Monday 29 June 2015

The Greatest Image Known To Man

This post has nothing to do with ANYTHING I usually talk about on this blog, I mean even by my own rather loose standards. It is a post without reason of any kind. It is a product only of love.

Friday 26 June 2015

Bootleg Bots of the Unset Strip

This took far too long and I've forgotten why I started. I think Zak wanted there to be more Hip-Hop RPG's so I invented this world but then I decided it needed to be an anime series so I wrote this insane script thing as an opener. It isn't that good but at east its kind of original. Which should be the sub title of this blog

Visual - A world of high technology and optimal human achievement rolls before our eyes. Powered by... ROBOTS! Robots in every shape and size.

Voice Over - We were programmed to protect and aid mankind.


Visual - A gigantic disc in space, closer, it is being constructed by robots, a stunning piece of giga technology that could dwarf nations.

Voice Over - The solar collector was mans last chance for cheap energy and a clean world. We built it for them.


Visual - In darkened rooms all over the world, ice-white fingers and predatory eyes.

Voice Over - But there was something even we couldn't predict, something we were never programmed to understand.


Visual - In a blood-splattered boardroom, the drained body ofa girl slumps to the ground. In the pentagon a naked child runs screaming, in the Vatican a Cardinal places an exsanguinated head upon a plate.

Voice Over - Ancient, immortal, the perfect predators of mankind. The Vampires


Visual - Blacked-out shuttles launch from the dark side of the earth, and converge on the gigantic disk, now nearly complete.

Voice Over - They took the solar collector


Visual - Earth seen from space, an eclipse-disc of darkness covers the United States, except for a thin sliver of gold on the west coast.

Voice Over - And with it, they blotted out the sun from the American sky.


Visual - Crowds flee from burning cities as Vampire armies march

Voice Over - In the unending dark, they took America.


Visual - A pale president and a pale senate in a dark and lightless capitol.

Voice Over - Now in these Unlighted States, the President is immortal, he has always been the president and always will be.


Visual -  World-leaders pay homage to the Vampire President in a sephurchal United Nations.

Voice Over -  as the Vampires control worlds most defensible major nation, they also control the power from the solar collector. They are the lords of world-energy and there is little anyone can do.


Visual - Seen from space, the western seaboard looks like the golden flames that rim a burning leaf

Voice Over - Except, here. The shadow of the collector couldn't cover everything at once.


Visual - The californian mega-conurbation. A densely-populated city state. On one side the pacific, on the other, a wall of darkness.

Voice Over - This is the Unset Strip a city of eternal light.


Visual -  The sun sets in the west of the Unset Strip, falling into the pacific. But as it does, the camera turns up. The rim of the solar collector burns in the night sky like a river of fire.

Voice Over - Thanks to a freak of engineering and orbital dynamics, the sun never really sets.


Visual - Montage of wild Unset Strip. Gangs and Robots battle. The Castles of Los Angeles. Byzantine markets. Cop gangs, mutants, sea-people, fusion-engine hotrods, cyborg MMA, skyscraper sniper clans, the remains of the Pacific Fleet at anchor.

Voice Over - The Unlighted States surrenders no sovereignty over this sunlit city, so government will intervene there. But They can't control it either. An ungoverned zone. A realm for the free and the damned. Full of refugee cultures from all over america and the world, banished Vampires, broken or abandoned AI's and technological experiments, genetic engineering, utopian communities, crime gangs, ethnarchies, free thinkers and...


Visual - In the wreck of the USS Nimitz, the last president preys to an icon of Washington, surrounded by acolyte senators.

Voice Over - the final remnants of the defeated U.S. government-in-exile. Now, after 35 exiled presidents little more than a semi-religious cult, still dreaming of one day liberating a homeland none of them have ever seen.


Visual - In the ruins of vampire-Patrolled New York, a simple maintenance robot goes about its duties, blindly cleaning blood from the streets.

Voice Over - But what about us? The ROBOTS?


Visual -  The Robot follows the trail of blood to a crevice in which hides a naked child.

Voice Over - We haven't all forgotten.


Visual - Behind the Robot, hunting vampires loom.


Visual - The maintenance-bot SWINGS for the Vampires. Its metal fist CRUSHES and immortal skull. Its metal leg SMASHES a vampiric spine. The Vampires scrabble at its metal hide.


Visual - The Robot is finally dragged away by Vampires, but as the camera turns the child has fled.

Voice Over - The punishment for rebellion is severe.


Visual - At the top of the midnight wall, a Vampire military group seizes robots and flings them over the wall.

Voice Over - Death.


Visual - The Robot falls down the Midnight wall, it bounces and smashes against the walls surface, parts fly off, limbs are crushed.


Visual - The Robot SMASHES into the scrap field at the bottom of the wall.


Visual - The scrap pile glimmers in the eternal sun. In the distance scavenge-tribes gather and advance.

Voice Over - But


Visual - A smashed robotic hand reaches forth from the enfolding scrap.

Voice Over - Not all of us die.


Visual - A montage of whirring bolts, attaching limbs, hasty repairs.

Voice Over - Some of us survive, adapt..


Visual - The scrap-tribe approaches clambering forth over the rubbish pile, tase-lances at the ready.

Voice Over - create and build..


Visual - The Robot Burst Forth. Its new hacked togther form of semi-random parts looking glitchy, kind of monstrous yet somehow cool. The Scrap Tribe falls back in awe.

Voice Over - New Bootleg Bodies to survive the Unset Strip


Visual - Montage of various exciting things happening, really its nearly eleven here and I've been doing this for far too long

Voice Over - Here, in out new home, we fight to stay alive in the relics of a forgotten word and the madness of the new.


Visual - A Robot faces off against some goons who are threatening some kids.

Voice Over - To protect the weak.


Visual - Robots heist a blood for money deal leaving a screaming vampire shaking its fist as they escape into the sun.

Voice Over - Steal from the rich


Visual - The camera turns towards he midnight wall, and begins to float over it, looking deep into the darkness beyond.

Voice Over - and perhaps, one day


Visual - We close in on the Capitol of Bone, and slowly zoom  until we are looking through the white house window, where the president stands.

Voice Over - Even find a way to challenge the immortal President himself, and return the sun to these Unlighted States.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Mariners Song of the Nightmare Sea

Give me a ship to sail the Nightmare Sea
and find the bone1 and iron-carved2 islands there,
to ride the stone-arched swells above the stars3,
and look on living constellations where
thoughts shine and lifes lights sign is instant glee.

I would surrender much to take that path
and see at last the iron-eyed island tribes4,
trade insect music to demonic Dholes5,
learn song from larval devils in their hives6,
and draft my laughing crew from old-souled chaff.

Oh give her seven hulls and seven bells7
and give the bells their music and their voice,
and seven silken sails on seven spars.
Oh let her lines sound choired to sing out swells8.
I beg a ship to make the nightmare choice.

Send deadly winds from unknown sunlit lands9
and snakelike storms to stalk the cavern'd maze10.
I'll light my way with moon-lamps burning souls11
and count hours with a time-glass of white sand,
to gaze on whale-song ways where nightmare plays.

Bind up her hulls with wire from ancient mines12
and give her crystal anchors to make fast13,
Employ her dreaming captain armed with claws14
who knows each seas ships shape and each winds mast.
You give me ship and time, I'll learn her chimes
and make the Nightmare Sea my home at last.

I need to sail this sea before I die,
and leave behind the burning towers of Nox,15
to set my course for long forgotten poles,16
away from hidden rules and silent locks.17
Ask not why I the black rocks brave, but cry
with me, in joy "At last! My souls old goal!"

Sunday 21 June 2015

Jurassic World is Jurassic World

The qualities and weaknesses of the film Jurassic World are almost exactly the same as the qualities and weaknesses of the park shown inside the fictional universe of Jurassic World.

It’s a Woody Allen film, the funny slightly-creepy dickhole you see on screen is the same as the funny slightly-creepy dickhole creating the story, there is almost a 1-to-1 comparison between the moral nature of the fiction and its creator. It is a self-portrait of a deeply flawed culture. Or it’s like the Hunger Games, a film about how awful it would be to live in a culture of ritualised child murder, in which the most key scenes are of expertly-detailed ritual child murder.


So the first smart thing the Jurassic World film does is make the logic behind the park the same as the logic behind the film.

In the fiction the dinosaur makers are desperate and fearful of losing money because their park is both derivative and highly over-capitalised. It cost a shitload of money to make and though it seems successful they bet so hard on it that they need to make an even-more insane amount of money back. They don't really trust or respect their product. They have Dinosaurs, which are fucking amazing, but the public is used to them and they need more. If they actually get more money, more attention, more everything, they will still be fucked as they will just piss that away on bigger and more risky investments, but that doesn't matter right now, they just need a new thing.

In our reality, the reality of the film-makers, exactly the same thing is happening. Jurassic Park is the go-to franchise for Dinosaurs and everyone has fond memories because after five or ten years, shit films become culturally invisible. No-one remembers them so, for the terms of marketing, they don't exist. Remember those shitty Die-Hard sequels? You do now but in twenty years you won't and the memory of Nakatomi Plaza will still be shining.

The producers are locked in a logic-box. Dinosaurs are not enough, everyone has them now, and, like the park and like every major summer blockbuster, they are massively over-capitalised. They need to make an INSANE amount of money to be considered a success. So they need something new. They need some fucking bullshit.

The conversations in the studio about the creation of the Insomnious Rex and the conversations in fictional In-Gen about the creation of the Insomnious Rex* are the same conversations. Even the memos are the same. And the mixture of childish glee and vague contempt with which the film regards the Indomnius rex is the same as the mixture of childish glee and vague self-loathing with which the executives regard the Indomnius rex. It’s a last-ditch attempt to save (or re-capitalise) the series, it’s also a basic admission on the part of the technicians in the park and the artists of the film that Dinosaurs are shit.

If Dinosaurs are shit and uninteresting then the moral existence of Jurassic World is void and you may as well just use the reconstructed beasts for meat and tools. That's in the fiction. If films with dinosaurs are shit then Jurassic World is like a painting by a painter who doesn't believe in the beauty of their subject. It's like a man looking at a women he doesn't like, trying to make her look beautiful and silently hating her. It’s kind of like the darker side of porn. Desire mingled with contempt. It degrades the painter and the subject.


The way Jurassic World degrades its subject is just an extension of the way Jurassic Park degraded its subject but more egregious, with less love and more desire. A dark and recessive gene, only present in the first film, but brought to full expression in the 4th generation by relentless imaginative in-breeding.

And as I will state again, for an artist, contempt for the subject becomes contempt for yourself and contempt for the audience.

