RPG Location: The Dark Mansion

RPG Location: The Dark Mansion

I created the Dark Mansion to use as a location to inject a bit of horror into a fantasy campaign. The nice thing about it is that it involves no combat and a is a great psychological scene.

Setting
The characters should be in the middle of a long weary trip, far from civilization. Any Rangers in the party should roll to notice a huge storm coming in. A search to find a place should reveal a large dark mansion up on a hill. Lighting strikes in the area encourage the characters to move towards the hill.

The path up to the building is guarded by a creaky gate. One seems to be half hanging off it’s hinges and rusted into place. They should think that the mansion is abandoned ruins, but when they get up closer they notice that it’s just in bad repair. But it may be good enough to protect the party for the night.

As they approach, a butler opens the door. He’s a tall human, possibly with a bit of Orc blood. He is holding a rusted lantern that dimly flickers and says “The Master has been expecting you.” He directs the party to leave their equipment in the hall, and he’ll take care of their mounts if they have any.

Dark Mansion

He takes them to a somber dining room. The dining room is a huge table with room for about 30 people + how ever many members of the party there are. The master is at the end of the table, and is an obviously decrepit old man who can barely feed himself. The dishes on the table are a mismatched collection, the tablecloth and linens are all thread bare and stained. A pair of candlesticks light the entire room, leaving deep dark shadows.

Everyone else at the table is a hodgepodge collection of people and they are all eerily quite, doing nothing but eating. When the characters sit at the table, they are served bland looking and very bland tasting food. No one will ever talk to them at all. Besides the occasional clink of silverware, no sounds are made during the dinner.

After a while, the butler will come in to take the Master away. He’ll be escorted and supported as he slowly walks out of the room. The rest of the diners will silently leave one by one, or sometimes as a couple. When the dining room is cleared of others, the butler will appear again saying “Your lodgings are ready,” and he will take them upstairs to their rooms.

It’s obvious that the mansion has seen better days. Paint is peeling off walls. Water is leaking through the ceiling. Carpets are worn and dusty. Doors and floorboards squeak. The piano in the drawing room is out of tune and missing several strings. Paintings on the walls should have signs of mold and rat droppings are in the corners of every room.

The next morning, have the characters roll a Will Check (I change the DC depending on characters level,) if they fail they wake up and find the house is in perfect shape. They’re part of a very happy extended family and have no wish to leave the house at all. Everything is bright and cheerful, all the NPCs are laughing and joking and having a fun time. Meals are a joyous time, with delicious food being served. The master is a young charismatic, generous man. Those characters who failed the DC check are having the best times of their lives and feel they belong to this family.

The characters who make the Will Check still see everything as old, worn out and decrepit. Outside of meals, everyone sits quietly in the library, pallor or drawing room staring into space. Including any PCs caught up in this. They will notice that the “family” in the house is too diverse to really be related.

The Will check is repeated every day the characters stay in the house, with an increasing penalty each day for the characters who failed it already. Characters who failed the Will Check refuse to leave the house under any circumstances. To make matters more interesting, if anyone who failed their Will Check is attacked, they will take no damage and will think they are having a mock duel. If anyone who made their will check is attacked (or dies,) they are automatically brought into the dream state with a benign back story that explains the injury away. IE, “Too bad your horse spooked and threw you.” Or “How has your old war wound been doing lately?”

Plot Points
– Something or someone in the mansion is creating this dream state. Is it the Master? The Butler? Someone else?
– There is a particularly ugly statue up on the second floor in a small shrine. Only characters who are in the dream state can see it. What would smashing it do?

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List of Steampunk Conventions

Steampunk, the marriage of steam technology and the Victorian era. Not only a popular fiction genre, but also a lifestyle for many people. One of the tangible celebrations of this lifestyle is that of the ever popular convention.

Below is a list of Steampunk Conventions around the world that I know of. It is not complete, and may likely be out of date. If you know of any upcoming conventions coming up, please comment below.

Wild West Steampunk

Aetherfest – San Antonio, Texas – November 21-23, 2014

Anime Midwest (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention, but has a sizable Steampunk track) – Rosemont, Illinois (outside Chicago) – July 3-5, 2015

Anachro Con (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Atlanta, Georgia – February 27–March 1, 2015

AnomalyCon – Denver, Colorado – March 27-29, 2015

Arisia – Boston, Massachusetts – January 16-19, 2015

ConTemporal – Raleigh, North Carolina – 2015 dates not announced yet

Clockwork Alchemy – San Jose, California – May 23-26, 2014 (Memorial Day weekend)

CoastCon – Biloxi, Mississippi – March 20–22, 2015

Costume Con(not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Charleston, SC, May 15-18, 2015 and Madison, WI, May 6-9, 2016

DragonCon (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7, 2015

Emerald City Steampunk Expo – Wichita, Kansas – November 21-23, 2014

Gaslight Gathering – San Diego, California – September 18-20, 2015

Gearcon – Portland, Oregon – July 3-5, 2015

HRM Steampunk Symposium – Long Beach, California – January 16-19, 2015

HRM Steampunk Symposium - Sacramento California – October 3-5, 2014

Hypericon – Nashville, Tennesse – July 19-21, 2015

IfCon Victoria (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Victoria B.C., Canada – October 31-November 1, 2015

International Steampunk City – Historic Speedwell (Morristown,) New Jersey – October 11-12, 2014

Meta Con (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Minneapolis, Minneapolis – October 31-November 2, 2014, September 4-6, 2015 and September 2-4, 2016

RuffleCon (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – New Haven, Connecticut – October 4-5, 2014

Ryu-Kon (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Buffalo, New York – July 10-12, 2015

Salt City Steamfest – Salt Lake City, Utah – 2015 dates not announced yet

Star City Anime (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Roanaoke, Virginia – February 6-8, 2015

Steamposium – Seattle, Washington – September 26-28, 2014

Steampunk Symposium – Cincinnati, Ohio – Aptil 24-26, 2015

Steampunk Worlds Fair – Piscataway, New Jersey – May 15-17, 2015

Tanoshiicon (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – West Chester, PA – April 25, 2015

Temple Con (not a dedicated Steampunk Convention) – Warwick, Rhode Island – February 5-8, 2015

TeslaCon – Middleton, Wisconsin – November 7-8, 2015

Victoria Steam Exposition – Victoria B.C., Canada – 2015 Date unknown

Watch City Festival – Waltham, Massachusetts – May 9-10, 2015

Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention – Old Tucson, Arizona – March 6-8. 2015

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RPG Scenario: Dead Ship

RPG Scenario: Dead Ship

The following scenario came from a suggestion I made on Reddit a while ago. I decided to keep it and flesh it out a bit. This is meant to be for a Space based game, but could be modified for a Modern game.

Setup
The characters are crew members of the EDFR Rainier (Earth Defense Force, Reserve,) a Fast Combat Supply Ship. The FCSS is meant to accompany Naval Combat units and support all their supply needs. It provides fuel, ammunition, and all other supplies a ship in combat could need. In addition it has space to provide some man power transfers, mail deliveries, prisoner transport, and even other live cargo as needed.

The ship itself is heavily automated with redundant systems. In dock the ship is setup to automatically load and store supplies throughout it’s hull. A Fast Combat Supply Ship can also take supplies off of a variety of other transport ships as needed. This allows it to detach itself from the fleet, meet a supply convoy to load up, and then rejoin the fleet.

Supply transfer is partially done via automated lifters that can access any part of the ship as needed. For instance medical supplies will automatically be routed to the medical facilities storage, ammunition will be sent to weapons systems, fresh food will be sent to the galley.

The automated lifters are roughly man sized but can carry a ton each. They will gang up for heavier loads such as missiles and large equipment transfers if the direct connect automated systems are damaged. Anti-gravity propulsion systems allow them to work both in a gravity well and in the vacuum of space. The lifters are unarmed, but have enough armor to withstand minor damage.

The EDFR Rainier is designed to nestle directly against combat ships to minimize potential for enemy damage during combat. Armored cargo ports automatically connect each ship to allow the liters to travel between each. Fuel supply, and large ammunition transfer systems connect automatically through similar heavily armored and protected connections.

While the EDFR Rainier is armed, it’s weapons are purely defensive. These are antimissile, anti-air/fighter, and basic counter-measures. These systems automatically tie into those of whatever ship it is currently servicing to protect both ships while in combat and reloading. The crew of the ship being supplied has complete control of the EDFR Rainier during this time. They can designate priorities on supplies being transferred, initiate and stop transfers, and provide complete defensive needs in combat.

Crew members of the EDFR Rainier are mostly technicians. Their job is to get the Rainier to it’s destination and to service and repair the Rainier’s automated systems. They have basic weapons training, but much of it is out of practice. All crew members are well versed in Zero-G and EVA operations. In a pinch they can help load/unload.

Mission

The EDF Keiko Akane is a slightly out of date battleship. By modern standards she is only a destroyer. But sometime in her past she was heavily modified with faster engines and the latest in anti-detection systems. As such she still remains in service as a transport for Special Forces units being deployed directly to combat. The Rainier is sent to supply her while on mission.

As the Rainier approaches the rendezvous location they have to wait a couple of hours, deep in hostile space. Finally they get the automated message from the Keiko Akane, and both ships start the docking procedures. The Keiko Akane sends in it’s “order,” all routine for a ship that has been operating on it’s own for a while, and the Rainier obediently starts fulfilling the order as soon as the docking is done.

Everything is 100% as expected and routine. Until it comes time to undock. The EDF Keiko Akane never sends the final “go ahead and undock” order to the EDFR Rainier. Any automated or manual queries to the Keiko Akane about what the problem is go unanswered. Trying to manually undock is futile, the docking protocol is designed to work during ship to ship combat and is near impossible to break. Until the docking protocol is initiated, both ships will act and perform as one.

After 4.6 hours, the EDF Keiko Akane puts both ships on high alert and in defense mode. After 27 minutes both ships start accelerating quickly and firing weapons. This lasts for 18 minutes and then ceases. 85 minutes later the EDF Keiko Akane puts in another request for ammunition and fuel which the Rainier dutifully carries out. This pattern repeats every 4.6 hours down to the millisecond.

Characters should note that during combat, Fast Combat Transports are programmed to send over their own fuel reserves if necessary.

That will be necessary after this happens 7 more times.

EDF Keiko Akane
Characters can gain access to the Keiko Akane several ways. They can use the cargo ports at the same time as the automated lifters. They can spacewalk over to the ship and break in through personnel ports. Or they can take the Rainier’s Collier over. If either of the last two happen, they will have a chance to notice the damage to the Keiko Akane.

The port side of the Keiko Akane looks untouched. This is the side the Rainier approached from and docked with per the Keiko Akane’s orders during the docking protocol. The starboard side of the ship has been heavily damaged. At least three quarters of it’s weapons systems are destroyed. A large section of the hull looks like it’s been carved away leaving half the ship’s decks open to space. At least one of the ship’s reactors was jettisoned into space after it went critical.

If they board the ship they will find signs of battle. The red alert signal comes up at the 4.6 hour mark and continues until the acceleration and firing cycle quits. Ship readouts show that most systems are functioning somewhat but she has been so heavily damaged that it’ll be cheaper to build a new ship. Every fire door has been closed. Many compartments are full of radiation or worse. The forward computer room is completely gone as is a major portion of crew quarters, the galley, the forward missile bays, and half the ships sensors.

The computer is still somewhat operational. It does suffer from a multitude of glitches and reports that the galley is ready to serve food anytime they wish. It shows both that the life boats were launched and that they are still onboard. It is as helpful as it can be, but that is not much. It continually warns them away from the Secondary Computer room to the aft of the ship due to immense radiation.

The compartment has been sealed due to a massive radiation link from the jettisoned engine from the nearby compartment. In addition to the automatic seals, the former crew attempted to erect additional protective barriers. The radiation levels are so high even someone in a protective suit will become so radiated that they’ll be dead within a week. Scans of nearby corridors back this up by showing they too have lethal levels of radiation.

No remains are left on the ship, but signs of personnel abound. Pools of blood from wounded and killed have been hastily wiped up. The surgery shows sign of heavy use. Consoles and chairs are smashed from where bodies hit them. Equipment is strewn about after use or ripped from it’s storage by impact. Any weapons found are fully loaded and functional.

Eventually the characters will figure out how to get to the secondary computer room as it’s obvious that a glitch is causing the problems. When they do get there, they’ll find that it’s been gutted by the same thing the caused the engine to go critical.

At this point, the computer goes silent. All the while, the countdown towards the next rearming cycle continues.

Possible Scenariors
The “computer” is actually a sentient being that accidentally ran into the ship, causing the massive damage. It’s mental capacity is pretty low, but it somehow managed to merge with the ship’s A.I. systems.

There is actually a third computer system on the ship. It’s much smaller, and was meant to only control the engine systems. The crew desperately pressed it into service to replace the two main systems. But it’s hopelessly underpowered and is suffering a number of minor glitches.

The EDF Keiko Akane’s mission failed. To make matters worse, it’s victorious opponent just showed up to take possession of the remains of the ship.

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How To: Merge several WordPress sites into WordPress MU

How To: Merge several WordPress sites into WordPress Multisite*

* (while moving hosts at the same time.)

One of the great things about WordPress is the ability to run one instance of WordPress, but run multiple different blogs under it. This has several advantages, the first is that all sites can be upgraded at once from a central control panel. The second and bigger advantage is that the total amount of resources needed to run WordPress Multisite (also known as WordPress MU) vs. Multiple WordPress installs is much smaller.

The first step is your initial setup at your host. It’s best if you find one that is familiar with Wordress MU just in case you have issue. This is mostly a matter of preference, but I just recently moved over to iWFHosting from another host that I had used for six years. These instructions reflect that move.

The first step was to get a “throw away” domain name. I love Namecheap.com for this reason. You don’t have to have a throw away domain, but it will help keep your sites from being down at all.

This domain is used for the initial install on your host and will be the “location” where you install WordPress for the first time. Once your host is setup, go into CPanel and install WordPress. This should be automatic and will only take a few minutes in most cases. You should try to install WordPress at the root of the domain, don’t have anything like /blog or /worpdress. Otherwise there will be problems later on.

Once you get the notice that WordPress is installed, follow the “create a network” instructions.

The next step is to compile all of your themes and plugins. I took a screen shot of the admin screen on each site so that I knew what site was running which plugins and which theme. Likely there will be a bit of overlap between the two! After compiling these themes together, upload them to /wp-content.

Setup each Site under the Sites button. Essentially these will initially be setup as directories under the “main” domain. So you’ll have http://MainSite.com/Site2, http://MainSite.com/Site3, etc. To keep this simple for me, my site2 was the full domain name minus the .com part. This way I could look at it easily and now what site I was working with.

Plugin and Theme activation is a bit weird. You can force a specific plugin or theme to be active on all sites “network wide” using the Network Enable option. Or , installed themes can be activated on a per site level. I did a combination of both. Performance plugins were Network activated along with Adsense and Google Analytiscs, while plugins that perform specific action were on a per site level as need. This allowed me help keep resource usage at a minimum.

Themes can be activated Network wide, or per a blog. BUT, you have to go into Sites -> Site name -> Edit -> Theme Tab to enable themes on a per site basis. I did this to keep things thin, and also to keep from enabling the wrong theme for the new site. Note that if you make any edits in the theme (such as hardcoding site name, or hardcoded links to a commerce solution) it will be running on all sites that use that theme. So it might make sense to make sure that each site uses a completely different theme.

Export (Settings -> Tools -> Export) your blog. Do everything, unless you want to take this chance to remove stuff such as comments or users. I tried to use a variety of backup plugins but they all had issues or were a pain in the behind to setup. Export is simple and takes seconds even on a large site.

Install the WordPress Import Plugin. Settings -> Tools -> Import -> WordPress. It’s one click there and installs Network wide.

In WordPress MU, click on Sites -> New Site Name -> Dashboard. This puts you into the dashboard for the site and at this point should be very familiar. Import the file you exported from above. Click the box to Include images. This will take some time and doesn’t give you any kind of timer. On some site it may time out. I read all kinds of ways to tweak this, none of which actually worked.

The best way for me was to note the number of images and posts on the old site. I then opened two tabs in my browser to the New Site. One tab was the import process, the other was opened to the Media files page. The import process started moving media files first, but will fail on most anything that is not an image. So note the failures as you will need to move them manually – usually this is because they’re too large in size. I believe the limit is 10mb. I would then refresh the media page every five minutes and make sure the number was rising . If it stopped for a few minutes, I simply went back to the import tab and hit refresh on the page, then clicked “send.” This starts the Import process over, BUT it skips everything that has already been downloaded! It took me about two hours to move 4gb of images and another three hours to move 1000 posts and about 5000 comments. I probably refreshed the import page about every hour.

Once the import is done, I setup the new site. Enabled required plugins on a per site level, configured adsense and Google Analytics, then made sure everything (except the domain name) worked like I wanted it too. In my case this was pretty much copy the old site exactly and set it up the same way. This only took me about five to ten minutes per a site because I wasn’t doing anything crazy. Make sure you tweak things like your permalinks, site name and tagline, Widgets, etc. Note that whatever your site name is, that will show up under the “My Sites” Button. So you want to be a little different in the site names.

Now is the time to move your domain name. Go to your DNS Provider and switch the DNS from the old host to the new one. If your host is also your DNS provider, you may have to transfer the domain name over. I personally keep DNS at my Domain registar so I can move from host to host easier. On your new host you “Park” the rest of your domains. If you’re in CPanel there should be an option to Park Domains.

In your main site, WordPress MU Dashboard, install the Plugin “WordPress MU Domain Mapping.” It must be network enabled. Go to Settings -> Domain Mapping. In the Server IP address put in the IP address of the server where your files are hosted. OR just put in the CNAME (usually your first domain name.) After that change the Domain Name here on a per site level. I also change the path here to be blank.

Go to Sites -> All sites. Hover the mouse over the new site that you want to map to a specific domain. Look at your status bar of the web browser to see where that link goes to. At the very end of that link is an id=x, where x is a number. Remember that number.

Go to Settings -> Domains. Site ID is the number you noted from step 14. Domain is the fully qualified domain name. So enter www.mainsite.com.

At this point you are done. If you do it this way you will have no downtime when transferring from the old host to the new one. I used the same Google Analytics code, so there was not even a drop in stats. As DNS updates it will automatically go from the old site to the new site.

I found that some of the links for posts got messed up, installing the Broken Links plugin helped identify these broken links.

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How To: Check Shutter Actuations on Olympus Evolt Cameras

How To: Check Shutter Actuations on Olympus Evolt Cameras

These directions look a little weird, but trust me, they do work.

1.) Power camera on

2.) Open the CF door (trust me!)

3.) Press “play”+”OK” at same time. If that doesn’t work, try “menu” + “OK”

4.) Press the following buttons in order: “Up” “Down” “Left” “Right” on the dial

5.) Fully press the shutter release button

6.) Press “Up” on the dial

7.) Press “Right” to page 2

Page2 displays the following information (mine shows two more lines then this.)
R: 00XXXXXX mean shutter release count – this is the shutter actuation count
S: 00XXXXXX unknown
M: 00XXXXXX pixel map count
U: 00XXXXXX ultrasonic wave count

It’s crazy, but it works!

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