Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Google+ diaspora: RSS feeds

Like a lot of tabletop gamers, I’ve gotten tons of great mileage out of Google+. I started using it in 2012, and for the past six years it’s been my first stop for all things gaming-related. I met my Seattle gaming group through G+. I’ve made friends via the site. I’ve learned about oodles and oodles of cool and weird stuff I never would have heard of otherwise.

When the shutdown was announced, I was optimistic that a reasonably solid replacement would emerge. It hasn’t yet, for me, but today there was a glimmer of hope: RSS feeds.

For context, here’s why I’m not having much luck with the alternatives I’ve tried so far.

Social media thunderdome

MeWe was my first stop — the first G+ exodus destination to gather some critical mass, and it did so within hours of the shutdown announcement. The functionality was great. But when I asked them a simple question about acting against hate groups and hate speech, they gave a bullshit response. Maybe things will change on that front sometime, but for now MeWe is a hard pass.

diaspora* doesn’t have blocking functionality. In 2018. It has an ignore feature, which isn’t the same thing at all.) No thank you.

Facebook was a shady privacy nightmare years ago, the first time I quit the site, but it eventually got better; I came back. Then they got super shady and gross with the whole Cambridge Analytica thing, and I quit again. Also a hard pass.

I’ve never found Twitter workable for RPG discussion, but I do like Mastodon. The problem is that I can’t seem to get my brain to “think in Twitter.” It also has a small user population (at least in the RPG sphere) and doesn’t seem likely to pick up anytime soon, but being a Twitter-alike is the thing that fits worst for me because G+ is not a Twitter-alike in really any way.

Other options I’ve researched but haven’t tried yet seem even smaller and/or less well-developed than the places I have tried (Hubzilla, Friendica, etc.).

Feed me

But over on G+ there was a glimmer of sunshine: Aaron Griffin pointed out RSS feeds and the option of filling part of the void with a good feed reader. He suggested Feedly and Inoreader, and I checked both of them out (as well as a couple others).

Both have a clean interface and an Android app, but Inoreader has fewer features gated behind fees so I went that route. (Notably, if you want more than 100 feeds with Feedly, you have to pay to subscribe.)

I started by grabbing all the blogs from my own blogroll (in the sidebar). Then I visited every blog on Alex Schroeder’s Old School RPG Planet site and added all the ones that looked interesting to me. Ditto for his Indie RPG Planet. That’s pushed me well over 100 blogs in my feed.

I’ve still got the massive OSR Blog Roll & Social Contacts Google Sheet to go through, too!

And so far, so good. I may have tried an RSS reader a decade ago and forgotten about it, but I really don’t remember ever using one before. It seems like an excellent solution for the “I want to read about cool RPG stuff” side of the G+ equation.

I’m still not sure what to do about the social side, but progress is progress.

Categories
Books Tabletop RPGs Traveller

Traveller’s literary sources

Thanks to the inimitable Alex Schroeder, I followed a link to this excellent 2005 essay by Michael Andre-Driussi: Deciphering the Text Foundations of Traveller.

Here’s Driussi’s thesis:

The creators of CT wanted the anarchic, amoral, and violent adventure of fantasy role playing translated into a science fiction setting. They also wanted a kind of science fiction that used more “hard SF” than even Niven’s work. They categorically rejected New Wave SF, which made them allied to the Old Wave, except that GDW wanted a gritty, noir setting (where the Old Wave is characterized as upbeat and moral).

Traveller as noir is something I’d never considered, but it makes perfect sense. There’s a lot more to unpack, even in just that excerpt — the whole essay is a damned fine read.

Here’s another concise snippet:

What the creators of CT were after was science fiction adventure, featuring freelance “adventurers” (with all the connotations of gold hunters, mercenaries, and trail blazers that this term implies) who could live or die in the course of pick-up games.

One of the sources Driussi cites is the Dumarest Saga, by E.C. Tubb (which I’d never heard of, but boy does it sound like it’d fit right into Appendix N). Here’s the skinny:

E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest of Terra series (1967 onward) portrays its titular hero as a far future Odysseus trying to find his way home across a galaxy that has forgotten Earth completely. Each novel is slim and action-packed: Earl Dumarest arrives penniless at a new planet where he must use his wits and his reflexes, not only to survive but also to make enough money for passage to the next planet. From this series, already 17 books long in 1977, CT got such details as: low passage (a deadly hibernation system); mesh armor; the drugs fast, slow, medical slow, and combat (i.e., two-thirds of the drugs in CT); the weapon “blade”” and perhaps the psionics.

I could quote this puppy all day. It’s so good!

Driussi’s essay gave me a new perspective on, and a deeper understanding of, Classic Traveller. It’s fascinating to see what shaped the nature and quirks of Traveller’s premise and presentation.

Categories
D&D Old school Tabletop RPGs

Quickly carve out dungeon maps with Gridmapper

Alex Schroeder‘s Gridmapper is a free, online dungeon mapping tool. That’s a pretty crowded space these days, but Gridmapper stands out. Gridmpapper is a fantastic mapping tool, easy enough to use that I get my ideas down as fast as possible, but not so simple that it lacks options.

I’ve experimented with lots of different dungeon mapping options, and Gridmapper is my sweet spot. One of my favorite things about it is that instead of adding rooms to a blank grid, which sometimes paralyzes me (so many choices!), you carve gridded dungeon rooms out of a blank canvas. That shouldn’t feel different, but it does.

Here’s the screen you’ll see when you first access Gridmapper:

All you need is your keyboard and mouse, and no drawing skills are required. Which is good for me, because I’m not good at drawing dungeons.

The learning curve is shallow. Fiddle around for 10 minutes, and you’ll be set.

Unlike some other map-creation options, Gridmapper gives you angle corridors, round rooms, a host of symbols that will be familiar to anyone who’s cracked open an old TSR module, and an expandable canvas/mapping area.

Here’s a dungeon (approximately 37 rooms) I knocked out in about an hour (including time spent thinking about what might inhabit it, etc.):

You can save your maps, export them as images, share them as links, and generally do what you need to do to make further use of a map you’ve created online. Anytime you save a map, it gets added to the Gridmapper wiki (so be aware of that, if you don’t want others to see it).

It even offers the option to use a map in an online game: Everyone loads Gridmapper, accesses the same (presumably sparse) map, and then a designated mapper adds to it live. Every 20 seconds, it saves and the rest of the group can see it.

Lastly, Gridmapper is fun to use. Maps sometimes feel like a chore to me, but making them with Gridmapper falls squarely into the category of play.

Go make one, and you’ll see what I mean.