richardthinks (richardthinks) wrote,

weekend reading: D&D as heist

This on organizing a D&D campaign as a heist seems very, very smart to me (via Jamie Albrecht, who's read his Westlake). As I've been contemplating getting back into dungeon crawling, I've mostly been thrown back out by the deep, deep stupidity of the whole endeavour. Not the roleplaying, you understand, but the assumptions behind the play style - that you'd trot into the Tomb of Horrors or whatever and wing it from there, when the main thing you know is that it's a long string of Russian Roulette spins. The link provides a really pleasing arc and treats the dungeon more like a Cthulhu environment, which I reckon can only be good.

This, on the other hand, is the kind of thing that makes me excited to play: an inverse aerial cloud mine “dungeon” composed of enclosed floating platforms attached to the ground far below by great chains. Back when I read SF+Fantasy ( or *cough* at all) I liked it mostly (and I know this makes me an alien, for anyone who's gone to writing school) for the scenery.** For the cool environments and equipment and visuals and stuff I could think about illustrating.

Which leads me to the deep wizardry and weirdness of Super Mario Galaxy 2. I'm probably the last person on Earth to have this experience. I ignored every previous rotation of Mario apart from the original Donkey Kong. Somehow my path through games just never touched Nintendo until now. But what the hell? Dynamically shifting gravity, puzzles that involve manipulating the in-game camera, running around tiny planetoids and then jumping between them to avoid being eaten by animate lava camels... this is a level of because-I-say-so high-octane hallucinatory freakiness I've just never seen in a commercial product before. Half the time I have no idea what the laws of physics are supposed to be. I literally don't know which way is up. And I love it. Which makes me think there is some very, very smart game design going on here. Of course, it's of absolutely no use to roleplayers, it doesn't want to be an RPG, and you couldn't make one out of it. Which makes me declare it a sign of greater maturity in the medium than a hundred Halos or Thiefs or Metal Gears.

I am all excited to see Ward Shelley's map entitled A History of Science Fiction, but because it was just strangemaps'd the site is down right now, dammit. Direct links to his work here, where can also be found the ridiculously intriguingly named Extra Large Fluxus Diagram... when they come back up again.

Farsnews says Iran has unveiled a flying saucer, in what must be one of that country's first internationally-recognized works of retro-stupid mutant-futurism. Meanwhile China goes the James Bond route with an underground nuclear sub base, accessed by sea tunnel. Are you guys missing the Cold War? I have another cave in my sights: 
The light, penetrating deep into the cave, reveals for the first time the mind-blowing proportions of Hang Son Doong. The passage is perhaps 300 feet wide, the ceiling nearly 800 feet tall: room enough for an entire New York City block of 40-story buildings. There are actually wispy clouds up near the ceiling. The light beaming from above reveals a tower of calcite on the cave floor that is more than 200 feet tall, smothered by ferns, palms, and other jungle plants. Stalactites hang around the edges of the massive skylight like petrified icicles. Vines dangle hundreds of feet from the surface; swifts are diving and cutting...
Oh yeah, and I went looking for Nicolas Flamel's tombstone, but all I found was this restaurant. Maybe the Paris Ghost Tour will help.
Or this page of general Parisian oddity.
Actually, the Museum of the Middle Ages in the old Abbey and baths of Cluny (which holds the tombstone) is phenomenal, and way too big for the kids. It starts slow, with beaten up marble capitals and odd bits of stained glass, but once you get upstairs and past the astonishing tapestries it's endlessly diverting.

** That's probably why I liked Tolkien, actually. Not so enthused about Frodo and Sauron and all that, much more so about the Black Gate and Moria and the Emyn Muil as unfriendly environments.
Tags: paris, roleplaying

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