Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hollow World: Torn Asunder

The Sundering

Our beautiful world was torn in half.

Once, the world was calm, peaceful, fully known. We had no questions about the world we lived in--certainly, philosophers waxed eloquent about the possibilities of afterlife, the old superstitious concepts of an Outworld, full of daemons, but it was more an academic exercise. In the last two years, though, we have realised how wrong we were to ignore those wise ones.

Though a small world it was, its smallness gave us safety, security, and peace. These last two years have ravaged our world: the climate now varies two or three times a year, there are regions of the world that are always cold, farms no longer produce crops year round... Worst of all, though, are the phantasmagorical phenomenae. The gulf of void that separates the Lower World and the Upper World is, we fear, a gateway from the Outworld.

Strange things happen daily. People disappear, bodies are found sacrificed on strange altars, animals scatter when nothing is present, birds take flight in strange new patterns, and some even claim they see blood in the sky. These are read as omens by most people; they consider them signs of pending doom from Outworld. Meanwhile, others claim that the sundering of the world is a time of excitement, of opportunity for exploration, redemption, salvation.

Art shamelessly borrowed from a Google Image search. I think maybe it's from the MMO, Aion.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: Zogorion, Lord of the HIppogriffs

No spoilers here.

Last night, I had the opportunity to run a pickup game of LotFP for some lovely folks on G+. I had been itching for a chance to run +Jason Sholtis's little micro-module, Zogorion: Lord of the Hippogriffs, and decided this was the perfect chance.

The Good: Brevity! This micro-module can be read in about 15-20 minutes. That's really all the prep you need, unless you want to add some more customized hooks, or reskin something.
Jason injected just enough character and personality into Zog, the main NPC, to make him a fantastically interesting character, but left a lot of the little details up to the Referee to nit pick or hand wave.
This is in no way a railroady module. You can lay the hook(s) and see how the players take them. The location described is openly laid out in the module so that a Referee can allow the players to approach the challenge however they wish. Within there are even several major items that could be drawing factors or goals for PCs besides the obvious interactions with Zog.

The Bad: I honestly can't say much about it that isn't good. Maybe the fact that he hasn't written another like this yet?
I suppose there are a few little details left out regarding Zog's lair. They are easily filled in by a good Referee, of course, so it's not a real problem. I can't lay out the details here without spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.

The Ugly: Nothing. Seriously, I can't find anything that I just scoffed at. This was easy to read, easy to tweak and tailor, and a blast to run.

Where can you acquire such a delightful module, you ask? Why at Jason's blog, of course:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How Big is Your Sandbox? aka Player Decision Leeway

I started a discussion last night on G+, where I simply asked the question "how big is your sandbox?" I also clarified that I wasn't referring to geography.
Some great responses were posted, but no one really mined the vein I was thinking, because I wasn't very specific.

How much leeway or freedom do your players have in the sandbox?

I have recently decided to think of sandboxes as varying in size. Here is a rough breakdown:

  • Infinite breadth of options
    • In this type of sandbox, players are given a literal "anything goes" card. The DM either has invested a ton of time in preparation, or is (like me) relying on his ability to build on the fly.
    • Players are not given any scenario or issue to consider. They are merely placed in a world, given descriptions of that world, and asked "What do you do?"
    • There is no starting point or ending point for adventures in this type of world.
  • Limited breadth of options
    • While the DM may have a world planned (or created on the fly) that can accommodate the "infinite options" type of game, for some reason he or she has chosen to limit the PCs in some way.
    • Examples of this include my recent Savage SciFi game-- I created a world, gave the PCs vast input in its creation, but set up a specific starting scenario. No goals were laid out by me, but there were a few more obvious possible outcomes of the initial scenario. Because I gave the players full freedom at every turn, though, they surprised me at every game session.
    • There is a definite starting point for adventures in this world, which naturally precludes some options, but can help set up a particular style of adventure. No end point is laid out.
  • Railroad with options
    • I think of this as analogous to most RPG video games, like Final Fantasy. While there is freedom to explore the world, level up, pursue side quests, the DM still has a definite "win scenario" in mind (or maybe two or three scenarios.)
    • I hesitate to use the term railroad for this type because it is still not a set in stone type of plot. It is probably much more flexible than the stereotypical railroad.
    • You can think of this type of sandbox as having a line laid in it, showing a start AND end point.
  • Railroad (aka Not a Sandbox)
    • Do I really need to define this one?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Post-Dungeon" People

The other night, while discussing the upcoming game for Monday nights, I had a spark of thought, and wanted to share it. Credit for the spark goes to +Kyrinn S. Eis, though I cannot say if the thoughts I present below are in line with hers.

The term Kyrinn used was "a post-dungeon person." I like this term, it has a nice ring to it, and gets to the point: a post-dungeon person is someone who does not play RPGs thinking that a dungeon crawl is the only type of game out there, or (more likely) they avoid dungeon crawls altogether.

My disclaimer here is that, I think, everyone enjoys a crawl every now and then. I probably don't crawl as often as some of the old grognards, but I do love a good dungeon crawl. Emphasis on "good." The other thing about me is that I enjoy more types of games than a dungeon crawl.

So what's my point? Well, I think a key distinction between gamers should be less about "old school" and "new school" styles, and more about what game we are playing.
I often hear haters, on all sides of every fence, complaining that "such and such just isn't D&D" or "<xyz> ruins <abc> about the game." What if, instead, we recognized that we are playing different games with the same name? D&D, and all RPGs, really, are usually more versatile than we give them credit for being. Yes, the original D&D games were written for dungeon crawls and wilderness hex crawls. That means that "dungeon crawl" and "hexploration" are the games you are playing--not D&D! (Rather, it's more important to identify what game you are playing outside of the name of the rule set.)

This is a big part of why I try to name every campaign or game I run, even if that is a name just for me. It allows me to separate MY game from the rules set I"m using to facilitate the game. So, if you choose to only play a "traditional" or "old school" game, that's great. Use D&D, use a retroclone, use True20--whatever you want. But keep in mind that no matter what rules you use, someone else is using those same books to accomplish a different goal; they are trying to play a different game.

My point here is not to cause dissent or to upset and offend. These are thoughts I have, and you are free to respond to help me reshape them, and I am free to keep/discard/change them during the discussion.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The World Within

Limits, boundaries, borders, barriers, limits--all can be summed up in the word definition. Our world is well defined: centuries ago, explorers ventured forth from the City and found the ends of the world, the curve of the sphere, creating the pocket that we live within.
The red magma sphere we call the sun spins in the centre of our world, and we are warmed by its glow. We know when it will shine, and when it will dim. We know how much light, darkness, heat, cold, wind, and water will be available to us next season and next year.

This world is finite.

Though we have an abundance of resources (food, metals, water, animals, plants,) we are bound and our hands tied by the limit of space. The ground is impenetrable, no matter how far we dig, and no matter how ardently we wish for more, we all know that some day soon we will be a people too numerous to dwell within this pocket world.

- from the pen of the Grand Master Librarian, Tykus IV

Sunday, June 10, 2012

NTRPGCon: An After Action Report (of Sorts)

So, NTRPGCon was this weekend, and it was legen... wait for it...

(Note: I have thrown out my ability to write properly this evening. I'll find it again tomorrow.)

What I played:
- 30 minutes of austinjimm's (of K&K:A) OD&D game with home brewed stout
- B1 run by Mike Badolato (one of the convention founders)
- More OD&D run by Chainsaw (of K&K:A) with more of the stout
- LotFP (Tower of the Stargazer) run by Lars Larsen (a local)
- More LotFP with Lars (Death Frost Doom) in the lobby
- EPT run by Dr. Victor Raymond
- Continued the LotFP with Lars after midnight

Breakdown by day-time..
Thursday Night
The best thing about a convention? Talking to people. Within minutes of checking in at the hotel I had run into a couple people I knew on G+ and K&K:A. We talked up a storm and had a few beers at the bar.
I was able to hang out for a bit at the K&K:Alehouse social up in a hospitality suite and roll up an MU for austinjimm's game. Jim brought a home brewed stout up from Austin that was, quite frankly, amazing. We played for a bit before I had to bail, since Mike B's B1 game started later. Mike runs a great game and we all had a blast.
When I returned to the Alehouse Social, Chainsaw was running some level 5 OD&D. We played, we talked, we drank. It was excellent.

Friday Morning
I had no games scheduled for Friday morning, but had signed up for Kyrinn's Urutsk game starting at about noon. Since Kyrinn (sadly) couldn't make it to the con at the last minute, I had free time. I met Lars Larsen the night before in Mike's B1 game, and he had said I was welcome to join his LotFP game--great choice.
Lars ran us through Tower of the Stargazer and we completely DESTROYED the module. Yes, it is a dungeon or location-limited module... but it is non-linear. We grabbed enough treasure to make level 3 without even confronting the big bad!
Naturally, we went back, and fought the Wizard. More than fought, in fact, we ended up blowing him, and his tower, to bits, narrowly escaping. Nick Mizer's MU had to Spider Climb out the top of the building and rode the roof as it collapsed down--epic.

Friday Afternoon
After lunch, Nick Mizer and I were going to put together a pickup game for one of us to run, but found Lars was willing to keep running LotFP for us! We gathered a few at the big table in the lobby and played Death Frost Doom.
Best surprise of the session? Jeff Dee walked up to the table and just said "Sure, I'll play." I hope he enjoyed it. We liked having him there, even though he was also working his table.

Friday Evening
EPT! Dr. Victor Raymond is a delightful person to talk to, and to have run EPT. Due to some people being unable to travel to the convention, we had only two players, Duke Barclay and me.
We learned a lot about Tekumel, and Professor Barker, and had a ton of fun. Duke lost three characters, but we made it out of the Jakallan underworld alive!
After we wrapped that game, at about 11:30, we rounded up the LotFP group plus a few extra, and resumed the Death Frost Doom adventure!
Let's just say we got out alive, but doomed a large part of the countryside. Woops? Maybe.

Saturday Morning
I got in bed at 1:40am, rolled out at 6:15am, and went to Buon Giorno--the best coffee shop in the metroplex. Chris Cain, Marshal Mahurin, and I enjoyed coffee and breakfast.
At 8:00am I was able to play in Matt Finch's megadungeon: Mythrus Tower. Our group ran from 9 to 11 players, depending on the time. We had several from K&K:A as well as G+ and even Dennis Sustare (creator of the original Druid class for D&D!)
We were the first group to reach the fifth level of Matt's dungeon! Shenanigans were had and PCs were turned to stone.
Tons of fun. Matt signed my S&W: Complete book (so did Bill Webb a bit later) and noted on all our character sheets that we were the first ones to reach level five!

All in all, it was a phenomenal weekend, and I wish it could have gone on forever.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Savage SciFi: Sit-rep

We've played a few sessions of the Savage SciFi game, and I've been out of town for a couple weeks, but things are looking good now...

I have been more than pleased with everyone's ability to dive in to world creation. My goal at first was to create a small scenario and let the players work their way through it, and then call it quits. The problem with that? They ate it up. Every bit of lore I was creating (on the fly, by the way, *gulp*) the players devoured and asked for more.
Within the first session they were taking the lore I had given them and using it to try and figure out what was going on "behind the curtain." I love this kind of game!

The key, I think, has been to minimize pressure on myself as a GM. I'm relying on what I think is my best skill: improvisation. It was a bit rough at first, but by the second session I had a list of random-ish names, locations, ships, etc (no stats, of course) that I could draw on at a moment's notice if needed.

My players have been integral in the whole process, too. At the character creation session I asked them, based on the one-page world background I wrote, what they wanted to do and where they wanted to fit into the world. Each player contributed something monumental and integral to the world and its history, whether they realized it or not. This allowed me to build their characters into the scenario nicely.

Now, they have navigated their way beyond my initial idea, and I'm trying to do some by-post roleplay on G+ to see how they fill their in game down time and to see what leads and hooks they will chase down.
I'm not sure how many more sessions we will play, but I'm eager to keep these players around, and they may (if willing) turn into "my" group for the next game or games.

And yes, to my players, I have a nice way to wrap up the whole thing. I think you'll love and hate it. Mwa ha ha ha ha. Etc.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Limited Series: Savage SciFi

It's dark as you open your eyes, straining to make out the motion and faint lights that woke you. Heavy isn't the right word for how your head feels--stagnant, like water that hasn't moved in years, yes, that's it.
Light attacks your eyes, harsh, and abrasive. Someone is walking into the room, beyond the plasteel covering your cryo-pod. It is a cryo-pod, isn't it? The last thing you remember is the technician attaching a tube to the shunt in your arm, telling you to count back from one hundred. Yes, this must be a cryo-pod--you can see your breath now as your lungs warm up.

The movement is a man. Or maybe a woman. But not like any you've seen before: deep cerulean skin, black as tar hair, lizard-like movements. You think it's a male, assuming its species has a biology anything like your own, and watch him through barely open eyes, hoping he won't notice you're awake.
Where are the technicians? Why haven't you woken up for your maintenance rotation on the ship? You were supposed to be woken up by the ship every five years to check the ship. Everyone gets woken up, in shifts, to make sure the ship is sailing smoothly.
There are no humans in the room, but now there are two of the blue people, and one of similar build and biology but with a deep, emerald coloured skin. This one seems to be giving orders, barking something in a language full of clicks, pops, and buzzes. All the while, the green one is staring at you and the other pods in the room.

Only five pods in this room. You can see all of them, and you know that's standard thawing procedure--five at a time, in a room just off the main cryo-hall on the ship. There are two thaw rooms, actually, so it's a total of ten at a time. Not that it matters: these probably aren't friendlies thawing you out.

You have spent the last three years preparing for this expedition. The team was put together by Phoenix Corporation, a company contracted by the United Earth Defense Organisation--UEDO. Phoenix is a privately held company, but then all groups capable of interstellar flight are, as governments have other things to spend money on. Like contracts with those companies. This arrangement allows the innovations of the private sector to benefit the federal governments of earth directly, and leaves the private firms open to private customers, too.
The expedition launched, the ship left the station orbiting Earth, and made only a stop at Mars for a send-off from the colonists. After that, it was down for cryo-sleep, with the last sleeper having to plug herself in and let the computers pump in the drugs.

How long has it been? Where are we?

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Sci Fi Game

While Houses of Stone is on hiatus and I am a bit burned out on its creative flow, I have decided to run at least one game of Savage Worlds in a sci fi setting. It'll last 5 sessions.
I already have players lined up (in excess, surprisingly) for this game but I need to iron out world details.

The plan is to have one game session for world description from me and group character creation. Savage Worlds is fairly lightweight but has more to it than OD&D or B/X, and those are the only systems I've done character creation on G+ with. At a real table, it's fairly easy to talk to three or four people at once, pass around books, notes, and sheets of paper, and so on. I'm hoping that, with good people and patience, we'll be able to create characters as a group and establish the world properly on a G+ Hangout.

Right now I'm debating and designing the world. It's not going to be fantasy in space (i.e. Star Wars), but it definitely won't be hard sci fi, either. I tend to lean a bit toward the Mass Effect style--it's not about inter-ship combat, it's about people, doing stuff, on stations, planets, and ships. Interactions and shootouts.

Today's idea is that in the late 21st century, humanity is visited by a dying race, on their last pilgrimage across the universe before evolving into non-corporeal beings. Some handful of millions of them travel in convoy/flotilla. They were visited by a race from our solar system 50,000 years before, and that is how they gained the ability to travel the stars.
I'm also thinking that not long after this visit, humans realise they need to leave Earth, and are planning for the fact that a few hundred years later they will need a planet to settle. Perhaps the players will take on the role of a party scouting the galaxy for a New Earth. Or maybe they finished scouting and have been in stasis for the journey home--arriving on Earth 200 years or more later.

The thoughts... they drown out everything else in my brain. It's a good thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Play Report: Cain's Game

So, the venerable DM, Chris "Flambeaux" Cain, ran another game on Saturday morning. This is the game that has, to this point, been AD&D. Several of our players, due to real life concerns, were to be absent, and Chris's kids all had various infections, so he suggested we play on a G+ Hangout.
We ended up with four players--one of whom had not played any D&D in 30 years.

Chris decided to dial back our AD&D ruleset to a S&W and B/X hybrid to help keep the rules out of the way as the two completely-new-to-RPGs players learned the ropes of gaming.

So... here's the in character report...

From the pen of Murdoch the Medium, a young wielder of the arcane.
I find myself in the company of several excellent people--a warrior named Karl, and two clerics named Bit and Alexiel. We had all heard rumours of several locales ripe with treasure and adventure, and therefore set out to find claim it as our own.

We set forth and travelled toward the hills, hoping to find the caves, which I had heard to be filled with scrolls, spellbooks, and items of a magical nature. On the second evening of our journey, we made camp and noticed a campfire nearby. Erring on the side of caution, Bit moved toward the strange fire under the cover of darkness, and sans armour. He returned to us shortly after with a report of two large, ugly, guttural-speaking humanoids roasting meat on a spit, and drinking from casks of some brew.
Within moments we hatched a plot to subdue these strange creatures, hoping they had something of value, and that dispatching them would be a service to the general good. We tied a rope between two trees, as a trip line, and I moved forward, casting a spell of Irresistible Slumber. One of the strange creatures slumped forward, spilling his drink, and the other merely reached for it. Eschewing our trip line plan, we unleashed a volley of missiles--two spears and numerous sling stones. Within moments the brute had fallen. Moving in quickly we slit the first one's throat, and pulled the second from the fire. We found on each a pouch of silver coins and nearby stood a broken wagon and several casks of ale and wine.

Choosing caution, we went back to our own camp and slept through the night, planning to return the next day to find the brutes' lair. What a find, indeed! We found a tunnel into a small cave with bed mats and a small chest. Within the chest we found several ingots of silver and gold, along with coins, gems, and a false bottom. Beneath the false bottom we found a wooden puzzle box, which would be the focus of our next few nights around the campfire. Before leaving, though, we noted the location of a hatch under one of the bed mats, for further investigation later.

After selling our new found gems to a discreet jeweler at the Keep, we spent an inordinate amount of time experimenting with the contents of the puzzle box--three wands. The box also contained cards with runes on each, and we found that the word on each card corresponded to a particular wand.

Our attempts at uncovering their purpose were futile.

We ventured a half-day's walk from the Keep to the home of Max, a sage and "miracle worker" of note in the area. Max, while a bit eccentric, was a pleasant host who offered tea and toast, and freely identified the wands for us. Apparently his cousins, Marley & Marley, manufactured these wands (en masse) in the nearby city. We conversed with him for a while, and I offered our services in return for having identified the wands. Max asked that, given the chance, we would retrieve some Humblebee Honey from a nearby valley. An old friend of Max's from school keeps the bees in a hidden valley, and Max requested we bring him some dozen jars of the sweet treat, so he could create his potions, unguents, poultices, et cetera. We gladly agreed, as Max had already done us a great service, and the adventure could be quite enjoyable.

After adjourning our meeting with Max, we decided it best to investigate the Ogre's lair further--specifically the hatch under the bed mat. Spending some time down there, we found criss-crossing tunnels upon criss-crossing tunnels.
Exploration was enjoyable, but we decided it was above our pay grade, so we moved back the way we came. Unfortunately, a large purple worm-like creature decided we might need to be its lunch. Bit set down some rations, and we quickly set some oil on the ground and lit it, to cover our retreat.
I believe I saw the worm devour the rations, but what happened when it reached the fire, I do not know--we made all haste for the ladder back up into the cave above.

