2020/11/22

40k: HamWarmer 24.5 - Tyranids (With Photos)

The swarm grows!

I've also finished the Faction: Tyranids (v0.1) book for HamWarmer 24.5. That's 2 factions and the core rules done (and indexed here).

Tyranids are a curious faction in 40k, rules-wise. Every Codex author seems to take a different approach. Points costs, abilities, and stats swing wildly. A Lascannon is a Lascannon, but nobody seems entirely sure what any given Tyranid thing is, or even how certain units should function.

I've tried to write an interesting Synapse ability. Tyranid units need to stick fairly close to a Synapse creature to be carefully controlled; outside Synapse range, they more-or-less need to be steered. Dismantling an army by targeting the Synapse creatures, then driving off the survivors.

As usual, points costs will be adjusted as testing progresses. With the Faction: Space Marines book, I'm fairly confident on basic infantry and wargear costs, but less certain on the powerful vehicles. With Tyranids, it's the opposite.




Painting Recipe:
Started with a black basecoat, did a zenithal highlight in white. Didn't end up showing much, so you can probably skip it. The chitin is Vallejo 71.023 (Hemp), the carapace is Vallejo 71.075 (Sand Ivory). Both were highlighted up with the same colour and a few drops of white. Didn't mask anything while airbrushing, so there's a bit of overspray in a few places, but I can fix it while doing final brush highlights.

Then, models were inked with Vallejo 73.300 (Sepia wash). It's not my favourite, but it's cheap, it covers well, and it can dry in interesting shades (from yellows to reds) depending on thickness, so it's good for adding some variation.

After a final drybrush (still testing colours) and some fleshy details, and a bit of light basing, they should be done. Will adjust this post to include final paints.
 

Bonus: Patreon  Project

I'm thinking of running a "Select-Thy-Own Disaster" story (or series of stories) on Patreon, where the Patrons control (by voting) the actions of a small group of probably-doomed characters. In-person gaming has been difficult due to Covid, so this feels like a decent substitute. Plus, I get to show off my appalling painting skills! Yaaay...


And here's a sneak peak at the "set", or at least, part of it.

The terrain (like most of my terrain) is painted with just 5 colours: Black, Ivory, Ochre, Burnt Umber, and Burnt Sienna. All cheap artist acrylics. Oh, and a bit of metallic silver, but that's just for accents and doesn't really count.

After priming black, I highlighted the centre of each square (and various panels) with ivory, using the airbrush. I then applied a random mix of burnt umber and bunt sienna using a large brush (dipping one side in one paint, the other in the other, and smearing them to create an uneven pattern), and carefully thinned it across the whole board.
Doors and central chevron areas were taped off and painted with ochre, then stenciled with ivory.

Once that was dry, I applied a wash made from burnt sienna, tap water, and a drop of dishwasher anti-spotting liquid to decrease the surface tension. While that was drying, I applied smaller washes with black and burnt umber.

The whole process is very quick. With highly detailed and textured terrain like this, you can let the structure tell the story. I feel that terrain shouldn't dominate a scene, so picking these relatively muted colours, and applying them consistently across several projects, lets my miniatures stand out... for better or for worse.

Anyway, stay tuned for more news and something resembling a release schedule.

2020/11/12

40k: Towards Better Rules: HamWarmer 24.5

White Dwarf 187

Warhammer 40,000 exists in a weird gap in the wargame spectrum. There are excellent skirmish games, and excellent large-scale battle rules, but very few rules for large battles at the 28mm scale. There's probably a reason for that.

A skirmish game can take an RPG-like approach to each model. Rules can be complex and detailed because they don't need to be used very often. When you're tracking a grand total of 12 models, all sorts of rules become viable. There are some great skirmish games out there, including:

Large-scale battle rules can group units (or platoons, or divisions, or entire armies) int convenient bundles. Tracking individual models is less critical.

But at the odd scale of Warhammer 40k, every model has to count. Any rules for 40k have to go from the platoon level (e.g. a character, two squads, and a tank) to the army level (massed infantry, monstrous units, giant walkers, etc.), and deal with normal humans and walking demigods. Every model needs to stand on its own. You can't treat one squad of 10 with a single profile.

There's an OSR-type movement in the Warhammer community too. Some people are perfectly happy with Rogue Trader (for good reason; it's fun!), and some more are working on hacks of 2nd Edition. There's a dubiously legal "Warhammer 40k 2nd Edition Battle Bible" floating around out there. Project Anvil is another 2nd Ed hack. It's all very exciting.


In fine DIY tradition, I've made my own hack. Introducing:

HamWarmer 24.5

HamWarmer 24.5 (PDF) is vaguely based on Warhammer 40k: 9th Edition (free PDF), with some rules borrowed from older editions or entirely invented. It is non-commercial, unprofessionally distributed, hastily made, entirely unofficial in every way, and completely free. The current PDF is 9 pages long.

Currently, only the core rules are complete, but I'll be adding faction rules and scenarios in short order. Expect this blog post to change rapidly over the next few months.

HamWarmer 24.5 is intended to be a hobbyist-friendly rules set. If you've built it and painted it, chances are there will be rules for it... eventually. I'm going to work on the factions played locally first, then work on the others.

Making the Sausage

Rules burnout is real. Games Workshop produces new rules on a regular basis, and once you've read enough rulebooks you stop caring and lose interest. Patterns emerge. Every time a new edition is released, some units - usually something newly released - become absolutely vital. In the next edition, they get "fixed', and the cycle repeats. Lovingly painted units are supplanted or deleted. Rules grow as every unit, faction, and subfaction gets mechanical differentiation.

Great games come from consistent choices in the same direction. Inconsistent choices result in terrible games. Games Workshop has a number of competing priorities when it comes to writing rules.

  • New units have to be at least as good, or better, than existing units, or no one will buy them.
  • Old units need to be supported. With 30 years of rules out there, there are a lot of legacy units.
  • The rules must be compact and simple. Otherwise, no one will run the game.
  • The rules must be formal, incontrovertible, and cover all cases. People will find loopholes and use them. Here's a compilation, written in a peculiarly unappealing style.
  • Patching or fixing rules was (and to a certain extent, still is) a difficult process.
  • The rules must support past assumptions about Warhammer 40k. Certain weapons and units have values that feel right; change them too much and the game might stop feeling like Warhammer 40k.
  • Only six-sided dice can be used.
  • The game's scale is 28mm heroic. One dimension of the battlefield cannot be larger than 4' (see below).
  • Rules cannot be written simultaneously. Some factions will get rules before other factions, leading to balance issues.

