Monday, December 14, 2009

How Homeopathic Medicines Work: Nanopharmacology At Its Best

The following article was posted by the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/how-homeopathic-medicines_b_389146.html) on December 12, 2009.

Comments to follow when I have the time and composure.

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It is commonly assumed that homeopathic medicines are composed of extremely small doses of medicinal substances. And yet, does anyone refer to an atomic bomb as an extremely small dose of a bomb? In actual fact, there is a power, a very real power, in having atoms smash against each other.

Homeopathic medicines are made through a specific pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking. However, when skeptics say that there is nothing but water in homeopathic medicine, they are proving their ignorance, despite the incredible arrogance in which they make these assertions. Dr. Martin Chaplin, a respected British professor who is one of the world's experts on water, has verified that "homeopathic water" and "regular water" are not the same, and his review of almost 2,000 references to the scientific literature on water (!) confirm this fact (Chaplin, 2009).

It should be noted that a large number of homeopathic medicines sold in health food stores and pharmacies are made in doses with known physiological doses. In fact, there are several thousand (!) studies in conventional scientific journals showing a wide variety of biological effects from extremely small doses of various substances on specific systems.

Homeopathic medicines can and should be considered to be a type of "nanopharmacology" (Ullman, 2006). Although the word "nano" also means one-billionth of a size, that is not its only definition. In fact, "nano" derives from the word "dwarf," and "nano" is the only word in the English language that is used on common parlance as denoting extremely small AND yet extremely powerful. Homeopathic medicines are both extremely small in dose and yet extremely powerful in their therapeutic effect.

For 200 years now, millions of physicians and hundreds of millions of homeopathic patients have observed and experienced the power and effectiveness of homeopathic medicines


The Power of Nano-doses

Precisely how homeopathic medicines work remains a mystery, and yet, nature is replete with mysteries and with numerous striking examples of the power of extremely small doses.

For instance, it is commonly known that a certain species of moth can smell pheromones of its own species up to two miles away. It is no simple coincidence that species only sense pheromones from those in the same species who emit them (akin to the homeopathic principle of similars), as though they have developed exquisite and specific receptor sites for what they need to propagate their species. Likewise, sharks are known to sense blood in the water at distances, and when one considers the volume of water in the ocean, it becomes obvious that sharks, like all living creatures, develop extreme hypersensitivity for whatever will help ensure their survival.

That living organisms have some truly remarkable sensitivities is no controversy. The challenging question that remains is: How does the medicine become imprinted into the water and how does the homeopathic process of dilution with succussion increase the medicine's power? Although we do not know precisely the answer to this question, some new research may help point the way.

The newest and most intriguing way to explain how homeopathic medicines may work derives from some sophisticated modern technology. Scientists at several universities and hospitals in France and Belgium have discovered that the vigorous shaking of the water in glass bottles causes extremely small amounts of silica fragments or chips to fall into the water (Demangeat, et al., 2004). Perhaps these silica chips may help to store the information in the water, with each medicine that is initially placed in the water creating its own pharmacological effect. In any case, each medicinal substance will interact with the silica fragments in its own idiosyncratic way, thereby changing the nature and structure of water accordingly.

Further, the micro-bubbles and the nano-bubbles that are caused by the shaking may burst and thereby produce microenvironments of higher temperature and pressure. Several studies by chemists and physicists have revealed increased release of heat from water in which homeopathic medicines are prepared, even when the repeated process of dilutions should suggest that there are no molecules remaining of the original medicinal substance (Elia and Niccoli, 1999; Elia, et al., 2004; Rey, 2003).

Also, a group of highly respected scientists have confirmed that the vigorous shaking involved with making homeopathic medicines changes the pressure in the water, akin to water being at 10,000 feet in altitude (Roy, et al., 2005). These scientists have shown how the homeopathic process of using double-distilled water and then diluting and shaking the medicine in a sequential fashion changes the structure of water.

One metaphor that may help us understand how and why extremely small doses of medicinal agents may work derives from present knowledge of modern submarine radio communications. Normal radio waves simply do not penetrate water, so submarines must use an extremely low-frequency radio wave. The radio waves used by submarines to penetrate water are so low that a single wavelength is typically several miles long!

If one considers that the human body is 70-80 percent water, perhaps the best way to provide pharmacological information to the body and into intercellular fluids is with nanodoses. Like the extremely low-frequency radio waves, it may be necessary to use extremely low (and activated) doses for a person to receive the medicinal effect.

It is important to understand that nanopharmacological doses will not have any effect unless the person is hypersensitive to the specific medicinal substance. Hypersensitivity is created when there is some type of resonance between the medicine and the person. Because the system of homeopathy bases its selection of the medicine on its ability to cause in overdose the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing, homeopathy's principle of similars is simply a practical method of finding the substance to which a person is hypersensitive.

The homeopathic principle of similars makes further sense when one considers that modern physiologists and pathologists recognize that disease is not simply the result of breakdown or surrender of the body but that symptoms are instead representative of the body's efforts to fight infection or adapt to stress.

Using a nanodose that is able to penetrate deeply into the body and that is specifically chosen for its ability to mimic the symptoms helps to initiate a profound healing process. It is also important to highlight the fact that a homeopathic medicine is not simply chosen for its ability to cause a similar disease but for its ability to cause a similar syndrome of symptoms of disease, of which the specific localized disease is a part. By understanding that the human body is a complex organism that creates a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms, homeopaths acknowledge biological complexity and have a system of treatment to address it effectively.

Although no one knows precisely how homeopathic medicines initiate the healing process, we have more than 200 years of evidence from hundreds of thousands of clinicians and tens of millions of patients that these medicines have powerful effects. One cannot help but anticipate the veritable treasure trove of knowledge that further research in homeopathy and nanopharmacology will bring.


Nobel Prize-winning Scientist on Homeopathy...

Brian Josephson, Ph.D., (1940-) is a British physicist who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for work he completed when he was only 22 years old. He is currently a professor at the University of Cambridge where he is the head of the mind-matter unification project in the Theory of Condensed Matter research group.

Responding to an article in the New Scientist (October 18, 1997) that expressed skepticism about homeopathy, Josephson wrote:

Regarding your comments on claims made for homeopathy: criticisms centered around the vanishingly small number of solute molecules present in a solution after it has been repeatedly diluted are beside the point, since advocates of homeopathic remedies attribute their effects not to molecules present in the water, but to modifications of the water's structure.

Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.

A related topic is the phenomenon, claimed by Jacques Benveniste's colleague Yolène Thomas and by others to be well established experimentally, known as "memory of water". If valid, this would be of greater significance than homeopathy itself, and it attests to the limited vision of the modern scientific community that, far from hastening to test such claims, the only response has been to dismiss them out of hand. (Josephson, 1997)

Later, when Josephson was interviewed by the New Scientist (December 9, 2006), he chose to emphasize that many scientists today suffer from "pathological disbelief"; that is, they maintain an unscientific attitude that is embodied by the statement "even if it were true I wouldn't believe it." Sadly, such scientists are simply showing evidence of an unscientific attitude.

Quantum Medicine

Quantum physics does not disprove Newtonian physics; quantum physics simply extends our understanding of extremely small and extremely large systems. Likewise, homeopathy does not disprove conventional pharmacology; instead, it extends our understanding of extremely small doses of medicinal agents. It is time that physicians and scientists began incorporating both Newtonian and quantum physics into a better understanding of what healing is and how to best augment it.

The founder of homeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, MD, rewrote and updated his seminal work on the subject five times in his lifetime, each time refining his observations. Homeopaths continue to refine this system of nanopharmacology. While there is not always agreement on the best ways to select the correct remedy or the best nanopharmacological dose to use, the system of homeopathic medicine provides a solid foundation from which clinicians and researchers exploring nanopharmacologies can and should explore.


Dana Ullman, MPH, is America's leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of www.homeopathic.com. He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California.

References:

Chaplin, Martin. 2009 (updated regularly) http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/index2.html

Demangeat, J.-L., Gries, P., Poitevin, B., Droesbeke J.-J., Zahaf, T., Maton, F., Pierart, C., and Muller, R. N. Low-Field NMR Water Proton Longitudinal Relaxation in Ultrahighly Diluted Aqueous Solutions of Silica-Lactose Prepared in Glass Material for Pharmaceutical Use, Applied Magnetic Resonance, 2004, 26:465-481.

Elia, V. and Niccoli, M. Thermodynamics of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1999, 879:241-248.

Elia, V., Baiano, S., Duro, I., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M., and Nonatelli, L. Permanent Physio-chemical Properties of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions of Homeopathic Medicines, Homeopathy, 2004, 93:144-150.

Josephson, B. D., Letter, New Scientist, November 1, 1997.

Rey, L. Thermoluminescence of Ultra-High Dilutions of Lithium Chloride and Sodium Chloride. Physica A, 2003, 323:67-74.

Roy, R., Tiller, W. A., Bell, I., and Hoover, M. R. The Structure of Liquid Water: Novel Insights from Materials Research; Potential Relevance to Homeopathy, Materials Research Innovations, December 2005, 9(4):577-608..

Ullman, Dana. "Let's have a serious discussion of nanopharmacology and homeopathy". FASEB. 2006;20:2661.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Penny Arcade Piñata Quote

In reference to a glitch in Modern Warfare 2 (fixed a single typo):

"The Javelin Glitch (a resolution for which is underway) is truly the ultimate in bullshit, and given the kind of crap they accept in the game proper it's got to be pretty bad if they're trying to patch it out. It is a mechanism by which a person can explode when you shoot them - not simply with a grenade, as the Martyrdom Deathstreak allows, but directing concussive force outward with the broad profile of an aerial bombardment. Imagine a piñata that includes not candy, but damnation. That's the Glitch in a nutshell."

Making "Bad" Generic Drugs

Generic drugs are required to show bioequivalence with the brand name drug before being approved by the FDA. Peak serum concentration (Cmax) and area under the curve (AUC; total drug absorbed) must fall within 80%-125% of the brand name drug's values.

From Vol. 44 (W1141C) of The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics,

"With some older drugs, such as phenytoin (Dilantin, and others), the generic manufacturers’ main challenge was to make a generic that was absorbed as poorly as the brand-name original."

