Sunday, 27 September 2020

the noise in which it lives

 From "African Folktales - selected and retold by Roger D Abrahams";



Unfortunately, this quality of immediacy in an African story, including the noise in which it lives, is very hard to capture on paper. Among the attempts to record storytelling as it occurred at a specific time and place, and to record it in such a way that the other major situational factors are also conveyed, it is, perhaps, Laura Bohannon's "anthropological novel" Return to Laughter, describing her work among the Tiv of Nigeria, she provides us with a description of a tale-telling scene which, though not wholly characteristic of the look and feel of a usual storytelling - the scene occurs after a smallpox epidemic has passed through the village - is nonetheless especially vivid. Her description focuses not on the stories, but rather on the noise out of which the performance emerges, and the performers mastery of the tumult. She dramatizes the way in which the immediate situation is drawn upon in the stories and wedded to their universal qualities, and how the continuities and the interlayering of voices may be seen to work together in an actual performance context.
.......................

"A few nights later we sat under the cold moon of the harmattan in a circle in Kako's homestead yard. My pressure lamp was carefully paced, under Kako's personal direction, to illuminate the storytellers as they passed before us and the assembled elders. Gradually the people gathered from the neighbouring homesteads. They brought their wives and children, and the bought wood for the fire and stools to sit on. The homestead was full of preparatory bustle as people borrowed coals to start their fires and jostled each other for a place close to the front. Then, places staked out with fire and stool, people circulated to greet each other, as people do in a theatre lobby. The air was filled with happy hum of an audience sure of good entertainment.


Behind Kako's reception hut there was a great deal of coming and going, whispering and giggling, very much like the noise of people plotting charades. Cholo, who was to tell the first tale, squatted before us in brief, friendly greeting and gave me news of his sister: Atakpa was well; her co-wife had been blinded by smallpox. "It makes more work for Atakpa. They're both after their husband now to get them a little wife to help."

"Cholo!"

"I'm coming." Cholo shouted toward Kako's reception hut. He glanced at the gathered audience and left. he waved Ihugh to join him. Soon Ihugh was running towards his hut, consulting with his uncles, and then back to join Cholo behind the reception hut. people settled down to wait, with anticipation.

Cholo came out before the lamp, and, with many gestures, began the story of the hare and the elephant.

The hare went hunting one day. He armed himself with a club made of cane grass and, knowing his weapon weak, wore a ferocious mask to petrify his face with fear.

Here Chlo began to sing, stopping to instruct us all in the chorus of his song: nonsense syllables with a rousing rhythm and a lilting tune. I got interested. This would be far more fun than mere storytelling.

First the hare met a mouse. The mouse screamed with fear when he saw the terrible mask, but instead of standing trembling and ready to the hares club, the mouse turned to flee.

Again Cholo waved us into the chorus.

As the hare pursued the mouse, his mask slipped down over his eyes. But the hare has long ears, and he was able to follow his prey by the rustling in the dry grass. In his flight, the mouse ran straight into an elephant and the elephant also began to run. The hare, unable to see, now followed the elephant and beat him with his cane club. The elephant, thinking this was the tickle of the mouse's whiskers, ran ever faster.

Again the chorus. Then Cholo disappeared. I had enjoyed the song, and prepared for the next story. But this one was not yet finished. Cholo returned. This time he was the hare. To his head he had tied two waving fronds as ears, over his face a cloth daubed with mud, and in his hands a weak blade of cane grass. He mimed his story, dancing before us, searching for game, finding the mouse, and pursuing it blindly.

Then out came the elephant, roaring: a long bed tied to a man's back - those huge, splay feet could be no one's but Ihugh's - covered with two dark togas that swayed with the elephants dancing. The youngest children screamed most satisfactorily and had to be comforted by their parents, while the older children told them with great superiority that the elephant was really a man. Cholo now struck the elephant boldly with his grass blade, used it as a bat to wave us all into his song and chorus. One or two of the young men beat sticks against their chairs, the better to mark the rhythm while the hare and the elephant danced. In a final surge of enthusiastic singing and dancing, the hare and the elephant disappeared.

Immediately one of Ihugh's cousins sprang into the centre of the circle and began his tale of the goat who was a blacksmith and how he was tricked by the hare. He too had a song for his story, for the fables themselves are common property, and a storyteller makes his fame with his songs and dancing. Again I found myself laughing wholeheartedly and joining in the singing. I was enjoying myself immensely.

As the evening wore on, other men also rose to tell their stories, pressing brothers and cousins into service in the charades and commandeering props from the women of the homestead. A pot tied snoutlike over the face made a hippopotamus. Sheepskins, leaves and cloth-covered stools created strange monsters and sprites. There was not a single dull story. The audience wouldn't allow it. They shout down any fable teller who fails to hold their attention: "That's too long." "Your song's no good." "You've got the story wrong." "Learn to dance." Sometimes it needed only the momentary inattention of the audience to embolden one of the other storytellers to jump into the centre even while another fable was being told. Then for a few moments we heard two tales, two songs at once. Soon people would take up only the one chorus and the other fable teller would sit down.

Mainly it was a cntest between Gbodi and Ikpoom, who were the two great storytellers of the country. Gbodi, a short stock little man with a huge voice, excelled as a dancer and a tumbler. In the tale of the cricket and the praying mantis he danced holding a heavy mahogany mortar in his hands. First, as the praying mantis he held it over his head; then, placing the mortar on the ground, he continued to dance on it upside down, his hands grasping the edge of the mortar, his feet in the air - and singing all the while.

Ikpoom excelled in mime. His ugly face was extraordinarily expressive, and he was at his best when he could himself act out all parts of the story at once. Now he was telling the tale of a chief's daughter who refused to marry any man, for she knew she was far too good for any suitor who came to court her. Ikpoom's voice was shrilly angry when, as the girl, he warned lovers off the farm and threatened to shoot them with a bow and arrow. His voice was eerie and his song uncanny as he portrayed the chief of the underworld sprites, Agundu, who is a head with wild, red eyes and with gouts of blood on the raw cut neck that terminates the creature. He showed us how Agundu borrowed the radiance of the sun and moon and with them dazzled the girl, how she followed this bright illusion away from her own people whom she had scorned, and how at the very gates of the underworld Agundu gave back to the sun his glory and to the moon her beauty. Only then, when it was too late, did the girl see what a monster she had chosen, and then too late and in vain, she longed for a human mate.

