Mike Shea, 3 April 2010
I'm sitting here with my window open waiting for the UPS truck to drop off my iPad. In the mean time, like a lot of the tech folks, I've been swimming in iPad text.
I guess I shouldn't be amazed at the divergence of attitudes towards the iPad. People either love Apple or hate it. Still, I can't help but try to wrap my head around it.
The main stream press wrote a lot of positive words about it. Pogue, Mossberg, and Ihnatko all had great things to say about it, calling it a revolutionary device that will change how we look at computers. A few folks in tech circles also had positive things to say including Mike Arrington of TechCrunch who seemed more interested in poking Apple in the eye for their inability to control his access than actually talking about the device. Still he said it's going to change the marketplace.
On the negative, we've had a ton of articles bashing the device for its lack of a camera and its inability to run Flash. Gruber of Daring Fireball did a good job showing how idiotic "the press" can be with their claims that there is no way the iPad can get 4 hours of battery life when all hands-on reports say it gets more than 10.
Gina Terpani wrote an article called Why You Shouldn't Buy an iPad (Yet). Her point is valid, that the iPhone was significantly better a year after its initial release, but, as a few have pointed out, if you're waiting for the next model, you'll be waiting forever. I like everything I see about the initial iPad release and I can't wait to have it in hand. I don't regret my first iPhone purchase and I plan to get the very next model of the iPhone the minute it's released.
Then we have Cory Doctorow's call to arms entitled Why I Won't Buy an iPad (and you shouldn't either). Given the points of the article, I can't think of a single piece of consumer electronics that he'd approve of these days. Nearly all hardware is proprietary these days. It's almost impossible to get a Linux build up and running without grabbing some closed-source proprietary drivers to run it.
His claims that it hurts the ingenuity of children is also pretty outlandish. Gruber points to a 13 year old who has a day-one iPad application for sale on the iTunes store.
Bitching about Apple's closed ecosystem is getting a little old though, about 30 years old. We know Apple has a closed system, can we get over it now? If you don't like it, buy something else. If the rest of the market agrees, it will follow.
I can't help but sense desperation in many of these tech pundit voices. Cutting through the anger and disgust there's something else. Fear. I can understand Doctorow's fear that a popular closed-architecture system like this shakes the very foundation of an open computing system, but I think Docotrow is chasing dreams thinking that we'll ever have a truly open and popular computing architecture. Every sign I'm seeing is pointing to the opposite. We can either spend every day writing angry blog articles about it or we can just relax and focus on the things we CAN control.
But I also can't help wondering if there's a real fear of breaking away from the status quo of desktops and laptops. That a group of potato people similar to Gibson's consumers only with bluetooth earphones plugged into their ears, binary watches wrapped around their bloated wrists and "Han Shot First" t-shirts stretched around their sausage-like bodies are simply afraid of being dragged away from their cable-coated desk and out into the open with a device that lets them do nearly everything they want to do anywhere they want.
Like the RIAA, the MPAA, and print publishers; this group hates change. They want huge beige boxes and piles of CDs and a mouse with seventy five buttons on it. They don't want computers to change into simple slates of glass that focuses on the things you can do instead of what your Crysis benchmaks might be.
I don't think this group has much to worry about. The price for these sorts of hardware are simply too high for most people. It's hard to beat a $300 Dell these days for most folks.
As for me? I'm going back to wait by the door.
For the past two years, Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition has suffered through constant bombardments that it is “Too WoW Like”. This has become the flag of the angry old-school gamer whose eyes glow red whenever they see a Goodman Games 4e adventure sitting next to their precious copy of the 200 pound Pathfinder sourcebook.
Yet we’ve been looking in the wrong place all this time. A new game has stolen the frozen throne underneath World of Warcraft, a game even my mom has played until she became some sort of Mexican sour-apple tycoon.
Today we’re going to look at three ways you can make your own D&D game more Farmville-like. Three ways sure to draw your players in and keep them spending their time, energy, and hopefully hard-earned cash on that new vampire-unicorn campaign you’ve always secretly wanted to run.
And now, the tips:
1. Polish Your Armor Every Day or it Rots
One unfortunate mechanic missing from 4e is the rotting mechanic. Gear lasts as long as you want to keep swinging it. Sure, games like World of Warcraft have decaying gear, but you actually have to USE it for it to wear out. But in real life, if you don’t keep that sword nice and polished, it turns to dust in like four hours (note, this was an official scientific study done by smart academics in some museum somewhere so stop asking. No, goddamnit, I don’t have a source).
Keep your players involved in your D&D game every day by forcing a micro-skill challenge to keep their gear nice and clean. Consider this daily cell-phone exchange:
“Hello, Dan. It’s Mike. It’s time to polish your gear.”
“Mike? I’m taking my daughter to the hospital. She got a compound fracture in her fibula playing Wii Soccer.”
“I understand. I’m sure you’ll get some new +4 armor somehow.”
“No..wait..fuck..ok, what do I need to do?”
“You need to polish your armor.”
“Ok, what skill do I use?”
“You have to roleplay it.”
“Dude, my daughter is screaming so loud I think Putin can hear it.”
“No, wait, ok, using my burly hairless greasy physique I athletically polish my breastplate”
“What is your athletics? I’ll roll for you since you’re so ‘busy’.”
“+12 I think”
“You rolled a 3, sorry, you bent your breastplate and it quickly turns into rust. Talk to you tomorrow, Dan.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
As you can see, daily micro-challenges like this opens up an entirely new world of interaction with your players, bringing D&D into their lives throughout their day.
2. Want a new sword? Spam your friends!
For decades we dungeon masters have been giving away some of the best most powerful weapons ever conceived by overweight middle-aged men sitting in their basements. All this time we’ve had enormous power and what have we ever gotten from it? We forgot the famous third step of the Underpants Gnomes:Profit!
Don’t just give away your best +5 Holy Avenger, profit from it! Consider the following email exchange for that most important middle step:
Subject: +5 Holy Avenger!
Thank you for the request for a +5 Holy Avenger. The quest for your character, Syphilitus, to receive this item is quite easy. Please forward this email to twenty of your best friends informing them of the great deals to be had at Amazon.com on Vampire Unicorn related material:
Hello! Your loser geek friend Dan really wants a +5 Holy Avenger for his half-unicorn paladin, Syphilitus. Please visit our Amazon Vampire Unicorn store to help him out!
Every unicorn thing you buy helps Dan fight the forces of evil. You don’t want evil to win, do you? No, of course not.
Time to make those +5 Holy Avengers start working for us.
3. Did you gain a level? Take our simple 3 part IQ test and give me your cell phone number.
It can often be really hard for us struggling DMs to acquire the cold hard cash we need to keep our games fresh and exciting. Luckily, the awesome guys atTattoo Media, Offerpal, and Super Rewards are more than happy to help!
It’s easy. Every time your player’s characters level, ask them to perform a simple IQ test with three simple questions. Then, ask for their cellphone number and tell them they can get their results as a text message as well as some awesome D&D-related subscription stuff. Contact the fine people at Offerpal and set up a deal to sell them cellphone numbers for $5 a pop. Given the $45 monthly charge they will soon inflict upon your “friend”, they’re sure to take the deal. If they ever call you to complain, pass the buck off to some other service provider or tell them it’s AT&T’s fault. Don’t worry, though, who really checks their cellphone bill anyway?
(Artwork courtesy of the awesome Jared von Hindman of Head Injury Theater. I got this piece for a mere 2000 farmville coins.)
Farmville has taught us a valuable lesson. While D&D may be a game based on the concepts of collaborative storytelling and fun, we can easily get rid of these worthless ideals and focus a game around contagious obsession, deception, and profit. Start today!
Did you like this article? If so, please use these links to purchase yourD&D books, anyunicorn-related clothing and accessories, theseleopard bikini briefs, or … well …anything really. I don’t care.
Happy April Fools Day.
It’s time for another Monster Optimization! This time we’re going to dive into the middle of the paragon tier with the Immolith and Inferno Bats. These beasts are both level 15 which would make them a good challenge for a party around level 13 to 15. The Immolith comes from the Monster Manual and the Inferno Bats come from the excellent book, Dungeon Delve. Both can be found in the online D&D Compendium for DDI subscribers.
As always, keep in mind that these Optimized encounters are intended to push your PCs to their limits. These powerful battles should be used sparingly, when you really want to give your players a big challenge.
(Artwork courtesy of the awesome@JaredvonHindman ofHead Injury Theater, used with permission.)
Fire is the keyword for this entire optimization and should likely be the theme to the entire battle. Both the Immolith and the Inferno Bats are chocked full of fire attacks. Normally, at the paragon tier, we might expect that quite a few of our PCs have fire resistance. This would often put a damper on an encounter that’s built around fire, but not necessarily here.
The main attack here is the Immolith’s Fiery Grab attack which not only grabs a target and drags it within range of the Immolith’s 10 fire damage aura, but also removes all resistances to fire the target might have. Now the target is wide open for all of those fire attacks from the Inferno Bats. The Immolith has a very strong fortitude defense which makes it very difficult to break the grab. PCs with acrobatics will have an easier time.
As far as tactics, the Inferno Bats will use fiery swoop to inflict a great number of initial attacks. This will show the cunning Immoliths which PCs have fire resist. Now the Immolith uses Fiery Grab against PCs with fire resist to drag them into its aura and remove the PC’s resistances. When the Immolith has pulled the resistant target in to its aura, the fire bats can attack the grabbed target with Inferno Touch inflicting ongoing 10 fire damage on top of the aura. Since they’re grabbed, the Inferno Bat has combat advantage as well.
As always, you want to avoid a single lightning-rod monster who gets killed right away by using two Immoliths instead of just one. This way they get twice the opportunity to grab fire resistant PCs and drag them into their fiery embrace.
Lets look at an environment. The Immolith is totally immune to fire so it can stand forever in a pit of lava or some other heated area. This would make it significantly more difficult to approach and attack. So large pits of fire would fit these creatures well. Since there’s a lot of grabbing and pulling going on, you probably don’t want to make the fire pits too damaging, say 10 fire damage when you begin in it. This would stack with the Immolith’s aura and any ongoing damage. You probably want to give some nice raised platforms for your ranged strikers to enjoy.
Infernal Fumes and Jade Flame from the DMG2 would make for some great terrain effects. Infernal Fumes are squares filled with a malevolent gas that moves 4 squares towards packs of 2 or more creatures inflicting 10 fire and poison damage which stacks with just about everything, and dazes the target. It would ignore the inferno bats and immoliths. Jade Flames would be small sections of strange green fire. When inside, the PCs take ongoing 10 radiant damage but resist 20 fire damage. It’s a nice damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t sort of choice that PCs will agonize over.
For a fun terrain power, give PCs who stand in the Jade Flame an ability to channel the flame with the following attack:
While enveloped in the terrible jade flame, you realize you can channel this into a powerful jet of radiant energy.
Minor Action Range 10
Target: One Creature
Attack: +18 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d8 + 6 radiant damage.
So there is your optimized nasty fire encounter for mid-paragon tier PCs. A big fiery room full of four to five Inferno Bats and two Immoliths. The Jade Flame and Infernal Fume terrain effects keep your PCs on their toes. It’s a nasty encounter sure to put your PCs on the edge.
Like this article? Consider using these links to purchase the Monster Manual 2, or Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 or use this link topurchase anything from Amazon.com.
Though they’re all out of Immoliths, you can purchase Fire Bat miniatures from the Sly Flourish sponsor, Troll and Toad for under two bucks a pop.
Ive seen numerous complaints today about the iPad not charging via USB, only via the power adapter. According to Apple:
Some USB 2.0 ports and accessories do not provide enough power to charge iPad. When this occurs the message Not Charging appears in the status bar next to the battery icon.
It works for me via the built-in USB ports on my MacBook Pro, but not via my USB hub. Apparently some Macs have built-in USB ports that arent high power USB 2.0, though.
Update: This is not a bug or error on Apples part. Its a factor of just how strong the iPad battery is. Its closer in watt-hour capacity to a MacBook Air battery than to an iPhone battery. More from Dan Frakes here.
Heres a bit from Cory Doctorows piece today against the iPad (and the overall state of Apple product design):
Then theres the device itself: clearly theres a lot of thoughtfulness and smarts that went into the design. But theres also a palpable contempt for the owner. I believe really believe in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you cant open it, you dont own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.
Such is the march of progress. 40 years ago you could open the hood of your car and see and touch just about every component in there. And you had to, because many of those components required frequent maintenance. To properly own a car required, to some degree, that you understood how a car worked. Today, you open the hood of your car and you see a big sealed block and a basin for the windshield washer fluid. You can buy a new car, drive it for years, and never once open the hood yourself.
Thats the iPad.
Alex Payne wrote about this back in January:
The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, Id never be a programmer today.
As did Mark Pilgrim:
Once upon a time, Apple made the machines that made me who I am. I became who I am by tinkering. Now it seems theyre doing everything in their power to stop my kids from finding that sense of wonder. Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world.
They have a point. The iPad (and all other past and future iPhone OS devices) are not open in the way that the Apple II was and Macintosh is. But there have always been closed computing devices. My first computer? An Atari 2600, which my family got for Christmas when I was around six. I loved it. I devoted untold hours to it.
Yes, I also soon learned about personal computers Apple IIs and Commodores and the Texas Instruments TI99 and even some from Atari. And you could type your own programs and they would run. And so of course my friends and I typed in our own programs and ran them. Joy!
But it never even occurred to us that in theory, we could also create programs for, say, the Atari 2600. We knew it was a computer, but it was a different type of computer. One where all of the software was made by faceless unknown professionals using magic beyond our ken. We had no idea how 2600 games were programmed or made or designed. And for all practical purposes, we had no chance whatsoever, none, to make our own.
We also had a sense that our programs, the ones we wrote in BASIC, were not real programs the ones we bought (and, uh, sometimes didnt) with commercial games and word processors were not written using BASIC. They were made and distributed into retail channels using, again, magic beyond our ken.
The iPad and iPhone are closed compared to personal computers, yes. But they are remarkably open compared to so many kinds of computing devices. Heres an email I received today from Sam Kaplan:
I am 13 years old and a big fan of your site. I just made an app called iChalkboard. This is my second app, but my first iPad app. It allows you to simply sketch things out. Check it out: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ichalkboard/id322491414?mt=8. If you need any more info or a promo code, feel free to ask.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
Hes 13 years old and he has created (with the help of his friend, 14-year-old designer Louis Harboe) and is selling an iPad app in the same store where companies like EA, Google, and even Apple itself distribute iPad apps. His app is ready to go on the first day the product is available. Not a fake app. Not a junior app. A real honest-to-god iPad app. Imagine a 13-year-old in 1978 who could produce and sell his own Atari 2600 cartridges.
Somehow I dont think young Mr. Kaplan sees the iPad as hurting his sense of wonder or entrepreneurism.
And, App Store aside which, yes, requires access to a Mac and a $99/year developer account what about the iPad and iPhone as web clients? There are no limits imposed by Apple on web apps targeting iPhone OS devices. When I learned to program in the 1980s with BASIC, the interface of our programs was monospaced (and on some machines, all-caps) text. Just text. If we had color it was limited to 16 shades.
If you could go back and show my 10-year-old self an iPad millions of colors, video, photographs, gorgeous typography, a touchscreen interface, networking (wirelessly!) and offered to let me write web apps for it in exchange for my agreeing never to touch an Apple II again, Im pretty sure I know what the answer would be.
Something important and valuable is indeed being lost as Apple shifts to this model of computing. But its a trade-off, because something new that is important and valuable has been gained.
Any other teenagers (or younger?) out there with iPad apps hitting the store, please let me know.
Unlike Cory Doctorow, Gina (unsurprisingly) makes a reasonable argument:
Dont be the guy who bought the first-gen iPad when Apple slashes the 2011 iPad price in half.
Thats possible, of course. Everyone remembers the big original iPhone price drop three months after it shipped. But: I think the original iPhone was priced high to start as a hedge just in case it didnt sell in huge quantities. And remember: the original iPhone, even at $600, was sold out for most of its first three months.
I think the iPad is already priced to move. I dont think were going to see any price cuts.
Next years iPad will be faster, cheaper, less buggy, and have better apps and worthy competitors. Let all the deep-pocketed Jobs apostles be your canaries into the iPad coalmine. Give developers time to fix their apps to work well on the iPad. Give Apple a year to lower prices on faster hardware and fill in all the gaping feature holes. (Remember how long early iPhone owners lived without copy and paste?)
Now this is true. Next year there will be a second-gen iPad and itll be superior in many ways to the ones that ship tomorrow. I dont think theyll be cheaper, but theyll be better. (Remember, though, that those who bought the original iPhone got copy-and-paste for free when it was added to the iPhone OS.)
I think the comparison to the original iPhone is perfect. Me? Getting the original iPhone on day one was the best money Ive ever spent. If you bought an original iPhone and regretted it a year later, though, you probably ought to skip the original iPad.
In fact, after a week with the iPad, Im suddenly wondering if any other company is as committed to invention as Apple. Has any other company ever demonstrated a restlessness to stray from the safe and proven, and actually invent things?
The bastard has four other iPad articles already.
After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.
APRIL 1, 2010 Baltimore, MD - In a shocking turnaround from his victory at the 2010 PAX DM Challenge, Dave The Game Chalker of the Ennie-nominated blog Critical Hits has announced his retirement from RPG blogging amid allegations that he has a girlfriend. Reports keep flooding in, but one thing is clear: not only has he spoken to a girl, but has probably touched one as well. Waves of panic shot through the community yesterday evening as rumors flooded throughout the RPG Bloggers Network. Disgusting. remarked one reader, who has asked to remain anonymous. His age is not divisible by 7, so he cant even use Pon Farr as an excuse for his behavior.
The drama continued through the evening as Critical Hits advertising sponsors began to leave. Evony was first, their legal department sending a curt email that said simply We cannot be associated with real women. Only ones from stock photographs. This news not make us feel like King. This morning, Mr. Chalker made a public statement to the press:
Good morning, and thank you for joining me. Many of you in this room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me, have worked with me, always supported me. Now, it is obvious that I have failed my INT check, and my only recourse at this point is to shoot for Diplomacy (and perhaps Bluff).
My behaviour has caused considerable worry to my business partners, to everyone involved with my blog, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors and most importantly, the young nerds weve reached. Our work is more important than ever. I have long been a champion of Cooties Awareness, and despite this lapse of willpower I will continue to fight Cooties wherever it rears its vanilla-scented head.
I owe it to my readers to become a better nerd with fewer social skills. Thats where my focus will be. I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is worshipping Pelor, who is fictional. People probably dont realize it, but I was raised to worship Pelor since high school and I actively practised my faith from adolescence until I drifted away from it in recent years. Nothing repels chicks like telling her you cant visit her parents because its a fake deitys holy day.
Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again. I want all you to look into this neuralizer for a moment, and forget all of this ever happened.
The latest rumors are that Mr. Chalkers mystery woman may have stolen some of his powers somehow and may even be able to speak our language. More news as it happens.
The idea is to fight the current Android fragmentation, where there are still phones being sold with OS 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0, and with no upgrades to the current 2.1 in sight, that future versions of the OS will have all major apps and components upgradeable via the Android Market. Chris Ziegler writes:
Put simply, Googles been iterating the core far faster than most of its partners have been able to keep up.
Google has been iterating quickly, but the problem is that carriers arent interested in any updates at all for phones theyve already sold. The carriers have learned nothing from the iPhone, or, maybe they just dont care about Android as a platform.
So, in the end, OS version fragmentation may be less of a problem for Android users two years from now. Current Android users, except for Nexus One owners, are shit out of luck. Hope you like Android 1.6 if thats what your phone shipped with.
Douglas A. McIntyre says that because iPad demand is higher than expected, Apple may have to cut prices. Uh
Harry McCracken, looking back at Microsoft Bob, 15 years after its release:
Analyst Charles Finnie of Volpe, Welty & Co. called Microsofts product a threat to the very existence of Microsofts competitor in Cupertino. Bob is going to be another nail in Apples coffin unless Apple can somehow raise the standard yet again on the ease-of-use front, he told the AP.