Friday, December 29, 2017

"the shape of water" 2017 review

it is edited badly. sally hawkins is enchanting as the reverse end of a monster-human relationship. the score is cornball. Octavia Spencer is good, but a little cornball. Then we have the white guys- Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon, and the indomitable Rich Jenkins. This movie is insane, it gives the three white guys SO much screen time, some of it is good like the Rich Jenkins relationship with a pie counter clerk but a lot of it seems intent, laser-focused-in on exploring a white supremacist’s background life, & this boring scientist guy, and even Rich Jenkins talking a lot reveals this movie has very little to say

Also it’s a mild whitewash with Elisa Esposito/Sally Hawkins

I think it’s ‘cause Guillmero thought he could bring out some of the sharp edge out of the white supremacist dude, like he did with that Spanish General in “Pan’s Labyrnith”, that we spend so much time with the antagonist’s home life, buying a car, the pressures of his job. But, thankfully, there’s just nothing there, the dude is a fascist and you can see the vein popping out of Michael Shannon’s forehead TRYING to bring some sort of a humanity to the position

when you think there’s something there but there’s nothign actually there

“Crimson Peak” was another less successful long-scale experiment in trying to convert golden age horror into, like, a soft-focus modern feminist drama with f/x, Crimson Peak was also _very boring_, it seems Guilmerro really loves and wants to take his time with the individual swimming details of the set and the ornamental character personalities. It’s like a Studio Ghibli film, like if it were all Spirited Away, with 90% less detail (more lke, 200% less) and less characters etc, and it’s slower because there’s -less stuff-

THAT BEING SAID that kind of joy that made the original Hellboy good rears its head a couple times like with the dream sequence near the end, but uh there’s still a lot of deliberation on “glassy green water” looks


movie does a VERY GOOD JOB of encapsulating a male sexuality as the target, something to be contained and fought over, with 1 (one) phallic object and a bunch of yonic objects in the mix, just the idea of a captured/vulnerable sexual monster that ppl fuck, as a male figure, it is definitely a male monster rescued (spoilers) by a female main character and they have empowering consensual sex

its badly edited tho but it makes it seem half-awkwardly like Elisa Esposito is like, from the start, zoomin in, super into this monster man. I’m being unfair, at the start its clearly curiosity, the film does a good job of revealing Elisa’s attraction to the monster-man in retrospect, like all along she was in it to win it... Which is kinda a thing, right? In the space in my little brain it doesn’t have enough room to process upfront that Elisa would be immediately attracted to The Thing From The Black Lagoon, but she totally is

it still has this sort of throwaway sexual harassment subplot which is brief but not brief enough and I think is simultaneously too much and doesn’t go far enough, not meaning “there isn’t enough sexual harassment” but rather I mean it ends up in easy movie characterization territory, vile

vis a vis Elisa’s status as a mute character: the film is pretty good at going the distance with this one, but it’s still an uncomfortably central dramatic theme, like the ability to talk/not to talk, its pretty bald at times

I mean I’d push for a movie with a mute main character where the preponderance of the film isn’t squarely on their muteness about 20-30% of the time

the white supremacist’s journey actually is a little interesting, he’s kinda swirling down the toilet bowl of materialism, pop psychology, he actually makes a break for it but gets reeled back in, it’s half-sympathetic, and at the end he realizes “ooh there’s actualy NO LIMITS” and he gets his throat cut

which, again, is Guilmerro Del Toro’s half-decent attempt to try to soft bush a villain but it comes off as too generous in my opinion, we have already been informed about what’s going on

Friday, December 15, 2017

'deep carbon observatory' review & lamentations of the flame princess diary

 THIS REVIEW is mostly inward-facing to people who have already read or indeed, written the product. To those who haven’t, suffice to say that even if you don’t play RPGs, the text of “Deep Carbon Observatory” is notable literature, being serious and well-written and not fucking stupid like every other piece of rpg material under the sun.

 things are good:

  • the opening scrawl with the village worked servicably for me, imparted a sense of interconnected chaos
  • I played the rival adventurers a little corny 
  • the deal with the eel in the tree was resolved well
  • the wizard’s duel was truly chaotic, with a miniaturized flying 8ly mirrored little wizard flying around, the players got a canoe and were introduced to the pike, and also backstabbed a wizard after the spells wore off; that was pretty good
  • the windmill with the crabs was the source of enormous energy and fun due to the creative problem solving revolving (literally) around the crabs… also the gore of like 19 murdered ppl inside the windmill was horrifying
  • the squid, the hill, and the farm animals trapped on it was also pretty much the above; a lot of fun, creative and risky problem solving getting past the squid, a little sense of peace and hope from the animals including one pc getting a (second) dog, and then a messy escape from the island with squid-fishing and -towing and -wrestling and deaths of the two dogs and a PC
  • the golems were the source of some hints on the mystery, a constant source of mercurial intimidation, and good tools ultimately as the pcs used the golems to destroy Snail Shell Zarathustra’s ship
  • Snail Shell Zarathustra was professional, and relatively no nonsense, and he had a doctor onboard. As the PCs began to lead him astray he grew more suspicious, but was still betrayed by them when they lead a golem to his ship. 
  • gruta was just a weird sight that I forgot to capitalize on
  • the scratch-built dam didn’t make sense w/r/t hydrophysics 
  • I was too afraid to use The Crows, much. They mostly dickied around with a zombie horde, before forgetting about the retreating pcs and completing the adventure themselves. I shouldn’t have played them as a truly independent force and instead should’ve used them entirely in relation to the pcs (but I was afraid)
  • the scrolls in the crypt that the family was burning was good because the scrolls were the proper fire-making tool that the pcs needed to burn down the windmill to get the gear to get the gold boat. Also they figured out that one of the scrolls they got was the very powerful Time Stop but they lost this when the crab smashed them when they got the boat.
  • The gold boat was good and complicated and incurred the crabsmash and got the party 50,000 sp and the two surviving party members a level each (like +1 and +2 hp each, and 2 skill points) and allowed them to buy a river galley and hire 30 soldiers and a crew for the galley and a cannon and 3000 rations to feed the starving villagers, well, those who survived. It also provoked a deep and physics-knowledge-intensive puzzle of how to dredge up a sunken boat using a pulley, which we tested using a real tub of water like it was science class
  • the crabsmash was a philosophical moment: a giant crab dropped out of the sky and killed half the party. no warning, just a save. philosophical bcuz I asked 
...but I think crabsmash as written sorta functions as a violation of that principle. Sometimes random instadeath, fersure, if you think that you’re exempt then look sometimes rocks actually fall and everyone actually dies in real life and if you’re using save vs. death as common as it is in most lotfp products isn’t that “random instadeath”? But really, the entire thing makes me uneasy, in a way that I like.
  • the giant platypus was good
  • the dam: the interior of the dam was probably the most “tight” part of the whole adventure, that being said my players managed to find a way to both make impassable the secret door to the right as well as lure out all the Canoptic Guards to bombard them with cannon fire. But the red-herring trap room worked well, they never relaxed about it. 
  • the valley: was good, although I removed many of the elements from it, mainly the battle between the reed people and the kapeks, the kapeks had already won, and the bacterial mat had turned solid brown. The light defense system was creepy and good. The golden boats were another red herring, the chieftain kinda pointless maybe because the reed people had already died. 
  • The eel forest was funny because our suicidal player kept getting 1dmg eel bites and an eel got a critical and bit out her eye
  • The first descent into Nightingale hall was good and creepy and the players picked up the evidence to deduce a horrifying slave-culture 
  • The cave giant’s long fierce fingers were creepy and deadly, I wish I remembered that it didnt kill by squeezing but by slamming u into a wall and chewing
  • The cave giant served as a territorializing force, although for most of the dungeon crawl everyone was too preoccupied with internal strife and with the many strange things in the observatory to notice it was there. It came into focus only when it first snatched up a child PC who stayed alone in the dungeon and later when the monster was blocking exit from the dungeon
  • The chem-plant-bomb room killed everybody but also they had fun roleplaying not knowing what an electric light was
  • The Cervit was cool because it was like something you’d find on a factory floor, the value thereof was not obvious, everyone was really anxious about transporting this mysterious industrial material
  • The hall of silks was o.k., the monsters terrifying, and they used a chem-plant-bomb to kill these 
  • The silks in the hall of silk was a fine note of color
  • The hall of shells didn’t capture their attention and the hall of core samples was too much detail for anyone’s good
  • the overall shape of the Observatory tripped me up vis a vis describing it and simultaneously not making it too obvious that it was “two giant stalactites hanging in an abyss” but the depth and darkness of the abyss was good
  • the metal boxes full of gear was good, everyone was really happy to find like, equipment
  • the little elevator/scale setup in the lower lefter hall was too hard to describe compared to its relative interestingness, but i did describe it and the pcs did ignore it
  • the azimoths and reflectors remained a mystery but a good one, there was disappearing vomit
  • I fucked up describing the world-clock and honestly seems like a mouthful
  • the sheer craziness and utility of the tables for the Tektite Lens made the whole procedure of generating and saying the results fascinating for everyone, it exactly hit the note of “peering into another world? but how? what’s going on? what is this… madness??”
  • I actually wish I would have limited the use of the Lens to d6 uses in retrospect. Why? more cthonic…
  • Climbing down the chain in retreat from the Cave Giant was the pretty much “transcendental cliffhanger” which will serve as the perfect transition into a campaign of Veins of the Earth, especially since I get to emphasize the sheer starving darkness of climbing down an infinite chain, I’ll get to lead off with new character sheets and a new inventory system saying “due to your infinite climb downward, you’ll have to discard anything too heavy or too cumbersome that you can’t make fit on your body” and emphasize food and water as resources and start everyone off in a place of desperation. This ending also gave a beautiful, dark bow on the whole geographical narrative of the adventure. There were only 5 soldiers left, descending into the deep…

 Biggest overt issue is the geography of the flood not being too clear, even one sentence like “the flood extends for miles before turning into pseudo-swamp” would have cleared everything up.

 The other issue is the practicality of everyone starving. "The water of the river is ripe with life, over-full with predators and fish of every kind." Players pointed out this was ideal fishing, which seemed kind of obvious.

Also to stop all the villagers from just becoming refugees I had to say some stuff about how the village was 2 weeks of travel away from the rest of civilization, or any source of food, which was odd, because there was a river right there

 Minor issues that maybe are just the referee’s responsibilty: figuring out relative speeds in flooded areas, translating the Crows’s AD&D stats, figuring out the geography around the dam (mountains, thanks to the authors for help on this), the physics of the scratch-built dam, and yes, the clearness of the maps. 


 I posit: that if the referee is gratious in their warnings, and if the players are -all- trying to stay alive and are somewhat good at it, you can run a game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess where everyone starts at 1st level AND there is extremely lethal shit everywhere AND if you die you restart at level one AND some player characters survive and level up.

 My actual experience with LOTFP is that there are 1d4 deaths per session, it’s really frustrating and depressing to some people, and it’s really frustrating to everyone at some point. And yes, some players take a liking to it.

When I first started writing play reports for this system ‘lanir’ on the forums was talking about how I was basically gonna burn through players until I found some who liked my playstyle. I really was trying to create a roleplaying game where:
  1. combat was deadly and pretty simple & quick, and kinda realistic
  2. no railroad would reign
  3. NPCs mostly acted realistically, in their own self interest
  4. a lot of the fun came from figuring out how to survive 
...and with a handful of other values which I enforce more or less conciously, like “no fudging”.

  After about 2 years of play I think I found some players entirely willing to play in the above frame of mind, where stupid mistakes in lethal situations are usually lethal. I did have to burn through a bunch of other players to find these couple players. But then again the burned ones have their own group now, which I’m apart of, we’re playing GURPS…

 (I might ease off the difficulty in the Veins campaign, because I’ll be writing it all myself.)


 When I first started LOTFP dming and I ran “tales of the scarecrow” I was laughing in the faces of my frustrated players. This sounds bad and is bad I guess but also that was kinda how it was in that group of people. And then there was the time where I did just the heart puzzle from “Fuck For Satan” for my brother and his girlfriend and how they were hounding me for the answer for hours after.

 One night after a roleplaying game I was walking with my friend Dave and I had a little broken buddha statue in my pocket. I said, here’s a riddle, what’s in my pocket? Dave couldn’t guess, even after 20 questions, and I was like, O.K., you lost, I won’t tell you. This seemed essentially unfair to Dave. What was I gaining? (I did tell him)

 I sort of thought that way of the grinning game master who has the knowledge that you don’t have and the allure and the power-mystery was kinda something to bring to my friends’s tables back in 2014-5. These days I still do it, but with a subtler hand, and with plenty of warnings beforehand: this game is going to be super hard, you’ll probably all die… and although it’s still frustrating at times it also gives out some thrills:

Saturday, November 4, 2017

fifteenth post

this isn't criticism, it's more of "fanfiction", "fan rpging", which in the trpg community is cool bc:
  • it is in many ways necessary to creatively collaborate with the rpg writers, in the sense you are using their writing in a creative process which also includes your players
  • you have to fill in the gaps left in any rpg text
the process of contributing to the "canon" of your favorite movie setting or whatever by fanfictioning yr way into a headcanon is the normal method of consumption for most trpgs. The canon of rpg settings and stories foremostly exists to aid yr "headcanon" so to speak.

also the rpg/fan/writer community is pretty small. there's an air of collaboration. Matt Colville said people used to call Gygax up to ask him rules questions, it's nothing new I guess. I would link it to the general wackiness of playing trpgs with your friends, a kind of magic circle frenzy where you're collaborating while also not stepping on each other's toes. stuff makes me anxious but it's also like the main thing I'm into rn


from "Veins"

In "Veins of the Earth" Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess have done the necessary work to outline a unique vision for the "underground world" so common to dnd-style fantasy. Nominally I think the universal undergound is appealing because dungeons, the underground, caves sort of are the basis for a lot of the hobby-- you go in a dark place full of monsters and come up with gold. In the "Veins" you don't come back up, tho.

"Veins" though lacks some critical elements which I think the book explicitly tells you to fills in yourselves, in a aside: "(Yes it would be great to have a settlement generator in here but the book was already HUGE and I needed all that space for madness generators, darkness types and insane art works. You can probably make up your own using the monster section. We will put one in a sequel if this book doesn't bankrupt the publisher.)" -pg 352 (italics mine)

Being a person who wants to run "Veins" I sketched some city ideas when I started thinking about the logistical and cultural structure of the various races of the Veins as well as what I would need to run them. Bc I have all the "canon" developed by Patrick and Scrap I got a lot of momentum sketching so I have these below to share: (all illustrations clipped from the book)


A Gnonman.

Gnonmen:  their culture around their capital: intense, exhausted nationalism. basically racism/nationalism with zero ego. the stakes are real: anything but the utmost and they will lose everything to the very real and very awful forces just beyond and spidering into their domain. there is no opportunity for diplomacy, it is very clear, and what the insane forces want is actually just a brief taste of sustenance, the source thereof they will immediately destroy via infighting. They really are the only sane ones fighting a world of darkness.

Any detractors within their ranks are rightly regarded as irrational, and most likely defective. To the budget efficiency and a small but very real margin of goodwill will allow, they are treated. Beyond that a tightly efficient and sacred-for-the-point-of-preserving-efficiency caste-system disposes of their soul and their meat is recycled.

players can be apart of gnonmen society in equal proportion to their real and provable goodness. The gnonmen's causes, institutions, and trade always fall along such an exacting and efficient line that only the PC's desire and ability to be intelligently and righteously benevolent will involve them at all.

a knotsman

the knotsmen capital, "Foreclose"-- (knotsmen are highly legalistic people covered in knots of flesh) (this segment already published via g plus post)

there is no city, only rooms, it's like The Trial, and at certain point you may realize that you are in something like an endless series of bureaucratic rooms and at that point you are fucked. whatever thing the players wanted to do; it's now over, it's a game over screen, forever, up to and past the point that the players realize it. Even if the holy god sent his angels to pluck you out of the queue and delivered you back to green earth you would not be free, you would be a liability to all those around you, and by hook or crook the blue sky would become so much papier mache and you would be back underground.

all the memories of what goes on in Foreclose are owned by the Knotsmen, probably. Knowledge of the location of Foreclose is sort of a catch 22 bc knowledge of where it is immediately implies that you are wholly owned by the Knotsmen, because foreclose is not immediately identifiable, and because "a large gathering of Knotsmen" usualy means full control of whoever knows about that. I know where foreclose is --> I have visited foreclose --> I am owned by the Knotsmen, they try and have to almost all extent succeeded in climbing those arrows all the way back.

The thing to get is that Foreclose is the center of Knotsmen proprety technology. Think about intellectual property rights today and advance those under a microscope with magic and in the context of the Veins. There is almost certainly a convoluted partnership with the DeR0, and the fact that this can be easily surmised given the information above is a current crisis to Knotsmen.

the only warning you get is one, maybe two or in the final jaws of three rooms of bureaucratic processing before it is all over. Like I'm saying literally only continue to describe bureaucratic procedures until everyone wants to stop playing

the other thing to remember is that Foreclose is, in the logic of the Veins, a knot.

But that's obvious.


