Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Wired-up Fighting Fantasy Necromunda in Itra's City

Of all the games you've known or loved, what fine fusions would you make if you could?

I wouldn't mind exploring the early version of Necromunda from GW's Confrontation, but in the form of a networked Fighting Fantasy gamebook that's still a paperback, borrowed from a local library - with dust, stains and the pencil marks of past players - using the resolution system from the Norwegian RPG Itras By, and all on a rainy British afternoon.

Here's some of the rich setting material, although Itras By would encourage reworking it.

Hive clusters are connected together by roads across the [ash] wastes and transportation tubes supported on pylons and suspended from cables. ... the landscape resembles a petrified forest entangled in the web of some enormous spider. ...
... The ash occurs in many different, often vivid hues such as sulphur yellow, citric green, cobalt blue, pink, mauve, as well as various shades of grey, and it varies in texture from fine dust to crystalline clinker. The creatures and nomads that live there are equally colourful ...
... A moderate ash storm will strip an unprotected man to the bone in seconds, and then reduce his bones to a handful of dust. ... Imperial scholars who have studied dust ecologies believe that there may be currents and tides within the ash surface.
In hotter weather, when Necromunda’s sun breaks through the planet’s cloud cover, noxious vapors rise up and form poisonous mists and fogs. Mists are invariably followed by toxic rain storms, laden with particles of deadly ash dust and other contaminants.
White Dwarf No. 130 (October 1990)

The aspects are all there, in the intricate lived-in tone and weirdness. I'm actually looking for a gaming equivalent to this video, a soulful blend of individually outstanding material...

The major sources used, or a close and relevant match otherwise, are this ("Silent All These Years"), this ("Down by the Water"), this ("Cover Me") and this ("Dissolved Girl").

If you're wondering how the metaphor shifted, it probably passed at least partly through the prism of Tadeusz Różewicz's "Draft for a Modern Love Poem", especially the lines:
a spring-clear
transparent description
of water
is a description of thirst
it produces a mirage
clouds and trees move into
the mirror

Lack hunger
of flesh
is a description of love
is a modern love poem

Gaming can also be seen as a kind of ensemble musicmaking, even lovemaking, with a good metre, a few riffs and plenty of flights of fancy, all kept developing with gentle cues.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Using your braners (1) - World-changing weaponry

I want to show more of the scope in the braner concept, so this is the first in a series on possible applications for gaming and in wider fiction. It's propluristemic content, meaning it's designed for use in no particular game system or setting, for adaptation as preferred.

I recommend reading the last post first, and maybe this one, to find out what a braner is.

The idea is that part of a transdimensional structure - whether a lode of a weird material, or a daemon, or something else - is coaxed, driven or worked into a device of some kind.

The two here are melee or projectile weapons, and the entity is assumed to be the edge of the blade, or the surface making contact. This also suggests the sheath or equivalent is worked to contain the effect, or a variation on the weaver aspect is used to activate it.

Each one has a few possible names, to reflect the variety of worlds that could develop it.

Vault's Call, Sibilance, The Exsanctor etc.

This weapon cleaves solid matter cleanly, as if liquid, apparently destroying all material along the path. In fact, each particle is drawn over a dimensional boundary (cf. whisker).

The weapon may cut through a barrier of any nature except transdimensional. In combat a hit ignores all armour and fields with this same exception. The hit is always treated as critical or does critical or maximum damage, and will otherwise cause immediate death.

If left unsheathed, the transdimensional part will pass through matter on which it rests or which it strikes, and it will continuously draw in particles from a surrounding atmosphere or reservoir until this is exhausted - to which myriad dead worlds and voids may testify.

The constant whisper of this flow may be heard, and the space beyond may be sensed.

Wail o' the Weft, Shreave, The Disenverter etc.

This weapon warps the current reality, removing or remaking existing matter and infusing it with strange forms from unknown sources beyond dimensional boundaries (cf. winder).

In combat a hit ignores all armour and fields except those of a transdimensional nature and is treated as if coated with a permanently debilitatingly poison, while the maximum damage result causes immediate death. Each hit results in a single mutation over time.

In each situation in which the weapon is unsheathed, that location or route is corrupted and may bleed; any entity later touching this point or line is treated as if hit. Where this weapon proliferates, the world may quickly become unrecognisable, even uninhabitable.

