Ordered a new 3D printer

I’ve been using my XYZ da Vinci Junior 1.0w 3D printer for a year now. It is still working. However I have learned a lot during that year, I’m printing more complicated models now, and I’m reaching the limits of what the machine can do. I still think it is a great printer for a beginner, but now I want something much better. So I ordered a Zortrax M200 Plus. The “Plus” is important, as this is the brand-new and improved model of the M200, which is highly regarded but now 5 years old.

The first difference between the two printers is the price. The da Vinci Junior was 471€, the Zortrax M200 Plus is 2,369€. Obviously not the same league. The da Vinci Junior uses PLA, the Zortrax can use PLA, ABS, and some other materials. The old M200 was really best used with ABS, but the new Plus version has better cooling fans, so PLA should come out fine now as well. The main difference is that the XYZ printer was only able to use proprietary XYZ filaments, while the new Zortrax also works with filaments from other suppliers. That was a major point of annoyance for the old printer for me; the spools came with an RFID chip, and if the chip said your spool was empty, the printer refused to use the spool. As the chip counted loading, unloading, and failed prints as lost material even if there was no actual material lost, I always ended up having to throw away the last meters of the spool. And the material was far more expensive than it should have been. However at the start I’ll use Zortrax ABS, just because the software knows the best settings for that material.

Where the difference between the two printers is likely to be biggest is in the quality of the prints. At the shop where I ordered the printer they had sample prints of little miniatures similar to those I often make, and the quality was *much* better. On the best setting you don’t even see the layers any more with the Zortrax M200 Plus. Of course it remains to be seen how good it will work with my prints. But the experimenting and fiddling around is all part of the hobby, the resulting miniatures are more of a secondary benefit. 🙂

From what I see in reviews the main issue with the Zortrax is that the software is very slow. I saw a YouTube video of a guy using the old Zortrax M200 to print a Harry Potter wand, and the software took 25 minutes to slice that model. That has probably to do with the print being with rafts (mandatory with the Zortrax) and supports. I suspect the supports use a lot of slicing time, I’ll have to try with and without it. But from the video it appears that the supports are easy to remove, which could be a plus. Now I finally understand the models of Miguel Zavala: Many of them can’t be printed without those automatically generated supports, and the supports generated by the XYZ software are very bad. So up to now I had to fiddle around with the models a lot, disassemble them digitally, reassemble them digitally, and generate functional supports with Meshmixer. I might be able to just hit a print button in the future, which will be faster even if the slicing is slow.

I’ll let you know how the new printer works out once it is delivered and installed.

Is story important?

I am currently watching a series of YouTube videos (overview page on this blog) of a group currently playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the official Storm King’s Thunder adventure. I watched some of their video on previous adventures, and must say that they are both better than average players and their videos have better than average production values. What I found particularly interesting in this series was that I have read Storm King’s Thunder and dismissed it as basically unplayable. But they are doing just fine playing it. Why?

The keyword here is suspension of disbelief. Storm King’s Thunder starts out in a very linear fashion with a series of events befalling a fortified village. Within one week the village gets bombarded from the air by giants in a floating castle, then the residents move out and find shelter in a bat cave where they get captured by goblins, the goblins start looting the village, the adventurers arrive and start killing the goblins, then the Zhentarim (a semi-evil political faction) try to take over the empty village, and then a horde of orcs attacks. (In the videos the DM replaced the orcs by more Zhentarim, but added an deus-ex-machina dragon saving the village). So the adventure for the group consists of searching through the abandoned village and killing the goblins, then beating back the Zhentarim, then beating back the orcs, and then finally going to the bat cave and freeing the kidnapped villagers. Then the villagers send them to another town very far away for rather flimsy reasons, and there the adventure loops backs to the giants. As far as stories in D&D adventures go, this is one of the less believable ones. But of course if you don’t care and just enjoy the ride, a lot of fun can be had.

