30 July 2012

(A)D&D hardback spines

Say, you’re in a Half Price Books looking at the role-playing games. You’ll probably see some books that look like these. (Clicking it should show you a bigger version.)

(You may want to reference my D&D ID page and the time line in Wikipedia’s “Editions of Dungeons & Dragons” article while reading this.)

The top two represent first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons published by TSR. (Of course, it wasn’t called “first edition” at the time. That came later when second edition was published.) Later books had the orange spine. Some of the early books where later printed with new covers and the orange spine, but the contents are the same.

The third and fourth represent second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons published by TSR. Again, the fourth one is later books. Some of the earlier books where printed with new covers and spines to match this new trade dress but, again, the contents are the same. Note that the later books lack the handy “2nd Edition” text.

Note that all edition of the game published by TSR are highly compatible.

The fifth spine represents “third edition” Dungeons & Dragons published by Wizards of the Coast. Note, again, that there is nothing that explicitly says “third edition” here, although that’s what it is most commonly called.

The sixth spine represents “3.5” Dungeons & Dragons published by Wizards of the Coast. The “core” books did say “v.3.5” on the cover, but other books didn’t. Honestly, though, I don’t have enough 3.5 era books to tell you much about distinguishing 3.0 from 3.5. Mainly I do it through knowing pretty much all the 3.0 products, so if I don’t recognize it, it is probably 3.5. ^_^ The good news is that 3.0 and 3.5 are very compatible.

The seventh spine represents “fourth edition” Dungeons & Dragons published by Wizards of the Coast.

I believe there was only one hardback ever published for “classic D&D”. i.e. The “non-advanced” D&D published by TSR before and parallel with AD&D. That is the Rules Cyclopedia. Everything else for classic D&D was, I believe, saddle-stitched or boxed sets.

Of course, what you really need is a “pocket guide”, but this is what you get. ^_^

I’d love to do something like this for the perfect bound books as well, but I don’t actually have any of them.

Hey, Wizards of the Coast! If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll understand why I don’t think “D&D next” should just say “Dungeons & Dragons” on the cover. Even if I’m playing “D&D next”, I’m going to occasionally see second-hand books, and I’d like it to be easy to tell unambiguously if a book with “D&D” on the cover is intended for the game I’m playing or not. Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re going for the “make it easy to use anything from any edition”, but as a customer, I still want every book to tell me what edition it was originally intended for. I shouldn’t have to have the knowledge of a collector for this. There is zero reason for this confusion to exist. I know everyone at TSR and Wizards thought it made sense at the time to do what they did, but you were wrong. Please, do not contribute to the confusion. Thank you.

25 July 2012

Classic Doctor Who on Netflix and iTunes

A little project I finished up today. I tried to find all the classic Doctor Who serials available through Netflix (streaming) and iTunes and sort them in chronological order.

Classic Doctor Who serials on Netflix and iTunes

The file is in CSV format, which any spreadsheet app—like Numbers or OpenOffice† or Excel—ought to be able to open. (If it matters, the character encoding is UTF-8.) It has the...

  • Number of the serial
  • The title
  • Which Doctor it features (this is blank for multiple Doctor episodes)
  • Whether it is available through Netflix or iTunes (or both)
  • What story arc it is a part of
  • And any notes I thought to make about it

Note that, in general, you don’t really need to watch them in chronological order. Although, I think it is still nice to know the order. The story arcs are probably best to watch in order, though.

You might think that it would be in Netflix’s, iTunes’, and the BBC’s interest to make this kind of information easily available and up-to-date. Instead, all you can do—as far as I can tell—with Netflix or iTunes is search for “Doctor Who”, pick the classic serials out of the results, and cross-reference the titles against Wikipedia or another list of the serials. The BBC seems uninterested in letting you know that these are available via Netflix or iTunes much less giving you any guidance about this subset.

I didn’t include Amazon streaming since I’m not set up to use it yet. There are some episodes on Facebook, but I haven’t gotten that working yet. If there are any other ways to stream classic Doctor Who or purchase them as downloads in the US, I’d be interested.

†Is OpenOffice still the open source “office suite” of choice?

Update (31 March 2013): I put together a list of episodes available on Amazon Instant Video. Tomb of the Cybermen, Robots of Death, Horror of Fang Rock, Earthshock, and Vengeance of Varos appear to only be available through Amazon. (I didn’t recheck the Netflix and iTunes episodes, so what’s available there may have changed.)

23 July 2012

7-inch iPad?

A 7-inch iPad makes absolutely no sense to me. Despite all the rumors, I don’t think Apple will release one. Although, the rumors are starting to get to the point where I’m beginning to believe that I’m wrong.

But lots of people thought the iPad made no sense. Lots of people still think the iPad makes no sense. That’s because—while it is the kind of device I’ve been wanting since the Newton, EO, and Pilot days—it doesn’t make sense for them. And that’s the way it is for a 7-inch tablet. It doesn’t make sense for me, but I maybe it does make sense for other people.

17 July 2012

You are getting sleepy...

From the Moldvay-edited D&D Basic Set...

Range: 240'
Duration: 4-16 turns

This spell will put creatures to sleep for 4d4 turns. The caster can only affect creatures with 4+1 hit dice or less. Only 1 creature with 4+1 hit dice will be affected; otherwise, the spell affects 2-16 (2d8) hit dice of creatures. The undead cannot be put to sleep. When affecting a group of creatures of mixed levels (hit dice), lower level creatures will always be put to sleep before higher level ones. Any “pluses” are ignored (for example, 2+1 hit dice is treated as 2 hit dice). Creatures with less than 1 hit die are still considered as 1 hit die. Any sleeping creature may be awakened by force (such as a slap). A sleeping creature may be killed (regardless of its hit points) with a single blow with any edged weapon.

EXAMPLE: A party encounters 4 hungry lizard men. Sarien, an elf, casts a sleep spell at them. The DM rolls 2d8; the result of 7 means that 7 levels of creatures are affected. Lizard men have 2+1 hit dice each, treated as 2 for the effects of this spell. Three lizard men fall asleep: 7 divided by 2 equals 3 &12;, but a creature cannot be “partially” asleep from the spell.

Perhaps listing only a range and no area of effect is intentional†, but what if it isn’t an area-of-effect spell? I’m considering the following clarification:

Before rolling the HD affected, the player must indicate which creatures are being targeted. The caster must be able to see the targets. Then, after the roll, the DM determines which creatures are actually affected, giving preference to the lower HD creatures as described above.

So, the caster could choose to only target a higher HD creature to prevent lower HD creatures from soaking it all up. And I think I’m OK with that, since there’s a trade-off here. e.g. Target fewer creatures with more consistent results or target more creatures with more random results. In also means that Sleep won’t accidentally affect an ally, and that’s the way I’ve usually played it anyway.

†For what it’s worth, in the Rules Cyclopedia, an area of effect was specified. I believe it said a 40-foot square.

06 July 2012

The reciprocal mechanic

For an RPG resolution mechanic, I like coin pools. I like that it is open-ended on the high end. i.e. There’s no upper limit on the scores that determine how many coins are in the pool. I like that it has diminishing returns. i.e. Each coin added to the pool increases the probability of success by a smaller increment than the previous coin.

What I don’t like is that the increments still seem a bit too big.

To get smaller increments, what if the chance of failure equals the reciprocal of the score? e.g. A score of 4 would grant a 1/4th chance of failure. Thus, a 3/4 chance of success.

OK. I like those numbers better, but how do we do this with dice?

One way is to roll a die with a number of sides equal to the score being used. Anything except a 1 means success.

And you thought people complained a lot about DCC using d3, d5, d7, etc.

It’s really not that bad, though. Just choose the next bigger die you have and reroll results higher than the score. e.g. For a score of 5, roll a d6. 1 = failure; 2 to 5 = success; 6 = reroll.

It gets a bit annoying for scores between 12 and 20. At 13, if you’re rolling a d20 and rerolling 14s and above, you’ll be rerolling 35% of the time. Having a d14 and d16 helps out. A d24 and a d30 help for scores over 20. Over 30 starts calling for some creative solutions. At 30, though, we’re up to a 96.7% chance of success, and 2 to 30 is a decent range for scores. Probably more than is really needed.

Alternatively, you could use drawing chits or cards or stones. Put a number of stones equal to the score in a bag. One of them should be a different color than the rest. Draw out the odd stone and it’s a failure.

Any other method?