Saturday, September 21, 2019

Demigod Therapy

So, I was going to do at least one more Great Conference Adventure but I ran out of time and energy at the conference. Sorry. I'll try to put something together for Monday. Meanwhile, here's something I was doing on Twitter last night after I finally made it home:

Zuul: "There is no Dana, only Zuul."


Therapist: "Now, Zuul, that's no way to talk about-"

Zuul: "THERE IS NO DANA ONLY ZUUL!"

Therapist: "That's not how possession works, and we both know it. On this plane, what happens to you if there is no Dana?"

Zuul: "..."
Zuul: "There is no Zuul."

Therapist: "Much better. Now, Dana, do you want to chime in with anything here?"

Dana: "Why... is there... a horn-headed demon-dog demigod in my body?"

Therapist: "'Why' is always a difficult question, Dana. More importantly..."
Therapist: "How do you *feel* about having a horn-headed demon-dog demigod in your body?"

Zuul: "Silence! Soon I will find the Keymaster, and then I will remake this frail mortal flesh!"

Therapist: "Zuul, what did we discuss about waiting your turn?"

Zuul: "...I await."

Therapist: "Now, Dana? Your feelings about being possessed by a horn-headed demon-dog demigod?"

Dana: "It's... pretty kinky, actually. I think I could get into this." (Pause.) "Or get someone else into this. Deep into this."

Therapist: "Very good. Let's recognize those feelings."

Therapist: "And Zuul, how do you feel about manifesting inside this human woman?"

Dana: "Very deep into this. Over and over, deeper and-"

Therapist: "Not your turn, Dana. Zuul?"

Dana: "Sorry."

Zuul: "This is my divine role. I am the Gatekeeper. I seek the Keymaster."
Zuul: "Once we are joined, we open the way for Gozer the Gozerian, Gozer the Destroyer, Gozer the Traveler. Our union is the end of civilizations."

Therapist: "So you both seem pretty okay with sharing this body."

Dana: "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Zuul: "It will serve."

Therapist: "Dana, this isn't really the place for..."

Dana: "Yes! Yes!"

Therapist: "...Well, I suppose we can talk about that later. Zuul, how do you feel about ending civilizations?"

Zuul: "..."

Therapist: "It's okay, Zuul. I'm not here to judge. I'm just here to help."

Therapist: "Tell me how you feel about ending civilizations."

Dana: "Yes!"

Zuul: "Well, to be honest, pretty bloody awful, mate. I mean, have you looked around this place? New York is amazing! They have theater! And coffee! And orgasms!"

Dana: "Yes!"

Zuul: "Would you want to destroy all that? I mean, what else does this obscure little half-slice of a minor plane have that I'm never even going to find out about because the boss is going to drown it in lava or something?"

Therapist: "That's a perfectly understandable way to feel, and I want you to know that those are perfectly valid reactions and I don't think any less of you for having them."

Zuul: "Just, um, don't tell the boss, okay?"

Therapist: "I doubt it would ever come up, but I agree."

Zuul: "Thanks."

Dana: "Yes!"

Therapist: "So, it looks like the two of you could use a little alone time. Why don't you go rest now, and we'll talk again in a day or two."

Zuul: "Sure. Sounds good."

Dana: "Yes!"

Therapist: "All right. I'll see you both later, then."

::Exeunt Dana and Zuul::

Therapist: "Martha, who's next on the schedule?"

Receptionist: "We have a Louis Tully next on your schedule, sir."

Therapist: "Oh, god. Okay, we'll deal with him after lunch. Take an hour, Martha."

Receptionist: "Thank you, sir."

Monday, September 16, 2019

2019 Conference Adventure Day 1

We've arrived. The intern wanted some pictures to show that he's actually attending the conference, so:

Here he is enjoying the view:

Here he is getting ready for our first training session. (When I take it notes, it's by typing. For him, it looks more like an extreme version of Dance Revolution.)

There's a funny little area with beehives and a pig behind the conference center; the intern was fascinated:

Then we stopped for lunch. He ate... quite a lot.

"When I ordered a 'tall'," he told me that evening, "I had no idea just how tall it would be..."

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Saga of the Crazy Neighbors Comes to a Close!

So, we've had a few issues with the neighbors across the alley.

Last night, I came home from work to find their driveway full of junk: battered furniture, rolled-up carpets, bags of trash... really just a whole bunch of junk set across and around their driveway. I can think of only three explanations: an eviction, a death, or some really extreme spring cleaning.


So this morning, on my way to work, I drove around the front and... if possible, it's even worse:


That bit of red in front of the tree on the left side of the image is a For Rent sign, so I think we can rule out spring cleaning. I just hope the property owners are planning to get all that junk hauled out of there.

I really have no idea what the story was here and I'm honestly not sure I want to know. Kind of just glad to be done with it, honestly.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Music: Drunken Dwarves

The band is apparently called Wind Rose:


This is pretty much how I picture classical Dwarven thrash metal bands, honestly.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Challenge: Books I Keep Meaning To Read

Right, so, the usual bit of context: Weekly Blogging Challenge over at Long and Short Reviews. Hit their homepage to see the current week's responses, and add a link to your own if you're so inclined.

