internet + etsy

Updates, set dressing for Maniacs and shut up youSomeone named Jack emailed me recently to ask why I wasn’t a part of the usual haunts and discussions out there on the web. He asked, “Was it something someone said?”
The short answer is, “No.”
The slightly longer answer is: I’m just not spending a lot of time online these days. I don’t know when and if that will change. I didn’t make any conscious choice at any single point and say, “That is the last fucking straw!” or whatever. I just dropped out of the google+ thing and stopped visiting all the forums and what-not because I just didn’t find the rewards equal to the time investment they required. I have not changed; I’m just less interested in having broader conversations with strangers on topics that don’t reflect what I am doing these days.
Some have suggested I create a ‘facebook artist page’ and I still haven’t decided if I need a ‘facebook artist page’ that is distinct from my ‘facebook page’ or not. I think I just use my facebook page for looking at pictures of kittens in sombreros and posting the occasional snarky comment and seeing pictures of other people’s kids or hearing about the marathons they are running or the meals they are eating; the point of a broader ‘strategic multimedia outreach’ has yet to become a reality for me.
I’m doing things (some of which don’t involve the internet) and working on some private commissions as well as some projects that are probably 2 or 3 years late and getting older.
If you have clicked on the etsy shop link on the right, you will find that there is nothing in the store (and there hasn’t been for some time). Etsy has been pretty good to me in the past but isn’t fitting into my current schemes very well — again, because of the time involved. If anyone has suggestions for a good way for an artist like me to sell original artwork that has been previously published in things like Goodman Games DCC adventures, please post or email.
If anyone wants to say hello, the best way is probably to just email me (at sbpoag(at)gmail(dot)com). After the 18th of August 2013 I will be out of the country for 2+ weeks. I will probably not have access to email in that time.

600 posts — and ‘stupidity’ is YOUR favorite category!

This is post #600 for this blog.  Woohoo!  And I just checked my stats — of all the different posts clicked on in the past 24 hours, posts with the category of ‘stupidity’ were the most popular.

popular categories

Have a happy 4th. If you light any fireworks off, try not to hurt yourself.

Helena Zmatlíková on Monster Brains

This cool-as-hell illustration (and others) appeared recently on one of my favorite sites, Monster Brains. The artist is Helena Zmatlíková. Visit Aeron Alfrey’s Monster Brains for more

7 heads and 3 eyes on each head = 21 eyes.

Boing Boing on Dragon Magazine and rpg ephemera

A recent article on Boing Boing in praise of the old Dragon Magazines and similar: Opponents Wanted.

And then here is a picture of some funky frog cultist from Goodman’s DCC RPG:

‘Please don’t do this to me!’

I don’t really know what ‘reddit’ is or why it is.  I barely know what Gawker is. Every once in a while someone send me a link to some site like ‘Jezebel’ saying, “You might like this,” or “I think you would hate this” or whatever.  But ‘reddit’ is apparently another one of dozens of ‘content aggregate sites’ on the web where people post shit and other people look at it and they post +1 and similar stupid stuff.  And although I don’t really understand ‘reddit’ nor do I care about it, it has passed in front of my radar recently because other news sites I follow have been reporting on some dude named Michael Brutsch.

Fat and creepy looking, plus he has a (surprise!) goatee. Looks pretty much like I expected he would.

