Wonder Wednesday, Zoids Edition

“Sure, it’s been over a decade since we managed to acquire this Zoid,” stated Kannik, head of this particular Zoids stable, “but fortunately, like wine, Zoids only improve with aging.  It may have taken a long time to get around to it, but we are beyond excited to have our newest member finally join the team.”

One of the most foundational of Zoids, Command Wolves are some of the most versatile and well varied models.  While not large in stature, the Command Wolf (Irvine Custom) is one capable machine, with its large turreted cannon being the prime draw.  “That sucker packs a wallop, with good range and accuracy to boot.  And while Command Wolves are no feline, it’s agile enough to keep up with the rest of the pride.  It expecially makes a great compliment to the shorter-ranged focus of the Blade Liger.”

“And it’s a good looker!” continued Kannik.  With its rich tones of deep green with some red flair, and the hyper detail that comes from the Highend Model Master line, most in the crowd seemed to agree.

With 11 Zoids now operating within the team, is there more to come?  “Oh my yes.  I’ve got three more that have been aging on the shelf, and I may, er, just have purchased our first flying Zoid.  It’s currently stuck in a quarantine hold, but it’ll be on its way over soon enough.”

It will only be a matter of finding time enough to get them all up and running.

Philosophy Tuesday

Sometimes we have to deal with what’s in front of us… the elephant in the room, and all that.  And so, to that end…

I assert there’s a growing weirdness developing towards the notion and idea of “freedom.”

As in, an incredibly reductive view that leans heavily towards the 5-year-old mentality of freedom: “You can’t tell me what to do!”  (stomps foot)  “You’re not the boss of me!”

Which, in actuality, is not freedom.  Amusingly, quite the opposite.  For if we automatically rail against a suggestion, a request, a recommendation, an order, a rule, or a perceived limit – whether imposed by someone specific or in general – in a “I will never do what my they tell me,” kind of way, then we’ve eliminated much of our actual freedom because we are now hemmed in to only do things that are the opposite of what they tell us – or even what we think they would tell us.  We’ve killed choice.  We’ve killed our agency.  And we’ve killed our ability to take on that which betters ourselves and our community.

We do nothing but become impetuous (and, often, petulant as well).

I could take this to level of caricature, in a “Hey, don’t stab yourself in the eye with a pencil.” / “Don’t tell me how to live my life” -stab- kind of way.  But I needn’t (though I guess I just did).  Instead, I only want to push ourselves to recognize what it is we are truly resisting, and what impact that resistance is having on us and on the many communities we profess to be a part of.

That is it.  An invitation to put on our adult pants, look at ourselves, find perspective, be present, and aim towards true freedom:  the freedom to be, to adapt, to consider, to choose, to build things forward, and to enjoy peace of mind, no matter the circumstances.

Architecture Monday

Restaurang Tusen is a restaurant in a pretty remarkable location… nestled in a mountain valley at the base of a few ski slopes.  But rather than copy the typical chalet or plunk down a generic box, the design team got to work and used what was on hand:  birch trees.

As the only tree that grows at that high altitude, the resulting building is literally ringed with them, creating a conical form that is not only beautiful and iconic but also stands well to the windy snow-blown conditions on the mountain.  By taking a small pie slice out of one side, it also creates a sheltered entry area to doff your skis before going in.  The inside space lofts upward following the cone, bits of birch poking through along the edges showcasing the building’s wood frame.

Sweet little building, built with sustainability in mind and blending with the landscape with whimsy.  Nicely done.

Restaurang Tusen by Murman Arkitekter

Gaming Thursday: Aurora Results

Alright!  With a gaggle of sessions under our proverbial belts, our Star Wars game and my new ruleset that powers it have been going great.  Thus far, things have run very smoothly and has already fueled a lot of great moments.  There’s still some rules gaps and wrangling to do, but the base document is pretty much complete (if written completely in point form language).  I’m not quite ready to share it yet, but I will try to get back to writing its big gestures and intents.  Until then, here several cool things that have emerged thus far, specifically around core Aurora Engine elements: Continue reading

Wonder Wednesday

An amazing video of the sun that spans a decade!  Every frame encompasses about an hour, capturing our local star and all of its changing glory.

The video description has some links to some really cool moments, including the transits of Venus and Mercury, sunspot clusters, as well as some very prominent flares.  Mesmerizing.

Philosophy Tuesday

While our group classes and gatherings have been completely kaiboshed during these unusual times, I’ve continued to Kung Fu it up in my backyard (including weapons and all).  It has been a pleasantly productive time, with growth and new avenues opening to explore and with a wonderful handful of delicious insights.

