We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat

So, over a year ago ( about the last time I posted here, *zing* ) I saw a really neat item on io9: a concept art writing prompt. They’d post up a weird image, and basically challenge their readers to expand on the idea – create a short story or something along those lines.

The moment I saw it, I knew I could use it in the Numenera game I run. Numenera is a tabletop/pencil/paper/dice roleplaying game that really focuses on keeping things weird. I ended up tweeting the picture and a super-short version of what happened, and a number of people seemed to dig it. There was of course more to how the encounter played out in-game, and more that the players didn’t get to explore.

So, here we go.

First, here’s the io9 entry: http://io9.com/concept-art-writing-prompt-shark-isle-1596634684

And the art that started all this, by Kendrick See: (click image to embiggen)
Shark Isle

The background info: This is the “Loach Range” – a green rocky outcrop often found in the desert. It’s a type of numenera called a “Discovery” and rather than poorly paraphrase an already well-written description, here’s the explanation from the rule book:

Discoveries are a catch-all category of numenera that don’t fit into the other categories. These are not devices the PCs can claim as their own. The characters probably can’t take a discovery with them, and usually they would have no reason to do so, anyway. A discovery might be a bio lab where genetically engineered creatures are still being artificially produced, a receiver that picks up signals transmitted from a station on Mars, or a still-functioning hovertrain. While these discoveries can be useful, they do not necessarily make the characters more powerful.

This particular “device” was initially designed to cull down a rapidly-growing and invasive species of flying hybrids long ago. It was originally much more active when it was needed, now it mostly rests in the ground for days at a time, saving energy for when it needs to feed on whatever it may find in the air. It tends to stick to somewhat-regular feeding routes, but has changed those areas over the millennia.

It is also home to a lush forested eco-system. Any number of creatures may be found there at any given time, but like ramoras, it sees to have developed a symbiotic relationship with Golthiars – a defensive humanoid creature of woody muscle and barklike skin:

Golthiar

In this encounter the characters were told that in the morning there was a caravan heading towards the Tithe River, which could then take them to where they needed to go. The meetup location was the resting Loach Range. To them, it just appeared to be a nice respite from the desert. So they camp, have an encounter with some Golithar, and one of our newer players learned that fighting isn’t always the answer – there were two visible Golithar, and two still lurking on the edge of the woods. Clever girl.

In the morning, the pleasant breeze and oddly pervasive fog were revealed to be clouds (yeah, I know fog is clouds, but the altitude was revealed). When I went from a carefully selected zoom area and pulled back to the full image on my tablet, there were some actual “oh!s”, “ooh!s”, and “neat!s” – was pretty satisfying. The realization that they were already on the “caravan” was pretty neat to see.

Eventually, it landed again for a rest after a long round-about trip, and the term “as the shark flies” was created.

If you game, I hope you can use this. If you don’t, I at least hope you thought it was neat or at the very least, didn’t suck.

and it’s you

The passage of time is a funny thing – the only thing constant about the perception of its rate of passage seems to be that it is wildly variable.

It was five years ago today that I had what I still see as one of the very best days of my life – my wedding. Conversely it’s been 1 year 8 months and 361 days since two of my worst – our separation and then divorce.

It’s been … a year. It’s been up and down, good and bad – as most years are. I’d say that this last year started off pretty dark / mostly down, but has been been increasingly, if slowly, getting better. I’m in a better place, and perhaps just as importantly, so is Bea. In fact, I think that a lot of it has to do with that. Divorces – even the most amicable ones – are never easy. We worked hard to keep the process amicable – I know I did, and am 99% sure I speak for her on this – on retaining a long term relationship. Were she not in Dallas for a rollerderby tourney, we’d have gotten lunch today.

