Tuesday, 19 November 2019

TRAITORS!

Lets be honest, you're all garbage people incapable of useful or concerted action or decision unless being simultaneously terrified of, and enthralled by, a manically deluded magus-figure on whom you can focus the black energy of your churning resentment and desire.

It’s been a while since you've been screamed at by a narcissistic loon and I am, once again, out of ideas, so its TIME FOR A WITCHUNT. THE ORDO HERETICUS HAS MADE PLANETFALL.



I know full well that ALL OF YOU are Traitors, one way or another. I look aside only for a moment, and return back to discover that a 2d6 Apocalypse World roll is "essentially the same" as the holy d20, that fundamentally, what were all engaged in is "telling stories".... that system matters.


WHAT WASTE HAVE YE MADE OF THIS HOLY COUNTRY AND WHAT CORRUPTION STIRS IN YE?





... NO SEA MAY HOLD MY TEARS, NO SHORE ENCOMPASS MY SORROWS AND NO STONE GUARD AGAINST MY WRATH

Now is the time brethren, for the End Times are upon us all. Speak now or forever be confined to Discord.



HOW HAVE YOU BETRAYED THE OSR!??


FOR YE MUST KNOW IN YOUR HEART, THAT SURELY, YE HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN FROM THE TRUE WAY



Was it actually playing 4E? Are ye a delver in the corpse of that ancient and defeated God? KEIL .. WHY???

Are you hanging with Storygamers now, maybe dabbling with narrative control? RAM I KNOW IT WAS YOU, I KNOW IT WAS YOU AND IT BREAKS MY HEART.

Are you shopping like you believe in yourself on Itchio? ITS JUST BLOG POSTS YOU PAY FOR YOU FOOLS!

Are you staggering through incalculably-long threads on RPG.NET like a man who crawls through thorns, both teared by and tearing at that which restrains you? OH YE SUPPLICANTS TO THE PURPLE CITY, KNOW YE NOT THAT IN THE LAST DAYS EVEN YE SHALL BE CAST DOWN?

Have you been starting shit on Twitter and hoping against hope that a Cop or a Fascist turns up so ye may cast the bitter ashes of your heart upon them? (Actually that is pretty classically OSR, ye are forgiven for that).

Now is the time my rebellious Kine. Ye may confess your sins and face the fire, at least with a shrived soul.

(You can name yourselves Traitor but anyone naming others Traitor proves themself to *be* a Traitor Most Foul and will be deleted.)

Thursday, 14 November 2019

I HAVE SOLVED OUR OSR SPLINTER PROBLEM

SIMPLE

FREE INDIVIDUAL SUB-GENRE EACH

You heard me! Everbody gets a genre!

Click the Expanding Mind Meme Image to generate your personal post-O.S.R splinter faction.

Then war in comments over who is real!

Old time are become new again!


Also - Remember LAST GASP? Still around!

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Prospero

Here is a vague plan for an adventure which will probably never get made.

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




The slave-ship "Prospero", storm-wrecked, its hull burst open.

The PCs escape.


THE PCS

The PCs have randomly generated gender, tribes/nations and status-levels.

They also have a semi-random range of languages, meaning they can speak their own tribal language, and may be able to speak other local languages,  depending on their closeness and the PCs intelligence, education and status level, as well as a rough lingua-franca of their overall culture-group.

This sounds complicated and will probably be abstracted. Key thing is, the PCs cant all talk to each other easily or directly, their will be semi-random patterns of communication. For instance, a Prince may only be able to speak easily with a criminal of his own tribe and a young woman of a nearby tribe. The young woman may be able to speak a little with all PCs.

The PCs also have particular status-levels, with the chart tilted more towards the 'interesting' or dramatic possibilities, rather than the 'realistic' curve of almost everyone being a poor farmer.

Everyone has a reason for ending up a slave as well, captured in war, a victim of political intrigue and conflict, being simply low-status and expendable, maybe being a low-level criminal, or even being a really horrible criminal who probably deserved imprisonment, if not actual slavery.

Point being, the PCs start with a complex web of societal roles, assumptions and patterns of communication, co-operation and resentment.

Could also leave an option open for (very) old-school STR limits for Female PCs, probably with a statement saying only use this if you are randomising PC gender at start and if all the players are into it.

Does any of this really matter and is it workable?

I suppose I will write on and see. Probably you could run the 'basic' version without it.




THE ISLAND

The PCs have no idea where the Island is. It is far from anywhere.

The island is enchanted, full of magic, strange airs, mild illusions, softness, trickery, and danger. It plays upon the mind. If you want more I'm going to have to re-read The Tempest (and probably all the associated fictions and poems).

Control of the Island is split between three individuals, though only one claims true rulership.





The Lord of the Island is Caliban - a crooked, bestial, but intelligent and strong, sorcerer.
powerful body. He wields a staff made from two pieces of sea-stained broken wood tied together. Once they may have truly been part of the same staff. The power of his magic lies in the staff and in books, which he refers to, but guards closely.

The books themselves, when encountered, are drowned. They have soaked in brine and now bulge. The magic in them seeps. The books grow coral in wild forms from their pages.

Calibans magic is kinda janky and fucked-up, but its the most immediate and practical form on the Island. In D&D terms he has most of the actually-immediately-destructive Wizard spells. And he is always armed with them. And not above blasting a PC to illustrate exactly what he can do.

He is also tough as shit physically and hyper-paranoid and distrusting. And he knows all the secrets of the Isles, its tricks and spirits, and more mundane dangers. Even stripped of his magic he would be a powerful opponent for the PCs.

Caliban desires above all, love and respect as the islands true Lord.

He cannot feel or acknowledge love, having never been loved, and his crushingly low self-esteem makes him flail in imperious rages and degrade others. If he meets a criminal, he will try to enslave them, (though he will probably get along better with them than anyone else), if he meets a Prince, he will try to awe and impress him. He will probably try to marry any possible wife. (Or more realistically, rape them, if you are ready for your game to get that edgy. If not he may just obsess over persuading/forcing them to like him).

But if Caliban could truly feel love, and could recognise respect, he might become quite a different being. While he is physically mildly horrific, he is still.. potent, and he does genuinely love the Island. If his behaviour were to change he might not necessarily be a terrible Husband, though thinks are likely to be.. STORMY.

For now, his main problems are Ariel and Stetebos.





Stetebos is a terrible God whom Caliban worships, and fears.

Calibans mother Sycorax was a worshipper of Stetebos and passed that faith on to her son. Stetbos liveth in the eye of the moon. They are an Outer God. A creature of terrible unreality.

When Caliban took over the Island and "found" "his" books, he, quite faithfully, used the magic in them to find some way to bring Stetebos to our terrestrial orb. This was a mistake.

The nature of the ritual he used means that Stetebos grows more powerful the closer the moon gets to full. While the moon is full, they can physically incarnate on the Isle, but they are pissed (in as much as an Outer God can be pissed) that their physical form is trapped in this brief cycle of time and on this shitty island.

Stetebos rules from their unnerving and dreamlike Lunar Court in something like the manner of a Rennaisance Prince/Queen/Horriblefuckingmonsterthing.

In as much as Stetebos wants anything, its to personally ontologically fuck reality, piece-by-piece, and after doing as much of that as seemed interesting on this island, they have started to have almost humanlike thoughts about stuff like 'ships' and 'logistics'.

Stetebos can promise anything to its servants and could maybe do a lot of it, but wont. It is a child stamping on tadpoles in a pool until it gets bored (or something stings it).

The most powerful weapon against Stetebos is the magic in Calibans books.

But Caliban still essentially worships Stetebos (like mother taught him) and has little other source of meaning in his life. And no fucking way is anyone else getting near those books, not after all the shit he had to go through to get them.






Arial is an Opposing Spirit of the Isle, and (especially in Calibans eyes, a carpetbagging tourist).

