Sep 262019
 

Objective

Provide a data model for quantities (a value plus a unit of measure) that is similar to a glossary entry. By defining a quantity once, it can be referenced repeatedly as needed. Content can explicitly reference the quantity and alternative units of measure. Commonly, this would be instances where SI and US customary units must both be provided; for example, “The length of a football (soccer) pitch must be between 90m (100 yards) and 120m (130 yards)”.

Alternately, the element can implicitly call for alternate units of measure and localized output generators can provide the one appropriate one. Further, output generators can be configured to automatically provide conversions, even if alternate units of measure are not expressed in the XML.

Example/Summary

<quantity>
<datauom unit="
[picklist]" abbrev="[yes|no]"/>
<value>
N.M</value>
<mainuom unit="
[picklist]" abbrev="[yes|no]"/>
<altuom unit="
[picklist]" abbrev="[yes|no]"/>
</quantity>

<quantity> Content Model

Doctype Content model Contained by
[Any, all] ( (datauom) (any number) then (value) (one) then (mainuom) (one) then (altuom) (any number) ) [same as <ph>]

<datauom> Attributes

Name Description Data type Default value Required?
unit Indicates an SI or US customary unit. Picklist of the seven SI base units and one each of the underived US customary units, plus temperature units. ( second | meter | m2 | m3 | kilogram | ampere | kelvin | mole | candela | celsius | foot | ft2 | ft3 | nauticalmile | liter | floz | drypint | ounce | troygrain | fahrenheit ) [?] Yes
visible Indicates that the source-data quantity renders in output. ( yes | no ) no No
abbrev Toggles abbreviation of the unit of measure (@unit). ( yes | no ) yes No

<mainuom> Attributes

Name Description Data type Default value Required?
unit Indicates an SI or US customary unit. Picklist of the seven SI base units and one each of the underived US customary units, plus temperature units. ( second | meter | m2 | m3 | kilogram | ampere | kelvin | mole | candela | celsius | foot | ft2 | ft3 | nauticalmile | liter | floz | drypint | ounce | troygrain | fahrenheit ) [?] Yes
abbrev Toggles abbreviation of the unit of measure (@unit). ( yes | no ) yes No

<altuom> Attributes

Perhaps quantities and their conversion might be best constrained by the unit category or type. They would have the same children as above model.

Quantity type Alternative element name Available @unit data types
Length <lenquantity> ( meter | foot |nauticalmile )
Area <areaquantity> ( m2 | ft2 )
Volume1 <volquantity> ( m3 | liter| ft3 | floz | drypint )
Time <timequantity> ( second | [prefix multipliers, like ms?] )
Mass/Weight2 <massquantity> ( kilogram | ounce | troygrain )
Temperature <tempquantity> ( celsius | fahrenheit )

Footnotes

  1. Fluid and dry volumes are combined to keep the model simple; conversion in output would be constrained only to valid exchanges and, if the altuom@unit in a <FOOquantity> has no conversion for the uom@unit, no alternate value+unit pair is rendered in output. [Yes, the XSLT code to do this proposed automatic conversion and insertion is not trivial! 😊]
  2. From a tech-writing perspective, I do not see a case for making a distinction between mass and weight. Aerospace industry uses S1000 (I think) and they can develop their own conversion domain themselves, for quantities in micro- or zero gravity (varied weight, static mass)! 😜
Nov 122018
 
I vividly recall the smell of a book of memeographs. The tables, the tables, so complex and compelling.
I remember that the games were raw, unpolished. I remember how the publications were so simple in execution but carried a palpable weight of Importance. How to solve these mazes?!
I knew that I was just reading a book or an article, but I could sense the depth of thought behind it, and I could viscerally feel the compulsion to play, play, play. I was ten, and I woulda played all night. Dragon magazine often kept me up thinking about how to use (or, more often, fix) its additions!
Many memories of conventions: the hallways full of crazies, the lounge showing doctor who or something, us sequestered into a banal meeting room to play whatever got pitched by a guy who couldn’t even begin to sort out the rules (multiple sessions I played that weekend began and ended with character creation).
But that was also a big SCA con, and it also had the poor man’s solution (dowels, foam); and as much as we drooled over the armor, we could make boffers for a dollar. This was the same con where I wandered into a side room full of hardcore mini guys, and (a) they were dismissive (I was maybe eleven) and (b) their conversations were so deep into simulation numbers and states that I only now (2014) recognize the shit they was talking about.
Looking back, that was the con that owned me. UNCG gave me more than two Bachelor’s degrees (years later): they gave me a passion I’ll never lose.
Flash forward:
My friends and I routinely played all night at sleep overs. One night in particular, I recall that we played a horror game (well run by Steven) that left us so unsettled that nothing would do but a walk around the neighborhood during sunrise. I checked around corners on that walk. Seriously.
Flash forward:
I recall a convention game at UNCG where they used two DMs to handle multiple players in competition: we ran dungeon tournament simultaneously. We also played Toon. A lot of that Stellar Con is echoed in the photos I see of game masters running from a sort of stage. The dms were using a classroom, and it was so compelling!
My oldest friends (Trent and Steven) ran that game… and to their credit, they didn’t give a shit that they knew me: pure umpires. But this was also still early in the ‘pure dungeon’ times (1984?) and they were young, so they probably came to that rules-purity from first principles.
Flashback:
I recall puzzling over blue book. I recall writing solutions in the margins. I recall playing, being stupified, and spending hours, days, redesigning. I never had the balls to send a letter to Dragon… but I rewrote many AD&D systems (including my own mana system, before Gygax) before the age of thirteen.
The game store, 1980. Flashing back to Day One:
Wow. Chainmail right there in my face. [38 years later, the White Books fetch hundreds from collectors.]
These $3 books just sitting on a low rack with no significance: the proprietors paid bills with train and early R/C hobbiests. And in those days, there was overlap: minis guys used train stuff.
But dad’s wallet and a smart vendor prevented me from buying what I now realize was not a child’s game. Blue book was my Christmas present. Dad, did you have any idea how much you would influence your son with that $10?
Back in the store:
The light through the dusty, poster-plastered windows. The terrain tables and the gorgeous miniatures (for them, the default; for me, staggering).
Later:
Dad and I playing D&D on the front patio, sunbathing, rolling dice between the lounge chairs. Top ten happiest moments of my life, and I should let my father know how well he raised me.
Apologia:
But we were talking about the industry.
Those hobby stores were so weird. Stuffy. A plastic bag in a rack, however, might change your worldview so fundamentally that you’d never look back, even as you wondered who put you on this crazy train.
Oct 112017
 

Today

  1. A given quantum of information is sourced in a root language, which could be a single language organization-wide or multiple languages.
  2. Structured markup languages provide metadata and semantics irrespective of eventual output formats.

Concept

  • Continue the abstraction of information in B by eliminating A above as well: content is divorced from format and language.

Implementation

  1. Codify grammar into conditions, objects, actions, results, and all other relevant dictional objects. (Consider the constructed language Unker for models of logical, nonlinear grammar diagrams.)
  2. Document conceptual, procedural, and reference information as information maps that diagrammatically describe the information.
  3. Develop Dictional Style Sheets (DSS) that render the information maps into textual, visual, or even multimedia deliverables. (For textual DSS, additional transformation via CSS and such continues as in B above).

Simple Example

Intent

“The door-open chime sounds and the door-open dashboard light illuminates when a door is ajar while the key is in the ignition.”

Information Map of Objects and Relationships

COND:[(OBJ:car-door:any)open AND (OBJ:key)inserted]
<=>
RES:[(OBJ:door-chime)on AND (OBJ:door-dash-light)on]

COND:[(OBJ:car-door:any)closed AND [ (OBJ:key)inserted OR (OBJ:key)removed] ]
<=>
RES:[(OBJ:door-chime)off AND (OBJ:door-dash-light)off]

REL:alert-types(OBJ:door-chime, OBJ:door-dash-light, …)

DSSs

[Magic happens here. LOTS of object:style mappings, but only need to be done once for each dictional output. Free translation; free infographics; free texts: all from running the information maps through DSSs and then output generators that can handle the renders. A tiny example:]

OBJ:key == “ignition key” | singular-only |

Outputs

Conceptual Contexts

“The door-open chime sounds and the door-open dashboard light illuminates when a door is ajar while the key is in the ignition.”

“When the door is closed, the door-open chime does not sound and the door-open dashboard light does not illuminate, regardless of whether the key is in the ignition or not.”

Procedural Contexts

“To test the door-open chime and the door-open dashboard light, insert the ignition key into the ignition switch and open a door.”

Troubleshooting Contexts

“If the door-open chime is sounding and the door-open dashboard light is illuminated, one or more doors is ajar. You can stop the alerts by either closing the open door or by removing the key from the ignition.”

Infographics

[You’d have graphics mapped to objects and relationships in the DSS that, when generated as output, show up like, say, an Ikea or LEGO manual. In fact, see Lego Digital Designer for a great model of a user interface for assembly mapping by sub-assemblies and stages.]

As you can tell if you’ve read this far, this isn’t a new idea: there are conlang folks who’ve thought about this stuff for decades, but not typically from the perspective of one:many translation (rather more like many:one ‘interfaces’ via written and/or spoke languages).

And I also just realized that many of the OBJ-REL information maps could be scraped straight out of software code! *headsplode*

May 242014
 

Memorial Day always puts me into an emotional conflict.

When does respect for honorable and dutiful sacrifice begin to sanction the ill wills and greed that required it? Do we have any more righteous wars left in us? Did we ever?

I find myself thinking that, just like Valentine’s Day, this is another shitty holiday. Love deserves more than one calendar entry, so surely pain and loss does as well. The men and women lost to an aggressive will are remembered daily by their loved ones; why, as a nation, can’t we find time enough every day to do the same?

And maybe, just maybe, in that remembrance decide that throwing more children into the meat grinder won’t work any better than it did millennia ago?

Memorial Day is aptly named. Remember why war is the ultimate failure of everything that makes us human.

Timing Social Media Messages For Service And Show Industries

 Technology  Comments Off on Timing Social Media Messages For Service And Show Industries
Nov 272012
 

Every restaurant, bar, pub, and show club wants to leverage social media. These media are free services; the people who choose to follow your business want to hear from you; and when done well, they can replace a lot of expensive, targeted advertising. Even better if your message makes your clientele tell others to follow you: valuable savings, exciting events, exclusive shows, and a sense of belonging turn triers into regulars. Assuming that is the case—that you don’t spam them with pointless noise but only post conscientiously, with “news they can use”—then social media will be a win-win investment for any business owner.

Unfortunately, all of your competitors are aware of these benefits and opportunities; and they are flooding Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines, and email inboxes with their best efforts and offers. Couple that with the fact that many users of social media only check occasionally, and your problem as an advertiser becomes one of distinguishing your announcements and offers from the rest.

Setting aside good copy writing and compelling visuals and links (a topic, perhaps, for a future article) the single best way to make your message stand out is, in a word, timing. This article presents what I feel is an optimal schedule of post timing for common attractions in the service and show industries, to maximize viewers and thus guests.

Note: I am assuming your principle target market is nine-to-fivers, not swing-, split- or third-shift workers or service industry employees themselves. I feel, however, that once you’ve grasped the basics I present here, you will be able to apply the timing principles to clientele with different work hours.

Specials

Specials include food, drink, and possibly value-adds like free parking or valet service.

Some establishments vary specials frequently, and it is those that will benefit the most from social media. If you, however, have locked into a routine that is rarely changed, treat it more like a regular event (below).

Food

When do you think about where you might like to go for lunch or dinner? Obviously, around lunch or dinner time! So this one is, on the surface, a no-brainer: post around 11 AM for lunch specials and around 5 PM for dinner specials. That’s when people are checking smartphones and making plans with others.

But that is just the low-hanging fruit. Look to how the major chains advertise on television, for even more good timing tips. Do you serve breakfast (or brunch on the weekends)? Then post the specials at around 10 PM on weekdays and perhaps a bit later on weekends—you know when your guests end their Friday and Saturday nights… or mornings!

Drink

First, I would suggest that you include drink specials when you post your food specials; but use good judgement! If your clientele favors a pint or martini with lunch, then by all means include it with the 11 AM post. If you’re more family-oriented, include drink specials only with the dinner specials post, perhaps only on Fridays and Saturdays.

If you run a show club and open for happy hour, or if you are a dining establishment that has live music during or after dinner, the 5 PM timing is also good for you, but absolutely include drink specials when you post to promote an evening’s event. So, odds are good that you will have food, drink, and the event in a single post at that time.

Note: I am a resident in a state where there is no happy hour, per se: drink specials must be honored from open to close to reduce binge drinking during rush hour (kind of makes sense, no?). If your local laws differ, then by all means be sure to post about an hour before a limited-duration happy hour.

Events

There is a vast variety of events that can be hosted at service or show venues: live music, a band line-up, pub trivia, singles nights, ladies nights, poker clubs. The list is as diverse as the creativity of venue owners and the cultural richness of your region.

Many events have common timing objectives, however. You want the punters to know about them as soon as possible; you need to remind them as they get closer; and you want to catch the eye of someone who is at loose ends and is looking for fun. That said, regularly occurring events behave much like daily specials: more than one or two posts about each event will be perceived as pushy or desperate.

Major Events

I characterize a major event as a one-off event booked well in advance for which people typically plan and budget. Tickets usually must be bought, sometimes early to be sure they don’t sell out; babysitters must be scheduled, sometime early to be sure they won’t be out; and reservations must be made for dinner, to complete the big night out.

These are the best times to post information about major events:

  • When the event is booked: Get the news out as early as possible. As for the time of day to post, most nine-to-fivers do not actually check their feeds during the work day (unless planning for a get-together that very day, as with specials above). So post either in the early morning as people check in before starting their day, or just after work hours as people get home and catch up, but not both! Whichever works with your schedule. For example, a show venue might post before locking up in the wee hours; a restaurant might post before the dinner rush (if applicable, as an addendum to the night’s specials post).

    Note: For the date timings below that do not specify a time, pick the time of day as with this date timing.

  • The day before tickets go on sale: Your fans will want to be ready at the sales web site or window, ready to reserve their access. Don’t make them miss out!
  • Two hours before tickets go on sale: Get folks excited and remind those who forgot to get ready. In many cases, this will entail an early morning post, as ticket outlets often open for sales around 10 AM. Don’t sleep in!
  • One week before the event: Everyone with advance tickets already knows, sure; so use this post to both inform and build anticipation. Perhaps offer a value-add to the post: a link to a popular or evocative song by the (headlining) performer(s); a recent addition to the line-up; or even a joke, if you can manage humor. Don’t let anyone seeing the post think, “I know, I know! STFU, already!” **clicks Unsubscribe**
  • The day of the event: Work out the time of day that best suits your principle demographic for the event, asking yourself when they will be checking their feeds for something to do tonight. Generally, I recommend around 5 PM (in conjunction with your specials post, as I mentioned above).
  • Near the end of the penultimate act: Nothing will excite the curious browser as much a picture (or short video) of your venue heaving and shaking the rafters! As a bonus, you’re not likely to be spamming your attendees… and if you are, if they’re staring at their smartphones instead of the act… well, take note of that and bring it up with whomever is in charge of bookings at the next meeting.
  • NEVER again: Yes, I said it: posts about how great the show was or how packed you were will more-likely cost you goodwill than behave as a morning-after kiss to your attendees. Nope, nah. Not worth it. Post, perhaps, to the band’s page or feed to thank them; and let any knock-on views see you not as advertising but as conscientious.

No two major events are the same, and so no hard-and-fast timings will work for every situation. Adjust the above accordingly, while always keeping in mind that your posts should be of value to your guests and you should value your guest’s time more than their dollars!

Regular Events

Much like food and drink specials, regular events can become repetitious to the point of irritation, if not timed effectively and used sparingly.

In general, include the pitch and details of the event with your 5 PM specials post, both so that the otherwise unoccupied folks can be reminded and so that those who might be put off by the event will know to pass you by that evening. While the latter might seem detrimental to the night’s takings, trust me: a new or fledgling customer that would find such activity an irritant rather than a compliment will be unhappy that you did not inform them of it as you enticed them with your chef’s latest masterpiece or $1-off well drinks.

Finally, if a regular event has established a following and become virtually a part of your business identity, consider splitting it off into its own page or feed, and encourage folks to join that one before and after the event for several weeks. When the new page or feed has gained traction, limit posts on your primary feed to very irregular reminders, for customers whose interests might have changed over time.

Succeed With Grace

In closing, much of the above advice focuses on a general principle: use social media to bring value to your guests, not to bring revenue to your establishment. The former will guarantee the latter, so long as you respect the most valuable assets that your customers have: time and attention.

Facebook Events In Google Calendar

 Technology, Writing  Comments Off on Facebook Events In Google Calendar
Jan 202011
 

Google Calendar - Other calendars panel

Google Calendar - Other calendars panel

Folks who know me know I’m irritated by Facebook closing the native interfaces to Google apps (specifically Calendar on Android). Turns out, there’s Another Way:

  1. Go to any Event that you are Attending.
  2. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.
  3. Click Export.
    A pop-up will offer you two options for that single Event: Download or email.
    It also shows a link under “Export all of your upcoming events.”
  4. Highlight that link and copy it (or right-click it and choose Copy link location).
  5. Open Google Calendar in your web browser.
  6. Under “Other calendars,” click Add > Add by URL.
  7. Paste the Facebook URL into the pop-up’s URL field.
    Note: You probably do not want to check the checkbox to make it public.
  8. Click Add Calendar and then wait a moment. A “Firstname Lastname ‘s Facebook” calendar should appear on your “Other calendars” list.
  9. Sync with your Android device or other Google Calendars client and enjoy!

