Halberds and Helmets Podcast

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This is all about Halberds and Helmets and the Old School, the Sandbox, and related things.

If you need to contact me, send me an email, or better yet, record a short voice message on your phone (”voice memo”) and send it by mail (share it with your mail app and send it to kensanata@gmail.com). Or contact me on Mastodon: @kensanata.

Feel free to comment on any episodes. I’m living in the Podcast Now, where all episodes exist in the same moment in time and none of them is “out of date”.

2019-03-15 Episode 21

Podcast Running Dungeons, when to roll for random encounters, how much XP to give for monsters, how to restock dungeons

Links:

  • The Tao of XP: “First, and most importantly, 100xp per hit die is brain dead easy. I can do all the math in my head for parties of 6 characters or less and with a jot or two on some paper I can handle more.”
  • 2017-03-04 Monster List: “While writing the book I’ve started to wonder whether I should just move away from the tricky calculation of monster XP back to the very old 100XP/HD. Sure, suddenly we’re back to gaining levels by killing 20 orcs. But is that such a problem? I don’t think so. Determining what counts as a special ability and what does not is boring.”
  • 2017-01-23 Random Encounters: “If your players are pressed for time and after two or three hours they need to leave, and thus the dungeon exploration ends, then additional random encounters don’t do much, I think. They sometimes surprise the referee and add some color, that is all. That’s how I run it. I just roll the dice when I’m bored as a minor tax on players taking too long to make decisions or listening and checking for traps all the time.”
  • 2013-08-21 One Roll Dungeon Stocking: “When I stocked my dungeon yesterday, I used the Moldvay Dungeon Stocking procedure. To be honest, my wife used it. The two tables are somewhat confusing.”
  • 2019-02-22 Magic Items: “The one hundred magic items of Old Eilif of Trazadan.” A list of generated magic items from Hex Describe.
  • 2014-04-30 Independent Existence of Imaginary Worlds: “For me, the most important aspect of using treasure tables is that there is no choice involved. Just roll. It’s like discovering the world by rolling on the table, it’s about being surprised even if you’re the referee of the game, it helps me suspend disbelief. The mechanics make sure that I’m not thinking of it as a figment of my imagination. It feels like a real thing.”
  • One Page Dungeon Contest Archive: an archive I maintain of all the entries submitted to the One Page Dungeon Contest.
  • Halberds and Helmets: my homebrew rule set with links to the PDF files

Dungeons

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Comments on 2019-03-15 Episode 21

I was looking for blog posts about dungeon stocking...

  • Random dungeon stocking on The City of Iron, where Gavin Norman talks about the “Specials” result. He suspects that it comes up a lot, which it does, but then he discovers that he likes writing something up.
  • Random Dungeon Stocking on Delta’s D&D Hotspot, where Delta writes about the method he uses, and then compares that with the instructions in various editions of D&D. He doesn’t like Moldvay’s procedure all that much because the Special result means more work for the person stocking the dungeon.
  • B/X D&D vs. Labyrinth Lord dungeon stocking on Yore, where Martin Ralya compares the B/X and Labyrinth Lord stocking tables.
  • Stocking a Dungeon on Save vs. Total Party Kill, where Ramanan Sivaranjan does what many programmers do, I guess. “I have a little program that spits out what should be in each room using the rules from the Moldvay basic book.”
  • Excel and Random Dungeon Stocking on Dreams in the Lich House, where John Arendt tells you how to do this using Excel.
  • Stocking the Dungeon on Paul’s Gameblog, where Paul quotes from OD&D and notes: “the expectation is that you place the important stuff first, and then use the random charts to fill in the rest.”

And there is more out there. Ramanan’s post has links to bunch of other posts talking about making dungeons with links to many more articles.

I guess this goes to show that I really like to think of dungeons as very simple environments. I don’t spend too much time on making them!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-15 12:19 UTC


These episodes are just awesome. Short but packed with experience and wisdom. Keep them coming! 🙂

– Björn Buckwalter 2019-03-16 14:34 UTC


Thanks! 😅

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-16 21:48 UTC

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2019-03-01 Podcast Numbers

I was wondering about the download statistics for my tiny little podcast. How would I figure this out? On my server, I keep four days of access logs. (See Privacy Policy for more information.) I posted the last episode three days ago and I verified that the last of my log files does not mention it. That means I didn’t miss any of the downloads.

So what I did is I grepped through the logs for the MP3 file, saving those lines for me to look through.

wc -l 20-halberds-and-helmets.log tells me that there are 48 lines. It’s not a lot but it’s what I’ve got.

