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Adventures in PoD publishing

The Disoriented Ranger - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 16:05

Getting a book published in the OneBookShelf family of sites (drivethrurpg et al.) is relatively easy, all things considered. Style Sheets, guides and all the data one can think of are readily available and the team is quite fast and capable as well (not a sponsor, I'm just happy with them ...). When it gets down to the nitty-gritty (interesting little sidetrack on those words, btw) it can still get tricky. Especially if you have strange ideas like going Print on Demand only, like yours truly did. So here I write about my failings for you to avoid in the future (or something like this).

Why only PoD, though?

It needs a justification, of sorts. I think (and people asked, so there's that). Short answer: this was layouted with print in mind, so that's what you get. Claiming that there isn't much of a difference between a print book and a pdf shows a lack of understanding of both forms of media, imo. A proper book will make less sense as a pdf and vice versa.

Arguably, they should be two very different entities, considering how differently they will be used. Print will need a format that is limited by what a reader can handle, digital is limited by the device it is read on. Print needs a very different structure for the information it present than digital does (print references pages, for instance, digital might have searchable terms, and so on). Print is an object with a certain usability, look and habtic, pdf can be a living document with lots of possibilities to change and expand, actually - unless you try acting like it's a "printed book" ... I guess you see my trajectory at this point.

Epubs actually already show what's possible, or at least a direction. Text isn't ficxed to pages, but conforms to the display instead. Font size can be adjusted, you can have comments written into the book, there is a metastructure to access different information clusters. But Epubs aren't "objects". They are an arrangement of files and it's difficult for such a format to be anything other than a collection of information. No art, no layout, just interconnected words. However, that's not only totally alright, it's an important distinction.

Now, when we are talking novels or stories in general, plain text is all you get, so going Epub is perfect if you are going for content alone. With a good reader it's almost like reading a proper book. But we all know that there is a difference. Even at that basic level a printed book can be far superior to the same content presented in an e-reader (or, worse yet, on a computer screen). With a little care put into layout, paper and cover, reading can be a joy unmatched by the digital experience.

To have a rpg book like that, right? [source]

To some degree this is taste, but there are so many options a printed book has that are superiour to what digital can do right now, that taste really doesn't cut it as an argument. And as far as I'm aware, people are still buying far more printed books than digital ones. Significantly more (check the US market alone (here at statista): 675m printed versus 191m epub!).

Furthermore, print is not only its own thing, it's also an object you own and to do with whatever you want. It's not in a cloud that might go kaputt or be corrupted or change ownership, it's protected from being altered by anybody other than the owner after the fact (even the author, but also big corp or politics), you can borrow it to others, you can read it again 20 years later, actually, your children might be able to read the book after you are long gone ...

Printed books are objects that can have character. We have in our library the version of Goethe's Faust I my wife's grandfather had with him during the war. I own several different prints of the Tao Te Ching, same content but with nuances that make each publication unique and worthwhile. You just don't have that with digital files.

Life goals ... [source]

And that's just as classic an argument as you can get in this regard. Today it's even more distinct. In a society that tries to tell you that you don't have to own anything other than (maybe) the rights to use something (and even that limited to time or number of users or format), owning a printed book is a form of autonomy that gets more and more threatened by big businesses that really don't want you to have any form of agency at all. 

This trend is already so imminent in the digital sphere that people actually start going back to buying DVDs/Blue-Rays and games and all that as hard copies, just to be left alone at home (while streaming services are trying to have your living room scanned for the number of viewers and bullshit like that, I kid you not). Google listens to everything and not only reads your mail, but also offers to correct it for political correctness, facebook films your face to see what mood you are in and sells that information to advertisers, game companies want you to pay for every minute you play and some extra for good measure.

There's also a flood of content, and not only the newest or "best", but also bullshit content that gets offered for no other merit than that someone wanted you to be pestered with it. Look at Netflix, for instance: a sea of mediocre content that you can't really structure or control yourself, with shifting licenses and even occassionally alterted scenes for good measure. So bad, it's unbearably difficult to find even casual entertainment, never mind something resembling quality.

And we are not even starting to talk about how hard it got for small content creators to be "just" seen ... 

Big Corp being nice to you ... [source]

Anyway, I digress. The bottom line is, if it's digital, it's in constant flux AND control is out of the hands of those creating as well as those owning (if you are even allowed to own it). If it's digital, you almost expect that it is an unfinished product, that some update will come along, some form of alteration will happen sooner or later. So why bother? Why care beyond superficial browsing?

I have several GB of rpg pdfs on my drives. Haven't really looked closely at more than 2 % of them, but have seen the art in all of them! And those I really like, btw, I want in print ... So that's just that. Take all the above into consideration and you know why I went for PoD only. There is a rarity I really like to the fact that this is only available as print. It's also finite in that it won't change easily, and that comes with a special pressure to make it as solid a book as possible (for reading, for use at the table, etc.).

If you get this book, you'll hold in hands what I imagined it to be (for as far as that's in my control, that is). The fact that it's an actual object as well (an object you invested into, no less), will additionally make it far more likely that you will, at some point, actually sit down and give this some attention. I like my odds there.

It's just not what you'd expect, right?

At least that's my impression from my interaction with OBS. For one, while it is possible to sell PoD only (thank god! ... that'd been awkward), it's not possible to have a preview, as no actual pdf version was approved (print pdf does not count, for that matter).

That's actually a conundrum, since how are people supposed to know what they will get into without a preview. Artistic choices are all nice and dandy, but no one will buy a cat in a bag with price tag but no way to know what they'll get for the money.

The fix for this ties in nicely with reasons for why  and where pdfs can be useful after all. I'm long enough in the hobby to remember a time where you took your role-playing book to a copy shop to get some character sheets printed right out of the book itself.

No one is doing this today, or should be expected to do so, which is why I planned from the beginning to offer a pdf compilation of all the files you'd might want to have printed (they are still in the book, if you feel nostalgic about going completely old school about it). For someone actually aiming to be able to play this game at some point, it'd be a must-have download that had to be free anyway. Furtermore, it needn't be hidden behind a "mature content" curtain, as the game itself is, and the same is true for the book preview (if done properly). So adding the book preview to the supplement was an easy fix of the problem.

It's a separate file, so if you came for the supplement you can just ignore the preview. And if you came for the preview, you get files you'll need anyway if you decide to actually buy the game. It's a win-win, imo, so I went for it and you can check that out here.

One note on that publication as well (all resulting from self-made problems, for sure): I had already made the cover for the supplement as DIN A4 horizontal, but that isn't supported by OBS. Instead, it needs to be vertical to be displayed properly.

Here's the cover that didn't work ...
 Fixed easily enough, still worth knowing and noting that the cover-display file is a thing in its own right, and mustn't relate to the downloaded file at all. If you followed my line of thinking about pdfs above, you know what I'm playing at here: it's the arrangement of digital files that creates the illusion of an object while its utility and strength are actually in its fexibility.

Anyway ...

You've probably guessed it, I'm a fan of the physical book. That's a lot of my reasoning for this project, I wanted to hold it in my own hands and marvel at it. There is a whole lot more to it, however. The whole satire of the thing, the title no one will type without looking up some of the types used. The book is making it difficult and I hope you see the humor in that (I sure find things like that funny ...).

Some might be wondering if this is a viable tactic to begin with, and that's a valid question. I think the dice are still in the air about if this works out or not. That said, I make myself no illusions about the chances of one more role-playing game out there, competing with the rest (I talked here about why you might consider buying the book).

There's a flipside to that coin, though: there are people out there, trusting my work enough to get the book. Some of them might even consider making their evaluation of the book public (by sharing their enthusiasm, by giving it stars, for instance, or by writing a review) and that's just the amount of influence I have on the matter. I have no reach or clout beyond that, so those are the people I will concentrate on. If you are an indie publisher, grassroots is all you can do.

So I don't need a thousand people downloading a pdf they will skim for the art and forget about it soon afterwards. I need meaningful connections with people trusting in my work. If I manage to deliver and people end up liking my offer, it'll convince more people over time, so I'll give it my best and take my shot.

I know that at least two reviews are inbound on this (not sure how they'll take it, just knowing that they aim to share their thoughts). So stay tuned, if you are still on the fence about this.

You can get the book HERE and the supplement with the book preview HERE.

Next up, posters and mugs :)

Motive for the mug? Maybe ...


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

JBS says it is recovering quickly from a ransomware attack

Malwarebytes - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 14:58

This week another major supplier reported it had been hit with ransomware. After the Colonial Pipeline attack last month, this time the victim is the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS. JBS halted cattle slaughter at all its US plants on Tuesday after the attack caused their Australian operations to shut down on Monday. Some plant shifts in Canada were also canceled Monday and Tuesday. The company’s operations in Mexico and the UK were not impacted and are conducting business as normal.

JBS

JBS is the second largest meat and poultry processor in the US. JBS controls about 20 percent of the slaughtering capacity for US cattle and hogs. It owns the Swift brand, and most of chicken processor Pilgrim’s Pride Co. Due to the attack, US meatpackers slaughtered 22 percent fewer cattle than a week earlier. There are early fears that ongoing shutdowns of JBS plants could raise meat prices further for American consumers.

The attack

The initial press statement by JBS mentioned an “organized cybersecurity attack,” affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems. Soon after it became clear that the company was dealing with a ransomware attack because a ransom demand came in. This was later confirmed by some tweets from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

At the moment of writing it is unclear which ransomware family was involved or how the attack took place, although early reporting indicates the cybercrime group responsible is REvil. The same early reporting also indicates that, if REvil was indeed responsible for the attack, the group has not written about the attack publicly on its darkweb blog called “Happy Blog.”

Recovery

According to JBS, they have made significant progress in resolving the cyberattack that has impacted the company’s operations.

“Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat. We have cybersecurity plans in place to address these types of issues and we are successfully executing those plans. Given the progress our IT professionals and plant teams have made in the last 24 hours, the vast majority of our beef, pork, poultry and prepared foods plants will be operational tomorrow.”

