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Topics - Cramulus

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« on: May 19, 2020, 02:22:22 pm »
It's about time we had a thread about one of science fiction's most bizarre and fascinating authors.

What's your favorite Philip K Dick story, movie, or fact?

Literate Chaotic / A Tiny Haiku
« on: May 12, 2020, 07:14:01 pm »
Amazon Prime logo on a truck at an intersection
I curse the billionaires
as the truck driver yields to a mother and child

comic is a bit crass but makes the broad point:

Not infrequently, I hear some surprising news... I google it, and the top hits are NY Times, Washington Post, and Fox News. The first two articles are behind a paywall, and the Fox news framing is not. And I think this is a bit of a synecdoche.

I see it online all the time too - there's a common attitude that if you don't already get it, you're not gonna get it, so go get fucked. The long-arc consequence being that the right wing perspective is more accessible. And the world is confusing and oversaturated with information, so accessibility is, all by itself, a powerful persuasive force.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the phenomenon where some bad-faith jagoff is "just asking questions" and demands a bunch of answers and citations that they're not going to read anyway.

Also to be clear, I'm not putting myself in this lofty position of judgment, but of self-criticism...  I'm observing this phenomenon in myself via a childhood friend with Bad Opinions who really wants to chat my ear off. I don't want to talk to him, I think he's an asshole. But we're in a special moment right now. If I did the work, I might be able to get through to him. I don't want to though!

Apple Talk / Bargain Basement Bathysphere
« on: May 01, 2020, 01:37:09 pm »

ARE YOU BORED? Here's my find of the day. It's a free print-and-play single-player game called
Bargain Basement Bathysphere.

All you need is a printer, a pen, and a bunch of six siders. You print out the packet (61 pages if you do the whole thing) and go through it page-by-page, like an ongoing campaign.

On most pages, you pilot a Baythysphere, and are trying to explore the depths of the ocean. It's a fun little movement puzzle game. But as you proceed, it introduces new mechanics and mini-games.

I found myself really impressed by how creative this is. And the core movement puzzle is fun! I'm only like 5 levels deep into the game so far. I CHALLENGE THEE, beat my awful scores.

RPG Ghetto / Mechs into Plowshares
« on: April 29, 2020, 02:13:16 pm »
Here's a quick little solo tabletop RPG called Mechs into Plowshares. It costs $5 and takes somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes to play. You could play it yourself (in which case you'll play by answering questions in your head, or writing a little journal or something). Or you could do it as a 2-player "one person asks questions and the other person answers" type game.

The concept is that you are a mech pilot who fought in the war. But there's a ceasefire which may turn into a lasting peace. At great cost, you have leased your mech and moved to a farm near the border. In order to do farm work and pay off your mech, you're going to have to delete its combat subroutines, which in turn also deletes its "personality". But if you delete too much, and the Enemy attacks, your mech might not be able to defend your farm, and you'll die a horrible death.

The game is divided into 10 "weeks". Each week is one page of questions. There is a story and an ending.

There aren't a lot of mechanics, and there's nothing tactical/strategic... this is more like a character-development exercise. The game gives you a bunch of prompts, and you answer them to whatever depth you'd like. They're questions like "Why isn't your family here with you on the farm?", "Who do you miss right now?", and "You wake up from a nightmare.. what were you just dreaming about?" As the game goes on, you'll make some decisions, but the story is explicitly linear.. still very interesting.

If you approach each question creatively and don't rush through them, it can be a very satisfying storytelling experience.

Here's the link:

RPG Ghetto / SCUP: Steadfast
« on: April 26, 2020, 01:55:14 pm »
This thread discusses the tabletop RPG "The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power" (see this thread for an overall description). I'm stupidly running two simultaneous groups. This thread is for one of them.

This group group (larp friends) created a wild setting too, which we call Steadfast.

As a funny little symmetry, the first group created a setting where the essential antagonist was necromancers. The second group created a setting where the essential antagonist is life mages.

Here's the myth:

It was a golden age of prosperity and knowledge. An age of machines and energy. An age of comfort and hubris. One of the technologies developed in this time is the art of Lifeshaping, creating new life. Among other things, Lifeshapers were able to let a parent select traits for their child.

In the Lifeshaper’s quest to master the art of creation, a new power emerged in the land. The Lifeshapers created the Verdant, a fungal intelligence which could solve many of humanity’s problems. The Verdant cured disease and extended life spans. After a long time, these entities were used to shape a human monoculture. Reliant on these creatures, humanity became beholden to them. The Verdant spread across the globe, changing all life it touched to fit its alien purposes.

