Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Your Own Personal Deity, Part 2.

I’m still trying to work out a methodology for having the PCs’ deities communicate with them in a number of ways. Going back to the subject of dreams (there’s still omens, visions, and voices to consider, among other things), the obvious choices to me so far were:

1. Occasionally announcing that a character remembers their dream. The players will assume that this announcement must have some larger meaning in the game, otherwise why mention it to them? The advantage with this approach is that we don’t spend a lot of time on the mechanics of actually having the dream and simply deal with its consequences in the game. The disadvantages are many though - we implicitly ignore an ongoing creative potential of dreams in the game as as source of confusion, inspiration, and spontaneity. I would think a medieval setting filled with monsters and magic would imply that characters there would be a much more superstitious lot than ourselves. They’d be more attentive to their dreams, particularly if they worshipped a god (or more than one) knowing that their dreams may be windows into other worlds. They’d also be more likely to share their dreams with one another for help in deciphering them.

2. A more methodical approach that involves randomly determining whether a character remembers their dream and/or randomly determining whether the dream really is of any consequence - a message of some kind from the gods. I say “and/or” because allowing for unremarkable (from the DM’s point of view) dreams to be remembered enlarges the role playing possibilities. Key to this is making mention of the characters’ dreams more often so that they’re seen as a regular feature of the game, rather than as a game hook suddenly dropped like a lead weight. Every time they wake up, they roll dice. Even then, a balance would have to be sought of course, so that the players don’t become overly suspicious or paranoid. I can see the fantasy setting deepening with the surrealism that the greater presence of dreams in the game would bring, but I wouldn’t want them to become a primary focus. It might be best to be open about why the players are rolling dice, and that just because they can remember their dream, it doesn’t mean that it’s a sign from their deity. Of course, the whole discussion so far implies that only those that have chosen a god can play this game within a game - not necessarily so. Sometimes gods or demons make the first attempt at communication.

This happened in our S&W game. We play with clerics having no magic at first level - at this stage they’re similar to mystics; spiritual seekers looking for direction. The cleric character named Agnal began to have dreams where he saw a swirling cloud of darkness. At first, he thought that the swirling dark mist of unknowing might be the actual form of a god he should worship. Eventually, he reached second level. His player expressed some interest in the gods of thieves. Later, in a departure from his regular dreams, the small form of Corrno stepped out of the mist, dressed in his ragged clothes but still somehow managing to awe Agnal and make a worshipper of him.

Since I want the abilities of clerics to include a greater likelihood and ability to communicate with the gods, I’m going to factor that into any random dream calculations. I was thinking something along the lines of any character being able to remember their dream by making a saving throw. This way, as they grow in experience they’ll have a better chance. Since the d12 is so neglected, we’ll use it for our dream rolls - if they make their save and remember the dream, on a roll of 1 in 12 the dream has significance and is some kind of a sign from a god. This chance goes up at each level for clerics, ie. 1-2 on d12 at 2nd level, and 1-9 at 9th level. In the case of clerics, any significant dream remembered is specifically from their god. The degree of the dream’s significance and its content will be entirely the DM’s prerogative.

This seemed all well and good until today when I hit upon the idea of the gods communicating via dreams in correlation to the PCs location and not just random chance. What if dreams were treated something like wandering monsters? In a pantheistic culture, gods have areas of interest and influence. Maybe their presence should be felt by PCs more easily in the kinds of places or situations that correspond to these areas. I could ditch my random chance roll in favor of this, or else I could modify the dice rolls when appropriate. Agnal sleeping across the street from a bank might cause him to be more likely to have a dream where Corrno somehow helps to reveal a key’s location - if only he can remember it when he awakens. Or perhaps if Agnal sleeps across from a bank he’s more likely to remember a dream by making his saving throw, but whether or not the dream is relevant will not be affected.

In the example given, I can see how tactics, role playing, and player discussion might be stimulated by the desire to more fully consider a situation where they find themselves. The benefits of worshiping a certain god might come into play and therefore a player’s more serious consideration when choosing one.

Though I’m tempted just to hand wave the whole thing and make rulings on the fly, I think if I can come up with a fairly quick dice rule about it, I’ll be more likely to take the various possibilities into consideration. The end goal will have been served - the players will be taking a greater interest in their gods and their relationships with them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox (3rd edition) Available Now

The 3rd edition of Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox is now available in soft and hardcover on Lulu (as well as the free, updated PDF).

