Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

7 January, 2013

Sticky Stories: The Tolkien Legendarium

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

There are some stories that just seem to stick. Some stories that latch on, and stay with me, never leaving my brain, and resurfacing every now and then to make me ponder the intricacies and details and themes they explore. Stories that I periodically just have to read or see or experience again.

The Myst franchise contains such a story. As does The Dark is Rising Sequence. And the one that’s currently bubbling around near the surface is the vast story found in the works of Tolkien.

Obviously, what has brought this fit of bubbling thought on right now, is the first Hobbit film. I’ve seen it twice now, and enjoyed it greatly both times. It has its flaws – I’m basically of Dave Kellett’s mind here. While it is a very entertaining film, I am far from convinced that it needed to be split in three. And when it is split in three, it does not need to be three hours long.

But while the film is greatly entertaining, it isn’t the book, isn’t the depth and mad brilliance of Tolkien’s writings. Much like the Lord of the Rings films, it is a good, nay great, effort to tell that story in film form, but it mostly just whets my appetite for rereading the books. I want to see again how it all fit together in the text.

The Encyclopedia of Arda did a series of articles back when the Lord of the Rings films came out, the Movie-goer’s Guides, which listed some of the most important changes from book to film. I wish they’d do more of those for the Hobbit, I’m always game for a good explanation of Tolkien’s work.

I did find another list of changes, but it seemed less thought through and coherent in its presentation, listing even the most minor of quibbles as its own huge point, and I was so annoyed by its Cons section I eventually couldn’t read on. Oh, no, this change means using a word of dialogue that Tolkien didn’t write! Horreur!

The point is, I’m now in a mood to revisit this story. The best way would be a reread – Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion all – but considering how little reading I get done these days, I doubt it’s be the best idea. Maybe I can just do the Hobbit, and contend myself with that.

Or maybe I’ll just watch the Lord of the Rings films again. Yeah, that sounds nice and lazy.

22 October, 2012

A Lack of Board Games

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I feel like I don’t have enough board games.

I don’t know if I’m properly qualified to be a board game geek (though I do have an account on BoardGameGeek), since I haven’t really played a wide variety of games. I do however feel like one, like someone who will go out of their way to get in a fun board game. But I feel like I don’t own enough of them. I’m actually less than impressed by some of the mainstays. Carcassonne, for instance, I’ve never seen the appeal of. There are a few I do like enough to have standing on the shelves however.

For a good long while, the only game I had was the Game of Thrones board game, which I’ve written a bit about before,  and which I used to play with friends pretty regularly. I still play it, but much less regularly now. It’s probably my favourite game, but it takes a while and needs many players, so we have to make an Event of it.

I’ve got a couple of card games. Monty Python Fluxx and Chrononauts are both good fun, but rarely see play. Bohnanza is a fairly recent acquisition, and has also not seen much use. Citadels I’ve had on the shelf for a little while, but never played – the opportunity has yet to present itself.

Kill Doctor Lucky I have gotten to play since obtaining it, and it was as much fun as I remembered. I quite like that style of humour – the family board game of murder in the dark. Earlier today I purchased a copy of Pandemic, which I have enjoyed playing in the past. I even played a little solitaire round to refresh my memory of the rules. I won.

And that’s it, really. That’s all that’s on my shelves. Like I say, I feel it’s not enough, but I don’t know where to go next.

I have been watching and enjoying Wil Wheaton’s TableTop show, but it hasn’t really inspired me to go get the ones I hadn’t heard of before yet. Maybe one will show up eventually?

Or maybe you, gentle reader, have some suggestions?


27 August, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: Classification Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

About six months ago, I complained about my dissatisfaction with the Dewey Decimal System as an organisational tool. I bitched and moaned about its nonsensical hierarchy, and generally expressed a desire for something that made a bit more sense for organising my shelves.

While I’ve managed to keep quiet about it since, the dissatisfaction remains, simmering away out of sight, and bubbling up every now and then – usually when I look at my shelves. Now we’re in August, the start of a new semester, and with it comes a whole bunch of new non-fiction books. This is when the dissatisfaction boils over.

Proper classification systems are a lot of work and a lot of planning and a lot of careful considerations. That’s why there are professional librarians who do it, and why the people who own the big systems charge a good deal of money for licensing them. I have, reluctantly, conceded that a system of organising my own shelves does not need to be universal in scope. If I trim it to the bone, it really only needs to cover the books I own – though I do want it to be open enough to accommodate topics which I currently do not own any books in. So, forging ahead in ignorance, without any classification experience or qualifications, I am trying to make myself a system I can live with. This post will be partly what I have done already, and partly me doing it on the fly; let’s see where I end up.

