Friday, December 25, 2009

Severing the Edge

It may seem odd to illustrate a comment on Takuan Soho's The Unfettered Mind with an image painted by Miyamoto Musashi, given that Soho is billed on the front cover of this Wilson translation as "Writing to Yagyu Munenori, Musashi's great rival", but when I read Soho's piece on "Sever the Edge between Before and After" I immediately thought of this image.

Steph also brought this piece to mind in a discussion recently about taking action, recalling the decisive stroke that forms the body of the branch the shrike here is sitting on. That stroke is so full of boldness and uncompromising direction, giving life to the concept of "severing the edge" as I understand it. Soho writes:

This [severing the edge] means one should cut right through the interval between previous and present. Its significance is in cutting off the edge between before and after, between now and then. It means not detaining the mind.


Soho's text echoes with meaning for me, even knowing as I do how the English translation must necessarily strip layers of richness and allusion from the original. But this idea, of severing the connection between past and present, resonates especially.

Musashi's line in this image admits no indecisiveness, no clinging to possibilities. Because it seems to me that indecisiveness is just that -- an inability to let go of past truths and untruths, to choose a single present and commit to it fully. If we sever the past from our present, we are left with only the present moment, and we can act with full intention and focus.

In Katori Shinto Ryu, when I practice maku-uchi men, it is this total presence that I am trying to achieve. My aikido instructor Sensei Skoyles used to say that iai practice was all about "cutting away at ourselves", ridding ourselves of weaknesses or failures to seek victory over ourselves. Every cut is an opportunity to loose failure, to let fears and anxieties fall away. Every cut is a chance for perfection, but perfection can only exist in this moment, never in the past where we are powerless to act.

When I raise my sword over my head, I try to release all thoughts, to let my mind move as it must and simply make the cut, fully present and fully engaged, holding nothing back.

It is very very difficult, but not nearly as difficult as doing it WITHOUT the sword. For the true value of this practice is learning to act with such presence and focus in my day-to-day life. Katori shows me a way to be but it is up to me to use that vision and apply it to the rest of my life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

For the Modern Megalomaniac

Note: If your maniacal bent-on-world-domination supervillain is NOT driving around in one of THESE, well...

Seriously, this is a piece of insanity that's either an utterly reprehensible use of resources and energy to provide a charming living space for ultra-wealthy wanna-hide-from-the-world-and-pretend-it's-not-my-problem types, or else it's totally awesome. I really can't decide.

It's beautiful, and imagine the state of mind of living in a place like this. Imagine paying full-time salaries for 20 people just to make your house operate. And I'm thinking whatever ocean you start in, you're going to stay in -- imagine taking this thing around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn.

I mean, I don't know, maybe it weathers storms without a tremor, but it sure doesn't LOOK like something that will be at its best plunging through hurricanes or dodging stormy reefs.

But as the lair of a criminal mastermind and location for a final shoot-out? Yeah, baby. So many great possibilities in this space.

Welcome to my brain -- whenever I see a new place, I immediately evaluate its potential as a climactic location in a game. It's a gift.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A recent proto-discussion on Twitter about the struggle in the RPG industry between amateurs willing to work for basically nothing and professionals who depend on a certain level of income for the running of their lives got me thinking.

The barrier to entry in this industry is pretty close to zero these days, and there's no sign it's ever going to go up. The tools to produce and distribute a PDF game product are available to pretty much everyone (at least, everyone who's even in the market for RPG materials), and so what happens? The price of RPG materials is getting driven downwards. Well, maybe it is. That's the theor

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Screen, You Screen

One of the things I love about RPGs is all the paraphernalia. Of course the polyhedral dice, rattling across tabletops, and on occasion miniatures (though I lack the patience/time to paint my own), but folders, charts, maps and especially screens.

DM screens are a staple of many game systems, and even though I rarely have papers or anything I want to hide from my players, I love those folding cardstock thingummies. One of my favourites of recent years is Green Ronin's Narrator's Screen for True20. It's attractive (without goofy illustrations on the front (although I'll admit, the illos on the old-school screen (at left) impressed twelve-year-old me)), and the design is well-laid-out and it's made from extra-sturdy cardboard so it doesn't get as flabby and useless as some other screens I've made use of over the years.

But as I pointed out a while ago, it lacks at least one basic necessary for smoothly running True20 (damage conditions). And as a screen for running the rambunctious sort of game DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND is meant to be, it's missing a whole pile of stuff.

So I've created a bodgery of a document that you can print off and use to update your True20 Narrator's Screen. It includes tables for the revised rules around Stunts, Reputation, Scenes, Minions and more! Just cut out the little boxes and tape them over the boxes indicated on your Narrator's Screen, and hey presto! You've got your own perfectly-arranged DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND Narrator's Screen.

Download now!