Saturday, May 29, 2010

Four More Links to Useful/Cool Blogs

NOD #1 is now available for free (as a .PDF) from the Land of Nod blog which you can find here.  It's nearly a hundred pages of OD&D goodness that is well worth your taking a look.  Maybe it will eventually be available in-print like through Lulu or Magcloud one of these days.  It's good stuff.

A truly wonderful resource for Sci-Fi gaming, especially using the excellent X-Plorers RPG, is the EXONAUTS! blog.  I especially liked the Random Space Finds entries and the recent Galactic Outfitters Sale on Megafauna Wetwire Packages post.  That was priceless!

Another excellent Resource-Style blog that I recently discovered during a bit of surfage is Threads of Adventure, which caught my eye with the 50+ Ways To Die In A Cave post.  There are a blue million resources (give or take a few), ideas and other stuff to keep you busy once you start reading this blog, so better plan to set a little time aside to really dig into it all.  And the author is another fellow fan of Archaeology Magazine.  Very cool.  Very worthwhile.

Telecanter's Receding Rules is still one of my Top Five OSR Blogs to read, mostly because Telecanter almost always manages to locate a bunch of resources, images or other stuff that dove-tail beautifully with some of my on-going projects, but they're usually something other than what I already have on-hand, so it's amazingly useful, inspiring and a lot of fun to see what all else they post.  The recent Public Domain Images post is a very good companion-piece to my own previous Public Domain References post, they're like book-ends after a fashion.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Trisectivore Chitinopods

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and oyu can find it here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twelve Madonnas of Devukarsha

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where No One Has Gone Yet

Whenever or wherever in my work for Riskail (or one of the other, related settings) it says the words: "...no one has ever returned," "...no one really knows...", "...there are no records of such a thing..." and so on and so forth, that is a Direct and Overt challenge to any would-be adventurers or players.  These instances are hanging there like golden apples, waiting to be plucked.  In the background you can almost hear the Shatner-esque whisper; YOU could be the one to accomplish this heroic task, YOU could find out something that no one else knows, or YOU could be the one to make a connection that no one else has -- thus making the character(s) and their actions both relevant to the established setting and giving the player(s) a good shot at pulling off something ground-breaking, awe-inspiring, unique and potentially quite disruptive of the status quo.  It is important to empower players and that comes through challenging their characters in ways that give them opportunities that they might not have ever considered or even imagined previous to their getting involved and enmeshed with the setting, the other players, the game itself.  A good example of this in Riskail would be the whole taking an expedition upriver along the Siret-Nile to find Old Earth, which no one in their right mind would ever attempt and all the media say is stupid, pointless and absurd.  Right.  That's exactly why a group of player characters would do just such a thing.  It's too good a challenge to not do it and damn the consequences, plague-barges and all.

A setting that cannot accomodate the sorts of changes wrought by player characters is too fragile to waste time on, and is worthless as a source of fiction, as far as I am concerned...but that is a personal opinion and of course you are free to disagree or see it differently.  I'm just explaining some of the behind-the-curtains thinking that goes into my own work both in terms of fiction and gaming.  When the local inn burns down because of a bar-fight that got incredibly out of hand, then it burns down and we deal with it.  Even medieval cities had some means of handling fires, Rome had to handle urban fires, it's not rocket science.  The fire gets dealt with, put out or it rages on and the whole, place goes up like Chicago once did, Frisco once did, London once did or perhaps even someplace in your world, your setting.

Yes, there are consequences to your decisions.  Duh.  What makes things interesting in an RPG or novel or short-story is how the charcters deal with the consequences of their actions, and other people's decisions as well.  These things do not have to take away anything that they don't otherwise replace with something potentially better or more interesting.  They are opportunities.  Challenges.  Your turn to ante up.

One of the blog authors I've only recently discovered, thanks to Blair over at Planet Algol again, has stated things really, really well, so I'm quoting them here:

"...if you really consider your character very valuable and worthy of the emotional investment you placed upon him, then it is your duty to play excellently, whereby ensuring that a single die roll does not result in the death of the character; that the fate of your character does not purely rely upon the scales of fortune or the outcome of a single die roll...."
- Spielmaster/Under A Blood Red Sky
Well said sir!  There really is no substitute for playing excellently.  Role-playing enables a form of safe and fun transgressiveness that certainly beats the hell out of running around with a loaded hand gun in the midst of a crowd while doing your best impersonation of a young and naieve would-be Andre Breton clone.  You get to do stuff that you would never -- could never -- do in actual day-to-day existence.  I shouldn't even have to say such a thing, but for all its obvious-ness, it gets overlooked way too often.  And I don't mean the powers and crap, I mean the simple matter of just doing things.  Maintaining the status quo is not exactly the height of role-playing, even if you use the wonky Alignment stuff that got tacked on to OD&D.  Even Lawful types are supposed to be out smiting evil, saving those in peril, etc.

Player timidity really gripes me.  I've run games for a variety of groups and in a number of environments and the number one way to really kill the fun is to have some player who just sits there like a lump.  More often than not the new players, those just getting going for the first time ever have a blast and really get into things.  But you do get the occasional chair-slug who acts as if it is all a spectator sport for their viewing pleasure.  I absolutely detest this.  To me the whole reason we're at the bloody table in the first place is to participate and interact.  Role-playing is built upon the core premise of social interaction.  I don't have a problem with observers or even the occasional kibutzer, but someone sitting in a chair at the table with a character sheet in-hand is expected to participate.  Maybe that's not the common perception, but it is how I see things.

As I see it, players should be there to play.  If it's an off-night or whatever, then excuse yourself.  Put on the J.A.F.O. hat and sit back and watch by all means, but don't throw your character into the mix just to coast along.  That sucks and it's unfair to the other players and the DM as well.

Characters are supposed to take risks.  This is why they are called adventurers.  All the super powers, Xena-level feats, or Indiana Jones' skills in the world don't mean crap unless you take a few chances and actually do someting.  Anything.  Just make the attempt.  All you have to lose are some abstract points recorded on a piece of paper or maybe you'll need to pay a fine and get your clone released from some holding facility.  Or you make a new character.  So what?  If you are so attached to a made-up character that has no existence outside of the gaming table that you cannot bear to do anything that might jeopardize that character's non-existence, it's time to set the dice down, move away from the table and go for a long, quiet walk out in the country.

It's not just players that have to take risks.  DMs/GMs and authors have to take risks as well.  My favorite example of this is the random table-pocalypse from Planet Algol where Blair used a random table and got one of his cities slagged with a "A terrible howling storm of acid and radiation lashes the land driving all into shelters where they must contend with cannibalistic madness." Ouch.  Instead of punking-out and fudging the results, he rolled with it and the city got trashed.  Hard.  You can read the post that details the event here. That took guts and it's exactly the sort of risk-taking on the part of a DM or writer that I really respect and hope to emulate when it's my turn at the table.

A living setting can accomodate change.  A museum-piece relic of days gone by can't.  Most of our settings are not museum-quality, at least not yet, and of those most likely to get that distinction any time soon. Barker's Tekumel handles the matter of changes wrought by player characters in its own ingenius ways, most often by swallowing-up the net effect under the accumulated cultural inertia of the civilization within which the players operate.  Tekumel has its own immune system in place in the form of the Concordat, the O.A.L. and other features all cleverly arranged so that no matter how off-the-wall your characters get, the world will keep on turning (machines handle that), and the inevitable tide of progress will continue to come in slowly, sedately and with a large retinue of appropriately attired attendants.  If you could really change anything on a core level with Tekumel you'd destroy everything that makes it unique.  If you change anything on a non-core level, it can handle it and respond in a hundred different ways that you might not have expected.  Telepathic secret police, immortal sorcerers, living gods...there are Vested Interests in that world whom it is unwise and often unsafe to attract the attention of or to make into an enemy.  But it does ramp-up the story-line and the tension/drama quite a bit, so it's exactly the path to take, especially if you serve a deity of Change.  The safe guards and protocols are for lesser beings, they are only suggestions and challenges, even opportunities to player characters.  Even on Tekumel.

The capability of players to shake things up from the consequences of their actions is integral to the way I prefer to handle all my settings.  Every repercussion that ripples outwards from a player's decisions or a character's actions is an opportunity for their interaction with the setting both in terms of making a memorable contribution and in playing a pivotal role in its ongoing transformation.  Players can be incredible agents of change who breathe life into a setting.  I rarely develop plot-lines for adventures, as plots tend to accumulate around good players like bodies at the feet of a raging librarian in full battle frenzy.  There is no need for arbitrary over-arching plots or creativity-killing plot-devices when the setting is already a collection of moving parts and the players start figuring out how to negotiate their way through this new environment.  Every time they interact with a personality, encounter a creature, cross paths with some faction or just walk around a neighborhood they don't belong in -- those things lead to an ever-increasing set of ripples that draw a bit more boldness into the previously sketchy lines, and it bumps up the color threshold of an otherwise potentially lackluster scene that goes from being a one-off to becoming something that has relevance and resonance for the players.  The outre and the bizarre become known quantities.  The weirdness becomes part of the background and a baseline of perceived normality sifts into a comfortable configuration based upon accumulated experience, lessons learned, and the ongoing interaction and dialogue the players have with each other, the setting and the other aspects/inhabitants of that setting.

