Friday, May 13, 2022

Slush Post 10.5: Return of the Bookmark Special

 I have a lot of bookmarks. Here's the first installment.

 Normal slushes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5, 9, 10

Game Resources

Hexroll - Automated hexmap generator, with export function

d12 Monthly - 5e geared, but free and well put together 

Grey Gnome free art assets - A-OK for commercial products!

Star system generator - Make-your-own

Itch.io collection of ttrpg assets and templates 

Review of the Parallax RPG - Luke Gearing sets a new standard for game review posts.

Another star system generator - This time for Alien. Random rolls, more detail than the first

Sketch-to-lineart 

Pixel Planet Generator 

Ghostwriter - Minimalist markdown text editor 

Another another star system generator - Now in vintage map style

Making monsters with punnet squares

Free art from JN Butler 

Goblin Archives' resource masterpost 

Open source fonts 

Resources for making solo games 

Planet art resources


Music

Ska cover of Mountain Goats "No Children"

Dark Blues Music to Escape To 

Hardspace Shipbreaker OST


Miscellany

Roman calendar horrorshow (Might be bullshit, but I believe it)

Wikipedia's list of obsolete occupations

Dark Souls 3: the Bastard's Curse - The single best video essay on the series, bar none.

The tale of Charles McCartney - One of those real life NPCs

"Perhaps in My Father's Time..." - On memory, and history

How to Make a Star Wars Guy - Useful design work and critique all in one

Another Minute Remaining - 60 essayists make 60 essays of 60 seconds each

Androidarts - A guy who has done a lot of good art for a very long time.

What if Bloodborne was an Animated Series? - 23 seconds of perfection

Rating early Christian heresies

Disco Elysium, Mystery Fiction, and the Point of It All 

The Jedi have a death stick problem 

Lucas Roussel's Rust and Humus

Kishotenketsu - A framework for four-act stories

Godkiller - A webcomic about exactly that, by Tuomas Myllylä

Reverse Dictionary - Search by definition 


Twitter Threads

Funniest damn thing I've seen in ages

Orson Wells opines on media 

A collection of public domain pulp characters

Disco Elysium, if it had Sam Vimes 

Batman, perfected 

You have been taught the wrong thing about drawing 

Look I just fucking love Dorohedoro okay 

Setting up a moai 

Midwest gothic

 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Let's Look at Here, There, Be Monsters!

Yeah that's a hell of a cover



So friend of the blog Wendi asked me over on Discord to give a look at her new game Here, There, Be Monsters! So here it is.


**

Love the little trick with the commas in the title. I had missed it the first time.

**

HTBM exists in the same modern supernatural oeuvre as one would find Esoteric Enterprises, Liminal Horror, Agents of the ODD, and so on. You know the type. As the name suggests, it's geared towards playing as those supernatural folks on the fringes. Very, very geared. The first paragraph of the first page is as follows:

"This game is for the monsters, the weirdos, the freaks and sickos, the insane and the cripples, the trannies and fags and dykes, cunts and thugs and whores, the fatties, the junkies, the illegals, the terrorists, the exotic, the undesirables, the degenerate, the vermin, the suspicious, the anomalies, and every single body who was ever branded for its monstrosity."


That is one hell of a mission statement.

**

The mechanics underneath it all are very lightweight: you choose two tags each for Be, Have, and Do, a background that can modify or give guidance regarding those tags. Rolls are 2d6 roll, add a third die and take two highest if you have a relevant tag. Success / Partial Success / Failure as you would find in PbtA.

There's not much to say about them, so I am getting it out of the way early. Succinct, do their job.

**

This is the part where I gush about the art direction.

It's really, really fucking good.

Lino Arruda's work is lovingly grotesque and overflows with personality. The people her have wringles, bulges, sagging spots asymmetrical faces, exaggerated just enough. The additional art - a mix of public domain, creative commons, and collage - is used liberally and effectively. The mood is set, the vibe is clear. It's loud and colorful and in your face and that is damn refreshing.

