Petri Wessman's weblog

Minireview: New Tales of the Yellow Sign, by Robin D. Laws

The “King in Yellow” stories, originally written by Robert Chambers in 1895, are only tangentially related to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, though nowadays they are widely considers to be a part of it. This is largely due to their inclusion in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, initially via scenarios (especially the classic “Tell Me Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?” by Kevin Ross). Compared to Lovecraft’s tales, the Hastur/Carcosa tales have a more prominent fantastical element; less eldritch horrors and more creeping insanity and a lingering sense of wrongness, mixed in with what is almost sword & sorcery at times.

New Tales of the Yellow Sign is a collection of tales from Robin D. Laws, expanding on the “King In Yellow” mythos and the stories that it originated from. Not all of the stories even mention Hastur, the King In Yellow or Carcosa (though some do), but all share elements from the tales: alien, unexplained and often malignant influences, strange alternate histories, and slow spirals into insanity. Some are set in an alternate dystopian history, in which New York has “suicide booths” and history has taken several strange turns. There’s very little exposition here, the reader is just presented with weird elements mostly without explanation, and referred to past (strange) events also without much explanation. It works very well in generating a sense of unease in the reader, a sort of “what else aren’t they telling me?” feeling.

The stories are quite excellent. Sure, there are a few that didn’t quite “click” with me, but even with them I got a feel for what the writer was (maybe) going for. There’s very little stock “Cthulhu mythos” here (apart from some quick references), which suits the tone just fine. Some are historical tales, some involve alternate histories (maybe in a past, maybe in a future), and some are set in (our?) modern day. One notable story involves a very creepy smartphone app. Some of the stories even have a happy ending… but it’s always tinged with darker elements.

I really liked this collection, it’s a very different sort of collection of “Cthulhu stories”. Very much recommended.

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Minireview: Fiasco and Fiasco Companion

Fiasco is an interesting and quite brilliant little game. It provides structure for building and playing short stories with themes inspired by movies from the Coen brothers (Fargo, Burn After Reading, etc): stories where plans, often bad ones to begin with, go disastrously wrong and one bad turn leads to another, which leads to a total fiasco. It’s meant purely for one-shots, with one game taking up 2-3 hours of time. No GM is needed, and no prepwork. Despite all this, it’s very much a role-playing game, though an unconventional one.

Game is structed in a fairly unique way. Each game in based on a “playset”, which contains a basic premise and a set of (very simple) tables which are used to generate the initial characters and things they interact with. The book comes with several playsets, and there are tons of them available via Drivethru and other sources. There’s even one which is set in the Paranoia game world, and another one set in the Dresden Files world (with the “tilt” being that Harry Dresden shows up and breaks everything). But I digress. Actual play proceeds with each player getting two turns, during which they can either set a scene (in which case the other players decide how it resolves) or resolve one (in which case the other players generate the initial scene). The scenes themselves are resolved via roleplay, there are no mechanics involved in this. The game does have mechanics, but they have to do with generating the initial setup and with determining what the final outcome is for each character.

After everyone has gone two rounds, we get the “tilt”… something which mixes things up, chosen by a certain player or players (as dictated by the game mechanics) from a table in the book. After this, we get a (rules-mandated!) snack break, during which everyone relaxes and (ideally) has an actual snack break. After this, play proceeds with another two rounds per player and an aftermath, where we resolve the final fate of the characters.

So yes, it’s very different from traditional roleplaying games; there’s a strict structure, and resolving each scene is done purely via roleplay and player group judgment instead of any sort of resolution mechanic. In many ways, it’s an organized form of doing improvisational story-telling… but at the core, you could say that that is at the core of many “traditional” rpgs, also. There is also a game element here, in the form of dice which are used to manipulate the final outcome, among other things.

