Chatter #62: April 1, 2002

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM


I'm feeling a bit odd today; sort of at loose ends, a bit lost. So of course what else to do but write here?

I haven't played in a very long time, and I haven't GMed for years. And yet I was quite a good GM. I wonder if I still am? If I still have it? Will I ever get the chance again? I suppose I will, someday, but I don't know for certain. Perhaps once Sebastian is older I'll GM for him (and his or my friends), but I have a hard time visualizing that. Probably because I can't see him as anything other than the incredibly cute almost-toddler that I woke up this morning.

I just found the work-in-progress document of Fear The Night. Alas, it's not ready; maybe it never will be. The main document itself needs to be finished, and there are several maps that should be included; only one of those has even been started. I have the maps fairly clear in my mind, but unfortunately my mapmaking skills are lacking. I could make the maps, but would have to make up for my lack of skill with large investments of time—something I just don't have these days.

I'm tempted to stick the whole thing up on the site even incomplete. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I'll continue to write Chatter and add to the Chaos Project when ideas hit me. Who knows? Perhaps someday I'll move closer to Boston, or will form a gaming group in the Rhode Island area. We'll see.


Okay. It's home again. The TV add-on card is installed, and the main hard drive from my old system has been installed as a slave—giving me access to all of my old email and addresses, as well as Teri's, and a lot of other stuff too. That part is good.

What's not so good is that the TV card is mono, not stereo—the All-In-Wonder had full stereo, and even (I think) Dolby. This is the cheapest card made by the Hauppage company. I don't suppose that there's anything I can do about that, but I'm not pleased.

Another thing that's not good is that I tried to hook up the digital camera last night, and no matter what I did I could NOT get the computer to recognize its presence. I don't know why. I tried every COM port without success. I'll keep trying tonight.

So all in all...I made the wrong decision, but I'll just have to live with it. Next time I'll go with PC's for Everyone.

Diablo II

One good thing about the new system is Diablo II. As I mentioned last time, I've been playing it quite a bit...considering that it's hard to find time, that is. There are some interesting things about the game, though.

For one thing, it seems to need a lot of patches. When I installed Diablo II, it took about five minutes (really) to load! Likewise for exiting the program, it took several minutes. This seemed excessive since my system was supposedly WAY overpowered for the program, and it turned out my suspicion was correct: a patch from Blizzard made it open and close quite quickly.

Then came issue number two: I bought the expansion for the game (Diablo II: Lord of Destruction), and that needed a patch, too! After I installed it, all of my old Diablo II characters disappeared. I was mildly annoyed, since one of them represented quite a few hours of playing. I posted a desperate cry for help to Usenet, and was pointed to the patch. It worked, but I've decided to stay with a new sorceress character anyway. Now that I know a bit more about the game I can avoid some of the mistakes I made before.

Speaking of the D2:LOD expansion, it's definitely worthwhile. There are a lot more types of objects and magic items, and it's possible to view a considerably larger area. The "stash" is much bigger too, making it possible to keep many more gems and potions in reserve for conversion with the Horadric Cube. That last change just makes sense to me; it always seemed silly that you could keep less stuff in a chest left in base camp than you could on your person.

Sebastian Spinning

Easter was nice; Teri and I and her mother went up to my parents' home for dinner (my Mom made a really good French meat pie), and then took Sebastian over to a pretty little park. We put him in a baby-swing there and pushed him; he LOVED it! He's a smiler anyway, but even for him he did a lot of smiling and laughing on the swing. I have it on videotape, fortunately.

I woke up this morning and went to check on the baby. That's always fun; he's a very mobile sleeper (not unlike his father), and is almost never in the same position in the crib. Today was a first, though, even for him: he'd thrown the covers off and completely reversed himself! His head was where his feet had been, and his feet were right up against the side of the crib in the direction his head had been when we'd laid him down to sleep the night before.

He had a flap of the quilt in his hand and was toying with it, but his eyes were closed and he seemed to be asleep; I didn't wake him, but he looked so cute that I grabbed the video camera and filmed him for a minute. Then I went off to get ready to leave for work.

About fifteen minutes later I checked in on him again—I could hear him talking to himself in his clear little baby voice. To my amazement the scene in the crib had changed considerably. Where my baby had been was now a huge mound of cloth; he'd pulled the blanket and quilt on top of himself in a huge round heap. Only his lower legs and right hand stuck out, while he calmly kept talking under the blanket. I have no idea what he was thinking, but it was very cute.

He tends to clam up when he sees a phone or camera (although he also often smiles for the camera—again, I'm not really sure why, but I'm not complaining), so I decided it would be a good idea to catch his baby talk on video while he couldn't see me. I grabbed the camera, and got a few minutes of Sebastian's philosophy on tape before he flipped the covers off his face and smiled at me.

There are so many wonderful moments with him! It makes me a little sad to think that I can't possibly remember every one of them. But at least I'll have the videos and this page years from now to remember my little baby by—even when he's all grown up.

From the Out Box

I'm way behind in my emails; in fact, I'd like to apologize right now to everyone I owe a response to. It's hard to find much time, and when I do I often end up working on an installment of Chatter instead. But sometimes when I'm working on correspondence I get in a "zone" and start writing a huge amount of advice and instructions. Some of that stuff might be useful (or at least mildly interesting) to others, so here are a couple of recent emails, edited at bit of course:

The Basic RuneQuest Project

A correspondent wrote to ask about copyright issues vis the Basic RuneQuest online pamphlet. My response:

It's a gray area which has never been litigated, to the best of my knowledge. As far as I know it's not possible to trademark or copyright a roleplaying system, only the specific language used in a published work. So in theory if we were to write the whole thing in our own words it would be acceptable.

There are two additional issues, though: one is that it's hard to describe many elements of the system without using the same language. The other is the issue of specific names, such as "Fireblade" for example. I've seen attempts to actually rename everything in a system, in which case "Fireblade" might be called "SwordFlame" (for example), but that pretty much defeats the purpose of allowing users to easily use old RQ supplements.

I should note that I'm not a copyright lawyer, by the way.

When it comes down to it, the real point is this: RuneQuest is a small game now, with a small potential audience, and Hasbro is very unlikely to notice or care. If we were to do something stupid like actually scan the published rulebook and put it up online they might have to take action—although even then, it seems unlikely that they'd ever find out about it or care—but the odds are that if the pamphlet is written up in new language, and doesn't cover every single possible rule, and encourages the reader to buy the official rules, no one will ever care. Unless RQ starts seriously cutting into the AD&D market, and I just don't see that happening—do you? Incidentally, I've recently heard that Hasbro is selling off a lot of their old RPG properties. My home computer is in the shop now, so I can't write to the RQ-Rules list, but people may want to get together and make an offer.

Promoting A Website

A family member wrote to ask about an unsolicited email he'd received offering to post a website he's associated with to a thousand search engines for $30. Was it a legitimate offer? My response:

No, it's a scam. As a strict rule I NEVER accept any unsolicited offer or advertisement that I get via email. They're all scams. It's easy to submit a site to search engines yourself, and the results are much better.

For example, I'm number one in my category on some search engines and in the top ten on almost all of them, and I've never spent money to get there. Beyond that, any search engine that accepts money to give you a better listing is by definition not worth the money. How useful can they be to searchers if all they indicate is which sites throw away their money? The best and most popular search engines do not accept money.

But in any case, the people making this offer are probably just going to do the following: take your basic information, put it into any number of free automated submission forms online, pocket your money, and sell your email address to hundreds of other spammers as a good "sucker". Ironically, the cookie-cutter submission techniques they use will actually hurt, not help, the site's standing on most reputable search engines.

Here's how to get the site well-listed:

  1. Make it the best site possible. That means adding original content as often as you can.
  2. Network. Find other sites with similar or related interests, and link to them. Email the site owners and ask if they will link to you. They're more likely to do so if there's content on your site that they feel will be useful to their own readers, so we're back to #1 again.
  3. Network again. In addition to web sites, there may be newsgroups that are relevant to the site. The easy way to find such groups is to go to (which is the Google search engine's portal to newsgroups) and do a search. Also, major portal sites such as Yahoo may have relevant groups. BUT it's important to read all discussion groups for a while before participating or advertising your site. Some people are very hostile to advertising on the internet (I'm one of them), and in any case it's rude to simply walk into an area (metaphorically speaking) and immediately start advertising. The best approach is to get involved in appropriate online discussions, with a small tag at the end of your messages advertising your site. You'll see an example of a couple of mine at the end of this message. Later, once you've established your bona fides, you can post occasional announcements about additions to your site—which is the most effective way to reach the people who will be interested in your site.
  4. Once #1 is completed, you can start submitting your site to search engines. Most have their own specific formats, but there are a few things which it is good to have on hand, saved in a file for quick copying and pasting:

A) A list of keywords which apply to the site. List the most important ones first, so if you have to truncate the list (there are varying limits to the number of characters you can input) the most important ones will still be there.

B) 100, 200, and 250-character descriptions of the site. Here's an example of one of my 250-character descriptions: "A huge site: scenarios, art, NPCs, character sheets, help sheets, rules, an online game, hundreds of chaos features, found items, & magic items (you can add your own), old zines, quizzes, polls, select links, much more. For RuneQuest and ALL fantasy RPGs!" Once you start this process it's a good idea to keep a list of which engines you've submitted to. It's also helpful to check them every so often to determine your standing and make sure that you're still listed.

By the way, more than one person can work on the submitting and promoting project at a time, of course. In fact, it's a good idea. You just want to make sure not to duplicate efforts, because some search engines eliminate sites which are submitted more than once.

This turned out to be longer than I expected! I hope it's not too much. There's more, of course, and I will be glad to help. Just don't forget that you should NEVER buy from any advertisement that is emailed to you! It just encourages them, and will ruin your privacy. Don't forget to look below to see examples of my "sig" (signature) which promote my site.

Peter Maranci               [email protected]           Woonsocket, RI
Pete's RuneQuest & Roleplaying! Adventures, art, an online game, NPCs,
magic items, sheets, rules & much more:

Peter Maranci             [email protected]             Woonsocket, RI
Come to Pete's RuneQuest & Roleplaying!:

Oh, I should make it VERY clear that I hold all email sent to me in strict confidence; I won't use anything that anyone writes to me without their permission, and generally I don't use it at all. Well, honesty compels me to admit that one time I did post something to Usenet that someone emailed me, but that was during a huge fight with Factsheet 5, a magazine that claimed to review 'zines but turned out...well, let it go. Except to say that one of the editors wrote to me privately and admitted that they'd reviewed Interregnum without actually reading it, and then later attacked me quite savagely on alt.zines for supporting someone else who'd been treated the same way. I pointed out his hypocrisy and when he made the attack personal, I posted a relevant excerpt from his correspondence.

It was a stupid battle, anyway. To my amazement they actually printed a review calling me a "whiney (sic) little asshole"! They obviously had never seen me, because I haven't been called little since...well, ever (I look like an American football player gone somewhat to seed). Perhaps it isn't surprising that Factsheet 5 eventually ceased publication.

Anyway, to repeat: your email is safe with me.

April Fool

The April Fool is that...uh...there is no April Fool. Surprise!

Hi, Lois!

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So what do you think?

[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: April 15, 2002. version 1.0