Use coupon code WINTER305 to receive 25% off on orders up to $50 through Jan. 5, 2011.

"Prepare to be introduced to the old style of free form gaming! Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox is inspired by the original 1974 fantasy role-playing game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. These rules are flexible and open to interpretation - designed not to cover all conceivable situations, but to allow good Referees and Players the freedom to create and play games of their own design."

The most up to date errata I could find from the second edition is available here. If you've already used the above coupon code, you can use RESOLVE355 instead for 15% off (expires Jan.5).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Your Own Personal Blipdoolpoolp. Part 1

Shifting gears a bit today, I thought I’d share how I’ve been wanting to develop a way to create and grow a player’s relationship with their PC’s deity, and to have a plan for this generally in my game. Initially, I wanted to do this just with clerics, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I can see opportunities for non-cleric PCs to have personal relationships with their chosen gods as well.

Towards this end (with apologies to any religious readers!), I first thought it would be interesting to examine delusional insanity, or "progressive systematized insanity". If I compared a character’s growing relationship with their deity using progressive insanity as a framework, I thought I might be able to extrapolate a usable outline for how to measure a PC's progressive ability to communicate with their gods (I know, a little crazy itself). If there was a fairly clear, symptomatic line, I thought I might be able to devise level breaks at which various things were possible. So for example, if only late stage loonies hear voices in their heads or experience full blown hallucinations, then correspondingly only very high level characters would have their god speaking or appearing to them directly in some manner. I’m no psychologist though, so if this is possible I’ll leave the task to someone else. Also, the fact that Joan of Arc was credited with having experienced divine visions as a petite fille of only 12 years old seems to deter any notion of PC level progression necessarily relating to the ability to commune with the gods.

I still think of Bruce Galloway’s take on all of this and how logical an approach it is to something so irrational. I had also hoped to standardize the ways in which communication between PCs and their gods occurs in order to set player expectations and hopefully meet their demands for fairness in such exchanges. Now though, I’m not sure that this is possible or even desirable. After all, the gods work in mysterious ways. Though not all gods are as fickle as those in the Greek mythos.

So stepping back from that goal a bit, it still might be useful to devise and prepare some techniques to convey the occasional message from above. The prerequisite to this, of course, is knowing how the gods speak to us, or rather, to our PCs. It seems nearly anything can be attributed to being a sign from above. It would be useful to outline a number of ways in which people have traditionally been said to experience communication from or even with their deity. I won’t presume to try and address the entire subject properly here - I’m just hoping to get the ball rolling by writing some ideas down and maybe stimulating some further thoughts of my own on the subject.

A subtle method of communication from a deity can be found in the form of a dream. Intangible and easily forgotten upon awakening, a dream allows for the possibility of divine communication in any of the more concrete forms found in a wakeful state and more. That is, a dream may be of a simple scene, a recreation of the days events, or a fanciful but possible future event. It can also be filled with fantastic or magical imagery.

The problem with dreams in our games though, is that merely mentioning to a player that their PC had a dream implies that it holds some meaning worth noting. This is the exact opposite of how we know dreams to work - that they probably don’t mean anything and that they’re certainly not worth mentioning to anyone else. Except perhaps to a shrink or lover. If I’m going to be using dreams as a resource in my game, it might be best to understand them as only worth mentioning precisely because they must be portentous.

I don’t like this. I would prefer a dream’s appearance in the game to not be so predictable, but the only way to mitigate the problem this sudden appearance raises would be to make reference to them more frequently, closer to how we experience them outside of the game. It could be a lot of fun, requiring myself to make sure that every so often I mention to a player what their PC dreamt last night. Oh the random tables I could make. The players might even begin to assume that all of their characters’ dreams have meaning. Maybe they’d be right - maybe all dreams do.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Last Minute Gift Idea...

Or they're ornaments... (see last post). Just scale them up. Punch a hole through opposite sides on the "top", run a wire through, and there you have it. Here's mine:

Um, we actually don't have a tree this year. This Mother-in-Law's Tongue plant will have to do. :^P

Friday, December 24, 2010

Download Yer Dice (d10's)

I'd give you all real dice if I could, but these are the best I can manage. Click the thumbnail above to download. Open in GIMP or Photoshop and personalize beforehand if you like (there's another version here with circles around the numbers for better readability)... Construction instructions:

• Print on index card or heavy weight paper. Do not scale/make sure scaling is at 100%.
Dexterity checks:
• Cut out with scissors and/or razor.