The Jurassic films have always played the trick of pimping animals as monsters.

It's an old genre trick.

A. T-Rex roar. They probably didn't roar. Why do they roar in the films? Because that’s what Alpha-Monsters do. We have learnt this from fiction. The T-Rex looks like an Alpha-Monster, so it has to sound like an Alpha-Monster. It must play the part we set for it. After all, we created it did we not? And the money that made it came from the entertainment industry. Why shouldn't it be our puppet?

B. Stegosaurus ass-up. As shown here the Jurassic films actually addressed this issue and then went back. Real Stegosaurus don’t feel heavy enough. Their tails would wag too much. They look like they are mincing a little. It’s slightly girlish, change it. Also they are too bright, grey them out.

C. Feathers. Feathers aren't scary. Feathers are feminine. Scales are scary, skin is ok. Boys like smooth objects. If a top predator is very bright and feathered we would have to shoot them differently the colour arrangement of the film would be different. And most importantly - the logic of light and danger would be different from other films. It would tell the story differently to other films, it would be different to other films. Change it. (We can add this to the theme of men in their thirties making films about childish things afraid of being seen as childish so sucking all the colour out of their films.)

D. Smaller Velociraptors. Obviously a no-goer.

I think in every case where Dinosaurs were presented in a way other than our most current and most accurate estimation of how they look they were :

- Masculinised. Less feathers, less bright, duller colours, made to look more 'heavy', not to tread lightly. Smoother.

- Monsterised. Less human-indifferent animal behaviour which you must work to understand. More human-focused behaviour that makes sense according to popular story logic. This animal is 'good' this one 'bad'. This one 'likes' this character, this other one 'dislikes' this character.

- Capitalised. Make them more like the other films, that’s what people recognise. Make them more like the IP so we can control the IP. Make it like a Trade-mark. Something we can own.


If this was just a normal genre film full of inventive things it wouldn’t be that bad. So J.J.Abrams and Simon Pegg don't actually like Star Trek that much? They'd rather it was something else? Well fuck it, not much is lost, the good stuff still exists and you get some fragments of beauty out of it.

But Dinosaurs aren't Star Trek, they are a deep thing.

Reasons Dinosaurs matter

- Dinosaurs are from and are symbolic of, Deep Time. The long reaches of time change the perspective of humanity and its relation to the world in ways too total and powerful to cram into even a group of essays. I will simply say that a world in which deep time exists has fundamentally different moral implications than one in which it does not. I will assert that our relationship to fictionally-recreated dinosaurs is like a single very thin strand of our thinking about and relationship with the idea of deep time. They are that time made real, in the minds eye at least. And they are the most exciting, lively and life-imbuing avatar of that concept.

- The power shown in the fiction of the Jurassic World series is a vague shadow of an entirely-real power we will almost certainly have. We might not be able to resurrect Dinosaurs but we will be able to do a LOT with genetics. In talking about the power of our technology over life, Jurassic Park is talking about a really fucking important power that we increasingly have and that we have almost no experience with thinking about. ILM is just the herald of an In-Gen that will one day actually exist.

- In a wider sense, the films, and the Dinosaurs which are the engines of the film are about the relation of technology to nature and this relationship is probably the deepest and most important question of human culture that exists today. What is the validity and beauty and moral meaning of natural world? What should our relationship to it be? Is it a tool, a toy, a work of art, a simple means to live? if it has meaning, where does that meaning come from? What are our responsibilities?

- I will assert here that I think that Dinosaurs are beautiful and have a moral meaning, inherent to themselves, both in their actual previous existence in the real world, but also in the minds-eye are works of art and living beings, though they live only as webs of digital light.


So I think the essential mediocrity and failure of imagination of the film betrays something more important than just a series of fictional ideas.

Beauty matters and the beauty of a strange form is a good thing to add to the world. A world in which Dinosaurs are feathered and bright and act like fucking dinosaurs and the people watching have to work to understand something outside themselves, is a better world.

And, since the power and energy and life of the Jurassic films derives entirely from the existence and imagined re-construction of fucking Dinosaurs, not doing the fucking Dinosaurs properly, turning them into toys, is an act of fucking startling creative douchebaggery.

The films are based on the advances in our knowledge of Dinosaurs and those advances are actually fascinating and good and meaning-imbuing and they were ignored. This film is like a version of Apollo 13 where they get rescued by aliens.

Its weak and its awful and its morally wrong. They had the power and the capacity and the fucking mandate to make the world more interesting and beautiful and accurate and wondrous all at the same time and they fucking failed and failed wilfully.


*I know, I know, it was a joke.

Friday 19 June 2015

Experimental Duelling Rules

Each Round :

  1. Roll attack and damage rolls.
  2. Roll initiative.
  3. Initiative winner can try a manoeuvre.
  4. Then apply damage from attack rolls.

1. Both parties make attack rolls. If they hit, both make damage rolls. These are considered to have happened at the same time.

2. After attack and damage rolls have been made. The parties roll initiative. Whoever wins initiative can enhance or avoid the effect of a blow.