What will happen next is open for speculation. Our intrepid little troupe will probably expand--I hear some of my comrades have friends and family who would be swayed by the lure of adventure, treasure, fame. The next foray into the wild will include further hunting for the cave system of rumour and myth.

Friday, March 23, 2012

HoS: What Needs to Improve

Yesterday I outlined a couple of elements of Houses of Stone which, I think, made it particularly enjoyable. Today, I want to talk about a few things I need to do better when the game launches again in a few weeks...

  • Planning:
    • Normally, I shoot from the hip. This works impeccably well with NPC interactions, events, reactions of the world, etc. Shooting from the hip works best, though, within pre-established geographical and architectural locations. By this I mean that I need the city, buildings, caves, underground cities, etc all laid out and stocked. The NPCs should have one-liner personality, motive, and objective descriptions. This will make shooting from the hip more effective and allow me the comfort of knowing what's in the sandbox before the PCs get there.
  • Turning it up to 11:
    • Houses of Stone, as it existed for five game sessions, was barely a level 1 world, in terms of challenge and lethality. Being more proactive in planning and design will allow me to add to the challenge, difficulty, and potential lethality that players will see as they play. This will also help me establish baselines for what PC capabilities players will be disallowed, allowed, etc.
  • Puzzling:
    • The unanimous response I got in every bit of feedback about the game was that people loved the puzzles, the questions, the mysteries. A lot of these were off the cuff ideas I had or moments where I said to myself "I know there should be a trap, puzzle, or mystery here but I didn't plan it out... let's see what the PCs try and assign odds to how likely each solution is." I call this "quantum mechanics of DMing" or as one player put it "Schrodinger's puzzle."
    • I don't want to remove this method of DMing and design. It works very well and is a lot of fun. However, I do want to temper it with real design. If the sandbox contains all sorts of things for players to discover, it needs to have some things that will confound them, as well as things that adapt to their attempts.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

HoS: What Made it Fun?

Let's talk about what has gone really well in my five-session Houses of Stone game.
Quick recap of essential info if you didn't play:
- Swords & Wizardry Core rules (mostly)
- Sub-Saharan Africa in an alternate timeline
- History coming out the ears of every NPC, location, and item

I have run five sessions of this game so far, and enjoyed every one, and I believe the players did, as well. The first and foremost thing I think we all enjoyed was history.
The history in this world--the things the PCs had no knowledge of but uncovered by role-playing interactions with NPCs, by exploring locations, by investigating events, by inquiring about items and events--was pretty well laid out, if I do say so myself.
We only really "delved" into dungeons/caves in two of the sessions. Even then, though, only one was a real delve, where the PCs spent almost the entire session exploring the turns and twists of the underground complex. The very first session had about 45% of the time spent in the dungeon, but with a considerable amount of investigation and interaction happening before and after, arguably being the more enjoyable part of the game.
So, my point is, I think the players enjoyed learning by exploring, inquiring, and investigating what the history of the world was.

Second, I think everyone enjoyed puzzling items and contraptions. The simplest things, like a panel of buttons on a purely granite wall in an iron age world, activated by the Fibonacci sequence, was incredibly fun to see players work through.
The puzzles and contraptions, too, contribute to the history-delving of the world. Even though these are classic dungeon puzzles/traps/contraptions/conventions, they played right into the mystery of the ancient race who built the city.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

HoS: Hiatus / Reorganisation

I have now run a total of five sessions of the Houses of Stone game on Google+ Hangouts.
It has been a blast. Every session has been a ton of fun and has revealed a lot to me about how to make the HoS world better.


I need a little break from running the Houses of Stone game.
I still love the ConstantCon and FLAILSNAILS concepts and community. I'm not going to stop DMing forever. I'm not going to stop playing on G+.

tl;dr version: I'm taking a break for a couple of weeks so I can reorganise Houses of Stone as a more traditional campaign. I want one, possibly two, discreet groups of PCs playing on a regular basis, with characters that belong in the world.

Why are you pulling HoS from the FLAILSNAILS multiverse?
Because it's a world that doesn't belong in the mix of dimension-hopping. HoS is a standalone world, even though I intended to create it as a FLAILSNAILS compatible one, and the way I want to run it involves continuity of PCs, events, etc. The big selling point has been that every delve and adventure reveals the history of the world, but if each week I have characters who have never been there before, how do I maintain that?
(Yes, there are easy hand-wave ways around that. I have just decided that I would prefer to not use them for this game.)
I love FLAILSNAILS and may continue to run some pickup games here and there for FPCs... they just won't happen in the HoS world.

How long will the break be?
At least a week but I can't really say for sure. I need to rewrite the house rules doc, as the last 5 sessions have revealed a lot to me about how I want to DM the game, and I need to continue designing content, as a regularly playing group will cover territory more quickly.

What resources will new players have to get acclimated?
I will be writing a much more extensive document to introduce players to the game world. However, I will still rely heavily on players' abilities to draw on real history. After all, this is a historical fantasy / alternate timeline world.

Do I have to roll a brand new character?
Probably. FPCs that have spent a lot of time in HoS already might be cloned at level 1 or re-created with new stats but the same history/background. If you are picked to play and want to make a new character, go for it. If you are picked to play and want to do something other than a brand new character, we'll handle it on a case by case basis, at my discretion.

Who will play?
Not sure yet. Many have expressed great interest in continuing to play in HoS and I've even had some tell me that they'd love to play but are looking for a more traditional campaign. I will have to spend some time considering how to pick players, and hope I don't offend anyone by not inviting them.

When will it be played?
Probably still on Mondays at 20:30 CDT and possibly Tuesdays at the same time. If I have two groups, each one will get one night.

Monday, March 19, 2012

HoS: Recent Events

Recent happenings in Houses of Stone...
- A daring group of adventurers found evidence of foul play in the cave where an ancient n'anga (shaman) was supposed to have been staying. A seemingly-magical book, written in San, was left with the witch doctor, Mudiwa, for translation.

- Discovery of an underground passage to a cave system underneath what seems to be the largest baobab anyone has seen. Ever.

- A group of European mercenaries, explorers, and traders have set up camp on the edge of the village. Most believe they are here to scour the complex underneath the Ruined City.

- Whispers have been heard of strange and ancient magic-like devices deep down under the Ruined City. The monk, Rubro, has expressed an interest in these things.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Houses of Stone: Player Reports (Session II)

Below are two player reports on the pickup game last night. We had 5 players--a Finn, two Canadians, an Aussie, an American, and me, the DM from Africa living in the US. Quite the international group, no?

Adventure and chicanery included testing random spells for a witch doctor, slaying giant millipede fiends (aka "millifiends,") receiving rewards of wife and crazy psychic stones.

