28 February, 2017

Pseudo-Dredd



What are the definitive skills you'd expect to see character possessing in a Judge Dredd styled game (with serial numbers filed off)? What do you think the law enforcement officers would need? What kinds of activities do you think might be dramatic if there was a chance that the player characters could fail? Would there be a different range of skills for gang members, corporate suits, mutants, or other groups inhabiting the world?

These are my current questions.

26 February, 2017

Archery Bracers

I haven't been posting much lately, because I've been making costuming and props for my regular LARP game. The most recent thing I wanted to produce was something along the lines of these.


The first couple of times I used my LARP bow, I ended up with welts and bruises up the inside of my arm when the bowstring hit it repeatedly. So I decided that I needed to make something that added a bit of protection to that area. In ongoing use, I found that the bowstring hit my inner arm far less, so I probably don't need the protection any more, but in the heat of battle, with bowstrings drawn quickly and arrows shot off instinctively, the bracers will still prevent the occasional arm hit from the string.

For the material used in this project, I had bought a few leather jackets from local second-hand stores, some black, some dark brown, some light brown, a range of leather thicknesses. On average about $6 each ($4-10) for an assortment of leather ready to go.

The first thing I did was get a measuring tape to get the length of my forearm, from wrist to inner elbow, then measured around my wrist and just below the elbow. With these measurements I drew up a template on paper, cutting out a concave curve on the inside of the arm (allowing for elbow flexibility) and a convex curve (allowing for a bit more protection on the outside of the arm). A second paper template was created through trial and error by wrapping tissue paper around my hand, cutting it to a vague shape...testing that template on my hand...adjusting it again and cutting a new template to match...retesting...and once it felt like a decent and comfortable fit, I cut a final template.    
Applying the template to the back of one of the jackets, I try to find a symmetrical spot where the left and right hands will have matching seams from the existing jacket design. Even though the two Bracers will be asymmetrical, they need to look like a matching pair.

As a benefit, cutting the bracers from the back of the jacket leaves the sleeves intact, and that means potentially using the sleeves as other components of a leather armour ensemble.
  


The first drawing of the pattern on the leather was done with a black marker, closely tracing the outline of the template, but this proved a little too dark to see. A second pattern marking was done, roughly a centimetre (3/8 inch) outside the edge of the pattern, this way the edge of the leather could be folded under, and sewn or glued in place to give a clean looking edge.
  

The left hand (because I'm right handed) holds the bow, while the right hand pulls the arrow and aims. This means that the left arm bracer has the additional element for wrapping around the thumb and protecting it from arrows that slide across it. The right arm bracer has a flat end around the wrist.
 

To get the smooth edging on the leather, I fold in the corners. Once the corners are dry, I fold the sides nice and straight. The curved edges near the elbows can still be folded over because the soft leather I used for this part of the project has enough flexibility to handle the curvature.


Next, because the leather is so soft, I decided that I needed some added protective elements using some scraps of a harder leather from an earlier project. Most bracers with added protection have a single piece of leather armouring the inner arm, but I wanted something a bit more interesting than that. I made a template of overlapping scales, each of which would be stamped in a way to get a dramatic and interesting look.  


First one side was cut out, then these scales were flipped over and used as templates to make matching scales for the inside of the other arm.A pair of added protective scales had been cut out for the thumb, but these don't need to be repeated.



I scored around the inside of the scales with the leatherwork swivel-blade, then pencilled in some leafy/lotus patterns within the centres of each scale.


One by one, I used a stamp on dampened leather to bring out those designs.


Then used subtle shading techniques with some leather die to bring out those carved and stamped designs even more.


With the completed scales, I punched a series of holes around the swivel-knife scored border. Then hand sewed the patterned, stamped and stained scales one by one to the black bracer. I don't know what the stitch is called (I think it might be "running stitch"), plunging the needle through the leather, moving along, then piercing it back through before moving along to the next stitch (basically like this ... _/¯\_/¯\_/¯\).

Then, I retraced the stitches back around each scale to ensure the stitching formed a complete line on each side. Once done, the next scale was slightly overlapped to ensure the bowstring wouldn't catch on anything if it did hit the protective scales.
   

The last step was to use a grommet tool to add metal grommets to the edges of the bracers that would be laced together.

After spending a few hours (spread out over a couple of days), roughly $15 on parts (and retaining enough of those components to create a few more projects), and a bit of experimentation... I've ended up with a pair of archery bracers that seem as good as many of the similar pieces I've found online for $100 or more.
  


I can make plans available for anyone who is interested.

21 February, 2017

Value

They say things are worth what people are willing to pay for them.

Sometimes I wonder about that.

