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18 Oct 15:49

Research Risks

The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster.
10 Oct 14:11

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Killing All Humans

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Or you could just have a door that says 'free t-shirts,' but on the other side of it is a hole that goes to the core of Earth.

New comic!
Today's News:

EEEE, last full week before the BOOK TOUR OF DOOM. Thanks for your support everyone!

09 Oct 13:45

Weekend Retropost: Bad Games

by Zak Sabbath
Retropost Saturday: What bad means..

Thirteen Ways Of Looking At The Terrible Thing You Just Made


When you say a thing is bad, you are usually using it as a shorthand for one of these things.

There are 13 of them.

So, instead of just saying "bad"…maybe say which one you mean next time?
They wanted it to stay up. It didn't.
(1) The Hindenberg

What you really mean:
It Fails to Do What The Author Wanted It To Do
This is a poorly crafted game. People say "broken" a lot here. This also covers things like typos and literal math errors (like the author expects one outcome but it inevitably produces another, things meant to be weak are strong, etc). It is the kind of "bad" where a designer (if they were honest) would agree they missed the mark.

Example:
Mythus
"I co-wrote Mythus with Gary….One of the first things I did when I started playing was to throw out half of the rules we wrote…."
--Dave Newton, co-author of Mythus)

What's a helpful thing to do? 
Show the author saying it does a thing, then demonstrate that it can't, under any circumstances, do that. Then you're right. After that you then might have to prove that that thing is important or outweighs all the good things about the game, but you have proved--at least--a failure of craftmanship.
They were lying
(2) The X-Ray Specs

What you really mean:
It Fails to Do What The Advertising Said It Would Do
People also call this "broken", too. This is a dishonestly made or poorly-tested product.

Example:
Seclusium of Orphone says you can make a Seclusium in half an hour (or an hour? Can't remember. Anyway:) You really can't. If you can I haven't heard anybody say you can. You might say Mythus is this, too, if you assume Dave and Gary knew they'd throw out half the rules they wrote before they played.

What's a helpful thing to do? 
Point out the advertising says one thing and demonstrate it's impossible to do that thing. If the advertising is ambiguous and you're railing against it, you're back at (10).



(3) The Left Handed Scissors

What you really mean:
It's relatively unpopular
Not very many people like it. Often conflated with (4).

Example: 
Torchbearer. All RPGs ever, really.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain why anyone should care whether a game is popular or not. I mean: what's wrong with left handed scissors? Left handed people need scissors, too.



(4) The New Coke

What you really mean:
The Thing Is Underperforming in Terms of Popularity
Less people than you'd expect like it, considering everything it had going for it in terms of advertising, licensing etc. More of a big deal than (3) above--but only if somebody claimed it was supposed to make money. If part of the designers' goal was to make lots of money and sell lots of copies (true in the case of Marvel Heroic, not true in the case of many DIY D&D products) then this is a bit of (1), as well.

Example:
Marvel Heroic RPG

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain why anyone not working for the company should care whether a game is making as much money as somebody expected it to. Are you evaluating the ability of the designer to guess the public taste? Sometimes that's important, sometimes it isn't.
In case you had any doubt, Dave Sim's comics had
loooooong text pieces in the end telling you in the
first person that he's sexist.

(5) The Cerebus

What you really mean:
The Thing Accurately Reveals the Author Is A Douche
The words or images in the RPG reflect attitudes on the behalf of the author that only douchebags have. Games called racist or sexist are often this.

Frequently conflated with:
(6), (7), (11)

Example: Those dumb novelty RPGs people make that just make fun of other peoples' RPGs

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain how there is no possible way anybody but a douchebag could've written what's on the page . The easiest way is to find some nonfiction piece the author wrote which echoes the bad ideas in the piece. The most tortured and fraught path is to assume that whatever the author depicts it's something they like--that's almost always wrong and very hard to prove. Ask yourself: are you guessing the author of Ghostbusters hates ghosts, or just assuming?

(6)  The Garfield

What you really mean:
The Author Chose To Do Less Than Their Best Work
A variation on 5. The particular douchebaggery in question being the author clearly could've done better. A lot of stereotypes are supported by this kind of bad because stereotypes are easy to write.

Example:
Ruins of Undermountain.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Prove the author knew a better way to do a thing--or grasped that finding it would've been useful--and then show how what's there isn't that.

(7) The Russian Roulette

What you really mean:
Harmful
Literally the world outside the game gets worse because of this game existing. Games called racist or sexist are often this.

Example:
DragonRaid (an '80s Christian D&D alternative), Fate

What's a helpful thing to do?
Prove it with facts. Like DragonRaid for instance made money for some shitstain who had a problem with D&D on Christian grounds, plus maybe granted legitimacy to bigoted attacks on the RPGs that made a lot of peoples' relationship to their hobby (and parents) pretty traumatic when they were young. I'd probably have to do some more research to confirm all this if I really wanted to go after DragonRaid, plus prove that this wasn't balanced out by the fact that it probably introduced people to RPGs who otherwise would've had nothing because their parents were fundamentalists.

If a thing is, objectively, Russian Roulette and will cause harm and the author knows it and agrees with that and puts it out anyway, you have a clear case of (5).
(8) The Offensive Thing

What you really mean:
The Thing Upsets You (When extreme: Triggering)
Games called racist or sexist are often this but it doesn't necessarily mean they are racist or sexist because culture offends people, period. Like any game with gay guys in it will offend someone but whoever it offends doesn't count. People taking offense usually implies they believe it's bad in some other way, too.

Frequently conflated or combined with:
(5), (7)

Example:
Blue Rose--the setting purports to be an egalitarian paradise but sweeps class issues completely under the rug. I'm offended. I have no evidence that the authors were classist (5) or just didn't think through egalitarianism very much (1) or that RPG people became any more classist because of it (7), however. It wasn't exactly a popular game (in which case (3) may have led to it not being (7)).

What's a helpful thing to do?
Make a case for whether the people who are offended are just offended alone (in which case who cares?) or whether the offense might indicate (7) or (5). Here's a thing: are people offended by two guys kissing actually not harmed even though they think they are or are they harmed but who cares because fuck them they suck?

(9) The Bad Influence

What you really mean:
It's A Harmful Influence On Other Games

Example:
Caves of Chaos, most other early adventure modules--companies realized that authors paid by the word could bulk out 5 pages of ideas to 15, 30, 100, or even 200 pages of text and people would buy it. Thus leading to a lot of (10) and arguably (2) and undeniably (6).

What's a helpful thing to do?
Point out how the tendency didn't exist until that thing came along and make a case the new tendency was some kind of bad.
(10) The Thing You Just Don't Like

What you really mean: The Thing Is Not To My Taste
Like the game is broccoli flavored and you hate broccoli.

Example:
Apocalypse World

What's a helpful thing to do?
Describe what kind of person you and/or your group are, what you like, and why that game doesn't do those things or doesn't fit. It's as much about you as it is about the game, acknowledge that, it'll help people who are like you and who aren't decide what to do with the game.

(11) OH GOD NOT ANOTHER...

What you really mean: Not To My Taste Plus It's Part Of A Whole Trend Of Things Not To My Taste (Aka "I'm so sick of these games like…")
You like pizza, this game is a hot dog, plus it seems like every ten seconds there's another hot dog.

Example:
Apocalypse World Engine-games

What's a helpful thing to do?
As (10) plus describe why you think anyone else should care that there are a lot of these games that you don't need to buy (if you are). Are you arguing (9)? Are you arguing that a critical mass of (11)s result in (7)? Are you just sort of irritated at not being a majority? If it helps: you play RPGs, you're not and never will be.

i.e. Are you saying "less of this, please" when the problem could be just as easily solved with "more of that, please"?
(12) The Game For Douchebags

What you really mean: Not To My Taste Plus It's Only To The Taste Of Shitty People
This is like (10) on overdrive: You don't like it and can't think even imagine a worthwhile human being enjoying this thing, nor have any such people come forward.

Example:
Bliss Stage. Maybe it does what it's supposed to and what it advertises and does it to the best of the author's ability and hurts no-one but what it's supposed to do doesn't seem to appeal to anyone who isn't a moron.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Describe what shitty characteristic of a person links to the shitty part of the game. If someone you like is into the game, then you have to revise your opinion. Like so even thought tons of terrible people like Monsterhearts, so does Shoepixie and I like Shoepixie and don't begrudge her entertainment, so I guess that game is ok.

(13) The Chew Toy

What you really mean: One or More Of The Above Plus the Author is a Douche
It has flaws that may or may not be objective. But the author is pretty objectively terrible.

Example: FATE

What's a helpful thing to do?
You can keep calling the game "bad" because the only person it's unfair to is the author and they're a douche. But if someone asks then you need to point out what made you decide the author's a douche.
-
-
-
So this simplifies life. Most critiques are 10 dressed up with other stuff to make them seem more objective, like

The standard knock against White Wolf is a lot of mechanical (1) with either (10) ("I'm not a goth") or (2) ("I am a goth and it wasn't goth enough").

The 4venger attacks on Old School D&D were a lot of (1) and (2) with, at least on some sides, some (7) leading to (3).

etc.
-
-
-

05 Oct 02:02

Turn on the vent! Turn on the vent!

by Jessica Hagy

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The post Turn on the vent! Turn on the vent! appeared first on Indexed.

05 Oct 01:55

Hey, we’re out of milk.

by Jessica Hagy

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The post Hey, we’re out of milk. appeared first on Indexed.

05 Oct 01:25

Temptress of the Night by nmroloffscAs found...



Temptress of the Night by nmroloffsc

As found at:

http://nmroloffsc.deviantart.com/art/Temptress-of-the-Night-511968862

A bit moody perhaps… but a lovely succubus…

28 Sep 13:31

Fall By TeraS

by TeraS

There are a number of stories that I haven’t managed to finish, as regular readers of the Tale are well aware. At the same time, there are stories that pop into my thoughts from time to time which aren’t written down or perhaps they are started, but seem not to get anywhere in particular. Sometimes there are weeks where I find myself sitting at the keyboard, my mind going in circles, trying to think of something to write. At times like these, perhaps the story isn’t the one I’d have liked to share …

But perhaps that’s not as important as finding the words themselves.

 

Fall
By TeraS

 

The weather in the Realm had started to turn ever so slightly of late. The warm summer breezes weren’t quite so warm over the last little while. It wasn’t the time of snow, of tail cozies and cozying up, seeking warmth of various kinds … in various ways. It was that in-between time of fall, where there still were moments of warm sunny days among the chillier nights. While not so cold as to be concerning, the chill of the night was enough to bring about the gathering of wood for fireplaces, the baking of comfort foods, and—if there was a moment to allow the thought—reflection upon the past while sipping a mug, or more, of some delicious and warm beverage.

Tera dearly enjoyed this time of year. It was the time of in-between moments before the season of celebration. It was the time she spent gathering yarn, in a way, though she’d never say that sort of thing to Lil—perish the thought! Stepping on the toes of the one who knit the most amazing tail cozies was not a good plan at all.

The gathering of yarn for Tera was something a bit different and reflective of herself. On this particular evening, just after the sun had set over the Realm, the street lamps flickering into light and the first wisps of smoke beginning to rise from chimneys here and there, the Queen of the Realm was settled onto her front porch. The windows were slightly fogged over; whether that be from the hot chocolate she cradled in her hands or the heat from her body snugged in her signature fuzzy red sweater was anyone’s guess. Curling her legs beneath her, she gazed out onto the sidewalks and paths which passed on the outer limits of her home. The hint of smoke in the air spoke of her Eternal stoking the fireplace for the evening, and a smile teased her lips as she took another sip of her beverage.

The equinox came this year in the middle of the night. As she thought about that, it seemed like the summer stole away under the cover of night while the fall came in the same way. A deep breath of contemplation was followed by a long sigh of air escaping her. The mug found itself set upon a nearby table, the hand that had caressed it now being used to rest the weariness of a Queen as she turned herself towards things to be thought about.

The fall marked things to look forwards to: the promise of better things to be shared by all in her Realm; the hope she’d been holding for so very long, not quite saying out loud, but nonetheless, knowing that perhaps there was one that heard her. Still, she was tired. Much had changed over the past year, and the Queen hadn’t found all that much in those changes to smile about.

There was some melancholy in her thoughts of late. It wasn’t crippling, not by any means, but it weighed upon her. Tera being Tera, of course, would smile, promise that she was fine, and then focus her so-green eyes and the conversation towards the one asking. It was her way, it always would be. She’d be fine; her loved ones all came well before herself and that was, she believed, simply how things were meant to be.

The thing about melancholy wasn’t the dipping of her tail, or the wan smile that appeared in the moments when she thought none else would see. Those were the physical manifestations of her mood, her concern. The evening talk at the fence with her heart always brought the return of that mischievous smile, the shimmering of so-green eyes. The sharing of tea or hot chocolate was a comfort which brought the time spent talking about … whatever they talked about. There wasn’t an agenda nor a need of structure. Goddess had managed to work her magic and drawn them together. She created the place called the fence, pushed aside the realities in-between. It existed for the sake of need and, when it mattered most, something far more that couldn’t be put into words.

Across the lawn, on the other side of the fence, she noted the opening of a door, the warm light within bringing into focus her heart as he made his way to the fence. Turning on her own porch light, she knew he’d see her own form there, making her way down the stairs and out the porch door, it swinging closed behind her.

The path to the fence didn’t need lights on either side; they both knew their way well. But, as they reached the edge of the light from each of their homes, something happened which came but on the equinox. From elsewhere, somehow, little beacons of light drifted upon the wind from the first nearby. Fireflies rose up from their hiding places, taking wing to the air. It was almost like the stars themselves had come closer, to gather about the fence, an audience to hold witness to the renewal of something special. The equinox marked the point in time and space of the beginnings of the fence and all that came from that first moment where a heart and a Dear One said their first hello, made the connection that time or space could never wear away.

The glow of the fireflies made the fence shimmer, a ribbon of material polished to a sheen that spooled the light across it as they met once more. A mug of hot chocolate was offered from one, the other provided a pastry in return. The fence held them both comfortably as they spoke, sharing thoughts, laughter, hopes and, sometimes, the tears that came along for the moment shared. Something else came along as well, something the two sharing the fence couldn’t help but marvel over.

The light about them wasn’t the only light to be found. In the moment created, the light within renewed itself, warmed them, gave promise and hope. The fence was the physical, but there was the spiritual, as well, that came to the fore, that brought something to remind the melancholy that it was not for always.

The fall would come and go, the seasons would change. But there was also the eternity of the soul, the warmth of family, the expression of simply being in the moment. The things that mattered appeared in the fall, and passing things could never completely obscure them.

28 Sep 12:12

Sarah Schulman On Communities And Conflict

by Zak Sabbath
NOTE:

Oh hey guys. if you're here from Tenkar's Tavern remember Greg C is mad because he's the guy who freaked out about sex in games and wrote FURRIES UNDERMINE LEGITIMATE COSPLAY!!! So if you trust his opinion....ok?




Anyway, the grown up way to have a problem with someone is, y'know, contact them about it, not call them names online ( zakzsmith AT hawy mayle, or anonymously: ask.fm/TheActualZakSmith ).

On to the article:

Some excerpts on community, intervention, conflict, etc that gamer communities might benefit from Sarah Schulman's book about internet-era fight escalation Conflict Is Not Abuse.

....

One problem here is how to intervene with a person who is overstating harm, hiding behind technology, shunning or otherwise escalating. In some cultures we are trained not to assist directly, saying we are “non-confrontational,” that indifference is polite. Instead we can learn to be accountable, to ask, “How can I help you and X to sit down and talk?” Perhaps the person invested in maintaining victimology in order to avoid their own issues will say, “No, I will “never talk to X again. In fact, I am terrified for my life. You should have nothing to do with her.” In other words, now that they are facing community responsibility, they escalate even further, their claims are even more inflated, and the cloak of self-righteousness is drawn even tighter. Unfortunately, at this point, most interveners will back off. Hey, I tried, they can tell themselves. In the end, it’s not their life being harmed by this escalating person. And if they engage any further, they could become a target too. So they call it quits. Almost nothing could be more painful to the person being projected onto. The only thing worse than not getting help is asking for it and still being denied. Now the stakes are even higher, the falsely accused is even more isolated, and the interveners feel self-satisfied while being entirely ineffective. The next step is to come as a group. “Hey, now there are five of us here together, with you. We want to help you and X sit down and talk. We find what you’re doing to be very disturbing. We won’t shun you, we won’t punish you, but we also “we won’t punish you, but we also won’t be co-opted into silence. How can we find an alternative?” This is the structure behind every successful piece of non-violent progressive political action:

1. Scapegoated people cannot be made to stand alone.
2. Community needs to move towards negotiation.
3. More and more people have to join in together to create change.
4. The conversation is not over just because an escalator insists that it is.

.....

Those seeking justice often have to organize allies in order to force contact and conversation, negotiation. Trying to create communication is almost always the uphill struggle of the falsely blamed. And entire movements are structured around the goal of forcing one party to face the reality of the other, and thereby face themselves. And of course this power struggle over whether or not opposing parties will speak is an enormous smokescreen covering up the real issue, the substance of what they need to speak about: namely, the nature of and resolution to the conflict.
....

“She yelled at me; she’s abusive.”

Is that an originating action? Or is that a response? Were you sitting innocently eating your breakfast and she yelled at you because there was no milk, and you are responsible for serving her at every turn, which would be Abuse? Or did she yell at you because you stole her milk money in order to buy drugs? Which would mean that you created the originating action and the yelling was a consequence of that action. So there is Conflict about your addiction, and the Abuse accusation is a smokescreen to avoid facing it. Or were you so traumatized from being demeaned constantly as a child that as an adult you can’t tolerate difference, and any normative challenge is perceived of as an assault or threat? Is it that, in fact, nothing really happened, and yet you feel terrible? And maybe, rather than face the betrayal of your parents, it’s a lot easier to put the whole thing on your partner?

Only by examining the details, asking interactive questions in person (and not by email), and understanding the order of events can we differentiate between these three possible interpretations of the same complaint “The most destructive answer, of course, is “She yelled at you? I will hurt her,” which is a shallow relationship manifested as bullying. The best answer is, “If you two can’t communicate right now, let me talk to her in person and see how she understands what is happening.” Or, “How can I help you sit down and talk this through with her?”
.
.
.

24 Sep 03:45

Holidays & Days of Note for September 23rd, 2017 *  ...



Holidays & Days of Note for September 23rd, 2017

*   International Rabbit Day 

*   Batman Day

*   National Wildlife Ecology Day

*   R.E.A.D. in America Day (?!!?) Finding information on this “event” which is said to take place on the 4th Saturday in September was like pulling teeth, all I could find were references to a “read across America” in March. All I wanted to know was that the heck did the letters in R.E.A.D. mean. After something like 10 minutes of hunting I at last found out it stands for “Reading helps Everyone Accomplish Dreams.“ Ahhh, hello that makes it R.H.E.A.D. across America day, perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to find.

*   Fish Amnesty Day

*   Hunting and Fishing Day Can you say that? Conflict of interest? Sure, I knew you could. (see above)

22 Sep 16:57

Fewer others, more us.

by Jessica Hagy

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The post Fewer others, more us. appeared first on Indexed.

18 Sep 13:06

In the Eyes of Prey by TeraS and her Adored Brother

by TeraS

Over the past while I’ve been poking my tail into the story of another world, another universe, in which succubi appear. The world is the creation of my Adored Brother, and over time we’ve managed to create something that’s complex, heartfelt and more.

This time on the Tale, a story from the other side of an encounter in that world. Perhaps call it an opening into how things work and why they matter.

 

In the Eyes of Prey
by TeraS and her Adored Brother

 

There are always two sides to a story. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, at least in some cases, they are two sides of a coin. As such, there’s only one side that can be seen at any one time. That’s the harsh reality of things, after all: one side is favoured over the other, one speaks more than the former. But there are two sides to every story, and it’s vital that the other side has its turn to speak.

We need but to listen …

 

I’m exhausted from this business trip.

It had been a long, hard week for me. Not that the place itself wasn’t decent, mind you. Bridgeport had it’s attractions, but that wasn’t why I was here. No, for me it was all business and not a lot of pleasure involved. That’s the curse of making a deal, and the deal I was involved with was buying out a competitor and adding them to our own business.

The sticking points were contentious, at times, a little more money than we were really willing to pay being the tipping point. There was a good reason for it, when push came to shove: they wanted to be sure their people were taken care of and not tossed into the streets. Loyalty mattered to them and I got that. They wanted to be sure there were jobs for the workers in their plants, that we weren’t going to close up shop and leave them all on the streets. The board back home didn’t quite get that, seeing that it was a chance to get rid of the completion. But that wasn’t going to fly. It took a week of being the middleman between the board and the locals before the deal was cut.

The deal was signed, sealed, and delivered today, and I couldn’t have been happier to get through it all. Sometimes doing the right thing cost, but doing the wrong thing cuts a lot deeper. Someday the board would get that, one way or the other, probably about the time that someone else made a move on them.

After all of that, I figured I needed a drink to celebrate.

Returning to my hotel after having dinner out at the company’s expense—well, it was the least they could do for being such a pain in my ass—I considered what to do with the night ahead. I could just go back to my room, watch some TV, and then call it a night. But something didn’t fit right with that idea. Neither did the idea of checking out a bar or club in the area, either. It wouldn’t do to be out late, get back, and then miss my early-morning flight home. Seeing little other choice as I entered the hotel, there was only one thing to do: go back to the bar in the hotel lobby, drink some overpriced, watered-down drink, watch the sports on the TV, and then head upstairs when the boredom overtook me.

It wasn’t very busy as I crossed over the landing from the tiled lobby into the wooden tones of the bar. There were a few fellow patrons milling about, nursing their drinks and telling tall tales to pass the time. The hard wood creaked slightly under my weight as I strode across the room, finding there were a number of places open at the bar. The black leather stools waited in their place beside the redwood bar itself. A classy place, without question, and for a moment I wondered about who’d spend this much time putting so much into a place that, honestly, wasn’t the centre of dining and dancing in Bridgeport. Still, the hotel was upper class and the bar had to at least equal that attention to detail.

There was an open space at the bar proper, and I settled into place there. After scanning the bottles against the wall, a nod to the bartender, who’d been busying himself on the other end, brought him over. I caught my reflection in the mirror across from me: brown eyes and black hair, not a movie star by any means, and those brown eyes held a hint of weariness that I’d come to know well lately.

The bartender snapped me out of my thoughts.

“What will it be?”

“Bourbon on the rocks.”

As he left to fill the order, I fidgeted with my tie, the Batman oval clearly evident. He’d been my anchor from when I was a kid, the notion that honour mattered, what you did mattered, being core to what I believed now. Oh, the rest of me looked like a typical businessman: suit, slacks, shoes, and all, but at my core I was a geek, and I wasn’t going to turn my back on that.

The bartender returned, placing my drink on the countertop: “Are you starting a tab, sir?”

“Sure. Room 504, please.”

“Will do. Enjoy.”

After he left to deal with another customer, I took a sip. The bourbon was smooth and only left a slight burn. I became lost in my thoughts as the world went on around me. My career had been going great; I’d made it up the ladder to where I was today: right-hand man to the CEO, on good terms with my co-workers, those that reported to me, and so on. Things were going great, from a distance. Inside I had this nagging thought that something important was missing, something outside of work, something that meant more than the job I did, the accolades I’d been accumulating.

There wasn’t anyone to share things with. Not that I hadn’t tried over the years, though. One-night stands happened frequently enough, but that’s all they were. There wasn’t the connection I needed, the spark that said this was someone that could be more than a friend, a smile over a nightclub floor. Taking another drink, I wondered if, somewhere, there was Miss Right, whoever she was. It wouldn’t be a hardship either to have a passing encounter with someone like that, either: a connection, a feeling, something that said they thought more of me than someone to pay the bar tab or cover the dinner expenses. Raising the glass to my lips, intending to swallow the last of it, turn, and walk away, the voice that cut through the bar music and low chatter was a complete surprise.

“So why’s a handsome guy like you drinking alone?”

I caught the scent of jasmine and allowed myself a light chuckle. That wasn’t the best of pickup lines, I thought before answering: “Celebrating. Well, trying to. Been a good day, but there’s not a lot of celebrating to do when you’re alone.”

“Well, that’s no fun, Batman.”

That got my attention and I turned around to find myself in the presence of a showstopper. There are some people that think they’re beautiful; the woman that stood next to me was something more than the beauty she was. That, for me, was the difference between being beautiful and being a pretender.

She had an angelic smile, a light blush upon her cheeks. Her eyes were a deep blue that could melt hearts. Waves of red hair flowed over the shoulders, shining in the light of the room. That made for a lovely frame about her inviting, full, pink lips that offered themselves to be kissed and kissed often.

I wanted to, without question.

The beauty in her warm expression was matched by the lovely shape the green dress she was wearing put into sharp focus. The fabric clung tightly to her, leaving nothing to the imagination and stopped tastefully against her thighs. The dress might have, could have been over the top, but it was just enough to enhance her cleavage, putting a little flourish to her look. She was a wonder from her mane of hair to the black stiletto pumps that she stood upon.

I didn’t, couldn’t, think of what to say as I was held there by her eyes. Seeing my complete loss for words, she offered: “Well, would you mind if I joined you? It’s no fun to celebrate alone.”

There was something about her voice, so sultry and seductively smooth. She wasn’t like other women I’d met, and it wasn’t just that her presence made my heart race. I admit I’d played the game before, but this didn’t feel like that. It mattered to me that she might spend some time with me. That feeling of something missing wasn’t quite as strong as it had been before.

Standing, I offered her the bar stool next to me: “If you’d like?” I hoped she’d say yes, that this wasn’t a game, that she actually was interested in me, if for only a moment. If that’s all it was, I didn’t want the moment to end.

Her reply was all I’d hoped for as she settled into place beside me: “Thank you. I’m Sophia.”

I don’t know why, but I took her hand in mine and kissed it lightly: “Curt, my lady—a name that is, sadly, not as elegant as yours.”

The blush on her cheeks deepened as she favoured me with a smile. Her words were as smooth as silk as she replied: “Elegance is not in a person’s name. It is in how they hold themselves.”

“What can I get you, Miss?” The bartender’s voice cut in and I sighed, the moment broken as Sophia’s attention turned to him.

“Dry Martini, please.”

“Right away. On your tab, sir?”

There was only one answer: “Of course.”

After he left, her eyes met mine once more and we continued as if there’d been no interruption at all.

“So, what brings you to Bridgeport?”

“I’m here on business. I was working a merger, perhaps you’ve heard of it on the news?”

She thought about that a moment, then answered: “Ah! Yes,

I have. I hope all things have turned out well for you?”

I shrugged: “Everybody seems to be happy, so I suppose so.”

There was real concern in her voice: “Aren’t you?”

I let out a chuckle: “I am single, sadly.”

Her pout was something I wanted to kiss away: “That’s a shame. A good looking guy like you should have someone in his life.”

It was a risky question I asked: “What about you?”

Sophia brushed a lock of hair behind her ear and smiled. “I’m single, as well.”

“That’s interesting. Any reason why you are? You shouldn’t be alone, either, Sophia.”

She pulled on one ear slightly: “I hold men to a high standard.”

The bartender returned with Sophia’s drink. Taking a sip, she considered her drink as I considered her. Her answer left an open question and I stumbled into it.

“Well, what sort of high standards are they?”

“If I told you that, you wouldn’t be yourself, would you?”

She then held out her glass for a toast: “To celebration. Let it be a memorable pleasure.”

Sophia’s toast made me smile as we gently tapped our glasses together.

We spent the rest of the evening together drinking, flirting, and chatting. From time to time we had a little dance or two when the right song played. To my surprise I didn’t have two left feet, either. That feeling of something special about her hit me hard. I’d never really thought about what love at first sight was. This, honestly, had to be it.

I didn’t want to lose her, nor did the thought of holding her hand, sharing a kiss, with others seeing us bother me at all. For this night, she was all that mattered, and I could see in her eyes that, for this night, I was all that mattered to her.

When last call came, it was a surprise. I didn’t intend to be out this late, but at the same time I didn’t want to say goodbye to Sophia. She made me feel different then all the other women I’d been with and, when the moment came, I feared what was next.

She spoke first: “Well … I guess this is goodbye.”

I didn’t want it to be. She’d be in my dreams forever, and the thought of never being with her was too much to bear. It was awkward of me, but I tried to tell her. “It doesn’t have to be. I have a room upstairs. If you’d like … we could … get to know each other better.”

It was lame, I know. But I meant every word. I wasn’t trying to be anything but truthful and I hoped she’d be as well.

“I’d like that.”

I became ecstatic. My smile masked my relief that she’d said yes. I offered my arm and we made our way out of the bar together. As we crossed the lobby to the elevators, I wondered out loud: “I’ve never met anyone like you, Sophia. Are you an angel?”

Her smile was lovely: “I’ve been asked that a few times.”

“And?”

She didn’t answer, but instead she stopped by the elevators and turned to face me. The touch of her small hands on my cheeks was a surprise. Then Sophia whispered softly: “I’m working on that.”

I’m taller than her, by a lot. I didn’t resist when she pulled me down, my lips touching hers for the first time. There was a spark, a tingle when her lips met mine. I felt passion, desire, and love in a split second, something I’d never felt with anyone else before. My arms wrapped around her waist as I returned the kiss and I felt, as best as I can describe, we became connected. Something within me, my soul, my being, all of me, wanted to be with her. It wasn’t just the passion that enveloped me, it was her being, her joy in sharing this moment with me.

The kiss ended and her lips curled in a delighted smile: “I want you, too,  Curt. But we should wait until we’re in your room.”

I was going to argue that point, but all I managed was a nod as she pressed the button to call the elevator to us. She held my attention as we waited, the thought of her being mine not quite as strong as the thought of me being hers. I was in a daze when the elevator doors opened and she needed to take hold of my tie, drawing me inside before the doors closed.

“What floor?”

“Fifth.”

I couldn’t wait any longer. I needed to kiss her again, to taste of her sweet lips once more. There was only her in my world. I pressed Sophia gently to the wall, her arms wrapped around my neck, a delighted smile on her lips. I crushed my lips against hers, our tongues danced passionately as my heart sang out to her. I had the most beautiful woman in my arms. I wanted her more than I could say. But I wanted more than just sex. That wasn’t what drove me into her arms, what drew me to her. I needed to love her, to feel that love returned, and to know, finally, that I’d found someone that loved me.

We missed the bell announcing my floor, but we couldn’t ignore it when the doors opened. The kiss came to a close, but the feeling didn’t leave, the attraction to her didn’t ebb at all. I was glad that my room wasn’t too far from the elevators. It still seemed like miles to go, however.

We made a little more small talk as we went, the moments passing in a blur. I moaned a little about it being a long walk to the front desk when I left in the morning, she mentioned that being out of the way wasn’t such a bad thing. One comment did make me wonder, however: “I like to be as discrete as I can be.”

That made me pause, but then she laughed and I dismissed her comments as a bad joke. She wasn’t a one-night stand, and I hoped, somehow, that come the morning we’d still be together.

The door to my room appeared and opened quickly enough. Holding it open I offered: “Ladies first.”

Her hand touched my cheek: “You are such a gentleman.”

Once she was inside, I followed and closed the door behind us, the lights coming on as I did so. The room was nice enough. It wasn’t the most stunning of rooms; fairly basic even if the place was a five-star. But I’d always remember the bed, king-sized, the chairs and desk across from it, the TV hanging on the wall. I wanted to commit it all to memory, just like I held onto the memory of Sophia herself. She turned to me and took me by the tie to lead me directly to the bed.

I didn’t resist. I didn’t want to.

I was completely at her mercy as she loosened my tie. I started to help, but she placed a finger on my lips, shook her head, and I didn’t resist her any more. As she slipped off the knot, I whispered, speaking words that I couldn’t help but say: “I love you, Sophia.”

The neckwear fell from her fingers as she replied, the honesty in her words overcoming me, “I love you, Curt. I’ve loved you from the moment I met you.”

Her words overcame me and I came back to myself as Sophia was almost done slipping off my shirt. I couldn’t hold back anymore. She admitted she loved me. I love her. That’s all that mattered now. It wasn’t long before she’d unbuckled my belt and pushed my pants to the floor.

Her slim fingers brushed against my hardness, my desire plain as she whispered: “There’s no need to rush, my love. We have all of the time in the world.”

She turned slowly, lifting her hair up to bare her back, needing help with her dress. I could still smell the jasmine on her and it drove me wild. I desperately wanted to be with her, but the love I felt held me in control and I carefully undressed her. I wanted to see every inch of her skin as it was revealed, to caress her hips as I lowered the dress over them, allowing it to pool at her feet. The lights in the room were dimmed, but she glowed magnificently as I knelt before her, she stepping out of her heels and turning towards me. It felt right to be there, bent on one knee as her fingers caressed my cheek lightly. I found myself looking up towards her and I didn’t want to rise. She smiled as she came to rest on the edge of the bed. There were no words needed as she parted her legs.

My lady wished me to please her, and that was exactly what I wanted. I drew close, her sweet scent alluring, calling to me. Her delighted mewl of pleasure came at the touch of my tongue and it drove me onwards to hear more of that blissful sound. She gasped in pleasure as I slowly licked and found the places that made her keen loudly. The feeling of her fingers in my hair was wonderful as she took took everything I gave her.

It wasn’t enough for either of us. I needed her; her moans of passion said everything I needed to know. Finally she tugged on my hair, making my eyes meet hers. Her breath was ragged as she called out: “Make love to me, Curt.”

She slid backwards on the sheets and I followed without a thought. The moment was perfect as my hardness dipped into her wetness, her folds and depths sending waves of ecstasy through my mind, body and soul.

My voice held wonder as I felt us becoming one. It was perfect, meant to be: “Oh god … You’re so perfect.”

“I’m yours, Curt … for always …”

Her promise pushed me over the edge. We started at a slow pace, my needs warring with me as I tried not to start pounding her like a porn star. But the cries of delight only pulled me towards doing just that. The dam broke and I gave in to the need that overcame me. The sound of our bodies against one other were only matched by our cries of pleasure.

We spent what felt like hours of making love in every way I could imagine and that she made me experience. After a time, Sophia was on top, riding me, her hair a wild mess as she drove us onwards. Her smile was all I needed to know, that wonder in her expression reflected in my own I knew. Wave after wave of pleasure came until I couldn’t move as she continued to pleasure me.

“I’m going to cum!” I struggled to get those words out around my groans of pleasure. The warning didn’t stop Sophia at all, if anything it made her double her pleasuring of me. Her answer was a gasping moan: “It’s … okay … Don’t hold back.”

My eyes opened wide and I couldn’t restrain myself. She pushed me over the edge, and I was crying out in time with Sophia as we both found our release. Somehow I could feel, experience her own orgasm melded with mine. A flash of light blinded me, then darkness came as the sound of Sophia gasping for breath faded away.

When I opened my eyes again, I was on my back and looking at the ceiling of my hotel room. I couldn’t help smiling, being with Sophia was the best thing that ever happened to me. There was no question in my mind that she loved me and I loved her. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her again and again. Rising from the bed, I made my way over to the bathroom, wanting to start the shower and then bring Sophia there with me. But as I passed the mirror and looked into it—in that moment—everything had changed.

The reflection wasn’t me.

It was Sophia.

It was impossible! My mind raced in circles trying to understand what had happened.

Sophia stood there, a wan smile on her lips. I felt … alive, more aware than I’d ever been before, replenished with new energy, new life. I watched as Sophia’s hands traced over her breasts, teasing over her sex as she looked into the mirror.

I wanted to know what happened.

Everything is fine. There’s nothing to be worried about.

“Who said that?”  It wasn’t Sophia, I knew that much as she’d turned her attention from the mirror to the shower and turned it on.

We did.

“Who’s we? What the hell’s going on?”

I felt her hands as she showered, the steam billowing around her … us.

We are part of her. As you are.

“Why!”

Do you not love her? Want to be with her for always?

Once the water was turned off, the sensation of a towel being rubbed over her … our … skin was arousing. The question I’d been asked had only one answer: “Yes.”

You offered your love; she accepted.

I had to think about that as she left the bathroom and returned to the bedroom once more. Her dress took our attention as she slipped it on again, her heels soon once more adorning our feet. Then she turned to the bed and all was made plain. There, lying cold and lifeless, was my body. The waves of grief and regret washed over me and in that moment we knew that what happened wasn’t what she wanted to be.

She brushed my hair as she spoke: “I’m sorry. I didn’t want this to happen. I hope you’ll forgive me, understand, even, I hope, love me again.”

But we did love her. She loved us all. We all wanted to be with her, to know her, to never leave her. The price to pay was losing one life and becoming part of another.

We understand now.

We had been consumed by Sophia. Our souls were given that she could live—an inbred danger that was at the core of her being, but had no idea how to stop. For centuries and it had been wearing on her, driving her towards a pit of emptiness that no number of souls could ever fill.

That revelation tore at our being. We didn’t hold anger towards her. It wasn’t possible to hate Sophia for being what she was. Her memories were an open book to us, we knew every moment of her life, the pain of betrayal, the agony of every soul she’d taken.

If we could only make things better. We wanted to comfort her, to offer her help, to guide her towards her salvation. But she couldn’t hear us. We fell in love with her this night and we wanted to be one with her. Now we are. We all live through her, knowing her love, feeling like all of us were home.

Sophia tucked my past body under the covers and gave a parting kiss before leaving the room. The mists of her being enveloped us once more, making it clear we had so much to learn as she departed. But we sent a whisper of a thought in the hope she’d hear: seek out our love.

All we can do is wait for her now, wait for her to call for us, as we must …

… as we listen to words spoken from within and without …

… as we wait for the meaning to be revealed …

 

 

“Remember: consciousness, memory, will, and emotion all survive. Be thankful, for they are. Listen, for they speak. Cherish, for they love you.”

—The Word, as spoken by Tera to her kind

17 Sep 13:49

Psychic numbing.We find it increasingly hard to empathise with...



Psychic numbing.

We find it increasingly hard to empathise with the plight of larger numbers of people. So, a story about a family who needs help is much easier for us to relate to than, say, a story about 1000s of people displaced or dying. As the number increases the situation gets more abstract and we just can’t connect with it.

See the work of Paul Slovic, or this super article by Brian Resnick: A psychologist explains the limits of human compassion

Other uses of psychic numbing are for the general withdrawal of people and societies from potentially major catastrophes that seem unlikely to happen. Individually, it may also be reduced engagement with a past traumatic experience.

16 Sep 03:14

Commission - Sedesna by ZolaidaAs found...



Commission - Sedesna by Zolaida

As found at:

http://zolaida.deviantart.com/art/Commission-Sedesna-511048591

The expression here is just amazing…

15 Sep 02:45

The Project Project

by Zak Sabbath
So this is an idea meant to be broadly applicable across systems and genres. It's the beginning of some work on it, and might require additional elaboration when it's applied to a specific game or campaign.

The idea is: projects.

Making-stuff-as-adventure-element, including but not limited to: MacGyvering gadgets, building siege engines, creating strongholds and fortifications, surveying frontiers a la Mason & Dixon, developing super-gadgets, etc.

This is meant to be a way to make this kind of thing interesting in a game, including if it's initiated by the players. With some kind of guidelines in place it's easier to accommodate players who decide to build some adventure on their own because they get their not just signing up for "Make my life hell then tell me if it works".

I've used a 5e-style d20 base but it should be pretty easy to adapt to any other traditional system from Traveller to Cthulhu to Dark Heresy or Star Wars. Here we go...


SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES


Principle One: There Are Two Kinds of Projects...

The first type of project is usually fantastic in nature (taking an inventory of an occult library, inventing a chemical regime to give people super powers, manufacturing 7 rings of power, etc) and its main characteristic is: the project itself serially spawns adventure hooks even in an otherwise dull environment. Every few weeks a librarian accidentally summons a wound in the architecture of reality or a test subject runs amok and begins using its adaptive abilities to devour baby brains, assistants mutate, etc.

These projects are easiest to conceptualize as mini-settings in themselves: "places" with their own random encounter tables checked periodically with the roll perhaps modified by the nature of the PCs' decisions about micro risk-reward involved in the project. Their design is a lot like a normal adventure and don't necessarily even need these rules, but might benefit from them.

A PC who initiates one of these is asking for trouble and they know it. I'm going to call these kinds of projects "Hook Factories".

The second type of project, the much more common kind, is half an adventure--it is simply something hard to do which becomes an adventure because it is interacting with an adventure set-up. You're building an opera house in the middle of the Amazon,  you're fixing your spaceship so you can get off Carcosa, you're building a bridge, but it's over a river in Qelong, you're trying to make a flame-thrower while the terrorists are breaking down the door, etc.

I'm calling these "Regular Projects".


Principle Two: You Can Only Mechanize So Much...

The whole point of playing with these projects is they're novel and that novelty means they have hiccups and bumps specific to themselves. This means when designing the project you might nee to google up a real project on the internet that's broadly equivalent and use some of the information there to model the project in the adventure or make up some stuff I can't give you a formula for.

If this system were only for one narrow task, say, crafting magic items or building starships or making buildings or supercomputers or Great Walls of Chna there might be more formulae we could apply, but the idea here is to encompass a variety of projects--so you'll have to do a little research or imagining or both.


Principle Three: There's The Problem and There's The Solution

Projects consist of attempts by someone to solve a problem. This means there's always at least two things to mechanically define: what the problem is and who is trying to solve it.

They will have different, interacting stats.

Principle Four: Steal From TNG

Being inherently humanistic and optimistic, Star Trek: The Next Generation plots often concern exactly this kind of problem structure. A positive and constructive project is envisioned, it encounters a speed-bump, the solution requires adventure.

Steal ideas from it.



DEFINING THE PROBLEM

The problem by itself has 3 basic stats: Working Time, Magnitude, and Complexity.  (If you're reminded of the Iron Triangle or "You can have fast, cheap or good, but you can only pick two", this is no coincedence.)

Step One: Working Time

The first thing you want to do is figure out how long the project would take by googling a similar project or, if the task is something completely fantastic and invented (indexing the Black Library on the Eldar Craftworld) read through this but don't do anything until step two.

You want to broadly estimate this in straight labour-hours (what they used to call man-hours back when they thought you had to be bitten by an hour when the moon was full to get any work done) using tools typical of the era and setting for one person with a median income. Since it's in labour-hours not regular time, for large projects this will be way longer than it actually takes to do it. The Brooklyn Bridge took 600 workers 14 years, so: 8400 years of woking time, give or take a decent amount depending on whether they worked at night, whether all those people were on the project at the same time, etc. But 8400 years is close enough.

The number will also be way longer than the time it takes to manufacture something on an assembly line--a car can be made in less than 24 hours, but not by one person alone working on a middle-class budget.

The most important thing is to get a handle on the order of magnitude: days, weeks, months, etc. which leads us to our next step:

Step Two: Magnitude

“Magnitude” is a stat measuring how big and ambitious the project is, boiled down to a score between 1 and 10 using the Working Time estimate you just got in Step One (or just pick one if the project has no real-world model). Some examples of projects that fit (when executed with modern tools by one person alone) are listed after.

Magnitude 1 --Seconds (Carving an improvised knife)
2 --Minutes (Making a box out of cardboard or wood scraps)
3 --Hours (Making a table or chair)
4 --Days (Build a room, fix minor damage to a car)
5 --Weeks (High-end luxury watch, building a kitchen)
6 --Months (Custom period costume, index a small library)
7 --Years (Feature-length indie film, Viking longship at the time)
8 --Decades (Watts Towers, World's largest model railroad, Sistine Chapel)
9 --Centuries (Large-scale corporate IT projects, Research studies)
10 --Millennia (Castle, Mount Rushmore, Great Wall of China, Brooklyn Bridge)

Step Three: Complexity

"Complexity" is how technologically involved the project is under normal conditions for the setting (no time crunch, contemporary materials, etc). It doesn't include the logistical complexity of organizing people to do it, just the technology and know-how required. The examples given are complexities from a 2017 point of view.

1 Requires only common sense (turning a melon into a bowl)
2 A 101-level project for a specialized skill (making an ashtray out of wood or clay)
3 An advanced hobby project using common information (pinewood derby racer, professional-looking website)
4 A well-informed amateur or student could make it (zip gun, pipe bomb, patio with a hot tub)
5 Requires professional-level ability in a common technical field—normal industry assumes it can be regularly be done (drug interaction study, building a skyscraper)
6 Requires unusually high professional competence (recovering and reconstructing an ancient archaelogical site)
7 Requires application of an unusual technical skill or specialty within a field (designing next-generation hypercar, forging an illuminated manuscript)
8 An impressive achievement that informed critics might doubt will work (brain-activated prosthetics)
9 Cutting-edge—as advanced as the most advanced tech in the setting, things that aren't yet fully understood or viable (facial recognition, self-driving cars)
10 The technology does not yet exist in the setting (teleportation, reliable inkjet printers)

...if you're dealing with a lot of super-science or magic, feel free to make things that are 11, 12, 13 complexity.


Step Four: Who's In Charge And How Good Are They? (Relevant Skill)

Now that the problem's defined with three stats, we're going to move on to define whoever is solving it.

The most important person is the Project Manager. In the real world, this can be hard to nail down--is the person in charge of the movie the director? Or is it the producer who decides how much money the director gets to spend and demands certain stars appear in the film? Or is it the studio head who the producer reports to? Or shareholders? In the game none of this is important now: just pick the NPC or PC who is going to be, for dramatic purposes, the boss of the project.

They will then get a skill stat (if they don't already have one) to define how good they are at doing the thing the project is about.

In 5e you have stats which give you a modifier (+4 for an 18 stat) and then proficiency bonuses for special skills that go up as you level (up to +6 at 20th level). These combine to make your total bonus to do the skill thing. So for a human with an 18 Int at 20th level using an Int based skill like (say) Genetic Resequencing, the total bonus is +10.

The point here is the skill of the person directing the project can, just like project Complexity, be rated on an approximately 10-point scale (going a little higher if they have some superhuman ability).

For other systems, the idea is to derive a number with a soft maximum of +10 for the skill the project's based on.

Either way--if the system doesn't have the skill, invent it and just give it to whoever's in charge. Since this is a pretty specialized task it won't unbalance the game much, just enable this subsystem to work--if it were that important to the game normally it'd already be on the sheet.

The scale for these skills is just like the "Complexity" scale above, so:

a +1 means they can normally execute projects requiring only common sense (turning a melon into a bowl)
a +2 means they can normally a execute 101-level project for a specialized skill (building an ashtray)
etc.

We'll call this number the Relevant Skill.

Step Five: Resources

This measurement for the project includes anything brought to bear on the project--anything currency can easily buy in the era the project is being executed, including extra workers, better tools, better materials, but also including things like factoring in help or other PCs and NPCs, as if they were being paid a wage (even if they're working for free). Literally anything that's a "resource" being brought to bear should be factored in, as if it were paid for.

1 Whatever’s right there now
2 What can be cheaply and quickly scavenged in an hour or two
3 A collection of scavenged or secondhand parts
4 Lower class income
5 Middle class income
6 Upper class income (6 figures)
7 Large business, town, millionaire
8 Corporation, small city budget, multi-millionaire
9 Multinational or medium country, billions, major city budget
10  Super-power or largest multi-national, trillions

Step Six: Calculate Difficulty Class

The Difficulty Class of a project is like the DC of anything else--a target number to be hit with a skill roll on a d20, with that skill roll modified by the project manager's Relevant Skill bonus.

The DC is calculated like this:

Difficulty Class = Magnitude + Complexity - Resources + 10

There can also be modifiers to this DC at GM's discretion mid-project due to the difficulties imposed due to the What Could Go Wrong? table or other things that happen mid-project. For example, if a bad unicorn eats your laptop then maybe the DC goes up by one 'cause you lost some files.

Step Seven: Calculate Estimated Project Time

This is about how long the project will actually take.

Start with the Magnitude--so for the Brooklyn Bridge (8400 years in Work Time) that'd be a 10.

Modify the Magnitude number as follows:

-1 if Resources are greater than 5
+1 if Resources are less than 5

-1 if Relevant Skill is greater than 5
+1 if Relevant Skill is less than 5

-1 if Complexity is less than 5
+1 if Complexity is greater than 5

-1 if the project is to be fragile but the basic project it's modeled on isn't--that is, it can be physically destroyed by an attacker in a round without even rolling a die (like a MacGuyver ad hoc flamethrower held together with paperclips)

-1 if the project is single-use but the thing its modeled on isn't (like a temporary pontoon bridge, or an alarm system that knocks over a bell)

-1 if the project involves modifying an existing thing that almost does what you want

+1 if the project has a secondary function the thing it's modeled on doesn't (like it's a space shuttle but also a cruise ship). The secondary function needs to be a lower Complexity level than the primary function.

Once you've done that, read off the description--days, weeks, months, whatever--that's the unit of how long it'll take assuming nothing goes catastrophically wrong. Very low numbers generally indicate enough resources are brought to bear that the thing can be automated, but the GM can feel free to put a common sense floor on the time dimension.

The estimated time starts halfway through the sequence to the next unit:

Time 1: 30 seconds (halfway to a minute)
2: 30 minutes (halfway to an hour)
3: 12 hours (halfway to a day)
4: 3.5 days (halfway to a week)
5: 2.5 weeks (halfway to a month)
6: 6 months (halfway to a year)
7: 5 years (halfway to a decade)
8: 50 years (halfway to a century)
9: 500 years (halfway to a millennium)
10: 500 millennia (seriously what the fuck 40k Pendragon shit are you running?)

Between Seven and Eight: Checking Progress

This isn't a step to execute, just something you should know now:

"Checking Progress" is when the player rolls on their Project Skill against the Project Difficulty Class to see how things are going.

Critical success (natural 20) means:

-If the project time is elapsed, the thing is finished and works, or
-If it's not, a subpart of the project of the player's choice that could conceivably be done and functional this fast is (like the laser on the Death Star)

plus:
-If the project is finished, an unexpected discovery has been made, things have turned out better than expected, or
-If this is mid-project it means the remaining project time is 1/3 the current estimate.

Any other success of 20 or more (with modifiers) means:

-If the project time is elapsed, the thing is finished and works, or
-If it's not, a subpart of the project of the player's choice that could conceivably be done and functional this fast is, and
-If this is mid-project it means the remaining project time is 1/2 the current estimate.

Any other success means:

-If the project time is elapsed, the thing is finished and works,
-If it's not, the GM picks one:
-A subpart of the project of the GM's choice that could conceivably be done and functional this fast is, or
-The remaining project time is 1/2 the current estimate, or
-The project has its path clear and the time to completion can't be adjusted again until the thing is supposedly finished and actually tested


Failure means:

If the project is supposedly finished and being tested, it means it doesn't work and needs more work equal to 1/4 of the time already spent--plus the most interesting possible consequence the GM can imagine of the thing failing at this point occurs.
If it isn't, Roll on the What Could Go Wrong? Table


Crit failure means:

First:
The most interesting possible consequence the GM can imagine of the thing failing at this point occurs.
Plus, GM's choice:
Someone seriously fucked up. Start over from scratch. 
or
If it can conceivably blow up or otherwise hurt you--it does.


Checking Progress happens at a few different times during the game:

-When the project is actually used for the first time, after it's finished (or, in the case of a failure, supposedly finished)

-Whenever the PC in charge wants to check progress. Why would they do that? To see if they can shave time off or finish a subsection.

-At the beginning of any other event happening in the campaign that the PCs will play out their reactions to (that is: if a wandering monster shows up, then also check progress, if a new adventure hook shows up, then also check progress, if the PCs strike out in search of water, then also check progress, etc)

-If the project is a Hook Factory, it also happens whenever the GM wants it to.



Step Eight: What Could Go Wrong?

This, like Step One, can't be mechanized. It might be possible to list everything that could go wrong with the project by following a formula, but we don't actually need that--what we need is a list of everything interesting that could go wrong with the project--especially if it interacts with other events outside the project in the setting.

The idea is the GM lists theses things and build them into a table that you roll on if the Project Manager rolls a failure.

If the project is going to be done relatively quickly (improvising an explosive in a few minutes) anything more than thinking up d4 disasters that could happen if a roll fails is probably overkill, but for longer-term projects you'll want to work up a full list, bespoke to the project. The table of things that could go wrong will be hidden from the players, though intelligent ones might have their PCs roll to figure out what some of them might be.

Here are some broad categories to think about, you should probably be able to think of multiple specific problems that can go wrong for each category of problem that makes sense for your project:
Supply Problems (Regular)

Something you assumed would be plentiful during the project suddenly isn't. This isn't usually just money/resources, it's some specific substance or affordance (copper, office space, guttapercha, latex, dilithium).

You shouldn't put it on your table if, because of the nature of the set-up, it would logically just mean the way to deal with this is you pay more or it takes longer, or delegate the getting a new source of supply to some underling. That can be handled by the failed roll itself, which already abstracts that by telling you the project takes longer now.  I know all the different-colored pushpins makes going to Staples seem like an adventure but it isn't.

This is interesting and should go on your table if you can think of a way that getting it would require going somewhere interesting or through somewhere interesting, negotiating with some interesting NPCs, or otherwise engaging the setting in a new way. Or if you can think of a way to create an interesting choice that might have knock-on effects down the line (extend the project by three months or source snail mucin from the ferocious insurgents of the Jade Inquisition, thus de facto taking sides in the Impudent Wars?).

Supply Problems (Exotic)

It has become clear the project now requires the Eye of Nachryllax from Planet Oob, Negaplasm from beneath the Orparinth, a manuscript jealously guarded by an unscrupulous collector with a dark reputation, a kind of rocket fuel currently only in the hands of the Axis, etc.

Basically something unique and germane to the project that obviously requires a perilous journey, investigation, quest, heist, etc.

This should go on your table if you can possibly think of a reason to get it on there.

Personnel Problems (Regular)

Some NPC on the project is a jerk. Or sucks at their job. Or their face is melting. Or 200 of them are jerks or suck at their job. Or it's hard to say what's wrong with them, but they walk 3 feet off the ground now and only speak in Masonic cyphers and it's weird and needs to be investigated.

These can range from "the workers are bored so morale is low and nothing's getting done" (so built a little movie theater on base) to "mutiny" (so kill them).

This shouldn't be put on the table if there are no NPCs working on the project, or if the obvious solution would be "fire them and get someone else" or "pay them more" or "protracted union negotiations". This is all abstracted into "The project takes longer".

This should go on your table if dealing with the person(s) is gonna be weird and/or dangerous, or will force the PCs to make a choice that (like with Supply Problems, Regular) may have interesting knock-on effects down the line.


Personnel Problems (Specialist)

The project requires a specific lithographer to the stars, the only living translator of the Tongue of the Greening Clay, a girl with green eyes, a foe known for their fangs and furled talons, etc.

Basically someone that obviously requires a perilous journey, investigation, quest, kidnapping, negotiation, etc.

This should go on your table if you can possibly think of a reason to get it on there.

Weather and Natural Disasters

Some random encounter tables have weather and natural disasters on them already--if they're not and could affect your project, put them on there now.

Don't use this if the only effect would be work takes longer.

Do use this if it might damage safety measures on the project, thus exposing it to new and interesting dangers, or if navigating the natural disaster or weather would be an interesting problem in itself.


Competition

Somebody else is doing the same thing you are--or something similar.

Don't include this if nothing they do can actually affect you getting your project done, or if there's nothing the players could conceivable do about this competition that would be fun to play out or make decisions about.

Do include it if this means crucial personnel, supplies, etc disappear, if it would inspire sabotage, if it would force interesting choices for the PCs about how to continue that might change things down the line for them.



Politics

Some Fred Hicks has decided the project is bad and should be condemned or some Jessica Hammer has decided the project is interesting but has some concerns they'd like to discuss.

Don't include this if the concerned parties have zero power to fuck the project up, if addressing their fuckery can be accomplished by simply by spending more time/money (already addressed by the fact the failure is costing the PCs time) or if there is nothing the PCs could do about the fuckery.

Do include this if the politicker presents interesting choices, might be converted to an ally or pawn if you play your cards right, or would present an interesting foe.

Patron Failure

Whoever's funding the project is threatening to stop. This is different than politics because there doesn't even have to be a reason related to the project--whoever's bankrolling could suddenly have an unexpected baby on the way.

Don't include this if there's no patron (obviously), if there's nothing the PCs could do about it, if what they'd have to do about it amounts to walking over there and making a Charisma roll, or if the playess aren't the ones who are invested in the project getting done.

Do include this if you can make the patron's problem an adventure to solve or can find a way the patron's issues can force an interesting decision.


Patron Meddling

The people funding the project want to do something fucked up with your research.

Do's and don'ts here are a lot like Patron Failure.

This is one of the things that may lead to a...

Moral Dilemma

Like politics, above, only the issue raised by the project is real. The Forbidden Tomes are forbidden for a reason, getting enough whatever the fuck shit out of the ground to power your whatsit endangers the native spotted whatsit, etc.

Do not include this if either of the choices presented basically ends the campaign, or if either of the choices would not genuinely have any effect on what will occur going forward, or if the dilemma would basically force the players to choose between having fun by playing out the interesting game scenario or playing the kinds of characters they like. Like: don't make Not Killing The Orcs the only morally appropriate course for the appropriateness-obsessed cleric player if not killing them must mean the cleric doesn't get to do the cathedral-building project they think is so fun.

Do include this if both the dilemma choices have interesting consequences down the line or the dilemma has at least one hidden solution you can think of requiring adventure or bravery or cleverness. If you've got one the players probably have more.

Hidden Depths

The project results in discoveries :) That are kind of a pain in the ass :(  The grimoire reveals the king is not the real king, the warp engine opens a rift to a dimension of sentient ice crystals, the cure turns your sister into a wereleopard, etc.

Do not include this if it just means the campaign is now all about the new thing (unless it seem like everyone would be into abandoning the current plot to go check it out) or if the discovery just means the whole project takes more time, or if it would make the players go "Fuck this let's do something else".

Do include this if you've got a good idea for a way the discovery is both inconvenient and an adventure hook.

The Adventure Reacts

An important thing to remember: unless this is a Hook Factory, this list is going to be employed in addition to the random encounter table for the campaign or whatever other event-engine is running simultaneously. So this table does not itself need to include things like "Goblins notice your site and begin to attack your half-constructed barber shop" because presumably if hostile goblins are in the area you've already accounted for that somewhere else in the adventure design--or if there's already a rebellion against your empire they might notice you're building another orbiting genocide satellite.

What the foes do once they show up may change, though, and the hubbub of activity may force you to roll on the random encounter table more often. Also: there may be some creatures or events on the random encounter table that are less likely--jaguars don't like the sound of power drills.


Hook Factory Effects

This is where you build in any possible weirdness directly caused by the project itself existing or half-existing. If the half-built dimension gate has a chance of bringing in Demogorgon or turning people into xanhthan gum, here is where you put that.



Step Nine: Get Started

You have all the info you need to begin the project in the campaign. You know how long it'll take, you know when to check progress, you know what that roll looks like, and you know what the consequences are of things not going smoothly.

Step Ten: Keep Thinking of Consequences

At any given point, the PCs could get to the end of the building phase and make that final test roll.

If that test roll is a failure, you the GM want to be ready with the most interesting possible consequence of failure that you can imagine.

If that test roll is a success, make sure you have something for them to do with their new toy.

As the situation develops over the game sessions, keep refining your ideas of what these two scenarios could be based on what's happened so far.

Enjoy!

------

This idea was sponsored by Paolo Marino and is part of a consultation job for him he wanted me to do.

If you need me to consult on your game stuff: zakzsmith AT hawt mayle

14 Sep 19:10

Succubi Image of the Week 504

by TeraS

One of the powers of Succubi is that of illusion. To become that which the other desires, wishes, needs beyond all else. Not only, or just, the temptation, but the single pleasure that they would be willing to do anything for. For this week’s image, a rarity in Succubi art, a moment in time where a succubus offers three temptations, and one singular purpose of all.

Vale reflection by vempire

Vale reflection by vempire

 

This art is titled Vale Reflection and is by the artist Vempire on Hentai Foundry. You can find the original page on Hentai Foundry with this art here and this artist’s page can be found here as well.

It’s an amazingly detailed work of art in so many ways. The reflective poses are right, the forms are mirrors of each other and the details in each mirage of Vale is captivating. It’s also a neat little touch that not only does her form change, but the bed, pillow and wall coverings do as well. I think that’s a stellar bit of creativity by far.

She has the most delicious and seductive smile, how she holds herself whispers that she’s the one in control here and those that come close will be caught in her web of seduction. While much of her changes, the runes upon her skin don’t, and that again is an interesting touch as well.

This artist creates amazing art that holds so much story and life within the moment created. The story that this art offers I think would be that of the seductress of power and being the mistress of the power she’s leashed to her will.

 

Tera

13 Sep 19:17

concatenation: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

concatenation: a series of interconnected or interdependent things or events.
13 Sep 19:17

sinecure: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

sinecure: an office or position requiring little or no work, especially one yielding profitable returns.
13 Sep 19:14

09/12/2017

by aaron
11 Sep 20:06

antinome: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

antinome: something that is contradictory or opposite to another; a logical contradiction.
11 Sep 14:56

Party bottle sizes.These large bottles are seriously impressive...



Party bottle sizes.

These large bottles are seriously impressive to see. They also have neat names from biblical kings for reasons I don’t know. There are a few more gradations, and some sizes and names are only for sparkling wines like champagne and some not. And there are some that even get significantly larger than the 20 bottles in a nebuchadnezzar, though I’ve never seen one.

10 Sep 18:18

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Bagels

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Also, four cream cheese tubs... of destiny or whatever.

New comic!
Today's News:

Hey, we got a very nice review of Soonish thanks to Science Magazine. If you're on the fence about buying, please check it out! There's also a preview of one of the comics from the book :)

 

09 Sep 03:40

Photo



09 Sep 03:39

Eternally Yours By TeraS

by TeraS

Yesterday was my Eternal’s birthday. As some know, over the past year and a bit, things have been … difficult. Most of all for my Eternal, for losing one’s mother is … difficult. But there is a truth to be remembered. For, you see, there’s one thing that he, and I, know for always. It is that I am …

Eternally Yours
By TeraS

Once on every orbit of a small speck of dust in the cosmos, there arrives a point in time, a specific day, with a specific meaning. It’s a day on which the impossible happened. It’s the day when a mother, being told that she would never have a child, found that she was blessed by Goddess to bring a soul into this world.

It’s the day whose annual arrival delights a certain red-tailed Queen of the Realm. On this day, she can thank Goddess for the gift she’s been given, the joy she has felt from the first moment and every moment thereafter. To know, with certainty, from the first moment their eyes had met, that she’d found her Eternal.

It is, after all, Keith’s birthday and it was something for the Realm to celebrate. The King’s birthday is important after all, certainly for Tera herself, but also for daughters Rianna and Branwyn. One could also note—and there was no means to ignore—that it is every bit as important for a certain silver-tailed mischief maker.

Cassie’s fixation on Keith is legendary, especially the various schemes she’d cooked up to draw, drag, pull and otherwise ensnare him into various compromising positions. Some of which are not, at all, taught to inexperienced Succubi, for their own good. At least, that’s the excuse Cassie uses. The canoe incident made the Realm news when it happened, but that’s another story.

Thus, on a certain birthday morning upon which schemers were scheming, plotters were plotting, that red-tailed leader of the incubi was resting on the back porch of his and Tera’s home. The sun hadn’t risen as yet; there was still some stars in the sky as it turned from deepest night to the edge of morning. It had become a kind of tradition of his, over the years, to be waiting for the dawn on the day of his birth. Positioned nearby, a camera faced where the sun would peek over the horizon, scatter the rays of light over the land and mark the moment when the day actually began.

As Keith waited, his attention was drawn to a small book that showed on its cover the passing of the years. Dog-eared, the pages a little yellowed, each page showed a sunrise, the instant of the sun cresting the horizon, the first spark of light a blaze over the landscape. Many pages showed the same place, at least until they changed. The images marked over time where he’d been on his birthday, what that first instance of the sun was: a marker, as it were, of the passing of one moment and the beginning of the next. Each image was of the sun and the landscape. There were never any people to be seen in the photo. It was strictly what he saw on the first moment of each birthday’s arrival.

Towards the middle of the book, the landscape settled into one familiar setting. A fence to one side, making a good friend. The edge of a red brick wall defining the place they called home. Off in the distance, the spires of the Realm proper could be made out, rays of light being thrown between them on the way to his camera.

That image didn’t change all that much, again, for some time. Perhaps in some small ways here and there, but overall the sun, the sights, the familiarity of it all didn’t waver. The scene was comforting, sure, a beacon of what had been and what would be.

That was, he knew, until he turned to the page which marked, or rather should have marked, one birthday before. There was no image to be found. No sun peeking through trees, no sensation of the warmth, the joy, the wholeness that taking that picture meant to him. It was a year where taking the picture didn’t seem to matter. As he turned the page, not having seen the book for two years, he knew there would be a break in the passage of time, a missing moment, a piece missing that could never be returned.

What he found instead was a picture he hadn’t taken, a moment he hadn’t captured. The sun glowed, nature bloomed. The fence stood strong, a house was still a home. Off in the background the Realm awaited, content to be there. But in the foreground there was a difference.

The sun’s rays cascaded about a mane of ebon hair, a pair of red horns. A long red tail arced up and over a shoulder as so-green eyes looked into the camera. Her knees were drawn to her chest, hands cupping her legs. The smile was the one meant for him and him alone, the one that he’d been drawn to, the one that was called Eternal.

Looking up, he found her resting on their lawn, looking towards him. She didn’t say a word, just waiting. The image wasn’t complete, there was a piece missing. She’d shifted to the side, now putting herself off from the centre of the image, the meaning behind the change clear. She didn’t need to smile and tilt her head, but she did, anyway.

He left the book beside the camera, knowing it was ready. The grass was slightly damp as he settled in beside her, Eternal holding Eternal. The camera was forgotten as fingers entwined, tails arced overhead, the tips touching together.

The sun rose over the horizon, light blessed the scene and the camera triggered.

The page was turned over later that night, a new image added to the many taken before. But from here on, the scene would be a new one. A sun peeking over a horizon, Eternals together, their tails framing the sun, rays of light spreading out over the scene. A reminder that each year at this time, in every way, there was one truth shared between them.

I am Eternally Yours.

08 Sep 16:19

fossick: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

fossick: to hunt; seek; ferret out.
07 Sep 03:00

catachresis: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

catachresis: misuse or strained use of words, as in a mixed metaphor, occurring either in error or for rhetorical effect.
03 Sep 18:09

Attack of the Summer Tomatoes

by John Kovalic

Late in the summer, it’s a constant race to prep fresh garden veggies for sauces and soups, for canning or freezing.

Peeling tomatoes to be preserved isn’t particularly difficult, but it usually involves blanching and ice baths, or fire-roasting – both of which can be  time-consuming and messy. Particularly when you’re dealing with 10 or 20 lbs of tomatoes at a time.

Some people just leave the skins on, but I’m not a fan of that – even mega-blended using something as powerful as a modern Veg-O-Matic, the tiny skin particles that remain bug me, in a sauce. Like an itch that can’t be scratched.

Fortunately, I stumbled across a process that has made my late-summer sauce- and soup-making much, much easier.

A couple of years ago, before a trip, I had ten pounds of tomatoes, and no time to prep them. So I threw them in a plastic bag, and plonked that straight into the freezer.

When I pulled them out and let them thaw a week later, I noticed two things:

  1. A *lot* of liquid came out of them.
  2. The skins peeled off simply and cleanly.

So my new, easy-peasy, no-tears tomato-peeling method has become:

  1. Cut the stems out of the tomatoes. (You can quarter, core and seed them at this point, if you wish).
  2. Throw them all in a plastic bag, and freeze them overnight. (I’ll do anywhere between 5 and 20 lbs at a time, depending on day’s harvest).
  3. When you’re ready, let them thaw in a large container – a lot of water will come out of them. This is called tomato liquor, and I’m told it’s a great base for soups.

 

This is the liquor from just five pounds of tomatoes. Ummm…and three of the tomatoes.

 

Then all you need do is pick them up…and peel using your fingers!

 

Clean, easy, and dare I say, satisfying.

 

The now-peeled tomatoes head straight for the food processor. (Some folks will want to remove the seeds: I used to do that all the time, but I’ve honestly found that they taste about the same, either way, and didn’t warrant the extra step.)

 

A relatively thick purée results. (Add the tomato liquor back in, if you’re going for a soup instead of a sauce).

Then into the sauce pan. My basic sauce recipe:

  1. Dice one medium onion, sauté 10 mins in 1/4 cup olive oil;
  2. Add 2-4 diced cloves garlic, and sauté for another minute;
  3. Add the pureed tomatoes.
  4. Add salt, pepper, and/or red pepper flakes to taste.
  5. That’s it. No. Really.

As a lot of the liquid you’d be cooking off is already gone, you don’t need to simmer it as long. An hour’s plenty, and the tomato flavor’s fresher than sauces that require longer reducing…

 

If you’d rather make soup, here’s a genius, crazy-easy creamy tomato soup recipe that lets the wonderful summer tomato flavors shine and sing.

Both tomato sauce and soup freeze well, and I have gallons of each in the deep-freeze by the end of the season, ready to war, the winter months. This prep method saves me a ton of time, as I rush to use the harvest veggies before they go bad.

The clean-up is far easier, as well.

It almost feels like cheating, actually.

Almost.

Now on to Gazpacho…

-John

31 Aug 10:39

The Nature of Crime

by Zak Sabbath
Successful crime is about being undetected. Being undetected is about taking advantage of things you know that other people don’t.

Therefore anything the criminal knows about that other people don’t is a good canvas for crime--anything known and grasped by the general public is a bad canvas for crime. Therefore any subject you, the Host, know better than the average citizen is a place ripe with opportunity for criminal exploitation. Dick Francis knows more about horse racing than you—so he wrote like forty books about crime and horse-racing.

I know a professional autograph hound. Here’s what he does: he looks on the internet for restaurants where celebrities hang out, he tells parking attendants and waiters there he’ll pay them for a tip if they see a celebrity—they call, he rolls up, he tries to get an autograph. If he does: he sells it online for more than he paid the waiter.

There are 100 crime stories in there, easy. In one, maybe a stalker claims to be an autograph hound? In another, maybe a murderer pretends to be a celebrity to catch an autograph hound? In another, maybe the apparently-suspicious waiter isn’t really the murderer, he just didn’t want to admit he snuck off to call the hound? In another maybe it’s just the best way to figure out where a dead celebrity was before they died was to ask the hound where the autograph came from?

Whatever your little world is, there’s a crime story in there. You know where the security tape goes at 7-11 at night? You know how a book goes from a warehouse to a book store? You know where the teachers go to smoke? You have secret knowledge—you can start to build a crime.

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30 Aug 13:55

Things It Only Took Me 40 Years to Realize – DORK TOWER 29.08.17

by John Kovalic

29 Aug 06:03

ruth: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

ruth: pity or compassion.
27 Aug 13:03

The 10 Essentials. What should you make sure you have with you...



The 10 Essentials.

What should you make sure you have with you when you head out to the wilderness? A lot of stuff may prove handy, but perhaps the best checklist to start from for stuff that may get you out of a fix is the 10 Essentials by the Seattle-based Mountaineers group.

This is a version of their systems list which focuses on what the objects need to do rather than specifically which objects you should bring. So, for example, insulation may be warm clothes but could be a wind breaker or waterproofs for snow or rain rather than cold.

Check out Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills - https://www.rei.com/product/811865

PS
I modified it very slightly for space and simplicity. Don’t blame me if you are stuck in the wilderness without the right kit.