Saturday, August 29, 2009

We Begin With

Bill Cunningham, Agent of Pulp, comes through with one of the most amazing things I've ever seen:



If I'd been there, my brain would have exploded with sheer delight. People are just so awesome. I mean, these folks went to a LOT of trouble to do something that serves no purpose other than to amuse and delight their fellow humans. That is the Angel of Joy, at work right there.

Now it was Justin who turned me on to 2D Goggles: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, which you MUST read and slaver over. As I'm basically a drooling fanboy for all things Ada Lovelace, this actually DID cause my brain to explode. Thanks, Justin.

But look: Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage invent the computer and FIGHT CRIME. Ada's the smart, sassy one who crawls around in the depths of the ginormous Analytical Engine, fixing bugs (with a wrench), while Babbage is completely insane. It's brilliant, it's hilarious, and you should go read it right now.

The world is getting positively crowded with folks who do great things and don't try to squeeze every possible cent out of their audiences. Not that dancers and comic-book artists shouldn't get paid -- Cunningham has all sorts of links, thoughts and advice to creative types on how to GET PAID. But at the same time, if you're not having fun with it, if you aren't able to sometimes just do something because you LOVE IT, what the hell? Go get a job, kid.

Look there on the right. That's Yumi. Yumi's crazy, and she talks to ghosts. You're going to meet Yumi and her friends in the near future, but Claudio did that picture of Yumi because he likes her. DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is meant to create opportunities to get paid, but it's also meant to be fun, and if all it ever does is provide delight to others, I'll be well-satisfied, I can tell you that.

Although I'll still wish I'd seen that dance number in the train station. That was brilliant.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sharing the DINO-PIRATE Love

I got involved in a bit of a conversation with the clever and oh-so-talented Philip J Reed (best known to me as Ronin Arts, but also a reviewer of toys. Not such a bad gig, I reckon).

It started when folks on Twitter started talking about the Creative Commons license for an upcoming game (not by Philip, as far as I know) called Eclipse Phase. Philip asked:
I can accept the idea that opening a game to fans will generate more sales but does that really work with small fan bases?

I responded with
on the other hand, when the amounts of money are so friggin' low to begin with, why not?

Philip said
If I was looking at building an IP, and not just a game, I would not go with CC.

I suggested
I think there's a model around CC-based development

Philip asked
But how do you then sell the IP to a studio or large publisher?

To which I responded:
well, clearly, you don't. THAT model doesn't fly. But you CAN sell material based on the IP.

Philip disagreed
I feel that creating any IP should keep in mind the possibility that someone may come along and want to make an offer.

My final statement on the issue:
that's fair. I'm more interested in how do I create as many fans as possible. Heard of "1,000 True Fans"?

(if you don't know, THIS is "1,000 True Fans")

So I quote all this not to send you trawling through the detrius of Twitter, but to throw up the fact that DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is in fact going to be an open setting. I'm still sorting out how that's exactly going to happen, but this is the plan.

And we'll do it with TECHNOLOGY.

No, I'm serious. The whole world is going to be able to help create this setting, and anyone who cares to will be able to profit from it (or at least try to). I didn't want to turn a private conversation into an ad, but it did get me thinking about the model here. It's a model of generosity.

The idea is that the more creativity I GIVE, the more opportunities I GET. Giving isn't the same as surrendering. It isn't about being ripped off, or not caring about money. But I do my best work in partnership with others, in community. And it's not always straightforward to build a community around the idea that DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is worth building (I know, I don't understand it either). But the broader the scope, the lower the barrier to entry, the more likely I think I am to find collaborators who will help build a mutually profitable enterprise. The more opportunities I am able to provide for other people's creativity, the more likely I am to find opportunities to generate value -- for myself and for my community.

Exactly how this is going to roll out is not 100% fleshed out but the teams are in place and things are moving along. I think I've figured out how to maintain consistency and yet allow free contributions. To let everyone who engages with the setting to make it their own. And it's happening. It feels real to me in a way it never has before. I've been working on this concept for some five years now, and it's very exciting to see it lumbering towards completion.

I should probably call it "The Rough Beast", huh?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

DPoNI: The Playing Cards!

Okay, feast your eyes on these babies. Hypersmurf, better known as That Insanely Awesome Guy From New Zealand, put together a deck of DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND playing cards! And you can buy them RIGHT NOW!

For the low low price of $10, you can buy a deck of Official DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND playing cards, and bring the likes of Victoria, Nobuhiro and Imperial Sorcerer Pak Siu Ming along on your games of Texas Hold 'Em, or Bridge, or Go Fish, depending on your preferred play style (I like Hearts, actually).

The cards use the soon-to-be-discussed "Factions" in DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND (well, four of them): Imperials, Ninjas, Pirates and Natives. These replace the old suits of Diamonds, Spades, Clubs and Hearts. This of course makes sweet little Narasaki into the feared Queen of Spades, but that's amusing.

You also get two Jokers in the deck -- the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex and the fetching but even more terrifying SLAVE QUEEN OF THE RUINED CITY.

This is such a deal you should really be buying eight or twelve decks. Seriously. All monies raised will be going to help needy artists in Brazil. We're not even kidding about that.

But beyond the relentless salesmanship here, it's pretty cool to see that DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is beginning to spread. The idea was always that this setting would take on a life of its own, and inspire creativity in different venues, through different media. It started life as a setting for a fantasy role-playing game, but over the next year or so you'll be seeing these characters and their world getting developed on multiple fronts.

This deck of cards wasn't commissioned or even designed by me -- it was an enthusiastic fan of the setting who put this together. And there's more where that came from. There's other expressions of this enthusiasm coming down the pipe. My job is going to be trying to create a structure or an environment where this sort of creative energy can be directed, and build upon what's already been done.

DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is an experiment, one that I hope enables creative engagement on many levels. Playing cards is just one expression of that.

So BUY THEM!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

YAAMV: Yet Another Amazing Music Video

Look at this. I mean, seriously, look at this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flaming Coward Challenge

Once again, Art Order's Jon Schindehette gets the illustration community to play in one of his Concept Tuesday challenges. This time it's to create a creature named "Flaming Coward". Click here to read the Flaming Coward's description, and see my entry below (with commentaries!). If you like it, swing by the contest's post and vote for me! And enjoy the many cool entries there, as well!

  • It is a subterranean creature that hunts in the dark. As such, it doesn't really *need* camouflage, so I gave it a pale, almost albino look. It is hairless, with lots of folds in its skin, like a bald rat or cat.
  • The eyes are enormous, allowing the Coward to see even the tiniest light (and hide from it). So much so that it is almost blind by bright light (hence the tiny pupils in the picture). Of course, with those ears it has no problem navigating by sound.
  • The Coward's claws are small in relation to its size, serving mostly to hold a victim while it bites (preferably from behind). With such big fangs, a bite is often all it takes.
  • Of course the Coward prefers to attack lone prey (like the hapless drow in the picture). But if it is found as it feasts, the bulging glands on its back pour a red-hot substance into the Coward's circulatory system. So hot, in fact, that the Coward's veins begin to glow in the dark! When the time comes to cool down, excessive body heat is radiated out through the bony spurs on the Coward's back and through the giant ears (like a desert fox).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

If We Can't Pin Down the Medium, What Happens to the Message?

So the story of how DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND came about is interesting enough, but the story of where it's going is starting to get even more interesting.

The whole thing started when super-genius JPL commented that he'd missed out on a competition for the best fantasy setting. In his words, his entry would have been:

fantasy Asia, filled with warring island nations. Samurai mounted on domesticated raptors. Bigger dinosaurs hunted by quasi-Polynesian tribesmen. Dueling factions of shadow warriors. Privateers and bucaneers battling the servants of the Imperial Navy. Fallen kingdoms deep in forgotten jungles. And I call it...

DINOPIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND!


Thus was born the legend, which turned into a couple of sprawling discussion threads and eventually culminated in me writing and running the adventure SLAVE QUEEN OF THE RUINED CITY, the first official DINO-PIRATES adventure. There was a short-lived campaign as well, and an online play-by-post game, but the DINO-PIRATES setting is starting to find a little traction in places outside the curious world of pen and paper role-playing games.

Story Hours

Re-edited, revised and re-posted from another blog, where I originally made this post before.

"Story Hours" are an interesting phenomena, particular to ENWorld, the premiere website and discussion forum for Dungeons & Dragons. It's an interesting concept; the whole "let me tell you about my campaign" writ large. Because the web as a forum is only semi-sensitive to audience reaction, it's possible for people to say an awful lot about stuff that you wouldn't be able to in regular conversation. Huge info-dumps, even.

This is how the "story hour" idea started; people wrote and posted logs of their games; what happened, in blow by blow detail. This later "multifurcated", if that's a word, into a number of styles. Some people use story hours as fairly sparse shorthand for what happened. Some people elaborate with recitations of dialogue, NPC vignettes, and other things that make the form more closely resemble "regular" literature. Some people are very strict about only including exactly what happened in game. Others are writing long after the fact, and are recreating from vague memories the details of the game in broad strokes.

In any case, a "market" for "story hours" developed at ENWorld to the point where a subforum was created specifically to cater to them, and some story hours have become big draws for the site.

One that I've always enjoyed is drnuncheon's Freeport Story Hour, a recitation of a playthrough of the original third edition Freeport Trilogy, and an interesting exploration of the setting, and urban fantasy gaming in general. In fact, when I've been asked (and it's come up a few times) how to do a successful urban fantasy campaign, one of the first things I do is point them to this story hour. It's a great example of a successful campaign set in a fantasy urban environment, where the adventures take place (often) within the city itself, instead of out in a "dungeon" somewhere. Since I strongly dislike the dungeon environment, this story hour piqued my interest more than most; urban intrigue is my personal bread and butter.

The story hour is also very breezily written; it settles into a more of a "semi-novel" style after a short stint as more of a "players log", with dialogue and good descriptions of action, and relatively few intrusive "gameisms" in the narrative. The author then does go on in other "out of narration" posts to give some interesting game info too. I could recommend a number of story hours---I've always been partial to barsoomcore's various efforts (of local fame, here on this very blog) for instance, and I've yet to meet anyone who didn't like jonrog1's or PirateCat's story hours---but for today, drnuncheon gets the honors of being recommended. I strongly suggest you check out the Dr.'s efforts.

In any case, I find the concept and phenomena of Story Hours fascinating; it's a new kind of writing that probably doesn't appeal to everyone, but to its target audience, it offers a genuinely unique experience. It also converges with some fantasy writing. A number of fantasy writers over the years have hinted that their novels and stories have evolved out of a gaming milieu (Raymond Feist, Steven Erikson, etc. I'm sure there's more that I can't think of off the top of my head) and this more direct tie to the hobby is, as I said, a very interesting phenomena.