# 2009-06-01 Entangle

Today we had a fight with three groups of enemies caught in an entangle spell. The die rolling sucked. Proposed simplification: every enemy in the area is entangled. On a successful save, they manage to leave the area of effect. The save DC is determined by the caster, -1 for every additional four creatures (since some of them will be closer to the edge), +4 for every multiple of your movement speed compared to area of effect radius. Example for 40ft. radius: 50ft. movement = +0, 40ft. movement = +4, 30ft. movement = +4, 20ft. movement = +8.

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Maybe you could use averages?

If you have a bunch of monsters with a +2 reflex save and the DC is 15, then they have to roll a 13 or higher to save. That means 40% of the monsters will save.

– Marco 2009-06-01 07:59 UTC

If I take averages I still need to track state: entangled, inside but free, distance from the edge. At the table I did some simplification regarding exact positions but I was still unhappy.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-01 08:37 UTC

Perhaps next time you should just send them one or two at a time, to keep it manageable.

– Marco 2009-06-01 09:23 UTC

That might be one of the cases where a battlemap is useful

– Marcel 2009-06-01 10:32 UTC

Yes, it would help track distance from the edge. But it would not help track entangled vs. free, so I would still have to figure out who gets to roll the DC 20 Strength check to break free, and who gets to roll the DC 16 Reflex save to remain free, and all of that for around 10 opponents if I remember correctly.

That’s why I had the idea of using a different mechanic: Essentially I just want to have a spell that gives opponents the entangled condition, and it takes a while to get out. It’s really difficult for them to get out if they are slow, it gets somewhat easier if there are lots of people in the area of effect, since more of the victims will be closer to the edge. Creatures with better Dexterity have their bonus figured into the Reflex save, so no need to have a separate Escape Artist roll. The only drawback right now is that strong creatures don’t get to break out that easily. But other than that, I just need to roll a die per victim trapped in the area of effect, and if they make their roll, they’re free and outside. That’s the kind of simplification I want. I do wonder whether the spell is still as strong as I’d want it to be.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-01 10:45 UTC

Similar spells with too much die rolling in need of simplification: confusion, web. I much prefer something simple such ‘save every round or attack your nearest ally’ for confusion for example.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-01 11:35 UTC

# 2009-06-02 The Secret of Sinharat

I’ve subscribed to Paizo’s Planet Stories and just finished The Secret of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett. I enjoyed the book. It had a nice Stargate meets Conan vibe to it.

I liked it better than the collected Jirel of Joiry stories by C. L. Moore in Black God’s Kiss.

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# 2009-06-05 Judging 1PDC 2009

What I really want to do is make the One Page Dungeon Contest a yearly thing: 1PDC 2009, 2010, etc. We’ve had more than a hundred entries! I’d love to collect them all and make them available for download. Integrate them with a wiki and provide some commentary, too. Like the yearly Interactive Fiction Competition. One page dungeons are simple adventures, and adventures support play.

Essentially I like a healthy mix of adventures I think of myself and professionally produced adventures. But when it comes to my own stuff, I’m never quite sure with what to compare it to. Should I aspire to write as the pros? I don’t think that would be time well spent. The One Page Dungeon Contest gives me the opportunity to compare my work with ordinary DMs from all over the world. I can learn from the successes and failures from others. That’s why I hope that the contest submissions will remain a crazy mix of things. I don’t want a contest dominated by Wolfgang Baur, Monte Cook, Eric Mona, Nicolas Logue and other people in their league. I want to compare my entry with authors in my league.

Anyway, I got pulled into the circle of contest judges, and therefore my 2009-05-15 Water Temple is no longer a competing entry.

I’ll try and report on the things I like and the things I don’t like about entries I see. And to keep track of my progress. Yesterday, I looked at eight entries. It takes me about ten minutes per entry.

Stuff I like myself (the other judges will have different elements, I’m sure):

• A usable map. If the adventure doesn’t require a map, or the encounters don’t refer to the map, then there’s no need for a map.
• Multiple entries and exists. I love extra tunnels, shafts, chimneys, and crawlways.
• A short background. I don’t like the long backgrounds. There’s a German saying: “In der Kürze liegt die Würze.” It says more or less that making it short is making it hot.
• I like there not to be too many numbers. The exact height and width in feet, the diameters and dimensions – I finde them hard to read and easy to improvise.
• I like the use of bold to highlight the important parts in a dungeon key. It makes it really easy to scan. I hate it when I blab about the dimensions of the room, the chasm, the bridge, the sound of drums, the stray arrows, and … the balrog!

More as I dig into the submissions!

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Comments on 2009-06-05 Judging 1PDC 2009

Oh, darn. I’m pretty sure I specifically went out of my way to do something similar with the last one on my entry. Oops! Good luck judging the entries!

Aaron 2009-06-05 12:57 UTC

Well, if you’re talking about the scene itself, I don’t mind at all. What I mind is sitting behind the screen, quickly looking up a map key, summarizing the description for my players, and wasting time with details until we get to the part the players really care about, such as monster or other obvious threats or treats.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-05 22:40 UTC

# 2009-06-06 Judging 1PDC 2009

So, third day.

Day Entries looked at
18
26
34

Still not done with day three. Wow, I really need to speed this up!

