Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Towel

I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy before I'd done much traveling myself. I suppose I'd followed my parents on one trip or another, but they'd been in charge of the packing, and in any event, traveling with your parents is not exactly hitchhiking the galaxy.

I believed the thing about the towel. I knew I was unlikely to run into the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, or even sail the slow heavy River Moth. Still, I figured these exotic uses stood in for real-world analogues. I thought this fancy was built upon a foundation of rugged, devil-may-care British traveler acumen. I thought that, Bugblattter Beast or not, traveling with a towel really would, in one way or another, make you a hoopy frood. I resolved that when I was big, and traipsing the world, I would always know where my towel was.

The thing is, though, that a towel is actually not really a very useful thing to pack. If you are staying in a hotel, they give you a towel. If you are couchsurfing, you bum one off your friends. If you are back-country camping or Eurailing or trekking across the Gobi, you need to pack really light, and so you evaluate every cubic centimeter in terms of its utility, and, really, a towel rarely wins. If it's warm out you can pretty much air-dry, and in a pinch you can always dry yourself off with a long-sleeved shirt and hang it up. The only exception is beach vacations. And youth hostels, which do ask you to bring a towel. Even then, you can probably borrow or rent one.

This is not to say that no one packs towels, just that if you are the sort of person who packs a towel for a non-beach trip, you probably also pack alcohol gel for cleaning your hands, and pillow in case you don't like the one on the bed there, and a scissors, and band-aids, and slippers, and a sweater even if you're going somewhere warm. You are not, in other words, necessarily Ford Prefect.

Each time I pack, I consider taking a towel, because of Douglas Adams. And, generally, I decide not to. And each time, there is a little bit of grief, because Douglas Adams lied to me.

I am packing for Wiscon today, and I will not pack a towel. Fuck you, Douglas Adams. I know where my towel is. It's at home.

Comments (1)   permalink

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Metaworld

Crossposted to

The Metaworld is one of the four dimensions in Minecraft, along with the Overworld, The Nether, and The End.


Reaching The Metaworld

Unlike The Nether and The End, no special structures need to be built to reach the Metaworld, and it is available in the early game.

From any of the other dimensions, press "Escape", then "Save and Quit", and then "Exit Game". The current dimension will be replaced by another visual display, usually a "desktop" of some kind. If you examine the edges of this "desktop", you will notice that it is embedded in a Metaworld Portal Frame. The Metaworld is visible beyond the borders of this frame.


The Metaworld is superficially similar to the Overworld in many respects, but there are important differences. A different set of controls is used for navigation, and many activities, such as removing and placing blocks, crafting, and combat, are more difficult. Time moves slower in the Metaworld, with a tick rate of one tick per second.

One crucial difference is that players cannot respawn if killed in the Metaworld; in other words, the difficulty level is set permanently to Hardcore.


Hostile mobs are relatively rare in the most commonly visited biomes of the Metaworld, but griefing is common, and admins have limited ability to employ anti-griefing measures.

Because of these dangers, players are advised to avoid PvP, and to take caution when mining and exploring in the Metaworld.


Items gained in the Metaworld cannot be brought back to the other dimensions; instead, the Metaworld has its own "meta" resource game. The player must continually ensure a separate Metaworld supply of food, protection from hostile mobs and griefers, and electricity for the Metaworld Portal Frame. If a player neglects this aspect of play, they may find themselves involuntarily transported from the other dimensions into the Metaworld.

Because of its high difficulty level and the fact that items and experience do not transfer, many players prefer to minimize time spent in the Metaworld.

Comments (0)   permalink

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Official Rules of "Adventure Mode Awesome"

We invent a lot of games here in Rosenbaumland. I've already told you about Knees Tag and Hookie Mookie, and I've been meaning to tell you the rules to Rainball and Settlers of Minecraftia. There's also Minecraft Tag, which may be complex beyond the limits of blogging (though it isn't calvinball, honest), and the Underground Railroad boardgame project, which has outgrown being a purely homegrown the-kids-and-me endeavor and may actually get launched for real at some point (I'm thinking of bringing a prototype to Wiscon).

Yesterday, Noah and I invented "Adventure Mode Awesome".

(Careful readers may note from the titles of some of these games that one effect of our screen time restrictions is that we are forced to invent paper or running-around versions of the computer games we are currently obsessed with, i.e, at the moment, Minecraft).


Adventure Mode Awesome, a two-player collaborative dungeon crawl board game for when you have used up your computer time and can't play Minecraft

You will need:

  1. One "Go" board or other 16x16 grid
  2. a chess set
  3. black and white Go stones, or two other plentiful and distinct sets of counters
  4. a six-sided die
  5. the following tiles from Scrabble or Bananagrams:
    • 4 T's
    • 3 W's
    • 2 Z's
    • 2 S's
    • 2 K's
    • 2 C's
    • 1 P

Object of the game
Get all the treasure out of the chests and escape the dungeon before the monsters get both of you!


  1. Distribute the tiles, face down, roughly evenly spread, in spaces around the board.
    • For a lower difficulty level, first randomly discard some of the tiles other than the P and W's.
  2. Give each player ten black Go stones (their health points or "hearts") and put a pile of white Go stones ("torches", used to shut down monster spawners) to hand
  3. Flip all the tiles face up. The tiles are:
    PThe dungeon entrance or "Player spawn"
    TThe Treasure chests
    ZZombie spawners
    SSpider spawners
    CCreeper spawners
    KSkeleton spawners
  4. Place the two King chess pieces (the players' figures) to either side of the "P" tile.

Zombies are rooks (castles), meaning there can only be four of them in play, since you are using one chess set. Skeletons are bishops, and creepers are knights, four of each. Spiders are pawns, so there can be sixteen spiders in play.

Turn Sequence

Each currently "alive" player takes a turn consisting of an event roll, two player actions, monster movement, and combat resolution, followed by the next players' turn.

The game ends when either:

  • both players are dead (defeat),
  • all the treasure tiles ("T") have been taken by players who have then returned to player spawn ("P") while carrying them (victory), or
  • torches have been placed on every Monster Spawner and all monsters have been killed (victory assured)

Here are the individual turn phases in detail:

  1. Event roll. The player whose turn it is rolls one six-sided die:
    1Zombies spawn, if possible, from every dark Zombie spawner. If there are fewer than four rooks on the board, place a rook on every Z tile which does not have either a white stone (i.e., a torch) or a monster already on it.
    2Skeletons spawn, if possible, from every dark Skeleton spawner. If there are fewer than four bishops on the board, place a bishop on every K tile which does not have either a white stone or a monster already on it.
    3Creepers spawn, if possible, from every dark Creeper spawner. If there are fewer than four knights on the board, place a rook on every C tile which does not have either a white stone or a monster already on it.
    4Spiders spawn, if possible, from every dark Spider spawner. If there are fewer than sixteen pawns on the board, place a pawn on every S tile which does not have either a white stone or a monster already on it.
    5Players heal. Give a black stone (a "heart") to every player who has less than ten.
    6Players respawn. If one player is dead, place that player's King piece on the P tile, and give the player ten "hearts". That player is back in the game.

  2. Player actions. The current player may take two actions. The following are valid actions ("adjacent" here means one space across or down, no diagonals allowed):
    1. Move to an adjacent space not already occupied by a tile or figure.
    2. Take one "T" (Treasure) tile from an adjacent space into your "inventory" (your hand)
    3. place a white stone (a torch) on a monster spawner tile in an adjacent space, to shut it off.

  3. Monsters move. Monster movement, or "mob AI", is the trickiest and fiddliest part of this game! You are officially allowed to not spend your whole evening counting squares, but just move monsters to your sloppy best guess of where these rules would have them end up, as you are not intentionally cheating for player advantage. These rules are complex at first, but intuitive after a while, and there will be a summary table later! :-)

    Monsters are dumb! If they cannot see or sense you, they forget you. They do not anticipate player or other monster's movement, they do not plan complex "paths" to reach you, they just follow rigid movement rules. This is important because often survival means getting monsters to move into each other's way, hiding behind walls, etc.

