My Games

Friday, February 24, 2023

Gematria (Jewish Mysticism) Concept Crafting and Divination Mechanics

Gematria is a kind of Numerology in Jewish Mysticism. It's basically just an interpretive thing not unlike I Ching or Tarot, but what I find uniquely interesting about it is that there is an actual algorithm you can work with.

Of course any meaning you derive is going to be of an interpretive, personal, symbolic, etc. nature, but it can be operationalized quantitatively and used to produce reliable results, and I just find that really interesting; it's like divinatory math poetry.

I wrote a Gematria calculator in python that does some unique things compared to some of the other Gematria calculators available online, but real Gematria is a little too complicated as a game mechanic, so here's a much simpler Gematria Cipher, which I will use for Gematria Concept Crafting and Gematria Divination, bolt-on mechanics for any game using Concept Crafting (which can already be bolted-on to any rules-light game basically), but in particular for MRD Vol.2 (for a deeper discussion on Concept Crafting in MRD Vol.2 see Mecha Gear for Maximum Recursion Depth Vol. 2).

Maximum Recursion Depth Vol.2 incorporates elements of Judaism into the setting and mechanics in the first place, so Gematria is uniquely suited, but this could be a really cool and unique magical or occult framework for any game.

EDIT: Of course I immediately caught some bugs, then introduced some new bugs, then fixed those (I am not good at javascript...), but now it should all be working as expected but if you see bad results please let me know!

Gematria Concept Crafting Cipher

(SUM(c for c in W) % 6) + 1
Where W is a word and c is each character in the word.

% means modulo:
a % b = r
Think of it like division, where:
a = numerator
b = denominator
r = remainder
So for "max":




or in terms of integer division:

meaning, 6 goes into 38 6 times with remainder 2:

And then we add 1, so that any word could have a value between 1 through 7
(rather than 0 through 6).
Excuse any weird formatting, I only just added this CSS template for code blocks to my blog and still figuring out all the weird side-effects with blogger...

This hopefully doesn't sound too complicated, it's a fairly simple cipher and way easier to automate as embedded javascript than the Mispar gadol cipher I pushed to github. The calculator below automates the whole thing.

Gematria Calculator for Gematria Concept Crafting and Divination

Calculate Gematria for Word:

Gematria Concept Crafting

This is a bolt-on mechanic that could be added to any game with Concept Crafting, and MRD Vol. 2 in particular. Any two Words with the same Gematria Value can be combined to make any new Word with the same Gematria Value.

This differs from normal Concept Crafting in that the new Word isn't necessarily related to the preceding Words, but instead the shared Gematria Value.

Example: WOOD and METAL both have a Gematria Value of 4, but AXE has a Gematria Value of 1, so you couldn't craft WOOD+METAL=AXE like you might normally with Concept Crafting. However, DEMON does have a Gematria Value of 4, so you could summon a DEMON from WOOD+METAL using the awesome occult powers of Gematria! What does it mean to summon a WOOD+METAL=DEMON? Perhaps it's a mechanical monstrosity, a metaphor for deforestation and the effect of humanity on ecosystems?

Obviously this requires some refereeing, like maybe don't let PCs continue to use the same Words all the time, or they need to elaborate on it sort of like I did with DEMON above, but I'm not putting hard rules on it at the moment.

Gematria Divination

Another mechanic using the same Gematria Cipher.

Each Gematria value (1 through 7) has some tarot-like prophetic meaning, where I'm defining these meanings loosely from the numbers' significance in Judaism:
  1. One is all, all is One.
  2. Two is the line dividing One; The Knowledge of Good and Evil (and everything in between).
  3. Three is a priestly blessing; the laying of hands (two) on the individual (one). Holy, Holy, Holy!
  4. Four is the perception of spacetime; the cardinal directions, the three dimensions of space, and one dimension of time.
  5. Five are the grains and the abundance they provide, civilization, and growth.
  6. Six are the days of work and also of creation.
  7. Seven is the day of rest, the completeness of the world, luck, and love.
A Gematria Divination entails using two Words with the same Gematria Value, but instead of creating a new Word, one creates a prophecy interpreted by the combination of the Gematria Value's meaning as described above and the two Words.

A WIS Save (or whatever other resolution mechanic) might determine degree of success, unexpected positive/negative externalities, etc., but it's a way for a PC to affect the world in a more metaphysical way by divining things.

Example: A Gematria Divination for the Words TRAIN and TEA have the Gematria Value 3. Three is a priestly blessing; bring a green tea on your next commute and offer it to a stranger. This stranger will provide you with the knowledge you were looking for.

This is all still untested/WIP, but I also want to create a new Nazarite Contract for MRD Vol. 2 leveraging these mechanics in some unique ways, so that might be a future blog post.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Weird Colors

  1. Halla: Like the elation of dancing to exhaustion and the warmth of close bodies on a crisp night.

  2. Dimenoir: Like the fading memory of a dream and bittersweet reminiscences.

  3. Inflaur: Like the compulsion to pick at blisters and the guilty pleasures found in an unjust world.

  4. Psinreka: Like novel sensations and the fleeting satisfaction of solutions.

  5. Gallentia: Like an uncanny presence and unshakable thoughts of unanswered questions.

  6. Iskandalia: Like the awe of collective greatness and the validation in unexpected gestures of love.

Wrote these on the flight home from San Francisco, inspired by the colors in A Voyage to Arcturus which I started reading on the flight. The names were free associated and I tried not to overthink them.

