Internet/Database/Web Host Issues

I host my own Word Press blogs on a site a started for a side computer business. It has a lot of information on it, so I just keep it going.

Last night I was adding a graphic I located to my post for yesterday and in the middle of updating, something happened.

So instead of uploading the notes I made for five or six new posts over yesterday’s lunch break, I dealt with a problem. “Joy”.

I got on the control panel at the web host and it looked like all my databases were empty, no tables nothing. Then it go to where I could not even see the front page of any of my 3 blogs, RPGs, genealogy, and one for the side business. It was not an outage and after logging a call and getting into a web chat, I was told it was being escalated. I tried one more time before I went to bed and it was working. If my web host did anything on their end, they did not tell me.

That just reinforces the concept: BACKUP YOUR DATA. Thankfully I had most of it backed up, but while I waited, I backed up all the static pages and once it was working again, made sure I had backups on my PC and in my email. I was a little stressed to think about all the posts for the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop might be gone, and my efforts to prepare for the April, 2014 A to Z challenge. I’m a tech guy, so I “know” better. I did well enough that I would not lose anything. But I also know you have to VERIFY the data.

In my day job, the company that I work for has a remote backup service we offer our clients. There have been too many times that I have had to point out to clients that because they refused to use our service, that because they did not verify their backups BEFORE their server crashed, there is nothing I can do. A year ago, I had a client whose best backup was 15 months old and they had to re-build 15 months of accounting data. Their raid had a drive fail, and their IT person in charge did not know what he was doing and got it so messed up that a data recovery service could not get any newer data, mostly because they never made sure the data was actually backed up. A couple months ago another client had a server failure and the only copy of data was 4 years old. Thankfully, $5,000 later, they had their most recent data recovered by a service.

If you use an online blogging tool, like Blogger or a WordPress hosted blog, be sure you backup too, just in case.

I have had my own share of oopsies. About ten years ago I installed Linux in a dual boot configuration, and I did something wrong and lost my Windows partition. Of course, it was not backed up. I lost a year’s worth of email because at the time you couldn’t store that much email online.

Are you a techy and know better? What is your best, “I shot myself in the foot.” story?

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2014 One Page Dungeon Contest

The 2014 One Page Dungeon Contest (OPDC) deadline is April 30, 2014.

You can download PDF collections of all prior years’ submissions. I used one map from 2012, I think, for a Kobold warren in my game.

If I am going to be serious about this RPG blogging thing, I feel that I need to at least make a submission instead of thinking about doing it.

I have an idea that is way too generic, or could become a one page dungeon for every genre. That’s my challenge rise up from being a mere “idea man”, to actual execution of the details. How hard can it be right?

If you are interested and never heard of it or never looked into it, check it out here.

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Day 5: First character to go from 1st level to 20th level (or highest possible level in a given edition).

My character, Griswald, in my brother Robert’s game is the highest level character I have ever had.

Griswald is a half-elven Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User. He is 10th level cleric/10th level fighter/11th level M-U. I think it was Dragon Magazine where we read how to figure the level equivalence of multi-class characters. The divisor I recall is 1.5. Add up all the levels and divide by 1.5. That makes him 20.666… level round to 21st level equivalent. I am not sure if that applies to both those with two and three classes, but that’s how we have interpreted it.

His ability scores were mediocre. STR: 13, INT:12, WIS:14, DEX: 12, CON: 14, now 12 due to being raised twice, and CHAR: 13. I rolled 100% on the skill level for his secondary skill of bowyer/fletcher, which the DM, my brother, Robert, interpreted to mean he was so good he could make any kind of bow he wanted and develop a crossbow from scratch as it is unknown to the races in his game. He also said if I rolled 100% that he could have psionics. I told him I rolled 100 just to see his reaction, but soon fessed up.

I then have played Griswald using everything he would know based on his classes and skills, and played smart. At times it is like 007 sneaking around, and others it is like facing the Zulus at Roarke’s Drift.

I had a fifteen year hiatus in playing Griswald. Robert and I were talking on the phone one day and he had a situation that affected Griswald, the orcs he had pushed out were trying to come take him out. He wanted to let someone else play it out, but I convinced him to do it Memorial Day weekend a few years ago. We got close to making it through, but it was too big. We put that off and it took a few years to finally finish it which we did last summer. That is an epic all by itself, but is best left to another story.

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Day 4: First dragon you slew (or some other powerful monster).

I don’t specifically recall my first powerful monster.

I did have a character, Griswald, meet a youngish dragon and nearly killed it, but it still had enough hit points to fly away and shout “Revenge!” as it flew away. The dragon’s name was Voriax (sp?). I always want to say, Vermithrax, but the is the name of the dragon from the movie “Dragon Slayer.”

My plans were to hunt it down and kill it. However, a party of adventurers found it years later and slew it, because there was always some other more pressing matter requiring immediate attention.

Griswald did encounter a wolfwere hit only by magic weapons. He was traveling with a group of NPCs and he had the only magic weapon, a +1 spear. He killed it single-handedly. When the group reached their destination of safety, the group snuck his shield away in the night and had a wolf’s head device with a field of one side black the other side gray with a wolf’s head the half-black/half-gray side opposite the field, and the wolf’s eyes are red. With his exploits he soon became known as “The Wolf” and he accomplished a lot with just the swollen truth of his rumored exploits. He had just enough real exploits to back up many of the rumors, so in a pinch he could make real the fears of those opposing him. Sometimes he fell flat, but he is a blast to play and has jumped out of the fire in the nick of time many times.

Below is the image Robert drew. I colored it partly with colored pencil and partly using computer tools. I have a better finished image somewhere. At least this gives you an idea.

[EDIT] – I found the “better” image I was thinking of, it is below on the right with the solid black, bright red eyes and “speckled” gray.

Griswald's personal shield device.
   Griswald’s personal shield device.

Griswald's Personal Device

Griswald’s Personal Device


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April, 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge

I have decided to keep going with the blog challenge thing, since I have the 40th Anniversary Blog Hop for February, 2014 done and scheduled to publish each day on the appropriate day. I always thought about jumping in when I saw other types of RPG blog challenges, but never did. After I bit the bullet for the 40th Anniversary Blog hop, I decided to just do it, to steal a marketing phrase.

I got a power start on the April blogging challenge. I made a title and copied each letter graphic for all 26 of the A to Z posts and scheduled them for the appropriate day. Now just to write each post before the scheduled day.   I am toying with different ideas, but I thought that I would wait until I see what other RPG bloggers are participating and what they might indicate they are doing. Will there be a theme or just each do our own thing, etc.

My suggestion to anyone who wants to do any kind of blog hop/challenge is to make a draft  with a placeholder title and schedule them for the appropriate day and add the tags you know apply. When you actually write for that day adjust the title and category tags as needed. I know I am not a regular blogger with tons of followers, but for me that gets the item out there. If it is not a challenge that needs something tomorrow, you can focus on the ones for which you have solid ideas. For the ones you aren’t sure about or have multiple ideas, you have a place to add your ideas. If you have enough ideas, you can split them off as drafts for future use for next year, or some other blog challenge. Doing the 40th Anniversary Blog Hop helped me come up with a ton of ideas and remember things I wanted to record for later. Instead of having 3 or 4 or more posts for one day, I realized this morning that I should have scheduled them so that I had one every day, so I’d be into next week by now.

To sum up, my suggestion is to let your tool, blogging software of your choice, do the hard parts. Put in a framework so all you have to do is flesh it out. I use WordPress and am self-hosted, so I know my suggestion works for WordPress users. I would imagine Blogger and other blogging tools would allow you to do the same.

I was interested, so I did a search on the list, last night there were 500 signed up, I am number 499. This morning, it is up to 513. Counting me, there are only four RPG bloggers; or only four that used the (GA) tag at the end of their blog name to identify them as a gaming blog. I will have to read through all the blog titles without a category tag to see if there are more.

So far, these are the four RPG blogs signed up for the April, 2014 A t X challenge:

181. d20 Dark Ages (GA)

296. The Open Hearth (GA)

341. Tower of the Archmage (GA)

499. Follow Me, And Die! (GA) (That’s me :D)

I will add any I find or that let me know they are participating, that don’t have the (GA) tag. I’ll keep my own little list, so I can follow along more easily. If you forget the tag, they can’t change it, so you are stuck without it.

[Edit] I found these without the  (GA) tag:

[Edit] Here’s the first in several days.

702. The Other Side (GA) Tim is also the A to Z Challenge Ambassador.

[Edit] Here is another, the first in a long time, unless I missed some.

[Edit] Here is the first new gaming blog I have seen added to the challenge.
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Day 3: First dungeon you explored as a PC or ran as a DM.

The dungeon was something ran by my brother, Robert, as DM. I don’t recall if I had a halfling or what for a character. I don’t remember much other than lots of looking at rules and trying to make sense out of what we were supposed to do. We had fun or we would not have kept at it all these years.
I did not DM/GM much. I remember two instances, one I forgot a major piece of information the players needed at the start, and when I realized I missed giving it to them, it gave away the secret when I had to give it to them, big learning experience!

The other learning is the party had 6 or 7 people in it. We had a habit of starting new parties in taverns and usually had a bar fight. I was hoping for a meeting in a tavern and no fight. The players did not have a fight, but rather than go along with the meeting, they each left town heading a separate direction. I suspect I was the butt of a joke on that one, but I did not have the skill as a DM to get the party together to even start the adventure. I gave up in frustration. I don’t remember what we did after I called it off.

I seemed to do better GMing Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World.

No that I have DM’d with my sons, not sure I’d want to play another game. It takes a lot to prepare for one game, let alone re-build lost materials for other games.


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Acronym and Terminology List

There are a lot of acronyms used in Role Playing Games. Below is a list that will be expanded as needed. As a work in progress, I have items that I have added but not yet added a description. This will be forthcoming. Those things that are most critical to following along I tackled first. I will address others as time permits.

It takes too long to keep defining every acronym in every article. To make it easier for all concerned, I have add this to the link bar on the right.

RPG = Role Playing Game. Role as in pretending to be someone else.

Roll Playing = A form of play that is more focused on rolling dice and third person descriptions of the actions of one’s character. It is looked down upon by some Role Players.

LARP = Live Action Role Playing. Dressing up and playing out a scenario with a group. While some who play RPGs might dress as a character or dress in a costume for a convention, or maybe even during play, not all who play RPGs have LARPed and not all who LARP have played RPGs. As a kid, dressing up like a cowboy or a soldier is the only LARPing I have done. If you think about it, Civil War reenactors are historical LARPers. Actors on stage or screen are LARPing too.

FLGS = Friendly Local Game Store. They sell RPGs and a variety of other kinds of games. They often sell comic books, video games, and many other kinds of games. They often have a place to play games, either in a specified area with tables, and many have one or more rooms or areas available. The often host tournaments of various games, or have regularly scheduled types of games on certain days of the week or other regular schedule. If one is looking for a game to join, or players to play, this is a good resource for local players. It is recommended that you buy your gaming supplies from your FLGS to help keep them in business, rather than buying everything online, even if it costs a little more.

d# & #d# – d4,d6,s8,d12,d20, d% stand for 4, 5 6 8 12, 20 sided and percentile dice. 2d6 means roll 2 six-sided dice. Percentile dice are two ten sided dice, the first one or the one of a designated color is the tens and the other is the ones. If both come up 10 or 0, it means 100%. If the first is 5 and the second is 6, it means 56%. There are specialized dice now that have 1-10 (0) and 10 to 100 (00), so that different colored dice or rolling twice are eliminated.

PC –Player Character. A character contolled by a player.

NPC – Non-Player Character. A character controlled by the Game Master.

DM – Dungeon Master. The referee of the game. The referee presents the scenario for the players and rules on what they can and can’t do based on the rule framework. DM is usually reserved specifically for D&D, or more broadly, fantasy RPGs.

GM – Game Master. Generic term for the game referee. Some game systems have their own term for the game master. For example, CK for Castle Keeper in Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games.

TSR – Tactical Studies Rules. Name of the company that produced D&D. Later sold to Wizards of The Coast.

WotC – Wizards of the Coast. Bought TSR. WotC is now a business unit owned by Hasbro.

PH – Player’s Handbook. Usually specifically the D&D, the  rulebook for players.

MM – Monster Manual. Usually specifically the D&D, the rulebook with the creatures one can encounter in the game. One can invent one’s own creatures or modify the existing ones.

DMG – Dungeon Master’s Guide. Specific to D&D. the rulebook used by the DM to help frame and interpret the rules.

Chainmail – This was a booklet with a set of rules for playing heroes on the battlefield using medieval miniatures. This gave the spark that led to D&D by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

OD&D – Original Dungeons and Dragons. These rules were packaged in a white box, thus they were the White Box set. Published in 1974, this is what started it.

Basic – This is usually referred to as the Blue Box set and was a collection of the rules put together in a more logical framework but only covered up to 3rd level characters. It was meant as an introduction to get players to buy the White Box set. This is also known as the Holmes rules for its author Dr. J. Eric Holmes.

Expert – This was another restatement of the original rules and is referred as the Moldvay rules, as Tom Moldvay was the editor. This box was a magenta color.

BECMI – Refers to the Frank Mentzer 1983 edition of Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, and Immortals Dungeons & Dragons. These rules were packaged in a Red Box.

Blue Box – See Basic Above.

Red Box –  See BECMI above.

AD&D – Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This was a revision of the rules that was a collection of ideas from issues of Dragon Magazine. It was organized in a way that took one step by step from creating a character and explained what each ability allowed a character to do and what each type of character could do. This edition took the focus of rules and most of the sales were here. Originally this consisted of the three core rulebooks of the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide. Later books included the Fiend Folio (a collection of monsters and creatures, Monster Manual II, Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, Wilderness Survival Guide and Dungeoneers Survival Guide.

1E – First Edition of AD&D, usually just AD&D.

2E – Second Edition AD&D. This was a revision of the rules that added new rules and revised, clarified, or eliminated old rules. This was the last version produced by TSR. I had some experience with this rule set, but very limited.

3E – Third Edition. this was a major revision of the rules. I have no experience with this. A lot of under 40 players got their start with this.  There is still a lot of controversy about it among some bloggers.

3.5 – This was a revision of the 3E rules. I have no experience with it. This was a like it or hate it for those who started with 3E.

4E – This was a revision of the 4E rules. I have no experience with it. I got into following the OSR bloggers and learned about it. There was a lot of controversy about it. Some likened it to trying to emulate WOW (World of Warcraft) on paper.

5E – This is the current revision of the rules that underwent a year+ beta period. It is slated for release in the summer, 2014. It is also called D&D Next. I signed up to get the beta materials and it is a streamlining of the rules back to the spirit of the original/1e days. Many see it as a response to the OSR. The base rules will be available as a free PDF, so one can get the basic information needed without a large cash outlay to play.

D&D Next – Official name for the fifth edition rules.

OGL – Open Gaming License. WotC released a lot of game information and material in an open license. This allows those who accept the license to use it as long as they follow the license and include it in any material they release. This has led to a lot of fan and competitors of WotC producing rules that clone the functionality of earlier versions of D&D. The OGL also covered modern and science fiction rules. Also referred to as the d20 rules. I am no expert on all this. Google is your friend. Search for more on this. As for the legal aspect of the OGL consult a lawyer.

OSR – Old School Renaissance or Old School Revival. Players who like the original D&D or AD&D rules/style of play. They either relied on the availability of PDFs of the original rules when they were originally available. WotC later took them down when someone posted their copy of the PDFs online so anyone could download. A couple of years ago the PDFs were re-released and are still available. In the time when those rules were unavailable, many relied on the OGL to build their own set of rules. Some developed their own set of rules before the whole PDF take down.

Retro Clone – A set of rules that mimic the mechanics or either Original, Basic, Expert, or Advanced D&D. This was enabled by the OGL and the interest of many who yearned to play the way they remembered. Some retroclones are Swords & Wizardry, Microlite, Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Legends & Lore, ACKs (Adventurer, Conqueror, King), to name a few. Some of these are available for sale some for free, some have been developed by an individual. Because of the clone nature of many of these products, supplemental materials and rules are easily adapted or interchangeable between systems.

Monty Haul – Term used to describe a DM who rewards players far above and beyond the risks and challenges presented by the adventure. Monty Hall was a game show host in the 70s and 80s for the original Let’s Make a Deal.

TPK – Total Party Kill. This describes a situation where for whatever reason, the entire party is killed in the course of an adventure. This can be from the party having exceptionally bad rolls, making really bad decisions, and unbalanced encounter or adventure, or even malice on the part of the DM. Starting characters are not very powerful and it is most often that TPKs happen with low level characters, but they can happen with more powerful characters.

Rules Lawyer – A player who argues minutiae of the rules with the DM to the point of distraction and aggravation of both the DM and rest of the party. It is beyond a question of clarification or interpretation. It is calling the DM wrong no matter what.

Grognard – Originally used to refer to the veteran’s of Napolean’s armies. Now used to refer to those who prefer Original or Advanced D&D or retroclones to the innovations of newer editions. Some consider D&D Next, AKA 5th Edition, to be more in the vein of the original rules. Some see Grognards as gruff and difficult curmudgeons. Others know that they are kind and loving individuals with a fondness for the best.

PWYW – Pay What You Want. Used in reference to DriveThruRPG and RPGNow which allows creators to specify this category, so you can get something for free, then go back and purchase it later. It is a way to get exposure for the other products by a creator.

RAW – Rules as Written. Some people prefer to play the rules as presented, others prefer to modify the rules to suit their tastes.

Appendix N – Refers to the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Masters Guide, Appendix N on page 224. This lists the authors and some specific titles of books and series of books that helped inspire Gary Gygax with creating his world. Appendix N is referred to as a baseline by some of what it means to play old school. Many use it to describe their own readings that influence the way they play.

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Vampire Hunters

Way back in high school, we went through a phase, maybe it was only one weekend’s activity where our characters in AD&D were vampire hunters.

The thing is, we were all first level. We took a page out of the movies and waited until daytime, on clear sunny day,s and would enter the lair, rip open the coffin, and drive a stake in their heart. If we won the surprise roll or the initiative roll, AND we rolled high enough, we plunged the stake into the vampire’s heart and defeated him. If we missed, one of us was an instant vampirical minion, since a vampire drains 2 levels, a first level character couldn’t take a hit.

I don’t know how many vampires we killed, but there were several, and I don’t remember anyone becoming a vampire. I think we advanced in levels quickly, so that we could take at least one hit, LOL.

While I think using a house rule that one could kill a vampire in this way, it should require that there be minions and other precautions a vampire takes to protect his or her most vulnerable times.

Also why are all vampires simply level drainers who make more vampires? What about NPCs who are wizards or illusionists who have other abilities, or henchmen with such abilities to thwart or delay the plans of PCs who are vampire hunters?

I know their are vampires in my brother’s current campaign. I know that some current players would be facing them. I am sure it will not be easy.

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer