Saturday, September 30, 2006

Quoted for Truth

There’s a reason why Madeleine L'Engle’s stories are not only pushed on young readers, but also frequently devoured by them with relish. Like C.S. Lewis and A.A. Milne, her books are engaging diversion when you’re young, and a surprising source of wisdom when you reflect back upon them later in life.

A snippet with implications for RPGs, both table-top and online:

“But I don't believe it and the Happy Medium doesn't believe it, either."

"Can't she see what is going to happen?" Calvin asked.

"Oh, not in this kind of thing," Mrs. Whatsit sounded surprised at his question. "If we knew ahead of time what was going to happen we'd be- we'd be like the people on Camazotz, with no lives of our own, with everything all planned and done for us. How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know. In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet."

"Yes, yes," Calvin said impatiently, "What's that got to do with the Happy Medium?"

"Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me." Mrs. Whatsit's voice was stern, and for a moment, Calvin stopped pawing the ground like a nervous colt, "It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?"


"There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. There's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?"

"Yes." Calvin nodded.

"And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?"


"But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn't he?"

"Yes." Calvin nodded, again.

"So." Mrs. Whatsit said.

"So what?"

"Oh, do not be stupid, boy!" Mrs. Whatsit scolded. "You know perfectly well what I am driving at!"

"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form but freedom within it?"

"Yes," Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

- Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Thanks to Judd for the reminder, by way of Mr. Donoghue.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Perfidius Ptolus Pics

Don’t let the picture at the top of the page fool you; this is, indeed, another review of the Ptolus campaign setting, and not the comic. And it's a positive review to boot. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of these as reviewers begin to wade through the mountain of material in this product. If you hear of any more, be sure to drop me a line, and I'll pass it on.

Storn’s Before and After

I’m fascinated by the creative process. Storn, art-pusher-in-residence over at, recently posted a very detailed character description he received from a client, the pic that he created based upon that description, and a short analysis of both, especially highlighting the differences between the description and the art, and the reasons for them.

And yeah, I'm also a sucker for the Gibson girl look, as well as jackets with shoulderpads. The 80's left us with a generation of warped and twisted young men, I tell you. ;)

Storn’s Catspaw comic also continues to be updated on Wednesdays. Be sure to check it out.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ptolus Roundup

Those of you that have already taken a gander at the Ptolus review that isn’t here may want to glance back at “Kill the Wizard First”. Mr. Vogel has started a Ptolus campaign and has posted a synopsis of the first game. There are also a handful of mini-reviews of Ptolus to be found in the forums of “Fear the Boot”.

In other news involving exceptionally thick texts and unlimited potential for adventure, Mr. Ralya of “Treasure Tables” got himself married just this past Saturday. Be sure to stop by and wish him and his bride all the best.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Go Tell the Spartans...

At this rate, Frank Miller is going to become known as the most filmable creator in comic books.

I keep watching this trailer. It’s beautifully stylized. It hits the high points of Spartan culture subtly, brushes on the historic significance of the battle of Thermopylae, and the insane courage of the three hundred who stood in that narrow place. It’s an awesome story, all the more amazing for being true, and Frank Miller did incredible work with it.

The Spartans themselves were one of those peoples that make modern historians have little fits. You can see them as the exceptions that make the rules, or the truth that shatters many popular myths: that matriarchal societies are peaceful and gentle, that freedom is a weakness in a violent world, and individuals are powerless in the grip of history.

As someone who has loved mythology since childhood, I eagerly await “Pan’s Labyrinth”. As a history and anthropology geek, I can’t wait to see “Apocalypto”. But right now, “300” is the movie I want to see the most.

Update: And of course right after I post, iFilm takes the video down. Phooey! Keep your eyes open for this one, folks. It looks great.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Don't Go There!

I’d hoped to introduce Fredrik K.T. Andersson’s comic “Pawn” to y’all when he next updated. But that’s not likely to happen soon according to this recent update:

In short, Pawn has attracted more traffic than I expected. With my current webhotel this extra traffic means extra expenses that are way too high. Until I have managed to arrange something more economically feasible I have to temporary take down the site until the problem can be fixed.

This is one of the prices we pay for free goodies on the net. Scott Kurtz early in the life of his comic, "PvP", discussed how success could paradoxically strangle an up-and-coming web comic. Hits eat bandwidth, and somebody has to pay for it. If you’re not able to charge your audience every time they look at your comic, you have to find a way to make up those costs, or pay them directly out of your own pocket.

Mr. Kurtz, and many others, have overcome these obstacles by tackling the funding issue head-on, and treating their comics as profit-making ventures. “PvP” doesn’t get knocked off the net due to heavy traffic because it makes money, which Mr. Kurtz pumps back into comic to buy more bandwidth. In addition, because it makes enough income for him to live on, he can devote more time to it. “PvP” gets updated daily. “Girl Genius”, also a professional, for-profit comic, gets updated three times a week, (six times, if you count the republication of the older material originally released in dead-tree form). Interruptions are rare, quality is high, fans are happy.

Compare this with strictly for-fun web comics. I love “Outsider” and it’s my favorite online comic right now. But updates are infrequent. Arioch needs to eat, pay his bills, all that other fun stuff. “Outsider” gets worked on when Arioch can fit it in, and so it’s probably fairly low on his list of priorities. That’s not to say it’s not important to him. But before he can even put pen to paper, he’s got to make certain there’s food in the fridge and the lights stay on. When Kurtz and Phoglio work on their web comics, they’re doing just that. But every minute Arioch devotes to “Outsider” is costing him money. It’s a minute he could be using to earn cash, or improve his earning potential through education, the maintenance of his health, or finding ways to lower his costs of living. And this sets up a vicious cycle. Money he doesn’t earn can’t be spent on improving the tools he uses to create his comic. Spending time drawing forces him to wait longer to upgrade his computer, or improve his work space, or maintain his health, all of which could make him a more prolific artist and writer.

Part of the problem with “Pawn” stems from the time Mr. Andersson can spend on it. As he says:

I weren't prepared for that BIG bill they dropped on me, since I weren't aware of how much traffic Pawn really attracts. This is my own fault. I should’ve done my homework better.

It’s not that hard to monitor the traffic your website gets. I know right now that the vast majority of my readers hit this blog right now looking for a review of Ptolus. It’s insane how many of you have been coming by to read the Ptolus review I don’t have. (But I’m sure Mr. Vogel has appreciated the traffic I’ve sent his way.) If it wasn’t for Ptolus and succubus porn, and a bit of Dragonlance movie traffic, I’d be all alone in my little troll cave, sobbing softly that nobody ever visited me.

Which is why I don’t agree with Mr. Andersson’s statement that reader donations “would just be a big waste of generous readers’ money.” I disagree. I’d be willing to pay for new “Pawn” material, if I knew that it would be produced more frequently. I wouldn’t pay a lot for it, mind you, but he seems to have enough readers that he might, with judicious marketing, be able to earn enough with “Pawn” that he won’t have to worry about bandwidth costs. Mr. Andersson might even be able to afford to spend more time on it. If Mr. Andersson is adverse to making people pay for the comic itself, he can go the same route as Mr. Phoglio and sell related merchandise. He could also sell advertising on his page, though the mildly erotic themes of his work might make that a tad more difficult.

My point is, making money off a web comic isn’t selling out. Perverting the comic against its basic themes in order to make more money would be. But cashing in on its current popularity seems like a win-win scenario: fans get more “Pawn” and Mr. Andersson gets to spend more time pursuing his art.