Tag Archives: roleplaying

The Horror, The Horror: Building a search engine Prop for a LARP

So I was involved in Room 13’s Collector Con earlier in the year and one of the things we wanted to do as a prop was to give the players the ability to search online for clues, so what we needed was a search engine that was big enough for them to explore, but would quietly present them with fake results hidden away amongst real ones to enhance the immersion.

Being the tech-ref for the game this fun fun job fell to me to do a quick feasibility study to work out if we could do it for the game.

Now the last thing we wanted to do was have to write a search engine from scratch, and then populate it with enough fake data to hide the clues amidst false leads – that just wasn’t going to be economical in terms of how much Ref time was going to be needed to put it together.  So instead what I did was build a rewriting proxy server.  It works something like this:

A diagram of boxes showing the flow between a web-browser on the left via an apache proxy, to the DDG search engine, back through rewrite HTML, then ddg-rewriter, before returning to the web-brower

So basically a Web Browser makes a request of our server (search.example.com).  The Apache webserver makes a proxy request to http://duckduckgo.com/html (who see’s it as coming from search.example.com and not the web-browser).

Of the data that comes back, if its an HTML page then Apache rewrites http://duckduckgo.com/html to http://search.example.com/html

Every page and image is then sent to a small program called “ddg-rewriter” which scans for HTML files.  It has a list of “Keyword” -> “Fake result” associations and if it sees one of these keywords used it will insert the relevant fake result(s), if not it will leave the page unchanged.

The end result is that DDG thinks its getting search requests from search.example.com.  And the players Web Browser gets back a page that appears to be from http://search.example.com – so it has all the usual search output you would see online, but if specific keywords are used then the fake results are inserted.

Those fake results will appear to blend in better because they have a URL that is shown (so http://magicaldomain.com) however they are actually linked to somewhere else (so http://game.example.com/magicaldomain).  This means you can make it look like your search results appear from dozens of domains without having to buy a single one, as they can all be really hosted from your example.com server.

So yeah, there we go, feel free to download the code and configs and have a browse, yes its messy, yes its first drafty, yes it should be pulling in data from a database and have a nice management interface (and yes it was written by my foul mouthed alterego as usual) however it is functional and should give you some ideas for how to do this kind of thing.  There’s a README.txt in there which will include some more technical details.

If you want it: ddg-rewriter_2018-05-25.zip (11k)

The Echoing Green

Okay so this weekend I participated in a funky one off weekend game called Ghosts in Public: The Echoing Green, this was a game run for Mish’s Birthday up at Eskmeals, so it was cold and wintery and also cosy inside with the fires, which was handy because since we were all playing ghosts we couldn’t really leave the house that much :) Continue reading

Empire E3 2017 – Hots & Nots

(mirrored from a long facebook comment)

So apparently the done thing is Hots and Nots for Empire, so here’s a short list of things… I may add more later.

+ Okay Anvil was kind of impressive, even coming over the hill exhausted and travel sick looking out over the sea of tents made me realise the scale of the thing. Also GOD were lovely about me rolling up and being like “Hey I just paid money on the gate what do?”

+ Friendliness of people and willingness of people to talk to me. I showed up to chase down information and rumours about last seasons plot line and got involved in talking to priests, warriors, generals, wise women, cardinals, and the magistrate involved. And pretty much everyone was willing to take as much time as they could between whatever else they were up to to engage in roleplaying with me, although some of those were walking meetings where I was frantically scribbling notes (I still have names to tick off my list).

+ The various camps were super interesting to wander into and kind of chat to people, although I don’t think I made it up to Dawn, let alone into Navarr. Also the Hospital seemed a friendly bunch, I wandered in to hassle them as part of a plot I was chasing up for my own amusement and they were helpful and took time out of their shit to come donate roleplaying to help build my game (shout out to Magdalena and several others who’s names I didn’t catch, oh and Medea Ruth who had a super disturbing dog and I later debated theology with). Also watching them deal with injuries post major battle was pretty cool  Lastly the Orcs were all just wonderfully sliiiiiightly inhuman but all *on message* as Orcs, do you lot teach Orc 101 classes to new people who are joining? (getting thrown out of the Orc camp twice and also chatting to some of you with the Kallavesi egregore was fascinating).

+ Fierce religious/legal debate, again with people who were clearly up to their ears in plot (I even went and talked to Yael about things and we had a few minutes walk and talk) willing to hash out arguments with me or just have their well reasoned and passionate debates in front of witnesses to put their points across, also arguing with others and even changing other priests minds about various motions, and the debating that occurred at the seemingly random Crow meets at (I think) Sherard’s opposite the Artisans Arms (was there a pattern to these things? I just seemed to wander into camp sometimes and we’d kind of clump up). I really quite enjoyed watching the Yael plot bubble up and the heresy trail and execution that I think will have repercussions for a while yet.

+ I finally got to bump into a friend of mine again after a shit load of time, like literally 15 years.


– Environmental factors: I suffered pretty badly from travelling down there, and additionally the long term rain on Friday, and Saturday nights was pretty dampening to the spirits.

– I think I managed to have basically no clue about when official shit was going on, I managed to miss my virtue assembly (my own fault for not checking the times), I had basically no idea when Wintermark was doing moots and Crow meetings. I think this is pretty much all my fault, but I’m half tempted to suggest a scheduling blackboard of “Next X occurs at Y, location Z” outside the Artisans Arms.

– There definitely needed to be some self motivation to find game and I think if I hadn’t been lucky to be going with an existing group and having a silly idea for getting started I could fall back on I could wind up sitting about in camp watching a flurry of activity go by and have basically no idea how to get involved in it.

Roleplaying Ramble: Torture

So last night I was at the LURPS panel discussion for mature themes, and super appreciated the input from the lovely panel (seriously I have notes that may get typed up at some point and got some chewy ideas to ponder).  Anyway one of the questions was on torture scenes, and various ideas came forward and I offered some thoughts and examples, but thinking about it I kind of wanted to write something to set my ideas out. Continue reading

Batch Generating Character Sheets

Okay so google drive is the commonly used solution for group editable document collections for roleplaying games.  For many events Room 13 generates 2 documents per character: A background document (essentially a short work of fiction describing the characters history) and a character sheet (their stats, sanity, coping mechanism, and a brief rule summary).  Now it’s the second one of these that concerns us.

For The Fete we needed to make a tweak to the sheets late in the process, and hence I had to personally go through about 30 documents making the same edit to each one, and ever since then I’ve been wary of it.  So for Cluedothulhu 2016 I’ve decided to look into batch generating character sheets. Continue reading

Secure Facility 7: TeH h4x0rs

Okay so the final thing that I built most specifically for SF7 was the interface for funky movie style hacking that occurred in the game, this was basically … a sort of a bodge in a way, it was one of those things that I knew wasn’t going to have to stand up to a lot of traffic, but was going to have to look the part in terms of being a sharp contrast to the corporate smoothness of the rest of the site, and also was going to have to give the players some sort of delay and some sort of challenge to make them work for their information. Continue reading

Secure Facility 7: Door Control

The Door Access Code system was designed so that players could enter the codes from 2 department heads, inside an hour, which would then “unlock” the doors in character, and allow them to throw the dead mans handle, spin the wheels, and press the two additional deadmans handles by the door to open the main bunker doors – killing everyone inside pretty fast from radiation poisoning.  While this sounds like a bad idea once they worked out they were sharing the facility with an unknown alien being some of them get very tempted to use it :) Continue reading

Secure Facility 7: The Intranet CMS

Now unlike the ECR system I built for NFQ which was a more old style menu system complete with random corruptions and purposeful slow down this was supposed to be a more up to date web based system, we wanted multiple people to be able to use it and for information to be able to be added by the Refs in the run up to the event, so what we wanted was a pretty regular CMS, it was for a small fictional organisation of like 200 people and it needed to be able to support multiple accounts, various storage of text locked to groups and accounts, and also displaying video and calendaring. (TODO: I’ll hopefully post a few screenshots of the final thing and edit them into this post later) Continue reading