Sunday, January 22, 2023

My Atheism

 Officially, I have been an atheist since my early 20's. I grew up in a Christian house hold, my Mother took us to church every Sunday, we sang in the choir and went to bible study during the week. My Mother did not have any of us baptized, she felt baptism was more meaningful if it was done as a teenager with acceptance and intent, rather than being forced on an infant. I was the first and only of her children to refuse to be baptized, she was disappointed in me and asked me to reconsider, but she abide by my decision and never said another word to me about it.

I bring this up because recently online I was told "You were never a true Christian!", and I had to agree with the person making the statement. I think even at a very young age, I knew the god concept was incorrect. I remember one Sunday morning in Church School, the instructor was telling us about Noah's ark and at the end they had us draw pictures about the story. I drew a picture of Superman saving innocent people from drowning in the flood and taking them to another planet where they would be safe. When asked about it, I said Superman would never let people die if he could do something about it. I could not have been older than 8 at the time and even then, I understood that mass murder was morally reprehensible.

I hear stories from other atheists about how difficult their deconversions were, how they struggled to let go of these life long deeply held beliefs. It was not like that for me, I am not going to say it was an overnight experience, it took a few years, but it was not at all a difficult transition for me. I think it started in Bible Study, the Minister challenged us to read the Bible over the summer. He knew damn good and well we wouldn't. What he didn't understand was, I can and will read anything. This was the beginning of the end.

When the Bible is spoon fed to you, it is easy to make it all sound just the way they want it to sound. It is easy to gloss over contradictions, by talking about those things months or years apart, so no one questions them. It is easy to lift those passages out of the original context and add your own meaning to it. But when you read the whole thing yourself and the Bible itself is its own context, it becomes very clear, or it should become clear that these stories were told by bronze age people trying to make some sort of sense about the world they lived in. It is much easier to see contradictions, when you are reading a passage and realize this contradicts a passage I read a couple of days ago.

Thou shalt not kill. —Exodus 20:13

Thus sayeth the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side. and slay every man his brother…companion…neighbor. —Exodus 32:27
and
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. —Proverbs 12:22

The Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee. —I Kings 22:23

 and

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. —2 Kings 24:8

Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem… —2 Chronicles 36:9  

These are just the contradictions I remember off the top of my head, there were dozens more. Added in to that mix, there were passages that simply do not comport with reality as we know it today. in Genesis 1, God created the Earth, Genesis 2 says he created Light. This is not how planets are formed, the stars always come first. Over the last hundred years, we have watched many stars form and planetary objects forming around them. In none of these instances has a planet appeared first and then a star. The Bible also speaks about firmament, a dome that covers the Earth, we have put satellites into orbit, we have been to the Moon, we have sent drones to mars and we know for a fact the earth is not flat and is not shrouded in a firmament dome.

Anyway, after reading the Bible, I became an agnostic theist. I still believed there was a supreme being, but I no longer claimed to know what said supreme being was. It was at this point, I stopped going to bible study and refused to be baptized. I often wonder if that minister regrets challenging me to read the Bible. Just a few years later, I simply stopped pretending. So yes, I was never a true Christian, I think even as I child I recognized that god does not exist and we are all just pretending that he does.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

OGL Controversy

 Apparently a copy of the new OGL (1.1) has been leaked and there seems to be a large backlash going on. If you do not know what the OGL is, to put it as simply as possible, the Open Game License (OGL) is a license Wizards of the Coast (WotC) provides to 3rd party creators so they can create content for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). For the last 20+ years this license has been used widely to create a shit ton of content that WotC could never have or would never have created on its own, it has been the backbone of the hobby. The new version of the OGL takes away a lot of the power creators had and sets up a royalty requirement, which never existed before. Needless to say, a lot of people make their living doing this and it is now going to be infeasible or a lot more difficult to make a living doing it.

I can understand the frustration of these creators, having the carpet pulled out from under them has to be rough. My question here is, why is this becoming apparent only now? This license has been around for 22 years. During that time I have seen it said over and over, the OGL cannot be revoked, this license has to have been looked over by dozens if not hundred of lawyers by now. Why is it only now that these creators are being told that yes in fact it can be revoked and yes WotC can force you to comply with the new license. This seems weird to me that not a single lawyer in 22 years has popped up and said, this is not a good idea. But apparently, here we are.

