22 August 2012

Gloomy Night, Somewhat Gloomy Musings

It's kind of a gloomy, drizzly evening. I'm sitting here alone in a dark room. And Facebook is acting really buggy (even by Facebook standards), preventing me from having any semblance of a social life. So maybe I'll just sit here and write down some random thoughts.

Last weekend I was forced to spend time cut off from the internet. I don't know where the fault was, exactly, but apparently my ISP didn't deem it important enough to repair during the weekend. (Lazy sods.) So I ended up having an impromptu Buffy marathon (picking up from where I left off after starting a re-watch some time last spring), and ended up watching all of season 4 during that one weekend. Actually, on Sunday alone I watched a total of 16 episodes (basically doing nothing else that day). Which is pretty much a record for me, for any show. I had crisps. And dip. And Dr Pepper. It was fun.

And there's basically no real reason for sharing that, other than recording it for posterity... But speaking of spending time alone, well, that's a thing I do, a fair amount of, in fact, being a fairly introverted person by nature, and of the single persuasion. And I've been mostly fine with that for many, many years. I need me plenty of 'me time'. Can't live without it. But lately I've been thinking about this being alone stuff... maybe a little more than I'd like. For one thing, I'm getting to be at an age where, everywhere you turn, it's just couples and couples, starting families and stuff. And yes, I admit, I'm a little jealous sometimes. Not so much of the family stuff (that's really not for me), but of the simple fact of being able to reach out and touch someone, to share some kind of connection... Although perhaps more than actually being alone, it may be the powerlessness to do anything about it that's getting to me. It's been years since I've held any kind of hope of ever meeting someone, after all. What can I say. I'm a realist.

It's been a little while since I've had a drink, and I wasn't planning on drinking in the near future (among other reasons because I've got better use for the little money I have), but right at this moment, thinking about all this stuff, if I had any booze around... yeah, I'd get soddin' plastered.

It's not just this state of solitary existence that's darkening my thoughts, though. There's the regular aesthetic, arty stuff too, that tends to fill my day to day existence. (And that kind of darkness I view only as positive, although I guess the real life stuff and imaginary stuff might in some ways feed each other...) In particular my thoughts of late have often dwelled on vampires. This was mostly brought on by the latest storyline of Weregeek (have I ever even blogged about that? it's a pretty neat webcomic), dealing with a World of Darkness themed vampire larp. I've never actually played any WoD games, so I spent some time reading about them. And inspired by this I spent some time planning a vampire society for my own fantasy setting, Va'ita. And then I got to watching Buffy and we loop back to the beginning of this blog post and... um, yeah, right.

Add to the mix some spiritual musings I won't bore you with and a preference for dark music lately (I've been listening to Cradle of Filth a lot, for instance), it's a wonder I still have any colour at all in my wardrobe. (Yeah, well, I have neither the funds, skills or face to pull off a proper Gothic look, even if I wanted to...)

And that, I think, was more or less that. I seem to have veered from mere gloom and loneliness to ever darker (though mostly in an aesthetic way) realms, but, like, whatever... Sweet dreams. And remember, the Dark Side is powerful... ;-)

Escape from Lowresia: The Soundtrack

If just a little over a year ago someone would have suggested that I'd someday be writing a year's worth of regular comic strips, I'd probably have scoffed, and said: 'Yeah, right...' But somehow it happened. No, the comic has not made any major breakthroughs, frankly I'm lucky if I even have a dozen readers (that I know of), but still, it's been fun.

To celebrate Escape from Lowresia's first birthday, I have a special treat for you: Escape from Lowresia: The Soundtrack! Yes, a staggering 76 minutes of music inspired by video games!

As you may know, EfL is based on sprites I created a long, long time ago as part of a game programming project, which was never completed. I have also mentioned before that I composed a bunch of music as well for that project. Some of those tracks have been available on my website for years; some of the original Impulse Tracker files since, basically, the beginning, and later MP3 versions collected as the album Games That Could Have Been. However, I still had a lot of material lying around that had never been released.

Already soon after I started writing EfL, I considered the option of releasing some of the music, seeing as the graphics used in the comic and the music was created hand in hand, back in the day. Then last spring I finally decided to go through my old archives and dig up these old tunes. I first released the album Demon Armour Mamori, which basically contained most of the old tracker compositions not related to that RPG project that I deemed worthwhile.

Now at last here is the second volume, the most complete collection of music composed for that ill-fated game with the working title Rain to date. Since the graphics found new life as Escape from Lowresia, I am using that title for the album as well, although the tone is of course somewhat more serious than that of the comic's. Imagine it as the soundtrack to the game Raine and his companions were intended for, before being abandoned in Sprite Limbo. Which, of course, it is, quite literally.

