Category Archives: Psychology

MIND AND MAGIC

As a gamer what do you think are the salient similarities and differences both in how psionic (psychic abilities) capabilities and magic works, or ought to work?

I mean in every respect (how they operate, how they function, what each should be able to do or not do, what is the goal of each, etc.)?

What is your opinion?

 

 

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THE WITCHQUEEN

THE WITCHQUEEN

I’ve always said that Cersei Lannister was the single greatest and most degenerate sociopath in the entire series of novels. She is also the Queen Mother of degeneracy and should have long ago been hung by the neck until dead. She is vile, not in the common usage of the term but in the accurate usage of the term, and she is a communicable disease.

Of course the other events in this episode were equally good (which I will not now mention), for the most part, and this was definitely the best episode of this season, the Battle of the Bastards being the next best.

But yes, even Jamie Lannister, a definite degenerate himself, must now fully recognize the twisted nature of his sister and that she is every bit as “mad” as was the Mad King.

If he has any sense at all he will behead Cersei as Sansa and Jon should do to Littlefinger, but will not.

 

 

THE WRITE GAME – THE FORGE

Indeed. It has been a  seminal influence on my fictional writings, but not just upon my writings. It also greatly influenced many other things I did or am still doing in life, everything from detective work to my inventions.

I also learned a great deal about things like map-reading and ambush setting by playing D&D.

 

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The playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is one of many authors to have gleaned skills from Dungeons & Dragons, now 40 years old. CreditÁngel Franco/The New York Times

When he was an immigrant boy growing up in New Jersey, the writer Junot Díaz said he felt marginalized. But that feeling was dispelled somewhat in 1981 when he was in sixth grade. He and his buddies, adventuring pals with roots in distant realms — Egypt, Ireland, Cuba and the Dominican Republic — became “totally sucked in,” he said, by a “completely radical concept: role-playing,” in the form of Dungeons & Dragons.

Playing D&D and spinning tales of heroic quests, “we welfare kids could travel,” Mr. Díaz, 45, said in an email interview, “have adventures, succeed, be powerful, triumph, fail and be in ways that would have been impossible in the larger real world.”

“For nerds like us, D&D hit like an extra horizon,” he added. The game functioned as “a sort of storytelling apprenticeship.”

Now the much-played and much-mocked Dungeons & Dragons, the first commercially available role-playing game, has turned 40. In D&D players gather around a table, not a video screen. Together they use low-tech tools like hand-drawn maps and miniature figurines to tell stories of brave and cunning protagonists such as elfish wizards and dwarfish warriors who explore dungeons and battle orcs, trolls and mind flayers. Sacks of dice and vast rule books determine the outcome of the game’s ongoing, free-form story.

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Dungeons & Dragons has influenced a shelf full of writers. CreditEthan Gilsdorf

For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives. As Mr. Díaz said, “It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.”

The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the “weird fiction” authorChina Miéville (“The City & the City”); Brent Hartinger (author of “Geography Club,” a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (“The Simpsons”), Dan Harmon (“Community”) and Chris Weitz (“American Pie”).

With the release of the rebooted Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set on Tuesday, and more advanced D&D rule books throughout the summer, another generation of once-and-future wordsmiths may find inspiration in the scribbled dungeon map and the secret behind Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

Mr. Díaz, who teaches writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his first novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” was written “in honor of my gaming years.” Oscar, its protagonist, is “a role-playing-game fanatic.” Wanting to become the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien, he cranks out “10, 15, 20 pages a day” of fantasy-inspired fiction.

Though Mr. Díaz never became a fantasy writer, he attributes his literary success, in part, to his “early years profoundly embedded and invested in fantastic narratives.” From D&D, he said, he “learned a lot of important essentials about storytelling, about giving the reader enough room to play.”

And, he said, he was typically his group’s Dungeon Master, the game’s quasi-narrator, rules referee and fate giver.

The Dungeon Master must create a believable world with a back story, adventures the players might encounter and options for plot twists. That requires skills as varied as a theater director, researcher and psychologist — all traits integral to writing. (Mr. Díaz said his boyhood gaming group was “more like an improv group with some dice.”)

Sharyn McCrumb, 66, who writes the Ballad Novels series set in Appalachia, was similarly influenced, and in her comic novel “Bimbos of the Death Sun” D&D even helps solve a murder.

“I always, always wanted to be the Dungeon Master because that’s where the creativity lies — in thinking up places, characters and situations,” Ms. McCrumb said. “If done well, a game can be a novel in itself.”

What makes a D&D story different from novels and other narratives is its improvisational and responsive nature. Plotlines are decided as a group. As a D&D player, “you have to convince other players that your version of the story is interesting and valid,” said Jennifer Grouling, an assistant professor of English at Ball State University who studied D&D players for her book, “The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games.”

If a Dungeon Master creates “a boring world with an uninteresting plot,” she said, players can go in a completely different direction; likewise, the referee can veto the action of player. “I think D&D can help build the skills to work collaboratively and to write collaboratively,” she added. (Mr. Díaz called this the “social collaborative component” of D&D.)

Ms. Grouling also cited “a sense of control over stories” as a primary reason people like role-playing games. “D&D is completely in the imagination and the rules are flexible — you don’t have the same limitations” of fiction, or even of a programmed video game, she said. A novel is ultimately a finished thing, written, edited and published, its story set in stone. In D&D, the plot is always fluid; anything can happen.

The playwright and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire, 44, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Rabbit Hole,” said D&D “harkens back to an incredibly primitive mode of storytelling,” one that was both “immersive and interactive.” The Dungeon Master resembles “the tribal storyteller who gathers everyone around the fire to tell stories about heroes and gods and monsters,” he said. “It’s a live, communal event, where anything can happen in the moment.”

Mr. Lindsay-Abaire said planning D&D adventures was “some of the very first writing that I did.” And the game taught him not just about plot but also about character development.

Playing D&D has also benefited nonfiction writers. “Serving as Dungeon Master helped me develop a knack for taking the existing elements laid out by the game and weaving them into a coherent narrative,” said Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic and author of “My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.” “And yet you were constrained by the rules of the D&D universe, which in journalism translates into being constrained by the available, knowable facts.”

Mr. Lindsay-Abaire agreed that fictional worlds need rules. “For a story to be satisfying, an audience needs to understand how the world works,” he said. “ ‘The Hunger Games’ is a perfect example of: ‘O.K., these are the rules of this world, now go! Go play in that world.’ ”

Over and over again, Ms. Grouling said, tabletop role players in her survey compared their gaming experience to “starring in their own movies or writing their own novels.”

As for Mr. Díaz, “Once girls entered the equation in a serious way,” he said, “gaming went right out the window.” But he said he still misses D&D’s arcane pleasures and feels its legacy is still with him: “I’m not sure I would have been able to transition from reader to writer so easily if it had not been for gaming.”

THE TRIGGERING OF THE HUMAN IMAGINATION – LOST LIBRARY

Recently I have undertaken a new career (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, an additional career) as a fiction writer. My background as an author is as a non-fiction writer, primarily dealing with such subjects as business, science, and technical matters. Although on occasion, often for private clients and sometimes just to pursue my own interests, I write analytical, white, and theory papers on everything from military and law enforcement matters to educational techniques to religious subjects.

But, as I said, now I am embarking upon a new or supplementary career as a fiction writer. Last night, while reclining in bed, and reading a fiction story before sleeping, it occurred to me that the author was very good as describing some scenes (thereby easily provoking my imagination to work “independently” of the actual words used to construct the scene) and at other times the author did a very poor job of description and my imagination had to work very hard, or was confused as to exactly what the author was describing. (The author was Michael Moorcock.)

I went to sleep and later awoke about 0500 hours from a dream, and then an idea suddenly occurred to me about what had triggered the dream. (I didn’t connect my dream directly to the story Moorcock had written but it had triggered an “oblique set of imaginings” which I thought were related to some of the ideas expressed in the story.) After I was awake about fifteen minutes or so replaying the dream through my mind it occurred to me that many authors, as well as others, such as really good playwrights, poets, filmmakers, graphic or visual artists (I had recently taken my children to see one of the largest collections of Sacred and Italian and Spanish Gothic and Renaissance Art in the entire nation, and most all of the works were both highly symbolic, and fantastically beautiful), even inventors, scientists, and religious leaders often express their ideas in such a way as to have a great and lasting impact upon the imagination of the consumer. (I am using the term consumer here to represent any partaker or user of such services, products, information, or ideas as are being now discussed.)