  olm-sump --  an example of an Olm settlement, maybe the capital why not:
(olm are amphibian grey humanoids who hibernate for extended periods underwater)
  the whole thing is traded around a single (secret) patch of land, which grows something like a cucumber plant inside of it. This plant grows without light, for some reason, and for that reason its genes are fantastically valuable. However, no one down here really knows about the secrets of agriculture, at least the Olm don't, so they're unwilling to share the produce/seeds of their fantastical singular plant/fortune. The food produced by the plant is enough to keep one Olm family alive, 1 parent and a 1 child. Once the child reaches adulthood and a mate is found the parent retires to the sump where some 1,000s of Olm float.
  because the Veins are what they are, occasionally force is needed; however, applied force requires calories so: Olm will only be awakened in direct proportion to near-guaranteed calorie return rates. Only if the entire basis is threatened, i.e. the food-plant, will Olm be awakened in starving numbers.
  If the Olm gain windfall they will awaken some relatives and have a party, and information-share, and refresh the gene pool. Visitors who bring windfall get to be a part of all that.
  Outside appearence: hidden, ofc, but the less hidden part is where the awake Olm live (the more hidden part is the singular patch of mud with the cucumber plant, that is maybe deep within the sump itself. The sump isn't that hidden on the assumption that invaders will quickly find themselves surrounded by like a million Olm warriors in their prime environment-- they'll be instantly awakened by the gene-presence of intruders in the water. However it's a matter of common courtesy like going to the bathroom to not be seen going into and out of the sump so players may be continuously surprised at the growing # of olm.)
  the olm-settlement itself: a hollow, carved, and obviously ancient place, much bigger than it needs to be: like an abandoned amusement park that someone is camping out in. Obviously an army could be staged here, and there's a rather large altar with an auditorium that looks like it could fit a lot of people. The active settlement though is one or two people in one verrrryyy worn living space, like, carved by walking around in for centuries worn. there's only one person in there, and one child, but when you come by another one shows up shortlyh, and if you have trade another, and if you bring sustenance, a bunch more, its a party, best place to store calories is their bodies

the der0 capital. 

There isn't one. Or is there?

that being said:
der0 society is anonymous on a large scale and over-intimate on a small scale. The largest unit of organization is a cell. Sometimes there's an ostensible clandestine organization but in reality it is doubted that any der0 society could be above 3-4 members without dissolving into total anarchy-- which is what most of der0 civilization is.

THAT BEING SAID there probably could be a large scale city of der0 mostly but the inner workings therein would be like if Voivodja was pulled inside of itself.

Isolated der0 are hard enough to trade with as it is, normally it is something people only do when there are no other options available, which in the Veins isn't exactly uncommon, especially since der0 have the disturbing skill at eliminating competitors, more or less any situation wherein they are the last worst option and yet the only option is what der0 are driven to create. (because they can only see clients as enemies and are always, always jumping the gun)  As a result they hold a perilous middle ground between Veins cultures, you can imagine if North Korea was also the intelligentsia/CIA of our earth.

another way to think about it: der0 are literally incapable of allying with anyone, so: they are useful. but also not.

trading with der0: "trading" for der0 is "attempting to trick people who are going to betray you" so if you can accept the bait of a trap in exchange for involvement in *the der0 conspiracy*... you can play ball (but you shouldn't)

other rules of der0:

-they will only kill you by accident
-der0 will always talk to you and at length. this talking is a form of attack actually. they are involving you in *the der0 conspiracy* which is very real despite being composed whole cloth of assumed falsehoods.
-all der0 desires are disposable by virtue of the der0's unceasing tendency towards paranoia. the only non-negotiable desire is the der0's own self-preservation, their beyond-hyperactive sense thereof being the cause of their tao-like state of never having problems. Everything is a problem.
-Everything is a problem.
-nothing the der0 ever do works, it is always sabotage. they are like little mobile units of self- and universal sabotage. they have always been (rightfully) sabotaged.
-they always misunderstand the situation, and their misunderstanding veers eerily close to alternate understanding of reality. or, that is to say, der0 continuously understand and interact with reality only through continuous misunderstanding which in its multiplicity acts like an alternative to truth.
-the intentions of der0 can be recorded but only as snapshots bc the der0 in question will change its intentions at the slightest provocation in an attempt to sniff out a trap. thus u can record der0 intentions but mostly as a starting point for improv

"water? why go ahead and drink this invisible water all around! or no... don't drink it! you're going to drink all our invisible water aren't you?? no! you've poisoned the water! (flees)(comes back) I know that you have drank the water... you know like me its secrets (desperately trying to figure out what those secrets are) we both know what they are, so tell me, it is poisoned, is not? (goes on indefinitely)"

-the means of support for der0 are never visible. der0 don't eat or drink but they do consume resources. this is likely because the acts of eating or drinking are of such an obvious vulnerability that somewhere in the evolutionary chain leading to the modern der0 eating drinking or sleeping were phased out. nor do they procreate. What has come to replace those activities is *the der0 conspiracy* which basically gives der0 enough energy to forgo all of the above, and also consumes all their time and attention anyway.

yeah- asking where do der0 babies come from is non gratis in the Veins.

-der0 actually do not participate in anything morally untoward, despite all. nonetheless they generate intense amounts of bad things.

involvement in *the der0 conspiracy*:::

exposure: if you are made to believe in the reality of another player's der0 encounter, you go up a level yourself.

levels of inundation: 
1) you have talked to a der0. the amount of bullshit in your life increases tenfold. everything around you is a trap, or a mind control device, usually both. these things are true, these things are not true. monsters have secret motives and give you sidelong glances. do you know each other? is this a set up? why are you so distanced from your "companions"? is this the tradeoff? my god, is it actually happening? all along?

**at your option, you can induce der0 encounters. you do this by telling everyone at the table that you are doing that and then you roll on the der0 encounter table. you can do this once with no consequences, but if you do so a second time, you move on to the next stage of *the der0 conspiracy*

2) you have participated in *the der0 conspiracy*. arguably a bad idea. all der0 instantly recognize you and know that you are one of them. you will be accepted, even trusted, at some times. however, there is much to discuss. things will begin happening. you will be presented with sheafs of dossiers stuffed in your pack. inside will be a time bomb. which will release poisonous gas. which allows you to see everything happening laterally in the next room over, and above. You think.

