieves’ skills, they can all be mapped to a 1d6 roll.

Links:

page 11, bottom

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2019-01-11 Episode 12

Retainers: make sure you agree on how many characters you all bring along. As always, just use pregens. When to make the loyalty checks.

Links:

page 11, top

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I started reworking it and got some super helpful suggestions on GitHub and now the entire section about retainers looks very different! Thanks, Björn.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-13 14:17 UTC

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