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### That incel nonsense…

At some point I will write a lengthy explanation why prohibiting private cars in inner cities will become an inevitability. All the green folks will rejoice over all the newfound clean air and all and will conveniently ignore that it was the dreaded fear of terror that finally brought this to us.

This is not that explanation, it’s about something else: „Incels“ — People, specifically men who blame their lack of romantic involvement, specifically the lack of sex, on women. And then maybe drive trucks into people.

As such, I’m about to lay some harsh fucking truth on you: if you’re truly involuntarily celibate, you deserve it.

But that is only my general opinion. Because, as usual, I also have a more specific one:

Every cluster of teenage kids will have a few kids that sit on the sides, not truly belonging to the main group. That happens, it’s highly regrettable, but it just happens. And if the broader culture where these kids live in puts a high value on being sporty, good looking, attractive, the kids on the sides will be what we commonly refer to as „the nerds“

I was one of those as a kid. Not truly outcast, but a bit on the fringe. Enough so that when a former classmate was talking to her kid about bullying she decided to contact me to get some „inside info“, because after 30 years, I was still stuck in her head as „the (slightly) outside one“.

I also distinctly remember a time when puberty acne, being awkward and ‚the computer nerd‘ while also seeing the surfer guy getting the attraction from all the right girls, let me briefly believe I might end up that way.

Privately.

Without having a word for it. Because, frankly, there was no 4chan or reddit or whatever where I could safely express that stupid idea and then end up in an echo chamber where I would reinforce that rough idea into a solid belief system.

Instead, after a few months of teenage angst and wallowing in private self-pity, I eventually worked up the courage and asked that girl I fancied out for a movie. A few weeks later, the concept of me staying a virgin forever involuntarily was thrown to the ash heap of history.

Enough confession time, what is the point I want to make here?

I think that „incels“ are truly a creation of the internet, combined with the toxic concept of maleness . Without having that place to mutually reassure themselves in that stupid concept, looking at what they see „how things should be“ in media, they wouldn’t be able to construct that bubble for themselves. And without that bubble they would have a chance to get happier.

Brotopia, which I’m currently reading, points the very same thing out, although in a different frame:

When minorities are forced to self-identify as minorities, their performance suffers. Sociologists even have a name for this: stereotype threat.

„Incels“ are a very tragic example of a group of people that wished themselves into being a minority and then reaped all the negative effects that came with that.

The frightening thought is that a lot of those of us who nowadays look at them with scorn might have fallen into the same trap, if the tools of today would have been available to us.

### Du willst also auch mal Rollenspiel ausprobieren?

Keine Sorge, es geht jetzt nicht um Cosmopolitan-Tipps um Euer Sexleben aufzubessern, sondern um diese tolle Hobby von dem alle reden: Fantasy Rollenspiele, Erzählspiele, Pen&Paper RPGs..

err.. Moooment! Hey, JollyOrc, Dein Blog ist voll von Rollenspielbeiträgen. Warum erklärst Du das jetzt nochmal?

Ganz einfach: Das hier ist ein Beitrag zum aktuellen Karneval der Rollenspielblogs, diesmal zum Thema „Tipps für neue Spielleiter“

Ah.. ok, das klingt nach einem hehrem Ziel. Weitermachen.

Danke.

Du warst also gerade beim Gratisrollenspieltag oder hast ein Starterset zu so einem Rollenspiel zum Geburtstag bekommen und willst loslegen. Prima, leg los!

Nein, wirklich, leg einfach los, Du schaffst das schon, mich brauchst Du dafür nicht.

Ok, Du bist immer noch hier, also bist Du entweder sehr, sehr neugierig oder irgendwas hindert Dich, einfach anzufangen. Was könnte das sein?

### Du hast keine Mitspieler

Frag einfach Deine Freunde und Bekannte. Wenn die nicht begeisterungsfähig genug scheinen, schau in Foren oder die Spielerzentrale. Oder besuch eine Convention.

### Du hast keine Ideen

So gut wie alle Rollenspielbücher und  Startersysteme kommen mit einem Einsteigerabenteuer und einer kurzen Einleitung, wie man das anfängt. Von da ergibt sich alles andere meistens fast wie von selbst. Wenn Du das schon hinter Dir hast, schau doch zum Beispiel mal auf die One Page Dungeons zur Inspiration! Alternativ bieten gerade die „großen“ Rollenspielsysteme wie Das Schwarze Auge, D&D oder Splittermond auch eine reichhaltige Auswahl an fertigen Abenteuerbänden.

### Du weißt nicht, ob Deine Ideen gut genug sind

Es gibt nur einen Weg das herauszufinden: Probiere sie aus! Nimm die Idee und fang an zu spielen. Im allerschlimmsten Fall stellt Ihr fest, dass das gerade keinen Spaß macht, und dann macht Ihr halt was anderes. Das ist kein Weltuntergang, und danach hast Du mehr Erfahrung und kannst es nächstes Mal anders — und wahrscheinlich sogar besser machen!

### Du weisst nicht, ob DU gut genug bist

Ich möchte Dir jetzt gerne versichern, dass Du natürlich gut genug bist. Und um einfach mitzuspielen bist Du es bestimmt. (Hier ist die Frage eher: Hast Du Lust darauf und haben Du und die anderen am Tisch auch Spaß daran. Wenn ja: Mach weiter und lass Dir von niemanden reinreden!)

Wenn Du selbst in die Rolle des Dungeon Masters, also der Spielleitung schlüpfen willst, dann sieht das etwas anders aus: Es gibt zwar keine harten Richtlinien, und vorab kann Dir niemand sagen, ob Du geeignet bist oder nicht, aber es gibt definitiv gute und schlechte Spielleitungen. Natürlich ist das kein Job, für den Du eine langjährige Ausbildung brauchst, und niemand verlangt von Dir, erst einmal alle Regelwerke und deren Kommentarbände im Internet zu lesen.

Aber Du solltest Spaß daran haben, für andere etwas vorzubereiten. Sei Dir klar, dass es sich hier um ein soziales Spiel handelt, und Du mehr damit beschäftigt sein kannst, die anderen Spieler zu lesen und anzuführen, denn einfach das Spiel nach Regeln abzuklappern.

Nichtsdestotrotz: Probiere es einfach aus. Lass Dir nicht den Mut, und vor allem nicht den Spaß nehmen!

### Du willst Dich erstmal so richtig vorbereiten

Mach das ruhig. Aber sei Dir darüber klar, dass es unfassbar viel Material zum Thema gibt, sich das meiste widerspricht, Du bei fünf Rollenspielern sieben Meinungen zu einem Thema finden wirst, und im Endeffekt beim eigentlichen Spiel alles anders kommt.

Das bedeutet nicht, dass Vorbereitung eine schlechte Idee ist. Mindestens eine Person am Tisch sollte mindestens einmal zumindest die Schnellstartregeln des gewählten Systems gelesen haben, und das kannst natürlich Du sein. Dennoch, übertreibe es nicht, denn sonst traust Du Dich unter Umständen irgendwann gar nichts mehr.

Was Du auf jeden Fall vorbereitet haben solltest:

• kenne die wichtigsten Regeln
• kenne die wichtigsten Nichtspielerfiguren — und hab zur Sicherheit eine Liste ihrer Namen bereit
• habe eine Vorstellung von den Örtlichkeiten, die Du Deiner Runde präsentieren willst. Verstehe, wie sie zusammenhängen, habe ein Gefühl davon, wie es ist, „da“ zu sein.
• Sei bereit, all das wegzuwerfen, weil garantiert eine Person in Deiner Gruppe jemanden anspricht, den Du nicht vorbereitet hast, oder plötzlich alle entscheiden, dass Dein dahingeworfenes „ah, Rum aus der Teufelsee, wo sich nur die besten hinwagen“ als Herausforderung anzusehen…

### Du weisst nicht, womit man am besten anfängt

Im Idealfall hast Du beim Gratisrollenspieltag ja schon was bekommen. Wenn nicht, macht nix: Es gibt diverse Möglichkeiten anzufangen, manche kostenlos, viele günstig:

### Spielen mit Szenen

Drüben beim Rollenspiel-Blogs Forum gibt es eine Diskussion über „Szenenbasiertes Rollenspiel“. Das mäandert ziemlich, aber es stecken auch interessante Dinge drin. Insgesamt brachte es mich dazu, darüber nachzudenken wie ich Rollenspiel leite und meine Abenteuer, Szenarien und Kampagnen plane.

