Gun Control

21 December, 2012

“Gun control is pointless. If someone wants that badly to kill a bunch of people, they will find a way to do it.”


I was talking to a psychiatrist, once. This guy had been a brain surgeon when he was younger, so he’d essentially been a doctor his whole life. We were talking, briefly, about suicide and he said that he didn’t get why people hanged themselves, threw themselves in front of trains, drove into trees. “Why not just take pills?”

I looked at him like he was an idiot and replied, “Most people cannot get pills.”

He was a bit taken aback, and thought and said – “You know, that’s right. Even I would have trouble getting that much barbituate.”

Suicide is something people do when they have the means and the impulse. In merry olde England, the gas supply used to be what is called “Town Gas”, or “Coal Gas”. I think it was made by the gasification of coal. Coal has all sorts of crap in it – sulfur compounds – and the gas was quite poisonous. People routinely committed suicide by “putting thier heads in the oven” and poisoning themselves.

A while back, they switched to natural gas, which is nowhere near as poisonous. The suicide rate plummeted.

And it has never rebounded to the same levels.

Without easy and convenient means people don’t “find another way” to do it. Fact is – they don’t do it at all, not at anything like the same rate.

You think that alienation and anger in young males is uniquely american? Hell no. There’s plenty to go around, trust me. Plenty of bullied teenagers who’d raze their school if they could, right here in Oz.

The problem is that killing people is hard to do. It is a difficult thing to accomplish. Killing a dozen people is damn near impossible for the average person.

Unless they have a gun.

It is simply not true that if these school shooters didn’t have semiautomatic guns, they’d “find another way”. There is no other way. What can they do? Strangle thier schoolmates one-by-one? Use a katana? Without years of training or a gun, it’s impossible to do what these people did.

The problem is the guns. Now, the USA is awash with the damn things – any sort of gun ban is a practical impossibility. But that they are difficult now to get rid of is quite a different question to “what’s causing the killings?” and “If we fixed it so that angry young men couldn’t get guns, would that fix things?”. Guns are the principal enabler.

GG5 – Week 2

18 December, 2012

A good second week, I think. The encounters were beefed up considerably – someone at my table one-shotted a 3HD Orc (Fighter/Rogue/Fighter). I had 3 characters down, Alix had 4 down, everything going great. I thought I might have to nerf things a bit, but no – they came back. Then it was 11PM and I didn’t get to run the third encounter for the night. Pity, ’cause it involved something cool. As it was, my table just did orc sailors and a couple of elf samurai.

Oh – and someone’s animal companion decided to jump onto a ship of enemy sailors all by himself (tiger). Got creamed. Druid goes “give fluffy back” as the ship is pulling away, and dude goes “? Ok! Men – throw that tiger overboard.” We all found out about the pathfinder drowning rules. Turns out being submerged while you are unconscious is bad news. Second encounter, someone else decided to jump onto a ship full of enemy sailors, all by himself. Got creamed.

The cleric also discovered why you take “selective channel”. A few of the sailors were unconscious, not dead.

As for me – “how high is the ship’s railing above dock level?” – (thinks “Fuck, I dunno”). It’s what happens. I was giving people DC 10 (or 15) acrobatics checks. In retrospect, the entire point of a pier is that it is at about deck height. I always find that I don’t think things through far enough before the game.

The big meeting – all the long-time players were jerking me around, man. It was the newb who said “so one group gets the dude, another group brings the ship around.” I mean – everyone had already worked out that that was the plan, they were all just being deliberately obtuse about it to screw with me. Pricks.

The broader point is that this campaign looks like being a bit railroady, and it is railroady at the moment. I’ll have to work out what to do, there.

Still haven’t figured out how CR relates to EL. So we just went “ok, everyone is second level”. Six encounters – probably about right.


17 December, 2012

Well, I’m not sure what voice to write this post in. The usual “letters to Michael” won’t really cut it anymore, because Switch has turned to the dark side.

She got a bit of a psyhic note from Zon-Kuthon, a very specific Contact Outer Plane spell, that must be cast on someone who is bleeding out. Now, last session Klael caught a wererat – this week we questioned him, promising him freedom for information.

After we let him go, Switch went invisible, said she was going to check some stuff, and chased him down. The problem is that the spell doesn’t work on someone who is dead – they have to be in the process of. But Switch does have access to one spell that does the job.

Magic Jar.

She cast Improved Invisibility, then possessed the rat. Then it was a bit of comedy, trying to find some way to kill the rat. Switch still had her spells while possessing the rat’s body, so cast Scorching Ray and Acid Splash until the rat was unconscious and bleeding out. Then, back in her own body, cast the spell.

All invisible. Rainor was watching, but there was nothing to see. The conversation went like this:

ZK: What?
S: I am willing to serve.
ZK: I see. And what do you offer?
S: Well, this wererat.
ZK: Yeah, ok (“It Is Sufficient”). What do you want?
S: Um, Arcane Power!
ZK: Orly? And what do you offer in exchange for that?
out of game: Guys? Scott is definitely going to Wollongong in the new year?
out of game: Yeah dude, totally.
S: The life of the paladin with whom I travel.

To general hilarity. Dave was expecting “My full loyalty” or some such, but I was a bit put on the spot and tried to think “What would Zon-Kuthon really like?”. So, yeah – Switch has offered to gakk Klael (who has saved her life dozens of times over) in exchange for cool shit from the God of Pain and Envy. Not to mention murdering a wererat after solemnly promising to let him go.

Yeah. That’s, well, that’s pretty darksided. Murder, betrayal. Definitely, unquestionably evil. A real dick move.

After this, the god conveniently disposed of the body, which was way better than my plan of using Expeditious Excavation to do a grave. There was seriously nothing for Rainor to see (and yeah, he was watching).

Switch has a acquired a level of “Chosen of Zon-Kuthon”. She gets regular spell progression and a bite attack (that does Con damage). Oh, and she has adopted black velvet, lace, choker with a silver skull type outfit. Beats me how long she’ll be able to hide the “biting people FTW” from Rainor. Klael I’m not really worried about, ’cause that sucker is going down. Might have to poison him a bit, first. Fun times πŸ™‚ .

GG5 – Week 1

15 December, 2012

Yay! Week 1 not a disaster! W00T!

Now, it should be noted that this is not really “story” I am writing, but DM notes. There won’t be plot spoilers, but you might be able to see the gears turning, which may take some of the magic away. For a more story-centric view you’ll need to see the player’s blogs – which I am sure they are all busily writing.

We split the players into two groups who have not met each other in-game, yet.

Paul’s Table

Aboard the good ship Pilchard, with Captian Haddock. “Good ship” being a mere politeness – the ship is a flat-bottomed bucket, a coastal trader. At this stage, the players are simply some of Haddock’s crew.

Encounter 1

The captain sent a few of the crew (ie: the players) onto a small sand island to pick a few coconuts. They were attacked by crabs.

Four giant crabs. About the right level of difficulty – a couple of tense moments, but it was never really in doubt. I wanted a simple fight to start with, and it worked out ok. No loot, just crab meat and coconut. Yum!

Encounter 2

The Pilchard is attacked by the Shirley-Jane.

The players were meant to lose this fight. I used the mass combat rules, pulling crew into the fight as they were killed.

It didn’t really go well. I massively underestimated how good the characters are, and had to pump the numbers – the Shirley-Jane crew were just not good enough to be obviously, convincingly better. To the players, the combat looked like new crew were just popping in out of thin air.

When running group combat (If I try it again), I’ll make the crew numbers public rather than hiding them. When running something they are meant to lose, I’ll pull more enemies out of melee than just one per player character, and make bloody sure that they are seriously better.

Eventually they worked out that they were supposed to lose, but it was an out-of-game thing. Which is what you don’t want.

Meh. Live and learn.

Encounter 3

At the destination, the elven harbourmaster took most of the rest of Haddock’s cargo as tax, citing the ship’s manifest rather than how much wood he actually had. I wanted to play up the racism of my campaign world – I believe “gaijin dog!” was used.

Some of the non-elf dockworkers indicated to Haddock that for a consideration, they could be elsewhere that night (not sure if I made this clear to the players), and so Haddock decides to (ahem) remove his lumber from the customs house and shift it to a warehouse next door.

The place was guarded by four samurai and the harbourmaster in his office. A couple of the stealthier characters snuck in, sniping from the rafters once combat started. The players pretty much rolled the joint – the harbourmaster downed with nolethal damage from Andrew’s character.

Loot was a couple of potions (cure light, barkskin) from the first-aid kit, and a chest of money (which Haddock took). [edit] and yes, a ring of protection +1 and a +1 elvish longsword. With Hare Clan markings all over it. Try explaining that to the authorities.

Alix’s Table

The other half of the players were retained in town to go investigate a ruins by a scholar. They headed off overland, dodging leeches, skellingtons, and a Kelpie (which took the form of a crocodile). Apparently it managed to death-roll one of the characters to unconciousness, which is just great.

Loot was some gear from an ill-fated prior expedition, and a curious wand. Mechanically, the wand is a wand of Cure Light Wounds. But it’s shaped like a small hammer. (Dun dun dun!)

On their return, the scholar who was going to be paying them is nowhere to be found.

So …

On the whole, we are setting the bar a little low, which I suppose is better in the first instance than killing characters first session. I don’t know how much plot and atmosphere the players are getting, yet. I suppose we need to get further into the story first.

I like standard magic items – wands, scrolls, potions – that are flavoured. In my wednesday game, Salty Bob scribes scrolls by way of scrimshaw. Elves (in this world) are druidic, so the potions I gave the players were enchanted fruit – cherries for the Cure Light, and a brown pear for Barkskin. They are the sort of things that a medicine kit might contain – I might retcon that the kit counts as a healer’s kit with a few uses.

Story is still on-track, after one session. Which is good – the players haven’t managed to derail things yet πŸ™‚ . Players are participating by dropping story hooks, although we can’t incorporate them all. I have found that it is a Kajillion times easier to plan sessions with another person – the co-DM aspect is working out superbly well. At present, she does right-brain and I do left-brain.

Haven’t nailed down XP, which is very important. Players play for loot and XP – you want to power up your character. I’d like to go with actual tracked XP, so as to encourage people to actually show up on game night.

Next session has cool (well, I think it’s cool) plot and world-building stuff, but obviously I can’t talk about it here. I shall have to do it either though the medium of interpretative dance, or though the game itself. Which is the whole idea.

Yaaargh! We deals with some unwanted attention.

14 December, 2012

Well mateys, after handing in our first prize ship, we of the Alestorm were feeling a bit cocky, and decided we would raid a village – pickings being slim raiding fishing boats. Upriver, we went, and found a likely spot for some plunder.

First sight of the ship, the natives scattered – they being a bit used to this kind of thing. Four of their fighting men stayed behind, each with a savage, slavering mastiff – four foot high at the shoulder, and with jaws fit to tear a man to shreds

They were riding dogs. CR 1/2, I think.

After a blessing from Besmara, Havok and Mork leapt off the ship, keen for the fight, and Vorok and Aliza following. Meself, having a cooler head, spent a moment summoning a dog or two of my own to keep theirs busy and then headed onto shore. But by the time I got there, it were all but over.

We looted the place for plunder and set sail down the river. But we caught wind of a warship at the river mouth – a Chelaxian pirate hunter, no doubt sent to avenge the loss of the trader.

Bad news that – she were bristling with weapons and Chelaxian marines. Four of them on the trading ship gave us only a little trouble, but sixty be a different kettle of fish. But Aliza it were that saw their helm be in an odd spot – their rudder steered by ropes that could be gotten to by an open porthole.

We anchored behind a bend in the river, out of sight. It seemed to me that the best thing to do would be to send in that sneaky devil Vorak on his own to cut the ropes. Risky, that – if he were spotted, he would have no hope. And so I cast an Augury – “Besmara!”, I called, “If we send Vorak on his own in to deal with the rudder, will it scuttle the lot of us?”

Now, the truth is that I got no reply, Besmara being a temperamental goddess much engaged with business of her own. But I judged it still to be the best plan, and I told the crew that she had answered – although I am not sure they believed it.

Got a 6 on bluff. Oops.

But even then, it were still the best plan. We went overland at night, and rowed Besmara’s Tricorn out to the warship (a magical hat, lad – unfolds into a jolly boat). Quiet as a eel we were.Β Then Vorak nipped up the bulwark of the warship and into the stern steering house, armed only with his dagger, his natural stealth, and a spell of Mage Armour that Aliza had given him.

Salty Bob has a pretty-much maxed out Profession (Sailor), with Skill Focus and a bonus from Besmara’s Tricorn. It was a skill check to row silently. The DM was kind enough to allow the two of us rowing to average our checks πŸ™‚ .

Well, I be not sure what happened next, there were a fight – but in the gloom Vorak managed to cut the ropes and get out. The ship’s bell rang, and chelaxian marines pured into boats and made for shore. I cast silence and Mork and Havok rowed like the armies of Cheliax were after them – which they would be in short order if we be spotted.

Keegan gave us some Paizo cheat cards, which we burned to get Vorak out of there.

Then we boarded our ship, hoisted the Jolly Roger and set full sail. A bank of catapults, they had. I cast Fog Cloud to throw off their aim, but it were not enough to cover all of them. Still – we only took one direct hit. We passed them, jeering and cursing like sailors true, and out to the blessed sea.

Their captain swore at us departing, threatening to get the mages to scrying us out, but I knew it for a bluff. And so on to the rock, which I will tell ye about after ye have fetched me another pint of grog.

DnD random

10 December, 2012

This is just a “Dear Diary” really.

Die With Honour.
Man – having 8 people at a table blows chunks. We had a two-hour discussion on “does two-weapon fighting stack with flurry of blows”. Problem is that the 3.5 rules don’t say. They have never said. So it’s all opinion and people trying to do textual analysis on the PHB. Pathfinder fixes this kind of bullshit, but Sal has decided that he just doesn’t like Pathfinder.

My character (Xavier the Sorcerer) is ok, but not really built properly. When I trade him in, I’ll come up with a coherent concept and ask Peter to help with the build.

Being epic at a table full of lower-leveled players – at MacquarieCon I copped what Ash had been complaining about at CanCon. Did manage to level up once, though.

So much great stuff to blog, and I haven’t blogged it. Water under the bridge, now. Switch accidentally a ghost (the whole ghost!), but you kind of had to be there.

Skull and Shackles
I had a hissy-fit. It happens. The campaign has rules and minigames for being a pirate – raiding, boarding – but I can’t read the module or it will spoil things, so I can’t simply hijack those rules for my game. Dang. We already pirated a ship and sold it, ransoming off the captain. I am working to make Salty Bob a bit more bloodthirsty and piratical, rather than being a generic healbot. Yarr!

The Treasure of Capt’n Sloughy
Session 1 tonight. Do I feel ready? No. But I suspect I never will. We have a couple of week’s play, but need to settle down to a routine of planning the game on Thursday evening. I have worked out where the campaign should be: step A, B, C, D. But haven’t worked out exactly how we get from A to B.

I have also been guilty of exactly the thing that I had a hissy-fit about: not notifying Alix until the day that I was (or was not) coming over to plan game. Which makes me a goddamn hypocrite. You can’t do that to other people’s time, and I shouldn’t be doing it either. And I haven’t organised minis. I have 4 hours to do so.