Does it work? Hell, yes. Based on several different game sessions, it works amazingly well. You take a random group of people, allocate some hours for gameplay, and a weird and fun story emerges. Up to now we’ve only tried it out with people with prior (trad) rpg experience, but I don’t see why it couldn’t work with complete newbies, too. This game is so different to most others that prior rpg experience may even be a bit of a hindrance in the form of preconceptions about “what roleplaying games are like”.

It’s a fantastic little game. You should try it. Yes, you.

The Fiasco Companion is what you would expect from the title: extra stuff to help you with playing Fiasco games. It includes a bunch of new playsets, and lots of discussion on what works and how to troubleshoot things when they don’t. It also has notes on how to design your own playsets.

It’s an ok read, the playsets sound fun, and much of the advice sounds valid… but honestly, you don’t really need this book, There’s nothing here you actually need in the game, and some of the discussion comes off as a tiny bit pretentious (it talks about using rpgs in school classrooms as if this is a new idea, for example).

That said, I’d recommend this book if you intent to hack Fiasco in some direction or design your own playsets, I think the information here would be very helpful in that.

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Minireview: The Snows of Summer (Pathfinder "Reign of Winter" 1/6)

The Snows of Summer starts off the new winter-themed “Reign of Winter” adventure path. It promises to be an interesting romp, with Russian mythology mixed in with Tardis-like hops around the multiverse, featuring Baba Yaga (yes, that Baba Yaga). With those ingredients, it could also be a horrible mess.

Based on this first part, I’m optimistic. While it’s very linear and the initial hook is a bit weak, it’s otherwise a fine adventure and set in a type of locale not used all that often in these things. The tale has the Witch Queen Baba Yaga returning to the nation of Irrisen evert 100 years to place a (new) daughter of hers on the throne, and this time something has gone wrong; the old witch has not returned and an unnatural winter threatens to swallow neighboring nations, and perhaps the whole world. Enter the PCs, who discover a magic portal near a remote village, and get dumped in the middle of the action. There are some interesting NPCs, and more than a few dark secrets.

One of which is the truth behind what Baba Yaga has been up to, though the PCs are unlikely to get all the information on that, yet. The fact that one of the main drives of this adventure path is to go rescue a Bad Guy is… different. Not necessarily bad.

I liked the Russian folklore feel of much of this, and there’s potential here – though the adventure path’s intention to actually visit (our) Earth at a later point sounds like something that could be anything from “cool” to “ugh”. The thing to tweak here is the lack of real PC choices, they are just shoved through an extremely linear storyline with little say in the matter (or, more properly, no GM support for PCs refusing to follow the train tracks).

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Minireview: Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik

Throne of Jade is the second book is Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series, which depicts an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, with dragons. After the surprisingly good debut novel, this second book actually managed to be even better. In the first book I wondered why the dragons, being smart and invaluable creatures, put up with “just” serving in someone’s army… and here that question starts to be explored, from the viewpoint of the main characters (Captain William Laurence and Temeraire, the dragon).

After the events in the first book, it’s become clear that Temeraire is something rare and special, an “Imperial” dragon from China, meant as a present for Napoleon himself. Outraged with Temeraire’s bonding with a mere soldier, the Chinese Empire is now demanding that Temeraire be returned to China, at once. And, because the British Empire fears that the Chinese might ally with the French, they agree to the return. To their chagrin, Temeraire flatly refuses to part from Laurence… so in the end, both end up on a ship bound for China, accompanied by a partly hostile Chinese delegation.

The action stalls a tiny bit in the middle, though the sea voyage is far from boring. Someone is apparently trying to kill Laurence, and various nautical disasters threaten everyone on board. In the end, they arrive in China and meet a new set of problems… and a totally alien culture.

I liked the fact that the Chinese aren’t totally stereotyped. While we’re shown them through the eyes of Laurence as alien and strange, their culture and way of life is shown as a nuanced thing, very different from what the Brits are used to but not necessarily worse (and, shocker, in many ways better). Laurence is forced to revise many of his preconceptions, and in the end both he and Temeraire are changed creatures – with some new, powerful enemies.