But there’s an interesting thing about insights:

You never know when they will show up.

You can’t plan for them.  You can’t predict them.  And you can’t force them.  All you can do is go out, practice, practice, and practice some more.

And, of course, that means to practice with intent.  Be the force that is pulling for it.  Create the conditions for it to show up.  Lay the foundation and do the digging and look inside and be mindful and keep looking for what’s missing, what’s next, make the adjustment… and then put it into practice, practice, and practice some more.

Until, without any preamble, there it is.  Something new arises!  An insight, an epiphany, a shift, a transformation.  It might be accompanied with an “Ohhhh,” or a “That’s interesting, what’s that?” or maybe it’s so grand the skies part and the angels sing.  Whether it’s low key or a glorious emergence, it’s nevertheless unmistakable.

And it’s yours forever, to move forward into the world with that new understanding, new vision, and new ability, and to enjoy all that comes and flows freely from it.  All the while, being ready to lay the groundwork and to continue practicing, practicing, and practicing some more towards the next one.

This is the veracity of Kung Fu, as it is the veracity of any art or skill or ability, including the realms of philosophical transformation and even that of societal shifts.

It is also a counter to resignation and capitulation, taking solace in that uncertainty.  It rarely looks like somethings progressing until it moves.  And then it does.  And it’s glorious and totally worth it for the great days ahead.

Architecture Monday

Take one part sculpture, one part landscape, and one part building, put together, stir gently, and pour out onto an urban plaza, Voila!  You’ve got yourself a remarkably bold space for contemplation.

Rising out from a reflecting pool, there’s no missing these sloping and gem-like forms.  From afar they act as a hill or abstract rock, face, edging one side of the urban square.  Closer in, they are more like sculptural elements, with the building itself being split to fit within many of the forms, all connected via glass walkways that allow the water to flow freely.

Inside the geologic forms continue, both rising from the floor or pushing down from overhead to create a nice complex interior geometry.  It’s a balancing act, but it remains mostly in the realm of “visually engaging” without devolving into “cacophony of random stuff.”  Little bits of light and water play out continually as you travel, in a ritual fashion, from space to space.

I dig it (pun semi intended).  Something inventive and playful married with old tradition.  Very nifty.

Al Musallah Prayer Hall by CEBRA

(Who also did the Iceberg apartments in Aarhus!  See them mid-way in this post here…)

Gaming Thursday

I am very much excited about WotC’s announcement that they’ll be shifting how they portray (and thus limit) ‘inherently evil races’ to open up much greater latitudes in alignment, abilities, societies, and etc.  For one, the term race is confusing, since these are really whole different species.  For two, just as our species (humans) are vast and varied, so too should be and can be members of other species (whether elves, or dwarves, or kobolds, or orcs).  For three, it’s far more interesting!  Automatic evil is easy (and still available, be it through fiends or monstrosities or undead) but allowing for greater agency by the antagonists is more juicy, and the meatiest stories often deal with the ‘evil within’ (both individual character but fellow humans/etc acting in very bad ways) vs an external and ‘black box’ kind of auto-evility machine.  For four, as someone who finds attribute bonuses the least interesting way to differentiate different species, I hope this pushes more games (even if D&D itself likely won’t adopt this unless they ever do make a new edition or come out with an optional ruleset) towards more nifty species talents/stunts/feats (such as the Dwarf’s resistance to poison, or the Dragonborn’s breath weapon) that create far more interesting options, capabilities, and side uses for players.

For five, and of great importance, is this:  who we know ourselves as a person and as a collective people is/are thoroughly governed by story – the story we know about ourselves, the stories we tell about our community, the stories we speak of about the world. As such, the stories we make up and tell each other for entertainment absolutely has an impact on how we view, interact with, and treat the real world and others within it. They are not separate.  Thus to say ‘this race is all bad’ or ‘this race is always big and scary’ or ‘this race is really only good at this’ creates mental traps for us as we relate to and deal with others in our actual and lived lives.

So yeah.  Doing away with the more rigid stereotypes and tropes and that present a gameworld view that one’s place, role, competencies, and expected outcomes in the world are governed primarily (and almost entirely) by factors of their species and instead moving towards the item(s) that often draws us to our favourite fiction: culture, style, worldview, way of life, way of building things, and ways of dealing with things. In short: towards character.

Because character and characters are what an RPG is all about.