Sunday, October 13, 2013

that is all

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Daily Parade of Horrors

Gen Con
Gen Con (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ok well the 200 words a day plan tanked entirely. but I am helping a friend with a blog but that's as maybe. I had a great GenCon. I had a terrific time and met Alasdair Stuart who has been kind enough to provide guidance in some of my writing here. He is a man of letters himself at  . So anyway I am re-enrolling in college now trying to get a teaching license. Hopefully that will work out. I am overbooked for next week though. I also have some other projects that may be coming down the pike but they are secret.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

clever moment

I felt very clever today. someone was nattering out about the masses not understanding and threatening his art. I said, "Its not so much the masses you have to watch out for as the Forces and the first derivatives of Acceleration." (third derivative of position if you care) I like this joke more than is at all appropriate.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Well Otakon was a thing.  I have been writing, just not here. I think I need to go back to it. There just have not been enough hours in the day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Its been seven hours and 15 days

Oh well its been about two weeks or so since I promised I'd write 200 words per day and I have just not all here. I wrote some as responses in other people's blogs I've written reports, short fiction etc. just not all here. That being said though it sounds like a bit of a cop out. So here's for making up for list verbiage. I'm going to try for 1600 words here and now.
Zen dog dreams of a medium sized bone. Adam Long
Another renter had come and gone. This one was some kind of hospital worker. The courts had helped and hindered, they said I was entitled to eight month's rent out of him but that finding him was my own hangup. His baby momma took my nice carpets and bed. she left a ratty sleep sofa, a pile of old crts and several rooms full of medical detritus.
I had a cop come with me to look through the stuff to make sure it wasn't drug paraphernalia. It wasn't, although the piles of needles, lancets, tubing and bandages were certainly potential biohazzards. I walked the block to the hospital to ask for a sharps box and some related equipment and they were quite helpful. On y own I decided to use a pair of red plastic salad tongs to pick up the various objects and put them in the sharps box, I also wore gloves, mask and goggles. Its not paranoia just preparedness. I wandered, swaddled in protective equipment through the house. After a day of cleaning an old colonial home in hundred degree heat while wearing  such things I was soaked through. I spent the last of my energy to get to the beach, float in the ocean and get a sandwich on the boardwalk.
On the drive home the cars ahead of me contained hurried tourists and small grey stones tapped on the car window, kicked up by their tires. That same irregular staccato tapping was repeated at night as I slept. The heat broke and the rain on the air conditioner made gentle taps through the night that even invaded my dreams as though I were haunted by the ghost of Gregory Hines.
The next day was cooler in the morning and a surprising amount of cleaning was done but by noon the remnants of the rain had ceased to cool and merely turned the air into a swampy mess. I took a nap in the newly cleaned kitchen, the compressor from the fridge making the occasional tap. When I awoke I found that with well rested clear eyes I could see medical waste I had missed the night before. bits of needle and tube strewn about with gauze. I cleaned long into the cool night and in the end took pictures to attract future renters. A fruitful day demanded a reward, so a wander to King's and some Pineapple ice cream later, my sleep was a blissful one.
The dreams that night involved being chased by a rabid Shirley Temple as she sang about the good ship lollipop and attempted to rend me limb from limb with her Medusa-like curls, but that's what I get for eating dairy before bed. I do not regret my gustatory decisions.
I awoke and set about preparing the house to be viewed, purchasing cookie dough, getting forms and pencils etc. when I noticed a pile of needles, tubes and gauze I had apparently missed. It was small and after cleaning I had to see to a dripping faucet on the second floor, the drip of the water against the basin was made audible by the newly earned and hard won stillness of the house. I slept this night in the rental property to get a feel for it once again, as potential renters would surely ask about the climate control or any other potential issues with the house. When I awoke I went to the kitchen and went through the motions of a breakfast. and I noticed, in the corner an arrangement of needles, tubes and gauze. I quickly flipped though my phone to the pictures I had taken of the very same corner not long before. It had been spotless. I quickly looked around the area to see if it could have fallen off any shelves or out of any holes in the wainscoting or vents or other reasonable places. Then quickly discarded the idea that my house was beset by diabetic Ninja with Alzheimer's. I again heard the tapping. this tie I moved the fridge. I thought I saw a small gleaming ball bearing roll beneath the counter, making arrhythmic tapping noises all the way. Effort with flashlight and tongs revealed a small and improbable creature. Eight hollow needle legs, like hypodermics joined with bits of tubing to a bulbous translucent rubber body. It attacked the tongs with fangs that jabbed like lancets and attempted to wrap them in strands of silken gauze. I placed the creature in a steel thermos. eventually the tapping stopped and it fell apart into a pile of medical debris. I could still faintly hear the tapping. The fridge was unplugged, the sky was clear of rain, and Gregory Hines had been dead for years. I followed the sound to the floorboards and decided to instead go around to the door that leads beneath the house.
Normally this would be called a crawlspace but the erosion and the age of the house has turned it into an unofficial cellar where a man can stand if he's under 6'5".  The floors and walls are made of the same sandy soil that makes up the whole coastal town and deep strong beams are sunk into the ground. From time to time communities of cats must be discouraged from holding whatever dark congregations they arrange through the use of traps, chemicals or simply finding and filling in the holes they make. There hadn't been a problem with the local feral felines in nearly a year, perhaps this should have been my first suspicion as I stepped upon the sand and heard a muffled crunch. Kicking the uneven sand revealed the skeleton of a cat, wrapped in its fur. devoid of flesh or fluid and preserved in gauze and the cool dry air beneath the house. I thought briefly of Egypt and their mummified crypt guardians and was about to leave when I saw it, a mound the size of a man. his face smoothed over, wrapped in threads of gauze and silk. Unlike the protagonist of many a horror movie I ran then and there. I knew I could not hear the tapping of the needle spiders on sand and staying home was not an option.
I now knew the location of my erstwhile renter and will be contacting the local police with this information. I will no longer be seeking monetary redress for his late rent. I have however sent you this letter. As a customer of your insurance company I have paid quite an exorbitant amount for your policy regarding loss property value or income due to vermin and other animals after the feral cat incidents over the past few years. I wish for you to please rid my house of this cryptozoological horror post haste as  I have potential renters coming in and I do not wish to have them exsanguinated.
B. Walker

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Like a circle, like a spiral

So plot then, this might be a cop out post but compare this
with this
with this, and this
and you get this, this, and
So the windmills of my mind are grinding slowly but they are grinding exceedingly small. What I do apparently is to writing as farming is to cooking.  Mitch Hedberg has a good bit about it. Something that the Extra Credits guys and the Hulk missed about designing narrative for games is that for games you should not be designing narratives. You should be designing the tools you use to make narratives. The best example of this that I have found lies in third edition dungeons and dragons. (or 3.5 or pathfinder, to a lesser extent fourth but its still there at all).
Your  potential choices at the beginning of a game are infinite. you're first level and you can go anywhere and there's not going to be much difference between you and the various ncps in capacity and most of the pcs can basically do each other's jobs, albeit badly. Most of what you do is a grind or a bit of fine point accounting and deciding the minutia of day to day life. Nothing tells you you have to leave home but over time if you have built an area that works the experience mechanic is such that you will rapidly challenge, then defeat then master anything in your starting comfortable area. It turns out, at this time you have received some sort of special abilities that have speciated and separated you from your partymates and no one would mistake you for anything but the most stalwart of npc classes. Even if you stay in your home area physically the scope of the effects of your actions move beyond the small area in which you start and you begin affecting the course of towns. As this continues, you get to the real meat grinder, death comes easily and often but resurrection is possible and expensive. Successful parties develop problem solving strategies, hone their skills in and out of character to maximise for the ability to work their will in the world. Then you hit the next threshold from 15 to 20 where death has no sting and you are, not at all metaphorically, the master of many worlds. Your ability to go to or pull resources from other planes really comes into its own, you can consult gods without much trouble and you have either reconciled with the local power structure or you are the local power structure wherever you may be. Once again all of this is implicit in the mechanics. It doesn't matter if you're running ballroom dancing contests or Conan rip offs or Tolkein rip offs. If you are using d20 or its descendants and their core rules mechanics this is what will happen. s for the parts where players decide t then go home or do other things afterward, who can say? What does happen, however is the power curve flattens, the fantastic becomes mundane and the players, as a rule, stop questing because wherever they are is irrelevant, they are home wherever they want to be and most of what you do is a grind or a bit of fine point accounting and deciding the minutia of day to day life.  So at least as far as the mechanics are concerned a journey home or something like it has been achieved.
Yahtzee, Portnow. etc all talk about building story into the mechanics but there is precious little about how that is done. I am not sure if I can manage it but I will try over the next few weeks. It basically goes something like this. Watch the real world and listen to the stories and narratives people put around real world events when they happen. watch movies yourself then listen to other people when they describe movies. The Hulk has a good bit about concrete details somewhere, I forget the concrete details.
I will need to tighten this up later, but step two goes something like this, after getting a good feel for how people will report an event after the fact, take a good look at mechanics, look at what they mean, try playing games re-fluffed. For example call the cleave feat something else like, very good follow through or battle pirouette. Something that helped me was studying a little bit of real world physics and then physically doing high school type kinematic experiments. then trying to picture what would happen in the game world if the game rules replaced the standard force equations.  Try playing your game with all of the contextual speech removed, like having fireball called power 3 and enervate called power 4, dwarf as race 1, halfling as race 2 and removing any words that don't have a game effect like dwarves being shorter than humans, effectively they are not. Just play through a session or two with this disconnect. See what stories you end up making about the noble and valiant 2s vs the brawny and brutish 1s.  these are the stories your mechanics build. If they don't match up with your fluff, you need  to change the mechanics more or re-fluff your  system.
If you do this sort of thing for long enough you will get a feel for which mechanics map to which narrative devices under which circumstances  and which ones the players will pick up and use. Now you know what to include or keep out of your game based on the kind of experience you want the player to have. To once again put out the food metaphor, game design is like Iron chef, you now know what ingredients to prepare and leave out so that your players (who are the actual cooks) can make a worthy meal you will all share. You are the chairman, once you have set the kitchen in motion all you can or should do is ask how they are doing and what they plan. If you have set up the kitchens right, not only will your players surprise you every time but their surprised won't derail or destroy the game, you will reach a sublime mix of emergence and predictability, because no matter how good a storyteller you are you are likely not as good as reality for coming up with interesting twists.