Shared posts

25 Apr 23:19

#744 Host of Problems

by treelobsters
25 Apr 04:00

Women on 20s

I get that there are security reasons for the schedule, but this is like the ONE problem we have where the right answer is both easy and straightforward. If we can't figure it out, maybe we should just give up and just replace all the portraits on the bills with that weird pyramid eye thing.
23 Apr 14:49

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Motivation

by admin@smbc-comics.com

Hovertext: Let it never be said that Weinersmith stopped crapping all over people's hopes and dreams.


New comic!
Today's News:
22 Apr 18:52

Important people in your life.

by Jessica Hagy

card4872

The post Important people in your life. appeared first on Indexed.

21 Apr 19:40

The frequency illusion: we notice what’s top of mind.The reason,...



The frequency illusion: we notice what’s top of mind.

The reason, generally, is simply that all those times previously we weren’t tuned in to notice what’s top of mind now. The frequency likely hasn’t changed a bit just our noticing of it has.

21 Apr 14:56

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - One wish

by admin@smbc-comics.com

Hovertext: Your homework today is to figure out a wish that would result in the above.


New comic!
Today's News:
20 Apr 07:00

esemplastic: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

esemplastic: having the ability to shape diverse elements or concepts into a unified whole.
16 Apr 07:00

endemic: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

endemic: natural to or characteristic of a specific people or place.
15 Apr 21:08

Trojan War Playing Cards!

by blackboardfiction

Wee! Fun New Thing: Trojan War Playing Cards!

I’ve been working like a mad thing over the Easter break on these new Iliad-themed cards! The key Greeks, Trojans, Gods and Women of the Trojan War are all represented in the suits of these usable playing cards!
Use them as flash cards to revise the text, play an interesting game of Blackjack, or secretly act out your AU Song of Achilles fantasies!
advert
NOW AVAILABLE! Trojan War Playing Cards 
They’ll all be available very soon either in an instant print-it-yourself download or as a plush proper-cards-in-a-box set – stay tuned to the Facebook page or the Twitter account for updates!
Trojan War Cards proof-2

15 Apr 04:00

Singularity

I figured that now that society has collapsed, I wouldn't need to wear clothes anymore, but apparently that violates some weird rule of quantum gravity.
15 Apr 15:05

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Trisen

by admin@smbc-comics.com

Hovertext: If this doesn't get some hatemail, well I guess I feel like you people aren't even trying.


New comic!
Today's News:
12 Apr 20:06

Jeff Grubb's Genius Subplot Rule

by Zak Sabbath
Your keynote speaker

Ok, one thing that gets discussed in most superhero game books but is chronically hard to actually wedge into a game is subplots.

Modules generally have villains and scenarios laid out, but the part of the comic where not only does the Flash have to stop the Meteor Men from eating Atlantis but has to rent a tuxedo for his cousin Alf's wedding is not usually written into the game and it's hard to design since--unlike a villain--it has to be individualized to the character and it isn't necessarily easy to play it out since the player doesn't have a clear goal--which can leave the other players going "Ok, how long are you pretending to talk to your landlord before we can go back to the game?"

On the other hand, without these, you lose a dimension of the game--even in a tactical sense. The Kingpin's awesome plan in Born Again wouldn't work if Daredevil didn't have a connection to Karen, Foggy, Ben, et al.

Jeff Grubb solved this problem. Here's how:
That thing in the red box belongs in the Museum of Genius Simple Mechanics right next to Call of Cthulhu's rules for acting insane ("Here are some names of insanities--now act insane until the duration ends").

Making a commitment gets you karma--which is a spendable experience point thing you can use to beat people up or not die or whatever. If you fail your commitment you lose it.

That's it. That's the whole mechanic and it works like a charm. Players invent subplots for themselves and interact with unsuper NPCs all the time.

The genius of it is: it's the only Karma award a player can just get without doing anything hard. So the player is not only incentivized to build out his/her PC's private world, it's the only thing on the table they can be sure they'll be rewarded for--no risk, no waiting for villains to attack, etc. the PC doesn't even have to leave the house to make a commitment.