But eventually, the Verdant came to understand its role not just as the protectors of humanity, but the whole planet. When they decided this, they recognized humans not as the favorite children of the planet, but as parasites, depleting the natural resources and upsetting the existing balance. Ultimately, the Verdant determined that the world is only in equilibrium when the human population is below a certain level. And then the blight of humanity began. The world crumbled, as if nature turned against us.

An age of desolation began. Plagues and monsters bit at humanity from all sides. Avalanches, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, plagues, wildfires, plagues--humanity sees all of this as the will of the Verdant.  The Verdant’s presence is everywhere, in the air, and in the water. It desires humanity to return to its animal lifestyle, and it is willing to grant power and information to those that deal with it, in order to gain influence and advance its long-term plans. Many humans are considered infected by the ‘Phage’, which is perhaps a fungal infection that influences behavior, or perhaps it is just sympathy with the Verdant’s cause. Some affected by the phage begin to break down physically, being slowly and painfully reduced to base nutrients.  There was decay and desolation, the once beautiful landscape blighted. The skylines of the ancient cities now lay in ruin. 

Humans needed to keep their footprint small, to use only simple tech, in order to not upset what the Verdant considered the proper balance. People joined together.  People began to gather in new villages, outside of the now desolate cities. But it was not an age of peace. With a population-limit in place, and no way to tell how close we are to triggering the Verdant’s next plague, humans became proactive about keeping their populations low. War and predation was the law again. Feudalism replaced the old ways of democracy and republic.

We must live our lives with constant vigilance. Some people learned how to contact the still functional satellites which still circle the planet, gaining access to the information and technology of ancient times. Calling themselves the First Born, they have become advisors and researchers, secretly using forbidden technology, while withholding and keeping it secret, lest it become widespread. And the Verdant still has agents within human settlements, keeping tabs on them. Both the Firstborn and the Lifeshapers have access to resources that common people consider magic. But both must conceal the origin of their power.

Now insular and isolated, the human settlements only contact each other for war and politics. There are annual moots, festivals where settlements send contingents in order to discuss regional issues and trade populations.

The Verdant threat is ever-present. If the Verdant believes the population has grown too high, or that humans are using technology now considered forbidden, they will lash out against humanity again. And we stand little chance.

Our story begins in the city of Steadfast...

SO BASICALLY, the factions are:

-The Guild - Commoners. Scavengers and scrappers who recover old-world technology and resources from the Ruin Heart, an ancient destroyed city. The PC representing this group is Feather, the Black Hood.

-The Court - Nobles. A collective of people with power and money. Nobles, business owners, etc. They attend the monarch, Hesperia (a PC).

-The First Born are sage/advisor types. They basically have secret tech that allows them to access the ancient-world's Internet... so their secret power is wikipedia. But this tech is forbidden, so they have to pretend they get their knowledge from magical divinations or something. The PC from this group is Valtus, the Bloodletter. He's basically one of the only real doctors in the whole city, and as such, is personally connected to many of the powerful people.

-The Orchid Circle - a new religion which is trying to preach balance with nature, but really, submission to the Verdant. Basically, these guys are ecofascists. And they are controlled by the Verdant - their leaders are all people who have been mentally influenced by the Verdant (think: Cordyceps). They also peddle drugs which make people comfortable with the world-as-it-is. The PC from this group is Will the Speaker, (class: the beloved) a cult leader who has arrived in town and quickly accumulated 15-20 converts.

I'm omitting a lot of details because this post could go on forever, but that's the gist of it!

I think the plot for this one involves the character from the Guild scavenging relics from the Ruin Heart, but what he brings back could destabilize Steadfast. The Orchid Circle and the Firstborn are directly at-odds. In a way, the commoner guild has the most power, because they have a monopoly on access to the Ruin Heart... but can they maintain it? It's dangerous to go alone, but if you bring people with you, they will figure out the route...

Here's a "custom move" I'm writing so that players can take the initiative to get controversial shit from the ruin heart:

If you know the way to the ruin heart, and undertake a perilous journey to get there, roll + Steady. If other people join you on the journey, or have a way of influencing it indirectly, they have the option of making Help/Interfere moves before you roll.

If you roll a 10+, pick 2 from the list
If you roll a 7-9, Pick 1 from the list
If you roll a 6 or lower-, your mission was a disaster, you were routed by monsters (Everyone in the group takes 3 Harm and rolls a "Taking Harm" move)

The list:
-You recovered contraband technology
-You recovered medicine
-You recovered valuable resources
-You avoid a confrontation with the guardians of the Ruin Heart

While creating characters, we also generate relationships, and those are super interesting...

For example, Hesperia has a little sister named Vega, who is the heiress to the throne. Vega has the phage, so she's dying a slow and painful death, but is being kept alive by one of the other characters -- Valtus the Bloodletter (A firstborn).

Here are the social relationships we established:

RPG Ghetto / Sparkle Baby - a Toddlers & Tiaras Larp
« on: April 19, 2020, 05:59:05 pm »
Sparkle Baby is a larp party. It lasts 2 hours, and features a dozen players.

The game concept is a child beauty pageant. Everybody plays as one of the insane parents who attend these terrible things. Basically a "Toddlers & Tiaras" larp.

Apple Talk / How to Spend $1200
« on: April 15, 2020, 01:28:56 pm »

As my Dungeon World campaign wraps up, I'm looking for the next tabletop to check out. I've landed on The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power (or SCUP for short). Here's the thumbnail:

► It uses the Powered By The Apocalypse rules engine, which is the same mechanics as Dungeon World. That is, for any action, you roll 2d6, add a stat. If you get a 10+, you succeed, 7-9 is a 'success with a cost or consequence', and 6- is fail. Very simple, lots of narrative control.

► The game is styled after Game of Thrones. The characters are all powerful people, major figures in the setting. Most of the game's drama takes place between the characters. (as opposed to D&D or Dungeon World, where the group is assumed to be a party cooperating to overcome challenges set by the DM)

► Like Dungeon World, the setting is generated by the players at the first session. You do this "mythology creation" workshop, in which the group talks through a world myth. You start with a prompt, "In the beginning, _______" and then fill in the blank. The book gives you some options, and if you want, you can roll a die, but you could also make something up.

1. The world was pristine and unsullied.
2. There was peace between all.
3. We lived in harmony with nature.
4. It was a golden age of prosperity and knowledge.
5. Dangerous things were sealed away.
6. Times were hard, but we got by with what we had.

1. A never before seen threat arose.
2. A new power emerged in the land.
3. We meddled in what we should not.
4. Rightful rule was challenged.
5. Our ancient ways were cast aside or forgotten.
6. Supernatural powers unleashed their wrath.

There are six beats to the world myth. After you've set it up, then you flesh out the details and talk specifics. From this conversation, the setting emerges.

► Each player may choose one 'playbook', which is essentially the character classes....

"The Sword" is martial power...
The Gauntlet is an amazing fighter (think: Jamie Lannister)
The Spur commands a force of warriors (think: Jon Snow)
The Black Hood is an assassin (think: Arya Stark)
The Screw is a torturer, inquisitor... can get info out of people (think: Ramses Bolton)

"The Crown" is social power...
The Crown playbook lets you play a king or queen. (think: Cersei)
The Voice is an advisor (think: Tyrion)
The Bloodletter is a doctor or academic, who Knows Things and holds power over life and death (think: Sam Tarley)
The Lyre is like a bard, celebrity, influential type. They deal in information and can spread rumors (think: Varys)

"The Unspeakable Power" is magical power...
The Beloved is basically a cult leader. There's something special about you, and as a result, you have a cult of 20-30 people that follow you around and think you're the chosen one. You can tap into the Unspeakable Power. (think: Daenerys)
The Adept has magical powers, see things that should not be seen. (think: Bran)
The Hex is a witch or sorcerer, who wields powerful curses (think: Melissandre)

► And then at session 1, when you create characters, you thread them together. Each playbook has a few built-in relationships... you choose two of them and then assign them to other characters at the table. For example, the bloodletter (doctor) character points to someone and says "You need me to keep someone you care about alive." Then you work out who that is. It might even be another character at the table!

► Most of the plot will have to do with intrigues, power plays, and betrayals. There is combat, but it's not handled in super-fine detail... when you fight somebody, it's usually about dominance or power rather than actually killing them. A whole combat is resolved with 1-3 dice rolls. You roll dice, it gives you a mechanical outcome, and then the players involved fill in the fluff about what actually happened.

► Each character has a faction that you generate at the beginning of the game. Some characters have patrons, people they work for -- in many cases, this is also another PC. For example, if someone is playing The Crown, then someone playing the Voice will be their advisor, someone playing The Spur will be their general. At the beginning of each session, yo make some die rolls which indicate your current status with your patron and faction. You could begin the session in good graces with bonus resources, or in a bad state where you're going to have to do some tasks or favors to get back into favor.

The factions are also tools to drive drama. They mean that each character has a group that expects something from them. And even if the characters are not at odds, their factions probably are.

► You have a pool of "honor" points, representing your reptuation and the value of your name. You can spend honor to get favors from your faction, or use moves like DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? --- when you're talking to any character, you can spend 1 Honor and say "Do you know who I am?" -- the target then has to improvise something impressive they've recently heard about your character.

► The Unspeakable Power is an intelligent evil force. In any given setting, it could be different things. If a character has magical abilities, whether they know it or not, that ability actually comes from the Unspeakable Power. It is a force of temptation and sin. Every character has a move called "Whisper to the Unspeakable Power". If you whisper "I'd sell my soul to humiliate that guy", the unspeakable power will hear your request, and whisper something back, possibly granting you what you desire. This is a game where you can always make a deal with the devil. And eventually, it will come back at you.

► After many sessions, you'll have accumulated enough "advancement" (this game's version of XP) to buy stuff from a list... one of the things you can purchase is "end of season" moves. These are big narrative events like Game of Thrones' Red Wedding. Using an End of Season move delivers a big twist or dramatic conclusion to a character's story. It will probably end the campaign, or at the least, significantly change your character. After an End of Season move, the king might lose all of his power and end up as a beggar on the street. Or a mage might finally succumb to the temptation of the unspeakable power and ruin their own lives.

It seems like a really wild game. I like the idea that the GM doesn't really create the story, they just facilitate the threads that players put out there. Lots of agency, lots of room for plot to emerge.

Apple Talk / Mid-Apocalyptic Fiction
« on: April 13, 2020, 10:02:03 pm »
I can imagine a sci-fi genre (which probably already exists) in which the world is ending, but not uniformly, and not in a big dramatic crescendo. The world doesn't end due to wars or bombs or aliens or a big comet or anything... it's ending slowly, slowly being strangled by bureaucracy and reliance on systems that no longer function, or have long stoppages.

Like, picture Mad Max, but 7-11 is still open.

There's raiders and slavers... but also, there are still normal police...?

The Government is still there, it's just completely ineffective, if not actively malicious.

TV still exists, but no new shows are coming out, and nothing is filmed live anymore. All re-runs.

If you need medical attention, you have to barter with some shaman.. but you're at a mall kiosk.

One day, when I lived in Yonkers, a bunch of big-box stores in the same mall all went out of buisness in the same 4 months. The smaller businesses followed - it was like the mall was dying a slow death. I went to a bunch of GOING OUT OF BUISNESS  sales, and it eventually started to feel surreal... empty parking garages, dark store fronts, one lone light somewhere.

what are some other mid-apoc images?

Apple Talk / Myspace is back
« on: April 13, 2020, 01:38:03 pm »
This is the new thing we're doing.  Be my friend:

RPG Ghetto / Long Time Listener, Last Time Caller
« on: April 10, 2020, 03:09:19 pm »
Here's a Larp that you can play over a video call. Thanks to Cainad for the share.

Short version: One person plays as a host for a call-in radio show. The players take turns Calling In, gradually escalating the absurdity & chaos going on in the outside world.
(file is also attached at the bottom of this post)



Long Time Listener, Last Time Caller is a game for 4-10 players and 30-60 minutes about a radio show at the end of the world. It is inspired by great moments of radio where a crisis has enabled broadcasters to transcend the constraints of the medium and help their audiences on a personal level.
As the game goes on, the host gradually abandons the artifice of broadcasting, untileverything is stripped away and all that remains is two people talking to one another while the world listens. This game is designed to be a meditative experience where listening is as important as acting.

One player will play the DJ (the Host). While this player will be the only one constantly playing and will be able to control the game’s pacing, they also have the least power to shape the narrative. This role is recommended for the most experienced player, the facilitator, the organizer, or whoever feels most comfortable assuming the responsibility.

The remainder of the players will play dual roles: they will act as one or more callers who establish facts about the cataclysm taking place in conversation with the host, and they will also serve as the radio show’s audience, listening carefully during the remainder of the show.

The game is designed to be played on Skype or a similar group voice chat program, but can be adapted for in-person play.


After determining who will be the Host, each player should review the section pertaining to their role, and take a few minutes to and understand what is required of each role.

As a group, agree on a general tone of the cataclysm that will serve as the backdrop of the game. It is not necessary to work out details, as that is a large part of play, but make sure that you’re all generally agree so that one player doesn’t add zombie aliens to a game that the other players thought was about the final stages of a global famine.

Then decide what kind of station this is: Where does the station broadcast? Maybe some people listen online, but part of the magic of radio is the regional limitation, and this can give you some additional framing information.

Finally, decide what sort of show this is under normal circumstances. Setting the game at a freeform station will create a very different experience than a game set at a conservative talk radio station or a Top 40 morning zoo. A college radio station is an excellent default setting.


While the game is best experienced in an online theater of the mind setting, it can be played live! Set up two chairs back to back, one for the host and one for the caller. The listeners should sit in front of the host, and when they are ready to call, they should hand the host a slip of paper with their caller name and location, and move to the caller side of the room to wait their turn to call.


You are responsible for setting the pace of the game. You choose when calls begin and when they end. The callers are important, but this is ultimately your show.

Take a minute or two before the game starts to think about two things: your on-air persona, and the nominal topic of the show. The persona is key. Are you crotchety, goofy, patient, or a know-it-all? It doesn’t have to be in-depth; it’s just a springboard to start your interactions. A topic is also highly recommended as a guide, especially early on in the game. Talk about something you care about: baseball, superhero movies, politics, or romance. Finally, consider having some music cued up; a high-energy talk show is fun, but playing 45 seconds of a song can give you the chance to breathe between calls and give callers time to think of something to say.

Most importantly, this is your job, or at least your responsibility, and you have a set of rules to follow. At the beginning of the game, you should follow all of them rigidly, and impose them on callers. You have the ability to“hang up” on a caller, ending the call. The first two calls of the game will be normal calls that set a baseline for the show. During these calls, follow all the rules. After that, each call will reveal the nature of the cataclysm; after each call and new revelation, cross one rule off the list and act accordingly. You are no longer bound by that rule. Once you’ve crossed off the last rule, take one more call, after which the game, the show, and probably the world come to an end. Keep this pacing in mind as you cross off rules, and especially during the final call or two. As the game goes on and the situation seems out of control, your polished radio persona should begin to show cracks.

It is recommended that you announce when you have time for one or two more calls to let the players know that the game is winding down. At all times during the game, you should try to give each call a couple minutes, unless it has hit a clear endpoint before that. Remember: the game is about conversations, and you are the facilitator.


You will play multiple roles: one or more callers, and the audience of the radio show.

When you are an audience member, you should mute your microphone or remain silent, and just listen to what is going on. Listening is an important part of your role, and you should be mindful of your response to other callers, as this can be a springboard for your own call.

When you’re ready to call in and contribute, use the text function in your VOIP program to indicate your character’s identity by typing in “(First name) from (town).” You may call in more than once, but you will be a different character each time, and no one should call a second time until everyone has called at least once (unless someone has indicated that they don’t wish to call).

During the first two “calls,” your job is to set up the normal dynamic of the show and the world. After those first two calls, you will introduce new information about the cataclysm affecting the world in each call. Try to build up somewhat gradually; each revelation should be dramatic and build upon prior callers’ contributions.

Don’t just call in to give information about the disaster. Consider the following before the call:

• What makes your call interesting? How will you get and keep the host’s attention?
• Why are you calling a radio station at this time? What need is it fulfilling, and what do you want to communicate?
• What is your relationship with the host? Are you a regular, a listener, an antagonist, or someone they know?
• After you hang up the phone, what will happen to you?
• Most importantly, you want to be on the radio. Enjoy it, and take your time exploring the role you’ve created. You may never use it again.

Apple Talk / messaging apps are obviously a discordian conspiracy
« on: April 07, 2020, 10:44:48 pm »


Apple Talk / Things that make you feel old
« on: April 07, 2020, 09:18:47 pm »
For me, it's TikTok

After Vine (which I loved), I knew it was just a matter of time before I went totally Grandpa Cramulus because of a teen software fad. I have a ton of friends who are super into TikTok and I can't wrap my liverspotted head around it.

From what I can tell, TikTok is a video platform which consists of people lipsyncing some random dialog from a TV show. And while you do that, you have to make EXTREME EXPRESSIONS. Like take whatever normal expression you'd be making and turn it up to 50. Sorta like silent-movie acting.

« on: April 07, 2020, 12:58:47 pm »

If you just registered on the forum, or are dusting off your old account, check the fuck in.


this is me:


What is you?

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