Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mundane Magic Equipment

I am reading the Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide and several of the magic items are obviously intended as upgrades to decidedly mundane equipment (e.g. a magic bead that transforms into a campfire).

This concept is not new (everburning torches have been around for quite some time) but I like the idea and think it would fit well with Sandbox Trokair. Wyndhaven was established from the supplies intended to make several colonies and, given the scope of the operation, it is not unfathomable that certain of these mundane magic items would be included among the them (particularly, they were probably meant to be used by cartographers and soldiers on patrol).

Price would restrict their use by the PCs at early levels, helping to establish the unknown, wild frontier theme of the campaign. However, searching for food, water, and shelter is only "fun" for so long.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Matter conveys grace all over the place in Scripture: baptism confers regeneration: Acts 2:38, 22:16, 1 Pet 3:21 (cf. Mk 16:16, Rom 6:3-4), 1 Cor 6:11, Titus 3:5. Paul's "handkerchiefs" healed the sick (Acts 19:12), as did even Peter's shadow (Acts 5:15), and of course, Jesus' garment (Mt 9:20-22) and saliva mixed with dirt (Jn 9:5 ff., Mk 8:22-25), as well as water from the pool of Siloam (Jn 9:7). Anointing with oil for healing is encouraged (Jas 5:14). Then there is the laying on of hands for the purpose of ordination and commissioning (Acts 6:6, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6) and to facilitate the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17-19, 13:3, 19:6), and for healing (Mk 6:5, Lk 13:13, Acts 9:17-18). Even under the Old Covenant, a dead man was raised simply by coming in contact with the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21)!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The Trustworthiness of Beards
By Tom Bartlett

The way you gain people's trust is to earn it over time by repeatedly proving that you deserve it. That, or grow a beard.

A recent study in the Journal of Marketing Communications found that men with beards were deemed more credible than those who were clean-shaven. The study showed participants pictures of men endorsing certain products. In some photos, the men were clean-shaven. In others, the same men had beards. Participants thought the men with beards had greater expertise and were significantly more trustworthy when they were endorsing products like cell phones and toothpaste.

But, oddly, men with beards were slightly less effective than smooth-cheeked fellows in underwear advertisements. Apparently we don't want Zach Galifianakis selling us boxers.

The researchers say the implications of their findings could extend far beyond advertisements. For instance, male politicians might want to consider not shaving because the "presence of a beard on the face of candidates could boost their charisma, reliability, and above all their expertise as perceived by voters, with positive effects on voting intention."

Former presidential candidates Al Gore and Bill Richardson didn't put down the razor until they were already out of the running. Who knows how things might have turned out if they had had the power of facial hair working for them ...

Important note: The study looked only at neat, medium-length beards. You can't just go all ZZ Top and expect people to trust you.

(The study, which was conducted by Gianluigi Guido, Alessandro M. Pelusoa, and Valentina Moffa, is not online.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Fanged Platform

That sounds really cool but maybe a little misleading.

I am once again pulling ideas from Adkit's Voyage: Journey to the Moon LP. He used Klipso's Lightening Paint to lighten the weight of his space capsule. He then looked over to a platform covered with lunar plants. Around the edge of the platform are tall, pointed rocks that look like fangs or talons. They are not on the platform but come off the side and jut above and below the platform itself. The tips of these rocks are the same color as the paint and he asked, quite reasonably, if they were also painted (which would explain their precarious position).

This is not particularly inventive but I love the idea of these giant, fang/talon-like rocks around the edge of a circular platform.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Virulent Troll Redux

I stopped watching Star Trek: Voyager before the introduction of Species 8472. I am watching SFDebris's Opiniated Voyager Episode Guide and stopped to look up information on the Maquis which, in the manner of Wikipedia, led through a bunch of links to Species 8472.

The Undine (as they are also called) are from a different dimension of "fluid space". They have a very complex genetic structure, possessing tri-helical DNA. Their cells can duplicate incredibly rapidly, acting as a virulent infection when introduced into other creatures (as happens when one is attacked by an Undine's claws).

Some time ago, I wrote a post about a troll infected with a virulent disease. The troll's regeneration protected it from any detrimental effects of the infection but allowed the rapacious disease to continually multiply and, thus, the troll served as a very effective carrier for the disease.

If I cared to transform that idea from a singular troll to a race of creatures, the Undine would be the first place to look.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tentacle Monster

Not as dirty as it sounds.

Based on the big, clawed, tentacle monsters from Half Life (as seen in part 12 of Tyoemon's LP), these are three large creatures that react to sound and violently attack any unusual source they hear.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Going Past the Finish Line

An idea for a video game. This post comes from Bikdip's Majora's Mask LP (pt 24) when he is rolling through the snow in the Goron mask.

He mentions that he is far enough but will keep going. A few seconds later, he stops the Goron roll and immediately enters the next area. What likely happened is that when he reached the transition point, the game automatically stopped the roll (and his comment was simply about the pits that you need to roll past; he was far enough that he could just walk).

What I heard, however, was a video game where you reach a finish line. Most players will release the gas and the level will fade out. But if you hold the gas, you keep going well past the finish line. If you make it rather long (another minute or two to weed out those who are not committed), you can hide a very nice secret there.

This same idea is actually found in Super Mario Galaxy 2. I forget the level but I think it might be a Bowser's Castle level. Regardless, there is a section where you ride the pink block-platform across lava. It stops at the "end" where you jump off onto solid ground. However, if you stay on the pink platform, it eventually continues further on and leads to a secret star.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roof Door

That is a really stupid title for a post.

I was watching Bikdiponabus's Majora's Mask LP. He came across a witch who flew out of her chimney on a broom stick. Bikdip's co-commentator wondered why she didn't just use a door.

And my idea was that I need a building where the inhabitants fly so the only entrance/exit is on the top.

Then I also had an idea for a gigantic beehive. It is a separate idea.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trokair - Sandbox - Monsters

I am reading WTF, D&D!? on the recommendation of my best friend. I have only read 2 of them and I feel it is time well spent. The first two articles cover entries from the original AD&D Monster Manual. I have found memories of reading through the MM, as a number of the denizens detailed within were original creations of the progenitors of D&D. I want to bring them back.

This is a list of "stupid" D&D monsters that need to find a home in Trokair:

1. Rot Grubs
2. Peryton
3. Lurker Above
4. Piercer
5. Giant Slug
6. Gas Spore
7. Hippocampus
8. Sea Lion
9. Mimic
10. Ixitxachitl ("They're manta rays as smart as people that tend to be religious vampires")

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sandbox - Wyndhaven

I need to start thinking a bit about what kinds of services are available in Wyndhaven. Iron Marches has a whole list of alchemical goods and arms & armor, including limited amounts of special materials that can change over time (for example, there is 12k gold pieces worth of adamantine available but it costs +15k gp to make adamantine heavy armor, so there is no way to get it without waiting for a shipment from the old world (probably need to put up a hefty down payment before such an order will be made) or you find raw material in the wilderness and get it back (to hell with you if you think they'll send someone to mine it)).

The specific idea that prompted this post was the use of horses in Iron Marches. Most of the characters have mounts to allow them to cover more ground outside the city walls (and the city walls are huge, cover 20 miles deep and 8 miles across).