Reports after the jump...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Houses of Stone: Player Report (Session I)

Thanks to Christian Akacro for writing this report. Yes, he got a bonus of 100xp for this.

Houses of Stone ~ The Puzzle, the Vermin, and the Spectre

Dramatis Personae
Farley ~ Dwarf
Tobias ~ Shaman (Wizard)
The Slip ~ Thief
Rubro ~ Monk
Madyn ~ Cleric
Donnatalus ~ Fighter

Our intrepid heroes, having trekked in the jungles of the Dark Continent in search of rumoured ruins untouched by sword or spell for generations, began their quest in a small unnamed village. Speaking first with the headman they learned that the Spirit of his great great grandfather had been haunting the village after dark every fortnight. It was seen wandering aimlessly within the village for a short time before setting down near the headman's hut to reflect upon its ruminations. Finally at dawn it could be seen wandering off in the direction of the old ruins. The headman told them their timing was fortuitous, if it holds true to form the spirit should make an appearance that night after dusk. According to the headman the ruins were discovered a couple generations ago. After an ill-fated quest by a group, whom never returned, no one dared go near the crumbling structures for fear of being lost forever.

[More after the jump]

Monday, March 5, 2012

Houses of Stone: News / Events / Rumours for 5 March

Some of the interesting news, events, and rumours floating around the village for tonight's Houses of Stone game...

- The spirit of the headman's great-grandfather has been seen wandering the village every fortnight. Some say they see him walking toward the old stone city ruins after he leaves.

- People in the Mchlanga farm valley are disappearing. Reports of giant creatures carrying them off at dawn abound, but no one can substantiate these. (See below for an "approximation" of these creatures.)


- One of the local witch doctors has put out a call for brave souls to test a new spell. Does not care if volunteers test on themselves or others.

- A shaman has been holed up in a cave for 100 years. The village headman will pay well if someone can get him to tell stories of the village's past.

Monday, February 27, 2012

AD&D Play Report Part II

The Worst Day of Primus's Life (So Far)

Dramatis Personae:
Frank, a human ranger
Mog, a dwarf cleric
Garen, a human paladin
Primus, a human magic user

From the quill of Primus, first Mage of the West Bend order:
Rest. Thank the gods for rest. We took a few days to rest after our last foray into the ruins near the keep, but quickly restocked and ventured forth again, brave and ready to learn the secrets of the ruins. Our first order of business was to take another look at the strange fountain which, unfortunately, turned out to be almost nothing special. I filled a flask with the water, however, and stowed it away for research later.

We explored slowly and cautiously, mapping as precisely as possible. Mog, our dwarven cleric friend, helped immensely with explanations of stonework and probably tunnel configurations as I drew the map in one of my notebooks. The day was, to be honest, not very exciting. We ran into a few more of the walking dead and were able to dispatch them from a distance. Later on we found some secret rooms and a few goblins camping out near them. One room held desiccated goblin corpses wrapped in spider webs. Another room was made of immaculate granite slabs with the names of those who died in the ruins etched into them.

We continued to explore, but soon decided to return to the keep and seek help for Garen—he sustained a nasty cut from one of the zombies, and the wound seemed infected. Before leaving, we managed to find a few coins on the goblins, a broken wand or rod, a wooden scroll case and a small bottle of red liquid. In town, Garen was able to find healing at the temple, and I found the bottle to contain perfume. Unfortunately, the scroll case contained absolutely nothing but air.

After resting and recuperating we returned to the ruins, determined to find anything of value—whether it be information, treasure, or ancient evil. Alas, the next few hours are but a blur in my memory. We all recognized that our pace before had been too slow, we had been overly cautious and lost valuable time and wasted valuable resources. This time we moved quicker, and soon found ourselves in a large chamber, facing a pack of giant rats, defending their nest. We set a line of defense before the ass, and began to fire missiles (bows, bullets, and rocks) at them. As the rats closed, the linkboy, Tim, and I moved behind the ass. My comrades made quick work of several of the rats, but before long, I found us beset by another pack of them from behind.

The details of this encounter slip from my mind, but I recall Tim falling as rats bit and scratched at him—alas, he was brave for a lad, but not stout enough to defend himself. Before long I myself was covered in rats, and Garen came to aid me as swiftly as he could, shoving rats off of me and standing in their path before me. I fell unconscious from the wounds the rats inflicted, but remember coming around enough to realize that my friends had healed my wounds, and were readying to carry me out to the keep.

Before leaving, Garen found a tattered old blue robe in the rats’ nest. I thought nothing of it until, a few days later; after I recovered from my wounds, he informed us that he had found a large emerald in the hem of the robe. Its value was some 1,000 gold pieces.

Though it is not much, we have at last found something of value in that cursed dark place. Perhaps now we can hire some more stout men to help us find our way deeper into the ruins to learn what the past has left hidden there. Perhaps now we have all learned how best to avoid danger, and to move quickly in the dungeon.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

WIL: The Learning Curve

What I Learned... today, in our AD&amp;D game, I learned that the learning curve is steeper some days than others. Today we all learned that it's possible to be over-cautious, that the risk is worth taking (we hope,) and that sometimes it's tough to get into gear.

The Situation:
- We made our second (and third) foray into the ruins near the keep
- Set a standard operation for checking doors, for crawling down the corridors, etc
- Chose a direction to go, and headed out

The Problems:
- We took way too much time at doors
- We took too much time discussing which direction to go
- We took too much time debating spiking doors open
- We took too much time debating strategy for fights (between rounds)
- We took too much time for other stuff

Since all of us are new to AD&amp;D, after the game the DM shared some advice. He informed us that this level of the dungeon is only 3-4 sheets of paper mapped out--we have just barely mapped over one page of that in two sessions, a total of about 8 hours of play.
Our total treasure hall? A dozen silver spoons, less than 1gp in miscellaneous coins, and (finally) an emerald worth ~1,000gp.

Yeah, we are hardcore... hardcore broke.

So, what's the solution? We have to move quicker. Personally, I think we're moving too slowly (as is evidenced by "The Problems" above, hah!)

Perhaps we're all struck with fear of the "old school challenge level" and the constant risk of death. I don't know. Personally, I almost died at the end of the day. As a player, though, I don't care if my characters die. I've taken comfort in the fact that I'll be able to play another character, so the fun will continue no matter what. Yes, I am attached to the class I'm playing, but hey, death comes to us all.

Now, as I reflect, I truly believe that we will make much faster progress, as we are all starting to truly understand how things work.
We've decided to make much more of an effort to avoid melee combat, and to twist the environment to our advantage against our foes. It's been tough for us coming from modern game backgrounds to see that we have SO MANY OPTIONS. Time to shift gears.