I had no need to hear the shouted proverb that marks the end of each story. I knew the moral of this tale. Especially now, in this situation in which our common humanity and pleasure in amusement was so evident, the dangers of parting from one's own to follow beckoning strangeness loomed perilous and sad.

Ikpoom sang the lament of the girl whom blind pride had shut in a strange, dark world away from sun and familiar light....

Ikpoom sang for Agundu, for the grinning skeleton of the world that underlines all illusion. One can ignore Agundu. But those who follow him can never return, for they have seen and can never forget...they knew. All these people laughing around me. They knew how to come back. I still had to learn.

Gbodi was telling a tale now, of the hare's attempt to pass himself off as one of the bush sprites in their won country. Great a trickster as the hare is, infinite as is his ingenuity, he was unable to act and feel as did the bush sprites. At first this enabled him to deceive them the better and to steal the toga that bears one along like the wind, but ultimately this lack of understanding and this difference was his undoing. "This time," sang Gbodi, "the sprites killed the hare and ate him. The fable has killed the hare."

The hare would soon be resurrected in another fable. The trickster is immortal as a type no matter how often any one trickster tricks himself into disaster. But even the greatest trickster cannot transform himself. His personal habits always betray him, as they betray all of us for what we are; we ourselves are the only ones who see ourselves a what we think we ought to be or what we would like to be thought.

Many of my mortal dilemmas had sprung from the very nature of my work which had made me a trickster: one who seems to be what he is not and who professes faith in what he does not believe. But this relization is of littl help. It is not enough to be true to oneself. The self may be bad and need to be changed, or it may change unawares into something strange and new. I had changed. Whatever the merits of anthropology to the world or of my work to anthropology, this experience had wrought many changes in me as a human being - and I had thoughts that what wasn't grist for my notebooks would be adventure....

I had lost track of the fable being told. It was a long one, and I couldn't keep the characters straight. Neither, it seemed, could Accident - energetic as ever and quite unchanged save for a few pockmarks on his nose. Perhaps, though, it was just his sense of mischief that made him bound up from his seat beside his brother and take the stake with the storyteller. "I don't understand. Would you repeat more slowly?"

There was a startled gasp. Then a roar of laughter, even from the interrupted storyteller. "What was his great-great-grandfather's name? And where did he learn to perform that ceremony?" continued Accident, so broadly that I began to laugh, for it was me own accent and my own questions that Accident was imitating. Aware that he had lost his audience, the fable teller began to play informant to Accidents anthropologist. Accident in turn looked eager to baffled, scribbled in the air as though in a notebook, wiped imaginary glasses, adjusted imaginary skirts, and took off my accent, gestures, errors of grammar and habits of phrase with such unmerciful accuracy that even as I laughed myself sore I resolved on improvement. Accident finally sat down under a shower of pennies and approving applause..."

...................................

Bohannons description of an actual performance underscores the fact that the vitality of the storytelling lies in two characteristic elements: first the seizure of the role of narrator and the maintaining of it in the face of ongoing critical commentary; second, the constant interaction between storyteller and audience, maintained both through audience commentary and the periodic introduction of call-and-response songs. Thus, the occasion of storytelling calls for the same seizing of the centre, and the same kind of voice overlap and interlock as do the many other forms of audience behaviour taking place in front of the performer, who, through a sense of personal control, provide a focus for all the noise and random bustle arising on occasions of performance.


..........................................

And if you liked that and want more, get all over this.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Piranesi and Vinland Saga

 I experienced two culture things recently which I genuinely enjoyed and thought were good - A RARE EVENT, so I have decided to record and express that unexpected pleasure.

Susanna Clarkes Piranesi, which I listened to in Audiobook format, read by Chiwetel Ejiofor,



and Vinland Saga, an Anime which I found hidden away on Amazon Prime, the only media subscription service I use (it gets me stuff faster in Pandemic conditions).



A strange unity, both are about faith and the human struggle to create and sustain meaning and a sense of moral order in a cold even terrifying and chaotic world



PIRANESI

Piranesi; first person unreliable narrator, adjacents are Gene Wolfes Soldier in the Mist books and House of Leaves. Though the labyrinth in Piranesi is partly wonderful, partly frightening, an awe-inspiring enfolding otherness rather than nihilistic horror. The narrator reads to us from his journals, or his journals simply speak. The journals have clearly been edited and changed, he mentions himself that there are big chunks torn out and he makes it clear from the start that he doesn't know why though initially, he thinks his memory is correct.

The narrators loss of faith in his own memory and records, the opening up of terrifying (to him) possibilities and fissures, and how he deals with and process that, is fascinating.

The narrator lives in a labyrinth of huge proportions interspersed with gigantic statues of human figures, each different, their meanings unknown. The place is huge enough that the lower floors are swept regularly by the sea while the upper floors have their own cloud formation and weather.

There is only the labyrinth, which he, the Narrator, Piranesi, calls The House. There is the sea, which sweeps though the lower halls in vast tides, and has already collapsed part of the house, but there is no shore, no land, no nation, no bedrock, no end to the house other than sea, sun and the sky, and the stars at night, just the house, more chambers and corridors and vast statues.

(Its actually a bit nice that Carceri)

So far as the narrator knows, and absolutely believes, both as natural intuition and an article of faith, the House is all there is and all there could be, and he lives his life in perfect harmony with the House, fishing in its lower halls, weaving things out of dried seaweed, carefully and painstakingly recording and predicting its tides.

We, the readers, know something is up. The Narrator has a watch, various plastic items, a sleeping bag, his journals, and there is an 'Other'. One other person in the House, who meets the Narrator every week at a regular time to discuss their important work, and who calls the narrator 'Piranesi'



VINLAND SAGA

Vinland Saga is an Anime in what I think is called the Shonen style? Its set in the early middle ages/late dark ages, a generation or so before the Battle of Hastings and takes place around the north sea world of the Vikings, going from Iceland to the Faeroes to Britain in this series.

The story initially follows Thorfinn, the very young son of Thors Snorrison in what initially looks like it’s going to be an exciting adventure, then looks like its going to be a serial revenge quest, then evolves into a study on revenge, hatred, fate, faith, history tragedy and meaning.

It goes through some changes!



