Links of the Week: July 12, 2012

I postponed the last two Links of the Week posts because I have been busy working on another project and really have had time to do much blog post reading.  When I go blog reading I do it in blocks of time measuring in hours.  I have not had the time in large enough blocks recently to do that.

However, I have come to realize that Google+ is full of awesome stuff.  The links below have been mostly (almost entirely, actually) drawn from links thrown to me by people in my circles over the last two or three weeks.

Because I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, the list of links is getting stupidly big.  Not only do I have a lot of links, I want to say (or show) so much about them.  I’m deviating even farther from my normal routine and posting this Thursday night, because if I wait until Monday it’ll just be worse.

There will probably be no Links of the Week on Monday, but I hope to have another announcement.

Hall of Fame

22 Rules of Storytelling, According to Pixar

22 rules for storytelling, according to Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats.

When I design a scenario, I’m not trying to plot a story.  However, the resolution of the scenario should result in a story.

Many of the rules here can be applied to good result.  For instance.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

When designing a scenario I don’t necessarily know where it’s going to end.  I try to weave my scenarios together to some extent, so sometimes my players just ‘pass through’ a scenario.  However, there are elements of scenarios that can be considered important enough to be treated much as ‘endings’, and a really good thing about them is that if the party fails, that still resolves the scenario and they got to experience ‘the best part’.  Make it big, and make it exciting.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

Well… I’ll note the first thing that comes to mind, but I don’t get attached to it because I’m reasonably certain something will come up soon that will be better.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

As above, not all apply directly as written, but even when they don’t you can decide to not follow them.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Writing Guidelines and Tools.

Creative Commons Licensed Cartography

I would like to thank Alex Schroeder for mentioning Paratime Design in a thread on Google+.

Alex’s link was to some Creative Commons Licensed Cartography.  This page has links to galleries with dozens of maps in various styles and subjects.

I had never heard of them before, but I’ll be taking a closer look sometime soon.

Paratime Design Logo
Paratime Design Logo

Added to the Hall of Fame under Cartography and Maps.

Charles Ryan: The Medieval Kingdom

Charles Ryan wrote a very approachable piece on the population and structure of the Medieval Kingdom, for some assumed value of ‘medieval kingdom’ that seems to be common among gamers.  He describes population density, settlement density and distribution, and feudal structure.

Including mentioning that “feudal structure” is a bit of a mess and nowhere near as simple as many people seem to think.  I remember talking about this with Joseph Browning at GenCon 2003 (Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe had just come out) and it was somewhat enlightening.

Did you know that it would be entirely possible for the King of England to be required to provide troops to fight himself?

See, if Henry has land (probably managed by a seneschal) in France while he rules in England, and France declares war on England, then when Louis sends out the call for troops it will bubble down until Henry’s seneschal gathers the men required by the feudal agreement and sends them to Louis, who puts them in a boat to England to try to defeat Henry.

Thus le baron Henri could be required to provide troops to fight King Henry of England.  Who needs subtle machinations and cunning plans to confuse things?

There is more information on the subject available elsewhere for the morbidly curious, but this post is a straightforward and approachable treatment that will probably be sufficient for verisimilitude for most people.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Setting Design.

Blog Posts

No so much blog reading as usual, but a few recent posts have come to my attention.

Between are the Doors

Fictivite compares and contrasts Fictive Hack and Old School Hack.  I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Blood of Prokopius

FrDave continues his layout experiment.  I really like how this is starting to look, though I am mildly — only mildly — concerned that he may run out of room given the current presentation.  Overall though, I think it works.

Hack & Slash

Until now I would not have thought anyone would need descriptions of 600 different ioun stones, but Courtney found someone who had, and had packaged the entire thing into a 104-page PDF.


Monica Valentinelli writes about a new “test” for female characters involving cats.  I understand the context in which the idea for the post comes up, but I think the test applies to any character.  And can probably be expanded to other story elements.

The key part — do read the rest of the post, there is more material — is this:

Pick a story. Any story. Take the characters you think are weak and replace them with an “animated prop,” which in my case is cats. If the story does not break, then that character needs some loving care.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen writing advice that simply and clearly put.  Now, some characters are and should be weak; in movies they are called ‘extras’, in fighting games they might be called ‘minions’ or ‘mooks’.  Significant characters really, really should have more to them than that, and this is a simply-applied test.

Richard’s Dystopian Pokeverse

Richard talks about burning brains, a very Mythos way of making use of sentient brains.  Creepy and disturbing, the way it should be.

It might also work for a Girl Genius-style spark, I can easily imagine one who explores the use and application of jarred brains.  Sparks tend to not be particular squeamish about these sorts of things, I have noticed, and totally lack a sense of proportion when Science is involved, or a problem.


Dammit Kickstarter, you’re getting me in trouble again.

Pennygems II, a Pale Imitation

Dave Howell and Improbable Objects is back.  In addition to the vivid, saturated gems he made last time…

Primary Set PennyGems, icon-side-up
Primary Set PennyGems, icon-side-up

[Note: on my screen those are almost exactly lifesize. –kjd]

He is now also offering “The Quartet”, pages of PennyGems in green, red, blue, and yellow.

The PennyGems Quartet sheet
The PennyGems Quartet sheet

And the “Auxiliary Set” — same symbols as the Primary Set, though with a contrasting dot in the center of each symbol and in pastel colors (gray, pink, peach, champagne, chartreuse, cyan, lavender, and brown).

The Auxiliary PennyGems
The Auxiliary PennyGems

And the Damage Set, black with each side having one or two drops of red on them.

Blood/Wound/Damage PennyGems
Blood/Wound/Damage PennyGems

And the Dichotomy Set, simply black and silver on opposite sides, with ‘notches’ printed on them so they don’t get confused with the base silver and black PennyGems.

The Dichotomy PennyGems
The Dichotomy PennyGems

And finally, JumboGems, the same colors as the Primary or Auxiliary sets, but sized to fit quarters instead of pennies.

JumboGems, with 'regular' PennyGems for comparison
JumboGems, with ‘regular’ PennyGems for comparison

This is a short project, closing Friday July 27, so you’ll have to move.  It is already 2,806/2,500 funded, and I’m likely to push that up pretty hard myself.

Art and Graphics

The Avengers, Fantasy-Style

theDURRRRIAN at deviantArt did a series reimagining the Avengers in a fantasy style inspired by games, especially Guild Wars 2.

The Avengers
The Avengers, Fantasy Style

I think I don’t want to cross any of them.

The composite shown here consists of vertical slices taken from full images of each character, linked to from the deviantArt page.

Science & Technology

Apollo Surface Panoramas

The Lunar and Planetary Institute has a set of ‘boots on the ground’ panoramic images from the moon stitched together from individual 70mm Hasselblad frames.

This is the first time I’ve seen footprints on the moon.  This is so cool.

Benford’s Law

I  have to reread this article on Benford’s Law to make sure I understand the math.  Right now my mind is blown.  Perhaps the graph shown below will make it clear why — this is some trippy stuff, and I don’t fully understand the math behind it yet.

Benford's Law - Distribution of First Digit of 120,000 City Elevations
Benford’s Law – Distribution of First Digit of 120,000 City Elevations

I definitely have to go back and reread this.

“Britain’s Atlantis” found at bottom of North Sea

“Doggerland, a huge area of dry land that stretched from Scotland to Denmark was slowly submerged by water between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC.”

Apparently Great Britain used to be ‘greater’ — or at least contain more land.  Scientists, guided by information from oil company surveys, think they have found “Britain’s Atlantis”, a huge undersea kingdom swallowed by the sea in 6,500 BC.

According to research done after oil companies have passed along survey data, it appears that Britain is basically what’s left after the water rose (or the earth subsided; I’m not sure which it actually is).  It seems there was a lot more land around there, back in the day.

Britain and surrounding (former) land
A Greater Britain: How the North Sea grew and the land-mass shrunk

The Earth changes over time, quite a lot.  It is estimated this happened largely 8,500 years ago, which is a long time to you and me but not very much time at all to the planet.

Scale of the Universe 2

Randall Munroe has done static images of this sort of thing, but this Scale of the Universe 2 Flash application by Cary and Michael Huang is explorable.  Zoom in, zoom out, get a bit of information about each entity presented.

From (what I find) unimaginably small to unimaginably big, with examples at each step that we know or posit the existence of something.

Scale of the Universe 2 screenshot
Scale of the Universe 2 screenshot

The Tesla Gun

At Hackerfriendly they built a Tesla Gun.  A hand-held, battery powered lightning machine.

Tesla Gun
Aim away from face

Good advice.

Tesla Gun in Use
This is why

Very good advice.

This thing excites me strangely.  I don’t have an actual use for it, it’s totally impractical… and I really, really want one.

Thankfully, they provide some general instructions on how to build one.

That uses tools and resources I do not have easy access to.

This is probably a very, very good thing.


Deadpool: A Typical Tuesday

I’ve always liked Deadpool.

This fan video did a pretty good job of capturing how I see Deadpool.  Broken.  Very Broken.

Fire Sword Fight – ADS 2009

(By way of Nils at Enderra)

A choreographed and unlikely fighting technique…

… but it was still cool to watch.

Game of Thrones for Math Nerds

An amusing statistical breakdown (well, lots of charts) of Song of Ice and Fire.

I don’t know where he got his numbers, but the opinion-oriented ones can probably be trusted (he should know how much he cares about what someone ate), the rest are probably made up but sound plausible.

Though I’m not sure about the ‘favorite male character’ question.  Odds are good it’s true, but there is an alternative that is probably as likely correct.

LOOPER – Official Trailer – In Theaters 9/28

This looks remarkably cool too.

Doesn’t make my jaw drop like The Gate or The Silent City (both below) did, but I’d like to know more.  I don’t know if I’ll go to see it — I am very, very bad at watching movies and TV shows — but the premise seems a good one.

Secrets of TSR

A panel of former TSR employees — if you read this blog you probably recognize the names, folks like

  • Jeff Grubb
  • Pierce Watters
  • Rob Lazzaretti
  • Dave Gross
  • Wolfgang Baur
  • Stan!

[I say ‘like’, that’s who they are.] — at PaizoCon end up reminiscing about their time working at TSR.

They discussed things like how they were hired, embarrassing stories (for some reason the bankers never showed up at a good time to see how professional they were… or perhaps got the correct impression after all), and answered questions like “if you could go back in time and give Lorraine Williams one piece of advice, what would it be?”

I really enjoyed listening to this, it really paints a picture of TSR back in the day.

The Gate (Short Film)

As stated, this is a short film.  It is quite well done… but it’s not for the squeamish.

If you have difficulty with mutated humans, including the mutations happening, you may not want to watch this film.

On the other hand, if you like to read The SCP Foundation, this video is very much something you’ll probably want to see.

“Certain long-redundant gene sequences were becoming active”.  The video is primarily of a debriefing of the situation, interleaved with video of the actual events the debriefing is discussing.

Freaky.  Bu quite well done.

“The prolonged usage of this unstable chemical, combined with an unusual blood group, eventually culminated in activating the catastrophic biological process that caused their deaths.”

Such a dispassionate description of what is shown in the video.

The Man with the Iron Fists Trailer HD

One definitely not for the kids.  I probably won’t watch this in the theatre, but there is a good chance I will remember to find this one when it comes out on DVD.

Demonstrates remarkable levels of badass… there is a chance this will slide into the realm of cheese, but there appears to be a great deal to be mined here.

The Silent City – Episode 01: A Fractured World

I can say that I would want to live in a post-apocalyptic world.  This one is hard enough.

But I do appreciate well-done movies about them.

World Battleground, 1000 years of war in 5 minutes

Another disturbing video.  Not as downright creepy as The Gate, above, but in some ways more credibly worrisome.

Visualization can be a powerful tool when applied well.

YouTube Complaints

I think I have seen pretty much all of these.

It is a big part of the reason large swathes of YouTube are completely free of my presence.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Weekly Assembly: Cons, Vids, and Selling Out | The Gamer Assembly

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