Digging 1,000 Holes on Itch.io

Finally, a post that isn’t about a calculator!

As part of my New Years resolution to find new horizons to litter with my works, I turn now to the much vaunted Itch.io.

My first impression, reading through their FAQs, is that I going to dig this site. It’s got a ton of features that I can make use of, including:

  • VAT support, because VAT is something I never want to deal with.
  • Bulk download keys, which can help with crowdfunding fulfillment and perhaps Epimas?
  • Patreon integration, which is still useful to me, even though ill-made decisions at Patreon set me on this path in the first place.

One drawback for Worlds which haunts me everywhere is that folks rarely have a way to classify a magazine that includes stories, games, and comics. They really want to pigeonhole you into one or another of those three categories. Itch.io does not seem to be an exception. But I’m learning to live with that.

What impresses me that most about Itch.io is how they let you set the percentage of your sales they get to keep–from 0% to 100% with a default at 10%. I. Dig. That.

Right, without further ado, I present to you the Dig a Thousand Holes itch.io store!

And as always, to keep up-to-date on this and other projects in the works, sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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Step-By-Step Anachronometric Solutions for Your DM42/Free42/HP-42S Calculator

Warning: The Ansari Anachronometer program found herein is provided “as-is” and subject to change at any time. The author and publisher offer no warranty of of any kind with regard to this keystroke program, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of fitness as a temporal stress calibration tool. Dig a Thousand Holes Publishing shall not be liable for errors, anomalies, or paradoxes that arise from the use of this program. Do not meddle in the causal streams of time without proper training.

Though the patents for the actual Ansari Anachronometer are still held by the historically litigious Browne Chronometric Engineer, Inc., we’ve managed to reverse engineer its functions in a—as far as we can discern—unique keystroke program for your HP-42S (or DM42 or Free42). This is not a true emulation of the anachronometer, but rather a simplified simulation, based on observed behavior and the few materials from Browne Chronometric that have been made public.

The DM42 calculator featuring clip art style business people artwork on its screen.

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The Calculator’s Game Design

This blog has seen more traffic in the past 48 hours than all of 2017, and it’s because of a little post about my other hobby, RPN calculators. When I made that post last week, I didn’t even have my DM42 yet. It was ordered it, but still in transit. Now that I’ve had a few days to play with it, and now that I see I have an interested audience, I thought I might say a bit more about it and why I find it so captivating.

But before I do, a brief introduction for all my new readers. Hello there, I am Epidiah Ravachol, author, tabletop roleplaying game designer, and calculator enthusiast. I have written and designed quite a few games over the years. Many of these can be found at the Dig a Thousand Holes Publishing store where until the end of February you can get them for 25% off using the coupon code DM42. You can also get back issues of my sword & sorcery magazine Worlds Without Master—packed with comics, games and weird tales about forbidden sorceries and high adventure. One game you won’t find there (because I published it through another company) is perhaps my most well-known: Dread, the horror game that uses Jenga instead of dice. Finally, I talk about these games, other favorites of mine, game design in general, and my love of calculators and math all over the Internet—on Mastodon, on Twitter, on Google+, on Instagram. I also co-host a podcast about The Rockford Files, for those of you who also happen to love 70s detective shows starring James Garner (which should be just about all of you).

And if you really want to stay up-to-date on my bullshit, sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Right, now on to the gorgeous DM42!

The DM42 calculator as it arrives to you in the mail.

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The Game Designer’s Calculator

If you’ve been following me on the social medias this week, you may have noticed a wee bit of excitement about a new calculator. It all starts with this tweet from Saturday:

Four short days later, it was justified and this wondrous calculator was ordered.

To celebrate, I’ve extended the sale through the end of February. So until then, you can still get 25% off of everything at the Dig 1,000 Holes PayHip store with the coupon code DM42.

While I wait for this beauty to arrive, allow me to tell you why I’m so excited about it and perhaps why you should be excited, too.

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New Year’s Resolution to Discovery New Horizons

Late in the year 2017, the Powers-That-Be at the crowdfunding platform Patreon.com changed how they charged their patrons. It was a simple change meant to address a problem that I had no personal experience with, so I can’t speak the efficacy of their chosen solution. But I can speak to its ultimate effect.