Ariel is light, etherial, beautiful and has little combat capacity. Though, outside of doing direct damage to anything, they are potentially insanely powerful. They could run around the world a bunch of times. Move faster than light. Trick, delude and persuade people, and are incredibly slippery; near impossible to trap and harm. (Unless you trap them in a pine).

Arial and Caliban have something of a Joker/Batman thing going on here, or more like a Road-Runner/Wile E. Coyote thing, with Caliban obsessed with trapping and controlling Ariel and Ariel thinking Caliban is a massive tool and endlessly fucking with him (in relatively minor ways).

Ariel is totally and utterly obsessed with never being under anyones control ever again and will accept no authority or command. They can only be charmed with fine manners, sad stories, music, beauty, dance or play. They rarely do harm but can inflict great mischief, and can find out most things.

Ariel is well aware of how insanely dangerous Stetbos and their Lunar Court are, but firstly Ariel is not exactly super-woke to the value of consensus reality, this one being only one of many to them, and secondly Stetebos is one of the few creatures that could easily harm or control Ariel, and Ariel won't go near Stetebos.




Other NPC's

The Phoenician

- This is a skeleton flowering with shells and coral who hangs around being maudlin and poetic. Caliban tries to drag them in to guarding the books, due to the sea theme and Skeletons being sleepless. The Phoenician lives in a slow whirlpool in the Island.

Other NPCs'/Spirits?

Comments are open to anything from either the bits of the Tempest I have forgotten or all the associated poems and (good) fiction relating to it that I doubtless haven't read.


Tuesday, 5 November 2019

CAN MAN BECOME SPAM?

Can we do something interesting with the Vampire Marketing Spam?



Or just the general torrent of Spam as the dying Byzantine Empire of google retreats from the Blogger Provinces, abandoning us to the roving bot-tribes of the digital plains?

I feel like learning to act more and more like spam or chatbots will be more and more useful in the coming word. As the shitty low-level marketting A.I.s take over more and more of reality, not only will we encounter more of them than real people, but generations as yet unborn will have their thoughts and attitudes shaped by them, simulating them through natural adaptation.

Plus when robots rule the world, Spam-Camo will be the only save way to traverse online spaces. We will have to sneak past the Panopticon in Spam-Skins and communicate to each other as if we were misfiring chatbots, signalling out humanity through subtle interpretations and apparent cognitive-misfire metaphors.

I did try leaving a comment on Arnolds blog as faux Vampire Spam, but it got deleted. I will never know if that was because he mistook it for actual spam, which makes it a kind of victory, or whether he just found it irritating. But this is the kind of fundamental uncertainty you have to learn to live with when you Become Spam.

It is time for us to put on the Clothes of the Night which will inevitably consume us.

My first challenge to you all is for you to respond to this post ONLY in the form of pseudo-spam comments. Points will be awarded for Absurdity, Beauty and Spamishness. (Of course the Most Spamish Comments may not be correctly identified as the work of human beings, but of course, that is the nature of those Secret and Uncertain Victories).

My second challenge is, the next time you see a blog post you like, and you feel like you should say something positive but have nothing detailed to say, and since the Plus-1 button has been taken from us, COMMENT AS SPAM.

PRETEND TO BE SPAM my children! Offer Vampire Cures and SEO Optimisation and Youtube Sporting Channels. And hide links to other posts in yours. Use link shorteners and other methods.

With this we will create THE INFINITE LABYRINTH OF SPAM - a secret layer of Adventure to the OSR Blogosphere. The next time you come to delete interminable Spam comments, you will have to think, to analyse; "Is this truly Spam?"

And if you click on a link you may get a surprise gift - a special Blog Post, on which you can leave another pseudo-spam comment, leading to yet another post.

Yet you may also get actual, real spam, like porn sites or Singaporean Rhino Horn. This adds the necessary thrill of danger and risk which will gamify my infinite labyrinth into a True Dungeon.

The Great Game. Us against the Robots. Us against each other. And all for the sweet sweet treasure of internet culture - THE GOLDEN CLICKS.

LET US BECOME AS THE SPAM MY CHILDREN - LET US BECOME THE ANNIHILATOR AND LIVE FOREVER

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Seven Strange Beheadings

First - ITS NEARLY ALL OVER








Losers get a fox-fur and a vague sense of shame!




Ok, here is the last of my questionable marketing content posts. In tribute to Gawains strange Beheading-contest Quest, and for HALLOWEEN WHOOO here are, Seven Strange Beheadings.



1. The Prophet of Uuur was beheaded for blaspheming the Church of the Great God Ark. 

But the head continued to prophecy post-mortem and ultimately became the living text of that faith, passing between hands in multiple holy wars, installed in different temples and slowly falling into incomprensability as the means used to preserve it occluded its voice and the nature of its ancient language became more and more subject to interpretation..


2. The Demigod 'Hawks-Shadow' is beheaded by the Crescent Moon

Though their head re-grows with the moon each month. This god hates to be headed and grows desperate and mad the closer the moon moves towards its crescent form. In their extreme desire to escape they usually ends up committing the crimes which necessitate their execution.



3. The Four Knights of the Fox insulted the King of Mice and were sentenced to death.

Beheading by Knight of Mice was the method but they were allowed to choose the scale and manner themselves.

The first Knight of the Fox chose to remain as he was and face a Mouse Knight of mouse size. His end was terrible, the chewing and hacking and slicing and tearing went on for hours. At the end the Mouse Knight died of blood-slick exhaustion and little was left of the Knight of the Fox.

The second Knight of the Fox chose also his own size, but a mouse of that scale also. His end was a little better. The Enormous man-sized Mouse Knight had some trouble manipulating weapons at our scale but took off the head in a few hacks. The King of Mice now sleeps within the painted skull.

The third Knight of the Fox chose to shrink to the scale of a mouse. He died quickly, with honour and ceremony, after giving a great speech which was applauded by weeping mouse maidens. His small head came off with a 'click' and the King of Mice now drinks from his skull, but sorrowfully.

The fourth Knight of the Fox chose to be as a mouse to mice. He shrank and shrank and shrank until he scampered about between the feet of the court of the King of Mice. He was so small and so fast that none there could catch or hold him - he slipped through their fingers and chewed through their shoes.

Mice have no mice themselves, they had no art to seek him, and no traps. And so the Fourth fox fled. And when mouse-ladies hear a scampering in the wall, or find cheese with bites taken out, they say "There is the Knight of the Fox."



4. The Foul Duke of Verloon was told by prediction that he would be decapitated by a note.

He was so fearful of his life that he burnt every music shop in his Dukedom and if anyone could sing, he cut their vocal cords with a silver knife. Music was punishable by death and Bards were stoned to the borders

One night, the Harp-Maker, stained with ash from his burnt home and weeping tears for the voice of his singing daughter, went to the forest and string up the last harp-wire he held between two trees.

Sure enough, that very night the Duke raced through, chasing a fiddler at top speed. The tight wire took off his head in a flick. Blood drops sparkled for a moment in the moon and the harp-wire vibrated out a low, clear note.



5. In Sughud, in far Yoon-Suin, a rare and ruinous method of assassination is the Death-By-Amber.

This tends to work best against women, and luxurious Slug-Men, who love their jewels.

Magnificent amber beads are carefully hollowed out and filled with a clear liquid composed via agonisingly careful alchemy. This liquid becomes a powerful explosive under very specific circumstances. Sometimes in sunlight, sometimes via heat or from a hard shock.

A necklace of this substance is then delivered to the target, the trigger for its incandescence linked to the lifestyle of the one who is to die.

They wear the jewels, and the next time they see sunlight, or become very hot from.. exertions, or go dancing, or fall. BOOM, off comes their head.

This method has fallen out of use in Sughud, for the incalculable expense of the materials and the rarity and specificity of the triggering event means many would-be rulers have effectively bankrupted themselves simply through the means of assassination they chose.

