Meditations on (Fictional) Deaths (and Not Deaths)

When a fantasy hero dies, it’s a good death. Noble. Heroic, like the name suggests. They want to go down swinging, or protecting someone, or through some surprise twist of fate – if they’re to go down at all.

And that’s my problem, right there. When a 5e hero hits 0HP they are (more or less) equidistant from both death and survival, but those two outcomes aren’t given equal consideration of the evocative variety (vague can take a break today).

With things as they stand, the abstraction of death saves is GREAT for survivors! Being able to say that you went down, were knocked unconscious, this close to dying but managed to pull through – that’s cool, that’s fun, that’s got flavour. But… What if you don’t survive? You’ve already failed two death saves, and (in most cases) the third isn’t an edge of your seat situation, it’s a resigned, bummed out one. And once you’re all dead, instead of mostly dead, you’ve spent your final moments as an unconscious ragdoll with no agency. Dying with the current abstraction doesn’t feel good, or noble, or heroic.

But this community homebrews and house rules! It’s what we do! I’ve heard of many people who allow the player to stay conscious while they make their death saves so that they can have a final speech, reveal a secret, or get closure saying goodbye to their friends and allies. The most recent I’ve seen from @litzabronwyn was fun in that it specified that the character is left stunned and prone rather than unconscious which feels dire but allows them a dramatic death scene:

last breath house rule

This has a lot of merit, makes death way better! But, and I fully recognise that I might be on my own here, I think this version is a little less fun for survivors. Now they’re laying around being very dramatic, croaking out their final words… And then they’re fine and it feels like they totally overreacted.

So, @ThinkingDM and I got to pondering; is there a middle ground for death saves? One where surviving is still cool and dying is still dramatic? It’s a tricky question to tackle.

Or at least I thought it was until I explained to my sister, Raewyn, what I was puzzling over. She doesn’t play DnD, doesn’t know much about it, but she said, “What if each death roll was about a different thing?”

The more I thought about it, the more I think she’s onto something.

I like to use Boromir’s death in Fellowship (2001) as a sort of prototype of the adventurer’s death fantasy. It’s familiar, full of agency, he gets his “my captain, my king” speech (I’m not crying, you’re crying); it has all the elements you might hope for from a good, noble, heroic death. Even if we know it, let’s watch it again coz we can.

To me, there seems to be a very clear narrative beat for each of, what we could imagine to be, his failed death saving throws. 1st throw failed – an arrow slams into his chest. 2nd – another to the stomach. 3rd – another and he’s done.

If we reverse engineer the story beats of this scene and apply to them the mechanical beats of a 5e encounter, we can kind of extrapolate an interesting sequence:

  • A player character reaches 0 hit points. At the beginning of each turn they must make a death saving throw and any damage dealt to them forces another save. (Boromir has been holding off the uruks, but finally he’s out of hit points; now it’s life or death mode).
  • A player character has failed one death saving throw. They no longer add their Dexterity bonus to their AC or Dexterity saving throws. (Boromir is struggling to keep fighting, but it’s more difficult to defend himself with one arm out of commission from the pain).
  • A player character has failed two death saving throws. They immediately fall prone. They can only make one attack on their turn. (Boromir collapses to the ground but, seeing the vulnerable hobbits, forces himself onto his feet to keep fighting).
  • A player character has failed three death saving throws. They immediately fall prone and are stunned. After one minute, the character dies. (Boromir is brought to his knees with no strength left and has only a short time remaining before his wounds take him).

Anyone else looking at this structure for death saves and thinking it looks and works a little bit like exhaustion levels?