And herein lies the seed of my theory. That there are certain techniques that writers, artists, inventors, etc. use that are capable of triggering the imagination of the listener, audience, or observer in such a way that the imagination of the consumer is expanded to such a degree that it becomes heavily provoked, and can then operate almost entirely independently on similar matters (if not indeed completely independently) of whatever the original trigger that had initially produced it.

Using a writer as an example of my intent, for instance, certain authors are so good at description, that they can create an image in the mind of many readers that even when the reader completes reading the description or has finished the work, there lingers a sort of lasting or almost semi-permanent impression of (and on) the imagination, that is not static and calcified, but is rather “alive,” flexible, and on-going. A sort of Living and On-Going After-Image that is not static, but is fluid and almost vital. The images and impressions made by the work do not die out with the reading of the last word, or by finishing the book, but rather they “carry on” almost as if they had created a sub-rosan or virtual reality within the mind and psyche of the consumer or the partaker. And this new and virtual mind-reality is likewise not limited to the breadth, depth, or scope of the original subject matter of the work, but rather one type of imagining or image activates numerous others in a long and continuing chain of triggered imaginary impulses, the limits of which are constrained only by the inventiveness, potentialities, and desires of the particular consumer in question.

As a side note I should also mention that I am not using the term Virtual to imply something that lacks reality, as much as to represent something that has not as of yet become imminently real, but could very well become empirically real when imagination is determinedly and ambitiously combined with actual work and concentrated effort. (Now of course a badly executed or ill-conceived effort of work, imagination, or description may leave the consumer either highly confused as to what exactly the author meant by virtue of his description, or may lead the consumer completely away from the actual intent of the author, or may simply provoke a feeling of disinterest or “dullness” on the part of the consumer, triggering within him not sustained and powerful imaginings, but rather impressions of distraction, or a shallowness that can only be indicative of a total lack of interest and respect for the work in question and what it produces.)

But my theory (and my theory is not new, I am sure, but I am seeking a sort of specialized or different application of it) is that while there are certainly defective techniques of the act of describing or envisioning a thing that lead to a failure to spur on the imagination of the consumer, that miscarry the attempt to create a “virtual reality” of the mind through the lacking exertion(s) of a peculiar creator, there are also techniques that rarely fail to produce the sort of positive effects that I am discussing here in respect to the imagination.

That is to say if there are techniques that fail in the cause of provoking and exciting and expanding upon the capabilities of the imagination of the consumer, then there are obviously other and more intense techniques, which will, more often than not, have the desired effect of expounding upon, elucidating, enlarging, edifying, and invigorating (perhaps permanently) the imagination of the consumer. Techniques that can help to create a sort of “perpetual inner motion” of the imagination, and that will have effects far beyond and far exceeding the actual individual triggers or spurs that were used in producing this state of affairs.

(Now, for purposes of this discussion, I am not going to really address the receptivity or state of internal agreement that any particular consumer feels toward the subject matter he is consuming. That is outside the bounds of what I am discussing, and in any case there is very little, practically speaking, that any creator can do to control the state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. The creator can use the best techniques possible, and undertake his or her work in the most crafty and acute manner by which he is able, but he cannot control the inner state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. That is almost entirely the duty or the affair of the individual consumer of information. If someone else wants to discuss this issue of information dispersal versus information receptivity, then feel free, but as for me, and at this moment, I intend to avoid the issue as a momentary distraction to the other more important points at hand.)

It also occurred to me this morning, after teaching my classes, that the same sort of thing happens in Role Play Gaming, and that moreover in such an environment such “triggering of the human imagination” is often a corporate act, as much as an act of the creator of the plot, storyline, and/or milieu being explored. (And if indeed it is an act of both the corporate and individual imagination, then this in itself might be an important clue towards the feasibility and dynamic nature of important methods of “imaginative triggering.”) That being the case it seemed to me that this website and blog would be the perfect place to solicit further ideas for this discussion. And that a discussion of role-play techniques and methods geared specifically towards the architecture of imagination might yield vital and important clues towards even larger issues of the mind and visionary invention.

Now there may indeed be, and I very much suspect that indeed there are, more or less Universal Techniques and Methods for the “triggering of the human imagination” in the way in which I am framing the issue. (Techniques that may vary in application according to media type, or in discipline or field of endeavor, but are still interchangeable in intent and basis of intended achievement.) However let’s put that possibility aside for the moment and work at the problem inductively.

Let me ask the question(s) very simply in this way: What techniques or methods do you employ as a DM (or even as a player), adventure writer, milieu creator, writer, songwriter, inventor, and so forth that seem to you to “trigger the human imagination” in a very intense and enduring fashion? So that your work takes on a “virtual life of its own in the mind of your consumers,” and/or so that it continues to excite your consumers long after the actual act of the game is concluded? And how do you go about employing such techniques on a consistent basis in order to repeat these effects in a systematic and continuing manner?

I’m looking forward to your answers, ideas, opinions, and speculations…

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN – ESSAY ELEVEN: LUCK BE NOT LAZY

My next Essay on Gaming and Game Design, since this is my post for Design of Things to Come.

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Eleven: Luck Be Not Lazy

“High Fortune is the Good Wife of the Brave Husband.”

“Our survival kit is within us…”

“Good Luck befriend thee, Son…”

Synopsis:Boldness makes you luckier.” Boldness and risk taking make you more likely to survive and succeed than timidity and cowardice. This is true both in life, and in-game.

Recently while reading the book The Survivor’s Club (I am a survivalist and often study various aspects of survival art and science) I came across a very interesting equation by Nicholas Rescher.

The equation is as follows:

λ(E) = ∆(E) x [1-pr(E)] = ∆(E) x pr(not-E)

Rescher was attempting to mathematically illustrate how conclusions are drawn about the conditions and functional nature of “luck.” I have not had the time to examine the mathematics in detail for myself since I have only the basic equation formulation and a basic interpretation by the author of the book (not the author of the equation). I plan on looking up the entire background of the equation when I have the time.

Basically the equation states that how lucky an individual (or theoretically an event, with variable exchange) is considered to be depends upon a number of factors, but not least is the level of sufficient risk associated with any endeavor. That is to say the greater the risk taken by an individual, when success is finally achieved (though success is not guaranteed), then naturally the “more lucky” such an individual is considered in relation to others. This is of course only logical, and can be illustrated in the following way.

Two men decide to cross a chasm. One does so by a secure wooden footbridge with a safety railing, another along a length of tightrope. If both men make it safely across then most objective observers would say that the man walking upon the tightrope was “luckiest.” His risk was greatest and when (if) he succeeds then luck has been said to play a greater role in his crossing (in spite of any personal skill he might possess in wire-walking) than in the guy who has crossed the chasm on a relatively secure footbridge (in which case chance or luck plays a much smaller, if any, role as regards the crossing). This is self-evident, though perhaps often ignored or not noticed in this way in most circumstances by some observers.

lady luck

But I suspect that an even more interesting underlying and basic assumption fundamental to the structure of the equation (though it may not necessarily be overtly stated, when considering “normative variables”) is this: the greater the risk you take the more lucky you are likely to be. Not merely as a matter of relative comparison to others in different circumstances, but as a practical and fundamental matter in most any circumstance. And by extension then the more risk you assume in your given situation then the more likely you are to eventually succeed within that given situation. (Also this implies that luck is not a matter merely to be judged and quantified after the fact, or after the conclusion of the endeavor, but as a functional force, and likely an indirectly measurable force, operating throughout the course of events.)

Think about that for a moment. For the idea may just very well be fundamental to the nature of what many consider “good fortune.” Whether most people realize it or not.

