Shock:2 Actions: Using “Offer Them What They Desire” as a Model for Design

In The BLOODY-HANDED NAME of BRONZE, the agency of companions — the characters you stick with throughout a story — stems from four actions you can take with your character to have an effect on the world. Those four types of action, designed and playtested over the course of game design, are the levers a character can pull when they want to do more than plead with the world. They set the moral framework in much the way Praxis does in Shock:Social Science Fiction by saying what you can do to affect the world and what kind of effects that action can have. The consequences have ironies built into them, giving players hard choices between effects they want and passing control to another character whose interests might not coincide: Coercion is liable to harm the aggressor or the aggressed; following your passion heedlessly is likely to make someone else jealous; offering someone something they want might leave you making promises you can’t make good on.

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The Syntaxis µLFO

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ve seen me working to build a noizmachin called Kerberos, a triple low-frenquency oscillator (LFO) of of Syntaxis µLFO modules. Generally, LFOs don’t produce sounds themselves; rather, they’re made to send repeating patterns of control to other modules. So a slow sine wave that’s controlling the pitch of an audio-frequency oscillator (a voltage-controlled oscillator, VCO) can make it play a sliding scale.

I find that I always run out of LFOs. They’re a system that gives a structure and overall sense of the sounds over time. You can think of them as the sheet music; they tell the other instruments how to sound, with most of the timbre defined by the audio-frequency oscillators as the LFO manipulates their parameters. Several of them together can syncopate with each other, can amplify or suppress each other, and can even control each other’s rates of change.

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Belo Mutasu

Belo Mutasu has all the contacts they need to allow them to fence, valuable stolen items, and so, they do. They aren’t a thief themself, of course. That wouldn’t be ethical. Their people don’t really have a solid concept of ownership, but they recognize that some other peoples believe that, if they are holding something and put it down, everyone will understand if the “owner” resorts to violence if someone else picks it up.

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What’s Going On in the Head of a Cassowary

If one intends to make speculative creatures, looking at just how weird real Earth creatures are is an important starting point. I find sea monsters that are all lizard-spiky-wolf-heads-with-bat-wings much less awe inspiring than, say, a massive turtle or toad. So now I’m thinking: what might a fantastic monster based on a cassowary be like?

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Liberation Technology 3: The Making of a Cyborg

You might want to start with the first Liberation Technology post over on Punk Pedagogy!

When Grace Hopper invented the first compiler — turning Roman characters typed on a Teletype machine into basic, digital computer instructions — it was a bold move toward making computation accessible to more humans than the tiny number of mathematicians who had both access to — and the talent for — writing the raw assembly code that described a computing process.

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Betashu and Ulubar

Betashu and Ulubar face the mighty Kaleb the Subduer of Gubeh and Djal, on the High Sun Road, wondering if, this time, they will depart for the Waters of the Underworld.

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The Mind, Like a Stone in an Ocean

When I start working on a roleplaying game, I will often write some short fiction so know what it’s supposed to feel like when we’re playing — what sort of ethical questions lie at the heart of the setting, what kind of things matter, what the parameters are on the plausible actions of the characters.

I didn’t do that when I started working on Eyes Wide to the Stars and I got stuck, realizing that I didn’t fully understand the way that antagonists work, and therefore how to resource the players who portrayed them. So I started writing this vignette about a fugitive on the run from an unjust government that trades in slaves and the realization that one has been the beneficiary of such a system and is only now considering it an injustice.

Then I wrapped it all in weird aliens, funny robots, psychic powers, vivid descriptions of food, and giant spaceships festooned with livery of such brightness that it would threaten to make one color blind.

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Aghuur is Ready for Walkies

The Khuashtunng live far in the north of the world, though they speak the same language as the Furrush who live in many cities along the Great Road. They are known in the Center of the World as the Riders of Akum, whose giant bird steeds eat meat.

Aghuur is the favored steed of Ngatekhuur Pakhu, who raised her from an egg. And today they leave to hunt mountain goats together for a few days. They’re both excited about the trip.

Hey, Want to talk about The World of Names, or roleplaying games, or speculative fiction, or other weird stuff I do? Join the Patreon and come talk with all the other kind, creative xenophiliacs at xenophilia, the xenoglyph Discord!

Much of Earth’s megafauna is gone in The Fifth World. I wonder what flying creatures remain — and which can capture the niches vacated by birds?

The Merchant Family Achewed With Their Hawoun

The Achewed family has been breeding hawoun for generations now, riding them through the thick forests across the Eastern Sea up to the northern passes where their mass and might is proof against bandits and predators. They have never ventured as far as the center of the world, stopping at the Edjumelet Delta caravansarai to trade their glasswork, salt, and rice for oil, wine, raisins, and other goods rare in the cities of their ancestral home.

This hawoun, Bulamm, has not yet fully grown, and is on her first trading expedition with her herd. The Achewed cousins who handle her steer her like a ship with ropes pulling on her head and tail.

The hawoun are sturdy and courageous, protecting all in their herd, but act solely according to simple desires. Hawoun handlers have learned how to show their mounts where they want to walk, and the hawoun follow the instructions without objection or curiosity.

Much of Earth’s megafauna is gone in The Fifth World. I wonder what flying creatures remain — and which can capture the niches vacated by birds?


Asemic writing is something I’ve done since I was a kid. As I go, I figure out the visual grammar of the writing, then sometimes some grammar for what characters can go together. It’s entirely intuitive, though I correct as I go for aesthetic reasons, often integrating “corrections” into further use of the character I corrected.

This one contains three different languages — maybe four, but one might just be an alternate script. It’s obviously not a full Rosetta Stone because the number of characters varies so widely.

At a certain point, I started requiring myself to make actual grammar for these languages. Each of the little samples in the back of Human Contact took at least several hours, and there’s an error in one of them that drives me nuts. But I’m trying to remember to creative freely sometimes, to ignore what I’ve learned and stretch my intuition. This is one of those times.

Thanks to my Patreon xenophiliacs who encouraged me to take it easy this month. I really needed it. I’ve been pushing myself to solve several big creative problems with getting Eyes Wide to the Stars to work so I can explore some ideas for Shock:2 and further work on Liberation Technology and pushing harder isn’t making me think clearly.

Much of Earth’s megafauna is gone in The Fifth World. I wonder what flying creatures remain — and which can capture the niches vacated by birds?