As in life, so in RPGs; you find your way.  You come to terms with the outrageous crap of an RPG setting just like you come to terms with the outrageous crap in the Real World (tm) like the massive amounts of toxins swarming through all of us thanks to insane industrial processes that spew things like cadmium into our drinking water and imported costume-jewelry.  You figure out how to deal with the technology (no matter how advanced) like anyone else; either ask for help, beat it against the nearest rock until it submits or you ask a 6-year old.  You pull on your big boy (or girl) pants, suck it up and deal with it.  Or at least your character does.  If you can learn anything from role-playing it is that it can sometimes work out really well when you take a risk, and if you never take a risk, nothing exceptional is likely to ever happen to you one way or another.  It seems a waste of time to roll up a character to play act at mediocrity, doesn't it?  Why not try going out there past where everyone else has already been and taking a look around?  Why not be adventurous with your characters?

Three-Lobed Burning Eye

The newest issue of Three-lobed Burning Eye is now online. Issue #19 features new stories by Georgina Bruce, Jessica Reisman, Adam Browne, J M McDermott, Cheryl W. Ruggiero, and Ferrett Steinmetz.  This is a very nicely done online speculative fiction magazine that I recommend to you folks who are keeping up with Riskail.  I particularly enjoyed Ferrett Steinmetz' story in this latest issue.  Absolutely the right kind of weirdness.  Though the rain of eyeballs was a bit sticky and a bother to clean up after.
All the stories in Three-Lobed Burning Eye are free online.  And they maintain an online archive of all their back-issues, so if you've missed-out on this 'zine previously and would like to see what all they've done in the recent geological past, it's as easy as clicking on a few links.
They also have a printed edition of their Annual Anthology on sale.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Twelve Bleak Worlds

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Four (6?) Fun-to-Read Blogs

Beyond the Black Gate is one of the blogs that I truly look forward to reading.  The author has now compiled an index of all of his rather extensive and very informative articles on Megadungeons to make this high-quality stuff more accessible.  Here's hoping that he does a PDF compilation of all of this ultra-good stuff!

Mandragora is another blog that I've only just discovered from a recommendation at another blog, it's by an old-school veteran returned to the scene and it's well worth a visit.

I'm also a big fan of Warlord Wednesdays over at The Sorcerer's Skull.  If you remember Mike Grell's sword & sorcery comic-epic, check it out.

Last, but not least by any means, is Vaults of Nagoh, a fellow-traveler in weirdness and post-singularity outre ideologies certain to make the average iconoclast quake in their boots.

And yes, Planet Algol & Bite the Bulette are right at the top of my list of personal favorites.  I just wanted to plug a few others this time around.

Motivational Dysfunctions

I recently re-discovered all the notes, cards, maps and what-not that we (my wife/partner and I) cobbled together for A Dirty Little Job, one of the scenarios we ran at a local gaming convention a while back.  We've run some version of this particular scenario five or six times now and it has always been a blast.  The players are a bunch of rag-tag ruffians, drifters, and cast-offs from the dregs of society who've been conscripted and sent off on a suicide mission for some megalomaniacal despot who disavows all knowledge of their very existence.  The group is intended to be their own worst enemies.  Instead of a scenario where in-party squabbling wrecks everything, this scenario was set-up from the very beginning to be all about the player-characters having feuds, grudges, even outright contracts to 'dispose' of other player characters.  It has been a lot of fun to run, and the players have always responded pretty positively...after the session was over...and they put down the dice and cards.  It can be quite liberating to play a character that you are given carte blanche to go as over the top as you can manage, swing for the trees, and are supposed to be messing with each other from the start.  The scenario is set up in such a way that there are all sorts of opportunities for skullduggery and mischief and it hasn't misfired yet, thanks to the quality players we've been able to attract.

One of the things that we did to help things along with ADLJ was to print out a set of Motivational Dysfunction cards that each character was able to roll for or pick from the pile.  We had each of these Motivational Dysfunctions printed-out on a little card (we used the Avery business card sheets run through an inkjet printer). Players could either roll a D20 or pick a card. Then they decided whether they wanted to play it or exchange it for another one, after which they either used it or not.  But the majority of the groups we've run this scenario for have been quite enthusiastic about using the cards. 

In this case, unless you knock-together your own set of cards, or until we toss out a pdf of the ones we use, your players can roll a D20 and read off of the following table.

A Note on Usage:
Each player gets one. It's okay if more than one player gets the same Dysfunction, in fact it could get truly bizarre and quite entertaining if everyone had the same Dysfunction as everyone else. Depending on the players, of course. These particular Dysfunctions are completely voluntary, but have proven helpful in quickly fleshing-out a character's motivations and personality on the spot, which can be helpful when you're using Pre-degenerated characters like we used for this particular scenario. We also encourage players to feel free to reinterpret or even revise their particular Dysfunction if they get inspired. We also always appreciate, support, enable and reward inventiveness, creativity and role-playing.  The idea is to have some fun.

A Caveat:
We devised these Motivational Dysfunctions for one-off Convention-type sessions made up mostly of strangers.  You would be wise to seriously reconsider including them in your regular gaming, especially in a campaign, though they have also worked out pretty well for coming up with a few off-the-wall NPCs every now and then.  If there's interest, we might expand this out a bit.  This batch was specifically geared for the group we rolled-up for this particular scenario, so there's definitely plenty of wiggle-room to tack-on a few more aberrations, tics, psychoses or what have you.  Not like most players ever really need much incentive to go a little nuts from time to time.

So, for whatever it might be worth, here you go:

Motivational Dysfunctions

1. Abducted(?): You believe that you are a diplomatic envoy in service to a powerful entity named Tharaphandra. You think that you remember being abducted in the course of a particularly difficult and sensitive diplomatic mission that may have failed because of your absence, bringing about a violent war between those serving your master and his dispicable, dishonorable enemies. Roll to select one of your party members as being one of the enemy.  How many of these people are in cahoots with your enemies, and whom can you trust?

2. Down and Out of Luck: You have no money left and a huge number of debt-collectors, loan sharks and money-lenders are looking for you to collect against various gambling debts, fines, interest payments, etc. If you don’t get enough money together soon, they’ll send worse than collectors after you. Roll to select one (maybe more...) of the party as a suspected (or actual) collector or snitch.

3. Mole: You belong to a secret society that serves a powerful entity (roll for random being) and you must not let anyone learn of your ultra-secret sympathies. Your most recent orders are to find a way to sabotage the group and prevent it from achieving its latest mission without them suspecting anything.  The master will be severely displeased should you fail and that will bring horrific consequences down upon you and everyone around you, so do not fail.

4. Eliminator: You were grievously wounded in prior fighting against (roll for a creature type) and as a result you have the ability to sense these creatures. You have devoted yourself to the eradication and elimination of these creatures and gain a +1 to hit them over and above any other bonuses. Sadly, you also draw all such creatures as attackers who head directly towards you as their favored target.

5. Hate Them: You have a deep and violent aversion to all things (Roll creature type: note that this could possibly even be your own type). Your loathing of these horrid creatures prevents you from trusting them, accepting healing from them, or from healing them as well. You need to roll a Will save in order to not freak out, flee in fear or become incapacitated with nausea or revulsion when confronted by such creatures in close quarters. Prolonged exposure to these creatures will potentially trigger an over-compensating and inappropriate response, perhaps poisoning them secretly, or framing them for something that you did. You are convinced that you need to do something about them, but what?  You are not the sort to go berserk, nor do you gain any bonuses for acting out upon your unreasoning fear, but you still have to do something...maybe something sneaky, dastardly and behind-the-back.  But keep in mind that getting caught is almost as bad as not doing anything about these hateful things. You know that they are mocking you even as they are planning your demise--it's you against them and one or the other will have to go, sooner or later.  Make sure it's them.

6. Confirmed Phobic: you tend to get uneasy when confronted with anything vaguely resembling specific creatures or individuals (roll/DM choice), and around large specimens of large numbers of vermin you must make a Will save or go berserk, smashing or attacking the vile, detestable things for all you’re worth…no matter the circumstances. Long ago, in your past, you were captured and tormented by a group of these creatures. They remind you of bad things. Long suppressed memories surge to the surface and you recall the terrible things that they did to you and you want revenge. One of your fellow party-members seems uncomfortably familiar to you, especially the more you recall of your past. (Roll randomly to select the party-member.) Perhaps they know something of your past, possibly they were present at your torture as a fellow victim…or they might even have been involved. Paranoia is a way of life you have long learned to accept and run with – like a blind man running with scissors down a dilapidated stairway during an earthquake.

7. Out for Revenge: You are certain as certain can be that one of your party resembles one of the beings who destroyed your childhood village and who just happened to have killed your parents and siblings. Roll to determine which party-member it is that you feel is this person. If any of your party happens to be your favored enemy (should you be a ranger) they are automatically “it.”

8. Contracted Nemesis: You have been hired to arrange for an accident of the fatal and permanent variety to befall a member of your party – in fact that’s how you were captured; right when you were about to spring your previously arranged ingenious trap, you were caught. Roll to determine who is your target.

