31 May 2008

Guitar Heaven

Another b-day present from my beautiful wife arrived today: Guitar Heaven by Neville Marten.

It’s “a guide to the greatest electric guitars of all time” and the guitarists who played them. Very cool.

30 May 2008

The problem with the 3-fold RPG model

I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the three-fold model.

The biggest problem with it is when people consider the three elements as incompatible. Every RPGer uses all of the three approaches...just in varying amounts. Nigh every RPG supports all three approaches...just in varying amounts.

Arguably a healthy RPG must support all three.

Not that I really know what I mean by “healthy”. (^_^) This is thinking out loud after all.

When reading D&D “4th edition”...

Perhaps few things drive role-playing grognards nuts as much as someone looking at an older game and seeing only the rules. Like many games, role-playing games are often more than just the rules.

So to my grognard friends—when you read the D&D “fourth edition”† books—I think this is an important point to keep in mind.

Not that I’m saying you have to like it or anything. I’m just saying: Try not to make the same mistakes in critiquing it that you would fault in someone else’s critique of your favorite game.

†I am, of course, speaking about the “4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game” that is being released next week—not the original D&D Fourth Edition from 1983.

More b-day

From my wonderful wife and children...

  • An authentic, hand-made peso guitar pick
  • A Telecaster keychain that looks just like my new guitar
  • A Fender T-shirt
  • A triple guitar stand


DiMarzio Super 2

Back (c. 1986) when I had my first electric guitar—one with a built-in speaker—I got a DiMarzio X2N pick-up. Actually, I believe it was a birthday present from by grandmother (Grammy). A short time later when I upgraded to my Westone Spectrum ST, the X2N came along.

Last year, when I was shopping for guitar gear for the first time in a long time, I started wondering why I’d never upgraded the Westone’s neck pick-up.

I checked with DiMarzio support to see what pick-up they suggested to pair with the X2N. They recommended either the Super 2 or the D-Activator Neck.

Now I have another birthday present: A DiMarzio Super 2.

Once I get around to getting it installed, it may be just the thing to break the “only want to play the Tele” thing.

Vox amPlug AC30

The Vox amPlug AC30 headphone guitar amplifier was a somewhat late addition to my wish list, so I really wasn’t expecting to get it this birthday. I’m really glad I did.

I was really impressed when I plugged it into GarageBand. Just plugged the amPlug’s headphone jack directly into the Mac’s audio-in.

I’m also enjoying plugging my iPhone into it’s aux-input for practicing with the recording for the Godspell tour.

my practice rig


I first played Talisman c. 2001. It was the second-edition. I got the fourth-edition for my birthday, and I’ve played it three times already.

Turns out there’s already been a change of publisher again and another edition is soon to be out. Word is, however, that there will be an “upgrade pack” for those of us with the fourth edition.

29 May 2008

iPhone jack

Another small iPhone complaint: The ear-bud jack is compatible with standard stereo quarter-inch plugs as well as the TRRS ear-buds that come with it. The jack is recessed such that a lot of existing plugs, however, can’t fit flush and plug all the way in. You have to buy an adapter ($10 at the Apple Store) if you need to work-around this.

The Big Sort

I caught part of an interview with a guy who wrote a book called The Big Sort.

At one point he said that “the big sort” results in experimentation at the city level but gridlock at the national level.

I’m not sure how he felt about that, but it sounds like a good thing to me.

Except for those few things that it would be really good for the federal government to get done. But who’re we kidding? They wouldn’t get done anyway. (^_^)

To roll or not to roll

LotFP: RPG: How I Run a Game: “But if I want something to happen, then I’ll say it happens and not bother with a dice roll.”

I haven’t finished reading that post—or many of his because they’re all so long—but this bit is interesting to me.

The thing for me is that sometimes I don’t know how much I think something should go one way until I roll the dice and it goes the other way. Dunno why.

McClellan’s book

I suppose I should be happy about it, but something about this Scott McClellan book bothers me.

Maybe it’s because Scott managed to wait so long to tell the truth that it barely matters anymore. Maybe it’s because it smells more of moving units than coming clean. Maybe it’s because, “Oh, I lied a lot then, but I’m telling the truth now,” rings so hallow.

Still, I guess better late than never.

The best part of Indiana Jones

You know my favorite part about an Indiana Jones movie.

Really, though, this applies to just about any movie of a similar genre. Oh, and other media too.

The way those ancient mechanisms are still in perfect working order.

Even when it isn’t supernatural or technology from another dimension.

The next installment should be Indiana Jones and the secret that will put all mechanics out-of-business.

Which shouldn’t be construed as criticism of the movies. It’s just humorous observation. The movies would be a lot less entertaining if those ancient mechanisms were seized up and inoperative.

27 May 2008

Misconceptions about early D&D

There are a couple of misconceptions I see expressed about early Dungeons & Dragons.

  1. It was little more than Dungeon!
  2. It needed additional rules to make it go much beyond Dungeon!

Based on the things I’ve read about Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign and Gygax’s Greyhawk campaign, the first one would seem quite false. This is probably why I felt the quote from Tim Kask worth posting.

When you look at the actual rules, it can seem to be little more than Dungeon!—though hints of more are there. As Mike Mornard said...

There were no rules about it because nobody thought they were needed; the rules were just for the “nuts and bolts” mechanicals.

The night Ernie (Gygax) talked the chimera out of attacking us, it depended on how well Ernie talked, not any rules. The night my 3rd level Balrog pretended to be a photographer for Balrog Times magazine, our success depended on how well we amused the referee.

The rules were written with an “Everything not forbidden is permitted” attitude.

That’s not to say adding rules to support such things would be wrong. (That’s a whole ’nother discussion. (^_^)) In that same thread, Mike agrees with Fute when he says...

I further posit that the decision of what to codify with resolution mechanics and what to leave fuzzy is not based on some logical analysis of mediating factors, but on what the designers think is fun to roll dice for, and what they think is fun to improvise.

The point is that the lack of a rule does not indicate the lack of something at the table. (Because the referee’s role had been expanded from interpreter of the rules to living rulebook.)

Search skillz

Making a change like that to the game basically says to anyone that put points in Search or similar non-combat type skills, “you wasted your skill points.” Much, much better advice would be “don’t put important stuff on the other side of a die roll.”

The Chapel Perilous, “DM Advice”, Monte Cook

Even better advice: Don’t use a system that requires players to put points in a “search skill” in order to successfully search for stuff.

In my experience, a search skill doesn’t make the game any more fun.

Having a search skill means that there are probably going to be times when a player feels putting points in search was a waste. It could be because the judge let the PCs find something important that was hidden without rolling. It could be because the rules (Take 20) allow the PCs to find something without rolling. If the rolls can’t be circumvented, then it may mean that the PCs can never find something, even if they have very good evidence that it is there.

22 May 2008

More from the Kask

Our best early adventures and campaigns were about problem solving, riddle unravelling and a group effort to out-think the DM, not about hack & slash mayhem and gore. That was a part of it, but certainly not the only focus. We would often go two or more adventures without figuring Exp.

Dragonsfoot post by Tim Kask

Blame AD&D!

In this Dragonsfoot post, Tim Kask admits that AD&D was a mistake. (O.O)

Woo hoo! I can blame TSR for making me a recovering rules-lawyer! (^_^)

Not regularly haunting DF these days (and even when last I did, I didn’t make it to “General Discussion” much anymore), this came to my attention via Jim Raggi’s blog.

20 May 2008

Time and energy


I wish I had the time and energy to do it.


I think this should be the battle cry/motto/slogan/whatever of the “Old School RPG Evangelist” movement.


I’m pretty proud that so many people have expressed appreciation for the classic D&D pages I assembled during my stint as old school evangelist.

I don’t think I’ll ever know, however, whether the time and energy I devoted to that contributed to personal difficulties I’m now dealing with.

I’ve often undervalued the time and energy of the authors of role-playing games. “I could do this myself.” Yeah, I could, but it takes time and energy.

19 May 2008

For the “old school” RPG evangelists

I knew a guy who used to keep copies of GURPS Lite[sic] with him. He’d just leave them in various random places.

TSR had a AD&D fast-play PDF (ADND_Fast_Play.pdf) that you could download from their web site.

One could create an OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord fast-play pamphlet.

How about a clone of Your Personal Invitation to Adventure or Understanding D&D?

Free comic book day 2008

I was really disappointed in Free Comic Book Day this year.

With the store’s limit of three, I decided to grab three familiar looking books this year.

The Avengers one turned out to be a “sketch book”. A few pages of work-in-progress art. Maybe cool for the avid fan, but nothing to make me want to buy an Avengers comic.

The Justice League offering was indecipherable to either myself or my son. I presume it would have made sense to an avid Justice League fan. I didn’t think FCBD was for the avid fans.

The Superman book was the best of the lot but didn’t really grab me.

Nothing like the TokyoPop book from a couple of years ago that actually did lead to me buying things from them.

Guess maybe I need to avoid the familiar next year.

18 May 2008

17 May 2008

Brief titles

A web page should have a brief <title>.

When I say “<title>”, I am specifically referring to the text which usually gets display in the browser window’s title bar.

When I say “brief” I mean, “no longer than necessary”. (Which can sometimes be rather long, but only when necessary.)

To put it another way: Leave your slogan out of the <title>. Slogans belong in the body of the page.

What is the <title> used for? The title of the window, which helps you to distinguish it from other windows. The text on a tab, which helps you distinguish it from other tabs. The text of a bookmark/favorite. All these functions tend to work better with a <title> that is no longer than it needs to be.


The home page of the Microlite20 site has the <title>: “Microlite20 | The smallest thing in d20 gaming” The slogan doesn’t help me distinguish between windows or tabs. I have to delete it when I bookmark the site. The slogan appears prominently on the page itself, were it achieves the goals of a slogan. It’s place in the <title> doesn’t really help with the slogan’s goals, since we already saw it in the page itself.

(OK, yeah, slogans are meant to be repeated. This isn’t the best place to repeat it.)

Other pages on the Microlite20 site, are much better. “Downloads | Microlite20” This shows me that it’s the download page of the Microlite20 site. Exactly the information I want in a windows title bar, on a tab, or for the name of a bookmark. “Microlite20” alone would be too little because it wouldn’t tell me that it’s not the home page. “Downloads” alone would be too little because it wouldn’t tell me that it is the Microlite20 downloads page rather than another site’s download page.

I only pick on the Microlite20 site because it was the last site I bookmarked that I had to delete stuff out of the bookmark name. There are, of course, much worse offenders. It’s only the home page that has the slogan, and name+six-word-slogan isn’t all that bad.

Anyway—a thought out loud.

The demise of TSR

It’s well known that what killed TSR was...

...you know what? I don't think it’s that simple. (Even Ryan Dancey’s well-informed opinion.)

I don’t think it is what TSR did that killed them half as much as how they did it.

In other words, don’t assume a business plan is doomed simply because it may have some superficial similarity to what TSR did.

16 May 2008


Being a WASP who doesn’t know what I’m talking about...

BET Struggles to Relate with Black Viewers

For his part, [Duke professor Mark Anthony] Neal says when he wants to see truly innovative African-American programming, he has to cherry-pick shows all over the menu. The Wire on HBO. Tavis Smiley on PBS. And the rapper, Bonecrusher, guest-judging on Iron Chef. That’s on the Food Network. Neil says he has to use his TiVo to make his own BET.

Isn’t this what we want? Integration instead of segregation. Isn’t this a positive sign that BET isn’t needed anymore?

Where the guitars have no names

So, since I now have two solid-body electric guitars, and since I don’t want to keep calling them “the Westone” and “the Tele”, they need names. I’m starting with the Tele.

To that end, I’ve made a survey:

(If you’re viewing this in an RSS feed reader, it looks like the survey form might not show up. You’ll actually have to visit the blog.)

15 May 2008

Danny Ray’s

I bought my new guitar from Danny Ray’s Music. If you’re in central Texas and you want to buy a guitar, bass, amp, or drums; drop by and talk to Danny.


I’ve always liked Telecasters. I’m not sure why. Well, I finally bought one.

This model is officially the “Squier (by Fender) Vintage Modified Telecaster SH”. I’d call it a “fat Tele”—a fairly standard Tele with a humbucker in the neck position. This is a configuration that’s been used by...

Keith Richards


Andy Summers
Fender’s recreation of Andy’s Tele

Fender also used this pick-up combination on the Tele Custom. Though the Custom had a different pick-guard than a standard Tele and separate volume and tone controls for each pick-up.

Fender Telecaster Custom
personally, I don’t care for that pick-guard

Little known fact: Jimmy Page—so often seen with a Gibson Les Paul or the Gibson double-neck—actually used a Tele on Led Zeppelin I. He also used it for the “Stairway to heaven” solo.

Jimmy Page’s “dragon” Tele

Anyway, back to my guitar...

Here’s a Guitar World review:

How does the Tele match up against my Westone Spectrum ST? Even with the coil-split feature on the Westone, the Tele seems to have a greater range of sounds. Generally, the Tele is brighter and snappier sounding. I think—once I get past the “I only want to play the Tele” phase—the Westone will still be better for darker, warmer tones; while the Tele will be better for brighter, snappier tones.

I still plan to upgrade the Westone’s neck pick-up to match it’s upgraded bridge pick-up.

The devil and Guitar Hero

Charlie Daniels—Soap Box

I would never grant permission for some company to create a video game version of a song I wrote in which the devil wins a contest and I’m sorely disappointed with the company who owns the copyright for not policing the situation. As it is they have allowed these people to violate the very essence of the song.

At this time I don’t know if I have any legal recourse, probably not, but I wanted you folks to know that I vehemently disagree with what has been done to a piece of my work. And would like to pass along a little advice to parents of young children.

Despite any attempts to legislate otherwise, this is the way the world works. You create something. You publish it. It influences and inspires people. Probably in ways you never intended. This is not a bug; this is a feature. You are not required to like how others interpret, are influenced by, or inspired by your work. Just as they are not required to like your works in the first place.

Of course, you have every right to express your opinion, but this idea that artists should have control over their works that extends to how it can influence others...that I just can’t agree with.

How many authors of the literature that Charlie himself drew on would be outraged by a story in which a human defeats the devil on his own rather than by reliance on God?

09 May 2008

Old school action movies

I’ve always enjoyed animated movies. I long thought they didn’t get enough respect.

I enjoy the new subgenre that is a mix of animation and live-action. (Which seems an odd way to say it since almost all the action is animated rather than live.)

Still, I hope live-action action movies continue to be made. It’s nice to have the occasional action movie in which the action isn’t so over-the-top that it requires animation.

08 May 2008

What’s Wrong With Third Edition Anyway

Greywulf posted what he feels needs to be fixed with D&D “third edition”. On his points I...

  1. Grapple: Disagree
  2. Attacks of Opportunity: Disagree
  3. Dead levels: Disagree
  4. Preparation Time: Ambivalent
  5. Challenge Ratings: Agree
  6. Experience point calculation: Agree

I thought the grapple rules were pretty good and not too complex. Not well presented, though. Attacks of opportunity I also found to be fine and not too complicated but poorly presented.

I get the “dead level” point, but I just don’t think it’s that important.

Prep time is only bad if you feel the need to dot every I, cross every T, and are overly concerned about “breaking the rules”. The real issue is that the rules are—for many people—overly complex. I’ve still seen people “wing” the game just fine, though.

In my experience, CR is no better than HD for judging how dangerous a monster will be. Likewise, the arcane XP calculations didn’t really add anything to the game.

07 May 2008


Here’s the thing, Sprint and Samsung.

I don’t really want GPS on my phone. It’s a feature I’d rarely use. (The few times I have, the iPhone’s triangulation has been enough for me.) But it isn’t about arguing whose features are better. Yeah, your GPS is better than the iPhone’s triangulation. Yeah, your data network is faster than the Edge.

The thing is, you could’ve made a phone half as good as the iPhone years ago. You could have made visual voice-mail happen years ago.

You want to talk features? How about visual voice-mail? There’s a feature most people use a lot more often than GPS. Your voice-mail was nothing but frustration. You had the ability to make something better. You could’ve had the glory of being the ones to introduce it.

But you didn’t. It took Apple breaking into your market to get you off your duffs and even trying.

In the past few years, Apple has proven itself to constantly improve it’s products. The complaints I had with Mac OS X years ago? Fixed. The complaints I’ve had with every mobile phone I’ve had before the iPhone? Pretty much the same as my complaints with the phone before that.

So, no. I’m not going to be rushing out to replace my iPhone. Because it’s not about features comparisons.

Professional sports

After hearing Frank Deford’s segment—“Need for Speed Brings Tragedy at the Derby”—this morning, I wonder: Is “professional sport” an oxymoron?

Once it’s about money instead of fun, does that mean that—eventually—a sport will be pushed and distilled into something different? Should “sport” imply recreation rather than business?

We don’t want to vote for the delusional

Eight years ago, I was very annoyed when McCain dropped out of the primaries much too early. Now, though, I’m annoyed by Clinton’s tenacity.

I think the big difference is that there was (emphasis on “was”) a bigger difference between Bush and McCain than there is between Obama and Clinton. There was a point in McCain staying in because there were differences to consider.

Or maybe just that even then I was in the “anybody but Bush” camp.

05 May 2008

D&D 4th Edition Multiclassing

4th Edition Excerpts: Multiclassing...

The 4th Edition design had three primary goals for multiclassing:

  1. Design the classes, make them cool, then force multiclassing to play nice with them.
  2. Institute controls to prevent abusive combinations.
  3. Institute controls to make every combination as playable as possible.

Interesting. I think these would be my goals for a multiclass design...

  1. Design the classes, make them cool, then force multiclassing to play nice with them
  2. Enable multiclassing for the occasional unusual character or twist of fate
  3. Ensure that multiclass characters don’t outshine single class characters
  4. Don’t worry about making any multiclass option playable or attractive

04 May 2008

Labyrinth Lord review

This RPGnet “review” by Andrew Montgomery of Labyrinth Lord doesn’t really tell you much about LL, but it does an excellent job of explaining why it exists and—in layman’s terms—why it is legal. (Whether you think it should be or not.)

03 May 2008

Don’t count your forums before they’re hatched

If you are going to start a set of online discussion forums: Do not create a bunch of individual forums on various subtopics. Start with a single forum about your topic. As your membership and traffic grows, create subtopics based on what people are actually talking about.

In reality, you don’t want to only create subtopic forums based on traffic, but I see way too many people creating way too many subtopics with no traffic than I see people not making enough subtopic forums.