Page Collection for ^2009-09

2009-09-02 Parrying

Joseph Bloch proposes a parrying system for his OSRIC game: Parrying Rules for (A)D&D .

When I started to play, I used The Dark Eye. There, everybody had an attack roll and a parry roll. And when you gained a level, you could increase your attack or your parry bonus. Third edition D&D also has an optinal rule that replaces the base 10 in AC with a d20 roll. The net effect is that fights take longer. And that’s something I’d want to avoid. What is good for a simulation is not necessarily good for a game.

So why parry at all? Sometimes a weak party member is attacked and just wants to survive. So how can we make this into a difficult choice without drawing out combat? I propose this simple alternative: Adjacent alllies can pass along AC.

AAC example
A fighter with AC 18 and a mage with AC 11 can stand side by side, and the fighter can choose to defend the mage, passing along 3 AC, resulting in his AC being 15 and the mage’s AC being 14.
AC example
A fighter with AC 2 and a mage with AC 9 can stand side by side, and the fighter can choose to defend the mage, passing along 3 AC, resulting in his AC being 5 and the mage’s AC being 6.


Comments on 2009-09-02 Parrying

Have you tried this?

The Recursion King 2009-09-02 09:20 UTC

No I have not. My regular games are all D&D 3.5 – I get to play classic D&D versions for the occasional one-shot. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-02 12:10 UTC

This has some benefits, in that characters are gaining an advantage from having somebody helping to defend them, but I do not know if I would really call it “parrying”, as it is not an action taken by the individual to better defend themselves. Generally speaking, AD&D takes the right course in having a character give up something similar but less directly related to gain a bonus to defence [i.e. his attacks], but giving up all of his attacks for an often negligible bonus is probably too disproportionate an exchange. As things stand in AD&D a character gives up attacks with a second weapon to gain a shield bonus to AC, and that should probably be the model followed when offering further “parries”. For example:

Short Sword: Give up an attack to gain +1 AC against one opponent this round Long Sword: Give up an attack to gain +1 AC against two opponents this round Great Sword: Give up an attack to gain +1 AC against three opponents this round

This obviously mirrors the way small, medium and large shields work in AD&D, but to be honest piling on AC is rarely a good solution in the AD&D paradigm, so I prefer giving up attacks in exchange for a saving throw.

Matthew James Stanham 2009-09-02 14:36 UTC

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2009-09-02 Rabattkartenmisere

Wie mich das aufregt! Ich hätte lieber billigere Preise für alle. Wenn jeder Rabattkarten einführt, ist das Endresultat die Vernichtung der Zeit, welche wir mit Sammeln, Schnippseln, und Schnäppchenjagend verbringen müssen, wenn wir die Affen nicht quersubventionieren müssen.

Das Endresultat: Ich rege mich masslos auf, wenn ich Rabattkarten verwende.

Migros Cumulus, Coop, Miles And More, Transa Karte und sonstiger Müll: Sterbt!


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2009-09-04 DM Profile

About two years ago, I wrote about player and GM types. At the time I said I was “Director first and Provider second. I do like the occasional Plotmeister session. I used to be a World Builder.” A while ago, Michael Wolf wrote about D&D 4E, and I replied with a link to Dissociated Mechanics, a (long) article about the effects of the rules being hard to imagine and explain in common sense terms. Stuart Robertson picked it up and produced a list of of differences between the various editions. This in turn motivated me to try and determine where I fit in.

Bold is what I prefer:

  • Comprehensive Rules vs. Minimal Rules – nothing breaks immersion like looking up some rules
  • High Power Fantasy vs. Low Power Fantasy – I think this results in more problems being solvable by players instead of stats, skills, and spells on a character sheet; that is, I don’t really mind high power fantasy, I just think low power fantasy [WhatIsAffordance affords] players solving problems instead of using their character sheets to solve problems
  • Narrative Mechanics vs. Simulation Mechanics – it’s not that I like simulation or a lot of mechanics, but if there is a rule, I’d like to visualize its effect in a movie; if I cannot picture the effect of the rule, I get confused
  • Strategic Chargen vs. Simple Chargen – I found that complex character generation is boring; I had this relevation when I realized that my wife was unwilling to read all the spell descriptions and dive into the rules for character creation – I did not feel like making a spell selection for her and realized that we both don’t enjoy complex chargen
  • Tactical Encounter vs. Strategic Adventure – I prefer NoBattlemap and “fast & furious” combat without agonizing over choices
  • Combat Balance vs. Adventure Balance – if combat is fast & furious its no longer a problem if some characters have nothing to do in a fight
  • Balanced Encounter vs. Balanced Adventure – or only vaguely balanced, ie. it’s possible to have areas that are off-limit for characters; part of the challenge is figuring out where they are and how to get around them
  • Wargame Combat vs. Abstract Combat – I think abstract combat affords fast combat resolution; I like strategy games from Final Fantasy Tactics to Go, but not as part of my roleplaying
  • GM as player vs. GM as referee – as soon as rules are being used against me, I start to use the rules against the players which might be one of the causes for adversarial tendencies at the table – I don’t enjoy that and a referee role is what I strive for (there’s still a lot to do)
  • Fantastic Characters vs. Common Characters – I think the same reasoning applies as for high power vs. low power fantasy
  • Established Setting vs. DIY Setting – I actually don’t have much of a preference in this area; in recent games I have noticed Text Paralysis, however; I wrote a German post about it; in short, the problem is that a lot of text makes me suspect that a particular piece of information is somewhere to be found in the text, so I go looking for it instead of improvising, dragging the game down
  • Resource Optimization vs. Creative Problem Solving – there’s also an aspect of resource management in classic D&D variants (encumbrance, detailed equipment lists ranging from pitons, hammers, rope, torches, and rations to water skins); I don’t think I’d mind that aspect of resource optimization, but in the absence of detailed rules “creative problem solving” enables the party to just move on instead of trying to find a justification in the rules (skills) for what they’re doing