I've got stuff that has a big sentimental attachment for me. A massive miniatures collection that I've spent thousands of dollars on over the course of two decades, including a few painted pieces that have won awards at various conventions and tournaments over the years. But at least half of the figures are for games that are no longer in print. When times have been tough, I've been told by a few people that I should just sell them, but I haven't because In specific cases I remember painting each one (or, for the rest, at least vaguely remember painting each batch). For me the hobby is about the play, and the painting, and the imagination. The collectability of the metal (or resin or plastic) is just an aside. I could probably sell the figures for a few hundred dollars in batches (sold by game, sold by faction), I'd still have quite a few odd pieces left over.

I see gamers on Facebook groups trying to sell their armies of miniatures for purchase price, sometimes seeing them ask three or four times the purchase price if they think they've done good painting (or if they've had the models professionally painted)... then I typically see them drop the price, or get angry that people aren't buying. Then again, I see people in all sorts of other "swap and sell" Facebook groups doing the same with all manner of second hand goods...people don't seem to realise that things depreciate in value, especially when they are used.

Just what's going through my head at the moment.

11 February, 2017

Is it worth it?

I'm thinking darkly.

A game scenario which a bunch of generally independent variables. I say generally independent because they are each measured separately, but at the end we seem how many variables flip one way, and how many flip the other way, then apply a final outcomre bariable to the result.

The premise is supernatural investigators, the game is basically a one-shot for these characters,  it may tell a part of an ongoing narrative in the vein of Cthulhu stories where one investigation is linked to the next, all focusing on a single cult or supernatural entity. The entity itself is vastly superior to the investigators, and even it's minions could kill them with little effort...the minions of the minions might be a more even fight, but even then the outcome is probably against the investigators.

I'm basically thinking of using a Cthulhu Dark framework for this.

The independent variables are basically linked to the potential outcome.

There is an 80% chance the investigators will end up physically afflicted by the events of the story, whether they suffer hideous injuries, cancerous mutations, or some other problem that prevents them from continuing as a productive member of society.

There is an 80% chance the investigators will end up with their mind shattered by insanity, perhaps suffering debilitating phobias related to the story's events, neuroses, possibly even a full psychotic break.

There is an 80% chance that their reputations will be in tatters at the end of the scenario, possibly needing to call on massive favours that will never be able to be repaid, maybe needing to leave and assume a false identity, or ending imprisoned by thhe authorities.

With these three variables at play, there is a 64% chance that a character will end up with more than one of these problems at the end of the game... a 51.2% chance that all three apply.

Where they all come together, is the idea that if a character walks away from the session with only one of these problems, they DIE!!! If they end the session with none of these problems, they completely vanish into oblivion WITHOUT A TRACE!!! Dead characters might provide clues to future in estigators of the issue through journals, necromantic spells that temporarily raise them from the dead, or eldritch rituals of brain devouring. Characters who vanish without a trace offer nothing further to the story.

On the positive side, each issue suffered generates a point to address the threat. Where each point might offer one of the following based on the story's development.


  • The threat does not grow in this location
  • The threat does not spread to a new location
  • A weakness is discovered regarding the threat (the first point may not be spent here).

(For every point less than 2 generated to address the threat, increase the Threat value by 1)

If a weakness is discovered in one session, then in a later session, a new positive may be applied.


  • The threat is weakened (-1 to threat level)


The threat probably starts with 2-3 points, more if you want a darker storyline. Once the threat value is reduced to zero, the ongoing investigation is concluded. The threat is eliminated for now.

This whole concept is designed to churn through characters, it's the ongoing story that's important, not the individuals in it.

08 February, 2017

The Importance of Culture in Stories

Over the years I've found that the kinds of people who scream "CULTURAL APPROPRIATION" are the kinds of people who give progressives and the left wing a bad name. There are cultures, there are people who belong to cultures, there are people to adapt the stories of their own cultures, and there are people who adapt the stories of other cultures. Sometimes the people who adapt the stories of other cultures, do so without understanding the context of those stories, and thus their adaptions ring false, or highlight the wrong things about the culture being presented. When this occurs, I've found it is often due to a lack of understanding more than anything else. Do not attribute to malice, that which could just as easily be attributed to stupidity.

I'm not saying that there aren't people who deliberately twist words to make others look bad, a quick look at modern politics shows this sort of thing at all levels of society; instead I'm saying that a call of "CULTURAL APPROPRIATION" to shut down a potentially useful learning experience is a form of censorship that doesn't help anyone. All communication is a dialogue, and a dialogue becomes more meaningful when the two parties are able to share their information. So the wholesale shutting down of a misguided information stream may have good intentions, but it does nothing to remedy the situation...instead forcing it to fester. Instead the communication need to be analysed and opened up, a deeper understanding needs to be sought. The arties involved in the communication need to identify whether the communicated information is a result of stupidity and lack of education about the subject matter (in which case it can be more correctly informed to make the information more culturally sensitive), or whether that communicated information is deliberately misleading (in which case it can either be used as an example of what not to do, or shut down if it has gone too far).

I write this because I know that I'm going to be getting stuck into my Post Apocalyptic game of Australian Aboriginal spirituality, "Walkabout", some time in the near future. Every time I've done this, some smart-arse has screamed "CULTURAL APPROPRIATION". Yes, I have an ancestry of being a white Australian, an ancestry that stretches back at least four generations of white Australians before heading off in one direction or another to other parts of the world (those at least three quarters of those family tree branches aim back to Scotland). But unlike a lot of stuff written about Australian Aboriginal culture, I can be fairly certain that my knowledge of the generalities and certain specifics will be far more comprehensive than that of anyone who might try to shut down this dialogue. I've now done 3 years of university study into cultural analysis and linguistics, including research work into Australian Aboriginal culture from the perspective of it's artistic communication, and it's dealings with the dominant culture of this country for the past two centuries. I've volunteered with a community of local Elders, living through their politics as they've struggled to gain recognition for the atrocities of the past (some of which was conducted during their lifetimes, to themselves or people they knew), while simultaneously struggling to keep what little they have managed to accomplish (as non-indigenous leeches claim Aboriginality to steal the few government grants and funding sources which are designed to make amends for the past). It's a sad and tragic story, some of which plays out on the media, but only through a very distorted lens.

I've been working with this community of elders as they've tried to set themselves up as a non-profit collective of crafters and social artists. They complain about their children and grandchildren forgetting, or ignoring the past. In a lot of cases they don't have someone who is willing to respect them and learn the traditions that have been passed down through generations. They come from various parts of the state, each region with its own traditions, all collaborating in the local area and bringing their own knowledge to the community. None of them know the full story of their past, because in many cases it was deliberately suppressed by local Christian missions, or government intervention. I've been with them to AITSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), and have seen some of them try to piece together their fragments of knowledge with any official documentation. I've listened as two elders have told their various stories and found that the gaps could be filled in by each others words to make a more complete picture, then watched those two elders visit a neighbouring community of elders and fill in more fragments of a story through the words of people they'd never met before (but who shared a common bond through third parties). By paying attention, attending barbeques, offering assistance where I can and becoming one of the non-indigenous members of their community, I've learnt things at a more personal level that textbooks tend to gloss over, and most people either don't know or simply ignore. I'll never know the whole story, because in most cases they don't know the whole story, it's an oral tradition that needs to be spoken further and shared so that more of it doesn't get lost. In this regard it's a bit of a race against time, and in an era of consumerism and globalisation I imagine that this is the same for a lot of cultures across the world. I don't have all the answers, so I do what I can.

This is one of the reasons why I really want to get "Walkabout" back up and running... to inject any profits from the game into their community. And it also links into many of the themes I've always intended to explore through the game. Australian Aboriginal communities were very specifically tied to the land, and to the other people who were also tied to a given time and place. Community links are vitally important for identifying who is related to whom, and how the ongoing story of culture has manifested in specific vignette scenes that echo a deeper narrative.  Concerted efforts were made to wipe out Australian Aboriginal culture, so it went underground. The remnants of the culture were forced into a cycle of adapt or perish. The members of the community who still retain elements of their culture are forced to justify their "Aboriginality" because the evolved and fragmentary elements that they have kept bear little resemblance to the "black-fella" narrative promoted by the dominant culture of society. I ask questions of Aboriginal spirituality, and I'm referred to books by white researchers, often with the caveat "This is the best we've got, I know it's not completely right, but most of that stuff is lost". They use words like "Totem" to explain an affinity for a certain animal, knowing it isn't exactly the way their people traditionally viewed the kinship, but it's a concept in wider culture that is pretty close so it works as an anchor for the true meaning. I've had it explained that the numerous deaths at the local Mermaid Pools have all been men because the place is a sacred women's location that the non-indigenous population haven't been respecting (but as a man, I can't be told much more about this). I've been told that I'm allowed to produces images of snakes in a traditional style, but never to draw eyes on these depictions because "we don't want the bastards to see us coming". I've been told lots of other things that shouldn't be written down because they are men's business that women shouldn't know. It may be sexist, but it's specific to the culture. Where do you draw the line between what is traditional and what is progressively promoting a culture? It's one of those issues that the progressives and the left will always have to face, while the conservatives and the right wing will simply say that it doesn't matter and will stomp on the rights of anyone who disagrees with their predefined cultural narrative.  

The biggest catch now is to filter my knowledge and understanding through the right words. To make any players of the game realize that culture is simply a construct of a specific group of people, and any insight I have into Australian Aboriginal matters is a wide sweeping overview painted in the broadest brushstrokes, followed by some sketchy detailing in a very specific part of the world. This was always going to be a political game, it was always going to be about cultural conflict, but the question of what culture is becomes more important.

Now it's just a case of starting the writing process again.

06 February, 2017

Near Complete LARP Rules

I've spent a decent part of this year reworking the LARP rules that our monthly games uses. Quite a bit of the game has seen regular playtesting, and the revamped version of the rules has been read over by a number of players from the game. They seem to think it makes sense, but it would be interesting to get some opinions from people who haven't participated in the game. A blind review of our game.

Is anyone out there interested?