Friday, 9 October 2015

The Murmuring Wyrm

There is a monster in the cracks and it has many names. The Murmuring Wyrm, the Snake of Ash and, for a few old souls who half recall the words of ancient tales, the ├Žskon drake.

You can hear it sometimes, hissing in the karst crannies, deep down somewhere under the fallen wood that hangs jammed in the ravine. It's faint.

Few have ever seen it and few of those have ever been believed. It comes at sunset, rising out of the dry canyons, a grey-black serpent poised heraldic in the falling light, looming almost to the level of the tallest trees, wrathful, enraged, casting back and forth with its blind eyes, seeking something in oncoming gloom.

It is still when the serpent comes. It is always still inside the zone, strong winds do not survive there long but crawl and die between the boles of the cloudgrave trees and the crackling mazework of branches and debris around their roots. But even in this stillness and this heat, there is a deeper quiet. An almost unnatural pause in the air when even the horrible hook birds seem to be abashed, a quiet so deep you can hear a drop of sweat plink from your chin onto the parched earth, so quiet it seems fearful almost to breathe.

Zone workers know not to move at these times. To remain still, especially if they are within sight of one of the deep karst canyons that network the Zone, especially if the sun is falling from the sky.

First the soft trickling from the karst-cracks rises almost imperceptibly, changing from an indistinguishable white noise to something like a voice whispering in the next room, then sounding like a pile of papers sliding to the floor, then louder and louder and louder.

A flickering, wheeling spattering of black specks moving amidst the shattered cloudgrave branches in the limestone cracks. A silent vortex of blurred shapes collecting and condensing into the figure of a serpent, its head rising far above the earth on a neck like a living cyclone of white noise whose skin is like the whirling leaves flung up into a column by a spiraling wind.

Where its gigantic neck swoops past and through the trunks and branches of the cloudgrave trees, the flesh parts like smoke passing between fingertips, then re-forms. Yet its grey-black coils always dissapear somewhere down inside the darkness of the karst.

As the serpent opens its mouth to scream, the silence deepens. Survivors say their ears pop and noses bleed, that it becomes hard the breathe, that their brain seems to tighten in their skull, forcing them to their knees. Though they cry out, they make no sound. Even someone standing a few hundred yards away, facing the wrong direction, or separated by the cloudgrave maquis, might never know the snake was there at all.

Everyone knows that no-one survives staring directly into the opening maw of the Murmuring Wyrm, and everyone knows that inside can be seen a tornado of birds, coloured like smoke and ash, spiralling to nothing in a tightening gyre, and that the birds are crying out in a language that no-body knows for their lost masters and their dead queen.

How everybody know these things when no-one can have seen them and survived, and even if they did and if they could hear the cries of an ancient unknown language, that no-one could know what it said,  is simply a paradox of peasant-lore. It's clear that everybody knows what cannot be known.

When the Serpent passes and is gone, the branches and broken wood piled like smashed dining ware in the vertical shards of the karst that it emerged from are undisturbed, as if nothing was ever there.

Because of this few figures of authority who have not seen the Snake of Ash believe that it is real. Many think that something has taken place, perhaps an illusion of the Maroons, Tree Dreams or a common madness of the zone. Certainly there is damage, and traces of ash, though there has been no fire, and certainly people do go missing and bodies are found.

But people go missing in the zone all the time, and bodies are always being found. So long as they are counted and accounted for, what does it matter?

(This monster, more than usual, based on ideas by and produced through collaboration with Scrap Princess.)

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Hand i' Cap

What follows is a quote from the Dictionary of Word Origins by Linda and Roger Flavell. I've broken down the paragraph to a point-by-point to make it easier to aprehend the sequence of play.

"Handicap is a contraction of the phrase hand in the cap or hand i' cap. This was a game of chance based on bartering.

One person would challenge another for a particular posession and offer something of his own in exchange. If the challenge was accepted an umpire would be appointed and all three would place forfiet money into a hat, keeping their hands in the cap.

The umpire would then consider the value of the proposed articles and decide what extra payment should be offered by the owner of the inferior item to make the exchange fair.

The two players then withdrew their hands; holding onto one's money indicaated that the deal was off, an empty hand signalled acceptance.

If both players were in agreement, the exchange was made or cancelled accordingly and the umpire took all the forfiet money.

On the other hand, if the players disagreed, no exchange was made but the one who had indicated a willingness to trade took all the forfeit.

The game is an old one. It is described in the Middle English poem 'Piers Plowman'  where a hood is offered for a cloak, the noumpere (umpire) judging that the owner of the hood should also give a cup of ale. In the fourteenth century, however, the game was known as Newe Faire. The name hand in the cap is of later date and is not found in written records until the seventeenth century. In his diary entry for 18 September, 1660, Samuel Pepys calls the game handicap, adding that he has never heard of it before but that he enjoyed playing it immensely."

This game makes me think of a bunch of things.

A storygamy resolution system, it almost sounds like it was designed by Vincent Baker. I'm wondering now if you could create an in-game D&D gambling system with it. But the issue of who would be the umpire might be difficult. You are either playing against a DM character with the DM or a player or PC as the umpire, or possibly playing pvp with the DM as the umpire.

A surprisingly morally-sophisitcated yet ultra-simple decision system for exchanging goods. It reminded me of the Native American potlatch game. I suspect it is very old, probably much older than its first record in Piers Plowman.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Podecast 4 - Bees

Scrap and I try to talk coherently for an hour about Bees, with a debateable level of success.


1.20 Scrap starts rambling about chromosomes
(seriously, think about skipping this part)
4.26 Gives up on that and starts again. Begins a very dark story about Bees.

8.00 King Arthur and Bees

9.55 The Demiplane of British History

13.25 Brief ramble here

13.40 Other Planes, verticality

14.50 Hook Birds

15.25 Dinosauroids -

15.35 The first few issues of Prophet.

(I think these are in fact the same guy.)

16.35 "Bees, have to get this back to bees.."

17.20 Evolution of pollen, and therefore bees.

17.45 Exploiting colony organisms. Pretending to be ants.

20.10 We are colony organisms.

21.20 The nihilism of not cleaning your room.

21.45 Emergency coping mechanisms.

23.09 Sudden change in conversation due to girlfriend interruption. The Death of Avril Lavigne.

24.24 Schizophrenia. The voices are probably real. Believing you are in the matrix.

26.13 "That's kind-of like a hive.."

26.45 In stories no-one can ever be competent.

28.15 Destroying a city with super-speed.

30.15 The delay between conception and creation.

31.00 Cut-Up

31.55 OSR trailer advancement.

32.50 "One day we'll set fire to parts of Dunedin."

33.48 Another cut here - Napoleon liked Bees.

34.42 Playing Cinderella

34.32 "You need skin"

36.00 More Hook Birds. (Free BFR development meeting discussion. Welcome to the idea factory people.)

40.20 Three minutes to survive a nuclear war.

41.30 Segue back to Bees.

41.35 Scraps adventure with a Beehive.

46.40 Bee-Knights vs Ape-Godzilla.

47.30 "Did Godzilla fight anything Ape-like?

49.48 Fighting all your enemies at once.

51.30 What does Matt Damon look like; a Ryan Gosling Chibi.

53.00 Jewel Thieves in 80's films. (I'm pretty sure jewels do play a large part right at the end of The Goonies.)

55.00 The strangeness of murder in civilised fiction.

56.45 Broadchurch.

58.00 The unity of actors across series.

59.20 "You're not in Guatemala now Doctor Ropata."

60.1.30 Bullying in british comics.

60.05.00 Scraps earliest reading memories. 2000 AD,

60.06.50 Feeling 'fucked up inside'.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The etymology of Desire

"The Romans believed that the relative position of the planets influenced earthly events. The endeavours of the astrologers and augers as they scrutinised the night sky are encapsulated in the Latin verb considerare. It meant 'to study the stars with great care', being a combination of the intensive prefix con- and sius. 'constellation star'. It soon came to be used more generally with the sense 'to observe carefully. to examine', before developing the figurative use 'to reflect upon'. In these senses it was borrowed into Old French, and from there into Middle English in the fourteenth century.

- The verb desire, which came into English in the thirteenth century via Old French desirer, is also derived from sidus. It comes from Latin desiderare which meant 'to regret, to miss' and hence 'to long for'. The original sense of desiderare and its connection with 'star' is obscure, but Skeat suggests 'to note the absence of stars' and hence the regret that the auguries were hidden."

(From 'Word Origins' by Linda and Roger Flavell.)

Monday, 28 September 2015

Why did I mix up these city-states?

The DM forgot where he left a minor city and went with the nearest equivalent, only realising later that we were in Osc-something, six days travel away from where we should have been in Osc-Somethingelse. And we had met the 'right' NPC's for Osc-Somethingelse too. I mean I met my hot insect baby-mamma and had hot inset sex. Dumped the kids on her too. So that happened.

So here are a bunch of reasons that you might have mixed up two city-states. I put the same-context dependant ones in the front and numbered the others so you can use them as a table if you need to.

- Love can move mountains and also city states. It was a miracle of love, the kind that happens to Lancelot when a fucking castle appears out of nowhere so he can bone Guenevere in peace.

- Deathfrost Mountain time emanations. Its near Deathfrost Mountain, that place if full of temporal shenanigans. Maybe we went all the way to the right place in a moment?

- The journey between the two cities is so fucking boring and so free of incident that, like a five hour shift on the biscuit lines, the moment its finished its simply wiped from the memory.

- Hot astronomer girlfriend swapped cities so she could get parallax on a particular star formation and we happened to go to the right one.

- Hot insect girlfriend organised city government-swap with Osc-Something for complex dynastic and economic reasons. Like a house-swap.

1. Names of all local cities changed regularly to confuse infiltrators from very-nearby enemy state.

2. Cities 'Harrisoned' now twinned in time and space. Kind-of reflections of each other but not necessarily causally connected. Like the Mad Max films. Its all a bit vague but probably a metaphor for something.

3. Cities 'Mievilled' A bit like like a Harrisoned city but a bit more practically worked out. They are separate but somehow share space. You could walk down a street in one and come out in the other. This is regular and people know about it but no-one takes advantage of it for COMPLEX POLITICAL REASONS. This is definitely a metaphor, for capitalism.

4. City 'Gaimaned'. Deal with para-deity means single city story-locked and eternal so long as people remember it, but the collective memories shape its physical expression. Council big on intellectual property laws and punish silly songs about the city with death. Will invade to stop rumours about them spreading. You went to the same place but it was different because the memories of it had changed.

5. Its the same city. Djinn fly it back and forth at dawn and dusk. You just went at different times.

6. Djinn again, one was ordered to build city B in a single night. Sneaked a few millennia into the future and took the ruins of city A and built them of that. They are literally the same stone. Scholars from City A go to City B to analyse relics and stones and try to work out their future history.

7. The second city is actually a necropolis of the first where bodies rest in simulations of their former homes. The people you interacted with were g g g ghoooosts! (Also if you saw old friends it means they're dead.)

8. Second city built as vast copy of the first by trillionare idiot obsessed with history and tales of old culture. Like those americans who buy London Bridge. An inhabited folly an a gigantic scale.

9. Mission-Impossible style plot by well resourced enemies with small army of illusionists and actors to persuade you one place was in fact another. You got Truman-Show'd.

10. Whole population swaps back and forth every 12 years in vast processions for ritual reasons. You jut missed the swap.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Podecast Three - Beauty

The subject today was 'beauty'

(It's shorter than usual because I had to go to Manchester.)

 click the image

Zak hates nature.


"The child of love and war is sex"

A thick silky coffee with cardamon

kelvin helmholtz