BLOT: (30 Jul 2014 - 09:05:28 AM)
It has been too long since I have done such a post. Not sure what's been keeping me away. I have theories, but the most practical answer is time. I just need to take more time to talk about myself. Also, as I've said before, I'm boring. I need to also take more time to not be boring. I'll work on that, too. I guess the last personal post I wrote about winning some prizes in an WLRH giveaway. It now occurs to me that I never wrote about the weekend follow-up. Never despair, talks about our time at the Space and Rocket Center will be forthcoming, hopefully. At least a brief photo dump. I guess for now, though, I'll just focus on the past couple of weeks.
The other day, in a PBeM game [Doug's Note: "play by email"], I used the phrase, "a hot smell not unlike the worst part of an August day," to describe a fetid carrion stench that had filled a small basement, and I thought I was so damned clever. Really, though, channeling Southern Gothic to freak out players in a horror RPG has consequences. I had talked to one of my friends, John, about the movie
What had died, I do not know. How many others suffered the same thing, I do not know. What drippings had gotten on the plastic cases inside the Redbox, I do not know. I can imagine, though, and that is half the battle.
So, I have started a personal experiment over on Youtube that I am calling "Doug's Talking Points". I have two up, right now, but plan on doing more. This is my first one, about reading as a social act, which I screwed up on a technical level but I think is indicative of what I'm going for:
The idea behind them is that I will take 3-5 minutes to talk about a topic. I will not use a script [though I will allow a couple of keyword cues if I need] and I will not rehearse before-hand. Even if I know a lot about the topic, or even if I have a general idea of what I want to say, the video as seen is something like a fresh take on it. I will not edit the video besides to maybe cut out dead air at the beginning and ending [the bits where I am turning the capture software on and off] or to correct somewhat for sound or light quality [while trying to not tweak it too much]. If I mess up enough to have to start over, I have to start over fresh. The idea is to force myself to get better at talking about topics without the requirement of prompts, and to develop some confidence with myself in such a medium. There should be one on "The Netflix of Books" coming out tonight or tomorrow, and you can view/track the "Doug's Talking Points" playlist here, for better or worse. After the next one, I don't know when I will have a follow-up, but probably within a week or so.
Sarah has been wanting to try out SubZero out on County Line Road slightly past [but maybe still in?] Madison. It is a place that makes ice cream to order on the spot through liquid nitrogen technology. They serve different bases, so people like me who want to eat iced coconut-milk can, and then you pick out the addings and the flavorings and the mixings and the upgrades. This is what an extra frozen, large, coconut-milk serving with huckleberry and dark chocolate added in [with a waffle slice] looks like:
They use Coconut Silk, mind you, rather than full-fat coconut-milk, so it is not super creamy, but then they have heavy cream options (and yogurt and custard and etc) so that won't be a problem for most people. They were kind of light on the huckleberry flavor, so if you get something fruity you might want to ask for an extra shot of flavor or something, but generally the service was neat and it's recommended. Just note that it's still in its busy stage so there might be a line.
Afterward, we went out and walked on the Indian Creek Greenway, which was nice. It was hot on Saturday, but the Greenway is mostly shady. There were some bikers and some runners. People were pretty nice. The total walk, from one end to the other and back, ended up being about 6 miles. By the end, the heat and lack of water was starting to take its toll on us, but I managed to get at least this glimpse into happiness:
Some of the local librarians from various institutions get together periodically for a B.E.S.T. meetings [an acronym whose meaning escapes me at the moment] where we swap plans and intentions and conference stories and ask questions of each other and catch up and so forth. It is the standard for the hosting institution to give a keynote style talk. Michael Manasco and myself gave a talk we called "Where Feedback Fears to Tread", about the systems theory notion of feedback and some of its practical and psychological aspects and the ways that we manipulate the data we get to match our notion of what we should be getting, and so forth. Here is a shot of me, rocking a three piece suit, discussing what is probably one of the most important take away slides:
I will be writing up the speech for Salmon Library Blog and then I'll share that, here, as well. It will include PDFs to download if you want to see the slides, etc.
Well, this is long and I'm mostly out of the obvious catch-up bits, but I'd like to end with a great big WELCOME BACK to Alicia [Doug's Note: my sister-in-law] who is now back in the USA after a year in Germany. We went out after my talk yesterday to meet her in the airport and to catch up a bit before she went for a few days out to her parents. First time I've been in the Huntsville International Airport in a while. Fact is, the last time I went, I think I was saying goodbye to Graveyard Greg. At any rate, she'll be visiting us this weekend and next week, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about that then, but here is a picture of the Ridout sisters, in their current forms...
You can tell they're sisters because of stuff like the smile and the ears and interesting way that their hair is normalizing over time to becoming the same color, or something like it.
Well, that's it for now. It was good to catch up. I'll do one of these much sooner next time [though expect a lot of Horror/RPG posts in the meantime ;)]
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (24 Jul 2014 - 09:57:15 PM)
I know some of them are only available to Kickstarter backers (one I know of for sure) and there are others which seem to be not available in the store, yet. I'm sure this is temporary, except in the case of the exclusive releases.
As a note, with
This is an alphabetical listing of all [currently confirmed] 45 playbooks with the keyword in square brackets being the key to which product they come from.
This sorting is more for those who want to pick up a couple of products but kind of want to see what they have at a glance. The products are themselves in alphabetical order, if that helps.
As a note, the first three Playbook Sets had five playbooks each while the other products, not counting the "classic set" included in the core book, had three. The most recent Playbook Set as of this initial post,
Currently only the Classic Set, Playbook Sets 1-3, and the Cemetery are available for purchase for non-backers. As I said above, I expect this to change.
The Classic Playbook Package [default pack]
Ebon Eaves: The Asylum
Ebon Eaves: The Cemetery
Ebon Eaves: The Museum
The Frozen Wasteland Playset
The Journey Playset
Playbook Set 1 - Flexible Thinkers
Playbook Set 2 - On the Fringes
Playbook Set 3 - Madmen
Playbook Set 4 - The Expedition Team
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (22 Jul 2014 - 08:17:30 AM)
About four weeks ago I mentioned Malinche and Howard Sherman to a friend and then found the site wouldn't open when I tried. I follow Howard Sherman on Twitter, and had seen no mention of him taking the site down, so I assumed it was some sort of temporary "out of bandwidth" type issue that he was working on it. On June 30th, he wrote a blog post explaining it:
I'm pretty much done with implementing interactive fiction books.
I'm switching to writing conventional fiction books instead [starting with converting
The Baristafrom IF into more traditional prose]....
A wake up call came to me on June 23. What was so special about June 23, 2014? It was the day I first discovered the Malinche website had been dead since June 4th. The Malinche.Net domain name expired and I didn't even notice. For nineteen days. Nearly three weeks.
Part of me wishes I had said something to him when I noticed the site down, because I know if my site went down for three weeks and no one said anything and I found out later that I would feel kind of weird and sad about it. But, well, I hope this works out for him.
Now, if you don't know Sherman, he is an interesting figure in the Interactive Fiction world. Some would say contentious. As a man who produces game for profit, and generally uses some old-school feeling techniques to do it, there have been some shots fired over stylings and price points and validity and the ability to keep the genre alive. I never really had a horse in the race. I'm just a hobbyist who likes retro games. I've only played a couple of his longer games to completion. Of them, I did not quite care for the old school fantasy flavor of
I wish him luck with the fiction career. When/if he gets back around to horror, I'll give it a shot. I'm a bit sad that the chance for longer interactive fiction titles coming out on a semi-regular basis is now even smaller, but c'est la vie. I'll still buy them (and/or download them for free) as they do.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (15 Jul 2014 - 02:43:40 PM)
I'm the kind of guy who writes an ok amount of stories and essays, but then shelves them and never looks at them again. Since this means a lot of my ideas sit around in something like an "unpublished" [for various definitions of published] state, some of them risk being fairly lost over time. So...I've decided to start doing a series of "brain dumps" here where I can go back and get the data and use it later, probably in an evolved form.
The first braindump will be about towns I've "created" around Alabama in some of my musings and RPG'ing and suchwhat. This should be an interesting glimpse into my mind.
Brichester County is roughly where Marhsall County is in real 'Bama. There are only two (sort of three) towns associated with it and two colleges. The first town is Armitage, AL. It is has about 10,000 people, and is a suburban town with a lot of people commuting to Huntsville or Birmingham or Tallowood to work, giving it some funky property value stuff [bigger houses than would have been there had people worked local]. The town has a series of old caves and underground rivers that stretch under it [note: some of the rivers come up from very deep underground], and has been a bit of a locus of weird activity in the area. It's nearest neighbor is the somewhat larger Tallowood, AL, bordering on Tallow Lake, which was once a fair sized industrial town [never as big as Birmingham, mind]. While it is clinging some to its better days, it still has the large Brichester Community College, which is one of the biggest in the state, and the private Nahum College in the related but slightly separate Nahum, AL. Frankly, I've not done much with Tallowood [pronounced "tallo-wood"] and what I will do will likely be in conjunction with Tallow Lake [which also runs down near Armitage].
Campbell County (which, like Brichester County, is a Ramsey Campbell reference) is a mashup of Conecuh and Covington Counties, and would lie as sort of a slice of both of those with Butler on the north and Escambia to the south. Some of my earlier stories were set in unnamed spots in Lower Alabama, ostensibly the backroads and such near my old rural home, and lately I've thought it interesting to work out a few of these. The main city is Cresthill, AL, which is something of an Evergreen stand-in. It is generally nondescript, poor and crumbling, and best known for being the biggest town around Long National Park [which is the home to my version of the Gnoles and is sort of based on Conecuh National Forest]. The second biggest town in Campbell Co is Bridgeton, a town separated in three by rivers, and a source of river-boat traffic. Long, AL is a very small town that was largely evacuated when some dumped chemical drums trigged lead in the soil to bubble up into the streams and water reservoirs. Otherwise, there is Travis, named after a bridge near my home, which is like Owassa in that it's an old community that no longer has much in the way of businesses but an old gas station. I'm thinking of using the "dead town" of Hamden Ridge, as well.
There is also Sasafrass, AL, which is best known as a town that disappeared in the 1940s. Vanished entirely with the road heading through it also disappearing. Some of the bodies were found fused in the trees and rocks, and some of the house foundations were found in the woods, deeply aged. The actual city of Mobile showed up in a Skarl-the-Drummer related story, though my Mobile is perhaps a bit more "hippie" than real Mobile. Likewise Huntsville is a bit more...Huntsville. A tad tech-heavier. A tad more sprawly.
Will any of these ever show up? I don't know, let's see.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (14 Jul 2014 - 04:51:01 PM)
I have been looking for (a) an opportunity to play with my nephews—Zach and Jonathan—and (b) an opportunity to try out the Seventh edition
I backed the ambitious
I will write up a short bit first about the quickstart version of the rules, and then a short bit about the scenario itself.
I won't really go into the history of the
Unlike Sixth (I'll start referring to them in this manner), where stats were generated and retained as largely the-sum-of-three-dee-six, Seventh addresses stats purely as percentile chances [this also means that rather than roll against stats on a d20 and/or multiplying them by 5 and then rolling them on a d%, you roll them entirely on a d%]. In the quickstart, you are given a set of values—
Another update to Sixth is the way that difficulty is handled. Rather than adding or subtracting a certain amount of points from rolls, you have two different ways to show increased/decreased difficulty. The primary way is by taking the one-half and one-fifth value of the stat in question [the character sheet has room for this] and rolling against that instead. Say you have an Intelligence of 50. Your one-half is 25 and your one-fifth is 10. For hard rolls, you use the one-half stat. For extreme rolls, you use the one-fifth stat. Extreme rolls are not easy to make. You also have a system for bonus and penalty dice [which I did not use]. These are more-so for opposed rolls to give an advantage to one side or the other. A bonus or penalty dice is an extra tens-place die rolled in a d% check. If it is a bonus, you keep the highest of the two tens-place dice. If it is a penalty, you keep the lowest. Since d% is the most fickle of all random rolls, this adds to the fickleness, and can do a bit to add to the random nature of the game. I can see it having its place, though. Normally, in comparing stats-to-rolls, you see if a roll is a normal/hard/extreme/critical (basically, a roll of 1/100) success.
For the most part, that is the main flesh you get from the quickstart. There is a luck roll, which is a way to see if the-stars-are-right for the player characters. However, on the sheet is displayed as a sliding scale while in the quickstart it is a static statistic. Presumably you will be either to spend your luck to influence other rolls or checks against luck will "burn it up" in a way similar to Sanity rolls [which, by the way, remain mostly the same]. There are stuff like credit ratings, movement ratings, and a few other things mentioned but not exactly delved into. They were not exactly needed in
My thoughts on the system as it stands is that it is an amazingly simple system that is straightforward, easy-to-grasp, and a natural evolution of the concepts from the previous editions. It could potentially be a bit repetitive, but this is an issue that all such stable systems face. The loss of stuff like the Resistance Table and the inclusion of degrees-of-success helps to flavor up the game while decreasing the "consult the table" feel that it had held onto.
It is a little bit of a disjunct between nearly everything being turned into percentile rolls except the damages to Sanity and Hit Points, with combat and Sanity losses still running the polyhedral gambit. Another potential issue is a need of clarification of when a Characteristic is used versus a Skill, in cases like a character trying to talk down an armed gunman:is that Persuasion (Skill) or is that Appearance (Characteristic) or the greater/lesser of the two or would you use something like a successful Appearance roll to give a bonus dice to a Persuasion one? In Sixth, I would have stuck with Skills. In Seventh, it feels like they want you to do more with Characteristics so I am not sure.
Since the quickstart rules are ostensibly a partial-product, while the scenario is a complete item, let's move on to
I was able to let things progress an hour or two of real world time before the horror of the situation hit, and then amp it up fast with the players and their characters having a good idea of the place. If you want, though, you can drop the hammer right off the bat and force them to make judgement calls without all the facts. Or you can work in a few notions like the characters going there specifically to meet someone and having a friend in the foxhole. What's fun is that you can use the NPCs as allies, or as cannon fodder to establish the horror, or have them be a fetter holding the player characters back, or even have a couple of them act as adversaries [what if the NPCs think that sacrificing the PCs will do some good?]. Lot's of good possibilities. If I did it again, I would drop the hammer right off. The scenario starts with players swerving around a woman in the road. I think next time I'll have it start with them probably hitting (and quite possibly killing) her. Let the death of a probable innocent flavor their actions from there on out.
The background is described well. The non-player characters are interesting enough (though I only focused on a couple of them and let the others be something like cannon fodder). The settings are fairly basic—just a few rooms, a few obvious clues in the middle of largely nondescript bits—but I found them to be a good number to play with. The one thing the Keeper will have to do is stay on his or her toes because it is such a sandbox style scenario that players could opt for something unusual (like driving all the way back to town to get help, right off). They might dally so long that they force your hand. They might try and ignore all sense of rules and obligations [something I've noticed in games like this, people will sometimes go a bit wobbly on the legality aspect, which can be something for Keepers to watch over]. If the characters do something like bolt into the woods early on, you might have to find a way to make two or three hours of rain soaked trees interesting.
