My Adult ADHD Experience, Month Two

A month and a half ago, I posted about the beginning of my ADHD treatment journey. A couple weeks later, I posted an update, detailing my mixed results with Strattera (Atomoxetine).

So, a little more than two weeks ago, I talked with my prescriber about my experiences. I essentially told her everything that I put in my previous article: on the whole, it gave me more good days and fewer bad days, but it didn’t really make either of them better. She was very understanding, and was willing to move me onto another medication. I told her about a medication that my pharmacy was able to get (and I knew that because a friend of mine was on it), and she prescribed me an orally-dissolving formulation of Amphetamine, the same medication that is found in Adderall. After a brief delay with insurance (they required a prior authorization, but the drug manufacturer offers a coupon program that makes it $50 per month without insurance, so we opted to skip the insurance claim), they were able to order the medication and I picked it up the next day. The day after that, I was going out of town for the weekend with my family, so after forgetting to take either medication for a day, I took my first dose of Adzenys XR-ODT.

On that first day, we were driving home from our weekend trip, and I immediately noticed that there was a significant difference in my awareness while I was driving. Usually I have to make regular stops, drink lots of caffeine, or have an active conversation in order to not feel drowsy or distracted when driving for long distances; but on that day I just didn’t need any of those coping mechanisms. I experienced no side effects, and I didn’t feel like I wasn’t myself. I also didn’t have the same “warm brain” feeling I did with Strattera.

The next day at work, I was pleased to discover a decent improvement in attention, focus, and executive function; the very things I was missing with the previous medication. I also appreciated that the Extended Release nature of the medication means that boosts seem constant throughout the workday, rather than wearing off over time. The overall effect wasn’t to the level I wanted it to be (and in fact it still isn’t), but I do feel like I’m in the right medication family; now I just need to dial in the dosage, and monitor my blood pressure. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been pleased with the improvements I’ve experienced in those areas, as well as the huge reduction in my time blindness; it’s much more rare for me to be surprised that it’s “already 3:00 in the afternoon.”

Maybe the biggest thing I’ve been surprised about in this ADHD journey is the different facets there are to the seemingly-simple word “attention.” Before beginning this process, I thought it was just one thing; and while they are interconnected, what I thought was just “attention” is actually a combination of alertness, focus, motivation, executive function, energy levels, mood, temporal perception, memory, and cognition (and there may be more, but those are the ones I’ve noticed so far). Some coping skills and treatments have improved some of these facets and not others; and deficiencies in some of them are problems during the workday while others are a problem in my family life. Do note, these are not medical or psychological terms, but here’s briefly what I mean by each:

An Executive Function deficit.

  • Alertness: My ability to remain aware of my surroundings for a long period of time, particularly when they’re “boring” or when I’m focused on something else. This is different from energy levels.
  • Focus: My ability to concentrate on one task, conversation, text, line of code, etc. Most often a problem at work.
  • Motivation: My desire to do things, even things I enjoy doing. Closely tied to executive function, but not exactly the same thing.
  • Executive function: My ability to start or switch tasks, or make decisions. This deficit is usually either called laziness or decision fatigue.
  • Energy levels: My capacity for continuing a task or interpersonal interaction. This is heavily affected by but not completely controlled by sleep.
  • Mood: The thing I have the least problem with. I know a lot of people experience anxiety or depression with their ADHD, but I’ve never really had trouble with that.
  • Temporal Perception: The deficit of this is called “time blindness.” I’m notoriously bad at estimating time (past or future), and before medication I almost always had a moment—usually at around 3pm—where I think “Whoa, it’s [whatever time] already?!”
  • A memory deficit. Well, a deficit of useful memory.

  • Memory: I’ve never had a particularly strong memory. Or, more precisely, I’ve never had a particularly strong ability to recall important information, despite being able to remember irrelevant data almost instantly.
  • Cognition: My ability to process information. I’ve historically not had as much trouble with this mental function as with some of the others.

Since I’m seeing improvement in a lot of these areas, I’m really excited to see how this particular part of my journey progresses. I’m looking forward to seeing if a dosage increase helps me perform at the level I want to be able to perform at.

But of course, I’ll continue to talk about it here. I continue to be staggered by all of the people who have been interested in—or even helped by—my documenting this experience; thank you again for your kind words of support, and I hope that people continue to be helped by these posts. Please let me know if there’s anything that you’re concerned or curious about; I’d love to share more, and I appreciate your presence with me on this journey.

My Adult ADHD Experience, Week Two

Two weeks ago, I posted about the beginning of my ADHD treatment journey, and I talked about my first day on Atomoxetine, a sNRI medication for ADHD that is also sold under the name Strattera.

Unfortunately, after some initially hopeful results, the rest of my titration has been fairly unremarkable. The feeling that my brain had more capacity has remained, though after the initial feeling that hasn’t borne a great deal of fruit; and my wife has noted that I’ve been remembering and noticing things a bit better over the last two weeks (though, counterpoint, I forgot to take the trash out to the curb today for the first time in months). In addition, as far as focus goes, I’ve had more “good days” and fewer “bad days,” which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s certainly not making things worse.

But the real problems I’ve been encountering —focus, attention, and executive function—haven’t seen particularly spectacular results. Neither the good days nor the bad days are better than they were before, there are just slightly more of one and slightly fewer of the other; and honestly, that’s what I would expect around this time of year anyway, with the sun coming up earlier and staying up later. After a week, I assumed it was just the lower dose; then, I thought maybe I was just not seeing changes that were actually happening. But when I heard about the results a friend of mine encountered when she got on a different medication, and how dramatically her life had changed, I could tell that I wasn’t experiencing the same thing.

Everything came to a head today, at the two week point. Work today went well; but I’ve had good days before the medication. It was when I realized that it was no better than one of my best days before medication that I decided to write up this post, and in the process of composing it in my mind (I’m writing this while rocking a baby to sleep), I realized that the takeaway would probably be that Atomoxetine just isn’t doing it for me. I’m sure it’s great for some people, but barring any sudden improvements before then, I’m going to tell my provider at my next appointment that I’d like something else.

So what’s next?

I’m not entirely sure. The stimulant shortage continues, at least partially due to an increase in prescribing; according to the CDC,

Prescription stimulant use, primarily for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has increased among adults in the United States during recent decades, while remaining stable or declining among children and adolescents. [Since the pandemic], the percentage of enrollees with one or more prescription stimulant fills increased from 3.6% in 2016 to 4.1% in 2021. The percentages of females aged 15–44 years and males aged 25–44 years with prescription stimulant fills increased by more than 10% during 2020–2021.

To make matters worse, the DEA has not increased their manufacturing limits on the controlled substances, meaning that drug makers cannot legally keep up with demand.All of which means I’m not likely to have an easy time finding a stimulant medication in stock, though some of my friends’ experiences give me hope in that regard.

So I don’t actually know what’s next. I’ll certainly bring all of these concerns to my provider at our next appointment, but that’s another two weeks away. In the meantime, I’ll continue taking the medication I have and monitoring for any sudden improvements.

In any case, I’ll be updating you here. The reaction from my first account of my journey was overwhelming; thank you for all of your kind words of support. It’s not over yet.

My Adult ADHD Experience: Day One

I’m thirty-eight years old. Over the past several years, I have been noticing problems with my mental state that could be described as ADHD. I’ve had trouble with alertness, attention, focus, motivation, executive function, energy levels, mood, and cognition that I didn’t have before at this level; and those things were causing problems in my work life and in my home life. I’m getting treatment now, and while I know that everyone’s brain and experience is different, I’m hopeful that my experience can be helpful to others.

It was only a year or two ago that I was willing to call this a problem. Growing up in a rural community in the 90s, that diagnosis (well, as ADD) was reserved for students who were doing poorly in school and who were running around all over the classroom; I was doing well academically, and even though I had trouble with focus and attention, I was able to make up for it. I came up with coping strategies, and found things I liked, and simply made it through.

In college, the problem compounded as I essentially lost the ability to read long books. I was a voracious reader in high school, but the combination of boring textbooks and a more difficult workload that caused reduced sleep made my brain connect reading with sleep. My coping strategies began to fail, and I found myself struggling more. It took eight years for me to graduate, and I wandered through four different majors in the process. Still, with the development of new coping strategies and the help of my wife (whom I met in 2006 and married in 2010), I was able to graduate and eventually get a job in the tech industry, doing something I enjoyed.

Identifying what was wrong with me became a greater priority a few years into my career, as my family began to grow and my ability to focus on work began to dwindle. It was like I had a certain number of lanes in my brain; and with my work, church, wife, children, and hobbies, there simply wasn’t enough bandwidth to go around.

I first talked to my doctor about this experience a few years ago. He suggested that we rule out other possible issues; things like depression and sleep disorders. First he recommended increasing my activity, so I made it a point to take daily walks or bicycle rides; this worked great to improve my mood and energy levels, but didn’t affect the other issues I was having.

