Sunday, November 26, 2023

The state of Wayland on Linux

Is it just me or does Wayland piss everyone off? I am not a new Linux user, I have been at it since 1992. Every time I give Wayland a try, I find something that is broken. They have been at this for 15 years and it still feels like an early beta release. Maybe its time these guys gave it up and acknowledge this was not the way to go.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a Wayland hater. I am all for new technologies that genuinely improve our experiences on computers. If 10 years ago Wayland had been ready to go, I would have jumped on it, but back then it was barely demo code let alone a usable desktop environment and that was after 5 years of development.

I am also not saying that Xorg is the end all and be all of  windowing systems on Linux. Xorg has its problems and back in the 90's it was not fun to setup and get working. I remember needing to know mode lines for the monitor I was using and sometimes, even the manufactures didn't know what that was. Don't get me started on hardware acceleration.

My point is, Wayland was a solution looking for a problem. By the time Wayland came around Xorg was pretty much done, all of its major issues had been solved and it was a pretty good framework for building new extensions. Then a small group of developers working on Xorg, decided it was not any fun to work on anymore and started work on Wayland. At the time, no one wanted Wayland, but by god we were going to get it anyway. Now 15 years later, it is functional, but unless you have a setup exactly like the developers, you are probably not going to have a good experience.

I think it is time to call a pig a pig.

Saturday, November 25, 2023


Anybody concerned about A.I. taking everything over, please keep in mind that for A.I. to become a serious threat to humanity, computers must be able to;

  • never hallucinate
  • understand abstractions
  • form long term plans
  • understand causality
  • reliably maintain models of the world
  • reliably handle outliers

Currently computers cannot do any of these things.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Playing Shadowdark

 This last month, we played 4 games of Shadowdark. The point of this exercise was to test the game to see what we liked and what we didn't. This is in part due to over all dissatisfaction with Dungeons & Dragons 5E. Don't get me wrong, I like 5E, it is probably the best version of the game to date. However, it does have some problems that do need to be addressed. First and foremost being, combat is slow, and I mean really slow. We tend to play 2-3 hours, if there is a fight, that is about all we do that evening. Another issue is there are just so many choices and variations, that characters get encumbered with so many powers and abilities that it becomes difficult to know what do in any given situation. Over the last couple of years, I have noticed my players tend to play their character sheets rather than their characters.

I am going to start with the things I liked about Shadowdark and then I will move into the things I really didn't care for.

First, character generation was interesting, we have not used completely randomized ability scores for a very long time, so it was interesting to see what the dice gave every one. We rolled 3d6 in order, but I allowed each player to swap two attributes, to give them some flexibility. It was fun to see my players lean into the whole "Play what you roll" shtick. One player went so far as to roll his class randomly and ended up a Wizard with an Intelligence of 9. 

Second, combat was a breeze, there was no waiting for players to decide what they were going to do. The first session was getting characters rolled up and then a short introductory session starting in a tavern. There was a bar fight, but it went down fast and the rest of the session was all RP. The next three games, we managed to get through 2-3 encounters each session, something was basically impossible in 5E.

The torches burning in real time kept the players on task. It really makes a difference in how they play when there are resources that need to be managed and timers just waiting to hit zero. We have had sessions where they group moved 10 feet in 3 hours of play, there was none of that here, they kept moving.

Now for the things either I did not like or my players did not like.

Roll to cast magic, while an interesting idea on paper, did not play out well in game. There were two Clerics in the party and there were times when neither of them could cast Cure Wounds. This was very frustrating, not just for those players but everyone in the game. The problem was two fold, first the DC of 10 + Spell Tier is too high, all of the spell casters were failing 50% of their rolls, for the Clerics it was not terrible because they could still attack, but the Wizard was just done. This probably needs to be 7 + Spell Tier so a Tier 1 spell gets successfully cast 60-70% of the time. The second issue is once they failed a roll, they could not cast the spell again they rested, but because of the resource management issues, resting was difficult and even counter productive.

Encumbrance is never fun, it is a book keeping chore that no one really wants to do. I have to give credit to the game designer, they really did try to make it as simple as possible with the gear slot mechanic. Unfortunately, it was still not fun. I am not going to advocate for for letting the party carry whatever the fuck they want, but I do think a maximum of 18 slots and the average being more like 10 or 12 is too low. This basically encourages the players to do ridiculous things like bringing mules into dungeons, or exiting the dungeon every time they find even a little treasure. I think probably making gear slots 15 or Strength x 1.5, whichever is higher is probably good. I think I would also make items of negligible weight, basically anything that weighs less than a pound, should be 1/4 or 1/2 of a gear slot. A dagger should not take up the same number of gear slots as a longsword.

While there is something to be said about limiting choices players have for classes and ancestries, I think Shadowdark takes it too far back to just four classes and six ancestries. Fortunately there are enough 3rd party supplements out there that I can bring the game into parity with 5E. Players should be able to play interesting characters and the game should not be human centric, if the players and GM don't want it to be.

