There was a replica of the 3 masted HMS Bounty (I think it has been used in several films, including the well known ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ film and one or more of the ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ films) that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy off the coast of North Carolina today. Two of the sixteen crew members are missing at sea and presumed drowned; the rest managed to board life boats and were rescued by the Coast Guard. The ship subsequently sank.
I only mention it because I have very dim memories of visiting the ship when I was a youngster and we were vacationing in Florida.
How is it possible that this slipped under my radar for so long?
UT Student and Phi-Kappa-Alpha brother Alexander “Zander” Broughton denies butt-chugging. Apparently, at some point “Zander” was hospitalized for extreme alcohol poisoning and the whole PKA frat was placed under suspension for this (and possibly other) alcohol related incident(s). Somehow the rumor started that “Zander” had been ‘butt-chugging.’ ‘Butt-chugging’ is when you take alcohol and, instead of drinking it, you put it up your butt… I’m guessing butt chuggers use an enema bag or something. It apparently gets you really fucked up really quickly… maybe butt-chugging is for busy multi-taskers who don’t have time to stand around drinking through your mouth anymore like they did in Grandpa’s day.
The best part of the video is where all the dudes are standing around looking serious as ‘Zander’ and the Fraternity’s lawyer sternly deny butt-chugging several times. ‘Zander’ wants to make it clear that he is NOT GAY… because, I guess, that’s the first question that he thinks should come to mind… and wants to clear his good name — he is not a butt-chugger and he wants those who have called him a butt-chugger to pay the legal consequences for damage to his reputation and the reputation of his fraternity. He wants us to know that the alcohol poisoning that landed him in the hospital was the result of him drinking a whole box of Franzia box wine through his mouth… not by using a hose to put it up his butt. Franzia? Nice choice of beverage, by the way. How the whole topic of butt-chugging came up when ‘Zander’ (or is it ‘Xander?’) landed in the ER is discussed at length in the video.
“Butt-chugging” has a long history. The pre-Columbian Mayans were notorious butt-chuggers, as this ancient statue proves:
Look at that Mayan; he is so happy to be butt-chugging!
Halloween… so it’s time for people to go to haunted houses. I found these pictures on the web of people visiting a haunted house in Niagara, Canada. I wish some enterprising photoshop jockey would substitute dank stone walls for the wallpaper and dress the people up in armor, helmets, bacpacks, etc., and add torches, pointy hats, coils of rope and all the other impedimentia of dungeoneering, so these could be ‘monster eye views’ of ‘moments before the TPK.’
Life is full of disappointments. This morning I was running late and just grabbed something from the freezer for lunch. Trader Joe’s Filet of Sole. Compare the picture on the box to what I got. After I cooked it, it looked even worse.
Son of a bitch, Joe! You really let me down!
|I work for The Levy Pants Co.|
Today, the phone company turned off the DSL service at one of the facilities that the company I work for owns because of non-payment of the bill. The phone company never sent a bill to our office and I can’t find out where the bills have been going until I get access to the account. We have never seen a bill and I didn’t even know that there was DSL service at this facility until they turned it off and all these devices in the warehouse suddenly do not work. In order to get the service turned back on, I need to get someone to pay the bill. The woman in the accounts payable department of my company can’t pay a bill she does not have (which makes sense to me). The phone company will not let me request a copy of the bill unless I know the account number and the super-secret PIN number which is printed on the bill. In other words, in order to get a copy of the bill I need to know information which is printed on the bill.
I’ve already written (on this very blog!) that I think it will be Obama (and I think that’s still true). There’s been a lot of drama in the past couple weeks, especially over Romney’s performance in the debates, but I think the vast number of voters don’t pay attention to debates or issuesor parties or platforms. I suspect the vast majority just vote for the person they like most who happens to be in the party they aspire to identify with, with some vague idea that voting for a rich man will make everyone richer or voting for a black man will make other people less racist. These seem like naive reasons to choose a president, but I think people have the right to choose presidents the way they make any other choice in their lives — I might think it is short sighted to choose Geico over another insurance company because you like the gecko with the Australian accent on their commercials, but I can’t deny that it is the consumer’s right to pick Geico because of the gecko. Similarly, if Romney’s Mormonism or his helmet-hair or his wife’s horses makes him seem like a better candidate than Obama’s Christianity or his close-cut hair or Bo the dog, then go for it. It is your right as an American to make a decision for stupid reasons.
