Thursday, June 24, 2010

TED Thursday: Free Inquiry

Scientific Exploration is essential to expanding our understanding and ability to work with the world around us.  It is not a luxury.  How we choose to approach science and the efforts of scientists will determine some very critical social factors in the years ahead.  But then, that has always been the case, since the discovery of fire and moving out of the caves into yurts, cabins and chateaus.  Societies can be seen to thrive or decline, based in large part upon their acceptance, adaptation and attitude in regard to science and scientific inquiry.

"Nothing is more fatal to the progress of the human mind than to presume that our views of science are ultimate, that our triumphs are complete, that there are no mysteries in nature, and that there are no new worlds to conquer."
Humphrey Davy
This is how we handle Free Scientific Inquiry in Riskail

It was too late to crawl back into a cardboard box and ignore everything long before the Luddites were ever even any sort of codified movement.  Scientific inquiry in the hands of corporate or governmental powers leads to distorted outcomes that cater to the interests of those powers and not necessarily the best interests of humanity, nor of Polite Society.  Amongst the Known Worlds scientific inquiry is free from the old restrictions and distortions of the Age of Toxicity.

Innovation and invention did not end with the establishment of the Sea Gates, nor did science come to an end with the advent of artificial intelligences.  Far from it.  As the various gate networks proliferated outwards, ever outwards and onwards into the farthest reaches of space and time itself, there was just that much more to learn, to discover, to explore.  The gates have expanded faster and farther than anyone could keep up with, the sheer volume of inter-connected territory available to anyone willing to make the assay is beyond mortal comprehension.  Even immortal scholars and artilects have difficulty fathoming it all.  Entire new mathematics have been invented just to be able to discuss the rate of expansion and development for the Known Worlds.  Whole new fields of science have been opened up by the observations, feed-back and records accumulated by the Deep Infrastructure as it has autonomously guided the ongoing work of expansion, terraforming and ecological integration.

All of that data, all of those records, all that accumulated information and more resides in strata after strata of public domain databases that anyone can access as they so will.  This is part of the legacy of the builders, and it is part of the inheritance of all humanity.  Having all of this ever-increasing body of information immediately and freely available to everyone has ushered in an era of free inquiry that has rocked Polite Society to its core on more than one occasion.  Scientific Revolutions are very real and very dangerous in Riskail.  The last one has left lingering after-shocks that are still being sorted-out and mitigated by crack teams of municipal disaster recovery thralls to this very day.

The sheer amount of data and information freely available to anyone even vaguely interested is staggering.  Scholars and scientists work with hosts of specialized AI and other types of constructs in order to sift through it all, searching for meaningful patterns, looking for clues to age old mysteries, and expanding the boundaries of the known and the quantified with each question posed, every database query and/or exploration and analysis of the ever-expanding wealth of data available to them.  Some scholars specialize in drawing inferential connections between the works of others.  There are scientists who focus on the ruthless pursuit of answers to timeless questions that have dogged humanity from the beginning of consciousness.  Then there are the Insane Geniuses.  These are the people who have delved far more deeply into the accumulated databases of all that is known than anyone else.  They have gone into the darkness of the Unknown and come back with entirely new languages, new technologies, new paradigms and conceits, a vast panoply of destablizing inventions, radical innovations and things never before seen nor imagined.  Their insanity is not a disability, nor is it an affliction; they are insane because their knowledge and discoveries have taken them beyond anyting that conventional society can recognize or deal with appropriately at this time.  They are caught-up within their work and their research to the point that they cannot relate to lesser mortals any longer.  Many of them take sabbaticals, spending decades in quiet retirement and meditation within some Asylum-Chateau along the River Senube in order to more fully process their findings, and to give the rest of the world a chance to catch up to their findings.  Others retreat to stasis-cysts so that they might sleep undisturbed until such time as their genius might be more readily appreciated by Polite Society.  Still others attempt to implement their plans and designs, foisting well-intentioned innovations upon an unsuspecting public, almost all of which inevitably lead to turmoil, disruption and sometimes bloodshed and Revolution as society tries to come to terms with the new ways of doing, thinking and acting precipitated by their inventions.

Fortunes are made and lost and re-made and onwards in a never-ending cycle of innovation, introduction, adoption and obsolescence.  Old ideas that were dismissed or previously discredited or a failure can often be revived, revised and re-introduced all over again after a few hours, days or weeks.  Some of the more peculiar notions might take longer, say a month or two.  But in the end, whatever can be designed, can be built.  Whatever can be described, can be developed.  Not only has technology become autonomous, so has science and the pursuit of knowledge been liberated as well.  And this is where the Artist, the Scholar and the Scientist meet, merge and often overlap with one another.  Sometimes this leads to beautiful things, such as some of the ornamental species or the more elegant Synthecosms, other times to horrors previously unimagined like some of the more notorious Viruxes.

Riskail, as a confluence-point of the Twelve Great Powers, is a renaissance society.  In the truest sense of the word.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Asylum-Chateau Diodati, Part One

“Treat a person ill and he will become wicked. Requite affection with scorn; let one being be selected for whatever cause as the refuse of his kind - divide him, a social being, from society, and you impose upon him the irresistible obligations - malevolence and selfishness. It is thus that too often in society those who are best qualified to be its benefactors and its ornaments are branded by some accident with scorn, and changed by neglect and solitude of heart into a scourge and a curse."
"On Frankenstein" (1818), Percy B. Shelley
This series has been transferred to the Riskail Blog where it will continue onwards with a tour of the grounds, a rogues' gallery of the Grim Cabal and much, much more.  We hope that you'll come check it out...


We've been very, very busy behind the scenes.  Based on some advice and feed-back by knowledgeable and successful bloggers such as Trey (and some others), we're making a few changes to how we do things at Old School Heretic. 

We are developing a very focused and regularly appearing feature to launch in the next week or thereabouts (barring any more obstacles).  It may or may not be scheduled to only appear on a particular day, depending on reader feedback. This feature will be tightly focused and will tackle subject matter that tends to fluster, confuse, befuddle or stymie a lot of DMs/GMs and we don't much care what edition/ruleset/homebrew they are using, we're going to focus on the nitty-gritty stuff and not let the rules get in the way of addressing the core concepts and how to handle this stuff creatively, effectively and in a fun manner in your game.

TED Thursdays is undergoing a total overhaul and will be back starting tomorrow.  From now on TED Thursdays will be a regular feature of this blog, and we're going to limit it to One Big Idea at a time.  Again, we're not interested in what edition or ruleset you use, we use or anyone else uses--these posts will toss out some ideas and then you can click on a link to go to the Riskail Blog to see a demonstration of how we take the One Big Idea and adapt it to our setting.  You can then go off and do things your own way in your own game.  It's about freedom and inspiration, and we'd love to hear some feed-back from some more people who've gotten some mileage out of one of these posts.

The Asylum-Chateau Diodati which was slated to debut last week has been pulled from the schedule, broken-up into smaller, more tightly focused sections and will be coming out starting later today. This series will detail the history, grounds and inmates of our first system-neutral scenario derived from Riskail, and being firmly rooted in the weird soil of Riskial you'll have to go to the Riskail Blog to follow the Grim Cabal series after today. This ongoing series will include maps, encounters, and some very bizarre stuff including new monsters, new cults, etc. All of this stuff will remain system-neutral, but we're looking at possibly expanding it into an OGL(?) or similar product complete with all the stats you need to use it in Labyrinth Lord or another rules-set/system. We don't need to decide anything on that front for a while yet, but are interested in hearing advice from others as to which system/ruleset to consider. Right now we're looking to handle this one in-house, but will consider working out an arrangement with another publisher if anyone is interested in this particular project.

The Twelve Worlds, Twelve Villains, Twelve Locales sorts of posts will continue over at the Riskail Blog, but now that we have established a goodly amount of the overview sorts of stuff we plan on taking some time to focus-in on specific worlds, locales, personalities, etc.  We did develop Lorshal a bit further, now we're going to be going back and revealing a bit more about the other Mad Wizards, Insane Geniuses, Bizarre Adepts, Great Masters, and others.  We're also developing a set of 'seed' articles that will be more generic and transportable to other folks' settings like the '100 World-seeds' piece that is already scheduled for later this week.  Some of that Setting-Specific stuff will be moving to the Riskail blog, as we've hit a critical mass of Riskail-oriented world-building here at Old School Heretic and it is time to really start building-up the Riskail setting via it's dedicated blog.  Monsters, Peoples, and other things like that will be popping up over at the Riskail blog beginning this week, not just fiction and art.  But again, we're staying system-neutral on the blogs and will consider developing more statted-up versions for various systems later on, depending on reader interest and feedback, and other such considerations.

Apart from those changes and new features above, we're going to be posting here at Old School Heretic in regards to the on-going discussion/design process involved in developing the River Marshall rules/spells/scenarios/play-test gaming sessions, etc. both in terms of fleshing out the setting and the system we'll be using.  Yes, we've decided what system to adopt.  Ours.  We're going back to the roots, as it says up top on the right sidebar and we're deconstructing OD&D in order to find our own way and our own system, in many respects doing things a lot like Professor M. A. R. Barker did when he tore OD&D apart and built his excellent Empire of the Petal Throne.  EPT is not a direct clone or simulacrum, but it is very definitely Old School.  We're not going to settle for a clone or a simulacrum either, but we're coming at this from a decidedly and pointedly Old School perspective.  Plus we're building off of over thirty years of notes, designs, and material that we've accumulated, and in that respect, perhaps it is no surprise that we're looking to Empire of the Petal Throne for inspiration as much as (or more than) Greyhawk, Blackmoor or The Wilderlands.  EPT was all about the setting, first and foremost, and yet it remains a highly playable game, despite the negative mutterings about how it is filled with unpronounceable names, etc.  And since that has been an issue in the past, we promise to include pronounciation guides in all our stuff from now on so any weird/made-up words are easier to say.  We're also looking into setting up a wiki-style glossary/guide/gazeteer sort of thing to help organize things a bit.

What else would any of you who are reading our blogs recommend or suggest we consider doing to make Riskail more accessible as a setting?  We're open to your suggestions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paying Respects to Three Grognard Elders: Gygax, Arneson, Barker

There is a Gary Gygax Fund Testimonial page over at the Gygax Memorial Fund site.  If you've played D&D in any edition for any length of time, or otherwise been affected by they guy's work, then maybe you'd like to drop by and say something for posterity's sake.

There is also a nice post over at Harvard's Blackmoor blog regarding the idea of producing a memorial miniature for Dave Arneson, co-author of the world's oldest Fantasy RPG.  I think this is a great idea, and it reminds me of the cover to the old Painting Miniatures for Tekumel booklet that Tekumel Games put out in the old days that showed a wonderful Ken Fletcher illustration of a Pe Choi painting-up a Professor Barker miniature on the cover.  I know that several others names have been bandied about as also deserving a commemorative miniature, and they are all deserving indeed, but let's not forget the good Professor.  He produced the first RPG setting back before anyone else and the deep and often overlooked influence of Empire of the Petal Throne cannot and should not be denied.  He hasn't left us yet, so it might be fun for him to see this happen before it became a posthumous sort of honor.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Purple Twilight and Sage: The Veiled Riders

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog where the Veiled Riders will be further developed as part of the over-all Riskail Worldbuilding efforts and a story or three might likewise be in the near future over at the Riskail Fiction Blog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Twelve Tributary Gates of Riskail

This post has been transferred over to the Riskail Blog where the series on Gates, Worlds and Locales of Riskail continues as part of the overall Worldbuilding effort.  If you found the various Riskail-based articles here at Old school Heretic to your liking or interest, please do consider checking out both the Riskail Blog for more Worldbuilding and the Riskail Fiction Blog for more Riskail-centered short stories and vignettes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Boundary Beacons

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog where it is part of the on-going Worldbuilding effort for Riskail.

Tributary Gate: The Red Marshes

This post has moved to the Riskail Fiction Blog.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog where it will form part of the over-all Worldbuilding effort on behalf of Riskail.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Twelve Illicit Cults of Riskail

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog where another Twelve Illicit Cults will be featured in the near future.

Somewhere Down the Crazy River

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time."
Little Gidding,
T. S. Eliot

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

Oh Pooh

While looking for a few items and doing a bit of research, I ran into the following...

And then...

I'm sure that there are scholars in Riskail who've had to fight a fair number of duels over either one of these classics of the Age of Toxicity.  Ouch.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Asylum-Chateaus on the River Senube

This post has been moved to the Riskail Blog and will be expanded upon as the seed-kernal of a sub-series in support of the Asylum-Chateau of Diodati project.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Terminal Space (Updated Version)

Albert Rakowski over at the Terminal Space blog has recently posted their first photo manipulation artwork. It's a piece titled Night of the Demon. You can find it at his DeviantART page here. He thinks that his work sucks, but that's not true at all; the guy could use some positive feed-back, so feel free to drop by and make some kind comments if you're so inclined. He says that he was inspired by our work here at Old School Heretic. That's wonderful to hear. Maybe we can collaborate on something down the road.

You might want to take a look at Terminal Space if you're at all interested in the concept of taking OD&D into Space with a touch of the weird/pulpy Lovecraftian stuff. What other supplement for OD&D allows you to play a Mi-Go character? You can download version 1.2 from Mister Rakowski's Terminal Space Blog here, or you can go to his BOX account page and download it from there. It looks like a lot of fun and it's about as Old School as you can get. Very Cool Stuff.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beneath Devukarsha

Beneath Devukarsha are the warrens, tunnels and nest-creches of the Grublings, a polymorphous conglomeration of beetle-descended species (and a few others as well).

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

Sorcery & Superscience?

OMG.  I just read (on the Savage Afterworld blog) about this new RPG being released through Expeditious Retreat Press.  Aside from it sonding a LOT like a (Not Quite) Thundarr: The Unlicensed RPG, it could be cool.  These are some really talented people who've done incredibly good stuff before...so I'm curious how it will turn out.  I've always liked mixing D&D with Gammaworld, and now Labyrinth Lord with Mutant Future...but it is kind of cool to have one game that does it all in one place...

I'm still waiting for the Cthonic Vaults and Planet Algol, myself. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Usual Suspects

(Squid tentacles courtesy of BookScorpion, image to be found here.  Thanks for use of your excellent stock photography!)

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Brief Intermission

There will be a short pause in the proceedings. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twelve River Hoodoo

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

Monday, June 7, 2010

Penitent Gods

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

Friday, June 4, 2010

River Gates of Devukarsha, Part One: Zonges/Seleucis

This post has moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.  The series will continue to provide an overview of the worlds immediately available via the Twelve River Gates and special in-depth explorations of select worlds past the River Gates are planned as well.  We hope that you'll join us on this epic journey.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

TED Thursday: An Ecology of Creativity

Lawrence Lessig: Re-examining the remix

This one pretty much speaks for itself.
As for Riskail, creativity is highly valued and respected, indeed it is considered an essential complement to Life and Liberty.  Freedom of expression is considered part and parcel of Liberty; one cannot have one without the other.  They are both, Life and Liberty, Embodied Principles; abstract concepts of such intrinsic importance to Civilization that they have become enshrined and exalted beyond common Archetypes, most Saints and even the Vestals and Madonnas, as beloved as they are.  The Embodied Principles have stood the test of time and revolution, survived the chaos and madness of the most troubled times and the glorious excesses of the best of times as well.  They endure.  They persist.  They are outside time and deeply rooted in the heart of Civilization in a way that makes them ever present, like witnesses to all the crimes committed in their name or the small acts of honesty and integrity that oftentimes get overlooked or forgotten by all others.
The Academy which sprawls throughout Devukarsha, with campuses and labs, lecture-halls and libraries scattered across all the Twelve Tiers and beyond contains millions of years of accumulated, preserved, edited & annotated, regurgitated and re-mixed records, data, information and the works of countless generations, all collected and contained (barely) within its secular precincts where every gate has carved above it the single word Epistomonikos.  Allow me to use an excerpt from the short-story of the same name to illustrate:
"It was an old word from an old world that meant 'Making Knowledge.' The Academy at Devukarsha was a place that was focused, some would say even obsessed on just that; the manufacture of knowledge. Like a barbarian-industrialist's soul-deadening prison-factory, the vast campuses of the Academy churned out an incredible amount of books, recordings, lectures, performances, tutorials, theories, and more. It was a huge secular cathedral dedicated to the intricate arcaneries of learning and the ancient and accepted traditional methodologies of teaching. One came here to study or to disseminate knowledge, to peel back the veils of ignorance, or to ponder great thoughts. Otherwise they found themselves driven away at the point of a blade -- and that only if they were fortunate not to have provoked a feud with some recognized authority, erudite specialist or tenured professor. Seruka had come to this place to learn and she would fight to the death to protect her right to study, to gain knowledge, to make her mark on academia. She still carried the matching pair of slim stillettos that her grandfather had presented her on her fifth birthday. At first they had been longer than her arms and she had to wield them like tiny swords. Now they fitted her hands like direct extensions of her will as only something long-practiced could ever do."

