2007-12-02 Inside Out

I figured out when we are to use the laundry room in the new building. We get the laundry room for two days every four weeks. WTF were they thinking when they created this plan? Ten parties interested in using the room, no washing on Sundays, no washing after 20:00, and a four week wait between laundry opportunities. And Claudia and I both do sports. I guess they expect us to have at least thirty pairs of underwear and socks as well as at least eight sets of clothes for training. Or we wear our stuff inside out every two weeks…

Yuck. Is this a secret ploy to force us to buy our own washing machine?

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Sowas hab ich ja noch nie gehört! Time to seek the public laundry place. 4 Wochen geht ja wohl wirklich nicht. Habt Ihr keine Familien mit Kinder im Haus? Die müssen sicher alle 3 Tage waschen. Ich denke zu Weihnachten gibt’s ne Waschmaschine von den Eltern….

– Sektat 2007-12-02 22:12 UTC

2007-12-02 To the light

Some time after the fight with the trolls, the party happened upon a Gnoll band demanding a toll of 10 gp per person for passage, 200 gp for a map to the next exit, and 500 gp for a human slave they had captured on the surface. The gnolls also knew he had masterwork equipment worth around 2000 gp. They wanted to sell it all to the Drow slavers, but the negotiation turned sour and in the end all the gnolls except for one died in battle and Silas, the priest of Muir with awesome armor and a wonderful bastard sword was rescued.

When later 21 Gnolls came down the tunnel and noticed the smell of death and blood, they were cautious. But Belflin had heard them come and Krel was ready. He crushed the first Gnoll’s skull. While Belflin helped Silas into his full plate armor, the Gnolls slowly negotiated a passage. And a few minutes later the party released their gnoll prisoner who joined his comrades. There are now 21 cautious Gnolls beneath the valley.

Later they fought three wraiths and the party realized that they were going to wander for a long time before finding anything down here. They started looking for an exit. I fast-forwarded and we skipped all random encounters on the way back, assuming that none were a serious challenge for the heroes. But no XP was gained either.

Back in Bostwick and later in Pembrose, the party heard that three miners had gone missing in Twain, a green dragon had been seen flying over Twain, and that the body of farmer Born Thorhall had been removed from the tempel of Freya in Bostwick. Later the party discovered the footprints of three creatures going from the tempel to the graveyard (and found a piece of dead grey meat on the way). They lost the tracks around the mausoleum standing in the middle of the Bostwick graveyard, but did not find any secret doors. Not even when Krel and Karamutenga lifted the lid of the sarcophagus in the dead of the night. It was empty. No body inside.

On July 17 the party was invited to talk to Kyle and took on the mission to rid his father’s keep from the hobgoblins for the reward of 300 gp each and a +1 heavy crossbow from his great uncle. The party accepted and the death machine descended upon the hobgoblin keep…

XP

Challenges overcome:

• Gnolls, 16 × CR 1
• Vrog, gnoll leader, CR 5
• Wraiths, 3 × CR 5
• Hobgoblins, 22 × CR ½
• Thugler, hobgoblin leader, CR 5
• Quarant, orc priest, CR 3

Level 6: 27*300+600+5*1200 ⇒ 2450 per person

Corian
17545 + 50 + 2450 = 20045 (Sor-6)
Auroleva
17436 + 2450 = 19886 (Drd-3/Clr-3)
Belflin
17300 + 50 + 2450 = 19800 (Rng-6)
Krel
16620 + 2450 = 19070 (Brb-6)
Karamutenga
16620 + 2450 = 19070 (Brb-6)
Silas
15000 + 2450 = 17450 (Cle-6)

2007-12-02 iTunes vs. Squeezebox

My SqueezeBox is controlled via a lousy single-line interface using the remote control, which is to say it has the usability of a mobile phone from the nineties. Or from a web interface which is pretty slow as it keeps reloading the page. Or by just picking your favorites. This works fine for some InternetRadio stations but not for others because I often get empty playlists when bookmarking ShoutCast stations. Damn.

Why can’t I use the SqueezeBox as an expensive remote speaker from iTunes? (Maybe I should have just bought an extra AirPort Express instead of a SqueezeBox.

I also don’t like how the SqueezeBox, the Tivoli radio that acts as amplifier and speaker, and the Mac Mini that serves the music have different & incompatible ways of switching them off. I think my approach to music gadgets has to be rethought.

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Comments on 2007-12-02 iTunes vs. Squeezebox

I actually think I might have a solution to that, based on the two conversations on the SqueezeBox homepage:

I’m actually working on some AppleScript

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-21 16:10 UTC

2007-12-03 Langstrasse

For anybody who missed Claudia and my memories of Langstrasse… → In Memoriam Langstrasse.

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So, I dumped Tricky, Swandive, Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, and Massive Attack from my portable MP3 player and reloaded it with something totally different:

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Achtung Baby, probably the best that they ever came up with.

AlokSingh 2007-12-05 12:12 UTC

2007-12-05 Second Hand Games

I bought some Xbox 360 games on my way home. I had heard good things about Call of Duty 4 by “I was born in the wrong century” Marco (as well as scathing criticism of the US patriotism and unreflected celebration of violence), and I had read good things about BioWare’s Mass Effect.

