natural framework

In a recent thread, the question of whether tabletop gaming systems that “focus more on story” are friendlier to beginners. I’m going to spin off a separate post because - as always - I have Opinions on that.

My first reaction is that I don’t think the question makes sense. All tabletop RPGs “focus on story” - they just do it in different ways, because the word “story” can mean more than one thing.

There’s “story” as in “a planned narrative with scenes and acts and character arcs and Something To Say about life, the universe and everything”.

However, there’s also “story” as in “a retrospectively constructed explanatory narrative for a bunch of stuff that happened”.

Or, in plain English, there’s the kind of story where you decide what kind of story you want to tell, then invent the specific people and events that will allow you to tell it; and there’s the kind of story where you start with the people and events already defined for you, then invent a narrative to organise and explain what the heck just happened.

Even the most “gamified” tabletop systems are story-focused in the sense that they produce stories. Some of the most engaging anecdotes from the tabletop come from the dice deciding to do something bizarre, or from some subtle interaction between various layers of the rules kicking out an unexpected result, and rather than fudging or ignoring it, the players at the table ran with it and made a story where that was the only thing that could have happened.

Now, some systems may produce stories badly - i.e., the events they generate are too predictable, too repetitive, or too frustratingly paced to easily make into good stories, or they demand too much work from the players for the value of their output - but that’s a flaw of individual implementations. The idea that complex or rules-heavy systems are bad at story focus in principle is nonsense.

Of course, that’s a tangent, because that’s not what the question really means.

To the extent that “not being story focused” is erroneously equated with “having many or complex rules” - there’s that old role-playing versus roll-playing fallacy again - what it really means is “are systems that demand less engagement with the rules categorically friendlier to beginners?”.

I wouldn’t agree that they are.

To pose a simple example, if we assume for the sake of argument that less mechanical engagement = more beginner friendly, then freeform RP, which demands no mechanical engagement whatsoever, must obviously be the most beginner-friendly game of all - yet it’s my experience that freeform RP in a group setting can be extremely challenging for beginners, often to the extent that they’re unable to participate at all, in spite of their best efforts.

Detractors of rules-heavy games will often characterise game rules as serving to limit player creativity, but any student of improvisational storytelling can tell you that limitations are good for creativity, at least up to a point. Tell a person they can do anything and they’ll flounder - but give them a couple of specific options to pick from and off they go. “Rules impose creative restrictions” is merely the evil twin of “rules provide creative frameworks”.

Naturally there’s a balance to be struck; hand someone a two hundred page rulebook as their first introduction to the tabletop roleplaying hobby and more often than not you’ll just scare them off - and rightly so. I mean, what were you thinking? But it’s not as simple as less rules = more beginner-friendly; a game with too little structure can be just as intimidating to newcomers as a game with too much.

Where that line lies is going to vary from person to person; I’ve touched on this in the past, but in a nutshell, there’s no such thing as a body of rules that’s naturally easy to understand. For all that folks like to hold it forth as a virtue of their favourite games, “intuitiveness” is a phantom - it’s nothing more than the intersection of textual clarity and similarity to stuff you’re already familiar with. That’s something that trips a lot of folks up here: thinking that a particular game should easy for newcomers to master because it’s easy for me.

So I suppose the TL/DR version boils down to this:

  • There’s no such thing as tabletop gaming system that isn’t story-focused; there are merely those that yield boring stories, or that demand more work than you feel is reasonable to produce them
  • When it comes to beginner-friendliness, too little rules engagement can be just as bad as too much
  • Where the tipping point between those two failure states is going to be varies from person to person, and finding it depends on understanding both your target audience and your own preconceptions
Introduction to Energy Cores

In a discussion of the energy bodies, the characteristics and functions of the core is vital to understanding a body’s overall energy composition. Energy cores can also provide information on source connections, origin of the body, base energy composition, energy health, and so much more! 

So what exactly are energy cores? 

They are an “organ” in a body that generates the energy that makes it up. You can usually find them within the center of the energy body where they have many connections to the other structures, specifically the energy points. There are also energy connections that extend outwards from the body and attach to the source where the being “originates”. The core takes energy from the source using that connection and regulates and pumps it into the energy body. Some people have multiple source connections and some people have none! There’s actually a lot of variation in how a core functions and obtains energy for the body but what’s common for everyone is that it is the structure in the energy body that obtains, processes, and/or produces the energy that makes up one’s body. 

What is the structure of the core?

The core exists in the center of the energy body and can be observed by looking past all of the upper layers of one’s body for it is found in the deepest layer. It normally takes the appearance of a multi-layered mass of energy that may beat or pulse like a heart. You will also see energy cords that extend from it to the energy points and outside of the body to sources. Energy should be flowing in from the source connections and being pushed out of the core to the points. You may also see a direct connection to the energy cord of the body that connects the points together. 

Each layer of the core corresponds to an energy type that will be reflected in one’s energy signature ( @chaosjelly wrote a must read on energy signatures here! ). However, it is the energy in the central part of the core that indicates the origin point of the energy body. An angel or a human born from God’s energy will have that energy in the center point of their core, for example. Fallen angels, such as those in the Ars Goetia, will have this too and it’s presence can be used to distinguish a fallen angel from a natural-born demon. It is very difficult to alter the energy composition of a core because they are essentially extensions of source energies that were weaved together. However, there are ways to make it happen but I’m hesitant to go into much detail because the effects of tampering with cores can be devastating. True shapeshifters such as the púca or rakshasas do have natural shifts in the energy composition of their cores though. The nature of how this works is unknown to me.      

Personal energy of the being often intermingles with the core energy and provides the framework for it. It is this framework that regulates how much energy is pulled from the sources, where it goes, etc. This is a big topic and also a new area of study for me so I won’t go any deeper into it. 

How do the core-source connections function?

It’s a rather simple design but an important detail in my diction must be understood: the connections aren’t comparable to a rope that holds two things together, instead they are streams of energy that flow from the source into the core. The best metaphor that I can conjure is that of a river that flows out of a lake into another. The river is a movement of water that connects the two lakes together. While the flow of the water is likely due to differences in elevation and gravity, the energy flows from the source to the core because the core functions as a vacuum. The core is not like a black hole, it has substance, but that substance is tiny fragments of energy sources that avoid depletion by channeling energy from the source they’re fragmented from into them. 

There are many different types of source energy and a core can be connected to multiple sources, however usually one source is dominant. This isn’t always the central origin energy. The more sources that one is connected to, the more difficult it is to process those energies so it’s uncommon to find a being with more than three source connections unless they have multiple cores (a topic for another time). Thoughtforms have latent core-source connections to their creator!  

The connections can’t be broken in the normal way that one may snip! an energy cord. This is important because if the connections were easily broken then I’m sure everyone on Earth would be having energy issues due to rude spirits! I won’t go into too much detail for the same reason that I didn’t speak much on changing the composition of cores, but connections are often broken by the removal of the source fragment from the core. For some beings this would immediately kill them but for others the core framework will remain and keep the structure intact so their energy body won’t collapse. However, they will no longer be able to generate energy.   

What are some common major differences in core function among beings?

Energy cores aren’t all the same, there’s vast differences in their functions and framework across beings and even from individual to individual. Working off the ending of the last section, one of the biggest differences is how much energy is generated. The cores of large or very (magically) active spirits often pull higher amounts of energy from their respective sources than spirits who expend less energy because they need to compensate for their greater energy losses. The beings that pull a lot of energy usually have large source fragments in their cores (and large cores as a result). Some beings pull large amounts of energy from their sources but either don’t use the energy or don’t have the framework to properly process it so it just gets expelled from them in great quantities. Sometimes this is also caused by the being have more source connections than its body can handle!  

On the flipside, there are those that don’t pull enough energy to support their energy body. This can be caused by the removal of their source fragments, the fragments not growing as their energy body grew, damage to their core, their framework not being built correctly, and many more reasons. For some, that is how their framework naturally functions! When such phenomena is present, there is often a need to obtain energy from outside sources since they aren’t generating enough for themselves. This often leads to a need for energy vampirism (But it’s not the only possible cause. I, for example, am an energy vampire due to an entirely different reason :-) ). 

I didn’t touch on it too much here but the intra-connections between the core and the energy body have a lot of interplay. Essentially, the core pumps energy at different rates and amounts to the points which leads to their growth and strength. Less energy is sent to unhealthy points or points that aren’t “used” often. Some points are prioritized over others because of the nature of a being, a succubus having more energy going from the core towards her equivalent of our sacral point for example.  

Pace layers.

I love this concept from Stewart Brand, that different aspects of the world change at different speeds. So, fashion and art changes and cycles faster than commerce which is faster than infrastructure, and in turn governance, culture and finally Nature. The outer layers tend to innovate faster and so pull along, or be stabilised by, the lower, slower layers. At the boundaries you get constructive turbulence, say between Uber and governance, or how the growth in video streaming requires Internet infrastructure to come along with it. I’m sure you can find counter examples, but as a framework for thinking about big complex things I find it quite handy.

4

For more than 40 years, Venezuelan architect and illustrator Rafael Araujo has been fascinated with the golden ratio. Represented by the Greek letter ϕ (or Phi) and equal to 1.618, this ratio is often seen in the natural world. Using a pencil, compass, ruler, and protractor, Araujo renders with exquisite mathematical precision stunning images of nature — “from the hypnotic whorls of the chambered nautilus shell to the balanced proportions of butterfly wings” — that conform to the golden ratio. And he leaves the construction lines intact “to highlight this natural mathematical framework.” It can take him up to 100 hours to create a single composition.

In response to many fans and followers who have asked for renderings of his work that can be colored in, Araujo and a Sydney-based publishing team plan to collect some of his favorite illustrations into a stunning — and soothing! — coloring book. Help bring the book to press here.

A coloring book with hand drawn Golden Ratio illustrations under way

Rafael Araujo is a Venezuelan architect and illustrator who has been drawing beautiful geometric illustrations of nature, entirely by hand, for over 40 years. He creates the designs at an old drafting table with a pencil, compass, ruler and protractor.

Rafael was a teenager when he first learned about the golden ratio, represented by the Greek letter phi (φ). It appears in nature as for example sea shells, plant leaves and branches grow in spirals where the ratio of the amount of turn from one branch to the next is precisely 1.618.

Rafael applies the golden ratio to his geometric formulas and leaves the construction lines intact to highlight this natural mathematical framework.

Blue morpho butterfly sequence

Chambered nautilus shell

Butterfly infinite sequence

Fibonacci sequence shell 

Araujo’s coloring book has a successful funding campaign under way and will hopefully be available sometime soon. In the meantime, the campaign is still running on Kickstarter with plenty of perks available to backers.

I definitely feel like placing too much stake in identity politics when it comes to a material analysis of patriarchy and gendered power dynamics is counterproductive + I don’t think that identifying as nonbinary automatically allows you to sidestep the responsibility of analysing your role / position in patriarchy as a structure (because, by its nature, it is a framework that coercively implicates us all in it)

I think that the idea that, under patriarchy, male > nonbinary > female is a massive oversimplification + I think that the way gender actually, materially functions is very different to the ~gender is your playground there are infinity genders call yourself whatever you want~ ideology. this isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be allowed + encouraged to identify however they want and however makes them comfortable, but as soon as we start to mistake that for actual material analysis we’re going wrong somewhere. I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that gender (under a western colonial framework) is, at its core and in all of the ways in which we are coerced into policing it on a micro level, a way of subjugating and oppressing a class of people (i.e. women) + throwing some glitter on it doesn’t change that

I haven’t talked about this too much up until now + I’m not keen to start writing essays about it anytime soon because tbh I don’t think I have the language and, like, organisation of ideas, down enough to make sure that I’m not misunderstood + that my words can’t be co-opted in support of transmisogynistic ideas because that’s as always not what I’m trying to do 

#nextarch by @reiulframstad #next_top_architects Whether over ideas or strategies, feelings, actions or transactions, the choice of what to record and the decision over what to preserve, and thereby privilege, occur within socially constructed, but now naturalized frameworks that determine the significance of what becomes archives.
Coming back to the RRA studio after traveling makes me reflect on the many paths