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Things that have interested me lately

And maybe they will you, too? Let's see:

  • Victorian Blood Book – extraordinary decoupage project, made in 1854. You really have to view the slideshow to get the full majesty and oddity of it all. Not many people's idea of a wedding present for one's daughter.

  • Your Paintings – this BBC site has gathered together all 200-and-odd thousand oil paintings in UK public hands, across 2000-and-odd collections. Fantastic browsing material. See also: Google Art Project, if you didn't already know about that. Amazing high-res images.

  • Duke's first MOOC – I'm interested in MOOCs as a social phenomenon (and as a sometimes handy way to learn stuff, of course), so this analysis was rather interesting. More detailed report here. An attempt to aggregate data about MOOC completion rates here.

  • The Jane Austen Word List – simple but genius. Writer wants to use Austen-period-authentic language. So she creates a custom dictionary for her word processor, drawn from the Austen corpus. So it flags up whenever she tries to use a word that's not found in the source material. Here is an interesting list of some of the words thus picked up, some of which I certainly wouldn't have guessed were out of period.

  • Republished (A)D&D modules – PDFs, cheap. Lots of nostalgia value looking through them: how we used to play when we were kids. Not much to say to a modern role-playing sensibility, but hey ho. For me the most interesting parts are the histories of how each module came to be, and what was going on behind the scenes at TSR, etc: written by Shannon Appelcline. The linked page, for example, reveals that Queen of the Demonweb Pits was developed and published expressly against Gary Gygax's wishes.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
2nd Mar, 2013 21:52 (UTC)
You'll be unsurprised, I'm sure, to know that I have been enjoying the histories too and stocking up on some of the modules :)
4th Mar, 2013 08:40 (UTC)
*feigns surprise, badly*
3rd Mar, 2013 08:15 (UTC)
Republished (A)D&D modules

Apparently quite popular, since I've yet to manage to persuade the site to load!

Not much to say to a modern role-playing sensibility

Indeed not... but that said, I essentially never buy modern roleplaying products, since they're no use to me. They're all about stories, which is great.... but making up stories is the bit I want to be doing myself when I'm GMing. By contrast, the old D&D modules actually did all the work I don't want to do, so although the stories were less interesting (in fact let's face it, a lot of modules were just skirmish wargames) I did sometimes buy them.

Similarly with the old D&D rulebooks. I don't want my RPG rulebooks to be full of pages of background. What I need is weapon lists and spell lists and rules systems, because those are the parts that are hard to do for yourself.
4th Mar, 2013 08:59 (UTC)
Hmm, it's loaded quickly each time for me. You might have been unlucky to hit a maintenace outage or sthg?

Mm, I went through about a 20-year period of not buying role-playing stuff, for that reason: why would you want to buy someone else's shelvefuls of story, when you could write it yourself?
But in the last few years I've started getting stuff again: 'indie' prepless games that are essentially toolkits for constructing one's own story on the fly during the course of the session. This has been quite useful for the limited way that I actually manage to squeeze role-playing into my life these days.
3rd Mar, 2013 09:56 (UTC)
Cute idea with the Austen word list. Though I'm not sure *technical* authenticity is necessarily better than going for what feels right. The word list is pretty fascinating though.
4th Mar, 2013 08:43 (UTC)
it is! -- and her notes about words that have changed meaning significantly are v interesting too.
I'm intrigued by the way so many people (today, and presumably also in the past) complain so bitterly about words changing meaning and/or usage, as though it poses some sort of existential threat.
4th Mar, 2013 08:43 (UTC)
Oh, boo. I got briefly excited about the MOOC completion rates link, but it only covers "xMOOCs" (the big semi-standardised cross-university platforms), which are quite a different beast from the original "cMOOCs" (c for "connectivist"). Not surprising, cos it's much easier to measure things on the xMOOCs, and interesting anyway, so thanks!

(I was part of the team which ran one of the first UK MOOCs, and one of the things I'm currently supposed to be doing is writing an article about it...)
4th Mar, 2013 09:09 (UTC)
Ooh, great, I shall ask you lots about this next time we see each other :-)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )