Friday, April 19, 2024

Wizards of the Coast Do Not Understand the OGL

It was recently announced that Cynthia Williams, CEO of Wizards of the Coast, the company which controls the Dungeons and Dragons brand, will be resigning.  Wherever else she goes on to, within the D&D hobby, Cynthia Williams will forevermore be known as the woman who oversaw the OGL scandal and completely tanked all brand trust for the official D&D brand.  I originally wrote this last year in January, during the height of the OGL fiasco.   Before I could publish it, WOTC completely folded to public pressure and released the entire SRD 5.1 under a CC-BY license.  Despite the last-minute act to salvage public good will, the OGL scandal continues to plague WOTC and D&D.  With the recent announcement that Cynthia Williams will be leaving, I thought it worthwhile to revisit the OGL fiasco.


My last post was a very long break-down of the OGL situation, describing how the OGL works, its purpose, the nature of what Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) are doing, and what I hope would happen.

Since writing that, more news in the area has occurred, including the draft OGL 1.2.

What is clear to me, is that many people, including WOTC, do not understand even what the OGL is in the first place.  So in this post I just want to clarify in as brief a way I can how the OGL works, how it does not work, and why this is a big deal.

This is going to be a very in-depth look at the legal wording of both the original OGL 1.0, and the proposed OGL 1.2.  My thesis in this is, that WOTC do not understand the OGL 1.0, do not know what it is, and have been misconstruing it (deliberately or not) in order to push forward with their plans.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

D&D is Not the Forgotten Realms

I recently watched the D&D movie, despite having sworn never to see it.  And it's actually a pretty decent movie.  It's got some good laughs and an interesting story.  It entertained me, and so fulfilled its only purpose.

from the original 1980s D&D cartoon
If you knew nothing about D&D, you might still know it's a game that nerds play on a table with pens, paper, dice, tiny statues, and tons and tons of rulebooks.  So you might wonder how a game with pens, paper, dice, statues, and rulebooks could be turned into a movie.  And if you think about it, you might come up with a few obvious ways to do this.

The most obvious is a fantasy-themed Jumanji.  Some kids start playing D&D and get sucked into their own game world and have to battle skeletons and dragons with swords and spells.  There was an early 1980s Saturday morning cartoon based on that premise.  But that isn't what the movie is about.

Another might be something like a dice-rolling Scott Pilgrim, where the characters are governed by the rules of the game world.  They roll dice when they attempt feats, either literally rolling one or the screen displaying a die above each character's head.  When they swing a sword, damage and HP meters show up, then experience points tick up.  There are several popular web comics built on this premise.  But that also isn't what the movie is about.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Lagfoot Browne

[I originally wrote this as a teenager, as a creative writing assignment in the style of Edgar Allen Poe.  I came across the image below in the thumbnail, which was part of the original inspiration, and decided to post it in time for Halloween.  My teenage self loved purple prose.  I pared the language down to make it legible, while trying to remain true to the original assignment.  Except the phrasing, this is as I wrote it twenty years ago.]

Even from my youth, I had always been plagued by migraines.  The pain built behind my eyes, incapacitating me for hours.  Often it became so unbearable I would vomit.  Light or sound were excruciating.  I had found it best to lock myself alone in my chambers, enclosed in darkness, until the fits subsided.  

Within those dark times, I would often find myself confronted by frightful and fevered visions.  No matter my shouting, the befuddled nurses who attended me always failed to perceive these visions.  The visions varied often, and all so real I aver I could have reached out my hand to touch them, but the vision which most impressed upon me the reality of its presence, is also the one which most often recurred.  I came to know this vision most, and feared its reappearance, however inevitable.  It was, as far as my pain-anguished eyes let me see, a small imp, its skin a blotted red and brown, with eyes that held the very chaos of Hell inside.  It would dance through my bedchamber and with horrid claws shred my books, humming all the while.  The tune was unfamiliar, and yet a constant, and over the years I learnt it well.  

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Flat Earth Theory

Part of a series of posts of ideological turing tests.

I had originally intended this post to be first in the series, as an illustration.  Then suddenly the existence of alien life was in the news, so I went with that one.  But I already had this written, so figured I'd post it.

Ideological Turing Test

It is plainly obvious from immediate observation that the world is flat.  This is the position we all start with, and have to be brainwashed out of.  But I need to be clear about exactly what a "flat Earth" means.

Firstly, "flat" doesn't mean smooth like glass -- there are mountains, hills, valleys, etc.  That's quite apparent.  Flat here is more describing the earth's topology, that the Earth does not wrap back around itself.  A flat sheet of paper, and one that has been crinkled or crumpled up, are topologically identical.

Many people think that by a flat Earth we mean that the world is shaped like the Mercator projection map your school teacher used to put up.  Then it's easy to make the argument, flight times from Main to France are much much shorter than flight times from Panama to Senegal.  Whether you measure it in time, in distance, or in fuel expended, it's always more from Panama to Senegal, than Maine to France.  

Obviously this wouldn't make sense if the Earth were shaped like the Mercator projection.  But that doesn't mean the Earth isn't flat.  It just means the Earth isn't shaped like the Mercator projection.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The necessity of teaching better programming practice to physics PhDs

I am a numerical physicist.  I graduated a little over a year ago, and have since gone through the process of applying and interviewing for jobs.  This topic -- what can I do after I graduate -- has been a concern for me for well over a decade, and I've put a lot of thought into how to make sure I get the most out of my time as a graduate student.

I was fortunate, in that my advisor also had a lot of this in mind and had me use many standard best practices, such as git and building from makefiles, testing code output, and allowed me to work in C++ instead of Fortran.  But not all grad students are this fortunate.

I decided to write out some of my thoughts.  As written, this is directed at advisors, but is obviously applicable to grad students in planning how to do their research.  If you are a student, consider the advice here, and bring it up with your advisor.

Why we must change focus

To put it bluntly, Professor of Physics is no longer a job.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Shaggydog Theory, part II: George RR Martin really does not want to write A Song of Ice and Fire

Recently I was at the grocery store.  I live in the southeast, and this was some small local grocery store chain that only exists in my state, and largely only has locations in rural areas.  I was buying something late at night, don't remember which, when I ran across this Bargain Bin for books.  They were up to 80% off!

Of course, this isn't much excitement, as grocery stores pretty much exclusively sell crappy books no one would want to read.  The kind of book often reviled as an airplane novel.  The kind of book that still had some sort of purpose in the era before they wired up wifi into the last remaining place on earth where humans couldn't stare at their phones all day, but that now serves basically no purpose.

And this is what I saw inside the bin:

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Islam

Part of a series of posts of ideological turing tests.  With the exception of some proper names, I'm going to only use English words.  I know this gives some things away.

Ideological Turing Test: 

The theology of Islam is simple enough for children to understand, but profound enough to be debated by scholars for centuries.  Mankind has simple spiritual needs, and God meets those needs with Islam.