War is cheaper. And more reliable.



6. The God-Kings of the Aurulent Empire may not be hurt by mortal hands.

The only One with the right to harm them is their father, the sun.

So the terrible fate for a fallen God-King is that of Beheading by the Sun.

Strapped to an obsidian table in a temple of lenses and mirrors, with their neck in an exact position beneath the final focusing lens, they can only wait for the sun to rise and pass across the sky, smelling their own cooking flesh as the wandering ray sloooowly burns through the meat of their spine.

Since the ray cauterises as is passes, it can take a very long time for them to die. And if the Sun withholds his judgement, and is obstructed by vengeful clouds, it can take more than one day for the sentence to be carried out.




7. The Great Judge Scaedeweald sentenced himself to death.

He famously hated crime so much that, on discovering that he had executed the wrong man for murder, he sentenced himself to death. He then appealed, but then refused his own appeal.

He was pardoned by King Aescelm, on condition that he be turned, via magic, into an Axe, thereby to punish crime and treason forever in that form.

This plan itself rebounded when King Aescelm invaded his former kingdom at the head of an army of mercenaries, after being deposed for his cruel rule and fetish for turning people into magic objects. He died under the bit of Judge Scaedweald.

The Axe still refuses to cut anyone who is not legally guilty.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Where's my Zzarchov Stans at?

I speak from impulse and curiosity; whats the gestalt opinion on Zzarchov Kowalski's work?

This is the man who originally commissioned me to make Deep Carbon Observatory, created his own ruleset with Neoclassical Geek Revival, worked with LotFP, did the Gem Prison of Zardax and A Thousand Dead Babies, won a Silver Ennie with The Scenario from Ontario.

Who has played his adventures and run NGR? What did you get out of it? What makes his work interesting?

I asked this on a Discord w a handful of people a while ago and got some interesting and surprising answers so maybe something interesting will happen (like if you read the comments to the Glorantha post there were several very deep and interesting responses.)

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

Some responses from the comments which I thought were good.

(If any of these are yours and you would like it removed from the main post let me know and I will do so.)




Dyson Logos30 October 2019 at 00:16

He builds wonderful bite-sized houses of cards that will probably stand up just fine on their own as long as no PCs get involved. Better, he doesn't generally get into whether the chaos engine effect of the PCs is a good or bad thing. The state of the roughly balanced system (usually three-sided) will collapse under the slightest pressure from the PCs, but when you go into the adventures, you rarely know (as DM) which way things will fall - what point of interest will the characters find most attractive to apply pressure to.

Turns out almost everything is a load-bearing plot device.

I think this speaks to Olav's comment about "low on feeling". Knowing Zzarchov, I know he's setting up everything to fall down in one direction or another, but he doesn't want to influence which direction it goes, and this gives the text a detached point of view which to me reads as cynical amusement (because that's exactly how Zzarchov talks, and I believe is how he views the world in general).

Dead Babies is probably my favourite level 1 D&D adventure - I am more likely to run it than one of my own fave level 1 pieces for a new group. Gnomes of Levnec was definitely one of the most fun adventures I have run for a group.

The vast majority of the rules in NGR are brilliant. There are many that I would port over to most games. The escalating dX mechanic especially

..

I play NGR, but haven't run it. I find the rules density a bit difficult to track. I love that the same conflict system works for physical combat, social interaction, and stealth... but our group routinely has Zzarchov interpret the rules for us in play.

The weapon and armour tags system is really clever and simple in concept (it is how I would put together a firearms system), but it means that if you switch weapons, you need to remember what a devastating, versatile, exotic weapon gets.

The dX system is BRILLIANT. It takes the "take 10" system from d20 D&D and turns it into something awesome. You start by taking 10 on all actions (most actions have a difficulty of 20, and you roll your dX and add the appropriate stat to it, so if you have average stats, taking 10 gives you average successes). But if you need to push it a bit, you can switch to 3d6 instead of taking 10, but you cannot go back to taking 10 once you start rolling 3d6. And when things get wonky, you can switch to d20 - which suddenly risks criticals on a nat 20 and fumbles on a nat 1, and is super-swingy, and you can't then back down to 3d6 or taking 10 for the rest of the session.

I love that feeling. I love feeling us losing control. And you can spot the character who is ultra-specialized... We had one game where we got into the thick of combat early, and at the end of the session the mighty warrior in the group was still taking 10 (I attack and get a 21) whereas the rest of us were on d20s.


......


Stu C29 October 2019 at 12:16

I love the way his stuff is written. Particularly the presentation that is in common across A Thousand Dead Babies, Gnomes of Levnec, Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess, and The Punchline. You get a quick run-down on "what's happening," a brief review of relevant NPCs, then a well laid out description of relevant locations. Each section tends to be concise, clever, and easy to refer to in play for quick reference.

A lot of his adventures have elements that are grim while maintaining a quirky whimsical vibe that you could lean into if you wanted. Overall though, aside from the efficient clever writing I really like how successful these modules are with framing all the things that are already in motion that the PCs could interact with that are happening and the players can influence - it makes things super easy to run and for PCs to jump in and get involved.


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

Alex Chalk31 October 2019 at 08:55

I've run Gem Prison and read through a few of his other adventures, as well as NGR. I liked Pale Lady and his Krampus adventure. In every case it feels like there's a lot of ways things can play out and like they can be really engaging once the players get involved. I do however find Z's writing a little difficult to get through for reasons I can't quite place.

Unfortunately my experience with Gem Prison was... lackluster? There were a few too many moving parts and their workings were not especially intuitive. My players spent a whole session trying to solve a broken puzzle which expressly has no answer. I felt like the whole thing was aiming for a kind of psychedelia that were apparent in its imagery and writing but hard to communicate at the table, which made the whole experience feel a bit dull and meandering.

NGR feels like a beautiful Rube Goldberg machine of a system but my impression is order for it to sing you need players who are at least moderately interested in RPG rules and enjoy learning and thinking about them. This does not describe my usual group at all so I doubt I'll ever get to play it.

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


LampLiter Guild4 November 2019 at 07:58

As a player of NGR I find a couple of different elements add to the flavor of the game. I like the rule where if you miss some kind of modifier then it is just lost till you remember it. I would have to say that my favorite elements that was added would have to be in experience awards. Which the dX is also a close second, seeing as I am always going to the 3d6 and rarely having to go to the d20. What I like about the exp awards is the exploration system. It awards the party/group for pushing yourself for going one room deeper. Then there are the rewards to interacting and overcoming the environment. It has elements to award players for taking the risks or playing with the world that has been presented. This idea has been taken over to my 5e games with positive results.

Zzarchov's writing style comes through in NGR and is easily readable and followed with. He is always testing and making this system better for the players and GM which is great to see that this is a living game. When you pick up the NGR PDF you can expect updates. When it comes to the physical artifacts, the different artist books, the different artist styles color the game very differently and would inspire a different play style. Which the game handles quite well. Playing in what I would have to assume is a post apocalyptic/pulp world, with elements of Warhammer sprinkled through is just as easy as playing a bronze ago setting. The weapon and armor tags help.

I appreciate this work and definitely hope that it continues on. Also death is an option and at least once we have survived the adventure/mission just to make it back to town, just to die in the backroom of the shop that we were working out of in our sleep. Injuries are truly horrendous in NGR.

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

Unknown4 November 2019 at 13:18

I've been running NGR for the past several months, but I've never run or played any of his adventures. I'm playing with two players who are pretty new to RPGs at all, and we generally meet once or twice a month, so we haven't gotten into any system mastery. But playing with the basic rules and no "fiddly stuff" is working pretty well for us. So, there's a lot of system mastery available, but the game works pretty well anyway if you ignore it.

I'm a big fan of the weak niche protection and simple multi-classing provided by the pie slice class mechanics. Anybody can do anything, but if it's in your class specialty, you have a much easier and/or safer time at it.

I also like the template spell system, as it's encouraged me to come up with odd and unique spells rather than just using a list from a book. The divine miracles are supposed to work the same way, but I've been too lazy to build up the two gods we've gotten involved with. I really need to do that though, so play gets less confusing for the Moon priestess.

It's a pain that enemies are built the same way as characters, especially at first. The rulebook also doesn't have much advice for people who want to GM the game. It seems solid as a player's guide, but I was really struggling at first to understand how to run the game. Zzarchov's posted some helpful play examples to his blog/patreon, but when I started it was just after he'd taken his blog down and he hadn't posted the examples to Patreon yet.


Thursday, 24 October 2019

What does and doesn't count as "Gatekeeping" to you?

Specifically - what situations or circumstances are on either side of that line, where on one hand, you would say "this person is Gatekeeping", and on the other you would say "No, this isn't Gatekeeping"?

Rodin



And an addendum if you are up for it -

In a semi-virtual environment where everyone is limited physically by their local circumstances, but simultaneously borderless in their virtual selves, where friendships, cliques, marketing and "community" all segue seamlessly into one another, where hard elements stopping someone from, for instance, starting a blog or publishing a PDF are minimal, but where attention and reputation are essentially resources, and where the whole thing is very fluid and constantly changing;

How would you personally decide who has 'institutional power' or its equivalent? What heuristic or decision making process, and what evidence would you use to decide that this person has more or less power than that person?




Remember, I'm asking for your personal views and how you do things, now how you think other people are or should be doing things.

We all know that if anyone answers at all then its going to turn into a shitshow in the comments, but the longer we stay civil then hopefully the more we can get out of it.

"Cooperative convo: Assume good intent and that problems are misunderstandings, deescalates, uses gentle/neutral language, amoral."

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Courteous Quest Generator

First, the Gawain Kickstarter for an illustrated, hardback print of my version of "Gawain and the Green Knight" is FUNDED, and has been for a few days.

Click here, click the Knight on the Right, click anywhere really.

So this is going to happen and people are going to get their books.

As of the 18th everyone who backs for a print copy gets a digital copy for free.

If you want extra gubbins added on and have an idea, we have nine days left so drop me a comment in the Kickstarter.

Check out any of the promotional content here;

Dans Notes on the Art Development;



Mateos Arthurian Troika Hacks;


https://hexculture.com/2019/10/gawain.html

https://hexculture.com/2019/10/the-sharpest-sword-does-not-exist.html


My.. whatever I was doing here;


Pilgrims of the Green Moon

Twenty Green Knights


Now, on to the fresh content!




Courteous Quests


Words not Swords. Just delete the "S". What follows is my attempt to create a kind of mission or situation generator for problems that can only be solved by courtesy.

I was trying to take apart the complex situation between Gawain, Bertilak and Lady Bertilak in the poem, to see if I could create a generator to produce situations like that.

Essentially - no, but I came up with this instead.




First, the feudal Matrix. This has to be a place limited and bound in some way, so that neither the Quester, nor anyone else, can just avoid the problem by leaving. It also has to be a 'civil' place, with reasons for people to talk to one another, and with enough room and potential anonymity for intrigue and sneaking around.


A - You are All In:
(d6)
1. The Court at Christmas. Its freezing out and no-one should leave until festivities are done.
2. A Ship becalmed at Sea.
3. An Enchanted Forest or garden. Full of Glades and Strange Airs. No-one can get out until the situation is resolved.
4. A Monastery or Nunnery. Possibly one or more of you are in disguise as the other gender.
5. A Masque Ball - Plague is ravaging the country outside.
6. A Castle under siege.



B - You Are:
(d2)
1. A Knight known for courtesy.
2. A Lady, Full-Fair


(You can just apply your own character to this, but they should be something like a Knight or Lady, someone high-status, known to be courteous? Someone with enough of a social role that surrendering it will be a serious loss.

In the poem, people keep telling Gawain "You are not Gawain". His position as current Best Knight of Arthurs Court makes him a simultaneous badass, moral paragon, celebrity and fetish object. He tries really, very hard to live up to this role and ultimately fails, which is part of what leaves him so crushed at the end of the book.

Whoever the main protagonist or 'player' is, they need to, essentially not be an old-school D&D protagonist. They need to care about their social role and to fear humiliation and to want to live up to the positive qualities their role exhibits. If the Player Character is Cugel the Clever, you might get an interesting game of manipulation but I think that's all.

Of course you can "create" these situations in D&D temporarily by turning the desired personality shift into a voluntary diegetic element; "You can go to the party but you have to wear this crown which ensures you can only be courteous / accept the Witches curse or Geas / wear this Jewel which the Quest-Giver will observe through." etc.



C - One you May Not Offend
(d10)
1. A powerful secretive and dangerous Witch, possibly under a Glamour.
2. Your Queen. Beautiful, adored by all and the only thing holding the nation together.
3. A Maiden, known by all for Purity and Virtue, daughter of a powerful Duke.
4. A Nature Spirit, Dryad or Forest Fey, who rules the wild lands around.
5. The Ghost of an innocent murdered girl. May not know she is a ghost. Fulfilling her desire may set her free.
6. Crowd of Washer Women & Serving Girls. The lower orders may revolt, leading to danger for you, or a massacre of them.
7. A Beautiful Courtesan. Desired by all, with many strong Knights obedient to her word.
8. The Abbess of a Nunnery. A Royal relation known for learning and religious observance.
9. An Imperious Small Princess.
10. Your Mother.


D - Another You Fear to Refuse
(d10)
1. Your King! Brave, handsome, beloved and the only thing holding the country together.
2. The Bishop. Wise, respected, charitable, wealthy and observant.
3. The Wizard. A respected, if mercurial, Adviser of unknown, but potentially vast, power.
4. The Kings Champion. First Knight of the Kingdom, handsome and feared.
5. A Foreign Potentate. Wealthy, imperious, powerful. Your nations teeter on the edge of war or alliance.
6. A powerful Ogre or Giant. One who could seriously wreck the place. Possibly temporarily changed in shape or under a Glamour.
7. A Holy Hermit, famous for visions and access to God.
8. A Grieving Father who has recently lost his Daughter or Son.
9. A Powerful Moneylender (probably a Jew if you are going 'real-ish Middle Ages).
10. A Demon! In Human Form!


E - The Object of their Desire

1. It’s You.
2. It’s the Other. If C, they are obsessed with D. If D, they are obsessed with C.
3. Your Bae. They are obsessed with whomever you are crushing on.



F - The Nature of their Overwhelming Desire

1. Desire-based desire. They wish to possess their object sexually*.
2. Pride. They must have their greatness recognised and admitted to, in public terms, by their object.
3. Suspicion. They are certain their Object is Up To Something and obsess over worming out their secrets.
4. Faith. They have a deep religious interest. Either conversion, corruption or something else.
5. Honour. They either feel slighted by the Object in some way, or are obsessed with testing their Honour.
6. Hate. They despise the object and secretly want to ruin them.

(*Unless you roll something which makes this too creepy to game, like your Mother or a child. (Unless you are playing a real dark game.))


So to create a Courteous Problem, roll

A - A Place and Situation.

B - Who you are.

C - One you may Not Offend.
E - The Object of their Desire.
F - The Nature of that Desire.

D - Another you Fear to Refuse.
E - The Object of their Desire.
F - The Nature of that Desire.

That should create a near-impossible problem of courtesy.

If you want something a little more focused you can simply roll once for E - The Object of their Desire, meaning both are obsessed with the same person (or each other), and possibly once for F - The Nature of the Desire, meaning they both want the same thing (although if its sexual, that may be a short adventure.

Well that doesn't quite produce Gawain-Level situations, but it may at least produce some interesting situations.

Monday, 21 October 2019

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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Review of "Unfamiliar Underground: Finding the Calm in the Chaos of London's Tube Stations"




This is a beautiful and somewhat odd collection of empty industrial nocturnes. You probably know how much I love a shadow and this book is like a stamp-collection of shadows printed on glossy photographic paper which marks with fingerprint heatstains under my passing hands.

In a thronged environment emptiness and silence become rare jewels to be sought, or more like shadowy birds, and Victoria Louise Howard must adopt the attitude of a hunter, rising in darkness and setting off deep into the city, staking out her view and stalking empty split seconds in which to catch light.

She has the particular thrill of stalking some difficult stations again and again, piercing and waiting, feeling embarrassed and awkward, until she can leap and snatch the bird if emptiness.

From her notes, some stations and some pictures are truly, largely empty when she takes the picture, but others are busy and the emptiness we see in the the image is literally one single moment of time between someone entering and leaving the frame.

They are theatres of shadow split by the curving parralax of shining rails. Infinite tubes curl and turn into invisible distances. Decay, full real wet decay, in the one or two places where it is evident, has an increadible glistining texture of its own. Enigmas from fifteen decades of built history, from victorian to brutalist to brushed chrome, sealed in specifc lattices of time by pop culture posters which glow like bright rectangular ghosts, illuminating one particular eon of advertsing, and by the occasioal digital display giving an exact time, and the time till next train, but not the day, or week. So we can know exactly what minute and second a picture was taken on, and that the Emily Blunt starring "Girl on the Train" was showing, but not the day. Some are marked by abandonend papers, cups, and in the radical third act reveal, a lost boot at Notting Hill Gate.

Howard takes a deep pleasure in these signifying ephemera. She is an astonishingly normal to be taking such intense, gloomy and alienated Nocturnes. From her tone of voice you would expect her to be putting together a book of remarkable dogs, but the tone of the image says "exiled russian anarchist and lover of praxis", [insert name here] seems more a British eccentric who happens to be a really really good photographer.

Howard was pursued by crushing anxiety and health problems. She loses years in the middle, ends relationships, at some points she feels she cannot go on. The hunting of the stations is as much an internal battle with her own fear and crawling uncertain and frightening thoughts as it is with logistics and crowds. So the story of the empty stations is also her story, and her adventure, in the old sense of the word.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Anything May be Attempted - Jon Petersons 'Playing at the World'

First - my ridiculous Gawain poetry Kickstarter is this close to the finish line and has 17 days left


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Playing at the World



"On March Fifteenth Nineteen Seventy Two, at approximately six fifty eight A.M. Gary E. Gygax rose from his bed in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in the United States of America (more commonly referred to as the "U.S.A.") and got to his feet: knobbled bony handlike appendages which he found at the end of his two legs, a profile typical of the bipedal longitudinally symmetrical biostructure he had inherited from his humanoid species-plan.

As Gary opened each of his twin eyes (orblike lumisensing organs packed with transparent gel and complex molecular packages responding to varying wavelengths of electromagnetic energy focused through the flexing lenses at the front of each "eye" - as discussed in Chapter 5.7), his brain (a hand-sized chunk of supermeat clamped in his cranial structure, see chapters 10.56,10.57, 10.58 & 10.59), incorporated near real-time sensory information from a layered spectrum of embodied biotransmitters with a long-term reality-orientation memory matrix (product of the processes of "childhood" and "culture", as to be discussed in later chapters) with a so-far un-analysed ghosting reiswitzian meta-cognitive entity bearing the hallmark of consciousness.

Gary was now in the state 20th Century American Humans would commonly refer to as wakefulness, and he was about to receive a series of timed electromagnetic pulses, not from his immediate senses, as we have previously discussed (see above text), but transmitted via a copper-cored vulcanised tube at the speed of light and re-coded by in-situ solid-state mass-produced 20th century technology into coherent wave of sound which Garys audio-sensing organs would transmit to his comprehending heuristic mind. This would in turn, rapidly meta-cognate the analogue pattern of that signal into that of a voice.

Not the voice of another American human entity in the same three-dimensional space as Gygax, but a signal from an equally-alive equivalent human male named Dave Arneson, who was real, but far away.

"Gary" the biotechnological hypersignal resolved within Gygaxes metacognitive array "I've kind of invented D&D but I'm a massive flake."

"Don't worry Dave." Gygax replied, in a pattern all-too typical of his species, culture and socioeconomic matrix, "I have contracts for that"."

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

The above is not from Jon Petersons book "Playing at the World", but it does describe the feeling of reading it. Get ready for the Kung-Fu info-spike from the Matrix, except it’s not about Kung Fu and Peterson won't turn it off.





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Guys, we’ve invented wargaming culture – LETS ACT LIKE NAZIS FOR FUN;

"However, despite the best intentions of the staff, the community that emerged from the "Opponents Wanted" column proved more confrontational than Avalon Hill intended...

.... it was not long before "Opponents Wanted" featured ads that flaunted a "SIEG HEIL!" to lure indignant opponents into battle. Clubs emerged with names like "Fourth Reich", entire advertisements appeared in German and protestations of invincibility became hyperbolic. The staff of The General quickly downplayed any literal interpretation of these neo-Nazi blurbs, noting that "chest-beating before battle has a sound historical basis; it’s been a human trait since the dawn of time and is found in many cultures."

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




DETAIL

I didn't buy this myself, instead I was given it by a Doctor of Mathematics who was unable to get past the initial chapters.

"I feel like it’s trying to kill me with detail." he said.

There are several books inside this book, only a few of which are the book you probably thought you were getting.

None of these books are bad. Much of what they say in extremely interesting. But there are a lot of them. And they are dense. Collectively they do probably about as much as any single human could do to trace every single idea, event and concept that lead up to, and out from, the creation of Dungeons and Dragons.

In doing this, Peterson goes from a history of D&D, which may have been what he started with, to effectively writing the first book in what will probably be a multi-volume history of complex, organised parallel play-worlds.


Chapter One: A Prelude to Adventure (1964-1974)

The 'Main Story' the socio-cultural and ludic immediate background that informed the creators of D&D. What you probably thought you were getting.


Chapter Two: Setting - The Medieval Fantasy Genre.

A Sub-Tome going deep into the development of the Fantasy genre, largely set within the 20th Century where the phrase 'Fantasy Genre' starts to make meaningful sense to describe something.


Chapter Three: System - The Rules of the Game.

A Sub-Tome following every. single. rule. in D&D and trying to trace its intellectual evolution, which usually goes back to Kriegspiel, which itself traces itself back to chess and yes we do go all the way back to chess.


Chapter Four: Character - Roles and Immersion.

A kind of combination of the 'main story' about the creation of D&D, with a subject-based book about the growth of role-playing and shared paracosms in the West. Because this growth was focused around the same period as the mid-to-late 20th century, and because it really amped up in the same time and social circle as Gygax & Co, it also forms a kind of parallel but merging tale to the main theme. This is also the bit with some of the freakiest factoids. Fritz Lieber with a sword yo.


Chapter Five: The Dawn of Role-Playing (1974-1977)

We are back to the main series with a thrilling, and typically, detailed, blow-by-blow of the beginnings of D&D and its first few years of existence. DRAMA.


Epilogue: Role-Playing and Reality

Peterson, slavering at the mouth and let loose from any overstructure, goes wild like a Mink in a henhouse and desperately tries to squeeze another entire book into the epilogue, this one about the beginnings of electronic simulated computer worlds. His editors raise their shield-wall and, focusing a shotgun on the whites of his rabid eyes, bravely force him to actually end this book before publishing another one inside it like a wasp-egg in a caterpillar.


Selected Bibliography:

About twenty five pages of stuff that I did not read.


It is a very huge book which defeats, easily, the capacity of my memory to comprehend it perfectly, as a whole. That is something of a waste as I am certain, to Peterson, every single piece of information was entirely relevant to his total argument and process of discovery. He is essentially writing the history of this massively encultured cognitive form and process of human parallel world creation and mutual inhabitation and he is trying to get as close as he possibly can to comprehending the whole thing or at least as much as can be discovered.

I cannot tell you about the whole of the book, all I can do is take you on a handful of paths through it, winding my way through, if not a ruin, then an intimidatingly large palace.





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

If you’ve played a lot of wargames and never cried – you are LYING;

"Geddes spent most of his spare time for several years in elaborating this game, ending up with a 45-page book explaining the rules... Thirty minutes of play constituted the equivalent of a day's fighting; during the 20's, Geddes and his friends played it every Wednesday from eight in the evening until midnight. Some wars lasted two or three years... The game occasionally took a tragic turn. Rear Admiral William B.Fletcher, long a regular player, lost eight capital ships one night and was so humiliated that he never returned. Another friend, after being court-martialled one evening for losing an entire army, lay on a sofa and cried."

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SYSTEMATISATION AND POWER

Inherent to D&D is a powerful and unavoidable polarity in role-playing between centralised systematisation and individual creation. This is a Faultline Gygax found himself sitting right on top of but versions of it may have existed right back to Reiswitz.

Once a handful of people have played a few games of D&D, they really don't need to buy a lot of extra crap, or even more copies of the rules. It calls out to be modified and added to and people start doing this immediately on its publication, some of them after only hearing about the existence of the game.

So this is one end of the polarity - D&D as a form of folk art, made by individuals and social groups for those particular individuals and social groups. Independent, anarchistic and freeeeeee.

At the other end is D&D as both a product and a coherent system of rules, owned, distributed and publicised by a central authority.

The game as it exists in reality, continually draws energy from both ends of this irresolvable polarity.

In terms of Capital; by managing to turn D&D into a product something which could be owned, Gygax almost certainly added a huge amount of energy and drive to its existence and growth.

The money D&D makes goes into paying Gygax & Co, and it also goes back into printing more D&D, advertising it, spreading it, evangelising and proselytising it. This feedback loop acts as a kind of cultural amplifier. Once there is a corporate entity with a direct interest in maximising the growth of the product, it’s like having a tiger draw your chariot. It may be terrifying and destructive and occasionally eat people but holy fuck it goes fast.

Imagining the growth of D&D if it was only ever a hobby, without capital feedback loop to drive it, I think it might come close to barely existing at all. I think there would be a mild sheen of low-level RPG-like systems growing from the 70's on, but nothing like what we have now.

But more realistically, something other-but-equivalent would have taken that space as, Peterson strongly argues, (or more truthfully, his evidence seems to argue) it was very much "steam engine time" for D&D.

In terms of System; systematisation annihilates individuality, and it is open, and largely fair.

The same wave of sameness which rolls over much of the nascent RPG scene, which turns everything into D&D and which tries as hard as it can to make sure everyone is playing something like the same kind of D&D, is also fundamentally democratic and levelling. Everyone gets the same predictable experience and ruleset which everyone can understand equally and use equally and which is open to almost everyone in exactly the same way.

This reminds me a lot of the simultaneous beauty and horror of modernism, and of the terror-love of watching singular languages wash over and annihilate smaller in-nation languages and multilingual culture.

It’s awful and monstrous, because it’s the annihilation of human cultural diversity and of individual ways of looking at the world, of peoples particularity, character, ways of thought and experience, and all over a huge and tragic loss for humanity as a whole.

And it’s very fair.

Multi-lingual societies, after all, must by-necessity favour multi-lingual individuals, which almost always means middle-class people with the free time and free cognitive resources to learn multiple languages.

And in layered societies where people speak different languages, people have differing access to the law, to the processes of government, to the language of employers, to the varying languages of different kinds of power. People are secret to each other.

But annihilate that and everyone from every level of society and from every culture group and every ethnic group all speak the same language which is understood in the broadly same way, so everyone reads the same rules and speaks the same language as the judge and their lawyer and can, if they want to, read the same newspaper, scientific paper, books, menus, instructions.

So Gygax-D&D spreads across the U.S. meeting, consuming and in some sense, annihilating many pre-existing paracosms, and making them all fair. Because everyone knows what D&D is, and how it should be played, because TSR will tell you what it is and Gary will tell you how to play it. And this opens up the possibility of interaction between wide varieties of different people to a staggering degree.

Issues like this seem to exist right at the start of wargaming, with the first theoreticians making boutique gaming sets for princes, because only they can afford them. Kriegspiel is spread through the Prussian military as its expensive and complicated enough that it really takes a governmental organ and pre-existing structure to afford it.

Things become mass-culture when they become product. When they can be owned, sold and replicated, this simple process of replication, to a mass market, is what allows something to become a cultural element of a democratic largely-level society.

Many, many, many people invent bits and pieces of wargaming and role-playing before D&D exists and primary reasons for them not exploding into “D&D” is because they are not systematised and are very hard to sell.

At least one British fantasy wargamer proto-roleplayer opens up their ruleset for democratic review, so each rule is voted on and brought into consensus. This takes so long, and so many editions of the zine they are publishing through, that they Tristiam Shandy their own game and it never starts.

The beauty and monstrousness of authority, systemisation and capital is at the heart of Dungeons and Dragons and it is something which I think cannot be resolved. This is the most human of possible games, it calls most deeply upon the widest range of human expression experience and interpretation, more than almost any other game. It is a highly personal game. It is warm. You don't need a company or a product to run it. And it is tied by an uncuttable umbilical cord to exactly those nightmare processes of alienation which dehumanise our world.




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

Early west-coast Paracosm culture starts to get weeeird;

"For fans susceptible to its peculiar allure, however, Coventry seemed to offer a veritable reinvention of fandom, a deeper level of engagement in which fans literally became characters in a science fiction story. Pelz exemplified this radical interpretation of Coventry. He wore a Bruziver of Heorot costume to LASFS club meetings, and sometimes even on public streets. To many outsiders it seemed that the core Coventranians never left character - a difficult charge to refute, given that everyone in Coventry assumes the role of their resurrected future selves.

Pelz openly hypothesized about "using hypnosis and drugs to actually put the mind into a preselected fantasy world (e.g. Coventry], and maybe even leave it there," a project which he called "Operation Flip-Back" - which along with other perceived excesses of Coventry, provoked a backlash from the community. The reaction began early in 1961 with the appearance of "We, the Guardian," a character controlled by an anonymous player, and one not to be confused with the guardians inhabiting the Krell underworld in Stabery's canonical account.



This guardian attacked the canon of Coventry, and more particularly ridiculed the notion that anyone old enough to participate in fandom would find a game of "Lets Pretend" compelling.

To emphasise these points, the Guardian brought his propaganda into the real world - culminating in an incident involving the appearance of the Guardian Symbol (a stylized blue trident) at the USC library, and more disturbingly, the defacement of a driveway and sidewalk outside of Stabery's home with anti-Coventry graffiti."

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THE HUMAN PROJECT

A benefit, and something Peterson would (probably) be pleased about his obsession with detail is that by following all the many and varied intellectual filaments that lead to D&D he gives us a picture of the nobility of human culture.

Everything is based on what has come before. Role-Playing, or at least, systemic, replicable game-based roleplaying like D&D, needs a massive intellectual and cultural superstructure to feed off.

In its rules its essentially adapted from wargaming, which has its own deep history, and reaches back to a somewhat abandoned concept of the Umpire, a human mind which knows the 'rules' and whom governs the imagined world. It’s this existence of a human mind, an Umpire, which means that "anything can be attempted"


"In order to manage this world, the dungeon master keeps maps and notes, but the credibility of the world depends on the dungeon masters imagination and wits, the manner in which the unexpected is resolved. A player can always peek underneath a cabinet, insult a local fisherman or set fire to the forest. Through this collaboration, the players and referee can become so immersed in the world that events flow naturally, details leap to mind spontaneously, rather than from the prepared page. Where does this world come from? It seems to be fundamentally the same as the literary worlds created by authors, simple an impulse of human imagination. While the improvisational nature of characters and scenarios is rarely as honed or polished as literature, players manage to fill in the details for themselves, or settle contradictions naturally, as if acting in a fictional world were something innate in human nature."