From my point of view, very little changes. I have never used the OGL for anything I create and I don't use anything WotC can claim as their copyrighted intellectual property. Everything I have created is mine and mine alone. Of course I also do not sell anything for profit, I pretty much allow anyone to use what I create for whatever purpose they choose and the only time I would step in is if someone tried to keep another person from using my creations. I don't care if someone steals the Gauntlets of Zardon and uses it or a variation in their own book, even if they intent to sell it at a profit, but the second they try to block someone else from doing the same, I would claim prior art. Certainly the Hand and Eye of Kevin is derivative work and WotC could make a stink about it, but unfortunately fro them, this would be protected as satire and parody and I would tell them to go fuck themselves.

As for the next version of D&D, known as OneD&D, I don't know yet. I am not taking part in the beta test and I have no real interest in what is going on with it, so I am not following it at all. I have no plans to switch over to it when it is released. Like D&D 5E, I will probably take a year or two to consider the move and in fact I may never move. 80% of what I run in my own campaign is my own home brewed stuff. I have collected enough 5E stuff, both WotC and other creators, that I could probably run 5E campaigns for the rest of my life, even if I never wrote another adventure.

If for some reason, giving money to WotC became so distasteful that I could no longer even look at those books, there are a ton of other games out there that could easily be drop in replacements. Pathfinder and Castles & Crusades or I could go way out in the field use Savage Worlds, Dungeon World or Blades in the Dark, not to mention all the old games I could go back to like Call of Cthulhu, GURPS or HackMaster. The best part of this hobby is that all I really need is my imagination and a few friends to put up with my shit for a couple of hours a week.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The conservative slide

 I think this is an interesting chart. It shows how people in general become more conservative as they age.


I don't think this is a function of people changing, I think this is a function of society changing. I know I am painting with a broad brush here, but most people get locked into their worldview in their mid to late 20's and change very little throughout the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, as each generation passes, society changes, things that use to be okay, become not okay and things that use to be not okay, become okay. The side effect of this is, a person can move from being fairly liberal at 20 to being fairly conservative at 50 without changing a single idea.

I seem to be an exception to this general trend. I was very conservative in my youth, in the first election I could vote in I voted for Ronald Reagan. I remember very clearly when my leftward slide began, it was while watching Oliver North and John Poindexter testifying before Congress, then later Reagan's speech address the scandal. I realized during this time that these people do not have the best interests of the nation in their hearts or their minds. I woke up and realized that tradition is peer pressure from dead people, religion is holding humanity back and conservative politics is about conserving the power of the wealthy. Each passing year since then I have become more and more liberal in my thinking. These days I am so liberal, I make Gandhi look like a war mongering fascist.

Happy New Years!

 2022 was a good year, not great but good. I got some writing done and I built out some self hosting infrastructure. On the other hand, I did not do nearly as much reading this year, clocking in at only 32 books this year. Of course work was just work, it was what it was. I am going to call it a win.

Happy New Years Everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Playing the Sandbox Part II

 In January of 2020 I wrote a post about starting a sandbox game. This was in reaction to some posts I saw in a Facebook group I was a member of at the time. Recently, this came back to the foreground for me when I was watching a Youtube video about the shortage of DM's in 5th Edition D&D. The point the video made was, that in modern times, DMing is a difficult task, virtually all of the responsibility for having a good fun game is on the DM, players have no responsibilities beyond making it to the game. Added to that is the various Twitch and Youtube streams of people playing D&D. Many of these streams are high production value shows featuring professional actors as players and DMs whose sole job is producing interesting content for viewers. This sets the bar very high for other DMs the games they are trying to run.

If I just started playing D&D in the last couple of years and my first exposure to the game was the Critical Roll game run by Matt Mercer, I would be terrified of DMing a game, because there is no way I could run a game of that quality. This is prevalent throughout the D&D community, I see Reddit posts written by players who are mad because they cannot find a DM of Matt Mercers quality and all the groups they join suck.

In this day and age you have to run a session zero for your campaign, even if everyone has been playing together for years, so the players can do all their prep work and the DM can layout expectations for the game. Back in the day, you know how our campaigns started? We sat down, rolled 3d6 in order, spent 5 minutes equipping them, then I would start randomizing a dungeon straight out of the Dungeon Masters Guide. If your character died, you rolled up another one and the game continued.  It became a running gag that players did not even name their characters until 3rd level. In case you think all we did was play one shots, this was certainly not the case, once the core set of characters was established, we would move on to modules or whatever crazy idea I had for a dungeon.

I am not saying everyone needs to stop watching Critical Roll, all I am saying is, lower your fucking standards, chill out and just play the game. If you want to DM but you are afraid, relax, I am here to tell you, if you run a game, players will come. Some will not like what your do, but others will. Even if you start with just one player, run the game. Even if you get six people to start a group and five of them drop out, keep playing. Find five more players and yes, four of them will probably drop out, but then you will have two players. Find 4 more players and continue on until you have four or five good players who show up to the game. Before you know it, you will have been playing with this group for three or four years and you will have a lot of cool stories that will put Matt Mercer to shame. Run the game, players will come.

When running your first game, throw out all the damn books, don't start with everything. Download the basic rules PDF, and limit your players to just the races and classes in that book. I would also download the 5E SRD, this contains more monsters and such, which will be helpful later on. Now get a sheet of hex paper, preferably 1/4 inch per hex, put a dot in the middle, that is your starting town, name it something stupid like Moosebreath. Each of those hexes is five miles, your first dungeon is going to be five miles (one hex) to the north of town. Now get a piece of standard graph paper, each square is ten feet, in the center, draw a cross road, 10 feet wide is plenty big enough. Now on one corner is a tavern, where the adventure will start. On the second corner will be a temple, make it a pantheon temple that covers several deities, don't make it hard on anyone, just make it the Greek or Norse Pantheon, most everyone is familiar with those deities and you will not need to explain Thor or Zeus to anyone. On the next corner is a general store, where the characters can buy and sell stuff. On the final corner is the Constables office, the local sheriff, if you will. You will add new buildings later, but this is all you need to start with.

Each of these buildings will need two NPC's each. Each NPC will have four 10's, one 8 and one 12 for attributes, assigned as you please. Give them names and assign them 4 Hit Points each. Assume each of these NPC's have the skills needed to do the jobs they have with a +2 proficiency and possibly the attribute modifier for the 12 they have. Give each one an appropriate simple weapon, which they also have a proficiency in. Yes, a group of four 1st level characters will be able to kill everyone in town, don't worry about it, they probably won't.

Draw more roads behind these four buildings and add several more buildings. I would not bother deciding what is in each of these buildings just yet. I would wait for the players to ask "Is there a blacksmith in town?" and then reply why yes there is, its this building. "Is there a wizard in town?", why yes, there is a hedge wizard, he is in this building. If they never ask for it, it is probably not important.

Next go to Donjon 5E Random Dungeon Generator, make the following changes;

  • Party Size: Set to party size
  • Motif: Undead
  • Dungeon Size: Small
  • Polymorph Rooms?:  No
  • Corridors: Straight
  • Remove Deadends?: All
  • Stairs?: No

Leave everything else alone. This should give you a random dungeon with 30-35 rooms designed for 1st level characters, already stocked with monsters and treasure from the SRD. This is the dungeon that is five miles north of town. Download the PDF of your newly minted random dungeon. Now you are ready to play, begin your campaign with "You are all sitting in a tavern in Moosebreath, you are having a quiet ale, when the priest and the constable walk in and say we have a problem, a golden chalice was stolen from the temple and the culprit was spotted headed north to the old ruins, we will pay you 100 GP each to recover the chalice.". 99% of the time the players will go for it and off you go. 1% of the time they will be dicks about it and not take the job, in which case ask them what they want to do and roll with it, if they want to flirt with the waitress, fine she will let them buy her expensive drinks until closing time. If they want to find another town, fine send them down the road and give them some random encounters, have them get lost and end up at the old ruins anyway.

Your total prep time for this game should be less than an hour. However, you now have the bare bones of your own home brew setting. You can add buildings and NPC's as needed to the town, you can place new adventure locations on your regional map, maybe add another town with different NPC's. Each 5 mile hex can be an adventure all in and of itself. You could probably play all the way to 20th level with the characters never leaving this area.

Edit:

Here is a link to a quick and dirty sandbox I setup using this method, total prep time for this was 45 minutes.