Iterating on the problem, he suggested that I get assessed for a sleep disorder. I did indeed have sleep apnea and began on a CPAP nearly two months ago. While I was cautioned that I probably wouldn’t see immediate results, I actually did: my alertness, motivation, and cognition increased almost immediately. Still no real impact on focus, attention, or executive function, though.

Independent of my own journey, my children were also being assessed for potential ADHD. While filling out the assessment paperwork for my oldest two children, I noticed a lot of things that not only apply to me now, but also would’ve applied to me as a child. What are the odds that a disorder which runs in the family would show up in at least two of my children (and maybe more) but not in myself or my wife? So I made an appointment to follow up on the treatment.

In that appointment, I laid out essentially everything I noted above. The nurse practitioner performed a similar assessment on me to the one that I had filled out for my children, and noted that while I scored high for ADHD, I scored low for depression and anxiety. When diagnosing the disorder, she said, the usual process is to identify the symptoms and then make sure that they couldn’t be explained by anything else; and that our previous attempts to solve the problem with exercise and better sleep indicated that ADHD medication could be a good next step.

It was there that we encountered another problem, though. See, it is mid-2023 as I write this, and there’s a nationwide medication shortage for ADHD stimulant medication (such as Adderall). The Adderall shortage in particular is making other stimulant medications more scarce, leaving only very expensive non-generic stimulants behind. So we made the decision to begin our medication attempts with a drug called Atomoxetine (the generic name for Strattera), a Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (sNRI) which reduces the brain’s removal of norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter that mobilizes the brain and body for action. sNRIs are related to SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft, and are also classified as antidepressants, but are FDA-approved for adult ADHD treatment. We began with a low dose of 40mg, with the understanding that seeing the full results would probably take a few weeks.

I took the first dose this morning.

Initially, I didn’t notice any changes. About an hour after I took the medicine, my brain felt “warm;” not in a bad way, per se, but in a way that felt like it was using more energy.

In the hour after that, my brain activity started to feel “smoother.” I’m not entirely sure how else to characterize it. While I would ordinarily experience sharp spikes in mental activity, motivation, and reward, it felt more regulated. The experience was noticeable, but not game-changing.

It felt in the hour after that like my brain had more capacity; like the lanes that I had were operating at a higher rate, or maybe that there was another lane. And the fact that I’ve written this entire blog post in one sitting (and intentionally begun every paragraph with the letter “I”) either means that my focus is better or I’ve found a new hyperfixation.

I can tell that there are changes going on in my brain, but I don’t know whether they’re good ones or not; and I don’t know what effects are the medication and what are placebo. Still, I’m willing to follow along with it for at least another day or so.

I hope that this account of my experience was helpful to someone. I’ll continue documenting this journey here and on Mastodon.

The Vibes of Mastodon

Back in December, I decided to leave Twitter and joined Mastodon: the federated social network that’s not owned by any one person or company. Shortly thereafter, I tweeted for the final time on Twitter. I had originally intended to test out several options for replacing the newly-Elon-Musk-purchased social network; but after dabbling with Post, Hive Social, and Tribel Social, I discovered that none of them really had the same “feel” as Mastodon. The “vibes” were—are—really different, and I like it.

So if you’re interested in joining Mastodon, here’s what you can expect:

It Feels like the Internet of 1999

If you remember the internet of 1999, you probably remember it feeling like the wild west: frontier town websites, scrappy discussion forums, and no algorithm guiding, gatekeeping, or filter-bubbling what you saw.

Imagine those heady times, add some better moderation, and you have Mastodon.

The spirit of old-school webrings is alive in the niche Mastodon instances that have gathered around various professions, scientific research topics, and fandoms. The spirit of discussion forums is on the platform in the way hashtags are used across the “Fediverse” (a collective name for all of the interconnected ActivityPub servers) to connect with people who are interested in the same topic across the world.

Now, this also means that you’re not spoon-fed interesting content like on big social media sites. If you’re interested in NASA, you’ll need to follow the #NASA hashtag. A lot of new users have reported the Mastodon experience being a solitary one; but that’s just because they haven’t gone looking for people and topics they are interested in.

Mastodon doesn’t need algorithms or recommendations to surface the people users want to follow; instead, we just see their posts come up in hashtags (oh, did I mention you can follow hashtags? More on that later). But in short, it feels like the old-fashioned, turn-of-the-century internet; not least of which in the way that…

It feels more cooperative

One of the first differences you’re likely to notice between posting pictures on Mastodon and posting pictures on Twitter is that people on Mastodon are much more interested in utilizing image descriptions. Not only are they a huge quality-of-life improvement for people with vision problems and slow internet, some people use them for further explanations and even extra jokes. People want others to see what they share, so they make it more accessible.

People also don’t tear other people down as much on Mastodon. In fairness, this may be a personal experience, but since there’s no algorithmic advantage to tossing off a hurtful zinger at an opponent, you’re a lot more likely to see people answering kindly, or just muting or blocking troublemakers. It makes for fewer mic drops, but it’s still nice to see such kindness and cooperation.

That cooperation also comes up in the form of hashtags. Since there’s no algorithm pushing content you’re likely to interact with, people often find others using hashtags; just like in the old days of Twitter. See a topic you want to learn more about? You can follow a hashtag just like you follow a user and see all the federated posts a server knows about with a particular hashtag in your timeline. This also means that which instance you choose doesn’t have to be particularly important, as you can follow topics and users from essentially any server from your account.

That cooperative nature also leads to users donating to their instance administrators to keep the site going because they like it; kind of like with public media. Some servers have a Patreon account with perks, while others simply put up a PayPal or Kofi tip jar. Compared to a big social media company that requires advertising and subscriptions to stay afloat…

It feels more solid

Early in my experience with Mastodon, I put my coding and development account on a smaller, up-and-coming server; but shortly after I joined, the massive increase in signups from people fleeing Twitter caused some uptime issues on the small, self-hosted server. In order to relieve the load, I moved the account to Universeodon, a bigger server (which interestingly also hosts George Takei‘s Mastodon presence).

The move took all of five minutes, and I didn’t lose any followers or follows. In essence, I was able to pick up exactly where I left off; I didn’t have to rebuild my network on a new server. Everyone just came with me, and it was very simple.

This gives me a lot of confidence for all of my accounts; if one server goes away, I can go to another instance. In fact, if Mastodon itself goes away, I can go to another service altogether, such as Pixelfed or Friendica (or the inevitable Mastodon fork that will inevitably be released within hours), and since it’s all based on open standards, there’s no way for a billionaire with a trollface gif to pull the rug out from under me.

In a lot of ways…

It feels like the future

Honestly, Mastodon feels like the type of social media that Starfleet would use; my instance is my starship, and it plays nice with all the other instances in the fleet (though there are a few Romulan warbirds out there that we don’t interact with since they’re trying to do devious stuff).

Maybe we won’t be using social media by then. But if we are, I hope it’s something federated and standards-based; something a single bad actor can’t destroy without our consent.

We’re building a new social internet out there. Won’t you join us?

Way More OGL

In the last post, we talked about the attempted breakdown of the OGL. But that particular part of the saga appears to be at an end; so, without further ado, I present you…

Act VI: Open Gaming Strikes Back

Honestly, no one expected this. After a really bad initial response to the backlash (featuring the now-immortal line “However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1.”) which just added fuel to the fire, followed by a slightly less-bad response a week later, Wizards of the Coast walked back the initial plans for the OGL 1.1; instead, they announced a period of “playtesting” for a draft of the OGL 1.2.

The draft was ultimately uninspiring of confidence; riddled with loopholes and failing to address the core issues raised with the original 1.1 draft, the only positive was a pledge to release some subset of the game’s core mechanics under the Creative Commons CC-BY license, a legally-robust and irrevocable license that requires only attribution. However, even that move was met with some skepticism, as the details of what would be placed under Creative Commons was suspect. During the period of discussion, a great number of third party publishers, virtual tabletop companies, Dungeon Masters, and players voiced their dissatisfaction with the 1.2 draft.

During this time, Paizo announced that the list of companies who were signing on to their competing ORC open license was growing into the thousands, and that they had sold through “an 8-month supply of our Pathfinder Core Rulebook in the last 2 weeks;” as well as making the Orc ancestry legal in all Pathfinder and Starfinder Society Organized Play games, further suggesting that it might be worthwhile to consider creating an orc character with a background in law, as a not-so-subtle reference. Kobold Press announced that their Project Black Flag would be playtesting at Gen Con in August of 2023, and MCDM began early work on their own system.

But on January 27, something happened surprised everyone.

Wizards of the Coast walked back everything.