Example--the players are hunting for Nazi science jerk Arnim Zola:
"Ok I'm a chemist would I know Arnim Zola?"
"Funny you should mention that he spoke at your school a few months ago."
"Can I talk to whoever coordinates the visiting lectures?"
"Sure it's a fellow student" (idk, that's how it worked in art school)
"Ok, I'll call them"
"'Hello, Gwen Stacy speaking?'"
"'Uh...hi Gwen'"
"'Oh it's you--omg, giggle...'"
"Oh god I don't want to go out with her I know she's gonna die"
"There's karma in it..."
"Fuck, ok..."

And then Sleepless the paranoid numbercrunching social leper goes on a date with Gwen Stacy while everyone else is watching the Vault for boats full of supersedatives and I get to attack the movie theater with Ani-Men. And then Sleepless has to pretend to spill popcorn on Gwen so that he can get away to the lobby and fight them. Classic.

Incidentally, this belies the old saw that a game is 'about' what most of its rules are about--this 8-word rule creates immensely complicated situations.

I feel like other games could use a mechanic like this--not every genre, but any one where you want a semi-static social constellation (as opposed to exploration or fast-pitched thriller pacing) to be a part of the game. Like RIFTS+ this mechanic basically gives you Apoc World on the cheap.
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14 Apr 07:00

miche: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

miche: to lurk out of sight.
14 Apr 21:16

Dirty thunderstorm.Caused by ash and rock interacting inside a...



Dirty thunderstorm.

Caused by ash and rock interacting inside a cloud instead of ice particles. As you can imagine you can get this with volcanoes which can be pretty spectacular. Here’s more about how lightning forms inside a thunder cloud, the regular kind.

13 Apr 19:26

Let’s make some commodities!

by Jessica Hagy

card4865

The post Let’s make some commodities! appeared first on Indexed.

06 Apr 18:55

Der Giftschrank

by Zak Sabbath
So over on the 99% Invisible podcast* they have a whole episode about the history and functions of Der Giftschrank--"the poison cabinet"--which is not a low-hiss goth-industrial band (ok, probably by now it is, but anyway…) but a locked area in a library where restricted-access books are kept.

These things are not unheard of- in the kinds of fiction we make games from--there's the Forbidden Books section of the library in a Simpsons Halloween episode and if you read pulp horror novels from the 70s it's obvious the Vatican Library consists of nothing but evil devilbooks--but the existence of Giftschranke--and not just outright banned books--imply several interesting (and gameable) things that deserve to be looked at in more detail...

1. Ideas are dangerous

The concept of dangerous information is a commonplace--the Panama Papers, blackmailables, rocket fuel formulae, hoaxes, datatheft in Shadowrun, etc.--the concept of a dangerous idea, however is a lot more arcane and more fun. 

Outside concrete facts (real or fake) that people don't want other people to know or believe, there are a few ways ideas can be dangerous:

Heresies--This can run from the Phibionites to like Cthulhu worship.

Political propaganda--After WWII, Mein Kampf was placed in Der Giftschrank.**

Erotic works--Ideas upsetting to gender norms and whatnot or just, like, smutty pictures. Franz Von Bayros was in Der Giftschrank in the Yale art library.

Malculture--Ideas and images that are not overtly propagandistic but which are considered to make bad social practices seem desirable. During the Cold War, the East Germans kept American fashion magazines in Der Giftschrank. 

This last category is probably the most interesting and underexplored in game settings--because it speaks not to the kingdom's fear of evil clerics (been there), rival kingdoms (done that), or naughty bits (a cliche as old as Dragonmirth) but to the society's view of what makes itself different philosophically from its neighbors and what it thinks could destroy that. The Giftschrank says not only "we are not fashion magazines" but "we could be ruined by widespread dissemination of fashion magazines". What is in a setting's Giftschranke on cultural grounds tells you a lot about every single NPC from that setting and a lot about how PCs will be received.

Would Minas Tirith have Giftschranked literature depicting the joys of a simple rural life as undermining to the values of self-sacrifice and duty it demanded of young men holding the line against Mordor? Would The Hobbit itself have, therefore, been 'schranked?

Actually, probably not, because of one of the other interesting things about Giftschranke…
Poison Idea


2. The Society Thinks These Dangerous Texts Need To Be Studied

…I see Minas Tirith more as a book-burning town and Giftschranking isn't burning--or banning. The Giftschranke speaks to fear of ideas, true, but it also speaks to the admirable (per se) and sophisticated notion that even bad ideas need to be understood--all the better to combat them. Giftschranking restricts but does not prohibit access.

Reasons a culture might want to study 'Schranked texts:

Ulterior: Like secretly the Pope is a Chaos Cult member or jerks off to the saucy books. Like most hoary plot cliches, it's as dull in theory as it is useful in practice.

Forensic: If the authors of the dark text or their acolytes are yet among the living, the works may contain clues to hunting them down. Clearly the easiest schrankenmotiv to work into a game.

Scholarly: People just read this stuff to compile histories or studies or whatever. Suggests a relatively sophisticated culture where people have a lot of free time to do disinterested research. These kinds of individuals and institutions are unusual in fantastic settings (as they are in life) but can be a rich source of random gp-for-mcguffin fetch quests--again, as they are in life.

Rhetorical: This is mentioned in the podcast--reading a text makes it easier to refute its arguments. This is fun in a game because it suggests soft power and genuine persuasion are an engine in the setting rather than the more obviously gameable route of conversion by the sword. All across the kingdom there are clerics and monks explaining that rain can't be the tears of the Inestimable Cloud Titans because cloud titans are known to be warm-blooded and clearly…etc They make posters and have bake sales when they spread the word. The subtle permeations of propaganda can be fun because they are often unrecognizable as such at first. Like the Gnithians may be shocked to see that--counter to what they've been told for centuries-- elves do not actually fear water. 
Venomous Concept


3. Access To the Giftschranke Is Limited To The Worthy

Depending on the reason for the 'Schranking and the Gifting, access will be limited in one or more of the following ways:

Only the learned: A test of scholarship is implied.

Only the good: Tests of ideological or behavioral purity are implied.

Only the great: Signs of status and influence are required.

Only the initiated: Signs of membership are required.

Tests are always interesting in games, as they provide excuses for challenges, while signs of status or membership are effectively mcguffins to be chased. Also: all of this implies guards, security, etc, like around any treasure in any dungeon.



4. The contents of Giftschranke change

Regime change alters the contents of the Giftschranke--Germany's went from being heretical texts, then to pornography then to Nazi literature. The history of Der Giftschrank is a history of what the biggest monster is at any given moment.

So: you dig deep into the dungeon, fireball your way past the ancient reptile women and long-dormant golems, pick the lock and find…only books. But what's in those books tells you about that society's vulnerabilities.



5. Giftschranke can be virtual

The podcast notes that a new critical edition of Mein Kampf is coated with scholarly glosses debunking its arguments and providing historical context, calling this "a virtual Giftschranke". In college my epic lit teacher's copy of the Bible came the same way. 

The strategy of presenting a despised text through a scrim of critical thought which undermines or at least redirects interpretation of that text is an old one--the word "gloss" itself begins with margin notes on Bibles (and ends with the ironic quote tweet and Something Awful.com's shitty FATAL and Friends thread--where game books the SA harassment clique don't like are hateread under the protective fiction that all the books they don't like are somehow like FATAL). The idea of a dangerous text being circulated with these interpolations intact literally adds a new layer to the concept of the Eldritch Tome--you get the text, but you also might get who knows how many other mothers telling you what it means to the Snailmen, to the Shell People, to the Ranks of Khaine.

Even today, asking yourself what a society refuses to disseminate without commentary ("without context") attached tells you a lot about its values.



6. There is a moral and/or intellectual class system

In examining the philosophy of the Giftschrank note these four things:

A. There are dangerous texts
B. There is a kind of person for whom the text is not dangerous (it is for their perusal the books are preserved)
C. There is a kind of person for whom it is (they are not allowed in or are presumed not to have those intellectual tools)
D. The second kind of person is, nevertheless, still enough part of the society that they are welcome to read its other books

Person C is not interpreted as the enemy--after all, they are free to access the rest of the library. They are citizens, but second class. They are the ruled, but not the rulers. They can't handle the truth--but they are welcome to join the infantry, till a field, pay the taxes that create the Giftschrank that excludes them. The actual enemy is out there (they wrote the book) but they are a wolf, and the second, protected, class are sheep--someone you have commerce with- but are suspicious of-. These are the gullible and persuadable, the ones for whom ideas are truly dangerous, but who are nevertheless too useful to exile to the world of the evil. In all societies this class must include literate children, but it's most interesting and frightening when this class includes adults--who are allegedly legally and morally responsible for their own actions.

Only in the light of a malleable-but-not-anathematized class does the concept of "a dangerous idea" even makes sense--and in that same light the giftschrank's suspicion of democracy is made clear.***

Whose needs does the existence of this lesser class serve? The feudal monarch's, obviously, also the capitalist's (someone has to buy Crocs)--this can push worldbuilding away from seeing the society as a monoculture, with all the Shadow Dwarves privy to the same education.

This institutionalized condescension also makes 'schranked works extremely valuable--not necessarily to the sheep to whom PCs or malefactors might deliver them, but as a hostage. What ransom would a pope pay to keep Docetism off the streets?

Come to think of it--might be a good funding model for LotFP.
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*Thanks for the recommendation, Ram

**The podcast notes that in Austria, inspection is still forbidden to minors and goths.

***The profoundly goofy and profoundly conservative philosopher Leo Strauss held that all philosophy was essentially dangerous in the hands of the masses (thus Hitler, thus Stalin) and that no 'Schrank was schrank enough to keep the Gift away from them--yet still they must be ruled. Paul Wolfowitz and Robert Bork were big fans.


05 Apr 18:49

Princess of the Silver Palace by...a lot of people

by Zak Sabbath
So here's what we did:

You know that old TSR module Palace of the Silver Princess?  Y'know...


When she came it was as exile, descending from tempestuous night in a silver ship. She fled the collapse of her shining principality in the Immeasurable Abide, an implausibly vast agglomeration of paradisiacal cosms beyond the outer void. All she loved of her glittering homelands was consumed by the tyranny that lurks behind all tyrannies: by the Manifest Density which waits at the end of time. An agent of that creed, the Hegemon Ankylose Dysplasia , driven by colossal lust, sought pursuit beyond the Abide but was prevented by his preposterous gravitas and the girth of his pride from passing through the furled dimensions and on to the lesser cosms where the world hangs.

...that one?

Anyway, I farmed out every page to a different DIY D&D Blogger and we rewrote it--I'm shocked with how well it came out. You can use the old maps, but the key has been completely renovated with all new stuff.

Tom Middenmurk wrote a brand new freaky princess legend, Kelvin Green gave us some sweet picture map rooms, Stacy Dellorfano made the Princess' chambers seriously fucked up, Raggi dreamed up some incredibly elaborate ways to screw (or at least frustrate) your players, Humza invented some classy ghouls, James Mal made one of my favorite new trick rooms, and a whole lot more.

Free of course.

So check it here:
Princess of the Silver Palace
by
Tom "Middenmurk" Fitzgerald
David "Yoon Suin" McGrogan
Zzarchov "Neoclassical Geek Revival" Kowalski
Barry "actual Cockney" Blatt
Natalie "Revolution in 21 Days" Bennet"
James "I invented the phrase Gygaxian Naturalism. Sue me" Maliszewski
James Edward "Lotfp" Raggi IV
Trent "New Feierland" B
Humza "Legacy of the Bieth" Kazmi
Ramanan "I make all those cool online generators" S
Reynaldo "Break!" Madrinan
Kelvin "Forgive Us" Green
Daniel "Basic Red" Dean (thanks for picking up the slack on the folks who didn't have time to finish their pages)
Anthony "Straits of Anian" Picaro
Jensen "I talk to Paizo" Toperzer
Logan "Last Gasp" Knight
Kiel "Dungeons and Donuts" Chenier (thanks for the layout!)
Stacy "Contessa" Dellorfano
Patrick "Deep Carbon Observatory" Stuart
Scrap "Fire on the Velvet Horizon" Princess
Ken "Satyr Press" Baumann
and me a little bit


Oh and ps: the ghouls in Trent's last room were invented by Humza, the credits are a little wrong.
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04 Apr 12:54

Never Need To Be By TeraS

by TeraS

A story today with a bit of a hidden meaning, or perhaps that meaning will be one that really isn’t so hidden for those that know. Sometimes there are things that need to be said, but then they can also be the things that …

 

Never Need To Be
By TeraS

 

There are moments when Tera can be indecisive. They are rare, and most would never notice them when they happen. Still, they do, and she is quite aware of them within her own thoughts.

The problem on this particular day wasn’t one where the universe hung on her next choice. No, it was a very simple question that, normally, might have a simple answer. However, nothing for Tera ever really was simple, even if the outcome only was a result of her believing that point. This day mattered very much to her … to her dear friends on the other side of the fence, the koi pond marking the edges of where their worlds met … to her and her Eternal, for reasons that never really could be put into words, but then never really needed to be.

She had spent a very long time thinking.

Trinkets and gifts weren’t right. They didn’t express her love. Recalling a certain decorative plate she had given before, she smiled at what her Eternal had told her about that moment, the gasp of surprise, the look of amazement.

A card, no matter how lovely the words, couldn’t say what needed to. Oh, she had sent many cards in the past, but she knew just how awful her handwriting was—more so when she kept having to stop, wipe away tears and then continue writing. The thought did make that smile turn bemused. A queen with terrible handwriting: such an impossible thing, of course … but Tera was never an ordinary queen.

Flowers? Well, she had given them before, a particularly lovely rose bush once. Looking out her kitchen window, Tera could just make it out over the fence, the red blooms and green leaves just beginning to sprout, marking the arrival of spring where they resided now. Those thoughts made her smile become a thoughtful one.

She looked towards the home across the way, her fingernails tapping a beat upon the countertop in rhythm with her considerations for some time. Finally she made up her mind and turned away from the window.

A short time later, or not so short—time was an illusion, after all—a woman with ebon hair wearing a red sweater and blue jeans, made her way along a certain sidewalk towards a certain home in the garden of which a certain rose bush grew. Her heels clicked lightly upon the cobblestone walk, a moment later and she knocked lightly upon the door. She wondered if she looked right, if she had managed to look right, to simply be herself in the ways that matter most. After a time her thoughts had come to wondering if they were home when she heard the turning of a doorknob.

The door opened, a soul she knew through their love shone brightly there. A smile greeted her: “Hello.”

Tera smiled: “Hi.” For the first time in ages, the Queen of the Succubi fidgeted before she continued, while the lady in the doorway waited patiently: “I was trying to figure out something today.”

There was a moment … it wasn’t really an awkward one, more of a sudden realization of who
the guest was, and the surprise that she was standing on the doorstep.

She tugged at her hair: “I’ve sent flowers, cards, gifts before. I couldn’t figure out what would be right. There didn’t seem to be anything that really said the right thing, in the right way.” She shrugged slightly: “So that leaves … me. I just wanted to say … Happy birthday.”

The answer was a hug as Tera was pulled into a warm embrace, crying softly in the moment for all this meant to her. For the longest time, there were no words said; there really didn’t need to be any. But then the moment passed, the lady insisting that Tera come in, tears and all, for she was being silly.

Hours passed, the two talking, tea being shared, the occasional bit of laughter drifting from the porch where they rested together, looking out over the garden, where the rose bush was starting to bloom. The visiting queen was tracing a fingertip over the rim of her cup when she admitted something to her hostess during a pause in their time together: “I don’t say the words enough … what you mean to us. I know I need to say them.”

Her neighbor answered: “There never needs to be.”

It is a simple truth, one that transcends all else. The love of a family shared never needs to be explained, never needs to be said. When one knows, one simply does.

