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This is both a wiki (a website editable by all) and a blog (an online diary about the stuff Alex Schroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

2017-06-25 Against Intellectual Monopoly

Edward Morbius linked to Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine (last blog posts from 2015)

I am reminded of me picking up Piracy by Adrian Johns back in 2014.

I want to read it all, but I don’t know when to do it. Something for this summer?


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2017-06-24 Ardèche

We spent seven days in the Ardèche and the surrounding departments of France. It was very hot but we saw a lot of stuff.

fgallery comes with a tool to add captions to your images, fcaption. It is written in Python. Starting it, I got the following error:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/Users/alex/src/fgallery/utils/fcaption", line 11, in <module>
    from PyQt4 import QtCore, QtGui
ImportError: No module named PyQt4

Since I’m using OSX, I was led to the Stackoverflow answers for Python PyQt on macOS Sierra. This seems to do it. I’ve commented the lines I think I did not need to install.

brew tap cartr/qt4
brew tap-pin cartr/qt4
# brew install qt
# brew install pyside
brew install cartr/qt4/pyqt

I definitely need to fix the time on my camera or the pictures will appear out of sync with the picture from the phones.


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2017-06-12 Fountain Pen

Every now and then I’ve been writing about my notebooks. Some of them are nameless diaries for teenagers with fancy covers, some are litte pocket-sized Moleskine books, others are bigger Moleskine books. And I’m not happy! A while ago I got a LAMY Studio fountain pen, and there’s a lot of ghosting.

Ghosting – When you can see what’s written on the other side of a sheet of paper without the ink coming through the page. This isn’t to be confused with bleed through, where the ink actually soaks through to the other side. This is also known as show-through or echo.
Goulet Pens Blog: Glossary of Fountain Pen Terminology

This is one of the small books:

Image 4 for 2017-06-12 Fountain Pen Image 5 for 2017-06-12 Fountain Pen

These are the larger notebooks, soft cover:

Image 1 for 2017-06-12 Fountain Pen Image 2 for 2017-06-12 Fountain Pen Image 3 for 2017-06-12 Fountain Pen

All in all I am not happy.


Comments on 2017-06-12 Fountain Pen

Moleskine Notebooks are terrible if used with a fountain pen. I found that I like the Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks much better and have heard a lot of people praise the Rhodia Webnotebooks (I have yet to test one for myself, though)

– Stefan 2017-06-13 15:59 UTC

I heard excellent praise for the Rhodia Webnotebooks in this long and rambling video by a fountain pen nerd: Fountain-Pen-friendly Notebooks. The important list is in the description of the video, though. No need to spend 34min watching the video.

– Alex 2017-06-13 18:15 UTC

More: Leuchtturm1917 Paper Review. Ghosting after 5m. But yeah, it seems that Moleskine uses 72g/m², Leuchtturm 1917 uses 80g/m², Rhodia Webnotebook uses 90g/m². But then there’s the Leuchtturm 1917 “Master” using 100g/m². Interesting.

– Alex 2017-06-13 18:17 UTC

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2017-06-09 The Purpose of a Map

“A map is a symbolic depiction emphasising relationships between elements of some space,” says Wikipedia. But Sophie Lagacé goes further than. In Mapping the Veins of a World she talks about the importance of water shaping the map, the importance of rivers and “a multitude of smaller streams flowing towards the river like blood vessels or veins in a leaf.”

I agree with the beauty and I importance of water! I spent way to much time writing the river and mountain code for my Alpine Map Generator – and the documentation view where I get an image of the various stages so that I can check how the water flows.

At the end of her blog post, Sophie adds: “To be truly useful, the map should have an impact on the adventures. Otherwise it’s just a page decoration, and all to often a mediocre one.”

And that got me thinking. My maps are a way to structure access to locales, to explain realms of influence, borders.