They added a small fixed cost to each pledge, something like 35 cents. If you made a single pledge of $30 a monthly, you wouldn’t even notice. But if you made 30 pledges of a dollar a piece, you would see your monthly cost increase by 35%. For many who enjoyed spreading their love as far and wide as they could afford, this extra burden became unmanageable. Patreon had an exodus on their hands.

In about a week, they reversed their decision; but for creators who depended on lots of small pledges from many patrons, the damage had been done.

I was not hit as hard as some, but I was hit. This was a classic Swords Without Master moral—an unintended consequence with a clear lesson attached to it:

Do not depend on the whims of the Overlord for your livelihood.

A lesson that I choose to learn from.

I cannot depend on a handful of sites for the majority of my income. A single policy change can cost me hundreds of dollars in the blink of an eye. There’s no reason for me to trust any single site with that sort of power.

I cannot depend on a single venue to reach my audience. One of the great features of Patreon was how it kept your audience in the loop on your projects. Several of those who left expressed a desire to be kept in this loop.

I have a New Year’s Resolution. It’s simple in concept. Every month in 2018 I intend to find a one new way to reach my audience and one new way for them to support my work. It might get a little messy in execution. Some months, the way to reach my audience will also be the venue through which they can show their support. Some months, these might be different. But I’ve been rather complacent, relying on the same handful of sites to get my job done. I need to venture forth, explore more, and find what awaits me in the great wilds of the Internet.

Monkey with Sword

This month, I start with some bare bones fundamentals.

A MailChimp newsletter. Sign-up for monthly updates about what’s in the works, what’s just come out, and any juicy game design discussions I’ve had on my various social medias.

A Ko-fi page. For when you’ve just had an amazing gaming experience and want to buy the game’s designer a drink. Or help offset the cost of my new office space. Or say “For the DM42!” in your comments if you want me to throw it towards buying this dreamy calculator.

If you have places you’d like to see my games, feel free to let me know!

 

 

The Complete Epidiah Ravachol Collection

Thanks to Richard Epistolary and Robert Carnel at the Across the Table podcast, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit my entire body of work, from Dread to The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku. Richard did a wonderful job of stitching together clips from podcasts I’ve done over this past decade or so my thoughts on my games around the time they were published. Check that episode out and don’t miss the following one entirely dedicated to a deep dive into Swords Without Master.

And then, last month, during #RPGTheoryJuly the opportunity arose again when I tweeted about how my games handle violence. That titanic thread starts here and ends somewhere around here.

So, how complete is your Epidiah Ravachol collection?

Download the PDF of the checklist—front and back—print it out, trim it to wallet-size, and carry it next to your heart.

Epidiah Checklist 2017 trim marks

That way you can mark off the games as you meet new friends and play with them. Or just grab the image below, check the games off with MS Paint—or whatever your favorite image editor is—and proudly display it in your social media to make your friends jealous.

The Epidiah Ravachol Starter Kit

But wait, Eppy! You’ve already marred my perfect checklist with four check marks. What gives?

That’s cause I’m going to get you started with four free games!

  • Trial & Terror: Supernatural Victims Unit—The first game I playstormed with the Imagination Sweatshop. Jason Keeley, Jim Sullivan and I sat down one Friday night with only the slightest inkling of a police procedural game set in a NYC where vampires and werewolves walk openly alongside mortals. By the next Friday we were on a train to JiffyCon with stacks of the complete, freshly printed game. Can your detectives build enough of a case in the first half for your district attorneys to argue in the second half? It’s a timed game and it’s free.
  • MonkeyDome—Another rolls around, another JiffyCon looms just a week away, and the Imagination Sweatshop, this time including Emily Care Boss, Jason Keeley, Jim Sullivan, John Stavropolous and myself, spends a Friday evening whittling a list of 20 one-line game ideas down to MonkeyDome. A post-apocalyptic jaunt through tonal whiplash. This game set the stage for Swords Without Master, which in turn set the stage for so many of my other games at Worlds Without Master. Truly a pivotal moment in my own game design, and it’s free!
  • Spaceknights—Inspired by Rom and Texas Hold’em, this game was made as part of a 24-hour, one-page front and back, game design contest. And it shows. But hey, it’s free!
  • What is a Role-Playing Game?—An entire game in 463 words that teaches you what a roleplaying game is. Pound for pound, the best deal in tabletop roleplaying. Free to read. Free to play. Free to use.

Seek out the rest!

You may find them on this site, at my PayHip store, hidden within issues of Worlds Without Master, over at The Impossible Dream, and among the stores of purveyors of fine roleplaying games.

Oaks & Rivers in the Greenwood

This #Greenwoodnesday I’m going to ressurrect a rather recent G+ post to talk about tables and charts in #LincolnGreen.

To be different and gimmicky, as is my wont, the game uses coins instead of dice. There are lots of reasons why coins are better suited to the game than dice. Chief among them is the fact that you don’t fiddle with little granular bonuses and penalties. This or that. Yes or no. Saved or lost. That’s all you get.

But when you’re working on a chart of a table, you sometimes get a bit wistful for a little granularity. It’s not that coins can’t produce large numbers. They’re basically binary number generators. One coin can get you a d2. Two coins can get you a d4. Three coins, a d8. Four coins, a d16. Five, a d32. Six, a d64. And so forth. But it’s a little cumbersome and makes for uninspiring charts:

  • 0000 An abandoned cart.
  • 0001 A shepherd/shepherdess seeking a lost lamb.
  • 0010 A poor knight with a weighty debt.
  • 0011 A wealthy abbott.
  • 0100 The king’s warden
  • 0101

It’s a little flat, not quite the #LincolnGreen aesthetic, and rather hard to read if you’re not practiced in binary digits. And perhaps most importantly, it tries to work around the coins weaknesses rather than playing to their strengths.

Let’s play to their strengths.

Oaks 

You’re playing in the Wolves’-Heads tradition of #LincolnGreen and you want to randomly roll up your species. Let’s say it’s an early playtest with only 32 species available. I could hand you five coins and tell you to throw them one at a time to build up a binary digit between 0000 and 11111, and we could consult our list of 32 species to find which one corresponds to that value.

Or I could build you an Oak, like the one I started making in the image below. Start at the trunk and climb your way up. As you reach an branch, answer the question or throw a coin for your answer. Yes and heads to the left, no and tails to the right.

A chart in the form of a badly drawn oak tree.

(Note: In the illustration, heads is called piles and tails is called crosses, period appropriate terms I’ve been toying with using.)

  • Are you covered in fur or hide? No, thank you.
  • Are you covered in feathers? Hmm, I’m not sure. I’ll throw. Heads! 

(At this point, we note that Eppy is fallible and accidentally reversed the order of the following branches. So we pretend the branch to the right is really to the left, move on with our example, and remind Eppy in the comments that this is precisely why he has an editor and should let someone else do the actual graphics.)

  • Are you at home upon the lakes & seas? Yeah, that sounds lovely.
  • Can you soar? Throwing again. Crosses. I guess I’m… no, fuck that, I soar. I want be a goose, damn it!

The strength of the Oak is that it takes what would otherwise be a block of 32 randomly assorted animals and sifts them into the answers to a series of yes/no questions. That way you can take each question as it comes and decide there if you want a particular answer or you want to trust in your coins. And, as our example has shown, you can even trust the coin, and then tell it to fuck off when you suddenly realize that’s not the answer you wanted.

Another strength is that you can further divide each branch into as many limbs as you wish without affecting the probability of the parent branch. On this oak, half of all species thrown are mammals, but we don’t have to have just 16 mammals to make that work. We could divide that part of the oak into 32 or 64 species and still have half of the thrown species be mammals.

We don’t have to stick to powers of two. Some branches may divide further than others. And we can have branches lead you to new oaks if we really need something big (and we might for the species in Wolves’-Heads).

Enough about oaks, let’s talk about Rivers.

Rivers

Let’s go back to our random encounter table example, because who doesn’t love a random encounter?

  • 0000 An abandoned cart.
  • 0001 A shepherd/shepherdess seeking a lost lamb.
  • 0010 A poor knight with a weighty debt.
  • 0011 A wealthy abbott.
  • 0100 The king’s warden
  • 0101 …

You’re rolling on it, and the merry folk are praying for a wealthy abbott, but you get the poor knight. That’s wonderful! Much mischief can be and has been made of this poor knight! Good Sir Richard at the Lee.

