Under the Hill

so tired…

Serial Numbers Filed Off

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Labyrinth Lord is original Dungeons and Dragons with serial numbers filed off. It seems that Wizards of the Coast, by open sourcing their game mechanics in the early 2000s, also opened them up to be retrocloned to older rulesets that were not part of the original deal. And so LL has nearly everything a group needs to play as if it was 1977. The word is “retrogaming“, and it has been rather popular lately, mostly carried by guys who have been D&D/RPG players in the first years of the hobby. And there is more to that little part of the hobby than only Labyrinth Lord with it’s evocation of 1970s/80s fanzine quality. Sword&Wizardry tries to evoke the aura of even earlier sets of D&D, OSRIC tries to be AD&D 1st ed., Mutant Future tries to be Gamma World.

Now, I’m obviously not part of that age group that seems to be so fascinated by those old-school games. Not as much as those people in their 40s and 50s are who played D&D back when it was fresh and new. I’m not even close to that. My first experience with roleplaying games came in the mid-90s with Germany’s very own “Das Schwarze Auge” (The Dark Eye), although I can relate to them desiring simpler and faster rules than what is current now. The new version of D&D (4th edition) appears to me a as a bloated, overdone try to rip off World of Warcraft. Even the 3rd edition, which I used for a long time and had lots of fun with, always appeared to me as overly complicated. Maybe the reason for that was that the first time I played DSA back then I was using the Beginner¹ rules, which were the rules of it’s 1st edition: fast, easy, and a lot of fun. They had their very own problems. but I never lost the feeling that roleplaying games should be played like that: fast and loose, story over rules, a quick decision in favor of hour long battles.

On the other hand there is a certain dogmatism in the retrogaming community: as much fun as playing the old games just like they were played 30 years back might be, many of those adherents to the old school also want something else: reliving the old days. And so they try to simulate the old times as closely as possible.

Why am I putting that much thought into this? Because I plan to use LL for some games, that’s why. it turns out that there are a few people  interested in playing pen&paper roleplaying games. I haven’t really played for years now, but let’s see if I still got it…

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¹ and lo! there actually is a retroclone of those rules as well, in English even…

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Written by G. Neuner

24. February 2010 at 6:17 pm

Flashcards and Fitness

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“Two days ago I discovered something that stunned me: Using Anki WHILE walking on my treadmill was enjoyable. I easily did it for an hour and the next day (yesterday) did it for an hour again. The time goes by quickly. Two boring activities, done together, became pleasant. Anki alone I can do maybe ten minutes. Treadmill alone I can do only a few minutes before I want to stop. In both cases I’d have to be pushed to do it at all. Yet the combination I want to do; 60 minutes feels like a good length of time.”Seth Roberts

I think Seth might be onto something with that. I noticed that while I can’t stand listening to audiobooks anymore (it was different when I was a kid), during long travels I actually enjoy listening to audio lectures even on topics that do not really interest me (and those topics normally are a bit weird because there are not that many free online classes available to download and listen to).
I dislike sitting in some of my lectures because the topics don’t interest me at all, yet I cherish listening to lectures about rhetoric when travelling between Poland and Germany? It’s weird, isn’t it?

I too should try using flashcards when working out next time. Actually I should try working out again…

Written by G. Neuner

24. February 2010 at 2:24 am

Posted in Odd

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Using CBR/CBZ in the Humanities

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cropFor quite a while now I have been bothered by the tendency of pages making available handwritten documents online, to scatter the pages of those said documents all across their websites. While it is nice and quite wonderful that those things are online at all, and while those things certainly help a lot in accessing at least facsimiles of original documents and manuscripts, the act of organizing those said pages are getting quite painful. Especially when having to deal with loads of different pages, as one often does when examining handwritten letters in greater detail.

Until now I have been neatly organizing those manuscripts that I needed to take a look at into folders and subfolders. At least I have been trying to. It is a kind of tedious process that always seemed a bit too bothersome to me to be taken for granted. Still, there seemed to be no alternative to that problem lately, while I always figured that reading those letters in one single file might be a bt more comfortable, the most obvious of alternatives to the bunch of multiple .jpgs  would have been the everpresent .pdf file format. A wonderful format in my opinion, only very unpleasant to use for larger series of pictures: When used as a way to present facsimiles of graphics and pictures pdfs tend to become uneccessary large and bulky, lose the ability to interact with the pictures inside more directly (like cutting and copying parts of pictures) and are very limited to navigate. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by G. Neuner

11. June 2009 at 4:43 pm

Revisiting Ye Olde Airship Scare

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NSRW_Dirigible_BalloonThe whole idea of what seems to be postblogging appeared to me a few times before, and Ihad some ideas of how to do it and some ideas of what to blog, yet I realized in the end that none of them were really feasible. None of these ideas though were as interesting as Brett Holman’s take on the phenomenon of Scareships, phantom airships appearing over Britain in the early 20th century. Brett is blogging appearances of those airships over Britain in 1909 on his blog Airminded in chronological order.[1]

A fascinating concept and something one might keep in mind for other historical events. As I said it has been done by others before, like Holman’s own description of the Sudeten Crisis in that form, David Silbey from The Edge of the American West describing the Boxer Uprising day-to-day or Ross Mahoney taking on the battle of the Mareth Line. I suppose history is full with stuff one could use to that effect.

So, what could be the use of blogging stuff that is long gone? Isn’t that stuff in history books anyway?

Yeah it is, but (aside from the fact that historians need to look at the sources anyway to make sure everything the books say is correct): It actually might give a whole different view on the subject than any history book or other media could convey. Breaking down the course of events in daily or maybe weekly parts, whenever the news would have appeared back then, we could have better insights into the point of view contemporaries might have had.

I think if used right one could use this idea as quite a good tool to teach and research certain historic topics. I wonder if I could maybe do something similar in this blog as well… The problem would be the topics I woul choose for that. As I am a medieval historian I would be more interested in developments from the Middle Ages. Only back then there was no such reliable source of information as the newspaper turned out to be in the 19th/20th century.

[1] he also has a whole subblog only on scareships complete with sources and maps of their occurrences

Written by G. Neuner

10. June 2009 at 3:15 pm

Facebook is scary

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When I logged into my Facebook account earlier I found a friend of mine in the “people you might know” box in the right upper corner. I clicked myself through to her profile, noticed that it was indeed this one friend I had with that particular name and sent a friendship request.
So far nothing out of the ordinary.

Then I realized that the both of us didn’t actually have anything in common. At least nothing which Facebook should know.

At least nothing I could put my finger on.

She is living in a completely different part of the country now, never went to school or university with me, we didn’t even meet until we both workedtogether for a NGO a few years back. The closest that we actually got in our profiles was that her high school was about 40km away from mine.
Neither me nor her actually put the occasion where we met online.
So how come she appeared as the top suggestion all of a sudden? A place which for the last few days was held by a girl from my Uni that shares two  of my friends with me.

Now, I know that one or two years back, when I started to use Facebook a bit more extensively, I did a search on her name in Facebook. I didn’t find her back then and actually didn’t think about that too much anymore. Does Facebook really save all those searches I did for people I knew over the last few years? And do I really want them to remember all that stuff for such a long time? Keeps me thinking what else they have on me…

Written by G. Neuner

10. June 2009 at 12:12 am

Posted in Internet

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Resources IV

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A Greasemonkey script for your Facebook pleasure: removing all those damn Quiz updates.

North Korean Anti-U.S. propaganda posters: They are offensive towards the U.S. of course, but they also show that North Korea seems to be stuck in the 1960s even in terms of propaganda. Of course when you have the highest percentage of the population in the army AND the bomb you might not actually care about that. Although lately what they seem to do is pissing against the legs of everybody they can.

A collection of links to Medieval Cookbooks: I really have to go through that at one point. Still, I suppose there are far more than just those linked somewhere.

And: a Lifehacker guide on how to build a computer from scratch for people who never have done that before. Something I might try as soon as I have some spare money to get the parts. I always wanted to have a computer I built myself. I’m such a geek. Even though being a history student.

Written by G. Neuner

9. June 2009 at 7:32 pm

Phrasebook Misery

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Anna Etmanska from the Transparent Language Polish Blog in her latest post points out some facts that have bugged me as well for a long time:

Take any random phrasebook (any language will do) and look inside. You will see a whole bunch of very useful expressions that, no doubt, are essential to your survival in a foreign land. Phrases such as: “Where is the national museum?” (Yeah right, like you are really going to understand the answer. A lot easier to look up the museum on google maps before you leave home) or “Can I have it in red, please?” (at H&M you can find it yourself, and if you’re the type who frequents high end stores, chances are the staff will speak some English, even in France) or “I’d like to exchange these traveler’s checks” (just use a bank card, will you?).

So it’s not only me! Other people ask those questions as well! What audience are all those sentences in phrasebooks (not only Polish ones but all of them) actually for?! In any of those books there will be loads of sentences which might be important in everyday communication, but you basically can’t use them. Because you won’t understand the answer the other person will b giving you. The way to the museum might be shown with hands and feet if nothing else helps, but ask the lady at the ticket counter when and where the bus is going from and you will have a problem.

I remember one Polish phrasebook in particular that had a page on relationships. Phrases were going from: “Do you want to go out with me?” up to “Do you want to marry me?” and my personal favorite in this list “I think it doesn’t work with us two anymore!”. A whole relationship condensed onto one single page. Only: who will ever need that?

I mean, what are you even doing in a relationship where you have to break the bad news in a language you don’t even speak? I mean, how did you talk to each other before?!

Written by G. Neuner

9. June 2009 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Travel

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