Monday, December 30, 2013

Joomavesi - The Golden Crab

Long ago when the world was new and the oldkin walked the lands there was one named Joomavesi. Joomavesi was beautiful and her black hair rippled and folded like the mountains. For long she walked beneath the stars seeking paradise and she found it on an island where the heart of the earth boiled the sea.

The island was a special place. A magic place, full of life. Joomavesi had walked so far and so long beneath the stars that her stomach rolled and hissed like the steaming ocean. And then, as the sun began to rise, she saw the crabs. A thousand thousand crabs of gold marched out of the water and rushed across the island like a wave.

As the crabs swarmed past her, Joomavesi plucked one from the mass and broke its body in her hands. She ate it raw, such was her hunger, and its meat was sweet with a whisper of the sea. It was delicious! Joomavesi fell upon the crabs. Her hunger insatiable.

For a year and a day Joomavesi ate of the crabs. Each morning swarms of the golden creatures rushed from the waves to cross the island, and each evening the black sands were dressed in broken shells and claws of gold. Each day Joomavesi prepared the crabs in a different way. This is why she is the mother of all cooking. She baked them and caked them and spun them on spits. She stewed them and souped them and dried them in pits. She boiled them in pools close to the heart of the earth and streamed them in the mountain's vents. The piles of shells and claws grew larger, and Joomavesi was content.

And then, the crabs did not come. For six days she waited by the sea, and still they did not come. On the seventh day without crabs Joomavesi cried out to the sun, "Golden One! Where have you hidden your children? They are gold like your rays, and they rise and rush with you each day. What have you done with them?"

And the sun said, "Oldkin! Gold they may be, but they are not my children. I surely loved watching them run each day and seeing my rays bounce off their bodies and dazzle the air. I do not know where they have gone, and I have seen you among them. What have you done with them Joomavesi?"

She cursed at the sun, "I have done nothing with them Golden One. You must be able to see them from up there. You are either lying to me, or blinded by your own radiance."

Then Joomavesi cried out to the mountain. "Rugged Pillar of the Earth! Your roots stretch down to the heart of the earth and your head rises up to the heavens. Have you seen the golden crabs? Do you hide them in your secret places?"

And the mountain said, "Oldkin! Your hair is as beautiful as my folded basalt form, and I wish I could help you, but I too have not seen the crabs since seven days. On that day I heard you laughing and heard them screaming in my steaming vents. I miss the way they tickled as they ran across my face. What have you done with them Joomavesi?"

She cursed at the mountain, "I have done nothing with them Pillar of the Earth! You must be hiding them in the folds of your stone cloak." In her fury Joomavesi struck the mountain and broke his crown. The mountain cried out in rage and shook with anger, but no golden crabs could be found. This is why the hot red blood of the earth still pours from cracks in the mountain.

Then Joomavesi cried out to the sea. "Mother! Do the golden crabs hide in you? Where have they gone? I have not seen them in seven days, and the sun and the mountain say they have not seen them either. Surely you must know where they have gone."

And the sea said, "Oldkin! You are of me. You know my secret ways and can hear every song in my currents. You know in your heart what has happened to the crabs."

And Joomavesi cursed the sea. "Long have I been gone from you. You cast me out upon the land long ago and your songs are soft and forgotten in my memories. I will find where you hide them. Whether you help me or not."

Joomavesi dove into the sea. She listened for the currents, but the songs were soft like faded dreams. She swam for three days and three nights before she heard the song of gold. It was so soft, and so faint and tinged with so much sadness that Joomavesi almost missed it. She followed it and found a single golden crab perched on a rock above a forest of red seaweed. Joomavesi licked her lips. She could wrap this one in the seaweed and steam it in one of the mountain's vents.

The crab cried out to the oldkin, "Wait!", and Joomavesi paused. Never had the other crabs spoken. "You have eaten my children oldkin. Let that be enough. Do not eat me, for I am cursed, but I am old and tired and death draws near. Please. Let me die."

Joomavesi laughed, "Do not lie to me little golden one. I have seen a thousand thousand others. You cannot be the last. You must be trying to delay me as your kin run over the horizon, but it will not work. I am hungry and once I eat you I will chase your friends."

