Blog Posts

Welcome to My New Take on Rules


As I’ve written about before, I finally switched over my site. I plan to continue maintaining my blog, as there are several of you that subscribe to my blog posts via email or Wordpress ReaderPlease consider switching to my RSS feed, as I don’t yet know how long I will maintain the wordpress site..

During this migration, I removed a tremendous amount of what I came to see as clutter. I refocused the blog for reading longer form articles.

I compressed the navigation to more narrow concerns. The about page links to previous top-level navigation items.


Gone is much of the cruft injected by Wordpress.

Let’s examine my Burning Wheel Lifepaths Inspired by Warhammer Fantasy post (see previous site).

You’ll first notice, the styling. I have extreme control over the new table renderingIn fact, I now use Jekyll to read through a YAML data file to populate those tables; Each lifepath table will now have a consistent look and feel. Important as I work at creating other lifepaths.. The control extends everywhere on the site.

Second, the old Wordpress site’s page requires 112 HTTP requests and transfers 1.3 MB of data. The new static site page requires 9 requests, transferred 146 KB of data. What this means for you? Far faster load times; For those of you with metered data or slow connections, you’re welcome.

Third, compare the print preview of each site. I love the new printed look.

The Little Things

I’ve ensured you need not use Javascript. To get a sense of traffic to the site, I did setup Google Analytics; But feel free to turn on your ad-blocking and disable Javascript. The site will continue working just fine. Though there is one caveat; When javascript is disabled, the Search feature shifts away from the Javascript requiring Google’s Custom Search Engine. Instead, I provide a search button to directing the user to Google’s basic search with the prepopulated “”.

I’ve tried to build towards an accessible experience, leveraging accessibility guidelines from Penn StateGo to the top of the page, click the top left corner, then hit the tab key. I love that feature. I learned that from a Skip Links accessibility tutorial. And for the extra-tech people, fire up a lynx browser.

I have packed the site with metadata, as I try to assist our machine overlords in better understanding the content so they can provide you with more contextual informationSee Schema Demystified: Schema Markup and the SEO Benefits for more details.

In leveraging Jekyll, I can write, edit, and preview my blog offline; A nice to have when traveling or when our shaky internet craps out.

Whither Goes the Comments?

I removed commentsA todo item, albeit low on the priority list, is to attach the historical comments to their respective commentss.. Instead, feel free to contact Me; From there we can have a conversationI will only post comments or excerpts that you give after getting your express consent.

Also, consider writing your reply on your own blog; And drop me a line to draw attention to your post. There are many free and easy-to-use platforms for blogging.

Whither Goes the Banner?

Ye ol' banner for
Multi-colored dice and pieces from various boardgames (Chess, Puerto Rico, Shadows over Camelot, Ticket to Ride, Chicken Cha Cha Cha, Carcassonne, Yinsh, Monopoly, Dominion, and Settlers of Catan) are arranged in a seemingly scattered manner across a chess board.

I love that old banner. My partner surprised me with a series of photos she took in celebration of launching my old site. I’m trying to track down the source images for that banner. The largest image I have found so far is 1000px by 288px. I need at least 1280px by X; even then, I don’t know where I might find a place for that. Perhaps converting the Take on Rules in the header to a badge?


The plan is to keep on blogging. I’m eager to get back to writing more game related posts, and wrap up these meta posts about blogging and frameworks.

My Blogging Engine

not quite gaming
response to other blogs

Jekyll, written in italics. To its right a tilted test-tube partially full of red liquid.
Jekyll - “Transform your plain text into static websites and blogs.”

This blog post builds on my Keeping the RSS Fires Burning post and Howto Markdown Blog.

I wanted to build a bit more on my game blogging. What fuels this blog and the framework I use to build it out.


My face to face gaming feeds this blog. The actual play as well conversations around the game session itself. I reflect on the highlights (and lowlights), looking for the magic.

I prioritize reading. I typically get about 40 books in per year; Ranging across genres, fiction and non-fiction alike. I also read a lot of game sourcebooks.

I follow numerous blogsDo yourself a favor, and go checkout Save vs. Total Party Kill’s OSR OPML. There you will find instructions for subscribing to a plethora of blogs. And also visit Campaign Wiki’s Old School RPG Planet and Indie RPG Planet). From these blogs, I read the more deliberate conversations. The majority of my feed is gaming blogs, but I also subscribe to a plethora of other blogs.