**at this stage, the referee should introduce one der0 encounter per session.

3) your sanity collapses as *the der0 conspiracy* enfolds your waking life, too.

roll the der0 encounter table for every combat or social encounter you have. social encounters include general discussion with players. for every level above level 3 simply add another roll per encounter.

der0 encounter table:

the player realizes:

1- der0 are secretly here
2- der0 have secretly modified one object here
3- der0 have seized the minds of one person or beast here
4- the player is recieving messages from the mind of one other person or beast here
5- two members of two different groups represented here are secretly allied
6- information here is in code.
7- this entire situation is a trap built to kill the player character
8- one person here is not who they say they are, or is in disguise.
9- the subject of this situation has been you all along. if it already was, treat as 7
0- roll again and once more and advance one level in *the der0 conspiracy*

their realization is real, with the caveat that if any other player characters are made to believe in the reality of the realization, count them as exposed to *the der0 conspiracy*

In each case it is up to the referee to furnish the specifics.



drow (aelf adal) (evil elves):
If the capital is the most unbridled form of the people it represents then the adal capital would be beyond what thoughts can think in terms of removed from human vision. I think if you glimpse the streets of {the aelf adal capital} the streets themselves would turn to you; it would be considered one of the greatest disasters in their history if a {person who has even seen humans, etc.} walked the street, and the ruination of everything if even the existence of non-drow was mentioned in the {what couldn't possibly be claimed to be a cathedral}. Essentially, to a visitor, the aelf adal capital is pure, terrified liquid hate, things will crumble, sure, there isn't any substance behind for which to glimpse: hate, the makeup, is all there is. itll be come clear pretty quick that its something like hell.

imagine a crying person, ashamed of who they are, who you are viewing. They are crying at you, because you are seeing them, they are mad at you. Their crying transforms bursts their mask and shows you the person really under there. ... take out the shame, take out the person really under there

round by round description by what happens if you somehow (and every imaginable and beyond imaginable step has been taking to prevent you) somehow appear in the aelf adal capital:
1. beyond the height of the beauty arts
2. you are noticed
3. all nearby aelf adal nearby commit suicide
4. everything nearby begins to turn back into nightmare juice or whatever, catch on fire, etc.

a note on the dvargir (work obsessed dwarves, even more so than usual):

dvargir actually represent the exact minimum of work ethic alone to succeed in the veins. to the extent that you can be a wealthy farmer in the veins you have to work as hard as a dvargir. otherwise it's all gig economy and starvation. that being said the dvargir don't spend their excess wealth on food they spend it on the giant empty cities they are always creating, so they are, indeed always starving.

duergar in force are moving work camps, and they are always churning out new capitals.


Prompt:"7. City is inwardly ontologically shattered like a schizophrenics dream. Golems and child slaves sent into its fractured core to scavenge food appearing from 'nowhere' i.e. dropped or created by people who don't exist."

another situation where it's a really desperate population crowded around a central life-giving source. situation is, though, that the realities of whether its heavily populated or a new settlement or everyone is dead isn't stable. the changes mostly happen if you head into the central core.

there's a lot of paranoid planning about who sends who where, people mapping out a landscape which is continually changing, windfalls of cash or food. like trading with alternate reality people for food, and coming back to a (slightly different) reality.

the closer you live to the core the more insane you are meaning "more socially isolated and easy to prey for meat" beyond a certain point. basically it's bandits, organized resistance to intruders, and rarely philanthropic orgs doing work (maybe evil demons giving out poison or demon eggs tho)

so its basically a circle (or semicircle) around a non-shape of intensifying overcrossed realities, populated by factionally different levels of hungry people trying to trade steal or maybe even share food with each other. The only constant is change, meaning (in most versions of the reality) there is no stable amount of food to feed the population.

the above is actually too close to the der0 to appeal to them, der0 strive at bringing more insanity to situations, harvesting sanity, there's very little sanity to go around here, so they mostly don't show up.

1. Ourouboros city engaged in 'Paradox' farming,  feed off their own past, sending forces back along their own loop to take resources and slaves. They must keep growing more powerful so they can defeat their own past but the cultural and physical destruction of their own history forms unstable paradoxes and cripples them in many ways. They live in fear as they never know when their own future will arrive to consume them.

city has to grow more so they are always accepting new recruits, basically everyone avoids them for this reason, its a thing where you'll condemned to an eternal war against yourself, which is probably better than being a demon in the demon/devil war but sorta existentially similar

to make this more clear: if you are protecting the food, you have to fight a future version of yourself, if you are raiding, you have to fight your past version. however you can't kill your past self, but you can kill your future self.

ppl are encouraged to kill your future self bc it guarantees your future employment.

you can still get killed by people who aren't you if you're defending or raiding though.

this whole setup doesn't make sense, like it shouldn't work, but it does anyway

2. City feeds on literalised psychic emanations from below - likely eating the dreams of a mad god or chthulu-esque entity. Reliable supply but drives everyone even more insane than usual.

see here

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

fourteenth post

  Ai Weiwei: Overrated?

“Without freedom of speech there is no modern world, just a barbaric one.” 
― Ai Weiwei

“I was in jail 81 days, but after 20 days my brain became completely empty; you need information to stay alive. When there’s no information you’re already dead. It’s a very, very strong test – I think more severe than any physical punishment.
All I wanted was a dictionary, even the simplest one.” 
― Ai WeiweiAi Weiwei

“The natural desire to save a cat is what it means to be a citizen.” 
― Ai Weiwei

“When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That's dangerous for human development.” 
― Ai Weiwei

“If my art has nothing to do with people's pain and sorrow, what is 'art' for?” 
― Ai Weiwei

“An artwork unable to make people feel uncomfortable or to feel different is not one worth creating. This is the difference between the artist and the fool.” 
― Ai WeiweiAi Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009

This one's good imo.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

thirteenth post

A Review of the 2012 movie "The Hunt"

"The Hunt" is a weird movie where the entire time I spent like a horror movie yelling at the screen "don't open that door!" I guess I have the mistaken view that I know about how to handle traumatic situations but I think the best thing would be to get the authorities involved, immediately, for the main character's case. I suppose the ideas of justice I'm most readily pushing forward involve social workers.

The movie would instead put the onus of its social critique on the individuals of a upper-class gang of parents who turn to violence after a mistaken case of sexual violence against their children emerges. It is such the case that we see people caught in the moral division between believing a friend and rightfully setting up boundaries in such a situation. The tragedy pretty much stems, in my analysis, from the fact that those boundaries were not properly dealt with, the social contract with these things being not popularly understood at all.

