SIck, sick, sick

13 August, 2015

Sooo sick. It’s been like a series of four or five different diseases, each with different symptoms. At the moment, a cough – throat raw and painful, and that tickle that precedes a coughing bout, and worst of all, for some reason the particular spot where I am feeling the itch to cough isn’t scratched by the coughing. Everything else is beat to shit, flaps of tender, irritated pharyngeal flesh flayed freshly raw with each bout of helpless hacking, but that one spot somewhere in my throat, that one complaining nerve untouched.

Tonsils hurt. Hurt, hurt, hurt. For a week now. I imagine them half full of blood and pus, ready to burst. I dread swallowing. Hot coffee seems to soothe them, but never for long. Yeah, I’ve gargled with salt water. Yeah, I’ve taken zinc. Went to the chemist – just about every painkiller is ibuprofen based, which is exactly what I don’t want, the tissue in my throat more relaxed to flap around painfully when I cough. I found some paracetamol and some asprin. Asprin – the first wonder drug. Sadly underrated, but I’m a fan. When I was a child, I knew a woman who was addicted, “taking a powder” a few times a day. Way to get bleeding stomach ulcers.

Nights are the worst, of course. Cold, cold, cold. It’s snowing at the ANU, and I live in a shitty uninsulated flat. So cheap! No shit it’s cheap. Can’t sleep. The air is icy razors, and when I relax to sleep, it’s cough time. I’m pulling the sheet over my head to rebreathe warm, humidified air. I’m wearing layers of clothing. I’m running a ceramic blow heater, freshly bought. I have had an oil column heater for ages. It does nothing. Cold runs down the walls, it cascades in a torrent from the window, an invisible, icy cataract. I have fitted a layer of plastic inside the window, making my place look like a drug den, to try to hold back the cold. It does nothing.

Mum died around this time of year.

I suppose a lot of people living alone must do. I lie in bed, waiting for the next coughing fit, my feet still cold in socks under the blankets and wonder if I am going to die like a homeless person, sick and killed by exposure while laying in my own bed in a flat that I rent. If not this year, maybe next year. I’ll be fifty, you know.

It’s been shit, guys.

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On the Crimean (repost)

8 August, 2015

This is reposted from here: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/paul-murray/54826/on-the-current-kerfuffle-in-the-crimea . Smirkingchimp is always threatening to run out of money, so in case it goes dark here is this piece on my blog. It’s not currently in the news, but the topic is perennial.


I think I might weigh in on the topic of the recent kerfuffle in the Crimean peninsula.

But before I do, I am going to talk about Panama.

CAVEAT: I am not a defence person, I know nothing about these topics other than general knowledge and access to Google maps.

The USA is and always has been a naval power. It’s simple. To the west, over the Pacific Ocean, is Asia and civilisation. To the east, over the Atlantic Ocean, is Europe and civilisation. While europeans can fight with each other using land armies, the only way the USA can make war is over the ocean. The USA, in fact, has an entire corps of armed servicemen alongside the navy, army, and air force whose entire reason for being is “soldiers who go to places on ships”.

The USA has two coastal frontages – east and west. There are four ways to get a navy from one side of the USA to the other.

First, put the ships on rollers and haul them down the interstate. Good luck with that.

Second, and just as impractical, sail them through north around Canada through the arctic sea, which only recently has not been icebound in summer.
Third, sail them around the tip of south america – a quarter of the circumference of the world away – and through the Southern Ocean.

Fourthly, the ditch. The Panama Canal.

The military importance of the ditch to the USA cannot be overstated. I mean literally – try overstating it, try coming up with a form of words that is maybe a bit much. Can’t do it, right? The permits the USA to threaten both China and also Europe/Africa/The middle east with the full force of its naval power. The USA can field all of its carriers, all of its subs, all of its marines against the enemy du jour in either hemisphere in a matter of days. Without the ditch, the USA would have to run two navies, or only be able to field half a navy to each.

The USA will never, never, never cede control over the ditch to anyone. Ever. Oh, it may be technically in the hands of a foreign power, Panama may be a whole ‘nother country to the USA, but you know and I know and everyone in the world knows that that’s bullshit. It’s a US asset. And the USA would, if it had to, fight WWIII over it.

I am not exaggerating.

What do you think the Cuban Missile Crisis was really about? Nukes striking the American mainland? Pfft. A nuke will take out several square miles of a city – but there’s plenty of those. It will kill a bunch of people – there’s millions more. It will destroy an ammo dump (Dr Strangelove reference there) or a military base. So what? Miami is simply not a military target. Military targets (missile silos, airfields, command centers) are dispersed all over the US exactly in order to make the US military capability more nuke-proof.

But nuking the ditch would be a serious and unacceptable game-changer. It would not only maim the Navy, it would throw the armed forces into chaos for days. No freaking way will the USA permit it, or even the possibility that it might be done. Kennedy would have pressed the button over it.

At this point, dial up google maps, zoom out, and have a look at Russia.

Actually – this is really the main point that this post is trying to make. None of this makes sense unless you look at a freaking map and get an idea of where everything is. It’s all about geography. Look at a goddamn mapnot opinion pieces about gay rights, not comparisons of Putin to Hitler, not blatherings about ethnic russians – you need to look at the damn map. That’s what it’s all about. People are talking about the Crimean business like it’s a battle of words and ideas, probably because that’s what they mainly know about. The Crimean Kerfuffle is not about words and ideas. It’s about ships and troops.

Russia has three naval frontages. In the east, access to the Pacific. In the north and west, access to the Arctic Ocean. Good luck sailing out of that in winter – although I suppose its ok for submarines (and this is why subs are important to Russia).

The third naval frontage is access to the Black Sea. The Black Sea is connected to the Agean Sea and the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus, and from there to the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Suez canal to the south east.

As you can see because you are looking at the map, Russia has a fair bit of the coast of the Black Sea on the east. But you can see that it’s all mountains – the Caucasus I think. Useless. The land is inhabited by wild, hairy tribes of barbarous inbred wogs, many of whom don’t much like Russians (with, admittedly, excellent reason). You can’t build a road there, and if you could you couldn’t march troops down it to the transports.

However:

At the north of the Black Sea is a booger of land about a hundred miles across. This is the Crimean Peninsula. And at the southern tip of it, on the west coast, a little place called Seavastopol. This place was put there by the Tsars to serve as Russia’s port and access to the Mediterranean. The Crimean Peninsula is Russia’s Panama, and that port is Russia’s panama canal. Thanks to some stuff that went down late last century, that booger of land is technically part of a whole ‘nother country called “The Ukraine”. But you know and I know and everyone in the world who pays attention knows that that’s bullshit. It is a Russian asset.

The kerfuffle in the Crimea has go nothing to do with gays, or ethnic russians (although obviously the Crimea is as full of them as Panama is full of americans), or even Putin. It is 100% about The Great Game. There is no way in hell that Russia will lose control of that port. No freaking way. They will fight WWIII over it, if they have to. They would rather not, but like Kennedy and Panama, Putin will press the button rather than lose that asset.

And that’s what this is about.

Perhaps the main question remaining is: why is this blowing up now? That is a whole new topic, and the answer is probably (as in: you know and I know and everybody else in the world knows) that the Pentagon and the security state of the USA are fomenting trouble there in response to the budget squeeze at home. It’s a fund-raiser.

And a lunatic dangerous one. Russia will not, will not, will not lose control of Svestapol without a fight, and they will escalate as far as it takes, whatever it takes. They are not bluffing. They still have nukes. If they have to, they will march the Red Army south right through the middle of the Ukraine, and to hell with anyone who gets in the way. If Kiev doesn’t like it, fuck them. If anyone wants to help out Kiev, fuck them too.

And it’s all down to the pentagon having a hissy-fit over their trillion-dollar budget taking a haircut, the military establishment wanting to remind the world that warmaking is still relevant.


Just a simple soldier

5 August, 2015

I have missed so many weeks blogging, I am not even going to attempt to do a catch-up post.

Ok – briefly:

  • we stumbled into the woods looking for Edmund the Marked.
  • Found orcs and trolls. Wound up in a three-way fight. Beat eveyone up.
  • Elves came out, looking for Tarry. Some centaur important druid person want him.
  • Got taken to some other part of the world. A woodhenge.
  • Centaur is dead. Everyone is dead. Smells like orcs.
  • Tracks led thataway. We followed.
  • Came to a ship in the river. Hold full of dead orcs.
  • While investigating, we were attacked by an adventuring team of some sort.
  • The sorcerer got away. One left alive – the boss. We questioned him.

We questioned our prisoner, who appeared to be the leader of the gang. I Charmed him, but he told me little but that they had been hired by a man in a white hat. Some of us suspected Captain Colonel, but I doubt that he could or would have anything do do with either murdering an envoy of the high druid or sending men to hunt us down several days south into the woods.

We did not learn anything from him about the orcs in the hold of the ship, or the ship itself. He offered to tell us more for an extravagant sum of gold, but we decided that he was almost certainly lying, and tossed him bound into the hold of the ship.

We elected to pursue the remaining member of the gang. Misthanar returned to the ship to speak to him again, buy he had already slipped his bonds and escaped.

Andy’s way of telling Jez “Dude, that whole scene of the play is over. Move on.”. It’s like herding cats, honestly, without an actual cat-herder.

The sorcerer’s tracks led to a cave opening. Shieldglider and Toasten, naturally, took the lead and led us underground.

… meanwhile …

Our NPC “Derrick the Cleric” is now being played by the new guy. Andrew got him up to speed with how to play, a process much, much easier in 13th Age than in Pathfinder. Derrick had lost our horses, was wandering about. He found a cave.

Derrick’s backstory is that he has been bumbling around on the fringes of the group, holding the horses, being a bit of a pest. He tried being a cleric, then he tried being a rogue. Andrew had the new guy play him – he kept away from the mooks, fired his bow. So the ruling is “ok, Derrek seems to be using his bow, so we’ll make him a ranger”, which is just a great way to make that kind of decision with a new player that hasn’t got definite ideas on what he wants to play. And we don’t have a ranged combatant, really, so is all good. Other thing is that Derrek rolled a couple of 1s and shot Misthanar, to cries around the table of “Fucking Derrek! God, he’s useless!” It was a fun moment. Role-playing games are not about winning, they are about having a good time.


Goblin attack, underground cave, Wild Woods 4 days SSE of Chancer’s hope

  1. Terrain, etc
    1. Our group entered a cave on the trail of a mage (probably sorcerer) who was part of the group that attacked us at the orc ship.
    2. Below was a large chamber with a throne of some sort built into the stone.
    3. The chamber had two exits – a door and a passageway.
    4. The passageway was intersected by a narrow (10′-15′) chasm of unknown depth.
    5. Unknown to us at the time, Derrek had also found this same cave by another entrance.
      What are the odds, eh?
    6. A number (approx 12-20) of goblins emerged fro the chasm and attacked.
    7. One of their number appeared to be a shaman or other spellcaster, who remained behind the line and the chasm.
  2. Course of battle

