Omnium Gatherum: February 27, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 27, 2019

  • Detecting Pessimism: Thomas Ligotti and the Weird in an Age of Post-Truth, a Symposium, June 2 2019, 70 Oxford St, Manchester Metropolitan University

    “This free symposium centres on the fiction, theory and impact of the acclaimed American horror fiction writer Thomas Ligotti. Ligotti is increasingly seen as one of the key literary horror and weird fiction writers of recent decades whose works present a unique, bleak and controversial portrayal of both human existence and society. This symposium follows the republication by Penguin of Ligotti’s award-winning non-fiction work The Conspiracy Against the Human Race in 2018 and the recent re-release of his first two volumes of short stories, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.

    Making the most of the expertise at Manchester Metropolitan, the symposium will comprise of two panels with papers delivered by our staff and students on Ligotti and the weird mode, and will include a keynote delivered by weird expert Prof Roger Luckhurst. We will explore the works, philosophy and influence of Ligotti within a diverse range of contexts, from philosophical nihilism and pessimism, weird fiction and horror to his impact on film and television.

    An afternoon of thought-provoking and genre-challenging papers will be followed by a wine reception and the launch of the new edition of Conspiracy. The day will culminate with an open floor discussion of a selection of Ligotti-influenced, weird and pessimistic monologues from the first season of True Detective (2014), a screening run in collaboration with Pilot Light TV Festival and Morag Rose (University of Liverpool). Tickets for this will be issued separately and will be available soon.

    Do please join us for what promises to be a vibrant day of events that aim to shed light (and an equal measure of darkness) on how the weird engages with contemporary politics and the human condition in an increasingly pessimistic age.”

  • Invisible Sun from Monte Cook Games, essentially an entire black cube in PDF now, as well as additional titles out now or coming soon.

    Monte Cook Games Invisible Sun

    “The Invisible Sun roleplaying game is an unprecedented production, filled with massive amounts of content for a unique roleplaying experience. The Invisible Sun PDF contains roughly 80 files, including (and this is not an exhaustive list):

    • Four books totaling over 600 pages of game and setting content, fully hyperlinked and bookmarked.
    • Roughly 1000 cards laid out in a printer-friendly format.
    • The Sooth Deck, a beautiful tarot-like deck that’s instrumental to game play.
    • The Path of Suns, used with the Sooth Deck.
    • A wide variety of tokens for tracking game info.
    • Several poster maps.
    • The Guiding Hand, GM’s notebook, in both a printer-friendly and form-fillable format.
    • Character tomes (similar in function to character sheets in other RPGs) for all four orders, plus apostates, along with grimoire sheets.
    • Five pregenerated characters.
    • Loads of in-setting handouts and props.
    • A gorgeous art book.
    • And the Invisible Sun app is free from the MCG Shop.

    Invisible Sun is a game about discovery and secrets. There may be other content awaiting discovery in your PDF.”

A reply from Doctor Hujambo Marhaba to Mr Turner’s letter

Greetings Mr Turner, Greetings!

Of course I do recall meeting you at various gallery openings and soever. I’m flattered you’d remember me from our brief acquaintance at those events, but I am soever glad for the letter from you whilst you are on your adventures!

I myself am off on my own for a working sabbatical at the moment, but after I return in the coming month I would be glad to arrange a visit to hear more about these structures you have been exploring, and to help identify the mysterious substance you have found.

With more details, I may be able to help find some references to these creatures whose remains you have found in the academic library, and learn more about them and the history of those structures in which you found them.

As to this substance, I would likely need some time to safely determine the nature of it, so believe I would need to have some of the sample left in my care for longer than your visit. I could send word to you after your return to the estuary area with my results when those studies have completed.

Do let me know your plans and I will have one of my assistants make hospitable arrangements for you and your friend Glizzard at the University so we can discuss these matters of interest. Letters are forwarded to me with only minor delay as needed if they cannot be responded to on my behalf, so feel at liberty to discuss any specifics even if I am currently traveling.

Have you been at your art whilst traveling or, I hope, at least gathering inspiration for the same? The real treasures of travel are rarely only mementos one can carry, are they?

I am curious about this game you’ve mentioned learning from your local friend. Perhaps when you visit we can all find a way to play a round here, and perhaps introduce something new to entertain the faculty and students between their studies.

By the by, I have a colleague who has an interest in fungus, and I wonder about what grows where you are currently exploring. I understand that this is exactly the season my colleague would have staged a trip to gather scientific samples, during a traditionally abundant harvesting period, but was unable to do so. Perhaps you would be willing and able help?

You should look to find a variety of the unique local fungus growths from your area. However, I must convey a warning that some growths may be, as one says, aware of you if you approach them. There are in some locales living species who also are able to communicate your presence to others of their own kind and allies, and some locales have even more rare species which may also pose a danger to you. So I find I must caution you to be wary of complex fungus structures that appear to have been designed to a purpose, which may indicate the presence of these more rare and dangerous species.

Do consider gathering what unique samples you are safely able, placing them individually in glass jars for transport. Any other details you observe will be of interest, to be sure. I have included under separate cover some brief discussion of proper sampling techniques and methods of recording observations usefully which you may find helpful. I know that my colleague will be quite excited to receive those to assuage the disappointment of not being able themselves to engage in gathering this season.

I look forward to arranging for your visit and to help apply my resources here toward resolving your current mysteries.

Signed & sealed,
Hujambo Marhaba

OOC

(This is an in-character letter sent, with an OOC post-script, back in 2017, to someone playing a solitaire game using the Index Card RPG (ICRPG) rules, as a kind of meta-game correspondence play. Unfortunately, there was only one more letter exchanged, and a draft idea of ICRPG Field Research activity, and so this didn’t develop much further, but there’s a lot about this kind of meta-game play, especially for solitaire, that appeals to me. Adding a series of correspondence to an existing game, that links different tables and players across time and space seems pretty awesome, and potentially wildly interesting.)

Doctor Hujambo Marhaba is a dark skinned, improbably tall, and wolfishly strong and lean ICRPG Hill Folk who is a visiting independent research-fellow and many-skilled scholar at the University. Dr Marhaba is rumoured to be generously supported by a controversial but ultimately secret endowment that is not popular within certain factions of the administration, perhaps unpopular particularly because they have been chagrined to find they are impotent to defund or influence the endowment, or Dr Marhaba, in any way. Ultimately even those in the opposition faction are loathe to pass on the research money and fully funded department, to be honest, which has begun to enhance the University’s reputation in many quarters of society.

Dr Marhaba often travels on elaborate and adventurous research expeditions, between much in-demand and irregular lectures about that research, often involving improbably wild stories that prove to be all too real when supported by the evidence of respectfully recovered artifacts and wondrous loot.

The increasingly infamous Dr Marhaba is often consulted by strange and unfamiliar visitors about such mysterious questions, and is glad to help with study and research leveraging University resources, including the use of several student assistants who are available for such assignments as are needed. Dr Marhaba thus also has an increasingly extensive network of contacts outside the University on which to rely when needed. These assistants and other contacts may respond to letters during the doctor’s periods of unavailability, when they are suitable to the task.

As a quirk, the doctor often uses repeated greetings, as in the salutation of this letter.

Dr Marhaba is active in the city arts and creative community, though not central to it, is an inside outsider to the art, university, and city communities. It is at several of these arts community events that Mr Turner and Dr Marhaba became acquainted.

In my thinking, if you are amenable, this could become a series of correspondence to advance the plot of your adventures. I am somewhat inspired by the De Profundis and Quill systems for my thinking around this idea, a way to roleplay via letters. I would hope if we continue that I could have permissions to post these to the Odd Order blog, and you might take a gander at a rather stalled out site for De Profundis that I’d made a while back for inspiration as well.

I’m excited by the way you’ve described your adventures and the golf game since they appear to be largely more about exploration than combat, which I’ve found to be ICRPG’s particular primary focus. My adventures with Take ran into at least one point in one of the sample trials where the main way forward, and way to get the subsequent reward, was clearly intended to be combat, which to which he was ill-suited against the challenge. I’ve been finding that I’ve focused a lot on combat in my videos, and have been thinking about how to include more … other stuff through Effort based tasks and storytelling instead of simply combats.

