Ten Links in the Chain: Food for Thought (14-DEC-2012)

Happy Friday everybody! And a very Hobbit-ish Friday at that!

Are you going to go see the new journey into Middle Earth? Or are you waiting a bit for the insanity to die down before you travel with Bilbo and the gang in 2D, 3D, 24fps, or on an IMAX screen? I’m excited to see it, but will likely not see it opening weekend. (Sad panda.)

But I must carry on and share links, so here are a few articles to inspire your own journeys into fantastic or horrible creative territory!

(1) What spawned the the Gelflings, the Skeksis, and the Mystics?

I don’t know about you, but I was profoundly affected by The Dark Crystal from Jim Henson when I was a kid. Of course, it may have been that I was stuck in a hospital for a week, stuck watching whatever films happened to be on HBO at the time, and the film kept coming on over and over again. We’ll never know. 🙂

Skeksis - The Dark Crystal

But even so, I took that fascination and its exploration of good and evil being two sides of the same coin to heart. So color me surprised to discover that much of the metaphysical content of the film from Jim Henson came from a book called Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts, who wrote it channeling a multi-dimensional being. Now, it was the 1970s when the book was written so I’m guessing perhaps there was some mind altering going on, but it shows that inspiration can come from strange directions at times – which is why I collect these “Food for Thought” type posts as I peruse the web. You never know what will spark an idea.

This insight about the philosophy behind the film comes from an essay by screenwriter David Odell appearing in The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths (Volume 2). Charlie Jane Anders @ io9 included the essay in a post back in November about the book (due out in January)… I’m a fan of Brian Froud‘s art and may have to check out this series of books at some point.

(2) Ku Ku Ka Cthulhu!

Bellerophon Cthulhu soapstone bas reliefH.P. Lovecraft was a very creative individual with one heck of a dark imagination, but do you think he’d be surprised at the longevity of his impact on popular culture?

Props like this bas relief carved from soapstone are freaky and yet… beautiful (coming to us via Propnomicon).  So are this idolthis dagger and artifact. (Propnomicon is an awesome site for all sorts of inspiration beyond Cthulhu as well…) Why is it that such a terrifying mythos has such a dual nature, combining beauty and horror in equal measure?

And then we have current genetic research that hints at our connection to the fishy Old Ones from the mythos… (Courtesy of José Luis Gómez-Skarmeta @ GeekOSystem.) I wonder if we can reverse engineer Atlanteans with this new understanding…

(3) Inspired Creatures

If you’d rather keep your inspirations earth-based rather than fiction-based, why not check out this new book of cave creatures from Colorado’s Glenwood Caverns? Nothing like having real species described in detail to inspire monsters for the dank, dark caves of your own campaign worlds…

(4) Inspired Images

Suits of armor can be found in every fantasy RPG campaign I’ve ever played in. And yet I’ve never seen anything like some of these bizarre suits over @ JPG Kingdom. The heads of some of the people who wear the armor must have been squished in all sorts of horrific ways. Many of them are beautifully gilt and decorated, while others were designed to scare their enemies. But all of them offer insight into the many styles medieval blacksmiths were capable of creating.

yggdrasilMap-189x300Next up we have a single image from an upcoming video game release from Bungie. Their game Destiny had a series of leaked images appear at IGN along with some documents detailing the game story. Did Bungie panic? No, they went ahead and released an official image of their own to offer some details (thanks to Glen Tickle @ Geekosystem for the image and background). The picture looks a bit like Hoth to me mixed with a bit of Warhammer 40,000. But if you’re looking for ideas for a futuristic campaign, there’s a few in there. 🙂

Then we have… CONAN! This image by Barry Windsor-Smith comes to us courtesy of Brian Michael Bendis’ website. It would feel right at home in the DCC RPG book or any number of OSR projects I think!

But if it’s a map you want, how about one of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, courtesy of Kevin Hearne’s latest book Trapped in the Iron Druid Series. Beautiful picture that works whether you’re a fan of Thor or someone who enjoys modern takes on mythology. (By the way, it’s a great series if you haven’t read it – urban fantasy with plenty of sarcastic wit!)

(5) Quality is Job 0.91.1

Whether you’re talking about board games, table-top RPGs, or video games, there’s plenty of effort that goes into quality control. Playtesting and squashing bugs is just as important on paper as it is with code. But sometimes the goal of being perfect gets in the way of simply being.