9. Actual Rogue: You are a drunkard, liar and petty thief – how else do you think you wound up in this outfit? Roll Will save -4 against compulsion to lie, steal, or drink to excess. You are also a hopeless hypochondriac, certain that you’ve acquired some malignant disease from all the unsanitary things you’ve been forced to touch or expose yourself to over the years. Unfortunately you are incredibly healthy, but you won’t believe that, so feel free to whine, complain and exaggerate symptoms wildly and often.

10. Unfortunate Illiterate: Any written form of magick is not only inaccessible to you whenever you so much as look at a scroll, etc. there is a chance it spontaneously discharges or goes null because of you. Spellbooks go blank after 1D20 minutes in your hands, your presence causes spell casters minor irritation and headaches, you torment scholarly-types by your existence and anything you manage to learn about writing or runes etc. gets twisted both in your mind and on the page or substrate it is inscribed upon, ruining, discharging or voiding any such symbols you spend time looking at. If you somehow managed to become a spell-caster you are an intuitive, psychic spell-caster or a tribal shaman.

11. Haunted: At certain times of distress you make a Will save or the ghost of a former colleague whom you murdered or failed to save appears and tries to return the favor. Incorporeal undead seek you out for you have a necromantic mark upon your soul. The restless spirits of this sort will often seek to interrogate you rather than attack, unless provoked past their tolerance. How good are you at bluffing?

12. You Hear Voices. Sometimes quiet and calm, other times frenetic and powerfully overwhelming. Sometimes you can ignore them, other times you find yourself helpless to do anything but what they tell you. (Will save or obey the compulsion to the best of your ability for 1-4 rounds). The voices tell you that you are special, that you were chosen to serve them, and that you will be richly rewarded and that they will grant you great power and revenge over your enemies. But who are these voices?

13. Excommunicated: You have been kicked out of the religion of the cleric in your group. You get no clerical healing, in fact any attempt to heal you by the cleric results in harm until you recant, undergo a trial of purification and receive absolution from the deity or its representative – however if you con the party-member into believing that you are willing to do this they immediately forfeit their clerical status and are cast out as apostates. You may also harbor inappropriate(?) thoughts of getting the clerical members of your party killed by seemingly innocent accident. After all, you probably have a few potions or a healer along, right? Your touch defiles holy symbols, your presence desecrates shrines and you have been known to soil a few altars in your day.

14. Shoe Collector: You are so obsessed with amassing the greatest and most diverse collection of footwear possible that it occupies practically every waking thought. You carry along a special, secret bag of holding only for shoes – no one must ever see the bag or you may lose it and your collection – and that would be very, very bad for you. The bag acts almost as though it were a familiar to you and losing the bag means suffering the same effects as losing a familiar, even if you’re not a spellcaster.

15. Rot Gnawer: You are a connoisseur of all things rotten and decayed, in fact you are so crazed for such foul fare that you are immune to food poisoning, receive a +5 bonus to all poison-related attacks, saves, etc. You thrive on polluted waters, gangrenous flesh and worse things. To you maggots are a special treat. You can eat practically anything as long as it is rotten, decayed or putrescent. By the same token clean water and fresh food make you nauseous and violently ill.

16. Corpulent Glutton: You are seriously overweight for your size/build. Add 5D20 to your weight, -1 from Con. You are almost always out of breath when you need to exert yourself, unless it is to eat more of whatever you can get your hands on. You will compulsively sneak water, wine, food, or anything else consumable from anyone else in the group whom you can bribe, beg, steal or otherwise get things from. You always try to drink potions immediately upon finding them and want to eat first, fight later. You dislike to share, tend to be greedy and hold a grudge when it comes to food or drink, neither of which you can ever get enough of, ever. Also keep in mind your compulsion has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition, nor your ability or inability to actually taste, digest or benefit in any way from the things you consume.

17. Bigoted Bully: You have a distinct hatred and distrust for those kind – you know; one of the other party members (roll randomly). You will distance yourself from this character, reject their help, and otherwise seek to allow them to come to harm through negligence or withholding of resources or assistance. You would love dearly to beat them up, but not if anyone is looking, after all you’re not sure that the others would understand.

18. Egregiously Unsanitary: You never wash, accumulate filth, and tend to spread disease with your touch, including any melee attacks you make with or without a weapon. Gods forbid you should ever bite anyone. Your stench is offensive to troglodytes, even more so if you are one. You are considered to be in the permanent center of effect of a three-foot diameter stinking cloud spell.

19. Overwhelming Timidity: You are the first to run away, withdraw or retreat in any confrontation. In fact you tend to fade out of sight under the initial shock of a violent attack, ambush or sudden loud noise. Any time you suffer a loss of more than half your hit points a personality shift is triggered that causes you to become recklessly brave, until again reduced to less than half your hits when you switch again. Oddly enough, and for completely unexplained reasons you regain full hit points, spells, etc. upon switching personalities as though you started out fresh for a new day, each and every time. Please note: there are attacks that will drop you by half your hit points and on the second attack kill you, rather than triggering the switch – you need to have 1 hit point per hit die minimum to be able to make the switch; go under that threshold and you’re out of luck.

20. Hemaphobic Aversion: Make a Will save or you faint at the merest sight of blood.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Twelve Secular Gulag-Asylums of Devukarsha

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Surrealist Scribbles

Surrealists engaged in a wide variety of games, both word-based and graphically-based. 

The Exquisite Corpse is one well-known example of a Surrealist Game, and a rather nice online example of this particular game is The Graphically Exquisite Cadavre which can be found here.  You can also find Stefan Poag's fun and freaky Exquisite Corpse Monster Manual here at Lulu. 

You can learn more about the games surrealists play here, and you can find a variety of online games of a surrealist character here as well.

The Abridged Dictionary of Surrealism (1938) defines the Exquisite Corpse game as follows:
"Game of folded paper which consists of having several people compose a phrase or drawing collectively, none of the participants having any idea of the nature of the preceding contribution or contributions. The now classical example, which gave its name to the game, is the first sentence obtained in this manner: The exquisite—corpse—shall drink—the young—wine."
Essentially, the Exquisite Corpse game revolves around the process of placing different pieces by different artists into a semblance of a whole, such as folding a piece of paper into thirds or fourths and having a different artist draw, paint or collage their work into a section and then turn it over to another artist until the piece is completed and then unfolded to reveal the combination of styles, techniques and approaches.  Often the results can be quite bizarre, strange or occasionally wonderful.

But I'm interested in another game used by surrealists for inspiration and sparking creativity.  It's an old game that I learned to play back in grade school and it used to be a major part of how I approached drawing for many, many years.  First I would get someone to make a scribble, as involuntary and unconscious as possible, then I would take their scribble and work it into a drawing, like in the case of the example up above on the left.  That piece was developed from someone else's scribble.

I haven't done this in quite a while, years really, but I thought that it might be fun to give it a spin for old time's sake and just to make things a bit more interesting, I'm requesting scribbles from any of the readers of this blog who are interested in participating.  All you need to do is send me a scribble and I'll make a drawing off of it and post the results as they get completed.  (Due to time limitations and other considerations, I will only be doing three of these drawings, drawn from the scribbles available or on-hand in two weeks.  So you have a couple of weeks to send in your scribbles and my wife or daughter will be drafted to make the final selection.) 

What I'm looking for is a clean, simple scribble, preferably in pencil or black ink, on typing paper or something nicer if possible, though torn cereal box cardboard will do just fine.  And try to make your scribble as involuntary as possible.  Just close your eyes and make some sort of a mark without thinking about it. 

I'll be sure to do the Before and After thing (scanning-in the base scribble) as well as give each contributor credit where credit is due and identify each scribble's source/contributor however you specify.  The original drawing made from each scribble will get mailed-out to the originator of the scribble as a thank you.  You can do whatever you want with the thing, I just reserve the right to post the image to my blog and would prefer to make the finished picture available as open content/creative commons mutual attribution, free to use at will. 

Any questions?  Anyone interested?

The Twelve Pylon-Gates of the River Senube

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Terminal Space

Thanks to Blair over at Planet Algol for the heads-up about Terminal Space, a new Space Fantasy supplement for OD&D.

According to the Terminal Space blog, the supplement is not quite finished (the current version 1.1 is available as a free download), and it is undergoing some expansion and creative development that sounds promising such as new spells (Control Robot!), fungal battlecruisers and more.  Fun stuff!  I just downloaded the free .pdf and hope to give it a thorough read-through early next week, once I get caught-up on Riskail and other projects.

The notion of Mi-Go as player characters really sounds like some seriously Old School fun.  What's not to like about Lovecraft and Spaceships?  It's a pefect combination.

Ever since reading Lovecraft's In the Walls of Eryx back in High School, I've kicked around the idea for a Lovecraftian Space Opera, but it just never really took off.  Maybe this cool new OD&D supplement will breathe some weird new life into those old notes.  Who knows; maybe the stars are finally right once and for all...

A RoboMule for Sister Zhara

This post has moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Spherai or Spherelocked

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Plaguecasters of Romthule

Vile, despicable and disgusting barely do service to the depraved virotyrants of Romthule who've reduced a once beautiful paradise to a festering, stinking dismal wasteland crawling with dangerous contagions and feral pestilences...

