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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Xavid's LiveJournal:

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Monday, September 5th, 2016
11:15 am
Librarians Errant: Facts and Knowledge
So, I’m not sure how much of that Truths stuff will actually make it into Librarians at this point; it’s probably a bit general. Here’s some other, more specific stuff I’ve been thinking about since then. (Thanks, Sarah!)

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Thursday, September 1st, 2016
12:35 am
On Secrets
So, there were a couple of things I was thinking about when I braindumped about Truths. One was about the role of player secrets, and more generally player knowledge and “metagaming”. Like with basically everything, how you handle secrets in a game depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and your intention.

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Thursday, August 25th, 2016
9:36 pm
Librarians Errant: Truths and Motes
So, mucking about with my ideas for Librarians Errant, I've ended up positing a system, working name "Truths", that's heavily influenced by my experience with Chuubo's, WTF, and Dogs in the Vineyard. It's still very much in flux, but here's a basic sketch of part of it… with examples almost completely of no relation to Librarians.

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Sunday, August 21st, 2016
3:04 pm
The Player/Character-skill Divide: Puzzles and Minigames
This is a followup for my last post, which talked about player skill vs character abilities in video games and LARPs, but focused on "combat mechanics". Player skill comes into other areas as well.

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1:05 am
Playlist: Reflections
I'm trying this whole 8tracks thing instead of doing a bunch of links to places, in part so I can have audio for the obscure stuff. It has it's own weirdnesses, but *shrug*.

First Half

  • Fast Forward by Maximalism
  • Rewind by The Paper Raincoat
  • Can't Wait by Kate Klim
  • I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons
  • Nothing Changes by Anais Mitchell Feat. The Haden Triplets
  • The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan
  • Superman by Five for Fighting: I both really like both these songs and like how they work as a pair.
  • Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down: I feel like the first version of this song I heard was one of the MIT a capella groups, but I can't find it if so.
  • I Wonder Where You've Gone by Girlyman: These two were probably intentional, because they're from the same CD, but they're one of the pairs that gave me this idea so they're staying.
  • I Know Where You Are by Girlyman
  • Right Here by Amory Sivertson
  • Long Distance by Hannah & Maggie

Second Half

  • Walk Away by Amory Sivertson: This playlist, in addition to lots of Girlyman, also has a surprisingly large amount of Amory Sivertson on it. I wonder what she's up to lately.
  • Just Stick Around by Nate Borofsky
  • Rising by Alba's Edge
  • Falling by Wishes and Thieves
  • Trees Still Bend by Girlyman: One early concept was more "contrasting parallel structure", hence flowers for trees, but that was too hard.
  • Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall by Simon & Garfunkel
  • The Question by Amory Sivertson
  • The Answer by Jason Tam/Joe Iconis
  • Above the Clouds by electronic orange juice: Hey, OJ!
  • Underground by The Orchids
  • Deer in the Night by Po' Girl: This pair is more of a parallel structure thing, and also amuses me overly much.
  • Moose in the Road by Girlyman
Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
10:48 am
The Player/Character-skill Divide: Undertale and LARP
This post has some Undertale spoilers. You should play it!

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Saturday, July 2nd, 2016
8:40 pm
So, it's been a while since I talked before about interesting failures, and I feel like a lot of what I want is actually orthogonal to dice and more in the direction of "interesting complications".

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Saturday, June 25th, 2016
4:35 pm
Meaningful Video Games

Playing Undertale made me think about what video/computer games I find particularly meaningful or impactful. So here's an annotated list of questionable interest to anyone else.


  • Chrono Trigger: This is my choice for "canonical JRPG". It's noteworthy for a few places that break your assumptions, and time travel is great. (Also, I played it on the Shinkansen from Tōkyō to Ōsaka.)
  • Earthbound: Fun, quirky RPG with basic mechanics that are reasonably standard but a lot of straight-presented weirdness that gives it something of a Jenna Moran vibe.
  • Mother 3: Takes the stuff that made Earthbound cool and added extra layers of emotion an expectation-subversion. Fun, has impact, has some interpretation possibilities, and fundamentally solid.
  • Undertale: Goes without saying. Also, hard to say much about why its great without spoiling things, though it's a progression from/response to games like the above.
  • Planescape: Torment: super-cool and elaborate setting and use thereof, excellently done amnesiac-hero-that-learns-their-deal-over-the-course-of-the-game, best integration of philosophy and plot. Glad I eventually jumped through the hoops necessary to play it.
  • Persona 4: I must like it, I've written multiple LARPs inspired by it. The divide between the slice-of-life social day world and the monster-fighting night world is cool, though it's a bit on-rails for the relation between the two to reach it's full potential.
  • Honorable Mention to Kingdom Hearts: I feel like the metaphysics have lots of potential, but then they just keep introducing new classes of stuff instead of realizing that potential, and the metaphysics doesn't really impact the gameplay much.

Interactive Fiction:

  • Spider and Web: an excellent story that takes advantage of its medium well and depends on the player being clever and understanding what's going on beneath the surface.
  • Counterfeit Monkey: a really fun and zany mechanic of word manipulation that I totally want to put in a LARP sometime.
  • Gone Home: the 3D-exploration-based presentation made what might otherwise have seemed like a pretty standard linear story much more impactful and personally-connected, for reasons that are hard for me to full conceptualize. Definitely unique.
  • Spelunx: it's hard to imagine a game that's had a bigger impact on me, in terms of being a large part of inspiring me into a life of programming. It's a shame that modern games don't make it so easy to look under the hood and see how the game itself was made.
  • Honorable Mention to Spellbreaker and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a lot of the classic Infocom games are really good. Those two are probably the ones I've played with the most conceptually interesting bits.


  • Braid: puzzle platformer with great exploration of different ways of doing time manipulation that holds together really well and ties in with the story well.
  • Link's Awakening: Link to the Past is probably my favorite Zelda game overall, but Link's Awakening is definitely the most philosophically interesting.
  • Ossuary: Most Discordian game ever!
  • Honorable Mention to Portal: I liked it a lot, and it's got great characterization. "But it's too mainstream."
Monday, April 18th, 2016
1:24 am
Dice and Interesting Failures
So, thinking about dice in tabletopping while dicelessly HGing Chuubo's has got me thinking about what I like about random dice roles in tabletopping. And I think it mostly comes down to interesting failures.

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Monday, April 4th, 2016
5:41 pm
Playlist: Spring Phoenix
In response to Zan's Spring Rebirth playlist. Some of these are just Spring-y and some of them are just wings-y, but it's all good.
Friday, April 1st, 2016
9:31 am
A Chuubo's Playbook
So, I talk up Apocalypse World a lot. One thing I like about it is that all the stuff that's specific to a character fits on a single sheet of paper. Not just your stats and stuff, but the definitions of all the special moves/key stuff you have, and the ones you could get by leveling up. Apocalypse World does this by having well-defined character types and having concise, focused moves and mechanics.

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Wednesday, March 30th, 2016
5:51 pm
The Lie
Fanfic. Inspired by OJ's Beyond the Wall game concept.

“You are a slave, Neo. You, like everyone else, was born into bondage… kept inside a prison of smell, of taste, of touch.” Morpheus leans back in his worn leather chair. He smiles. His eyes are a night of falling stars.

“The Lie is everywhere, it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out over the lake, or looking up at the sun. You feel it when you go to work, or go to a shrine, or buy steamed buns. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the True Thing.”

“What True Thing?” Neo looks uncertain. The wind rattles a pane of glass.

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the True Thing is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Morpheus gives Neo two pills.

Neo falls through the static and the storms. The world around him breaks into fragments of violet and gold. He feels himself torn apart, torn from his dreams, his curiosity.

And then he lands, and he sees bleak and lightless gates, and beyond them ancient walls and towers made from stone and brass. The sky is sunless and alive with stars.

And Morpheus is there, leading a pale horse. "Welcome to the Bleak Academy, Neo. Here is the True Thing, beyond perception."

Neo follows him through the gate.
12:21 am
Dice and Ovals
So, a while back I talked about how I didn't necessarily feel it'd work well to add dice to a Chuubo's-like game. But for some reason I've still been thinking about it periodically, mostly in terms of a hypothetical Chuubo's x Apocalypse World game called "A Wish Chang'd World". But I hadn't really convinced myself of anything until I started thinking about something unrelated, namely "too many bubbles".

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Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
7:31 pm
Inspired by a writing prompt from Sarah's Patreon

You hear the ice crack. You hear day and night pass in their endless dance. And you awake.

Things are different than you remember. Fewer trees to the north. The soil by your pond is drier, gritty. It is too warm by half, throwing all the rhythms off. And the pond is fuller. With mud, and other things.

Still, it's good to be awake, to be alive. The rabbits, as is their habit, have woken before you. They're already deep in their preparations for the season. The ducks and sparrows are eager to tell you the winter's news. Some geese have stopped to visit; you invite them in, ask of their travels, wish them pleasant winds.

The trees, the ones who remain, are slower to notice. For a moment you fear that too many have been lost, that they've been cut off. But no, not this year, at least.

You'd survive even then, you know, as long as the brook still flows. But their lot's plenty painful as it is, without isolation to compound it.

But no, even in the drowsy whispers you can hear the resonance, despite the losses and the cuts and the bitter air.

And you know, so long as you are able, that you will continue in your duties, do what you can to keep the wheel going a little longer.

But now, while those around you wake, you have a moment, at least, to just sit and enjoy the spring.
Sunday, March 27th, 2016
9:24 am
Playlist: Fortitude
This one's for my incipient Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine campaign, a pastoral campaign set in the Fortitude neighborhood of Town. The only concise way I've found to explain Chuubo's pastoral is to compare it to Ghibli movies. ("You've got characters with great cosmic power, but the important things are living well and connecting with people.")
  • Simple Gift(s), The OK Factor. One of the region properties of Fortitude is “Things must have simplicity”, and coming from Shaker I couldn't resist including some version of Simple Gifts. This one's the coolest one I could find quickly.
  • Washing Day, Amber Rubarth. This song feels Fortitude-y to me, I think because I imprinted on that early story Jenna posted featuring laundry.
  • Streetcorner Paradise, Hiroshima. This at some point was in the aborted playlist for my old Dresden Files campaign, but it's totally better for Fortitude.
  • We Deliver, Kris Delmhorst. I dunno, it's weird and abstract and talks about the sun.
  • The Town on the Hill (丘の町), from the Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば) Image Album, because obviously I have that. (I know I got Whisper of the Heart impulsively my first time in Japan, but I don't remember if I got the image album then or if I got it at Tokyo Kid or somewhere after actually watching it.) It's pastoral but less Chuubo's-y than other Ghibli movies, but I like the feel and the story within the movie fitsish. The planetoids are converging!
  • Walking Home, Homunculus. Town canonically has buses, and it fits with the "you have to walk a long time to get places" part of Fortitude. Also, I like it and can't think of what other playlist I'd put it for.
  • Complimentary Me, Elizabeth & The Catapult. Lots of Chuubo's characters seem to have counterparts, and Kendra's character has a shadow.
  • Sleep Well, Mae
  • Forced Enlightenment, from CHRONOTORIOUS. Probably not strictly necessary, but the name makes me think of Jasmine getting hit on the head with a dodgeball.
  • My Baby The Sun, Coyote Grace
  • Today It's Raining On Just You, Broken Fences. Broken Fences has a bunch of surreal songs that fit well, and I ended up picking this one.
  • End Of The Summer, Dar Williams
  • Strange Familiar Places, The Filmographers. I'm not sure this reminds me of any character in particular, but this seems like someone who could totally be a Chuubo's character.
  • The Harbor(feat. Kawehi), Maximalism
  • Beyond the Veil, Lindsey Stirling. I guess this is the tie-in to Sam's character, with his Charon-defying and barrier-passing ways. Though the video is maybe more Kendra's character.
  • Like New, WWClub
  • A Mysterious Painting (神秘なる絵), from Kiki. I originally had "If Enveloped In Tenderness", but then I remembered this song and how Andrew's character has a painting bound under the Titov shrine, so I had to go with this one, even if it's way too mellow for under the Titov shrine.
  • Simple Mind, Allie Farris.
  • No Place Like Home, from Mako's Music Box. Another region property is "You have a home in Fortitude." And I still like these music box tracks, all these years layer.
  • Two Banks of the River, Jason Webley. I guess this is also related to Sam's character, running a ferry on the Twisting River, but also Jason Webley lyrics are totally evocative in the appropriate way, and I love this song.
  • World Begun, Hannah Sanders & Liz Simmons
Saturday, March 26th, 2016
9:38 am
Establishing the Offscreen
So, Sarah's finally got me watching Buffy, and so I'm noticing some connections between that sort of show and Chuubo's. One thing I've particularly been noticing is the pattern of "refer to things that happen off-screen on-screen to make the audience feel like they're happening before they become plot-relevant". This is something Chuubo's can do with quests.

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Sunday, March 20th, 2016
9:01 pm
Quests as Worldbuilding
One interesting thing about storyline quests in Chuubo's is that they provide worldbuilding in a way that's not present in most RPGs. I feel like most RPGs worldbuild in two main ways: directly, by telling you facts about the world of the game, and indirectly, by the traits, capabilities, and abilities of characters and how they interact. A related concept is "how you should play the game", feel and genre (or WTF's Insight), which similarly has explicit text ("this is a game about fighting monsters") and implicit "these are the things that the mechanics highlight or reward". Chuubo's XP actions, while different in focus than most RPGs, are in this category, mechanical rewards for focusing on certain things in the same way that D&D rewards you for killing monsters or Urban Shadows rewards you for interacting with factions. Chuubo's storyline quests, while similar-seeming at first, have a level of specificity that's different from most games and contributes to worldbuilding and game feel in a unique way.

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Friday, March 18th, 2016
10:06 am
This One's For Sam

So, in doing character creation for my incipient Chuubo's campaign, I noticed that, unlike most systems, Chuubo's has quite a few ways to state "freeform" facts about your character. (Borrowing some of the perl nature, perhaps?) And it also came up some how much Sam is still into Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist, which is always a fun way to look at game truths. So, through that lens, I present: the qualities of the gifts of your Chuubo's character. Collapse )

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
6:05 pm
Playlist: Isn'ts
This is the foreshadowed Hitherby Dragons playlist, which has a fair amount of existential stuff but also magical realism and stuff that just makes me think of specific characters.
  • 7 Stones, Lindsay Mac. This might have been the genesis for this playlist, because it seems like the sort of thing Liril or one the other Nephilim might do in appropriate circumstances.
  • In The Shade Of Angels, Eugene Friesen
  • Don't Be Afraid, The Paper Raincoat. This one also has the "simple action with supernatural effect" deal that I like.
  • Angel, Girlyman. "Somewhere in my bones I start to break, somewhere in my dreams I'm still awake…"
  • Suzie Q Sailaway, Resonance covering Self
  • When Sheila Dances, Homunculus
  • Bones Live Forever, Megan Slankard. I guess I found this song because Alex Wong linked to it.
  • Skeletons, Alexander Wolfe. For some reason, I'm really emotionally attached to the concept (from Guardians of the Castle, the rulesless "RPG" I played back in elementary school with Andrew Hopkins) that you can combine bones from various skeletons to make more elaborate creatures. This contributes to my love of "Skeletons decide to die by throwing bones away."
  • Wait For Me, Anais Mitchell. Hadestown definitely has the Hitherby nature.
  • Journey Through the Waste, A Soundtrack for the Wheel of Time
  • Blank Maps, Cold Specks. "Every map is blank."
  • I Will Free Myself, Dar Williams. I definitely wanted one of her "In The Time Of Gods" songs here. "I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything" and "You Will Ride With Me Tonight" were also contenders.
  • Our Lady Of The Underground, Anais Mitchell. Love so much, very evocative. Hey, if I write a LARP based on this song, it won't technically be Jenna fanfiction…
  • Julie-O, Turtle Island String Quartet
  • St. Peter's Bones, Girlyman. <3
  • Rough Cut, The Paper Raincoat
  • Quick, Eddie From Ohio. You could probably say something interesting about μ identifying with Jane from Hitherby.
  • The Sea, Tomas Dvorak
  • Never Heard Nothing, Joe Iconis
  • Last Song, Jason Webley
Monday, March 7th, 2016
6:49 pm
The World Model of Schrödinger's Cat
So, a related concept to "saying yes" is how you model world truth. This is sorta related to how canon is often said to work for book series or tv shows. Basically, things that aren't shown or stated definitively "on-screen" are in an indeterminate state. Did someone get caught in an explosion or fall off a cliff, but they didn't die on-screen? They could easily come back, but until they're shown definitively to be alive or dead, they're in a state of superposition where they're neither.

In a traditional D&D-style perspective on GMing, while character sheets and rulebooks have a lot of authority on the visible or known universe rules and state, the GM's the authority on the unknown universe state. They probably know who's alive, who's dead, and where things are, though they could change their minds if they wanted to, since no one would know. (I guess technically dice have some authority on the unknown universe state, when they're used for random encounters and such.) The GM might add stuff based on player suggestions, but the ball's always in their court, and mostly they're creating an illusion that the setting's all predetermined, that the reality is the model of the world in the GM's mind.

The thing is, the players have a model of the world, too. Even traditional games tend to do some of this implicitly; asking "Is there somewhere I could buy a sword in this town?" is probably more likely to get you a weapon shop than "What shops are in this town?", depending on the GM and how heavily they've pre-specified stuff. And this implicitly gets used in a lot of "say yes" situations, still focused on player actions: if the player says "can I break a chair leg to get a wooden stake?" and you say yes, then you've let the player define several things about the scene (that there's a chair, that it's made of wood, that it's possible to break the leg without a roll, that a broken chair leg is usable as a wooden stake). Some games also use it more directly, such as declarations in Fate (which I guess got sorta nerfed in Fate Core?) or various question-based things in Apocalypse World.

Chuubo's gets into this some, with XP and quest actions. If someone's trying to use a slice of life action, say, they might say "can we have a scene where we're sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean and eating grapes?", which adds different bits of their world model to the game then you'd likely get otherwise. Quests often have specific scene elements that they motivate players to introduce, which has a similar feel; while in some sense they're adding Jenna world model to game more than player world model (if you're using quests from the book), they're open-ended enough that they'll likely add player world state as well, and quite possibly spark them to elaborate their world state in the process.

Dogs in the Vineyard has an interesting take on a different side of the world model. In D&D-style games, the GM is often the authority on character alignment/what the gods think of things. In Dogs in the Vineyard, while rules and moral judgements are a key part of play, the GM isn't in the position of judging, and the state of each PC's soul is up to the player. (Which reminds me a bit of the "death of the GM" thing in LARP-writing, where you can't tell someone they're playing their character wrong despite whatever intentions you had writing the sheet.)

You could imagine a more collaborative, "say yes" perspective to the game canon where stuff that hasn't been determined through play is in an uncertain state that everyone has access to. Some forum roleplays and such do this to an extent. I haven't encountered a tabletop system that goes "all the way" there; Chuubo's seems like it could be pretty close with some rules for players taking turns playing NPCs/antagonists (and a group of players that's all sufficiently confident about describing things). I'd be interested to see how something like that, or a rotating-GM setup, would work in practice.

EDIT: On the last point, I forgot about some of the indie games I have but have never played that are very heavily on the "collaborative storytelling" side of things: Universalis and Microscope. They effectively have everyone as the GM, which is sorta the direction I was going, but I feel like not having PCs would probably be a very different from what I think of as a tabletop RPG. There's also Becoming, which effectively has one PC and ~3 GMs.
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