Now, a couple things strike me as potentially awkward about this method:

1) it relies really heavily on HP as an abstraction of fortitude in battle. We likely all know by now that damage doesn’t literally mean cuts, but it probably doesn’t stop most of us from describing it that way, so someone hitting zero and being seemingly unaffected might be hard for people to swallow;

2) a healer might take issue after the third failure with a PC being conscious enough to speak but somehow beyond their magic to save. It’s not a likely problem at my table since I’ve pre-established that magic heals quickly more than well and sometimes a wound is too far gone already or would be healed wrong – but my table isn’t every table;

2.5) similarly why wouldn’t self-serve modes of healing be available to a character at 0HP before their third failure;

3) in order to really hit right, the DM would need to ascribe a narrative beat to every failed save. In the Boromir example this would just be “roll your death save”, “6”, “the uruk-hai captain launches an arrow at you through the fray and it lances your chest, just above your heart. Your luck is starting to run out”, “for my turn I keep fighting”. But in a DnD battle there are countless possibilities for what’s going on, and the DM is going to have to come up with something that intensifies the PC’s situation, because when a start of turn death save with no catalyst for failure to obviously make you worse at stuff DOES make you worse at stuff just because, it’s gonna steal the drama.

No more than the usual unconscious death saves do, but still.

However, there are a lot of things I do really like about the concept, among them:

1) it keeps a character alert and making choices. It only takes away from their abilities after they would ordinarily be unconscious anyway;

2) someone who survives gets to feel really cool and tough for pulling through based entirely on last-ditch efforts – they get to be Faramir instead!;

3) you only start making your gurgled dramatic death speech AFTER your guaranteed death, so no uncomfortable social aftermath there.

Surviving is cool, and dying is dramatic.

Anyway, I think the big take away from this is that my sister might be better at DnD than I am.

Another D&D Thing to Use: Major Injury Table

If a player character of level 3 or above takes more than half of their hitpoint worth in one strike of damage, they must make a Constitution saving throw of DC 15 or suffer a potentially mortal wound. A failed save uses its total result to determine the wound sustained.

Major Injuries Table

All wounds sustained in this manner require extended recovery through non-magical means and are likely to leave permanent markers or scars.

The Patreon Pantheon

As a show of appreciation for all the people who’ve pledged support for my web creations over on Patreon, I’ve decided to grant you all very specific divine domains as the Patreon Pantheon. Thank you.


Christopher, God of Cool Space Stuff like Pretty Nebulas and Shooting Stars

Lukas, God of Getting a Shopping Centre Car Park All to Yourself

Jarrod Rottau, God of Surprise Party Decorations

Keith, God of Hand Made Props that Bring a Game to Life

Mark Kalynchuk, God of Magnificent Facial Hair

Angus Hamilton, God of Self Portraits Made Way Before You’d Think People Could Reasonably Paint Themselves

Mike, God of Hilarious Out-of-Context Soundbites

Max Downton, God of Getting to Feel Good Looking Dapper for a Special Event

Aidan Cowell, God of Scrounging Up Nuggets of Lore About Game Worlds

Oskar Svensson, God of Really Satisfying Stretches

Matthias Havrez, God of Practical, Useful Information on Interesting Topics

DevilNetwork, Gods of the Freedom of Chaotic Creation

Karl Bachmann, God of Being Able to Tell Where You Are on a Map

Ian McFarlin, God of Imagining What the Combination of Two Animals Would Look Like

Nicholas Altman, God of Random Distractions Saving You from Conversations You Don’t Want to Have

Marc Cannava, God of Fun and Eclectic Opinions

RainyDazy, God of Spotting People Pushing on ‘Pull’ Doors

Xocoyotzin Ruiz, God of Nifty Minis that Make Players Go ‘Oooh!’

Andrew Kent, God of Unusual Stories from Unusual Places

Kenneth Starr, God of Silly In-Jokes With Siblings

Max S Dev, God of Awesome, Kinda Trippy Landscapes that Boggle the Mind

Gabriel Ryder, God of Finding Moments to Slow Down and Chill Out

Yoel E Rodriguez, God of Labyrinthine Streets and Fey Roads

R. J. Scott McKenzie, God of Hidden Talents Being Put to Good Use

Daniel Tompkins, God of Finding Enough Spare Change to Buy Something You Want

Matthew, God of Tricky Topics Explained So They Make Sense

Patrick Rhomberg, God of Pulling Apart Your Favourite Movies to Make Them Even Better