Over all, I enjoyed running the game and my players did enjoy trying it out. I think they especially liked the Gloaming setting from Cursed Scrolls #1. It is very different from my Caldoom setting or something like the Forgotten Realms. It is a darker fantasy world, but is not so grim and dark as there is no hope or happiness in the world. I am leaning towards using Shadowdark for my next campaign, however, I will be house ruling the things we didn't like.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

RE: Disposable Computers

 I got the Wyse 5470 today. I have to say, it really is not as bad as I thought it would be. The install of Debian 12 went very smoothly, especially since I was prepared for what needed to happen and pretty much scripted it. After all was said and done, the base install was 4.7 GB, this left me with 7.6 GB of free space, slightly less than I was expecting. What was unexpected, was sitting at idle, the operating system was consuming about 600 MB of RAM, a far cry from my daily driver that consumes 5 GB on a good day.

I am also not dissatisfied with the performance of the EMMc drive, I was expecting it to be bog slow, but it seems to be running just fine. However with just 7.6 GB of disk space, I am definitely going to need to install an NVMe drive into the system. While i think that is enough for this stripped down Debian install, it is really not enough room for any sort of personal data. I suppose I could use it as a sort of Chromebook, I do have a copy of most of my data stored in the cloud, so it would probably be trivial, but that is a risk, since it is not always a guarantee I will have access to a wireless connection. It really is best to have what you need on the system, even when travelling.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Disposable Computers

 The Dell refurbished site had Wyse 5470 mobile Thin Clients on sale for $79, this is a pretty good price, but early this week, that price dropped to $59 and I figured it was time to get one. The technical specifications are not all that good;

Dell WYSE 5470 Notebook:

  • 14-in FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Webcam
  • 1x Intel Celeron Quad Core (N4100) 1.10 GHz
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 16 GB SSD
  • Intel Integrated Graphics
  • Backlit Keyboard
The 16 GB SSD is probably the most worrying thing, especial since it is most likely an EMMC drive, which is really not much better than having a SD card as a boot drive. It does however have a NVMe slot that will handle up to a 128 GB drive. Putting the NVMe drive aside, I am kind of curious just what I can install on this decidedly small SSD. Windows 11 is never going to fit on it. There is no doubt I can fit Linux on it, but a normal install of Linux for me is right around 15 GB. I can whittle that down, but it means making sacrifices, like not being able to use a nice feature filled desktop environment and probably no LibreOffice.

The nice thing about modern technology is being able to build virtual machines to almost any spec. So before this machine arrived, I decided to see what I could do as a stripped down install of Debian 12. I built out a VM with 4 cores, 4 GB of RAM and a 16 GB drive. The goal was to get a reasonably functional install of Linux in under 5 GB and not have to give up too much in the process. To start with, I did a bare bones install of Debian 12, with no desktop environment at all, this came in at just over 1 GB of drive space. The easy part after that was installing the odd text mode applications I use, so when I logged in for the first time as root, I ran a quick;

apt install sudo mc links cmus htop neofetch tmux ffmpeg lame zsh ufw -y

I then edited the /etc/sudoers file and added my user account so I ssh in and finish what I was doing.

Now came where I needed to make some choices. First was a web browser, I use Google Chrome, so I went and downloaded that, I will install it later. I also made a list of the other GUI based applications I would likely need; audacious, flameshot, thunderbird, cheese, vlc, abiword, and gnumeric. These should cover most of what I need. I also would need some tools I am use to having; synaptic, tilix, and gdebi.

Before I can install these apps though, I need to figure out what desktop environment I am going to use. Gnome 3 and KDE are straight out, both are 5 GB by themselves. Mate is my usual choice, but even it is an easy 3 GB install. The next tier down is LXDE and its sister LXQt, both of these are better, but I was looking for something that would consume around 1 GB of drive space and that pretty much left me with Xfce. This one is not optimal, it is very lightweight, but is missing features and is not as polished as the others. The whole idea here is to test it out and see what happens, I can always remove it and install one of the heavier ones if I need to. So with my list gathered, I ran;

apt install xfce4 xfce4-goodies synaptic tilix audacious flameshot thunderbird cheese gdebi vlc network-manager-gnome abiword gnumeric -y

I added network-manager-gnome to the list, because I knew from experience that Xfce does not have a network app, so I needed to borrow one from Gnome. When it was all done and I rebooted, I installed Google Chrome and then did a bit of house cleaning. The entire install came in at 4.3 GB. I do have a bit of room in my 5 GB limit, so I may add VS Code as well.

The 16 GB drive I assigned to this VM actually turned out to be more like 15, once a chunk was taken out for swap space and I ended up with almost 10 GB of free space, just enough to spare for some MP3's and a movie or two.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

RE: Shadowdark RPG Review

Last night I ran my second game of Shadowdark. The first game was a pretty normal session zero, with the players rolling up characters and then introducing those characters to the setting. We did 3d6 in order, it had been a couple of decades since we last did that and we were apprehensive about it, but with the roll until you get a character with at least one 14, worked out pretty well, after Class Talents were rolled, we even had one 18 and no one ended up with a useless character. The second half of the game, I introduced a bunch of NPC's and conducted a typical bar fight, just so we could get use to combat and such.