What a cool list of properties. If you go through the list for yourself, add 1 if you picked the same, subtract 1 if you picked the other option, skip if one of us had no preference. What’s your score? Mine is 11. ;)


Comments on 2009-09-04 DM Profile

Very interesting to hear your thoughts on this! :)

My preference depends on my mood, but is usually the same as you and for many of the same reasons.

Stuart 2009-09-05 00:22 UTC

That also reminds me of an older post regarding affordance of games – picking systems because they encourage the kind of game play I like.

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-05 07:26 UTC

Big surprise – I scored a -4 :)

– Adrian 2009-09-06 19:12 UTC

It’s truly a miracle we manage to game with each other!! :D

Also goes to show minor these concerns are compared with just getting along on a personal level.

Nice people trump game style – anytime!

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-07 10:29 UTC

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2009-09-08 Scottish Accent

Ah found this link oan a post by Rob Conley. It seems lik’ a gey gallus thing tae uise in a speil by post or blether gam! a’m talking aboot th’ English-Scottish Translator. Awesome idea. Ah think in th’ gey auld days ah hud found a valspeak translator ‘n’ hud na idea whit ‘twas aboot. Bit cheers tae Wikipedia ah noo ken we’re talking aboot a jive filter. Wikipedia fur th’ win!

Also a big pain in the ass for anybody not familiar with it.

Then again, if you’re reading The Order of the Stick you know what I’m talking about.


Comments on 2009-09-08 Scottish Accent

Ah thank ye fur th’ kind words ‘n’ hawp tae read mair.

Rob Conley 2009-09-08 23:55 UTC

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2009-09-08 Ye Gods

About two months ago I wrote about good and evil gods, followed by a discussion on moral relativism. Recently I looked at the Alder King campaign wiki and decided that I needed to create a page for the players listing the various gods that have made an appearance – and the gods that I plan to use.

I’ve been inspired by Necromancer Games products – their write-up of gods and demons, Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia by Morten Braten aka. Thulsa, the author of XP1: The Spider-God's Bride and Other Tales of Sword and Sorcery, mesopotamian deities on Wikipedia, Wilderlands of High Fantasy, and some brainstorming.

I felt it was important to say why people would pray to all the gods, including the “evil” ones. I think in the case of evil gods it simply a question of placate vs. supplicate. And sometimes even the evil gods have something that you might need one day.

Gods Benefits Drawbacks
Orcus, demon lord of the undead, patron of all short lived intelligent species such as goblins, vanquishes death Priests may raise the dead Demands cruel sacrifice
Tsathoggua, frog lord, lord of swamps, ponds, rain, and slime; lord of slaadi, protector of stirges, the god of sloth and of gluttony Secures plant fertility, fends of winter Fear of pestilence brought by morbid swamps and blood-sucking insects
Hecate, goddess of witches, queen of the night, forbidden lore, mollified by pig slaughter on nights of the full moon Her charms will fend of curses and secure fertility and child health Jealous and choleric, vengeful, brings strife
Thanatos, god of death ??
Set, god of snakes, reptiles, treasure, hypnotism, enchantment, and poisoning His charms will defend against enchantment, prospectors and grave robbers pray for his blessings Poison and slavery
Hanuman the Accursed, the mad ape god, lord of the jungle, of action, of rescue Grants might, breaks chains, frees prisoners Madness and rage
Arden, the god of the sun, got destroyed none He’s gone. Finito. Done.
Nhakhramat, goddess of the emerald flame, of pacts, of contracts and lies, of wishes and miracles, of loyalty, and bondage, of service Her priests can seal pacts with servants of Nhakhramat, offering divine services Sometimes the priests try to cheat and twist your words
Nergal, plague lord His charms will protect from sickness Sometimes they don’t
Marduk, the general of the gods, the warrior, the warlord, the protector of man, the traveller, the newcomer Victory, command, control War and defeat
Ishtar, the goddess of love and sex, of longing, of prostitution Provides amour fou, a fevered sex life Veneral diseases, vengeance, poverty
Ganesh, the elephant god, the god of patience and wisdom, of knowledge, of animals and harmony Prayer will help you carry your burdens His followers are easily abused
Shul, the god of the moons, fickle and mysterious, of law He protects against dragons, his seals uphold the law and oaths, his mercy breaks a geas Sometimes he’s there, and sometimes he’s not

The last entry, Shul, was recently added because my players went through DCC #23: The Sunken Ziggurat. I liked his opposition to dragons. I guess there’s no real-world inspiration for this god?