FREEDOM!!!

National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To NPCs

 Fiction, Writing  Comments Off on National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To NPCs
May 012009
 

What if the NPCs that gamers so wantonly destroy got organized…?


I was a wreck, a shambles… nerves shot, I tell ya! Without the kind ministry of the NSPCNPC, I couldn’t even tell you this horror story without a belly full of the hard stuff and a half yard of linen for snottin’ on.

Me and me lads were just having a piss-up ’round the pub, when in walks this weird group of richies and their hulking bodyguard. Never seen such armor and fine, shining steel. –And who wears armor to the pub, anyway? But I digress….

So’s anyway, the tart of the group–a fine-enough looking wench dressed like she’s planning to work upstairs at the Speckled Hen, if ya ken–sidles up and asks me and the lads if we’d like a bit of work for a few days. Yeah, right, we’ll “work” for ya–nudge, nudge. The bodyguard didn’t much take to our little jokes, and we were about to tell ’em all to sod off, but this skinny, shifty-eyed bloke in the group drops a heavy looking sack of dosh onna table and tells us to be ready to leave at dawn. Fair enough–we could drink until dawn, easily; done it most week’s ends.

And so it’s now dawn, we’re a bit the worse for drink but can still shift the packs we’re given to haul, and the group leads us up into the hills. And then into a bloody cave–no, really, they did, I’m not takin’ the piss! We din’ even know there was caves in the hills, ’cause most good folk know better than to muck about up there, what with the wolves and bears and such. But, hey, we’d drank half our pay already, so it wasn’t like we could pay these barmy blokes back and leave! And the bodyguard woulda likely skewered us on his improbably sized sword, if’n we’d just tried runnin’ off. SO… Some torches, a bit of roping together, and we become speelunkers.

That when the first horror struck–some fell beast or such, like we’d never seen… and poor Barney–the fella with the big jowls and rheumy eyes that used to live over west?–that’s when he was took. Split right in two, like a sausage for pan-frying, and there’s blood all over everyfing. I was set for quittin’ right then, but the beady-eyed bastard what paid us starts waving around a nasty little pig-sticker, and it seems we’re in for the long haul. But, hey, at least our shares in the pay had just gone up! Gotta find the silver lining, not to pun ya.

It never got any better after that, though. Freddie the Fisher was told to open an odd-looking door–don’t ask me why there’s a bloody fooking DOOR in some old caves!–and he lets out this sort of soft sigh and just slumps to the ground, deader’n last years Christmas goose. Turns out some right bastard had hid some kinda thorn or some-such, with a narsty poison onnit, behind the door pull… and it was Freddie’s day in the barrel, like they say.

Should I go on to recount, in gory detail, how Stew was disemboweled by some kinda bear with the head of a fookin’ BIRD? Or how Little Mark was made to lead the way down a corridor and got pin-cushioned by bleedin’ arrows flying outta the damned WALLS?! Or Frank from Bogend being crushed under a cave-in when he was told to poke and prod at some squiggle-marked wall with a stave?

I still hear their screams, though I can at least sleep through the night, now, thanks to the NSPCNPC. But I don’t think I’ll EVER get over the fact that the bastard “adventurers” raked in a haul of lucre enough to feed a family of ten for 50 years, were lauded as heroes by the smallfolk back in town, and ended up shagging every virgin left in the county! It’s a bad world, I reckon; and the worser the crew, the better their lot. Here we’d lost six of our stoutest lads–all with families to feed and plots to work–and I’d’ve been left in that pit with them if I hadn’t been just a wee bit lighter on my feet than Little Mark. Want to see my “share” of the take…? Here, take a long look at the right arm I ain’t got anymore!

It could happen to you. Support the NSPCNPC.


I am known as Hallal, The All-Devourer! [not real name] Kneel before me and beg that I might merely make you a slave!

Before the NSPCNPC, my glorious fortress was incessantly broken into, pillaged, and sometimes even woefully damaged by thrill-seeking, greedy miscreants! Swine in clattering armor and crackling robes! Sure, some would profess being begged to assault my property and person because of… minor disagreements with some of my neighbors in the village in the vale. But who are these foreigners to dictate terms to Hallal?!? Who are they to meddle in mere internal politics and issues of proper sacrifice schedules, availability of virgins, and eminent domain?

Well, as it turns out, they’re foreigners with extensive resources, rather advanced educations, and apparently some contacts with deities. Err, that is, deities LESSER THAN I, THE ALL-DEVOURER!!!

And, so, unbelievable as it may seem, I was made to suffer discorporation and the painful and time-consuming degradation of finding a new vic–um, assistant–to enjoy the hospitality of their mortal form. I treat such host forms quite well–after all, su casa me casa, no?–and I even entertain petitions from what’s left of their minds, every fourth full moon. It’s an amenable relationship to all concerned: I live, they don’t get devoured.

Then I must make my way back to my desmense, COMPLETELY restaff, effect repairs to my walls and internal security measures… the costs are atrocious, and an All-Devourer KNOWS what that word means. Just for another pack of interlopers to muck it all up again!

But all that ended when I joined the NSPCNPC. Their attorneys have issued restraining orders on the local villagers and sued the village’s mayor for slander and libel, which provided me with a timely leg-up on expanding my labor base to better-patrol the grounds surrounding my fell keep. And should yet-another wayward party of murderous ideologues come around, the NSPCNPC provides temp solutions for a variety of pest-repellent professions.

My home has never been safer, nor more peaceful. Well… for me, that is. You, not so much….

“LitRPG” – Game Text As Literature

 Criticism, RPG  Comments Off on “LitRPG” – Game Text As Literature
Jan 072009
 

From a post at Story-Games.com


David Artman  Jan 7th 2009 edited
First, thanks for backing off terms… so let’s back off “what is art” as that’s never been answered by even Rhodes Scholars. 😉

Posted By: TomasHVM– And let us discuss how the games-format may influence the reading.

