Wednesday 22 February 2012

Dawn Guard

I read bits and pieces of Unknown Armies, I also read a review of the Ghost Dog RPG.

The Ghost Dog RPG was published by a small company that went bust some time ago. You can't get it in the UK. You can only get it secondhand in the US. because I will never see a copy I have to imagine what it would be like. (incidentally the guys who made the Ghost Dog RPG only had a poor VHS copy of the film to view before they created the RPG, further increasing the rashamon-type decay-of-memory-as-creation aspect of the whole thing.)

I saw someone on the Internet talking about their favourite poem, which has the Dawn, and this made me think of my favourite poem. John Donne's 'On The Sun Rising'. Which is also about the dawn.

And this is the distantly envisioned crypto-culture RPG I imagined:

Powers rule the night, powers rule the day. But in the brief span between night and day there is an unseen anarchy. Who guards the Dawn?

You do.

Between the first light hazing the sky and the moment the suns disc clears the horizon, you and a bunch of other low level mediocrities are all that stands between the world and undreamed-of horror.

In you normal lives you are irrelevant nobodies, the world's geography teachers, tax adjusters, binmen. But for an hour and a half at the beginning of each day you are heros. With nothing more than a few stolen tricks, some scratched-together firepower and your own two hands.

No-one can ever know.

Play would observe the unity of time and space, play for an hour, you survive for an hour, time would be described using my advanced marvel superhero rules, in panels, pages and issues.

Lonely, brave nobodies hunting the empty streets of cities, revolver in one hand, poetry and comics clutched in the other. The light is always grey and diffuse, time is always running out. The more you can see the worse things are. Get it done and save the people before they fill the streets with work and in their ignorance, damn themselves.

Allies? Only people too drunk, drugged, lost, lonely or weird to fit into the normal world. Ever been high or drunk all day and felt things slipped into a different sort of space around dawn? Or that things can happen then which couldn't happen any other time? This is why. You probably forgot the really strange shit you saw, you probably thought it was a dream or a corrupted memory. 

It was all real. They are still out there, every morning. Fighting to keep you safe. Thank god you're asleep.

Storygame fight mechanic

Choose to win or lose the fight.
If you choose to win, I describe what you sacrife to do it.
If you choose to lose, you describe what you gain from failure.
Add dice if uncertain.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Totally Gay, Totally Awesome

Yesterday I played Cyberpunk 2020 with friends. During the game we (the players) had a non-ironic 3-way high-five. A high-fifteen if you will. It was great.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Tell me what is happening inside my mind because I forgot

I read Eric A. Havelock's 'The Muse Learns to Write', about the transformation of ancient Greece from an oral to a literate society. At points I must have gotten very excited by what I read because I highlighted parts of the text.

I now no longer fully understand why I underlined these things. Take a look and see if you can work out what I was thinking. If you can, let me know.

I underlined the word 'dance' in this paragraph.
'It's rhythms are biologically pleasurable, especially when reinforced by musical chants, by melody, and by the body motions of dance. When performed as a chorus the dance also has the advantage of involving whole groups in shared recitations and so shared memorisation, a practice which continued to inform and guide the mores of Athens down to the age of Pericles. A high proportion of the youth of the Athenian governing classes received it's secondary education in this way, as it was recruited for the choruses of tragedy and comedy.'

Next to the above paragraph I wrote 'government by dance?' which seems odd, but accurate. If performance is how you encode memory and dance is how you perform, then dance is the information-technology of a non-literate society and those that cannot dance, or that dance badly, will suffer.

For some reason I bracketed this translation of the names of the muses, perhaps simply because I thought they were beautiful.
'These combined conditions are symbolically memorialised in the names that the nine are given: Cleio (Celebrator), Euterpe (Delighter), Thaleia (Luxuriator), Melpomene (Song-Player), Terpsichore (Dance-Delighter), Erato (Enrapturer), Polyhymnia (Hymnal Player), Urania (Heaven Dweller, Caliope (Fair Speaker).

