Internet Access Once More

Yesterday, the ISP’s network engineer dropped by to work on the lines to the house. Last year, when we went through the same when we moved into our old apartment, the whole process took about a month. Somebody came by to check out the line, discovered that parts were missing, another appointment had to be made, the sidewalk dug up, new lines laid, first guy came back, and so on, and so forth. This time, fortunately, it was done in about an hour. A simple matter of threading a line through a pre-existing hole, hooking up an adapter for ethernet, and then connecting the modem.

So, once more, we finally have Internet access. Sadly, it’s only DSL, though. Apparently, there are fibreoptic lines in Franeker, but only for the new construction in the south of the town. We’ll need to find out if there’s any petition we can sign on to to try and get fibreoptic over where we live. Either way, beggars can’t be choosers, and we’re here with Internet access. The next step for this project is to measure up the house and work out where we’ll be laying the ethernet cabling, but that’s also somewhat dependent on where we’ll end up finally putting all the PCs. For now, though, we can try to work out general access for each floor.

At least right now, we’ve hooked our Raspberry Pi back up so we can have our self-hosted cloud solutions back. Our larger server will come later (with the added project of moving all our cloud services from the Pi to the server box). There’s so much still to do, but every day is a step closer to what we want our house to be.

More unpacking

Even though we moved last only a year ago, I’d forgotten how much work moving is. This weekend, we cleared more things from the living room, and cleared a bunch of boxes. We’ve set up Tracy’s working space, so she can start again next week. My working space will be more temporary for the week, as I will have to stick to moving my laptops around. The office, sadly, is still a large collection of boxes right now, as we’ve set Tracy up in the living room.

It was more urgent to set up Tracy’s workspace, as she needs a solid computer setup to do her revisions. Sure, you can do that with only a laptop if needed, but the laptop we have for her is quite bad, and working with only one screen is quite tricky (she has to reference a lot to properly revise texts). I, on the other hand, have an office at work for me and the Secretary of my committee, so I can work from there just fine. It’s only my recreation at home that would suffer from not having a full set-up, as I’d be limited in the types of PC games I can play, and drawing, designing, and so on is just easier on my desktop setup.

Tomorrow, I’ll be working from home for the first time in this house, as we’ll be waiting for the installer to drop by. We’ve already had some issues with them (our ISP assured us that they did this type of installation, whereas they denied that and cancelled our appointment on Friday), so I want to be on-hand to deal with whatever issues we run into. It’ll certainly be a challenge, because the mobile connection we have hasn’t been good enough for full audio/video streming so far. Potentially, I’ll try to host a hotspot from my work phone to see if having parallel connections will do us better. Fortunately, my employer is pretty darned good about all these types of benefits, and don’t particularly complain unless people really go crazy on these systems.

Being without a lot of this type of recreational activity has made me appreciate it more, though. While it’s been great cycling around, taking quiet time in the garden, enjoying exploring our new town, I have certainly missed some other forms of entertainment as well. One thing I wasn’t expecting is how enthusiastic I’ve been getting for playing some TTRPGs; it’s been quite a long while since I’ve been excited about playing and particularly running something. For a while, the feeling of social obligation overshadowed the enjoyment I got from playing RPGs, but it’s starting to come back to me, and that’s really nice.


Last week, Tracy and I moved to our new house in Franeker, a little place in the north of the Netherlands. We’re still surrounded by boxes, tired, achy, but happy that we’re now actual homeowners. That has, however, had quite some consequences on our life right now beyond us feeling exhausted and achy.

We have, at the moment, no Internet access, sadly. Well, that’s not quite accurate; it’s better to say we have no fast internet access. Apparently, the previous owner never had much truck with fancy modern advances like telecommunication. The only thing we have here is some coax-cabling, which I haven’t seen outside of radio communication purposes since the late ’90s. So, we’re having to get our ISP out here to install an access point for the modem to connect to. We’re also going to be dropping from 1gig up/down fibreoptic cabling to a 100 up/30 down DSL line. Yikes. In the meantime, our ISP has given us one free mobile access weekly pass, as our mobile subscription is with them as well. It’s a fairly decent connection with which we can browse the web reasonably. We can even stream some video, though I’ve noticed that telecommunication is really spotty to the point of it being completely impractical (the usual constant gaps and breaks in communication, freezes, and so on).

As a result, both RPG sessions that were to happen in this week were unable to work out. I was to play in the first session of Nobilis yesterday, but had to bow out; the group started without me, which makes perfect sense—delaying sessions often lead to a swift end of an RPG campaign. It’s a pity to have to miss that first session, as so much crucial group building happens right there, but there was no feasible way to properly join in at this moment. Even if we did have the internet, I have no real space to put down my laptop right now to join in without also bothering Tracy immensely.

The second RPG that was preventing from starting up was my Burning Wheel game. We were to have had the first session two weeks ago, as I figured to make a start before the move. Sadly, one of the players had a death in the family, so naturally we pushed it all forward until they felt ready to play again. They expect to be ready for it in a few weeks, so we’ll hold off until then. Particularly since they also had trouble participating in Session 0 (they’re visually impaired, so the table referencing that is needed for character creation in Burning Wheel wasn’t practical for them), I do want to make sure they’re there for the first session.

RPGaDay 2021 #31: Thanks

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Thanks”. I tried to complete RPGaDay 2020 last year, and didn’t manage. I’m pretty pleased that I managed to actually post every single day this year.

I guess the person I’d thank is Fub, as he introduced me to RPGaDay back in 2020, and I’ve had a lot of fun participating this year. So, thanks!

RPGaDay 2021 #30: Mention

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Mention”. What a flexible prompt today! I guess the best thing to do is to just make a post mentioning a whole bunch of things!

I’ve recently gotten interested again in mapmaking for RPGs. I’d made a few maps years ago when I ran games, as I just enjoy the physicality of them, but I never was that good at it. So, I’ve been looking around to find some cool map inspiration. A found a YouTuber, JP Coovert, who makes maps that look cool to me. He emphasizes that the drawing skills needed are quite rudimentary, as most of the shapes he makes are quite basic. The challenge lies in the creation of the map itself. Here’s an example of his videos:

His channel is filled with cool videos on hand-drawing maps. I love the look of the world map he makes in this video, and it’s exactly the style I want to be able to make. I can recommend his other videos as well.

Through one of JP Coovert’s videos, I found the artist SkullFungus who makes really cool and intricate dungeon maps. His style is so evocative and interesting. Just have a look at this dungeon map:

What I like about it is that it shows you exactly what the dungeon is like, but it isn’t a full-on gridded map that pretends to some manner of exact measurements. The map is a great tool to evoke a sense of the space. Looking at that picture, I can almost smell the place!

Lastly, I’d like to mention the Trilemma Blog, which started me off on this lovely path of one-page dungeons. I can really recommend browsing through the maps on that blog, because I just love the skill and detail he brings to them.

These types of things are really inspiring, and I’m hoping to find more resources like this.

RPGaDay 2021 #29: System

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “System”. It seems hard to write something about this that I haven’t engaged with already over the past month!

Both Fub and I have been participating in the RPGaDay 2021, and have posted regularly about RPG systems, mechanics, and their interaction with storytelling. It’s been interesting to engage with him, as he is more of a narrativist with some gamist interest, whereas I’m more a gamist with a narrativist flair. Our ways of looking at games are similar but our conclusions differ, which frequently leads to interesting debates. I think we’ve established that both of us are convinced that system should serve narrative (i.e. that games are fundementally about something), but the main question that remainds is how much system is preferable to achieve this. He’s in the camp of using as few rules as possible to achieve your goal, whereas I don’t mind how many rules there are as long as the experience is interesting.

Having been prompted to think about this over the past month, I do see an unexplored implicit idea in my thinking that some mechanical modeling is required to more interestingly engage with narrative. I have a disinclination towards strongly rules-light games, because they seem like storytelling interactions to me, which I’m not so much interested in. I’ve tried some of the more gamist versions, such as the various Mafia/Werewolf/Villager party games, and they don’t grip me as much. To me, they seem flightly and ad hoc.

This is why I’m interested in playing in a game of Nobilis run by Fub. I’m pretty much expecting that I won’t like the system, but I’ve found it’s always a good idea to have somebody who’s pretty excited about something introduce you to it. They’ll have a way of showcasing the best part of something and so there’s always a chance of learning a new perspective on it. He’s partial to diceless systems, and so is one of the other players, so I’ll be interested in seeing what my experience with the system will be like.

RPGaDay 2021 #28: Solo

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Solo”. What an interesting and fruitful prompt! While it might be interesting to explore games run for only one person, or even the relationship between choose-your-own-adventure stories and RPGs, I think I’ll focus on the word “Solo” as it’s used in music: a piece for one.

The big challenge in hosting an RPG for me is always making sure each individual player gets a bit of a spotlight to feature in the game. When composing an adventure plot, I always manage to find hooks for this player or that, and often for a small group, but it’s hard to address each character’s background at the same time.

I’ve recently been watching a lot of Dropout.TV, and particularly the RPG campaigns hosted by Brennan Lee Mulligan. He is wonderfully creative, and with a cast of improvisational comics and professional RPG players, the stories are quite entertaining to watch. One of the shows on Dropout .TV is Adventuring Academy, a roleplaying podcast that he hosts in which he discusses running roleplaying games. As luck would have it, one of the earlier episodes discusses his method of addressing character hooks, and it’s a really simple approach that I’m looking to try.

Basically, his argument was that addressing everybody at the same time is really difficult. The best you could do is ensure that each character has a hook for the campaign as a whole, or some manner of motivating reason that they should even care. For an individual session, he puts the focus on a specific character, and sees whether one or two characters can be tied into that. That way, each character essentially gets a solo, as it were, a story in which they are either the centre of attention or the character that has the best tools to deal with the problem at hand. By rotating these moments, each player can really shine at the table every so often. Without giving any spoilers here, there’s a great example during the Unsleeping City campaign: during one episode, the story conflict centred fully around one person’s character; however, the hook into that story was from another character; finally, the ensuing combat encounter included a threat that was best handled by a third player. It was such a nice example of how each player got their individual spotlights and yet these all tied together to make it feel like a real group effort.

This in particular is a skill I’d like to start practicing more in my gaming, because it seems like a great way to include everybody at the table.

RPGaDay 2021 #27: Fraction

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Fraction”. I have to say: this is a tough one. Most of the prompts this year, I could at least think of a direction to go with. This, however, left me wondering for a bit.

If I take “Fraction” as representing a small part of a larger whole, then I would argue that each person around a gaming table (virtual or not) is a fraction of an RPG campaign. More and more have I started seeing the host of a game as one of the roles around the table, rather than seeing it in a more traditional sense of there being players and there being a host of the game. The separation of players versus another has become odd to me: surely the host of the game is playing as well?

I think this goes both ways for tabletop RPGs. Game hosts need to put in energy to the game to guide the narrative, but need to realize they are only one part of the larger whole and must match their efforts to the rest of the players. The other people around the gaming table also need to realize that the onus is not just on the host of the game, but they also contribute to the experience. When all those fractions come together to one whole, though, tabletop RPGs are a wonderful experience.

RPGaDay 2021 #26: Theory

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Theory”. Clearly, given by my previous posts for RPGaDay 2021, I am a big fan of theory.

Of course, that’s something of an occupational hazard. Academically, I’ve pursued a BSc in Psychology (while I went all the way to finishing a thesis, I never completed that degree), obtained a BA in English Language and Culture, focusing on literature, and have an MA (Research Masters MPhil equivalent) in Literary and Cultural Studies, focusing on English-language popular media. I’ve come pre-loaded with analytical tools and theories, and have spent years training to analyze cultural forms, epistemological, ontological and phenomenological aspects of cultural transmission, and just popular culture in an academic context.

As a result, I can’t help but look at the world through this lens. RPGs are no different in that respect. That’s one of the reasons why I so thoroughly enjoy thinking about the systems behind the games, the interactions, and the workings of the hobby. It’s also one of the reasons why I enjoy the mechanics of gameplay so much. If there was a reasonable means to provide for myself by researching this and publishing about it, I’d probably do something like that. The realities of academia are a whole different story, though; let alone the economics of hobbies combined with the pressures of capitalism (don’t get me started on everything that’s wrong with the use of the phrase “doing what you love”).

Something I particularly enjoy about cultural analysis is how culture is like a giant neon sign attached to every tiny aspect of our lives. Small gestures during interaction with others, tiny illustrations in our environment, the types of goods sold in stores—every little bit of our lives is filled with poignant history and allusion. Training in cultural analysis is like being taught to read for the first time, except all your reading is between the lines and in the margins of the page.

Popular culture is my favorite thing to read in this way. A lot of popular culture is speculative in some way: science fiction, fantasy, superhero, alternate timeslines, and all other forms of popular culture all speculate about alternative worlds to some degree. They all start with the phrase “What if…”. What if elves, orcs, and dragons were real? What if five centuries in the future humanity had spread out into a galactic federation? What if the USSR had become dominant after the cold war? What unifies popular culture is imagining things that are not real, but inlike most fiction which roots itself in a real world and invents a story within that, popular culture also invents a world to some degree.

Whatever we invent, though, says more about the world we’re in than the world we’re inventing. Any “What if…” story implies, at its heart, “What if we had something other than what’s here now”. It’s a departure in some manner, whether that’s a “fleeing from” or a “going towards” journey. Analysing stories like that tells us a great deal about our world, the author (depending on whether you’re a postmodernist or not), but also the readers of the text if we know their reactions.

The really fun thing about RPGs in this respect is that they’re so rich with information. The creators of the RPG system write in their world view in the mechanics and their choice of art and setting. The hosts of games expose their ideas and views in the plots they bring in and the characters they portray, and the players tell us about their views by the interacts they have with the world and the characters they create. Every single point of an RPG is a font of information that works together to create new and unexpected stories.

On top of this, as a genre, it’s an intensely reactive genre. A book once written is static. An author might change our views of the book (such as J.K. Rowling’s trans-exclusionary views having radically changed the reception of the Harry Potter novels), but still the book is written. An RPG, however, is more like a palimpsest. Every single session of play rewrites the RPG in the minds of all those involved. House rules might get used, parts of systems get ignored or forgotten, or players choose to tailor the experience to their own needs. Every individual game may shift narratives or viewpoints. RPGs are quite alive in that sense.

It’s a pity that in the interest of self-preservation within the academic world, not much work has been done on this type of hobbyist engagement. It’s pretty much academic suicide to try it. This is the kind of thing, though, that would be fascinating to work on.

RPGaDay 2021 #25: Welcome

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Welcome”; perhaps my professional life (I’m a lecturer for a hospitality degree at a university) predisposes me to think of this prompt in the sense of hostmanship.

To me, it’s crucial that people are welcoming of others in the tabletop RPG scene. Already, as I wrote yesterday, tabletop RPGs are quite intimate in the sense that it takes vulnerability to sit together and act out scenes. To allow this, the space has to be welcoming and open, so that people may feel comfortable enough to empathize with the rest of the group. While a lot of RPGs may put the onus of something like this on the host of the game, I think that it’s a responsiblity that’s shared among the group as a whole.

On a larger scale as well, though, I’m of the opinion that RPG players should be welcoming of others in their space as well. Much like any other group, RPG communities can fall prey to gatekeeping. People feel that games should be played this way or that, or that certain games are good and others are terrible (rather than that being their personal opinions), and so on. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re having fun in your game then good on you! RPGs are about new experiences, so a sense of welcoming and openness should pervade the space.