Monthly Archives: March 2016
More than one person I know is dealing with the suicide of a friend sometime over the past two weeks.
I didn’t know any of the lost personally. My sadness is second-hand (for my friends and colleagues who are hurting and have suffered loss) and third-hand (I truly do weep for all the lost).
In many cases the suicides were a surprise.
That’s one of the problems with deep, serious, persistent depression.
Life teaches those of us that suffer that we can’t keep talking about it. That if the answer you give to “How are you doing?” is constantly “I’m depressed and thinking of killing myself” you
-A: Get stuck in a lot of extremely painful conversations that don’t help anything
-B: Drive away the very social contact you might need to survive life.
I’m almost always in pain, both physical and mental. Thankfully, many days I am only in a little pain. Sadly, some days I am in a lot of pain.
But I can’t talk about my pain all the time. I don’t have the energy, for one thing.
I don’t want to scare off friendly acquaintances who might someday become friends, for another.
And trust me, constantly being barraged with how crappy a depressed person is feeling will drive some people away. Including people who don’t think it will. Which means my life experience is that when you try to pop in and let me know you AREN’T one of those people, I can’t believe you.
I can’t afford to.
And, I’m sorry to say, 9 times out of 10 if I do confess how bad things are to someone, they make it worse. For example, being told to cheer up, or it’s not so bad, or “hey here’s a thing you can do to improve the situation you are mentioning right now” don’t help.
They are damaging. They are worse than not talking about it. They make a depressed person feel stupid for not being able to fix it, or piss them off that they can’t explain why the problem IS a huge problem.
I do have family and friends I can talk to about the worst feelings, thank goodness. But that trust took years, and a few terrifying risks. It can’t be duplicated quickly.
A good therapist helps, too. And that can be arranged for pretty fast, if I think I need it.
Most of the time “I’m fine” or “Not too bad” are the only answers I *can* give to people who ask how I’m doing. Anything else is a risk and an expenditure of energy I may not be able to afford.
That does, of course, suck for people who want to help. I know that. I’m sorry.
From my own experience, there are only a few things you can do.
If someone is depressed, try to invite them to things. Even if they don’t go to anything you invite them to. As long as they seem happy to be invited, keep inviting. Their depression has them in a prison. Sometimes they get a day pass, and sometimes they don’t. But if they do, it’s helpful to know they COULD go be with people. That they are welcome.
If they do reach out to you listen. Be understanding. They are telling you about the things ruining their lives. Don’t try to make those things sound small, or easily overcome. “That’s rough. I sympathize.” is much, much, much better than “Hey, it’ll all be okay.”
And try to remember, we often can’t ask for help. Literally can not. We are incapable. And you can’t force help on us. But you can let us know, by actions more than just saying so, that you are willing to listen, and willing to be present.
That’s all I have on the topic.
For those of you suffering, please try to find someone who will listen to you. I promise, it can help.
For those of you have have recently suffered loss, my sympathies. It wasn’t your fault. I hope you all have people you can turn to as well, because this kind of pain can be viral.
And well-wishes to you all.
The rules: Every character mentioned is an amalgam of two or more comic characters played by the same actor, and the world has a single consistent continuity.
The entity known as the Silver Sapien was created by a planet-devouring cloud of elder gods as a mindless side-effect of their constant hunger for sentient sacrifices. The Sapien does not serve the gods, and cannot stop them, but does fly ahead of them from world to world acting as a herald of each planets impending doom. Some worlds achieve true peace in the days before destruction, while others have advanced enough technology for a small percentage to flee before the unthinkable appetites of the galactic gods.
A few fought. Only Earth, lead by the Torch of Liberty, ever won. Inspired by the Torch, the Silver Sapien became an ally of the Earth’s Most Just Heroes, the Fantastic League.
The Rules: Every character mentioned is an amalgam of two or more comic characters played by the same actor, and the world has a single consistent continuity.
Natalie Romans was a brilliant scientist in WWII Nazi Germany, where she worked as a nuclear physicist and assassin for the Reich’s most powerful villain, the masked mastermind known as the Red V. As the Silken Widow, she was able to both create devices of amazing super-science, and engage in espionage operations at the highest level. However, she was a true believer in the claim that Germany was beset by enemies from all sides and was just striking out against the international conspiracies that sought its downfall. Though the Red V was a zealot and master manipulator who believed he had mesmerized Romans entirely, she was too intelligent to stay blind to the information she was exposed to on her many missions. In time she realized she was supporting a murderous, evil regime, and set about to ensure its downfall. She stole the Spirit Formula she and the red V had perfected to give humans amazing mystic powers, and used it on both herself and Steve Storm, a US war reporter who had been captured by the Red V for use as a human guinea pig. The two then defeated the Red V, and went on to form the Fantastic League, the premier masked adventurer’s team, to aid the Allies in WWII.