I bracketed this.
'Athenian prisoners of war in Sicily, according to Plutarch's anecdote, gained their freedom from their captors by their ability to recite the choruses of Euripides – not the dialogue or the speeches.'

I bracketed this, underlined parts and left a large black exclamation mark in the right margin. Underlined parts are in italics.
'Greek drama offers no propositions, beliefs, or programmed doctrines in the style of a Dante (still more of a Milton) but an expressive dynamism whether in word or thought. It is difficult to find an instance of a conceptual subject attached to a conceptual predicate by the copula “is” anywhere in the plays. ….'

Then another bracket with another exclamation mark. The last sentence seems like it comes the closest to being 'useful', according to the distant original purpose of this blog.

'The absence of any linguistic framework for the statement of abstract principle confers on the high classic tongue a curious and enviable directness. The particularism of orally remembered speech has the continual effect of calling a spade a spade rather than an implement designed for excavation. The speech will praise or blame but not in terms of moral approval or moral disapproval based on abstract and manufactured principles. A character in Greek drama does not theorize himself out of an unpleasant situation. He walks into it with motives that are specific and, if he has to, later accepts it when he recognizes what has actually happened.'

The following has brackets with three(!) exclamation points in the margin. It describes Plato's attitude to poetry.
'When he turns against poetry it is precisely its dynamism, it's fluidity, it's concreteness, it's particularity, that he deplores. He could not have reached the point of deploring it if he had not become literate himself.'

In the following sentence I underlined the words 'ceaseless flow'.
'The Muse, as she learned to write, had to turn away from the living panorama of experience and it's ceaseless flow, but as long as she remained Greek, she could not entirely forget it.'

Monday 13 February 2012

Fragments of the Summer Moon

These are parts I found myself underlining in Empire of the Summer Moon.

"They were especially worried by surveyors, determined men who practised a dark and incomprehensible magic intended to deprive the Indians of their lands. Even worse, the dark magic seemed to work. The Comanches killed them in horrible ways whenever the opportunity arose."

What's interesting is a near stone-age people seeing science as a 'dark and incomprehensible magic', yet even through the murk of a thousand-year gap in understanding, still grasping the essential intent and consequence of the work. They had it pretty much right.

"She was 'Nautdah' now, 'Some-one Found' the name given to her by Peta Nocona whose name means 'He Who Travels Alone and Returns'." 

Cynthia Ann Parker was captured by the Comanche at a young age and raised in the tribe. She became the wife of the Chief Peta Nocona and their son Quanah Parker became the first, and last, Great Cheif of the Comanches.

Other Indian names were never correctly translated until the 20th century. They weren't unknown, just too dirty for the academics to print. One was called 'Dick Won't Go Down' another was 'Coyote Vagina'. 

"The main Comanche Chief, Pobishequano, 'Iron Jacket', emerged from the swirling masses of horseman and rode forward. Iron Jacket was not just a war chief. He was also a great medicine man. Instead of a buckskin shirt he wore iron mail, an ancient piece of Spanish armour."

The battle described above took place in 1858. I have no idea when the Spanish stopped using mail coats on their troops.

On Comanche child rearing - "At night they listened to their elders tell terrifying stories of Piamampits the Big Cannibal Owl, a mythological creature who dwelt in a cave in the Wichita Mountains and came out by night ton eat hungry children."

From a description of the death of Peta Nocona, Comanche chief. - "He was nude to the waist, his body streaked with bright pigments. he wore two eagle plumes in his hair, a disk of beaten gold around his neck embossed with a turtle, broad gold bands on his upper arms, and fawn-skin leggings trimmed with scalplocks." 

"There were only a few casualties in this skirmish, among them four blind and crippled old Kiowas who had their heads cloven with axes wielded by Ute women, who had been brought along, it seems, to help their mates commit what whites might have considered war atrocities."

And finally

"Less than half an hour had elapsed when the Indians began to mass on the open ground in front of the old adobe ruins, and again the soldiers heard the 'sharp, quick whiz of the Indians rifle balls.' They also heard something very strange: a bugle blaring periodically from the enemy's ranks, blowing the opposite of whatever the army bugler blew. If the federal bugles sounded 'advance', he would blow 'retreat'. And so on. The Indian bugler was every bit as good as the white buglers, and each time he blew the soldiers would erupt into laughter, in spite of themselves."