Discovering what Thanatos is all about is turning into a player quest, which is why I won’t say more about him except this: Caverns of Thracia.

It was cool showing this list to my wife since she’s playing a shadow elf sorceress in that campaign and see her unable to decide between Set and Hecate. :)

Update: 2009-12-08 The Gods Are Watching is a follow-up.


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2009-09-09 Preferred Campaign Style

The pseudonymous Yax asks on Dungeon Mastering: What kind of campaign style and mood do you enjoy the most? This page started out with the comment I left on that blog, but then I started adding some more info.

I prefer sandbox-style, location-based games, where players can pick and choose between the various plot hooks. A typical wilderness with various villages and towns, lairs and dungeons provides for all of that.

I’m sure the above requirements can be met using a city adventure. But consider readability: If I can look at a map, pick a region, and read that part of the book, I’m fine. If I look at Ptolus, I get the feeling that I should be reading the entire book before getting started. Do I need to check organizations, churches, noble houses to actually understand this particular section? Again, a typical wilderness with very few organizations and plots covering the entire area nicely provides the modularity I’m looking for.

This lack of interdependence also enables me to exchange some of the elements, or let players dramatically alter particlar elements without requiring me to figure out a gazillion consequences for the rest of the book. This also precludes the kind of meticulously planned adventure paths.

At the same time, I want more than just a series of excursions – just picking plot hooks, modularity, and a lack of of interdependence are not enough. Some of the plots must be player driven. Players must be encouraged to drive the plot forward.

Players must have enough in-game time to explore where they want to take their character. If the forces of evil manage to keep up constant pressure, nobody will build a tower, a castle, form a guild, or raise a temple, research spells, or wage war.

This means that I want multiple challenges for the various power levels of the game. I don’t feel like preparing too many of them, and I don’t feel like preparing things in vain. This means that I’d like to run multiple adventures at the same power level. The D&D 3.5 rules resulted in players levelling up every 2-3 sessions. I like to double that. I prefer slow advancement. Gaining a level every 4-6 sessions is good enough for me. Assuming we play a particular campaign twice a month, it will take us about 20 months to reach name level (gain eight levels to reach level nine, each level requiring five session, with two sessions per month).

I also don’t like the upper levels of the game; I’m happy to retire characters around level ten. They turn into non-player characters and can be pulled out of the closet for the rare high-level challenge.

The mood of the campaign is a tricky thing. My first impulse is to say that I like everything. I guess I don’t like evil campaigns. But other than that – anything goes. In fact, I think I like some variety in my gaming moods.


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2009-09-09 Session Mood

I usually skip the discussions on blogs. Sometimes I’ll read the handful of comments already there before adding my own. I usually subscribe to email notifications and that’s that. Interesting discussions are rare, however.

Recently I’ve found two:

I’ve written a post about my preferred campaign style yesterday, I’ve written about various my DM profile, and at the last con I was, I talked to other people about play styles. As you can tell from my previous posts, I’m very interested in all sorts of typification. But I never considered the session mood.

At that last con, I was surprised. See, I recently joined a Rolemaster group where the game master is really laid back. When we meet on Saturdays, there’s talk about new harddrives, the prices of ink cardriges, what food to cook, when to eat, stuff we did – where as I’m used to after work games. 3½ hours is all we have! So go, go, go!

I remember at one point they were talking on and on, and I started preparing for my Monday D&D game instead of wasting time. I was disappointed!

But at this last con I mentioned, I met people who just liked to get into character. They told me that when they game, it’s all candle light, medieval music, fresh fruit served in pewter dishes, traditional saussages, and talking in character. The mind boggled.

So now I’m curious. I want to see how other people slow down, relax, and play. No action, just flow. We’ll see whether that works for me. I don’t want to be a one trick pony!


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2009-09-09 Traveller Character Generation

Today we started the Kaylash Traveller campaign. None of us have played Traveller before. We’re using the Mongoose Traveller Core Rules and no supplements. It took us the entire 3½ hours to create characters.

The near-random character creation was great fun. One character kept dropping out of careers. At the very end he gained two ranks as a scout and was happy. The other was in the navy, kept trying to get cool skills but ended up with Administration 5 instead. Oh the howling and gnashing of teeth! He kept on piling careers so now he’s depending on anti-aging drugs to keep him alive. This is going to cost a lot of money… Using events to get a connection with other player characters to get up to two bonus skills is a great way of interconnecting the party.

On the whole, a fun mini-game. I usually don't like elaborate chargen, but that’s because I don’t like to agonize over choices – I don’t want to optimize my character like I had to for D&D 3E & 4E, and I don’t like to fiddle with abilities and skills for hours like I had to for Rolemaster. Traveller worked much better for me.


Comments on 2009-09-09 Traveller Character Generation

It shouldn’t take that long to roll up some characters! But the important thing is that you had fun doing it.

Good luck with your game. I have looked at your campaign wiki. It looks interesting. I hope You blog some more about it.

BeRKA 2009-09-10 06:12 UTC

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2009-09-11 Elite Names

I’m thinking of a system name generator for my upcoming Traveller UWP generator.

I was trying to write code in Perl, based on code in Python [1], based on code in C [2], reverse engineered from assembly code written for the BBC – the Elite random name generator. The fool that I was – I didn’t realize that just a a few posts later [3] somebody had done just that. X(

Then I started wondering: How the hell did this work? How much of the magic was just a pseudo random number generator? Clearly the algorithm was picking pairs of characters from the digraph string. There was an element controlling the length of the name, and that’s it? I tried it, but the names were less than stellar. Then I realized that the digraph string probably listed pairs that went together well. I should not be picking starting characters at random, I should be picking pairs at random. The result is this:

my $digraphs = "..lexegezacebisousesarmaindire.aeratenberalavetiedorquanteisrion";
my $max = length($digraphs);

sub name {
  my $length = 5 + rand(5); # 4-8
  my $name = '';
  while (length($name) < $length) {
    $name .= substr($digraphs, 2*int(rand($max/2)), 2);
  $name =~ s/\.//g;
  return $name;

for my $n (0..100) {
  printf "%3d. %s\n", $n, name();

Random names:

  1. ertexebeis
  2. cetiisar
  3. marain
  4. atsocezaat
  5. biraza
  6. tezaordi
  7. beenes
  8. orxeesle
  9. quxeisis
 10. errabiat
 11. riquatis
 12. inisered
 13. diraanated
 14. orquisbiqu
 15. arvevein
 16. lebereza
 17. gemazaisen
 18. inzadius
 19. isbixebiti
 20. vemama

Sounds good to me! vee

And by changing the digraph, you can get different sounds, too.

my $digraphs = "fafemalunabararerixevivoine.n.q.pazizozutatetitotu..";

Results in this list:

  1. zuravo
  2. zobarati
  3. zireqti
  4. efare
  5. votuqbain
  6. vomafezo
  7. fantaetu
  8. xeinra
  9. ferati
 10. ribabata

I like it! ok

More variation in name length?

  my $length = 4 + rand(7); # 4-8


Comments on 2009-09-11 Elite Names


Back when I was trying out StackOverflow (I later learned to dislike it), I tackled a similar problem about phonetic passwords. My solution would concatentate words from the dictionary. The more elegant answer that was accepted suggested a well known method using digraphs (maybe even trigraphs).

The digraph is a much better solution, and I think using a string as the data structure as you have done is not only sharp, but its also makes it easier to understand how it works.

AaronHawley 2009-09-16 22:21 UTC

The thing I really liked about the solution was how it uses the dot to produce shorter than expected words (if you use «..») and how you can generate three-letter syllables (if you use «.»). I thought of Japanese were you have combinations of the consonants k, s, t, n, h, m, b, s, z followed by a, e, i, o, u, ya, yu, yo (but no ye and yi), the vocals themselves, and the letter n by itself. You can represent that using the following:

my $digraphs = "kakekikokusasesisosutatetitotunaneninonuhahehihohu"
  . "mamemimomubabebibobusasesisosuzazezizozuyayuyoa.e.i.o.u.n.";

The only obvious problem is the placement of the single n at the beginning of a word, and the distribution of the syllables used. Not too shabby:

0. misakumeho 1. zukunahimi 2. misekusohi 3. hosato 4. nahokesu 5. titizobuha 6. keeyosuo 7. kimotizi 8. ihosikahi 9. misouisu

Ovious «n» endings, for example:

10. setanheo 34. bayonunyu 42. nhezase 57. hihezenin


AlexSchroeder 2009-09-16 23:03 UTC

All this reminds me of the Dada Engine.

Which famously functions for the Postmodernism Generator

AaronHawley 2009-09-17 01:30 UTC

Cool. That would be the way for a most awesome name generator. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-17 07:35 UTC

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2009-09-11 Random Subsector Generator

Once I had the name generator, I was ready to write up the rest of the script. The subsector UWP list generator will also compute the temperature for internal purposes, but doesn’t print it because it’s not part of the UWP.

I decided that systems with code Amber and piratets are considered code Red. The rules just say that “Red codes are given out at the discretion of the Referee.”

The cool thing is that you can paste & copy the resulting list into the map generator and generate the map to go along with it.


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2009-09-11 Traveller Map Based on UWP

There is an amazing Traveller Map API available out there. Specifically, there’s a service that will produce a PDF based on your UWP list. But you know how it is. I bet half the Traveller referees are trying to code up subsector generators and mappers. Me too!

Here’s my SVG Mapper for Traveller. It comes with example data so you can figure out what format it expects by looking at it. Just click the Submit button! Remember, you need a browser that knows how to deal with SVG files – Firefox will do.

