Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet

After a (very) short stint with Deadlands, my group decided to go retro and start up a new AD&D 2nd Edition campaign. Of all of the revisions to D&D, 2E is probably my favorite. Sure, it is a little wonky as far as the details are concerned, but everyone in the group is familiar with it. Having just about every supplement ever made for it helps too 🙂

I went digging through some of my old files and located a text file I had created in a DOS text editor about 25 years ago with what I considered to be a nice character sheet for 2E. I used the old DOS line-drawing characters (we didn’t have fancy things like multiple fonts back then!) At some point I had updated it to include the Skills & Powers attributes, though it still works equally well without S&P (which we aren’t using).

old-school-add-2e-character-sheet-preview

I opened the file in Word 2016 and it happily converted it and kept the whole layout. I made a few minor changes to fill the page width and saved it out as a PDF so I could use it for our new game. Also, if I upload it here, I’ll be able to find it again later! 🙂

You can download the PDF here:

Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet

PICO-8 Work in Progress

My last blog entry was about a fantasy console called PICO-8. Since then, I’ve been having quite a bit of fun playing around with the thing.

I’m pretty bad and drawing even “programmer graphics”, but when you only have 8×8 pixels and 16 colors, it doesn’t really matter… it isn’t going to be a masterpiece anyway!

Below is a GIF of the game I’ve been working on. It is coming along nicely considering that I haven’t really gotten a chance to put that much time into it. It is an old-school RPG, similar in style to the very early Ultima games.

So far, I’ve got the overland map and travel working, and I’ve put together a town map system that isn’t limited by the built-in map size of the PICO console (essentially unlimited town maps, though given the size of the game I don’t really need that many – but I need more than will fit into the built-in map editor).

My next project is to implement dungeons, and then flesh out the character generation and game system (stats, monsters, items, etc). Then I can populate the towns with NPCs, add quests, and the like.

pico_adventure

The beginnings of an old-school RPG for PICO-8.

Nothing actually playable at this time, but I’m getting there. Working with PICO really reminds me of coding on the Commodore 64 (though LUA is much more advanced than C=64 Basic, and alot less tedious than 6502 assembler!) In fact, this is the kind of thing I put together on a regular basis on the Commodore.

 

Fun with PICO-8

I backed the CHIP Kickstarter about a year ago, and as the shipment date for my pledge level approaches (late May, and they say they are on time), an update was posted indicating that a CHIP specific version of PICO-8 will be included with PocketCHIP. I had never heard of PICO-8, but once I knew what it was, I immediately went over and purchased a copy though their Humble store.

PICO-8_3

PICO-8’s editors are all built into the console. Here is the sprite editor used to create graphics for your games.

PICO-8 is described on the Lexaloffle website as a “Fantasy Console”, and is essentially a self-contained “emulator” for a console that never actually existed. The console is designed with extremely limited hardware/software specifications, intended to mimic a classic 8-bit environment. Developers can create custom cartridges that can be shared with other users or played on the web through the Lexaloffle forums. Each cartridge is limited to 32k, contains up to 128 8×8 pixel sprites, and a 128×32 cell world map.

PICO-8 includes a complete development environment within the program, including code editor, sprite editor, map maker, sound effects editor, and music track editor. With the full version (not the web player) you can switch over to the code and resources for any cartridge you are playing and begin editing. You can start from scratch and create your own cartridge entirely, or modify an existing game to change it in any way you wish.

Code is based on the LUA syntax, without the LUA libraries. There is a provided API that lets you play sound, display sprites, and draw maps in addition to the standard pixel and shape-oriented drawing tools.

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Cool Kickstarter Projects : Askrias Cube

While browsing through the current gaming-related Kickstarter projects, I came across the Askrias Cube. This is a customizable 6-sided die, that can be used either for rolling random effects or for keeping track of status effects, counters, etc in a game like Magic: The Gathering.

Askrias_Cube_Kickstarter_Image

The cube itself is made of two pieces of plastic that snap together, and each face holds an insertable plastic tile. Each tile can be customized with a sticker to represent whatever you wish. The basic pledge comes with two cubes, twenty plastic face inserts, and forty face stickers, available in several different themes.

The project is based in New Zealand, and the $12 NZ pledge works out to about $8 US. Add-ons are available for extra sets, cubes, frames, and sticker sets.

Fixing “Display Driver has Stopped Responding”

File this one under just sharing, because it was frustratingly annoying until I got it working.

I currently have an MSI GT 660Ti Power Edition card, and in certain games (and I haven’t determined the commonality between them yet) I was sometimes crashing, with the message “Display driver has stopped responding and has recovered” displayed in a balloon popup on the Windows desktop.

Some games don’t do this at all, and others do it very predictably (like within 5 minutes of launching the game 100% of the time).

Driver updates (the obvious first step) don’t seem to help, so after poking around on the web, I found a combination of tweaks that have eliminated this problem for me – though it doesn’t seem like any one of the did the job individually.

First, there is the Microsoft recommended registry fix : (http://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2665946). Essentially, this involves adding a DWORD (32-bit) or QWORD (64-bit) registry value called “TdrDelay” with a value of 8 to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers. This is supposed to let windows wait longer before deciding that the graphics driver has crashed and taking action  to get you back to a functional state.

Second, I found several references to using MSI Afterburner to underclock you graphics card by 50-70 MHz (on the Core Clock slider). I dropped mine right around 50.

Finally, in the nVidia control panel (accessible from the Windows Control Panel) expand “3D Settings” and select “Manage 3D Settings”. On the Global tab, I selected “Prefer maximum performance” for “Power Management Mode”.

When I set these three items in combination (though I’m not sure the first one (the registry hack) has a real impact) I can play games like The Talos Principal for hours without a problem – it is one of the 5-minutes max games without these changes.

Not sure exactly what is going on here (my PSU is more than  up to the job of running my video card, which is the most commonly stated culprit) but can only speculate that something weird happens if the card tries to enter some sort of energy-friendly mode based on something the game is doing.

 

Cool Kickstarter Projects – Underworld Ascendant

There was a time, back in the day, when I couldn’t get enough Ultima. Sadly, Ultima IX fairly well put a dent in the magic of the series. I did, though, play all of the original Ultima games when they were released, including a pair of very early forays into the realm of 3D games called Ultima Underwold : The Stygian Abyss, and Ultima Underworld II : Labyrinth of Worlds.

For the time, the technology in the Underworld games was pretty amazing, considering we didn’t have 3D accelerators yet, and everything was done in software. The first two games are available from GoG as a bundle, though modern players may find aspects of the game’s interface and engine frustrating. As cool as they were back then, the list of game engine features in Ultima Underworld are the kind of things that developers don’t even have to think about these days because they are built into all of the graphics cards already.

The original Ultima Underworld

The original Ultima Underworld

Fast forward 22 years, and many members of the original team that produced Ultima Underworld (first as Blue Sky Studios, and later Looking Glass – Yes, the same Looking Glass that did the first two Thief games and the System Shock series) have launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the franchise as Underworld Ascendant.

As you can imagine, the technology has improved pretty drastically since 1992, and OtherSide Entertainment is putting together what looks to be a fitting return to the Stygian Abyss.

A screen grab from the Kickstarter video of an early prototype of Underworld Ascendant

A screen grab from the Kickstarter video of an early prototype of Underworld Ascendant

The Kickstarter campaign lists several interesting technologies that could make for a great game if the team manages to pull them off. For one thing, they are implementing what they call an Improvisation Engine, which moves away from developer-scripted storytelling and builds a custom story around the player and the choices and actions they take in the game.

Stretch goals include an “Underworld Builder Toolkit”, and the addition of Co-Op multiplayer.

The revival of old RPG franchises on Kickstarter is becoming something of a trend, with Shadowrun, Wasteland, Torment, and now Ultima Underworld (and soon the Bard’s Tale!) all getting the Kickstarter treatment. In my opinion, this is a great thing. These were the games I grew up with, and returning to these worlds has been, and I hope will continue to be, great fun.

Head on over to the Kickstarter page and back the project! As of this writing there are still a couple hundred $20 slots left that get you the game when it is released (estimated to be November of 2016).

Taskbar Thumbnail Size Trick

If you only have one monitor and are playing a game with a tendency to lock up, it can be a pain to get it closed properly. For me, games like this end up covering up everything on the screen except the task bar, so while I can run Task Manager, I can’t see it, so closing the crashed game becomes a problem.

Here is a nifty trick to work around that issue: Change the size of the thumbnails you get in Windows 7 and Windows 8 when you put your mouse over an application in the taskbar. Normally these thumbnails are really small, but they are live representations of what is happening in the app/window, so they are usable if they are a bit larger.

Fire up Regedit and go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Taskband

Create a new 32-bit DWord here called “MinThumbSizePX” and set the value to whatever you like… I used 400. Log out and log back in, and you will now get resized thumbnails when mousing over taskbar items.

If you run Task Manager while a crashed game is taking up the screen (CTRL-ALT-DEL, select task manager) you can put your mouse over the taskbar and see the Task Manager window in the thumbnail. Arrow down to the crashed task and hit “Alt-E” to end the task.

Oblivion Modding and Steam – Fixing with Powershell

This is just a quick note, as I spent WAY too long trying to figure out why pretty much any of the Oblivion mods I was trying to install that were supposed to override textures weren’t working. I had the ArchiveInvalidationInvalidated mod installed, and nothing I tried worked.

As it turns out, the Steam install of Oblivion does weird things with the dates of the BSA files that are part of the retail package and DLCs. This causes the mod files to appear older than the BSA files, so they don’t load.

So, time for a quick PowerShell fix. Open PowerShell and go to your Oblivion data folder:

cd \Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\Common\Oblivion\Data

and run the following command:

dir *.bsa | % { $_.CreationTime = '1/1/2006 10:05'; $_.LastWriteTime = '1/1/2006 10:05' }

This will set the creation and last update time for all of your BSA to 2006, which should be well old enough for the mod files to take precedence.

 

Powershell Match 3 Game

I was playing around in Powershell over the Christmas weekend, and put together a simple “Match 3” style game utilizing the same RawUI style techniques I used in my Powershell Snake Game.

A version of a "match-3" style game written using RawUI in Powershell.

A version of a “match-3” style game written using RawUI in Powershell.

Why a PowerShell Match 3 game? Why not! 🙂 Actually, I was watching a youtube video series on creating a match 3 game with Unity, and the essentials of the way matches are checked for are similar to what is shown in this series.

Being Unity, however, the game in that series relies on the Unity physics engine and collision detection to move pieces around and determine what pieces are next to each other. Obviously, we don’t have a physics engine in Powershell!

The game features a hilight you can move around with the W, A, S, and D keys, using the arrow keys to indicate you want to swap pieces in that direction. Pieces fade when matched, and the falling of pieces above them is animated. New pieces will appear in the empty spots at the top of a column.

The one thing it doesn’t do right now is verify that there are matches on the board that are available to make. I’m considering adding this, but I’m already pushing the performance limits as it is, and checking the board for possible matches can be pretty intensive 🙂

Download the Powershell Match 3 Script

The script is available via the button above. Try it out, and let me know what you think, or any improvements you come up with!

Two columns of matched pieces (white and magenta) are fading out

Two columns of matched pieces (white and magenta) are fading out

 

 

D6xD6 RPG

d6xd6rpgBack in July, I posted about an active Kickstarter project by game designer Lester Smith called d6xd6 CORE RPG. The “expected delivery” date on the Kickstarter was December 2014, and on Monday night, Lester delivered on the base version of the game.

Kickstarter backers were sent a link containing a 66-page PDF file of the game rules and the four included sample settings. One of the cool things about d6xd6 RPG (which has since dropped “CORE” from the name) is that it was designed to be easily adaptable to any type of genre and settings.

The full rules for the game are available on the d6xd6.com website, minus the formatting of the PDF book, so go check it out.

I’ve backed several Kickstarter projects, and I’ve got to say that Lester’s was one of the most communicative I’ve been involved in. Every few days there was a new update on progress, and the game is pretty much on schedule (there is an “extended” version of the game still in the works that includes a pile of additional settings based on, and written by, a wide range of authors including Douglas Niles, Andrea K. Höst, and many others.)

I’m looking forward to running this game for a few folks in the near future, as the rules are simple enough to be a good introduction to table-top RPGs.

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