When in motion the weapon emits a shriek and ripples may be felt in the fabric of reality.

Hopefully this does make the possible uses clearer, or helps point a way. The last post has more context, and once you can visualise what's going on, the ideas should flow...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Towards a new model army?

Many of us feel that certain areas of wargaming can be pricey, some areas increasingly and unreasonably so. A handful of posts from the past few days suggest ways forward.

Interestingly, BoLS this week posted some homebrew, which I think is the first time in a good while. It's a full mission, like those Creative Twilight produce, possibly a step into a new golden age, and Loken reminded us of the first and its magical Lords of Battle pdf.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

All your base are belong to someone

Fans of the d12, as well as game designers and worldbuilders, and anyone interested in getting a fresh perspective on a key assumption of today's world, might like to read this article on dozenals and the idea of shifting from base-10 to base-12...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Build-your-own braner

Last week I posted a weird new monster, alien or supernatural being that references M-theory - the noö-braner. If you missed it, the basic braner is essentially a trans-Euclidean lifeform able to slip more or less freely across various dimensions.

It could be the basis of a Lovecraftian horror, or an alternative to a warp entity for 40K, or a very different tactical challenge for adventurers and armies, the kind of thing you might find in Call of Cthulhu, sword and sorcery or a wargame like this, maybe a demiurge...

The original post has a few more suggestions too, thanks to John Till and garrisonjames.

I want to generalise the concept through a simple tool, so below is a table for six general braner aspects for mixing and matching. The noö-braner is now a 'waker-weaver-wisher'.

A random approach to making your own could be rolling 1d6 for the number of aspects it has and 1d6 on the table for each, treating duplicates as greater intensity in that aspect.

      Braner aspects (1d6)

  1. Waker - The osmotic or conductive structure of this braner allows the absorption, mingling or transfer of material among those regions currently located adjacent to it, enabling the formation of a reservoir or conduit for transdimensional interaction.
  2. Weaver - Highly elongated or filamentary, this braner binds manifolds, perhaps forming a basis for a reality by bracing its fundamental particles, macrostructures or universal shell; its loss, transformation or relocation may lead to local collapse.
  3. Whiler - Whether hibernating, pupating or paralysed, perhaps lying in wait, this braner is more or less inactive, representing a temporary hindrance to travel via the region and gifting its current transdimensional location a misleading stability.
  4. Whisker - This braner hooks, envelops or dislodges elements of nearby regions, stretching or carrying them out across a dimensional horizon, perhaps shifting, telescoping or inverting the local form; they may be returned, irrevocably altered.
  5. Winder - The tension, mass or construction of this braner warps the coils of the dimensions it spans or crosses, thereby spontaneously reordering, separating or fusing these dimensions and sparking sudden shifts in reality for the inhabitants.
  6. Wisher - Possessed of a morphic structure - perhaps plasmatic, gelatinous or nanitic - or capable of transdimensional lensing, this braner is able to generate, modify or mimic any or all of the elements of a region, including the inhabitants.

They're building blocks only of course, for you to decide the wider nature and the detail of the manifestations. For general mechanics, assuming they'd apply, you could look at the ideas in the first post. For less usual contexts, the possible new genres might be a good start, especially body noir, glossed world, retro time travel and sword and reinette.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Seeing Tolkien's Long Defeat

If the six books of The Lord of the Rings gave three films, and the one of The Hobbit will give three too, what next? If Jackson et al. follow Lucas/Disney to push for a third trilogy, there's no lack of sources.

Most obviously "The Scouring of the Shire" was left out last time. By this rule of increasing bloat, could this one chapter be stretched over three more? It's not hard to imagine a spin-off mini-series, just one with less emphasis on the 'mini'. How about those Adventures of Tom Bombadil? He was also left out.

But why? What justifies such major removals? Is it as simple as overlong running time? After all, Jackson's LotR was three long films and special editions. Pacing is a better argument, but Tolkien left them in. And rightly so I think. To my mind the Scouring and Tom Bombadil are more or less the heart of it all.

Bombadil especially. Have a read of this overview if you haven't seen the arguments.

If so, maybe that's why both were cut, as supposedly unfit for a 21st-century audience.

What could that mean? There's plenty at this post from earlier today, on zombies too.

Tolkien once wrote: "I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat'", and we have Galadriel verbalise the thinking in the fiction, or rather in the generally recognised fiction: "together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat." Really?

Why all the gloom? My reading of Bombadil suggests Tolkien did see, maybe even see, past. As he wrote of Bombadil: "he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyse the feeling precisely." As his Goldberry says: "He is."

Look at the feel for landscape Tolkien has, in fine distinctions. He sees the wood for the trees, and surely saw the cycles, the flow of atoms. It may be that if we spend too much time worldbuilding, a demiurge of sorts, we see a little further than the paradigm, even if we have to use the language of that paradigm to communicate this and to understand it.

If Spinoza was a bee, what is Tolkien? And what are we? Who's your Bombadil? We get to choose, and happily Jackson has given us space to do that so far, although if he has Stephen Colbert playing him (we don't know yet), it may go from one extreme to another.

So which Bombadil are you making, know it or not, as Tolkien's long defeat rumbles on?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Dunroamins & Decline - GW, the OGL and its OSR

First, Itras By has finally been published in English. There's a fine review of the original at Harald's and the sample pdf is here. Thanks to Nørwegian Style for posting the news.

Second, in a discussion at BoLS on GW licensing its IP Vossl claimed "the OGL died a horrible fiery death 4 years ago". The OGL is the Open Game License. Part of my reply:

The OGL is alive and kicking. Pathfinder, which was built through the OGL, has at least for some time outperformed the official fourth edition and an Old School Renaissance is thriving because of it too, via what may well be hundreds of smaller publishers. The fact we know about fifth so early, not to mention the general direction it's headed in, may be in part down to the power the OGL has given the player base.

Vossl is clued up and a crisp thinker, so how many other people have never heard of the OGL, a licence that lets gamers create materials compatible with a much-loved system or IP and sell them. It's essentially D&D, but other companies, like GW, might catch on.

One of the beneficiaries and drivers of the development is this Old School Renaissance, or whatever we choose to call it, specifically the D&D OSR. But where are the pioneers vanishing to? How will we stumble across their worlds, or talk to and learn from them?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Do gamers need help?

My name's Porky and I play games. I may need help. But possibly not the kind you're thinking.

I'm going to trace out an argument with a set of quotes from recent posts. The first is from this post at Plastic Legions on GW's Hobbit range:

The mini manual in the starter set doesn't contain the stat profiles or point costs of the new models. The starter set scenario booklet contains the profiles but not the points. In short if you bought the starter set thinking you were getting the new rules. Think again laddie, its GW 2012!!!  you still have to buy the $85 USD big rule book if you want the full package, ...
... the best part is they dont tell you that until you open the starter box! So if it wasn't for "whistleblowers" letting us know  in advance you are buying the starter set thinking you're getting something you are not.
The only reason I'm still around is they have an untouchable IP I love, ... Believe me the old PT Barnum addage "There is a sucker born every minute" has never been so true for all of us, that participate in the Games Workshop hobby. They suck, they suck rotten, stinking zombie ass, they truly do, and yet we keep on buying-

The telling passage may seem to be "The only reason I'm still around ...", but for me it's the assumption that "the points" are necessary for "the full package". Hold that thought.

Monday, 3 December 2012


This post at False Machine reminded me of noisms' recent suggestion that "Creating a truly new monster is difficult, and perhaps impossible". I thought I might have a go at it.

A noö-braner is a trans-Euclidean being able to bleed freely across any and all dimensions in pursuit of hylozoa. It tracks likely targets from dimensions largely beyond their own, initially inserting only quanta to scan, later perhaps more complex observational and manipulative tendrils from multiple points. Having identified a potential node, a noö-braner strikes from within, either endowing an awareness which extends via the noö-braner and all existing nodes, or altering awareness if a similar being has already entered.

It's a lifeform Mr Lovecraft might recognise, or possibly a distant cousin of GW's Umbra.

It doesn't seem to need stats, and could be best used to bring elements of a landscape to life, to modify mental and spiritual attributes, or psychic or magical ability, or to allow lifeforms to draw on deeper resources. Individuals and units with a heightened sense or advanced sensors could be allowed a check to observe those tendrils before the strike.

For wargaming, you could look at the 'compromised' idea from the GM substitute deck.

For tactical roleplaying, a noö-braner has no real lair, its treasure is the awareness - but could be the recognition of the awareness - and lots of rumours are already out there...