I started with making little digital cards, with book titles on them – one for each non-fiction book I own. I then started sorting them into piles based on the broadest categories I could think of. This resulted in seven clear categories – History, Religion, Literature, Education, Philosophy, Language and Food (I own a single cook book).

Some of these probably shouldn’t be top-level. I’m looking at you, Food. There are some books left over which I have not quite decided where to put – do my books on comics go with literature, or should there be an art-category, or should comics finally get to be their own thing? The Communist Manifesto doesn’t feel like it belongs in History, should I have a category for economics, or maybe politics? Should The Federalist Papers and the US constitution, in that case, go into that bag, or should there be one for law? Do Michael Moore’s political satire go in with politics, or does it belong with the other humorous non-fiction I own? I guess I did put the satirical literary history in with the rest of literature. And what about my two quote collections?

Say I do add Politics and Art. Let me compare my categories to the tags I have used for these books on LibraryThing. I’ll line up the top twenty tags that describe contents with my proposed categories.

religion (44)
history (36)
ancient (18)
Christianity (18)
classic (16)
mythology (16)
epic (15)
literature (13)
Greece (12)
linguistics (11)
language (9)
Rome (8)
America (7)
Bible (7)
Antiquity (6)
English (6)
humour (6)
American (5)
biography (5)
empires (5)

Several of these tags aren’t really all that useful on their own – that’s the beauty of tags, they can work together to paint a more complex picture than a single subject label can. That’s also what makes them less than ideal for shelving systems. Books tagged Greece or Rome or America could easily be literature, religion or history, with no way of telling from that one tag itself. Tags like Christianity and mythology obviously belong as a subset of Religion. After talking the matter over with a friend, I also grouped biographies under History. The politics tag didn’t make the list, but it has five books associated with it, while art only has one.

I think it would be a good idea to look at how other systems do it – even if I am trying to tailor-make something for my own collection, there’s no reason to struggle to reinvent the wheel. Melvil Dewey’s top-level goes something like this:

  1. General Works and Information Sciences
  2. Philosophy and Psychology
  3. Religion
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Language
  6. Mathematics and Science
  7. Applied Sciences and Technology
  8. Arts and Leisure
  9. Literature
  10. Biography and History

Education would go under Social Sciences in this system, as would Politics and, indeed, economics. Food would go under Applied Sciences and Technology, which admittedly makes cooking sound pretty bad-ass, but I’m not quite sure about that particular delegation.

This isn’t a project that will be finished in this post. I think I need to look up some other classification systems, and compare more top-levels, before I hash out which ones I think make sense, but I want to do as much of the process as possible in public, so that others can let me know when I’ve done something dumb.  I think I’ll pause here for now, and go do some reading.

16 August, 2012

Indulging Geeky Habits

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Gallifreyan circle writing

OK, admittedly, this post is going to be me indulging in a bit of weird geekery.

I am a big fan of the TV series Doctor Who. I am one of those Johnny-come-latelies who only started with the modern series, but I am trying to round out my Whovian education by going back and watching a bunch of the old series – it’s slow going, but it’s there.

But that’s not the point of this post. As xkcd has just pointed out, there’s always a geekier level further down.

The modern series of Doctor Who has at several points featured writing in the Gallifreyan language, the native tongue of the main character. These samples of writing have been circles, interlocking in patterns. It looks pretty cool. I assume the people who put it in – would that be set dressing, I wonder? – have some sort of system to make it more than just random circles. At least I hope so. I think I recall someone saying in a DVD commentary that there was one. Of course, if there is one, we the viewers don’t know what it is, because it hasn’t been released. This is where we descend one level deeper – not just Doctor Whoand fictional writing systems, we enter the realm of rampant fandom and the home-made variety.

