Saturday, June 8, 2019

Autopsy Report on an Equine Cadaver

On my last post, someone asks:

I'm curious, as I wasn't around back then- what happened in 2013 that makes you consider that about the time that the OSR died?

I peg it at 2013 because of a number of trends, most of which intersect with the mass movement to G+ space (and the forced integration of G+ and blogger) by OSR participants. 

1. Blogs.
The rate of blogging was falling dramatically in favour of G+ posting. And, by this time, many core OSR blogs and their associated communities, and blogs as a means of communicating between bloggers, had either stopped (a la Grognardia in 2012) or disappeared (a la Eiglophean Press in the late Triassic). The ones that kept posting tended to degenerate into clickbaity content-grinding (like endless d100 tables du jour or Zak’s Fiend Folio bullshit). This is partially driven by…

2. Monetization. While other people (cough Evan cough) have strong feelings on the aesthetics of the monetization of OSR blog material, I don’t really have a problem with it, but the move from posting, discussion and criticism to aggregating, publishing, and promoting dramatically changed the tone and quality of OSR discourse. Around 2013 "OSR" became a promotional term to stick on your PDF or KS to sell to the preexisting audience of blog-readers.

For one thing, tons of people seemed to shift into Consumer Mode at the drop of a hat, even when it was at odds to the very point of the shit they were reading up to that point. The central event here is everyone getting their jimmies rustled for a Dwimmermount book, despite Maliszewski specifically saying that a published megadungeons are bound to disappoint. And then when real life intruded on the (too optimistic) KS schedule, some people started flipping out and shitting on Maliszewski personally. Then someone started bitching about round numbers of coins in rooms, proving Maliszewski right… 

You can call someone’s blog post crap (and explain why) and still be friends or respected colleagues; but doing a bad review of their product (and explaining why it is) takes money (theoretically) out of their hands, hanging a sword of Damocles over presenting anyone’s real thoughts about anything publicly. And the OSR was never And people care about this more because…

3. Socialization. The faster pace of G+ commenting and the face-to-face communication of ConstantCon exposed much of the community to much more intimate scrutiny of itself than before, stripping away the emotional distance of blogging and replacing it with the awkwardness of actual speech. By 2013, what previously had been a community linked primarily by blogrolls had become more discrete sub-communities based around playing in weekly games with mostly consistent player-bases, which sorted themselves according to subsets of interests, personalities, and politics. Ideas which previously were written up in blog posts become bullshit you said at 2am to 1d6 randos across the globe. 

4. Politics. (All kinds).
With exposure to more people in more frequent and intimate ways, things about each participant in the community that never really came up in (most) blogs started to become obvious to the other participants, and around this point most people started dissociating themselves with large sections of the community based around political views — both ‘regular’ politics and internal scene politics. (I had a list of examples here, but it infuriates me still to recount them, so I will leave them mouldering in G+'s grave.) A year later, the intersection of external politics, internal politics, and another scene's internal politics gave rise to greater actual stakes for all of it. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The OSR Is A Dead Horse

The OSR as a single, coherent community died around 2013. It was never a coherent philosophy or genre. "OSR" is now a meaningless brand identity, like "green" or whatever. Any communities that exist now are not OSR, but post-OSR, and if the members of any such post-OSR communities participated in the OSR before it died they, generally speaking, hate large swathes of the rest of the former OSR community. If they don't, they weren't there, like the reverse of Woodstock except in this metaphor there was no Woodstock, just Altamont.

Any attempts to "rename" the "OSR" is missing the point. Either it's trying to find a new brand identity to grind into the dust of meaninglessness, or just trying to ride a dead horse.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Caves of Chaos Restock — Part One: Everything (Part Two)

This is the second half of our first step in restocking the Caves of Chaos. You can read the first half here.

Last time, we established who or what built, used, and inhabited it in the past. Now, we begin to establish who or what inhabits it now.

Again, we want to preserve the basic point of the Caves, where the players explore the territory of a variety of foes, some of which are allied with the inhabitants of other caves, and which present a variety of challenges to the players.

Using the Red Box monster list as a suggestion, and guided by the previously-established history, I've started to flesh out the inhabitants at the most basic level:
  • A - Fungi/Giant Bugs
  • B - Ghouls
  • C - Goblins
  • D - Goblins
  • E - Special
  • F - Orcs
  • G - Special
  • H - Wizard and Minions
  • I - Oozes
  • J - Cultists
  • K - Elves

I've chosen this mix to include both "regular" humanoids, undead, wildlife, and a couple of "specials." This should make some of the areas of the cave both feel different and present different kinds of challenges to the PCs.

In order to underline and complicate these differences, i'm also going to relate certain caves to each other factionally. These relationships will be more obvious than in the original version, and hopefully offer more choices to the PC when it comes to allies of convenience or sources of information. These faction-relationship will form the other half of the 'story' of the dungeon as it changes in response to PC actions.

