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Kenneth Hite's Journal
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Kenneth Hite's LiveJournal:

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    Thursday, August 21st, 2014
    1:09 am
    Dragon The Line
    This may start being a thing. It was a thing last year and a thing this year and may wind up being a thing for years to come. But for right now, let's just keep things focused on my schedule at this year's DragonCon, in scenic and sweaty Atlanta, Georgia on August 29-September 1.

    And once more and as always, I know of no plans to record/transcribe/podcast/livestream/triffid-clack these panels. I'm "talent," not production -- I just make funny mouth-noise when nice man says.


    1:00 pm-2:00 pm
    Games People Play: Written a game you want published/produced? These pros have all the right answers to make the journey easier. Location: Embassy D-F - Hyatt (Tentative Panelists: Seraphina E Brennan, Monte James Cook, Elonka Dunin, Eloy Lasanta, Starr Long, Kenneth Hite)

    4:00 pm-5:00 pm
    Horror in Gaming: Find out about scaring your players, scaring ourselves and the art of horror stories at the table top. Location: Grand Salon C - Hilton (Tentative Panelists: Kenneth Hite, Clint Black)

    7:00 pm-8:00 pm
    Cthulhu Mythos: The Innsmouth Cycle: A discussion about the Innsmouth cycle created by H.P. Lovecraft and continued by his followers. Location: Peachtree 1-2 - Westin (Tentative Panelists: James A. Moore, Lois H Gresh, Cherie Priest, Kenneth Hite)


    1:00 pm-2:00 pm
    Historical Gaming: How history influences gaming in all aspects from board games to role-playing games to online games. Topics from WWII to the Ancient World discussed. Location: Grand Salon C - Hilton (Tentative Panelists: Kenneth Hite, Darwin Bromley, Clint Black)


    11:30 am-12:30 pm
    Cthulhu in Gaming: Two of the Cthulhu's key designers join us to discuss the history of the Great Old Ones in gaming, and how to incorporate it into your games. Location: Grand Salon C - Hilton (Tentative Panelists: Kenneth Hite, Monte James Cook)

    5:30 pm-6:30 pm
    Cults, Conspiracies, and Other Weirdness: Experts talk about conspiracies, cults, and all of the weird that pops up in gaming. Why are we attracted to it? How can we use the weird? Location: Grand Salon C - Hilton (Tentative Panelists: Monte James Cook, Kenneth Hite)
    Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
    6:00 pm
    GenCon: Where Things Are Generally Congenial
    As GenCon bears down upon us all like oh I don't know what bears down besides runaway trains and the cart of Jagganath lessee maybe a bear? Sure, why not, like a bear. I can't worry about this cute phrasing, I've got stuff to write on deadline, a deadline that's bearing down on me like dammit.

    Anyhow, as GenCon bears down upon us all like a Matterhorn avalanche, it's probably time to toss up my schedule as I understand it. For those of us in the watery twilight between Official Corporate Stooge and Evanescent Starling-like Gadabout, such schedules remain a thing of mystery and wonder, so check back to make sure I'm still where I say I'll be. Don't check back here during the show, though, as I don't think I'll bring my laptop to GenCon, so this post will remain a frozen monument though some shifting may occur in transit.

    And for the folks who always ask in comments, no I don't know of any plan to record/livestream/podcast/transmit-by-mynah-bird these panels. If it happens after the fact, I'll probably post about it somewhere.


    9:00 p.m.-???
    Diana Jones Awards:
    The industry's most prestigious award ceremony/drinking game kicks off for its fourteenth consecutive year. Everyone Who's Anyone


    Noon-1:00 p.m.
    Gaming as Mythic Exploration:
    How does the act of creating, exploring, and defining a game world resemble the creation and exploration of myth, both as ritual and as scripture or literature? Lilian Cohen-Moore, Kenneth Hite, Greg Stafford (Room 211)

    2:00-3:00 p.m.
    Dungeoncraft Live!:
    Tips for beginning Dungeon Masters. Keith Baker, Kenneth Hite, Ray Winninger (Room 210)

    8:00-9:30 p.m.
    Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game:
    Talk to the designers of the new version of the classic of Cthulhu Mythos gaming. What are the new game’s rules like in play? What’s distinct from traditional Call of Cthulhu? What’s distinct from traditonal Delta Green? What makes Delta Green’s vision of the Cthulhu Mythos effective for a modern setting? In the age of ubiquitous communication, surveillance and information leaks, how does Delta Green conceal the terrifying realities of the Cthulhu Mythos? What happens when it fails? Shane Ivey, Greg Stolze, A. Scott Glancy, Dennis Detwiller, Kenneth Hite (Crowne Plaza, Victoria Station C/D)

    (I may be late to this one, as I have a dinner engagement Thursday night.)


    11:00 a.m.-Noon
    Roleplaying Design 101:
    Are you a designer looking to create or improve your very own roleplaying game? Discuss the basics of RPG design, common obstacles, and how to deliver the experience you want your players to enjoy. Shane Hensley, Kenneth Hite, Jay Little, Allen Varney (Room 211)

    1:00-2:00 p.m.
    Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Live:
    Writers and game designers Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite talk roleplaying, history, conspiracy, occultism, writing, food, movies, and whatever you ask them about in this live edition of their award-winning podcast. Robin D. Laws, Kenneth Hite (Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D)

    4:00-5:00 p.m.
    Swords, Spies, & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel:
    Just what it sounds like. At this moment, it's not in the schedule, so come by and ask at the booth or check the onsite or something, or maybe I'll get solid info in the next week. Robin D. Laws, Kenneth Hite, Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin (???)

    ENnie Awards:
    I'm up for nearly 89% of an ENnie Award all told, so you know I'll be there! Beloved Co-Creators, Hated Rivals, Jealous Onlookers (Union Station, Grand Hall)


    11:00 a.m.-Noon
    Fear of the Unknown: Suspense in RPGs:
    Industry Insider Guests explore ways to bring horror to the gaming table. How do you overcome player knowledge, genre limitations, and other challenges to create a truly suspenseful experience? Keith Baker, Andrew Hackard, Shane Hensley, Kenneth Hite (Room 211)

    2:00-3:00 p.m.
    King Arthur Pendragon, 30 Years After:
    Published in 1985 (thus, of course, written and designed in 1984), King Arthur Pendragon remains ahead of its time and continues to influence other designers. How did it come about? What does it give us now? Greg Stafford, Kenneth Hite (Moderator) (Room 211)

    This one should be really good, assuming I don't just ascend bodily into Heaven having achieved the Grail. Actually, that would be pretty good, too.

    4:00-5:00 p.m.
    GUMSHOE Adventure Masterclass:
    How to design satisfactory adventures in GUMSHOE. At this moment, it's not in the schedule, so come by and ask at the booth or check the onsite or something, or maybe I'll get solid info in the next week. Robin D. Laws, Kenneth Hite, Gareth Hanrahan (???)

    9:00-10:30 p.m.
    Lovecraft Meets Tradecraft: Delta Green Scenario Workshop:
    Tips for writing and running Delta Green scenarios to fill your players with cosmic dread. What are the best ways to evoke cosmic terror in modern-day characters and their players? Shane Ivey, Greg Stolze, A. Scott Glancy, Dennis Detwiller, Kenneth Hite (Crowne Plaza, Pennsylvania Station A)


    11:00 a.m.-Noon
    Remembering the Good Old Days:
    Ever wondered what games your favorite game designers played when they were growing up, and how it has affected their work today? Andrew Hackard, Kenneth Hite, Jordan Weisman (Room 210)
    Thursday, July 31st, 2014
    10:57 pm
    [RECIPE] These Are The Salmon Tacos You've Been Looking For

    [makes 8 tacos]

    1 CUP tomatillo salsa*
    1 fresh tomatillo, husked and diced
    2 small ripe avocados or 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and cubed
    3 scallions, green ends only, chopped
    2 TB cilantro, chopped
    6 TB Mexican crema (or sour cream if you must)
    1/2 TSP salt or to taste
    a few grinds of pepper or to taste
    4 CUPS cabbage, chopped or shredded

    * If you don't have a hookup for prepared tomatillo salsa, you can food-process or chop fine: 2-3 husked tomatillos; 1-2 garlic cloves; 1 jalapeno pepper (or 2 serrano peppers or whatever); 2 TB cilantro

    2 TSP ground cumin
    2 TSP chili powder (ideally chipotle or ancho)
    1 TSP Old Bay seasoning or similar bay powder
    2 TSP brown sugar
    1/2 TSP fresh-ground coffee
    1 TSP sea salt

    1 LB skinless salmon filets, cut into roughly one-inch cubes
    1 TB+ olive oil
    1/2 of a large red onion, chopped

    8 taco-sized tortillas (flour or corn, your choice)
    Crumbled queso fresco

    First, make the slaw. I cannot overstate this. You'll want to serve the tacos while the fish is still hot, so the slaw has to be made first. In a large glass bowl, mix the salsa and the diced tomatillo. Add the cubed avocado and mash it into the salsa with a fork. Mix in scallions and cilantro, then add the crema and stir it all together into a white creamy dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, then dump in the cabbage and thoroughly toss with the dressing. Set the slaw aside and let it think about what it's done.

    Start preparing your taco tortillas as you normally would. Brush with oil, stack, wrap in foil, bake in 300°F oven for 10 MINS. If you microwave or fry your shells instead, do that last, of course, or better yet have someone else do it while you're finishing up the fish.

    Heat 1 TB or so of oil in large skillet over medium heat. Mix the cumin, chili powder, Old Bay, brown sugar, coffee, and salt into a rub. Start frying the onion in the skillet. Toss the salmon cubes in more olive oil; once coated, toss them with the rub mixture. Now into the skillet with them, tumbling gently (don't flake them!) until cooked on all sides; 2-3 MINS or more if you like your salmon less rare (or don't trust your salmon).

    Into each tortilla, put: 2 OZ salmon and onion mixture, a line of crumbled queso fresco, heaping spoonful of slaw.

    Serve with hot sauce (ideally green chili sauce) and lime segments on the table.

    The origin story of this recipe belies its seeming glittering perfection. I had some iffy salmon ("Packaged in China" should have been a warning sign) to get rid of, so on the advice of mollpeartree I decided to make salmon tacos. I upped the spice mix and overcooked the fish to mask the salmon's mediocre flavor -- consider this the version to use if you, too, have been seduced by frozen Chinese salmon on sale cheap. Also, the Chinese salmon wasn't skinless, so I had to peel the skin off it after cooking and before chopping the fish. In the event, it turned out we had only burrito shells, so they became salmon quesadillas when all was said and done (with the slaw on the side).

    But ALL THAT SAID the principles and fundamentals are sound and I stand by this recipe in its entirety.
    5:59 am
    The Undiscovered Country
    And this is the fourth of my four suggested campaigns for my home game group here in Chicago.