The implication is that with great risk comes not only great danger, but also a greater probability towards actual and more capital success. (I think that there are several reasons for the likelihood of this conclusion, some physical, some psychological, and a few of which I will discuss here). The equation actually states that if you succeed then a larger level of risk can be said to include within the nature of the success a greater degree of good fortune, expressed colloquially as “luck.” But underneath the equation, if you examine it closely, is a sort of sub-structural formulation that implies that the greater the level of risk you assume in attempting any given or particular thing, the more likely you are to actually succeed, but that this does not become absolutely mathematically obvious until after the events are actually concluded.

In short the equation is covertly implying that all things being equal, and excluding the impossible (of course, as well as the intentionally foolhardy and reckless), it is the one who assumes the greatest risk who is far more likely to be lucky and in the end, to succeed as a result of the advantages bestowed by luck. (Is luck the only factor in success? Good Lord no. Preparation, skill, cunning, cleverness, drive, desire, etc. – all of these factors and more, or even less, can help to assure success. But what it is saying is that among roughly equivalent situations and/or competitors it is the more daring and less risk averse who is mathematically far more likely to “get lucky” and win the day, other factors not withstanding. Risk is therefore, as counter-intuitive and paradoxical as the idea may seem, one of the open and golden gateways to good fortune. Or as the old maxim goes, “Fortuna favet fortibus.” There is far more to that observation than mere Latin wit.

We all know that boldness is a fundamental aspect of the nature of Heroism. (Indeed, I personally would not attempt the execution of the function of anything heroic lacking the mettle of individual bravery as my guide. There is neither room for in most risky situations, nor likelihood of success in most dangerous situations for the ‘timid hero.’) Heroes therefore are universally bold. Or on the royal road through hardship and risk to becoming universally bold. Yet often heroes also triumph over seemingly vastly superior opponents with vastly superior resources. Why? Because they are bold. Because they are daring, and audacious, and brave. They also almost universally, whether in real life, or in myth or literature, “get lucky” or at least luckier than everybody else around them. Why? Because fortune does indeed favor the bold. The bold risk great things and therefore fortune is a natural and interested companion along the way. Fortune is attracted to bravery and risk-taking. (This does not imply that all risks are equal, or even equally fortunate, only that fortune prefers boldness to a lack thereof.)

Now it might appear on the surface that the heroic individual, or group, is often both bold and lucky. But the actual truth is they are lucky precisely because they are bolder than everyone else. Hence luck does not make one bold, being bold makes one lucky. There is a direct, if not always immediately observationally evident, correlation. That man who takes the most risk is that man who is likely to be luckiest and to be most successful. Even if bravery does not create good fortune in a particular circumstance it at least maintains and augments what good fortune already exists within that circumstance.

There are several reasons for this I think, some derived from my own personal observations, others I have gathered from anecdotal evidence, some taken from historical studies, still others implied by the equation I listed above.

First, the psychological ones:

1. The man who is audacious and daring tends to impress others with their vision. Small visions do not attract interest or followers. Bravery impresses and heroic visions and examples evoke imitation. Courage inspires devotion. And devotion inspires more courage as well as more of itself, which thereby tends to augment good fortune through cooperative enterprise and shared labor and objectives. Making success far more likely.

2. The individual who is brave tends to impress even dangerous creatures and animals, which will sometimes flee a man who the animal could easily kill because the man exhibits no fear. So if something or even someone thinks you’re crazy enough to be unafraid (regardless of whether you really are or not in that situation) when they think you should be then this gives them pause about their own chances of success against you. Courage in yourself can often inspire caution in an enemy or dangerous opponent, tipping the scales of good fortune, as well as the initiative and control of the situation in your favor.

(This has happened to me on more than one occasion with animals, men, and situations. For instance I’ve been shot at and drawn on on more than one occasion. Most recently this happened to me about two weeks ago. Yet I managed to defuse that particular situation without bloodshed or anyone being harmed because I walked towards the gunfire instead of freezing or fleeing from it when guns were drawn. Not that walking into gunfire is the most impressive or important kind of courage, it is far from it. Other things are often far more dangerous. I know that from personal experience. But the policeman in this case had the wrong location and the wrong target and he was obviously afraid of attack himself and so he drew and fired when he thought he was under attack. I don’t blame him by the way, he did indeed think he was under attack and may have even thought he could possibly be killed. He was also a young fella and a bit of a rookie. I doubt he had ever drawn his weapon before in the line of duty, but that’s just an assumption mind you based upon my observations of the boy, I didn’t really ask him. But he didn’t do anything really wrong; he was just surprised and scared by the situation, not knowing what was really going on. So I supported him when his commanding officer came out to do the in-the-field inquiry about why and how he had discharged his weapon. But I was able to prevent any real harm during the incident by walking into his line of fire [he wasn’t shooting at me, but I caused him to pause by interjecting myself] and taking control of the situation with my voice. Thereby stopping any further firing. I don’t think most people realize how effective an instrument the human voice can be in controlling a dangerous situation but those of you with law enforcement or military backgrounds probably know exactly what I mean. Your voice is probably often your most effective tool of courage and control. So I wasn’t afraid at all when it was happening, though my wife later yelled at me, as she often will, by saying “you stupid white guys run towards gunfire instead of away from it.” But obviously it has got nothing to do with being white, I’ve known a lot of brave men from all kinds of backgrounds, or even really with being stupid I would argue, but with training. I wasn’t afraid at all and so acted as I have trained myself over time, to walk towards danger and not away from it, and to attempt to command any given dangerous situation by not panicking, but by trying to assume control of the circumstances. I also wasn’t scared at all in this situation because I wasn’t thinking about myself at all. Over time I have basically trained fear for my own safety out of myself so that when others are endangered I think about others and not myself. Which eliminates the occupation with “self-fear.” It has become a matter of habit by now, and I never consciously weigh dangers for myself in my mind in that way anymore. However this does not mean the elimination of fear, if my children or wife had been under fire or endangered then I would have been afraid, I would have been thinking of their survival. I do not think though, and thank God this has never occurred, that even in that situation it would have paralyzed me, but I would have been afraid. Afraid for them. Indeed after the shooting I spoke about before was over and I realized just how bad the situation could have become for everyone – there was another officer who could have drawn and started shooting but he remained basically calm and watchful – I had about two minutes where I needed to sit down. To prevent my legs from shaking. But that was about 15 to 20 minutes later. Various friends and some people at church heard about this little adventure from my wife and the police and they all said I was a lucky fool. Just shook their heads. But I wasn’t a lucky fool; I was lucky because in that situation my training allowed me to be bold enough to prevent the situation from becoming completely out of control. I guess what I’m saying is that training yourself to move towards danger may seem apparently crazy, and so the assumption is that you just get lucky that nothing bad happens. Actually you get lucky because you act boldly. The crazy is only relative to those who do not understand that boldness enhances good fortune, not detracts from it.)

3. Bravery does not allow for panic, especially not debilitating panic. Courage is usually prepared for most situations (through exercise, practice, training, and habit) or at the very least does not panic and make situations worse. Boldness has “faith in itself.” Because boldness and enterprise are habits and skills that can be learned through practice. Perhaps some people are naturally born fearless or bold. But regardless of the veracity of that statement a person can become bold and daring through the exercise and practice of courage, just as is the case with bodybuilding through resistance training. You become muscularly and physically stronger by working ever-heavier resistance against weak and inexperienced muscles. You become more courageous by placing yourself in dangerous situations and exercising control against your fear. Eventually your “courage physique” will increase and it will take more and more danger to cause fear any real friction or resistance against you.

That’s all I’m gonna say about the psychological factors because it is not my intent in this essay to discuss all possible psychological variables. But merely to present basic possibilities.

greek

Now for some of the physical factors:

1. I suspect that on the physical level there is an “Entrainment of the unlikely” but nevertheless “necessarily possible” whenever boldness is a factor operating upon the physical environment. That is to say that boldness has both a physical and a quantum effect upon the surrounding environment much as it does on the psychological environment in which courage is in operation. Though the effect may be subtle, it nevertheless positively influences events in favor of the party operating “boldly.” The apparent physical effect is displayed as a tendency of events to move favorably in relation to the “bold party.” Though of course more than one party may be simultaneously operating in a bold fashion. It is not my intention in this short essay though to discuss competitions or conflicts between separate parties acting against each other each in their own bold fashion. That subject can be taken up by another if they so desire.