So I bough Mass Effect, and three second hand games: Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, and The Orange Box (containing Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal).

That should be enough material for another six months.

I was really looking forward to Assassin’s Creed but the review in my favorite magazine was not too hot.

(And that reminds me of The Gerstman Thing over on ShamusYoung’s site. If you read game reviews online, you should read that post.)

Update: Finished playing Call of Duty 2. Not bad. I think I’ll try Team Fortress 2 next.

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2007-12-06 Dwarven Stronghold

Tallarn asked for ideas about a dwarven stronghold on EN World. Here’s what I submitted:

• Hot springs with an awesome view.
• Very, very long stairways that are part of a spiritual pilgrimage.
• Halls of mourning with a roof hundreds of feet high and light holes that send down shafts of light that stand like pillars for an hour and then fade away only to reappear from a different light hole.
• Galleries, ie. paths dug into the mountain side like small tunnels. For fights that encourage the use of cover and flying.
• A waterfall between two of the peaks with a pond and lots of huge crystals that gather and reflect the light. A spiritual place.
• An old underground fortress that was abandoned long ago. It stands in a huge cavern and looks like a real fortress built to the back of the wall. It features huge old cannons with a muzzle several feet across. Nobody knows what force could have held the cannons together, and what the old masters were firing at. Some underground race fighting another, or maybe the fortress was built on a mountain top. Either the current mountain top fell from the heavens or the old fortress started to sink into the depths of the mountain.
• A great round hole many dozen feet accross with a great stair running along its circumference. Always down into the darkness. At the bottom lies…
• Fortified bridges arching over deep valleys.
• Mining carts that you can use to rollercoaster into the Underdark.
• The three peaks are mirrored in the underworld by a fortified hanging city built into incredible stalagtites. As if many hundreds of years ago the three mountains had just rotated, the old peaks turning into the stalagtites and the old stalagtites turning into the new peaks.

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2007-12-11 Looking Back

I posted the following on EN World in answer to a question about the things I still wanted to do in D&D. [1]

My plans for third edition:

• Bring my planar homebrew up to level 20 (currently level 8-10)
• Bring my Vault of Larin Karr game to an end in the Empire of the Ghouls (currently level 5)
• Finish Shackled City with my Paladin (currently level 2)
• Finish Echoes of Heaven with my Fighter (currently level 2)
• Play or run Age of Worms
• Play or run Savage Tide
• Play or run Pathfinder
• Play or run all three volumes of the Drow War
• Play or run a campaign or two in Ptolus

Things I’ve accomplished in 2007:

• Run several campaigns in parallel
• Find another DM so I can play as well
• Bought lots of Planescape material online
• Bought lots of planes-related second hand third edition books online
• Avoided splat books

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I’m itching to run Pathfinder too. I love it’s hard edge, and the Goblins in Pathfinder #1 are wonderful. I soooo wanna GM them

Savage Tide hasn’t gripped me, sad to say, but Age of Worms did. I dunno; it’s hard to explain why.

greywulf 2007-12-11 12:58 UTC

Yeah, I’m keen to move forwards with the Echoes of Heaven campaign. Spoke with Roland last weekend and as far as he knows nothing’s planned. If you can find two people to join then we’re good to go.

– Marco 2007-12-11 16:41 UTC

2007-12-12 Kazmojen

The following was written by our DM James.

Challenges overcome:

1 x Grell
4 x millipeeds
2 x stone spikes
1 x Ogre
10 x Hobgoblins
1 x Dwarf/Troll Boss

XP:

+ 7200 Exp
+ 1200 Exp for resuing the children, and releasing the other slaves (you were going to release them… wern’t you?)
+ 900 Exp bonus for returning to the dungeon when low on resources and tired etc…
= 9300 / 6 = 1550 each

New Totals:

• Aria 4640
• Borg 3200 (New level)
• Fenyael 4640
• Zacharias 4590
• Wim 3615 (New Level)
• Rhyalis 2550

Loot:

1 x cure light wounds, 1 x black inky potion, 1 x masterwork dagger, with poison, 80cp, 32sp
2 x chain shirts, 1 x half plate, 2 x spiked gauntlets (1 pair), a masterwork Great axe, 15 x short spears, 10 x throwing axes, ten x hand axes, five x battle axes, five x heavy picks and 5 x war hammers.
NOTE
One time only GM offer…. You can either spend the next session clearing out the Fortress of the last few creaturs, and looking for loot, or you can take the GM Special Offer. You do not get to know what the offer is till after you accept it or not… We could then move onto the next chapter. Up to you. Simple majority of the people who choose to vote decides the answer.

So, an auspicious day. The resident Overlord of the Universe has decided to take mortal form, and influence events from there, the shady a slightly suspicious character known as “Stone” has disappeared with some party loot, just when a Paladin of Pelor has joined the group, and the party lost, then found its courage. Maybe these are all connected.

Just as our adventurers were resting up before descending once more into Jzadirune Kristof Jurgensen (recently head of the Church of Pelor in Cauldron) asked to see Aria the next morning. That same evening Aria found out that her old friend, Rhysalis, has returned to the city. They meet up and share a few drinks in the Drunken Morpoth. It turns out the Rhysalis has been learning the craft of a Paladin, and has only recently returned to Cauldron, on an urgent mission.

When the morning arrived, Aria found out that the news from Kristof was already known to her, the return of Rhysalis. Kristof has appealed to the Church of Pelor (The Hall of the Sun) in Sassarine to send assistance, following the strange and worrying disappearance of his three superiors at the temple. The response was to send Rhysalis, Paladin of Pelor, to investigate the matter. The Hall of the Sun sees this as a (difficult) test of the new Paladin, and a neat match, with her already familiar with the city of Cauldron.

Kristof explains that he knows that Issal Phenor, Ember Malach and Pirius Starshine have all recently been murdered, though where and by who is not known. Another Paladin of Pelor, Alec Tercival, is also missing, and given the news of the other members of the church, this can only be seen as a worrying development, Alec had hinted that he known something about the deaths. Rhysalis has vowed to assist in this matter, and is pleased that she has found a ready made group to investigate this matter with her… she just needs to sort out this problem about some missing orphans first… As an ex-Lantern Street Orphan, Rhysalis feels a close connection with this trouble, and is keen to resolve this, before pursuing other matters. Certainly Rhysalis has brought some focus to the topic, and moves the quest on at a good pace.

The adventurers return to Jzadirune. They suspect that they know where the lift to the realm of “Kazmojen” is, and are keen to go there as soon as possible. Some members of the party have other ideas though, sensing the possibility of easily achieved treasure in some unexplored areas. A brief exploration into the underground city find the terror that had caused the Skulks and Dark Creepers to seal off part of the dungeon, a filthy and dangerous creature, a Grell. The Grell was nearly too much for one of the smaller members of the party, Wim was mortally wounded by is vicious 10! attacks, however Rhysalis quickly proves her worth with a timely “lay on hands”. Borg gets his loot, (1 x cure light wounds, 1 x black inky potion, 1 x masterwork dagger, with poison, 80cp, 32sp), and the party learns about not shouting in dark rooms. Luckily for the party, the Grell was starving and angry enough to charge in, rather than using its more normal sneaky approach.

The party decides to focus now on locating the lift, and do so quickly, once they set their abilities to it. They encounter no more trouble. Unlike with the Grell, the Skuls and Dark Creapers have found no suitable way to trap the party, and they have simply abandoned the Gnome city for safer parts. Some new evil will certainly replace them in time…

The lift down to the Malachite Fortress is a long way, 200 Feet (65 Meters), and at the bottom our friends encounter a gloomy but well built marble city. Some of the marble is quite active, and they have not gone far before encountering 2 Stone Spike guards, mistaken for statues. The stone spikes were bad enough, but the noise of the fight drew the attentions of Xukasus, an Ogre in charge of the guards of the fortress. The Ogre senses a chance for some nice new food, to rot down to filthy smelly food, Yum Yum! Showing rare mercy, (maybe our Paladin is having an effect…) the party captures not kills Xukasus. He is ordered to take them to the leader of the fortress, another repulsive character, known as Kazmojen. Xukasus senses a chance to escape, and in the very next room orders 4 hobgoblin guards to attack. All the enemies, even Xukasus, are quickly overcome, though another captive is taken, a hobgoblin known as Grag.

Grag is charmed by Fenyael, and tells asll, including the fact that some children are going to be sold as slaves very soon. Grag offers to take the party straight to Kazmojen, to speak with him directly, however the party declines and heads home to rest up. On the way home, Grag stages a dramatic escape, and disappears… maybe to report to Kazmojen.

Back on the surface as crisis of conscience occurs, as some of the party realizes that they have missed a precious chance to locate the children. After much soul searching and a discussion with Jenya Urikas, Rhysalis convinces the party to return that very night to confront Kazmojen. Despite being drained and tired, everyone agrees, Yay!

At 2am, the party stage a raid on the Malachite Fortress. An elaborate plan involving drilling machines is foiled when it turns out that the occupants of the fortress have lowered the lift to the bottom, preventing the drilling machines being brought to play. The party climbs down the dark lift shaft on the chains, and makes their way to the lair of the slave lord.

One the way the party finds the secret armory and also the forge room. Here they find:

2 x chain shirts, 1 x half plate, 2 x spiked gauntlets (1 pair), a masterwork Great axe, 15 x short spears, 10 x throwing axes, ten x hand axes, five x battle axes, five x heavy picks and 5 x war hammers.

Finally the bad boss if found. Our intrepid adventurers confront Kazmojen, 6 of his hobgoblin minions, and a mysterious durzagon. An epic battle ensues, but victory is eventually achieved.

Just as all is settling down following the battle, a momentous shock! An eye tyrant appears! This beholder startles the whole party by demanding that one of the slave children be handed over to him. Recognizing a power that they could not hope to face, the party accept this, and allow one of the children to be taken.

So, the evil slaver is slain, the enemies in the fortress defeated, and the terrors of Jzadirune faced and overcome. It only remains to return the children, collect the rewards, and drink a few beers in the Morpoth. Surely this will be all the trouble faced by Cauldron for now.

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Rhysalis Eina is using lots of Disarm moves with her Ranseur (+2 base attack, +3 strength bonus, +4 two handed, +2 ranseur special bonus = +11 to disarm). That part was incredibly effective. As I had hoped, against foes without reach, this is excellent because they don’t get an Attack of Opportunity, even though I don’t have the feat Improved Disarm.

My current plans are to take Combat Expertise @3, Leadership @6, and Improved Disarm @9. That’s late, but I really had to take Negotiator and Skill Focus (Diplomacy) at first level and I am not a Fighter. Oh well…

I was unable to use my awesome Diplomcay skill (+5 ranks, +3 Charisma, +3 Skill Focus, +2 Negotiator, +2 synergy due to Knowledge (nobility), +2 synergy due to Sense Motive = +17 Diplomacy). All the foes we fought either attacked us, or we attacked them. I wonder if we could have resolved the situation with Kazmojen peacefully. That would have involved some compromise, and I think I would have refused to compromise with a known slaver.

Then again, one of the beliefs I picked is “Everybody deserves a second chance.” Does that mean he would have had to surrender and beg for mercy? I think he would have had to do a lot of grovelling before deserving a second chance…

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-12 23:05 UTC

This was a really good tactic, especially because Wim was able to move into combat without taking an attack of opportunity (he is really fragile, though he has the 2nd best AC in the party right now) and then get his own attack of opportunity when Kazmojen picked up his warhammer.

Don’t worry too much about not negotiating with Kazmojen. Wim, like many gnomes and dwarves, is highly prejudiced against goblinoids, and has them as a favored enemy no less. He probably would have started a fight at some point, if it looked like Rhysalis was going to negotiate. After all, hobgoblins and anyone they associate with cannot be trusted…

2007-12-12 One Shot

I might run a one-shot on December 23. What should I do?

I could try and run a crazy ZorcererOfZo game using Fudge dice. Or I could use M20. But what kind of adventure should I run? I faintly remember GreyWulf having a favorite first level adventure from the Wizards of the Coast website. But I can’t remember its name. Something like that?

I remember having tried running Slave Raiders Of Rockwall by Bert the Ogre at a convention in Germany. It didn’t work too well because the adventure was unsuitable for a one-shot.

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That’ll be The Burning Plague. Fun, simple and very, very easy to GM.

greywulf 2007-12-13 01:00 UTC

The Dungeon Crawl Classic series by Goodman Games are pretty good for one-shots. You can probably finish one in a marathon 8-10 hr session.

Hm. I have one of them (DCC #10: The Sunless Garden), but it did look longer than a single session game. Then again, 10h would be the equivalent of two sessions, so perhaps it would work. Start at 12:00 and keep playing…

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-13 13:37 UTC

I agree with greywulf, The Burning Plague is pretty solid and interesting. Looking Glass Deep is also not bad, I adapted it for use as a side adventure in my old Arcana Evolved game.

Wizards also updated a few classic modules to 3.5E, like Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain.

2007-12-13 Blocher

Blocher has been replaced! Widmer-Schlumpf accepts cabinet post.

Some positive developments at last.

Blocher is the head of the People’s Party (SVP) – the one that has been involved in the Islamophobic activities criticized by the OSCE a few weeks ago. (→ OSCE expert concerned by Swiss Islamophobia)

Obviously removing an exponent does not cure the Swiss of Islamophobia, so I hope that his removal is but a symptom of a changing attitude. As they say, “hope dies last.”

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2007-12-13 Sacred Cattle

GreyWulf wrote about the top 10 things he wants to change in D&D in issue 4 of Save or Die.

Interesting stuff.

Character Classes – I agree. A change would be nice. Actually I think that all class features could be changed to feats and that would take care of a lot of things. Extra hit-dice are feats, spell casting requires feats, and so on. Not sure about skills. It seems that my players like them.

Vancian Magic – I found that players don’t take well to very flexible magic systems. Somehow their imagination suffers unter stress, I assume. And as I grow older, I’m starting to like irrational peculiar idiosyncratic spell descriptions. Why not. I don’t really care about spell slots, however. The Madrir in Denizens of Avadnu by Inner Circle Games had an interesting spell-sucking mechanic. Every spell was worth a point, and he had a number of spell points available. It seemed to work fine.

Miniatures play – my players seem to like it. I just like to put tokens on a table without a grid in order to visualize where people are. I don’t really care about the counting of squares. That penalizes quicker characters, but that’s ok.

Experience point calculation – yeah, that bugged me when I started with D&D again. But my players seem to like it.

Challenge Rating – going back to hit-dice seems like a good idea. Then again, as long as I don’t have to develop new monsters, I could not care less. As it is, the game requires a lot of work by DMs who want to write their own NPCs and monsters. If you don’t, you’re fine. If you do, I think the time’s not worth it. That’s bad for the hobby, but perhaps it’s also a boon as it keeps authors in business. Interesting thought, that one…

Level Adjustments – all of my games are three core books only, so I can’t comment.

Three books to rule them all – one book is enough! I was sad to see that Burning Wheel requires three books as well. Grrr!

Vague calculations with no rationale – I’m not sure wether a more rational system is going to be any better, because you can fudge either system. And that’s what counts. There are additional points to make about seemingly rational and playtest-confirmed raitional systems and all that, but it doesn’t matter. The ability to fudge remains central.

Changing the demographics of the game – basically this is a point for less rules and more DM fiat. Fine with me. Some of my players love to pour over rule books, however. It’s part of the fun they’re having. What can I say?

