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These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

Most content on this site is licensed under the WTFPL, version 2 (details).

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Extraterrestrial: Taking live roleplaying to the next level

Space Shuttle in orbit

Considering that the long-running live roleplaying series by Evolution Events are coming to a close, we've had some time to consider the future. There are still some (financial) details to work out, but we are proud to present our newest LARP event: Extraterrestrial.

 
0 comments -:- permalink -:- 00:27
Dummnoni Celtwood I

The second LARP event I've ever been to, was Dummnoni Destiny V. Not only did I have a wonderful time there, but later I came to realize that Dummnoni events are fundamentally different from every other LARP I have played or organised so far. The last time I've played at Dummnoni was three or four years back, since every event since then was either too expensive or was held at the wrong weekends...

Last weekend, a new Dummnoni event was held: Celtwood. Unfortunately I had to skip my mother's birthday for this, but this was too good a chance to let go. Finally, after years of absence, my character Maddox of the Dummnoni, was again present among the heroes of the realm. Celtwood is set in the realm of the Menapi, the Nervi and the Usipeti, three of the clans of Faerie. Every year these three clans hold a great contest, to decide who is the most honorful clan. This contest is the center of Celtwood.

Maddox, together with his wife Tegwen (played by Brenda), were asked by queen Athea herself to accompany a group of Arkeesh and old friends to go these games to investigate a bad omen seen by the queens druid.

See more ...

 
0 comments -:- permalink -:- 22:15
Summer 2006: Summary and highlights

Anyone that knows me just a little, will know that the emptyness on my blog this summer, has not been caused by a shortage of things to write about. Quite on the contrary: I've been doing so many things I could have written about, that it didn't leave any time to do the actual writing. By now, classes have begun again, so I won't be having too much time soon either. So, instead of full length posts about all the fun stuff, I'll do a one post summary. I might even make it short.

De Randmeren

So, where have I been this summer? I've been around, but most of the time somewhere in Harderwijk or Ermelo, at either one of my parents or at Brenda's. Most of my summer has been spent helping out at sailing school "De Randmeren" my father started this year. I've mainly been assisting with administrative tasks and boat rental, but also with giving sailing lessons. Since they have just started, I have been setting up most of their administration, both financial and other. I've even been working on an online customer administration system, but it has not been deployed yet (I'll leave that for the winter, together with a complete website redesign by Brenda). During one of these weeks, Tin came over from Enschede to help us out with the youth sailing lessons. Thanks, Tin!

Apart from making a few bucks by working there (though not much, since it is still a starting company), I've been getting a lot of experience, in various areas. The last two weeks I've been working there, I was my father's replacement, since he went on a vacation. Those weeks, I've been basically running the company, together with the other owner, Erik. Very useful experience.

Exodus

Another major time sink during this summer was Exodus, an event by Evolution Events, for which I have been organising. I've mainly been busy with the various IT support tasks, which went well mostly (could have been better if I would have had some more time...). The event itself, at the end of august, was quite succesful. We have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from our participants and we are happy with how the event itself turned out. Best example of this was the saturday night dinner, which was served fully IC, so people continued playing not only over dinner, but even when doing the dishes!

Camping

Somewhere in between there I've been spending some time with Brenda. We have been away for a few days of camping, by bike! Brenda has done cycle vacations with her parents for years and has wanted to do so again together with me. This year, I've finally gathered enough courage and Brenda arranged me a decent bike (borrowed from her neighbours), so nothing stopped us anymore.

We've been cycling for 4 days, starting in Ermelo, going to Elburg, Wesepe (near Olst), Kootwijk (near Apeldoorn) and back to Ermelo, for a grand total of about 150 km. Pretty impressive distance, for me at least. We have been staying at nature campings (Small, cheap campings, having only bare sanitary), in a brand new hiking tent (only 2kg!) I gave Brenda for her birthday.

Other stuff

Furthermore, there is some other stuff I'd like to mention (and possibly write some more about in the future). Last week, I've been scourging the "boeldag", a yearly second hand market in Ermelo. Apart from some useful LARP stuff, I found an original NES, for free! I've tested it this week and it worked, at least somewhat. I do need to find/build a power adapter and some controllers, since I got it completely bare. I've also found the NES is a fairly simple machine, which makes it ideal for modding and hacking :-) Nice for the stack of nice-projects-when-I-have-some-time.

Ever since I've purchases my notebook, I have been looking for a name for it. Somewhere during this summer, I've finally named it "Xanthe", a name I came across a while back that stuck around. Now all I need is a catchy name for my blog (and a matching .nl domain name)...

Just last week, I've finally decided to do the embedded systems master here at twente. I've been through some trouble to participate in a few courses for which I didn't subscribe in time (ie, before the summer).

 
2 comments -:- permalink -:- 19:10
Symbols 3: Calm? Yeah, right

(Disclaimer: This post is about a game. It is all fiction.)

I originally wrote this post a few days after Symbols 3, but I never got around to fully finishing it. So, don't mind the wrong date references ;-)

Last weekend was the third Symbols event, which I attended with as nightkin character Rallin. Before I delve into everything what happened exactly last night, which I expect to be quite lengthy, I will first touch the highlights and main story thread. Further on, I will give a longer somewhat chronologicalish description of this event.

Getting around to stuff

Symbols 3 can be summarized for me as "I didn't get around to it". I have been talking (at length with Ailiva and Taima), tracking (some big creature and a murderer), woodworking (gardening tools for Hallistrad), mourning (for our Sicheii and his apprentice), partying (for the lives they lived), comforting (my little sister Pakuna), getting my ass kicked (multiple times) and dipping (being out of character when you're supposed to be in character).

Dips on Saturday

Especially the last one is rather uncommon. There are always a few moments during the weekend where you just sit around being out of character for lack of things to do or lack of play offers, but Saturday night, just about everybody sat around dipping. I missed the first part of this due to sitting around Varaashi's sick bed. I spent there with a few other people being IC (but barely) and playing the domino game Ailiva brought.

After that, I tried pulling the Nocona (the group I play with) back IC, but that didn't really work out. The Nocona group is one that tends to generate a lot of play by itself, so does not tend to dip a lot. Still, it happened anyway. Later on, we were gonna do our funeral rites for Rallin's grandfather and his apprentice, so this would get people back in character. Just around the same time, a few friendly mist creatures came by, drawing the attention of just about everybody ("Why are all these people in our camp? We just wanna give the last honor to our dead! Oh wait, those mist creatures are here..."). I'm not sure if this lasted, since I haven't left our camp thereafter.

Anyway, I have been thinking about what has caused this massive dip. Main cause seems to be the weather Saturday afternoon. There was a little rain, but mainly very hard winds. A few of the tents that served as healers guild, library, etc. got broken, so nearly all tents were brought down as a preemptive measure. On one hand this thwarted a number of plots prepared by the SLs, that depended on having those actual IC locations. On the other hand (together with the cold), this caused people to sit together in large groups at the campfire or the inn, since there wasn't really anywhere else to go. In general, I think, large groups of players have a large tendency to fall out of character quickly and are pretty hard to get back into character once they do. In the end, I think all this worked out pretty nicely, since people got back into character eventually and did seem to enjoy their time dipping as well.

Stuff to do

About the "not getting around to it" part, I had a lot of stuff to do. I did some of those things, but a lot of them got postponed because I didn't get around to them or couldn't put myself to do them. One thing in particular I regret, is not having a decent conversation with Seth, the changeling death cultist that walked into Runewall. I exchanged a few words with him walking into the tavern, but didn't get around to asking him a thing or two. I think he died in the battle on Saturday, though he is rumored to have died before and returned from that (typical for a death cultist, I would say).

Another thing I regret is not asking Ailiva to teach me some healing. I wasn't really sure what or how I wanted that really at first and there wasn't any good opportunity later on. I'll have to ask her at the forum now, or perhaps on the next event. We'll see. Rallin did manage to learn a few unofficial lessons about nerves and diseases, from Ailiva reading from the new books she received and her teaching Hallistrad. If anything, this just made Rallin more interested.

Another thing Rallin should get around to, is how to properly wield his dagger, maybe something bigger than that. Thinking back about all the Symbols events, I think Rallin only managed to inflict a handful of wounds on his enemies, while receiving a multitude of that back from them. Perhaps he should ask Vaj to help him with this.

Anyone, let's get over to what actually happened.

See more ...

 
4 comments -:- permalink -:- 21:56
LARP administration system?

Ever since I have been involved with LARP organization, I have been thinking about some way to properly administer subscriptions, events, characters, etc. This administration is mostly done in excel or text files, with the user visible part (who has subscribed and has their payment been received already?) in a forum post that was continuously edited and updated. Character administration is a similar story, with paper administration of character sheets not being uncommon.

As you can imagine, this is not quite optimal. Apart from being generally a lot of work, this approach is error prone. Also, all administration has to be done by the organization themselves and requests from players ("I want to upgrade this skill or that" or "Here is my updated background") have to be manually entered into whatever system is used.

Existing systems

Cauldron, the club I have been working for before was the first club (I know of) that used an on-line system to manage player characters (dubbed "chargen", for Character Generator). Players of various events could register their character, with all their skills, attributes and background. On the other side the organization can approve characters and changes to characters, assign experience points to them, etc.

While being a big improvement over previous manual administration and greatly reducing the workload, there were still a couple of drawbacks. Most significantly, the system did not track who was registered for what event. To prevent people from creating characters for random events, subscribed players would get an event password. In addition to the login/password needed for the chargen, this makes a whole pile of extra login info.

I once planned on reducing these problems by (proposing to) integrating an event subscription system into chargen, so it knows who is subscribed to what events. This has the added advantage of simplifying the event subscription administration and being able to generate a list of subscriptions and possibly payments dynamically. Shortly after formulating this intent, I stopped working for Cauldron, so this never saw any work from me.

Another "drawback" of the chargen was the focus on rules and skills, the actual character and its background were just an extra. This makes sense for big events with lots of characters, but seems wrong to me now...

I've also heard that the folks at Enneade were busy on a system for doing administration of subscriptions and perhaps also characters. I haven't seen or heard this myself yet, but I will investigate this a little further. Perhaps something can be gained from cooperating with them.

A new system?

As you will probably have concluded from my last few remarks, I have been thinking about also creating a system for performing miscellaneous LARP administration tasks. Right now I'm involved with Evolution Events, a relatively new LARP organization mainly founded by a number of former Cauldron crew members. We have recently had our first event. For this organization there is need for such a system.

One can wonder why I would want to create a new system instead of using one of the existing ones. Main reason here is that I want to create something which is generally usable. I personally like software that is general and reusable by nature and encourage open source software. Besides that, EE will be running different types of events with different rule systems. The rules (and therefore characters) for Lextalionis will be completely different from those of our upcoming Exodus event.

Though the Cauldron chargen does support multiple rule sets (from different Cauldron events), these are all similar and follow the same basic rules. Besides that, I do not expect Cauldron to just give their work away to other clubs, probably not even for future cooperation.

For the Enneade system, I haven't seen it yet, but since Enneade currently runs only one event with one rule set, I expect that modifying their system to support multiple rule sets is probably more work than starting from the ground up.

Having said that, I will probably look at both systems carefully to see which features and things worked, and which did not.

Building it

I have recently had a few conversations with Simon, organizer of the Symbols event. He was planning to work on a similar system. Since our ideas about this (both regarding the actual system as well as about making it shareable with other clubs) mostly matched, we decided to team up. Since then, I've also received help offers from Rene and Sna, within EE. I can probably use their help somewhere along the road, for the moment, I'll have to figure out what exactly we are supposed to build.

Though this post originally started out as a general description of what this system was supposed to be doing, this small introduction turned out to rather large already. I'll stop here, saving my plans for the actual system for my next post. Still, I'm going to end this post with the same thing I was going to end the original post with: This new system needs a name! If anybody has a nice suggestion, let me know!

 
3 comments -:- permalink -:- 22:15
Madness trip to Wageningen

Last night, I was chatting in #larp as I have done a lot this week (since the last Symbols Event). A fiend of mine was complaining about her exams and that she was fed up with learning for them. She wanted to go and do something fun with somebody. I don't remember exactly how or why (don't have the IRC logs handy), but somebody proposed I went over to her and I ended up thinking that was a good idea.

So, after just over two hours of train and bus (Enschede Drienerlo - Hengelo - Zutphen - Arnhem - Ede-Wageningen - Wageningen) I arrived at her place in Wageningen. I spent most of the time in the train calling with an old friend and thinking about what the hell I was doing ;-)

As she promised, there was lots of tea and as expected not too much sleep (she had to get up for a presentation at university at 0900...). So, I'm pretty much broken now and on my way back to Enschede to check the finances of Pro Deo and theatre sports repetition after that. I might not fully stay awake tonight, but, it was worth it :-)

 
1 comment -:- permalink -:- 15:40
First Symbols special: My head is spinning!

(Disclaimer: This post is about a game. It is all fiction.)

Last weekend was the first special of the Symbols LARP. I'm playing in a very nice group of Nightkin there, a race of moon-worshipping nomad like vegetarians. Our pack is called the Nocona and we're hanging out in an eventful and mysterious town called Runewall.

See more ...

 
1 comment -:- permalink -:- 02:57
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