"You are a fool oldkin." snapped the crab. "I was once as you, with soft skin and beautiful hair. I lived with my people in a village by the sea and we too ate the golden crabs until only one remained. The gold mother. She begged with me to let her die, but I too did not listen. I ate her and became her. It was my curse to bear as many children as the stars and not die until they were gone. I ask you again, let me die."

Joomavesi paused. "Gold mother? I am a child of the sea. Never has there been a gold mother. Where do the others hide? Are they in the forest of red seaweed? No matter. I shall find them after I steam you in the vents of the mountain and eat your sweet meat."

"You are a fool oldkin. Let me die and the curse along with me."

Joomavesi laughed and gathered seaweed. Then she bundled up the crab and returned to the mountain where she steamed it in the vents of the earth. It was the most delicious crab she had ever eaten. Sweet, tender, meat kissed by the flavor of the sea.

The next day as the sun rose, Joomavesi stretched her supple arms and laughed. Her skin was soft, and her hair was as beautiful as the mountains, but the crabs still did not come from the ocean. She returned to the place she had found the gold mother and looked for crabs in the red seaweed forest, but she found none.

The next day as the sun rose, Joomavesi smiled and watched her beautiful hair float upon the ocean currents. Her skin was soft and her limbs were strong. The golden crabs were nowhere to be seen and so she traveled over the horizon for that is where they must have gone. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and still Joomavesi looked for the golden crabs.

Near the anniversary of steaming the gold mother Joomavesi grew tired. She had never managed to find another golden crab and was beginning to despair. Perhaps the crab's words had been true. As weariness began to overcome her senses, Joomavesi saw a large rock outcropping surrounded by a forest of red seaweed. It looked comfortable, and her arms felt so heavy. So she lay down and slept.

When she woke she felt strange. She tried to stand but immediately fell. Her legs were no longer her own. They were the shape of crab legs. Her arms were claws covered in a golden carapace and her belly was covered in a thousand thousand tiny blue-grey eggs that squirmed with life.

Three days later hoards of golden crabs swarmed across the island once more. The sun was happy to see his rays bounce off their bodies and dazzle the air. The mountain was happy as they tickled his face, and the sea was filled with a new song.

What does Joomavesi want?
To kill
To consume
For all her children to be eaten
To eat all her children (compulsion)

What does Joomavesi NOT want?
To be a crab any longer, but she cannot communicate or figure out how to fix it
To lay eggs and make many children (compulsion)
To eat all of her children

What else?
Joomavesi, the golden crab, is now colossal in size. She hungers and is compelled to eat her children. Like an addiction. However, if she eats more than 100 of her brood it causes her to immediately molt and grow and induces the type of pain and terror only gods can bear. She now wants her children to be killed and eaten by others which is why she lays in the Swordfish Islands.

She is currently hibernating at the bottom of the sea overdue to produce a brood.

Her progeny are giant crabs in their own right and normally about 1000 grow large enough to swarm across the islands attempting to eat everything in their path. Most are consumed by the flora and fauna of the islands.

If her children are not all killed and consumed in three days, Joomavesi will emerge from the sea (preceded by tsunamis) to find and consume all that remain. She is drawn to their location and cannot resist the pull.

Monsters (especially wydarr and the coralkin angler) are in tune with the normal timings of the golden swarms and begin to gather in anticipation days before the event.

The swarms of gold crabs normally emerge from the sea at Crab Mouth Lagoon (HS-14) and rush across Hot Springs Island.

Friday, December 20, 2013

On Calidar, Fluff and the Future

This was supposed to just be a quick G+ post, but I got long winded and philosophical so I figured I'd put it here instead.

Seasonal monetary commitments have been accounted for and I had enough left over to back Calidar. I was never exposed to Princess Ark, but I really dig the idea of system neutral settings where much of the creative point is fiction, feel, and interesting set pieces or problems that can be explored directly or dropped piecemeal into an existing, unrelated campaign world.

I'm also personally biased because I'm trying to do something similar with the Swordfish Islands. Right now WoTC, Paizo et al, in my personal opinion, make the bulk of their cash by selling things that make players more powerful. It's all rules, rules, rules. Content's king, when you have 5 players and a GM, if more than one copy of an adventure is sold to the gaming group there are spoilers. There's meta-knowledge. So rules become the way to go. With 5 players and a GM you've got six potential sales of rule books.

"I know you've given us some money, but if you give us more, you can min/max your crit build better!"

"Want to play a half warforged half dragonborn?! It's just one dead president Grant away!"


I think there's another way, and I think it's with "fluff". With fiction. With graphic novels of other adventures and adventurers exploring the lands. Everyone can buy it. Everyone can read it, and if it's done right it makes players not just invested in the content, but hungry for more. Not everyone has an existing gaming group, or the time to play in hangouts. Some people that like these things just want to read, so why not make something for them too? Find them. Get them. There's nothing prideful about obscurity and a limited audience. Humans love stories. So attract them with stories. Then give them the tools to write their own, and example stories they can personally consume, and content that they can collaboratively build into shared experience.

Now, we can say that TSR tried this, and Paizo puts out their own fiction, but I think they're doing it wrong. Dragonlance being the perfect example. The novels hobbled Krynn with cannon. The stories were too big. The timeline too fixed. Raistlin did this, with these people, at this time. The gods threw a mountain at that specific time. Then the gods all went away. Sure you can go against it, but now you're on your own. You're off the timeline and the content you're purchased can't help. Didn't you realize that you were just supposed to be happy running along in the shadows of characters determined by cannon a long time ago? That's what Star Wars fans like right? The universe? You can't stop the death star from blowing up, or Vader from sacrificing himself. It goes against that which has been set down.

No. It needs more freedom. More chaos. And people are scared of that stuff. So what do you do?

You make a map. And you fill it with interesting locations where things can happen. You build sets. Like a play. Your factions are the furniture. Then you make some history, and this part's hard. No one really gives a shit about the history, and they shouldn't. But the thing is, it's not really history, it's connections and motivations for the factions. All intelligent creatures want things, and can't get them, and they come into conflict with one another over these things. It needs to be presented like a filing cabinet, or a folder of folders. When you first look at the history it needs to be basic, basic, basic:

"There were snake people that liked plants. They vanished. Then there were elves. They all died. Their home blew up. It was probably their fault. They trapped some nereids before they died. An efreet on the run hid out in a volcano in the remnants of the elves old home. He found something useful and started fencing it. The fence gave the efreet slaves. The efreet found the nereids and did unspeakable things to them. The efreet mismanaged the slaves. The slaves revolted. The nereids and slaves tentatively banded together against their common enemy. The fence found out the efreet's true identity and began extorting him. Adventurers started showing up on the islands...."

The past defines the now. It sets up the pieces, and stacks them precariously. Each of those sentences is a folder, or a drawer in the filing cabinet. None of it really matters, but when the players show up, they're going to start knocking things over. So when the time comes the depth is there premade for the GM if they want it. Only the past should be known and it should only really be know in terms of the consequences it is going to impose on actions. The future should not be known. Only the now and the jumble of events that caused this now to be.

So then you take your sets, and your furniture and your web of problems and consequences and you find people that can write and you say "This is the now. Do you like it? Would you like to tell a story that begins at this point?" And you let them tell their story. And then you go to someone else, and you say the same thing. And again and again and again. There is no cannon. The future is undefined. You embrace the fact that every story beginning at that "now" will be different. And you make graphic novels and short 11 minute cartoons with grossly different art styles, and you remind your audience "No, you are not a passive consumer. You are a creator. For too long you have suffered under the tyranny of force fed story. There is no future. Take these plastic dinosaurs. This sandbox and this water hose and tell your own story. What's that? You have too much potential and are suffering creative paralysis because of it? Ok, let's watch Godzilla. Now let's watch the Land Before Time. Now let me read you Jurassic Park and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Yes. Go. Copy. Refine. Remix. Explore. See, you didn't need rules afterall."

Let the Gem of Immortality shatter and be enthusiastic that every shard will go its own way.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Some Vaporware - Kukeri

A vaporware funnel/level 1 adventure

All PCs begin as townsfolk in tiny village in the mountains.

There is a local tradition for all the men of the village to get dressed up as the most frightening monster they can imagine using sheepskin, bells, horns, masks and have a 24 hour festival, on the first day snow begins to melt, to keep evil at bay.

Two parades occur that day, one at noon and one at midnight. Their destination is a well worn limestone bluff riddled with caves where the evil sleeps (slept?). The route is approximately a mile and the men hop and dance, making as much noise as they can with bells and drums and obnoxious pipes.

Problem: Even though no one believes it anymore, the ritual works. While this would normally be a good thing, new evil has moved into the limestone caves. The new evil is more powerful than the village. The old evil is more powerful than the new evil. If the rituals are not performed the old evil will awake and "cleanse" their labyrinthine caves of the interlopers. No telling if they could be put back to sleep though.

The game begins with the townsfolk very excited about this year's festivities because of recent deaths, blood on the snow, missing children, etc. The new evil is some sort of "snatcher" type monster. Stealthy with lots of traps that result in apparent sudden disappearances. The old evil would be something more ancient and sinister with black magic like a coven of sleeping witches, or hags, or ghostly undead like banshees or wraiths, or some true faceless terror from beyond.

Random table determines the professions of the PCs and depending on group size determines all the trades in said village.

Starting equipment is a sweet ass monster costume, a ton of brass bells, some sort of obnoxious noise making instrument (and no musical training, just blare with it bro) and a few randomly determined incidental items like a hatchet, knife, torch, walking stick (with bells!!), handfuls of local fragrant herbs said to ward off evil, simple charms said to ward off evil (25% of being true), lockpicks ('cause you were planning on sneaking away from the parade and "shopping" for a few things, ya bastard), etc.

Inspirational material:
  • Google image search for Kukeri bulgaria
  • Youtube Vid 1 - Terrifying costumes. Maybe a little too real. Backwoods axe murderer shit right here.
  • Youtube Vid 2 - best costumes imo, great sounds, just no masks :(
  • Youtube Vid 3 - some costumes seem too modern, but the cacophony is particularly great
  • Fancy Vimeo Video -  Nice but a damn shame they cut the actual sounds
  • Binka Dobreva - Dan's Mom - Not directly related but helps set excellent tone of what the PCs are fighting for
  • БALKANSKY - Kuker - The track that sent me down this internet path tonight is a strange and wonderful amalgamation of traditional kukeri sounds and dubstep

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gameable Thundercats - Old Friends

Swordfish Islands is going going going. 86.1% complete (assuming my burndown chart is accurate, and I don't suddenly realize there's something else that needs to be added). Book 1 - The Field Guide to Hot Springs Island, tentatively 100% complete with 43k words. Book 2 - The Dark of Hot Springs Island, still not done, but sitting pretty, or pretty ugly, at 79k words.

Turkey is delicious. Family is awesome. And now for some more Thundercats.

I absolutely love the screencap I grabbed for this episode. There's something about seeing the backs of the main character, with what is clearly their destination in the distance, to really give a feeling of *journey*. May just be me, but this shot really captures the grand adventure/exploration vibe.

Episode 05 - Old Friends

01. A single mountain with near-vertical cliffs and a flattened top rises high above the rest of the mountain range. Its peak is high above the normal height of clouds.

02. Lizardmen miners dig for large, eggshaped pieces of stone coated in growths of fuschia crystals.

03. Two powerfully strong warriors from a foreign kingdom seek an object of great power. Their mission is secret. One despises the mission while duty to country drives the other.

04. Only two soldiers guard the entrance to the mine. Or well... that's what it looks like. Nineteen more are stationed a very short distance inside.

05. A gigantic six legged ratboar with red eyes and tusks larger than a man.

06. Voices in the desert speak to the ambitious while they sleep. "Come to me. The power you seek awaits you."

07. A pillar of swirling sand hides a pyramid beyond the wind eaten red rocks.

08. A voice from inside a tomb cries out in your mind "Open it. Open it and I will grant you the limitless power you desire. The power you deserve."

09. Two carved stone slabs meet to form a tomb door. There is no lock or handle, but it looks like you could push them open (like an elevator door). Ancient winds blow with the force of a gale as they are pried apart. There may or may not be visible souls in said wind.

10. A mummy wears a sweet red robe with a hood.

11. An encounter with a hated foe ends in a standard saturday morning cartoon fashion. Just before combat can begin, the foe summons/calls a weaker (but still powerful) monster to fight the group. The foe uses this distraction to run away. Your party may or may not use this opportunity to level up.

12. A creature attacks the terrain around the party instead of the party themselves. (typically most effective in a mine (caveins) or forest (treefalls))

Remember: just because an entrance is secret doesn't mean it can't look badass as it opens.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gameable Thundercats - Song of the Petalars

Episode 04 - Song of the Petalars

This is the episode that completely locked me in as a fan of the new Thundercats. Tiny people that sing. Plants. The bad guys are sending an entire army after the party and the army, flexing its technological might, is just clear cutting through the forest after them. When that's not enough General Slythe, while being massaged and sloppily eating fruit orders it to be set ablaze with this beautiful exchange:

General Slythe: "Burn this forest. Burn it to the ground, and the Thundercats with it."

Some Lizard: "But Kumai... and the others..." [Voicing concern for the scouts tracking the cats]

General Slythe: "Are expendible, as are you lieutenant. Now do as I command."

And then it cuts to four lizards wearing goggles and wielding flame throwers. Seriously. THIS is how you set up your badguys. Not. Fucking. Around.

On top of this, you get death (both bad guys and good) and existential angst because of relativistic perceptions of time. The show was absolutely doomed. Too dark. Too heavy. Too good. Time,  hopefully, will vindicate it. (Yeah yeah, the party gets saved from unbeatable odds at the end of this episode with a deus ex machina, but I'm forgiving it because it's the #1 it's Thundertank, #2 Panthro (thought dead) is driving it, #3 as he emerges from the tank he's one shots an attacker with a stylish flourish of his nunchucks while illuminated from behind by a planet. I mean, they literally did the deus and the ex machina.)

This show geeks me out.

Gameable Ideas from Song of the Petalars

01. Six legged frogs.

02. A forest of redwoods gives way to a dome of brambles taller than the trees.

03. In a hidden clearing, more than a hundred tiny people made of flowers standing in a circle, sing a haunting melody, as seeds within the circle sprout into their children.

04. A race of tiny plant people have been blown away from their home by a great windstorm. They are hopelessly lost.

05. A race of tiny people that are born, mature and die in a single day.

06. "This map will lead us to the cliff of winds. If we can find it we'll be able to ride the winds all the way home."

07. A child found in a briar patch grows several years older every time the party loses sight of it.

08. A chameleon stalks the party.

09. A weapon made of thorns.

10. Pollen bombs explode and shimmer in the last rays of the setting sun.

11. A burning forest blossoms with new life.

12. An invisible foe is revealed by thrown fruit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gameable Thundercats - Ramlak Rising

The first two episodes of Thundercats (2011) don't have much in the way of gameable ideas as far as I'm concerned, but that makes sense. These two episodes are, in reality, a single ~hour long episode that lines up perfectly with the first gaming session of any campaign. Its purpose is to set the stage and form the party. These two episodes accomplish that quickly and effectively by establishing the world's status quo (i.e., Highly civilized and technology is myth) and then destroying it. As episode two ends a party of five (thief, thief(bard?), fighter(speed), fighter(strength or maybe a paladin), cleirc) has essentially been formed, has been given an objective, and has no way to go back to normalcy and shirk the quest.

It's good stuff, but is more "trope, trope, trope" instead of "idea, idea, idea" like the other episodes. 

Episode 3, Ramlak Rising, is where the adventure begins in earnest and where the RPG ideas start rolling. The party leader is pissed (e.g., "You're angry Lion-o." "I should hope I'm not the only one!") but his dad just died and civilization ended so it's cool. The party now has to decide if they're going to go after the McGuffin or the Big Bad Evil Guy.


01. A child thief plays a magic flute in the smoldering ruins of a once great city.

02. A pair of theives steals from looters too busy to guard their haul.

03. Two young orphans near the wreckage of a wagon, claim to know of an ancient city of treasure, and begin following the party. They're hungry.

04. A literal sea of sand. With waves and everything.

05. Food in the desert looks like a mirage, but it's real! It's also a trap.

06. An airship that can only fly over sand hovers on a cloud of lightning.

07. A non-lethal trap (cage, net, pit, etc) has been set by a group of fishmen to catch a very specific creature. If it accidentally catches the party the fishmen's first response will be to turn them into chum and reset the trap.

08. A man with a missing leg hunts the creature that took it. Well past the point of sanity. His peg leg is made of brass and super stylish though.

09. Under normal circumstances the new friends the party just made would eat you. Their leaders respect the new arrangements but things are proving difficult for the rank and file. The party just smells sooooooo good.

10. It's easy to find the large monster that's been terrorizing the countryside because of the way active thunderstorms build up over it. The problem of course is that the lightning strikes don't even tickle it.

11. It's raining rocks. Big ones, about the size of a cat.

12. A lantern of dark magic contains the soul of a good cleric. The cleric knows the location of an item of great power, and the lantern (against the cleric's will) projects a beam of light in the direction of this artifact no matter how far away it is.

Good quotes:

"Take out the arms. Then we go for the head"

"Do you know what it's like to have everything taken from you and replaced with rage?"

"The food's fightin' better than you."

Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm a copycat - Gameable Ideas

Progress on Hot Springs Island continues. I'm fast approaching 90% and it feels good. Very good. For reasons I don't want to get into right now, I've got to hold off on sharing stuff about Hot Springs 'till I pass a certain threshold.

In the meantime I've wanted to keep blogging, but I couldn't think of anything to write about/do that wouldn't pull me too far away from the work I need to be doing. But I think I've found the answer!

Back in October, Zak Smith wrote a post of 100 random plot elements taken from Sergio Toppi's take on the Arabian Nights and Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment. I enjoyed the post so much that I've decided to copy the idea, but instead of pulling gameable ideas out of comics I'm going to pull them out of cartoons. Specifically the Thundercats reboot from 2011.

I always loved the Thundercats as a kid and was highly skeptical when the reboot of the series was announced. Mostly because I hadn't watched Thundercats since I was, I dunno, 8? and I preferred to leave my professed enjoyment of the series squarely in nostalgia land. However, as I started to watch the 2011 version I found that I absolutely freaking loved it, on its own merits. Not only was the animation gorgeous, the storyline was full of dark, heavy shit. Sure you've got your Ro-bear Berbils and know the good guys are going to win, but there's loss, betrayal, permanent physical damage, death, regret and devious, nasty bad guys. On top of that, the way the story arced through the party formation of both the good guys AND the bad guys was top notch in my opinion.

The show, as of this point, has been shuttered and it looks like there will never be any episodes beyond 26, so I should absolutely be able to make tables for all of them. If it goes well, and is as non-distracting as I think it will be, I think I'll do Adventure Time once I wrap up Thundercats.

This first list is from Episode 8 - The Duelist and the Drifter. I randomly chose an episode to watch tonight before I seized upon this idea, and I'll roll back to the beginning for the next post.

From an RPG perspective, this episode is a single player adventure. The party's techno-wizards are attempting to activate the ancient artifact they recently recovered and while they research it, the party leader heads into a nearby town for supplies where he promptly gets himself into, and then out of, trouble.

01. A stronghold is carved into a high cliff and a gigantic waterfall flows around it.

02. A village surrounded by a wall made of swords.

03. Laughter hidden in a crow's cawing.

04. A man who is so relaxed that he literally drifts about on the wind.

05. A swordsman's town where they duel for keeps.

06. The coins you try to pay with are no good because they are "relics of a fallen empire"

07. A sword forged in the lava pits of a volcano.

08. A man with a ruler tattoo on his arm.

09. A giant stone pillar stands in the middle of town. Whoever deals the most damage to the stone with a single strike wins a cash prize. Townsfolk always gather to watch because most swords break as they strike the stone.

10. A Swordsman wearing a blindfold insists on quoting archaic poetry before attacking. Sometimes he feels it necessary to quote a line before each strike.

11. A race of short, yellow skinned, humanoids with noses almost as large as the rest of their head.

12. Hubris. So much fucking hubris. It's a veritable weather pattern in these parts. All creatures feel compelled to peacock or monologue before dealing a killing blow.

13. A man with a beautiful voice and glorious mustache wears so many swords on his back he resembles a peacock.

14. An enemy you do not know, recognizes an item you carry as belonging to your dead family member. They use this information to mock and insult you.

15. An old man, with insane dexterity, invites the brash, headstrong and impatient to cut the reed he holds in his mouth using three swings of their sword or less. His ability to dodge is obscene.

16. A pile of daggers the size of a cow, sits outside the blacksmith's house.

17. Everyone in this town tells stories about themselves in third person. Always.

18. An highly skilled swordsman travels the lands challenging people with exceptional swords to duels. He is currently undefeated and when he wins he takes his opponent's sword.

19. An artist, emotionally destroyed after losing his greatest masterpiece due to bad personal decisions, has vital information for the players if they can convince him to care again.

20. A master artisan who has quit crafting can be tricked into crafting again if they see someone working in their style poorly or incorrectly (but passionately).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If you use Google+ you might want to stop posting or commenting on YouTube links

Here are a couple pieces of conventional internet wisdom: Google+ is a ghost town, and YouTube comments are a cesspool. In what appears to be an effort to tackle both of these problems, Google has begun merging these two services. The thought seems to be that forcing a "real name" G+ account on YouTube commenters strips them of their anonymity (thus increasing comment quality) and pushes more bodies into Google's land of plusses and circles. The intentions seem good, but there's some pretty awful collateral damage to active G+ users because Google doesn't seem to understand *context*.

This blog is a role playing game blog. Playing games like D&D and Pathfinder is my hobby, and there's a thriving community of tabletop RPG bloggers who moved from RPG forums as their conversational venue to G+. In this community, blogging is used for "long form" writing and G+ is a "short form" place dedicated to the discussion of other people's blogs, brainstorming, and inspirational link sharing.

Videos, naturally, are a commonly shared item, and this is where the problem with this merger comes in. You see, when the merge happened, Google went through all of the videos you've posted to your G+ feed, scraped up the comments and posted them to YouTube. When it did this, if you'd ever publicly posted a YouTube video on G+, it posted a link to your G+ page on YouTube (you know, the place conventionally called a commentary cesspool). Not only does it post a link to my profile, if I publicly shared a YouTube link on G+ and tagged someone in it, a link to their profile is now in the YouTube comment section of that video as well. That feels icky. These two sites have vastly different user bases and if I'd *known* that this would occur I may have made different decisions in how I chose to post things. My profile ending up on YouTube is one thing, but inadvertently causing someone else's to end up there because of a video I posted to my G+ feed months ago just isn't cool.

Google seems to have exhibited a complete lack of the concept of *context*, which, based on all the touting they'd done of G+'s circles, seems really strange. You see, if I'm on YouTube and I'm watching a video, the page is dedicated to the video. There's a context. And the context is that video. The focus is the video. The comments section is a place where people go to respond to what they've seen in that video (and call one another fags). On YouTube you are "at" the video.

G+ has a completely different context. I am sharing. I have found something, and I am sharing what I have found with a group of people. In all likelyhood, I've been having a conversation with that group of people about a topic and I'm probably choosing to share what I have found because it speaks to a point in our discussion. And what's awesome about G+ is that because it is a feed, and because I know who's in my circles and who has me in their circles, mini-zeitgeists emerge. People in the feed often share things that relate to one another, and make comments on the link they have shared that reinforce that zeitgeist.

Additionally, on G+ because I know that I am posting in a feed, I tend to link my posts together, contextually, and (in a fashion) tell stories. For example, a couple days ago the cartoon Steven Universe premiered on Cartoon Network. It was awesome, has thematic ties in with RPGs and gaming, and I posted a YouTube link to the show's into theme. The intro is great, especially the music (Rebecca Sugar is amazing!), and, as happens, I fell down a bit of a YouTube pit listening to chiptune music. After a while I found another chiptune song and video that I wanted to share on G+, so I did.

Now here's what happened:

On the Steven Universe post I said the following: "Premiered today. Man... this intro track is just solid gold. Rebecca Sugar is so fantastic. #cartoons"  

On the Anamanaguchi track I posted a bit later I said "And it's apparently a "chiptune is the definition of eternity" night for me."

I'm not trying to win any awards for creative commentary, but hopefully it's clear that the way I presented those two videos in my feed is linked. They work off one another. They go together. But what happened after the YouTube/G+ merge? The words I used to describe the videos in the context of _my feed_ were put directly into the YouTube comments on the two videos. This completely strips my words of context, and the words I put on the Anamanaguchi link make me look stupid when viewed from YouTube. "And it's apparently a "chiptune is the definition of eternity" night for me." does not work in both places. That phrase doesn't stand alone, but it wasn't ever meant to.

In the end, the TLDR that everyone on G+ needs to be aware of is:
  • If you publicly post a YouTube video on your G+ feed a link to your profile shows up on that video's YouTube comments
  • If you comment on a YouTube video that someone else publicly posts in their G+ feed, a link to your G+ feed shows up on that video's YouTube comments
  • If you're not a fan of this, and you want to go back and "clean up" those links you've made over the past months/years you can't just delete the post from your G+ feed. You have to delete it from G+ and from YouTube.
  • When you post a link to a YouTube video on G+ you need to be aware that the words you post along with it are going to simultaneously appear in two different communities on the internet with two inherently different audiences.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bee and Puppycat

I would like to take a moment to recommend that you back the Bee and Puppycat Kickstarter. There are only 9 days to go, and I believe it is representative of exactly what Kickstarter is here for.

To begin, I have no affiliation with the project in any way, shape or form. I don't know anyone that's working on it, and it doesn't really have anything to do with RPGs.

Natasha Allegri
Bee and Puppycat is a cartoon by Natasha Allegri. She's a character designer and storyboard artist on Adventure Time and, I believe, is responsible for the way Finn's gender alt Fionna looks among other things. She seems like an awesome, funny and super sincere person in a quiet and flighty kind of way (check out this interview), but this post is about the quality of the art and not the personality of its creator.*

The goal of the Kickstarter is to raise $600,000 to make six more episodes of Bee and Puppycat with stretch goal potential for more. The project is being run by Frederator Studios for Cartoon Hangover which consistently delivers wonderful things and seems to truly give a shit about protecting and defending their artist's visions. My personal bias in all this is that I think animation is humanity's highest art form and if I could ever be a part of a cartoon project I'd want to work with Frederator above all others.

So what makes Bee and Puppycat so special?

#1 It's beautiful

Cat scratch fever dream?
#2 It's funny
Accidental dick punches are always funny. As are farts, and thumbing ones nose at an authority figure by eating all their candy after they ignore you. Great stuff.

#3 It feels so fucking sincere it almost makes me sick
Bee feels real. The show begins with her having just been fired and her depression is executed so well. Then it goes on to effortlessly execute bashful love, embarassment, and self doubt.

#4 It Pushes
To me it feels like Bee and Puppycat is trying new things. The voice of Puppycat uses the "Oliver" vocaloid (

#5 Excellent use of tropes
Tangentially related to number #4 it does an excellent job of using tropes, allowing them to expertly draw the audience in, but then slaps, stretches and flips them. (costume, oh but I hate it)

#6 It's fucking weird, in the right way
Go to fishbowl space to babysit giant fish that's on, not in a fishbowl. Talking, yet apparently unrelated ladybugs.

#7 The Zoom
In my opinion this is so fucking important for any story and even in just one episode Bee and Puppycat shows the future potential so elegantly. It does this by telling a story of love and betrayal using song and then gives a single flash, right at the end of the show to indicate that there is truth to that story.

#8 Darkness and Light
I believe the... cleansing(?) of stories for children is a disservice to civilization. Darkness, badness, evilness, wickedness, corruption (and so much more) is real, and to cut it out of stories told to children is awful. Cartoons, like the fairy tales of old need, to be able to explore serious topics and Bee and Puppycat have already explore a lawfully sociopathic authority figure as well a monster in disguise.

But don't take my word for it. Watch the first episode and use that brain of yours to decide for yourself!

Check out the Kickstarter and let's help make this happen!

*Note: It's possible to have a long drawn out discussion about the fact that powerful art cannot be created by an interesting, powerful or compelling personality, but that's a discussion for another time. And I wrote this most all of this blog post before I'd even seen her tumblr. She's brilliant. Her work is amazing. I just... I don't even know. I think the world is richer because of people like Natasha. I cannot even begin to imagine how much amazing stuff is going to come from this show if it can become a show.