29 January 2013


From “How did a newbie make an unapproved film in Disney parks?

“I have nothing against Disney,” Moore said when asked if he saw his film as political. “It’s just upsetting that it was about a one-man vision, and now it’s like so much of the world in how corporate it’s all gotten,” he said. “I look at Apple and Steve Jobs and my biggest fear is that something like this will happen there.”

Also, I think it is unbelievably stupid that Disney would even have a legal case to prevent this guy from sharing his and his team’s work. Certainly there are limits on free speech, but those limits should be about the common good not business interests.

28 January 2013

The trouble with online conversations

Twitter, Facebook, G+, blog comments, web forums, &c. None of them seem able to handle one very important thing that NNTP clients did since the 1980s: Keep track of what I’ve read & what I haven’t.

The Twitter iOS client does a decent job of remembering my position in its time stream. That position doesn’t sync between my iPhone, my iPad, & the web site, though. Twitter is also not a great medium for conversation in many other ways, though.

Some web forums make an attempt at it, but I haven’t seen one that does it well. Although it has been a while since I was keeping up with forums.

On ability scores

I’ve already dropped the Intelligence ability score from my classic D&D games. I haven’t missed it. Since I’ve already messed with the ability scores, let’s take a further look at them.

I’ve never been overly found of Wisdom either, but I do like having “will power” stat. Wisdom often gets used for that, so let’s rename it Will.

It’s tempting to combine Strength and Constitution. On the other hand, it is nice to keep the melee modifier and hit point modifier separate.

Dexterity, on the other hand, is doing double-duty as ranged modifier and armor class modifier. Let’s split the AC modifier to a new ability called Quickness.

Charisma I like.

Which yields:

  • Strength (melee modifier)
  • Constitution (hit point modifier)
  • Dexterity (ranged attack modifier)
  • Quickness (armor class modifier)
  • Charisma (reaction modifier)
  • Will (saving throw modifier)

Edit: Those are just the primary effect of each ability. They can be used for other things as well.

(Look! It’s the Tri-Stat system with each stat broken in two!)

This would also be compatible with the d20 system saves: Constitution → Fortitude, Quickness → Reflexes, & Will → Will.

Skyland winter solstice presents

After saving the town of Tayce from an ice demon during our group’s 2012 Christmas game, the Skyland characters each received a special present. These notes accompanied the gifts.

To: Ammut

When you hold this cat’s eye marble up to your eye, you will be able to see in the dark. It’s not as good as an elf’s vision, and your view is narrow, but it is better than being blind, no? Use it in good health!

From: K.K. Nicholas

To: Serena

This hasp is special besides being nicely made. It will magically lock whatever you place it on. (Wizard lock at the user’s level.)

From: K.K. Nicholas

To: Shirina

I hope you like this matched sword and dagger set. I think you will find that they work best together. (They are a short blade and dagger. When used together, if you hit, you will do d6 damage as usual, but you can make a second attack roll. If the second roll hits as well, you do an additional d4.)

From: K.K. Nicholas

To: Gix

These boots are said to be of dwarfish make. I think you will find that they make it easier to maneuver whilst encumbered. (You can move at your full 120 movement rate even while wearing heavy armor.)

From: K.K. Nicholas

To: Naevana

This torc is rumored to be of faerie make, and—as you can see—quite beautiful and finely made. It is said the faerie-queen had it enchanted to make herself more persuasive. All legend and rumor I am sure. (Wearing this will improve your charisma modifier by +1.)

From: K.K. Nicholas

To: Torvwl

This stole is said to have been owned by Mother Florence of the Nightingale, famous for her healing powers. I’m dubious of the claims that it can heighten the healing capabilities of others, but it is quite handsome. I hope you will enjoy it. (When casting healing spells while wearing the stole, roll twice and use the better roll.)

From: K.K. Nicholas

To: Baldwyn

As you may have surmised, this contraption is a double crossbow. You can fire twice before needing to reload. Most cleverly, the mechanism allows both strings to be cocked simultaneously, so reloading both is nigh as quick as reloading a normal crossbow. One word of warning, I am told that one should avoid trying to fire both quarrels simultaneously. They says it was created by the famous inventor, Suladæd. A queen had captured the inventor and commanded him to devise new weapons to give her armies advantages over her foes. This was one of those inventions. Unfortunately, Suladæd’s gift had a unique quirk. It is said he was never able to create more than one working instance of any of his inventions. As you can imagine, that did not please his patron...but this is not the time for that story. May it serve you well.

From: K.K. Nicholas

26 January 2013

Skeuomorphism isn’t all bad (IMHO)

Rene Ritchie of iMore mocked up what some of Apple’s iOS apps might look like without skeuomorphism.

I wouldn't miss the skeuomorphism in Calendar, Contacts, or Find my friends. I don't think I'd miss it in iBooks. But I would miss it in Game Center.

24 January 2013

Robert’s drive-through protocol

This is silly, but it goes through my head every time I go through a drive-through.

The order taker will not begin by asking if the customer wants something specific.

The customer will order one item at a time and wait for the order taker to acknowledge the item before preceding to the next item.

A “combo meal” counts as a single item.

The order taker will not interrupt the customer unless the customer has proceeded to order another item without waiting for acknowledgement of the previous item.

When the customer has finished ordering an item, the order taker will then ask for any clarification about that item if necessary. Otherwise, the order taker will simply acknowledge that they are ready for the next item.

When the customer has ordered all items, they will indicate such. e.g. “And that’s it.”

While the order taker may at this time suggest an addition to the order, it should be an appropriate addition. e.g. The suggestion to add a fried apple pie to a breakfast taco order would be inappropriate.

The order taker will then repeat the order to the customer at an even pace.

Browser/OS stats for this blog

I was looking through the blog’s stats, and the browser and OS stats seemed kind of interesting.

  • 63% Firefox
  • 15% Chrome
  • 10% Safari
  • 8% Internet Explorer
  • 40% Macintosh
  • 37% Windows
  • 16% Linux
  • 2% iPad
  • 2% iPhone
  • < 1% Android
  • < 1% Other Unix

Based on what I’ve been seeing from more generic reports, that seems atypical. I’m surprised that Chrome isn’t closer to or a bigger percentage than Firefox. I’d expect Safari and IE to be reversed, but they are pretty close. It seems that fewer of my visitors who use Macs use Safari than I would’ve thought.

For this blog, that’s pretty much just trivia. If you are someone who has to make decisions based off this kind of data, though, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to collect your own data rather than relying on what others report. e.g. When I was in the shrink-wrapped software business, Macs made up a lot more of my company’s market than the general marketshare they held at the time.

23 January 2013

Highlights at dndclassics.com

Here are some items on dndclassics.com that I thought were worth highlighting.

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (Moldvay edit): I may be biased. This was my first role-playing game purchase. I still think, however, that this is the best version of the game published under its own name. While it is heavily rooted in the original game; it is cleaned up, organized, and communicates more clearly than its predecessors. It’s compatible enough with all other TSR-era editions of D&D and AD&D that you can cherry pick bits from them when and if you want to expand on it.

This book only covers levels 1 to 3. With its companion Expert Set, you have a game that goes to level 14 and beyond. As I’m writing this, though, the Expert Set Rulebook is not yet available on dndclassics.com.

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands: This adventure came in the box set with the Basic Set Rulebook above. In some ways, I consider this as much part of the “core rules” as the Rulebook itself. It gives some practical advice and examples for Dungeon Masters.

HR1–7 The “historical reference” series: These are for me perhaps the best things to come out of the AD&D 2nd edition era. I’ve always liked a bit of history in my games. I think game books about history in some ways do a better job of giving you a feel for what historical periods were like than most history texts. Because they are more concerns with playing in that world rather than describing historically significant events. Here are the links:

Rules Compendium (3e): (Not to be confused with the Rules Cyclopedia, which I hope will appear on dndclassics.com in the future.) While the Wizards-era 3rd edition isn’t my favorite edition of the game; I do like it, and I do play it. So, I’m curious about a book that purports to bring the most important rules of that game together along with correcting errata. Although, I’m not sure it would be any more useful than the Hypertext d20 SRD.

Unearthed Arcana (3e): (Not to be confused with the first edition AD&D Unearthed Arcana which is not yet available through dndclassics.com.) This book may be the most “old school” book of the Wizards-era 3rd edition. Because it gives you all sorts of tools for modifying the game and making it your own. All the rules are also open content and available in the Hypertext d20 SRD. The book itself, however, also includes some helpful commentary.

Edit: ...and I have now purchased all the items on this list.

22 January 2013

Wizards of the Coast

I’m going to talk about the next edition of D&D below so, a couple of points to begin with...

  1. Yes, “D&D Next” is a terrible name. That’s because it’s a project name. The real name will be decided (I assume) by actual marketing people when the project gets closer to becoming products.
  2. I will reiterate that Wizards should make clear on the books what edition of the game it is. There’s already enough confusion for non-collectors looking at D&D books and not being able to tell what edition they are.

OK, now on to the thinking aloud...

First, we have what Mike Mearls wrote in “Legends and Lore: D&D Next Goals, Part Two”. I like what he says under the head “The Basic Rules”. This is what I want the the D&D brand to be doing for the hobby. And what’s good for the hobby is good for Wizards. By attracting more than just the people who like a single style, they will build a market they can sell lots of different RPGs to.

Which, I think, is the real answer to the fragmentation problem, which Next has the potential to exacerbate. Instead of trying to get everyone playing the same game, you “narrowcast” with multiple games. Especially since a lot of those customers will buy more than one of those games.

(I know that goes against the conventional wisdom of what TSR’s downfall was, but TSR had many and bigger problems.)

On a side note, I saw the question, “Why do you want more people to play D&D?” What I want is for everyone that would enjoy D&D or the hobby in general to be able to find it. For good or ill, most people’s first contact with the hobby will be D&D. So, if D&D is too heavily focused on a certain style of play, it gives lots of people the impression that it is representative of the hobby when its not. While a basic D&D may not be the game for everyone, it is more likely to send those who don’t like it looking for an RPG that they do like than to send them away thinking there is nothing in the hobby for them.

I don’t like some of the stuff under the head “Current Design Goals” in that Legends and Lore column, though.

Second, we have dndclassics.com. Good quality PDFs of older edition material with no DRM with text that is searchable through RPGNow (and DriveThruRPG). They even have the 1981 Basic booklet that is my favorite but which had never been offered in PDF in the past. I am happy to say that I am a Wizards of the Coast customer again.

21 January 2013

My dream text editor and word processor

There’s a discussion on Branch about Your Dream Text Editor / Word Processor. I submitted an answer, but it won’t show up unless I get approved to join the branch. In fact, there doesn’t even seem to be a way for me to see what I wrote until/unless I get added to the branch. Weird. (But then it took me a while just to figure out how to add the branch to my Branch “drawer”.) So, it goes here too.

My dream text editor would be mostly like Vim, but with Scheme underneath.

I’ve had to work on enough systems where vi was the only practical editor that I found it easier to use Vim on the systems where I could install something more powerful. I’ve really come to like it except for its ad hoc scripting language. I’d envy the Emacs people except that I think elisp would just annoy me by being almost Scheme. ^_^

My dream word processor would be something akin to Amaya or UX Write. I want the output to be clean HTML. I want to be able to do semantic formatting as I write without having to type raw HTML, LaTeX, or Markdown.

Plus I’d like a high quality HTML to PDF/print converter. HTML+CSS has features that ought to allow generating LaTeX quality print.