Hope This Works Games had all sorts of issues, but producing a good game wasn’t one of them. Perhaps we should take a lesson about good intentions and business practices from this article by Dennis Dunn @ Penny Arcade

But when things go wrong, as they inevitably will thanks to good old Murphy’s Law, we tend to get our feelings hurt even when it has nothing to do with us directly. I found this great slideshow at Slideshare from Dan Milstein at Wingu about running a “Five Why’s” to figure out why things went wrong. It’s not about blame – it’s about finding the problems and fixing them. Far too often we play the blame game even when it’s just us.

Creativity requires failures and successes, so why not turn the failures into positives along the way?

(6) Space, the Final Frontier

710033main_Stone-3pia16482-43_946-710Good old Voyager 1 is still chugging along on its way out of the solar system and continues to send back data 35 years after being sent into the great beyond. And it seems to have hit some turbulence along the way, encountering the interstellar wind. Can you imagine a campaign based around the early days of interstellar space flight (without warp drive) encountering that breeze 11.5 billion miles away? (Glen Tickle @ Geekosystem)

If you’re after more of a Big Brother (reality TV, not Orwellian fiction) approach to space exploration,
take a look at the Mars One project. Apparently they have more than 1,000 applicants already for four astronaut jobs on a one-way trip to Mars in 2023. They won’t be lonely though – 4 more will go every 2 years thereafter. This is one heck of a crowdfunding campaign folks, but I’m really afraid to see how the astronaut training weeds out applicants that don’t meet the criteria… But I can imagine a campaign based around a Mars mission. I’m such a geek.

And if neither of those do anything for you, check out the list of Pulp Sci-fi inspiration from Needles @ Swords & Stitchery. This is a sci-fi version of “Appendix N” that I can get behind – movies and books that may be so bad they’re good!

(7) History? Herstory?

Who cares about Werewolves in London? The new song should be Vampires in Serbia! Apparently there’s a vampire ghost – Sava Savanovic – is awake and stalking the hamlet of Zarozje, Serbia. And the villagers are taking no chances, using garlic and wooden stakes to protect themselves and their families.

Cydrean_Vampire_darkgazerWhat’s intriguing to me is how this might be used in a campaign. Whether or not the ghost is real, it’s bringing in some tourist trade. Could the same thing happen in a game world? Why not? Might be a bit “Scooby Doo” for serious gaming groups, but it’s been done on film before – look at The Brothers Grimm for some examples. 🙂

Elsewhere in Europe, Stephen Chenault @ the Troll Dens points out that the leader of a mercenary group from the 16th century in Italy is being dug up! Giovanni de Medici apparently worked for Pope Leo X and caused all sorts of trouble. Sound like any adventuring companies you know?!

Meanwhile, in Greece they may have figured out scientifically why the Oracle at Delphi was smokin’ to get some of those freaky prophecies… Apparently there were some not-so-nice gasses seeping in through fault lines that not only affected the air in the temple but the water as well. Those oracles were tripping out! (Esther Inglis-Arkell @ io9) Next time I have an oracle in a campaign I think they’ll be a bit crazy on fumes. 🙂

(8) Tell Me a Story…

Apparently telling stories engages the whole brain, which is a good thing. We all enjoy a good story, right? Well, telling them is a great way to exercise your mind it seems. Leo Widrich, founder of Buffer,  wrote up a great article @ Lifehacker about the how’s and why’s of stories affecting the brain along with some great tips on how to get the most out of that fact.

Haven’t we known that as gamers for years? Doug Peterson @ his blog wrote about a cool tool that helps folks create interactive stories online like ZorkCalled Inklewriter, using the tool (for free) you can create your own stories with branches and multiple endings. He suggests using it for more practical purposes like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for a school orientation night. But I think it could be fun if we could turn some of the solo adventures from RPGs into interactive stories in this way…

We tell stories as DMs and GMs all the time, but we go where the PCs lead us much of the time. This is a similar approach to writing long fiction it seems, if you read this article from Samuel Sattin @ Salon. He reconnected with his inner DM to help him figure out how to weave more involved, interesting stories and keep the character’s motives in mind at all times. I think many writers do this, but they don’t explicitly call it out as D&D inspired. 🙂

And if you tell stories in that way, sometimes you dream some interesting dreams. Charlie White @ Intwischa recently related a dream involving Boccob and a sandy beach… But I won’t spoil the end.

(9) It’s the End of the World As We Know It… And I feel fine.

aztec-calendarDepending on who you listen to, the world is coming to an end. Maybe it’s the Mayans. Maybe it’s the Rapture. Maybe it’s some giant asteroid heading for Earth doomed to destroy us all. But honestly, the world probably ends and begins again every day in some small way. So why stress it? (I choose to believe Douglas Adams who says the world has probably already ended at least once.)

Lauren Davis @ io9 has pulled together a great list of 8 bizarre ways the world is (or was) going to end. Someone’s always making bold predictions about Armageddon it seems… Why shouldn’t our NPCs do the same thing in our campaign worlds? Perhaps bold predictions will come true. Maybe they won’t. But it’ll likely get your PC’s attention I think!

But since the end of the Mayan calendar is supposed to happen in a few days, Tourq Stevens @ Stuffer Shack decided he’d choose a new favorite site for December in case it comes true. And I have to say I’m thrilled it’s Michael Wolf’s site – Stargazer’s World – which always has a ton of great things going on! Congrats Michael!

(10) Writing and Blogging Tips

Regardless of what writing you do, whether it’s for your own campaign, for a blog, for yourself, or for publication, there’s always room to hone the craft. Rule #1 I’ve always heard is “Writers write.” So where do you get your ideas? And when you get your ideas, how do you convert them into words?

pen-writingFirst… Melissa Donovan @ Writing Forward has some pointers on where to look for ideas. Here’s a hint – ideas are everywhere! And Linda Formichelli @ The Renegade Writer suggests that trying too hard is a good way to get stuck. Let the ideas flow and the words will come.

Freewriting around an idea is what gets me going and often those pieces end up (modified a bit) as Gassy Gnoll articles. What are they inspired by? All of you crazy game bloggers out there talking about myriad things all at once. 🙂

Next, if it’s the writing you’re worried about, Maria Popova @ Brain Pickings has some great tips from one of the original “Mad Men” David Ogilvy. My favorite tip? “Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.” I try to use the “Never write more than two pages on any subject.” tip, but as you can see – sometimes I get a little carried away!

If you’re having issues getting your audience involved with your posts, then check out this guest article from  Olin Morales @ Write to Done (GREAT writing site btw) about making your posts more shareable. Included are many things I need to work on – including the first tip – making things more about the reader. But I really like tip 8 – “Field test your blog post subject” via Twitter. Great way to engage your community before you even start writing!

Lastly, I don’t know if you use Zemanta to help with your cross-linking of posts with other sites, but it’s a HUGE time saver. I use it all the time. And as you might think, they’re pretty knowledgeable about blogging. This week they compiled a list of 50 of the best tips they came up with this year. Great stuff that everybody should be able to get something out of! (Especially #46 – “Link Love is the way you should roll.” I know all about that!)

(10 +1) A Few New Products to Check Out

I
swear that Creighton and the folks at Raging Swan Press must not sleep much. They put out at least one product every single week. It’s crazy! But their insanity has not affected their quality one iota. And the 4 and 5 star reviews are piling up. 🙂

Journeys-to-the-West-Cover-Final-SMALLDoes that mean they’re resting on their laurels? Heck no. Dungeon Dressing: Chests by Eric Hindley and the TRIBES Anthology III (combining 5 supplements into one) have been released to the world. They’re not slowing down folks!

If you’re a fan of Fiasco from Jason Morningstar and Bully Pulpit Games, you might want to check this new playset out from Brian Liberge. Imagine all the bad things that happen over the holidays. Stick them in the Chicago O’Hare airport. Put the blender on puree. And you end up with The Last Christmas in O’Hare – definitely NSFW and not for kids, but I bet adults with sick minds will enjoy it just fine!

I mentioned Mike Shea’s The Lazy Dungeon Master yesterday in the review links round-up, but didn’t point you to where you can find it! Check out this page over at Sly Flourish for all the details and pick up a copy. There’s even a free preview if you want to check out a little bit first. 🙂

And lastly, I have to mention the Journeys to the West adventure anthology from Kobold Press. And not just because I was a Kickstarter backer of the project. This thing is chock full of goodies to add to your Midgard campaign or even just for ideas for your own worlds. Christina Stiles and the rest of the gang did an amazing job as per usual.

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As always, if you feel I missed something (and it would be impossible NOT to), drop me a quick note via the contact page or drop me an e-mail at news(at)gameknightreviews(dot)com and I’ll add it to the list for next week!

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