Thursday, 29 March 2012

Billions of 'actual banknotes' found in unsold clothing?

I'm thinking of running an occasional series on arguably dodgy science writing, with stand-out snippets. It may or may not be good for sly-fi.

I found this title at the website of a generally well-respected British daily newspaper.

New 'life in space' hope after billions of 'habitable planets' found in Milky Way

Note how the inverted commas suggest the phrases 'life in space' and 'habitable planets' are either quotes or questionable. So far so standard. But why not mark the word 'found' in the same way? Have they really been found in the usual sense, i.e. observed directly?

Not yet. The science itself is also interesting. It seems that indirect observations - and arguably very indirect observations - gave a number for the possible planets orbiting a specific set of stars, and that this number has been scaled up for a much larger set.

It looks a bit like me finding what feels to be a banknote in a jacket I have on and betting I'll find one in a pocket of every item of clothing I own, and maybe items not bought yet.

Is it reasonable to wonder whether our 'knowledge' is based on overeaching, whether it's a house of cards? If you can imagine ulterior motives in things like this, a corruption of language say, or generation of support for a project, it could be used for sly-fi after all.

Using concepts like that in gaming is fairly simple, in roleplaying campaigns especially, maybe as the central idea, and some settings do suggest mass unawareness. I have a setting-specific sci-fi plot table here, but a general old school table also seems possible.

Although fitting it into wargaming is tougher, I should have a loose proposal for the next part of the look at Devastation Drive-In, and I expect that up in the next day or million.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Deeper dice (2) - Dice+ and networking

If you haven't heard of Dice+, there's some info here at BGG.

It's a powered die, for use with tablets and so on. The version shown seems to have a battery, accelerometers, LEDs and a wireless transmitter. You roll as normal, the LEDs show the roll was recognised and the result is sent to the main device.

With all that tech inside we might wonder how balanced it can be, and how big the market is. After all, how many of us would want to carry it with a mobile device, especially for a possible US$30? I'd guess the firm want the niche to support long-term development with an eye on larger electronic gaming surfaces.

Whatever, it has me pondering how else a die like this could be used. There's clearly potential for peer-to-peer with setups like Pluristem and Flailsnails, and for any dispersed group. But what about in face-to-face games too? If all the dice were hooked up as a network, some of the ideas on relationships in the last post could be automated, and explored much further.

Assuming we're even willing to accept the idea - and I'm not convinced it's a good move - what else could a network do?

Think how cybernetic our kind of gaming already is. The basic language we use can seem quite limited, and tabletop games very mechanistic - we're all but chess computers at times. So what if the dice had voice recognition? If they realised one roll was a hit roll, they might guess the next die picked up was for damage, and even identify the rules needed. They could follow the game. With a speaker they could even tell us the number we need, or the chances, or correct us, and maybe advise us.

If terrain and miniatures were tagged, or the map scanned, the dice could triangulate the positions. The network could act as an opponent. Maybe one day we'll be pieces in their games..?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Interknut

<wtf>I'm in here. I'm in here right now, working your circuits, spamming your bandwidth and getting high on all your lolololovecraft ~O{:}~

Oh yeah – 'WTF' is what you're thinking. 'WTF For The Win' maybe, and you'd be right there. 

Knock, knock. Who me? Not the fishman or mouse I was that much I'll tell you for freak's sake get me outta here! Ba! I'm electric sheep, plasmatic seep, an electromagnetic bleed. I'm soaking out into the information systems of the rolypolycosmos. I'm here, there and pretty much e  v   e    r     y      w       h        e         r          e           .            .             .

Mr Everywhere to you. I got titles, headers and letterheads, letters, numbers and strange squiggles. I'm softwaring Empedocles' new clothes, done up to the '99s in binary finery.

I'm the count in your beads, a friction in fiction, warp and a weft for a universe that might never were. I quantum tunnel through the 1s and round the 0s, set chips burning in the grease of Orion and see you and who's army in timespace and relative dementures.

I'm out there now - really out there - a bright spark in the dream steam cogitors, a punch drunk in the haxor codebreakers, mending the pangalactic pulsar nets of undying poets, and that's no (fish)wive's tale, unhand me fair maiden, oh princess my princess bride.

I'm the Interknut, data powered, but rising powerless in an A-ZX spectrum of EM waves.

Pwned! O rly? I wanna talk to my lawyer. I want my call! But they're all ringing.

It's information a long way down. * closes eyes (but not webcams) *

Help and all that.</wtf>

*          *          *          *          *          *

Good job getting this far. If you don't recognise the format, it's a third entry in the series of character concepts for various settings. The name 'Interknut' is inspired by the famous story about Cnut the Great, and there's a link to the idea we're teaching AIs. If you want to use the character, here are the basics, stat-free for building up in any game system.

     The Interknut, as one of its early 21st-century Earth offshoots names itself, is...
  • a vast artificialised intelligence growing into diverse information systems,
  • unstable locally, but adaptive and aggressive in hacking host mechanisms,
  • fearful, but likely found through outputs representing attempts at contact.

As with Mr Higginsbottom and those splinter Santas, the Interknut could be anywhat...

Monday, 26 March 2012

Read any good sly-fi?

More inspiration for gaming and wider fiction, like the space plasma and symbiogenesis posts, but more like those on geoengineering and warming, and maybe even comment forms teaching an AI.

This time it's about helium, a gas with a range of applications, some arguably critical.

But there's not much on Earth, and even less because the market price has collapsed thanks to a timed sell-off of stores. The good news is the moon seems to have a lot...

The fiction? What if a sell-off was designed to cause a shortage and create an economic incentive, in this case for private spaceflight? Providing transport to the moon for helium extraction could be highly lucrative, and a decade or so is good lead-time; a consulting role in exchange for support might seem a smart career move. For bonus plot strands, some of those involved might want to cut funds to projects for ideology or appropriation.

More? From the blogs, how about this suggestion of western self-deception re Chinese military development, or this challenge to a buttress of modern physics, Mr Einstein's special relativity, or this look at the failings of reason itself in contemporary culture?

I need a label for these posts, so I'll propose a possible new genre. Here's a definition:

sly-fi (n., pl. -s)  a fictional genre consisting in the interpolation of feasible secret histories from reported facts and their elaboration in other settings

That's the label I'll use from now on, so you can find all the posts, including this, here.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Deep thought Friday

Another DtF via Mr Clarke, with a warm-up here.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.         Arthur C. Clarke

Is "advanced" the right term? If we perceive time as linear, are we mistaking the nature of change, seeing it as progress? Seeing what was or could have been as failed? Is our thinking on science a teleology, or teleological argument, with science the deity? Would 'sufficiently unfamiliar' be more accurate? Could elsewhen than our future hold unfamiliar technology and our age be 'backward'?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

40K OSR? (18)

The latest 40K OSR? update. What's an OSR?

Could be an Old School Renaissance, an Other School Renaissance or even an Optional School Renaissance, or not, and maybe the 'R' stands for 'Review', 'Revolution' or 'Revelation'. Maybe...

Colonel Kane's logo is to the right. If you use it, consider giving him credit and adding Tales from the Maelstrom to your blogroll for the inspiration.

Here we go then - even more of that inspiration.

      If I've overlooked anything this time round, feel free to leave a link - even your own work.

      Update: I missed Ron's post at From the Warp on sculpting hair and beards, as well as this 28mm Inquisitor force at The Grim Darkness, of which there's even more here.

      Saturday, 17 March 2012

      Porky models - Ork (10) - Body 2

      The next part of the series. This time it's the body of the current 28mm Ork, still without the arms. The torso is part boiler and one leg is a peg, which follows the bionik theme of the other elements - the piston on the shoota arm, the toof-like plates bolted directly into the choppa arm and the antenna on the head. Pics first, then the write-up area by area.

      Thursday, 15 March 2012

      Table - Stray thoughts

      Another old school table I've never seen done, to go with the failed dungeons and rumour accuracy. It's for what the adventurers' minds might be getting up to during a pause or in a quiet moment. The idea is to supply musings the GM and players can weave into the action, and maybe encourage backstory and narrative arcs. It takes a D20 then a D6.