2. I suspect boldness is probably also a “quantum excitement” to the local environment, causing obstacles and frictions to move away from or bend away from the “bold party.” Friction and resistance does not build up in the environment against the bold, but rather boldness acts as a sort of overlaying energy field that slightly tilts the operational environment in the favor of the bold. You might think of daring and risk as exciting the local environment in such a way that it acts as a sort of simultaneous lubricant for good fortune, and as a sort of barrier against misfortune.
Now if all, or indeed if any of this is true, then this idea has large scale implications for human activity and work in the real world. It also has large scale gaming implications, because heroic gaming could therefore be used as a sort of imaginary training ground for the development of higher and higher states of mental and psychologically habitual (behavioral habits begin in the mind after all) boldness, which could then be effectively transferred outside the self-contained environment of a given game and exported to the wider world.

But for the moment, since this is a website and forum dedicated to gaming let’s examine how we might exploit the idea encapsulated by the statement: “Boldness makes you luckier.”
So I’m going to make a few suggestions as to how to use this hypothesis within your game and/or game setting.

1. If you use some factor, variable, or attribute in your game that represents or expresses Luck (I use several in my games) then (given that my previous statements and hypotheses above make sense to you) anytime your players display real courage this should have a corresponding and even compounding “Luck Effect.” If they are brave, and bold, then their level of Good Fortune should naturally increase, or be augmented in some way. Good luck is never lazy, and it is rarely risk-averse. Rather the braver the character the more likely he is to be lucky in any given situation (assuming he or she does not face impossible odds or an inescapable situation).

So acts of courage and heroism are more than likely to have a direct and positive corresponding effect upon factors of good fortune and the benefits bestowed by luck. I can’t tell you how to do this exactly in your game or setting (because I don’t know the details of your setting) but it is my recommendation that you bind together in some way acts of heroism and boldness to corresponding gains in good fortune. (However these things might be expressed, as bonuses to saving throws, or as “luck advantages,” or as gains to certain types of abilities or skills, or whatever the particular case may be in your situation.)

2. I would also suggest that acts of cowardice and timidity have a corresponding suppression upon factors involving luck. The risk averse would also be averse to natural good fortune. After all the obverse of my proposition, that bravery makes you luckier, is easily demonstrable. No great thing was ever achieved by timidity. The timid do not attempt and therefore naturally do not achieve great things. That is self-evident. Therefore good fortune can hardly be considered a close ally of timidity or cowardice, for achievement is the opposite of being retiring and timid. And achievement against great odds can be called one of the potential proofs of good fortune. So the bold often achieve where the timid will not go. And good fortune goes where the bold dare to lead her. Therefore fortune is long time friend of the bold, but always the stranger to the timid.

3. Courage might not only affect “Luck Factors” but even attributes like Charisma, Wisdom, and leadership. Courage should and will increase luck and overall good fortune but it might also temporarily or even permanently increase attribute scores like Charisma, Wisdom, Intelligence, or leadership abilities.

4. Courage causing increases in luck and good fortune might also have a corresponding positive effect upon things like intuition or even psychic abilities (I use the term psychic to reflect both mental abilities and spiritual capabilities.)

5. Courage would make one “fortunate” in the types and quality of the individuals you attract to yourself as friends, allies, and followers.

6. Another suggestion I might make is that in game terms at least allow for a sort of generalized and conditional reaction to acts of heroism, bravery, and boldness on the part of the surrounding environment. This could take any number of different forms but the overall effect would be that the environment “acts lucky” towards the person exhibiting bravery, initiative, and enterprise.

7. Courage and luck might have a beneficial effect upon the degree of power and level of control one may exercise over magic, magical items, artifacts, and devices, and/or more mundane types of tools/technology.

8. If courage increases good fortune and good fortune makes survival more likely then heroism and bravery should likely have direct and positive effects upon any useful survival mechanism or skill within your game.
These are but a few simple ways that the relationship between boldness and good fortune could be exploited in game, and could also serve as a sort of “reward system” to your best and bravest role-players. I could go into other related matters such as the possible mathematical relationship between boldness, confidence, and chance mechanisms, like gaming dice. But I’ve explored pretty much what I personally wanted to explore as regards this subject, and since I am presenting this post as an Interactive Essay others can add related or peripheral content as they see fit.

But in summation I would also like to encourage you all to make better use of heroism, enterprise, initiative, and boldness in your own situation(s), both in real life and in-game. I suspect that given time you will find yourself more and more inclined to boldness through practice (assuming you are not already), and as a result of that more likely to find yourself enjoying an ever increasing level of good fortune and definite luck.

Good luck to you then.

THE COLLEGES TO COME?

Following up on the LARPful post. This could be an excellent stimulus for the imagination. Especially for writers. artists, actors, and perhaps even scientists who wanted a free-flowing environment to conduct chemical and physical experiments and make observations in a fun environment.

I can also see this being transformed easily into a Vadding Experience (the exploration of both modern and older ruins), that is LARPing could be used an an environment to train Vadders.

And finally this could also be easily used as a platform to develop ARGs (Alternate Reality Games and LARPs) and could even be used to train participants in Real World Skills (TSS: Transferable Skill Simulations) and in subjects such as ancient technologies and history.

So this could also easily become a GPAD, a Game of Personal Advancement and Development.

Anyway as far as the current Crowdfunding Project goes Claus, Good Luck and Godspeed. To you, your partners, and participants.

 

LAMAS AND MEDITATING MUMMIES

Centuries-old mummified monk found meditating in Mongolia: report

The ash-colored man was reportedly discovered sitting in a lotus position with no visible decay. The haunting figure is suggested to be a teacher of the Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, whose own body was found preserved after his death in 1927.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 8:07 PM
The body of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, a Buryat Buddhist lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, was found perfectly preserved after his own death in 1927. Wikimedia Commons The body of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, a Buryat Buddhist lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, was found perfectly preserved after his own death in 1927.

How’s this for dedication?

The mummified remains of a meditating Buddhist monk have reportedly been discovered in Mongolia with early estimates suggesting it being at least 200 years old.

Tuesday’s stunning find reported by the country’s Morning News revealed an ash-colored man sitting in a pensive lotus position, with no visible decay.

It was discovered inside of the Songinokhairkhan province, but exactly where and how was not released.

He was additionally described as found covered with some kind of cattle skin.

The human remains were taken to Ulaanbataar National Centre of Forensic Expertise for further study, according to the report.

It’s been suggested that the man was a teacher of the famous Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov whose body was found eerily preserved — also seated in the lotus position — after his own death in 1927.

In 2002 Itigilov’s body was exhumed from his grave to dozens of witnesses, including two forensic experts and a photographer before tucked away in a monastery, the New York Times reported.

Sokushinbutsu, the Buddhist practice of self-preservation, was performed between the 11th and 19th centuries in mainly northern Japan, according to various reports.

It was considered to be the ultimate act of religious discipline and dedication more so than suicide.

ngolgowski@nydailynews.com

DAREDEVIL, SNAKE, WOLVERINE, AND THE BATMAN, or How I Beat Metal Gear like a Wet Stepchild

Up until this past holiday weekend I had not played any video game in months. Probably closer to a year.

But after Christmas I played some video games in my spare time, and today my oldest daughter wanted me to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

So while everyone else went off to watch football games at friend’s houses I stayed at home and played Metal Gear. (Once I start something I don’t like to break off iffin I can help it.)

In the space of a mere three hours I beat the main or primary mission. An amazingly good time for me because I tend to favor stealth and sneaking, Intel gathering, and exploration and reconnoitering of my environment over direct combat (just my nature, in both gaming and in real life). Also I stopped play two times to eat and once to walk my dog.

How good was I, you ask?

Well, let me put it to you this way. If you took Daredevil (not that stupid yellow or red suited Daredevil, but the Black Suit Daredevil) and cooked him, then fed him to Solid Snake, then wrapped that Snake around Wolverine, then made an incision and stuck that Daredevil-fed, Snake-Wrapped Wolverine inside the belly of the Batman to run that mission – well, I was still better than that…

BOO-YAH!