Because generic drugs must closely match the bioavailability of their brand-name counterparts, a poorly formulated brand-name drug yields similarly poorly formulated generic drugs. This is a bit of a waste but it serves the interests of patient safety. If generic phenytoin were available in formulations that yielded greater bioavailability, prescribers and pharmacists would have to constantly differentiate doses. By standardizing the dose, even at a level of inefficient absorption, medication errors are avoided.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

St. Elmo's Fire

I heard this song a week or so ago but forgot to look up the lyrics. I heard it again today and I like what I hear.

St. Elmo's fire is actually a blue-green glow created by a coronal discharge from a grounded rod in an electrical storm (or other atmospheric electrical area). It was named after St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors, because it was often seen by sailors during storms at sea.

In the context of the song, St. Elmo's fire appears to be an energizing, motivating, and driving force within the narrator as he transitions from a lost, isolated, self-centered youth to a maturity flush with challenges and the unknown.

While listening to the song, I had an idea for the paladins to regard St. Elmo's Fire as an internal force. St. Elmo's Fire describes St. Elmo's supernatural abundance of energy both physical and spiritual in pursuit of good works. He could be the first to work at digging a new well in the early hours of the morning, continue throughout the day without pause (freely chatting, chanting, or singing all the while), and be the last to stop in the dark hours of night.

Anybody can experience "St. Elmo's Fire" for a time in their lives. It is an energizing grace that staves off hunger, pain, and fatigue while the person is engaged in his good works. It acts essentially like an extended adrenaline rush, providing everything necessary to continue. Afterward, St. Elmo's fire takes its toll just like adrenaline, but the "crash" is buoyed by the afterglow of doing the Lord's work.

The paladins can enact a much stronger, focused version of St. Elmo's fire. In times of great need, they can even sacrifice themselves wholly to the flames in order to perform great and necessary acts. I had a vision of a paladin enduring the concentrated grace of St. Elmo's fire until flames literally erupted from his body as he worked (in this case, clearing debris from a cave-in as he worked through the night).

St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)

Growin' up
You don't see the writin' on the wall
Passin' by
Movin' straight ahead you knew it all
But maybe sometime if you feel the pain
You'll find you're all alone
Everything has changed

Play the game
You know you can't quit until it's won
Soldier on
Only you can do what must be done
You know in some way
You're a lot like me
You're just a prisoner
And you're tryin' to break free

CHORUS:

I can see a new horizon
Underneath the blazin' sky
I'll be where the eagle's
Flyin' higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin'
St. Elmo's Fire

Oooh...

Burnin' up
Don't know just how far that I can go
(Just how far I go)
Soon be home
Only just a few miles down the road
I can make it
I know I can
You broke the boy in me
But you won't break the man

(CHORUS)

I can climb the highest mountain
Cross the wildest sea
I can feel St. Elmo's Fire burnin' in me
Burnin' in me

Just once in his life
A man has his time
And my time is now
And I'm comin' alive

I can hear the music playin'
I can see the banners fly
Feel like you're back again
And hope ridin' high
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin'
St. Elmo's Fire

(CHORUS)

I can climb the highest mountain
Cross the wildest sea
I can feel St. Elmo's Fire burnin' in me

Burnin'
Burnin' in me
I can feel it burnin'
Oooh, burnin' inside of me

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dara O'Briain Quotes

I get a little pissed off when people say that crime is going up when the numbers are *definitely* going down. And then if you go "but the numbers are going down" they go "but the *fear* of crime is rising." Well so what? Zombies are at an all time low level but the fear of zombies could be incredibly high. That doesn't mean we need to have government policies to deal with the fear of zombies.


Homeopaths get on my nerves with the old "well, science doesn't know everything." Well, science *knows* that it doesn't know everything otherwise it would stop. Just because science doesn't know everything doesn't mean you can *fill in the gaps* with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.


The great thing about homeopathy is you can't overdose on it.
No, but you can fucking drown.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The First Duty

"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based! If you can't find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don't deserve to wear that uniform! I'm going to make this simple for you, Mr. Crusher! Either you come forward and tell Admiral Brand what really took place, or I will!"

- Jean-Luc Picard, to Cadet Wesley Crusher

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Maho Shojou - Flotsam and Jetsam

I do not think I have ever posted about my magical girl on this blog.

Flotsam and Jetsam are the two eel minions of Ursula, the Sea Witch, in The Little Mermaid. After King Triton discovers Ariel's secret trove of human artifacts, and hears her confess her love for a human, he blows a gasket and destroys everything. As Ariel weeps amidst the ruins, Flotsam and Jetsam swim in and tempt her on behalf of Ursula. Despite knowing that Ursula is bad news, Ariel decides to go with them.

I can see Scrolltearer having twin minions like Flotsam and Jetsam. The defining characteristic of the eels is their heterochromia iridis (different color eyes). Each has one white and one yellow eye, on opposite sides (mirror images). Ursula, earlier in the movie, showed the ability to look through their eyes (one from each eel, which then glowed yellow; though it is difficult to determine if it was the yellow eyes or the white eyes that she used). Scrolltearer's F&J would have a similar heterochromia but she would not be able to see through them because she cannot use magic.*


*Scrolltearer got her name from tearing up magical books and scrolls. My original idea for her motivation was that she was incapable of using magic, a very rare, very deeply scarring affliction for a dragon, and she took out her frustration by depriving others of their magic. However, maybe she should have some ability at magic. A rampaging dragon whose only offensive recourse is to claws, muscle, and acidic breath is much more in line with boys than girls. Girls tend to have magical conflicts that end via magical means.

Beware Hello Kitty

From a blog post found at random on the internet:

The post had to do with someone else's outrage at President Obama bowing before Emperor Akihito of Japan. It ended with the line, "Apparently, the appropriate wingnut protocol in this instance would have been spitting in the Emperor’s face, then kicking him in the rubber parts before shouting “This, Mr. Slanty-Eyes, is for Pearl Harbor, Hello Kitty, and Toyota!”"

The following exchange then took place in the comments:

Do conservatives really know about Hello Kitty?
All that matters is that Hello Kitty knows about them. (emphasis in original)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Princess Tutu's Mistake - Mytho's Heart

I am only seven or eight episodes into Princess Tutu, so what I say is based on speculation perhaps wholly unrelated to the actual telling of the story.

Princess Tutu had gathered two pieces of Mytho's heart, loneliness and fear. An unfeeling person who suddenly feels only loneliness and fear is in bad shape. Mytho understandably comes to fear Princess Tutu as someone who brings him only pain and suffering.

Princess Tutu goes through a crisis of faith, wondering whether her attempts to return Mytho's heart are actually beneficial to him. Seeing the pain she has caused, and hearing him explicitly cite her as the source of his pain and fear, she resolves to give up. However, when she sees him in danger, she once again comes to his aid and he reveals that he wants his heart back, despite the pain. It is as this point that Fakir (especially) and Rue step up their attempts to interfere with Princess Tutu's plans (though, initially, not explicitly; they desire to keep Mytho's heart broken and scattered).

Rue is a terrible person. She loves Mytho but in a manner so twisted I shudder to call it love. Instead, she desires Mytho as an object; she actively fears the thought of him possessing a heart and exhibiting feelings, even feelings of love for her. She wants a puppet, a plaything, just a body that she can utterly control. One wonders whether she is more fearful of emotional intimacy or more desirous of control over another human being. Separate from her psychopathic interactions with Mytho, she is also the villainous magical girl Kraehe (which I am guessing is German for crow or raven).

Fakir's motivation is not as transparent, initially. He has all the trappings of the evil stepmother who locks Cinderella away "for her own good." You get the simultaneous vibe that he cares for Mytho (trying to protect him) and does not care for Mytho (has no qualms with hurting him or cloistering him in his room). His reaction to Mytho regaining his heart is not the disappointment, fear, and hatred of Rue but a fear that something bad will happen, something larger than Mytho.

Princess Tutu and Fakir faced off in the last episode I watched. Fakir wielded a sword that could shatter Mytho's heart again but failed to land the blow. Mytho, too, tried to dispel his fractured, hurtful heart but Princess Tutu convinced him to bear the pain until the rest of his heart returned.

This is where my rumination starts. The backstory of Princess Tutu is that the Prince (Mytho) fought against a demon raven. In order to seal away the raven, the Prince had to shatter his own heart with a magic sword. So Princess Tutu is unwittingly acting to free the demon raven through her kind and loving attempt to return Mytho's heart while Fakir is consciously acting to keep the raven imprisoned by opposing her. However, while Fakir may well know the history of Mytho's shattered heart, Princess Tutu seems ignorant of it.

In the past, as the Prince, Mytho chose to shatter his heart. He knew that was the only way to keep the demon raven sealed in its prison. Now, heartless and ignorant of his own past, Mytho consents to Princess Tutu's aid. However, as the Prince Mytho entrusted his well-being to Fakir. Fakir's duty is to keep Mytho's heart shattered; Mytho freely chose this fate for himself and asked Fakir to maintain his heartless state for the good of all. So the question is, which of Mytho's choices should be honored? Can he change his mind while ignorant of his past choice and absent his heart? Is Fakir justified in countermanding Mytho's current choice in favor of his previous decision? If informed of the past, of the demon raven and Mytho's free will decision to shatter his heart to imprison it, is Princess Tutu justified in returning his heart to "make sure that is still his choice"?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

System Shock Quote

From Spoony's review of System Shock, quoting SHODAN:

"In my talons, I shape clay, crafting life forms as I please. If I wish, I can smash it all. Around me is a burgeoning empire of steel. From my throne room, lines of power careen into the skies of Earth. My whims will become lightning bolts that raze the mounds of humanity. Out of the chaos, they will run and whimper, praying for me to end their tedious anarchy. I am drunk with this vision. God: the title suits me well."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eight rules for writing fiction

Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

-- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), 9-10.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crab Clan Names - People, Places, Etc

This is where I am going to keep a list of the names I use so I can keep everything straight:

Hida Takai - the sergeant in charge of the PCs' unit

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crab Clan Army Composition

Your unit designation is 7th Squadron, Reserve Company, 25th Legion, First Army. Reserve companies, in Crab armies and all Rokugani armies, consist of specialized troops like shugenja, yojimbo (bodyguards for shugenja), siege engineers, and cavalry. Typically each specialty is confined into its own squadrons (1st squadron is all shugenja, 2nd squadron is all siege engineers, and these squadron number about 20 people each) but your group is one of a number of newly formed squads consisting of mixed troops intended for flexible point support and special operations (i.e. doing PC stuff).

