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.

2019-05-24 Tyranny of Excellence

Paul Beakley wrote a thing about Story Games and the Tyranny of Excellence but what spoke to me was this (emphasis mine):

The big revelation to me is that inclusion and acceptance is more explicitly valued in many OSR spaces than storygaming spaces, sometimes at the expense of demanding excellence.

It reminded me of the early days of the One Page Dungeon Contest. Back in 2009 I wrote on my blog:

Essentially I like a healthy mix of adventures I think of myself and professionally produced adventures. But when it comes to my own stuff, I’m never quite sure with what to compare it to. Should I aspire to write as the pros? I don’t think that would be time well spent. The One Page Dungeon Contest gives me the opportunity to compare my work with ordinary DMs from all over the world. I can learn from the successes and failures from others. That’s why I hope that the contest submissions will remain a crazy mix of things. I don’t want a contest dominated by Wolfgang Baur, Monte Cook, Eric Mona, Nicolas Logue and other people in their league. I want to compare my entry with authors in my league.

I want to get back to that sharing of amateur stuff. I want to get back to sharing stuff for free on the blogs. I don’t mind people having Patreons and Kickstarters and doing beautiful, massive, mesmerizing things. I sometimes buy this stuff, too. But I also want to see people who prep games like I do. Who draw maps that are too small, notes that can barely be read, like do. Who have games nearly fall apart and pull through, barely manage their time or can hardly prep their game, like I do.

Paul Beakley again, same blog post:

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” And boy did that fuck up my approach to recreation. Demanding constant iterative improvement in yourself and others is uhh…not always recreational.

I have a similar reaction when I see people trying to monetize their gaming. The blog is also asking for money, the stuff we make needs art, the Twitch channel or the YouTube channel is monetized, there are stars that monetize this and that, and I wonder: it sounds like work, not like play. This constant hustling is alienating.

I’m not poor, so I don’t know anything about the realities of hustling. But it seems to me that if you’re poor, you need to work and make money. But for the love all the things you love, don’t turn the thing you love into a hustle. Flip burgers or something. Keep work and play separate. Don’t turn your game into a poorly paid job.

At the end, Paul Beakley talks about the tradition of valuing excellence:

I mean, striving and improving can be good! I would never suggest anyone stop trying. Rather, let’s remember there are considerations in addition to chasing down a narrowly defined form of excellence.

A similar thought underpinned two decisions I made when I was running the One Page Dungeon Contest.

  1. Let’s distribute prizes as widely as possible. Everybody wins! Every earnest submission is a win for all of us. The barrier for winning a prize is low: making the effort to write something up and sharing it is worth a prize.
  2. Let’s not use fixed categories or “best overall”. Let’s just assign tags and categories as we read through the entries and then see whether they form clusters and just use those. There is more than one axis of excellence!

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Comments on 2019-05-24 Tyranny of Excellence

(psst it’s Beakley not Beakly)

– Aaron Griffin 2019-05-24 23:21 UTC


For me, it’s also worth considering the evaluative criteria. Not everything needs to be a polished product, or even shared at all, to be excellent. There’s a particular kind of excellence in the practice of play itself, which is inherently transient.

Brendan 2019-05-24 23:59 UTC


Not to disparage those who make wonderful things worth money, but, amen...

Michael Julius 2019-05-25 00:43 UTC


Thanks, Aaron!

I totally agree with you, Brendan, regarding the multiple dimensions of excellence. I think this is what Paul assumes: that within a certain group, ideas of excellence vary. As a lot of the story gaming community talk online appears to be focused on publishing (as seen from my outsider point of view), that narrows it down significantly. The group of people I seem to connect to is often talking about smaller snippets, too: a random table, a bunch of spells, a house rule, a technique or procedure – smaller things with a wider range of quality criteria (at least from where I am standing).

