101: Luther Arkwright by Brian Talbot

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101: Luther Arkwright by Brian Talbot
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Intro 00:06 // Synopsis 03:24 (The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Heart of Empire) // Remarks 18:03 (Eternal Champions, Multiverses, Law and Chaos, parallel lives) // Media 26:50 (The Design Mechanism’s Luther Arkwright RPG; Big Finish audio dramas; Imagine 14; Appendix N Podcast)

Patreon

Support this podcast on The Fictoplasm Patreon!

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // instagram // youtube

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear, “Cylinder 5”, “Cylinder 4” and “Cylinder 7” from Cylinders, “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

97: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (feat. Breakfast in the Ruins)

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97: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (feat. Breakfast in the Ruins)
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Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

With special guest Andy from the Breakfast in the Ruins podcast!

Intro 00:07 // Premise 05:25 // Characters 08:56 // Prologue & part 1 24:14 // Part 3 (Andy’s favourite bit) 44:43 // Part 4 54:11 // Tarkovsky’s Stalker and other media from 1:00:02 (inc. The Lighthouse, Hard To Be A God, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Stalker RPG)

Patreon

Support this podcast on The Fictoplasm Patreon!

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // instagram // youtube

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

95: Sailing to Utopia by Michael Moorcock

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95: Sailing to Utopia by Michael Moorcock
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Sailing to Utopia by Michael Moorcock (Millenium 1993 ISBN 1-85798-032-8)

comprising The Ice Schooner, The Black Corridor, The Distant Suns, Flux

Intro 00:07 // The cover 01:26 // The foreword 03:21 // Synopsis 05:31 (The Ice Schooner 05:34, The Black Corridor 10:41, The Distant Suns 14:44, Flux 18:01) // Remarks 21:56 // Final thoughts and ratings 31:30_ 

Patreon

Support this podcast on The Fictoplasm Patreon!

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // instagram // youtube

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

93: the Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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93: the Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Intro 00:07 // Synopsis 01:28 // Themes 12:46 (hard and soft SF, exploration, survival, skills, celebrating discovery and forming relationships) // Media 28:30 (The Expanse, Form Grows Rampant, The Forever War, Gateway, Diaspora)

Links

What would the Smart Party Do? Shawn Tomkin interview
The Expanse
Form Grows Rampant
The Forever War
Gateway
Diaspora

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Cylinder Four”, “Cylinder Six” and “Cylinder Eight” from Cylinders // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

This Damned Nation: Player Notes

see this post

Apocalypse World: Burned Over (like most PbtA) has its own lexicon regarding playbooks which may affect impressions of what that character does.

This is further complicated by this scenario, which is very prescriptive in what the PCs do.

Players are expected to pick playbooks and work to fit them into the scenario and potential situations. Some playbooks will be a drop in, but others will take a bit of creative thinking to make work. There are some comments below on how to make the different playbooks work.

Managing Expectations

This game is slightly different from (my experience of) typical AW games, which are usually centred around a stronghold or other central location. In Burned Over this would be the game’s Hard Zone.

This scenario uses the variant play of Burned Over with two Hard Zones, which are North and South of the Road that the players will be travelling on. Furthermore the characters will be constantly in motion, travelling from location to location and not returning to static locations. The characters are also on a mission to deliver serum to Boston; this means that they are against the clock, and every stop and diversion means lives lost.

I can see these consequences:

  1. Less opportunity for pursuing social interactions.
  2. A character with a big following will be difficult to make work, unless they’re travelling with them. An entourage that slows the convoy down could be disastrous.
  3. Similarly resources or wealth concentrated in a place won’t work, unless that place is mobile.

That leaves three ways of managing characters with people and other resources on their playbook.

The first is to have those resources in a vehicle.

The second option is to have the resources in caches along the road. If they’re people, they’re settlements that display some kind of affiliation to the character. If they’re resources, they’re dead drops, strongboxes, bunkers or other caches that the character can gain access to. In that case the character should use those to expand on their own affiliations and how these resources illustrate them — are they part of a secret society, federation, pre-collapse nation?

The third is to make use of the two Hard Zones. This is trickier but these may still be accessed along the Road via Off-Ramps. They represent different states of reality, two opposing forces, competing timelines and ethereal states; it’s effectively a ghost or spirit world, a representation of the psychic maelstrom. Specific characters are more likely to interact with them briefly (e.g. the Gearcutter) but they could serve as static places “owned” by those characters with such resources, to be visited on occasion. However this may still present a logistical problem because the time any character can spend in these places will still be limited owing to the mission constraints. If the playgroup and player can make this work then go for it; otherwise I’d limit the concept to the other two options above.

Vehicles and Driving

The Nation of California provides a vehicle suitable for transporting the serum called a Landmaster. This is an eight-wheeled all terrain vehicle with radiation cladding, armour and various armaments. It’s assumed all characters can drive the vehicle, especially if there are no environmental challenges (and they will need to share the burden of driving).

Some playbooks own vehicles, or have abilities that could be interpreted as a vehicle. If the players agree, the Landmaster could be “owned” by one character. If the Medic is in play for example, the Landmaster could be their Refuge. If there’s a Weaponized, they could be the Landmaster.

Otherwise, the other vehicles can be outriders or support vehicles doing duty to protect the Landmaster, which is carrying the vital serum to Boston.

The Hard Zones

AW: Burned Over assumes 1 or at most 2 Hard Zones. If there’s a single Zone it’s where the PCs are; if there are 2, the PCs walk the border between the two.

By default The Road is the game’s Hard Zone. It’s the physical landscape the characters are going to cross on their journey between the Nation of California and Boston. Locations include:

  • Wells, places that can provide resources essential to the journey
  • Off-ramps, deviations from the Road into the Other places
  • Storm ranges, natural threats that will affect progress

There are some notes below on how each Playbook fits into the setting, but in general interactions with a Hard Zone will be spots along the Road, and the party will only visit these spaces once.

If you want to run with 2 Hard Zones instead, make the Road the border between the two. This could be a physical border (for example between warring groups North and South of the Road) or a metaphysical one (the Road connects the Now with the Past, other timelines or dimensions).

Fitting the Playbooks

Brain Picker

This character tends to be a loner and can probably slot in as-is.

Note that this character is potentially very disruptive to both communities and the environment; also they need time up close to use their powers, even if that time is short, which will be limited to when people are outside their vehicles. But otherwise no real restrictions and no tweaking needed for play.

Gearcutter

A great playbook for a mechanic type, and really good fit for the game. Does some interesting psychic stuff.

Note their Salvage Grounds. Assume that they have a collection of stuff in the Landmaster or their personal vehicle.

When they’re going into dangerous territory to salvage, they’re probably going Off Ramp into one of the Hard Zones, which are weird alternate spaces where they can find things not normally found in the primary world.

Lawmaker

This is probably the hardest playbook to integrate as it often revolves around a Holding which is by default static and has NPCs coming to it.

One way to make the Lawmaker fit is to make them an extension of either the Nation of California, or the old pre-collapse USA. In this case their law is synonymous with THE law. This would make them more like a Judge crossing the Cursed Earth, but it could work. This would still allow them to proclaim their Laws. Their 20-strong Gang might be other lawmakers roving the wilds and similarly dispensing justice, and their Holding could be stations along the way that still uphold the Old Laws.

An alternative way to play could be to make this character an antagonist pursuing the convoy with bikes and other vehicles, for whatever reason. This is the role of the biker gang lead by Big Brother in the final pages of Damnation Alley. Managing this would mean you have to cut between the Convoy and their stronghold, but in this case it could work. One of their Laws should be something that directly opposes the Mission. Their Holding might be a roving gang, or it could be one of the two Hard Zones accessed by Off-Ramps.

Medic

If the Medic is in play, suggest that their Refuge is the Landmaster.

Monarch

Like the Lawmaker, this playbook implies some kind of static group of people, but it’s a bit more flexible. If the Monarch’s People are choppers it’s easy to make them a support group riding with the Landmaster.

Another interpretation could focus on the affiliation the character has, rather than assuming an entourage that’s always there. Like the Lawmaker variant, their people might be found in pockets of civilisation along the way, connected to this character by fame, a shared ideal, a national identity, etc. In this way the Monarch may be some kind of navigator or official that facilitates the convoy’s journey. Perhaps there are numerous checkpoints, tolls, or ports along the way and the Monarch is not just useful, but essential in getting safe passage through or resources. That would make them a kind of “fixer”.