3. Manoeuvring:
  • 'Retreat!' : If they got hit, the duellist may avoid the effects of an attack roll by declaring a retreat. Their opponent may decide where and how they retreat and can move them a number of feet equal to the opposing attack roll. If this forces them over furniture and down stairs they must pass a DEX test or fall.
  • 'Press!' : If they hit the duellist can also force their opponent back a number of feet equal to the total of the attack roll. If this forces them over furniture and down stairs they must pass a DEX test or fall.
  • 'Focus' : Instead of attacking, the duellist concentrates on their enemies weaknesses. Their next attack gets a +2 to hit and the damage is x 2. This bonus stacks. If a duellist concentrates every round for six rounds and then hits, their attack gets a +7 to hit and does x 7 damage.
  • Anything Else : The duellist can try anything else they want that doesn't do or avoid damage or interfere directly with the other player. The DM may require a roll of some kind to decide the result

Crits and Fumbles :

A crit can be used to :
  • Do x 2 damage.
  • Attempt a disarm or trip. The target must make a DEX or STR test to avoid this.
A fumble usually means :
  • Dropping your weapon.
  • Falling over.
  • Giving your opponent a free attack.
The DM will decide which.
Crit & Fumble catastrophe : If one duellist fumbles at the exact same time the other crits, the fumbler ends up disarmed and at their opponents mercy.
Falling Over : A duellist that has fallen can only get up the next round. If they are hit in that round they can be disarmed. If they are already disarmed they are at their opponents mercy.
Disarming : If a duellist is hit by a critical and fails a DEX or STR test, or if they are hit whilst fallen, they are disarmed. The successful duellist can knock their opponents weapon a number of feet equal to the total of their attack roll,

Winning and Losing :

An NPC duellist rolls a morale test at each of the following points.
  • When first injured.
  • At half hit points.
  • When within 6 hit points of zero.
  • When they fumble a roll.
  • When disarmed.
  • Any round in which they take damage but deal none.

If an NPC duellist fails three morale rolls in a row they will submit. PC's may submit whenever they wish.

Sunday 14 June 2015

a souffte amblynge pace

Sir Thomas Malory wrote ‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ – the core compilation and central text of the British Arthurian mythos. The speech in this section appears nowhere in Malorys source texts, suggesting it’s probably something he invented and inserted himself.

(All of this is from the Norton Critical edition, edited by Stephen H. A. Shepherd. The line breaks, punctuation, spelling and fonts are as close to that book as I can get them.)

Now turne we to Sir Launcelot that rode with the damsel in a fayre hygheway. “Sir,” seyde the damesall, “here by this way hauntys a knight that dystressis all ladyes and jantylwomen, and at the leste he robbyth them other lyeth by hem.”
“What?” seyde Sir Launcelot, “is he a theff and a knight and a ravyssher of women? He doth shame unto the order of knyghthode, and contrary unto his oth. Hit is pyte that he lyvyth:
“But, fayre damsel, ye shall ryde on before, yourself, and I woll kepe myself in covert; and yf that he trowble yow other dystresse you, I shall be your rescowe and lerne hym to be ruled as a knight.” So thys mayde rode on by the way a souffte amblynge pace –
And within a whyle com oute a knight on horseback owte of the woode, and his page with hym; and there he put the damesell frome hir horse – and than she cryed.
With that com Sir Launcelot as faste as he might tyll he com to the knight sayng, “A, false knight and traytoure unto knyghthode, who dud lerne the to distresse ladyes, damesels and jantyllwomen?”
Whan the knight sy Sir Launcelot thus rebukynge hym, he answered nat but drew his swerde and rode unto Sir Launcelot. And Sir Launcelot threw his spere frome hym and drew his swerde, and strake hym suche a buffette on the helmette that he claffe his hede and necke unto the throte.
“Now haste thou thy payment that longe thou haste deserved!” “That is trouth,” seyde the damesell-
“For lyke as Terquyn wacched to dystresse good knyghtes, so dud this knight attende to destroy and dystresse ladyes, damesels, and jantyllwomen – and his name was Sir Perys de Forest Savage.” “Now, damesell,” seyde Sir Launcelot “woll ye ony more servyse of me?”
“Nay, sir,” she seyde, “at thys tyme, but allmyghty Jesu preserve you wheresomever ye ryde or goo, for the curteyst knight thou arte – and mekyste unto all ladyes and jantylwomen – that now lyvyth:
“But one thing, sir knight, methynkes ye lak-
“Ye that ar a knight wyveles, that ye woll nat love som mayden other jantylwoman. For I cowed never here sey that ever ye loved ony of no maner of degree, and that is grete pyte:
“But hit is noysed that ye love Queue Gwenyvere, and that she hath ordeyned by enchauntemente that ye shall never love none other but hir, nother none other damesall ne lady shall rejoice you – wherefore there be many in this londe, of hyghe astate and lowe, that make grete sorrow.”
“Fayre damesell,” seyde Sir Launcelot, “I may not warne peple to speke of me what hit pleasyth hem. But for to be a weddyd man, I thynke hit nat, for than I muste couche with hir and leve armys and turnamentis, batellys and adventures. And as for to sey to take my pleasaunce with paramours, that woll I refuse – in prencipall for drede of God, for knyghtes that bene adventures sholde nat be advoutrers nothir lecherous, for than they be nat happy nother fortunate unto the werrys; for other they shall be overcome with a sympler knight than they be himself, other ellys they shall sle by unhappe and hir cursednesse bettir men than they be himself:
And so who that usyth paramours shall be unhappy, and all thynge unhappy that is aboute them.”

[I feel I should translate, even a little, the final paragraph because even for people who might actively enjoy reading old English text it might be difficult to the point of annoyance. My translation is inaccurate as to the exact meaning, as all translations must be:

“Fair damsel,” said Sir Launcelot, “I may not forbid people to speak of me what they please. But for me to be a wedded man, I think it not, for then I must to-bed with and leave arms and tournaments, battles and adventures. And as for to say to take my pleasure with paramours, that well I refuse – in principal for dread of God, for a knight that takes adventures should not be adulterer nor lecherous, for then he be not lucky nor fortunate unto the wars; for either he shall be overcome by a lesser knight than he be, other else he shall slay by mischance and his cursedness better men than he be himself:
And so who that uses paramours shall be unhappy, and all things unhappy that is about them.”]

Malory wrote this in prison. This is what he was in for, again, quotes from the Norton Critical Edition:

“Aug. 23, 1451 Malory is charged at Nuneaton, Warwickshire, in the presence of Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, with the following crimes:

·         Attempted murder of the Duke of Buckingham, by ambush with twenty-six other men, in the Abbot’s woods at Combe, Warwickshire, Jan 4, 1450.
·         “Rape” (raptus) of Joan Smith, at Coventry, May 23, 1450.
·         Extortion of money from two monks of Monks Kirby, Warwickshire, May 31, 1450.
·         Second “rape” of Joan Smith, and theft of £40’s worth of goods from her husband, Aug.6 1450.
·         Extortion of money from another monk of Monks Kirby, Aug. 31 1450.
·         Theft of seven cows, two calves, 335 sheep, and a cart worth £22 at Cosford, Warwickshire, June 4, 1451.
·         Theft of six does and infliction of £500’s worth of damage in the duke of Buckingham’s deer park at Cauldron, Warwickshire, July 20, 1451.
·         Escaping imprisonment at the house of Sheriff Sir William Montford at Coleshill, Warwickshire (Malory swims the moat at night), July 27, 1451.
·         Robbery, with ten accomplices, of £46 in money and £40’s worth of ornaments from Combe Abbey, July 28, 1451.
·         Further robbery at Combe Abbey, with one hundred accomplices, of £40 in money and five rings, a small psalter, two silver bells, three rosaries, and two bows, and three sheaves of arrows.

By Jan. 27, 1452, and until July 1460. Held at various prisons in London (Ludgate, King’s Bench, the Tower of London, and Newgate) awaiting a trial that never happened. During this period Malory is released on bail several times; during two of these periods of temporary freedom he is implicated in further crimes:

·         Theft of four oxen from Lady Katherine Peyton at Sibbertoft, Nottinghamshire.
·         Harbouring another alleged criminal, his servant John, and attempting with him to steal horses in the environs of Great Easton, Essex.

For the latter he is jailed at Colchester, Essex, from whence he escapes, Oct. 30, 1454. He is recaptured and returned to prison in London. Not long after the seizure of London by Yorkist forces in July 1460, Malory is probably freed from prison.”

But he ends up back there, and probably dies there.

This is probably the most interesting thing about heroic fiction I have ever read. The Arthurian Myth is a deep dream of harmonious order, written in prison in a time of chaos by a man who was effectively an agent of chaos. A man who was effectively a D&D murder-hobo.

I am only about a third of the way in and this man astonishes me. He feels like a fulcrum at the heart of British, and English identity, this passionate, insanely romantic, violent, dreamy man who was effectively a son of a bitch. Not one but two counts of rape and an attempted assassination.

This, to me, is the most psychologically interesting writer in the English tongue.  

Friday 12 June 2015

The Art of Greebling

Greebles are odd bits and bobs that model makers end up with. People deep in the microworld construction groove sometimes have bins and bins of greebles, they can pick them up by handfuls.

Which is exactly what they did in the late 70's and early 80's whenever they needed to add something to a model spaceship for a film, pick up a handful of greebles, sort through them for shapes that seemed appropriate and glue them on.

Greebling is a kind of three-dimensional detailing added to a model to seduce the eye into the illusion of scale.

Greebling is strange. It is like a kind of size-camouflage. It is like an abducted visual messenger. When we look at a cityscape from a roof, lots of tiny messengers run from the gaps between buildings, from the clustered chimneys, from the combination of roads and roofs all seen at once, and tell our brain 'this is a very big thing seen far away'. When we look at a cathedral, the little messages come from the detailing of the spires, the gargoyles, the layered shadows, the gaps between the huge stone blocks and say 'This is a single huge built thing that you are seeing all at once.' Your mind looks at something and without any conscious analysis, decides on a scale for it.

Greebling abducts, or hacks these messages and uses them to send lies about how big things are. The kinds of messages it steals, or fakes, tell you other things about the object you are looking at. They even tell you things about what will happen inside the object.

Here are some kinds of Greebling with some analysis of how they work:


Hivelighting is lights emitted from inside a massive form. The closest relations are to things like office buildings seen at night, or the windows of trains or planes. Hivelighting will usually be used to contrast with shadow moving across the form.

The 'friendliest' form of hivelighting is where liveable internal spaces can be seen inside the form like little rooms.

Hivelighting is difficult to consider on its own, it interacts with various forms of greebling in different ways.


Azteking is the creation of the illusion of sheets of metal bent into shape around a curved form like those of a battleship or airliner.

Azteking is 'good' greebling. In a fiction in which multiple kinds of form contend and only one is Azteked, then that form is usually the one belonging to the heroes. The shapes it relates to are modern, (but not too modern), friendly and positive. They denote efficiency, civilisation, clarity, order, reasonableness and fluid human control. The most common reference is 20th century technology. If the agents of the fiction go inside this form it will be well lit and things will make sense, things will generally exist on a human scale.