Over all, it was a fun session, my players enjoyed it and said it was a nice diversion from 5E and they were surprised at how squishy they were compared to 5E. I think the only disappointment was the limited number of ancestry and class choices they had, so I think if I decide to run a full blown campaign, I will need to include some mix of rules from Unnatural Selection and Into the Shadowlands to bring the game into parity with D&D 5E.

The second game, was a rats in the cellar style game. It was designed to be a pretty easy scenario, the main purpose was to familiarize the players with the system, get them use to the 1 hour torch concept and the always on initiative mechanic. This scenario was not designed to be lethal, nor even especially challenging, it really just a test drive before diving into the deep end. Now I am glad I decided to run the game this way, rather than dumping them into a gauntlet or something similar.

The major problem that turned up was the roll to cast mechanic. When it came time for the priest to cast his cure wounds spell, he failed his role. No problem, they have two priests, number two charges into the fray and he fails his roll too. Now neither of them can cast cure wounds again until they have had a rest. The two other characters that were down to 1 or 2 hit points in the middle of a fight, were not especially amused. This did not cause excitement, it did not instill fear, what it made was frustrated players.

I know what some of you are thinking, well you guys are just Gen Z 5E players who have been coddled by the 5E no one ever dies style of play. Anyone who knows us, knows this is not true. The majority of us have been playing since AD&D 1E was a thing. We remember when Magic-Users were one and done. So now I am going to say one of the things we grognards are not suppose to say out loud. Having a character who was more or less useless after doing the one thing they are suppose to do, really sucked. It sucked back then and it sucks now.

So this for us is something that needs to be house ruled. When the problem became apparent, we stopped the game and had a discussion about it. We asked what was the base problem and what was the best way to address it. Now obviously, I don't want players spamming spells like 5th Edition cantrips, there does need to be some limit on what they can do and how often. Out of this conversation, three possible house rules emerged;

  • Idea 1: Give 1 free casting of each spell per rest, after that roll to cast is in effect.
  • Idea 2: If the roll is failed, they loose the ability to cast the spell for 10 rounds or perhaps just until the end of the combat.
  • Idea 3: If the roll is failed, reduce the numerical effects of the spell by half.

Personally, I think I am leaning towards #2. There does need to be a limiting factor, but #2 help mitigate the problem by allowing for a shorter recovery time. I think #3 goes against the one of the core tenants of the game and that is, magic is cruel and fickle mistress. There is nothing stopping a player from spamming half powered spells. #1 seems like a reasonable option, but also just seems like a band aide on the real problem.

Friday, September 8, 2023

The Question of Morality

I have given this a little bit of thought, no a lot, but a little. Here is what the real difference between Christian Morality and Secular Morality in stark contrast.

Lets assume for a moment that God truly reveals himself in such a way as no one can deny his existence. God has come to earth and shown beyond any reasonable doubt that he is in fact the God of the bible and he exists. He then promptly issues the following command;

“In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them, the Canadians, and Mexicans, as the Lord your God has commanded you.”

With no other information available, other than what I have provided, what do you do?

  • The Christian response should be, "Yes master, let me go get a baseball bat and a couple of guns.".
  • The Secular Humanist, Atheist if you will, should respond with; "Hold on a minute, what the fuck!, NO!"

Don't give me any bullshit about "God wouldn't do that!", the guy has a track record, he has done this in the past, since he is timeless and unchanging, there is no reason to believe he would not do it in the future. Lets be real, Revelations points to a very bad end for humanity. So the real question is, what is the truly moral thing to do here? Does faith and obedience justify the deaths of millions of people? Is defying the ultimate authority really a good idea?

My thought experiment for the day.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Shadowdark Home Brew

You are not what you appear to be, you are actually a small 3 pound brain with 4 legs who likes to consume the brains and inhabit the bodies of bi-pedals.

You know Common and Primordial.

Transient Mind. Upon death of your host body, you can escape and take over another body. You loose the ancestry feature of the host body and it is replaced with Transient Mind.

A small creature resembling a brain with four legs who likes to consume the brains and inhabit the bodies of bi-pedals. Brain-Eater’s love the experience’s provided by the host body such as eating, drinking, and adrenaline induced excitement, they tend to be hedonistic while inhabiting a host.

AC 12, HP 10, ATK 2 Claw +2 (1d4) and Mind Bite +2 (1d6),
MV near, S -2, D +2, C +1, I +2, W +0, Ch +0, AL L, LV 3

Empathy. 1/day the Brain-Eater can detect any living creature with an Intelligence of 3 or greater within double near distance for 3 rounds.

Mind Bite. The Brain-Eater can target a single creature within near distance with a mental attack, roll 1d20+2 with a DC of 12 to succeed. On a successful roll, the target takes 1d6 damage.

Transient Mind. The Brain-Eater may take control of the body of a corpse that has not been dead for longer than 10 minutes. The Brain-Eater consumes the brain of the corpse, crawling inside, taking its place and restoring the body to life with 1 HP. The Brain-Eater takes on attributes, memories and personality of the new host. The Brain-Eater looses the ancestry features of the host body and it is replaced with Transient Mind feature, but looses Empathy and Mind Bite while it inhabits the host.

“I am not your brother, I am the thing that killed him.” - Indrid Grimm

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Shadowdark House rule

One of the big complaints I have had with many old school style RPG's is wasted levels, where the character really only gets some extra hit points. In Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, this has been dealt with very nicely. Unfortunately Shadowdark fell into the same hole these other RPG's fell into. In Shadowdark, on each odd level your character receives a class talent. So, in the name of getting a little something each level, on each even level your character receives a roll on the general talent table. The following table is my first draft of this table.

Nothing on this table particularly breaks the game and most of them are already on other tables. I think the biggest thing about this table, is it allows characters to gain abilities from other classes. If the campaign goes all the way to 10th level, the player will get 5 rolls on this table, with half the rolls being concentrated in the 8-12 range, a quarter of the rolls will be 3-7 and a quarter will be 13-18. Realistically that would translate to 3 rolls in the middle and 2 rolls either on the low or high side.

I was considering an alternate table based on 2d6 rather than 3d6, with 5 options rather than 16 options. This would be more akin to the class talent tables, but I think this gives a wider range of possibilities and therefore more interesting for the players.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Review: Shadowdark RPG

 Much like Deathbringer, Shadowdark is a variation on D&D 5E designed for players looking for a simple fast playing game. My problem with Deathbringer is it played very flat, meaning there did not seem to be any depth of play, much like the original version of D&D. A fighter was a fighter was a fighter, sure you could play them slightly differently and use different weapons, but at the end of the day, there was no real variance.  The author of Deathbringer is working on an expanded version, but I suspect this is a low priority for him and so it may be years before we see a real product.

While Deathbringer could be printed out on a single sheet of paper, Shadowdark is a full blown RPG with no dependencies on any other games. The Shadowdark book contains everything you need, ancestries, classes, spells, magic items, monsters, the whole 9 yards. So right off the bat, Shadowdark is the better game. The Quickstart rules for Shadowdark can be had at; 

The Shadowdark core rules contain 6 Ancestries, Dwarf, Elf, Goblin, Half-Orc, Halfling and Human. This sounds all good and well, pretty standard fantasy RPG races, except for one small thing. None of them have darkvision. In fact darkvision is not a thing in this game. The only defense against darkness is natural light, torches or lanterns. In either case, they only last 1 hour of real time, not game time, real time, and once the lights go out, no one can see anything. That is except for the monsters, who are all dark adapted and can see in the dark just fine. This builds an interesting resource management aspect to the game, because the characters can only carry so many torches or so many flasks of oil for the lantern. This means the players have to plan out their excursions. They cannot take a long rest after every combat, because a long rest costs the characters 8 torches, or they have to build an actual fire, which has its own problems, especially in dungeons where there is little or no air circulation.

The game has 4 base classes, Fighter, Priest, Thief and Wizard. There are plenty more available online and creating new classes is pretty easy, but honestly, I am not terrible sure that is necessary. I have always felt the 4 core classes are pretty much all that is needed. Although, something I would probably house is multi classing, because it does make character building more interesting and allows the players to make characters more like the movies and books. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is, as the characters level, rather than getting set in stone powers and abilities, they get a 2d6 roll on a talent table. Rolling a 2 gives you an extra powerful talent, rolling a 12 lets you choose any talent off the table or gives you a +2 to distribute to you attributes as you see fit. 3-6, 7-9 and 10-11, give you a mixed bag of talents. The player will only ever get a maximum of 5 rolls off the table, assuming the game goes to 10th level, enough to get an interesting mix I think.

Another interesting aspect of the game is no saving rolls of any kind. All spells are roll to cast, which means every time the character casts a spell, the player must make a spell casting check against a DC of 10 + Level of the spell. If they succeed, the spell goes off normally, if they fail, nothing happens and they cannot cast the spell again until they have completed a long rest. There are no spell points or spell slots, the character can cast the spell over and over, until they fail a roll. This helps keep the focus on lower level spells, because they are easy to cast and players will tend to save the high level spells for when they absolutely need them instead of wasting it on three kobolds because they think its funny.

Overall, I think this is a solid game. If you have played any of the modern itinerations of D&D, this will be familiar to you. However it has been stripped down for speed and ease of play. Combat should not be bogged down with endless choices and because the torch is burning and no one wants the torch going out in the middle of a fight, players are motivated to expedite their turns. I am giving this one an 8 out of 10. I really want to play it.

Shadowdark Torchbearer Class

 I made this class up as a joke. This class is meant to be terribly under powered without being totally useless. The two use cases for this class is first as an NPC the GM wants to be able to improve over time. The second is when you, as a player, roll some really crappy attributes and your GM is making you play the character anyway. Lets be honest, when you roll 7, 9, 8, 14, 7, 10, there is no way you are going to be successful as a serious character, so you might just as well lean into the sidekick thing. If you actually use this class for an actual character, I cannot be held responsible for the results.

Legal Information:

Fonts. Old English Text MT by Monotype Type Drawing Office used under license, Montserrat designed by Julieta Ulanovsky, Sol Matas, Juan Pablo del Peral, Jacques Le Bailly, used under Open Font License, Old Newspaper Types by Manfred Klein used under license.

Shadowdark License. This product is an independent product published under the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License and is not affiliated with The Arcane Library, LLC. Shadowdark RPG © The Arcane Library, LLC.

Layout Template. By Taylor Seely-Wright.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

RE: Mastodon

 I shutdown my Mastodon server today. My main problem was getting feeds from a diverse set of other servers. The Fediverse is cool and interesting if you have an account on one of the larger servers, however, if you are on a small self-hosted server, it is very difficult to find interesting content. My feed was pretty flat, with posts coming in slowly and it was pretty much the same stuff over and over. Over the weekend, this got me to thinking that this cannot be all there is to Mastodon.

On Sunday I submitted an account request to, an RPG centered Mastodon server. Today, I received my account and transferred over the more interesting accounts that I followed. Low and behold, within minutes my feed was exploding with content. On the one hand, I was excited to finally see what Mastodon was really about. On the other hand, I was sad in the realization that a small server really stands no chance of replacing Twitter for its users.

My opinion at this point is, setting up your own Mastodon server is a waste of time unless you intend to provide service to a few hundred friends. Otherwise you are going nowhere fast. Your best bet is to join an already well established server with a few thousand accounts. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023


I was involved in a podcast for a couple of years, it was a fun experience and I would definitely do it again. Unfortunately we fell into the many of the same traps other hobbyist podcasts fall into that made it unsustainable. Now don't get me wrong, I think we did a pretty good job and I had a fun time doing it and again, I would do it again in a heartbeat. However, if I were going to do it again, there are several things I would do differently.

The things we did wrong:
  • Technology: We almost always had technical issues, and all of this was due to bad planning on our part. We were using Skype when we definitely should not have been using Skype. For the first few episodes, I used my webcam microphone instead of investing in a decent headset, this led to poor quality sound. There were other issues as well.
  • Planning: We had no structure to the podcast, we basically got on and started talking about random stuff. Sure we had a general focus of the podcast, but episode to episode, there was no planning involved. More often than not, I had no idea what we were going to talk about until we started recording. We also fell into talking about the same things from week to week
  • Unscripted: Okay, I am not saying we should have scripted every episode, but we should have had outlines of what we were going to talk about along with bullet points of subtopics. The problem with what we were doing is often we would end up rambling aimlessly from topic to topic with no focus.
  • Unedited: We posted our stream of consciousness unedited and raw, this was a bad idea. We should have had a third party editing the podcast, taking out the awkward pauses, unintelligible rants and the dumb in jokes that no one else was going to get. I am certain a good editor could have cut 30% of every episode and we would have been better for it.
The things we did right:
  • Personality: I think the podcast had a great personality, Leigh and I bounced off of each other really well and we had a really good working relationship. I think we both contributed to the podcast in a positive way. In spite of what I said earlier, unscripted and unedited does have its advantages, we were our real selves as rough and unpolished as that was. We are good friends and that came through on the podcast.
  • Informational: I think the podcast put out a lot of good information and a variety of topics, we answered a lot of questions, when we did not know the answer, we said so and when we were wrong about something, we admitted it and corrected ourselves.
  • Dedication: Leigh and I were dedicated to what we were doing. We recorded pretty much every week for over 2 years. Sure, we missed a few here and there, but usually that was because of planned vacations and things of that nature. We recorded even when neither of us really wanted to. We both thought what we were doing was important and we did not falter from that.
  • Community involvement: We had a couple of interesting guests, who spoke intelligently about important topics. We also had a couple of episodes we did in Discord where our regular listeners, as few as there were, got in on the action, so it was not always just Leigh and I talking.
Overall, I think this was a positive experience and I think all or most of our issues were that we did not really know what we were doing. I learned a lot from the experience and I think if we restarted doing it or if I decided to do my own, I would require some moderate amount of production time for each episode. There is no reason not to have 2 or 3 episodes in pre-production at any given time and once a topic has been covered, it should not be covered again for at least 4 episodes, unless something radical comes up. I would also like to see a standard format for each episode, even if it is as simple as; Intro (5 minutes), Primary Topic (30 minutes), Secondary Topic (15 minutes), Finishing Up (5 Minutes), Post Production additions (5 minutes). This would obviously make for more work, I think doing these things would make for a more professional production.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Summer is before us

 It is Memorial Day weekend, as always I am pretty optimistic about the summer, but I know in my heart it is probably going to be a total bust and another summer will pass. Okay, so now I am not optimistic, I am feeling a bit depressed about it. I think instead of dwelling on summer, I am going post my newest D&D Character.

This is a character concept I have been thinking about for a while. The basic idea is Inrid Grimm is not actually Indrid Grimm, he is actually the thing that killed Indrid Grimm. At some point, Indrid was attacked and killed and replaced by an Intellect Devourer. Indrid was chosen because he had been selected to go to Candlekeep and study on a scholarship, this allows Indrid to infiltrate Candlekeep for his Mind Flayer masters.

Indrid Grimm
Male, Intellect Devourer, Wizard 1
Medium Aberration, lawful evil

Armor Class 10
Hit Point 6 (1d6)
Speed 30 ft.

Str 10 (+0), Dex 10 (+0), Con 10 (+0), Int 18 (+4), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 14 (+2)

Saving Throws: Intelligence +6, Wisdom +4
Skills: Arcana +6, Deception +4, Perception +4, Stealth +2
Tools: Dragonchess Set, Thieves' Tools
Languages: Common, Deep Speech, Telepathy

Firebolt, Ranged +6 to hit, damage 1d10 Fire damage.
Dagger, Melee +2 to hit, damage 1d4 Piercing
Staff, Melee +2 to hit, damage 1d6 Bludgeoning


Telepathic (TCoE 81), Intelligence, Increase your Intelligence score by 1, to a maximum of 20. The spell’s spellcasting ability is Intelligence. 

Actor (PHB 165 ),  You gain +1 CHA, you have advantage on Deception and Performance checks when trying to pass yourself off as a different person, and you can mimic the speech of another person or the sounds made by other creatures that you have heard (for at least 1 minute).

Wizard features:

Spellcasting (PHB 114 ), You can cast prepared wizard spells using INT as your spellcasting modifier (Spell DC 14, Spell Attack +6) and wizard spells in your spellbook as rituals if they have the ritual tag. You can use an arcane focus as a spellcasting focus. 

Arcane Recovery (PHB 115 ), Once per day when you finish a short rest, you can choose expended spell slots to recover - up to a combined level of 1, and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher. 

Cantrips: Firebolt, Light, Minor Illusion
1st Level: Comprehend Languages, Disguise Self, Expeditious Retreat, Find Familiar, Silent Image, Silvery Barbs
2nd Level: Detect Thoughts (1 per Long Rest)

Racial Features:
Tasha's Custom Lineage
Creature Type, (TCoE 9)
You are a humanoid. You determine your appearance and whether you resemble any of your kin. 
Size (TCoE 8), Medium 
Ability Score Increase (TCoE 9), +2 to Intellegence
Feat (TCoE 8), Telepathic
Variable Trait (TCoE 8), Proficiency Perception 
Languages (TCoE 8), Deep Speech

Side note: Campaign allows each character a free feat at 1st level.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Review: Deathbringer RPG

 The Deathbringer RPG was written by Professor Dungeon Master, a Youtube content creator, as a stripped down version of D&D. The rules take up a single double sided page, however it does require some edition of D&D to provide monsters, spells and magic items. At face value Deathbringer appears to be just what it says it is, a stripped down grimdark version of D&D that plays fast and easy. It replaces many of the D&D class features, feats and special abilities with Deathbringer dice, a d6 that you can roll and add to any other die roll you please. This is a cool mechanic that does work well. Deathbringer also removes the 3-18 attribute levels in favor of just using the 0-4 modifier scores.

The problem Deathbringer has is it plays a bit flat. In D&D, even a 1st level character has some options for things to do on any given turn. Deathbring has the same issue early editions of D&D had. The only real option a fighter has is to attack, once the Wizard blows his wad in spells, all they can do is throw daggers and this does not improve much as the game progresses. Characters do not really improve much between 1st and 10th level. I really think most game groups would be better served by another game, like Shadowdark or perhaps just playing D&D 5E, but limiting players to using the Basic Rules.

I love the idea of Deathbringer, I do not love actually playing it, although I do not especially hate it either. I think Professor Dungeon Master had the right idea, but I think execution was not nearly as good as it could have been. I have to give this one a 2 out of 5.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

RE: DOSBox Trials

 I got some feedback asking me why I setup a Linux machine to boot straight into DOSBox instead of just restoring and using old hardware, since I have experience doing this and why waste modern hardware by completely dedicating it to running old games and such. This is an interesting question.

First old hardware is getting harder to find and is getting more expensive. Anyone who has went looking for Sound Blaster card recently will know this pain, if you can find one, it could easily cost you $300. On top of that, running 30 or 40 year old hardware is a gamble on how long it will last. Every time you turn it on might be the last time. The tiny amounts of memory and hard drive space is also a problem. With DOSBox I can configure as much RAM as DOS will support and I am not stuck with a 200 MB hard drive on the verge of failure, I can use a 500 GB drive and DOSBox will happily let me use it all.