Luckily, I can avoid a few of these problems. I can't avoid all of them (or the game wouldn't be Warhammer 40k), but I can write rules and patch them daily (if needed). I don't need to make them perfect, just good enough for casual play. I can write them all at once, fixing units from one faction as I write rules for another faction. I don't need to sell models, take photographs, write lore, grapple with the implications of the setting, or pay anyone.

I can also playtest continuously and adjust rules based on feedback, without needing to write from a position of supreme and unquestioned authority.

Oh look, express written permission. ;)

Major Changes

These changes will only make sense if you're somewhat familiar with Warhammer 40k's published rules. Feel free to skip them.

  • Alternating Activation. Instead of one player moving, shooting, and charging with all their units before the other player gets to act, players take turns in every phase.
  • A revised to-Wound chart. In 9th Ed., all units can damage all other units, leading to an arms race of more shots, higher damage, and wound negation.
  • Movement-based Morale rules.
  • Templates! They're inconvenient but fun.
  • Vehicle facing returns. In 9th Ed, vehicles can fire all their weapons in all directions, leading to some very odd situations. In this hack, flanking a vehicle is important.
  • No Flyers (as in fast aircraft). The models are great, but the rules just don't work on a small battlefield and they always tip over.
  • No Command Points, Stratagems, Formation Bonuses, Power Cards, or other cruft. I'm going to try to avoid extra rules systems.
  • Points values will be based on 3rd-4th edition. I'm working on tabulating and tracking them in the background. Far too boring for a blog post.

PDF Links

Links will be added as PDFs are completed.

White Dwarf 318

Side Note: 40k Scale Battlefields

I've run some tests. Asking people to bend over their kitchen table and take photographs is surprisingly easy; apparently everyone's bored during lockdown. A 5-6' tall human bending over a waist-high table can safely reach about 2'. They can look directly down at anything closer than 1', maybe 1.5" if they've got a long neck.

Therefore, no matter how long the board is, it can only be 4' wide.

GW's 28mm scale is a bit wonky (and wargaming in general compresses distances and scales for the sake of convenience), but let's say a 6' character gets a 1.25" tall model. 6' real scale / 1.25" game scale = 4.8' per 1". A 4'x8' (48" x 96") battlefield, the largest most people ever use, is therefore approximately 230' x 460'.

The outer red square is a 4'x8' board. The inner red square is GW's new 44"x90" minimum-maximum size. The smallest red square is a 2'x2' skirmish board. Boards are compared to Warhammer World in Nottingham, a Walmart in Gary, Indiana (selected because it's exactly north-south aligned), and Hill 937.

You can argue about the model-scale to real-world-scale conversion factor, but even if I'm off by 50% or more, you can see that the battlefield doesn't scale up to anything like a realistic size.

Some Titanwalk events (where people bring their superheavy war engines like toddlers to a playdate) use the floor of a convention centre boardroom as the battlefield, but that doesn't really work for tiny plastic models. It works fine if you're using prepainted lead soldiers, but delicate plastic figures are likely to become expensive caltrops.


So no matter how epic your battles may be, remember that they're effectively a pub brawl on a Saturday night.

2020/11/02

OSR: Response to some Scurrilous Invective concerning Magical Industrial Revolution

I'm very sorry, but the title of this post is pure clickbait.

Ray C / Libertad did a very thorough and flattering "Lets Read" style review of Magical Industrial Revolution, summarizing each chapter and making notes. It's an extremely useful look at the text for two reasons: it summarizes the book in a convenient yet detailed form, and it provides line-by-line first impressions.

I aim for accessible design. If a reader gets an impression on a first readthrough, I'd like that impression to be both accurate and useful. If all the cool stuff requires hours of reading and cross-referencing, nobody will ever find it, let alone use it at the table. First impressions are crucial.

The review was posted to a variety of forums:
Enworld
RPG.net
Giant in the Playground
Minmax Forum
The Gaming Den - NSFW
Something Awful - NSFW

(What "W" stands for is up to you, but those boards definitely are Not Safe For it. Especially the SA thread; MIR was being reviewed alongside another book of very dubious taste.)

I've decided to combine all my responses into one post. Nothing in the review or the comments required a response (in the sense of being misleading or wrong), but I thought I could use it as an excuse to discuss some behind-the-scenes information on MIR.

Main Review Comments

It is built for that pseudo-B/X ruleset that predominates the OSR, although it has some mentions here and there of more modern iterations of D&D. A lot of its charts and tables are more or less system-neutral, which helps in this regard.
Bits of MIR were tested with B/X, AD&D, OSE (I think), D&D 5th Edition, the GLOG, Fate Core, and I think someone ran an informal MIR-adjacent Fiasco game. People who were familiar with / wrote other systems also read it and offered feedback. When I aim to make a system-neutral book, I really try to ensure nothing in the book requires unstated assumptions.
But in spite of the toolbox nature, MIR does come with some pseudo-setting preconditions. One, Endon’s magic is mostly arcane in nature; most inhabitants are secular and the gods if they exist seem to have a hands-off approach towards the city’s events.

Making Endon mostly secular was a choice I made fairly early on. I wanted GMs to feel comfortable dropping Endon into an existing setting. Adding a new god or pantheon made that difficult. It also adds information the GM has to memorize that might not have any immediate in-game utility. I think the finest bits of design in MIR's are the bits the book doesn't include. 

The implications of a divine apocalypse, as punishment for Endon's sins, was something I wanted to avoid. The apocalypses listed in the book are self-inflicted, not delivered from on high. There's no outside agency, just people wreaking awful havoc with the best intentions.

Additionally, gold piece values correspond on a 1-1 basis of what 1 British Pound was worth in 1800. Which according to the Bank of England is equivalent to 844 pounds in 2019 via adjusting for inflation, or $1,100 US Dollars in modern times. The book claims that it’s $100 USD modern, but my much larger findings are based on Bank of England website and MorningStar Investment. The latter I found via Googling “British Pound to US Dollars” and using the calculator provided. But at the end of the day I’m not an economist so I may be off in some regard and just using the more immediate results. For gaming groups using AD&D or 5th Edition rulesets, they’re advised to increase gold piece prices tenfold.
Historical currency conversion is a minefield. If you use a standard calculator, yes, 1gbp in 1800 will come out closer to $1,000 modern USD. But if you calibrate on purchasing power and intuitive pricing, it's closer to $100. E.g. an income of £500 a year was pretty dire for a family in a Jane Austen novel. $500,000 doesn't feel too dire; $50,000 easily could be. 

I calibrated values in MIR using historical price lists, advertisements, reports, etc. London Labour and the London Poor and The Rise and Fall of a Regency Dandy were two very useful sources for wages and prices at the top and bottom of the social scale.

I'm not an expert on why currency conversion calculators always seem to go awry, but it seems to have to do with the price of land, factoring in the relative standard of living, and the rising world population. For D&D purposes, find out actual prices in the era of interest and calibrate around them.

Weather in Endon conforms closely to real-world London, being a temperate-to-cold climate and very foggy.
I feel compelled to point out that London fogs have stopped occurring, at least in way you're probably imagining them. They were an anthropogenic phenomenon. Also, if anything, I made the weather in Endon less deadly than historical fogs. Magic can't compete with sulphuric acid.

Each Innovation’s means of Averting differ, but tend to have a few similarities: PCs can turn public opinion on to the dangers of it, they could sabotage the industry or turn the public on to an alternative service or resource, and/or predicting the upcoming dangers and devising safeguards to prevent them. Not all of the solutions are Luddite in getting rid of said industry, although a few suggest that legislating and taxing the market as an end in and of itself to make said industry grow less.
It's important to remember that the GM has access to the suggested solutions in the Averting the Apocalypse section, but the players don't. They inevitably come up with new ones, based on personal preferences, available information, or moments of true inspiration.
I do feel that some of the Terminal Events feel a bit slap-dash or out of nowhere.

I wanted to strike a balance between predictable catastrophes and sudden and unexpected disasters. I didn't want to make them completely obvious. In tests, the players were occasionally blindsided by a danger they hadn't anticipated, but that usually lead to superb schemes and excellent play. A GM can foreshadow them as much or as little as they'd like (or invent new apocalypses).

Endon’s criminal justice system is not concerned with determining whether or not someone’s guilty, but to show the power of the State to the public in the belief this will enforce good behavior. Trials rarely last longer than a day, and typically are never held unless the prosecution is 100% certain they can score a conviction.
This is, amazingly, historically accurate. Our modern conception of criminal justice is extremely modern.
Our chapter ends with some sample poetic songs of Endon, and another clipping from Boff Magazine:
I am sad the songs only earned a brief mention. I really like the songs! Writing a children's song was fun; put a lot of "a"s in a song and it automatically sounds like it should be chanted by enthusiastic but tone-deaf children.
My chief concern is that the relative cheapness of spells and items as the Tempo increases may make spellcasting PCs and those with charged magical items even more powerful.
It is definitely a concern, but in tests, problems scaled with availability of tools. By Tempo 3, some solutions the players came up with involved bulk orders of magic items, emergency loans, or other convoluted schemes. In short, you can't magic yourself out of a problem that you magicked yourself into.
Prices for magical prosthetics can be anywhere from 30 to 250 gold and stay the same regardless of Tempo.
This was forced by layout, not game design. I couldn't figure out a way to a terrible sprawl of numbers if prosthetic prices increased with Tempo. Since they are situational and relatively cheap (compared to industrial equipment), I decided it wasn't critical.
Those who cook and eat said eels reduce all damage of a magical origin by 1 point for 1 hour.

If I had a nickle for every time farming Thaumovoric Eels has come up in playtests, I'd have ten cents, which isn't much, but it's weird that it happened twice.

Pamphlets: These are not part of the book itself, but separate 1-2 page PDFs that come with the eBook purchase of MIR. As I do not own the physical copy I don’t know if they’re physical handouts or just bonus pages.
They were originally printed and shipped with the Kickstarter, then sold afterwards. I decided not to print them during the second print run; it seemed like necessary risk and effort considering the times we live in. They're fairly easy to print at home. One group printed them on fancy paper, dabbed them in artificial smoke flavouring and tea, and used them as centerpiece props.

Selected Replies and Comments

Whizbang Dustyboots
I'm not crazy about "multiply all prices by 100" in lieu of "reduce the amount of treasure you give out," but it seems to be popular with designers.
In a gold for XP systems, I've found it's easier to adjust the currency than to adjust XP curves. It helps with compatibility.

Kettlehelm
I found just with experimenting, that one phenomenon would increase at a constant rate while the other 7 stalled. Just a quirk of the math. 
But when a party averts a crisis, how does the party prevent it's reoccurrence?
Testing various systems for advancing Innovations took a fair bit of time. I wanted to create a method that didn't lead to all Innovations advancing at the same rate, while still ensuring that they advanced at all. The method had to be simple and quick to use. I did some back-of-the-napkin math to make sure the final method worked, then, out of an abundance of paranoia, rolled around 200 tests (8 innovations, until at least 4 of them had reached stage 6), the tabulated the results.

The probability of a "runaway" Innovation (i.e. one that advances every season while the others advance more slowly) is reasonably high, but the probability of multiple runaways is low. This is intentional. By the time the PCs have dealt with their first apocalyptic crisis, they'll be in a much better position to deal with any subsequent disasters. With 8 Innovations (starting at Stage 1), it takes around 6 Seasons for any one of the eight to reach Stage 6, but subsequent Innovations will start to reach Stage 6 soon after. Anyway, it's a fairly neat bit of design, and I'm proud of how well it works.

Preventing the recurrence of an apocalypse will depend on the apocalypse and the methods used to prevent it. I don't think any specific advice in the book would help. Apocalyptic events can be prevented forever, delayed, transformed, or swept under the rug

vitruvian
That was one of the things I didn't actually like as much, the tendency for solutions to the apocalyptic effects of these magical inventions to involve society giving up their use altogether, as opposed to decades of wrangling over restrictions on them. I mean, we've known about the greenhouse effect for how long IRL, and even Dune's Butlerian Jihad presumably took a good long while to do away with all AI and lesser automation. The rapid doing away with a whole new industry worked well enough in Pratchett's Soul Music, but that's about the only example I can think of off hand which made a lot of narrative sense to me.

PurpleXVI
Yeah, it seems a shame that none of them have like, a "fix" condition where, say, implementing a social safety net and regulations make the invisible servants net positive and create a magical space communism society. Or where you can help the Moon Rocket succeed and maybe become the first astronaut wizards on the moon. For the extradimensional space and transport ones, it feels implied that the main reason they fail is cost-cutting and over-use, not the basic concept, and that if Endon wasn't terminally poisoned by capitalist thought, then it could have improved everyone's lives.

