Blogs

These articles are about running blogs and the writing of blog posts.

As for reading blogs, all my gaming related blogs are on the RPG Planet; any other blogs I’m interested in are on my reading list.

2021-03-27 Blogosphere

Yeah, another list of links to blog posts I liked, inspired by the read through of @jmettraux’s End of Week Links 13. Like John, I get my links from the RPG Planet. Please join us, if you haven’t already.

Since I’m running a Traveller campaign, I was interested in some Traveller-related blog posts.

Classic Traveller skills are more like professions at The Viking Hat GM: «An inclusive rather than exclusive view means shorter skill lists in a game - you don’t need to list every trivial thing humans can do when you can handwave most of it as basic life skills - and also on the character sheet. You will see too a difference in play at the table. When every possible skill is listed, as the GM says, “And what do you do?” everyone looks down to their character sheet … RPGs are a social way to be creative with friends, and shorter skill lists and briefer character sheets encourage more creativity among players, and more socialising. They talk to each-other rather than looking at their character sheets. Play becomes more interesting.»

I can see it working both ways: either you use as few skills as possible, specially not for social interactions. But I know this is a controversial area. In my blog post Role Play, not Wish Fulfilment I argue that if you’re not a charming player, I think it’s OK for you not to play a charming character. In other words, just like a fearful player who wishes to play a courageous hero by cannot bring themselves to put their character into the front rank cannot be the thing they wish because they are not acting their part, a monosyllabic player who wishes to be a socialite cannot be the thing they wish because they cannot bring themselves to play the role. In this way, the role-playing I like is a bit like an acting skill: over the years, I hope you’ll get better at it. I hope I get better at it. Of course, the line is drawn arbitrarily. There’s no reason for the fantasy to be sexist and cruel, and that is a kind of wish fulfilment, of course. There’s no reason for the player of a fighter to be a good fighter, and that’s a kind of wish fulfilment. The reason I think I’m OK with it is that first of all, most of us are not good fighters, and second, if their descriptions of fighting is lame, we can at least roll dice and move on. But if we do this for all interactions as well, then we’re going to roll more and more dice until I just don’t enjoy the game anymore. So yeah, that line is going to be different for everybody. I’m just saying where my line is. And just because I favour this kind of play doesn’t mean I’m opposed to all other kinds of play. I really liked Sean Nittner’s and Judd Karlman’s Actual Play podcast (see 2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play) where they use Burning Wheel. There, the Duel of Wits is a way to resolve social conflict using dice, and it works in the context of a game where every roll ties into advancement, into your beliefs, your traits, and so on. Here, immersion is achieved not by forgetting the rules and just talking at the table but by using the rules to suffer setbacks and defeats (and triumphs, eventually) in areas your characters care about.

The Viking Hat GM has more, though: “But as with so many game systems, the author got it more-or-less right the first time. And so we play Classic Traveller. Classic Traveller, most especially Books 1-3, like AD&D1e, RuneQuest 1e and the like, is a good system because not despite the fact that it is incomplete. You fill in the blanks.” – CT: Books 1-3 - You fill in the blanks!

Together, these two posts reminded me of something I had recently posted myself: the skills these Traveller characters have are based on their past careers: Electronics, Mechanics, Computers, and a ton of weapon training, and some obscure things like driving tracked vehicles or acting as a forward observer for orbital artillery, and then they are dropped into a world of crooks, smugglers, narcs, and they are absolutely unprepared for a life of crime in a deadly world where well aimed shots can take you out.

This is underscored by yet another post I liked by The Viking GM, Conflict: Surprise & Initiative: “The unfortunate truth is that there really only three kinds of combats: Ambush! - all of you live, all of them die. Ambushed! - all of you die, all of them live. Stand-up fight - everyone dies.” What a summary!

That, in turn, led me via The Wandering Gamist’s Truer Combat as War and Chocolate Hammer's Boot Hill Campaign to Rutskarn’s Boot Hill and the Fear of Dice: “You want players to be prudent, ambitious, ruthless, calculating, paranoid. You want them to respect their enemies and balance alliances carefully. Above all you want the constant, thrilling tension wrought by a high-stakes duel of wits: a deadly game where a single misstep in a dark alley could end an entire dynasty.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? If the game is deadly, and combat is a mistake unless you’ve rigged the stakes to favour you as much as possible, then that’s what I like: I like to make the decision of when to fight, now the minutiae of how to fight. As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy if combat ends in two rounds. Yeah, picking up old threads from 2021-03-10 Blogosphere, again.

At the same time, the end effect of that ends up being that the players talk to everybody and prefer not to shoot, and after a while you realise: they’re not fighting because everything is dangerous, they’re not rolling dice for talking because there are no social skills in the game, so that’s it. It’s all talking.

And that in turn reminded me of some older blog posts at the Tales to Astound blog, like Casual and Improvisatory Nature of Early Traveller Play: “More talking than shooting – The session does feature some combat, but it occurs near the end when, after interacting with the natives for some time, the players finally realize that the natives are cannibals and see the PCs as a new source of protein. What the players don’t do is waltz into the caverns with FGMPs, battledress, and itchy trigger fingers ready to slag anything that moves. Even when the encounter with the natives slowly deteriorates, the players prefer to Jaw, jaw, jaw rather than War, war, war. The guns – and the dice – only come out when the players need to secure their retreat to the surface and then, rather than burn the caverns to the ground, they only use enough force to escape.”

There’s more in this follow-up post from the same blog, An Improvised Classic Traveller Convention Game. This time it’s not about the need to avoid combat in a lethal system but in how improvised a lot of the game is. I guess that’s the direction I want my own gaming to move towards: my goal is to “daydream” about the setting, write down some notes, names, some forces ready to clash as soon as the player characters appear, and that’s it. Almost no prep is also almost no wasted prep. 😁

That “Classic Traveller Out of the Box” blog post series is great. Just recently, one of my players sent me a link to An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part I). «Keep in mind that I don’t think Classic Traveller has a Skill System. It has a Throw system (throw 2D6, equal or beat a number, add DMs from a variety of sources (skills, characteristics, and circumstances). Not everything Throw has a Skill DM. … Because it we have a system for Referee saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Roll these 2D6 and we’ll find out what happened.” All sorts of modifiers can come into play depending on what the roll is about. It is a universal system that looks like it has not system!» Note that the blog post also discusses the “Free Kriegsspiel” idea. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

Anyway, all that Traveller talk reminded me of old blog posts in Richard’s Dystopian Pokeverse, like The implicit game in original Traveller’s ship loan rules: “the entry level offer for a high-performing merchant captain is a shipyard loan on a new-built Free Trader: capital cost 36-37 MegaCr at 6.2% interest, working out to a monthly payment of 150,000 Cr – roughly equivalent to room and board for 500 average Imperial citizens or 6 mail contracts to different systems, meaning you’d need a 6-week month to break even as a mail carrier.” Which is how you end up with a ton of mercenary work, narcotics, weapon smuggling, and so on. The honest way of life doesn’t pay in Traveller.

All of this then had me ready to think about other games. @jmettraux had me covered, linking to Links for Designing PbtA TTRPGs (where “PbtA” means “Powered by the Apocalypse”, usually referring to rolling something like 2d6 with very high results meaning a success, medium results meaning a complication, and low results meaning bad stuff heapens, and “TTRPG” meaning “Table Top Role-Playing Games”), which in turn linked to Simple World, which is a PDF that looks like a game but is actually a document telling you how to customise the basic rules to create a “Powered by the Apocalypse” game. It’s a super cool procedure to customise a procedural game! 😁

And John also has a post about Hnefatafl, and Freies Kriegsspiel in real life, and a link to cave maps, and a link to How the Germans Defined Auftragstaktik: What Mission Command is - AND - is Not in the Small Wars Journal, and a follow-up for readers of French, Ensemble tout devient plus lent, at La voie de l’épée, on ordering people around.

The Simple World post also reminded me of a super basic B/X document without spells, monsters, or classes – just people, if I understand it correctly. A foundation for your own game, perhaps. Quintessential BX, David Perry, at Lithyscaphe.

More cool links… Wow, this post is long.

“It is about characters’ inner struggles, and interpersonal struggles, and societal struggles, and that is broadly encoded in the Karma mechanic, but not by genre. It is about problem-solving, but less so in the sense of logic puzzles and resource management, and more in how you confront these weird and inexplicable circumstances- it’s more a creative challenge. I guess it’s more of a life challenge, if again I may be so pretentious.” It sounds weird. 🤔 Tabletop RPGs as Performance Art, at Weird & Wonderful Worlds.

Grymlorde quotes from Scientific American Supplement No. 586, 1887: “Torches consist of a bundle of loosely twisted threads which has been immersed in a mixture formed of two parts, by weight, of beeswax, eight of resin, and one of tallow. In warm, dry weather, these torches when lighted last for two hours when at rest, and for an hour and a quarter on a march. A good light is obtained by spacing them 20 or 30 yards apart.” – Torches through the editions & Real World

A blog post about reviews. I didn’t read it all, it was very wordy, but I found the comments very interesting: What's Broken: Reviews. As for myself, I stopped doing reviews when I realized that they were always hopelessly out of date as I wanted to run all the adventures before reviewing them. And people convinced me that talking about the things we don’t like is a waste of time. Life is short. Talk about the things you love. Do we need “a review culture to guide consumers”? Maybe not. But then again, I’m on the record with claiming that we also don’t need much of a market… For the controversial take, see 2020-02-14 Unprofessional.

Anyway, back to links…

«Everything can speak and understand Common. That’s Everything with a capital “E”, in the sense that everything a person could interact with (vegetable, animal, and mineral) can talk. Anything can have a discussion. … Caves of Qud, which allows you to attempt to talk and trade with most things, plants and pond fish included. They make poor traders and conversationalists. Still, being able to say: “Live and drink, aquafriend.” is a pretty significant bit of worldbuilding.» Everything Can Listen, But Nothing Wants to Talk, Goodberry Monthly.

“The game is well written and has a lot of charm. It has the level of complexity I was looking for. It is a great game to play with children and I think my children would also be able to play it on their own.” Playing Das Schwarze Auge after 37 Years, by Herr Zinnling. It’s what I started with! 😀

As an interesting tidbit circling back to social skills and my example with the fearful player and the courageous character: Das Schwarze Auge has a Courage attribute which might force your character to charge or accept a challenge even though the player might not want to. A bit like those traits in King Arthur Pendragon: knights have multiple traits that come in opposing pairs such as just vs. arbitrary and usually whenever you increase one, the other decreases; these traits sometimes get used to determine what the character does in spite of what the player might wish.

Comments on 2021-03-27 Blogosphere

I think the best example of Classic Traveller’s “do it yourself” nature is the conspicuous absence of laser pistols. There are even laser carbines which are, if I’m not misremembering, just a worse version of the laser rifle, barely cheaper and at the the same tech level - as if to say “You want a laser pistol? Have useless stats for a laser carbine instead! Let’s see if you can put two and two together and repurpose them.” Because in my experience, once you’ve hacked the rules once, it becomes easy to do it again and again - which I think is the whole point of CT.

– Malcolm 2021-03-28 08:08 UTC


Haha, yes! I guess Marc Miller thought: how is poking holes into people using lasers different from poking holes into people using metal slugs?

“While technology will certainly progress in the centuries that come, it will also remain a fact that one of the surest ways to injure or kill an adversary is to subject him or her to a large dose of kinetic energy; the simplest way to deliver that energy to someone is with bullet impact.” (The Traveller Book, p. 48)

I guess the only benefit would be lack of recoil.

“Virtually all weapons have recoil (except laser carbines and laser rifles) and in a zero·G environment this recoil can disorient or render helpless individuals not trained to compensate for it.” (ibid)

Then again, I don’t remember a single zero G scene in all of Star Wars… 😀

– Alex 2021-03-28 09:29 UTC


Thanks for these lists. I really love these curated and commented links! 😍

There is so much interesting content floating around waiting to be found.

– Ludos Curator 2021-03-31 08:16 UTC


Thanks! More at Seed of Worlds.

– Alex 2021-03-31 12:31 UTC

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2021-03-26 The Bliki Spirit

A question for people that have been running their own personal wikis for a few years: do you publish it? If you do, has it devolved into a bliki, i.e. does it have “day pages” and therefore a temporal (blog) nature instead of the wiki now?

All I can say is that my wiki turned into a bliki and then turned into a blog... I wonder how one would push back against this, or whether it is unavoidable.

@zudn and @stvltvs wondered about the fit. I’d say it works quite well for me with the following tweaks:

  • start blog pages with iso date
  • collect the ten latest on the front page
  • offer a feed for just blog pages
  • allow images in some form

Comments are optional, but just in case I offer comment pages with a form that allows easy appending of text.

To be more precises: the date is removed from titles on the feed to look more like a blog feed. The comment pages are regular pages that you can also edit (including editing the comments of other people, easy despamming, and so on). The image pages are simply regular pages that contain an image instead of text, that is they have a full revision history and aren’t treated as separate “attachments” to a page.

I guess my original point however is once you start doing that, and you do a lot of it, isn’t that just a blog? Where is the wiki nature in that? Perhaps the only thing that remains is “editing blog pages in public, maybe for a long time; page history and recent changes tell the full story”. That’s not bad. But it’s seems like very little wiki spirit.

Comments on 2021-03-26 The Bliki Spirit

I think refactoring and synthesis is at the crux of what makes good wikis wikis. If you’re primarily writing for yourself, it can be tough to motivate yourself to do this. I think it’s akin to documenting code. You might do it more carefully, if you know other folks are engaging with it.

I also wonder how big of a role latency plays. I use the Bear app for Mac as my personal wiki / blog, very similar to what you’re doing here, and I find myself refactoring often. I think it’s because it’s very fast compared to editing a wiki page, although it may also be because it’s private, so I don’t worry at all about it making sense to anyone else.

Eugene Eric Kim 2021-03-27 16:09 UTC


It’s an interesting question. I see the point about latency. My recent experiments with the Gemini protocol, markup, and dedicated clients (one of them being very well integrated into Emacs), also seem to show that lower latency is very appealing. Perhaps that is a general human tendency: to hate lag. I wonder whether that’s all to it, though.

Other element, beyond laziness and drag avoidance:

The mindset of a record keeper. When writing about a project, I like to maintain that sense of history. When did I think this, and when did I change my mind, and see how simple it was back then. I don’t think I want to overwrite this completely. The layers of history are a value in themselves.

The mindset of a publisher. As somebody who writes to be read, by readers and not by community members, I try to use short titles that work like titles of traditional publications, not as key phrases of smashed together words that I will reuse as a concept. Related: PatternLanguage, LinkLanguage, AccidentalLinking, WikiOrBlog.

I think that tag pages sometimes do this for me, in a very, very rudimentary way. I guess you could check out Wikis and find my current ideas by looking at the last ten blog posts. Not a very good solution, unfortunately. I could rework the page, though... But then I’m essentially limiting the “real wiki pages” on this site to the two dozen or so tags that I actually use (as opposed to the tags that I have used at least once).

Actually, now that I look at the tag cloud, I don’t think it has any merit at all. What would be the point of starting there… And even if you do, the links go to tag searches, not pages such as Wikis, Blogs, RPG, and so on (since capitalisation is important).

– Alex 2021-03-28


Coming back to this a day later, I wonder whether a lot of my thoughts on the wiki to blog transformation were driven by the perceived need for a feed, for non-community members.

The feed. This is important because it has a few properties that don’t match well with wikis: the feed item should tell it’s own story. So it’s not the diff for the wiki page; it’s the paragraphs you added, with some context. Essentially, a well crafted wiki edit would have to be rewritten as a well crafted micro blog post to make a good summary. And micro-blogging seems to be the right model, here: the text summary of a wiki edit has no markup, no paragraphs, a size limit. In short (hah!) it’s a lot of extra work.

