Gaming Sunday

Here’s a Kickstarter project that’s wrapping up in a few days that might pique your interest as it did mine! It’s an SF/near future/science-fantasy game that takes place in a non-colonial Americas! Led by first-nations designers, it promises to be a nifty new take and world to explore:

Check it out! I’m very excited for the project. They’re real close to closing in on 1M and it’d be rad to see them make it over that mark!

Wonder Wednesday

Woah!  That is not a photoshop job… that is actual people walking on actual water in an amazing piece of land art by none other than Christo and Jeanne-Claude titled The Floating Piers.  Installed for 16 days back in 2016, it was also huge:

That’s 3km worth of 16m wide golden floating walkway, leading to and island and onto another island.  Again, wow…

Read more about it and see plenty of more pictures (including construction photos) at Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website.

Philosophy Tuesday

On the one hand, I’m a bit surprised I’ve been writing these philosophical posts for well over six years.

On the other hand, I’m not surprised at all.

Life, and our lives, are a vast and many varied thing, after all.  There’s much to explore, much to uncover, much to delve into, much to get present to, and much to grok.

We are art, ever in progress, ever unfinished.

Every day is another chance to get present, to unconceal, to transform, and to open new realms of possibility.

To which… wow, how cool is that?  Very cool indeed.

Here’s to the past six years of reflection, and to many years of discovery to come!

Architecture Monday

This is a cool performing arts venue.  For decades the performances by this organization had been held in two big top tents.  In keeping with that history, the design took inspiration to create a sculptural shell that reaches for the heavens.

There’s a nifty slight of hand here, creating a broad plinth (with wide stairs to reach it) on which they rest the shell.  This allows for the arena inside to be ringed by what appears as clerestory windows for a luminous glow, while they also function as entry doorways.  The ribbing on the underside of the roof is great, heightening the visual pull of the curving ribs all the way up to the amazing oculus.

In addition to the biggie hall there’s a smaller and way more intimate theatre, also done in the round.  But the pièce de résistance (and the thing that really piqued my interest) is a third performance space that consists of large saltwater float/thermal bath under a vaulted dome illuminated by another soft oculus.  Music is pumped into the water and the room so you can float and listen, which just sounds absolutely lovely.

Very fun project.  A great venue for all sorts of arts and performances, that ties into its community both in site (including the nearby ruins of a train station bombed during WW2) and in its large outdoor terrace, and that adds a bistro and, especially, that spa and float tank for a space of ultimate unwinding.  Great work.

The Tempodrom by GMP

Wonder Wednesday

It’s another amazing Vihart Pi day video!  But beyond the usual excellence (including the quote from yesterday’s post), this one has something special in that she improvises about 30 minutes of music, based around the continual repetition of a sequence of notes.

And that aspect of it, the building of music around continual repetition, is really fascinating to me.  When I saw Sigur Ros in concert, they played () track 9b (also known as Untitled Track 9b, also also known as Smaskfia).  A track that is just a small piano bit repeated over and over and over and over.  Yet it bored straight into my soul in a way I didn’t even know was possible.  It was a mind blowing experience.  (And they played it right before the intermission, so I got to just sit inside of that wonder.)  In the video above, Vihart creates that inside the of repetition of notes, everything else involved gets heightened, be it the accompanying notes/harmony or simply the way it is played (and the emotion/feeling you can put into that).  Which is something both cool and can be supremely moving.

(Also, if you haven’t seen Vihart’s magnum opus, 12 Tones, I highly encourage you to check it out as well!)

Architecture Monday

I was glancing through my photos of my trip to the Nordic countries and came across this one of a church I wrote about back in 2017!

I saw it (and took this shot from) the deck of a ferry heading into the fjords, and I love how both a) prominent it is, a strong upthrust of verticality in the sea of low-slung horizontal buildings, but also b) how much it just fits and avoids becoming a massive punch in the eye(sore).  It’s not announcing itself for itself.  Instead it’s form and materiality are used to play off of and perhaps even enhance its backdrop.  Also neat to see how it looks now after a few years of patina has turned its wood construction into this lovely rich shade of rocky grey.

Alas, I didn’t get a chance to go inside so I’ll have to live vicariously for that part of it.  But this glimpse as we sailed past was great on its own and made me admire it all that much more.

Community Church Knarvik by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter  (Which I just realized is the same architect as the Trollstigen Visitor’s Centre I posted about a few weeks ago!)

Gaming Thursday: SW Part 3

The playtesting of the Star Wars ruleset for my Aurora Engine continues well.  We’ve all been having a blast in our adventures across the galaxy, and I’ve been steadily tweaking the rules to make things run smoothly or to shift the game’s playstyle more towards what we want/like.

One of the prime ways of character distinction and ability definition (that has needed no tweaking) has been the inclusion of freeform “Stunts,”  of which each character starts with three (And can buy more later through advancement.)

While they’re (for now) simply called “Stunts,” they are intended to represent just about anything nifty or special about the character in just about any area:  species traits, unusual training, extra experience, exceptional knacks, or various powers, including the Force.  They “break the rules” in specific areas /ways to provide bonuses or additional/special abilities for the character.

This isn’t by any stretch a new idea; both FATE and Cortex Prime use something similar to this, and it is akin to Talent or Feats or Advantages or any number of similar mechanics in many an RPG (though these latter ones are generally prescribed and selected from a list).  But two things make them especially sing in the Aurora incarnation.  First, by allowing them to be so freeform, they invite creativity and customization and let the player state what’s important to them and the character.  Second, and even more importantly, they are all expressed/worded in a particular way to call attention to themselves, and as such further highlight the defining aspects of the character in the fuller narrative sense:

Because I/of X, when Y, Z

The first part of the statement describes how the character is unusual, amazing, has a special bit of gear, or whatever; the middle part is a limited situation where this “rule breaking” applies; and the last bit is the special benefit.

Here are some examples from our SW playtest games/characters…

Some of the stunts describe bits that are important to the character from their character’s species:

Because I am a Twi’lek, and have spent time learning how to control my head tentacles (lekku), I gain the “Extra Limb” trait.

Because I am a Squib, and can smell with my fur, I gain the “Discerning Smell” trait.

Because I am a Miralukan, I have Force-sight and I can see through walls and containers up to 1m distant.

Because I am made of many different parts, I gain the trait “Faceless Droid”

Because I am a Selonian when I drop to all fours my speed increases by 50%

Because I am based on Imperial technology, when I slice Imperial equipment, I gain +1d.

Here are some that represent special training, or abilities.  Note that as part of the description it helps evoke the why of it, ie, is this from your background, something you trained at, bought or had implanted, or something else?

Because I have subdermal plating, when I take damage I can roll 1d: on a 5 or 6 I gain an additional point of resistance to weapon or impact damage.

Because I have spent my life around machinery, I don’t always need the right parts to fix things, and half any penalties for lack of proper parts. 

Because I am a tinkerer, I am rarely caught unprepared, and have trait “Lots of Gizmos”.

Because I was raised in small tunnels, whenever in confined quarters I gain the trait “Tunnel Rat”

Because I am trained in Jedi precognition, when I wield a lightsaber I can use Melee to defend against ranged attacks.

And then there are those that provide amazing role play opportunities/nudges…

Because I am a crazy ass squirrel, when I do something incredibly stupid, I remove 1 die from any penalties.

(I just love that one so much!)

Some of these straight up allow something that isn’t usually allowed, such as the Lightsabre deflection of ranged attacks, seeing through walls, or the dermal plating for extra armour.  Most however provide skill boosts, a reduction in penalties, or create a trait/tag/aspect on the scene/character.  Here, wording the stunt with a trait/tag/aspect is the best/most flexible and provides the most opportunity in play as it allows for all the things a trait can allow, not only providing bonuses or negating penalties, but also creating ‘narrative truth’ that can allowing things that wouldn’t ordinarily be possible (and vice versa).  With that in mind, we might revisit these stunts to re-word them towards a broader tags/trait language/way.

These stunts have worked great in our games thus far, providing for a lot of cool moments and places for the characters to shine, whether in the traditional sense of doing something remarkable, or in the RP sense, reinforcing the character and the story they are creating.

 

(Just the other session, the “Extra Limb” trait came in handy as the character had been knocked off the edge of a tower, clinging for dear life – fortunately that “Extra Limb” trait allowed them to grab their rifle before it fell never to be seen again!)