If you’re taking this alternate option, be careful that you don’t overlap too strongly with the Operator and make one or the other redundant.

Operator

A pretty good fit with the scenario as-is. The Operator’s Ports of Call will be places along the Road, and their Ear to the Ground move should similarly be focused on places they’re going to travel through on the Road. They have their own vehicle.

Undaunted

Really interesting character focused on Aggro, with links to the Maelstrom.

The Children should be encountered along the Road. Some of them are created as Threats (I guess either antagonists or causing trouble).

Rather than have these turn up as recurring characters (not really possible) consider foreshadowing these characters with some inevitable meeting happeing somewhere down the Road.

Vigilant

This is actually a pretty good fit already as the character isn’t tied down to a location. The exception is the Bolthole move. This could be a vehicle, or it could be a network of bunkers that the character somehow has access to, or other safe locations. Perhaps they have a secret map of the Old Nation. Hiding out for any length of time won’t work with the setting, so it may be simpler to prohibit this move.

Volatile

Not a particularly subtle character, but should be no problem to integrate into the setting with no ties to any location.

Weaponised

Similar to the Volatile, a no-nonsense character that should be straightforward to integrate.

One option for this character could be to make them one of the vehicles, possibly the Landmaster itself. This could be tricky to build into the narrative with constraints on where the character can go, but it could be a fun option.

This Damned Nation

a play idea for Apocalypse World: Burned Over inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley, Roadmarks, and the Amber series.

By Ralph Lovegrove

The Mission and the Convoy

The play group is the Convoy of vehicles.

PCs have been seconded by the Nation of California to take the serum to Boston, which is in dire need combatting the Plague. The PCs are all miscreants with past lives that are at odds with civilised society. They all have reasons they are prepared to take the deal offered by the Constable of California, a pardon in exchange for escorting the serum to the East Coast.

At character generation, each character will have a past that forms part of their reason for being on the mission. Answer some of these questions:

  • what did you do that means you can’t be part of society any more?
  • what do you miss about being part of society?
  • what will you do with your freedom?

The Road

The Road is a straight line between the Nation of California and Boston. This forms the basis for the journey. West is the Past, East is the Future, North and South are two alternate timelines. Branches from the Road move to other timelines in which characters may exist for a time and then rejoin the Road.

Branches

Branches off the Road, sometimes called Off-Ramps or Junctions, lead to other timelines. There are two competing realities: North and South.

North and South are the Hard Zones in this setting. They are static and eternal. They exist in many different times. The group (or MC) need to decide how the portals between the Road and the Hard Zones appear.

If you like, have individual characters or even the whole party deviate off the Road via a Branch and then rejoin later. This can be a mechanism for managing player absence.

Wells

Wells along the Road are the places that the Convoy needs to stop to replenish resources. They are the potential for the characters to meet settlements along the way, with associated Threats. Wells are (must be) resources that the Convoy needs.

A Well may have

  • a resource that the Convoy needs to acquire
  • a crisis/conflict that needs to be resolved in order to get that resource
  • opportunities for interaction with locals
  • a Landscape Threat

Terrain

The Terrain (including weather) is a significant Threat, and a legacy from the Event. Threaten the party with the Terrain at least once per session.

The Nation

The Nation matters. Even though boundaries have been erased by the disaster, there are people who are still old enough to have lived through the event, or direct descendants whose family have clung to the old divisions and borders.

Everyone has a relationship with the Nation, from zero (the former nation means nothing) to some positive value (geography, geopolitics, pre-Event history are significant).

The Nation has a language. The ancient cipher can be used to unlock deep held sentiments, forgotten truths, and painful truths depending on who you talk to.

In play the Nation is a Threat (Institution).

All characters start with Hx for The Nation, used in the moves Charm Someone, Read Someone, Read a Situation, Augury. This works if you can work in some element of the Nation into the conversation or the situation. In this case, replace the current stat with Hx.

At the MC’s option, use negative Hx in these situations to represent a person’s bias.

