If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.
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If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.
Use the wordpress rss mechanism to follow categories:
“Friedman invited the audience to think about what a rapist looks like before putting up an image of a dark figure on the screen behind her. The figure appeared to lurch forward, held a knife and was, while humanoid, clearly not human. It had large, beaming white sockets for eyes and an evil grin literally from ear to ear. It was scary looking but Friedman insisted that while that is what people think about when thinking about rapists, it’s not the reality. The reality was, yes, you’ve guessed it – a white guy. He was a good looking white guy with nice teeth, great hair, clean shaven and athletic. He carried a backpack, indicating his student status.”
This is stunning, absolutely amazing. She projects up a scary figure. What happens? You get scared – heart rate goes up, mouth goes dry, palms start to sweat, digestion shuts down. Then while that panic reaction is still setting in, she flashes up the picture of the regular dude. What does the midbrain think? “I’m feeling panic, and I’m seeing that regular dude. That’s what must have scared me.”
It’s that simple. That’s what it’s all about. You can do the same trick any other out group – race, class, religion. Provoke the panic reaction, then link it to an image of whatever.
“the speaker for some reason actually began crying, and immediately set to work on whipping the audience into a paranoid terror – “as we were deciding whether or not to hold this event, we talked a lot about safety – and fear,” she said, while sobbing. It was a theme that was constantly reinforced throughout the event. On two separate occasions women referred to their “fear” and began sobbing uncontrollably.”
The reason for the fear is that these poor young people are being frightened. Systematically, cynically being terrorised by people they trust. It’s beyond disgusting. It’s straight up cult-like mind control. It’s no different to those old-time churches where the preacher frightens the people with stories about the reality of hell, and they are sitting in their seats terrified to the bone, listening to every word.
It should be criminal. Maybe it is. At the very least, this type of psychological manipulation is an atrocious breach of ethics.
Durak got done by a boss – an ice wight. And he rose as a wight (and was clobbered), which means that he can’t be raised.
‘Bye Durak! You were kind of interesting, but not built as well as you could have been. My main mistake was Stonelord+Cleave.
Cleave gets you extra attacks as a standard action. It’s cool if you are mobile. But a Stonelord needs to stand in one spot for his defensive stance, so you are making full attacks most of the time anyway. Great Cleave lets you attack N guys at once – but most of the time you only face one or two. And haste will give you as many attacks as you can usually get by cleaving.
With Morgan back, we are reverting to “Everyone buff Gauthakan”. Which works well. With Aeona and Dave’s character (temporary mental block on the name), we have enough magic. Without new Andrew’s ranger, we are critically short of ranged capability. If New Andrew weren’t coming back soonish, I hope, I’d build a ranger.
Blaster sorcerer? Could work, but a) New Gauthakan will be charging into melee all the time; and b) it doesn’t interest me.
I’m playing a bard elsewhere, and frankly they’re kind of lame.
Samurai? Ninja? Magus? We have enough melee.
Druid would be an interesting choice. But the spell list is lame. The best thing to do with a druid is to self buff and go Wild Shape, which comes back again to we have enough melee. Same goes for Monk, and I have played a monk before anyway.
I’m thinking either Bard – with a personality very different to Zack Jackson (emo? A bard into The Cure?) Naaah – Doomsinger and Dirge Bard suck. How about a Geisha male bard? A manwhore? No – “Tea Ceremony” is incredibly shit. Bard in general won’t work – this is not an urban campaign.
Perhaps a male witch? A warlock? Naah – DM doesn’t like ‘em. Nerfed them last time he ran game. Inquisitor? A possibility, but fact is – I just can’t be bothered learning the new rules. On top of that, it’s a “social skills” class – Zone of Truth and all that.
Ok. Straight-up healbot – Aasimar, and stack on the “extra channel” feat. There are some amusing spells for clerics, so maybe “scribe scroll” so I can use my slots for spontaneous healing. And a wand of Bull’s Strength with starting money (must ask Andrew how much starting cash).
It steps on Aeona’s toes a bit, but on the other hand frees Brett to do more interesting things with her (she’s an oracle of time). It also means that when Dave’s character is not doing the Eidolon thing there are three squishies to protect rather than two.