In the end, we all had fun. A lot. The beauty of gaming is in the fact that, no matter what, if you're with good people, learning to play better, you're probably going to have fun.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

All the World's a... Dungeon?

Disclaimer: This may be (and probably is) old news to many. Humour me and read it anyway?

I have been pondering the nature of dungeons recently. I love them. They can be an absolute blast to play in and to run, and the presence of their name in the name Dungeons & Dragons is no paltry attribution to alliteration.
Lately I have been thinking there are several elements that make a dungeon (especially the more old school type, less the modern "naturalistic" and "real" (hah) style of dungeons) so enjoyable, mysterious, and such great locations for adventure.
I think most people agree that "dungeon" in game terms can be a dungeon, a mine, ruins, a castle, etc. What I'd like to do is expand that working definition to include the entire world.

To quote Inigo Montoya, "Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up..."
Dungeon Key Elements:

  • Sense of dread/fear/wonder
  • The dungeon is out to get you
    • Traps, doors not opening automatically, wandering monsters
  • Exploration and mapping
  • Hidden rewards / treasure
  • Big bad pulling the strings
I do not see how any of those elements are NOT present in the above-ground. Obviously, there's a tradition within D&D and other RPGs of hexcrawl-adventure and such, which is much the same, but who's to say an urban adventure is not a dungeon crawl? The timing may be a bit different--it has a different beat or rhythm--but streets are corridors, buildings are rooms, and there are still treasures to be found and big bads to topple. (In fact, a city might be considered the equivalent of a megadungeon, as buildings, castles, sewers, dungeons can all be part of the city.)

Again, this is probably old news to you, but it was a sort of eureka moment for me recently and has made laying out adventures for my upcoming game way easier.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Locations: Maurice's Shop

The following is a small shop to be featured in my Savage Worlds steampunk-fantasy game. One of the PCs has worked in this shop for the last seven or eight years, so I think we'll be visiting it from time to time in search of gadgets, knowledge, etc.
Feel free to drop this into your world or cannibalize it. If I had any artistic and cartographic skill at all, I'd have mapped out the shop. Maybe I'll sketch it out later and share that or get someone to redo it to look purdy.


Maurice’s Shop
Small for a two story shop, Maurice’s has little need for floorspace to display products. At the front, the window opens so that a counter can be raised under an awning, as a display and demonstration space for products. Maurice can be found showing his gadgets--guns, watches, machines to chop wood, to boil water without an open flame--most of every day. Once the sun sets, though, he retreats the the back room, to tinker.

A man in his late fifties, Maurice always has an apprentice or assistant--usually a young person from a family of modest means who shows intellectual and creative potential. The assistant cleans the shop, fixes broken gadgets, and keeps the books (under close watch.) Loving the companionship, Maurice pays his apprentices well and offers room and board in the loft upstairs. Maurice himself lives in a small flat just down the street.

Having studied at the finest university in the capital, Maurice returned home and worked as a researcher in the library, writing and sharing knowledge freely on the physics and science of the world around him. He quickly found that his passion truly lay in creating devices that would help people accomplish mundane tasks more quickly, and decided to open a shop for just such things.

The shop itself was Maurice’s inheritance, some forty years ago, and is all that remains of his family’s legacy. In his father’s time, Maurice’s shop was a place for buying and selling of gemstones, precious metals, and other such mined goods. The good fortune that this business brought to the family allows Maurice to spend all his time inventing and not worrying about making sales. (Incidentally, everything Maurice builds sells wildly.)

Potential Events

  • Explosion! The PCs are walking near the shop, or are making purchases, or working in the shop, when an explosion shakes the building just after twilight. Investigation shows that it was not negligence on the part of Maurice but rather someone has stolen a key component (a stabilizer, a gyropter, a magneton, etc) and run off with it. Maurice can pay well in gold or items for its return.
  • Maurice’s shop is a great place to put a MacGuffin. Make it either the key item needed for a quest or the item that begins a major quest. Maurice could have invented any mechanical or steampunk device--even if he didn’t know it worked in the way needed for your mission.

Review: Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

I've just recently finished reading Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card. Now, I know some of his religious and political opinions and actions are offensive or upsetting to many, but you have to admit that the guy can write!

Amazon has a decent synopsis, so I won't bother to write one out here.
I never enjoy reading long walls-of-text reviews, so here are my + and - thoughts on Pathfinder.


  • It's a story of discovering a lost past, which tickles the fancy of the RPG gamer in me
  • The main character is a social chameleon, a "face" character, not an action hero
    • I realise that Card never really writes about fighters and barbarians as protagonists, so this is not rare, but I enjoyed the way he wrote Rigg as a person
  • Time travel was handled as a plot device, not as a paradox-inducing headache
  • Two stories told in separate narrative converged nicely, and I was just as excited about the one as the other
  • Political motivations and intrigue were used but not overused (I struggled with Frank Herbert's later Dune books because the politics was so heavy)
  • Card's style is, as usual, dialogue-driven rather than description-driven, making for a fast paced read
  • This book contains refined versions of many of Card's other concepts from previous novels
  • The opening for a sequel was well executed: I want to read more badly, but can enjoy Pathfinder as a standalone novel if Ruins turns out to be a failure


  • Seriously, when will Card write a protagonist who is over the age of 16?
    • I understand that his protagonists are as I was at that age: older intellectually than physically. However, it's still just odd that he always writes about young characters. Coming-of-age stories can happen at 17, 18, 22, or the 13 he keeps choosing.
  • Card, again, reuses many elements from his previous books--a double edged sword, as I enjoyed this to some extent but hated it in other ways
  • It's not strictly an adventure
    • While I enjoyed every second of the physics discussions, I know not everyone will enjoy it

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

WIL: Doors are Dangerous

I'm starting a semi-regular series of posts entitled "What I Learned" (WIL for short.)
The idea here is that, as I learn things, I share them. Crazy, right?

Specifically, it has to do with things that I, or my group, are learning while playing old school games. None of us has a real background in old school gaming, but are learning fast by diving in headfirst. As I mentioned in my previous post, this weekend we started an AD&D game. Here's What I Learned from that session...

Doors are dangerous.
Seriously. One of the things that came up as we were building characters was the difference between dungeon-as-malevolence and dungeon-as-natural-structure. We're all familiar with the fact that newer games tend to view dungeons/ruins/castles/the world as neutral in almost every way--it's about what you find inside and what's happening. There is much less of the mystical connection between monsters and their habitat. Since we are starting this game as a dungeon crawl, the DM rightly expounded upon this matter a bit, giving the players a heads up.

