WotC is doing "physical/digital bundles" for the Dragonlance stuff. Are they finally doing PDFs like every other game company?! Fuck no, it's a "D&D Beyond" gulag access code. Can't use your ebook without gigabit Internet access. That's how they get you. "One D&D" will just update your ebooks to the official standard forever. Print and ownership are dead.
Excuse me while I go hug this little GOZR book and PDF instead. I'll review GOZR soon, it's cool.
Size: Medium (about 4–7 feet tall) or Small
(about 2–4 feet tall), chosen when you select
Dwarfs with Dwarfism? NO. Big Halflings or Gnomes? NO. Humans range from 2-7' tall, no change in stats (but then, Gnomes are as strong as Humans now). Warwick Davis approves, I'm sure.
Also, Orcs are now 6-7' tall. Back in the day, they were smaller than Humans, just heavier. Steroid abuse.
ROLLING A 20
A player character also gains Inspiration when rolling the 20, thanks to the remarkable success.
Weapons and Unarmed Strikes* have a special feature for player characters: Critical Hits.
Reddit's going crazy over this, but it doesn't say other attacks don't get crits, just these do. And every NPC is a player character to the DM. Ain't no problem if my favorite Goblin Chuck gets a crit and guts your Ardling Paladin open, screaming for his momma on the dungeon floor. Gotta teach the punks respect.
The DM determines whether a d20 Test is warranted in any given circumstance. To be warranted, a d20 Test must have a target number no less than 5 and no greater than 30.
Yes, this avoids the "5% chance to jump over the Moon" problem, but a hard rule prevents awesome bonus characters from doing great things, too. Very badly written/thought out rule.
… On a hit, your Unarmed Strike causes one of the following effects of your choice:
Shove. You either push the target 5 feet away or knock the target Prone. This shove is possible only if the target is no more than one Size larger than you.
Great! You can just push an Ogre down, it has no resistance, it loses its action, buddies curb-stomp it while it gets up. Grapple is nearly as good, you can just move the target around anywhere. Every edition's unarmed rules are dumber than the last.
I will note, I tried to sign in with Apple, and it failed on their end, untested crap code. So I signed in with Twitch, which makes no sense at all. That they can't manage their own sign-in and need oauth, eh, fine, but at least test every one!
"Unearthed Arcana" (the shittiest AD&D book, revived for 5E!), "by Jeremy Crawford, with Christopher Perkins and Ray Winninger". Well, Ray's a bright point, at least. But I'm guessing there won't be anything like Underground in this pablum.
Right now there's Character Origins up.
Superhero monster races, but now nothing mentions that your culture is mostly chaotic or evil. Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnomes, Hobbits alflings, as usual. Dark Elves are only called Drow, and nothing mentioned of the ALL ARE EVIL except for unspoken reasons these jerks "shun":
Drow. Known for their white hair and dusky- gray skin tones, drow typically dwell in the Underdark. Noteworthy exceptions include DRIZZLE DOO-WAH-DIDDY and JAR-JAR BINKS [ed.], two drow adventurers of the Forgettable[ed.] Realms who shun their subterranean homeland.
I often forget just how Disney-level singing-and-dancing treacly sweet official TSR/WotC/FR stuff is, the "Halflings" are all happy farm workers, not the grubby, thieving, murderous, sawed-off, shoeless scum of Mary Gentle's Grunts or JD's Finieous Fingers. Oh, under "many worlds":
For every sequestered halfling shire tucked away in some unspoiled corner of the world, there’s a halfling crime syndicate like the Boromar Clan on the world of Eberron or a territorial [ed: cannibalistic] mob of halflings like those found on the world of Athas.
Ardling (animal-headed god-spawn):
An ardling gains a measure of magical power from their celestial legacy, as well as the ability to manifest spectral wings. An ardling’s moral and ethical outlook is self-determined, however, not fixed by ancestry.
Fucking Dragonborn. I hated DragonNewts in RuneQuest, clearly Stafford just powergaming and almost jerking off into the page over his immortal lizard-babies, and they're just the worst PCs or NPCs in any game that's picked them up since. Why don't people steal Ducks from RuneQuest?! Ducks are awesome, hilarious and petty and venal little shits, and not OP fan-wank. Anyway, I get distracted. Fuck Dragonborn (except scalies, quit fucking Dragonborn).
Orcs. As previouslymentioned. Heroical but not nice background somewhat implied, which is about as strong as WotC can be anymore:
Young orcs are often told about their ancestors’ ancient conflicts with elves in forests, dwarves under mountains, and invaders from evil planes of existence. Inspired by those tales, young orcs often wonder when Gruumsh will call on them to match the heroic deeds of their ancestors, and if they will prove worthy of the One-Eyed God’s grace.
Tieflings. Like the Ardlings:
This connection to the Lower Planes is, for better or worse, the tiefling’s fiendish legacy, which comes with the promise of power yet has no effect on the tiefling’s moral outlook.
While I don't like the monsters-only-party tone of this stuff, I have nothing against Ardling & Tiefling characters for high/stoner fantasy games, they're OP but they fit. We all liked Thundercats. The wussing out of Orcs & Drow is, sigh, sadly necessary, to quit giving shelter to actual fucking racists.
I just adamantly oppose making a monster race like Dragon-spawn into PCs. That's a KOS (Kill On Sight) monster, as in Dragonlance. OH! They're doing Dragonlance (Railroad Choo-Choo!) as next year's campaign setting. Awk…ward. Run a few Draconians ("DRAGONMEN" as DL1-Dragons of Despair called them) up against the party, see how they feel about hanging out with a scaly traitor. And KENDER! Oh, here's a nuclear hand grenade character to throw into parties of unsuspecting 5E noobs. Suddenly the railroad becomes more of a trainwreck, and I'm keen to watch it explode.
None of the "races" (which term they should abandon for "Species" as I do, or "Kindred" as Ken St. Andre does) have any stat mods, but most do give advantage on saves for 1-3 stats, which is like a +8 stat mod (giving a +4 bonus, equal to advantage) mechanically, so it's far far worse. Total fail on toning down the species superiority complex.
Backgrounds are careers, and give ability score bonuses, proficiency bonus to some skills & tools, feats, and equipment. They're like a whole second class. There's a weak version of these in the 5E rules, but much more powerful here. Who cares if you're a Human or an Orc, when Gladiator or Laborer makes you a tank; I will say at least they mostly paired one useful stat with a dump stat (WIS or CHA), but several add to two primary stats, and have a synergistic feat. Laborer's trivial, right? No, it gives +2 CON, +1 STR, Feat Tough (+2 HP per Level), for a total of at least +3 HP per Level. Cultist gives +2 INT, +1 CHA, Magical Initiate (+1 Arcane 1st level spell/day). Backgrounds just went from optional cute story thing, to more meta than race.
Feats are pretty standard, but several are extremely easy to abuse and get too much power from, at least on an OSR-scale. Against other 5E stuff, it's probably nerfed a bit, but getting a free Feat from background is the problem.
Spells are now merged into just 3 lists, Arcane (magic-users, spoony bards, etc), Divine (useless clerics & racist paladins), and Primal (hey nonny nonny dancin' skyclad in the woods rangers & druids). That's actually a good change, back to the simplicity of OSR. Of course, what's even simpler is deleting Clerics and having one spell list, but WotC's not ready for that yet. "Two D&D" in 2030, perhaps.
So I hate the default adventurer skins, even if it's usually covered by armor and I use first-person camera. I have my own skin. But MineTest has no built-in config for skins! Mods to the rescue.
On your world select, hit Select Mods, Find More Mods, and search for skinsdb, and smart inventory, install both.
Back to menu, select each of those and Enable. Save.
Now in terminal:
cd ~/Library/Application Support/minetest/mods/skinsdb/textures
cp ~/Pictures/My-Minecraft-Avatar.png character_whatever.png
This only seems to work with MC 1.0 avatars, even tho skinsdb says it works with MC 1.8; if you have multiple layers, remove those and resave without them. I tried installing the 3d_armor mod, which might enable that, and it has broken dependencies. 🙁
Play Game, and in game, open inventory, click the skin icon, and at the bottom of the big new Smart Inventory screen, skin icon. Select, done.
So, ever since Microsoft bought Mojang, they've been boiling the frog, and finally with the "Xbox accounts" and 1.19.2 the Java edition has reached surveillance state nightmare (however ludicrous that sounds for a game… it's still a game we play) parity with Xbox Live Arcade (aka "NAMBLA") and the inferior mobile/"Bedrock" edition, and it's really time to look for alternatives.
One such is MineTest, which is an open source blocky game engine, with easy modding in Lua. The base MineTestGame is a very simple peaceful/creative mode, which isn't that interesting, but mods change everything. One of the mod packs ("games") is MineClone2; it aims to recreate MC 1.12.2 with some improvements, while MineClone5 (I guess 3 & 4 fell into a swamp) is a much less stable fork that chases current features. Other games aren't concerning themselves with MC-like-ness at all, I'll look at some of those later.
Download the client from the MineTest page, then at the bottom bar hit + and type in MineClone, hit + on MC2. Back on the Main Menu, select the 2-grass-block icon from the bottom, the screen should change to show a MC2 logo, hit New to make a new world.
When I started testing MineTest, it was very laggy, the Mac display & input was completely broken. In 5.4, it got up to usable but not fun, with a really horrible input lag. In 5.6, just released on the 4th, it's actually playable! FPS rate is a little low (15-30 instead of the 30-60+ I expect), picking up/moving inventory can be sluggish, but the game is on par with any older edition of MC now.
MineClone2 can have some remarkable terrain, tho there's something a little off, I get broken Nether portals every few hundred meters in plains. The mobs are dumb but as dangerous as MC and I'm less skilled here. Villagers work, I don't have a proper screenshot of the village I've started trading with, I need to clear some land and fence it off, after I set up my next base near it. Animals are a bit odd, they're persistent but spawn in randomly on grass when you enter the area, there's a river below my base, and it's constantly splashing with sheep & llamas that fall in; I should build a lava blade trap for them. I've made a map, but it's uselessly small and can't be resized, but does point back home. The built-in minimap (hit M, repeatedly to cycle views) is very useful.
By default there's no access to debug. You can open the console, but no command shows coords AFAICT.
So edit ~/Library/Application Support/minetest/minetest.conf (probably ~/.minetest on Linux, WTF knows on Windows):
Or whatever keys you like for those. Now I can hit F3 and get a teeny text status of FPS & pos, hit it again and get full debug/lag spike data.
What I'd like is a bit more of Life in the Woods, or Super Hostile type modpacks, make survival hard and more complex, but with a gentler introduction than Feed the Beast etc. There is Exile in the ContentDB, and I kind of glazed over looking at the wiki, my one test of it I punched some sticks but couldn't make anything, then got blown up, but I'll run at it again.
There's not a lot of Youstubes or Twitches of MineTest yet, but there's a few "punch wood" demos, and a lot of what you know about MC just works in MineClone2.
The Original Series. Star Trek is, in short, Horatio Hornblower in space, the final frontier, exploring strange new worlds, and new civilizations. To boldly go where no (Hu)man has gone before. You know what works? Paying good SF writers to write good scripts about Science Fiction Ideas, and then getting good actors to read those lines, with adequate special effects to say "you are in space". They didn't always manage any of that, there's a reason it barely made 3 seasons, but when it hits the right points, it's the best art Humans have ever created. (Preferably pre "digital remaster", but the CGI shit does improve matters in a few episodes, inoffensive the rest of the time.)
The Animated Series. Yes, the "animation" is sub-Hanna Barbera level. The matte paintings are gorgeous. They could do real alien aliens since they didn't need makeup. They continued to get real SF writers (including Larry Niven!) like TOS, unlike any other Trek show.
Star Trek novels/novelizations by James Blish, John M. Ford, and Diane Duane. How Much for Just the Planet, The Final Reflection, and My Enemy My Ally are top of that group. I don't remember the Greg Bear book, but he's a great writer, should be acceptable if he didn't phone it in.
Star Trek Movies I-IV,VI. I'm not gonna nitpick which is better, I honestly like I and VI a lot more than the usual rankings, but all 5 of these are great. Why didn't they make a movie V? Weird, huh?
GalaxyQuest. This is the series finale Star Trek classic deserved.
Lower Decks. Yes, it's a very silly-looking cartoon. And there's parts that are slapstick comedy… and parts are the kind of awe-inspiring, the Galaxy is a great place, let's go explore, heroism that Star Trek used to be about. It's like the lighter TOS eps, compressed to 22 minutes.
Strange New Worlds. I'm already very tired of "Gorn" (they're not Gorn as we know them from "Arena", but knockoff Alien xenomorphs) eps. But I like most of the crew, the plots are generally good enough, they're not trying writing techniques far beyond their ability, it's just a good Trek show. Not best ever, but good so far.
Star Trek Continues. Often exactly as amateur as you'd expect, and other times really manages to make A Star Trek Episode. Give it a try.
Star Trek novels/novelizations by almost literally anyone else. I must've read dozens or hundreds of these, and most are junk, no better than slash fanfic.
TNG. Not generally good, or well-written at all. It sort of finds the characters after 2 seasons of absolute crap. But there is occasionally exploration, adventure, Human spirit, all that. Eh.
DS9, I guess. No sense of wonder. Very little exploration. Once in a while, it has a Science Fiction Idea and explores it for one ep, then forgets everything about that and hits the sitcom reset button. Implausibly promotes Miles O'Brien, most useless Human in the Galaxy, to a major character with a hot wife. Mostly it ripped off Babylon 5, and poached actors, because they had no writers, no direction, no ability to plot ahead. Later on it just got repetitive, then wrapped up a war with deus ex machina "let's all be friends because we're amorphous".
Garbage, do not watch: VGR, ENT, STD ("better dead than Disco"), PIC, all of the other Star Trek movies. Just has nothing to do with Star Trek at all.
Crimes Against Humanity: JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" movies. People who hate Star Trek and are soulless husks motivated only by explosions and lens flares shouldn't be making Star Trek-named shows.
I'm not too familiar with the Star Trek comics to put them on this chart; as opposed to Star Wars, where the Marvel comics are among the best material. The Gold Key & Marvel comics were mediocre, gap-between-series fillers. I didn't see any of DC, Malibu, or Marvel II's runs. Wildstorm's run was awful (and I liked their superhero comics, but they were bad at SF). The Tokyopop manga were hilarious, very off-model, off-character, not at all Star Trek except in the Futurama parody sense. I've only seen a few of the IDW comics, and while they're a solid publisher, they do goofy crossover shit a lot.
The dice they include are kinda crap, sub-Chessex dark sparkly things, but that's expected. Instead get some good dice, GameScience or precision metal dice, OK?
The world map is fantastic, very thick paper, map of Arkham on the back. There's an all-new Keeper's Screen, which seems entirely useful, tho it's 3 landscape pages, not 3 portrait like my usual Wall of Fear and Ignorance. A new size comparison sheet, 4 pages across now, everything from Mi-Go to "Mighty Cthulhu". 4 old-style character sheets, hardly enough for the casualty rate you're really gonna have.
Main book (96 pp) and 1920s Sourcebook (36 pp) are stapled up like the originals. Treat gently, but it'll lay flat. Gene Day cover & interior art looks great, not the usual low-rez scans printed out badly. It looks as good or better than it did 40 years ago.
I suppose now I should've got the Deluxe box, I have those extra 5 supplements in some form but not in these nice reprints.
Over the days to come I'll read the books in detail again, and get to run it sometime, but I'm so happy just to have the right edition.
Cthulhu and Me
I've been playing & running this game since the early '80s, discovered H.P. Lovecraft almost simultaneously with the game. Over time, I came to appreciate Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and earlier writers, far more than the mid-century ripoffs and wannabes like August Derleth and Lin Carter, and only tolerate some later wannabes like Brian Lumley (and certainly Mike Mignola uses a lot of Mythos in Hellboy, but it's a very different thing). There are good later Mythos writers, but few and far between. Obviously Lovecraft's personal beliefs were pretty offensive early on, and while he got less awful later on (post-New York), he'd be an asshole in modern terms… but he wasn't modern, he's dead, and the books are the books.
There's a new 2-volume collection, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, by Leslie Klinger. I highly recommend these. I don't have an equally good CAS or REH recommendation right now, but maybe in time.
Call of Cthulhu, for all that it has some flaws, does a remarkably good job of simulating the horror stories of a depressed New England lunatic who sees monsters in everything, and the monsters do not care that we exist.
So that's the good part.
CoC then and much more so now, has a lot of Derlethian nonsense in it, waving Elder Signs around like crosses at Dracula, Greek/Persian "elemental" magic and demons and gods interested in Humans, all that bullshit. There's been some attempts to remove that, and Chaosium has stolidly ignored them and added more crap. The last edition of CoC I liked at all was 5.5, and 7.0 is very different in some annoying ways. It's gone from a small game to a big game, bloated up like late-model Elvis. I just wanted that original, fairly svelte game back.
There's other issues. Sandy Petersen, game designer and devoted Lovecraft fan, shares some of Lovecraft's pre-New York personal beliefs, and adds all new bigotries of his own. So I'm ill-inclined to give him money for anything; this was almost a ransom. Now the thing I want is in my hands, I can wash my hands of him forever. The new Chaosium's lawyers and delusional "open (but not really) license" BRP, I want to stay as far away from as possible.
Now I'm wondering what other kinds of infrastructure of my yout' no longer exist. Growing up there were always old-timer stories of "oh we used to have horses and play hoop-and-stick! A live theatre show cost a penny!", but they never had useful tech and then lost it.
Mentioned earlier today: Party lines. Rotary phones. Phones only owned by Ma Bell. Landlines. Telephone girls.
Newspaper vending boxes, probably all owl nests now. Newspapers; I used to get a weekly big city paper, alt press paper, and sometimes a daily trash paper (USA Today & the like, for mediocre perspective, and I could do the crossword in <30 minutes). Print magazines, used to be the monthly delivery of all information. Books. I say I'd miss books, but honestly I buy only ebooks now, I have thousands of books in my iBooks & Dropbox, a much smaller physical bookshelf now.
Card catalogs are gone. I spent so much time with a little golf pencil, index cards, and flipping thru the catalog looking for a book, writing down Dewey numbers, then go hunting the shelves. Microfiche. Reference/research librarians. Libraries are under attack from the usual suspects aka the GOP, maybe they won't make it.
Vinyl and cassette tapes have made a temporary, improbable, and really stupid comeback, but once the fad ends they'll vanish forever. SONY MiniDisc. 8-Tracks. Reel to reel (had a brief fad again after Pulp Fiction). VHS (a few online art projects like FORGOTTEN_VCR and RedLetterMedia's "Best of the Worst" aside). I have to check if my VCR still works.
Do you even know how to be kind? R E W I N D
DVDs. There's just streaming you can't even keep, and Blu-Ray with parasitic Java programming, you can't just watch a movie without it spying on you online.
Television. Apparently there's still non-streaming, "cable" and "over the air" (but digital, not analog signal), constantly NCIS and "reality TV" with ads every 10 minutes selling laxatives, painkillers, and Gold Bond Medicated Powder. But that can't last long, all the Boomers will be dead soon and nobody else cares. Projected movies. Plays in theatres. Vaudeville. Nickelodeons (not the kids series).
Videogame arcades. Pinball machines. Computers that boot up instantly and are useful when you turn them on.
Radio. It's just right-wing hate speech radio, and a few oldies stations. And "oldies" now means "greatest hits of the '70s, '80s, '90s, and today" as one near me says; but don't worry, they don't really play anything past 2000. That's a biz model headed for death. Radio dramas have been dead for 70 years. Rock & Roll has been dead a while, there's still old bands playing it, but not many new.
Malls. If you can order everything online, why go "shop" and maybe hook up with a cute person?
Schools are obviously a bad idea. Chalkboards are gone; nobody's beaten erasers or choked down chalk dust in years. One-room schoolhouses died out when schools became about training industrial workers to sit down and take it, and now we obviously can't cluster up kids. Individual education, or none at all, just like in the dark ages.
Work offices are going to be gone soon. It's easier to deliver to customers (using underpaid gig workers, or soon drones), and work from home with chat and videoconferencing.
Trains and trolleys are long gone, except as tourist attractions. Once the schools and offices remove the need to drive around a city every day, it's gonna get awful quiet. No more cars, highways, streets, street lights, skyscrapers, planes. Ships are probably still needed to deliver from factories to target continent. Zeppelins could make a comeback, they use less fuel.
The Earth will go dark again. Little campfires as we all live out in the boonies with a single glowing rectangle or a cable into our skulls. Global economy reduced to swarms of drones delivering goods from robotic factories, until the owners, now on Mars, shut them down and all the lights go off.
Part of my workflow with Internet Archive is to favorite things I go back to a lot. But the fav page there is nigh-unusable, it lists in order from most recent fave to oldest, including duplicates (Huh?), and even sorting by title doesn't put related things together. So I made a tool, and generated Internet Archive Favorites which I'll update every so often.
My first attempt was simply scraping an RSS feed, but they only publish the last 50 faves! Bogus! Even if I cached them, I'd still have to check it often and reorganize things. Then I learned they have a developer interface, usable with an ia script or right from Python, which is more useful. It's slow without caching, but after first run it's very fast, mostly 1 API call.
Read the docs at the top of the script, look at the example config file (almost a Markdown outline, but I do some clever/stupid things in it). As usual license is BSD, an ye harm none, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.
Now all I have to do is write a cfg file:
The stuff I've found that I like on [Internet Archive](https://archive.org), loosely sorted.
% archive-fav-extract.py -q mdhughes
And it makes a nice html file, tells me about any errors, and I paste the output file into a wordpress page.
Why are they waiting to the final weeks to deliver AIR FILTERING to a shake-and-bake colony? How about you plan ahead a year and then there's no JIT emergency?
"I'm not going to let some doctor inside my head to try and fix me. I'm not broken, I'm fine." —Someone who is the opposite of "fine"
Oh, it really is Acheron LV-426 down there. Including Fig "Newt"-on. "The monsters come out and click at night. Mostly." Kid is never seen again. I really wanted the Gorn to get on board, have a crew hunt in lower decks, Fig escapes and Number One comes in with an exoskeleton and BFG "get away from her, you BITCH!" Anyway. We still haven't seen a Gorn.
What we do get is a submarine battle against a destroyer group.
Singh: "I will make that adjustment. But I will not lie to them." Ash: "…about their chances. But, they have my sympathy."
"Ortegas, full stop": You can't full stop in an orbit, inside a gas giant. Newton's physics still apply here.
It's the Galileo Two (the same shuttle survives 10 years?!) Never send all your good officers on a suicide mission. And don't do therapy when you're supposed to be scouting! The Gorn apparently still use signal lanterns and morse code on their FTL starships; keep banging the rocks together, lizards, you'll invent encrypted radio someday.
"Suit up, strap in", says a man on a bridge with no seatbelts. I wouldn't even want them to develop seatbelt or non-exploding control panel technology now, they never had it on TOS, but don't lampshade it, maybe?
The actual ship battles are pretty good; they've learned a little bit to fight in 3D space, to think about the ships as spaceships and not wet navy battlecruisers. It's not perfect, their physics is total nonsense, but it's so much better than almost any Star Trek's ship fights.
★★★★☆ Either lean a little more into the Alien ripoff, or more into Das Boot.