    This one will have a bit of fluid-reality to it as the laws of man and nature shift, so I picked a looser game system that's easy to layer conditions onto or subtract them off of. Plus my group played a close Fate analogue awhile back (chadu's Truth & Justice) and, aside from some good-natured carping about the phase changes from supernormal to superduper (which shouldn't be a problem in Fate if I set the parameters correctly), they took to it pretty well. I just need to spend a night drinking with Morgan Ellis or macklinr to help with the fine tuning.


    America has not yet been mapped. Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, Alexander Mackenzie have drawn a few lines across the land, but all of them kept secrets and made surveys of things only they saw and only their masters knew. The mountain men set their traps and follow the beasts, but they keep their routes and sets to themselves. The old powers and the new world circle each other, warily. Does America hold mighty mammoths and leviathans? Lost Phoenician civilizations or the heart of the New Rome? Is it the Promised Land, or Babylon of the Towers? Can magic still move the mountains before they're mapped?

    For some territories, and some maps, the map is the territory. The privileged observer resolves the Nature of the world -- even the laws of that Nature or of that Supernature -- and continents and empires and histories shape themselves to that vision.

    You are -- or wield -- the Instruments of that vision, or perhaps of several visions. You might be a Century Baby, born on January 1, 1800 with an unguessable affinity for power and exploration; or you might be a Survivor from a previous century, with secret hoards of cunning and gifts. Perhaps you're an Immortal, or a Manitou, or a Ritter. However it came to you, you have the power to move the world -- once you know what's there to be moved.

    This is (of course) a re-skin of Planetary for the Matter of America, and extending into the future as well as the past. You don't have to play Liver-Eating Johnson or Mike Fink, although you can. Anything and everything from American mythology or mythologies about America is fair game: maybe you're a royal bard from a Druidic brigadoon under Tupelo Station or a Mexican hidalgo who wears the garb of Camazotz the Bat God to destroy madness and evil in the name of Order. Or perhaps those are your enemies. We won't know what the world looks like, or even what year it is (though some time in the 1810-1830 period is most likely, with Fremont's 1845 survey the probable terminus ad quem) until you decide who you are.

    System: Likely Fate with some spins and fillips.
    Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
    2:16 am
    The Rex Of the Old 97, Again
    Continuing with the third of four suggested campaigns for my home game group here in Chicago. This one is a rerun from 2008 because a) I didn't get to run it and b) it fit the parameters for the new game. (As before, props to robotnik's Unknown USA game, to which this might act as an "unauthorized Purist prequel.")

    Those parameters, as you may have guessed, were "Westerns." My players decided (generally) collectively that they wanted to see a (generally) Western game this time around. We've played (and loved) Dogs in the Vineyard, but it doesn't really have the kind of long-campaign legs my group has become accustomed to. Hence these four choices instead including, as I noted above, one game that we all thought dead emerging out of the heat distortion ...


    The Centennial Exposition of 1876, so the word on the Spirit Telegraph goes, was a missed opportunity. The Civil War busted up America's foundations, and every Jack and Knight and Knave out there has been drawing as many cards as he can to win himself King on the ruins. What could have been a re-Founding became a secret Fort Sumter; magick thrown down and claims made that can't be unmade. The Pinkertons, fresh from smashing the Klan, are trying to nail everything down; the Informationale and the Anarchitects are trying to blow everything up. The Gold Lords and Silver Men have squared off against each other; the Trismos command their strange railway specters, though the Good Roads Club screams that the specters command the Trismos. And word has it that the Great Gray Guns, fled from the South, are massing somewhere in the West, in a town called Tombstone...

    My initial notion for the game is that it will run over a longish historical scope, possibly finishing up at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. As with most Unknown Armies games, you will collaboratively determine your own narrative structure: Are you trying to enforce your own cabal's vision of the new America? Are you a band of Anarchitect heralds, or a Pinkerton squad? Do you serve Gold, or Silver, or some other element? Are you freelance heroes, riding in to save the day, or Jacks at the table playing to rake in all the chips?

    System: Unknown Armies 2nd ed., with magick schools tweaked for the 19th century where necessary. Depending on how speedy-snappy Greg Stolze is with his in-progress Unknown Armies 3rd ed. rules, we may give those a spin this time out.
    Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
    2:29 am
    Once Upon All Times In the West
    This is the second of my next-game proposals for my game group here in Chicago. Again, it's posted here because everyone seemed to enjoy it the last time I did this.

    I'd considered GUMSHOE until I decided that the system on this one has to be crunchy enough that the differences between a Winchester '77 and an AR-15 will matter. I'd considered BRP, but I just think advantages and disadvantages open up a wider variety of character-story-environment interactions even at the cost of more bookkeeping.


    In 2012, a quantum strangelet -- a tiny submolecular structure as dense as a black hole -- hit the Earth on the west side of Independence, Missouri. The Kansas City metropolitan area disintegrated south of the Kansas River: South Kansas City, Overland Park, Olathe all destroyed in titanic earthquakes and eerie gravity inversions. By the time the aftershocks had resolved themselves, everything for 350 miles along U.S. Highway 50 -- as far as Dodge City, Kansas -- had somehow been rebuilt into a maze of shimmering, alien geometry and hostile desert: the Strangelands. Nothing electronic can survive at all inside it, and petrochemicals and plastics tend to set themselves on fire passing through it. TNT is somewhat stable, and gunpowder almost reliable. Men and horses need only pack water and food and prepare for a long ride.

    On the other side? Depends on how you rode: the strangelet seems to have punched a series of loops and strings through time and into 11 to the 5th power, or 161,051, discrete solutions for local space-time-history. Most of them -- or rather, most of the solutions most immediately discoverable -- correspond to various points in various 19th centuries. Almost all of them in western North America (the Strangelands aren't necessarily tangent to Kansas everywhen), almost all of them featuring low human densities. Some futures might be tangent to the Strangelands, or to their own pasts tangent to the Strangelands -- reports have come back of other riders carrying assault rifles, for instance. But those might be from our America, from our history. It has proved impossible to block off the entire Strangelands from the determined, the desperate, and the driven. Rural roads flicker and turn Strange with just enough warning to let families and filibusterers through no matter what Washington says. (And the governor of Kansas ignores what Washington says out of principle.) North Kansas City teems with would-be "Fourteeners" ready to cross into a new old frontier. You are among them. Go past, young men.

    System: Most likely GURPS 4th edition, using the five-stat mod we've talked about (split IQ into two attributes, IQ and PRE or SOC or whatever we decide to call the social/charisma/presence set of skills). No magic, no psionics.
    Monday, July 28th, 2014
    5:52 am
    Night of the Rangers
    Like I did back in 2008, I'm posting the four possibilities for the next game that my players are currently deciding among. As I believe I've mentioned, our group's method for coming up with games is for them all to suggest the sorts of things they'd like to see, and for me to boil everything down into four or five possible campaigns. Then they vote on which one sounds best, and off we go.

    This, then, is the first of those four nominees. I'll post the rest over the next week or so, just for everyone's entertainment, although one of them is a rerun.


    "Back in 1835, when Halley's Comet was overhead, same night those men died at the Alamo, they say Samuel Colt made a gun. A special gun. He made it for a hunter. A man like us, only on horseback .... They say this gun can kill anything."
    -- John Winchester, Supernatural, "Dead Men's Blood"

    Sadly, Supernatural didn't live up to the wonder and the glory of this quote. Let's see if we can.

    It's 1848 and the war with Mexico has got things stirred up all along the frontier. Not just the Indian frontier: the frontier between the living and the dead burns with pale fire. You are Rangers, riding that frontier to quench that fire, to break it, to draw it back across the line. You've got guns and horses and silver badges lettered up in Hebrew ... and maybe some of you have a little o' that pale fire behind your eyes even now. If you ride a little bit on the wild side of the line, you can fight harder and better -- a smear of vampire blood or a dusting of werewolf bone just makes a deadlier Ranger, even if Mister Colt might not agree. But he's back East, and you ride West in the lands of the sunset, into the lands of the shadow.

    This is a pretty straightforward "monster of the week" campaign, with the possibility of expanding (or not) into a "season arc" or three. Tone is likely to stay on the action side of the equation rather than the horror side, although with Rangers tempted to "pick up the hex" or "feed their fire" we can hopefully get close to the agon of the Western hero. If people would rather, we can bump the starting date to 1865 instead. Of course, in 1865, Mister Colt is dead ... as are 600,000 other folk.

    System: Savage Worlds, which promises relatively fluid combats at multiple scales and not coincidentally offers a whole heaping lot of pre-statted monsters and Western perils in general. I'll probably be looking quite intently at Rippers, as well as Deadlands and the SW Horror Companion.
    Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
    4:02 pm
    ENnie Body Out There
    The ENnie Awards voting is now open, so it must be time to electioneer for the only candidate who truly believes what you truly believe, namely that I should get more ENnie Awards. Or as it usually shakes out, fractions of ENnie Awards:

    Vote for a tenth of an ENnie for me for The Kobold Guide to Magic (Best Aid/Accessory)!

    Vote for a fiftieth of two ENnies for me for Hillfolk (Best Game and Product of the Year)!

    Vote up a big fifth of an ENnie for me for Deadlands Noir Companion (Best Supplement)!

    Let's call it a thirtieth of one ENnie for me for Page XX (Best Website)!

    Vote for another fiftieth of an ENnie for me for Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper's Guide (Best Writing)!

    Although it violates the core principle of everything we've worked so hard to achieve, I'd appreciate it if you'd vote for a product I had nothing to do with: Eternal Lies (Best Adventure)!

    And last but never least, a whole HALF of an ENnie can be mine if you but vote for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff for Best Podcast!

    By my calculations, if we all pull together and vote in the Ken Fractional Slate, I'll rake in 89% of an ENnie Award! And that's something we can all be 89% proud of.

    Customarily, I close by sharing something that's nothing to do with me or the ENnies as an election-season gift to you my beloved friends. So here's some absolutely top-shelf best-of-breed eliptony: the 72 Goëtic demons as drawn by the remote viewer Aaron Donahue, "perhaps the most skilled technical remote viewer in the world." Perhaps!
    Thursday, July 10th, 2014
    9:54 pm
    Unleash the Madness Dossier
    Because the people still reading a LiveJournal (even mine) may very well be the same people who read "The Madness Dossier" when it was just a 6-page setting in the back of GURPS Horror Third Edition, I should note that GURPS HORROR: The Madness Dossier is now a 64-page setting book (in PDF) for GURPS Fourth Edition.

    For the rest of you, the Madness Dossier setting is what happens when I write a cosmic horror mind-control technothriller after swapping in William S. Burroughs for H.P. Lovecraft, shaken with Mary Gentle's reality quakes, and stirred with a little Velikovsky, a little Julian Jaynes, and a whole lot of Sumerian monster lore. The Anunnakku controlled us all through command subroutines in our language until we overthrew them in 535 A.D. -- after which time their whole history was erased and replaced by a scrim. Their servants, the Mesopotamian monsters known as the irruptors, are making straight their return, with only the commandos, applied anthropologists, and wetware hackers of Project SANDMAN to stop them.

