Wednesday 24 October 2018

I Could Not Get This Snail Knight Story Right

And I am currently swamped in other things and will not be able to get back to it for a while. So now its 'content'. It's long so you may want to PDF or copy/paste it.

The Tale of Sir Babbling of Bromborough

We turn now to the tale of Sir Babbling of Broms-Burgh, called by some "The Nonsense Knight", so layering his names by three for he was never dubbed so by the King, nor did his mother call him "Babbling" in the crib (even when he babbled for sure), but named him Silence, for she despised clamour and hated noise above all things. Her heart was tuned too neatly to the world and buzzed like a wire in wind. Elf-Blood bubbled in her veins, she fizzed when spoken to and boiled at every shout. Only in the silence was she free, away from the banging of man. Only in the still calm could she smile and laugh her soundless laugh. Silence was her joy, so hence the name.

Perhaps she should have spoken to him more. Perhaps it was the old elf-blood (from Silences Great Grandfather Raven-Bone Brok, the Elfin Knight). Or perhaps it was neuropathology.

Sir Silence had a flaw upon his tongue. That flaw was like a notch in gold, for in courtesy, in courage and in kindness he bore the bell (meaning he would lead the herd of knights, if knights were goats).

He was also both clever and calm, though neither are really chivalric virtues and are distantly regarded by most knights, like an abandoned spanner, and his calmness breathed only in the presence of just acts. When witnessing injustice he was death.

He was as beautiful as summer and warm as wet wax, though his storm-coloured snail Thorgool claimed plutonic temperament, reserved and dark. Yet when mounted on Thorgool the glistering sharpness of his arms, the butter-bright summer of his looks, the fiery courage of his heart and the glacier-melting kindness in his smile made him seem like a bright sun rising from a storm. He was like an ice-age ending. There was one fine day in the middle of the Knight.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Physical Initiative and Query Initiative

Thinking about Davids post on Initiative brought up some ideas.

The first part is a silly list, the second part is less immediately useful but more conceptually interesting.


First idea is what if The Initiative is like a literal physical thing that you can find or recover in a game world, or just in one dungeon, city or area, and as long as you have it then you have the initiative. I.e, you fight first.

And everyone in this area knows what the initiative is, so if they see you with it, they will say 'oh shit, they have the initiative' and be afraid to attack, but if they can steal or grab it off you then *they* will have the initiative, and if they can break, kill, destroy or lose it then there is no initiative.

So here are 12? Dumb Physical Initiatives

For probably a cheesy game or the goblin kingdom in a normal game.

All of these must be held openly, visible, or held in one hand.

1. A small fragile bird like a starling, or a bat. Delicate bones, moves fast if it can get away. Very specific diet.

2. A big fat awkward robust bird like a Turkey. You have to cradle it under one arm. It becomes alarmed in violent situations, escapes and runs about. There can be no fighting in its presence till it is caught at which point whoever has it has the initiative. The bird is imperious.

3. A delicate glass flower, or a real one in a pot.

4. The Ark of Initiative. A huge heavy stone box that has to be carried about by at least two people.

5. The Expressive Initiative Snake or Repelling Rope of Initiative. A long thin thing that will not curl up into a neat wrap or spiral but must be carried full length, either be several people or just dragged along the ground behind.

6. A tall sign like a preachers apocalypse sign.

7. An instrument of some kind, like a violin or trumpet, while your side is playing it, you have the initiative. Good because it announces every fight you have. Bizarre because it ensures first strike on an unsuspecting enemy. Like a tuba you play very very quietly as you sneak up to backstab someone.

8. Quicksilver in an open chalice, must be held open in one hand like a saints object and not spilled. (Angels probably have one of these in one of their multiple arms when they appear.)

9. A Princess. Either a small and troublesome one or teenage, dissolute, hot and narcissistic. Someone has to be holding hands with the princess. (Or combing their hair?)

10. A balloon on a string.

11. A tall tiered hat (perhaps the enemy fear it so much that gives you initiative over them).

12. A glass shield, no more robust than normal glass.


Second idea is influenced somewhat by the description of fights in Amber Diceless. What if initiative was related to the number of questions a player or side could ask about the encounter before they lose initiative.

This is probably easier to conceptualise as a per-side thing. Enemy types would have an Initiative Value, with low being good. Something like this;

Ambush: D4 -1
Fast things: D4
People: D6
Bigger things: D8
Slllooow things: 2d6 (like Zombies)

You would begin with the most basic description possible;

"A shape attacks. Initiative begins."

Then the player side can ask precise questions about the specific physical qualities that they can sense. Like;

"What shape is it?"
"How many limbs?"
"Is it dressed?"
"Does it/they have a weapon?"
"How many of them?"

I'm not sure on the exact quality of the questions that can be asked. Yes/No seems a bit too tight but wider questions could get easy too quickly.

Then the Players get to ask questions about what their particular character can see or sense, and if they go over a creatures initiative number, then the monsters/opponents get to attack first.

Its not that well worked out after the first round. Do the 'winners' of the first round keep initiative for the rest of the fight? Do the players get to ask more questions on each subsequent round or is info disclosed as normal? If more questions are needed then do you re-roll the monsters initiative values each round?

The thing I like about it is that it forces both the Players and DM to think hard about the precise physical qualities of the game world and how to express them, and becasue the limiting of information mimics the way adrenaline and high-stress situations, and ambushes, really work; by limiting the information available to the object of the attack, meaning they respond in a sub-optimal way. And because as the fight goes on and the PCs gather more and more context, they can make more complex decisions.

To begin with something is just right in your fucking face and you need to do *something* and you don't really know exactly what you are fighting right away. Then if you can survive the first round or so you begin to work out 'oh right, its goblins' and this can mimic the way in which an ambush or attack that doesn't work or follow-through can lose imeptus and be beaten back.

A big question is whether you can, or should, ever "trick" people into getting into fights they wouldn't want to, either because the enemy is too big or an 'innocent'. The mere question of announcing an initiative situation strongly suggests that violence is already in the offing whether the PCs want it or not.


Silent Titans - the book I am making with Christian Kessler and Dirk Leichty is written, mainly illustrated, going into final editing and we are getting final quotes from printers.

Expect a Kickstarter in December and expect the book itself in February 2019 (HOPEFULLY).

Tuesday 9 October 2018

I'm Literally Going Nowhere

This water pipe possible symbolises G+

There were a few years of my life, from around 2001 to about 2007, where I think I didn't actually talk to anyone. I'm sure I must have spoken to people at jobs I was at, and my parents and people serving me at shops, but, essentially, I have no particular memories of those years.

If you imagine the figure of a kind of badly, or awkwardly, dressed and awkwardly proportioned white male of indeterminable age, fat, bad haircut, stamping grimly down a street in an otherwise industrial zone, or a residential area that's falling apart. Someone with heavy shoes, who's clearly walked to get there, (they either can't afford or won't use public transport, and looking at them you know they don't have a car).

This is the kind of person that your eyes quickly turn away from. They are someone who looks into restaurant windows as they pass but who will not be seen looking out. Someone continually moving but you know they have nowhere particular to go. That was me from around 2001 to around 2007. And still pretty much me if you see me on the street about 50% of the time now.

I do not have a clear or distinct memory of those years. They are a painful blur. It's like I wasn't really there.

The recently announced death of Google Plus, and the complex feelings it has evoked in me, as well as Davids post about productivity, have lead me to think of all the things that social media has given me and has taken from me. It's quite a lot on both counts.

All of the books, a lot of the success, all of the friends and 95% of the enemies. Most importantly, a purpose. Something for me to do. I am no longer walking nowhere.

What is has taken has been more subtle and invisible. A great deal of drama and angst, a kind of intangible chipping away of attention and, therefore, selfhood. That man stomping around Liverpool may not have spoken to many people but he read a lot. Much more than me.

I have begun to think in the last few years that the internet in general, and social media in particular, is a kind of Demon Mirror. Over time it has a kind of ethereal ability to shape itself to whatever the darker, more hidden aspects of your personality are. The invisible angers, hatreds, fears and resentments that even you didn't fully process were there and which are made all the more powerful due to their invisibility. Because its not you doing this - its them. It's the internet. And for any individual event that might be the case, but as a whole, over time, it is you.

There's that old Gaiman line about tools being the subtlest of traps.

So interacting with the internet over a long period of time is a kind of strange moral educator, but in the most terrible and destructive of ways. You come face to face with the demon without realising that's what it is. It warps you and twists you. Then you either break away, and to do that you have to realise that its a reflection, that the demon is, to some extent, you.

Or you are trapped forever in glorious and pseudo-meaningful eternal war. Like a warrior inside a magic gem.

Watching the internet, and the development of social media, over the last few years especially, has been like seeing an entire culture get trapped before the mirror.

Any yet, any yet it is truly a cornucopia. Tomorrow I go to the airport to meet someone who's been incredibly important in my life and I would never have encountered them without the internet and without social media.

It has made the impossible possible, brought people together across continents, given lost and lonely people meaningful society, it is largely responsible for giving me someone to be and something to hope for other than death. Many the highest possible dreams of the technophile prophets  of the past have been fulfilled and are enacted before us. They were right.

And is is also a demon in a mirror.

So, as G Plus is dying I am not going to be looking for something to replace it. At least, I will try to resist looking for something. My hope is to try to use the energy released from that site to read more, produce more, blog more and create more. I was always happier making things than doing social media stuff.

Possibly I am G+ in this image, and the donkey is me?

I'm also trying to meet and interact with, actual, real people more. That's what a lot of the 40k stuff in my feed has been about.

As it is, you can find me in the following places;

Facebook is a damned stupid and impossible to organise mess. Putting stuff on there is like throwing a leaf into rapids. Nevertheless, I am on there and will continue to drop the blog posts on there. I will add almost anyone who is clearly not a robot. I do not interact much on there.
I'm on Reddit. I don't know if people are going to start dropping more stuff on the r/OSR subreddit, but that's always a possibility.

I'm still kind of obsessed with minis and sculpture. This tumblr is purely for images of sculpture, miniatures and form,  I will follow you on here if you produce images I like and I do not follow many.

So far my Instagram is purely for pictures of minis I have painted. I'm hoping to try to keep it that way.

I'm on Goodreads. I've been trying to review every book I read on there, to rather mixed results. If I review something I think fits I might put it on the blog a well.

Here is a Tumblr for art based on my stuff  there is precious little up there but much of what is there is good. I don't use it to follow anyone.
And I also have a handful of interviews on Youtube. I may add more as and when the mood or the ideas take me.

As G+ goes away, I'm planning to post a lot of stuff that would have been there, here instead. So get ready for the number of posts to rise and quality to plummet. Since stuff won't be going to G+, I'm hoping to actually engage with commentators more. A strange new world beckons. It's essentially the old world, but with the new knowledge I have from my travels.

Thursday 4 October 2018

The Wodlands 10 - More, the Maw.

1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The Antigoblin Empire.
3. The Whetstone Ridge.
4. The Painted Plain.
5. The Vermilion Sea.
6. The Large Goblin Collidor.
7. The Wodlands.
8. The Necropolis of Glass.
9. The Incoherent Isles.

Cut off, Ruined, Black and Burnt.
The Anaesthetic fire is said to come from here, in ages past.
Hence the burning Goblin Ghosts - pay them no mind.
The City of Visible Grief - strange winds that blow from the Maw turn the visible invisible and the invisible visible.
People go there to turn invisible - stand in the visible wind and be transformed as it blasts away your corporeal self and sends you into another world.

The City of Visible Grief been blasted into almost-total invisibility by the wind rushing through it for eons.
As if it were made of glass.
Hurts the eye to be there.
Dust, leaves and marks, and graffiti made by generations have left their mark.
The city is highlighted like a wireframe model, marked by by textures, covered by tags.
In most cases there is enough to make out general stuff.
The Maw slowly draws the Invisible City into itself - spires like the glass teeth of a circular worm.

The Invisible People living in the ruins, reading invisible books.
Poets go there to hang out. Crime gangs also.
The Invisible Ambassadors - teams of puppeteers manipulate a life-sized puppet for you to address.
They ride in chariots pulled by black rotating pangolins rolling like wheels.
And are guarded by invisible dogs in sheaths of armoured spines which run alongside, spines clattering.

More - circular iron doors like carved dead eyes
A black iron harp the wind keens sharply through.
She was sacred to Evening, and this is why her harp was of iron.
It is very different here during the evening.
A lamp in the distance, passing between columns. Columns of signs.
Time ticking away, their eyes falling inwards falling.
Great emanations of circular death bursting from their empty hearts.
Like a magnetic wave that burns the backs of your teeth with acid reflux.

More - Predatory vantablack Geese - hunting in huge and silent pairs.
Yes, the geese will encircle you in sleep - black wings, waddling ever closer, before they begin their black work.
The Geese guard the grim tarns that lie slackly hereabouts.
The pools live a shift but only at plant-speed. The black water oozed through cracks in the earth and looks for things to strangle and drown, but most escape it.
The Tarns carry any treasure they find around in their transparent guts to lure people in.

Maw - A neon, angular wind, lashing through the invisible streets like geometric lightning.
It makes the dogs glow and the Night-Geese cry out.
Wind sometimes shifts so its coming from a 5th direction, but you can sense it. Feel its pressing fingertips upon you from a place your nerves can't sense.
Rain in streaks of burning gold like a gods tears.

Maw - The Maw itself; A tunnel to the Dark Continent.
Glass towers like radial stalactites.
Pulsing roars of unreality. Swarming, boiling blackness from below, there are grat swarms of them.

Maw - Bat-People with Opal wings which, when folded, protect them from the Invisible Wind.
The Bat-Men can be pretty nice but some do hunt them for their wings.
They come out at night and smoke cigars (which are bad for their coughing lungs) in invisible saloons (you can see the lights of the cigars in the night).
The city is easy for them to navigate in flight - hard for everyone else, that's why they came.
They (the Bat-Men) say the Maw leads to the Dreamlands, at least some of the time, when it's in a good mood, and that the Parliament of Orphan Moons, moons without worlds, orbiting each other only, is where they come from - but Do Not Go.
They hunt the dull droning stag beetles that crawl in the fissures - most invisible by now, moving in big invisible bass-not swarms.
They don't say much about the Dark Continent, only that it has Other stars and no sun, but how would they know?

Maw - Mole-Men have tunnelled up from somewhere - up through the invisible earth, its visibility makes no difference to them.
They make up the Maws labouring classes and read braille tabloids, hot off the Goblin Presses which outrage them every day.

Maw - Treasure there; Scrolls of pearl uncurling like a dryads tongue.
Music composed for keys of bone. Hymns to the wind and the stars and the dark.
Spilling curls of blue-black hair.
And a great green moon like alchemists ash, gabbling and cackling over all.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

My Ignite talk on the Wapentake

Here am I.

This is the five minute talk I did at Ignite about the Wapentake of Wirral, (soon to be featured in Silent Titans pleasefundmykickstarter).