This week's challenge is Books I Keep Meaning To Read But Haven't.

Gentle Readers, that is literally my entire TBR Pile.

Still, that answer seems like a bit of a cop-out, so let's see if I can be a bit more specific. Because there are books that I feel like I put off, even though (I also feel like) they're the sort of books I should be reading just to keep my brain processing new information and making new connections. Which is to say, a lot of them are history or reference books. For example:

Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams - a study of the way that slavery financed the Industrial Revolution.

The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty - race, cooking, and the history of southern food in the United States.

Creature of Empire by Virginia DeJohn Anderson - domesticated animals in early America, and their effects on our history.

The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman - a fantasy series in one of the classic Dungeons and Dragons settings. I started this but never finished it, but all the gamers I know remember it very fondly. I'd like to go back to it at some point.

The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme by John Keegan - Another one that I had purchased and started, but meant to come back to. This book attempts to capture the experience of actually being on these historical battlefields - not the grand sweeps of strategy, but the experience of individual soldiers trying to do the job. (Also, a tip of the hat to Patrick M. Prescott, who reminded me about the book.)

Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England by Keith Thomas - basically looking at the shift away from folk beliefs in the face of organized religion and science.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Youth DnD: Farming the Treasure Room

This week's session... did not go so well.

How it played out:
In character, the group took a long rest in the chamber where they'd defeated the undead and claimed the treasure - including the onyx ring, which turns out to be a ring of protection +3. However, the cleric didn't immediately reveal that to anybody except the sorcerer. Once they were sure what it did, the cleric asked an intriguing question: would this item respawn (along with the gold) if they left the dungeon and came back in?

So they tried it: walked everybody back out to the antechamber, talked Lord Aldenmier into pulling their banner, and then replaced the banner and went back inside.

Turns out that it does. Also, it turns out that it's only stepping on the dais that opens the sarcophagi and looses the undead; so allowing the cleric to borrow the assassin's slippers of spider-climbing meant that they could claim the chest without going into combat, and with the way the dungeon resets they could do so repeatedly. Unfortunately, Firstborn was bored with the lack of combat, and announced that his character was going to step on the dais and release the undead, whereupon the cleric's player announced that she was going to cast Inflict Wounds and use it on him, whereupon I made everybody stop while we sorted this out.

So in character, none of that happened. Out of character, that was ten minutes of argument and very nearly an in-party murderfest with the potential to end friendships. But with that ironed out and a working system in place, the party (mostly the cleric) sets about farming the room. Barrith (halfling rogue) has meanwhile figured out that a light crossbow suits him better than his longbow, and swaps the bow for one of the crossbows that the party has been keeping with the intention of selling; but again, sorting out how that's going to affect the part treasure takes another five minutes.

With that done, the farming begins in earnest. The group manages to raid the treasure chamber eight times before something goes wrong: as they open the door to leave again, they find an orc on the far side. Both they and the orc are equally surprised and spend a moment just staring at each other; then they go into combat, and Kaz promptly kills the orc (much to the disappointment of Toruv -- dragonborn sorcerer -- and Firstborn, his player). As the orc falls, they hear a gasp and a door slams; Kaz identifies it as the door on the far side of the hall, which they haven't explored yet.

Kaz then takes off at a sprint, heading for the entrance to the dungeon. The rest of the group exchanges puzzled glances; then they cross the hall and open the door. Inside are six orcs, who had been sitting around a table but now are standing up with weapons drawn. The cleric, still wearing the assassin's slippers, is standing on the ceiling with the gold and elects not to speak; next up is Firstborn's pyromaniacal dragonborn, who assesses the condition of the room. It looks like some sort of long-term camp, not like a room full of monsters that the Dungeon of the Mad Mage just conjured up. "What are you doing here?" asks the dragonborn.

"We guards! What you doing here?"

"Exploring the dungeon," answers Toruv. "So now what?"

"You open door. We fight! ...That how it usually works."

Toruv considers this for a moment, then says: "I was thinking we could just close the door and go away, and not kill you."

The orc sort of stares at him. "You kill Arg."

Toruv nods. "Sorry. He surprised us."

The orc furrows his brown, then says: "Okay. You go. We not fight. We not even tell big chieftain!"

"Big chieftain?"

"Chieftain Ghazat! Him strong chieftain! Head of Blood Tower Clan!"

"Yeah, let's not bother him." Toruv closes the door.

Kaz, meanwhile, has emerged into the antechamber and is standing in front of Lord Aldenmier, who is staring past him in increasing puzzlement as nobody else emerges. After a moment he asks, "You just left them?"

Kaz looks back: "I thought they would follow."

Aldenmier reaches over to the banner and tries to pull it from its stand; it refuses to move. "They're still alive. You should go back to them."

OOC, Kaz's player considers the relative merits of just continuing to flee, but I point out as DM that lord Aldenmier would consider that a career-ending decision. Reluctantly, Kaz goes back into the dungeon.

Toruv, meanwhile, has started to move down the corridor to the next door that they haven't yet opened. This triggers yet another argument, since they have a good thing going with farming the treasure room and they're carrying a considerable amount of treasure on them; why take unnecessary risks? Firstborn allows himself to be convinced, and at this point we have a bit of an OOC meltdown. (That may be something of an overstatement, but when one of the players suggests that they think they should step out of this session, we definitely have a problem.) We have about fifteen minutes until parents start arriving to pick people up, so I declare by DM fiat that Kaz rejoins the group just in time for everybody to depart the dungeon and head back into town to sell their stuff and return to the Aldenmier estate.

Then we sit down and have an OOC conversation about what we need to do to make this campaign work for everybody.
-Firstborn and Kaz's player really enjoy the combat, and aren't really satisfied if they don't get to fight something. That shouldn't be much of a problem; this is very much a go-in-there-and-fight-things kind of dungeon.
-Aspen's player explains that she really likes the campaign and even the characters, but the OOC stuff makes it almost too frustrating to play; she also points out that Shadow had a distinct personality and motivation when Secondborn was playing him, but with Kaz's player running him he's just sort of turned into an extension of Kaz. Both of these are valid complaints.
-Barrith's player says he really just enjoys the whole thing, and that's kind of been my impression: he's not in it for the combat or the loot or the sneaking around so much as he's there to be a halfling rogue who can cast spells with his friends.

I reiterated that we really need to have characters who can work with each other; it's one thing to do a Guardians of the Galaxy thing where they start out not trusting each other but eventually learn to depend on the group; it's something else to have a Mad Max style character who's so socially damaged that they literally can't work with other characters. (If that's so, why are you playing a game that's designed around a group?)

We also discussed setting up some rules so that everybody isn't trying to talk all at once; I have ordered a Game of Thrones style costume crown to use for this purpose. The person with the crown gets to speak; everybody else has to wait their turn. (We started using Firstborn's dice bag for this to reasonably good effect about halfway through, and I think it will really help. I just want to replace that with something that isn't cloth and hopefully is less like to end in an outbreak of lice.)

I agreed about the issues with Shadow, and we'll be moving him out to work with the Dwarf Barbarian Jax (originally played by the boys' cousin) so that he remains in Lord Aldenmier's employ but isn't part of the banner company anymore. That way if Secondborn does decide to come back in, the character is available; but meanwhile we're not trying to keep him in the party with no player. (We have another kid from the middle school who's expressed interest in playing, but so far neither he nor his parents have contacted me; still, if he does join then that would bring us back up to five characters.)

Mainly, though, it sounds like we need to work on keeping people focused enough IC and OOC that we can pursue the party's goals without a constant stream of interruptions.

Treasure from last session:
-another bronze short sword from room o' spiders where they originally found the cat statue.
-200 GP from the chest
-a ring of protection +3, claimed by the cleric.
-a longsword that they claimed from the defeated wight.

Treasure from this session:
200 x 8 GP
8 more rings of protection +3 - enough to cover everybody in the party, any new arrivals, and still leave a couple that could theoreticaly (though not easily) be sold off.

Treasure from the Griffin mission, which doesn't need to be split with Aldenmier:
-A quarterstaff
-4 shortswords
-3 light crossbows
-12.5 GP from Barrith selling off his longbow.

Current party treasure by my count is 246 GP and 15 SP, which will increase as soon as I sit down and do the math on all this.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Abdael and Milosh: Shadow Shapes

Abdael had just finished tying his bedroll when Milosh wandered over. "Still interested?" asked Abdael.

Milosh was older than Abdael, purely human and perpetually grumpy, but he managed a shrug at the half-elf. "You got me curious," he admitted.

"Well," said Abdael, and strapped his weapons belt in place. "I basically just pick a weapon..." He drew his sword. "...and then my shadow--"

Darkness spilled out of his hand, wrapping around the hilt and coiling around the guard before spilling down the blade. "--sort of feels it out, and then it... I don't know, it seems to help me fight better with it."

The darkness solidified around the blade, losing the smoky edges and turning the entire weapon a flat, un-reflective black. "It doesn't usually do that, though."

Then the darkness uncoiled and retreated back into his hand, leaving nothing in its wake. Abdael exchanged a look with Milosh, confirming from his expression that the older man had seen it too. The paladin looked shocked; he had definitely seen it.

"It... it ate my sword." Abdael shook his head. "That's new. Maybe it wants me to use the..." Darkness was already uncoiling from the side of his hip, pouring over the armsbelt and twining its way around the whip. A moment later it withdrew, and the whip was gone, too.

Milosh opened his mouth, then closed it again.

"Well, this is awkward," said Abdael. "What am I supposed to fight with?" He had spells, still, but he liked melee combat.

Darkness spilled out of his palm again, a thin line of something like black smoke that hardened suddenly into the likeness of a sword. "Oh! Okay, that's..." he tried a few experimental swings. "That's usable." He shook his hand out, and the sword vanished. Then he frowned, concentrating, and the darkness spilled out again, this time long and flexible. "Right." Abdael shook his head. "I think I can work with that, but..." He looked up at Milosh. "You see what I mean about it being unpredictable?"

"Well," said Milosh, absolutely deadpan: "I can safely say that I've never seen anything like it."