Apparently #YesAllWomen is a response to #NotAllMen which was a response to some crazy dude who had issues with women and killed people.  The short version is that #NotAllMen are crazy homicidal lunatics who hate women and want to do horrible things to them, or even really engage in lewd or unbecoming behavior in regards to women, whereas #YesAllWomen  at some point in their lives have been or will be a victim of sexual harassment if not out-right rape or murder at the hands of a man.  In addition, there is also the accompanying assertion that by “Men” they only mean “those Men” and men as a class who represent a threat to women as a class.

I was messing around with a little experiment. When writing a post about “#YesAllWomen” and/or “#NotAllMen”, if replacing all of your instances “Women” with “Whites” and “Men” with “Latinos/Blacks/Arabs” creates the most disgusting and offensive thing you’ve ever seen, maybe you should consider tweaking your posts (or your activism) a bit.

You get some real gems, like:

“So why am I writing about all of this again? It’s because I’m increasingly seeing the phrase “Not all blacks!” cropping up in discussions about black violence against whites. It seems that many are insulted by the perceived implication that all blacks are violent, evil, rapists and murderers. It’s those people that I really want to read this post. Because you see, when we’re talking about issues like black violence and I refer to “blacks” (and obviously I can only speak for myself) I’m not saying that all blacks are the same. That would be ridiculous. What I’m doing is referring to blacks as a sociological group, in the same way that I might refer to the middle-class or the Latino population. And blacks, as a class, are a threat to whites, as a class. What I’m not saying is that any individual black is a threat. With me so far? Good.”

Pretty fucking disgusting, huh?  You can swap the races around however you want.  Blacks killing whites, Latinos killing Blacks, Arabs killing Asians.  Whatever, and you still get a god-awful mess that could come out of the mouth of a Kleagle, a Black Panther, whatever. The worst thing is, because of the ubiquitous whiteness of the internet, it behooves me to mention that I am a person of color, otherwise someone might accuse me of white privilege or something D:

Hashtag activism has to be the one of the worst things to happen to us culturally in the new millennium.

Shadow over Alfheim, Part One – Sigyfel’s Tomb –

I kicked off my B/X game on monday. It’s been the first time in several years that I had DMed, and the rust was apparent, though I feel like I did a lot better than I’d worried I would.

I only had two players, which in a B/X game that was going to primarily use OSR modules dropped into a custom campaign setting made things difficult. We were supposed to have at least a 3rd person, which would’ve been significantly improved the party’s chances against tougher foes, but she forgot that we were gaming(despite the fact that we held the game monday to specifically accommodate her, as she is leaving the country soon, to the expense of two other potential players) on monday/had a nasty argument with the host about the benefits, or lack thereof, gluten-free foods possess for individuals who do not have coeliac disease and was too butt-hurt come over and play. This made having Sigyfel’s Tomb a real blessing, because as piddly as this Labyrinth Lord one-sheet is, it is almost perfectly balanced for a party of two.

The guy whose first game it was as B/X played as a fighter. It took a bit longer to roll up a character than I initially thought, but he was ultimately impressed with the simplicity of the system, especially when compared to a 3.5 Gestalt build. The older gent decided to play as a Cleric, because a party that small needs two decently capable fighters and some spellcasting/healing ability. Plus turning. Of course, being a medieval scholar of history, religion and language makes him both a natural choice for a party cleric, making him the intellectual and moral center of parties much in the same way that he is the intellectual and moral center of our town’s larger gaming group. So, Sven and Cynewulf make their way into the wilds of Alfheim under the patronage of Lord Kadesh Richmond.

One of the first things I discovered was that despite the detail I’d put into my world, it was still a bit too shallow in some regards, namely in terms of local cults and religions, so I had to come up with a number of things on the fly as best I could.

While I wanted my world to be a sandbox, I made the mistake of introducing too much, too soon, including things I was not really prepared to cope with, given the party’s makeup. The setup for Sigyfel’s tomb involved a run-in with the wife of the victim, lamenting her husband’s fate in the farm fields just outside of Alfort (in most but name). The hook worked both too effectively and somewhat ineffectively. Their initial instinct was to go straight to the tomb at nightfall, but they decided to check in at town first. This worked out, because it gave the widow a chance to collect her thoughts and approach the cleric in the morning with more coherent information about the tomb and a request that someone help put an end to the evil that plagues the farmers.

My new fighter learned how to map OSR style. He had some trouble at first, but I was patient, helped him and even corrected him in a few places. In this, Sigyfel’s tomb was good because it was a simple and more or less symetrical map. They came in, got hit by the pendulum trap for minor damage. I made a few rulings about it, since it’s not well described in the module, that it could either be spiked or they could simply walk under it in the future.

