Friday, 30 November 2012

The inmost recesses of the abyss

Entry no. 7 has gone into the Maelstrom table, making another reference if you're playing along.

If you're wondering what this is all about, click back to the last post. The potential in this kind of crossover seems a natural frontier for the saturation, savvy and tools of our time.

The title here is a phrase from Poe's original work, the initial inspiration at Hereticwerks.

Update: The eighth is in and the Maelstrom is now one of the Ends.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The glad lightness of a far future and alterpluristemics

The recent focus on paths among universes or settings set off some thinking here. What if the journey could be planned, or the destination known, or a traveller could move back and forth? You could import/export between paradigms. Then came the next thought...

Which item from any given setting or universe could really change the nature of another?

One that came to my mind was the flower from the classic Star Trek episode "This Side of Paradise". It sprayed spores that removed resistance to empathy and freer love - see the first video below. And I thought of the grim dark of a setting like the 41st millennium.

Wouldn't work? Xenophobia between the factions is just too strong? In the second - and potentially very offensive - video, of Richard Herring's Hitler Moustache, a train of thought starts at 3:32 in which Herring jokes that while many of us embrace the existence of so many nations, anyone who sees only Them and Us is just one step from universal love.

Of course, in a war-torn far future like M41, anywhere the flowers were planted could be subject to Exterminatus or the equivalent, and probably would be once their effects were known. Conflict can be made profitable, or be the sum total of experience or a source of identity - that we know. So what mechanism could be used to spread the love around?

Well, the Orks are a major, dynamic vector. And they multiply via spore release. What if a rogue xenobiologist or bad dok raised an Ork to produce the love spore too? Orks get everywhere and could inherit the galaxy. Now they'd share it. What would that mean?

At any rate, a transpluristemic path like one of those for the Ends, especially if it could be hacked or co-opted, or a follow-up found, could give rise to a new kind of protagonist: a figure who travels the settings, maybe the genres, altering them for a given purpose...

A few bits and pieces

First, BoLS has a major update on the ongoing GW vs. Chapterhouse case - there's a little more here - and HoP flags up a clever thunderhawk.

Second, if you've been having trouble seeing The M42 Project's vision of an improved alternative to 40K, SandWyrm posted a force organisation chart and revised game introduction

Third, there's a discussion going on at Trey's last Warlord review, on change in people and genre, and Roger the GM sees the old school in ITV's classic show Knightmare.

Fourth, one or two of us were commenting a while back with Lovecraft's favourite words, and to expand a shrunk vocabulary I've decided to build on that. I started here and here.

Lastly, it seems no one got that movie reference from the last post, so I've put a slightly more open reference into the next entry for the Maelstrom table. This is entry no. 6 of eight unless someone else jumps in before Saturday. If you have a suggestion, go for it.

     The descent into the Maelstrom... (heading for 1D8)

     6. ... wakes the traveller - who is afloat and wired up in a sensory deprivation tank.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Coming to more great Ends...

John Till has just posted a stunningly good portal at Fate SF, the Anagogue, or Whirlpool Gate, a way to gain access to his Empire setting. He's happy to see it in the Ends list and it's welcome.

Two more from the brilliant Riskail have also just gone in, and to get the Maelstrom table finished finally, I'm going to be adding one entry a day until the end of the month. That will make six entries in total, for rolls using a d6.

If anyone adds a new entry in this time, I'll match it with one more and keep that up until we reach the number of the next standard die, whether that's a d8, d10, d12, d20 or d30.

It's about getting a set of watery arrivals in other worlds, to help games migrate between settings and universes. Here's an entry for today then, no. 4. Maybe it seems familiar...

     The descent into the Maelstrom... (1D4 so far)

     4. ... becomes a water chute pouring into a cavern holding a galleon, an Inferno.

Pretty much anything goes. Leave suggestions here or there - I'll credit every entry with a link. You can track progress using the graphic grid at the top of the right-hand sidebar.

Update: We're already up an entry, reaching no. 5 early, so it's going to eight at least...

Monday, 26 November 2012

Nor the battle to the strong (3)

Here's the third batch of cards for the substitute GM deck. In case you missed the first two, it's an attempt to get more colourful events into wargaming rulesets, but without the players needing an arbitrator. It follows up a discussion with Big Jim, but it's not aimed specifically at 40K, or any one system or setting, and it could fit tactical roleplaying too.

The first seven cards in the deck, i.e. Spill, Spark, Plume, Flaw, Gust, Lapse and Agent, can all be found here and there's a general approach to using the deck as a whole here.

The three in this batch cover a spectacular or horrific loss that affects morale, a flock of creatures being disturbed and relocating, as well as birdstrikes, and a slip, suspicion or disagreement that turns into internal conflict or mutiny, possibly even a coup attempt.

As with the earlier batches, this batch can build on the effects of other cards in the deck and bring new effects into play, making it possible to set up interlinked chains of events.

As ever, all feedback is welcome, and the blank card is here if you want to create more.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Words for worlds (1) - working past dwarves in space

Many people are likely aware of the IAU decision a few years back to create the new classification of dwarf planet, which reduced the 'full' planets in the solar system to eight and added five dwarves: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. Not everyone was happy, not least with the definition going beyond intrinsics to cover orbital clearing.

Beyond this issue, there's also the problem of division into comets and asteroids, bodies at Lagrangian points, the extra terms like 'minor planet', 'trojan' and 'centaur', transitions from gas giant to star and the challenge of reflecting relative size of moons and planets.

If there are more large worlds in the outermost reaches of our system and billions around other stars or travelling between them, these problems in classification could get worse.

