Links of the Week: June 11, 2012

Really short this week (again), no real time for reading.  Too many irons in the fire, trying to get things set up for the next few weeks.

Among other things, I’m aiming to run a series of posts at Troll in the Corner, adapting my Campaign and Scenario Design tools to build a sandbox campaign.

Blog Posts

Blood of Prokopius

FrDave is doing A Layout Experiment.  There have been a couple of iterations so far as he applies suggests from readers, and I have to say that I really like where this is going.  I might make a few changes to it (such as putting more emphasis on what people will look at first.  I once human visual recognition first tries to find a match for ‘living and dangerous’, ‘not living, dangerous’, ‘living not dangerous’, ‘not living not dangerous’ — though I might have those middle two mixed up.  As such, I’d expect PCs to first notice the things that are likely to be a threat, unless there is something really eye-catching.

It seems that many published encounter descriptions spend time setting the scene, describing the area and major architectural elements and obstacles… when what I think they should probably be doing is going “big room, lots of orcs turning in surprise, go go go!”  The players can find out about the table as the orcs flip it for cover.  The pillars and smoke hole in the ceiling will be evident soon enough, focus on the stuff that’ll get the PCs killed.

Jim C Hines

I first saw Jim Hines as an author (starting with his Princesses series, for reasons that are obvious to me, but I’m looking forward to reading the Jig the Goblin series too).

Last year Jim had his most popular post ever, where he posed as female protagonists from the covers of their books.   He followed up a while ago with a similar series posing as male cover models.

Quite a difference between the two sets of poses, and he does a good job of highlighting this.



I can’t do justice to this in a summary.  Neal Stephenson is part of a group that wants to build a ‘real-world credible’ swordfighting video game.

From the project description, in part:

At first, it’ll be a PC arena game based on one-on-one dueling (which is a relatively simple and attainable goal; we don’t want to mess this up by overreaching). Dueling, however, is only the tip of the sword blade. During the past few years, we have been developing a rich world, brimming with all manner of adventure tales waiting to be written–and to be played. In conjunction with 47 North,’s new science fiction publishing house, we’ve already begun publishing some of those stories, and we have plenty more in the hopper. Once we get CLANG off the ground we intend to weave game and story content together in a way that’ll enhance both the playing and the reading experience.

“How will this be different than Soul Caliber?” you ask. …..

Low-latency, high-precision motion controller: Critical to a satisfying sword fight is fast, accurate response. This is especially important for CLANG given the depth and complexity of moves that are used in real sword arts. Initially, CLANG will make use of a commercial, third-party, off-the-shelf controller that anyone can buy today

Depth: Roundhouse swings and crude blocks just aren’t enough. Real sword fighting involves multiple attacks delivered from different stances, pommel strikes, grappling, feints, and parries.

Expandability: Implementing the longsword style will oblige us to construct a toolkit that can then be used–by us, or by others–to create other examples of what we’re calling MASEs (Martial Arts System Embodiments). If your thing is Japanese kenjutsu or Viking sword-and-board, then in principle CLANG should support it.

Nintendo Wii does this a little bit with some of their games (such as Skyward Sword), but even then they don’t go nearly as far as they aim to here.

I don’t play video games much, but this is one that I’d really like to see happen, both because I used to fight in the SCA, and I’ll admit in part because the Kickstarter video makes it look like they’re doing some really, really cool things here.

Project is closes July 9 and is 38,468/500,000 funded as I look.

Tabletop Forge: The Virtual Tabletop for Google+ Hangouts

My online gaming group (currently playing an Adventurer Conqueror King sandbox campaign run by Erik Tenkar, Adventurer Conqueror King or Die!) uses Tabletop Forge in a Google+ Hangout to play three weeks out of four.  This is something of a necessary adaptation, since we have people in

  • New York City
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Courtney, British Columbia (don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of this place)
  • Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia (even smaller than Courtney)
  • … one or two other places I never found out.

Getting together at someone’s house is a little on the impractical side.

Charles (the other guy from British Columbia) and Joshuha Owen have teamed up to work on Tabletop Forge.  This is a Hangout app designed around supporting online roleplaying.  Hangouts give us video conferencing, Tabletop Forge gives us our battle map, dice roller, chat window (for text stuff), and so on.  I’ve used various virtual tabletops in the past, playing games in IRC, and this setup has been the closest I’ve ever gotten to the feel of a real tabletop game.  Four to six guys playing an RPG, talking and goofing around while killing monsters and taking their stuff… it’s a great time.

The team is looking for money so they can polish Tabletop Forge — get better art, incorporate some more tools, and so on.  The app itself will be released to the wild, they want to make it the best it can be.  Rewards include artwork (and even maps from Jonathan Roberts!), adventures (PDFs from supporting publishers), and game sessions run by the creators of various RPGs such as

  • Dungeon World with Sage LaTorra
  • Mecha with Chris Perrin
  • Far West with Gareth Skarka
  • Spark with Jason Pitre
  • Narosia with Shane Harsch

And if one-session games aren’t enough, there are four-week campaigns available:

  • Heroes Against Darkness with Justin Halliday
  • Spark with Jason Pitre
  • Barebones (Fantasy or Sci-Fi) with Larry Moore
  • Shaintar for Savage Worlds with Sean Fannon

… and more rewards available besides.

The project opened today and closes July 9.  The project was fully-funded within 17 hours, and is 7258/5000 funded when last I looked.

Science & Technology

Bionic Eyes Are Totally a Thing Come 2013

They are aiming to start clinical trials for bionic eyes next year.

The resolution is a little low yet (“bundles together 98 electrodes to stimulate the retinal nerves and simulate light. This is good enough to allow a patient to see and navigate around large objects”), but there is a higher-resolution version (for some value of ‘higher resolution”, 1024 electrodes), but it’s a start.  The ability to make a device that restores sight, even a little, is a huge step from not being able to do it at all.  From here refining the technology could mean some fantastic things.

Watching this scientist sample lava from an active volcano will make your heart race

“It is dangerous in my opinion, it is a little crazy.”

This comes close to describing what I think of the guy who went up there with what amounts to little more than a pair of oven mitts and a beaker on a pole to get a sample from the lake of boiling magma.


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