Some MC moves

Threaten with weather
Expose resentment
Spoil resources
Create off-ramp
Poison a Well

The End

Up to the play group when things end. It may end after a few sessions with a defined arc. Or the game may end before ever reaching the destination, even after season after season. As MC you may choose to cancel the campaign before anything is really resolved, after many sessions of endless roads, diversions into other dimensions, returning PCs who may be imposters, clones, or alternate timeline versions of themselves. Prepare for backlash.

83: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

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83: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
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I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Show Notes

Intro 00:07
Synopsis 00:54
Themes and Games 08:45
– Vampire Science 08:55
Blade
The Strain
The X Files
– Proper Vampires 14:39
pretty vs nasty vampires, or how the 90s ruined vampires
Other Media 21:52
– The Films
The Last Man on Earth
The Omega Man
I am Legend
The Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers
Arktos by Joscelyn Godwin
Fevre Dream by George RR Martin
Ultraviolet
Chill RPG
World of Darkness

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

81: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

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81: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
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Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Show Notes

Intro 00:07
Synopsis 00:56
Themes and Games 12:00 (Ribbon Drive, Witch: Road to Lindisfarne, Ultraviolet Grasslands, Deluge, Station Eleven, American Gods)
Further reading 24:33 (the movie, Annihilation, Roadside Picnic, Into the Badlands, Kiteworld)

Other links

Fear of a Black Dragon’s episode on the Ultraviolet Grasslands
Andy Bartlett’s blog post on America and D&D

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

80: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

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80: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny
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Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Show Notes

Intro 00:07 // Synopsis 02:29 // Themes and Games 09:12 // Magic and Technology 09:28 // Sabriel 09:53 // Trollbabe 15:11 // Tidally locked worlds 16:37 // concepts of day and night; no astronomers or astrologers // idea for setting between two singularities 20:56 // Further reading 26:07 (City in the Middle of the Night, Inverted World, Arktos)

Further Reading

Life on a Tidally Locked Planet by Ashok K. Singal
City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
Inverted World by Christopher Priest
Arktos by Jocelyn Goodwin

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

75: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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75: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
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Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Show Notes

Intro 00:07 (anniversaries of sorts) // Synopsis 05:06 // Themes 19:02 // Motives // Tools 24:14 (language, media, propaganda, surveillance, revisionism, war) // Other Reading 38:52 // George Floyd // Dystopia as aesthetic // confusing Dystopia and Post-Apocalypse // Dystopocalypse

Other book references:

The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe
The Watchtowers from The Voices of Time by J G Ballard
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Children of Morrow by H M Hoover
Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Cylinder Three” and “Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders // “Take Off and Shoot a Zero” from Stunt Island // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

72: The City & The City by China Mieville

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72: The City & The City by China Mieville
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The City & The City by China Mieville

Show Notes

Intro 00:07 // Synopsis 01:47 // Commentary 12:02 // Breach 12:26 // Politics 18:14 // Conspiricies 19:24 // Precursor Age 25:01 // Tololgangers 28:19 // Further Reading 32:50

Links

What happened at the prom by Elizabeth Lovegrove

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders // “Take off and shoot a Zero” from Stunt Island // “I don’t know where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Episode 66: The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

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Episode 66: The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman
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The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

Show Notes

Plot and Setting 01:18 (viral learning, accelerated childhood, photosynthesis, viral augmented reality, living history, communism, living history, viral empaths) // Themes 15:04 (utopia and distopia, invading thoughts in the gestalt, J G Ballard, Anne Leckie, the bigger picture, Big Questions, Cyberpunk cheats death, constrained by time, death and transcendence, editing the soul) // The Roleplaying Bit 29:38 (two experience tracks, Brexit, countdown to apocalypse, local and global collapse, the Village)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “But enough about me Bill Paxton” from Direct to Video // “Cylinder four” from Cylinders // “I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Episode 65: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

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Episode 65: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Show Notes

Synopsis 02:19 // Themes 06:51 // activism // corporate totalitarianism // biotech // Roleplaying 19:11 // corporate dystopia // cyberprep // PbtA and Urban Shadows (storms/fronts) // the contract // dual advancement tracks // “Village fiction” (The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “But enough about me Bill Paxton” from Direct to Video // “Cylinder four” from Cylinders // “I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Episode 53: Big Planet by Jack Vance

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Episode 53: Big Planet by Jack Vance
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Big Planet by Jack Vance