The movie really though moves beyond all that by moving ahead in time in segments of a year or so, wherein the much subtler distinctions of how friends and family digest trauma over time becomes the subject. It is here where the moral calculus becomes closer to what I accept as good subject matter for a film because there is no clear guiding line for the years after trauma. Something like a forgiveness can creep in, various objections and violences can happen, in a more open playing field, where the solution is not so clear, whereas for all the earlier stuff I only have this stringent assertion to the characters: seek help, seek professional help!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

twelfth post

A review of "The Veins Of The Earth" by Patrick Stuart & Scrap Princess,
a unique bestiary & setting book for pen-and-paper-and-maybe-skype roleplaying under the earth

You can see Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess on their blogs, developing it; the basic premise, well suited to "dungeons and dragons", is to make it new. I think it's so new that it's not dungeons and dragons anymore; the premises is more starvation on the knife's edge of jesus-christ insanity. Well it's lamentations of the flame princess. on-message certainly.

My critical work here is all dumb, bc the fantasy text imagines a reality of play which doesn't exist yet, as far as I can tell. I keep trying to run a game on thursdays but after my last lotfp debacle idk if anyone's interested. I really can't tell if my personality is repulsive or not. I'm paranoid. I feel kinda cave-y underdarky myself and maybe that's what attracted me to Veins.
illustration of Panic Attack Jack

Because as much as innovation here in Veins there's also some pretty serious player-subversion going on, as is true LOTFP, like in the Anglerliche (fake megavillain designed to bait campaigns... The premise with the Anglerliche is that you have a fake villain bait the players and at the end of the campaign a fish eats them.) It does indeed remind me of old D&D where there would be some ideas included not out of balance but because they were experiments. Besides making things new, the other thing Scraptrick do is experiment..

((The third thing that Patrick at least does is design really over-designed megavillain characters who are all female and impossible to kill and hopelessy romantic and who looove poetry. There's two in this book (Antiphoenix and the Spectre) and then there's the Medusa. The Medusa was a lot of fun to run, though...))

I thought a whole lot about Scrap's art too. The basic thing is a diversity of methods. The work may seem juvenile bc at times it really does employ basic character-sheet doodling. Scrap has called her artwork "haphazard" for this reason (I posit).

Tho it would be a dick post if I said "wow it looks like a character-sheet doodle it must be fucking bad". This is one of those situations where there is something to be said about art. What use is a doodle. Why is a doodle useful? If something looks like a doodle can it be art? 

I mean the main takeaway from me that's really genius is that often the experience of staring into a PDF rendering of a Scrap-drawn cave hallway is that my eye picks out new details as it adjusts to the painting. Like adjusting to the darkness of an actual cave. Get that out of a splatpage. And the doodles are good, the diversity of methods create a meta-texture, appropriate you'll admit to such a hobby as ours, where _you_ might doodle on your own fuckin' character sheet... I mean that D&D is always a collage of different arts.   But moreso Scrap's work is not pandering, it feels like (in the way say, The Dungeon Master's Guide II does not feel like) a genuine work of art with multiple levels and new things to return to and a non-stupid and also interesting basis of cnxn between the form and the content.

I wish the book was bigger! I really wish this mutherfucker was A4. I want that Player's Handbook feel. Maybe we're getting there. Then again I only bought the PDF so what do I know. I'm just greedy.

Ok now I'm gonna review every monster in the book... termed "pariahs":

Alkalion: actually my favorite pariah. Good environmental storytelling, seems easy and "ready to run": In a cave of fungus and salt lies the scary lion... You branch off from a main tunnel and see a tube of salt... where does it go?

Angerlich: see above in the main review. Also this is obviously not written (exclusively) for the underdark. A fake megavillian with giant fish attached. I told my friend at a bar about this and he got worried.

Antiphoenix: see main review. basically on the edge of "runnable". Very descriptively pricey beautiful phoenix that's like a sexy death bird... a self-insert??

Arachnopolis Rex: A giant fake spider made of little spiders.  Cool, but would basically hinge on whether or not you can land that "oh shit it's actually a bunch of spiders!" moment. Which I realize the whole encounter is designed around so idk it's cool that Scraptrick are planning for unique roleplaying experiences... yes...

Archeans: Underground space aliens... roleplayable but boring(?) mbasically these guys would be cool for desperate ppl to find in a crack and have yr players slowly starve to death as they were entertained in a parlor full of fuming noxious gases... but idk the big main middle section describing them is kind of a jerk-off

Atomic Bees: "Hit one with your sword and it goes ‘clang’ and spins away." a good encounter.

Blackfoot Gigaferret: a ferret that hunts people... a good basic encounter, but also tellingly is super op, like a monster specifically designed to kill unaware players before they get a chance to react, so "subversive"... you wake up and get insta-gibbed by a ferret.

Calcinated Cancer Bear: basically as good as the Alkalion 

Cambrimen: Patrick's description of this like the makeup of their bodies really is bad. Luckily there's a Scrap illustration to show us what we knew all along: they're just big ol blob people. As with most of the civilized races down in the veins it's designed to give a problematic social encounter with unexpected benefits for those who can roll with it. This one is basically better than the others because I think it's really clear what's going on and really easy and justifiable to make this as frustrating as possible.

Castillian Caddis Larvae: Gamebreaking monster idea which will be inevitably exciting to players (it's made out of magic weapons for you to have). I actually am not excited by the design but obv players will be, so.

Cholerids: Actually one of my favorite pariahs, just 100s of these things crawling around underground, and the writing of what they're whispering is just legitimately good literature... 

One thing I should mention: you should really read at least the first third of the supercaving biography "Blind Descent" before you run your game, it really explains a lot of the core concepts (with a lot of the same language) that Patrick uses in the book. Why cave logistics are what they are, why cavers have to climb under waterfalls, what the passage through caves actually looks and feels like: "Blind Descent" is a much better primer than what Patrick conveys, or, to be fairer, really helps fill out the details.

Civilopede: The "banner monster" for the book, I get worried sometimes that when I run these games like I did with Maze of the Blue Medusa that there would be just too many good ideas and everything would seem overdeveloped and it would turn into "see what kind of good ideas Peter has (bought)" rather than whatever rpging is supposed to be. Is it genuinely pushing the genre forward or is it just a treasure trove of good ideas? There is a distinction, and minus an actual application Veins is still questionable to me. I mean I have no idea if the 4D maps are at all practical, all the other reviews basically say this too. The "Civilopede" is a literal treasure trove of good ideas, such that I might just want to have it in a relatively ordinary fantasy setting, so that it can interrupt a boring world. But suffice to say me putting a lid on everyone's imagination is unwise... how will this go?

