31 January 2010

Classic D&D healing herbs

While I’m not a fan of much buying and selling of magic in classic D&D, I do want to try giving the players some access to accelerated healing beyond cleric spells. I was always a fan of the herbs in Rolemaster that could be used for healing and curing various conditions. So, my plan is to have some herbal treatments available for sale.

Let’s say a single dose heals the equivalent of one day’s rest: 1–3 hp. Based (perhaps only loosely) on the cost of living I’d come up with for the Keep, I decided an herbalist at the keep might sell a dose for 50 gp. Typically 5–10 doses (1d6+4) would be in stock.

Then I found the information about brewing potions from the (Cook/Marsh) Expert guidelines. A standard healing potion (equivalent to the clerical spell Cure Light Wounds: 2–7 hp) would cost a mage 500 gp and one week to make. An alchemist could do it for 250 gp in half a week.

So, let’s call the herbalist an alchemist who is selling to the public (rather than being on retainer like the alchemists in the book). So they’ll have to add a mark-up to that 250 gp in order to make a profit. I’ll double it.

I came up with this list of products:

  • Minor healing herbs, 1–3 hp, 250 gp, 2–16 (2d8) in stock
  • Major healing herbs, 2–7 hp, 500 gp, 1–7 (2d4-1) in stock
  • Universal disease treatment, 1,500 gp, 0–3 in stock (d4-1)
  • Universal antidote, 2,000 gp, 0–2 (d3-1) in stock

I priced the 1–3 hp version at half the regular “healing potion” cost. Also available are the equivalents of Cure Disease and Neutralize Poison. Treatments for specific diseases or poisons could be available at lower costs.

I might come up with some rules for foraging so that the PCs could find some ingredients to sell to the herbalist as well.

Do you really need Flash for the Web?

Do you really need Flash for the Web?
Originally uploaded by Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

Actual screen shots from an iPhone of the sites Lee Brimelow used in his “oh noes...the Internet on iPad won’t work at all without Flash” mock-ups. It turns out that six of the ten serve up Flashless versions of themselves to the iPhone.

Classic D&D cost of living

The question came to me: What would the cost-of-living be for an NPC living in the Keep on the Borderlands?

B2 doesn’t seem to list the rent for the private apartments. A private room in the inn is 1gp/night. That’d make about 30gp/month. On the one hand, a private apartment ought to cost more than just a private room, but hotel rooms cost more than apartments, right? I’ll just stick with 30gp/month.

The Basic Set price list (which happens to be reproduced in B2 for quick & easy reference) gives 5gp for 1 person-week of unpreserved food. So, that would be about 20gp/month.

So, 50gp/month for food and a place to sleep.

30 January 2010

On the iPad/Flash brouhaha

In a comment to this Smarterware blog post, Mark Williamson asks:

I am so torn, do I support 94% of my customers? Or do I let the 6% with either a choice that they made to not have flash or a choice that was made for them by their device supplier dictate how my site might work?

What you do is simply this: You make sites that degrade gracefully. That means you don’t use Flash (or any other such technology) for stuff you don’t need to use it for.

For example, I ordered pizza from Domino’s online recently with Flash disabled. I didn’t get to see the fancy preview image of my pizza with the toppings composited onto it because it required Flash. The actual functionality of the site—ordering food—worked perfectly fine without Flash.

John Nack writes:

And today, more than 15 years after Netscape debuted, Flash remains the only way to, say, display a vector chart across browsers (i.e., such that you can count on every viewer seeing it).

Except that you can’t count on every viewer seeing it. See the Smarterware post above. Those figures don’t even count most iPhone and iPod Touch traffic. That is why nearly every feature that has been added to the web over the years provides for providing alternate content for browsers that don’t support that feature.

It also doesn’t count the visually disabled who can’t see the chart even if they have Flash installed. This is why the standards today provide ways to provide text descriptions of visual elements.

If you use Flash to show a vector chart without providing a raster alternative and a text description, some “viewers” aren’t going to be able to “see” it.

Apple doesn’t support Flash on the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and won’t support it on the iPad. This is not about Flash vs. HTML5. This is not about Apple vs. Adobe.

Apple is not supporting any browser plug-ins on the iPhone OS devices. Why? Because browser plug-ins are the biggest source of Mac OS X crashes.

If you follow the advice of Lee Brimelow, as he wrote in the comments to his “The iPad provides the ultimate browsing experience?” post...

If you can do something in HTML then we recommend people to do that. Use Flash when you need richer interactivity. It’s not HTML OR Flash. They can coexist.

...then the iPad not having Flash won’t be a problem. Flash is for the butter, not the bread.

So, is Apple lying when it claims the iPad is “the ultimate browsing experience”?


Where to even start? The fact that this is opinion? (It’s not hard to find someone who feels that browsing without Flash is better than browsing with it, by the way.) The fact that it is marketing?

29 January 2010

Bing? Really?

From Daring Fireball: Apple, Google, Bing, and Search:

Say what you want about Microsoft in general and Bing in particular, but the fact is, Bing is the only major competitor to Google left standing.

How is it that the last one to enter ends up being the only major competitor?