Some clever cat of a doctor who fan actually sat down and worked out a usable script of circle patterns. His website seems to be down for the moment, but there’s a pretty good explanation of the script here. Now, it’s not really a script with a particular language in mind, it’s mostly just an elaborate cypher for the Latin alphabet – but good enough to include separate glyphs for digraphs like ng, th, sh and ch, and it drops c, so there’s some movement towards phonetic transcription. Since I am not yet quite at the level below, where you’d actually learn Gallifreyan, a cypher is enough of a toy for me. I love this thing, it looks cool and very Who-y. Here’s the name of this blog:

Gallifreyan circle writing

Like I said, this post is mostly just indulging the geekery. Lookit the pretty pictures! I’ve always had a bit of an interest in constructed languages and the constructed scripts that go with them – and as a relevant aside, have a look at Omniglot some time – but this is the first one that’s got me sitting there just playing around with making pretty circles.

Gallifreyan circle writing

Go on, have a go transliterating that back into English! It’s not as hard as it looks. And it’s fun!

16 July, 2012

Welcome to My World: Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

For previous posts in this series, click here.

I mentioned, in the post that turned out to spark this little series, that I have put some thought into the time keeping of my D&D world. Ludicrous amounts of thought, actually, considering that this is a point which is hardly even relevant when playing a game. I’m just the sort of person who wants consistency of holidays and seasons and full moons, I guess. So I made up a calendar for my world. And then, thinking it very unlikely that everyone would use the same calendar, I made another one. And then two more. Yeah, nuts.

I started by deciding the length of the year – for reasons of pure simplicity, I decided to keep days and hours the same length as their real counterparts. I went for a year of 373 days, because I am a tremendous idiot who didn’t think far enough ahead to avoid a prime. By the time I did figure out that maybe I should have gone with something evenly divisible, I had done too much work to feel like starting over. You should see my spreadsheet. Actually, no, you shouldn’t see my spreadsheet; it is a monstrosity of kludging, but it seems to work.

I wanted leap years, ’cause why the hell not, so my year actually ended up being 373.125 days long. Throw in a moon with an orbit of 28 days and it’s all down to the details.

My first calendar I dubbed the Iounian Calendar, naming it for the goddess of knowledge, figuring that in-story it had been invented by her earliest clerics, not long after the world was finished. This is the main calendar, in use by the gods themselves, and the default for me as GM. It has thirteen months, of either 28 or 29 days – like the Gregorian calendar, it can’t follow the moon exactly. Every eighth year, the last month gains an extra day. The months are mostly named for various gods – and since these are just the core gods, I don’t reproduce them here. In any case, it would only make sense for month names to vary by time and location – it is the system of the months that is the important thing. The year starts with the winter solstice, since that was the position of the sun when it was first made. Much easier to make calendars in magic land.

Along with this system of thirteen months, the Iounian Calendar has a nine-day week, with the days also named for various gods – the thing was thought up by pious clerics, after all. This calendar is in use on the continent where I have done most of my work so far, the site of Arkhosia, Myklafar, and of such from-the-books locales like the Nentir and Elsir vales. Being divinely endorsed, it is very widespread – saving me the trouble of making even more unnecessary calendars.

The second calendar, I thought up almost right after the first – the Dark Calendar. This one’s in use in the Underdark, the vast caverns beneath the world. I figured this one was constructed by the drow following their break from the other elves and relocation into the Underdark. Since the drow sort of give me French revolutionary vibes, I went with clear mathematical precision on this one. None of those weird natural cycles. 10 months, each with 5 weeks, each with 5 days. No names, just numbers. At 250 days a year, this is the shortest of the calendars.

Next, I went for lunar. Since there are about 13 full moons per solar year, the lunar calendar also calls 13 months a year. With each month being 28 days long, though, the year becomes 364 days long, 9.125 days shorter than the solar year. The result, like with the Islamic Calendar, is a system of months which move relative to the seasons. Since the moon is fairly closely associated with the Fey in the core books, I made this the calendar type of the Feywild. In the Sehaninian Calendar, named for the moon goddess, the months all have sort of poetic names – in order they are: Breath, Division, Beauty, Lover, Hunt, Thunder, Twilight, Dragon, Mask, Decision, Light, Wolf and Shadow. I have a notion of Eladrin nobles refusing to make any significant decisions outside the proper month.

I did sort of want to make a lunisolar calendar, but I can’t figure out a good way. Screwed by my prime-based solar year, I have no Metonic Cycle of usable length to make it predictable – and if I can’t predict it, I can’t calculate the dates for it. If more mathematically proficient readers have any hints, I’d be happy for them.