Anyway, things I noticed:

• Several entries use humanoid shaped dungeons or dungeons modelled as interiors of a mecha, dead god, demon, or alien infested cave. Weird synchronicity!
• I like dungeons with at least one group of intelligent enemies.
• I also like evocative locations, but if they don’t have intelligent enemies, then it falls flat somewhat.
• I also like one group of intelligent beings that could potentially act as allies or a diplomacy encounter.
• I’ve seen two cool traps: One based on two enemy groups trying to deceive each other (and probably the players), one based on two enemy guards that need to act in concert, thereby allowing sneaky players to prevent its activation. It’s nice to be able to reward such players.

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# 2009-06-06 Spam Makes Sending Mail Harder

Here I am trying to send mail using some Perl module. But most of them seem to be written for the last millenium. They work best with a local SMTP host. For my own needs, that no longer works. The webhost doesn’t have a sendmail binary available. The SMTP hosts I can reach require SSL and TLS authentication. Now I’m slowly digging into MIME::Entity, Mail::Internet, Mail::Mailer, Net::SMTP, Net::SMTP::SSL, Net::SMTP::TLS… :sucks:

After experimenting with the four or five mail accounts I have access to, I was finally able to get the following to work:

my $from = 'kensanata@gmail.com'; my$to = $from; my$host = 'mail.epfarms.org';
my $user = 'alex'; my$password = '*secret*';

use MIME::Entity;
my $mail = new MIME::Entity->build(To =>$to,
From => $from, Subject => 'test', Path => '/Users/alex/test.html', Type => 'text/html'); use Net::SMTP::TLS; my$smtp = Net::SMTP::TLS->new($host, User =>$user,
Password => $password, Debug => 1);$smtp->mail($from); # sender$smtp->to($to); # recipient$smtp->data;
$smtp->datasend($mail->stringify);
$smtp->dataend;$smtp->quit;

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Comments on 2009-06-06 Spam Makes Sending Mail Harder

Well, theoretically at least it should now be possible to subscribe to comment pages!

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-06 16:43 UTC

Guess not, because the webhost doesn’t have Net::SMTP::TLS installed.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-06 16:58 UTC

I think it works after all! Luckily I wrote my script such that it gets the page content and subscriber list via ordinary HTTP requests, so the cron job that sends out emails can run anywhere on the net. This one is running on a server hosted by Eggplant Farms.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-07 13:25 UTC

# 2009-06-07 PackageMaker Fail

My Oddmuse Makefile has some very strange packaging targets. Stuff I figured out years ago and haven’t touched in ages. I still own a Mac, and make dist will also attempt to build a disk image and a package. Except that it won’t work. I’ve tried to reread the PackageMaker documentation and rewrite the stuff. But it just doesn’t want to work from the command-line anymore. Suckers.

I didn’t dare deleting the target from the Makefile, however, because in a way it holds valuable information on how things used to work. Interesting stuff like file permissions and file owners remain useful even if the packaging at the end doesn’t work. So I just removed the targets from the dist dependencies.

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# 2009-06-09 Fundamentalists in the USA

I know the Godless Paladin blog is full of angry ranting against religious fundamentalists, but being an atheist myself, I find myself enjoying them quite a bit. I’m not up to date when it comes to religious nutcases in the USA, but when I read some of the information gathered in the Huckabee-Palin 2012 god’s ticket blog post about current politicians, it gives me the shivers. Here I was enjoying the fruits of the Renaissance, living in an Age of Enlightenment, and suddenly I see the dark hydra of ignorance rear its ugly head.

Creepy!

# 2009-06-12 Referrers

I wrote a little Perl script that parses Apache log files and counts referrers. It’s pretty specific for this site, since it tries to determine for both site and referrer whether the log entry is about Emacs Wiki, my blog, Oddmuse, etc.

The numbers for my blog in yesterday’s 24h period: 75307, which is 5% of the total number of hits in the log file. Of these, 50276 hits had no referrer information, 13196 came from my own site.

Now, to understand this, one needs to understand that most of the traffic on the web is caused by search engines. At least for my site!

aschroeder@thinkmo:~$egrep 'GET /(cgi-bin/)?alex' logs/access.log.1 | wc -l 75308 aschroeder@thinkmo:~$ egrep 'GET /(cgi-bin/)?alex.*google' logs/access.log.1 | wc -l
18202

Fully 24% of all my traffic is Google related!

But now, some numbers: I still have 75307-50276-13196=11835 hits to explain! 😊

• rpgbloggers.com: 5962 – RPG Bloggers results in a lot of hits. That’s pretty amazing. Not many people comment. Either my articles are so perfect (haha), or so full of it (although that has never stopped trolls from commenting elsewhere), or just plain not interesting. I guess I rarely hit the mainstream when it comes to RPG blogging.
• emacswiki.org: 2329 – Emacs Wiki remains my best known project and has a lot of visitors. As a link to my homepage can be found on my profile, I guess that’s how they find it. But I haven’t checked this.
• google: 888 – various Google sites from all over the world. I’m surprised that so many people find me via Google. I’ll have to check whehter these entries are from the Google Bot or from actual people. If so, I’d also learn something about the queries used to find the blog.
• odd74.proboards.com: 567 – this must be based on the small number of messages I posted on the Fight On Forum.
• communitywiki.org: 467 – Community Wiki is a dormant project of mine. Still a lot of referrals!
• jrients.blogspot.com: 147 – Jeff Rients’ blog? I left a few comments there, and it is in fact a very cool blog. I didn’t know that so many people clicked through to my blog. Here, too, it would be worth while trying to figure out whether there is one comment in particular that’s at the source of this.
• chattydm.net: 122 – Chatty DM is a blog that I rarely comment on. I guess the reason for the current referrals is my participation in the One Page Dungeon Contest 2009; strictly speaking that would be yet another hypothesis to test, however.
• tiddlywiki.com: 134 – I haven’t used TiddlyWiki in ages, but years ago I wrote a little hypertext dream using it. I think it got linked from the main site, so that would explain the big number.
• poietic-aggregator.com: 63 – I think the Poietic Aggregator is a project by some wiki people. It’s a weird RSS visualizer. I never got the hang of it.
• orientalisch.info: 60 – Claudia’s website. I’m surprised that so many people click through. This must be something else. I should investigate this.
• blo.gs: 59 – I’m not sure whether I’m still pinging the site. Right now the site seems to be inbetween owners. Always a bad sign. I wonder how they manage to refer to my blog anyway.
• finch.ploogy.net: 54 – the first real surprise. A website that “makes slow Internet bearable, by stripping away the fat of web pages, leaving just the content. It takes out CSS, images, flash, metadata, iframes and more, meaning less for your computer to load.” What a cool idea. I hope that Finch doesn’t really find much stuff to strip from my web pages. When I check them with YSlow I get an A grade for everything but “use a content delivery network” (not big enough) and “compress components with gzip” (I thought about this but this requires me to know the size of the content before serving headers, and I prefer to server as quickly as possible).
• campaignwiki.org: 52 – not many people are using Campaign Wiki, a project of mine offering a very simple wiki without ads for gamers.
• wandersite.ch: 39 – a hike or two of mine are linked from that site.
• rsp-blogs.de: 35 – the German version of rpgbloggers.com!
• bing.com: 35 – search engine
• oddmuse: 23 – another software project of mine
• bitethebulette.blogspot.com: 22 – a enw blog that I’ve discovered recently

And many other small hits.

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I am probably responsible for some of the Bloglines.com stuff, as I use that particular feed aggregator.

Ah! I switched from Bloglines to Google Reader a few weeks ago and was surprised other people still use it.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-14 22:26 UTC

Yeah, I am slow with the technology. Google Reader does make some sense, though, since I am already using Gmail and Google Calendar…

This is interesting. Thanks.

I’m surprised how much syndication directs traffic. I actually thought search engines would be the big draw to your site. Although this confirms that if you write a good blog and even if it has the syndication technology – a feed – doesn’t mean the visitors will find you. You can only get traffic if you advertise your blog by adding it to to a collective feed (an aggregator called a “planet”) or by commenting on other blogs.

AaronHawley 2009-06-17 16:24 UTC

Plus it makes me wonder whether 25% of all the hits and more for search engines is worth the price since I’m getting relatively few referrers. One would have to figure out a “conversion rate” for visitors from Google. My guess that I should introduce some sort of rate-limit for bots. What do you think?

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-17 22:24 UTC

I am always spellbound how little time it takes Google to find a new page and have it show up in search results. In my mind, I imagine that Google’s bot cluster is crawling all of the Web all of the time. With the development of blogging and their news media interface, I predict they are constantly pinging pages to find changes and new pages.

Yeah, if only you could rate-limit a bot with the ratio of traffic their search engine brings you?

AaronHawley 2009-06-18 17:36 UTC

# 2009-06-15 I Play

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Excellent!

greywulf 2009-06-15 21:31 UTC

# 2009-06-16 Adversity Spilling Out Of The Game

I try to run a challenging game because I think this is exciting. Some of the fights or some of the situations are meant to be tough. I also don’t like to micromanage combat. Perhaps that leads to situations where players feel like I’m cheating on them. They react by quoting the rules back at me, and correcting me.

I also need to root for my monsters sometimes because I need some positive things happening on my side of the screen as well. That’s why you’ll hear the occasional happy “Hah!” or “Sweet critical threat!” from me.

I guess what I’m aiming for is a certain taunting and challenging of my players while they’re in a tight spot. I thought it adds to the excitement and provides a sense of achievement afterwards.

Unfortunately, it seems to have the side-effect of inviting rules discussions in tight spots, which is exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for, followed by “Hah!” or “Take that!” when players win rule arguments. Recently I’ve also gotten some disturbing body language at the table. I’m not enjoying this sort adversity.

I’m not sure where to take it from here. What do you think, RPG Bloggers?

• How do you maintain a challenging situation while avoiding rules discussion – the players are always right, just add a few more ninjas?
• Are you enthusiastic about the enemy’s successes (critical threats, flanking, spells cast, abilities used) or do you keep quiet?
• Do you taunt your players? Do your monsters taunt the player characters?
• If you’re using a neoclassical roleplaying game, do you find that using rules-light avoids conflict resolution using rules mastery?
• Any other ideas of what I might try?

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I tend to channel my evil enthusiasm through the Monsters/NPCs. If an Orc scores a crit he lets out a warwoop, and the Mind Flayer will taunt from afar. That keeps me (the supposedly impartial GM) at the right side of the fence and encourage the players to channel their frustration/anger out on the monsters themselves, rather than at me.

In one scenario a while back (3.5e rules), Shane’s dwarven cleric was critically hit by a goblin of all things. The poor gobber was so stunned he missed a turn while staring in astonishment at his crude axe. He was soon killed by the enraged dwarf, but the other goblins retrieved his weapon and the Dwarfscar Axe became a constant source of embarrassment for that poor dwarf for a handful of scenarios afterward.

greywulf 2009-06-16 11:16 UTC

Yeah, the monsters and NPCs can taunt players/PCs. The DM should not. And in the end, that makes taking down those monsters all the more satisfying. This seems like a thin distinction, but I think it makes a difference from the players’ perspectives.

I stay quiet when my monsters succeed or fail. I don’t design monsters to, I design them to die memorably Keeping things challenging is a tough one, however. A table full of players will almost always do things that you, as one person, cannot anticipate or prepare for. That is part of the fun. For most encounters, if the players demolish the opposition, that is ok. I make a mental note about what worked and what didn’t, and file it away for a similar situation in the future. In big, climactic battles, however, I feel I owe the players a challenging experience, so I will fudge if it is clear I underestimated the players or get some unlucky rolls. Usually that means having the boss monster ignore the first failed save they roll against some save-or-suck effect (actually not a bad BBEG ability), or I will throw in reinforcements or, as you said, more ninjas.

For the record, I’ll say that I’ve played rules-light and rules-heavy editions of D&D and there weren’t really fewer arguments then or now. The nature of the arguments change with different rules-sets; rules-heavy provokes arguments about the rules, rules-light provokes arguments about what would realistically happen in a situation.

In fact, the level of arguments you are likely to experience in your game are much more dependant on what kind of players you have than what kind of rules you are using, and your relationship with said players. Switching rules may only bring disappointment if argument-reduction is your goal. First and foremost, try to defuse the confrontational atmosphere that seems to be developing. Talk with them and tell them how you feel. You describe their body language recently as a bit worrying - is this a reflection of your own?

I have certain players in my group who are very argumentative at times, and I know that it’s so deep a part of their psyche that there’s no way I’m going to be able to change that - I just have to fight each battle with them as it comes. But they do add something to the group - good roleplay and passionate commitment to the story. So that balances out the bad, and it’s the reason, frankly, that I like having them in the group despite them being a pain in the arse on occasions!

lurkinggherkin 2009-06-16 14:43 UTC

– Alexis Perez 2009-06-16 15:15 UTC

The system I use has a mechanic in place to help deal with this (or at least the timing slow down). Modifiers, penalties, special rules and the like only apply if you remember them. Its something most groups do, but its explicitly stated. Once the roll is made you can’t add or remove modifiers to it, or use a different rule. This also has to work both ways though I find. If a player suggests a simple comparative strength check to grapple because you can’t remember the grapple rules right now, you’d have to give sway, even if he knows the correct grapple rules and brings them up when you try and grapple him later. After all, if it was really that important to your tactical plans, you’d have known the rule in the first place.

That is just my solution and experience. Its based on rules debates being mostly about not remembering the rules, and a bad thing because it slowed down the game to look them up.

Side note: I cheer for the monsters, and the players know it. But I run sandbox games with open rolling, so the players trust me I didn’t set anything up where they had to fail.

Zzarchov 2009-06-16 15:28 UTC

Thank you all for your suggestions. I still find it hard to believe that some of my players feel that I’m gloating or otherwise mocking them, but it sounds like the most plausible explanation for the behaviour I’m seeing. Hopefully I’ll still manage to have fun running the opposition. Let’s see whether that changes the dynamics at the table.

The warning regarding the discussions with rules-light systems is appreciated. I guess I would have set myself up for disappointment exactly as described.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-17 10:01 UTC

# 2009-06-16 Collaboration

Slightly edited from a conversation on IRC:

One of the problems is working with a particular subset of users collaboratively. Their model of collaboration is: (a) everyone’s in a room (b) everyone takes turns quietly stating their opinion with no ‘crosstalk’ (c) that step is repeated until there is an extended period of silence, and then (d) one authoritative figure writes up their impression of the collaboration.
It really REALLY does not fit my model of collaboration, that is, “What you wrote is shit, I have erased it and replaced it with something better,” to which the originator responds either: (a) “You’re right that is better, thanks” or (b) “You idiot, you have no concept of what I was trying to say, I have restored my version.”
In my experience and without declaring any absolutes, this is a common difference between a female model of collaboration, and a male model.
Daniel MacKay

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“Whoa, right on!”, was my first reaction to this quote. But now I’m not sure I understand. Which is considered the “female” mode and which the “male”? Is it 1(a-d) versus 2(a-b), or is it just 2(a) versus 2(b)? Maybe, like much of Art, this quote is open to wide, subjective interpretation.

AaronHawley 2009-06-17 04:58 UTC

I think it’s 1(a-d) versus 2(a-b). The women I know personally aren’t really consensus orientated (at least not when I’m there), so the male/female categories are actually not that interesting to me. What I find interesting is how strangely TheWikiWay seems to match 2(a-b)… Scary!

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-17 06:47 UTC

# 2009-06-19 Beyond Challenge Rating

In my D&D 3.5 Alder King game the 4th level party ran into a young adult blue dragon, twice. My random encounter charts are location specific. I look at the current hex and its surrounding hexes, and quickly jot down a chart when the session starts. Usually it has eight entries and I roll a d6. At night, I add +2. Thus, 1-2 are diurnal and 7-8 are nocturnal encounters.

Was this “fair”? Of course not, if you assume the challenge rating assumptions in the DMG are the definition of fair. But as suggested on Never Have a Plan, “I didn’t have a plan. I never have a plan. I didn’t know whether they’d sneak around it, or figure out a way to kill it, or just charge in and get themselves all killed. I hadn’t even given much thought to how they’d deal with it.”

That’s how I like to play. It pushes me to improvise.

After all, the encounter did not come with instructions saying: “The dragon charges immediately and fights until slain.”

I knew the dragon was out to protect its territory, and it would always welcome a chance to find some magic item loot. So I had the dragon try and intimidate the party into giving up magic items, and the party tried their very best to walk the dangerous line of saving their stuff and not provoking the dragon into a fight. And it worked. And I got to introduce yet another character into the game – and the party already has strong opinions about it. The dragon could be used to beat the Dark Talon lizards if the party told it about the magic sword the lizard king recently aquired (the party having lost it to some Dark Talon lizards), and the dragon’s greed already aggravates them. Conflict and possibilities – I like!

If I’d keep planning the encounters along the average party level ±2 encounter level suggestions, then scenes such as these would be impossible. Why limit myself?

I also enjoy the planning that follows such situations. I like to listen to the players talk, and I like to add my own ideas on how to overcome challenges. You could try this! Or this! Wouldn’t it be cool if you’d try this? This is how I like to provide background information as well. I’ll say “actually, your player would know that there have been no dwarven settlements in the area in recent decades” or “the dragon did seem way too powerful, it’s true.” Yet another fun element of the game.

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Comments on 2009-06-19 Beyond Challenge Rating

After all, the encounter did not come with instructions saying: “The dragon charges immediately and fights until slain.”

Heh. Nice.

I like your random encounter system. I’ll have to borrow that whenever I get a hex map campaign running.

Oddysey 2009-06-20 03:23 UTC

# 2009-06-19 Necromancer Games

Soeben las ich Clark Petersens Erklärung zur aktuellen Position von Necromancer Games. Anscheinend wird es nur sehr wenige Publikation für D&D 4E geben (“perhaps a key 4E print product or two”), aber auch für Paizos Pathfinder Rollenspiel wir nicht viel drinnen liegen (“perhaps only a few Pathfinder print products”). Auch auf EN World kann man sich auf mehreren Seiten ein Bild von den Reaktionen machen.

Vault of Larin Karr hat uns verdammt viel Spass gemacht, Crucible of Freya war mein Wiedereinstieg in die Welt von D&D nach Jahren ohne Rollenspiel, auch The Lost City of Barakus würde ich gerne spielen. Und ein zweiter Versuch in der City of Brass. Und Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia. Meine Elrkönig-Kampagne (Alder King) verwendet Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Und aus der Judges Guild Linie habe ich ja auch noch ein paar Abenteuer, die mich interessieren. Und Rappan Athuk und Tomb of Abysthor! Die Gruft des Abysthor habe ich übrigens in meinem aktuellen Erlkönigspiel integriert. Die Spieler befanden nach einem ersten Ausflug, dies sei ein “wirklich böser Ort"…

Naja. So schnell wird es also keine neuen Produkte geben. Aber Slumbering Tsar ist noch nicht ganz verschwunden! Anscheinend hat Wolfgang Baur eine Runde mit Greg Vaughan gezockt!

Update: Via Another Perspective von James Maliszewski fand ich auch ein Statement von Joseph Goodman zum Thema. Er findet, dass D&D sich gut genug verkauft. Vielleicht nicht so gut wie in den Spitzenjahren 1982 und 2001, aber gut genug: “Will 4E do as well as 3E? Maybe. But frankly, who cares? That’s like asking if 4E will do as well as AD&D did in 1982.”

Mehr dazu schrieb ich ein paar Tage später: 2009-06-21 Goodman Games.

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# 2009-06-21 Goodman Games

Gestern habe ich es als Update noch an meine Meldung zum Thema Necromancer Games angehängt, aber heute habe ich noch mehr zu Thema “Erfolg von D&D 4E” erfahren.

Via Another Perspective von James Maliszewski fand ich auch ein Statement von Joseph Goodman zum Thema. Er findet, dass D&D sich gut genug verkauft. Vielleicht nicht so gut wie in den Spitzenjahren 1982 und 2001, aber gut genug: “Will 4E do as well as 3E? Maybe. But frankly, who cares? That’s like asking if 4E will do as well as AD&D did in 1982.”

Interessant. Natürlich hat dieser Optimismus ein paar interessante Gegenreaktionen ausgelöst. Auf EN World gab es anscheinend eine Diskussion, wo der User Alzrius die Botschaft von Joseph Goodman mit Biss auf die Schippe nimmt: “For despite my having said that the internet market is less than nothing, the DDI has changed all aspects of 4E in ways that you, with your limited senses, cannot understand. I shall not endeavor to explain it to you further.” Der Artikel wurde später gelöscht, aber JoetheLawyer hat mit Alzrius’ Erlaubnis den Artikel noch einmal veröffentlicht.

RPG Pundit ist nicht immer leicht verdaulich; auch er kommentiert Joseph Goodmans Artikel und meint, “Now, if you ask me, this really does seem like Goodman is damning 4e with faint praise. He’s admitting that 3e was a defining force for a generation of gamers, and that 4e just plain isn’t. And he’s trying to offer apologetics for that, basically saying “geez guys, we’re still selling real good!”. Yes, that may be true, but 4e didn’t get to be the transformative force WOTC wanted it to be.”

Noch interessanter ist Ryan Dancys Kommentar. Zur Erinnerung: Dancy hatte im Jahr 2000 die Entwicklung der Open Gaming License vorangetrieben. Sehr lesenswert ist das Open Gaming Interview With Ryan Dancey zum Thema. Aber zurück zu seinem Kommentar. Er liefert eine genauere Erklärung für die drei Phasen, welche D&D durchlief. In der ersten Phase ging es einfach um ein Kernsystem (vor allem 1981-1983), in der zweiten Phase um Settings, Bücher, Computerspiele, und so weiter (vor allem 1987-1992), gefolgt vom Erfolg von Games Workshop und Computerspieleherstellern (von 1993-1996), und in der dritten D&D Phase ging es vor allem um die dritte Ausgabe (vor allem um 2001). Zum Erfolg oder Misserfolg von D&D 4E hat Dancy aber nichts zu sagen: “As to 4E and how it relates, I almost don’t think it matters. The forces that are tearing apart the tabletop RPG player networks are utterly outside of Wizards’ control, and it’s become a true apples v. oranges comparison which means its really not fair to speculate much, so I just won’t.”

Spannend ist es allemal, weil ich mich selber ja sehr für das Urheberrecht und Freie Inhalte interessiere. Aus dieser Perspektive verhält es sich mit D&D 3E und D&D 4E um einen ähnlichen Fall wie in der Frage GNU/Linux statt Microsoft Windows. Auf der einen Seite ein System, welches neuer und besser sein soll, auf der anderen Seite ein System, welches von allen Personen verwendet werden kann – und zwar nicht nur zum selber spielen, sondern man darf darauf aufbauend ‘Werke zweiter Hand’ (wie es hier in der Schweiz heisst) erstellen und verbreiten. Das finde ich natürlich eine ausgezeichnete Sache. Es stimmt mich traurig, wenn die Kunden eine Einschränkung ihrer Rechte ohne weiteres akzeptieren. Das ist vielleicht auch mit ein Grund, warum ich die Old School Renaissance (OSR) moralisch unterstütze: Die mir bekannten Produkte bauen alle auf der Open Gaming License (OGL) auf.

Für Labyrinth Lord heisst das beispielsweise:

DESIGNATION OF PRODUCT IDENTITY
The names Labyrinth Lord™ and Advanced Labyrinth Lord™, when used in any context, are product identity. All artwork, logos, and presentation are product identity, with the exceptions of the Known Lands map and artwork used under license. The name Goblinoid Games™ is product identity.
DESIGNATION OF OPEN GAME CONTENT
All text and tables in Sections 1-8, with the exception of material specifically excluded in the declaration of product identity, is open game content. The Known Lands map, including all symbols and place names, is open game content.

Da Labyrinth Lord nur 8 Kapitel hat, ist nur der Namen selber, die Bilder und das Layout geschützt. Der Rest kann unter der OGL weiterverwendet werden. Das finde ich total gut.

So, genug der Ablenkung. Eigentlich wollte ich ja nur über die Diskussion von Joseph Goodman und Ryan Dancy berichten…

Update: Selbst der ansonsten gar nicht zimperliche James Raggi von Lamentations of the Flame Princess meinte zur Satire von Alzrius auf seinem Blog, dass dies natürlich alle Profis bringt, sich nicht mehr zur aktuellen Lage zu äussern: “You’ve made it extremely easy for the people that know things to not bother telling the rest of us about it.” Das will ich natürlich auch nicht. Aber irgendwie fällt es mir schwer, in der Satire so eine unglaubliche Beleidigung zu sehen. Kommunikation auf dem Internet – Seufz!

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John Adams' Artikel zum Thema Brave Halfling Publishing fand ich übrigens auch interessant. Via Moritz Mehlems Hinweis. [1]

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-21 20:27 UTC

Was ich auch ganz cool finde: Joseph Goodman besucht immer wieder Rollenspielläden und schreibt hierzu Berichte für sein Forum! Genial. Hier in Zürich gibt's ja nicht sehr viele Läden.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-21 22:47 UTC

# 2009-06-25 Internet Nicknames

My “Internet” name – my online presence practically everywhere – is Kensanata. Sometimes I think it’s an age thing. I belong to a generation of people who picked cool names when they first got online, back when the web was young. Later, as the namespaces got crowded, we started seing a lot of firstnames followed by numbers such as birth years resulting in lots of 70s and 80s… But no alex73 for me! These days, with tons of ordinary people online that don’t know about IRC, MUSHes and MUDs, Geocities (which is about to shut doors!), or AIM, picking fancy names seems to be out. There was the rise of ICQ, MSN Messenger, GTalk, and when I look around at our company I see that GTalk is the most popular Instant Messaging service, and that most people have “serious” names consisting of a combination of first name, last name, and optionally the company name.

I think I’m showing my age by continuing to claim “kensanata” for myself. Oh well.

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Agreed. It’s definitely an age thing :D

Mind you, I’d much rather be known as Greywulf than robinstacey2344 or some other such unimaginative combination of names and numbers. Ugh.

greywulf 2009-06-25 23:36 UTC

# 2009-06-26 My New RPG Network Logo Using Inkscape

My old X-Face logo is an traditional 48×48 black-and-white image. It is used on my blog in the upper right corner and on my old RPG Bloggers 170×50 logo:

I wanted to have a bigger and printable version of the logo. The problem with the old logo is that the background was is on a map I drew for a campaign of mine, based on a campaign map I drew, in turn based on the Lenap map of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. If I zoomed in, the town name “Boghra Little” was going to be readable.

I decided to rearrange elements on my map such that only elements I had added myself were going to be visible, purging all traces of the Lenap map. And I was going to keep an SVG source file around. This also meant I needed to vectorize my old X-Face. No problem. Inkscape makes this really easy. The result:

I like it!

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# 2009-06-26 Mythodea

Heute hatten wir die dritte Vorbereitungssitzung für unsere Reise ans Mythodea. Das Datum rückt immer Näher. Mein erster Larp –- ich bin gespannt und etwas nervös. Wir haben entschieden mit drei Autos zu fahren und keinen Bus zu mieten. Schade. Das nächste Mal muss man sich noch früher mit anderen Spielergruppen zusammentun, damit das funktioniert. Da Claudia erst am Dienstag Abend gehen kann, werden wir mit dem Zug hochreisen und dann mit den anderen zusammen im Auto zurückfahren. Samuel kümmert sich um die Tickets. Klasse!

Da ich vom Spielertyp eher einer bin, der kaum eine Hintergrundgeschichte verwendet, fühle ich mich etwas unwohl, wenn so viele andere an ihrem Charakterkonzept feilen und ihre Hintergrundgeschichte auf den Gruppenwiki schreiben. Jetzt muss ich halt darauf vertrauen, dass meine Argumente für die Vorbereitungsfaulheit sich auch auf Live Rollenspiel übertragen lassen:

1. Hintergrund niederzuschreiben, der im Spiel für andere Spieler keinen Effekt hat, ist verschwendete Zeit.
2. Einmal niedergeschriebener Hintergrund verleitet dazu, sich daran zu klammern. Die Gefahr besteht, unflexibel zu werden.
3. Wenn ich zuviel weiss, bin ich oft wie gelähmt und kann nicht improvisieren. Die Chancen steigen, dass ich statt mit “Ja Und” mit “Nein Aber” antworte. Ich muss darauf achten, meine Improvisationsfähigkeit zu pflegen.
4. Gleichzeitig muss ich mich in den Gruppenprozess genug integrieren, damit ich spannende Konstellationen und die Grundzüge einer gemeinsamen Vergangenheit trotzdem mitkriege.

Bin ja gespannt, wie das wird!

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# 2009-06-26 One Page Dungeon Contest Judging Duty

It’s over!!

We had 111 entries to read. There were 112 entries at first, but then I got promoted to judge and had my entry removed from the list. Assuming an average of 10 minutes per entry, you’re looking at about 18h of reading! Judges of the 1PDC 2010, take note! I’ve found that I generally looked at less than ten entries per day, so if you’re also taking some days off, you’re looking at a two week period, minimum!

Day Entries
18
26
311
46
53
68
720
810
910
1011
114
1214
Total:111

Once you’re done, there’s the task of actually getting a best-of list together. What we did is this:

1. Everybody nominated twenty entries and proposed a category for each.
2. We prepared a list of the thirteen entries that got three or more nominations.
3. Everybody again nominated three to five entries from this smaller list.
4. Based on these results, we proposed the top three for the categories Best, Best of Old School, and Best of New School. And no, we avoided a discussion of what the categories actually mean. We just took all the judges’ gut feeling into account and started from there.
5. With those out of the way, we prepared another list of judges’ picks. This list consisted of the remaining nominations from the list having three votes or more, and it included other suggestions by the various judges.
6. We then assumed three picks per judge and did some jugling around such as to avoid duplicates. This worked out remarkably well.
7. Based on this proposal, judges then got to decide whether they were happy with it. Some of us decided to nominate other entries from our original twenty instead of the second list of popular entries. The idea was to not only reflect popular opinion but to also capture some of the more eclectic entries out there.
8. Again, we reworked this list, trying to limit ourselves to about eighteen entries (sticking to the idea of three entries per judge).
9. The result was our release candidate 1. Everyone got to check whether their favorites were still on the list. And we discovered that one had been lost in the process. Ooops!
10. We fixed the entry, renamed a category or two, and sent out release candidate 2 of the list. There were no more objections.
11. DONE!!!
12. Actually, it turns out we need to give it one more look: Every judge had to nominate one of their three picks (remember that those three were sometimes not the judge’s most favorite entries because we wanted to avoid overlap), and pick one of them for the prizes. This is how the judge’s picks got divided into “runner ups” and “honorable mentions”.
13. Now we’re done. Phew!!

So now Phil and Michael are busy preparing the announcement and the PDF they had promised. I think the plan is to publish the list on July 1 (“midnight!” ) and then we’ll see about the rest.

Personally, I’d love to host all the entries on a site and provide a wiki to go along with it so that everybody can comment on them and reuse them. I’d like to write about what I liked and didn’t like, using OPDC entries as examples. We could build a sort of dungeon writing how-to, collaboratively. It could be awesome. We’ll see. I’ve already collected links to all the entries that have been self-published by the authors (and Phil has done the same)

Thanks Philippe-Antoine Ménard aka ChattyDM, Michael Shorten aka Chgowiz, Mike Curtis aka Amityville Mike, David Bowman aka. Sham, and Dave Chalker aka Dave The Game.

I think this contest was made possible by the RPG Bloggers network. That’s how I found all these wonderful blogs online. Great idea!

Winners! Phil lists One Page Dungeon Winners and prizes, and so does Michael with Announcing ... the winners of the One Page Dungeon Contest. David writes 112 Page Dungeon Contest and Mike writes Winners of the One Page Dungeon Contest. Yay!!

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# 2009-06-26 Postparation

Michael Shorten aka. Chgowiz writes about Dispelling a myth - Sandbox prep and discusses his six principles:

1. Just in time preparation
2. One page dungeon levels
3. Write it down - play it on game day
4. Let the players flesh things out
5. Broad brushstrokes to events and plots
6. Don’t overprepare

I approve.

In the comments, he also talkes about note taking. I wanted to say something about taking notes after the game; I had also heard something like that on Fear the Boot. I googled for the opposite of preparation and guessed that somebody must have used postparation. And indeed, somebody has:

Pre-paration is what we do before we start a job. Post-paration is what we do after we do the job. Completing all the postparation immediately after the job is what generates the feeling of well deserved relaxation. [1]

Taking shorthand notes during the game, and making them readable after the game are mandatory for my games. Otherwise I’d forget. Since everything new happens at the gaming table, I can just add these little notes to our Campaign Wiki after the game. If the players have met ogres once or twice, the ogre page on the wiki may be very short:

The hills between Dangerous Jungle and Great Roaring Jungle seems to be infested with these giants. Then again, their minds seem to be weak.
They seem to have a fascination with skulls. [2]

It’s great. It works.

It’s not “prep” but it’s still a little bit of work. But since it comes after the fact it doesn’t railroad anybody.

# 2009-06-27 ELIM

I managed to build ELIM on Mac OS X and wasted about three hours of my life. Wow!

That’s what I get for trying to avoid Fink and MacPorts.

I got an error when installing glib: it requires gtkdoc-rebase, which is part of gtk-doc, which requires gnome-doc-utils, which requires ScrollKeeper, which requires the DocBook DTD in the system catalog, which I was too lazy to install manually. It turns out that I can ignore the installation error for glib!

Later, I tried ignoring the missing ScrollKeeper error and discovered that it was possible to install gnome-doc-utils, but then configuration of gtk-doc fails because the DocBook DTD is still required.

More time wasted. Why can’t I just read a book!?

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# 2009-06-29 Perl Installation on Mac OS 10.3

Does anybody read these at all? I need to write things down so I won’t forget. I’m trying to install XML::Parser and running into a tiny. I need to run it as root using sudo because I can’t install it using my ordinary account. I hate this and try to remedy the situation once a year.

So it’s that time of the year again. I look at the o conf output and can’t find the place where I get to say I want to use sudo make install command. I’m also greeted by the following message when I start the CPAN shell, so I’m guessing this could be part of the problem:

  There's a new CPAN.pm version (v1.9402) available!
[Current version is v1.7602]

I’m trying to run sudo cpan Bundle::CPAN to see where that takes me… I actually had to run it several times (three? four?) but it worked in the end. Amazing.

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# 2009-06-30 Frei

Das Gesicht klebt. Das Tshirt riecht. Zornig tost die Musik im Kopf, ein kleiner Sturm der mit jedem Schritt weiter zusammenfällt. In den Wimpern funkelt Abendsonne und Autolicht, der süße Honig mir unbekannter Sträucher legt sich satt über die Abgase. Die Frauen werden schöner und die Knoten in den Backen lösen sich. Ich ziehe das Leben durch die Nase hoch bis es mir aus der Stirn strahlt.

Ferien!

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Ist das dein neuer Erzählstil? Ich sehe, du brauchst die Ferien schon dringend!!!!!!!!!!!!Also dann, schöne Ferien! Gehst du wieder wandern? Natürlich in der Schweiz: nicht daheim und doch zu Hause!

– der Vater 2009-06-30 21:48 UTC

Ich werde im Sommer noch wander gehen. Aber vom 4. bis 19. Juli werden Claudia und ich in Island sein!!

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-30 22:24 UTC

Island? Hehe, da komm ich grade her. Viel Spass, die Reise lohnt!

Andreas Gohr 2009-07-01 07:02 UTC

Ich bin schon ganz nervös!

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-02 16:49 UTC

# 2009-06 Book Club

When: June 24, 19:30 @ Chuchi am Wasser, Wasserwerkstrasse 21 near Dynamo

Wikipedia: The Lover.

Supporters: Chrissie, Karina, Robert, Valpuri, Alex.

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