Monday, 29 August 2016

Blaugust 25, 2016: Weird Mid-Adventure Introduction Methods for Replacement Characters

Oftentimes when you are playing your favourite fantasy RPG a player character will die, and a replacement is needed post-haste or the player will get bored and feel left out of the action. Frequently, in these circumstances, it is inconvenient and makes no narrative sense for the other characters to go back to town so they can find a replacement for their chopped up chum. In these circumstances, games such as Dungeon Crawl Classics, where weird is good, have a distinct advantage over the competition. It is in that spirit that I present the first draft of a table of weird and wonderful ways that new characters can be introduced mid-adventure.

I have chosen non-lethal methods, as having the player go to the effort of generating a character then killing them off straight away is a dick move. It wouldn't be a dick move, and I'd in fact encourage lethality in the table, if you are using slabs of pre-gen characters anyway.

Roll d20! The new PC appears at the most appropriate moment according to the method rolled.

  1. Found in a cage hanging by a crossroads. No gear.
  2. Realistic doll in a treasure chest, grows to human-size and comes to life when touched by PCs. Has gear.
  3. Is a prisoner being paraded on a pole by a band of (GM’s choice). No weapons, GM’s choice of other gear.
  4. Found a barely conscious bloody mess by the side of the path. Has gear.
  5. Staggers onto the scene, drunk. No memory of how they got there. Has gear.
  6. Stuck as a statue for d1000 years. Other PCs actions free them. Has gear.
  7. Was hired to take a message to the other PCs, and has followed them into danger. Has gear.
  8. Is dropped from the sky by a giant bird, falling d20 metres. Has gear.
  9. Crawls out of a portal to hell. Gear or no gear, GM’s choice.
  10. Is a nearby corpse, and is suddenly resurrected by actions of other PCs. Gear or no gear, GM’s choice.
  11. Runs onto the scene naked and screaming. No gear.
  12. Is locked in combat with (GM’s choice). Has gear.
  13. Fades slowly onto this plane over several hours, using the other PCs as an anchor. Can converse with them. Has gear.
  14. Stuck at the bottom of a pit trap, injured. Has gear.
  15. Drank fizzy lifting drink and can’t get down from a high place. Has gear.
  16. Is stuck in the form of an animal, released from curse by the actions of the PCs. Has gear.
  17. Springs fully formed from the mind of another PC. Has gear.
  18. Appears in a flash of lightning and a thunderclap. Has gear.
  19. Bursts from the stomach of a vanquished beast. Has gear. Is gooey.
  20. Surfaces in a body of water, gasping for air. Has gear.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Blaugust 24, 2016: Classical Music Catch-up

So hey, I have fallenwell and truly behind, haven't it? But on the whole I think I have done a pretty good job this Blaugust, so I'm going to bring things home in style with a few catch-up posts. This first one relates to classical music, one of my favourite things to enjoy while I am drinking tea or otherwise.

I was thinking while driving home this afternoon that it might be nice to share my current favourite pieces. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here we go. I have been quite picky in which recordings to link, particularly where voice is involved. I am very fussy about that.

The piece that kicked this thought train off is Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights, also known as The Montagues and the Capulets, from his ballet score of Romeo and Juliet. Few pieces evoke such importance, pompousness, tension and menace all at once while still being quite so beautiful.

The words of the psalm itself aside, the transcendental beauty of Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus is both sad and uplifting, perfect for melancholy or grief. The story of its transcription by a fourteen year old Mozart, after hearing it once and in defiance of prohibition, also tickles my fancy. Apropos of nothing it is traditionally performed at Tenebrae, and 'Tenebrae' has this wonderful ring to it as a word, don't you think?

Ahhhh, Shostakovich. I really do love his work. Although I usually favour his more serious works, such as the Suite from The Gadfly, Waltz 2 (in C minor and E-flat major) from his Suite for Variety Orchestra regularly pops into my head on a loop. It is utterly addictive, and makes me want to learn how to dance.

Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World" is another one that pops in and out when I least expect it. The work speaks of an enormous fondness for the US, but also a longing for home. All four movements are wonderful in their own way, but I think the triumphal fourth is where it is at.

The thing I love about Jupiter is the enormous gravity. HA! I MAKE FUNNY JOKE. Although I am reasonably partial to the entirety of Holst's The Planets, Jupiter stands out for me by a mile. I don't even like the first three minutes of it much, but after that point it is all worth it.

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is perhaps my favourite piece to listen to of a night-time, and this is possibly my favourite recording of any piece of classical music, though YouTube doesn't do it justice. The soloists are so distinctly solo! The setup in the cathedral is superb and allows for superb subtlety where it is called for.

Not much needs to be said about The Requiem Mass in D minor by good old WA Mozart, beyond that it is easily my favourite of his works. I am particularly fond of the sequentia, from Dies irae through Lacrimosa.

To lighten things up just a little, the stirring but sweet Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite is rather wonderful, don't you think?

Grieg's Peer Gynt, Op. 23 is some of the finest incidental music ever composed. Three movements in particular stand out to me: Morning Mood, In the Hall of the Mountain King, and Solveig's Song, the latter of which is one of the more beautiful pieces for female voice. Hard to find a recording of the whole lot that I am satisfied by, so that movement will have to do.

Speaking of solo female voice, Dvořák's Song to the Moon from Rusalka. The most beautiful piece for female voice.

And finally we have Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor. It is perhaps the least interesting choice on this list, but it still gets me every time I listen to it. Three movements of build-up, culminating in the amazing emotional conclusion. Utterly glorious, stupendous, and in my opinion the greatest artistic achievement of our species thus far.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Blaugust 23, 2016: Things That Make You Go 'Argh' - Catch-up

Things That Make You Go 'Argh'.

I have a few foibles. I know, hard to believe and all, but I do. Tonight I am going to talk about a couple of them, because they are somewhat more troublesome than usual at the moment.

I have a longstanding issue with death and non-awareness. I'm going to gloss over this because I suspect I have talked about it before, and I really don't enjoy talking metaphysics since I've done it to death (ha ha!) in my own mind for at least 26 years now, but the idea of un-being freaks me out to the very core. The problem I am having at the moment relates to this.

Frequently this last while, I have been quietly plodding away, when I notice something nice! It might be a sight, a sound, a sensation... could be anything pleasant. I'll smile to myself, happily, and then suddenly a little voice in my head says, "This feeling won't last. You'll die".

Later I might have occasion to draw so little as a line on a piece of paper. "Everything has an end. You'll die."

I might be writing this very blaug post. "Better save your work. You might die before you finish it".

Fuck you, little internal Nihilist. Fuck you.

The other problem I am having lately is good old fashioned paranoia. No, not the delightful tabletop roleplaying game (new edition out soon), but that niggling worry that I have forgotten something and that there will be CONSEQUENCES.

One of the numerous things that the nonsense that is Myers-Briggs gets right about me is that I don't trust that I am not missing some crucial bit of information that I overlooked. This translates in practice into having to check that I didn't leave the bathroom heat-lamp on, the stove on, the fridge ajar, the air-conditioner on, the wrong power points on, and more, every time I leave the house. I frequently pull the door shut, check that I locked it, then unlock it because I forgot to check something. Better than getting halfway to work and suddenly being convinced a hotplate is on and going to burn the house down while I'm at work.

Last night (23rd, I'm writing this late, remember?) at around 9pm I remembered suddenly that I was laminating things at work before finishing up, and that I couldn't remember turning the laminator off.

I made a decision. Rather than spend all night worrying about it, I got up, got dressed, and drove thirty minutes to work, listening to Mozart. I unlocked the national park gate, drove in, locked it behind me, opened the gate to the nursery, then went inside to find that I had indeed turned off the laminator. I then locked up, drove out, locked the nursery gate, opened the park gate, drove through, locked it behind me, and drove thirty minutes home, listening to Mozart. Then I went to bed and slept soundly.

Fuck you, paranoia. Fuck you.

Blaugust 22, 2016: How To Make Tea - Catch-up!