Anyhow, no pressure if the above correspondence isn’t of interest or doesn’t fit your particular adventures, but it occurred to me as perhaps being an added asynchronous dimension of play to enhance the rest of your own sessions. In any case, I thought Dr Marhaba might be a useful resource and plot device.

Feel free, of course, to include any OOC details, questions, suggestions, or hints to help craft replies as you like with in-character correspondence, thus.

Thanks!

Omnium Gatherum: February 24, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 24, 2019

  • Tweet by Josh

  • Dichroic 3D-printing material changes color with point of view” — Ben Coxworth, New Atlas

    Coxworth New Atlas dichronic 3d printing material

    “In use since at least the 4th century AD, dichroic glass displays different colors depending on how it’s being viewed. Now, Dutch scientists have produced the effect in a material that can be used to create 3D-printed objects – and it’s not just a novelty, as it could have practical applications.”

  • Wollstonecraft The Role-Playing Game by Jordan Stratford; based on The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series, about “an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!”

    Stratford Wollstonecraft The Role-Playing Game

    “Based on the best-selling The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency adventure series, Wollstonecraft The Roleplaying Game empowers detectives as young as 8 to create their own characters and solve mysteries in 1820s London.

    With a simple d6 system and only 3 dice pools (one each for Plot & Events, Sets & Props, and Other Characters), the game is designed so that young players can organize and run the game without adult assistance. The game is set up rather like a tea party, with Guests who play an individual detective, and a Host who plays all the other characters in the world: a mysterious innkeeper, a scullery maid who may be an important witness, or an angry duck.

    Included is everything you need to know to run a game session, including a starter scene so players can try out their new characters – with Regency names, jobs, quirks, talents, and equipment. There are also tips on writing new mysteries and creating compelling scenes for your Guest’s characters.”

  • Our Twisted DNA” — Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books; about She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer

    Zimmer She Has Her Mother's Laugh

    “As long as chimeras and mosaics were detected on the basis of physical manifestations or blood type, they were considered to be phenomenally rare—indeed freakish. By 1983, only seventy-five cases of human chimeras, as detected from blood type, were known, while mosaicism was mostly known from medical cases. Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man,” suffered from a form of mosaicism known as Proteus syndrome, which left parts of his body deformed by monstrous growths, while other parts remained completely normal. For decades, his sad example defined the condition for many.

    Recent advances in genetic analysis have revealed that chimerism is common. In fact, chimeric individuals may be the rule, rather than the exception, among mammals. One Danish study of the blood of 154 girls aged ten to fifteen discovered that around 13 percent of them had blood cells with Y-chromosomes. These cells probably originated from an older brother and had crossed into the mother, where they survived before crossing into, and taking root in, the daughter. A Seattle study of fifty-nine women who died, on average, in their seventies found that 63 percent had cells with Y-chromosomes in their brains.

    As bizarre as chimeras might seem, they represent only the surface waters of Zimmer’s deep dive into the nature of inheritance.”

  • Tweet by Adam J Calhoun

Omnium Gatherum: February 17, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 17, 2019

  • Paradox Teasing a Potential Third ‘Vampire: The Masquerade’ Game” — Mike Wilson, Bloody Disgusting

    “But now, it appears that the series just might get a third entry from developer Paradox Interactive.

    The questions in question involve some pretty not-so-romantic things, such as images of a bloody wall, a smiling clown, or some maggots, with the question asking you which image you identify with the most. Another question asks you about your blood type, and another your interests. Some of those interests include the Illuminati, Epicurus, thanatology, the unknown, chaos magick, sorcery, and demonology.”

  • Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Starter Set by Wizards of the Coast, from Hasbro

    Hasbro Wizards of the Coast Stranger Things Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

    “The Stranger Things Dungeons & dragons starter set contains everything players need to embark on a Stranger Things adventure including the essential rules of the roleplaying game. It’s a great way for new as well as seasoned Dungeon & Dragons players to experience the D&D adventure Stranger Things character Mike Wheeler has created for his friends. … Prepare for just about anything, because the game just got stranger.”