And now that I think about it, Halloween night was a sort of high point. I was honored to not only perform, but to host a very small wedding for two very good friends of mine, and Bea was indeed a guest. She hadn’t really been in the house since she’d moved out, and I was a little worried about how that might go. As far as I could tell, my fears were unfounded. Everything was pretty much the same (I liked the choices she/I/we made), and her response to the one big change I was implementing was something along the lines of “Oh my god, this makes so much more sense, why didn’t we do this years ago?” We got to hang out before and after the ceremony, it was really nice.

Still, as good/better as things are, it has been hard. I was asked early on if I missed her (the person) or her (the relationship) more. All I could ever answer was “Yes”, and that answer still stands. It’s not just that I’ve missed her, but also what we had. Bea was an integral part of a very good part of my life, and that will never change. In fact, as I’ve reflected on it today, I find myself remembering less and less of the bad, and while there is still that tint of that on things, I find that part fading. It’s nice.

Have I been dating? Yes. And it’s been a strange process to do that again, but I feel better about myself because of it, I think. It’s been good for me, and it’s provided me an avenue to better myself. Yes, I’ve made mistakes and stumbled here and there, but I’ve also made improvements and made some good decisions.

Am I ready for another relationship? I don’t really know. I know that I honestly haven’t felt that I have, but that’s something that I look at and re-evaluate relatively often. Chances are I’ll be ready before I realize it, and will be pleasantly surprised. This sort of healing takes time, and I feel I’ve owed it to myself to heed my friend Dave’s advice of “Walk, don’t run.”  It’s served me well.

At the end of the day, I feel lucky. And oddly enough perhaps, I ran across this today:

Manatee

It’s something that I’d be hesitant to just put out there, without some sort of lengthy “this isn’t meant to be overly dramatic, so please don’t read this as snarky or mean or intended for any one person, it’s just good advice” disclaimer. To be fair, it’s not really aimed at anyone in particular – it just seems fitting.

At the end of the day, despite all that has happened, I feel lucky to still have Bea and her folks (the “outlaws”) in my life, and am glad that she’s still a part of mine and my folks’ lives.

Spineless Bastard

So Blacktooth, my little 2’10″/32lb 10th level Murder Goblin™ in my main D&D (ok, ok, fine, Pathfinder. Whatever.) game isn’t super combat-oriented. He’s the thief, so his base Stealth is a 32 and his base Disable Device is a 25 (extra mod?). Yeah.

But, he does have a pretty good initiative bonus (+12) and a bunch of daggers. With Sneak Attack, those paltry 1d3 + 2 daggers do an additional +5d6 and +5 bleed, and if it’s the surprise round / before the target has acted, I do an extra +10 in damage. With that, I may actually be able to contribute to a fight, besides hiding behind something/someone, or getting smashed into a fine jam (Blacktooth’s last recently changed to Shatteredshanks after a run-in with a stone giant).

So, I came up with a custom feat to help my little guy (image/card here):

Spineless Bastard (Combat)

You’re not so much a backstabber as you are a backslasher, jumping to the enemy’s shoulders and sliding down along their spine on daggers.
Prerequisites: Trained in Acrobatics, target must be at least 1 size larger than you.
Benefit: Make an acrobatics check to (DC10 + 5/size diff) make a free jump to the top of the creature’s back, a failure ends your round. You’re allowed to make a full-round attack of two attack rolls (one for each dagger), but can hit at most once. Digging into its back, you slide down along the enemy’s spine.
Critical Hit: Creature is paralyzed.

I didn’t want to make it unfairly overpowered (getting a move and a full-round attack), so as an offering up to the Rules Gods™ (Paul and Chris, the DMs), I sacrificed one of my attacks. I still get two chances to hit, but only one can hit. Paul came up with the Critical Hit mechanic, which is pretty neat. Also, the feat itself seems pretty vicious, in keeping with Goblin nature.

I first tried it two sessions ago, and failed. *sad trombone* But, I managed to successfully do it twice last night, and it felt pretty good. Actually, I may change the acrobatics DC to DC20 + 5/size diff, as Blacktooth’s Acrobatics base (when jumping) is a 24. I guess that should vary on the level. We’ll see.

My extended plan is that when we make it to a bigger town, get two special daggers made. Have successfully attacked two hill giants with this attack, and as a group killed them, I plan on removing their partially exposed spines. After cleaning them, I plan on keeping a section of each, and having them magically fused and shrunk to be made into the hilts of my new daggers. These daggers will start out as +1, as that’s the cost to make a keen blade. It’ll cost 2,000 gold for each dagger, but it’ll expand my crit range on them from 19-20 to 17-20 – a 20% chance of critting, multiplying the damage by 2. And since a crit with Spineless Bastard results in paralysis, it’s worth the cost. Plus, they’ll be metal as fuck, my sweet new sleepytime daggers.

Super Sam

I went to the Marvel Universe Live! show with my sister and my 2 1/2 y/o nephew. In short, it was great. The Arena is a very kid-friendly venue, and we had pretty good seats.

It was also a pretty good test for Sam and crowds, as he’s much more mobile these days. He did fantastically, and for about two hours, he stared wide-eyed at what was happening before him.

If you can go, you should, especially if you have chirren. It was a great production. Also? Sam LOVES popcorn.

Some quick photos:

Excuse me. I’d like to ass you a few questions.

So, I was basically challenged to fill out the Proust Questionnaire (with a bonus question I added). Below are my answers, erring on the side of brevity:

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR?
Spiders. My actual greatest fear is that one day there will be another disaster from which we can’t recover.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT STATE OF MIND?
Antsy. I currently have a lot on my plate, and can’t wait for it be a bit more clear.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OCCUPATION?(WAY OF SPENDING TIME)
Currently, it’s sitting at a table with friends and beers, and pencil/paper/dice gaming. Engages/distracts my math/logic brain, and wakes up my less active art brain.

WHAT HISTORICAL FIGURE DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH?
Not any one specifically. It would generally have to be a leader’s Chief of Staff or a similar position – the person who isn’t in the spotlight, but helps keep everything running behind the curtains.

WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Perhaps Stephen Hawking? I think most people would have given up long ago, but he just keeps mathing on.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL HERO?
I don’t have a single one, but I’d perhaps have to say that the Bagginses are really up there.

WHO ARE YOUR REAL-LIFE HEROES?
I’m not sure I have one, really. This might be my one cop-out answer.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
My house, I guess. Technically, the bank still owns most of it, but whatever.

WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU HAPPIEST?
My wedding, perhaps? That was an exceptional day.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST OBVIOUS CHARACTERISTIC?
I’m pretty clever? At least I think I am.

WHAT IS THE TRAIT YOU MOST DEPLORE (HATE) IN YOURSELF?
I have this need to know things – sometimes I can’t leave well enough alone.

WHAT IS THE TRAIT YOU MOST DEPLORE IN OTHERS?
The need to put themselves above others. It’s natural, and just about everyone and everything is guilty of it, myself included.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
My house, and the work/improvements that I put into it.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE JOURNEY?
The 4 1/2 minute bike ride from my doorstep to my “coffeeshop” ( a bar on Decatur St. )

WHAT DO YOU MOST DISLIKE ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE?
My hair is starting to thin. Boo.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST OVER-RATED VIRTUE?
This is a bit broad, so I’ll go with one of the 7 classical virtues: Chastity. I get the pure of body/mind thing, but ex isn’t a bad thing, and I think a lot of people are hung up on it / place too much importance on it.

ON WHAT OCCASION DO YOU LIE?
Usually to keep a friend from knowing about an upcoming surprise. It takes too much energy to keep a false story “correct” and in play.

WHICH WORDS OR PHRASES DO YOU MOST OVER-USE?
“(oh) for fuck’s sake”
“One would think…”

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I assume this is a mental thing, so I’d say the fact that I tend not so much hold grudges, as create blood feuds. If physical, I’d love to not have my hair be thinning.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Making the lives of those I care about better.

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE?
Exactly where I am, and/or in the woods.

WHAT IS THE QUALITY YOU MOST ADMIRE IN A MAN?
It’s a bit traditional gender-role-y, but the strength/resolve to stand up for / protect / call people out on their bullshit / whatever to those that need it. To not just walk by because it’s someone else’s problem.

WHAT IS THE QUALITY YOU MOST ADMIRE IN A WOMAN?
Oooh, this one is difficult too. It would have to be strength too, or perhaps grace. Women are often still dealt a shitty hand these days, and I see so many that handle it with grace, composure, and strength.

WHAT IS IT YOU MOST DISLIKE?
Mono-culture, and/or those who cannot or are unwilling to adapt/change.

WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST IN YOUR FRIENDS?
Honesty, communication, and promptness.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO DIE?
Painlessly, ideally. If it has to hurt, might as well be doing something worthwhile. And while death isn’t something I look forward too, Earth-bound immortality doesn’t sound great either.

IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A PERSON OR AN ANIMAL, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE?
A dog, to a caring and good owner/family.

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE AN OBJECT TO COME BACK AS, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Something useful, with a long working life. A tool, or perhaps a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Those things last forever, and who doesn’t love the thing that make cookies and cake?

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO (WORDS YOU LIVE BY OR THAT MEAN A LOT TO YOU)?
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“Hodor.”
– Hodor

WHO HAS BEEN THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
I think “parents” is the obvious answer. Them, and/or my ex-wife.

WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE?
To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

Beware the Tides of the War Cow

So, Down‘s Beneath the Tides came up on shuffle this morning and it sent me down a whirlpool of nostalgia. The song/album isn’t that old – it was released in 2007 – but it’s a misheard lyric that did me in.

Real lyric:

Beneath the tides of the washout

Misheard lyric:

Beware the tides of the War Cow

Now, most anybody unfortunate to still be reading will think “Huh? What the shit is a War Cow?

Well, let me put down my cane, children, and tell you a tale. The year was 1999, or perhaps it was 2000. Either way, I was living in the former LSU Medical Center Kidney Dialysis building with a handful of friends and co-workers. Yes, there was still a dialysis machine there when we moved in. No nobody got drunk and did things with it. I don’t think.

Yes, you read that right. 2000 Tulane, across the street more or less from Rosenberg’s (and if you grew up in NOLA, their jingle is now stuck in your head. I’m not sorry).

2000 TulaneI was working for Tech Company Who Shall Not Be Named™ and the pay wasn’t great, but the room/board was free and I did teach myself a lot. Also? I played a shit ton of Unreal Tournament with the fellas. We had a coffeeshop on the first floor, Taco Bell down the street, and much of an empty floor that we could take over and do proper LAN Parties.

 

Nali War CowWhich brings us back to origin of this post. The War Cow. The Nali War Cow was a playable race in Unreal Tournament. It was far from my favorite to play, as it was better suited for melee combat, where I preferred to snipe. I did love playing against them though, as they made a decent target and I think they might’ve made a sort of mooing sound when you killed one. We would stay up ’till dawn, downing Mountain Dew and cappuccinos, eating crappy burritos, fragging, cursing, and listening to thrash metal.

It was wonderful. I still play some non co-op FPS with friends over XBox Live, but there really is something about trying to kill someone in-game, and physically pushing them IRL, hoping it messes them up so you can get an advantage and get the shot. That physical proximity is something I really enjoy about our ongoing D&D campaigns.

Also, enjoy one of the more played albums during those sessions – the first album by The Haunted:

The CARDIS Has Landed!

Not all that long after getting the new car, in a color close enough to “TARDIS Blue”, I decided to go all in and get a custom plate:

CARDIS
Full size/etc here: https://flic.kr/p/nYZR5m

The things I do for a cheap laugh.