30 June 2008

Question authority

When I direct you to observe this or that precept, never rely on my authority merely, but inquire the reason; and if I have none sufficiently convincing to satisfy you it should greatly diminish the confidence with which you honour me in regard to the science.

A Fernando Sor quote found on a page called Fingernails to play the guitar: history

19 June 2008

Making better puzzles

Brass Latern has an article on “Making Better Puzzles” by Stephen Granade. While written for authors of computer text adventures (a.k.a. interactive fiction), I think it’s valuable advice for role-playing game GMs as well.

Flash and the iPhone

Part of me—for childish reasons—doesn’t want to see Flash on the iPhone.

No Flash on the iPhone has the potential to convince more people that Flash should be used as icing on their web site instead of as the cake itself. Plus, it might encourage more people to investigate alternatives like EcmaScript plus <canvas>. (Though I don’t know if that is really a viable alternative.)

18 June 2008

4e races

The player-character races in (original) D&D suggested a Tolkienesque world.

AD&D added gnomes (more generic fantasy—perhaps), half-elves (more Tolkien), and half-orcs (more Tolkien).

D&D “third edition”: Same as AD&D. By this time, however, the influence of D&D has made that set somewhat generic fantasy itself.

D&D “fourth edition”: Dragonborn, Eladrin†, and Tieflings are added. (Gnomes and half-orcs are saved for later supplements.) This game suggests a world of its own.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Is it better to have the core books stick with tradition and save the other races for supplments? Is it better to put races in the core books that best exemplify the mechanics of the new game? Is it better to present a default setting and choose the races for the core books accordingly?

I don’t know.

†Squint and they look like elves, so you could say they aren’t new.

ENWorld: What is wrong with 4E?

Skills, feats, spells and so on were described in terms of what they did in the game world. The mechanics of how they worked within the rules was secondary.

ENWorld: What is wrong with 4E?

I’m not sure that comparison is fair. Older editions had plenty of mechanics that didn’t seem justified in-game.

I do think it is a fair expectation about what a role-playing game ought to provide.

Except for a game like Risus, where the mechanics are intentionally very abstract. Translating between the abstract mechanics and specifics in the game world is—to an extent—what such games are all about.

Adventures in Gaming: 4pocalypse Not

with 4E they are doing exactly what they need to do to appeal to the new generation of gamers

Adventures in Gaming: 4pocalypse Not

I’m not convinced of that.

Love the sinner; hate the sin

We must guard our hearts against hypocritical condemnation, yet we must also guard our hearts against cultural accommodation that contradicts God’s laws.

Shannon Vowell

I fail to see any justification for this warning against “cultural accommodation”. This is exactly the kind of hypocritical condemnation Jesus spoke against. I have no standing to tell anyone else that they are sinning unless I am without sin myself. I am called to not sin myself and to share God’s love with everyone. Whether another person sins—unless it is a direct sin against me—is between God and them.

The truth is that too many evangelicals deny the power of Christ to redeem and transform all of us who have fallen short of God’s glory, by denying homosexuals the right to fully serve and contribute in the United Methodist Church. The truth is that too many evangelicals do not love homosexuals and do not wish to see homosexuals experience the love of Christ. Otherwise, they would view homosexuals attending and serving in the church as an exciting opportunity and not as a threat.

Bill Mefford

I wouldn’t go as far as Bill does. (See the reasoning above.) I do agree, however, that Christians are called to introduce others to Christ and leave it up to God to do any saving that needs be done.

What wattage?

Conventional wisdom says...

The power rating and size of speaker you choose for your amp will depend to some degree on application and price. Practice amps are usually solid state or modeling combo units featuring low power (10-30 watts) and small (8" or 10") speakers, although there are some small tube amps to be found. For rehearsal and playing smaller venues, consider tube and modeling combo amps with power ratings averaging about 50 watts and 12" speakers for fuller sound. For larger venues or for performing loud, expect power to average at 100 watts and up. You can use "twins," or combo amps that have pairs of 12" speakers, but this is where a separate head and speaker cabinets (a "stack") are most effective.

Sweetwater’s Guitar Amp Buying Guide

I found a discussion thread on “How many watts do I need to be heard over drums”. Some people said 50 because they tried 15 and it didn’t cut it. Other people said 15 was plenty in their experience.

Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten the volume on my 15 W solid-state combo even to 12 o’clock. Even when playing with a drummer.

Ironically, if you’re going for overdriven tube-amp tones, you’re actually better off with less wattage because it’s then easier to overdrive the circuits. If you have to turn it down because it’s too loud for the venue, you won’t saturate the power-amp section and won’t get the best overdrive tone that the amp can give. Clean tones require more wattage to ensure you can get the volume you need without distortion.

