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

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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.
  • Stat blocks for the 5e Monster Manual are here.

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Nostalgic Watch: The Americans @MatthewRhys @HollyTaylor97 @CostaRonin @TheAmericansFX @hulu @RoysRestaurants #TheAmericans

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I’ve been binging The Americans on Hulu (FX Network). I had never seen a single episode before I started but had heard good things. I knew the premise: Soviet spies operating in America at the start of the Reagan administration. When the current young guns talk about their time in the war, they’re talking about Viet Nam, not Desert Storm. When the older crowd is talking about fighting the Nazis, they mean fighting actual Nazis in World War II. I admit that it drags at times, and it relies on the far too frequently used trope of emotional idiots making huge mistakes to create the needed drama. The latter is especially frustrating considering that it unnecessary in a show where the anti-heroes are being chased by the FBI and CIA. However, it’s a good show overall with a solid cast of actors, some of whom are new to me. The first five seasons have 13 episodes each, and the sixth has 10 episodes. They do a good job of demonstrating how most spies are recruited; most aren’t government workers. Each episode is about 45 minutes, but with a Chrome extension that allows me to speed up the episodes to 1.25x speed, I’m blazing through it.

I love period pieces because of the music and current events that they work into the script, some worth remembering, and some worth forgetting, but this one is particularly special to me. It takes place in the Washington, DC area, and the creators did a remarkable amount of research (perhaps because they grew up there as well). They get a lot of small details correct, from long gone television commercials playing in the background to various restaurants. The spies live in in Falls Church, Virginia, and though I didn’t move to Northern Virginia until 2000, I grew up in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland. I know all of the areas portrayed. As a recent graduate of the University of Maryland in the 90s, I started spending my weekends bar hopping in downtown DC and Northern Virginia. Honestly, the night life in Montgomery County was atrocious around that time, so the spots the show visits are where I hung out. I hope they visit the “Exorcist Stairs” before the show ends. I urinated down them when I was a stupid, young adult who had a lot too much to drink. It’s not an uncommon thing to do, though I doubt you’ll find mention of it on many websites.

Early this morning, I watched an episode entitled “A Roy Rogers in Franconia.” For those of you from the western United States that have a special place in your heart for In-n-Out, Roy Rogers is my burger joint that I like more than I should due to nostalgia, but with a menu that went far beyond burgers. When I finally moved to Northern Virginia, it was near Franconia, so I visited that Manchester Lakes Roy Rogers more times than I could possibly count. The last episode I watched before this post went live is called Lotus 1-2-3. I forgot that software existed. It was released when I was in high school but was already losing the war against MS Excel and Borland’s Quattro Pro by the time I was out of college and working as a software engineer.

Watching the show really brings me back to several times in my life, from childhood to recent college graduate to recent law school graduate, even though much of that time occurred long after the period in which The Americans is based.

As always, YMMV.

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AD&D Divine Fight Club #ADnD #DnD #RPG #TTRPG #1e

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Today (well, by the time this post is published, yesterday) I asked a question of the nerd hive mind. To summarize, the basic question was this: Has anyone ever conducted combats between the various pantheons from the 1st Edition AD&D (“1e”) Deities & Demigods to see which pantheon was the most powerful?

Some say he’s a god.

Here’s the full post:

I wonder what would happen if we held a combat tournament of the pantheons in the 1st Edition AD&D Deities and Demigods. Who would win? Maybe have a randomly-paired, single elimination tournament leading to a round-robin final four where each battled the other three. That way, the final four at least would minimize the effect of a particularly poor match up for a specific pantheon. Or maybe do it like the soccer World Cup where the round-robin occurs at the beginning of the tournament, and then it’s single elimination from there on out. I don’t like that as much because you couldn’t get a fair sense of who’s really second best. Ideally, it would be far more complicated, but I’d be surprised if anyone would be willing to play all that out (or design software to handle it).

Has anyone here ever done that for even two pantheons? I’m just curious which pantheon would have the last man standing.

EDIT: Another related question is whether the monstrous entities would be involved even if not summoned by a god. If not, the entire Cthulhu mythos and gods for nonhumans might be disqualified. 🙂 There’s certainly have to be some sort of criteria to make the whole thing reasonably fair.

The most colorful response was, “Dude you need to get laid,” to which I responded, “True, but irrelevant.”

This coming from a member of the self-professed “official” 1e group on Facebook. My answer was a serious one, but I should probably say more; hence this post.

Wait a second! He’s just a demigod.

My question springs from a general sentiment in our gaming community, but voiced as well as anyone by the author of the 1e Deities & Demigods, James Ward:

DDG (for short) may resemble MONSTER MANUAL, and in fact does include some monsters. However, the purpose of this book is not to provide adversaries for the players’ characters. The information listed herein is primarily for the Dungeon Master’s use in creating, intensifying, or expanding his or her campaign.

1e Deities & Demigods, page 5.

Yes, there are a lot of quotes in this post.

Anyway, given James’ explanation, he still isn’t giving a good reason as to why there are stat blocks at all. If the PCs aren’t expected to fight them because it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so, then who is? Well, how about the gods fighting each other? It would be an interesting experiment, but without software designed to simulate combats in 1e, that would be a lot of work just to satisfy one’s curiosity.

But it would be cool. I’m curious as to what bias James had in creating these characters. He obviously tried to stay true to the general nature of the gods, and to an admitted lesser extent, their legends.

While DEITIES & DEMIGODS is ideally suited to the task of working deities into an AD&D campaign format, everything has not been covered in the book. In the 6,000-year plus span of this work mankind has spent a lot of that time adding to the myths dealt with herein. We did not try to encompass everything, and it is silly to assume that the five years or so of research that created DEITIES & DEMIGODS could suffice.

1e Deities & Demigods, page 4.

In our research and compilation of this book, we ourselves hove altered many facts, either for reasons of game balance and consistency or because sources conflict. DEITIES & DEMIGODS is not a scholarly work or reference – it is a game accessory.

1e Deities & Demigods, page 5.

The Rules

Of course, even Fight Club has to have rules. Do we include monsters? If so, then doesn’t that completely remove the Cthulhu and nonhuman pantheons? Can’t do that, so maybe there’d be an exception for those two pantheons. We’d also have to assume that the nonhuman gods cooperated, which usually makes no sense, but doesn’t always make sense with gods. I can live with that nonsense; this is all nonsense. Besides, the monsters from other pantheons could still play a role to the extent that the gods would choose to summon them if they have summoning powers, or if those monsters are actually more powerful than gods. Why does the latter matter? (Tee-hee.) Someone pointed out that the Greek pantheon had to win simply because there were so many gods (damn titans always screw up everything). The Norse pantheon is a distant second.

Even this chart is controversial in terms of counts and categorization of heroes v. monsters.

To balance that, we’d want to give each side the same number of combatants, but we’d first have to determine which gods from each pantheon would make the cut. They should be the most powerful among them, so I guess we’d have to first have internal fights for each pantheon.

Ack!

And, of course, if we could somehow develop software to run these simulations, we’d want to run 1,001 simulations for each fight so that we minimize the effects of rolls on either end of the bell curve.

Ack!

It appears that some pantheons have no chance of competing (e.g., Arthurian). For example, the Greek and Norse pantheons lean towards greater gods, so whatever number of gods we assign to fight, they have an advantage. On the other hand, it looks like the Babylonian and Nehwon pantheons cap our gods-only battle at only 8 gods, and because the Egyptian pantheon has seven greater gods, they’re at no disadvantage despite being slightly lesser-god-heavy. In fact, such a hard cap leaves many pantheons relying on greater gods for the most part. Of course, all of this assumes that lesser gods, demigods, and monsters are weaker in combat than greater gods, but I have no idea if this is true. That’s what this experiment would be about.

Puny gods.

The Map

Someone on MeWe raised the issue of terrain. My knee-jerk reaction was a blank battlemap with no terrain, but under the assumption that the lack of terrain shouldn’t restrict the use of any ability or spell that a god has. For example, the web spell should work even thought there aren’t any walls. I’m not asking the question of which pantheon is more powerful in, let’s say, the desert. You just have to handwave a bit of in-game logic to make sure the stat blocks are being tested for something akin to an average level of power across all combinations of obstacles, terrains, and weather.

Further Basis for My Curiosity

Besides the fact that I’ve started running 1e for the first time in decades, there’s another inspiration for the question. As a mythology nut, but also an MCU nut, I really want the MCU to expand on the pantheons. They made a Disney+ series I really wanted to see, Moon Knight, and made the Egyptian Pantheon part of that show. This continued (modestly) in Thor: Love and Thunder, and will continue to some yet-unknown extent in Wakanda Forever. We also got to scratch the surface of eastern mythology and folklore in Shang Chi. Speaking of Wakanda Forever, I was also thrilled to find out that Namor is being played by a Mexican-American so that they can expand on a central American pantheon. (I’ve never read comics, so I don’t give a rat’s ass about canon.) I want to see this expansion, so naturally my brain is always looking for an excuse to think about issues like this one.

So, you see, I absolutely need to get laid (or at least choose more appropriate photos), but since that’s not in my immediate future, I’m thinking about this.

In any event, this interesting experiment would finally give us a good use for the stat blocks.

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



Happy Independence Day, 2022! #July4 #IndependenceDay #USA

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Today is a day to remember what our ancestors truly fought and died for,

Here’s some silly trivia for you. As I high school junior, I had no idea the English used the word biscuit in the ways they did. I first learned about it in English class. We were given the assignment of taking a song from pop culture and discussing it’s theme. We were encouraged to find a theme that was surprising, such as Bruce Springsteen’s anti-war anthem, Born in the U.S.A., which was mistakenly interpreted to be a celebration of our country. I presented Get Rich from my favorite Kansas album, Drastic Measures. Several students chose relatively long songs like Us and Them by Pink Floyd just to screw with the teacher. One guy chose Oh, My God by the Police, which contained the lyric, “Oh, my God, you take the biscuit.” I found that weird, asked about it, and learned something.

Well, that was a completely irrelevant tangent, but this is how my brain works.

Remember, this holiday is all about Jaws.

Happy July 4th!

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Medical Watch: House, M.D. @peacockTV #GoodWatch #HouseMD

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Every now and then, I pick a show that for some reason interests me but I’ve never watched, and I binge watch it. It may be because I’ve seen a bunch of episodes that I liked (e.g. The Office and, well, House M.D.); I’ve seen a bunch of scenes via Facebook that I liked, which sometimes worked out and sometimes didn’t; it stars actors that I love; or I just heard really great things (e.g., Parks and Recreation). The past two weeks, I started watching House M.D.

Overall, I like the show, but this isn’t about making recommendations. I just want to make two quick observations. First, other than the Shield, I can’t think of any shows I watched that had multiple antiheroes working with multiple heroes, all working well together. Second, for a relatively short time, I had to walk with a cane, so I know how to do it. You’d think that wouldn’t be a difficult skill to master, but apparently it is. Let me put it this way: I don’t think I’d ever trust a doctor would used a cane with his right hand if his right leg was the problem (or vice versa). You hold the cane with the hand on the same side as the injury.

I didn’t like the last episode of season 2, which turned out to be a massive dream sequence (it could have been worse), and the trope of a disapproving and interfering boss is annoying (especially when the main character is always right), but so far I’m good with the episodes I had never seen before. I’m on season 3, so I have a long road ahead of me.

I can’t wait to see the episode where it actually is lupus.

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Good Watch: At Close Range @SeanPenn @hbomax @RealKiefer @CrispinGlover #GoodWatch

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Based on a recommendation, I’m finally watched At Close Range (1986). Here’s IMDB’s tagline:

Reunited with his career criminal father, tough teen Brad thinks he’s found his ticket to an exciting life of crime, only to find out he’s wrong.

As much a part of the movie as anyone.

It started with music that stabbed me in the heart, which continued throughout the movie where the music had to be subtle. The cast is phenomenal but young. So was I in 1986, so it brings me back even though I’ve never seen it before.

As for the movie itself, it’s a sad tale about a kid with no discernable future becoming mesmerized by his absentee father, and the wad of hundred dollar bills he generates from his criminal exploits. As one might expect, everything falls to pieces. It’s based on a true story, though I have no idea how far it drifts from reality.

Definitely worth two of my hours.

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Aft-Firing Weaponry and Canon @StarTrek @starwars @kesseljunkie #StarTrek #StarWars

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My favorite episode of Star Trek, any series, is Balance of Terror from the original series. It has absolutely everything that a Star Trek episode should have, and it, along with my favorite Star Trek movie, the Wrath of Khan, inspired the best episode of Strange New Worlds to date, Memento Mori. For some reason, Balance of Terror keeps coming up in my social media streams. Several people keep saying something that prompts me to volunteer this information.

Or posting a silly meme.

But this post isn’t about Star Trek.

I set my mind to rewatch the episode but kept procrastinating. Yesterday, I was watching the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I love both of those movies. It occurred to me that none of the X-Wings, Tie-Fighters, etc. had any aft-firing weaponry. That would have been quite useful when being chased during the attacks on either Death Star. The Millennium Falcon sort of did, but only if there was at least one other person on the ship available to mad that blaster. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure Kessel Junkie will correct me.)

But wait! This post is about Star Trek!

This led me to finally re-watch Balance of Terror (re-watching Memento Mori will follow soon) in which I thought there was some background chatter stating that the aft-firing torpedoes are ready. (Note: I may have been mistaken, but there were mentions to aft-firing weapons in the background charter of several episodes, most clearly at 17:02 of Arena.) It also led to a cascade of thoughts regarding the hubbub about violating canon. I love the FASA Star Trek RPG, and it annoyed me that the Constitution Class starships didn’t have aft-firing weaponry. In fact, they made a big deal out of it. It was a glaring weakness in most Federation ships, and a big deal when some did. But it’s not all about an RPG. Star Trek the Motion Picture also suggested that the Klingon ship (also captained by Mark Lenard) having an aft-firing torpedo was a big deal. He thought it would surprise his enemy.

Right emotion; wrong guy.

And then there are those star dates that were completely made up, and the fact that the Romulan ship in Balance of Terror wasn’t capable of warp travel (22:10) yet traveled in interstellar space. In the two episodes I mentioned, there was an inconsistency. In Arena, Kirk comments that diamonds are “perhaps the hardest substance known in the universe” (30:10), and Spock confirms this by stating, “diamonds, the hardest known substance” (41:32), yet Spock points out only four episodes earlier in Balance of Terror that “cast rodinium . . . is the hardest substance known to our science” (21:26). Canon is shit. That’s unfortunate in most (not all) cases, but it’s true. You can’t rely on it. However, one theory says that there’s no such thing as a canon violation because Star Trek First Contact rebooted the franchise, rendering “canon” a nonsense concept.

I love to see Strange New Worlds show aft-firing phasers, see everyone lose their shit for the canon violation, and then lay into them for their ignorance. If everyone now realizes that the Enterprise has aft-firing weapons, that’s fine too. It gives us one more reason to say Star Trek ships are better than Star Wars ships.

Just roll with it and be happy when stories are well-written.

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An Old Commercial @StarTrek #StarTrek

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s a commercial advertising Star Trek Enterprise. I never saw it.

This commercial is from 2000 or 2001. Why does it look like it’s from the 80s?

I’m old.

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Hate Always Beats Like/Love @Nickelback #Caturday #haters

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This is a Caturday post, but in the most roundabout way possible.

The other day, a music video hit my Facebook stream. It was a video I had never seen, and song I had never heard. The video was Nickelback’s This Afternoon. The video quickly arrives at a scene in which someone brings a band they’ve kidnapped to play at a party intending to prove that “the Nerd Brigade knows how to rock.” The organizer is disappointed to see that the band is Nickelback. This is a brilliant moment of self-awareness that’s lost on society today. No one seems to be able to laugh at themselves anymore, especially when it comes to politics and religion.

But that’s not my point.

This got me thinking, yet again, about how everyone hates Nickelback. There’s even been a “scientific study” done to prove this is the case. And yet, Nickelback was, as of January 25, 2017, the 11th Best-Selling Band In History. How do you explain the discrepancy? It’s simple: This is yet another example of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. A bit more formally, this is yet another example of the statistical fallacies people commit when analyzing data. In the YouTube generation, a single point of data is often used to extrapolate a broad rule. Confirmation bias also plays a factor, of course, and people don’t appreciate the fact that their specific search command loads the data. For example, if you Google “eating sauerkraut on ice cream,” you’ll find plenty of stories on it, and if you leave your blinders on, you’ll ignore the fact that almost all of those stories are reporting the same phenomenon originating from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania region.

But again, I’m drifting from my point.

The truth is that Nickelback is, in fact, very popular (or at least was), and is probably still well loved by those that grew up with it (much my love of Rush, Fleetwood Mac, etc. doesn’t fade with time). So why is it that the only people you see in your streams are the haters? Consider this: How many of you (myself absolutely included) have criticized people for talking about home much they like CrossFit, veganism, or, well, Nickelback? Anytime someone does, they get blasted. There are countless social media posts asking which fan group is the most annoying of the bunch. That drives positive comments underground. On the other hand, we welcome the hatred people spew for just about anything. It’s probably seen as “edgy” or “raw.” It’s really just dickish. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be allowed to be dickish. Here’s another example, and it’s the one example where hate is criticized.

As a free speech nut, I’m completely fine with you spewing your hate; I just have a problem with the weakness society has embraced allowing your hate to cause them to self-censor themselves. No one’s opinion is more entitled to be voiced than any other’s. The second we abandon that principle, everyone will be censored. You need support for that assertion? Look around you, America. It’s everywhere. But the fact that this phenomenon favors hate is a bit disturbing and explains how we get the impression that beloved things are largely hated.

Full disclosure: I shamelessly admit that I like (don’t love) Nickelback. It may appear that I’m trying to do the same thing, saying I like Nickelback because everyone else supposedly hates it, thus turning around the attempt to sound counter-culture on itself. However, I’ve often said that when asked about guilty pleasures. Nevertheless, Nickelback is not a guilty pleasure. I’m far from alone.

If you don’t like Nickelback (or anything else), that’s fine, but holding them up as a poster child for what’s wrong with music is stupid. If there’s something wrong with modern music, it’s a trend among all the bands, but there’s isn’t. Popular music is popular because it’s what people want to hear, and not all of it is as formulaic as is claimed. Take it from this old fogey: No one cares what the old people think. As a demographic, you don’t have a lot of disposable income, but even if you do, you aren’t spending it on new things. Don’t become your parents. Stop hating on what the young-uns want. You’ll be dead soon, and the only people left will be the young-uns. While you’re at it, stop basing your worldview on one video or article.

Nickelcat?

With that in mind, fuck you guys. I like cats, and I’ll post about it (and anything else) whenever I want. Your hate has no power over me.

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