Each faction is first formed by connecting areas to each other:

A - Fungi/Giant Bugs - Purple B - Ghouls - Orange C - Goblins - Green D - Goblins - Purple E - Special - None F - Orcs - Orange G - Special - None H - Wizard and Minions - Green I - Oozes - None J - Cultists - Orange K - Elves - Purple

This provides us with the following factions and sub-factions.

  • Faction One (areas K, D, A): The elves, goblins, and their fungi
  • Faction Two (areas J, F, B): The cult of Orcus, the orcs, and ghouls - J, F, B
  • Faction Three (areas H, C): The wizard and goblin minions - H, C
  • Faction Four (area E): Special
  • Faction Five (area G): Special
  • Faction Six (area I): Oozes

With these relationships in mind, we can also start to flesh out our ideas about what each group is like. I’m going to start just with an evocative name that suggests evocative imagery:

  • A - Fungus Garden
  • B - Shadow Ghouls
  • C - Clan of the Pallid Eye
  • D - Redcaps Clan
  • E - “Ghosts”
  • F - Bonesplinter Cadre
  • G - Aged Lamia
  • H - Arch-inquisitor of the Pallid Eye
  • I - Pit of the Oozes
  • J - Cult of Orcus
  • K - Deep Elves

These links will, of course, change over time. Most obviously if one part is wiped out, but also in response to stress or the movement of other factions or other unusual circumstances. If the goblin chief is killed, perhaps the remainder may ally with the other goblins instead of remain loyal otherwise. The wizard may cut a deal with new groups to serve his ends. Oozes might feed on carrion left in an emptied area and colonize it as well. Et cetera.

Next time we'll start stocking the caves themselves, starting with... outside the caves.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Jump Drives in Traveller - An Illumination

This post grew out of discussion with certain others about handwavium technologies in RPGs, with a specific focus on interstellar travel constraints in Traveller. As someone who is always interested in how genre constraints are perceived in-character by PCs, and who was weaned on robust technobabble, I wanted to try to address the operation of the default Traveller jump drive. This is written without reference to OTU assumptions, working mostly from the relevant pages of the LBBs. 

If anyone has any critiques of this description in relation to the mechanics of the LBB jump drive, let me know in the comments.

When activated, the jump drive produces a bubble of ‘realspace’ within jumpspace, and in forming the bubble imparts to it the mathematical equivalent of a ’ballistic trajectory’ in reference to realspace-jumpspace coordinate correlations. By way of analogy, the jump drive is like a nuclear pulse rocket, using a single release of energy to lift off from the surface of a planet. Following this analogy, the fuel consumption and gravity-well distance is the minimum necessary to achieve realspatial ‘escape velocity’ for the jump-bubble. Because the formation of the jump-bubble occurs while the ship is in reference to realspatial coordinates, the course must be plotted before the activation of the jump-drive. No means of affecting the trajectory of the jump-bubble from inside, once created, is known, although research continues. (This may have something to do with causal issues related to the realtemporal-jumpspatial issues described below.) A major part of the trajectory calculation requires the jump-bubble’s surface to collapse, ‘re-entering’ realspace, in relation to the energetic level of the bubble at the moment of intersecting with gravitational warping of jumpspace — hence the ‘empty space problem’ of navigating without relation to gravity wells, and the requirement to climb out of a gravity well to form a jump-bubble.

The bubble’s extent in realspatial dimensions is related to ship size, but jump-capable ships currently require a minimum of 100 tons of displacement (although this is likely to be a constraint of power and fuel needs in relation to materials engineering rather than jumpspatial physics). The bubble’s minimum extent in realtemporal dimensions is subjectively between 150 and 185 hours (approximately 605 000 seconds, on average). The temporal size of the bubble appears to be related to the minimum density for realspace bubbles within a jumpspace ‘medium’; decreasing subjective jump time would require a method of adjusting realtemporal density without risking the bubble’s jumpspatial surface tension. (Given the time spent in the jumpspace bubble during a misjump, it is possible there’s an inverse relationship to realtemporal ‘density’ and jump-bubble surface tension.) It’s often assumed that the time spent in jumpspace also corresponds to travel time ‘within’ jumpspace, but the lack of ability to perceive jumpspace except as a theoretical mathematical construct means that this is likely to be a mere projection of sophont realspatial assumptions.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Aglaeca Stalks Again

Buried under fields, entombed in roots, or burbling under marshes, lurks the aglæca...
A new creature for your D100 or GUMSHOE-based horror mystery RPGs. The Aglæca is a beast out of the mists of folk-legends and grandam's fireside tales, an eater of children and king of the wastes. 

This PDF includes:
  • Stats for the Aglæca for both percentile-based RPGs and the GUMSHOE system. 
  • Variations and echoes on what the Aglæca is and where it comes from, and scenario seeds for placing it in your game.

The Aglæca has been revised and rereleased on RPGnow/DriveThruRPG as a pdf.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Caves of Chaos Restock — Part One: Everything (Part One)

To begin, we have to establish two sets of facts about the Caves: 1. Who or what built, used, and inhabited it in the past, and 2. Who or what inhabits it now.

To preserve the central premise of the Caves, I'll continue to assign each area to different, mostly-mutually-hostile factions. This both produces variety, and explains why there isn't an effective defense against PC incursions into the Caves.

Some of the history should tie into why the current inhabitants are there, but some should be new arrivals as well, and each faction requires some sort of goal that they purse in the Caves. 

History of the Caves
For this exercise, let us assume a world that is broadly the same as the Red Box presents it — there is a human civilisation, somewhere, but it is not here. Elves, dwarves, et cetera live in small clans and  feud amongst and between themselves. Orcs and goblins are less friendly than the elves and dwarves, but possess their own societies as well. This should inform the situation locally, in the Caves.

To start with, let's say the Caves were built by elves, the oldest civilisation. Their original purpose were as tombs, rock-cut tombs set into an old gully. Because the exterior of the Caves are somewhat nondescript and a little boring, let's add some sort of fantastic detail to liven it up and try to communicate the idea that it was created by elves: the stump of a giant, petrified tree at the top of the gully (roughly above area XX). Petrified roots stretch across the sides of the gully, and the doors to each area are built into the negative spaces. The doors of each area are carven trilithons. This might mean that the first chambers of each area are the oldest, although the shape of most of the Caves (especially the north and south areas) implies whole sections were constructed at once. Conversely, Areas I and X might never have been deliberately excavated at all.

The monumental nature of the tombs implies that they were made for important people, and perhaps to commemorate those who died in some monumental battle or from some notable dynasty. We can put aside the specifics thereof until later, but we should keep that in mind while stocking decorative elements and specials.

To fill in the history of the Caves, post-construction, we'll layer on strata of occupiers, each having put their own mark on the complex. I'll leave aside describing the process of brainstorming these specifics, but in general I want a history of conflict and different reasons for occupation, in order to create the groundwork for justifying different factional interests in the Caves:

The Caves were first excavated by elves as a tomb complex. Later, they were occupied by a cadre of dwarves, who defiled and expanded them during their ancient wars with the elves and goblins. The dwarves, too, were killed and driven out by orcs and goblins, who then occupied the caves before being driven out by other clans. The Caves exchanged hands many times in the long, dark ages since then. The death-energies of the place attracted undead, diabolists and necromancers, but their hold on the Caves have been broken by the recent return of a secretive elven cabal. 

Next time, we'll figure out the large-scale question of who's in what area of the Caves, and how those areas interrelate with each other. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Random Vessel Generator

This is a sequel post to the Random Colony Generator from way back in 2012.

[A] [B] [C], troubled by [D].

A — condition
1: sleek and brand-new
2: well-maintained
3: beat-up and rugged but functional
4: ramshackle
5: broken (roll twice on Trouble table)
6: fragmented (roll 1d6 for number of pieces, roll on the trouble table for each section)

B — Size
1: Up to 20m (Examples: Soyuz capsule, Huey helicopter, Spacelab)
2: 20m to 50m (Examples: C-130 Hercules, Space shuttle orbiter)
3: 50m to 100m (Examples: C-5 Galaxy, Boeing 747, Antonov AN-225 Mriya)
4: 100m to 200m (Examples: International Space Station)
5: 200m to 500m (Examples: Nimitz-class aircraft carrier)
6: 500m or more (Examples: Burj Khalifa hotel)

C — Type 
1: Space Survey (Examples: astronomical surveyor, space anomaly investigation, navy scout ship)
2: Planetary Survey (Examples: terraforming surveyor, prospector, biological surveyor, xenoarchaeological excavation, army scout ship)
3: Passenger transport (Examples: liner, colony ship, refugee transport, snakehead smuggling ship)
4: Freighter (Examples: courier, free trader, bulk freighter)
5: Military (Examples: patrol ship, search-and-rescue vessel, weapons platform, drone carrier, assault craft)
6: Station (Examples: refueling station, trading post, communications relay, defensive outpost, navigational buoy, sensor array, orbital habitat)

D — Trouble
1: Lack of resources. (Examples: leak in fuel, fuel made useless through radiation or contamination, trapped in an area where solar power or other resource cannot be gathered)
2: Control system failure. (Examples: computer malfunction, navigational malfunction, remote-operation input malfunction)
3: Power failure. (Examples: power generator failure, engine failure)
4: Life-support failure. (Examples: cryotubes killing crew, cryotubes not opening on time, atmospheric integrity loss, failure of quarantine procedures)
5: Primary mission system failure. (Examples: weapon system failures on a military ship, sensor system failures on a deep space probe, cargo containment failures on a freighter)
6: “Nothing.” (Or, roll again for incipient failure, or roll on the Black Stars Hang trouble chart)

Autopsy Report on an Equine Cadaver

On my last post, someone asks: I'm curious, as I wasn't around back then- what happened in 2013 that makes you consider that...