Mild Spoilers;

Thorfinns father seems to be the classic surprisingly advanced human who acts as protagonist in a lot of historical fiction, he has a reputation as some kind of badass but currently lives as a farmer in Iceland and mainly just raises his family and is surprisingly near-pacifist and merciful to slaves. (Vinland Saga has about as much slavery and common references to slavery as actual history, the first sign that this is something slightly unusual).

Thors is a deserter from a badass mercenary band, the Joms Vikings, and they turn up in Iceland intending to recruit him by force and manipulation for the planned invasion of England.

Thors sets off and Thorfinn, maybe six or eight years old, stows away on his ship.

Will this be an exciting father/son adventure?

Well yes, in a sense, but mainly no, not at all.

Thors is ambushed in the Faeroe islands and, in an intense and extended battle of wits, skills and moral force, he is killed by Askeladd, the leader of the mercenary scumbag legion attacking him. Thorfinn survives this, swears revenge and trails after Askeladd. Unable or unwilling to kill him by assassination, he swears he will kill Askeladd in a duel and Askeladd promises him one if he can perform services on the battlefield.

Which, over years, turns into a really weird, fucked up father-son relationship with Thorfinn gradually getting better and better, Askeladd gradually getting older and slower, them duelling semi-regularly and both knowing it can only end one way, Thorfinn locked into his hatred but simultaneously getting closer to Askeladd and more like him all the time.

And that’s just the prologue to the prologue.




OCCIDENTAL SHONEN MIND COLLAPSE

I have watched a handful of the more -popular Shonen anime and know a bit more about the period in question. It’s a fascinating mind collapse watching the Shonen archetypes and style collide with a really surprisingly well realised 11th century north sea setting. The fidelity to arms, armour, culture, society and hierarchies is impressive, probably more than that is the fidelity to a morality which is, maybe not exactly that of the historical people, but a hell of a lot closer than most other popular retellings.
Religion and faith are commonly edited out of these things but Vinland Saga is in large part ultimately about morality.

Canute starting off as a Bishonen-hot Anime-femme guy;



Would you believe that this characters relationship with Christianity is a central axis of the later series and that its really well done?

Thorfinn does the Naruto-run at one point (I think its an in-joke from the creators).



It’s just very 'Anime' but also very, very, 'Dark Ages/Medieval', so there is a constant low cuturespasm in watching.

Take a look at the opening bit from Youtube






ESCAPE

Both Piranesi and Vinland Saga are about people who are trapped and either don't know they are trapped, of who can intuit it, but cannot see it, yet are trying to escape. 

(The question of whether someone can escape from a moral or physical trap which they *don't know they are in*, and how to do that, how to imagine a reality, or a moral possibility outside anything you can comprehend, is an invisible axis of both fictions.)

Piranesi's mind and memory alteration, his inability to conceive of anything outside the house, anything that is not-House, or that came before it or which will come after it, is, to us, a kind of defence or protection from trauma.

We learn as we go on that many people have been left in the Labyrinth, and all who stay there too long have gone insane and died. Piranesi may arguably have gone insane, and the person he was originally may have actually genuinely died, or changed so totally and irreversibly that we can reasonably consider it a death, but he survives and even thrives in an environment and situation that has destroyed everyone else.

In fact he is even happy, though lonely. His life is fulfilling. He weaves webs of meaning for himself and essentially develops his own proto religion/philosophy. He finds the bones of those who have died in the House and orders them, bringing them gifts of flowers and stories, talking to them so they need not be alone. He measures, records and comprehends the tides to the point that he need not fear them. He knows all the statues in the House individually, has particular feelings and intuitions about each. In a strike of intuitive brilliance, when forced to think of things which might be not-House, he makes combinations of the symbols and actions of those statues, extending them into a meta-space to comprehend what is otherwise comprehensible. He assists a lost albatross couple in building their nest. He communicates, perhaps insanely, but perhaps with real shamanic ability, with the birds which fly through and inhabit the House. He sees himself as the Beloved Child of the House. He loves his home, and his world. He seems in this isolated existence, empathic, dutiful, industrious, philosophical, even noble. In many ways he is a man totally at peace with his reality and his place within it.

We know that Piranesi is trapped, and we begin to suspect before he does that he is being manipulated. But while I hated the idea of Piranesi being used or made a slave, in some ways I did not want him to change beyond his evolved life path. Reality, our reality, would shock, ruin and perhaps destroy him, so the reader, or listener is poised between a desire for Piranesi to develop the means to escape the House, and a deep sorrow at the loss of his innocence.



CHITWELLS READING

Audiobooks can sometimes live or die by the relationship between the reading and the text. There are quite a few on my account which I have only got half way through because the reading just sat wrong. If someone enunciates in a slightly 'off' manner, over tens of hours of listening, that's going to drive you fucking nuts.

Anyway, Chitwell Ejiofors reading of Piranesi if fucking *lovely*. One of the neatest synthesis between reader, character and text that I have experienced. He captures the soul of this innocent, careful, intelligent and very pure soul.



THORFINN AND ASKELADD

It’s really hard, maybe impossible, to make a true, popular, anti-violence, anti-war fiction. Because violence is fucking cool and really handy for drama and on a screen or in a book, contained by limited time, all of its actually destructive aspects are muted.

Even to see how violence destroys you would need to build a world large, deep and morally complex enough to illuminate the fine mycelium strands of the trauma it creates, AND sustain the viewers interest and empathy in both the agents of violence AND its victims for long enough, both in actual reading/viewing time but also imagined time in the fiction, that the viewer could begin to get some sense of what violence actually does to people over time.

Well, mission at least partially accomplished I think.

All the main characters in Vinland Saga are monsters in someone else’s eyes, and in fact do act like monsters at times. Yet, all (or most) are sympathetic when seen through their own eyes. 

There are no "evil" people in Vinland Saga, though almost everyone both suffers evil and commits it. Everyones rationale for what they do makes sense, and in a resource-poor world, no-one is ever entirely safe, either from violence, disease, starvation or enslavement. Everyone to some extent is living on a knife-edge, fighting over the scraps of a fallen world, amidst ruins they know they cannot repair.
(Not only that but most of the Christians think the world is literally going to end in about 20 or so years.)



"Revenge, tis a fucked up thing." - A Movie Protagonist.

Like ritualised gladiatorial child murder and high speed death races, revenge is one of those things people in fiction tell each other is bad while, from the evidence of that same fiction, its actually fucking BASED.

Watching Thorfinns gradual decay into someone so frozen in the instant of their trauma that it gradually degrades them into something awful and broken, is almost viscerally unpleasant, especially past the mid point of the series.

It is kind of fucking cool to begin with. The sheer willpower to survive, relentlessness and Throfinns gradual self-challenging and mastering new powers is kinda fun. But as we learn more and more about the characters, motivations and experiences of all the people linked in this great wheel of fortune, it turns more and more into a tragedy of meaningless hate.

This is made worse by the fact that literally everything Thors tried to teach his son is about not entering the cycle of death, hate and violence which he escaped from.



THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE

It’s one of the more impressive feats of popular fiction to take the guy who, in initial episodes looks like he is going to be Starscream; a scheming snakelike sidekick to the main enemy, and to slowly reveal more and more of him, in more and more complex situations, until he is something close to a terrible hero, the main character of the series.



Askeladd is the obverse side of Thors surprisingly-enlightened historical protagonist. Like Thors he is a badass, and he is highly intelligent, knowledgeable enough about the history of his world (at one point he delivers to a torture victim a brief history of the cyclic invasions which shaped Britain as justification for his own actions) and perceptive enough of its moral nature that he is one of the few people who can see the boundary of the way-things-are and realises how totally *fucked* everything is, and how trapped everyone in this world is.

He's also deeply alienated from his own culture by childhood trauma. Brilliant, manipulative, but wise enough to recognise in Thors someone who's intelligence and perception match his own, but who has found a way to live without surrendering his moral core. He tricks and manipulates Askeladds crew go from evil heavys, to cheery pirates, adventurous mercenaries, to soldiers to outright cold killers of innocents (but then they always were). Thorfinn betrays the woman who saved his life by lighting the fires to bring Askeladds raiders to the shore of her home. Two describe their own love as something like the love of god in a cheeky comedy interlude just before the Yule episodes.
The Yule episodes - which I won't spoil for you here.



THE SOUL FACING CHAOS

The main characters of Vinland Saga are all intelligent, perceptive people facing a world shaped by chaos, violence and death. We slowly learn about each of them that, in their own way, they are trying to deal with the trauma of their experiences and reaching for some way to make meaning out of the horror around them.

Thorfinn is locked into his crushing revenge cycle with his dark father figure. Askeladd is poisoned by memories of he and his mothers lives as degraded slaves. Canute, the Price they get tangled up with, is deeply religious and crushed by the fact his Father essentially views him as a tool, and by the total lack of any justice or meaning in the world around him. Each of them is learning at different times to either hold on to, re-create, or surrender some inner totem or distant faith in *something* that might lend purpose and meaning to their lives.

Piranesi, in his unending labyrinth, has built his web of meaning and purpose, more perfectly than anyone in "Vinland", but we know it can only exist inside his fractured reality, and we know he himself is on a course to break out of that reality, and escape into a larger, but darker one where his purity will likely not survive.

Well, they are pretty good fictions. Worth a look if you get a chance and both likely to appeal to readers of this blog.




Friday, 18 September 2020

Fetch-Quest Generator

 Hey remember back in the day when we I put useful stuff on our my blogs?

This was going to be at the start of 'Vault of Setebos', the dungeon I am doing for Ben L's 'Through Ultuans Door' but will likely be cut so here you go, a means to generate a reasonable-sounding semi-legal item-retrieval quest


Absolute Legend


 

 

The Mcguffin

“Bring for me..”

“It’s actually reasonably mine because…”

EXTRA SAUCE

1

The Lunar Orb. Said to be a True Moon made small.

I am fighting to save ALL OF REALITY and I need this particular thing to do it.

Quest-Giver is extremely hot & seems like they are into you.

2

Cup of Horn. Legend says any who drink from it will have true prophetic dreams that night.

I channel the Spirit of the creator who, since they speak through me, is not *legally* dead.

Quest-Giver has proof of deep perversion which, if used as blackmail, will get your long-standing enemy off your back.

3

The Prismatic Leaf. Said to hold the souls and highest dreams of a realm now lost to Entropy.

I was briefly removed from causality by a mocking God. On my return it had been inherited and sold-off!

Quest-Giver is part of a Multiversal masonic-style order & can get you in too. Room, board, contacts and assistance wherever you go.

4

Hourglass of Ash. It’s said that while this glass runs, any entity in its presence becomes mortal.

I’m a member of a distant religious order dedicated to preserving the *true intentions* of the creator.

Quest-Giver runs/represents a narco-empire and can get you *anything* you want, free if its for personal use, and cheap rates on bulk.

5

The Sabre of the Red Dawn. Made from a tear in reality to one where the physical laws are anathema.

It was stolen from me, and used as payment to imprison someone I love. A double-insult which I would see avenged.

A Tame Giant Roc! Ok its just “mostly tame”. Still it can fly you and your crew wherever you need. (You must pay for upkeep and ‘Roosting Costs’ yourself.)

6

Psalter of Sardinac. The Prayers if intoned continually for a year, will return the Good God Sardinac to life.

That side of the family have been replaced with animated flesh golems, (its why I don’t talk to them), I am the only real one left.

Quest-Giver offers prism-keys to the fastness of Zim of the Fifteen Prisms! A Tardis-like dimensional fortress accessible by refracting sunlight through the prisms. (Zim presumed dead.)

 

The Quest-Giver is willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money and/or resources, as well as whatever the ‘extra sauce’ is.


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

A Video You Should Watch

 Apologies for a post which is little more than a link to, and quotes from, a Youtube Video, but this one struck me pretty hard.

Game Makers Toolkit talks about the nature of rewards in games, particularly the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, and in doing so seems to describe almost exactly a pattern of play that I have both experienced and intuitively tried to mimic and re-create in my own stuff.

Its very, very OSR relevant. Honestly I think this video should probably be in the 'Links to Wisdom' alongside the various Primers.


'Quests';


"... beyond that the quests were a complete and utter disaster. Players focused exclusively on those quests and thought of everything else as a really noisy distraction. They optimised their play in really boring ways in order to finish the quest at hand, they avoided doing anything risky, because it meant they might fail and then they became completely demotivated the second the quests ran out."

"In structuring the game as a series of explicit tasks to be completed, we taught the player to depend upon those tasks to create meaning in the game"


Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation;


"If a game is about experimentation, exploration or player-guided discovery - explicit goals can limit players creativity and imagination, even after the goals run out.

...

"A goal you set yourself is way more powerful than a goal someone else sets for you. .. So if a game is about improving yourself, a personal or social goal can be a stronger motivator than a set threshold.

...

We should remember that goals are a checklist that can be completed. Some players will exclusively rely on the game to give them purpose and direction.

Intrinsic motivation is shown to be far stronger - and it lasts longer too. People can enjoy a hobby for a lifetime. Extrinsic motivation will only last as long as the rewards are there."


The over-justification effect;


"There's a huge body of evidence that says when extrinsic motivation is attached to a task that we already find intrinsically motivating, we suddenly become way less interested in the task.

...

And other studies also show rewards can also make people less creative, worse at problem solving, more prone to cheating, and may lose motivation entirely once the rewards stop - even though previously they were happy to do it for its own sake."

...

"... there are certainly games that lean more towards intrinsic motivation. Like games that focus on exploration, creativity, expression and growth. There are games where you set your own goals and expect no rewards in return, and so when more extrinsically motivating systems - like explicit goals, progression meters and achievements are added too these games, our motivation can take a hit. We become blinkered to creative solutions. We're less motivated to improve ourselves. We put an arbitrary threshold on how much we can attain, and developers now need to create a constant drip feed of new goals and rewards, or risk losing us entirely."


Self Motivation;


".. because I think its clear that some people just aren't very good or interested in motivating themselves
For every minecraft super fan who generates their own fun, there's someone else who is simply lost and without direction."

...

"In a thread about the open-ended whodunnit Her Story, one user said; "It's up to you decide when you are satisfied with the information you have found."

To which the threads author replied, "how do I decide when I am satisfied?"

That post keeps me up at night."



What Goals and Rewards to Use;


"With goals its better to use large, overarching goals that players can complete however they want, rather than restrictive step-by-step instructions. 

...

Make goals optional, like Hitmans challenges, or hidden, like Outer Wilds achievements.
There is one type of reward that has been shown to not trigger the overjustification effect. 

... 

Rewards can have a motivational effect in intrinsic situations provided that they're unexpected, reasonably low value and feel tied to the actual performance of the action."





Saturday, 12 September 2020

Thoughts on this Gundam

First time putting one of these together. Apparently this one is an MSN-065 SINANJU NOE ZEON MOBILE SUIT CUSTOMISED FOR NEWTYPE (TITANIUM FINISH).




The whole thing is push-fit and largely stays together, (the arms still want to go on holiday a little) which means some really high grade plastic engineering. The whole process of assembly felt super-detailed and like something a huge number of people have put a crazy amount of time and energy into, and also had the slight secretive gnostic-text feeling of interacting with a deep and highly interwoven subculture.





FEMME HYPERMASCULINITY


Are Gundam femme?




I was looking at the high heels and skirts and wondering but then this person on twitter reminded me that looking kinda femme is actually ULTRA MASCULINE. 


My boi Louis, enemy of Churchills, baldies and heretics to the most Catholic church everywhere

High heels to illustrate firm calves and strong smooth legs, clenched waist to show others your dominant upper body combined with dangerous flexibility, armoured skirt so as not to impede movement,  tall headpiece to indicate magnificence and project extreme confidence. 




Very masculine yes.


EDIT;

I WAS RIGHT!

THIS IS THE PILOT

His name is 'Full Frontal' too.

(Thanks to Alex in the comments.)


WINGS


Of course the Gundam also has WINGS.

Probably is Boccioni had gone into the jet age he would have given his dynamism-angels jet wings as well, they are the most Futurist thing possible.

These can look pretty good from the front, raising up over each shoulder for a head-on rocket angel thing.




The wings are important because they create this whole new interpenetration with and interaction with space at the rear of the model, and as we all know, one of the most important ways to look at a sculpture is to turn it round and look at the back.

What do they do to the back?

Well they make it a bitch to pick up

I guess the wings are brought out to best effect if you have a stand and you can pose this guy. That way they would essentially create an entirely new and different axis of motion for the figure, making it perhaps, more truly three-dimensional, more of a pure sculpture.

And of course changing its time signature from stepping time or bearing time into fragment time, so in that case, making it more of an image? Which I suppose contradicts my original statement there.

You may need to look elsewhere for a synthesis on Gundam wings.




PSEUDOSENSE


An aspect of this that was interesting was being introduced to an unknown (to me) form of pseudosense. 

Mainly i'm contrasting this with 40k, where I know a supremely insane amount about how the machines of the dark future are meant to work. Here I know absolutely nothing about the imaginative world making up the background of the figure, but I know that it *has one*, so these energy weapons and super rifle (comes in the box) and long white things (at the back) all have specific uses and meanings in the imaginative reality of the Gundams. 

These white thingies in particular are fascinating.

(I'm assuming they are fuel tanks or something like that, & they eject at crucial moments in battle for combat-theatre.)

So it has a particular mystery for me where rather than the pleasure of seeing how the form and pseudotech fits into a known paracosm of mechanics and culture ("ah, here is the power generator at the back with the admech skull on it"), for me at least, it is a prompt to imagining more what things *could* be. Interpretation more than recognition.

(I'm not sure anyone has written in a positive way about the artistic pleasures of recognition and ordering, though they must be significant pleasures and a meaningful part of many works).




ORIGINS OF THE FORMS, A NEST OF MEANING


It really is very beautiful.

Where does it come from?

So one part of this is clearly hyper-evolved samurai armour.

Another is this interlacing of the visual signifiers of rocketry. A weaving of cables and implied sources of power with implied transmission of energy we draw from, in this case, late 2th century aerospace tech.

The flow of shapes across this particular Gundam is quite remarkable, for any particular element, it might be said to be;

- Pseudo-Biology. (those forearms are swole with masculine growth, one old standard of manhood was that when the veins popped out on the top of your hands then that meant you ware an adult male, here power cables provide the simulation of those popping veins and tendons).

- Shaped armour carrying the shape of assumed musculature. (See above).

- Rocket Ejection stuff.

- Heat ejection stuff.

- Mechanical Energy Transmission; pipes, cables, suggested fuel reserves.

- Energy Projection. There are these plastic flanges of what I assume to be pure projected energy.

- Pseudo Aerodynamics. arts of this are very like the curves of a sports car, but if you look into it deeply, its not as if the curves are oriented in a particular direction, (& don't Gundam fight in space anyway?) they are more the symbolic curves of speed, high performance and expensive high status engineering, reproduced (it basically looks like a Ferrari robot).

Probably the most interesting thing is where I compare it to this reproduction of Boccionis "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" (1913)





(which I happen to have on me)


where its, wow






they could almost be related

I'm not sure which is more interesting, the idea that the Gundam designer(s?) deliberately looked at Boccioni first, or that they are a form of parallel evolution.

Masculinity, the machine, speed, forward movement, dynamism, all trying to capture those elements in a still three-dimensional figure.

(They even both have a projecting horn thing).




THE PACE AND FLOW OF FORM AND SIGNIFICATION


The 'pace' or flow of detail and clear space across the surface of the miniature; I read somewhere (Ruskin or Rawson I think), about the use of markings on a curved surface emphasising its wholeness and flow precisely by dividing up the space (like a woman’s stockings) and that might be part of the heraldry here.




Another might be because the whole model is so shiny  so the curve and space occupied by the form is given to the eye is shown simultaneously by reflection of light wrapping the metallic limbs and by shadow in its curves (as opposed to a more matte version where the shadow would dominate more over the shine).

But the spots of black and gold heraldry break up that pattern of mass-sensing and (though they are actually a bit shiny themselves) compared to the rest of the model they are a bit like empty black spaces, with the shape of the form emphasised through direct shiny gold marking, in essence, creating the symbol of the shape and projecting that instead of just showing you what the shape is.

A little more towards the 'word' than the 'form' more signified (relatively) than shown.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Eight Houses


You Just Moved In...


Some House types for the start of a GG&G game. My central concept was to have a 'home base' that had a reasonable range of things to explore and do inside, some benefits to exploration and some mild challenges as well. A place that would feel strange but which would gradually come to feel like 'home'.
I wanted everything to feel intelligible to children so it’s all a little more normalish, or at least not high weird.


Idea is that a rich old relative has died, maybe recently or maybe a long time ago but the details have been wrapped up in legal limbo for a while, but you (or your parent really) have just been told you can live there. This is handy a your family has fallen on hard times (down to one Goose only, and that one not a Bullion-Goose at all), and you need somewhere to live.

So the House is new, and strange. Outside the village and the surrounding lands are new.

The village and lands are meant to be semi-randomly generated, so a village will always have stuff like a baker, butcher etc, but the details of who they are and what their situation is will differ etc.

The land beyond will also be different for each game.

All of these will have bedrooms, a kitchen and a hearth.



1 TREE HOUSE


A big central spiral staircase up the middle of the tree with slidable pole. 

A swing from one branch. Ivy to climb the trunk on the outside. Rope ladders down from some of the 'rooms' (you can raise and lower these). 

Cranky old birds in nests, these change with the seasons. Thieving Squirrels. A Howler monkey that howls randomly.

Body of a dead balloonist hanging from a distant branch, been there for years, can't get rid of him.
A branch gap you can jump over to another tree (if you take a running jump). The trees don't *look* that close together from the ground.

There are ruined old parts of the treehouse on dead branches where its always autumn, including one distant branch which you can only see from up here and which seems to go nowhere, winding off into the upper air.

A lost property box full of kites and balls




2 CAVE-HOUSE


A sinkhole with a narrow walkway spiralling round the rim-wall. A basket-pulley system hanging from a tree branch projecting over the lip lets you raise and lower objects and people faster than going round the rim-path.

At the bottom of the sinkhole is a wild garden and in the side is the cavern which is the entrance to the cave.

In the garden is an utterly flat, black pool which never ripples and where you can never see the bottom. Living in the pool is One Frog.

Inside the cave is full of softly glowing fungi and sleepy glow-worms, the walls have more-mysterious mushrooms growing from them sometimes. You find your way with lanterns. The place drips and echoes always. A waterfall from deeper in the cave echoes slightly.

The inner areas are strangely arranged. In some places steps are cut into the flowstone, in others wooden stairs have been added, in others ladders or ropes. The rooms are all hacked into the rock.

Deep in the cave is the Bat Room where they rustle and whisper to each other in the day. The old woman who shows you the cave tells you to always turn out candles at dusk and dawn as the bats will all fly through the cave in and out. You can feel them flit against your face when they do. A tilting water-clock fed by a drip rings a solemn bell and tells you when to turn the lights out.

One cave room is very huge, and empty, except for an ancient black idol covered with flowstone. 

At one place a rope bridge leads over a deep, dark drop.

Deep inside the cave the way opens onto a jetty which reaches into an underground river, or lake? You can't see the edge, only black water. There is a sign in a language you don't know and a hook for a lamp.

If you stay down here you might see small men in boats going this way and that in the silent dark. If you hang a lamp by the sign, they will assume you want to trade and will arrive at the jetty. No-one outside the cave knows about this.

The cave has a giant boulder set to roll through its halls if a prop is knocked away, secret crackways running throughout that only  child could squirm through and a chimney climb to a secret way out hidden in a tree trunk above.





3 ROAD HOUSE/TAVERN?


This old Inn is falling apart and hasn't been open to the public for years. It has a sign with cracked paint which swings in the wind outside.

The main room has a big chandelier attached to the roof with a pulley with the handle behind the bar. It also has a pool table, a dartboard, barstools, horse tack nailed to the walls, one of the tables has been carved into a half-complete map of the local area. There is also an Auld Fellah at the back, he is asleep almost all of the time but will wake up if he has a beer in front of him and ramble about the old times. Its not clear how he gets in but he is almost always there.

There is a 'snug' a special room off the main bar with frosted glass windows nobody can see into and with its own door to the outside.

The place has a large Kitchen and there is a special roll-up window between the Kitchen and the bar. It has a huge cellar with big empty barrels you can hide inside and a trapdoor to the outside.

There are walkways in the dark of the rafters and hidden areas in the walls. There are rats playing cards in the basement. They are hard to get rid of but if you beat them at cards (they cheat) you can hire them on the cheap as bouncers and muscle (they are truculent).





