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Maps of some classic dungeons, 2: karst cave systems

December 22, 2019 3 comments

For just about as long as there have been cave dungeons, there have been people complaining that everyone does them wrong – that caves pose their own unique natural hazards and challenges, and that they’re way more interesting than 10′ corridors.
…and now I’m going to join them. Here I’m going to talk about (mostly) natural caverns. Mines and carved architecture deserve their own posts (and may get them, eventually).

One publication that doesn’t get it all wrong is Patrick and Scrap’s Veins of the Earth, which should get you back into caving after you were turned off it by the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide all those years ago.

Already know all about this? Here, have some maps. Note how the mapper has to deal with bits of cave crossing and recrossing at different heights.

Still want more help?

In brief, the cool things I know about caves are: 
1. they’re naturally totally dark BUT can have really, really long sight lines, so one sniper with infravision should be able to hold a whole underground river complex.
lady_harbor_interior_800p
Except;

2. they tend to be really complex, ruffled, full of stalactites and overhangs and slippery bits and uneven floor, so you can probably hide a battalion in one and advance in little scurries and jumps.
Actun-Tunichil-Muknal-Cave-stalag.jpg
So your lone sniper had better have a back door out, because a determined assault will always get them.
Except;

3. they’re full of surprise hidey-holes, some of which are only accessible by climbing up sheer cliffs or going underwater.
water link.jpg

Oh yeah, right: many, many caves have interesting water features, like rivers and flash flooding, and constant drip-drip-dripping from aquifers closer to the surface, which in theory you might think you could trace to the surface, but they’re completely treacherous, because the water takes weird snaky paths to get to you, which might actually delay it by a few centuries on the way down.
(oh yeah and: cave diving is about as dangerous as skydiving while firefighting in a phone box.)

So water (or other fluid) keeps the air pockets of cave chambers separate, so those chambers can be filled with choking smoke or depleted of oxygen or contain pockets of poison gas.

And you think you’ve got to the deepest point but then;

4. they’re prone to suddenly opening out into giant cathedral chambers where a whole city can hide and you wonder why the soaring ceiling hasn’t opened up to the sky in a sinkhole yet.
onondaga state park cave
bridge
malaysiabatu
And you also wonder how all the city-builders found this subterranean flask-hole, because you wouldn’t have stumbled across it (and nearly died getting in) if you hadn’t been pursued by armies of ninja goblins (or in my case been taken in by a tourist guide).

All this is because most big caves happen in karst country – where the local rock is a mix of limestone and something harder, but then water erosion strips the limestone out, leaving behind wild bubble and flask caverns, connected by narrow, twisty passages.
karst.jpg

Natural karst tends to happen in limestone but it could occur anywhere you have mixed domains of hard and soft material – take the alternating layers of cooled lava and volcanic ash in Cappadocia, for example, where little chips remaining from a thin layer of basalt protect the soft tufa underneath them from being washed away in the rain:
cave-dwellings-site-churches-homes-monks-Cappadocia.jpg
(The great thing about ash is that you can carve it easily, so now you have rabbit warrens scooped out in your cave country. The bad thing about it is, once you’ve carved it, water can get in and then freeze in winter, forcing cracks and collapses. Which, for spontaneous opening of ancient dungeons, is kind of promising.)

…or what about post-apocalyptic deserts, where diggable sand and branching qanats lurk under the blasted, glassy surface?
qanat

Here are some things everyone should be doing with caves:
– underwater rivers mean underwater boats, which you row or punt. Being in a boat means being vulnerable to missile fire.
boat_padirac
If they’re kayaks, you can totally roll them over and keep going through totally submerged passages, rolling back up where the ceiling allows.
padirac_boat_less_atmos_mor_info
(There’s a Sindbad story about this, where he comes up miles away from where he went into the cave, having followed an aquifer. It’s a one-way journey: the current is way too strong and the underwater passages too long to even think about trying to swim back.)