But on the plus side, it means that there is one character, at least, without wisdom as a dump stat.
So I am playing a 4th ed shade warlock binder, named Blackfen. He’s basically a bad guy.
Our party is meant to be the classic “DnD irregular group of PCs the army”. Blackfen is supposed to be one rank higher than everyone – the “leader” of the group. He got his rank by sly, weasely double-dealing. His main goal is to acquire power of some sort by exploring the underdark. He already jabbed himself with a demon tooth, in hopes it would do something cool. I suspect one day it will, but the DM hasn’t quite decided what yet.
Anyway. We met some drow and Blackfen went to speak with ‘em. They offered goodies for him personally in exchange for a sacrifice of one of his men. To de-emphasise what a dick move this would be, it’s meant to be a high-mortality campaign. We each play a different character on alternate weeks, so that we don’t get too attached. I fully expect Blackfen to get fragged at some stage.
Out-of-game at the table, of course, everyone was listening in. As luck would have it, Grobnar poked his head in. Nice of Jeremy to volunteer his character, rather than me having to pick someone. Blackfen waved Grobnar over, and the drow shot him. A crit. DM rolled the ‘body part’ dice. In this game, a crit to the head is an insta-kill.
Deciding that the higher-ups would never believe that Grobnar just happened to get killed by the undead, Blackfen used his racial ability to get out and back to the rest of the squad. It turned into a fight, of course. The BBEG left with Grobnar’s body, and we fought the remaining three drow. Meanwhile, the undead started to rise.
Two of the drow got killed, my guy told the other one to get out – sort of playing both sides at once (saving the last drow, but seeming like he was chasing him off).
There’s going to be an inquiry.
Here’s Blackfen’s version of events. Minor fixes from the version I emailed, including a more complete denunciation of Maddie’s character.
We proceeded to the gate without incident. We found the gate unguarded. There were signs of battle, and indications that the fallen had been dragged into the maze.
The gate being completely unguarded and open, and without specific orders, I determined that my squad should guard the gate until we were relieved. I sent [Alix's Character] back to the fort to report. (Alix was away last week)
After a period of less than 20 minutes, Cpl Grondar reported that there was a drow just inside the maze, attempting to make contact to parley.
As the highest-ranking soldier present, I entered the gates of the maze. There were a small party (three) of what appeared to be drow armed with crossbows. The substance of our discussion on their part was that they were aware that the underfort was having difficulty with supplies, and suggesting that they might be able to improve matters. However, they insisted on being extremely vague. I gained the impression that they were attempting to imply that they were responsible for cutting some of our supply lines. (note the lack of mention of the BBEG :) )
On my part, I attempted to gain agreement that these persons would parley with a more senior officer – I myself having no authority whatever to negotiate on behalf of the underfort.
After only a minute or two of these discussions (the “drow” being very evasive and indefinite the whole time), Cpl Grobnar reentered the maze and approached. The drow spooked and shot him cleanly in the head, killing him instantly.
I used my arts to go through the wall of the maze and call my squad to action, as Grobnar had been attacked. Members of my squad entered the maze and engaged the drow. Cpl [Maddie's Character] accused me in front of the squad of betraying the squad to the enemy and being unfit for command.
I entered the maze and cast an enchantment to enable my those of my squad with normal surface vision to see and engage the enemy, however, I could see that a large number of undead were approaching. My squad had already killed two of the drow, but I ordered then to withdraw immediately and hold the gate.
The undead did not pass the gate, and we were duly relived.
It also bears mentioning that we retrieved the body of one of the drow. The dark skin of the “drow” proved to be makeup. These – as far as we can determine – were not drow, but ordinary surface elves.
In defence I my own actions, I submit the following:
I believe that my decision to order my squad to man the gate was correct, and that little discussion is needed on that point. I sent back a runner immediately for reinforcement, although after a search we uncovered the communicator.
With respect to my decision to parley with the group within the maze, my alternative was to do nothing. I decided against this for two reasons. First: although I have no authority to negotiate on behalf of underfort, it is clear that we should attempt to not reject out-of-hand the overtures of potential allies and so I attempted to communicate with them while staying within my authority to do so. It is gravely unfortunate that Cpl Grobnar interrupted these negotiations and paid for it with his life.
Second, and more immediately important, I believed that I was best able to determine the nature and size of the unknown force – one quite possibly responsible responsible for the attack on the previous sentries – inside the maze which my squad was guarding. Events proved me right in this, as I was able by my arts to remove myself when negotiations broke down.
With respect to my squad simply charging into the maze, I accept that I ought to have prepared better and left clearer orders. Our squad should have formed up and defended the bottleneck of the gate rather than individual soldiers charging into battle, although it was inevitable that we would have to move forward to engage as the enemy was armed with missile weapons.
I would also, at this point, commend the courage and skill at arms of my squad. They entered the maze and engaged the enemy without hesitation and if not for an army of undead approaching from within the maze would without question have disposed of twice the number of troops that we faced.
The most serious issue is discipline, the lack of discipline resulting not only in the haphazard charge into the maze, but most importantly in the actions of Cpl Grobnar himself. If he had remained outside the maze and not interrupted negotiations, this affair may have turned out considerably better.
As the court is aware, my squad is an irregular group of recruits, volunteers, two or three ex-regulars and at least one from other backgrounds (ie: convicts). Over the past few weeks, I have had particular difficulty with one of my men – a civilian volunteer who occasionally is prone to give his duties less attention than they merit. I intended to deal with this by deferring his promotion to Corporal (a promotion rightly earned for valour on the battlefield) by a matter of a few days. I was refused permission to do this. I do not know why I was refused permission to impose an extremely mild disciplinary measure on my men. It may be that if my squad had been reminded that in the underguard we are required to follow orders, Cpl Grobnar might not have acted as he did and been killed as a result. We will never know.
Finally, I should like to reply to the outrageous, reckless, and completely unsubstantiated accusations of Cpl [Maddie's new character], that I had betrayed my squad to the drow, and that I am thereby unfit for command.
There is little to say but that these accusations are false. I did not and would not under any circumstances do any such thing. Cpl [Maddie's new character]‘s conduct was disgraceful. He made these accusations because he panicked when battle broke out, as I believe the comms operator at the fortress can attest.
Having only served with Cpl [Maddie's new character] for less than a few hours, I know little about him save that his previous squad was killed to a man, with only him surviving. I find in greatly suspect, in the light of his shameful display of cowardice, that he survived an attack that killed the rest of his unit. I also find it deeply suspect that Cpl [Maddie's new character] immediately concludes, when events go awry, that a soldier of the underguard has betrayed his comrades. With respect, I suggest that this or some other court might wish to inquire more closely into the circumstances under which all of Cpl [Maddie's new character]‘s comrades died, leaving only himself to survive.
Fun times at Good Games!
With thanks to Baldur’s Gate II and The Throne of Bhall – one of the last CRPGs with an actual story.
It was business as usual in the Hall of Judgment in Sigil, where the gods wrangle over souls. All the avatars were there, great and small: from Pelor, god of the Sun, to Annoya, goddess of things getting stuck in the kitchen drawer.
They were arguing without much interest over the soul of one Lady Jane Marchmoor, of Marchmoor Hall: a spoiled teenager, cold and ungrateful wife, and finally mean and sharp-toungued old lady. Nothing much to distinguish her, saving perhaps not a single sincere prayer from a mortal to plead her case. An all-around horrible person, but what was her crime, exactly? To which fate ought she be consigned? One more for the Grey Waste seemed to be the consensus, with only one or two halfhearted objections.
Then the new god stepped forward. Jason, last child of Bhall, now god of murder. “I claim this soul”, he said, and the various aspects of the gods became more focused, more aware, subtly, indefinably more there.
Mask steeped forward. “But this is preposterous! The woman has never done a murder in her life! Never taken a soul! You’ll have to argue sharply, Jason old boy, to take this one.”
The last child of Bhall replied, “Then it is in order that I make my case? I shall take that as a ‘yes’. Very well.”
“This one has been mine for many, many years. I noticed her when she was nine – full of envy, spite, and anger. All her circle fawning over her friend Constance and her new dress. The sincerity, the purity of her hate! How could I not hear it? I came to her, I spoke to her, and said, “Everything would be much nicer if Constance were gone.” I gave her the lie to speak, and I did not fail to warn her conscience. She understood. She acted. Oh, Constance did not die – it’s true – she was merely sent far, far away, never to bother Jane again.”
“From that day, Jane needed almost no prodding at all from me. She destroyed the futures of young men who irritated her, she told the most poisonous lies about romantic rivals, she won marriage to young Lord Marchmoor (whom she treated abominably) by blackmail, and once married she ran her little society with an iron hand – not merely cutting acquaintances who “bored” her (in truth, any person with any backbone or decency at all “bored” her) but had them banished to the frontier, stripped of their titles, destroyed financially, utterly ostracised. And should I even speak of the sheer number of servants that she dismissed for even the most trifling of causes? One after another, dismissed with a simple “Get. Out.””
“Never once did she reach an accomodation with another person. Never once did she honestly contend, take and give ground, agree to disagree. She could never bear the slightest difference with anyone. Needless to say, she never had a friend. But even that is not the core of her.”
“Far from here, in another reality altogether, there was a great tyrant named Joseph Stalin. One day, one of his courtiers came to him and said “We are having a problem with a man”. Stalin replied, “No man – no problem.”
“Oh, she never actually killed anyone. I only spoke to her twice more in her life, and one of those was to dissuade her from poisoning a rival.”
“But the truth of her is this: her first and only reaction to the smallest difficulty with anyone was always to make the person be gone. Make them be gone. This is the heart of murder, whether of one or ten or a whole society. To address difficulties by erasing people. To choose that as your means.”
“I say again, this one is mine.”
It was the aspect of Mephistopheles who spoke next. “Interesting. And what is to be her fate?”
Jason replied: “I am not cruel. She will suffer the fate of a murderer, which is to be alone. Perhaps she will wander an endless desert, or row across an endless, calm sea. Whatever fate her mind constructs. More likely, she will wander the halls of her mansion, untroubled by any other. I shall not grant her timelessness. Nor shall I return her to the wheel. I will permit her to fade, until even the stain of her spirit is no more. Then I will reclaim her cell and be last to forget her, as is my duty. I am her god, after all.”
Mask spoke again, “A fine tale old boy, but the proof is in the pudding, as they unfortunately say. We will need a demonstration.”
Jason replied, “You wish me to test her, then?”.
“A tempting!”, Mephisopheles exclaimed, “By all means a tempting! And by the new god of murder no less! This should be diverting, to say the least.”
The other gods, many of them with faces stiff with disapproval, assented.
Jason approached Lady Jane Marchmoor, of Marchmoor Hall. The spirit had adopted, as all spirits do, its true form, the shape of its truest self. In her case, that of the pinch-faced, querulous old woman she had become in life.
“Good morning, your ladyship.”
“Who are you?”, Lady Marchmoor replied, “I don’t recognise you, but I’m sure I know you from somewhere. Speak!”
“Oh, I’m sure we have spoken. You know that you are dead, don’t you? That this is the afterlife?”
“Well, yes, I suppose so. I can’t say I think much of it”, she sniffed.
“And the gods? How about them? I suppose it’s very impressive to see them all here like this.”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” she said, her tone turning peevish, “they are not at all what I expected. It turns out they are rather…”,
“Demanding? Insistent?”, offered Jason.
“Rude, I was going to say.”
“Oh, I know just what you mean. And of course, you’ll be spending forever with them, you know. It’s the afterlife, it’s rather their nature to be telling people what to do.”
“And they get all the people running around after them, I suppose.”
“Oh yes, that too. They impose on people, you know. Judge them.”
“Well! Well, it’s not really what I was expecting.”
“I know. Of course, matters could be arranged …”
Lady Marchmoor’s eyes narrowed, grew focused. Every god in the audience saw her calculation. It was the nature of the testing that the absurd impossibility of what the god of murder had just suggested did not occur to her, only the possibility that she might spend the rest of eternity doing exactly as she pleased.
“And what do you mean by that?”
“Well, your ladyship, I think you know what I mean. I can arrange for the gods to be – shall we say – done away with? They’ll never bother you again.”
“And, just supposing now, how would we go about that?”
“I have just the thing with me.” Jason pulled out of the air a murder contract. “Here, I’ll just put in ‘all the gods’ here, and as you see – I will arrange for them to be no longer a concern for you.”
“And then what will happen?”
“Well, you’ll be in the afterlife, of course, other people will arrive in due course”
“And what about Elsie?”
“And Elsie too, will arrive, yes.”
“Well! I’m not sure I want to spend an eternity with Elsie! Insufferable! Always going on about her feet.”
“Not a concern! We haven’t signed, yet, so I’ll just put ‘Do away with all the gods, and everyone.’ on the contract. That covers it all, I think. Ahh – you understand, don’t you, that it won’t necessarily be very nice for them?”.
And all the gods each held their breath. Here was the point of decision, here was the moment when the truth of this soul would manifest. Completely. Inarguably. For good or for ill.
“I don’t care. Now, what do I need to do? Does it have to be signed in blood or something?”
“Ha ha! No, not at all. But you have to mean it, your ladyship. There’s no turning back, you understand.”
“But you will do it? Do away with all the gods and everyone?”
And so Lady Jane Marchmoor, of Marchmoor Hall, signed a contract with the god of Murder for the doing away with of all the gods, and everyone. Her spirit grew transparent, faded into mist, and blew through the quill she held, leaving a splendidly florid signature on the page.
Jason turned the page over. In complete detail was a drawing of her ladyship’s drawing-room in Marchmoor Hall. At the moment, she was snoozing in her favourite chair. “As I thought”, he said, generally addressing the assembly, “she goes to home to the hall she won by disposing of others. Strong ink on this page, but it will fade in time. So who gainsays my claim to this spirit?”
No-one replied. After a moment or two, the faceless angel that calls the souls of the dead summoned another, and the attention of the gods moved on. Mask and Mephispheles lingered.
“Nicely done, old boy!”, said Mask to Jason, “I must say you have quite expanded your ballywick!”.
“And done so without taking more of yours, which is the important thing,” Jason replied, “we will probably work together a fair bit, so we should be on good terms.”
“Indeed,” said Mephistopheles, “but you will necessarily intrude on someone. After all, the souls of the wrathful who do not actually go on to kill someone are usually mine.”
“Infernal one,” replied Jason, “with respect, yes I may take a few. But I can no more claim all the wrathful than Mask here can claim everyone who tries their hand at shoplifting once or twice. This woman, murderousness defines her. My claim is just.”
“And do you intend to discharge this contract on ‘all the gods, and everyone’”?
“Well, in effect”, Jason replied, “the contract says they are to be done away with, and now they are away from her. No-one is complaining. Not even her.”
“And the fate of the woman herself”?
Now at last the eyes of the last child of Bhall grew cold and black, his smile fell away, his face spoke of implacable purpose. For the first time, he truly looked like the god of murder. “The contract specifies ‘and everyone’. That includes her. I will do as I have agreed. I am her god, it is for me to murder her. Finally and completely. As I said: she shall not return to the wheel.”
There remained little to say. But Mask did offer a parting shot. “You know, she would make a useful demon.” “I have some others, but I will not make a demon of this one.” said Jason. “I suppose I am like her, in a way. I also do not wish my life to be cluttered with a lot of horrible, nasty little people.”
Mephistopheles chuckled like a devil that has just gotten a useful snippet of information. Then they each departed. One to Hell, one to Pandemonium, and the newest god to back to earth, to seek souls ready to do murder.
It has been some time since I made my little bargain with my patron. Service for power, a little of my life for a little of his. My flesh partly replaced by shadow – I claim to be part drow, it fools most.
The key is time. A human does not live long, not compared to most races. Oh, there are libraries of tomes, there are years of fusty research on the surface, growing old and feeble, finally attaining wisdom and then death shortly after at fourscore and ten.
And then again, there are the secrets of the darkness below.
To be young and vital, not for a few decades, but for centuries. To have the leisure to pursue knowledge and power. To know a single tree from seed to its eventual fall. To simply live as long as an average elf or dwarf – it is not wrong to desire this. I do not seek immortality, only to live a few years longer than my allotted span.
So. To explore the underdark, to wrest from it its secrets, is more easily said than done. In practical terms, the only way is to join the underguard. A strange rag-tag bundle of misfits, a dumping ground for the unsociable and the criminal. Patrolling a few holes in the ground – it’s possible they have not even reached the real underdark at all. Its possible they merely patrol a few simple caves.
Be that as it may. Being part of a military party is the only practical way into the deeps. Having command of a military party is even better, and I have begun taking my first steps in that direction today.
Our first mission – to clear a field of kobolds. We numbered myself, a pair of fighters, a god-botherer of some kind, another who had made some kind of … pact (it takes one to know one), and a gnome tinkerer. The sergeant had spoken to me – he wanted a report on the other recruits. Excellent! I resolved to make this my top priority, observing and keeping notes. The main thing being to identify someone to blame for any problems. This went swimmingly well, as the gnome tinkerer threw bombs of some sort that se the tall grass afire. We got the fires out (while fighting kobolds, I might add), but the point is – I had my patsy.
The kobolds gave us little trouble. They were kobolds. But as we looked for the little nuisances and fought them, we discovered a few very large reptilian or possibly avian footprints, and a cage that had been left open. Some of us had a sensation that we were being watched. Stalked.
After a time our superiors came in, declared that we had performed sufficiently well, and dispatched the remaining kobolds with startling efficiency. Most of them departed, leaving one behind to speak to us.
It was then that the demon attacked. It tore the corporal in two, and we fought it. I did little but watch and take notes.
When we were done, I investigated the cage. Inside was scored with clawmarks, and I found a fragment of talon. I tested it, it chimed with power. In the privacy of the cage, screened by the grasses all around us, I plunged the talon into the muscle of my chest, towards the pit of my left arm.
I regained conciousness with the rest of the group around me, tending to the various wounded. Of the talon, and the wound in my chest, there was no sign.
We returned to base.
I reported to the sergeant. I gave, I think, a fair accounting of the performance f the other recruits. Our fighters fought well (if with foolish impetuousness), our god-botherer healed, even the other warlock showed competence. And I openly expressed my bad opinion of the gnome – I judged that this sergeant would have no time for subtle insinuations. A display of plain forthrightness was what is called for in dealing with such men.
But the gnome is a civilian volunteer to the underguard. Such are unusual, and they can’t simply be ejected from the corps. The sergeant told me that he wanted me to keep an eye on the gnome, and I leapt at my chance. Leapt at it. Feigning no more than concern, I said “Well, sarge, I don’t know what I can do. I’m just a private like everyone else.”
And so now I am a corporal. On the one hand, a nuisance – I will be held to account for our group, and I can’t blame the gnome for everything. But on the other, I now have six troops.
The underdark will not give up its secrets to me willingly. But I am now on the right path. I can feel it.
My character A is Blackfen, a shade Warlock/binder. He has very rapidly turned into a “power-hungry bootlicker”, as I posted on the email list. I should write up the game, but it’s 1AM and I am going to hit the sack and do it maybe tomorrow. This post is really just a note-to-self to get it done.
This is some text which I have added for the purpose of testing the style.
Been collecting WOTC miniatures for years. Today, I lent out a swag of them to Andrew, who is running Season 8 at Good Games. It was fun showing off my collection, of course. Who on earth collects things who doesn’t want to show them off?
I also have flip mats, map tiles (didn’t show him the map tiles! Drat!), and I and the dudes I play with on Friday between us own far, far too many Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles. A pity that merely owning that stuff doesn’t make you competent to design and run a campaign *sigh*. Yes, I still feel bad about season 5.
Anyway. As I said to him, “anything you can think of, we can probably do”.
The key is to overcome being paralysed by choice, and I think planning out what you want to do. If you are using dungeon tiles, you can’t rock up with a vague idea of “we will fight some bandits in a forest”. You need to map out your forest using the tiles beforehand.
Anyway. Nice to see my collection getting used.