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.

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...