Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Orkosystem (2) - Spotta Squigs

Here at last, thanks largely to C'nor's reminders, is the second entry in the Orkosystem series, the Spotta Squig. The first, the Snotling Sabbatur, can be found at Roll With It.

The Orkosystem is an occasional series of unofficial homebrew upgrades created for the Orks in Warhammer 40,000. It focuses on the smaller elements in the Orks' ecosystem like snotlings, squigs and fungi, offering possible new kinds for gaming and modelling. It also hopes to encourage Ork players to experiment with units they might not otherwise. 

Spotta Squigs

The smaller Orkanisms come in all shapes and sizes, with new varieties appearing over time as the needs of a given society change. One of the later developing is the Spotta Squig, which seems to arrive when Orky ranged weaponry reaches a given complexity.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Join up, see the wood

Here's a way of managing line of sight and cover in groups of trees, columns and other obstacles.

It's a supplement to the park, garden and farm post, inspired by seeing the Pi Day geomorph again - here on the left. For more ideas on using it there's a list of great sources in the last post.

The problem is how to suggest individual hiding places and lines of sight in a mass of cover, in a situation in which specific number and location are unknown or unimportant, as with area terrain pieces in wargames, or in map-free roleplaying.

It should work for trees in woods, columns in vaults or consoles and so on in engineering compartments, but possibly also for groups in a crowd, at a party or demonstration say. In the last case it could be especially useful in playing out chase scenes or infiltrations.

The solution expands the Into the depths! idea. It involves rolling dice to find position; more faces should suggest a bigger cluster, and more dice a higher density at the core.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tom Bombadil and the octopus

The discussion at the post on Conan, books and movies is still going and thanks to Von and Jedediah got me thinking about two linked things. One is the octopus from The Goonies, one Tom Bombadil.

The octopus of course makes for one of the finest jokes in the movie. There was a scene filmed with the kids fighting it off, but it didn't make the final cut, quite rightly I think. But a later reference is left in, and this makes for a sharp comment on the nature of at least one character, maybe these particular individuals, possibly young people in general, or even all of us. The cut here says a lot about that world.

Tom Bombadil of course is famously cut from the trilogy of the early 2000s, and more besides. The feeling seems to be that he adds little to the narrative, that the reasonable, efficient thing is leave him out. That to me shows a poor feel for the nature of the story, specifically an aspect seen well in the return to the Shire. Tolkien put him there, and as an element possibly more essential than nearly any other. It's tragic given omission like that seems to be a core theme of the work.

Then again, as the discussion suggests, there are many readings.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Who framed Conan le Barbare?

I found this and had a blast. I think it's worth a look for several reasons, not least given the last post and feelings about Conan. It gave me an idea too. Framing is common in cinema and literature, but less so in gaming so I've put some suggestions lower down.

Framing then. It could be used to set up a stand-alone roleplaying session or wargame, just to play with the usual format or content, or could be part of a less linear campaign, with the outcome affecting the reality doing the framing. Here's a list of possible forms.

  1. dream - the obvious one; you could make the game rulebendingly weird, or add references to the framing reality, maybe as symbols, or foreshadowing events
  2. fantasy - this is more interesting; if it's a simple fantasy of superiority, maybe the fantasising character or a faction gets a reroll per turn, or the GM fudges
  3. flashback - another obvious one, also suitable for those references to the world outside the frame and maybe providing information, although the individual experiencing the flashback would presumably have to survive it; then again, it could be more the Cold Lazarus kind, or the mind could have been uploaded
  4. psychoanalysis - this could be interesting, and could be used to play up an aspect of the game or a character's life, while the free association idea could see the action jumping around, in a wargame maybe as mini scenarios or multiple tables; re the aspect, as a contrast to the fantasy, the game could focus on a failure, or comedy of errors, with the character being forced to reroll, although the need for survival might suit a game less about danger and more about status say 
  5. regression - this might work well later in a campaign, to develop a character by revealing early life, maybe a repressed memory, or even a past incarnation...
  6. cross examination - this could work on the subjectivity of truth, by having each player able to rewind or blow-up a detail of the action to show how it really was
  7. interview - it might be best to understand this for practical purposes as some blend of a cross examination, fantasy and psychoanalysis, depending on the self-importance of the subject and the nature of the interviewee and audience
  8. reality media - if this is more The Truman Show, the NPCs or other players could be in on it, actively working with the GM, or able to manipulate events in a wargame (the fundamentals deck could work for this); if it's a Big Brother-style show, the other characters or individual squads in the force could be playing to the audience, represented by something as simple as testing a score to keep order in a wargame, or a set of criteria to meet to make it big in the framing world

      But if all of that seems just too serious, well then I do have to ask: "What is best in life?"


      Tuesday, 23 August 2011

      Barbarian and phoenix

      A quick thought on cinema, and adaptation of books. Reading one or two reviews of the latest Conan, I was struck by the way so many of us hope movies will be true to the source material.

      I'd guess a factor in the degree to which a movie is faithful is the readership of the book and the audience expected for the movie. A movie for general release is a product, maybe primarily a product, maybe even only a product for some.

      If it has to sell, it can't upset too many people; minorities call the shots less often of course. So maybe we should read more? But then books are also products - maybe privacy gives a sense of ownership, obscures faults?

      Gaming could well belong to us already too. So how long until we own the movies?

      Monday, 22 August 2011

      Fundamental laws of a fictional universe (9)

      A bit of Labyrinth inspired this, a new card for the fundamental laws deck, no. 17. It's not as unusual a concept as some of the others in there, but could still get pretty weird.

      It's left up to the players to decide how weird exactly, and which approach to dimensions to go with. For anyone wanting to go off on a tangent in more general terms too, have a browse of the whole deck for ideas. Most of what you need to know to use it is here.

      Thursday, 18 August 2011

      ... how does your garden grow?

      Here's that second loosely-linked post, with some ideas for parks, gardens and farms.

      This post at John's Toy Soldiers and the Lost Gardens of Heligan probably crystallised the thinking, around dinosaurs thanks to those photos. They give off a classic Doctor Who vibe too. I realised we don't see this kind of space much in gaming. Why not?

      Parks and gardens can and do feature as house and castle grounds, or public or palace land in cities, and why not open-air courtyards deep inside dungeons? The same in more sci-fi-oriented settings, but here the greenery could be in sealed pulp-style domes, out in space or as a preserved landscape like those in Silent Running - mentioned here too - or in the TNG episode "The Survivors", or part of a dedicated agricultural world.

      The various associations make for more interest, like raised terraces and labyrinths, ponds and lakes, tool stores, potting sheds and hothouses, lawns, patios and parties.

      And thinking about circumstances, drainage and irrigation ditches could be flooded and animals free to wander, maybe released accidentally, maybe deliberately for confusion.

      Directionality seems important too. There might be a difference in the difficulty of moving in a copse and a plantation based on axis taken, something I think Epic once covered.

      Maps are easily put together, physical terrain less so, but the nature of a tabletop could be marked impressionistically with elements like this converted agri-world truck for 40K at Tales from the Maelstrom. Linked with this and the looting theme in the first post, Winter of '79 has a tractor playing a key role in a game in their alternative UK history.

      Whole new creatures could also be created. Check out the barkrunner at A Field Guide To Doomsday, one of the best yet. There's also the spookier Abyss Monster at I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... which is more damp. Maybe the gardens are decaying?

      I had a go at adapting creatures with the Fat Frog entry Up the Gordian Path, and plan to return when Stokasis is ready. If you're looking for ideas for a weird green space, feel free to lift them from here. Besides the creatures, you could probably tweak some of the encounters and upland events, and the weather roll, for an overgrown or alien landscape.

      Here it is again - click to zoom. I tried to get a sense of a natural order running ever on, and that seems to me key to this kind of landscape, the interactions between elements.

      For something a bit more down to earth, I thought I might start with what for many of us could have been a literary seed. Here's a table inspired by The Secret Garden, a first 15 of the features met, in order. It's for DM Muse, and since gardens come up in a lot of children's books, I'll likely add new influences over time. It's a living table so open to all.

      1. A pair of gates rises here.
      2. This dark vault of trees runs on ahead.
      3. A stone court stands before a long low house.
      4. Here a door opens in a wall of shrubbery.
      5. A wide lawn spreads, wound about with walks of clipped borders.
      6. Trees and flowerbeds fill this space.
      7. Evergreens stand here, clipped into unusual shapes.
      8. A large pool is home to a weathered and grey fountain.
      9. This long ivy-cloaked wall is set with a green door.
      10. This entrance opens into a walled garden, from which another doorway leads.
      11. This enclosed garden has frames over beds and fruit trees trained to a wall.
      12. A figure bearing an implement enters this space, and appears startled.
      13. A closed grassy space, this orchard has no other exits.
      14. Treetops rise beyond this wall, but no entrance is to be found.
      15. A small winged creature in the crown of a tree bursts into voice.

      I've tried to keep them mysterious, and general to work in more fantastical settings. As ever, they're now in at DM Muse so the table should be live soon, ready for any more.

      Back in reality, Jedediah gives advice for urban gardening at Book Scorpion's Lair.

      Saturday, 13 August 2011

      Oooh, pretty... - Living table (3) - Entries 11-20

      If you've ever wanted to see particular ideas used for a hollow Earth, Venus or Mercury setting, ArmChairGeneral is gathering suggestions for the next When the Navy Walked supplements.

      The hollow Earth in the WtNW universe is called Earthin, and the descriptions out so far had me pretty excited. The mood's back now, so here are some more rock and crystal ideas to go with it.

      Some are likely inspired by Mr Pratchett's thinking - hardly surprising - and one or two might aspire to be entries in the wild Barrier Trappings table up now at NetherWerks.

      1. This crystal has the consistency of a diffuse gas and flows within its outline.
      2. This pellucid crystal refracts white light into new and strange colours.
      3. This opaque crystal acts as a lens, magnifying images not real but imagined.
      4. This rock is so dense that small amounts exert a perceptible gravitational pull.
      5. This porous rock is run through with fine channels used for respiration.
      6. These nodules emit a warmth or cool in opposition to prevailing conditions.
      7. This structure vibrates delicately to shocks distant in space or time.
      8. This formation is in fact a small creature.
      9. This formation appears to be the fossilised remains of a vast primordial creature.
      10. This complex material is drawn to a kin separated from it at the formation of the world; it moves toward that other, as a stalagmite, a stalactite or a worked item.

      The first batch went up here a couple of weeks ago, and they're also listed in the living table at DM Muse, which anyone can add to. The idea of the table is to offer inspiration for fiction, especially gaming, and be randomly determined too if that's what's needed.

      The post following yesterday's will be along at some point soon. I just got distracted.

      Update: Cursed13 at The Dark Workshop explains how to build crystal terrain pieces.

      Friday, 12 August 2011

      Mary, Mary, quite contrary...

      This is the first of two loosely linked posts, inspired by other blogs, real world events and Ms Shelley. This post has the short forms and the next will have some ideas for gaming.

      Number one is for this week's Flash Fearsday, an attempt at horror in 140 characters.

      Orchards, greenhouses and potting sheds; warm earths and leafy beds... 
      As they stalk freezer drawers, of what do Frankenstein foods dream..?

      The second is for the last Expansion Joints, which is 15 words, one of them shock.

      Shock! Sparks fly; a monster born. Doomed to destruction!
      But how if made of men?

      It could be taken as scathing commentary, but if The Telegraph got there first, is it..?

      Sunday, 7 August 2011

      Review - Minority Report

      What an interesting film this is. I deliberately catch up with big movies and books years after release so it was the first time I'd seen it. I think a delay helps balance the gadgets and gimmicks better with the more subtle themes, and this seems like a film to benefit.

      On the whole I enjoyed it. In terms of inspiration it's got lots to take away. The concept and accumulation of detail are impressive, exactly as we'd expect, although for me it's not as profound as it seems to want us to think it is and there's plenty that doesn't work, is too loose, oddly tired or silly, and all the obvious laughs felt somehow out of place.

      It does still manage to surprise though, on many levels, and there's a feeling of a natural development despite the railroading, with plenty of observations to make and layers to peel back. I'm still thinking about the construction, the relationships of the characters, the painful ambiguity, especially of the ending, and the very human, honest approach.

      Appropriately, given the water theme, it's the immersion in the world that really grabbed me, though more the subjective world or worlds of the central figures than what I saw as a rather uneven near future setting. It also has one of the best shots I can remember in a blockbuster, downstairs at the hotel, 10 to 15 perfectly realised seconds of cinema.

      Friday, 5 August 2011

      Refusal - tube - darkness

      You cry out your refusal, loud, almost in fear. It fills the clearing. A crash of leaves in the tree above suggests creatures taking flight. A rush of air sways low-hanging branches.

      Then calm returns. But the voices go on. Rough, metallic.

      You stand, wait, wonder what to do. Stare at the trunk intently. Moments pass and your gaze wanders. You look down, at winding roots and ferns, and notice... What is that?

      A slender tube, rising low among fronds, just a stride away. It stands aged, weathered, with a heavy dent; a snail rests on the outside, on a silvered climb up from the leaf litter.

      You step forward, lean to look in. A distant clang echoes up. And with it a fragrance, warm and good; overwhelming. Food - such wonderful food! And domesticity. Safety?

      Is there a way down? You look round, see great roots arching over a shaded space, a burrow-like opening. A shallow slope drops away, down into a deep green darkness.

      Investigate the hollow  Blog One  Blog Two
      Examine the trunk  Blog One  Blog Two
      Go down the hill  Blog One  Blog Two
      Go up  Blog One  Blog Two

      Wednesday, 3 August 2011


      Anyone who fancies writing a short story for an OSR anthology should have a read of this and especially this. Arkhein can forward the finished guidelines and away you go.

      Inspired by that, as well as this post at A Gentleman's Ones, the full run at Creepy Corridor and Inside the Tome at OSH, here's a simple rule for wargame campaigns.

      Scribe or Observer, Watcher, Thinker, Fast Learner etc.

      Experience and the knowledge it represents are far mightier than any mere armoury.

      Before each game, each player secretly records one non-command infantry model in his or her army as being a scribe. If a scribe survives, the player gains one re-roll on any die in all future games in which that scribe participates. Number of scribes may increase.

      Monday, 1 August 2011

      Deep thought not Friday

      Here we are as planned, but still not on a Friday. For a warm up, I suggest this, this, this and this.

      Saying that the laws of physics as we know them permit travel into the past is the same as saying that, to paraphrase Bertrand Russell, they permit a teapot to be in orbit around Venus

      Can we doubt if this quote spreads and we do reach Venus, there won't one day be a teapot in orbit there, even if only as a prank? Could time travel, or any speculated tech, be as inevitable?