Useless inventions

Somewhere out there, the next Thomas Edison is perspiring toward some great new invention — some ingeniusly clever New Thing that will prove to be indispensably useful and will launch the next great industry, creating thousands of rewarding, decent jobs for the future.

While we’re waiting for her to do that, the rest of us are grasping ungeniusly for any half-baked idea for anything that might be manufactured and sold — the next ShamWow or Snuggie. Such inventions might not change the world, or even improve the world in any meaningful way, but they might at least help our moribund economy limp along in the meanwhile.

Yes, the Snuggie is ridiculous — just a less-comfortable variation on wearing a cheap bathrobe backwards. But for all that, the people making and marketing Snuggies and Slankets (the original sleeved blanket) have at least created some jobs. And in my book that puts them ahead of parasitic job-destroyers like, say, Craig Dubow.

In the current jobs crisis, with some 14 million Americans looking for work — any work — I wish I could come up with an idea like the Snuggie. I don’t care if it’s ridiculous. If hocking some useless trinket on infomercials could provide employment for even a handful of people who need the work, then that trinket wouldn’t be entirely useless.

But I got nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. I do have one idea, and you’re welcome to it. It’s just not very promising.

It’s a T-shirt. Specifically, it’s a powder-blue T-shirt in that distinctive, flannelgraph shade of powder blue, sold in a package with precut Bible characters from the classic Betty Lukens flannelgraph set.

My first thought was just to make the T-shirt out of flannel, relying on the basic flannelgraph technology to keep the figures in place. But I doubt that would work on a windy day. One good breeze and you could lose half of the twelve disciples.

So now I’m thinking Velcro. The outside of the T-shirt would be the soft, fuzzy, receptive side of the Velcro and the Bible figures would be backed with the pointy, clingy side, thus guaranteeing that the animals won’t fall off two-by-two before they make it to Noah’s ark.

The beauty here is the T-shirt could be different every time you wore it. One day it could be the parable of the Prodigal Son and the next day it could be Daniel in the Lion’s Den. You could start with the Garden of Eden and work your way through the whole Bible.

Alas, as cool as I think such a flannelgraph T-shirt would be — and it would be very cool, indeed — I suspect it would have only a select appeal, limiting potential sales. If we made a Venn diagram showing People Who Grew Up in Evangelical Sunday School and People Who Appreciate Irony Seasoned With a Touch of Fond Nostalgia there would be only a tiny sliver of overlap between the two circles. The only people I can think of who might actually wear such a shirt are my friend Bradly and Daniel “Brother Danielson” Smith.

So I’m afraid that anyone taking this idea and running with it probably isn’t looking at a big money-maker. You’d probably be better off trying to tap into the broader appeal of, say, a Colorforms-themed Velcro T-shirt kit. Those might sell with the Hot Topic/Spencer’s Gift crowd.

Or maybe just a flannelgraph app for the iPhone.

Anyway, that’s my swing-and-a-miss idea. What’s your idea for the next big infomercial phenomenon?

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  • Izzy

    I am wearing a Snuggie even now. They’re useful in the office, where a bathrobe is weirder–and bulkier, somehow, because of the belt and so forth–but the AC is ludicrous. Otherwise, yeah: bathrobe.

    Not Christian, but I like the basic flannelgraph idea. In something not powder-blue, though–I look bad in pastels. Won’t someone think of the pasty brunette chicks? ;)

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Fred, this isn’t a bad idea at all actually – you’ve only got one part ‘off’…  Don’t make it for adults, make it for young kids. b  2 reasons for that:

    1)  No matter how goofy it looks, a 5 year old can wear anything.  ANYTHING.  And they will still be adorable, even if (adult) Jesus is upside down and he’s got a manger on his head.

    2)  While Bible characters are good* – there’s no real reason to stop there In the words of Mel Brooks (as Yogurt) – Moichendizing!  Why stop at Bible characters?   Variants on common kid’s play themes – a lot of kids play “fireman” or “policeman” so why not?   Could include a medieval version too, knights and such**, ninjas (kids love ninjas.  Adults too actually…) – Pirates (the archenemey thereof), hrm… you see?

    Theoretically you could even poke the big franchises (Transformers, GIJOE, My Little Pony*** you get the idea…) – though doing this one would need to be careful to make sure the manufacturing is done here in the US, since it’d be oh so easy for them to ship the jobs off to somewhere with no labor laws.  Dunno how you’d pull that off exactly.

    Of course as with anything… I have this weird suspicion it’s been done before.  I’m hoping I’m wrong but… well that seems to be the way it goes.

    *And I seriously think this would sell among the type of fundie I grew up with… and actually come to think of it a few more liberal Christians I’ve met too.

    **Opportunity for bein’ subversive >.>b female knights and princes that need rescuing as options in the character pack.  Why not?

    ***Don’t laugh.  Apparently the current incarnation is actually good enough that people who don’t have kids, and who are in their 30s are watching it.  I haven’t seen it myself but I’ve heard enough good things I admit I’ve been tempted to check it out.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    I dunno about the current incarnations of GI JOE, or Transformers (My Little Pony never interested me) but as a childless 30-something I am loving the new Thundercats. They get bonus points in my book for making Snarf mute. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Really the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you theoretically could put on such a shirt. 

    The more I think about it the more possibilities I see really – while you’d need to be more cautious with an adult size version (to make it palatable), internet memes and general pop culture could, theoretically, be perfect Hrm…

    Darnit Fred, you’ve given me ideas.  IDEAS!

  • Anonymous

    “internet memes”

    The simple, sure-fire seller:  Packs with a cat picture and letters.  It’s the internet in shirt form.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Beware, for this is both awesome and terrible in it’s power.

