October Shirt: Ai To Ai

This month and some of last, I played Ai: The Somnium Files. I played it, and I liked it, and I liked it so much I thought about going and buying some merch for it.

There is no official merch for it.

Normally, I’d wait until con season and keep an eye out for Ai: The Somnium Files fanmerch, maybe a print or if I’m really lucky, a keychain of a character like, oh, Aiba’s little teddy bear form would make a great keychain design. I want one of those.

Oh wait, it’s 2020. No con season.

Sigh.

Fuck it, I’ll do it myself.

Here’s the design. It’s an eye, with Aiba, which is part of the general symbolism hammerblowing that is Ai: The Somnium Files. Here, it is, on a shirt, you can use to conceal your body:

But, but, but, what if you don’t want a shirt, but just want a sticker of Aiba to stick on things that matter to you, to mark them as your territory? Well, I made this:

 

Here’s the shirt design, and here’s the Aiba sticker.

Story Pile: The Thing

You know, if you look at the media I talk about on this blog, especially as it pertains to horror, you might not realise that I have spent quite a lot of time watching horror movies and series that are, generally, just all bad.

It’s not that I’m averse to watching classics, I just haven’t largely gotten around to them, and so I want you  to imagine my reaction to finally having a point of contrast with a range of boring, tedious and exceptionally shithouse movies by watching at least one movie that is in fact, good.

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How To Be: The Castlevania Gang (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, we’re going to examine overlapping skillsets as we look at not creating a character but creating a group of characters: The trio of monster hunters from the Fang-Em-Up Netflix anime, Castlevania.


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5 Ways To Be Cosmically Horrifying in 4E D&D

It is easy perhaps to forget that TTRPGs are a fundamentally creative space. In some games, especially the more modern indie style of TTRPG, characters are often handed a role that really paints the way they should feel, a characterisation that is in some cases extremely specific, like you’ll see in PBTA games. In D&D, there’s a lot of ways in recent days that flavour has swung towards specificity, which can limit the kinds of creativity you can express.

4e D&D is a game system that deliberately tries to leave a lot of your flavour up to you. Last year I talked about some character options that let you be horrifying heroes. This year, we’re going to do that again, but instead of gothic horror, we’re going to look at ways to do cosmic horror with your character that swings a big axe and saves the day.

Cosmic horror in this case refers to the horror felt at the boundaries between human agency and universal indifference. Cosmic horror can be felt in a very mundane, normal moment of life when you look up at the sky and realise that there is more that exists that you’ll never see, that the universe is old in a scale that you will never understand and will live on longer than you will ever be able to conceive, and that these two details make you a nothing of a blip between nothing blips. When we talk about cosmic horror as she is shown in media, it’s often about trying to show you those points of interface: Of the horror that Lovecraft himself said,

“Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.”

The horror of the Cosmic is not the threat of Gothic horror. It is the immense indifference of an uncaring, infinite emptiness.

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10 SCPs That Talen Actually Likes

Gosh yesterday was full of opinions, wasn’t it? I said some mean things about a website! And maybe even someone who liked that website might have thought: He doesn’t like that thing! But I like that thing! and had a whole moment to reconcile with themselves. Who knows.

But I do say that there’s writing I like on the SCP wiki, so now I’ve had my fun pointing out how entire categories of media on the wiki are tedious as hell or needlessly interested in hurting women, I am now obligated by the Centrist Bullshit Rules Of Not Being Mean To Websites On The Internet to point out things on that website that I like, for fear that me having a preference will be seen as ‘problematic’ or ‘he didn’t really get it’ or ‘I don’t think you’re giving it a fair chance.’

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10 SCPs That Suck Ass

Oh oh ho! Time to get feisty!

The SCP wiki is a big communal creative project. Lots of people have written for it. I have very pointedly gone out of my way to avoid knowing who made these ideas I’m talking about because I want to talk about the product that the SCP wiki exalts communally. I may talk about the intentions of a piece, but please understand they’re not drawn from actual stated words from the creators (except when they are) but rather from a critical reading of what these narratives are trying to be about.

And with that, on to the sacred cows.

Content warning! I’m going to talk about stuff on the SCP wiki that’s pretty bad, and that means in addition to warnings about horror, we’re also going to have to talk about sexual violence and child sexual assault.

