Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday Night Special, feat. Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man

The artwork is by John Howe, the Tolkien-illustrator. I decided to post this particular pic because it is one of my all time favourite fantasy artworks. It also serves as an excuse for today's rant.

Howe places great weight on one of my ideals for portraying fantasy. Realism. The knight's armour is correct down to the smallest detail - Howe takes his research seriously. That kind of attention to detail strengthens the illusion. The only thing deviating from probability is the wyrmling in the knight''s hand, and as everything else looks so probable, that small deviation becomes less improbable.

I don't know where to begin...

I've never liked chainmail bikinis much. It may look good, but the rampant impracticality of it ruins the suspension of disbelief for me. The same goes for the ridiculously large sword that's become more an more common these days. So where am I going with this? Well, storytelling (note the lower-case 'S') is a tricky business. We all have our preferences, and we all have things we don't like. As Loquacious said when I commented on her Changeling-post: You're ok with sacrificing cats, Nazis from space, Elves and places that can't be found on maps; but Changeling is too weird?

I think my point is that most of the stories we tell when we play are totally unlikely, and would have been utterly unbelievable, had we not maintained some alibi of probability. In WoD that alibi is that the supernaturals stay hidden from the mundane world; in the classical fantasy-settings, that alibi is a veneer of medieval myths, mixed with some facts. These alibis are often fragile constructions, and even a little scepticism will cause them to collapse under their own weight.

For my part, I like to mix the realistic with the blatantly fantastical. Hence I have Space Nazis and locations not on any map in my world. I also have religious extremism and sectarianism. The plague currently threatening to sweep across Eria turns people into zombies, but I try to have it follow patterns based on historical plagues. Even the Space Nazis have a basis in realism, far fetched though it may be. Is it working? Well, none of my players have yet called bullshit on it, so I think I'm good so far.

For me, Changeling: the Lost is too weird, but that is because the concept doesn't tickle me, hence I'm not motivated to suspend my disbelief. The same applies to the classical dungeon-crawl stories. For me there is nothing there that makes me believe - there's no story, just a game.

So my point is that without maintaining the suspension of disbelief, the story will collapse, and with it, the game. Whatever it is that makes you believe, take good care of that, because without it the illusion will splinter.

Now that my rant has been dealt with, here's the...

Round-up for week 45
In no particular order:

  • The Value of Failure on Destination Unknown. Why? Because Christian raises one of the important questions about running a successful game, and some good points were raised in the comments as well. It made me reflect over this topic, and I even think I came away with some insight.
  • I need to talk about Howard on Daddy Grognard. Why? This is an interesting discussion about the horrors in Lovecraft's work, and whether these can be effectively brought across the time-gap. I would have wanted to add a comment to that post, but there just wasn't enough time this week.
  • The Radhost Complector on Propnomicon. Why? Because holy crap-waffles! That's why. Of all the useless gadgets I've seen in my life (and I've seen a few) that thing is by far the most awesome. Good thing I don't have children, because I just might have been willing to part with a first-born to get my hands on that thing.

Main Feature
Tonight's film is takes place in Oz, a while before that kid and her puppy comes along. In Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man, we're told the story of... I'm sure you can work that out by yourselves.


Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

Ha en fortsatt fin lørdag.

[Picture source: 1  John Howe; 2 Pixel Joint Forum]


  1. I sitll haven't talked about the nWOD nor have I addressed crazy clothing. Those are yet to come.

    Thanks for some cool posts!

  2. Thank you for reading them.


    I think the coming week will be a slow one as far as blogging is concerned. There's lots to do at work, and I just don't think I'll have much energy left for writing.

  3. Ah, the classic mail-kini. Where not to begin lol

  4. Oh, don't get me started ;)

  5. While the chainmail bikini isn't practical as armor, I see nothing wrong with it as a fashion statement. ;) I could see an emperor or king with an honor guard of female warriors having them dress like that day to day.

    And let's be fair, conan's typical dress in comics of the era that spawned Red Sonja are equally unlikely from the realistic standpint--and don't match what Howard described.

    So, as I read you here, your issue with Changeling: The Lost isn't suspension of disbelief its just that you don't like it, or think the concepts silly. I don't really think that's the same thing. And I say think knowing zero about Changeling so I have no dog in the fight, other than being naturally suspicious that when people claim suspension of disbelief the real issue is generally one of tastes.

  6. Of course, if you're an evil overlord or a dictator, your bodyguard may dress as you see fit. Look a Gadaffi, if you want inspiration. I would however recommend you read the Evil Overlord-list before ordering uniforms ;)

    Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the Conan-coture, but it doesn't fit in my imagination, hence my objections.

    And I have nothing against Changeling in particular. But the same applies as with the bikini. It's not my cup of tea, and so there's no motivation for me to suspend disbelief