Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Moments

Give me a moment. Just a moment. I'll only be a moment. This is the big moment! Live for the moment! In the heat of the moment. On the spur of the moment. (music notes) It only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long! music notes

We sure reference moments a lot in our culture. But why? What do we mean by it? I'd like to try to unpack some of that. Let's start with the dictionary, I suppose. "An indefinitely short period of time; an instant." That's often how it's used, but not always, I think. Some moments are fleeting, short, instantaneous. They last as long as it takes to make eye contact with someone and flash them a smile. As long as it takes to realize that the object that was in your hand is now traveling towards the ground, though it hasn't hit yet. As long as it takes to catch your breath before jumping back in again. As long as it takes for your heart to skip a beat when you catch a glimpse of that special someone. But other moments tend to last much longer. The length of that one particular song. The amount of time that you sat in the ER lounge, waiting for news of your loved one. The length of time you spent sharing a candlelit dinner with your partner. Some moments are instantaneous, some last hours. Some moments pass before you even realize they're there, and some last all night, all weekend long. Moments can be nested, too. Maybe you're having a lovely date night - a moment that lasts for hours. As you sit at the restaurant, your song comes on the radio, ze takes your hand, and you gaze into hir eyes - a moment that lasts the length of the song, a few minutes. But during the song, all of a sudden, you release a tremendous sneeze and ze busts up laughing - a brief moment, but distinct nonetheless! Ultimately, while in this body, I will experience one moment, overall. All other moments are contained within that moment, which lasts exactly the length of one lifetime.

So it seems that moments are often, but not always, short in duration, and localized in Time. But do moments exist in Space? As Time and Space are two sides of the same coin, I have to say yes, they do. There's a particular phenomenon, often thought of as a type of ghost, where observers see a form or spirit repeatedly performing the same activity, repeatedly walking the same path, etc. It seems, in these cases, that a particular moment of Time has been locked to a particular Space. The energies surrounding that particular happening were enough to cement that particular span of Time into that relative Space. But this isn't the only thing I mean when I talk about moments in Space. If we go back to date night at the restaurant, the couple at the next table over doesn't have the same connection to that song, or to each other, as you and ze have, so that couple is experiencing a different moment than you and ze are. So it seems that moments are localized in Space as well as Time. But, you might be thinking, I've shared plenty of tender moments with people hundreds of miles away, through the magic of technology! We've got phones and IMs and text messages and Skype and FaceTime. These are like wormholes from my brain to yours. Our technologies allow the rapid, nearly instantaneous, transfer of information from one physical Space to another, an arbitrary distance away. Thus, in a sense, these long-distance moments are still localized in Space.

Turns out, if we're careful and talented, we can also create long-Time-distance moments, that are still localized in Time. If I write you an email, or a physical note, I can craft my words and phrases in such a way as to inspire certain thoughts and feelings in you, and if I've done a good job, you'll feel that when you read it, even if it's been hours or days since I sent it. The medium of communication can be a wormhole through Time just as easily as through Space. If I've done my job here, this very post will inspire certain thoughts and feelings in you, and create a long-Time-distance moment between you and I. :)

So far, this has all been fairly objective, as objective as a discussion of something experiential can reasonably be. But what about the subjective side? How do we experience moments? Moments are enshrouded in paradox. They are most often thought of as short-lasting; this is precisely what we mean when we say something is "momentary". However, whether a moment objectively lasts a fraction of a second, or several minutes, or hours, they all subjectively seem to last for the same length of time, Eternity. When you are "lost in the moment", all of Space shrinks down to your immediate surroundings, and all of Time collapses into that instant, that Now. The instantaneously brief instant paradoxically becomes all of Eternity, and vice versa; all of Eternity becomes that instant. That finite, limited moment of time and space has an infinite instance.

This leads to another paradox, that of infinite instants. Any given instant of Spacetime comprises all of Spacetime, which means that every single unique instant of Spacetime is a fully-fledged eternal moment in and of itself. Within a single instant, a single moment, the moment that corresponds with the entire lifetime of this Universe, reside infinite instants.

One of the key features of a moment is that, even though in the moment, they feel infinite, really, in our limited, linear perception, they pass. The moment that is now in the Now was once in the Future and will soon be in the Past. But now that it's in the Past, there's another moment going on now. And another now. Moments are fleeting. But paradoxically, they're always present. Any time we open our eyes and look around, it's a moment. Even those that you don't consciously recognize. They're still moments.

I've touched on the idea that moments are fractal, that all moments are contained within any one moment. This means that all moments have an effect on all other moments. Some of these effects are immediately obvious, some we can speculate about, and some we'll never even conceive of. The easiest effects to see are effects "past" moments have on "future" moments. The instant a soldier steps on a landmine has a very dramatic effect on all future moments of hir lifestream, not to mention those of hir friends, family, and fellow soldiers. These are the easiest types of effects for us to notice, but future moments can (and do) effect past moments, and simultaneous (relative to the observer) moments separated in space effect each other. This violates our everyday understanding of causality, but scientists are striving to understand it when they study quantum principles such as nonlocality and uncertainty.

The human mind is, by its very nature, limited in its understanding of Spacetime. We experience it locally. The farther we are separated from something in Space and/or Time, the less we directly experience it in the moment. But here's a secret. If all moments effect all other moments, if all moments contain all other moments, then all moments are accessible from all other moments. I'm sure it takes years of practice, but with focus, discipline, and determination, one can eventually train one's mind to transcend the everyday boundaries of Spacetime and have the whole of the Universe at hir fingertips.

The ancient Greeks understood these concepts and personified and codified them in their understanding of the god Kairos. Kairos is a Time god, but not of linear Time. He is god of the Moment, god of the New Now. He is the perfection and beauty of all moments. He is fleeting. The Greeks often depicted Him bald, other than a tuft of hair in front, because if you saw Him coming, you only had a moment to catch Him, or He'd pass, leaving you with nothing to grab on to. But the trick here is that, even as He passes you by, He is already approaching you anew, giving you another opportunity to grab onto Him, for He is in all moments. Some moments offer the observer a clearer image of Him and His momentary perfection than do other moments, but whether or not it's easy to see, He and His momentary perfection are in all moments, from all viewpoints, if one can look carefully enough.


I feel I ought to mention, for the record, that this post was written entirely on my mobile handset, in "stolen" moments, most often in transit from one location to another. That wasn't necessarily my intention going into it, but I started writing it while waiting for the BART one day, and it just seemed thematically appropriate to continue writing it under such circumstances. ;) moments, most often in transit from one location to another. That wasn't necessarily my intention going into it, but I started writing it while waiting for the BART one day, and it just seemed thematically appropriate to continue writing it under such circumstances. ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Occupy Your Body!

For the past year or two, I have, to varying degrees and in varying ways, tried to stay on the bodily-maintenance-wagon. Recently, I’ve mostly been on the wagon: exercising on a set schedule, being mindful of what I’m eating (even if it’s not all good, I am generally aware of when I’m eating something that’s not good), getting a massage, going on vacation recently (that’s totally mental health), getting my eyebrows threaded regularly. I even recently got a pedicure for the first time. It feels like this time, I might actually be able to stay on the wagon.

I think a large part of staying on the wagon is mindset, and I recently came up with a new idea to help me keep that mindset. I’m calling it Occupy Your Body. The basic idea is that your body is yours; you have sovereign control over it, and it’s up to you what you do with it. You are the sole Occupier of it. You are the steward of it. You are its primary, and sometimes only, caretaker, and it is entirely up to you what happens with it. If it makes you feel good, do it! If it makes you look good, wear it! If you don’t like something about it, change it! Health! Comfort! Beauty! Pleasure! Respect! These are the principles of Occupy Your Body.