More than “walked back,” actually; they went further than the original state. According to their announcement, the OGL 1.0a was being left “in place, as is. Untouched.” That would be shocking enough, but they took a step further by releasing the entire SRD 5.1 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY-4.0), providing a hedge against any future Wizards of the Coast leadership changing their minds and attempting again to revoke the agreement. Dungeons and Dragons went from moving toward the most draconian (pun intended) third party license in gaming to having (as of now) among the most open third party licenses in gaming; a remarkable turnaround.

On one level, this is unsurprising. Their announcement notes:

Already more than 15,000 of you have filled out the survey. Here’s what you said:

  • 88% do not want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2.
  • 90% would have to change some aspect of their business to accommodate OGL 1.2.
  • 89% are dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a.
  • 86% are dissatisfied with the draft VTT policy.
  • 62% are satisfied with including Systems Reference Document (SRD) content in Creative Commons, and the majority of those who were dissatisfied asked for more SRD content in Creative Commons.

This is a remarkably unanimous showing from the TTRPG community (and compares quite well to the consensus social media opinion); and as they noted, “The feedback is in such high volume and its direction is so plain that we’re acting now” by ending the “playtest” of OGL 1.2 and doing what everyone was asking for. Still, it’s a surprise that the decision was made so immediately and so decisively. More unanimous outcry has happened before, and other companies have not made such immediate and decisive changes. And the statement was also much better—no blame language, no fluffiness, no nonsense, no “how do you do fellow kids” attempts at humor, no ambiguity; just “ok we hear you, we’re not doing it anymore and here’s how we’re proving we won’t.”

It is worth noting that parent company Hasbro also laid off a thousand employees this week, meaning that not everything is rosy in the world of Faerûn; but as for the OGL, while Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast initially misread their audience very poorly, they eventually did the right thing; and should be commended for it. While they are little more trustworthy than before, and the brand damage remains, the release to Creative Commons means that no amount of corporate nitwittery in the future can pull the rug out from under third party publishers. They’ve also set a pretty good pattern for the rest of the industry to follow in using Creative Commons; and the damage to their brand means that the number of people trying out non-D&D RPGs has already and will continue to increase. It seems to me that this bodes well, not only for Wizards of the Coast, but for the entire industry.

The dragon has been slain!

No More OGL?

Act I: The Good Old Days

In the far-distant year 2000, gaming company Wizards of the Coast (publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, among other things) published the third edition of the popular role-playing game. Along with the new rules, they made what would become a watershed decision in the hobby: releasing certain parts of their system under a license called the Open Game License (OGL). This allowed third parties to develop RPG elements that were interoperable with D&D simply, to legally use elements of the official game itself, and to publish even big additions or modifications to the game without worrying about Wizards of the Coast descending upon them with lawyers demanding a cut.

Over the last 22 years, the OGL has been used for a lot of great gaming content: video games (including the beloved Star Wars video game Knights of the Old Republic), board games, card games, a massive number of D&D modules and adventures, and even whole new role-playing games such as the Lord of the Rings RPG Adventures in Middle-Earth, and my personal favorite, Paizo’s Pathfinder and Starfinder games. It wouldn’t be a great stretch to say that a very large percentage of the RPG hobby is built on the OGL.

Act II: The Misstep

Not that everything has been perfect this whole time. In 2008, the fourth edition of D&D came out; but it was released under a more restrictive agreement called the Game System License (GSL). This was widely considered a bad move, and may indeed have contributed to that edition’s failure in the market. But the OGL remained in place for the previous version of the game, leading a sizable percentage of their third party creator base to continue creating content that was compatible with D&D 3.5, the final version of the game released under the original version of the agreement. Notably, third party publisher Paizo released the first edition of their well-loved alternative system Pathfinder, an updated and expanded ruleset of 3.5, under the OGL during this time. For a while during this time, Pathfinder actually eclipsed D&D as the best-selling tabletop RPG in the industry.

When Wizards released the fifth edition of D&D in 2014, they returned to and updated the OGL agreement, placing the new 5e rules under version 1.0a of that license.

And then things exploded.

Act III: A Rise to Dominance

It’s probably not entirely about the Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things, though Netflix’s smash hit TV show starring a group of nerdy kids from the 80s who loved the game certainly helped. It’s also probably not entirely about Brennan Lee Mulligan’s Dimension 20, Matt Mercer’s Critical Role, or Matt Colville’s MCDM, well-produced YouTube and Twitch shows about and featuring D&D games and tips.

But some combination of all these things contributed to bringing D&D to the public consciousness again; and the popularity of the relatively-new fifth edition, coupled with its accessible ruleset, led to a huge increase in D&D players, causing the game to regain its top spot, blowing past all previous records, and even lifting the number of players of all RPGs in the industry.

A good deal of this growth was buoyed by the OGL, as Dimension 20, Critical Role, and MCDM in particular utilized the license agreement to avoid legal trouble for their adaptations of their games and their add-on supplements that allowed fans to play with their rules at home, all the while increasing Wizards of the Coast’s bottom line.

Alas, but this golden age could not last.

Act IV: The Downfall

In August of 2022, Wizards of the Coast began the playtest for OneD&D, the next edition of the game. While it was underway, the text of a version 1.1 of the OGL leaked; first rumors began to roll out, then on January 5, 2023 the text leaked to tech news site Gizmodo, and then it was everywhere.

It’s pretty bad. The new agreement makes a division between paid and free content, and claims royalties for income over a certain total amount, for instance. It may even give Wizards of the Coast license or even copyright rights to third party work. But perhaps most unbelievable of all, it attempts to invalidate the old agreement; something that former Wizards of the Coast executives say shouldn’t be possible.

The response has been immediate and overwheming. “#openDND” began trending on both Mastodon and Twitter, easily overtaking the #oneDND hashtag that Wizards of the Coast had been pushing for the playtest of its new version. People are understandably upset about the possible torpedoing of their favorite worlds. Comparisons to the failure of 4th edition and the GSL were made almost immediately. Lawyers in the hobby (of which, perhaps unsurprisingly, there are many) are saying almost unanimously that this is probably not defensible but would be very expensive to challenge.

On January 10, a comical five days after the initial leak of the new agreement, the Twitter account for the player tools for the game, D&D Beyond, posted “We know you have questions about the OGL and we will be sharing more soon. Thank you for your patience.“—which, of course, went over like a lead balloon; since after five days people don’t have questions, they have opinions and concerns and even demands. The official D&D has yet to address the issue, beyond retweeting the D&D Beyond post.

Perhaps more interesting, though, has been the reaction from the third party D&D community themselves. In no particular order:

Also, some brands that are likely bound by NDAs not to comment on the OGL but still have strong opinions have made some moves:

Then, there are the third party publishers who are starting their own games, with unicorns and rainbows and no OGL at all:

Update 12 January 2023:

Since I originally published this article, there have been a couple of other major, notable moves in the industry! To wit: there are a couple of broader moves afoot to supplant the OGL entirely.

  • Third Party publisher Monte Cook Games has announced an extensive series of upgrades for their genre-agnostic Cypher System, which has already been released under the “Cypher System Open License.” It is worth noting, however, that the CSOL appears to suffer from the same critical flaw that the OGL 1.0a does (namely, its lack of irrevocability). It may be worth keeping an eye on the CSOL to see if they change that;
  • And Brian Lewis, former Wizards of the Coast general counsel and the original architect of the OGL, has announced that his current law firm is working on an open-source document and foundation to be constructed like the Linux license and foundation, which operate independently of any single corporation. But the really interesting thing is that his announcement included a link to a form where designers and publishers could sign up to participate—a form that was hosted on the domain.
    Further update: Paizo has officially confirmed their involvement and funding, as well as confirming that the agreement would be irrevocable, and announcing a few industry partners: namely, Kobold Press, Chaosium, Green Ronin, Legendary Games, and Rogue Genius Games, with plans to expand this list further. Perhaps most appropriately, the license—called the Open RPG Creative License—will be abbreviated to “ORC.”

Act V: What’s Next?

It’s tough to tell what the future holds for D&D, the OGL, and the Tabletop RPG (TTRPG) hobby in general. But clearly this has blown up in Wizards of the Coast’s face: they attempted to make “OneD&D” a more restrictive fourth edition, and it really looks like they’re doing it…with all the worst parts. The fallout is creating a million individual Paizo-like competitors, and undermining their de facto chokehold on the entire industry.

Their miscalculation was in assuming that the rules where what their player base loved. But even the biggest “grognard” Dungeon Master cares more about his world than about the ruleset. Nobody cares about the ruleset, in fact; people play D&D for their party, for their friends, for their character, for the world, and for the story (and maybe for the name “Dungeons and Dragons“) but not for the rules, which is really all Wizards of the Coast has to offer.

As a result, I think the Dungeon Masters who care about their worlds are going to hold onto the D&D rules much more loosely going forward, and publishers are going to be much more gun-shy about hitching their wagons to any horse they don’t have control over in the future. Fragmentation and competition is going to overtake the unity that was once a big part of the D&D world.

