Monday, March 26, 2018

Boys and DnD, Session Eight!

Firstborn has been pushing for us to get back on a weekly DnD schedule, and as a result we managed to play again this weekend. It wasn't a terribly complex session, but it went well. Firstborn has been reading the Dungeon Master's Guide (he's thinking of alternating with me, with me running my game one weekend and him running his own game the next), and reminded me that the DMG suggests that the game can be enhanced by using physical props. I hadn't been doing that, mainly because that requires work and preparation, and I'm mostly making this up as I go along. But it was a good idea: we lit a couple of candle for light and atmosphere, and settled in to play...

Departing the goblin village with the goblin child in tow, our heroes went to check the unexplored areas of this level of the dungeon, and discovered that what they thought was the goblin village was only half of the goblin village. The other side of the dungeon has a corresponding large room full of mushroom-houses and goblin decor. It is, of course, as empty as its near-twin.

The party hasn't explored either half of the village completely, so it's entirely possible that there are other passages leading away from either location. Instead, however, they elected to take the one corridor passage that they hadn't fully explored, and head down it back to the guardroom where they first made their alliance with the goblin tribe.

This turned out to be the right decision, because as they were creeping down the passage they heard voices ahead, and the distinctive slap of paper on wood. (I actually slapped a piece of paper on the table to create the sound, because props enhance the game. What can I say? Firstborn was right.)

Secondborn is the sneaky one in the party -- ranger/rogue dual class -- and he moved silently down the hall to investigate. Well... almost silently. His role was okay, but one of the Bugbears ahead rolled really well on its Listen check, and then on its Spot check, and so the next thing everyone knows there's a bugbear standing in the doorway, pointing at Secondborn's character (Drake) and demanding: "What you doing here?"

I asked Secondborn what he wanted to do, and he decided he wanted to try to make friends with the Bugbear. That's not really specific enough for character action (remember, he's seven years old and I'm already using a more-than-slightly-abbreviated version of the rules) so I asked him what he would say to the bugbear.

"I'm trying to find the goblins from the empty village," he told it.

"Uhn," it replied. "Come in here, I show you where they went."

So Secondborn followed it into the guard room, where a second bugbear and a minotaur were sitting on too-small stools and looking at the cards spread out on a wooden table between them. "Sit here," said the bugbear, and Secondborn slipped onto an empty stool. And that, of course, was when the bugbear picked up a burlap sack and tried to pull it down over Secondborn's head. He didn't quite manage it, but the second bugbear and the minotaur both stood up and the minotaur stepped around the table to get into attack range.

I had everybody roll initiative. Firstborn came out on top - 20 total -- followed by the two bugbears, then Beautiful Wife, then the minotaur, then Secondborn. So...

Firstborn raged (he's a dual-class Druid/Barbarian), drew his greatsword, and charge the bugbear with the sack. He only got to make a single attack, but it was a good one. The bugbear turned and attacked him, doing enough damage to hurt but not enough to turn the fight. The second bugbear attacked Secondborn, but also missed. Beautiful Wife, still standing in the doorway, fired off a Scorching Ray at it and very nearly killed it. (She's our only single-class PC, a Halfling Sorceress, and she's kind of a badass.)

The minotaur then attacked Secondborn (who's basically in the middle of the bad guys) and did some damage. Secondborn yanks his longsword out and attacks, hitting the minotaur but doing only superficial damage to it. This ends the round, so...

On the next round, Firstborn drops his animal companion. (He's a second-level Druid as well as a Barbarian, remember.) His companion is Bloodshot, a poisonous viper, which normally coils around his arm or shoulders. He then attacks the bugbear in front of him again, dispatching it. The viper makes a five-foot slither and attacks the minotaur -- and hits. Mind you, it only does two points of physical damage, but it's... well... venomous. Firstborn rolls, and we find that the minotaur has taken six points of Constitution damage, which seriously weakens it.

The remaining bugbear tried to attack Secondborn, but missed -- possibly because of the extensive burn trauma from last round. Beautiful Wife fired off another Scorching Ray and finished the poor thing. The minotaur tried to attack Secondborn again, but also missed. Secondborn again attacked the minotaur, and again did some damage. It wasn't anything too dramatic, but at this point it's starting to add up.

Then, at the beginning of the next round, Firstborn steps in and attacks again -- raging, with his greatsword. That sets the minotaur back. Beautiful Wife tries to follow up with another Scorching Ray, but misses (poor roll for the ranged touch attack, plus she was trying to fire past Firstborn without hitting him). A bit of the glowing moss on the far wall bursts into flame.

The minotaur then takes a step back, turns, and runs for it.

...But now it's Secondborn's turn. And Secondborn's Rogue/Ranger is a dedicated archer. (Think Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn, because I'm pretty sure that's who he modeled his character on.) So he drops his longsword, whips out his bow, and fires off a shot...

The minotaur is forty feet down the passage on the far side of the room. The arrow connects perfectly and takes him right the heck down. The minotaur hits the ground face first, sliding along for a couple of feet with its horns scraping sparks off the rocks.

The battle is over.

The goblin child has spent this whole time standing behind Beautiful Wife's sorceress, making little "ooooh" noises every time she uses Scorching Ray.

I recommend that the group stop and make camp here in the guard room, so that Firstborn can use his druid spells to heal himself and Secondborn, and everybody can rest and recover their spells. (Yes, I know, the Dungeonmaster is not supposed to make suggestions, but again: new players, still acclimating to the game, plus a little out of practice. I sometimes make suggestions.) They agree, and we stop there. Total play time? About an hour and fifteen minutes. Total fun had? Lots.

We blew out all the candles and got everybody ready for bed.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Still Life with Banana

...No, I have no idea why I felt compelled to take a picture of that. Or why I felt compelled to share it. Why does anybody do anything, really? What does it all mean, compared with the endless void that surrounds our meager, purposeless existence? Can it mean anything at all? Why am I even typing this?

I think... I think I might need coffee.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Shadows and firelight flicker around the edges of the clearing,
Opposites and partners, dancing endlessly.
She sits on the opposite side of the flames from me,
Each of us casting a long shadow behind us.

Her mouth moves, but I can't hear words--
Just the wind in the trees overhead
And the surge of blood through my veins,
The throbbing of my heart.
She makes an angry gesture
And I can only stare.

I see her lips form familiar words: You don't *listen*.
But there is still no sound.
Finally she stands.
Finally she walks away, passing from firelight into darkness
Taking the trail back to the parking lot
Without me.

She is gone:
Inevitable end to this ineluctable pantomime
That we have drawn ourselves through
A dance as automatic, silent, meaningless, and fascinating
As the play of firelight and shadow on the trees.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Boys and DnD Session Seven!

"I kind of like the idea of a bone bow," says Firstborn. "It could shoot marrows."

With the ranger and the sorceress, they tracked the skeletons back to the nearby dungeon. The descended to the goblin fungus-village, and found it apparently empty. The first couple of mushroom huts were empty, and showed signs of a struggle - knocked over stools, scattered blankets. ("Or maybe the goblins all suddenly developed younger brothers," Firstborn observed ominously.) They proceed to the town circle (like a town square, only round) and a very small goblin leaps out and shouts a warning... about half a second before a half-dozen zombies lurch out of the shadows. Two of the zombies are goblin-zombies; two are hobgoblin zombies, and two are human zombies.

Initiative looks like this:
Secondborn 20
Mommy 18
Zombies 10
Firstborn 6

Plus, because he's a split-level ranger/rogue, Secondborn has Undead as a favored enemy and thus a +2 damage against them.

Secondborn steps up to the nearest zombie and attacks it with his longsword. It's a goblin-zombie, and he dispatches it rather neatly. Mommy (Halfling Sorceress) begins casting Disrupt Undead, damaging one of the hobgoblin-zombies. Firstborn (Elvish Druid/Barbarian) crosses to the Very Small Goblin (probably a child) that shouted the incomprehensible warning and engages the nearest zombie. He's armed with a greatsword, so he makes pretty shot work of the thing. At this point the Very Small Goblin sort of attaches itself to his leg, in what looks like a "Save me!" gesture.

The battle continues, but the zombies really aren't up to this. (Also, in a couple of places they just rolled badly - one zombie tried to attack and wound up throwing its club all the way to the far side of the town circle instead.) So at the end of the battle we have six zombies who have gone from Undead to Just Plain Dead, and a goblin child who appears to understand a little common but doesn't speak anything except small-child-goblin, meaning that the party has no way to really talk to it. The goblin child did, however, manage to pantomime hiding in a basket.

...And that was about an hour of play, which is about the limits of Secondborn's ability to sit still and concentrate, so we stopped there. But hey, the boys are pleased, I'm pleased, and it's progress!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Nonsense Love Poem

Composed last week while sitting in the shower trying to coax my brain into getting ready for work. Apparently, it preferred to do this:

You and me
are like two cups of tea
in complementary

Me and you
Are nothing that new
but we hold it together
with hugs

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Well, that didn't work...

So I wrote a post designed to go up this morning. And it was all about how I was going to work, and...

Nope. Just nope.

Apparently that was wildly optimistic. I woke up (sort of? mostly?) and called in, and went back to bed and slept until eleven in the morning. This, despite having gone to be just after ten o'clock last night. I'm not sure what's wrong; I'm not particularly achy, or nauseated, or sore, or much of anything really. I'm just terribly, terribly drained. Still discouraged, too, but I think that's because of the lack of energy, rather than the other way around.

Anyway, I spent the day at home (aside from a brief outing for staple groceries), ran laundry, and otherwise didn't move. I think I feel a little better for it? I don't know.

It's a little bit after 9:00 in the evening, and I'm going to write one more e-mail and then go to bed again. I don't know what's going on with my system, but I'm ready for it to stop.


I... made it through yesterday. I had some energy in the morning -- I mean, I was intensely tired, but I did have some energy. Then I ate a sensible lunch, and then... well... I ate a whole bunch of corn chips, and was worn out and useless for most of the afternoon. Dinner at home was an excellent pork and rice dish with sliced carrots on top, but I could cheerfully have come home and collapsed, too.

Now it's time for bed and I am tired and weirdly depressed, and I'm starting to wonder if maybe the corn chips have started doing something to my system. So the plan for today is basically, "No corn chips, and try to stay focused." And hopefully I'll snap out of it and feel better about, well, everything.


I mean, I really do feel useless - sort of existentially, not just in terms of what I actually got done today. I feel like there's a bunch of stuff I need to do and I can't stay focused long enough to catch up on any of it. And I know it'll pass, and I'm pretty sure it's just the lingering tail end of having been really sick (along with everything else that made February such a beating this year). But I want my energy back, and I want to feel like I have something to contribute, and damn it I am just not feeling any of that. If today isn't any better, I may try to take tomorrow off. Probably as a vacation day, since I don't think I'm "sick" in any socially-recognized sense.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mating Rituals: A Family Discussion

The boys are in the living room playing video games; Beautiful Wife is on the couch, reading. I have come in to bring tea to Beautiful Wife.

Secondborn: "I have a poem for you."

Me: "Okay."

Secondborn: "Roses are red, violets are blue. I spend a lot of time thinking about you."

Me: "That was very nice."

Beautiful Woman: "It was."

Secondborn: "Thank you."

Me: "And someday you will repeat that poem to some young lady, and she'll say, 'Awww. I'm keeping this one.' And she'll take you home..."

Secondborn: "Oh?"

Me: "...and wrap you in her webs..."

Secondborn: "What?"

Me: "...And feed you the still-beating heart of her latest kill."

Secondborn: "No!"

Beautiful Wife: "Oh, yes. That's how your dad and I met."

Me: "Absolutely."

Firstborn: "I could have done without that image. Let us never speak of it again."

Secondborn: "For once, I agree with you completely."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music: Chosen

VNV Nation, from Praise The Fallen:

This is one of the albums I go back to for certain kinds of writing.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Speech: Saladin Ahmed, Shadows of FRANKENSTEIN

Given at Longwood University on February 26, 2018. I was not there, though I wish I could have been:

He's been working in comic books more recently, but if you haven't read Throne of the Crescent Moon (novel) or Engraved on the Eye (short story collection) then you should do yourself a favor and pick them up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Music: God Is A Bullet

Concrete Blonde. It's an old song, but I stumbled over it again last night and it seemed... strangely relevant to the current moment. (Content warning: talking about death by gunfire.)I dunno, maybe it's just me; I'm a Concrete Blonde fan from a long ways back.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Music: Irish Ballad

...Courtesy of Tom Lehrer, and accompanied by commentary on folk songs:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dear Diary: Dinner with Grandma

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Leaffall, Day 23

Dear Diary,

I decided I needed to work with some friendlier ghosts while I'm polishing my skills and increasing my power, so I took Grandma Butterblossom out to dinner last night. She was my father's mother, and an accomplished wizard in her own right, and she's only been dead for three years so it was pretty easy to bring her back.

Diary, it was wonderful. I know, I know: I'm mastering the arts of death and bending the darkest forces to my will, so I'm not supposed to feel sentimental about the living, or even the recently-living. I know. But Grandma Butterblossom was always good to me, and it was really nice to see her again. She seemed really happy to see me, and she didn't object to calling me Grimbad Willowisp. She didn't even quirk her mouth when she said it, the way the kids at school do when they bother to use my name at all.

She's a ghost, so she didn't really eat; but it turns out that she could sort of sip from a bowl of soup and a cup of tea, and get the experience of the flavors. I told her about the rest of the family, and school, and my studies, and was just so nice (there's that word again) to have someone to talk to about all this stuff. Besides you, I mean.

Plus, she had some advice for the situation with Mrs. Puffblossom, and some general advice on honing my powers. Necromancy wasn't really her thing -- she was more of a generalist -- but she was still a wizard and her ideas were really helpful.

I have to tell you, Diary, this was the best night I've had in a long time. And when we were done, we went back to the graveyard and she let me put her back down. So everything's fine, at least for the moment. At least as long as my dad never finds out.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Music: Old Blevins

I made a reference to this song on Twitter a couple of weeks back, and it turns out that the person I was tweeting to had never heard of it. So, since I think it deserves as wide an audience as possible, here are the Austin Lounge Lizards with Old Blevins: