Blog Archives



This article on Viking clothing reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to discuss for some time now. In my games and in my writings, Craft (and by that I mean High Craft), often plays a large and beneficial role in both individual matters and even in larger events.

Using boots and shoes as an example characters have both found and had created for them (by master craftsmen) footwear that is not magical but rather so well crafted that it provides real benefits, such as resistance to extreme temperatures, resistance to wear and replacement, comfort befitting improved endurance or resistance to things like trench foot or blistering, and when they concentrate upon certain tasks (such as running, hiking, climbing, jumping, or stealth) they give definite though temporary advantages.(The characters must concentrate upon the task, for instance, and declare or show evidence that they are trying hard to sneak, or paying attention to their climb – but then such boots give temporary but definite advantages).Such boots or other items and gear (weapons, clothing, tools, etc.) are not magical at all but rather of such high quality and clever construction that they give measurable advantages over other items not constructed by master craftsmen.

(Though really well constructed items of High Craft might very easily be discovered far more susceptible to being enchanted at a later date than more mundane items. That is to say items of High Craft can be far more easily enchanted or ensorceled and such magics will far more easily affix and permanently secure themselves to objects of High Craft than to less well made implements.)


The same could be said to apply in a larger sense to whole groups of people. Nations with master craftsmen or smiths or even entire shops, foundries, and industrial operations devoted to High Craft (and invention and innovation) can produce gear and weapons and armor and equipment that gives a particular army a real and measurable advantage over another less well equipped force. Maybe even, en masse, a very large advantage. Again, not a magical advantage but a qualitative advantage of High Craftsmanship.

Though in a Tolkienesque sense it could easily be argued that High Craft is a form of “magic.” That High Craft is precisely what much magic really is.

With me however, at least in games, I usually use Magic as something “added to” or above and beyond even the Highest of Crafts. Though in my writings and novels High Craft and Magic are sometime synonymous and interchangeable or fungible, depending upon the particular circumstances of precisely what is being discussed.

I know that some use craft as a part of their game(s) and writings and some do not, but if you do, then what are some of the ways you use High Craft as an advantage on any level?

How do you use and employ High Craft in your own creations?


The Vikings Used Comfortable Shoes

Osberg Ship Viking Shoe One of the original boots found in the Oseberg Burial Mound dating back to 834 AD. ( number of complete Viking Age shoes found in Scandinavia and England have the same characteristics. They are flexible, soft and mostly made of cattle hide, but also other kinds of leather was used.There are complete shoes found in the Oseberg ship burial mound in Norway, Hedeby trading center in Denmark, and Coppergate (York, Viking Age Jorvik, Editor’s note) in England.

All three of these discoveries show a similar construction and form typical for the Middle Ages.

The shoes found in the Oseberg ship consists of two main parts, soles and uppers, and are so-called “turn shoes”.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Oseberg Viking Shoes

Reconstructed boots found in the Oseberg burial mound, by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ 

The shoemaker stitched the shoe together inside out, and then turned right side out when finished. This hides the main seam, prolongs the life and prevents moisture from leaking in.

Viking Age shoes (793 – 1066AD) were well suited for use in wintertime by using thick, felted wool socks and fur inside.

Materials and Tools

Studies of the leather shows that mainly cattle hide was used from the 9th to mid-11th century and was typically 1 – 3 millimeter thick.

(Article continues)

Coppergate Viking Shoe York

Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England. (Photo: via Pinterest)

A bristle or metal needle was used stitching flax, hemp, or a combination of the two. Shears or blades were used to cut the leather, and a simple awl to punch the holes.

At Coppergate twelve examples of iron shears were found.

Tanning and Color

Vegetable tan was the primary method for tanning, but also alum tans and oil tans were used in luxury leathers.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Coppergate York Viking Shoe

Reconstructed Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England by Bjørn Henrik Johansen.  (Photo: by Bjørn Henrik Johansen/

Modern vegetable tans are much stiffer due to industrialization and shortening of the process and are unsuited for turn shoes.

Like today, elaborately made clothing and shoes were visible proves of high social status.

