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Banned from Amazon
I briefly interrupt these gaming related posts to get up on my anti-DRM soap box. Last night Jenn and I were out with a friend and briefly discussed the Kindle, Amazon's digital book reader. Out of curiosity, this morning I did a little googling to find out if the Kindle really is the cutting edge of eReaders, and what if any competition they had.

By pure accident, I came across this post by a guy banned from Amazon. Apparently he bought a lot of stuff from Amazon, and returned a few big ticket items (flat screen TV, DSLR camera, etc). Amazon decided he had returned too many things and banned his account, with no warning to the customer that he had been doing anything wrong. Granted, this guy may be full of crap and buying stuff just to use it for a few days before demaning a refund. Still, the fact is that Amazon has no posted policy on how many or how often you can return stuff before your account is banned. And at this point I use Amazon so much, the idea of being banned is kind of frightening. I will certainly be more careful about if/when I return things to them.

This got me thinking though about DRM. Here's a very concrete example of just how dangerous DRM can be. This guy in particular bought heavily into Kindle, through which be bought many DRM-laden eBooks. He could also very well have bought movies from their Video on Demand system. With his account shut down, he no longer has access to any of it. It's like being banned from the mall, and then having the mall employees come to your house and steal everything you ever bought from the mall in the past.

I had already made the decision that I would not buy into Amazon's Video on Demand system, except to rent movies for a single night. I think I may still do that on occaison. Fact is, the real problem with DRM is simply that it pretends to be a purchase when really it's a rental. When you buy something with DRM on it, you're really only renting it until whenever the company you rented it from feels like taking it back. Whether this is because of odd return/banning policies, or the company goes out of business, or whatever. They're in control.

I'm OK with renting DRMed media, and I will likely do so in the future. I will never 'buy' DRMed media, because there is no such thing.
April 10th, 2009 - 08:42 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

Marvelous Magic
And now back to our previously scheduled D&D related posts...

The oldest D&D book in my collection is a copy of AC4 Marvelous Magic. It's a supplement full of unusual magic items, some of which are bizarrely humours. My copy is thoroughly worn , with creases, tears, and scotch tape holding together the spine. It's amazing to think I still have it because this is one of my less frequently used books, the others being so worn they fell apart.

Anyway, the reason I'm posting about it is because reading it now with my more historically inclined vantage, it offers some very interesting clues about the evolution of the game. It was written in 1985 by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer - quite an interesting team up. It claims to be a D&D supplement that is 'also compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Game.' In fact, the very first item in the book is a hilarious thing called an 'Alternate World Gate', which apparently acts as a means of teleporting characters to other TSR created worlds. My favorite:

Lute: This musical instrument is 2 feet long. A long, thin neck makes up one half and around, flat-topped ornate box the other. Strings of unknown material are attached to each end. The lute summons a bard from the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game -- a normal well-armed but unarmored human clad in green and carrying a flute. He may mutter something about incompatibility, but will not otherwise converse.

Incompatibility? Awesome. But it gets better. The appendix of the book specifically addresses how to adapt the items for AD&D. Before a long list of specific changes for individual items is a section titled 'What's the Difference?'. Wow, here's an account from Gygax and/or Mentzer of the key differences between AD&D and Basic D&D. I can't wait to hear their thoughts on the subject circa 1985.

The D&D and AD&D games are actually different games. Though both are role-playing games dealing with fantasy topics, many of the games' systems are entirely different. Each game contains spells, monsters, and other elements not found in the other.
The D&D game is easy to modify to your individual taste. When revised and expanded (editions published in or after 1983), some details were added, but the game as a whole actually became easier to modify. You may add more details, or change existing ones, with little fear of upsetting the game system as a whole. Options are often mentioned, giving the DM a choice of styles or details. For example, a monster's poison can be deadly, but guidelines are given for the DM who wants to change this to points of damage (or other effects) to make the game more enjoyable.
The AD&D game system, as a whole, far more complex than the D&D game. Rules are given for more situations, and common situations are presented in more detail. Since the AD&D game is more complex than the D&D game, it is very difficult to modify properly. Any rule change may have far-reaching effects. Modifications usually involve very minor details, and rarely (if ever) change general principles. Additions must be compatible with existing details, and must thus be carefully considered.

Is it just me, or does this text seem a little more in the D&D camp than the AD&D camp? The chief difference appears to be customizability -- D&D is easily customized while AD&D is rigid and detailed. Is there an argument here that one is preferable to the other? Perhaps not. Maybe it's just my own tastes coloring the words.
April 10th, 2009 - 08:57 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

I know it's horribly over-due, but here are my Piemas photos. Enjoy!
April 10th, 2009 - 10:37 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

Time in D&D vs. AD&D
One more thing I discovered while looking at the Marvelous Magic appendix -- it notes that in D&D rounds are 10 seconds long, while in AD&D they are 1 minute long. No discussion here in the whys or wherefores, simply that statement and the rules for adapting time from one system to another.

I find it interesting, as Dan called for 10 second rounds in one of his blog posts. I wonder what the arguments were like inside TSR for one duration vs. the other.
April 10th, 2009 - 10:56 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

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