Wyndhaven, while controlling a similarly large area, is not big with horses. Those steeds that are present in Wyndhaven are used almost exclusively by the garrison to patrol the wall and check on the farmlands. Some draft horses are probably also at those farms to do work. As such, there are not extra horses to go around for PCs to use. Either they will have to wait for a birth or a shipment or they will have to capture their own steeds. Stealing is also possible, I suppose.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Short History of Wyndhaven's Founding

As the title says, I want to get an outline of how Wyndhaven was founded and later closed off from the dangerous wilderness beyond its walls.

Several ships carrying supplies to found two to three separate colonies traveled along the coast seeking safe harbor. The winds, waves, and shoals surrouding the New World prevented even a single landing, let alone three. Finally, during a storm, they happened upon Wyndhaven, an area where the winds and sea were supernaturally calm despite the raging tempest around them. They took it as a sign from the gods that this was where they should found a colony. One or more ships went down in the storm but the rest put anchor in the harbor and road out the maelstrom.

Flush with the manpower and supplies of two to three colonies and facing the reality that this might be the only safe landing along the New World's coast, they set about building a major port town capable of funneling the masses of the Old World into the New and the wealth of the New World back to the Old. A wall was constructed some ways inland to guard against the unknown while the bulk of the settlers worked on building shelter and exploring the harbor. Soon, their settlement was officially christened Wyndhaven and messengers were sent to back to request further men and supplies.

Some of the settlers moved outside the wall to survey the land for farming. Several homesteads soon popped up in the surrounding land, promising food for the infant colony.

Then the attacks began. Goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, and other foul creatures raided in the night, stealing food, livestock, supplies, and people. Homes were burned and even the might of the wall was tested. The garrison in Wyndhaven tried its best to drive off attacks but there were not yet enough men for regular patrols. Wyndhaven suffered a long stretch of fear.

When new men arrived, Wyndhaven's mayor ordered the building of another wall, far inland. It was an ambitious project (the details of which, such as how they came about the materials, to be determined later) but soon a wall began to encompass a huge area of potential farmland around Wyndhaven. The humanoids took notice and began to mass their forces. Before the wall could be finished, they attacked. A huge battle ensued but the colonists were ultimately victorious. The shattered remnants of the humanoid army scurried back into the darkness of the unknown wilderness while the colonists hastened to complete the wall. Their forces had also been dangerously depleted by the battle. Further news from back home revealed that reinforcements would be few and long in coming. Wyndhaven once more buckled down in fear of another attack.

Some years past with few sightings of the enemy, and even those were of isolated bands rather than a true force to challenge the wall. The Wyndhavians prospered and grew into their new home. Eventually, some settlers wished to push further into the continent. The Lord Governor objected but, due to the years of peace, relented to their protestations. They travelled north and west, through the blighted Thornscape, and found rich, fertile soil on the hills. They named their town Land's Blessing.

Getting late so I will summarize:

Land's Blessing discovered The Hoach and the goblins living there. A regiment from Wyndhaven came and supposedly cleared it out. Some time later (a few days, one month to the day, something), all communication with Land's Blessing stopped. I want a fire to be visible to the guards along the wall. Someone or something destroyed the entire town of Land's Blessing and all the people who lived there (except a few who were in Wyndhaven at the time). The adventurers who originally cleared out the Hoach left a map of the caves carved into a table at the inn in Land's Blessing. Despite the huge fire, this table survived and now offers the PCs their first lead.

Five Pillar Night

I had an idea after writing that last post.

When 3e first came out, I joined a game where I played a two-weapon fighter. Part of my fighter's background was that he was born on Five Pillar Night, a holiday in the St. Cuthbert religion. The details of this holiday were simply that five gigantic Flame Strikes fell from the heavens onto an invading army, shattering it in a matter of seconds.

I imagine something similar could have happened in Trokair. I am currently entertaining the idea that the original society of Trokair fell when the portal to the Abyss opened and demons swept across the land. It could be that, after establishing a few settlements further inland from Wyndhaven, some of these demons appeared and wiped them out with huge pillars of flame in the middle of the night. That would also explain the reticence to expand further.

The old idea of humanoids prowling about in armies begs the question - what happened to them? It could be that the army of Wyndhaven exhausted its numbers fending off an attack, leaving both sides reeling (though the humanoids would be able to recover more quickly, leading to the building of the Wall).

This new idea also begs some questions (why is Wyndhaven still inhabited being a major one) but it does hint at the demonic forces that lie further inland.

Trokair - Sandbox

I have been thinking about Trokair from the perspective of a Western Marches-style sandbox game over the past week. I never get really far (as is my custom) but I have made bits of progress (the giant oyster from last post came from my musings).

A Western Marches game requires dungeons and challenges to exist prior to the PCs' arrival. It also requires those challenges to develop without recourse to human settlements as no civilized PC races inhabit the world beyond the safe zone of the home base. This rules out many of the typical plot devices used to drive adventure (kidnapping, recovering stolen property, immenent threat of attack, etc). So I have been forced to explore why PCs would push on through dangerous environments and continue forth in any given dungeon locale. There is no captive townsperson at the end of the dungeon. There is not necessarily any great treasure or macguffin under the watchful eye of the Boss Moster. Players really need to desire exploration for its own sake, an increase in character power through experience, and the acquired treasure that may or may not be found in the dungeon (and maybe, like myself, just the opportunity to roll dice and kill things; I wonder how long that motivation can carry other players?).

Impressing players from the start with the concept that their characters are explorers and adventurers is probably key to this kind of game. They are the kind of people who see a cave and need to know what is inside it, what lies around the next bend, what might be behind that crevice just large enough to slip through. They kill the monsters they encounter to protect themselves (it occurs to me that the monsters need to be hostile as a matter of policy; they could be angry because the PCs have invaded their home but animosity should be assumed at all times to drive the conflict). If they find treasure, that is a good day.

From another angle, the presence of dungeons has to be explained through some means. If this is a land new to the PC races' knowledge, how did catacombs and sewers and other such locales develop? Most likely, one of three methods would be used to populate the wilds with dungeons:

1. Adventures are almost entirely wilderness based, with natural caves and humanoid forts making up the difference.

2. A prior civilization inhabited the land but has declined into ruin and the PCs are exploring their forgotten empire.

3. The PCs' own civilization once inhabited the land but it was overrun and they are now going back.

Option 3 is basically a subset of 2 but it introduces a slightly more cogent motivation for the PCs by sacrificing a bit of the unknown. I am currently mulling a combination of 2 and 3 to incorporate some ideas from Trokair. The actual ruins of Trokair might be known to the PCs but they date from an earlier, extinct civilization (and many of the dungeons to explore also arose from that civilization). However, there would also be a few more recent places, like Land's Blessing (the town just outside the Hoach).

The basic idea at the moment is that the PCs' people arrived from across the sea some years ago and established a settlement on the coast (Wyndhaven). They sought to expand but encountered heavy, unforeseen resistance by various savage humanoids (orcs, goblins, etc). For years the colony was essentially under siege, with sightings of the humanoids on the horizon deterring any attempts at expansion. The town was waiting for further men and supplies when something happened to curtail or delay that reinforcement (a war back home thta diverted manpower, a need to build up resources after the expense of the first colonization, etc). They consolidated their holdings and decided to wait it out. One day, no more humanoids were sighted. After a few more months/years, a group of settlers set out to found a new town called Land's Blessing (it was the only fertile patch of soil in an area known as the Thornscape). The town flourished for a while before the humanoids returned and wiped it out. Now, no settlers venture out of Wyndhaven.

The majority of dungeons would arise from the Trokairian civilization. However, a few settlements close to Wyndhaven would have come from the settlers and might hold options for human-related adventure (kidnappings from farms near Wyndhaven, criminals on the loose from Wyndhaven, stolen goods, etc). I like compromises; they seem to open the most doors.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Giant Pearl

I had this idea after watching the Ewoks #9 review by Linkara/Iron Liz.

Somewhere in the ocean along the coast (likely where the Hoach empties into the sea) there will be an underwater dungeon inhabited by a truly gigantic oyster. Within this oyster is a very large pearl. Naturally, the first instinct is to sell the pearl to obtain fabulous wealth. However, clues leading to the discovery of the pearl also hint at a greater treasure within. I am not sure what that is but, for example, it could be a key to another dungeon with an even more valuable treasure that was long ago lost to the sea (or willfully sequestered within the oyster) and became encased in the pearl (the existence of magic allows clues to point towards an item that was lost at sea and later encased in a pearl).

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's a Good Thing We Won World War II

I am copying this article (links and all) from Mark Shea's blog on National Catholic Register.


If we hadn’t, Europe might now be a socialist confederacy of nations dominated by a German economic powerhouse.  Hostility to Jews and Catholics might be rampant on the Continent at this hour.  A worldwide colossus dedicated to the abortion of the unfit and founded by a racist whose banner was “Eugenics: To create a race of thoroughbreds!” might, even now, be continuing Hitler’s work of killing millions.  Our culture, might, even now, be paying high honors to those who cherish the lives of animals over those of human beings just as Hitler loved his German Shepherd Blondi while ordering the unfit to be massacred.  Heck, we might even be torturing and experimenting on prisoners or adopting the tactics (and euphemisms) of the Gestapo in the name of National Security. There could be serious talk among the intelligentsia about arresting the Pope on a trumped up charge and even dreamy wishful talk in state-sponsored news media of pursuing him through the sewers of Europe and riddling his corpse with bullets.  The brave Dutch Catholics who resisted Nazi oppression might, even now, be abandoning their faith in droves in conformity with the Culture of Death and embracing the notion that murdering innocent people whose lives were deemed by Authorities to be “Lebensunwertes Leben” is a good thing and praising German jurisprudence as a masterpiece of enlightenment on the matter.  And the practice might even be spreading to our shores.

Indeed, nationally recognized journals of reputable popular science like Psychology Today might be publishing things like:

Thus, the injunction against assisted suicide – like that against unassisted suicide – is commonly underwritten by the doctrine of human dignity. But the whole edifice starts to crumble once we bring Darwin into the picture. With the corrective lens of evolutionary theory, the view that human life is infinitely valuable suddenly seems like a vast and unjustified over-valuation of human life. This is because Darwin’s theory undermines the traditional reasons for thinking human life might have infinite value: the image-of-God thesis and the rationality thesis.

But if human life is not supremely valuable after all, then there is no longer any reason to think that suicide or voluntary euthanasia is necessarily wrong under any or all circumstances. In fact, it starts to seem decidedly odd that we have elevated human life – i.e., pure biological continuation – so far above the quality of the life in question for the person living it. Why should life be considered valuable in and of itself, independently of the happiness of the individual living that life?

And powerful people might be quietly asking themselves, “What’s so special and sacrosanct about “happiness” or “consent”?  If it’s true that Darwin’s theory undermines the traditional reasons for thinking human life might have infinite value, isn’t it just as true that Darwin’s theory undermines the traditional reasons for thinking human life might have any value if it gets in my way?  If human beings are just one more product of the same mindless process that made that anthill in my front yard, why shouldn’t I treat human beings the way I treat those ants when they get in my way?  It certainly worked for Hitler when he came to power.  His problem was not that he was immoral or “evil”.  As Psychology Today has argued to my satisfaction, all that “morality” stuff is just genetic programming design to perpetuate the species.  If I can defy my genetic programming by wearing a condom, why not defy it when I need to kill somebody who is in my way?  Yeah, Hitler’s problem was not that he was for killing whole populations that got in his way anymore than a shark is “evil” for devouring a school of fish.  It’s what happens in nature.  No. Hitler’s problem is that he got sick and weak.  His problem is that he lost.  So if I can retool the system in such a way that it’s legal to do so and I won’t face punishment for my so-called “sin” (what an outdated concept!), why not kill people who get in my way just as I kill ants that get in my way?  If Darwinism is about anything, it’s about the survival and proliferation of the strong!

Yes, it’s sure a good thing Hitler lost and his ideas died with him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Faces of Fear - Motivations

A thought I had while going over the Faces of Fear recording I did earlier today.

Why do each of the Faces of Fear act the way they do? Saren hears voices in her dreams that tell her to kill and mutilate people. Warrick is shunned, humiliated, and constantly mistreated by the woman he loves and follows her bidding in an attempt to win her affection. Radok is much like Warrick in that he idolizes Garrett and seeks to win his approval and recognition. But Garrett? He just likes killing people.

Garrett is not like a serial killer; he does not pick out a victim, fantasize about killing him, stalk him, and finally do the deed. He just likes getting into fights and killing people. That is why he became a soldier. That is why he became a mercenary. That is why he became an assassin. And the fact that sometimes his patrons did not want him to kill certain people is why he left even those jobs behind to join Saren's cult. Here, he basically has free reign to kill whomever he wishes (fortunately, he feels an odd, familial love for Saren and all but ignores Warrick, so he has no desire to kill his fellow Faces; I still do not know why he lets Radok live; probably likes to see the little guy struggle).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dwarves and Guns

I just wanted to jot down something that occurred to me while watching the opening minute of Sacred Blacksmith's second episode.

Dwarves in Trokair are rare on the surface. Those below ground have created guns. Gunpowder and explosives are indispensible but dangerous tools for mining and tunneling through rock. They can be used to great effect in setting traps (such as triggered cave-ins) but the dangers of collapse prevent greater use in the manner of concussive hand grenades (short-distance projectile/fragmentation grenades and "flash bang" grenades are suitable (a sudden, bright flash of light in the middle of pitch-black tunnels is a great way to dazzle one's foes)). Hence, guns were born. Their guns focus on spread and power (they would love shotguns) as opposed to distance and accuracy because they are used for tunnel fighting (where it is difficult to dodge and long-distance combat is rare).

One of the things that triggered this post was a line from the opening, "descend into the dark heavens." It is an unusual turn of phrase, as the heavens are almost universally considered to be skyward. I wondered if dwarves would think of things backwards, with their heaven beneath the earth and their hell on the surface (how horrific to be deprived of the welcoming embrace of stone and earth on all sides, to face this terrible empty void of the sky).

Then I remembered that the dwarves have guns ... and why they have guns. The depths of the earth spawn creatures twisted with evil and madness. Dark, inhuman creatures constantly bubble up from the darkness and seek to overwhelm the surface. The dwarves are the wall between us and destruction. That is why they have guns. And given that, there is no doubt that the dwarves do not consider the surface hell - hell lies somewhere far below even their subterranean kingdoms.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

City of Dimension

Creating Jack Dufresne has compelled me to describe, briefly, the City of Dimension. In trying to do so, I wrote that entire post about DJ Art.

The City of Dimension (which I perversely refuse to just call Dimension 90% of the time) was created to house DJ Art. I needed a world on this side of the supply room door to match the many and varied worlds on the other side. I suck at coming up with names for things so I somehow decided on The City of Dimension (I wanted the name to be cool but unusual and I feel that Dimension hits both those notes but it sucks that it came from DJ's name).

The City of Dimension appears completely normal and average. It is located somewhere in the middle of the US (by middle I just mean it is not a coastal city) and probably more south than north (as I grew up in Arizona and do not imagine snow very well, despite many visits to family in Buffalo, living through the President's Day Blizzard in New York City in 2003, and living in Erie, PA). It is not a very large city (like NYC or Boston or SanFran or Dallas) but it is not very small either (like Erie). The people there are happy and, while they deal with many of the same problems as the outside world, there is a feeling of continuity and isolation (a good kind of isolation, in that they need not worry too much about what happens in the outside world because it does not affect them).

The interesting thing about the City of Dimension, though, is that it is home to many unusual people. DJ Art, who finds himself transported to alternate realities through the back door of his art supply store, is a typical example. Jack Dufresne, who is not a natural person but a corporate entity of other people's consciousnesses given corporeal form, is another. Essentially, whereas Trokair is where I try to fit all of my fantasy creations in an attempt to tie them all into one cohesive whole, so Dimension is where I try to fit all my modern creations (the fantasy/modern duality comes from D&D and d20 Modern, two games using the same basic ruleset).

Dimension is home to my magical girl, a half dozen or so of my superhero characters, several of my real life friends from high school and college, my furutistic corporation, and more. The theme tying them all together is normal on the surface, weird underneath. For example, my friends work at a wine and liquor store in the city. Everything about the arrangement is perfectly normal except that no one will ever touch the mop in the corner and no one will ever mention why. And beyond the brief moment when it comes up, no one in the wider world ever acknowledges it. It is a city in which the weird and unusual happens constantly, but the world itself conspires to maintain a mundane atmosphere. It is not a city like NY in Men in Black where weird things happen and somehow you forget. Nor is it a city where a demon walking down the street does not seem unusual. It is, instead, a city where a demon walking down the street will miraculously avoid everyone's attention except that one guy who's plight it is to see demons.

I suppose I could have called it the City of Unbelievable Coincidence. No one tries to achieve widespread panic through the revelation of the supernatural forces at work in the city (there is no mad scientist who takes over the airwaves and demands ransom money or he will blow up the moon). Instead, everyone with these weird powers or occurences tries desperately to keep them under wraps and, overall, succeeds brilliantly. Most of the characters are associates and interact frequently. However, few know of each other's weirdness. For example, the girl who works in DJ's shop does not know he disappears into alternate dimensions and DJ does not know that she is a former member of the high school chess club from the year they all mysteriously gained super powers (she is Pawn and she can split into multiple copies of herself). Yet they work together every day and one or the other often has to cover for himself to avoid the other finding out about it.

I find it is best to just ignore that part. Assume that this stuff all stays hidden and focus on what each character does while exploring his own weirdness, rather than mixing weirdnesses together.

City of Dimension - DJ Art

I created a character in late high school or early college named DJ Art. DJ was visually based on Vampire Hunter D (tall, slim, teenage girl boy-crush man-pretty, and with an awesome hat) but otherwise independent.

At that time, I had discovered the world of freeform message board roleplaying. My D&D group had broken up and I needed my RP fix. One board system in particular really drew me in: Venura. Venura consisted of a number of interrelated and completely independent roleplaying boards all housed under one convenient URL and utilizing one convenient log-in/account. By the time I arrived, many of the existing realms (each separate RP board was called a realm) were defunct, abandoned after months of use or isolation. Every few weeks I made a point of going down the list of realms to search for new arrivals. A few times, I also looked through the dead realms to see if there was anything of interest. One board was devoid of input except for a link to a Geocities or Angelfire webpage. On that page, there was a character submission form for the RP that would have taken place on Venura. The hook for the game was that no characters could have special powers, a wide departure from standard roleplaying (as the goal for many roleplayers is to explore something besides the mundane). The novelty of it struck me and I decided to envision such a character. Of course, being the rule-bending bastard that I was, I made DJ Art.

DJ Art stands for Dimension Jumper: Alternate Reality Timelines. DJ Art was an artist who owned a combination art supply store and gallery and probably taught a few art lessons on the side. He had no special powers. He married young but his wife died soon after (the reason was never established; perhaps it would be too cliche to say she died of complications during childbirth and the child also died, leaving him completely alone and burdened with a terrible loss that fueled his art for years to come; also, her name started with an L (Lenore, Laura, Lisa, Leanne, Lindsay?)).

One day, while closing up shop, he entered the back storeroom and found that beyond the doorway lied, instead of shelves of paints and paper and such, a vast, unending expanse of blackness. As he stared dumbfounded into the darkness, the doorway disappeared behind him. When his initial shock faded, he noticed a glowing light before him. A nonexistent spotlight shined down from the void and illuminated a small table standing on nothing.

(I always imagine the scene from Disney's Alice in Wonderland where she is walking the colored path and the broomdogthing sweeps it away; she sits down on a rock illuminated in the middle of a dark forest; when I was young, that forest was so dark on our VHS copy of Alice in Wonderland that it seemed like there was nothing in the background at all.)

The table was covered with a white linen cloth and a large lace doily. In the middle of the table stood a tall, thin crystal vase holding a single red rose. A mysterious voice entered his head (DJ had the distinct sense that the voice was not being heard by his ears) and told him that he needed to set right what was wrong. DJ questioned the voice, out loud (why not?), but to no avail. Moments later, he found himself standing the middle of a city park at dusk. Thus his first adventure began.

DJ is transported to various alternate realities and alternate timelines in this manner by the mysterious voice. Once there, he needs to figure out what is wrong and then fix it. He has to accomplish this with no special powers because he is just a normal human being. Once accomplished, he finds himself back in the void with the mysterious table and a wide open doorway. Sometimes, the doorway leads back to his store. Other times, it leads to another alternate reality. He eventually figured out that the table was the key to telling the difference. If it appears exactly as it did when he first entered the void, he is back home. If not, he is not. And it seems as though the further the table differs from that initial configuration, the further out of whack the alternate reality he enters.

One of my favorite stories with DJ is when he entered an AR (alternate reality) and saw a young woman who reminded him of his wife (and by reminded, I mean his wife and that girl were almost twins when it came to looks). He fell in love with her (which was very inappropriate, considering she was a teenager and he was in his 30s) but found out that what he needed to set right in this world was getting her to fall in love with another boy her age.

City of Dimension - Jack Dufresne

I was heading into Wegman's (an awesome grocery store in Buffalo and Erie) to get some bread and carrots when I thought about wielding a katana. I had taken kendo classes in college and I tried to remember the correct stance and technique for the various strikes. I thought about taking more kendo classes in the future and imagined showing up to class, telling sensei that I had taken kendo before, and then promptly assuming an incorrect stance. I further imagined that I would be vindicated by further practice as the lessons that had once sat rusty in the back of my brain received a good polish and demonstrated to sensei that I had taken classes before (I simply neglected any practice since then).

And that spurred the thought for the new character. I imagined someone who knew the basics of any job/skill but always appeared very out of practice. It would be obvious to anyone acquainted with that job that he was not a complete neophyte (there would be hints that he knew certain advanced details of a job) but he was not at the top of his game. With a little practice, however, he soon resumed his full competence.

This being the City of Dimension, such a man would need a weird origin for his ability. I decided he would be a corporate being, the collective consciousnesses of multiple people throughout space (and maybe time) given corporeal form. He possessed the knowledge and skills of all these people but it took some time and effort to bring about full access and familiarity (he would, in essence, need to strengthen the established bond to a particular consciousness until the skill operated as his own). He would be a drifter or a homeless man, wandering the streets of Dimension and finding work wherever he could. By choice or by fate, he is drawn to temporary jobs; in those cases where he is offered a full-time position, he inevitably abandons the post after a short time. It is not in his nature to be tied down or adopt a routine existence.

He needed a name. The name that kept popping into my mind was Jack. It was not a deliberate play on jack-of-all-trades but it may well have been a subconscious motivation. For a last name, I somehow came to Dufresne (do'-frayn). He is gritty, hard-worn, probably smokes, often has a mean case of stubble (rarely a beard), and somehow keeps his light brown or blonde hair cut short. He has brown eyes (or blue or green, if blonde).

Obviously there needs to be a yet greater secret about Jack Dufresne. A corporate entity like himself must exist for a reason, whether to accomplish something (like, for an example off the top of my head, the consciousnesses which compose him come from victims of some immortal supernatural creature and he has to solve the mystery of their deaths and remove the dopplegangers that exist in their place) or as a result of something else being accomplished (like, for another example off the top of my head, a supernatural EMP ripping parts of the souls from people and them coalescing into this new being who must find his own purpose in life but might also want to investigate that EMP).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Awesome Journal Articles

Affect, culture, and morality, or is it wrong to eat your dog?
Haidt J, Koller SH, Dias MG.
J Pers Soc Psychol. 1993 Oct;65(4):613-28.

Are disgusting or disrespectful actions judged to be moral violations, even when they are harmless? Stories about victimless yet offensive actions (such as cleaning one's toilet with a flag) were presented to Brazilian and U.S. adults and children of high and low socioeconomic status (N = 360). Results show that college students at elite universities judged these stories to be matters of social convention or of personal preference. Most other Ss, especially in Brazil, took a moralizing stance toward these actions. For these latter Ss, moral judgments were better predicted by affective reactions than by appraisals of harmfulness. Results support the claims of cultural psychology (R.A. Shweder, 1991a) and suggest that cultural norms and culturally shaped emotions have a substantial impact on the domain of morality and the process of moral judgment. Suggestions are made for building cross-culturally valid models of moral judgment.


Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials -- Smith and Pell 327 (7429): 1459 -- from the British Medical Journal.

Objectives To determine whether parachutes are effective in preventing major trauma related to gravitational challenge. Design Systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Data sources: Medline, Web of Science, Embase, and the Cochrane Library databases; appropriate internet sites and citation lists. Study selection: Studies showing the effects of using a parachute during free fall. Main outcome measure Death or major trauma, defined as an injury severity score = 15. Results We were unable to identify any randomised controlled trials of parachute intervention. Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.


Exorcism-resistant ghost possession treated with clopenthixol.
Hale AS, Pinninti NR.
Br J Psychiatry. 1994 Sep;165(3):386-8.


Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly. DM Oppenheimer - Applied Cognitive Psychology, 2006


Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: Its Effects on a Male Asiatic Elephant
This was published in SCIENCE! (albeit in 1962)


Pair of lice lost or parasites regained: the evolutionary history of anthropoid primate lice.
Reed DL, Light JE, Allen JM, Kirchman JJ.
BMC Biol. 2007 Mar 7;5:7.


An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep Over Various Surfaces.
Applied Ergonomics, vol. 33, pp 523-531.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Gods Must Be Crazy

I had this idea while going to the bathroom. That rarely happens. Usually, I get an idea and I flesh it out in the bathroom (most often the shower, not the toilet).

The idea is a world where the gods are active. And by active, I mean they issue proclamations and change the very laws of existence on a weekly or monthly or yearly basis.

I just woke up a little while ago so my memory has not fully booted but I do not remember a campaign setting where the gods are as explicitly active as this. Even in a setting like Forgotten Realms, the gods are mostly active behind the scenes in games (they are main characters in books but not often in games, unless the PCs are gods). And the few other instances I remember of active gods in RPGs usually sequesters them away as highly secretive or isolated.

While the campaign does not necessarily have to go this way, one easily derived storyline is to increase the capriciousness of the gods and the PCs must do the impossible to stop them - deicide.

In a less us-vs-them campaign, the PCs would have the option to directly petition their god to change physical laws to their benefit. In this case, there would have to be a limit on the power of the gods to maintain balance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Young Me, Now Me

This is a cool website linked from Fark today. It displays two pictures side-by-side; on the left is a picture of "young me" (an old picture from when someone was a child) and on the right is a picture of "now me" (a current picture, often duplicating aspects of the young me photo such as clothing, position, location, facial expression, etc.).

And then there is this guy:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prayer before Sex

An article I read months ago but wanted to transfer here in case it goes offline.

Roman Catholic couples are being encouraged to pray together before they have sex.

A book published by a prominent Church group invites those setting out on married life to recite the specially-composed Prayer Before Making Love.

It is aimed at 'purifying their intentions' so that the act is not about selfishness or hedonism.

The prayer, which appears in the Prayer Book for Spouses, implores God 'to place within us love that truly gives, tenderness that truly unites, self-offering that tells the truth and does not deceive, forgiveness that truly receives, loving physical union that welcomes'.

It adds: 'Open our hearts to you, to each other and to the goodness of your will.

'Cover our poverty in the richness of your mercy and forgiveness. Clothe us in true dignity and take to yourself our shared aspirations, for your glory, for ever and ever.'

The 64-page book has been published by the London-based Catholic Truth Society.

The group has close links to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

The Rt Rev Paul Hendricks, who is the Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark and sits on the charity's board, said he thought the prayer's inclusion was 'brave but good'.

'I suppose it is a bit idealistic but it is recognising that God is at the heart of the marriage relationship between husband and wife,' he said.

'It is important for the Church to affirm the value of marriage and family life and I suppose this is a particular way of doing that.'

'Perhaps it is something that has not been tried, certainly for a while - I can't remember seeing something like that before.'

The book contains prayers for every stage of marriage and family life, including engagement, planning for parenthood, pregnancy and caring for children and elderly parents.

The prayers, written by a variety of authors, are interspersed with Catholic teaching on the meaning of marriage and family.

The book pushes the message that marriage should be exclusive and life-long and condemns abortion.

It criticises 'those who, in our times, consider it too difficult, or indeed impossible, to be bound to one person for the whole of life, and those caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the commitment of spouses to fidelity'.

It adds: 'It is a fundamental duty of the Church to reaffirm strongly the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage.'

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Zora and the Fire

This comes from a play-by-post game I am playing. My character is Zora-Kai, a watersoul genasi; Connor is a warlock. We are fighting goblins in a bar and the goblins have set the place on fire. Connor is looking for a bucket and water while the rest of us fight. I mentioned that I used Zora's swiftcurrent power before they started the fire, otherwise I would be putting the fire out with my butt (meaning my bottom half would turn to water and douse the flames as I moved over them). He got a different mental picture.

That would be kind of funny. In my head it plays out something like:

Zora-Kai starts wrestling with the bindings of her pants. Then pauses and looks up at the rest of the group.

"It's not like you think, OK? I just need my butt out."


"I mean I have a wet butt."


"I mean I need to stick my butt in the fire."

Sighs and covers eyes with her hand.

"You know what, the Warlock can put the damn fire out. I'm gonna keep killing people."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mega Man Villains Idea

I was watching a playthrough of Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X (a PSP remake of Mega Man X) and I noticed that Boomer Kuwanger changes his attack pattern when you use the Homing Missile compared to the Mega Buster (I always used Homing Missiles against him so I never knew he had a different attack pattern).

How about a Mega Man game where each robot master is susceptible to two other masters' weapons. One weapon causes more damage while the other weapon alters the attack pattern to make it easier to defeat. If you then make each robot master's attack pattern difficult to dodge, players have an incentive to use either weapon (more damage to kill it quicker or easier attack pattern to survive longer).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

American Education System as a Game

I had this thought while reading dok's blog but I figure it was tangential to the main point of his post and figured it would be better to post here than as a comment there:


When I was in school, my school district decided to split the players into three leagues. The bulk of students remained in regular classes while those who struggled were put into remedial classes and those who excelled were put into accelerated classes.

This started as early as 2nd grade when students were bused from several neighboring schools to form a single class once or twice a week. At the junior high and high school levels, when these students all fed into the same school, they comprised whole classes along the accelerated learning tracks.

I remember hearing that someone was challenging the school district's ability to separate gifted students out of normal classrooms at the elementary level when I left for college but I see that the program is still up and running (and actually expanded).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mapping Trokair - Issues

I have been trying to mentally map out Trokair's world on three scales - global, continental, and local.

Global and local have not been much of a problem. I know where Dhezhan, Rackthilde, and Trokair are located relative to each other. I also know where the ruins of Trokair lie relative to the mountains, forest, road, and nearby cities.

Continental, on the other hand, is giving me a lot of issues. Based on my feelings, the Black Duchy lies to the west (and a bit north) and has a mountainous northern and eastern border; Aelonia to the north (and a bit east) and has a mountainous northern border and an open border with the Free Cities (to admit refugees); the Free City Region has a coast along its eastern border (for Wyndhaven) and mountains along its northern (for Trokair); barbarians and orcs inhabit the mountains and lands beyond north of Trokair.

What I really want to do is find a semi-suitable map and then fit the countries into amenable positions. It caters to the "random background generator" character creation I love so much.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Regional Airline Dream

I just woke up from a fitful sleep. Usually, when I have an involved dream and I wake up long enough to toss or turn, I cannot go back to the same dream but only a version of it. As an example, and related, in a way, to my current dream, I once dreamed of flying on a better-than-first-class jet (very spacious, very special; like flying in Air Force One). After I woke up and turned over, I dreamed of working at the airports where that jet lands (one was a vastly over-sized school basketball court covered in fall leaves; another was a huge metropolitan airport that looked like a whole side of the building had collapsed or been blown apart but everyone just hopped over the gaping holes or drove around the rubble like it was nothing).

My dream last night was about a small regional airline. By airline, I mean to say that this company had one small jet. They flew a few short routes during the week and on the weekends, they took chartered flights. This is not very interesting because I cannot remember the "hook". All of the employees of this small company were outcasts in some way (the same way), similar in feel to a marginalized religious sect. That lent a strong bond to the whole business. I wish I could remember but that was the first nebulous bit of the dream to flee my brain upon waking.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spectral Directions - Color in Motion

I just watched a TEDTalk video about Tom Shannon, an artist with Parkinson's disease who creates paintings using a big pendulum to squirt paint onto a canvas on the ground (the motion of the pendulum can be wholly contained within the canvas or, more commonly, sweep widely beyond the canvas). He started in the 1970s with a pendulum and a single color of paint. The paint flowed freely and he had real trouble refilling it while it stayed in motion. He now has a pendulum with six or eight colors whose release is remote controlled (mechanical clips hold the rubber nozzles shut and he can control how far each one opens at any given time).

It was at the moment he mentioned he wanted a pendulum with six colors that an idea hit me. I would like to see a painting, sculpture, or animation that utilized the primary colors across the three planes of our dimension. In animation, for example, you would follow a flowing line like a dribble of paint as it flowed across a rough surface. The color of the line would vary based on its current vector, with correspondingly greater amounts of blue, red, or yellow as it headed further into the x, y, or z planes.

Or, to put it another way, imagine a black dot in the middle of an empty white universe. If the dot moved left, it would leave a blue streak. If it moved up, it would leave a red streak. If it moved away from you, it would leave a yellow streak (but you would only see it as a dot). If, while moving left, it then turned in a shallow curve upwards, you would see the blue streak slowly turn purple then red as it flowed through the curve and moved upwards. If it then moved away from you while still going up, you would see an orange line (red + yellow).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Creatures of Shadow At Home in the Light

I saw a clip for The Tower of Druaga: Sword of Uruk volume 2 DVD. A large group of black, birdlike monsters swarm across a desert landscape attacking a group of soldiers. One party, most likely the main characters of the anime, take off running. The girl in the back trips over a branch or broken arrow and falls. The rest of the group only has enough time to turn around before the monsters fall upon them.

But when they turn, they see the monsters stopped cold at the edge of a large shadow. The girl had fallen in the shadow of a large rock and it seemed that the monsters were not able to leave the sunlight (despite being black and looking like shadow creatures or monsters of darkness).

This would work in Dhezhan.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Perversions and Opposition: Satan's Supernatural Evils

Tying somewhat into the last post, I have some thoughts about the supernatural.

I hate the move away from the supernatural in modern fiction, particularly movies. The first example that springs to mind is Blade (I will speak about things from the first two movies as I have not seen the third). There were some supernatural occurrences in Blade (like the scene in the blood god) but I remember the first movie sort of went out of its way to make vampires completely mundane. Vampirism originates with a virus; vampires are vulnerable to UV radiation; mirrors and crosses don't work on vampires. This is a great disservice to the Western myth of the vampire. The traditions we strongly associate with vampires are intricately related to the Christian faith of the Western world. Vampires cannot stand sunlight because the sun is a symbol of God and purity. Mirrors show no reflection because vampires have sold their souls to the devil and the mirror reflects the emptiness inside them. Crosses repel vampires because of the blessing and the power of Christ inherent in the symbol.