The other problem is, an old system running DOS or even Windows 3.1, lacks many features of modern operating systems. For instance usable networking and USB support. Since this setup is using Linux underneath, it can function as a modern machine, so for instance getting files onto the machine can be done via FTP, ssh or even a USB key. I can also setup multiple monitors, keyboard and mice, along with different logins, so multiple people can use one machine and play games together

DOSBox is highly configurable. Besides setting RAM, if I want it to emulate a 386, 486 or Pentium, depending on what programs I am running, I don't even have to reboot, hitting a key combo will slow the machine down or speed it up. I can also setup different configurations for different purposes, like a pure DOS environment, one for Windows 3.1 and one for Windows 98.

Finally, why would I dedicate a whole machine to this, when I can just run DOSBox on my main machine? This is a bit trickier. The big reason is simply, because I can. Beyond that, it is something to do with an old computer. Who doesn't have an old computer or laptop laying around these days. Why not put it to use playing Doom, Civilization or Lemmings. This use case has very low system requirement, even  1 GB is more than enough RAM for this project, and integrated graphics is perfectly okay. Heck, this can all be done on a Raspberry Pi. Who knows, maybe Granddad's old 386 just gave up on life, but that is where all of his important stuff is and he has no desire to learn anything beyond Windows 3.1, this is a perfect solution for him, with a bit of work, he might not even see the difference.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

DOSBox Trials

 I was thinking it might be cool to have a Linux machine that booted straight into DOSBox. For those who don't know, DOSBox is a stripped down emulator designed specifically to run old DOS games on modern equipment. I figured this would be an easy project, doable in an hour or two, which was true enough, except I got the hair brained idea that I wanted to run Windows 3.1 in it as well. This caused me to tumble down a massive rabbit hole that cost me more than a day of my life to get working.

Honestly, it is not worth it. The return on investment just is not there. I mean having a Linux machine boot straight into DOSBox is mildly cool, but you really do not gain much by doing it. I suspect most people are not going dedicate an entire machine to this endeavor. If you find yourself wanting to do this and you absolutely want Windows 3.1 support, go get DOSBox-X and compile it from source. This version gives you as many bells and whistles as possible, including networking. If all you want is DOS and no Windows 3.1 support, here are the basic steps;

1. Install Debian with no Xorg, DE or WM

2. Reboot and log in root and install sudo

    2a. apt install sudo

    2b. edit /etc/sudoers and add your user account

    2c. logout and log in under your user

3. sudo apt install dosbox xorg xinit twm xdm

4. Type startx to enter into X, open a terminal and run dosbox, then exit out

5. mkdir dosbox

6. nano .dosbox/dosbox-0.74-3.conf

    6a. Change the following lines to;





    6b. Add the following lines after [autoexec]


            mount c ~/dosbox


    6c. Save and exit

7. nano .xsession and add

    7a. exec dosbox

    7b. save and exit the file

8. Rebbot the system and when you login, you should go straight to DOSBox.


Edit: For those of you wish to use DOSBox-x, a more up to date and feature rich fork of DOSBox, I have the steps for compile from source here;

Friday, March 31, 2023

I got my Nabu PC

 I received my Nabu PC last week. I was very happy I went through the process of figuring out how to make all the software work with an emulator first, this saved me a lot of screwing around when all I wanted to do was mess around with CP/M. The first thing you are going to need is the RS 422 serial adapter and a DIN cable. There are several videos on how to make them, but really, it is best just to go buy one already made, they cost like $15, it is just not worth the hassle of doing it yourself.

The really interesting thing about the Nabu is, it was the first cloud based home computer to be released, predating Chrome OS by several decades. The Nabu was released in 1983 before anyone even knew what the "Cloud" was. Amazingly, it works pretty well, I would say it is right on par with the other 8 bit computers of the time, obviously its boot time was a little longer when compared to instant on machines like the Commodore 64, but once loaded it performs very well.

At this point, I am not particularly sure what I want to do with it, I was hoping to get some time to sit down with it while I was on vacation to do something cool with it, but I got busy with other things. I may just box it up and resell it in a few years when they are no longer readily available. Right now anyone who wants one can get them for under a $100 if they are will to wait a little while, but in a few years after the warehouse find is gone, I am pretty sure these will be selling for $500+ dollars, especially for a tested and working machine.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Mame-Nabu under Linux

I bought a Nabu PC, a new batch has went up for sale. I missed the first batch and decided I was not going to buy one, but as usual, I find my impulse control to be lacking. It is going to be a while before it arrives, so I decided to check out the Nabu PC Mame emulator, so I could check out the Nabu Internet Adapter software so I could sort that out before I got my machine and maybe do some programming on it. I am not going to go into how to set that up, it is easy enough to do. You can get it at

The problem I did run into was getting the emulator. The only pre compiled binaries were for Windows and there were no instructions on what you needed to get it running under Linux. It was not just a matter of install it from a repo or downloading the code and compiling it, Nabu support is new and is not available in the mainline code. I am going to assume you have some experience in using Linux, otherwise you would not be doing this.