Download Sandbox.zip

Sunday, December 11, 2022

More D&D Magic Items

 The Gauntlets of Zordon:

When worn, these gauntlets give a +3 to hit and +3 to damage to any attack (melee, ranged or spell). Additionally, on a critical hit, in addition to the normal critical hit damage, the attack does an additional 2d6 damage of the type listed. The target of the attack must also make a DC 16 saving throw of the type listed, a failed save gives the target of the attack the condition listed for 1 minute

  • Red - Fire - Frightened (Save vs Wisdom)
  • Orange - Thunder - Deafened (Save vs Constitution)
  • Yellow - Radiant - Blinded (Save vs Constitution)
  • Green - Poison - Poisoned (Save vs Constitution)
  • Blue - lightning - Stunned (Save vs Dexterity)
  • Indigo - Psychic - Paralyzed (Save vs Intelligence)
  • Violet - Force - Charmed (Save vs Wisdom)


Monday, November 21, 2022

New magic Items for D&D

A couple of weeks ago I ran "Don't say Vecna" for my player. When I was reading through the adventure in preparation for the game, I could not help but notice the keys to access the portal to Vecna's lair were the hand and eye of one of the inhabitants of the tower. Of course these were not magic items and the persons name was not Kevin, but I thought it would be hilarious if these items were watered down versions of the real thing. This is what I came up with;

The Eye of Kevin

  • You have Darkvision for 120 feet, if you already have Darkvision, the Eye doubles the distance of your Darkvision.
  • Any spell requiring an attack roll you make deals an extra 2d8 cold damage on a hit.

The Hand of Kevin

  • Your Strength score becomes 16, unless it is already 16 or higher, then you receive a +2 to your Strength score up to a maximum of 20.
  • Any melee weapon attack made with a weapon held by it, deals an extra 2d8 cold damage on a hit.

Both the Hand and Eye of Kevin

  • You gain proficiency in Intimidation, if you already have Intimidation, you gain Expertise in Intimidation.
  •  If you start your turn with at least 1 hit point, you may roll 1 Hit Die to regain hit points.
Attunement
  The Hand and Eye of Kevin requires separate attunment. Attunment takes place upon touching the item and causes 2d6 psychic damage and 2d6 necrotic damage. The items integrate themselves into the characters body and retain the look of the item, which will disturb most people unless effort is made to cover them up with an eye patch, glove or illusion. The character can remove attunment at any time, in which case they once again take 2d6 psychic damage and 2d6 necrotic damage, but otherwise return to the state they were in prior to attunement.



Sunday, November 20, 2022

Review: They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears by Johannes Anyuru

They Will Drown in Their Mothers' TearsThey Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears by Johannes Anyuru
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was a rough read. It might be an artifact of the translation process, but transition between scenes was nothing less than horrifying. It felt like at times the author would move from one scene to another halfway through a paragraph. I get the author was telling two different stories, and they were attempting to give the reader a sense of confusion about the reality being created, however it did not work for me at all, it ended up feeling like bad writing compounded by bad translation work.

It did not help that this book was depressing and not just slightly depressing, the kind of depressing that makes you loose your will to live. The first of the two main characters Annika/Nour, is supposed to be a time traveler sent back in time to prevent a terrorist attack, she is supposed to be a sympathetic character. The problem is, she comes off as a terrorist who had a last minute change of heart and is now trying to get off on an insanity plea. I found her story to be completely unbelievable and about as compelling as your average Bruce Willis movie. I was not even slightly convinced she was a time traveler.

The second main character, an unnamed writer she asks to come visit her at the asylum she is locked up in. He gets caught up in her story and ends up visiting her several times. This casts a shadow over his own life and his relationship with his wife and daughter. No journalist outside of Info Wars would touch this story, let alone actually entertaining a person like Annika/Nour, who is either batshit crazy or a con artist.

Bad writing, bad story, bad characters. I highly recommend avoiding this one.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Setting up a Mastodon Server

I spent the better part of today setting up a Mastodon Server. For those who don't know what Mastodon is, it is a Twitter replacement. Getting an account on Mastodon is not quit as intuitive as Twitter, the hardest part being finding a server. Over the last week, I have been considering this move because of the Elon Musk/Twitter train wreck currently going on. I am not a huge Twitter user, but I know a few people who are and I was thinking they might need a place to land eventually and once you have a server it is very easy to sign in and start using.