Wer mich kennt, weiß dass ich sehr gerne in Konzepten und Bildern fantasiere. Auch wenn der Hofrat darüber schimpft, vieles beginnt bei mir mit „wäre es nicht cool, wenn…?“  Im Ergebnis habe ich für alle meine Abenteuer immer ein Schlüsselbild vor Augen, einen Moment in dem irgendetwas passiert was mich reizt und den ich meinen Spielern präsentieren möchte. Diese Szene nehme ich dann als Anker um den Rest zu gestalten.

Idealerweise ergibt diese Gestaltung dann weitere Szenen, und mögliche Verknüpfungen zwischen ihnen. Während des Spielabends schaue ich dann auf die Aktionen der Spieler und habe dann folgende Möglichkeiten:

• ich bleibe in der laufenden Spielzeit und lasse die Welt einfach auf die Aktionen der Spieler reagieren. Die Handlung läuft quasi in Echtzeit weiter und auf jede Aktion folgt die passende nächste Aktion. Alles was passiert, passiert vor der laufenden Kamera.
• Ich beschließe (hochherrschaftlich oder in Absprache mit den Spielern), dass es einen Szenenwechsel gibt und Handlung übersprungen wird. Wir landen an einem neuen Ort und an einer anderen Zeit und nehmen dort das Spiel wieder auf. Wo genau?
• Eben da, wo wir folgerichtig nach der letzten Szene hinwollten. Wenn sie mit „wir fahren dann mal nach Rom“ endete, dann beginnen wir eben genau in Rom, und zwar an dem folgerichtigen Punkt.
• Oder die neue Szene hat (zumindest vordergründig) recht wenig mit vorangegangenen Spielerentscheidungen zu tun, sondern entspringt entweder der „Meisterwillkür“, gerne aber auch dem Spielerwunsch. (Inwieweit Zufallsbegegnungen hier hineingehören muss ich mir beizeiten noch überlegen!)

Und genau dieser letzte Punkt ist, denke ich, Szenenbasiertes Rollenspiel. Handlung findet statt, nicht weil sie sich direkt aus der vorangegangen Aktion ergibt, sondern weil der Wunsch nach einer bestimmten Handlung vorhanden ist.

Die Gefahr ist, dass man sich zu sehr auf die Wunsch-Szenen stürzt und diese dann auf Schienen ansteuert. Oberflächlich betrachtet mag das dann sehr cineastisch und episch wirken, allerdings nimmt man damit den Spielern auch genau das, was Rollenspiel eigentlich liefern soll: Die Entscheidungsfreiheit.

Zusätzlich besteht Gefahr, dass alles sehr oberflächlich wird, da die Erklärung, warum etwas passiert mitunter komplett an den Haaren herbeigezogen wurde.

In eine ähnliche Kerbe haut Settembrini wenn er sich so beschwert:

Wenn man nur das anstrebt, das Szenenverketten, dann kommt man wie von selbst auf die Idee, daß alle Reisegeschwindigkeit sich ganz logisch alleine aus dem „Plot“ ergeben sollen und müssen, und alles andere albern sei.

Wie bekomme ich also diese gewünschte Tiefe in meine Aneinanderreihung von Szenen? Einige Grundregeln:

• Habt immer ein Diagramm parat (idealerweise auf Papier, im Zweifel aber mindestens als Skizze im Kopf), dass folgende Dinge in Abhängigkeit setzt:
• Orte, die dort vorhandenen Personen und die Entfernungen und Hindernisse zwischen ihnen
• Personen und Gruppierungen, ihre Ziele, der Grad der jeweiligen Zielerreichung und die Beziehungen zwischen allen
• Schaut zwischen zwei Szenen auf dieses Diagramm.
• Wieviel Zeit muss mindestens vergehen, damit alle Personen in der nächsten Szene da auch sein können?
• Verändern sich die Ziele oder Beziehungen irgendwie aufgrund von Dingen die in der letzten Szene oder im Hintergrund passierten?

Das Resultat dieser Überlegungen sollte jetzt, wenn relevant, in die neue Szene einfließen. Damit wisst Ihr z.B. welche NSC überraschend auftauchen könnten, welche eben nicht und wie sie wohl gelaunt sind.

Das darf durchaus vereinfacht werden, nicht jedes Szenario ist so komplex, dass man das alles modellieren will oder gar muss. Und nicht jede Szene ist von diesen Überlegungen betroffen. Zum Beispiel weil sie eine in sich abgeschlossene Nebenhandlung abbildet, oder weil der Gesamtrahmen eh nicht größer als ein Dungeon ist.

Dazu gibt es Dinge, die man frei schieben kann, ohne dass es Auswirkungen auf den Rest der Simulation hat. Solange nicht festgelegt ist, wann in dem kleinen Dorf Hintereberswald Markttag ist, findet der halt genau an dem Tag statt, wo die Helden zum ersten Mal einreisen, schlicht weil es das Dorf so interessanter macht. Es sei denn, es soll ausgestorben sein, dann sind halt alle gerade bei Bauer Eckart zur Hochzeit eingeladen.

Man darf also gerne nur das in der Planung berücksichtigen, was die Spieler beobachten konnten. Wenn der schurkische Fechtmeister in Szene 1 von der Klippe sprang und dann über Wochen, ach, Monate nicht beobachtet wurde, dann kann er quasi jederzeit an jedem Ort auftauchen, wo immer es „dramaturgisch“ interessant ist.

Ich als Spielleiter nutze das gerne, da es meine Vorbereitungsarbeit angenehm verkürzt. Anstatt ständig alle Variablen zwischen den Szenen zu simulieren, gibt es für viele von ihnen einfach nur einen Rahmen innerhalb dessen ihre Handlungen konkret werden können. Schrödingers NSC sozusagen.

Das funktioniert aber nur dann gut, wenn ich zum Zeitpunkt des neuen Auftauchens verbindlich…

• …prüfe, ob die Figur auch wirklich hier auftauchen kann (Reisezeit, Motivation, Ressourcen),
• …festlege, wie es zu dem Auftauchen kommt und die damit gesetzte Handlung für die Zukunft berücksichtige.

Wenn ich das berücksichtige, wirkt die Handlung organisch und in sich stimmig. Wenn die Spieler also das erste Mal an einem Montag in Hintereberswald eintrafen, dann ist ab sofort immer Montags Markttag.

Der klare Vorteil Szenenbasierten Spiels ist es, dass man gezielt solche Abschnitte wegschneiden kann, die keinen am Spieltisch wirklich interessieren.

Ebenso gibt es die Möglichkeit, den Spielern Sicherheiten zu geben: Viele Spieler geraten in die Planungsfalle und fangen an alle möglichen und unmöglichen Risiken eines Hinterhalts zu hinterfragen und kommen schlicht nicht mehr zu Potte. Schneidet die Spielleitung hier aggressiv in die nächste Szene, signalisiert sie „Euer Plan ist gut genug, Ihr habt nichts übersehen, was Ihr nicht hättet übersehen dürfen.“ (Daran muss man sich dann aber auch halten!)

Idealerweise legt man sich als Spielleiter einen Fundus an Szenen zurecht, die man dann an passender Stelle (Ort, Zeit, Ressourcen, Motivation!) ansteuern kann. Springt nicht auf Schienen von Szene 1 zu Szene 2, sondern schaut auf Eure Handlungsmaschine und wählt dann aus. Legt kurz fest (alleine oder auf Vorschlag der Spieler), wie es zu dem Szenenübergang kommt und was die Spieler über die vergangene Zeit und den Ortswechsel wissen müssen.