It reminds me a bit of MMORPGs, where the story can also be rather weak, but is basically just an excuse to lead people to gameplay. In the D&D videos the story leads not just to gameplay in the form of combat, but also to fun situations where the DM describes a situation in more detail and the players come up with all sorts of plans and ideas instead of just rolling for initiative. A good group and a good DM are the ones where the players constantly fire off ideas, and the DM rolls with them. Then the actual story of the adventure becomes a less important backdrop, because the important story is the one that evolves from the players being in unusual situations. The art as a DM is to get people to play that way. I’m working on that.

Best GPS running watches (December 2017)

There are plenty of great fitness trackers on the market right now, each of which cater to different users with different needs. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin vívosport will suit your needs. Looking for something even cheaper than that? Garmin’s vívofit 3 or Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 might do the trick. But if you’re a more serious athlete that needs something a bit more powerful—something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features—what are your options? Today, we’re going to walk you through our list of the best GPS running watches on the market.

Related: The best fitness trackers | Which Fitbit is right for you?

If you’re a serious runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has a big, easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and of course, a GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are a bit pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.

Without any further delay, let’s get started!

Editor’s Note: We will update this list as more devices hit the market.

Best GPS running watch

Garmin fenix 5

Garmin’s fenix 5 lineup is finally here, and these are the best GPS running watches on the market right now.

All three fenix 5 models come with preloaded multisport functionality for running, hiking, swimming, biking, and more. They all feature Garmin’s impressive Elevate heart rate trackers, built-in GPS (of course), water resistance up to 100 meters, as well as navigation features with a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter.

They all also feature a variety of connected features that make these devices true smartwatches. Users can get call, text and email smartphone notifications. All Sapphire models are also Wi-Fi enabled, so users will be able to connect with their home network and upload statistics even if their smartphones aren’t around.

Not crazy about the regular fenix 5? The smaller fenix 5S might be for you. It has all the same specs as the fenix 5, though it’s built for people with smaller wrists and has a slightly smaller battery. Looking for something even more beefy than the fenix 5? The fenix 5X is much larger and comes with preloaded with TOPO U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other navigation features like Round Trip Run and Round Trip Ride. The 5X will even display guidance cues for upcoming turns.

Read more

  • Garmin fenix 5 review
  • Wrists-on with Garmin’s new fenix 5 line at CES 2017
Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Garmin

Runner-up

Garmin vívoactive 3

best fitness trackers

Garmin’s vívoactive 3 is a huge step up from its predecessor, the vívoactive HR.

For starters, the vívoactive 3 actually looks like a watch this time around, and it will look nice on your wrist whether you’re at the gym or the office. It’s comfortable too, and has a bright, colorful touchscreen display.

There are a total of 15 activity tracking profiles built in, so most athletes will be covered here. It also has a super accurate GPS and heart rate monitor, a battery that will last around five days on a single charge, and plenty of great smartwatch features built in.

If you don’t mind spending close to $249 on a GPS running watch, you should definitely consider the vívoactive 3.

Read more

  • Garmin vívoactive 3 review
Buy now from Amazon

Honorable mention

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music

TomTom’s Spark 3 Cardio + Music is a great option if you aren’t interested in the Garmin vívoactive HR.

It has everything you need in a GPS running watch – an accurate heart rate monitor, a built-in GPS (of course) and support for a ton of different running applications. Plus, this model comes with a Route Exploration feature that not only lets you track where you’ve run, but also lets you get routes from any website and upload them to your watch if you’re interested in trying out a new route.

It’s worth noting there are a few different models in the Spark 3 lineup: the TomTom Spark 3, Spark 3 Music, Spark 3 Cardio and our pick, the Spark 3 Cardio + Music. Though less expensive, the Spark 3 and Spark 3 Music unfortunately don’t offer a heart rate monitor. The Spark 3 Cardio certainly offers a lot for the money, though we believe the onboard music storage and pair of Bluetooth headphones that come with the Spark 3 Cardio + Music provide a better value overall. The Cardio + Music model only costs $60 more.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from TomTom

Also read: The dark side of fitness trackers: how to avoid common mistakes that could hurt your fitness goals

Best budget GPS running watch

Polar M200

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Polar M200.

This is a waterproof running watch with a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS that will track your speed, distance and route during a run, and will also keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, calories burned, sleep time and quality. This is also a sleek-looking device. In our opinion, it’s much better looking than its predecessor, the Polar M400.

Plus, this device also comes with Polar’s Running Index, which will show you how your running performance is improving overtime. In the Polar Flow app, you’ll get a Running Index score that’s automatically calculated after every run, based on your heart rate and speed data.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

Best smartwatch for running

Polar M600

See more Polar M600 photos

Polar’s M600 sport watch is by far the best GPS running smartwatch on the market.

With a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, optical heart rate monitor and 4GB of on-board storage, the M600 is quite the feature-packed watch. It also comes with support for Polar’s wonderful Flow app, allowing you to track just about any activity you can think of – rowing, skiing, hiking and much more. You’ll also be able to squeeze about two days of battery life out of this thing, which is impressive for an Android Wear watch.

You can certainly find Android Wear devices for less than the $300 asking price, but the M600 provides much more than other devices.

Read more

  • Polar M600 review
  • Polar M600 specs, price release date and everything else you should know
Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

So there you have it – our list of the best GPS running watches on the market! Did we miss anything? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Next: How to use your fitness tracker to actually get fit – a comprehensive guide

How College Campuses Can Uphold Free Speech AND Shut Down Racists

Give marginalized communities the space to address white nationalists on campus.

At the Center for Human and Civil Rights museum in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s an exhibit with headphones where you can sit and experience the verbal abuse that many civil rights activists lived through during the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins. They could not verbally respond to the racists, lest they suffer violent consequences. Instead, they used nonviolent protest to challenge the abusive provocation and impact the national public discourse.

I thought of that exhibit recently, as I read about the spread of racist speech seeking to incite a response on college campuses. Should we disrupt white nationalists, Nazis and other far right views? Or should we, like the civil rights pioneers, find other ways to shut down racist speech? And what role should college administrators and other decision-makers play?

A predictable pattern

We’re seeing a predictable pattern: The far right funds white nationalist speeches on university campuses seeking to provoke students, faculty and communities. When students and communities push back, the Nazis and other racists gleefully tweet and give media interviews about the chaos that ensued because of the “violent left.” Afterward, university administrators are “embarrassed” that their institution hosted a melee.

Our constitution demands that we fully support nonviolent, non-disruptive protests by students at white supremacist events. The text of the Constitution’s First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “a group’s request to engage in a parade or demonstration involving public display of the Nazi swastika is a symbolic form of free speech that is at least presumptively entitled to First Amendment protections.” However, as University administrators and others should be well aware, in Brandenburg v. Ohio the court also held that “government can punish inflammatory speech” if it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Considering the incited violence involving campus speeches at Berkeley, University of California Davis, and others, administrators should carefully consider the implications of Skokie and Brandenburg.

Despite the death of roughly 60,000,000 people in World War II, the U.S. Supreme Court has not allowed a government ban on Nazi hate speech and symbols. So how do we responsibly exercise free speech in higher education and more broadly while holding racists accountable for their history of violence, incitement, and hate?

A productive approach

One productive approach is for university administrators to slate white nationalists (if they insist on hosting them) on debates or panels, with multiple views represented, in place of from-the-podium speeches. This arrangement allows white nationalists to air their racially biased views with direct and immediate debunking that’s put on an equal footing.

Our nation’s colleges and universities are the place where the violent and hateful views of Nazis and other white supremacists should be vigorously challenged. I suspect that many disruptions on campus would be quelled if the views of marginalized communities were formally given the space to address white nationalists, Nazis and other radical right views in campus settings. These events would become productive democratic dialogues, not dangerous monologues.

And why not replicate this in the classroom to address the ongoing outcry from conservatives that their perspectives are sidelined in higher education? I recently lectured in a sophomore seminar course using free speech on campus as the foundation for the class. I asked the students to take a public position and provide evidence to support their arguments. But they were somewhat surprised when I pushed back on their evidence.

Protecting tenure

As faculty, we have the duty to prepare our students to be critical thinkers and ready to engage in serious discourse. I am a believer in the power of evidence and the exchange of ideas—but this concept must be buttressed by our nation’s faculty and students.

For either of these suggestions to be carried out with any consistency, we must protect academic tenure, which has been a recent target of conservatives. The sacred responsibility of academia, and the power of tenure, is the ability to wrestle with our nation’s toughest debates without fear of political reprisal.

For generations, my ancestors had to endure racist abuse from white supremacists in silence. They eventually adopted ingenious nonviolent tactics. Today, we can still resist those who would deny us our rights, but college administrators, faculty and others who invite them to speak must take practical steps to make space for our voices, too.

Watch Honor’s 3D camera prototype in action as Huawei looks to rival iPhone X’s Face ID

  • Huawei/Honor showed off its 3D facial recognition technology at a recent event in London
  • It claims that its Point Cloud Depth Camera is ten times more accurate than the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera
  • Recent leaked documents show that Huawei’s next flagship may include a notch – could the 3D tech be included?

Like it or not, the notch is coming, and it’s all thanks to Apple. Yet while a vast number of budget Android OEMs are expected to include camera cut-outs purely as an iPhone X-aping cosmetic choice, others are reportedly looking to take advantage of the notch and offer their own alternatives to Apple’s TrueDepth camera suite.

The biggest contender in this field that we’ve seen so far is Huawei. We first got a glimpse of Huawei’s take on the technology during the Honor View 10’s launch in China, complete with a brief demonstration of how the system’s multiple sensors combine and, of course, a quick look at how it handles animated animal emojis.

Editor’s Pick

Evidence has since emerged that the Huawei P11 will sport a notch of some kind, but it remains to be seen if the Shenzhen giant’s next flagship will include Face ID-style features. Nevertheless, Huawei is clearly keen on its new tech, as it showed it off again during the Honor View 10 and Honor 7X launch event in London.

While Honor president George Zhao briefly touched on the newly-christened Point Cloud Depth Camera, it also made a hands-on appearance as a prototype USB-C peripheral. Thanks to a new demonstration video by Notebook Italia and guided by Honor device engineer, Matthew Leone, we now know a little more about the 3D imaging tech and how it might fit on a future Huawei or Honor phone.

Leone explains that the accessory uses a structured light near-infrared projector combined with other sensors – an RGB camera, infrared camera, near-infrared illuminator and two RGB LEDs – to create a 3D map of the user’s face.

He then shows this in action as a single photo of his own face taken via the accessory turns into a 3D model. I actually attended the event and managed to give this a try myself and can vouch for how quick and accurate the process is even at this early stage. You can see my ugly mug in 3D in the photos below.

While it’s clearly early days, representatives from Huawei’s Honor sub-brand have made a number of bold claims about its TrueDepth competitor. During the presentation, a slide noted that its Face Unlock biometrics system needs just 400 milliseconds to bypass an authentication prompt. Honor also says that the Point Cloud Depth Camera captures 300,000 points to create an accurate 3D reconstruction of your face – 10 times more so than the iPhone X.

What do you think about Huawei/Honor’s facial recognition tech? Could it be the killer feature that takes the P11, or perhaps a Mate 10 successor, to the next level? Let us know in the comments.

A ‘Security Robot’ for the Homeless Has Already Been Tried—It Didn’t Go Well

The 400lb machine that once patrolled outside the San Francisco SPCA prompted a backlash, as some argued its real mission was to drive people away.

To some who are homeless, San Francisco’s latest security robot was a rolling friend on five wheels that they called “R2-D2 Two”. To others living in tents within the droid’s radius, it was the “anti-homeless robot”.

For a month, the 400lb, bullet-shaped bot patrolled outside the not-for-profit San Francisco SPCA animal shelter, rolling around the organization’s parking lots and sidewalks, capturing security video and reading up to 300 license plates per minute. Homeless people who pitched their tents in an alleyway nearby complained they felt the beeping, whirring droid’s job was to run them off.

“We called it the anti-homeless robot,” said John Alvarado, who was one of numerous people camping next to the animal shelter when the robot arrived. He said he quickly decided to move his tent half a block away: “I guess that was the reason for the robot.”

Officials of both the SF SPCA and Knightscope, who rented the robot to the shelter, denied that the intention was to dislodge homeless encampments.

“The SPCA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal,” Knightscope said in a statement.

SF SPCA staff members said the facility had been plagued with break-ins, staff members had been harassed as they went to the parking lot and sidewalks were littered with hypodermic needles. Jennifer Scarlett, the SF SPCA president, said in a release that her organization “was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus – like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti – not to disrupt homeless people”.

But after complaints about the program were shared widely on social media, the organization quickly admitted it had made a mistake in its choice of security guards – and fired the robot.

“Since this story has gone viral, we’ve received hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility, and encouraging people to take retribution,” said Scarlett, noting that their campus had since been vandalized twice. “We are taking this opportunity to reflect on the ‘teachable moment’.”

Some of the homeless people who crossed paths with the white security robot, which bore images of dogs and cats, as it patrolled outside of San Francisco SPCA this month thought it was a cute and a positive addition to the area.

TJ Thornton, whose tent is still pitched across the street from the shelter’s parking lot, nicknamed the bot “R2-D2 Two”. He liked how the machine made little whistling sounds as it moved along the sidewalk and how it would even say “hello” if you walked past it.

Thornton said he thought the bot had a positive influence on the neighborhood and relieved the pressure on local homeless people to always keep an eye on cars parked nearby. “People living on the streets actually watch out for the cars. If anyone does anything stupid, like breaking into cars, it reflects on us.”

Others saw the robot as Big Brother, surveilling their every move with video cameras. “That SPCA robot was the bane of our existence,” said Lexi Evans, 26, who has been living on San Francisco’s streets for 13 years. “It was driving us crazy.”

She said her group of friends had a tent encampment behind the SPCA. When they first saw the robot looking at them, they found it creepy. Then they noticed its white light flashing and thought it was recording their every move on video. Later they observed police officers coming to interact with the robot and wondered whether it was feeding information to law enforcement.

“We started feeling like this thing was surveilling us for the police,” said Evans, whose whole tent encampment has now moved around the block outside another business. “That’s officially invasion of privacy. That’s uncool.”

Evans said that once, someone became so angry with the thing that they knocked it over. The robot made a “whee-ooh wah” sound.

In another instance, somebody “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors”, Scarlett, the SPCA president, told the San Francisco Business Times.

Trouble really started for the robot last week, when the city issued an order for it to stay off the public sidewalk or face a daily penalty of up to $1,000 for operating in the public right of way without a permit. Then the story hit the internet, with Scarlett telling the Business Times that “from a walking standpoint, I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment”.

But by Friday, SF SPCA was apologizing for having brought in the machine.

“We regret that our words were ill-chosen. They did not properly convey the pilot program’s intent and they inaccurately reflected our values,” said Scarlett. “We are a nonprofit that is extremely sensitive to the issues of homelessness.”

Knightscope’s robots have gotten into trouble in other cities. Last year, a similar robot allegedly ran over a 16-month-old toddler at the Stanford Shopping Center in the town of Palo Alto, causing minor injuries. Another Knightscope security robot became famous on social media for drowning itself in the fountain of the Washington DC office complex it was policing.

“I already miss it,” said Danica Dito, who works in the SPCA administrative offices. “Just the fact that it rolled around discouraged crime.”

 

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JavaScript Interview Questions for Freshers


What is JavaScript, really ?

JavaScript (“JS” for short) is a full-fledged dynamic programming language that, when applied to an HTML document, can provide dynamic interactivity on websites. It was invented by Brendan Eich, co-founder of the Mozilla project, the Mozilla Foundation, and the Mozilla Corporation.

JavaScript is incredibly versatile. You can start small, with carousels, image galleries, fluctuating layouts, and responses to button clicks. With more experience, you’ll be able to create games, animated 2D and 3D graphics, comprehensive database-driven apps, and much more!

*For online documentation on JavaScript , refer the doc of creators – mdn

**For the best class-room training on JavaScript at Mumbai connect with Rocky Sir

Leaving out the very simple and basic Interview Questions, at what questions do the fresh web developers get stuck ?  Here is a list :

1. Before-the-first-Round-of-JavaScript-Interview-Questions

      download a short and sweet PDF


2. 10-common-JavaScript-interview-questions (Click on the Question for viewing the answer)


3. Step-by-step solution for step counting using recursion

step counting _sctpl

For example, if you wanted to climb 4 steps, you can take the following distinct number of steps:

1) 1, 1, 1, 1
2) 1, 1, 2
3) 1, 2, 1
4) 2, 1, 1
5) 2, 2
So there are 5 distinct ways to climb 4 steps. We want to write a function, using recursion, that will produce the answer for any number of steps
answer-to-step-counting-using-recursion

4. Determine overlapping numbers in ranges

You will be given an array with 5 numbers. The first 2 numbers represent a range, and the next two numbers represent another range. The final number in the array is X. The goal of your program is to determine if both ranges overlap by at least X numbers. For example, in the array [4, 10, 2, 6, 3] the ranges 4 to 10 and 2 to 6 overlap by at least 3 numbers (4, 5, 6), so your program should return true.
answer-to-determine-overlapping-numbers-in-ranges 



5. Find all duplicates in an array



This is a common interview question where you need to write a program to find all duplicates in an array. The elements in the array have no restrictions, but in this algorithm we’ll work specifically with integers. Finding duplicates in an array can be solved in linear time by using a hash table to store each element as we pass through the array. The general algorithm is: 


(1) Loop through the array
(2) At each element check if it exists in the hash table, which has a lookup of O(1) time
(3) If the element exists in the hash table then it is a duplicate, if it doesn’t exist, insert it into the hash table, also O(1)

for-complete-solution-to-finding-all-duplicates-in-an-array


6Two sum problem


The two sum problem is a common interview question, and it is a variation of the subset sum problem. There is a popular dynamic programming solution for the subset sum problem, but for the two sum problem we can actually write an algorithm that runs in O(n) time.

The challenge is to find all the pairs of two integers in an unsorted array that sum up to a given S. For example, if the array is [3, 5, 2, -4, 8, 11] and the sum is 7, your program should return [[11, -4], [2, 5]] because 11 + -4 = 7 and 2 + 5 = 7.

for-complete-solution-to-Two-sum-problem

7. Stock maximum profit

You will be given a list of stock prices for a given day and your goal is to return the maximum profit that could have been made by buying a stock at the given price and then selling the stock later on. For example if the input is: [45, 24, 35, 31, 40, 38, 11] then your program should return 16 because if you bought the stock at $24 and sold it at $40, a profit of $16 was made and this is the largest profit that could be made. If no profit could have been made, return -1.


for-complete-solution-to-Stock-maximum-profit


Combat optional

One of the comments on my previous post on Zelda about combat feeling optional got me thinking. Role-playing games evolved from war games: The full name of TSR, the company that first made Dungeons & Dragons, was “Tactical Studies Rules”; and the game evolved out of a squad-based war game with heroes fighting monsters. Since then combat against monsters has been very much at the heart of role-playing games of all sorts. Frequently you gained experience points, and thus levels, and thus power, by killing monsters. In MMORPGs that even led to players thinking about monsters as being a resource, with other players being a nuisance for “killstealing” or otherwise taking that monster resource away from you.

In Zelda – Breath of the Wild the monster is back where it belongs: In the role of an obstacle. There are no xp to gain, killing monsters doesn’t increase your power. Yes, you might earn a nice weapon in a treasure, but you could also break your weapon while killing the monsters and then find a worse replacement in their treasure chest. Monsters drop monster parts, which can be combined with stuff like insects to cook elixirs (which sell for much more than the monster parts). There is even a special trader in the game that allows you to trade monster parts for another currency with which you can buy special items like monster disguises. But in the long run, killing monsters frequently just isn’t worth it. When exploring in the mountains and getting attacked by a monster, I’d try to punt it over a ledge and got rid of it, even if that meant I wouldn’t loot it.

Combat isn’t completely optional however. At the very least you will need to kill 5 different incarnations of Ganon, the big evil guy, before reaching the closing credits. If you want to do all shrines, about 10% of them consist of a combat trial, and some others have lesser guardian monsters mixed with puzzles. You might also want at some point in time farm certain monster parts to upgrade armor with. But what I like is that you can wander the landscape and decide to circumvent a monster camp if you don’t feel like attacking it. Because you don’t have to fight everything.

What does a DM need to know?

I recently offered a young player of D&D who was interested in becoming a Dungeon Master to give him some pointers on how to be a good DM. But while I have been a DM for nearly 4 decades now, it isn’t actually all that easy to describe what makes a good DM. In some ways it is more an art than a science. And where it is a science, it is a badly documented one.

The basic role of a DM is easily described: He sets the scene, asks the players what they do, and then reacts to their answer by telling them the consequences of their actions, thus setting the next scene. Rinse, lather, repeat. What makes the description of a good DM so complicated is that different people are good DMs in very different ways. You ask a player what he specifically liked with a DM, and realize that whatever that was, it was probably something optional. For example when I ask for feedback from various players in different groups of mine, I frequently get told that they appreciate my preparation of visual playing aids: Battlemaps, 3D printed miniatures, handouts. But you can play with another good DM who doesn’t use any of those! Another DM might be appreciated for his creation of fantastic worlds, but you can play great games without those as well. Some DMs are great play-actors doing accents and voices for NPCs, but you don’t need that either. So what is the stuff that is actually essential?

Dungeons & Dragons, and any other pen & paper role-playing game, inherently always exists on two different levels: Horgar the barbarian swings his battleaxe and with a satisfying crunch decapitates the evil wizard. John the player of Horgar declares that he wants to attack the evil wizard and rolls a 20 on his attack. Horgar and John need each other. Without John, Horgar doesn’t exist. Without Horgar, John isn’t playing D&D. I believe that an awareness of those two levels, and a constant effort to keep the two levels in balance with each other, might well be the most important part of a DM’s job. Concentrate too much on the story, and the players get bored because they don’t get to roll dice any more. Concentrate too much on the dice, and you end up playing a board game.

Corollary to that is the need for balance between DM actions and player actions. D&D is a game of interactive story-telling. Take the interaction away, and it becomes a lot less interesting. No DM’s hour-long monologue beats Netflix in entertainment value. But letting the players role-play alone without feedback on the consequences from the DM only leads to people becoming lost and confused. Players need “agency”, the ability to influence the story and the outcome of situations. But that agency only makes sense in the context of there being a story and a situation to overcome. The DM needs to make sure that he tells the players enough for them to understand what is going on, so they can act, but also to leave enough room for different choices and original ideas from the players.

That gets us to another important point: The “never say no” rule. It isn’t an absolute rule, because it applies only to constructive input from the players. But the idea is that as long as the player proposes something constructive, the DM should accept the proposal and try to work with it. You can still judge that the idea is very unlikely to work, and require the player to succeed in a very difficult roll. But that is still far better than letting the players propose lots of things and always saying no until by chance they come upon the one solution you previously decided was the good one. Saying yes can change the whole campaign to something you hadn’t imagined, but that is the beauty of it. The goal is not to have the story proceed on predetermined rails, but to have everyone at the table contribute to the story and together create something greater than one man’s story. In my Zeitgeist campaign the players were a group of policemen working for the king; but it was up to the players whether they wanted to play those policemen as the Keystone Cops or the Gestapo or something in between.

While these rules certainly don’t cover everything a DM needs to do or needs to be, I do think that they are among the most important for success. What other advice would you give a new DM to help him become a good DM?