Lightly score with razor on lines and where black flaps attach to die faces. Gently fold your new cut out model along these scored lines.
• Glue larger black folds on either half first. Place small amount of glue on smaller black flaps. Take a deep breath and close the two halves of the die together, making sure the small flaps are tucked in and are each touching an adjacent edge. Hold for several seconds (exhale). Blow on completed die for a half minute to make sure it'll hold. Voila!

I used the plasma effect in GIMP and they came out looking like this:
Rather festive I thought. But how would they hold up to those Gamescience dice to the left of 'em? In my quick, non-scientific 100 roll test, the variance was 26 again - same as the last time with my slightly larger prototype (Chessex was 24 and GS was 22). It was kind of fun to test with some eggnog and bourbon on the side. Happy Holidays everyone! Party on.

Updated 12-25-10: I put a bunch of colored examples up here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do-It-Yourself D10

Our video chat game was canceled tonight due to a player’s hard drive failure, so I had some time to goof around and made another paper die. I’d been thinking about how to make a d10 - definitely harder than my previous paper d8. I decided to make it a little larger than normal for ease of cutting and folding. It had to have 5 tabs to hold it together decently (the d8 only took 3) and I think the extra weight of these might have reduced its accuracy. It still did pretty well on a quick comparison test of 100 rolls:
Incidentally, greetings visitors from Metafilter, I see there was some interest in a picture I linked to quite a while back of a Gelatinous Cube. You might keep an eye on this seller on eBay if you’re interested in one or two of your own - cheap too. A big thanks to Bliss Infinite for pointing them out, I picked up a couple before they sold out and they’re killer (pic below).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Bittersweet Symphony

So I read this paragraph the other day in Daniel Mackay’s book:

“I see this moment, when the increasing aestheticization of the war gaming narrative finally culminated in the development of the role-playing game performance form, as a reaction to the poverty of the imagination that emptied the architecture of everyday life of any meaning and the scarcity of vision that burdens contemporary philosophy and literature. The imaginative faculty is a built-in function of the human organism - the equivalent to pulses of the heart of the respiration of the lungs. If a people do not find that faculty fulfilled in the world they have been handed, they will build their own.”

My immediate response was something along the lines of “Yeah man… we role-playing gamers are taking back our right to live in a world that inspires us!” I felt pretty good having read that, really validated you know? But then a few hours later I started thinking about it again and began to disagree with some of what he said.

This time of year I can get a little depressed. I’m sure there’s a number of good reasons for it… the usual self-destructive and rampant consumerism in high evidence, the fact that my nearest relatives are 2000 miles away, maybe even just the lack of sunlight. Boo hoo, woe is me. I have to laugh when I think about it because I really have it so well that to be depressed about anything is absurd.

I also have a birthday soon, and there’s something about having turned forty that makes me want to catch myself more quickly when I find myself thinking more cynically and humbugging. When I hear my peers speaking badly of the “younger generation” I’m trying to stop myself from going along with it and really question this type of behavior. Maybe I think I can stop myself from growing old if I can at least remember to remain an advocate for the young. It’s not always easy for a grognard to do. I mean, look at the crazy games kids are playing these days! They call that D&D?!?

But to return to Mackay’s paragraph above, I’m having a problem with his assertion that we live in a time of poverty of the imagination… That “the architecture of everyday life” is “empty of any meaning”… That there’s a “scarcity of vision that burdens contemporary philosophy and literature.” It’s funny to hear this from someone who I assume is younger than myself (his game was 2nd edition). The fact that he lives here in Eugene makes me take his point more personally as well… Is it really that bad? Maybe I should give him a call about it and see how he’s doing. Maybe it’s just that some of us feel a greater need to exercise our imaginations. I can live with that.

Anyhow, if I forget to thank you all for reading or to wish anyone happy holidays, please allow me to do so here and now. In closing, a reminder to myself: Illegitimi non carborundum! Winter solstice is just a couple of days away and things are only going to get brighter. Cheers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Unengraved Gamescience Dice

After reading all the answers to Cyclopeatron’s query, I thought I’d give Gamestation a call to ask them something I’d been wondering about recently: Are there now or have there ever been Gamescience dice available that weren’t engraved? I first thought of this after making my little paper d8 the other day and being surprised at its accuracy. Why, I thought, aren’t there polyhedrals that are pipless/without engraved numbers if pipless casino dice are so esteemed for their random results?

