T is for TrueNews

A Madness Talent for Don’t Rest Your Head

T is for TrueNews
the media, you know
has printed the story
there’s nowhere to go.

Some people call it Fake News. Sure. Most of it is… but not when you report it.

Publish a piece of News, spread the Word… the thing you made-up will happen. Hell, if you spend enough Madness it has happened already!

1-2 Madness: something unlikely, but of small entity, will happen. Eventually, probably in the next day or two (the news cycle is unrelenting, after all).

3-4 Madness: something very unlikely, or absurd, will happen very soon after you hit “Publish”. Or something of smaller entity will happen right away.

5-6 Madness: something YUGE will happen, no matter how absurd or covfefe. Or maybe it has already happened? One can never tell how deep the conspiracy goes, right?

As you use and abuse of this Talent, the meaning of the world starts to fray. The cause-effect relations strain. The plausibility gets thinner and thinner. Your link with factual reality becomes absent, even worse than what happens to most people in the Mad City. One day, before you realize it, you become a roving, screaming mass of contradictory conspiracy, constantly generating short lived edicts that the Paper Boys must deliver. You have become the Infowarrior.

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Building a gunpla (part 2)

building_gunpla.jpg

Ok, we saw in Part 1 what’s a gunpla, and which kind of gunpla do exist.

Let’s say you want to try to build one… what skills are needed? Is it hard? What tools and materials do you need?

I’ll link some Amazon.com items just so you can see which exact object I mean, not as an endorsement (and I don’t have a referral).

The absolute bare minimum

You need an HG kit. Technically, that could almost be it: you could remove the pieces from the sprues (runners) by twisting them, and snap them together. Let’s just say this is less than optimal and you risk breaking stuff, and you’ll end up with a kit with a lot of problems, and let’s just forget this option ūüôā

The actual minimum

You’ll need a kit, probably an HG kit is best to start with. Then you’ll need a side cutter. You can scrape by with a nail clipper, but that’s a bit barbaric: your plastic will be warped in the place of the cut. A better option is using a proper side cutter: they vary wildly in price so don’t splurge unless you’re sure you’ll use them in the future. Better, if you find another gunpla hobbyist in your area, ask if you can borrow their spare nippers. They’ll have a spare, trust me. The most important attribute of a side cutter (or nippers) is that they cut flat and flush. Beware of the classic electrical wiring nippers, they generally cut in a v shape.

A good starter set

Now, the side cutters are a good start. The set of tools you’ll need if you think this hobby might be interesting is not much bigger, and it’s all stuff that will last you a long while:

The cutting mat is obvious: it’s just a good surface to work on, will safeguard your table from the hobby knife, and so on. The knife can come very handy in the process of “nub removal”, as will the sandpaper (more on that later).

Other useful provisions

The amount of stuff a modeler can amass is limitless, but there are some other provisions that will come in handy soon if you build more than 1 gunpla:

  • Tweezers. The sharpest the better, straight or bent. Useful to place tiny pieces, stickers, and so on.
  • Small metal files. They can be handier to use than sandpaper.
  • Plastic Cement. This is not exactly glue: it melts the parts and bonds them together. I know I said you don’t need glue… but it can be useful to fix broken pieces, and for other procedures (and, yes, to glue parts in place).

I think that’s enough for now. In a later post I’ll link some base instruction, info and techniques for newbies to the hobby… just know that the Internet is a cornucopia of useful info, tutorials, videos that will be absolutely vital.

Dipping your toe in the Gunpla Hobby (Part 1)

building_gunpla

If you ended up here, you have probably expressed curiosity or interest towards the gunpla hobby.

First things first, a caveat: I’m far from an expert. I’ve been tinkering with gunpla for 2 years now. I’m a noob, with a limited experience and technical ability… but that’s ok, I like my hobbies inclusive and I like to explain stuff. There will always be time to learn more from more experienced people. Also, I’ll use my crappy photos where I¬†can, pardon the poor quality.

So what’s a gunpla?

Gunpla is a Japanese contraction of “gundam plamo”, and Plamo is again the Japanese contraction for “plastic model” (the Japanese love their contractions). So a gunpla is a plastic model of a Gundam. The answer to “what’s a Gundam” could be complex, and best left to another post… but in short, it’s a giant robot (or, rather, a giant humanoid shaped war machine piloted by a human).

So the gunpla hobby is simply a branch of the modeling hobby, roughly in the big area comprising historical plastic models (planes, tanks, ships) and other static models. Other kinds of modeling are dynamic (R/C models of cars, planes) and trains. Obviously the hobbies can overlap… for example, many of the techniques are the same when working with plastic, and some of the ones used to make dioramas are useful across the board (except for dynamic stuff). We build scale versions of giant robots. Yep.

Grades and Scales and… what?

Gunpla proper are made by Bandai, a Japanese company that also owns Sunrise, the company that have produced dozens of anime shows and manga in many different universes about Gundam (among other stuff). They’ve been at it since 1980, and it was what saved Gundam (the TV show had pretty bad viewership numbers in 1979).

Bandai has constantly improved its plastic molding process. What started as barely articulated robot figures in one single color of plastic, needing glue, paint, and a good amount of modeling skills, have constantly evolved. Bandai actually holds several industrial patents about plastic injection, and they have a strong drive towards perfection (but that might just be a Japanese thing). In these long years many of same robot models have been re-released from time to time, with increasing quality levels.

In the late nineties they actually started using an official way to codify those levels, calling them “Grades”, so as to allow different kits with increasing quality, but also complexity: on one hand, you know a 8+ yo kid will know he can snap together one kind of kit… and on the other hand, an older hobbyist will know they’ll find extra details and gimmicks in a more complex one. Good for business too: it’s a way to segment the market and have higher priced kits, also.

Scale

gunpla_scales

The same kit in 1/144 and 1/100

Gunpla kits are scaled down versions of fictional machines; in the fiction, the average height of one of these Mobile Suits is around 18-20m (60-66ft), so they have an official Scale, like a model train, or a WWII plane kit. Aside for odd cases, gunpla are sold in 4 main sizes: 1/144 (roughly the size of an action figure), 1/100 (roughly 30cm/1ft tall), and the bigger 1/60 and 1/48 (called Mega Size).

High Grade

Started in the late 1990, it was the first Graded line, and comprising now literally hundreds of models, the High Grade line is the most common. Their quality has improved a lot in

gunpla_hg

A modern HG

the years, but even pretty¬†old HG (High Grade) are completely snap-fit (meaning, they don’t need glue) and look very nice, with plastic in pretty much show-accurate colors (that is, they don’t need painting). They are pretty simple kits, and cheap (in Japan they sell for 8-15 USD), so that the young fans can get their start in the hobby.
At the same time, they are well beloved by experienced modelers too, since their simple engineering and low number of parts mean they are pretty easy to modify and customize.
Almost all High Grade kits are, nowadays, in 1/144 scale.

Master Grade

A line started in 1995, MG kits are a big step-up. Both in size (they are all 1/100 in scale) and in quality. Very old MG kits (before 2000, roughly) were a bit like big HGs with a bit

gunpla_mg

A MG with gold plated pieces

more detail, later on they continued to improve, and especially since 2006 they are the “gold standard” of the Gunpla hobby, with full endoskeletons (called Inner Frame in the hobby), movable armor plates, mechanical details hidden even under armor, and so on. They range from 30 to… more than 100 dollars I believe. But rest assured, the price is always proportional to the amount of stuff you get in the box. They can be big and full of gimmicks, accessories and alternative weapons.

Perfect Grade

The name says it all: the PG kits are the luxury Limo of the Gunpla hobby. They cost a lot (200 bucks or more, generally), big (1/60 in scale) and insanely detailed. Most also include accomodations to put in LEDs to light up parts of the kit from inside.

gunpla_pg

Promo image of a PG

Real Grade

Put simply… the amount of quality and details and engineering and part/color separation

gunpla_rg

RG kit, without any stickers.

of a Master Grade, but in 1/144 scale. These kits are the size of a normal HG, but can be superbly detailed. The level of engineering Bandai puts in them is surprising, and can be overwhelming.

Other grades

In the years there have been other experiments and combinations: there are right now 1/100 “no grades” (as in, they are not officially Master Grade), in the past there were several 1/100 HGs and super simplified First Grades (with limited components and articulation), the Mega Size kits are basically huge HGs, and so on… nothing a newcomer should worry about, if not to avoid some bizarre kit they won’t like afterwards ūüôā

This post is already pretty long so I’ll continue in Part 2 “Building a gunpla”, later.

A Scoundrel in the Deep has a new home!

SitD03It took a while, but me and Flavio finally gave a new home to”A Scoundrel in the Deep”, our little game of Sword and Sorcery, adventure, playing with fire and burned fingers.

Yes, the game uses lit matches as a mechanic. And it works!
Head on over to http://ascoundrelinthedeep.com and see for yourself!

There you’ll find a link where you can buy the game (it’s a short pdf) paying what you want (yes, even for free). Whatever you choose to give, you’ll make us happy.

And if you play the game and let us know, share it online, and maybe even snap a few photos, you’ll make us even happier: all the photos on the website are from an actual game, and I love them!

So long, PTerry.

Today, one of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett, left this ball of rock hurled into space.

My friend Alex over at Google Plus asked for pointers about where to start reading his Discworld books, since he never really got into them, and I figured I’d save what I wrote here for later.

So, let’s talk about Discworld, and how and where to approach it (if you so want), like I promised to +Alex Mayo.

The many Discworld novels share a world, and an evolving one at that, but they are not a “saga” or series, as such.

Roughly, one can identify 6-7 series “inside” the lot: the linked map is a very useful tool to identify what goes where, and in which order.

For the reader that wants to try Pratchett, or that wants to give it a try again after feeling it fell a bit flat, I’ll suggest something that will possibly sound a bit odd: avoid Rincewind and the other Wizards Academy books.
I know, I know, Rincewind and the Luggage are amongst the most recognizable bits… but trust me.

The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are still a bit rough: Pratchett had not found his voice yet, I believe. If you then go back and read them, you’ll recognize the seeds, but as a starting point? Not his best writing.

So, where to start? You got options:

Discworld Reading order v2.0 (all credits to lspace.org)

Discworld Reading order v2.0 (all credits to lspace.org)

The Witches books: I remember Equal Rites as still a bit unripe, but from then on it’s Witches time. The Witches books do a great job of playing around the tropes of stories, from fairy tales to Shakespeare. They have some greatcharacters in the witches themselves, and oohboy be sure to read at least up to Lords and Ladies because man, Elves are fucking terrifying.

The Death books: Death is a character in Discworld, and a regular after his introduction in the first Rincewind novels and short stories. And he’s a damn good character. The Death books talk about life, death, love and hope, and more. Oh yes and Hogfather will really teach you the true meaning of Christmas. Oh, sorry, I meant Hogsfather’s Day.

The Watch novels: ok, I lied, I’ll tell you. These are probably my favorite. They follow along the career of Vimes, who starts a drunk and in the gutter (literally) and becomes one of the best characters ever: lots of playing around the tropes of detective and hard boiled stories, but also lots of reflections about justice, morality, law, altruism, oppression, militarism, democracy, but also free will and the question of creating artificial life (no shit). Night Watch is, at times, a swift kick in the guts, and I found myself welling up many times reading it.

Industrial Revolution novels are probably not the best to start with, because they show the impact of the changing world on society, and if you don’t really know that world you might lose a bit of oomph. That said, they are brilliant. I still have to read a couple because, honestly, when I learned about PTerry’s illness I feared running out and kept a few on reserve ūüė¶

Others:

Pyramids is mostly standalone, and pretty funny, and Small Gods… dang, it’s one if the top 5 probably? A reflection on religion, faith, and how they affect people, and how they can be linked to morality… or not.

Oh, the “purple” ones in the map are more or less linked to the witches, but are YA novels with a young girl as a protagonist… and they are astounding. You have a young girl, right Alex? I would give her these over… probably mos of the YA novels I know about (Harry Potter very much included). +Ezio Melega¬†is a great fan and can maybe tell you better which at which age they are appropriate to read.

This is not all, but it’s already fucking long, so I’ll shut my trap.

A Scoundrel in the Deep is out!

Worlds Without Master Issue 6 Vol. 1 cover

The gorgeous cover for this issue of the zine (art by Jeff Brown)

Well will you look at that, my first published full game went public today!

It’s called A Scoundrel in the Deep and it’s a tiny¬†game for two players about a Scoundrel (well, duh!) trying to escape the ominous, mysterious and most importantly dark¬†“Tomb of the Deep”.

Imagine an archetypal rogue, an adventurer from the pulp era sword and sorcery stories: he stole the fabled Ruby and must find a way out… except the Tomb is pitch dark and they¬†only have a few matches left… and the Deep does not want them¬†to come out alive with their loot! And you actually play with matches, lighting them on fire and passing them back and forth with your play mate, the Deep.

You can buy the game right now, included in Issue 6, Vol. 1 of the e-zine Worlds Without Master: it’s really¬†cheap, and the zine is always full of delightful sword and sorcery goodness: fiction, games, a comic, inspiring illustrations and more. And if you like what you got, I suggest you join the Patron Horde by heading to Epidiah’s Patreon and pledging to pay a small amount of cash every time he puts out an issue (never more than one a month, and so far less than half of that): not only you pay less than buying the single issues afterwards, but you help make the zine better for the future.

The game was born from a joke on Google Plus, of all places: a friend noted that a portable version of Epidiah’s Dread rpg could be played with a lit match. The character of the player that burns their fingers dies! A joke, yes… but it kept bouncing in my head so I spit it out on the page in a very early, crude form. Then Eppy encouraged me to complete it, and most importantly my friend Flavio Mortarino came along and basically adopted the game as developer, bringing it around to actual people to playtest, brainstorming with me and helping me put down words on the page, completing and refining it.

So now here it is. I hope some of you will play it and have fun.

Try to play it in pitch dark for maximum effect!

The Fortress City

(Art by Adam Brockman)

This mighty fortress started in forgotten times as a lively city: one day the sky started cracking, as if a cut had riven its dome.

For a long time after the initial panic, it looked like nothing was really happening. But the infamous Grand Vizier Sakhet could not stand the feeling of impending doom from the sundered sky and ordered the council of sorcerers to prepare a ritual that would secure the city.

What happened afterwards was cruel misfortune, or maybe poetic fate: the rite devised to close the cut in the sky needed energy, and that energy had to come directly from the nearby lands… the sky was closed, but the land waned, eroded by the winds. In the span of a generation, the once mighty city was a fortress perched on a peak, most of its people long gone, bringing civilization and culture and colors to distant lands, leaving only a husk of the former glory squatting on the mighty peak.


This short bit of impromptu fiction is what you can end up with after a Lore Phase of Swords Without Master. It’s an odd little bit of the game that you actually play whenever you feel, not during a game session at all. One of the members of the g+ SwM community¬†posted a picture as inspiration, eidolon or simulacrum, and since it looked interesting I started a Lore Phase with whoever was passing by. You can read the process that got me to this bit of fiction in the thread.