Raising a Rukus

Jul 6, 2011
Mark

A community has a lot of different meanings. Trying to build one around role playing is going to be difficult. So many different systems and interests intersect and just as quickly diverge. I have a few random thoughts.

Aggregation is Insufficient

Aggregation of posts is the starting line of the race. Simply presenting a list of member posts is interesting to a point. How many bloggers actually read through the feed and visit other sites? I suspect the number is below 50% of the membership. The volume is hard to absorb.

The better question is how many non-bloggers interested in role playing systems visit? Admittedly, the number is impossible to know. Still, if they visit, what do they face? A flood of posts – most likely not of interest. Even when I get a chance to look though the feed, I’m astonished by the sheer volume.

Quality, not Quantity

I have never had the intent to be a dominant blog. I like to read others more than write my own. Finding quality posts amid the flood is nearly impossible. Post titles drive me to follow links but often enough I’m disappointed with the content.

Why doesn’t the community have an internal variant of the +1/Like button? Promoting quality posts, even from smaller and less known sites, Finding the top 10 posts of the day rather than scrolling down would be a major step forward.

Even better would be to mimic a portion of the Google algorithm. Sites linked by other sites tend to have more relevant content. Granted, coding the system would be difficult but vastly more useful than segregation by tag.

Resources

People want to find useful materials quickly. Again, play on the community aspect to self police and produce a list of good sites to visit for materials related to the X setting/system. Beyond tag segregation, I have not seen this implemented. Could it be done? Certainly. Not being able to find relevant information is a hindrance we’ve all experienced.

Purpose

Communities need a point of focus. I left it as the last element because I believe the majority want to expand the hobby and find new, interesting people to play with. Yet we engage in both healthy and destructive arguments. I’ve not read a system that definitively tells me how to play the game. Imagination is completely open to interpretation. As a a whole, we should never forget that. No one is doing it wrong. Just differently.

Until we agree that we all disagree on systems, rules interpretations, and mechanics, no community can be born. Do you know a single person who will enter a hobby when the members constantly argue about superiority? I don’t.

Two weeks late, but thanks Dyson for the Rukus Post.


LL TBoD: You May See Art

Jul 6, 2011
Mark
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Today is full of woops. I forgot my test and development platform is actually the generation site for the nightly Labyrinth Lord Treasure Books on Demand. I began folding in the new artwork before my memory kicked me in the head. So, there might be some cover art, or not. Depends entirely on how you get your TBoD.

I should be more consistent about checking code into source control. I wasn’t. If you want an evening of frustration, trying appending a cover to an on demand PDF creation system. I may have to layout the credits page manually and encode the positions later. At least the cover portion is working.

I suspect I should add the OGL as well. Layout is a pain without having to actually select fixed positions, fonts and such in code without WYSIWYG.

Time for a beer.


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Self Promotion: Not my Game

Jul 4, 2011
Mark
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I’ve started and discarded this post a half dozen times. I’m not a self promoter and those that do so fall into one of two categories:

#1: Those who have material worth promoting.
#2: Those who choose to promote themselves and have little to offer.

I don’t tweet. I had a social networking account. I terminated it. I recognized that it was something I didn’t find useful. I’m certain not one of my “friends” cares what I ate for lunch, which beer I chose to drink with dinner or when I pissed on the local toadstool.

Quality rises to the top. No matter the networking. It may happen faster with the social networking sites but in the end, if something is of use, people find it. I admit to being aggravated with random abuse of network feeds. I willingly choose to abuse it this time.

I’ve had a dozen ways to promote my blog posts. I’ve removed everyone of them. To my eye, they are clutter. Poke this, poke that. In the end, if someone reads what I wrote and finds it useful, that person will pass it along. Having a bunch of share options might help. Or not.

I despise advertisements on blogs. I’ve left one because of it. I will not read blogs who I know choose to insert advertisements. Are the pennies you earn from the advertisements worth aggravating a potential reader? I think not.

I have yet to find a blog through ads. Or buy something based on an ad on a blog. I can say the same for social networking. I understand its allure but its not for me. I could follow people on twitter or just add them to an RSS reader. The latter is more informative.

Monkeys flinging poo are fun to watch…for a while.


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Review: Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead

Jul 4, 2011
Mark
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At a $1.99 for the electronic edition, I could not pass up Scott Kenemore’s Zombie, Ohio. Written from the perspective of a newly undead zombie who retains his intelligence, but not his memory, the story is lively and believable. Humor was prevalent but could have happened a bit more frequently.

The fun of living with Peter as a zombie hit a wall when the author spent far too long with internal monologues. Not to mention the chaos of the occasional ten dollar word thrown in. Maybe his use of palaver should have been an indication. It may have been witty but the uncommon words broke the flow of the book repeatedly.

This is a book you can put down. I put it down and read other things several times. It is a fun read but slow at times. You will go back to find out what happens. It just will not compel you to do so immediately.

The pace can be slow but you get a love interest, mystery, and personal discovery all rolled into one book — with humor. If you like zombie material, you’ll enjoy the book. If you don’t, you may want to pass.


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Crafting NPC Parties

Jul 4, 2011
Mark

Spending ten hours in a plane allows for a lot of random brain activity. On the way home from my vacation, somewhere over Canada, I decided to enhance my Labyrinth Lord Monster Generator. I was actually considering how to expand it into something similar to the Treasure Book on Demand, which would be straight forward with the exception of the NPC groups. NPC’s appear on ten or more Wandering Monster / Wilderness encounter tables.

I have avoided anything related to randomly generated characters. Like many, I believe characters should be more than a random pile of results. While characters begin as a set of random statistics, interesting choices should be left to the player to forge the results into a unique individual. Non-player characters lie very close to my personal line in the sand. Having chosen to press forward, I have begun considering how to design the software and the information it should generate.

Balance

I’m no purist when it comes to balance in random encounters. I trend toward it most of the time but allow for outliers, which statistically might be less or more powerful than the player characters. NPC groups are listed by Labyrinth Level on the wandering monster tables. Still, balance goes further based on class (race) selection available within the group. Class defines the set of skills available to the group. Player groups tend to self balance when it comes to class selection.

Level balance is a reasonably easy problem to solve. The dreaded Gaussian bell curve can easily accommodate balancing the NPC levels around a target level while still allowing outliers. Picking the exact distribution and applying will take effort but having a 5th level show up in a party of 3rd level is achievable. Or even a first in a 7th level party even if the likelihood would be minute.

Class balance is trickier. Once again, I’m not a purist. I favor systems where race is not a class but rather an element of the character being generated. Still to be useful to many in the Labyrinth Lord audience, generating race as class needs to be an option. Allowing for race as a class goes against something I rarely see in D&D — single race groups. Treating race as a class gives you a narrow set of skills and abilities. I’ve never understood the logic behind it.

Looking at races as cultural entities, I would expect elves tending to adventure with other elves — not choosing to join up with a halfling, dwarf, gnome and the oddball human. Associating with other individuals who understand and agree with your culture is the norm, not the exception. Yet it is nearly forced upon you to achieve a wide mixture of talents useful for adventuring. Makes me wonder if the original writers were trying to achieve racial harmony except they noted tension between various racial groups.

I have no clear idea how I’m going to approach class/racial skill balance. For the initial attempt, I’m likely to avoid it entirely. Ignoring it may be fine but I still want to consider it.

Other Elements

Treasure and magic are difficult to define for NPC groups. Games range from low magic and low wealth to magic as common for adventurers and high wealth. Any random NPC party can be considered as non-lair and have a lower amount of total wealth with them. Tailoring magical items to the class and race need to be considered. I’ll likely have to invent a fair number of new treasure tables to match a portion of the items they utilize beyond the random loot they may be carrying home. I’m not going to spend a significant amount of time tailoring the tables to match. If it is critical for the campaign, a random group is not going to be encountered. Game masters can easily add or subtract from the results on the fly.

Names confound me. I’m certainly not alone in having difficulty choosing names for player characters let alone non-player characters. I’d like to include names since that is a detail that arises more often than not. Still, I do not have a good source of name data. Many sites have accumulated good databases of names. I am not one of them. First cut, I’m going to have to leave names out. Perhaps I can find another site willing to share name data down the road.

Spell books and available spells I can handle easily. I’ve already translated the known spells by class tables into a database table. Producing a list of spells ready to be cast vs. the overall known for magic users should be simple. It’s another detail generally ignored by most generators but one I believe important.

Wrapup

More decisions await me. I already have more questions to consider than answers. Perhaps I’m biting off more than I should. Still, I’m bull headed and going to push forward. I may succumb to failure. More than likely, I’ll constrain the options and leave many details up to the user.


Treasure Book on Demand – Art Contest Winners

Jul 3, 2011
Mark
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The art contest closed on June 30th. Two entries were posted. Both are well done and must have taken a substantial amount of effort. My skills as an art critic are non-existent and so I chose not to choose. Both entries will be awarded the top prize for the contest. Without further ado, here are the entries.

Gate of Smoke's Pile of Loot

Gate of Smoke didn’t comment when posting his entry. The details in the image suggest the spoils of adventure do not come easily.

Victor Von Dave's Full Cover

Victor commented on his full cover entry,

This was quite a challenge, but I had a blast putting it together. Next to monsters, D&D is all about treasure, so I wanted to pay proper tribute to the masters.

He paid a fine tribute from my perspective. For more from Dave, you can visit his blog, Ménage à Monster. I do not have a website address for Gate but will link it when I do. You can see more of Gate’s art on his Deviant Art page.

Thanks again to both of the entrants.

[poll id=”3″]

I’ll get the artwork inserted into the generation system after I recover from my red-eye flight home from Alaska. My body desires multiple naps.


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Mount Redoubt

Jul 1, 2011
Mark
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image

image

Looking across the Cook Inlet at Redoubt and Iliamna


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