Bullet Journaling This Year

… Kinda haven’t done it.

Look, Bullet journals are great. I deeply love my Bullet Journal.  I have a nice little paper book that I carry with me in almost all the bags I have and I use it for, well, notepaper stuff. I make a monthly planner, which means I’m noticing when the seasons turn, I’m noticing the things in my life that a lot of systems automate. I’m tracking which week of the semester it is, I’m thinking about the next month.

This year I’ve done a lot of tracking of the year on the blog using the planning chart I linked at the start of the year, which I do think I’ll keep doing because it’s good for taking an overview on how the whole year looks and can have comments and notes. That’s super useful.

It’s one of those rare things that I can treat as a sort of ‘gift well.’ If my family want to get me something nice, some stickers for putting in my bullet journal, stamps for things like weekly schedules, or just decorative pens. As someone who doesn’t tend to be ‘giftable’ in a lot of ways (I mean, I have lots of videogames, and family members aren’t necessarily going to want to be experts on board games or videogames to try and get me something I ‘want’), the bullet journal is super handy. It’s nice, too, it means I think of my family as I take notes.

But.

My Bullet Journal is something I use when I’m not at my computer to make things.

So, this year: No development on the Bullet Journal, no new mods, no new layouts, no new habits. I did get some nice stuff, I have a lovely book, which is… hopefully going to be my 2021 book?

Of course, Bullet Journals are meant to be flexible. This is one of the things about the system that’s a point of recommendation, especially for neurodivergent folks. They don’t care if you mess up, or miss a few days, or miss a month. The system is designed to not structure your life to the book, but the book to your life. It’s okay. I’m going to be okay.

Why am I doing this here? Well, this is normally something I’d write about in my bullet journal.

But uhh.

October Wrapup!

Woo~ooo~Ooo~Oooo it’s trick-or-treating niiiight. Which it wouldn’t be wiiiise to dooo~oo~oooOOO~~ because of the globaaal pandeeemiiiiiiic~ You know now I think of it, it is a little weird to not see more Zombie fiction set on Halloween where they have to work trick-or-treating into the plot somehow. Anyway!

It’s Halloween and it’s the end of October, so it’s time to run down what I got done this month in amongst many other things.

First of all, articles. We did some interesting and different stuff this month, didn’t we? First, there were my readings of Hp Lovecraft writings with some critical response afterwards; I read Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn, aka ‘My Ape Grandma’s Grandson Was A Racist’, The Colour out of Space, aka ‘Space is scary and hicks don’t know when to be afraid,’ Nemesis, aka ‘hey, not so much racism this time,’ and The Statement of Randolph Carter, aka ‘behold the ancient days of a century ago.’ These were fun to do and reasonably easy, so if you want this kind of stuff, I’ll consider doing more readings on theme months.

I interviewed Erik the Bearik about Brinkwood: Blood of Tyrants, and that was lots of fun. I vented for a bit about ‘ghost hunters‘  and ‘real mystery‘ media, where I pulled my punches and avoided swearing about exploitative nonsense. I also wrote some companion pieces to my SCP Wiki video (and we’ll get to that), where I listed some SCPs I dislike and some I like.

I also did something special this month with videos! Since I’d been doing a lot of experimenting with video this year, I figured I’d bring them together and do five ‘different’ kinds of video.

For Halloween Forever, I talked about the game and about my relationship to Halloween as a cute, fun thing to be enjoyed. This was done by playing the video, then unscriptedly talking about the way the game made me feel. This was really easy to do!

For the SCP wiki, I made a simple video of a series of animations with minimal visual data, but with useful, clear iconography. This works well for representing text media, so maybe this is how I’ll tackle text adventures going forwards. This was also scripted pretty thoroughly before I made the video.

For Scarlet Hollow, I made a very quick series of pan-and-scans over stills from the game, which worked out well for explaining the ways the game worked. This was lightly scripted, but I did do a fair bit of editing to get the right flow down. This meant I could promote the game on kickstarter in an appropriate window, instead of holding things up. This also helped overcome my big problem with visual novels, where I often feel like I’m ‘wasting’ the medium to use video and voice to talk about a primarily textual medium.

 

Finally, Ai: The Somnium Files is like one of your more typical ‘essay-ish’ type videos, though not using the game to make some greater point. I scripted it out, read it, then used a loop of gameplay visuals which I overlaid with graphics to present more information about the game. I was able to weave in video footage and some captioning, which worked out okay, and I liked it.

I think I just talk faster than most video essay people. This video script is 2200 words, and the video is about ten minutes – but a typical audio reading, according to audiobook resources, is around 150 words a minute. Ostensibly, this should mean that this video should be about 15 minutes if I just read slower.

I’ll have to work on that.

For Gloomwood, this was much simpler to make. I recorded myself playing the game, as is, the first time. Everything is here – me messing up, me learning game mechanics, me exploring how the game worked from record to end record.

 I also made a shirt this month! Then I was so happy with how one element on it worked out, I made it into a sticker!

Aiba is a real sweetheart of a character, and I’m really glad to have gotten to play this game. When I make shirts and stickers, it’s often as ‘merch’ of my interests, and so this time I’m glad to be able to make merch of my love of this game.

And finally, personal life stuff? Well, October was busy – I’ve been marking pretty much every week of the month, and the marking has taken up a lot of time. I have a lot of students this semester, and they’re under a lot of stress, which has meant there’s been a lot of late-night mix-ups, or two AM calls from students worrying about how to get things working.

October was nonetheless a lovely month to catch up with some movies and shows I really liked, it was a wonderful experience in video making, and I enjoyed my recordings as well. Let me know if any of the content this month stood out to you as a fave and I’ll see what I can do going forward.

Camp Osum Month Diary

For Asylum Jam 2017, I made a horror game based around that jam’s theme of a zero sum game. My game was very, very quickly made; I documented the process to an extent at the time. Since then I’ve sat it in a drawer and kind of ignored it.

The game at its core is a drafting game, but it’s not a simultaneous drafting game. The game works on a kind of draft I learned as rochester draft; you lay out all the cards on the table, in a grid, and players make choices one at a time, in a circle around the table. These stacks are weighted, so that in each stack, there’s a card that represents the ‘monster’ in this setting. The monster in this story is meant to be a sort of slasher movie monster ala Jason. As players die, they become ghosts, and those ghosts then get to haunt and complicate things for the remaining player, who is trying to escape.

I really like this simple little engine, and I like the way all the pieces work; with three ghosts at the table it can be really hard for the remaining player to pick their way through the stacks of cards that may or may not be boobytrapped by earlier player action. Players want to try and sabotage one another, but they don’t want to make their own potential future as the final player one of immediate defeat, either. The whole idea behind the game is that all victory is a zero sum game: You can only win when either everyone ‘loses’ or when all the other players have lost – and that’s the inspiration for the name, Camp Osum (0-Sum).

I’ve been thinking about revamping this game as a little October release, and I thought I’d give a shot of making the game use pixel art.

  • There are a few asset packs I already own for horror RPGs
  • These assets often focus on backgrounds, a thing I find the most difficult
  • Consistently done pixel art can be really rewarding and nostalgic
  • The game’s mechanics are tense, the game’s art doesn’t have to try and horrify

With that in mind (and I started this back in the first week of October), I’m going to do something a little different here and include a set of pictures from when I worked on this idea each point through the month.

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Lovecraft Readings #4: The Statement of Randolph Carter

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, uh

Huh

Actually, this one’s not actually super racist?

Neat!

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.