Near the end of the session, we found ourselves rounding a corner, moving about 80-90 feet, then rounding another corner. (Heading east, turned south, turned east again.)
Coming from the east we saw four giant centipedes, made a retreat and fire diversion, and the melee types made a stand. Being the Magic User, I backed up even further, trying to avoid death. I took our hired hand, Tim, with me, as he has no real training in combat. We ended up in the first corner, right next to a door.

Turns out if we had just opened that door before rounding the corner, we would have been able to deal with two different monster threats as separate fights. This seems so blatantly obvious to the story lover in me. The part of me that thinks tactically and in terms of actual events can see how careless it was of us to ignore that door. However, the part of me that's accustomed to encounters being designed for the players to win, and to not be interrupted unless "dramatically appropriate" (when is it NOT dramatically appropriate?) completely overrode the rest of my mind on Saturday.

So, in the future, I think that Primus the Magic User will be opening doors before walking by them--or somehow making sure that nothing can chase us through those doors!

Monday, February 13, 2012

AD&D After Action Part I

On Saturday, we started a new AD&D game. The group was a natural growth of a small monthly thing I put together by scouting for a DM online. I met up with Chris (Flambeaux) Cain and he ran a couple of OD&D sessions for me and a friend, then a session of Flashing Blades (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago.)

Our group needed to grow--we invited a couple of friends from various circles. One had only played some 3.5 and some 4e, but not very much and not for very long. The other newer player was someone I met while playing some Pathfinder--though his primary experience is in the Savage Worlds system. The original two of us playing with Chris DMing, however, have been playing for years and have experience in a broad set of rulesets.

So, we gathered, we discussed playing Chris's OD&D hybrid, but determined the structure of classes and races in AD&D would be more up the alley of most of the players. None of us had ever played a true AD&D 1e game before--one player learned on 2e and played that for years, and one player had experienced some Labyrinth Lord, but none of us had any real experience with AD&D.

Anyway, without further ado, here's an in character summary of the events. We spent about two hours making characters then something like 1.5-2 hours on this gameplay. Primus is my character, and I'm going to use this as an exercise in writing a slightly stuck up character (roleplaying that 6 Charisma and 17 Intelligence.)

Dramatis Personae:

Frank, a human ranger

Mog, a dwarf cleric

Garen, a human paladin

Primus, a human magic user

From the quill of Primus, first Mage of the West Bend order:

I found myself holed up at a keep in what seemed to be the midst of nowhere—I was drawn there by rumours of wondrous lore and the possibilities of ancient magical presences. Unfortunately, I had spent all my time until this point at the keep, trying to learn what I could by talking to those venturing into the nearby ruins, caves, and such. I made no progress for some weeks.

Today, however, my fortunes changed! Several men, and a dwarf, all of whom I had met previously around the keep, decided to make a foray into the ruins, merely a two hour trek from the keep. I hastily accepted the offer to join their party, and we wasted no time in supplying and preparing to depart this morning.

Garen—a holy warrior—negotiated with a man at arms to have him accompany us in exchange for a half-share of any spoils we would find. Next Garen found a young lad willing to help us by carrying equipment and leading a pony with supplies, oil, lanterns, and so on.

We launched forth and, as expected, reached the ruins within two hours. We were greeted by what can only be described as the walking dead. They were neither man nor corpse, and seemed intent upon finding flesh to feed upon. Apparently, we were to be the main course. My compatriots strung bows, readied slings, and loosed missiles upon these foul undead. I was even able to lob a rock at one or two, causing them to stumble. Needless to say, they did not have a feast today.

Beneath the ground the undead were scouring for scraps we found a spiral staircase, made of stone, with wide and deep steps. Treading lightly, we made our way down, passing a brass plate overhead which simply read “Store Room.” Upon entering said room, we found it to store nothing but air, and the oppressive feeling of being unwelcome. After scouring the room, we made our way out, finding a large room with paintings—lovers at play, happy scenes. The middle of the room was home to a fountain, flowing with cool water, and statues dancing in it. All of us were able to perceive that this room felt more peaceful, and calm. Though we could not determine why, there were half a dozen silver spoons in the fountain. I took one for examination at a later date, and Mog the dwarf cleric took the other five.

Before long we pressed on, eager to find the purpose of this subterranean structure. We moved on and rounded two corners before finding ourselves facing a door with four monstrous giant centipede-like creatures crawling out of it. Quickly the party backtracked, hoping to keep the fight at range, while the link boy helped me pour oil on the ground in front of us and light it, hoping to delay some of the beasts. Two of them pursued us, crawling on the walls of the passageway, and attacked the party. The link boy and I quickly moved back, behind the pony, to let the men with swords do their part.

Within moments, two of the creatures had been slain, and I breathed a sigh of relief just in time to notice that I was trapped in the corner when a door opened. Two more of the walking dead shambled out the open door, ready to tear my flesh from my bones. I slashed at one with my knife, barely wounding one of them, and the link boy landed a sound hit with a torch, igniting the undead, which ran away in flames. The other walking corpse was able to swing with its claw-like hands and drew blood from my shoulder. I was quite staggered, and didn’t see much future for myself.

Frank, the ranger, dashed up the hallway and helped us slay the last walker, whilst Mog, Garen, and the hired man at arms dispatched the last two centipedes. (I must note here that, though it only bought time, it was my own quick thinking that cast oil down and ignited it.)

Harrowed but exhilarated, we retired back to the keep, in order to prepare for our next foray into the ruins! Who knows what we may find? Will the fountain in the tranquil room prove to be some sanctuary? Are there more of such things further into this structure? What manner of foul creatures will we encounter and have to vanquish in order to uncover the secrets of this place?

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm in a 3e State of Mind

Yes, I'm using Billy Joel lyrics. You wanna fight about it?

I have, several times, recently found myself in a particular mindset or frame of mind about things related to gaming, putting together games, and so on. In fact, I've eaten my own words recently in a G+ discussion about FLAILSNAILS because I interpreted it from what I call a "3rd edition point of view" rather than reading it without preconceptions.

Let me 'splain... I began my delve into the realms of D&D and other pen and paper games in the year 2000--I never picked up an AD&D 2e book, as my library had several shiny new copies of the 3rd Edition Player's Handbook. In fact, nearly twelve years later, I've never even played AD&D 1e or 2e, though I've played in games that borrowed some of their concepts.

I have a friend, whom I game with quite often in person, who started playing in the days of 2e, but has spent most of his time, like me, playing and GMing 3e, 3.5e, and Pathfinder. I don't think this is bad at all--in fact, both of us agree that rules systems matter very little at the table, as long as you have a core mechanic to fall back on and agree that the GM has the final say over rules decisions and tries to keep it as simple as possible.