  • Lori

    Fred, this isn’t a bad idea at all actually – you’ve only got one part
    ‘off’…  Don’t make it for adults, make it for young kids. b  2 reasons for that: 

    Three reasons, the 3rd being: most 5 year olds have relatively little control over their own wardrobe. If you can convince a parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle or other adult in the child’s life that the shirt is adorable they’ll buy it and the kid will have to wear it at least once a year.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Fair point >_> Now I’m actually feeling (slightly) guilty.  Oh well… I mean I had to wear a sailor suit and a fireman outfit, they can cope >.>

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Fair point >_> Now I’m actually feeling (slightly) guilty.  Oh well… I mean I had to wear a sailor suit and a fireman outfit, they can cope >.>

  • Anonymous

    Dude. I would totally buy a MLP shirt. 

    And you should check it out. It’s quite awesome. I wouldn’t suggest starting with the pilot, however. 

  • Anonymous

    If there’s a new Albert Edison out there, he’s either in Europe or China or India or Japan. He’s not in America. If there is someone who has the potential to be Albert Edison and he is in America, he will never realize that potential, because America is hostile to Albert Edisons. America is running something of an innovation deficit. Innovation of the kind Edison did is antithetical to our corporate capitalism. It produces a hundred mistakes for every success, it produces things things which can’t be patented and profited upon. Only the absolute largest megacorporations can afford to spend money on innovation like Albert Edison’s (and we all know how much corporations like to spend money on projects that are likely to fail and even if they succeed might not be able to be turned to profit), and the government. Oh, and in America, we consider all that spending on innovation waste.

    Seriously, I’ve had people claim the government never participated in any innovation… while using the internet which was created by the government.

  • http://twitter.com/tomkatsumi Tom Katsumi

    RE your venn diagram:  I have one word for you ‘hipsters’

    I don’t think there’s one of my (admittedly atheist) East London friends who wouldn’t want this T-shirt

  • Anonymous

    Evangelical hipsters.  Now there’s a mental image that needs to be killed with alcohol as quickly as possible.

  • hapax

    @mistharm:disqus — I think you’re onto something there.  Add in a set of dinosaurs (’cause who doesn’t love dinosaurs?) and you could have the classic “Jesus riding a Velociraptor” t-shirt!

    (And now I’m thinking of “Three Prophets Testifying At The Moon” t-shirt, and I am the only one who would buy that, right?)

    Seriously, I did something like that when I was a Teen Librarian.  Put up a flannelgraph on the wall, and a bucket of laminated words backed by velcro, so they could create a moving poetry wall.  I think that would make for a nifty t-shirt. 
     

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Raptor Jesus… >_> if you want an internet-ready irony-heavy shirt.  (Philosoraptor would also work >,>)

  • Anonymous

    Fred this blog of yours had already been a great invention.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    I think certain of my friends would use that t-shirt to make very unfortunate pictures (which would still be a sale, of course). A stronger seller to my crowd would probably be a videogaming or SF/F picture-builder shirt.

  • Jim

    FWIW, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the sleeve-blanket idea was first marketed to folks in wheelchairs who might find a full garment harder to get into.  I didn’t see anything about that on the Slanket website or WP article, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    “Somewhere out there, the next Thomas Edison is looking to steal someone’s great new invention & claim it as his own…”

    Fixed.  #TeamTesla

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    There actually is something like this in existence. Some non-verbal children use PEC’s (for Picture Exchange Communication) pictures representing objects or abstract ideas, to indicate wants and needs. Teachers and aides who work in special education classes with non-verbal children sometimes wear aprons with the soft side of Velcro on the front so they can stick PEC’s on them to be available to children who need them. They might like your T-shirts. 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The success of the Snuggie doesn’t surprise me. It’s part of the same trend that spawned “Bed, Bath, & Beyond”: when times get tough, people want nice bedding. It’s a comfort thing.

    Let’s split out “useful inventions” and “marketable inventions”. The Segway wasn’t marketable. However, it could have been very useful for urban markets in the southern states. Perfect for “bus-ride” length trips, but with the convenience of a motorcycle and the safety of a car. Allegedly. Meanwhile, the Xpress Ready-set-go cooker isn’t terribly useful, but it’s got a hell of a marketing campaign. (OK, it’s got a hell of an infomercial, but I’m a fan of bad movies, so my views are biased)

    I’m probably already too late, but my idea is to adapt and update a staple of 1980’s childrens’ literature to the Kindle and/or tablet PC: choose-your-own-adventure books! If there’s a better platform than the iPad for CYOAdventure, I can’t think of it. The base product has a novelty value, the branding/concept has nostalgia value, and the price-point on the Kindle market is low enough to draw in a lot of users. To work, you’d need about 15-20 CYOAs ready to go; I’d probably focus on three or four stories in a single genre, and split the genres between sci-fi, fantasy, western, and mystery. Given the current kid-lit market, it would be tempting to write a supernatural romance CYOA for girls, but I can’t think of any other genre that would be overly gendered.

  • Anonymous

    (The Segway) could have been very useful for urban markets in the
    southern states. Perfect for “bus-ride” length trips, but with the
    convenience of a motorcycle and the safety of a car.

    The problem is, with a price tag of $5,000+, most people will just get a car.  A pretty lousy, gas-guzzling car, but still, a car. 

    A car has a number of benefits over the Segway — air conditioning, passenger space, a trunk, and if you don’t have the $5,000 in cash, you can go down to pretty much any bank and get a car loan.  Not so much with the Segway loan.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The nice thing about this is that one could make multiple t-shirts and multiple character/prop packs.  Sure, there is a Bible stories pack for creating scenes like Fred has described, but there could also be plenty of other packs based around other themes, or popular franchises, or memes, or whatnot.  Heck, people could even get multiple packs and mix and match the characters and props, kind of like getting several magnetic poetry kits.  

  • Izzy

    Jesus v. Darth Vader: the T-shirt.
    I’d buy it!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Ohhhh… and now it’s just struck me a moment after posting that.

    Why stop at premade characters?   What about custom ‘bits’ you could use to create characters yourself?

    Let me lay this out –

    You have your basic-shirt-and-patches pack right?  You’d have a male shirt with male character pack, a female shirt with female character pack, and then a male shirt with female character and female shirt with male character – each pack containing 4 ‘bases’ – a head and shoulders blank human of the appropriate gender, 2 types of hair, 2 sets of eyes, 2 mouths, 2 noses, and 2 ‘shirts’ to go over the neck and shoulders area.

    Then you can sell expansions – since the art style would be such that all the pieces should be interchangable between the different packs.

    Some examples of expansions:

    Careers – Fire Dept, Police Dept, Construction Worker, Astronaut

    Fantasy – Prince/Princess, Wizard, Knight, Jester

    Sci-Fi – Alien*,  Retro-Sci Fi**

    That kind of thing.

    Each pack would come with 4 hair styles, some accessories (police would have a police hat of course, fire would have a fire helmet, etc…) more noses, eyes and lips – probably 2 of each per pack.  You could probably also have packs specifically for bringing in more variety in terms of hair styles, eye shapes, nose shapes and mouths too.

    I’m still mostly thinking in the 5-6 year old demographic here; but theoretically if you wanted you could do something similar for an older audience using a different basic structure (instead of velcro you’d have some kind of pre-rendered art that could be ironed on to a shirt, and if you start with the base and work your way up you get a custom T-shirt with your own character on it

    I’ve noticed that people loooove games like COH and CO where there’s boatloads of customization, and there’s all kinds of paper doll programs on the web… so why not?

    *Would come with a new but-still compatible green skinned base.  Think stereotypical ‘grey’ alien.  Though maybe green.  Sure technically they don’t have hair, but… meh, it’s play.

    **Bubble helmets, zeerust ‘Buck Rogers’ stylings.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    “Fish Food”
    It’s basically just Christian snacks – crackers, pressed fruit, candy, maybe granola bars – but it’s all done in the shape of the Jesus Fish, and marketed exclusively through Christian retailers (a nice, non-book sideline for the book stores, say).

    Once it takes off, I’ll market a competing brand, which is absolutely identical except that the fish have little legs on them. It’ll be called Evolutionary Snacks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series is really freaking good. It’s not quite Avatar: The Last Airbender good, but then what is?

  • Twig

    “It’s not quite Avatar: The Last Airbender good, but then what is?”

    The Korra series that’s going to be out next year?  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

  • Anonymous

    “It’s not quite Avatar: The Last Airbender good, but then what is?”

    The Korra series that’s going to be out next year?  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

    I’ll see your EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE and raise you a ::flails::.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    After seeing this http://nicktoons.nick.com/videos/clip/nicktoons-avatar-legend-of-korra-teaser-cx24.html I’m going to have to agree. It looks cool. 

  • Madhabmatics

    We’re being invaded by bronies!

  • Anonymous

    We’re being invaded by bronies!

    Pfft.  The worst that can happen is someone gets taught an obvious lesson and someone else gets hit with an apple pie.

    Besides, ponies!  That’s one out of three.  Where’s my freedom and democracy, already?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series is really freaking good. It’s not quite Avatar: The Last Airbender good, but then what is?

  • Conscience

    What about people who would buy the shirt unironically? You know they’re out there.

  • Anonymous

    A bicycle with some sort of coiled spring mechanism that winds as you pedal and with the flick of a switch, unwinds to help you pedal uphill.

  • Anonymous

    “A bicycle with some sort of coiled spring mechanism that winds as you pedal and with the flick of a switch, unwinds to help you pedal uphill.”     

    You mean a hybrid bicycle?

    http://www.hammacher.com/product/11681?cm_ven=HS&cm_cat=ProductSEM&cm_pla=AdWords&cm_ite=11681
     

  • Anonymous

    DAMMIT!

    Okay, okay, okay… how ’bout this… some sort of “horseless” carriage…

  • Anonymous

    Well, it’s from Hammacher Schlemer for the low low price of $2000, and
    you’d probably want to take the battery with you when you park it, which
    sounds like a PITA.

    So back to a mechanical energy storage device, something that could be
    mounted on a standard bike. Flywheels beat out springs in terms of
    energy storage per unit mass. Yes of course someone’s done it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOnjtEKArXk&feature=related
    ====

    chris – that’s awesome. Could you patent the design and sell it, say to Rubik’s?

    Shapeways had a booth at the recent Maker Faire in Detroit. So many cool and mostly useless widgets. And people were buying them. I wanted to buy them…

  • Twig

    I’d definitely rec the story of… I think it’s Ron Popeil from Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw.  Fascinating look at the ins and outs of infomercials, Popeil and how his private life and his public persona intersect.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    Back before the collapse of tabletop roleplaying I thought it’d be a million-dollar idea to sell fuzzy percentile dice for old-school gamers to hang from their rear view mirrors.

  • Anonymous

    Back before the collapse of tabletop roleplaying I thought it’d be a
    million-dollar idea to sell fuzzy percentile dice for old-school gamers
    to hang from their rear view mirrors.

    If tabletop roleplaying has “collapsed,” what’s Wizards of the Coast doing publishing D&D 4th Edition?

    Also: Someone’s way ahead of you.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    “Back before the collapse of tabletop roleplaying I thought it’d be a million-dollar idea to sell fuzzy percentile dice for old-school gamers to hang from their rear view mirrors.”I’m sorry, I missed this, as I’m GM this weekend and was looking up monsters from Vol V of the 4th Ed. Monster Manual, which I just got Monday…Collapse?  Still chugging along.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    Someone online willing to admit that 4th ed. is a perfectly cromulent game? HH, please add 3d20 respect points to your character sheet.

    Honestly, I’m about to print out fake dust jackets and tell my players we’re playing “Crypts and Creatures”, just so they won’t bring all their old AD&D expectations to the table and actually give the darn thing a fair try.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    Maybe not a million-dollar idea, but fuzzy d20s are out there for the buying:

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/plush/7ccc/

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Recommend for your flannel human figures… not all humans are pasty white* in color.  Various shades of color would for the faces/hands would be a good thing.

    *OK, maybe I am, but I’ve noticed that most people aren’t.

  • Reverend Ref

    I’m thinking that the people who would buy the “Biblecro” ™ t-shirts are the same people who buy this for their kids:  http://boingboing.net/2006/08/26/armor-of-god-kids-pa.html

    (and I hope that works — I’m not so hot with the whole linky thing on comments)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I had an idea for a true digital alarm clock — put a numeric keypad on a standard “digital” (as the term is used now) alarm clock and use it to enter current time and alarm times.  If the power goes out for 15 minutes or you swap Daylight Saving and regular time, there’s no holding a button down to advance the time (and if you miss, you have to go all the way back around — blergh), just enter 0135 and you’re done.

    They’ve had true digital clocks but the current producers (WestClock, Thomas, et al) have apparently decided that they cost more to make than they would sell for.

    I don’t have the electronics training to make even a prototype, but I think a truly digital clock would be cool.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    We owned an alarm clock like that once. It was put out by GE and called The Great Awakening. You also plugged in the radio station numbers from the keypad. It also cost $95 back in the 1980’s, which is when I bought it for my now ex-husband. When I looked for one myself after our divorce, they were no longer available.

  • Anonymous

    “I’m probably already too late, but my idea is to adapt and update a staple of 1980’s childrens’ literature to the Kindle and/or tablet PC: choose-your-own-adventure books! If there’s a better platform than the iPad for CYOAdventure, I can’t think of it.”We call them ‘visual novels’.  Like everything else, Japan is way ahead of us here.
    “Back before the collapse of tabletop roleplaying I thought it’d be a million-dollar idea to sell fuzzy percentile dice for old-school gamers to hang from their rear view mirrors.”http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=20+sided+fuzzy+dice&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=3855590571&ref=pd_sl_5227j1cka0_b
    (Damnit, ninjaed)

    Now, how about a waterproof dehumidifier, to be placed in the shower or similar places in order to prevent mildew buildup?

  • Anonymous

    In all seriousness, though, tabletop RPGs were huge for a while,
    with pretty much a new system (‘new’ meaning D&D clone) coming out
    every week. Then all the detrius sort of imploded, leaving the hobby
    still standing, but diminished in… presence.

    Fair enough.  When someone says a hobby has “collapsed,” I tend to say, “Like Pogs?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/Blotzphoto Louis Doench

    The tabletop RPG bizness must have collapsed whilst I was distracted by rolling dice and killing monsters.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, the d20 ‘bubble’ burst and took a lot of gaming companies with it.  What I’m seeing now is a mix of these companies with OGL-based models attempting to convert to 4th edition or to Pathfinder, or simply going out of business.  The massive glut of d20 materiel really did a number on the industry; that was a lot of stock that ended up not getting bought and the industry is now a little gunshy in addition to being whacked with the economy.

    That being said, there are some systems still chugging along, and Pathfinder is very good at surviving and claiming some prominence.  (People who felt burned by WOTC’s 4th edition malfeasance embraced Pathfinder in legionary numbers, and Paizo did some very good things with 3.5e.)  HSR seems to be doing okay now that Steve Long has got his head partly out of his butt and is taking a more sensible approach to HSR6, though they seem to be doing something somewhere south of White Wolf.  A lot of indie publishers with ‘rules light’ systems like Savage Worlds
    and FATE* are also putting some popular things out; none of them are as
    huge as D&D used to be, though (or as Pathfinder wants to be, though
    Pathfinder still has pretty good market throw weight.)  And from what I gather, FFG’s WH40K RPGs (OMG WTF LOL BBQ) are quite popular with some of the Pudding crowd and are doing well.

    * – Dear Gygax in heaven, NOT FATAL!

  • Anonymous

    And SJ Games seems to be making a go of producing $8 pdfs for GURPS.  I think they’re the company I’ve seen the greatest number of new settings from, as long as they fit into 64 pages.

    Of course, their cash cow is Munchkin, which isn’t an RPG.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    And from what I gather, FFG’s WH40K RPGs (OMG WTF LOL BBQ) are quite popular with some of the Pudding crowd and are doing well.

    Indeed, and they have the best critical-hit charts every.  Six pages of blood splattering, bone cracking, flesh boiling, limb exploding critical goodness.  And a combat system set up so that characters cannot take a bajillion points of damage.  It really makes the combat feel dangerous and satisfying.  

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    And hilarious, at least if you look at the Psyker mishap charts… (I rolled up a Psyker once and wound up a blind albino constantly hearing whispers from the warp.  I really wanted to play that character; sadly I don’t know anyone who plays heh)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I also like that the combat rewards teamwork and sound tactics over character build and equipment.  The later two help, but not nearly as much as taking cover, using suppressing fire, flushing the foe out with grenades, and planning with your allies.  

    And hilarious, at least if you look at the Psyker mishap charts… (I rolled up a Psyker once and wound up a blind albino constantly hearing whispers from the warp.  I really wanted to play that character; sadly I don’t know anyone who plays heh)

    Were I to play a psyker, I think that I would prefer to play one with more investigative and sensing abilities, rather than one focused on destructive powers, if only because I think they would be more useful in doing things which conventional investigation cannot, and because I would rather not risk accidentally summoning a demon while the bullets are flying by.  

    While I have a bunch of sourcebooks, I sadly have no one to play the game with.  Few of my RPG playing friends are interested in the 40K setting, so rustling up a playing group has proven difficult these last few years.  

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Hehehe; that’s actually very similar to a character concept I wrote up for D&D at one point.  You know how in fantasy it’s pretty much a cliche at this point that you eventually go see some sort of fortune teller, learn some kind of important prophecy regarding your role in events to come, and then the rest of the story is about which directly that story wants to take the concept of prophecy and destiny.  (Is it absolute? Is it mutable? If so to what extent? etc…)

    Anyway, the point being I decided – why not just play the fortune teller/diviner  yourself?  I mean, combat wise you wouldn’t be too hot; but the information you could glean could, theoretically, make an enormous difference for your party.

    Only bad part is I get the feeling most DMs would want to shut your divination off post-haste, since you could become a serious plot-breaker.  Buuuut I still like the idea.  Course I liked my blind bard too, and he really didn’t do much that was useful <.<

  • chris the cynic

    Over at Ana Mardoll’s blog there’s a fairly involved discussion of Dune.  Those are books that tend to be very much about trying to deal with being able to see the future.  I’m not sure how much fun it would be to play as Paul though.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    That’s not quite the direction I was going with this character really – I mean the seeing the future angle is definitely there, but Paul is more than that too – he’s got his own destiny (or at least vision of) to contend with* – not to mention being competent in combat himself.

    The character I envision is almost oracular, but rather than being some mysterious person you visit, they travel with you.  Ideally in addition to seeing the future and the like I’d be able to finagle my DM into giving me something akin to Bardic Knowledge in exchange for spell schools I wouldn’t use.  Might keep Healing though (I’m thinking Cleric, or even Priest**).  It’s hard to explain when I’m as tired as I am ><

    *I've only read the first Dune – loved it; but I heard a loooot of bad stuff about the follow on books so I'm hesitant to continue as I don't want to tarnish the first book if I hate the continuations.

    **If I remember the class right anyway.  I think it was in Complete Divine?  Maybe?  It's been ages since I looked and my books are tucked away and I don't want to pull them out.  Basically it's like Cleric with more spells per day, but much less physically competent.  (Ie: You're not going to be mashing faces with a mace)

  • Anonymous

    ‘Priest’ showed up in the Tome of Secrets for Pathfinder.  Not sure where it appeared in D&D3/3.5/4, to be honest; Tome of Secrets basically took a bunch of 4e character classes and Pathfinderized them. =)  Such as my favorite, the warlord.

    Dune… ho boy.  The first book was very, very good.  The Dino De Laurentis movie was… odd.  Visually lavish but storywise strange (with some very odd surrealist elements thrown in.)  The SciFi miniseries vacillated between talking heads and being “John Woo’s DUNE,” but that was the original book, too.  The remaining Frank Herbert Dune stuff was… uhm….   Well, it fleshed out the universe very well, all in all.  I remember trudging through them doggedly.  They got progressively deeper into the Chasm of Strangeness as the series wore on.  Then after God Emperor of Dune it pretty much went ‘I REGRET NOTHING!’ and jumped the rest of the way down.  And Chapterhouse:Dune was almost entirely, 95% talking heads, with a small chunk of anticlimactic action at the end (some of which happens off-screen.)  I think this was kind of a Heinlein Effect for Frank Herbert:  Towards the end, the storytelling just wasn’t congealing the way it had with his earlier work.

    And then there is what I call the Apostasy of Dune.

    Yes, I credit Kevin Anderson with reviving the entire Star Wars franchise.  His Thrawn Trilogy revivified a not-aging-too-well series of movies and sparked an interest in the setting that led almost directly to Lucas making the new prequels. … Okay, maybe not something to be proud of, but he did do well with the Thrawn Trilogy.

    He didn’t do as well with the new Dune books.

    Hunters of Dune, the official sequel to Chapterhouse, was a much, much different story than Chapterhouse ended with.  On its own it could have been a good science-fiction action-adventure… but I wasn’t convinced it was Dune.  Likewise for the ‘prequel’ stories, and the ‘historical’ stories.  Taken all together, it was like he was trying to frame the Dune books Herbert wrote into his own narrative, which detracts from the whole rather than adding.

    … Wow, this became long=-winded and off-topic.  Sorry about that!

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    Eh? I thought the Thrawn Trilogy was Timothy Zane?

  • Anonymous

    … Author Knowledge FAIL!  A squad of Ewoks are coming up the sidewalk to remove my Geek Cred card. T_T

    You’re right.  KJA did, however, write a few SW novels that I found to be well-written.  I will salvage my rant any way I can!

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    For missing Zahn, I think a squad of Noghri would be more appropriate.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    Eh? I thought the Thrawn Trilogy was Timothy Zane?

  • chris the cynic

    Yes, I credit Kevin Anderson with reviving the entire Star Wars franchise.  His Thrawn Trilogy revivified a not-aging-too-well series of movies and sparked an interest in the setting that led almost directly to Lucas making the new prequels. … Okay, maybe not something to be proud of, but he did do well with the Thrawn Trilogy.

    You are either thinking of someone else or something else.  Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn Trilogy.  Anderson wrote a different trilogy entirely.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I failed my Knowledge (SW:XU) roll. T_T

  • chris the cynic

    That’s ok.  I’m not going to judge too harshly given that I failed on the the whole, “Refresh before responding to see if someone said the same thing eight minutes earlier” thing.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    On the subject of DnD Warlords…

    “A barbarian attacks with an axe.
    A wizard attacks with a spell.
    A warlord attacks with a barbarian.”

  • Hawker Hurricane

    On the subject of DnD Warlords…

    “A barbarian attacks with an axe.
    A wizard attacks with a spell.
    A warlord attacks with a barbarian.”

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    There was a 3.5e priest too >..<  unfortunate.   Ahh ewll.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Hunters of Dune, the official sequel to Chapterhouse, was a much, much different story than Chapterhouse ended with.  On its own it could have been a good science-fiction action-adventure… but I wasn’t convinced it was Dune.  Likewise for the ‘prequel’ stories, and the ‘historical’ stories.  Taken all together, it was like he was trying to frame the Dune books Herbert wrote into his own narrative, which detracts from the whole rather than adding.

    I think that this Penny Arcade strip encapsulates the issue neatly.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That’s not quite the direction I was going with this character really – I mean the seeing the future angle is definitely there, but Paul is more than that too – he’s got his own destiny (or at least vision of) to contend with* – not to mention being competent in combat himself.

    I suppose that is a subjective matter.  Every Dune book written by Frank Herbert feels like it is a setup for the book to follow.  The first one is good as, almost a “planetary romance” type of science fiction adventure, and it helps establish the world of Arakis, the value of the Spice, and the way society was structured before Paul came along.  But the books after that are all about exploring the effects on society that Paul’s reign had, going even hundreds of generations later.  Paul is intended as ultimately a tragic future.  He has the overwhelming power of the ability to see the future, but in doing so he also becomes trapped in his actions.  He never says “screw destiny” because every time he considers it he can see that the actions he might take would produce even worse results, thus setting him on a single path.  There are things that he could do which would have even further reaching effects, but he cannot bring himself to do the things that such futures would require.  His son Leto II on the other hand… 

    The character I envision is almost oracular, but rather than being some mysterious person you visit, they travel with you.  Ideally in addition to seeing the future and the like I’d be able to finagle my DM into giving me something akin to Bardic Knowledge in exchange for spell schools I wouldn’t use.  Might keep Healing though (I’m thinking Cleric, or even Priest**).  It’s hard to explain when I’m as tired as I am ><

    This actually reminds me of an NPC in one of the official Dark Heresy adventure modules.  The players are sent to meet an oracle who is a tech-priest on Ambulon Hive on Scrintilla.  He had a “divine revelation” a long time ago, and began hooking his sacred implants into an array of vast cogitator databases containing factual information and analytical processors.  He now resists permanently in a cybernetic throne, answering questions to those who come to visit him.  Any psykers sensing for psychic  invocation will detect none, the oracle answers questions and makes predictions only on the basis of what is known and what is probable, just with great capacity for factual knowledge and analysis.  

    The cybernetic throne does limit his mobility though.  On the other hand, he has a neat decoration for his  abode, having many hanging metal chains which clink gently in the air like wind chimes, but they clink in a pattern of the melody of a famous Imperial hymn.  

  • Madhabmatics

    If you can find it, you should get the short story collection that Holistic Design, the creators of Fading Suns, put out.

    There’s a story in it about a priest looking for a cybernetic eye that I think you (and a ton of other blog commenters here) might get a kick out of.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    That’s not quite the direction I was going with this character really – I mean the seeing the future angle is definitely there, but Paul is more than that too – he’s got his own destiny (or at least vision of) to contend with* – not to mention being competent in combat himself.

    The character I envision is almost oracular, but rather than being some mysterious person you visit, they travel with you.  Ideally in addition to seeing the future and the like I’d be able to finagle my DM into giving me something akin to Bardic Knowledge in exchange for spell schools I wouldn’t use.  Might keep Healing though (I’m thinking Cleric, or even Priest**).  It’s hard to explain when I’m as tired as I am ><

    *I've only read the first Dune – loved it; but I heard a loooot of bad stuff about the follow on books so I'm hesitant to continue as I don't want to tarnish the first book if I hate the continuations.

    **If I remember the class right anyway.  I think it was in Complete Divine?  Maybe?  It's been ages since I looked and my books are tucked away and I don't want to pull them out.  Basically it's like Cleric with more spells per day, but much less physically competent.  (Ie: You're not going to be mashing faces with a mace)

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Hehehe; that’s actually very similar to a character concept I wrote up for D&D at one point.  You know how in fantasy it’s pretty much a cliche at this point that you eventually go see some sort of fortune teller, learn some kind of important prophecy regarding your role in events to come, and then the rest of the story is about which directly that story wants to take the concept of prophecy and destiny.  (Is it absolute? Is it mutable? If so to what extent? etc…)

    Anyway, the point being I decided – why not just play the fortune teller/diviner  yourself?  I mean, combat wise you wouldn’t be too hot; but the information you could glean could, theoretically, make an enormous difference for your party.

    Only bad part is I get the feeling most DMs would want to shut your divination off post-haste, since you could become a serious plot-breaker.  Buuuut I still like the idea.  Course I liked my blind bard too, and he really didn’t do much that was useful <.<

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    And hilarious, at least if you look at the Psyker mishap charts… (I rolled up a Psyker once and wound up a blind albino constantly hearing whispers from the warp.  I really wanted to play that character; sadly I don’t know anyone who plays heh)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    And from what I gather, FFG’s WH40K RPGs (OMG WTF LOL BBQ) are quite popular with some of the Pudding crowd and are doing well.

    Indeed, and they have the best critical-hit charts every.  Six pages of blood splattering, bone cracking, flesh boiling, limb exploding critical goodness.  And a combat system set up so that characters cannot take a bajillion points of damage.  It really makes the combat feel dangerous and satisfying.  

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    If anyone’s wondering why Colorforms aren’t as high-profile as they used to be, the later sections of Mel Birnkrant: The Colorforms Years will be illuminating.  (It’s also a fascinating memoir with lots of details about the production of toys that American readers of a certain age will probably remember.)

    The Snuggie reminds me of nothing so much as the Thneed, the Once-ler’s unsustainably produced and heavily advertised product.  The Once-ler mostly seemed to employ his family members, though, and his operation was heavily automated, so I don’t suppose it was that stimulatory an activity.

  • chris the cynic

    My idea was this.  And it’s available for sale *hangs head* at prices starting at 300 dollars.

    Oh sure, you laugh now.  But a few years ago, before the market collapsed, people would have been lining up for them at that price.  Unfortunately I was depressed at the time and let the years pass without productivity.

    It probably doesn’t belong here anyway though.  It was never something to revitalize the economy or indeed create an income for anyone other than me.  Sure one day when I could afford mass production it would help employ people, but in the short term not so much.  In the old days it employed one person (me) but never worked because I’d get frustrated and give up.  The current means of production might help keep some people in the Netherlands employed, but somehow I don’t think it’s going to make a difference.  Especially since there are no buyers.

    Anyway, now that the market is gone, I have no ideas.  I wish I did.

    (And I wish that someone, anyone, would buy that so I can use the money to develop the next puzzle no one will buy.  I’ve got designs, I just can’t afford to prototype them.)

  • Twig

    Try kickstarter?

  • chris the cynic

    That’s interesting.  Definitely something worth thinking about, but so far I’m not sure if I can make use of it.

    Mostly I don’t know what one might offer as a reward.  If the product costs hundreds of dollars, what do you offer someone who makes a $10 pledge?  For a larger initial investment it might be possible to make use of injection molding, which would make the product significantly cheaper, but still probably cheap enough to be used as a reward.

    Anyway, I’m derailing.  So I’ll stop now.  Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

    @fd16298f24aa8f81824b4257bac91a8d:disqus 
    Those do exist.

  • chris the cynic

    That’s interesting.  Definitely something worth thinking about, but so far I’m not sure if I can make use of it.

    Mostly I don’t know what one might offer as a reward.  If the product costs hundreds of dollars, what do you offer someone who makes a $10 pledge?  For a larger initial investment it might be possible to make use of injection molding, which would make the product significantly cheaper, but still probably cheap enough to be used as a reward.

    Anyway, I’m derailing.  So I’ll stop now.  Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

    @fd16298f24aa8f81824b4257bac91a8d:disqus 
    Those do exist.

  • chris the cynic

    That’s interesting.  Definitely something worth thinking about, but so far I’m not sure if I can make use of it.

    Mostly I don’t know what one might offer as a reward.  If the product costs hundreds of dollars, what do you offer someone who makes a $10 pledge?  For a larger initial investment it might be possible to make use of injection molding, which would make the product significantly cheaper, but still probably cheap enough to be used as a reward.

    Anyway, I’m derailing.  So I’ll stop now.  Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

    @fd16298f24aa8f81824b4257bac91a8d:disqus 
    Those do exist.

  • e julius drivingstorm

    Companies send me faxes with postit notes attached, presumably for my attention.  But most of them are too dark to be legible.

    Whoever invented the black postit should also have invented the white-ink ballpoint pen.

  • Jam

    I hate to be the one to burst all of your dreams, but…  The first time that this t-shirt is washed with a towel the shirt will stick to the towel and make a permanent bond.  If you do manage to separate the two the shirt will be matted and fuzzy for ever.

  • Antigone

    I have always wanted to make heated shield-type things for car windshield so that you don’t have to get up so much earlier and scrape off the window.   It would be like a heated blanket, but waterproof and capable of being rolled up like you roll up window shades.  I think it would be the next remote starter.

    My friend the engineer said it’s totally doable, and manufacturer-able, but alas, someone already has the patent on it (and for whatever reason, isn’t selling it.  I guess people in California don’t know how badly people in Minnesota need it).

  • Anonymous

    Love the idea of the shirt. My idea for a pack would be Internet/hamster toobz (complete with hamster). Would include several angled and straight tubes, the hamster, and perhaps a truck. Fun for all.

  • Brad

    “If hocking some useless trinket on infomercials …”
    I think you mean “hawking.”

    Unless you’re watching Pawn Stars.

    Speaking of inventions, why are there so many spam emails claiming to help you with your invention? Are there that many wannabee-Edisons out there, or do the scammers just want one good one?

  • Antigone

    The people asking for “helping you with your invention” are known as “patent trolls”.  They will buy your patent, generally for much less than what it may be worth, patent it themselves, and make their money suing other companies for using “their” patent.

    They’ve always been around, but they’ve been worse ever sense a patent has gone from “functionally and meaningfully produces a worthwhile invention or change in another invention” to “Fuck it, whatever you can get on the patent sheet and pay the charge for”. Also, since the government has decided to interpret software code as a “patent” as opposed the more legitimate interpretation as under “copyright” or, better yet, written up new laws that apply to those.
    NPR has done a great series on it, but I’d like to throw a little love towards my friends who do a podcast, and discussed it at length this last week: http://untitled1show.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/untitled-1-show-019-the-letter-and-spirit-of-the-law/

  • Brad

    “If hocking some useless trinket on infomercials …”
    I think you mean “hawking.”

    Unless you’re watching Pawn Stars.

    Speaking of inventions, why are there so many spam emails claiming to help you with your invention? Are there that many wannabee-Edisons out there, or do the scammers just want one good one?

  • Brad

    “If hocking some useless trinket on infomercials …”
    I think you mean “hawking.”

    Unless you’re watching Pawn Stars.

    Speaking of inventions, why are there so many spam emails claiming to help you with your invention? Are there that many wannabee-Edisons out there, or do the scammers just want one good one?

  • Jenny Islander

    In my campaign world I have two of these–rough notes only at this point, no stats.  One deals with the past and present.  She’s the one you want to go to for a spell called autopsy, which provides a 3-D image of any corpse at the point of death no matter how old it is; pastwatch, which replays everything that happened in a limited area for a specified period of time (longer periods at higher levels); and spells from the standard rules, such as scry or the one that locates named materials within a certain distance (can’t recall what it’s called). 

    The other deals mostly with the possible future.  His go-to spell is the one that requires the character to envision a specific action and then ask, “Weal or woe?”  I playtested an earlier version with my husband, which prompted this conversation:

    “So I can take the left fork or the right fork.  Okay.  Left fork: Weal or woe?”

    “Well, you know that  feeling you got  when we were going to go hiking on the Three Sisters Trail and right at the trailhead you spotted a bear’s footprint with the dirt still crumbling into it?”

    “Ooookay.  Woe then.”

    “Yep.”

    I think that the DM and the players should work together to make a campaign in which the player can have fun playing a character at least reasonably close to what he or she had in mind at the start.  Obviously the players who want to “win” the game (how?!) or just level up as fast as possible (oh, I guess that’s “winning”) or the ones who whine when the DM springs a surprise of any kind or presents consequences for PCs’ actions need to catch a clue.  But if you want to play a blind bard, why not?  We had a campaign years ago in which somebody played an alchemist.  The rest of us were his hired guards, since he carried around some materials that were extremely attractive to thieves.  In terms of the standard rules, it was like having a low-level magic user who never ran out of magic for the day: we pretty much always had a little edge in speed, strength, or what have you.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

     In terms of the standard rules, it was like having a low-level magic user who never ran out of magic for the day: we pretty much always had a little edge in speed, strength, or what have you.

    That’s kinda how my gnomish clerics work – they can quickly make short term potions (effects fade after a day, so they have to brew regularly). Alas, no one wants to play a gnome cleric, so I have no idea how this actually works.

  • Jenny Islander

    Back on topic: I have a clear memory of playing with Scotch tape with some other kids when my age was in the single digits.  We had discovered that if you pressed the tape across the bridge of your nose and peeled it away quickly, all sorts of weird stuff would come off with it.

    Million dollar idea, if I had only known.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    Thomas Edison had a few good ideas of his own, which allowed him to build his think-tank.  Most of the inventions credited to Edison came from others who got no credit or glory.  Today’s Edison would have his staff off-shored or filled with H1Bs, neither of which helps the average American.

    Now, Bell, on the other hand, allowed the people in his lab to patent their own inventions (including an airplane based on hex-shaped kites — it was much more stable than the Wright model, and didn’t kill any pilots.  He was just too late getting it “off the ground”, so to speak and lost to the worse design.  Kind of ironic considering how he got his patent…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    The point to the fuzzy percentile dice was so that you could pick your two colors (to go with your car’s paintjob and interior, or clash with it, or match your favorite set of dice). The fuzzy 20 siders, while undeniably cool, are not percentile dice. And they appear to both be the same color.

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that MMOs like World of Warcraft occupy a huge portion of the pop cultural space that tabletop RPGs used to. I’m certain there are more scare stories about Grand Theft Auto or other video (or PC) games than there are about Dungeons and Dragons now.

    I say this as someone who used to really, really enjoy D&D, AD&D, AD&D 2nd edition, AD&D third edtion, Call of Cthulhu, Mage, Shadowrun, It Came From the Late Late Late Show and the old TSR-published Choose Your Own Adventure ripoffs. I think there’s a lot of people that would benefit from a game that has no board and no “winner”; it probably leads to lateral and creative thinking later in life. But mostly the dungeon crawls of the 21st century appear to be taking place online.

  • Anonymous

    But mostly the dungeon crawls of the 21st century appear to be taking place online.

    I think some of that has to do with the fact that it is far easier to get people together on line than off line.  I routinely play WoW with people who’d love to get together for a pen and paper game, but can’t get a group together.  I also know a number of people who do pen and paper gaming over the computer.  It would surprise me not at all if there’s a huge resurgence of pen and paper gaming when Generation X retires.  (Assuming we get to retire. *sadface*)

    Though, even as I say that, a bunch of people at work are trying to arrange a D&D game.  And it’s looking promising.

    (Libraries, last bastion of gamer geeks!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    I think some of that has to do with the fact that it is far easier to get people together on line than off line. I routinely play WoW with people who’d love to get together for a pen and paper game, but can’t get a group together.

    Oh, certainly. I tried to get an AD&D 3rd edition game going via Skype because everyone was in different time zones (and because sending a Skype chat to one person in the group lets you give the one with the highest Wisdom score information like HE’S LYING while keeping everyone else in the dark and in the same scene. It fell apart before it started because we couldn’t find a time that everyone could get together every week. However, I’ve had Tuesday Night Teamup with the same people on City of Villains every week for the last five and a half years. The internet makes certain types of gaming a lot easier.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    The decker for our Shadowrun game had to move four states from us… so, since she can’t attend the sessions personally, she joins us by webcam. This somehow seems remarkably appropriate, though I keep wanting to have one of the players say to her: “Operator, I’m being chased by Agents and need a hardline to get back to the hovercraft.”

  • Ellen

    I realize I’m reading your entry a year after it was written, but one of my kids put a “Black Volco T-Shirt  Adult X-L” on his Christmas wish list already.  I’ve been searching online and apparently there are such things!   (With stick-on letters — to change your message as you like.) I just can’t find one in the US.  I kinda like your idea better!