The limits of free speech (when you have 50 million YouTube subscribers)

GameUP24

A lawyer explains freedom of speech, censorship and contracts

There is an increasing amount of noise surrounding “freedom of speech,” “fake news,” and everyone’s right to be heard. This has particular bearing on the gaming community, where the term “freedom of speech” is often used incorrectly.

On the other hand, online personalities are often playing a role in game marketing, and issues with GamerGate and other hate groups latching onto gaming means that games, studios and publishers are confronted with the task of moderating community and forum posts and interactions while being told they are censoring others. Hence, depriving someone of their right to free speech.

As an entertainment attorney with over seven years of experience in a practice dedicated exclusively to gaming culture and industry, this has been an ongoing cause for concern. It’s an issue my clients face daily.

Legally, there’s no argument to be had. Let me…

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Writing Your First Adventure
Part 1 of 6



If you are ready to design your first RPG adventure, or learn how to improve the adventures you’ve already got, you’ve come to the right place. The “Adventure Builder” will cover all the bases, from hooks to background to traps and treasures.

This time out, we’ll cover the foundation you need to build a great adventure. It’s not the background, the stat blocks, or even the main villain. It’s monster selection, and figuring out the size and style of the adventure.

How Big is Your Design?

A common rule of thumb among the Wizards of the Coast design staff is that a typical group of adventurers will level up after about 13 successful encounters of the party’s encounter level (EL). That’s a great number to work from, especially if you want to design a large adventure that spans multiple levels.

In an adventure with dozens of encounters, the party will level up half-way through. Since the party will be tougher and more capable from that point on, the adventure you’ve planned for them needs too scale up as well. It’s better to scale up the second half of the adventure appropriately, but if you don’t want the PCs to level up midway through your epic you can prevent it by keeping your number of encounters small or by lowering their EL (to reduce the XP per encounter).

At the same time, just because you map an encounter doesn’t mean that it will be played. Some areas are never explored, after all, and not every encounter leads to combat (some are resolved or defeated through stealth, magic, bribery, or roleplaying). So if you do want the PCs to level up after your adventure then you’ll need more than 13 party-level encounters to provide enough options and fallbacks if the party doesn’t follow the expected path.

So, not too many encounters and not too few. As a general idea, you want to prepare about 20 to 25 encounters for your party per level of advancement. If you prefer mostly lower EL encounters, perhaps closer to 25 to 30. If you run marathon play sessions every weekend, you might want to prepare 40 to 50 encounters ahead of time, and assume the second half will be at a higher level. If you run short game sessions, you’ll want to make sure that the adventure breaks into small sections of 3 or 4 encounters with a satisfying conclusion to each.

Now you know how many encounters you should prepare. What should be in those encounters? And what mistakes should you watch out for?

Common design mistakes

There are four fairly common errors in beginning adventure design. When I worked on Dungeon magazine I saw them constantly, and the errors haven’t changed.

1) too much useless backstory
2) slow starts
3) random encounters
4) too many encounters

Each of these is easy to fix. Here’s how you do it.

Simple Backstory: Most DMs and designers hate to hear it, but much of the time lavished on history and background is wasted energy. Players never find out who dug the tomb, how the wizard was betrayed by her apprentice, or why the assassin guild changed sides and disappeared. Working on backstory doesn’t improve the gameplay experience for anyone but the bards and scholars obsessed with legends or lore. Unless it connects directly to action in the current timeframe (and the PCs have a way of learning it), skip the involved history. Save that for sourcebooks.

This is not to say cut it all. Details of which faction can be turned against another, which guard might take a bribe, or what the villain ultimately plans to do if the party doesn’t stop him are all appropriate. Make sure your backstory is recent and relevant; avoid anything that starts “Thousands of years ago…”

Start the Action Quickly: When players arrive at the game, they are looking to roll some dice. You can start the action immediately and draw the players away from pizza and other distractions by giving them what they want: a short, simple combat encounter to start off the game. Ideally, the encounter is pitched at an encounter level (EL) no more than one level above or below the party’s level.

The best of the “start in midstream” kick-offs are aimed at all the PCs when they are together, and raise questions that lead the party to the adventure hook. For instance, the party might see raiders attacking an inn where they had planned to spend the night — survivors of the attack tell the party about the black knight who leads them. Or a teleporting extraplanar threat might appear during broad daylight and accuse a cleric of breaking his vows — and threaten to sacrifice his corrupt church elders to a greater power. Where these encounters go ultimately isn’t the most important thing: they can be a little tangential to the plot, as long as they get the party thinking of the right sort of threat.