A one-day recovery time is remarkably fast, as many organizations takes weeks and sometimes even months to become fully operational after suffering a ransomware attack. We have even seen companies go bankrupt over the costs.

International intervention

What is also notable about this incident, as well as the attack on Colonial Pipeline, is the fact that the Biden administration has sent another warning to Russia, which is believed to be the origin of the cyberattacks. White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said:

“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.”

Biden is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva later this month.

Supply chains and critical infrastructure

The attacks on critical infrastructure—especially in supplies that we need on a daily basis—are very disruptive and it is no wonder that governments are likely to get involved. But it makes us wonder why the supply chains for food and oil seem to be a higher priority than other critical services like healthcare, schools, and emergency services, all of which have suffered countless attacks without political intervention. On the other hand, Colonial Pipeline and JBS represent suppliers for whom there are no immediate replacements if they shut down for a long time.

Of course, it is also possible that these attacks are done under the guise of ransomware attacks, but are in reality probes to see how vulnerable our infrastructure is, especially when major targets like Colonial Pipeline and JBS are involved.

The need to better secure the nation’s supply chains prompted the Department of Homeland Security last month to issue new security directives to regulate the pipeline industry for the first time. Maybe we can expect something similar for major food suppliers soon.

Ransomware Task Force

JBS reportedly informed the government about the ransomware attack, which is exactly the kind of behavior that the Ransomware Task Force would like to see of ransomware victims. The Ransomware Task Force (RTF), is a think tank composed of more than 60 volunteer experts who represent organizations encompassing industries and governments. The RTF has recently pushed out a comprehensive and strategic plan for tackling the increasing threat and evolution of ransomware.

Stay safe, everyone!

The post JBS says it is recovering quickly from a ransomware attack appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Techie Feeds

Wednesday Comics

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 11:55


My continued dive month by month into DC Comics of the early 80s will be delayed owing to the holiday. If you're new to the feature though, you might want to step back and take a look at the offerings with a cover date of January 1980.

A Giant Shield

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 11:11
By Andy Beard & Tracy Rann Sleeping Griffon Productions Battleaxes & Beasties Levels 1-2

You’ve been hired to escort and guard a wealthy merchant into the Black Yew forest to obtain some of the wood that the forest is famous for.  Should be a simple job. . . right?

This ten page adventure is a conversational list of “first this happens and then this happens”, abstracted, of an escort mission for a merchant. It has one nice thing: a shark with legs. It makes me feel like Papers & Paychecks. 

You escort a merchant down a river to get some wood from a forest. You then escort him back to make a delivery. Along the way you fight river monsters, deal with some fey, and get ambushed a few times by thieves. The excitement I convey is not found in the adventure. The highlight is something called a Lake Finn, a shark with two stumpy legs up front. I assume they can come out of the water? Its not stated as such. The monster description focuses just on attacks, with no description or anything, but the art that comes with it is pretty nice in a “tree octopus” kind of way. Don’t worry, while a shark with legs sounds gonzo, the rest of the adventure is depressingly mundane.

We get stock NPC’s, from the slightly greedy slightly rotund merchant to the haughty elves to the mischievous faeries. Worse, we get a generic adventure, abstracted.

It is written as a long two-column text file. The formatting present is, at best a carriage return to represent a paragraph break. It is, in this, this long long section of text blocks, that the adventures to be found. You follow it by reading, not referencing. One encounter after another follows in the text, with no formatting, other than a carriage return, to separate things. First this thing happens and then this thing happens. In about as many words you are told that there will be a lake encounter and two roll twice for random encounters on the river. This represents the journey from the town you’re hired in to the forest where you gather the wood you are escorting the merchant for. That’s it. That’s the basis of the adventure. “Roll for an encounter.” This is fucking dumb. This is not how you use random tables. If you’re going to write ap plot adventure then put in encounters. Randomness in encounters is (primarily) used as a timer in D&D. No timer? WRITE A GOOD FUCKING ENCOUNTER!!!! The entire adventure is like this, just rolls random encounters, or, a throw away sentence about an ambush or something. Everything is abstracted. How long does the travel take? Not mentioned. How much does the merchant pay the elves in the forest who demand gold? Not mentioned. You need to rout a group of rous in the forest, the elves say. How many? Not mentioned. ANYTHING at all, any detail at all about the rous? No. Just “You need to rout a group of rous.” It’s all abstracted, conversation style of text, with a linear plot. It’s just a lit of ideas, nothing more than that. Nothing is alive, nothing breathes. 

What if I wrote an adventure that only said “roll four times on the random encounter chart”, but took five pages to say that? That’s this adventure. Any potential impact of the plot lines, the devious NPC’s or entanglements, that the adventure wants to do with all of the ambushes, is hidden from the players while being overly described to the DM.  This is really just a stream of consciousness set of ideas, as if this review were an adventure.  And, and … the giant shield does not make an appearance in this adventure. It’s what you are gathering thee wood for, for delivery to someone else.

This is $5 at DriveThru and there is no preview, of course. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/357892/A-Giant-Shield?1892600

This is Episode 1 of “Bryce reviews everything on his DriveThru Wishlist, in order.” You were warned.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Doctor Who: Davison and Tennant Open the Gates of Hell!

Blogtor Who - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 08:30

Under the streets of Paris, the Fifth and Tenth Doctors are teaming up against the Cybermen! It’s the second chapter in the Doctor Who – Out of Time trilogy!   Released today from Big Finish, The Gates of Hell finds Peter Davison and David Tennant reunited in the Catacombs of Paris for a full-cast multi-Doctor […]

The post Doctor Who: Davison and Tennant Open the Gates of Hell! appeared first on Blogtor Who.

Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

Compressing the Scale

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 01:02


Changing the modifiers for attributes has the ripple effect of compressing numbers all across the system. The modifiers for attributes are the default way to scale traits; your PWR modifier is the effective rating of your various talents linked to Power. If you had PWR 15 (+4), your default rating for many powers was 4. If this is linked to your hyperspeed, this means you can run 100 miles per hour; you are a lower-tier speedster. It's a respectable, albeit not particularly impressive, run speed. 

However, compressing the attribute scale means that the 15 rating is now a +3 modifier, pushing your run speed (if I was to use the same scaling) to 50 miles per hour. The old scale capped out at a +10 modifier, giving you a run speed about 10x the speed of sound; now, using the same scaling, you'd cap out just short of the speed of sound.

Two things are going to happen in the newer game; the scale is going to take slightly bigger chunks at each level, but the top end is going to cap out slightly lower. I am going with the Incredibles as the vibe for the game, but also as setting the power levels; Mr. Incredible is probably the strongest superhero in the world, but he's not Superman level strength. In FASERIP terms, he's probably Amazing (about the level of She Hulk) and maybe up near the Thing (Monstrous). He's not Unearthly - the is where our Hulk parallel would go. Since FASERIP and the Handbook of the Marvel Universe hard wired my thinking around these things, I put 100 tons as about the limit of what a superhero should be able to lift; this is far short of Superman (or even raging Hulk), but that sort of unbelievable cosmic power is not around in the world of the Incredibles. Doc Stalwart and Mr. Incredible would draw in an arm wrestling match, and Doc is my peak exemplar of superhuman strength; so I want my scale to top out near 100 tons. Sentinels came close to that, pushing one or two steps beyond. I can compress the climb, keep enough granularity for my purposes, and still check all my boxes. Here's a compressed scale for travel speeds and distances. This implies that a character with no superhuman speed (0) can travel up to 30' with an action (10' with a minor action), and up to 100' with an action and a successful Feat. A speedster character with respectable PWR (let's say 18, a +4 modifier) can travel 3000' in a single action (and 1.5 miles with an action and successful Feat). That's pretty dang quick.

One more thing: Going with the Incredibles, Dash is able to run as fast as those saucer glider things that I'd estimate are whizzing around at maybe 300 mph; but he might be making a whole bunch of successful Feats (he keeps pushing his powers). It is possible that his PWR is in the neighborhood of 14-16 (+3), and is making Feats to keep pace with those gliders. This all feels right for me.

Rating

Movement

Distance

-1

1 mph

10’

0

3 mph

30’

1

10 mph

100’

2

30 mph

300’

3

100 mph

1,000’

4

300 mph

3,000’

5

900 mph

1.5 miles

6

3,000 mph

5 miles

7

10,000 mph

15 miles

The Loop Scoop #15: A Yarny Link Party!

Moogly - Wed, 06/02/2021 - 01:01

What a fun and fabulous collection we have for Loop Scoop #15! Make yourself a new sweater or shawl, whip up that baby shower gift, or clean up beautifully with these 5 free patterns. Be sure to check out the new additions and links at the bottom as well, to help us decide what gets...

Read More

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Categories: Crochet Life

OSR Lovecraftian Commentary - Flying Buffalo's Citybook Series & The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh Series by Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull.

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 06/01/2021 - 23:33
 "With 22 businesses and services for seaport cities, mariners of every sort canfind excitement and adventure. Establishments are complete with detailed maps,fully developed NPC personalities, and over 60 suggested scenarios.  Includes scenarios written by Dave Arneson, Michael Stackpole, Bear Peters, and Charles de Lint."This blog entry picks right up from this blog entry here. So its been one Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

WhatsApp reverses course, will not limit app functionality

Malwarebytes - Tue, 06/01/2021 - 19:25

WhatsApp, the end-to-end encrypted messaging service that has lost users, its founders, and a large amount of public goodwill, issued a reversal on its recent privacy policy enforcement measures, clarifying that it will no longer punish users who refuse to share some of their data with the company’s owner, Facebook.

Previously, the company said it would restrict some users from accessing chat logs and even turn off the ability for users to receive calls and messages through the app. But in a statement to the news outlet The Next Web last week, WhatsApp said:

“Given recent discussions with various authorities and privacy experts, we want to make clear that we currently have no plans to limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works for those who have not yet accepted the update. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook.”

The reversal comes after a confusing and difficult five months for WhatsApp, which, in January, began notifying users about a new privacy policy that would include additional data sharing with Facebook. Users immediately balked at the policy request, though they misconstrued old data sharing practices that WhatsApp rolled out in 2016 with new practices from WhatsApp that would go into effect in 2021.

Never included in WhatsApp’s data sharing practices was the content of users’ messages, and it remains that way today. WhatsApp has held firm on the end-to-end encryption enabled by default for all users, and it has never hinted at breaking that encryption to allow its parent company to increase targeted advertising efforts. Instead, WhatsApp’s current privacy policy will allow the company to share certain data with Facebook about business interactions—like when a user contacts a business over WhatsApp.

Still, the confusion led to a reported exodus of users, to which WhatsApp responded by extending the initial deadline for users to agree to its privacy policy to May 15. But for users who chose not to agree to the new privacy policy, the eventual, planned consequences appeared rather extreme.

For users who refused the privacy policy, WhatsApp previously said that “after a period of several weeks,” those users would see a notification to accept the new privacy policy become persistent. Users with the persistent notification would then see limitations.

The company previously said:

“At that time, you’ll encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until you accept the updates. This will not happen to all users at the same time.

You won’t be able to access your chat list, but you can still answer incoming phone and video calls. If you have notifications enabled, you can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call.

After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.”

That language is no longer present on WhatsApp’s FAQ, but when it was first revealed, it presented a stark image to users who had perhaps chosen WhatsApp entirely because of its earlier, pro-privacy slant.

Instead, those users who chose to protect one small aspect of their online privacy were being punished. As we wrote previously:

“A private messaging app that cannot receive messages is useless, and it is ludicrous that the reason it is useless is because the company has chosen to make it that way.

This is an anti-privacy choice. It is also an anti-user choice, as users are being punished for their refusal to share data.”

Thankfully, this scenario has been avoided, but it is still frustrating that it took this level of public outrage for WhatsApp to correct course. Protecting users and protecting their choices should not be this hard.

The post WhatsApp reverses course, will not limit app functionality appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Techie Feeds

Top Comments – Pages 1505 – 1508

Looking For Group - Tue, 06/01/2021 - 15:35

Tuesday, YOU are the star! We curate our favourite comments from the previous week’s comments on lfg.co and Facebook and remind you how clever you are. Here are your top comments for Looking For Group pages 1505 – 1508 Looking […]

The post Top Comments – Pages 1505 – 1508 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Categories: Web Comics

F’Chelrak’s Tomb: The Earliest D&D Adventure Worth Playing

DM David - Tue, 06/01/2021 - 11:26

The second Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Blackmoor, arrived in April 1975. It featured Temple of the Frog, the first adventure in print. A year later, three more pioneering adventures reached gamers.

The May 1976 issue of the UK magazine Games and Puzzles included an introduction to D&D by Games Workshop co-founder Steve Jackson. “D&D is an attempt to recreate fantasy adventure using greatly modified tabletop wargaming rules.” The article devotes a half page mapping and keying “The Dungeons of the Ground Goblins.” In June 1976, California gamers Pete and Judy Kerestan published D&D’s first standalone adventure, Palace of the Vampire Queen.

To explore D&D’s origins, some modern players have tried playing these dungeons. Don’t. Temple of the Frog runs as an infiltration mission. Players looking for classic D&D will only find a total party kill.  “The Dungeons of the Ground Goblins” and Palace of the Vampire Queen describe their rooms by pairing rare words of description with lists of monsters and treasures. Both demonstrate why D&D co-creator Gary Gygax thought adventures wouldn’t sell. Any dungeon master could easily create a similar monster zoos using the Dungeon Geomorphs and Monster and Treasure Assortments that Gary’s own TSR Hobbies would soon sell.

But one other adventure reached print in June of 1976.

The Dungeoneer

While still in college, Jennell Jaquays, writing as Paul, started The Dungeoneer fanzine. For the first issue, Jaquays wrote F’Chelrak’s Tomb. The pioneering adventure and its successors proved memorable. Looking back at The Dungeoneer, Jaquays said, “It’s the adventures that stand out, and not simply because no one else was doing mini-adventures in 1976. When I read comments about the magazine or talk to fans (old and new), no one talks about the monsters, or the art, or the magic items and rules variants. It’s always the adventures.

If you want to enjoy an adventure in the spirit of ’76, explore F’Chelrak’s Tomb. The tomb fits the early game’s style: It capriciously slays characters and drops magic like candy from a parade, but it also packs enough ideas to fill a game session with wild fun.

Jaquays published 6 issues of Dungeoneer, sold the fanzine, and then started work at Judges Guild. There she penned early, classic adventures like Dark Tower and the Caverns of Thracia.

F’Chelrak’s Tomb ranks as the first published adventure that remains playable in something like its original form. The cheapest legit versions of the adventure available now are in used copies of The Dungeoneer Compendium. Sadly, Judges Guild no longer sells the PDF version of that collection.

About the tomb

As soon as dungeon masters turned from megadungeons to smaller sites, they started devising tombs. F’Chelrak’s Tomb boasts plenty of save-or-die moments, but it lacks the menace of its contemporary from Origins 1975, Tomb of Horrors.

Instead, F’Chelrak’s Tomb offers the chaotic whimsy of a Deck of Many Things. One room features a gallery of objects shrouded by sheets. When revealed, each object has some crazy effect. A sculpture of the Medusa might change the revealer to stone. A statue of a gorgeous woman could either change the revealer’s gender or it could come to life and become a lover or slave. A great stone face might polymorph the revealer into a monster, grant a point of constitution, or split a character into good and evil versions. A statue of Death disintegrates the revealer. “No resurrection is possible!” One sheet covers an artifact: a shield that doubles as a mirror of life trapping. When the owner traps too many lives, the mirror makes room by freeing Morac, a 9th-level chaotic evil lord. I suppose he wants his shield back. (I didn’t know chaotic evil was an alignment in 1976).

If left on the floor, the sheets can animate and attack because, obviously.

The adventure rests on more than the gallery. A new monster merges the Human Torch with kobolds. Some vertical architecture calls for cross-section diagrams. Traps, tricks and interesting curios litter the place.

Like the Tomb of Horrors, F’Chelrak’s Tomb comes from a time when players aimed to beat dungeons and they kept score in gold. In this spirit, the dungeon can win by stumping players with the puzzle in the first room, by hiding essential paths behind secret doors, or by tricking players into leaving after they loot a false crypt. (Today, trying to trick players into dropping out of an adventure seems unthinkable.)

The early presentation

The entire adventure spans just four pages, including a page of maps. Maps (titled “Charts”) number 1 and 3 use a familiar overhead perspective. Maps 2 and 4 show vertical cross-sections on the same graph paper, making them look like overhead maps too. Cross-section 2 puts the high-point at the top, but 4 puts its high-point on the right. The key for map 3 lists numbered locations, interrupts those numbers with a list of numbered objects, then revisits the same locations with a lettered list of traps and secret locations. This dungeon starts as a puzzle for the DM, but it can be deciphered.

Explaining the tomb to modern standards would take at least 12 pages of text. Jaquays does it in 3 by leaving all the details to the imagination of the DM. What will F’Chelrak or Morac do if they get loose? What are the stats for an attacking sheet? (Hint: Use the rug of smothering.) If an unlucky character get polymorphed in to a monster, what one? DMs must find the most fair or interesting answer to many questions.

Running F’Chelrak’s Tomb today

Using original D&D rules, I estimate this adventure would challenge a party of level 4-6.

You could also run this adventure using fifth-edition rules.

If you wanted to run this adventure as a one-shot with the feel of the early game, let the players take a party of 12, 2nd-level characters. In 1976, adventuring parties tended to be large. Many PCs will die, but that only captures the spirit. Although many of the monsters in the tomb pose a grave threat to such low-level PCs, the PCs enjoy overwhelming numbers. Nonetheless, To reduce the chance of total party kill, put only 2 manticores in room 4. Somewhere in the adventure, give survivors a rest to heal and level up. If F’Chelrak finds them, they may need to run. That qualifies as smart play.

If you want better combat encounters and a lower body count, start each player with a 5th-level character. Make the following changes:

  • Replace the 10 gremlins with magmin. The gremlins penalize melee attacks by melting weapons, but 5E characters would sweep them away with spells and ranged attacks.
  • When the players take Morac’s shield, release 6 specters rather than just 1.
  • In the flooded tomb, put 3 ghouls rather than inventing a water gargoyle. Keep them hidden in the dark water so that only water-breathing PCs can easily confront them.
  • Make F’Chelrak a level-9 magic user based on the mage stats. If he possesses one of the PCs, he will study the rest of the party before attempting to reclaim his treasure from the party.

Related: Mark Grisham created a free, 2 room tomb for original D&D that uses F’Chelrak for inspiration.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fresh Eyes - Range

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 06/01/2021 - 00:44

I'm doing a broad strokes skim through of the rules right now, looking at it with fresh eyes. This is very helpful. I'm asking about some of the foundational things - it's not that I'm looking for things to change, but I'm asking if things are in there that don't need to be. Basically, what is there because it's necessary or adds appreciably to gameplay, and what's there because I have some sort of default assumption it has to be? It's a relic of 40 years of familiarity with this system? (Yeah. It's 40 years. I started with the 1981 edition of B/X, so you do the math...)

Range is one of those things. At first, it seems to make sense - the range of Hawkeye's arrows is going to be shorter than the range of Iron Man's repulsor blasts... right? I mean, it doesn't 'feel' like it in the movies; we never have dramatic moments where Hawkeye cannot target something but Iron Man can - where Thor can hit it with his hammer but Cap cannot throw his shield. I mean, it's not a dramatic thing - it's just not a super-heroic problem.

If we are concerned with the effective difference between assault rifles and sniper rifles, then things like range become important distinctions. But for supers? Meh. I mean, we could easily have a few different range categories; people are on one, tactical weapons are on another. Yes, your laser-guided missile is going to have more range than Cyclops' eye blasts; but his eye blasts and Magneto's magnetism are fundamentally the same in terms of range. We can go with a standard range, but then add limitations or enhancements to shift range in certain circumstances. For example, we could go with: 

  1. Short is up to 50' (no modifier)
  2. Medium is 51 to 250' (-2)
  3. Long is 251' to 1,000' (-4)

Part of the fun of fantasy games and spells in general is the tactics of how certain spells work; you have to be so close to the enemy, and the fireball has such-and-such area of effect, and how do we measure this to keep from frying the party too... but supers gaming has a different vibe. It's much broader strokes. I don't see the benefit of worrying over the individual range of every power. It's one less thing to track, one less thing to log, one less thing to add as a layer to every power; it's either range or it's not. 

Then you could add limitations and boons; a ranged power that only works at short range, or that takes no range penalties at longer ranges. 

The other thing is always, for me, is this something I cared about when I was twelve? That's my default assumption. I cared a LOT about whether Thor or Wonder Man could bench press more (like, cared about this wayy too much) but I never thought about how far Spiderman could shoot his webs, and whether this was farther than Human Torch could fire a bolt of flame. It was always 'hit a guy over there' and that was good enough for me. I want granularity (or the feel of granularity) in many places; the difference between your armor skin and my armor skin matters; who can fire their bolt of lightning farther is just not on the list.

Doctor Who Collection Standard Editions: Out Now & Coming Soon

Blogtor Who - Mon, 05/31/2021 - 21:35

The Doctor Who Collection Standard Editions are here! With two more sets announced as coming soon The day is finally here and the Standard Editions of Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 12 and Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 19 are out. Originally released in 2018 in limited edition deluxe packaging, the two sets […]

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It Had To Be Felt #74: Maruyama Koretoshi: "The Essence of Mind"

Aikido News - Mon, 05/31/2021 - 21:01
It Had To Be Felt #74: Maruyama Koretoshi: "The Essence of Mind"
From: Jun Akiyama posted on 31. May 2021, 08:01pm
URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25863

The latest "It Had to Be Felt" essay is now available for your reading pleasure, this time on Maruyama Koretoshi of Aikido Yuishinkai. This essay was written by Peter Kelley. From the essay: "The essence of what he does and teaches is that, through mind, that humans can make what is impossible possible. He believes that the message of the founder was that through aikido, we can ‘self-purify,' and become better human beings. There are many things that I have come to admire about Maruyama sensei, but none more so than his constant need to train himself, constantly developing and elaborating both the way he does technique and the way he looks at aikido as a whole. "

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    "Kenshiro Abbe the Forgotten Budoka"

    Aikido News - Mon, 05/31/2021 - 21:00
    "Kenshiro Abbe the Forgotten Budoka"
    From: Henry Ellis posted on 31. May 2021, 08:00pm
    URL: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B095GRWJKD

    New Amazon Book now Available. New Amazon book available, "Kenshiro Abbe Sensei, 1915-1985 - The Forgotten Budoka". Compiled by the Martial Arts researcher Abdul Rashid. This book is an in-depth look at the life and times of this legendry man of Budo, from his childhood to his time as a captain and Brigade Commander in the Imperial Japanese Army during WW2 - his time at the Busen - Butokukwai - His competition successes in front of the Japanese Emperor, his defeat of the great Judoka Kimura also his time in the UK and Europe. This will complete our `library` of British Martial Arts history as associated to the influence of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei 8th dan Judo - 6th dan Kendo - 6th dan Aikido - 6th dan Ju-Kendo.

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    Supers Design Thinking

    The Splintered Realm - Mon, 05/31/2021 - 17:59

    I keep tinkering and jumping from idea to idea. I work on something for a bit, then feel meh, then move on. This week, it's back to supers! Don't know what if anything will come of this, but I thought I would share my thinking. That's kind of the point of my blog after all :)

    A few months ago, I decided not to work on a revision of Sentinels, because basically it would be mostly cosmetic - a tweak here and a modification there. However, in the last week or so, I've thought about some foundational things that would change the basic game engine in some not insignificant ways. Here are the first thoughts:

    1. The basic modifiers would borrow from Tales of the Splintered Realm. This scales back the numbers a little bit, and gives a little more wiggle to each of the rating categories. Now, 'monstrous' would be a score of 20-22, a +5 modifier (the old FASERIP 75 which is my go to for when I'm thinking about superhuman bricks - the Thing and Colossus both ended up at Monstrous, so it's my default thinking for PC bricks). It's a tweak, but it has a ripple effect across the whole game.

    2. The basics of the setting would shift. This is the big one in my mind. I would basically turn the clock back twenty years - instead of being a fallen age after the death of the major heroes, this would be the silver age, when peeps are at their peak. While I liked writing the game after the fall, I liked setting my own writing and characters earlier, during the silver age. This would set the game during the Stalwart Age (and that might be the title, or subtitle - maybe Sentinels of Echo City: The Stalwart Age, or just "The Stalwart Age". Not sure yet). The vibe is Incredibles, but almost the first ten minutes of the first movie - it is the height of the heroic age. This solves a big problem I've had - the 'big stories' are already told (from my point of view), and the player characters are now taking the place of the fallen heroes. I liked that from a RPG world design view, but not so much from my own perspective. I kept wanting to create locations that were destroyed or overgrown or lost. Backing the game up twenty years allows me to share these things at their height, but also hardwire the conflict that leads to their eventual fall into future releases. Basically, I had been creating the game post Thanos snap - now I can go back to the first Avengers movie timeline wise and build from there. This would be a hard reset on the game world and characters - I would not be beholden to any continuity I had established in the previous game editions, and would basically be new 52-ing the whole thing (although hopefully better than that).

    3. XP progression bothers me. At the VERY least, I want to build in story events for when you level up. The GM has to come up with a story-based event that you have to finish before you can get the new upgrades for your next level. I almost want to merge character progression/XP with the resolve mechanics; you use character points to level up and to do special things. It would then be closer to Karma in FASERIP - you use these points to perform stunts, but sacrifice long-term growth for short-term awesomeness. I like the idea that you have limited resources and you are always being careful in spending your resources. It also makes character growth slower, which feels more superhero esque. It also means that when you do that amazing stunt, you are actually paying for it in some way. That also feels more heroic. This means that the system can also borrow from Karma in having more character-based 'good guy doing good stuff in good ways' rewards. It also makes death unlikely; you can always spend some hero points to keep from dying, but you are never going to get any better if you are always treading water to just stay alive.

    Of course, I'd be tightening up and cleaning up language throughout, and the whole thing would be formatted like Tales, in maybe a 64 page book with staples that can lay open on the table. After the ease of working with that book, I don't think I'm going back to the 6x9 book format. I think the setting would be presented similar to Tales of the Splintered Realm as well - the whole world in a handful of pages with broad strokes, so I could justify a city book later on. This would be a core rulebook with a foundation for a setting, but it would be intentionally incomplete so that there's a lot of room for later expansion.

    That's the other issue - I want a format that will lend itself nicely to supplements. I'd like to create a format that I can release a regular game expansion/update/adventure to keep the game alive. I am good at releasing quality games to a modicum of fanfare; I am terrible at following through and continuing to support games in the long term. It would be great to get better at the latter.

    DOCTOR WHO: 25 Years of ‘Doctor Who’ The TV Movie

    Blogtor Who - Mon, 05/31/2021 - 15:00

    This past week marked 25 years since the UK broadcast of the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie. Today is another Bank Holiday Monday in the UK, so what better time to recollect that momentous event. He’s back! And it’s about time… Doctor Who returning to BBC1 was a very big deal. After Part 3 of […]

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    Repost: Eating Grapes at Walmart*

    Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:00

    Kathleen and I were standing in the express line at Wal-Mart waiting to pay for two items. The line was long.

    As we waited, Kathleen whispered to me, “Look at that man up ahead. He is eating grapes out of his bag before they’re weighed.” 

    A woman ahead of us overheard Kathleen’s comment. She, too, had seen the man snacking as he waited. She turned and said, “I suppose you’d call that stealing.”

    Then she added, “Maybe stealing doesn’t matter for an older person like him in the way it might for someone younger with a fresher conscience.” But, after a pause, she corrected herself. “You’d think it would matter more because he’s closer to the Judgment.”

    It was an unexpected comment. And it identified her immediately as someone whose thinking was shaped by Christian truth. Though strangers until that moment, we shared the conviction that our conduct in this life will come under judgment in the life to come (Revelation 20:11-15).

    Even hundreds of years before Christ, the Preacher of Ecclesiastes wrote:

    God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed. (Ecclesiastes 3:17)

    Not all Christians think that way. Some believe Christ’s death for us at Calvary gives us a complete pass as to any final judgment. And in one sense that is indeed true (Romans 5:9,10). By faith in Christ we are justified — that is, we are cleared of the penalty for our sins.  

    But there is another side to this truth. The Apostle Paul reminded young Christians in Corinth, a city notorious for its moral laxity: 

    … we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

    His use of the word “all” includes believers. If we take his words to heart, they mean that, although we are justified, we will nevertheless be judged for the quality of life we have lived as Christians. That is one of several reasons why Christians take the commandment against stealing seriously. 

    Not just taking a few grapes, but stealing on tax returns; failing to pay debts; not returning library books; “stealing” answers on a test.  

    On this matter, the Apostle Paul did not absolve himself. He said in his defense before the Roman Governor Felix in Caesarea that believed at the end of time there would be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. “So,” he went on, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16).

    Our brief conversation with a stranger in a check-out line was good for us. It made us freshen our thinking on the relationship between believing in Christ and behaving as Christians ought.

    *I am reposting for a few weeks as I prepare more extended material for a writing project, which I will be telling you about soon.

    Image credit: Thorsten Hartmann (via flickr.com)

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