Cromagnogolem: basically as good as Alkalion or Cancer Bear, just a solid LOTFP monster with the capacity to change your campaign forever.

Egg Dead: I think about these guys all the time.

The Eigengrau: impossible to describe, really fucked up.

Fossil Vampire: I would change things about these, like just minus the valuable organs and teeth, just make 'em Fossil Vampires. Also the backstory is ridiculous, good.

Fungal Amassodile: ok, it's probably worth mentioning at this point that perhaps the fundamental creative method of Scraptrick are puns... they will creep up on you and are difficult to pronounce and are everywhere. Your eyes adjust to the darkness and you see more and more puns. The basis of many monsters are actually puns. It's the *punderdark*

The "Fungal Ambassodile" is an overdesigned campaign-changing monster slash possible antagonist that I would say is just on the edge of "overdesigned" and is a cool idea so I have nothing to say, it's exactly what you were promised when you bought the text

Funginid Slaves: important but I hate the disconnect between the general description and the specific descriptions here and I feel like there's some ongoing pun where Patrick is trying to describe the personalities of various real-world mushrooms without letting us in on it

Gegenschein: you have a simple solution: this guy swoops in and tackles the bigger monster. It's kind of like a joke on your players. It's a giant awful angel-bug. But really the important part is the "improvisation" ability should be something the players can have somehow... they should steal it.

Gilgamash: haha dumb joke whatever

Igneous Wrath: overdesigned hard to describe and stupid to run in one package, is still a cool idea and I'm sure if you like it you'll run it, as I'm typing this I kinda want to

Ignimbrite Mite: :( no 

Knotsmen: I first really hated the knotsmen, but I've started to come around. I don't know why but it's like a character race that your players can hate so much that it will be embarrassing and shameful to them. You're supposed to push those buttons. It's their whole point...

Lamenters: squish a bird and pop out a huge bloody oily mess, everything else is pretty disposable, just remember that part

Mantis Shrimp: I don't like this one. This is pretty deep in the barrel of monster ideas, it's an invisible shrimp that will kill you. I feel like we're reading "the monster manual" at this point.

Meanderthals: terrifying archaelogical messes of monsters, maybe hard to convey, an interesting idea if one that's trying to express something fundamentally literary and not inherently relatable

Mondmilch: the "good illustration" of the book, meaning the one which will always catch your eye, every time. The encounter doesn't make fuckin' sense and should just be changed. It's designed to be changed.

Olm: Swim into a sump and see a shitload of floating, lifeless, alien bodies. It's these guys's culture. That's ok, don't explain it, and when you actually meet the "alive" ones they're friendly... and kinda hot ;)

Oneirocetacean: I forget what this one is, and it's probably a pun. Ha ha look at that fucking name. Oh ok it's the nightmare whale.

Panic Attack Jack:  one of my personal favorite illustrations (pictured above), also the description of the five-pack P.A.J. is sooo goood

Phantom Hand of Gargas: it occurs to me that Patrick needed to pad out the book with a series of metaphysical psychotrauma monsters, which have effects that can't be quite explained, which tend to interact and break with the usual methods of describing reality. This is one of those

Psychomycosis Megaspore: the preview monster that started it all... basically a good tempate for why these are all good, which is: a weird interesting face with a complex and game-breaking backstory... every monster can, as Raggi says in the outro to Slügs, "potentially change the campaign".

Pyroclastic Ghouls: realllly good imagery, ghouls sauntering upside-down through lava, that's some Fleischer Brothers shit, basically a condensed horror story, reading this is a true pleasure :

Radiolarian: ughhh what the fuck hard to describe and WEIRD TOO WEIRD. this was in Deep Carbon Observatory

The Rapture: idk how much I like how this was implemented. Good that players have the option of calling it up. I've never ran a "fighting inside your mind" kinda combat, do those work well?? All in all I feel like this coulda been simplerly written especially since it's supposed to be a game mechanic.

Scissorfish: I don't really care at this point... yadda yadda

Silichominids: really funny awesome

Sonic Pigs!: overwritten to be quite honest

Spectre Of The Bröcken: see main review

Splinterlads: One of those metaphysical monsters that patrick's doing to push the limits of what roleplaying is I guess

Spotlight Dogs: Good, cool, wildly contests the game's concepts behind "the lume" but O K.

Still-Tor-Men: drop this on your players NEXT SESSION, WHATEVER SYSTEM WHATEVER SETTING why not not hing matters

Stormsheep: I feel like this is the fifth high-concept take on what could just be a normal background creature, do you see how these start to exhaust one? Then again it's a buffet you don't have to eat it all 

Tachyon Troll: see under "Stormsheep"

Tetracharcarodron: see "Oneirocetacean" I mean I guess it's a good thing that there are some names which are parodies of how bad/complicated scientific names are. Although naming like that seems inwards-facing and jerkoffy. whatever though humor is good. Actually there's a specific blend of humor in much of the horror of LOTFP, like all of Raggi's work, Pstuart's too. Anyway I remember this one, it's a shark inside a gelatin, again high-concept but something rather attractive and lovely.

Titanskull Hermit Crab: oh man, this one just feels like a missed opportunity. There's not much at all interesting about the actual crab, and it's just got this big 'ol environmental thing, cave of skulls, all of it's kind of boring, which is a shame, because there's potential in the relatively simple concept. Maybe this is a "fixer upper" which the open-ended skull abilities table might imply!

ToRaptoise: I also really love these.

Trilobite-Knight: really the soul of the book, the golden gleam in the murk... I blush when I think of them... we need the Trilobite-Knights in reality

Ultraviolet Butterfly: man I wanna say this is overwritten. Not really, bcuz it's all relevant detail, but like ugghhh. I guess too much other stuff points to this butterfly, like the practices of the Drow, and the butterfly lantern, which is kind of the point I think (a running theses for pstuart's work is that a single detail echoes out and effects everything) but I don't need this. 

Zombie Coral: I can't even finish reading this one... exhausting


AElf-Adal (drow): First part is throwaway stuff about "nightmare creatures" and second part is just that essay from that everyone loves

Deep Janeen: the good shit. the good shit

dErO: uggg I don't care
...but the pills are a good idea

Dvargir: ok their impulse to work is good because: "you see an empty extremely, insanely ornate city" is a good line to be able to back up with a culture. they're the ones building those... but the rest of it is a little too boring and unoriginal, it's not a passion project like the knotsmen.

Substratals: actually really boring! I mean there's just one central conceit which is cool that if any wizard happens to summon one of these they're in for a surprise, which is that the Xorn is actually Jack Bauer.
also concepting the center of the earth as hyper-dimensional is _great_

Gnonmen: unfortunately so bland. The real issue here is that to get to the meat of who they are you have to get past the fact that their whole deal is they have no personality. The meat is: they have weird and maybe noble values. In my campaign bad things would always be happening to them, they are the nerds in the lunchroom.

wait I forgot the Trogloraptor! It's is really good, and even for being high concept has a classic vibe that's universally understandable.  my applause

* * *

this book is scary, b.c. the ideas are insane, and have merit, and it's all unique. I don't know if we're gonna run these in the future or not. It's kinda outside history-- although imagine what a (good) history it will be if we do run it!

Probably the scariest idea: navigating caves... it's hard to map let alone visually describe caves.

†full disclosure: I've communicated with a bunch of the people who worked on this book, to good and bad and middling effect (blocked by Zak, my bad)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

eleventh post

below are some reviews for films as of late most of which I haven't seen yet.

major issues (predictions):
scenes where they go shopping for clothes are supposed to be funny but aren't
gal gadot can't really act (too foreign?)
the whole "olympian" thing cramps everyone's style
action is boring and dumb and wonder woman is contrived


humor is too self-parodic
chris pratt has to do scenes where he's being serious
all the dialogue is josh wheadon dialogue
baby groot is in it

boss baby:

probably a pretty good movie

alien covenant:
I saw it, it was bad

captain underpants:

it's a kids movie so it's not gonna be fun to watch also the animation looks BORING

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tenth post

review of “tusk”

kevin smith has made some other movies probably that are like this. I couldn’t get through “clerks”. The scene introducing Veronica was like, ok, more of that fun-but-cool 90’s wholesomeness stuff that was like Slipknot. You know, not too far from the christians, kinda surburban punk.

I watched “Tusk” on the basis of: someone told me to get high and watch it, and it had the “I’m a mac” guy in it. Well suffice to say folks getting my friends extremely high and watching the film was a repeat of my usually tendency to try and force people to watch terrifying and long films. Basically there’s a scene in “Tusk” which is an editor’s joke that goes on for I think twenty-thirty minutes and it’s just one of the intro scenes of the movie.

My main takeaway that I explained to my twin high after we got home was that “Tusk” was Kevin Smith’s warning to Millenials that they were not exempt from the pain in the world. Justin Long and Haley Joel Osmont (thank god) run a podcast called the “Not-See” party, so that is like a reference to the unimaginable pain and horror that Justin Long will go through in the film. It’s like comedy for the sake of being mean, contained in the film, it’s aspirational but in a box. You get the idea.

Kevin Smith though wouldn’t say that, he would probably just be all about taking me to task over the surburban punk bit, he’s like “I’ve got friends who did fucked up stuff, I live an original life” and I’m like yeah well we’re in the biggest heroin crisis we’ve ever seen right now, people are living traumatic lives, yadda yadda, turn me into a walrus I guess.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ninth Post



Saunders has a good premise: the voices used by civil war documentaries to read letters etc. are ghosts, who float around and have their own objectives re: their dead stories

So he (Saunders) can intermingle ghost-speak with actual civil war quotes and it's all peachy

Combine this with the pathos of Lincoln with a dead kid and you're good: this is the first half of the book


George Saunders doesn't know how to do the second half of a novel-length book, so he has the ghosts physically struggle with one another over the soul of dead Willie Lincoln

So the documentary-voice thing is used to display action scenes between metaphysical entities

Thus "ghost karate": we're seeing spiritual beings interact combatically as if they had physical constraints

But the wider issue is, why are we seeing this? Why aren't the concerns of the living as they ripple out thru the dead the focus? It's premises is to be a story about grief... Saunders falls back disastrously into physical struggle (between ghosts)

Simillarly the resolution of all the ghost's stories is missing something, I guess it assumes that I love these ghost characters

What I love is the Lincoln guy who isn't in La La Land and is dealing with real historic grief, the props of spirits being a means to creatively interact with that humanity

Basically the metaphysical premises is forgotten and wasted


We should have seen Mary Todd Lincoln's death also and the compounding f/x on Abe

I don't know why the whole action had to happen in one evening... Feels rushed and overpacked

Instead of physical action resolving all this (we need to push the boy-ghost into  lincoln's body) there should have been some larger spiritual resolution*

*there was a spiritual resolution also, but I'm saying there shouldn't have been a physical one; the spiritual resolution should have brought the overall resolution

Lincoln's crisis of conciousness re: the civil war should have been played out over a longer timespan to have more development(??)

Saunders shouldn't have mistaken his characters for cute personalities who all need a beginning middle and end and instead have used them provisionally, as per their usefulness**

**the book is actually shockingly amateur at times because of this: story becomes about cutesy ghost character arcs instead of... something better like the mind of lincoln... or idk the war


George Saunders is a master of putting prose together

With a few simple strokes he constructs interesting and familiar character settings

So: a civil war grave of ghosts, civilwarland (in bad decline), even the mind of a wimpy kidnapper

Famously he is able to put corporate culture pop psychology in the mouth of slavers... "Satirist" indeed...

But he doesn't have the heart to write 2 stories for one novel... he can only write "one story"

Like the telling of a joke, all the characters here conclude at the punchline... there is no "second act"

So "Lincoln in the Bardo" is an extremelly excellent novella with like a reptillian no-worky second book. I would call it a shame but I love to tear down authors. I'm a monster. 2 stars