How to make a cup of tea, Mark-style

1. Fill your clean glass kettle with water and set it going. A clean metal kettle is also acceptable. Plastic kettles are awful, and you should feel bad.
2. Get the laser-cut steel infuser out of the tea pot, and discard the tea leaves from yesterday. Usually into a pot plant or the garden somewhere. Rinse out any stubborn bits.
3. Rinse out the ceramic pot with hot water, removing any dregs and heating the pot.
4. Pop the infuser back in the pot, and place within it one teaspoon of your chosen tea from Lupicia.
5. As soon as the water hits boiling, pour it in. Even if it is a green tea. Yes. Unless the label says otherwise. Which it doesn't. Lupicia know their shit. (Yeah tea that requires cooler water does exist but you probably don't have any.)
6. Place the lid and tea-cosy on your teapot. Ideally your tea-cosy should look like a strawberry, and be a treasured gift from a dear old friend. If not, well, make do with an old towel or something.
7. Use any leftover boiling water in the kettle to rinse out your cup. It probably had dregs in it from yesterday too.
8. Take your teapot and cup to the place you want to enjoy your tea, and wait patiently for a minute or three. Take the time to queue up some classical music. May I suggest the Pas De Deux from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite? Or perhaps "Au Fond du Temple Saint" from Les pêcheurs de perles? Ahhh, Bizet.
9. Pour your cup of tea. Savour the sound, the warmth, the steam, the smell.
10. Cool your jets (also your tea). Unless you want to burn your tongue.
11. Drink your cup of tea. Savour it. You are in no rush.
12. Pour another cup. You will note that the tea has continued to infuse while you drank the first cup. This is fine, as you are a civilised person who uses high quality tea that doesn't go gross and astringent. You are also using only a small amount of leaf. This means you will get a progression of flavour, from a softer first cup to a fuller flavour at the last.
13. Repeat steps nine to twelve, until you have consumed all tea in the pot. Usually about five cups. You need a partner so you don't have to drink the whole pot alone, you loser.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Blaugust 21, 2016: Catching Up with ETHICS

It is my intention to develop a more structured ‘code’ for myself, in regards to the disposal of my resources and what practices this encourages in others. For example, purchasing clothes in an ethical manner supports developing communities and does not exploit them, so I should do that when I need clothes. Tonight I have started to put a little thought into this, and without further ado I present a very sparse first draft, to which I will add things when I think about them over the next forever.

Media. In order to support investigative journalism that exposes injustices, environmental exploitation, and holds power to account, it is necessary to fund such journalism. It seems advertising just doesn’t cut it any more as a revenue stream, and sales of papers are going out with the dodo. In light of its outstanding work relating to climate change and Australia’s disgusting immigration detention practices, I will become a supporter of Guardian Australia for $100. I will further seek to provide a $5 donation to other Australian outlets any time I believe they have brought to light some necessary truth. I will do the same for international outlets, but only where the significance is global.

Clothing. I will buy clothing made from natural fibres. Although recycled plastic clothing sounds great, as pieces come off in the wash they cause problems, particularly when they get to the marine environment. I read something about a month ago that said such plastic particles are becoming a huge looming issue. I will also buy clothing produced in a fair trade manner as the clothing industry is still pretty appalling. I will also learn how to darn my damned socks, and otherwise opt to repair what I have before looking to replace.

Food. I will consider carefully the source of my food, and If it is something that can be grown sensibly in Australia, I will support local producers. If it is not sensible, like rice, I will consciously import the stuff. In general I will seek to reward sustainable practices, and reduce food miles. I will avoid large chain fast food.

Entertainment. Avoid piracy. Support indie creators. Less Youtube that isn’t content actually created by the uploader.

Politics. I will probably keep my membership of the Greens rolling. While I do not agree with every Greens position, and while any infighting within any movement with which I am associated depresses me, the Greens are absolutely the best, most moral bet we have in my opinion, and it is right to support them.  By giving them financial support I am enabling advocacy on a number of extremely important issues, and I believe that in many cases this advocacy can go much further than a direct donation to a group acting on a single issue.

Blaugust 20, 2016: Answers!

Oh deary me, I am running a day behind! I had best catch up! So, in true Lazy Quiz tradition, here are a bunch of quiz answers masquerading as a post.

Bad Book Quiz Answers!
  1. Who wrote Tess of the d'Urbervilles?
    Thomas Hardy
  2. What is the name of the ninth book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan?
    Winter’s Heart
  3. How many books are there in the Twilight Saga?
    Four, five if you include the novella, which you shouldn’t because that means more Twilight,
  4. Which best-selling book started life as Twilight fanfiction?
    Fifty Shades of Grey
  5. Who wrote The Sword of Shannara?
    Terry Brooks
  6. Which David Eddings series is about a tedious hero, a McGuffin, and conflict between gods?
    All of them.
  7. Which Objectivist tract written by a creepy nutjob features the protagonist Richard Rahl?
    The Sword of Truth
  8. Which religious charlatan wrote Battlefield Earth?
    L. Ron Hubbard
  9. What was renowned author Dan Brown’s first novel?
    Digital Fortress
  10. Jim Theis wrote which legendarily bad story?
    The Eye of Argon
Thom for six and John for seven, but that rapscallion Pichy got them all when I lobbed it at him directly.

Bonus Music People Quiz Answers!
  1. Who recorded the quintessential version of the jazz standard ‘Feeling Good’?
    Nina Simone - This is perhaps a little subjective, but if you listen to it you will agree
  2. What is the name of the house band on The Muppet Show?
    Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
  3. Who wrote ‘Jolene’?
    Dolly Parton
  4. Who composed ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis’?
    Ralph Vaughan Williams
  5. Which Beatle married a Bond girl?
    Ringo Starr
  6. The special ‘A Black and White Night’ celebrated which artist?
    Roy Orbison
  7. Who was the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane at the height of their popularity?
    Grace Slick
  8. Which famous opera soprano sung a duet with Freddie Mercury which became an Olympic theme song?
  9. Who wrote the 1967 hit ‘The Look of Love’?
    Burt Bacharach
  10. Cass Elliot was a member of which band?
    The Mamas and the Papas
Thom got a worthy four!

Ok, now to write something for today.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Blaugust 19, 2016: SPRANG

I hate hayfever. And now, thanks to Anthropogenic Climate Change, I get to experience it sooner and for longer every year!

Thankfully I have learned how to manage it these last couple of years, and I am currently experiencing a persistent itchiness of the eyes and feel like my mind is in a fog, but the sneezing is infrequent at most and this year I’ve even avoided producing so much snot that hayfever gives me a sinus infection! Most wonderfully, I don’t have a persistent little drip running down the back of my throat making me cough perpetually for four months. Progress!

In celebration of only being mildly inconvenienced, here are a few of the things I love about spring.

Superb Fairy-wrens. I love birds, and being birds, Malurus cyaneus are no exception to my love of birds. Although present at the nursery all year and always adorable, it is in spring when the males wear their breeding colours and really liven things up. Along with the other resident birds, they are very used to people being around and will happily hop about, not far away, looking for small insects while you shop (or work in my case).

The Weather. Early spring has some of the best weather we get. Still moist in an ‘average’ year, with warm days of 16-20 degrees and cool nights in which rugging up in bed is a joy. Good, comfortable weather in which you can get things done without working up a gross sweat.

Mornings. Over the next month we get great mornings! Daylight is hitting earlier, which helps me get out of bed and get to work. Sunrise is currently at 6:49 for me in Nairne, and I am looking forward to the latter half of next month when it will be juuuust right. We then get Daylight Savings cruelly robbing us of an hour, and making it harder to get up for another couple of weeks, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Flowers. Some of my favourite plants come into bloom in spring. While Hardenbergia violacea is coming to the end of its run, Chamelaucium uncinatum, Philotheca myoporoides, and all manner of Boronia spp. are kicking off with a bang, and the second wave of the Acacia species is kicking in. Not to mention Daffodils, my guilty introduced pleasure.

I'll leave you with some pictures I took when we went for that walk the other week.

Acacia verniciflua

Calothamnus quadrifidus

The view at Scott Creek Conservation Park