A little while later, you roll again, again hoping for a wealthy abbott, and again rolling the poor knight. Oh Sir Richard, what troubles have you found now? Ne’er mind that, let’s adventure.

Later still, another roll, another lack of abbott and another poor knight. Goddamnit, Sir Richard! Will you take a hint and steer clear of the Greenwood?

Let’s fix this. Instead of a binary number before each encounter, let’s put a circle ◯ or two.

An abandoned cart.
A shepherd/shepherdess seeking a lost lamb.
A poor knight with a weighty debt.
A wealthy abbott.
◯◯  The king’s warden
 …

Now we’ve got a River. To use this River, we throw a set number of coins and count the heads. Let’s say this River wants us to throw three coins. This will give us a number between 0 and 3, with 1 and 2 being the most likely. Now, starting at the head waters (in this case, the abandoned cart) we count down a number of entries on the river equal to what we just threw. Where we land is our encounter—cross off one of its circles and encounter away.

When next we throw on this River, we ignore any encounters that have had all their circles crossed off. So let’s say that in our first encounter we threw 0 heads, so we found that abandoned cart. When we go back to the river, it should look like this:

An abandoned cart.
A shepherd/shepherdess seeking a lost lamb.
A poor knight with a weighty debt.
A wealthy abbott.
◯◯  The king’s warden
 …

And now our lamb-seeker is the head waters. We start our count from there.

Some encounters have more than one circle, like the king’s warden. In this case, they act as a single entry when counting down the river, but stick around for future throws as long as they have empty circles left.

We could make a very likely encounter that only happens once with something like this:

Friar Tuck
Friar Tuck
Friar Tuck

The stout friar takes up all of three entries, making him very likely to occur, but once he does, cross out his circle and skip all those entries from then on.

We can also plug instructions into the rivers—branches and tributaries that change their structure once big events happen, or simply an instruction to clear out all the crossed circles and start the river afresh. Along with that, rivers can have unique encounters that only occur once and are never refreshed. Like the one time Prince John makes the mistake of strolling through the Greenwood alone.

One of the strengths to rivers is that they are less about if something will come up, and more about when. Especially if you keep the number of coins you’re throwing low, in the 2 to 4 range.

Coppicing

How about an oak where you absolutely must throw all the coins first and then order them! That may be of some use. To stick with the game’s theme, we’ll call this coppicing.

Image comes from english Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coppice

Let’s say you coppice an oak at 4 coins. That gives you 16 possible end results. If you throw all the coins first, you end up with one of five combinations:

  • 0 Heads & 4 Tails
  • 1 Head & 3 Tails
  • 2 Heads & 2 Tails
  • 3 Heads & 1 Tail
  • 4 Heads & 0 Tails

If you’re allowed to order these however you choose after they are thrown, 0 Heads & 4 Tails can only lead to 1 of the 16 results. Same with 4 Heads & 0 Tails. But 1 Head & 3 Tails can reach 4 different results among the 16 total. As can 3 Heads & 1 Tail. And 2 Heads & 2 Tails can lead to 6 remaining results.

So you could set up an oak where the rare results happen only when you throw either 0 heads or 0 tails. When you throw those, you’re stuck with the result. Throwing only 1 head gives you the choice of 4 different uncommon results. Throwing only 1 tail does the same. And throwing 2 of each gives you the choice among 6 common results.

There might be some fun to be had there. Say we make a reaction table out of an oak coppiced to 3 coins that results in something like this:

  • 0 Heads & 3 Tails — They fight.
  • 1 Head & 2 Tails — Choose one:
    • (Heads/Tails/Tails) They stand wary, gripping what weapons they can.
    • (Tails/Heads/Tails) They greet you warmly, but prepare to ambush you.
    • (Tails/Tails/Heads) They challenge you to a wager or competition.
  • 2 Heads & 1 Tail — Choose one:
    • (Tails/Heads/Heads) They are polite & hope that you will swiftly be on your way.
    • (Heads/Tails/Heads) They offer you trade or gifts.
    • (Heads/Heads/Tails) They haughtily pass you by.
  • 3 Heads & 0 Tails — They flee.

Eight possible results. Two are locked once the coins are thrown. Otherwise, the Warden has their choice narrowed to three possible results.

If the Game Warden wishes, they can choose not to reorder the coins, letting them order themselves as they fell, and roll with the result.

Or, and this is the part I’m most excited about, they can put their finger on the scale and really shift the probabilities around. I can see a Warden thinking, “Here’s a rough bunch of ne’er-do-wells. I’m going to put one coin down right now as a tail and throw the other two.” Now they’ve got a one in four chance of fighting (3 Tails), a one in four chance of a less hostile reaction (2 Heads & 1 Tail), and half of the time they’re going to be preparing for a fight or a wager of some sort (1 Head & 2 Tails).

I fucking love math.

Alright, that’s enough for this #Greenwoodnesday. Now seek thee the comments to tell me I need an editor and someone else to create my graphics.

I Got Your Initiative Right Here, Buddy. #LincolnGreen #Greenwoodnesday

We’ve all been there. The sheriff’s dullard slams the gaol door at the very same moment you’re fleeing from your cell. Neither of you wants to be rude, so who has the right of way? Who yields to whom? This #Greenwoodnesday we examine the importance of etiquette when shit goes down in #LincolnGreen.

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The Game Warden’s Coat of Arms #LincolnGreen #Greenwoodnesday & #rpgtheoryJuly

In the spirit of #rpgtheoryJuly, I’m using this #Greenwoodnesday to talk about the role of visual aids in game development. That is to say, how I find visual aids help me to clarify my design in my own skull, even if they might not make it into the final game.

To that end, I present to you, the Game Warden’s Coat of Arms:

Aliud potissimum facere iudicium sensibilium

The Game Warden’s Coat of Arms

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Updating the #LincolnGreen Bibliography This #Greenwoodnesday

A little over two years ago I put together a tentative bibliography for #LincolnGreen and posted it on G+. My intent at the time was to update it as my research drew me to wondrous new sources. But, as you know, G+ isn’t the best place to store something you intend to return to over the course of several months or years. So this #Greenwoodnesday I have plucked the original post out of G+, brushed it off, updated it a bit, and placed it here.

This is post is very much a living document that I will update from time to time with more sources as I either stumble across or recall them. When I can, I shall add notes to explain each inclusion and to rave about how they shine.

If you have any suggestions for good material on Robin Hood, medieval outlawry, or bold adventure, feel free to share them in the comments below!

Podcasts & Audio

Medieval History for Fun and Profit featuring Dr. Alice Rio & Dr. Alice Taylor.
Medieval Death Trip

➸ The Robin Hood episode of BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time

Books

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.
Robin Hood, A Mythic Biography by Stephen Knight.
Robin Hood (Myth and Legends) by Neil Smith.
Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody.
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley.

TV & Film

Robin Hood from Disney, and the clear inspiration for both the Wolves’-Heads and Scamps traditions in the game.
Robin & Marian so good.
Robin of Sherwood TV series and inspiration for the Children of Herne tradition in the game. Highly recommended.
The Adventures of Robin Hood the 1938 film featuring Errol Flynn—those costumes!
Robin Hood the 1922 film featuring Douglas Fairbanks—those sets!
The Little Hours because those nuns would’ve made amazing merry folk!
Crossbow from the depths of 1987. It’s about William Tell rather than Robin Hood, but that would be no stretch for the game and I could include it for the theme song alone!
Fact or Fiction, episode 4, “Robin Hood.”

Music

Sabbatum by Rondellus.
Legend by Clannad, the soundtrack to the Robin of Sherwood TV series, and thus inextricably tied to the mystical elements of this game.

Games

Tunnels & Trolls from Flying Buffalo. This one’s a bit hidden. It’s more of an inspiration for the design philosophy.
Misericord(e) by Emily Care Boss.
IronClaw, Usagi Yojimbo and Myriad Song from Sanguine.
Prince Valiant: The Story Telling Game Coins! In truth, aside from the coins and adventurous spirit, these games don’t have a ton in common.
Fantasy Wargamming edited by Bruce Galloway.
Torchbearer by Thor Olavsrud & Luke Crane.
Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker, because of that damn Read a Sitch move.
Amazons also by D. Vincent Baker, much of which I have pauperized in #LincolnGreen.

Websites & Other References

boldoutlaw.com

http://medieval.ucdavis.edu/120D/Money.html