Jay at Gamestation says they’re in the process of retooling and that they expect to have a full set of unengraved Gamescience polyhedrals at some point next year. They currently carry unengraved d10’s which are only available in the translucent gem design. These aren’t listed on the website or advertised anywhere but can be bought in quantity. If I heard him correctly, he also said that Gamescience produced a number of unengraved sets at one point in time and included stickers with them that you could use in lieu of marking their sides, and that they still have some of these.

I’m kind of curious to run some tests on an unengraved die of theirs but since I haven’t yet decided if I can make a decent d10 out of index card paper, I’m not in a rush. :)

Update: Edited to read less like an advertisement for Gamestation..

S&W Sessions Journal: To Domme for Popkins

Warning for players: Possible spoilers ahead, please stop reading.

At the start of the session, there was some discussion as to whether the PCs would do best to go back to the goblins’ cave and take their chances there (with the slim pickings last time) or whether they should try to find some other type of gainful employment. With the departure of the dwarves some time ago and with the addition of Gulch and Kitoth, the party has taken on a decidedly chaotic perspective. Infiltration of the local guild hall was discussed, as was kidnapping. Bounty hunting for popkin poachers was also on their mind, as well as popkin hunting themselves. Wagstaff somewhat creatively began to formulate a plan that would involve hiring a popkin hunter on the druid’s lands and then subsequently turning him in for a reward. It was at this point that through a lucky roll of the dice he noticed what appeared to be the shadow of someone standing outside of the closed door to their room. He quickly changed the subject to that of procuring hops for beer making and tried to stealthily approach the door. The eavesdropper must have suspected his own detection however, for when they threw open the door they found no one on the other side nor in the hall.

After this they decided to take a closer look at a jobs board one of them had spotted near the stables. There were three items there from my dubious job board listings. One sounded interesting to them, which read “Enjoy meeting your neighbors and working outside. Our product sells itself! See Trer in Domme.” They thought this sounded like it might have something to do with popkin fairies and that they should go there to investigate.

Domme lies on the very far side of the valley from where they were. I was a little surprised that the players decided to make for Domme (they had a map after all) and frankly a little disappointed too. I was personally hoping for some more hack and slash at the cave. Still, it’s cool to see them latch on to this idea of the popkin fairies.

The rest of the session involved their travel to the next town and fortress along the river, the great castle Beynac of Lord Beringer. They approached it at dusk after passing a guard station half way there. Both at the guard post and at Beynac itself there was some inspection of their belongings and tax collection which seriously irked Wagstaff in particular. Their funds are running seriously low again, and Wagstaff may find himself in the position of money lender to the rest of the party if things don’t improve soon. Approaching the inner bailey, they attempted to arrange an audience with Lord Beringer himself. The men-at-arms said that there might be a possibility in three weeks and to come back then. None of the party heard the snickering behind them as they took their leave.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Rusty Battleaxe's Beer Ooze

Beer Ooze

HD: 1 (d6)
MOVE: 10'
AC: 10
ATTACKS:Slosh (1d2)
SPECIAL: Nausea; Intoxication
INT: Animal
TYPE: Ooze
XP: 10 + 1

Beer ooze forms when barrels of beer are stored for exceedingly long periods near magical locations. They appear as foamy puddles on the floor near kegs or barrels of beer.

Combat: A beer ooze will attack those who come close to it. It has the ability to form appendages that slosh its opponents for 1d2 in damage.

Nausea: The beer ooze has a nasty odor that causes nausea in those creatures with a sense of smell. Creatures coming within 10’ of the beer ooze must make a constitution saving throw or be stricken with nausea for 1d4+1 turns. The nausea causes a 1d4 temporary loss of dexterity and a penalty of –4 on all attack rolls.

Intoxication: A successful attack by a beer ooze has the potential of causing intoxication in its opponent. The victim must make a constitution save or "suffer" slight intoxication. A slightly intoxicated opponent who is struck again and fails her constitution saving throw will become moderately intoxicated and a moderately intoxicated opponent will become greatly intoxicated upon a saving throw failure. A greatly intoxicated opponent will become comatose when struck by a beer ooze attack and failing her saving throw.

I was a fan of this creation and thought it deserved a re-post so it didn't become extinct (The Rusty Battleaxe's original post is now long gone and the google cache dead.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Skunk Ape and Rudian Fruit

The Skunk Ape

A strange ape of reclusive and solitary nature dwells in the southeastern jungles of Zirthus. The creature gets its name from the horrible stench it exudes due to its diet, which consists entirely of fruit from the rudian tree. Usually avoiding any conflict, it can become very aggressive if it feels its food source is threatened.

Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 2 hands (1d3), 1 bite (1d4)
Saving Throw: 13
Move: 12
CL/XP: 4/140
Special: 30’ radius odor causes -3 on opponents’ “to hit” rolls. Can hide in dense foliage and surprise on a 1-3.


The fruit of the rudian tree is well known to the primitive human tribes that share its tropical habitat. While the leaves of the tree can be rubbed on the skin as an insect repellent, the fruit itself is usually left alone. It's edible and said to have a foul flavor, but be strangely addictive. Those that consume it exude a very offensive odor, so powerful that it can cause dizziness and headaches in those nearby (though its undetectable to the consumer).

In times of war, a tribe’s best warriors will consume rudians just before battle. This is the only time its acceptable to eat the fruit in their society. Their legends speak of men who became addicted to it - over time these men turned into hideous apes, their war paint permanently etched into their skins and their stench causing men to weep and run for their lives.

The stinky rudian can only be successfully eaten by a PC if they make a d20 roll under their Constitution score. If successful, after 3 turns their armor class will improve by 2 points in a 30’ radius. This effect will last for 8 hours. Characters who have not also eaten the fruit will refuse to stay within 30’ of them, although another Constitution check is allowed.

If a rudian is consumed more than twice in a month, a saving throw must be made or else the PC will become addicted. If this is not cured within a month and even if no more rudians are eaten, the character will transform into a skunk ape (save allowed).

A rudian tree is rare - only one will be found in any 5 mile area. At any given time, a tree will have 3d6 fruit hanging from it.
I’ve been wanting to write up a skunk ape for awhile, Aaron’s post reminded me...
Text of this post is licensed under the OGL.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Best troll I've seen in a while...

Friday, December 10, 2010

B2 Gnoll Lair Map and Note Card

I'm still plodding away at these. All that's left is the Shrine of Evil Chaos, which is a bit larger and will probably have to take up one whole side of an index card. I've left out secret doors on all of these, and the missing secret door in the Gnoll Lair (area #50 leading to #63 in the Shrine area) is truly missed here. The idea of a previous adventurer, a thief, being found just inside the doorway in obvious hasty retreat is a nice touch, as would be finding his elven boots. In fact, all the secret doors missing in these dissections are missed to an extent - being able to run away from a group of monsters directly into the lair of another is just cool. I'm still glad to have chopped them up like this though. Our sessions are so short that it feels like they'll mesh well, and having them handy is a nice insurance policy against the party veering off at the last second from where I'd expected them to travel. As usual, click the image above to download or for a closer look.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OSRIC Sessions Journal: Backstabby & Burning Slime

We found a secret door at the dead end of a passage we'd been exploring last session, which we suspected would lead us to where our opponent was holed up. Demurarg cast invisibility on Gladric, who successfully made his Move Silently roll and crept up behind who he thought was the evil wizard. At the same time, a portion of the rest of the party went back to an earlier location we’d found, where we’d attacked him across a narrow chasm. The ranger abandoned the party, and we had no idea where he went - very suspicious. Perhaps he didn’t like the rough treatment of our captive.

Playing Gladric, I chose to use my once per session d30 option for a backstabbing attempt. I rolled a 29, adding +1 for my DEX bonus, a 30. The DM ruled maximum damage x2, which came to 14 points - the figure collapsed and Gladric became visible. At this point the remaining figure (what we’d assumed was the magic user’s sidekick) threw back his cloak and exclaimed something to the effect that Gladric would now die for having killed his assistant. Gladric took off running back the way he came, as the rest of the party lurking across the chasm emerged to attack with missile weapons. Demurarg cast magic missile which was enough to put the bad guy at the edge of death.