Show Notes

Synopsis 01:05 // Themes 04:25 // Big Planet is Big 04:27 // Kaiju and Cthulhu 05:56 // Superstition 06:48 // Expanding consciousness 08:48 // And then there were none 10:01 // Games 10:12 // Dramasystem 11:27 // Further Afield 12:40 // Carcosa 13:54 // The Black Hack and resource dice 14:16 // BRP and Traveller 15:30 // Silent Legions 16:30 // Appendix N (or not?) 17:22

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear // “Cylinder Three” “Cylinder Four” Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders // “Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless

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404: Under the Skin by Michael Faber

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404: Under the Skin by Michael Faber
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This is our 50th episode! Not doing anything special, just sipping a gin and talking about Michael Faber’s Under the Skin.

Show Notes

Under the Skin by Michael Faber Under the Skin (film) directed by Jonathan Glazer

  • Synopsis 00:56
  • Themes 05:22
  • Film adaptation 12:05
  • RPG bit 16:08

Music Credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

4.03: The Last Policeman, Hard Sun, The Three Body Problem

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4.03: The Last Policeman, Hard Sun, The Three Body Problem
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Ralph briefly discusses three pre-apocalyptic novels, with the conclusion that all that matters is how much time you’ve got left.

Show Notes

Links

  1. This episode is partially inspired by the thread Nihilism: Gaming in a Hard Sun world on the UKRoleplayers forum.
  2. Here’s a fun stackexchange thread) on Hard Sun’s possible extinction event.

Music Credits

“Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 4.02: Excession by Iain M. Banks

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Episode 4.02: Excession by Iain M. Banks
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Rhi and Paul join Ralph to talk about Iain M. Banks’ Excession and The Culture. Post-scarcity, intelligent starships, body modification and first contact.

Show Notes

Excession (and other Culture novels) by Iain M. Banks

Rhiannon Lassiter, Paul Mitchener and Ralph Lovegrove

  • Overview of The Culture 00:50
  • Synopsis of Excession 05:40
  • Themes 12:05
    • Diverging human cultures
    • What do utopians do with their free time?
    • Benevolent interference in other civilisations
    • The edge of ascension
    • Contact and Special Circumstances
    • Sex positive
    • Transhumanism before it was famous
    • Death
  • Aside:The Player of Games 32:50
  • RPGs 38:30
    • Mindjammer by Sarah Newton
    • Flotsam (Josh Fox, based on Dream Askew by Avery Alder)
    • Microscope and Kingdom by Ben Robbins
    • Dramasystem by Robin D. Laws
  • First Contact scenarios 48:05
    • Event Horizon
    • Unto Leviathan by Richard Paul Russo
    • Eon by Greg Bear
    • 2001 and 2010
    • The Fifth Element

Music Credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 4.00 Annihilation Redux

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Episode 4.00 Annihilation Redux
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Ralph talks about running Cthulhu Dark: Annihilation at Concrete Cow, the differences between Jeff Vandermeer’s book and Alex Garland’s film, and managing player expectations in one-shots and beyond.

Show Notes

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer // Annihilation by Alex Garland

Planning Cthulhu Dark: Annihilation

Annihilation the movie 00:45 // Differences between novel and film 03:15 // What you might change going from book to RPG 07:10 // Available technology, communicating with the outside, appeals to authority 11:20 // Party cohesion 13:25 // Cthulhu Dark: Annihilation at Concrete Cow 15:30 // The Cthulhu Dark formula (and the Colour out of Space) 18:15 // Over prepping 21:15 // Setting expectations for con games 24:40

Music Credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 308: return to the Southern Reach

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Episode 308: return to the Southern Reach
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Ralph briefly returns to Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.

Show Notes

The Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) by Jeff Vandermeer.

  • Annihilation episode recap 01:05
  • Authority 04:35
  • Acceptance 08:40
  • RPG bit (Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Dark and Lovecraftesque) 11:45

Music credits

“Cylinder Three“ from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 217: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

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Episode 217: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
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In our last episode of the season Ralph, Liz and Josh struggle to communicate over Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17.

