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13 Dec 06:22

An Old Reader Reader Testifies


Recently, we asked you to drop an email to telling us a little about why you use RSS, how long you’ve been using the Old Reader, and 5 feeds that you think other people in our community will love. We’ve gotten a ton of great feedback, and as promised, here’s one of our readers, talking about how the Old Reader fits her life. So, without any more windup, here is Lindsey Hoffman, who blogs at and explains why the Old Reader is important to her.

Back in the early days of the blogosphere,  I used to maintain a bookmarked list of blogs and webcomics to click on every week. As a librarian and an insatiably curious human, I found far more sites of interest than I could keep track of this way. RSS came to my rescue, first in the form of Bloglines (probably around 2004), then Google Reader. The collapse of GReader was the end of an era for me, and I still miss the camaraderie I found there. But after carefully examining my options, I concluded The Old Reader did the best job of replacing the functionality I had come to rely on, and I’m still very happy with it.

RSS gives me information in a way that is easy to manage and personalize. Where social media like Facebook and Tumblr provide an endless chaotic flow of input of dubious validity, RSS allows me to curate my reading around things that matter to me, and organize it in such a way that I can go directly to serious matter or fun fluff, depending on what I have energy for. The Old Reader makes this organization easy, and I find it pairs nicely with Instapaper when I want to read a long article in a friendlier font.

I’m no longer a librarian, but I’m still insatiably curious. I use RSS to keep up with blogs and Tumblrs of friends far and near, tech news, Etsy shops, music, FDA recalls, authors I admire, PostSecret, social justice issues, and doings in my former home of Portland, Oregon… and a lot more. Anytime I want to learn more about something – tiny houses, intentional communities, healthy cooking, Ubuntu Linux, the perspectives of people different from myself – I find myself a blog or two, plug it into The Old Reader, and get informed at a pace that works for me.

Not everyone experiences the internet in the same way. For me, it’s all about the words, about finding and sharing ideas through good writing. If you’re a word person too, here are five feeds you might enjoy:


Prague Race -
A beautifully drawn, wonderfully strange Finnish fantasy webcomic by Petra Erika Nordlund.



Said the Gramophone -
An old-skool MP3blog from 2003, StG offers MP3s of diverse genres, along with writing inspired by the music. I came for the free music and stayed for the writing, which inspires me to think about and experience music in different ways.



Project 562 Blog -
Matika Wilbur, a photographer of Swinomish and Tulalip heritage, is documenting all 562 Native tribes of the United States. Her interviews, articles, photos, and video provide a glimpse into the pride, beauty, struggles, and vision of this often-stereotyped population.



Idle Words -
Maciej Cegłowski (founder of travels around the world having amazing adventures and misadventures. Occasionally, he posts very long essays about his experiences, which are always packed with fascinating facts, dry wit, and a little whining. I usually start them thinking “I can’t believe how long this is,” and finish them thinking “Wow, I’m so glad I read that!”



Ursula K. Le Guin: New on the Website -
We are lucky to have sci-fi and fantasy author Ursula Le Guin still among us. This venerable Portlander still blogs intermittently, though her posts are fewer these days due to health issues. Her site is managed by someone else, and the mechanics of its feed are a little wonky and indirect, but it’s worth it to get updates on and from this literary legend.


11 Dec 20:46

Picture By TeraS

by TeraS

The first thing I need to say is that, yes, there’s no new part of Second Coming this week. At the rate the one scene that I am fighting with is taking, I’m almost expecting the story to be finished around Christmas. That in itself might be rather fitting, as an aside …

Sometimes life causes you to consider, to reflect, or something more. Over the past year, I’ve written a lot of stories that have, in one way or another, been reflections of what has been happening to myself and my Eternal. I’ve written two stories which tell little bits of that larger story, this time … something more. For those that have read them, the following story will have some extra meaning.

Perhaps, somehow, there is an entire story waiting to be told in a single …


By TeraS


She hadn’t really cried for a long time.

Oh there were times when she did cry, but they weren’t anything like that terrible night when she was confronted by mortality. That night she was alone. There was no one to hear her pain, listen to her screams. There were no arms to hold her, no words of comfort to listen to.

And so, she cried.

There was another time when she cried, having found another, one that helped to fill the void. That moment of finding her soulmate, her love, the one that was, in every way, life-changing for her. That night she wasn’t alone. He listened to her sobs, held her through the tears that came. The pain lessened as she looked into his own tearing eyes. But she couldn’t share that moment with the one soul that she’d lost.

So, she cried.

Another moment when she cried came when she met the soul that mattered to him. To be called daughter, to be held in a way that she hadn’t felt in so long that the memory was almost faded away, meant that day she wasn’t alone. She was held as a daughter, was held by this soul’s love. To be part of a family, to share in something he had, but she had lost.

She cried.

She cried again when they’d spoken their vows, the family that had embraced her joining in the moment, sharing the tears. That afternoon, she wasn’t alone. The dark pain was pushed away, sent elsewhere. The weight she’d been carrying was taken up in a new life, a home cherished, a love for always.

She cried.

Life passed on, things changed. Some moments were better, some not so much so. There were tears along the way, but they were the tears of life, the ones that come and go, but they weren’t the dearest, most painful.

She cried.

The day came when she wasn’t to be called daughter any longer. Mortality intruded, taking from her, from her Eternal, from their family. This time she wasn’t the one to scream, she was the one to comfort. She cried with him, not alone. They shared in their grief, their loss. She tried to explain what it had been like, so long ago. Sharing those tears didn’t make everything better, but in some small way it helped them both.

So, she cried.

The time came when she found herself in a home that wasn’t hers, to help in a task that they didn’t wish to do, never expected—a home she’d come to love not for the home itself but for the souls that resided there. She wasn’t alone; her Eternal was there, this being his burden, the duty that he had taken on. They shared in the occasional laughter from a memory, hugged each other when sadder ones came. The tears were both sad and happy, as they are in these times where there’s nothing else to do.

And so, she cried.

The moment came when she found herself looking at a picture frame, turned face down, the image hidden. The same one that she’d seen many times before, but never turned over to see what was hidden there. This time there was no one to stop her from picking it up, no one to pull her away to avoid seeing it. Her hands held the frame, her Eternal came into the room, and she turned it over.

She hadn’t really cried for a long time.

She gripped the picture in her hands as she rushed to him. Her tears clouded her vision, not quite seeing his own tears. They held each other, not understanding why they’d never seen it before, not understanding why they’d never known. The picture revealed two teenagers, both blond, one with a bob cut, the other with her hair in a wild mane about her. Both smiling, holding each other. Each making bunny ears over the other’s head in a joyful moment together. The one was Keith’s mother. The other was Tera’s.

They cried for a long time …

… until they found the diary …

… and cried even more.

11 Dec 20:41

Devoted By TeraS

by TeraS

I regret to say that Part Six of The Second Coming … well … isn’t coming this week. I’m not feeling all that well and in this part of the story there’s a scene that I need to fiddle with, but I just haven’t been able to focus on doing so … That will come and, I think, giving it another week’s thought will make it far better than it is.

However …

There is a story to tell—there’s always a story to tell, after all. That story can be one that tells of a single word and what it means to them. After all … some are …


By TeraS


Imagine, if you will, you see across a room the single thing you’ve always wanted, desired, were open to regardless of the cost.

It’s … her.

You’ve dreamed about her smile, her lovely ruby red lips that seduce you from afar; the shine of light in the room which brings out the achingly kissable texture of her lips, which you can feel, somehow, kissing your own from so far away, her eyes … her so wonderfully, deeply emerald-green eyes that pierce through the darkness of the room, capturing your own with but a glance in your direction. That darkness is pale in comparison with her wild raven mane, framing her lovely tanned flesh.

You can see, feel—and that shiver is thrilling—her mischievous power, how it caresses your soul, your mind. Your thoughts are drifting towards what she tastes like, how thrilling it would be to worship but the smallest little piece of her.

It would be, would it not, the one thing you’ve desired?

You pause there, far away, observing her. There’s that little nagging thought telling you that you aren’t worthy of her, that she’d never really cast a second thought about someone like you. The vision, the one that you hold deep inside, of kneeling, obeying, serving is but a fantasy, isn’t it?

But …

… it’s … her.

She’s holding court, there’s really no other way to explain it. The deference of those around her is clear, beyond reproach. The room has others, of course. They attract their own: those who have come to their own choices, believe in them—trust given for the bliss asked for. You could, of course, simply go off and find one, be accepted by them, have a place with them.

But …

… it’s … her.

Others pass between her and you, your breath catching when she isn’t there and then calming again when she comes back into focus. She remains there, regal, the Queen she is, observing those around her. Your thoughts turn towards her bemused smile and how dearly hard you are at the thought of being the one, on this night, to wean a passionate moan of delight from the Queen herself, to be—there is little doubt now in your thoughts—submissive to her; to obey her thoughts, the thrill of her praise being enough that you’d cum at her touch, her kiss, her power enveloping you and making you hers; giving up all pretense for the sake of gaining that which you need so dearly now that you cannot bring yourself to turn away. She would not be disappointed in you, of course … unless …

But …

… it’s … her.

A murmur comes from the souls in the room and your attention is diverted for an instant. Looking about, you wonder what caused it, but there’s no real sign. The pets mill about their owners, paraded by them, displayed as prizes to taunt and tease the others in the room. You sigh softly, knowing she’d never do such a thing. She values the souls that are hers. Again, that little wish comes to you, wanting, needing to be set free.

Your eyes turn back, seeking her out once more. A last little glimpse of the desire you’ve held and cultivated in hope. The throne—for it can only be that when she is upon it—is empty. The frown that comes tells how crestfallen you are to have missed her erotic form flow over the space, parting the seas of need, want, and desire around her, for what else could happen here in her Realm of power over all that orbit around her? Of course it is! You shake your head and scold your thoughts for missing the obvious.

But …

… it’s … her.

The night has come to a close; the pets depart with their owners and you are left alone. The sounds ebb away, leaving silence. The scent of perfume fades, leaving but clear air. The lights go out, one by one, until the last light left marks the way out. The moment is past, the night has moved on.

The steps towards the light are in silence, your thoughts still of her, still thinking about her touch, her scent, her desires. Your lips move silently, forming around the words you wanted to say to her, the words of devotion, belonging, needing: to obey, offer, give, anything to feel her hands, her lips; the simple words which you still wish to say.

A figure steps into the light, shocking your attention back to where you were going. You start to apologize for being tardy, babbling that you didn’t realize that the event was over and it was time to leave. But then three things bring you up short. The long sinuous tail that appears over the figure in shadow’s shoulder is unmistakable. The scent of cherries that tickles upon your senses is everything you imagined it would be. But most of all, her form, in all of her seductiveness, passion, love, and desire, it floods the space between you. The effect is to make you start to lose yourself, to fall into her.

You cannot speak nor move as she tilts her head to the right, idly flicking a lock of hair over her shoulder. You want to touch her raven locks, to nuzzle your cheek against the velvet tangle that is her mane. The light that was behind her seems to become part of her, putting her form into contrast with the darkness that surrounds you both. You are—you have become—her singular focus. If you were one to fear her, you might think yourself as her prey.

But …

… it’s … her.

She traces her nails along her shapely bare thighs: that dress—the black one trimmed in red that leaves her legs bare to be worshipped, caressed, and licked—hides just enough that the need within you burns ever brighter for knowing that she is so close, so near now.

The thought comes to fall to your knees in submission, to offer yourself, your entire self, in mind, body, and soul. That thought seems to be perfect. But she remains just out of touch, waiting for something. Another thought comes of serving, to give anything she wishes. The thrill of her praise in being more than a pet makes the ache worse still, and you cannot help but clench your hands, the indecision not worth of her presence. But still she waits upon you. It is confusing, uncertain, unclear.

But …

… it’s … her.

She … purrs. If you were hard before, that was nothing to how you now ache. The clicking of her heels announces her approach, her scent stronger. The gleam in her eyes now, so close, makes that which you saw from afar a pale thing to recall. Was that moments ago or in time uncountable? You cannot remember, nor do you care to at this moment.

The first touch of her fingers against your skin lasts an eternity: a light brush of fingers over your wrist, along your arm; a soft tracing of nails over your cheek as she flows around you; the exquisite shock of her lips kissing your neck, your cheek. Whether it is being unable to move, not wanting to, or willing yourself to allow whatever she wishes, whichever isn’t important. Pressing against your back, her curves against you, long-nailed fingers guide themselves over your waist, to tease against the inside of your thighs, seeking out your want, need, desire. Still, you accept she is in control, she leads this dance.

But …

… it’s … her.

Reality shifts. The heat of bare skin against bare skin is unmistakable, as is the whine that escapes you as she still presses against you, her tail wrapping itself around one of your legs, her smooth fingers stroking your hardness. She purrs … no … she moans, breath hot against your ear, a lick of her tongue to tease you, pulling you into her, holding you. Her voice, sweet and syrupy, seeps into your thoughts. That little voice inside of you—the one you’ve know but not allowed—finally speaks the truth, the truth she’s known from the moment your eyes met. It isn’t about need or want, and the opening of that door within yourself leads to one thing. Your needs and wants turn into devotion. That devotion gives you but one singular purpose. You are hers, and hers for always.

Your knees touch the floor. Your eyes look upwards in submission to her desires, waiting for her to allow you to fulfill the purpose shining within you now. Your place is exactly where you needed to be, your lips against her skin as divine as she. The heat of her sex, your tongue pleasuring her makes you think of nothing else save to serve and obey. Your devotion to making her scream in pleasure is your entire purpose. Devotion, in all of its forms, leads to ecstasy and bliss as her fingers entwine themselves into your hair.

Your soul awakes with new purpose. The devotion of your soul to her is blinding in its brilliance. That missing piece within you falls into place. You are devoted to the Queen in all things, in all ways. The passions given are returned tenfold and more.

But …

… it’s … her.

The collar marks you as hers, however she wishes you to be, devoted in passion, lust, want and desire; given to all she is and all she sees within your own soul. Perhaps that little voice deep inside still wonders sometimes what she sees in you.

But …

… it’s … her.

She is as devoted to you for the soul that you are. For that is true devotion: the knowing of that truth alone.

11 Dec 20:11

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Heroes


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Oh hey, if I make it artistic in the last panel, I don't even have to draw a background. Or legs!

New comic!
Today's News:
10 Dec 18:28

stickybeak: Word of the Day

stickybeak: a busybody; meddler.
10 Dec 18:27

UI Change

I know they said this change is permanent, but surely when they hear how much we're complaining someone will find a way to change things back.
10 Dec 18:24

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Irrational


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry.

New comic!
Today's News:
07 Dec 23:32

mansuetude: Word of the Day

mansuetude: mildness; gentleness.
06 Dec 21:50

campanology: Word of the Day

campanology: the principles or art of making bells, bell ringing, etc.
29 Nov 13:46

toggery: Word of the Day

toggery: clothes; garments; togs.
27 Nov 14:20

heartsease: Word of the Day

heartsease: peace of mind.
26 Nov 01:01

The Second Coming – Part II By TeraS

by TeraS

Continuing on my October/Halloween story today… You can find Part One here on the Tale if you’d like to catch up on things…

The perception of good—or evil, for that matter—can be very dependent on what one’s perspective is. Horns, tails, and so on aren’t always what they represent. Sometimes they are, however. The thing that is the most difficult is being able to tell the difference when it matters. Beyond that, sometimes the choice made matters more, even if one cannot see it at the time.


The Second Coming
Part II
By TeraS


There are some that say getting there is half the fun, that the journey is more important than the destination. In fact, there are a lot of sayings which refer to the important aspects of traveling and that one should remember them fondly. As the airplane touched down on the runway, Cleo found herself mulling those thoughts over in her mind, if for no other reason than to distract herself from the flight she had shared with Mandy, time spent being more intimate with her than anyone Cleo had ever been with before. Save for … him.

His words still haunted her dreams sometimes. Damn him to hell, even if he was there already.

She shivered at the unbidden thoughts and looked across the aisle to where Mandy was sleeping, the screech of the tires not waking her up, nor the roar of the engines as they slowed the jet down. Reflecting on the past hours and what happened between them, Cleo didn’t quite understand exactly what pushed Mandy, why she felt this was the time to say what she did, what had made her say those three words:

“I love you.”

Cleo knew this, had known it for a long time, if she was being honest with herself. But she also had to be honest in other ways. Mandy was much younger, or perhaps it was better to say that Cleo was far older. The difference would make any real relationship awkward at best, impossible at worst.

Mandy remained blissfully unaware of Cleo’s thoughts. She curled up under a thin blanket, laying across some folded down seats in an impromptu bed of sorts. Cleo smiled a bit at the angelic expression that her apprentice showed as she cuddled around a pillow.

She wasn’t quite an angel on the flight over. No, that wasn’t the right thing to say. Nor was what Cleo had to explain to Mandy:

“You need someone better than me.”

It wasn’t the truth. She knew that. Mandy did, as well, she suspected, because it didn’t stop Mandy from what happened in the middle of the night, somewhere over the Atlantic.

Thank God for small mercies.

Looking at the sealed case which had accompanied her, as it rested on the floor, the question was if she’d be able to make good on her bravado and contain the succubus. Hopefully the answers were in the case.

The lights of the taxiway streamed by, flashing on and off as Cleo looked out the window. Was she ready for this? Could she do what was necessary? A cough from Mandy crystallized her thoughts.

Yes, because there was no other way.

Rubbing sleep from her eyes, Mandy mumbled: “Hey.”

“Sleep okay?”

“Oh … good enough.” The red head—when did her hair get so red?—waved her pillow: “Need a better pillow, though.”

She knew what was coming next, but fell into the trap anyway: “Too lumpy.”

“I like your lumps.”

Turning away, Cleo started to gather her things, trying to hide a light blush as she did so. Mandy had pressed herself against the window and was regarding the scene outside: “So, where to first?”

“Need to pay respects to officials in the diocese that reported this. Then we should go and talk to the pastor involved before getting to … her.”

The plane came to a stop, the engines spooling down in the next moment as the main door was opened from the outside. Mandy considered things, but then offered: “How about you go and deal with the diocese and I’ll go and talk to the pastor. I’ll meet you at the hotel after.”

“Any particular reason?”

Mandy’s answer was to point at her T-shirt: “I’m not exactly dressed for the occasion. You, however, look boring, and I’m sure they’ll love that.”

Cleo peered through her glasses: “Probably right; they’re not expecting you either.”

Mandy smiled.

“But you’re only going to see the pastor, nothing else; right?”

“Of course.”

“Miranda …”

She rolled her eyes: “Fine. I promise I won’t go and do something stupid.”

Nodding, for really there was nothing else that she could do, Cleo gathered her things and left the plane a moment later. Mandy watched from the airplane window as Cleo was driven off to her meeting.

As Cleo’s car vanished out of sight, the cockpit door opened and one of the pilots asked: “Need anything, Miss?”

Mandy had the oddest look as she slung her backpack over her shoulder and made her way out: “Oh, lots of things. But I’m working on them.”

The pilot watched her walking towards the terminal building until she was called by the other pilot about an issue. By the time she looked back, Mandy had vanished.

The drive to the diocesan office was uneventful. Cleo really not paying much attention as she looked through the file and reminded herself, several times, that she was here to make friends and influence enemies. The sigh at not having Miranda there was a long one. Like most bureaucracies, the diocese ran on its own schedule, and she found herself sitting in a reasonably comfortable waiting room for her turn to pay respects and get her marching orders. While she had left many of her things with the driver, she had retained the sealed case with her in case she needed it.

Pushing her glasses up into place, she hoped not to.

“Sister? If you would?”

Moments later Cleo had been ushered in and found herself on the other side of a dark oak desk being stared at.

“Hello, your Grace.”

“We find ourselves in a trying time, Sister. If what this seems to be is correct, it must not be allowed to become public knowledge.”

As if that was the real problem here. “Of course. I shall endeavour to be discreet.”

“Do you require anything?”

Prayers would be nice. Some divine help even better. “I have what I need. What remains is finding where she is, confronting her and putting an end to this.”

“I see. Should you have need of something, contact me directly.” In other words, don’t call me unless it’s dire.

“As you wish, your Grace. Is there any new information you can give me?”

He gestured to a small stack of papers: “That is all we know about the possessed herself. There are some new photographs—shocking. She remains attached to the apartment building.”

As Cleo looked through the papers, her mind reviewed what she had been told was to be her fate so long ago. To build a nest, fill it with devoted lemmings, then use them to open the gates and draw … that … to the Earth.

It seemed like the succubus was starting the process, but she didn’t have everything she needed. Thankfully, that wasn’t going to happen; the nun had left what the incubus had gathered in the catacombs.

But it could still be a trap, and she was the one going into it.

Cleo half-listened to the bishop going on, but her focus was on the photograph of a young woman attached to a summary of her life—Miss Ordinary more than anything else. She seemed nice, all things considered. The diocesan staff had managed to come up with a lot of detail on her: from a small town, small family, no relationships known of, excelled in college—was interested in archaeology, no less—and was working as an assistant to the National Museum before this all happened.

Cleo pursed her lips as she turned the page over and looked at what she had become: “Damn.”


Cleo’s eyes broke from the page: “Sorry, your Grace. Just … surprised as to her transformation.”

“It is … severe.”

You mean that she’s attractive. “Yes.”

Cleo looked at the succubus: “Not my type Thank God.” Stuffing the papers into her case, her eyes returned to her: “Is there anything else, your Grace?”

“No, I think we’re done here. Please keep me informed.”

She gathered her belongings: “Of course.”

Soon after, Cleo was on her way to the hotel to meet Miranda, hoping against hope that her apprentice didn’t do something stupid.

It had taken Mandy some time to locate the pastor involved. She had even taken the time to make herself look more presentable along the way, trading in her tempting look for Cléophée for something somewhat less sexy. While the jeans weren’t riding so low on her hips and there wasn’t any tummy being shown, the T-shirt still had a saying on it: “Give me cuddles”.

The church was, truly, one of the most beautiful places Mandy had ever seen. Lovely grounds; she especially loved the rose bushes dotted about the landscaping. There was a warmth, a joy that she felt the further she walked into this domain. The redhead, her hair in a scrunchie, had loved the little sign near the walkway leading towards her destination: “He could walk on water. Please walk on the grass.” So, of course, Mandy did so with delight. She had just reached the steps leading to the main building when her attention was diverted.

“Welcome! What brings you here on this fine day?”

Mandy turned towards the person greeting her and found herself in the presence of a kind gentleman with sparkling blue eyes.

“I’m looking for the pastor.”

“It would seem you have found him.”

He offered his hand in greeting and she didn’t hesitate to shake it, even with the gardening gloves he was wearing: “It’s good to meet you! I’m Sister Miranda and …” The handshake turned into a warm affectionate hug which Mandy enjoyed to the fullest. There were so few she had encountered that she liked at first blush, fewer still whom she felt had the wisdom of God within them.

There was no doubt that he was this and far more.

“Oh! Forgive me! I was going to tend to our roses! I’m sorry!”

Her laugh was sweet and unconcerned: “Please, don’t stop on my account … and I don’t mind the dirt. I work in dusty places all of the time.”

He peered at her through his glasses: “Dusty?”

“Yes. I’m … involved in the catacombs of the Synodical antiquities library. I’m Sister Cléophée’s assistant.”

A spark of recognition appeared: “Ah, yes! How is she? I haven’t seen her for years! Is she doing well? I trust she’s looking after herself?”

Mandy shrugged: “Bit stressed, but okay, thank you, Father.” Then she considered him: “How is it you know her?”

He nodded in the direction of one of the larger rose bushes: “Come, please? We can talk while I tend to things.”

Mandy found a small rock to perch herself upon as he began to trim: “I met Cléophée … oh … it must be just about 1999 or so. I was on sabbatical, working on some papers I was intending to publish. Found myself needing access to things that weren’t normally available, and so …”

“So you went to visit her?”

“More like came to odds with her. She’s very protective of her charges.”

Mandy just laughed: “Yes, well … that’s Cléophée.”

He continued trimming for a moment, then: “Well, if you know what sort of chocolate she likes, and where to get it …”

They both laughed over that revelation, both knowing instinctively that each had used that particular temptation on Cleo in the past.

He placed some clippings aside, regarding her: “So, what brings you here to visit?”

Mandy considered this for a moment, contemplating how to say something without saying it: “I’m here to … look into something Cléophée was made aware of by the diocese. About a certain woman who has … a very high sexual appetite.”

He was in the midst of clipping off a dried-out branch and paused: “She’s … been sent here?”

“No, we’ve been sent here. Well, in reality the church only knows about her, I’m … working in the background.”

His voice was a whisper: “If you are close to Cléophée … You’ll know her one secret.”

Mandy stood up and walked to him, placing her lips close to his ear: “All Hallow’s Eve … the catacombs, the sealed up section …” She paused, considering, then added: … an incubus, wanting her as his succubus.”

The sigh was telling even if Mandy didn’t see his eyes: “Yes.”

He remained kneeling as Mandy stood next to him, a hand gently lying upon his shoulder.

“Cleo wouldn’t talk about it much; said she came within a soul’s breath of being a succubus.”

He nodded: “Yes.”

The realization hit Mandy and she dropped to her knees beside him: “You … You were there.”

He nodded again, not saying anything.

“What happened?”

His focus was on a single rose, partly turned black: “It was All Hallow’s Eve, 2001. I was looking for what was rumoured to be some tablets telling of the earliest days of the church. She had started her work on cataloguing everything there, and she suggested we have a look in the deepest annex. We … didn’t find what we expected.” He picked up the shears and cut off the dying rose: “We found dark things that never should be touched. We were … lucky.”

She nodded: “Lucky enough that Cléophée was saved, the place was sealed and that would be the end of it.”

“Now it seems that someone found the missing link in the chain, has been possessed by it.”

“You knew immediately, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I … saw Cléophée, turned, on the way to being a succubus.”

Mandy’s mind reeled at the thought: her Cléophée a succubus? At the same time she found herself wondering what she looked like … and rehearsing some of her desires for Cléophée. “How do we stop this succubus?”

“I … don’t know. But I had to let someone know about this. They have to be stopped. Can you imagine the power they have?”

“I … have an idea.”

“No, you don’t. I hope you never do.”

He pushed the shears into the soil and turned to Mandy: “Whatever happens, don’t let her fall. Don’t leave her alone with the succubus.”

“She’s meeting with the diocese. I … offered to come here and talk to you. She didn’t exactly put up much of a fight over that idea.”

“She … probably never wants to have anything to do with me.”


Brushing his hands on his apron, he considered: “Would you want to be reminded about what happened? I still have nightmares about it.”

Mandy wasn’t satisfied with that answer: “Okay. You aren’t telling me the entire story. Out with it: what aren’t you saying?”

“I’ve spent my life trying to get over what happened. What we did to each other, how close things came to both of us losing our souls.” His eyes scanned the grounds: “I came here seeking solace for my sins. This is the only place I’ve found where I’ve been able to rest since that night.”


He turned to her once more: “When you crossed onto these hallowed grounds … what happened?”

Mandy didn’t hesitate: “There’s … a warmth here. Like …”

“Like Goddess herself was here with you?”

“You mean God?”

“We each see God out of our own experience and perceptions. Some see him, some her, some see something other. All are valid ways of seeing and seeking the Divine. Each of us has our own path.”

“So why ‘Goddess’ for you?”

He smiled: “That, my dear Sister Miranda, is a matter of faith … and of using a reference that the listener most appreciates. ‘Goddess’ seems to fit for you.”

Mandy was silent then, watching him return to his work. A soft buzz brought her attention to her phone: “Cléophée is on her way to the hotel. I should be going.”


“Yes, Father?”

“Do you call her ‘Cléophée’?”

“Only when we’re being very serious about something. She’s ‘Cleo.’”

“And you?”

“Mandy … most of the time.”

“Don’t lose her. If you need me …” he dug into a pocket and handed her a card, “… call me … anytime.”

She fingered the card, the only thing written on it a phone number: “You haven’t said your name.”

“No, I haven’t.”


“Names have power. Lesson one from the hell we unearthed.”

“I need to know more, a lot more.”

“You know everything you need to know; more than I did.”

“You’re speaking in riddles.”

“They do, as well.”

Mandy’s frustration came to a head: “Why aren’t you telling me what I want to know?”

“Because … I was the incubus to Cléophée’s succubus.”

The revelation made Mandy step back: “Stay away from me.”

His expression was hurt, almost to tears: “I was the host to the incubus. I was the one used. I was the one that fell and almost took Cléophée with me.”

He left the shears in the dirt, standing up: “If she falls, then I will. She will come for me. She’ll come for anyone she loves because that’s what gives them power. If she falls, she’s coming for you, too. Then all will be lost.”

“She’s never said she loves me!”

“But you love her … don’t you?”

Mandy covered her eyes, sobbing loudly: “Oh, dear Goddess …”

He didn’t answer her. When she could see again, he was gone, leaving only the shears embedded in the earth, a single red rose cut and laying at Mandy’s feet.

She ran.

“Damn you, Cleo, you’d better be waiting for me or I swear I’ll never forgive you.”

At that moment, Cleo was being driven towards their hotel, the car passing in front of a certain apartment building. A tenant within the building looked down as Cleo passed by, her long black fingernails leaving scratches as she drew her hand over the glass.

“Little foolish Cléophée. Run about, chase your tail.”

She pulled back from the window: “Now, as for you, slave, I have need of you.”

The shrieks of pleasure echoed down the concrete canyon in the wake of Cleo’s passing, she never hearing them … But, from within her sealed case, a faint red glow seeped past the edges, as if trying to escape before it faded away.

25 Nov 19:46

schlockmeister: Word of the Day

schlockmeister: a person who deals in or sells inferior or worthless goods; junk dealer.
23 Nov 23:39

savoir-faire: Word of the Day

savoir-faire: knowledge of just what to do in any situation; tact.
23 Nov 04:50

The half-life of caffeine.…is about 4 hours.The data...

The half-life of caffeine.

…is about 4 hours.

The data vary, but for a medium-sized adult you can probably expect half of the caffeine from that 3pm cup of coffee to still be doing half of its thing about 7pm, 4 hours later. Apparently smokers deal with caffeine quicker and caffeine sticks around in children much longer.

You can expect about 10 minutes before it first kicks-in which, I suppose, is why if you’re feeling tired while driving it’s a decent plan to take a break and drink a coffee, then have a 15 minute nap. See tiredness can kill sketchplanation. Once it starts to kick-in you might hit peak caffeine any time from 45 minutes to 2 hours later.

Caveat: that chart visualisation is extrapolated from reported data, so the shape is approximate only.

Some references say longer, and some say, from 3-9 hours or so. My source which seemed pretty comprehensive was:

Bertil B. Fredholm, Karl Bättig, Janet Holmén, Astrid Nehlig and Edwin E. Zvartau, Actions of Caffeine in the Brain with Special Reference to Factors That Contribute to Its Widespread Use, Pharmacological Reviews March 1999, 51 (1) 83-133;

22 Nov 14:10

Gwenhwyfar: The Cloud Who Would Be Queen. NAME:...

Gwenhwyfar: The Cloud Who Would Be Queen.

NAME: Gwenhwyfar. Also Gwenhwyvar, Guenievre, Guenhumara, Jenefer, Ginevra and Guinevere. The Welsh name comes from two words that means either White / Shining / or Holy and Cloud / Phantom / Shadow / or Smooth.

The best bet is either White Cloud or White Phantom but as others has speculated on the true meaning of the name what’s to stop you from mixing and matching with other interpretations?

SYMBOLS: Of the original Gwenhwyfar? That’s hard to say, the Guinevere that has come to us from all the retellings no doubt obscures most of that was the original Goddess.

I will hazard a guess and say, some of her symbols were such things as a cloud, crown, dog, and various symbols associated with triple goddesses.

IMAGE: A very fair skinned woman of preternatural beauty.

RELATIVES: Gogrvan or Ocvran or Ogrfan Gawr the Giant of Castell y Cnwclas (Father), Arthur {Artviros `Bear Man’} Husband, Gwendydd, Gwenith, Gwynith, Gwyneth, Gweneth, Gynath, Gandieda, Catherina, Catarina (Sisters) Loholt (Son, though some say the son of Arthur & Lionors) and two unnamed sons with Mordred Arthur’s son with his half-sister Morgan. And you thought the family relations on Angel were messed up.

SYNODEITIES: Goddess of Sovereignty (Britain), Eriu (Ireland)

DETAILS: No matter what has been made of Gwynhwfar over the years and she has passed through dozens if not hundreds of hands and minds.

At her start she was said to be a Goddess called White Cloud (or White Phantom, White Shadow, Shinning Cloud etc.) who was a mischievous shapeshifter, who from time to time found that she just could not help but incarnate as a human to mix in the affairs of mankind. She would do this by entering a womb and being born as a human.

While that does seem to indicated that she might not have had the most noble of motivations (from a human viewpoint at least) she was not however portrayed as the adulteress at best and adulteress traitor at worst that that we have today in her more well-known form of Queen Guinevere wife of King Arthur.

This view first came from the 12th century writer Chretien de Troyes who was also the inventor of Sir Lancelot.

There are more than a few versions of the story of Arthur & Guinevere, with Welsh, British, Irish, German, French & modern takes on the story, the above is just one of them.

Today most think it is just the tale of a king and his queen and all that knights in shining armor stuff.

However the myth from which that story grew is far older than that. Taking place long before there were knights.

For one thing it was believed that Arthur had three queens, all of them named Guinevere (or variations of that name) that this points to a Celtic triple Goddess is a pretty easy conclusion to reach.

A good guess is that she is much like the other Goddess of Sovereignty found in Celtic myth, without whom a God-King cannot reach true power.

So just how did a fun loving shapeshifter out for just a bit of a lark among the humans becomes the embodiment of adulterous females?

I would guess that White Cloud is perhaps the true original origin of her name.

And like those who looks at clouds and see bunnies, or monsters depending, not on the shape of the cloud but on the shape of their mind, the Guinevere that was born from that Gwynhwfar of long ago is still laughing at the things we human get up to based on the smallest of things.

19 Nov 22:35

Consolation Prized – DORK TOWER 17.11.16

by John Kovalic


18 Nov 17:52

sycophant: Word of the Day

sycophant: a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.
18 Nov 17:52

pleonasm: Word of the Day

pleonasm: the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy.
16 Nov 14:16

A Field of Red for Remembrance Day

by TeraS

It is tradition that at this hour, on this day, there is a moment of reflection and remembrance for those that are honoured today. The telling of words, to express, no matter how poorly, the loss of these souls and the promise we give for their sacrifice.
Candle of Remembrance


A Field of Red
by TeraS


A new day dawns
A soft breeze rises
Dust upon the field
Small bits of lives past
Smidgens of souls

The blooms are red
Swaying with the wind
Bending towards light
Air is cold and still
Light warming all

Zephyrs swirling
Dirt captured in clouds
Held in the sunshine
Shadows on the field
Past impressions

Flashes of light
Rumbles of thunder
The cries of spirits
Actions tracked in dirt
Love is rehearsed

Poppies vibrant
Reflections on lives
Souls joined in mourning
Telling of the past
Dawning for all

The gathered pause
Life waits a short time
The clock ticks away
A mournful cry comes
As life moves on

Memories honoured
Lives are spoken of
The young asking “Why?”
The old share stories
‘Til comfort comes

The time is past
Fields silent once more
Those recalling leave
Watching lives go on
Separate again
But ghosts remain

But the memories
Still need to be shared
By voices to tell
By ears to listen
Bringing forward

The very old
The not old enough
Surrounded by dust
Telling the stories
On fields of red

13 Nov 02:43

bathos: Word of the Day

bathos: insincere pathos; sentimentality; mawkishness.
13 Nov 02:40

doc-avalon: November 9th Chaos Never Dies Day is celebrated...


November 9th

Chaos Never Dies Day is celebrated (however they never say just WHERE it is celebrated) on November 9th of each year and recognizes the turmoil in modern, everyday life.

The origin of this holiday is unknown.

13 Nov 02:36

November 2016

Once you've done this, make a note of how old they were. Then, when their age reaches double that, show them this chart again.
13 Nov 02:33

The golden ratio.The proportions of the golden ratio pop-up in...

The golden ratio.

The proportions of the golden ratio pop-up in all sorts of places in Nature and man-made things since early times and are a handy shortcut to make something we seem to find pleasingly proportioned. In photography, art, Nature, violins, or the Parthenon, we just keep being drawn to it. It has a pleasing equation too where the ratio of the long over the short dimension is the same as both added together over the long dimension. Why not browse some golden ration examples. Even Trump.

13 Nov 02:24

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Star Trek Problem


I'm a doctor, not a nihilist!

New comic!
Today's News:
13 Nov 02:07

The Counter-Text

by Zak Sabbath
So: Counter-texts.

A counter-text is a description of a way to read an existing work so that it has more--or at least other--ideas in it. For gaming, the counter-text should ideally be a short high-concept thing that readily and quickly presents an alternate interpretation of many elements of the original text. It is neither a reskin nor a rewrite nor a list of small changes--it's a clear set of ideas that immediately opens up a pandora's box of reskins, rewrites and small changes.

Here's a simple one: Stonehell dungeon has no floors. That's five words but it does a pretty good job of making the dungeon more interesting:
Not only does, for example, Room 8 immediately become a lot spookier and more tactically complicated--the cadavers must be hanging from the ceiling on hooks--it goes a long way toward explaining why Stonehell is full of different monsters so close to each other--they have a rough time getting around.

A more complex example is Ken Hite's recent Dracula module--which posits that the Impaler is still around and that the novel Dracula is an expurgated version of an after-action report about the British secret service trying to recruit a vampire as an agent.

Usually, the ideal game counter-text is somewhere between the two of those examples: simple enough to offer an obvious transformation of any boring, annoying, or underdeveloped part of the original text but complex enough to generate a variety of different ideas.

Sometimes one text can be the counter-text to another... Keep on the Borderlands is well-designed but pretty dull in terms of color and wonder at least until you get past the tribes of humanoids crowded together. However if you mash it up it with the colorful but poorly-designed Seclusium of Orphone...

Ok, so Caves of Chaos is still a bunch of goblins and hobgoblins and gnolls hanging out in a bunch of rooms--but the rooms are a decayed wizard's tower, with lots of tricks, traps, oddities and experiments still intact. The inhabitants are probably still busy poking and prodding them to see what they can take advantage of. That explains why there's an owlbear (a wizard did it) and a medusa (consort?) and why the evil priests are digging deep into the caves in search of secrets. It gives you an excuse to put more interesting things in each room pretty much randomly, and explains why some of it might not have been looted yet. It also explains why these different competitive humanoid tribes are here--they all came to pick it over once word got out the wizard was gone.

It also makes the Keep (where the humans dwell) itself more interesting--all those NPC guys aren't just in a castle, they're occupying another decrepit wizard tower so the goblins and jerks don't take it over...

Or: Carcosa is just a hex map of post-war Eberron. Instantly all those random robots are left-over warforged, the rainbow-colored men can be the Eberron races, the sci-fi weapons are just magitech.

The potential importance of counter-texts in games stems from a few basic facts about games as they stand in 2016:

-There are a great number of RPG texts
-They are often easily available and in many cases their major outlines are well-known to many GMs and sometimes players
-This familiarity is helpful in creating the kinds of shared imaginative spaces helpful in tabletop
-The texts are, by-and-large, fairly detailed and internally consistent
-This detail and internal consistency is useful and time-consuming to reproduce
-The texts mostly suck short, the hobby of gaming comes bundled with a lot of terrible but helpfully familiar software. By injecting the right counter-text, the inherited junk ceases to be junk and becomes a genuine asset.

I'd like to think counter-texts could get more ambitious than anything I've discussed here. Maybe there's a killer idea that can make Undermountain or Castle Greyhawk worth playing, or even turn whole useless games and systems into something worth sinking your teeth into.
13 Nov 02:06

Fatalistic Shadowrun and the Elision of Gore (Thought Eater)

by Zak Sabbath
Here are some more entires for ROUND THREE of the Thought Eater Writin' About Games Tournament.

These are not by me, they are by two anonymous contestants, vote for which you like better.

The theme for this round is to describe the significance of something that's missing from an RPG text.

Here is the first essay, if you like it best, send an email to zakzsmith AT hawtmayle with the subject line "LIH" and nothing else.

You were born without papers, in the shadow of a government or corporate enclave, never allowed to enter. Maybe your parents were anarchists, criminals, or just too poor and powerless for anyone to give a damn about. You lived in a slum (where else?), in the refuse of the elite. Disease, violence, squalor, pollution, and despair killed or mutilated so many of your peers, no matter whether they were monsters or saints or hustlers. If you’re honest with yourself, you realize that you weren’t any different, just luckier, and, perhaps, more of a monster than most. What is the line between courageous and psychotic? Whatever that line is, you walk it. You are willing to risk your body, your mind, your soul, and those of others, in pursuit of an exit. You run, but the shadows always follow you. This is the escapist game we play, a game with no escape for its PCs.

The door begins to shut at character creation. The only way to acquire papers is to take the flaw “Sinner,” a reference to the SIN (System Identification Number), which marks someone as a citizen of state or corporation. The various versions of this flaw all force the shadowrunner to pay taxes and make runner easier to identify, especially in the aftermath of a run. The criminal version of it puts the runner at the mercy of the justice system (the runner is basically paroled), and the corporate version makes the runner a failed corporate stooge or a low-level lackey, with little or no actual power in the corporation but hated, to the point of being targeted for death, by many of the SIN-less, the people the runner has to deal with every day in order to accomplish runs. Worst of all, a runner with SIN tends to be cautious and boring since if the runner is caught, off to prison the runner goes, losing whatever small benefits they had, and exchanging their national or corporate SIN for a criminal SIN. SIN can be acquired during gameplay, but as a friend once explained to me, no sane corporation or state would give a SIN to a runner without first equipping said runner with a cortex bomb, or something similar.

Still, if a runner can’t have a real SIN, the runner still needs a fake one to do anything in society, even buy a soy taco. This is what most runners opt for. A fake SIN keeps a runner trapped since it can be detected during any transaction, depending on the security level of the device checking the SIN. A fast food restaurant will only give the SIN a cursory glance, but trying to get a lease for a fancy apartment will put the SIN and the runner under great scrutiny. And all of these transactions create a trail. Eventually, the runner’s luck runs out (or an angry decker simply hacks into the runner’s life and outs the runner’s fake SIN to the authorities), and the SIN evaporates, and the runner needs a new SIN and, essentially, a new public life.

You might think that having a lot of money would help, but that too is a trap.  Money in Shadowrun comes in two forms: credsticks, which are like cash, tied to no one but much more portable and much more easily stolen, and money tied to a SIN, like in a bank account. Due to the dangers of a SIN being found out and the ease with which credsticks can be stolen, runners have to live like tax evaders--always spending their money on something or hiding their money under their mattress (see note 1). Most opt for weapons, cyberware, or magic items -- tools of the trade. This is good for runs, but it keeps the runner in the shadows.

Is there any physical escape? If PCs travel too far outside their neighborhood, their relationship with their contacts will suffer. Also, area knowledge is a powerful thing, and constantly moving makes area knowledge a weapon to be used against the footloose PCs. PCs from the neighborhood, however, can make use of area knowledge. Finally, the PCs’ reputation and criminal record will eventually travel with them too, and sooner rather than later in a world with better-than-modern electronic communication as well as magical communication.

What about other worlds? There is a small box in the core rulebook (fifth edition) that admits to the possibility of mages and shamans visiting other planes of existence, but the only support for that kind of play is Aetherology, a short supplement (39 pages) with some evocative details but short of the specific details that many gamers expect, and that Shadowrun delivers for its core setting. A GM would have to design almost everything about the metaplanes himself or herself (or liberally steal from other sources such as D&D’s Planescape). What about outer space? The world is too broke for that, mostly, and it is a hostile place to mages and shamans, and there is little support, and what support it does have (in Target: Wastelands) makes it clear that magic won’t work in outer space. Nor should you expect some kind of people’s revolution. The corporations won, and they won big. Any one corporation might fall, but the system remains.

It is the system that even blocks social escape. Shadowrun actually has three such systems: Street Cred, Notoriety, and Public Awareness. These reflect its cyberpunk origins, since that genre is very concerned about reputation. In Shadowrun, a high Street Cred is a positive, but its only effect is to allow you to keep more of the successes that you roll on social skills where Street Cred would matter. Notoriety does not have a precise effect, and exists mostly to allow the GM to punish you for being obnoxious and to reduce your Street Cred. Public Awareness makes you better known, and at high levels, you might achieve the fame of outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde or Pablo Escobar. Their fame, ultimately, did not protect them, nor will it protect PCs. Instead it acts like a target painted on them.
What is left for the PCs to do but to act outside the law? For the most part, their very existence is illegal, and becoming legal is difficult to impossible, so the PCs might as well murder and steal, but Shadowrun points out that there are different ways to be an outlaw. In this world that is a maze with no exit, PCs can still choose what to do and why they do it, and yet, morality matters less, grand things matter less, and personal choices, impulses, loyalties, and the details of the world matter more. If you choose the evil corps as your target (and they make a great target with their wealth, arrogance, and 100% dedication to evil), criminal acts against it are mitigated and downgraded to the courageous mischief we see in caper films or even upgraded to the doomed heroism of samurai and gunslingers (a great ending for a campaign). But until that glorious end, your PC is still a criminal. The runners steal and murder, but they also save the day. Shadowrun’s seemingly shoddy construction allows for PCs who can be dastardly and heroic and have a grand time doing so, and, indeed, who have little choice but to both be part of the world and be gleeful, semi-heroic bastards.

Is it possible to play such characters in other games? Of course it is. There have been semi-heroic bastard PCs since the early days of roleplaying, and some adventuring parties in D&D, Rifts, and other games seem to consist of nothing but such PCs. They are a lot of fun to play. But there are other PCs too. Some PCs are unwilling to take a risk. Others are virtuous or villainous to a fault. Others don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Others are so powerful or competent that they make other PCs unnecessary. Others are depressed and angst-ridden (see Vampire) or very serious about their honor (see Legends of the Five Rings).

But by removing the escapes from the shadows, the Shadowrun rules and setting direct the GM and players to create a specific game experience that encourages PCs to be semi-heroic bastards by discouraging overly “good” or “evil” behavior since both can make runs more difficult, by encouraging players to build PCs who are specialized (basically, encouraging PCs to choose a class) and who thus will also have weaknesses so they must rely on their teammates, encouraging risk-taking, since doing nothing leads very quickly to poverty, and by keeping PCs focused on a narrow geographical area, players have an easier time becoming immersed in the setting. Again, it is possible to do all of this with other game systems, but this is the Shadowrun default.

By limiting or eliminating certain choices that are common to other games and settings, Shadowrun creates a distinct yet common gaming experience for its many players. D&D players can talk about the wonders of Planescape or the silliness of Castle Greyhawk or the survival-horror of Dark Sun or the dungeon they sacked. Vampire players can talk about their super-heroes with fangs or their cunning political schemes lasting centuries or their Near Dark style epic road trip across America. Rifts players can talk about their human-animal hybrid characters, or their power-armor characters, or fighting for or against the Coalition or traveling to completely different dimensions.  But in my experience, when I talk with others who have played Shadowrun, the topic is always the same: The run.


If Shadowrun had a dark satirical streak (ala Ray Winninger’s Underground), the most popular cybernetic enhancement would be a pouch in your body where you could easily hide and retrieve your credsticks: “Wait, wait, I gotta pull it out...there it is.”

Here is the first essay, if you like it best, send an email to zakzsmith AT hawtmayle with the subject line "SIR" and nothing else.

So, for this round of the contest we are to find something that our topic avoided, that the author is not aware it avoided, that the readers at large are not yet aware was avoided, and find interesting things that omission can tell us.   I've decided to take a look at Combat in gaming.

Love and Gore: the Sanitized Combat Experience

Roleplaying games across the spectrum are a form of reality emulator.  The open ended nature of actions in an RPG is one of the great features which let them mimic lived experience in a more dynamic way than other entertainments.  It even exaggerates the options for action beyond what is possible, into the realm of what is imaginable, so as to make the life inside the game way more fun than the real world.

Pretend fighting is one of those play activities inherent to mammals.  We find it fun so we have made Combat one of the mainstays of the RPG experience.   The emulators we use to make the reality of the game world are missing something essential to the experience of real fighting: trauma.

When you stab that goblin in the balls it isn't a traumatic experience, it's comedy. You don't hear his agonized screams ringing in your ears for the rest of living memory, his blood doesn't run over your hand staining it in your mind despite your compulsive attempts to wash them over and over for years thereafter.  If combat in the game even remotely resembled the real thing, it would not make for an enjoyable pastime.  It would be an emotionally tolling horror genre miserycrawl.

Even further removed from the combat in roleplaying games are the battles in tabletop wargames. The roots of roleplaying games were seeded here, and if you think about what wargames are it's kind of fucked up. It takes a deeply disturbing and psychologically scarring event: War, and turns it into a form of play where you push pieces around harmlessly on a map.   Even the idea of lining up your battalion of pieces that represent lines of soldiers, to knock other pieces over to mark them as dead, is a little bit cracked. The concept of "Soldier" is a cultural construct which serves to reduce the humanity of an individual so they are a killable thing.  Objectifying a living, feeling being crescendos to a disturbing logical conclusion when you represent a person who is dying as an abstract game piece on a board.

The wargame origins of the RPG genre might have biased the design process in the early game.  It could be the reason that fighting is so prevalent in most paper and dice games, as opposed to other parts of the human experience.   There are examples of another way to build an RPG experience.  In the King's Quest series of video games your obstacles are seldom combative in nature.  Exploration, collection, and puzzle solving play a much larger part of the experience than combat.  Character relationships, dialogue, and even romance occupy a larger portions of those adventures.

A cursory look at the design choices made in 4th Edition D&D will show you what the end result of the wargame bias can look like.   Combat is everything, the interesting powers all help you fight in some form or fashion.  The rate you use and regain your powers is largely measured by how often you rest between fights.  The rest of the varied experiences of life are condensed into a meager handful of skill checks.  The traumatic and visceral experience of fighting is codified into initiative turns, measured movement rates, and tidy dice rolls.  It quantifies something terrible and divides it out into safely experienced and knowable parts, so we can use it as a form of play that dominates the narrative.

If the play fighting in our RPGs more closely emulated violence in reality, combat would be the less attractive option for obstacle resolution.  We can also deconstruct the methods used to create tabletop combat and apply those systems to the other parts of the human experience in an effort to redress the imbalance. We might break the experience of romance down into its constituent actions.  Initiative rolls could be made for dilated pupils and raised hairs on an arm.  Stun saves could counteract the emotional paralysis between first base and second.  Encounter powers would activate when we engaged in a social bluff instead of a battle.  Carousing would get a d100 table.

I think that altering the balance between trauma and play in our game combat might be a useful tool for shaping a game's design, and in turn how we shape the imaginary lives lived at the table.
04 Nov 19:30

Freeze lemons and limes.There always seem to be more than we...

Freeze lemons and limes.

There always seem to be more than we need in a bag. This is a nice end for them.

HT: Charlotte

04 Nov 19:20

Less is More, More or Less

by John Kovalic

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.06.33 AM

A couple of days ago, an off-handed Twitter conversation with my pal Ken Hite (I KNOW, RIGHT?) sparked an idea for Thursday’s DORK TOWER.

Thus being legally bound to draw it, I did.


Is this darker than most Dork Towers? Yes. Yes, it is. Though having Igor and Carson at the end lightened it jussssst enough, I thought.

More importantly, it amused me to have the Cap’n warbling a Gilbert and Sullivan HMS Pinafore sea shanty, almost as much as to have him gurgling a line from David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

But then I wondered, was the last line really necessary? Yes, it tied it in to Halloween (and, indeed, into Dork Tower).

I liked the strip as it stood, but thought that less, in this case, might be more. So I changed it to this:


I wasn’t totally happy with the timing (thought there should be more of a pause before the rise of Boo Berry), and then I wondered, were any lines really necessary?

Also, without Igor at the end, the Cap’ns tunes suddenly felts awfully sad.

Gilbert and Sullivan and Bowie were chopped, and the strip became this:



I don’t do “silent” strips often, but the idea intrigued me. It was something different, anyway, for me, and that’s part of the fun of the job. So I’d  stripped the strip of the three aspects that originally had me giggling (Igor’s presence, and the musical call-outs). But it was a clear choice: Less, in this case, was a lot more.

Anyway, that’s how you overthink a perfectly good cartoon. And how you make it up to people, by showing them the original iterations anyway.



PS: Apologies to all the overseas folks who didn’t “get” this Dork Tower at all. Cap’n Crunch and Boo Berry are popular US cereal brand mascots. Thus is the joke explained, thus is the joke no longer funny. You’re welcome!

04 Nov 18:59

Why do you RSS?


I became an RSS user when Google Reader came out in 2005. Like a lot of people, I got pretty obsessed with Twitter around 2007. By 2010 I still had accounts with Google Reader and Twitter and checked in on both maybe once a week. But somewhere along the line I started getting most of my information from Facebook. Let’s just say it wasn’t the same quality of information I was used to.  

By 2012, I closed my Facebook account for a few months and then in 2014 I closed it permanently. These days I rely on The Old Reader and Instagram on a daily basis and once every other week or so check in on Twitter. I stay informed and get inspired using The Old Reader and get that social fix on Instagram. 

My primary areas of focus on The Old Reader are Business and Technology, News, Culture, and Music. I follow a few other things as well like Food and Sports. The feeds that I follow are diverse, but all are a million times more effective at keeping me up to date than my old Facebook friends once were. On top of all that, I believe in The Open Web ( which doesn’t thrive in private social networks.  

The question I ask myself all the time is: why did I ever stop using an RSS reader?

What I’m really excited about is hearing why you guys use RSS. Feel free to leave a comment, but if you’re up for it, drop an email to telling us a little about yourself, why you use RSS, how long you’ve been using it, and 5 feeds that you think other people in our community will love. We’re hoping to feature one or two of you on our blog in the near future and also value the direct input we receive from each of you.

Thanks for using The Old Reader!