I recently read an article in the Fortean times for Dec. 017. Unfortunately I can’t link to the magazine itself because the publisher won’t take the time to update his damn certificate.
In any case I’m here writing about Shooting Bigfoot by Stu Neville. Mr. Neville, stop fussing.
We discovered the sasquatch back in 1967, there’s just too much with the footage for any sensible human being to say it’s a fraud, that it’s a man in a costume. The figure is just too solid, the build is just to robust. And she—for she appears to be a female—just walks wrong. And to put matters as simply as I know how, they’re not impossible. To put this as simply as I can, we can’t be the only bipedal great ape in the world. In addition, any other bipedal great apes out there tromping around don’t have to look entirely like us.
We evolved to look like the sasquatch and the yeti because our species traipses about much like the sasquatch and yeti, and there’s nothing that says they can’t. Fuck, there’s nothing that says we can’t. And keep in mind the sasquatch and as far as I know yeti don’t exactly look like us.
We’re not that fucking special, there can be other animals that look like us to some extent, and walk like us to some extent. That’s what Darwin told us, and Darwin was telling us the damn truth. It’s about time we grew up
That’s it for this post, have you anything to donate I could still use $15 to keep my host happy.
In the Jan/Feb issue of Asimov’s author Bob Silverberg’s columns is on part two of Gog and Magog. Now while the two were fictional, they were based on real life events in which people came swooping down out of some distant land to loot and pillage and act all unsocial. As a matter of fact to the American Indian we were Gog and Magog, and we really haven’t reformed all that much.
You get right down to it Gog and Magog go back to before civilization. For instance, the ancient Sumerians came down from the North into what we now call Mesopotamia where they essentially conquered the Ubaid’s then working out the rudiments of agriculture and civilization. Even earlier the Qm as I like to call them—it’s a long story—migrated to the Nile valley from the ancient Near East, and after settling in the highlands flanking the valley proceeded to develop agriculture and with the boost in population swarmed down on the aboriginals and took over.
There are others. The Mycenae, later followed by the Hellenes. The Etruscans and Latins were originally invaders from distant lands. Heck, the Nahuac—our Aztecs—got their start as the Gogs and Magogs to the Mexica who had come before them. As you can see the trope has been around for awhile.
We like telling stories about what happened in the past, stories that quite often get “improved”. Our fantasies are especially prone to incorporating meme’s that have gone on for a long time. Robert E. Howard had his Picts, Professor Tolkein Orcs and before them Humans. There are likely others but right now I’m drawing a blank.
Still and all we’ve had a fascination with distant lands with savage peoples out to swarm down upon us upsetting our lives looting our cultures and ways of anything that catches their eye. Nowadays we call them, “tourists”.
Does this happen in our RPGs?
You have to ask?
Gog and Magog have been a huge part of RPGs from the beginning. Start with the amorphous orcish hordes and continue on to the swarms that come pouring out of some netherworld. The modrons of Planescape, the Scro of Spelljammer, all are Gog and Magog out to ravish civilized lands and worlds. The Yellow Peril has long been a source of frightful entertainment.
And going really far back you have the farmers from the Middle East who invaded Europe some ten thousand years ago displacing the natives and upsetting lives. Our stories of elves and the fair folk may go back to those day, though they would later pick up details from other encounters.
So read up on Gog and Magog. And on the QM—Egyptians to you, the Sumerians, the Cimmerians, the Hellenes, the Sea Peoples, and even the Angles and Saxons of Britain. You’ll get ideas and even a few plots to pester your players with.
And don’t forget the goblins in their bermuda shorts, print shirts, and cheap sandals; who armed with cameras and lenses and rolls of film come swarming down out of their mountain fastnesses out to get as much tourist crap and low grade snapshots as they can. And especially dread the elven anthropologists, expounding on their half baked theories on how human society is supposed to work. Theories that have more to do with their politics and ideology than with some quasi science.
Today, 12/29/17 I read through the Jan/Feb 18 Discover, I found a number of things to write about, so that’s what I’m going to do here.
Messy We Are
We start on page10 of the issue where the word is that human evolution was not what you’d call tidy. On page 11 are two stories, both of which deal with what some might call miscegenation, and what other would call bestiality.
In the first apparently a primitive modern human woman mated with a Neanderthal man. They apparently had at least one daughter, and she had daughters of her own. This all daring back to around 220,000 years ago.
