# 2007-02-01 Work

I’m back in the office, after enjoying three months of the good life.

I have over 4000 mails in my inbox, most of them spam.

Somehow my account has been wiped: ThunderBird no longer remembered me. Trying to adapt myself to the IT vision of my office, I decided to try and organize my mail using… Tadadadada :star: :star: ** Outlook!! :star: :star:

fishbone: :fishbone: :fishbone: :fishbone: :danger: :danger: :danger: :warning: :warning:

This is going to be fun.

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Lookout!

NoufalIbrahim 2007-02-01 10:23 UTC

Too late!

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-01 14:17 UTC

hihihi, dass ich das erleben darf

zeno 2007-02-03 12:57 UTC

# 2007-02-02 Gimping my Brainz Out

I’m totally working on a map-competition for “War of the Burning Sky” using my pencils, my scanner, and the Gimp. This is the result:

Publication would probably require a title, labels, and a compass rose.

Take a look at the other submissions.

Update: Unfortunately, my map is doing very badly in the poll. Why are they using a survey to determine the winner? I think that’s how you get average results, not outstanding stuff. Even if you were not going to vote for my map ;) – I think another noteworthy map that is helium3’s map:

For my own game, I’d probably use the black and white map:

Comments on 2007-02-02 Gimping my Brainz Out

Looks good to me

GreyWulf 2007-02-02 22:32 UTC

# 2007-02-02 RPG Con in Germany

I was at the V-Con in Villingen this weekend. I arrived Saturday around 17:00 and stayed until Sunday 17:00. It’s interesting to note that most Germans play Das Schwarze Auge (DSA), aka. Wikipedia:The Dark Eye.

No Dungeons & Dragons… Strange to think that many German-speaking players have no idea who Monte Cook is, who have never heard of Eberron, Greyhawk, and the Forgotten Realms.

I took along the German translation of the M20 rules, empty character sheets, equipment list, and two adventures.

Update: I played in a group of Das Schwarze Auge as a level 1 adventurer, played a class-less, level-less homebrew, and ran an M20 session using Slave Raiders Of Rockwall by Bert the Ogre.

Here’s how the session went, from the EN World thread:

There were about 20 adventurers present in the hall where the baron announced the prize, and the baron’s hunter offered a little map showing the are north of the Rinau river with of the four farms and two lodges burnt. While travelling, getting lost, fighting woodland creatures, and trying to storm the castle, the other adventurers offered a convenient means of getting help & healing.

My three level 1 players (two fighters and a mage) finally found the help of another party of four including a cleric, but even with their help, fighting stick-men in the forest, dire rats, and small monstrous spiders proved to be too much. When the goblins finally fought back, throwing javelins from the walls and with a sortie on wolf-back, the party managed to shoot down a wolf rider, fight back the others, bandage the fallen goblin, and retreat back into the forest. When threatened, the goblin mentioned the drow hiding beneath the castle, and access to a large city underground.

At this point, my party had been hit too hard, and felt their doom approaching in large strides. They returned to the baron, told him what they knew, handed over the goblin, got a reward of 50gp for their pains, and gave up.

I think the straw that broke their back was the goblin cook evading all attacks and striking them with his pan while calling for help…

Here’s what I wrote on the EN World M20 thread regarding the M20 rules:

Some people wanted to play Das Schwarze Auge exclusively and gave M20 a pass. Other’s liked the idea of a homebrew. One of the D&D properties that is part of M20 made little sense to some of the players: Weak mages at low levels. Tied to that, loosing hit-points for spell casting was not well received. Even the one player who knew D&D in and out felt somehow constrained by it, always wondering whether spending those hit-points was actually worth it. This same player also wondered about warriors and claimed that magic users wearing armor and fighting would be much better off. (But he played a fighter anyway.) I remained unconvinced and continue to believe that the system works well.

The simple character creation was well received. Combat and skill checks were well received.

We had no fighter with multiple attacks or STR ≥ 17 with a two-handed weapon, so there was no discussion of lower-level fighters being overpowered.

As a DM, I think the party was too weak without any healing powers, and fighting against rats (even dire rats) and having to retreat was frustrating for players. Similarly, the party lost its bearing in the alluvial forest and I wanted to take the opportunity to have them meet stick men, angry stone-throwing trees and finally the wicker king. If played well, I thought those woodland creatures might make good allies against the goblins. But the players did not want to move to the west when the stick men tried to prevent them from moving north towards the heart of the forest. Instead, they pulled out torches and fought them with fire. Even when they later found the friendly party of four to help them out, they didn’t think of finding more friends, and were thus unable to make significant progress.

Unfortunately, the low-key end of the game was entirely my fault and had nothing to do with the rules used.

Things to remember:

• Make it obvious that more allies are needed. Make sure the farms look like they were destroyed very violently.
• Offer more allies. Prepare another party of four, a mob of twenty HD1 peasants, a war party of eight elves, and add encounters where the party can interact & join sides. Maybe use the Mass Combat Rules?
• Get rid of the dire rats and spiders in the castle. Instead of having more monsters, let the goblins move around in castle, talk behind doors, boast of the snake, etc.

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Comments on 2007-02-02 RPG Con in Germany

Strange. I’ve never heard of The Dark Eye until now. The wikipedia entry makes it sound great; I’m going to have to track down an English copy now.

GreyWulf 2007-02-05 13:09 UTC

# 2007-02-07 Delicious

In an attempt to share bookmarks between home and work, I’ve installed the del.icio.us add-on for Firefox. I’m not yet sure I like it. How will I use the “named bookmarks” now? (Where I type “leo stupendous” into the address bar and Firefox automatically looks up the word using LEO?

Anyway, here’s what I have installed:

• Adblock Plus – very important!
• del.icio.us Bookmarks – new
• United States English Dictionary – very useful when editing wiki pages
• Wörterbuch “Deutsch (Schweiz)” für die Rechtschreibprüfung – very useful when editing wiki pages
• DOM Inspector – important for my Oddmuse work
• Web Developer – important for my Oddmuse work
• Live HTTP Headers – used to be important to debug Oddmuse caching
• Corrector para Português Europeu – very rarely used
• Dictionaire !MySpell en Français – not used
• Firebug – not used
• Tails – not used
• Talkback – used when Firefox crashes, which fortunately is very rare

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If you are talking of the “quick searches”, they still work. You can share them as well so that others can get all your quick searches. My only grouse has been that the bookmarks aren’t sorted. Makes eyeball searches hard.

AlokSingh 2007-02-07 08:29 UTC

Good collection, that. You almost end up with the same level of functionality that Opera has built-in :D

GreyWulf 2007-02-07 10:50 UTC

If all you want is to share bookmarks between home and work, you can do it with Foxmarks extension. Or even Google Browser Sync.

– Anonymous 2007-02-07 19:28 UTC

Yeah, I confess I am somewhat curious about the tagging thing… We’ll see. And who knows whether I’ll have Firefox available to me at all times (eg. holidays) – in those situations a simple web-based fall-back might come in handy.

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-07 21:06 UTC

Go to any text entry box which supports search/query, right click. You should see an entry saying “Add a keyword for this search”. That helps.

When I installed Delicious addon I lost all my bookmarks, so I had to disable it.

-(

V 2007-02-09 08:46 UTC

Hm, you didn’t import them? I assume the bookmarks.html file is still there in your profile directory somewhere, so you can import them later. Imported bookmarks are supposedly not shared (hahaha)…

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-09 09:11 UTC

# 2007-02-08 Education

I recently read a letter to the editor in a German magazine somewhere saying something along the lines of the following (sorry, can’t find the real quote anymore):

When the last ego-shooter has been banned, when the last porn site has been taken down, and when the last youth has been locked out of all social networking sites, parents will realize that they’ll still have to raise their kids by themselves.

I was reminded of that while reading Tim Lee’s “Project Online Safety” and Other New Internet Safety Initiatives.

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Wonderfully true. It’s an extremely hard thing to do (raise a child properly) and no amount of external policing is going to relieve the parent of that responsibility. Very well worded.

NoufalIbrahim 2007-02-08 10:31 UTC

Well, I think I could be able to teach my son about the dangers of chat rooms, BUT I don’t think I can help him from having the curiosity to go to porn sites, or worse. Even without curiosity the “chance” that he ends up randomly on such sites is pretty high (I’m pretty sure you can end up on a porn site within 3 or 4 clicks from wikipedia).

I would love to be able to let him browse without invading his privacy, knowing that he will not wake up every night because of a nightmare during the next week something like leaving him wandering alone in the child section of a public library.

– PierreGaston 2007-02-08 13:18 UTC

# 2007-02-08 Porco Rosso

We enjoyed Porco Rosso (1992) tonight.

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# 2007-02-09 Byzantium

I’m currently reading Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich. Interesting read, and makes me want to go back to Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

The weird thing is, however, that my Penguin History edition is missing pages 97 to 272! What on earth… ?

For severe defects such as missing pages or improper binding, please return the book to the store where you purchased it and they will replace the copy. [1]

Argh! I must have ordered this books months ago from Amazon Germany. This sucks.

Makes me want to steal an online version… ;)

Update: Actually I just discovered that the pages 97 to 144 were replaced by an extra copy of pages 273 to 320. I’m still missing some pages, however.

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# 2007-02-10 Ripping Audio from DVDs

Today I wanted to rip the audio tracks of yet another DVD for Claudia for her portable MP3 player. This used to work quite well (2007-01-19 Extract MP3 and Metadata from DVD). I’m not sure what happened in the mean time, but MPlayer refused to play dvd://1 and friends.

I tried playing the DVD with VLC, and that worked. In the “Open Volume” dialog I noticed that VLC was playing from /dev/rdisk1. So I tried the following:

mplayer dvd:1 -dvd-device /dev/rdisk1

And this is what I got:

… MPlayer was compiled without libdvdread support.

Hm…

Result:

… checking for dvdcss/dvdcss.h… no configure: error: You need libdvdcss (dvdcss.h)

Going back even further:

sudo port install libdvdcss

That worked! Redoing what I was doing:

However:

Error: Target com.apple.build returned: shell command "cd "/opt/local/var/db/dports/build/_opt_local_var_db_dports_sources_rsync.rsync.darwinports.org_dpupdate_dports_multimedia_MPlayer/work/MPlayer-1.0rc1" && LD=cc make all" returned error 2 Command output: symbol _fmodl used from dynamic library /usr/lib/libstdc++.6.dylib(single module) not from earlier dynamic library /usr/lib/libSystem.B.dylib(ld64.o)

This was on my iBook with OSX 10.3.

Out of curiosity, I checked the Mini with OSX 10.4. There, everything worked.

I really need to remove the software from the iBook so that it no longer confuses me.

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I installed Adium 1.0 and now I suffer from multiple Adium processes and high CPU load… It seems that this is a known bug. I’m going back to Adium 0.89.1.

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As I keep reading the EN World website, I think I’ll have to start keeping a list of adventures I might want to buy. If I don’t, I’ll end up buying tons now and never playing any! So that’s what I’ll do: Keep an AdventureWishlist.

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# 2007-02-11 Donation

A few days ago an Oddmuse user from Canada asked whether I’d be willing to do some work for hire, or if I knew somebody who did. A few days before that, a Swiss friend asked a similar question. I declined the offers and offered to pass along some contact info of developers I knew from IRC or real life.

I guess developers interested in making some money should create a page on oddmuse.org so that users can find them.

The same user from Canada then asked for the donation button. I said that there was none and told him that if he wanted to show his appreciation, he should donate some money to charity instead and let me know about it.

This is basically along the lines of what I said for Emacs Wiki:

If you like the site and want to contribute something, contribute either time or money: Write content, fix typos, clean up pages by removing old discussions, merging and splitting pages, and linking up and down the page hierarchy. If you do not have time, you can always donate money. Show your support by saying on your homepage on this wiki how much you donated to charity because of the Emacs Wiki. That would be awesome. [1]

This user then proceeded to donate $150 to UNICEF because of Oddmuse… Awesome. It might be more appropriate than asking me… After all, the kind of conversation you’d hear on #oddmuse: 15:42 kensanata i’m starting to feel old because the hair in my nose is starting to tickle me. 15:43 kensanata if i cross my eyes just right, it looks like there’s a cockroach living in my brain. Tags: Add Comment # 2007-02-12 iAUDIO G3 Firmware Upgrade My portable MP3 player, the iAUDIO G3, sometimes has problems with certain files: It will crash when it encounters them. This includes all the files from the podcast “12 Byzantine Emperors” – I assume they are too large. Yesterday I decided to visit the product’s homepage, and indeed, there is a firmware upgrade available. And it requires Windows. Other operating systems, beware. No GNU/Linux or Mac OS X versions available. I had to do the firmware upgrade at work. How lousy. Tags: Add Comment # 2007-02-13 PC Gen When creating non-player characters in my games, I often feel hassled by all the rules. Even if I pick very simple rules like the M20 rules, magic users remain tricky. What spells to pick? I’ll have to take a look at PCGen: PCGen is a character generator for role-playing games. It currently is aimed at supporting as many RPGs as is humanly possible. The project’s current focus is on OGL games (OGL is Wizards of the Coast’s Open Gaming License). PCGen runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Unix/Linux using Java 1.4/1.5. [1] I freely admit that the Java part is not enouraging. ;) Update: It turns out that PC Gen is not what I want. It knows the rules, and it prints a nice character sheet, but it doesn’t generate the NPCs for me. NPC Designer, on the other hand, is just what I need. Unfortunately, it is written in visual basic, as far as I can tell, and thus only runs on Windows. And I’d prefer FreeSoftware, of course. Hm. What to do. Try and reimplement something like it in Emacs? Perhaps it would make more sense to reimplement something like it on the web (using Perl). Hm… Tags: Comments on 2007-02-13 PC Gen I’ve often been surprised at how little DND software there is for Emacs. I have an extensive character sheet generator I wrote in Emacs which I’ve been using since … uh.. well, 1st edition. Not much of that one is left in the current incarnation. I’ve never posted it because the Emacs/D20/DND intersection appeared non-existent and the crowd on the DND newsgroups were all happy with PCGen, or some other windozy thing. I tried out PCGen a few times when trying to wedge the rules into Emacs was too discouraging, and I found PCGen was surprisingly inflexible. You either obeyed all the rules, or you used a piece of paper. “Bah!” I say! Anyway, for my system, all the data is kept in a wiki (TWiki wiki to be specific), or a text file for “secret” data, pumped through a monster Emacs script which outputs LaTeX. I keep thinking the same thing. Wouldn’t it be great to have it auto-create basic NPCs for me. I’ll get around to it… someday. If anyone cares, I’d be happy to share. Contact info on website. Eric 2007-02-13 17:37 UTC Do share!! And yes, you do have an awesome hobby! -1 for obfuscating your email, however. Then again, +1 for “I always respond to email in rhyming verse.” AlexSchroeder 2007-02-13 20:42 UTC Which version of PCGen did you use? The last two alpha’s have a very early stages of a random (but weighted) npc creator. It’s at the top next to the “New Character” button. Yes I know it’s the same icon and that’s going to get fixed. But it will design a npc based on what sources you have loaded. PaulGrosse 2007-02-22 02:55 UTC I have PC Gen 5.10.1 installed. I probably didn’t download any alpha or nightly build. PC Gen does seem to have all the nitty-gritty stuff available that I would have to reimplement in a web service… I’d love to see semi-automatic NPC generation using Free Software. AlexSchroeder 2007-02-22 09:04 UTC I tried something at home, on my laptop with Mac OS 10.3.9 installed. Unfortunately, there seems to be some kind of version test which it is failing: lpinobombus:/Applications/PCGen.app/Contents/Resources/Java alex$ java -jar pcgen.jar
Exception in thread "main" java.lang.UnsupportedClassVersionError: pcgen/core/Main (Unsupported major.minor version 49.0)
at java.net.URLClassLoader.access$100(URLClassLoader.java:55) at java.net.URLClassLoader$1.run(URLClassLoader.java:194)
at java.security.AccessController.doPrivileged(Native Method)
at sun.misc.Launcher$AppClassLoader.loadClass(Launcher.java:274) at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:235) at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClassInternal(ClassLoader.java:302) – AlexSchroeder 2007-02-25 17:23 UTC Sounds to me like it’s either trying to use the version of java “installed” with Open Office or, if you’ve not got that installed, it’s the blackdown version. I’ve seen both barf like that. The best bet is to get the latest JRE from Sun and install that. So many versions of java, so few reasons to use it. Unfortunately, PCGEN is good enough to be worth the pain. GreyWulf 2007-02-25 22:51 UTC Hm. I’ll have to investigate. They don’t seem to have Mac versions available for download [1] and as far as I can tell, Apple is providing me with its own Java 1.4: Alpinobombus:~/pcgen5118 alex$ java -version
java version "1.4.2_12"
Java(TM) 2 Runtime Environment, Standard Edition (build 1.4.2_12-270)
Java HotSpot(TM) Client VM (build 1.4.2-70, mixed mode)

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-26 06:07 UTC

Aha! It seems that 5.10.1 works, where as 5.11.8 (alpha) will not. No automatic NPC generation for the moment, but things are looking bright again.

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-26 06:38 UTC

Much better! NPC Generator 2 will generate NPCs for you. (There’s an experimental feature to generate PC Gen files, too.) And get this: You can compile it as a Windows application, as a command-line application, and as a CGI script. Awesome! Source is available. Part of the code is GNU Lesser Public license, some is in the public domain. <3 <3 <3

AlexSchroeder 2007-03-06 21:19 UTC

I recommend the Dungeon generator too. Jamis Buck rocks!

GreyWulf 2007-03-06 22:30 UTC

Hehe. I looked at it some time back, but really, those kinds of dungeons are too simplistic for me. I don’t think I’d enjoy them. I know you’ve used at least one of them as a basis for a “real” dungeon. How did it go? Did your player comment on it?

AlexSchroeder 2007-03-06 23:14 UTC

I’ve used them as the basis for entire scenarios quite a few times. They’re good for inspiration and make a great starting point; usually, all that’s needed is a little consistency and logic applied and you’re good to go.

I tend to set to Small width and height, set Sparseness to “A Bit Crowded” and Room Count to “Many”. I also set 100% of Deadends removed. That gives a dungeon with 15-25 interconnected rooms - perfect for your average ruined keep/large tomb/secret temple/whatever. From there I’ll check over the provided monsters, remove the ones which make no sense (wyrmling Black Dragons and the like) and think about the NPCs and critters with classes. I’ll either remove them, or build a story around why there’s a Dwarf Cleric and an Elf Ranger stuck in a 5’x5’ room on their own (oo-er!).

Then, I’ll add critters of my own, taking one of the standard monsters, adding in a few variants and putting them into routes on the map. I prefer giving the monsters routes rather than fixed rooms as it gives the dungeon more life, and me more options. Which is good.

Here's an example dungeon. I’d take out the white and red dragons (and their treasure), make the objective of the scenario to rescue the two elves in Room 13. I’ll add in the real bad guys - Duergar, maybe, and set some Duergar warriors (stat as per SRD) to patrol between Rooms 10, 3 and 8, and another set to patrol Rooms 11, 4, 9 and 7. I’ll generate a few Duergar Sorcerer-3s as apprentice cultists, and a Duergar sorcerer-5 as Big Bad Guy in Room 5. He’s summoned the Lemure in Room 12, and plans to sacrifice the kindapped elves to summon something more powerful next full moon. I’ll say the “dungeon” is an abandoned dwarven tradingpost/temple halfway up a mountain, or whatever.

That would be my starting point, anyhow All in all, it means I can knock out a passable one- or two-session scenario with minimum advance planning.

My players like this kind of gaming as it means it’s straight hack-and-slash with little chance of politics, emotions or complexities getting in the way. In other words, a welcome change of pace. Heh.

GreyWulf 2007-03-07 00:56 UTC

# 2007-02-14 DM Advice – Organic Campaigns

(In a recent EN World thread [1], I offered some advice for running an “organic” campaign – a campaign where players can go in any direction, finding adventure wherever they go. Here’s what I wrote.)

Some ideas for this kind of organic campaign: You need to present foes that come from other places (a hook), are looking for a certain item (another hook), are too strong for the party so they need to look for an ally (another hook), villains that manage to escape and return to fight another day (makes them feel at home), a safe place to return to and defend (home sweet home), etc.

Basically I think it is very important that you don’t waste your energy early in the game. Have two or three small things ready that you can spontaneously place anywhere when the party goes in unexpected directions. Reuse people and places. Hometowns, returning villains, old ruins reoccupied, that kind of stuff.

Some examples from my current campaign to illustrate these ideas:

• As first level adventurers, the party was faced with a CR 3.5 bird demon (tengu) having kidnapped a child, and two level 7 sorcerer fox demon brothers (kitsune) in a stalemate fighting for a magic composite longbow +3. Getting the child required the help of one of the brothers. Getting the bow required making a powerful enemy. Difficult choices for players, and no matter what happens, two of the three will probably survive as allies or enemies.
• Next, traveling to the next town, they were ambushed by thieves. A famous bandit trying to set up a camp in an abandoned ruin. The party barely manages to kill his seven henchmen and the bandit chief manages to flee.
• Two or three sessions later, on their way back, the party is attacked again. As they return to the ruin, they find that the bandit chief as returned with reinforcements and is finishing his reconstruction of the castle.
• In the other town, they fought an medium evil necromancer who had sumonned a mighty devil. It turns out that the temple was built on the grounds of a cursed family whose last surviving heir left town 50 years ago, and it seems that he was the necromancer’s boss who had supplied the powerful scroll. And he seems to be raising an undead army in another valley.
• A monk they had met after their first adventure when they had killed a handful of religious soldiers was interested in helping them, being himself busy organizing a revolt. This same monk went on to further his cause in the very same valley the undead army is being raised.

The important part is that I haven’t prepared anything about this valley, yet. But I’ve planted powerful cues that adventure is to be had there, and should the party turn there, I’ll start working on it. For now I’ve spend time detailing the bandit castle, adding turtle demons (kappa), a long lost magic weapon by a powerful demonhunter, an evil cleric helping the bandits, trying to ursup the position as band leader and founding an evil cult. (Haven’t decided on his masters, yet.)

And so on. Plant hooks, and don’t be afraid to reuse people and places. Don’t work too far ahead.

(And, as I found out later, this is old advice: “Never force yourself to create more than you must.” – Dungeoncraft, from Dragon Magazine 256, by Ray Winninger [2])

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# 2007-02-14 Twilight Samurai Followup

Twilight Samurai (2002) was one of the best Samurai movies I’ve seen. And via e1f’s journal I discovered that there are follow-up movies!

I just realized that all three are based on novels by Shuuhei Fujisawa, according to the IMDB. [1]

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Comments on 2007-02-14 Twilight Samurai Followup

I liked Twilight Samurai too. Did not know about the sequels though.

I can highly recommend When The Last Sword Is Drawn

– VagnJohansen 2007-02-19 21:24 UTC

Thank you for the recommendation. I’ve already bought it and will watch it one of these days.

AlexSchroeder 2007-06-12 13:25 UTC

# 2007-02-15 Gimp and Photoshop

Weird. GIMPshop is the Gimp with a Photoshop interface. “Its primary purpose is to make users of Photoshop feel comfortable using GIMP.” Since I have never used Photoshop, I don’t think I have a use for it, but I like the idea that makes this possible.

Let’s hope the copyright lawyers don’t go crazy.

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Comments on 2007-02-15 Gimp and Photoshop

GIMPshop rocks, especially if you’re trying to convert a photographer over to using Linux. Photoshop is a difficult app to part with once you’re used to it, and GIMPshop eases the pain. I also recommend this menu hack I posted about in the GIMP flickr forum. That makes GIMP mostly keystroke compatable, without changing the interface at all. That works especially well if (like me) you’re someone who uses both Photoshop and GIMP.

GreyWulf 2007-02-15 23:04 UTC

I’ve heard that the GIMP dev team is planning to do some work on separating the interface elements – so that the change that GIMPshop does by ugly hacks and forking of an old version, will be possible by just enabling it in the configuration. By the way, GIMP 2.3.14 is really great, can’t wait to see 2.4.

TheSheep 2007-02-16 22:01 UTC

I’m sorry, I’m incompetent in GIMP, Photoshop and drawing, but I think GIMP with photoshop interface is good idea for windows users(but switch to Linux is better :-P ), because Windows Window Manager is suxx (you can’t stick windows to edge of screen, etc).

– DenisRevin 2007-02-17 20:10 UTC

I use photoshop, but sometimes I need to use gimp too. May be I don’t know how to do few things in photoshop yet. I feel gimpshot is a good idea.

V 2007-02-18 17:59 UTC

# 2007-02-19

Somebody cleaned my keyboard at work. It feels so… different!

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# 2007-02-19 Byzantium Bump

I’m still reading Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich. It gets better and better. I love this book. Anybody interested in ancient history should read this. Less detailed (and less laborious for a poor English as a second language reader like me) than the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

As I said previously, however, my copy of the “Penguin History” book has missing pages. Better order it from a local bookshop and check before you buy it, instead of ordering it online.

It’s fascinating to think how the Byzantines could rise in revolt and come close to civil war because of such intriguing questions as to whether Christ’s nature was both divine and human (Wikipedia:Orthodoxy), just human (Wikipedia:Nestorianism), just divine (Wikipedia:Monophysitism), or whether he was actually created by God (Wikipedia:Arianism)… Yay for bloodshed in the name of religious fervor!

No matter whose side you’re own, however, Wikipedia is teh bestest!

It may not be perfect. It sure beats trying to find other easily accessible texts to link to.

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# 2007-02-19 Hoodwinked

We saw Hoodwinked (2005) on DVD and had a good time. Actually, the first part of the movie was hilarious, and the second part was ok. I liked the not-perfect animation style. Very nice touch.

Some days ago we saw Die Brücke von Remagen (1968). It was ok entertainment. I liked how both sides of the war were portrayed as essentially rational, unlike these days, where most people on the “other” side seem to be some crazy-ass monster-guys.

See also: DeutscheWikipedia:Brücke von Remagen, also known as Wikipedia:Ludendorff Bridge, and the movie page DeutscheWikipedia:Die Brücke von Remagen (Film) and Wikipedia:The Bridge at Remagen.

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I’m forwarding all my mail to alex@gnu.org and alex@emacswiki.org to my Gmail account. I realized I didn’t want to start Thunderbird anymore. Having to sift through a dozen spam mails just to find the occasional mail I cared about turned me off. I ended up reading those mails about once a week. No good.

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I was using Thunderbird for a while, but I got too frustrated dealing with maintaining mail filters. Whenever I automatically created a mail filter, it put it on the wrong account by default. So I’d have to delete it, and then recreate it manually, each time. Thunderbird is not to mail what Firefox is to web browsing!

LionKimbro 2007-02-26 16:19 UTC

Too be honest, I never quite understood these per-account rules. It seems to work in the office, but I can’t be bothered (anymore) to think it through at home.

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-26 17:07 UTC

# 2007-02-27 One-on-one RPG

Last weekend I wanted to gather some experience using the D&D 3.5 rules (my current campaign is still using the very simple M20 rules). More and more, my players start asking questions – why a rogue gets to do extra damage in this or that situation, how much cover they should be getting, why they cannot transfer some of their to-hit bonus to their damage roll, and they start noticing the simplicity of the skill system.

And since I wanted to provide a gentle roleplaying introduction to Claudia, I offered to run the free The Wizard's Amulet by Necromancer Games. The rules worked fine, and we ended after the first combat. It was funny to see how she didn’t quite want to hurt the baby Leucrotta. After the game I decided that I shall try to have more talking and less combat the next time we try this.

It was fun to see how she loved to roll the dice, happy if she rolled a natural twenty; taking it personally when her first listen check yielded a six.

On the IRC server irc://chat.psionics.net:6667/ there are several channels I’m on, mostly #dnd3e, #FUDGE, and #game-design. And the Fudge channel makes me want to try the Fudge rules again.

I really need to find a lot more players!

(When I showed her my Fudge dice, and rolled a +4 on my first try, she had to try as well, but failed a dozen times. Her face was fun to watch. Hehehe…)

Tags:

Nothing ever became of 2006-12-01 Finde Spieler? Maybe your advertisement should say you’re willing to take on beginners.

AaronHawley 2007-02-27 16:05 UTC

Yeah, good idea. Claudia has also suggested I prepare a another flyer and put it up in a few locations (comic shops, university).

(I’m surprised you read the German pages as well!! )

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-27 21:46 UTC

Great Dice are wonderfully tactile, aren’t they?

I like the idea fo M20 being use as a stepping stone towards full D&D-ness. I’ll have to think more about that. FUDGE rocks conceptually, but I’ve never been able to convince anyone other than DMs about it’s coolness. Players just don’t seem to like it’s open-ended rules-fiddling nature so much. Strange, that.

GreyWulf 2007-02-27 22:31 UTC

I’m torn. Assuming I manage to start a week-end group including Claudia, maybe a friend of hers, and perhaps another player from my other group, what should I do: Try Fudge, because the two girls have no preferences, yet? Or try D&D, because I want to learn anyway, and this would make the two groups even more compatible.

I think it will have to be D&D.

As for Ptolus, by the way… I’m reading good things. Including a blog called Praemal Tales. If you check out some of his 3D dungeon building efforts, you’ll have to agree – this guy has no life…

And yes, you are right. Fudge seems to appeal to a certain breed of DM, and to none of the players. Oh well. I should rewrite my diceless rules to use Fudge dice – Grofzg With Fudge Dice.

AlexSchroeder 2007-02-28 11:26 UTC

Ptolus is very, very good. It’s become our default campaign setting because it’s just such a wonderfully put together city/gameworld. At the same time, it doesn’t feel “locked in” like Eberron or Forgotten Realms. In those worlds, I’m almost afraid to sneeze in case I break canon. There’s no way I’d run a war (or even a minor battle) in the Realms or Eberron in case a new supplement comes out (or is already available) which totally derails that I’m doing in my own game. Ick.

That said, Eberron is a fun setting; of the two, I’m more likely to choose that one because I like it’s Indiana Jones-style gameplay.

Ptolus is streets ahead of both of them (pun intended). Praemal Tales captures the setting brilliantly, btw. And the food they serve pre-game looks amazing. It’s one of my favourite game blogs, definitely.

I like that anything can be added to Ptolus, and it works. I can take a shrine and stick it in a back alley. I can put catacombs under a nobleman’s mansion, and add in any classes and races I want, and it works. That’s hard to do in the Realms or Eberron without a lot of thought. In my campaign I’ve added the World Serpent Inn, so the adventurers can literally go anywhere, and still call Ptolus their home. I’m using the Forgotten Realms Underdark supplement too, just to add a little depth to what lies beneath. Ptolus feels open to handling whatever you throw at it. In comparison, the Forgotten Realms and Eberron feel closed tight.

If you haven’t done do already, grab the (free) Player's Guide to Ptolus. It’s the bestest D&D setting there is, imho.

GreyWulf 2007-02-28 16:25 UTC

Why, oh Why, do I have to live way out in Seattle?!?

LionKimbro 2007-03-01 09:23 UTC

I don’t understand. In the last unscientific list I saw, Seattle was #4 roleplaying city! [1]

You should be having the time of your life in Seattle…

Now if you were complaining because you’re not gaming with Greywulf, I’d understand. I heard that he even roleplays over the phone… How cool is that?

AlexSchroeder 2007-03-01 09:31 UTC

Heh. My reputation preceeds me. Whether that’s a good thing, I’m not sure.

I’m sure that Seattle should be a very cool place for gamers though. Lion, post a message looking for gamers at the ENWorld forums. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

GreyWulf 2007-03-01 10:12 UTC

Having the time of my life out here in Seattle?

Nah; I just want to play D&D w/ Alex.

Sadly, there’s this business with an ocean and a bunch of land. So we have to content ourselves with the Internet Plane of Shadows.

LionKimbro 2007-03-02 08:48 UTC

Hehe. I’m not “online” enough to actually suggest a virtual gaming table… Fantasy Grounds does look spectacular, though.

AlexSchroeder 2007-03-02 15:21 UTC

I will have to make do with the CommunityWikiRpg, wherein I build ideas, map strange new territories, invoke cryptic incantations, and, uh… …follow RecentChanges.

We should redo our FrontLawn pages as character sheets. “VERBOSITY: 15”

LionKimbro 2007-03-03 02:18 UTC