Monday, 28 February 2011


Don't think the EXPANDERS! are done yet. There's flash fiction still appearing, and the brave people who've posted so far would surely be glad of your eyes and feedback. I've added my attempt now too, and there's more than enough space for yours.

Beyond Valhalla

If you've been following the build-up to Valhalla, you might like to know that Shawn at Blue Table Painting has been posting and put the first video up at the channel. Relief all round - it did work out after all. The message from here is very clear: live the dream.

If it's your kind of weekend, this post has details of the next, for more than just 40K.

Triffles (13) - An omen

With the summary of the second six up, we now move on. The last had a possible shocking discovery, but not necessarily a location or item, and not necessarily bad.

an improbable event /
unusual alignment


an omen

/             \

a memory awakened /                  the power        
prophecy recalled                    of suggestion  

In wargaming this might easily appear in background or campaign development, but could be incorporated into gameplay too. Getting consent on the 'improbable' would hopefully be easy, but if not, each player could be allowed to nominate one event per turn as either unusually positive or negative, with each having the power to support and enact this, or with one of the two nominations being randomly selected. The simplest consequence could be a boost to morale or the reverse within a certain distance.

In roleplaying the chance for this already exists through the DM / GM at least, and the players themselves are also capable of suggesting a case, and arguably even should where their character may have an interpretation affecting the game. JB at B/X Blackrazor has just posted a series covering this kind of thing too, the first part here.

In writing as a whole the omen might be a central event in a tale and trigger cascading change in the kind of delicate web of relationships described in Triffle no. 11. In this sense reactions are key, whether caused by emotions like joy, hope, frustration or fear, or based on rational analysis of factors like the possible prophecy or what others do.

Fairy light

My entry for this week's Microfiction Monday at Stony River, exactly 140 characters.

And so she placed the disc of the sun within; it rolled down the arch to the toe, warm light bathing all - and life came to be on the upper.

Sunday, 27 February 2011


Here's a challenge to all the creative people in this very imaginative part of the blogosphere, inspired by Saturday Centus at Jenny Matlock's blog and Microfiction Monday at Stony River.

Every week, at around 15:00 GMT on a Sunday, I'll post a single word of inspiration. The challenge?

Expand that word into a 15-word story.

One word for every character in 'Porky's Expanse!' Your story can be on any subject and in any genre or style you like, dead funny or deadly serious.

An example, with the word food. (The number one reason for expanding.)

Deep thinkers broke the siege, bringing supplies.
The warriors stroked beards intrigued.
"Food for fort."

Your word for this week is fort.

You too are deep thinkers and you can take that fort with ease.

Have a go in the comments here or post the story at your blog and leave a link. I encourage everyone to follow the links and give feedback to these creative people.

Take as long as you need. I'll pick out my favourites and summarise the results too.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Triffles (7-12)

With a dozen Triffles now, six since the last summary, another quick reference list.

  (8) A trapdoor

The idea of the series is to present some simple ideas for wargaming, roleplaying and writing. It's aimed at those of us who want familiar, comfortable concepts in a practical form, but also everyone wanting a reminder of what's tired enough to need improving on.

In wargaming nos. 7, 10, 11 and 12 are hopefully useful, no. 10 thanks largely to the commenters, with no. 11 probably the most challenging to the usual game form.

Terrainmakers have simple thoughts on sets of pieces in nos. 7 and 12, and nos. 7 and 8 are already familiar as elements of geomorphs.

The whole set this time seems to have something for roleplaying, especially in terms of narrative, with no. 12 moving more into theory.

Writers could find something in each too - nos. 7 and 8 focus on feeling and nos. 9, 10 and 12 on plot; no. 11 is more a mix of both. The last three in the set also cover music.

As an aside, no. 11 includes in the comments an attempt at introducing the overlapping concepts of wargame, skirmish game and roleplaying game. It might need looking at it.

There's a list for all the Triffles so far lower down the right-hand column.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Deep thought Friday

A less abstract challenge today, to encourage you to go back to last week's ponder. Jennie came along after everyone had left with thoughts and links and I'm not sure I can manage alone.

Here's it is then, mundane by comparison.

How far is a field interested in moving us beyond its essential concern? For example, if the fundamental problem of economics is scarcity, how far will it assist in eliminating this?

The N++ Network

News for the wargaming bloggers. Dave at Wargaming Tradecraft has set up a network page for blog listings by focus. Here's the intro post. The Expanse is already there, but there's still plenty of room for more. I've added the banner to the left-hand column.

A few changes here too. You can now monitor all frequencies, i.e. subscribe to posts and comments, using the buttons in the right-hand column, under channels still open.

I've also added some status buttons for simple, instant feedback at the bottom of each post. Comment too of course if you have more to say - discussion is good and welcome.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Big 100

Yep, Porky's Expanse! now has a wonderfully round number of intrepid explorers!

It feels warm and fuzzy. Thanks very much to everyone, whether you read, follow or comment - it's a cliche, but it really does inspire to see the interest and your thoughts.

As a more tangible thanks to the followers, I've listed the full 100, with links to their profiles if I have them. If you don't already know them, I recommend looking them up.

Equally, if you see a comment on a post here and you don't recognise the commenter, do click and explore. It's the sharing of ideas and energy that makes all of this work.

The order in the list is the order of following, from Big Jim right at the beginning to Justin S. Davis most recently. The guys without custom avatars, i.e. no recorded place in the main sequence, are listed separately below, but they're no less highly regarded!

Names have been switched if the name in the profile is clearly better known; if a profile is unavailable, but another link exists, I've included that one. There are five people I haven't been able to find any link for, so please leave one in the comments if that's you.

Thanks again to everyone!

Cost-benefit of magic

We like magic and psychic powers, but this isn't always true in reverse. There's often a trade-off that barely slows the player, but has the magic-user and friends suffer. Why? What's the rationale for that? To ration it? To create drama or make a point? Maybe the user isn't doing it right? Or maybe if it were free, the fictional world would look different.

Anyway C'nor has a community table for side effects, and your suggestions are welcome. Don't forget the Wyrd table at Quickly, Quietly, Carefully too.

What if those side effects themselves extend beyond, into the wider world? Lexie at Poisoned Rationality reviews a novel in which the world is being overrun by Bramble, though it's not clear exactly what this is. I can see the real world parallels in that. If it's technology you're thinking, Harald at The Book of Worlds has some draft house rules for creating new. They could have unforeseen quirks too.

As an aside, what does the fictional world itself get out of it? If there is a cost, is the cost interest or usury - Pat's Blog has a distinction - or something else again?

C'nor is also working on a scalable magic system, mentioned here and briefly here, and this is something I find very interesting. Why are spells so often so specific? Why can't the user form new from zero on the spot or tweak existing? I always think of the Lone Wolf novelisations and the way spells could be built up - as far as I remember - in a space of slowed time and as a crystalline structure. Is this so unfeasible in a game?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

On moving on

All things pass, and that feels like a lot today.

Warhammer 39,999 reminds us 2 March is Old Stuff Day, a day of blogging renewal. But what about the balance of new and old elsewhere?

Over at Totally Jinxed is a post reflecting on ageing as a woman, with a twist of humour and horror. Is it ever time to move on? How do we know?

Many of us know Ron Saikowski at From the Warp has put the blog in stasis. Brent has an interview with him at Bell of Lost Souls. Here's Ron:

For me, it's a matter of perspective... while the hobby (and hobby time) is important, my family and time with them are far more important. For those who have children, they grow up so fast and you can't replace the time you get with them.

Time brings revelations, and change which can be for the better. I say we need to take risks, but well considered and generous, mutually beneficial. When men and women made the "intellectual jump" that brought the wolf through the door, we gained; maybe the wolf too. Science In My Fiction covers this. The enemy at the gate our best friend.

Old understandings change. But will we be forgotten, and the things we care about? Over at Strange Horizons, Alastair Reynolds is quoted on change in sci-fi:

Trad Hard SF withers and dies with appalling swiftness, and doesn’t get re-read very much.

Our world is old and dying, but also young and vital. Who would be immortal? Would life grow bland or is age a virtue? Could we even live in the future? Technically, perhaps we could, as Greg at the Cascade Failure blog suggests with an extract of his new rules, assuming we wanted to. But intellectually, emotionally? We here now may be the best possible friends in all of history. Or will we finally be understood at the end of time?

The Digital Cuttlefish put up a haunting post some time back on voluntary euthanasia, a complement to the post on star stuff, which links to Spinoza again too.

There is also the knowledge of one of our good blogging friends, who suffered the loss of a family member recently, that life can defy the supposed odds.

For now the sun shines even behind the clouds, and spring is on the path around it.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Getting out of the boat (1)

Apocalypse Now is the kind of film we quote if we feel gung-ho, but by doing so we may well be showing we've temporarily forgotten something we learnt watching it. I've hinted at a quote in the title, hopefully without compromising myself.

Before going on, I recommend reading yesterday's post. The argument is best read as a whole, but the upshot for gaming purposes is the proposal we make wargames more about war and roleplaying more about the role, by changing game form to be more immediate, overwhelming and instructive. The point is enlightenment.

I'm going to start with wargames because this is the idea that feels best founded already. A message to the wargamers then, to do some convincing. Imagine this delivered in a parade ground voice, up close, perhaps by John Cleese.

Are you as hard as nails? Can you take all comers? Have you got the stats and rules down so well you don't need to check? Every probability calculated and combo set up? Yes? Well that's not war, is it? At least not when the boots touch the ground and it gets physical. If your plans survive contact with the enemy - even with the landscape - you're doing it wrong. What we need is more shock, more horror, more blind terror. I'll bet you haven't felt much of that rolling dice. I haven't. It might do us all good.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Meet the new boss?

It's hard to follow current events without thinking about the ordinary, everyday and routine whirling into the extraordinary, and why and how this happens. It's something we all face, albeit on a far lesser scale, when we refuse to accept a thing and set events in motion to change it, whether planned or in the heat of the moment. We might break delicate balances, cause distinct worlds to merge, make ourselves and others highly uncomfortable in the short term.

Looked at like this, gaming seems even more like escapism, with a relatively ordered situation, clear rules, perhaps a top-down view and a cool head while the characters and models are driven on into the crucible on our behalf. Why do we get this luxury? Didn't a wargame ought to show us too more war, or a roleplaying game force us into what could suddenly look a less appealing role? After all, the fun will always come, at the very least, in knowing we can make a nice cup of tea at the end, leave it all behind. In that light, why not put ourselves through a more real grinder, why not live the game more?


It's been a while since the last PROTOSTAR! so here's another blog I think deserves many more followers than it has, a blog with a simple concept but a very high quality.

It's A Field Guide To Doomsday, home of some very odd creatures, designed for Mutant Future, but excellent inspiration for any setting in terms of likely characteristics.

The blog is mostly one pulp mutant per post, often a hybrid of existing creatures. Especially interesting for me - although admittedly rather horrific - are the mantipede, shockroach and brainwhale, perhaps for seeming just a little more believable.

Another good generic idea, for all kinds of fictional settings, and one I assume is less of a hybrid, is the dunestrider.

The verman is something - or maybe someone - Warhammer fans might recognise as a distant relative of a Skaven, while the labwrath both of them would want to watch out for.

Here's one of the posts which break this pattern, one for the modellers in particular, featuring a girantula made almost real. The 'Designer's notes' tag has more on good sources.

The latest post is also in this vein, a couple of links on real-life apocalyptic scenarios and contamination. Here's a quote from the first of the two, an article in The New York Times:

"It is a very grim read," Mr. Younkins said. "This is for potentially very grim situations in which difficult decisions have to be made."

That, beyond the vivid colours, is a A Field Guide To Doomsday too.

The earlier PROTOSTARS! are also well worth a visit.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Triffles (12) - A wrong turn

The delay since the last Triffle can be worked in here: what if a tail didn't arrive on time, or one party to the exchange failed to appear? It could be as simple as a wrong turn.

     panic, leading to haste            an inhospitable landscape /
       and basic oversights            dangerous fauna and/or flora

\             /

a wrong turn


                                                  a shocking discovery

The essential point to note is that fear can stimulate a flight response even in cases of individuals becoming lost. Basic survival errors might also then be made, and I've read a claim that people sometimes even fail to check their own rucksack for supplies.

In wargaming the possibility that part of a force becomes separated in this way could be represented by a reduction in the stats of a unit or individual, marking disorientation, fatigue, hunger and thirst, and also by a delayed and random entry. For a simpler option each side could lose
one randomly determined element at the start of the game.

In roleplaying the key issue could be the possible divergence of player and character response. While players themselves might stay calm and collected, the DM/GM could force tests for the characters to keep their heads, even before the most basic of actions.

Re the idea of a surprise discovery, in terrainmaking each set of themed pieces could include one element which is unexpected or out of place, completely alien even.

Writing could make use of the wrong turn concept with little or no adaptation at all, and it's clearly an excellent plot driver. Perhaps the best-known case of this is Bilbo's time alone under the Misty Mountains, in The Hobbit of course. This is a book full of inspiration, as Risus Monkey is demonstrating with his re-read; the last chapter completed also prefigures this triffle, and maybe through derivative works led to it?

Having a choice of paths, taking a wrong turn and becoming lost are metaphors which would seem easily used in music. There is a Florence and the Machine video which uses a similar idea, "Dog Days Are Over", and the lyrics, and arguably the music too, play up the idea of running. For lyrics openly suggestive of a hidden secret, try "Temple of Everlasting Light" by Kula Shaker, and those to
"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin are also full of related ideas, and possibly even inspired in part by Tolkien's work.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Scrapes (2) - Fungus brew and D6 results

After the horrific injuries of the first in the series, a unit upgrade, this time from Digital Waaagh!, where Auberon has let his interest in the Orks throughout 40K history feed through into a modern take on fungus brew.

More counters to tie in with this, and to give some help with D6 tables and results in general. Where an effect lasts long enough it might be forgotten, just place one of these next to the models to remind you of the number rolled. The '+ -' counter can be used with another number to show a penalty or boost to a stat. Again, they're all yours to modify as you wish
; just print to thin card and cut along the divisions.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Deep thought Friday

This week we go beyond alien life into logic, with thanks to meandmythinkingcap for bringing it up.

The law of identity, arguably fundamental to knowledge, states that a thing is the same as itself, that is:

But is this true only as far as we can measure? Could A actually be quite different from A on a level beyond our current science or perception?


Could the Dark Eldar also be popular because of the balance between male and female miniatures? A pleasant thought to offset the less pleasant nature of what those minis represent. Re my ponder under the last post, perhaps a sleek female form - in skimpy clothing in the case of Lilith Hesperax - sells better too than a short, portly abhuman?

Three recent posts then on a hot subject of late - men, women and games.

It might be best to read this first, an image-heavy post on what we mean by 'sex sells', with thanks to TalkToYoUniverse for the referral.

If that seems overly simplistic, you could well enjoy this fuller essay.

If you haven't been following the discussion between Greg and Zak on the representation of women in games here at Errant, it's challenging and I recommend reading as much as you can. Here's the post I think best puts the context, also an excellent contribution.

Finally, Atrotos has a new post up at Victory Candescence on the subject of computer games especially. It's irreverant to say the least, but arrives at an interesting conclusion.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


I wanted to write something today about the new creatures for the GW Dark Eldar range, but I really can't. Not because I'm not interested of course - I've usually got a comment on the potential for alien lifeforms - but because the DE just make me sad.