Now, flash forward to today. I was fascinated when I first heard of the "FLAILSNAILS" concept, but since I haven't had much free time on my hands, hadn't dug into very deeply. (I've played a handful of OD&D / Swords & Wizardry games and loved them, and it's at the top of my gaming priority list to get in on a G+ Hangout game using some form of those rules.)

FLAILSNAILS is, apparently, a super simple concept: GMs advertise their games as FLAILSNAILS friendly and as long as the character being imported is compatible (in the GM's view) it can be used. Easy, right?

Not according to my frame of reference, apparently. I read it as "FLAILSNAILS is a set of guidelines by which you can create a character that can then be imported into a game and then on to another later, as long as the GM running each game is using the compatible rules system." This misinterpretation of a simple way to allow players to play more often stems from a tradition in the 3e (and even 4e) era of D&D gaming that says "Here's the master list of all splatbooks I will allow automatically. Anything not on here must be approved by me."

Oddly enough, that's not how I like to run games. I usually say "Whatever's in the core book(s) is fine; anything beyond that...  just show me your concept and we'll find something mechanically that fits." This is readily evident in the Savage Worlds game I'm getting ready to launch in a custom setting. There's no prewritten "splatbook" or "campaign setting guide" that I wanted to use so I told my players to write character concepts based on their understanding of the world and anything not covered in the core Savage Worlds book would be house-ruled in as simple a way as possible.

I love the simplicity of this type of game creation. So why oh why is it so hard for me to let go of 10+ years of the splatbook-heavy mindset?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Flashing Blades

After the summer trails away in 1623, a gentleman and a foreign noble go to war...

I recently played a session of Flashing Blades, an RPG set in 17th century France, written in 1984 by Mark Pettigrew. Here are some thoughts and reactions I had to the game. We will continue (with additional players) on February the 11th and I hope to write here about the experience.

Read on for more...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why Didn't I Think of That?

I have a lot of moments where I say to myself "Self, why didn't you think of that?"

Using Google+ Hangouts as a way to run pen and paper RPGs is brilliant! I am very eager to give this a try.

Some bloggers have put together a site called ConstantCon to help facilitate players and GMs meeting up and setting up games. It really is like the convention game signup sheet--only constant / eternal / perpetual / awesome / never ending. You get the idea.

Check it out at the link below. Also, if you're interested in seeing what games I might end up running in this format, add me to a circle on G+ using the other link here. Please post to me (Limited, + me only) to let me know so I can add you to my gaming circle.


+Ian Wheat:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cut Out What's Useless

We're halfway through January, which means that many people have failed or given up on their New Year's Resolutions. I don't bother with them, so I'm safe. *cough*

One of my commitments for 2012 (which I made back in November, so they're not resolutions, right?) is to find better ways to interact with people and ideas online. It was very clear to me that I needed to spend more time writing (thus this site), spend more time reading technology and science related news, and to spend far less time on websites that were not aiding my personal and professional goals.

Today, I've cut a pointless part of my social life out. My challenge to myself? Pick up the fancy smartphone and dial some numbers. I will not rely on Facebook updates from my friends to know how they are, what they are doing, and how cute their kids are. I will spend real time talking to the people who matter. Not the 400+ "friends" I had, but the handful of them who actually matter.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Media Moguls Just Don't Get the Internet

So, I was going to write a nice tirade against old media and their moguls. I was going to tell you all about how these gentlemen and ladies don't understand the internet well enough to market their stuff on it successfully.

But I think we all get that. These are the people in the U.S. who support laws like SOPA and PIPA. People who want to warp and bend the internet (twist it, really) into something they can monetize and capitalize on.

Here is a prime example. Rupert Murdoch, of NewsCorp, has ranted against President Obama, Google, and pretty much the way in which the internet works. This man does not understand that HIS industry is the problem.

They just don't get the internet.

Read for yourself: Rupert Murdoch Calls Google a "Piracy Leader"

Saturday, January 14, 2012


August the 31st, 2007--the not so distant past. Something aired on British television that had  given me pause to think today...

I was recently re-watching The I.T. Crowd, Graham Linehan's genius comedy about nerds and their interactions with the work world, and noticed something startling. In the episode "Return of the Golden Child," series two and episode two, the character Roy is extremely excited about a new mobile phone he's just purchased. It's top of the line, and he brags about the specs and screen size to his friend and coworker, Moss.

This in itself is a fairly normal thing. It happens all the time, especially in basement-housed I.T. departments, and is not exceptional. What is odd, though, is the fact that this was not even five full years ago, their Luddite-manager, Jen, hears the conversation, she immediately douses the fire with the request "Ask me what kind of phone I've got" and a response of "It--doesn't--matter."

Now, fast forward to 2011 or 2012, and have this conversation again. Insert the latest fruit flavoured phone, or a shiny robot-featured phone in place of the classic Motorola candy bar phone Roy held in esteem. Phones--smart ones, anyway--have become so ubiquitous that even the Luddites and technology haters don't mind hearing about the newest gadget-filled phone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mobile Industry Wish List

There are several things I'd love to see the mobile device/carrier industry accomplish within the next few years. Here's breakdown--I'll be expounding on each wish in separate posts later on.

  • Phone data plans as dumb pipes

  • A viable alternative to contract-subsidized pricing for handsets

  • Return to unlimited data plans (or at least capping in a way that competes with at-home ISPs)

  • Unification of network technologies and a reduction in frequency diversity between carriers

Monday, January 9, 2012

Burnout: MMO Edition

In ten days my subscription to a certain brand new science fiction / space opera MMORPG will renew for the first time.

I haven't played in six days.

There are, let's be honest, two types of gamer: completionists and the rest of us. You probably already know which type you are, so I'll forego the analysis and diagnostic fee. What does this mean for an MMO, though? How does your game playing style shift in light of a massive and socially-driven game?

Personally, I've found a few areas where it's different enough to note...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

printf ("hello world");

Let's start at the beginning: this is a place for me to share thoughts--a shouting into the wind sort of deal. If you enjoy what you read then, please, comment and share. If you don't, well, keep it to yourself.

A while back I made a commitment that I would, in time, turn myself into a proper writer. I wrote a few articles and tidbits for an Android news site (see AndroidAndMe) and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, life got in the way for a few months so I fell out of touch with the site and they took off and are soaring now. So, that leads me here--nearly two years later--looking for a place to share my thoughts on life, the universe, and everything.

Actually, more likely I'll just share my thoughts on technology, related news, gaming, and anything that tickles my academic and intellectual fancy.