    Move monsters starting with the one closest to a player, in nearest to farthest order.

    Each monster has a target square. For Spiders (who have very good hearing), this is the (geometrically) closest player's square. For Zombies and Creepers it is the closest player's square that they can see -- their vision is blocked if a Wall tile is directly (horizontally or vertically, no diagonals) between them and that player. For Skeletons, their target square is their best shot: the nearest (to the Skeleton) square from which the skeleton could currently shoot a player that they can currently see (Walls also block their vision). Skeletons can shoot arrows along a horizontal or vertical axis (no diagonals!) to hit players up to 4 squares away from them, if nothing (other than a Monster Spawner, which they can shoot over) is obstructing the arrow's path.

    If two players are equidistant, monsters target the player with lower health (fewer "hearts").

    Spiders can climb over Walls and Monster Spawners, but cannot move through other Monsters; Zombies, Creepers, and Skeletons cannot move through Walls, Monsters, or Monster Spawners.

    Skeletons can shoot over Monster Spawners, but cannot shoot through Walls or Monsters.

    Movement distance

    Spiders can move up to three squares per turn. Zombies and Skeletons can move up to two squares per turn. Creepers can move up to one square per turn.

    Monsters do not move if they can attack a player from where they are.

    If a monster can end the turn nearer to its target, it does so. This is true even if this path is a stupid one which will result in the monster getting blocked or blocking another monster. If it cannot end the turn nearer to its target square, it does not move, even if there would be a clever way around obstacles by backtracking. Monsters are dumb.

    Whenever these rules produce ambiguity about where a monster would move, players are allowed to decide to their advantage.

  4. Resolve combat. Attacks happen in the following order: first players, then spiders, then creepers, then skeletons, then zombies. Players have "first strike", so any monster they kill will not harm them that turn.

    During each turn's combat resolution, each player rolls one die for every monster adjacent to them, touching the figure to indicate which monster they are fighting. A player must roll 3 or more to kill a Spider, 4 or more to kill a Skeleton, and 5 or more to kill a Zombie. It is not possible to kill a Creeper (yeah, I know, you killed one with a sword in Minecraft, but you're not quick enough here, Steve).

    Then, any Spider still alive does one point of damage to each player adjacent to it (the player discards one "heart").

    Then, any surviving Creeper adjacent to a player explodes. The explosion is a 5x5 square area centered on the Creeper. Within this area:

    • all Monsters are killed
    • all Torches are removed from Monster Spawners
    • all Wall tiles are removed
    • any player takes (5 - [distance from Creeper]) hearts of damage; this means an adjacent player takes 4hearts of damage.

    Then, any surviving Skeleton does one point of damage to any player they can shoot (as above, Skeletons can shoot arrows along a horizontal or vertical axis up to 4 squares away, if no monsters or walls are in the arrow's path).

    Then, any surviving Zombie does two points of damage to any adjacent player.

If a player loses all their hearts, the player dies. Remove that player's King piece from the board and stack any Treasure tiles the player had in their hand in the square where that player was killed. The Treasure tiles can still be retrieved by player action. At this point, you are out of the game until your friend rolls a 6 -- then you respawn at "P". (Meanwhile, you can still help move the monsters in the Monster Movement phase.)

If no player is left alive at the end of any turn, the game ends in defeat (well, victory from the monsters' point of view, I guess).

Monster Quick Reference Chart

MonsterFigureSpawner tileAppears on aMovement planMoveAttack DamageRoll to kill
ZombieRookZ1Nearest visible player2Hits adjacent players25 or better
SkeletonBishopK2Nearest "clear shot"2Shoot arrows 4 squares, no diagonals14 or better
CreeperKnightC3Nearest visible player1Explodes5 minus distance, destroys monsters, walls and torches in 5x5 areaNope
SpiderPawnS4Nearest player3; over Walls and SpawnersHits adjacent players13 or better

Comments (1)   permalink