      1. Captivated by 1) apparently insignificant detail / 2) motion, perhaps inexplicable / 3) glimpse of unearthly beauty / 4) immensity of it all / 5) own genius / 6) death
      2. Craving 1) specific beverage, food or similar / 2) simple comfort / 3) a little respect / 4) love / 5) blood, ichor, lifeforce, mana or other energy / 6) absolute power
      3. Trying not to 1) think about it too deeply / 2) say something in any way unworthy / 3) give self or another away / 4) suffer same fate / 5) fall asleep / 6) wake up
      4. Fighting 1) urge / 2) demon / 3) panic / 4) bodily function / 5) combat / 6) fantasy
      5. Struggling with 1) knowledge, quite possibly forbidden / 2) unacknowledged or newfound desire / 3) role / 4) identity / 5) destiny / 6) impossibly catchy tune
      6. Wondering 1) what that thing could be... / 2) what if / 3) if really pawn of higher power / 4) if in any way responsible / 5) how it came to this / 6) how best to put it
      7. Hoping 1) no one heard it / 2) beyond all hope / 3) for divine or other intervention / 4) open/closed it properly / 5) all that been forgotten by now / 6) not yet too late
      8. 1) Desire / 2) Jealousy / 3) Anger / 4) Tears / 5) Mirth / 6) Creativity welling up
      9. Trying to recall 1) name / 2) face or equivalent / 3) number or sequence / 4) where left relevant item / 5) fleeting sensation / 6) why all seems so very familiar...
      10. Reliving 1) youth / 2) success / 3) failure / 4) last night / 5) freedom / 6) past lives
      11. Regretting 1) missed opportunity / 2) youthful indiscretion / 3) recent indiscretion / 4) recent meal or equivalent / 5) pact made or unmade / 6) what it is about to do
      12. Feeling 1) younger / 2) age / 3) insecure / 4) overlooked / 5) close / 6) empty
      13. Feeling sorry for 1) self / 2) last victim / 3) next victim / 4) one or more others in party, conceivably entire expedition / 5) childhood friend / 6) imaginary friend
      14. Calculating 1) distance / 2) dimension / 3) angle / 4) number left / 5) bill / 6) odds
      15. Drafting 1) epitaph / 2) ode / 3) love letter / 4) claim 5) / shopping list / 6) IOU
      16. Making 1) mental note / 2) best of it / 3) hay / 4) concession / 5) excuse / 6) out
      17. Running through 1) relevant but unfamiliar process / 2) route taken so far / 3) life to date / 4) words of wisdom / 5) enigmatic last words / 6) ABCs or equivalent
      18. Losing 1) faith / 2) feeling in extremity / 3) way / 4) track / 5) hope / 6) control
      19. Struck by 1) absurdity / 2) horror / 3) terror / 4) ennui / 5) remorse / 6) indecision
      20. Nothing 1) at all, in the usual sense... / 2) very much / 3) you need worry about / 4) can prevent it now anyway / 5) but unending pain down the ages / 6) -ness

      Wednesday, 14 March 2012

      Gdub, the beeb and us

      You've quite likely now heard about, read or watched the recent BBC report on 40K.

      We've had comparisons to the Greek article and plenty from a gamer's point of view, but with a former national newspaper editor arrested in the UK yesterday and the Leveson Inquiry on, that seems too shallow. At BoLS eeore said of the BBC look: "It is a hatchet job, it's just more subtle"; I disagree, but I'd say that level of thinking is far more useful.

      There's a lot to ponder, but I'll keep it simple. The first thing that stands out for me is the interviewee's claim that: "people fall back into [40K] as as an adult when they realise 'I don't care any more'." But that isn't a reason for return as much as an openness about having done so. So what could those reasons be then? In a recent commment I wrote:

      Remember, 40K could now be so deeply a part of the way each of us experiences the world, and the emotional bond so strong after years of reading, modelling, painting and gaming with friends, that few of us can make a clean break.

      Hold that thought. The next most outstanding element for me is the response from GW CEO Mark Wells to the claim of price exploitation: "It's just not in our nature," he says.

      This from the CEO of a public limited company whose executives, so the journalist tells us, "say they don't do media interviewees". Why not? The two statements feel more like the jumping off point for some fuller investigative journalism than the closure of a thing.

      What's the connection? Watching the lawyers at the Leveson Inquiry do what I'd call a rather poor job of questioning Paul Dacre, another UK newspaper editor, I couldn't help but wonder: how do we scrutinise a media that shapes language and mental landscape if we have to use that language itself, appealing to an audience shaped the same way?

      How do we keep powerful institutions in check when they form the media which informs us, when we work within them nine to five and spend our free time with their products?

      How far can we freely grow into new spaces if pruned any given way at an early age?

      Are we trapped today in an imaginative and perceptual loop? Are we doomed to return to the old because we can't make a new, and because we can't articulate why we might?

      Tuesday, 13 March 2012

      Porky models - Ork (9) - Head 2

      It's been a while, but here's the next part of the series. I'm converting a group of 28mm GW Orks for the blog, with alternative ideas for elements like weapons and greenstuff detail, to show how easy conversions and minor sculpting can be for anyone unsure.

      Friday, 9 March 2012

      Rogue Space - Gycycle

      Here's another Empyric vehicle for Rogue Space. We already have a transport gyrocopter, an APC payload and a 24-wheel buggy, but nothing small or mainly civilian. How do Citiʒants get to work..?

      Gycycle, or Gyke

      The Gycycle is a gyroscopically-balanced single-seater unicycle, the preeminent private vehicle in the Empyre for the Directors fear more than ever the interaction that Publick transport brings. The armoured cocoon is a concession to Imployee survival, and the turboost allows avoidance of Potholers. It is widely armed for the Uncivil Discourse.

      C     20%    [1]   Cocoon (1 rider, high-sided)
      H     20%    [1]   Panniers, Glove Compartment, Lunchbox
      A     20%    [1]   C:H: 1  S: 1
      S     40%    [2]   25', may leap up to half move (min. total move 10'; max. apex 5')
      E     100%     5

      The homebrew vehicle rules are here, and there'll be a revised version going into Rogue Transmissions. If you're new to RS, it's a rules-light RPG by Fenway5, but a few of us are posting our own ideas for it. If you have any, don't be shy. My original review is here.


      Thursday, 8 March 2012

      Magnetising the cosmic rayguns of a cloud city?

      Given all the talk of the coronal mass ejection due today, and the idea of the sun waking up, I thought I'd do a quick post to follow those on plasma cosmology, symbiogenesis and potential for supervillain geoengineering, for fresh inspiration in fiction and gaming.

      If the thinking discussed in this video is close to the reality, it may be that cosmic rays increase cloud formation. The link to the sun? The Earth's magnetic field is believed to shield against the rays, with the field being forced back as the solar wind picks up.

      Which is to say that if the sun has been dozing, we might have had less cloud recently, and maybe more heating. Do current climate models account for the possibility? There are billions of currency units and lives involved. But then, as laypeople keeping up via mass media, can we trust what we hear about this research more than any other?

      How could the fiction run with all of this? World building and campaign ideas abound...


      Wednesday, 7 March 2012

      For more sting in the tail...

      Javascript folds. You can see them used to hide spoilers at this post at Book Scorpion's Lair - another fine write-up, on a Cthulhu by Gaslight session - but it could do even more, like break up long posts without forcing a full reload. More reason to join the menagerie.

      But be careful if you do try it - better safe than sorry when it comes to template code...

      Monday, 5 March 2012

      40K OSR? (17)

      Yet another batch of 40K OSR? links, because the posts are coming thick and fast. There are some definitions for 'OSR' here, but my current mood has me thinking 'Other School Revelation'.

      Colonel Kane's logo is to the right. If you identify with the idea and want to use it, consider giving him the credit and adding the great Tales from the Maelstrom to your blogroll as an inspiration.

        • Following all of which, I'll give a mention to my own crewbrew expansion.

            You know how it works: if I've missed anything, just leave a link, even to your own posts.

            Thursday, 1 March 2012

            Table - Rumour accuracy

            Another random table for old school roleplaying, partly inspired by the experiences of the GW fanbase in getting info on future releases, especially given the rumoured new policy.

            I've aimed to keep the truth of the rumour itself unclear, but suggest the nature of this truth may in fact be more complex. Roll 1D30 as many times as you like per rumour.

            1. The rumour builds on earlier rumours, 1) with / 2) without references.
            2. The rumour has been heard before, but its time is said to have come.
            3. This rumour is a venerable work and its repetition a mysterious ritual.
            4. The source is a known rumourmonger; the first other person asked gives accuracy as 2D12-2x10%, this then 1D3x10 points 1) higher / 2) lower.
            5. The rumour contains one 1) truly astounding claim / 2) patent falsehood.
            6. The rumour is accompanied by an advertisement for a related product.
            7. Local chips in: source recognised as linked to the subject of the rumour.
            8. Guard dropped: source appears to be in the pay of a figure in the rumour.
            9. The source incorporates an angry rant about the subject of the rumour.
            10. The source is 1) reading / 2) being prompted / 3) channelling the rumour.
            11. The source has fingers crossed or 1) known / 2) unknown equivalent.
            12. The source makes mention of a particular quantity of salt, or comparable figurative substance, perhaps repeatedly - is this a code of some kind?
            13. Could the source be trying to communicate something else altogether?
            14. The source appears to be highly intoxicated, possibly on own power.
            15. The rumour of the rumour is drawing a large crowd, many speculating.
            16. A listener-in flashes what may be 1) a knowing look / 2) a secret sign.
            17. Nearby people look nervous and keep their distance from the source.
            18. Abrupt change: 1) a hush falls; 2) lightning strikes; 3) a band strikes up.
            19. Has subject changed policy? Demand for this rumour is 1) high / 2) low.
            20. This rumour has already gone viral and spawned a whole new trope.
            21. This rumour has a peculiar attraction to one or more of those hearing it.
            22. Manner and content suggest this rumour may express a private desire.
            23. The last rumour but one heard by this party is said to have been false.
            24. The next rumour but one heard by this party is prophesied to be true.
            25. This rumour seems to be confirmed by all seen hereafter, if not thus far.
            26. The rumour is so vaguely worded that the party begin to doubt reality.
            27. If attention is paid, or the rumour written down, it is seen to be gibberish.
            28. The source is fictitious, but appears entirely unaware of the fact.
            29. Midflow the source 1) changes narrative point of view / 2) refers to self by surprising name / 3) stops and wonders aloud what the point of it all is.
            30. The source claims to have plenty more where this one came from.