However, the giant yellow slime monster was getting ready to attack. My memory of things is a little fuzzy, but it seems like our cleric Ouze tried to grab the crown from the head of the dying wizard. We knew this was how he controlled the slime monster. Gladric was always a little suspicious of Ouze (maybe because of his name) and yelled “Traitor! Attack him!” It might have been premature or foolish, but in any event everyone else seemed to believe Gladric and Ouze was forced to run away, dropping the crown. The slime monster then attacked, and we allowed the druid to use the crown to keep the thing immobile while we threw flask after flask of burning oil onto it. Finally killing it, we threatened the wizard into revealing his treasure vault location and found a decent haul. I’m a little concerned that the ranger and cleric are in cohoots and waiting in ambush at the entrance to the dungeon. Also that I might have mistakenly made an enemy of a friend. Meh, all in a day’s work for a thief. I offered our captive (Jugarg) freedom and then employment as a porter, and he accepted.

A lot of the session was taken up by discussion of various attack strategies. For me, the funniest part was when Marcus was busted for not paying attention. When it was his turn and asked what his character was going to do, he paused for a long moment and then dropped a d20 into his dice tower. “18” he announced with seriousness. We weren’t in combat and there was no reason to roll a d20. There was another long pause before I burst out laughing as we realized he had no idea what was going on. DM Nick took it in stride though.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Playing with Sketchup and the Caves of Chaos

Google’s Sketchup is a free 3D modeling application that runs on Windows and OS X. I’ve looked at some models in it before, but never really played with it much until this morning when I started goofing around with the map of the Caves of Chaos in it. I don’t know the first thing about using this software but can already see its potential. In most cases I’d prefer to quickly sketch something by hand for my players if my descriptions aren’t good enough, but I can see building a model beforehand with Sketchup in certain cases. The screen grabs below show a very quick and dirty draft being generated from the inside cover of B2. In this case, a visual aid isn’t really necessary for the location (which I’m not using in our game anyhow, players) but they do illustrate how you could easily build your own 3D models from topographical maps using it.Tracing lines of relief.Elevating lines of relief.Connecting lines of relief - drawing contours.Another view.Exploding the bottom map onto the created contours.

Obviously a little strange and an unrealistic view but at least you can get a sense of relative elevations. In further revisions I'd probably use more lines of relief, make certain sections much steeper, and use my own painted-in landscape (removing the dungeon view among other things).

Monday, December 6, 2010

B2 Shunned Cavern and Minotaur Caves Maps and Note Cards

Continuing my chopping up of B2 into mini-adventures on index cards, here's the Shunned Cavern (area G) and the Caves of the Minotaur (area I) again formatted for ye olde 4x6's. Since these are especially small maps, I put two of them onto the same PDF. If you can use these or like the idea, you might also be interested in Fenway5's recent "Pocketful of Peril" posts. As usual, click the image above for a closer look or to download the PDF.

Dungeoneers for Rosetta@home. Because sometimes a Cure Disease spell just doesn't cut it.

“Rosetta@home needs your help to determine the 3-dimensional shapes of proteins in research that may ultimately lead to finding cures for some major human diseases. By running the Rosetta program on your computer while you don't need it you will help us speed up and extend our research in ways we couldn't possibly attempt without your help. You will also be helping our efforts at designing new proteins to fight diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s... Rosetta@home is not for profit."

I’ve set up a team at Rosetta@home called “OSR Dungeoneers” - If you’d like to join me in donating your computer’s spare CPU cycles, please download BOINC, add the Rosetta@home project (and join the team if you’d like to collaborate and track the team’s progress). BOINC runs on Windows, Intel OS X, and Linux. If you prefer, you can easily adjust the settings so the program only runs when your computer is idle.

Updated 12-9-2010:
I changed the team name to just "Dungeoneers" - I don't want to alienate anyone from a good cause like this over something as silly as a label like "OSR".

Updated 12-20-2010:
Please note that Rosetta@home has largely discontinued support for PowerPC CPUs, so don't bother signing up if you're running an older Mac with a G3, G4, or G5 processor...

Also: If you're a linux user, you may want to install using the downloadable shell script from the main BOINC website rather than using a software manager like Synaptic Package Manager. Depending on your repositories, an older version may not work properly, whereas the shell script will provide you with the latest version.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Polyhedral Dice

I remember awhile back reading how Christian was having a tough time getting gaming materials to prison inmates. The subject of dice replacements came up. Someone suggested chits, which I remember actually using long ago, digging them out of Dixie cups with those terrible jokes on the side. Before we could afford D&D, my cousin and I made up our own clone (or as best as kids could) using the six sided dice from a boardgame.

