Saturday, 1 October 2022


Still Life with a Dead Bird by Marina Dormidontova

 It's good to have a filter. Here's what would happen if I did not.

  1. OSR IS AN OPERATING SYSTEM: there's a post in this, it may become one. What FKR newbies don't realise is that old school D&D is just a framing device. DISCUSS. 2022.09.02

  2. Is Chris Bisette going to re-release REGIDE to coincide with the death of the Queen? I'm not on twitter any more, suppose I will never know. 2022.09.08

  3. BRIEF DISCORD EXCHANGE WITH THRONE OF SALT a few months ago: OSR = fash is obviously a dumb take, but there's definitely more extreme right-wingers into old school games than... lyric games, for example. But... but what if fascists were making lyric games? Ezra Pound's cantos on itch. Fuck, it exists now, doesn't it? 2022.09.16

  4. But of course this doesn't happen, because what attracted modernists like Pound to fascism was that it dressed itself as something "new", when of course it is inherently reactionary. Contemporary fascist poetry almost certainly rhymes. i have no interest in researching this topic further.  2022.09.16

  5. Is poetry in games the opposite of system first?  2022.09.17

  6. Now that the queen is dead, is it open season on swans? Literal dead birds. 2022.09.18

  7. There are gam-jam spammers on itch. Fucking gross. 2022.09.19

  8. When you're counting aloud and then someone starts chiming in with random numbers because they think it's hilarious [insert gif or meme here]. 2022.09.20

  9. Someone on RRD referred to Grant Howitt's one-page RPGs as "playable shitposts". I don't think I will ever say anything as clever or insightful. 2022.09.22

  10. What I hate about fantasy fiction: the prose, the characterisation, the granular worldbuilding, the dialogue attribution, the dialogue... 2022.09.22

  11. What I hate about 5e products: they read like they are written by freelancers revving up for their First Fantasy Novel. 2022.09.22

  12. What I love about the indie-OSR RPG scene: things are made with love. Sometimes that love is careless, but it is always passionate. The luminaries of that scene (for me this would be Patrick Stuart, Zedeck Siew and Emmy Allen) are the inverse of the WotC staff writer: they could be writing conventional literature but instead they're making RPG material. We are the richer for it (not that we wouldn't if we were consuming their literary output, but I am grateful for their choices) 2022.09.23

  13. A driving force in OSR gaming rarely mentioned: geography. NB: this is not merely the map (which is never the territory), it is everything supporting it (hooks, rumours, wandering monsters/encounters etc.). Again, nod to FKR: we are also playing worlds. Post? 2022.09.23

  14. Why "magic items" and not "magical items"? 2022.09.23

  15. Swimming at the local pool, mind wandering to 1980s James Cameron classic The Abyss. Would make a great Mothership scenario (or Those Dark Places or similar). 2022.09.24

  16. Noting the above, should post a review/ read-through of Those Dark Places soon. I've had it for over a year! 2022.09.24

  17. Thinking about OSR horror a little more, thinking my most successful experience of this was Arnold Kemp's Lair of the Lamb. Characters begin deprived of all their resources (including light!) and have to deal with a very powerful individual monster. Thought about a sci-fi adaptation re-skin: a colony ship is guided by its onboard AI to crash land onto a habitable world. The crew's cryosleep chamber is partially buried, while the colonists are all woken up and begin to settle the planet. The crashed ship becomes the temple at the centre of their burgeoning community, worshipping the corrupted AI. Centuries pass and something awakens the crew, amnesiac and malnourished deep in the half-buried bowels of the ship, stalked by... well, whatever the equivalent of "The Lamb" would be in this scenario. 2022.09.24

  18. Jokes about aggressive Duolingo phone notifications are just the 2022 version of Microsoft Paperclip Assistant jokes. I still make them though. 28.09.2022

  19. If the a) universe is inside a black hole and b) the universe is a simulation... does this mean black holes are the hardware upon which simulations are run? 29.09.2022

  20. Play-by-post... but a series of video or audio casts, more in common with an old-school chess-by-mail game. 29.09.2022

  21. I really want to make something for this game jam:
...and I may yet do so! Many thanks for reading the sum [disappointing] total of my September brain-vomit, more dead birds going out at the end of next month... happy October!

- Sofinho

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  1. 20 sounds interesting! Or one could do it over blogs, and the DM picks player input at random. Almost like ”Twitch plays Pokemon”, only ”Blogspot plays D&D”

    1. Hmm not familiar with Twitch plays Pokemon, I shall investigate! I'm quite interested in other options for multimedia/cross-platform play beyond the standard VTT and PbP approach.

  2. Def feeling you on 10 there. I suspect that a lot of the issues I have with those particular approaches to fantasy, beyond the fact that it's just kinda lifeless and sucks to read, is that it feels like a spiritual cousin to the attitudes of colonial sociological/anthropological work on magic. Behind the fear of paradoxical elements in a world’s construction and under the need to regularize every pointless bit of encyclopedic lore is the shade of a younger Lévy-Bruhl, writing that the key difference between “prelogical thinking of primitive man” and us fine modern folk is an ability to tolerate inconsistency - “It is therefore permissible to believe that, the more carefully one collects data, the more one detaches them from the animist interpretation which observers have only too frequently incorporated with them, even unconsciously, the more evident it will appear that the mentality of primitives, being mystic, is necessarily prelogical also: which means that, preoccupied above all with the mystic powers and properties of persons and things, it conceives of their relations under the law of participation without troubling about contradictions which rational thought cannot possibly tolerate.” It’s the flip side of the taxonomizing impulse Zedeck Siew discussed in his recent post: an ability to live with paradox (and intellectual fluidity more broadly) is reinterpreted as the eternal childhood of the ignorant, sometimes explicitly with guys like Heinz Werner and the “magical adolescent.” The fact that the sentiment gets reincorporated into media directly interacting with magic is one of the sickest jokes yet. TBF the comparison is kind of insulting to Lévy-Bruhl, who for all his flaws was intensely critical of his own work, developed some rather prescient ideas towards the end of his life, and probably had more self-awareness in his beard than the authors behind that kind of wack joyless writing do as a collective. Anyways, thanks for being a counterpoint to that in your own work, particularly w/r/t religious thinking.

    1. First of all, thank you kindly for the compliment: though I'm not sure I always achieve it, being a counterpoint to anally retentive taxonomy remains an aspiration. It is a challenge though: I'm a white 41-year-old male and the unconscious biases are pretty strong.

      But yes, that particular Zedeck post is wholly apposite, and the connection you establish between nerdy taxonomy and "colonial sociological/anthropological work on magic" is spot on. Referring back to working against my own unconscious biases, the pariah project is mostly me wrestling with the 19-year old anthropology student (also me) who was wholly taken in by Carlos Castaneda (in my defence, it was presented to me be my tutors as an authoritative text). Lévy-Bruhl was not on the syllabus (at that stage at least), but we had plenty of Evans-Pritchard, Levi Strauss et al to compensate...

      To elaborate further, part of the dynamic at play in a proto-neolithic setting is between the [superficially] contradictory values/cosmology of non-settled cultures and the rigidity (i.e. "nerdified") values of urbanised societies. Maybe even a reversal of the manifest destiny coloniser vs. chaotic wilderness & dungeon of original D&D (though the notion of this being a reversal of that dynamic is complicated somewhat by the titular pariahs being outcasts from the foraging culture rather than the agricultural)

      But... here I am, nearly turning a reply to a comment into a post, much like you actually did in response to Patrick's LBJ post. I need to let this ferment for a little bit. Thank you very much for your comment, insight and encouragement.

    2. Lmao no need to explain on Castaneda, man suckered a generation. There’s a pretty interesting section on him and the effect he had on a lot of the developing New Age in Lewis and Hammer’s “The Invention of Sacred Tradition”; certainly a lot that the whole event can teach about the construction of legitimacy both in anthropology and religion. One thing that still wasn’t cleared up for me was what clicked for the don Juan books - Marcel Griaule’s Dieu d’Eaux/Conversations with Ogotemmeli hit the Anglophone world at the same time, contained some amount of questionably placed mythopoesis, and was written in a similarly observer-facing style - I guess the smart bet is that his work on the Dogon was more thoroughly focused on their own worldview instead of the transformation of the Western mind and lacked “””shortcuts””” to the alteration of perspective like entheogens were often seen to be at the time. I guess the fact that Castaneda cultivated a circle of secondary believer-writers like Flornina Donner (with her own faux-ethnographic book on the Yanomami) or the Toltec Warriors more broadly probably played some role as well. Though a lot of good came from the soulsearching that followed, I sometimes worry that the Castaneda Moment (™) has carved an impassable gulf between autoethnographic experiential work and the field - as if the home isn’t also the field - in the minds of students, which is sort of missing the point. There’s room for both: Rane Willerslev, a modern ethnographer that I deeply respect, reports encountering spiritual beings while living and studying with the Yukaghir in his book Soul Hunters. Turnbull, as controversial as he can be, basically drew on this well to direct his breakthroughs. There’s a pretty wild part in The Iranian Metaphysicals by Alireza Doostdar where the author describes a maddening nightmare he experienced early in his fieldwork with Cosmic Mystics in Iran and his reaction:

      "The next morning, I told myself that my research would prove very difficult if I were to lose my mental composure as a result of uncanny encounters of the sort I had endured overnight. My solution was to actively deny the reality of anything occult or supernatural, to keep my topic of study at arm’s length as an anthropological object rather than as something that could trouble the boundaries of my understanding of reality…It was only toward the end of my research that I made the realization that my active denial of metaphysical phenomena was preventing me from understanding that I had been engaged in a metaphysical inquiry just like my interlocutors. The chief difference between us was that I deliberately structured my inquiry through a particular affective discipline (of distance and denial) that most of my interlocutors did not share, even if their inquiries were also shot through with both disciplined and undisciplined affects (virtuous caution being one of them)."

    3. I think that origin for PARIAH makes a lot of sense as a reader, certainly explains the current of anthropological awareness that runs through it. We’re always working on improving, ofc, but I do think that PARIAH is exceptional for this. I bounce off most work of its kind, even by folks who are amazing like with Emmy Allen and WF&WS, because the religious-spiritual dimension takes me right out and the sociological reads implicit in the work feel Not Quite Right. The ongoing project I hold nearest and dearest is a PARIAH hack based on the peoples around Lake Victoria/Nnaalubaale circa ~1600 and like half the reason I even started working on it was just looking through the realms + rituals and going “holy shit, this gets it.” BTW I always interpreted the eponymous Pariahs as exiles from communities that look something like Haida or the Chumash - transegalitarian h-gs with formalized hierarchies and leadership structures. There’s probably a post somewhere in that, hehe.

      Adding that the contradictory nature of these beliefs is often superficial was a good point, I should have made that clearer myself. While working on something totally unrelated to TTRPGS, I rediscovered this wonderful bit from Palmerin’s Of Alien Kings and Perpetual Kin on the Ruund/Ruwund/Lunda of S-Central Africa:

      “Such intrinsic contradiction and ambiguity, here claimed as an inextricable constituent of Ruwund symbolism, far from revealing a loose and baffled thought are of a *structuring nature* and conceal a coherence the tenacity of which cannot be easily tamed to fit models of analysis of a dichotomous and classificatory nature.”

      Says it all, really. Thanks for the response, I hope your thoughts are brewing nicely!

    4. Brilliant stuff, you've given me lots of reading material here, I appreciate it!

  3. A nice stream of consciousness here.

    Re: 19., read some crank theory a long time ago about how if each black hole contains/creates a universe, each with slightly varying physical laws, then universes will be selected for those that produce life - harvesting Hawking radiation or rotation or what have you from black holes being the ultimate form of energy production, civilizations will, if they survive long enough, converge on mass production of black holes, making the universes/black holes that can generate and sustain those civilizations the most successful reproducers of their "lineage".

    1. Right like a kind of survival of the fittest across the multiverse? I like the leaps of the imagination futurologists enact when they start thinking about Type 2 or Type 3 civilisations (on the Kardashev scale), like this idea that we get (whatever is bigger than mega-)structures cluttering up space (dyson spheres etc.), and that we must be an early civilisation because we're not looking out into a galaxy that's slowly filling up with stuff.

      Would cultivating universes to produce black holes be type iv or type v?

  4. #17 gave me a sudden insight to the final scene of escaping the ship, blinking in the new sunlight. Greeted by cries of praise and surprise from the descendants of the original passengers: "Praise be upon the crew! Keep all tray tables in the upright position! Snacks, snacks will be provided!"

    1. Yes! To tie with the anthropological discussion above, possible cargo-cult vibes.

      Thought was partially inspired by GS Howitt's mini-game "This is not a place of honour"