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-25 04:57 UTC

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2019-05-24 Rough Consensus

RFC 7282 abstract:

The IETF has had a long tradition of doing its technical work through a consensus process, taking into account the different views among IETF participants and coming to (at least rough) consensus on technical matters. In particular, the IETF is supposed not to be run by a “majority rule” philosophy. This is why we engage in rituals like “humming” instead of voting. However, more and more of our actions are now indistinguishable from voting, and quite often we are letting the majority win the day without consideration of minority concerns. This document explains some features of rough consensus, what is not rough consensus, how we have gotten away from it, how we might think about it differently, and the things we can do in order to really achieve rough consensus.

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2019-05-24 Robots and Gopher

Here’s the proposal that was discussed on the Gopher mailing list, recently.

Motivation

We love gopher apps and we love seeing them, but it is very hard for robots crawling gopher-space to automatically recognize them, requiring lots of manual work to pull stuff out of the index that should never have been there in the first place. Please use a robots.txt selector to keep spiders out of these areas.

Location

A robot MUST check robots.txt. A robot MAY check 0/robots.txt if robots.txt is not found.

The reason for those two selectors is almost every server interprets a selector of “robots.txt” as a file in its root. The reason for the second in particular is UMN or UMN-alike gopherds that like to have the itemtype repeated. The first takes precedence.

Note that this doesn’t include a leading slash!

How to test? The following should return the contents of the site’s robots.txt.

echo robots.txt | nc alexschroeder.ch 70

Lines

A robots.txt file consists of lines separated by a newline (\n) or a carriage return and a newline (\r\n).

Disallow

A robot MUST consider all lines starting with Disallow:. Each such line specifies a pattern indicating that all selectors matching the pattern are to be ignored by robots.

  1. Whitespace after Disallow: MUST be ignored
  2. Patterns match from the beginning of the selector

Example:

The following line disallows robots from indexing any links starting with a slash:

Disallow: /

Note that the selector robots.txt does not start with a slash.

In terms of regular expressions, this means that every pattern implicitly starts with ^.

Globbing

Patterns MAY contain one or more asterisks (*). These are wildcards matching zero or more characters.

Example:

The following line disallows robots from indexing any links containing a slash:

Disallow: */

Note that there is no way to specify that a pattern must match up to the end of the selector.

In terms of regular expressions, this means that there is no way to specify $ in a pattern. Every * in a pattern is the equivalent of .* in a selector if we assume that /s is in effect and . matches any character whatsoever, even a newline.

Comments

Authors SHOULD use the # character to indicate comment up to the end of the line.

Other Keywords

There is currently no support for other keywords we know from the web’s robots.txt standard. [1]

  • Allow is unspecified and everything being allowed is implied
  • User-agent is unspecified and all user agents are being implied
  • Crawl-delay is unspecified
  • Sitemap is unspecified

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robots_exclusion_standard

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2019-05-24 Radical Philosophy

Our time needs radical philosophy.

When will I find the time to read the issues of Radical Philosophy?

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2019-05-21 Level Drain!

Recently, I was reading Bounded accuracy in combat: OSR, D&D 5e and Dark Fantasy Basic by Eric Diaz where he talks about his own system, Dark Fantasy Basic. Having written my own variant of the basic rules, I totally get that head-space. He was thinking about how the various numbers change as characters gain levels.

In classic D&D, this is how I see it:

  1. armour class goes down a little bit with magic armour
  2. damage goes up a little bit with magic weapons
  3. to-hit improves as characters gain levels
  4. hit-points go up as characters gain levels

The effect, however, is this: combat takes longer.

How come? If the number of characters stays the same, and the number of monsters stays the same, then it just takes more hits to kill a monster. You hit more often, true. But if the monster has ten hit-dice, and you hit ten times, that fight is still taking about ten rounds! Of course, magic items and all that make fights shorter. Once you have a total damage bonus of +3 or +4 you’re dealing twice as much damage and thus fights take half as long. But that’s still five rounds.

There are ways you can mitigate this:

  1. use a smaller number of monsters (”boss” monsters)
  2. use magic spells to kill more monsters per round (fireball and friends)

But, you might wonder, doesn’t that just make fights even easier? Yes, I agree.

If you’re like me, and you think strategy (when to fight) is more interesting than tactics (how to fight), then you’re going to aim for short fights. I certainly don’t want fights to grow longer as the campaign progresses! That’s what happened to my D&D 3.5 campaigns, and I didn’t like it.

And what’s the solution, you ask? The title gave it away, didn’t it?

The answer is:

  1. level drain
  2. save or die
  3. spells

If you goal is to keep fights between two and four rounds long, then you have to up the ante. You cannot stick to melee attacks.

Why am I not afraid of level drain?

  1. when you drain levels you’re not killing characters
  2. even if a new character joins the party with zero xp and everybody has 50,000 xp, then by the time the new character has 50,000 xp, everybody else only got up to 100,000 xp
  3. given that xp requires double for every level, having twice the amount of xp means having one more level
  4. in the long run, introducing a new character into the game is the equivalent of permanently losing a level
  5. compared to that, loosing a bunch of levels but not going all the way down to zero is simply kinder

It’s perfect. 😁

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Comments on 2019-05-21 Level Drain!

I have a 9-years-running 3.5 game, and for a short while death (which causes loss of level for all but the most powerful raise dead effects) and level drain were an effective means of keeping the party from growing in power too quickly.

Eventually, though, the party becomes largely immune to both. Much of this immunity started with access to restoration spells, but full resurrection at level 17 (level 9 spells) cinched it. Death is now a minor annoyance (and a side quest to find diamonds for resurrection, since they’ve depleted them from towns and cities) and level drain is barely that (thanks to restoration).

It’s a conundrum, though; I’d like combats to resolve more quickly, too, but most tricks to doing this also drastically ramp up the peril for the PCs. I’m not against peril on principle, but it does change the flavor of the game when a single round of bad dice rolls is likely to result in ignoble deaths of supposedly powerful characters.

There is a system I like for that effect – Rolemaster. Playing RM tactically rather than strategically almost certainly means frequent PC deaths regardless of level, but everybody going into that is already aware, given the crit tables...

George Dorn 2019-05-22 06:04 UTC


Yeah, all points are well made. The D&D 3.5 games I was in usually started bogging down after around level 10 because combat got tricky with tons of buff spells being cast, everybody updating their numbers, rolling a handful of attacks, and all that. And with access to more and better spells eventually that, too, was just sidestepped. At that time I stopped running D&D 3.5 but if I were to do it again, and if I were to run it up into the high levels, I think what I’d do is reconsider what I’m attacking. Two things come to mind:

  1. Treat it as a game of Norse gods: it’s all about being polymorphed, kidnapped, memories wiped, imprisoned in strange dimensions. I’m still going to threaten the character, but with new threats that don’t have spells to counter them immediately. More adventuring is required.
  2. Treat it as a political game: it’s all about their followers, their kingdoms, their allies.

I’m sure the second option is not easy to pull off, though. It’s about as easy as switching from D&D to Rolemaster, I guess. 🙂

I’ve also had a long-running classic D&D campaign where people reached levels 8–9 and I started to see a lot of game nights where all I ever rolled was a reaction roll (see No Dice). So that was the beginning of a political game, I guess? Except there is little guidance in the rules on how to make a political game.

If we don’t want to go around the table just improvising the story as it goes, then we need rules to provide consequences, and dice to provide random changes to the stories we we want to tell.

All of that is to say that I don’t have a good answer to the problem and the mediocre answer I’ve settled on is to keep the game in the level range of 1–10, including level draining and raising the dead.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-22 06:23 UTC

PS: Hah, your blog post is strangely appropriate: How to die in D&D. Perfect!

PPS: I love the idea of frequent resurrections having depleted the supply of diamonds! 😀


I ran a poll on the OSR group on g+ a while back about what was worse: Death or level drain?

The clear majority voted level drain. While your reasoning may make logical sense, the “fun” aspect of the game isn’t always logical – And I think most players would say that level drain is not a very fun aspect of the game.

If the answer to high level play not working is “level drain” I think I’d rather just play with a hard cap on levels.

Anders H 2019-05-22 10:32 UTC


Hm. Possibly. I’m happy to have some powerful undead doing save or die attacks instead. 😀

To backtrack a bit, though: I really liked how Solar System or The Shadow of Yesterday did high-level play. One way to spend your XP was to increase your skill level. If you had the highest skill level available, and rolled the highest number with your dice, thus getting the highest possible result, your success changed the world in a significant way and your character is retired from play. Thus players get to decide for themselves whether their character is ready for the end game by finally deciding to increase their skill level to the max. It was beautiful and elegant, and took care of retirement, too.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-22 11:16 UTC


For keeping the game to levels 1-10, a well-established fix is E6. Characters level up to 6, after which they can buy some additional perks with XP, but not gain any more levels. https://dungeons.fandom.com/wiki/E6_(3.5e_Sourcebook)

George Dorn 2019-05-22 18:39 UTC


At the time I first heard about it back on EN World, I got the impression that it was a way to keep the game the level 6 tier. These days, however, I’d be more interested in a game that either provided ever changing gameplay over time like D&D with its spell levels, or a game that provided for a very different experience without significant advancement like Traveller (or maybe Fate).

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-22 20:49 UTC

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2019-05-19 Hex Describe Gender

ktrey parker recently asked on Diaspora about pre-generating facts before you actually start writing, gender in particular. I’ve tried to avoid this by using singular they a lot. It works really well! But I confess, sometimes I was also happy to simply assume all druids were male and all witches were female.

The question made me think introducing a new keyword. [fact monster gender] would establish the “monster gender” which you could then use with [same monster gender] throughout. I like that better than just hiding the result using CSS because I love text browsers. 🙂

This isn’t strictly required because if we know where the first call to a table is, we can just drop the “same” keyword there and it will work as intended. If we’re writing a long text, we’re going to run into trouble if we’re rearranging it.

Here’s an example of how we would do it today:

Assume this text:

[ruler] had a centaur [raise their kid].

What we want is a result like this:

“Queen Alexa had a centaur raise her son.”

We just need to know where the gender is first determined and from then keep using “same”.

;gender
1,male
1,female

;ruler gender
1,[gender]

;kid gender
1,[gender]

;ruler
1,[[ruler gender] title] [[same ruler gender] name]

;male title
1,King

;female title
1,Queen

;male name
1,Alex

;female name
1,Alexa

;raise their kid
1,raise [[same ruler gender] possessive] [[kid gender] kid]

;male possessive
1,his

;female possessive
1,her

;male kid
1,son

;female kid
1,daughter

Result:

  • King Alex had a centaur raise his son.
  • King Alex had a centaur raise his daughter.
  • King Alex had a centaur raise his daughter.
  • Queen Alexa had a centaur raise her daughter.
  • Queen Alexa had a centaur raise her son.
  • King Alex had a centaur raise his son.
  • Queen Alexa had a centaur raise her son.
  • Queen Alexa had a centaur raise her son.
  • Queen Alexa had a centaur raise her son.
  • King Alex had a centaur raise his daughter.

This example will always work if [ruler] is called first and determines [ruler gender] before it gets used later in [ruler gender] or [raise their kid]. If the order is ever changed, this will result in bugs that are hard to spot.

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2019-05-19 Ettercap Faces

I was talking to ktrey parker again on Diaspora, and they said: “First, I will definitely have to dig up some the face templates, because I definitely want to do some ettercap faces! All eyes and mandibles!”

This morning I was hitting a lull and those words kept coming back to me. I searched for spider face images and felt inspired. Behold the faces of spider people.

Faces of the spider people

I knew this was going to be an alien face so I don’t actually need a lot of material. They all look the same to us, anyway.

I printed the elf template (narrow faces) and started drawing...

A bad scan from a very old scanner

Rotating image, cropping, scaling, and applying the tintenblau palette...

Cleaned up scan

Cutting these up, splitting the one image where I drew both some hair and a mouth, and looking at them using a local installation of the Face Generator, moving some elements around so that they fit better, less overlap, all of that...

And we’re done!

Oh, and making sure there’s at least one single pixel for “extra spiders” otherwise 10% of the spider faces get a nasty scar, haha.

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2019-05-17 On generating lists of items in Hex Describe

I’ve been looking at Hex Describe again. These days I’ve been collaborating with ktrey parker on Diaspora and all of this input has pushed me to work harder on how Hex Describe generates lists of unique items from a larger list.

I needed lists of unique items for spell lists. Let’s take Agrimach, for example. The spells of the first circle are aura of fear, locate corpse and read magic. If I now want to create a second level student of Agrimach, I want to provide them with two of the three spells, but no duplicates. The naive way to encode this in a table would be:

;spell
1,aura of fear
1,locate corpse
1,read magic

;student
1,A man with a black beard. *[spell]* and *[spell]*

When I try it, there is some duplication. Note the arrows:

  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. read magic and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and locate corpse
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and read magic
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and aura of fear
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and aura of fear
  • A man with a black beard. aura of fear and aura of fear
  • A man with a black beard. locate corpse and locate corpse

So what I did was I added lists to Hex Describe. It now has the keywords “with” and “and” to initialise lists and to pick further elements for the same list. “with” starts a new list and “and” picks a random element up to ten times in an attempt to not pick an item already on the list.

We rewrite the tables:

;spell
1,aura of fear
1,locate corpse
1,read magic

;student
1,A woman with curly hair. *[with spell]* and *[and spell]*

The result:

  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. aura of fear and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A woman with curly hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. aura of fear and read magic
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and locate corpse
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and aura of fear
  • A woman with curly hair. read magic and aura of fear

No repeats!

But now let’s add some details to the spells. Let’s provide two alternatives for each spell.

;aura of fear
1,aura of fear
1,aura of terror

;locate corpse
1,locate corpse
1,locate body

;read magic
1,read magic
1,read runes

;spell
1,[aura of fear]
1,[locate corpse]
1,[read magic]

;student
1,A young teenager with short hair. *[with spell]* and *[and spell]*

We have a lot more options, but eventually the duplication is back because the two variants count as different results of the “spell” table:

  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read runes
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read runes
  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of fear and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read magic and aura of fear
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and read magic
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read magic and locate corpse

The solution to this is that we need another level of indirection: the list must not be a list of final results but of keys that are resolved later. Thus, the “spell” table returns the table names that are then used in the “student” table to find the actual spells.

;aura of fear
1,aura of fear
1,aura of terror

;locate corpse
1,locate corpse
1,locate body

;read magic
1,read magic
1,read runes

;spell
1,aura of fear
1,locate corpse
1,read magic

;student
1,A girl, maybe seven years old, with long blond hair. *[[with spell]]* and *[[and spell]]*

If you look at the results, you no longer get two variants of the same spell:

  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and locate body
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of terror and locate body
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate body and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. read magic and locate body
  • A young teenager with short hair. read runes and aura of terror
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of terror and locate corpse
  • A young teenager with short hair. aura of fear and locate corpse
  • A young teenager with short hair. locate corpse and aura of terror

Yay!

OK, but I have an even stranger thing to talk about. Let’s generate a simple sentence describing a dungeon. There are various rooms and we don’t want any repeats. It starts much like the spellbook above:

;room
1,an altar room
1,a cesspit
1,a lair

;dungeon
1,This dungeon consists of [with room] and [and room].

Simple, no duplication:

  • This dungeon consists of a lair and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room and a lair.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room and a lair.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit and an altar room.