Show Notes

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Elizabeth Lovegrove, Josh Fox and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:45 // Jo Walton’s review 04:30 // Themes 05:10 // The Dead on tape 08:00 // Translation and Memory 12:40 // Hyperspace 14:25 // Non-binary life partners 15:45 // Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis 24:00 // Sleeper agents 28:35 // Gaming by hypnosis 30:25 // Faceless invaders 34:15 // RPG bit — Josh 37:55 // Liz (Grunting, Dialect RPGs) 39:00 // Ralph 44:40 // Last bits 52:20

Book References

Since we mentioned several titles in this episode, here’s our mini bibliography.

The Babel-17 wiki page lists other works that were influenced by this book including Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Ted Chiang’s Story Of Your Life (made into the film Arrival).

Finally, here’s Jo Walton’s review of Babel-17.

Game Notes

Five Conversational Hypnosis Tools For MCs by Pete Kautz.

Grunting is a free RPG by Jen Spencer.

Dialect is a game about how language dies. It’s post-Kickstarter (but I guess you can pre-order it).

We mentioned Night Witches (yes, AGAIN).

Ralph has started his Dramasystem/OSR mashup anyway (yeah, DEAL WITH IT JOSH). It’s called StormHack. Mini SRD here.

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 216: Second Variety by Philip K. Dick

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Episode 216: Second Variety by Philip K. Dick
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Ralph, Liz and Josh give each other the side eye trying to work out which of the others are human… we read Philip K. Dick’s Second Variety.

Show Notes

Second Variety by Philip K. Dick

Elizabeth Lovegrove, Josh Fox and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis and comments start 00:30 // BSG 05:00 // The 100 13:25 // RPG bit starts with Liz 15:05 // Josh’s Game 16:50 // Ralph’s Game 19:50

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 215: Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer

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Episode 215: Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer
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Ralph and Josh board Le Transperceneige a.k.a. the Snowpiercer.

Show Notes

Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, made into the film Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-Ho

Josh Fox and Ralph Lovegrove

Film Synopsis 00:45 // Graphic Novels 03:35 // Themes 08:05 // Oldboy 11:55 // The Hope by James Lovegrove 24:20 // The RPG bit (it’s Apocalpse World, innit) 26:00 // Wool by Hugh Howey 30:20 // Rise and Fall 37:00 // Last words 39:00 // Hollowpoint 39:25 // Actually these are the last words 39:30 // No, really, these are the last words 40:20 // The Bed Sitting Room and the London Underground (and Neverwhere) 40:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 213: Kiteworld by Keith Roberts

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Episode 213: Kiteworld by Keith Roberts
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(see our previous episode)

Keith Roberts wrote nine groups of short stories, four of which are linked novellas. Kiteworld was published nearly 20 years after Pavane and bears more than a passing resemblance to the earlier collection, despite it’s post-apocalyptic setting.

Music credits

“Cylinder Four“ from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 208: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Episode 208: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Mo, Liz, Ralph and special guest Paul Mitchener discuss Ursula Le Guin’s magnificent The Dispossessed.

Show Notes

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paul Mitchener, Mo Holkar, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 01:40 // “The Hobbit, basically” 05:50 // Remarks 09:35 // Paul’s game (Hot War) 15:00 // Mo’s game (hacking Rise and Fall) 18:10 // Liz’s game (inc. Bite Me) 20:50 // Ralph’s game 25:00 // The Hainish Cycle 29:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 206: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

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Episode 206: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
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Ralph is joined by special guest Baz Stevens to discuss traction cities, airships and Municipal Darwinism in Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines.

Show Notes

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Ralph Lovegrove joined by Baz Stevens, one half of the Smart Party podcast

Synopsis 02:15 // Comments 06:15 // Slipstream 23:30 // Baz’s RPG ideas 27:40 // Moorcock’s Revenge of the Rose 28:00 // FAE and Spirit of the Century 28:25 // Castle Falkenstein 34:00 // Lace and Steel 34:45 // James Lovegrove’s The Hope 39:15 // Paranoia (as Brazil) 40:25 // Lost boys and Blades in the Dark 42:15 // Closing remarks 44:45

Enough About Me, Bill Paxton

Shortly after we recorded this episode Bill Paxton died on the 25th of February. Roleplayers will fondly remember his contributions to speculative genre films such as Aliens, Near Dark and Edge of Tomorrow.