Scientists have concluded that the better-quality shoes and boots had much more color than can be seen from archaeological discoveries.



This week, for the Design of Things to Come we go back to the old ways.

My old man was a tool and die maker. So I was around metalworking and metalworkers most of my youth. Both at his shop and at home. I also met more than one blacksmith.

I’m going to watch this entire with no little fascination.

Thanks to Jake Powning Swords. Who also does superb and beautiful work.



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…



This is a sort of parallel post to one on Easter Eggs that I will post here later on.

Today a buddy of mine sent me a link to an Army video on Hyper-Realistic Tactical Training. (Think of it as a kind of live-action wargame involving TSS/Transferable Skill Simulations. I cannot herein reproduce the link because the link has since been extinguished, probably due to security REASONS.) He knows that I’ve been active in experimenting with and developing gaming related training techniques for a long time and thought I’d enjoy the video. (I did by the way. I had never seen it before.)

Anyway the video reminded me of a technique I use both in-
game(s) and in training scenario development that I call Situational Enrichment.

You might think of situational enrichment as the non-combat version (or parallel development version) of Hyper-Realistic Immersive Training.

It has a couple of objectives, but this is basically how it works. You take a non-combat situation, but one highly charged, and interject the players into this situation without warning. The situation will be filled with a veritable plethora of challenges, obstacles, and enrichments. Usually these enrichments will be multi-layered, have various applications, will sometimes compete against each other (in nature, or for the player’s attention), be in continual motion, and have some immediate or demanding application.

The point of an enriched environment is to provide a high level of stress and potential danger without anything that might necessarily induce a combat situation. It will simply be that the enriched environment will be filled with so many potential problems, devices, articles, objects, creatures, movements, events, etc. that are all happening either simultaneously or in quick succession that attempting to react to everything available might very well produce exhaustion, or information, observational, and functional overload. Plus a well-enriched environment might present so many “potential dangers” (regardless of whether the dangers are real or not) that to the player it seems as dangerous if not more so than a standard combat situation.

One of the advantages to this kind of situation (among others) from the point of the DM or scenario developer is that you can test the participants’ reaction capabilities, see how they react to conflicting and/or multiple stressors, and to conditions of “overload.” The advantages to the player are manifold, but include learning to handle high stress situations that do not involve combat, improvement of observational skills, learning to organize reactions to environmental demands (conducting environmental triage), improvement of mental capabilities and problem solving abilities, and so forth and so on. Plus such situations are usually very interesting and fascinating to both develop and play through.

You do not want to inflict conditions of Situational Enrichment on players continuously as they can become mentally exhausted, just as protracted periods of combat or unknown danger can also take a mental and psychological toll.

But used occasionally and judiciously they can, I think, provide a fascinating enrichment experience, and serve as a great training scenario for future actions.

Let me give an example of what I would call an Adapted Gaming Enrichment Situation.

Situation: (this is a situation I have actually used before) The players have been moving through a set of underground ruins. It has been a relatively long time since they encountered any creature or real danger or threat. They are walking down a seemingly ordinary corridor when suddenly there is a blaring din, like several horn blasts going off simultaneously. The noise does not abate but only grows louder over time. At about the same time the walls begin to pulse and glow in a variety of different colors, and it can now be seen that the walls are covered in complex and strange glyphs and designs. As the noise gets worse the walls glow more fiercely until the light becomes almost painful. Fire erupts behind the players and seems to run along the floor, ceiling, and walls. Smoke begins to accumulate along the ceiling and the temperature rises. From the fiery ceiling suddenly erupts a huge swarm of buzzing, flying locusts, all alight. They are careening crazily towards the players. Forced forwards by the fire and the burning insects the players tumble into a room ahead that is also blaring non-stop and whose walls both pulse and seem to bleed. The locusts begin landing on the players, threatening to set their clothes afire. There is apparently a pool of water ahead but as the players move for it a large flesh golem erupts from the water and it can now be seen that the liquid is corrupt and foul. The golem does not attack but screams relentlessly, gesturing wildly at the players and a corner of the room in which lies a man, seemingly a fellow adventurer, moaning in pain and severely wounded. As the party watches some of the locusts swarm around the golem and it and the pool catch fire. The pool was actually filled with some type of highly combustible liquid, not water.

