4E: The Hadalan

… And there, in the deepest and darkest of spaces, far from the prying eyes of those who would judge their work, or steal their designs, a god whose name is lost, did render the form of what it had seen, and sought to make its own.

It made what it thought it saw, when it saw humans.

And when it saw what it had done, it was revolted, and fled.

The Hadalan are a rare culture from the deep oceans of Cobrin’Seil. There are people of the seas – not like the cultures of merfolk and triton, that live up near the continents, building cities at the edges of the shelf where the land falls away into dark ocean. The Hadalan are from deep in the ocean; from places where vents in the earth belch bubbles and plumes of smoke into an uncaring darkness, where great bugs sift the sands, and where the dead bones of ship and whale alike lay in the muck, too cold and dark and barren to rot.

There are stories of the Hadalan. It’s said they are people who do not have souls. When seen from a distance, their shapes are hazy and indistinct, sailors say; they change shape and morph into strange and inhuman forms. Some say they eat souls, feasting on life to life to extend their own.

And there are the stories they tell of themselves.

The Hadalan, when asked, tell stories about how they were created without souls. About how they were abandoned by a god, who was horrifed at having made them. About the way they refused to die, and made their home in the deep oceans, with the deeper secrets. About glowing libraries and columns of fire that burn in the darkness of nowhere. About how they built a civilisation; how they learned to create their own souls; how they learned the ways to call upon gods.

How they called for their god, grown, whole, and a culture to be proud of.

How their god came to them.

And they tore them apart.

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Game Pile: UnderHero

You seen this game? It’s a pretty neat one. It made me laugh. So why not use this spooky game about playing a monster in a spooky month to talk about the spookiest of things – Postmoderniiismmmm.

CoX — Raptorex

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.


Not many people go out near the edges of Crey’s Folly, no more. They know it’s a dangerous place, with the Crey staff trying to recover lost research, the Nemesis forces trying to establish a bunkhead, Devouring Earth and Rikti and worse!

And there, lurking, is the dinosaur king, the beast woman of mysterious origin known as RAPTOREX!

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How To Be: Kuchiki Rukia (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 authoritative 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.

In Bleach, one of the most central characters to the early narrative is one Rukia Kuchiki. Introduced in the first episode, she is the bridge of our previous point-of-view character into the spirit world as an outsider. She is a character from another world, deprived of powers in our world, who has to guide Ichigo, a seemingly ordinary dude who can see ghosts, into seeing the immensely complicated reality that spiderwebs about him about societies full of special rules and seemingly arbitary boundaries. Rukia is this sort of mix of gremlin energy, doing things like building a micro room in Ichigo’s closet, ostentatious self-importance due to her noble heritage, and very legitimate expertise in spiritual matters. It’s the sudden loss of Rukia that marks the transition between the first two major arcs of Bleach, where all the fun we’ve had up until now is suddenly framed as something you have to pay for. The society, the life, the world that is waiting outside of the fun of highschool appears and demands that all that fun is over and now there is a duty.

I assume at some point after that she gets super powers and reunites with Ichigo and they have cool adventures and the story doesn’t run in place for nine years.

Anyway!

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Story Pile: The Plagues Of Breslau

I’m guna talk about stuff to do with cultural lenses and background material, and I’m going to talk about a Polish movie and a Polish book series, as a non-Polish person who has almost no grounding in that space. That means that by necessity, the ways I discuss this are going to be from an outsider’s perspective, making comparisons to media I do know, and that’s how it’s gunna be. It’s also going to be about a serial-killer based crime drama with some medical trauma and poverty themes, so like, before we go on, let’s start with a big ole Content Warning.

Content Warning: This is a serial killer horror story, this is a crime story, this is a story with some graphic visual effects, and it’s a Polish movie being talked about by a dude who cannot reliably say he’d find Poland on a map.

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Dread Readings: A Citizen of Carcosa

Ambrose Bierce wrote A Citizen of Carcosa, creating a city that would become permanently part of the horror mythos of modern English. The story captured the imagination, and inspired the use of the narrator in future horror and fear writers, and was done at a time in Bierce’s life between fighting confederate soldiers, shaking down millionaires for railroad taxes, and fighting in the Mexican civil war.

Dude was interesting.

Getting Vaccinated In An Unstructured World

It’s a late thursday night of the day I spent an hour sitting in a doctor’s office to get vaccinated, then observed afterwards. I am exhausted. My arm is killing me. I feel weird in the stomach, and my eyes hurt. None of this relates to the vaccine, as best I can tell, by the way. I’m exhausted because I’ve been working all day, then I had to arrange transport to the doctor’s, then get home, and then, I had to work on rebuilding my bed, because that can’t really wait. It meant that after getting the vaccine — which was convenient and easy and even literally painless — I came homje and had a list of things I had to do before I could tell myself I had the freedom to relax.

And then, eventually, that opportunity arrived, and I had a shower.

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Game Pile: Tamashii

I got this game in the Racial Justice bundle on itch, and I thought I’d give it a shot for Dread Month. Turns out that the plot is obtuse enough that I thought the most interesting thing was the way that the game spends a lot of programming effort and visual aesthetic looking like an old junky game from a long time ago, even on modern hardware.

Neat game, definitely one to try if you like the way it looks. Not the kind of thing where I put much stock in ‘the plot’ as much as that plot is an assemblage of stuff the creator thinks about.

Minions!

Let’s make this as simple as possible and put all the content warning up front.

Content Warning: Vaccinations, medical peril, political cartoons, actual fascism, and talk about how jokey jokes have become actual real downers!

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Doors, Stairs, Fog

Putting August, with its theme of tricks, and October, with its theme of dread, so close to one another is an interesting kind of mirroring because they undeniably share some space. There’s a trick to horror, and there’s a trick to designing good horror. Much of horror in my experience can be about learning something, and that means that good horror often relies about controlling your attention.

It’s something videogames have going on that many games that I design don’t. Videogames give you a camera, of sorts, that you control, of sorts, and that means that you’re often left with the illusion that you have control over what you see, how and when.

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Story Pile: Below

1943. The Atlantic Ocean. The single greatest U-Boat operation of the entire war thus far has just finished. The USS Tiger Shark cuts beneath the waves, an absolute behemoth of metal and sweat, a machine made for this new, unique field of battle. The sea struggles around, the bellows pump, and the sonar pings, as this great, heaving, terrifying machine, a mystery to even those who drive it answer a call.

There’s a British hospital ship, it’s sunk, and there are survivors. As the only ship nearby, the Tiger Shark breaches and rescues three people; two patients of the hospital ship, and a woman nurse.

But it’s not well on the Tiger Shark. A woman is bad luck, they say, and the morale is seemingly down in the dumps. A malaise hovers over everything. The patients aren’t looking hopeful, the captain seems haggard and haunted, and there’s a something wrong that nobody can name.

Is it a ghost story?

A horror story?

A spy thriller, where a saboteur somehow infiltrates the Submarine?

Well… yes.

Content Warning: This movie is about a horror scenario with death on a submarine, so there’s drowning, there’s guns, there’s Nazis, there’s creepy ghosty stuff. You know, kinda what you’d expect.

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Dread Readings: The Music of Erich Zann

What would Dread Month be, without a little dash of Howard Phillips ‘Jesus Christ What A Racist’ Lovecraft?

Content warning: There’s an unvoiced person in this story who is referred to with pretty typical cruel terms.

Gandhi Was Bad

Hey, do you know about this whacky famous videogame bug?

Back in Civilisation, a video game on the PC, yes, that thing, and also on platforms like the SNES. In this game, you pilot a nation, with your character — and all the other characters you play against — being famous representatives of important historical leaders. So if you play the Americans, you get Abe Lincoln, if you play the Romans, you get ‘Caesar’ (who is probably Julius), and so on. These come with some degree of personality, like Shaka of the Zulus and Genghis of the Mongols aren’t the same kind of leaders as Elizabeth of England and Stalin of Russia. It’s not exactly a well-framed kind of thing, where for example, Genghis’ leadership doesn’t result in a heavily military weirdly communist mix, and Elizabeth is seen as favouring ‘democracy’ for some reason.

Anyway, the idea is that there’s this bug in the game, where at some point, Gandhi, the leader of the Indian civilisation flips his wig and starts threatening to nuke the shit out of you in every conversation.

This is because, the lore goes, that every leader has an aggressiveness rating from 1 to 10. If you become a Democracy (which the Indians favour), your aggression score goes down by 2. Suddenly, Gandhi’s 1 becomes a 0 then becomes a negative 1 which in this does a classic computer fliparound and became a 255 and suddenly Ghandi is twenty five times more aggressive than the most murdery murderer who ever murders.

It’s not true, mind you.

This just literally isn’t true. In Civilisation, there’s no such rule that works this way.

First, the types of numbers stored in Civilisation don’t do this kind of fliparound thing. It’s something to do with whether the number knows how to sign their names, but the basics is: Civilisation Doesn’t Have This Kind Of Bug.

Second, in Civilisation, leaders don’t have a rating of 1 to 10. They have a simple three settings; Peaceful, Neutral, or Aggressive. That is: Civilisation Doesn’t Have That Kind of Rating.

And then there’s also that in Civilisation, changing your government doesn’t change the way the AI works. That is: Civilisation Doesn’t Even Work The Way This Bug Describes.

Now this is probably a bummer for you. After all, the Nuclear Gandhi meme is a fun one! It teaches people a little bit about how computers work, about the ways that they can behave in odd ways, and it explains a behaviour you may kind of remember in this game or another game like it, where someone you associate with peaceful civil disobedience being an aggressively belligerent asshole just jars. It’s a great little narrative, and the bug gets to explain the narrative, and all of that is unfortunately hindered by literally none of it being true, and relying on people not actually understanding anything they’re talking about, but also, in that very 4chan way, it is a rumour that you could start if you only seemed to understand the game a tiny bit more than someone else.

Incidentally, Gandhi wouldn’t nuke people aggressively. If the Indians in the game developed nuclear weapons, he would assert before any peace offering that his words were backed by nuclear weapons as the music kicked into high gear, but he’d still always offer a peace treaty, because his setting was peaceful.

But I may have destroyed Nuclear Gandhi in your mind.

But don’t worry, I can give you a replacement, if you don’t mind reading beyond the fold.

And now we get to the so-often this year, fold with Content Warning: Nazis!

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Story Pile: In The Mouth Of Madness

Have you read the work of Sutter Caine?

this is real.

This is a real thing that happens.

Content Warning: Lovecraftian horror, Kingian horror, medical imprisonment, a dog is injured in this movie, suicide and axe murder, destruction of consensus reality, and body horror (both in movie and out).

I’ll also spoil the whole thing within two paragraphs. Like, I’m not going to mess around here.

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Dread Month 2021!

Welcome, welcome, welcome, boils ghouls and nondinary fools~! Welcome, welcome, welcome to the press dot invincible dot ink blog where horror and thriller and spooky material is all getting stuffed into the month of October. It’s some lighthearted funny spooks, but there’s also some more deep and heavy horrifying material to grapple with.

What can you expect? Well, I’m going to look at some horror games in the Game Pile; horror movies and manga in the Story Pile. But in addition to that, the remaining posts of the month are going to bubble and teem with nasty, creepy horrors of media, of the way we treat one another, or the way games treat one another. That means we’re going to talk about things that we accept as horrifying in one way, and instead turning them so we can see different horror cut through it. We’re going to talk a little about a beloved (by other people) historical figure. There’s going to be some more talk about assets and game design, and maybe a chat about horror in world building choices, and maybe even a new horrifying group of monster-people for D&D.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this as an excuse to drop you into nasty topics. There will still be content warnings and folds, and I hope you can appreciate, if I slip up in this case, it’s a product of a mistake, not out of any attempt to manipulate and hurt you.

The term I wield for this month is deliberately dread, rather than horror, because if you’ve looked back on previous Dread Months, there have been some really good horror movies and series, things that are designed to make you clutch your chest and brace with the horror of them. But there have also been things like ‘oh wow, the Goosebumps movie is better than I expected.’ Then there’s stuff where I have confronted a grim thought or two, like the time I considered how the trajectory of my life matched the trajectory of historical serial killers.

Welcome to Dread month!

Tread lightly.

Game Pile: Bloodborne The Card Game

Hey, do you remember Bloodborne? That critically acclaimed internationally successful videogame made by longstandingly successful company From Soft that I looked at and gave you the useful insight that it wasn’t actually that good and it serves as a symbol of how we are sycophantic towards games for idiotic fears of hurting those games’ feelings? That game that was a solid 7/10 but only the reviews of the people who have sunk all the sunk costs count, meaning it’s elevated to special uncriticisable place in the pantheon of videogames as somehow being ‘near perfect’ despite being incredibly janky and failure-prone? The game that has an aesthetic I love, but which disappointed me immensely?

Yeah, that, it’s back, and in card game form!

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September 2021 Wrapup!

September is over! But if you’re like the majority of people who read this blog (weird), you only check it from time to time, so here’s a post that should tell you things you may have missed this month that you can go check out!

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T-shirt: Menu Loss

I have a bunch of t-shirt designs that build on the meme of Loss. I think some of them aren’t so great, as shirts, any more, and are a little slack or lazy in their execution. Since I wear them to class, I decided I needed to update and add to those designs, so here’s another one.

 

Here’s the design, on a shirt:

You can get it on Redbubble.

 

Story Pile: Lord Of War

I knew, ahead of time, when I started on the Nicolas Cage-em-up theme for a month that this was going to be the movie I did last. I knew, because I knew that I thought really well of this movie, that there was a definite here here. That there was a story I remembered seeing – like, in 2007 – and that I had the sort of lurched, sunk-in feeling in my gut that the movie I’d seen had been something. That it was impressive and dark and also weirdly funny, but I somehow couldn’t remember the finale, couldn’t remember the end clearly.

Coming back to it, I realised the reason I couldn’t remember the end clearly, because the ending isn’t clear. It just goes on.

And that’s the point.

If you’re looking for a recommendation and want to see if you should bother with movies, going in blind, you should absolutely check out Lord Of War if you can handle a violent, drug-addled movie about guns and death and the idea of industrialised human harm and atrocities. This movie is cynical in a way few stories manage, and dark in a way that few actors can pull off.

And Nicolas Cage is pretty much perfect in this movie.

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How To Be: May (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 authoritative 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.

You may remember that we’ve looked, earlier in the year, at the character Rock Howard, from Garou: Mark Of The Wolves. Fight games are rich fodder for this kind of exercise because they so often about what a character is and less about what the character does. Simply put, fight games don’t make much sense.

There’s a scale at work, of course. Some games make more sense, with a deliberate intention to ground the storytelling in something serious. Some games, on other hand, are pretty silly, and don’t really care about how silly they get.

Anyway, Guilty Gear.

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CoX: Woodfall

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.


They call it Eden, now.

Crey and the Devouring Earth and Nemesis do battle there, clashing over resources, over powerful ancient leylines, over strands of the great thorn tree the Circle claim as their own. When the labs broke down he was left there. The Green crept in. The ancient trees whispered secrets. They told him things that nature knows.

When he stood up again, he could remember nothing what he was, but enough of what he should be.

In time, the new things would die, they would go, and what was before would return. It needed only to be fostered, to be protected. It would be what it was once more.

They used to call it Woodvale.

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Game Pile: Channel Trailer 2021

What’s this? This isn’t Game Pile at all? Well, sort of. It’s a video about my Youtube channel, what it’s for and why I use it to put up Game pile articles. It’s meant to double as my channel trailer over on Youtube for those people who don’t come and look at the blog. It’s weird to me to consider that there may be people who watch over there but don’t read over here, but hypothetically, that’s what Youtube is about.

Script follows!

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4e: Methods & Practice

Here’s a valuable lesson for tabletop RPG designers of all kinds I want you to learn from 4th edition D&D. I’ve been brewing on it for a while and I think I can summarise it cleanly thus:

Methods & Practices should not be Entangled.

There, that’s it, that’s the tweet.

… And I guess I should explain it more.

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