Matt Smith, God of Watercolours and Warm Socks

Ed Gillen, God of Knowing All the Words to Songs

Sean Crocker, God of Weather Balloons Looking Like UFOs

Damon B., God of Peaceful Evenings in Remote and Beautiful Locations

Laurens Bakker, God of Digging for More Information on the Things You Love

Albin Engström, God of Hijinks and Moxie

Andrew Morris, God of Finding Out About Cool Stuff Before Other People Do

Raymond Meeks, God of Unexpectedly Funny and Heartfelt Birthday Cards

Barry Drake, God of Carefully Honed, Highly Situational Skills

Felix L Gregorcyk, God of Cyphers and Invisible Ink

Zac Bradbury, God of Full Names That Make People Ask “Really?”

Jens Christian Jørgensen, God of Fresh Morning Air and Dewy Spiderwebs

Reuben Bresler, God of Leaving Things to Fate in the Name of Fun

The Wandering Alchemist, God of Making Dope Stuff Yourself from Scratch

Gregory Young, God of Keeping Up with the Zeitgeist

Amanda Hockman, God of Effortless Style and Wry Wit

Cabane McSyrup, God of Deeply Understanding One’s Hobbies

Keeper of Dusk, God of Small Doses of Delight

Toph Marshall, God of the Technical Nitty Gritty that Makes Great Art Work

Matthew Taylor, God of Rediscovering Forgotten Songs from High School

Alexander Otis, God of Making People Laugh Just as They Take a Drink

Josh, God of Strange Cats That Don’t Run Away From You in the Street

Jeremy Clark, God of Catching Your Favourite Episode as it Reruns on TV

david mahoney, God of Catching Up with Old Friends

Ben, God of Intelligent Comedy

Vladimir Pliska, God of Comfy Couches

Luis, God of Getting to Share Good Music with Someone for the First Time

Anthony Bowman, God of Getting Something Tricky Right First Go

Emily Payeur, God of the Joy in Making Fiddly Artistic Things

DisjointedImages, God of Attention to Detail in Tabletop Assets

Jonathan Gilman, God of the Philosophy Behind Gaming

Dillon Zelaya, God of Surprisingly Pleasant Conversations with Strangers

Aaron Weeks, God of Finding Out About The Perfect Kickstarter Just In Time to Back It.

Justin Wilkinson, God of Reverse Engineering Clever Systems

Euphonetics, God of Secret Keeping and Anonymity

Tre McCarthy, God of Amusingly Blunt Honesty

Joseph Fernandez, God of Spectacular Libraries

Priyansh, God of Actually Good Remakes of SciFi Classics

Ryan Goodman, God of Having a Free Day to Spend However You Choose

Elysian Animation, God of Evocative Visual Storytelling

Brian Mikko Haun, God of Inspirationally Spooky Atmospheres

Anthony Robertson, God of Really Cool Re-Imaginings of Fictional Characters

Nuri McBride, God of Pleasant Goth Aesthetics

Ryan Parlett, God of Weather that Perfectly Matches Your Mood

JP Rakath, God of Finely Crafted Curios

Nathaniel Wagner, God Really Shiny Crescent Moons

Blake Nicholson, God of Warm Drinks When You Need Them

Robert Wilson, God of Friendly Conversation Around Bonfires

Elliot Wong, God of Memes as Propaganda

Gil Tuttle, God of Curious Notions

Loren Hart, God of Geophysical Luminescent Phenomena

Seth Willits, God of Apple Pi

Michael Gaskins, God of Comfortable Lazy Rivers

Julio Capa, God of Enabling Unbridled Creativity

Joe Richter, God of Clouds Shaped Like Dragons

Wilko Rauert, God of Going the Extra Mile to Set the Scene

RMcCreary, God of Sunsets that Use All the Colours

Alexandra Schoof, God of Humorous Learning

Dan Marks, God of Cafés that Never Run Out of the Foods You Like

Jamie Watson, God of When Someone Lightly Scritches Your Head and it Feels Nice

James Smith, God of That Relaxed Feeling You Get in a Clear Space

Someone Else, God of Mysterious Cool Looking Strangers

Perlaki Andras, God of Organisation for the Sake of Mayhem

Max Fathauer, God of Pencils That Are Already Sharp When You Find Them

Mitchel McMillan, God of Having Great Anecdotes to Share

Bex Key, God of When Bump Out for a Show Goes Quickly and Smoothly

Kilo Mina, God of Making People Cry but in Like a Friends Way?

Raysplacenspace, God of Astronomically Themed Calendars

Abilio Carvalho, God of Actually Enjoyable Exercise

Ryder Smith, God of Enjoyable Study Regarding Subjects that Interest You

Xanthippe Pink, God of Hard Core but Still Light Hearted Pop Culture Analysis

Alex V, God of Bundling Up in Winter

Michael South, God of Underappreciated Pokemon

Drew DeYoung, God of Perfect Weather Nights to Eat S’mores around a Bonfire

Kalkidan, God of Laughing Until Your Abs Hurt

Tim Stacey, God of Educational Presentations at Science Centres that use Bubbles and Electricity and Stuff

hendrik, God of Miraculously Drawing a Straight Line Without a Ruler

David Lewis-Frazier, God of Lively Debates that Don’t Get Out of Hand

Rebecca, God of Stumbling Across Really Good Restaurants No One Else Knows About

Sgtbignose, God of Progressive Sci-Fi Television

Michael Prudoehl, God of Openly Enjoying Things to the Fullest Enthusiasm

Johan, God of Old Maps with Weird Place Names Where Ordinary Names Would Be Now

Kaye Asplund, God of Varied but Equally Feel-Good Interests

Steve Wooster, God of Frivolous Expenditures that Make You Feel Good and Not Guilty

Aaron Burke, God of Catchy Songs You Hear By Accident that Become Your New Favourite

Amit Gil, God of Really Enjoyable Clever Writing

Tobias Theuer, God of Finding Lost Items in the First Place You Look

Daimon, God of Beloved Stories from Childhood

Sean O’Flaherty, God of Top Notch Con Purchases

Patrick Thornton, God of Curiosity that Pays Off

Paul Gunterman, God of Perfect Last Minute Costume Ideas

Brandan Feickert, God of Successfully Tossing Paper Into a Bin Long Distance and Impressing Everyone

Lee Thayer, God of Being the Robots’ Favourite When the Revolution Comes

Robin Hayes, God of Stories that Give You the Spooks but Don’t Give You Nightmares

Hao Tran, God of Umbrellas Used for Shade

DeaDy, God of Brilliant Op-Shop Finds

Craig Fogle, God of That Warm Golden Feeling When You Try to Hold in a Laugh

Steven Quirk, God of Excellent Names You Unexpectedly Hear in Passing

Alexander Pereira, God of Childhood Favourites that Still Hold Up

Trey Just, God of Little Known but Brilliant Fantasy Series

Brian Willson, God of Successfully Blowing the Biggest, Most Perfect Bubblegum Bubble

Gwen Hansen, God of Crispy Autumn Leaves

Matt Nelson, God of Sleeping in on Winter Mornings

Ivar Kråbøl, God of Pretty Birdsongs in the Early Hours

RJ Grendelshire, God of TV Cliffhangers with Satisfying Conclusions

George Tohill, God of Always Amazing Hair

CakeMachine, God of Impromptu Water Balloon Fights

Laurent Tirta, God of Being the First Person on the Ice at a Skating Rink

David Harrison, God of Salads that have Only the Veggies you Like & None of the Ones that you Don’t

Ernst Jan Plugge, God of Three Day Weekends

Lewis Lopez, God of YouTube Mascots

Ahmed Awadhi, God of Excellent Roadtrip Music

Christophe Malgouyres, God of The Smell of Delicious Food as it Cooks

John Corrigan, God of Favourable Statistics

Paul Duesterhaus, God of Mysterious Secret Pathways through Magic Woods

Peter, God of Rocketships and Submarines

Robert Johnson, God of Curiously Investigating How Things Work

Matthew Lennon, God of Pianos in the Desert

Cristina Purice, God of Bioluminescent Lanterns Made using Insects & Mason Jars

Nicolai Pedersen, God of Smooth Running Mechanisms

Jeramie Vens, God of Exciting Seaside Day Trips

Ernest, God of Innovative Trampoline Functionality

Cory Laino, God of Being Able to Find Constellations in the Night Sky

Mark Brown, God of Trees that look like Ents

Evgeni Kirilov, God of Brightly Coloured Scientific Equipment

Michael Mallon, God of Ultimate Amusement Parks

Rob Collini, God of Strange and Wonderful Webcomics

David Wiley, God of Warm Showers

Megan Sandiford, God of Coloured Pencil Collections

Sébastien Adhikari, God of Cool Guy Sunnies

Raphaël Proust, God of Nights When the Moon looks Massive

Jazz, God of Out of Place Row Boats

Ryan Attard, God of Sick Guitar Solos

Steve Maxwell, God of Personalised Mixtapes

Martine Lenders, God of Hilarious Delirious Sleep Deprived Queries

Ronald Woodard, God of Charming Melodies

Kenneth Fritz, God of Falling Asleep While Reading

Maarten Daalder, God of Relaxed Backyard Barbeques with Fun People

Sonni Lowe, God of Unblemished Foil Cards

Keri, God of Getting an Early Mark off from Work

Alyssa Benson, God of Animals that would Seem Fake by Description Alone

Gavin Westbrook, God of Stylish Transportation

Kevin, God of Badass Comic Cover Art

David Buechler, God of Retro Music Stores with Friendly Vibes

Kevin Dowd, God of Classic Games Played with a Deck of Cards

Connor McGarity, God of Freshly Mown Grass that Doesn’t Trigger Hay Fever

Fraggle Wrangler, God of Mesmerising Tortoise Shell Patterns

Becca Johnson, God of Exemplary Animal Themed Apparel

Nate, God of Late Night Spontaneity

James, God of Fun Mostly Pointless Experiments

Fran, God of On-Point Music Playlists

Ed Read, God of Lag-Free Gaming

Sarah Parker, God of Sprinkler Rainbows

Aetherspoon, God of Amiable Felines

James Thompson, God of Good Looking Snow Globes

David Henry, God of Misheard Song Lyrics that are Better than the Real Ones

Aaron Lovegren, God of Full Biscuit Tins

Nathan Avery, God of Cool Looking Heist Diagrams

Tyroler, God of Fresh Market Fruit

Phil Wardlow, God of Big Climbable Party Trees

John G. Swope, God of Unknown Garden Parks

Jesse Baron, God of Being Wrong About Pizza

Froebel Vergara, God of Exciting Street Art

Leslie Weatherstone, God of Iridescent Seashells

Joe Spandrusyszyn, God of Fantastic Lighting

Michael Lefevre, God of Comfy Socks

Michael Stanley, God of Tasty Bakery Treats

SecretSquirrell, God of Odd Classic Cartoon Characters

Jonathan Clements, God of Really Super Nice Smelling Plants

David O. Hagen, God of Phenomenal Lookout Views and Unspoiled Picnics

James Hyman, God of Late Night Philosophising

Callum Moore, God of Free Playground Equipment

Vince O’Connor, God of Beautiful Clockwork

Geoff Cahill, God of Enthralling Circus Acts

Michael Keller, God of Crunchable Footpath Leaves

Christopher Ferguson, God of Pens that Never Seem to Run Out

Anders Jørgensen, God of Stones that Skip Just Right

Michael Roach, God of Warm Sounding Songs

Alexander Lundberg, God of Surprisingly Accurate Map Drawing

Daniel Hooley, God of Obscure Fables

Jens Elmose, God of Smudge Free Glass

Michael Sommers, God of Fond Family Histories and Photo Albums

Jurjen Stellingwerff, God of Gorgeous Stained Glass Windows

Gabriel Veiga, God of Artistic Escapism

Marcus Meitzler, God of Well Toasted Marshmallows

Faisal Mirza, God of Dramatic Fireworks Finales

Dominic Hobbs, God of Unexpected Learning During Conversation

Thiophen, God of Intriguing Intricate Designs

Steven Kern, God of Still Functioning Old-School Radios

Paul Crago, God of Sweet As Game Music

Sebastian Werner, God of Architecturally Magnificent Blanket Forts

Kevin Martin, God of Favourite Clothing Items

Eric Barkman, God of Fresh Air Respite at Parties

David Koble, God of Interesting and Unusual Dragon Hoards

Scott Graham, God of Awesome Classic Movie Posters

Greg Ball, God of Easy Afternoons

RaptorChow, God of Dinosaur Museums

Tim Price, God of Unpopped Bubble Wrap

James Smith (Raggedy), God of Stellar Scented Candles

Ian Moldovan, God of Pineapple Utility

Invisible Fat Man, God of Humorous Observations

Joshua Stevens, God of Fresh Crisp Bedsheets

Paul Charvet, God of Festive Decorations

Peter Millane, God of New Book Smell

Brian C. Williams, God of Happy Photographs

Patrick Reilly, God of Overflowing Polyhedral Dice Collections

Kayla Sullivan, God of Twinkling Faerie Lights

Nickolas Jeffcoat, God of Brightly Coloured Flying Insects

Simon Davie, God of Splashable Rain Puddles

William Petterson, God of Whimsical and Delicious Snack Foods

Jaime Unson, God of Well Placed Emojis

Jeffrey J Johnson, God of Uninterrupted Reading Nights

Rick Mares, God of Soothing Nature Sounds

Paul D Perez, God of Perfectly Rumbly Thunderstorms

MattsTheories, God of Eyecatching Sunhats

Dave Douds, God of Successful IKEA Expeditions

Sean Larkin, God of Quality Magicians

Charlie Parker, God of Overly Confident Woodland Critters

Chandler Swink, God of Spontaneous Living Room Dance Parties

Bill Gould, God of Aesthetically Pleasing Frost

Melanie, God of Thrilling Carnivals

Elias Thompson, God of Entertaining Starbucks Misspellings

Daniel “Dezzles”, God of Root Vegetable Mobility

This list will continue to be updated.

Your Desperate Pleas for DM Resources Have Been Answered

Sort of, at least.

After making my D&D prep TED video the other day I have been flooded with requests for access to some of the custom content I mentioned, in particular the coveted Build-A-Baddie table. Well, you’re welcome to it. May it bring you swift and successful improvised combat.

“It’s like Build-A-Bear. But for baddies.”

(For whatever reason WordPress isn’t enjoying the picture; the Imgur link above should provide a higher quality version).

Of course it’s pretty basic and isn’t intended for the creation of actual planned adversaries; they should have a little more thought put in. This is strictly for when your PCs pick a fight with someone you never thought they’d pick a fight with, but you still want combat with that NPC to have some character and depth.

The system is really simple: First choose whether the ‘Baddie’ best fits the category of Strong, Smart or Skilled. Then, in the appropriate column, you can select a build archetype with its appropriate AC and HP (thrown together with my 1st level party in mind) as well as what saves should get a bonus (this uses the Pathfinder Saves, but I’m sure you can extrapolate the equivalent 5e saves if you so desire). This archetype doesn’t necessarily mean exactly what it says of the tin, it just evokes a sense of what kind of a Strong, Smart or Skilled person they are. I think the example I used in the video was a mercenary bandit who had the Soldier archetype. What that tells me (other than his AC, HP, and Save) isn’t that he’s a soldier-mercenary-bandit-uber-person, but rather that this is a more disciplined fighter, possibly better technically trained in combat, yada yada you get it. Next: Basic Attacks! Each of these columns has at least one option that would likely come paired with another of the weapons listed, like the shield or the True Strike, to give you some variety. And finally, because you want this combat to feel special even if it did just come up totally out of the blue, I’ve listed some Special Actions that you can choose from on the fly to give your NPC a little more flavour. The party have started some biff with a group of snooty rich uni boys? Turns out the leader of their little gang can command his goons to fight better (via Inspiration). That carnie acrobat with the glass eye who won’t give the party their refund? She can move really freaking fast (helloooooo Mobile)! The wish is to give the impression that this isn’t just any stock standard fight; this is an actual character the PCs have shirtfronted, whether you planned them that way or not.

