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2015-04-17 Gate

Do you use creatures that gate in more creatures like the demons and devils of AD&D? Did you like the effect at the table? Would the new arrivals also gate in more creatures?

The reason I’m asking is because I just stumbled upon the following: “Even though the Abyss is a deadly plane where a single misstep can lead to disaster, In the Abyss isn’t intended to be a PC death trap. To keep the adventure challenging without making it too deadly, use the following guidelines when employing the tanar’ri gate ability: If the number of character levels in the party totals 48 or less, ignore gating (figuring that the creatures the PCs encounter are unwilling to become indebted to other creatures by gating in reinforcements). If the party’s levels total 49 to 60, roll for gating only when the text in an encounter calls for it. If the party’s levels total 61 or more, most tanar’ri the PCs meet should try to gate in reinforcements immediately, and gate attempts called for in the text should automatically succeed. However, fiends that have been gated into an encounter shouldn’t use their own gate abilities unless the PCs are making quick work of it all.” (In the Abyss, p. 3)

I’m also curious regarding your thoughts on this encounter difficulty fuzzing by the referee. It’s something I dislike intensely. At the same time, however, monsters with gate abilities are super swingy: a push over, or a great challenge, but as soon as you gate something in and suddenly: total party kill material. To me, this basically implies a strategy similar to fighting dragons: you essentially need to gain surprise, initiative, make sure to buy extra time using spells, and kill it before it gets to use its special abilities. When I was younger, I hated this. “I didn’t even get to use all it’s awesome abilities!” was a common complaint I had. Now I’ve finally determined what this is all about: some special abilities are there for role-playing encounters: telepathy and friends, basically. The shock and awe powers, however, basically just describe the kind of total defeat you’ll experience if you make the wrong choices, if you don’t prepare for your battles. That works for me.

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2015-04-14 A Poem for a Setting

Zak says on his blog, that “[…] a poem should be more than sufficient to describe a setting.”

The rusting earth is warm and breathes
The earth churns and in the depths we breed
Lick water from stone
Suck marrow from bone.

We burned down every hall of gold
Melted down every statue, broke everything we got
Now all we have is mold
We work the earth and rot.

I am not happy.

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2015-04-12 Hayfever Season

Spring is here. The temperature has reached 20°C last week and I had an occasional sneeze. Today though, my nose started running. Bah! I usually suffer twice, once in April and once in August.

I’m guessing that means I’m allergic to Birch pollen?

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2015-04-12 Bhutan


Claudia ist zurück gekommen und hat fast tausend Bilder mitgebracht. Nach und nach werden wir ein paar davon auf Flickr veröffentlichen.


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2015-04-11 Buying CDs

Today I was in a real, physical CD shop, browsing CDs. I looked at the albums with works by Arvo Pärt. I looked at recordings of historical organs. I wondered about ancient music by Jordi Savall. About liturgical music. And then I didn’t want to ask the sales people for advice and decided I’d look stuff up online, when I’m back home. That’s how far removed from I already am from the act of buying physical CDs in a real shop. I can’t even take advantage of the one thing that sets it apart from the experience of shopping online. Talking to a real human being.

My father in law, on the other hand, seemed to browse the new sections for Jazz, added a new CD by András Schiff, did not listen into anything. Had he heard of new releases on the radio? Was he looking for familiar names? Did he trust the shop owner’s taste?

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Comments on 2015-04-11 Buying CDs

Did you ask him?

– Sean 2015-04-11 15:15 UTC

Alex Schroeder
No, I started thinking about this on my way home. Something I definitely need to do!

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-11 16:46 UTC

Alex Schroeder
Note to self: “Silencio is a meditative collection of 20th-century works for string orchestra, including works by Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and Vladimir Martynov.”

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-11 20:35 UTC

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2015-04-08 Notwist

Albums I’m currently listening to:

Any recommendations for sad music?

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2015-04-06 Mass Effect

So, I had a little Easter Convention at our place this weekend. On Saturday we played Darkening Skies by Chris Sakkas, an unofficial chapter two for Lady Blackbird by John Harper. On Sunday we played the Mass Effect Fate RPG by Don Mappin et al. If you know nothing about Mass Effect, you might want to look at the Mass Effect page on Wikipedia.

We had decided upon Mass Effect on Saturday evening so I spent maybe an hour or two reading the rules. On Sunday morning, I spent an hour or two looking for adventure ideas online. Let all past and future sages praise the fabulous Mass Effect Wiki. I finally settled on the events described in Mass Effect: Revelation. I had one player who still wants to play the game and so I felt prequel stuff made good material.

The prep I did was this:

  • print enough empty character sheets; the character sheets available for download are form fillable which is great but I didn’t feel like I could create characters in what little time I had left – we were going to spend nearly two hours creating Fate characters including back story and common adventures, the complete package
  • print a copy of the one page reference guide for everybody; excellent call!
  • print two copies of the ranged weapon list for kicks
  • print the power cards: thirty something pages, ugh!
  • print a list of ten names for every species and gender using the Mass Effect Fantasy Name Generators
  • take notes based on my wiki reading on a graph

My notes:


As you can see, I didn’t get to the stats at the end. The PDF has templates for enemies at three different thread levels. Excellent! I had seen the templates for Blue Suns mercenaries, Human Ruffians and a Krogan Battlemaster, so I felt certain I could improvise whatever came my way.

If you read the wiki you’ll note that the story starts as two different threads, one following Saren to Juxhi, the other following Anderson to Elysium and both ending up at the Dah’tan manufacturing plant for a showdown with Skarr. I took notes the way I did because I wanted the players to have the choice to investigate any of the different paths. In the end, they discovered that the Turian thieves had handed over the stolen weapons to some human weapon dealers and decided not to follow the trail to Juxhi but spent some time finding their employers, the Blue Suns, and following that lead via a bar looking like Afterlife in Omega, where Aria runs the show, until they finally tracked down Edan Had’dah at the Dah’tan manufacturing plant. That’s when they learned that the Blue Suns were going to attack Sidon. They sent warning and evacuated the survivors a few days later. Then they went back to the local Blue Suns headquarter and tried to force them into an agreement. No more stealing from Turian freighters, as their mission demanded. A fight ensued, which the Blue Suns eventually conceded and all was resolved in the players favor. There were some hints of things to come, the Sovereign, the Geth, Protheans.

I was happy with the plot. At first I thought I’d need more maps or pictures, but in the end Fate isn’t a map based game and the video game may have a lot of map-oriented shooting but the story itself doesn’t really depend on maps. It’s just interesting locations and systems. This worked very well.

Character generation took a long time but one of my players had never played a Fate game before and she liked the character creation system. I had A6 index cards on which they wrote beginning, middle and end of three adventures, and that really worked.

I was unhappy with the fight. Should I have used just one heavy hitting boss and a ton of mooks? I used a “moderate threat” mercenary for every player (Guns +3) and a boss (Guns +5) and the players were all veterans (apex skill at +5), It took a long time for shields to go down. Luckily I remembered making concessions is part of the game and broke it off after the third mercenary went down. As I’ve said a few years ago, I don't like bennies (or Fate points). This cushions the entire experience and invalidates it, as far as I am concerned. When we talked about it after the game, we all agreed on the difference between heroic deeds and Hollywood action. It just isn’t a “sacrifice” if you have a enough Fate points to cushion the blow. Jörg then suggested the perhaps this would change over time. If we played a longer campaign, the aspects would grow in importance. Players would compel each other. We’d start taking an interested in those particular aspects and we’d want to see how characters grow and change. Perhaps!

Before starting the fight I also made sure people had the necessary shields, armor and weapons based on their abilities. In the rules, any of Resources, Leadership, Rapport, Contacts or Security allows you to buy, steal or borrow equipment. And so we made sure they all had the necessary equipment before going into the one and only fight of the session.