A quick inspection shows that I have to discard HEAD requests. I should just be counting GET requests!

grep GET 20-halberds-and-helmets.log | wc -l gives me 37 lines.

Further inspection shows that quite a few of these requests have the status 206 (”partial content”) so that’s a single application downloading various parts of the file. But how to figure out which of them belong together? I’m trying to figure this out without looking at IP numbers.

Visually, it looks like I can determine what’s going on by looking at the minutes and the user agent for all the 206 results. Let’s try this. (And yes, I did have a HEAD request with a 206 result!)

grep 'GET.* 206 ' 20-halberds-and-helmets.log | perl -e '
while (<STDIN>) {
  chomp; my ($ts, $ua) =
    /\[\d\d\/\w+\/\d\d\d\d:\d\d:(\d\d).*"([^"\/]*)[^"]*"$/;
  print "$ts $ua\n";
}
'

And here’s the result, with an arrow indicating the rows I consider to be “duplicates.”

20 Mozilla
44 AppleCoreMedia
44 AppleCoreMedia ←
39 iTMS
44 AppleCoreMedia
44 AppleCoreMedia ←
44 AppleCoreMedia ←
46 Mozilla
46 Mozilla ←
46 Mozilla ←
19 Mozilla

Manually counting them, I think we could get away by saying that we need to discount three AppleCoreMedia and two Mozilla results, right?

So let’s count the hits per user agent and then we’ll correct for the partial content results above.

grep GET 20-halberds-and-helmets.log | perl -e '
my %count;
while (<STDIN>) {
  chomp; my ($ua) = /"([^"\/]*)[^"]*"$/;
  $count{$ua}++;
  $total++;
}
for my $ua (sort {$count{$b} <=> $count{$a}} keys %count) {
  print sprintf("%5d %s\n", $count{$ua}, $ua);
}
print "---- --------------------\n";
print sprintf("%5d total\n", $total);
'

This would be the result without correcting for the partial content:

   10 Mozilla
    5 AppleCoreMedia
    4 Pocket Casts
    3 Overcast
    3 PodcastAddict
    2 Dalvik
    2 okhttp
    2 Googlebot-Video
    2 stagefright
    1 AndroidDownloadManager
    1 iTMS
    1 Player FM
    1 iCatcher!
---- --------------------
   37 total

Making the correction I mentioned above:

    7 Mozilla ←
    4 Pocket Casts
    3 Overcast
    3 PodcastAddict
    2 AppleCoreMedia ←
    2 Googlebot-Video
    2 stagefright
    2 okhttp
    2 Dalvik
    1 AndroidDownloadManager
    1 iCatcher!
    1 iTMS
    1 Player FM
---- --------------------
   32 total ←

The result shows that Pocket Casts is popular. I guess it’s a podcatcher. iCatcher! is the one I use. 🙂

I’m surprised that Mozilla is up there. When I looked at the details of the user agent strings, I noticed that they mostly belong to bots:

  • two are Yandex bots
  • three ended up being Overcast (via their website?), but these are the three Mozilla results with 206 “partial content” so basically it’s just one listener from Overcast; the rest look legit

What the hell is Googlebot-Video doing, here? Is google offering audio search results somewhere? Using podcasts to train their AI overlords?

All the other user agents look like legitimate tools, frameworks, programming languages, libraries, etc.

That’s why I think that 32 people listened to the podcast episode 20, and a few probably didn’t listen to all of it.

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Comments on 2019-03-01 Podcast Numbers

I use PodBean as my catcher, but I’m not sure what engine it uses for download.

Shelby 2019-03-01 18:28 UTC

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2019-02-26 Episode 20

Podcast Keep prep short. Use every idea right away. Be impartial and be adversarial. Let them struggle.

Links:

Running the Game

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Comments on 2019-02-26 Episode 20

Hilarious how I find interesting blog posts after the fact and think of all the things I should have said in addition all the stuff I said. Also, I wonder whether me talking about the things one can simply read is actually worth it. I should do follow-up episodes, perhaps. Or collect the blog links before recording the episode. And provide more anecdotes from my games. I think that’s what makes the pontification bearable.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-27 07:15 UTC


That a DM should create challenges is to me so axiomatic to DMing, that it barely needs mentioning. I would at any rate go for a different term than ’adversarial’ since “adversarial DMing” has a history of describing dickhead DMs who are playing against the players and actively trying to defeat them (in a partial manner).

Perhaps a phrasing to the effect that challenges should be “consequential” or something similar. IE. the players should know that bad consequences can happen. This is how I phrased it in my upcoming GM guide:

“PLAYERS SHOULD FEEL DANGER IS REAL While players should feel they can try anything, they should also know their choices have consequences. This game is not designed to keep PCs alive at all costs. One reason character generation is so quick is so players can quickly get back in when a character dies! Part of the roleplaying experience is open-ended outcomes. The world is not tailored to the PCs; unwise or reckless choices can have deadly consequences. Knowing your actions can have fatal consequences adds to the drama. And knowing one’s choices make a real difference adds to the sense of accomplishment. In a game where death and loss are real to the players, their victories equally real. And treasure truly earned. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the GM should look to actively kill his players, or set unreasonable challenges for them at every turn. It does mean the GM needn’t go to special lengths to keep them alive, or put up bumper lanes on the world around them.”

Here the focus is on mortality and danger, but I think the general style to remind DMs to avoid, is the feeling that players are going through the world with bumper lanes up.

Another pertinent rule of thumb to me concerning challenges, which also help to maintain some impartiality in how to set them up, is that challenges should, by and large, reflect the rewards. And to create enough information that the players can reasonably acquire for them to make semi-informed decisions about the challenges they undertake.

Anders H 2019-02-27 09:31 UTC


Yeah, I guess “adversarial” might be associated with the wrong kind of DM... I was coming from Patrick Stuart’s post where he starts by looking at the word adventure, ad-venture, which is where I made the bridge to adverse, ad-verse.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-27 10:12 UTC

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2019-02-16 Episode 19

Podcast No skills. Fewer classes. Quick and random character generation. Smaller bonuses, little damage, few hit points. Rare healing. Simple combat. Treasure is XP. No magic shops. Random encounters.

Links:

Eleven Principles

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2019-02-08 Episode 18

Podcast I repeat what I wrote in a recent blog post about having dropped clerics from my game. It’s not a problem.

Links:

no clerics

This is from a separate PDF! It’s no longer part of Halberds & Helmets.

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2019-01-27 Episode 17

Podcast I’m a proponent of the strict reading of the Moldvay rules when it comes to spells: not being able to learn more spells than you can cast per day. Also, not being able to copy spells from scrolls and spellbooks and requiring a teacher instead, no spell research and no crafting of magic items.

Links:

page 14

Note that I recently edited my PDF and so what used to be page 15 is now page 14 and that’s why this episode and the last episode both talk about page 14. This page would have been page 15 not so long ago.

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2019-01-23 Episode 16

Podcast Today we’re talking about two things I don’t actually use at the table – but I want to: movement and reputation.

Links:

page 14

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2019-01-18 Episode 15

Podcast The topic of the day is stuff that comes at the end combat: getting chased, plus injury and death.

Links:

page 13

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2019-01-14 Episode 14

Podcast Today I used the Remove Clicks and the Compressor plugins in Audacity with the default values to attempt and improve the sound quality. And I edit the file, once again, shortening pauses and removing some uuuhms.

The topic of the day is combat: surprise, initiative, d30 rule, not using variable weapon damage, shields shall be splintered, formations, protection, targeting, retreating, fleeing. And as soon as I stopped talking I remembered a thing or two I would have wanted to add. Oh well!

Links:

page 12

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Comments on 2019-01-14 Episode 14

Things I wanted to mention:

  • covering the retreat is simply some people retreating and others staying behind, blocking the passage
  • in the open field, disengaging is harder: in the first round some people retreat and others stay behind; if the opposition then moves around the people that stayed behind in order to stay in melee with the ones retreating, then it didn’t work: the people retreating might have to resort to fleeing (and thuse to a parting shot)

I really should double check the weapons and their space requirements. See 2018-12-25 Episode 07.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-15 09:29 UTC


danke fuer die podcasts! habe (noch) nicht alle gehoert, die bisherigen haben mir sehr gefallen. inhaltlich und auch “sprachlich”. gut finde ich immer eigene erlebnisse, wie “bei dem und dem spiel haben wir das erlebt, ich so gehandelt.”

– Chris 2019-01-15 14:45 UTC


Heh. Und Intro Jingles mit Pocket Operators selber gemacht. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-15 16:20 UTC


ja, super, PO!

– Chris 2019-01-15 16:23 UTC

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2019-01-11 Episode 13

Podcast Skills: class abilities, the roll to open doors and bend bars, the lucky die of fate, and thieves’ skills, they can all be mapped to a 1d6 roll.

Links:

page 11, bottom

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