4 RUINED KEEP/CASTLE


There is a central Keep which still pretty much hangs together, outside that the courtyard is so overgrown it nearly looks like a lawn and the outer walls are so ancient and tumbledown that trees are growing in them and small climbing goats specifically inhabit them. Beyond this is the moat, which is more of a pond by now and has lilies, ducks and a pike. 

The drawbridge is probably permanently down and the huge oak gates are askew and damaged by dragon-fire from long ago. Its easier to get out through the wicket door in the Gate, or just climb under it (or climb around on the tumbledown walls.

There is a very old statue in the courtyard but its not clear who of. It was melted somewhat by a dragon. There are also the remains of a stable and blacksmith outside, as well as a Dovecote beyond the walls and within the walls, a very old apiary where the bees have been allowed to do as they please.

The Keep walls are old and mossy enough that they are theoretically climbable, but at least they are whole.

The door to the keep is still solid and has a huge lock with a big iron key. Inside there is a big main hall and spiral stairs leading up. There are arrow-slit windows. Right on the roof is a very old, probably non-functional, Mangonel. Down below are dungeons and hidden in the dungeons is a secret exit which leads to a tunnel under the moat which comes out somewhere unusual.





5 (ARGUABLY) HAUNTED MANOR


This place used to be rich once. It’s way too big for your small family. The huge hose spreads out into two wings. It is very fancy and impressive though. It's definitely haunted, but how much?

The entry has a portrait hall with suits of armour, and a huge staircase with a banister you can slide down. Its main room has massive couches you can disappear into and a giant ornate fireplace.

There is a spook room but the spider in it is friendly. There is a spooky attic with a locked chest full of scratching sounds, a terrifying basement and a cursed treasure room. (The Treasure is cursed, not the room). Every now and then people steal the treasure but then they get cursed and always end up bringing it back.

There is a sweaty, gloomy greenhouse, a dumb waiter to every floor and indoor toilets, slightly haunted. There are bells to ring for servants and several secret passages accessed by pulling out books and pressing the noses on statues.




6 SORCERERS LAIR


A tall crooked wooden house with a tall crooked stone tower leaning out of its side. There is a Gargoyle up there but when it sees you staring it hides its face and crawls away.

The front door has an animated knocker with the face of an old man. Within is a hall with witch signs on the beams, the skeletons of snakes in glass boxes, stiffen field animals in dramatic tableaux, a skull under a black velvet cover and a grandfather clock with a sculpture of a sleeping owl on top who tells you if you are late for things; "Hoot Hoot, tick-tock, you lie behind the time!"

Beyond is a kitchen (normal) and pantry with a small door which leads to tomorrow, so if you plan to make food, then you can reach through and steal it from your future self, (though you still have to then actually make the food and place it there to be stolen). If you are sneaky you can put a message in there, though this leads to complications as you have broken cause-and-effect.

Above are a non-Euclidian hallway with doors at each far end so that if you go through one door you come out of the other, which saves walking the whole length of the hall, an upside down room, which you must be careful to enter, a room with a dolls house where figures in the house show where people are in the real house, though you never see them move.

In the tower is a laboratory with mordant stuffed crocodile hanging from rafters, a sleeping absent minded portrait, a horrible demonic box, a scrying pool (which only works if filled with tears), a library and an observatory right at the top. A shy but friendly Gargoyle with low self-esteem lives on the tower.





7 BIG STONE HEAD


This is a giant stone head with a home built inside it. It looks like it was made that way. It's not clear if there is a body under the head or what.

There is a pretty normal living room which spins round if you pull a lever, behind it is a mighty room with a window looking out of one eye, a huge stone table and seven great chairs sitting around it. It looks pretty cool but it’s the only convenient place to eat meals and not that comfortable.

There is a solar laser room for some reason. Opening a mirrored portal with chains focuses the light of the sun (if it is out) into a laser which slowly cuts down the centre of a giant block of marble in the middle of the room. Its handy if you need something cut in half, which isn't something you need that often.

Right in the crown is a room with a big desk and a lever behind it. If you pull the lever a trap door in front of the desk opens but you just fall out of the nostril of the big head, currently into either a water bucket or flowerbed. The other nostril has a secret entry/exit with hidden climbing steps.

There are quite a few secret ways in and out. One of the ears has a hidden circular door inside it. (The other ear is where the chimney comes out so when something is cooking it looks like the head is fuming with thoughts. On the head top is a giant perch for.. something. Within is a library with empty shelves except for one book. Pulling that book reveals another secret place, a fireman’s pole down to a hidden stable beneath the head which exits through a nearby riverbank.

Each of the seven bedrooms is behind a secret door. One has a bed massively reinforced with stone legs, another bedroom has furniture made of crystal glass and its only window looks out onto an alien world so you never know what time it is.



8 IN A BIG DEAD MONSTER


The monster is pretty big, its dried scaly skin is like the worlds strongest tent over its bones and dried cavernous innards.

One ear has a Pigeon roost and the bones of the tail reach out to form a bridge over a nearby stream. There is an escape hatch in the bum and the chimney comes up through the carcass and is tied to the biggest spinal spike. The head is laying side-on and a butterfly garden has been planted between the toothed jaws. (Though sometimes giant teeth fall down.) Entrail tubes make a handy greenhouse when propped up with the fallen incisors and bone fragments.

The central hall is in the hollow chest, a multi-levelled room around a hollow centre, held up like a tent. In the centre is a gigantic glass jar with one of the creatures eyes preserved inside. It often seems to be looking at things. Several large strange animal skeletons are arranged around this civilised hall, poised as they would be in life, though as if dining on books, waiting to leap down from above door mantels or stalking each other.

One bedroom has a range of trophy heads, another has a fishtank full of unfed fighting fish, another has a huge labyrinthine ant colony (the glass tubes go throughout the house. On the bottom floor is a flensing pit where flesh-eating insects would clear meat from bones. There are large chains to drop in the big carcasses, though most of the flesh eating insects are dead.

A treasure room has a bezoar of antique bronze swords all mangled together for eons, a faceless granite stone head, the features eaten away, and. bits and pieces of a ceramic woman all cracked up.

The main hall has a stuffed bear with secret entry behind it so you can sneak into it and see through its eyes.




-------------------------------------------------------------

I wanted to get to ten on these. Ten houses with ten individual elements each, but threading that needle of child-friendly, interesting, tangible, not totally up itself etc etc was surprisingly difficult. Feel free to add your own below if your like.