Tonight, I wondered whether it would be possible to make polyhedral dice from paper. If so, it seems like it would be a neat thing to include with a game - a page you could rip out or photocopy and use to make your own cut-out polyhedral dice. Lost that d8? Download it. Or customize your dice and email them to a friend. Sure, if you have a computer you could just use a dice rolling program. Where's the fun in that though? No players with bated breath waiting for the outcome... Paper dice might not be ideal, but they still might have a place in the universe. But would they even roll? I looked on the web to see if any freaks out there might have already tried to find out. Shockingly, I didn’t find anything.

I did find an interesting page on a Australian university server though, where Paul Bourke posted some images of polyhedra for model creation. So having a touch of the flu with nothing better to do, I decided to see what was possible. I grabbed the octahedron and resized it to be close to the size of my d8 by Gamescience. I added some small flaps to the model for gluing the folds together on the inside (rather than using tape, to minimize imbalancing the construction and reducing random results) and printed this out on an index card (of course). Here’s a picture of my paper d8 alongside the Gamescience one. The three black rectangles on the 2 and 3 faces are the same size as the flaps in the same location but glued on the inside - I made them black so I could easily see which sides of the die would be the most weighted. It was only necessary for three flaps to keep the whole thing together.

Ah! But would it roll? Surprisingly, it more or less did, albeit without the characteristic and satisfying clattering sound of your typical high-impact plastic dice. But how random would its results be, given the custom cuts and folds, and the additional weight of the interior flaps holding it together?

I rolled it a hundred times (I told you, I had nothing else to do tonight) and recorded the results. I was very satisfied with them. Then I decided to roll my Gamescience d8 a hundred times as well, for purposes of comparison. The results are below:

(Click to stop squinting)

As you can see, based on this short experiment, my DIY d8 is superior to the mass produced Gamescience d8. I assure you that I used the same technique in rolling the dice with both dice and with each roll: cupping two hands together, shaking for several seconds, then sort of flip tossing/rolling with one hand.

Now before you all clamor and begin asking when you can order my hand made paper dice, I’ll need to run a few more experiments. There is no question that my die’s longevity will be much shorter than a high-impact plastic die. But isn’t it better to have confidence in your dice’s ability to give you a random result than to let your laziness (or miserliness!) get in the way of your game? I mean, how many of you have actually tested your dice, hmm? Know for sure that your players aren’t getting killed through no fault of their own, or of you, their DM? Fortunately, Christmas is coming up.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

S&W Sessions Journal: A Groom and a Cave

At the start of the last session, the party learned more about popkin fairies while dining at a tavern inside the keep. They hadn’t realized that in some parts of the valley it was actually illegal to hunt popkins, and they all sat up straight when they learned that the Druid of Marqueyssac sometimes posted rewards for the capture of poachers on what he considered to be his domain.

Wagstaff still intended to lead the party with their new men-at-arms hirelings back to the cave where Agnal thought he had detected goblins. This time they’d also be accompanied by a new PC - the chaotic magic user Kitoth, as well as a single, spastic porter named Skithath. With some whiskey in their DM, the players were treated (or perhaps mistreated) to a few exchanges with me speaking in character and with an accent. I hope the porter survives, I look forward to being able to play him from time to time. Wagstaff’s player found him very tedious, but Gulch hired him as a groom and enjoys the fawning.

It was a classic session, one that some players might find boring or cliched, but we haven’t had any dungeoneering in a long while so I think we all enjoyed it. There were a couple of goblin battles with the new magic user showing his worth, and Agnal finally has a god and can use some magic now that he’s 2nd level (he settled on Corrno, a minor god of thieves from The Unknown Gods). There was very little treasure recovered, but enough to keep them housed and fed again in town and to pay for their retainers. With some wounds to attend to, they returned safely to the keep.

Carbon Chauvinism

Is anyone else excited by this? NASA has announced that it’s holding a news conference “to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” The news conference will be streamed live at 2pm EST.

My money's on some kind of finding that lends evidence to non-carbon based lifeforms being possible. As fun as it might be to hope that they’re announcing the actual discovery of extraterrestrial life, the specific wording of their announcement would seem to rule this out.

Of course, for us D&D players, non-carbon based lifeforms are a given.

Update: I think I was pretty close: "NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth."