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I downloaded Levi Kornelsen’s Skinchangers beta, which is free, and holy crap is the list of inspirations right up my apple cart: Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Neverwhere meet Buffy by way of Fate and Apocalypse World . . . yes, please!

At first blush, it’s incredibly clever — and I love the minimalist, yet evocative, artwork. And oh, this core mechanic; it’s fantastic.

I’ll probably butcher it here, but you roll a number of Fate dice equal to your ability, using “-” results to cancel dangers (associated with each action) and “+” results to boost the outcome in specific ways. Blanks do nothing, and how you undertake the action (cautiously, boldly, covertly, etc.) changes what results you get to reroll.

Here’s the core concept from the intro:

You have met a powerful animal spirit. When you did, you were transformed and charged with a duty to the natural world. Those who desecrate the world are your enemies; this includes both mundane and supernatural foes. It is the supernatural threats, however, that you are best equipped to face, as nobody else is. You will seek out desecrated sites, battle monsters, and track down cults that draw their power by despoiling life. In this task, you will be joined by other Skinchangers, and aided by natural spirits.

From concept to mechanics, this is exciting. I need to spend some more time with it.

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I thought I joined Google+ in 2012, but having just finished scrolling through my entire post history to identify posts I need to move to Yore, I see that I was wrong.

I’m still checking my stream there a couple times a day, and still posting, but having found the few dozen “should have been a blog post” posts I made over the years, and having now seen my first post after a long, long process of reviewing all of them, I feel done. Today is the day G+ officially ends for me, even if I keep visiting between now and the shutdown.

It’s going to take me a little while to process that — seven and a half years is a long time! G+ has been a big part of my life, and I’m going to miss it.

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Space pirates!

I buy 99% of my RPGs only in PDF these days, but when a product as special as the Pirates of Drinax (PDF)campaign for Mongoose Traveller comes along, my heart goes pitter-patter and I have to make an exception.

It’s a sandbox campaign with a fantastic hook: The ruler of once-great Drinax, now a stellar backwater between two great powers, gives the PCs an old ship and a letter of marque, and asks that they secure the allegiance of the nearby worlds.

But, you know, they’re motherfucking space pirates: They can do whatever the hell they want, and the campaign supports it. There’s a neat system for tracking (and changing) how every important planet feels about the PCs, with real consequences waiting in the wings.

Need a bit more structure? The core is 10 adventures that can be run more or less in any order, anywhere. Some are opportunities signalled by rumors, while others are driven by outside forces. All adjustable to your game, of course, with copious notes about how to do just that.

Plus all the great tools I expect in an old school space sandbox: NPCs with motivations and roleplaying tips, ships, planets, deck plans, a gorgeous poster map, tons of info about the Aslan (who are key players in the region) and more. Its roughly 600 pages of material.

From what I’ve read so far, this is a stellar campaign.

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When my Tunnels & Trolls hardcover arrived, I was immediately drawn to the glossy color section. I’d mostly ignored Trollworld when I read the rules in my softcover copy, figuring if I ran it I’d homebrew a setting . . . but this map has me rethinking that.

Rrr’lff is Trollworld’s main continent, and it was created by an egomaniacal dragon-wizard in his own likeness before the Wizard War.

Other fantasy settings are all like, “We’ve carefully considered geography and ecosystems and crafted a realistic world with trade routes for every potato farm, and we’ve named it [Generic Fantasy Name].

Tunnels & Trolls chugs a beer and says, “Let’s play on a dragon-shaped continent created by some douchebag wizard! And let’s call it Rrr’lff, the sound you make when you barf!

Trollworld is rad.

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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.

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One more bit of schadenfreude for the toxic bad actors of the RPG world: Grim & Perilous Studios has trademarked #DNDGate for its forthcoming collection of stories about inclusivity in gaming of the same name.

And filed at least one DMCA takedown against a DNDGater for trademark infringement. Delicious.

Bigotry has no place in gaming.

(Hat tip to Levi Kornelsen for spotting this news.)

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Stuart Robertson is right the fuck on the money with this one: As the creator of the most widely used OSR logo, he is legally withdrawing the right to use it on any works containing hate speech (as defined by Canadian law).

The thread on Google+ where he made this announcement is epic. If you have as many toxic right-wing assholes blocked as I do it will be a gap-filled but highly entertaining read. Anything that pisses off bigots is a good thing; that it’s a principled stand backed up by Stuart’s apparently infinite patience is all the more impressive.

Hate speech has no place in gaming.

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I haven’t used my RPGnet account in about five years, but the principled stand they took by banning posting in support of Trump prompted me to dust it off and give the forums another look.

Their ban was carefully considered (including the nuances around it) and clearly and unequivocally presented, and I couldn’t agree more. Supporting Trump is supporting white supremacy and other forms of bigotry.

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Having seen several folks I respect voicing concerns about MeWe, hate speech, and hate groups, and after watching the relevant section of the YouTube interview where they addresses that topic, I found the official line pretty unconvincing.

So I emailed MeWe a question about their policy on hate speech and hate groups:

Howdy! I’m a tabletop gamer who is part of the “great G+ exodus,” and MeWe is emerging as a consensus social network for many people in my circles. One concern that I have, and which I keep seeing raised by others, is MeWe’s policy on hate speech and hate groups.

I know you have a policy, and it’s admirably clear and direct. But do you ban hate groups on MeWe? Do you have examples of groups you’ve banned? Or of specific types of hate speech that have resulted in official action?

I’m not talking about specific political affiliations in the sense of mainstream political parties or ideologies, but actual hate groups: the alt-right, white supremacists and nationalists, anti-LBGTQ religious groups, and the like.

I like everything I see about MeWe except this — the absence of evidence that your policies apply to these folks, and have been applied to them. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and to share your response with other G+ folks who have similar concerns. Thanks in advance!

Here’s their official response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us and thank you for using MeWe. MeWe has a built in self-reporting system for all members to block and report members and groups believed to be breaking our Terms. MeWe has no political bias as a company and no algorithms that could perform any kind of bias censorship whatsoever. Our CEO is a Libertarian and well known for his opposition to political censorship, political bias, and shadow banning on social media.

We are continuously building new moderation tools for MeWe group owners and members. Group owners can already assign as many admins to their groups as they want – and all group owners and their admins can block and remove any group member, as well as change group member permissions individually if necessary.

When it comes to tolerance of different political viewpoints – MeWe stands out from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google. MeWe doesn’t shadow ban, has no political bias, doesn’t manipulate your newsfeed, has no facial recognition, no spyware, no boosted anything, and NO BS. MeWe members and their data are #Not4Sale.

All social media sites have ongoing daily issues with disruptive trolls and bots, and MeWe is no different. We take on those challenges every day to make MeWe delightful and safe for all members. We’re not a haven for violence inciters or porno – there are other sites for those people to go to – not MeWe. We like to say “MeWe is for the good guys.” We’re not perfect – and we’re working on making MeWe better and better every single day.

Bottom line: MeWe is for law-abiding citizens worldwide regardless of their politics, religion, sexuality, and other traits. Of course due to our privacy guidelines we cannot provide examples of any persons or groups that have been reported, and understandably we do not provide examples of any actions the company takes to remove violators. We stand by our Terms and our principles”

That’s a non-response response, which is the same thing as a “no,” and it does nothing to address my concern that MeWe is a happy home for hate groups, and a platform disinclined to boot people for hate speech.

Checking on something like this would never have crossed my mind when I joined Google+ in 2012, but times have changed. All I wanted was something that demonstrates that MeWe implements their policy, and that we have at least some overlap in what we consider a hate group. They couldn’t clear even that fairly low bar.

I’m not devoting time and energy to, or associating myself with, a social media site that won’t repudiate hate speech and back that repudiation up with action. I deleted my MeWe account.

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neuzd offers a dandy Traveller system generator for 1st edition Mongoose Traveller, and it’s free.

What makes it so dandy? For starters, it’s dead simple: click link, get system. The abbreviations for bases and trade codes appear on every output screen (you’ll have to reference the rules, or the web, for the UWP and other codes).

It also hits all my high notes for a random generator: just the right amount of inspiration, quirky without going too far off the rails, and never boring. As an example, here’s the first system I generated while writing this post:

The Bbj Iisog System

“Bbj Iisog” is a great name, weird and not at all one I’d have thought up on my own. There’s a scout base here, and the trade codes signify garden, high population, industrial, and low tech.

Unpacking the UWP stats, there’s a rundown starport on a medium-size wet world with a tainted atmosphere. That world has a high population (1-10 billion) and is governed by a charismatic dictator; the law level is moderate. Its tech level of 4 puts it at the level of atomic science and internal combustion engines.

So, a garden world — that has a tainted atmosphere — with a huge population, one shitty starbase, a dictator, and not much in the way of advanced technology. My brain goes straight to an atmosphere that has a low-level soporific effect on the population, keeping them alert enough to work but docile enough not to rebel — which is handy for the planetary dictator, since there are a lot of people to control. That same atmosphere is what makes this world so fertile: They grow stuff here that can’t be grown anywhere else, and in abundance.

What will the PCs do when they arrive? If they’re in bad shape, they might be stuck for a little while (not much in the way of services at that starport). The planet is ripe for a revolution, but how do you foment one when the very air fights against you? (Sure, everyone has filters, but they probably don’t work all the time — and I bet the dictatorship has a hand in that.) It’s also ripe for stealing some of the weird plants they grow, or running tests to try to find a way to synthesize their growing conditions elsewhere — or a host of other possibilities.

Sectors and sub-sectors, too

But wait, there’s more! This generator also does sub-sectors and sectors, and you can toggle settings for population density and sector location. And on top of that, it can also just spit out name lists for you to use as needed.

Want a ton of systems all at once, with hexes (ready for you to hand-populate your game map)? This generator delivers. And again, I love the names — here are a few from a sample system I generated:

  • VHS-592
  • Garcia’s Field
  • Silva’s Dead
  • Concentrate XCVIII
  • Activity Glamorous
  • Chdydmbahk

Maybe “Activity Glamorous” doesn’t work for your game, and that’s cool: Just hit the link again, and it’ll generate a whole new sector.

The only thing I wish it did was produce a permanent URL for whatever you generate, but for such an otherwise robust (and free) tool that’s more of a quibble than a complaint. This generator is excellent.

Pair the neuzd Traveller system and sector generator with a character generator (like Frank Filz’s generator, or Devil Ghost’s generator[1]), and you’ve reduced the handling time needed to make stuff in Traveller — without reducing the fun factor.

[1] I like these both so much that I wrote Yore posts about them: Filz, Ghost

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