Bridge House I couldn't come up with much good for. House Boat implies a river and I don't want them to move. Windmill I couldn't come up with anything good for.


Monday, 7 September 2020

A Song From the Dead

 I know you don't like this - but I DON'T CARE.

This is nearly the end anyway. So, if anyone is still interested in the big letter-writing Rulers of Ir fantasy paracosm I ran for a couple of months.

First Chronicle of Ir - The Beginning

Seconds Chronicle of Ir - The End

Transcript of the Gronference - Last Ditch Attempt to Save the World, or Idiots in a Room?

Primary Sources; the Letters of the Rulers

Only two things remain; to tell of the rescue f the Herald of Ir, and (if we play this out) to discover the results of the expedition proposed on the final day of The Gronference.

Meanwhile, I'm sure all of you are fascinated to discover what happened as a result of the (probably) final battle between the Armies of Highvern, lead by Tadaitzol, wielder of the sword of Motherfucking Destiny, and the undead hordes of the Mourgelands lead by Lich-Witch Vauphiria Donkor.

Well, we have this final report from the strange Underworld of Ir...



A Song From the Dead




"I will speak to you of a stage a little closer to the infinite dark. The catch before the fall, the brief breath taken by the failing climber in the seconds before the unending drop. Ur  -the inverse  echo of Ir, that worlds condensed afterlife.
 
We have a vast land here in Ur, infinite, or near-infinite, and suffer need for no resource but memory and light. Ir is our sky, a celestial void, for those of us bound within the grey and glassy world of death. The ending of mortality is our weather here, the untangling of each virus is our light and the unending deaths of microbes form the substance of our sound. So it is that, where nothing dies, we are both deaf and blind.
 
So it is our sky burns brightly of late, the wars of Ir accelerate, our land of glass mountains and silver seas bakes beneath the blaze of falling souls. Our population swells.
 
There in the shoals of mortality which roll above us like bright pillars of unreachable storm, of which Ulukaa is to us, something like a sun, the cities stars, and battlegrounds our brief Pleiades, there are black scars, winding tears in the pulsing light and ocean-sound of death. Dark nebulae, of which the Moureglands, that place of desert and undeath, is the deepest and the darkest of them all.
 
So it was that many watched in amazement as light burned and blistered against the borders of that black land like fire spreads across an unlit ship in dark watches of the night, first pebbling and rolling up and down its margins, then bright sparks bursting like fireworks until in a handful of moments, jagged fingers of fire leapt into the black borders, like a fire-elf gasping at a blackened log, and dug in.
 
We watched here, the dead, Ab, Un and Neverborn. Souls fell like rain.
 
Then, like fire following fuel across a wooden floor, the gleam leapt into the dark, sparked and rushed, then bloomed alike unto an opening flower or an exploding star.
 
All of Ur, all out slow grey arcologies, bathed in the cataclysmic light and we, the dead, fading and forgotten, knew that some great Doom had struck Ir in these, its last days.
 
Then, they fell, like twin suns, like demons of flame, one Ice-white the other the pulsing infra-black of a doomed necromancer swollen with souls and blistering with avoided time, howling out entropy like a gale.
 
The two grasped and grappled like gods cast into the void. One, male in form, crackling with the katabatic energies of that crystal queen grasped in one hand the memory of a blade, a blade of Motherfucking Destiny, all could see. His body torn, tortured and rent like a saint or a beggars clothes, bleeding the freezing blue-white fire of his own imperious wrath, his form clasped across its broken pieces by his own imperious will and hate.
 
Hate drove them indeed as death dragged them down, falling into grey Ur like mating birds.
 
The second rode a caul of banshees to her long-avoided doom, spirits spilled from her like a tornado of souls, screaming and singing, praising and wrathful, weeping and wailing, some clawed at their black mistress like crows pulling down an eagle, others, more commensurate to command, or else of other mind, hauled her upwards, or seemed to, for that entropic witch, dense with spells hurled her charm-craft and enochian knowledge upwards in chains of signs and great webs of burning symbology, such magic as I can find little memory of in my own patched and overwritten books of thought.
 
Yet all her rage and all her art were not enough. That other, white, cold, as clear as ice and cold as wind, hooked the witch, drove fingershards of resentful anger deep into her dark soul. For every spell she spoke, he knifed his rage a little deeper, for every squirm, a squeeze, for every wrench a returning choke.
 
The sorceress railed madly at her captor. Hurled spells from her gaze and imprecations of fire from her tongue, enough to scorch and unmake any soul. And so the icy warrior fell, blasted by spellcraft, his face, eroded to nothing, his memory, that absolute treasure of the dead, erased
he very name scoured from his now blank and faceless form.
 
Yet she could not scour his hate.
 
What wrath it was fell amongst these two, such rage as would roar in the face of entropy iself, sustaining its own life by its own hate, and its own hate by its own life, regardless of the world, or peace, or time, or death itself.
 
For as long as She fell, He would force Her fall. There was and would be no escape.
 
All this in a moment, like meteors or burning worlds hanging in the air like paintings of the apocalypse. A fresh memory here in Ur, a rare enough thing.
 
And after them, as if some fair covering wet and bowed with days of rain, bending to its centre, dripping, stretching and tense with its unrecoverable load of souls were pierced by the thrust of a sword then, like a rapier prick, a torrent of souls.
 
After the witch and the warrior they fell, a rain of fire and light, enough to blind the dead. Screaming and howling they flowed after the fallen pair, mortal many, bright with the pale fire of their freshly lived lives, and undead, some, those bound to bones, looped up into our sky by necromantic magic, now returned.
 
We thought then, all of us I think, that this was the long-suspected end of Ir, that the grey sickness and its mycelium of despair which gangrened the cradle of our lives had weakened the substance of what-is so that like ripe fruit bursting, or a pustulating boil pierced by lancet, the whole was done and now every last and final soul of Ir would fall to Ur and then the darkness unfold us all. For only by the light of your lives, and your deaths may we see and speak, and only on your memories may we feed.
 
This was not the end, not yet at least. Only some great war betwix the Ice Queen and her undead foe. Some vast folly, or mighty deed. (For us, there is little to choose between the two).
 
This was not the end.
 
But it was perhaps, the beginning of the end."