**

Formatting! Formatting is good. Excellent. The text itself is always legible and nearly always part of a spread, regardless of the background color or pattern (which does regularly). Important terms are bolded and italicized.

**

Writing? Writing's great. Punchy, concise, effective, full of life and personality. Incredibly strong authorial voice, never bland.

**

The 100 backgrounds provided for characters are star of the show. The combination of key terms, tags, leading questions, and suggestions is such that you can start coming up with the substance behind your character before you've finished reading the entry. Great swathe of options available, moving from ordinary people to weirder people to weirdest people. Things like "A Bunch of Goblins in a Beekeeper Suit", "Homeless Domovoy", "Atlantean Refugee", "Super Smart Simian", and so on.

**

The group that the PCs are part of, and the haven they call home, are appropriately group activities.

**

Three major factions are featured: The Agency (the MIB), the Watchers of the Many-Angled One (fascist occultists) and the Brotherhood of Thoth (rich private collectors). Worthy of note is that only the Watchers are a fully-dedicated enemy faction - the Agency and Brotherhood are antagonists, but not always enemies, and their writeups provide a frame of interaction that will not necessarily boil over into violence.

**

Major locations get a similar writeup to the factions - a short description, then lists of hooks, events, connections, and so on. There are four major ones featured: the Pub, the Night Market, the Library, and Mrs Li's Arcane Assortments.

**

And that's basically it. You have your players, your antagonists, some places to be and some things to do, and there you go. For the vibe the game is aiming at, that's all you need.

**

Here, There, Be Monsters! can be purchased from the Soulmuppet shop or itch.io

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

MSF: A Psalm of Wrath


Mother of Many, hear us

Lend us your spear and your strong arm



Strike like the thunder, Father of Us All

For now no longer is the time for the gentle hand



Our enemies bear down upon us

We are beset on all sides

With sword and shackle they strike at us

They trample the poor underfoot

They reject their kin-bonds and consult with demons

They lay waste to the land

Scornful of the Folk and our compacts with the Peoples

Like ghouls they devour us

Cracking our bones with their teeth

That they might grow fat with our pain



We call to you, Broad-Shouldered Lu

We call for your aid, Tubalkhan of Many Labors

For it is known that you smite the wicked

It is known that you drive them to the edge of the world

It is known that you hear the cries of the suffering

It is known that none among the peoples goes unheard

May the oppressor be cast down!



Grant us steady hand and clear eye

Steep our hearts in hatred-of-swords

Set our course as we stride forth

For we shall not be silent

Nay, we shall not sit idle



This is great labor of the Wise:

To deny the Lord of Rape its victory.


Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Archive

 

Cosimo Galluzzi

Let us say, as part of a thought experiment, that you are an alien intelligence of considerable power. Precisely what your nature and origins are is irrelevant and likely lost even to yourself. What is important is that time and resources have long since ceased being an issue; barring an outside-context-problem, you can sustain yourself more or less indefinitely. You are not a particularly growth-focused intelligence, nor are you one of those liable to turn inward towards deep-time estivation or virtual solipcism. The reasons why do not matter here. You have achieved a comfortable state of homeostasis.

And, the important part of this thought experiment - you want to catalogue all the life in the universe.

This is an impossible task. Life is both rare and temporary, and you are limited by the speed of light. Countless biospheres have slipped through your fingers already - too early, too far away - and you will be lucky to even find the empty spaces where it used to be. But that is the past. Perfection is impossible but mitigation is another thing entirely.

You set to work, creating a series of self-replicating probes. Even at the languid speeds far below the speed of light that they must travel, it is more than enough - a few million years will see them propagate throughout the galaxy, and you are quite patient in such matters. Maybe you will send a few off to Andromeda as a treat.

These probes will sit in orbit around each and every star, monitoring for life. Most of them will find nothing, which is fine, and they will sit dormant until they're needed to pass on messages between more active members of the expedition.

For those that do find life, either on arrival or during a periodic checkup, the probe will dedicate itself to the task of cataloging the biosphere in its entirety. Another impossible task, though as the resident godlike intelligence (and thus far the only one of any relevance) this is less impossible for you. To save on processing power you set your probes to do a regular checkup every few million years, in case there have been any changes.

The catalogue is not the end goal, only the end of a stage. More important than simply the finding of the life (which you do love - godlike intelligences such as yourself crave novelty and evolution is an immensely productive artist) is the recording of its genome, right down to the chemical composition. Your probes are able to do it with such pinpoint accuracy that, given the raw materials and the time, you could re-create anything that your probes have discovered.

Now the true purpose of your little archival project reveals itself - it is not enough to catalogue life, you can perpetuate it. Spread it. Nothing can ever truly go extinct, so long as you get to it first. You can transplant life to other worlds, worlds tailor-made for the life you bring, or perhaps the opposite. Put it in an environment with different criteria and watch as evolution - that brilliant, mad, mindless artist - works at it again. You can even mix life together, modifying it for new environments. Species separated by millions of years and thousands of parsecs can co-exist side-by-side, with a little genetic tampering. Your probes share all they have learned, filing everything away in a grand archive of life (you cannot remember this point if you installed them with ansibles or not - it has been so very long since you built them and there's so much to see in the meantime)

You are a gardener, and you have made the galaxy your vast, slow, beautiful garden. An artwork to keep you content through the long eons to come.

But something goes wrong. It had to, probability would not let that coin come up heads forever. Something breaks within the probes. Like anything that reproduces, your probes are subject to mutations. Glitches in the replication process. So, so many generations of probes have passed, and it takes so long for information to pass between them, that some populations have drifted quite far indeed from your original plans. Maintenance takes time - longer than it does for new problems to emerge.

It will be the end of you. Perhaps not the death of you - as your end in these affairs is no more important to the experiment than your origin - but it is the end of your ownership of the archive. It has become its own master now, self-sustaining and fractal.

Slowly at first, but then growing with exponential speed, a certain corruption befalls your great archival network. An aggressive, total subversion of your probes' behavior, a chaos that is too fast to contain. Probes are destroyed, or permanently taken offline. Hibernation periods are extended too long, or dropped entirely - driving the probes subject to something akin to madness by insomnia. Data hubs are lost. Communication protocols break down. Probes begin to war amongst each other, or destroy the biospheres they were meant to monitor. The great archive of genetic data is corrupted, and the corruption is passed along from probe to probe and there is no way to send a faster message warning of the danger - a few pockets are lucky enough to be out of reach, and it is there that your initial aims, or something close to them, are still carried out.

As for the rest...they are lost to you. If you still live, retreat is your last remaining lifeline. Far from here, far from your great failure.

Among the afflictions is one where the probe will continue its task of seeding ecosystems, importing and mixing source organisms as according to the dimly-remembered initial procedures, but they will come out...wrong. Imbalanced. Ecosystems so ill-suited for their worlds that they immediately begin a trophic cascade. Organisms that evolution could never make. Misshapen things, the afterimages of something from a long-forgotten world far, far away. Invasive organisms, carelessly introduced.

There are times when it seems as if a probe created something with the sole purpose of causing pain.

What is left is this: the galaxy is filled with graves - with worlds that once held life, but swiftly fell to desolation once they no longer had the probe and its support to keep the planet livable. Many worlds do still hold life, of course, and many of the experimental worlds remain intact. But the garden is overrun with weeds, now, and there is no one to hold the pruning shears.

The network of probes, the once-great Archive, is a house that spews forth monsters. A house with a door that cannot be barred. There is no one home, and the lights are off.

And we here in the night may only hear the howls in the distance, and run blindly through that dark forest.