  • What kind of qualities are present in a game-text, and in the reading of it, that makes it a strong communication device?
  • How can we make really readable game-texts?

NOW, we’re cooking with gas: something we can attempt to enumerate, techniques of writing and what they accomplish. *puts on dusty old Lit Crit hat and robes*

OK, one thing RPG manuals tend to have is a structure which is influenced by the procedural nature of play: when do you do what and why and what’s next? Other than technical manuals (in all their forms, from “How To” books to IT manuals), no other “genre” of writing does that. What does that buy us? I’d say it brings a sort of formalism and pacing: aside from authorial voice and varied diction, they are going to give a sort of “march” feel to the work. Maybe even meditative, as the pace is felt and matched by the reader.

They also tend to present information in referential manners, be they summaries of procedures, or just your typical charts and graphs of laundry lists of shit. This referential format strips out every nuance, dictional curlicue, and “voice” to present the bare facts. In that way, they can be like the “HALT!” shouted by a drill sergeant, to continue to (ab)use my marching metaphor–the cadence breaks as we rattle off a list of terms or numbers or both, like presenting arms. Compare that to, say, those statistics list one reads that convey a message, e.g. (stats not real, but close):
* Billions spent on heart disease research in 2007: 45
* Number of American death from heart disease in 2007: 500,000
* Billions spent fighting terrorism in 2007: 300
* Number of American deaths from terrorism in 2007: 16

The point is made crystal clear (above: our government spending priorities are FUCKED), but with nary a jot of expression or style. Editorialized by the timing and choice of what is listed, not by the tone or mood conveyed in the writing of the list.

I’ll stop there, for now, to see if I’m spring-boarding the right way (or hieing off into the trees). For obvious reason, I won’t bother to address “game fiction” or “setting fiction” at this point, as it uses all the same devices of a novel or short story, and that’s of minimal interest to me (mainly because there’s already a HUGE body of work that addresses how to do those forms). Readability, I’d say, falls into the same camp: a readable game text has the same qualities as a readable magazine article, novel, or biography. Clarity, diction, etc (or the opposite, if you’re going all deconstructive on us). Become a decent writer–poetry, prose, manuals, whatever–and you will be a good game writer.

– And measured against “ordinary” literature:

  • Is it possible that a games-format is a stronger read than say; a novel, in certain aspects?
  • Could a book of game-texts be as good a read as any collection of short stories?

Stronger? hard to say–what’s the point, what’s the theme, what’s the message? Every format suits some deliveries more than others. I want to woo a woman, a poem is going to go better than an 800-page novel. I want to explore a nuanced and complex theme, through the agency of several interrelated characters? I’m at the least going novella.

As for the second question, I’m going to go cheap and just say, “Sure.” Particularly with game text of the type you’re most suggesting: the RPG Poems With A Message. Time and tastes play a big part in that, though: a book of fan fic shorts about Star Wars will probably bore me FAR more than some witty, thought-provoking, or saddening RPG Poems that hit me square between the eyes with issues current and near and dear to me.

So, really, the better (or more interesting to me) question is what things can RPG Poems do BETTER than existing formats; and I believe I begin to explore that above, by unpacking a bit what an RPG format is and what that does to the reader’s expectations and reading behavior. And, as I said above, I’d like to be sure we want to go there before I do that heavy lifting–being a game writer AND editor AND technical writer, I can go into a fair bit of depth about atonality, neutral (AKA common) diction, procedural presentation and structure, projecting attitudes, and “writing between the lines.” Hell, you’d be amazed at the sort of shit a Major Corporation has me do, to “write around” flaws of design without admitting them–that’s, basically, the exact tack, flipped, that Somalian Children takes.

(Sorry so long, but that’s what you get for intriguing me.)
[edited for clarity and corrections]

TomasHVM  Jan 7th 2009 edited

First out: David; this is pure gold to me! Really interesting discussion of the topic. Your thoughts on “the procedural nature of play” is good!
This is really good: This referential format strips out every nuance, dictional curlicue, and “voice” to present the bare facts. I see what you are aiming at here, and it tingles my brain! I would very much like to read your thoughts on atonality, neutral diction, procedural presentation and structure, projecting attitudes, and “writing between the lines.” ALL of it, and more, if you would … please!

David Artman  Jan 8th 2009

Shit, I had to offer. KINDA busy, today, but I’ll get us started.

Baseline writing and what’s left unsaid

So I’m going to write a “LitRPG” (I need a shorthand). I can approach it like Somalian Children, with an essentially neutral tone–no rants, reads like a tech manual–and let its very starkness carry my meaning. Here’s a chart, roll your d10s, consult the chart to see your fate. BUT, if you know anything about math, you see that you’ve got a 1:1000 chance of surviving–that’s not said in the text, that’s left for you to realize. And the realization of the unsaid carries the message and theme and impact. Now you can re-read and the whole tone is changed; the cynicism just drips off the page. HOW? The text hasn’t changed. The tone is still there, sill consistent and neutral. But now, having “got it,” you can imagine the author staring balefully at you, accusingly, his voice so flat he sounds like the dead. Becasue isn’t that the REAL point: what have YOU done to help these poor children? Isn’t that the takeaway message, the unsaid?