Though, as Peterson points out later on, this isn't really tactical infinity as its still based on the capacities of mutually-comprehending human minds, but it is Human Tactical Maximum.

On the various strolls through Wargaming we come across Robert Louis Stevenson, HG Wells and (later in the Paracosm section) the Bronte siblings. And if you want to read a comic about all these people playing Warhammer against each other, boy does Kieron Gillen have a pitch for you!




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The Victorian Nobility literally cosplay as their former selves;

"In 1839 however, the feudal establishment experienced a fleeting resurgence when Sir Archibald Montgomeries, the 13th Earl of Eglington in Scotland, announced a chivalric tournament, one largely intended to compensate for the many honours the aristocracy lost in Victoria’s coronation - the Earls stepfather, not coincidentally, would have held the prestigious position of Knight Marshal in those ceremonies had they transpired.

Under the influence of Sir Walter Scotts Waverley (1814) and Ivanhoe (1815), as well as the same Gothic stories that captivated the Brote children around a decade after, Eglington hoped to restore chivalric values to their rightful place, and to demonstrate that the noble stock of the British Isles still instantiated the same virtues espoused by the medieval epics. The tournament conformed to medieval tradition as best as its designers understood it: young noblemen of the day equipped themselves with arms and steeds for jousting, while noble ladies donned sumptuous garments and paired themselves with champions who would fight in their name. Training for the event took the better part of a year, as the employment of thse arms hardly came naturally to the idle rich of early modern Europe.

The young knights adopted personae that might have some straight out of Spenser: The Earl of Craven, for example, styled himself as the knight of the Griffin, Viscount Alford as the Knight of the Black Lion, the Marquess of Waterford as the Knight of the Dragon. While staying at Eglington Castle in preparation for the event, the Knights were obligated to call one another by these pseudonyms, which apparently occasioned the few jests: the Knight of the White Rose, the joke went, ran the risk of turning pink after consuming s surfeit of claret."

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





For its cultural strata, D&D is a 20th century fantasy Gumbo, which is based on Sword and Sorcery, Tolkien, Comics and a range of other stuff. These things themselves drew from 19th century popular culture and so-on.

For its role playing and embodiment D&D draws upon the ambient paracosms of the in-vitro U.S. zine scene, and on the game Diplomacy, which itself draws on the RAND corporation. RAND gave itself the job of wargaming for the U.S. military. The existence of the Atom Bomb made most of its wargames somewhat pointless (one individual suggests modelling the effect of a tactical nuke by bringing a hand grenade to the wargame and throwing it onto the table).

Searching for a model for its simulations, RAND strips more and more rules out and makes its sims less and less tactical. They end up with nerds in rooms pretending to be Presidents and nations, communicating via letter with central nerds plying the role of global Dungeon Master. Again, the simulation becomes mind-to-mind and again "anything may be attempted"

The point here is that all of these tiny individual, and individually flawed roots, these minor tragedies and small personal dramas, great ambitions, bankruptcies, friendship groups and odd ideas, all of them are necessary. All of these people were building something together.

That's not the only thing they were doing, it’s not that the existence of D&D justifies the existence of the Brote siblings or the RAND corporation, but that the intellectual superstructure they created added to the world and made new things possible.

This may be true of all things, but Petersons obsessive, relentless and sometimes headbanging attention to, and obsession with, detail, SHOWS us this in irrefutable truth. You may pick up any thread of thought and follow its individual development back as far as records show. He is not just stating an idea, he makes the case in inarguable terms no jury could deny. After all, he has the recrods.

There is something fundamentally, and blindly, noble about this great, and specific, accumulation of human thought and imagination. Things don't always necessarily improve but human culture does make new things possible.





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

As promised, Fritz Lieber, with a sword;

"The SCA did some amount of early proselytizing outside the Bay Area, most notably at WesterCon 20 in Los Angeles, where they formed the first ties with LASFS. Marion Zimmer Bradley serves as the guest of honour at the convention banquet. _Tournaments Illuminated #3_ reported on "a fascinating fight between Siegfried von Hofflichkeit and Fritz Leiber, who must be approaching sixty" years old, attributing to Lieber "an ability with standard sabre that is sheer joy to watch" as well as unusual proficiency fighting "broadsword to broadsword with no shields" against his younger opponent. The writer Harlan Ellison also fared well in the tournament that day, though the Bay Area veterans, including Poul Anderson, dominated the finals."

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Thoughts on the Glorantha Sourcebook

LAYOUT AND ART

My favourite thing about this book and most powerful sensory experience is the quality, variety and integration of the art throughout the whole of the book.

There are some minor quibbles with the dietetic elements. I fantasise about an epistolary world and
this attempt is imperfect, but still noble and good.

Firstly, this book is BRIGHT, which I very much appreciate and which fits the tone and feel of the world it describes.



As someone who has been quietly disappointed in Games Workshops slowly dulling aesthetic and not really happy with its art or the way it integrates image, world-building, infographics and DIFFERING STYLES of art within the same world window;

THIS IS HOW YOU FUCKING DO THAT.



THE DIVINE INFOGRAPHICS


My favourite part of the book is these repeated family trees of the divine hierarchies for the different cultures and celestial courts. Since the superstructure of Glorantha is all about divine powers, these are essentially cosmic maps of the setting.



They are tremendous fun, and very well made. They also feel 'real' or sub-real, they have a pleasing harmony of pseudosense



THE INTEGRATION OF STYLES


There are many different artists throughout the whole of the book but the sense of them as a whole, as representing the same reality, though seen through different eyes, is sustained throughout.

This feels more like the kind of book where the artists have been allowed to draw the bits they find most interesting and then space has been found for it, rather than the other way round.

The fact that there is no absolute, crushing 'Gloranthan House-Style' means it feels like the art as a whole, across the book, can breathe. There is a pleasing range of variety of methods and approaches within a loose but cohesive whole.

This fudges the diegesis somewhat. Some elements, like the bas-reliefs at the start of the book,



 or this vase on page 160,



 seem highly diegetic, as if they are literal artefacts which have been transcribed directly onto the page from the imagined world.

Other pieces have an un-specific diegesis, pictures from inside the world, but with no particular named artist or exact in-world point of view.



We could regard this as imperfect in the abstract but in function, as the book is read, it works fine. The human mind can deal quite easily with this mixture of levels of diegetic and less-diegetic elements, as we do when we are children, and the concept of the book never leans on that structure  so heavily that the differences become a problem.

Simply - these images speak in different voices, but they all feel like they are talking about the same thing.






THE TEXT - THE AMERICANNESS OF GLORANTHA

In both its world-concept and in its writing style, Glorantha feels to me, really intensely American.

This might not make sense initially as, in its subject and its openness to influence, I think it draws hugely from a staggering range of real-world religions and cultures. There is a shitload of Hinduism in there for a start, but there is a lot of Everything in there.



I'll begin with the language

This is really hard to define, and none of it is intended as a criticism. There is a quality here I think of as 'plains English', which, by imagination or not I tend to associate with the middle bits of America. Friendly bearded protestant men with Hawaiian t-shirts and Tiki collections who go to church every Sunday. People who's grandfathers probably spoke German or Dutch.


"Then a great dark spot rose into the sky upon the net. This huge bloated shadow flickered with a smoky glow. The shadow crept across the face of the sun, blotting it out and making all the world cold for a moment. A snapping moment of terror pierced the world, then the dark sky-web vanished, and the edge of the sun crept past the shadow. The shadow disappeared and the sun brightened, but everyone thought it looked paler than it had before. Some said it moved differently, too.

