Saturday, August 22, 2015

Going Off the Rails – Part Three

In the last post, I described a player created assassin named Bloodless Jack. He sprang from the character’s minds fully formed and all I had to do was give him a character sheet and a band of minions. The players even gave him a very cool name. Somehow, minor details of a handful of traps inspired them to create a character out thin air. And he was so epic, I had to make him real.
I decided that he had two types of minions, one group of sword slinging fighters for security and targeted attacks and a second group of cleric-rogues for sneaky infiltration type work. Bloodless Jack would have a chief of operations, a warrior named Marcus Bastion. A nice strong name for someone who handles front line fighting and defense. 
How these two met in my mind was very natural. They were brothers. Bloodless Jack and Marcus Bastion. Everything makes sense… Wrong. 
Of course, it’s wrong. Brothers would never have different last names; Jack is as stupid a last name as Bloodless is a stupid first name. I completely understood that, so Bloodless Jack was obviously a nickname. And a character/player created nickname.

Obvious. Or so I thought.
Bloodless Jack, or just plain Alexander Bastion launches ambushes, targeted assassinations and finally outright treason to topple the crown prince for fame and glory.
So when the characters cornered Marcus and his brother in an attack on the crown prince, they asked:
“Which one of you is the assassin known as ‘Bloodless Jack’?”
Alex and his brother Marcus chuckled. The follow up question, “Who lead this attack?” was also met with a snort of derision as Marcus was suited in full plate and obviously leading the assault.
Marcus went down fighting… and upon his defeat was outed as the deadly assassin know to all as “Bloodless Jack”.
And thus, “Bloodless Jack” was truly born. Alex rallied his and his brother’s minions and relentlessly attacked the characters at every turn. An epic battle to the death, fought in back alleys and shadowy corners of dozens of towns, across an kingdom, all the way to the brother’s mountain top enclave.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Going Off the Rails – Part Two

Player inventions… How many times have you had a player try to invent something and complete throw a campaign into chaos?
Many years ago, I was running a campaign that had too many rogues to be well rounded. There was not much need for traps in this world, they only came in three varieties:
Noise making traps on homes,
Animal traps,
Generic fortification defenses.
Being made up of thieves, the party kept checking for traps where there were none. Since it was a point of interest for them, and one player rolled very well, I decided that a box did have a trap. I described workings in great and gory detail. The players and their thieving characters ate it up. Of course, the next door had a trap. Lacking any foresight, I described this trap as exactly as the one before.
And the seed was planted.
The next chest had the same trap as the first two, except this time it killed a character. My bad, I didn’t expect this to happen, but the players had. As the play paused to reroll a new character, of course another rogue, I overheard the strangest thing:
“Bloodless Jack got ya.”
“That was awesome.” said another player.
“What do you think he wants?”
“Don’t know. It could be that chalice.”
“Naw, we are going to give it away and a priest is a much easier target than us.”
“Fame,” added a third.
“Yes! It makes sense that someone would want fame and notoriety. Sort of like the guy in the cabin mailing bombs.”
“Ted something, right?”
“Yeah. We should nail this guy before he gets us.”
In just a 30 minute character generating session, the players had worked out that they were up against an assassin. A very detail orientated, cunning and evil assassin. A man who called himself Bloodless Jack. Bloodless as in so cold, the blood didn’t run in his veins. They had gathered all these details from the repeated description of a single trap described the exact same way, three times over.
Oops. These traps were simply on the fly details in response to the character’s expectations. At no time did I picture a mysterious assassin. I didn’t say anything that would have laid such an awesome name on him. In fact, there was no assassin except in the players minds.
Guess what? The very next session had a very fleshed out assassin bent on killing the characters. This assassin was neatly merged with the prior story, assassinating the priest who hired the players. He then took out the boat captain that hired the characters for security. As time went on, the characters were defending the crowned prince against this diabolical fiend.

Unable to create directory... Wordpress error (formerly

Friday evening, I was hit by series of errors from WordPress. When uploading images, I was confronted by these error messages:
“Unable to create directory wp-content/uploads/2015/01. Is its parent directory writable by the server?”
“The uploaded file could not be moved to wp-content/uploads/2015/01″
Obviously, my permissions were off, but I couldn't figure out where.
The quick and dirty work around was to log into GoDaddy’s file management tool and create files and upload images via the tool. Back in WordPress, I needed to select a previously existing image and edit the code to match the files and directories I created in the previous stop.
That is not optimal and not advisable. 
The correct answer is to correct the permissions on the server via the file management tool. I made several attempts, but it didn’t seem to work. After calling GoDaddy, I found where I was going wrong.
First and always, log out of WordPress. Second, the items Web Visible and Web Writable need to be ticked on the WordPress upload folder. The directory location is: /wp-content/uploads/. You likely don’t have permission to edit the webroot directory, and you shouldn't give that much permission that high up.
If you select the folder and view the settings you will not see the ticks because the Inherit tick disables those options. Untick it.
The other two become active. You can see the problem right away, the folder isn’t Web Writable. Tick it. 
If you need a quick fix, this is it. Stop reading now, since I don't have any better suggestion to offer. 
If you are still reading, this WILL correct the issue temporarily, but this is not an optimal solution. I contacted GoDaddy 3 times over this issue. 
The first time, the chat agent attempted to reset my permissions, which wasn't the answer at all. I had all the permissions I needed, I simply needed a little more information. I only mention this because you do not want to waste time like this. Don't use chat, they have a tendancy of "escalating" contacts to unnamed people who will effect fixes in 30 minutes to several hours. It never works, don't use chat. 
The second time provided me with the information above. This is also not the correct solution, because it is a quick fix that does not stop the error from happening. I experienced this error more than 40 times from 5 different webpages, hosted on two different GoDaddy servers. I expressed the belief that someone or thing was resetting this one particular permission by accident. The rep said that it was possible, but he did not see that happening. 
The third time, the rep insisted that my use of php based forms was the cause of the issue and it was my fault for using php forms, I need to purchase several things to prevent "php injection attacks". GoDaddy suggested I use Wordpress when I purchased my hosting, because it was very secure and they would be able to address any troubleshoot concerns that I had with it. The last issue is my sites were hosted on a shared server. This is a good cheap solution, but it also means that if someone else has a problem I could have that problem, too. 
The GoDaddy agent was actually suggesting that they have a known problem where people can assess their server with no login credentials at all and modify files at will and not show up on any logs. I had a hardened version of Wordpress, I changed my login ids often and I was not seeing any additional files or files with modification dates that did not correspond to my editing patterns. The changes made by this "intrusion" actually made my site HARDER to attack by removing permissions from a valid function, without making any other modifications.
When I asked for any more information such as server logs, support, etc., I experienced an upcharge menu. Basically, these upcharges highlighted the difference between what I was told I was purchasing and the services I was actually being provided. 
You will notice that I am now on Blogger, a free platform and no longer hosting with GoDaddy. My primary purpose for this change is to get away from the frustration I was experiencing. Let's be real, I was paying under $20 to host 5 websites. For years, GoDaddy provided a wonderful and valuable service for four dollars a month. At some point, quality declined. I was no longer receiving the top end service I had come to expect, likely because I was paying for low end service. I can't really blame GoDaddy for this, but realistically I was paying 20 bucks for headaches. 
I seriously doubt the whole "PhP iNj3cTi0n 4tTaCk!!!!" line the agent tried to sell me on. I do not think they would be in business for very long if they allowed unrestricted access to their servers via the Wordpress install that they provide. That is idiotic. I am more inclined to believe that this is a misguided attempt at security, where someone in house, at GoDaddy is changing settings to be more cautious and more secure without bothering to address the issues this causes with one or more products they sell.
Using GoDaddy for hosting is really not a good option for me. If you are encountering this problem intermittently and it is within your tolerance level, they are a good choice. If not, time to move. I still use GoDaddy for my URL and such. That will not change anytime soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Going off the Rails – Part One

Have you ever had a night of gaming go off the rails?
I had a 3 hours session turn into a 6-7 hour marathon of gaming. We should have cut it off, but everyone was having too much fun. The players had reached a remote village and were trying to set up a trade agreement. They offended the villagers and the party tried an Indiana Jones style escape to a rope bridge and escape.
The one magic users who could have stopped the villagers with a spell instead flew to the bridge with axe. He was prepared to cut the bridge after his fellow adventurers made it across. This is when the game exhaustion hit.
All of the players shouted “Cut it now!” And the magic user complied, trapping everyone on the wrong side of the bridge. Note that it was the players that made the request, their characters obviously were to far away. A little meta-gaming goes a long way when injected into the story.
We ended right there with everyone high-fiving and congratulating each other. Only the player who cut the bridge looked concerned and perplexed.
At the start of the next session, everyone was sheepish. With a little sleep, they realized the implications of last session. I started the next session with the characters toweling off from their heroic leap to into the river and swim to safety.
Sometimes, you just have to end with a gag to keep the fun alive. Die rolling and tactics are great, but a story sometimes has to jump to stay alive.

Chaos Star

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Study in Recreation: Fear Itself

Today’s update is aboutKippers and Jam‘s blog post on recreation. Adrian BK and company has revisited a module called Fear Itself, created back in 1999.
The authors lost the original copy and rewrote it after reconnecting with each other.
The details:
Module: BK1 Fear Itself
Author: Adrian BK
Level: 2-4 (AD&D)
Pages: 18
Price: Free!
You can download a copy from Kippers and Jam. This module features enough leeway to plug into nearly any campaign or play style. Fear Itself features glorious artwork from many artists and professional quality layout and formatting.
Take a look and don’t forget to thank the folks at Kipper and Jam for providing high quality game products.