– narrow squeezes and swimming mean taking off your armor. All the best caves have rivers, every big cave has had cave-ins. I have been through a gap in the ATM cave in Belize where the only way to pass was to squeeze your neck through the narrow point between two fallen rocks, and to rotate your torso as you did so. I remember thinking “I don’t think there’s any way to get a breastplate in here.” And on the other side, the cave carried on for 5 miles, including a couple of caverns full of sacrifices of clay pots and a few bodies. So somebody managed to drag stuff in there.
ATM_skeleton.jpg

– climbing after the swimming means soft or no shoes, to feel your way along narrow ledges. Even if you want to stick to the “floor” of a karst cave, you’ll probably do a lot of climbing. Floors tend to be littered with giant boulders from old cave-ins, or covered in shallow pools of chalky water that could be hiding anything, and cavern chambers are fairly often inconveniently placed at the top of exhaustingly long, ridiculously steep, glass-slippery stone slides with water running down them.
Here’s where you deal with the whole “how much equipment do I have?” question. The answer is: as much as you can swim and climb up slippery cliffs in. Whenever you’re in water, remember that the floor could disappear at any moment (karst bubble chambers, right? Also loose rocks wind up in the rivers, so footing is unreliable) so you’d better be buoyant.
The more detailed answer is: sure, by all means bring a load of equipment with you, in waterproof backpacks that float, with loads of rope and torches, and have the whole team relay that luggage to safe points and set up camps after every serious squeeze. Map and hammer in guide ropes and do all the professional taming of the underworld you can. But also remember, you may be under fire, and big cave systems can follow rivers for 30 miles or more underground, so torch longevity is a real issue.  You probably want to be thinking about extending your overall exploration by like a mile a day, then retreating to camp, and maintaining constant supply lines to the surface. 20 people should be enough if you don’t meet serious resistance. Actually, now I’m excited about running a game of slow exploration and fast retreats: first you spend a load of time really understanding and preparing the ground, then you get chased back over it at breakneck speed, using routes you yourself built: the players are apprentices in an alien environment but masters of their own constructions.

– caves can be full of environmental treasure. Delicate spindly stalactites are beautiful, take millions of years to form, and are made out of minerals carried by water (or other solvents) from the inaccessible rock all around, so they tend to store up stuff gathered from the surroundings. Like for example magical essence from the demon killed centuries ago, or traces of rare isotopes from before The Fall.
tiny stalactites of padirac.jpgBig stalactites are also great cover. And if you have no respect for strange aeons, you can saw through them to look at deep time and figure out the valley you’re in is a ticking time bomb of volcanic activity or something.
And unrestricted time + slow drying out can lead to some insane crystal formations:
Cave-of-the-crystals
(note: crystals tend to be strikingly pretty, valuable, and sacred. Their regular structures mean they also tend to resonate when struck. ……..rock music)

As for life, you don’t need me to tell you about exciting subterranean fungus colonies or slime molds or blind fish or bats, but what about olms and 200-year-old salamanders – creatures that time forgot? Because….

– caves are time capsules. Stuff in them tends lie out of the sight of man for centuries.  Sacred texts, richly-appointed burials, sacrifices, statues, murals, dragon eggs. During those centuries, treasures are liable to get incorporated into the floor, as the cave floods and drains periodically, bringing minerals that crystallize as the waters subside. You may need a pick-axe. And regular deghosting.
atm-cave-belize-skull-pots-

– caves are mostly too complex, too stressful, and too secretive to be mapped on any convenient time scale.
“But Richard,” you whine, “my players want to map! On squared paper. That’s why we mostly do dungeons with 60′ corridors.”
Just don’t. Stay with me here – use different language. It’s not true to the experience of caving to say “the chamber is 60′ by 40′ with a 20′ ceiling, exits to the north, south and northeast.” NO. The cave is actually a completely mysterious space, wider than you could throw a shoe, full of interrupting, scalloped columns and silty pools, with a ceiling that’s mostly dark but has some glistening patches in it. You can see the river runs forward (no compass) and there’s a branching passage off to the right, but getting up into it means finding a path up 12′ or so of smooth rock surface, or trying to climb up a shallow but sharp-looking rock ridge, right round the edge of the cavern. Dark patches on the other side of the river might be entrances to other passages or just shadows cast by fallen rocks. You wanna trace your way back out of here? Bring a long ball of string with you.