Health. “The state of being free from illness or injury.” I don’t know about you, but I like living. I like Occupying this body of mine. I’d like for that to go on for a long time. Generally speaking, the length of one’s life is not something over which one has direct, full control. But it’s also not completely out of one’s control, either. By doing things like making healthy eating choices, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, etc., you can increase the probability of your lifespan being long. Not only that, but you will FEEL GOOD, and really, that’s the ultimate goal here. Also, if something about your body seems amiss, unusual, or improperly functional, and doesn’t clear itself up quickly, go talk to a doctor. They generally know what’s up. An IRL doctor that you can talk to face-to-face is generally better than WebMD. ;)

Comfort. “A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint”. In other words, a state of feeling good. This one is all about doing what you are comfortable doing. If the reason you shave your armpits and/or legs is because you have been socially pressured into it, if you’re not actually comfortable shaving and would rather not, then don’t. On the other hand, if you prefer the feeling of a soft breeze on bare skin, if you like the cleanliness of no armpit hair to hold sweat, or you prefer the aesthetic of smooth lines uninterrupted by hair, (or if you’re a badass swimmer like Michael Phelps), if you are more comfortable without hair on certain parts of your body than with, then by all means, shave (or wax or whatever you do). This applies equally to clothing. Wear what you are comfortable wearing, whether that’s a lot, a little, or nothing at all. If wearing a certain item of clothing makes you uncomfortable, consider NOT wearing it. If you’re not comfortable withOUT a certain item of clothing on, then wear it.

It’s worth mentioning here that the idea of Comfort applies not only to comfort in your body, but also to comfort in social situations. The choices you make about what to do with your body and what clothing to wear (or not wear) WILL have social ramifications. Feel free to go barefoot, or nude, or whatever, if you want, but realize that many places of business will deny you entrance. It’s not enough to just be comfortable with the action; you also need to be comfortable with all the consequences and ramifications of that action. We are, after all, social animals...

Beauty. “A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight.” (I originally called this one “vanity”, but I decided beauty would be a better, and broader, way to say it.) For ease of discussion, I’ll talk specifically in terms of pleasing the sense of sight, but please know that this principle applies to all senses, not just sight. This includes the less-thought-about senses such as, for example, your intellectual or moral sense. What pleases your senses? Do it. Does that baggy, ‘80s-purple sweatshirt make you smile any time you look at it? Wear it. Do you have a unibrow, but think that separate, distinct eyebrows would look nicer? Pluck, thread, or wax it. The important thing to note here is that it’s all about what you think is beautiful about your body, how you think you can enhance, accentuate, or draw attention to your innate beauty (which we all have). If your sense about what is beautiful for/on/with/to/about you happens to coincide with other peoples’ senses, great. If not, no problem; it’s your body. You are the one who knows what’s beautiful, as it relates to you. (This is not to disparage the work of fashion consultants or makeup artists or hairstylists or whatever. They are trained to know about these things, and their advice and suggestions are certainly worth listening to, if you’re interested in hearing it. But if they’re trying to sell you on something that you will think is ugly every time you see it in the mirror, don’t do it!)

Pleasure. “A feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.” Is it fun? Are you happy when you do it? Are you happy after you do it? Does it feel good to do? Then do it! What gives you a feeling of happy satisfaction? What do you enjoy? What can you do today, that, tomorrow, you will be pleased with yourself for having done? What will give pleasure to your future-self? These are the things you should be spending your time on! We don’t know what the future holds; you shouldn’t waste this life NOT having fun, NOT feeling pleasure. If you have a sweet-tooth, eat some ice cream. If you want your feet soaked and massaged and scrubbed, get a pedicure. Obviously, we can’t be in a state of 100% pleasure every waking moment of every day. But why not try to maximize your pleasure? (As with Comfort, it’s worthwhile to again talk about mindfulness of consequences. Want to get really drunk tonight? Awesome; do it. Just make sure your prioritization of Pleasure Tonight over Comfort Tomorrow is a conscious decision, rather than an unconsidered consequence. See below for discussion of prioritization.) I’ve been talking about doing fun things, but pleasure can come from more than just activities; it can come from a mindset. In fact, the mindset is even more important than the activity. I’ve known people who could do nothing but complain, even when they’re doing awesome things, and I’ve also known people who can smile, joke, and laugh while they’re exhausted, overworked, and behind deadlines. I’d say the latter people probably experience more pleasure from life than the earlier people, regardless of activity or circumstance.