Goto, click on the <>Code button and click on Download zip. Do not use git to retrieve the code, for some reason the nabupc code is not included in the git repository, but is included in the zip file. Once you have it downloaded, extract the file and cd into the folder containing the code.

To compile Mame, you will need some dependencies, install them using this command;

sudo apt-get install git build-essential python3 libsdl2-dev libsdl2-ttf-dev libfontconfig-dev libpulse-dev qtbase5-dev qtbase5-dev-tools qtchooser qt5-qmake

You can just type "make" at this point and it will build, however this will build Mame with everything and will take a while to do, we really only need it to build the Nabu emulator, so we start the compile process with;

make SOURCES=src/mame/nabu/nabupc.cpp REGENIE=1

Next go grab the Windows Nabu Mame file from here, This file has everything needed including the ROM files and disk images, this will save you a bit of time in figuring out what you need and where to put it. Extract it to where you plan to run the emulator from. Delete mame.exe, floppy-boot.cmd and nabu.cmd, you will not need these files. Next copy the mame executable you just built into this new folder.  Run the Nabu Internet Adapter, and start the TCP service, you must do this before you start the emulator, or it will crash. You can now run the emulator with this command.

./mame nabupc -window -kbd nabu_hle -hcca null_modem -bitb socket.

That is it, the emulator should come up and connect automatically.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Thoughts on Mastodon

 When Elon Mush took control of Twitter, a couple of million people went to Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter, built to be a decentralized platform that no single person controlled and didn't vacuum up your personal data or push advertisements into you feed. The hypothesis was solid, it is a good idea, so I decided to dip my toe in and see if reality matched the hypothesis.

My first issue was getting signed up, you have to find a server to sign up with, I did what any reasonably competent internet user would do, I googled the most popular servers and found several lists all nearly identical. I started at the top and tired to sign up. The first one was not taking any new users, same with the second and 3rd. The fourth put me on a waiting list and on it went. I found a few more, but the servers were either not accepting new users or simply did not exist anymore. If I were a Twitter refugee, i would have gotten very frustrated at this point and been done with it.

I am however, not a Twitter refugee, I am a nerd with home lab infrastructure, so I decided I would simply setup my own Mastodon instance. I am not going to get into the process I went through to build it. It was not particularly difficult and I had very few problems, but again, I already had everything I needed, I could fire up a virtual machine, I had a domain name with DNS redirection, so it was just a matter of following some instructions on getting the software up and running, it took me the better part of a Sunday to get everything the way I wanted, but it has been humming along perfectly since then. I provided an overview of this process just after I did it, you can read it here.

So now I had a Mastodon account, so what to do now. Well I needed to find people to follow, so once again I went to google and found some lists of interesting accounts to follow. Once again, all of these lists were nearly identical and I was only really interested in a couple of them. I also found a couple of Youtube content creators who use Mastodon. Once I had some posts coming into my feed, I found some other folks who were posting mildly interesting things, so I followed them as well. Then I got to where I was following about 20 accounts and I had a steady stream of posts, but I was not seeing any new people to follow.

I had no trouble finding other Tech nerds interested in Retro computers, Linux, home labs, that sort of thing. What I found difficult, was finding people interested in Science Fiction/Fantasy Literature, Dungeons & Dragons, Comic Books, or any of my other interests. The problem is, to get these things into my feed, I need to know who to follow. There are of course lists of people by subject matter floating around and I even found one for RPG's with a good 30 accounts listed. When I started going through those accounts, many were just flatly gone, hadn't posted in months/years or were posting cat pictures and nothing else. I am use to being able to curate my feed, which I can do easily in Facebook and Twitter, it seems nearly impossible to get a nice balance of posts about a variety of topics unless you already know at least a few people already on Mastodon.

Now for the BIG problem with Mastodon, and this is not Mastodon's fault really. No one I personally know uses Mastodon. Sure, my wife signed up on my server when I was testing it and I had 1 friend also sign up, but neither of them use it. The reason I use social media is to interact with friends and family. If my Nephew was not using Twitter as his only social media platform, I probably would not have a Twitter account. On Facebook, I have maybe 40 friends, all of whom I know personally and have an active relationship with. By comparison, my Mastodon feed is very flat, there is nothing personalized about it, there are no people I know post about their lives or sending me messages. It feels like I am reading a blog written by multiple strangers. Yes, there are interesting posts, but there is no personal connection or depth.

All in all, I don't really think setting up my own instance is worth the trouble, simply because if you don't have a built in group of followers, it is just too difficult to get an interesting balanced feed going. If you can get onto a big server with lots of people, you get access to their local feed and better access to other large federated sites. Otherwise, I think you will just be wasting your time.

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
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


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.