Ich persönlich empfinde diese Form des Spiels als sehr befriedigend, weil ich eben meine innere Rule of Cool ausleben darf, ohne dabei die Weltsimulation zu gefährden.

### Horror in Bielefeld

I spent the last weekend at a semi-regular gaming meetup. The beauty of this thing is that while it does host more than a few dozen people, but all of them are invited known persons. Friends and family one could say.

Blechpirat and me usually use this gathering to playtest the more different games we find. This time, the candidates were Ten Candles and Bluebeard's Bride. (And then there was a Dresden Files game that was full of vengeful pirate ghosts, so the horror theme was thoroughly observed :) )

Both, Ten Candles and Bluebeard’s Bride are games where the characters can’t really win. Even more so than a Cthulhu game, where the PCs usually are at least able to avert the apocalypse for now. Both of these games will end badly, period.

Ten Candles says so very clear on the tin: When the last of the ten candles on the table is extinguished, all characters will die, no way out of it. This is a game that tries to tell a story of hope and light in the face of utter darkness and hopelessness. And it does so quite well, at least most of the time. The player characters are stranded in a sea of darkness, clinging to the light that promises survival.

The titular ten candles are actually lit on the game table. One by one they will get extinguished whenever the players fail on a dice roll. If that happens, the current scene is ended and the narrator cuts to the next one, made bleaker and less hopeful by that failed roll. But the players get to narrate facts for the next scene, one for each candle still burning. These facts can be positive, but they don’t have to…

Apart from the gimmick with the actual candles on the table, the game offers a really interesting mechanic: During character creation, you create a small stack of traits and moments. Each of these is written on a small piece of paper, and these are then actually stacked on top of each other.

Literally burning one of these will give you a small bonus, but you can only burn the one that is right on top of the stack. So the order you stack these becomes important during gameplay.

Pro-tip: If you prep for the game, hand out papers that include the prompts and the mechanic that kicks in when burning. It’s something that is easily forgotten or confused during gameplay and having it right there will surely help.

The other thing to realise, especially for the person running the game, is that at some point, most tests the players roll will fail. And failing a test will not only progress the game by ending the scene, but also make the next one even harder. So choose the moments for these tests wisely, otherwise your game will speed up towards the end on autopilot during the last four candles or so.

But those are miner nitpicks: If you like to buy in to the „everyone will die“ premise, Ten Candles is a very fine and quite atmospheric game. And even scenes that got cut short within the first 20 seconds managed to convey a good sense of bleak dread and despair, precisely by being cut off before any real hope can surface. One example of our session was when the drifting yacht briefly bumped onto the pylon of an oil rig, only to drift away into the darkness right away…

Bluebeard’s Bride is quite another kind of horror. It is more personal, even intimate. Instead of several people, the players each pick one aspect of the Brides personality. During character creation they establish how the Bride thinks and feels and the narrator (called Groundskeeper by the game) is encouraged to mine these things, to use them against the Bride.

It is described as „feminine horror“, and it does indeed focus heavily on themes that are stereotypically feminine: How to cope with societies body standards, views on sexuality or body autonomy. Yes, these are sexist themes, but the point is to come to grips with that sexism, to see unfairness of it escalate into horror.

As Ten Candles, this is also a game where most of the story and challenges have to be created ad hoc during gameplay. And as the aim is to tailor these parts to the players, to address the things that make them shiver, I find it even more challenging with Bluebeard’s Bride to do so. It helps if one has a collection of set pieces at hand and the rulebook gives you plenty of examples and prompts.

Personally, I found it surprisingly hard to populate Bluebeard’s mansion with NPCs. The rooms were easy, but adding people into that creepy room, people that add to it instead of taking attention away was.. difficult. In the end, there was about a handful of them scattered through the house. As a result, the players didn’t get to make some of the moves, simply because there were less people to interact with.

Still, the game gives excellent prompts to add horror to basically any aspect of the setting and I got to see the players shiver a lot.

### Crowdfunding and me…

For a bit over 5 years, I’m more or less regularly participating in Crowdfunding campaigns. Most of the stuff is geeky technology or gaming things, but there were also art, music or fashion projects.

Kickstarter alone counts 89 successfully backed projects. Of those, these actually failed to deliver anything to me so far. (By that, I mean that I have actually given up any hope of receiving any useable product, to the point where I don’t expect to get anything at all):

• "Pulse" Fudge dice ($15) The concept looked nifty enough. Alas, the creator apparently misjudged the difficulties of dealing with overseas manufacturers and eventually just gave up and disappeared. Sad, but really a not much of a loss. I kinda feel bad for the chap as I got the impression that he really tried. • Spinward Traveller TV Pilot ($15) Another fifteen bucks I won’t see again. The campaign spammed me with adverts to buy model space ships for further financing, showed me some badly edited scenes (apparently all actual filming got finished at last) and then amused me with links to pages where someone really got a hate-boner for the creator about allegedly constantly scamming potential TV production investors. I don’t know about that, at least something got done as far as I know…
• MagNeo Adapter (\$59) I am a bit upset about this one. It was supposed to deliver a mag-safe like USB-C adapter, but nothing has arrived so far at my doorstep and those who did receive something report that it’s shoddy and useless. The after-campaign updates suggest that the creators just ran into way more manufacturing problems than they expected, so instead of bad faith, I just ran into a bit of incompetency — which is always a risk with crowdfunding campaigns.
• Intelligent Security Camera Cover (35 CHF) Ah.. this looked so easy and foolproof, but it got endlessly delayed and is now being shipped at an agonisingly slow rate — if at all. Hope Xavier had a nice time skiing. Yes, I strongly suspect a scam here, especially as there was an companion Indiegogo campaign and the creator netted half a million in all and now keeps complaining about lack of funds…

So… that is about 130 loss out of over 6.000 Euro I sank into crowdfunding over the years. About 2%, not too bad if I look at it that way.

Of course, there were also a few campaigns that only sort of delivered. I got the product, and it does what it says on the tin, but not well enough to be actually useable. (I'm looking at you, Lima.)

All in all, I’m pretty relaxed about crowdfunding by now though. There are a few projects that just take way longer than I ever expected, but the creators keep updating, explaining and communicating with their backers, so I’m not really worried. And projects like Matter, Secret Hitler, Scythe, Kung Fury and wonders like The Wrylon Robotical Illustrated Catalog of Botanical 'Bots really made the whole crowdfunding experience fun and rewarding for me. And how else would a project like the IT Barrier Tape come to life?

### Terrifying German Culture Hour — Advertising

A while ago, I explained how we have fewer adbreaks here in german TV. Of course, we cought up a bit over the years, but it’s still a socialist paradise in comparison. But there is also of course a distinct… german-ness to the ads I was seeing as a kid and young adult. Even when these ads were supposed to take place in a big city in the USA:

I, and probably a lot of my german friends were utterly convinced that this is America. Cars, cool people, sunshine, car telephones, the works. Nothing in this ad struck me as anything but American.

Boy was I wrong. My girlfriend insisted that all the US kids were constantly weirded out by this odd german ad. How can this be? Nothing german ever makes it across the pond, right? Well, I went to the Internet and found out that this is indeed a work by  Pahnke & Partners. („Pahnke“ being such a cliché german name, I still think it must be a subsidy of Pahlgruber & Söhne)

Still, we also had ads that were much more distinctively german. They then mangled Mozart for fun and profit (with very subjective measures of fun):

And yes, every brand needs it’s distinctive jingle, here’s the one for Lagnese ice cream:

(„Nogger“ is, by the way, named after it’s nougat core. Pop culture germany was and often still is ignorant when it comes to how to handle race issues. That slogan roughly translates to „get a Nogger on“, and it still boggles my mind.)

At least, that song got a country makeover to make it better:

Eventually though, german advertisers cought on and some brands went for.. something different.

Ever heard of „Einstürzende Neubauten“? (translates to „collapsing new buildings“) If not, here’s a sample of their work:

The lead is Blixa Bargeld, and he did amazing spots for the DIY chain Hornbach:

In case you wondered: He’s reading copytext from the stores catalog.

Later on, Hornbach goes full on feelings:

And before you doubt me, yes, germans are pretty serious about nails:

So, modern german advertising has understood how to do viral buzz. And some agencies are really good at turning a brand around.

I live in Berlin, and Berliners love to complain about the BVG, the state-owned company that runs public transit. In fact, Ton Steine Scherben, the band from a previous installment actually have a song that calls for actual revolution over not paying the tickets:

Of course, everything is relative. Aforementioned american girlfriend is happy and content that the U-Bahn here isn’t on actual fire:

But the BVG social media team has managed to turn things around. They actually run a store where you can buy various things with their trademarked seat pattern. And who wouldn’t want to wear this tanktop?

They also maintain quite the twitter feed and occasionally make even international splashes with their Youtube videos (The only line you need to understand is „Is mir egal“, which translates to „I don’t care“.):

And of course, classical music:

„Hey, JollyOrc, that is no classical music, that is.. horrible 80ies synthpop!“

Well, you’re not quite correct. This is a cover of „Ohne Dich“, one of the bigger hits during the 80ies, originally by the Münchner Freiheit:

Every german in the 80ies knew this song, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t quite a few millenials who got conceived to this..

Of course, the opening salvo for this kind of viral, very german advertising came from Edeka, an until then, solidly square supermarket chain:

Friedrich Liechtenstein is a bonafide classical actor, artist and all around cool dude. But please, pretty-please, don’t confuse him with this swiss dude:

This ad ran so often in german TV that the inevitable happened: A eurotrash music video:

### Terrifying German Culture Hour — Subversiveness

Today, I’ll tell you about the close relationship of the really popular „Schlager“ genre and, well, critical anti-establishment voices. But first, I need to take a slight detour. With cat content.

Well, cat-and-mouse content.

Regardless if you’re a german or US-american reader of this blog, you probably know Tom&Jerry. And the americans among you probably know this intro from your childhood:

If you’re a german reader, you will probably say: Hey, waitaminute… where’s the cake? The flowers? The catchy voice of Udo Jürgens?

Fear not, here it is:

See, dear american readers, german public tv thought that the original intro sequence was a little bland, lacking a proper introduction of what we should expect from the show. So they cut a little sequence together and added the refrain from one of the songs of the (actually austrian) national treasure Udo Jürgens: „Vielen Dank, für die Blumen“ (Thank you for the flowers)

Now, the refrain is basically a flowery reaction of someone who’s just been handed a shit sandwich. Or generally is coping with bad news the best way one can. In the end, it’s a really catchy tune that everyone of my generation associates with wacky cat-and-mouse animations. And the musical style of is very much a prime example of what a bourgeoisie-supporting Schlager should be. It’s comforting, it talks about inconsequential worries, lost love..

and, of course, Heimat:

(Nitpickers will tell me that Heino should be labelled Volksmusic, but frankly, he’s Volksmusik-dressed Schlager)

What we were missing from the Tom&Jerry intro were the whole lyrics of the same song. Because the individual verses tell the story of how & why said shit sandwich was being delivered in the first place: Trying to seduce the boss’s secretary — get fired! Trying to pick up the loveliest girl in the bar — who turns out to have a deep bass voice and is named „Dieter“. (sadly, casual trans- and homophobia was still a thing in the 70ies) Here’s the full thing, complete with musical cartoon sound effects:

Which brings us finally back to the topic of today: Subversiveness. Good art nearly always has a good heap of that in it, and Schlager is no exception to that, even though a lot of people miss this.

Here’s another song by Udo:

Even without speaking german, you’ll pick up bits & pieces like „New York“, „Hawaii“, „Jeans“ and so on. This song is about a father who walks out after dinner to pick a cigarettes, only to realize that… life is boring, and he never did something extraordinary. Why not just leave the wife and kids, see the world, never come back?

In the end, he just buys those cigarettes from a vending machine around the corner and gets back inside, through the staircase full of stuffiness and the smell of floor polish, to watch Dalli Dalli with the family.

Or that song called Greek Wine, which is chock full of sirtaki and happy-but-just-so-slightly melancholic:

If you’re at a party in germany, with people older than 40, this will be played. And everyone will love it and be happy about it.

Except it’s about the dilemma of foreign guest workers. Germany invited those into germany after WWII, because gee, somehow a large portion of the german men were either dead, prisoners of war or too shellshocked to be of any practical use. Those workers were at once both welcomed but also resented and had a very hard time to integrate into german society, constantly longing for their home, but also knowing that they are kinda stuck in Germany. It’s a song that addressed a very real problem that is still being felt right now, several decades later.

And even though very few of those happy drunken people at that party next to you, shouting „Griechischer Weeeeeiiin!“ at the top of their lungs think about that sad fact, it still gets through to them, at least sometimes.

If that isn’t subversive, I don’t know what is.

As another example, but in a different genre, take Rio Reiser, one of the great intellectuals of german music:

This is a song about all the silly things he’d do if he were King of Germany. There’s the champagne for breakfast, having a birthday party every day, putting his favourite show on TV 24/7. But there’s also biting Ronny (Reagan) into the leg, abolishing the military, heartfelt critique of some parts of german public tv, and so on.

When he performed with his band Ton Steine Scherben, things got a bit more on the nose: No Power for No One!

• current vice president of the german parliament Claudia Roth was their manager
• „Keine Macht für Niemand“ is a recurring headline to be used whenever there’s a row between politicans
• You remember that axe-on-table thing from the installment about Shows? That was Nikel Pallat, one of the bands singers..

Still, König von Deutschland is another one of those songs drunken germans will scream at you during parties. So be prepared.

Oh, and before you leave: Heino is still around, although he adjusted his style just a tiny bit

I’d dub this the best cover of Paloma, but then, there's still these two boys from saxony

### Bob and the Internet

This is the story of Bob: Bob is active in her chosen field, which exposes her to some wider audience. As Bob does things that people value, she has a podium on which to speak and she uses it to some effect.

Alas, Bob has a problem. For some reason, some folks don’t like her. Where she posts, there are often arguments, accusations of some kind, to the point where people publicly get into (verbal) fights about the perceived innocence or guilt of Bob and others.

Bob of course defends herself, and friends of hers join in, calling those out who deal in reprehensible behaviour. She makes a convincing case that she is the victim here, and gets increasingly vocal about it over time.

Eventually, friends become enemies, communities splinter and sometimes even the police needs to get involved when some people cross lines into doxxing, actual death threats or worse.

Poor Bob, you probably think.

But maybe we should take a dispassionate look at Bob. We may find that sometimes, she is either completely on the defence. Mostly though, Bob is doing full-on attacks on those who have slighted her.

For her, people are apparently either useful, background noise or, well, enemies. And once you are her enemy, or are not immediately distancing yourself from those enemies, Bob will remember you forever.

Occasionally, Bob will admit to err on factual things, but she certainly is always right in her assessment of interpersonal relations. And yes, she is the undoubtedly the victim here, because, have you seen what Steve did?

If a situation escalates, it is never Bobs fault. If people cry foul, they are harassers. If they want to have no part of the drama, they are enablers. If someone on her side oversteps some line, it is their fault, certainly not Bobs for inciting them.

Still poor Bob?

Look up the vocabulary that describes an Abuser. You will find terms like Gaslighting. Victim Playing, DARVO, Stalking, Belittling, Controlling who is allowed to talk with whom.. If you’re online, you will also find all the rhetoric tricks too: Hiding behind technicalities, ad hominem attacks, Whataboutism and so on.

Bob portrays all the quality of a narcissistic, highly abusive person.

There are many Bobs online, and I am often not sure if they are simply broken persons or just plain evil.

Before I get to know a Bob, I usually assume that she simply has problems parsing emotions through text, that I didn’t make my point or argument clear enough. Because I have that problem myself: Often enough, I don’t know how the other person wanted me to perceive them, what they really wanted to say.

Online interactions are often fleeting or brief. That means that I miss a half-sentence or misread things. English isn’t my first language, and often enough, I converse with people who are also non native english speakers. So I allow for a wide range of misinterpretations, attribute to human error what could also be malice.

Sadly enough, that plays right into Bobs hand, reinforcing the notion that she is blameless, and everyone else is wrong. Bob sits secure in her perfect perch, and laps up the attention she receives, slowly ruining the online life of others.

Don’t give in to the Bobs. Resist that. Stop interacting with them, even when they bait you to it. It is hard. It can be very painful. And you do not have to stay in an online place where a Bob resides. We don’t owe a Bob anything at all.

But we do owe the community we want to live in. Identify the Bobs in there and then make it clear that they need to demonstrate a willingness and effort to be civil, to be polite and to be mindful of how others perceive their voice — or they will be shunned and shut out.

Do not ask Alice to “make up with Bob, for the sake of the community”. This will allow Bob to further mess with Alice. In the end, Alice will have only the option of more suffering from Bob, or to leave the community that continues to allow Bobs presence.

And above all: Don’t give any attention to the Bobs. It’s what they want, what feeds their ego. It should of course be positive attention, but they don’t actually care if it is negative, so long as it keeps their ego fed.

So don’t.

Identify the Bobs. Explain them the rules. And shun them (and only them) when it becomes apparent that they won’t change.

### Warum verschwindet der Link von meinem Kommentar?

In der letzten Zeit, und auf verschiedenen Blogs und Foren in denen ich involviert bin, trudeln Kommentare ein, die auf den ersten Blick hilfreich und on-topic ausschauen. Ihnen gemeinsam ist aber:

• sie tauchen in recht alten Beiträgen auf
• sie enthalten einen Link auf eine Seite, die im Endeffekt ein Sammelsurium von Amazon-Partnerlinks zu einer Produktkategorie ist.

Das Geschäftsmodell ist klar: Man erstellt eine Seite die mittels SEO überdurchschnittlich gefunden wird, wenn jemand nach einer bestimmten Sorte Spiele o.ä. sucht. Wer die Seite dann hat, und das Spiel will, klickt dann auf Amazon, kauft, und der Seitenbetreiber bekommt eine Provision.

Soweit so fair, aber meine Seiten haben nun einmal keine Werbung, und die zwei (in Zahlen: 2)  Male, wo ich ein Produkt zur Rezension zugeschickt bekommen habe, habe ich das kenntlich gemacht. Wer aber einfach meine Seiten als SEO-Optimierung verwenden will.. nö. Egal wieviel Mühe Ihr Euch bei der Formulierung der Kommentare gebt.

### Terrifying German Culture Hour — Country AND Western

To understand the following, you have to keep in mind that basically all germans for several generations have grown up with the stories of the brave and noble apache chief Winnetou, and his friend Old Shatterhand. The german author Karl May penned those, claiming they were the novelized diaries of his travels of the wild west — while never having left german soil.

Then 1945 the GIs came in and were eventually seen as saviours, so everything America was simply the best.

So we got us french hearthrob actor Pierre Brice to perform the very same role of the noble indian. (And from the point of view of my ten year old self, this is of course not racist or wrong in any way. Yeah, ten-year-old me was kinda stupid.)

Thankfully, at some point even us germans realized how wrong this was and instead decided to parody the whole thing:

So, aside from the movies, country & western music actually has quite a fan following in Germany.Of course, we initially needed it to be translated, and, well, germanized:

But soon enough, real german country bands showed up and we made things our own, especially once we figured out that country music can be coupled with trucks:

Yes, this is a song about someone driving 120 pigs to Beirut. Why? No one knows…

Truck Stop is, for better or worse, the german country band. They have songs about doing the Osnabrück-Hamburg run in one day, how to survive a night-run without Dave Dudley on the radio, why fishing is so damn relaxing, and, oh, how to be a cop in the big city:

If, while watching this, you’re in the vicinity of a german who’s a Fischkopp (a fishhead, as those who are from the northern parts of the country are happily calling themselves), you will notice at least a slight humming along, if not outright singing.

This is because this song, „Big City Beat“, is the title song for a TV series portraying the day-to-day encounters of two police officers who patrol the more earthier parts of Hamburg. The tone is down-to-earth, the pacing relaxed, and the protagonists at the same time cosmopolitan and grounded salt-of-the-earth locals.

If you don’t understood the dialogue, here’s the summary: He’s telling her why he’s on this beat now. Because he didn’t play along to racial profiling and abuse of a different fellow officer. And the actor, Jan Fedder is someone you really want to like. Here’s him in a talk show, singing a traditional Hamburg folk song. Yes, this talk show is habitually being taped in an actual bar, and yes, everyone is chugging alcohol.

He’s a bit older these days, and the perfect yokel.

And yes, folkys yokels are the same everywhere. So people make fun of them:

The singer is Stefan Raab,a former butcher you started out as a VJ, who occasionally regularly made fun of things. And yes, this is the same band as in a few videos back.

Still, Stefan is a special kind of musical genius, who can genre-hop like no other.

(the genre he’s lampooning here is „Volksmusik“. The closest equivalent would be Country, but it most certainly is not that. But that will be another installment of this blog series.)

He habitually reworked Germanys Funniest Home Videos into the summer smash hit of uh.. who cares. But this here highlights very aptly the difficulties everyday germans have when trying to adapt to foreign music.

But the true road to greatness was paved by Stefan Raabs contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest. You might have heard about that, by John Oliver:

Germany used to be represented by things like this:

Things got a teensy bit more tedious in the 90ies:

(The Eurocats still perform regularly on cruise ships)

And the other european nationalities used to send similar candidates. For decades! In the end, fewer and fewer people watched the contest. Stefan Raab thought that someone should do something, so he produced THIS:

Yes, we ran with that, while everyone else was still doing this, this or that. Yes, Eurotrash is a word. Eventually Stefan decided to run himself, so we progressed to…

The finns accepted the challenge and eventually things escalated a bit, and now the Eurovision Song Contest is the camp fest that John Oliver so loved to be confused about:

Thanks Stefan!

PS: At some point, we understood how to do Country. Really:

and yes, we brought Country to the European Song Contest:

(thanks to Jan for reminding me of this!)

### Terrifying German Culture Hour: Think of the Children!

If you ever looked at one of these Buzzfeed lists like „10 dark original endings of Disney princesses“ or similar things, you certainly know that european, and especially german fairy tales are dark. Gloomy, doomy, dark.

You might know of old-school things like the Struwwelpeter: An educational book that was supposed to scare kids straight, so they won’t suck on thumbs anymore:

Right, stop sucking on that thumb, or some tailor will come and SNIP THEM OFF!

And yes, a lot of the fairy tales end with people being seriously dismembered, tortured or just dead. To be fair though, a bunch of them aren’t actually german.

But also more recent kids books contain, let’s say, disturbing elements. Take Krabat. A story about a boy getting apprenticed at a spooky mill, where the boys learn true black magic, from a miller that serves the devil or at least Death himself!

(unsurprisingly, this book by Ottfried Preussler is purported to be one of Neil Gaimans favourite scary stories for children.)

But Ottfried Preussler also wrote slightly more cheerful things. One beloved work is „The Robber Hotzenplotz". To understand this though, you need to understand who Kasperl is.

Before we got the Muppet show on TV in germany, we had Kasperletheater, the hopelessly german variant of the Punch & Judy show. Instead of Punch, we have Kasperle and he isn’t a violent anti-hero but more of a friendly trickster archetype. As a whole, Kasperletheater is set up to instill kids with a sense of morality and to respect societies norms.

Schoolvisits of the „Polizeikasper“ aren’t uncommon: A friendly police officer comes along with the well-known handpuppets to introduce the kids on the correct ways to brave traffic with their bike.

The Robber Hotzenplotz is such a theatre, put into literary form. The infamous robber with the name „Hotzenplotz“ sets out to steal grannies coffee mill (by accident he kidnaps granny as well) and has to be stopped by Kasperle, by any means necessary!

Such an epic plot needs to be put into a movie. And simple hand puppets won’t do this justice, so.. we need… string puppets!

String puppets shows, all produced by the Augsburger Puppet Box have been a fixture of children’s TV in germany for a few generations now. If a german comedian starts walking funny, as if held upright by strings, this is what they’re referring to.

The Puppenkiste has produced many a beloved story, be it about a freshly hatched dinosaur..

a wish-fulfilling creature that only appears if you stick to a specific plan for 7 days straight..

a cat with a hat (!)…

and.. a small black boy who is best friends with a steam train driver on a tiny island: „Jim Knopf & Lukas der Lokomotivführer“. Here’s the intro, pay attention, there will be a quiz:

As with all the other examples above, the basic appearance is quaint, provincial with a tiny bit of disturbing added in. Nearly all the stories happen in small towns, and everything is of small scale. What makes this noteable, is that the story has been penned by Michael Ende, probably known to you for the Neverending Story, so, yes, this heartbreaker:

But back to more cheerfully Jim Knopf. Knopf means „button“, and he’s named that way because he was constantly ripping his pants, so his foster mother put a button on it, so it was easier to close up the ripped part. Yes, I know, that makes no sense.

This is a vastly more cheerful and optimistic story, even though it begins with the fact that Jim Knopf is an orphan and ends with the discovery of a massive slavery operation. (Run by an ancient dragon, no less. And on the way, we’ll meet the Wild 13, a bunch of pirates, who are actually only a dozen.)

Anyway, you still have that catchy tune from the intro in your head? In case you it didn’t stuck, let me introduce you to „Dolls United“, who sampled it into Eurotrash:

And if that isn’t making you pray for the sweet release of death, here’s the MDR Fernsehballett doing a live performance (the concept of a tv station having their own permanent on-staff ballet troupe is completely normal for germans. Just saying):

(yes, this is blackfacing. In 2012. There is a way to explain that, but it won’t make anyone look actually better, so I won’t even try.)

Instead, I’ll show you a clip from The Show with the Mouse, where they explain why there’s a dent in every sausage:

### Terrifying German Culture Hour: Dinner for One

If you’ve ever spent new years eve in germany, you probably have encountered this: Dinner for One

This sketch, performed by two british variety actors (and tumblers) is a german ritual for generations by now — despite the fact that it is indeed performed in english, without any german subtitles.

Millions of germans will devote about 15 minutes sometime at new years eve to watch this clip. Slavishly. If there is no TV, modern germans will happily gather in a corner of their chosen party location, huddle around the biggest phone screen they can find and fire up YouTube.

Why?

For once, this sketch is hilarious. I mean, look at the butler stumbling over the stuffed tiger, that is solid comedic gold. And the voices he makes!

The other reason? Frankly, I have no idea. Ritual. Like the thing with the Berliner, Pfannkuchen, Kreppel, Krapfen that we insist on gobbling down at the same time. (The vast regional variety of names for food is another post. Rest assured that when ordering a Pfannkuchen, you’ll get vastly different things, depending on where you order it)

But that aside, if something is beloved, there will be copies, hommages.. remixes. One obvious thing of course is recreating it in german language. As I wrote earlier, if it is foreign tv in germany, we dub it, or, even better, remake it:

If you didn’t understand a word, even though you learned german at school, you’re forgiven. This is Kölsch, one of the many wonderful german dialects.

There’s also Bayrisch:

Fränkisch:

with well-known comedians (Miss Sophie is portrayed by the musical genius from this earlier post)

And only germans can appreciate the genius of Downfall for one:

Netflix, savvy as they are, recognized the cultural significance of Dinner for One and made a YouTube ad in this vein:

It becomes slightly problematic if someone confuses the seasons and performs this sketch during the fifth season (which is the Karneval. Another post for a later time):

And to get the german kids hooked young, we also have a version with our beloved depressed square loaf, Bernd:

### Terrifying German Culture Hour: Hip Hop

Disclaimer: Those who know this genre, please forgive me for simplifying things A LOT, and probably getting even more wrong and for certain omitting key players. This is not my music, nor my scene, and I have no clue what I’m writing about.

For quite a while, HipHop and Rap were something that had to be imported from the US. But at some point, things changed, and germans discovered that they could use their own mothertongue to make beautiful music, and to express themselves in the manner of of what they saw on american tv.

Due to demographic reasons (black people make up less than 1% of the population), a lot of this was and is still being done by people who are as white as snow.

Except, some took the thing with the mothertongue a bit too far:

That was Fettes Brot, who sing a lot in low german, their local dialect, performing their very own cover of Naughty by Nature.

At roughly the same time, another group emerged onto the scene: Die Fantastischen Vier:

Yes, these were the 90es. The FantaVier (as they got nicknamed quite fast) would stay on as the grandmasters of german Hip Hop, with a career spanning several decades.

Still, it was a glorious time where everyone and their little kid sister tried to make it big:

(one of the catchphrases in this song actually translates to „you’re a babe, I want to drink your bathwater!“. Yes, german hip hop was that gangsta)

Further up north, people were experimenting with soul and R&B:

And some of the experiments invariably included cover versions of beloved german cultural assets:

And some invariably tried to emulate their idols from „the ghetto“, but still sticked to the language they knew:

But a lot of these artists „grew up“, and became fixtures in the german music scene, with songs that were beloved for a reason. But the fondness for not-so-straight videos continued. So, the Fanta4 brought as a song full of acronyms and clever alliterations:

In the meantime, Fettes Brot sings about the hopeless love of teenage boys, hiring a marching band to illustrate the … ach, what would I know:

And then there is the plain bizarre: Bettina, please get dressed:

(In case you wonder: Bettina was the host of a late-night call-in tv game show, which exhorted people to call expensive phone numbers..)

And the guy with the ghetto ambitions? Well, he is part of 5 Stars Deluxe, and they are wonderful:

As wonderful as Seeed, with their… thing:

And to tie everything together: Here’s a grown-up Hip-Hopper with an ape marching band:

### We played Tales from the Loop

This weekend, I invited a few friends to playtest Tales from the Loop with me. I already had a first exposure to the game during the annual new years gaming bash at Spielefeld, but that was with the Alpha version, and as a player. This time I was the referee, which always is wholly different experience.

Despite having set the date two weeks in advance, I actually did only minimal preparation: One skim-read of the whole rulebook, one reading of the Mystery and..

..yes, that was it in the end. The only extra mile I went was adding small post-it bookmarks to the rulebook, so I could quickly find relevant sections during play.

(Really, I cannot recommend these things enough. Colour-coding is quite enough, no need to name them. In this case, yellow is rules and red is the Mystery. And that is really one of my main gripes with the Rulebook: The really awesome pictures are too scattered, and not easy to find when you want to show something to the players. Guess I’ll need another set of bookmarks for that.)

What really hooked me as a Gamemaster were the tenets of the game. First there are three that set the tone of the setting:

• Your home town is full of strange and fantastic things
• Everyday life is dull and unforgiving
• Adults are out of reach and out of touch

Keeping to these tenets ensures that the Mystery will feel exciting, will give the Kids a reason to investigate and get into danger. After all, adults are no help, and everything is better than this boring everyday life.

And then, this is how you should play the game:

• The land of the Loop is dangerous, but kids will not die
• The game is played scene by scene
• The world is described collaboratively

This lets the players know what is expected of them, how things will flow, and what kind of risks they can take.

Most of the players immediately got into the rules of the kids, enjoying the hot summer in sweden. They swam in the sea, agonized over the harsh decisions made by their parents („take your little brother with you!“) and generally had fun.

(By the way: It does help if your players are old enough to remember the 80ies. One of mine isn’t, and occasionally had to be reminded on what already existed and what didn’t.)

The Mystery itself was taken directly from the Rulebook, „Summer Break and Killer Birds“, and it went, as far as I am concerned really well. It seems quite linear at first glance, but it actually is akin to a sandbox: There are a few locations and NPCs, as well as a countdown of events that will happen if the kids don’t intervene. The NPCs and locations contain pointers to one or more others. If the kids follow these pointers they will invariably end up at the showdown, but it doesn’t feel scripted, and there are many different possible paths and support for a lot of freewheeling in between.

My other gripe with the rules is the Showdown / Extended Trouble concept. It is very similar to the Wrap-Up in Leverage, but Tales from the Loop isn’t as meta as Leverage, so it the Extended Trouble sticks out a bit mechanically. The general idea is that the Gamemaster sets a threat level and then all the kids have to roll a skill check – if the total number of sixes is equal to or higher than that threat level, they win. What exactly they roll for is determined by the narration, and then the die rolls tell you how exactly they won (or lost).

It works, but you move a bit out of the viewpoint of the kids doing it, which is a shame. Still, it does work, and the resulting showdown felt rewarding enough. As rewarding as the other half of the ending was frustrating to them: In the end believed the kids anything, and instead of being lauded as heroes, they had to evade a severe scolding by several policemen!

I’m looking forward to the next session („Grown-up Attraction“) and already have made some notes on what to improve:

• Tales from the Loop benefits from aggresive scene framing by the gamemaster. You really want to make sure that the players don’t overthink things, and also have them experience the dull everyday life as a contrast occasionally.
• Having sample pictures bookmarked. Often enough you want to show off some scenery or vehicles, and having to browse through the book for that disrupts the flow
• more background 80ies music!
• I should also encourage the kids to take care of their conditions. That’ll slow them down a bit, instead of rushing from location to location. It also gives them a reason to play through their relationships and interact with adults.

### I am on Mastodon now

Those who know me, are aware that I am some sort of Hipster. As such, I of course have to be ahead of all the latest trends and topics de jour. In social media, that means that I of course need to have a Mastodon handle. In case you haven’t heard of Mastodon, here’s a short summary:

• Mastodon is a microblogging service based on GNU-Social
• Everyone can set up their own instance and then federate with other instances to create a global network
• Identities are only unique within their instance. Same as email really, where you can have the same name on several domains.

So, what makes this different than, say Identi.ca, Diaspora and similar things? For once, it already looks much more polished than Diaspora. And then it also manages to overcome quite a lot of the shortcomings that are inherent to the Twitter-clones:

• There is an expanded limit of 500 characters for each „toot“. That is wordy enough for me.
• There are two extra timelines that you can see – everyone on the same Instance and everyone else who is somehow connected to the people in your instance. That ensures that you see things happening and get connected to folks right from the start.
• The federation system gets rid of the pesky free-speech vs moderation clash. More on that later.

So, what is it with the three timelines and the federation system? The basic setup is this: You have a home timeline, which shows everything from those folks you actively follow. You can follow users on your own instance, as well as those who are on any instance that is federated with the one you’re on. That basically means everyone, unless their instance is viewed as so toxic and bad that your admin has decided to get rid of them altogether. In effect, the Home timeline is what you’re used from all the other social networks.

On top of that, you have a „Local“ timeline. That list shows all the activity from everyone who is a user on the same instance as you. This immediately shows one reason why it is important to choose the correct instance to have your account in: If the instance you join is full of gaming nerds, you will have a very different experience than if it would be full of artists or political activists.

The third timeline is the Federated one. Here you basically see everyone who isn’t local or in your home stream, but somehow connected to one of those people. Friends of a friend so to speak. The exact rules are a bit more complicated, but that is the gist of it.

I really cannot stress how useful I found these extra two timelines. While I have no idea how many people are on the same instance as I am (octodon.local, chosen because the about page is simply spot on to my worldview.),  it apparently is exactly the right size: The local stream is busy, but not too busy. And as a result, people take the time to chime into conversations there and answer open questions. On other social networks, those questions would probably either not be seen, or drowned in the sea of everything else.

Now, with every new tech project, there are of course immediate philosophical differences: One of them is the use of FollowerBots. Those are bits of software that simply follow every person on a different instance that they learn of, making sure that the activity of those people becomes visible in the instance of that bot. As an end result, the bots aim to change the behaviour of that Federated timeline from showing friends-of-friends only to showing everyone. Personally, I am not yet sure if I like this. The upside is that if this bothers you, you can for example join an instance that blocks those bots.

The other issue seems to revolve around censorship and free speech. My own stance is that you can say what you want, but not everyone is required to listen to you. And the federation system of Mastodon allows for exactly this: Everyone can set up their own instance, and everyone can give being heard a good shot. But if you spout stuff that upsets people, they can make sure that you don’t show up in their timeline.

(You should be aware though, that the whole Mastodon concept is not very privacy-oriented. There are lots of loopholes and pitfalls, and server admins can usually read everything on their instance if they absolutely want to.)

Still, the whole Federation system allows for a wide variety of needs on the whole free-speech-vs-censorship spectrum. And that allowance in turn fosters a discussion about these very things, with the results of that discussion ending up in the code and settings of the various instances. (keep in mind that the whole thing is open source after all!)

I think I’ll use Mastodon for most of my daily status update needs for a week or so now, to see where I end up with this. See the results here: JollyOrc">https://octodon.social/@JollyOrc

### Why I don’t identify as sysadmin anymore

I used to be a sysadmin. And I like to think that I was pretty good at my job. These days, my work is much more managerial with a strong emphasis on communication. The command line and I only meet occasionally, and I have to get help whenever I do something more complicated with regular expressions. Still, I apparently have retained enough skills that the Head of Cloud Operations at my current workplace occasionally says things like „oh, you can do that?“ in a positively surprised tone. But I usually do know my limits and what not to touch.

This is the story of when I failed to recognize my limits.

Knowing that I’m not an admin, this webpage resides on a server that is run by a webhosting company. They worry over security patches, uptime, sensible database configuration and so on, because I know that I’ll probably screw this up. I am allowing myself to change database tables, tinker with some of the htaccess settings and… DNS. That is one of those things that I don’t touch a lot, as there is no need for this on a daily basis.

And thus, I completely forgot about the SPF record when changing the MX entries to support my G Suite setup when I switched hosting last year. As a quick recap, let me quote Google what it’s about:

The purpose of an SPF record is to prevent spammers from sending messages with forged From addresses at your domain. Recipients can refer to the SPF record to determine whether a message purporting to be from your domain comes from an authorized mail server.

Quite the important and nifty functionality. I actually knew of it already, but didn’t realize that the new webhoster had this implemented as a standard. So while I successfully switched all the MX entries, I overlooked the SPF setting.

Alas, there are a lot of email servers that happily ignore a faulty SPF setting, even Google kept receiving emails despite the wrong setting. And you don’t really get an error message on the senders part, because no one talks back to (even only suspected) spammers. So nearly everything seemed fine: I was sending and receiving mails on a daily basis and this configuration error wasn’t discovered for nearly half a year. Only when I started to worry that one email recipient didn’t answer at all and a friend who actually is an admin looked into the matter for me.

So, the lesson here is: The Dunning Kruger effect is sometimes closer to home than you think. Whenever you do something only occasionally, maybe talk to someone who does it regularly, to make sure that technology hasn’t advanced past your own experience in the meantime. And if you use G Suite, here’s how to set the SPF correctly.

### Abenteuer. #6 ist da!

Hin und wieder bin ich ja auch produktiv fürs Fandom tätig. Selten genug, aber in den letzten Jahren kommt der geordnete Output meist über das „Abenteuer. “ Fanzine. Gespieltes Material von Fans für Fans – und eben gezielt für den nächsten Spieltisch. Mitmachen kann jeder, solange man denn zwei Peers findet, die für die Qualität geradestehen wollen.

Im Ergebnis finden sich da Beiträge, die mindestens drei Leute cool finden, und mindestens die einreichende Person hat das in der Regel sogar irgendwie schon gewinnbringend im Spiel eingesetzt. Die Beiträge reichen dann quer durch alle Genres. Natürlich ist da ein Old-School Einschlag zu spüren. Und natürlich ist das alles hoffnungslos unprofessionell, wir reden schließlich über ein (mit Liebe gemachtes) Fanzine.

Und nun, nach langer Pause, ist es wieder da: Abenteuer. #6 liegt als Print-on-Demand und PDF bereit! Und die 93 Seiten sind prall gefüllt:

• Gemüse Goul – Schlachttabelle für die Antike
Was passiert denn so auf einem antiken Schlachtfeld?
• Benjamin Förstera – Vier Talismane aus der 5. Sphäre
Vier Gegenstände als Beute, Handelsware oder McGuffin!
• Tobias Deißler – Zu Künzelsau geboren…
Knapp zu spät, aber was solls: Ein Weihnachtsabenteuer
Eine SF Setting Miszelle
• von mir – The Malitia Incident
Sexploitation Hollowpoint in den 70ern
• Paolo Greco und Harald Wagener – DAS: Finten, Kniffe & Tricks
Kampfoptionen fürs OSR DSA
• Tobias Deißler – Die Gilde der Purpurkammer in Thalassa
Eine Ortsbeschreibung
• Thomas Jetzfellner – Schlachtfeldereignisse im Blutkrieg
Wenn Teufel gegen Dämonen kämpfen…

Mein Beitrag war ursprünglich mal ein Intermezzo meiner See der Tausend Insel Kampagne, das ich vor einiger Zeit anläßlich eines Spielefeld-Kuschelcons kurzerhand weitgehend umschrieb und nach Hollowpoint konvertierte. The Malitia Incident hat dabei gleich mehrere der dort anwesenden Spieler inspiriert, sich auch Hollowpoint zuzulegen.

Wer bei der #7 mitmischen will, findet das autorenkollektiv im Disputorium auf forum.rsp-blogs.de.

### Gangs & Bullshit

One of the nicest and also to me most intriguing RPG publishers I know these days is Paolo Greco with his Lost Pages. His stuff is whimsy, well made and often bafflingly strange. Where Lamentations of the Flame Princess stuff is heavy-metal gore weird, the Cthonic Codex for example is… odd. Paranoia meets Academentia is a nice explanation for it.

Gangs & Bullshit is the baby he’s carrying now for a while. It is not really a roleplaying game, nor is it a boardgame, and it isn’t „ready“ yet by far. The closest explanation is campaign sandbox with boardgame elements. You do have characters, and you can create them with your favourite (fantasy) game system. But there will also be turns and lengthy meta-discussions where the players plan which single (big) action their characters do each week.

But what is it about, you ask me. Well, the closest literary example would be „The Lies of Locke Lamarra“ – the players have a gang that tries to make money in a city where other gangs do the same. To quote:

Bullshit is screams in the night. Bullshit is a botched job. Bullshit is a corpse found by the city guard. Bullshit is something embarrassing coming known to your enemies. Bullshit happens.

The mechanics are mostly improvisation, some random rumour and encounter roles and helping hints on how to determine what other gangs and opponents are doing.

Personally, I think this game is a blast: The Broken Benches sat in their hideout (a leaky loft) and heard that this other gang wants you to buy several boxes of their cookies. Of course, this couldn’t stand, and shortly afterwards, a bunch of girl scouts got what they had coming…

Surprisingly, this is a game that is equally suitable for the planners as well as for those who just barge into a situation to find out what’ll happen next. A good deal of time can be spent studying the city map and planning where to break in, where to set up diversions and how to handle the minotaur-dung cart. But as you do have the backup of the RPG system of your choice, you can jump into the action at any time and see how things actually turn out.

Keep your eyes peeled, and get it as soon as it is available!

### Tales from the Loop Playtest

For all of you who live under rocks: Tales from the Loop is a roleplaying game based on the retro-scifi artwork by swedish painter Simon Stålenhag.

The world portrayed are the 80ies we saw when we watched E.T. or, more recently, Stranger Things. As a result, you will be playing teenagers, or rather: Kids, somewhere between 10 and 15 years old.

We got our picks from easily relateable archetypes: The Computer Geek, the Rocker, the Popular Kid, the Hick and of course the Jock. They don’t get any custom skills like you might expect from games that are Powered by the Apocalypse but instead have slightly different sets of background notes and relationships.

The fun part is that the rules really drive home the idea that you’re playing kids. For starters, there are no combat rules at all, a fact that I actually only realized when the game was over and someone else mentioned it. Rather consequently, the kids can’t die either. Damage is caused by pushing ones limit and handled with an abstract set of conditions that are mechanically shed whenever you take a moment of timeout in a safe space.

As a result, you really get thrown into the kids mindset, even though some of the skills seem to be too broad or too narrow in name and definition, with a confusing overlap at some points. But that is not too bad – unlike the pool system: Nothing is more frustrating than throwing buckets of D6 and not getting a single success (which only sixes count as those).

Anyway: We opted for slightly older kids in the 13 to 14 year old range and had a blast. The kids spied on a scientist, camped on an island, played spin-the-bottle, nearly got torpedoed by a submarine and finally had to tell the truth to adults (which was a believably scary thing!)

If you know the teenager books like The Famous Five, TKKG and similar fare, you’ll feel right at home.

### Velvet Glove testspielen

Beim Spielefeld Treffen dieses Jahr hat Karsten uns durch sexploitation-female-empowerment Sleaze der 70er geleitet. So angeflasht ich von der Idee war, so schwierig war das dann aber in der Durchführung: Das Genre ist breiter als man denken mag, und das Regelwerk ist sich da auch nicht ganz einig:

• soll man Schulmädchen oder echte toughe Gangmember spielen?
• geht es um Gewalt, oder soll diese wirklich vermieden werden?
• Irgendwie lese ich die Regeln so, dass man eigentlich Sex unbedingt vermeiden will – aber gleichzeitig immer „the goods“ einsetzen sollte.

## Mal ein Beispiel: Kämpfen

Ein Kampf besteht aus ein oder zwei Würfen: Einmal, um zu schauen, ob man die Oberhand hat. Im besten Fall (10+ mit 2D6) kommt man da  nur mit einem Kratzer raus. In der Regel kann die Gegnerin Euch aber noch ordentlich aufmischen – und dann muss man einen Rettungswurf machen.

Da ist dann der beste Fall, dass man mit einer coolen Narbe davonkommt, im schlimmsten Fall ist man tot und in der Regel wirklich schwer verletzt und ohne sofortige medizinische Hilfe dann eben auch tot.

Die einzige Chance hier ist, wenn der Kampf von vornherein als „nicht gefährlich“ eingestuft wurde und man ordentlich Unterstützung dabei hat. Ansonsten.. ist die Statistik schlicht gegen einen. Was ok ist, aber irgendwie auch nicht mein Bild von 70er Gang-Filmen ist. Da darf sich gezofft werden, und es soll auch mal gefährlich sein.

Aber wenn Regeln einem nahelegen, dass die eigene Figur jederzeit draufgehen kann, dann spielt man nicht fast & loose.

## Noch ein Beispiel: Sex & Sleaze

Es gibt einen Move “Use the goods”. Und der ist verwirrenderweise gar nicht dazu da, um Leute zu verführen, sondern um zu vermeiden, dass der Kerl sich mehr nimmt, als man geben will.

## Fazit

Insgesamt bietet Velve Glove schon einen Einstieg in die Welt des 70er Sleaze. Allerdings sind die Regeln an vielen Stellen unerwartet gegen einen und setzen meiner Meinung nach die falschen Akzente. Die Runde war schön gemischt, und sowohl die Männer als auch die Frauen hatten ordentlich Spaß – aber schon eher trotz der Regeln, nicht dank ihnen.

Oder wir haben das Genre einfach noch nicht gegrokt – bei DTR gibt es ja durchaus freundliche Reviews, die meine Kritikpunkte als Stärken darstellen.

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