Sunday 5 February 2012


'For example, darkness is to caving as water is to diving and air is to flying, a medium, in other words, that does more than any other aspect of the environment to shape your experience. Cave darkness feels like water on a dive or air on a flight, where air is your means of support, invisible but essential. It has weight and presence, life, a character of it's own. Water and air will kill you quickly if you violate your special relationship with them. Darkness can kill just as quickly - or, perhaps worse, and much more slowly.'

More from Blind Descent

Saturday 4 February 2012

Those things out there.

"Those things, out there, the ones waving spears and throwing rocks. What are they?"


"And what about those things, the other dangerous, murderous little bastards?"


"Right. And those?"


"And that?"

"That's a goblin."

"And these?"

"And all these guys?"

"Goblin goblin goblin, all goblins."

If you live in a fucked up fantasy world where there's a hundred freaky little things trying to kill you, all for their own reasons, and they're all about hip high. Are you really going to carefully work out special little names for them?

I mean people don't even do that for other people. And the nerdy dudes who wanted to hang around working out names for the violent little shits, well they probably got eaten by goblins.

Friday 3 February 2012

The Kiss of Depth

'Caves breathe. The diurnal pressure changes from solar heating, as well as larger system-related barometric pressure shifts, account for air movement through caves. Little caves sigh. Big caves blow. Supercaves roar, sometimes with hurricane-force winds. The bigger the cave, the bigger the blow. With it's gusty breath, this one had just given Vesely and Farr the best Christmas gift either could have imagined: the kiss of depth.'

James M. Tabor relates Carol Vesely and Bill Farr finding the Cheve 'Supercave' in 1986.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

More More Forge Monsters

When i started the blog I printed out a list. I still can't work out what a 'Thresher Monster' is.

Bleak Zombies
Living dead who grin ecstatically till their skin splits and laugh like the Joker as they stumble after you on broken feet.
Echo Hunter Millipede
Swift, blind, deep dwelling and capable of travelling vast distances under the earth in search of its selected prey. It will track you day and night using cave systems beneath your feet. One day it selects a spot and rears up through the topsoil to deliver its paralysing bite and drag you down beneath the earth. Blasts its prey with powerful single psychedelic images. If they respond in any way then it can use their thoughts to track them. Its like psychic active sonar.
Just describe utterly impossible single images to the player and dare them not to respond. 'You see blue lions exploding from peoples mouths as they speak. What do you do?'
If they respond in any way then the visions start to occur more and more frequently as the millipede gets closer. If they consult a Sage then the Sage tells them about the millipede and tells them not to react to anything strange or impossible they see. Which should be easy for an adventurer.
Jade Monkey
These green-eyed temple-dwelling monkeys are incredibly calm and well mannered. Just having them around chills people out and makes easier to relax and concentrate. For unknown reasons they have hearts of pure Jade. For reasons even more unknown the heart of a Jade monkey is itself in the shape of a monkey.
The stone jade monkey that makes the heart of an actual living jade monkey, if worn around the neck, can guide the bearer through the afterlife and back to their body, thereby raising them from the dead. Once.
Of course anyone wearing a stone Jade monkey had to actually kill a real Jade monkey to get it. Everybody loves Jade monkeys. EVERYBODY. Even vampires and Liches and age old evil gods like them. Even Cthulhu like them. If anyone finds you with a Jade monkey pendant then you will be looked down on by the scum of the earth.
Crystal Dell Worm
It's larval form is a knot of light, like the refraction of moving water through the window. Parents plant it in a living crystal somewhere and fly away as Ultraviolet Moths. The intermediate stage, a worm, is a voracious predator that eats eyes and thoughts. Hollows out the inside and leaves your skull like old paper while you sleep. Then Ultraviolet Moths creep out of your sunken eyeholes and flit away in search of a mate.
The crystal itself is a deadly and subtle assassination weapon, particularly effective against hippies.