In the other story we have a look at a pair of human skulls. Said skulls have mixture of Neanderthal, modern human, and other hominins. The story refers to an unknown human species, but I’m thinkig H. erectus myself.
You get right down to it we are randy gits, ready to fornicate with any one who so much as resembles our species. To sum it up, it appears that both sides of the “out of Africa” and “regional origin” parties are right.
It was found where?
On page 12 is a story about the discovery of mastodon remains. The story says near San Diego, but as I recall it was more in San Diego around 16th and Market.
And with the bones were, apparently, a set of stones used to pound on the mastodon’s bones. There are those who have concluded that this was done by human hunters. As you might expect there are those who don’t like this idea.
What they apparently overlook is the fact that 130,000 years ago Beringia was dry land, and that such animals as the Neanderthals and Denisovans were very much cold adapted.
For we like to think we know, and get a little upset when anyone tries telling us we could be wrong.
We go on to page 18 where I learned that the 7 terrestrial worlds of the Trappist 1 system appear to be in rather tight orbits. At least when we saw them.
Now they may still be in that arrangement, but I suspect that things have changed in the Trappist system, and most likely to a fair degree. I suspect that were we to find ourselves in theT1 system we’re far more likely to see double planets, planets with giant moons, and maybe even an asteroid belt or two.
On page 52 is a story about the possibility Earth’s equator could become uninhabitable. This is not a new idea really, there was a time when some Europeans were convinced that the equator was much to hot for white men. But what if sometime in the future the equatorial climate gets just too toasty for human habitation. So the populations in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere are genetically isolated and evolution has its ways with us. Picture a time when a southerner expedition comes north for the first time in thousands of years, and the two species can’t stand the sight of each other.
So that’s my post. There are more stores in the latest issue of Discovery, go ahead and have a look.
Seems that the human sperm cell is being recruited to deliver medication. Specifically gynecological disorder such as cervical cancer, but other ailments are possibilities.
And note that at present the method of delivery does not include how sperm are usually delivered. Seems the sperm have to be first extracted, the package installed, and then inserted into the woman in question. But does it have to be that way.
How about altering a man’s genome so that the drug in question is already part of the sperm, so that when he inserts his sperm the medication goes along with it. And how are sperm most often inserted?
So Carol learns that she has cervical cancer. She goes to her doctor and he refers her to a specialist. The specialist, as per his training, seduces her and implants his medically potent sperm in her. The cancer drug is delivered to the cells, though it most likely takes a few sessions for Carol to get an effective treatment.
Will there be an uproar? You bet. People are not going to like fornication being a necessary part of medical treatment. Not especially when said treatment includes those younger than the age of consent.
And what if this sort of this proves to be the most effective way of delivering drugs for any disease? Learning you need to get cornholed when getting an antibiotic is going to dismay some men.
Though for delicate flowers like us it’s more likely they’ll find other ways to deliver drugs that by using sperm. Better death than impurity after all.
Before I was born—and there was such a time—the author Jack Vance wrote stories. The sort of stories you could expect from Jack, with interesting characters and interesting situations. Indeed, the sort of tale Dangerous Journeys was meant to emulate.
In Vance’s tales of the distant future one talent his heroes sometimes had was the ability to memorize certain magicks of a high science sort that had great powers and strange names, Bogglesnack’s aura of the Toads of the Lesser Puissance for example—and I just made that up. However, such were these magicks that the heroes could not memorize more than three or so, and such a strain they were to remember that actually “casting” them meant they would be forgotten and need to be rememorized.
Then Gary Gygax and others enter the picture with their skirmish game Dungeons and Dragons. A fantasy game with magic and spells, which Gary intended to emulate to some degree the magic and spells of Jack Vance. So a Prestidigitator, as they were known, began his adventuring career with but one spell. However Gary forgot to specify that. The game did have a chart for this, but it wasn’t explained.
Spell Points are Born
Now young people are creative, especialy college kids. A number of them took up the early D&D and not knowing just how Prestidigitators etc. were supposed to be limited in their access to magic bothered them. So they invented limitations. One of the most popular was in assigning a cost to use each spell, and how many points the young magic-user had to use with them. With each advancement in ability—a level increase to you—meant more points for the magic-user to use, and so more spells and more powerful spells he could use.
Spell points proved to be popular in some circles, though they proved to be probematic as well, for often they ended up providing more power that a setting could actually handle. And there were disputes that causes a lot of rancor in the new community of the time.
Now D&D already had a mechanism for limiting how much magic a magic-user got, it just wasn’t explained. So in later printings—editions, really—Gygax provided an explanation. But we’re dealing with young adults here; intelligent, creative young adults—we were brats back then, and more than a few of us decided we preferred how we handled things—Believe me, a long time before the Internet we had fan feuds and trolls.
Comes Dangerous Journeys
So we had disagreement and animosity and while all this was going on Gygax got to thinking about what he and his friends had created, and came to the conclusion that it really wasn’t what they had thought it was. In short he came to the conclusion that you didn’t have to do it the way peope thought you had to. While still with the old TSR he started to propose changes that in my opinion would’ve meant a revolution in RPGs and uttlerly changed the hobby. Think of the first Unearthed Arcana and what it presented as an example of this. His Mountebank Player Character Class for D&D was another example of what he was working towards.
But them the Blume Brothers and Lorraine Williams interrupted him—a tale to involved for this essay, so he found himself with a lot of free time, and a lot of ideas.
Again truncating a bit he decided to design and write and present his own thinking on RPGs and on how they were best handled. He also wanted something that could be used to emulate the sort of stories written back in the days of the old pulps such as Thrilling Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories—adolescents and young college kids have always been adolescents and young college kids. In short, your grandparents were like you when they were 22. To sum it up, you’re normal.
From Truly Ancient Times
Now we talk of Classical Rome as being ancient times, but even they had times they called ancient. And the people of those times, the Classical Greeks for example, had their tales of even older civilizations. And they, Uratu and Israel for instance, had their stories of even older cultures and states.
Which brings us back to Pharonic Egypt, and they had stories of the times before. But we’re going to stick with the Old Kingdom, for it is then when they concocted a lot of what we associated with Pharonic Egypt; great heaps of artfully piled up rock, heiroglyphics, and Egyptian magick.
And a term Gygax decided would be useful in Dangerous Journeys, heka.
According to Gygax heka comes from the Egyptian “hekau”, or “words of power”. Now from what I can see and what I know heka is a mash up—a portmanteu—for two Egyptian words; “ka” for one of the Egyptian souls—the core of the person in other words—and “he” which means, I think, “strength of”. So “heka”, strength of the soul. Something tells me that “hekau” was derived from “heka” and not the other way around.
(I think that “baraka” came from “heka” but how and when I do now know.)
Now when designing Dangerous Journeys Gygax decided he was going to use spell points to resrict the use of the magick to be presented in the RPG. But he didn’t want to use the term “spell points” He had a good reason for the originality, which didn’t exactly work out in his favor. But to keep this short he wanted to give DJ and those modules—as he called them—using those rules a distinctive feel. For his purposes calling magic points heka fit the bill.
He also used other terms for magickal energy, baraka for one. But also such as mana, chi, vril, and orgone, though those were for magicks that weren’t as refined or as developed as the Egyptian. Or Ægyptian as Gary preferred.
The big difference between earlier spell point systems and Gary’s was in how they were handled. Thing is, those earlier spell point designers came up with neat sounding mechanics, but by and large they didn’t experiment with them. For the most part what you’d get is a starting mu with a smidgen of points who’d have a semi-trailer full off them by the time he was not really all that advanced—in my point of view.
Gary didn’t want that for DJ, so he came up with a formula that satisfied him. He also decided to not use class levels, but instead to base the amount of heka an Heroic Persona—DJ for Player Character—would get on his statistics; personal stats, skills, and bennies from potencies malign or benign depending on what the player thought he could deal with.
He did decide to use spell levels, but to call them “casting grades” instead. With them he came up with a formula for calculating how much they would cost to cast in heka, though I suspec he also made adjustments in the costs so they wouldn’t look too troublesome. And by the way, the Mages and Priests in Mythus were designed to be magickally powerful, and I suspect he was inspired by the Wizards of Ars Magica. No, I wouldn’t call Dangerous Journeys exactly a balanced game.
So in the long run what had originally been intended to balance what many saw as an unbalanced situation ended up providing for an unbalanced situation, though still intended to help keep the situation in question as being ludicrously unbalanced. At least that’s how I see it.
This took a little while to write, more words and thinking than I thought it would, and it ended up longer than some articles in newspapers and magazine’s other writers get paid for. Now I’m not really set up for charging you to read this, but I thought I’d ask you to pay for it. Entirely voluntary of course, in fact think for this as a pay what you want if you decide it’s worth paying for.