And here are several more contributed by Rook, of Beneath Foreign Planets:

7. Pinznot: A writhing, squamous colour that stings the eyes. Like struggling to sleep only to find your pillow is filled with screeching, glowing worms.

8. Ablanense: A neutral tone like a slow, smokey exhale after waking at sunset. Some call it pastel dimenoir.

9. Prostklint: A hard, inscrutable and disquieting colour. Like waiting for your turn on the dentist's chair or the operating table. Like tight fitting braces, a coffin opening by itself, a pill just too large to swallow.

10. Krinderblesse: Like throwing a book onto a bonfire, the thrill of a toppling statue, the feel of a party just before a fight breaks out.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

BONUS: On Vacation in San Francisco (Not a Real Post)

I'm on vacation in San Francisco and it's lovely here. I was piggybacking off a trip to the Bay Area to visit my brother who ironically works for a major tech company but is not a technical person like me, and I figured if I came all this way, I should get an airbnb and spend a few days in SF as well.

I don't intend to leave NYC, but if I ever did, it might be for SF. Planning on heading out in 30min or so to start my day, no time to say anything too substantive about it, but this has been very refreshing and validating and I really needed this for various personal reasons I may or may not elaborate on in the comments or on the server after I'm home.

I had intended to set MRD Vol.2 in SF in much the same way that MRD Vol.1 was set in NYC, and at least now I have a little more context for the physicality and noosphere of the place.

In part because my MRD Vol.2 Campaign got put on pause due to scheduling reasons, and in part because I was getting burnt out, I had kind of given up on ever publishing MRD Vol.2, despite the fact that I genuinely believe (and received some trustworthy feedback) that it has the potential to be a better game, and I'm a better game designer now than I was when I wrote the first book.

I've been feeling a little creatively burnt out and ambivalent about RPG stuff. I had a little burst with the "Superhero Project" and with some of that Elements stuff, but just have not been feeling connected or engaged creatively or with writing or RPGs, and maybe this is just the vacation talking, but I really hope to turn that around.

The second printing of MRD Vol.1 on Exalted Funeral is coming out soon. I don't want to overcommit myself, but I hope I can make MRD Vol.2, or maybe I should kill my darling and focus on the "Superhero Project" or something else? I don't know, but being here makes me want to do MRD Vol.2 properly for the first time in a long time, so at least for now there's that.

PS I generally don't take photos almost as a rule, but my airbnb has a really awesome view of the city from the roof so I will take photos later just from there and update this post with them so keep an eye out ;)! If I take photos of the city, you can see someone else's photos of the same thing and they will be better, but the only photos you'll see from this roof are from me or the guy who lives here (he's a really nice guy, if you ever want to airbnb in SF I'd recommend him!) so at least even if I take bad photos there, they'll be unique.

EDIT: Here are those photos

Monday, February 6, 2023

Mythic Beings of the Weird Elements (Pt.1)

I've always been inspired by the Saint Beasts found in East and South East Asian mythologies. Not the vapid, meaningless, predictable elementals often found in traditional fantasy, but primal mythic beings, with both intentionality and idiosyncratic features.

These mythic beings correspond to the four generated elements found here, and maybe I'll do another post for the other four here.

Was going to add some specific adventure hooks or flesh these out further... but then I didn't, but hopefully the adventure hooks are at least implied.

I was also going to give them names, but at this time haven't found a naming convention that feels right.

Song-glass Elemental
Domain: Information, Communication, Music, Patterns
Like a chicken if it kept its down and other adolescent features into adulthood. Mostly invisible except for a puff of down, or when dancing to the sounds of song-glass which it nips from its coat and munches on for fun. A deceptively wise and powerful being whose wisdom must be inferred slowly and patiently by those who care for it.

Popstone Elemental
Domain: Energy, Movement, Transience, Cacophony
A fitfully lucid-dreaming cocooned antlion-dragon, its minute myoclonic jerks setting off chain reactions of popstone explosions. Irritable and impatient, prone to fits of rage, yet full of wisdom and good intent. It will grant wishes to those who remove disturbances interrupting its sleep, or even frivolously to those creating disturbances if it will make them go away. While the latter approach may be easier, tread lightly.

Godrend Elemental
Domain: Sustenance, Cuisine, Social Clubs, Wellness
A shriveled bullfrog melting unxiously in an indigo stew of its own fat, from which it is inseparable. It communicates through the consumption of its stew or the absorption of its fat through skin. Wealthy beyond measure and endlessly giving to those who enter its exclusive grace, demanding in return only the illusion of mutual respect and friendship in the face of its graceless self-centeredness. Nonetheless, it means well, in its own way.

Shadowbrine Elemental
Domain: The Unknown, Engineering, Science, Creative Inspiration
Slick and silky bits of marine snow, glowing pickled pieces of fish, eel, whale, and cephalopod, in an inky swirl of shadowbrine. Left alone, it creates powerful constructs like cosmic dams, destructively and without purpose, or beautiful useless things always just beyond the ken of mortal understanding. Under careful supervision it can produce benevolent wonders, but it is demanding and difficult in its communications.