No! I’m with the science team!

A mini-campaign in which the PCs are scientists, technicians, and security guards trying to escape from the ruined Black Mesa Research Facility.

Half-Life has had such a big impact on kids my generation and I know that a lot of the people I’ve played RPGs with over the years are also fans of it. But I don’t recall ever hearing anyone anywhere bring up the idea of using the game as the setting for an adventure or campaign. I guess it’s because the only kind of campaign we really had on the radar that wasn’t Fantasyland was either Star Wars or Shadowrun. Playing normal people in the mostly real world was never entertained as even an option.

After a few minutes of thinking about it, I realized that the Year Zero Alien game would be the perfect fit for a short campaign like this. (Unsurprisingly, as all sci-fi and horror themed shooters ever are heavily based on Aliens.) You got the technicians, scientists, and security archetypes for characters, there’s always the same undertones of company management having a good idea what fire they make their staff play with, and the tech level for machinery and personal equipment is pretty much the same.

This is, however, the full extend of my ideas so far. Walls shake, power goes out, nobody knows what’s going on. Try to find a way out of Black Mesa as alien monsters start killing people and later marines arrive to keep anything and anyone from getting out. Conveniently, any time a PC dies, you can always introduce new characters who have been hiding in a locked storeroom that the party is walking by. There is a certain temptation to make it a megadungeon, but when the goal is to find the fastest way to the exit, that’s probably a bad approach. Instead, it could work quite well to have certain bottlenecks where the players have only one or two possible exists from the current area, but they can still roam the current area freely to come up with ways past whatever obstacle is blocking the exit.

Do they really need to name it the “ORC” license?

So Paizo and Kobold Press are at the head of an initiative to create a new open license for shared RPG mechanics that completely bypassed WotC and aims to establish a common standard for second and third tier publishers as well as everyday GM’s for releasing their own material as open content. Great idea, I am absolutely for it.

But they decided to give it a name that shortens to ORC. Like OGL and OSR. I get it, it’s a bit of a pun. Cute.

And I get how this might have seemed like a great choice when things were going very fast and there was a race to establish facts on the ground and take charge of the conversation. But do we really want “ORC” to be the banner under which small content creators unite?

I know this isn’t the kind of subject that my assumed typical readers care about (but still have a really strong opinion on), but orcs are pretty much the main poster boys for controversies about uncritical use of stereotypes in fantasy in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I’m not too bothered by people who still want to make orcs work in their own creations, or who just use them now as big green humans. Their choice, I’m not going to fight it. But expecting that this is a label that everyone who is interested in this kind of licensing arrangement should unite under does feel like a major misstep. Nobody would expect the greater RPG world to rally behind the motto of “Love the Craft!” or something like that.

I feel like I’m having a pretty moderate position on this topic, but I still feel very uncomfortable with the thought of maybe releasing something as an ORC license product. I got some OSE material in the work that I’d love to share as a proper release, but if future OSE releases would have to be under an Orc license, I actually might rather not to.

I really think this should be addressed before the first actual game material is released under that license. Name it something else. Anything else! Just don’t name it after the most controversial and divisive topic in recent RPG history.

This is so stupid

I think this weeks mass hysteria about WotC revoking the perpetual Open Game License and closing down half of the RPG industry with that move is probably the dumbest thing I’ve seen happening in the 24 years that I’ve been following RPG news and discussions.

People even admit that they are “just repeating what I’ve heard” and that all the current panic is based on is an unsourced “leak”.

Update: More sources are coming out with claims that make it seem increasingly unlikely that it was all a hoax. But I don’t redact my original assessment; I amend it:

This is even way dumber than I thought.

Comments problem

It has come to my attention that there was a problem with an error message appearing under some circumstances when trying to write a comment on a post.

I tracked it down to a known problem with my spam-block plugin, which I now realized hasn’t been getting any updates in over 5 years. I switched it out for one that is getting ongoing support, so the issue should be fixed now.

In case there are issues with comments in the future, I’m now on Mastodon under, so that’s another way to contact me about comments not working when comments are not working.

The Savage Frontier – Hexmap of the North

Probably my most commented post on this site has been the hexmap of the Savage Frontier that I made nine years ago. I’ve always been very happy with it, but with a recent interest of starting a new campaign in the region, I’ve been thinking that I could do a lot better now. And here it is.

210 x 100 hexes
6090 x 3200 pixels

The map is directly based on the map from the 1st edition sourcebook FR6: The Savage Frontier, with some additional markers from the 2nd edition The North box. This map uses a 6-mile hex grid over the original AD&D maps. 3rd and 4th edition Forgotten Realms uses considerably altered maps, so distances won’t match exactly with any of those sources. 5th edition maps of the Sword Coast seem to have returned to the original AD&D map shapes but slightly scaled down. Treating the hexes as 5 miles across should get very close to matching the distances of 5th edition sources.

This map comes in three versions. The GM map, which includes all the map markers and labels; the player version, which includes only those places that would be commonly shown on maps the PCs would have access to; and a blank map without any markers or text.

The Savage Frontier – GM Map

The Savage Frontier – Player Map

The Savage Frontier – blank map

The idea behind the three versions is that GMs can easily make their own custom maps showing the area relevant to their campaign or adventure and only include the places that the PCs in their campaign would know about. To make your own custom version, simply open the GM map and the blank map in GIMP, Photoshop, or a similar image editing program, with the blank map covering up the GM map below. Then make the blank map on top partly transparent and simply use the select tool and delete key to make holes through which the labels and text you want are visible. Then set the opacity back to 100% and export the map as a new file. You can then crop the new map file to only the area that you need to make it easier to handle or print out, or do whatever you want with it. Or you can take the blank map and draw whatever icons and text that you want. I would share the original .xcf file, but it’s over 200 MB in size, which is rather impractical.

Use the way in whatever way you like. All I ask for is a link to this page with the original files if you post or upload it somewhere else.

I got a Mastodon

I know, it’s a mammoth. Shuddup.

So with everyone cheering at Elon Musk for finally doing something good for the world by sparing no expenses to shred Twitter, there’s been some recent hubbub about Mastodon. Any many people pointing out that Mastodon isn’t just open-source twitter.

I’ve only really seen Twitter in the Alexandrian page and often thought it looks like it could be a really useful tool for sites like mine, but never considered using it. Because it’s Twitter. Just like I won’t touch Apple, Facebook, or Google. But a similar open-source tool from a nonprofit? And now people seem to have a significant interest in it?

Small RPG sites like this one aren’t the kind of thing that they were 10 years ago. There’s a lot fewer than there used to be, though with new ones still coming up regularly, and many of them only have new posts every month or two, unlike the nearly daily or even multiple daily posts that you see in the early years of many older sites. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because most of them say nothing of much relevance.) It also used to be that pretty much all sites were on blogspot, but now there’s also substantial numbers of wordpress sites hosted on private servers. And unlike blogspot, there is, for some reason, no widget that lets you show a list of the sites you follow sorted by most recent updates in the sidebar. Which makes following what others are writing on their sites more laborious, and also more difficult to find new sites. There is of course RPG Planet, which aggregates RSS feeds for sites that are signed up, but I don’t find it to be a perfect solution since it always shows you all the sites that are signed up, even the ones you really might not care for but update pretty frequently. And the first two sentences of a post typically don’t tell you much about what a post is actually about. Also, lots of blogspot sites only allow comments with a google-account, and other people have told me that I am by far not the only one who refuses to use one on principle.

I think Mastodon could be a useful tool to help reaching new audiences for sites like these. As it stands, it seems to me like a pretty closed system that you don’t really are aware of unless you already know about it. I still somehow get pretty frequent comments on my posts even though the only way to find my site is through the link in my Giant In the Playground and Enworld signatures and RPG Planet. (Also Dragonsfoot, but if you hang out there you’re already in the in-group.)

What I want to try out is to put up messages on Mastodon every time I have a new post on my site, with a link and a short summary of what the post is about. (Like Justin Alexander does on Twitter.) I think it would also be useful to share messages of “I just saw this post on another site and thought it’s interesting”. Putting such short posts here on this site would make the whole place look cluttered up and I want to keep what is posted here to meaningful articles that are still worth reading if people browse the site some years later. For simple shoutouts like that, something like Mastodon seems a much more fitting tool. And I can put my opinion out on posts by other people who don’t accept comments without some account or registration, even though the odds of them seeing it is probably pretty low.

I think there is potential to boost the sphere of small private RPG sites with Mastodon, if it can get sufficient momentum. Quite possible that two months from now, everyone has forgotten about it again already, but this sudden surge in interest because of Twitter might be an opportunity.

This is why I have now made a Mastodon account where people can get updates about new posts on Spriggan’s Den. And why I want to encourage other site owners to also give it a try, as well as readers. Maybe this could be a new boost in interactions, which can also be conductive to more ideas worth writing about. And unlike Google+, there’s no significant risk that the service will be shut down in a year or two. :p