Four of them are available via Lulu! I usually wait for a coupon that offers free ground shipping and order then. If I don’t do that, I’ll have to pay an extra 50% for shipping to Switzerland.
Fight On is my favorite of the lot. I contribute to this one. You’ll get between 80 and 120 pages of content four times a year. It is published by two pseudonymous persons called Calithena and Ignatius Umlaut. The reason I like it so much is that Fight On is an eclectic mix of things, much of it clearly the work of referees like myself—it’s the kind of thing that looks like it was written by people like me for people like me. The magazine tries to cater to the entire Old School Renaissance with an occasional Tunnels & Trolls or Tékumel article. Most of it is for old school D&D with DC (defense class) being the equivalent of AC (descending armor class).
One of the reasons for buying Knockspell in addition to Fight On are the Formalhaut articles by Gabor Lux which appear in both magazines. I love them!
Another thing of note is that Knockspell uses the Open Gaming License whereas Fight On provides no license for its readers. Unfortunately, many of the Knockspell articles will say This article contains no Open Game Content other than spell names, magic item names, and terminology derived from the game rules or The rules described in this article are Open Game Content, and the remainder is Product Identity, thereby negating the benefit to readers.
Oubliette is published by a small circle of people around Peter Regan and seems to target Labyrinth Lord players. I’ve recently read a review saying that the author appreciated the distinct voice. I loved the crude and direct artwork by The Marg. All of the artwork done by the same artist certainy strengthens it’s unique voice.
I must confess, however, that I never really sat down and read through the compilation of issues 1–4 I had bought. I can’t really tell you why. Somehow there was always something that seemed more appealing. I keep meaning to return to it, but it just sits there on my shelf…
The compilation I own uses the OGL and declares some names to be Product Identity. Everything else is presumed Open Gaming Content even though it never says that explicitly (failing section 8 of the license).
NOD is published by a single person, John M. Stater. It is advertized as being “compatible with Swords & Wizardry and other old school games.” There is much less art in the book, some of it old public domain images, some of it photos used with a Creative Commons license. I bought it for the Asian hex crawl in issue #8 (and bought #7 in order to have something else to compare it to). I really liked the previews I was seeing on his site and I also liked later previews of his hexcrawl in hell.
Once I got the issues, however, I ended up not reading them because they were large and didn’t seem to be immediate applicable. I’d have to start a new campaign in one of the hex crawls! Much like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy I would then use the hex descriptions as a seed to create adventures for players living in the area and build from there.
The license used by NOD is the OGL with very strong restrictions: basically only new spells and new classes are completely Open Gaming Content. Everything else is either Product Identity or only partically open, eg. only the magic item names are open.
We’re truly living in a time of old school plenty – I am overwhelmed by all this stuff! It’s awesome and I think it works much better for me than the beautiful last copies of Dungeon magazine. Those magazines were so polished, they always looked out of my league. These fanzines, on the other hand, look much more like the stuff I might have written myself. It encourages me to contribute, it encourages me to run my own stuff instead of longing for the professional editing and the color explosion of fantastic art. And yet, it’s jst as useful at my gaming table.
Ironically, I want these magazines to succeed, I want to read them all, I want to use them all, but it seems to me that I don’t actually need all this text. It takes longer to read all these fanzines than it takes me to write up new stuff that is truly mine. I feel conflicted.
My suggestion to any readers is therefore to look through the free issues and figure out which fanzine you like the best and just buy one of them. For me, that’s Fight On! but as you can see I don’t really have any good reasons for picking one over the others.
Also, I’d love to see more permissive licenses. I hate hate hate extremely broad declarations of Product Identity. You got an entire game for free and now you’re being stingy with your own contributions? Gah!
And there’s more!
Loviatar is very small, written by Christian Walker, and mailed directly to subscribers. He says “Getting cool mail is so rare. Bills suck!” No Lulu!
Encounter is an electronic fanzine. I’ve read through the first two editions and enjoyed them a lot. Unfortunately I’m not much of a PDF reader—I prefer print if it’s going to be used at the table and when I’m using my tablet, I prefer to waste time reading the blogs, Google+ and Twitter. (If you’re looking for some old school blogs, take a look at my Old School RPG Planet which collects a lot of them.)
Interestingly enough, Oubliette appears to be British and Encounter appears to be Australian.
As it turns out, now that I check their website, the last issue was published in April 2011. Oops!
Do you know of any other fanzines? I know that Pathways is a fanzine for Pathfinder players.
I heard that Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor is working on another little fanzine in the Loviathar style called The Manor.
Also note this thread linking many more!
Compare this to the situation back in 2008.
I want to like Pathfinder. It’s large, it has adventure paths with long stories, it has more traditional modules, it has background material, colorful art – and yet the products are often awfully long. I used to appreciate that, but these days I often think that the material takes me longer to read than to think up myself. I’m still subscribed to their adventure path line, however, and I still listen to 3.5 Private Sanctuary.
In Known Direction 31 they discussed “interesting” encounters and Ryan says: “Basically if every player feels like they have something they can do on their turn, and not just something they can do but something that they’ve put into their character, some part of their character build that they can use, then they’re going to feel better about it.”
I feel torn. On the one hand, I absolutely understand it. On the other hand, this leads to “my precious encounter design” and railroads and quantum ogres (otherwise players will miss on these carefully designed encounters). I prefer games where as a player I have more freedom, where builds are not that important, where encounters can be incluenced by player ingenuity at the table and don’t server to reward choices made during character creation.
I’ve started tinkering with the CSS again. No more secret theme switching by clicking on my face up there.
I’m going for black and white and the default blue for all links. The previous classification for site links, links to sister sites, links to Wikipedia and all other links didn’t really work with all the redirections I had implemented. Thus, be gone!
I’m sticking to Garamond as my favorite font even though I must admit it looks absolutely horrible when viewed on Windows without Clear Type. Oh well! Most people will be reading the site via a feed reader anyway, I guess.
I’ll also try to stick to a larger than average font-size. I haven’t decided whether I should be using Google Web Fonts.
Let me know if there is something you’d like to see changed.
Twenty years ago I kissed my wife Claudia for the first time. Best decision ever.
There’s more… There must be at least two short Burning Wheel campaigns on that site (Burning Six, Campaign:Krythos). And a Mongoose Traveller game that switched to Diaspora (Campaign:Kaylash). And a wiki I used for my DM notes when running the Kurobano campaign (Campaign:Attaxa). And a Forgotten Realms campaign using D&D 3.5 (Sohn des schwarzen Marlin). And another D&D 3.5 sandbox (Campaign:Grenzmarken).
I totally recommend keeping notes online!
(I run the Campaign Wiki site which explains why I’m so enthusiastic about it.)
It has been a year since my last podcast list. I still walk to work and back, each trip taking maybe half an hour. I enjoy listening to podcasts while I walk.
Any podcasts you are listening to you’d like to recommend?
I’d also like to promote the One Page Dungeon Contest 2011 via podcasts. Should I just mail a host for each of the RPG shows I enjoy and ask them?
When I was running D&D 3.5, I dreaded the important fights. One of my players was a powergamer, a chess player, an optimizer, a wargamer – and I am none of that. Thus, my monsters never used their abilities to the fullest and even if I took shortcuts such as “all buffs cast when players appear on the scene” I was at a loss. I didn’t want to outsmart my players, I didn’t want to outwit them! And if I just added more monsters, the system was so fragile that the characters of my non-optimizing players died again and again.
I was reminded of this as our HARP GM recently said that he wanted to play the opposition as smart possible. I thought to myself that this was not how I wanted to play the opposition and I started wondering. I think the answer is that if I try to outwit my players, then I’m being an antagonist instead of a referee. I’m not good at it and I don’t enjoy it.
The old school solves this issue for me: there aren’t too many maneuvers to make, thus fights aren’t full of tactical finesse and when I add a few monsters, consequences are not as dire. Furthermore, I use reaction tables and morale rules to determine the behavior of the opposition. I watch, from the detached position of a referee, as the opposition is run by dice. If I want to spice things up, I can give the monsters special abilities or add traps to locations – but I never need to actively outwit my players.
I think this passivity helps me enormously.
Der Blog Karneval vom März dreht sich um Spielvorbereitung. Hier ein paar Beispiele, wie das bei mir so aussieht. Klicken für grössere Bilder!
Regionale Übersicht für die Spieler:
Begegnungen mit Monstern oder NPCs:
Mit der Zeit wollen die Spieler nachvollziehen können wie lange es dauert, von A nach B zu reisen:
Ich mag solche Hex Karten wirklich sehr gerne, um meine Kampagne besser zu verankern:
Primitiver Dungeon für einen unbedeutenden Ort:
Ich finde, Karten sind ideale “Props” – es ist immer wieder schön, bei den Gegnern eine Karte zu finden:
Auch Briefe sind immer wieder schön:
Vorbereitung mit noch mehr D&D 3.5 Stats (Drachen und so):
Vorbereitung für eine Rede, die ein NPC schwingen soll:
Kleine Skizze für mich, damit ich dann besser improvisieren kann:
Auch lustig: Karte und Idee aus einem anderen Abenteuer klauen, neu zeichnen und so vereinfachen, dass ich es am Tisch auch wirklich brauchen kann, ohne tausend mal hin und her blättern zu müssen.
Erste Versuche mit dem One Page Dungeon Konzept:
(Komplettes Abenteuer hier: CW:DungeonMaps/Gnomish Village with Ogres)
Etwas ausgefeilterer Dungeon:
Vorbereitung für ein Road Trip Abenteuer:
Langsame Hinwendung zu Indie Spielen, hier Spirit of the Century:
Traveller Abenteuer. Wie man sieht, liebe ich es, Karte, Text und Stats auf eine Seite unter zu bringen.
Diesmal wieder D&D 3.5:
Handout für Spieler:
Andere Kampagne, Handout für Spieler:
Andere Kampagne, Handout für Spieler:
Schatzkarte, die man einem dubiosen Typen abkaufen konnte:
Vorbereitung für Solar System RPG:
(Hintergrund hierfür auf Englisch)
So, das war’s!
(TL;DR: People that don’t like the wiki as it is ought look at the official Emacs documentation instead. I wrote this so that I’d have something to link to in the future. This post was inspired by 2012-03-20.)
Every year or so, I read about suggested changes to the Emacs Wiki. The complaints are the same, year after year.
The solutions invariably have nothing to do with the problem.
Why are these suggestions not helpful?
The first problem is the mistaken belief that technology can substitute for social change. Yes, the wiki is badly organized and many of the pages are outdated. Changing the wiki engine, the backend or the formatting rules will not change this, however.
The backend used by the wiki engine can influence performance and resource use, it can make the software harder or easier to maintain and backup—but it will not induce somebody to edit a messy page and fix it.
The second problem is the mistaken belief that moderation can be commanded. You can complain about bad editing and a lack of moderation all day. But since nobody is paying people to do a boring job, we must rely on obsessive compulsive people to fix typos and tag pages.
Maybe we could attract more people by gamifying the experience—offer rewards, badges, scores. But Stack Overflow already does this. It’s the best social question answering machine currently known. The wiki doesn’t need to imitate something better. The wiki needs to do what it does best. We’ll come to that.
The third problem is the mistaken belief that quality control and volunteers go well together. Just compare Wikipedia and Citizendium and consider the animosity generated by Deletionism on Wikipedia. How will you encourage authors to contribute if you are telling them that their contributions are lacking the quality you are looking for instead of simply accepting their text and working on it?
You fight spam, you rework text occasionally, you encourage others, you welcome newbies, you lead by example. That’s how you lead.
An abrasive personality, radical change involving a lot of work—those are not the tools you are looking for.
Let me return to the issue of commanding change. Things people have said:
“the content editing should be one with the goal of creating a comprehensive, coherent, article that gives readers info or tutorial about the subject.” – Xah Lee (2008) “I favor a major reorganization of the wiki material.” – Neil Smithline (2011) “The articles are littered with crappy advice confusing beginners, have little structure and are filled with ridiculous questions” – Bozhidar Batsov (2012) “Wiki is a hydra you cannot cut enough heads off to make it die. I tried, and failed miserably. I suggest you don’t waste your efforts and time on that.” – Eli Zaretskii (2014) “What I propose is starting anew and getting rid of a few common complaints at once.” – wasamasa (2015)
The critics can be unhappy about it all they want, and they can complain about it all they want—but in the end, one needs to understand the forces at work, here. There is no chain of command.
It works just like a free software project. If it doesn’t scratch someone’s itch, nobody is going to add it. I think it’s a fundamental issue with our business model: there is no pay for boring stuff. Plus, documentation is of no direct use for anything—unlike code. Thus, people are mostly motivated to keep their own code and its documentation up to date. I don’t think there is anything we can do about that. That’s why the Emacs Wiki Mission Statement does not mention organization and quality. It cannot be commanded.
Once we accept that this is the sand upon which we are building our house, we necessarily need to scale down our expectations. Personally, I think the wiki exists somewhere between the official documentation, Stack Overflow, the FAQ, the newsgroups, the mailing lists, and IRC. It’s certainly nowhere near the quality of organization and writing that the Emacs documentation has—and I don’t think this is the right medium to aim for this level of quality. I think the people willing to invest that amount of energy to write quality stuff ought to be writing the real Emacs documentation—and they probably are.
What remains are the people using Emacs Wiki for their own pet projects, questions asked, answers given, sometimes organized, sometimes rewritten, sometimes linked to the rest of the site.
Wikipedia works because of its universal appeal. When I added an image to an obscure Indian temple we visited when I was staying in Mysore, the photo was terrible. But it was a start, and enough people cared about the page and it grew, and it found people to tend it, and now it’s big and beautiful.
There just aren’t enough Emacs users and authors out there and the best of us will be contributing to the official Emacs documentation. The wiki exists somewhere between the official documentation and the mailing lists. Lower your expectations.
Given all that, why does the wiki exist at all?
When I started it, I had several reasons:
I think this last point bears consideration: I was creating pages or adding information to pages because it was pertinent on IRC. An index, linking to the page, categorization, returning to the page later and reworking it, all these quality related tasks were not pertinent on IRC. All I needed was a pastebin that I could go back to and rewrite if I felt like it. Often I did not—and I still don’t.
The wiki being on the web, updated every now and then, with pertinent answers to specialized questions, unorganized and raw, ended up being a good resource for the search engines out there. These search engines bring new people to the site. People that don’t understand how wikis work in general and how this wiki grew to be where it is in particular. They are shocked. So many pages outdated! Such a mess in style and quality!
I think those people are better served reading the official documentation. They don’t want this mess, they don’t benefit from it’s loose rules, they don’t understand how cool it is to have a site with no login required. They are better served elsewhere.
I’m sure that one day the Emacs Wiki will have become irrelevant. But just like the old newsgroups never disappeared entirely, so will the wiki transform into something else and remain part of our information landscape.
Perhaps one of the Emacs Wiki critics will one day set up an alternate site, pull all the pages (more than 8500 pages last time I checked), extract the quality content—or rewrite it from scratch—and produce something better. Perhaps they will build an organization that can keep the quality up, encourage new authors to join, provide more value to their readers. But I don’t think complaining about the existing Emacs Wiki is a step in the right direction. Build it, and they will come—elsewhere.
Spring has come. Temperatures reaching 20C, the sun is shining, bumblebee queens are out searching for a new nest and hayfever has been rearing its ugly nose.
What: Snow by Orhan Pamuk
When: 21 March, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))
Where: Bistro Lochergut
Back cover description:
As the snow begins to fall, a journalist arrives in the remote city of Kars on the Turkish border. The city he finds is a troubled place - there’s a suicide epidemic among its young women. Islamists are poised to win the local elections, and the head of the intelligence service is viciously effective. Soon the growing blizzard cuts off the outside world and the stage is set for a terrible and desperate act.
The story encapsulates many of the political and cultural tensions of modern Turkey and successfully combines humor, social commentary, mysticism, and a deep sympathy with its characters.