The point of this post, however, is to examine the opposite perspective. It is my opinion that these supernatural creatures are symbols of the perversions of Christian goods. They can be seen as Satan trying to emulate God (in a bid to show he is God's equal) or mock God (sort of a supernatural sarcasm).

The undead are mockeries of the resurrection. Whereas God has the power to bring a person back to life, like Lazarus or Jesus in the Bible (or all of us at the end of time), Satan can only animate the bodies of the dead, imparting the barest semblance of life.

Wights eat flesh and vampires drink blood, dark opposites of the Eucharist.

God has given mankind the gift of free will; Satan and his demons possess man, abrogating their free will.

In the paladin mythos, the Incarnation is mocked when demons take flesh. It is the essential point behind the entire mythos, the very reason the paladins exist.

Christian Dualism

This is something I thought about a few weeks ago and it was recently recalled to mind after watching the move Legion (not that good).

I have seen the argument that some sects of Christianity raise the Devil to pseudo-divinity in the name of dualism. The Devil is the opposite of God, seeking to undo all that God has done, and some raise his level of power (perhaps without meaning to do so) to the level of God Himself. In such a system, God must actively fend off the plans of Satan in order to maintain control of creation. This is poppycock.

From the human perspective, God, the angels, Satan, and the demons are all vastly superior to us in power. From the human perspective, like that of an ant, the difference between an elephant and a brontosaurus is irrelevant; both are orders of magnitude beyond our comprehension and either could snuff us out in an instance. But rising above the human perspective to the spiritual perspective, God is as far beyond Satan as Satan is beyond mankind.

We often speak of the incident in the Garden of Eden as Original Sin. Certainly it is so for humanity, but it is not the first instance of sin. To my knowledge, the Church teaches that the first rejection of the will of the Creator by the created was perpetrated by Satan and culminated in the war of the heavens when Satan and his demons were thrust into hell. We are led to believe that this primal sin was one of hubris, and pride has forevermore been listed as chief among the Seven Deadly Sins (and, in my own opinion, all sin must necessarily have pride at its root). Satan, no doubt great among the angels, did more than recognize the greatness he had been given; he put his will before God's and was cast from heaven.

The war between God and Satan is not a war, for to be a war there must be some threat and Satan has as much hope against God as an ant does against the sun. A better metaphor is that Satan is a petulant child who thought he was special and was laid low. Like a child, he cannot struggle with any efficacy against his Father, and so he exerts his will indirectly: by hurting us. Satan's only weapon against God is God's love for others. God desires that all men should be saved and so Satan tempts men from salvation to damnation, like a child who breaks his Father's prized possessions.

The great war of the Apocalypse, as envisioned by fundamentalist Christians, may very well one day come. But far from being an epic struggle between God and Satan, it will only be a struggle between Satan and us. God's victory has never been in question; even Satan has known that since his beginning. Rather, the question is the extent of God's victory. How many men will be claimed by Satan before he is sequestered for all eternity in the pit of fire?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Trokair Overview

The Ruins of Trokair

The Ruins of Trokair is a dungeon I have been working on for years. The original idea came to me after reading an article in Dragon Magazine about the original Castle Greyhawk dungeon. And just as the original idea came from another source, a lot of what I have put into the Ruins of Trokair has come from other sources, like the name Ruins of Trokair, which is a card in Magic the Gathering.

The basic idea of the ruins of Trokair is a layered dungeon. On the surface are the actual ruins of Trokair, a city that has stood lifeless for about 100 years. The PCs would explore the surface ruins and find entrances into the sewers. In the sewers, PCs would find a series of secret rooms that connect to a hidden temple complex. This complex is carved from natural caves that cut beneath Trokair. A collapsed floor leads yet lower into the earth, revealing the ruined city of Ancient Trokair in the midst of a giant cavern. Beneath Ancient Trokair lie a huge expanse of catacombs and another temple, far older than the one above but bearing a great resemblance.

This ancient temple holds two key secrets in the history of both ruined cities. The first is that Ancient Trokair somehow sunk far into the earth (far enough that a natural cave system, sewer system, and another city could be built atop it without problem). The second has to do with the undead problem, which we will get to in a minute.

My original idea for the surface ruins was to have a few dangerous animals to harry the PCs as they sought out an entrance to the sewers; the sewers were to be the real point of the dungeon. I later decided against this. Why waste the only above-ground portion of the dungeon on a simple game of hide-and-seek? So I decided to add a few factions and make the surface a dungeon level of its own. I first added animal encounters to the forest that surrounded the southern half of the city. They would harry PCs as they went between the ruins and their base camp at a nearby settlement. I also added a mountain range north of the city, allowing for more dangerous monsters.

The first faction was a tribe of orcs who came down from the mountains seeking treasure in the ruins. Their main camp remained in the mountains and they sent teams down to forage. The second faction was a group of bandits. They lived in the southern ruins and raided caravans on the road past the forest. The third and fourth factions were both necromancers. One was a cleric of the goddess of death and the other was a wizard. They lived in the middle of the city ruins between the orcs and bandits. They did not work together (in fact, they hate each other).

The orcs seek treasure. The bandits seek refuge. Why are the necromancers in Trokair? Because of the undead problem. For decades, there have been scattered and sporadic accounts of the walking dead around the area of Trokair. The necromancers have come to investigate why. Unfortunately for them, the reason lies in the heart of the temple buried beneath the ruins of Ancient Trokair: an artifact of immense power called the Cup of Life. The Cup of Life has the ability to raise people from the dead. The cult that controlled the temple beneath Ancient Trokair sought to use the Cup to make themselves and the whole city immortal. They only half succeeded. The dead of Ancient Trokair, and those who die near the ruins of Trokair, can rise as undead. The further the body lies from the Cup, the longer the process takes (and not even those in Ancient Trokair have all risen). However, unlike the “normal” undead that are created by necromancy, these undead are not soulless husks animated by magic. The power of the Cup of Life, modified by rites performed in that ancient temple, ties the soul to the body. And so the cleric of the goddess of death seeks the reason why these people are kept from his Mistress while the wizard seeks the power that raises them.

Letter By Mark Twain to JH Todd

Nov. 20. 1905

J. H. Todd
1212 Webster St.
San Francisco, Cal.

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trokair Rumors

I am reading Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself; Before They Are Hanged; The Last Argument of Kings) and it is really good. Crowroadaw is also working on Iron Heroes v2 and between the two I am thinking about Trokair.

I have always wanted a rumor table for PCs to roll on at the beginning of the campaign. Because Trokair's charm lies in its mutability, I want to leave it up to the PCs to shape the course of the campaign. To do so, however, they need information about the various factions, their goals, and motivations. To guard against my influence, I want it to be a random table (though it still allows me to dictate which rumors I give; I need not present accurate information if I do not care to at the time).

Rumors need to be an assortment of: truths, half-truths, and lies about the factions; true and false rumors about the ruins and environs unrelated to the factions; and some rumors about areas unrelated to the ruins at all.