By the way, I really enjoyed Ground Zeroes. It was a typical operatic Metal Gear game but far more gritty and tactical and down to Earth minus most of the really weird villains and the bizarre combat sequences (and cut scenes). I think of it as Metal Gear Lite without all the crazy Japanese metaphysics about warfare and life and the universe. (It did have a couple of open gut scenes though.) Now actually I often really like the crazy Japanese metaphysics but it can get kinda convoluted and plot sticky from time to time. This was like supercooled frictionless Japanese metaphysics.

It was more of a very simple, straight forward, almost realistic (considering it is a Metal Gear game) infiltration and hostage recovery game/mission. The parameters were simple. Which was an extremely nice and simple change of pace for a Metal Gear Game.

It was short though, even with me burning through it with very few mistakes and only being killed once.

It alert mode though, those Marines sure were tough and sure did like to bunch up in hard to scatter fire-teams with good overlapping fields of fire. Another reason I avoided combat, plus I really didn’t feel like killing Marines even if they were rogue, and it was just a game. (Gotta lotta buddies who are Marines.) Though with such an undeveloped, or I should say unspecified plot it was really hard to tell good guys from bad guys or even just exactly what was going on.

I still don’t really know, but ya know, that’s a Metal Gear plot for ya, ain’t it?

IT AIN’T JUST FOR SLAYING DRAGONS NO MORE

And there ya go…

Actually my whole family has played for years now and it has been an especially good tool for teaching critical thinking, overcoming danger with planning and preparation (basic survival mind-set and skills), problem solving, and tactical decision making to my wife and daughters. So I think it is every bit as good a gaming tool for females as it is for boys.

 

Dungeons & Dragons strikes back

After a period of decline, the iconic game shows signs of revival thanks to an update and a greater diversity of players

From left: Sophia, Jung, and Charles Starrett play D&D at home.

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

From left: Sophia, Jung, and Charles Starrett play D&D at home.

Some updated player’s and dungeon master’s guides for D&D.

Ethan Gilsdorf

Some updated player’s and dungeon master’s guides for D&D.

As a teenager in the 1980s, Charles Starrett spent hours playing Dungeons & Dragons with his pals but stopped after high school. His interest was rekindled as a father when he introduced basic role-playing games to his two daughters when they were six years old, and he also persuaded his wife, Jung, to play.

“They just gobbled it up,” Jung Starrett says of her daughters’ interest in D&D.

Now the couple and their now 14-year-old daughters, Sophia and Julia, gather around their Brookline dining room table regularly on weekends to toss polyhedral dice, slay orcs and hobgoblins, and tell an unpredictable, unfolding fantasy story, together.

As it turns 40 this year, the pioneering role-playing game (or “RPG”) appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance after a period of decline. Once the province primarily of white, suburban teen boys and young men, D&D is drawing a more diverse group of players, owing in part to the widespread popularity of fantasy books, films, and television shows. And a new update of the game is renewing interest among veteran players.

An estimated 20 million people have played the game and spent at least $1 billion on its products since D&D’s early days. But the game, which experienced strong growth throughout the 1970s and ’80s, began a slump in the 2000s. The game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, does not make sales figures available, but analysts say that RPG sales have been declining for years, partly supplanted by the surge in video games and Internet culture.

In response, Wizards, a Washington subsidiary of Providence toy-and-game giant Hasbro, launched a revamp of the game’s rules this year, informally known as “Fifth Edition,” that returns D&D to its story-based roots. The response has been positive.

“Nearly every player I’ve spoken to says they like the new rules,” says David Ewalt, author of “Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It.” When one of the core rule books, the D&D “Player’s Handbook,” was published in August, it climbed to the top of Amazon sales charts and hit number one on both Publisher’s Weekly and Wall Street Journal’s hardcover nonfiction lists.

Distributors and retailers say the new edition is selling better than expected, says Milton Griepp, founder and CEO of ICv2, a publication that covers geek culture. “And expectations were high.”

Nationally, and locally, retailers are saying the new edition is doing well and drawing players to game nights. John Beresford, books manager at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, reports that the store’s weekly in-store D&D events have grown by at least 25 percent. “Fifth edition is getting a lot of nostalgia gamers back in to take a look and is also drawing in a number of new gamers,” he says.

Unlike the last edition, released in 2008, the new D&D focuses less on mimicking video game-like action and combat, and more on ease of play, role-playing, and narrative. Also making the game more accessible, the rules ask players to consider characters who do “not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior.” Your 12th level wizard might be gay.

In addition to getting a boost from the game update, D&D and other RPGs are also finding fresh player bases.

“There’s been a real expansion of the audience in recent years,” says Ewalt. When Ewalt went to his first game convention 20 years ago, the attendees were largely white, male, ages 15 to 40. When he attended the massive role-playing game and tabletop game convention called GenCon this summer in Indianapolis, “there were men and women, kids and adults, and people of all races and cultures.’’

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, agrees. “We are seeing a broad mix of ages playing D&D today,’’ she says. “The game spans generations, as parents introduce their kids to the game that inspired them as kids.’’

One reason new audiences are embracing D&D is that so many of its key concepts are already familiar to a generation steeped in video games. D&D spawned a legion of game designers and programmers, and the industry borrowed heavily from D&D tropes such as outfitting characters, leveling up, cooperative game play, representing character traits as statistics, fantasy battles, dungeon environments, and controlling avatars.

D&D also benefits from the popularity of fantasy entertainment such as the “Lord of the Rings,” “Hobbit” and “Harry Potter’’ books and movies, and hit TV shows like “Game of Thrones.” As in the case of video games, the appetite for consuming fantasy worlds is one that D&D actually had a role in nurturing.

A whole generation of screenwriters, novelists, directors, musicians, and actors who once played D&D — including Stephen Colbert, the late Robin Williams, Matt Groening, Vin Diesel, and George R. R. Martin — have proudly embraced their basement-dwelling days as a nerdy badge of honor.

“All those kids who were obsessed with the game in the early 1980s have grown up, and many of them entered creative pursuits because D&D got them excited about telling stories and creating adventures,” says Ewalt.

The game’s imaginative reach extends beyond popular entertainment. “Gaming certainly provided me with an imaginative praxis that helped prepare me for the imaginative praxis of being a writer,” says Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and MIT professor whose group played D&D in the 1980s. “The game was an important source of solace, inspiration, learning excitement and play for us.”

Chris Robichaud, author of “Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy” and a D&D veteran since age 10, is bringing RPGs into the classroom as a learning tool. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he is a lecturer in ethics and public policy, Robichaud has been teaching D&D-like simulation called Patient Zero. “I wanted to give policymakers the creative, outside-the-box thinking opportunities that only a tabletop design with a gamemaster at the helm could really create,” says Robichaud, who believes his game “has the distinction” of being Harvard’s first “zombie pandemic tabletop simulation.”

The potential educational benefits are not lost on younger players. Back at the Starrett home, Julia and Sophia say they play primarily because it’s fun, but the game has also imparted valuable life skills.

“I have the reputation as a walking dictionary, which I got from playing D&D,” says Sophia, who has been blogging about “the benefits of playing D&D.” Beyond building your vocabulary, the two sisters reel off myriad other boons. The game improves critical thinking, decision-making, spatial intelligence, and team-building.

“In D&D, if you’re going to succeed,” says Julia, “you have to be part of a group of very diverse individuals all going for the same goal.”

Indeed, the role-playing game is a perfect tool for forging communities and connections “which can further knit our society together,” says dad Charles. “We can even explore living a life as someone who believes quite differently from how we actually believe, which increases understanding and empathy towards those who differ from ourselves.”

Like a warrior after an epic battle, D&D has survived to fight again — and its players hope it will keep on rolling for another 40 years.

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.” Contact him at www.ethangilsdorf.com .

THE ABILITY HOARD – AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON PERSONAL AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Fourteen: The Ability Hoard

THE ABILITY HOARD – AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON PERSONAL AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

When it comes to my own characters (be they fictional or gaming) and even the players and characters I DM I think of Skills, Capabilities, Abilities, Attributes, (innate personal and individual features) and so forth as much more important character elements and possessions than magic items, spells, money, and other types of what is normally thought of as “standard treasures.”

To me the single greatest types of treasures a character (or a real person) can possess are what they can actually do for themselves (and for others) in the world, devoid of all outside help, material/materiel, and extraneous accoutrements. So I’m going to call this idea and post the Ability-Hoard, or the Treasure of Personal Capacity. I think that this is where the true emphasis of “characterization” should be evident, and most brightly shine.

Let me, at this point, briefly define the Ability Hoard.

The Ability Hoard is that accumulated set of skills, talents, abilities, capabilities, extraordinary qualities (be they physical, mental, psychological, or spiritual), educational and individual merits, virtues, and sensory capacities that a character or person possesses which allows them to resolve difficult problems or to gain some beneficial advantage over others or over a particular set of circumstances.

Now I realize that this may be an entirely personal opinion, or at least very probably a minority opinion, but to me the Ability Hoard (similar to the poetic term Word-Hoard in this respect), be that in a fictional world, a gaming environment, or in Real Life is by far the greatest wealth a person may possess, and as such accumulating and developing and increasing your own Ability Hoard is of paramount importance to both your success in this world (or in any fictional world) and to your favorable development as an individual.

(At least in the gaming world, it has been my observation, and far too often in the Real World, possessions, especially powerful and valuable possessions seem to consume much of the emphasis and interest in any setting. However the Ability Hoard is not only a treasure and a possession in its own right, it is the one possession you own which actually allows you to grow and multiply all of your other possessions – be they physical, financial, material, mental, psychological, or otherwise.)

Thus in my opinion, whether you are speaking of gaming or Real Life a person’s Ability Hoard is their Chief and True Treasure, and the one source of wealth that is never subject to theft or plunder by another. (Unless, of course, you intentionally allow some particular element of your Ability Hoard to be stolen by another.)

I will return to the idea of the Ability Hoard in later posts, because for one thing, it constitutes a vital and fundamental part of my Games of Personal Advancement and Development series. For now, however, I just wish to introduce the concept.

In closing, what is your opinion – is a character’s or an individual’s Ability Hoard their single greatest source of treasure, or do you consider some other form of treasure a more valuable possession?

DEED-IN-DEED

How D&D swallowed another innocent clandestine female nerd… is there no end to this effrontery?

That Time I Started Playing Dungeons & Dragons for a Blog Post…

I recently went on a deep undercover writing assignment. My goal was to infiltrate a local Dungeons & Dragons group and make them believe I could be one of them, just for one night, so that I could write about the shenanigans that are role playing games.

I wanted to try something new, and my boyfriend kept going on and on about Pathfinder (which is an off shoot of Dungeons & Dragons, basically) so I figured hey, I could go for 4 hours and give it a shot, blog about it, and then move on. That was six months ago. The reason I didn’t write the blog post was because I’m still playing it and you know what? It’s really cool.

dice

Image: James Bowe via FlickrUntil I started dating my boyfriend I always thought Pathfinder was just someone mispronouncing “Pathfinders,” and that they were referring to that later version of Girl Guides where teenagers learn how to braid and roast s’mores over a bonfire while singing Kumbaya. Which is why I found it really confusing when my boyfriend told me he was going to join a Pathfinder group. It became less confusing when he explained to me that Pathfinder is an RPG (role playing game) much like Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, I still found the whole Dungeons and Dragons thing confusing, but at least I wasn’t picturing my boyfriend learning how to braid his beard while wearing a green vest full of badges anymore.

So I began to learn bits and pieces of what playing an RPG is like because I like taking interest in my boyfriend’s interests. He would come home from game night and regale me with tales of his journey through what I assumed was Middle Earth. He went on and on about slaying all sorts of monsters and finding treasures, and he talked about the jokes that were made during the night and it seemed like fun. It basically sounded like Game of Thrones if Game of Thrones were a comedy on FX. He explained to me that Pathfinder was like the younger sibling of Dungeons and Dragons. Basically if Dungeons and Dragons were Disney, Pathfinder would be Pixar.

Part of me wanted to try Pathfinder as soon as my boyfriend began explaining it to me, but there was still part of me that grew up being told “Dungeons and Dragons just isn’t cool.” This was long before Community did an episode on it, of course. I hate to admit it but I heard whispers about the people playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school, and it always seemed frowned upon. It was just Darwinism coming into play when I found myself never wanting to associate with Dungeons and Dragons. I didn’t want to get pummeled to death in the school yard. I didn’t want to be turned upside down and have my lunch money stolen.

So I continued on through my life associating RPGs with wedgies and swirlies, and I probably even snickered negatively on occasion when people talked about their Dungeons and Dragons days. And then something wonderful happened: I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t want to be at all associated with the people who bullied other people for playing games in their basement. I realized that it’s cool to do whatever the heck you want to do if it makes you happy. Trust me, that’s a hard thing to realize when you come from the small town I come from. If you replace dancing with Dungeons and Dragons then my hometown is essentially the town from Footloose.

It’s no real secret that my boyfriend is a “nerd,” as some people would say. He reads comic books, he watches sci-fi shows and movies, he plays board games and role playing games. For years now I have been toeing the “nerd” line myself. I grew up watching shows like Buffy and Dark Angel. I always loved sci-fi movies more than any other genre. But that was where it ended. I didn’t play games. I didn’t read comics or fantasy novels. If you asked me what “the TARDIS” was, I would assume it was some sort of French dessert. And I certainly didn’t have a sweet clue what a D20 was.

Obviously when you spend a lot of time with another human being, you tend to take on some of their interests as your own. It was only natural that I would sit down and watch all of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who with my boyfriend. Of course I would go to Comic Con in Montreal with him next. Then came the board games like Munchkin and Carcassone. I enjoyed everything he introduced me to. So naturally when he started talking about Pathfinder I began to wonder if it was something I could enjoy with him.

THE TRIGGERING OF THE HUMAN IMAGINATION

Recently I have undertaken a new career (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, an additional career) as a fiction writer. My background as an author is as a non-fiction writer, primarily dealing with such subjects as business, science, and technical matters. Although on occasion, often for private clients and sometimes just to pursue my own interests, I write analytical, white, and theory papers on everything from military and law enforcement matters to educational techniques to religious subjects.

But, as I said, now I am embarking upon a new or supplementary career as a fiction writer. Last night, while laying in bed, and reading a fiction story before sleeping it occurred to me that the author was very good as describing some scenes (thereby easily provoking my imagination to work “independently” of the actual words used to construct the scene) and at other times the author did a very poor job of description and my imagination had to work very hard, or was confused as to exactly what the author was describing. (The author was Moorcock.)

I went to sleep and later awoke about 0500 hours from a dream, and then an idea suddenly occurred to me about what had triggered the dream. (I didn’t connect my dream directly to the story Moorcock had written but it had triggered an “oblique set of imaginings” which I thought were related to some of the ideas expressed in the story.) After I was awake about fifteen minutes or so replaying the dream through my mind it occurred to me that many authors, as well as others, such as really good playwrights, poets, filmmakers, graphic or visual artists (I had recently taken my children to see one of the largest collections of Sacred and Italian and Spanish Gothic and Renaissance Art in the entire nation, and most all of the works were both highly symbolic, and fantastically beautiful), even inventors, scientists, and religious leaders often express their ideas in such a way as to have a great and lasting impact upon the imagination of the consumer. (I am using the term consumer here to represent any partaker or user of such services, products, information, or ideas as are being now discussed.)

And herein lies the seed of my theory. That there are certain techniques that writers, artists, inventors, etc. use that are capable of triggering the imagination of the listener, audience, or observer in such a way that the imagination of the consumer is expanded to such a degree that it becomes heavily provoked, and can then operate almost entirely independently (if not indeed completely independently) of whatever the original trigger that had initially produced it.

