Pixels & Platforms

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I was about to throw it all away...

Tl;dr This is a long post about nothing.

Am I still creative?

I was on the verge, like no joke a day or two away, from posting that I was going to quit blogging. Over the last several months my life has changed pretty significantly for the better. However, as I have somewhat tongue-in-cheek already discussed, I have as a result struggled creatively. Over these last several months, my home game has come to a screeching halt (we've only played I think twice in this time). Almost everything I've posted was a finished draft I had on hold for exactly this kind of circumstance, a mostly finished draft that I gave some kind of unsatisfying finish to, or stuff that I did think were cool ideas but didn't give them the effort they deserved. I haven't done any javascript stuff, which I miss, and I'm a significantly better coder now than I was a few months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do anything particularly cool with it for the blog. Would also like to do some more RPG-applied machine learning stuff since I really have no excuse not to do that now that that's literally my profession 0.o.

I had also even before that become really disengaged with the community, which didn't help. I'm almost never on discord anymore, G+ is long over, I lurk on reddit a bit still but rarely post, I still follow a bunch of blogs and try to comment but I rarely discover new blogs unless one of the other bloggers I follow blogs about them. It seems like a lot of people have moved to twitter, and I have a twitter, but I just really don't like twitter. There's been this whole zine thing which several months back I would have been all over but now I just don't want to. I still get a few awesome individuals who will occasionally comment on my blog posts which I deeply appreciate. I don't feel as bad when a post doesn't get many views or comments anymore because I feel less engaged in general, but it always helps to get some kind of engagement.

The blog was beginning to feel like a chore. I wasn't feeling motivated to create. I felt like I was getting diminishing returns for my efforts in every sense. My fellow blogger friend semiurge discussed once, somewhere, that he felt that creativity was something that happened to him passively, and I used to feel that way, but it has been feeling effortful for me for quite some time, and as a result I haven't been prioritizing it at all.


Then randomly, just over the last week, I've been starting to feel a bit creatively energized again. We'll see how much of that actually translates to the blog, but it's nice. I get random ideas that pop into my head again and I write notes. One or two ideas I've been sitting on for a while are starting to come together more organically. I'm still struggling to get my home game together but I'm going to be starting another group with some work friends which will hopefully energize me.

I had said that after I got my career together that I'd start prioritizing commissioning art and potentially publishing something, and it took me longer to get my career together but it happened, and now it's taking me longer to get the rest of my life together but it's coming along, and I'm hoping maybe I'll soon get back to that place where those things seem plausible for me.

I've found that whenever I do these kinds of posts about things I want to do, or my mental state, that putting it out there into the world makes me more likely to actualize it. I don't want to abuse this superstitious placebo effect, but I'll briefly preview a few ideas / priorities. Feedback may affect how likely or how quickly these things happen.

Setting and/or System Idea with three possible names

This idea is one of those "darlings" that I've spent way too much time thinking about and wanting it to be my magnum opus and pinning too much of myself on it to the point that it cannot ever be what I want it to be and trying to make it that is just making it worse, so I'm trying to just give up on that and let it be something much more ad hoc and small scale. Instead of telling you at all what it's supposed to be about, I'll just tell you the three titles I'm considering and hopefully the titles speak for themselves. I might also try to fold it in with It's Okay to be a Monster.

Title 1 (original)

Title 2 (originally a different idea very loosely inspired by my thoughts on Feast of Legends that I'll probably fold into this)
Free the System: An Absurdist World of Corporate Fantasy

Title 3 (just came up with it the other day)
Maximum Recursion Depth, or Sometimes the Only Way to Win is to Stop Playing

A few Weird species for an undetermined setting

Weird fantasy, and specifically Weird fantasy species, are hard to get right. I was going to try to hyperlink all my attempts but there are too many. Some have been successful (at least imo) and others not so much. But here we are again. Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves is one of my favorite novels of all time, and has a really interesting trinary-gendered, totally inhuman species. I recently read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time, and it was excellent. He does such a good job of creating a species that is very Weird and inhuman, yet presented in a sympathetic way. It is partially what has reinvigorated me to try to create some new species that are truly Weird, but that hopefully can be relatable and playable. Here is a very brief preview of these species. I haven't really decided on any other features of the setting yet, it can be anything I guess.

(Tentative Names)
The Goop: The primordial soup as a singular, viral-like superorganism that create water-goop-carcass vessels to traverse on land. Some are as large as cities and contain whole ecosystems inside themselves, others are chimera held together by carved whale bone and coral.
Hu: An evolutionary offshoot of humanity that has evolved to fill the ecological niche of ants and use pheromone-signalling and an ever-rotating maintenance crew of hu to remote-pilot Frankenstein abominations.
Freakazoids: Created by an advanced AI. They are biological but have mechanics and design principles not found in nature like wheels and treads and combustion engines, and look like freaky animal-cars, animal-bikes, etc. and do freaky science.
Unnamed Pterosaur Humanoids: The most human-like and imo, at least so far, least interesting. They're basically meant to be the closest thing to a human-surrogate since some people need that. I'll try to make them interesting without making them too "Weird". They lay eggs and have some peacocking stuff with their vestigial wings. I dunno I'm open to suggestion.

Monday, February 17, 2020

River Speciation Table

I'm a bit late to this, but I really enjoyed the concept of Le Chaudron Chromatique's Island and Random Encounters Speciation Table, so I finally got around to doing one myself. This is rather time consuming, it would be nice to come up with a faster way to do this (maybe one day I'll do a javascript version if I ever get back to doing that kind of stuff). I chose to use the Old-School Essentials (OSE) Wilderness Encounter Tables, specifically the Lake, River section. It was surprisingly robust for this purpose. I do think that bestiary is very basic, but for the purposes of something like this it works well. I might want to do another one some day though with a weirder bestiary, like Numenera or Gamma World. That being said, I think if it were too weird, the speciations might seem too arbitrary to be interesting. But I would like to find a way to inject a little bit more Weird into this. But for now, I'm happy with this.

I would also potentially like to flesh these species and this setting out further, but alas, just writing this up took a while, so I'm just going to roll with it as is. I think it's pretty cool, but with a little bit of Weird & Wonderful personal touch it could be even cooler.

Initial Environment:
  1. Lizard Person
  2. Water Termite
  3. Giant Shrew
  4. Nixie
  5. Killer Bee
  6. Sturgeon
  7. Large Crocodile
  8. Hobgoblin
  9. Driver Ant
  10. Fire Beetle
  11. Panther
  12. Giant Scorpion
  13. Crab Spider
  14. Gold Dragon
  15. Boar
  16. Thoul
  17. Giant Leech
  18. Black Widow Spider
  19. Human
  20. Basilisk

Adaptation and Speciation:

  1. Lizard Person (Hyper HD)
  2. Water Termite (Saves)
  3. Giant Shrew (Nixie)
  4. Nixie (Dwarf)
  5. Killer Bee (Hyper Morale)
  6. Sturgeon (Black Widow Spider)
  7. Large Crocodile (Hoarder)
  8. Hobgoblin (Giant)
  9. Driver Ant (Large Crocodile)
  10. Fire Beetle (Nixie)
  11. Panther (Basilisk)
  12. Giant Scorpion (Lizard Person)
  13. Crab Spider (Nixie)
  14. Gold Dragon (Dwarf)
  15. Boar (Stunted Hoarder)
  16. Thoul (Basilisk)
  17. Giant Leech (Hobgoblin)
  18. Black Widow Spider (Attack Type)
  19. Human (Large Crocodile)
  20. Basilisk (Giant)

Final Table:

It seems like Nixies and Crocodiles were perhaps the two biggest winners in this evolutionary history. The nixies in particular I'm happy about since they bring a bit of magic and weirdness to this setting, but the idea of crocodile ants is also intriguing. If I were to put my Weird & Wonderful touch to this I'd probably collapse the basilisks, dragons, crocodiles, and maybe even lizard people into a shared origin. Some of the species seem a bit redundant, like the Lizard People and the Basilisk People, and to a lesser extent the giant hobgoblins, although they arguably take on more of a troll-like niche. We'll see, hopefully I'll come back to this.

Warhammer Kroxigor. Not quite what I have in mind for the Sapient Crocodiles but they're cool.

