SS Week 6 – Mission Accomplished!

30 July, 2011

A long session, but surprisingly little to say – basically one big fight.

And so our intrepid heroes decide to descend on the cannibal camp and wipe them out. Fun times! There is much discussion, but eventually they decide on a simple attack.

Which is about the right approach for this DM, sad to say.

Although much happened, there is little to say. The party attacked. There is a guard animal – a trained shiv dragon – at the entrance to the camp, whom spiky engages in a reptile vs reptile battle. Some tense moments as cannibals in a guard tower spear Barmy with javelins. But an Entangle spell soon puts an end to that, controlling the onrush of foes, and a few alchemical bombs take care of the tower.

The party were doing well, when Klorak the Red emerges from a doorway with two more cannibals and challenges Barmy. He looks to overmatch Barmy and then mop up, but Mephisto drops a Cause Fear on him and he flees. The party continue to slay the natives.

After a few more moments, an old witch emerges, and with her four skeletons. But a bomb takes care of the skeletons, and then Vick drops over the witch a fishing net festooned with hooks. Without a wall of allies in front of her, there is little she can do to defend herself.

After a few moments more, Klorak returns – looking for a little healing. But it’s simply too late – all of the tribe is dead. Even with the witch’s aid, he is done for, and she also. Her final words: “Arrgh”. But a tiny bit prior to that, her penultimate words if you will: “Mother Thrunefang take you all!”

“Oh crap!” Everyone thinks, “you mean, she isn’t “Mother Thrunefang”? Bummer!”

The camp falls quiet (but not silent – the jungle is never really silent). Closer now, they appraise the lighthouse. It is – amazingly, surprisingly, blessedly complete. Not the half-built pile of stones that they feared, but it seems fully built. All that is left to do is to search the rest of the camp for stray cannibals, and signal for rescue.

Or, so they suppose.

A real victory for control-type spells: the Entangle and Cause Fear were key – as was that hooky netty thingo. The witch mainly does stuff that works off having a meat-shield. But with Klorak out of the picture, there’s not a lot she could do. I rolled for how many rounds it would take for Malikadna and Klorak to get to the fight, and they did not roll well. If they had gotten there earlier, it might have been much tougher. As it was, the party only has to split XP with one NPC (the cleric). They did have a coupe of unpleasant moments, which is what you want.

Having said that, I think the party does feel the pinch in having only one front-line fighter. If Klorak had made his save, taken down Barmy, and got in amongst the casters: it would have turned out very, very differently.

All up, the combat took one minute, 24 seconds. Three or four hours real time. Slo-mo or what?

12 Cannibals @200 xp – 2400
Klorak the Red – 800
Malikadna – 800
1 shiv dragon – 600
4 skeletons @135 – 540
Total: 5140 xp
4 characters + 1 NPC + 1/2 share for Vick: 5.5 shares = 935 (467) xp each.

Vick: 2376
M’Bongo: 2859
Joseph: 2640
Barmy: 2263
Meph: 2608

SS Week 5 – God, what an idiot.

23 July, 2011

OK! Four players this week. Characters are everyone but Joseph.

I think I might adopt present-tense for this blog. Seemed to work of for the Age of Worms blog.

Our party settles down for an evening’s rest. But as they do, the spirit of Captain Kinkarian steps out from the fire. “Mutineers! Thieves! Scurvy dogs and pirates!” he cries (There’s a bit of “Ashmara!” in there as well) and attacks Mephitso. Vick steps in and splashes holy water on the spirit, and Mephisto tries to reason with him. But the captain is having none of it, and strikes Mephisto with a blow that nearly kills him outright. Ignoring everyone else, he begins to scrabble through Mephisto’s pockets – looking for the locket – but his hands pass right though. “Damn and blast this damn clumsy hook!” he roars, and “Ashmara!”.

Vik steps over, and deftly plucks the locket from Mephisto’s (very nearly) corpse says “Here you are, Cap’n” and tosses it to the ghost. But the locket, of course, flies straight though the capatains insubstantial form, and is neatly caught by Barmy. “Make sport of me, will ye, ye treacherous mutineers!” he roars, and takes a swipe. Meanwhile, Barmy tosses the locket into the fire. The captain ignores everything else for a moment and begins scrabbling about in the fire – ignoring the flames which, being nonmagical, cannot harm him.

But the same insubstantialness that protects him from the fire also means that he cannot handle the locket. Not understanding his condition, he blames it again on his clumsy hook. The rest of the party can do little – there is only one magic weapon among them. Jask heals Mephisto, bringing him back from the brink. Mephisto risks all, plucking the locket from the fire and opening it, presents the image within at the captain.

The captain whispers “Ashmara!” and reaches out his hand – a hand now, no longer a hook, his visage no longer a death’s-head, but young and handsome. And then he fades away, dissolving into nothing.

I didn’t want to just bloody tell the party what to do – to have the captain cry “If only I could look on her face one more time!” or some such. I did make some effort to satisfy myself that they understood that the item was a locket that had to be opened. Oh, and they discussed tossing it in the fire – so when that asked me for more detail, I made the image on the inside enameled.

The captain, of course, is not really a full personality – just a ghost. Hence his refusal to engage the party – there just isn’t that much of him left. Also, if he started talking he’d probably give the solution to the puzzle away, which I did not want to do 😉 .

I awarded Mephisto a little bonus XP.

That night, their camp is clumsily watched by something in the trees. One of them steps right on a branch and breaks it with a loud snap. The next exclaims “You idiot! You stepped on a branch!”, and the third loudly proclaims “I am the only one who has not made a noise!” (they rolled a 1, 2, and 1 for stealth.) Even dead asleep, this racket begins to wake people.

Barmy begins to casualy saunter over to the treeline, as if to take a leak. M’bongo drops a sleep spell on the three, but one remains awake. That one steps over to his comrade to wake him, and both are hit with a bomb from the alchemist which hits freakishly well and kills them on on the spot. The third wakes screaming in pain from the splash. In a few seconds more, Barmy is there and grapples and pins the cannibal. They tie him securely – with ten in the party, he’s not going anywhere.

Next morning, Mephisto investigates. The cannibal is muttering some pidgin of common and infernal, and is praying to “Mother Thrunefang”. Mephisto convinces the cannibal that he was sent to meet this Mother Thrunefang, to which the cannibal replies by asking “Are you with the other two?”

Well! This does rather send the party into a tizz, as “the other two” can only be Iaena – the varsivian scholar probably behind their shipwreck – and the captain of the Jeniveve.

Mephisto replies “Yes, we are destinined to met with them, too”, or something, and Jim-Bob agrees to take them to the cannibal’s camp.

Jim-Bob failed his sense motive checks badly. We decided that he was pretty much an idiot – at least when it came to common sense about parties of strangers. He rapidly conveyed the party across the map, skirting the traps.

The party, guided by the hapless and servile Jim-Bob, travels about six or seven miles before meeting another pair of cannibals on the path. These two are not quite so easy to fool as Jim-Bob, and one of them states that he will run to tell Mother Thrunefang of their arrival.

Well, they can’t have that. M’Bongo drops an entangle and Vik starts dropping bombs. Barmy steps up. Jim-Bob rolls badly again and is paralysed with indecision as spiky steps up and gores him to death. As the two cannibals in the patrol breathe their last, Mephisto brings Jim-Bob back from the brink. But Jim-Bob has had enough and runs for the forest, taking sideswiping attacks from pretty much everyone as he prepares to run for it, and gets thoroughly killed.

Low on spells and bombs, the party opts to head off-path and set up camp. They make a special effort to conceal their camp, but have plenty of time to so so before sunset. That afternoon, Vik brews potions from the abundant supplies that he has been collecting while traveling though the Shiv.

Tomorrow, they go to attack some cannibals.

Vik – 1909 xp
M’bongo – 1914 xp
Joseph – 1705 xp
Barmy – 1613 xp
Mephisto – 1663 xp

GG Season 3 – Character concept

19 July, 2011

I proposed doing a Drow druid whose wild shape was a spider swarm. Here’s the mail:

With the whole spiders thing it sounds like your character will need to have a seriously good reason to be working for bahamut, I’m very interested to hear what you come up with!

Also the powers sound very lolth-centric. Being a drow that turns into spiders isn’t going to help his reputation any. He’s going to be chased by many an angry villager mob!

Hmm … ok. If having a Drow in the party is just going to be infeasible in the campaign setting, then that’s the way it is (unless he can have a free hat of disquise). However:

Azroth was taught to venerate the Spider Queen and her tiny avatars from an early age, of course. Like any drow, “Lolth” was his first word, and he learned the litanies for children: a test both of faithfulness and intelligence, as any child unable to memorise the formulas suitable for their age is put to death.

However: Azroth took it all a shade too seriously. He watched the spiders weave their webs and hunt their prey, he learned their behaviour and the cycles of their lives, and over the years began to understand them not merely as ruthless predators, but as a necessary part of the whole weave of life. He escaped death because the drow around him simply assumed him to be more than ordinarily pious – but the truth was just the opposite. It came together suddenly, the insight that was to define his life: Loth did not own the spiders, they were not hers. They belonged to themselves, to life itself, to the world. He pledged himself to them, and through them to all the world of living things.

It was not long before he first assumed his wild shape, and understood what he had become.

He fled that very night.

Lolth has some … rather specific punishments for drow that turn to primal power. Those that repent might have the relative good fortune to be made into driders – horrible mockeries of the druidic change, wrought with alchemy and her divine will. Those that don’t repent tend to live long – days or weeks too long. And more: his own form, that of the swarm, is rare. Not for him the brief but horrible transformation into drider, but months or years of systematic experiment.

And so, a life of hiding and fleeing when discovered. And a life of service. Poor Azroth! He does not expect to be understood – not even by other druids. Caught between the drow and their zeal for Lolth, and the surfacers and their instinctive fear and loathing for spiders, either would torture and kill him (if for different reasons).

But war is coming – the trees and low things whisper that Tiamat and Bahamut are set to rekindle their ancient enmity, and places to hide will become more and more difficult to find – every fallen log lifted, every stone turned. And so Azroth considers. If there is no escape from conflict and war, if discovery by one or the other side is inevitable, then the followers of Bahamut would be relatively merciful, and would spare him being handed over to the horrible and unnatural experiments of the drow – both Tiamat and Bahamut hate Lolth, but the hate of Bahumut has no treachery in it.

And so he chooses his course. He will seek out the followers of the platinum dragon, hoping to find an ally, or a swift and relatively merciful death.

SS Week 4 – OMG! This is all going to go much quicker, now!

18 July, 2011

OK! Let’s start blogging this thing, as I should have been doing.

Before I start this week’s log, I might make some general notes.

We now have 5 players, 6 when Dave gets back (if he chooses to play, which I’m fairly sure he will). A lot to manage, but the payoff is that we can play if people can’t make it, which we did this week. The downside is that with 5 NPCs, we have a small army running about the island.

I have declared Half for anyone not playing, NPCs “adventuring” as opposed to fulfiling one of the camp roles get a share of the XP. As a result, the players this week were eager to grind for XP to ping to level 2, and decided not to take NPCs. Makes life easier.

I also learned that XP is very important as a reward. Those wandering monsters and small encounters are no longer a waste of time that get in the way of the story.

Anyway. PCs are:
Brett, Vik, Alchemist. 884 xp.
Andrew, M’bongo, Druid/Witch. 884 xp, and not at all racist.
Tim, Barmy, Barbarian. 884 xp.
New guy, Joseph, Rogue. 884 xp.
Other new guy, Mephisto, cleric. 884xp, and a little sinister.

(sorry about the names, people. I’m honestly dreadful with them).

NPCs are:

Aeris. Helpful, Hopeful. Mini-quest done.
Gelik. Friendly, Hopeful. Looking for the “Nightvoice” – a pathfinder ship.
Ishoru. Helpful, Hopeful. Mini-quest done.
Jask. Helpful, Hopeful. Mini-quest done.
Sasha. Helpful, Normal. Mini-quest done.

Sasha is taking a while to come to terms with being on a desert island. Gelik was the slowcoach for a while, but a bit of action set him right. That, and the addition of a halfling to the group.

This week we have three players – Andrew, Brett, and New Guy.

So, with Barmy still a little delicate from his run-in with the laecedons and Mephisto stroking his new scroll and muttering “Precious, precious!”, Vik, M’bongo, and Joseph elect to explore a little around the pirate treasure cache. They investigated the Bearded Harpy, a wreck to the south. Fighting off a few of the odd crustaceans endemic to the area, they retrieved some loot.

Looking to the south, they noted that the southeast corner of the island was fairly mountainous and possibly volcanic, while to the west the island had sort of an upland region in its interior.

Ahh, yes. Barmy’s run-in with the lacedons. Without the use of an action point, Barmy would now be a few gobbets of meat mingled a pair of a lacedon corpses. Joseph definitely – definitely – saw something move, as an over-eager and hungry lacedon rolled a 2 on it’s stealth check. Barmy decided to go swimming anyway.

Well, I’m a wuss, but not that much of a wuss. After letting Barmy grab hold of the rope as his last act while succumbing to paralysation (with a little help from Joseph … little. Geddit?), he got hit again, at which point I told Tim that this was getting beyond a joke and if Barmy failed this save too, he’d lose his grip on the rope. A little tension, a little drama. Good shit.

Breaking camp again, the party headed east. As an aside, your chronicler should mention that Smuggler’s Shiv is not a low, sandy tropical isle, but the other kind of tropical isle: a jagged volcanic protrusion from the sea, surrounded in many spots by sheer cliffs and almost everywhere by crashing surf. Crossing the inlet to investigate the mountain to the south was impossible – almost certain death for any but the strongest swimmer. Simply from A to B is a Sisyphean task involving not only negotiating the onmipresent thick vegetation, but harsh basaltic ridges burning hot from the sun, and constant bad footing – broken rocks and stones underfoot.

And so, heading east, you can imagine the party’s reaction when they stumbled across across … a path! A mere track, but neverthless a path, and one indubitably cut by human – or at least, humanoid – hands. Suddenly, their situation became more hopeful … but perhaps more dangerous.

And not ten minutes IRL ago, Brett had been asking if they’d have to bush-bash and explore every hex on the whole damn island. I have to say that the module authors have done a great job pacing the adventure.

I divided the map into hexes, as I mentioned in a previous post. Now instead on one hex per hour, it’s four hexes per hour if they travel along the paths. It’s a whole new game, basically. Like “The Biggest Loser”, but without grossly fat medically obese people.

But no time to worry about that, for they were beset by zombies – an even four of them, Vik, Joseph, and M’bongo scouting ahead. Without going into detail – an Entagle slowed their advance, and then it was matter of pegging missiles and alchemical bombs at them until the last of them was slain.

They examined the trail a little more, looking particularly for those strange scaled tracks that they had seen a few days prior, left by some creature that has been stealthily observing their camp. But no – for whatever reason, there was no such sign.

And so, debate. They elected to follow the trail to the east, to make sure nothing was behind them. The trail soon ended at an abandoned camp … but not merely abandoned. It seemed that there had been violence here: bloodstains, a broken spear – its head of flint bound to the shaft with local twine and resin.

I3 on the map, for the DMs reading this.

Next morning, the party decided to follow the path around and to the south – looking for this lighthouse which one of them had vaguely recalled as having be built, or half-built, or planned to be built, here on the island. But just near where they had initially found the path there lay a trap! A rope stretched across the path, a snare, and a springy young tree to snap the unfortunate victim up into some impaling spikes. Joseph, a mere fisherman with a suspiciously good eye for trapwork, sprung the trap, but declared that this was not an old emplacement. It was well maintained, regularly and recently. The absence of warning signs, and the signs of violence at the abandoned camp began to paint an ugly picture. They were on guard as they came across a second, third, and fourth trap.

And then the path led through a ravine. A prime, obvious ambush spot if ever there were one. Joseph scouted ahead, finding yet another trap, but one slightly different: rather than impale the victim on spikes, this trap would drag the victim up the side of the ravine. It was (probably) M’bongo who spotted the hide at the top of then ravine, and someone – or something – in it. Joseph had already tried (and failed) to climb the ravine, but Barmy made short work of it. Nevertheless, with ten people approaching, whatever had been waiting in the hide had long since gone by the time he made it there – vanished into the jungle.

They followed the path south. At a fork, they turned east – your chronicler does not know why (Didn’t want to deal with the lighthouse with the new players not present. Fair call.) The trail led up and around, and at the top, an old, abandoned hut, the ground around strewn with skeletons of various degrees of antiquity. But none of them attacked. Inside the hut, Vik found an old journal. Almost unreadable, but what was readable was – well, I’d say “fascinating”, or “tantalizing”, but I’m not sure how the party felt about it.

“Thrune’s Fang” … wasn’t “Thrune” one of the main houses of Cheliax, back when they were trying to colonise this region – Sargava?

“Nylithati” (Nil-ith-at-i). Odd name – not a language that anyone recognises. (19 on linguistics, less than that on bardic knowledge. Sorry, guys: not enough for a free clue.)

“Grey, silent island”. The weirdly coloured bit of their Deus Ex Machina map that they found on the Jenevere?

“Thrune’s Fang at the base of the lighthouse”. Holy shit! Lighthouse! Lighthouse! There might be escape from this damned island yet!

And so we leave our party, making camp a little away from an old abandoned hut. Their dreams troubled perhaps, and with much to be troubled about. Betrayal and wreck – a Varsivian scholar and a captain missing, and probably to blame. Ghosts in the sea. Watchers in the night leaving odd, scaly footprints. A grey island of death. A winged shape passing overhead, brief silhouette against the stars – a dragon, perhaps, or something else. A lighthouse. Mankiller traps studding paths that they have little choice but to use.

Oh: and a long-abandoned hut, strewn about with human bones, brittle not from age, but from having been cooked, and bearing the unmistakable marks of crude flint knives and human teeth.

Vik, M’bongo, Joseph – 1551 xp. Ding! Max HP at 1st and 2nd level.
Barmy, Mephisto – 1205 xp.

Sweet dreams, dudes! Till Friday.

DM Notes – my battlemat

9 July, 2011

I recently arranged a decent battlemat for myself. I was using a vinyl grid with additional sheets of clear vinyl on top. The clear vinyl can be moved around, allowing you to draw maps bigger than the table.

The main issue with this system is that whiteboard marker does not erase properly on that surface. You have to use water-soluble OHP markers or chinagraph markers (aka: grease pencil). Chinagraph markers are expensive, difficult to find, and only come in black and white. OHP markers are messy, messy, messy – gets all over your hands when you erase it. Gets everywhere.

What I needed was a laminated mat on which you could use whiteboard marker. The main problem is making a 1-inch grid to laminate. Making a grid and then scaling it to the right size is an absolute nuisance. But I did finad a solution that gave me exactly what I wanted:

  1. I generated an SVG file of a 1-inch grid with a java program. Use of SVG allows the scaling to be exact.
  2. Embedded it into a PDF file with one of the “batik” utilities. The scaling was preserved – “1 inch” means 1 inch.
  3. Took it to Office Works at Braddon and had them print up 4 a1 sheets with the grid.
  4. Took it home and stained it with tea, coffee, and a little inkjet ink to get rid of the boring white colour. Also burned the edges (not all of them – left plain edges so that the sheets can be overlapped).
  5. After being thoroughly dried, took the sheets back for lammination.

$10 for lamination, a couple of bucks for printing. Call it $15 bucks for an a1 sized battlemat that works with whiteboard marker, weighs nothing, and unrolls flat. Cheap enough that you can do multiple ones – I want a grayish one or two for dungeon crawls.

Be my guest:

Java Source.

A1 a1Grid.svg a1Grid.pdf
A1 Tiles a1Tiles.svg
A2 a2Grid.svg a2Grid.pdf
A3 a3Grid.svg a3Grid.pdf
A4 a4Grid.svg a4Grid.pdf

Serpent’s Skull – DM notes

9 July, 2011

So, I am running Serpent’s Skull. I might jot down a few things that might come in handy for other DMs, as I discover them. These notes will contain spoilers for players, but I know my guys will be reading this so I’ll restrict the spoilers to stuff that has already happened in our game. Nevertheless, guys, perusing this stuff may take a little of the magic away. Your choice.

One of the issues with the game material is that certain stuff is scattered around the various source documents. The wandering monster rules are in the bestiary, the NPC rules are in the “Shipwrecked!” supplement, and so on. It’s a bit of a challenge pulling it together.

If you are running the game:

Track the game state

You will need a piece of paper on which to keep the game “state”.


Each NPC has a morale and an attitude, and each NPC and player may have a campsite “role”.

panicked, frightened, shaken, normal, hopeful. Starting morale is “shaken”.

hostile, unfriendly, indifferent, friendly, helpful. Staring morale is as per the notes for each NPC.

guard, defender, entertainer, hunter, medic. To fill a “role”, the NPC or player must be busy doing that the entire day. No role for the NPC until made “Indifferent”, and roles available are as per the notes.


The Island has a limited amount of certain monsters – track them. I suspect that the number of monsters is important with regard to XP available on the Island. You can’t grind to 20th level on Smuggler’s Shiv.


Keep a calendar and keep track of how many days it’s been. Log events like monster kills – perhaps 10M, 10D, 10E, 10N for morning, day, evening and night of day 10. This is particularly important for timed events. I was considering also using this calendar to work out when high tide and low tide are. On earth, high and low tide happen twice each day, and the time moves around the clock once a month, so morning high-tide becomes morning low-tide after one week.

Daily routine

The daily routine is:

  1. Sunup: wandering monster check, NPC state check. Is the party moving camp, or is the party exploring from a base?
  2. Midday: wandering monster check, possible heat chack
  3. Sundown: wandering monster check, disease exposure check. Check to set up camp, if necessary.
  4. Midnight: wandering monster check

  • Wandering monster check is: 15%, -5% per guard. Remember that “Defender”s do free damage.
  • NPC morale check is DC 15 Will. +2 per entertainer. Failure by 5 worsens the state.
  • NPC attitude check is a diplomacy roll, modified by morale (+2, 0, 0, -2, -4) and circumstance.
  • Camp. if the party is on the move, then they need to leave enough time in the afternoon to set up camp. If the survival roll is bad and they need more hours of daylight than they have budgeted for, then no camp that night.
  • Disease exposure: 25%. -15% for having a decent camp, -5 for each medic. I take disease exposure to mean “chance of being bitten by something carrying something during the night”.
  • Heat. “Strenuous activity” during the hot part of the day triggers a fort save. This includes a fight at the midday wandering monster encounter. It should probably also include attempting to bush-bash through jungle at around midday. DC 15 on the hour, +1 for each consecutive hour (the hot part of the day is 3 hours), 1d4 nonlethal. Odd – I would have thought that the character becomes fatigued, but the penalties for exhaustion are pretty steep. (Note that Jask can prepare Endure Elements).

I suppose the best bet would simply be to keep the calendar as a spreadsheet. Columns are:

  1. Day #
  2. High/Low tide – advance by 2 hours a day to keep it simple. So 2/8 means high tide at 2am/pm, low at 8 am/pm.
  3. NPC State – Two columns per npc.
  4. Role – one column for each PC and NPC. Roles have to be the entire day, so if a PC is adventuring, then they are not doing a campsite role that day.
  5. Disease incubation, other conditions. Probably just one column, unless it gets complicated.
  6. Encounters. Four columns.
  7. Todo. For timed/scheduled events.

Overland movement

Player Map

DM Map

Players, seriously – resist the temptation to click on the DM map. This is not a “takes the magic away” issue, it’s a “ruins the module” issue.

This caused me a great deal of angst.

By some weird combination of mouse-clicks, I managed to extract the terrain layer of the map in the PDF without all the markup. So
what I eventually did was to get the map into the Gimp and use “filters/distorts/mosaic” to chop it up into hexes. The hexes are about 1/2 a mile from center to center by the scale on the map. According to the module, the players move 1 mile every 2 hours bush-bashing through jungle, and you have a chance to notice a special feature if you are within half a mile. So my players can move 4 hexes per day-quadrant. 8 per day … but that leaves no time to set up camp.

In the wreck of the Jeniveve, the players found a map of Smuggler’s Shiv, but it was only a blurry outline which (for some reason) had been blown up to a3 size. The players get a blurry outline of the island, I get a rather more detailed map, and the two have a matching hex grid overlaid. The players indicate on their map where they are moving, and I compare it to mine to see what they might have stumbled across.

I have just now “hexified” the map by drawing out rivers, paths, borders and so on. The island border, rivers, and cliffs go either along a boundary or through the middle of a hex.The paths go from the center of one hex to the center of another. This should make it as little easier to work out what to do with these terrain features. I’ve been ignoring them up till now, trying to get a handle on things. Now I can definitely say “to get from this hex to that hex will take an extra 1/2 hour and involve a swim check.” 1/2 hour seems mechanically do-able. It means you can get there and get back with one extra hour of travel time. Characters don’t know this until they come to the river or cliff, of course.

So, although ugly looking, this hexification turns “Well, ok – it’s a map, I suppose. Definitely a drawing of an island.” into a campaign hex map that can be played. This is a reasonably common problem in Paizo materials, I have to say: stat blocks split over pages, crucial crunch buried inside paragraphs of colour text. With the pirate treasure thing, I had to piece together that it was 10 ft down to the plug, 40 ft to the water, and then 10 ft down: a total of 60 ft. Those measurements were scattered around the shop. The module described in detail the story behind the treasure, but that’s not a lot of use if there’s no in-game way to tell it to your players. All you can do is tell them out-of-game after the encounter is done.


I like handouts. There’s nothing worse than having to read out blocks of colour text – physical handouts mean you can give something to the players and let them argue it over while you lean back and relax.

I bought myself a laminator a while ago. The handouts in the campaign materials are printed out and laminated. I also did the same to those “dream” things that clue the players into what’s the deal with Ieana and the Captain. They have met captain Kinkarian – some nice artwork there worth printing off, too. Pretty much any picture in the PDF is worth printing and giving to the players at an appropriate time. The alternative is awkwardly showing them the page of the module. Handing out the artwork from the modules is as important as having the right minis to hand. Sure – you can play without it. But it just lends the session a little zing.

I was going to write up some stuff on dealing with new players, but meh – I’ll do it next time.


8 July, 2011

Ahh, elevatorgate!

Here’s one response:
Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

And here’s a response to that:

Schrodinger’s rapist:
Men rape women more often than women rape men => women are justified to be on their guard when in the presence of men in particular => men should be extra-careful when talking to women…

Schrodinger’s black assaulter:
There are more African Americans in jail than white people, even though only 12,6% of the US population is African American => white people are justified to be on their guard when in presence of African Americans in particular => African Americans should be extra-careful when talking to white people…

Yes, yes indeed. It is incumbent upon all brutish males to go to all possible lengths to avoid frightening these tremulous flowers. A tall order, given that they are so easily frightened.

Like this bloke:

So I learned this trick. Cross the street about a block back and “pass” the lady that way. Same with a potential head-on encounter. If you see a woman walking towards you in the middle of the night on a lonely urban street, my practice in those days was to cross the street to not stress her out.

How well-trained and polite! How … civil. No doubt he would never enter an elevator with a lone woman in it, or drink from their water-fountains.

The thing that makes it so difficult not to drag the comparison to racism into it is that is precisely, precisely this sort of reasoning that resulted in “reckless eyeballing” laws in the american south. The white women were afraid, afraid of black men. Genuinely terrified. And the fact that they had carefully cultivated these fears by telling stories to one another? I can’t help being remiinded of my favourite analogy.

I think of it every time I hear that statistic “One in six women are sexually assaulted at some time in their lives”, followed by “and therefore they are right to be afraid of being raped”. Never mind that sexual assault is not quite the same thing as rape.

But why oh why do we males take this all so personally? I can’t hear that without doubting the vaunted empathic powers of womankind. We feel accused and defensive when someone makes blanket statements about men for exactly the same reason that you feel accused and defensive when someone makes blanket statements about women.

Because “and therefore they are right to be afraid of being raped” necessarily means “and therefore they are right to be afraid of being raped by you“. Being then told “hey, nothing personal, and you have no right to feel defensive about it” is just icing on the cake.


TAM 9 will be hilarious.

I wonder how many geeks will wake up and see that these “skeptics” and “rational” groups are – same as everywhere else – a spectacle of women mobbing the alpha males and complaining that there are so few “good men”. Starfuckers all. Meanwhile, any non-alpha male who approaches a girl is “threatening” and “a creep” and “a potential rapist”.

Nothing would amuse me more than the guys – who, lets face it, form the bulk of the skeptical community – treating these people as they ask. I envisage a bubble of empty seats around each skepchick, people politely leaving the room when one of ’em walks in: “Hey, I wouldn’t want to accidentally frighten her.”

But I’m just bitter.