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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.

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2020-04-01 Skills and special abilities for Just Halberds

Perhaps it’d be nice to see what skills and special abilities I’m using in my 2d6 game of Just Halberds.

  • fist-fighting, like boxing, useful in melee
  • sword-fighting, same thing, melee
  • archery, for ranged combat (I allow shooting into melee)
  • legends, a knowledge skill which I’m going to use to dump setting info, knowing that I have at least one player that is interested; maybe also an indicator that they want to create some aspects of the setting; generally something I wouldn’t suggest you add to your skill list but I asked for player input and this is what I got so I’m going to roll with it
  • smart, an even trickier skill selected by a child and inspired by a TV show; it’s tricky because I think smart play is what players do; for now I’m simply using it to give advice and warnings to the party; I guess you could think of it as a call for support and I’m totally willing to lend that support

In general, I think you can pick any skill list a game and it would work.

Special abilities are trickier. Let’s talk about spells, first.

  • air control is a spell, but it’s hard to put to good use; I don’t mind but it does require some thinking outside the box; for now players have used it to collect giant mushroom spores and to deliver those spores into the noses of orcs...
  • fireball is a simple spell that works as expected, except D&D players may expect it to be very powerful but if a newly created character is getting it, I feel it’s more like a flaming missile...
  • icicle is a spell that deals damage, maybe pierces things, or shatters, or freezes water upon impact; no issue there
  • protection is a bit harder to figure out: does it provide a +1 one for the entire fight, or just for defence? I haven’t decided
  • talk with animals works quite well
  • wave is a spell to wash people off their feet and displace them; might also deal damage if they are smashed into stuff; needs some water to be carried along, of course

As for other special abilities:

  • guard is a special ability for fighters where they can interpose themselves between an attacker and a defender; a good idea if tough orcs are attacking your mages; the tricky part is deciding when your fighter is out of actions; I guess if the fighter keeps taking damage, no problem, and if the fighter wins the opposed role, regaining the initiative means they then get to nominate somebody else to act, so there’s no actual problem at the table
  • sneaking is a straight forward specialisation; I’m not sure what sort of extra effect its use would have... perhaps this should be a skill instead of a special ability?

I’m also thinking of other skills and special abilities:

  • hardened might be a skill (anybody can learn it) that just grants you an extra hit

If you can take every skill and special ability just once that also puts a kind of limit on the numbers because it sounds awkward if your profession is fighter and your skills are sword-fighting, blade-mastery, duelling, and agility, for a total of +5 when attacking with your sword. Then again, perhaps that’s what your players like? I think I wouldn’t like any bonus that goes beyond +3. Pick a profession, maybe a skill, and maybe a special ability, and maybe use a magic weapon, that’s how you get a maximum of +4. Sounds good to me! The rest should be special abilities that grant you special effects if you use them. I think that’s going to be more entertaining.

I guess what I’d suggest, therefore:

  1. pick a list of evocative spell names from some rules you like or make up your own (picking spells from a list you already know makes it easier to agree on the effects, I’d say – specially if you’re just starting); as for myself I’m going to use my Spellcasters in this campaign so that gives me a nice set of D&D-like spells to start with
  2. pick a list of skills from some rules you like; make sure these skills are appropriate for your setting and tone (don’t use administration unless bureaucrats are important for cool adventures in your setting); avoid super specific skills because you only get to pick a single one when starting out; also make sure that the skills aren’t something everybody can do (if everybody can ride a horse, don’t add riding as a skill); also avoid skills you want your players to have (lying, scheming, knowing, persuading, charming – I like people to act at the table)

Something like this:

  • fist-fighting
  • sword-fighting
  • assassination
  • pole-arms
  • archery
  • slings
  • sneaking
  • disguising
  • singing
  • some languages
  • some instruments
  • first aid (get people back from zero hits)
  • hardiness (gives you an extra hit)
  • boating
  • hunting (includes reading trails)

And if your players want to be a specialist of a particular weapon, maybe whips, or throwing axes, or staves, something more than what being young, fit, and hungry for adventure would give you, just add it to the list. Same for social skills or thievery skills.

Also consider something like jousting or duelling if your game is about chivalry or some other honour code in a society dominated by ritual violence. It’s useless in combat but super important at social occasions amongst knights or samurai, etc.

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Comments on 2020-04-01 Skills and special abilities for Just Halberds

I checked the Traveller skill list and didn’t find too many things that are exciting.

  • “appropriate for your setting and tone” ✓
  • not “super specific skills” ✗
  • not “something everybody can do” ✗
  • not “skills you want your players to have” ✗

It’s tricky!

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-02 07:10 UTC

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2020-03-29 Developing the rules

I’ve had two sessions of my 2d6 “ancient school” game, now. I started with a small set of rules (see 2020-03-27 Ancient School Rules) and I am starting to feel the urge to systematise my approach. Perhaps this should go under “Referee Guide” of the system? 🙂

How should I handle a spell with an area of effect? I have a character that can throw fireballs. I need to remember that this characters is just a beginner. So their “fireball” is more like a magic missile: it strikes a single person, or if it causes a big explosion then it’s a scary looking explosion that doesn’t really kill people. Thus, to affect more people at the same time, I should just treat that as a new spell, a new special ability.

How to handle huge differences? I mean, I basically have this rule:

If you win the opposed 2d6, you deal damage. If the difference is small, you deal one hit. If the difference is larger, let’s say three or four, you might deal two hits; more than that and it’s a “special effect” (blown back, injured, taken out, depending on the kind of attack).

The reason I use these numbers is that new character have three hits per default. Third level? Maybe. 🙂

But what happens if you win or lose with a difference of eight? Of ten? It’s overkill! I guess you could say that a difference of ten is five hits (since the current wording could be interpreted as “divide by two”) and if you have a fighter with heavy armour and a shield they have six hits so they’re still going to survive it.

Also, remember that one side rolling a two on 2d6 is a 1 in 36 chance, and the other side rolling a twelve on a 2d6 is another 1 in 36, so this should be really rare: 1 in about 1296. This isn’t going to happen often and thus a catastrophic setback would be just fine.

I should get better at narrating what getting hit entails. Does a hit or two have fictional consequences? One hit, bruises, two hits, serious injuries that take a long time to heal? Perhaps I’m still thinking in D&D hit-points: those hits are more like “morale” or “will to live”?

I’m happy with using D&D HD as simple hits. Ten orcs have ten hits. Six ghouls have twelve hits. That worked just fine. An orc leader (3 HD) gets three hits. I’m also happy with the way I assigned the bonus: orcs get +0 to attack. Ghouls in their tunnels get +1. The orc leader is like a human fighter and should get +2; in this case he’s wielding a magic mace +1 so he actually gets +3. That scared the players!

I also try to assess how easily an enemy might be affected by something. Thus, if the players have the initiative and pick the fire mage to attack the ghouls, then I might say something like “the ghouls are totally not used to fight fire and so they just roll +0 this turn” – but once the ghouls aren’t attacked by magic, or if they have the initiative and decide how to attack, then they’re back to getting their +1 bonus.

I guess this could be formalised into a system of strengths and weaknesses and all that, but perhaps we don’t actually need to remember that. Do we?

I’m a big fan of Eero Tuovinen’s D&D as oral culture:

there is an important point in having the mechanical rules be an oral tradition: the process of forgetting stuff works to our advantage when we can claim that any rule unimportant enough to forget deserves to be forgotten

I totally recommend that old blog post of mine where I pulled together some good quotes on that issue: 2019-01-01 Warm and fuzzy feels.

So, given that: do I need a list of monsters and their capabilities? Do I need to write this down? Maybe not. When Norbert G. Matausch interviewed Bob Meyer on the use of dice and all that, he said:

The exact mechanisms, and way I determine results, I prefer to keep obscure by keeping them to myself.

I don’t know if I agree. I guess I like to see the wizard behind the curtain, I like to see how it all works so that it can be taken up by other people. Isn’t that how humans rose to great height: by being able to transmit their knowledge, creating culture? To keep it all in my head and not writing it down anywhere in some public place feels weird. Perhaps that’s simply the social media zeitgeist. Everything happens in public, or not at all. 😅

Anyway, I’m happy to be back blogging about role-playing games. 😁

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Comments on 2020-03-29 Developing the rules

Hey Alex, great to get some insight into your gaming/refereeing process! Personally, I write down my monsters, their abilties and hits (”Orc: 1 hit, nasty bite/infectuous on 10+”, for instance). When it comes to magic, I either handwave the effects, or, for combat spells, the player rolls 1d6 or more, if the character’s experience warrants it, for damage.

It’s rulings all the way, but they have to follow from the fiction and stay consistent.