My thoughts on the faction I've put at Bell of Lost Souls and will surprise none of the longer-term readers there. Without getting into all the issues of their suitability for the younger end of the customer base, I feel that while the structural quality of the miniatures is high, and the DE concept might have moved beyond 'Eldar who are Dark', this really ought to have been true over 12 years ago when they were first released.

After all, the structural and conceptual quality of the succubus in the most recent batch doesn't seem to me greatly different than the House Escher miniatures released for 1995's Necromunda. Compare that latest mini with the Escher gang here. If only the original DE - released just under three years after the Escher - had been so well-proportioned and naturally-posed.

Dreams of bees

I've mentioned the ideas of Spinoza here a couple of times, notably in the post on 2001: A Space Odyssey. I like the wide-open subtlety and inclusion of his thinking, even if I don't agree with every conclusion. He has a lot to say about our interests too.

If anyone wants to know more, but hasn't found a good starting point, I've just come late to an ongoing series of bite-sized posts: part one here; part two here. I recommend reading carefully through both, to see how expansive that thinking can be.

Here's that poem again too; you'll need to scroll down.

Fundamental laws of a fictional universe (6)

Two more fundamental laws cards, inspired by recent posts on identity, especially the discussions of naming in fiction and of ourselves, the arrival of the Grey Knights and the nature of choice, specifically re the D2, but also the deep thought on the nature of life.

As ever, I challenge you to identify the sources of the quotes in the titles. I think it's a little trickier this time than usual.

The usual supplementary information now, copied, pasted and updated from the last.

If you missed the earlier cards (ten in total - two here, two more here, one here, four here, and one here), the idea is to allow the big events of fiction into your games, to break down the barriers in how we define game types, to identify recurring tropes as the first step to moving beyond them, possibly by making them so familiar we've had all we can take, and even to recognise both us in the game and the scope of fiction.

The aim is to have them useable in both wargames and roleplaying games, and ideally any game type. They're unlikely to be anywhere close to balanced, and could have effects dramatically different across systems, but that's part of the fun. Dare you risk it? Definitions are in the first instalment. I'm claiming no copyright on any of the cards.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Space words of doom!

Is naming in gaming and wider fiction dull?

In the discussion under the recent post on originality in miniature design Lexington brought the subject up, and made me realise again that it's almost as if new terms are being created from a limited pool of words. These might be terms which sound right for the setting, or cool, but in some cases they are just new combinations of familiar words.

To get relatively technical for a moment, and to be fair, the names created in this way might be understood as renderings from that strange world or distant future into a form we can understand. Even so, it does seem unlikely that naming conventions would be the same as ours or even similar to them, meaning the rendering would then anyway have to be understood as far from the supposed original.

There's also the issue of sales of course. A simple catchy name - realistic and fresh or not - may be needed to identify what is probably a product, or part of a product, to sell it.

At any rate, I think it could be instructive for the creative - i.e. all of us - to see how this might be happening, to better understand the process if we choose to apply a version of it in our own work, or to help avoid it completely.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Triffles (11) - A tense exchange

Following the theme of the last Triffle, today an attempt to exchange a high value item. It could even loosely describe an eventful Valentine's Day date.

            a cautious                     a fumbled handover / 
             approach                    misunderstood gesture

\             /

a tense exchange


an unseen tail / infiltrator /                                           

If you want to get this into a wargame, skirmish game or roleplaying game, you could do far worse than look at Necromunda which has a mechanism for simulating a cinematic wild west-style gunfight. You could also try something more like the tracks used in the latest Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, based on key elements which need to occur to ratchet up the tension. The situation seems to need a build-up to a moment at which nerves snap and a means of determining the order of reactions, assuming they'll not all be simultaneous. It's possible to imagine entire forces manoeuvring around the few specialists conducting the exchange, hands at weapons holstered or sheathed.