  1. Dire Lizard Person (++HD)
  2. Fortitudinous Water Termite (+Poison Save)
  3. Giant Burrowing Nixie (Tanuki-like Nixies that shapeshift into a Giant Shrew form)
  4. Misty Nixie (microscopic Nixies that cluster into gas-like mist; more like fungus or bacteria than animal)
  5. Dire Killer Bee (++Morale, known for being hyper-aggressive)
  6. Black Widow Fish (Sturgeon-shaped, chitinous, swimming black widow spiders, look kind of like horseshoe crabs. Poisonous)
  7. Large Dracodile (Large Crocodile that has evolved pseudo-dragon characteristics as a form of intimidation, including hoarding behaviors)
  8. Giant Hobgoblin
  9. Crocodile Ant (Hive-minded micro-crocodiles)
  10. Burrowing Nixie (Like Giant Burrowing Nixies but regular-Nixie sized, and bio-luminescent)
  11. Climbing Basilisk (Smaller and softer-skinned than regular basilisks, but faster, more agile, capable of climbing, more willing to fight up close. Weaker / less reliable stare powers)
  12. Spitting Lizard Person (Feral lizard people with hardened skin and venemous close-range spit)
  13. Weaver Nixies (Climb, produce mucous-like "silk" from river water, decomposition, and magic)
  14. Dwarf Gold Dragons (They lost the position of Apex Predator from the Basilisks, as they were too big and caloric to be sustainable in this ecosystem. Why didn't they leave?)
  15. Ravished Boar (Creepy skinny bony boars with odd and counterproductive behaviors; barely eat or make any effort to sustain themselves. Some weird genetic mutation; probably on the way to extinction)
  16. Basilisk Person (Humanoid basilisks with sub-human cognition but powerful basilisk strength and abilities. May eventually become the army of a Dark Lord)
  17. Vampire Hobgoblins (Mer-Hobgoblins with leech-like mouths)
  18. Black Widow-Maker Spider (Black Widow Spiders with venom that is explosive rather than neurotoxic)
  19. Sapient Crocodile (Large crocodiles that have evolved human-level intelligence and have developed a civilization equivalent to late stone age or early bronze age humanity. They utilize tools and weapons with prehensile hands and their mouths. They trade with other intelligent species from beyond their local ecosystem.)
  20. Giant Basilisk (They won over the Apex Predator position from the Gold Dragons, who were too big and caloric to be sustainable in this ecosystem)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

It's Okay To Be A Monster: RPG Rough Concept

Sadly I have not had much time to do or think about RPG stuff lately, but I had kind of a rough week and so naturally I am now feeling creative. This is an idea I've been sitting on in various forms for a while, but it recently mutated (pun intended even though it's not obvious why it's a pun yet) and I like where the idea is heading so I'm just going to write this poorly conceived stream of consciousness version of it now and we'll see what happens.

In some ways on-face it seems maybe more like a PbtA or storygame in that it has a very central theme. That being said, I'm conceiving of it with OSR or that style in mind and I think for reasons I can't totally articulate that it's better that way but there's no reason why someone else couldn't do it a different way.

The core idea is that characters do not die per se; everything is fail forward, for better or worse. Everything is mutilation and mutation and metamorphosis and mind-shattering (maybe Mutations & Mutilations is a better name for the RPG? I'm open to suggestions). There would be lot's of random roll tables for all of these. If you would die, you are reincarnated, or become a ghost, or transcend to some other plane of existence that is perpendicular to the rest of the party. If you would go insane, you enter an alternate state of consciousness, or are consumed by an eldritch being and become the eldritch being, or something like that.

The idea is for the game to be recursive. If you would be critically mutilated, mutated, mind-altered, metamorphosed, etc., you can still be part of the party and progress, just differently. If one player dies or goes insane, they may gain awareness of or access to other realms and dimensions that they can share with the rest of the party that they wouldn't have been able to get to otherwise. It's not just that these things are fail-forward as a fail-safe, but they're the primary means of progression and digression (again, recursive; it is the gameplay loop, not just a way to keep the loop going).

The storygame "theme" of it is that rather than being about body horror or psychological horror or existential cosmic horror, it's about acknowledging these disturbing and sometimes awful changes and accepting them. You could go Adventure Time with it or Always Sunny (the latter being more so why I think it would work better for OSR-style play, if you're following me), or somewhere in the middle.

It's about making mistakes and doing things you regret and accepting them and growing from them and moving forward and then probably doing it again even after you thought you learned better, but in a goofy, ridiculous, tabletop RPG sort of way.

I don't really have the juice right now to write up or consolidate pre-existing tables, but I think the core aspects would be to have these tables, and to have the connective tissue, probably another set of tables, so that once a mutation, mutilation, massacre, etc. occurs, it generates some sort of plot event as well (access to / awareness of a new dimension, a new NPC, a new mcguffin, etc.).