I have always liked the Diaspora rules. In 2010 I ran a short lived campaign where we moved from Traveller to Diaspora. Unfortunately I had missed the document Hacking Diaspora to Mass Effect. That would have been around 100 pages instead of around 250 pages. Perhaps that would have worked better? It would have been less crunchy, perhaps!


Comments on 2015-04-06 Mass Effect

Alex Schroeder
Some interesting comments on Google+:

Jack Gulick says, it comes down to “if you want Fate to be a game about hard choices, force a lot of hard choices.” … Don’t let your other-RPGs instincts to keep things “fair” and “possible” get in the way.”

Robert Hanz adds, One of the things that’s still a hard habit for me to break is the fact that good GMing in Fate would qualify as Being a Dick in most other games.

Sarah Newton has very pragmatic advice: My sweet spot for combat is 3-5 rounds. Giving the major NPC any kind of damage bonus makes him nasty - anything that can force a consequence on every hit by overloading the PCs stress tracks makes him very scary and something to avoid. You can then unbalance the PCs my using the minor NPCs mobs more for the attritional wearing down of stress, leaving them in a dilemma as to where to spend their fate points.

Robert Hanz also has a separate post where he goes into the problems a traditional gamer might have when they begin playing Fate. I felt that the middle in particular did some excellent bridge building. He argues that you should make it hard for the players and not hold back because the worst case is not a total party kill. It’s just a different kind of story that will emerge. He says when I see questions like “how do I make sure a fight is challenging, without having the players lose”, my answer is “who cares?” Make it tough. Let them buy their way out of it and carry those consequences. Or let them lose, and let the story go that way.

Now I’m searching the forum for Robert Hanz’s series Fate Core Thought of the Day, e.g. Fiction First, Fiction-Rules Interaction, and Nonsensical Results.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-06

Alex Schroeder
Follow up discussion here.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-08 06:34 UTC

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2015-04-04 Revenge Porn

I’ve seen a few posts in my Google+ stream happy with the 18 years a revenge porn guy got. They linked to news items like this Revenge Porn" Defendant Sentenced to 18 Years, “Kevin Bollaert was found guilty of posting sexually explicit photos of women online to extort them.”

I’m happy revenge porn guy gets punished. Fuck him! But, as I live in a country where a life sentence means 25 years (17 years if you behave well in prison), 18 years seems incredibly harsh. Well, at least he’s “eligible for parole after 10 years” as reported by the same news article.

I’m unaware of a similar case here in Switzerland. I’ll have to ask my wife. She’s the expert when it comes to crime and punishment in the family. :)

I looked at a few of the Facebook comments below the article and saw a few comments regarding revenge porn guys inadequate expression of remorse. I’m always suspicious when the punishment depends on the punished showing adequate remorse or some other reaction that depends on their social graces. If they have none, if the convicted are emotionally stunted, do they deserve harsher punishment?

I just looked at Art. 156 of the Swiss Criminal Code.


  1. Any person who, with a view to securing an unlawful gain for himself or for another, induces another person by using violence or the threat of seriously detrimental consequences to behave in such a way that he or another sustains financial loss is liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding five years or to a monetary penalty.
  2. If the offender acts for commercial gain, or if he repeatedly commits the offence against the same person, he is liable to a custodial sentence of from one to ten years.
  3. If the offender uses violence against another or if he threatens another with an immediate danger to life and limb, a penalty in accordance with Article 140 hereof is imposed.
  4. If the offender threatens to endanger the life and limb of a large number of persons or to cause serious damage to property in which there is a substantial public interest, he is liable to a custodial sentence of not less than one year.

I’m not sure what would happen if a person is convicted of multiple cases of extortion. I’m guessing that in Switzerland, Kevin Bollaert would have gotten ten years at most, eligible for parole after ⅔ of that.

What about the ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends, I wonder. Somebody sent those pictures to revenge porn sites. Shouldn’t they all get punished as well? It may not be extortion but I’m sure it’s something. Maybe Art. 177 is appropriate?


  1. Any person who attacks the honour of another verbally, in writing, in pictures, through gestures or through acts of aggression is liable on complaint to a monetary penalty not exceeding 90 daily penalty units.
  2. If the insulted party has directly provoked the insult by improper behaviour, the court may dispense with imposing a penalty on the offender.
  3. If there is an immediate response to the insult by way of a retaliatory insult or act of aggression, the court may dispense with imposing a penalty on either or both offenders.

A “daily penalty unit” depends on the punished’s personal finances and can go up to $3000, as seen in Art. 34 of the Swiss Criminal Code.

Monetary penalty


  1. Unless the law provides otherwise, a monetary penalty amounts to a maximum of 360 daily penalty units. The court decides on the number according to the culpability of the offender.
  2. A daily penalty unit amounts to a maximum of 3000 francs. The court decides on the value of the daily penalty unit according to the personal and financial circumstances of the offender at the time of conviction, and in particular according to his income and capital, living expenses, any maintenance or support obligations and the minimum subsistence level.
  3. The authorities of the Confederation, the cantons and the communes shall provide the information required to determine the daily penalty unit.
  4. The number and value of the daily penalty units must be stated in the judgment.


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2015-04-02 Other People

Today I saw two posts on Google+ I found interesting. In the first, Rob said that he would like to finance a zine in order to get all the news but not “the Internet”. I said that back when we all just had websites and used ftp to post new stuff the Internet was a peaceful place! :)

I wonder about browser extension that hides all the comments, everywhere. I think those are the source of all grief. Yes, it’s sad! I know of the Herp Derp extension for YouTube. I’m sure there are others! https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/herp-derp-for-youtube/ioomnmgjblnnolpdgdhebainmfbipjoh

In another post, people were discussing how we react to provocative posts by others. What if they disabled comments? Are we happy because it saves us from wasting our energy? Are we incensed because the medium implies that we’ll only post what we’re also willing to discuss? That’s certainly how I feel! For myself, this is my daily Google+ challenge: not to post any political stuff. For if I did, I wouldn’t want to read the counterpoints. I still feel the need to rant, though! What to do? Because I also hate posts where I cannot comment, I don’t want to post and disable comments. My solution is to keep the political stuff on Twitter. There, I retweet a lot. Or I’ll write a few well chosen words, add a link and post it. If I’m interested in reading the opinions of others, I can follow them on Twitter and read the stuff they link to. Perfect! I remember people saying that 140 characters was not enough. But now I’m seeing that on G+, having more characters doesn’t improve the experience of politics and religion.

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2015-04-02 Ostern


Für Ostern sieht es im Moment wie folgt aus:

Samstag Sonntag
Jörg Jörg
Michi Michi
Sam Sam
Miae Miae

Zur Verfügung steht:

  • die Games on Demand Liste:
    • Lady Blackbird (eigenes System, Steampunk)
    • Mountain Witch (eigenes System, Fantasy Japan, Spieler gegen Spieler)
    • In A Wicked Age (eigenes System, Fantasy Zweistromland, Spieler gegen Spieler)
    • Western City (eigenes System, Western, ohne Spielleiter)
    • Isotope (eigenes System, postapokalyptisch)
    • Der Geist Mesopotamiens (Fate Variante, klassische Mythologie)
    • Labyrinth Lord (D&D aus den 80er Jahren, Retro, EDO Fantasy) – hier würden wir wohl den Megadungeon The Castle of the Mad Archmage erforschen, wie meine Mittwochsgruppe (EDO Fantasy)
  • A Red and Pleasant Land (D&D aus den 80er Jahren, Retro, Alice im Wunderland, Fantasy)
  • Das Schwarze Auge (DSA aus den 80er Jahren, Made in Germany, Retro, EDO Fantasy)
  • Sagas of the Icelanders (mehr Info, Powered by the Apocalypse, historisch)
  • Colonial Marines (Aliens, Science Fiction)
  • Traveller (Science Fiction aus den 70er Jahren)
  • Diaspora (Fate, Science Fiction)

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