Projecting attitude

That neutral tone, however, needn’t be the whole bag… in fact, more and more “RPG texts” are conveying a strong authorial diction and style, moving away from (and even mocking) the neutral tone of a tech manual. So our LitRPG can take that tack, and present a seeming “game,” but with an editorialized voice that shows it’s clearly not meant to be played and, rather, is meant to carry a message or cause a change of thought. I’ll bring up HoL, here, as an easy and obvious example of this (IMO). Yeah, sure, the game is somewhat playable, with a lot of rule repair and addition (or a freeform-loving play group), but it’s REALLY suppose to be a screed. It’s a punk zine disguised as a game which (it seems) takes the piss out of all the “structure” of gaming–could they be one of the first “system doesn’t matter” writers? Are they trying to say, “look, just have fun and fuck the details,” or are they actually MOCKING those gamers or that gaming culture which get so buried in stat and crunch that they get twenty minutes of WOW for every four hours of play? (Sound familiar? HoL authors as first Forrgites?!?) Or am I bringing my own experiences into the mix; am *I* the one projecting meaning and attitude onto the book? For the record, I’d say no in this case: I read HoL when it came out, WAY before exposure to all this theory, and I still saw it as taking the piss out of many contemporary RPG systems. But another LitRPG could well work with ambiguity, leaving each reader to project onto it their own interpretation and intent, just as much poetry does.

Atonality

So above we have the two poles of a tonal continuum: writing between the lines and bitch-slapping with editorializing. But there’s a third path, an orthogonal axis: one can use shifts in tone in a LitRPG to really hammer a point. If I have you lulled into the meditative march of neutral tone procedural writing and then, WHAM, start off on a screed about how this fucking chart is WORTHLESS if you don’t have a heart to care about the children, you fucking DICK!

Well, you sort of snap to attention, no? Where did all THAT come from, what did I just miss? Is this guy schitzo? Etcetera. You, as a reader, have to engage different mental gears to address this shift in tone… and then engage still more when I drop back into a staid and steady, neutral tone again. Done poorly, this atonality will seem like Tourette’s Syndrome (just as bad atonal music sounds like folks in different rooms, tuning up or adjusting their synthesizers). Done properly, it can underscore the moments of consistency AND convey a message, via contrasting tone, with the moments of insanity (just as the completion of an atonal music progression can make all the disjointed notes attain a sort of “metaharmony”).

Structure

This one is the big one, because for all the talk of tone, it’s the order of presentation which carries at least half the weight. In a typical RPG, we often see a color piece, to establish the mood of play for the game, followed quickly by a series of definitional sections, so that one isn’t totally lost as to what to do when the procedural stuff starts using the game jargon. Suppose that was tossed out the door? Suppose an RPG was written like A Clockwork Orange, with immediate total immersion in a nearly thoroughly different language? What is said, by that? One has to read it twice, just to get the sense–or jump to the glossary in the back of some editions, to try to get a baseline. A LitRPG can do the same thing, by eschewing the standard structure of a typical RPG.

But what is said by FOLLOWING the typical RPG structure: intro, define terms, establish character, present procedures of play, flesh out setting (again, fiction or reference material or monster lists or whatever). That goes back to tone and diction: is it homage or satire? Or is the fact that it’s hard to answer that question part of the exploration of the LitRPG?

Or, rather than eliminating common structure or following it to convey additional meaning, what about a disjointed structure? Cart before the horse stuff–all the procedures of play presented before you even know if you are a character or in author stance or what; absolutely no information about setting in the presentation of what is clearly NOT a generic system? Can a LtRPG carry surprises, nestled in the sequence of presentation, just like a novel can use flashback to clarify what was, prior to the flash, a very ambiguous or downright confusing scene? What is meant when such structure conventions are violated? A whole branch of “LitRPG Theory” can grow out of just the considerations of structure and how it informs the piece, just has been done with conventional (and, moreso, experimental) literature.

David Artman  Jan 8th 2009

(Damn, a BIT too long….)

Anyhow, just another nudge–that’s why it’s mostly questions and not a list of rules. There’s more LitCrit tools we can bring to bear, as either measures of a LitRPG’s merits or as guides to creating an effective one (I prefer the latter, but that’s also the only reason I studied LitCrit: to be a better writer, NOT a good critic).

David Artman  Jan 8th 2009

One more note on atonality, in conventional RPG (meaning non-LitRPGs):

We game designers use atonality all the time, but it’s to reinforce STRUCTURE, not theme or intent.

There is the cold and clear, neutral tone of a process or rule statement, highlighting its importance or canonical nature.
Then you get the more authorial and looser sort of writing which is, like, in sidebars or advice chunks or those little “talking head’ icons folks use to say, “Hey, now I’m just talking to you, to let you know what’s going on under the hood here.”
And, yeah verily, there be in-fiction tones that put thee into a mind to portray the shining heroes and scurrilous villains in a way which is meet.

See there? Three tones, each with a functional role in the text, but none of which is intended to layer on nuance of the overall book’s INTENT… because it’s only real “intent” is to teach you to play a game the way the author envisioned it. EVEN IF proper gameplay enables the underlying intent of a game to educate or inspire (think Grey Ranks, here).

But using atonality in a LitRPG would (should? could?) drive at the message, at the theme, at the takeaway of reading the text itself, without ever engaging in whatever “rules” or “procedures” are presented as carriers for that message.

OK, ’nuff for now. Your volley….

TomasHVM  Jan 8th 2009 edited

Baseline writing and what’s left unsaid

Posted By: David Artmanyou’ve got a 1:1000 chance of surviving–that’s not said in the text, that’s left for you to realize. And the realization of the unsaid carries the message and theme and impact.

Clear point, and very good!

I love the idea of readers discovering such content in the text, due to the instructive format. to have a table convey the central point, like in Somalian Children, is something I find very intriguing.

Projecting attitude

Posted By: David Artmanan editorialized voice that shows it’s clearly not meant to be played and, rather, is meant to carry a message or cause a change of thought.

An alternative, yes. Texts with attitude is nothing strange to ordinary literature either, of course.

To write games that are spitting at you, or teasing you to try them, or plainly have a laid-back stance to both you and itself … it is an idea that carries lots of opportunities.

Atonality

Posted By: David ArtmanDone properly, it can underscore the moments of consistency AND convey a message, via contrasting tone, with the moments of insanity

I like this. It could be very effective in a text dominated by the neutral tone of rules.

As a game text is ordinarily broken up in more or less stand-alone elements, there is no saying how far you can go with this, both in the deconstructive and constructive way …

Structure

Posted By: David ArtmanCan a LtRPG carry surprises, nestled in the sequence of presentation, just like a novel can use flashback to clarify what was, prior to the flash, a very ambiguous or downright confusing scene?