  • AI can write disturbingly believable fake news. Elon Musk’s OpenAI is keeping a tight lid on the technology.” — Jon Fingas, Engadget; from the Infinite-Monkeys dept. [also]

    “AI is getting better and better at writing convincing material, and that’s leading its creators to wonder whether they should release the technology in the first place. Elon Musk’s OpenAI has developed an algorithm that can generate plausible-looking fake news stories on any topic using just a handful of words as a starting point. It was originally designed as a generalized language AI that could answer questions, summarizing stories and translating text, but researchers soon realized that it could be used for far more sinister purposes, like pumping out disinformation in large volumes. As a result, the team only plans to make a “simplified version” of its AI available to the public, according to MIT Technology Review.”

  • Apocalipsis: Harry at the End of the World [also], a video game by Punch Punk Games, from Klabater, with Nergal

    “In Apocalipsis you play as Harry, for whom the loss of his beloved was the end of his world. Now he has to venture out into the strange, unwelcoming lands to get her back. On his journey he will meet fantastical creatures, straight from the minds of artists from the 15th century Europe, and ultimately conquer his own, personal demons. Featuring the narration by Nergal, leader of the band Behemoth, with the added atmospheric new rendition of Behemoth’s music, it will be a journey to remember.

    Apocalipsis shares with the Middle Ages its artstyle and the game’s world itself is inspired by Book of Revelation and steeped in medieval philosophy and beliefs, with the story taking cues from Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”. Every location and character in Apocalipsis was inspired by classical woodcuts by 15th and 16th century artists such as Hans Holbein, Michael Wolgemut, and Albrecht Dürer. This pairing of medieval art and philosophy with video games creates something unique, like you’ve never seen before.”

  • In the age of fake news, here’s how schools are teaching kids to think like fact-checkers” — Annabelle Timsit, Quartz

    “The authors explained that fact-checkers practiced ‘lateral reading,’ meaning that they checked other available resources instead of staying only on the site at hand. That, they concluded, is a practice at odds with available fake-news checklists, which focus on the outward characteristics of a website, like its ‘about’ page or its logo, and don’t encourage students to look for outside sources.

    … the checklists available to teachers often focus on abstract skills like critical thinking, which Wineburg says is not the right way to go. ‘The people who say ‘all we need are critical thinkers,’ I’m sorry, I could […] raise Socrates from the dead and he still wouldn’t know how to choose keywords, and he would know nothing about search engine optimization, and he would not know how to interpret the difference between a ‘.org’ and a ‘.com.’’

    Ultimately, as Petrone writes, 21st-century citizens need more than a checklist—they ‘need a functioning bullshit detector.'”

  • Peeqo – A robot that responds only through videos & GIFS by Abhishek Singh; about an ongoing crowdfunding effort for a DIY RasPi robot kit

    “Meet Peeqo, a delightful little personal robot that responds entirely through GIFs and videos.”

  • Turing Tumble

    “Turing Tumble is a revolutionary new game where players (ages 8 to adult) build mechanical computers powered by marbles to solve logic puzzles. It’s fun, addicting, and while you’re at it, you discover how computers work.”

Omnium Gatherum: February 10, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 10, 2019

  • Tweet by Patton Oswalt

  • Ursula K. Le Guin Was a Creator of Worlds” — Julie Phillips, Humanities; about the documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin by Arwen Curry [HT Arts & Letters Daily]

    “… Le Guin chose this ‘despised, marginal’ genre, she once said, for a reason she couldn’t acknowledge to herself at the time: Because it was “excluded from critical, academic, canonical supervision, leaving the artist free.””

  • Sex Robot Cuddle Party by David Raffin

    Raffin Sex Robot Cuddle Party

    “Sex Robot Cuddle Party is presented as a lost novel by the son of the author, a pornographer and a communist. He infuses his creative work with political discourses.

    It tells the story of RainyDay Tranquility, captain of the corporate surveying vessel Queen of Space, as she travels with her crew visiting dead worlds. In the future human touch has been rendered deadly.

    Later, she is transported inside her favorite book, Cuddle Party, which she loves because, in it, two people fall asleep touching.

    Sex Robot Cuddle Party is a comedy of loneliness, desire, and longing; and a tragedy of love requited.

    A loving homage to new wave sci-fi, absurdist theater, and erotica of the early seventies; featuring existentialist philosophy, Atheism, Greek Gods, artificial intelligence, and the miracle of fungi, in which all things are possible dreamt or un-dreamt.”