While they were messing around with a door on the west wing, a pair of skeletons showed up. They did some very minor damage, and the cleric turned them. The skeletons ran and got clocked by the pendulum. It was a nice moment. They found the secret door with the stash of silver, but poked around long enough that rats appeared in the bolts of rotting silk; they failed to do any damage and after two of them were squished, they ran off (“I don’t think they’re going to run and warn anyone”). I hesitated to have the skeletons in the sarcophagi animate immediately, and maybe I shouldn’t have, but it worked out nicely; the PCs said “There’s nothing worth fighting for in here”, so they spiked the door shut, sealing the angry skeletons inside.

When they tried the locked door toward the tomb in the central tunnel (there are two locked doors and no key in the module; this could have been a bigger problem than it was), the fighter decided to bash the door down. I decided that this loud bashing attracted the attention of the evil cleric’s two orc body-guards from the east wing, who attacked and were promptly dispatched (one killed, the other fled and got an arrow through the neck) after doing minimal damage. The module says that if the Cleric’s body-guards are killed, he should try to flee. The problem with this is that he really doesn’t have anywhere to run. So, I decided that after his body guards were killed, the players find him kneeling in supplication, begging for his life. This gave me an interesting and fun roleplaying opportunity.

This guy has no motivation or story or even name given in the module, yet unless the dungeon is being run for a single hero, there’s no reason he won’t promptly surrender. A level one evil cleric by himself is hardly even a cleric at all. So, I decided that he was actually a mad-man, who had been instructed in a dream to come here and pray for the return of the big-bad’s lieutenants. It involved lots of mad ramblings and was a lot of fun. It also let me get away with not having the overall plan fleshed out yet; this guy is too low on the totem pole to have any idea what the big-bad is up to. He’s taken prisoner, tied up, and given a key (so the players can unlock the doors) on his person that wasn’t from the module.

They open the first locked door. And here’s where I had one of my first real dungeon problems: how to describe a room that stepping into triggers a trap. Do I describe the room first or activate the trap and then describe the room? They clearly would see the room before they went inside. It’s kind of a flow-thing. Anyway, the room is oddly shaped, and though it has some description to it, nothing in it is important, except for the trap. So, I just sprang the trap and treated it like a normal hall.

They opened the second locked door and entered the burial chamber. There are three really evil looking statues here, and it was fun to watch the players panic thinking that they would surely spring to life. They ultimately decided that opening the sarcophagus would be a bad idea (and it probably would have; I’m not sure they could have survived the ghoul unless I ruled that it would not use paralysis with its attacks) and made a pretty cool roleplaying choice. They dragged the evil cleric back to Alfort and turned him over to the Magistrate. The Magistrate thanks them for their service, informs them that the cleric will be tried for murder, attempted murder, assault, diablerie and Medism, and will dispatch a company of local constabulary to investigate and cleanup the crime scene. The next day, the party heads to the tomb, and are pleasantly surprised to find that everything is under control. Two guards are posted outside, the dead orcs have had their equipment seized, and the party finds a few of the guards smashing the evil statues, burning what’s left of Sigyfel, and tending to the two wounded guards who are suffering from ghoul paralysis. The cleric uses his one spell (I let them start at level 2, since it would be cruel to run a game for two people at that low a level) to heal one of the two guards. My older player remarks happily that in all of his years of playing D&D, he’d never been in a game where he’d been able to call the cops before.

My problem was that I didn’t do a chapter end right away (partly because I wasn’t aware of the time). I’d created too many things for them to be interested in checking out that I either was not ready to run yet or would need to significantly re-balance given the party’s extremely low cumulative hit-dice. Already they were interested in checking out the Zombraire’s Estate (undead farm animals was too juicy a rumor to pass up), and they were about to start exploring the Old Island Fortress (though they’d been instructed not to by their patron’s solicitor “You were just hired; the last thing Lord Richmond wants is for you to get yourselves killed before he gets any work out of you”), where they would’ve promptly been torn apart by wolves. I’m mad at myself for not giving myself a better out and for making my invisible walls too visible. I wouldn’t have had to do it if I’d ended my session sooner, or at least been able to do the time-skip to make things feel less rushed (the first letter said to expect orders in 5 days, the orders came the following day, delivered hastily by a messenger who basically said ‘the plot is over here, sorry but you haven’t got into sand-box territory yet’; i’m not proud of it). But, they wanted to keep on going, and really, I wanted to oblige.

They got their instructions to seek out Laws End so that they might run the Blueholme Maze of Nuromen module. Their instructions in the letter were to “Find a certain book” I had to come up with the contents of the letter on the fly, and really it wasn’t one of my finer moments. “What book is it?! The letter doesn’t say what book we’re even looking for!” The solicitor’s(my) oversight was thankfully forgiven, and the pair were off in search of Law’s End. This led to a fun encounter at a crossroads, where a bard was noodling and giving cryptic answers about the return of the elves. I don’t know if the fact that he was there at the crossroads to sell his soul to evil elves to play better lute was lost on my players or not, but it was still a fun encounter to roleplay. Another nice little set piece, and I don’t know if it was effective or not, but I liked it, was outside of Laws End, when a procession of ghost elves carrying a dead king on a bier marched past, through the valley and off into the mountains.

My players made it into the entrance of the dungeon when i realized that it was time that I had to call it a night.

I had a blast, and despite my mistakes, I think my players had fun too.

As for Sigyfel’s Tomb, I give it a 4/5. There’s really very little substance to it, and it will take some work adding your own details, unless you’re running it as a board-game style encounter, but it worked really well for a tiny party and someone almost completely a novice to old-school style tabletop rpgs. The main changes I would recommend would be removing the pendulum trap altogether, naming the cleric and give him some sort of reason for being in the tomb, and adding an encounter in room 4. In some ways, the tomb itself is too small to justify having random encounters; the tomb itself is at most two-three times as big as a house and is actually set up kind of like a tomb, rather than a crazy non-sense dungeon maze. Overall, though, I was happy that I had something that I could run that wasn’t too hard for new players to map or for two pcs to fight through.

After I run Maze of Nuromen, I’ll do a write up about that one as well. While i initially loved it upon reading it, I’m now feeling a bit wary about actually running it. A lot of the rooms have a LOT going at once, and my fear is that I’ll fail to describe some important aspect of a room because it is buried in the description. The one advantage of having block-text is that it give you an idea of what your players see vs. any mechanical interactibles in the room. It’ll be a tour de force, but I think if I study it hard enough and do some highlighting, I can run the module with a decent modicum of competence.

Update: Note that the module’s actual name is “The Tomb of Sigyfel”.

RuPaul Continues to be a Brilliant Defender of Free-Speech

While I’ve never been a fan (or even watched, to my recollection) of any of the shows that RuPaul Charles has done, it’s hard not to have respect for someone who is probably the most unique pioneer of civil rights that the 20th century had to offer.

Apparently parts of the LBGT community are now wanting RuPaul to censor himself, wanting a kinder, gentler, softer more PC verbiage from the very individual who first introduced the concept of trans-acceptance to Mainstream of American Media.

RuPaul may not be Transexual (he simply wears women’s clothing) and has also eschewed the titled “Female Impersonator” (“How many seven foot tall women with huge hair wearing 10 inch platform shoes have you seen?”), but he is undeniably an in-your-face icon of the movement and has been for some time before what we (or the media, at least) see as “The LGBT Movement” had risen in the public conscious as anything more than a bunch of people who looked like Freddie Mercury dying of AIDS.

This current flap about language used in RuPaul’s show is reminiscent of how he was one of the only people who stood up for gay crossdressing blackface comedian Chuck Knipp (“Critics who think that Shirley Q. Liquor is offensive are idiots. Listen, I’ve been discriminated against by everybody in the world: gay people, black people, whatever. I know discrimination, I know racism, I know it very intimately.”).

Anyway, here is a recent interview with him; I’ve included some highlights below for those who don’t feel like listening to the whole thing.

“If your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road.”

“You know what? Bitch, you need to get stronger. You really do, because if you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think.”

“Four people who have a wi-fi connection sitting behind a computer in god knows where and deliberately misinterpret our verbage and decide “You hurt me”. We are not doing anything to you. That is how you interpret that.”

“It’s the same as in the book Animal Farm, where the animals forgot why they had a revolution in the first place. The pigs started walking on hind legs… Secretly they just want to be farmer John.”


Anyway, a bit later, I’ll be writing up a bit about the first B/X session I ran last night.

A few thoughts on Desolation of Smaug:

I know I’m super late to the party of DoS, but some rough family circumstances kept me out of the theatres over Christmas.  But I finally got around to seeing Hobbit II: Bigger Longer Uncut, and a number of observations were made:

The geography of Jackson’s Middle Earth continues to perplex and frustrate me. There is always a mountain range on the horizon. In every direction, whether they should be visible or not. I mean, yeah, I get that Middle Earth is a Flat Earth, but it looked like they got out of Goblin town and into the valley at most a couple miles south of Ered Mithrim

Beorn might as well have been a deleted scene. While his presence made sense in the book, he feels like a very extraneous part of a movie filled chock full of extraneousness.

Mirkwood felt really… Narrow?

The Silvan Dark Elves were indistinguishable from the rest of Jackson’s elves. Unless Jackson is saying that only Tauriel was a Silvan elf (hence red-head), which I think he does, because I’m pretty sure there was some dialogue suggesting that she was a Silvan elf as opposed to Legolas (and hence Thranduil)*. If Jackson had wanted to pad or elaborate, he’d’ve had a great opportunity here to explore why the elves in the Hobbit were so different from the elves in LoTRs, or at least show that difference. Being dark elves, they would’ve probably been a bit more worldly, more like classic fey, since they’d rejected their gods offer of heavenly paradise on account of it being an insufferably long walk to get there.

Instead of weird ‘different’ elves, we got more orcs to constantly be running from. Action went from over-the-top to cartoon. Like, at this point, the Rankin & Bass Hobbit feels like a much more serious film.

All of the scenes with Smaug were enjoyable, but the rest of movie falls pretty flat.

The obscene death-counts in what are essentially kids movies these days have gone to where they make those 80s ‘omg shocking highest death-counts in film evar’ flicks seem pretty tame.   DoS is a film filled with perpetual and casual violence from beginning to end to the point where you both forget that it’s there in the movie and forget that it’s not there in the books.

*Update: Thranduil and Legolas were Sindar, making them part of the handful of Grey Elves and High Elves who stayed behind during the 3rd age to rule over kingdoms populated by the various Nandor and Avari populations of Dark Elves.  Most of the Elves left in Middle Earth by the Third Age are probably these “Dark Elves” since most of the High Elven Noldor and Grey Elven Teleri prolly died when the entire world west of the Blue Mountains sank.

A Post-Mortem

We finally had the encounter that the whole game was leading to.  An 8 year old with the Hand and Eye of Vecna and some elf-vampire-martial-artist thing that had 5 attacks per round + counter attacks and rolled an uncanny number of crits are in the temple of Wee Jas performing some ritual that all of the folk in the city are attending.  A dozen orphans are around the altar feeding a black energy.

The First round resulted in my getting a solid hit on the big bad, her dragon laying out the Ninja deep into negative territory, the Cleric casting a buff, the Bardbarian raging and the Psionicist doing some melee damage.  In retaliation for my 40 points of damage, Vecna makes me magic-sick.  Also in retaliation, the Vampire puts me at a negative, but the priest’s blessing kept me from going down double digits. The psionicist disintegrates Vecna for a lot of damage, putting him in the triple digit area of cumulative damage.  The Cleric heals me and the Bardbarian does a pittance of damage to the Vampire.  Vecna utterly destroys the Psionicist, who failed her fort save against instant death.  The Vampire curb stomped me down to 4 HP on her way to take out the Cleric.  The  Bardbarian at least manages to KO the aspect of Vecna.  While the Vampire starts grappling with the Cleric, I figure my best bet is to go over and try to destroy the altar of evil.  The Cleric and Vampire struggle, and the Bardbarian who was complaining that he couldn’t use his songs while he raged had stopped raging and decided he would try to use his shout to destroy the Altar.  While I was there destroying the Altar and there were a dozen orphan children standing around it.  The Altar takes 30ish sonic damage, the children take 30ish sonic damage, I take 30ish sonic damage, the amulet of fireballs I’m carrying takes 30ish sonic damage, exploding and causing an additional 30ish damage, charring the cracked altar and completely incinerating myself and the orphan children.  The Vampire finishes con-draining the cleric and gave the bardbarian a non-standard game over where, after vomiting blood to resurrect the aspect of Vecna, she fish slapped him to death with his own rib-cage.  Vecna Wins. Fatality.

Glad that’s over.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this was that apparently no one besides myself had ever played 3.5 before (or if they had, they’d never played with character builds this complicated?) and most of the players were completely baffled by the combat, had no idea how to make their characters do what they wanted them to do, did not know what numbers to add to what for base attack and damage, and it was something of a problem.  This is not a criticism at all of the players, but a note that really high-character-level play is complex when you DO know the system, so it’s really hard on players new to a system to give them ridiculously complex and powerful character builds and expect them to be able to function without warming up to the system first.  Playing the game at lower levels and the experience of leveling up lets players accumulate the knowledge of how their characters work and how the game works at nice incremental levels.  I guess the thing that gets me is that since death was almost a certainty anyway, a simpler system for adjudication might have been more fun.  I feel extra bad for the guy who died in the first round.  Hell, we spent an entire evening, in a snow storm, for like 4 straight hours min-maxing and making obscure 3.5 gestalt classes so that dude could die in the first round of the game’s only encounter.