Another important aspect of Pleasure is trying new things! How will you know if something will make you happy, if something will bring you pleasure, if you’ve never tried it? We all have our hobbies that we know we enjoy, and it can be easy to get stuck in the Comfort of doing the same things, day after day. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, to a certain extent. But everything was new, at some point or other. When you think about your favorite hobby, there was a day that you tried it for the very first time, not knowing whether or not you’d like it. (Of course, you can sometimes make good guesses about whether or not you’d enjoy something you’ve never tried, but you can’t actually know.) Your favorite hobby five years from now, the one activity that brings you the most Pleasure five years from now, might be something you have not yet ever tried. Sure, maybe sometimes you’ll try a new activity only to discover that you don’t enjoy it, that it’s not Pleasurable for you. This might not be much fun in the moment, but is still highly valuable in the long run, because now you know more about yourself, what you like and dislike, what sorts of things do and do not bring you Pleasure.

So. These are the principles I came up with for Occupy Your Body. Anything you do to, with, for, by, or on yourself can be weighed against these principles. You won’t always be able to satisfy all principles with all actions; you will sometimes need to prioritize one principle over another. Those red heels might be stunning, but they get really painful if you stand in them for too long. So are you going to prioritize Comfort or Beauty? Up to you. That big bowl of ice cream might be really tasty, but it has no nutritional value. Are you going to prioritize Health or Pleasure? Up to you. Your priorities might not be the same as someone else’s priorities, but you know what? It’s your body! It’s not theirs. Your priorities don’t have to be the same as theirs! And keep in mind that none of your decisions about priority are binding; you might prioritize Pleasure today, and Health tomorrow, and that’s okay. You can make that decision. You can change your mind; you can change your priorities. Ideally, you will satisfy as many of these principles as you can in any given situation, but when you have to prioritize one over another, it’s done on a case-by-case basis, and you are the only one who can make the final decision about your own priorities in any given circumstance.

I could go into methodology for choosing priorities, but that could probably be a whole post in and of itself. For now, let’s just say, if you want a long life, prioritize Health more often than not. If you want an intense and exciting life, prioritize Pleasure more often than not. If you want all the attention, prioritize Beauty more often than not. And so on and so forth. You can figure it out. But make it a conscious decision. And re-examine your priorities often. Occupying your body involves being fully present in the moment; not doing anything without being fully, consciously aware of what you are doing and what effect it has on your surroundings. The more aware you are, the more informed your decisions about priorities will be.

And finally, Respect. “To feel or show deferential regard for.” I read several definitions of this word online, and I think this one is probably the most appropriate for what I mean. I think if you’re living by the above four principles, and you’re consciously making your decisions and checking your priorities often, we can safely say that you are already respecting yourself and your body. But this principle is special. It’s less about yourself, and more about everyone else. A lot of what I’ve said in this post can come across as pretty selfish. And really, in a way, it is. I believe in certain kinds of selfishness. I want to do things that are good for me. I want to be in the best position for myself. I want my own life to be as good as it possibly can be, and I’m willing to do whatever selfish thing I need to do to make that happen, for the most part. There are limits to what selfish behaviors should be indulged in. Your sovereign rights end the moment they intrude on another being’s sovereign rights. Each person is sovereign in their own life. Each person wants their own life to be as good as it possibly can be, and each person makes their own choices to that end. We can influence other people’s choices, we can offer advice and suggestions, but ultimately, everyone makes their own choice, and everyone else needs to allow them the freedom to do that. I will Occupy my body, but you need to Occupy your body, not me. I want you to make your own decisions about what your priorities are, and to live by those decisions; I don’t want you to just do whatever I do. The moment you start enforcing your own ways of living on other people is the moment you step out of line with the principle of Respect. And while we can prioritize the other four principles as we see fit in the moment, this principle, as applied to other people, ALWAYS takes the top priority.

(It’s worth noting here that there are exceptions to every rule (including this sentence; WOAH!). I can think of several circumstances in which someone’s ability to make certain sovereign decisions SHOULD be restricted. Ideally, these are legally codified as crimes and formal systems of repercussion, consequence, and appropriate reformation/rehabilitation are in place.)