Norbert 2020-03-30 08:20 UTC


Here’s something I wonder: if the orcs win with a roll of 10 vs. the player with a roll of 9, is the effect big (”infectuous on 10+”) or small (since the difference is just one)? These first two sessions I used the difference instead of the absolute value of the winning roll.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-30 10:04 UTC

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2020-03-27 Ancient School Rules

Yesterday we had our first session for the new campaign. I’m the referee, two of my friends are players, they brought some of their kids along, one of the kids brought along their girlfriend and the girlfriend brought along her little brother. Perfect! 😃

We did a small intro of all our characters, and I asked them all to list the following:

  1. name
  2. profession (anybody can do it, but you cannot change it)
  3. a skill (anybody can do it, and you might learn new ones in-game)
  4. a special ability (you may learn new ones from teachers in-game)

I was basing my rules on Norbert G. Matausch’s Landshut Rules, the interview he did with Bob Meyer on Ancient-School Roleplaying, and very simple Dungeon World alternatives like World of Dungeons (including the German translation of World of Dungeons).

Charakters can take three hits. Light armour grant an extra hit but prevent spell casting. Heavy armour grants two extra hits but prevents spell casting, sneaking, climbing, running, and swimming. A shield grants an extra hit and also prevents spell casting, sneaking, climbing, running, and swimming.

We ended up with the following roster:

NameProfessionSkillSpecial AbilityHitsEquipment
MiaAnimal magicSmartAnimal friendship3
KinguEarth magicLegendsProtection3
Fo PiFire magicFireball3
NonuruAir magicArcherAir control3Bow and arrows
NataschaWater magicWave, icicle3
BorisWarriorSwordfightingGuard6Heavy armour, sword and shield
RothilionScoutArcherSneaking3Bow and arrows

As you can see, we have a lot of magic users! 😅

I’ll also note that Kingu’s player wanted healing and hiding, too. But it’s a bit much, I feel.

Natascha has two special abilities: the wave spell and the icicle spell. The character learned the second spell during the session.

I think that’s actually an excellent way to handle advancement: Just hand out one kind of improvement to one character per session, if appropriate based on the events during the game. I’ll see whether I can continue doing this. I don’t want to count experience points and we’d still have some sort of advancement for the characters that are playing. This is important to me as I don’t want to advance characters that aren’t playing.

I’m feeling a bit weird about having “being smart” available as a skill. Isn’t that what the players should be doing? I’ll try and handle that as a “6th sense” for dangerous situations, an early warning system.

The same is true for “legends”. The character knows many legends and prophesies. Perhaps I’ll handle that as an invitation to info dump setting material? But then again, I wouldn’t hold back with setting material the characters would know in-game, I think. Weird. Well, we’ll see how it goes.

As you can see, not all characters have their slots filled. It was hard for the kids to pick things. Specially the newbies and young ones didn’t know what to say; often their dad would speak up immediately and offer suggestions, predetermining what their kids would then say. I tried to step in whenever I saw that happening. I’d rather leave things open and let people choose later.

As for the rules, I’m using a simple 2d6 vs 2d6 system. This is unlike the Powered by the Apocalypse games: the referee still gets to roll. I mean, on average the difficulty is simply the average 7 but by rolling 2d6 it can vary wildly. If we roll the same number, I try to introduce a new fact, or change the situation in some non-obvious way. This isn’t always easy in the midst of combat, but I try.

People get a +1 or +2 to their rolls if they can bring their profession, skill or special ability to bear. During the game I didn’t always remember all of these so I fear on a few occasions players only got a +1 when they would have deserved a +2. When I ran the orcs, attacks by ordinary orcs got +0 and attacks by the boss got a +2.

If you win the opposed 2d6, you deal damage. If the difference is small, you deal one hit. If the difference is larger, let’s say three or four, you might deal two hits; more than that and it’s a “special effect” (blown back, injured, taken out, depending on the kind of attack).

In a fight of many against many I used the following rule: whoever wins the opposed roll does damage and picks the next character to attack, thus their side “keeps the initiative” and that means they get to choose who attacks whom. I think it doesn’t really make much of a difference mathematically but it definitely feels different.

At one point the characters were fighting two spectres, later they were fighting ten orcs and an orc leader. Here’s how I did it:

  1. every D&D hit die is a hit they can take
  2. determine their attack bonus (+0, +1, +2)
  3. determine special moves they could make (suck your soul... happily averted)

The notes I took during combat were super simple:

Image 1

Basically the ten ordinary orcs acted as a single ten hit monster with a +0 to attack, the two spectres acted as a single twelve hit monster with a +0 to attack (but with a scary special move if they land a lucky blow).

In this system, if the orcs “have the initiative” they just keep attacking whomever the want until they miss, and at that moment the players keep choosing who gets to attack whom until they miss. Missing automatically means that the other side hit you instead! Of course, the party tries to involve the warrior quite often and I think they picked the earth magic user just once, at the very beginning, to cast their protective spell. I think I’m OK with this; it all gets worked out somehow at the table. People will want to act, but acting also entails the possibility of getting hit.

It often was not clear that magic was super effective in a fight. In D&D, a hit with a fireball kills many weak enemies. But what about a fight with two spectres? I just handled it by appropriate descriptions with little mechanical effect. The fireball hits the spectre as the opposed 2d6 roll is much in favour of the magic user and thus the explosion is big, blowing the spectre back down the stairs into the mausoleum, giving the party a moment to regroup and decide what they’re going to do – in addition to the regular two hits it dealt. We’ll see how that develops. I think I’m OK with fighters being good at fighting and magic users being good at ranged combat and other kinds of tasks. I’ll just have to make sure that there are a lot of challenges that cannot be dealt with by simple fighting.

While we’re at it, I also ruled that being a warrior allowed you to cover an ally every now and then. So when the orcs attacked the water magic user at one point, the warrior said they wanted to cover he and I agreed. Apparently, being a bodyguard is the warrior’s special ability. 😃

As for the setting, I used Hex Describe. I did note some usability issues. I wanted both an HTML export and a Markdown export, but it wasn’t immediately obvious how to do it. When I tried to print the HTML to a PDF file, I realised I had nearly 140 pages of material! 😲

I guess I will use the PDF on my tablet while running the game, and I will paste snippets of the Markdown onto the campaign wiki map as we uncover more and more of the setting. My players probably won’t be reading it and therefore I think I can keep it all in English.

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Comments on 2020-03-27 Ancient School Rules

Alex, I’m happy to read this! Ancient school rpg FTW!

Norbert Matausch 2020-03-27 14:04 UTC


Thanks for blogging about it. 👍

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-27 16:57 UTC


Excellent, 2d6 rules!

Wanderer Bill 2020-03-27 17:00 UTC


Re: the “legends” skill: If you are already inviting your group to participate in world building (which is a great thing!), why not have the “legend” skill grant the ability to establish a small fact about the world on the go, once per day? The Burning Wheel RPG has something like that.

E.g.: DM: The bushes around you have berries in all the colors of the rainbow. Player with legend skill: I know from ancient stories that if you eat the berries in the sequence of the rainbow’s colors, you heal your wounds.

K.T. 2020-03-28 07:34 UTC


Good idea. Got to get into the habit of asking players for input. 👍

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-28 11:23 UTC


Is there a PDF version of these rules? I love them but would also love to see some more description, in maybe an easier-to-read format.

Mardov 2020-03-30 01:14 UTC


Not yet. But you can get Norbert G. Matausch’s Landshut Rules as a PDF.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-30 05:10 UTC


I’m happy to be able to read about your game and Norbert’s rules in action - thanks for sharing! @K.T. Fantastic idea, I’ll definitely give it a chance in our next campaign!

Metwiff 2020-03-30 19:06 UTC


For now: Just Halberds. 🙂

Sources are available.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-31 21:09 UTC


So cool and written for beginners and OSR-friends alike... The last page - to me - is most important: whatever the issue - talk about it and have fun! Thanks and regards from my little Cov19-isolation, Metwiff

Metwiff 2020-04-01 11:09 UTC

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2020-03-26 Jitsi and the CPU

Yesterday I ran my RPG game on the self-hosted Jitsi installation. All participants need to have the right bandwidth, of course. If you’re close to Zürich, you probably have glass fibre, so no problem. As it turns out, CPU seems to be the limiting factor. The machine I’m renting has two cores and 6GB RAM available. Here are the Munin reports:

Firewall throughput CPU usageLoad average Memory usage

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Comments on 2020-03-26 Jitsi and the CPU

Other people: Jitsi Meet and the Number of Video Participants – 「… 2 virtual cores and 4GB of memory … both CPUs ran at around 70% with 10 clients and memory use was around 1.4 GBs at the beginning and 800 MB a little while later when everyone had joined and settled in … I was far away from saturating the CPU with 10 simultaneous video streams in the conference.」 – Nice! 🙂

Other software: Big Blue Button: Requirements – 「… we recommend starting with a ‘clean’ Ubuntu 16.04 64-bit server dedicated for BigBlueButton. … 4 GB of memory with swap enabled (8 GB of memory is better) … 4 CPU cores (8 is better)」 – but as noted I only have 2 GB of memory, only 2 CPU cores, it’s not a dedicated server, and it’s Debian Buster, not Ubuntu 16. Oh well!

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-28 11:54 UTC


Had another session yesterday and when the conference ended it seemed to me that some of the other services on this machine had been killed. Out of memory? I don’t think so. I need to investigate. Perhaps the response times for requests had grown so long that Monit decided the services were down and started restarting them?

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-29 10:06 UTC

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2020-03-25 GoodReader EULA, again

Back in 2019, was unhappy with the GoodReader EULA. Apparently it is time to be unhappy again. I wrote another email.

To: support@goodreader.com
Subject: Unhappy with the new EULA

Hello Team GoodReader

I’m writing to you because I was shown the new EULA when I tried to start GoodReader today. I started skimming it and was disappointed to read section 2:

​2. Consent to Use of Data: You agree that Licensor may collect and use some information about you, your device, the Licensed Application’s state, and/or Licensed Application usage stats, analytics and telemetry. Some of the information may be collected with the help of 3rd-party analytics software including but not limited to Google Firebase and Google Analytics. More detailed information about the type of information we collect can be found in the Licensor’s Privacy Policy located on the Licensor’s website: http://goodreader.com.

I don’t want to agree to this. I don’t think a PDF reader needs this information; I dislike the thought of any 3rd-party getting this information; I very much dislike the thought of Google in particular getting this information.

I want to opt out of this. What are my options?

I remember sending you a similar email back in February 2019. Back then you wrote:

We assure you that the only way we gather data is through voluntary submissions from GoodReader users via e-mail, which the user can choose not to send if they prefer not to. The EULA ensures we have your permission to use the data that you choose to send to us.

The GoodReader app does not, and cannot, automatically gather any information about you, your data, or the way you use GoodReader.

Back then, you also wrote about user privacy:

Additionally, please read the full About GoodReader description here: https://www.goodreader.com/index.html

As stated: “Above all, we value your privacy: GoodReader’s commitment is to never monitor users or activity. We aim to be the most privacy focused iOS productivity tool in the market. We never ask for your personal information and there are no usernames or profiles. Use the tool at your leisure with ZERO monitoring.”

I would love to hear that all of this is still true. I hope that the problem is simply a legal team that is tone deaf when it comes to privacy concerns in a day and age of Ed Snowden and universal spying and surveillance capitalism. A good PDF reader doesn’t have to be like that.

Finally, last time you wrote:

It seems that the wording has caused some confusion and anxiety for many users. We are going to add more clarification to the EULA in the next update.

I’m still hoping that you do.

Regards from Switzerland
Alex Schroeder

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2020-03-25 A new campaign

I’m going to start a new campaign with two friends. It’s going to be a remote game. I used to decline such games because I had enough face to face games if I wanted to. But now that the Corona virus pandemic is upon us, there’s not much difference: both of my games are online. DM Peter runs his D&D 5E game via Skype and Roll20, and I run my games via a self-hosted Jitsi server.

So, a new game. They said they wanted something “simple”, like Labyrinth Lord (or possibly my house rules, Halberds & Helmets, of course). They also mentioned the fact that they might want to have their kids join every now and then.

I’m faced with the same problem I’ve had two or three times before: one kid wants to play an elf, or a unicorn. An elf, I say – an elf from The Lord of the Rings? Peter Pan? Elfquest? I ask him to ask the kid. The answer I get back is Mia and me. Wow. I had no idea.

Is this the new party?

Image 1

And here I was, ready to go all “Kill 6 Billion Demons” on my two friends...

This is the other party:

Image 2

But sending these images back and forth gave me an idea. How about I stick to the indie games I like: Dungeon World and friends. Something like the Landshut Rules, ancient school role-playing!

So I decided to offload a bit of the setting creation to my players, and to facilitate the finding of a common “language” and style by asking my players for more pictures, some location names, some names for the opposition, stuff like that. And I think that will be interesting. I’ll draw a little map and add those names, add the opposition, think of some interactions, and I’ll let my self be inspired by the media they like (apparently, travel and adventure blogs) and their kids like (looks like Frozen and possibly Maleficient), and the media I like (some lurid Troika!, Silent Titans, and Kill 6 Billion Demons – just looking at the visuals as I haven’t really read any of them).

Something simple like:

  • every character has one special ability, a skill, and a profession
  • use opposed 2d6 rolls, with bonuses depending on the above
  • if required, everybody has three hits; armour grants one, two or three extra hits
  • bonuses are declared by the referee, possibly followed by a short negotiation

We’ll see how it goes. 😀

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Comments on 2020-03-25 A new campaign

Sounds like a nice experiment. Reading Norbert’s blog has made me question/unlearn and a lot of my own assumptions about RPG rules/systems, and the new insights have largely been validated in play-testing (at least in terms of how I like to GM). In particular his Play worlds, not rules series was an eye-opener for me when I read it and I think time is ripe for me to read it again.

– Björn Buckwalter 2020-03-26 09:21 UTC

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2020-03-24 North Seymour

When we landed in the Galápagos at Baltra airport, we were brought onto our ship and taken to the first island: North Seymour. It’s flat and dry and it has land iguanas, blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds, and sea lions. Here are some pictures:

Related links:

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2020-03-21 Quito

A few weeks ago, before COVID-19 hit us over the head, Claudia and I flew to Quito, Ecuador, and stayed there for a few days before continuing on to the Galápagos. As we all have a bit of free time right now, I was able to create a little album. 🙂

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For my own reference: sitelen-mute -c txt -f --title "Quito 2020" --description "On our way to the Galápagos we stopped for a few days in Quito, Ecuador." --url https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2020-quito/ Quito 2020-quito && rsync --progress --recursive -e "ssh -p 882" 2020-quito alexschroeder.ch:alexschroeder.ch/gallery/

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-21 15:57 UTC

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2020-03-21 Der Browser und Jitsi

Hier meine Notizen für die Rollenspielrunde, welche ich via Jitsi Videokonferenz leiten will (hier). Von dort gibt Links für Mobiltelefone und Tablets. Wer Jitsi allerdings auf dem Browser verwenden will, muss die Berechtigungsfragen richtig beantworten!

Wichtig: Mikrophone und Kopfhörer zuerst einstecken; im Notfall danach den Browser neu starten!

Nun besucht man die Chat Seite und wählt den Suedsee Raum:

Chat

Hier muss man nun Kamera und Mikrophon freigeben. Wie oben gesagt, wenn man erst jetzt eine separate Kamera, Kopfhörer oder ein separates Mikrophon einsteckt, dann tauchen diese Geräte unter Umständen nicht in der Liste auf.

Freigabe

Wenn alles funktioniert hat, sieht man nun ein Bild von sich selber, und der Browser zeigt eine Warnung, dass Kamera und Mikrophon im Moment verwendet werden:

Warnung

Idealerweise sieht das so aus:

Ziel erreicht!

Unten rechts bei den drei Punkten → ⋮ gibt es ein Menü mit den Einstellungen, wo man nochmal Kamera und Mikrophon auswählen kann, falls man mehrere davon angeschlossen hat. 🙂

Jitsi Settings

Kontrolle

Bei den Einstellung kann man nach “Kamera” und “Mikrophon” suchen.

Einstellungen

Wenn man die anklickt, sollte man sehen, dass https://chat.campaignwiki.org auf Kamera und Mikrophon zugreifen dürfen. Wenn die Automatik also nicht funktioniert hat, kann man das hier manuell nachholen.

Kamera

Wenn man die Freigabe nochmal wiederholen will, kann man https://chat.campaignwiki.org hier auch wieder entfernen und das Ganze nochmal versuchen.

Wenn man nicht nach den nötigen Berechtigungen für Kamera und Mikrophon gefragt wird, dann kann das daran liegen, dass bei den Einstellungen die Anfrage nach den nötigen Berechtigungen generell verboten wurde. In diesem Fall muss man das halt selber eintragen. 🙂

Viel Erfolg!

Und sonst?

Ich will so wenig wie möglich ändern:

  1. es gibt von mir kaum Karten, Battlemaps, oder sonstiges Material von mir, deswegen brauchen wir keine Applikation, wo man gemeinsam zeichnen kann. Sollte es doch nötig verwenden, verwenden wir dieses Aggie.io Whiteboard
  2. ich kontrolliere die Würfel selten: im Notfall kann man immer noch mit der Webcam drauf zeigen
  3. alle wichtigen Texte und Charakterblätter bleiben weiterhin auf unserer Wiki
  4. falls wir Probleme mit der Tonqualität haben, können wir ja die Kameras wieder abschalten
  5. je nach verwendeten Geräten dürfte es ein starkes Echo geben: in diesem Fall bitte Kopfhörer verwenden; ich bin mir nicht sicher, wie das funktioniert mit zwei Leuten im gleichen Zimmer – ich vermute, das funktioniert einfach nicht (können wir aber gerne ausprobieren)
  6. auf Jitsi gibt es auch einen Chat, sollte aber nicht nötig sein (oder Threema auf dem Telefon verwenden)
  7. mit Jitsi kann man auch den Bildschirm teilen, aber am Tisch braucht es das ja auch nicht...

Ich hoffe, das passt! 🙂

Gerne vorher alles schon mal probieren. Da es keine Anmeldung gibt, kann sich mit dem Telefon verbinden (Kopfhörer nicht vergessen), und dann im Browser das Gleiche (ebenfalls Kopfhörer nicht vergessen), und etwas herum albern, dann findet man schon raus wie alles geht.

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– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-21 21:45 UTC

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2020-03-20 Skype and Roll20

OK, so today I was a player in DM Peter’s game and due to the COVID-19 problem we can no longer meet in person. Peter picked Roll20 and Skype!

We started half an hour early, finding our old Skype accounts; I realized that I didn’t want to install a Microsoft RPM on my GNU/Linux machine; Skype-for-Web complained about my browser (Firefox 68.6.0esr); the phone worked (until it eventually ran out of battery and I had to switch from the iPhone to the iPad, quickly installing the app mid-game...) – in short, the technology was a drag, but eventually it worked.

Roll20 was also tricky to start: Peter wanted to play background music and it was too quiet for some and to loud for others until we discovered that there is a way to change it; we found the settings to make sure no video and audio got sent via Roll20 as we were using Skype; Peter created our characters and we played with the settings allowing us to display only the names for the characters (as we had video elsewhere); how to drag characters onto the map took a moment; how to point to locations took a moment; switching from moving tokens to measuring distances and back took a moment – and I’m sure Peter spent quite some time preparing suitable backgrounds and pictures for the game. During the game, some people figured out how to create macros (mine) and others didn’t, which was weird.

As we played, we all ended up putting on headphones. I used the regular Apple headphones with the integrated microphone and it worked very well.

Peter never got his Skype camera to work, so it was weird to have no DM face: all the players were visible, but the DM was “in our heads”. An interesting experience!

But all in all, it worked. We can work with this. It felt personal. We managed to not talk over each other too often. 👏

But what about Jitsi? Yes, what about the Video Conference server I installed recently? When the game was over, we talked for a bit and I asked them to give it a try, on their laptops. Sadly, the experience wasn’t too smooth:

  1. it worked fine for Peter, including his camera which hadn’t worked with Skype!
  2. the Mac user had to switch from Safari to Firefox
  3. another user had not managed to give the right permission at the very beginning and had to restart the browser in order to get another chance at granting the necessary permissions
  4. another user simply didn’t manage to get it right
  5. We all agreed that it was serviceable but we also felt that the audio quality was slightly worse than Skype

All in all, it was not a great experience. I understand the problem of permissions, and I understand the problems of apps being able to track you where a browser perhaps cannot – but clearly the user experience of these players wasn’t great and we’ll be using Skype and Roll20 again in a week.

What people really liked about Roll20 – and this is something Jitsi alone does not provide, so we’d still have to use some other application for it:

  • the 3D virtual dice for all to see which is something we all liked a lot
  • people liked the background music but I didn’t pay much attention to it
  • people liked the battlemap but I would have preferred to play without it

Roll20 and Skype it is!

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Comments on 2020-03-20 Skype and Roll20

I am happy to help troubleshoot the jitsi setup further if you want. UTC -5 over here. Just say the word. I will DM you my (Signal) number in Mastodon.

...at this point we should have done that anyway. 😝

PresGas 2020-03-21 18:22 UTC


🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-21 19:15 UTC


As for Roll20, I’ll note that I hate the user interface. So much stuff to do. So many settings to tweak. It’s slow. I can’t upload any images. Perhaps it’s the browser that’s no longer supported? I don’t know. That makes it hard to set up stuff. I need to set up characters one by one, and assign them to players. I immediately picture all of us trying to figure out how dice rolling, macros, avatar uploads, and so on will work. And thus half an hour is spent dealing with the technology instead of playing the game.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For my own games, I still think Jitsi would be nicer because it’s simple.

Essentially, everything except for audio chat is optional. A camera is cool but when I think back I don’t think I looked at the camera all too often. The Burning Wheel game I played such a long time ago used no camera. I’m still hoping that we can go about rolling our own dice. Just tell us what you rolled. Or point the camera at it! 🙂

That’s how I plan to start, in any case.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-21 20:17 UTC


I used it today with @PresGas and it worked fine over the Atlantic... But we did have a lot of issues:

  • I had not realized that my laptop microphone hat its input level set to practically zero so he couldn’t hear me
  • Once I had that fixed all he could hear was static
  • When we tried a different server, audio worked but video did not
  • I decided to try my external microphone, the browser and Jitsi didn’t know about it and couldn’t access it; I had to restart Firefox such that I was asked for permission to the microphone again and that’s where I could pick the external microphone
  • When video didn’t work I realized that my webcam was listed twice and this permission dialogue is what allowed me to pick the “other” same camera and then it worked

All of this makes me think that it is super important to only grant permissions to the microphone and camera temporarily. That way you will always get asked for permission the next time you use it and you will therefore always be able to pick the correct device.

Later the same day I tried to use Jitsi with the in-laws and apparently their Internet Explorer or Edge or whatever they were using is not supported. So we used FaceTime to call each other and just clicked through the gallery in parallel. How to send them the right link, on the phone or by mail, and do they manage to open the link in their desktop mail client and not their phone client, or do they have to copy the link manually from their phone and type it into their desktop browser address bar... Truly, the populace in general is not computer literate! Anyway... FaceTime worked fine.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-22 16:40 UTC


It was great getting together with you to look things over!! We are about to game ourselves (over Zoom with our University licensing). I think when I take over as GM, we are going to try Jitsi again.

I would still blame IE/Edge for most of that. Remember the days when people only coded websites TO IE only? Now it is the one out in the cold!!

😉

PresGas 2020-03-22 16:52 UTC


Had my Jitsi test with the RPG group and it went well. One player has a desktop with a loud ventilator; he’s going to use his phone; we’re using the laptop at one end of the table and an external microphone between me and Claudia (the one I bought for my podcast a while ago) – that’s far enough from the laptop to not cause an echo, and far enough for the camera to get both of us; the other couple is using a conferencing microphone and they’re both sitting in front of the same laptop, no problem.

I think this is going to work! 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-22 18:58 UTC


Yea!! I am so glad it is working in your favor. Your desktop person may have the machine on the same level as the rest of the gear (perhaps on top of the desk?).

I would suggest that they move it to the floor if that will help and they can do so.

PresGas 2020-03-22 19:31 UTC


I’ve been using Discord + Roll20 for over a year and it’s worked great for audio and whiteboarding/maps.

Recently, I’ve been using awwapp.com for a free whiteboard when I didn’t need all the bells/whistles of Roll20.

I don’t use the video aspect, but if/when I do, I use Hangouts.

Anonymous 2020-03-22 20:18 UTC


Used Roll20 and Skype again. Roll20 on the Laptop, Skype on the iPad, and it worked quite well. Apparently you can only subdivide the Skype window into four panes, so when we had five and six people in our call, you couldn’t really see all of us at the same time. It worked well enough, though.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-23 22:55 UTC


I had mostly good luck with Jitsi in recent days. Using Chrome (or Chromium) seems to be the easiest path, and it lets the user change permissions and input devices in a running call by clicking the info icon at the left of the URL bar.

Paul Gorman 2020-03-28 18:45 UTC


Thanks, Paul. I’ll pass it on! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2020-03-28 18:53 UTC


Great to “see” you, Paul!! 👋 Plan on posting in your blog anytime soon? We miss you!

Glad other people are working out things on jitsi. Are you self hosting there or using one of the central ones?

PresGas 2020-03-29 14:14 UTC

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