Friday, 25 October 2013

Cthulhu waits dreaming... of Cthulhette?

Go read this. It's light on detail for a science bit, but oddly Cthulhic. There's more on midshipmen here - look at the relationships to our physiology.

A few passages for the essence of the thing:

A mysterious hum has been keeping people in Hampshire awake all night ...
Male Midshipman fish let out a deep, resonating drone which attracts females and acts as a challenge to other males. ... once they get going can keep up the distracting hum all night. 
... the noise created by the Midshipman is of such a low frequency and long wavelength that it can carry through the ground, walls ...
... "I thought I was going mad at first. ..."

The question then: what else might be disturbing our sleep we don't yet know about..?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Review - Stalker

I don't do enough reviews these days so I've decided to post my thoughts on intriguing things as I find or revisit them. Anything relevant to the blog that seems worth looking at.

Here's a classic to start. Incredibly, John Till at Fate SF just posted his own review of it.

Stalker (1979)

A film adaptation of a Russian SF novel, Roadside Picnic; directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

One man leads two others into a mysterious, militarily quarantined Zone - an overgrown ruined landscape, possibly struck by a meteorite, possibly the site of an extraterrestrial stopover, a form of roadside picnic - hoping to reach a chamber believed to grant wishes.

This is one of the most old school D&D films I've seen, without being related to D&D in any overt way, and it has a rich, dense terrain that might surprise and inspire wargamers too. The central location - the landscape of the Zone - is arguably at the heart of the film.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Wolf tickets and pack tactics, and man's best friend

A fairly well-known blogger who withdrew from the online community after a problematic Kickstarter has started posting again. Not everyone seems to have noticed yet. Those that have noticed seem divided, and some seem to think it inappropriate he's back at all.

I'm not going to defend what happened, partly because I don't know all the details - and who does? - partly because a solution was found to move the project forward regardless.

But precisely because none of us do know all about it, and because rumour can take on a life of its own, and because the herd mentalities are still a factor in human behaviour, even ours, I would say we should slow down. I'd guess most of us agree that legitimate criticism is reasonable, even healthy, but witch hunts aren't. In our hobby, we know that.

It's not just a bit of harmless fun either. Gaming seems to be a big part of the life of this person and has been a source of income in the past, possibly a major source. If we do stigmatise now, we may even prevent him earning a living in the only way he readily can.

Gaming is no totalitarian system. Ever heard of the wolf ticket? We don't have the right to judge who eats. If you're not ready to forgive yet, or just won't give a second chance full stop, don't read his posts or buy any of his products. Just step back: live and let live.

The same with Mike Nystul. He's not a punchbag. Maybe he messed up, but he could well be homeless now. How long should he suffer? And who decides? If we don't know the whole story, we can't be sure it won't one day happen to us, despite best intentions.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Deep thought Friday

Resolving line of sight through areas like forest is a challenge in tabletop gaming. Trees? Or wood?

Heard of mycorrhizas? Turns out most plants are bonded at their root
with a fungus, symbiotically. The fungus sends minerals up from the earth; the leaves send sugars down. Can these be divided?

We thought a tree was a tree - now we know it's more. But we still say 'tree', as if it's one, alone. How much interconnection does language hide..?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Choose-your-own-annihilation and cheese with peas

Pegboard left an interesting comment at Faeit 212 yesterday. Here's the essential part:

Tzeentch book has a table on every page. You start by rolling a d6 per page number and comparing it to the table. Your army then takes that many hits. Your opponent gets that many models back. If you roll an even number, you go back a page, odd, forward a page, roll more dice and then your opponent gets the special rules haywire and feel no pain.

It's a joke of course, presumably aimed at GW and a certain thinking on randomness and fun, but there's a radically conservative idea in there. Wargaming and roleplaying have long used tables for resolution, but they've fallen out of favour in the mainstream even if a business model based on large books of rules hasn't. Games like DCC still get good mileage, and there are the funky system-neutral tables at the The Dungeon Dozen.

Imagine this: a choose-your-own-adventure-style book of tables for use at the table, for gaming without randomisers like dice, but with more potential effects and less linearity, at least as many outcomes as table entries. Choose your action, check for contexts and apply the results, maybe jump. But not Student's-t-like distributions: there could be nested tables, option trees and 2D or 3D charts, even close-the-eyes-and-point pictures.