Also maybe if the golems had some proper crash/exception handling and Laws of Golemancy at a core level...
Again, the suggested preventative measures are suggestions aimed at the GM; sort of last-ditch "if the PCs are stuck and ask for help" measures. In tests, the PCs tended towards integration and alteration instead of abolition, but with variations based on the state of the state of the setting and the tools available. The variation was so wide I didn't think any specific advice would help. "If the PCs have invented antimagic eel oil and a thermo-dispersion gun, and have access to an airship, then they can..."

Oddly enough, none of the test groups managed any great degree of societal reform. It didn't seem to interest them. I'm not sure if it was the players, the general tendency of RPGs to bring out the innerer schweinehund, or deliberate irony.
Anon_issue
Since when the hell is a season five months?
Not a season, The Season.
MGuy
I am very glad this came up as it is very relevant to my interests. I had been scribbling some notes for the setting I'm working on and I very much want to make an industrial revolution kind of era. The fact that this resource covers it and seems to read as very cynical about the social system that develops during this kind of period has me eager to read more into it. Are there any similar books/settings that are similar to this but for a different system? Are there any similar books/settings that are similar to this but for a different system?
The closest in tone are probably GURPS Goblins or The Kerberos Club (both cited in Inspiration Media, pg. 148.)
Hogarth
Extracting sunbeams from cucumbers is a reference to Gulliver's Travels, of course.

Gatto Grigio
This is a pretty great reference to turn-of-the-century French filmmaker Georges Méliès

There are a lot of references packed into MIR. Some of them are, I'll freely admit, only for me, or are so obscure I've forgotten the original intent.
Ithle01
Which brings us to the issue where you can't really have the Victorian Age without imperialism, but that's a separate argument. With the exception of Conjured Servants which could either be a commentary of racism or just be very racist accidentally.
Nothing in Magical Industrial Revolution is accidental, even the typos. If Conjured Servants were intended as a commentary on anything, it's on how it's often very profitable to classify people as not-people. For some tangentially related notes, see this post.
Loxbourne
I think the key to remember is that you as the GM do not have to use the catastrophes unless they're fun. OSR is a bit bad about that and it seeps through a little.

A magical moon rocket made by strapping hundreds of broomsticks together is fun. The PCs having to avert disaster by stopping it falling over is fun. The GM making it fall over to destroy the city should not be a given, unless destroying the city would be fun.
If you're buying and using a book called "Magical Industrial Revolution: A Pre-Apocalyptic Setting Guide", I think it's safe to assume you think averting magical apocalypses (or not) can be fun. Otherwise, you want a different book.
PurpleXVI
Considering the capitalist hellscape thematics of the setting, I would absolutely expect bought magic items/spells without flaws to come at a premium and actually buying the cheap, mass-produced stuff to risk turning your hands into weasels every time.

I did consider it, but I couldn't find a way to make that fun, interesting, and gameable. Adding drawbacks to everything lead to weird combinations of unintuitive effects and an endless buy-test-reroll-buy cycle where PCs tried to get usable items. I decided to make all items weird but reliable instead.

On the other hand (hah!), hands turning into weasels is probably better than some of the Magical Diseases.
 

Final Notes

It was fascinating to see what items, spells, or concepts a reader picked out for special consideration. Stuff I'd assumed would blend into the background was selected as emblematic; stuff I'd assumed would stand out was glossed over. All very useful information, and presented in a very professional way. Even if you've read the book, the review is still useful.

Magical Industrial Revolution is available on DriveThruRPG, and in print (in the US/NA region) via Indie Press Revolution and (in the UK/EU) via Soul Muppet.

If you'd prefer a video review from a biased soruce, IPR recently uploaded a short commentary. Other reviews are available in the Megapost.

2020/10/23

40k: Tyranid Progress Update - Buckets of Nids and Stripping Tips

Thanks to a bit of luck and a few good deals, my Tyranid army is speeding along. Most of the kits have been in production for 15+ years, so used Tyranid models are both abundant and cheap... if you're willing to put in the time to strip and repair them.

Bucket o' Nids

Part 1: Stripping

There are two easy ways to strip paint from plastic models... and a lot of difficult ones.
 

1. Base+Alcohol Cleaners

Simple Green is the most common, but other mixtures will also work. A base (ammonium chloride, triethanolamine, sodium hydroxide, etc.) and an alcohol or glycol of some sort, plus a bunch of other exciting chemicals, premixed in a jug. They're used to clean difficult stains without destroying the underlying material, and work just as well on plastics as on garage floors. Pick the one with the most safety warnings. Anything with an attached MSDS is good.

I typically soak models for 3-4 days, then scrub with a toothbrush. For tanks and terrain, a large plastic bristle brush is fine, but it's hard to find a sufficiently stiff brush that's small enough to work on models. You can safely leave models in the solution indefinitely. Simple Green also works on resin and metal.

Like any powerful cleaner, Simple Green will take off skin as well as paint. Wear gloves and goggles, work in a well-ventilated area, and wash any contact areas quickly. The ammonia and glycol mix makes a unique smell, so either seal your container or keep it away from dining areas.

I've used Simple Green for years, sometimes with good results, sometimes with limited effectiveness. If a model is coated in varnish, Simple Green will struggle. It also struggles to remove primer, though this can be beneficial. Free paint is free paint. Recently, I've switched over to methanol and I'm much happier with the results.
 

2. Solvents

A straight alcohol (isopropanol or methanol) is effective. Drug store bottles of isopropyl alcohol are fine but expensive. A quick trip to a hardware or camping supply store will get you a big jug of alcohol, which should last you for ages. Methanol removes paint after ~30 minutes and removes primer after ~6 hours. Only gentle scrubbing is required.

Denatured alcohol (ethanol mixed with stuff to make it undrinkable) will also work, but it's getting harder to find these days and the smell can be appalling. Not the best plan. If you run a bootleg distillery or need to use up litres of discount vodka, ethanol is the way to go.

Forgeworld resin and GW Finecast don't like methanol. They slowly get softer if they're left to soak. I use a quick brush on, scrub off approach, which works fairly well.  Acetone, another commonly available solvent, will destroy both resin and plastic (including your plastic buckets). It's dirt cheap, so use it on metal, but take care to use plenty of cold water when washing it down the sink or it'll corrode any plastic pipes it encounters.

