In the Bloodlands, revisited

•May 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

In the Bloodlands, wishes can come true… for a price.

Julia envied the birds, so she lured them to her windowsill with nectar and seeds, caught them barehanded, and ate them, still wriggling and shrieking, until she found she could raise her arms and lift herself from the ground. Not flight, exactly, she could never quite break the shackles of the earth, but something like it, something close. She kept this secret, floating only at night; and the birds feared her like a god, and told her things they overheard listening at windows and in the fields, and she became known in the village as a wise woman. Many came to her for advice or to bargain for the secrets of their enemies. She took to wearing a cape patterned with feathers that draped beneath her arms like wings.

While hovering among the rooftops one night in the village, she saw Matthew with his new wife Maria. Crouched on the neighboring thatch, she watched them making love through the window; watched the strong muscles of Matthew’s back flexing in the moonlight, and wanted him for her own. She resolved that when either of them came to her for advice, as they surely would, she could find reason to separate them. She set her spies to watch them, when she could not return to their window.

Time passed, and Maria swelled with child, but neither Matthew nor Maria never came to Julia. The birds told her they had no secrets- they were simply happy. Julia, privy to the petty spites and furies of the whole village, was bewildered at the simplicity and wholeness of their love. But she was not one to be denied her desires. She could be patient.

One Spring morning, when Matthew was at home with his new son, and Maria was walking home along the cliff-side with a satchel of ripe plums at her hip, a flock of starlings flew at her face and pecked at her until she lost her footing.

Julia waited, sure that when Maria failed to return to him, Matthew would come to her to find out why, and she would reveal with endless sympathy how Maria, unready for the burdens of motherhood, had run off with a passing traveler from another land. Julia would be there to comfort him in his grief, to welcome him and his child into her house, grown luxurious with the offerings of the villagers.

Only, instead of tumbling into the sea, never to be found, Maria’s satchel caught on a root and broke her neck, leaving her there for Matthew to find – dangling, but accessible, with the marks of a hundred tiny beaks pocking the skin around her eyes.

Matthew’s grief festered within him until it turned to rage. He dug a grave for his wife in the garden behind their house, and, with a whispered apology, laid his son, quietly sucking on a piece of whiteroot, beside her. When his labor was finished, he fell, exhausted, and slept beside the fresh turned earth. When the next morning he found a stalk growing from the grave, with a single blood-red plum dangling from its end, he ate it without questioning, and immediately succumbed to a fever that lasted for three days.

He awoke alone, tied with hempen rope to a tree far from the village. Snapping his bonds as if they were rotted vines, he stumbled back toward his home. As he knelt beside a clear stream to slake thirst deeper than he had ever known, the face he saw in the water was that of a monster, as much reptile as man.

Matthew lurks at the edge of the woods by night, watching the silhouettes of the houses in the village. He longs to return to his old, happy life, but knows this is no longer his home. Then he sees a strange shape, hovering about the rooftops, surrounded by smaller, flitting forms that alight on its shoulders as if whispering in its ears. Forgetting the safety of the woods, he draws closer, just as the shape touches down by Julia’s door. Unhampered by darkness, his eyes show him her feathered cape, and her winged servants. And he knows.

Bellowing a roar that wakes the whole village, Matthew charges toward Julia, his clawed feet churning up the moist earth. She barely has time to lift her arms, five feet, ten feet; but he is faster than a man now, and he leaps up to catch her legs in a crushing embrace.

Suddenly, they are soaring, above the clouds, the moonlight blinding, the wind deafening in their ears, spiraling across a sea of white foam, her avarice and his rage forgotten in this unexpected moment, her exaltation and his fear.

When again she swoops down, through the clouds, across turbulent waters, it is to a coast neither of them recognize. Their speed is still great, and Julia cannot quite veer away from the stand of strangely upright trees. His body weighs her down, her legs numb from his unfailing grasp. They careen wildly toward the straight boles, but Matthew swings his legs out and the boughs shatter under the impact of his armored shins.

On the other side of the trees, they crash to the ground and tumble apart, to lay on the wet grass, both exhausted beyond measure, they stay there, unmoving, for a long time, listening to one another’s breathing.

A wonderful day in the neighborhood

•April 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Ron’s being interesting again.

Man nor Beast

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Theory Context:”Say Yes or Roll the Dice”

•April 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I often feel like 75% of the vitriol towards Forge-identified concepts, theories, and ideas comes from people who have only heard them second or third or fourth or twentiethhand, out of context, misunderstood and misapplied. Hell, 9 out of 10 podcasts that present themselves as authorities on any given subject did little, if any, due diligence, and flat out distributed incorrect information as if it were accurate. Irritating.

Deeper in the Game

Back in 2004, Vincent Baker released Dogs in the Vineyard.  It had quite a few good design things in it, but an idea which found it’s way into the general tabletop scene is “Say Yes or Roll the Dice”.

Like many of the things that spilled out from the Forge forum crowd, it would become a thing people say, shifting the idea and losing the original context.  Now you can find people arguing “But if a player wants to have their character punch the planet in half in my gritty realistic detective game, do I have to say yes or roll the dice?!? This is ridiculous!”…  So, context.

Structure

First, it’s important to know the basic structure of Dogs in the Vineyard – the player characters are special religious deputies, whose job is to go into towns and fix their conflicts and problems.

There’s basically two axis’ of conflict:…

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A Dancer’s Thoughts On Microsoft’s GDC Party

•March 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Imagine you’re at an after party at a night club full of young professionals.  You’re making conversation with some of the attendees.  One woman at the party is a full time caregiver.  She works do…

Source: A Dancer’s Thoughts On Microsoft’s GDC Party

Game Night

•March 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Sandy winces as the dice clatter to a stop. “16 more points of damage. Solomon can only take a couple more hits like that.” She looks over at Kelly. “Dude, we’re getting our asses handed to us here. Can’t you call on the gods for help or something?”

Kelly’s eyes try to take in everything on his character sheet, but quickly glaze over. He turns beseechingly to the woman at the head of the table. “Uh… can I do that?”

Angie smiles at her newest player. “Father Keldor is a cleric, a mortal agent of the gods. What do you think?”

Kelly nods, as if of course he knew that. “Right. Okay. I, uh… “Hey, gods, a little help?”” he looks up and makes a sort of jazz-hands motion in the air.

Several players giggle, and Angie shakes her head. “Yeah, that’s not going to have any effect. Are you asking for help from ‘the gods’, or from a particular god? Think about what kind of relationship you have to the divine, and what kind of aid you want. The gods don’t pay attention to every cry for help, they’d go deaf. But they will hear yours, if it’s sincere.” she looks over the top of her glasses, emphasizing her point.

“Okay, okay, gimme a second.” Kelly wipes his clammy hands on his jeans and presses his palms together, leaning his face on his hands, almost as if he were actually praying.

“Okay. I- uh, Father Keldor falls to his knees in the midst of the battle, dropping his weapons and closing his eyes to demonstrate the completeness of his faith. Raising my arms and turning my face to the sky, I cry out “Lady Bast, I beg your mercy and protection in my hour of need!””

Tom chucks Kelly’s shoulder appreciatively “Nice, bro.”

“Now, that sounds sincere.” Angie smiles wide, then looks around the table. “So, the rest of you are still fighting for your lives, this next bit is just for you, Kel.” She rubs her hands together with relish, eyes angled toward the ceiling as she chooses her words carefully.

“Your plea rings out across the battle, echoing off the stone walls of the throne room, and as that echo dies, so do the sounds of clashing weapons and the cries of rage and pain. Total silence descends upon you like a blanket. What do you do?”

“I open my eyes.”

“The first thing you notice is the blade of the axe about six inches from your face.”

“Shit! I roll out of the way!”

“Your instincts tell you to dodge, but your body does not obey- you don’t move an inch. But, neither does the axe. Pulling your focus away from it, you realize that the entire scene has frozen in time, down to the dust motes and blood drops in the air. You can see some of your companions engaged in melee with numerous foes- too numerous, it’s easy to see from this vantage. Your friends are brave and strong, but the enemy was expecting you, and prepared their ambush well.”

“I knew it was a set up!” mutters Sandy, but someone shushes her, and the GM continues.

“As you scan the tableau, you hear a faint, soft noise, even in this silence it’s barely audible. You can’t quite recognize it until you see the sleek black cat daintily picking its way through the carnage, and then you realize what you’re hearing is the creature’s purr growing in volume as it slowly approaches, twining between the legs of a warrior here, hopping over the corpse of a fallen acolyte there. It even pauses once to clean a paw after stepping in a spot of blood. You remain frozen there, watching it come closer, but it doesn’t seem to pay you any special attention. In fact it passes right by you, close enough to reach out and touch, were you not paralyzed. Your eyes follow it until it moves out of sight behind you.”

As Angie pauses, Kelly glances around the table as if for advice, but Olen only shrugs, and before anyone can say anything, Angie is speaking again.

“Abruptly, you feel hot breath on your ear and sense an immeasurable presence at your back, as if you were suddenly leaning against the flank of an enormous, powerful beast, the very molecules of the air in the room vibrating with its purr.” she spreads her hands outward, as if encompassing the imaginary chamber of stone and marble.

“Within that purr you understand meaning, words resolving in your mind, simultaneously subtle as a whisper and as overwhelming as the roar of the ocean;

“You have my attention, child, but I bore easily. What is it that you desire?””

Detailed analysis of successfully funded games KickStarters in 2015 [SO MANY CHARTS]

•February 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Source: Detailed analysis of successfully funded games KickStarters in 2015 [SO MANY CHARTS]

Why matters

•December 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Since I haven’t been very active on this blag in a while, I may as well post interesting stuff from my friends and acquaintances.

Man nor Beast

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