    1. Shieldglider advanced to block the passageway.
    2. Misthanar advanced further into the cave and beyond line of sight, to assist Derrek whom he had heard.
    3. I ordered Tarry to spike the door so that we would not be flanked. Tarry dissappeared into shadow.
    4. Tarry did not spike the door, but advanced to attack the spellcaster.
    5. I moved forward to Shieldglider’s position to fully block the passage.
    6. With a line at the front and spellcasters to the rear, we killed about 5 to 10 goblins within a few seconds.
    7. The spellcaster then summoned a rust monster from the chasm.
    8. Our casters concentrated fire on the rust monster.
    9. Shieldglider concentrated on the goblins.
    10. Misthanar at this time was surrounded by goblins and fell to them and to friendly fire from Derrek.
    11. As the numbers of the goblins had been thinned, Lashley moved forward through them and was able to revive Misthanar.
    12. I moved forward to get a better view of the situation.
    13. I judged that our casters (Elsbeth, particularly) had the rust monster in hand, and so I deployed a Color Spray against the goblins surrounding Misthanar and Derrek.
    14. The rust monster was killed, and we moved forward to mop up the remaining goblins. Shieldglider’s armour is beyond repair.
    15. The caster, whom we had not dealt with, commenced to summon more Rust monsters.
    16. At which point, Edmund of the Council of Four intervened and magically dealt with the remaining foe.
  3. Notes, evaluation
    1. Tarry’s action was reasonable. I am not in command of this group, and dealing with the caster was a reasonable thing to do. It transpired that that door was blocked on the other side, and so spiking it would have accomplished nothing.
      That’s in-character, of course. In character, James is the only one who’s an actual soldier and officer, apart from maybe Sheildglider, so the tries to throw orders around. Sometimes, people listen (especially when the order is “Try Again!” 🙂 ). He might occasionally pout a little, but this is the situation he’s been thrown into and he’ll do the best he can. Its a heroic campaign, so he is not butthurt and negative about not being the boss.
    2. I have mentioned before that Misthanar will get himself killed if he continues to separate himself from the group. That nearly happened this time.
      A glass cannon cannot run around the corner where no-one can see him into a mob of bad guys, even if the are mooks. Mind you – the reason for it was that Derrek was right in the middle of it all.
    3. We needed to have dealt with the goblin spellcaster more promptly. None of us but Lashley and Elsbeth are able to engage a foe at range. Derrek will be a valuable asset if he can be trained to shoot straight.
      As I mentioned – he rolled a couple of 1s. It happens.

Edmund led us to a clearing with a “house” at which lived a blind gypsy woman. She read the cards for us – it is always unwise to completely trust or completely discount such things. The trick is knowing what to trust and what to discount, but if you had such a trick then – why – you yourself would have to be able to see the future.

Edmund sent me into the house to fetch his cloak. Quite a lovely thing – very fine, an amazing blue. It wrapped itself around my arm and across my shoulders when I picked it up. Edmund seemed to find this amusing. “So!”, he said, “The Archmage will be most displeased!”

I have no idea why. It seems that there is no escape from Horizon politics, although what I am embroiled in, I cannot say. The cloak is clearly magical, but what its magics might be, I can only guess. One does not prefer to be a target of the Archmage’s displeasure, obviously, but it’s many leagues between here and Horizon.

Unknown to James, he has a two-die “conflicted” relationship with The Archmage.

In 13th Age, magic items are meant to be special and unique, and Andy has been handing out a signature item to each character. At present, they have no special powers. So far as we know.

I’m pleased with mine, I think it’s awesome, and I made this eye-bleeding background to celebrate. W00T!


So, did we win?

5 August, 2015

End of game!

We played the finale. Big, complicated fight with some cool stuff tying it back to previous adventures: some of the mooks exploded into candy (from the haloween plane).

And Brus got to kill Limen, just like he told Dimfuzz he would. “I am going to kill him with this”, he said, “unless I find something bigger”. In the end – he did find something bigger: Shub-Liminel with an Enlarge Person spell. Limen had an Anti-life Shell up, but with a reach of 15′ Brus was able to get him.

Did we win? The ending was just a shade ambiguous. Perhaps the whole thing – Coin included – was all just a big game put up by Limen himself. But, our characters ended the adventure levelled up and with bags of loot. All’s well that ends well.

Thoughts?

Well – inquisitor is ok as a class. The specific picks I made to get travel domain made it quite a bit better. There was some rules adjudication needed for some of the teamwork feats, and the Surmount Affliction spell is useless without the rule that it’s the one spell that you can drop even when you are under the effect of one of the conditions it addresses.

It’s a bit monk-y: fighter with kick-butt will saves, so can deal with things that a fighter can’t. But really: can’t heal like a cleric, can’t fight like a fighter, can’t cast like a bard, and the sucky reflex save is crippling. The class would come into its own in urban adventures, I think.

Brus was a hell of a lot of fun as a character, but the class was complicated to play and not good enough at the things that it did do. The main reason Brus was as good as he was was that the DM gave him a weapon with book value completely off the scale.

As always, Brus will be shredded. I levelled him up to 15, just to see how the story ends – spells Ghostbane Dirge, Mass, and Instrument of Agony. Like Fallback Strategy, it sits there waiting to be used for 1 minute a level. Will save, but a free action in combat and the effect (nauseated) is very, very worthwhile. For his feat, I drew on his human heritage and took Defiant Luck.

And with the money from Limen, Shub-Liminel will be upgraded to being Cruel as well as Vicious, because it just has to be done 🙂 .

Bye Brus! It was awesome. For the record, here’s how he looks at level 15:

Brus Reckoner #15
Male half-orc fighter 1/inquisitor of Yog-Sothoth 14 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide 38)
N Medium humanoid (human, orc)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., scent; Perception +12


Defense


AC 26, touch 13, flat-footed 26 (+9 armor, +2 deflection, +1 insight, +2 natural, +2 shield)
hp 154 (15 HD; 14d8+1d10+32)
Fort +13, Ref +4, Will +12; -4 penalty vs. odor-related effects
Defensive Abilities stalwart


Offense


Speed 40 ft. (30 ft. in armor)
Melee shub liminel +16/+11/+6 (1d8+20/×4 plus 2d6) or
   bite +10 (1d4+6)
Ranged composite shortbow +11/+6/+1 (1d6/×3)
Special Attacks exploit weakness, greater bane (19 rounds/day), judgment 5/day (2 simultaneous)
Domain Spell-Like Abilities (CL 14th; concentration +17)
   At will—dimensional hop (140 feet/day)
Inquisitor Spell-Like Abilities (CL 14th; concentration +17)
   At will—detect alignment, discern lies (14 rounds/day)
Inquisitor Spells Known (CL 14th; concentration +17)
   5th (2/day)—divine pursuitUM, mass ghostbane dirgeAPG (DC 18), unwilling shieldAPG (DC 18)
   4th (4/day)—find quarryUC, judgment lightUC, leashed shacklesUM (DC 17), stoneskin
   3rd (5/day)—coordinated effortAPG, cure serious wounds, deadly juggernautUC, dimensional anchor, festerAPG (DC 16)
   2nd (6/day)—blistering invectiveUC (DC 15), bloodhoundAPG, instrument of agonyUC, remove paralysis, see invisibility, surmount afflictionUM
   1st (6/day)—deadeye’s loreUC, divine favor, expeditious retreat, fallback strategy, lend judgmentUM (DC 14), wrathAPG
   0 (at will)—brandAPG (DC 13), create water, detect magic, guidance, read magic, resistance, virtue
   Domain Travel


Statistics


Str 25, Dex 11, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 16, Cha 7
Base Atk +11; CMB +15; CMD 31
Feats Brutal Grappler, Cornugon Smash, Defiant LuckARG, Divine InterferenceUM, Escape RouteUC, Intimidating Prowess, Judgment SurgeUM, OutflankAPG, Power Attack, Quicken Spell-Like Ability (dimensional hop), Shake It OffUC, Shared JudgmentUC, Swap PlacesAPG
Traits armor expert, brute (orc)
Skills Climb +10, Handle Animal +2, Heal +10, Intimidate +36, Knowledge (arcana) +3, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +3, Knowledge (local) +3, Knowledge (nature) +3, Knowledge (planes) +3, Knowledge (religion) +3, Linguistics +3, Perception +12 (+20 vs. smells), Ride +2, Sense Motive +25, Spellcraft +3, Stealth +3, Survival +25 (+29 to track using scent, You do not have to move at half your speed while tracking.), Swim +9; Racial Modifiers +2 Intimidate, +4 to survival when tracking by scent
Languages Abyssal, Common, Custom Language, Infernal, Orc, Undercommon
SQ agile feet (6/day), monster lore +7, orc blood, solo tactics, stern gaze +7, track +7
Combat Gear potion of cure serious wounds (2), potion of shield of faith +2 (2), snapleaf, wand of cure light wounds; Other Gear +3 breastplate, shub liminel, arrows (20), composite shortbow, dusty rose prism ioun stone, amulet of natural armor +2, bane baldric, belt of giant strength +4, ring of force shield, ring of protection +2, backpack, bedroll, belt pouch, flint and steel, hemp rope (100 ft.), iron spike (2), iron unholy symbol, piton (2), torch (10), waterskin, material components for stoneskin * 3 (worth 250 gp), 137 gp, 7 sp, 4 cp


Special Abilities


+4 to Survival when tracking by Scent +4 to Survival when tracking by Scent.
Agile Feet (6/day) (Su) For 1 rd, you ignore difficult terrain.
Armor Expert -1 Armor check penalty.
Brutal Grappler When you and an ally with this feat have grappled the same creature, you may attempt to damage the opponent on your turn (whether you were the one who first initiated the grapple or were assisting your ally in doing so).
Brute (Orc) Whenever you score a critical threat, you add (but not multiply, in the case of a confirmed critical hit) an amount of damage equal to your weapon’s critical modifier.
Cornugon Smash When you damage an opponent with a Power Attack, you may make an immediate Intimidate check as a free action to attempt to demoralize your opponent.
Darkvision (60 feet) You can see in the dark (black and white vision only).
Defiant Luck (1/day) Reroll a natural 1 on a save, or force a reroll of a critical hit confirmation roll.
Detect Alignment (At will) (Sp) Detect chaos, evil, good, or law at will.
Dimensional Hop (28 5-ft inc/day) (Sp) As a move action, teleport with no AoO to seen destination. Spend an equal distance to carry others.
Discern Lies (14 rounds/day) (Sp) Discern Lies at will
Divine Interference Sacrifice a spell to force an enemy to reroll a successful attack against your ally
Escape Route You do not provoke attacks of opportunity when moving through spaces adjacent to allies
Exploit Weakness (Ex) With a crit, ignore DR, suppress Regen, and take advantage of vulnerability.
Greater Bane (+2 / 4d6, 19 rounds/day) (Su) Make the weapon you are holding a bane weapon.
Inquisitor Domain (Travel) Granted Powers: You are an explorer and find enlightenment in the simple joy of travel, be it by foot or conveyance or magic. Increase your base speed by 10 feet.
Judgment Surge (1/day) Gain improved versions of your judgments
Monster Lore +7 (Ex) +7 to Knowledge checks when identifying the weaknessess of creatures.
Orc Blood Half-orcs count as both humans and orcs for any effect related to race.
Outflank Increase flank bonus by +2 if flanking ally has same feat. If you crit, ally gets an AoO.
Power Attack -3/+6 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Quicken Spell-Like Ability (Dimensional Hop [28 5-ft inc/day] [Sp], 3/day) Spell-like ability is cast as a swift action up to 3/day.
Ring of force shield An iron band, this simple ring generates a shield-sized (and shield-shaped) wall of force that stays with the ring and can be wielded by the wearer as if it were a heavy shield (+2 AC). This special creation has no armor check penalty or arcane spell failure chance since it is weightless and encumbrance-free. It can be activated and deactivated at will as a free action.
Note: In order to get the AC bonus from this, it must be equipped and then activated on the in-play tab.
Construction
Requirements: Forge Ring, wall of force; Cost 4,250 gp
Scent (Ex) Detect opponents within 15+ feet by sense of smell.
Second Judgment (5/day) (Su) Variable bonuses increase as the combat continues.
Shake It Off Gain +1 to all saving throws per adjacent ally
Shared Judgment Extend a judgment to an adjacent ally instead of enacting a second judgment.
Solo Tactics (Ex) Count Teamwork feats as if your allies had the same ones.
Stalwart (Ex) If you succeed at a Fort or Will save for reduced effect, you take none instead.
Swap Places You can trade places with an ally with this feat during your movement.
Track +7 Add the listed bonus to survival checks made to track.

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