Sunday, 28 October 2012


    "Losing faith in gelignite we finally came round to the possibility of diving and Graham Balcombe's engineering skill produced a snorkel-like device from a cycle frame, raspberry valve and a garden hose. Water pressure on the chest prevented the diver reaching the necessary depth and wetsuits were then unknown and Graham Balcombe was removed from the water too cold even to speak. I had a go with the outfit but the engineering skill which had constructed it failed to ensure that the garden hose remained attached, and I also had to be removed from the water, wet inside and out."

Jack Sheppard helping to invent cave diving in 1934. Thats the kind of thinking that has got this country where it is today.

From 'The Last Adventure'

Thursday, 25 October 2012

"You can't feminize me, I'll demote you."

Teens are back and the tables have turned. Boyd Of The Rope is no longer a man mountain with a strength of 18 but a tired toothless middle-aged man, desperately clutching the Birdhouse that now contains his soul.

A massive battle using Zak S's Moshpit Rules and the Dungeon Dozens Army Of Evil tables saw the teens facing an epic force of evil plant-based necromancers with only friendly Lizardmen, a detachment of Predator Drones from the future, a Gorgon, pick-wielding man-ape shock troopers and Evil Fake Luke Skywalker.

Result 7 on the Heavy Infantry table is a 'Hard-bitten division of armoured simulacra of famous champions of good'. So I let them name the hero's. We got:-


Aulcard. (Teen 1's Halloween costume. He brought the hat to the game.)

Ben 10. (Soul eaten when he fell into a moat made of the evil green mist from Anastasia.)

Buzz Lightyear. (Stamped to death)

Teen1 "Ahhh, we could have got Superman. But we just went for ones that were funny."

The Terminator. (T1000 died saving Teen 2 from lightning caused by flying Predator Drones into Climate Hawks.)

Luke Skywalker.

Ash Ketchum. (Punched to death before deploying his first Pokemon. Generally considered by all present to be secretly evil as 'he never ages, he's been on missions that take 13 years and he still says "I'm twelve".' Table opinion was that Ash hangs around with a lot of new people as he is secretly disposing of them to conceal his freakishly aged body.)

Mario. (Cause of death unclear. Either tried to jump on someone in the battle and got skewered, or tried to eat a bad mushroom and exploded. Not enough time for anyone to check.)

Commander Shepherd. (Survived. I think.)

And perhaps one or two other Amine characters I'm not familiar with.

Teen3 ably prevented a FLAILSNAIL incursion by pointing out that 'I've got a telepathic snail right here.' Teen's high charisma and snail-based psionics enabled him to subvert the FLAILSNAIL'S loyalty. Same teen still takes 5 minutes of furrowed brow when I ask him 'how to you hide?' when he wants to use stealth.

Battle ended with the Teens taking down an evil* Zoimancer that Teen 1 had previously tricked into becoming a Minotaur, thereby making him more dangerous, while an evil Liche with recently stolen eyes sat on his new Flailsnail and laughed.

Success resulted in no magic items, but a field promotion for Teen2, who was randomly assigned command at the start of the battle, now making him a 'Major General'. Which proved useful when the others laughed at his Halloween costume for possibly containing a skirt.

*Though the word really has no relative meaning in the campaign.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


I've been watching the NHK 70's doumentary series on the Silk Road. Pretty much every episode has tonnes of GameFuel but episode four, 'The Dark Castle' is almost a D&D module in documentary format.

We have-

-An ancient ruin whose name translates directly as 'dark castle'.
-Local peasants who warn the film crew not to go there as 'bad things happened there'
-An old Mongol guide who takes them, but refuses to go inside.
-And won't approach at night.
-And sings an ancient tribal song of the castles doom.
-The keep itself, a ruin the size of a small town.
-A freaky blair-wich camera shot when the 'Dark Castle' first appears over the dunes.
-Collapsed temples, preserved by the desiccating wind from the gobi dessert.
- A last king. The Super-strong Buddhist named 'Batir' known as 'The Black General' and his unbeaten army.
- Batirs treasure, 80 cartloads of gold and silver.
- His war with, besiegement by and death at the hands of... GHENGIS KHAN.
- Batir killed his family and hid his treasure before his death. Treasure has never been found.
- 2000 year old silk fragments, a collapsed column disgorging ancient tokens for the dead, a single building standing alone outside the castle walls (the Mosque) and some handy PR for the Peoples Republic if China (they launch missiles!)

If you have an hour free... 


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Students often happen to accept and transmit absurd information

'Al-Mas udi for instance, reports such a story about Alexander.