Over the past month, I switched from using to using I use Inoreader to star, save posts to Google Drive, categorize, and subscribe to blogsThe migration was simple. I exported my OPML file from Feedly and imported it into Inoreader. Once the OSR OPML file showed up, I subscribed to that. I noticed some blogs showing up twice. I wrote a script to de-duplicate what was in my original OPML and what was in the OSR OPML; Every so often I re-run that script..

I find less fuel on Social Media that sparks a response—Aside from clicking on a blog post and adding it to InoreaderMore on that in In Response to “I’m Bowing Out” - Hack & Slash.

A Tangent that Loops Back

I started blogging in 2010 as part of my day job; I used a campus provided Wordpress instance. In 2011 I started my game blog leveraging I had thought about Blogger, spending a bit of time in an aborted migration, but opted to remain on WordpressI believe I was looking at tighter integration with the fledgling Google+.

I switched roles on campus, and moved my professional blogging to A site powered by Jekyll. We sought to build-up a team blog. During this time, I actively engaged in Github code contributions. Github leverages Markdown for its rich text comments. I find Markdown more legible than HTML. I will often write Markdown in—my text editor of choice. I use the markdown-preview-plus plugin to preview the Markdown as HTML.

I prefer Markdown over HTML or WYSYWIG editors. I spend time thinking about the content and not poking around formatting the contentFocus on one task. While writing avoid editing and formatting. Focus on getting the words out. Then go back and revisit.


On September 9th, I started once again migrating from WordpressIn 2013, I had another failed attempt at migrating off of Wordpress. If memory served, I wanted the simplicity of Github Pages, but needed redirects, which were not available in Github pages at the time. Also in the back of my head I wanted HTTPS for my custom domain hosted by Github Pages. This was not available until May 1, 2018. I had stumbled upon the Tufte Jekyll theme. One that purported to be a “Minimal Jekyll blog styled to resemble the look and layout of Edward Tufte’s books.” I became enamored with the layout of the demo pageI like side notes and margin notes. Foot notes are nice as well. I wanted something that would ease the management of including these asides. My semantic preference would be to use the aside HTML5 element, but that has challenges and issues further detailed in tufte-css.

I dove into the migration, starting first with Jekyll Import. I performed a full clean-up; I wanted to embrace the new theme. I also wanted to preserve links from other pages. This involved a mix of scripts, manual changes, and patienceI dusted off my Imagemagick, Nokogiri, Psych/Yaml, and Rake skills. I do hope to publish the bones of how this site gets built, but for now, you’ll have to put on your imagination hat..

I have scripts that:

  • Create proper aspect ratio derivative images for side, main, and full images.
  • Create an AMP compliant version all pages, while maintaining a the foundational fast non-JS dependent site.
  • Extract image metadata to have proper aspect ratio for the AMP version of the site.
  • Beautifies the HTML generated from Jekyll by normalizing indents and spacing.
  • Takes a tag and adds new tags to posts that already have the tag.

In other words, once I cutover from Wordpress to my new site, I’ll have full control over my blog’s data. And I love it.

Until I switch overOk. I switched over. You can find my old site at, I write my post first for, then do some HTML antics and copy it into my Wordpress site.

Kibitzing Burning Beards, Or Thinking Up Consequences for Failure

apocalypse world
burning beards
burning wheel
response to other blogs
role-playing game

Four Fate dice and a scope target highlights Sunday on a calendar. Several bullet holes pierce the calendar.
Sunday Skypers logo

I’ve occupied my commute by listening to the Sunday Skyper’s Burning Beards podcastI wrote about this in my Rethinking the Failed Climb Check. I have fast become attached to the trials and tribulations of Fandril, Flint, Ulfkell, and Slate.

In episode 38, after a battle to a stalemate, the spiders pinned the dwarves. One spider begins parlaying with Flint. Having earlier spoken about ghosts, weird dreams, unseen spirits haunting Flint enters the parlay; Flint requests that the spiders let them pass if they promise to come back and talk with the mother spider tomorrowThe group has side-stepped many Dual of Wits in favor of expediency; After all they have but a few hours for the whole session; And scripted conflict will take more time than a quick Vs. test. An unfortunate side-effect is that poor Flint, every engaging in social conflict, has rarely had a chance for a Routine persuasion test, something far easier to come by in a Dual of Wits than in a Vs. Will persuasion..

The GM presents a great complication for Flint’s failure. But I was wondering what other consequences could someone inflict?

First complication, Flint was invoking his Oddly Likeable character traitIn the rules as written Burning Wheel, character traits are not something that add advantages. This is something from Mouseguard and Torchbearer. However, it is a reasonable hack.. This would be something I’d put in the crosshairs. If you fail, you’ll shift Oddly Likeable to just OddDefinitely bring this up in a trait vote..

Second complication, Flint has been blathering about spirits and such. On failure, you’ll gain an infamous reputation “Speaker of Nonsense.”

Third complication, they’ll let you leave, but you’ll need to leave reassurances. Their first request is Fandril’s dwarven mail.

Fourth complication, they’ll give you what you want, but as you’re leaving they’ll spring a trap, picking off one or two of you.

Burning Wheel offers minimal guidance, but frames how to approach test failures; Namely look to their intent and push against that. I know when I’ve run Burning Wheel, I sometimes forget to press for intent before rolling the dice; I find it more difficult to establish intent after a failure.

Look to Apocalypse World for a bit more nuanced guidanceIn 2012, I wrote about Apocalypse World moves in the Fellowship of the Ring. Below is a quick summary:

  • Separate them.
  • Capture someone.
  • Put someone in a spot.
  • Trade harm for harm (as established).
  • Announce off-screen badness.
  • Announce future badness.
  • Inflict harm (as established).
  • Take away their stuff.
  • Make them buy.
  • Activate their stuff’s downside.
  • Tell them the possible consequences and ask.
  • Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost.
  • Turn their move back on them.
  • Make a threat move.

And remember, after every move ask: “what do you do?”

A failed move/test should push the fiction in a direction that demands a response and further risk.

In Response to “I’m Bowing Out” - Hack & Slash

micro culture
not quite gaming
response to other blogs

Hack & Slash’s post I’m Bowing Out sparked this blog post.

“I engage in social media less. I read it, but now the only time I actually engage is to talk to artists or other creators. I’m tired of being sick to my stomach over stupid discussions online about shit people don’t have the first clue over anyway. I’m tired of the never ending rant of just a few people who desperately want someone else to take their side or back their cause. Have you noticed I’m more quiet on social media? It’s because I’m bowing out of the arguments online. That’s not the fight. That’s people trying to profit from the fight. I win the fight when I vote, volunteer, and fulfill my role to my community, family, and planet. Not when I’m pushing an agenda.” — I’m Bowing Out from Hack & Slash

A fantastic conclusion to a tender and genuine blog post; I echo these sentiments. I also recommend reading 3 Toadstools Publishin follow-up And Twisted Cities followed up with More Bowing Out, drawing attention to predecessors posts from Mateo and David McGrogan.

I have relatives across a wide-political spectrum. Facebook has made it easy to stay in-touch and raise your ire. When you log onto social media, their application dictates your experience; How they will shock and awe you into interacting with their “services”A social media company is in the business of selling your engagement and interaction to others.

Snap responses fuel the engine.

Things happen quickly on social media. When I login, my lizard brain demands that I connect posts I saw in my last “session” to the top-most current posts of this “session”. Time spent just catching up on a mixed bag of content, curated and selected by the social media’s algorithm. A waste of timeI am reminded of the following by Henry David Thoreau “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”. Much of my experiences with social media is about “catching up” in idle moments. Facebook curate’s my experience, the very order of each post I see as well as what posts just don’t show up. In other words, I’m letting Facebook decide my experiences and I’m killing time engaging with their decisions.

The Pivot

I’m focusing my energy on the physical world: Conversations around a dinner table, face to face role-playing games, conversations at our local farmer’s market, supporting my partner’s small business, and supporting my family as my children gear up for college.

In the twilight of Google+My go to social media site for the gaming hobby, I find myself more and more focusing on blogs. As I wrote earlier, I want to find those committed to publishing in a standards-based system; A format available beyond the gatekeeping of a social media platform.

For now, I’ll focus my online effort in writing blog posts and responding via my own blog posts to others. I’ll link to my blog posts on various social media platforms, with a goal of drawing people into conversations happening outside of those walled gardens.


I continue to work on migrating my website from to a static site version at

I am planning to omit a public comment system for my blog. I’ll provide a Contact Me form, and if that proves untenable, I’ll provide an email address. Two considerations factor into this decision; First a comment system requires another dependency; Second a comment system has analogues to the worst aspects of social media. Yes, a comment system provides a mechanism for conversations, but I’m looking to have those conversations in a more deliberate manner.

In addition, I spent Sunday implementing a minimum-viable AMP version of my site (see The non-AMP static site remains wicked fast, but being part of the AMP ecosystem provides another vector for people to stumble upon my blog and the larger wilderness of online blogging.

Witchburner in Burning Wheel

burning wheel
role-playing game

Two adventurers and their dog descending the road into a village in the mountains.
Witchburner by Luka Rejec. Go grab the free Witchburner: Burner Edition

Upon first reading Luka Rejec’s Witchburner, I thought “I want to run this now. And I want to use Burning WheelI am getting ahead of myself, as I have time for one campaign, which is presently a 5E run through of Tomb of Annihilation. What follows is more of a “if I were to run this in Burning Wheel, these are the player facing changes that I would make” conversion.”

Focus on the Situation

Witchburner has analogues to Trouble in Hochen, a Burning Wheel adventure included in Twilight in the Duchy VerdorbenOn the surface the initial situations look similar, but I find Witchburner to have more fertile ground for exploring a village and its inhabitants; The situation in Witchburner unfolds slower.

Below is Trouble in Hochen’s situation:

You have been sent or called to Hochen. How exactly depends on the nature of your relationship. Hochen is in dire straits—famine in the dead of a hard winter and rumors of infernal influence.

Let’s frame the situation for Witchburner:

Calamities beset Saint Cleareyes; Its mayor issued calls for justice. Lord Rightmaker dispatched you to find the witch.

Before you dive into creating characters, read out loud the opening paragraph. Treat it like a movie’s opening credits scene. Frame the scene as Lord Rightmaker’s initial visit that happened about a week prior.

Depending on your campaign, consider reviewing the gods in Appendix I. This may help players frame their Faith.

Converting Cash

The initial offer in the game is 3000 cash. That seems like a lot of cash, but the adventure is implicitly intended for OSR games that reward 1 XP per 1 unit of cash collectedLamentations uses a silver piece standard, most other games assume a gold piece.

Consulting both Lamentations and Burning Wheel for references, my first thought was 300 cash equals 1D for resources. From a mechanical standpoint, a 10D offer sounds goodI’m certainly up for players bargaining and seeking to get non-tangibles, promissory notes, letters of credit, land, property, etc..

Looking from the fiction standpoint, it feels a bit much that 300 cash would be 1D of resources. I think of 1D of cash resources as a small purse of silver.

Adjustment: For Witchburner, divide all cash values by 10 to find the number of silver coins. Each 30 silver coins counts as 1D for resources.


Throughout the adventure, Witchburner uses the 5E concept of disadvantageUsing keywords in place of hard mechanics helps increase the portability, requiring one less mental mapping step to go from one system to another. For example: if you go a day without sleep, you have disadvantage on social activities.

Adjustment: Disadvantage increases the obstacle by 1 (e.g. +1 Ob). Advantage adds 1 dice to the test (e.g. +1D).

Disposition of Villagers

Witchburner provides guidelines on how villagers view the characters. As time passes and the PCs move throughout the village, these dispositions become more important.

“The Circles test could be considered a system for determining NPC disposition towards the players. Sure, you find who you’re looking for. But what do they think of you?” Burning Wheel Codex by Luke Crane

Leverage the Circles attribute. Since the players are in the village, ignore Place obstacle modifiers. As we already have a time pressure mechanic through tracking watches, ignore Time modifiers. We’re not interested in what the villager does, ignore Occupation modifiers.

This leaves Station for setting an obstacle, which seems appropriate to determine their base response.

Adjustment: When characters seek out, or meet a villager, have them roll a Circle test. Set the base obstacle using Station (ignoring occupation, time, and place). The Circle test makes a great Linked test for further interactions. Failure invokes the Enmity clause; Make sure to follow the advice in Witchburner on how to work with this. Adjust the Circle test based on who the villager knows and how the PCs have treated those relations.

Other Details

To avoid spoilers, I leave those other details as an exercise for the reader.