    If that sounds like the kind of thing you might like, check it out.
    Thursday, June 19th, 2014
    2:44 pm
    Nexus Game Fair Schedule
    If you'll be at the Nexus Game Fair in Milwaukee this weekend, you can apparently find me immured in the Van Gogh room all Saturday afternoon, like a dragonfly trapped in amber, if dragonflies talked about running RPG campaigns all the damn time.

    I say "apparently" because, as is becoming distressingly common, I had to excavate this schedule from the larger Event Catalog the day before the show, instead of, oh, I don't know, having it sent to me ahead of time by the would-be organizer. So if I'm also scheduled to do anything else, well, that will be news to both of us.

    I can guarantee I'll be in the bar Saturday night, though.

    Saturday 1:00pm

    Crowdsourcing: Kickstarting Your Own Creation
    The emergence of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms are fundamentally changing the way that new products are being developed and marketed, both for small publishers and now, even the larger ones are getting in on the game. Creators are finding an entirely new way to attract buyers for their products, and crowdfunding is breaking down many of the traditional barriers in getting a product to the mass market. Join special guests Matt Forbeck, Kenneth Hite, and Stefan Pokorny as they discuss the secrets to running a successful crowdfunding campaign, from inception to delivery. (Van Gogh)

    Saturday 2:00pm

    The Genre: Shaken, Not Stirred
    Join Top Secret designer and author Merle Rasmussen, line developer for the GUMSHOE system [sic] Kenneth Hite, and noted game designer and author Matt Forbeck as they work to unravel the mysteries of espionage and investigative role-playing games. with particular focus on tackling the issues of railroading the storyline and demystifying the clue-driven RPG. (Van Gogh)

    Saturday 3:00pm

    Globalization: Transform Adventures into Campaigns
    Starting out is tough, and not just for the player characters. Gamemasters have a tough road to pave with a new campaign, as they consider the proverbial “home base” and its surrounding geography. How to design and expand your world using imitations of real life events and places, and what infrastructure really makes sense? How to create interesting and influential antagonists, both individual villains, groups/societies, governments, and extraplanar/races? Experienced world designers Kenneth Hite, James Lowder, and Frank Mentzer will walk you through the various challenges of creating a setting for your campaign that is exciting, full of potential, and 10 pounds lighter. (Van Gogh)

    Saturday 4:00pm

    Storytelling: Adding Fear, Suspense & Tension
    Unlike their player characters, the players actually know that they are in a horror story and are often well versed in the lore of the setting. How do you create a sense of fear and suspense in your story? Fear of the unknown is a good start, but what about creating fear founded on familiar, but terrifying, creatures and situations? How can you “wear out the edge of a chair” and use unexpected results to achieve plot twists? Join veteran writers and designers Matt Forbeck, Kenneth Hite, and James Lowder as they discuss storytelling in the horror genre. (Van Gogh)
    Monday, June 9th, 2014
    5:40 pm
    My Origins Schedule
    Because the Game Designer Track is so important that it must be HIDDEN in the event schedule, apparently. The first three panels are me solo-ing unless I rope in a ringer, which might very well happen.

    Anyhow, here's me:

    FRIDAY June 13

    3pm-4pm: Building the Perfect Monster

    How to design a monster that fits your campaign and shows off your rules set of choice. The designer of GURPS Horror, Trail of Cthulhu, and Night's Black Agents talks the nitty gritty of monster design and deployment for maximum monstrosity -- horror, thrills, challenge, mystery, or all four! (C214)

    SATURDAY June 14

    1pm-2pm: From Folklore to Flanking Bonus: Adapting Monsters

    How do you take your favorite monsters from fiction, film, or folklore and turn them into gameable foes -- or characters? Join the designer of GURPS Horror, Trail of Cthulhu, and Night's Black Agents for a look at researching, improving, and gamifying monsters. Bring your favorite monster! (C214)

    3pm-4pm: The Care and Feeding (and Slaying) of Vampires

    Does your game have vampires? Do you want them to be more dangerous, less predictable, or more horrifying? Does your game not have vampires? Do you want to add them? Join the designer of GURPS Horror and vampire spy thriller Night's Black Agents for everything you ever wanted to know about vampires. Except the sparkling. (C214)

    4pm-6pm [??]: The Future of RPGs

    I'm on this panel with Mike Mearls and Luke Crane, so it should be a barn-burner. That said, it's not listed in the event grid, so it may not happen, or it may not happen at this time. Ask Mike for deets in between badgering him about attacks of opportunity and grappling rules and multi-classing hobbits. That's what I'm going to do! (???)

    I'll also be at the Origins Awards on Saturday night, unless the darlings insist on charging me money to be at the Origins Awards, in which case I'll be at dinner or maybe the Big Bar on 2. You know what, just look in the Big Bar on 2. See you there!
    Sunday, June 8th, 2014
    11:19 pm
    A Bose Peculiar Bystery, er, Mystery
    On Saturday, we went to Devon Avenue, which meant a trip to India Bookhouse. Where I found India's Biggest Coverup, by Anuj Dhar, which introduced me to what is likely the most influential conspiracy theory I'd never heard of: that the death of Subhas Chandra Bose in a plane crash in 1945 was faked, and his survival covered up by (serially) the Japanese government, the British government, the Indian government, the Soviet government, and the Indian government (three more times in separate inquiries). True to its title, the book is much more interested in the mechanics of the coverup than it is in what Bose might have been doing out there all this time. So kind of hard going for people who just want an introduction to the conspiracy, which you can find here at History Today.

    The prevailing theories are apparently that Bose was in a Soviet gulag or had renounced the world to become a holy man (there are two separate holy man False Boses attached to various versions of the theory). The Indian government has stiffed the investigators (official and unofficial) nigh-continuously since almost before independence, but Narendra Modi is a bigger fan of Bose than any previous PM. Modi's party also has an institutional interest in taking the Congress Party down a few pegs, so if it can prove that Congress allowed India's greatest fighting hero to languish in the gulag, count on a fourth inquiry and big headlines. If so, you read it here first, or perhaps second, if you beat me to India Bookhouse.
    Friday, June 6th, 2014
    4:10 am
    Sing Along With the Serpent People
    A perhaps infortuitous collision between my iTunes Work Shuffle mix and the subject of the July issue of Ken Writes About Stuff.

    "Serpent People"

    apologies to Pulp

    She came from Leith she had a thirst for magic
    She read von Junzt but her SAN was tragic, that's how I caught her eye
    She told me she was Pictish gentry
    I said in that case I'll have a 12-year Glenkinchie
    She said fine and in thirty seconds time she said

    I want to live like serpent people
    I want to do whatever serpent people do, I want to sleep with serpent people
    I want to sleep with serpent people like you
    Well what else could I do -- I said I'll see what I can do

    I took her to a fuath barrow
    I don't know why as I didn't care oh that's right
    I just wanted a bite

    I said pretend you're not an Aryan, she just laughed and said oh nobody cares an -ymore
    I said oh? Well Robert E. Howard sure makes a big thing of it

    Are you sure you want to live like serpent people
    You want to see whatever serpent people see
    You want to sleep with serpent people
    You want to sleep with serpent people like me
    But her comprehension failed, she just smiled and stroked my scales

    Get a cool and dim-lit cave
    Dress in skins and worship Medb
    Carve some flints and stretch your skull
    Pretend you never hung with Kull
    But still you'll never get it right
    Even haunting caves at night
    Carve Ixaxar on the wall
    If you called on Yig he'd still eat you all

    You'll never live like serpent people
    You'll never do what serpent people do
    You'll never coil like serpent people
    You'll never watch your race devolve out of view
    And hiss and bite and spew
    Because Tsathoggua told you to

    Sing along with the serpent people, sing along and it might just get you through
    Laugh along with the serpent people
    Laugh along even though they're laughing at you and the mammal things that you do
    Because you think extinct is cool

    Like a rattler in Oklahoma
    Full of neurotoxical trauma
    Look out
    They'll rot your insides out

    Cause everybody hates occultists
    Especially when their lore's
    Insulting to Yig
    Yeah and the venom stains
    Just go with the gig

    You will never understand
    What it means to live your life
    With no body heat control
    And with nowhere left to go
    You are amazed that they exist
    And they stay alive
    Whilst you can only wonder why

    Get a cool and dim-lit cave
    Dress in skins and worship Medb
    Carve some flints and stretch your skull
    Pretend you never hung with Kull
    But still you'll never get it right
    Even haunting caves at night
    Carve Ixaxar on the wall
    If you called on Yig he'd still eat you all

    You'll never live like serpent people
    You'll never do what serpent people do
    You'll never coil like serpent people
    You'll never watch your race devolve out of view
    And crouch and breed with you
    Because Tsathoggua told you to

    Want to live with serpent people like you
    Want to live with serpent people like you
    Want to live with serpent people like you
    Sunday, May 25th, 2014
    11:12 pm
    In Memoriam
    Robert Munroe (Ensign, Lexington militia, KIA 19 April 1775, Lexington Green)
    Martin R. Barreras (CSM, 2nd Bn, 5th Infantry Regt, 3rd Bde CBT, 1st Armored Div, KIA 13 May 2014, Herat, Afghanistan)

    And all 559,047 in between.
    Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
    5:33 am
    Merrily We Banish Ghosts
    My Evil British Twin James Palmer turned me on to the Merrily Watkins mystery novels of Phil Rickman -- he's a horror writer from the Welsh borderland who turned to mysteries because he didn't want to see all his books published with embossed metallized lettering on the covers forever and ever. (He's also got a series of John Dee historical occult-investigation novels, so you know we were meant to meet some way or other.)

    His detective Merrily Watkins is the Deliverance Coordinator for the Anglican church in the diocese of Hereford -- basically, she's an exorcist. I've only read one of the novels so far, The Fabric of Sin, which I picked because M.R. James' historical visit to Garway Church in that area plays a fairly major role in the plot. It was really, really terrific; tight plotting, great and believable characters, genuine folklore ("If I can't believe it, I don't put it in the novel" says the great man), masterful pacing, and just enough supernatural maybe going on to keep things nicely horripilative.

    I've got one or two more of the series on my Kindle now, and one or three more coming my way from Z-shops because whoever published the early Merrily Watkins books apparently wants to leave money just lying around. I advise the Rev. Micah Jackson to buy up all the used copies in the Austin area just in case my agents snake one out from under him.

    I don't know for sure, but from a cursory search through the Amazon descriptions, it seems that Rickman has somehow held off on using Arthur Machen as a plot element (as opposed to an inspiration) in the series, so I have that to look forward to.
    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
    2:29 am
    C2E2, Et Tu!
    Which is to say, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo AND YOU!

    Hopefully and you, certainly and me. And mforbeck. But not wordwill, as he will be at a swankier, or at least less Spider-Mannish, conference in North Carolina (hard as it may be to believe that such a thing could be) and shan't be on either of these two panels no matter what the lying website tries to tell you with its lies. And its Spiders-Man.

