Apr 30, 2013

A Modest Proposal for an Indecent RPG, Part 2: Who Will You Be?

So. Last week I came out with an incomplete proposal for the kind of role-playing game I'd create. For the most part I listed a number of magical weapons you, the player, would have access to. Now I'm delving deeper. Behold, the first three character classes:

Deadlier than a hairdresser with a hard-on for Vladimir Putin.

Starting weapon: Scissors
Special attack: Close shave (25% chance to decapitate)
Pet/familiar: Baboon
Fetish: Blond enemies; gains +3 damage against them
Handicap: Bald enemies; -3 damage against them
Base Health: 50
Base Mana: 100

Drag Queen / Drag King
A creature beyond Horatio's dreams, surely.

Starting weapon: Spiked purse
Special attack: Razor hat throw (25% chance of bleedout) 
Pet/familiar: Leopard
Fetish: BDSM armor grants +2 health regeneration per second
Handicap: -5 damage against Raging Homophobes and Backwater Fundies
Base Health: 80
Base Mana: 40

White Knight
Protects the innocent from his own desires... until he doesn't.

Starting weapon: Rolled-up magazine
Special attack: Burst of indignation (Stuns any enemies in a six-foot radius)
Pet/familiar: Obese goldfish
Fetish: Damsels in distress; +15 XP (experience points) from all "rescue" missions
Handicap: -10 to armor and damage against Cynics and Stark Realists
Base Health: 100
Base Mana: 25

SOMETIME NEXT WEEK: Setting. Probably. I may end up describing spells, special attacks, or back story. I am, after all, making it up as I go along. 

Apr 29, 2013

You Know What Moves Faster than Light?

The Incomparable Merzbodau, tethered to Pluto by a sturdy spirit cord, received a distressing report from the planet with all the filthy biomass on it.

The pseudo-sentients had misspoken his name! And in a story, too. Merzbodau sent them a comet-warning; it crashed near Chelyabinsk, one of their hives.

We could pretend that's the Incomparable Merzbodau on the right, having just
finished an impromptu meal of methane cubes and silica. Or smoked a funny pipe.

The image above appears in the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the earliest printed books (in the West). The Chronicle receives its name from the German town of Nuremberg, where it was originally published in 1493. Hartmann Schedel, the author, was also a physician and historian, not to mention one of the first cartographers to rely on the printing press as a publishing method.

People saw comets as bad omens, signs of impending doom, heralds to the birth of monsters. 

Monsters like the Blackpudlian Car-tree.

Nobody knew where comets came from, much less what they were made of. Aristotle, for instance, claimed that certain drynesses gathered in the upper atmosphere and then exploded, giving rise to visible comets. Seneca the Younger observed that comets moved more regularly than, say, clouds -- the wind seemed to have no effect on them -- but Aristotle's view prevailed. Aristotle also believed that the sky was made of glass, crystal or some such thing. Because... because you can just make stuff up when everyone thinks you're wise.

It wasn't until the 16th century CE that observers established comets as celestial, rather than atmospheric phenomena.

And the answer to "You know what moves faster than light?" -- as far as the Incomparable Merzbodau is concerned, only one thing: "Reputation!"

Apr 26, 2013

A Modest Proposal for an Indecent RPG: Don't Play This in Public

I'm almost ashamed to confess that I spend way too much time playing games. I trawl the radioactive badlands for rocket fuel or go spelunking in ice caves to shoot at bat-faced elves and annoying blue gnomes; I carjack delivery vans to escape from police and rival gang members; or I talk a kid out of joining a crew of space mercenaries because I don't want him to get killed.

You get the idea. 

The more computer role-playing games you play, the more common features you see. Usable items, be they weapons, clothing, salves or food, all share a ubiquitous property: stats. Stats are modifiers, traits that give your character some advantage. There's basic damage, damage per second (DPS), and then special effects which alter gameplay to varying extents. These special or magical effects, depending on game flavor, usually get quantified and arranged in neat categories. 

