The ugly, The bad, The good, The list™
This one took a bit longer to write, but finally the second article in my planar series is out, in which I give an overview of the planes in the history of Dungeons & Dragons. Next time, I’ll be diving into Planescape properly for the first time.
As promised, my series about Planescape and the Planes in Dungeons & Dragons kicked off this month. The first instalment is only an introductory piece, in which I set out my ideas for the future of the series. Hopefully it will whet your interest; check back here or on The Ontological Geek soon for the second piece!
You have recently returned from paternity leave, and have witnessed the birth of your second son, on which again my congratulations! As you wrote on your own blog, you’d like nothing more from your readers as a gift than an open letter, so who am I to refuse?
After I finished reading the final draft version of your upcoming book, Chaos Ethics, somewhere last year, I wrote to you in an email that I thought it would be an interesting idea to start a letter series on the topic of Chaos, in the broadest sense. It is not something you touch upon extensively in your book—understandably so, since it is about ethics first and foremost—but knowing you slightly, I suspect you will have some additional things to say on the concept.
This April was a religion-themed month over at videogame blog The Ontological Geek. I wrote the final article in the series, and mused a little on how concepts of religion, God, and particularly The Holy, can be incorporated into videogames. For perhaps obvious reasons, it’s easy for games to tackle and represent the more mundane sides of religion and faith, but they seem to struggle somewhat when it comes to matters more transcendent. In “Sanctifying Games”, I try to explore why that might be.
What did I read in 2012? I’ve found looking back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and developments in my (mental life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were bigger books, and my page total ended up higher. This doesn’t count all the articles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the reading nerdage line somewhere. It’s all slightly arbitrary anyway.
Videogames can sometimes be a very arcane medium, and it can often be difficult to comprehend what they’re all about for people who never or seldom play them. Of course entertainment is often the main ‘use’ of a video game, but many of them have elaborate themes and stories, and the way in which video games deliver those narratives and themes is often unique to the medium. Today my own piece on Planescape: Torment was published, and I try to explain how the game uses exploration and conversation to allow you to reconstruct the protagonist’s tortured past.
I came across the schema below in Olaf Stapledon’s book Star Maker. The book in general made a very favourable impression on me, as you can read in the short review I wrote on Goodreads. However, this one bit in particular I wanted to highlight on this blog, as it speaks directly to the title, Sub Specie.
What a chimera of a book this is. It has one foot in plain old fantasy, with quite a few battles, some spell-slinging, and a hero on a quest. The other foot is deep in myth. When I first read this book, around seven years ago, I didn’t quite get it. I was already quite familiar with Planescape, the Dungeons & Dragons setting that forms the backdrop for this novel. However, in the novel, I found little of the vast vistas and wide-eyed wonder that typified the setting for me. Instead, the book’s narrative is almost completely confined to a labyrinth, which offers only a few passing glimpses of all the imaginative places that make up the Planescape multiverse. However, upon a second reading and some brief reflection, I think I now see what Denning tried to do here.