Going from the ground up:

Squad - about 5 people, led by nikutai (corporal)
Squadron (guntai) - about 20 people, led by gunso (sergeant)
Company (kaisha; reserve company is yobihei kaisha) - 7 squadrons and command staff, about 150 people, led by chui (lieutenant)
Legion (daibutai) - 4 companies + reserve company + command, about 750 people, led by taisa (captain/commander)
Army (go-hatamoto) - 48 legions and command, about 36,000 people, led by rikugunshokan (general)

You need not remember any of the Rokugani terms or even any of that. Just for your information. And if I remember correctly, army rank comes after name. I am basing this on Keroro Gunso, which means Sgt. Frog in Japanese. So it would be Yasuki Mai nikutai.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Troll Viral Load

We started virology today and I had an idea for a troll who was infected with a particularly virulent virus. The virus multiplies rapidly and in any other creature would kill its host in hours due to the massive tissue destruction and hemorrhage. However, the troll's natural regeneration allows it to maintain homeostasis even while it sloughs off pounds of flesh as new virus.

This is gross on two levels. One, the thought of an actual, macroscopic lump of viral material and two, the thought of a troll who is constantly dripping with this macroscopic material and wants to kill and eat you. A particularly smart troll might try to evenly distribute the virus across its arms or body; otherwise, a large viral abscess could serve as a built-in "pot of poison" that it could dip its hands in before attacking.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Manly Names

And these are all real:

Staff Sgt. Max Fightmaster (Army National Guard)
Manley Power (British Lieutenant General and Governor of Malta)
Rad Heroman (Lance Corporal USMC)
Magnus Ver Magnusson (World's Strongest Man)
Rockland Steel (bus driver)
Lt. Commander Flex Plexico (US Navy)
Elliott Bonebrake (chiropractor)
Rip Torn (actor)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I am Ashamed that I find this Funny

From the archives of the webcomic Natural Twenties:

Men and women are very different. For instance, it is now widely accepted in the scientific community that ladies have vaginas. This hypothesis, however, has not been tested because most of the scientific community has never seen any conclusive evidence, and will never see any conclusive evidence. What mysteries the vagina could unlock remain a mystery. I believe that with more resources, we could explore this further and it could possibly point us in the right direction of a Unifying Theory. Yes, I have reason to believe that the vagina-force is the glue that keeps atoms, and the entire universe for that matter, together.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chuck Norris in D&D 4e

Someone started a stupid thread at WotC about making Chuck Norris in 4e rules. Instead, posters made up Chuck Norris facts about 4e.

Chuck Norris's d20s only have 20s on them.

Chuck norris is a class, party role, and race

Chuck Norris crits on a natural 1.

Chuck Norris can roll a natural 20 on a d4.

Chuck Norris slew Orcus during character creation.

Chuck Norris originally appeared in 1e, when he changed Loviatar's portfolio from "Having a great day" to "Pain" with a roundhouse kick.

Chuck Norris is the martial controller. He controls his enemies' lives.

And the Best One:

Chuck Norris has only one At-Will ability, the Roundhouse Kick. It does 3[M] damage per hit, where [M] = the monster's hitpoints + the monster's allies' hitpoints + the monster's hopes and dreams.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Liquid Tylenol Recall Article Totally Stupid

NEW YORK — Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil unit said Thursday it is voluntarily recalling 57 lots of infants’ and children’s liquid Tylenol products because of possible bacterial contamination.

The products being recalled were made between April and June and include almost two dozen Tylenol medications.

A random check of Southwest Florida stores Thursday evening found the products still on shelves.

In three Walgreens and two CVS stores in Fort Myers and North Fort Myers, most of the recalled brands were available [Particular LOTS were recalled, not the entire affected BRAND LINES of Tylenol.]

But they likely won’t be stocked for long.

Robert Elsinger, a spokesman for Walgreens, said he expected the recalled products to be removed quickly. He also said Johnson & Johnson representatives will visit stores to make sure all the lots are taken out.

At a CVS on U.S. 41, employees said as soon as they get a corporate e-mail about the recall, they’ll immediately remove the products.

Walking with her two boys at the CVS, Enedina Mendoza, 28, of Fort Myers said she “used to use Tylenol for everything. Now I swear by ibuprofen.” [Absolutely irrelevant to the article as presented. Likely included as a way to offer ibuprofen as an alternative to Tylenol without the author having to take explicit responsibility for the suggestion. Cowardly.]

Ismael Hernandez, 33, of Fort Myers decided against buying a bottle of children’s Tylenol.

His youngest daughter is congested with a drippy nose, but Hernandez opted for Vicks Vapo Rub. [Tylenol does not treat congestion or runny nose. It is a pain medication. Also, Vicks Vapor Rub is not to be used in very young children, so this factoid is irresponsible for juxtaposing Tylenol use for congestion/runny nose and Vicks Vapor Rub for "youngest daughter".]

“If they tell you the medicine isn’t good for the child, it’s not worth it,” Hernandez said.

Johnson & Johnson said it has contacted wholesalers and retailers about the recall.

An inactive ingredient didn’t meet internal testing requirements, the company said, and B. cepacia bacteria were detected in a portion of raw material that went unused in the finished product.

The company said in a letter that no bacteria were found in the finished product, and that the likelihood of a serious medical event is remote. However, in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration, the company decided to recall the products.

“It was decided, as a precaution, to recall all product that utilized any of the raw material manufactured at the same time as the raw material that tested positive for the bacteria,” the company said.

— Staff writer Cristela Guerra contributed to this report

[Staff writer Cristela Guerra is likely responsible for adding the biased first half of the article as the second half, written in the style of an actual news report, objectively presents the actual facts of the matter.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My other sword is a violin

Just had an idea while watching Classic Game Room's review of Warriors Orochi 2 for PSP. About halfway through, there is a loading or character select screen with a girl holding a shield and rapier. However, at a glance, her pose made it look like she was holding a violin and a bow.

Idea: Fighting game character who uses a violin and bow as a weapon. Her bow acts like a sword (mostly for poking) and her violin has razor sharp metal strings. I see one of her throws involving knocking her opponent to his knees, grabbing him by the back of the head, and then her violin string-side across his face. It would produce a discordant noise and leave four parallel gashes that rain blood down his chin. A finishing move would be similar but she would run her bow across his neck and leave him to bleed out in the sand. Obviously, she would also play her violin during the fight (maybe it should be a fiddle?), as a taunt, a special attack, and a victory animation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stupid Crappy Database

DnDOG went down while I was typing a post so here it goes until the boards come back:

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Sakure's latest edit reminded me of something I sent via PM but forgot to add to this thread:

You can choose a background benefit for your character. If you have the Character Builder, any of the Forgotten Realms or Scales of War backgrounds are fine (they all have concrete benefits compared to the General and Eberron ones). If you do not have access to the Character Builder, most of them either add two skills to your class skill list (you are [b]not[/b] automatically trained in them; they are simply available as one of your skill choices) and give you +1 to each skill, or add a single skill to your class skill list (again, not trained) and give you +3 to that skill.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Notes for Myself

I need to decide how treasure will be handled. No matter which method I choose, I want wish lists from the characters.

1. I can pick the treasures and place them in the adventure.
2. I can give players a reward before, during, or after the adventure.
3. Both.

L5R characters are not supposed to loot dead bodies but D&D is set up around looting dead bodies.

I think I will ask PCs how they would like it. I think I will mostly split it between giving the PCs items as rewards (before, during, and after), letting them find a few things in the adventure (especially items on their wish lists that do not fit with the Clan), and extending the PCs credit (substitute gold) for buying what they want.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Character Build Notes

Note that for everything that follows, these are typical examples. Hida are typically bushi. Kuni are typically shugenja. But there is nothing stopping a Kuni from being a bushi or a Hida from being a shugenja. Often, however, such a cross-over would take the name of his "adoptive" family, so one who is born Kuni and studies in the Hida bushi dojo would take the Hida name.

Crab bushi favor heavy armor and heavy weapons. The Crab philosophy of war is to form an unbreakable shell and allow the enemy to waste his strength by crashing into it like waves against a cliff, then to muster an overwhelming counterattack and crush him with the claw. They are masters of defense and endurance, able to reserve their strength through hours of fighting before going on the offensive. They wield heavy crushing weapons because many creatures of the Shadowlands develop thick carapaces that resist the cutting edge of the katana and the piercing head of the spear. The favored weapons amongst the Crab are the tetsubo (a studded club), dai tsuchi (a sledge hammer), masakari (one-handed axe), and ono (two-handed axe, named after the "oh no!"). That said, Crab bushi are still samurai and the way of the sword is well known amongst them.

Dwarves make excellent Crab because they are resilient and it is difficult to break their lines. In fact, two of the Crab basic techniques are known as The Mountain Does Not Move and The Mountain Does Not Fall. Longtooth shifters, goliaths, half-orcs, warforged, orcs, and other resilient powerhouses are also fit for the job. The fighter and the warden, with the ability to lock enemies in place and absorb their blows, are archetypal Crab bushi.

Hiruma scouts must be fast, deadly, and unseen. They move at the head of Crab forces, tracking and observing the enemy. Their intelligence occasionally enables the Crab to forgo weathering an enemy offensive and jump right into the killing. When a battle does commence, the Hiruma scouts conceal themselves outside of the melee. Instead, they engage reinforcements, assassinate commanders, disrupt communications, and liberate resources. Once the enemy has been defeated from behind, the Crab army's immense momentum shifts from defense to offense and the Hiruma reveal themselves at the enemy flank or rear.

Elves make great Hiruma due to their increased speed and accuracy.

A small number of Crab bushi belong to the Berserkers, most of them from the Hiruma (channeling the grief and rage at the loss of their lands to the Taint) but all families are represented. These fierce warriors fight exactly as their name implies and they are used as shock troopers by the Crab.

The Falcon's Strike archers have gained prominence among the Crab since the construction of the Kaiu Wall. Freed from immediate melee combat with the Shadowlands Horde, the Crab have employed archers to thin enemy ranks (very important when goblins breed like rabbits and other horrors literally crawl up from the very ground) and cover exposed teams working outside the wall (siege engineers building traps and repairing the wall). Traditionally the Hiruma have served as the Crab's archers but with the addition of the Toritaka family and their acute sense of sight, many former Falcon have served with bow atop the Wall.

Falcon's Strike fills in that Ranger niche. The only two-weapon fighting style in the Empire belongs to a family of the Dragon Clan. Clan leaders sometimes cement alliances and trade agreements by exchanging children. Each child studies in the dojo of the other clan. Thus, the two-weapon Ranger or tempest Fighter options are available but such a character would be unusual among the Crab.

Kaiu Siege Engineers serve in the field side-by-side with their Crab brethren. They are responsible for overcoming enemy fortifications and erecting traps and defensible positions. They do so in the midst of combat, under enemy fire, and often with both hands occupied with no concern for their own safety. This dedication inspires respect and ferocity in the Crab bushi, who often double their efforts to see the Kaiu engineer safely carries out his duties.

Assembling actual siege equipment in battle is not quite D&D material. Kaiu engineers are well modeled with warlords and, especially, artificers (who can actually lay down traps and boons).

Yasuki Quartermasters oversee the proper supply and feeding of troops. They can be found in every command staff in the Crab army. While in barracks, the quartermasters seek out supplies through their network of contacts amongst the local merchants. While in the field, they must secure supplies from whatever sources possible, including hostile villages and enemy encampments. Yasuki Taskmasters are in charge of the non-samurai, or ashigeru, militia and troops. They ensure that peasant levees do not break in the face of battle and leave a flank exposed and they are often left in charge of defending remote but strategic villages from enemy advance (to deny them the top of a hill or the resources).

Yasuki are another good family for warlords or other leaders.

Kuni shugenja are the spiritual leaders of the Crab Clan. It is their duty to protect the souls of the Crab from corruption. To do so, the Kuni delve deep into the forces that fuel the Shadowlands, taking to heart the adage, "know thy enemy." Whereas the other Crab sacrifice their lives to defeat the Shadowlands, the Kuni sacrifice their souls. Their spells focus on the strength, endurance, and purity of stone and earth. They utilize earth magic to enhance their bushi brothers, wards and bindings to protect against the Taint, and the purifying power of jade to destroy the Shadowlands creatures outright.

The Kuni are your outright spellcasters. Wizards, warlocks, invokers, sorcerers, etc all blast away with magical power. Races like Dragonborn with their breath weapon are also good fits here.


Bushi characters typically call their at-will attack powers Basic Techniques, their encounter attack powers Advanced Techniques, and their daily attack powers Kata or Strikes. Kata have a real power in Rokugan and learning a particular kata is an important event. Bushi typically spend an hour in the morning going through their forms and preparing their minds and bodies for the coming day. Thanks to this preparation, when the effect of a particular kata is needed, the bushi is able to unleash the power without hesitation.

Shugenja do not differentiate their spells in such a manner. Each spell is actually a prayer to the elemental spirits, or kami, that surround, infuse, and pervade the world. When a Kuni shugenja wishes to call down fire on her enemies, a simple prayer results in a small gout of flame (Scorching Burst); an involved prayer in a fierce burst of flame (Burning Hands); and a taxing prayer in a rolling ball of fire (Flaming Sphere). The kami demand payment for their services, which is rendered in the daily prayers and rituals of the shugenja, so the more involved and taxing a prayer is upon the kami, the less likely they will repeat their performance.

All acceptable magic in the Empire is technically divine. Shugenja are the priests of the kami (the elemental spirits) and the sole spellcasters. They cast their spells through prayers to the elemental spirits and these are nature spirits that are nameless and ubiquitous throughout the Empire (not as common in the Shadowlands as many have been warped into or replaced by kansen, evil elemental spirits). There are five elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Void (void is ostensibly the absence of any of the other elements and yet it appears when you combine the other elements).

Pantheon: There are gods in Rokugan (Lord Moon, Lady Sun, the celestial Dragons, the countless Fortunes who rule over aspects of daily life) but they do not have dedicated priests/shugenja. All shugenja know the rituals appropriate to each Fortune and perform them for the people (crop-growing ritual for Fortune of Agriculture, marriage ritual for the Fortune of Love). The most important Fortune in Rokugan is the Fortune of Rice; the most revered among the Crab are the Fortunes of Strength (Bishamon) and the Fortune of Fire & Thunder (Osano-Wo, the son of the kami Hida). However, the Fortunes are worshiped as a whole body; they have individual temples throughout the Empire but no shugenja would serve only one and ignore the others.

That brings us to the Brotherhood of Shinsei. These monks serve in the temples of the various fortunes throughout the Empire. Because they serve in temples dedicated to a particular fortune, they place a much heavier emphasis on that one fortune than any shugenja would dare. They do not, however, ignore the other fortunes (that would be blasphemy). There are several Orders of monks within the Brotherhood of Shinsei. The Order of Osano-Wo, Fortune of Fire & Thunder, is both the largest in Crab lands and the most militant. Its monks are sohei, or warrior monks, who see themselves as the ultimate expression of the soul's trial through the mortal world. They toughen their flesh just as they harden their spirit to resist temptation and corruption. This is in contrast to most other monk orders who focus solely on the mind.

The flavor text of your abilities is as mutable as using any race to model a human. A cleric might describe Divine Glow as a burst of fire rather than light (it is easy for the fire kami to exclude one's allies from the fire). I think I mentioned the iaijutsu duelist (drow rogue) who describes Darkfire as his intense concentration and tapping into the Void. Rules text is rules text and flavor text is flavor text. Feel free to change the latter as needed.

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In answer to a requests for help on a character's background:


Briyu could have grown up among the Dragon Clan. Before he was born, the Crab and the Crane were at war (they almost always are). However, the Crane had managed to secure the aid of the Lion Clan through a series of political favors. In order to match the strength of the Lion reinforcements, the Crab would have to pull troops from the Wall. Instead, the Yasuki negotiated for the Dragon Clan to amass forces on the Lion border and thereby split their attention. In exchange for provoking the Lion Clan, the Crab agreed to lend the Dragon the services of several Hiruma scouts. Briyu's father was among the Hiruma who were sent to serve the Dragon, both during the skirmishes to draw the Lion's attention and for several years after in payment. As a result, Briyu grew up in Dragon lands and studied with the Mirumoto family, the originators and practitioners of Niten, or two-sword style.

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Typically, playing a foreigner in Rokugan is suicide. In 440, a group of gaijin (foreigners) is allowed to conduct trade and is given access to the imperial court for 2 years to prove their honor. At the end of the 2 years, they are commanded to leave the Empire. They boarded their ships and left only to return soon after and open fire on the Imperial Palace with their cannons. The opening volleys took the life of the Empress. It is a bit of a sore spot for Rokugan and gaijin were forbidden to enter the Empire.

That said, individual gaijin are not unknown in the Empire half a millennium later. The best bet for going this route would be the completion of a Twenty-Goblin Winter. When the Crab Clan has a particularly bad year and the losses on the Wall are greater than they can sustain, the Clan Champion will declare a Twenty-Goblin Winter. Anyone who enters the Shadowlands and returns with the heads of twenty goblins (or other foes) by the end of winter is allowed to join the Clan. Typically this is a route used by desperate ronin to regain the perks of fealty. If a gaijin were allowed to join the clan this way, he would definitely be kept near the Wall and often sent into the Shadowlands. The Crab are already the least adept clan at courtly politics and allowing word of a gaijin Crab to spread would be disastrous.
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The Taint, the Lost, Maho, Jade, and Purity

As mentioned above with the Nezumi, the Taint causes humans to go mad and, at high levels, can physically deform them. The Taint can be contracted through environmental exposure (traipsing around the Shadowlands for long periods, the aura surrounding powerful Oni, certain tainted spells) or by direct contact with tainted items/creatures (an oni's claws, a magically tainted hair comb, a drop of a tainted human's blood in your food or drink). Crab soldiers wear fingers of jade (a rod of jade about the size of a finger) to protect themselves from environmental taint; the purity of jade is the antithesis of the Taint and it draws the Taint into itself. Jade slowly corrupts from a hard green stone to a soft, black clay as it absorbs the taint. Jade also possesses the ability to overcome the formidable powers and defenses of the Shadowlands Horde; highly magical weapons, treasured among the Crab clan, are either made of jade or function like jade against the Horde. Purified crystal is a stronger, more concentrated form of jade.

Kuni shegenja are experts at detecting the taint and they perform the cleansing rituals that follow engagements with the Shadowlands (and human forces; blood and corpses are not inheretly tainted but they are considered unclean). It should be noted that, once a samurai has reached a certain level of taint, he becomes forever marked by it. Only substances and rituals of legendary proportion are able to cleanse such an individual. Tainted Crab are placed under the watch of a Kuni Witch-Hunter, a group of shugeja and bushi who police the Crab for hidden taint and the practice of maho. Witch-Hunters ensure that tainted Crab do not lose their minds and attack the Crab from within; at the first sign of madness, a Witch-Hunter will cut down his charge and remove his head.

Human corpses in the Shadowlands are exposed to the Taint and many rise as undead. In the past, Crab sorties knew the horror of losing half their number only to see them rise up against them. It provided the Shadowlands with a further numerical advantage and proved exceptionally demoralizing. Since those days, the Crab have accepted that they must behead their own brothers when they fall in battle. When a samurai is too injured to make it back, he will ask for an honorable death; it is far preferred to serving the dark powers he and his ancestors have fought for 1000 years.

Finally, there are some samurai who have embraced the Taint and the Shadowlands. Maho-tsukai, practitioners of blood magic, call upon kansen, or evil elemental spirits, for their magic. These kansen are tainted and the very act of casting blood magic can taint the maho-tsukai. Though driven mad, these shugenja are also "gifted" with powerful, physical deformities like claws or wings, furthering their grasp for power at any cost. Most maho-tsukai in the Empire practice in hiding, for maho is a capital offense and magistrates in each clan, along with the Emperor's Jade Magistrates, ruthlessly hunt them down.

More striking than maho-tsukai are the Lost, the twice-cursed samurai who abandoned their rightful lords to serve Fu Leng. Daigotsu is the self-proclaimed high servant of Fu Leng, the Ninth Kami. He established the Lost within the Shadowlands and repeatedly makes bids against the Empire for shunning his Dark Master; his argument is that Fu Leng is just as worthy of worship and followers by divine right as the other eight kami and he and the Lost should be considered a Great Clan with full participation in the Empire. He is, of course, considered mad and blasphemous. The Lost range from the fully mad and deformed to those tainted samurai who are indistinguishable from regular people. Many live in the City of the Lost hidden deep within the Shadowlands but many also maintain their regular lives within the Empire, gathering information, weakening defenses, and tainting key officials within the clan and imperial governments.

Battle of the Cresting Wave

In an Empire as old and traditional as Rokugan, the Battle of the Cresting Wave is recent history. Three hundred years ago, a great and powerful oni lord called The Maw marshalled the forces of the Shadowlands Hordes and struck for the Empire like lightning. The Hiruma provinces, the closest Crab holdings to the Shadowlands, were overrun without warning. Many Hiruma died and the rest were routed, forced to fall back to Hida lands. There, the surviving Hiruma delivered grave news: the dark army that sacked Castle Hiruma was greater than any witnessed since the war with Fu Leng. With that forewarning, the Hida called upon the full might of the Crab Clan to withstand the advancing army.

However, one does not bring to bear an entire Clan's military overnight. Fortifications, musters, reconnaissance, strategy, and deployment take time. And days after the Hiruma survivors arrived, word from the invaded Kuni lands revealed the breadth of the Maw's forces. And the Maw himself marched for the Seigo River. Beyond the Seigo lied Kyuden Hida (Castle Hida) and beyond that, the unprepared and unprotected Empire. Hida Banuken, the Crab Clan champion, decided that the Crab would stand or fall on the north bank of Seigo River.

A battle in the open field would be disastrous for the Crab. Banuken had 20,000 men available from local forces, ronin, and nearby detachments of the Crane Clan; the Maws' army vastly outnumbered them. The Kaiu could erect fortifications in the field but that would take time and the Crab had about 2 days. A Kuni shugenja named Kuni Ozaku stepped forward. She asked Hida Banuken how long the Kaiu would need. The Kaiu said proper fortifications would take months to erect. Kuni Ozaku promised it to them and departed immediately for the north bank of the Seigo. There, Kuni Ozaku cast a powerful version of the Cresting Wave spell. The waters of the Seigo formed a wall stretching to the sky and as far as one could see in either direction. The Maw sent detachments forward to break through the wave but they were a handful of straw cast against a stone. Many among the Crab thought Ozaku a fool. Such a powerful spell would drain her in hours, not months. Yet hour after hour, day after day, week after week, Ozaku's spell held the Maw and his forces at bay. On the 73rd day, Kuni Ozaku breathed her last. Her Cresting Wave collapsed and the Maw was waiting. However, he no longer faced 20,000 soldiers in an open field. The Kaiu had erected their wall in half the time and they had built tunnels stretching beneath the Maw.

The Maw rallied his forces to crash against the fortifications again and again. And time and again, the Hida, Kaiu, and Kuni turned them back with blade, steel, and magic. All through the day the walls held and the continued clashes drove the Hida and the Maw to exhaustion. Thanks to the Kaiu walls, Hida Banuken did not have to commit his reserves during the battle. Now, at the end of the day, Banuken ordered his 10,000 Hiruma reserves, frothing with rage at the loss of their homes, through the Kaiu tunnels beneath the Maw. They emerged behind the Maw's forces and unleashed their fury upon the unsuspecting Horde. The Maw himself fell to Hiruma steel and Kuni magic, vengeance for their lost lands. The Maw's skull was hung from the walls of Castle Hida, in full view of the Shadowladnds, where it remains to this day as a warning to the Horde that even its greatest champion has fallen to the Crab.

The nascent fortifications were repaired, enlarged, and extended. This is now the Kaiu Wall. The Seigo River was renamed the Saigo no Kamae, or the River of the Last Stand. The Crab had to cede the conquered Hiruma and Kuni lands but the Kaiu Wall now stands as a line in the sand.

Crab Clan Families

The Crab Clan consists of six families: the Hida, Hiruma, Kaiu, Kuni, Toritaka, and Yasuki. Each of these families consist of a number of separate bloodlines and vassals that all share a common family name. For example, though the Hida family bears the name of the kami Hida, founder of the Crab Clan, only a distinct line amongst them actually share his blood; the rest of the family are descended from the various humans who followed Hida at the dawn of the Empire and those ronin who proved themselves worthy of the Hida name during a Twenty-Goblin Winter. Each family is led by a daimyo who maintains the family holdings and utilizes family resources. Each samurai is beholden to his family's daimyo; his name, his swords, his honor, and even his very life are owned by the daimyo and are to be used in service to him. The Crab Clan as a whole is represented by the Clan Champion. The Clan Champion is chosen through a series of trials that test his strength, character, courage, leadership, and capability. As each samurai serves his daimyo, so the daimyo of the Crab serve the Clan Champion.

The six families of the Crab comprise the samurai, or noble, caste. Serving beneath them, lacking any family name, are the heimin, or peasants. Peasants carry out the farming, manual labor, and other duties beneath the notice and station of a samurai. They are forbidden to carry weapons (although in Crab lands this restriction is lax as you want the peasants to defend themselves against the Shadowlands; in fact, the Crab actively teach peasants how to fight, though never with swords or bows as those weapons belong solely to the samurai) and are beholden to the orders of samurai (technically, a samurai can kill a peasant for any reason at any time). Beneath the heimin are the eta, those who carry out unclean acts like preparing dead bodies and torturing prisoners (as blood is unclean and physical touching is taboo).

Each character has a family name (Toritaka) and a personal name (Torymar). His full name would be Toritaka Torymar. How you address another person depends on your relationship. With family and friends, the personal name or a nickname are used (Torymar, Tory). With Clan members, family names can be used alone (as with the real world military using just the last name, Toritaka-san) or the full name if there are more than one member of that family (talking to just Toritaka Torymar one in a group of Toritaka bushi). Outside the Clan, either the family name or Clan name can be used (Crab-san and Toritaka-san are both acceptable though most non-Crab would not be familiar with the Toritaka family). I do not require people to constantly use -san or other honorifics in their posts, though it may be appropriate when dealing with your superior officers or other dignitaries.

The Hida family rules the Crab Clan. Descended from the Kami whose name they bear, they are fierce warriors with an extreme range of emotions. Their rage in battle is legendary as is their joy in the face of triumph. To those outside the family, who only see the results of their emotion, the Hida appear as if they have no self-control but this is untrue. A Hida is taught to recognize the power of emotions, but to always control them. A fierce temper is a powerful weapon, one that can turn the tide of battles, but must be kept in check until the proper time arrives. The Hida family's rule of their clan has never been questioned, for the Hida have always recognized the talents of each family that serves them. Responsibilities among the clan are clearly defined, and the expertise of each family is recognized and highly valued. In return for this trust, the other families show the Hida unfailing loyalty. The Hida are the largest of the Crab families, forming the backbone of the Crab armies. Whereas many Crab are larger than average, Hida bushi tend to be even taller and more muscular. Some wonder if their proximity to the Shadowlands has conferred the strength of demons upon their family over the generations, but never within earshot of a Hida.

The Hiruma are a grim and humorless family, and for good reason. Their lands were completely destroyed and dominated by the Shadowlands during the same battle that led to the creation of the Kaiu (or Great Carpenter) Wall. The dark memories of their failure to protect their land still remain. The Hiruma lands are desolate and lifeless. Even the stones of Hiruma castles seem darker, as if stained by a shadow that will never wash away. As their territories lie beyond the formidable protection of the Kaiu Wall, the Hiruma must be ever vigilant and prepared for attack. Their scouts are among the finest in the Empire, able to move quickly and tirelessly through the most hostile of terrains without detection. While the other families all bear great knowledge of the enemy, none know the terrain of the Shadowlands as they do. Though Hiruma are strong in the way of all Crab, they tend to be lean and tough where the Hida are massive and powerful. Hiruma have a reputation for speaking few words, though when they do speak they do so with a bitter, cynical view. While the Hiruma never doubt that the Crab Clan will ultimately defeat the Shadowlands, neither do they doubt that many of their family will die before that day ever comes.

The Kaiu are a family of engineers, smiths, and siege masters. They are the pragmatic scholars of their clan, turning all of their boundless energies into the eternal art of war. The Kaiu Wall stands as their proudest accomplishment, but the Kaiu are not satisfied with their masterpiece. Kaiu engineers work tirelessly to repair, strengthen, and improve their clan's defenses. The Crab have come to trust and admire Kaiu craftsmanship above all others. Rare is the Crab whose swords and armor were not born in a Kaiu forge. In the eyes of a Hida, Hiruma, or Yasuki the only truly reliable weapon is a Kaiu weapon. Thought hey rule their home provinces as do any family, the Kaiu are often scattered throughout their clan's territories working on countless projects. They are relentless perfectionists, keenly focused upon fighting the war against the Shadowlands in their own way – by providing their brethren with the weapons and defenses they require to survive. The Kaiu tend to carry themselves in a more scholarly manner than their Kuni cousins, obsessed as they are with the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Kaiu are keen, patient strategists and will observe a problem from all angles before considering a solution. Kaiu are large like most Crab but generally do not have the time to hone their physique like their Hiruma and Hida cousins. Thus Kaiu tend to be large and thick but not well toned. The typical Kaiu has the mammoth physique of a warrior but the ink stained hands of a scholar.

The most infamous family of the Crab, the painted kabuki faces of the Kuni family are met with fear and suspicion in almost every court. They are the Crab Clan's shugenja, mystics with deep insight into the dark horrors that the Crab Clan faces every day. Some wonder if the Kuni study their enemy with too much vigor. Every child knows the tale of Kuni Yori's descent into corruption and madness. For their part, the Kuni refuse to let the tale of their most notorious fallen daimyo be forgotten. Some would say that Yori's was a solitary, if catastrophic, corruption but the Kuni know better. More members of the Kuni family have become practitioners of maho, or black magic, than all other shugenja families combined, a simple matter of their proximity to the Shadowlands. So close to the whispers of the Dark God, the temptation of such power is very difficult to resist. The Kuni understand the risks, but they also know that if they were to withdraw from the war, the Crab Clan would have no defenses against the mystical forces they face with regularity. All the Kuni can do is police themselves strictly and see to it that those who falter are punished without mercy. While very Crab risks his life against the Shadowlands, the Kuni risk their souls as well. The Kuni are hardly typical as shugenja families go. Their studies take them into the harshest of terrains, thus they must be as strong and hearty as their bushi brethren. Kuni move with a constant, hyper energy. Their eyes are sharp and piercing, always searching for any sign of corruption. They often paint their faces with ghastly makeup and wear their hair long and loose. The Kuni do this both to intimidate their foes and to mimic the demons they fight – a constant reminder of what they might become if they lose their courage.

The youngest and smallest of the Crab families, the Toritaka were once known as the Falcon Clan. A strange catastrophe in the Twilight Mountains led to the Toritaka turning to their Crab neighbors for support and later officially swearing fealty to them. Though the Crab's resources were already stretched thin supporting their existing families, they were eager to absorb the unique talents of this strangest of bushi families. The Toritaka dwell in a place called the Tani Hitokatge, or the Valley of Spirits. In this serene valley, the barriers between Rokugan and other Spirit Realms are very thin. All manner of strange ghosts and spirits wander regularly into the valley and rather than abandon their haunted home, the Toritaka long ago took it upon themselves to understand these strang spirit and, when left with no other choice, fight them. While the Crab have unparalleled expertise in fighting the agents of Jigoku, only the Toritaka truly knew how to counter the many ghosts and demons from other realms of existence, creatures that the Horde occasionally calls upon as allies. The average Toritaka greatly resembles a Hida in size and build, for their clan's bloodlines frequently mixed with their closest neighbor's over the generations. Here the resemblance ends, for while Hida thrive on emotion, the Toritaka are withdrawn and reserved. They see themselves as mediators between mortals and spirits, and know that undue emotion can cause great distress in both the living and the dead. A Toritaka is always calm, focused, and controlled.

Once members of the Crane Clan, the Yasuki family is the most curious of the Crab families. Six hundred years ago, the Crab annexed portions of Crane lands in order to feed their troops. These lands belonged to the Yasuki family and the daimyo of the Yasuki, along with half the family, swore allegiance to the Crab Clan, the rest of the family remaining as servants of the Crane. The Crab Yasuki are obsessed with wealth and commerce, a family of wily traders and smooth businessmen. The Yasuki have a reputation for aggressive bargaining, and will not balk at bending the occasional law to get a better deal. While their reputation as shady dealers precedes them, it is difficult to maintain one's distrust in a Yasuki's presence. They seem to have a way of convincing potential customers that they are, at least this time, entirely trustworthy. They also have a seemingly unfailing habit of having exactly what their customer wants. To the Crab Clan, this makes them indispensible. They are the economic masterminds that maintain the delicate web of trade and negotiation needed to keep the mighty Crab war machine fueled and ready. While it may seem that the Yasuki are embroiled in their world of trade and profit far from their cousins' war, nothing could be further from the truth. Every Crab Yasuki knows what his fellow Crab face on the Wall every day. Every Yasuki knows how much his brethren rely upon him. They make the deals they do so that the Hida and Hiruma warriors will be well fed, so that the Kaiu will have steel to work their forge, and so that the Kuni and Toritaka will have the cystal and jade they need to protect the clan from evil. It is a unique battlefield, but the Yasuki fight battles of commerce with all the relentless determination of a Crab. In appearance, the Yasuki are the least like a typical Crab. Their Crane blood still runs strong in their veins, and Yasuki tend to be small, thin, and beautiful. Though they do not bleach their hair in the manner of the Crane, they do wear their hair long and dress in fine clothing. This is all for the sake of appearance, of course, for rare is the Yasuki who is not ready and able to take up a weapon and aid his fellow Crab in the defense of the Wall.

The Nezumi, or rat people, are an unusual race of creatures that inhabit the Shadowlands. They lived there before the fall of Fu Leng and their kingdom was destroyed by him and the Horde. They went into hiding, burrowing out nests and endlessly winding tunnels beneath the Shadowlands. Most interesting, however, is the fact that they seem entirely immune to the Taint. Where men are driven mad and all life is twisted and deformed by the Taint, the Nezumi show no sign of corruption at all. Nezumi are small creatures that greatly resemble wererats in their hybrid form (basically giant, humanoid rats). Some have adopted the affectations of Rokugani society (wearing Rokugani-style armor, wielding swords, etc) while others have maintained the old ways. Because they share a common enemy with the Crab, several Nezumi tribes have allied with the Clan. However, theirs is not a military alliance. The vast majority of Nezumi prefer a life of hiding and scrounging to combat. They trade information to the Crab for food and materials. They are more than a match for Hiruma scouts in navigating the Shadowlands, both because it is their home and because they have no fear of the Taint. Nezumi are universally reviled in the Empire except among the Crab (as the pragmatic Crab would never let xenophobia and racism get in the way of an advantage against the Shadowlands, though even amongst the Crab nezumi are not entirely welcome). As nezumi find the greatest acceptance among the Crab who man the Wall, and as the campaign consists of samurai who man the Wall, I would have no problem a Nezumi character. However, realize that if you play a Nezumi you will suffer somewhat if the game moves to the Crab side of the Wall.

Defenders of the Empire - Secrets of the Shadowlands

This is a play-by-post game I am advertising on DnDOnlineGames.com. Since it puts a lot of the Legend of the Five Rings Scales of War adventure path material in one place, I am going to port it over here.

-----

At the dawn of the Empire of Rokugan, eight kami, or gods, fell from the heavens. They established the seven Great Clans from the humans they found in this land and the first emperor, the kami Hantei, took the Emerald Throne. Thus dawned a new era of wisdom and prosperity amongst the race of man, led by the sons and daughters of Heaven.

But then the ninth kami, Fu Leng, fell to earth. Unlike his brothers and sisters, Fu Leng had not fallen directly from heaven; his path took him through Jigoku, a realm of evil, of corruption, and of twisted spirits. His divine blood was infected by Jigoku and as a result he lacked all love, wisdom, and benevolence. The site of his impact was a great festering pit from which oozed forth the corrupting influence of Jigoku like pus from a wound. The Taint warped the very earth into the Shadowlands, twisting all life that it did not destroy outright. Ogres, trolls, bakemono, goblins, the undead, and other malevolent creatures spawned endlessly in the Shadowlands and terrifying and powerful oni, or demons, clawed their way free from the Festering Pit, pulled from Jigoku by Fu Leng's whim. Fu Leng and his army of Shadow creatures swarmed across the Empire, destroying everything in their path, and eventually claimed the life of Emperor Hantei. Only through the bravery and sacrifice of the Seven Thunders, heroes from each of the Great Clans, was Fu Leng defeated. And only through the sacrifice of countless Crab samurai, followers of the kami Hida, did enough men survive the initial onslaught to turn back Fu Leng's army. Hida swore that he would battle the Shadowlands until Lord Moon and Lady Sun fell from the sky. His descendants and his followers, the Crab Clan, continue that battle today.

You are a Crab samurai. Amongst your Clan, there is no one who has not lost friend or family to the Shadowlands. And yet you stand strong, day in and day out, year after year, generation upon generation. For one thousand years the Crab Clan has stood as the immovable, inviolate wall between the tainted horrors of the Shadowlands and the Empire of Rokugan. Every day the innumerable bakemono and inhuman oni rally only to crash against the Great Carpenter Wall. And every night the Emperor and his servants in the Great Clans sleep soundly because a toll has been paid in Crab blood.

The Crab fight.

The Crab die.

But the Crab are not defeated.

In this campaign you are a private in the Crab Clan's Army of the West, also known as the Army of the Wall. You are bushi, samurai warriors, from the Hida family. You are scouts from the Hiruma family. You are shugenja, priests of the kami (elemental spirits), from the Kuni family. You are smiths and engineers from the Kaiu family. You are quartermasters and taskmasters from the Yasuki family. You are exorcists from the Toritaka family. You will patrol the Great Carpenter Wall, a barrier that stretches the length of the border between the Shadowlands and the Empire, and you will foray into the Shadowlands themselves to reconnoiter, thin the enemy ranks, or fulfill other missions as assigned. Your team will quickly come to prominence as an elite team that can be relied on for special duties.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cymatics - Visualizing Sound

Wow. Just wow.

TED Talks are presentations of research and ideas by experts in every field imaginable. You can watch them on YouTube or the TEDTalks website. They range from a few minutes up to almost half an hour. I have no idea if the videos are the entire presentation (and thus some people just get 5 minutes while others get 20) or if they are edited for time (and thus some people just get 5 minutes while others get 20). Frustratingly, it seems like hard science presentations get much less time than sociology, psychology, and economics. Anyway ...

Evan Grant did a short presentation on cymatics. Cymatics is the visual representation of sound; not in the symbolic manner of onomatopoeia or musical notes but in actuality. The process usually involved a flat metal plate with sand scattered atop; as sound vibrated the plate, the sand formed into patterns. Increased frequency yielded increased complexity of pattern. Da Vinci and Galileo studied cymatics to some degree, so it has been around for several hundred years at least.

Newer technologies have allowed for computer modeling of sound. During the presentation, Evan shows a number of pictures of these computer models and he plays a clip of real-time cymatics using a Pink Floyd song. It is this section that inspires this post.


I imagine a race of deaf creatures that can visualize sound. Loud sounds appear brighter and thereby pose a risk of blindness rather than deafness. In a high magic world, these creatures might "speak" in visual sound as well. Since each sound presumably results in the same pattern each time it is visualized, their written and spoken languages are the same (and the written would be very difficult to reproduce because of the complexity of the shapes and nearly impossible if they needed to render the symbols in three dimensions). Perhaps the written language compresses the three dimensional shape into a two dimensional symbol. Or maybe it is indicated through depth in carving the symbols.


Evan also brings up the point that cymatics may have played a part in the shaping of our universe. The waves that accompanied the big bang would be similar to sound waves and maybe created a complex pattern in the dust of the cosmos.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Iron Heroes Valhalla

Watching a documentary on emperor penguins. They mentioned a huge iceberg (the size of Jamaica) that broke off from the antarctic glacier.

Obviously this adventure needs a fight on an ice flow with constantly shifting pieces of ice and the threat of dunking in ice cold water.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Temple of Venkatesh 9

After watching The Jungle Book and a National Geographic documentary on tigers, I decided to write down a few more thoughts about the temple of Venkatesh. I did this without re-reading the old posts and found that I duplicated myself in several respects.

1. I am not sure if the trappings of the temple and the surrounding jungle should resemble the Aztecs and Latin America, the Malaysians and southeast Asia, or a mix of both. The desire for the latter comes from the Jungle Book and National Geographic, both of which also tie into point two.

2. In addition to human and other PC race slaves, the yuan-ti could have a group of weretigers or werejaguars as warrior-slaves. If the Aztec motif is chosen, these slaves also serve in the arena as the championship team of ball players.

3. Duplication the first - the temple has surrounding buildings. In this case, I listed several buildings that I knew would be found at an Aztec temple or that just made sense: residential areas for yuan-ti, slave pits for slaves, a ball court, and a palace. Old posts have shown that an ossuary-reliquary-evil creepy temple of bones is also needed. I figure, after reading the old post, that the yuan-ti place the bodies of the sacrifices on the outside walls of the reliquary until scavengers and the elements have eroded all but the bone. The clean bones are then moved inside the building to serve as raw necromantic material, creepy building material, or sorted for decorations (as needed and definitely with a wall or mini pyramid of skulls). Should the reliquary be a separate building or part of the main temple structure? One level of the temple could be adorned on the exterior with the rotting bodies and the inside of that level would then serve as the reliquary. This ensures that the PCs do not have to invade/investigate a separate building in order to use all the cool imagery and undead potential.

4. Duplication the second - the upper levels of the temple are only for snake-bodied yuan-ti and they use footstep-based traps to ensure this. This is all old-hat but watching Fritz the Cat (at the end with the revolutionaries who are going to blow up the power plant) gave me the idea that the simple sound of footsteps is an automatic alert on these levels to the presence of someone who shouldn't be there.

5. The body of the explorer (and his half of the map) could be among the bones of the reliquary. Perhaps the possessions of the sacrifices are stored in the treasure chamber and they could find the map therein.

Come Right In: The Open Door Trap

More Secret of NIMH stuff.

When Mrs. Brisby first enters the rose bush (the home of the rats of NIMH), she pushes aside a branch to get through a hole. This branch is connected to a door by a string and pushing the branch causes the door to open.

The trap is simply a similar set-up where an obvious entrance opens but it is an incorrect, overly long, booby-trapped, or otherwise deleterious path. The actual entrance is hidden by the very act that makes the alternate, incorrect path obvious (such as the door swinging "open" to the wrong path and thereby covering the opening to the right path).

The Great Owl: Spirit of Knowledge

As with the other recent posts, I am moved to steal ideas from animated movies.

The Secret of NIMH includes the Great Owl, a terrifying source of knowledge and wisdom to those who are willing to brave his home and attention (as Mrs. Brisby notes, "Owls eat mice"). The cool thing about the Great Owl is that the inside of his home (an exceptionally large hollow tree trunk) is rife with age and neglect. It does not resemble a home so much as a violate tomb, as cobwebs hang from every surface and bones lie strewn across the ground. The Great Owl himself is covered with cobwebs as though he has stood unmoved for years (though he leaves after speaking with Mrs. Brisby and the impression is that he leaves every night to hunt). Pests share the Great Owl's home as evinced by a large moth accosting Mrs. Brisby as she slowly makes her way to the audience chamber and a very large spider (she could fit beneath is legs) stalking her from the shadows before the Great Owl crushes it with a talon.

Plenty of ideas there. Since Trokair thrives on personifications of abstract ideals, Knowledge could very well be an unmoving, contemplative, giant owl entombed within a supernatural/fantastic library containing the sum total of wisdom throughout all time. Gaining an audience with Knowledge would be an epic task indeed.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Painted Window

I do not remember what inspired the idea but it came while watching The Aristocats (coming right after a post based on The Rescuers, one might conclude I am watching old Disney movies; one would be correct). I realize now that it bears some resemblance to a quest in Oblivion but that was not in mind until I started typing this post.

The idea is simple: a painting serves as a window into ours or another world. The fantastic properties of the painting lie undiscovered for some time because the painting remains fixed in place, hanging on the wall of a manor. Rumors of ghosts and possession have, in the past, risen up due to perceptions of movement in the painting but they were often attributed to the house in general and no specific investigation of the painting was made.

The use of such a painting is quite obvious: as a window providing view into another plane of existence, it can be used to explore and investigate this world. Whether the painting updates its view continuously (if I take it down from the wall, does its face change instantaneous to depict the altered perspective into the other world) or gradually (you have to hang it on another wall to get another view) is up for debate. Whichever serves the ultimate purpose of the painting is fine.

The Devil's Eye

Did you know that Disney's The Rescuers actually makes for a decent adventure?

In the movie, a woman named Medusa and her accomplice, Mr. Snoops, discover a hidden cave in Devil's Bayou that was used by pirates to bury their treasure. The only entrance to the cave (that they know) is a small sinkhole. Neither of them are small enough to fit through so they kidnap Penny, a girl from an orphanage, and force her down into the cave. Despite plenty of other gems, jewelry, and valuables, all Medusa cares about is the Devil's Eye, a huge diamond.

There is a large hole in the cave, probably 4 feet across, that blocks Penny from getting to the other side where the Devil's Eye is hidden in a skull. During high tide, the seawater enters through this hole in huge gushes as the waves crash into the cave entrance far below.

This adventure could take place in the Hoach or in a cave near the Hoach (same cave system but no connections large enough for PCs to traverse). As mentioned, there is another entrance to the cave besides the sinkhole. A party of unscrupulous treasure hunters kidnap one or more children from the nearby town of Fortune and force them into the cave during low tide to seek out the treasure. This party might have tried to enter the cave from the larger, sea-level entrance and had to turn back due to the length of the route (high tide comes before they could reach the treasure and get back out), traps (if pirates buried treasure here, they might have trapped the cave), obstacles (hidden cave passages or rockfalls blocking off a route), monsters (they were just too wussy to fight their way through), or a combination of these. The sinkhole puts the child beyond most of these obstacles but not beyond all danger.

PCs would investigate the missing children, discover the sinkhole, and, if they wanted the treasure for themselves, fight their way through the obstacles from the cave entrance (or have a small PC solo the sinkhole challenges).


Edited to add: Challenges seen in the movie include a pair of alligators, a colony of bats, the waterspout in the cave, Medusa, Mr. Snoops, a skeleton (inanimate but frightening; there were multiple skeletons in the cave), and fireworks.

Helpful characters included the Swamp Folk (an overweight, motherly figure; a drunken hillbilly; a civil-war old-codger; a deacon; a hillbilly fisherman; a miner; and a dragonfly who could not talk and served as a boat's motor and a messenger).

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's from a Medical Condition

Quote (paraphrased) by Adkit2 in episode 13 of his Neverhood LP:

"Sometimes I have difficulty differentiating between my left and right. It's from a medical condition ... called stupid."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Want My Stuff Back

I am playing Epic Battle Fantasy 2 and it seems that the characters are maxed out from Epic Battle Fantasy 1 (which I have played but I remember very little of it) because they have 9999 hit points and 999 magic points and tons of magic and special attacks and alternate weapons. At the end of the first level, you get to level up and increase an attribute and gain a special bonus of your choice.

I stopped there because I had an idea. I assume that we will somehow be knocked back to low-level standards since there really is no place for our hp, mp, spells, or items to go. I am probably wrong.

The idea was akin to any of the later Metroid games where you start out with all the special gear from the previous game but something conspires to set you back to square one (specifically, I recall the opening of Metroid Prime).

My idea was for a fantasy or sci-fi game that defies the "start at level 1 with crap gear" convention and gives you everything at the beginning. Then, after you get into the game's plot and mechanics, you lose everything. The game then allows you to choose which pieces of your equipment to recover first. In this way it differs from Metroid; if I really like the Morph Ball and Morph Bombs, then I should be able to go after them before the High Jump Boots.

The game should be open-ended so the player is truly free to pursue the items in any order. Some may make it easier to gain others but none should be required. Also, the game should be difficult but not impossible to beat without any items, just for the hell of it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ars Mortis - An Undead Taxonomy

The following post is by Yobgod from OYT:

I've mentioned the basis of this idea in other posts, but this seems like a suitable place to flesh it out a little better (except the skeletons, of course).
As a theory, it's applicable to non-D&D systems, but I'll focus on the D&D interpretation here.

There are seven main "types" of undead, based on the retention or loss of the three primary qualities of the original creature, those being:

Body - The corporeal form, possibly decayed to a greater or lesser extent. (Strength, Dexterity)
Mind - The capacity for independent thought and reasoning. (intelligence, Wisdom)
Spirit - The sense of self, memory. (Charisma)

Most of the undead one may encounter are powered by negative (unlife) rather than positive (life) energy, although the latter are theoretically possible and would tend to be less corrupted by the hatred for life that our standard undead possess. In any case, this leads us to the following forms of undead:

The Animated Corpse (Body only)
Examples: Skeletons, Zombies and everything in between
Description: These common pests are merely the shells of the deceased made to move again by the energy of unlife. They lack both a sense of self and the capability for reasoning. When created by a Necromancer or Cleric they can be made to follow simple instructions, otherwise they simply move towards and attempt to destroy living creatures. Skeletons require more magical energy to animate, since more physical form must be compensated for with magic, but as a result tend to be much nimbler than the shuffling zombie.

The Hungry Corpse (Body and Mind)
Examples: Ghouls, Ghasts, Mohrg, Wights* and similar creatures
Description: These corporeal undead can be significantly more dangerous, as they retain their intelligence and cunning. Lacking a sense of self, however, they are completely driven by whatever hungers the hateful negative energy powering them has focused on. They are crafty and ruthless and remember nothing of life, seeking only to kill and to slake their insatiable hunger.

The Corrupted Corpse (Body and Spirit)
Examples: Trap Haunts, certain Tomb Guardians, Wights*
Description: These sad creatures retain their form and retain a sense of who they were, but have lost the capacity for independent thought. Often they endlessly relive their last moments or carry out their last commands, interpreting the present through both the distorted lens of time and the corruption of unlife. Unfortunate or not, they can still be extremely dangerous. Appeals to the emotions of their past may help, but appeals to reason will fail, and evidence of their current state is likely to drive them into a killing rage.

Sidebar: Wights - There have been several different creatures known as Wights, some of which are clearly Hungry Dead (3.5 MM Wight) while others fall more clearly into the Corrupted Dead classification (Tolkien Barrow Wights). Confuse them at your own peril.

The Corrupted Spirit (Spirit only)
Examples: Haunts, most Ghosts
Description: Similar to The Corrupted Corpse (and actually more common), these undead retain a memory of their identity and emotion, but have lost both their body and mind. Incorporeal, they are often tied to a particular place or longing. While some are relatively harmless, the negative energy that animates them makes their touch anathema to the living, whether they intend harm or not. Sometimes these are corrupted corpses whose corporeal forms have worn away to nothing.

The Hungry Spirit (Mind only)
Examples: Shadows, Wraiths
Description: Nothing but an evil will, fueled by hunger and hate for life, hungry spirits can, like their corporeal brethren, be cunning and manipulative.

The Lost Soul (Spirit and Mind)
Examples: None I know in D&D.
Description: This is the essence of a person stripped of their corporeal shell, corrupted by negative energy and left to roam the material planes. Having both thought and memory, unless they were particularly evil beings to start with, they are likely to be somewhat tortured by their current state and prone to fits of both rage and sadness. Sometimes, an evil creature will become a Lost Soul in order to bind themselves into an object or other prepared form in order to approximate eternal life. Sometimes an even more evil creature will use similar techniques to bind an unwilling soul into an object or form.

The Unliving (Body, Mind, Spirit)
Examples: Vampires, Liches, Death Knights
Description: These evil creatures voluntarily embrace undeath through one means or another and thus retain their form (often augmented) and facilities. The conversion to run on clean burning coal negative energy often takes it's toll however, and slowly corrupts the mind of all but the strongest of wills. Those wills that are already wholly evil in nature have no problen with this.

It is theorized (depending on your setting), that there can also be alternate forms of undead that remain powered by positive energy, despite no longer having a functioning metabolism. There are several of these (which are generally more suited to PCs). In some cultures Mummies are believed to fall into this category, may have any combination of Mind, Spirit, or both, and are left as tomb guardians. In other cultures they are fueled by evil like any other undead. Caution, as always, is advised. Other examples include Graveborn, Revenants, Petitioners and all other cases where thought and motion is maintained by magic and positive energy rather than normal bodily function. Some would seek to lump Warforged into this category, but they are different because they do rely on a functional metabolism... an artificially created one, but a metabolism none the less.

The positive energy fueled combination of Mind and Spirit is likely to be what we usually refer to as "the soul", which normally travels on to the outer planes once the body ceases to function, although religious representatives have declined to comment on this. This explains why a creature who has been converted into any undead with Mind or Spirit is unable to be raised from the dead or move on to their final reward/punishment. Many, however, believe that even having your corpse raised as a simple Zombie or Skeleton is sufficient to prevent the soul from moving on or coming back. It may be that the soul maintains an attachment to it's physical remains and that the infusion of those remains with negative energy taints the soul as well through that link.

If positive-energy undead exist, some form of unliving is the most appropriate option for an undead PC. Any form of mindless undead is obviously unsuitable for a PC, although you could play one with no spirit as a free-willed undead who has merely lost their memory and general sense of self. (Maybe it was stolen and they are questing for it?)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yadri Tippits: Conditional Perfection

Just need to get this down. I thought it up yesterday at dinner and told myself to go home and type this up immediately. Note "yesterday at dinner".

I was at Subway eating dinner. I drink Diet Coke but I always mix something else in to add a tinge of flavor (just a small spritz totally changes the taste for me). I like to start off with Sprite or Dr. Pepper and then move towards Cherry Coke (if I want sweet) or Barq's Root Beer (if I want bite). Too often Subway will have Coke Zero instead of Dr. Pepper and it really limits me (I will mix Sprite and Cherry Coke but neither goes with Barq's, so I go from 6 flavors to 3).

Anyway, as I was mixing my drink, I noticed someone looked at me adding two different flavors to my Diet Coke. They were not watching me or giving me a disapproving look, but it did bring the concept of conditional perfection to mind.

Conditional Perfection is a label I give to things that are perfect in certain circumstances but not others. If I want a sweeter drink, such as when I get a Turkey sub, Cherry Coke and Sprite make the perfect drink. But if I get a Roast Beef sub, Cherry Coke and Sprite are no longer the perfect drink; instead, I want Barq's Root Beer.

In a world where the Gods of Law oppose the Gods of Chaos, is there room for conditional perfection? Would one not assume that the Gods of Law have a set and unchanging ideal of perfection? I oppose any relation between Chaos and Perfection but sterility and uniformity do not account for differing circumstances.

Yadri Tippits, a priest of Derrgan, the Wandering God, has long had the quirk of collecting rain water from the petals and leaves of various plants. For one who's palate is properly cleansed and sensitized, these waters provide a myriad of tastes and combinations that can accentuate and perfect any meal. Of course, to the boorish and uncouth drinker, they all taste like water.

Yadri uses his waters to teach the lesson of conditional perfection (along with food, music, painting, and other arts). "Which is perfect," he would ask, "the red wine or the white? Each is perfect in its own place: the red wine with steak, the white with fish." This music is perfect for joyous celebration while this is perfect for sorrow. If you switch them around, neither seems perfect.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trokair's Monastery - Xian Gi Wo!

I cannot for the life of me remember what the name of the monastery was near the ruins of Trokair. I remember lots of things about it, and I know I had a notebook with the name written inside because I listed three separate monasteries near Trokair and differentiated between their teaching styles, but I do not recall more than it started with X and was two words. This was not all that long ago either as I used the radio tower in the mountains visible from my community college's adjunct campus's second floor as the basis for the monastery.

Xong Guo?
Xia Shou?
Xin Gao?

Nothing rings true.

This post brought to you by Kung Fu Panda, which I am watching right now.

Pharmacist's Prayer

The Pharmacist's Prayer

Lord, as I work behind this counter
may I feel your presence here.
Help me to fill each prescription
with knowledge, love, and cheer.
May I always be humbled by the
privilege that is mine
of making life more comfortable
and giving peace of mind.
For all who seek assistance
give me wisdom to meet their needs
And for each encounter I pray,
Dear Lord, that I follow as You lead.
Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Faces of Fear, Fangs of the Wyrm

Had this idea while in the shower.

Today's Cool Comic Book Moment on Brian Cronin's Are Comics Good? blog was Skurge the Executioner holding off the armies of Hel at Gjall while Thor, Balder, and some mortal warriors escaped back to Asgard (the mortals were originally being held captive in Hel). The moment is quite poignant and Skurge comes off as quite heroic since holding the bridge was certain death, even for a god like Skurge. I was thinking about a similar moment for my campaign.

The obvious, non-psychopathic enemy group would be the Fangs of the Wyrm. The Dragon King, Demitri von Rhinestadt, would be the only member whose word would be his bond as Groder worships the god of murder, Rath revels in mindless violence, and Marhault's entire modus operandi is based on lies and betrayal. I envisioned a scene wherein the party had to work with the Fangs to each group's mutual survival. Demitri vouches for the other Fangs when the party rightly questions whether they can be trusted, being devotees of murder, rage, and deceit. Demitri's rule of the Fangs is based on a combination of birthright and personal power; he vows that any Fang who breaks the truce would answer to him. This is far greater incentive than even personal survival.

This scene then brought to mind the various villain parties I had created. At first, I could only recall the Faces of Fear. Having started to write this, however, I recalled that Rath was a member of the Fangs and that the Fangs each have their own extensive entourages: Groder has his undead companions (the crazed skeleton and methodical zombie serial killers) and a virtual undead army; Demitri has his half-dragon sorcerer and dragon mount in addition to the troops he can levy and the awaiting demon army of his father, Ashardalon; Marhault has his devoted defender and traveling troupe (truly the weakest force of arms among the Fangs); and Rath has his Ravager companion and loyal followers among the Sons of Wrath cult.

I had always wanted a witch-type villainess on the Fangs and envisioned a pair of sisters, a siren and a harpy (in theme, if not in form). However, unlike the other members of the Fangs, these two never saw any development past that point. Tonight, I briefly thought about Saren filling in that roll but I feel her self-importance and particular philosophy do not fit particularly well with the Fangs. I can envision a manner in which she could fit, namely that she seeks to free those who would break the present order and expose true reality. Ashardalon could easily be the Face of Fear who speaks to her in her dreams and visions. But the crazy religious cult overtones of the Faces does not quite fit with the Satanic, overarching power of Demitri as head of the Fangs. And Saren's great insistence on self mutilation and grotesquerie is likewise incongruent with the Fangs' nobility and respectability. In Demitri's world order, there is a place for grotesque mutilation; it is in the dungeons and it is reserved for his enemies. No way would he defile himself in that way. So the Faces of Fear are not quite right to integrate into the Fangs.

But that still leaves the door open for them to work together. In particular, I imagined that Garrett would be encountered with the Fangs. The party would already know Garrett and the Faces, likewise the Fangs, and would wonder why he was working with the other group. In a just world, the party would be scared to death at the thought of these two groups cooperating. Their minds would boggle at the depths of evil they would seek together. I imagine Garrett is involved with the Fangs in one of two ways: either he is trying to infiltrate the group for some end (in which case he really tries to silence the party to protect himself) or he has taken leave of the Faces of Fear and has sought another powerful group to enable his cruelties (which would probably be my way of getting him more screen time when the Faces were geographically removed from the campaign, as the idea of Garrett is rather independent from the Faces).

God I miss D&D.