Balance at any price – I think I’m fine with an unbalanced system, too. But again, my players are not. They love the idea of characters being “balanced”. They talk about “balanced” and “unbalanced” a lot.

So, what’s the conclusion?

My conclusion is that I seem to share a lot of values with Greywulf. And we’re both DMs. But my players seem to be different. And we’re in this together…

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Alex, out of interest, do any of your players GM as well? If they don’t, it might be worth encouraging them to try so they can see both sides of the curtain, as it were. I know at least one player whose attitude to how the game should be played changed after he took up GM’ing. That’s not to say there’s a “right” or “wrong” way; my opinions are, after all, merely my own, and no more or less valid than anyone else’s. It’s good to know we have similar values though

We really ought to organise an online game, y’know……….

greywulf 2007-12-13 22:14 UTC

Hehe… Actually Marco has been running a few sessions of Echoes of Heaven by Final Redoubt Press where I played the fighter Thorhall. But I think his opinions have not changed. And the campaign is sort-of on hold right now as one of the three players is in Austria. Another player offered to run Age of Worms and bought all the material but moved to Munich recently, so this is not going to happen. And he was also a self-professed storyteller type.

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-13 23:17 UTC

2007-12-14 Missing A Bakery

If I want to get some bread, I can no longer just go in my slippers and just go around the corner. The next bakery is a few minutes walk from our new flat. Sniff!

And what happened to good ol’ gardening using a rake? We have a some trees and grass here, and the facility management sends guys with roaring engines strapped to their back that blow the dead leaves around. It takes forever and sounds like we’re having a car race down there. Grrr. Stupid leaf blowers. Gratuitous audio pollution.

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Comments on 2007-12-14 Missing A Bakery

und auch der nächste kebap laden ist etwas weiter weg, was wiederum mich etwas traurig stimmt.

zeno 2007-12-21 13:24 UTC

Aber Pizza Deliver gleich gegenüber… Auch nicht schlecht. Passt gut zum Game Abend!

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-21 14:51 UTC

ha. You know what they say about great minds. I just blew my afternoon playing Neverwinter Nights. Ordered Pizza for dinner. Took the last train home. Just arrived.

– Anonymous 2007-12-22 00:09 UTC

2007-12-15 Collective Setting Creation

Ryan Stoughton posted on EN World saying he managed to do collective setting creation with his players. I enjoyed doing that with Auroleva. We still have to meet some elves in our VaultOfLarinKarr game for it to make a difference, however!

Have you tried collective setting creation with your players?

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Comments on 2007-12-15 Collective Setting Creation

We’ve never done it consciously or intentionally, but our super-hero setting was definitely a collective creation. It evolved over about 25-odd years of gaming with every player also taking a turn as GM on a regular basis. That’s how we ended up with Manhattan being overgrown by giant sentient plantlife, half of the UK falling into the sea and more evil villains than you could shake a rocket stick at. It also meant that players could create a great Bad Guy only to have him thrown at their own PC at a later date.

The only rule we had was “no killing other players’ creations”. Of course, we could do anything else to them without actually crossing the line. As I recall, that’s how Kang The Corruptor ended up stuck underneath a mountain for all eternity. Ah, happy days.

greywulf 2007-12-15 10:47 UTC

2007-12-16 Making Connections

The party fights Uela the goblin sorceress and her weasels in the keep’s cellar, and frees the two dwarves Torbin & Korbin. The party returns the dwarves’ treasure, unlocks the empty treasure chamber, and explored the dungeon, found the torture chamber, and finally realized that they had been down here before, coming from the other side. Down here was the realm of the ghost Vordek! (→ 2007-09-09 Vordek) And Belflin’s weasel Dog is actually one of Uela’s weasels…

Later the party fought the gelatinous cube in the court yard, eventually returned to Lord Kyle, talked to the constable about the orcs and hobgoblin, gathered information on thieves robbing Angus Carl in Twain and Tina the witch in Bostwick, more stables have been burnt down.

The party goes to talk to Crus. They exchange news of the Underdark, give him the books they had found, and he confirms sight of the green dragon that has appeared in the forest of Nin. The hours pass as they sip heavy wine sitting on the roof of his tower, looking out into the night, chatting…

Claudia asked me to make a list of open plots. Here’s what I can think of:

• Get the weapons you ordered from the dwarves in Pembrose.
• Do you want to get involved in a potential conflict between Culwert & Odger and Torbin & Korbin? All of them in the weapons & armor business in Pembrose… That can’t be a smart move.
• Who is settin the barns on fire and asking for a statue? What statue? Who knows of it?
• Visit the elves that Elwynn the bard mentioned in Bostwick?
• Who stole the dead body of Born Thorhall in Bostwick?
• Is there a secret door somewhere around the mausoleum in Bostwick?
• Who robbed Tina the witch in Bostwick?
• Who robbed Angus Carl in Twain?
• Pick up Belflin’s trained horse in Twain.
• Why did three miners disappear in the Thorax mines?
• Why has a green dragon arrived in the forest of Nin?
• What are the dark figures with the red eyes guarding in the ruined village near Twain?
• The hobgoblins at the ruined keep were trying to make a deal with the Crushed Skull orcs. Where are they?
• What about the fire giant serving an evil god of fire called Belphegor?
• Where is Larin Karr’s treasure?
• And most important of all: Where did the Cloaker disappear to!?

I’m sure I forgot a mission or two, and I deliberately left out hints you’ve seen to missions not yet discovered.

XP

Challenges overcome:

• Uela, CR 5
• Hobgoblins, 2 × CR ½
• Weasels, 2 × CR 2
• Gelatinous Cube, CR 3

Level 6: 1200+300+900+600 ⇒ 750 per person

Corian
20045 + 750 + 50 = 20845 (Sor-6)
Auroleva
19886 + 750 + 50 = 20686 (Drd-3/Clr-3)
Belflin
19800 (Rng-6)
Karamutenga
19070 (Brb-6)
Silas
17450 + 750 = 18200 (Cle-6)

2007-12-18 Roleplaying Comparisons

Most awesome thread on EN World retelling the same story for various roleplaying systems:

Good fun, specially for those that already know some of these systems.

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2007-12-20 Golden Compass

Nice movie. I’m interested in reading the books, now. I liked them better than the Harry Potter movies I’ve seen because it seemed far less disjointed. I’m assuming that the movie suffers from the same problem that other epic movies like the Lord of the Rings suffer from. I don’t remember where I wrote about this… I’ll just put it on BooksToMovies.

Not really recommended unless you love Fantasy movies with children.

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Hey, the best part of that movie was seeing my college and feeling nostalgic - but I had higher expectations! G

– Anonymous 2007-12-20 22:35 UTC

2007-12-20 Holiday Season

The regular games are on halt, so what do you play in the holiday season? I asked around, found three hardcore players (Claudia, Moni, and Marco), and we picked Gallery of Evil by Stephen S. Greer – an urban adventure for four level eight characters…

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So, I’m playing a bard. Moni’s playing a cleric. What’s Claudia playing? I’m hoping a fighter type…

– Marco 2007-12-20 12:07 UTC

Actually she picked… the sorceress!

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-20 13:34 UTC

We’re all gonna die.

Maybe I should take a meat-grinder to restore the balance?

– Marco 2007-12-21 00:08 UTC

Or we invite more people to join… Thiago expressed interest, and Daniel will be available for a second session, if there is one.

Nic picked the rogue.

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-21 09:21 UTC

2007-12-20 Klingsors Letzter Sommer

I really liked Klingsor’s Last Summer by Hermann Hesse. I had suggested it for our English BookClub. I loved it when I was around 20. A painter, drunken with life, color, women, wine, summer – but at the brink of a breakdown, winter is coming, his reserves are stretched thin, his doubts are growing. A grandiose ecstatic moment in time.

Recommended.

And very, very small.

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2007-12-21 Useless Checkbox

I use Mac OS 10.3.9 on my iBook; I have iTunes 7.5; I don’t have an iPhone and I don’t plan to get one. iTunes won’t let me uncheck the Ringtones folder. Grrrr! [1]

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2007-12-22 Orange Box

So I’ve been playing some of the games in the Orange Box. The first is Half Life 2, a first person shooter, and the second is Team Fortress 2, an online shooter with very distinct classes. The classes are quite impressive: Pyros are good at short range, heavies have incredible fire power, spies can disguise themselves as enemies, snipers are good at long range, soldiers have a bazooka, scouts are very fast, engineers build automatic guns.

Today was the first game where I actually had fun at Team Fortress 2. At one time I was playing an engineer that kept defending our team’s “intelligence”, and I was playing a spy that sneaked into the enemy camp and backstabbed snipers. Team play was still amiss, but at last I was seeing a strategy that actually worked.

Surprisingly, Half Life 2 is not really drawing me into the game like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 1 & 2 did. I think I prefer it if sneaking is actually useful, when enemies don’t just keep coming, when you don’t need ten hits to kill and when you don’t survive a gazillion wounds yourself.

I wonder whether it will get any better.

Right now, I can’t recommend it. If you want to know more about Half Life and don’t mind spoilers, check out Shamus Young’s posts on the subject.

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Yesterday I had a bit more fun playing Team Fortress 2. Perhaps it just takes some getting used to. When Claudia watched me play Half Life 2 she wondered whether the charred corpses and the creepers on the ceiling don’t give me nightmares. She has a point…

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-23 10:20 UTC

2007-12-24 Gallery of Evil

We played a one-shot. I liked it! → Gallery Of Evil Review, also available on the Paizo site, and some discussion in a thread on their messageboards.

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2007-12-25 Guild Wars

Hm… I got a copy of Guild Wars. It requires Windows. I do have an old Windows 2000 CD lying around somewhere. And I heard you can use Apple’s Boot Camp (no longer gratis) or rEFIt (no Mac drivers) to dual book. I’ll have to look into this.

Too bad it doesn’t exist for the Xbox 360.

I’d install it on my Mac Mini. “You can pretty much expect a solid 15-20 FPS from this machine running winxp in boot camp.” [1] I wonder how much space I’d have to set aside for this? My current main disc had around 3G of space. I moved my picture collection (“iPhoto Library”) to the external harddisk. Now I have more than 8G available. I wonder whether 5G is enough for Windows and a game or two…

Update: A friend came over and brought his laptop along. According to the specs on the box, the laptop should have been good enough. But somehow my wireless network wasn’t detected, so we had to work around that; then the graphics card was not supported, and we tried anyway; and then it seemed to download forever, and crash with a graphics driver error after character generation… All in all we must have spent an hour or two with the laptop without getting it to work.

So… Try the Mac Mini, or an old machine at work? Hm…

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2007-12-25 New Argonauts

So easily missed… Somewhere on the Chatty DM forums there is talk about healing [1] and The New Argonauts by Sean K. Reynolds is quoted. And it’s available for free!

Sales of the PDF had slowed to a trickle (it’s almost two years old). Accounting for these little amounts was a hassle and no longer worth my time. I could have just pulled the book from the “virtual shelves,” but I feel that we’re all better off if works remain available even after they’re not financially viable. So I’ve released the PDF for free. You can download it for free, make copies for anyone you want, and so on. Enjoy! [2]

Here’s hat the author says about the book:

This book is intended to be enough information to let you run a short campaign (8-12 sessions or even longer) set in mythic Greece. If you like Troy, Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, or similar movies, this book is the key to heroic adventure. Heroes are masters of the sword and spear, magic is in the hands of the gods or of mysterious sorcerer-women, and the world’s monsters are unique creatures born of the gods or special circumstances rather than members of a race of similar-shaped things. This is what I call “an Argonauts campaign.” – Sean K. Reynolds, The New Argonauts, p. 2

I don’t think I’m ready to run a non-standard campaign any time soon (since my Kitsunemori campaign showed that our group was still too new to D&D 3.5 – we were not ready for radical changes in the core rules. By the time I get to run an adventure in an Argonauts campaign, D&D must be approach 5th ed.

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2007-12-27 Dungeon Tiles

James used Dungeon Tiles in our last ShackledCity session. I was surprised how slick they looked. Right now I’m using white paper with a printed grid on them, which I stick into a protective plastic together with a piece of cardboard. Then I use overhead projector pens to draw on the plastic. Works for us.

I wonder how I would start if I wanted to get some nicer looking tiles. Find some PDF, find a color printer, find a place where I can plastify (what do you call this?) it… Or just get the cardboard things from some mail order… Hm.

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I think you mean laminate Plastify sounds cooler though.

RPGNow has a lot of great sets available incredibly cheaply. While I’m no fan of them myself, I know a lot of GMs who swear by them. When I’ve played D&D with miniatures, a good set of map tiles has helped things, a lot.

As I recall, the e-adventure sets are pretty good. I’m a fan of Disposable Heroes paper minis, too.

greywulf 2007-12-27 16:42 UTC

Indeed, and now I remember the German word for it as well: “laminieren”. D’oh!

Perhaps I should just see how James uses them before investing any money in them. Or I could put it on a wishlist for my players. If they like them, they’ll buy them. If not, we’ll stick to what we currently use.

My own preference is to not use a battlemap at all, but I whenever I ask my players whether or not we should get out the battlemap for a fight, they always want one.

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-27 16:58 UTC

I think it depends on the type of combat we’re having. A really straight forward fight wouldn’t need the battle map, but because so much of DnD combat is location based you really need to be able to visualise the layout once the arena starts getting complex.

– Marco 2008-01-04 23:37 UTC

2007-12-27 Xbox 360 Freeze Out

What a bummer. A friend comes around to play some, and my Xbox 360 freezes four times in a row! We turn to the PS2.

I’ve had a freeze or two before in recent days. Is my Xbox 360 finally breaking down? What a bummer! I bought the machine over a year ago (→ 2006-05-12 Gadgets) so there’s no warranty on it. Grrrr.

Google:xbox+360+freeze has lots of info on the issue. So now I’m trying to isolate the issue. Disconnected and reconnected all cables. Moved the console to the other side of the TV. Perhaps some strange air circulation problem? Disconnected the harddisc and removed the CD from the tray and let it run for a few minutes (no disc ⇒ no profile ⇒ no Xbox Live). No problem. Put GRAW2 into the tray and let it run on demo for a few minutes. No problem. Put the Orange Box into the tray and let it run for a few minutes. No problem. Connected the harddisc again, went online, played a long game of Team Fortress 2. No problem.

I guess moving the Xbox 360 and its powersupply around solved the problem. How weird!

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Comments on 2007-12-27 Xbox 360 Freeze Out

Microsoft gibt evt. länger Garantie, 3 Jahre, wegen dem “Red Ring of Death” - habe ich mal gehöhrt, ob das auch für die Schweiz gilt, weiss ich nicht.

– Chris 2007-12-28 09:50 UTC

Oh, dann wäre ich ja noch drinnen! Da es ja jetzt wieder “gefixt” ist, muss ich mich wohl nicht dringend darum kümmern. Vielleicht stellt sich ja dann mal heraus, dass meine Xbox sowieso kaputt ist. Mein Lüfter scheint auf alle Fälle fast immer auf Hochtouren zu arbeiten. Als DVD Player wahrlich nicht geeignet…

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-28 12:17 UTC

Ja, meine 360 ist auch sehr laut. Die PS3 musste ich zurückbringen, war viel zu laut; die PS3 hat eigentlich ein sehr leiser Lüfter. Hat gut geklappt, auch ohne Kassenzettel. Die neue ist leiser, aber noch nicht ideal.

– Chris 2007-12-28 19:14 UTC

Hm, habe mir gar nicht überlegt, dass der ständige Lärm ein Defekt sein könnte. Naja, man bräuchte sowieso diesen Zusatz mit Fernbedienung und bekäme einen verkrüppelten DVD player. Hier in der Schweiz ist ja “code free” zum Glück immer noch erlaubt. Deswegen bleibe ich bei meinem alten DVD player, hehe. Oder im Notfall packe ich meine PS2 als DVD player wieder aus, haha.

Was die PS2 angeht… Im Moment sieht es bei mir so aus, wie wenn ich nur die Xbox 360 verwenden würde – die “Netzwerk” Konsole. Noch bessere Grafik brauche ich vermutlich nicht – da stellt sich schon bald die Frage, ob mit dem Alter die Sehrkraft nicht schneller abnimmt, haha. Am bitteren Ende ist man mit der 16 Farben 320 × 200 Auflösung vom C-64 wieder zufrieden.

Und über die Wii haben wir ja schon geredet. Allerdings, bei Shamus Young habe ich diese fantastischen Video gesehen: Jonny Chung Lee, a CMU student who has developed a way to track head movements (he uses Wii parts) and use the positioning of the user’s head to adjust the camera position in a 3d scene. Die Demo ist wirklich sehr beeindruckend.

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-29 16:58 UTC

Argh! Der Red Ring of Death ist wieder da. Zuerst friert der Schirm ein, und nach dem Neustart tritt genau das beschriebene Phänomen auf: “An der Vorderseite der Xbox 360-Konsole blinken drei Leuchten des Leuchtrings rot. Nur die Leuchte im oberen rechten Quadranten blinkt nicht rot.” Grrrrr! Die erweiterte Garantie für die Xbox 360 gilt auch in der Schweiz. Jetzt muss ich mir das wirklich mal genauer ansehen. Anscheinend zahlen die ja den Versand in beide Richtungen. Jetzt darf ich bloss keine Fehler machen.

Habe mich mal per Email gemeldet… “Nummer Ihrer Supportanfrage:1054012415”

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-30 02:50 UTC

2007-12-30 Common Lisp Features

I found a nice list of Common Lisp features by Abhishek Reddy via Joseph Miklojcik’s Common Lisp Features on PlanetEmacsen. I had read Joseph’s blog post Three Language Features You Need To Understand Before You Dismiss Common Lisp and wondered what a complete list of cool features would look like… Now that I’ve looked at it, I wonder whether a Python using friend would be impressed. It seems hard to appreciate.

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2007-12-30 Three Hearts and Three Lions

I just finished Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. This is Fantasy from the fifties! In terms of plot, I did not like it too much: The hero needs to save the world, and in order to do that he needs to find an ancient sword, and the book ends when he reaches the sword. It feels incomplete!

But the one redeeming thing in this book is the appearance of a troll. And not just any troll. It’s just the troll one knows from Dungeons and Dragons!

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2007-12-31 In Bed With 38°C

Yesterday not long after having eaten my lunch, I discovered that I did in fact have a little headache. And a little throat ache. As soon as I had told Claudia that I suspected the flu, it really hit me. Spent the afternoon in bed with tons of covers and feeling cold eventhough we can’t seem to bring this appartment below 23°C. This morning I felt better, but the thermometer shows 38°C…

And tonight we are invited by Claudia’s parents to have dinner in an excellent Japanese restaurant, the Hotel Restaurant Ryokan Hasenberg.

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Comments on 2007-12-31 In Bed With 38°C

Ick. I hope you’re feeling well enough to go, Alex.

Get well soon!

greywulf 2007-12-31 12:58 UTC

Yeah, I feel a bit better already. So I’ll go…

AlexSchroeder 2007-12-31 15:57 UTC

Weird, this was the fastest recovery ever.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-01 01:33 UTC

This was some worldwide express flu epidemic, I had some too, and also some of my friends. Glad you’re better now, may it be the first and the last one this year.

Heh. Thanks.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-02 13:53 UTC

Damn. The last 20% of the flu don’t want to quit. I guess I’m no immune system superhero after all.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-04 22:44 UTC

Wie ist der letzte Stand der Gesundheit? Schon alles vorbei?

– der Vater 2008-01-08 21:52 UTC

Seit gestern ist nun endlich alles wieder normal!

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-08 22:40 UTC

Dann bin ich zufrieden. Sonst muesstest du mal nach João Pessoa kommen. Hier ist immer gutes Wetter. Jeden Tag Sonnenschein und das schon seit 3 Wochen, laenger bin ich noch nicht hier.

– der Vater 2008-01-11 22:45 UTC

2007-12 Book Club

When: December 17, a Monday, as usual: 19:00, Starbucks, Central

What: Klingsor’s Last Sommer by Hermann Hesse aka. Klingsors Letzter Sommer. Wikipedia: Hermann Hesse.

Why: Supporters: Nanda, Alex, Uli, Karina, Arantza.

Note: This novella might be hard to get. You might have to look for second hand books. Amazon links to shops selling second hand copies, and I’ve used AbeBooks in the past as well.

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