Monday, February 20, 2017

The Dread of Beginning Anew

February 20, 2017. About 11:30

The weather is amazing for February, a nice spring day.  Clear sun, nice clouds.  Fantastic breeze.  Strange. Unsettling.  As I drove in a weak theta/alpha/low-beta zone to work today (not thinking about Neurofeedback but instead of RPGs, Zak Sabbath's latest hubbub, and the State of Our Fragile Union) - I heard this show on my local NPR affiliate, which is 88.1 if you're curious.  The show On Point with Tom Ashbrook - he of the sexy voice and sort of modestly-leftish politics, I think.

how I imagine tom ashbrook
The topic today was 'Personal Reinvention' and it was about what people do when they are able to escape their dreary/trying day to day lives as (insert awful day job here) and become more fulfilled as (insert new character class here).  I think we as a culture, that is we as in RPG players, really thrive on this feeling.  Why, the whole of DCC is practically founded on it!  What's this? You hate being a Sheperd?  Try being a Wizard, instead!  We also enjoy hordes of zombies (i.e. easy objects of violence), hoards of treasure (enough to never work again) and the ruins of ancient cultures (those people had it made and why did they fuck it up, again?)

I don't know.  I feel like you better learn to do something with your time. The robots are almost here - that's right, I just predicted it.  Robots gonna put you out of work, meatbag, and I hope you've monetized your blog and figured out how to drive eyeballs to it, 'cause even our modest service industry about to get destroyed by mindless labor.  If you ain't prepared to fix a robot, decorate a robot, re-program a robot, or destroy a robot with a gauss-blade, you're fixing to be out of work in a few years.  Time for reinvention!

Cosplay project accomplish
 A client has arrive - BRB

1:31 PM Same Day

So, where am I going with this?  Oh yeah.  When I put out the Space Dungeon DCC funnel generator, I was inspired by Jez's (I don't know if it's +Jez Gordon, but he's pretty terrific) lists on there.  The greatest thing about them is, in my opinion, AMBIGUITY.  That is, you get 4 weirdos and what they are is going to be determined by you, probably within about 10 minutes of play, maybe after the first 1 or 2 die hilariously. There's no prep, really.  There's no feats or builds or other bullshit  - hey man, or woman, if that's your game then great but it's not how I play. The game is about what's happening to these hepcats while we are playing, and if 'Nipple Spooner' was your previous profession, then NO WONDER you're trying to be a thief, now.

I modeled my professions on the Space Dungeon lists with some focus on pop culture - things like Star Wars, obv, and old Sierra adventure games, and space movies (I think 'Ice Pirates' was a big influence,obviously).  +Jon Marr was wise enough to scrub all the copyright-infringing references I put in there, but you can see 'em if you squint a little.  I can't tell you how many times people said "WAIT - ROBOT REPAIRMAN. DOES THAT MEAN HE'S A ROBOT THAT REPAIRS THINGS? OR IS HE A GUY THAT WORKS ON ROBOTS?" I take it back, I think I could, it was probably 15 or so in a couple of months of play.

This is exactly the feeling I was trying to capture with Space Dungeon.
 Going back to the previous earlier text, you're going to have to answer that one yourself, pal.  Why not discard these previous conceptions of what your job is, and learn to use your skills to make your way in this cold, hostile, hilariously fucked up universe? Also, since the robot uprising is nearly upon us - I mean this in the fantasy RPG sense and also in the sense that jeezus have you seen these YouTube videos these days? - you'd better get ready for some radical perceptual shifts, and also, the powers that be are going to make you fight for every motherfucking morsel, if you get my meaning.  I don't just mean the Awful King in Yellow when he comes across the Lake of Hali with his robot troops, but also...  You get me, right?

What I predict is that within about 10 years, you and me are going to have to come to grips with changes in the workforce.  These dead, glassy eyed motherfuckers in Congress are being led by a nutter who is convinced that the old ways are better, and who is hilariously underprepped to handle current sorceries.  The funny thing about pop culture memes - The Walking Dead in particular - is that your job is dead already and you just don't know it, yet.  You have a zombie job, probably.  There are robot cooks that can cook meals, robots that will build cars, robots that will pick strawberries, robots that will teach kids.  Aggressive AIs, AI that can make people fabulously wealthy in the spaces between thoughts, AI that can recognize your face on a blurry video.   So many things you can lose your job to, now, that I hope you can't wait to (like many of us on G+!) monetize your blog to make tens of dollars every year!  I think what we're seeing is a President of The Universe, and a Congress of Zombies, that are fundamentally unready to change the way they think about how shit should be and are cranking down to prevent the flow of humans/human capital so as to sustain the Old Ways that lead to ruin. Maybe we'll get lucky and it won't be all THUNDARR the barbarian (sadly I don't think that thinking about living in a post-apocalypse is sufficient preparation) and I don't even think that the Post-Apockyclipse means that the moon will shatter and there will be ionizing radiation everywhere.  It means that technology/sorcery will sneak up and bite you on the ass and change everything about the world.

I don't know where I am going with this.  There seemed to be a point in the alpha/theta/low beta state I was in on the ride in to work today.  I thought PARALLELS BETWEEN LIFE AND GAMING!  POINTS TO BE MADE ABOUT JOB AMBIGUITY/STRESS AND OPPORTUNITY FOR RADICAL GROWTH AND CHANGE! OPPRESSION, CONFLICT, IMMINENT CATASTROPHE.

#joesky content (as if the previous content was not content-laden enough!)

DEPRESSED ROBOT FOOTSOLDIER/WORKER: Init -5; Atk existential depression (special); blaster +1 (2d6) OR crushing grip +1 (1d8); AC 14; HD 1d10;SV Fort +5, Ref -5, Will Variable (1d6-1d4); AL L

Jonny 8 pauses from senseless murder to consider his position in the proletariat
Depressed Robot Footsoldiers, or Depressed Robot Workers, typically slog through their orders, only pausing from dealing out high damage just long enough to consider their existential plight.  These mental tics are programmed into their directives as a safety measure to prevent uncontrollable rage, or else are products of hacking or programming errors.  Their Will saves are variable, and in any given encounter DRFs may be very resistant to mind control/reprogramming or else totally open-minded and gullible.  They learn quickly, but are usually only entrusted with the most meaningless violent or monotonous tasks, despite having very expensive hardware and enchanted silicoid positronic networks where a human might have a brain and heart (meaning, a metaphysical heart).  Often, they only want someone to listen and they utter the most dreadful and plaintive complaints through their vocoder units, mostly in the binary language of simple machines. If they have an opportunity, they can complain in a way that will actually temporarily prevent the use of beneficial Luck effects within their vicinity as a simple action (meaning no PC can burn Luck of any kind during an encounter). Anybody who can hear the complaints, whether they understand them or not, must make a DC15 Will Save, or else Luck points burned AFTER their complaint are simply unspent with no effect. This complaint lasts until the end of the round, whereupon the effect ceases and then must be renewed again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Curse of the Nutcracker

(I watched my daughter gleefully pull a princess ballerina this morning, and I remembered this post from right before Christmas, which languished and had its roots in Candy Land, Uncle Wiggly, Ballet, and The Sugarplum Fairy. I haven't the steam today to gussy it up with pictures and links, except maybe a header image to grab your attention just so)

So, I'm a fan of +Kabuki Kaiser's Castle Gargantua.  Why, you ask? Well, you miscreant (today's favorite word, HO HO HO), it's because it presents to us a very interesting opportunity in the form of a hybrid of linear AND ALSO non-determinate adventure. It's a practically procedural way of doing an RPG session.  I used to wrassle, existentially speaking, with the Quantum Ogre and the Railroading of players... (link around here somewheres but meh - don't break my stride internal editor)

I think Castle Gargantua allows us to sweep away all of those concerns about placing my most-wished for bad guys into an adventure, or especially snarky puzzles, or twisted role-playing scenarios.  That Quantum Ogre is only Gargantua, and if you make it to the end of his Castle, then YES, MISCREANT, HE IS THERE!  Otherwise, his presence is felt all over this place by virtue of this pile of toys in the box which you YOU the adventurers will pull out, and your actions will not only impact the course of the adventure but will determine it to the largest extent.  Patrice solved a very vexing problem for me, in that if I have a Great Idea, then I will want it to be in The Game.  BUT, I don't want to make the games all about my Great Ideas (which are really only Better Than Average Ideas), but about the narrative that develops from the world we posit together and the interactions of the Players with Me and Each Other, and their PC's interactions with The World...

Castle Gargantua has a linear, candy-land style track for the overall plot, with each square having a flavor and gold squares (relatively rare) have special keyed areas.  The layout is chutes-and-ladders/snakes-and-ladders style, with some squares taking you back farther from the endpoint.  Everything else is procedural i.e. based on dice rolls and prompts. Note that the solo adventures Ruins of The Undercity and Mad Monks of Kwantoom have somewhat similar approaches. (Insert a link here to that article about Mentzer's dungeon philosophy which literally went around yesterday and meh, there's more editorializing, Superego Me).  As a notorious low-prep, shoot-from-the-hip DM this is perfect for me, and probably why I like Caste Gargantua so much.  I have tinkered with an Illustrator CS4 file to have a similar track that you can fill in yourself, and when I get it finished

I sat there a few weeks ago, my Kid in my lap, my Kid who was absolutely absorbed in the abstract communication of a story - The Nutcracker - that is done primarily in the World on the stage, the Music (overarching and eternal!) and the Dancing and Costumes.  I see a dance, but I make a Battle between little Men and ferocious Mice in my head.  My daughter may get some of that, but I think it could be ably and truly conveyed in a Role Playing game, and for at least two years I have said to myself "ehhhh, that would be fun to play around in, maybe". But I haven't the momentum to do it unless things slow down some, which they have (obviously).

Herr Drosselmeyer/The Owl - A wizard/Conjurer/Tinkerer.  Also, a Shapechanger.  His forces are always at war with the Mice and the Mouseking
Clara Stahlbaum/The Sugarplum Faerie (my daughter has conflated the two, as I would expect from a little girl, and also I think it's canon in some versions, and also I believe that multiple personalities and avatars are clever)
Fritz Stahlbaum, Petulant Little Brother. Maybe the Mouseking! Maybe a Tin Soldier. Maybe both, since it's a fairy-tale
The Nutcracker/The Prince/Herr Drosselmeyer's Nephew - rightful ruler of the Land of Sweets, cursed to war against the Mice until the spell is broken
The China Doll Vivandiere (I insert her since she was a fun NPC from a session of Castle Gargantua - a gift for Clara at The Stahlbaums' party). A wind-up china doll, a dancer, a creation of Drosselmeyer? She loves children, is fantastically naive, and practically indestructible except for the obvious blunt object problems.
The Tin Soldiers, and their Leader (as yet unnamed, something butch and warlike, but pragmatic, hubris, etc.)
The Mice and the Mouse-king (the Mouse King needs to be a DCC Patron, IMHO)
Rats, Big Mean Ones
Snow Crystal Faeries, and their ruler the Snowflake Queen
Various Candy Land entities, a somber and depressing version of Princess Bubblegum's candy kingdom but then The Prince returns.

Breaking the Curse ought to split all the separate individuals from their respective twins, and put reality back aright and hopefully no children are permanently affected.

Why does Drosselmeyer war on the Mice?  Because he's an owl, also.  Why is Clara tending the Land of Sweets as the Faerie? She assumes the persona of the Sugar Plum Faerie in her sleep, I don't know.  You really gotta assume some kid-logic, here.  I tell people all the time that the logic of children - the logic of faerie tales and mythology - is not always clear from a rational, adult, stand point, but often it is entirely consistent and sound.  The fact that it is un-informed in real facts and information is nothing to the kids.

I will write up the Mouse King as a DCC patron, later.  I will post the customizable (whatever that means) illustrator file for the game-board style track when I work out the best format and layout.


p.s. +Reynaldo MadriƱan is  very nearly much closer to releasing his RPG BREAK! which I think would be terrific for something like this, but hey we shall see. My daughter has expressed interest in Sailor Moon, but frankly it's too scary for her just yet, so we're scoping out Princess Tutu and it's maybe exactly my interpretation of this in anime form...

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