In my current game I encouraged people to transport goods along the major river, and to build a road, and fords are hard to find so perhaps in the future there will also be a bridge to be built. This is the slow backdrop developing because people need to spend gold for xp in the game, so infrastructure built by players is a thing.

But I haven’t progressed much further than that. A lack of timber wouldn’t affect the game, more swamps wouldn’t affect the game, control of a mountain pass wouldn’t affect the game and I feel it should – but I also don’t want to get bogged down in details.

Perhaps finding that balance between geography as backdrop and geography as an anchor for adventure is what I’m struggling to find. Perhaps I need to have a table for random monthly events based on the surrounding territories.

  • Summer and forests adds the possibility of a forest fire
  • Winter and lakes adds the possibility of creatures crossing the ice
  • Spring and rivers adds the possibility of flooding
  • Mountains and winter adds the possibility of avalanches cutting you off for months
  • Summer and swamps adds the possibility for disease striking the local settlement

And perhaps some rules that are always in effect:

  • There is always timber trade from forested areas along rivers to settlements without forests
  • Mountains in winter are impassable

I’d like to return to the question of usefulness of a map. What impact does it have on adventures?

Perhaps a look at the actual maps people use at their gaming table would help. Why am I not seeing a lot of people simply using Google Maps? I think that’s because it doesn’t highlight the things gamers need:

  • adventuring locales are not highlighted
  • modern settlements are not what many of us are looking for
  • I need simple terrain to describe the area: forests, rivers, mountains, not the fractal mix of reality
  • small but important features are missing: menhirs, stone circles, wells, statues – these all exist at different zoom levels, but at the table I just want a single map

So why not the opposite extreme: what are the benefits of a point crawl, a graph of interesting locations like in the old text adventures?

  • the edges of the graph can be labelled with the time it takes to travel from one node to the other
  • no time wasted counting hexes or squares or using a ruler
  • who cares about miles per hour, miles per day, whether horses are really faster than humans and all that?
  • given the question of how to travel from A to B it still provides all the interesting locations between A and B in the right order, and it provides alternative routes

Things that the graph doesn’t provide:

  • opportunities to get lost
  • a way to make short cuts because nobody really knows what lies between the nodes – it’s undefined
  • there is no way to zoom out and identify important strategic and economic positions based on geography; in a point crawl, you must decide upon these locations and create a node for them

This last point is perhaps the most interesting to me because it allows me to discover more details in an existing map. The map is itself more than the set of its elements. If there is a valley here and a valley there, then perhaps these are also spheres of political influence. If there is a forest here and a settlement there, then perhaps there is a constant flow of timber between the two.

When looking at a setting map or regional wilderness map these days, I ask myself how much of a difference this map would make at my table:

  • Are the distances important in my game?
  • Is the terrain important in your game?
  • Are rivers and mountain ranges important obstacles?
  • Are the locations mines, pastures, or forests important assets?
  • Is the distribution of settlements important in terms of politics?
  • Is there an opportunity to get lost, take risky short cuts, claim unsettled terrain?

The answers to these questions determine the amount of information I would like to see on a map.

If you’re looking for maps, there are two great Google+ communities I know: Map-Making in Games, The Library of Gaming Maps, and there’s Reddit: /r/mapmaking/, /r/papertowns/, /r/oldmaps/, and Cartographers’ Guild.


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2017-06-04 Selling Rules and Setting

On G+, Jeff Rients linked to Revealed Preferences by Bradford Walker, who argues that selling RPGs in books had a detrimental effect and that we should return to boxed sets, basically “reducing both your lore and your rules down to the minimum required to actually get on with playing.”

Kyrinn S. Eis left a comment on Jeff Rients’ post arguing that there was a space for more variation, citing the wiki as an example. I’m not sure what wiki she had in mind, but I know that my campaigns always end with big wikis. Some of my entries from the Campaign Wiki Status page:

Campaign Pages
Greyheim¹ 226
Rasiermesserküste¹ 24
Wilderlande¹ 85
Fünf Winde 647
HagfishTavern 229
Kurobano And The Dragons 145

¹ ongoing

But Bradford Walker’s point still stands: when publishing your rules and your settings, you can’t publish the “finished” product. I like games where rules and setting are more fluid. You add the things you like to both settings and rules, you remove the things you forgot to apply during the game, modifying your rules and your setting as you go.

If that’s the game I like best, then what do you sell to people? The collection of things you started out with, or the refined rules and the elaborate setting you ended up with after a year or more of playing?

My campaign wiki has 600 pages and more, but that’s not something I’d ever want to buy.

Take a look at the Unified House Rule Document Update by James Young. This is the best part of the OSR, as far as I am concerned. People start with some sort of D&D and then they add stuff and remove stuff, tinkering and transmogrifying shit until it’s uniquely theirs, and then they share it in order to help others. Download, browse, experiment, delete, adapt, lift some stuff, it’s all good.


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2017-06-01 Open

Careful what you write! Fuck. That. Shit.

Oh, and this: We shouldn’t link to Facebook because Facebook is trying to kill the open web. Or as David Winer says: Get a blog. Don’t bet your web’s future on the economic success of a company.


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2017-05-30 Planning for my Summer of Code

Soon, summer break. Sadly, this year begins later than usual. I have to wait until mid July! 😢

This is what I’m contemplating:

  1. work on the Gridmapper Megadungeon Generator.
  2. work on making Gridmapper useful for grid-based wilderness maps, like this map by Edward Kann (it reminds me of Ultima IV and Ultima V)
  3. allow Oddmuse to upload pictures by “pasting” them into the text area like GitHub does it (notes)
  4. maybe resume working on Oddmuse and WebDAV?
  5. also, practice playing the recorder
  6. add more face elements to my digital set for the Face Generator
  7. is Oddmuse ready for Perl 6? Apparently there is no Mojolicious for Perl 6! Installing rakudobrew and zef. I’d probably be using Bailador and HTTP::Easy.
  8. a city map creator like this but colorful, like this
  9. read Piracy by Adrian Johns (see 2015-07-14 No Copyright)
  10. read Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine (see 2017-06-25 Against Intellectual Monopoly)


Comments on 2017-05-30 Planning for my Summer of Code

As a note, I’ve done some experiments with perl 6 grammars for parsing wikitext. If done right, it will be possible to merge two grammars into one simply by creating a class with two parents, e.g. markdown+creole (or even markdown + tables :P). Pretty cool stuff.

By the way, I’ll be free from June 13th and onwards, so feel free to ping me about anything.

– AlexDaniel 2017-06-05 15:34 UTC


Also, im thinking we should just rewrite all of Oddmuse and not just port the existing code.

– Alex Schroeder 2017-06-05 19:01 UTC

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2017-05-30 OSR, Where Art Thou?

It occurs to me that I don’t see my style of gaming in the places where one might be inclined to look for it, such as the OSR Community on G+. The German Rollenspieler Community on G+ is also pretty far from the things I care about.

I have no answers, lots of likes and dislikes, but mostly I am reminded of a sociology lecture I heard at university where we were told that growing older included a turning inward; less interaction with the outside world and a retreat into your own. Perhaps that’s part of it. No urge to carry the torch, to spread the light, but instead cultiver notre jardin.

So basically, it’s the circle of people I’m following on G+, the blogs I’m following on Feedly, the people hanging out on the Weapons vs. AC Mastodon instance, for me.


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2017-05-29 Wallis, wieder einmal

Pictures of us hiking from Chandolin up to the Illpass and from Montana to Aminona.


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2017-05-28 Age

I don’t feel that life is speeding up but my wife feels that way. I guess I’m lucky. To me, the seasons seem to take forever and I can barely remember what I did last year.

Perhaps it’s the onset of dementia.

Before 40, a year is a fraction of the life you had. After 40, a year is a fraction of the life you expect.


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