Treat the cave as a point crawl or circuit diagram, with chambers connected by lines, and do what explorers did before the last few decades – just give the chambers evocative names, so the players tell them apart by reputation – Dead Drop, the Chimney, the Cathedral. Play on associative memory – a raised space in the middle of the Cathedral is obviously the Altar.

In short, go climb around some caves. There’s really no substitute for personal experience here (a two-edged sword, because if you do go caving, forever afterwards you’ll be saying yeah, words can’t really do it justice…). If you possibly can, it’s totally worth visiting even one big cave complex.

Sac Actun near the Mayan city of Tulun in south Mexico is completely flooded nowadays, but the maps are still worth your time, whether you want to fill it with Deep Ones/Yuan Ti or drain it and use it as a “straightforward” dungeon.
Sac_Actun_2002.png

sac_actun_underwater_caves.jpg

sac actun pic…yes, it actually is that blue.

Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in Belize provided many of the photos in this post. The entrances, one above the other with a colony of bats, are waiting to be used for an Indiana Jones location shot:
ATM entranceActun-Tunichil-Muknal-Courtesy-of-Dr-Jaime-Awe-director-of-the-WBRCP.png

Gouffre de Paridac, which I’ve already mentioned, is in the south of France. And if you’ve been putting off going to the south of France for any reason other than lack of money, I just have to ask why?:
padirac map and elev.jpg
Closer to home for USians, obviously you know about Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I hear Missouri also has a wealth of caves to explore. And I learned about NY’s Howe Caverns while writing this post. In Britain, I hear Yorkshire and the Peak District have good caves. I’m more familiar with the Cheddar Showcaves and Wookey Hole, which are worth a look, even if they’re pretty small potatoes (and really touristy. Like, cheesy not just because of the cheddar) compared with France’s riches:
wookey-hole-1.jpg
wookey hole.jpg…and never again treat a cave like a wobbly-walled corner of the dungeon.
star-trek-the-devil-in-the-dark

 

Rationalist vs Empiricist Cartographies

January 15, 2019 6 comments

Some years ago I got into a massive misunderstanding with a smart, logical cartography buff about the limits of rationalism in map-making. I was contrasting rationalism with empiricism and saying the former played an important role in the history of cartographic disasters. They thought I was in favour of irrationalism and labeled me a flat Earther. So it goes across the social media beach.

Where empiricists rely on direct observation for making their maps, measuring and recording coastlines, verifying distances by traveling multiple routes, etc., (philosophical) rationalists use their reason and imagination to decide that there must be e.g. a Counterweight Continent or some place for the world’s oceans to drain into or a meaningful set of Antipodes on the other side of the world from major cities, where you could maybe find their opposites or listen through the earth to spy on their business or otherwise act on them at a distance.

nolin-world-wall-map-o344-For all this and more, this Nolin world map from 1708s (still for sale in the 1790s, in various hand-coloured versions) is a treasure trove. It features a vague but confident Northwest Passage connecting Hudson’s Bay to the Pacific via Estotiland (an apocryphal version of Viking Vinland), Antipodes conveniently marked for the enterprising Telluric surfer, and a gigantic Terra Australis Incognita, encompassing Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and a lot of the Southern Ocean.

These were ideas that either made sense to French cartographers or were too appealing to let go of – in 1708 New France encompassed Hudson’s Bay and, theoretically, most of the northern part of North America. A direct route to China that circumvented Spanish waters was the kind of thing that had to be true, economically and by the divine right of Louis XIV. Between the Revolution and the sale of Louisiana, the Republic could dream again of a Sino-French naval alliance against the perfidious English and uppity Americans. Before that, visions of enlisting Prester John’s help against the Moors and Spaniards inspired King Manuel I of Portugal to send a series of navigators around the bottom end of Africa. It stood to reason that the empires of the ungodly Hispanomoors must be bounded by True Christian goodness.

Counter-Colonial Heistcrawl, of course, makes extensive use of both rationalist and empiricist cartographies. It is currently undecided about adopting a Copenhagen interpretation to geography: the sea is wide and definitive means of location are lacking. Maybe that phantom island is misidentified, maybe it’s still out there, somewhere, and you’re just looking in the wrong place. The Isle of Pines, a celebrated free-love paradise first written about in 1667, was finally located (not without violence – cartographic, anthropological, anti-socialist, and bloody) in New Caledonia. Maybe that fabled fairyland of Calyferne (California) will yet conform to its poetic image and turn out to be an island.

(I can’t tell what this is from here, I don’t seem to have brought the right sort of telescope)

“First, eliminate the impossible.”

December 5, 2018 Leave a comment

“First, eliminate the impossible.”
Sherlock Holmes, addressing the Miskatonic University graduating class.

“Then report immediately to the decontamination unit on level one. Under no circumstances should you approach the library, even… especially if you feel you suddenly understand something in the restricted section.”

I have a shameful impulse to run League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Cthulhu by Gaslight. I imagine it will pass.

A fascinating little biography of the creator of the Theremin

November 27, 2018 1 comment

A fascinating little biography via Adam Black.

After his successful tour of Russia, in the late 1920s Lenin sent Theremin to Western Europe, where the legend of his mysterious instrument quickly grew. “Theremin gathered huge crowds, because it was such a fascinating thing to see this man stand in front of what looked like a little wood writing desk with two metal antennas, and with nothing but his hands in mid-air, produce these melodies, sounding like a soprano singing,” Glinsky explains. “It was considered magic at the time.”

What audiences didn’t know was that Theremin was already working as a spy for the Soviet regime. While he wowed crowds with his ghostly tunes, played on what was then called the Thereminvox, or “Theremin’s voice,” he kept his eye out for any information that might be useful to report back to his homeland. “This was the great ruse, because everybody was so focused on this magician pulling music out of thin air that he was able to gain access to industrial places and patent offices and all sorts of things,” explains Glinsky.

While living in America, the gap between Theremin’s two lives grew more dramatic. While he cavorted in New York with the likes of Albert Einstein, taught the theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore and entered into a controversial marriage with the African-American prima ballerina Lavinia Williams, his espionage mission continued.

Though the theremin’s influence continued to grow in the US, it had no effect on the life of its creator, who after his return to the USSR was caught up in Stalin’s purges and sent to a Siberian gulag. Theremin was lucky – unlike the millions who died in these labour camps, he was released after three months, as the Soviet war effort ramped up and the government realized they might actually need some of the scientists they’d banished. So officials rounded up Theremin and others and sent them to a sharashka, a prison where scientists from a variety of fields were forced to invent and research for the Soviet regime.

It was there that Theremin invented the other device for which he’s remembered. The Great Seal Bug, alternately known as “The Thing,” was an ingenious invention, a passive bug placed inside a wood carving of the Great Seal of the United States and presented to Averell Harriman, the American ambassador to Moscow, by the Soviet equivalent of Boy Scouts. Harriman happily hung the spy device on his wall. The bug was undetectable to the sweepers that were used to find such devices at the time, as it used no electricity. Spies a few houses down from the embassy would point a microwave beam in the direction of the seal, activating a small antenna that picked up noises in a resonant cavity carved out of the seal’s bald eagle’s beak. When turned on, the bug broadcast noises in Harriman’s office for anyone with a radio receiver to hear. The bug remained, unexposed, for seven years, before conversations were picked up accidentally by a British radio operator nearby, who alerted authorities and prompted an investigation.

http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2017/10/theremin-instrumental-instruments

A “hotspot” is melting the base of the Antarctic Ice Sheet at the South Pole. The area affected is three times that of Greater London. Scientists suspect a combination of unusually radioactive rocks and geothermal springs may be responsible.

November 20, 2018 1 comment

A “hotspot” is melting the base of the Antarctic Ice Sheet at the South Pole. The area affected is three times that of Greater London. Scientists suspect a combination of unusually radioactive rocks and geothermal springs may be responsible.

The warm bedrock is removing some 6mm a year from the underside of the 3km-thick ice sheet, producing a mass of meltwater that then flows away through sub-glacial rivers and lakes towards the continent’s coastline. The roughly 100km-by-50km hotspot came to light when researchers examined radar images of the ice sheet at 88 degrees South. This revealed a startling sagging in the ice layers directly above the hotspot.

_Antarctica is in no danger of melting away as a result of this hotspot.
In the grand scheme of things, the area affected and the amount of melting is simply too small to have a significant impact. But the knowledge adds to our understanding of the under-ice hydrology of the continent. There is vast network of sub-glacial rivers and lakes in Antarctica and they influence the way the ice sheet moves above them._

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46202255

one for Paolo Greco: #itsMageblade!time

October 11, 2018 Leave a comment
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All games are theories about the world

October 10, 2018 2 comments

1. The announcement that G+ is going to shut down reminded me that I should’ve always been posting everything here and just linking to it on G+. And if I didn’t have anything worth writing on the blog then maybe I didn’t have anything worth writing. This will be the new policy going forward, we’ll see if I can stick to it.

2. I’m planning to rescue any actual creative work I did on G+ and repost it over here so that it doesn’t just get deleted. I don’t know when, but it should give the blog a weirdly healthy look for a while, like a septuagenarian with a facelift and cortisone injections.

3. Here’s the actual post:

I’ve been writing some sailing ship combat rules and playing some sailing ship combat games, and it’s reminded me of how good Civilization (5) is.

All rules present a model of the world, which is to say a theory about it. When you play the rules you explore the theory. Really good, ingeniously written rules help you understand the theory. If they’re informed by smart theories, they might even teach you something about the subject at hand. But this hardly ever happens, especially in video games, because there are lots of competing interests demanding stuff from the rules that don’t have anything to do with theory building.
– They have to present a certain incline of learning curve or the player won’t bother with them.
– They have to offer frequent little stresses and rewards or the player will get bored.
– There always has to be a path to victory, but not too broad a path.
And the interface has another set of rules it needs to follow – it needs to be quickly grasped and then it needs to disappear, letting the game shine through.

There are lots of failure modes that video game rules tend to fall into, but maybe the most common is that the stress/reward structure and the “feel” of the interface tend to win all arguments, so that the experience of playing the game ends up having nothing to do with the theory it wants to have. And this tends to happen in particular with ship combat games. Interfaces get complex quickly, if they try to represent the systems of the ship, the weather, and the tactical space. Sea battles don’t happen at a pace that’s satisfying for a twitchy action game – the haptics of controller-manipulation are not naturally fitted to the anxieties of ship captains. A ship shouldn’t feel like a car – if it does, it’ll be a frustratingly unresponsive one.

The Pirate: Caribbean Hunt is a great example. The theory is, you can command a fleet of ships, get involved in big, 18th century naval battles, deploy round, chain and grape shot in historically plausible ways, and revel in the life of a sea captain (inevitably a pirate, because after all you’re a gamer and therefore a greedy libertarian) – swabbing blood off the decks and avoiding going into irons and getting the weather gage and so on. And almost all the ingredients are presented to let you do that – combat kills lots of people, whom you keeping needing to replace. Not only is it annoyingly impossible to sail into wind, the big ships even make you fiddle with the sails a bit to turn faster. The economics of ship upkeep and repairing battle damage are just present enough to keep you busy without becoming a big chore. So far, so good.

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.55.38 AMScreenshot

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 10.11.53 AM.pngSource material

But the actual fighting… that’s where the theory breaks down. Because real sea battles are all about making less bad decisions than your opponents. There aren’t many repeatable tactical flourishes that will let you get out unscathed, instead it’s about showing up with overwhelming force, having better supplies, constraining your enemy’s movements, and deciding what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to win. Sometimes you need to charge in and board before they can blast you out of the water, sometimes you need to hold them off while you do the blasting. Nelson said he owed his success to his love of gambling – once you’ve committed your forces, you generally can’t extricate them again without catastrophic losses. Most of all if you’re in a sloop and they’re in a frigate, you’d better hide behind some islands or pretend to be a merchant of a friendly power or something.

The Pirate isn’t going to commit to that, so its battles inevitably become this:
Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.56.39 AM

you running away just a little bit faster than the enemy (this is a corvette, the fastest ship in the game, indestructible in a player’s hands), throwing gunpowder barrels off the transom for the other force to run over.

(Historical note: sea mines did exist from the 19th century on, but they were big bulky purpose-built things and only sometimes worked. Nobody has ever won a sea battle by heaving barrels of gunpowder into the water for the enemy to run over.)

If you don’t use the gunpowder barrel trick, you can try this:Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.58.43 AM.pngrunning away and turning to shoot occasionally. As long as you’re faster, the only limit here is your ammunition and your patience.

So this has 3 basic problems:

1. it’s boring – the very thing the designers didn’t want – because the smart way to win every battle is to spend hours doing repetitive, fairly easy things: run away, turn, fire, barrel, run away, turn, fire, barrel. (Don’t even get me started on why I don’t have a fleet – it’s because the AI for your other ships is so miserable that they just get in the way.)
2. it’s not what they sold you. This is not piracy, even if they gave you a bunch of the trappings. This is a reskin of a ski slalom game.
3. if you have any theory of ship combat you might bring as a player, it’s no use to you, because the theory they wanted to present has been abandoned in favor of some other emergent theory they didn’t even know they had – about what the player will tolerate in terms of deadliness and difficulty/failure as a learning mode. About how you should be able to fight your way up from small ships to big ones, rather than getting those bigger ships by negotiating or trickery or night-time theft.

Civilization, on the other hand, is all about its theories. And although some of those are suspect, its basic idea of combat is good – even illuminating. It’s all about concentration of force (the very thing The Pirate promises with its Line of Battle dressing but doesn’t deliver with its nugatory fleet command system).
Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.45.19 AM.pngCiv’s artillery units are weak and slow, so you keep them behind your infantry. Its shock troops can take and deal a lot of damage, but they’ll get slaughtered if they’re not adequately defended by ranged weapons. Its ranged units are only strong when defended by fortifications. The way to win is to deploy all of that quickly, architecturally, so that you rain the combined forces of several units down on an isolated enemy piece, so that each individual battle is short, so you overwhelm the enemy locally (defeat them in detail), and so you don’t get bogged down over giant fronts in equal exchanges that just kill lots of people on both sides.

It’s simple, it’s abstract, it’s obviously not aiming for realism… but it feels right and it feels like it can teach you stuff about historical battles. Force concentration is how smaller Roman squares broke up enormous Greek formations. Missile support won the Battle of Agincourt, grave of the French cavalry. The theories are clear, applicable, and they’ve survived through the whole game’s development.

There are concessions – Civ plays out over millenia and no real country has military units more than a couple of hundred years old, and those that are don’t actually level up through all that time, so this Supermurderer Class Battlecruiser is strictly ahistorical, a sop to players who get sentimental about their units:Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.31.04 AM
(that’s the good ship Semarang, evolved up Pokemon style from this ancient galley:)Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.31.37 AM
and when the theories do break down – when the battles get so huge as to be unwieldy – they decay more or less gracefully, not catastrophically. The question of who will win the exchange below comes down to the order in which units move and shoot, and the unpredictable performance of the submarines… the sort of thing people actually wrote about WW2 naval battles.Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.44.34 AM.png

I guess only playtesting will tell me if the rules I’m writing are more like The Pirate or more like Civ… but I’m making a good faith effort to write a game theory that will deliver historical-type outcomes.

So this is a call for playtesters – the sort who will test the theories, do the stupid things that exploit the rules, and show me what the rules actually say, rather than the kind who will imagine co-operatively with me and try to behave like historical captains. If you’re interested in being such a tester – and if you can be patient, because there may well be months between sessions, then I’d like to hear from you.

I don’t know where I’ll land yet, but for now I’m checking each of these every few days:

richardg@pluspora.com
mewe.com/i/richard.g
richardg.dreamwidth.org

Oh yeah, and The Pirate? After I figured out how to beat it, I devoted my time to assembling a museum collection of ships in Miami.
Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.29.12 AM.png
Of these, the 1st Rate Liverpool is useful only as a troop transporter. The faster-turning xebec and corvette are the conquerors.

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 9.30.07 AM.png
The Pirate says it’s 1770 but it has galleasses, fluyts, clippers and paddlesteamers. So I guess that’s 1770 +/- 100 years.

 

Now that g+ is officially closing down, I have adopted the following alter egos:

October 8, 2018 1 comment

Now that g+ is officially closing down, I have adopted the following alter egos:

Richard.G on MeWe,
richardg@pluspora.com

I don’t know which one of these I’ll settle down as, but you should be able to find me if you want to with that.
At each of those places I have some variant on this identifying text:

Hi, this is Richard G from Google+
You may also know me as the guy who runs lurkerablog.wordpress.com and Counter-colonial Heistcrawl and Tartary.

Wandering Netsuke-carver

September 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Wandering Netsuke-carver

Variant Bard. Instead of playing music, he quickly carves purse weights that contain spells – when the spell is cast, the weight crumbles. These netsuke may be kept or given away.
Nobody may carry more than one netsuke at a time because that would be ridiculous.
The carver is a man of few words. Precisely, not more than 20 per session.

Time is a flat circle, extinction inevitable

September 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Some years ago I started planning a time traveling campaign that never got off the ground. There was going to be a big reveal, that time was cyclical – if you jumped forward far enough (somewhere between 100 and 200 years) suddenly the world looked like it did some millions of years in the past, because humans made it that way, either through failure or design.

Once I’d muscled past my natural pessimism I started to think of what would happen next – did the humans die out or is something wonderful and uncharted going on or both?

Today my eldest showed me the video below and Paolo Greco posted a thing about political brainwashing and another brick added itself to this campaign.

1. in 2019 the Trumpkinator is perfected: now viral messages delivered via youtube can make up to 90% of the population delusional and/or adjust their psyches just enough that they vote for any arbitrary set of signifiers.

2. in 3024 society has rebuilt to the point where biologists are able to track the effects of Trumpkination in the blood stream – elevated levels of corn whisky and mutant white blood cells. Meanwhile autonomous drone technology has advanced to the point where the drones are so tiny as to be basically free, self-replicating, and self-feeding.

3. In 3025 the biologists release their answer to Trumpkination – a simple biobot that can sample the population and eliminate Trumpkins using an engineered microbe that induces lethargy and seizures to discourage voting, then kills after a short verification period – so the authors of the Detrumpkinator can verify that they’ve got the right target and decide whether to administer an antidote.

Left alone they mutated, of course, as did the humans. We now know the 3 inventions as mosquitoes, malaria and chinchona.