    Saturday, April 26

    11:00 AM - 12:00 PM: Crowdsourcing: Kickstarting Your Way to Success

    Matt Forbeck, Kenneth Hite

    The emergence of Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing services has revolutionized and reinvigorated the marketplace for creator-owned projects. Learn the Dos and Don'ts of a successful project from an all-star panel (Forbeck & Hite) of creators who have successfully funded projects that have far exceeded their goals. (Room S403)

    Sunday, April 27

    3:45 PM — 4:45 PM: The State of Play in Tabletop Roleplaying Gaming

    Matt Forbeck, Kenneth Hite

    A panel of professional RPG Designers (Matt Forbeck & Ken Hite) discuss the state of RPG play, design, and the industry, and they look as far into the future as they can. They'll spotlight great games you might have missed and highlight designers to watch. (Room S403)
    Sunday, April 6th, 2014
    4:00 am
    The (Light and) Shadow Over Portland: H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon Schedule
    Hey, gang! It's possible that you haven't heard that I'm a Guest of Honor at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon held next weekend (Friday, April 11-Sunday, April 13) in Portland, Oregon!

    And as is our nighted tradition 'round these parts, I present my schedule as I know it:


    9:00-10:00 p.m. Panel: Beyond the Tentacles: Summoning the Spirit of Lovecraft on the Tabletop
    What makes a game truly Lovecraftian? (Kenneth Hite, Sandy Petersen, Scott Glancy, Keith Baker) (EOD Center Main Stage)


    2:00-3:00 p.m. Panel: History and Lovecraft: The Eugenics Climate in Turn-of-the-Century USA
    Although Lovecraft's ideas about race sound strange and even repulsive to modern audiences, the United States in the 1920s was awash with eugenics ideas. How did Darwinism, health policy (such as the Racial Integrity Act of 1924) and science shape Lovecraft's vision? And how can we approach this delicate topic without declaring Lovecraft simply a "man of his time" and dismiss any modern concerns his writing may produce? (Silvia Moreno-Garcia, S. T. Joshi, Sean Hoade, Kenneth Hite) (EOD Center Main Stage)

    7:00-7:30 p.m. Keynote
    Apparently, I'm delivering the keynote address. Since the festival is focusing on "Dreams in the Witch-House," my topic will be "The Witch-Cult in Western Europe in H.P. Lovecraft." I'll be sure to plug WildClaw Theatre. (Main Screen)

    9:00-10:00 p.m. Panel: R'lyehian Roulette
    In this crazy event, panelists are given a rapid-fire selection of Lovecraftian topics, and have only 5 minutes to speak on each subject. This will be an information dump of Cyclopean proportions from some of the most brilliant people in the room. (Cody Goodfellow, Michael Cisco, Kenneth Hite, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Scott Glancy.) (EOD Center Classroom)

    10:00-11:00 p.m. Panel: The Infection of the King in Yellow In the wake of "True Detective", we take a look at the influence of Chambers's King In Yellow. What is it exactly, why are only some people drawn to it, and why does it hold such power over the "infected," both in fiction and for real life creators? Are the stories an essay on madness, supernatural fiction, or somehow both? (Joe Pulver, Michael Cisco, Kenneth Hite, KL Young, S. T. Joshi) (EOD Center Main Stage)

    Edited to add: I was originally scheduled to be on this panel, then someone looked at my schedule and decided I was on too many panels that day. I shall merely haunt the panel while they quote poetry and wonder if I shall appear when the black stars wheel in the sky.


    9:00 PM - 10:00 p.m. Panel: Cultists, Crosses, and Superstition
    A discussion of the depiction of religion in Lovecraft's stories. (Mike Davis, Robert M. Price, Edward Morris, Kenneth Hite) (EOD Center Main Stage)

    So come out to the coast! We'll get together, have a few burbles! See all y'all Portlandians and Lovecraftians there!
    Friday, April 4th, 2014
    5:54 pm
    A Smattering of Cuts
    My good pal and esteemed colleague frabjousdave has an interview with me up on his site, in which I talk The Nazi Occult, Stuff I Talk (and Write) About, the horrifying human-ness of Nazis, why I watch film, and cosmic horror in film.

    But I do tend to run on, and Dave cut the interview down a bit for its final publication. So herewith, the Deep Cuts from My Digital Dinner With Dave, themselves slightly trimmed to remove some interpersonal badinage.

    [On the Shakespearean Authorship Controversy]

    As a conspiratologist, my favorite theory is Calvin Hoffman's -- that Francis and Anthony Bacon faked Christopher Marlowe's death in 1593 and Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's plays from a hideout in Verona, Italy. (Where he also apparently learned to write female characters. But that's beside the point.) But by and large the Authorship Controversy is less plausible than, say, the Loch Ness Monster -- there are historical cases of new megafauna being discovered, but there aren't any I know of where a rich and famous person pays a nonentity to sign masterpieces he wrote, instead of the other way around. And the notion that Ben Jonson, to pick just one of Shakespeare's contemporaries who would have to be part of any cover-up, would willingly conspire to keep his great rival's secret is beyond ridicule.

    A lot of it seems like a weird flinch from the notion that middle-class nobodies can make art -- when of course that's who made the vast majority of art throughout history, and especially English history, and even more especially English literature. By comparison, in all English history, there are only two hereditary peers who have written great literature. (Two and a half if you count Dunsany.) The Marlowe theory at least picks another middle-class tradesman's son, although he went to Cambridge like a gentleman.

    [On why people inexplicably call Lovecraft a bad writer]

    They might just be judging Lovecraft by his worst, earlier work -- it's as if opinion of Shakespeare was forever tied solely to Timon of Athens or Henry VI Part 3. After 1926, Lovecraft never wrote crap. But although that's why most people are wrong about HPL, there's another reason that actually good readers are still sometimes wrong about HPL.

    They're wrong because, like almost everyone nowadays, they grew up in, and learned literature from people who were comfortably within, the Modernist consensus that prose should be direct and stories should be character-focused. While this is harmless enough as far as it goes, there is more to literature -- and even to Anglophone literature -- than the last 80 years. While Lovecraft is no Hawthorne, he is far more productively read in the light of Hawthorne than in the Modernist mode of Hemingway or Heinlein. Once you start reading Lovecraft by engaging in what he's actually doing -- and it's not like he didn't tell everyone what he was actually doing -- and notice his techniques like catachresis and false paradox, or his poetic tastes infusing his tendency to paint imagery and thus emotional color in many overlapping coats, or the structure of his tales in light of Poe's theories of story and his own theories of architecture, or (something I've just started noticing in the last few years) his brilliant, toweringly original, and seemingly effortless modernization of the Gothic, you can't believe he could do all of that in one story, much less that he did it consistently in the seventeen or so truly great works he produced.

    [Further examples of national genre-cinemas I currently enjoy]

    Bollywood is getting better and better at making crime films, which delights me: Shootout at Wadala is a classic gangster story, and I've never seen a better choreographed (literally!) heist sequence than the hotel job in Dhoom. I think the last really good true conspiracy movie I saw was Golden Slumber, a Japanese film that inverts the genre to make a film about society instead of isolation. But most good conspiracy films turn out to be either crime films or horror; in either case, Korea's got you covered.

    Korean film in general is just amazing nowadays, maybe better even than Hong Kong was at its peak. Even mediocre Korean B-pictures are better than the same level of work from France or America. There's a messy, kind of stupid Korean thriller flick, Typhoon, that's more compelling and more on-point than any recent Bond movie. In horror, France has really picked up the gauntlet: Haute Tension, Martyrs -- they're not easy to watch, but they're not lazy, which is the real problem with a lot of post-Saw American horror. I've become a big fan of the French director Denis Dercourt, who has a sort of gamer-Hitchcock sensibility in psychological thrillers; his films have a real sense of invisible rules constraining action.

    Fantasy is such an easy genre to get wrong (and perhaps so dependent on specific national-cultural cues) that I don't seek it out; sometimes something surprises me, but not often. The American independent Beasts of the Southern Wild is probably the best fantasy film I've seen in a decade, although you might call the arch British ghost movie Skeletons a fantasy, in which case the scores switch around. It's not straight horror, anyhow. Similarly, I don't seek out foreign SF, which (the occasional District 9 aside) is not much better than Anglo-American material: Monsters is a British SF-horror film made in Mexico, and stands up to anything else on its scale this decade.
    Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
    5:31 am
    Maps and Legends
    Like many people who think medieval folks were stupid, this guy is wrong. This guy being Dutch geodeticist Roelof Nicolai, who believes that because the portolan charts of 14th-century Mediterranean Europe were more accurate than many maps down to the 19th century, and indeed seem in some cases to have been drafted (or partly drafted) on the (16th century) Mercator Projection, that they must be .... from the 2nd century A.D. Or B.C. Or somewhen. Just not, you know, when they are actually from.

    This is exactly like the people who say "I can't imagine building the Pyramids without steam shovels" and therefore conclude they must have been built using alien anti-gravity rays, instead of with a million drafted peasants, a multi-decade contracting process, and very lax safety codes.

    I suspect the portolans are in fact medieval "big data." The portolans (1290) postdate by a century or so the introduction of the compass to Europe (~1180). Lots of individual compass-bearings from a given city to its nearby neighbors, repeated for every city in which you have contacts, equals true compass bearings for the whole map, which is a kind of brute-force Mercator. The portolans probably came out of the Jewish intellectual centers in the Balearic Islands (Pisa, where the first portolan we know of surfaced, had a thriving Jewish community in the 12-13th c); it would not amaze me at all if they began as the proprietary charts assembled over decades of observations by Jewish merchants. That also explains why the portolans suddenly go to crap north of the Thames and east of the Weser.
    Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
    3:17 am
    And The Oscar Likely Does Not Go To...
    Any of the Ten Best 2013 Movies I Saw In 2013, although I may eke out a win or two in Sound Editing or something, but know that any right-minded Academy would start with these:

    Only God Forgives
    Upstream Color
    Inside Llewyn Davis
    American Hustle
    The Great Gatsby
    Frances Ha
    Before Midnight
    Much Ado About Nothing

    That takes us down to A- territory, thanks almost entirely to Alexis Denisof's weak Benedick. Not a strong year for me, in other words, as the next ten stay pretty much in B country: Europa Report, My Sweet Pepper Land, Escape From Tomorrow, Dhoom 3 (although it was A+ fun to watch, I know a B+ movie when I see it), The Don Juans, A Pact, The Wolf of Wall Street, Shootout at Wadala, Fast & Furious 6, and Soul.

    I should, I suppose, cut the Academy some slack, as the Top Ten 2013 Movies I Didn't See In 2013 could well actually deserve some mention: To the Wonder, Side Effects, Drug War, The Wind Rises, Philomena, Nebraska, Lone Survivor, The Counselor, Mud, and 12 Years a Slave are fairly strong guesses on my part, although Ramleela, Hannah Arendt, or Rush (for instance) might surprise me. I apparently need to work a little harder at seeing good movies in 2014, but I'm pretty happy with my Top Ten this year for all that.
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