In essence, the loose unification around the D&D rules that the OGL facilitated is going to fall apart now; leaving Wizards of the Coast simply one of the many game developers making content, rather than the “Dungeon Master” at the TTRPG table. This is terrible news for Wizards of the Coast, because they release books infrequently; and the ones they do release are received quite tepidly. Their generic and basic game setting doesn’t stand a chance against the more colorful and adventurous worlds that exist. All they have now is name recognition and marketing dollars, which may not take them very far.

In short, like social media, tabletop role-playing games appear to be federating. Which is great news for the hobby…but terrible news for Wizards of the Coast.

Update 12 January 2023: And if a third-party behemoth like Paizo is on board, as seems to be the case, we may truly be seeing Wizards of the Coast fumbling their market share just like they did in 2008. It begs the question: if Pathfinder rises to dominance again, will Dungeons and Dragons even survive under their current, profit-at-all-costs owners?

The Steps of the Temple

On the first step, he stood—

Zerubbabel looked from the temple step, his eyes scraping over the tattered remnants of Jerusalem, but his ears inundated with the sounds of the exiles of Israel all around him. Two years returned, they clashed their cymbals with delight, invoking God’s promise: “The Lord is good; his love endures forever!” Their shouts swelled from the mountain and hope swelled in his heart, for though the temple was still little more than a foundation and an altar, the Lord would live among His people once more.

— — —

On the second step, he climbed—

Joshua, son of Jozadak, strode up to the temple to offer the sacrifices that would finally dedicate it as the place where the Lord would speak. Though its pinnacles were not as high nor its walls as sparkling as its predecessor, and though it had taken them decades to lay the final stone, his heart glowed with peace and resoluteness. Surely this time Israel would retain their fervor, and not be taken into exile again. The walls would still reverberate with the people singing “the Lord is good, His love endures forever!”

— — —

On the third step, he sat—

Malachi slumped, his shoulders rounded and head bowed with the weight of frustration. Barely one lifetime had passed since the last echoes of Israel’s promise of unending devotion had faded across the temple grounds. “The Lord is good, His love endures forever,” but His people forget and turn away so quickly. Crying out the words God whispered to him, Malachi implored Israel to return, but they shut their ears to him. His call to repentance hung in the air, the vanishing echoes of God’s last words for half an age before silence fell.

— — —

On the fourth step, she wept—

Anna, barely twenty and already a widow, carried the sharp-edged pieces of a broken heart; a barren woman climbing barren steps. Her ears and all the ears of Israel ached at the silence in the temple over the past four centuries, but this was still the only place she knew to come with her distress. The promise had long ago been made that “the Lord is good, His love endures forever,” so Anna came in the quiet and began her vigil.

— — —

Down the fifth step, he ran—

Zechariah dashed down the temple steps to his wife with a tangle of joy, fear, awe, and confusion. The Lord had shattered His long silence with a message for the two of them; one of hope and joy, that a son would come to them, to speak for God once more, to prepare the way for the salvation of all of Israel! Their disgrace was over! Zechariah had been silenced, but God renewed the promise through the old man’s shuffled steps that “The Lord is good, His love endures forever.”

— — —
— — —

A young woman and her new husband approach the temple steps with a swaddled baby in her arms:

She steps on the first step with the Temple that will be torn down and raised back up in three days—

She steps on the second step with the Exile that will call all the lost back home—

She steps on the third step with the Sacrifice that will cover all the sins of God’s people—

She steps on the fourth step with the Hope for all those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem—

She steps on the fifth step with the Word of God, made flesh to dwell among us—

And atop the stairs of the temple, the people of God cry out: “The Lord is good, His love endures forever!”

• • •

My wife and I collaborated on this meditation for a collection of works compiled by our church for the Advent season.

Merry Christmas!

• • •

Scripture references:
Zerubbabel: Ezra 3
Joshua, son of Jozadak: Ezra 6
Malachi: Malachi 3
Anna: Luke 2:36-38
Zechariah: Luke 1:5-25
Mary: Luke 2:22-24

Flipping the Bird: How to Mastodon

Last time, we talked about the options for replacing Twitter if you want to “flip the bird.” I’ve made the choice to switch to Mastodon, at least to start; and I’ve really been enjoying it. If you’d like to make the jump, even if only to try it out, I’m here to help.

First of all, you should know that, despite Mastodon’s reputation for complication, that’s really more of a messaging problem than a real problem. Don’t worry; despite a couple of hiccups and bumps in the road, it’s actually set up pretty much exactly like email. If you have set up an email account, you can set up a Mastodon account. And I’m here to help.

tl;dr: If you can understand email, you can understand Mastodon. Don’t stress about choosing a server (instance); it changes very little about how you use the network, and switching is easy and lossless if you change your mind later.

What is Mastodon?

On the surface, Mastodon looks like a capable Twitter competitor (more technically known as a “microblogging social network”). It offers a 500-character limit on text posts, the ability to upload up to four pieces of media per post, the ability to edit posts, a “feed,” hashtags, following…all the basics.

But it’s different from Twitter in one key way: Mastodon is federated. We’ll talk more about that in the next article, as well as answering some other frequently asked questions; but what you need to know now is that it is not run by or beholden to any one operator. You can access the entire social network from any server, and you can pick up and move from one server to another in seconds.

The How-To

How do I join Mastodon?

People try to make a big deal out of how to join Mastodon. But don’t fall for it. It’s dead simple: just go to and click “Create Account,” or download the mobile app and tap “Get Started.” And here, admittedly, is where Mastodon’s first messaging hiccup can be found.

How do I choose a server?

This honestly isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. Most guides start with a long diatribe about this part of the process, but it’s actually pretty simple: scroll down the list at (or in the “get started” section of the app) and choose one you vibe with. The exact one you choose doesn’t really matter any more than the exact email provider you choose really matters.

But if I want to follow my friends, don’t I have to be on the same server?” Nope! With a few minor exceptions (usually related to bad behavior), anyone on any server can interact with anyone on any other server if they want. Just like email; you don’t have to have a Hotmail account to email people on Hotmail.

Do they have different features?” Not really, for the most part. Again, just like email, there are a couple of standard features; some servers might add a couple of bells and whistles (a longer post character limit here, a different visual design there), but for the most part you’ll get the same features on any server you join; and the Mastodon Server Covenant is an attempt to make sure they’re all safe.

But what if I choose wrong?” If you find that the server you’re a part of doesn’t meet your needs for one reason or another, just pack up and move to another. It’s easier than getting a new email address, because your follows and followers come with you.

Can you just decide for me?” Okay, okay. Check out,, and See if any of those catch your fancy.

How do I finish setting up my account?

After you’ve chosen a server, you’ll need to click “Create Account” in the top right if you’re on the desktop version; but if you’re on the mobile app, you should be taken straight to the next step.

After that, on both platforms, you’ll see the rules for the server in question. Note that this isn’t some super duper long license agreement; on most servers, you’ll have a half dozen, maybe ten rules to follow; usually in the general vein of “don’t do anything illegal and respect others.” You don’t have to give away any rights to participate on Mastodon. Kinda nice, isn’t it?

Once you’ve accepted the rules, just fill out the signup form and verify your email, exactly the way you would on any other online service.

How do I follow people?

Like any other social media service, you follow other people by typing in their username in the search box and clicking “follow.” The wrinkle is that usernames on Mastodon are composed of two parts—exactly like an email address. First comes the user’s handle (mine is “@ilinamorato”). Then comes the server where the user is based, which is formatted just like the end of an email address (mine is “”). Put them both together, and you have a full Mastodon username (

Here’s where the second Mastodon Messaging Mistake comes in: if you’re on the desktop version of Mastodon, you should always look up profiles this way when you want to follow them. The search bar is at the top of the “Explore” tab; just paste the full Mastodon username into that bar and follow them from the search result that comes up. If you view a profile on their server instead of yours, you’ll be faced with a login page—and that can get confusing. So just copy the username (the full username!) into the search bar on your server and follow them from there. And if you use the mobile app—you probably don’t have to worry about any of this!

How do I tell people my handle so they can follow me?

On your profile, you should see a Share link. You can just use that, simple as anything.

Or you can tell people your Mastodon username the way you tell them your email address: by giving your handle first, then your server. They can paste that into their search bar and follow you easily.

Why is it so empty here?

Probably because you aren’t following anyone! Mastodon has no algorithm; you just get a chronological feed of every post by the people you follow, with no recommended posts. You can watch the “federated” feed (which is a firehose of every post by every user on every other server that your server knows about) or the “local” feed (a slightly less overwhelming firehose of every post by every user on your server); but the best way to get content on Mastodon is to follow people, or hashtags.

• • •

And that’s it! Everything after this is just answering FAQs. I’ll have a follow up post in a bit with some of those questions, but this is all you really need to know to have a great time on federated social media!