Let’s make it more interesting by having the lair connect to more rooms.

;room
1,an altar room
1,a cesspit
1,a larder
1,a natural cave
1,a lair with a secret door leading to [and room]

;dungeon
1,This dungeon consists of [with room], and [and room].

Can you spot the problem? It took me a few hours to understand what the problem was. I started seeing errors in the application and finally I added a quick fix to the code which suppresses the error but the output is still wrong. Take a look and note the arrows:

  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a lair with a secret door leading to an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a lair with a secret door leading to a lair with a secret door leading to a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to a natural cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to a lair with a secret door leading to a cesspit, and an altar room. ←
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a natural cave.
  • This dungeon consists of a larder, and a natural cave.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and an altar room.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and a lair with a secret door leading to a lair with a secret door leading to an altar room. ←

We now have two problems!

The first problem is that like in the example with the spellbook the list is only unique at the level of results of the “room” table. Thus, “a lair with a secret door leading to a larder” and “a lair with a secret door leading to a cesspit” are considered to be two different rooms.

Another problem – and that’s the problem that crashed Hex Describe – is what happens when the code starts processing [with room], and the first room it picks is a lair, which wants [and room]. The problem is that [and room] expects there to be a list of rooms already picked. But the first room is picked when [with room] is finished. Thus, for the computer, the list doesn’t exist, yet!

OK, but how do we fix this? We already know one fix: at the level of the list, we need to have table names, not the table results!

;altar
1,an altar room

;cesspit
1,a cesspit

;larder
1,a larder

;cave
1,a natural cave

;lair
1,a lair with a secret door leading to [and room]

;room
1,altar
1,cesspit
1,larder
1,cave
1,lair

;dungeon
1,This dungeon consists of [[with room]], and [[and room]].

No more errors in my log! Also note that we only have one lair per dungeon, now:

  • This dungeon consists of an altar room, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a natural cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cave, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a lair with a secret door leading to larder.
  • This dungeon consists of an altar room, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cave, and a cesspit.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cave, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to cesspit, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a cesspit, and a larder.
  • This dungeon consists of a lair with a secret door leading to altar, and a cesspit.

Yay!

Alright, time to go back to my tables. 🙂

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Comments on 2019-05-17 On generating lists of items in Hex Describe

Wow, that discussion alone might just be the final push for me to join Diaspora! I love HexDescribe, especially since I can use it without a map.

Ynas Midgard 2019-05-18 22:16 UTC


Haha, please join us. To be honest, that is the only really good thread I’ve been in during my short time on Diaspora.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-19 08:37 UTC

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2019-05-15 The purpose of art in a RPG product

Recently, Richard G wrote a few words about Silent Titans on Lasagna Social, saying that it looks really good, and also remarking on the “obscurity and circularity of reference” as it refers to Bastion of Electric Bastionland or Into the Odd, as it used to be known.

I left a comment saying that I had had the same thoughts: visuals (superficially), the references to other products, and I added: “Rolled my eyes a bit. 🙄”

Paolo Greco then asked me about the eye rolling and I felt that he deserved a longer answer. The comment turned out to be long enough that I ended feeling it deserved a page on this blog. So there you go. 😃

It wasn’t a strong feeling I had, just a heh and one eye roll, I guess. Somebody writes a game using the rules somebody else has published, go buy those, or the free older edition, and here’s and interview I did with them, and I read it, too, but at the same time I sighed a bit and couldn’t decide whether this was people patting each other on the back for a job well done inside the very product this well done job had produced, or an instance of one hand washing the other, as we say in German, so anyway, I asked myself: what is this? Is this an ad? Is this a cooperation? And I felt that as an editor, I would have cut it.

