22 March 2015

Rust monster

The rust monster is one of those D&D monsters that is interesting because it requires different tactics than usual.

Well, it has the potential for that to make it interesting. When the PCs encountered one in my Skylands campaign, standard tactics worked just fine, and the PCs never saw its special ability in action. The character with the highest AC—who might have been reluctant to attack if he’d known what a rust monster was—took it on essentially by himself. The rust monster never scored a hit.

The rust monster presents two dangers: One to metal armor and one to metal weapons. Let’s look at weapons first.

I was using the Rules Cyclopedia description, which says...

A successful attack roll indicates that the rust monster’s body is hit, which does not harm the weapon.

I see now, however, that Moldvay wrote...

If a character hits a rust monster, or if a rust monster hits a character with its antenna, it will cause any metal armor or weapons touching it to immediately rust

If I had used the Moldvay description, the players would have discovered the danger to weapons.

We could do a middle-ground approach. Only the antenna cause rust, but give each attack against the rust monster some chance of hitting the antenna instead of the body. And allow anyone who is specifically avoiding the antenna to do so with at a penalty.

But that’s more complication than I want. So I’ll run rust monsters the Moldvay way in the future.

Aside: So often when I find a difference between another edition (or a retro-clone) and Moldvay/Cook/Marsh D&D, I prefer the latter. It’s the organization, though, that has me using the RC and the Creature Catalog at the table.

To me, the rust monster’s danger to armor, however, is the more interesting aspect. Once the danger is realized, it is easy enough for the PCs to change weapons. It is harder to change armor. But that danger is never realized if the rust monster can never land a hit.

I’m not a big fan of “touch AC” as a generalized rule. I want characters to have a single armor class as much as possible.

Using “touch AC” as a special rule for a specific monster, however, I think fits in the classic D&D style. So I’m liking the idea that a rust monster’s attacks ignore armor.

(Thanks to everyone one G+ who participated in the discussion about this back in December.)

21 March 2015

Size-based combat modifiers in D&D

(Here’s a post I started a long time ago. My group has started up another 3e campaign, though, so time to finish it up and publish it.)

In 3e D&D, a “small” creature gets a +1 to attack rolls (which makes it easier for them to hurt others in combat) and a +1 to Armor Class (which makes them harder to be hurt in combat). Conversely, a “large” creature gets a -1 to attack rolls (which makes it harder for them to hurt others in combat) and a -1 to Armor Class (which makes them easier to be hurt in combat). Bigger and smaller creatures have larger and smaller modifiers in the same vein.

Here is the relevant section from the d20 SRD

The problem here is that 3e often falls for a fundamental mistake about how the underlying combat system works. The attack roll was formerly called a “to hit” roll, but if you analyze the entire system, you see that thinking of this roll as actually determining whether an attack made contact doesn’t really make sense. Attack rolls, armor class, damage rolls, and hit points really have to be treated together as an abstract system.

If you say that because larger creatures are easy to hit than smaller creatures and thus give the larger creature a penalty to Armor Class, you haven’t really represented that larger creatures are easier to hit. What you’ve done is made the larger creature less effective in combat. The D&D combat system doesn’t answer the question of whether an attack hits. It answers the question of how effective each combatant is.

You can say that adjustments to constitution scores, hit dice, and hit points make up the difference. In truth, however, they really don’t.

It might work, however, to reverse the modifiers. Giving small creatures a penalty to attack rolls and AC would make them less effective in combat, which is what I would expect the general rule to be. Giving large creatures a bonus to attack rolls and AC would make them more effective in combat, which—again—is what I would expect the general rule to be.

20 March 2015

How not to sell car insurance

The Internet is for ranting about things you find offensive, right? And this blog is about “thinking out loud”...

A car insurance commercial that implies that today “men are superior drivers” is an idea that would be entertained as anything but pure stupidity offends me.

Also, trying to use a logical fallacy to dispute stupidity. (i.e. If group A really were superior drivers, group B could still contain good drivers.)

Also, a commercial that tries to refute a sexist sentiment by changing a woman’s voice into a man’s voice.

The thing more surprising than this thing actually being aired is that it is still being shown.

19 March 2015

Gold Apple watches (revisited)

A gold Apple watch will not be useless in two years. It will likely be able to perform the same function that other gold watches do—show the time—as long as the battery can still be recharged. It may not last as long as a comparably priced mechanical watch, but neither will it be worthless as soon as a cell phone. (And just because many people buy a new phone every year or two, that doesn’t mean that lots of people aren’t happy to use them longer.)

It seems that the amount of gold in a gold Apple watch is likely a very small fraction of the price. I think, however, that the point that Apple products tend to hold their value well stands. They probably won’t hold their value as much as a Rolex, but I expect them to hold their value at least as well as an iPhone.

11 March 2015


When I (often) say that magazines make no sense today, it really isn’t for the reasons people seems to assume.

For instance, it has little to do with economics. (Or...at least...basic economics.)

Today each bit of content can be published individually. It can be searchable & updatable. Instead of being collected based on when it was published, it can be linked together and cataloged in thousands of different ways at once.

There is no denying that there are people who are passionate about magazines and who are still producing some compelling works. But from a strictly functional perspective, I don’t think they make any sense.

10 March 2015

Wish list: HEMA video game

I backed CLANG, but in the end, I don’t think I’ll ever be very satisfied with a motion control sword fighting game.

What I’d really like is a HEMA-based game along the lines of Bushido Blade.

09 March 2015

IPhone and sentences

The word “if” is not normally capitalized. If it comes at the beginning of a sentence, however, it is.

The word “iPhone”, despite being a proper noun, is not normally capitalized. IPhone, when it is the first word of a sentence, however, ought to be capitalized.

08 March 2015

The problem with Google search

Google and blogs

Google changed everything by creating a search engine that was resistant to gaming the system. The problem is, of course, that users don’t pay to use it. And Google is a for-profit business. It was only a matter of time before it stopped serving the interests of its users. Users are no longer the customers; they are the product.

07 March 2015

Limited only by your imagination

Role-playing games are limited only by your imagination.

It is humbling each time you realize that what you saw as the game’s limits were really limits of your own imagination.

06 March 2015


What would Jesus do?

Not to knock the sentiment behind it, but I’m not sure that...really...that’s a question we should be asking ourselves. I’m not convinced Jesus was meant as an exemplar as much as a teacher.

e.g. If Jesus is God, and if He told us that we are not to judge because to judge is God’s place, not ours... Then what we should do is different than what God, and therefore Jesus, does. Perhaps God as Jesus meant to be an exemplar and thus limited Himself to doing what we should do. But are we sure.

shrug In the end, I guess I find that kind of line of argument unpersuasive per se. We shouldn’t get so caught up with logic puzzles as much as trying to understand what the gist of the message.

In any case, when reading scripture, I tend to pay more attention to what it tells us Jesus said than what it tells us He did.

05 March 2015

Jesus and fundamentalism

Jesus spoke out against the ways of the fundamentalists of his time. But he never taught that we should directly oppose them. His teaching is that I should concentrate on doing the right thing and not waste time judging others.

(The best I seem to do is that I sometimes keep myself from expressing my judgements. I am still working on the actually not judging.)

So, I have come to accept that fundamentalism is always going to be there. Because the fundamentalists are vocal, they are going to widely been seen as exemplars of the faith even though they are not. That is not for me to correct, as much as I might want to. The task laid for me is not to fight that but to simply worry about my own path.

Doing so, I can sow seeds among those who I have direct contact with. But sowing the seeds is not the purpose but a side-effect. If I am making choices in order to sow seeds, I am not sowing authentic seeds. When I concentrate on my path, then the seeds will sow themselves.

04 March 2015

Spelling reform

The problem with those who are argue for English spelling reform is that they think everything should be spelled the way as they pronounce it. But not every native English speaker pronounces everything the same way. Arguably, one of the primary reasons English spelling became more uniform was so that speakers from different areas (even within the same country) could read each other’s writing.

03 March 2015

The Pebble Time

While I am planning to get an Apple Watch, there is a lot to like about Pebble. And their next one looks even better.

Pebble Time Kickstarter

02 March 2015

Maker Shack

(The usual “catching up on long waiting blog drafts” once again means this about old news...)

The Rise of RadioShack

Radio Shack was the “maker store” of my childhood. Too bad they didn’t manage to adapt to serve today’s maker scene.

01 March 2015

Gold Apple Watches and upgrades

I don’t think a solid-gold Apple Watch needs to be upgradeable. Because it is solid-gold. Gold never becomes obsolete. There are companies that will pay you a significant portion of the original purchase price for your year-old iPhone so you can upgrade. There will certainly be companies that will buy a year-old, solid-gold Apple Watch for an even more significant portion of your original purchase price so you can upgrade.

(Of course, we’re talking about subsidies with the phone, but still...solid gold.)

Edit: follow-up