I haven't tested any of the common aromatic solvents (benzene, toluene, or xylene), and I'm not really inclined to. Methanol is enough. Filling my house with wafting clouds of toluene does not appeal.

As with any solvent, use gloves and goggles, and keep the fan running. Methanol will dry out your hands, but it doesn't burn like Simple Green. Don't drink any. Inhaling the fumes isn't great, so either use cold water or turn the fan way up, but it's not particularly toxic.

Stripping Tips

  • Before stripping, rinse all models with water to remove dust and debris.
  • Decide if you're stripping bases or not. Sand or flock applied with PVA glue will come off if soaked in warm water, so try that first. There's no sense in wasting solvent or Simple Green on bases. If the base used plaster or some weird medium, you might be better off cutting the model free or snapping the base in half.
  • Pack models tightly to reduce the amount of liquid you need to add. Put big models in the bucket first, then wedge smaller ones in the gaps.
  • Put a fine mesh grate over your sink or drain to catch tiny pieces. Pour slowly.
  • Rinse everything at least three times with plenty of water. Hot water can mean bent plastic and clouds of jolly ammonia or methanol, so use room temperature or colder water.
  • Toothbrushes are soft. Wire brushes are often too hard. Nylon bristle brushes can be effective, but are often too large or awkwardly shaped. Mix and match as needed.
  • Ultrasonic cleaners might seem like a great way to avoid tedious scrubbing, but adding a flammable solvent is a great way to lose your minis, your cleaner, and your eyebrows. I'm not sure a bath of agitated ammonia-based cleaner would be fun either.

Venomthrope conversion. Face tentacles adjusted, limbs replaced, gaps filled.

Part 2: Repairing

I use heat-mouldable plastic (Blue Stuff / Oyumaru) to quickly cast bits. It's idiot-proof, it's quick, and you can get fairly decent results just using a clamp and a bit of practice.

I'm currently using Milliput mixed with a tiny bit of Tamiya Epoxy Putty for casting bits or sculpting new ones. The result is smooth but not as brittle as straight Milliput. I'm not an expert sculptor or anything, but I'm following a few tutorials.

I sometimes use Super Sculpey for joints or gap filling. Superglue absorbs into the clay and forms a hard shell, but it's not structurally strong. It's handy for holding difficult joints in place.

I use Vallejo Plastic Putty to fill small gaps and fine lines. It mixes with water to form a milk-like spread, which is very handy for tiny joints or thin lines. It shrinks a tiny bit as it dries, so two or more coats might be needed. It's got a slightly rubbery texture and doesn't sand well. For larger gaps, any old plastic or epoxy putty will do.

When in doubt, raid the bits box.
 

Part 3: Progress To Date

So many bugs... what have I done? Why!?

I'm honesty not sure how many Termagants and Hormagaunts I've got now. Many. That 4L bucket is nearly full of them in various states of repair, plus some Genestealers and other oddities.

The other two boxes are full of completed but unpained models. I've filled in eye sockets with putty, fixed gaps, trimmed mold lines, and adjusted poses. The 3 Hive Guard and 3 Tyrant Guard were a nice surprise. They're hefty little lumps of pewter! 3 Forgeworld ripper bases (of dubious origin, but I'm not going to look a gift Ripper in the mouth) also turned up.

Speaking of Rippers, I've been experimenting with different ways to cast Ripper heads. A base with just 3 or 4 Rippers on it doesn't seem sufficiently menacing. I'd like to flood the board in a tide of anklebiters.

I've also decided not to magnetize anything. Magnets let you swap out limbs and weapons easily, but it just adds to the number of fiddly pieces to keep track of. Preventing limbs from rotating wildly during play is also difficult; it's hard to get the perfect pose when parts can swivel freely. I'm not worried about making a competitive list.


Remember how I said I probably wasn't going to do a flying section in this army? Well, I found three sets of OOP Forgeworld Shrike wings at the bottom of a box and a few squads of Gargoyles turned up, so a Flyrant was practically mandatory.

The photos aren't great, but I really like the poses. Replacing hooves with rending claws gives both the Hive Tyrant and the Warriors a sense of menacing lightness. The Hive Tyrant looks like it's braking just before landing; the Warriors look like they've landed and are sprinting forward.


2020/10/18

40k: Tyranid Planning - Sharpening the Talon

D&D books and miniature collections both benefit from sharpening the axe. Before starting an ambitious project, I like to have goal and something resembling a plan.

With my Imperial Guard army nearing completion (well over time, budget, and size), and no end to the plague in sight, the time has come to plan another ludicrous timesink. I'm going with Tyranids.

I like pewter as much as anyone, but I've got one Rogue Trader-era army already, 2nd Edition Tyranids are expensive, and the 3rd edition sculpts were fairly rough in places. It's 4th Edition+ for this project. Some pewter, some resin, and some plastic.

Luckily, Tyranids aren't the most popular faction at the moment, so slowly acquiring a suitable heap of used plastic and pewter wasn't too difficult. In Kidnap the Archpriest, I talk about heists being an exchange of Time, Money, and Information. Miniatures are often the same. If you're willing to take extra time, you can get away with very little money. If you're in a hurry, you'll have to pay a premium. I'm not in a hurry.

I also want to use this project as an excuse to learn to properly sculpt (not just fill gaps and fix mistakes), cast in resin (instead of plaster and putty), and try out more airbrush techniques.
 

Colour Scheme

I like painting with slightly muted colours, and I want a scheme where raw flesh (as opposed to chitin and bone) will stand out. The purple/white Hive Fleet Leviathan scheme is appealing, but it looks terrible if it's not done well. I also need to stick to a black primer (thanks to the aforementioned pile of used plastic).


I think I'll go with the Green/Cream Hive Fleet Ouroboros scheme, used by Marco Schulze to win many awards over the years. It was the official scheme for thy Tyranids in Forgeworld's Imperial Armour 4 book, though all the photos were taken with a thick hazy yellow filter so you couldn't really tell.

Strangely, GW later released an "official" blue/black Hive Fleet Ouroboros scheme. How dull.

I found a few painting tips in this thread, but I think I'll try to use an airbrush for the body and preshading, then finish the carapace and details with traditional acrylics. Who knows if it'll work, but an airbrush will save time when it comes to massed termagants and hormagaunts.
  

Basing

A lot of Tyranid models are designed to slot into their plastic bases. Cutting them off leaves them precariously attached by a hoof or claw. If your basing material is attached with PVA glue, and your Tyranid is attached to that, a light breeze can snap them off and take a chunk of base with them.

Painting models while they're attached to a base is usually frowned upon by skilled people. Luckily, I'm not skilled. I'll probably use a Vallejo texture pot to lay down a dark earth base, with a mix of greys and yellows, and maybe a few clumps of static grass. I don't want to create a "Tyrannoformed" landscape of ash, bare rock, and tentacles. The swarm is on the move.

Using greys and browns will let the bases blend with my current terrain sets and the RT-era Guard army, without perfectly matching either one.

Approximate Source

Army Composition

General Aesthetic

I want a classic carpet-like swarm, with a handful of larger creatures looming above the mass, and a few eerie drifting monstrosities. Three modes of movement: the scuttlers, the stompers, and the floaters. A fleet protected by barrage balloons. A parade with balloons.

I think I'll try to avoid winged flying units, unless I can pose them on a solid base. They always seem to tip over, and they occupy a lot of storage space. While my RT-era Guard army eventually included a lot of superheavy vehicles, I'm not sure I want to budget for a proper biotitan.
 

The Swarm

The usual mix of Hormagants and Termagants should suffice. I love how these models look in a line. Their tails and claws line up to create this illusion of purposeful movement, like a swarm of fish or a flock of birds. Every model is centered over its base.

I'm going to convert all low-independence units to be eyeless. I think it'll make them more menacing and alien. I'm not crazy enough to resculpt every head crest, but a quick dab of putty in the eyesockets and some careful blending should help. Rippers, Hormagaunts, Termagants, and bio-artillery will be eyeless, guided by the Hive Mind's will. Leader-types and creatures capable of independent action will have eyes.

The original pewter rippers were eyeless worms with eight (ish) tiny legs. Some of the Armorcast designs resembled upscaled Rippers. Also, back in 2nd Edition 40k, any "organic terrain" a Ripper swarm moved over was destroyed. Many plastic trees were eaten.

Forgeworld rippers have broader head and needle teeth. They're a bridge between the original design and the 3rd edition plastic rework, and resemble the Scythed/Barbed Hierodule kits of the same era. The 2001 redesign of the entire Tyranid range introduced the new plastic rippers, which have remained more-or-less unchanged since.
 

The Elites

I'll probably add a small unit of Genestealers and a Broodlord, with minimal conversion work. I might commit a bit of heresy by running Genesetealers with scything talons (instead of their traditional grabby hands), to maintain visual similarity with the Hormagaunts.

I've seen the occasional Lictor (with the serial # filed off) 3D printed in clear resin. I'm not sure if that's cool or kitsch.

I'm not a fan of the Tyranid Warrior aesthetic. The snake-like Ravener variant (and their larger cousins) are fine, but the Warriors always seemed insufficiently monstrous.


Imperial Armour 4

The Weird

I like the idea of spore mines and spore-mine artillery. While Hydracast's Bio-Cannon is miles ahead of the competion, I may be stuck converting and rescupting existing kits. The grotesque cables of the Pyrovore should be fun to paint.
 
Larger spores might be fun too. I've always loved the menacing Malanthrope, the sombre gravedigger of the swarm. I think it's the surgical skull-piercing dagger-hands, combined with those brain-devouring tentacles, that makes the kit perfect.

Zoanthropes belong among the floaters, and if I can convert their larger cousin to float as well, I will. A huge brain-orb with lesser brain-orbs around it seems like an interesting formation.

Larger Creatures

I'd like to include a Tervigon or two, but the kits lack some of the elegant horror of earlier models. The spawning... pouch... thing... doesn't feel groteque enough. For the sake of the kit's design, it's bolted onto the existing ribcage like a wart.

Tyranids don't have a full gastrointestinal tract, as confirmed by the models and the lore. The mouth connects to a pouch. This makes a certain degree of sense for a sci-fi hive organism. Eat, get some nutrients out of the meal, vomit the remains into a pit or pool, let specialized bacteria and microorganisms digest it further, then sup on the refined meal. All the benefits of a digestive tract, none of the extra plumbing.

They don't seem to carry a reproductive system around either, so that can't be adapted. In my mind, a mobile Tyranid factory-beast wouldn't have a separate mouth-pouch and spawning-pouch. It'd just be one system. Imagine a Termite Queen, but in reverse.

The Tervigon also has some weird limbs: two claws to spindly spike-legs, and two oddly distorted back hoof-legs. I'm not sure if I'll adapt it to resemble the spindly Heirophant Bio-Titan or a more solid beast.

Tom Markham

Final Notes

I'm not worried about making a competitive, or even entirely legal, army. GW changes the rules so often that there's no point. I just make stuff that looks neat or appeals to me, then pick and choose bits to fit the current rules.

Binging a few blogs or forums is always useful. The Modern Synthesist and Confessions of a 40k Addict are both excellent resources for the prospective 'nid converter.

2020/10/17

Non-Euclidian Horror: The Writhing Spheres

I've always wanted to write an article on why "non-Euclidian" should be a synonym for "horrifying".

If you're a horror academic, this post will probably be trivial nonsense at best, and outright misleading at worst. I strongly suspect all this material has been covered before. So it goes; this is ostensibly a D&D blog.

Shamefully, I haven't read Jonathan Newell's book, "A Century of Weird Fiction, 1832-1937: Disgust, Metaphysics and the Aesthetics of Cosmic Horror", despite hiring him to draw the maps for Magical Industrial Revolution. It's probably dreadfully clever and full of useful facts, but it's outside my normal areas of study, all the local library lending programs are shut down due to the plague, and I've run out of bookshelf space three times since March. To atone for my sins, you should buy a copy or three.

As penance for not doing my assigned reading, I've decided to publish this post.
The Flammarion Engraving

Possibly Gilman ought not to have studied so hard. Non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain; and when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of the Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension.

-The Dreams in the Witch House

 
Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces—surfaces too great to belong to any thing right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He had said that the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. Now an unlettered seaman felt the same thing whilst gazing at the terrible reality.

-The Call of Cthulhu
 

Even the pictures illustrate only one or two phases of its infinite bizarrerie, endless variety, preternatural massiveness, and utterly alien exoticism. There were geometrical forms for which an Euclid could scarcely find a name—cones of all degrees of irregularity and truncation; terraces of every sort of provocative disproportion; shafts with odd bulbous enlargements; broken columns in curious groups; and five-pointed or five-ridged arrangements of mad grotesqueness. As we drew nearer we could see beneath certain transparent parts of the ice-sheet, and detect some of the tubular stone bridges that connected the crazily sprinkled structures at various heights. Of orderly streets there seemed to be none, the only broad open swath being a mile to the left, where the ancient river had doubtless flowed through the town into the mountains.

-At the Mountains of Madness

 
That looking-glass had indeed possessed a malign, abnormal suction; and the struggling speaker in my dream made clear the extent to which it violated all the known precedents of human experience and all the age-old laws of our three sane dimensions. It was more than a mirror—it was a gate; a trap; a link with spatial recesses not meant for the denizens of our visible universe, and realizable only in terms of the most intricate non-Euclidean mathematics. And in some outrageous fashion Robert Grandison had passed out of our ken into the glass and was there immured, waiting for release.

-The Trap


Part 1: Geometry Class

Primary and secondary mathematical education has fundamentally changed in the past few decades. Proofs are out; they might be discussed by a teacher, but students are not expected to work through a proof on their own. Practical applications are in. Classical texts and ancient authorities are no longer cited. While some schools still require students to purchase geometry sets, they tend to be used for art class or prodding classmates instead of geometry.

But for hundreds of years, Euclid was central to mathematical education. Students learned his axioms by heart. Euclid took the visible world and transformed it into elegant mathematics. A pastoral natural scene, under Darwin, becomes red in tooth and claw. Because he assumed the points, lines, and circles of his system were the points, lines, and circles of the real world, he horizon, the columns of a building, and the shape of a cone of sand become living mathematics under Euclid.

All principles of Euclidean geometry - or, for thousands of years, simply "geometry" - derive from five postulates:
1. A straight line can be drawn between any two points.

2. Any straight line segment can be extended into an infinite straight line.

3. A circle can be drawn given a straight line segment as the radius and one end point as the centre.

4. Any right angle is equal to any other right angle.
The first four postulates are elegant and brief. They feel intuitively true. The last one even feels tautological; of course one 90 degree angle  is equal to any other 90 degree angle.

But the fifth postulate is troublesome. It bothers students when they learn it, even if they can't say why.
5. If two straight lines are drawn which intersect a third straight line in such a way that the sum of the interior angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines, if extended infinitely, must inevitably intersect each other.
Draw a horizontal line on a flat sheet of paper. Drop two sticks on it. If the sticks are exactly perpendicular (vertical), then they will never cross, even if they're infinitely long. If one stick is angled to the right and the other to the left, then they'll cross once. If they're both angled to the left or to the right, they'll still cross, unless they've fallen at exactly the same angle.

The first four postulates are axioms, as solid (within their system) as bedrock. They're the the bottom of the stack and cannot be reduced further. The fifth remains a slightly wobbly postulate and requires more assumptions. This bothered mathematicians. Anyone who could untangle those intersecting lines would "purify" Euclid and earn eternal fame. Proofs of increasing complexity were published over the centuries, but every time some dreadful flaw emerged. The search consumed the lives of many great mathematicians. In 1820, Farkas (Wolfgang) Bolyai wrote to his son.
You must not attempt this approach to parallels. I know this way to its very end. I have traversed this bottomless night, which extinguished all light and joy of my life. For God's sake! I entreat you leave parallels alone, abhor them like indecent talk, they may deprive you from your time, health, tranquility, and the happiness of your life. That bottomless darkness may devour a thousand tall towers of Newton and it will never brighten up in the earth... I thought I would sacrifice myself for the sake of the truth. I was ready to become a martyr who would remove the flaw from geometry and return it purified to mankind. I accomplished monstrous, enormous labors; my creations are far better than those of others and yet I have not achieved complete satisfaction. For here it is true that si paullum a summo discessit, vergit ad imum. I turned back when I saw that no man can reach the bottom of this night. I turned back, unconsoled, pitying myself and all mankind... I have travelled past all reefs of this infernal Dead Sea and have always come back with broken mast and torn sail. The ruin of my disposition and my fall date back to this time. I thoughtlessly risked my life and happiness - aut Casear aut nihil.
But despite this warning worthy of any Gothic Horror novel, the son, Janon (Johann) Bolyai dared to continue his father's work. In 1823 he wrote back.
I am resolved to publish a work on parallels as soon as I can put it in order, complete it, and the opportunity arises. I have not yet made the discovery but the path which I have followed is almost certain to lead me to my goal, provided this goal is possible. I do not yet have it but I have found things so magnificent that I was astounded. It would be an eternal pity if these things were lost as you, my dear father, are bound to admit when you seen them. All I can say now is that I have created a new and different world out of nothing. All that I have sent you thus far is like a house of cards compared with a tower.
If that's not Lovecraftian prose, I don't know what is! The dreadful warning, the obstinate investigation, the transcendent discovery that smashes reality; this is a horror plot writ large.

In one of those odd coincidences of history, a half dozen or more mathematicians discovered non-Euclidean geometry at the same time. Euclid, the bastion of stability for generations of schoolchildren, was toppled from his pillar, and a realm of curving chaos enthroned in his place.
 

Part 2: A Matter of Perspective

The fifth postulate, as described above, matches our expectations of reality. Railway lines, sticks, towers; all seem to converge, meet once, and then diverge forever. But it is not necessarily so. Two equivalent postulates exist.

Draw a horizontal line on a flat sheet of paper. Drop two sticks on it, and imagine one stick is angled to the left, the other to the right. If they are extended infinitely and meet only once, then we have Euclid's fifth postulate, and all is well.

But imagine the sticks extending to infinity and never meeting, just continuing forever. That doesn't make sense if our piece of paper is flat, but what if it's curved? What if it, and the horizontal line, and the sticks, are on the surface of a sphere? Then the lines could extend infinitely and form a loop without ever meeting. This is elliptical geometry.

Or imagine the sticks cross once, then cross again  (at least once). That's odd. As they extend towards infinity, they loop back and forth like a pair of skaters or stitches in cloth. If our piece of paper is flat, that makes no sense, but if it's a sort of saddle-shape, the seemingly straight sticks can bend back towards each other. This is hyperbolic geometry.

Amazingly, for both elliptical and hyperbolic geometry, Euclid's first four axioms remain true. Strange bendy triangles and pointed circles arise, but with consistent and unvarying results. This raises a distressing possibility. Since all three variants are equally "true", which one is the "real" one? While the universe appears to follow Euclidean geometry, it might be because we can only see lines of limited size. If the universe is not flat but curved, it could easily appear locally flat. Compared to the universe, a railroad track or Grecian column is very small indeed.

Any scientific discovery takes time to enter popular consciousness. Lovecraft was born in 1890; just late enough to be educated on textbooks drawn from Euclid by schoolteachers steeped in Euclid, but well within the time when non-Euclidean geometry was percolating into popular culture. In every field of study, a world of fixed absolutes and thousand-year laws was collapsing into incomprehensible chaos, and geometry - the last bastion of law - was not immune.

I think it is impossible for a horror writer to fake disgust or terror. To make a scene authentic, they must be repulsed by what repulses their characters, horrified by the same scenes, staggered by the same conclusions. Horror must be drawn from life

H. P. Lovecraft was fascinated and horrified by the difference between perception and reality. What we see, and what is true. Do the sticks meet only once, or do they merely appear to meet? What is real, and can the human mind survive true comprehension of reality?
One can only hope that Lovecraft's racial views, his "fascinated disgust", will one day require such additional explanatory footnotes.

Part 3: Phase-Contrast Microscopy

When Meillassoux writes about the idea of the world-in-itself he invokes the idea of a “great outdoors” or “absolute outside” – a world that exists “whether we are thinking of it or not” and which “thought could explore with the legitimate feeling of being on foreign territory – of being entirely elsewhere”. It is precisely such an “outside” that preoccupies Schopenhauer when he writes of the will-in-itself, and while Schopenhauer inherits much from Kant, including an insistence that the world of our senses is one of mere phenomena or “representation,” his “strange immanentism of noumena”, as Thacker puts it, links the will-to-live to the phenomenal world, since the latter is but the manifestation in space and time of the indifferent and inaccessible former.

-The Daemonology of Unplumbed Space: Weird Fiction, Disgust, and the Aesthetics of the Unthinkable, Jonathan Newell
This is good academic writing. As far as I know it's solid gold. I can't tell Schopenhauer from Schubert, and Jonathan Newell strikes me as the sort of person who knows what they're talking about. There are several plausible-sounding quotes, and scattering of dashes. I'm convinced, and I'm not even on his dissertation committee.
The horror of the story lies not merely in the contemplation of an alien world, but, crucially, in the realization that the world has always been suffused with alienage. “From Beyond” reveals that reality has been already, always contaminated. [...] We could also read “From Beyond” as a sort of microscope-story, a science fiction tale about seeing things which could not normally be perceived but which science can now reveal, and which are omnipresent. The polypous beings vaguely resemble blown-up bacteria, made visible by the Tillinghast resonator just as bacteria are by a microscope.
-ibid

This is a horrifying realization, and in the abstract, it's horrifying to anyone. The idea that slimy things with legs do crawl within the slimy air, all around you, invisible and lurking, is horrifying. It needs no additional context. But there's an aspect that Newell didn't emphasize, a twist on mere microscopy.

In 1932, Frits Zernike invented phase contrast microscopy. He won a Nobel prize for it in 1953, but the Nobel committee is always at least two decades behind the times. Phase contrast microcopy would have saturated the scientific and near-scientific papers Lovecraft read. It was, and still is, astonishing. In 1934, H.P. Lovecraft published “From Beyond”.

The speed of light in a vaccum is constant, but the speed of light in different materials can vary. Imagine two photons in lockstep (in phase). Their peaks and troughs match. They are traveling in the same direction at the same speed. One passes through water, the other through air. The photon passing through water moves slower compared to the photon passing through air. Its amplitude and wavelength stay the same. If they both then enter air, the photon that passed through water will be shifted behind. It's out of phase, like Left Shark.

To the human eye, both photons appear to be identical. They've got the same wavelength (colour) and amplitude (brightness*). Light passing through a glass of water doesn't appear significantly different than light passing through the air next to it, right? If it does, get your tapwater tested. Light, as we see it, is wavelength modulated. Longer wavelength fall towards the red end of the spectrum, shorter wavelengths towards the purple. And that's it. Our feeble eyes can't see polarization or phase shifts. Phase contrast microscopy breaks down the barrier of mere human perception.

*yes, I know, brightness=/=amplitude but this is a D&D blog, give me a break.

Phase contrast microscopy uses very clever optics to turn phase shift - the delay in light - into a wavelength or amplitude difference. Suddenly, things that were invisible become visible. Everyone who uses phase contrast microscopy says something like "it opens up a whole new world", and it really does. Glassy organisms become sharply defined. An invisible world pops into full visibility.

I don't really "get" the optics behind phase contrast microscopy, and, bluntly, neither did Lovecraft. The principle is enough, and he didn't have full colour youtube videos (or a phase contrast microscope to play around with). A whole new world, parallel to our own, but hidden by our paltry and limited perception. This "newly visible world that lies unseen all around us" actually exists. It's real! It's under the microscope! Ick!

To the modern reader, phase contrast microscopy is fun, even adorable, but like anything else it can be turned into horror if taken to an extreme conclusion. Lovecraft saw the horror in reports of phase contrast microscopy, and turned it into a story. We can see, in living colour, what he could only imagine.


Conclusion: There Are No Straight Lines

They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is that there are no straight lines.
-Stephen Fry, QI Series E Episode 1

From our infancy, the idea of certain contrasts becomes fixed in our minds: water appears to us an element that moves; earth, a motionless and inert mass. These impressions are the result of daily experience; they are connected with everything that is transmitted to us by the senses. When the shock of an earthquake is felt, when the earth which we had deemed so stable is shaken on its old foundations, one instant suffices to destroy long-fixed illusions. It is like awakening from a dream; but a painful awakening. We feel that we have been deceived by the apparent stability of nature; we become observant of the least noise; we mistrust for the first time the soil we have so long trod with confidence.  
-Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, During the Years 1799-1804, Alexander Humboldt

Non-euclidian geometry turns straight lines and solid ground into curving and suppurating folds of incomprehensible space. Phase contrast microscopy turns a glass of clear water into a writhing column of vibrant life. H.P. Lovecraft was horrified by these things, and he tried to convey this horror to his readers. Without context, without knowing why an author was horrified, stories lose a degree of vibrancy.