Using a writer as an example of my intent, for instance, certain authors are so good at description, that they can create an image in the mind of many readers that even when the reader completes reading the description or has finished the work, there lingers a sort of lasting or almost semi-permanent impression of (and on) the imagination, that is not static and calcified, but is rather “alive,” flexible, and on-going. The images and impressions made by the work do not die out with the reading of the last word, or by finishing the book, but rather they “carry on” almost as if they had created a sub-rosan or virtual reality within the mind and psyche of the consumer or the partaker. And this new and virtual mind-reality is likewise not limited to the breadth, depth, or scope of the original subject matter of the work, but rather one type of imagining or image activates numerous others in a long and continuing chain of triggered imaginary impulses, the limits of which are constrained only by the inventiveness, potentialities, and desires of the particular consumer in question. As a side note I should also mention that I am not using the term Virtual to imply something that lacks reality, as much as to represent something that has not as of yet become imminently real, but could very well become empirically real when imagination is determinedly and ambitiously combined with actual work and concentrated effort. (Now of course a badly executed or ill-conceived effort of work, imagination, or description can leave the consumer either highly confused as to what exactly the author meant by virtue of his description, can lead the consumer completely away from the actual intent of the author, or can simply provoke a feeling of disinterest or “dullness” on the part of the consumer, triggering within him not sustained and powerful imaginings, but rather impressions of distraction, or a shallowness that can only be indicative of a total lack of interest and respect for the work in question and what it produces.

But my theory (and my theory is not new, I am sure, but I am seeking a sort of specialized or different application of it) is that while there are certainly defective techniques of the act of describing or envisioning a thing that lead to a failure to spur on the imagination of the consumer, that miscarry the attempt to create a “virtual reality” of the mind through the lacking exertion(s) of a peculiar creator, there are also techniques that rarely fail to produce the sort of positive effects that I am discussing here in respect to the imagination.

That is to say if there are techniques that fail in the cause of provoking and exciting and expanding upon the capabilities of the imagination of the consumer, then there are obviously other and more obverse techniques, which will, more often than not, have the desired effect of expounding upon, elucidating, enlarging, edifying, and invigorating (perhaps permanently) the imagination of the consumer. Techniques that can help to create a sort of “perpetual inner motion” of the imagination, and that will have effects far beyond and far exceeding the actual individual triggers or spurs that were used in producing this state of affairs.

(Now, for purposes of this discussion, I am not going to really address the receptivity or state of internal agreement that any particular consumer feels toward the subject matter he is consuming. That is outside the bounds of what I am discussing, and in any case there is very little, practically speaking, that any creator can do to control the state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. The creator can use the best techniques possible, and undertake his or her work in the most crafty and acute manner by which he is able, but he cannot control the inner state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. That is almost entirely the duty or the affair of the individual consumer of information. If someone else wants to discuss this issue of information dispersal versus information receptivity, then feel free, but as for me, and at this moment, I intend to avoid the issue as a momentary distraction to the other more important points at hand.)

It also occurred to me this morning, after teaching my classes, that the same sort of thing happens in Role Play Gaming, and that moreover in such an environment such “triggering of the human imagination” is often a corporate act, as much as an act of the creator of the plot, storyline, and/or milieu being explored. (And if indeed it is an act of both the corporate and individual imagination, then this in itself might be an important clue towards the feasibility and dynamic nature of important methods of “imaginative triggering.”) That being the case it seemed to me that this website and forum would be the perfect place to solicit further ideas for this discussion. And that a discussion of role-play techniques and methods geared specifically towards the architecture of imagination might yield vital and important clues towards even larger issues of the mind and visionary invention.

Now there may indeed be, and I very much suspect that indeed there are, more or less Universal Techniques and Methods for the “triggering of the human imagination” in the way in which I am framing the issue. (Techniques that may vary in application according to media type, or in discipline or field of endeavor, but are still interchangeable in intent and basis of intended achievement.) However let’s put that possibility aside for the moment and work at the problem inductively.

Let me ask the question(s) very simply in this way: What techniques or methods do you employ as a DM (or even as a player), adventure writer, milieu creator, and so forth that seems to you to “trigger the human imagination” in a very intense and enduring fashion? So that your work takes on a “virtual life of its own in the mind of your consumers,” and/or so that it continues to excite your consumers long after the actual act of the game is concluded? And how do you go about employing such techniques on a consistent basis in order to repeat these effects in a systematic and continuing manner?

I’m looking forward to your answers, ideas, opinions, and speculations…

THE FAERY TAILS…

Excellent Work!

Russian Photographer Captures Fairy-Tale Scenes With REAL Animals

When Moscow-based photographer Darya Kondratyeva isn’t snapping family, maternity or baby photos, she creates enchanting photos that seem like re-interpretations of old fairytales or legends. The models in her photos seem like they could be witches, princesses or forest spirits.

Aside from her models, trained animals feature heavily in Kondratyeva’s fantasy photography as well. Each one seems like it might open its mouth and whisper a wise secret into the model’s ear.

Kondratyeva’s work is similar to that of Katerina Plotnikova and Margarita Kareva, two other Russian photographers we’ve written about who also have sharp eyes for capturing folkloric images and settings.

More info: dasha-kond.com | Vkontakte

THE INDIAN FIGHTERS

What this country definitely needs is more “Indian Fighters.”

Do you know what I mean by Indian Fighters? I don’t mean people trained to fight Indians, I mean men and women (civilian and military) who are trained by Indians to fight like Indians. As occurred in the French and Indian Wars, and like with the early settlers.

We’ve lost the edge the Indians gave us. We’ve lost the things they taught us.

We need those things back. In a bad way. Especially nowadays.

We need to retrain ourselves as Indian Fighters. Both in the Real World and even in the practice of our games.

​What Tactical Tomahawks Are For And How To Use One

​What Tactical Tomahawks Are For And How To Use OneExpand

From the Native Americans to Vietnam War soldiers, the venerable Tomahawk is finding new favor in this era of asymmetric warfare and, well, with the guys who prepare for battle when they go camping. This is what they’re for and how you can actually find a use for one.

To find out, we talked with SOG Specialty Knives and Tools‘ Chris Cashbaugh, a decent left-handed tomahawk thrower. SOG and its products were inspired by the knives and tomahawks of MACV-SOG, a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit which conducted covert operations before and during the Vietnam War.

IndefinitelyWild: How does a tomahawk differ from an axe or hatchet?

Chris Cashbaugh: Typically, an axe or hatchet is not designed specifically for military or tactical uses. Axes excel at chopping, splitting, shaving and more, plus they can be used for many of the same chores as an edged tool. The handle or grip is typically more ergonomic in shape and sometimes offers multiple hand positions and an axe or its little brother, the hatchet, is typically heavier to help facilitate chopping. In many ways, axes and hatchets are designed for one activity — chopping — and they do it very well.

A tomahawk is going to be lighter. A ‘hawk is more useful for combat and the straight handle is ideal for releasing while throwing. It does good job at bushcraft operations and can handle some chopping, but it’s not designed like an axe for that one chore. They are fun to take into the wilderness and throwing ‘hawks is a real blast.

Also, they have a military/tactical look to them and a deep military history.

IW: Are they actually useful as a breaching tool for the military? Most guys I know say they typically use explosives and rams to “kick” down doors.

CC: In quick response situations they can be used to breach doors and windows. This is true in situations where there might be a fortified door or there isn’t enough time to setup an explosive charge. They are excellent tools for breaking glass — particularly using the spike — and they are small enough in the hand that they can get that job done quickly and in tight quarters.

IW: What uses do they have for soldiers beyond breaching?

CC: Tomahawks can be used for chopping, splitting, digging, prying or even cutting rope. Typically, anything that an edged tool can be used for, you can use a tomahawk for. It might not be the best option for any one of those jobs, but it will work in a pinch and it’s a tool that can do multiple jobs. That’s very beneficial to soldiers.

I guess, theoretically, they can be used in close-quarters combat, but that doesn’t figure into the design nor is it an expected uses.

They are also widely used for throwing at targets. If you’ve never done that, it’s a really fun way to pass the time if you’re sitting around base, waiting for your next patrol.

IW: When did the tomahawk first find popularity with modern soldiers and how has it evolved to suit there needs?

CC: Tomahawks, or some version of them, have been popular with the military since the 18th century and were used by both sides of the American Revolution. Robert’s Rangers, the story goes, used them in the French and Indian War, which is neat when you consider the name is a version of an Algonquin word for a stone-headed tool of the same shape.

During the Revolution, tomahawks were valued for their versatility in wilderness tasks and effectiveness as a close-quarters weapon. As modern firearms increased in reliability, the need for a close quarters weapon wained. Then, in the mid-1960s, there was a rise in popularity for them among American troops in the Vietnam War. The MACV-SOG group, from which SOG Knives takes its name, had a version of the tomahawk, which are valuable collector’s items today.

They have seen a big surge in popularity with the military and general population over the last 10 years, due to introductions of new designs and the unique needs of current urban battles. The biggest evolution in the tomahawk has been the transition from natural handles like wood to more modern, advanced materials like glass-reinforced nylon, composites and metals that make them both lighter and stronger.

​What Tactical Tomahawks Are For And How To Use One

SILENT HILLS

Silent Hill(s)

By far the scariest and spookiest game I ever played was Silent Hill. So I’m really looking forward to this:

Also most of the music from Silent Hill was terrifying, especially if listened to while playing alone in the dark. Some of it was sad, disturbing, and beautiful all at once. such as this:

IF NO-ONE KNOWS… from LESSONS LEARNED

If no-one knows you’re there then no-one is a threat to you. You, on the other hand, are a threat to everyone.

THE CIVILIAN, THE INNOCENT, AND THE NON-COMBATANT IN WAR

It’s an interesting theory of war and I think it is at least partially true. Especially from the pragmatic standpoint. I rarely argue against pragmatism or practicality.

But I strongly and truthfully suspect the whole issue is far more complicated than that. For instance, psychologically, and this is especially true once Christian ideals get fully embedded in a society (rather than a society just formally accepts Christianity as a state-religion), most soldiers (truer as time progresses, but especially true of the West) have no desire to kill or harm a civilian, innocent, or non-combatant.

Yes, pragmatically you’re wasting much needed resources and both tactical and strategic advantage by attacking non-combatants, but also, psychologically, you feel it immoral and evil to do so if it can be avoided at all. I know I do.

I would also feel it immoral to attack a combatant who has truly surrendered (rather than just making a pretense of it) or who has demonstrated they have no more desire to fight. Commiserate with that I would have no desire to kill a prisoner of war, or any helpless prisoner. To me all of those things are simultaneously entirely un-Christian and highly unmanly.

Why do we spare civilians in war?

October 13, 2014 – 06:23

Neither compassion nor charity were the reasons why Western soldiers spared enemy civilians in war, new Danish research shows.

Soldiers relaxing in a village. They are not popular among the residents, who may have been citizens of an enemy territory. (Painting by Adam Albrecht)

Soldiers get killed in war. That’s the way it is.

But it hurts us more when people not in uniform lose their lives, despite the fact that a soldier who gets killed just as well can be someone’s boyfriend, son, father, daughter or best friend — just as any civilian.

So why do we actually distinguish between soldiers and civilians? Gunner Lind, Professor of History at the Saxo Institute of the University of Copenhagen, has found answers to this question.

“Soldiers easily got into difficulties using their energy to fight civilians. So the practice was introduced, according to which soldiers would do their best not to harm civilians who refrained from taking part in acts of war,” says Professor Lind.

The military historian has presented his research in a new book, ‘Civilians at War’, in which a number of Danish and international researchers have examined the development of the concept ‘civilian’ from the 16th century up until our modern era. His research begins at a time when the brutality and customs of war of medieval times still applied.

“We all have the impression that the Middle Ages were extremely violent and that’s not far from the truth. The level of violence was really high,” says Lind.

Rules of law laid down by church father

In the Middle Ages everybody carried a weapon. Peasants might not have had swords but they had daggers or axes which they used for their work on the farm.

Conflicts in the form of rebellion, feuds or actual war could arise out of the blue because violence was a tool everyone used. When the state or a squire entered into a feud they would gather local peasants, who would bring along their own weapons. In addition to this, a warlord could hire professional warriors and draw on the services of the nobility, who had spent their youth training in the art of war.

Learned Christians and those in power in medieval society saw it as quite legitimate to go to war, despite the moral imperative of the Biblical Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill”.

Augustine of Hippo, also known as Saint Augustine or Saint Austin, who lived in the fourth and fifth century A.D., asserted that there was such a thing as just war, in which Christians could legitimately be involved.

Christians: you may kill, but spare the innocent

Killing in a just war could be justified if one’s adversaries had committed a grave injustice, such as declaring war on, or threatening the lives of, Christians. This was the reason for the preliminary declaration of war in 1095 which led to 200 years of crusades against Muslims.

Among adversaries, however, there would theoretically always be innocents who had nothing to do with the grave injustice committed, and it was deemed that they should be spared by the warring parties.

Was anyone automatically innocent? For instance women or children?

“Children, yes. But women — we can’t be sure of that,” says the historian.

He explains that women had little influence in the society of the day, and children absolutely none whatsoever. The Christian thinkers of the day, however, disagreed as to how innocent women actually were in war, and some held the belief that women could be held to account for an adversary’s unjust actions and thus be held responsible.

Professor Lind does not think the concept had much significance in practice. It was not possible, for instance, to keep a town under siege without its children suffering as a result. Hunger and disease invariably followed in the wake of a siege…

ISOLATION

I’m very selective about the video games I play. I like video games but have very little time to ever play them. As a matter of fact I still have 6 or 7 video games in my library I’ve never finished. But I would buy and play this game. I love Survival Horror Games.

The Secret, of course, is, you don’t wanna panic…

 

​Watch People Panic And Die In Alien: Isolation

​Watch People Panic And Die In Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation isn’t exactly a “fun” game to play. It’s super stressful and really difficult. It’s definitely fun to watch other people play it, however.

Once this game is out, I sense there will be a lot of good times to be had watching people hide, flee, and panic as they attempt to survive. In the meantime, a few notable folks on YouTube who got early copies have shot some enjoyable videos of themselves playing.

If you’re curious how the game holds together, I reviewed it. (Short version: Very cool, extremely stressful, has some issues, not for everyone.) But if you’d like to see how the whole “Hide from an alien until it eventually kills you” thing plays out in action, these videos are a good start. Worth noting: these videos spoil some early parts of the game, so if you want it to be as scary and surprising as possible, you might want to skip them.

First up, Mr. Jim Sterling has a pretty enjoyable playthrough of the medical complex, which highlights just how many ways things can go wrong…

GAMING AS A MEANS OF UNDERSTANDING THE REAL WORLD

After many years of both observation and experimentation it has been my conclusion that the real reason games are superior to most neuroplasticity (or even educational) programs (no matter how good in design) is because games are by both design and play active and fluid, whereas most neuroplasticity and cognitive learning programs are essentially passive and static.

I don’t think it is a secret to anyone that the more you involve the body and the senses and the mind and even the soul (psuche) in conjunction with whatever subject matter is to be learned the more easily will that subject matter be later recalled and the more deeply it embeds itself into the memory.

Whether most people realize it or not most games are active tactile as well as mental in nature, and even in things like Role Play there is a huge amount of engagement with the imagination in a wide range of input fields (imagined sights and sounds and smells), not to mention the large amount of involved social interaction.

So whether it is the visual and tactile stimulation of a video or computer game, or the tactile and social and imaginative interplay involved in a role play or even a board game what is learned is much more visceral and applicable later on to the Real World. (And if you cannot carry what you learn to the Real World then what you have learned is pragmatically useless.)

Consciously or subconsciously the impressive sight and sound and the imagined impulse and acted-out (role-played) solution is a far superior problem solving exercise than is the static learning and answer format.

Games are alive in ways that most cognitive learning programs are not, and cannot be, unless radically redesigned to be directly applicable both to the Real World and to the entire human being.

So the solution to this problem is an obvious one, learning techniques that are active and tactile and sensory and that engage at problems as if they were Real (for the mind has a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy at the very moment of actual employment) are far superior to didactic and dialectical and other such static learning techniques.

Especially when it comes to skills mastery and skills employment gaming is far more vital and functional and efficient than mere instruction and static learning practice techniques.

That’s just the way it is.

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