When we imagine a form like this moving it is like a ship moving through the sea, strong, directed yet still fluid. The plates bind the identity and energy of the form within itself, it does not interpenetrate the space around it much, you are in or you are out, in is usually safe. Hivelighting is common with this kind of greebling.


In this form, the smooth metallic plates of the azteking have noticeable rivets at their rims. This calls out to very early 20th century or 19th century forms. Iron instead of steel, steam instead of electricity. If something has plates but no very noticeable rivets then it probably runs on liquid fuel or nuclear power. It hums, possibly it roars but the transmission of its energies is smooth. If it has big rivets then it probably runs on coal and steam, maybe on an early oil motor. Its engine goes 'chug chug chug', you can feel and discern each individual rotation of the motor inside it. If it is a steam engine and very large then the chances are high that you will see the action of the engine during the fiction, its highly likely that some part of the fiction will take place inside the action of the engine. Aztek-Riveting carries even more of the impression of friendliness of azteking, it is slower, larger, heavier, more directly-comprehensible. If a person is in charge of running this engine that person will probably be friendly, blunt, simple and good.


Classic industrial greebling

Industrial greebling exists as an emotional and spatial mid-point between azteking and spiring.

The surface of an industrial form looks like nothing so much as a dense industrial landscape, like flying over a very large and varied factory. Every part of this surface is its own particular detail. It seems looking at it that everything on it has a particular purpose, that each is part of a machine and that each is doing something important. Nothing moves, the combination of the impression of purpose and spatial busyness and the fact that nothing can be seen happening makes the experience mildly alienating. Generally, the more clearly we can see the actual movements and embodies purpose of the  forms the more ‘friendly’ and human they become. When they do not move or act they are silent forms, reminding us we do not understand what we see.

An Industrial form is less likely to carry hivelighting than an azteked form, unlike those it generally does not seem like a form full of light in which holes have been poked, instead it may have some 'window' lights but large areas will be dark. It may have some kind of lights that are rare on an azteked form, spire-lights or tower-lights, blinking red or green points on projections from the mass.

If we imagine going inside, there may be parts of it designed for human comfort, but it will probably not be a human-centred space. Like a factory it is there to do something very important that requires people, but is not for people. There might be cavernous vaults, long views, very tight crawlspaces and very dark areas.

Nevertheless, this form of greebling is still human-related, even if it is not human-centred, people can still live there.

Industrial greebling interpenetrates slightly with the space around it, its exact borders are not fully set, you can be next to it, near its skin, mixed up with its industrial projections, or inside it. It penetrates space in every direction.

If we imagine this shape moving it feels heavier and more relentless. It draws much of its sensory information from buildings and cityscapes and these things are not meant to move,  so seeing them do so suggests power and indifference. It forces and thrusts its way into space, slow, looming, indifferent.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a relatively rare example of 'positive' industrial greebling.
The alien ship was well-lit, strange and very other but ultimately friendly and full of light.


Spiring intermeshes with industrial greebling at one end of its expression and with 3D XENOS and ULTRAGOTHIC at the other end.

A spired form is one with several very significant projections from its core mass. This form reminds us of cathedrals and churches more than anything else. A spired form interpenetrates with the outside space even more than an industrial form, instead of having an uneven 'skin' of industrial objects, it is more three-dimensional, you can imagine being in amongst the spires, within the controlling boundaries of the form yet still outside its inner self.

Spiring carries intimations of even more inhuman and indifferent purpose than industrial. It carries powerful intimations of authority. If the spires project along the direction of assumed travel then it suggests a questing aggression, if they cut across the direction of assumed travel then they increase the impression of indifferent power and heaviness.


This is a rarely-used form of greebling which makes the surface of an object look like a natural form. This can range from skin, to bark to the surface of a shell, but in outer-space objects the chitin of an insect is most common. The scales of a fish, despite being familiar to almost anyone, are never used.
I cannot recall a single example of a scaled ship. Despite the fact that it is based on natural forms, an organic-seeming object in space is almost always used to denote SUPER-ALIENESS.

I think this is because we very rarely encounter any living thing bigger than us. When we do it is usually a mammal and the surfacing of skin is also almost never used in the construction of 'large seeming' forms. Insectoid forms, when massively increased in scale, produce an othering or alienating effect, they seem wrong. As our most distant but-still relatable form of life insects signify the alien to us.

(No-one has ever done techno-petals or alien flowers as greebling, which is slightly depressing.)


A sub-form of organic greebling is a surface created to use the complex bio-luminance of cephalopods as hivelighting. This is really rare and often very strange but also often very beautiful.
The combination of organic forms and light coming from within often denotes the 'wondrous other' rather than the 'devouring other'. Going inside this form will often result in some mystical shit, it may not be shown in the fiction but people who do it will come out changed.


Damage is a fascinating kind of greebling that can create a powerful kind of emotional and cultural counterpoint to a form that has already been introduced in one particular way.

If we see the combat occur then it can strip away the seeming surface of an object, enabling us to see 'within'. This powerfully increases a sense of scale if done well. It adds character, the smooth becomes rugged, the perfect, contained and fluid becomes irregular, interpenetrating and industrial.
It tells a story about the consequences of harm and also provides a new kind of scene or spatial set to play with: the gap-within-the-ship. A ship that has been scarred or damaged during the fiction automatically becomes about 10 times cooler from that point on. Physical and moral consequence intermesh in the penetration of the form.