...and you can find out all about Romthule and the Plaguecasters who infest this dire world at the Riskail Blog by clicking here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Twelve Feral Viruxes from Riskail

Viruxes are nanological infections that have been designed, modified and often re-vised or hacked over time until they have acquired all sorts of strange, exotic and often dangerous quirks, capabilities or effects. Especially the non-domesticated forms that travel around as free-floating infections of opportunity in some of the less hospitable regions and questionable biomes of wrecked worlds or collapsed closed-ecologies where entire clades have fallen to some mutated nanopathogen that once served them or protected them from the horrors of the worlds outside their arcology-fortresses.

You can learn more about them at the Riskail Blog where this post has been transferred.  You can find it here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

TED Thursday: Robots

It's Thursday and that means Robots, this time out.

For a change of pace, I'm only posting two specific talks from the TED archives.  But I'm also tossing in a link to the New York Times which talks about Metropolis, one of my favorite movies.  The folks at Kino are releasing a newly restored version of this classic that now has another 25 minutes of lost or forgotten footage replaced.  You can read about Kuchimbra and her femdrones after the TED talk stuff, for a Riskail version of Maria.

And who could forget that scientific rascal Doctor Rotwang, now there's an Insane Genius that'd be right at home in Riskail.  He reminds me of the post-singularity sentiovector cultists and those tinkerers who keep trying to wake up any and everything, like a toaster ever needed self-doubt to make its existence more fulfilling...Now that's some serious evocation via techno-alchemy.  Radionics, weird cheistry, Poe-style galvanics, Frankensteinian and Faustian delving into things Man Was Not Meant To Know, brute-force German Prometheanism at it's finest and most mystical while delivering a ton of ritualized scientific-looking eye-candy as well.  It's a great scene, timeless and a wonderful counterpart to the more masculine Golem.  You can watch the legal trailer for Metropolis here.  It's not the scene I was referring to, but the other video-clip at Youtube got yanked for copyright violation.  Not so cool.  Oh well.

Dennis Hong talks about Seven Species of Robot that have already been developed.  Note, this is about stuff that has already been built and is out there in the world, not science fiction whining about what might happen someday -- this is a sample of what we already actually have on-hand.  Off the shelf.

Robert Full talks about biomimicry and designing robots with springy legs as well as how geckos really manage to cling to surfaces.  Do a search on Robert Full and you'll have your hands full of all sorts of stuff on engineering, evolution, designing robot limbs based on how animals actually function, and more.  There's a lot of stuff there, and it's very interesting to me, just in terms of what it implies for the aesthetics of robot design.  As much as I admire Maria of Metrolpolis as a timeless and elegant design, it's an extravagantly over-engineered prop to the human ego and many (most?) robots may very well take completely other forms.  Unless laws, regulations or cultural conventions intrude on the process.  All very good fodder for Riskail.

Spoiler: Geckos are manipulating nano-scale Van der Waals forces to cling to surfaces.  They beat humans to the development of nanotechnology by millions of years.  No wonder they own the largest car insurance company, uh, they are so successful in catching bugs to eat.  Who knew they were so high-tech?  I like geckos.  Like my friend Alex has said in the past; they have an ugliness that is primordial.

Robots are cool.  I will have more for you on robots in Riskail shortly.

While you're digesting the ideas in those two TED talks, let's get back to Riskail, shall we?

Kuchimbra is a beautiful, charismatic and poisonous demogogue who came to Riskail from across the Shale Waste, ostensively via some relict and abandoned gate out amidst the vacuum-choked craters beyond the Etched Plateau.  At least that is her story and the records tend to back it up somewhat.  But the more anyone looks into this woman's past, the more hazy, murky and indistinct it all becomes.

Since she appeared, a homeless waif cast adrift and all alone in the city of tiers -- Devukarsha -- Kuchimbra has managed to insinuate herself into the lower rungs of the social hierarchy.  She proved to be quite precocious and quick to learn any and everything that she could about the inner workings of things, how the infrastructure functioned, the various industries relegated to the grottoes and caverns beneath the city, how it all worked.  The grimy indentured-mechanics and barbarian industrialists who worked on the all but forgotten machines far below the world's crust told her their tales, shared with her their troubles and tribulations and came to confide in her as they served out their sentences within the troglodytic penal enclaves.  She learned the crude argot of the fungispawn hominids who illegally aided and abetted the indentured-mechanics in their ritualized work-routines and in their wild bacchic parties held off-premises and away from the prying eyes of the underseers and their rolling-orb drones.

Kuchimbra worked alongside the mechanics, shared their meager rations and danced for them, comforted them and all but became one of them.  She came ot hold a special place amongst them.  They revered her.  Some of the fungispawn worshipped her.  A few considered her a Cthonic-Madonna, others regarded her as a houri-saint.  In time the more self-aware drones and robots began to cluster about the perimeter of Kuchimbra's performances.  People noticed.  Whenever there was a dispute or a feud was about to break out, Kuchimbra stepped in and restored the peace, settled the matter wisely, justly, fairly and with good humor.  She made the drudgery and toil almost bearable and patiently, like a drizzle of morphine in an intravenous tap she sowed seeds of unity and solidarity even as she sparked considerations of justice, fairness and their dismal fate as defacto slaves to the great machines.  No one ever suspected that hse herself was a machine.  An autonomous robot.  One of the autoi.

Never once did Kuchimbra advocate violence.  Not a soul would ever blame her for fomenting dissent as she never directly said a thing against the underseers, nor the Treaty of Langzalle which most of the indentured-mechanics could thank for their sentences to the machine grottoes.  Always and ever Kuchimbra smiled sweetly and offered a soft hand, a warm embrace, a kind word and all the while the underclasses around her simmered, seethed and became increasingly upset at their situation.  The real reason for their indenturement -- to repay their debt to society for the ecological degradation and eventual destruction of their world -- was forgotten and brushed aside as just so much rhetoric and lies.  Few amongst them were able to remember their old world as anything but a children's story and a bitter myth of something lost long ago and that they would never have again.  Anger and resentment boiled in their agitated minds.  They lived in terrible conditions, even though those same conditions were what their ancestors had bred and shaped and forced them to adapt to long ago and far away.  They ranted and they raved and they blamed the underseers and the fatcats and the upworld aristocrats for all their perceived ills and in time the doctrines of revolution blossomed forth from the mouths of babes and a host of proscribed viruxes and feral AI slithered through the crowded throngs like so many spirits at a gathering of pentecostal voodooists.

Kuchimbra laughed and smiled and danced and all the while the social structure of the underclasses crumbled and caved and collapsed until at last she was the one shining light in the midst of the imending wreckage, the sacred maiden who spoke the soft words of goodness that sparked rebellion in the deep, dark recesses beneath the city.

As she ascended to her position of absolute authority amongst the underclasses of the machine grottoes and the fungispawn zealots who worshipped her with frenzied dances that mimicked her early days amongst the miners and sappers, pipe-layers and repair-teams.  Psychoactive sporebrews were developed in homage to her little songs and Kuchimbra's every word became a chant that reinforced her dominance even as it set terrible things into motion.  But never directly.  Kuchimbra never, ever acted in any way but to show kindness, generostiy and virtue.  She was unimpeachable, impeccable and immaculate in the midst of filth and degradation that quickly became intolerable to those actually adapted to it.  The emotional manipulation was staggering and a work of sheerest foulest genius beyond anything seen since mad old Hitler and it made the ancient tyrant look pathetic in comparison.

Paranoia was cultivated amongst the followers of Kuchimbra and all of their own volition the indentured-mechanics and others gathered in secret and began a special project that they thought was unknown to her.  They collected pieces and parts from all over the machine grottoes and even traded with some of the peripheral gangs of roachers and others for what they needed and somehow, despite the odds against them, they succeeded in manufacturing a clandestine manufactory far away from the designated areas to which they were supposedly confined.

Then the day finally arrived, the manufactory was online and the first femdrone created in Kuchimbra's image was ready to receive her imprint.  Soon there were hundreds of the things, all acting as a direct replica of the Pale Lady of the Underworld, the delicate dancer who sparked an uprising unlike any ever seen before.  Class warfare was coming to Devukarsha and Polite Society would soon feel the sting of ruinous civil war and it would all be brought about by a little girl who was kind and wonderful and never, ever said even so much as a single disparaging word.  The zealots began by setting fire to the underseer's offices.  It escalated quickly from there.

It was months until the fighting was curtailed, having had the air cut off from their caverns took the fight out of most of the rebels and flooding took care of the rest.  They found hundreds of defunct Kuchimbra-shells, femdrones and surrogate forms, but never the primary instance, never the one that was Kuchimbra herself.  They likely never will, now that she has been transfigured as a cultural icon amongst the underclasses, the sweet Cthonic-Madonna of Bitter Tears.

Races of Riskail: The Du'Vallja

The Du'Vallja have moved over to the Riskail Blog and you can find them here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ten (12) Bizarre Adepts of Riskail

The Twelve Bizarre Adepts have joined their colleagues, the Mad Wizards and Insane Geniuses over at the Riskail Blog and hope that you'll click-over to visit them when you get a chance.