Your body is an essential part of who you are in this life. You don’t get another one; this is it. (We could get into #YOLO and reincarnation here, but that could be a whole blogpost unto itself. Here, we’re dealing with what we KNOW, and what we know is that we have this body, in this life. Maybe we get more, maybe we don’t, but we can’t count on it.) As such, it’s up to you to take care of it. It’s up to you to determine what to do with it. It’s up to you to guide it, and yourself, through this life on the path that you designate for yourself. It’s the only body and only life you are guaranteed; make the best of it and Occupy it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lovely propaganda, but the letter is fake

Today, #OccupyOakland (#OO) carried out what was termed a "mass propaganda action". I was unable to participate myself, but my understanding is that the plan was to meet at Oscar Grant Plaza at 11am, split into small groups of three to ten people, and fan out over the city, visiting stores, banks, offices, the DMV, and the street corners to "talk to the people". I think propaganda is fascinating. I took a class on it in college, and I've always been interested in psychology in general, so the idea of they psychology behind changing someone's mind or reinforcing an opinion is certainly something I find interesting. So, as I said, I was unable to participate myself, but I wanted to check the internets to see how things were going.

As I looked over my twitter feed, I found this picture of a document being distributed by the #OO people: https://p.twimg.com/Ac8dJg0CMAA8SOG.jpg:large. I read over it and thought, wow, if Jean Quan is endorsing the strike, that's pretty big. But it seems kinda fishy; shouldn't I have heard about that already? Especially given that the letter is dated Thursday October 27th. And really, that letter has some fairly inciting rhetoric in it; I'm frankly a bit surprised that Mayor Quan would say some of the things in that letter, even if she does support the strike. So I started doing a bit of investigation. First off, I visited the website in the letterhead - http://www.oaklandmayor.com. It seems very legit. Go ahead, check it out. Looks like the city of Oakland's website. It has everything you might expect from a city's website: recent news, recent events, commemorations of past events, information for residents, businesses, visitors, etc. And right there on the front page, Mayor Quan's statement to Occupy Oakland, "heartily endors[ing]" the call for a general strike. So I clicked the link to "read the full statement", which took me here: http://www.oaklandmayor.com/docs/apologyletter.pdf, and this is where I really started to get confused. Two things caught my eye - first, the date on the letter was different. The letter I saw a picture of on Twitter was dated Thursday, October 27th, 6pm, but the one on the website is dated Friday, October 28th, 6pm, yet the text is the same. Secondly, take a look at the signatures on both letters - completely different.

I wondered why the official City of Oakland website would specifically reference the Mayor in its URL; that seemed odd to me (and I remembered a different URL from the other day when Anonymous took down the OPD's website), so I googled "City of Oakland", and found this, the official city website: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/. Take a look at it; compare it to http://www.oaklandmayor.com. They are nearly identical. You can switch back and forth between tabs and hardly see any difference. You can click links and explore the sub-pages and not find any difference. The only _real_ difference is the text on the homepage under Mayor Quan's Statement to Occupy Oakland (and, okay, on www2.oaklandnet.com, when you reload, the header banner sometimes changes, and it doesn't seem to do so on www.oaklandmayor.com).

My next stop was http://www.whois.net/whois/oaklandmayor.com. Sure enough: "Creation date: 28 Oct 2011 22:22:00". I don't know who registered and built the website; the Administrative and Technical Contacts listed on whois.net both refer to WhoisGuard, a service intended to protect the private information of domain owners and prevent their information from being harvested by spammers. Anyone who needs to contact the domain owner contacts WhoisGuard instead, and they pass "legitimate contacts" on to the actual domain owner (i.e. "When some one sends an email to your uniquely generated xyz.protect@whoisguard.com address, we will in-turn forward it your real email address which you specify", trying to filter out the spam in the process).

So, my conclusion is that the letter is totally fake. Jean Quan has not endorsed the strike. However, whoever is behind this did a remarkably good job of producing some pretty convincing (on the surface) propaganda in a short amount of time. The letter's fake, but I'm impressed. ;)

P.S. One final note - the date/time on the letter from the Twitter picture, 27 Oct 6PM, is the same date/time on the _actual_ statement Jean Quan made to #OO, which can be found here: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca/groups/cityadministrator/documents/report/oak031951.pdf. Take a look at the signature on that page; totally different than either of the other two. ;)

P.P.S. For the record, I do totally support #OO in general, and the idea of the general strike, although I am probably not going to strike on November 2nd personally, for a number of reasons I won't go into here. I just thought this was some interesting work being done for the propaganda action. I'm not even condemning the fake letter; I actually think it's pretty funny and cool. Whoever made it did a good job. I just want people to be fully informed about realities.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Iron Wardens in 'Dusk' - DM's Perspective

So I recently ran an adventure for the Iron Wardens, and I wanted to get a few thoughts about it down while it's still relatively fresh in my mind. The advenure I ran for them was "Dusk", written by Mike Krahulik of Penny-Arcade fame. (Mike, if you ever see this, and you want me to take the Dusk PDF off of kage23.com, just let me know; I wanted to link to it on penny-arcade.com, but couldn't find it anymore.) Anyway, my first, and overwhelming, thought/response to our session Sunday night is that it was totally awesome. It had been a long time since I had played D&D, and I hope the next time comes sooner. ;)

The adventure itself was quite entertaining. At least, I thought so, and my players seemed to be having a good time. ;) It's a take on Twilight. A traveling crew of actors and stagehands is in town to perform the play "Dusk", and the Iron Wardens must investigate what happened to the missing daughter of the owner of the town's bakery. As it turns out [SPOILERS AHEAD!], the stagecrew are vampires, and they stole the daughter. In the process of discovering this, the IWs talk to the family of actors, each of whom is a colorful character of varying sorts. It was interesting and a bit different for me as a DM to have to actually roleplay various NPCs with differing motivations, that don't necessarily want to help the PCs out. But the characters were all pretty much melodramatic caricatures anyway, so they were pretty easy to roleplay, and I think I did an alright job.

As with any good D&D game, however, things didn't really go to plan. The main difference between the adventure as written and our game was that I combined the second and third encounters into one. Or, more accurately, I dragged (most of) the monsters from the third encounter into the second. The second encounter happens when the players confront the stage manager. He casts a spell on the fangirls in the audience, who proceed to attack the players. According to the "script", as the players fight these "monsters" into which the daughters of the townsfolk have been (probably temporarily) transformed, the stage crew packs up all their shit and gets out of there on their wagons. The players finish the encounter just in time to see the stage crew leaving on their wagons, so the players steal one of the remaining wagons to give chase. They have an intense wagon-to-wagon fight while careening down the road. (I might adapt this idea for some later adventure some time, since we didn't do it in our game.) But the Iron Wardens are upstanding citizens of Fallcrest. They were not going to hurt the fangirls if they could possibly avoid it. They quickly determined that the girls were, in fact, still human, under a spell, and not actually vampires or other undead creatures themselves. As such, they speculated that, if they were to kill the creature that put them under that spell, perhaps they'd come out of it. This sounded reasonable to me, and I knew that if the stage manager tried to go pack up the wagons while the Iron Wardens fought the fangirls, that just wouldn't work. The Wardens wouldn't stand for that. They would defend themselves against the fangirls as best as they could without attacking them, and they would chase after the stage manager until they caught and killed him. So, I just brought him into the encounter, along with a few bats from the final encounter as well. The final encounter also has a few other vampires, and I wasn't sure if I should bring them in or not, so initially, I didn't. Actually, I rolled their initiative at the start of combat along with all my other creatures. My initial plan was to bring them in on the 2nd or 3rd round of combat, but I ended up not doing that. I decided that they had to come in at some point, however; after all, there's a whole stage crew's worth of vampires here. They're not just going to stand around as their leader is killed. They didn't join the fight until right after the stage manager was killed, though. Luckily for the Iron Wardens, it's a small stage crew. ;) I think I only brought two in, whereas the third encounter had three. WIth them, and with the bats, I figured it wasn't fair to bring two full encounters' worth of monsters into one encounter, if I wasn't going to let the players recharge their powers or take a short rest or anything in between, so I left a few of them out.

The whole thing makes me wonder, though ... What would have been the repercussions if they had fought the fangirls? Would the townsfolk understand that the girls were under a spell, or would they think the Iron Wardens just went crazy and had a murderous rampage? Even if they did understand that the girls were under a spell, would they approve of fighting them, hurting and probably killing them, even in the sake of self-defense? Or would the townsfolk have believed there would have to have been another way? Or would I, the DM, have let the players kill the fangirls in the first place? Maybe hitting one of the "monsters" just once would have broken the spell, causing the girl to run away, crying, in pain, actually injured, but not badly and not permanently, making it a really easy fight for the Wardens. I don't know. As it went in our game, as soon as the stage manager was destroyed, the enthralled girls passed out, unconscious but unhurt. Although it just now occurs to me as I write this that we don't necessarily know what happened to those girls afterward. We wrapped up the story, but only to the point of that night in the game-world, not days or weeks later. For all we know, those girls are all still in a coma months later. ;) That's probably something I should address in the follow-up email I told the Wardens I might write. ;)

The other thing I wanted to talk about was earlier in the adventure, when the players are investigating the wagons. They, of course, went straight to the crew wagon, the one that is magically sealed. One of the dwarves believed he could pick even a magic lock, but this one was beyond his ken. Of course, in meta-gaming actuality, it was basically a plot door. They simply weren't going to be able to get into this wagon until it was time. Of course, this was the first of the six wagons that they checked out, and if they had opened the door at that point, or if they had disassembled the wagon, as the dwarves attempted, to no avail, it would have been, you found the girl, there are a bunch of vampires, it's daytime, so they die as soon as you open their coffin lid and the sunlight gets in, so game over, we didn't even have any combat encounters. I think there was also talk of burning this wagon down, and I have to say, I don't think the Iron Wardens would have been too happy with the result, had they done that. ;) The way I was conceiving of the vampires, during the daytime, when they're asleep, they're dead asleep. I'm not sure there's anything that could wake them before sundown. Burning down the place they're sleeping certainly wouldn't do it. If the Wardens had torched the wagon, they would have found several charred, but empty, coffins (because the bodies disintegrate as soon as they are destroyed in the fire), and a charred, unidentifiable body that might have belonged to a fourteen-year-old girl. Oh, and the gold coins and the gems. Those probably wouldn't have been destroyed in the fire. ;) The dwarves did almost tip the wagon, though, but they were interrupted when they had to go save the elves from a pack of wolves in the forest. ;) Not that tipping the wagon would have had any effect, either, though, really. It wouldn't have woken the vampires, and the girl they were trying to rescue was unconscious, so it wouldn't have woken her, either.

But all in all, it was a great game, even (or especially) if it did stretch my DMing a bit. One should never expect a game to go as planned, so it's good to get practice in adapting on the fly. ;) And, when you're railroading your players and not letting them open plot-doors, hopefully making it seem not too extremely railroady in-game. ;)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bike Wreck, Sort Of

So, it's Monday morning, and I'm biking to work. I'm heading south on 9th Street, intending to turn left onto Channing. As I approach the intersection, some frakking ... dude (I'm trying to be nice here) is riding west on Channing. I slow down a bit, with the intention of letting him pass through the intersection before I get to it. As he approached the intersection, he pulled his bike up into a wheelie. But, he wheelied it back too far, and fell over backwards. I was successful in my attempt to not laugh. And I figure, I can speed up and get through the intersection, turning onto Channing, while he's picking himself up and getting re-situated on his bike. So I start making my turn.

But, he apparently got himself picked up and re-situated fairly quickly, because as I'm turning, he starts riding ... right into me. I try to swerve out of the way, but don't make it. He crashes into the right side of me and my bike. Luckily, he had hardly any speed, and neither did I, as I braked while swerving, so it didn't even knock me over. My immediate reaction is to say, "Oh shit! Sorry, dude!" He looks at me for a few moments, and then says, "Are you alright?", to which I reply, "Yeah, I'm fine." (Which was true. My leg was slightly sore where he hit it, but no actual injuries.)

I'm about to ask him if he's okay, when ... he proceeds to FAKE-SLAP ME. Seriously. He makes a slapping motion with his hand, about a foot away from my face, as he makes a "Pssshhht" sound with his mouth. So I just ride away.

What a frakking way to start the week, eh?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What Kind of D&D Character Are You?

What kind of D&D character are you? It's a long survey (129 questions!), but interesting.

Some of them are really hard to answer; they seem like false dichotomies to me. For example:

I would rather spend two hours ...
...camping with my friends.
...drinking with my friends.

Why not spend two hours drinking with friends at a campsite? You can't really camp for two hours, anyway. In order for something to count as camping, it has to be at least overnight. And sometimes my answer might change, depending on how I interpret the words they use.For example:

The nation is at war. Your community is threatened with invasion. Do you:
Help defend it to your last breath?
Defend the area with the rest of your community?
Flee as soon as things look grim?
Cut a deal with the enemy to act as a spy?

Does it mean my community, like my neighborhood? Or like the people I choose to hang out with and interact with? I'm answering as if all the people I choose to hang out with and interact with all lived within a few blocks of me. ;)

There are many questions I would pick multiple answers on. Such as:

When confronted by beggars, do you:
Give generously?
Give moderately?
Give only what you wouldn't miss anyway--a dollar or two at the most?
Ignore them as you walk by?

I do all four of those, depending on the circumstance.

And of course, as is the case with many surveys, too many questions have too limiting answers. ;) I guess one just answers the best one can.

Anyway, on to my results ...

I Am A: Neutral Good Halfling Druid/Wizard (2nd/1st Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Halflings are clever, capable and resourceful survivors. They are notoriously curious and show a daring that many larger people can't match. They can be lured by wealth but tend to spend rather than hoard. They prefer practical clothing and would rather wear a comfortable shirt than jewelry. Halflings stand about 3 feet tall and commonly live to see 150.

Primary Class:
Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armor of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Secondary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Detailed Results:
Lawful Neutral -- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXX (5)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Chaos --- XXXXX (5)

Good & Evil:
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Evil ---- (0)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXX (4)
Elf ------ XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Halfling - XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Half-Orc - (0)

Barbarian - (-6)
Bard ------ (-2)
Cleric ---- (-2)
Druid ----- XXXXXX (6)
Fighter --- (-2)
Monk ------ (-21)
Paladin --- (-19)
Ranger ---- XX (2)
Rogue ----- (-6)
Sorcerer -- XX (2)
Wizard ---- XXXXXX (6)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

D&D Encounters, Season Two, Encounter 1-3

I guess, since Encounter 1-4 is coming up tomorrow, now's a good time to write my post about 1-3. ;)

I don't have a huge amount to say about this one. The most important thing is that Jarvis thought those were some damn good fruits! Basically, we found a fruit-bearing tree in a canyon, and brave Yuka was the first to eat some. After assuring us that they were quite tasty and he didn't feel sick immediately, Jarvix started eating some as well. Upon realizing just how tasty they were, he immediately tuned his finely-honed psychic senses into the fruit, convinced that they must have some intelligence to be soooo tasty. Unfortunately, he was overcome with a wave of nausea, and found himself unable to do much of anything other than contemplate fruit for a while. As it turns out, the nausea had nothing to do with the fruit; he had been hit with a Confounding Curse from one of the curse-spewing goblins that had been camped out on the rocks around the tree! He was able to get a couple Mind Thrusts out, but in the end, decided he'd rather just take a nap.

OK, in all seriousness (or at least, some seriousness), here's what actually happened. After eating a bit of fruit, we "discovered" the goblins that were camped out on the rocks surrounding the area. I rolled a 1 for my Initiative, and Jarvix does not have an Initiative modifier. In the first round of combat, I was hit by a Confounding Curse (really quite a cool ability, activated by the goblin cutting his arm and flinging fresh blood in the PC's direction) that basically made me miss my first turn. So I didn't act at all until the 2nd or 3rd round of combat (I don't remember if I was hit with another Confounding Curse right after that first one or not), and, of course, not until the very end of that round, due to my Initiative (or lack thereof). I was able to use my Infernal Wrath ability, though, which was kinda cool. It can be targeted against any enemy who had hit me since my previous turn, and gives me a bonus to my attack roll, plus a damage bonus, if the attack hits. I also decided to use my Action Point to spend my Second Wind. Exciting use of an Action Point, right? Despite that, I was still knocked unconscious, revived, then knocked unconscious again. I'm a bit worried for Jarvix's future, given that I'll be entering Encounter 1-4 with only 10/22 hit points and no healing surges left ...

Anyway, kudos to Maiki for another great game, and kudos to my fellow players for not letting Maiki get a TPK two nights in a row!