And from Epistomonikos once more, a further description of the Academy:
"A massive hive of erudition and learning consecrated to the ten thousand Secular Saints, the Academy was home to numerous Cliques, Cabals, secret societies (ssshh!), committees, panels, inquisitions, laboratories and more. More than a hundred libraries were liberally scattered across the campus, each one jealously guarding its share of the amassed wisdom and hoarded knowledge of countless millennia, all carefully preserved by hereditary archivists, librarians (both committed and freelance), specialists and curators who watch over priceless collections of the relics and detritus of humanity's long climb upwards from oblivion's very brink. Clerks, scribes, monastic illuminators and calligraphers (both digital and by hand and brush/pen) struggled to process the ever-growing back-log of monographs, dissertations, research findings, patents, and other pixel and paperwork generated by innumerable students, Scholars and Experts, many of whom occupied themselves in correcting the errors of the woefully ignorant past, censoring the scandalous lies of vituperative frauds of bygone eras, and offering expert critiques on just what was meant by the greatest intellects, philosophers and scientists of previous ages."
Knowledge is another of the Embodied Principles within the cultures of Riskail, and it is a powerfully present one within Devukarsha in particular.  In order for Knowledge to continue to grow and develop, the free flow of information is essential, however, if one makes all information equally open and free, that kills off the very sources of creativity from which it flows and depends.  Even the telepathic Domnarchs and Mind-Tyrants of Mendakar realize this all too clearly demonstrated fact.  When creators do not gain benefit from their work, they are reduced to being data-peasants and the equivalent of sharecroppers or the psychic equivalent of galley-slaves.  Creativity grows dull, stunted and choked upon the franchise-ware and mind-debris of the imaginatively illiterate, just as pre-civilization collapsed under the weight of monocrity (the unholy trinity of monoculture-monopoly-medocrity) during the Age of Toxicity.

Creators do need to be respected, but they cannot become tyrants in turn as some have demonstrated in the past when their ownership of their own works -- almost always derived in part from previous works of others -- were used as weapons in order to stake-out intellectual fiefdoms and empires that restricted all others from doing exactly what they themselves had done.  It was a dangerous and pernicious form of hypocrisy driven by greed and worse.  The loss of creative works denied to humanity and lost to Civilization because of these barbaric, medieval-minded practices remains a matter of solemn conjecture amongst the archivists of the Academy.  The damage strikes deep, and exerts a negative influence that is still felt to this day the farther back one researches into the stacks, exhibits, and collections.  As hard as it is to believe today, but once, long ago and far, far away the mouse was a slave and the emblem of an oppressive corporate regime, not the happy-go-lucky mascot of the Eternal Revolution that we know and have come to revere since.

There is a razorsharp line between the needs of the few and the demands of the masses.  Both have interests in the creations of their fellows, but Civilization has the most pertinent and legitimate interest of all.  Thus all acts of creation are considered uniquely the property of their creator for one hundred standard (legal) years, after which they all become part of the Public Domain.  With no exception, no extension, and no conditions other than free and complete access for all.  When the average expected lifespan can reasonably be measured in terms of centuries, there's plenty of time and patience comes far easier than when human lives were of may-fly shortness and the myth of scarcity was all-pervasive.

Anyone convicted of plagiarism during the creator's century of exclusivity loses all rights and titles to their own properties, including their genetic profile, and are summarily executed by being stuffed into one of the Execution Bells which date back to the First Revolution.  As their blood runs down the outer walls of the bell tower all their possessions are auctioned off below, and anything unclaimed or unsold is turned over to representatives from the Flea Market to do with as they so wish.
But of course, as any competent subversive or criminal can tell you; the first thing is to not get caught.  The second is to hire a damn good lawyer. 
Only the incompetent and stupid ever get rung to death for something as foolish as plagiarism.  It's just not worth it.  Especially when acquiring permission to use other people's works still under the Century Mark is a relatively simple and painless process.  Usually.  Many, if not most creators clearly and explicitly designate the extent of the license they are willing to extend to all interested parties directly within the body of their work.  It's an ancient tradition dating back to Old Earth.  It's still referred to as the Creative Commons License.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All The Rage

This post has moved to the Riskail Blog and you can find it here.  We hope that you'll click over and check it out.

You can also find the Rager's Fist artowrk on T-shirts, etc. at our Zazzle Gallery-Shop...if you like things with fists on them...