Some forms show combat or action-damage from before the beginning of the fiction, they generally have more character and interest than forms that do not. The likelihood of a damaged space ship performing an exciting story-relevant manoeuvre or action is larger than that of a perfect space ship.

Time damage is a particular form brought about, not by assumed violent actions either in, or before the fiction, but from imagined very-long reaches of time.

This is an extremely powerful storytelling technique and can be applied powerfully to 'smooth' forms to add visual interest.

It draws most powerfully from out observation of stellar objects like the moon and asteroids with noticeable impact damage, together with the decay of ruins and the slow failure of technology.

Time-Damage denotes time and in science fiction and ocean-based travel, time and distance are essentially the same thing, great time implies great distances. The weather-beaten ship has seen strange sights, the scarred black cylinder is space has been strange places, all these call out to a sense of the possible.



I made these up. Well, I made everything here up but 3D Xenos isn’t really a kind of detailing its more a very particular kind of shape. Usually a regular complex three dimensional form, unlike anything you would use or hold in your hands, usually symmetrical along multiple axis and maybe with complex interpenetrating semi-interior spaces. This says ‘cool dangerous aliens that have their own stuff going on.

Ultragothic is just what 4ok ships do. Industrial meets spiring taken to 11.5.

Monday 8 June 2015

dumb or impossible

Apparently I have lost the ability to do anything creative today so instead lets try this:

An episodic in-store 'event' project that united all the primary imagined worlds of ALL the OGL-Born OSR companies into one giant mega-adventure to be played weekly by people all over the globe using ANY of the those OSR systems in which the results of all of the efforts of these tiny groups are all reported and collated in some  way to influence the final result. With content from ALL the major OSR bloggers and writers.

It would be a combination of the railroady in-store playalongs that WotC did for 4th ed, the giant event crossovers that Marvel and DC do where some giant fucking thing attacks the earth and everybodys book is about that for a month plus a shitload of publicity for the OSR in general.

The Giant Fucking Thing:

The Moons Dark Pavillions

The dark side of the moon is inhabited by an ancient empire of the Han Chinese who have merged with the shadow dimension, then without warning the moon begins to rotate, showing its dark face and the dark cities thereof, gigantic chains are lowered to the earth and roving shadow-cities are born where the touch the ground. Infiltrate or attack the cities or climb the chains and fight the moon.


Comets of the Crime God

The three comets holding the shattered fragments of the defeated God of Crime are meeting again in the night sky. As they grow closer to convergence criminals all over the world become more powerful, Empires and Governments invert, suddenly they are ruled from below. Social anarchy. The PC's are probably criminals, which explains their rapid levelling, but when it turns out that the Crime God intends to steal the sun and freeze the earth to death, will they be powerful enough to stop him?


Dead Lords of Jove

The ships of the Lich Lords Jove gather in the night sky. The solar system has been drained of resources, the Lich Captains need fresh crew, which means war on earth! Dead sorcerers from every period of earth history return in orbiting ships of bone and ice, they demand tribute and war! The PC's find a way to space to fight the threat, whilst dodging orbital fireballs and global megaconflict.

The Structure:

Like a Masks-Of-Nyarlathotep geographically separated but timetable-linked structure with semi-randomised conflicts and levelling points. A general structure decided centrally, both in its interacting narrative parts and its information architecture. Then separate briefs sent to each creative team.

Games Workshop used to do mass play events where people wold all play missions based on a particular battle and sent their results to the company and they would all be collated into one giant result.

Actually that would be insane for a mass-played RPG, even for this insanely conceived project.

XP couldn't be the same but you could have action-specific equivalents given in fractions of a level. I.e. reach this point and you advance 1/2 a level. Do this thing, kill this guy, steal this gem, and you advance 1/4 a level.

Monsters could be reduced to an ultra-simple stat line and minimal special rules. Magic items could be reduced to very simple test-only descriptions.

All you would need to do is persuade a bunch or tiny under-funded companies, each run by anarchistic weirdos, that it was a good idea and that they should combine funding and publicity for one gigantic unproven project.

But you might get good press from places like Boing Boing etc as the combination of small companies and global sandbox/modular yet-interacting gameplay and one giant story would sound pretty cool.

Really I just want to wipe those horrible 4th ed railroads from my mind and find an excuse to combine all good ORS blogs into one giant megathing that solves all game design, adventure structure and layout problems for ever.

Saturday 6 June 2015


Spelljammer was good (Elves in undead bug-suits) and also kind of shit (cheery Space-Gypsies). Instead, here is an LotFP-ised version. lichJammer!

click for source

The rules of lichJammer are:

·         The solar system and galaxy are exactly the same size and shape as we currently understand them to be.
·         Magic as described in the LotFP rulebook exists.
·         Other than that, the rules of physics remain in effect.
·         Faster Than Light travel is impossible (other than magic as described above.)

The background of lichJammer is:

Space is full of Undead. That's why earth isn't. High level magic users mummify themselves and take to the stars. There are undead out there from every era of human history. Akkadians, Han Chinese, Pharoh's Sumerians, Maya, Inca, Celts etc.

This is what happened to all those ultra high-level players from ancient games. It’s also the reason earth isn’t ruled by immortal Lich Kings.