Sea monsters prevented Alexander from building Alexandria. He took a wooden container in which a glass box was inserted, and dived it to the bottom of the sea. There he drew pictures of the devilish monsters he saw. He then had metal effigies of these animals made and set them up opposite the place where building was going on. When the monsters came out and saw the effigies, they fled. Alexander was thus able to complete the building of Alexadria.

It is a long story made up of nonsensical elements which are absurd for various reasons ...'(Khaldun lists some reasons)'... Furthermore, the jinn are not known to have specific forms and effigies. They are able to take on various forms …. All this throws suspicion upon the story.'

(my italics)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Notes so far, and some questions

Notes so far-

The language is beautiful

troglomorphic characterisitcs
speleothems – cave decorations
troglobitism is not an evolutionary dead end.”

Questions/Things I need to think about/need answers to.


Currently looks like you can get down to a certain depth on secular/sensible light tech. Then in the bottom reaches civilisations would grow around exploitable light sources. Bioluminescene, whale oil from albino whales in the hidden oceans, lava conduits? But the long dark reaches in-between would be wilderness, can only adventure there with magic light or exotic sources.

Fluorescence, Phosphorescence, Bioluminescence, and Chemiluminescence all a bit different.

Aim to have a clear page plan by Christmas.

How the fuck does Infravision work. Infra-red of what? How does darkvision work?

Need some way of working out light per kilo/pound for illuminating materials. Hight LPH = survival value.

How quickly do you hallucinate underground and how much and what of?

TIME – A sliding scale as the human time sense changes underground.

The dangers are many and constant. The rewards should be few but mighty. Not only material but aesthetic.

Book to be arranged from the centre out. The centre pages that fall open naturall and stay open most easily should be those the DM needs RIGHT NOW. Moving outwards from the centre pages should be those which the DM needs most frequently and the tools which can be learnt most quickly. As we move towards the front and back covers we find the pages which are used less frequently or which require more time to use effectively. Book-as-tool. Is this a clever/stupid idea?

Climbing is a remarkable thing and intelligent climbing twice remarkable.

Have knots drawn on page, if fighting while hanging on, player must place pencil on page and trace pattern continuously while throwing dice, without removing pencil from paper or going over line. Clever/stupid?

The most vital parts of underdark travel are the least interesting parts of the game. Encumbrance and slowness. Need to energise choices.

Caves isolate individuals. Tactical scale game will usually be about using innovative thinking to overcome separating effect of the environment? >Take Risks To Work Together<

dark life” colonies of microbes thriving in acid-drenched pitch black netherworlds. Extrapolating from microbial extremophiles to alternate evolutionary paths?

An underground silk-road with the oasis being eruptions of wild environments, each inhabited by different extremophiles. For them these are distant trading posts. Extremophile Treasure Chemistry? Treasures from impossible environments?

Vornheim has tools for generating different scales of action. City plan, street plan, building plan. Start with the smallest and work up in scale and down in depth. Scale and volume

Cavers remove the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls to reduce weight. Lightness is a powerful value multiplier underground. Drow swords would have a much of the blade removed a possible, like bike riders who drill holes in the frame to remove mass.

Friday, 19 October 2012

False Machine Moderation Policy

This blog has never been popular enough for me to actually give a shit about how I moderate it, but at this point I should make my policy explicit. How will I deal with all the complex human interaction that comes with hosting a blog?

Like Stalin on Cocaine.

So, if you are asking yourself 'hey, I'm not sure if this is appropriate, maybe this isn't the kind of thing this blog is about, maybe I'm crossing some sort of line'

All you need to do is imagine saying the same thing in front of Stalin when he's coked up. What does Stalin think of your comment?


Understand if you come on here you are entering the sphere of a paranoid, resentful, fearful, angry lunatic who will react to any perceived or imagined or suggested slight with rapid and excessive force, or not, and will then deny the whole thing, even to himself.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Allright Then

If I publicly state I'm goint to do this (to random people on the internet) then I can't really back down or give up can I?

I even bought a special notebook

Vornheim-style, ready for play at the table, create-your-own-underdark.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

There May Exist A Shadow Biology

I want there to be an Underdark, but the ecosystem can't work because of energy from the sun. Except maybe it can.

Go and read this interview with Tullis Onstott

The rest of this post is just zero-creativity rip of quotes from the same thing for people who don't have the time to read it. You should thank Discover Magazine, not me.

"And it had genes for chemoreception, which tells us it’s sensing something has the capability of moving around. The idea that organisms down there might be moving around and interacting with the environment—that was really surprising. The only tip-off from the genome that this is a subsurface organism is that it has no protection against oxygen. As soon as it hits air, it’s dead."

Yesssss, chromoreceptors two miles down, sensing something, moving around, yesssss.

"Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator is entirely self-sufficient. It has its energy source, radiation..... Such things aren’t supposed to exist."

Feeding on radiation in the lightless depths, good, goooood.

"There may exist a shadow biology—very, very primitive organisms that may have come into existence very early on our planet but were completely replaced by DNA organisms everywhere else."

"The mine has a helical tunnel that goes a kilometer and a half down. All this warm air comes up from below, and as soon as it hits the permafrost layer, where the ground is permanently frozen, all the moisture in the air crystallizes and you get huge snowflakes, a couple of feet wide"

"The more I learn, the more it seems that the requirements for life are pretty minimal. The niches that life can occupy never cease to amaze me. A place may look terrible to us, but to something else, that’s their Eden."

There is also this:- "Subsurface biota extends over a wide variety of habitats that can be spatially interconnected."
 (Click image for link)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Cage of Light and Time


per turn
per round
per round
Per Day
24 miles
Lightly Encumbered
18 miles
Heavily Encumbered
12 miles
Severely Encumbered
6 miles
On a Horse?
Lightly Encumbered
Heavily Encumbered
Severely Encumbered


Light Scource
10 feet
120 mins (2 hrs)
30 feet
60 mins (1 hr)
Lantern (per oil flask)
30 feet
240 mins (4 hrs)

Standard Healing

Peaceful nights rest
A full day of rest
Full day plus bed and clean room
In a dungeon?
Above half HP
Plus d3 hp
Plus 1 hp
Below half HP
1 hp
Plus 1 hp
Zero hp
Wake up after d6 hours. Can speak and crawl at 10ft. Cannot carry or stand up.
Dead in d10 minutes
DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD RIGHT NOW (unless you know a Liche)

Bullshit Ultra-Dramatic Emergency Healing

Beer and Spirits
Once per game, can down a bottle and transfer as much as desired from WIS to HP. Wears off, one point per hour, producing hangover.
Decent- 1sp.
Good – 10sp
Horrid - 2cp
Slaps and Curses
Cures d4 damage, once.
Shame and loathing
Stabilises if below zero HP. Only counts if players in public space.
For gods sake this man is DYING.
Wound is a monster. Level = damage. Roll INT, DEX or WIS to battle. Only DURING combat.
Can bring back HP, but lowers permanent total by same amount. Plus scarring 4 life.
Need lamp oil and a flame.

Friday, 12 October 2012

godz without limitz

You have a problem to solve and two ways to solve it.

The first way makes use of a circle of friends. You need to think of all the people you know who you could possibly call for help. Imagine the qualities and personalities of everyone close to you. Find the person whose nature makes them best suited to the task. Then call them and ask.

The second way involves calling a professional. Firstly, classify the task by its nature. Discover a profession that deals with the problem you have. Call an effective member of that profession. Prepare to make a transaction.

I think about gods like this. One one side rank the gods described by Homer and on the other stand the gods of Rome and the made-up gods of D&D.

Homer* does not describe gods of war or gods of love or of wisdom or of any other thing. He names them by what they do and how they act, not by their fucking job description. The necessary repetitive poetics of an orally-concieved story do not describe Athena as 'Goddess of Wisdom'. They call her grey-eyed Athena, or bright-eyed Athena, depending on how you translate it.

Homer gives us gods as people first, positions second. Athena does not represent calm, order, cunning, civilisation or craft. These qualities she has, calm, ordered, cunning, civilised and crafty.

Over the Greek period the gods decay somewhat. Polybius writes of the rise of Rome. He talks about Tyche in different ways. Later translators find themselves confused by his views on the role of fortune. Polybius does not recognise their confusion. He writes about a person and about a force. Tyche does the things that a person does. Sometimes present, sometimes not. This makes for bad and ill-defined history. But more truth.

By the Roman period the gods have been fully subdued to human will. No longer a separate self-contradictory relationship outside ourselves that we must struggle to understand. Ares, the thug and a terrifying violent killer to whom few prayed. The Romans made him Mars, potent, stable, and a firm defender of the state. No longer a gleeful anarchic Hobbsian.

The gods have jobs and roles. The job before the person every time. Like the second example above, they become plumbers we call when we need something done. Chained by the thoughts that called them to our mind. Mars cannot do certain things because they don't fit the role. But Ares has nothing he cannot do. He has no role to fill, Ares exists.

This describes why my insane made-up god who alternately hunts and flees through mazes eating ghosts and being chased by them cannot be called the god of mazes. I named ManPac 'Eater Of Ghosts' or 'He Who Flees'. His commands and prescriptions will never make clear rational sense. Because he embodies as a huge yellow ball of hunger fear and rage charging through an endless labyrinth, which, when escaped from, exits into another, more difficult labyrinth.

But they will be just on the edge of making sense, like an optical illusion just before it resolves, I will try to keep him just there, like the gods of Homer. Something larger, outside ourselves.

I pilot a person I created, who believes fervently in a supernatural being that I also created, in a world I did not create. Occasionally the supernatural being gives insane random answers to the person, who then has to make sense of them. I have to make sense of them both. For some reason this interests me.

*I describe the following theory from memory only and hold firmly and glum-handed the likelihood that I lock myself in utter wrongness.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Acting Dumb

I played someone more stupid than me in a game before he died. It took hard work and I enjoyed it.

Damodar worked on a slik farm and escaped to become an adventurer. He had intelligence of seven and wisdom of six. I like to think of my intelligence as twelve or thirteen, but apparently everyone does this so it's more likely I have an INT of ten, or, possibly eleven.

He didn't look like this, but this is how he would have thought of himself:-

Every time Damodar had a problem I had to think about how to solve it. I could never solve his problems like I solve my own. If I did things he couldn't do then the character wouldn't work.

We have lots of ways to think about someone less capable than ourselves. People like to talk and argue about this a lot. Very few of those ways involve you creating those people from random numbers and parts of yourself and then taking responsibility for both their survival and the integrity of thier personality. Except posibly becoming a parent.

I knew when bad things happened and Damodar didn't. I knew when people lied to him and he did not. I did not find it frustrating, but powerful and energising, my mind worked constantly. I had to protect him with the only tools I had. The ones inside his character.

He asked a LOT of direct questions, because he didn't know much. (I never do this, I remain silent.) People usually answered because he seemed obviously stupid and innocent. He happily accepted the social superiority of his co-adventurers. (You won't see me do this.) That made them happy and made him popular. I interpreted his low WIS as courage so he became impetuous.

I found him nicer than me. And a better human than most of my characters. And probably a better person than me. Perhaps that only happened because of the action, inside my mind, of protecting him.

Damodar died defending his friends. My next character rolled up as an angry eunach. I put most of my creative energy into his insane god.

In Dogs In The Vinyard I play a highly intelligent, fundementalist teenage girl.

click for link

With Basemeth most of the creative tension comes from her 19th century pseudo-christian morality and my 21st century vague liberalism. Again we must solve problems together. She thinks faster and deeper than I can. I have more time to think of her responses so she acts in the upper range of my own capabilities. But we have different perspectives on the world.

Like the same scene viewed from different points, we share only certain ground. When events moves out of this ground one of us will become upset. Since we live in the same person, this ruins things for both of us. But if I let her collapse into a sock-puppet for my own values then she dies. So we must work together on remaining creatively different.

Every character I play feels like a powerful living exchange between me and this created thing. A waterfall looping like a lemniscate through dual poles. I never know which parts of me will surface and crystalize. Like meeting a new person every time. 

I like randomness in character generation.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Peter Pan was shot through the head in Flanders

Matthew White wrote a book about the one hundred deadliest things done in human history.

 (I was quietly relieved because the British Empire only had two places in the top ten.)

Because he draws a world history with regard only to recorded deadliness the picture you get is truly global. An image of the species at it's worst.

Below are the parts I found myself underlining when I read them, in general chronological order, shorn of context. They make a kind of negative-image palimpset of the ascent of man.

'You would be hard pressed to find a nation less suited to peaceful first contact with an alien culture than Renaissance Spain.'

'A long history of international law prohibiting the murder of civilians hasn't actually prevented the murder of civilians, but has made us quite good at coming up with excuses.'

'He was a devout, cross-dressing Catholic who sometimes showed up at official functions in drag. Henry had an entourage of handsome young men called his Darlings (Mignons). He collected little dogs and hid from thunderstorms in the cellar. Catherine unsuccessfully tried to tempt Henry into heterosexuality by offering him naked serving girls at special parties she arranged for his amusement, but that didn't work.'

'Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, a long time ago, the Chinese wiped out a tribe few people have heard of. Most of history is like this.'

'The one thing everyone should know about the Crimean war is the mind-boggling incompetence displayed by everyone involved.'

'To make matters worse, as their negotiator, the Russians sent a man who absolutely detested the Turks ever since a Turkish cannonball castrated him in an earlier Russo-Turkish War.'

'From here on out, every new war had to figured out from scratch, usually after the first wave sent into battle had been torn apart.'

'...some of the best stories you hear about Lopez's self-destructive insanity were merely propaganda spread by his Brazilian and Argentine enemies. His story gets less interesting the more you look at it. (Damm you, research!)'

'As a purely practical matter, the number of British dead on the first day of the Somme accounted for maybe 1,400 tons of rotting tissue and bone littering the battlefield.'

'Peter Pan was shot through the head in Flanders. That's the war in a nutshell.'

'Faced with a crumbling nation, Lenin's answer to all his problems was to shoot someone.'

'The average Chinese citizen still paid the same taxes, bribes and protection money to the same local officials for the same lack of services, just as he had always done.'

'The army was going to do whatever was necessary to enhance the glory of the emperor, with or without permission.'

'By the time the missing soldier returned from his visit to the local brothel and asked what the fuss was about. Japanese intelligence had spotted nationalist Chinese troops heading for the border.'

''s worth noting that Trotsky's behaviour during the Russian Civil War showed that he wasn't exactly Mr Cuddly either.'

'He was sent to a Jesuit seminary but expelled for reasons that remain something of a mystery. Speculation abounds, but none of it has been proved, so lets just say he was expelled for being Stalin.'

'The land is the place where the prize is kept, not the prize itself.'

'American conservative who have no problem listing Mao as one of history's greatest monsters go strangely silent on the matter of Confederates. Leftists who would never wear a Confederate flag on their cap gladly emblazon quotes from Chairman Mao on their T-Shirts.'

'A friend once wondered aloud how much suffering in history has been caused by religious fanaticism, and I was able to confidentially tell her, ten per cent..'

'If you want philosophy, it's two shelves over that way.'

'In fact, it's hard to blame the First World War on anything in particular because we're still not sure what it was all about.'

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The body you just woke up in..

Coming back from the dead does not work with the ethos of LOTFP.

However, if you work directly for an evil Liche who has laughingly boasted of cheating death and if your twitchy and terrified manservant can drag your ruined corpse to the Liche's tower, then you can do this:-

FIRST – You wake up with your own eyes looking at you. Passirk has taken them. He liked the look of them.

SECOND – You now live in someone else’s body. You can keep your memories, personality, XP, class levels and skill points. BUT..

THIRD - Re-roll everything else. ALL stats and Hit Points*. AND..

FOURTH – Gender. Roll a dice. Odds male, evens female. Unless you find that gender essentialist, in which case do it the other way. round.

FIFTH – Your are now 10+ 5d20 years old.

SIXTH – Something has gone a bit weird with this body. Roll on this table to find out what.

(The table was made by mattgusta, Nathan Ryder and myself.)

SEVENTH – your soul is now a random object, the first thing Passarisk pulled off the shelf. If you lose it, you die. If you break it, you die. If it gets damaged, it will damage your stats. This utterly normal object gives no magical benefit in any way. It never shows up as magical to any examination.

*'But what about intelligence and wisdom and even dexterity being functions of thought and training as much as'.... blahblahblah all or nothing, live or die CHOOSE.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

It seems a little frustrating

This is in answer to a comment in the last post by mattgusta. It consists mainly of links and rambling, only tangentally about RPG's

"What's your interest in E-Prime?"

Well.. the idea grew in a series of connections.

I found an article on E-Prime via a tumblr called Daily Idioms, Annotated. (Which you should avoid if you fear procrastination.) That linked up with something I read a while ago and blogged about here. (The last half in particular about the lack of use of 'is' in greek drama, and everything from there to 'ceaseless flow'.

I suspect all that stuff hid inside my mind because I have a few half-finished projects scattered around written in iambic pentameter. One a play, the other, a choose-your-own-adventure story for smartphones with each choice a block of verse. Writing those made me obsessed with something, something to do with describing the world as a series of relations between living things always acting on each other, presenting choices as dynamic living options. That vague but powerful feeling leapt into one kind of form when I read Havelocks book on literacy and changed again when I read about E-Prime.

I go on for a loooong time about orality here.

It seemed interesting, that I might learn something from doing it. It might make me focus more on my writing, become more direct, less fuzzy. Sometimes just focusing on a kind of grammatical or rhythmic challenge can change the way you write. Even if the challenge has little importance in itself, it gives the left-brain something to worry about and lets the rest of you loose.