Like the first book, it’s a page turner, and a very well-written and somewhat old-fashioned adventure tale.

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Minireview: Nova Praxis

Nova Praxis is a new(ish) scifi roleplaying game, in the “post-cyberpunk / transhumanist” genre. I guess the closest comparison would be with Eclipse Phase, but where that game includes a strong horror element with humanity’s future survival as a species on the line, this one is more Mass Effect. The system is based on Strands of Fate (though modifed), and is thus a bit more crunchy than something like Fate Core. Not much, though, system-wise this is a fairly lightweight deal.

The game depicts a humanity forced to expand to the stars after Earth is destroyed in a “grey goo” scenario (runaway weaponized nanotech), which in turn was triggered by a Singularity (in the computational sense). An AI named “Mimir” becomes self-aware, and before shutting itself down for unspecified reasons it spews out a bunch of blueprints for ultra-advanced technologies (including stuff in the “star drive” category). Various factions scramble to gain (sole) possession of these, and the ensuing wars lead to Earth’s destruction. In the game’s “current day”, humanity is mainly ruled by “The Coalition”, a post-scarcity society composed of various Houses, remnants of old-Earth countries and megacorporations. Those unwilling to submit to the rule of the Coalition are called Apostates, some of which have a long-running guerilla war against the status quo. Player characters are expected to either be working for one of the Houses as “troubleshooters”, or to be Apostates “fighting the man”. Nothing strictly enforces this, of course, that’s just the default assumption.

On the organizational side, the book is very well put together, with information needed for (say) character creation being quite clearly outlined without too much need for page-flipping. The PDF is exceptional, with a massive amount of internal links; it’s probably the best example of what the PDF format can offer for tablet use. Well done, guys.

There is no default conflict in the game world, other than the Coalition vs Apostate one. The good point here is that neither of those is portrayed as the “good guy”, so there’s room for lots of types of stories. Just like Iain Banks’ “Culture” books, most of the interesting stuff tends to happen in the fringes of society. Emulating a “Culture”-type story (or “Mass Effect”) with this game would probably be quite easy.

All that said, I wasn’t totally thrilled with the game. There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s well-presented, has a solid game system, and allows for pretty much all current space opera / transhumanist tropes… but maybe that last bit is what bothered me a bit about this. The game copies ideas and concepts from all over (which is good), but in the end it’s just not very unique as a setting. Compared to, say, Eclipse Phase, this just feels a bit… bland. Of course, the GM will build his/her game on top of this base setting, and that game most probably won’t be bland at all. It’s a solid game, with much to recommend it, but a bit lacking in the “original ideas” department.

Regardless, I do recommend that you pick up a copy of the PDF. It’s extremely well presented.

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Minireview: The Esoterrorists

The Esoterrorists is one of the first (if not the first?) game to use Robin Laws’ “Gumshoe” system, later featured in games like Trail of Cthulhu , Night’s Black Agents, etc. The main point of the system is the fact that when running an investigation-heavy game, you want your players (and their PCs) to figure out the msytery, which means that the PCs must find clues. If they don’t, things stall. In “classic” Call of Cthulhu this is a well-known problem with no good answers; if a certain core clue requires skill X at a certain percentage chance to succeed, and the PCs don’t make that skill roll, what is the GM to do? Usually, the answer is “somehow wrangle things so that the PCs get the clue anyway”. Gumshoe places that conceit on center stage: some clues are marked as core clues, and they are automatically discovered (provided the PCs visit a certain locale, and in some cases have a certain skill). No roll needed. Skill rolls and used for getting better clues, and for handling optional stuff where failure doesn’t stall the plot.

It’s a nice mechanism, and all in all a very nice rule system for investigation-heavy games. Which leads us to the game itself. Esoterrorists is a very thin wrapper around the rules themselves, it posits a game world there a mysterious group of “Esoterrorists” are trying to cause and provoke all sorts of mystical horror on the world at large, with the aim of weakening public disbelief of the occult. This, in their view, will let them take over, since they have the most magical mojo. As crazy plans go, it’s pretty out there, but of course the fact that magic does exist and work in this world (which is otherwise our normal everyday one) makes it a little less crazy.

Opposed to these guys is Ordo Veritatis, a vaguely described organization of “good guys” fighting the Esoterrorist menace. The PCs are assumes to belong to this organization. The book contains the Gumshoe rules, barebones descriptions of the above, and a sample scenario (which is ok). Not much else, it’s a pretty thin book.

…which is the main problem with the book. Other than the rules themselves (which are nice), there’s not much here to go on. Both the bad guys and the good guys are described extremely vaguely, so a GM wishing to run an Esoterrorist campaign would have to make most stuff up by him/herself. The good point here is that it’s not connected to a known “mythos”, so it’s easier to surprise players with occult weirdness here… but again, not much of that is included in the book itself.

I cannot really recommend this book at the moment, mainly because a 2nd edition has recently come out. I haven’t read it, but at least the page count is significantly higher so it might well provide more meat to the bones of this first edition. On the other hand, if you just want a decent early iteration of the Gumshoe rules in a portable format, you could do worse than picking up a copy of this. Gotta love a game system which includes the skill “Bullshit Detector”.

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OS X on Macbook: first impressions

Ok, I’ve now had my new Macbook Pro for about a week, and have spent some time tinkering with it and trying to make it do what I want. Generally, it’s been a positive experience, and I find myself liking the thing more and more. However, I’ve run into some frustrations and annoyances, some of which are due to just thing being very different to what I’m used to, while others are due to bugs and deficiencies in OS X. So far, I’ve more or less managed to solve the issues which have come up (with the help of Google and some Mac-user friends).

Hardware-wise, the machine is beautiful and extremely well-made, it has a “quality” feel to it. No surprise there, Apple is known for this sort of stuff. My 13” machine has 16GB of memory, which may be overkill… but on the other hand, together with the SSD is makes the thing feel ridiculously fast and responsive even though it’s no monster in the raw cpu power department. If I could tweak things I’d like a third USB port and a built-in HDMI output, but I can live with two USBs and the HDMI I can get via a dongle if I need it. The screen is the star of the show here, and yes, it’s beautiful and crystal-clear. The glossy surface would probably be a problem in more lighted environments, but right now, in the middle of Finnish winter, it hasn’t been an issue. The trackpad is the best I’ve tried in a notebook, but I still have an external mouse since I just prefer a mouse generally. The keyboard is very good for a laptop; not the best I’ve tried, but good.

So, no real serious complaints on the hardware department, and lots to like.

Update: boy do I feel stupid. I thought the machine did not have an HDMI port, must have skipped over if while initially looking over the ports and later gotten confused with Macbook Air technical specs. Of course, as I was reminded on Facebook, the Pro model does have an HDMI port. Duh.

Software has also been generally positive, but there I’ve run into some random problems. More on those below.

On startup, the system initialized itself with little fuss, and was quickly ready to use. I spent some time going over the system settings (preferences), and tuned some things, then did a quick look-through of the bundled system software. Most seemed decent, if simple in some cases. I ended up actually using the built-in Mail app – while it lacks some features, it managed to talk to all 4 of my current IMAP providers with no fuss; no mean feat since I usually have to do some tinkering to get the (different) settings right on other systems. Here, the Mail app auto-configured things correctly once I provided the server host and login info. Points for that. The “office” software (iWork) looked decent-ish, I’ll have to try it out the next time I need to do a document or spreadsheet. Not sure if it’s better than OpenOffice for my use, but we’ll see.