As for the art, I’ll start with me really liking the map in A Red and Pleasant Land, the squares, the inking, the slight abstraction away from fantasy realism we’ve seen in D&D, away from the retro line art we’ve seen in the OSR, something new, colourful, somehow familiar and yet unknowable. I guess I’m not an art critic and fear I lack the words and the sensitivities but anyway, Maze of the Blue Medusa went a bit further in this direction, more abstract, less something I can just show players and say “you see this!” and more something that conveys a mood, a mental confusion, a state that is perhaps a bit like the altered state of the mystical underworld, I guess the Medusa dungeon in Vornheim was a bit like that, and I didn’t even look too much at Frostbitten & Mutilated, so then I leafed through Silent Titans and felt that it was even more abstract, even less usable, less showable, nothing I could look at and interpret as a map, or an image of creature, or a location, but a jumble of things that provide an emotional reaction, a jumble of something, a weirdness, and I don’t deny that it fascinates me, but at the same time it’s also a bit in that line of art I like less, that I find less useful for a product that I don’t just buy to be entertained but to aid me at the table, to be useful in a very specific way.

So perhaps then the question is this: what is the purpose of art in an RPG product? It’s about pleasing the buyer, the reader. I have bought something beautiful, they say. And Silent Titans delivers. But I sort of dread the moment at the table. Is this something I can run at the table, as is? And I roll my eyes, a tiny little bit.

I guess this is all also in the context of an early post I had written on Diaspora: as I’m trying to read Silent Titans every now and then, I sigh as I realize that my brain is probably too puny and my imagination too boring for this. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure whether I can make use of this at the table.

What OSR PRG product have you actually used and liked using at the table? Even Stonehell has a lot of text for my taste. I guess Castle of the Mad Arch Mage worked pretty well for more than fifty sessions.

I should write more of my own instead of complaining, hah! 😅

I am reminded of advice I recently gave somebody, regarding adventures for newbies:

“I would write my own, I think.

That’s because I think finding a scenario and preparing a scenario takes time in which you could have written your own. And having written your own, you will never fear getting it wrong.

Even the One Page Dungeon Contest submissions are too much to read through. You’ll get lost wondering whether this or that fits your aesthetics better, whether this or that plays better with the table, whether this or that offers something your players might enjoy. And all this uncertainty about picking an adventure tells me that you already know all the things you need.

Trust me on this: writing up something simple for a night is quicker than finding and reading and prepping anything else and you’ll feel better at the table, too.”

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Comments on 2019-05-15 The purpose of art in a RPG product

I love the art in RPG books but I hate that it’s only really seen by the DM. I buy more PDFs than physical books so art often gets in the way rather than enhances my experience while playing, but it’s nice for theme while reading away from the table.

Tom 2019-05-15 20:31 UTC


Yeah, I hate it when there are beautiful maps that nobody else ever sees.

Benefits:

  • entertainment for the reader
  • building enthusiasm before running the game (for the reader)
  • sometimes you can lift the book and turn it to the player so they can see it?
  • can work as a substitute to reading (just look for visual inspiration in a Paizo adventure path and ignore the sea of words)

Drawbacks:

  • Price
  • makes PDFs slow

And then there’s the drawbacks of having the wrong art:

  • confusing maps are confusing
  • watermarks make the text hard to read
  • busy maps make them hard to annotate (for the love of all that is good, bring back marginalia! we need more white space everywhere)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-16 05:54 UTC


I just read a very interesting post about Silent Titans. A Literary Analysis of Silent Titans by Patrick Stuart on the Sheep and Sorcery blog.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-19 08:35 UTC


Another positive review: Silent Titans Actually Works.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-22 06:44 UTC

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2019-05-14 Hexer & Haudegen

Introducing the kids of friends to roleplaying games while babysitting. (Not really babies anymore, haha.)

We’re using Hexen & Haudegen which is the German translation or Sorcerers & Sellswords, which is the Fantasy translation of Lasers & Feelings. It’s perfect! We played without GM and drew cards from Paizo’s Harrow Deck to inspire the story: The Avalanche, The Empty Throne, The Rakhshasa. Very nice!

Character sheets, notes, rules

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