Plenty of medievalist fantasy games offer flaming, freezing or shocking swords, for example. Exceptionally, you find items that provide more than special kinds of damage: Morrowind, third game in the Elder Scrolls series, had the "Boots of Blinding Speed," which allowed you to run a great deal faster, but the screen went dark when you ran.

To simplify matters, stats are usually presented as numbers -- say, the Measly Sword of Slicing would give +2 to your damage-dealing capacity, whereas the Toxic Spear of Puncturing might give you +20 damage and a 15% chance of food poisoning. Some stats augment skills your character already possesses; the flipside is that you don't usually gain a skill by owning a certain weapon or item. So the Leather Thongs of the Volcano, which boost fire mage spells, would prove quite useless to a Transvestite Assassin, whose main expertise lies in the field of concealed weapons, not fire magic skills.  

Developing an RPG is a daunting task, one that I haven't launched into just yet. But I have a few ideas for the kind of RPG I'd create. It would feature the following weapons:

Apr 25, 2013

Turn Your Back on Midnight

I ate my wife so the Owners couldn't. Packed my things in a bundle after dark -- knife, bread crust, some rope. Malver says there's no place the Owners don't control, but Malver is a fool and I'm gonna prove him wrong. Can't stay here anyway, after what I did.

Staple Tor
photo by Alex Nail

Apr 24, 2013

Can't Talk Right Now, My Mouth is Full of Bees

Zedward Cripes named his twin daughters Perfidy and Treachery, so everyone would know not to mess with them. They ate poison ivy for breakfast, hunted toxic fangmonkeys for dinner, and didn't even learn of hot showers until the age of 16. That was a fateful year; exposure to hot water gave them ideas. So they set out into the stinkwoods to find worthy mates.

Forest Kingdom
by Jonathan Bergeron

Imagine, if you like, that Perfidy and Treachery grew up so hardy and robust that, the last time one of them sneezed, she sneezed out a meteor. This meteor then crashed on Earth and created the Kebira crater.

Satellite image of Kebira crater
via Wikipedia. Click to enlarge.

Need a shot in the arm? Just read the rest of this comic about the Procrastination Monks:

Apr 19, 2013

Prepare to Meet Your Sugary Doom

To think that I, the Great Candiculator! I! Must pretend to go about in fancy dress among human chattel. My appearance amuses them... Ha. Let's see them laugh when I marshmallow their whole planet! 

Michelin Men in the early 1900s. One of them is not in costume.

The Michelin Man's real name is Bibendum, from the Latin slogan Nunc est bibendum, "Now is the time to drink." Marius Rossillon, best known as O'Galop, created the figure for a brewery, but it was rejected. The Michelin brothers gladly took Bibendum and used him for their own ad campaigns.

How to destroy the earth - For the super-villain in you.
The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot - Hero management, evil scheming & stronghold design tips for smart cosmic tyrants.
Bibendum at Wikipedia

This post is brought to you by the Antarctic Icefish, terror of the southern seas.
photo by Uwe Kils

Apr 18, 2013

Eenie Meenie Miney Splat, or, Icarus Redux

I should have passed on the chronic before I jumped from the cliff. The landscape moves for me. My name is Bird of the Absolute! The sun rises and bathes the valley because I say so. Wow. Nobody ever told me the wind's made of cold needles. Billions of them.

Zooming around in a wing suit strikes me as an extremely manly thing to do. Even manlier than having someone shave you with an axe.

via vintage everyday

I once knew an Air Force Major who said stuff like "A man's man doesn't eat honey. HE EATS BEES." But then, here's a girl tempting the jaws of fate. Ultimately, your gonads don't matter. A friend once remarked to me that "My girlfriend is more of a man than I am."

Uh, I'm pretty sure you ought to wear safety goggles

In life, as in writing, you don't get to the best parts unless you grab a gator by the tail every now and then. Start with a tiny one and work your way up.

Sendoff: 27 wacky ways to beat writer's block.

Apr 17, 2013

When Euclid Brought Marbles to a Chess Game

Something exciting and possibly dangerous is about to happen. Character knows this is the first step on a journey of a thousand miles, one that will change his or her life forever.

Character studies a glowing selection panel. Male, female, or both? Which of the options truly speaks to Character?

Model and erstwhile actor Jaye Davidson. I first saw him as Ra in Stargate (1994).

Imagine reality as a game so perfect and engrossing, so complete in every detail, that you can't tell the game from its infrastructure. You forget you're in a game. Now imagine someone who can exist in a state of latency, a non-space outside the game, where time and other properties of the universe we know do not apply. 

Either P.D. Ouspensky or Gurdjieff described Eternity as "perpendicular to time". Picture someone with the ability to page through time as if it were a catalog, and enter reality/space-time at the moment of their choice. 

We already do that when we play video games. The Oculus Rift, and similar virtual reality devices, herald an age of nested realities: simulations within simulations, reality as matryoshka. And we may eventually gain the ability to construct private, password-protected realities to escape the vast, daunting metafiction of the collective mind. Perhaps we already exist in one such reality.

One of many lovely mandalas by Jim Gogarty.

The Egyptian god Ra, a hawk-god who symbolized the sun, was eventually amalgamated, or syncretized with Amon as Amon Ra. Egyptians called Amon The Hidden One. Amon appears depicted as sun disk, hawk and ram, but never as an anthropomorphic figure. It is said that even the gods didn't know Amon's true face.

Apr 12, 2013

Beyond Binary Lies Freedom

My wheat won't grow. Come harvest time the stalks will sway in the wind and then the rain will make it rot before it ripens. The family won't have anything to trade.

Damn simulator. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were cheating. Sabotaging my efforts.

Here's a question: Could a self-aware AI knowingly and voluntarily harm itself in order to cause harm to a third party?

Apr 10, 2013

A Hundred Fires Will Not Keep You Warm

Clutching a bottle of Mad Dog, Oscar Cienfuegos looked for a subway entrance that shouldn't be there. He was in the wrong town. Perhaps the wrong planet. Oscar stood under a streetlamp and held the bottle up to the light. The label had changed.

The Town of Thoughts
by Marija Tiurina

Apr 8, 2013

The Hidden Library of Stereotypes

The Human Echoes Podcast is running a flash-fic challenge based on my prompt, The Time-Traveling Hacker's LamentEnter for a chance to win $10 and have your story read on the podcast! Go.

Dimmesdale approached the receptionist with an inverted grin.
"What's up, Dim?" the receptionist asked.
"Uh, give me a Model A2," said Dimmesdale.
"Bigfoot duty again today?"
"Yeah," said Dimmesdale, "someone's got to keep the legend alive and all that."
"Good luck out there, Dim."

Fate Magazine. Keeping legends alive since 1948.
Or debunking them, as the case may be.

I got my title from a scriptLab review of Morning Glory, Stereotypes at their Most Boring.

I'm also pleased to announce that one of my favorite bloggers, James Killick, has restarted his blog with a provocative little piece: Is Craft Killing your Creativity?

Apr 5, 2013

Small Fists, Big Heart

The Human Echoes Podcast is running a flash-fic challenge based on my prompt, The Time-Traveling Hacker's Lament. Enter for a chance to win $10 and have your story read on the podcast! Go.


Pelicans are assholes.
Jarn came up with the best plan a 9-year-old could conceive: He would kill the Tax Pelican and retrieve all the money in its brass belly.
"You can't kill the Pelican," said Grandfather.
"That I can," said Jarn, brandishing his wooden sword.
"The Pelican is a machine," Grandfather said.

Apr 3, 2013

Greetings from Planet Urf

The remains of the SS Ayrfield in Homebush Bay, Australia
by Jason Baker

via BuzzFeed: The 33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World

By sunset they came to the husk, the promised ship of salvation, gnawed by the sun. The priest stopped and faced his three daughters, Yrma, Ysabel and Ysolde, why, why, why: And their eyes were empty of questions.
“It must be the wrong ship,” he said. “We’ll keep looking.”