I’ll discuss this in more detail next time in “Adventure Hooks.”.

Don’t Be Random: Time is precious, so be careful how many tangents and red herrings you include in your design. In particular, random encounters might be fun, or can be useful to get a dawdling party going, or to work off that frustration players sometimes get where they just need to have their characters kill something, but they don’t usually make your adventure any better. If they are tied into the core adventure, then they shouldn’t be random at all; those clues should be built in to the design. If they aren’t tied in to the adventure core, then you are just wasting game time on an encounter that doesn’t advance the mission or the story goals for you or your players.

Trim Excess Encounters: If you create too many encounters and you don’t play every day, players forget what their mission was, or start to lose hope of making progress. They wind up grinding through so many nuisance encounters that they lose sight of the important clues, or they don’t talk to the important NPC, or they don’t search the critical room for documents — because they are too busy grinding through combats. If the encounters are just there to fill up space on a map, they might as well be random. Leave some rooms empty to speed up play.

Encounter Selection: Fitting Together a Cast

The real challenge is balancing encounters to present a variety of challenges for every member of the party. The adventure, after all, is a chance for the heroes to triumph over opposition (or fail miserably and go home).

Selecting for a Coherent Look and Feel

Story, setting, and immersion are all easier to pull off if your monsters fit a theme. That theme might be “united tribes of humanoids” or it might be “desert raiders”, but either way it cuts out many choices. Avoid the kitchen sink approach of just taking creatures that match the party level. Instead, make good use of the EL chart in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 49) to create encounters of small groups, pairs of monsters, and single creatures.

In particular, consider linked encounters for your cast. A guard dog or a sentry might be a much lower EL encounter from a combat perspective — but if the party fails to use a silence spell or a sneak attack to take it out quickly then it could make later encounters more difficult.

Balancing by EL and by Class

The Dungeon Master’s Guide offers direct advice on how many easy, challenging, very difficult, and overwhelming encounters a typical adventure should contain (see page 49). Hint: not many overwhelming encounters.

While this breakdown is good advice, it’s not complete. You’ll want to be sure that your 20 or 25 encounters include encounter variety by class as well as by EL. That is, make sure to include each of the following types of encounters, to give every class and every player a chance to shine.

1) Two Skill Encounters: These are creatures or obstacles that can be defeated by stealth or skill, such as guards, castle walls, cliffs, informants, or low-hp creatures that can fall to a single sneak attack.

2) Four Pure Combats: You need some no-negotiation, straight-up combats that play to the fighter classes. Think orcs, wolves, ogres, giants — or dragons. Consider tactics first here: ambushes, charge, bull-rush, something to make it more than just attack rolls and damage rolls.

3) Two Magical Challenges: Include two magical challenges that require a knock, a fireball, or whatever other strengths your arcane spellcasters have. They might be lore-based challenges, such as knowing the weaknesses of an extraplanar creature, or they might require the use of Concentration or Spellcraft to manipulate a magical object or unravel a mysterious warding.

4) One Divine Challenge: The divine caster in the party is more than just a medic, so give him or her something to do with at least one undead turning, Knowledge (Religion), or nature-knowledge encounter (if your divine caster is a druid).

5) One Puzzle or Trap: This could be as simple as finding the key to a tough lock, deciphering an ancient script, or finding a secret door with Search, but you should include traps and puzzles for your party to solve. If the party doesn’t have a rogue in it, use Knowledge skill checks as a substitute.

6) Two Roleplaying Encounters: Social skills play an important part of the game too, and bards don’t like to just sit and do their stuff in the background. Provide at least two roleplaying encounters that can be defeated by the right social skills, bribes, exchange of services, or clever conversation. Examples include a scholar with a clue that the party needs to bypass some defenses or wardings, or a devil who will ally with them against a common foe.

7) One Mook Encounter: This should be against foes of at least 2 CR less than the party, and ideally 3 or 4 less. Think kobolds, bandits, skeletons, wild animals, or any other group of many foes that play to Cleave and area-effect spells. It’s fun to see heroes cutting a swath through hordes of foes.

8) One Polder: “Polder” is a Dutch word describing land reclaimed from the sea, but here it’s a more general term. As described in detail in Dungeon 135, polders are safe havens for adventurers, places where the party can regain strength. Think Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. Your polder could be a xenophobic elven tree city, a magical rope that generates rope trick spells as a charged item, a bound archon who wards a treasure, or a dwarven merchant caravan. If the party wishes, they can heal up to full strength and level up.

9) One Bigger Fish: To keep the blood flowing, you should have one overwhelming encounter that the party can’t handle without serious risk of a total party kill. This could turn into a roleplaying bit of Diplomacy, a chase, or a stealth challenge, depending on how the party handles it — but they should see that not every encounter in every adventure should be fought.

10) Big Finish: A grand finale encounter with all the trimmings: villain, minions, and a room or terrain that provides interesting combat options.

That list of recommended encounter types covers 17 encounters out of the 20 to 25 in your adventure, but you could easily double up on any of those categories. For example, if you know that the players like intense combat you could set up the remaining encounters as pure combats. If you know that your arcane caster is itching for a magical duel — or that the rogue will always try reconnaissance first — prepare those kinds of encounters.

Tailoring an adventure to show the heroes in the best light means more fun for everyone. Making an adventure that plays to the party’s weakness might be fun for you, but will only frustrate your players. Don’t take away their spells, sneak attacks, or combat items very often — those are the tools of heroism and the key to fun. Instead, give those strong points a challenge and a chance to shine.

To further tailor an adventure, consider some special encounter types if you have, say, a mounted knight, an archer, a monk, or a paladin in the group.

1) A mounted encounter
2) A ranged attack encounter
3) A chase (see Dungeon Master’s Guide II page 57 for chase rules), either hunting or being pursued.
4) A single-combat encounter or challenge from an honorable foe
5) Another class-specific encounter, such as one that requires bardic song, barbarian tracking, or fighting a ranger’s favored enemy.

Conclusion

Adventures work if they are fun and easy to play, and give every kind of hero a chance to shine in different encounter styles. The most important part of design isn’t the details of a stat block, but the type and variety of opponents and encounters.

About the Author

Wolfgang Baur is the author of dozens of adventures, from the “Kingdom of the Ghouls” and “Gathering of Winds” in Dungeon magazine to upcoming releases from Wizards of the Coast. He offers custom-tailored adventures and professional advice to patrons of the Open Design blog.

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THE TERMS OF THE ACTION

The Missal

Words are the materiel of the mind and the swords of the soul.
Yet let the Wise-Man beware. Only the simple-minded fool and the utterly naive wordsmith could ever assume mere words must shape the world to high outcomes.
A good and proper word is a sharp blade in the hands of a capable and clever man, but action is the arm that wields such a weapon.

from Human Effort

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THE YARDA-LEL (or SEEMING ROD)

Wyrdwend

The Yarda-lel is an antique, nearly extinct, left-over artefact from the earlier ages of the Eldeven peoples in my novel series the Kithariune. What the yarda-lel actually is and does is described below. It is based upon the design of a real device I first conceived and invented a long time ago and have attempted on various occasions to build for myself but have never perfected (because of sensing issues). I offer it here in a more perfect and perfected fictional form.

THE YARDA-LEL (THE SLEEPING ROD)

Yarda-lel (the “seeming rod,” or sometimes the “sleeping rod”) – an antique rod made of gray and yellow yarda wood which vibrates, heats, and hums when danger approaches. Once a fairly typical item used along the frontier among militia and frontier guardsmen (it was not uncommon for every unit or sufficient size to possess a yarda-lel, or “seeming…

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NICE, BUT STILL MUCH (RE)DESIGN WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE

The Missal

Purdy. But I’ve been thinking for a very long time on suit and belt and vest design and on how to improve not only weight distribution but ease and speed of equipment retrieval. I’ve tried some promising designs of my own especially with stuff running the sides of the torso (really quick retrieval but interferes with compactness of body and stealth and causes friction as you move) and need to come up with far better still.

What would really be ideal would be to have at most 7 tools/pieces of gear but each one be light, and multi-functional. And all of those within quick and easy reach. Everything else you could port on your back because you don’t need to access it often.

The real trick I think will be high end-high tech/multi-functional gear redesign, not so much carry redesign.

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JACK’S RULES FOR WRITING FICTION (some of em anyway)

Wyrdwend

JACK’S RULES FOR WRITING FICTION

Write what actually happened even if you have to change it around a bit to make it work right. As a matter of fact if you wanna avoid a lawsuit then change it around a bit anyway. It’ll still be true even as a story.

Write what you have actually lived. If you haven’t started living yet then for God’s sake go out and do that first. Before you write anything else. If this is the only thing you ever learn about writing then it is still the best thing you can learn about writing. Writing after all is never really about the writing, it’s always about the living.

It is far better to be good than perfect, which you’ll never be anyway.

If there is no poetry in what you’re saying then no one will remember it long, much less ever bother to quote…

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THE COMMONER’S VIGIL, AND A FEW OBSERVATIONS ON POP CULTURE

I don’t watch TV during the week unless there is some kind of emergency, like a terrorist attack.

But I do watch on the weekends sometimes. To me TV was an utter wasteland for many decades. But in the past few years, maybe even for a decade or so now, it has undergone a real Renaissance.

That being said here are some of my favorite new shows. (I won’t mention shows I have watched awhile over time.) Yes, I know these might not be new shows to you, but they are all new to me as I don’t watch TV a lot (too busy) and so I might just now be seeing them for the first time.

I recommend them all.

FORGED IN FIRE – really, really appeals to the blacksmith and tool maker in me which I get form my old man. I love this show. I love the blades and weapons they create. And observing the techniques they employ.

THE SELECTION – really, really love this show and it gave me several very good ideas for the physical training program I was already developing called The Roman Way, which you can read more about on my other blogs. I am writing a book and training manual for the Roman Way. I liked the psychological aspects of the selection best however, even moreso than the training methods employed. A couple of the instructors I really like too and tow of them reminded me of buddies of mine.

EMERALD CITY – beautiful, without a doubt. The story meanders however and it is kind of more of a chick show to me. But I really like the Wizard of Oz and the displays of “magic.”

SIX – a little overemotional and overwrought to me, as far as the character depictions of the operators. Too much of an intent to hyper-dramatize for modern audiences. But the stories are awful good and the missions often solid. But still the emotionalism too often fucks up the outcomes. Which, personally, I would not allow. But it’s only TV.

TABOO – the best damned man show I’ve seen, maybe, ever… As in ever. In my whole freaking life. I can’t recommended it enough. This is a real work of art. High Art.

and, one of the shows I’ve watched before but which I am really, really looking forward to returning soon, THE EXPANSE.

Aside from the original STAR TREK it is, without a doubt, the best science-fiction television show I’ve ever seen in my life. Extremely good and incredibly solid.

I PREFER

I PREFER

I have always loved swords, don’t get me wrong. Especially short, compact to medium length swords, well weighted, tough, entirely functional and made for combat and killing. I speak specifically of the Gladius and the Spatha.

But far more I have always loved long knives and the warhammer. Both feel absolutely right in my hands. Perfect for me as a matter of fact.

Maybe that is because I am so tool oriented (probaly get that form my old man) and because by nature I am more of a scout and a man who prefers to operate alone rather than in a team or to fight in open terrain (likely get that from a coupla my great-grandfathers and my frontier ancestors). I think like a guerrilla, like a scout, like a recon-man. Like an infiltrator.

Anyway, the long knife and the warhammer is me. Made for my nature.

You can do a lotta things with a good long knife and a warhammer and a multi-functional tool. I prefer that kinda thing.

Also, I really, really like tomahawks and hatchets.

DC Rebirth: Recap And Review For Comics Released 1/25

Graphic Policy

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s DC Rebirth: Recap And Review where we take a look at the comics released under DC‘s Rebirth banner and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers – we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in.

Each comic will receive a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly based on how easy it was for
new readers to pick them up; the ratings are based solely on the issues released in the post-Rebirth ongoing series. More consideration regarding the comic’s accessibility will be given for the specific issue being read rather than the series overall, but if reading a back issue will help, then that will be mentioned. Generally, the quality of an issue won’t be discussed unless it directly…

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Abandoned Chapel [142]

valsdarkroom

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Thanks for stopping by.
You can also find me here:
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All pictures are for sale, please contact me for info: valsdarkroom@gmail.com
Or check my webshop here http://valsdarkroom.werkaandemuur.nl

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Abandoned in the Smoky Mountains

Architectural Afterlife

Luckily, I was able to witness the smoky mountains before the recent fires, which wiped out a significant portion of the forest. In the Smoky Mountains, not only did you have the picturesque scenery and surroundings creating a natural funhouse for photographers, but you would have received one hell of a package deal if you just so happened to be a photographer whom also enjoys a good explore through forgotten structures. That’s me, by the way (for anyone reading who is unfamiliar with what I do, other than talk about cats.)

Within these mountains, behind the trees, mossy rocks and wild foliage, formerly sat numerous abandoned homes and cabins. Before the fires, an entire resort had remained, facing the end of its life, fading to dirt and dust, only to remain as memories among the old dirt trails winding the mountains. In the mountains, cell phone service is non-existent. It was nice…

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Teaser Trailer

Sevenia Studios

Created a short teaser trailer for #ARelicReturns today. You can view on the Official Facebook page here.

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POPULONIA

Beauty Bellezza Beauté

populonia

Populonia is the only Etruscan city by the sea. Stretching over 80 hectares between the slopes of the promontory of Piombino and the Gulf of Baratti, the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia is a real open-air museum, glittering with ferrous slag that show the impressiveness of the industrial Etruscan village. The park includes a significant part of the ancient town of Populonia, a unique Etruscan settlement built directly on the sea, with its necropolis, the calcarenite quarries and the industrial working quarters.

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A network of itineraries links the towns’ residential area and its temples to the industrial area and the San Cerbone necropolis with its tumuli and sarcophagus and aedicola tombs (7th-4th centuries BC) and the Grotte (grotto, in English) necropolis with its chamber tombs dug into the quarry face (4th-3rd centuries BC).

populonia6populonia7populonia9Tomba a tumulo (tomba dei carri, necropoli di San Cerbone, Populonia)populoniamap

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You, Too, Can Be a Space Archaeologist!

Nat Geo Education Blog

SCIENCE

A new online tool from a Nat Geo explorer enables anyone with Internet access to search satellite images for ancient ruins. (Nat Geo News)

Learn a little about space archaeology.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Discussion Ideas

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005 – Making Money in the RPG Business

World Builder Blog

A new episode  of Table Top Babble is now up!

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James Introcaso sits down with game designers Rob Schwalb of Schwalb Entertainment and Teos Abadia of Alphastream to discuss what it’s like to try to make a living in the tabletop RPG industry.

Subscribe on iTunesGoogle Play, or Stitcher. Grab our RSS feed.

Follow Table Top Babble on Facebook or Twitter.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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Old School D&D: Grampa’s Gettin’ His Geek On

A Long-Lost Dark Age Kingdom has been FOUND in Scotland

TheBreakAway

Source: Ancient-Code.com
January 26, 2017

According to archaeological reports, a long lost Kingdom, believed to date back to the Dark Ages has been recently rediscovered in Scotland. Archaeologists firmly believe they have discovered the site of the lost kingdom of Rheged, one of the most elusive of all the sixth-century kingdoms of Dark Age Britain.


Even though great Kingdoms quickly rose and were destroyed in the Dark Ages, and their glorious structure lost to time, the very core of ONE of these long lost kingdoms may have recently been discovered, reports LiveScience.

According to reports, the mysterious Kingdom—known as the KingdomofRheged— is believed to have been one of the most elusive of ALL sixth-century kingdoms of Dark Agre Britain.

The Kingdom mostly occupied the territory of northern Britain in the sixth century and fell into obscurity after being deliberately destroyed at the beginning of the following century.

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Proof Of Noah: Gobekli Tepe

Never heard of this theory, and never thought on it. But it has interesting implications, as does the overall scheme and design of Gobekli Tepe.

Michael Thacker

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Is Gobekli Tepe proof of Noah? Is this structure the altar in which Noah sacrificed one of each animal to God? This mysterious site is dated to be over 10,000 years old, which could ultimately push back the supposed date of Noah and the ark to a much earlier period, just after the ice age era. Find out more in the video below:

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” (Genesis 8:20 NKJV).

-Michael Thacker

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Wired: Indiana Jones meets Google Earth: GlobalXplorer lets you hunt for hidden heritage sites

ResearchBuzz: Firehose

A new Web site aims for crowdsourced archaeology. “You can now be an archaeologist from the comfort of your own home and help preserve the world’s hidden heritage sites in the process. Sarah Parcak has released her GlobalXplorer software, described as ‘Indiana Jones meets Google Earth’. Professor Parcak hopes it will be used by amateur archaeologists to help unearth vital sites using high-resolution satellite images.” The GPS / mapping data for each site is NOT disclosed; the idea is to getting more eyes to look at potential sites, while protecting those sites from nogoodniks.

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