RPGExplorer Bug Fix

Aug 2, 2015
Mark
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Once more unto the breach… uh, no, once more onto bug fixes. The prior changes caused a failure in some posts failing to be tweeted. Due to the eradication of HTML tags, occasionally a null value was returned into the tag list which I failed to take into account.

It should be corrected now. RPGExplorer page / RPGE Twitter


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Kickstarter for Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.’s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter

Aug 2, 2015
Mark
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Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter is quite a mouthful.

The Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter is Ernest Gary Gygax, Jr.’s project to bring his Hobby Shop Dungeon campaign setting into print/publication. The origins of the setting began in 1978 when Ernie was working in the Lake Geneva Dungeon Hobby Shop as a clerk. The project is a product of GP Adventures, a partnership between E.G.G. Jr. and Benoist Poiré.

The initial funding goal of $20,000 was hit in under two days. Three additional stretch goals have been hit since then including an expanded crypt map, cover art by Jeff Easley and a science fiction customization pack featuring James Spawn (of White Star fame). The next stretch goal, if hit, will feature rules conversion for both Dungeons and Dragons 5E and Pathfinder.

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RPGExplorer Updates

Aug 2, 2015
Mark
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I finally made time to do a few updates to the RPGExplorer process yesterday. The work resulted in two key improvements: 1) reduction of HTML fragments and HTML keywords as tags; 2) applying some additional intelligence to the Twitter output stream; and 3) Updates to the output on the RPGExplorer site.

The HTML handling was primarily grunt work consisting of cleaning up of the text extraction method and resulting keyword. The text extraction engine often receives malformed HTML fragments that cause keywords from the standard to be flagged as important tags. I improved the text extraction process and improved areas where that failed. Additionally, I added analysis of the resulting tags to remove any HTML keywords. Not sexy but badly need.

Once the tag information was cleaner, I added some pseudo-intelligence hashtag output when writing Tweets. The code simply evaluates for the presence of a subset of the overall tags and applies appropriate hashtags if space is available in the tweet. To simplify the output, I also used the TinyUrl shortener service, which is very meta since Twitter automatically shortens Urls as well but doesn’t make the information available prior to posting the tweet. The shorter URL length makes the resulting tweet far easier to read.

Finally, I removed author index pages from the RPGExplorer site. The author information was not uniquely identifying authors with the same name so the output intermixed them. As such, it wasn’t useful information. Also, it reduces the size of the overall site keeping it from out-growing the limited disk space allocation on the hosting site.

I still have a significant TODO list for the overall process including building a useful tag taxonomy and building an application to apply periodic online training to the tagging process to coalesce tags into a smaller, more useful set. Those improvement will wait until another day as I want to do some creative stuff for an Old West campaign setting.


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Introducing RPGExplorer

Jul 22, 2015
Mark
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I have been tinkering with natural language processing for over six months on and off. My target was always the table top role playing community. The NLP stuff has not delivered the initial dividends I was hoping for. Half the effort was accumulating and polling feeds. That alone has issues. Trying to extract useful information is far harder.

As a byproduct of that work, I rolled out RPGExplorer. It currently contains a rolling 2-3 week window of feed articles linking back to the origin site along with my attempts at categorization/classification/tagging. I’m still poking at the NLP side plus tweaking the theme of the RPGE output.

I’m still uncertain where the end product lies. The current state was initially just a visualization tool for me to determine how well the NLP was doing. I’m going to tweak that side more thoroughly as time allows in between other projects I have in the pipeline.

Thus far, I don’t believe the NLP is up to the end goal of automated classification but the results are still useful for my purposes and perhaps other. The site also tweets every article it processes at @RPGExplorer. I was going to integrate a G+ page for the same purposes but that API is largely restricted and nearly impossible to use as a hobbyist. Facebook might be more accessible but I have little interest in opening that particular box of worms quite yet.


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Old West Town Maps – Sanborn Maps

Jul 8, 2015
Mark
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Accurate maps of towns and cities and the old west are somewhat difficult to find. Many of the historical archives contain bird’s eye maps of significant sites. However, fewer sites contain actual maps of the towns. As I was searching around, I came across several plat maps from the Sanborn Company. Apparently, Sanborn was a mapping company that started shortly after the end of the Civil War. The primary product were fire risk maps.

Sanborn operated from 1867-2007 with maps from over 12,000 locations. My particular interest is the era from 1860 – 1890 but others may be interested in the maps from more modern eras. Many of the older maps have passed into the public domain and archived by several national and state organizations. Check the external links section on the Sanborn Maps Wikipedia article for a good list of organizations.
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On the ENnies – or Not

Jul 6, 2015
Mark
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Sorry folks, I’m not voting for you or anyone else in the ENnie competition. It’s not because I don’t like your blog, supplement, or website. Nay, its because I don’t believe the ENnies are a valid indicator of the tabletop gaming community.

First and foremost, any award site that requires self nomination is broken. If the supplement or whatever was useful, it would not require self nomination. It would already be known, useful and in the hands of game masters everywhere. I suspect most of them already are.

Secondly, send me free stuff … just equates to getting free stuff. No matter the intent. It’s fundamentally jacked up in my mind. Why should anyone need to send physical products in an electronic age for anything other than a physical product category?

Don’t forget, ENWorld, origin of the ENnies is predominately a fan site for the latest and greatest edition of either a WotC product or a Paizo product. That’s fine. Functionally, they produce more product than anyone else. Quite often, it is of great quality overall. Certainly, it has good production qualities.

I will not vote in a rigged popularity contest. I think the awards are complete crap. If I were a publisher, I might have a different opinion. I am not.

Good luck to the small publishers.


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Tomes of Antiquity: Gamma World 1st Edition – Part I

Jun 8, 2015
Mark
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I was digging through a couple of boxes and came across my copy of Gamma World 1st Edition. Sadly, it is not the original boxed set just a copy of the rules. I believe I picked it up in the 1990’s on a shopping spree. Leafing through the book, it remains a very playable game but not one I was ever interested in running back at the height of my gaming.

Gamma World, like many other games of the TSR era, has been through many permutations. At least 7 editions have been published to date with varying degrees of acceptance. The 1st edition was released in 1978 and penned by James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet.

Gamma World features one of the first post apocalyptic frameworks in the RPG world. The book references the year 2471 as the start of the experience while referring back to events from 2309-2322 — the Shadow Years. The Shadow Years depict a time of violent social unrest that lead to the destruction of the civilization as it was known. It isn’t hard to imagine how the late 1960’s and early 1970’s could have influenced that portrait of the world. The exact downfall of the world is not stated. Hints of nuclear and bio-warfare are present but no specifics in the roughly 1 page introduction of the game setting.

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