And that’s it! Simple as that! Thanks for showing an interest, everyone, hopefully you find some purpose and usefulness for this in your game.

I certainly hope it works… For all our sakes.

Ivan’s Virtual Island: Critique

This session I’ve been following Ivan’s project in which he’s been attempting to build a virtual space using Unreal Engine, extending the experience he got working on the virtual reality recreation of the Yellow House gallery with Chris Moore. His original aim was to create a learning environment. We had discussed this concept early on with ideas of a digital building inside which various subjects for study could be found. The idea of a globe of the Earth was suggested, molecules which could be examined to learn more about their structure; something that could educationally engage a user on an interactive three-dimensional level.

Think Viki from ‘I, Robot’. But not terrifying and homicidal. And also a globe. Maybe think XCOM instead.

Upon testing the waters and coming to the conclusion that this would be a lot of difficult work for his skill level and areas of knowledge, Ivan altered his aims to focus on the second of these ideas; building a 3D model of a molecular structure within a virtual space. Once again FEFO (Fail Early Fail Often) reigned supreme and this attempt, too, was scrapped after some building. Attempt number three saw a VR recreation of Howl’s Moving Castle from the Studio Ghibli film of the same name. This iteration was fairly successful and Ivan’s work was of a high standard, however he ultimately put this project aside as well, citing foreseeable legal issues with copyright that he wanted to avoid.

Finally, Ivan settled on the concept of a relaxation space which he calls “Meditation Island”. Throughout all of these changes the core methodology remained the same, with Ivan continuing to practice the use of Unreal Engine to create virtual spaces, maintaining his goal of development using the medium. From an early pitch phase of this finalised build Ivan talked with the class about immersion through details and wanted to be able to include such things as audio to go along with the island’s shapes and textures in order to create that sense of reality. By the time of his Beta presentation he had very successfully integrated not only effective audio but also an imitation of a light breeze moving the leaves of the vegetation on the virtual island, confirming the significance of these details and highlighting their importance within Ivan’s project.

The Beta presentation did a great job of covering Ivan’s reiterative process and development from his early concept of a learning space to the final product of Meditation Island. Having the space available to be experienced on his laptop was a huge bonus to the Beta as a whole, allowing those viewing it to experience the space for themselves. Securing access to an Oculus Rift headset as he had done earlier in the session could have allowed the class to experience the island to its fullest extent, but it certainly wasn’t necessary for the impact to be felt, and in all honesty an improperly adjusted virtual reality headset and earphones may have wound up detracting from the finished artefact counter productively.

We all hate having to contend with too-loose or too-tight, heavy, unfocused VR goggles, amiright? Right? Who can tell that this has been my general Oculus Rift experience so far? Everyone? Ok cool, just checking.

I would have enjoyed more detailed descriptions on the process of deciding which avenue of creation Ivan was pursuing and specifics as to why each attempt was scrapped or deemed a failure; more along the lines of the perceived potential for legal issues with the third project attempt for each of the other efforts would have been well received. In addition to this I would have liked to hear exactly how Ivan arrived at the success of his immersive audio, which had been brought up during earlier updates as something he wasn’t sure how to implement with verisimilitude. The addition of ambient sound had been a great point of interest for the class during previous discussions and I think the group as a whole would have liked to hear how this actually played out functionally. Further detail in annotation on Ivan’s blog post regarding this project would be interesting also, along the lines of his progress updates posted to twitter.

As far as feedback on the project itself… it’s difficult for me to speak on with technical sense since I have no experience in generating virtual spaces and am not familiar with the inner workings of Unreal Engine. Speaking from my limited position, however, I would recommend tweaks to things like water movement speed as was discussed by Ivan during the Beta itself. On the whole, I feel that small changes make a huge difference with this project, as seen with the addition of audio and leaf motion. Small details along those lines could be expected to continue making a massive positive impact. Perhaps splitting of the two different bodies of water, for example, making the lake on the island and the water surrounding the island into two separate pieces of water with their own distinct feels could go a long way to enhancing that sense of reality in Ivan’s virtual space.