Brutsch is one of reddit’s “power users” who has, for years, specialized in trolling and what he affectionately calls ‘creepshots’ (and others have called ‘child pornography.’ I’m not sure they fit my definition of pornography, but they don’t make me like Brutsch). ‘Creepshots’ are where Brutsch or his followers scour the web looking for pictures of under-age girls who look sexually provocative for ‘wank material’ or they photograph under age girls they see in public. So, yeah, they follow 14 year olds and leer at them, then post the pictures they snap online and make comments about the girls.  Illegal? I don’t know. Fucked up and creepy? Definitely.
Brutsch served as a moderator (or sorts) for ‘reddit’ and established his own moderation policies for ‘creepshots.’ Among other things, he would immediately delete any pictures that were of women/girls old enough to give legal consent. Anyone who crossed him would be hunted down and harassed on the Internet by Brutsch and his cronies. Among other things, they would flood their network of sites with the targets real name and contact information coupled with insults and accusations. And he and his cronies did all of this from behind anonymous user handles.  Brutsch used ‘Violentacrez’ as his screen name, and, as Violentacrez he was infamous. Brutsch/Violentacrez is unpaid (he does (or did) this for fun), but ‘reddit’ is owned by Conde Nast, who disavow any role in the creepiness of 49 year old men posting pictures and comments that describe their sexual fantasies involving young girls and pictures they have appropriated from facebook and other sources.
Cutting to the chase: The residents of ‘Gawker’ and ‘reddit’ were caught up in some sort of flame war.  Adrian Chen of Gawker somehow found out that Violentacrez = Brutsch and called up Brutsch to tell him that he was going public with the information. Brutsch begged him not to, citing the fact that this would embarrass his family and cost him his job, ignoring the obvious — as Violentacrez, he made his reputation by bringing grief to other people. But when the shit lands on his doorstep, he begs Chen to show some mercy and let him off the hook. He tells Chen that his wife is disabled and this will embarrass his son (never mind that as Violentacrez, there was nowhere Brutsch wouldn’t go in his attempts to humiliate those he though of as his online enemies and he had no qualms about invading the lives of others by posting pictures of teenagers in his online gallery). I’m glad to say that Chen didn’t listen. After the news got out, Brutsch was let go from his position at a financial firm’s IT department, presumably because he had been moderating a glorified porn site and championing free speech by fucking with people from an anonymous account while on the clock. Ooops.
Why are these Internet tough guys always such pathetic, fat worms in reality? When they finally reel out enough rope to hang themselves, they always seem to think that they don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of what they have been dishing out.  What’s up with that?

Schroedinger’s Room and fuck-a-diddles

If memory serves, this is level 1a from Khunmar.

Yesterday I posted about megadungeons, then I read the Mule Abides “Defense of the Megadungeon” and followed that up with Bliss Infinite’s post about “empty rooms” and all of this makes me want to get into the game of talking about empty rooms on my blog, too. I can neither confirm nor deny Joe the Lawyer’s negative experience with dungeoneering in Dwimmermount; I haven’t read or played it. I’m looking forward to reading it because I like a lot of the things that James writes on Grognardia; based on what he has already written about D&D, I want to read Dwimmermount.

In my own megadungeon, Mines of Khunmar, (which people are probably sick of hearing me go on about), there are a lot of empty rooms (I’ll get to those later). There are also a lot of the ‘fuck-a-diddle’ type rooms that are probably the equivalent of the room with the ghost chess players in Dwimmermount that Joe the Lawyer didn’t like.  For clarification, in my lexicon, a ‘fuck-a-diddle’ room/encounter is one in which the author says, “Here is an X,” but probably doesn’t provide enough or any explanation for that thing being there (whether it be a ghost, a mysterious magical effect, an illusion, a pile of old shoes, etc.). If you like ‘fuck-a-diddles’ you can see it as an opportunity to improvise or even just toss a red herring in the mix and see if the players chase it. If you hate ‘fuck-a-diddles,’ you will roll your eyes in annoyance and shout “LAME!”

One example of a fuck-a-diddle: I remember there is a room in Khunmar where the ghosts of dwarves drink beer and sing songs on level 4 or 5 — if I recall my intentions correctly, I thought that if the players sat down and drank beer they would eventually fade away and become ghosts themselves. No one ever entered that room, so I can’t say that I ever had the chance to ‘test drive’ it. One of my favorite published ‘megadungeons’ (Tegel Manor by Judge’s Guild) is pretty much one fuck-a-diddle after another. I’d love to play that thing. There used to be a few pages on the site where one of the authors from the book division talked about using Tegel Manor to teach a group of non gamers how to play D&D on their lunch break, and, as I recall, the campaign sounded like a hoot (edit: still there…link). It’s been years since I poked my nose inside my copy of Tegel, but as I recall, the descriptions were pretty short on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of all of the different weirdo and unexplained encounters in the manor. I don’t know if that would irritate people who don’t like vague descriptions or hate the ‘feel free to improvise here’ style of dungeon keying.

Speaking of empty rooms, I always hated the whole ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’ thing.  I know I’m probably missing the point because it is the equivalent of the physics student’s Zen koan to declare that the cat in the box is simultaneously alive and dead because we don’t know, but I always get stuck on thinking, “What kind of sick fucker puts a cat in a box with poison?” Free associating from Schroedinger’s cat to trees falling in the woods to whether or not empty rooms can truly be empty if there are a bunch of adventurers walking through them, I have to declare that I don’t find empty rooms a ‘dealbreaker.’ I suppose that an adventure buyer/reader might think he was getting more value for money if the author and publisher used a lot of words and ink to describe each and every room whether or not anything of any substance was in it, but I’d probably be just as happy at this point in my life with less to read when and if I ever actually use the adventure behind the GM screen.  One of the things I liked about Barrowmaze and Stonehell (2 different published megadungeons) is that the descriptions were not overly long and adjective filled. My feeling is that if I want a novel, I’ll read one. My own ideal is that a dungeon location description be pretty short so I can scan and find the info that I need at a glance rather than hunting through massive paragraphs of prose to find out whether the kobold chief wearing the headress made of human ears has seven or eight hit points. Similarly, I’d be prefectly happy if a dungeon author said a chest contained ‘clothes’ instead of detailing exactly how many socks or shirts or jockstraps are in there. If I need specifics, I’m confident that I can invent them on the spot (and I would actually prefer that). Another big dungeon I liked, Rappan Athuk, has a lot of empty rooms with tables to let you decide if there were bones, rusted chains, discarded torch stumps, etc., in the room.  And I thought that was fine.

I suppose the other alternative is just not to have any empty rooms — each and every chamber can be jam packed with monsters, monsters, monsters, but that makes even the vaguest sort of dungeon ecology seem improbable.  Assuming the ‘dungeon’ is a series of tunnels, rooms, etc., that are the former lair of a mad wizard or whatever which has been abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin and then various groups of bandits, kobolds, orcs, etc., have moved in, then a certain amount of ‘buffer zone’ between different factions makes some sense. One of the more interesting levels of Khunmar has a harpies and gargoyles fighting over the territory… one end of the level is claimed by the harpies, the other part is claimed by the gargoyles and in between are some empty caves and tunnels (some with dead harpies and gargoyles).

An alternative is to have your dungeon ‘not be abandoned,’ but that makes it less likely that the players will get anywhere since if it were MY castle, I’d have guards and traps and pits full of poisoned spikes at every fucking entrance and archers and trained maticores and boiling oil and hobgoblins with AK47s… need I go on?

I won’t assume that everyone should love megadungeons — that’s as unreasonable as automatically hating them. Sometimes, though, I think some of the people complaining about them miss the point. Reading about the NYC megadungeon campaign in ‘The Mule Abides,’ (see link above) makes me envious, however. I wish I could live in NYC for at least some of the week so I could take part (and get decent pizza).

Internet WTF, Khunmar, other updates

OK, whenever I ask people on the Internet, “What kind of blog entries do you like?” I always get people saying, “Write more about gaming and don’t write about politics.” However, when I look at my blogs statistics and see who looked at what and how often (and count comments), gaming is always dead last and my posts about the US election or Rush Limbaugh being a douche bag or the fact that I am irritated over some computer issue are first.  Maybe I just write crappy gaming posts… and when I talk about a ‘lot of page views,’ I’m talking an average of 100 views in 3-4 days or so (more views if I post during the week), so I’m not claiming to be creating ‘Grognardia’ levels of interest with my paltry 160 followers. Page views are relative to the obscurity of this tiny corner of the Internet.

I used to think that google+ made the difference, but out of deference to ‘gaming’ followers of the blog who said they didn’t want to read about my political views, I only post blog links to google+ when I am writing about games (and I limit that to my ‘gaming’ circle on google+), so at this point it seems that posting on google+ actually might get me less page views than not posting on google plus — how does that work?  If blogger gives a breakdown on who views a page via google+ versus some other source, I haven’t seen it. but other than occasionally looking at the search terms people use to get here (mostly because some of them are so damn weird), I haven’t delved too deeply into blogger statistics. And I don’t know if blogger differentiates between a ‘click through’ and someone spending an hour reading blog posts — I suspect to blogger, a click may be a click.

I’ve gotten a couple of emails asking about Khunmar. I’ll probably try to finish it after I finish Exquisite Corpses v2 (which will be released by LotFP.  That project is creeping along right now, due in part to me being really busy (yeah, I know I’m writing this blog, but my boss doesn’t mind if I use a little downtime here and there for writing on my blog) and also me being undermotivated and a bit of a loser when it comes to finishing things.  Sorry, internet.

Current conception is that Khumar will be released by ME as either a print-on-demand piece of shit or maybe I’ll print up a ‘collector’s edition’ where everyone who orders one gets 1 piece of orginal artwork chosen at random from the many 1/2 pagers I will be doing for Khunmar.  But that waits till after E.C.v2 is done.

Why I prefer blogging to forum posting

Perhaps if they fling enough poo, it will create ‘MacBeth.’

The question of whether posting on online forums is better or worse than blogging seems to get raised on forums that I visit every few months or so.  At this point, I can almost predict how they will play out. Someone will post some question like, “Is posting on forums better than blogging?” and people will chime in with their different opinions — which is fine (isn’t that what the internet is for?), but at this point, if it’s the right forum, I feel like I can almost predict which regular poster will say exactly what.

What bothers me is that it is usually presented as an ‘either/or’ proposition — either you are a forum person or a blogger — and a large number of members of the loose online community of people interested in ‘old timey D&D’ seem to be of the opinion that you can’t do both.  I think that’s just stupid.

A few years ago I used to visit online forums a lot more than I do now.  At the time of my greatest level of forum participation, I was working a job where I had frequent periods of ‘nothing to do’ and a boss who was an asshole who once reamed one of my fellow employees for reading a book when he had nothing to do.  Looking at a screen and typing on a keyboard was, in comparison, pretty safe, and better than what some of my fellow coworkers did (which was to wander around and annoy one another). When I had a spare 15 minutes, I would hit Dragonsfoot or a similar site, click ‘see active posts’ and read and comment.  As I was able to do that five or six times a day (or sometimes more!), my post count really added up. I was a forum ninja!

Fortunately, I finally managed to leave that job. This meant that I had less time to visit forums and less need to distract myself from job dissatisfaction with forum visits. I still enjoyed to write little essays on topic that interested me.  At some point I had started a blog, mostly just to keep track of my ideas and write my little essays on whatever had gotten up my snoot that week, whether it be the price of lamp oil in fantasyland or who should win the next election.  A tiny number of people seemed to read my musings, which was fun, but not really the point (at least not for me).  For me, writing about something is a good way of thinking about it… I can try to put words to thoughts and therefore make judgements about whatever thought happens to whistle through my skull that day.  I often find my opinion on some matters may change as I try to write about them, which is good because I feel like I might be actually making myself smarter while I do something I enjoy.  The ‘blogger’ system is good because I don’t have to post it when I write it — I can just save it in draft form and come back to it another day — and I can work on the draft that I started the night before at home during my lunch break at work the next day. The fact that people read it and post responses is just gravy.

Forums just aren’t very good for how I want to write these days. I used to think that the forum culture had changed… and I still think that is at least partially true — years ago, when I first started posting at Dragonsfoot, my fellow forum dwellers seemed much less jaded and just totally geeked that they had found a place where they could talk about ‘umber hulks, vorpral swords and sleep spells’ without getting “WTF are you talking about?” responses from the other forumites. Four or five years ago when I began to get disenchanted with the DF culture, there seemed to be a lot more people on DF with an axe to grind.  Maybe that’s just my faulty memory or maybe that’s just the natural evolution of online communities — people who enjoy posting in forums as a bloodsport might eventually just take over.

Plus there were people who just posted in the DF forums because, well, they wanted to post a lot.  So someone might post a question like, “If werewolves are harmed by silver, are they harmed by non magical mithril?” and some people might post “yes” or “no” or “all mithril is magical” and make their arguments, but others would post what I call bullshit posts like “pants” and “cheese” and “LOLcats” and “I like boobies.” They were (or are) irritating in the same way that someone who busts into an interesting conversation to talk about themselves or tell an off topic joke is irritating — rather than participating in the existing conversation, they seem to want to use the fact that a conversation is happening online to promote their online personality like a marketing organization wants to promote a brand of perfume or a political candidate — through blunt force and repetition. When I started visiting forums less, I realized I didn’t miss the “HEY, LOOKIT ME” people at all.

The thing I like about blogging is I can write fairly long musings on a subject that I perhaps only I care about, and, since you are not compelled to read it unless you visit my blog, you are free from exposure to my brilliance (or stupidity) if you want to be. I feel that writing really long and self indulgent posts in an online forum is bad form, especially if you write it in response to someone elses’ query… but doing that on a blog is actually what ‘blogging’ is for.  Yes, it is self indulgent.  Yes, it is more one-sided than a forum.  Yes, it is a chance for me to editorialize and stand on my soap box and squeak my stupid opinions at the void. The forums are still there and I don’t think they are harmed by the fact that I participate in them less.

For more on how people suck, read this:

What is this blog for?

At least one of these rounds is going through my foot.

What is this blog for? I used to write here about gamey-dork-type things, and I plan on continuing to do that as the mood strikes me. For example, we will be playing another session of our DCC campaign next week which will probably eventually be preserved here for posterity’s sake (see links to session 1, session 2, etc., at right).

I’ve never been much of one for writing ‘state of the hobby’ or ‘here is what you should be worrying about if you care about the game industry’ and similar stuff.  That just doesn’t interest me and there are plenty of blogs that fill that niche.
I used to write what some people would describe as ‘political rants’ (I saw them more as ‘social commentary from my perspective’) and probably still will, even though doing so seems pretty pointless. I’ve given up on the idea that the internet is a good method of ‘winning converts to your point of view in order to make the world a better place.’ (if that is even possible — I put it in italics to show you that I typed it with a smirk on my face). Whenever I go off on a ‘political tear’ I end up feeling like I was either preaching to the already converted or telling people who were never going to agree with me what I thought. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to fire off an angry screed now and again; an esteemed author of many angry screeds, Gore Vidal, died today, so I kind of feel like being a crank puts me in good company, but I don’t fool myself into thinking that these cranky rants are anything more than me blowing of steam or holding forth on a topic I am interested in to a mostly indifferent audience.  I also think I’ve become more fatalist in the past few months; I used to believe that if you selected your positions carefully and then attempted to argue with honesty, people might find something interesting in what you had to say.  And I no longer believe that the vast majority of people have the ability to accept anything that does not fit their preconceived notions as anything other than ‘incorrect thinking.’
I suppose I’ll also use the blog keep writing about my own projects and stuff.  How much time I am able to spend on those projects (and spend writing about them) has been greatly cut back because of my new job, but you gotta do what you gotta do in this world to pay your bills, and, sometimes spending too much time ‘blogging’ about doing rather than doing something feels like being a hamster on a wheel — a lot of activity that fails to go anywhere.

(speaking of potentially political posts, “zombies” showed up when the Westboro Baptist Cult had yet another one of their almost constant protests where they shouted how “God hates Fags” and whatnot. If there was ever anything that left and right could agree upon in America, it is that WBC is loathsome. I like to picture a zombie shambling up to one of the Westboro cultists, biting into their skull and finding a tiny, shrunken walnut of a brain inside that even the undead find inedible.)

Search Terms

These are the search terms people used yesterday morning to find their way to this blog. I don’t know if ‘search terms’ means someone entered this and then clicked on my blog or if it just means that they entered the search terms and my blog showed up in their umpteen gajillion results (I suspect the former due to the size of the internet and the numbers involved… search term #1 topped out at 4 times this morning which seems too low for ‘appeared in google search’).

The terms are:

galaxy of terror worm scene
a bug eating a guys face
cat faced spider florida
crystal eyeglasses prometheus
freak scene art show
old man zombie skull
prometheus absurd
prometheus she eats like a chinese
torches angry crowd

The one that has me curious us “prometheus she eats like a chinese.”  What does “eats like a chinese” mean?  I’ve seen Chinese people in China Town hold a bowl close to their chin with one hand and put the food in their mouth with the other hand — is that what they were thinking of when they entered that?  And what does that have to do with “Prometheus” (the movie or the myth)? And “cat faced spider florida“?

I love this unintentionally dadaist shit.