And so the words never need to be said, for they live within the souls of those we touch and love.

The words never need to be said, but, on that birthday, on that doorstep, in smiles and hugs, they were. And Tera went home quite sure it was she who received the gift.

11 Apr 04:00

Brain Upload

I just spent 20 minutes deciding whether to start an email with 'Hi' or 'Hey', so I think it transferred correctly.
10 Apr 08:15

Morrigan by sniftpiglet  As found...



Morrigan by sniftpiglet 

As found at:

http://sniftpiglet.deviantart.com/art/Morrigan-523031682

A pondering Morrigan appears…

09 Apr 20:36

Photo



07 Apr 11:31

#743 Coffee Break

by treelobsters
01 Apr 19:14

Did you know the definition of gullible isn’t in the dictionary?

by Jessica Hagy
31 Mar 20:49

Cognitive bias, heuristic, logical fallacy: hidden features of...



Cognitive bias, heuristic, logical fallacy: hidden features of the mind.

These terms come around a bit, and I wanted to get them clear in my head so I understood the difference.

Cognitive bias: predictable patterns of thought and behaviour leading to incorrect conclusions. Things like anchoring, where we are predictably led astray by the presence of a previous number we have seen.

Heuristic: mental short-cut to solve common problems. Things like social proof, how if others seem to like something that’s a short-cut for we’ll probably like it.

Logical fallacy: a flaw in our reasoning leading to a faulty argument. Things like the sunk cost fallacy, where we will sometimes make ourselves unhappy in the future because of something we’ve already done that we can’t change. The logical step would be to choose the path that would make you happiest in the future regardless of any sunk costs up to now. Turns out that’s hard.

HT: You are not so smart

01 Apr 07:00

ninnyhammer: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

ninnyhammer: a fool or simpleton.
30 Mar 07:00

valetudinarian: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

valetudinarian: a person who is excessively concerned about his or her poor health or ailments.
30 Mar 04:00

Jack and Jill

Jill and Jack / began to frack. / The oil boosts their town. / But fractures make / the bedrock shake / and Jack came tumbling down.
30 Mar 09:00

plan2

by Author

plan2

A bit late with this one from 9 years ago.

29 Mar 17:29

Seen it. Next.

by Jessica Hagy

card4856

The post Seen it. Next. appeared first on Indexed.

28 Mar 21:23

Instagram Unlevels the Playing Field

I’m sure most of you have seen your fair share of these lately:

image

Don’t get me wrong, I really love Instagram.  But Instagram is no longer a level playing field and this is yet another illustration of my objection to private social networks.  By private social network I mean a service (such as Instagram, Facebook, Medium, or Twitter) where all users and content live exclusively within a privately held application.

Photo streams and sharing don’t really need to be in a private social network.  They could just as easily be distributed like traditional blogs with an RSS-like syndication format.

With Instagram, we’re all at the mercy of whatever they want to do to improve their business.  Be it changing functionality, terms of service, or even shutting down.  If the above Instagram post is accurate (which I believe it is) and artists, creators, and upstarts depend on Instagram then I’d say it’s a very broken system.

We’ve talked about this before, but the beauty and security of the web is its distributed nature.  This is what’s so great about RSS.  At The Old Reader, we love our users and hope that they’ll stay forever, but if a user finds a solution that fits them better they can take their feeds and go somewhere else.

Image sharing, classifieds, blogging, microblogging and everything else that depends on content creators should work this way.  It’s the only way to keep the playing field level for creators, which I believe includes just about all of us.

One final thought…  I’m actually a fan of using algorithms to prioritize items in a queue.  I just read an interesting post by a Twitter VC firm saying how great that was going to be for Twitter.  But I think we all know the obvious truth which is that this is a revenue model.  This algorithm isn’t about showing users the most relevant content.  It’s about showing them the most relevant content PLUS any content that has been “boosted.” We stopped using Facebook for this very reason. We had thousands of followers but Facebook only showed our posts to a few hundred. If we wanted all of our followers to see a post we had to pay.