  • Neuroscientists close in on the brain signature for consciousness” — Rich Maridy, New Atlas

    “The research involved over 150 subjects, who were studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Some subjects scanned were patients in diagnosed vegetative states, while others were healthy individuals. The researchers ultimately discovered four specific neural activity patterns that could distinguish a person’s place on a spectrum from conscious to unconscious.”

  • Fish pass self-awareness test for the first time, raising questions about animal consciousness” — Michael Irving, New Atlas

    “It might not seem like a big deal, but the ability to recognize that the face in the mirror is your own makes us part of a pretty exclusive club in the animal kingdom. Humans obviously can do it (from about 15 months of age), and so can apes, monkeys, dolphins, elephants, and some birds. Now a fish species has passed the mirror test for the first time, which may suggest that the animals are smarter than we give them credit for.

    While these results suggest that fish are self-aware, the team isn’t jumping straight to that conclusion – perhaps they’re using other mental processes to figure it out. The fact that the fish have aced the mirror test is so surprising that the researchers are now questioning the validity of the test itself.”

  • “Immigrant Song” (Live) – The Cybertronic Spree

    “Robot rockstars in disguise, The Cybertronic Spree pay tribute to all time greats, LED ZEPPELIN. Talk about a bunch of bots who like to stay topical am I right?

    The Cybertronic Spree is a band of Transformers who perform classic cartoon, videogame, and anime theme songs at full volume.”

Russian Doll

Like Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater had a love baby who grew up to be the redheaded stepchild of Dorothy Parker and Bryan Fuller … and if that doesn’t get you to run and binge Russian Doll created by Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne, and Amy Poehler, from Netflix, I don’t even want to know you.

Netflix Natasha Lyonne Leslye Headland Amy Poehler Russian Doll

Omnium Gatherum: February 5, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 5, 2019

  • Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs” — Linda Kinstler, WIRED

    “Every morning, Lena Forsen wakes up beneath a brass-trimmed wooden mantel clock dedicated to “The First Lady of the Internet.”

    It was presented to her more than two decades ago by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, in recognition of the pivotal—and altogether unexpected—role she played in shaping the digital world as we know it.”

  • Tweet by Dick King-Smith HQ

  • Biohackers Encoded Malware in a Strand of DNA” — Andy Greenberg, WIRED [HT Geoff Manaugh]

    “… a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer.”

  • Secrets of Silent Streets by Monte Cook; due in February, is, afaik, the first component for Invisible Sun that’s available for purchase separately as a digital download, and not even the game itself is available separately from the premium Black Cube [also]; also due in print in March

    Cook Invisible Sun Secrets of Silent Streets

    “Secrets of Silent Streets is a guide to this vast, rich, and unique city—the epicenter of the orders of magic and, to many, the very center of the Actuality. Visit the Great Observatory of Zuin, where mystical astronomers equate the movement of the stars with the ebbs and flows of magic. Meet the Phalanx of Liquid Granite, who have turned absurdity magic into a martial art. Enter the Citrine Court, a secret conclave of vislae devoted to transforming themselves—physically and metaphorically—into famous novels from Shadow.

    These are just a few of the experiences you’ll discover as you travel the seventeen districts of Satyrine and beyond, each detailed through dozens of points of interest and illuminated through its own unique atmosphere, social expectations, and traditions. Along the way you’ll find scores of plot hooks, NPCs, creatures—and of course plenty of magic.”

    “Like any metropolis in any realm, Satyrine isn’t one city but many. Fartown, the Marquis Quarter, the Strangeglass District, the Hollows, and the vast abandoned stretches—all offer different experiences and moods as well as unique landmarks, resources, denizens, and dangers. Secrets of Silent Streets is a guide to this vast, rich, and unique city—the epicenter of the Orders of Magic and the very center of the Actuality. Travel the seventeen districts of Satyrine, each detailed through dozens of points of interest and illuminated through its own unique atmosphere, social expectations, and traditions. And along the way find scores of plot hooks, NPCs, creatures, and of course loads of magic.”

  • Humble RPG Book Bundle Numenera by Monte Cook Games is in its last day, and includes, even at the $1 tier, both of the very recently crowdfunded Discovery and Destiny core books, and lots more. Honestly, I know I probably won’t ever play Numenera, but it was tempting enough to grab these to add to what I already have. I came for the Discovery and Destiny core books, and stayed for Shanna Germain’s Love and Sex in the Ninth World

    Monte Cook Humble Bundle Numenera

    “You’re invited to the world of Numenera, a tabletop roleplaying game of exploration and discovery set a billion years in the future. The game is easy to learn and fun to play with this bundle of digital corebooks, adventures, bestiaries, maps, guides, and more. The Ninth World awaits you!”

  • Sunless Skies [also] by Failbetter Games has released

    “SAIL THE STARS. BETRAY YOUR QUEEN. MURDER A SUN. Sunless Skies is a Gothic Horror roleplay game with a focus on exploration and exquisite storytelling for PC, Mac and Linux.”

    Failbetter Games Sunless Skies

April and the Extraordinary World

April and the Extraordinary World [also] is an animated movie based on the work of Jacques Tardi [also], and is a scifi, steampunk, alternate history adventure that’s pretty epic, visually striking, and narratively complex and twisty; with a few good laugh-out-loud quips. Plus, there’s a talking cat. Let’s be honest: they had me at talking cat.

I’d added this to my watchlist a while ago, and then forgot about it. It caught my eye but I was feeling a little ambivalent about it. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this story when I did get around to it. I think I was a little put off because felt burned by Tintin and adaptations of famous French comics and graphic novels. In contrast, this was actually very entertaining!

Also, there’s a lot going on here. This isn’t a simple, flat children’s tale; but rather a fun, twisty, and interesting narrative. One might get hints of a lot of other material in the genre, but this felt very original and unique even still.

And, there’s a heroic talking cat. Huzzah!

April and the Extraordinary World

Character progression isn’t fun

You may be playing the wrong game, at the wrong table, with the wrong group if …

You gain enough experience to level up your character, but when you look at all the cool and interesting new character and narrative driven things you could do now, you realize that none if it will ever happen in your game because everything that happens in the roleplaying game at your table is tactical wargaming. So, you give up and decide to minmax, as that’s all that matters.

Illimat Variant: The Butcher in Solitaire and Solitaire Variant Improved

In a recent stream, archived on my youtube channel, I tried to play the Solitaire Variant of Illimat [also], and hoped to actually follow the rules this time, as I had been unintentionally playing what I’ve called Easy Stockpiling. However, I ran into a bit of a pickle when I revealed The Butcher, a Luminary from The Crane Wife expansion.

The issue is that when The Butcher is revealed, the Luminary in the opposite field is discarded. However, according to the Solitaire Variant: “The goal of Illimat Solitaire is to reveal and collect all four of the Luminaries.” And if you’ve not already claimed the opposite Luminary, there are no longer four Luminaries to collect.

In the video, I muse over the question, for the result of my second game, whether revealing The Butcher ends the game with a loss, as it is no longer possible to claim four Luminaries, or could victory now still be had by claiming all possible remaining Luminaries (three, or four if The Newborn adds one more)? Or, perhaps victory is only possible if The Newborn adds back a new fourth Luminary?

Note that the Solitaire Variant also says, “If there are fewer than three cards remaining [in the draw deck] when a Luminary is revealed, the Luminary is discarded and a full victory is impossible.” This would suggest that the most proper reading of the variant is that if revealing The Butcher discards one of the four Luminaries, then full victory is now impossible.

At the table, I decided that I would try and see how it played out, but noted that I may have lost that game. I then continue to play and successfully claim the remaining three available Luminaries on the table.

After I was done streaming I asked Keith Baker, via Twitter, about this and he responded, “The Crane Wife Luminaries aren’t designed for Solitaire. The only one that seems like a good match for Solitaire is The Boat.”

Okay. Not with that attitude it isn’t. And, now, I’m going to go off on that.

First off that response didn’t actually answer my question, but rather shut it down. Way to put the kibosh on the enthusiasm of a player!

Point of order: Given that Solitaire is itself a variant, and changes the way Luminaries work, none of the Luminaries were designed for solitaire, per se.

Also, that’s weak sauce. If the response to trying to play the game with an expansion is that the expansion wasn’t designed for that, instead of trying to figure it out, then that is as much to say the expansion should be labelled as not valid for solitaire play, and I shouldn’t have bought it. Best request a refund. And, get off my lawn.

That seems also to be the opposite of what I think of as creativity and a game playing attitude.

Frankly, as a solitaire-only player, that makes me feel like I’m not welcome to play the game at all, and that the Solitaire Variant was a grudging afterthought. Perhaps it was only that. Perhaps I’m not. Perhaps solitaire players aren’t.

News from the game designer is, essentially, if you’re a solitaire player: Don’t buy The Crane Wife expansion. It’s not for you. If you want to play by the rules as designed, don’t.

Well, fuck that. That’s bullshit.

Beyond that I’m probably now less interested in trying to make solitaire work for any other Keith Baker games, and I had actually been considering another. But, even leaving other now unlikely game purchases out, I’ll have a bad taste in my mouth for any future Illimat expansions, and am far less enthusiastic about trying to participate in Society of Luminaries meta-game stuff or likely to follow through with buying several available, completely optional, Illimat tchotchkes I’d been seriously thinking about spending real money on as a would-be solitaire once-and-no-longer-future enthusiast of this game in particular.

With all due respect to Keith Baker, screw that wet blanket noise. I bought your damned game and the twice damned expansion with my damned limited and precious gold, and, by the eternally damned gods, I’m going to damned well play the freakin’ hell out of it. Moreover, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do it now just to spite you. I mean, damn, man!

For the game and expansion I’ve got and paid for already, of course it is possible to play the game with the expansion as a solitaire player. It’s just a matter of figuring it out. It’s just a darned disappointment and dang discouraging to have the game designer say it isn’t.

Now I’m done ranting. Except in my head. I’m still mad and ranting about this in my head. Damn. Maybe I will put the game on a shelf not to be played again after all. I don’t know yet. We’ll see how I feel about it later.

On the other hand, to be fair, I think you can see why I’m single, live alone, have no friends, and only play games solitaire.

Welp. Okay then …

If you’re still here, here’s how I suggest you can play with The Butcher in Solitaire, served three ways. The first way is the closest reading to the canonical Solitaire Variant. The second is slightly more divergent. The third is my personal favourite of the three, and ultimately is my suggestion. For the third, I preface that with a suggestion about a change to the Solitaire Variant that I think improves it, makes it more fun and friendly.

The Butcher in Solitaire #1 — When The Butcher is revealed, the opposite Luminary is discarded. If not already claimed, the opposite Luminary is discarded and a full victory is impossible.

The Butcher in Solitaire #2 — When The Butcher is revealed, the opposite Luminary is discarded. If not already claimed, the opposite Luminary is discarded and a full victory is impossible unless The Newborn is later revealed in play and causes a new fourth Luminary to be made available, and all of the new four available are claimed before the draw pile runs out.

Solitaire Variant Improved — Where the Solitaire Variant says or implies the goal is to “collect all four of the Luminaries”, read “collect as many Luminaries as possible.” That means that you want to claim all the Luminaries available on the table, though that number might increase or decrease based on the Luminaries revealed. Then, you can always note how many Luminaries you claimed and if you got all Luminaries on the table before running out of cards in the draw pile, thus “2 Luminaries, Loss” or “4 Luminaries, Win”. Hey, and since we’re here, let’s also change the preamble to be less disparaging and dismissive of those playing solitaire, where it claims to exist to “provide solace” for those with “no companions” or only for “sharpen[ing] your skills when plotting revenge on a future opponent”. How about simply saying that this variant is for those who chose to have fun playing solitaire?

The Butcher in Solitaire #3 — Using Solitaire Variant Improved, when The Butcher is revealed, the opposite Luminary is discarded. This reduces the number of available Luminaries that can be claimed to three, unless The Newborn is revealed and causes a new fourth Luminary to be made available. (If The Butcher is not revealed, but The Newborn is, and causes a new fifth Luminary to be made available, that increases the available Luminaries to five.) Continue to play and claim as many Luminaries as possible before the draw pile is exhausted. If there are still Luminaries to claim when the draw pile is exhausted, you may wish to consider Solitaire Rounds to continue playing.

 

Twogether Baker The Decemberists Illimat