Pinned Post: Looking at My Stats and Revisiting My #RPG #Copyright Posts

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

The quarantine has me doing a bit of blogging lately, which means I’m also looking at my stats. With respect to my posts regarding copyright and RPGs:

The posts are broken into two separate issues. Part 1 and part 2 are about the copyrightability of RPG stat blocks, and part 3 (not relevant here) is about the OGL. As to the first issue, to date, part 1 represents ~30% of text by page count and has 17,037 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 17,667 hits), whereas part 2 (70%) has only 704 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 802 hits). Moreover, part 1 spends much of its text on going over basic copyright principles that don’t represent the actual argument. It’s clear by the stats and the basis of the criticism itself (often peppered with personal insults) that the vast majority of (non-lawyer) criticism I’ve received is from people that have read only 30% (at most) of that argument. I know it’s long, convoluted, and at times poorly written (mostly because it targets two very different audiences); and you’re under no obligation to read it (or even care about it). However, it’s all connected, and if you’re going to criticize it, you should probably understand it first.

Or not. Free speech and all that.

Endnotes:

  • Part 3 has only 703 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 849 hits), which is surprising. I thought it would be the most read post.
  • Part 3.5 provides necessary clarification and correction to Part 3.
  • Part 4 answers frequently ask questions and addresses frequently raised issues.
  • Over on a lawyers-only subreddit, the attorneys seemed to want to discuss only my side note on patentability of the Shadow of the Demon Lord initiative system. I guess it’s great that they all agree that my argument is trivially correct, but Rob Schwalb has seriously hijacked my glory. I let him have it when I saw him last February.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

A Return to AD&D? #DnD #RPG #ADnD

you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Dungeons And Dragons Dice - Stock Video | Motion Array
Stock image care of Motion Array

I’ve recently made a decision that may seem confusing if you’ve read this earlier post. I’m spending this weekend, and however much more time is necessary, reacquainting myself with 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. My intention is to run the game again for the first time in a long while. I have a load of material, so why not make use of it?

There’s a lot of it I’ve never played or run, so I’m hoping that I can find some players that haven’t played whatever mod (aka, adventure) I’m running at the moment. The idea would be to run the mods in isolation just like I did as a kid. If a player wanted to keep a character from one mod to the next, I wouldn’t object to that as long as that character was the appropriate level for the next mod in line. Otherwise, they’d have to hold back on that character for a while. I’m also more than open to allowing one of the players to run one of the mods with which I’m unfamiliar.

In addition to the core books, Deities and Demigods, and the Fiend Folio, here are the mods I have:

  1. The introductory adventure from the Blue Box, level 1.
  2. B1: In Search of the Unknown, levels 1-3, pregens available
  3. B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3 (I’ve played only a small portion of this adventure and don’t know much about it.)
  4. B4: The Lost City, levels 1-3, pregens available (I know nothing about this adventure.)
  5. C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan, three characters of level 6 (human fighter), 7 (human cleric), and 6/7 (half-elf magic user/thief)
  6. C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness, levels 5-7, pregens available (My favorite mod, I’ve run this more times than I can count, having converted it to 3.5e, 4e, and 5e.)
  7. D1-D2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth & Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, levels 9-14, pregens available
  8. D3: Vault of the Drow, levels 10-14
  9. G1-2-3: Against the Giants, levels 8-12
  10. I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7, pregens available (I know nothing about this adventure.)
  11. L1: The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4, pregens available
  12. L2: The Assassin’s Knot, levels 2-5, pregens available (I know nothing about this adventure.)
  13. Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits, levels 10-14
  14. S1: Tomb of Horrors, levels 10-14, pregens available
  15. S2: White Plume Mountain, levels 5-10
  16. S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, levels 8-12, pregens available
  17. S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, levels 6-10, pregens available (I know nothing about this adventure.)
  18. U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, levels 1-3, pregens available (I know nothing about this adventure. Seriously, I’ve never read or played it or the recent D&D Adventurer’s League “sequel.”)
  19. WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, levels 5-10 (I know nothing about this adventure other than that it may be connected to T1: The Village of Hommlet, about which I know nothing. Seriously, I’ve never read or played any of the T-series.)

As most of you know, G1-2-3, D1-2-3, and Q1 are a complete series that would convenient to run, but I don’t think there’d be any surprises in them for anyone. The same probably holds true for S3, which is a shame. It’s one of my favorites. Assuming no one objects, I might use Field Folio to spice up some of the encounters, but relearning the game will be most of the work I’m willing to do.

It may prove impossible to find players ignorant to these adventures, but as you can see from my notes above, there are plenty of adventures that would be a complete surprise to me. In fact, I’ve also never played the A-series (slavers). Go figure.

How many would I run? Who knows? There’s a lot of material there, so it’s a question of how long it would take before I grew tired of the mechanics. As for the players, the number of characters varies from mod to mod, as does the players interested in playing them, so I’m not looking for anyone to commit to anything regular. If you wanted to be one and done, that’s fine; after all, I may be one and done. I just want to get at least one table going and see where it goes. With all these restrictions and inconveniences in mind, I’ll add that I’d prefer to play in person (Northern Virginia), but if Zoom is my only option, then so be it.

So, if you’re interested, please let me know which of those mods you’d be eager to play and (be honest) whether you’re already familiar with them.

If anyone has any suggestions for useful online resources (e.g., character generators, fillable PDFs, “quick rules”), please let me know. I found Dragonsfoot, which is where I’ll start.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

What Should We Make of Loki and Sylvie’s Relationship? @MarvelStudios @LokiOfficial @io9 @gizmodo #MCU #Loki

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

And now for something really weird.

This post contains mild spoilers for the Loki Disney+ series.

Turn Back GIFs | Tenor
This is your only chance to turn back.

A while back, I asked the rather ridiculous legal question of what action (crime?) Nebula committed when she killed her doppelganger from 2014. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one thinking about these crazy things. IO9/Gizmodo writer, Charles Pulliam-Moore, asks whether that relationship should be considered incest. Give it a read. Does your answer reconcile with your answer to my question? For the most part, it does for me.

To refresh your recollection, I concluded that Nebula committed parricide, the killing of a close relative. By my semantics, it would follow that Loki and Sylvie’s relationship is incest (a relationship with a close relative). That doesn’t quite track, though. My first thought (and one contemplated in the article and the science fiction it cites) was that it would be more appropriate to refer to it as a particular form of incest: selfcest. Is that a different thing? The issue with my conclusion on Nebula, as I just said, was one of semantics more than logic. There simply isn’t a word for the killing of your multiverse doppelganger unless you call it suicide, which I declined to do. You’re not really the same person. However, in the case of Loki and Sylvie’s relationship, the genetic similarity becomes even more important because I’d imagine that a child of their pairing would be even more likely to develop genetic abnormalities. But if this logic holds, it’s definitely incest, but selfcest (as I interpret the term) doesn’t really exist, or wouldn’t assuming multiverses existed and could be traversed.

The only way I can fully reconcile this is if we reimagine the word, selfcest. To be a bit blunt, selfcest seems analogous to masturbation, but I don’t think anyone would call it that. Ergo, to be precise, we’d need a new word that describes the specific instance of incest where the other party was your mutliverse doppelganger. Returning to how I handled Nebula’s act, none of the alternatives, whether preexisting my post or coined by me, seem acceptable. Mirrocest, clonecest, dimensionicest, alterocest, etc. are goofy and/or inaccurate.

But having used the term, “multiverse doppelganger,” so many times in this post, I think I have the answer: Doppelcest, and by extension, doppelcide for Nebula. At the very least, you must admit that it’s better than multiversaldoppelcest.

nice save gifs | WiffleGif
Nice save, huh?

With the multiverse on the horizon, this could become a non-negligible issue for the viewers. Or at least for the weird viewers. Like me.

If you know any good shrinks in the DC area, hook me up. I’m clearly in great need of one.

Follow me on Twitter at @gsllc
Follow Marvel Studios @MarvelStudios
Follow Loki @LokiOfficial
Follow IO9 @io9
Follow Gizmodo @Gizmodo

The Renaissance Faire and Star Trek? @StarTrek @mdrenfest #StarTrek

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

The Renaissance Faire was a major part of my young adulthood. My family used to go to the one in Crownsville, MD every year. The impetus was my father, who was a well-read student of history. He’d go there and discuss “current events” with the actors. To their credit, they did fairly well, though they couldn’t out-history him.

I haven’t been there in a long time, but I consider it every year. a It’s ironic that we went as a family considering that I was a victim of the Satanic Panic, and here we were doing something reminiscent of the source of that panic. Well, if I do go again, and the opportunity presents itself (c’mon nerds!), I’ll be ready to add to the irony by adding my favorite intellectual property to the mix (something for which I was similarly ridiculed).

I really wish names weren’t obscured. Everyone deserves to receive credit for their ideas.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow William Shatner @StarTrek
Follow the Maryland Renaissance Faire @mdrenfest

The Death of Coffee Shops #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I’ve recently learned that coffee shops are a failing business model. Here’s proof that coffee shops are dying.

This is Economics 101. You can trust me. I’m really smart.

Once you’ve angered the beholders, your chances drop dramatically.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

More Loki Merchandising @Jon__Eve @MarvelStudios @LokiOfficial #MCU #Loki #Caturday

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Still reeling from the Loki finale? Here’s another idea for Loki merchandise (following up on my earlier post).

Okay, Jon’s spelling is weak, and these shoes don’t look comfortable, but you know you want them. I mean, Croki was the hero of the MCU.

But it’s Saturday, so as always . . . .

Waffles the Cat in Avengers Costumes — Waffles the Cat

Caturday shall not be denied!

Follow me on Twitter at @gsllc
Follow Jon Eve @Jon__Eve
Follow Marvel Studios @MarvelStudios
Follow Loki @LokiOfficial

In case the tweet is ever deleted:

Why the Death of Humor Is No Laughing Matter @thejoelstein #joke #comedy #humor

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Sorry, but it’s time for another serious and long post.

I came across an article from the Stanford Graduate School of Business last week. It cites a study that demonstrates the importance of humor to the human psyche, which in turn correlates (and presumably is the cause of) health benefits. This doesn’t surprise me at all. The subject of this post is something that wasn’t the immediate concern of the author but is quite important and was lurking in his own text.

Scrolling down a bit, you’ll find a graphic containing four quadrants. I’ve recreated the graphic here using the advanced graphic techniques of MS Word.

This chart sums up the arguments of the author. It says a few things that are relevant. First, it claims that making jokes is a good thing even if you bomb. Everyone bombs, but people respect the effort. As I’ve stated before, I have no disagreement with this. You can and should bomb as long as you learn from the mistake. Second, it states that the degree to which you generate laughter is irrelevant if the joke itself is inappropriate. In theory, I agree with this, but I have a real problem with the direction Americans are going in labeling everything as offensive. Case and point:

Microsoft feels the need to warn you about naughty language.

Clearly, if your audience is a room full of Klansmen, then you can bring down the house and still be a villain as the chart states. However, most audiences aren’t 90% or better Klansmen, yet there’s a horrible trend towards labeling everything as offensive. To justify the position, the habitually-offended simply label anyone that laughs at anything they don’t like as a Klansman, Nazi, or anything else that allows them to mask their unreasonable offense as reasonable. This, of course, leads to real harm to people’s lives, but I’m not going to dive into that. I’m instead going to point out two other consequences that concern me: Killing comedy by limiting its subject matter, and a more general problem (beyond comedy) of reasonableness transforming from a community standard to an individual standard. As to the first issue, no where was this more apparent than the show, Brooklyn 99.

Limiting Subject Matter

After seeing tons of YouTube videos containing various characters’ best moments, I decided Brooklyn 99 was probably my kind of show, so it became the latest binge watch for me. It’s clear that the writers were very talented. There were funny jokes, many characters were endearing, and there were some recurring themes (e.g., the Halloween heists) and wonderful catchphrases that these writers wisely knew not to overdo (a common error among their colleagues).

Bing-pot! - Album on Imgur

That’s great, but after five seasons, Fox cancelled it. Many were incensed, but it was cancelled because the ratings were poor. After a Star Trek-esque fan campaign, it was then picked up by NBC, but the coming 8th season will be its last. This despite the network change inevitably drawing in at least some viewers that had never seen it when it was on Fox. Despite the vocal minority of diehard fans, the show clearly couldn’t keep anyone’s attention for long. Why not? Because, contrary to the assertion of the linked article (citing writer Michael Lewis), writing jokes today absolutely carries a risk, and the writers didn’t want to bear that risk. It was clear that they were going out of their way to walk the tightrope of avoiding outrage at the hands of this vocal, minority (some of whom wouldn’t necessarily be fans of the show), but ultimately that small audience can’t support the show. When the habitually-outraged tie the hands of comedy writers, we get a modified chart.

Very little is considered appropriate by the habitually-outraged, and that small sliver of acceptable comedy that’s left can’t maintain anyone’s interest for very long. I finished it only because I can’t help myself. Once I start a task, whether business or personal, I have to complete it, which is why I generally don’t binge-watch TV shows if I see they have that many seasons. I took a chance on this one and was ultimately disappointed in the last few seasons. Despite its several strengths, it became a chore to finish it, and not because it jumped the shark. It never reached such a height. Rather, it simply grew into a tedious retread of boring, unchallenging stories because the jokes had almost no chance of offending anyone. Even where it comes to non-comedic material, it was predictable. If you didn’t know “whodunnit?” as soon as the bad guy first hit the screen, you’re an idiot. The villains were all telegraphed because the formula was always the same. Moreover, I wanted to throw Charles, Hitchcock, and Scully out a window 30 stories up, though that started within a couple of seasons. They were frustrating characters.

But killing comedy is merely a symptom of an insidious disease.

The Standard of Reasonableness

Everyone is offended by something, and that’s fine, but too often I hear the line, “You have no right to tell me whether I’m offended.” The fact that people say that means they’re missing the point. Absolutely no one is doubting you taking offense. What we’re saying is that you’re being ridiculous for doing so. But even that isn’t the problem. It would be utterly ridiculous for you to be offended by me wearing a blue shirt simply because your dad died while wearing an orange shirt (the other end of the color wheel), but it’s okay if you are. You can’t help that. Humans are emotional creatures, and certain associations will always result in illogical reactions. However, you shouldn’t impose that offense on me by demanding I always wear an orange shirt for the rest of my life.

And that’s the crux of problem. Any one element that’s deemed offensive by the online mob is composed of a miniscule percentage of people (some of whom aren’t tied to the subject matter at hand), but everyone is afraid to incur the wrath of that mob. Moreover, because these internet tough guys aren’t content with just changing the channel, but rather insist everyone get in line with their sensibilities, far too much content is labeled taboo for everyone, and we’re left with the modified chart similar to the one above for all areas of life, not just comedy. If you disobey, you’re given a horrible label that, without being questions, can cause you to lose your job, friends, and even family. This isn’t imposing accountability; it’s imposing the insecurity-driven whims of the individual on all of us. Throughout history, vigilante mobs have always swept up more innocents than the guilty because there are no protections from false accusations.

This is a troubling trend that those currently on that side are blind to. Rather than “reasonableness” being defined by the community, it’s being defined by each person on an individual basis. Going back to my crass example, if Mary’s dad died wearing a blue shirt, and Mary gets to define for me what’s reasonable, then I always have to wear an orange shirt. However, Joe’s dad died while wearing an orange shirt, so Joe demands I always wear a blue shirt. Then there’s Sally, who’s dad died while trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records record for wearing the most shirts at once (it’s 260, and as far as I know, Ted is fine), and she demands I wear no shirt at all. Finally, there’s Aloysius, and he demands I always wear a shirt with both blue and orange in it because of some other insanity I’m too lazy to invent. So, no matter what choice I make, I’m always going to offend three (a majority) of these four people, even though the majority (three) of all five of us aren’t offended by whatever choice I make. This places me in an impossible position, even though I’m not addressing the demands of 7.5 billion humans, 325 million Americans, 8.5 million Virginians, 1.1 million . . . Fairfax Countyans(?), or even 47,000 McLeananites (copyright 2021, me [not really]). Use any of those numbers, and seemingly ordinary actions or words will result in the same sort of no-win scenario. This is precisely why reasonableness must remain a community standard. We, not a few habitually-outraged, internet tough guys, should set that standard.

As bad as tyranny by the majority is, tyranny by the minority is much, much worse. We strike that balance legally by having a Constitutional democracy where a supermajority (still democratic!) creates fundamental rights that supersede the passing whims of the cops or even the legislature, protecting the individual, but still ultimately subjecting us all to the broader strokes of the majority. Your right to impose your insecurities upon the rest of us by suppressing speech is not the sort of fundamental right that’s necessary to preserve your individual dignity. Or at least it shouldn’t be, because it in fact suppresses an actual fundamental right in the internet age, where Town Square is now in the hands of the private sector. But if we can’t enjoy even jokes, there’s no hope for finding compromise on more difficult issues.

If you were looking for a miracle cure for what ails us, you’ve come to the wrong blog, but apparently our lives depend on it.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Joel Stein @thejoelstein

Disappointing Watch: Bill & Ted Face the Music @BillandTed3 @paramountplus #BillAndTed #ParamountPlus

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. For other entries in the Good Watch category, click here.

Two movies recently hit Paramount+. Yesterday, I wrote about A Quiet Place 2. Today, I’m really sad to report that Bill & Ted failed me.

I don’t think this is a case of growing out of the material. I’ve grown out of professional wrestling. I know what it feels like to just not care anymore because of who I am now. On the other hand, I haven’t grown out of Star Trek or Star Wars. Weirdly, I’ve absolutely grown out of the old Godzilla movies but love the new ones because I loved the old ones. I’m not sure that makes sense, but there it is.

This movie was atrocious. The pacing was terrible. The new characters were stupid. We all thought Station was stupid, but we didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We sucked it up and enjoyed Bogus Journey anyway. But here, I couldn’t do that. There were too may actors/characters added that were a second rate versions of the actors/characters they were replacing. What’s worse, the android was replacing Death even though Death was still in the movie. Death was a watered down version of his character in Bogus Journey, but my nostalgia kicked in and I was okay with that. But nostalgia couldn’t save this movie. Probably worst of all is that the heroes aren’t even Bill and Ted. Why did they name the movie Bill & Ted [anything] if Bill and Ted aren’t really the heroes.

It’s rare for me to be this disappointed in a movie that I want to love so much.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Bill and Ted 3 @BillandTed3

Not-Quite-My-Thing Watch: A Quiet Place 2 @quietplacemovie @johnkrasinski @paramountplus #AQuietPlace #ParamountPlus

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. For other entries in the Good Watch category, click here.

Two movies recently hit Paramount+, and I’ve been dying to see them both. First up is A Quiet Place 2. I’m not a fan of horror movies, so when a few of the typical horror tropes reared their ugly heads, it took quite a bit away from my enjoyment of the movie. As with all horror movies, people make stupid decisions just to advance the plot (lazy writing), and are then saved because logic always gives ground to the needs of the script. If that doesn’t bother you as much as it did me, then you may like this movie a lot more than I did.

That’s important, because I still liked (not loved) it despite these flaws. As much as I wanted to punch the main characters in the face, I found myself really caring for them. I wanted them to win. The opening act was also very tense, and while it didn’t answer all the questions we have, it gave us some more with which to work.

I should warn you that the movie doesn’t really have an ending. I guess that’s to make sure there’s A Quiet Place 3.

Kylo Ren More GIF - KyloRen More TheLastJedi - Discover & Share GIFs | Star  wars sequel trilogy, Kylo ren, Star wars kylo ren

Next up: Bill & Ted Face the Music

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow A Quiet Place @quietplacemovie
Follow John Krasinski @johnkrasinski
Follow Paramount+ @paramountplus