The golem screams even more loudly and rushes towards the wounded man. Before he can reach him the floor drops away spilling both the golem and the man into some type of pit. The players can hear the man is crying and begging for help, but just barely due to the intense and relentless blare. Many of the blocks upon the floor begin to heat, but some seem dark and cool. The air begins to shimmer and several characters vanish from sight, only to wink back into view ten to twenty seconds later. The ones who disappeared swear that it was the other players who actually disappeared. This continues at random intervals until one player reappears in different clothing, and with different possession than he had before.

Suddenly three doors appear which might allow escape from the room. One is on the ceiling and is apparently made of stone and metal. One is on the floor and has already caught fire. One is on the wall on other side of the pit where the golem and man disappeared, and has a demonic like face with a horn for a mouth. The din seems to be absorbed by the mouth of the monstrous face but any time the players try to speak or communicate with one another the demon mouth also instantly absorbs their words. Suddenly the din is gone but there is no noise at all as the face mouth absorbs all sound.

How would your players react at each stage of such a scenario or situation? What would they make of it? How would they attempt to solve such problems, and in what order? What would they fear might be happening?

The point of an enrichment environment however is not necessarily to do any physical harm to the players at all. It is to misdirect, exhaust, and test them with seemingly dangerous, bizarre, and confusing situations. Although occasionally I will throw in a trap or series of them or a real fight in the middle of such a disordered or over-stimulated environment.

However the example I just used was one of “Stress Enrichment.” You can also enrich an environment in any number of ways, such as providing so many amazing, wonderful, and valuable things, all operating at once that the players have a difficult time sorting priorities and modes of reaction.

Anywho, that’s some of the ways I use situational enrichment. Do you do something similar or related, and if so, how do you o about it? Can you cite examples?



I don ‘t know how much of this was real, or not, but some of the shots were entertaining…


Incredible work in any age or epoch …


The man is quite skilled. I like his work.

A Gramary of Art


I’ve been carving staffs since I was eight years old. I’ve spent many happy days hunting for suitable trees. Searching through the hills, rooting through thickets, lying on my back with my cheek against a sapling sighting it’s trunk for straightness.


It’s not easy to find the right sapling for a staff, it has to be a good hardwood like maple or beech or oak, and it must be straight and have a good root bowl.

When I find a tree that’s just right I begin digging down into its roots with my fingers, often chipping my nails on small stones in the rocky soil. I have a short saw with me, a hand axe, and garden sheers. I snip the smaller roots and saw through the big tap root. I prize the tree from the ground. With my hand axe, I trim the branches and cut the crown. The feeling of having found a good staff is the same as the hunter coming home with supper.

Last week I carved a wizard’s staff to go along with the dagger I’m working on. I carved it from a maple sapling. I was inspired by some of the artifacts I saw at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford UK, and also by my friend Professor Ari Berk‘s amazing study. Professor Berk’s subterranean lair is like the Pitt Rivers if someone tried to fit it into a much smaller space and it had a genuine wizard living in it (but without the mummified babies)…


This subject has enough relationship to both the Real World and the Gaming Milieus that we create that I thought I would link it from Launch Port:

A friend posted this article earlier today on his Facebook page and I have enough personal interest in the subject and the idea occurs often enough in my own inventions, business projects, and writings that I thought I would comment here on the Launch Port.

The iron could have been inserted later, but my general supposition is that Iron, and possibly even Steel development occurred long before what is historically accounted, in certain isolated areas or as a result of individual experiments by certain particularly gifted smiths.

The “Ages” we attribute to history are really just generalizations on wide-spread (what we would call today industrial and/or historical) development. History implies within the very term that there must be an historical record of a thing, and that this record must be available for recognition and study. Without an historical record of some kind there is no history, but whether any particular thing actually exited or not sans an historical record, that is an entirely separate matter…

%d bloggers like this: