GM-Less Cthulhu et al

Cover images of Bookmark Cthulhu with Cut Up Solo Lovecraftian Dialogues and Cut Up Solo Case of Charles Dexter Ward You may have seen my mention of the “Cut Up Solo” oracle series by Parts Per Million. Each oracle is an automated spreadsheet of 5-word snippets from a public domain novel (such as Dracula) or series (John Carter of Mars, for example). It outputs a group of four 5-word snippets with each press of F9, and you browse the list to see what role-play scene it suggests to you.

It’s a great spur not only for solo play, but also GM-less group play. My old high school buddy Jim Cotton and I have adventured together on Mars, for example, and had great times with it. That was even the genesis of the mass battle rules on the Game Host’s Guidebookmark of the Bookmark HP RPG.

So you can imagine how happy I am to announce that PPM and I have launched a Cut Up Solo Lovecraft/Bookmark Cthulhu bundle on DriveThruRPG!

(A Dracula bundle is not far behind.)

Tectonic Shifts of D&D

“The original impetus for the open licensing of the d20 System involved the economics of producing role-playing games (RPGs). Game supplements suffered far more diminished sales over time than the core books required to play the game.” Wikipedia, “d20 System

One of many d20 books by Jim Ward, Tim Brown, & me

I think I sorta pissed someone off years ago by making this exact point. My opinion was based on the experience of watching GDW struggle to fund RPG supplements during my time there, and then TSR suffer the same.

The catch-22 is that (a) without supplements, customers lose interest in an RPG, and distributors don’t help by telling retailers your game is dead, but (b) only GM’s buy most supplements, whereas most everybody in the game group buys the game itself, so you’re doing the same effort (with, for example, the same cover painting expense), for a fraction of the market.

By handing off supplement publishing to an ever-refreshing pool of small companies (many just gamers with a one-book dream), WotC dodged that expense and enjoyed the unencumbered sales of core product.

Things like the “Community Content” section of DriveThruRPG are a more recent example of that farmed-out support.

I ain’t sayin’ this is a bad thing. It allows for a lot of diverse creativity. But it also explains why every new edition of a core game sets off tectonic waves among the small publishers putting out sourcebooks and adventures.

A Post-Twitter Post Post

Photo by Josie Weiss on Unsplash (bird deleted)

As Twitter (a) implodes under Musk’s whimsy, or (b) morphs into a far-right tool—muting journalists and progressives—or (c) both, I’ve been exploring other social media options, one of which is Post.news.

Earlier, in my Mastodon post, I mentioned being unenthused about digging into Post, because Mastodon has gained my attention more, and WordPress can integrally connect with Mastodon.

In retrospect, that laziness on my part was a shame, given that my Post account was approved early, while others still await approval. (To be honest, more “shameful” than “a shame.”) But I’ll return to that approval process in a bit.

Digging into Mastodon meant learning strategies for connecting with friends from other places, including Twitter. In the process, I discovered that many of the people I followed on Twitter, especially public figures, were moving to Post or setting up a second account there. Locating them was easy with the Twitter search phrase “post.news filter:follows.” (Thank you, Post user “Becca has ADHD” for sharing that!)

Enough pre(r)amble. Let’s talk about Post itself.

I’ll be keeping accounts on both Mastodon and Post. See “Tribes of Mastodon” for why there. In Post’s case, the reasons are less clear in my mind, but Post feels different.

Consider its purpose statement, “A Social Platform for Real People, Real News, and Civil Conversations.” A statement somewhat similar to Musk’s original stated aim to make Twitter “the de facto public town square.” Which he has since replaced with a mission statement as the “most respected advertising platform in the world.” I say “replaced,” because I don’t believe the two can coexist. Allow me a moment to compare those three aims.

As grammatically trivial as it might seem, the conceptual difference between “a” and “the” is enormous, especially “the de facto.” The article “a” is social, allowing alternatives. “The” is definitive, exclusive. The world doesn’t need a de facto social media any more than it needs a de facto language, a de facto government, or (in my line of work) de facto role-playing rules. (I’ll leave that last for a future post.)

“Real people, real news, and civil conversations.” In my experience so far on Post, all three are accurate. What especially stands out most for me is the news, though that may be a result of the types of people I’m following. Real people, yes, because each application is curated. Civil conversations, again yes, because that’s clearly stated from when you join, and comments are moderated.

Post strikes me as more sedate than other social media (in the Oxford Languages’ sense of “calm, dignified, and unhurried”). I’m encountering less frivolity. Not less friendliness, but in nowise chatter. It feels more like blogging, in part because the amount of formatting possible in each post is similar to the controls here on this WordPress site of mine.

Post is the very opposite of Hive. In an earlier post I likened Mastodon to a party spread through the many rooms of a mansion. In terms of that metaphor, I’d say Hive is a rave, with technological fires put out as they crop up. And Post might be thought of as preparation for a soirée.

I like raves, but you kinda gotta swim in the noise, without much hope for conversation, and sometimes the jostling hurts.

More casual parties in a multi-chambered estate are pleasant, too, though the topics are distinctly disparate, and I’m trying to track more than one.

And I’m not yet certain what this soirée is all about. The tech is being rolled out slowly, making sure each thing works as it’s supposed to, including the human interaction. But it’s fun to watch the preparations and decide which vantage point might best suit me.

But let me emphasize, these impressions are only that: impressions. Of a fellow dipping his toes into each new venue as real-life allows. Over the past many weeks, Chez Smith and Hofpar have gone through two bouts of covid, a wellhouse fire, frozen pipes, and my own transition through new focal seizure meds; and in the duration of all that, I’ve also been busy continuing to design and publish games. So this blog post is the comments of a preoccupied generalist, while others are enjoying the deeper dive of a specialist in one service or another. I’m just musing. YMMV.

Civil Discourse

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

I keep hearing, “Americans need to stop treating each other as the enemy and return to reasoned, civil dialog.”

And I keep wondering, “How is it possible to have reasoned, civil dialog with an election denier?”

Look, I totally understand the frustration of feeling like an election has been stolen, and the panic of thinking the country is out of control. It’s wrongheaded, but I can empathize. I have relatives in that camp.

What I can’t empathize with is ignorance of court loss after court loss after court loss on those claims. How are we to have reasoned, civil dialog about things like this? How are we to reason with the belief that all news but Fox News is fake news? How are we to reason with politicians who continue to politicize a pandemic? (I’m looking at you, DeSantis.)

“Stop thinking of each other as the enemy” is a noble goal. It just can’t work one-sided. Ask Ukraine.