The assumed power differential between lichJammer and standard LotFP is about twenty levels. Player Characters are considered to start at about Level twenty, this is the entry level for lichJammer. If an entity is less than roughly ten HD. That is, a group of less than ten skeletons or two 5HD monsters, then you can just affect them without rolling anything.

It's like that samurai game where you don't have to roll to kill peasants, you just declare that you are doing it and it takes effect.

In a sense undeath is the perfect form of man in which to explore space. You don’t need to breathe or eat. You can't be poisoned by radiation. If you need to spend six months moving between planets in the solar system then you just wait. (Arnold K had this idea first.)

The basic lichJammer is a segmented wooden cylinder effectively open to the void (though it will have enclosed spaces they will not be air-tight). A hollow tower of bone and petrified wood. Looks like the spire of a gigantic wooden church, except full of skeletons. The segments counter-rotate to provide the illusion of gravity when that is required. It’s driven by vast Solar Sails. The sails are the skins of fantastic beasts. White AngelSkin, translucent Shoggoth Skin, ribbed Dragon Wing etc.

The crews are skeletons, the officers are mummies.

The main weapons for ship-to-ship combat are massed arrow-fire (surprisingly effective, in the void a flight of arrows can travel hundreds of miles), catapults, magic and boarding actions. The barbs of arrows are made from ice.

Mass is expensive, you only have so much and captains won't expend it without good reason.

Mass is currency, time is also currency. There are nth-level spells that take even a Lich months and months to jam in their dead head. So if you take six months to move between the moons of Jove and Mars then you have to decide what mega-spells you will memorise.

(A huge range of normal spells are just taken as assumed abilities.)

Since most captains are Liches, sending masses of low-level undead to attack an opposing ship wouldn't work, the enemy captain would just take them over and double his or her crew. Instead you need to send independent operators, entities the opposing Lich cannot simply or easily control, this also makes them beings which cannot simply or easily control.

The available classes for lichJammer are:

  • Lich
  • Nazgul
  • Daemon
  • Auto-Golem

The Lich is a turbo badass spellcaster and probably the Captain of the lichJammer. They are effectively the ships artillery since spells will be more powerful and have a longer ranger than most weapons in space. Like magic-users of all time they are shit-hot at range but vulnerable at close range. You can choose which earth culture you come from, maybe you were an Egyptian priest-king or a celtic druid mummified in a bog or you ruled an Inca temple-city.

Nazgul is just shorthand for any Wight/Death Knight/Skeleton Warrior/Unusually frisky mummy. Any human based embodied undead that focuses on combat and is not a magic user. This is the Fighter equivalent. You jump between lichJammers and beat things up. You are a hardy motherfucker.

Daemon. You are an actual (low level) Daemon. You are probably a refugee from infernal politics. You have Daemon powers, can shape change, fly, survive in space. You probably can't move as fast or with the reliability as a lichJammer though, but at least you have some manoeuvrability out there. Souls are currency to you. This one doesn’t have a close equivalent in the basic classes but your abilities suggest a mix of Thief and Bard. inherent abilities plus Charisma. You are less tough than a Nazgul but get more bennies or skills. Not being undead you are the only member of the crew that might get bored with the year-long journeys between moons.

Auto-Golem. You are a self-programming Golem. You may be made of different materials. You can upgrade yourself by getting different parts and adding them on. You are kind of a robot. A mixture of Scotty and Commander Data, you can repair the ship and the skeletons. You might be the bosun, in charge of ship defence, or you might launch yourself at the enemy from a dorsal catapult and land on their superstructure, converting it into mini golems. You can learn new skills and abilities by upgrading your glyphware.


Moons are more interesting than worlds. Worlds are hard to get to. You need to put your lichJammer in orbit then Teleport to the surface. If you don't know the target well you need to wait for clear weather so you can see the spot you are teleporting to. Then to get back out you need to Teleport back to your ship and hope nothing has gone wrong there while you were away. Plus you can't take much with you. Plus if you fuck up a Teleport to something in space and end up in the wrong place then you are just floating in the void, maybe undergoing re-entry. Even for a Lich that’s a bad situation. This is why lichJammers exist.

All the moons of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter have individual cultures of either human undead, elementals, extra-dimensional beings, or just weird as shit stuff. Asteroids and comets have their own weird shit going on.

The skies of Jove are home to numerous airborne empires but they can't get their Jovian gigafauna up into the void and you can't get your lichJammer down into atmosphere so the moons is where you meet and trade.

Everything in earths Solar System is exactly as far away from everything else as it is in real life.

To get your lichJammer closer to the sun you have to tack against the solar wind, slingshot yourself using planetary gravity or catch a ride with a comet or asteroid heading the right way. The good slingshot positions and useful comets are much sought-after and lichJammers fight to get effective positions.

Space Combat:

This is a little like the age of sail in three dimensions, with the sun the main source of 'wind'. Rounds take a day, you can try all kinds of Patrick O'Brian bullshit like stealing the light from your enemies sails and crap like that.

Interstellar lichJammer:

If you leave the system to go to another star it can take hundreds of years. Relativity is in effect so even if you come back, things will have changed a great deal, so each sun is like a little campaign of its own without much connection to another.

Hyperdrives: I'm not sure if these should exist at all but its possible you could take a detour through the skies of Hell, cast Time Stop on yourself for a century while you travel.