For the last year or so, I have been getting into self hosting. I have my own ESXi server for virtual machines, I also have a machine dedicated to hosting Docker containers and I have gotten pretty good at building internet facing services. I am not going to go into any details about what I did to get everything running, there are plenty of good documents on the internet to help you do this, all I am going to do is provide an overview for those who are interested and think they might want to do this themselves.

My instance of Mastodon is hosted on a virtual machine on my ESXi server. I looked into doing it on Docker, which is my preference, but Docker seemed to make the process harder rather than easier. Besides that, backing up VM's is much easier than backing up Docker containers. I gave the VM 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of hard drive space and 4 CPU cores. I suspect that will be more than enough to handle a small user base, assuming I decide to keep it going. Looking at the monitoring tools I use, the install is taking up about 5 GB of storage, it is using 1.25 GB of memory and CPU usage is staying comfortably under 10%. Please keep in mind this is with basically 1 user, ME! I am certain if I had say 10 regular users, this would change.

I really only ended up with 2 major issues. The first was I had trouble getting HTTPS working properly, solving this issue was mostly about getting all the tricky little settings between the VM, my proxy server and Cloudflare talking properly, honestly I have no idea what I did that finally made it work. The second big issue I have is email verification does not work. I tried to follow the instructions for getting smtp working, but no matter what I did, it failed to send out emails correctly. Fortunately I can manually confirm users and since I do not really plan to have more than a handful of accounts, if any at all, this will not be a problem. All the other issues I had were with things like out dated documentation and variations with Linux commands, nothing that was not easily solved with a few minutes of thought.

I really have no intention at this point of actually allowing others to use this beyond myself and the wife. I doubt the twitter thing is going to result in Twitters implosion and in a couple of weeks it will all be over. I am going to leave it up and running for a while though just in case. Besides, who knows, I might actually decide I like Mastodon and use the server as my own beautiful virtual world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Magic: The Gathering 30th Anniversary Edition

 Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has announced it will be releasing the Magic: The Gathering 30th Anniversary Edition. I am not going into specific detail about what it is, you can go read the announcement for yourself.

https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/celebrate-30-years-magic-gathering-30th-anniversary-edition-2022-10-04

This announcement has become the latest Internet shit storm. Usually with Internet shit storms, I sit back and eat popcorn, these things never fail to entertain. Unfortunately for me, with this one, there seems to be very few people attempting to defend this product. 99.99% of what I seeing is against this product, even WotC has not spent anytime commenting on it or defending the decision to publish this product.

There seem to be two camps opposed to this product. First there are the common players who make up 90% of the people who play and collect Magic cards. These people range from the casual player who buys a couple hundred dollars of cards a year to to serious tournament players who spend a significant portion of their yearly income on cards. These folks want cards they can play the game with and the $999.99 price tag is too high, it effectively prices them out of the product. The second group is the top tier collectors, the people with a lot of money and invest some portion of that money into cards hoping that $15,000 Black Lotus will someday sell for $25,000. This group does not want this product because it will drive the prices of the cards they have down. The second group does not want the reserved list cards reprinted at all. The first group would love to see those cards reprinted, but they want them reprinted at an affordable price.

There is no doubt in my mind this will be a successful product and it will sell out. Anyone with any knowledge of Magic: The Gathering as a game will understand that this product will be selling on the secondary market for $3,000 this time next year and in five years it will be selling for $10,000, this is as close to easy money as you will ever get. If I have enough money come November to buy one or even two, I will do it, I would be crazy not to. I put it in a box and on a shelf and forget about it for a couple of years, it is a no brainer. Worst case scenario is ten years from now you sell it for $1200. This product is never going to be worth less than what you paid for it, assuming you paid the original $1,000 for it.

While I am probably not going to buy this product, just based on the price alone, I really don't think this is a bad idea, I just really wish it was cheaper. I don't care about the reserved list, I don't care about the secondary market, I don't care about collectors. All I really care about is playing the game, so I am in the first category of players. I really don't see why WotC doesn't reignite the Legacy and Vintage formats the same way they lit up Modern by providing support for it. If they reprinted the Unlimited set with the modern frame, for a reasonable price and said they could only be played in Commander, Legacy and Vintage, they would sell hundreds of millions of dollars of these packs. On top of that, I don't think it would affect the long term value of the old cards. Anyway, that is my opinion on this.

Mastodon