After that (over several days), I got to work installing a bunch of 3rd party software. Some are my standard tools from other environments, some Mac-specific stuff recommended to me:

  • Chrome: while Safari looked non-horrible as a browser, I’m used to Chrome and I have automatic bookmark sync over multiple platforms on it.
  • Dropbox, Younited, Evernote: my “cloud storage” tools.
  • Steam. Games. Duh.
  • Adium: an IRC/messaging client. Lacks some features on the IRC side, but decent enough.
  • Caffeine: wonderful little app that lets you stop the Mac from going to sleep for a specified time. Great for long downloads etc.
  • uTorrent: bittorrent, for oh-so-very-legal downloads
  • Little Snitch: nice “reverse firewall” and network monitor.
  • Alfred: a “productivity” and app launcher app. Haven’t played with this much yet, but many swear by it.
  • Dash, and awesome offline API/document browser for programmers
  • Sublime Text: a very nice programmer’s text editor
  • Keyremap4MacBook: keyboard remapping (see below)
  • Homebrew: a great package manager for (Unix) software Apple either doesn’t provide or has obsolete versions of (see below). Used it to install a pile of Unixy stuff.
  • Growl: a notification tool
  • Eve Online: runs non-horribly, though the fan can get quite loud; I’d need to drop graphical settings down to bare minimums to get rid of that. Quite usable for cargo runs and stuff like that, but I wouldn’t like to try combat on this – that’s what my proper gaming rig is for. :)
  • Baldur’s Gate EE: runs well, though cycling out of game via Cmd-Tab doesn’t work for some reason if game is full-screen.

I’ve probably forgotten something from that list, but it’s close enough.

In addition, I set virtual desktops (Spaces) and set up my standard set of rotating screen wallpapers (from Dropbox folder), and was pleasantly surprised to find out that OS X actually gives each virtual desktop its own wallpapers. Nice, I haven’t seen that anywhere else before. The virtual desktops mostly work as I want, though there is some weirdness there: I might have browser on desktop 2, mail on desktop 3, and other stuff on other desktops… and then after some work elsewhere, I may find that there’s now an empty desktop as desktop 2 and browser+mail have shifted one space to the right. Annoying. Not sure what triggers this. Not a dealbreaker, though.

Added later: I got a tip that this is a “feature” of OS X, which can fortunately be turned off. Nice. Another annoyance gone. I’m slowly running out of them. :)

Setting up backup was a breeze, since I had previously prepared a Time Machine segment on my NAS box. On the OS X side, it was just a matter of pointing the OS in the right direction (which it actually autodetected and suggested), and adding some folder exclusions. Very nice, this is how backups should be: minimum fuss to set up and unobtrusive.

Of course, it’s not all wine and roses. Here are some problems and annoyances that I ran into. Some of these are very subjective and may not bother other people; these are things that bothered me.

Annoyance: keyboard layout

While the keyboard is mechanically quite good, the Finnish layout is not, from the view of a programmer. My first run into this was when I needed a tilde (~) sign – and it wasn’t even labeled on the keyboard. I ended up needing to Google how to generate it, which was very annoying since ~ is a very commonly-needed sign in Unix environments. Same goes for braces ({, }), those are also not labeled and needed very often in programming. In addition, while the tilde is in a somewhat standard slot once you find it (though it is “sticky” which is also annoying), the braces are very cumbersome to produce, needing three keys pressed simultaneously. Crap for something you need very often.

I can sort of see Apple’s point on the no-labels issue: non-programmers do not need those keys, and extra labels do add to clutter. In addition, you only need to figure out how to generate them once, you don’t really need a label after that. Still a bit annoying. As to the Finnish layout: it just sucks, for programmers (yes, the U.S. one is much much better, but that doesn’t help me).

Fortunately, there is a fix available that doesn’t involve switching to U.S. keyboard layout: the Keyremap4MacBook app allowed me to remap the (for me) useless “§” key to produce {, } and \ (with shift and alt), which makes things much better. Wasn’t a totally trivial process, I needed to write a small bit of custom XML, but it worked in the end. Problem largely solved. I may do some more remapping in the future, I’d prefer shift-4 to give me “$” instead of the euro sign, for instance. We’ll see.

Update: I’ve now tweaked the keymapping some more. My current XML mapping is at the end of this article, in case anyone is interested.

Also mapped Caps Lock to be a Control, via the OS X built-in options.

Problem: (remote) rsync doesn’t work properly with UTF-8 filenames

This one took a while to figure out. I have a fairly large music library on a home server, to the order of 130+ GB, and I want a local copy on the Mac (for various reasons). I want to use rsync to synchronize the thing, since any other means would be just way too slow – trying to use higher-level Mac file copy tools over a wifi net to copy over 130 gigabytes of data would take days. I know, since I tried that first and quickly aborted the thing. Rsync is much, much more efficient. It also doesn’t work out of the box in this case.

The first copy went fine, and was quite fast (took a few hours, of course, still). Then I tried a second sync, just to make sure, and to my surprise it copied a big bunch of stuff again. And again, the third time I tried it. And it seemed to be the same bunch of stuff. I quickly figured out that all of these “problem cases” were songs or albums with UTF-8 (non-ascii) characters in their filenames. For some reason, the OS X rsync was unable to figure out that these files already existed, and kept deleting them and re-copying. Obviously, this was a major problem for my use case and needed a fix. Onward to Google!

After quite a bit of online research I found the problem: the OS X filesystem is somewhat dumb, and has an… interesting way of storing UTF-8 filenames, which results in rsync not being able to match them. Fortunately, there’s a fix, you can give rsync an –iconv option with some character set conversion options, and things will work. Unfortunately, the version of rsync which ships with OS X is ancient (from 2006), and it doesn’t have this option. Aaargh.

Well, Homebrew to the rescue. I used it to install a modern version of rsync, gave that the correct extra options, and things started working properly (in both directions).

…which leads us to:

Annoyance: OS X ships with ancient versions of most Unix tools

Due to Apple’s hate of the GPL3 license (which forbids the sort of lockdown tricks Apple loves to do), most of the Unix tools which ship with OS X are from the pre-GPL2 era – which means “old and partly obsolete”. Sometimes that doesn’t matter all that much, sometimes it’s a major problem (see above). In any case, there’s an easy fix for most cases: use Homebrew to install the modern version(s) and ignore the system built-in ones.

Annoyance: remotely mounted shares over Microsoft networking

This one also took a while to figure out. I have some remote shares on our NAS box, which (among other things) speaks AFP, so the Mac happily mounts shares from it without problems. I also have a few on my Linux server, over Samba (SMB/CIFS), and the Mac also happily mounts those – with some caveats. While the files themselves are visible, the permissions are wrong, the actual server permissions are ignored and replaced by a hardwired (700) set locally. Not a dealbreaker, since this is just for personal stuff, but still annoying. A friend suggested trying out the “Go -> Connect to server” option in the Finder and manually specifying a “cifs:” prefix for the volume – and that worked . The CIFS version of the protocol is newer and does transmit permission stuff properly. However, the default remote mount is OS X still defaults to “smb:”, so as I want this volume to be automounted on login, I always get the SMB version instead of the CIFS version. So I’d need to either deal with permissions being wrong, or manually mount the volume as CIFS every time.

Fortunately, a solution was (finally) found. A long-time Mac-user friend pointed me in the direction of a web article which suggested using Applescript to mount a remote volume, since that allows you to specify the full protocol specifier. And lo and behold, after cut+pasting (and modifying) some Applescript fragments, I now have a system which properly automounts the Samba volume as CIFS. As an added bonus, using Applescript prevents some annoying Finder popups at login, which is nice.

So that’s it. Some small problems here and there, but all have been (more or less) solved. So far.

What I like about OS X is that, despite Apple adding on some “dumbed down” and non-programmer-friendly stuff, the system still feels like a power user environment. There are tons of shortcuts for everything, and lots of options for automating your workflow via various apps. I get the feel that learning shortcuts for everything is the key here, and that will take time. In the end, it’s a somewhat unusual Unix system with a somewhat unusual GUI on top of it, with much more good than bad (in my view). It’s not totally ideal, but it’s still probably the best and most polished commercial desktop Unix out there (server systems are another matter).

Your mileage may vary.

Since it was requested, my current KeyRemap4MacBook private.xml does the following (on a Finnish keyboard):

  • changes the “§” key to produce “{“, “}” (with shift) and “|” (with alt)
  • swaps the “€” and “$” keys
  • moves backslash to Alt-7
  • swaps the “~” and “¨” (diaeresis) keys

… and looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    <name>Replace § with useful stuff</name>
    <appendix>Finnish kb: change § to produce {, }, and | (plain, shift, alt)</appendix>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::DANISH_DOLLAR, ModifierFlag::OPTION_L, KeyCode::KEY_7, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::DANISH_DOLLAR, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R, KeyCode::KEY_7, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::DANISH_DOLLAR, ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L, KeyCode::KEY_9, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R | ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::DANISH_DOLLAR, ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R, KeyCode::KEY_9, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R | ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::DANISH_DOLLAR, KeyCode::KEY_8, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R | ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R</autogen>
    <name>Swap € and $</name>
    <appendix>Finnish kb: swap € and $ (produce $ with shift-4)</appendix>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L, KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::OPTION_L, KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R, KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::OPTION_L</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R, KeyCode::KEY_4, ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L</autogen>    
    <name>Move \ to alt-7</name>
    <appendix>Finnish kb: copy \ to alt-7, replacing |</appendix>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::KEY_7, ModifierFlag::OPTION_L, KeyCode::KEY_7, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R | ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::KEY_7, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R, KeyCode::KEY_7, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R | ModifierFlag::SHIFT_R</autogen>
    <name>Swap ¨ and ~</name>
    <appendix>Finnish kb: swap ¨ and ~ (produce ~ directly, ¨ with alt)</appendix>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::BRACKET_RIGHT, ModifierFlag::OPTION_L, KeyCode::BRACKET_RIGHT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::BRACKET_RIGHT, ModifierFlag::OPTION_R, KeyCode::BRACKET_RIGHT</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::BRACKET_RIGHT, KeyCode::BRACKET_RIGHT, ModifierFlag::OPTION_L</autogen>

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Minireview: The Dead Heart of Xin (Pathfinder "Shattered Star" 6/6)

While I haven’t been all that thrilled with the “Shattered Star” adventure path as a whole (way too many dungeon crawls), this final episode is a suitable “end with a bang” conclusion. The PCs get a chance to actually use the artifact pieces they’ve gathered, and one of two things happens: 1) a new era of peace and plenty descends on the land, or 2) an unforeseen calamity is triggered and threatens to wipe out everything. Guess which one happens here?

So, yeah, in ”The Dead Heart of Xin” the PCs get to go dungeon crawling again. Whee. The good point here is that it’s a pretty damn good (if high-level) dungeon crawl, and most of it makes sense. The main “villain” is also introduced, though here it’s something quite unusual: Xin is by no means an evil villain, he was actually more of a hero. It’s just that long-dormant defense mechanisms have now been triggered, and the PCs must battle both automated (and deadly) defenses and the shades of things long dead. I liked this tidbit, all too often the main “bad guy” is a stereotyped villain. Not so here. The locale in which the main portion of this happens is also quite interesting, and very “high fantasy” (with some ancient technology thrown in). Almost an Exalted feel in some places, which is good in my books.

In the end, this adventure path as a whole failed to deliver, but it has a lot of individual portions which are very cool and imaginative. If you want dungeon crawls, these books have them. And then some.

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