I do think so! To play around with the structure in such a text can dig up many hidden effects, I think.

I really love the idea of going for instructions “in medias res”, and then informing about what this is all about. There is vast fields for fruitful misinterpretations here! I love misguided players!

David, I believe you have made a nice overview of the main elements at play in a literary game text. And you have made some very nice and thought-provoking speculations on what kind of tools and effects to be had for the avid writer.

Thanks to your analysis I now feel even more fired up on this idea! A thousand thanks to you for making the effort!

Mind you: I am not equaling this kind of game-texts with role-playing poems. The poems are made to be played. As such they are both interesting in themselves, with their narrow timeframe, and interesting as tools for research by designers. Writing role-playing poems are a great way for designers to test specific game-tools, and a great way for them to test how their writing in general translates into games.

Dec 051999
 

The Veelab Species

Overview

The Veelab species is an alien culture which evolved on a jovian planet’s largest moon—a frigid, barren planetoid with nearly no atmosphere and a primarily metal crust. Scraping themselves up from the primordial ooze of their dim-witted ancestry, the Veelab learned to shape their bodies—and the bodies of their vanquished cousins—to resist the rigors of the wasted planet. Since developing space flight, they have gone on to colonize other “ice ball” planets, asteroids, and even some comets.

Veelab are intelligent, shape-shifting, colloid-based blobs that live in massive, planet-encompassing colonies which they call “Choruses.” They are able to thrive in the harsh climes of their origins (as well as in those humans would call “tropical desert”) through careful physical cooperation and a strict class system that is a combination of theocracy and coral reef.

Each Veelabling is trained from the moment it leaves its birthing vestibule to perform one of four primary duties for The Chorus (also called a planet-being):

  • morph into a wide vacuum-tight panel, absorbing sunlight while sealing the planet-being from hard radiation and pressure (called “Guarders”);
  • flex and climb about the planet-being, transferring liquids and mitochondria-like energy cells to the other classes (called “Gilders”);
  • manipulate crust materials to construct objects and morph its own body to supports the kilometers-deep mass of the planet-being (called “Girders”);
  • conduct off-planet missions in search of knowledge and sensations, morphing into forms acceptable to the source species or necessary for survival (called “Æsthetes”).

Most Veelab spend their entire 100 year adult lives in service of—and in harmony with—The Chorus, never knowing any sensation other than the slippery, warm pressure of neighboring Girders or the sticky sweetness of passing Gilders. They use “The Song” to keep in touch with the rest of the planet-being—a constant background harmonic vibration through the entire world that is communication system, legislature, educational system, and theatre simultaneously. Each Chorus comes the closest any culture of living things can to being a gestalt mind. Not a hive mind: each Veelab is as individual as a snowflake, within the context of its main social role.

The role of the highly-adaptable Æsthete class is that of diplomat, purchasing agent, and poet laureate for its Chorus. Bred as a mingling of each Veelab class, they are morphable as Gilders, yet capable of being as resilient and photo-sensitive as Guarders. As soon as it is ready, each Æsthete Veelab is equipped only with its Vod-dpah and sent forth to travel the stars, find the unique and engaging and “un-Veelab,” and return with Songs of it to its Chorus….

Sizes

Guarders ~150kg, 2m3 (9m2 x 4cm thick and rigid when Guarding)
Gilders ~90kg, 1.5m3 to 3m3 (amorphous gel when Gilding)
Girders ~80kg, 1 m3 (rigid tetrahedral lattice when Girding)
Æsthete ~130kg, 1.5m3 to 3m3 (amorphous and variably textured)

Senses

Guarders Photosynthetic receptors can be arrayed for rudimentary sight in the “mid-blue” to ultraviolet range of the spectrum.
Gilders “Mitochondria-like” organelles can be arrayed for rudimentary sight in the infrared range of the spectrum.
Girders “Mitochondria-like” organelles can be arrayed for rudimentary sight in the infrared range of the spectrum. Internal “motion-sensor” organelles provide extreme vibration sensitivity.
Æsthete Photosynthetic receptors can be arrayed for very poor sight in the “mid-blue” to ultraviolet range of visible light. “Mitochondria-like” organelles can be arrayed for rudimentary sight in the infrared range of the spectrum.
All Endoplasm can be made sensitive enough to hear extremely low and high frequency vibrations. Endoplasm can be made malleable enough to feel very subtle textures. Absorbed chemicals can be discriminated with a canine’s sense of smell/taste.

Ingestion

Guarders Light and nitrogen (N2) for photosynthesis (can transfer heat energy to Gilders).
Gilders and Girders Heat energy and oxygen (O2) (transfer heat energy freely to other Veelab).
Æsthete Heat energy, chemical energy (internal absorption of cellular matter), light, O2, H2, and/or N2 —depending upon whether using photosynthesis, digestion, respirations, or a combination.

Reproduction

From one to eight (this is considered by Veelab to be only a reasonable limit, not a theoretical one) non-Æsthete Veelab enter a birthing vestibule. They leave later. Don’t ask for further details. Two years later, a Veelabling emerges, already partly pre-disposed to a certain Veelab sub-physiology.

Lifecycle

Gestation in two years, maturation and primary education in ten years, adult for 100 years, “Sat-Tya-Tsin” (roamer within the planet-being) for remaining twenty to forty years of life. Consumed by Gilders upon death.

Psychology

All but the Æsthete class are shy and avoid non-Veelab, but they are generally understood to be reserved, contemplative, slow-going beings.

The Æsthete Veelab, however, are gregarious, out-going, boisterous, and brash. Since they are always questing for the unique, sublime, or exciting, they are driven and energetic to a fault. Coupled with their tendencies to be obsessive about a particular field of research or art, they can be exhausting companions. Their confidence and competence in times of crisis, however, offsets their madcap natures often enough to make them valuable allies.

Technology

The Veelab have developed extensive architectural, sonic, and chemical sciences, but their physical adaptability dissuades them from expanding sciences into—for them—useless areas. Their principle unique development, in the space sciences, is the Vod-dpah: a semi-symbiotic device that is a collection of metal tubes, genengineered sacs, and polymer bottles that resembles nothing so much as a bagpipe designed by H.R. Geiger.

A Vod-dpah is usable only by Veelab because they must absorb portions of the Vod-dpah into its body, leaving certain tubes and sacs exposed. With this configuration, the Vod-dpah will allow a Veelab to jet powerful (or not), heated (or not) gases in complex sequences. This mechanism can be used as a flame-throwing weapon, a jet-pack (in low gravities), a welding tool, a cutting tool, and even a life-support system (for Veelab and species with similar heat, pressure, and air requirements). It also contains a basic multimedia recording computer and large data storage cells (which interface directly with the Veelab’s sensorium, for maximum fidelity). With it, an Æsthete or Guarder Veelab can break from the gravity of a planet-being’s world and patrol nearby space (as long as it, of course, morphs its endoplasm into a pressure seal). It is in this way that Veelab Æsthetes can reach orbital facilities, where they morph into humanoid form to conduct business (and pleasure) in the Lattice.

Communication

Ultra- to hyper-sonic transmission and echoing across the whole planet (similar to whales of Earth). “Touch” language of the Veelab (unique, requires shape-shifting ability to attain fluency). Limited radio and light communications system for solar-system-wide comms (anything more interferes with The Song).

Culture

As near to a gestalt mind as possible without telepathy. Religion, government, entertainment, family, commerce, strife: for the Veelab, all this occurs in The Song of The Chorus. Few Veelab can be away from their Chorus for long. Few want to be.

They colonize only as space for a new Chorus is needed. They do all that they can to avoid warfare with other species, since they are very vulnerable as planet-beings. For this reason—and to encourage hospitality for their Æsthetes—they make scandalously goods deals on the music, sculpture, and chemicals that they export to the other races of the Lattice. This generosity (and the quality of their goods) encourages most of the peoples of the Lattice to give Veelab planet-beings a wide berth, and their emissaries a comfortable trip through the Worlds.

Hyt-tyl-tyl-bas (“Number Twenty-Four”)

Æsthete of the Segillut-4 Chorus

Age – 20 Standard Years physical / 72 Relative Years actual

Mass – 120kg

Typical Appearance– Stocky, gray-skinned male humanoid, bald, with huge green eyes and bushy-seeming green eyebrows (both are, in fact, clusters of photosensitive organelles pushed near to his skin).

Base or Relaxed Appearance – Translucent to transparent, milky gelatinous mass with small, granular organelles floating around inside.

Abilities

Each Æsthete Veelabling is trained in the Common language, diplomacy, history, music, and art.

Equipped with, and trained in the use of, the Veelab Vod-dpah (see Veelab Species above).

At A Glance

Æsthete Hyt-tyl-tyl-bas is a “typical” Veelab Æsthete. He (for lack of a suitable gender pronoun) is on tour in the Lattice, gathering sensations and songs for his home Chorus. Though he has no itinerary, per se, he hopes to enrich his planet-being’s knowledge of current events in the “neighborhood,” and will thus seek out “hot spots” rather than “centers of culture” when given a choice.

An eager Æsthete, Hyt-tyl-tyl-bas has a zest for life that borders on seeming lunacy. He tends towards overzealous pursuit of excitement and adventure, often at great risk without ever realizing it. He is jocular, overly-trusting, noisy, and often brash—but generally endearing more than annoying to those whom he befriends. If any part of his personality could be said to be “dark” or “closed,” it is his attitude towards his Vod-dpah: he is terrified of its destructive potential and avoids it being seen by the public, least they fear him as much as he fears it. He uses it only when he must, and has yet to use it on a living being.

Strengths

  • Genial and likeable. Perceptive.
  • Shape-shifting (not doppelganger-like. He will always be motley-colored and lumpy, have cartoon-like facial features effected by pushing internal organelles into configuration near the surface of his skin, have just enough control to have stubby hands, and have octopus-like rigidity control).
  • Amphibious (endoplasm can absorb needed gases—O2, N2 or H2, by choice—from appropriate hydrospheres and atmospheres).
  • Excellent hearing and sense of smell (via “tuning” of endoplasm).
  • Feeds on light (through endoplasm) and cellular energy (through absorption of live animal or plant cells for internal breakdown).
  • Immune to pressure extremes (endoplasm hardens into a gray shell).
  • No need to breathe (until Vod-dpah sacs and bottles drain). Can configure to share with someone else, assuming “human-standard” respiration requirements.
  • Vectored flight in low to null gravity (until Vod-dpah sacs and bottles drain).
  • Flame-thrower/ welder/ cutting torch/ lantern (until Vod-dpah sacs and bottles drain).
  • Can recharge Vod-dpah (requires some time, light, and above gases or liquids).

Weaknesses

  • Overly-trusting. Gullible.
  • Overconfident. Ignorant of the variety and swiftness of the dangers in the world.
  • Extreme distinctive features (cartoonish, lumpy humanoid usually; gooey to shell-like exterior of a variety of shapes at other times).
  • Very poor (infra)vision (sees about 20/80 with special configuration of its heat- and photosensitive organelles).
  • Extremely vulnerable to ingested and insinuative poisons (if his skin isn’t in “shell mode,” any contact or gas poison has a particularly effective transfer through his endoplasm).
  • Extremely sensitive to loud noises (imagine if your whole skin got “deafened!”).
  • Sexless (this could be a “Zero Sum,” but it seems like it would be a disadvantage more often than not in a variety of social situations).
  • Suffers from motion sickness (personal problem, not a Veelab trait; Hyt must absorb appropriate pills prior to fast driving, air flight, zero gee, heavy acceleration, or extreme altitude changes).
  • Fears the responsibility and “stigmata” of the Vod-dpah.