Archive for July, 2017

h1

Architecture Monday

July 31, 2017

Now this is a pair of small houses/cabins that I totally adore.  Designed by the same school that designed the micro-dormitories I spoke about before, the different site and different intent here led to something equally quite different, yet just as enticing.

Slung low and with both weathering metal and reclaimed wood as an exterior, they slide nicely into the red desert landscape that surrounds them.  One hovers, while one embeds itself into the ground.  “Sibling” cubes, they are carved and articulated in ways that render them unique, most prominently by their shaded and protected outdoor porches that provide perfect vantage points to watch the sunsets and the beauty of the landscape.

But to me even more magic happens within.  The placement of windows and the tight integration of (built-in) furniture with the forms is exquisite.  These are not large cabins by size, but they most certainly don’t feel cramped.  The bathroom is cool enough, but the beds are amazing.  In the one cabin, lying with both a huge picture window by your feet, but also the low-slung window perfectly at bed level to let your eyes dance along the horizon as you fall asleep… And in the other cabin, the bunk bed arrangement creating two wonderful sleeping “pods”, the lower like a whole wood cabin to yourself, the upper with a skylight placed just so to let your eyes dance along the glory of the celestial sphere as you fall asleep…

Great stuff.  Carefully thought out and rigorously done, these are buildings that fit their location and create a space and a feeling within that is delightfully uplifting.  On my list to visit and experience one day.

Red Sands Cabins by the Colorado Building Workshop

h1

RPG System 12: Permissivity

July 27, 2017

Um… ok.  It’s been nearly 18 months since I last posted anything about my RPG system.  Yikes.

And that aside, here we dive in again!  Tonight looking at an aspect of game design that includes, in some ways, the area of how broad or narrow skills are in the system.  Going beyond skills, however, it’s a more fundamental and philosophical question about game design:  how permissive is the system? Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Wonder Wednesday

July 26, 2017

Singular Lynx by Kenket

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

July 25, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Sometimes, all we want is for someone to sit, listen, be with us, and say,

“Yes.  I got you.”

For both meanings of that phrase.

h1

Architecture Monday

July 24, 2017

A wonderful school project in Zambia.  Using locally sourced materials and careful study of the site, this is one great set of classrooms.  The roof is calculated to shade the structure just right from the hot hot sun, acting like a giant parasol that keeps things below cool.  The windows are placed both high and low to let in lots of light without causing glare.  The split design lets the spaces between classroom blocks be porticos, porches, and spaces to gather and teach.  And the space between the parasol and the buildings is used as additional, open-air, classrooms – which in turn is a further moment of delight in the perforated wall that frames the stair access.

That seemingly mundane concrete block that makes the perforated wall possible is almost invisible to our eyes, so jaded by the usual uses of concrete block in our everyday lives, by careful detailing and the application of a lusciously smooth plaster.  With a rhythm defined by the carefully placed windows, it stands proudly but not disruptively amongst the big skies and grasslands that surround it.

This is no big budget project.  It is, however, big on design.  Creativity transcends.  It takes what’s there and multiplies it, crafting delightful spaces that works better for more people, in turn acting as a force multiplier for the activities of the community.  Great work.

Chipakata Children’s Academy by Susan Rodriguez, Frank Lupo, Randy Antonia Lott, Fabian Bedolla, Hiroko Nakatani, Mehonaz Kazi

h1

Architecturally Chuffed

July 23, 2017

I received this in an email this from a client a couple of years after project completion and it is music to my architect ears:

“Your visit gave me a chance to reflect again on how happy I am with the way we designed the space. Along with all the technical requirements, it was important to me that it feel pleasant to work in, and indeed it does.”

A space that feels great and works well is what we strive for, and it is always wonderful to know when we hit that mark.

h1

Gaming Thursday: The Mouse Guard Epiphany

July 20, 2017

With another chapter in our Dresden Files game come to a close, my group and I have plunged ourselves into Mouseguard.  Based on the grand graphic novels by David Peterson, it promises a heavily narrative-based game (it uses a version of the Burning Wheel system).  We’ve played a half-dozen or so sessions, and we’ve progressively been getting into the swing of things.  There are a quite number of intricacies to the system that took us a while to remember and get a handle on;  more than we were anticipating, but as we play more and more we can see how they interconnect and what they make available.  However, there was one aspect of the game that kept seeming to elude us, something that despite our growing familiarity of the system still seemed to be robbing our game of what we felt should be a certain flow and involvement.

Last weekend, though, in one of those hilarious moments of non-sequitur insights while randomly walking through my house, I got just what had been eluding us:  Compared to the resolution structure in most RPGs, Mouseguard’s is reversed.

In all the RPGs I’m familiar with (indeed, this has been the “normal” way of playing since I started playing 30 odd years ago), scenes* are played out in “real-time”, with players/characters acting and reacting to events as they unfold in the scene, and die rolls are made whenever the GM thinks one of these (re)actions has a chance of failure.  This continues with further (re)actions and further die rolls until the scene ends.  Many different skills or abilities may be tested during a scene, and the players are usually trying to angle themselves and their actions towards “victory.”

Here is where Mouseguard flips things on its (mouse) ear:  there is only one test, and it happens at the start of a scene.

Things begin with the GM describing the basics of the obstacle to be overcome in very broad, 1000 metre view, terms.  The scene is also set in those broad terms:  it could be the forest, an entire city, underground caverns, or the sea.  With the obstacle set, the GM can present what skill needs to be tested to bring the party to a desired outcome, and the players can also suggest more.  Then one character makes the test, with potential (and game-rules-directed) assistance from the other characters.  After a rather involved series of steps and ways to have the test be successful (and it makes much more sense why there are so many steps once we got how few influential the few test rolls are), the party either succeeds or fails.

And then you narrate the heck out of how the party gets to that conclusion.

That there is the biggest shift to make to get Mouseguard… Setting the scene also includes setting how the scene will end.  Everyone around the table knows this outcome.  Armed with that knowledge, you all work to tell the most interesting story you can come up with for how it all plays out.

Wow.

I think this is quite cool.  And I’d say definitively the most narrative angle of the narrative-RPGs I’ve played.  There’s a certain liberation in starting the scene knowing you will fail (or succeed, for that matter) – you can set up your failure much more intricately, much more delicately, and much more satisfyingly than wondering how you’ll do on that next skill test (and knowing there could be several more skill tests).  And since everyone knows, the whole group gets in on the act.  Maybe they all act in concert to foul things up, maybe one of them botches things, maybe they try valiantly but the environment gets them, maybe they lose big, maybe they just miss it by milimetres.  Interpersonal interactions can play a role, friends and enemies could be involved, it’s all open to play with.

Overall, I think this creates the potential for much richer stories.  Maybe it lends itself more towards mostly third-party narration versus acting things out, but I don’t know yet.  I’m excited to see how we play it out in our group.  Now that we’ve got the sequence down right, I’m sure we’ll begin to further grok the various intricacies between all the different inputs (persona points, fate points, beliefs, etc) and also use them in a much more rich manner.

For sure I’m still a big fan of the real-time and extemporaneous style of play, but this reverse-o way of playing has got me really eager to see what comes out of it.  I’ll let you all know how it turns out.

 

* While there’s usually no hard and game-rules enforced start to a scene, there is a certain point where the GM begins to describe things in more detail or with more urgency, often accompanied by the description of a new location.