I am not sure if I want to organize the rumors by truth or by subject (their arrangement in the table is irrelevant as they are randomly generated).

To follow: Rumors
When I went to bed last night, I had an idea for the presentation of a rumor or a quest (NPC hires PCs).

"You remember an afternoon in the tavern, not too long ago, when a bedraggled merchant stumbled through the door, weary, world-worn, and really pissed off. He starts out grumbling under his breath but after a few drinks his complaints increase in volume. He was robbed on the road to (insert city name; Free City Valor, Thornscape, Free City Somethingelse); the bandits did not take everything but he would be lucky to break even on what he has left."

(Here, if you want a quest, you can mention that a special order for a customer was among the stolen goods and if he could recover that, the trip would turn a handsome profit. The special order is actually meant for Dhamon Riales, the wizard necromancer. PCs who recover it could meet his nephew in town during the sale (since he will have the money the merchant needs to pay them) or, if they meet Dhamon in the ruins, they could cut the merchant out of the deal and sell it directly.)

The above rumor is just "there are bandits on the road." Extra details, such as other bar patrons mentioning the old city ruins of Trokair in that area, or that the bandits are supposed to be former soldiers from the Free City region, or that Kelem is supposed to be an army officer/noble from Valor, can be added on top of that. False rumors are also needed. Man I suck at false rumors.

False rumors need to be interesting enough to catch the PCs attention and lead them in the right direction, but not so terribly interesting that the players are disappointed when the rumor turns out to be false. Of course, if they really get into a false rumor, you can just make it true, I guess.

Kelem is a noble from Valor.
Kelem is an army officer who fought for the nobles of Valor.
The bandits are mostly ex-soldiers from the armies who fought for Valorian nobles.
The bandits are mostly escaped thieves who serve the bandit king, Kelem.
Haunting spirits and the restless undead walk the streets of Trokair.
A necromancer lives in the ruins of Trokair.
People have been disappearing near the shrine to Derrgan.
The lame keeper of Derrgan's shrine was cursed by the Wandering God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tabletop Tactical RPG Wargame

After playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2: Grimoire of the Rift, FFTA 1, and watching videos of ulillia playing FFT and Disgaia on YouTube, I want to return to making a tabletop tactical RPG/wargame.

Previously I had found and started to work on the Final Fantasy Tactics rules I had found online. I hardly got anywhere, though, because my neat-freak requires a complete overhaul of the document's layout and formatting before I can start digging into the rules. Beyond that, the system detailed in that document is very loyal to the original game and, thus, is complex (the math was written for the Playstation CPU to calculate, not humans). I will, however, look back into that document for ideas once I progress to the point of mechanics. Until then, I want to focus on my overarching goals for the game.

Following is a list of wants. I do not believe all wants can be satisfied in one game, so I have to pick and choose the wise wants:

I want a game that plays out in campaigns. All the FFT games have a rich, overarching storyline. However, this is difficult to pull off in a wargame that might be played in pick-up games in stores.

I want the character pieces to be large in size but small in number. I want players to be able to play with only 5 characters. With only a few pieces, I feel they should be larger pieces (like 2" square bases) with plenty of color and detail. These would not be cheaply produced minis like WotC has put out in D&D Minis.

More later.

Shikabane Hime

I am not sure what I want to write about Shikabane Hime. My brother told me about the show after he watched it on Hulu.

The art and camera perspectives remind me of FLCL, though even with the undead monsters it lacks the latter's weird factor. It is also not as colorful; the dark subject matter and constant reference to death demands a much more subdued color palette.

When people die with strong regrets or obsessions that tie them to the world, they can come back to life as shikabane. Shikabane are dead, immortal, regenerating monsters who exist to fulfill their regrets and obsessions. They have no compunction against killing humans and, in fact, many actively seek to kill. Some shikabane have even greater supernatural powers called curses. The effects of these curses are varied but they can be profound. One shikabane reflects any injury to itself back on its attacker while another can open a "trench", or extradimensional space, to isolate or trap its enemies or prey.

In order to protect humanity from the ravages of shikabane, the Kougon Sect buddhist monks utilize shikabane hime, or shikabane princesses, to fight against them. Shikabane hime are shikabane; each of them died and came back as a shikabane with the same supernatural strengths and regenerative capacity. They may even have come back with regrets and obsessions like shikabane; it is not 100% clear from the series (so far; I am at episode 15/25) whether they return on their own but I suspect it is true; it is also unclear if they have to be female (so far all of them are female and the -hime honorific means princess) (edit: in a later episode, it is mentioned that the Kougon sect no longer possesses the full knowledge of the ritual to create shikabane hime and so they can only contract with young girls of a certain age range). In the window of time between the shikabane's return and her descent into inhumanity, the Kougon sect is able to bind her to a contracted monk (most monks are men but there is a female monk).

Once bound to a contracted monk, the shikabane becomes a shikabane hime. Her descent into inhumanity ceases (or maybe slows to a glacial crawl) and she derives her existence from the monk's life force (called rune) rather than her regrets and obsessions. The spiritual and vital strength of the monk also powers the shikabane hime's supernatural strength; some shikabane hime are stronger than others and it is mentioned that it has to do with the strength and purity/holiness of the contracted monk (one of the stronger shikabane hime belongs to the heir of one of the Ten Holy Families and this is mentioned by one of the main bad guys as a good reason to flee a battle). The ultimate goal of the shikabane hime is to kill 108 shikabane. Once they have accomplished that, they can move on to tengoku (heaven), having paid for the crime of becoming shikabane.

The main plot revolves around two conflicts. The background conflict is a split of the Kougon sect into two factions. One supports the use of shikabane hime in destroying shikabane while the other considers shikabane hime to be no different than shikabane and their use should be stopped as it is a defilement of their order. The head of the Kougon sect belongs to the former faction while the head underling (and several other high ranking monks) belongs to the latter. The main conflict involves a group of powerful, cursed shikabane called The Seven Stars. They believe they have progressed beyond regrets and obsessions. They believe that immortality and the powers of shikabane are inherent to their nature and that they represent the only true human beings, having shed the weaknesses of death and regrets. Another villain, the Traitor Monk, used to be a contracted monk. He apparently switched factions in the Kougon sect and killed his own shikabane hime. He originally sought to create more shikabane to steal some of their power and he seeks to destroy either the whole Kougon sect or just the faction that uses shikabane hime. He joined with the Seven Stars after being defeated by the monks but the Stars are not particularly beholden to him.

The parallels between the contracted monks/shikabane hime and the paladins with their battle angels are obvious; it was particularly underscored in an episode where the strongest shikabane hime performs a sword slash that throws out a huge blast of spiritual power; the effect was almost identical to what I imagine el armor del oro's purging flame looks like.

Throughout the series, I have viewed the monks as a pagan analog to the paladins and thought about how they could work together against a common enemy. I want to wait until the end to determine where it would be best to introduce them but I have no qualms with discussing the moral and theological implications of the shikabane hime. They are very similar to Veronica in that they have cheated death and overcome the tainted nature of undeath to work for good. They differ in that apparently they came back willingly (through their regrets and obsessions).