I think the main reason for all the media drama is that reporting that we already think that Romney won’t win makes very unexciting television. By continuing to indulge in the shared fantasy that it really will be down to the wire up until election day is in the best interest of pundits, experts and peddlars of infotainment. Speaking of exciting television, did you hear that Donald Trump has ‘very big’ news about President Obama? Even Mitt Romney (who will presumably benefit from whatever bullshit Trump reveals) can’t pretend to be interested. It’s Geraldo Rivera excavating Al Capone’s vault all over again. (edit: the “very big news” was revealed… and it was not big news after all. Surprised?).
The one issue that doesn’t seem to get any press is environmental stewardship. Yes, I think climate change is real. Even if I didn’t care about the other issues that have already made me think that 4 more years of Obama would be preferable to 4 years of Romney, I’d have to vote for whomever was the ‘greener’ candidate simply because I believe we are destroying the planet faster than it can heal itself… and I think that is an extraordinarily stupid thing to do. Why that isn’t an ‘issue’ in the campaign and abortion is makes me think of Churchill:
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…
 I remember reading a poll from a few years ago where they discovered that almost a third of Americans polled apparently don’t know who the Vice President is or that Washington DC is not in Washington state — and the Republicans are worried about illegal aliens voting in the election? Could a Nicaraguan nanny without a green card who speaks English as a second language really be a greater threat to democracy than the people who were born here and still don’t understand basic geography or what job Al Gore had before he became the bête noir of Fox News and the American Petroleum Institute?
|Teenage boys and grognards want this…|
Onan the Barbarian’s mighty boot knocked the temple’s door from its hinges and his sword cleaved the first baboon-man guard in twain. Blood spattered as the dead creature hit the moss covered flagstones and the massed baboon men, who were gathered around something on the altar, turned and hissed in anger at the mighty barbarian. “Come and die, you stinking sons of monkeys,” Onan roared. The gigantic gems in the eyes of the baboon god idol glittered in the torchlight. Those sapphires will leave here in my pouch when this butcher’s work is done, the mighty warrior thought as he turned and slashed at a baboon-man who snuck soundlessly from the shadows with a curved knife. Blood flew through the air as the baboon assassin’s head rolled across the floor, cloven from it’s hairy body with one fell stroke…
Sometimes the D&D ‘grognards’ are unintentionally funny. Take this forum discussion where some of the grognards go off on the “Twilight” books (and/or movies), for example. Dudes who roll dice while pretending to be elves and wizards fighting goblins and gelatinous cubes (mostly dudes, I guess — 99% dudes?) think it is silly that teenage girls and their moms like to fantasize about hot vampires that sparkle in the sunlight and werewolves that look like they belong in a boy band. I almost don’t know where to begin.
…the last of the baboon-men died with a groan, cut to ribbons by the Onan’s whirling blade. There, upon the altar, lay a woman bound with crude ropes of leather with only a scrap of silk to hide her loins. Her hair was as black as the night in far Khemnet where neither stars nor moon adorn the sky, and her heaving breasts were like piles of whipped cream topped with cherries most sweet. “Please, barbarian master,” she moaned, her virginal breast heaving with fear and desire, “I am yours to do with as you will.”
|Teenage girls and cougars want this…|
Look, I know my D&D love is some dorky-ass shit. That’s part of what I love about it. But (and I’m being brutally honest here), Howard’s “Conan” books were never great literature to rank with the likes of Conrad, Austen or Twain, okay? I can enjoy Conan novels like I enjoy zombie movies (and Annie enjoys her occasional ‘chick flicks’). People used to call these things ‘guilty pleasures’ but I don’t feel a lot of guilt over it, so that doesn’t quite fit, but call it ‘eye and mind candy’ if you like. I observe that some people watch NASCAR the way I play D&D. Rolling dice and laughing with friends seems as good a use of my time as watching cars covered in corporate logos drive around in circles at high speed, so I’m comfortable in my dorkery. I’ve never felt tempted by ‘Twilight’ (are those books really written by a Mormon woman? That’s pretty weird…), but I also understand that I am not in the target demographic. And I’m OK with that.
|One of the Lords of Oom|
Thule (also spelled Thool) lies just a short boat-ride across the Dunsany Sea (followed by a long hike across Ghent) although even the seasoned traveller would be better served by another destination. The Thulian aristocracy consider outsiders (and the common class of Thule itself) as the inhabitants of The Vales consider cattle: suitable for use as needed or as they see fit.
In order to understand Thule, one must understand the Thulian caste system. At the top, reside the ‘Lords of Oom.’ The Lords are seldom (if ever) seen by outsiders; most common Thulians have probably never seen one either. Their bodies are small and weak, but their heads and brains are enormous (and the Lords are reputed to have tremendous mysterious powers, including the ability to command unquestioning obedience from their followers). Whether or not the Lords of Oom are (or once were) human is unknown.
Underneath the Lords are the Priests of Oom. Every child born in Thule is examined shortly after birth by the Priests and tested; those who fulfill certain qualifications are taken from their biological parents and turned over to either the priest caste or the warrior caste, depending upon the nature of their perceived talents. If the child is selected for the priest caste (a very rare event), they will be placed in a special academy where only a small number will actually survive to graduate. These Priests of Oom emerge as hairless, androgynous beings. They apparently communicate with The Lords of Oom through the power of thought along and it is rumored that what the priests see and know is instantly seen and known by their masters. The priests can be recognized by their white robes, hairless heads and rods of office.
The warrior caste includes both common soldiers and other functionaries (such as the merchants who purchase goods not available in Oom and slaves). The warrior caste is noted for their fanaticism; any member of this caste lacking the appropriate zeal for his or her duties can count on joining the chained wretches being dragged to Oom Ambar for sacrifice or worse.
At the bottom of the caste system reside the common Thulians. Practitioners of skilled trades are considered slightly more valuable than common laborers, but these wretches apparently live and die at the pleasure of their masters. The average common Thulian is a wretched creature; most probably illiterate, and, if a female, constantly preganant. Their lives are short, brutal and unpleasant. Visitors to Thule will find no diverting local festivals, interesting cuisine, enjoyable folk music or dance traditions or other examples of local culture since the common Thulian who shows any interest in any subject other than labor is clapped into irons and dragged off by the warrior caste.
A description of the inhabitants of Thule would not be complete unless one also mentioned the moorlocks. These human-like creatures reside under the capital city of Thule and also, perhaps, in the tunnels under the mountains. Where they come from or what their purpose might be is unknown. The moorlocks are bestial, shaggy hominids capable of tool use who apparently love the taste of human flesh. The priests and warriors may or may not have any influence over them, but since the moorlocks fear sunlight, they hunt at night, making nocturnal strolls in the capital of Thule a very bad idea.
The capital of Thule is Oom Ambar, a city seldom visited by common Thulians or outsiders (and most visitors apparently tend to be of the unwilling sort; tales tell of great slave caravans dragging hordes of unfortunates into the tunnels that lead to the city proper). Oom Ambar itself is in a small valley ringed by mountains. Most gain entrance through the well guarded tunnels under the mountains (although crossing the mountains themselves on foot is probably not entirely impossible, this writer has yet to hear of anyone having successfully done so). The city is reportedly neither interesting nor picturesque. In the center is the great ziggurat on which the Lords of Oom perform their mysterious rites. The slave caravans entering the city normally take their miserable wares direct to this ziggurat where those unfortunates are never seen again. Tunnels under the ziggurat are the probable final destination, but whether these slaves labor, are sacrificed or put to some other fate is unknown. The ziggurat is surrounded by barracks for the guards and structures used by the warrior caste. Surrounding that are the slums and workshops of the lower castes. Most of the structures are unadorned and utilitarian in nature. There are no museums or interesting bazaars; goods are distributed by members of the warrior caste as directed by the priest caste.
(Illustration of ‘The Super Brain’ courtesy of Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blog; one of the best sources of scans of old comics on the web that I have been lucky enough to find)
Last Wednesday (10.17.2012), we had out 10th session in my friend Jon C.’s ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics’ campaign*. Although I am not a rules meister, I really like this game. We are having fun with it despite players having some different play styles at the table.
The DM, Jon C. is running this as a fairly ‘let us play this straight up to figure out this game‘ type of a campaign. He introduced us to the game using ‘the funnel’ (a word about the funnel in a moment) and, since then, we have been agents of ‘The Adventurer’s Guild.’ Not a lot of time is spent on the how and why of the guild or why we would want to be members — they just organize adventurers and send us out on missions which consist of, “Please go to location X and do this and try not to get killed…” When someone’s character gets killed, the replacement shows up as soon as possible, with a “Hello, I am X and the guild sent me…” Some of the more method-actor roleplaying people might find this unsatisfying — but I like it simply because most of my fellow players have families with young children or jobs which entail all kinds of schedule conflicts… if there was some deeply interwoven plot between all of the characters like an episode of “Dallas,” then having major characters simply be missing one week and back the next would be jarring (plus, and I’m confessing my bias here, I don’t find the ‘what’s my motivation?’ type role playing games enjoyable — no judgement, just not my thing).
We are playing our way through a series of the DCC adventures published by Goodman that are not linked together (at least not as far as I can see — maybe Jon C. has something in mind — again, not a dealbreaker in my opinion). We started off in a 0 level ‘funnel’ adventure that I don’t remember the name of (I think it’s the one in the back of the DCC book), then went to “Doom of the Savage Kings” (1st level) and now we are playing “Sailors on the Starless Sea.”
I actually like the campaign that is just a series of short term missions rather than proceeding along some massive story arc. Perhaps because we spend about 1/2 of the time bullshitting, joking around, etc., I think it would be hard to keep up the momentum and enthusiasm for a “long game” story. We seem to finish the published adventures that Jon C. is running every 3-4 sessions, which is neither too long nor too short. Then Jon just fastforwards through the downtime (“OK, you rest up a couple weeks, then you get a request from the guild to go to X…”) and we launch into the next adventure.
The Funnel: As an option, you can start off the DCC game using 0 level characters and ‘The Funnel.’ When you play ‘The Funnel,’ each player gets 3 or 4 randomly generated ordinary medieval people (blacksmith’s apprentice, grave digger, turnip farmer, etc) armed only with a few randomly determined possessions (pitchfork, hammer, rolling pin, apron, etc). You toss these unfortunates into the meatgrinder of their first adventure and the few who don’t become sausage graduate to 1st level. Some people apparently find it irritating and stupid; I thought it was a hoot.
Tables: There are lots of random tables in this game. Every time you cast a spell, you roll on a random table and modify your roll with various things (like you level, your inteligence, etc.). If you roll badly, the spell might just misfire OR it might cause magical ‘corruption’ (which are usually bad side effects). If you roll well, the spell might work better than expected. This adds a little bit of time to the game, but spells are less formulaic. As an example, in the last game both my character and Kevin’s character cast the exact same spell (color spray) with radically different results. My elf barely got the spell off and the target made his save so it had no effect. Kevin’s wizard rolled really well and his version of color spray blinded, paralyzed and knocked out all of the enemies in it’s path.
There are also tables for combat (fumbles and critical hits). Fumbles mean you can fall down, trip, drop your weapon, etc. Critical hits mean you can blind, decapitate, knock over, etc., your opponent. Although critical hits and fumbles were never ‘official’ rules in old school D&D (Gygax hated them), I remember that we always used them because it was just cool to sometimes have that low level fighter decapitate an ogre with a single sword stroke. Of course, players were usually less enthusiastic when the ogre scored a critical and pounded their player character into jelly with one stroke, but I’ve always believed that if players get an advantage, monsters and NPCs should be allowed to use that same advantage.
Funny Dice: In addition to the ‘funny dice we already use (d20, d12, d10, d8, d6 and d4, most of which seemed pretty strange when we started playing back in the day), DCC also uses d16, d24, d5, etc. These ‘new dice’ seem to make some gamers on the forums really mad (but what doesn’t make someone on a forum somewhere really mad?). I bought a set of ‘Zocchi’ dice needed for the DCC game through the mail for less than $10.00 including shipping. Unfortunately, the numbers on them are not painted and they are nearly impossible to read in the dim light of my friend’s basement, so I usually just roll other dice and adjust (i.e.: for a d24, I roll a d12 and a d6; if the d6 comes up odd I add 0 to the d12 and if it comes up even I add 12 to the d12 for a range of 1-24).
Sometimes, if you gain an advantage or disadvantage, you can go up or down the dice chain (i.e.: if you normally roll 1d20, under some advantageous circumstances you may roll 1d24). Since the ‘criticals’ occur when you roll maximum on the dice, using a d24 may actually be disadvantageous since rolling a 20 on a d20 is a 1 in 20 chance, whereas rolling a 24 on a d24 is a 1 in 24 chance. The statistician in our group doesn’t like the funky dice; I have to confess that I seem to roll critical hits so rarely, I don’t really care (I have a d20 that seems to usually roll a 4 or less).
Luck: This is one of the parts of the game I don’t find myself that enthusiastic about. Every character has a ‘luck’ score and a ‘lucky attribute.’ If your luck score is good, you get a bonus to your lucky attribute; if your luck score is bad you take a penalty. You can ‘burn’ points of luck to affect dice rolls… so if I have a luck of 10 and I rolled a 12 on the dice, I can take 2 points from my luck (reducing it to 8) and add it to my roll for a total of 14. Some characters (like hobbits) can give luck away (so if you needed to roll a certain number to make your save and a friendly halfling is nearby, he can ‘give’ you luck points if the player wants to). Thieves and hobbits regenerate their luck every session; everyone else only gains it very slowly (if at all -I’m not clear on that).
The reason I don’t like luck that much is that it seems simply transactional. You roll a dice, you don’t like the result and then you just say, “Give me 5 points, Mister Hobbit.” Somehow, it feels like cheating to me. Maybe it would be better if the player had to add his luck bonus before he rolled the dice.
Spellburn and Spellduels: Spellcasters can temporarily sacrifice attribute points (like strength or fortitude) to improve their spellcasting rolls. This can increase the power of your spell when you cast it, but potentially leaves you weaker afterwards. It’s a nice touch because it allows you to increase the chance of having your opponent harmed by an attack spell but it’s not free — reducing your stamina will make you weaker, for example.
Spellduels haven’t come up much (yet). When two spellcasters on opposite sides are casting spells, they have the option of entering a spellduel where they seek to overpower the other spellcaster. We only did it once and I didn’t understand how it worked; if we did it correctly, one of the spellcasters in our party managed to force an enemy spellcaster to use up more magical resources than he wanted to.
*Full disclosure: I have done (and continue to do) artwork for Goodman Games, including the DCC line. I get paid a one time fee for each drawing I produce, so whether Goodman sells 1 or 100,000 of a given publication, I get the same pay, so I am not incentivized by money to see that Goodman sells more product.
Session 10 10.17.12
(P)tarth: wizard and portal master(Kevin), accompanied by his french Familiar (Imp named Ganbon)
Abattoir: hobbit and luck-providing bobble head(mike C.) (Ok, abattoir is not really his name – It’s ‘Abathon’ or something like that).
Kreglar: Priest of Cthulhu (or something like that) (Dave M.)
Soltar the Evangelist: Priest of Arestimus (Dave P.)
Marlowe: Elf (stef)
Almuric: thief and masked avenger (Reuben)
We reviewed our rumors as (P)tarth climbed up onto the roof of the gatehouse via a ladder to inspect the portcullis. We recalled that there were rumors telling us that a fantastic treasure could be found under the tower, stay away from the well, the keep was originally built by a pair of brothers who were chaos lords, etc. As we did this, (P)tarth lowered the portcullis and cast ‘ward portal’ on it. He was upset with us for having retreated ‘too early’ last time when we were sprayed with pumpkin seeds and plant zombie spoo.
Having had our egress cut off, we advanced a bit into the soggy courtyard. The west wall of the castle had collapsed and the gatehouse was somewhat ruined. There appeared to be some ruined buildings on the north side of the castle and a large building to the east that was decorated with toad-like gargoyles. There was a pit in the northeast corner that appeared to be filled with mist, a well in the center of the courtyard and a tower in the southeast corner. Last session one of the monstrous sentries had run into the tower in the southeast corner via a small door that gave access to the parapet on the walls.
We then argued over whether or not we were going to press on or wait for Sotar the cleric. The vote was 6 to 1 against waiting (Marlowe wanted to wait because Sotar appeared to actually be able to heal people, a feat that the other cleric, Kreglar, had only accomplished once). We then proceeded down the steps to the north that led to deep under the castle, Marlowe the elf and the hobbit going ahead (with infravision) and the rest a distance behind with torches. (P)tarth declared that if anyone surprised him, he would, without hesitation, blast them with a color spray.
“Did you miss me?” shouted Sator the cleric, as he came clumping down the steps.
“Shhhhhh!” said the hobbit. He and the elf had seen some gold coins on the steps below and suspected a trap. Who leaves gold coins on the stairs? Almuric used his thiefly skills to investigate. The coins were real and normal, but there was a rough passage to the left and a secret door to the right. The steps continued down into darkness. Almuric opened the door and found a small chamber with three obviously looted chests in it and a sprinkling of coins on the floor among some beast-man like tracks. One of the chests had a false bottom that contained a silk tabard adorned with a symbol of chaos (which Almuric put on), a steel vial of some sort of liquid …”and two, no, excuse me, one silver ring…” said the wily thief. We split up the coin on the spot. Overcome by curiosity, Marlowe tried the potion and felt stronger and more powerful (a potion of cocaine!).
Session ended here.