Not only does the album contain a lot of music not found on the earlier Games That Could Have Been collection, all the music has been touched up, remastered, and encoded at 320 kbps, so it should sound better than ever. (The tweaking and mastering process took two whole days of hard work. And that's not including uploading the music to various places, converting to video files for YouTube and stuff, which together counts for probably another day or two. So I hope you folks appreciate it. :-p)

This album and Demon Armour Mamori together make up the definitive compilation of my tracker years. I doubt I'll be releasing more music from that era, or, for that matter, returning to that type of technology in the foreseeable future. This, I think, is basically all the decent material from that time I have. It was an important chapter in my development as a musician, and listening to the tracks on these two albums years later, I'm quite impressed by many of the compositions. It's obvious that a lot of work went into creating them. I hope someone out there will enjoy them.

And, as usual, you will find the MP3 bundle, stream links, and more info over at the music section.

20 August 2012

The Call of Flesh (A Poem)

So, uh, yeah... I guess this sort of thing happens when you're planning vampire related stuff for an RPG setting whilst feeling a little lonely... Not perhaps meant to be taken entirely literally. Perhaps... :-p

For darkest nights and stormy days
are best left the matters of spirit, I say
but of course the same is equally true
of flesh.
For does not that spark of lust
burn brightest in the dark of night
within each Man-child
so that we have died, many times over
thrust upon that deadly pyre?
They dance, the Children of Darkness
they dance around that pyre
calling out to me
and I long to dance with them
make one the spirit and the flesh.

Should I bare fangs at the sun
snarl and curse the bright, cruel world?
Or should I howl for the beauty of night
and the alabaster curves of flesh?
For surely the two go hand in hand
no night without moon
whether hidden or seen
paraded in that darksome cabaret
jewel of the Night Lord's harem.

Yet she is cold
and I long for warmth
a laying of hands
a panting breath.
What can it feel like
the beating of a heart
beneath the soft touch of a palm?
And from touch to grip
the dance begins
the tearing of cloth
the baring of skin.
How does that heart beat now
pressed against the cold stone wall
between the rock and the hard... place?

Answered then, the call of flesh
the siren song of blood.
Why should not a little of that warmth
be mine?
If only for a fleeting moment...

But into the night I slink away
lovelorn freak
alone in the dark.
Even if my heart could beat
who would be there to hear its call?

15 August 2012

In Memoriam: Harry Harrison

Famous people keep kicking the bucket all the time, but Harry Harrison is one I actually thought I should sit down and write a few words about.

I first read The Stainless Steel Rat sometime in my teen years. Like several other sci-fi/fantasy books I read during those years, it was something I found in my dad's bookshelf (which I'm sure played a large part in shaping my tastes for years to come, a fact I'm very grateful for). Besides Pratchett's Discworld series, the Rat books are among those I remember with most fondness from my late teens.

Perhaps more than anything else, 'Slippery Jim' DiGriz is the main reason for my love of scoundrels and con artist characters. I just love a good tongue-in-cheek con story. There are too few of them in the world of sci-fi and fantasy, I think.

Rest in peace, Harry. Here's to crime!

11 August 2012

D20fying Classic D&D

Although I've basically switched over from classic Dungeons & Dragons versions to Pathfinder, I spent a few moments earlier this summer browsing some old D&D materials, and the classic D&D clone Labyrinth Lord.

One of the best changes made in 3rd edition and later versions of D&D is undoubtedly the simplified attack rolls. All those tables of target numbers and THAC0 calculations and stuff in classic D&D feel so cumbersome now. So I started thinking about how hard it would be to convert the classic D&D combat system to use the simpler d20 System mechanism. And while examining this I realised both systems are actually based on the same underlying principles.

The only difference is in the way data is represented. In 3rd edition the AC is the target number for an attack roll, while in classic D&D it is an index number used to look up the actual target number from a table. Classic D&D also calculates level advancements directly into this target number, while in 3rd edition it is presented as an individual attack bonus.

Converting AC into a target number and calculating a character's attack bonus can actually be done with pretty simple formulae. So I set out to do so, not for any real current need, but just in case I ever wanted to run a game using classic D&D rules. And I also wrote down the formulae and made tables of each class's attack bonuses in an article in my RPG section, should anyone else be interested.

I considered doing the same for stuff like saving throws, but realised it wouldn't have much real benefit aside from superficially unifying roll mechanisms (whereas converting AC to target number does actually make combat easier when you don't need to keep track of different target numbers and players only require an easily memorised attack bonus for their rolls).

Of course I wouldn't be surprised if someone has already done something like this, I was just too lazy to search for it...

9 August 2012

Just Venting

OK, so I'm here
there's a deep pool
and a big friggin' fish monster
and fences, and fences
can't go forward
can't go back
a little tunnel
whatever the hell that rotating thing is
can't go forward
can't go back
and did I kill all those alien bastards for this?
I just want out
I'm no hero, I just want out
but I can't go forward
can't go back
and my mind wanders
and somehow finds nothing
(trapped in a maze of its own)
nothing but years of solitude
my life
running on Valve Time
'cause I can't go forward
can't go back
and I killed the fish monster
killed it dead
but no
still no
can't go forward
can't go back