# 2009-07-01 Personal Favorites

Mike says it all: “Having the opportunity to read the 112 entries taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like in an adventure, as well as gave me a few hints, pointers, and things to steal outright next time I’m behind the screen.” [1]

Here are some random thoughts on the subject. Since I want to link to the entries I talk about, I have to limit myself to entries that have been published by their authors. (If you want to publish yours but don’t know how, let me know and I’ll host it for you.)

So, let’s start at the beginning… Sorted by author name.

Spoilers!

Megadungeon Of The Mad Archmage Gary-Stu – Level 5: Crypt by Adam Thornton: This entry got 5/6 votes. It was very popular. Why did I like it? My notes say it was gonzo, huge, had a vampirella, and something called the zombiecalypse. Looking at the PDF again, I can see what I liked about it: The top left corner (rooms 10-17) has an unholy church, an altar with gargoyles guarding gems, a vampirella called Carlotta, including such gems as “25% chance Carlotta is here, reading"or “ or “ coffin contains delicately scented scarlet silk pillow”. Great! The same corner also has another NPC of note, the abbot Yorick. Two named NPCs, I love it. And ever since I saw the stats of the kitchen kobold assassins in City of Brass by Necromancer Games I love using kobolds as cooks. And the kitchen staff dormitory has “girlie magazines”. Awesome. And I loved a flying carpet as part of the treasure!

The rest of the level was not too exciting. The Zombocalypse as it is called in the text is a room that has zombies animate when the players cross an invisible line. The other rooms also had skeletons, ghouls, etc. One thing I did like was the catwalk section where a bridge crosses a chasm, guarded by a dark knight. Falling off the bridge drops you in a pit on the next level. This was generally true: There were a lot of connections to other levels. I like “multiple entrances”.

Valley of the Necromancer Kings by Andrew Gale: Another favorite. It also started out with 5/6 votes. Other judges have mentioned the similarities/hommage to older modules, but as I haven’t read those, I cannot comment. What I really liked about this entry was that it, too, had multiple entries. And they were listed right there, at the beginning, top right corner. I also liked how the bolding of key references and monsters made it easy to skim the text and quickly take in the important parts. As a DM I hate spending time describing the room only to realize that there are big bad monsters in the same room which I should have mentioned right away.

This entry also comes with lots of undead. As undead were a popular theme in this contest, that alone would not have recommended the entry. The important part were the three necromancers. I just love passages like these: “At night, Balagos conducts necromantic rites in this chamber with the Dark Adepts from area 8.” I also like it when “Manse the Deathpriest” has a Rod of Thunder & Lightning. When I started with my Kitsunemori Campaign Setting, I had an NPC magic users whose main treasure was such a rod and who was built to make more of them. Sadly, the players did not pursue this. Back to the adventure: It has a Crypt Thing acting as a seneschal guarding the entrance to the True King. That’s how it’s supposed to be! So not only are there three named necromancers, but there are a number of other named NPCs with a an agenda. Sure, each one is described in but a few words, but it’s evocative and invites players to try and meddle instead of just slaughtering them all.

Arendt's Old Peculiar by Antti Hulkkonen: This entry also got 5/6 votes. Clearly, I have mainstream taste. The beauty of this dungeon is that the default setup is peaceful. It’s a pub for monsters, and as long as players play along, they’re welcome. I also liked the beautiful map. It looked somewhat hand-drawn and yet post-processed and cleaned up. Very nice. Big, readable numbers, evocative details such as a few plants or a machine, just the right amount of it.

The map also features something I really like about maps: It has circles and short cuts. [2] [3] The map also suggests various goals without requiring a huge map. You can go hire monsters in the pub. You can gather some weird plants. You can search for Arendt’s crypt. And when you read the text, you realize there are even more adventure ideas hidden away in this entry. There are people smuggling beans, for example. Maybe the owner wants to discover who is stealing these beans, or the party is hired as a distraction for the big haul. I love entries that suggest reuse and adaptability to the party’s whim.

I also like a setup that is interesting without being obviously about combat.

The Dwarven Hall by Bret Smith: This entry was not as popular. It got merely 3/6 votes, which was enough to make it onto our first list of top 13 enties with three votes or more. When I looked at the map I was surprised. With its colors and symbols it didn’t look like anything I had seen before, and yet it seemed not to be hand-drawn. When I asked the author, I was told the map had been done with Excel. What!? This is amazing.

The big win for this entry was Lava. You know the hilarious Lava Rules, right? It’s mandatory reading. It explains why I love dungeons with some lava in it. Plus it allows us to use salamanders. I also liked the laval level in Rappan Athuk 3. This contest entry has it all.

The dungeon also features four colored rune keys, which linearize parts of the dungeon. I didn’t care about them so much. I prefer dreaming about the hell hounds and fire giants.

Too bad this entry doesn’t have named NPCs with an agend, more entries, and potential allies.

I did love the contrast between room 1: “A small red dragon meets characters as they enter the tomb (role play opportunity).” Haha. This is cute. I love the “role play opportunity”. Specially when compared to room 37: “Adult red dragon Kratharax, & 10 red kobolds”. If I stop to think about it for too long, however, I start searching for an egress large enough… Mike would say “Stop worrying and love the dungeon.” [4] I think he’s right.

There Are No Tails in Zamboanga by Buzz Burgess: This entry did not get three votes even though I had it on my list of nominations! If you look at it, it might not seem to amazing. But it has monkey ruins in a jungle. What’s not to love? And the title quickly explains itself: “Transfixed on two towering monkey statues, erected on either side of a great processional, the adventurers stand on the road entering the city. […] The statues hold an arch above them that reads ‘There are no tails in Zamboanga… The City of the Ape.’”

The map itself is clear and simple. The shaded part is underground. I like how this introduces a second level using but a single map. There are various monster groups, potentially one of them could end up as allies. This is something I also look for: Potential allies (and not just weak prisoners too weak to fight). This entry features lizardmen (unfortunately they are described as “will attack any passers by.” Boo! It also features another band of grave-robbing looters made up of orcs. Interesting mirror situation. I chuckled when I read it.

The coolest element of the entry is a trap, however. This is the trap: “Slot in the wall is in the shape of a medallion. Words inscribed say ‘Onyx May Pass.’ Poison trapped if Onyx medallion used. If the Obsidian medallion is used, then door opens without setting off the trap.” I don’t understand, you mumble to yourself. The explanation follows elsewhere: “Ape Idol. Obsidian gem is in its head. Closer inspection yields inscription that reads ‘Followers of Onyx be fooled. Hail the Obsidian.” I love traps that trick players instead of testing character stats.

I laughed.

What next? Apparently Michael and Phil want to wait before publishing the archive of all 111 contest entries. First they want to prepare the PDF of the winners. I guess this is also designed to give the sponsors some mind share. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to compress the PDF files such as to reduce the size of the zip file from nearly 70 MB to nearly 20 MB. That’s very cool. And I prepared a torrent file which would allow us to use peer-to-peer technology to share all the entries without one of us having to bear all the load. But it will have to wait until the end of July.

Continued the next day: 2009-07-02 More of my 1PDC Favorites.

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Comments on 2009-07-01 Personal Favorites

Wow! 5 of 6 votes! I am quite surprised.

In the full Megadungeon, of which the Crypt is just one level, that Ogre Mage’s apartments in the upper right make more sense. Me, I’m pretty fond of the named wights and their treasure and special attacks, and while I agree that the Unholy Church is a good part, I’m just as proud of the Q—n Room, where “—” obviously equals “asqueto”. As Jeff Rients (I think) put it, “If B1 taught me anything, it’s that pools full of unknown liquids are cool.”

The Zombocalypse does take up too much of the level; again, in out-of-contest considerations, I threw it in there and made it so much of the level because two of my players have a zombie fetish. The Shadow Maze was a neat idea, but I’m not sure it works all that well; I do like the Halls Of Bone, because the skeletons-with-crossbows can shoot YOU through the lattice, but shooting THEM doesn’t do much good.

Adam Thornton 2009-07-02 04:16 UTC

I think that generating the map using a CSV file and a Perl script is an awesome idea. You just invented your own SVG shorthand! It still looks like a major effort.

The part of the skeletons armed with crossbows behind bars is cool. I liked the ogre mage Edgar as well. I also liked how it hinted at a bigger world. I guess the wights didn’t work for me because I’m not so much into out-of-game jokes.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-02 09:19 UTC

Wow, I can’t really read those scans at all. Just enough to spot my name and see that there are four little circles next to the dungeon title… FWIW, I published it here at Scribd

Joshua 2009-07-02 13:59 UTC

The funny thing was that writing the map generator and then entering the data for the features took no more time and was WAY less frustrating than trying to scan the map in and then edit it so it didn’t suck with Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator. Plus, once it was even sort of working, feedback was immediate, because I could just emit the map and hit reload on a browser tab (Safari, Opera, and Firefox, at least, all have native SVG support). That was handy when I put corners in the wrong place, which happened a lot.

It’s a classic Raymondesque Little Language approach.

I think I’ve run into its limitations, though. For starters, doing caverns with it is going to be hard, but would be necessary if I were to make this work for the other levels of the dungeon. I have a sort-of-design in my head to do caverns by mapping an arc between points and then walk a….well, let’s be honest and call it a turtle…along it introducing random perturbations with a bias depending on how far the turtle is from the arc (to rubberband it back to the path, so the wiggliness is bounded). But if I do this it’s going to create a HUGE SVG file, and doing it for closed (possibly filled) polygons may turn out to be a humongous pain.

And then there’s something I ran into with the features like tables, coffins, toilets, ovens, spiral stairs in the map: what I really want to do is just define each of these as an SVG entity, and then plunk it down on the map with a location, rotation, and scale. At which point, suddenly, I have semantics rather than just a series of strokes…and I’m well on my way to creating a CAD system with a CSV user interface, which, well, I don’t think I want to go there.

Thing three is that I’m just about to have to read and understand the SVG spec. I got this far by cargo-culting, but then a couple days ago I got interested in the question of why Safari and Firefox rendered differently, and determined that I was using the dasharray attribute incorrectly (needed commas) and that text-size had to be outside the style tag (I don’t know if that is actually necessary but it seems to make it work with Firefox). Now, it could be argued that if I do that, I will be a happier camper--among other things, I maintain the Linux CLI port of Inform 7, which currently emits EPS files, and I bet that if I learned enough SVG to build my maps, I could make Inform emit SVG easily too--but, hey, I got a day job.

Wow. This turned into quite a treatise. I think I ought to put it up on my own blog too.

Adam Thornton 2009-07-02 14:53 UTC

Joshua, if you click on the picture you’ll be taken to Flickr, and and there you’ll find a well-hidden button saying “All Sizes”, so if you really want to read my notes, there is a way to do it.

Adam, I wrote a wilderness map generator using SVG a while ago (2007-06-08 Old School Hex Mapper Getting Better) where I’ve used a different sort of mini language to define a hex map. I abandoned that approach when I realized that adding more features such as roads and named locations was going to require a lot of hand-editing anyway. But the general approach would still apply to your problem: Define the objects for your maps first, and then just reference them from the CSV input. Either way, it’s intriguing.

And I remember trying to write an adventure using Inform and trying to play through winners of the various Interactive Fiction Competitions. But I didn’t even get as far as that!

As for my own hex-mapping, I’ve now switched to using Inkscape and wrote an Old School Hex Map Tutorial on how to use Inkscape.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-02 16:48 UTC

Ha! I checked out the notes for my entry (Cry of the Gravegod)… I believe it says “hag and undead.” Seriously, though, thanks for taking the time to judge so many entries. Hoping this contest becomes a regular thing.

– Heron 2009-07-03 15:17 UTC

You succeeded in your Decipher Script test!

Yes, I would like to see a 1PDC 2010 as well. If I were to organize it (assuming Phil and Michael don't get enough beer), I’d probably be more open about it. Publish all entries sooner. Publish the initial nominations. Publish the final result. In that order. If that means no sponsors and no prizes, so be it.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-03 16:30 UTC

# 2009-07-01 SID Music

Taking to my brother we just pasted some music links back and forth. He suggested Immediate Music – orchestral sountracks for movies; I suggested the HSVC collection of SID music and tuned in to the SID Station. Yeah!

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# 2009-07-02 Lulu Printing Knockspell 2

On 2009-05-27 I ordered four Lulu products for \$59.85. Knockspell 2 still hasn’t arrived.

I sent another email. I did not get any replies to my previous email.

Unhappy.

Comments on 2009-07-02 Lulu Printing Knockspell 2

I sent several mails back and forth on this issue, creating two tickets in the process, and today I got a package via Fedex: a second issue of Fight On! #5. I appreciate the time and effort this must have cost. But I’m still missing my Knockspell #2.

I think I’m going to give up.

AlexSchroeder 2009-08-11 07:57 UTC

Wow, got my copy of Knockspell 2 today!!

Awesome – Lulu did deliver in the end.

AlexSchroeder 2009-08-24 10:44 UTC

# 2009-07-02 More of my 1PDC Favorites

So, I’ve written about the first five of my favorite One Page Dungeon Contest entries. Here is another batch of six entries (in alphabetical order of the author names, not in order of preference).

Not all of these entries are real favorites of mine. I figured that if I were only going to pick the entries that I would really want to play, then I’d end up with a very narrow selection, where as I took the One Page Dungeon Contest to also stand for the incredible breadth of ideas out there. That’s why I picked several entries that I did not like that much, just because they seemed to be the best within their particular category. I guess I’m trying to force myself to be a bit more open minded, hehe.

Anyway, enough talk. Let’s get to the actual material! All of these eventually ended up on my initial list of 20 nominations.

Spoilers!

The Gray Goblin Warrens by Christopher Brackett: The map for this entry is very beautiful. There was another, similar entry, The Foetid Pit Beneath the Abdandoned Shrine by Sean Morris. The Foetid Pit was nice, the illustration beautiful, the in-map labels magnificient, but it lacked intelligent opposition. This is something I really like. And the Gray Goblin Warrens did not only have an intelligent opposition, it also had a red dragon!

I nominated both entries, thinking of them as belonging to the “beautiful hand-drawn caves” category. But when push came to shove, I liked the Gray Goblins better.

Too bad the entry did not feature any potential allies, as far as I could tell. Escaped nameless prisoners on random encounter charts don’t count. I also didn’t like the unusual map key using unsorted acronyms instead of numbers. That took some getting used to. Also, beautiful caves are somewhat hard to map. But it looks soooo evocative!

The Chapel of Fire by David Nett: Strangely enough my notes say “bored devils summoned in a ruined dwarven chapel and naked halflink + Duke Nuke’em kobold.” What was I thinking? Looking at the adventure again, I see that there is a kobold hiding in a latrine. Nice move. I liked that. There’s also a naked halfling trying to hide from the devils. The key says “Devils know he’s here and think it is funny.” I liked that. There is no explanation for why these two are in here amongst all the devils; I’m assuming they are unfortunate prisoners that have escaped and are now realizing how futile this is.

I liked the map, which brings home the point that these devils can teleport and ordinary people cannot. Plus there are many little crawlways connecting the various elements that have not yet caved-in. I liked this semi-realistic setting.

The map sort of suggests that there might be multiple goals in here: Defeating the devils, rescuing the halfling, finding and consecrating the dwarven altar.

Shrine of the Rodent God by Gabriel Perez: The first room starts with an “in your face” trap. I like that. The magic mouth gives you instructions and everybody immediately suspects that something is going to happen – but nobody knows what. I also like it that you can get to the other side of the trap and loot it.

The best part about this dungeon are the various lycanthropes that the players might ally themselves with. There’s a wererat, a werebat, and a werecat “of the Feline Order” – hell yeah! – trying to fight them. I like the setup!

White Room by Robin Spacey aka. Greywulf: I didn’t like this entry so much. I don’t think I’ll ever use it for actual play. But there were similar random dungeon creation entries, and so obviously people felt there was a need for an entry in this category.

Looking at all the various random dungeon entries, this one was the only entry with an obvious riddle aspect to it: How to escape? And it was sufficiently meta with the magic writing introducing new facts into the game world that I laughed when read it. I still chuckle when I think about it.

I might have enjoyed playing this entry in a one-shot, maybe at the end of a convention, or after a three day skiing holiday with friends in the Swiss mountains. It’d be funny.

Tomb of the Unhallowed Bride by J Zamzow: There were various undead entries. I didn’t like most of them because undead sometimes scream skeleton and zombie bashing to me. That’s not something I’d enjoy. But again, with a lot of entries in this category, I figured I should also nominate an undead adventure.

Looking at all the undead entries, I liked this one the best. It is very short and straight forward as well as somewhat incomplete. There’s room that the DM needs to fill, thereby making it his own. There’s a ghost to put to rest, lawful good guardians to prevent this, some tomb-robbing to do, and a disgusting trap. Looks like a nice and short ghost setup to me.

Ruined Dwarven Artificer Lab and Temple by Jay Vandendool: This entry was also a rather small entry. The map is simple and straight forward. What makes this entry interesting is the combination of terrain and guards: “Ruined stone bridge now crossed by an old slippery log. Several orc warriors are stationed here to guard the lair.” Very nice. A place to test your balance skill, or your archer.

The terrain is also integrated into a big trap. There were in fact several entries that involved getting into a particular place, do something which triggers a trap, forcing you to retreat as quickly as possible. Within the category of “last room triggers a trap”, this particular entry wins because the trap needs to be activated by two guards. The terrain provides multiple ways to discover the guards, to sneak up to them, and so on. It makes the approach interesting.

Lessons Learnt: So what would I change in my Water Temple entry if I were to resubmit it? I liked the big map with the in-map notes. I liked the multiple entrances, and the multiple goals. I also had some interesting terrain with the pools and swimming opponents. But clearly it lacked potential allies. It also lacked an in your face map that challenges the players! It could have used stronger, named NPCs with a personality trait. Maybe a third party in the dungeon.

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Comments on 2009-07-02 More of my 1PDC Favorites

It’s good to see your thought processes, Alex, and certainly didn’t expect my own little entry to get a mention at all. It was fun to write something that explored the nature of the game a little.

Looking forward to the next contest already!

greywulf 2009-07-03 20:00 UTC

“Too bad the entry did not feature any potential allies, as far as I could tell. Escaped nameless prisoners on random encounter charts don’t count.”

There were also imprisoned nameless prisoners (of a random quantity) in the dungeon (room D - sorry for the letters :P). Does that count? ;D

Thanks for voting for the Warrens! (Honestly, when I first saw The Foetid Pit, I thought for certain it was going to beat out the Warrens. It really is an amazing map.)

It’s great to see the thought process behind the Herculean task of judging this contest.

Christopher B 2009-07-03 22:47 UTC

Hehehe.

As for a contest in 2010 – I’m up for it!

Also note Mike’s OPDC: The Also-Rans.

# 2009-07-03 Good, Evil, Bollocks

Ah, echo chamber or discussion group? Some people have been writing about the question of good and evil, recently. [1] [2] [3]

Here’s what I like when it comes to religion:

1. Pick some deities and give them recognizable temples if the party meets them for the first time.
2. These temples all perform a particular kind of service to the community and thus nobody really wants them to leave.
3. We’re not talking about cults.

Here’s what I like when it comes to players:

1. When there’s a fight, we fight.
2. Enemies on loosing side will try to flee.
3. Enemies in a desperate situation will try to surrender.
4. Enemies who have surrendered will spill the beans. All of them. No torture required.
5. There are no prisons. Punishment is effected bodily, by the people in charge, immediately. No prisons.
6. If players release prisoners, they generally keep their word and disappear forever. Otherwise the players will never give quarter to anyone.

I’m keeping the definition of good and evil muddied on purpose. All the powerful people in my worlds have strong Machiavellian tendencies. It’s all about power, and keeping it.

Some examples from my Alder King campaign to build on this:

The gods I try to use whenever possible, based on the Wilderlands of High Fantasy and Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia:

• Orcus, Demonlord of the Undead, provides raise dead, temples hidden away in nearby dungeons, believers organized in secret societies, goblins and orcs like him
• Tsathogga, Demonlord of the Frogs, hidden away in ancient ruins sinking into bogs all over the world, no useful service as far as I know, usually associated with summoning spells, maybe planar travel
• Hecate, Goddess of Evil Magic, when the moon is all black, pigs are slaughtered to placate her, provides charms and amulets, protects witches
• Set, God of Serpents and Poison, hidden away underground and in ancient forest temples, provides poisoning and detoxification services, protectes assassins
• Arden, dead God of the Sun, useful because humans like to look back upon a golden age.
• Thanatos, forgotten God of Death, usually not important at all but I dug him up because one of my players was interested in the topic, excellent connections to the Caverns of Thracia
• Hanuman, accursed Ape God, crazy and strong, useful for war and rage, kidnappings and monkey help
• Dunatis, disappeared God of the Mountains, the name reminds me of donuts, must change it one day, the lost god of the dwarves, a connection with him helps you contact dwarves and possibly magic arms and armor
• Nhakhramat, Goddess of the Emerald Flame, on the rise with Pathfinder-inpsired pact halls in many settlements
• Ishtar, Godess of Love and War, need something for the romantic players as well
• Marduk, General of Law, the St. Cuthbert of the campaign, hasn’t made an appearance in any of my games, yet
• Nergal, God of Plague, a cool source of plagues, lycanthropes, rats, and other monsters, worshipped by the urban underworld and placated to spare believers from disease (harr harr harr)

But these are just the gods I’ll focus on when adding a temple to a city or a wilderness hex, or picking a god for a cleric. That’s it. I don’t care about alignment so much. Clearly, none of them are obviously good. I also don’t focus much on how the gods interact. I don’t care about world creation, nor do I want to know more details about their religious ceremonies. If a player picks one of them as their god, then we’ll start thinking about it.

These gods also don’t have much of an opinion about orc babies, on how to treat surrendering foes, on war and peace, etc. I side-step the issue of morality and focus on actual play.

Of course, if one of my players is explicitly interested in questions of morality, I’d add some component of that. Or better yet, the player would recommend a way to introduce this element.

Looking at the list, the only thing I notice is that paladins seem to be restricted to Ishtar. This probably reflects my belief that paladins should either focus on being lawful-good independent of any gods, pick their own god, or just join the dark side: There are no paladins. There are only clerics and fighters. As I’m playing a paladin in our Shackled City game right now, I’m starting to think that this would make much more sense.

Continued here: 2009-07-04 Organized Good is an Oxymoron.

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Comments on 2009-07-03 Good, Evil, Bollocks

excellent write up. btw, I have some friends that pray to Hanuman, “the accursed” Indian monkey god.

le bulette 2009-07-03 15:39 UTC

Yeah, when we visited India and Thailand a while ago, we saw a lot of Rama and Hanuman. And we read Monkey for our BookClub, and I really like flying monkeys, so I felt the need for there to be some strange and crazy happy or at least ambiguous god.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-03 16:07 UTC

# 2009-07-03 Iceland Here We Come

2weeks Iceland we haz it. KTHXBYE.

(leaving tomorrow evening)

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# 2009-07-04 Ankunft

Wir sind spät Abends angekommen, haben am Flughafen das Mietauto ewig lange nicht gefunden, weil wir auf dem falschen Parkplatz danach gesucht haben, und sind endlich gegen drei Uhr morgens im Motel Vogar angekommen.

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# 2009-07-04 Der Plan

Hier noch das Programm. Interessiert evt. noch meinen Vater.

• Vogar bei Reykjavík
• Selfoss
• Kirkjubærjarklaustur
• Hornafjördur bei Höfn
• Fossholl bei Akureyri/Myvatn
• Hvammstangi
• Grundarfjordur
• Borgarnes
• Reykjavík

Die doofe iPhone Tastatur unterstützt kein dh und th!! Grrr.

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# 2009-07-04 Organized Good is an Oxymoron

Gleichman comments on my post on alignment with More Good and Evil Confusion. There’s also other comments on his post, which try to delve further into the Good and Evil debate.

Here’s what I thought were interesting statements in Gleichman’s post:

1. “The pursuit of power for power’s sake is one of the definitions of Evil.”
2. He says that “anyone saying they are ignoring questions of Good and Evil is lying.”
3. He claims that I’ve “decided to make everyone Evil.”

I’m not sure I agree with the pursuit of power for power’s sake. The first problem I have is the meaning of “for power’s sake” – it’s hard to think of an example where this would apply. I think everybody in power has an agenda. Thus, I think it’s important to look at intents and consequences. Corruption, subjugation, plundering, war? I think we have to look at particular situations in the game before we can pass judgement on Good and Evil.

I also prefer to leave the judgement of intent and consequences up to my players. It’s more interesting that way. It’s how their characters take on a personality.

But I don’t think I’m a moral relativist. All actions are not equal. They are not equal in-game, and they are not equal out-of-game. But I prefer not to codify good or evil in the abstract. I prefer to look at the actual game setup. In the Alder King game, goblins are bullies and cowards, and they worship Orcus (because he promises a second life), but other than that, they don’t seem to be inherently evil. There is another Orcus temple where human cultists keep slaves and sacrifice them to Orcus. They are clearly evil.

Does that contradict my statement about “keeping the definition of good and evil muddied on purpose?” I don’t think so. I’m talking about two different things. I don’t want to get involved in a discussion about the definitions of good and evil. I don’t want to discuss whether torturing prisoners is justified when the victims are suspected terrorists, for example. I don’t want to discuss at the gaming table whether killing a creature of evil alignment begging for forgiveness is evil. That’s the kind of discussion I don’t want at the table.

In real life I have strong opinions about the US keeping innocent people incarcerated on an island for years and torturing them. I have strong opinions about the Spanish police torturing suspects in the Basque country. I have strong opinions about sending poor people back into terrible poverty out of fear for our prosperity. But I want to keep these discussion out of my game. If my players insist on breaking the orc’s fingers and ripping out its toe nails, then I ask said players to stop. I’m not interested in hearing it, and I don’t want to discuss it with my players.

What about me making everybody evil in my game? Or at least listing many evil gods? I guess I am a cynic when it comes to organized Good. Mistakes are made. I believe that using force to fight evil taints those who fight. I often think back to a statement Christa Wolf made in her book Cassandra: “What use is fighting when we can only win by becoming like our enemies?” To take it back to the game: There’s a paladin who decided to retire to Delan and help them out by protecting them against their enemies. He doesn’t need a church, he doesn’t need an army, he doesn’t own a lot of land, he doesn’t have a lot of gold. This is what allows him to be good, on an individual level, as far as I’m concerned.

So, based on my belief that Good is something individual, something that gets lost in a larger organisation, the consequences are obvious: Powerful individuals, powerful organisations, gods, churches, rulers, anybody who has the means to fight a war, must necessarily be tainted. They don’t need to be evil, but thinking of the “host of heaven” in a military sense, an army fighting for Mt. Celestia if you will, makes me think of “Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity!” Fighting will tempt soldiers into doing evil deeds. Conquest will corrupt the victors. Maybe that’s because I did not grow up with stories about the Second World War but about the wars in Indochine, Central America, Palestine and Iraq.

I also happen to think that it makes for a more interesting game. If players want to do good, they will have to sacrifice something for it. The church of Pelor or Heironeus just don’t seem very interesting in game terms. If players want to introduce such a god because they feel better being a paladin of this or that god, then that’s fine. But it doesn’t introduce interesting decisions, it doesn’t generate interesting stories. It’s the most obvious choice and an indication (to me) that morality and the sacrifice required for good deeds are not going to be the focus of the game.

I said in my first article that the point of having a small list of gods ready was to use them for temples and clerics all over the region. With that it mind, I prefer to use more ambigious beliefs. The lines of Good and Evil are supposed to be muddied because it leads to a better game, not because I’m confused about ethics.

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Comments on 2009-07-04 Organized Good is an Oxymoron

Too bad I’ll be offline for the next two weeks. That makes the discussion more difficult.

Sorry about the length of the post. I usually try to write short posts. I hate reading long rants myself. I got carried away and had no time to make it short (“je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte” [1]).

I also have some ideas similar to Jeff’s Threefold Apocalyptic Alignment System – a page in my notebook listing various ideas under Order, Chaos, and Neutrality. Surely a blog post for later.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-04 00:01 UTC

I’ve always felt the “fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” quote makes perfect sense. After you fight, there is peace (eventually). Likewise, just where do you think virgins come from? If two former virgins have 3+ kids between them, the total number of virgins has at least temporarily increased. (As a sidenote, my favourite quote from Jerome is, “The only good thing about marriage is that it produces more virgins.”)

Swordgleam 2009-07-04 01:51 UTC

Interesting thoughts. I mostly agree with Alex.

Many RPGs and game supplements have a very childish view of good and evil. Evil organisations just striving for world domination or gods that just want to spread hatred or murder are ridiculous. Or some races like elves beeing good and some like orcs being evil despite their long history of mutual slaughter and atrocities.

Some simple definitions of good and evil that work in my games are:

evil = the end justifies the means

good = it doesn’t

So in that sense both Hitler and Roosevelt were evil, whereas Gandhi was not.

Another simple definition, more in the tradition of Christian religion is:

evil = selfishness

good = altruism up to self sacrifice

On a personal level I totally disagree with this definition, but it works quite well in games.

At the gaming table, I think, moral ambiguity, dilemmas and shades of grey are much more interesting than simple definitions of good and evil.

True moral dilemmas provide interesting roleplaying opportunities, but can also lead to player vs player or player vs DM conflicts. Just avoid pseudo moral dilemmas like the ones that are popular in Hollywood movies. If a village can only be saved by sacrificing a virgin to the dragon but the sacrifice can be avoided by killing the dragon in the last minute, it is not a moral dilemma because the course of action is obvious. Only if the dragon clearly is unkillable a moral dilemma arises.

Another moral dilemma I like is the conflict between loyalty (say to a church, organization or a liege) vs individual values. What if the PC’s overlord orders him to kill an invidual because it is clearly evil or adheres to an evil organization but the PC sees no evidence of that or actually disagrees. Now the PC is right into the dilemma of the German Wehrmacht soldier ordered to shoot some partisans or Jews. Does he go along by telling himself that it is for the ‘greater good’ or that he doen’t really have a choice? Or does he object and face all the consequences?

Of course not all players like true moral dilemmas. Many feel much more comfortable with clear and simple divisions between the good guys and the bad guys. So make sure that your players actually are open to such true questions of morality before you set up your paladin of Pelor with the task of slaughtering a village of ‘evil dragon worshippers’.

– Peter 2009-07-04 06:53 UTC

# 2009-07-05 Geysir

Wir waren in Thingvellir; sehr schön zum Spazieren. Wir sahen einige Campingplätze, einer mit viel Müll. Das hat uns sehr erstaunt. Es gabe jede Menge Ponies mit Jungtieren und ein paar Schafe. Gullfoss!! Auf dem Rückweg haben wir zwei Autostopper für eine kurze Strecke mitgenommen. Ich bin tendenziell dafür, Autostopper mitzunehmen, aber Claudia fühlt sich nicht wohl, wenn sie in einem fremden Land zum ersten Mal Auto fährt. Wir nehmen keine Autostopper mehr mit.

Wir haben die falsche Strasse genommen: Wir sind über Reykholt (Bláskógabyggð) statt Flúðir gefahren. So haben wir halt ausserplanmässig den Kerið gesehen. Steinholt ist voll in der Pampa, in der Nähe von Ârnes, nordwestlich von Selfoss (Árborg). Aber wir sind vor sieben da und um acht gibt es Abendessen. Essen war gut mit glasierten Kartoffeln und Rotkraut. Wir sind überfressen. Die Route für morgen müssen wir unbedingt (besser) planen. Es ist 23:00 und wir sollten ins Bett. Es ist immer noch hell.

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# 2009-07-06 Kirkjubaejarklaustur

Super Sonnenschein um sieben. Der Seljalandsfoss ist schön. Wir sind nass geworden. Der versteckte Wasserfall weiter hinten war auch schön.

Der Skógafoss ist super. Die Wasserfälle sind überhaupt das Schönste in Island.

Es ist kalt und windig beim Türlochfelsen, Dyrhólaey. Aber wir haben Papageientaucher gesehen!

Der schwarze Strand in Vík í Mýrdal war ok Es ist immer noch kalt und windig. Wo ist der Faserpelz!? Im Restaurant Brydebuð kosten Hamburger und Nacho umgerechnet 20.-, Lamm kostet 60.-, Kuchen kostet 12.- und Kaffe 5.-. Claudia ist empört; ich bin gelassen

Viele Ausländer können kaum Englisch. Uns fällt auf, dass es viele Franzosen und extrem viele Schweizer hat. Extrem viele!

Abendessen ist auch teuer. “Fish und Chips” für 35.- und ein “Lochergutzmittag” ohne Salat für 60.-.

Wir haben den Kirchenbodenbasalt in Kirkjubæjarklaustur und einen kleinen Foss hinter dem Campingplatz gesehen.

Es ist 21:21 und wir gehen ins Bett.

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# 2009-07-07 Laki Ebene

Wir unternehmen eine Tagestour mit dem Bus ab um 9:30 von der Tankstelle. Drei Stunden Fahrt!

Wir wandern auf einen Laki-Krater rauf, dauert ca halbe Stunde hoch. Die ersten sechs auf dem Gipfel kommen alle aus der Schweiz.

Wir machen einen kleinen Rundgang in der Spalte, ca 20 Minuten. Der Bus fährt weiter, weitere Wanderungen im Spalt, alles ist riesig, die Lavafelder Kilometer lang. Abendessen im Systrakaffi war genau so teuer und genau so gut wir gestern. Wir essen Seesaibling.

Ich habe per Hotelcomputer die wichtigsten Emails beantwortet. Und nun muss ich die Füsse meiner Frau wärmen sonst gibt es Probleme…

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# 2009-07-08 Skaftafell

Wir wachen früh auf und Träumen viel wirres Zeug. Selber träumte ich von mysteriösen uralten indo-assyrischen Ruinen un Albanien, Schiesserien, dem Patenkind & Familie und vieles Andere mehr. Heut gehen wir 6h im Skaftafell-Nationalpark wandern. Gláma, Hochebene, Svartifoss, usw. Mein Fuß schmerzt. Am Abend ist das Essen in Árnanes teuer: 63.- für Lamm und fast 50.- für den Fisch. Und 30.- für eine geräucherte Lammvorspeise. Wir sind etwas geschockt. Und müde.

(Aber Wochen nach unserer Rückkehr haben wir herausgefunden, dass der Wechselkurs gar nicht so schlimm ist und alles etwa um die Hälfte billiger war als wir damals dachten! :ok

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# 2009-07-09 Fjord und Fjörder

Wir haben dazugelernt und machen viele Pausen. Wir kaufen im Supermarkt zu essen. Haben Grütze gefunden – und im Brutgebiet von Djúpivogur verteilt. Sind viel durch die Fjorde der Ostküste gefahren. In Egilstaðir hat es einen grossen Supermarkt. Die Jungs in Eyjólfsstaðir sind sehr religiös. Es liegen drei Bibeln im Zimmer. Die CD Sammlung enthält nur Gospel und Jesus Lieder. Wir sind zu müde für den Hengifoss!

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# 2009-07-10 Fosshóll

Wahnsinn, nach fast 50 km Fahrt ins Niemandsland nach Myvatn gibt es einen Gasthof mit offenem, drahtlosem Netz. Ich bin mit dem Telephon online. Klasse!

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# 2009-07-10 Grosse Fahrt

Wir fahren eine endlose Strecke nach Westen. Zuerst finden wir die Sulfataren von Námaskarð mit dem kochenden grauen Brei und dem Schwefelgeruch. Dann waren wir im Lavafeld der Krafla bei der Leirhnjúkur Spalte wandern. Zum Schluss endlich baden!! Blaue Lagune des Nordens, Jarðböðin, wir kommen. Leider müssen wir dann noch 50 km bis nach Fosshóll fahren. Das Hotel ist gleich beim Goðafoss.

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# 2009-07-11 Kleines Programm

Zuerst mal 50 km fahren zurück nach Mývatn. Bäh! Wandern in Skútustaðir mit seinen Pseudokratern. Anscheinend ist in Akureyri Sportfest plus Kreuzfahrtschiff plus Samstag. Es hat tausende von Touristen. Dann wandern am Kálfaströnd mit Blick auf die Höfði Halbinsel. Dann Essen im Supermarkt von Reykjahlíð. Der italienische Kartoffelsalat ist ein Russischer Salat! Hier strotzt alles vor Mayonnaise! Weiter wandern in Dimmuborgir. Es ist sau-heiß. Auf dem Rückweg haben wir dann noch bei der Höfði Halbinsel halt gemacht und sind etwas herumgewandert. Wir haben soviele Entenjunge gesehen wie noch nie. Wahnsinn! Sagahaft!! Am Abend essen wir einen riesen Skyr mit Zwetschgengrütze! Die Restaurants sind wirklich sehr teuer.

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# 2009-07-12 Wasserfälle

Heute sind wir über Húsavík bis nach Ásbyrgi gefahren. In Húsavík waren wir zwei Stunden im Walmuseum mit seinen großen Skeletten und dem Hintergrund zum Walfang. In Ásbyrgi waren wir im hufeisenförmigen Tal. Von dort führte eine ewig lang Schotterpiste zum Hafragilsfoss, Dettifoss und Selfoss.

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# 2009-07-13 Nordisland

In Akureyri habe ich eine 2G SD Karte gekauft. Die 4G Karte wurde von der Kamera (Pentax K100D) nicht erkannt! So schlecht altern moderne Geräte.

Ein paar Torfgebäude am Weg haben uns nicht besonders interessiert. Aber beim Museum von Glaumbær gab es guten Kaffee mit lecker Gebäck in altmodischem Herrenhaus.

Der Spaziergang auf der Insel in Blönduós war schön.

Den Hof von Brekkulær haben wir erst nach großer Rundfahrt gefunden. Straße 704 ist eine Ringstrasse. Wir konnten nicht Tanken. Hoffentlich hat das iPhone Claudias Karte nicht kaputt gemacht!

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# 2009-07-14 Grundarfjörður

Wieder ein isländische Farm Hotel Mit OpenWlan: Suður-Bár. Großartig! Langsam freue ich mich auch wieder auf die Heimkeht. Internet, bezahlbare Preise für Restaurant und Kaffee, Zeit und Musse für Rollenspiel und Oddmuse Projekte, Bücher lesen und kein ständiges Autofahren. Wir fahren im Moment zwischen 200 und 300 km pro Tag. Bäh!

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# 2009-07-14 Nach Westen

Ich dachte, wir würden Stunden lang lesen, hier in Island, doch dazu kommt es nicht. Mehr als ein bis zwei Stunden liegen nicht drinnen. Der Wurm des Ouroboros wird mich noch eine Weile beschäftigen. Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, Alexis Wright - ihr müsst warten. Claudia liest seit Jahr und Tag das Spiel der Götter von Steven Erikson.

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# 2009-07-15 Future of RPG Publishing

James Mishler writes about the current state and future of RPG publishing and is pessimistic about it. I cannot comment on the economic crisis, but as far as the economics of RPG publishing go, I see a trend that I’ve seen in software, too.

With many of the basic tools being released as free software it gets harder to sell operating systems and basic tools. Many still do, however. They use copyright, marketing budgets, and market position to sell to their customers because sales based on merit are getting harder to make. Others use free software under the hood, saving expenses and selling fancy user interfaces to ordinary tools. All of them also try to sell a little bit of extra that differentiates them from their competitors.

But guys like me, peole who like to do it ourselves and who love to share, we’re effectively driving down the price of things. What used to be an expensive commodity is turning into a dirt-cheap element of our daily infrastructure. Like hammers and nails.

For those who used to make hammers, it’s a sad story. But everybody else just moves on. The world changes and that’s ok.

The positive aspects are that more peole are contributing and sharing than ever before. The barrier to entry is much lower. Publishing on the web via blogs and wikis has finally allowed amateurs to join.

I still remember trying to contact people at Necromancer Games regarding a wiki for reader contributions to Bard’s Gate. I never got the reply I wanted from Clark Peterson. With a free license unencumbered by tons of “product identity” this kind of sharing would have been the default. I wanted to do it. I set up a wiki, wrote the first dozen pages, got a domain name. But it didn’t work out. Just saying. The old ways had their drawbacks, too.

We’re moving from a mass market culture to a remix and share culture (Free Culture). This means the end for some commercial efforts, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I plan to join and embrace the low budget, amateur and semi-professional world of Fight On and others. I think that’s where the future of my segment of the gaming crowd lies, at least.

Free software projects like GNU/Linux, Apache, Emacs, and others have shown that we’ll end up with a world with more freedom to learn, participate, study, contribute, remix, and publish than before. It will also have its warts, but they will be different warts. They’ll be our warts. And it will be in our power to change them. I plan on enjoying it.

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# 2009-07-15 Snæfellsnes

Ólafsvík. Djúpalónssandur (Wanderung mit Schiffswrack). Lóndragar (zwei Felsen) Arnarstapi (Möven und Seeschwalben) Rauðfeldsgjá (seltsame Schlucht zum Hineinklettern).

Zurück nach Grundarfjörður. Am Abend Halt im Kaffi 59. Seltsame Stimmung und wir werden nicht bedient. Viele DVDs im Regal. Claudia meint, hier müsse es sehr langweilig sein. Nachtessen im Krakán. Der Service war langsam aber ok. Im Hotel war das Bett nicht gemacht und der Abfall nicht geleert. Wir sind vom Service nicht begeistert.

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# 2009-07-16 Eine Abgebrochene Wanderung

Wir hatten eigentlich nur eine kurze Fahrt bis in die Nähe von Borganes vor uns, entschlossen und aber, noch zwei Wasserfälle zu besichtigen: Hraunfissar und Barnafoss, dann weiter zum Hvarfjördur und eine Wanderung zum Glymur. Weil diese Wanderung entlang von so ausgesetzten Stellen verlief und so schlecht ausgeschildert war, entschlossen wir uns, die Wanderung abzubrechen. Claudias Höhenangst war ebenfalls ein Faktor. Am Abend haben wir wieder “unsere” Schweizer im Restaurant getroffen.

Kurz vor der Ankunft kriegen wir noch eine grosse Schramme wegen einem Raser ab, der uns ein paar Steine beim Überholen rüberschleudert. Claudia kocht vor Wut.

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# 2009-07-17 Reykjavík

Wir fahren durch den Hafnafjörður Tunnel nach Reykjavík und gleich weiter zur sog. Blue Lagoon um zu baden. Am Nachmittag wandern wur in die Innenstadt und trinken Kaffee mit vier älteren Schweizern die wir vom Vorabend wiedererkannten. Abendessen im Geysir Bistro.

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# 2009-07-18 Rückkehr

Der letzte Tag ist ganz entspannt. Wir haben alles getan. Es bleibt nur noch ein leichter Spaziergang und am Abend vor zehn Auto abgeben und einchecken.

Abendessen außerhalb in der Brasserie Askur. Lachs mit Butter so wie früher! Wir sind völlig überfressen. Mittagessen im Café de Paris war nämlich auch gut.

Absonsten sind wir in der Innenstadt auf und ab marschiert und am Ende dann hinaus zum Perla gelaufen. Es war ein langer Tag. Wir sind vollgefressen und zum Umfallen müde. Die Autoabgabe mit den Kratzern hängt wie ein Damoklesschwert über uns.

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# 2009-07-19 One Page Dungeon Contest Favorites

Time passes… ChattyDM says: “Just give us a few more weeks and we’ll give you a killer PDF for the winners and a nice fat Zip file of all the entries.” [1] I shrunk the larger entries, I have converted the Word files into PDF files, I have prepared a BitTorrent file to help share all the entries. ChattyDM says: “Believe me, one of the judges is probably thinking about going rogue and posting them all.” – I know who he’s thinking of! And now you know, too!

Life goes on. Let me focus on a more positive aspect and talk about another batch of entries I liked enough to nominate them. Remember, we each nominated about twenty entries to get started. I’ve written about the first five and another six of my favorite One Page Dungeon Contest entries. Here is the third batch (in alphabetical order of the author names, not in order of preference).

Spoilers!

Halls of the Mad Mage by Justin Alexander: This entry got four nominations in the first round. On my own list, it didn’t get the best vote (3½ instead of 4 points). My notes say “fantastic Escher-like maps with Moebius rooms” and “needs work to add a point” – the dungeon is just a series of weird rooms, but there is no goal per se. You need to add it yourself. The simplest solution would probably be some item or document to find. I nominated this dungeon for the Geometry category.

There were a variety of other entries featuring teleportation traps to confuse a party. This dungeon managed to take this sort of mapping puzzle to the next level because most of the elements are essentially small, in-your-face riddles: How to get to the ceiling of the room? Why are we now on the gallery of the room we just left? How do we manage to reach the lower level?

The Singing Cave by Mark Allen: My notes say that this dungeon should be nominated for the “Caves” category. There were many competing entries. I already mentioned the Gray Goblin Warrens and the Foetid Pit. The Singing Cave did not have a map as beautiful as the other two entries, but it had a good ol’ natural caves dungeon crawl with lots of vermin, some intelligent opposition (lizard men), and a tough harpy cave. The charming song of the harpies is heard in surrounding caves, the nest itself is protected by a little underground river, there is a stern warning at the very dungeon entrance – nice!

I guess this is what I imagine a short “old-school” dungeon or sublevel to be. Nothing fancy, something that can be solved in a single session if you know what you’re looking for, without deadly traps (since I personally don’t like traps very much).

I also like the presentation. It’s not pretty, but it’s very functional. Room names, monsters, treasure, it’s all highlighted one way or another, making the entire page easy to skim. I like that. It’s very useful at the table.

Prozlim’s Labyrinth by Mark Lawrence: I nominated this entry because it picked slimes instead of undead or goblinoids for the opposition. And it’s one of the very few entries that features a romance, no matter how unhappy. That’s it. Slime. Love. Genius!

I nominated it for the “slime” category.

(If you are Mark Lawrence, let me know if I could host the entry for you.)

Maze of Namcap by Patrick Riley: When I looked at this entry, the mind boggled. W00t? Then I chuckled. Hehe, what a clever idea. After all, it’s just a labyrinth and some monsters, right?

There were a number of entries that were humorous. Most of them involved the dungeon map looking like a face, a humanoid, or even a word. Somehow those entries did not work for me. But Pacman worked for me, even though I never played Pacman in the arcades. It made me laugh, and it wasn’t something I’d be using in my games. And yet many entries tried to be funny. I picked this entry as my nomination for the “Arcade” category. In fact, my notes read “Pacman! Gonzo!” – I was happy with the suggestion to put this entry in the “silly” category.

The Foetid Pit Beneath the Abandoned Shrine by Sean Morris: I already mentioned the Foetid Pit before. It has a beautiful map. The map was so beautiful, in fact, that I nominated this entry for the “hand-drawn” category, eventhough I had only given it three instead of four points.

As far as I’m concerned, this dungeon lacks allies, a goal, intelligent opposition, riddles, anything. It’s just a nice map with a note saying that undead creatures “lurk throughout the caverns”. I’d need a bit more to actually use it at the table. On the positive side, the map also features evocative names and little hints like “stiff breeze” or “foul smelling” which make the dungeon easier to describe.

Lessons learnt: I’m not sure. I think I learnt that drawing a nice map with lots of extra bits of information right into the map instead of putting it into the key will make a dungeon much easier to run at the table. And I also learnt that this is not enough. I want some NPC interaction. Some interesting and understandable reason for a person to do something, be it love, revenge, or greed. Setting up a situation so that the players can then figure the Why without being too obvious about it is an art that I still need to master. And finally, a lair should never just be a lair. The environment leading up to the terrain can be used to make the approach more interesting and more challenging. That’s what I’m going to take away from the entries I’ve looked at.

Continued with 2009-08-23 The Last Bunch Of Favorites.

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Comments on 2009-07-19 One Page Dungeon Contest Favorites

NAMCAP was actually my favorite OPD overall- fun concept, interesting mechanics to back it up, and unlike a lot of other silly entries, I could see actually playing in it.

Dave T. Game 2009-07-21 21:28 UTC

Wow, favorite overall! In my Alder King game – a sandbox game set up in Lenap of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy – I’ve been using a small one page dungeon and I can see using several more. But they’d all have to support the tone of the setting, ie. not too humorous, simple setup, etc. Thus something like the The Singing Cave would seem to be the most usable format for actual use at the table.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-22 11:16 UTC

# 2009-07-20 Schweizer Abzockerpost

Vier T-Shirts in den USA gekauft. Wert: CHF 123. MwSt: CHF 9.35. Dienstleistung der Post für die MwSt: CHF 18.00!!

Krass. :-{

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# 2009-07-24 Ennies

Gah. How is this supposed to be fair? I don’t know 99% of the stuff. I expect this is true for all the other people. Thus, this will be heavily influenced by your established purchasing behaviour. I decided to vote for things I sort of understood.

• Best Cover Art – that was easy; anybody can look at the covers. I already mentioned it on the Paizo boards: I don’t like the high pressure boobs their artists use. That’s why I voted for a cover without half-naked females. 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars – science fiction! Even though I never played the game. I’m still waiting for Haarald to run it for us one of these days, hehe. I must confess, I looked at CthulhuTech and liked the Neon Genesis Evangelion vibe. Except for the female costume. Yuck!
• Best Free Product – that’s easy. I subscribe to the view that Quickstart rules are not really complete games. It’s tricky. Maybe they are? But they feel like advertisements. So I voted for something I actually own. Swords & Wizardry
• Best Podcast – that one was a bit tricky. I had unsubscribed from one of them recently, and I didn’t know the two others. A quick click told that they were 4E and some strange d20 radio. So I voted for what I like: Brilliant Gameologists.
• Fan Award for Best Publisher – that’s the weirdest. But since it has the “fan award” prefix, it sort of excuses us all to vote for the publishers with which we were happy. I voted for Mythmere Games, Paizo Publishing, Green Ronin Publishing, Malhavoc Press, Goblinoid Games, Goodman Games, Open Design.

That’s it. I didn’t vote for anything else. Maybe if I knew Dungeon-a-Day and Obsidian Portal better, I would have voted for one of them. But I don’t so I didn’t. I don’t really think that I’d get the same level of day-to-day usability out of the other websites (assuming that I actually used one of the two commercial sites).

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# 2009-07-24 Star Wars Saga Edition

Damn it. I’ve never played Star Wars by Wizards of the Coast. I own the core rules book, and every time a new supplement shows up I need to fight the urge to rush out and buy it. Rebellion Era Campaign Guide, Legacy Era Campaign Guide Clone Wars Campaign Guide, Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide… Gaaah!

Maybe I should just buy some more concept art books. I find that those are the most beautiful books, the most inspiring pictures, and I suspect they’d be the most useful books for an actual game. I really like these books!

I’m sure there are more by now. ;)

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Comments on 2009-07-24 Star Wars Saga Edition

Maybe we should give SAGA a try some time, at least as a one-shot.

– Adrian 2009-07-24 11:02 UTC

bin dabei.

– zeno 2009-07-24 19:45 UTC

Weird. The Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide is no longer available through Paizo, according to their customer service.

Zeno, ich fürchte die Saga Regeln sind ziemlich komplex – etwa ähnlich kompliziert wie D&D 3.5. Vielleicht sollten wir lieber ein anderes System nehmen…

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-24 21:18 UTC

# 2009-07-24 The End Game

So this dude JB from B/X Blackrazor writes about the D&D end game: Ancient Chinese Secrets. And he says:

The “secret” (if you want to call it that) is that extended play in a continuous “campaign world” with regular players can, over time, evolve into something greater than its original humble beginnings. That’s it, really (I think).

He also says a lot more. But apparently he thought it was all very obvious. And in fact, it is. It is, now.

All I can say that I learnt about the D&D endgame from blog posts in the last year or two – On the Loss of D&D's Endgame, for example, and that’s cool. But why didn’t anybody put it in the rule books I read? Why is it not in the Labyrinth Lord book I read? Why is it not in the Primer for Old School Gaming? (Or is it and I missed it?)

Here’s how I learnt to play. My mom introduced me to The Dark Eye, a German game apparently written by the first D&D translator who was unable to buy the D&D license. And my mom bought some modules. Then I designed similar games. We kept on playing different modules using the same characters, and then I moved, and a few years later we play AD&D 2nd edition with no bought modules but using the same style until we reach 12th level, and then I moved, and many years later we play D&D 3E with the odd bought module and an adventure path or two, and I’m frustrated with D&D 3.5 gameplay between levels 12 and 15. And I start looking for some rules light alternatives.

And suddenly I hear people talk about the end game, and a consistent world, and PCs turning into NPCs of said world, and players just switching characters and continuing to play, and I wonder: Why did nobody ever tell me!?

The tournament modules taught me the wrong game. (There’s some discussion of the effects tournaments may have had on the development of the game in the comments of The Ages of D&D.)

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Comments on 2009-07-24 The End Game

I think the end game, as you term it here, requires a certain continuity in players and GMs, and also requires that everyone want to continue playing in the same game world. In my experience, sometimes you just want to break out of the mold and do something different, even if it is still the same D&D rules.

On the other hand, if you have some decent campaign notes and some long-term players, you can always dust off an old game, and roll up new characters. I admit that has a certain allure to it. Unfortunately I’ve never run a game long enough for that to happen.

– Adrian 2009-07-28 12:13 UTC

# 2009-07-26 Resource Management using a d6

I just read on a German blog about a resource management technique using a d6. The example given was arrows for an archer. Every archer gets a number. 2 is the default. 3 is well prepared. 0 is out of arrows. On fumble (natural 1), this number goes down. After every fight roll a d6. On a 1 the number goes down.

As a player I have the hardest time remembering to keep track of arrows, bolts, rations, and other similar things. This alternative sounds like it might be worth a try.

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Comments on 2009-07-26 Resource Management using a d6

One of my players said that keeping track of the “number” still requires writing something on your character sheet. I still think that it requires a lot less book-keeping. Then again, many things in D&D are in fact about book-keeping: treasure and experience, for example. Hm.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-27 23:06 UTC

Dani also pointed out that you’re better able to plan if you know how many arrows you’ve got. I agree. Knowing I’ve got 18 arrows left is more useful to me than knowing I’ve got enough arrows for at least two encounters. There’s an uncertainty there that makes me uncomfortable.

– Marco 2009-07-28 07:21 UTC

I guess this depends on player personality. When I play, I want to get into unpredictable trouble. If I’m not getting into trouble, it’s not an adventure.

The original blog post also mentions a typical shootout trope: running out of ammo. Nobody “plans” to run out of ammo. When you do, the tension is turned up a notch. The proposed system would allow for that by having you run out of arrows on the second (or third) natural 1 you roll for your attack. And once you start shooting multiple arrows per round, that’s a distinct possiblity.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-28 07:30 UTC

I am of the opinion that keeping track of arrows is not worth the trouble. As a DM, I’d tell an archer that he/she can have effectively unlimited non-magical ammo.

I suppose keeping track of arrows, rations, and cheap spell components would be an important part of a grittier or more realistic game. But I’ve long since realized that I generally don’t enjoy those games as much.

– Adrian 2009-07-28 12:11 UTC

# 2009-07-28 Emacs Life

My old laptop runs Mac OS 10.3 – it’s old. I run Firefox 2.0.0.20 – it’s slow. Gmail is slow. So I’m trying to move it all to Emacs using w3m and emacs-w3m, Gnus using GnusGmail.

Some notes to myself:

1. As indicated on the Emacs Wiki page, use S s and subscribe to nnimap+gmail:[Gmail]/Spam, nnimap+gmail:[Gmail]/Trash, and nnimap+gmail:[Gmail]/Sent Mail. You usually don’t need these three folders to be visible with the Gmail web interface, but using IMAP, I need them. I use B m to move mails into the Spam folder, for example. And there’s no quick access to a search.
2. Use ^ to go to the Server Buffer, then hit RET on the {nnimap:gmail} server, then use u to subscribe to the various folders including the folders representing your labels.

I’m using the following:

;;; Gnus
(setq gnus-select-method '(nntp "news.hispeed.ch")
gnus-secondary-select-methods
'((nnimap "gmail"
(nnimap-authinfo-file "~/.netrc")
(nnimap-server-port 993)
(nnimap-stream ssl)
(nnmail-expiry-target "nnimap+gmail:[Gmail]/Trash")
(nnmail-expiry-wait immediate))))

;;; SMTP
(setq send-mail-function 'smtpmail-send-it
smtpmail-smtp-server "smtp.gmail.com"
smtpmail-smtp-service 587
smtpmail-starttls-credentials
((,smtpmail-smtp-server
, smtpmail-smtp-service
nil nil))
smtpmail-auth-credentials "~/.netrc")`

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Comments on 2009-07-28 Emacs Life

I would also suggest trying out Mew for email within Emacs. I prefer it to Gnus. You can find it at www.mew.org.

Brian Zwahr 2009-07-28 14:47 UTC

Do you have any particular reasons? I’ve been using Gnus on and off for as long as I’ve been using Emacs (since 19.34), so I feel somewhat familiar with it.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-28 16:06 UTC

Also, the first big email I write after putting the laptop to sleep and waking it up again… Write… C-c C-c to send it and it says IMAP process not running or something. I try try again. Same error. I fetch new email for my INBOX and indeed Emacs reconnects. Then I return to my message and send it again.

Then I discover that I’ve sent the email three times. Apparently sending worked, but something else regarding sent mails and IMAP did not. That was embarassing.

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-28 22:38 UTC

# 2009-07-28 Pandemie

Das schweizerische Bundesamt für Gesundheit betreibt einer Seite mit Nachrichten zum Thema Grippe und eine Seite mit Nachrichten zum Thema Pandemie, und nun auch einen eigenen Site zum Thema Schweinegrippe für die Zivilbevölkerung.

Verbreitung “über Tröpfcheninfektion beim Husten oder Niesen oder durch Berührung verunreinigter Oberflächen (etwa der Hände beim Händeschütteln).” [1] Wichtigste Massname: Waschen Sie sich mehrmals täglich gründlich die Hände mit Wasser und Seife.

Irgendwie seltsam. Ich hätte nie gedacht, dass ich zu meiner Lebzeit so direkt mit einer Pandemie in Kontakt komme. Selbst AIDS ist ja praktisch ungesehen an mir vorbeigegangen. Plötzlich tauchen Erinnerungen an Bilder zur spanischen Grippe auf… Polizisten mit Hygienemasken.

Und unter den Vorbeugemassnahmen findet man entsprechend auch folgenden Hinweis: “Besorgen Sie sich frühzeitig einen Vorrat von 50 Hygienemasken pro Person, um einem möglichen Versorgungsengpass entgegenzuwirken. Hygienemasken sind im Handel erhältlich, z.B. in Apotheken, Drogerien, Supermärkten oder Warenhäusern.” [2]

Das werde ich also morgen kaufen gehen.

Brrr. “Eine Besonderheit der Spanischen Grippe war, dass ihr vor allem 20- bis 40-jährige Menschen erlagen, während Influenzaviren sonst besonders Kleinkinder und alte Menschen gefährden.” Ich finde den Wikipedia Artikel über die Spanische Grippe auf alle Fälle lesenswert. Man beachte: Drei Wellen. Die erste Welle nicht so schlimm. Erst die nachfolgenden Wellen wiesen die hohe Lethalität auf (etwa 2.5% was ich erstaunlich hoch finde).

Was mir auch aufgefallen ist: “Seit Ende Oktober 2005 verschickt das Center for Disease Control and Prevention das Virus der Spanischen Grippe an alle interessierten Labore der Biologischen Sicherheitsstufe 3.” Na, wenn das nicht verdächtig ist. Irgendwann muss ja ein Fehler passieren. Ob das wohl in ein paar Jahren nachgewiesen werden kann?

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# 2009-07-28 Second Hayfever

This is the second day of waking up in the early morning hours with a running nose and overflowing eyes. A second hayfever season begins. And I thought, like in so many other years, that I had been spared a second dose.

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# 2009-07-29 Best Essays Spam

I’ve started to note a particularly nasty kind of spam for the Best Essays website. They don’t only add links to the wiki pages. At first they posted entire new pages that are on the topic of writing essays to CommunityWiki. But lately they’ve been using my username (!) to make edits. I assume they’re trying to sidestep peer review. I’ve just silently rolled back any changes they made, but today I saw another edit using my username, and when I investigated I found how they had experimented with the rollback function themselves and linked to an old revision containing a spam link to Best Term Papers. There must be real humans at work.

How annoying.

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# 2009-07-30 No New Monitor

Today I found a new monitor in the cellar. Our neighbours like to dump their trash, there. I found the monitor next to a big electronic organ. I decided to take the monitor upstairs and try it out.

I’ve been using a 15” Acer AL511 with a resolution of 1024 × 768 @ 75 Hz for years, now. The new monitor was an Iiyama ProLite PLC1900WTV that promised up to 1440 × 900 @ 60 Hz – a 16:10 display!

I’ve fiddled with the settings for hours, but I was unable to get it right. The cursed Mac Mini I have running Mac OS 10.4 and using a DVI-VGA adaptor was unwilling to identify the monitor, much less acknoledge that it was a wide-screen monitor. It just kept looking ugly and distorted. I was able to switch to 1280 × 1024 and other resolutions, but it kept looking bad.

I’ve finally decided to return to my tiny old monitor. Being the kind of twitterati I am, I feel tempted to add #fail!

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# 2009-07-30 Order of the d30

Ok, so I was at a LARP shop today to buy some clothes and ended up buying a copy of Talhoffer’s Fechtbuch and a d30. I’m tempted to follow Jeff Rients’ lead and introduce a new D&D House Rule, effective immediately.

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# 2009-07-30 Wandern

Gestern bin ich zum Goldbrunnenplatz gelaufen, habe den 14er zum Triemli genommen, und bin auf den Üetliberg gelaufen – bis zum Aussichtspunkt Uto Kulm. Heute bin ich dann gleich von zuhause aus losgelaufen. Offensichtlich kommt man in einer guten halben Stunde vom Bullingerplatz bis zum Triemli. Hinweg über Bertastrasse und Burstwiesenstrasse, Rückweg über Margaretenweg und Döltschiweg. Alles nur damit ich nicht der Birmensdorferstrasse entlanglaufen muss.

Das iPhone mit Google Maps hat sich schon nützlich gemacht.

Aikido muss heute Abend ausfallen. Morgen und Samstag werde ich in der Region Arosa mit Zeno und seinen Kindern wandern gehen. Und am Freitag Abend kommt Claudia nach!

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Comments on 2009-07-30 Wandern

ich sehe, du betätigst dich sportlich. Das ist sehr gut so. Du brauchst den Ausgleich. Du hockst doch viel vor dem Computer. Weiter so!

– der Vater 2009-08-02 20:09 UTC

Siehe Flickr! [1]

AlexSchroeder 2009-08-02 20:36 UTC

# 2009-07-30 WebDAV for the iPhone

Many weeks ago, I got “Files lite” for the iPhone. I just wanted to look at a few PDF files while travelling. It turns out that the PDF files I was taking along were fancy and full of images so that the iPhone was barely able to scroll through them at an acceptable speed.

But the more interesting element is how you get files into your Files lite repository: it contains a fully functional WebDAV server. Thus, once it is started, I can go there using the URL http://Alex-Schroders-iPhone.local:8080/ and transfer files back and forth. I can also use the command-line client cadaver to access it.

I like it. Too bad they didn’t use the default port 80 – as it is, you cannot just wait for the iPhone to show up in your Finder Network and click on it. You really need to connect to a server and provide the URL.

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# 2009-07 Book Club

When: July 22, 19:30 @ Chuchi am Wasser, Wasserwerkstrasse 21 near Dynamo

Wikipedia: A Scanner Darkly.

Interview with Philip K. Dick on YouTube.

A Scanner Darkly (2006) is an awesome movie.

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Comments on 2009-07 Book Club

The book is definitely better!

greywulf 2009-04-22 20:40 UTC

I loved the movie!

AlexSchroeder 2009-04-22 20:56 UTC