It even offers up a few seeds to set up a next adventure. If I play with those characters again, I think I know how to do it. Something I wanted to set up but never got around to in my Victorian horror
As a general tip, the "sandbox that turns into fast-paced survival horror" aspect has potential to end up with players taking a bit to debate things in a way the characters do not have time to do. One thing I did, at a key junction, was to force everyone to write down what they wanted their character to do, without showing the other players, and then read them out. This brought about a more "instinctive" reaction at a key time. It worked out ok, they all went for the same path—though different characters had different reasons for doing it—, but it helped to shake up the "let's talk this out" attitude that was starting to build up.
I think I've said pretty much all I need to say. Just a few quick summations. I'm looking forward to
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (06 Jul 2014 - 03:57:16 PM)
persons. Written and directed by Steve Stone. Starring Dervla Kirwan (Ruth), Charlotte Riley (Kate), and Branko Tomovic (Yuri).
gist. The Dark Secrets film crew show up at a mass burial site in Siberia where, twelve-years earlier, thirty-four unknown people were found. Russian officials have been pretty mum about who the people were or the cause of death, so relatively-local Yuri has called in the TV show [headed up by Kate], along with psychic Ruth, to get the truth. At the site, though, Ruth is drawn deeper into the woods towards an industrial complex where something bad took place—as witnessed by such things as human-sized cages and dark padded cells and flashes of human suffering. Ruth is initially unwilling to go on, but is prodded into digging into a different sort of burial involving dark hallways and government red-tape. As things wake up and personal secrets are exposed, the crew find themselves having to survive the night as things generally grow worse.
review. By combining point-of-view footage with more traditional filmwork, embracing without exactly mocking the reality-horror documentary, and having a few knowing winks towards the edges of the horror genre: you can see that
score. 5/8, +1 for those who want an uncynical view of psychics in a movie, -1 for those who like things to hit the ground running. +/-1 depending on how much you like "sinister science" running in the background.
commentary. As a note, with some of the recent hoo-ha involving the Slenderman, I heard of a movie called
* See also the slightly more recent
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (05 Jul 2014 - 06:51:56 AM)
The first of the 12 mysterious photographs "revealed" in a recent Tats video was "The Creature in the Rock Crevice", which interestingly looks neither convincing nor unconvincing, and it turns out my brain takes something-like-hominids being something-like-absorbed-into-rock and files them next to Laird Barron's "The Imago Sequence". And while this is not Imago Alpha, by a long shot, for those who have read the story, see:
As explained the write-up over at GhostStudy.com, it was originally passed off as a strange creature caught on camera in a cave [with sinister warnings, a flash, and a scream] in Saudi Arabia but was later confirmed as rock carving from the Crystal Quest section of Cheddar Gorge. Which has a lot of goblin-esque carvings. Still, you know...Imago imago...
The second thing I thought of? Junji Ito's "The Enigma of Amigara Fault":
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
BLOT: (03 Jul 2014 - 02:46:28 PM)
From the first couple of panels of the 1966
Note that the kid is Lemuel Catlett instead of Wilbur Whateley but that he still develops preternaturally fast while looking for a certain something to read.
The attack-by-dogs is not against Lemuel, but it's still in there, along with some nice "I like the woods and the darkness" moments.
The Hecate cabin is old and dilapidated and has old, vile tomes.
The spell isn't exactly Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn but it could be a reference. Note: Lem is still considered a child in this frame, though it doesn't specify his age as far as I remember.
Overall, the rest of the story has very little real similarity: Lemuel grows up really quick as men who were responsible for Simon Hecate's death die in various horrible ways. Eventually, a soul-possession story [something like "Thing on the Doorstep"] takes place and it comes mostly to a good doctor fighting an evil man with a bit of a plot twist.
Intriguingly, back in 1964, in one of the first few issues of
I'm not the first person to spot this. A Google lead me to see that at least one other person has, and they include a full scan of the story if you want to read the rest of it.
"Soul of Horror" is from the May 1966 issue of
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2014
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