Bridging print and digital media

The day before the iPad unveiling, in What I Hope Apple Unleashes Tomorrow, Derek Powazek wrote:

I’ve spent my professional career doing basically two things: making websites and making print media. It’s my hope that what Apple unleashes tomorrow is the device that finally bridges the two.

I think the iPad may do some of what Derek hopes but only a little.

Print had value because there was no better way to deliver information. People were always paying more for the delivery than for the content itself. There is a better way now, and it is cheaper. Print is still holding value, but that won’t last. In the long run, people aren’t going to pay as much for digital delivery as they did for print. Moreover, they’re going to pay for print in fewer and fewer cases.

28 January 2010

The iPad does fill a gap.

When you bought a laptop, I said, “That’s not what I want.”

(You know who “you” are. Not everyone reading this will be “you”.)

When you bought a “smart phone”, I said, “That’s not what I want.”

When the iPhone and iPod touch came out, I said, “Close”, and I bought one. I said, “I’d like a tablet-sized one.”

When the MacBook Air was rumored, I thought, “Maybe”. When it came out, I said, “That’s not what I want.”

When the iPad was announced, you said, “That’s not what I want.”

I said, “Finally!” (Perhaps)

(There’s lots of other things that could be mentioned: Newton, Palm (I wanted a tablet version), the worthless tablet PC I bought that ran Microsoft Windows, &c.)

Scoring the iPad without having used it

In iPad About, Stephen Fry writes:

There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it”. No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects. You know how everyone who has ever done Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? always says, “It’s not the same when you’re actually here. So different from when you’re sitting at home watching.”? You know how often you’ve heard that? Well, you’ll hear the same from anyone who’s handled an iPad. The moment you experience it in your hands you know this is class. This is a different order of experience. The speed, the responsiveness, the smooth glide of it, the richness and detail of the display, the heft in your hand, the rightness of the actions and gestures that you employ, untutored and instinctively, it’s not just a scaled up iPhone or a scaled-down multitouch enhanced laptop – it is a whole new kind of device.

It’s not about the extra features. It’s about doing the basic features right. It isn’t about what it does; it is about how it does it. It isn’t about the number of features; it’s about the user experience.

Yes, you can browse the web and do e-mail on a laptop, a “smart phone”, or a netbook. Yes, the iPad doesn’t have other features that those devices have. What Apple is claiming is that the iPad handles these basic features—like the web and e-mail—better than those other devices.

Here are the tasks Apple touted as what the iPad needs to do better than a “smart phone” or a laptop. I’m guessing at how well it will do in each category.

By the by, I’m not a laptop person. I’ve used laptops, so I can do some comparison, but—for me—the comparison against my iMac tends to stand in for the laptop.

Web browsing: I’ve surfed the web on desktop computers, laptops, “smart phones”, and on my TV. There is a time and a place for using the web from all those devices. Most of the time, however, I’d prefer to be doing it the way it looks in the iPad demo.

E-mail: Pretty much the same story as web browsing. (Except I don’t think I’ve ever done e-mail on my TV.) I still want to access my e-mail from my iPhone and my iMac, but I expect the iPad will become my preferred e-mail access.

Viewing and sharing photos: Yes. Hands down. The iPhone will still be preferable for taking photos simply because it can and the iPad can’t. The iMac will still be preferable for organizing and sharing online. Still, viewing and sharing in person is an important thing that the iPad does look better suited for.

Video: Having watched movies on both a laptop and my iPhone (and my iMac), I think the iPad will be preferable. Of course, I expect my HDTV will still be preferable to the iPad, but perhaps not my standard-definition TV.

Music: I don’t see how the iPad adds significantly to this. Better browsing but that isn’t much. My iPhone will still be my preference.

Games: It depends on the game. Some games are going to be better on my iPhone; some on my iMac; some on the iPad.

E-books: It depends. For some books—like most fiction—I think I’ll still prefer my iPhone. For other books—like PDF RPG manuals—I think I’ll prefer the iPad.

26 January 2010

B/X D&D thief house rule

Just an idea for a house rule for B/X Dungeons & Dragons. Apply a thief’s dexterity adjustment to their level to determine their thief skills. So, a 1st level thief with an 18 dexterity would use the 4th level row of the thief skills table.

The idea is generally like the “Dexterity Table II” from AD&D (PHB p. 12), but in a simpler, more B/X-style form.

Is it crazy?

16 January 2010

Dialogue with a printer

My printer: I’m out of magenta ink.

Me: How about the other inks?

Printer: I’m out of magenta ink.

Me: I know, but just show the status of the other inks like you did when they were all full.

Printer: I’m out of magenta ink.

Me: sigh

Me: Scan this.

Printer: I’m out of magenta ink.

Me: sigh

After buying replacements for all six ink cartridges and replacing magenta...

Me: Print this.

Time passes.

Printer: You know what? The gray is empty.

Replace gray cartridge. Time passes.

Printer: Hey, look! The black and yellow are empty too.

Replace black and yellow cartridges. Time passes.

Printer: OK! What did you want me to print?

Me: sigh