The final calendar is where I clearly lost my mind. This one is used on a continent far removed from my main setting, and I wanted something completely different, so I based it on the Aztec calendar. Instead of months based on the moon, this one divides the year into 18 periods of 20 days, followed by a period of 12 days, followed by what is called the Nameless Day. Every eight years, you get two Nameless Days. The periods are based on the zodiac – each of them begins when the sun rises in a new constellation of the ecliptic, and is named for its constellation. The constellations are each associated with different gods, and so the periods of the calendar are as well. The 19th period belongs to the shortest constellation, the Arrow, which is specifically not associated with any god.

In addition to this count of the year, there is a count of days. There are twenty unique markers which is run through in a cycle in periods of thirteen days. When the thirteenth day is passed, the count starts at 1 again, but continues with the next marker. So the count goes: 1 horn, 2 root, 3 ox, 4 straw, and so on until 13 steel, followed by 1 death, 2 star and onwards. When you reach the last marker, which you would on 7 sun, you go back to the beginning, and the next day would be 8 horn.

I know, it’s kind of hard to wrap you head around the way I’m explaining it. The point is, you go through 260 days before you reach 1 horn again. Pair this up with the constellation periods above, and you go through 65 years between each time 1 horn falls on the winter solstice – a Great Cycle. So you have dates like 8 toad, 6 spider, which can only refer to one specific day within a 65 year cycle, and if necessary you add on a clarification of time period. I figure each new period is named for the king reigning at its beginning, so you’d have 8 toad, 6 spider, in the Great Cycle of King Whatshisface.

And, yeah, I can convert dates between them, using my aforementioned kludged spreadsheet. To pick a not so random date, I can tell you that the 12th day of the 7th month in the year 9580 in the Iounian Calendar, is equal to 13/6/9787 in the Dark Calendar, and to the 9th of Masks, 9820 in the Sehaninian Calendar, and to 13 steel, 5 ear in the 148th Great Cycle. I can also tell you that it was Ninsday, and that the full moon was six days away.

So there, my calendars. I had intended to segue from this into some stuff about the zodiac and astronomy and astrology in general, but this post is too long already, so that’ll have to wait for a different time.

16 April, 2012

Five of a Thing: D&D Monsters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

One of the things I like about D&D is the ridiculous number of monsters it has accumulated. There are whole pages dedicated to some of the sillier critters the game has now left behind. There are still some really weird ones in the mix, but I think most of them have some cool feature at this point. Leafing through my 4th edition Monster Manuals, I certainly find plenty to love. So here’s five of them. I’m not even going to say these are favourites, they’re simply five monsters I think are cool.

5 – Rust Monster

Way, way back, when I read my first D&D book (a red one), I remember this monster being in it. I think it was encountered in the solo adventure in that book, and it might even have rusted away my weapon. Or maybe I’ve invented that whole memory. Either way, the rust monster is such an unashamedly obvious “screw you” to the players, I can’t help but love it. It’s a monster specifically designed to destroy you stuff!

4 – Owlbear

Yeah, that’s right, I said owlbear, the poster boy for ridiculous combinations of creatures. This isn’t so much for what the owlbear currently is, as for what it could be. Look at these things, and tell me this creature that leaves people with no other recourse than to draw comparison to killers of land and air can’t be terrifying.

3 – Aboleths

A.K.A evil fish. Huge amphibians that come from the cuthulu-esque Far Realm, swimming in unknowable patterns beneath subterranean seas, spewing an incomprehensible hate throughout their surroundings. I have a weakness for that sort of Lovecraft-inspired monster, I guess.

2 –  Rakshasas

Humanoid big cats. What makes these cool are their backstory. There’s a player race called Devas (neither of these have much to do with the thigns they’ve taken their names from, just as an aside) which are basically angelic spirits who have decided to hang around in the world and fight evil. Every time they die, they reincarnate in a new body. Unless they’ve turned to the dark side, in which case they become rakshasas, compelled by their new nature to continue a life of depravity and violence. Good concept. A+.

1 – Weavers

To be honest, what I’m really responding to here is the look. While the concept of a people who claim they existed in the previous universe and work endlessly to end the current one to restore their own is pretty cool, what really sells it is the image of a slender six-armed creature with no mouth. I don’t know what it is, but picturing these things move in my head makes me love them. They’d be all graceful and calm and never make a sound, and then just throw an opponent through a wall. Awesome.

Honourable mention goes to the destrachan, which is a raptor with sonar. I repeat, it is a raptor with sonar.

My head is in a bit of a D&D space right now. Maybe I’ll write more about that later. For now, them’s the monsters.

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