# 2010-07-04 Campaign Feedback Reviewed Part 1

A while back I asked my players for feedback. We had just finished playing through volume four of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.

Let’s see…

Do you like the game?
Most players simply said yes, and that’s great. One player she thought the social aspects (“group feeling and playing together”) could be improved. Hm… Perhaps we’re just too focused on the game? Arrive at 20:00, play, play, 23:00, everbody rushes home? Or we all just focus on our own character, stare at our character sheets, and don’t contribute to an overall positive play experience? (“Making other players awesome?”)
Weekly, biweekly, monthly?
I missed the intensity of weekly play, and one other player said he liked weekly play (“fond memories of playing once a week, and was a touch disappointed when we switched to bi-weekly”); three players liked it as it is; one player would like to switch to monthly play. Difficult!
More or less Combat, with or without battlemaps? Rules or rulings?
One player loves combat, rules, and battlemaps. One player would like more high level tactics (“I protect the mage”). Two players liked rules and battlemap but would like less rules discussion at the table. I guess that means rulings only when the rules are not well understood right then and there. I think that’s tricky, because only a discussion will show whether a rule is understood or not. I voted for visualization but no grid, more rulings and high level tacticts because I felt that the level of detail provided by the rules (grids, steps, actions) leads to micromanagement of boring detail. One player wanted less discussion with the DM (“it spoils the excitement”). I agree! And he said that in his old group they had no battlemap and he enjoyed it a bit more because it was tougher and more exciting. Interesting. My players usually start arguing the minute we discover that our fantasy is in fact not shared and has diverged. Again, answers differ a lot.
Non-core feats & spells?
Right now they are disallowed by default but will be allowed on a case-by-case basis by a consesus decision made via email between games. I personally don’t like it when players start combing the books looking for that extra bonus feat; usually those come without story elements, so that makes them extra boring compared to research and finding stuff placed in the setting by the DM. One player would like more non-core stuff because of the variety it brings; one player is conflicted because it also increases rules uncertainty and is potentially “overpowered”; one player doesn’t care and would allow it for those that do care; another player (who has been denied several things already) feels like we should have clearer guidelines; one player dislikes the arbitrary nature of additions (“like building a building and then changing the foundation”). Difficult. No consensus.
House rules?
Most players said they had no new proposals.
Switch from D&D 3.5 to some other rules?
One player would have preferred D&D 4E or Pathfinder RPG; two players would maybe try Pathfinder RPG; two players might go along with more radical changes but prefer not to; I want to switch to Labyrinth Lord. I guess I’m in a minority, here.

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# 2010-07-04 Campaign Feedback Reviewed Part 2

This is a continuation of part 1. I’ve changed things around a bit and omitted the two boring questions regarding where to game and the size of the gaming table.

More atmosphere?
One player would like a bit more description but is afraid that more description will distract players. One player has no preference. One player likes it but within reason. Two players want more. I guess a bit more time spent on descriptions and atmosphere would be a good thing!
More NPC interactions?
One player thinks we have enough interactions. One player thinks the D&D 3.5 skills make sure only bards get to be useful at it. I guess being “effective” at it wasn’t on my radar when I wrote the question. Some people just like the roleplay opportunity afforded by the interaction. One player likes it the way it is. One player wants more interactions but is afraid of “weakening the bard.” One player thinks the bard is overpowered in social situations (“shines like the sun and we try not to cast any shadows”). All in all I’m not sure what to make of it. I guess I won’t change anything for the moment.
More riddles?
Practically every player wanted more riddles. Right now we have none, I guess. Some of the players explicitly said that they preferred riddles to be in-game. I just find it them hard to provide in-game. Any ideas? I’d like to add something every now and then.
More setting exploration?
One player says yes, others like the adventure path as it is. I guess that means no change.
Is the adventure path too linear? More sandbox?
I would like more sandboxes. They mean more surprises and more flexibility for the DM. Two players would like a bit more freedom. One player doesn’t mind. Three players like the linear setup (“it’s called Dungeons & Dragons not Wilderness & Goblins”). The table is split.
Tougher combat?
Several players said it was about right. One player said that easier fights were preferred. Two players disliked mid-level increase of save-or-die situations. Two players want it to be tougher. Again, no clear answer emerges.
Less combat?
Two players answered no, another answered a bit less maybe. I’d like combat to be much shorter! One player said that maybe an occasional smaller (easier?) fight would be nice. I find myself in a minority position.
Stuff being nerfed?
Nobody offered anything, but the bard discussion was picked up again by two players.
Number of players?
Most people like it the way it is with four players being preferred and six players being the upper limit; my upper limit being seven players. We are currently six players. Thus, I won’t be looking for more!
Want to run some sessions?
Two players would like to try! Hurray!
Did I forget anything?
Apparently I did not.

Hm… What should I make of it? Apparently we have very divergent ideas in some areas, with no clear measures for me to take.

There are a few areas where we can improve the game, however:

1. more descriptions
2. more riddles – but they have to be in-game (which is tough)

It’s also worth noting that things which bothered us in the past no longer show up:

1. nobody complained about the time it takes to resolve one round of combat
2. nobody complained about the rules being too complicated (some people just felt that we don’t need to look everything up at the table right then and there)

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Comments on 2010-07-04 Campaign Feedback Reviewed Part 2

Overall this sounds like you’re doing a good job and there’s nothing radical to change – unless you as GM feel uncomfortable with things. Consensus is a fine ideal, but sometimes one has to step up for themselves.

Harald Wagener 2010-07-03 09:04 UTC

Although in-game riddles are fun, I don’t think that they have a place in 3.x/4.x systems that rely on a skills mechanic. Riddles are played similar to traps and social settings in these new systems, which basically means a dice roll. You can’t have both worlds. Either the players must eschew skills for “Search” and “Disable Device” and “Bluff” and “Knowledge” (which would be used for solving riddles), or you turn a riddle into a dice roll.

TimmyD 2010-07-05 09:32 UTC

I think in-game riddles can still work, but they cannot be the kind of traditional, verbal riddles. Assume the party arrives in a village, there are five people there, each reporting a facet of a murder mystery. Now the party can think it through and identify the murderer without requiring spells or skill checks. I just find it hard to set something up like that.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-06 11:34 UTC

I don’t know… I think that in a skill-based game, the players will inevitably cry out that “My character would know how to figure this out” and demand a skill check. The role-playing and player/dm interaction is irrelevant.

Check out this short article about Don't Roll, Think! where the author picks on the “Spot” skill. This can equally apply to riddles and problem-solving in game.

TimmyD 2010-07-07 11:31 UTC

I guess that’ll be the point where I draw the line, then.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-07 12:00 UTC

# 2010-07-07 Dice Color

As I’ve been playing with three kids in a monthly game, I noticed that they often have trouble picking the right die. Four, six, eight, ten, twelve, twenty sided? I think I’ll try color-coded dice!

Can anybody out there confirm that using a color code makes it easier for kids to pick the right die?

I’ve looked at some old links but couldn’t really find a “standard” mapping of die type to color, so I went with a suggestion by blinovitch on the #rpmn IRC channel: “Use the color spectrum. Red’s the lowest value, violet the highest.” Except that there are more colors than dice types. So I reserved red dice for the DM’s use! 😼

I’m assembling an order of Chessex dice

These are for the kids:

 10x   d4 Orange/Black (PQ0403)
10x   d6 Yellow/Black w/ #'s (PQ0602)
10x   d8 Green/White (PQ0805)
10x  d10 Lt. Blue/White (PQ1016)
10x Tens Blue/White (PQ1106)
10x  d12 Lt. Purple/White (PQ1227)
10x  d20 Black/White (PQ2008)

I’ll never need all those d12 – I guess they’ll end up as tokens on the map…

DM dice – when I played AD&D, opaque white, black, and red were my colors.

  1x  Red/Black 7 die set (25414)
5x   d4 Red/Black (PQ0414)
5x   d6 Red/Black (PQ0614)
5x   d8 Red/Black (PQ0814)
5x  d10 Red/Black (PQ1014)
  1x  Red/White 7 die set (25404)
5x   d4 Red/White (PQ0404)
5x   d6 Red/White (PQ0604)
5x   d8 Red/White (PQ0804)
5x  d10 Red/White (PQ1004)
  1x  Ivory/Black 7 die set (25400)
5x   d4 Ivory/Black (PQ0400)
5x   d6 Ivory/Black (PQ0600)
5x   d8 Ivory/Black (PQ0800)
5x  d10 Ivory/Black (PQ1000)

Possibly the following for a friend:

 12x d6 Vortex™ Blue w/gold type (27636)
6x d8 Vortex™ Blue w/gold type (PV0806)

Update: It is now late in 2014 and what I end up using at the table is the following, more or less.

Guests get to choose from the rest. This box started as “a bound o’ dice”.

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Consider this a confirmation. I use dice of varying colors to assist my kids in knowing which to roll when. As a bonus, it makes it easier for me to assist them in picking the right dice. I don’t have to say, “No, not that one… the other one on your right…” Instead I can just say, “The green one.” It works well I think.

Kevin 2010-07-07 20:14 UTC

Can you please just double your order? I dont think only kids benefit.

Do you remember my color coded dice when playing DitV?

– Harald Wagener 2010-07-08 11:11 UTC

When I started tabletop RPing in junior high, the group I played with was very anal about their die colors. Ever since, I’ve single-handedly perpetuated the die color spectrum onto various future groups I’ve gamed with since. I’ve become a monster.

Mature Roleplay Girl 2010-07-24 05:23 UTC

# 2010-07-07 Seven Players

Over on the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Forum somebody asked The Big Group Issue - Save Us! – and I suggested the following measures:

• Roll initiative at the beginning. Take the highest initiative modifier for the enemies and just roll once. Announce the number. Any player character who beats this number can go. Then the enemies go. Then all the player characters go again, in any order. Either by how quickly they can decide, or go around the table. This works because they could delay for another anyway. The only thing that you loose is unconscious and dying characters effectively get to delay as well, but that’s not problem for me. The benefit is that you can just ask “has every body gone?” and if nobody says anything, enemies go. Plus: indecisive players automatically have more time to decide.
• No take-backs for players or DM once the next person has gone. Explain to your players that the DM also makes mistakes, and there will be no take-backs either.
• Encourage a caller/leader player. Sometimes a lot of people at the table can lead to indecisiveness. Ask: “so, who’s the leader? who has the most experience? who has the most charisma?” and then start asking them instead of asking the entire group. Make sure your players are ok with that. Make sure players don’t have to announce the obvious stuff. Assume the elf is always searching, the rogue is always sneaking, etc. If you’re benevolent like that, they’ll accept more guidance by a caller/leader player.
• Skip over the obvious parts. If the enemies are loosing, have them run away, or surrender, or let players narrate how they finish them off.
• Modify spells that require a lot of die rolling. Entangle or Web are such spells: A lot of creatures get caught in the area, need to save, every round, etc. Agree upon alternate solutions such as “can move as many feet per round as their “strength or escape artist (dex) bonus” and be done with it. Or have one roll for half the enemies, or all the enemies.
• Limit the game to lower levels. Higher levels means rolling lots of dice and doing lots of additions. Depending on your game, that slows players down.
• Encourage players to write the current bonuses down so that they don’t have to add up effects after rolling dice (avoiding “uh… prayer +1, haste +1, bull strength +2, …). Less calculations while everybody is waiting.
• Use the simplification for multiple attacks suggested by Wulf Ratbane. All iterative attacks now have the same attack bonus and get easier to resolve.

The simplification for multiple attacks works as follows: Instead of the cascading bonuses for current iterative attacks, up to a possible 4th attack at BAB +16, the variant works as follows:

• At BAB +6, you get a 2nd attack. Both attacks are made at a -2 penalty (instead of 0/-5).
• At BAB +11, the penalty drops to -1.
• At BAB +16, the penalty drops to 0.
• When hasted you get an extra attack using the same penalty.
• With Two-Weapon Fighting, you gain an extra attack with your off-hand.
• With Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, you gain two extra attacks with your off-hand.
• With Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, your penalty for fighting with two weapons decreases by 1.

Statistically, you get similar damage output as current iterative attack rules, except at the corner cases when facing foes whose ACs are extremely high or extremely low relative to your attack bonus. The big advantage – fewer rolls, but in particular fewer different bonuses to add!

You can allow both rules as written and the above simplification at the table. Some players might feel that they’re quick enough at adding things up and they like the rules – no problem. Those that are slow might prefer this simplification.

And finally, enjoy the chaos at the table! Maximize the part that is cool about having so many people at the table. It’s not intimate. It’s not personal. It’s about chaos, mayhem, confusion, and action. If there’s one person that gets the spotlight such as a bard or paladin doing Diplomacy, make sure that this too plays fast and make sure to allow other players to help out. Simply encouraging a lot of Aid Another is a good way to start.

• Let players know the AC of their enemies so that players can pre-roll attacks. The slight advantage gained by characters using Power Attack in the first few rounds is negligible.
• If you have some favorite spells or dragon breath attacks, take the average of ⅔ of your dice and write it down. Just roll the remaining ⅓ of your dice at the table.

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Computer/iPhone dice rollers for big spells (esp. disintegrate and such) are nice. Or, following an example I saw once for a high level D&D Game Day event (or something like that), you could take a level 20 wizard’s disintegrate spell, which would normally be 40d6, and turn it into a few dice plus a large static modifier, i.e., 6d6 + 119. It does take away some of the swinginess of big damage spells.

Also, if the player already knows what he or she is going to do, i.e., the fighter is definitely going to attack this guy, then roll the dice and write down the numbers while others are going, when it is your turn then you can just rattle off the results.

Finally, tell the players what the monster’s AC is. They figure it out after one or two rounds anyways.

Good points, I’ll add them to the list!

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-07 22:22 UTC

Another nice rule I recently read was that players should always have their move prepared and the relevant rules open and at the table. If they don’t, they automatically delay and possibly loose their turn if everybody else has gone.

Playing D&D 3.5 does require the addition of one house rule. It’s no really a rule, but a modification that takes into account 3.5’s design principles. Namely, players have to be on top of the rules. For example, a player cannot simply say, “I grapple the orc.” Because of the many and varied rules, the player needs to state his intentions AND have the PHB open to the page that covers grappling. If they do not have the rules for their spell, special attack or stats for their summoned monster, they get skipped until they do have them. – Christian in Exploring The Magnum Opus That Is Ptolus

It’s evil, but it might speed things up.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-08 12:52 UTC

Hi Alex - great minds think alike? Your initiative rule is close to that of my own fantasy heartbreaker. How do you like your initiative? (Harald participated in one of the playtest games, and his portrayal of The Dwarf is well-remembered.)

DirkR 2010-07-09 14:33 UTC

# 2010-07-08 No Dignity in Death

(Zurück zu den RoleplayingReviews.)

Leider habe ich im Moment keine Möglichkeiten, D&D alter Schule selber zu leiten, deswegen kann ich für No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides von James Edward Raggi IV alias Lamentations of the Flame Princess wieder nur eine Leserezension bieten. Das Teil gibt es bei Spärenmeisters Spiele zu kaufen.

Bei No Dignity in Death handelt es sicher um ein A5 Heft mit ein paar Karten und drei kleinen Abenteuern. Alle drei Abenteuer haben einen losen Zusammenhang: Im ersten Abenteuer geht es um einen Mord an einer Braut, im zweiten Abenteuer geht es um ein makaberes Wettspiel an dessen Schluss eine Braut einem Drachen geopfert wird, und im dritten Abenteuer geht es um eine einsame Waldhütte, in der vor Jahrzehnten eine Frau gestorben ist.

Das Heft hat insgesamt 40 Seiten, so bleiben pro Abenteuer kaum mehr als ein Dutzend Seiten und ein paar wenige, einfach gehaltene Karten. Mir gefällt dies: An den meisten Spielabenden haben wir etwa drei Stunden Zeit. Ewig lange Abenteuer brauchen auch viel Vorbereitung; ­ das vermeide ich lieber.

Allen drei Abenteuern ist gemeinsam, dass die Gruppe eine Situation im Dorf antrifft und diese Situation sich ganz von alleine weiter entwickeln wird, wenn die Gruppe nicht eingreift. Im ersten Abenteuer hat der Ritter die Mörder schon gefunden und wird diese in wenigen Tagen hinrichten lassen. Im zweiten Abenteuer findet über die nächsten Tage ein Wettbewerb statt. Im dritten Abenteuer werden drei Jugendliche vermisst. Die Gruppe ist nun völlig frei und kann sich einmischen – oder zuschauen. Wenn die Gruppe sich nicht einmischen will, gibt es allerdings auch kein Abenteuer. Von dem her funktionieren die Abenteuer vor allem, wenn es nicht nur herzlose Zyniker in der Gruppe gibt.

Das erste Abenteuer besteht zu einem Grossteil aus einer Liste von Personen: Verdächtige, Tote, Verwandte, Richter, und so weiter. Zu jeder Person gibt es ein bis drei Paragraphen Hintergrund, welche es dem Spielleiter erlauben, ihre Reaktionen zu improvisieren.

Das zweite Abenteuer besteht zu einem Grossteil aus einer Beschreibung des Wettbewerbes und dem Hintergrund, den man erfahren kann, wenn man sich erkundigt. Das ganze wird dann mit der Zeit etwas gruseliger und schlussendlich wird eine der Bräute geopfert.

Das dritte Abenteuer besteht zu einem Grossteil aus der Beschreibung einer Waldhütte, der näheren Umgebung, und einem Untergeschoss. Dort sucht die Gruppe nach drei Jugendlichen, und eventuell nach der Ursache für deren Verschwinden.

Für mehr bleibt eigentlich auch keinen Platz: Es gibt vielleicht ein oder zwei Gelegenheiten für einen Kampf, mehr aber auch nicht. Mir scheint, alle drei Abenteuer leben davon, dass die Gruppe in einer einigermassen normalen Umgebung mit etwas Störendem konfrontiert wird. “Irgendetwas stimmt hier nicht!” Und dann wird es immer unheimlicher, bis die Gruppe etwas dagegen unternimmt.

Für mich stimmt die Atmosphäre.

Als Spielleiter bin ich in der letzten Zeit nicht mehr so an jeder Menge Hintergrundmaterial interessiert. Es lähmt meine Improvisation. Gerade im ersten Abenteuer gibt es ziemlich viel Text zu all den Personen. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob mir das am Tisch dann nicht doch zu viel Text wäre. Das müsste man halt mal ausprobieren. Aber dies ist leider keine Spielrezension sondern nur eine Leserezension.

Wer hingegen noch mehr skurrile Gestalten in das Dorf einpacken will, wäre mit People of Pembrooktonshire sehr gut bedient. Die dort aufgeführten Personen passen ausgezeichnet in das Dorf. Insbesondere für das zweite und dritte Abenteuer würde ich vielleicht zwei oder drei zusätzliche Personen auswählen.

GEFÄLLT: Die sehr unterschiedlichen Abenteuer. Die Kürze der Abenteuer.

MISFÄLLT: Manche Spieler würden vermutlich gerne mehr Monster vermöbeln.

QUALITÄT: Sehr gut

PREIS: 11€ ist an der oberen Grenze

RATING: :star: :star: :star: :star: (4 von 5 Sternen)

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# 2010-07-08 Where are the Evil Dudes

Actually… maybe I’d rather not get involved.

Update: Actually I see that other people have been voicing what I wanted to say.

James Edward Raggi IV kicked it off by saying I Don't Get It. Replies ranged from “Fuck that” [1] to “Labels bad, freedom good. Mutually exclusive…” [2] To me, labels seem to be an integral component of any rational discussion. Without generalizations and abstraction you’ll never be able to reason about anything beyond the most immediate of details.

I didn’t get it and wrote a long rant about it. Then I deleted it again. But now I can just quote other people:

• “It’s just a convenient label. No-one would think it’s «pretentious and punk-as-fuck» to call a vintage car a vintage car, so why the hostility over the Old School label?” [3]
• “And while I’m on the subject, can anyone tell me EXACTLY what the difference is between OSR gamers and Non-OSR Old Schoolers, other than the fact that some of us like a fucking label? I get a lot of Labels: Father, Husband, Grognard, Gamer, etc. Is Old Schooler an ok Label? How about 1e Gamer? Or just Gamer? Is that Ok?” [4]
• “Perhaps I’m so out of the loop that I simply don’t know any of the sub-text of the conversation?” [5]
• “Not everyone’s like me of course, but I thought I should say something, as there are people here that seem adverse to labels or having others label them. To me, that’s like being adverse to adjectives and adverbs.” [6]
• “It’s all very well to jump up and down ranting and making accusations on the blogosphere, but without any actual evidence, it all sounds like sour grapes and hot air to me.” [7]
• “OSR is not a term labeling a group of people, it’s a description of a trend that is happening within the RPG community.” [8]
• “I’ve been watching the pattern of OSR blowups over the last year, and I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t the same dozen or so people reacting angrily whenever anyone says something they don’t like, and the rest of us wondering what’s happening and wishing there wasn’t so much arguing.” [9]

Thank you, David Macauley, Joseph Browning, and all the other voices of reason.

Also, Rob Conley says “[The OSR] is a glorious mess and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” [10] — I agree!

Interesting discussion here with Dan Proctor, Matt Finch, Rob Conley, Robert Fisher, Finarvyn, and many others chiming in: From The Desktop: My Final Stance on the OSR Debate by Rob Kuntz.

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Comments on 2010-07-08 Where are the Evil Dudes

Beautiful; Loved the quotations method.

I looked at the conversation before reading your post, and agreed completely.

I think there’s a point of maturity a person reaches, when they realize that labels happen.

LionKimbro 2010-07-16 21:34 UTC

Thanks. I appreciate your comment regarding the method in particular. Always good to get feedback on that.

I still haven’t tagged the page “RPG” for fear of it showing up on blog rolls and aggregators and taking some flak. At the same time I feel disingenuous. What a stupid situation to be in. I feel as if I were afraid of owning my words. Maybe I should post something about that on CommunityWiki. If only I knew what it meant.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-16 22:29 UTC

# 2010-07-09 Add Identica Account to Bitlbee

I’m using IRC via Bitlbee to do instant messaging in Emacs. I’ve been using the ui-fix branch of Bitlbee. Here’s how to add an Identi.ca account:

    account add twitter kensanata foo
account list
account 6 set base_url http://identi.ca/api
account 6 set mode chat
account 6 set oauth false
save
account 6 on

Instead of “6” you need to use the correct account number.

If you already have a Twitter account with the same handle, one of the two will be called #chat_000 instead of #identica_kensanata – join us on #bitlbee @ freenode and help us fix it.

Update: I’ve been working on a patch attached to ticket #648 (using Twitter and Identica accounts with the same username) to add support for an Identica protocol.

    account add identica kensanata foo
account identica set mode chat
save
account identica on

Update: A modified form of my patch has been applied.

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Hmm. I’m using the Bitlbee package that ships with Debian Sid. Doesn’t appear to have your patch applied. So, using the Twitter hack by changing the base_url works, but then only 13-14 of the accounts I’m following join the chat, rather than the 100+ that I’m following. Any ideas? Or, do you know when native identi.ca support will be added to upstream Bitlbee? Anyway, I’m digging the native Twitter support at least. Tab-completed nicks in Irssi. Finally!

Aaron Toponce 2010-09-29 20:00 UTC

Sorry, no idea. I think this only got added to the ui-fix branch, but your best bet would be to contact the author on the #bitlbee IRC channel (Freenode). Good luck!

AlexSchroeder 2010-09-29 20:33 UTC

# 2010-07-13 Deutsche Foren

Auf was für Foren treibt man sich denn so herum, wenn man neue, Deutsch-sprechende Rollenspieler finden will? Gibt es ein Foren wo es mehr als üblich in der Schweiz wohnhafte Rollenspieler gibt?

• Tanelorn – das habe ich vermutlich via Harald und Jörg kennengelernt
• D20 Welten – da habe ich mal einen Spieler gefunden
• Blutschwerter – Moritz hat das ein paar mal in seinem Blog erwähnt
• DnD Gate – das taucht bei der Suche nach Rezensionen immer wieder mal auf

Alternativen? Zählt das Disputorium des Settembrini?

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Besuch uns mal ;)

Greifenklaue 2010-07-13 17:22 UTC

Das Disputorium würde ich nicht mehr dazu zählen, da wird viel über alles andere Diskuttiert und es gibt dort eingefleischte User.

Das http://www.fundus-ludi.de/index.php könnte man noch erwähnen, ansonsten natürlich systemspezifische Foren.

– Xemides 2010-07-13 19:57 UTC

# 2010-07-13 To My RPG Followers

I’ve noticed that some people have added my blog to their blogroll. Thank you!

Some of you have subscribed to a feed listing all changes – including non RPG pages, German pages, Comments, etc. I’m assuming that those topics are annoying you. If not, you can stop reading now.

I figured that maybe the reason is because Blogspot and similar services are having difficulties subscribing to a feed URL containing a query string (question marks and semicolons). I don’t really know what the problem is, but I have seen that one before. Anyway, I fiddled with the site setup again. :vee:

If you don’t need the full page content because you are adding it to your sidebar, you can use the following URL:

I hope that helps?

The feed icon for the RPG tag below should now link to the correct URL as well.

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# 2010-07-14 From Traveller to Diaspora

Bye bye Traveller category – our gaming group has decided to give Diaspora a try!

What happened?

• One player left the campaign because he’s working in Berlin during the week and can’t play in Zürich on Wednesdays.
• Another player said that the campaign wasn’t really working for him.
• That leaves only three players – and one of them very busy – and a game master.
• I said that I felt the system was pushing us into micro-managing things we only cared for on an abstract level; basically we weren’t interested in anything involving money: trade, maintenance costs, equipment costs, etc.
• Three of us had given Spirit of the Century a try; we liked FATE but didn’t like the rulebook.
• Harald and I had read the Diaspora book and liked it.

Today we had three hours. First we discussed the state of the campaign and decided to switch to Diaspora. I printed out character sheets, skill reference sheet, personal combat sheet while Harald explained a bit about the rules. Then we converted our Traveller characters. It went pretty smoothly. The free form aspects are a real boon.

We assigned a system to each one of us, and said that we’d convert the UWP to the Diaspora stats on our Campaign:Kaylash subsector wiki. We’ll convert them as we go. Technology, Environment, Resources, and three aspects, that should not be too hard. We already have a map and a lot of info on some of the systems.

I don’t think we need a Diaspora cluster. Perhaps I’m missing something? The benefit of having small clusters might be a localized game suited for people that like to switch campaigns often? We’ve been playing our biweekly game for a year, now. I think we want to keep playing in this subsector and we want to keep exploring our characters for quite a bit more.

Wish us luck!

Comments on 2010-07-14 From Traveller to Diaspora

Good luck!

I’ll be following this with interest - Diaspora is firmly on my To Do list!

greywulf 2010-07-14 21:36 UTC

Well, I converted one character: CW:Kaylash/Bergofan Maia for Traveller → CW:Kaylash/Bergofan Maia.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-15 01:19 UTC

# 2010-07-15 Patronage

I recently discovered that the 3.5 Private Sanctuary was still on and I’ve downloaded lots of episodes I had missed and listened to them over time. Today I heard the interview with Steve Russel of Rite Publishing. The episode was published in January 2010! Yes, it’s old news. Very old news.

Anyway, they were talking about their patronage model:

Patronage is similar to a preorder except you get direct input and access to the product before the product is released. You get both the product, and all of the benefits of an alpha and beta test, with senior patrons having even greater access, and making actual changes in the design itself.

I like patronage – I was a patron for Wolgang Baur’s Open Design adventure, Empire of the Ghouls – but in the end I felt it was a bit too expensive since I wasn’t interested into getting any input and access to early releases. I found that the main-stream adventures worked for me. And I still like the Paizo adventure paths.

But patronage also allows people to essentially “commission” publishers, authors, artists, editors, and layouters to work on a niche project that nobody else would publish. Heroes of the Jade Oath, for example, was mentioned in the Rite Publishing podcast episode. Chinese inspired setting for Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved? Wow. That seems like a small target group!

Another thing that caught my eye is their Diceless Patronage Project. I think Steve Russel contacted me via instant messaging some time during the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 and started chatting. We talked about patronage a bit, and then he brought this project up. It’s going to be a new Amber Diceless! That’s one of the RPG systems I still have here at home, unplayed. It was published in 1991. Nineteen years ago. Wow.

Maybe I should play it again.

Anyway. I guess what I wanted to say is that patronage is more expensive than mass production. Big surprise, eh? But at the same time I feel that this is what will keep high production values around. I think that the Old School Renaissance goes to show how the operation of one person and their friends, most of them not getting any money for it, is reaching its limit: Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox, Stonehell, Lamentations of Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role Playing, Fight On magazine, etc.

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# 2010-07-20 Apache Rewrite Loops

My Apache error.log file for emacswiki.org is full of the following:

Request exceeded the limit of 10 internal redirects due to probable configuration error. Use ‘LimitInternalRecursion’ to increase the limit if necessary. Use ‘LogLevel debug’ to get a backtrace.

In addition to that, 0.35% of my access.log entries (263/74905 in the current log file) seem to result in an internal server error – which is exactly what the Apache documentation says:

In order to prevent endless loops of internal redirects issued by per-directory RewriteRules, mod_rewrite aborts the request after reaching a maximum number of such redirects and responds with an 500 Internal Server Error. [1]

I checked the two big .htaccess files (one for cgi-bin, another one for htdocs) and all the RewriteRule entries have the [L] or [last] flag. [2]

How can I debug this? This is a shared hosting environment. I cannot use LogLevel.

Apparently ordinary users are running into the same problem. DrewAdams is reporting that every now and then when he’s saving a page, he gets the internal server error. Saving involves a POST request with a redirecting reply – code 302. This is theoretically non-standard but widely used:

Note: RFC 1945 and RFC 2068 specify that the client is not allowed to change the method on the redirected request. However, most existing user agent implementations treat 302 as if it were a 303 response, performing a GET on the Location field-value regardless of the original request method. – RFC 2616, section 10.3.3 “302 Found”

Want to take a look?

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Comments on 2010-07-20 Apache Rewrite Loops

Rewrite works somewhat differently in .htaccess files; see the more recent doc for [Last] at http://httpd.apache.org/docs/trunk/rewrite/flags.html#flag_l for some warnings.

– Dan Poirier 2010-07-23 00:55 UTC

# 2010-07-20 Cafepress T-Shirts

Any recommended RPG themed Cafepress T-shirts I should look at?

If I order one I might as well order more…

Right now I’m thinking of Old School Gamer by Paul Jaquays (apparently also in support of a college fund for Mr. Jaquays’ daughter – I don’t care much for the Gygax Memorial Statue), Dungeon Master by InsaneTsharts (1484 results for T-Shirts & Gifts by this designer!?), Mindflayers!! by Horned One Trading Post (hello trademark law – get them while they last), Chaotic Neutral by CriticalHitGames RPG & Gaming Shop (love the alignment T-shirts!)… And I already have several T-shirts from the Order of the Stick store.

Shipping to Switzerland: I googled for some coupons and found that CCRAZE707 is good for the \$23 shipping charge to Switzerland. Wow.

Update: Actually I switched stuff around and used CABIN707D, then clicked around for a bit, had to correct my shipping address, and somewhere along the way my coupon got lost. Apparently I did pay for shipping after all. Not good. I sent them an email letting them know about it. We’ll see how this turns out. In a similar situation when buying T-shirts from the FSF I got the money charged back to my credit card, so that turned out well.

Update: “As a courtesy I have waived the shipping on your order. We hope this information helps, and thank you for shopping at CaféPress.com!” Works for me – thanks!

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# 2010-07-21 Canon Puncture Game Advocate for ＯＤ＆Ｄ

Once again I was listening to Canon Puncture – a podcast mostly about indie games – and they had Tavis Allison from The Mule Abides talking about OD&D – the version from 1974 where all weapons do 1d6 damage and where the rules are so confusing that they barely make sense at all. Tavis’ take is that this is the result of the tension between Arneson, who wanted his players to not know the rules at all and just use their imagination, and Gygax, who wanted to make the game accessible to other people. The result is, as he says, a D&D flavor “that is only vaguely reflected by the published text.”

I really liked the interview! He talks about the necessity of everybody reinventing the game: What does a wand of magic missile do? Apparently it’s not in the rules. The game encourages you not only to decide for yourself, but it also teaches you (by example) how to write random tables to use instead in order to surprise everybody at the table, DM included.

Arnold comments on the episode: “That is a strange and attractive take on the game.” [1] I agree! And yet – so liberating! I started to write a comment, but then decided to write a longer blog post instead.

I had a very similar reaction when I started reading about the older material. What a strange and attractive take on the game indeed! I had resumed gaming at the end of 2006 with D&D 3.5 and my first campaign was reaching levels twelve, thirteen, and more. I was getting sick of high-level play in my D&D 3.5 games. Pathfinder promised to be more of the same. They were going to fix some of the problems, but not the general problem: The game was getting too complicated for my taste! D&D 4th ed. was different but not in the way I wanted it to be. It was just a different tactical game. I stumbled upon the blogs of the Old School Renaissance (OSR). A few weeks back I collected some memorable quotes that defined the experience for me.

These old school blogs promised stuff I didn’t know I was looking for, but once I had read about them, there was no forgetting them:

• As a DM I want to be surprised at the table. I don’t want to spend hours preparing my games. Recently I have started running my remaining D&D 3.5 games that way: I don’t want to spend more than one hour of preparation for every session. It works. It’s just not something that you’re being taught by the published books, modules, and adventure paths I’ve read. I learned it from the Old School Renaissance blogs.
• If there’s a problem the characters face and the first thing players do is check their character sheet, then I don’t like it. Others get a kick out of the efficient use of their abilities to kick some ass, but somehow that leaves me cold. Too much chess for my wanna-be fevered brain!
• If there’s too much character creation front-loaded (before the game starts), then I don’t like it. I like to discover who my character is in play. And since I didn’t front-load a lot of investment, I don’t mind loosing the character and starting a new one. The journey is the reward, no preparation needed.
• I like to make shit up as we go. If there are a lot of rules, then suddenly things are more complicated. The classic example is the introduction of the Ride skill: Suddenly characters start falling off their horses because they’re failing their skill checks, where as in the old days, if you imagined your character to ride, he did. If you wanted a pet, and other people have the Handle Animal skill but you don’t, then you can’t have a pet. Yes, there are ways around it, but these ended up being small stumbling blocks that stymied my imagination.
• I like the element of having to adapt with what I’m dealt with by Lady Luck. If the dice say I suck, I need to adapt. Such constraints set my imagination on fire. If I get to choose whether I suck or excel in a particular area (point-buy character creation), then nothing happens. I don’t get excited.

I felt that Tavis Allison captured all these elements quite eloquently in this interview. Recommended – unless you’ve already been reading the blogs of the Old School Renaissance in the last one or two years. If you haven’t and you’re looking for some inspiration, I have collected a large number of old school blogs on the Old School RPG Planet.

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# 2010-07-24 Ubuntu to Xubuntu

I have an Ubuntu install and being interested in saving some CPU cycles I decided I wanted to give Xubuntu a try. I tried installing the xubuntu-desktop meta-package and other stuff, logged in using the Xubuntu session, but I’ve noticed that some sort of Gnome (Nautilus?) is still running: I changed my desktop to something other than the Ubuntu default. When I log in, I see the login prompt (gdm?) with the Ubuntu background, then the Xubuntu background as my processes start up, then it switches to the Ubuntu background again and the image files on my desktop are replaced with big preview icons (!), and then it switches to the Xubuntu background again and the image files on my desktop are once again represented with a simple icon.

Indeed, ps tells me I have a nautilus --sm-client-id 2e119a910-0da7-475b-bff1-ea6cb80fe0a9 --sm-client-state-file /home/alex/.config/session-state/nautilus-1279962295.desktop running. That’s not cool. How did it get there? How can I get rid of it? Who’s starting it? Grrr.

In fact, I’d like a clean Xubuntu desktop and remove all the Ubuntu stuff. Is this possible? When I run sudo tasksel and pick the Xubuntu Desktop option, it runs for a bit and then it aborts. I’ve just restarted it as sudo tasksel install xubuntu-desktop instead of picking stuff interactively and it has been running for a few minutes now. We’ll see how it goes.

Update: Well, the first part went just fine. Then, in my foolishness, I decided that I needed to tasksel remove ubuntu-desktop – and it took me many minutes to realize that this was basically wiping most of my system. Not good. I interrupted this by watching the output of top and figuring out the pid of the dpkg process responsible for it all. Then I spent a lot of time starting apt-cache and aptitude trying to fix things. I had gotten the idea that maybe I needed to tasksel install server – the most basic option – before doing anything else. But again, it would abort a few seconds after starting. Finally I decided to run sudo tasksel install xubuntu-desktop again and it works, apparently. I fear the laptop will keep installing packages for another hour or two.

What a waste of time.

Update: Running sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-desktop and sudo apt-get autoremove. I have a bad feeling about this. Will my self-compiled Emacs still work? Apparently it won’t! But there’s no more Nautilus around! So that’s a win.

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Comments on 2010-07-24 Ubuntu to Xubuntu

1. try to get htop, which is top in comfortable (you don’t have to find out the HUD anymore to do stuff with the programs, I mostly use it to terminate frozen programs)
2. uninstalling ubuntu-desktop should actually not do anything, as far as I know that’s just a package with all the right dependencies to install the whole gnome package
3. you might want to get an alternative for nautilus, any of the other file managers. or better: you should change the settng from nautilus to the other one. right now your system still thinks nautilus is the goto file manager. might have something to do with your wallpaper settings. on the other hand i normally use nautilus even in xfce because it’s just more comfortable

G. Neuner 2010-07-28 01:05 UTC

Thanks. Must take a look at htop.

Uninstalling ubuntu-desktop does nothing, you are right. But the subsequent apt-get autoremove removes all dependencies no longer required. Which are most of the packages required by ubuntu-desktop.

That apparently got rid of nautilus. Right now I’m using thunar. I guess I’ll return once I realize what features I’m actually missing. All I noticed up to now was that gvfs support was missing. I had to create a folder for every remote host I’m interested in and add appropriate “folder actions” to mount it.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-28 08:48 UTC

# 2010-07-28 Aspects and Fate Points as Universal Mechanic

We’ve played two or three sessions of Spirit of the Century and now we’ve moved our Traveller game over to Diaspora. Both Spirit of the Century and Diaspora use FATE. The system of aspects and fate points it uses seems to be a viable universal mechanic.

What is it? Each character, place, or even the campaign itself has aspects. These are free-form words or phrases that can be used for or against you. My former Traveller character has the following ten aspects:

• hillbilly
• too stupid for the army
• just get me away from here!
• fucking propaganda
• don’t leave me alone!
• Manual of Plasma Weapons: Infantery
• I want a real ship
• violence can work, too

These come out of his background (I can give you a sentence or two for every aspect), his specialty (plasma weapons), shows his strengths (violence), his weaknesses (not smart). I find that this system generalizes benefits and drawbacks, feats, stunts, beliefs, traits, instincts, and all those little extras. They’re also a help for the game master because aspects act like flags. Players want situations where their aspects come up.

The way this is balanced is by the fate point economy. You start every session with five fate points. Once you’ve rolled your dice and you realize you need an extra bonus such as a +2 if rolling fudge dice (results from -4 to +4) or maybe a +4 if you’re rolling a d20, or maybe a reroll, you explain how one of these aspects helps you, spend a fate point, and get the benefit.

Other players can also spend fate points to introduce temporary aspects which somebody else can then take advantage of. It’s a classical “aid another” maneuver: I use the propaganda aspect to explain why my character can convince the guards of their mistake, giving them the temporary aspect “seed of doubt” (free-form!) which our charismatic leader can then take advantage of to get an extra bonus or a reroll without having to pay a fate point (since I already have).

So how do you get them back? Whenever there’s a situation that could be turned to my detriment involving one of my aspects, the game master offers a fate point and the player gets to decide whether to take it or not. Suffer now in order to reroll later. “The guards flinch and their hands go to their holsters. I hear you’re fond of saying that violence can work, too? How about taking this fate chip and starting a brawl right here and now?”

Advancement using aspects means exchanging them over time. Got a real ship? Replace “I want a real ship” for “The D-DAWN is my baby now” or something else entirely such as “The villainous pirate Perikles Snowbooty must die”.

Somehow the use of aspects seems like a cool way to flesh out your characters, giving them options, personality, offer mechanical benefits without introducing a lot of subsystems such as skills, etc.

If you want to read more about it, check out the sections on the Fate Point Economy in the Diaspora SRD.

This system is more structured than simple alternatives like Bohemian’s Good At system or Joshua’s simple combat maneuvers as recommended by Telecanter over in the comments to Tim Short’s How Simple Do You Like Your Game – the blog post that prompted me to write this one.

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Comments on 2010-07-28 Aspects and Fate Points as Universal Mechanic

I’ll have to check out Fate. I have heard of it, but never read about it yet. Sounds interesting.

Tim Shorts 2010-07-28 16:28 UTC

# 2010-07-28 iPad requires Mac OS 10.5

As you probably know, our Mac Mini still runs Mac OS 10.4. Today I got my iPad. Plugged it in. Started iTunes.

:warning: The iPad “iPad” cannot be used because it requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

I think I’m going to be angry again.

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Did you really expect anything different?

– Harald 2010-07-28 08:50 UTC

Yes I did. I thought that my iTunes has to be up to date. After all this stuff is supposed to work with iTunes installed on a PC, for crying out loud.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-28 08:54 UTC

Anyway, bought the upgrade, did the backups, made lots of free space on the internal harddisk, and upgrading the system right now.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-28 14:42 UTC

Well everything seems to be working fine right now. I think I need some iPad app suggestions.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-29 16:06 UTC

I also find I’m replacing iPhone apps with their respective websites again – Facebook for example. The app is for the iPhone and when the iPad is online (no G3) downloading then user interface together with the data is no longer much of an issue.

AlexSchroeder 2010-07-29 19:54 UTC

Man, I am sorry you are having such a time with it. that sux.

For app suggestions, I find Good Reader excellent for gaming PDFs. Drop Box is very handy - I believe they have a Linux app for it ax well. I’ve used the Apple Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps. Omni Gaffle is fun for flow charting, say, adventure ideas and such, but a tad expensive.

I used Toodledo for my gtd to do list (non gaming, but a handy to do manager).

Brian Isikoff 2010-08-01 05:33 UTC

Thanks, Brian. I installed Dropbox and Good Reader, and I haven’t written more on the topic because I’ve spent hours with my wife playing Harbor Master HD.

AlexSchroeder 2010-08-01 07:31 UTC

# 2010-07 Book Club

When: July 28

Where: Café Aquarium, Limmatquai 104

Also on Wikipedia: Ivo Andrić, The Bridge on the Drina

Tags: BookClub