Source code is available. I got to reuse some of my abandoned Old School Hex Mapper. And figuring out the trigonometry stuff is fun. :)


Comments on 2009-09-11 Traveller Map Based on UWP

Very nice! :-)

It looks very nice, and has a simple interface. This is a very good tool to quickly make a subsector.

You are very generous to release this with the GNU General Public License. This means that I might use it together with my random subsectror generator (that is also written in perl).

I have been thinking of doing my own mapper, (other than the ascii one I have made). My plan was to use GD or ImageMagick.

BeRKA 2009-09-11 05:51 UTC

Heh. I come from a FreeSoftware background. Sharing’s the ethical thing to do. ;)

Is your random subsector generator based on the Mongoose rules, or are they the same as for previous editions? I noticed that the generator I had used for my subsector produced strange trade codes and had to write a Perl script to fix them.

Also, Mongoose Traveller doesn’t say how UWP codes for the various based look like. They just provide Scout and Navy as examples. Do you know of a site that defines it?

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-11 07:21 UTC

My generator is based on previous editions? You can select to use book-3 or book-6 rules, that are slightly different when calculating hydrographics. My trade codes are from book-7.

Base codes can differ depending on the version you use. One common version is found on traveller map.

For Naval and Scout base “2” is also commonly used instead of “A”.

BeRKA 2009-09-11 08:25 UTC

Oh wow. Thanks for the link. This was new to me: “special codes deal with the presence of more than one type of base within the same system in order to maintain a single base code letter per system.”

I think I’m going to focus on the rules I have or I’ll go mad. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-11 08:36 UTC


greywulf 2009-09-11 09:35 UTC

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2009-09-12 Player Turn

As I’ve played my second session of Mouse Guard, I kept returning to that concept of players’ turn and GM’s turn. You get to do one thing on the player’s turn. Hopefully that is going to be something that will help you during the GM’s turn. Without importing the scene economy into traditional games, I think I see a way to apply this.

What I really hate is when players are somewhere, there are no plot hooks, and the gamemaster asks: “What do you want to do?” Anything is possible, but nothing is going to happen. Hours will be wasted by players saying: I’ll go to the library! I’ll pick up some chicas! Where’s the booze! Can we buy magic items here? say “Boooring!”

You’re setting yourself up to a lengthy back and forth as players are describing what they are doing, the gamemaster reacts, nobody knows what they’re getting at, some people just can’t be short and to the point… What to do about that?

Here’s something I want to try in tomorrow’s Middle Earth Rolemaster game: “You left the town of Pashtah in the early morning hours and took the Tiger Road to the east. As you’re about to cross over into Eshmir, your thoughts return to last night… Everybody, what was the most important thing you did yesterday?” Let’s see what they did! Depending on your play style, just get into character a bit, provide information regarding current events, roll some dice and do a skill check. Just remember: One thing. Each player: What was the most important thing?

Maybe this inverted approach will help us set the mood, gain information, do some roleplay, and drive the story forward.


Comments on 2009-09-12 Player Turn

I have used the “You left the town of… your thoughts return to last night…Everybody, what was the most important thing you did yesterday?” approach before. It works well. You keep the Uber role players in check (avoiding endless and often tedious monologues) and it usually encourages the not so adept role players to say a paragraph or two. Because it is in essense a cut scene nobody wants it to be that long, because they usually want to just get to the game. Try it out, in my experience it works.

Jack Crow 2009-09-13 17:50 UTC

I tried it last Sunday and it worked! When we talked about it after the game, I got very positive feedback. In fact, players said I should have kept it up – later in the game I missed some opportunities. I guess I was tired and heading into improv. country as players got further than expected. And then my old habits kicked in. But I’ll keep using this technique!

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-14 10:02 UTC

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2009-09-13 Hohtürli

We hiked from Griesalp (1408m) up to the Hohtürli (2778m), down to the Oeschinnensee (1578m) and on to Kandersteg (1176m).

Adrian took some nice pictures of our trip:


Comments on 2009-09-13 Hohtürli

Sweet, I got referenced!


– Adrian 2009-09-16 12:56 UTC

Let the spam begin!

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-16 14:51 UTC

Habe die Bilder gesehen. Schöne Tour und hoch hinauf. Ward ihr auch auf der Blümlisalphütte? Schade, dass das Wetter nicht so mitgespielt hat……… ich warte schon immer auf die restlichen Fotos aus Island!!!Wann kommen die?

– der Vater 2009-09-17 23:36 UTC

Aua Recht hast du!

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-18 07:50 UTC

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2009-09-17 Traveller Kampagnenstart

Die Kaylash Kampagne ist gestartet! Charaktere wurden erschaffen, ein paar Freunde und Feinde bevölkern den Subsektor, und weil einige der Spieler sich auch für eine Karriere als Agent entschieden haben, hat sich die politische Realität etwas geändert. Als ich mir die UWP Liste ansah, beschloss ich, dass ein Bündnis um das hochtechnisierte Usmabe auf der einen Seite und um das kriegerische Diara auf der anderen Seite als Hintergrund für eine militärische Kampagne dienen würde. Es da noch Sogeeran, ein neutrales System, von dem ich annahm, dass Usmabe es bearbeiten würde um gegen Diare Stellung zu beziehen. Ich dachte mir, dass dies vielleicht für eine diplomatische Kampagne dienen könnte. Mit all den Agenten habe ich mich nun aber beschlossen, Sogeeran in den Mittelpunkt eines kalten Krieges zu stellen. Hier treffen die Geheimdienste alle grösseren Systeme aufeinander.

Bis jetzt hat sich meine Erwartung bestätigt, dass Traveller ein System mit relativ geringer Vorbereitungszeit sei. Charaktererschaffung hat gleich ein paar Ideen für weitere Verwicklungen generiert, Handel treiben ist ein intensives Minispiel, welches dem Spielleiter Zeit genug gibt, durch Improvisation neue Informationen ins Spiel einzuführen. Schon nach der zweiten Session ergeben sich ein paar interessante NPCs, mehr Details zu den Planeten, und so weiter. Mir gefällt, dass es so organisch wachsen kann. ok


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2009-09-18 svg2pdf

Ah, the joys of compilation…

svg2pdf says it requires cairo which in turn requires pixman (get it from the cairo site). But then it turns out that cairo also requires fontconfig and that svg2pdf also requires librsvg. And that in turn requires gdk-pixbuf, libxml, pangoft2, and pangocairo. groan

Then again, I have /Library/Frameworks/Gtk.framework from somewhere. So now I need to get it all to work.

Time passes. This is trickier than I thought. I also seem to have /Library/Frameworks/Cairo.framework already. Wasted precious time installing it again, I guess! I get to run a few sudo make uninstall.

PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/Library/Frameworks/Gtk.framework/Resources/dev/lib/pkgconfig:/Library/Frameworks/Cairo.framework/Resources/dev/lib/pkgconfig/:/usr/X11R6/lib/pkgconfig:/usr/lib/pkgconfig ./configure seems to be doing quite well. All I’m missing is the pangoft2 stuff!

I can’t believe how hard it is to figure out where to get it.

Where is it!?

I think I’m giving up. :(

Well, it turns out I had already compiled such a binary on one of the shared hosts I’m on, but unfortunately it seems to produce white pages. I tried a Perl script I found on the internet that embeds SVG in PDF files, but those don’t display in my PDF readers, so they’re useless.

I think my Traveller mapping script will continue without PDF option. sucks


Comments on 2009-09-18 svg2pdf

This post reminds me why I stopped using OS X. :)

– Matt 2009-09-18 14:44 UTC

Gaaah! I’m sure I had very similar problems back when I was using Debian unstable and Slackware. But I think I’m forgetting as time passes.

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-18 15:00 UTC

Yeah. Dependency hell exists on every platform I think. Though I must say that out of curiosity I just installed svg2pdf on Arch Linux using community packages and the distro’s wonderful build system. Took all of two minutes. ;)

– Matt 2009-09-19 00:51 UTC

I feel stabbed… :'(


AlexSchroeder 2009-09-19 01:12 UTC

Sorry. All in good jest! (I like OS X too, but likewise sometimes find installing packages a challenge.)

Enjoy the blog, by the way (especially the fact that it’s also a wiki).

– Matt 2009-09-19 15:45 UTC

Thanks. It’s a strange mix. I hope that people know where to get the feeds for the tags they’re interested in. And if they’re interested in everything, why that’s simply amazing. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-09-19 19:49 UTC

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2009-09-19 Organisches Wachstum des Traveller Subsektors

Viele der Systeme haben einen Namen und einen UWP Eintrag, sonst nichts. Beispielsweise heisst es da nur:

Solacexe       0810 D342635-4       S   Lt NI Po
                    ||||||| |
Ag Agricultural     ||||||| |            In Industrial
As Asteroid         ||||||| +- Tech      Lo Low Population
Ba Barren           ||||||+- Law         Lt Low Technology
De Desert           |||||+- Government   Na Non-Agricultural
Fl Fluid Oceans     ||||+- Population    NI Non-Industrial
Ga Garden           |||+- Hydro          Po Poor
Hi High Population  ||+- Atmosphere      Ri Rich
Ht High Technology  |+- Size             Wa Water World
IC Ice-Capped       +- Starport          Va Vacuum

Einige Systeme haben zudem einen einfachen Satz. Beispiel Zamala:

Hier wurden Jump-4 Triebwerke entwickelt. Das System bildet im Moment ein lokales Handelszentrum. Der Einfluss von Usmabe ist relativ schwach.

Ein paar wenige Planeten haben etwas mehr Info. Hier das Beispiel Requbire:

Hier herrscht absolute Anarchie. Die Welt wird von Warlords und ihren Clans kontrolliert. Einzelne Warlords haben von der Aussenwelt Technologie und Rohmaterial gekauft, um Jump-1 Technologie entwickeln und betreiben zu können.

Venus-artige, korrosive Atmosphäre – die einzigen sicheren Orte sind die Clanfestungen.

Nach der Charaktererschaffung hatte ich für drei Planeten etwas mehr Information. Beispiel Geaan:

Geaan ist eine dicht besiedelte Wasserwelt. Alles hier ist streng reglementiert. Die planetare Verwaltung basiert auf einem Kastensystem, welches unter anderem den Kontakt mit Fremden untersagt. Eine Landung auf der Planetenoberfläche ist strengstens verboten.

Wer sich anstrengt, der Partei beitritt, das Miasma der Korruption erträgt und den 27 Geheimdiensten aus den Weg gehen kann, kann es in dieser Gesellschaft zu etwas bringen.

Die starke Abschottung hat leider zu Folge, dass man ausserhalb von Geaan vor allem auf Agenten der verschiedenen Geheimdienste oder kriminelle Elemente trifft.

Wegen der Bevölkerung in den Milliarden importiert Geaan einige organische Güter (Nahrung, Rohstoffe) von den Nachbarwelten Orgemaso, Biver und Labeveri.

Der instellare Verkehr wird von Sogeeran aus kontrolliert. Entsprechend befindet sich die grösste geaanische Siedlung ausserhalb von Geaan auf Sogeeran.

Nach dem ersten Spielabend habe ich für die Startwelt und die umliegenden fünf Welten etwas mehr Information zusammengeschrieben. Hier das Beispiel Biveer:

Balkanisiertes System, vom Besuch der Planetenoberfläche wird abgeraten. Raumhafen kunterbunt. Etwa zwanzig verschiedene Zollabfertigungen, Import-Export Handelsposten und so weiter. Ein imperiales Konsulat garantiert den Frieden auf dem Raumhafen.

Dockgebühren: 100 Cr.

Starke Handelsbeziehungen mit Sogeeran.

Die Fartrader D-DAWN hat einen relativ schlechten Ruf (-2) für Tiefkühlpassagiere. Der Arzt an Bord sei ein Pfuscher, heisst es. ⅓ aller Passagiere sterben auf der Rückkehr ins Vaterland!

Bei der Königlichen Import Export Gesellschaft von Rish gab es mal unbemannte, schwer bewaffnete, gepanzerte Fahrzeuge zu kaufen (kleine Panzer).


Perol Sadius stammt aus dem Königreich Rish. Stewart & Tenorsänger. Arbeitet auf der Fartrader D-DAWN. • Quintus Firal ist ein Arzt für die Enklave Rish auf dem Raumhafen. Medic 2. • Fiqui Lean hat eine Vergangenheit in der Marine von Rish, hat dann aber eine Ausbildung als Militärarzt absolviert. Medic 2. Arbeitet auf der Fartrader D-DAWN.

Finde ich ausgesprochen cool, wie das so organisch wächst. Basierend auf den wenigen zufällig generierten Zahlen der Universal World Profile (UWP) Liste improvisiere ich die nähere Umgebung und baue aus, was dazu gehört.


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2009-09-19 SVG, CSS, and Inkscape

I have a problem with Inkscape and I think it’s related to the handling or loss of CSS information. I have a script that creates an SVG map which looks fine in Firefox – check it out and hit the submit button.

When I import that SVG into another SVG in order to add more layers, everything looks more or less ok. One thing that’s already wrong is that the hex coordinates are missing. When I save the file, close Inkscape, open Inkscape again, and reopen the new file, things are messed up:

  1. Coordinates are still missing
  2. Font sizes are wrong for the coordinates
  3. Symbols (text elements) around planets have some sort of white border

Do you think Inkscape will have an easier time handling the SVG if I don’t use CSS to specificy stroke width, opacity, and the like?

I’m using Inkscape 0.46 at the moment.


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2009-09-23 Astronomy Picture of the Day for Mac OSX Desktop Background

Based on Harold Bakker's APOD script, I offer the following solution. I don’t keep my computer running, so I just install the following Apple Script as a login item (→ System Preferences → Accounts → Login Items):

(* Place your with timeout statement within a try... on error statement to prevent the script from 
stopping when a timeout occurs. *)
	-- Give the script a three minute timeout to prevent problems when this is run as a login item
	with timeout of 180 seconds
		do shell script "~/bin/ >> /var/tmp/console.log" -- append the result to the console log
	end timeout
on error errMsg -- display a dialog only if an error occurs
	display dialog errMsg giving up after 10
end try

You should probably create a new script using the Script Editor on your system, paste the above, and save it as an application. Remember to untick the startup screen checkbox.

You’ll notice that it runs a Perl script called /bin/ – you should create that directory, put the following Perl script in it, and make it executable. I keep both and in the same /bin directory.


# This script will download the astronomy picture of the day and set
# it as the current desktop background.

# originally by Harold Bakker,

# changes by Alex Schroeder <>

use strict;
use LWP::UserAgent;
use File::Temp qw/tempfile/;

my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;
my $response = $ua->get("");
if ($response->is_success
   and $response->content =~ /href\="image\/([^\/]+)\/(.*?)"/) {
  my $url = "$1/$2";
  my $filename = $2;
  $response = $ua->get($url);
  if ($response->is_success) {
    my ($fh, $tempfile) = tempfile(UNLINK=>0);
    print $fh $response->content;
    close $fh;
    open(F, "|/usr/bin/osascript") or die "Cannot run Apple Script: $!";
    print F <<END;
tell application "Finder"
	set pFile to POSIX file "$tempfile" as string
	set desktop picture to file pFile
	end tell
  } else {
    die $response->status_line;
} else {
  die $response->status_line;

This should work fine as long you restart your computer about once a day. I haven’t made sure that it will try to reuse images, saving the last one in a save place, etc.


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2009-09-24 Changing Taste

Based on the totals in LastFM, ie. rough estimates:

  1. Tom Waits (1,597)
  2. The Pogues (1,196)
  3. The Cure (1,135)
  4. Belle and Sebastian (898)
  5. Radiohead (676)
  6. Nightwish (580)
  7. Bruce Springsteen (463)
  8. Flogging Molly (397)
  9. The Strokes (396)
  10. U2 (375)

For the last 12 months:

  1. Belle and Sebastian (625)
  2. The Pogues (584)
  3. Tom Waits (409)
  4. Flogging Molly (391)
  5. The Dubliners (297)
  6. Radiohead (175)
  7. The Cure (141)
  8. Elvis Presley (119)
  9. Bruce Springsteen (114)
  10. Transglobal Underground (110)

It’s true, I think I can listen to Belle & Sebastian non-stop. :)

The Pogues, Flogging Molly, and The Dubliners are showing up because my Irish playlist is quite popular.

Tags: RSS

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2009-09-24 Loosing Data With Google iPhone Contact Sync

Here’s what I did:

  1. backed up my Google contacts by exporting google.csv
  2. backed up my Address Book using the menu creating Address Book - 24.09.09.abbu
  3. exported my Address Book by exporting vCards.vcf
  4. uploaded the vCards.vcf file to Gmail; 700+ contacts were uploaded, 400+ were merged
  5. I had already set up syncronization for email and calendars on my iPhone; I switched on syncronization for contacts
  6. I said it should delete existing contacts on the iPhone
  7. I said I was sure
  8. I waited for a while
  9. I looked at the Mail app on my iPhone
  10. I looked at the Contacts app on my iPhone; it looked ok
  11. I looked at the Contacts on Gmail; it looked ok

Problems I am noticing right now:

  1. any notes I had for my contacts were not part of the vCards.vcf file, were not uploaded to Gmail, and are therefore lost on the iPhone #fail
  2. some records were marked as companies in my address book; this information is also lost in Gmail (but not too important); bummer
  3. some records were not merged correctly (I now have two records for my wife, for example); I assume that’s because they did not share an email address, so I can understand it
  4. I wanted to try a three way sync so I switched on “Sync Address Book contacts” in my iPhone again – I did not quite understand what “Your contacts are being synced with Microsoft Exchange over the air. Your contacts will also sync directly with this computer.” – does that mean that the three way sync is the default?
  5. strangely enough, syncing my iPhone now claims that the photos on the phone are linked to a different folder and syncing them now would delete all images and replace them with new photos; is this a side effect or unrelated? – I verified the settings (“Sync photos from: iPhoto) and said that this is what I wanted – and it promptly started to sync the 4.5G of photos, again; #fail
  6. once the 4.5G of photos are synced (needlessly), I discover that all my contacts on the iPhone have been duplicated; apprently a three way sync between iPhone, Address Book, and Gmail is impossible (I’m using Mac OS 10.4)
  7. I decided to not sync with my Address Book, removed the “Sync Address Book contacts” check in iTunes and will keep Gmail and the iPhone in sync – email addresses and phone numbers are important; Address Book is only necessary when I use on the desktop, which I practically never do
  8. I went back to the Settings app on the iPhone, switched off Contacts sync (deleting some of the contacts), switched it on again (deleting the rest of the contacts) (and confirming it)
  9. I found some entries had “lost” their phone numbers: it turns out that numbers in the format +41786125175 are not (or no longer?) shown on the iPhone. Number in the format 078 612 51 75 are shown as expected. #fail
  10. When I added the missing info from my wife’s mobile phone to my contacts on the iPhone all contacts disappeared. The phone then reloaded them from the server. Since I have 700+ contacts it takes quite some time. For every record edited. With wifi. I fear the next edit.

I feel weird using the Microsoft Exchange Server protocol.


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2009-09-25 Norman Centuries by Lars Brownworth

Remember the 12 Byzantine Emperors podcast? The same guy is now putting out a similar podcast called Norman Centuries. I’m looking forward to it!

Via his brother [1].


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2009-09 Book Club

What: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

When: September 23, 19:30 @ Zentrum Karl der Grosse

Robert: “The book tackles quite an ambitious theme and somehow gets away with it. Sci fi books about time travel often have rules about people not meeting themselves and so on. In this book, such rules are just ignored, and the fabric of the space time continuum manages just fine, and so does the reader. I think it would be an interesting book to discuss.”

Wikipedia: The Time Traveler's Wife.

Supporters: Robert, Chrissie, Alex, Uli, Karina, Andrea, Jason


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