The subject of the project’s public presence was brought up during the Beta regarding exactly how it will be released with no real definitive answers, Ivan wanting to present it as the intended VR experience and not just showcase the space in video form. I agree with this method as there has been plenty of public documentation across multiple sites of the full process, enough that I don’t feel more necessary until he’s identified a method of distribution which credits the project as it should.

A Study in Persona

For my Cybercultures class this session (DIGC335 for anyone who’s interested, I highly recommend it) I ended up delving quite a bit into the idea of persona and what exactly that means and where exactly it ends, which was a surprise to even myself given I’d started out by looking at Nuzlocke story sharing. So hopefully this doesn’t get too wibbly as I ramble about my findings over there for a while because it’s relevant and hella interesting.

yo dawg meme.png

Essentially my research came down to the phenomenological concept of experience defining reality. We only experience the world through sensation, so it is our experiences that make up everything we are. I experience therefore I am and all that. But when looking at persona online, that reality gets stretched beyond just physical sensational experiences.

So, to use the Nuzlocke example: A Nuzlocke webcomic would be an artistic rendering of a player’s experiences playing a pokemon game using the Nuzlocke ruleset. However, using our phenomenological definition of beingness, trying to identify which persona is the “real” person becomes incredibly tricky. Where exactly are you supposed to draw the line when you have a player artist experiencing the game, a character they’ve drawn based on themselves experiencing those same events within the narrative, as well as a character avatar enacting those events within the game’s coding AND an audience reading and experiencing those same events once again through a cathartic empathy with the comic protagonist?

It might seem like an extreme example just suddenly dropping this from a third year subject into a first year one without any context, but really I think it acknowledges strongly that we have to recognise different personae as being just as “real” and “authentic” as our analogue selves, even if they don’t all match up with each other or meet our expectations of what reality should be. Because, just as with any simulation; if you’re experiencing it as reality then what’s the difference? What does it matter?

Boundaries of Collective Intelligence

I have a favourite story I like to tell to illustrate the difference between legacy journalism and citizen journalism through sites like Twitter. I’d been having lunch with friends and one of them had spent the entire early half of the conversation deriding new media, proudly declaring that he had no Facebook or Twitter accounts, instead getting his news from reliable old fashioned fact checked sources, like radio. I gritted my teeth through the derision and allowed the conversation to move on. Some 10 minutes later he somehow got back onto his tirade against Twitter. “Hashtags are the scourge of the Earth!” he complained (or something to that effect anyway). “That stupid dress colour thing happened on the same day as Leonard Nimoy’s death and so it’s all the radio talked about!” Being a huge Star Trek fan he was extremely upset by this injustice.

I pointed out to him that, actually, the two events happened days apart. That such a thing was perfectly visible from a position seated in the heart of Twitter. That #TheDress had died down plenty in time to see the many tributes to the sci-fi legend Twitter put forth with #RIPLeonardNimoy trending. That as it turned out, all his argument had proven was that he waits for a week to get the exact same news Twitter would have given him instantly, that it was more clumsily delivered, and that he himself didn’t do any fact checking. He’d turned quite red by this point and quietly changed the subject.

slowpoke meme
Accurate representation of legacy media.

I’ve become really interested in the concept of shared knowledge and collective intelligence, and whether or not there is a place where this ‘citizen journalism’ ends. The shift in journalistic media and news sharing towards new media sites has, among other things, made less of a distinction between what is “newsworthy” and what is not because the audience is able to decide which news they want to tune into for themselves. We can see how this works on a global scale, but I’d posit that it can work on an incredibly small, local, insular level as well.

I attended high school during the initial rise of Facebook and one of its primary uses during that time was that it became a hub of information sharing. Regularly we’d send out the call for help on homework questions or assignments, due dates, excursion info, anything we needed to know, and responses would be instant, developing this kind of hive mind we’ve talked about in the course. We could collect the data we needed from each other instantaneously, because there was always someone in the connected community who had the information on hand. It all keeps coming back to that idea that no one knows everything, but everyone knows something.