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We Find Ourselves In Monsters

The first modern horror novel, the place we start drawing the line from, is Frankenstein, a book churned out in defiance against two of the most priviliged humans alive as a wrench to throw into their full-time fart sniffing conversation. Mary Shelley, grappling with the feelings of loss and distress from her own recent miscarriage and, we can kinda extrapolate the general pressure of interacting with her husband and George Gordon ‘Lord’ Byron, wrote a book about an overly self-invested self-satisfied so-smart softboy whose unbearable burden of genius resulted in him running roughshod on everyone around him and becoming, eventually, the victim of his own creation, something he could have averted had he spoken to someone about it for five fuckin seconds, but did not.

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Lovecraft Readings #2: The Colour out of Space

This month I’m going to take some time to read to you my ””’favourite””’ Lovecraft stories, then talk to you a little bit about them afterwards. Because this is Lovecraft, each of these stories deserves a content warning for general horror, but in this one specifically features cosmic horror, ego death, loss of children, loss of parents, general sanism, some things that I think are going to be kinda trypophobia-inducing like people ‘crumbling’ and a lot of animal endangerment. There is also some mild racism, like, no slurs, and there’s a bunch of just casual sneering at poor people.

Five Reasons To Avoid The God Damned Ocean

Hey, you know that Cthluhu dude? That guy’s meant to make the ocean super scary, especially for white people. There could be anything down there in the ocean, like an existential threat to all of humanity that’s just waiting for a byproduct of human activity to render all life on earth permanently unsustainable, in the name of the worship of something profane and unnatural!

Lovecraft was a cop!

Thing is, he was scared of the ocean and didn’t have a clue what was actually in the ocean. Want to know why? Because if he did know about it, he’d have written about the much scarier things that are really there!

Here are five reasons the ocean is fucking terrifying!

Content warnings: Body horror, deep water, real big things! No pictures, because there’s a lot of AAAAA here.

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Story Pile: Silent Hill Revelations 3D

The actual review of this movie is very short: It isn’t very good. The story doesn’t do anything to hold itself together very well. There are numerous points where the assumed truths of the story are changed, and you have to invent motivations to explain why characters behave the way they do. Kit Harington is in it. There’s a pretty cool spider made of mannequin bits. The 3d is absolutely unnecessary, now. I do not recommend this movie.

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Credulously Boring ‘Real’ Mysteries

I kinda have a special hatred for a genre of Youtube content that’s meant to be about ‘real stories of the supernatural.’ At its finest you have well-regarded, personality-driven fun stories like Buzzfeed Unsolved, which gave rise to the eventual Watcher Network, or the absolute sprawling morass of creepypasta, spooky story, and

sigh

‘real supernatural investigation’ nonsense. There’s a lot of this stuff around, and if you just check out a few channels, your youtube recommendations will become full of comparable stupidity; some of it will be from horror stories, written by people who are largely trying to entertain and see themselves as fiction writers, and those people are largely fine, if incredibly boring, and then there are the other ones.

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Sandy Peterson’s Wild Ride

If you’re at all familiar with me and my life you might be unsurprised to know that I don’t have a lot of respect for religion, just period. I think it runs straight through atheism (no belief in god) into an antitheism (that the idea of believing in a god is beneath human dignity) and maybe even veering hard into misotheism (the idea that god as ever expressed in the faith systems known to me is our moral inferior and if it were real, it would be our moral duty to find a way to kill it). I feel this most strongly about the faiths I know, mostly notably American Evangelical Christianity, but it folds outwards into all the Jesus-based faiths and cults, where I believe them to be quite wholly grown from poison root, gnarled in tree and branch. Courtesy of my Christian upbringing, I learned a lot about how all those other varieties of Christianity are evil, and even spent some time dedicated to the relative newcomers to the space of Big Name Christian Sects – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and of course, the Most American Of Christians, the Mormons.

I don’t generally air these complaints in public. How people keep their beliefs lining up in their own head is generally a private matter, and while I may make fun of institutions with literal golden thrones that preach piety and charity, I know there are also people who follow me who are of these faiths who like what I produce, and have reconciled my preferences with my content. Basically, I think that Christian folk can handle me disliking their club, what with all the immense social safety and privilege and whatnot that their organisations with international power afford them.

I bring this up because there were definitely times in my upbringing, where managing these competing ideological thoughts and contradictory ideas (like if the Mormons were new and our church was freshly founded, what were we?) where, the strange thing is, one of the best pieces of advice I got from navigating out of orthodoxy was a quote from a Mormon.

And he wasn’t even talking to me.

I mean kinda.

Sandy Peterson is probably one of the most important people in (White, English Speaking, 90s-to-Now, Existing-Power-Structure Centric) gaming. A tail-end boomer, Peterson has been working in gaming since 1974, when he was 19 years old and he’s pretty much never stopped, just moving laterally into new, interesting spaces to work. He’s worked for Chaosium, producing Call of Cthulhu material and Runequest material, and if you don’t know what that is, ask the older bearded guy at your gaming circle who periodically mentions ‘fumble tables.’ He moved into videogames, where he worked on Sid Meier’s Pirates! and the absolutely terribly underappreciated Hyperspeed and Darklands, games that are of the vintage where Civilisation 1 advertises them in its closing screen. Then he moved into working for id Software, where he worked on Doom and Quake then he helped out Raven Software with level design on Hexen and hey that’s enough vital influence of an entire media form, let’s move across to work on Age of Empires stuff with Ensemble Studios, and while we’re in the neighbourhood, why not make stuff for Halo Wars with all that experience you had stored up? Then he moved laterally into board games, where he kickstarted, successfully, the absolute titan in a box of a game that is Cthulhu Wars, the rare kind of game that wants to step up to the challenge Twilight Imperium leaves and actually fights it.

In summary, Sandy Peterson has been responsible for three of the biggest success stories in three different fields; the longstanding Call of Cthulhu tabletop game, the world-shaking Doom, and the record-setting Cthulhu Wars. That’s just three big impacts in three fields, and the thing is, if you took all three of those away his second tier success stories are still titanic impacts. His work shows up in media where he needs to do a lot of direct work rather than just tell people what to do (Kojima).

This isn’t the whole of his work (he made a movie? Kinda?) but it’s certainly the bulk of it. And I haven’t combed the man’s twitter or nothing, but, amazingly, as far as I can find, he hasn’t said anything to fucking embarrass me for thinking well of him.

Yet.

Like I said, I haven’t combed his twitter.

And far be it from me to say that a Mormon man born in the 1950s might be Wholesome Content Bean Uwuguu, but he did say something, a long time ago, that helped me handle a complicated problem that had been put in my head. The issue was that I was at the time in my childhood, grappling with the ways that media that depicted terrible things might be affecting me; that the nightmares I had and obssessions I got over videogames with dark elements in them were a sign of some dreadful sin inside me. One day, while reading a proto-website known as a ‘magazine,’ I found a quote from Sandy, in an article describing the DOOM team, and how he reconciled his faith (which was much less conservative than mine at the time) and his involvement in the creation of DOOM:

“They’re the bad guys.”

Yes, this is obvious. Yes, this is ridiculous. Yes, this should only really be enlightening to a ten year old.

But in my defense, I was ten.

DOOM creates a universe where demons and hell and lovecraftian unknowable, undecipherable, deliberately inexplicable evil are real. And it is a universe where you can meaningfully destroy it with a shotgun to the face.

Doom is great and part of why it’s great is a Mormon Lovecraft fan.

3.5 Memories: Okay, Fine, Let’s Talk About Zceryll

Back during August, I looked at the Tome of Magic, a 3.5 D&D book, which involved looking at the the Binder. The Binder was one of the classes presented in that book, where the basic idea was that the binder had these things, called Vestiges, that you could sort of cold-swap between to get different abilities based on your different needs; the task of swapping character mode was fast enough that you could do it between encounters, or on the far side of a dungeon door, or hurriedly while the guards are on their way, but it wasn’t something you could hot-plug in between combats. The Binder was a weak character class by default that could, with its variety of options, hot-swap into a form that was usually about as good as a rogue with most of the gear they want.

Note those italics.

When it comes to D&D content, Wizards put things in the books, but they also made a thing of web expansions – pdfs and website content that you could add to your game, stuff that came from the Official Source and was generally made to be safe enough to include in any game, and that is where we got the Vestige that on its own takes the Binder from ‘incredibly fair, even a bit weak’ to the upper tiers of power, brushing in the shadow of the wizard and cleric.

And bonus, that Vestige is spooky.

The actual text of the Vestige of Zceryll, from Wizards’ own web expansion, is pretty simple:

Zceryll was a mortal sorceress who communed with alien powers from the far realm. She became obsessed with immortality, seeking out the alien beings in the hopes of learning their eternal secrets. When she died, she became a hideously twisted vestige, forever seeking to re-enter the Realms via numerous artifacts she dispersed across the world. Zceryll grants you the ability to transform your body and mind into an alien form, granting you telepathy, resistance to effects related to insanity, the ability to summon pseudonatural creatures, and the power to unleash bolts of pure madness.

Okay, how is it broken? What’s it do that’s so good, power-wise? Normally when you talk about character power, you can usually point to something as a general rule – like you can point to the wizards’ spell list and that’ll explain itself. In Zceryll’s case, what you get when you channel this Vestige is:

Summon Alien: You can summon any creature from the summon monster list that a sorcerer of your level could summon. Any creature you summon with this ability gains the pseudonatural template. Thus, at 10th level you could summon any creature from the summon monster I-V list. When you reach 14th level, you can summon any creature from the summon monster I-VII list. You can only summon creatures that can be affected by the pseudonatural template. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again for 5 rounds.

Let’s simplify that: You can use Summon Monster (Half Your Level) every five turns at will. DMs may make you spend the action to do it, in out-of-combat ways, but at will summons is incredibly strong, not because you can flood the battlefield, but because summons are combat capable creatures that in many cases can cast spells. So every utility power available to any monster on the summon list is available to you, but in a spooky way. Need something big moved? Summon something big and stronk. Need to get out of a cage? Summon something that can move through walls. Need to wreck shop on the battlefield? Well at every tier, there’s a piece of cannonfodder you can dump on the battlefield and then not have to spend actions commanding. If your summon runs out of healing magic, you can just summon another one and get it to do the healing magic. If your summon is beat up, you can summon another one and get that to replace the other. It is one of the most startlingly effective spell families to have at-will access to, and the only real drawback for the Binder is that it’s a bit slow.

The actual theme of Zceryll is a weird one, and it bums me out a little that the Binder is a class ostensibly built around this variety of flavour choices, when every powerful Binder is going to be hard on Zceryll and the skills required to be good at managing Zceryll. It’s also frustrating because the name Zceryll is a person’s name first; the odd, hard to express mangled language of the name isn’t a language from outside reality – it’s someone’s name, a weird name, but it’s just… a weird name. It speaks of a culture that’s not common to you now, but Zceryll is still just a person, it’s not an extrusion of a reality where they don’t have vowel sounds.

I feel this is a dropped ball with Zceryll. At its root, it wants to be Lovecraftian; the powers are from the far realms, it’s about a refugee of our reality trying hard to get back in, it’s got this sort of lurking threat to it, and it shows you tearing reality open and letting in things that look like stuff you already know but which are definitely not, while you cast literal bolts of madness from your hand... and then disappointingly, it’s just… a wizard, like you, who drank of the outside.

My advice, if you’re going to use Zceryll in your game worlds? Soak in the eerie. Don’t say it was a wizard who started out researching the far realm. Make Zceryll something not someone.

Lovecraft Readings #1: Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn

This month I’m going to take some time to read to you my ””’favourite””’ Lovecraft stories, then talk to you a little bit about them afterwards. Because this is Lovecraft, each of these stories deserves a content warning for general horror, but in this one specifically, content warning for suicide, self-immolation, beastiality, racism, racism, racism, racism, racism and racism. I bleep the slur ‘g*psy’ in my reading, and am occasionally unable to contain my exasperated amusement at just how stunningly racist this is.

 

In the notes on the reading, I mention Atun-Shei Films, and a statement he made in this video.

CoX: Offshore

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing, and hopefully interesting.


 

There’s a lot of old gods in the deep.

Calling Offshore a sharkboy is true, sure; he’d call himself a Deep One if you asked him to, because that’s the English word his people use for what they are. If you asked where he’s from, he’d say Devil’s Reef, which, yes, is a name for one of the dozens of small, treacherous coves up on the New England coast.

It’s not that that story never happened – though it’s not his Devil’s Reef. It’s that it wasn’t his story; it wasn’t the story of his people, who are as different as other surface people. If you ask him who his people worshipped, he’d tell you a name, then tell you the translation:

Poseidon.

Offshore knows the ocean is important, knows Poseidon’s will is important, and he has a reason to believe that in this City of Heroes, where Greek Gods are seen and echoed all over, there’s a reason for him to be here, rather than down, in the old and glimmering libraries.

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Story Pile: The Vault

Conventional visions of horror are about taking the familiar, and adding the unfamiliar. There’s a reason so many horror settings since the 1970s have been focused on the suburban and the conventional being transformed into something dreadful and horrible – and the reason the slashers and monsters in movies so often represent things that we already contend with all the time now anyway. In The Stuff, the horror is the invisible consumption of food culture, in Friday the 13th, it’s the failure of the suburban space to make us safe, and in Camp Crystal Lake Chronicles: Zombie Boy Versus The Sex Havers, the horror is about being punished by adults for arbitary idiocy that has nothing to do with you and them making their emotional damage your problem.

The root, therefore, of modern horror movies, is about things we find relatable, and as the genre has progressed, it’s only a matter of time before you come across a horror movie where the thing it’s infiltrating is another, different type of movie.

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Ghost Hunting In Your Head

Ghost Hunting is scary.

In a very literal sense, Ghost Hunting media, where you have people with cameras and recording equipment to some location where ghosts ‘are’ and then get ‘proof’ of them, is a scary business, because it’s a business. There is an economic engine that can monetise the way that these people can spend time and money searching for people and locations to bother and record in the hopes of finding something spooky on camera.

That is, there is an entire business that, as with many other such businesses, wants to make money out of the fact you can be afraid of things, and which encourages you to confront your fear by attributing to it not the scary possibility that your brain is unreliable and can throw out phantom information, but rather that there’s an entire supernatural reality overlaid on ours and it mostly functions through manipulating videocameras and crap radios.

A moment, if you will, of direct empathy with Ghost Hunters. Not all of these people are actively manipulative, film-editing, blatantly exploitative awful shitweasels who are trying to launder their own ability to be mildly convincing into making money off people’s grief and fear. A number of these people are, themselves, credulous and hopeful and want to try and divine something about the world they’re in and often want to explain their feelings and their fear because understanding people is very hard and understanding yourself is extremely hard. The Ryan Bergaras of the space: Sincere believers who are actually scared of ghosts and are doing their best to confront these fears in safe and non-exploitative ways. To those ghost hunters, I must say, well, fine.

They’re a minority.

And almost always, they need to be surrounded by the assholes.

One of the things that hurts your ability to maintain beliefs in this kind of supernatural nonsense is an actual reliable record being kept of what you’re dealing with. If you think you heard a noise that was like a voice, but you can listen to that noise again and again, or recording the audio of an area, it suddenly becomes a lot harder to think ‘that was a voice’ when ‘that sounds like all the other sound in the area.’ We are coincidence seeking machines, and the ‘evidence’ that converts some people is extremely flimsy, often only made into ‘evidence’ by the confirmation of collaborative people, people who are in some cases, incentivised to make sure that you think, yes, that thing you heard is real.

What is real is that brains exist, as best we can prove, and brains do weird things. Brains seek patterns. Brains misrecord. Brains forget things.

And that’s what’s scary.

An entire industry built around keeping you looking for ghosts, so you don’t look inside yourself

Where the real scary stuff is.

An Interview About The Vampires

Brinkwood is live on Kickstarter, now. This is an interview with Erik the Bearik, one of the game’s developers. In this interview, we talk about the game, the things the game is about and the way the game’s values inform its narrative, rather than the typical marketing overview. We mention in this conversation this thread by Orion Black. And this other thread by them, which you should definitely check out.

Dread Month 2020!

For the month of October, my Story Pile, Game Pile and general posting will be wound around the theme of dread month. Copying from last year, the reason I’m using dread is because I don’t want to exclude some things: It’s not a horror month; criminal history and real world cult stuff isn’t really horror. It’s not a death month, because, well, death isn’t actually a universal element to the things that creep us out. And sometimes, there are things that are the aesthetic of ghosts and ghouls and scary things but isn’t actually very scary, because it’s being used to some other end.

Halloween isn’t a thing here, and more than normal, this is going to be a year where Halloween isn’t a thing. That sucks, and it sucks that people are going to miss out on a ritual that is renownedly fun. That means for us, this month, being a bit spooky, and indulging in spooky movies and sitting inside and shivering to the chill of scary games and scary media is going to be even more important, because it’s a way we can share the kind of fear we can control.

September Wrapup

Bring out yer alive!

This is our second-last unthemed month of the year, and with it came a scattered arrangement of posts, some that had been written months ago and only came out now, cast off into the far future when I could forget about them. It’s also when I wrote about how to handle money in your game design (and how weird it is that it’s how we handle it in real life, almost like life is an unfair game, odd), about how Elite Beat Agents expresses difficulty, and I put out my article on the charming and interesting Magical Land of Yeld.

This month’s shirt is a pie chart reference to a song! The big shakeup in the store is how I took down some Harry Potter themed merchandise which I once upon a time made as meanspirited jabs at a fandom I wasn’t into, but was willing to sell them, because it didn’t matter if their fandom was bad to me, it was important to them. The thing is, now, selling that stuff can be seen as if I’m okay with JK Rowling’s behaviour, and I’m really not.

This month’s video is another short experiment; an unscripted article on Void Bastards, which took me a very small amount of time to make for a game I’d already pretty much beaten. I quite liked doing this, and I’m hoping it’ll work for some of the other games we’re going to look at going forwards.

This month, I hurt my foot, and that snarled up my grading and that means everything’s been done with not enough time, oh no, oh dear, anyway.

Wasting Waste Space

I can’t believe what a boring bastard of a thought this is.

It is at the time I am writing this, quite late. It’s late not just in the time of night, but also late in the cycle that our house runs on. There’s basically a fortnightly track, and it all orients around the single event of our recycling being done.

We don’t generate much in the way of typical garbage. Most of our waste in this house is paper and plastic, and since we do that, we buy recycleable whenever we can. In our area, in order to encourage recycling, the non-recycleable waste bin is half the size of the recycling bin, which, you know what, whatever.

If you just organically throw things into the recycling as they need it, though, they pack up and fill a lot of space. When things are being delivered in hard cardboard boxes, if you just stick those boxes in, their basic shape exerts force around them. When people give you paper bags instead of plastic ones, and you just ball them up and throw them away like that, they’ll occupy a lot more space than they would otherwise.

This space is at a premium then.

Fox and I basically have to plan throwing out our recycling.

And what’s more, she’s really good at it.

A box has all these points of stress, it creates empty space and it resists being pressured out of that shape. That’s kind of the point of a box. Same is true of plastic containers, though they often deform a little less easily. This means that the most efficient way to put a box in the recycling is to break it down into panels. Larger boxes get cut into matching shapes, then get stacked at the bottom, then soft paper atop that, then crushed plastic and cans, then anything that’s last minute atop it.

The most amazing thing about this is this means that my living room table, where I would normally sit or set up board games, is, amazingly, given over to the task to organising the recycling as we approach the fortnight end, when it will get taken out and go elsewhere. I am trying to make sure that the food I eat now is the stuff from recycleable containers so we don’t have two jars of the same thing in the fridge or cupboard, don’t have doubles of a type of can.

It is an enormous amount of work, and constant mental effort, dedicated to just making sure I don’t have to sheepishly ask our neighbour if I can put some boxes in their recycling (because they’re managing theirs too).

I write about this not because you should feel sorry for me, or even care that much. I’m writing about it to reflect on how something so mundane as ‘chucking things in the recycling’ is now consuming material space and effort to be done in a manageable way in this time of heighened awareness.

Story Pile: Pentagon Wars

Two young fish are swimming along. An older fish swims past them and says ‘hey, kids. the water’s nice today.’ and swims on.

a few minutes later, one of the younger fish looks to the other and says: ‘what’s water?’


Normally there’s a fairly healthy turnaround time on Story Pile posts. I tend to like taking my time on them, and there’s also a sort of queue effect, where a movie or book or tv series will get watched while I do other things, then when I reach the end I’ll spend some time ruminating on my opinion on it before I ever write about it.

This, I watched last night.

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CoX: Xixecal

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing, and hopefully interesting.


Not all hells are hot. Oranbegans, for example, knew of a hell that was frozen, an intense jagged land of ice and pain, numbing and biting. It’s the home of the hellfrosts, and shards of that frozen hell extrude through the power of the gods to this world.

We all get our power from somewhere. There’s a title, long since handed down, a title designed to sap even the tiniest power from the name of the beast that wore it once, slumbering deep beneath a trap of ice and water. Nightmares of the old sea, the dark and dreaming deep, all woven together, in the name of the Xixecal.

To most? He’s a frost mage. Nice guy. Knows things. Knows people who know things.

And every spell he casts is sapping the strength of a dreadful beast that can never be permitted to awaken.

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