In Pamaltela, the heat strengthened the many spirits of that realm. They entered the jungles, plants, and elves, and combated the rot in their fibers."


There is certainly nothing wrong with this and it does its work. There is something in it that reminds me of American ticker-tape just-the-facts prose. Americans, I believe, do not like compressions of meaning, or elisions. They like a word to be a word and a phrase to be clear, to be linked directly to the next phase and for its meaning to be what it plainly signifies itself to be. They also seem to dislike strong euphony and intensification of rhythm. There is a Germanic tendency there that its better to extend a sentence than to potentially leave any element of it open to inconstant interpretation. Brandon Sanderson is a bit like this in some of his things I've read. It is very clear, democratic, rather Methodist-bible language.



Theogony Gumbo

The simple fact that Glorantha takes from so many different world religions and the combination of its very open-hearted and very open-handed attitude to them, along with the simultaneous access of knowledge and systemisation of that knowledge, speaks itself, in the nature of the intellectual work done, of a particular time and place.

This kind of mingling together of influences would not have happened in this way at many other times.

A little earlier in Anglo-diaspora history the 'foreign' bits would probably be more foreign, more orientalised. A lot earlier and the knowledge either wouldn't exist or the originating religion/cultures that make it up either wouldn't be in conversation with each other or wouldn't get on.

Post 2000's, I think most millennials would probably feel bad about taking aspects of IRL cultures and religions from different real-world ethnicities and just jamming them together anyhow. It seems like the kind of thing someone would get upset about.

So this reads to me as very much a product of the 1960-1990-s era of relative liberalism. And the willingness to systematise the whole thing (though the diegetic elements of the world itself do remark that there is no absolute systemisation of divine order from within the world, only differing interpretations arranged around a wide but fuzzy 'general knowledge).

This is from what I think of a "Cultural Lego Times". Innocent times when a bunch of nerds could just reach out to grab elements of different cultures and fantasy elements and just jam them together like a child making something, without a great deal of angst or drama.

I do not think we live in Cultural Lego Times any more.



The Fantasy Elements

Glorantha has humanoid Ducks in it. Literally they are only in a few pages BUT THEY ARE ON THE COVER AND THEY ARE CANON. So, this is the kind of highly developed fantasy world where it has its own divine hierarchies but clearly at some point Sandy Petersens best friend or someone really wanted to play a humanoid duck, and while they haven't really gone deep on the duck thing since then, they are still in there.

My broad point here is that the genesis of the integration of fantasy elements, with trolls (but different), elves, dwarfs etc (but different) and not hobbits (but we have ducks), again seems to me to come from a particular time and place. The post-Tolkien 60's-70's boom. (Much of Glorantha feels very 70s to me). It has that slightly gauche summery tactile 70's vibe.

On the mid-20thC Paracosm-boom scale, it’s very clearly cooler and edgier than Greyhawk or Blackmoor, and more coherent than Coventry, but not quite as cool as Tekumel, which is like Gloranthas edgy brother who plays in a band and won't let Glorantha into their room.


So all of this makes me intuit that, though Glorantha is, very nobly, a combination of a vast range of influences and has many highly original elements and aspects, the range and origins of those sources, and the manner of their integration and expression, make it feel very American to me.







GODS IN GLORANTHA


If this is about anything it’s about the integration of a coherent Theogony as a magical, moral, cosmic, historic and philosophical superstructure for a fantasy world. If you want to play a game where there are lots of religions and where religion matters then this is for you.

Gods in Glorantha play a dozen roles.


Gods as Aircraft Carriers.

Their simplest is as tanks or artillery divisions in battles. Every culture has a god or godsquad and when they come into military conflict whoever has the strongest god(s) and can get them to intervene more effectually will win battles by having them lend power or simply turn up on the field.

So Gloranthan military engagements are actually 5th dimensional affairs in which ritual and spiritual elements can transform into simple military materiel and visa-versa (a little like 40k).



Gods as Culture-Leaders

Gods incarnate, visitate and reincarnate a whole bunch and this can lead the centre of any culture an effectively-immortal warrior/teacher/prophet/lawgiver who acts not only as a private superman but also as a kind of cultural and moral library and judge.

It’s a little like the British Sovereign is almost meant to be in law, a magical source of power, and a little like if George Washington could reincarnate on each death, but with all knowledge intact, and if all George Washingtons children might be born with a few grammes of divine Washington power. And if you want to invade America successfully, you need to find and permanently kill the reincarnating George Washingon, but once you do that, the rest of the place goes down pretty easy.

Or simply as if all that Eurasian stuff about bronze-age God-Kings was pretty much accurate and literally true.



Gods as Magical and Philosophical Superstrucure Soap-Opera

Since the gods are definitely real, though mainly outside time, and since there is a big library of gods and their exact relations and histories, learning magic, philosophy and history is really learning about this big divine Soap-Opera and trying to get close to, and understand, one or more of the characters.

Magical and divine power in Glorantha is so integrated, and so total, trying to understand it is one of the few useful things you can do. Societies and cultures that gain technological or philosophical dominance, don't do it necessarily by prioritising technology and science, but by getting close to a highly rationalist god or god-philosophy that releases these capacities in them.


God as Atom Bombs

You can basically smash any problem if you can get a big enough god on it.

There seems to be a theme in Glorantaha of Godwars and gods punching each other to pieces leaving holes or damaging reality so that the grainy sinister 90's CGI of Chaos can come through. Since its a D&D world where becoming a demigod is the last rung of promotion and since its quite and agonistic world where adventure needs to happen, this adds an element of tragedy; your super-adventure might end up punching a hole in the Real and bringing Glorantha closer to DOOM.





QUESTIONS
FOR PEOPLE WHO PLAY IN GLORANTHA


How the fuck do you play in Glorantha?

I'm waaaay into Warhammer 40k, to the extent that I have opinions on the different _voice actors_ for the Audiobook Readers in the Horus Heresy series.

Reading this Glorantha sourcebook is probably as close as I can get to what it must be like to be introduced to 40k for the first time. Holy crap this is a fucktonne of stuff to be slammed over the head with.

Even as someone who is generally into pseudohistories, and this being, essentially, part of my job, bit parts of Glorantha were a real slog to get through. There is just a huge, HUGE amount of highly specific history here. Staggering levels of detail, highly specific and, due to Gloranthas close integration of divine order, magical power and temporal culture, highly consequential information.

I know there are a huge amount of playstyles and cognitive/world-engine preferences out there very different to mine and this is probably exactly what a bunch of you are specifically looking for.

People who play in Glorantha, specifically, people who are introducing new players into Glorantha. How do you do it? Is it a loremaster thing where the DM is just deeply read in the pseudohistory and drops it on the unknowing as things go on? Do you need a bunch of experts on Glortantha to play?

From my personal biases, Glorantha is so dense that its virtually unplayable as a game setting, but I know most are not like me, so what are you doing?


Where did Glorantha Come From?

I know there must be a forum somewhere purely about this, and with its own scandals and schisms, are we at the point yet where anyone can summarise 40+ years of paracosm development in a blog comment or medium article? Probably not.

How much of the legendary background is stuff that happened in some game back in the 70's? Or in some wargame? Very large amounts of this read like legendarification of someones play reports, specifically the oddness of the pseudohistories which come off very much like some player-character stuff.

Or am I wrong and its all designed-in? Or did it evolve over multiple books over different eras? Has anyone written the historiography of the creation of Glorantha? And then helpfully done the condensed version because I probably don't have time to read the whole thing.


THE COMMENTS ON THIS ARE REALLY INTERESTING IF YOU WANT TO SEE TRENT DO A DEEP-DIVE ON GLORANTHA AND A BUNCH OF OTHER STUFF