Slipstream was a commercial and critical flop despite starring Paxton alongside Mark Hamill, Kitty Aldridge, Bob Peck, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham among others and directed by Star Wars collaborator Gary Kurtz. It’s not a great film. Perhaps if it had been made today with modern CGI and post-Fury Road sensibilities (a diverse cast, maybe) then the apocalyptic scope of the film would be realized.

RIP Bill Paxton.

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 204: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

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Episode 204: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
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Becky, Ralph and special guest Tod Foley discuss the bizarre, creeping horror in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach series.

Show Notes

Annihilation (and sequels) by Jeff Vandermeer.

Ralph Lovegrove with Becky Annison and Tod Foley

Bronson Pinchot has a lovely voice 01:05 // Synopsis (and general conversation) 01:45 // RPG ideas start 07:40 // Man Against Fire (Black Mirror) 08:35 // Archipelago and Itras By 11:30 // Itras By 11:40 // Lots more RPG options from Tod 13:40 // Bleed 15:45 // De Profundis 19:40 // Hot War 32:20 // LARP 42:50

RPGs

We covered a lot of different games in this episode, so here they are in order of mention:

  • Archipelago
  • Itras By
  • Stalker RPG
  • Day Trippers
  • Cypher System
  • Dread
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • De Profundis
  • Hot War

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 202: The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

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Episode 202: The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper
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In this episode Becky, Liz and Ralph split off and explore the many lives of The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper.

Show Notes

The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

Becky Annison, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:33 // Comments 05:30 // RPGs, shared characters and concluding the game 11:30 // Becky’s RPG 20:30 // Liz’s RPG 25:30 // Ralph’s RPG and Blake’s 7 29:00 // Non-simultaneous travel and communication (and Ursula Le Guin) 38:00 // Other Tepper recommendations 40:10

(we namecheck Beyond the Wall and Traveller in this episode)

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 2.01: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

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Episode 2.01: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
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In this episode Liz, Mo and Ralph dive into Grass by Sheri S. Tepper.

This is the first of two episodes on Tepper, whose death in 2016 was pretty much overshadowed by more prominent celebs and/or politics.

Show Notes

Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

Mo Holkar, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:30 // Comment starts 08:00 // “Puzzle Planets” 13:30 // The History Problem 18:00 // Liz’s game 19:45 // Mo’s game 22:00 // Ralph’s game 25:20

Other “Puzzle Planet” Books

  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • Dune by Frank Herbert

For another treatment of Grass and its literary and historical roots, see this article (infinityplus)

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Xmas Episode 02: Our Picks

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Xmas Episode 02: Our Picks
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We pitch 7 books for future consideration.

Show Notes

Mo Holkar, Josh Fox, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

The books:

  • Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  • No Good Men Among The Living by Anand Gopal
  • Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer
  • The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
  • The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

Mo’s bit (Vonnegut) 00:40 // Josh’s bit (Gopal, Sawyer) 08:10 // Liz’ bit (Chambers, Austen) 17:50 // Ralph’s bit (Stapledon, Barker) 25:30

Other Stuff

The Chaucer Twitter Feed

M. John Harrison’s essay on the Great Clomping Foot of Nerdism from Warren Ellis’ blog (original can be found via Wayback Machine)

Music credits

“I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” both from Thoughtless by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 11: The Matter of Seggri and Coppola’s Dracula

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Episode 11: The Matter of Seggri and Coppola's Dracula
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This episode Liz and Ralph recommend short stories to each other: The Matter of Seggri by Ursula Le Guin, and Coppola’s Dracula by Kim Newman.

Show Notes

The Matter of Seggri from The Birthday of the World by Ursula Le Guin

Coppola’s Dracula by Kim Newman which you can read online here.

Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

The Matter of Seggri 00:45 // Game ideas 08:40 // Coppola’s Dracula 12:30 // Game ideas 19:05 // The Quiet Year 24:55 // Dream Park 25:40

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 09: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

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Episode 09: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
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A near-future Johannesburg where the urban sprawl mixes with Southern African legend in a post-cyberpunk detective novel.

Show Notes

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

00:39 Synopsis // 04:35 Fake academic papers and His Dark Materials // 06:00 Penny Miller’s Myths and Legends of Southern Africa // 11:15 Games here // 17:00 Ralph gushes about WaRP // 19:05 PbtA all the way down // 22:56 Malandros (again) // 24:10 (off topic) our book lists

Ralph and Liz’s book lists

We set each other a challenge of reading ten books the other had read. These is my list from Liz:

  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum / Kate Atkinson
  • The Robber Bride / Margaret Atwood
  • The Sparrow / Mary Dora Russell
  • Parable of the Sower / Octavia Butler
  • To Kill A Mockingbird / Harper Lee
  • The Color Purple / Alice Walker
  • Gaudy Night / Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Among Others / Jo Walton
  • Zoo City / Lauren Beukes
  • Tipping the Velvet / Sarah Waters

(Note: Parable of the Sower was originally Fledgeling but changed for reasons)

And this is Liz’s list from me:

  • Behold the Man / Michael Moorcock
  • The Pastel City / M. John Harrison
  • Cocaine Nights / J. G. Ballard
  • The Forever War / Joe Haldeman
  • The Land of Laughs / Jonathan Carroll
  • The Demolished Man / Alfred Bester
  • Norstrilia / Cordwainer Smith
  • Ubik / Philip K. Dick
  • The Western Lands / William Burroughs
  • Neuromancer / William Gibson

Scores so far are 3.5 (for me) to 1.5 (for Liz)

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

(chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

Episode 05: Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

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Episode 05: Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
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This episode Mo and Ralph leap into the very far future of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun quartet.

Show Notes

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Mo Holkar and Ralph Lovegrove

Book starts at 01:20, games around 12:15

Games

GURPS New Sun by Michael Andre-Driussi (Steve Jackson Games) // Chronicles of Future Earth by Sarah Newton

Other

Lexicon Urthus by Michael Andre-Driussi

Music

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

(chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

Episode 04: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Episode 04: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
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Zeitgeisty! The team read the 2016 Hugo-winning novella Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

Show Notes

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
exerpt

Ralph Lovegrove with Elizabeth Lovegrove and Mo Holkar

00:26 Synopsis // 02:47 Comments // 10:10 Liz’s Game // 14:28 Mo’s Game // 19:31 Ralph’s Game

Games

Dog Eat Dog by Liam Liwanag Burke // De Profundis by Michal Oracz

Music

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie (chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

“Gone” from Music for Podcasts 2 by Lee Rosevere (happy puppy records bandcamp free music archive)

Episode 03: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

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Episode 03: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
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This episode we abandon hopes of getting the DVD player working again and embrace the apocalypse with Emily St John’s Station Eleven

Show Notes

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Ralph Lovegrove and Elizabeth Lovegrove

00:20 Synopsis // 06:40 Dystopia // 09:40 The Knowledge // 12:25 The Games

Games

Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker & Meguey Baker // Summerland by Greg Saunders // Other Dust by Sine Nomine Games // Unknown Armies by Greg Stolze & John Tynes

Other Things

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and the film adaptation

The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell

Music

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie “Cylinder 3” and “Cylinder 4” from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie (chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

“Gone” from Music for Podcasts 2 by Lee Rosevere (happy puppy records bandcamp free music archive)

Episode 01: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

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Episode 01: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
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In our first episode we talk about the utopian post-scarcity, post-gender space opera of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

Show Notes

Fictoplasm episode 1: Ancilliary Justice by Ann Leckie, part of the Imperial Radch Trilogy

Ralph Lovegrove, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Becky Annison

01:00 Synopsis // 05:00 Comments // 12:20 Start of the RPG bit // 12:30 Liz’s game idea // 19:00 Becky’s game idea // 24:30 Ralph’s game idea

Games

Mellan Himmel och Hav (Between Heaven and Sea) by Eliot Wieslander and Katarina Björk // Livsgald by Simon Svensson, Kajsa Seinegaard, Carl Nordblom and Jennie Nyberg // Dream Askew by Avery McDaldno // Microscope by Ben Robbins // Archipelago by Matthijs Holter // Lovecraftesque by Becky Annison and Josh Fox // Rise and Fall by Elizabeth Lovegrove is part of the Seven Wonders anthology.

Music

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie (chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

“Content” from Music For Podcasts by Lee Rosevere (happy puppy records bandcamp free music archive)