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Episode 24: Conan Gets a Fish

February 1st, 2013 | Robin

After two bits of preamble business, one elegiac and the other bathetic , we issue a Travel Advisory to wring vicarious enjoyment from Ken’s journey to WarpCon in Cork, Ireland.

We then step into the Cinema Hut to regale one and all with our top ten picks from the sterling movie year that was 2012.

In Ask Ken and Robin, Lowell Francis asks Ken to expand on a past comment contrasting his sense of fun placement to that of our esteemed pal Dennis Detwiller, leading us to a consideration of the grind, character fragility, and when to bring the power fantasy.

Finally, we once more brave the shadowy depths of the Conspiracy Corner to explore the patterns and motivations behind the recent wave of truther movements.

11 Responses to “Episode 24: Conan Gets a Fish”

  1. Cambias says:

    In another place I’ve used the term “nihilistic secular Gnosticism” to refer to conspiracy theories in general. Somehow there’s a huge appeal (to some people) in the idea that most of what we know about the world is a monstrous deception by omnipotent evil forces. Why anyone wants to live in that world is a mystery to me.

    • Pearson says:

      Reality is a hard place to live in, it’s true.

      “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of
      mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

      - Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
      Vanity Fair Interview
      5/28/2003

  2. Neil Ford says:

    Are your film lists of 2012 available written down anywhere? I listened to this episode in the car so couldn’t take notes.

    - Neil.

  3. RogerBW says:

    I think the distinction between the conspiracy theory and the truther is a useful one, but it can certainly stand more examination. Another strand of this tendency is the fundamentalist Christian who sees demonic influences everywhere – this company or that company is displaying Satanic imagery – who now often blends into easily-debunked lies that look much more like old-fashioned nutcasery (like “Obama never says the word God when taking oaths”).

    I think that this sort of thing has become more mainstream in the USA in the last few years, partly as the church leaders who invented satanic panic in the 1970s and 1980s start to realise that they’re getting old and this is their last chance to feel important, and of course from the unstated racism that gets constantly prodded by a non-white guy in charge of the country.

  4. Do you know who was the “line developer” on Runequest from 1979 to 1983, in the sense that Lynn Willis was line developer on CoC?

    The RQ material in the first 2 years looked very much like the rest of the fantasy RPG crowd–cheaply produced collections of monster stats and two dungeon crawl adventures. But then it turned a corner and became something substantially more mature. Cults of Prax, Cults of Terror, Griffin Mountain, Borderlands, Pavis/The Big Rubble, and Trollpak–these completely changed the way that I, at least, understood RPG material.

    (I’m underselling the quality of the “dungeon crawls”–Snakepipe Hollow, while clearly in the same genre as Tegel Manor or Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, was several Mastery Runes more thoughtful than its contemporaries. And Apple Lane was a classic as well.)

    Obviously, Chaosium was a small company, and Lynn was full-time staff there from 1978 on, so he had some hand in all that–his name is on Borderlands, which is for my money the single best introductory RPG package to its time, and for several years after. The CoC efflorescence didn’t come out of nowhere.

  5. Aaron says:

    In the Ask Ken and Robin segment the discussion echoes what I have termed the dualism of Becoming RPGs and Being RPGs. Becoming RPGs (D&D) are about gaining power to become a fully realized character and Being RPGs(Gumshoe) are about trying on a skin different from our own and playing with it for a while. This idea for me came from my frustration with the DC Heroes game where the assumption is beginning characters will be low powered and advance through play. The problem being that isn’t how we imagine super heroes. We imagine Superman, not some guy with super strength who will learn to fly and burn things with his eyes after defeating a few villains.

  6. Ralph Young says:

    Sorry to comment so long after the original posting, but I only just heard this episode. In the Conan Gets A Fish discussion Ken stated (paraphrasing) that grinding served a purpose in video games and MMOs as a learning tool in a way that doesn’t apply to RPGs. I have to strongly disagree. That may be true of most narrativist RPGs (or any RPG played in that style), but grinding is even more important as a learning tool in a tabletop RPG that is played in a tactical – simulationist style. D&D 3 & 4, GURPS, and Hero System all have tactical rules several orders more complex than, say, chess–but no one would assert that once you learn the rules of chess you don’t need experience actually using it to understand how to play. Grinding up in experience is important in tactical RPGS because you generally start with rules that begin more complex than chess and exponentially make them more complex with ever- increasing arrays of spells, powers and maneuvers that you need to gain mastery over incrementally. I don’t think either of you really gave this concept adequate attention in your discussion.

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