Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
 
Elemental Evil: Session 3

In the previous session the group had started to clear out the Redbrand Hideout in Phandalin, albeit with some difficulties. This session started with them talking to the prisoners they had liberated. These were the wife and children of the local woodcarver, who had been killed by the Redbrands for intervening when they harassed his wife. The family didn't have much to reward the group with, but the woman was able to tell the group where an emerald necklace family heirloom was hidden in the nearby abandoned town of Thundertree. The group led the family to safety and started arguing about whether to rest or not. In the end they did, because they could do so in the safety of the inn, and figured that with all the noise they had made their element of surprise was gone anyway.

The next day they went back into the dungeon. Searching for tracks outside revealed that suspiciously few tracks were present, which made them conclude that there was another entrance. Inside they had explored every room, so they started searching for secret doors and found one right in the first room, leading to a corridor. Given his experience falling into a trap in the previous corridor, Erdan the druid used a barrel he had found to roll before him. When they reached a large room with a large crevice all the way from north to south, he also used the barrel to test the stability of the bridge in front of him, which promptly collapsed. He looked into the crevice and saw a hole in the wall under the bridge, but didn't follow up on that. The group was somewhat distracted by a Nothic, who used his telepathic powers to read their minds and speak with them telepathically, asking to be fed. They "asked" back what they would get if they fed him, and the Nothic (which they never saw) answered that he would let them pass unharmed. So they took one of the corpses of the Redbrands killed the day before and threw it in the crevice.

All session long the group was highly chaotic and uncoordinated. Erdan searched the room north of the crevice room and found a secret door leading down some stairs, but didn't use them. Meanwhile the rest of the group was in disagreement how to cross the crevice, with Krosh jumping across, others taking the north bridge (which was safe), and others building a new bridge from planks found in the ruins upstairs, which was equally safe. Finally everybody went across without problem and they chose to descend the northern one of two stairs going down. That ended in a corridor with two doors, one leading north, the other south. They decided to open the north door, and found a room in which two Redbrands were feeding a rat.

The following fight demonstrated how tricky the concept of a simple door can be. The group killed the two Redbrands within the round with relative ease, but Popée the sorceress thought that the safest place was the space just outside the door, not considering that there was another door right behind her. So when it was the turn of the Redbrands, the south door opened and two Redbrands attacked Popée, nearly killing her. She tried to bluff and fake her death, but a bad roll meant the performance wasn't very convincing. In round two the group turned and stormed the south room. Popéé, for safety, went into the north room, again ignoring the fact that in that north room there was yet another door. At the end of the turn that door opened and a mage appeared, firing Magic Missiles at everybody in the room, knocking Popée unconscious. On the next turn the group killed the remaining Redbrands, and Krosh, the half-orc war priest used his channel divinity to get a +10 on an Inflict Wounds spell, seriously hurting the mage. Laurelin the paladin revived Popée. The mage, which turned out to be both "Iarno Albrek", the mage that Sildar Hallwinter was looking for and "Glassstaff", the leader of the Redbrands, used a Misty Step teleportation to disappear. Krosh failed his perception check and didn't notice the secret door with the view hole "through" which the mage had teleported, so he escaped.

Having finally realized the importance of doors, Erdan wanted to open the door south in the Redbrands room, while the others wanted to search the mage's room. They found some treasure, but more importantly the book that the goblins had taken from Gundren Rockseeker, and a letter. The letter congratulated "Lord Albrek" on having infiltrated the Lord's Alliance and taken control of Phandalin. It asked him to use his "goblin allies" to capture Gundren Rockseeker and get his book, which was "dangerous to our cause, even if the dwarf doesn't know it". The mage was supposed to bring this book to "our tower near Red Larch". The book was the family history of the Rockseeker clan, starting from 5,000 years ago, where the dwarves had a surface kingdom called Besilmer. They defended that kingdom with an underground fortress called Tyar-Besil. But digging deeper they came upon a drow temple worshipping the Elder Eye of Elemental Evil. The dwarves were unable to destroy that evil power, and the Rockseeker clan recorded the dwarven knowledge on Elemental Evil.

The group was a lot less interested in this campaign background / clue what to do next information than in the next door, which they now opened. They heard some voices behind it, but decided to just open it rather than listen. So they stumbled into what was actually probably the hardest fight (and the most avoidable) of the dungeon: Three bugbears were harassing a goblin for fun. The goblin hid under the bed when the group entered, and the bugbears attacked. As usual in 5E the fight was over relatively quickly, but the bugbears got in some serious hits and the group was low on health and spells at the end. However that was the last room of the dungeon, and we ended the session here. Due to the group having 6 players compared to the "standard" 5, they are still a few experience points short of reaching level 3. But we will certainly get there next session.

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Friday, June 16, 2017
 
Expropriated

I have been playing Magic Duels for two years, nearly every day, and on two accounts: One on my iPad, and one on the PC. During that time I bought or earned over 5,000 cards (both accounts together), which is about $600 value in cards. Yes, the bigger half of that was earned by playing, but even if you just consider I spent something like $200, it still is a good amount of money for a computer game. The way Magic Duels, and in fact all online versions of Magic the Gathering, are presented is that you don't buy a game, you "buy cards", just like the physical card version of the game. But the latest development kind of removed that illusion. Wizards of the Coast is stopping support for Magic Duels and is launching a new online platform, currently knows as Magic Digital Next. And I feel expropriated, as if WotC just took my virtual cards away from me.

Legally of course I have no rights here. They haven't even announced whether and when they will be shutting down Magic Duels, they just said they won't add any new expansions to it. But expansions were basically the game of Magic Duels: You played one expansion enough to get the gold to buy the next expansion, and then the circle started over. At every expansion the AI was using decks built around that expansion, which renewed interest in the AI opponent. If they just stop adding expansions, the AI (and the players) will just use the same set of decks over and over, until the game gets too boring and everybody stops playing.

The best case scenario is that Magic Digital Next offers me the same entertainment, just minus my existing collection, forcing me to start over from zero. In Magic that usually means having to pay money, because the starting cards you get for free aren't enough to build a variety of reasonable decks. All the cards I have in Magic Duels, and all the gold I earned there is lost.

The worst case scenario is that I won't have any good platform any more to play Magic against an AI. Game developers have become increasingly lazy over the last years. They just don't *do* AIs any more. It is far cheaper to make games that are PvP only, and basically sell your existing customers as "content" to other customers. But real players are a lot less patient that artificial intelligence players: You can't just interrupt your game on your mobile device because of some event in real life, and then continue that same game later, when you have time again. If a game is PvP only, you lose the advantage of playing on a mobile platform, where otherwise you might want to play on the bus or metro until your stop, or in similar situations. Furthermore in Magic it is very possible that one player has a stronger start than another, due to a variety of random factors. Real players tend to quit in that situation. In Magic Duels the AI takes over if you play against a quitter, but what if the new version of Magic Digital Next won't have an AI?

So right now I am not happy at all over the announcement. They are killing Magic Duels off before we even get to see the first demo of the replacement (which will be in September). And they are doing it in the middle of an expansion block, instead of at least finishing that block. And as WotC has repeatedly messed up digital conversions of both Magic and D&D, I am not at all confident for the future of playing Magic on my iPad.

Thursday, June 15, 2017
 
Predicting the shape of the Brexit with game theory

Next Monday the negotiations between the UK and the rest of Europe about the exact conditions of the Brexit begin. While the very word, the referendum, and the "Brexit means Brexit" slogan suggest that people actually know what Brexit means, in reality there are about a million possible variations of the actual result. We only know that Brexit means the UK not being part of the club any more, but we haven't got the foggiest idea what the future relation between the UK and the EU will be, and by what rules it will be governed. How open will the borders be to the movement of goods and people? What will be the rights of British citizens in Europe, and European citizens in the UK? Which European rules will still apply in the UK in the future? Who is paying how much to whom? Nobody knows at the start of the negotiations.

Frequently one can use game theory to predict the outcome of negotiations. If you have an idea of what the negotiation parties each want, and what their incentives are to stick to some position or be flexible on another, you can make an educated guess predicting at least the likelihood of a range of different outcomes. So what if we apply that game theory to the Brexit negotiations?

If you look at Britain as a whole, you will see that there is a huge range of positions on Brexit. Just under half of the population didn't want a Brexit at all. But a reversal is unlikely because a good number of the remainers is willing to accept the opinion of the majority. But we can assume that the people who voted remain would prefer a "soft" Brexit over a "hard" one. And as the leave side is split on that, one could assume that overall there is a majority in Britain for a soft Brexit.

However to apply game theory one must first study the rules of the game. And it turns out that the rules of this game don't favor compromise. Compromise is something that is achieved when neither side in an argument has the power to push through their position. But in the Brexit game the rules state that if no compromise can be found, Britain simply drops out of the EU in the hardest possible way. The Brexit negotiations are basically about what softer rules, in addition to the default WTO rules, will apply in the future. Which means that in game theory terms a win for the hardest possible Brexit is the default option. The people who want a hard Brexit don't need to persuade anybody, they don't need to negotiate, they simply need to stall and block any negotiations and they win the "game".

Guess what my prediction of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
 
Eulogy for Magic Duels

Wizards of the Coast just announced that there will be no more new cards and expansions coming to Magic Duels. Which means that the game will be dead soon. Which is what WotC wants, because they are launching "Magic Digital Next" later this year. And by forcing players off one platform and onto another, the players will need to buy cards again!

Magic Duels in my opinion is one of the best incarnations of Magic the Gathering on a computer, because it restricts the use of rarer cards. You could get every single card in an expansion for either a fraction of what an expansion costs in the real world, or even for free if you had played enough from one expansion to the next. Magic Duels has a system where you will never find a card you don't need any more in a booster, and when you have all cards you can't spend any more. It is the least exploitative of all versions of Magic the Gathering. And of course now they are killing it!

Fuck you, Wizards of the Coast!

 
Devaluation

60 years ago, in 1957, the USA threatened Britain to sell off a bunch of Sterling denominated bonds, which would have driven down the value of the British pound. At that point in time your currency losing value compared to others was considered such a scary idea, that Britain caved in and withdrew their troops from Suez, ending the Suez crisis (and some say the British Empire). If your currency loses value, all the money that your citizens have is worth less, and prices go up because everything imported becomes more expensive. I haven't quite understood how we got from that very reasonable fear of devaluation in 1957 to the idea that devaluation is good for the economy in 2017.

The only possible explanation that I have is that it is some sort of short-term thinking. A sudden drop in value of a currency, like the drop of the value of the British pound from the Brexit referendum, in the short term leads to a countries exports becoming cheaper. Exports go up, the trade balance goes up, and the GDP goes up. However sooner or later the country's stock of raw materials bought before the devaluation runs out. Now the imported materials are more expensive, and at some point the manufacturer of goods needs to raise his prices to compensate for that. In theory, that is in a system where nothing else changes, the price goes up by exactly as much as it had previously dropped from the devaluation of the currency, and the result on exported goods prices is zero. However the effect of devaluation on the price of imported goods isn't zero, and everybody gets less goods for their money. So I still think that devaluation is not good for an economy in the long run.

Curiously devaluation also has a rather socialist component: It hurts people who have money in that currency, and helps people who have debts in that currency. Devaluation is a form of redistribution from the haves to the have-nots. So maybe that is why governments like it these days, because all governments are heavily indebted, and devaluation is a sneaky form of taxation. However it doesn't just hurt the rich, but also those who have entitlements, like pensions. The British pensioner living at the Costa del Sol in Spain probably feels the devaluation of the British pound more than anybody else. The really rich are more likely to have their money in more than one currency, and what they lose on their British pounds they gain on their Swiss francs.

There is an idea discussed in Europe that dissolving the currency union of the Euro would solve economic problems by making the returned German mark more valuable, and devalue the currencies of the weaker economies like Greece or Italy. I don't see how devaluing their currencies will solve the economic problems of those countries in the long run. And while exports of Germany sure would take a hit in the short term, I don't see how doubling the value of their money would hurt the Germans terribly in the long run. It wasn't as if Germany was poor and Greece and Italy were rich before the currency union. The main practical problem of dissolving the Euro would be that *everybody* in the currency union would want their Euros transformed into German marks, and nobody would want Greek drachmas or Italian lira. It would need really heavy-handed state intervention to force the citizens of each Euro-zone country to take their own national money back.

I think the politicians of 1957 got it right: Your own currency being valuable to other people is an asset, not an obstacle.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
 
Not a consumer technology

I will spend this evening dismantling half of my 3D printer in order to remove some stuck filament from the stepper motor. As I already did this once before, it isn't as scary any more. I did have to buy a special torque screwdriver to do it the first time. But by now I'm pretty familiar with the various moving parts of my printer, I understand where the different problems come from, and I can fix the thing most of the time. It turns out that the 3D printer is a relatively simple machine, especially if like in my model the stepper motor that pushes the filament is well separate from the heated extruder / nozzle part of the machine.

I don't know how my color laser printer works half as well as I now know how my 3D printer works. But then I owned that laser printer for years and have printed over 5,000 pages with it with rarely a problem. The only time something really went wrong was when I tried to print on something which wasn't suitable for printing on, and it stuck to the roll of the toner cassette. I had to change to toner cassette to fix the problem, but that wasn't any more difficult than a regular toner replacement. In comparison to that the 3D printer is very problematic. After running okay for about a month, he developed problems. For some time I couldn't get a single print to succeed, in spite of having repeatedly cleaned the stepper motor and the nozzle. Now I reached a point where with some tinkering I can get some prints to succeed, until then there is suddenly a failed print and I need to tinker again to fix things.

I believe that the fundamental problem is the printing bed of the XYZ Da Vinci Jr. 1.0w not being 100% stable in height: If I calibrate the nozzle height to a good value, and check after a print again, the gap between the nozzle and the print bed has changed. And printing only works in a narrow range of gaps: Too close and the plastic doesn't flow out of the nozzle well, too far and the plastic cools down too much before reaching the print bed or the previous layer, and doesn't stick to it well enough. Sometimes it appears as if the bed height moves during the print. So the print starts okay, and then after a number of layers something moves, and the next layers go bad. Right now I don't know how to fix it. We are talking of tenths of millimeters here, so it isn't as if something was visibly lose and could be easily fixed.

In short, a 3D printer is still a technology for home tinkerers, and not yet a consumer technology.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017
 
The Division free weekend

Just in case you missed it: If you were interested in the game The Division, but didn't want to spend 50 bucks on it, you can try it this weekend for free. You just need the UPlay launcher to do that, which you might already have if you own other Ubisoft games. I'm currently playing, and the game is well worth the 0€ I spent. :) At the end of the weekend I can decide if it is worth €20, because you can buy it for 60% off after testing. I like the idea of the free trial plus sale.

[P.S. In the end I didn't like it enough to pay €20 for the game and uninstalled it. Nevertheless I fully support the idea of these free trial weekends.]

Friday, June 09, 2017
 
The long tail in video streaming

Recently a friend of mine started a D&D campaign playing in ancient Egypt at the time of the pharaohs. I know just a little bit about that period of time, so in the interest of making the game a bit more authentic, I wanted to know more. Once upon a time I would have turned to a library, but between me having less time and the ongoing changes of how people get information from the internet these days, I looked for documentary films on ancient Egypt instead. And I made a surprising discovery: Netflix was a real let-down, not providing anything useful, not even an old version of "The Mummy". Amazon Prime on the other hand had several different documentaries and series on ancient Egypt.

In a way that isn't surprising. The core business model of Amazon is "the long tail". It started with books, where Amazon's distribution system simply can hold many more different books than your local bookshop. So while the local bookshop only has the most likely sellers on their shelves, Amazon has many of the books that the bookshop can't stock, "the long tail" of the demand curve. Yes, each of those books is in less demand than the bestsellers. But once people get used to buying at Amazon because the choice is so much bigger, they end up buying the bestsellers there as well, and the local bookshop is going out of business. It isn't really that surprising that for video streaming the same principles apply. Amazon Prime already has an advantage over Netflix because you get advantages like free delivery besides the video streaming. If in addition Amazon has a much bigger library, they gain yet another competitive advantage.

I use newsreaders in which you put keywords of stuff that interests you, and I get a stream of news about these subjects. Having put "Netflix" as one of my keywords, I got used to seeing articles of the kind "What's Leaving Netflix in June 2017". What I don't understand is the "Why?". I would think that the main cost for Netflix is actually streaming videos, while in comparison storing those videos costs relatively little. Is it the commercial agreement with the license holder which makes it too expensive for Netflix to store a "long tail" of rarely watched films? If that is the case, why wouldn't they make a deal in which the license holder gets paid in function of the number of times a film gets watched. Yes, that would be a small income only for both Netflix and the licensor, but a small income is better than no income at all. And a large enough pile of small incomes adds up to real money. Yes, I do watch "hot stuff" like House of Cards. But sometimes I want to watch something older and/or less popular. And "you need to watch this now, then it's gone" is annoying, because it feels like a chore. Netflix would do better with a long tail.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017
 
Elemental Evil: Session 2

In the previous session the group had cleared out a cave of goblins. The goblins had kidnapped their employer Gundren and his warrior friend Sildar, and tried to ambush the ox cart the group was tasked to bring to Phandalin. They had found Sildar in the last cave, but due to a lack of attention on their part Sildar had died. Now fortunately they were able to revive him with magical healing and got more information from him. Apparently Gundren and Sildar had fell foul of the same ambush. Interestingly the goblins were apparently looking for the family heirloom book that Gundren was carrying around with him. Sildar had heard from the goblins that the book and Gundren had been sent to Cragmaw Castle, where the king of the goblins lived. Sildar also revealed that he was an agent of the Lord's Alliance, a faction trying to bring civilization to the wilderness of the Sword Coast. He was on the way to Phandalin to look for another agent of the Lord's Alliance, a mage called Iarno Albrek, who had gone there two months ago but then disappeared.

After spending the night in the now safe cave, the group accompanied Sildar and the ox cart to Phandalin. That was profitable, because they were paid 10 gold each by Sildar, 10 gold each by Barthen's Provision for delivering the supplies, and 10 gold each by the Lionshield trading house for bringing them the information that supplies stolen from them were to be found in the goblin cave. They also learned that not all was well in Phandalin, as Barthen at first mistook them for members of a local mercenary gang, the Redbrands, who were extorting the locals for protection money. They went to the local inn to get a room for the night, and learned a bit more about the Redbrands, who had apparently killed a local woodcarver and kidnapped his family. But the players weren't inclined to ask around for more information from the other locals in the inn.

The next morning they went to the town hall, where the townmaster turned out to be a pompous old fool, scared of the Redbrands. Sildar more or less assumed control, and promised the group 200 gold for solving the Redbrands problem, and 500 gold for saving Gundren. They knew that the Redbrands were usually hanging out in the local saloon, and without further ado went there. The Redbrands in the saloon thought the group was just another group of prospectors or miners and tried to extort money from them. So the group just killed them. They explicitly didn't want to capture one of them for interrogation, but then questioned the barkeep of the saloon and found out that the Redbrands had a hideout in the ruins of the local manor down the road. Wanting to use the element of surprise, the group headed there immediately.

In the manor they easily found stairs down into the hideout. They didn't search the first room, but choose one of the two doors there to continue. That led them to a corridor towards another double door. Approaching the door, Landry the halfling stepped on a pit trap, but was too light to trigger it. However Erdan the druid behind him was in bear form, his weight broke the pit cover, and he fell down 20 feet. Instead of doing something about that, Popée used her mage hand to open the double door, revealing a room with 3 sarcophagi and 3 skeleton. They engaged in combat, with the group somewhat split by the pit in the middle, with only a small ledge to pass, requiring an acrobatics (dexterity) check. The situation was further complicated because there were three Redbrands behind the other door in the first room, who had heard the noise and now attacked from behind. So the group managed to get involved with 2 fights and 1 trap at the same time. They still won, but suffered many wounds, and Popée was knocked unconscious. After the enemies were all dead, Krosh managed to fall into the pit in spite of having advantage on his acrobatics check due to a rope, and fell unconscious as well. Finally the group all assembled in the room with the sarcophagi and decided to take a short rest to heal up. Unfortunately they rolled very badly for the "resting in dangerous locations" check, and were attacked by another 3 skeletons coming out of the sarcophagi.. So they took a second short rest before continuing. [DM's note: I was really surprised how much mileage I got out of two harmless groups of mobs and one trap, the players were really bumbling there.]

Opening the door to the next room, Landry detected two more Redbrands hiding left and right from the door. So Theren went into the room in dodge mode, and evaded all attacks. After that the group cut down the Redbrands quickly. The room turned out to be a prison, in which the Redbrands had been guarding a woman and two children. As it was getting late, we decided to end the session there and leave the interaction with the prisoners to the next time.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017
 
Overpowered at level 1

I had a discussion yesterday with a player who considered that fighters were overpowered and much stronger than wizards in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. He had played other D&D editions and Pathfinder before, and considered that the ability of the fighter to wield two weapons and attack twice already at level 1 without any special feats was way too powerful. And he considered that once the wizard had spent his spell slots, casting his cantrips was boring.

I found that this was a rather peculiar view. I know a lot of people who much prefer a fighter to wield a greatsword dealing 2d6 + Strength bonus of damage rather than two weapons, one of which deals 1d6 + Dexterity bonus, the other just 1d6. Obviously in the end both deal the same damage, so it is just a matter of preference whether you like to have two chances to land at least one blow, or whether you'd rather have just one chance to land a twice as big blow. Even if you consider the respective bonuses from fighting styles, I had never considered one version overpowered compared to the other.

Comparing the fighter to the wizard at level 1, the 1d10 damage with no bonus (average 5.5) that the wizard can deal with a cantrip looks weak compared to the 2d6 + bonus (average 10, even before taking into account the fighting style) that the fighter deals with his attacks, two-handed or dual-wielding. And as I talked about in an earlier post, if the adventuring day has the 6 to 8 encounters that the Dungeon Master's Guide proposes, the 2 or 3 spells that a spellcaster can do at level 1 don't really compensate for the weak cantrips. Even if you deal something like 3d8 or 4d6 like some 1st-level spells do, doing this 2 or 3 times doesn't bring up your average by enough to make your spellcaster deal overall more damage than the basic fighter if there are something like 20 combat rounds in a day.

However that discussion is only valid at level 1. 5th edition D&D has 20 levels. And already at level 10 that wizard is going to have 15 spell slots, plus the ability to recover 5 spell slot levels in a day. And the adventuring day hasn't become any longer, so he can pretty much cast a spell every round of the day. The first level spells already deal more damage than a fighter attack, and at level 10 the wizard has access to much more damaging spells like Fireball, Ice Storm, or Cone of Cold. Meanwhile the fighter just gains one more main hand attack (at which point two-handed is definitively better than dual wielding), and still isn't hitting much harder than at level 1 (his bonus probably went up from +3 to +5 through stat increases). So at level 10+, the wizard definitively deals more damage per day than the fighter.

But mathematics aside, the main advantage of a spellcaster over a melee attacker is that attacking with a spell gives you way more different options. Regardless how many attacks the fighter has per round, in the end it is always just the same attack and damage roll. Even if you only consider damage dealing, the wizard gets a lot more variety, from the magic missile that doesn't require any roll to deal damage, to fireball spells that incinerate a large area. And in addition he has utility spells that allow him to charm people, turn invisible, fly, summon monsters, or build magical walls.

I would say that if a fighter is "overpowered" at level 1, he probably deserves it, and should enjoy it while it lasts.

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Saturday, June 03, 2017
 
Marathon vs. Sprint

Three years ago I called 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons the least balanced of all D&D editions. While I am a lot less exasperated by the rules now, I still believe this is true. However at least for my own campaign I now also know how to better balance the system, and that without having to change the rules.

A level 1 fighter and a level 1 wizard are going adventuring together. Who is going to do better? The fighter has a 16 Strength and a greataxe, which gives him a +5 to hit modifier, dealing 1d12+3 points of damage on a hit. The wizard has a burning hands spell, dealing 3d6 damage on multiple opponents, no to hit roll required, but the monsters can roll a saving throw for half damage. He has a sleep spell that affects 5d8 worth of monster hit points. His other level 1 spells are similar in power, So in the first fight the wizard is very likely to make a much stronger appearance than the fighter. While the fighter kills 1 kobold every round, the wizard knocks out several in each of the first two rounds. However the wizard gets only 2 spell slots at level 1, plus a third once per day with arcane recovery.

A marathon runner and a sprinter are racing each other. Who is going to do better? The answer obviously depends on the length of the race. In a short race the sprinter has a clear advantage, but the longer the race is, the more likely the marathon runner is to catch up. The marathon runner in 5E is the fighter, or similar classes, while the sprinter is the wizard, or other classes with lots of burst damage. While fights in 5E are generally short, the rules are designed around an adventuring day of 6 to 8 encounters. That is 20+ combat rounds. Yes, the wizard is going to dominate 3 of them. But for the rest he is going to sit there and cast the fire bolt cantrip for straight 1d10 damage, while the fighter is still doing his 1d12+3 with the same attack bonus. If you plot the cumulative damage the fighter and the wizard deal over the adventuring day, at some point the fighter will catch up or surpass the wizard.

So is the system balanced? Unfortunately that depends now very much on the DM. Because it is the DM who ultimately decides the length of the race, how many rounds of combat each adventuring day has. Most people still think that the wizard is the far stronger class than the fighter. The 6 to 8 encounters per day rule isn't widely applied, and most people have less encounters before a long rest, which favors the wizard sprinter over the fighter marathon runner. And of course there is the psychology of people simply not remembering boring combat rounds in which everybody just did his base attack; the wizard dropping a bunch of monsters with one fell swoop is a lot more memorable and exciting.

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Thursday, June 01, 2017
 
Fleks3D system no compatible with XYZ da Vinci Jr. 1.0w

The short version of the story is in the title: I bought a Fleks3D system build plate for my XYZ da Vinci Jr. 1.0w and it turned out to be not compatible. I wasted $50.

A filament 3D printer creates an object in 3D by building it up, layer by layer, from the bottom to the top. That necessitates that the bottom layer sticks well to the build plate. If it doesn't, the movement of the print head moves the object around, and the next layer doesn't go to the right place. Many printers come with glass plates, so you need to modify that build plate in order to make your prints stick. But not too much, because otherwise you can't get them off easily.

There are a lot of homebrew solutions to that. Some people use a glue stick. A less messy method is using masking tape, the sort used when painting your house. But as the masking tape is at best 2" broad, you then need to put 3 rows next to each other without overlapping or leaving gaps, which is a bit fiddly. And you need to replace it after a few runs. XYZ Printing is selling 6" bed tape, which works great, but isn't exactly cheap at $1 per square.

So when I stumbled upon Fleks3D, who are offering a re-usable plastic build plate system, I thought it would be worth a shot. The idea is that the plastic is removable, and can be bent for easier removal of the plastic item printed on it. So I bought the 6"x6" system, which I thought would fit on my XYZ da Vinci Jr. 1.0w build plate. Well, it did fit more or less (surprisingly I found it a bit small, in spite of the print area of my printer supposedly being only 5.9"x5.9"). But what I hadn't considered was the thickness of the added Fleks3D build plate of over 3 mm. The instructions helpfully suggest to lower the bed by slightly more than 3 mm, but on the XYZ printers you can't lower the bed at all. You can raise the print head with the Z-offset setting, but not by much. So even with the Z-offset set to maximum my print head scratched the Fleks3D build plate and couldn't print.

Now I could have tried to remove the glass plate to get a lower surface. But the surface below the glass didn't look very flat, and the removal not easy. I was worried that if I messed that up, I would have no working build plate at all. Furthermore experimenting with the Fleks3D plastic surface showed that it wasn't as flexible as I would have thought. And I could see that after some bending it wouldn't necessary be level on the build plate any more. So I decided to cut my losses and just gave up on that system. I got some more XYZ bed tape, and when that runs out, I might try the much thinner BuildTak system.

[EDIT: Actually it appears as if the nozzle scratching over the Fleks3D build plate has damaged my nozzle. I need to buy a new nozzle system. :( ]

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