Slightly less-conventional wisdom says to get one amp for all venues. For venues too small to have a sound system, it’ll be enough. For venues with a sound system, run it through that system. (Whether mic’d or DI.) Though that still leaves the question of how powerful that amp needs to be. The less-conventional wisdom seems to say about 30 W tube or 50 W solid-state. I’m not so sure that’s not still overkill. 100 W seems clearly overkill in any case.

Even without any justification for a full Marshall stack, that still leaves room for gear envy. Check out the Peavey JSX Mini Colossal.

  • 5 W combo amp
  • 8 inch speaker
  • Built-in power attentuator (to get cranked tube tones at quiet volumes)
  • Effects loop
  • An XLR output (for connecting to a PA or recording console)
  • Speaker outputs so you can drive a cabinet full of 10 or 12 inch speakers

The next question: How many speakers?

Firefox 3

It’s strange. I can’t really work up any enthusiasm for Firefox 3. I guess I’ve fully switched to Safari now.


This is exactly the sort of thing that makes me wary of something like dot Mac. I don’t want my e-mail address to be subject to the whims of marketing.

Though, I would expect Apple to keep the @mac.com addresses working indefinitely, but still...

...and you can often work around it if you get your own domain. The @fisher.cx addresses all are fronts for Gmail accounts currently.

LotFP: I Hate Fun

We need to make sure our game isn't defined by people who don't like it

I Hate Fun

Amen. I don’t understand the desire to destroy something in a vain effort to make it popular. It’s OK to not take over the world.

Idle rhetoric

It’s fun to blow things out of proportion. It’s fun to spout extreme rhetoric. It’s fun to concoct conspiracy theories.

Believe it or not, those things weren’t invented on and aren’t exclusive to internet forums.

Let people have their fun, and don’t take them too seriously.

Shouldn’t we?

17 June 2008

Slashdotting yourself

Number one rule of marketing via the world-wide web: Do not stage an overload of your web servers. If there is bad publicity, it is directly frustrating your customers/audience—as a dead or struggling web site will do.

New game, old name

It’s ironic that fans of older editions of D&D have to come up with new names...

...while the new game keeps the old name.

Yeah, I’ve got the 4e PHB. I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with it yet. My impressions so far—which my friend Don tells me is holding true as he reads the PHB and DMG—is that it may be a good game, but it is a very different game.)

01 June 2008

...but it is economic

In place of the quote in my previous post, I might have written: “The main reason TSR/Wizards puts out new editions of D&D is economic: They are attempting to maximize the profits of the D&D brand.” Which is much more interesting. Is a new edition the best way to maximize profits for the D&D line as a whole?

A quick view of history might tempt me to say, “Yes!” I don’t think there’s any doubts that “third edition” increased profits over the end of the AD&D second edition era. The “fourth edition” books already appear to be (pre-)selling extremely well.

If Gygax is to be believed, though, AD&D second edition lost half the AD&D audience. It’s quite interesting that—due to demand—TSR did another printing of the first edition Players Handbook after second edition had been released.

Although the “fourth edition” core books are selling well right now, are they selling better than the “third edition” core books did over the same period of time? Will they sell better over their lifetime than the “third edition” books?

It’s a complicated picture, and you can’t really know since one path has been taken and the alternatives left untried.

There’s also that—and this is just my impression—AD&D first edition, classic CMI† D&D, and AD&D second edition were all motivated more by politics and royalties than by maximizing profit for the overall line. First edition was about getting Arneson’s name off the game. CMI D&D was to bolster the case that Arneson shouldn’t get royalties for AD&D. Second edition was about Gygax being gone. If those editions were less about economics and more about politics, then I think there’s a good chance they didn’t serve the brand well economically compared to other paths that may have been taken.

† CMI: The Companion, Master, and Immortal sets—and the rest of the latter day classic D&D line.

How else are they going to make money?

Given that the main reason TSR/Wizards puts out new editions of D&D is economic (I mean, how else are they going to make money?)

ENWorld—[Pseudo-rant] If you don’t like 4e, don’t play it (and quit complaining! ;)

How else are they going to make money? Hmm. I dunno...maybe...

  • Publish supplements for D&D
  • Publish other role-playing games
  • Make new miniatures
  • Publish a new miniatures game
  • Publish a new expansion of a trading card game
  • Publish a new trading card game
  • Licensing the D&D brand
  • Selling PDFs and reprints of out-of-print TSR and Wizards of the Coast products
  • Publish new board games
  • Reprint classic Avalon Hill board games
  • Publish novels

And that’s not even touching on the vast number of ways Hasbro as a whole can make money. e.g. Continue to print Monopoly

In fact, they’re doing most of those things. I don’t think any executive at Wizards green-lighted a new edition of D&D because they couldn’t think of any other way to make money.