Non-community members. I already mentioned the kind of wiki word magic in my previous comment, so I don’t want to dwell on that. There’s more to it, though: if your wiki is public and not written for it’s own community, then there are none of the usual shortcuts available. You cannot leverage jargon, context. Or perhaps you can, if you’re OK with your site being idiosyncratic in the way that some of them are, like Devine Lu Linvega’s site. I think it’s telling that his site has a Recent Changes page, but the public face for 100 Rabbits, and Rek & Devine, is a more traditional blog.

– Alex 2021-03-29 08:06 UTC

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2021-03-10 Blogosphere

Thinking about excellent blog links again...


A super cool post on how to run combat, OSR style, by James Young: How To Run Combat. After reading it, my main take away is that my monsters should try to wrestle players a lot more!


A post by Delta: Running Mass Fights in Classic D&D He says, “it’s pretty common to encounter bands of malicious bandits, brigands, or humanoids numbering in the hundreds.” How do you deal with them? Evasion, ranged combat (how to deal with a rain of arrows), killing leaders, and so on.


“Every Wednesday morning I wake up with a sense of dread, remembering that on top of everything else I have to do that day I somehow have to run a game in the evening. Every Wednesday afternoon I seriously consider calling the session off. But every Wednesday night I sit down and log in and everything actually goes fine.” Failing better: a GMing retrospective, a super interesting retrospective by Joseph Manola. Makes me want to go through my own games and think about the things I learned.


Sandra Snan writing about verbal components in The Old Verbal Components reminds me of my unfinished dream of adding Sumerian spell names (serving as verbal components) for all the spells in my book. I failed at that. Perhaps one day there’s “fantasy Deepl for some lost language and D&D like spells”. Or some other way to translate English spells to some dead language. My favourite blog post on this still is Elf & Magic-User Sumerian Spell Names / Command Words for Labyrinth Lord by Samwise7RPG.


How not to be a game designer by Craig Maloney. A topic that’s been important to me for a long time: “I’ve done most of my designs when I let these self-inflicted restrictions go. I’ve lowered my expectations to please only one customer: me. Sure, this is not a great way to build a business but it has the added benefit of not having to do market research (I know the target market: me). Once I pulled back from the notion of building a business and making game design a full-time career (yes, this is a notion that I’ve flirted with and realized that I’m 20+ years too late to effectively do this) more possibilities became apparent to me.”


“I wrote up a little “hello world” brawl in Traveller5”, by Wanderer Bill, in Getting to know Traveller 5.


“When players feel like they can die, … then the game is tense and exciting. … one of the biggest obstacles to tension, especially at higher levels, is Hit Points. … If a Level 10 Fighter is attacked by a swarm of Goblins armed with d6 knives, he has nothing to worry about, as he has 60 HP.” Why you should cap Hit Points, by Yami Bakura. My unpopular opinion on the topic: add save or die attacks and level drain to the game. Or more generally: try to aim for combat that is just two rounds long. If it takes longer, the previous rounds were probably boring. It’s the last round that makes all the difference. Now, capping hit points and/or levels is an option, certainly. In my Halberds and Helmets game, I cap at character level 10 simply because all my recent campaigns have ended before getting there. But I also add save or die and level drain, for added excitement. This is how low hit points are not the sole source of terror at the table.


“… it makes those low modifiers very significant, especially when it comes to opposed rolls … I’m using opposed rolls for grappling in unarmed combat and giving a +1 modifier for being large sized. … This would have resulted in each group having at least one unarmed boccord specialist in it, i.e. a half-giant professional wrestler. That game sounds amazing, but it’s not the game I’m trying to design.” Ben L. is writing about skills in A Simple 2d6 Skill System, but all I can think of is every party bringing a half-giant professional wrestler to the table. What a wonderful tie-in to my interest in wrestling based on James Young’s post, above. But it also ties in with my interest in Traveller and in 2d6 systems in general, and my attempt at designing one, Just Halberds.


A long discussion of the changes made from AD&D 1st ed to AD&D 2nd ed in A Historical Look at the OSR — Part III. I also liked the previous parts of the series. As for my own AD&D experience… At the the time we simply decided that 2nd was obviously better than 1st and so we switched. We were 15 or 16 years old, living in Switzerland, not reading any fanzines, no Dungeon or Dragon magazines, no Usenet, and we bought no adventures. All I do remember is that the rules were confusing and we never used them all, and yet we thought them the best.


“I believe that the skeleton of Classic Traveller can bear the muscle of just about any genre or setting you’d like to tackle.” says Forrest Aguirre in The Simplest RPG System Out of This World, which I found via Via John Mettraux’s end-of-week links, Eow Links 9. And that led to me to read Stargazer’s interview with Marc Miller from 2017. And then there’s the Classic Traveller Out of The Box blog series, of course. But I’m running out of time and need to prepare breakfast…


Aside:

As I’m sitting here, generating random characters for Traveller, I get a distinct Dogs in the Vineyard feeling: the characters are singularly unequipped for the actual tasks they are up again. Perhaps that is the secret sauce of many RPGs. You get characters suited for combat in one form or another, and you put them in a world were armed conflict is for losers, and then you watch them struggle with their lack of social skills, escalating to violence when it’s uncalled for.

And that makes me think of life in general, where we are often unable to affect the changes we want in the people we talk to. And I guess then one wonders: would violence solve this problem? And of course it doesn’t (for most of us, luckily). I tell others interested martial arts this all the time: who cares about “efficient” or “street” fighting. No! Run away, if you can, always! Even if you “win” you’ll go to jail and face endless time in court and who wants that if you can just run away?

And so we get to the RPG trope where violence actually does work, most of the time, because players and referees and designers usually wish that it would. Anyway, that’s what I’m suspecting, when I look at my classic D&D or classic Traveller characters, haha. How singularly unprepared they are, and how this is a strange mirror showing us the world we live in, in a way.


“Humans are very contemptuous of orcs. They are brutes, never shying away from any cruelty. And they are warmongers, always divided against each other, always plunging headlong into another meaningless war of succession. This is very similar to how myconids view humans.” Myconids, by Arnold K. Love it!


Here’s more about wrestling and grappling: “A grappling attempt, … If you succeed, your opponent may spend their round trying to escape … or trying to hurt you… or, if they’re holding a dagger, they can attempt, as you were attempting, a killing blow … Killing Blow: Another contested grappling roll. If you succeed, your opponent must save vs. death or be killed instantly. If they make their save vs. death, you merely do the usual 1d4 dagger damage.” Making Daggers A Deadly Option, by Graphite Prime. I my game, I just use 1d6 for all weapons. But now I keep thinking about wrestling. King Arthur’s Pendragon also had it!

Then again, D&D 3.5 also had it, and we always made fun of the rules, even as we used them. They were too complicated, compared to the ones we had for simple attacks. That is an important consideration. Don’t add back all the complications the designers of your game didn’t add to regular attacks. Grappling should involve the same amount of decisions, look-ups, dice rolls, and fear as regular attacks, I think.


😭 “The vast majority, 93%, of survey respondents were male. The most commonly self-reported ethnicity was white (90%), with Latino at a distant second (2%). As the survey was online, respondents could have been answering the questions from anywhere in the world. The majority of them were from within the United States (73%), with Western European residents second (14%), followed by residents in North America outside of the United States (5.5%), …” Motivations of Hobby Game Players, by CarrieLynn Reinhard and Brant Guillory (2018).


“Next in my series of capsule reviews of weird non-fiction books from my library that would be useful in running RPGs: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits: A bestiary of fairies, demons, and other mystical creatures from around the world.” Weird Books for Gamers VII: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits, by Polyhedral Nonsense. I have that book! 😁


“At a minimum, the basics should address the subsector map, interstellar government, and local technological levels. As needed, the referee may add more basics to the campaign, … local organizations of importance, world and local laws, history, and other foundations. With the basics available, it is possible to set any mundane adventure without further preparation. The only problem is that such adventures will be mundane; there is no real spirit of excitement behind them.” A fair warning. This is from The Traveller Book (1981), p. 125.


And that’s it. Older recommendations: 2021-02-06 Blogosphere

Comments on 2021-03-10 Blogosphere

Regarding “Motivations of Hobby Game Players”, by CarrieLynn. Perhaps the numbers have little to do with attempts to recruit other groups and more to do with there being something about the mundane white middle class America that makes folks wish they were somewhere else doing something more adventurous. I suspect Comic Book and Sci Fi fandom has similar numbers for similar reasons. I think the Punk scene in the 70s came out of similar social angst.

Ruprecht 2021-03-10 14:04 UTC


I don’t know how one would determine the root causes of the gender and race imbalance. Here in Switzerland, I can’t say much about race. I simply have no idea.

As for gender... I’ve been wondering whether boys playing with toys is something our culture fosters: knives, hammers, chisels, soldering irons, and later playing cards, dice, board games, computer games, and finally role-playing games. Perhaps because girls used to have less freedom, culturally bound for the kitchen and household chores; perhaps because boys used to be considered more suited for vice like gambling; perhaps because women in general are expected to perform the emotional labour of maintaining family relations, dealing with social fallout, raising the kids, placating the old, and networking with neighbours; perhaps men grow up emotionally stunted in small ways that make them appreciate make-believe social life a little more. That’s certainly a pattern I can see in my own life. But no matter what the underlying reasons, I think if the numbers are true, it definitely is a reason for regret. I wish it weren’t so.

I can’t say whether the numbers are a reflection of truth because I have no idea about self-selection (a survey in English, online... that alone will skew results) but I do know that women are rare in my own gaming groups. And once again, that could be because of something I’m doing, personally, or it could be something the locals here are doing, socially, but either way, I find it to be a cause for regret. I wish it weren’t so.

I really think we don’t really know what the causes are and assume that they are similar to all the causes for gender imbalance elsewhere. Sexism in a thousand different ways both big and small resulting in a culture that skews things in regretful ways. Patriarchy, a curse on all our houses.

– Alex 2021-03-10 14:40 UTC


Eow Links 11, by John Mettraux, has more recommended reading for you.

– Alex 2021-03-13


And I’m finding more people doing it! I love this! ♥

Shiny TTRPG links collection #8, by Xaosseed.

– Alex 2021-03-15 10:19 UTC

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2021-02-06 Blogosphere

Advice from the Blogosphere 2020, by Anne, on DIY & Dragons. There is nothing I have to add. I wish I had kept up my note keeping on good blog posts.

I sometimes post links to my RPG Mastodon account, @kensanata. I usually include a small quote. In honour of Anne’s post, I’ll trawl my own account for links I recently posted. It’s better than nothing, I guess.

And I’d love to see you on Mastodon. 😄


“Advice from the Blogosphere 2020: So, last year, I started what I hope will become a tradition for myself by posting about my favorite links from the previous year. I built this collection of links as I saw them throughout the year, with an emphasis on saving posts that gave advice about how to do things.” – Advice from the Blogosphere 2020, by Anne, on DIY & Dragons


I like this concept: pick a random PDF file from your folder and write a short review. So I read a few very short reviews, and followed the link to an older blog post in the same category. The fun part is reading about James’ likes and dislikes. – The RPG Folder I Caught in the Act, by James V. West, on Doomslakers


« In 2000-2010 it was still 80% of people joining as a teenager. Since 2015 70% who join are adults. » – Age of D&D new joiners jumped ~5 yrs since 2015 , by Xaosseed, on Seed of Worlds


Free Kriegsspiel… «I ran a one-shot over zoom last weekend with characters that looked like this: “You’re a paladin. You have good fighting skills, full armor, a sword and shield - and you can choose either the ability to try healing wounds through prayer, or to try turning the undead. Oh, and you have any 3 standard adventuring supplies.”» – [1], by Gundobad, on Gundobad Games

It’s … very free. I don’t know whether I like it. I think I need a little more system than just referee fiat.


This wiki with links to RPG adventures needs more love… Links to Adventures. I just added a link today.

Nearly 100 rooms: “Enchanted gremlins made of cherry pits, trapped devils with whom to deal, treasure to steal, a wizard’s corpse to loot, creatures frozen since the ice age to battle, dinosaurs to let loose, factions to fall into, and at least two rooms where it’s snowing all the time.” – The Cherry Crypts: a big ol' dungeon, by Linden, on Lapidary Ossuary


The URL says 2018 but this is a recent blog post by Eric Diaz about weapons in various editions of D&D. Weapons distinctions - brief D&D history, by Eric Diaz, on Methods & Madness.

My own personal approach is 1d6 damage for all weapons; but with strength bonuses and magic items you can still make killer melee fighting characters. I do remember that one very strong dwarf with the +2 dagger of speed, giving them two attacks of +5 to hit and 1d6+5 damage.


Oh, excellent writing advice from Jacob Hurst: don’t write and then A happened, and then B happened, and then C happened. Instead, write A happened but then B happened, therefore C happened, and keep repeating. Apparently from a Trey Parker and Matt Stone interview where they talk about how they structure their South Park Stories. I had never thought about it like that. Backgrounds, Adventures and but therefore, by Jacob Hurst, on Swordfish Islands

I wrote a longer response in the comments, here: 2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play.

I started listening to @Judd and @seannittner’s Shoeless Peasant podcast. I’m two episodes in and I love how different it is from my games. I’m thinking I’d love to run such a slow and deliberate one-on-one game. I was clearly not ready to play like that a few years ago, but I’m thinking that perhaps now I am.


“I (Name) swear before the Dragon Council to serve the Guild of Adventurers and no other master for the period of time necessary to achieve the ninth level within the aforementioned guild.” – Adventurer Guild Contract, by Lance Duncan, on 42 Rolls of Duck Tape

Interesting idea!


Thinking about play styles… I dunno, I used to be a lot more interested in these things. These days I guess everybody should read such a typology at least once so that we can all at least use the same words. But then my take is that enjoyment is a multifaceted thing that I enjoy all the things, some more so, some less so, some more when I do it, some more when others do it. And I think casual players are important for cohesion (like at the work-place, actually).

Knowing Your Players and Their Kicks, Lich van Winkle, on his blog


Ah, Melan diagrams to illustrate dungeon complexity… I like what The Alexandrian did, here, taking The Sunless Citadel and illustrating how the Melan diagrams work.

Jaquaying the Dungeon – Addendum: How to Use a Melan Diagram, by Justin Alexander, on The Alexandrian


I think that’s as far back as my posts go, the rest is archived offline...

Comments on 2021-02-06 Blogosphere

Thanks for keeping the ball rolling!

Anne 2021-02-07 22:04 UTC


Interesting follow-ups to play styles:

– Alex 2021-02-19 16:48 UTC

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2021-02-02 Motivation and reward

Jeremy Friesen wrote about his ten year blog anniversary.

I loved two points in particular. The first one is about scheduling. I used to see many people deciding to write a blog and trying to commit to regular posts.

“When I first started blogging, one of the concerns I heard and internalized was that I should write to a schedule. I found that to be a path of misery. I don’t keep a schedule, nor publish at peak hours. Instead, I release what I write when I’m done with it.” – Jeremy Friesen

If you’re a writer and you want to change your habits, if you’re not a writer and you want to work on being a writer, then this seems like a good idea. Do a little of something every day until it becomes second nature. That’s how I started to run. Go for small runs on a regular basis, no matter how small. Just go. And one day you’ll be sitting inside and the weather is lousy and you’ll feel the urge to go for a run. You’ve successfully changed yourself! Congratulations. I know it isn’t easy. It’s work.

The second of Jeremy’s points I liked is about trying to be successful. It’s hard and there is a lot of luck involved. Not work. Luck. And Lady Luck is fickle. It’s hard to repeat a thing that depends on luck.

“To grow my readership, I thought I needed metrics. What I found was that I was prone to chasing that questing beast. I looked at posts that did well, and would wrack my brain to write something more about that; Or like that. Again, misery. I had ceded my muse to an algorithm.”

It’s so easy to fall into this. It happens wherever those small “like” buttons are, wherever those “comment” forms are. It happens on blogs, and on the fediverse! It’s why many people switch them off. Gopher people say the don’t miss comments. Mastodon offers a setting to hide notifications about likes and boosts. You just get the replies.

I’m not immune to this myself. I am happy when I see people liking and sharing pictures I took, for example. And I spend a little extra time on my prose, crafting it, spinning it. Does it work? Words have rhythm, sentences want to be read. I read these words in my head, writing and rewriting them until I’m happy. It’s the effect of the invisible audience. All acts of speech on social media are partly oratory, I think.

I want to come back to the question of blogging, of the motivation to write. To me, motivation is a big riddle. Why can I code hours on end at home but not at the office? What brings joy and what does not? Why is it that if I do a thing for money – for any extrinsic reward, probably! – I feel less intrinsically motivated? I heard that this effect can be shown in children. I still wonder about the reason, though. In the work place, I think part of it is that in capitalism, the things you enjoy so much you’ll do for free, so paid work is often joyless.

But the demotivation effect of extrinsic rewards is more than just a memory of work; I feel like it has to do with freedom in a personal, private way: the autonomy to decide if I want to do a thing now, or later, or not at all. If at any time I do a think now even though I don’t feel it, that’s joy wilting away. And thus I will happily accept a gift freely given but I don’t want to get paid. I don’t want to promise help in exchange for money even if I’m very likely to help for free.

I still remember the most fantastic gift I ever received for software I had written: some chocolate and a cook book, from Belgium, from net artist / sculptor / 3d artist / videogame designer Auriea (). I still think about that a lot.

Her site still uses my software, a version from 2004–2006. Amazing. ❤️

Links:

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2020-09-05 The shadow people of social media

When Google+ ended, I had about two thousand followers and was following a few hundred people. On Mastodon, I now have about 1.7K followers and I’m following about 550 people. What a strange feeling – not because there are so many people listening but because I don’t interact with that many people. I don’t think that the problem is the Dunbar number: I interact with less than 150 people and I read more or less all the post of the people I follow. I suffer from fear-of-missing-out (FOMO), yes I do. What remains is the slow dread of being followed and following 80% zombie accounts. It’s not a clear cut thing for now, just a feeling of unease.

Back in 2019 I was talking aboug Google+ and the blogs and using arguments such as the data krakens of our time. But really, what has changed? The data krakens are probably just connecting to the fediverse and siphoning our data, selling it for pennies. Psychopathic programmers at work.

Anyway, what does that mean, when I feel like I’m standing in the light somewhere, with maybe fifty other strangers from the Internet, surrounded but hundreds, maybe thousands of shadow people. Maybe they’re listening, scribbling into their notebooks, recording with the ingenious devices, feeding the data tanks and refineries, or maybe they’re dead, their faces permanently frozen in that strange grin of their last post made a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. Dead husks, their owners moved on, have a different life, a different presence. They shed their skin and left it there, standing in the shadows. In cyberspace, there’s no gravity to pull it down; there’s no funghi to break it down; digital junk and digital identities remain. Nothing is forgiven, and nothing is forgotten.

Perhaps these are the first signs of winter coming. The sky turns grey and grows heavy, the clouds come lower and lower, and life between heaven and earth is a drag, all is mud, wet clothes, rotting leaves. I fear those short days of murky light and that cold grip of winter on my ribs.

Sometimes I idly wonder about restarting the Mastodon account. Delete all the followings. Block and unblock all the followers (I think that’s how you force-unfollow others?), delete all the earlier blocks, delete all the favourites, boosts, and posts (archiving them offline, I guess – but what for?). And then see what happens. Would I end up in the same bubble? Would I start with ten people I remember from before the reset? Thirty? How important would it be to make a reset permanent instead of a new account? Would a simple alt account do the trick? Perhaps the finality of a reset would change the outcome. No peeking at the old lists!

@pet84rik says that you end up in almost the same bubble. “People with about the same interests will find your, sooner or later.” I guess that’s a good thing? Shake off the shadow people and find your bubble again?

There’s also the interface to consider. One of the ways to find new people is to look at the public feeds, the local feed and the federated feed. But if you have “enough” people you’re following, you don’t need to check the public timelines anymore. And if you’re on an instance that’s no longer open, there are far fewer new folks looking for people to follow on the public timelines, too.

Lots of guessing and vague feelings of winter, that is all.

My summer break is over, I spent a week at the office again. I also drank a glass of Armagnac. I didn’t drink any spirits over the summer break. Is work making me drink? Would I turn into an alcoholic over the years? I must shake all those winter thoughts. Maybe part of the problem is COVID-19. I don’t miss people. I don’t like people. At least I think I don’t. But perhaps without people, my mental health is starting to drift a little. I should meet more friends just in order to get centered.

I’m going to ask my wife for a run, get some fresh air, see the sun and the sky and the grass and the bees, to hear kids and dogs and crickets. Autumn has just begun. There’s still time.

Comments on 2020-09-05 The shadow people of social media

love your remark about there not being any fungi to break down the old detritus in cyberspace. the natural processes benefit us all yet we’ve forgot to build them in to our online worlds

– lukee 2020-09-05 14:26 UTC


Yeah, like gravity, all these omnipresent things need extra programming in cyberspace.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-09-05 15:33 UTC


I went for a run with my wife and it was nearly two hours long and it was peaceful and we were in the flow and the forest was green and the sun was shining and our feet were tapping along in harmony, it was wonderful. Then we went out for dinner with friends and it was interesting and we laughed a lot and it was wonderful, too.

– Alex 2020-09-05 22:49 UTC

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2020-05-04 New RPG blogs

You know how it is, in social media and in blogging, or in out in the face-to-face world when we’re not in lockdown: friends come and go, enemies accumulate... no, of course not. But interesting people come and go, that much I find to be true. You follow them on social media and then they stop posting — I used to see it on Google+ and I’m seeing it now on Mastodon. The solution is to keep following new people!

In the world of blogging, that means following more blogs. It’s why I’m keen to recruit new bloggers for the RPG Planet. We need new people to supplant those who have moved on to greener pastures, who need to focus elsewhere, who have dropped out of the hobby, found new things to do.

“New” blogs I’ve enjoyed reading:

What are your suggestions for 2019, 2020? 😀

Comments on 2020-05-04 New RPG blogs

@linkskywalker said: Velexi’s blog is one of the best, and only started in 2019: A Blasted, Cratered Land.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-04 20:47 UTC


Lately when I find new blogs, it’s usually because they’ve shared a link on the Blogroll channel on Chris McDowell’s public OSR server on Discord.

Anne 2020-05-04 23:01 UTC


If only the stream of new blog announcements made it into the RPG Planet! 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-05 06:39 UTC


Hey Alex, have you thought on making a sister page to RPG Planet that mimics Lobsters? It will be an interesting way to share and discuss about RPG-focused topics.

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-05 15:37 UTC


It sounds like a lot of work and seeing how I don’t like the kind of conversation engendered by Reddit, which is broadly similar (I think?) I don’t see myself as a regular user of such a system. I’d rather just have people discuss stuff on their blogs. Blogs work for me. 😅

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-05 16:06 UTC


Yesterday I discovered the fascinating Pretendo Games blog. I enjoy the dissertations about how Jason establishes and tweaks the rules of their games. Every change has a reason, a rationale derived from playtesting the rules. Practice-to-theroy translation.

In addition, he has quite a few games. I like Exhumed and Grave.

– Ludos Curator 2020-05-12 10:27 UTC


Yeah, I’ve seen @JasonT post on Mastodon but I’ve not tried his games.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-12 11:19 UTC

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2020-04-20 Blogs

I’m really enjoying Jupiter, my feed aggregator that creates a static web page (”no unread count, and thus no ever increasing pressure to catch up”). I’m following a ton of blogs on the RPG Planet. But what about other blogs? I guess I need a similar setup for the other blogs I’d like to follow. Without a count of unread messages! 99

🙅 “person gesturing no!”

Since I’ve long since stopped reading all those other blogs, I guess I get to start a blog roll from scratch. I added Charlie Stross to it. You can find it here.

Tags:

Comments on 2020-04-20 Blogs

Have you encountered FraidyCat?

It’s a pretty nice reader extension, with some interesting UX things going for it. No unread count, no listing of posts, only of sources, tag-based organization.

I’ve been using it for a little while and am finding I much much prefer it over traditional feeds.

It’s made by the wonderful Kicks Condor, someone you might be interested in as a creator in the retro-web vein.

– reed 2020-04-21 01:18 UTC


I have it installed on the desktop but haven’t subscribed to anybody. I do a lot of my browsing on mobile...

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-21 06:07 UTC


Yeah, I do as well unfortunately. I wonder how hard it would be to write something for mobile that used the same underlying code?

It takes OPML imports, so I just exported from my other reader and no longer use newsboat. It definitely allows me to work through the RPG blogs I follow a little more slowly.

– reed 2020-04-22 22:32 UTC


I could add a web app that writes the config file for Jupiter. But I suspect I’d be the only user of such a system.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-23 18:18 UTC

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2020-03-16 The joy of RPG Planet

The RPG Planet was great while I was away on a 15 day trip with rare Internet connections: I have a feed reader subscribed to it. I use the Reeder app on my iPhone but there are a gazillion alternatives. Whenever I had WiFi I got another 100 RPG blog posts to read.

Thank you, fellow bloggers. 😍

Sure, I don’t read all the posts – I can’t get the blog posts when I’m offline and you’re just putting short summaries in your feeds; I also don’t read session reports. But I read almost everything else and it’s great.

If your blog isn’t listed, get in touch (kensanata@gmail.com) and I’ll add it as soon as I’m back.

(A Planet is a website which collects posts from member blogs and displays them on a single page. We are trying to keep the blogosphere alive!)

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2020-01-20 How to deal with weird stuff in feed aggregation

Planet Jupiter is entering the phase where all the features I want have been implemented and now I’m only dealing with weird stuff and workarounds. I’ve seen blog posts containing double escaped HTML. I unescape the first layer and turn the post to plain text (adding pilcrow signs for paragraph breaks) and so on. But if somebody adds double escaped HTML, that still leaves escaped HTML in the output. I’m guessing this is a bug in their Wordpress plugins responsible for indie web support or something. But what am I going to do: tell them to fix their setup? Or add a workaround that simply tries to unscape HTML a second time? Guess what I’m doing...

I had to consider other things as well: what about elements that aren’t being rendered by browser? They also shouldn’t be “rendered” by the feed aggregator. One feed, for example, contains a style element. The style element contains CSS instructions ­– this should not end up in the page excerpt. Anything else I need to remove from the excerpt?

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Comments on 2020-01-20 How to deal with weird stuff in feed aggregation

Blocking CSS (and more) is easy if you use CSP: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTTP/Headers/Content-Security-Policy

Ashwin 2020-04-21 00:40 UTC


Good point.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-21 06:05 UTC

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