To see if it can be helped based on existing terms, here's a simple two-term approach to core body type. The first word covers construction, the second mass. Here 'dwarf' shows only intrinsic aspects: its mass and hydrostatic equilibrium. Two words are coined: troid, from 'asteroid' and 'planetoid', for bodies of a mass below a dwarf, and mid, for stars and planets between the extremes, which seems fair but not too prosaic, has long roots and could be a nod to our geo- and heliocentric exceptionalism. The word 'planet' is optional.

1. ice / icy          1. troid
2. rock / rocky       2. dwarf
3. gas / gaseous      3. mid  
4. stellar            4. giant

As far as I can tell, it covers the core forms. Gamers will see immediately it's set up like two 1d4 tables so it could at least be used to generate locations for gaming. One or two purely conceptual results could make for interesting sci-fi experiments, like 'stellar troid'.

I think it's clear how it works. Using this approach, rather than teach children that Earth, Mars and Pluto have one or more 'moons', we'd say Earth is a mid with a dwarf, Mars is a mid with two troids and Pluto is a dwarf with five troids. It's still simplified, but less so.

With it our system gains lots of secondary dwarves, and if we're talking status that feels fair to worlds like Titan that may be home to terrestrial life's nearest neighbours. It sees our system become, as far as we know, one stellar mid, two gas giants, two ice giants, four rocky mids, I think 24 mainly rocky dwarves, and the oceans of ice and rock troids.

Various more extrinsic elements can be shown as extra terms, the most obvious being:

1. [primary / secondary / tertiary etc.]   1. [orbital / eccentric [dominant]]
                      2. Langrangian
                       3. interstellar

Halley's Comet then becomes a primary ice troid, or - more fully - a primary, eccentric, dominant ice troid. The adjective 'interstellar' still covers those so-called 'rogue' planets.

Who can see the problems with it?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Then they danced down the streets like dingledodies

I've been lucky enough to receive a blogging award from Frontline Gamer, along with four other blogs. All of them are very deserving of it: it's worth taking a look if you haven't yet.

Like FG, I do have some reservations about the rules, so rather than name the five more blogs I recommend as winners, I'll just say go have a browse through the blogrolls in the left-hand sidebar. Those blogs are my recommendations and they deserve the attention.

But I am also going to suggest a few blogs that probably don't get much attention at all.

When we check a blogroll most of us probably start at the top and work down to the last posts we saw, but beyond are blogs that have been abandoned or gone on hiatus. These can represent years of excellence. And very nearly no one reads now. It's almost painful.

So here are just a few of those, representing various subjects. They're listed in order of period to the last post, longest to shortest. I recommend spending some time with each one, reading a few posts and taking in the wonders, especially if you never knew them.

I am serious - hopefully there's something for everyone in that batch, and there could be days of pleasure and learning just clicks away, benefits of the work those bloggers have put in. And these are just a sample of what's waiting deep in blogrolls all over the place.

The passage in the title is from Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and there's more of it here.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Warhammer xK and wargaming almost before war

There was a post at Kings Miniatures last week suggesting GW cuts prices by 50% and that we list what we'd buy if they did to encourage them.

I've been wondering what I'd put on a list at 50% off, but I haven't come up with anything yet. The Lord of the Rings line is there, but why drop into 25mm from 28mm and not go to 15mm, or better yet 6mm? For sci-fi and 40K at 6mm, check out the new not-titans from Steel Crown Productions.

Building on a discussion with Snord at BoLS, I don't much dig GW's heroic 28mm style any more. I think it looks odd. The bits can be useful though, and we might only now be learning how useful. Ork hands, say, can look simian on naturally proportioned humans.

I know I'm not alone in this, so here's another hypothetical. If GW's style is falling out of fashion, what else could the rulesets be used for? What if the settings got old?

To mention another discussion at BoLS, I recently joked some of the Dystopian Legions miniatures could inspire a Warhammer 20K, set 10,000 years further back from the 30K of the currently fashionable Horus Heresy. What about playing a Warhammer 2K in our near past or future, or c. 0K with ancients? Would the ruleset be up to the job?

That got me thinking about earlier periods. How about -40K? Or -400K? Have you ever seen a ruleset for wargaming or roleplaying encounters between early humans? This kind of thing. Various posts at The Subversive Archeologist - like this one - suggest plenty is still up in the air. Early human miniatures are relatively thin on the ground too.

If you have anything like that up your sleeve, you might want to read Lo's current series at HoP on getting new ideas out there, which is now up to the subject of self-publishing.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Full of beans, out of spam

It's been quiet here the last two or three days, but I haven't been far away. I've done some relevant reading and worked on a few projects, including the ongoing resolution system and an unusual conversion that might be good for INQ28 or InquisiMunda. Most of that will turn up here sooner or later.

I've also made a change to comment settings. The number of spam comments has been going up and the time taken to trawl through them all was getting seriously out of hand.

Frontline Gamer is managing it by turning word verification on and anonymous comments off, but I'm not willing to do the first yet based on this intriguing claim, for the lack of clarity about who gains from the work commenters do. There's more on the theme here.

Instead, given that most of the spam was posted with the anonymous option, which was rarely if ever used otherwise, I've only turned that off. I'm not so happy about doing it, but it seems the lesser of the evils for now. So far, so good - there's been zero spam since.

If you do want to comment and this change means you can't, just email me the text with permission to post it. If you can see any other solutions to the problem, don't hold back.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A mug's game?

If your electoral system was a game system, which would it be? And would you play it?

To set the ball rolling, for the UK, I might say first edition Warhammer Roleplay - a great tone and huge influence, but an official development that narrowed fast and a slow death.