But maybe the breakdown doesn't come? It might be possible to hold it off or prevent it by diplomacy and avoid the loss of life on both sides. Would that ruin the game? Better question: could wargames do with more mechanisms for impromptu diplomacy?

In writing, as the Valentine's Day idea suggests, this could be the underlying idea in a situation apparently very different, within a comedy of errors at least. A fine web of taut interactions could be spun, more so if more than two parties are involved. This post at TalkToYoUniverse ought to be helpful if that sounds tricky.

Continuing the interest in applying these to music, we might expect a slow build-up, along the lines of "The Creep Out" by The Dandy Warhols or "Angel" by Massive Attack.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The D2

There's plenty of discussion of game systems going on, and their merits or otherwise. To argue in an informed way, give constructive criticism or design a game ourselves we need to understand what a game is, what the desired effect is - or effects are - and what the mechanisms need to do to achieve this.

Games usually involve choice, and if not a conscious choice, negotiated or otherwise, at least a means of selecting from a range of options. The recent D1 discussion is a good starting point for a long ponder on this subject, and I'd recommend having a browse to anyone who hasn't yet. For now, we'll take a more specific look at one aspect, the idea of selecting one of only two options, represented when random by the D2.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Scrapes (1) - Horrific injuries

The first of a series on characterful optional rules, mainly for wargames and skirmish games, but possibly inspiring adaptations of other kinds of game too. I'd imagine most gamers collect this kind of rule to try out when an opportunity arises, or incorporate them into their house rules, and the point here is to help in this, by suggesting rules not matching a triffle or drawing attention to rules other gamers are using.

What got me thinking about this most recently was a post at the excellent Tales from the Maelstrom with a couple of their house rules. Have a read of those, and the first comment at least. For me they're simple, but realistic, and they add a lot to gameplay. They're also a reminder of the danger of war and the natural reactions of combatants.

To add to them, how about the need to take a test not only for taking cover nearby, but for approaching too, or modifiers to morale tests for proximity? Perhaps a mechanism to represent the desire to retrieve the remains and remove them from the field?

If you decide to use any of this yourself, it could help to have a way of marking the locations, so I've put together a quick set of 16 rather graphic counters to this end; just print to thin card and cut along the divisions. They're all yours to modify and print as you wish and I dedicate them to Colonel Kane and all the other guys at Tales.

Triffles (10) - A high denomination

Yesterday's Triffle made mention of loss and breakages, which might mean buying replacements, but if returning from an adventure loaded down with items of great value, it could be surprisingly difficult to get what we want. Thanks due here to Bartender, who in his comment under the last set my mind on the possibilities of the shopping trip.

 danger in storage                    sudden interest / 
     and transport                     new acquaintances

\             /

a high denomination


credit given freely, but
at inflated prices

To explain the thinking behind the last, credit given freely because it it might not be possible to give the change, and at inflated prices because the holder - the current holder if we take into account that sudden interest - is apparently a person of means.

Hard to work this into wargaming except as an objective to capture, possibly mobile. In roleplaying the attempt to make a purchase with an item of this value could be a whole adventure. In writing we're operating in interesting territory with regard to motivations.

Innovations also left a comment yesterday and set me thinking too, about whether songwriting could be covered. After all, money and love - those new acquaintances? - are common themes in music. Let's not forget "It's All About the Benjamins" and - as perhaps a more traditional approach - "Can't Buy Me Love".

So my suggestion for a song on romance and currency: "Love is Pegged to Love (And Fully Convertible)". Not really doing it for you? Try this then: "Back on the Love Standard (Don't Dig the Gold Diggers)". Feel free to write your own lyrics for these instant hits.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Who are we?

I've been thinking about who we are.

The response to a recent article made me realise that by using the terms 'wargamer' and 'roleplayer' we could be holding open a divide that might well not exist, and that's not even mentioning all the other kinds of gamer, and the modellers and painters too.

In light of this, the Triffles, fundamental laws of fiction and scope of fiction idea, and the fact that many of the people reading this blog are also writers - all of us interested in storytelling and other worlds - I'm thinking a new term might be needed.

I've pondered a while, but I'm not finding it easy. Here are some very early suggestions.

  • fictionts - following 'sophont', for our feeling for fiction
  • fictonts
  • ficts

  • Dmers - as 'gamer', but taking into account the ideas in the D1 discussion
  • D-ers - two syllables people
  • Ds

To say some of these might not catch on is understatement.

Can anyone take this thinking in a new direction or offer any other suggestions? Could be you don't even think there's a need for a single term. I'd be glad of all thoughts.

Triffles (9) - A broken fall

If you opened that trapdoor, it would be well to be careful, or hope for a broken fall.

                                           a limb trapped / strap caught /
                                          branch / ledge / outcrop / pile


a broken fall

/             \

 a good vantage point /           a cry of pain / clatter of
 fortunate line of sight             equipment / breakages

Rules simulating this kind of thing could well be found in skirmish games, and they suit roleplaying too. If a model is close to an edge and struck, on a certain roll they might fall, on another roll get stuck and become a sitting duck. In exchange the model could get a clear shot. Think Han Solo above the sarlacc, here from 8:22.

In general lots of questions. What exactly has the individual fallen on and how will they get down, or even back up? What can they see? What have they lost? Most importantly perhaps, what will be attracted by the noise they've made, and will they fall further? 

It's good for comedy too.

Grey Knights are grey

The Grey Knights are on the way, White Knight and Black Knight both. For now we have the usual blurred images, and the star of the show is what seems to be a terminator-armoured space marine on or in a large walker.

Already we're struggling for terms. It's a penitent engine, Optimus Prime or a gundam, a robot, the loader from Aliens.

Aliens, that same film again.

Always with the new a need to classify, as if we can capture the essence in existing ideas. By all means we ought to look at etiology, separate the ideas and trace them back to their origin. But this doesn't seem to be what's happening.

We're just labelling, without understanding, and perhaps only to claim for ourselves, to demean, to subordinate to our highness. 'Those designers didn't outdo us!' we seem to shout, as if feeling subjects really.

But of course the model is something new, however derivative that new might be, however much a blend of tired ideas. Yes, even if those ideas do come from Aliens.

And a year from now this model might be used as a reference point for something weirder, something else again. Ten years from now it might be a classic, an inspiration itself. A decade after that we'll quite possibly be exchanging it for vast sums through the future equivalent of eBay.

Or won't, if we all heed these words and buy one now.

Brother Captain Hegel is on many frontlines, even those of clashes unknown, or trivial.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Deep thought Friday

Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

This has a little of the idea 'you're either with us or against us'. What if there is a third option, or multiple extra options, and the concept 'alone' is too simplistic, too anthropic?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Mapmaking merry (5)

As promised last week, another instalment of the very occasional series on merging mapmaking and terrain-making. The reason given to the mapmakers for tuning in?

For a different kind of expression, for time away from the number crunching and paper, from pencils and dice. Indulge the artist within, get tactile - show yourself in another medium. It's a breath of fresh air, and will likely give you a different understanding of spaces and decor that will feed back into games.

And for the terrain-makers just a few of those words need switching round.

For a different kind of expression, for time away from the sculpting and scattering, from paints and LOS. Indulge the planner within, get calculating - show yourself in another medium. It's a breath of fresh air, and will likely give you a different understanding of spaces and movement that will feed back into games.

Triffles (8) - A trapdoor

A tried, tested and maybe tired trope today, a possible entrance to a secret passage.

a large drop                                       


a trapdoor

/             \

    easily overlooked /          a weakened/damaged
concealed                           structure

This is less suited to wargaming than recent Triffles, but if a trapdoor is included as part of a terrain piece - as the entrance to yesterday's passage perhaps - it makes sense to consider that drop: does it only slow movement or potentially cause injury?

Roleplayers might be more interested in whether or not the trapdoor can actually be found. It could be most easily overlooked if high, especially in vaulting, or possibly concealed by an object if low. If underfoot with a weakened/damaged structure, it would be best to find it sooner rather than later.

For all, the key question might be of what's on the other side, especially if the space is dark, and writers may need to consider how we feel about this unknown. Often, in fiction, there's something down (or up) there...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Porky models - Ork (8) - Shoota 2

A new Ork shoota for the second heavily-modified Ork, a minor celebration of the new orc and goblin releases for Warhammer. I'm excited - those plastic savage orcs will be invaluable in making feral Orks and yoofs, and as help with Ork musculature and feet.

Here's the finished arm.

Triffles (7) - A secret passage

After the summary of the first six, on into the seventh. The last included a possible secret passage, so let's elaborate on that.

sounds from an
adjacent space


a secret passage

/             \

access to a sealed location /            an unseen entrance    
room locked from within                   suddenly opened   

In wargaming this could take the form of entry points marked by terrain pieces or counters; when models move into contact they are assumed to enter, and may leave again from the same entrance or another at the next opportunity, perhaps on a die roll. For each movement phase inside a die could also be rolled for whether they discover the secret space - which could be a store of equipment - or are discovered from elsewhere in the network by guardians and attacked. This might be a number of hits only or fought using models: a leaf could be taken out of the roleplayer's book and a map drawn.

Roleplayers likely know plenty about secret passages, but the sounds overheard might be important. Could the adjacent space be entered by force? The room locked from the inside might well mean there is an occupant. Who or what could enter the passage unexpectedly, and could they do so at the very moment the characters are passing?

Writers in general might be interested in the potential for mystery or even horror here. Think textures, air, light and lack of knowledge as to destination.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Talk Tuesday

It's Talk Tuesday again!

This time too the point is to give a summary of where the discussions have been going on lately, even deep inside the blog, so the good ideas, recommendations and musings of the commenters don't go to waste.

Here's the list of posts this time round, loosely arranged from most to least active.

A wild card this week too, a post still without a response despite being no heavier than the latest. It's scary, possibly offensive and may be uncomfortable, so maybe that's it?

Be my guest!

Need input

What if that ?siD really does exist? How could it be proven? Here are a few of the latest posts from our part of the blogopshere on getting data, the uses of it and its value.

A Soviet sample return mission that never got off the ground at Beyond Apollo. Such a lot of work for such little quantities. It's all we have.

One day the data in this world-building spreadsheet at The Orb might be matched against that for other systems. Until then we dream. Nanotech helps with that of course, as this post at Science In My Fiction reminds us. Even fantasy fans might like the idea that the long-lost Damascus steel could have had nanotubes.

For a cool take on the world-building that is terraforming, try the Garteil at Riskail.

Interesting thoughts on trusting instruments at Ghost Hunting Theories. Esoteric the field may seem, but I'd say the point is a wider one. I'm no Luddite, but I stand by my comment: "Industry might be the point. There's money in those devices, but also the impression of science in carrying one."

More on the mind and body in the latest post, if you're happy with horror and can accept strong language. Never hurts to read the criticism either.

Monday, 7 February 2011

From 3D to ?siD

I've been pondering the subject of psychic powers and magic. Here's an odd and possibly even horrifying look at how they might work.

To understand the idea we need to think about the differences between 2D and 3D. Imagine a 2D world, strung across the room you're now in and perfectly immaterial. Imagine tiny 2D lifeforms getting on with their lives inside, moving across the surface and around each other of course because they can't go over or under.

Now imagine you step up to that flat world and make contact with the very tip of your finger. What's that going to look like from their point of view? Maybe an area of their world fills with an alien material, and friends and colleagues vanish.

Keep pushing and as the finger widens from the tip, the area of destruction in their world widens, and more bystanders are lost. If the world isn't perfectly immaterial, some of those individuals might even get pushed out of their world, either on or in your finger. What would happen if you blew on the world? Or sneezed?