On Gay marriage and the SCOTUS

29 June, 2015

This is a post I made on AVfM on the recent gay marriage decision in the USA, in reply to “keep your dirty government fingers out of my marriage!” fools. I think it sums up my opinions.

Family members have legal status. Should we do away with the notion that – in the eyes of the law – one’s brothers, sisters, parents and children have a status that strangers do not? That they should not be able to see us when we are in hospital on our deatbeds? That if we die intestate, there should be no presumption that our estate descends to them? Should the day come – God forbid – that someone must decide whether or not to turn the respirator off, should this decision not be in the hands of someone we love, and who we believe loves us? Doing this makes the government, or our employers, or the hospital, the only “family” we have. It’s the opposite of what most libertarians and suchlike would want.

Family means something, and it should mean something in law.

Marriage is a declaration to the world at large, and therefore yes – to the state: “We two are family now. This other person is closer to me than my brothers and sisters, and is first in line in my life.” By its very nature, it is not a private act. That’s why it is done in front of witnesses. Its public-ness is the entire point of it, it’s the difference between a marriage, specifically, and just sleeping with someone you like.

Gay people, pleading equal protection (rightly in the eyes of the SCOTUS) have won the right for their partnerships to be legally recognised in this way. It’s not “tyranny” or anything like it: if anything, it’s the reverse – someone who can rightfully stand between oneself and the uncaring mechanisms of state and medical industry when we are incapacitated. It’s an issue particularly poignant for people who, so often, are rejected by their own natural families. The state now recognises that, for gay people, the person they love and care about more than any other person in the world has some sort of legal status in their life.

Brus Reckoner – The Beginning of the End

22 June, 2015

At last Coin tells us how his machine works, how it will bring an end to this entire plane of doors. The dimensional anchor will be attached to a spool of unbreakable cable. We will take that anchor all the way to Limen’s sanctum and ground it there. Then, Coin’s machine will haul it back into the tesseract. Simpler said than done, of course – the forces involved are immense. But that, in essence, is how his machine works.

But we still need a MacGuffin or two. A certain clutch of Soul Gems. And for that, we need some help. A paladin named Quicksilver.

According to the angels, Quicksilver is dead. But the angels were misled by Li-men. Instead, he seems to be on one of the planes. A hop, skip, and a jump and we are there.

We arrive at a hillock overlooking what seems to be a conquered city. Brus uses his new spell – Find Quarry. Quicksilver is in that evil-looking tower over there on the other side of the city (of course). His “mode of movement”, according to the spell, is hanging by his ankles and swinging gently.

Find Quarry – You sense whether a well-known creature you can clearly visualize is within a 20-mile radius of your current location, as well as the distance and direction to the creature in relation to you. You also discern whether the creature is moving, and its direction, speed, and mode of movement. The radius you can sense increases by 5 miles for every two caster levels you have above 10th (to a maximum of a 45-mile radius at 20th level).

And this evil-looking tower is not just any old evil-looking tower. A quick flick through the K (religion) recognises it as being dedicated to Zon-Kuthon. Quicksilver, one can guess, is having an unpleasant time of it.

How to get across the city? Around? Through? Under, via that conveniently-placed sewer outlet? Well, we are packing Wind Walk now. We are informed, however, that approaching the tower under cover of that spell is infeasible due to divine interference – a strong Deus ex Machina field surrounds it, and we will need to do at least some of the encounters our DM has lovingly prepared.

Smoke rises from a small cluster of buildings. We elect to alight there and take a squiz.

We head into one of the small, squat buildings with thick clouds of smoke coming from the chimney. The odour of rotting death and charred flesh is all but overpowering. Inside, three chained up somethings – humanoid shaped, at least, probably undead – are positioned to be overlooking a room full of charred skeletons. Brus attempts an intimidate: “surrender, or get killed!”. Yeah, it’s basic: but that’s what intimidate boils down to, anyway.

The – things – declare that they have seen things worse then death, and begin making gaze attacks. It’s on. Brus hits one, Faugh hits one, Picklick is outside, and John is just hanging back. Bottom comes in and commences trying to untie one. Brus goes “hmm, ok” and teams up with Faugh. Good tactics. Will calls out “We are supposed to be helping them!”, Brus replies, “We are!”.

More gaze attacks. The front door swings open a little, and the creatures shrink back from the light. Hmm – interesting. One goes down, then another – not before one of its gaze attacks finally hits home. In one of those bursts of unfairness of which the universe is so fond, Will is the victim. He feels a chill, a sapping of his life force. (One negative level to Will.)

Bottom frees the last one of its chains, and attempts to drag it away. It fights and resists with all its might. Brus, deciding that it would be educational to see what happens to these things in full sunlight, joins in, and he and Bottom drag it into the street outside. It’s screams grow louder and louder, more and more desprate until – bodily dragged into the full light of day – its flesh begins to smoke and fall apart, and it disintegrates into dust.

A few minutes inside the building tell the tale. These undead were once men, chained up and forced to watch as person after person was burned alive in front of them, the horror driving them mad. These buildings are factories to create new troops for Zon-Kuthon.

The party confer briefly. The fight may come down to John’s channelling and his Asimaar Daylight ability. In any case – they agree that they seriously need to be out of here before nightfall.

Bottom has a moment. It has been difficult for a Lawful Good monk travelling with this gang of frankly murderous worshippers of the Outer Gods. But what he saw in that building was a whole new level of evil. It put things in a little perspective. The tower lies ahead, and there’s plenty of city between here and there.

What a shame we aren’t using sanity point rules! Oh well 🙂 . Just the one fight because we spent a fair bit of time sorting out level 12 gear and purchases. Unfortunately, Brus’ weapon has a book value of 71k which completely blows out the value of his gear. I have sent some mail to our mailing list to try to sort it out. Ultimately, there is going to have to be some handwaving going on even if we do cut back his more expensive items (he is rocking a belt +6, which in all fairness is crazy at 12th level).

We are having a bye next week. More madness after that.

For @AndreVltchek

21 June, 2015

For @AndreVltchek, in response to In the USA – “I Cannot Write!”.

“During those two weeks I met some of the greatest thinkers living in the United States: Michael Parenti, and John Cobb. Some time ago I worked with Michael on two books, one his and one mine, but this was our first face-to-face encounter. I discussed Christianity with John Cobb, trying to define what is encoded in it that allows the most horrid atrocities to be committed in the name of the Cross. It was deep, philosophical discussion, and we will convert it into a book, soon.”

What do we know about Jehovah, god of the earliest parts of the bible?

Well, he is slow to anger, but his anger is very terrible. When he becomes angry, he shakes the pillars of the earth. He punishes people by making the earth open up and swallow them. Smoke issues from his nostrils. His eyes are a flame of fire, and his mouth is a consuming fire. The radiance of his immediate presence is so great that no man can look directly upon him and live. He led his people across the desert with a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. Moses received the law by ascending a mountain that smoked and shook.

He kills almost indiscriminately – human lives are nothing to him. His anger against all humanity is so great that he can only be placated by sacrifice. And not just any sacrifice, but one that is pure and unblemished. Innocent. The key to the redemption of man is a human sacrifice, and not just of any human, but of a sinlessly perfect one. But people still anger him even so, so he will cast them into a lake of fire that wil burn and burn forever. His rage is bottomless, limitless. For his enemies (anyone that does not prostrate themselves to him) no vengeance, no matter how extravagant, is enough.

According to the bible, all of humanity is descended from a tribe of people from the region of Mt Ararat. I would wager a considerable amount that 10,000 years ago or so, those mountains were active volcanoes.

What is encoded in christianity that permits atrocities? Only the most fearsome, violent and unpredictable phenomenon in all nature, one that must be placated, pleased, flattered by any means necessary, at any cost, and not always with much success. Jehovah is a volcano god – he is as as frightening and cruel as every other volcano god like him.


21 June, 2015

After much faffing about, this is a Pathfinder fantasy map, overlaid with a map of Canberra to scale. The grid is 1000ft divided into 100ft smaller squares.

I just cant help feeling that they haven’t gotten it exactly right. Maybe it’s just that we modern people live in enormous, truly gigantic cities. Or maybe the scale is perfectly reasonable. After all, the lake is about as big as one of the basins of Lake Burley-Griffin. Perhaps the real problem is that the parliamentary triangle of Canberra is actually laid out on a cyclopean scale. This is plenty big for a fantasy city.

Meh. It means that getting from one end of the city to the other is half an hour’s walk in game. Assuming no, ahem, eventualities.

I suppose that there’s a mesoscale between tactical map with 5′ squares and overland travel with mile-wide hexes. Computer games have spoiled us with the notion that maps should include everything, and the nature of fiction is that everything that happens is somehow about the protagonists. I lack the storyteller’s instinct, the ability to pull off the artist’s illusion of suggesting that there is more detail than there really is.

At the end of the day, a DM cannot really simulate an entire world for the benefit of the players.

To Elder Adrayann, for the council of thirteen

20 June, 2015

Elder Nicholson,

This message arrives with a wish for your continued good health, and every respect that a student can offer his master.

The occasion for writing is, of course, my continued absence for twelve years from the solstice celebrations, and the concern that this has raised in some quarters. Yes, it is true that I have settled here not only in a city, not only in a large city, but in a human city. Yes, I live in Khason.

Yes, I am fully aware of the various depredations of these humans against the forests around them, and their various offences against the natural order. This has been the focus of my research for these past few years. To ally your fears, no: I have no truck whatever with the so-called brotherhood of the new moon, it is not at all my position that humans need to be actively culled. The situation is … rather more nuanced.

Perhaps I should introduce the bulky and still incomplete notes that accompany this message.

Simply put, humans – and elves, for that matter – are living creatures. They build homes, they organise themselves into a society, they affect and are affected by the world around them. After living here for only a few months it occured to me to study them as I would a beaver dam, a beehive, a stream. Both for it’s own sake, and also as a way of understanding ourselves. After all – we are not so different (they and we interbreed, after all), but studying humans has the advantage that they live several generations to our one.

The other important reason for such study is these very depredations and offences against nature – the logging, the fouling of the streams, the rippings open of the earth – that they commit. It seemed and still seems to me that we need to know what we are dealing with. I have come to believe that we can best achieve our purpose by guiding them, rather than opposing them. This has always been our way, not to mention that opposing them is, I would point out, probably infeasible.

Humans do not especially wish to destroy forests, to wipe out entire species of animal. What they want is to life safely, and for their children to be happy and healthy. We can help them and guide them to a mode of living in equilibrium with the rest of the World.

But humans uniquely live in massive, above-ground cities. To understand them, we must ask: what kind of thing is a city, and how might it be understood?

I propose that a city might well be understood in terms of the cardinal elements, and I present to you the fruits of my initial research of the human city of Khason which is organised along those lines.

The element of Earth corresponds to a city’s static, physical presence. It is important to treat this as being its entire impact on the lands around it – not merely the city itself, but the farmlands that sustain it. In this section, I explore such questions as how much of the flow of river Greylock is consumed by the city? What proportion of the rainfall of the surrounding lands is captured and annexed? What is the city’s resource basin? What areas do its roads serve?

The element of Water corresponds to the inhabitants of the city, in terms of their bodily presence. In this section I ask such question as how many people inhabit the city? How long do they live, and of what might they be expected to die? What can we expect the population to be in 20 years, and how distributed? How is the city provisioned – what do the people eat and drink, and how is the food distributed within the city? Where does all the waste go, and how does it get there? What pestilences arise in the city, how do they spread and how are they typically contained?

The element of Fire corresponds to the activities of the city in relation to the cities and world around it. Put simply: war and commerce. How many trees are cut down, what is the volume of ore extracted from the earth? What do people do all day? What do people do to earn money? Where does the money come from, and where is it spent? How large are its armies, and with whom do they war?

The element of Air corresponds to the city’s governance and culture. What do the people think about? How do fashions and prejudices spread, and where are they likely to come from? Who makes the laws, and how are they enforced (a question with surprising answers, in a place with an active thieves guild).

And the element of Æether, of course, corresponds to the movements of magic – arcane and divine – in the city.

Naturally, the categories are not always clear cut – obvious examples are easy to think of. So much so, that often the point of interest is the interaction of the elements. Nevertheless, this treatment provides at least a framework from which to start.

It is my hope that our order might be able to make a place in human cities, to participate and somewhat guide their development. Our goal should be to contain the size of the population and to reduce the amount that it wastes. Presently, the only methods in common use for containing population size are periodic wars to cull the commons, and no thought at all is given to resource limits. We should establish groves within cites (fast-growing varieties at first) and create a presence. We should curry favour with the commons with parks and hospitals, and with farming. We should seek to become a trusted source of advice for the ruling classes, as pertains to the expansion of the city and the use of the lands around it. And we should offer free, nonjudgemental – I am inclining towards calling it – “family planning” advice and help.

There is a place for our order and orders like ours in human cities. They will continue to be a presence in the world. We need to be in them to help deal with them.


I have spent 12 years absent from the Grove, and it has affected me and my magic in strange ways. I no longer feel the same connection to the living things of nature. Now, when I call (which I have need to do, ocassionally – the city can be dangerous) I am more likely to be answered by a swarm of rats or a mob of humans. It’s odd – I once asked one of the mob why he had come to my aid, and he said that he “felt strongly” that he “needed to be here”.

For 12 years I hgave studied. I know them, and they begin to know me. I think that Khason city is my home now.

With Regret,

Urban Druid. Replace Summon Nature’s Ally with Summon Urban Ally. You’ll find ’em in cities, angling to get on planning councils and planting oak trees all over the shop. Any house falls down, the druids will be all over the site lobbying to replace it with a park. They have urban rangers, a few inquisitors and regular fighters, and a smattering of rogues and bards. The inquisitors have an odd habit of chaining themselves to trees that are slated to be cut down.

Oh, and you’ll also find the druids working with various sex godesses distributing contraceptive potions to the masses. In bulk.

Sometimes allies, sometimes enemies. When they go bad, and start feeling that the place is getting a mite populous, you’ll see them importing crates of pre-infected plague rats. Occasionally they set fire to a foundry or tannery.

I kind of like the idea of hippie “This place is an offence against nature!” inquisitors.

test post

20 June, 2015

test test

Sigh. Well, I have gotten this far at least:

HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request
Date: Sat, 20 Jun 2015 06:02:49 GMT
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
X-hacker: If you're reading this, you should visit automattic.com/jobs and apply to join the fun, mention this header.
Content-Type: application/json
Connection: keep-alive
Server: nginx

James Mallard – downtime

16 June, 2015

I’ll do this post all OOC, I think.

This week we had a talky game. Basically, aftermath in-town of the pirate battle. Our DM had some NPC speeches written up, so the session was wrap-up and scene-setting for the next stage of the campaign.

Saw a couple of important NPCs, dealt with some outstanding business. Lot of table-talk going on, I’m sure I have missed a few things. Naturally, this blog mainly mentions what happened to my character. You’ll have to read everyone else’s game blogs for a fuller picture.

Actually, looking at what I have written here there’s a surprising amount of ground we covered.

Scene 1 – Breakfast at the Inn.

Captain Colonel showed up, demanding compensation for his ship. James is like “dude, pirates sunk your ship”, but Isabel heads outside with him and gives him 1.5kgp – half what he wanted. He was accompanied by guards, and apparently there were certain threats made. Back inside, Isabel decides to share out the loot, a) because we are heroic and good; and b) because it’s safer than carrying a thousand gold. Divided seven ways, 1.5k is 215 gold – actually not outrageous.

She did the divvying up by dumping it on the table in the pub common room, it seems. Drat. Oh well. There’s more respect for an adventuring party that actually has some success at adventuring.

Oh – James asked Wilvur about Edmund the Wise, but in the confusion of serving customers and Captain Colonel’s arrival, he disappeared. Hmm.

We decided that we needed to find Sir Leonard, who was at the shrine.

Scene 2 – the Market

On the way to the Shrine, we dropped in at the market. Everyone did a bit of a shop, Tarry decided to pick up some miscellaneous junk. Mind you, it’s not enough to have potentially useful adventuring stuff, you have to get creative about using it.

We also mentioned to the shopkeeper that the Salty Maiden probably had tons of gold on board, laying at the bottom of the sea, now. Then again – we were not too far off shore when it sunk. The dwarf proprietor hurriedly closed up shop and disappeared.

Scene 3 – the Shrine

We asked “the bishop” about the lycanthropy salve. In the process of, the bishop reacted strongly to some of us, and to Mist’hanar’s new glove. We mentioned the necromancer dude, and the fact that some of us had accepted gold from him.

The bishop told us that Sir Leonard was probably at the Mayor’s house, and mentioned that the paladin was in the graveyard and might have salve.

Scene 4 – the Graveyard

Teifling paladin was in the graveyard. Had salve. Told Mist’hanar that his glove gave rest (comfort?) to the dead, or some such. The player was a bit nonplussed by this, but it occurs to me that if this campaign involves undead, then punching them wearing a glove that “gives rest to the dead” could be a good move. Also, Mist’hanar is old enough that there plenty of dead in his history and maybe a few of them could do with a little rest.


Scene 5 – the Mayoral Estate

Mayor was drunk, very appreciative. Rewards all around. Clearly isn’t in the loop about his “daughter”‘s parentage yet, and maybe it’s for the best. He mentioned that not getting the Griffinshart estate tax was a bit of a blow. In an effort to distract the town away form the fact that we are flush with funds, we told him about all the gold on the Salty Maiden at the bottom of the bay, and that he ought to impose a salvage tax.

He seemed to like the idea.

Oh, and Sir Leonard was probably at the fort.

Scene 6 – the Fort

“Lieutenant Mallard? Is that lieutenant Mallard out there? Get in here, NOW!”

Commander was not happy. Mallard got a dressing down for destroying three ships. “You’re a loose cannon, Mallard; but by God, you get results!” General hilarity. So we have established a semi-conflicted relationship between James and the fort Commander, which basically is a good thing. We can’t just grab a squad of guards simply for the asking.

Outside, a group of guards confronted Isabel about a certain incident involving threats earlier that morning. James tried to smooth things over, which probably isn’t meta-gamingly correct. Drama is about conflict! He did get to pull rank on a corporal pointing a crossbow in an incorrect direction.

Oh, and Sir Leonard was back at his estate

Scene 7 – Pirate Pete

During the battle last week, a stray ballista bolt managed to detonate the explosives on which the Griffinshart estate was built, leaving a large crater and not much else. Old Pirate Pete was in town, his leg blown off, begging for spare change.

We decided that he totally needed a wooden leg to complement his hookhand. The dudes found a very nice table leg in the shop, but were like “how are we going to make a peg leg out of this?” I was like, “it’s ok, I got this”.

Outside, James – who has High Arcana and Cantip Mastery talents (like a bawss) – performed the Mending cantrip as a ritual. It’s a 13th Age thing – you spend a few minutes to get a more serious or complex magical effect if you can justify it. It’s a bit hand-wavey, but that’s what the system is like.

Our DM ran with it. Was it because Old Pirate Pete has decided to become a druid? Was it because Chancer’s Hope is on the border of the wild woods? The wood moulded itself to Pete’s stump (flitting nature sprites, special effects), and Pete said that he could actually feel sensation in the wood. James mentioned to Lashley, like “Man, I was not expecting that.”

And back to the Griffinsheart estate. Or rather – crater.

Scene 8 – Griffinsheart estate

And cutscene. Nothing left but a crater, and Sir Leonard holding an iconograph that had miraculously survived the blast – himself and his old adventuring party. “We were so young!” We learned a little history, how each of his old companions had died or departed over the years, and then he rose and tossed the photo into the crater with all the rest of his memories.

Time to start fresh.

Our DM has decided that we will use the gradual levelling-up rules. Instead of all the stuff that you get at level 2 coming on at once, we will get the advances gradually. Finally, when we have all of those new features etc then we will be level 2. We are starting with something simple: we go from +1 to all attacks to +2.

Then we rolled 13th age Icon dice. In 13th age, everyone has three icon relationship points. Think pathfinder “factions”, although icons tend to be individual persons. You can have all three points relating to a single icon, or split them around, and it should relate to your character’s background/story. At stages in the game, you roll one die for each point, and a 5 or 6 means indicates that there should be some significant involvement of that icon in the upcoming story. Ad-lib theatresports gamers might just wing it, but our DM prefers to have us roll at the end of game and prepare something for next game.

So we rolled.

Oh. My. God.

Handfulls of fives and sixes. A lot of them for “The Dwarf King”, from two or three different players, and a few for the priestess as well as some others. “OMG!”, I asked, “What the hell was in that ship??” Artifacts? Then another thought occurred – “Alternatively: what the hell was under the Griffinshart Estate that the explosion has uncovered?”

There was a chorus of reply: “Dwarf ruins!”, and I think some high-fives.

Ok, so players shouldn’t be dictating the course of the campaign. And also: “spoilers”. Maybe we have uncovered a weakness of the 13th age Icon roll system: players have an idea what is coming up. But, it does help drive the game forward. Everyone loves a dungeon crawl.

If, indeed, that is what is coming up. Who knows? Well – obviously our DM knows. Or will do, once his exams are done with.

The point is: next week is DM’s week off and board games, and then it’s Griffinshart’s merry band of heroes (I was wrong about the ‘jolly’, it’s ‘merry’) dealing with whatever it may be.