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Kihō no Monogatari
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Xavid's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, November 15th, 2018
12:14 am
Bones
Prompted by Skeletons by Alexander Wolfe.

There are 206 bones in the human body.

You were born with over 270 bones, though many of those later fused.

I was not.

I gathered my bones one by one.

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Saturday, November 3rd, 2018
6:46 pm
Your Job
Prompted by I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man by John Craigie, and perhaps Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō.

They say that a calling is a job you'd do even if you didn't need to work.

I guess we all work for different reasons.

Money, of course. Recognition. Satisfaction? The feeling of helping someone? Raw enjoyment?

Does anyone really enjoy a job so much they'd do it just for that, alone?

I feel like wouldn't call that a job any more.

But what do you call this, then?

It's been three years, you reckon.

You were worried about food, at first, but it turns out the ash is good for growing things. You'll run out of cans eventually, but you think you'll be okay.

It's not that no one notices you, of course. There's not so much to talk about as I'd have expected. The weather's more of a constant drain. But you attempt it, now and again. Sometimes there's a basket of zucchini. Sometimes, you offer water or tea.

You don't try to talk about your work.

It's not that it's private, really.

It's more a habit, a compulsive tick you haven't confronted.

It's not like any of them would try to steal it, or have anything to do with it if they did.

But old burns linger.

Most of the daylight, you're quiet and alone. You tend your plantings, listen to the raw breeze. You take short trips, these days more to know the land than to scavenge. You pump water. You hum half-remembered songs.

And then you go back, to your basement beneath a ruined office building surrounded by gourds and apple trees.

Sit in the dark, there, with your guttering lamplight.

Your dusty, heavy, slightly moldy books.

Your binders and binders of notes.

And write briefs for a shattered court that's been empty and ash for three years.
Thursday, September 27th, 2018
10:53 pm
Certainties
Prompted by One True Thing by Tylan (and brainstorming for Dreampunk with Sarah).

We don’t have much in the way of certainty, least ‘round these parts.

A knife feels good and solid. But ‘less you’re real careful, it’ll be as like to cut you as the one you’re tangling with. And that’s if they don’t wrest it from you.

A friend you’ve known for years, stuck with through hunger and thirst? Like as not, come a bad dust season too many, they’ll act like you’re any other bugger.

Used to be the sky was always there, above us, careless to our petty murders. But that’s burned up too, now.

If you think the only one you can count on’s yerself, then you’re in for a rude awakening sooner than soon. I’ve let myself down more’n can be counted.

What then? Well, death o’course. Taxes, depends on how you fight.

Broader-wise, decay. Entropy, y’dsay. Stuff runs down. Nothing stays.

And that each day, each hour, each breath we fight against these certainties exalts us, refines us, makes us diamonds rippling out against the ashes of the sky.
Wednesday, September 5th, 2018
10:57 pm
That Less Faster
Prompted by Bottomfeeder by Amanda Palmer.

"That's not how karma works," she said. "There's not some Universal Karma Authority that measures how much you tipped your last cab driver and adjusts your expected time to hail your next cab accordingly."

It was raining, of course. I told her to stay in the shade. We didn't have any sunscreen.

"They did an experiment, you know. Goldfish and catfish."

I was halfway in the street at this point, with my arm outstretched. Another cab drove past. Its light was on, there was no one in the back seat. The driver didn't even slow down.

"Goldfish can only remember things for three seconds, and catfish are immortal."

I reminded her the goldfish thing was a myth. I decided against bringing up lobsters.

"So they make the fish play prisoner's dilemma, see."

The woman at the desk had assured me that a cab was on the way, would arrive at any minute.

"Each fish can push two buttons, and they get food based on the result. Then they play again the next day."

I pointed out the foolishness of iterating assuming short memories.

"That's exactly the point."

By now, my jacket was soaked through. A speeding car splashed me up to my knees.

"The goldfish do way better than the catfish."

By playing randomly, I supposed.

"No, dummy. Goldfish have karma."

Another empty cab drove past, ignoring my frantic gesturing.

"See, goldfish can't remember because they're backwards. They pick based on the future."

I told her to get back in the shadow. A cab drove past while I was distracted, but I couldn't tell if it was occupied.

"That's why they don't mind when we kill them, too."

I saw a flash of lightning out of the corner of my eye.

"So, here, your problem is you're going to tip poorly because you're in a bad mood."

I insisted that was none of her concern.

"Lend me $40. I'll pay the tip."

A burst of thunder echoed lazily.

"'Cmon, the sun's getting high already."

I shrugged, pulled my wallet from my sodden pocket, and handed her the money.

"See, it's all about credible intention."

I shook my head, looking down to try to keep the water out of my eyes.

Just then, a cab pulled up, slowing down enough to only splash my shoes.
Thursday, August 30th, 2018
3:48 pm
Dagger and Hand
Prompted by Pearls by Antje Duvekot, though I didn’t stick very close.

We all sell ourselves, in the end. Don’t have any illusions about it. I just cut a little closer to the violence, is all. Or I did, at least. Who knows what I’ll do now.

It’s not that it doesn’t matter what you do. I could be a saint the rest of my days and still not get these hands clean. But that’s true of more ov’em than anyone likes to admit. Taking someone’s roof, their medicine, they hide all that behind a wall of math and sip fancy kalch. At least a dagger’s honest.

And everyone’s gotta eat, in the end. If I lasted longer'n most, earned a nicer level of keep, I was still doin'a same as anyone.

So why am I here, with you, under this scrap heap? Well, it’s a funny thing. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something still manages to surprise you. I’m used to marks begging, offering bribes, invoking fell curses. I don’t pay such things any mind.

But this mark. A small-time warlord of a minor settlement. He was up in one of those blasted-out ancient towers. Just sitting there, by himself. Like he was waiting for me.

He shouldn’t have been able to see me, but he spoke. “Thank you.” I thought nothing would throw me, any more, but that took me aback somehow.

But I was a professional. I only paused a moment, then pulled out my gun and fired.

He lay there bleeding as I gathered my proof, but he scarcely seemed to be in pain. Must’ve been hopped up on something. Just said “I’d gotten tired. Now I can have something new.”

I don’t really know why it broke me, but it did. The world wasn’t the same after that. I didn’t want to kill, the money, to follow orders, any more. I didn’t want to be someone’s tool.

And, since my life wasn’t something you get to retire from, I had to leave, go into hiding. And now I’m here, I guess. Who knows how long I get before it catches up to me. But somehow huddling here, hungry, I don’t seem to mind.
Saturday, March 3rd, 2018
12:09 am
A Wish Askew
So, my obsession this week with Dream Askew and some discussions about Valence and GM roles in Jennachat inspired me with a Chuubo’s!Dream Askew hack. The basic concept is that character abilities are simplified into high-valence MP-costing moves, ordinary-valence, and negative-valence MP-generating moves. In addition to playing a character, each player also plays a genre and a region of town, having default control over stuff that happens in that region and characters from that region in addition to events fitting with that genre. (Possibly with some motivation to encourage that genre.)

I sorta want to do the region/genre sheets as folded tent cards so that the other players could see the XP actions and properties, but I don’t know how well that’d work in practice.

I think maybe XP and wounds work like in Chuubo’s? Maybe with XP simplified down into one kind of thing? If so there should be emotion XP somewhere on the character sheets.

I do really like this approach in general. It certainly works a lot better for Chuubo’s than any of my previous attempts.

A Wish Askew
Thursday, January 4th, 2018
11:54 pm
A Ryuutama Playbook
I got Ryuutama for Christmas and it seems really interesting! Much more D&D-y than I'm normally into, but I'm digging the Oregon Trail feel and the whimsy. I haven't gotten to play or anything yet. But in character creation I got frustrated at how non-self-contained things were, so I decided to prototype a PbtA-style-playbook-inspired character sheet. (As is my wont.)

(I feel when people think about Apocalypse World/PbtA they often focus on the dice and moves, but honestly I think the playbook encapsulation and the GM direction are crucial as well.)

Anyways, here's what I came up with. Of course, maybe when I actually play my thoughts will evolve, but I still feel like this works pretty well.
Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
8:38 pm
Overthinking Narrativism

So, periodically I have disagreements on the word “narrativist”, so in an effort to overthink games more, I’ve been thinking about how exactly I use it. Well, literally I use it mostly for story-focused tabletop systems and experimental-to-me LARPs.* But when I’ve historically described something as narrativist, I think I’ve been referring to one or more of the following distinct things:

  1. Meaningful Choices
  2. Shared Narrative Control
  3. Explicit Scene Framing/Narrative Structure
  4. Focus on Feel and Themes
  5. Bleed/Steering
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Friday, July 7th, 2017
11:39 pm
On Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I’d had Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance recommended to me years and years ago, when I really liked Writing Down the Bones. I’m… really not sure at this point why that makes sense. But I'm glad to have read it and have lots of thoughts, some of which I’ll relate here. (Spoilers for a decades-old weird book.)

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Tuesday, May 16th, 2017
10:34 pm
Chuubo's Book 1 Musings

So, we recently finished book 1 of my Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine campaign, and apparently people liked it enough to keep going (after a brief Dogs in the Vineyard break). It’s been a lot of fun and really eye-opening in terms of the realms of possibilities for tabletopping mechanics. I thought I’d take some time to write down some of my scattered thoughts and musings. Collapse )

Monday, May 8th, 2017
10:33 pm
On Torment
So, I finished Torment: Tides of Numenera. It was good! It was very Planescape: Torment-y, which is exactly what it said on the tin. In the manner of one who spent the whole game comparing, I have some various and sundry thoughts. These… probably end up sounding overly harsh, but it’s really just that it’s easy to nitpick and overthink stuff like this. I’m going to try to avoid major spoilers, but perhaps talk about some late-game stuff obliquely.
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Friday, March 3rd, 2017
1:01 am
Thoughts on Singularity
So, I ran Singularity (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/186728/Singularity) last weekend. Five times, in fact. It was my first time running an in-print published LARP, and (depending on technicalities) probably my first time running a LARP I’d neither helped write nor played. It was a lot of fun! It was also a lot different than I’m used to, so I thought I’d write down some thoughts.

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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
Complications
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.

RPGs:

  • 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.

Other:

  • 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."
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