After the war the Silken Widow decided not to risk a Nuremberg trial, and faded into the background. But as a result of her exposure to the Spirit Formula she ceased to age, and continued to protect freedom and liberty from the shadows, ensuring that those who were willing to risk themselves for the greater good and had strong morale compasses had special opportunities to become heroes, an ongoing project she called the Justice Initiative.
(And for the record, I LOVE this movie!)
10. Although the hill people “lack the power to do harm,” apparently becoming a fucking tiger and ripping things apart gets in through some sort of loop-hole.
9. Death and power are close cousins. And they’re from Arkansas, so sometimes they make out.
8. Despite what is says in the encyclopedia, a glaive is not a single-edged, bladed polearm but instead a 5-sided throwing boomerang that not only returns when you throw it, but also makes multiple passes as a gesture-guided weapon.
7. Moving a giant rock castle across the galaxy with no obvious propulsion? Easy. Designing reloads for three-shot blaster lances? Beyond the means of most evil tyrants.
6. Johnny Cash makes a kick-ass, if odd-looking, cyclopes.
5. There are kingly virtues other than bravery. Courtesy is one of them.
4. If you’re running across a bridge with no railing while invading an enemy castle, and foes from above start shooting at you, and you have no cover, and one of your friends is shot and falls off, the polite thing to do is come to a full stop, watch him fall and die, and then run for some damn cover. (See point 5.)
3. Some marriage rites culminate in smearing cake on your spouse, and some turn him into a flamethrower. Don’t get the two confused.
2. An ex-con killer who can only keep a single member of his small-unit army alive is a prime choice as Lord Marshal, even if he’s decided to wear manacles for the rest of his life.
1. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get out the word “Slayers!” when being ambushed. If you notice them first, just keep sputtering and pointing until you choke out their name. No one is going to pay any attention until you actually say something, and the slayers will wait for you to be done before they attack.(See point 5.)
Honestly, there comes a point when you’re tired of the noisome and disquieting…
10. You just don’t get the same thrill anymore from being driven past the brink of sanity and picking up a new psychosis.
9. At this point, next time you break into a catacomb and run into a monstrosity with an unspeakable treasure, you think you’re just going to kill it and take its stuff.
8. You’ve tired of making your hillside thickets the darkest. They’re pretty darn dark, and that’s good enough for you.
7. You receive correspondence from Dr. Herbet West expressing his concern you may be losing perspective.
6. That balloon payment for your condo in Unknown Kadath looks a bit hefty considering what you also have to spend in ghoul-repellent to use it.
5. When confronted with Ubbo-Sathla you’re unimpressed by The Unbegotten Source. After all, it’s created by Clark Ashton Smith, not Lovecraft, and only August Derleth’s actions make it a Mythos threat at all. You strike Ubbo-Sathla from your personal cannon.
4. [This sign is illegible, but seems to be scrawled in dried blood on some strange, supple leather]
3. You get an invitation to join Delta Green, with agents Molly and Scolder.
2. You’ve cataloged 687 forms of Nyarlathotep, and discovered most of them are neko cat-girls.
1. After you play cards with Cthulhu, take a bubble bath in Yog-Sothoth, and watch opera with Azathoth, what’s left to do? Best bake the dog, set fire to the neighbors, plant gardenias in your entrails and call it a night.
I’ve told this story before. many times in fact. And while this story does not start or end where I expected it to, every word is true.
I have never understood why anyone is upset by the idea of same-sex romance, child-rearing, or marriage. The arguments all sound ridiculous, and it both confuses and saddens me when people I love and respect come down on the wrong side of these issues. Given that I am fairly conservative myself, and was raised in an extremely conservative household in the buckle of the bible belt, I sometimes wonder how I cam to be so moderate on this particular social issue. Ultimately, I think it’s because I was raised by Lensmen.
Obviously at this point, more than 30 years later, I can’t be sure – but my memory is that the first time I ever ran into the idea of homosexuality was in the space opera novel The Galaxy Primes, by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I was (and am!) a huge fan of Doc’s writing – the Lensman material in particular, but I love all of his fiction (and a lot of things with his name on them which are only based on his ideas). I tore through most of it before I turned 12, and my reading of The Galaxy Primes was fairly early in that list. (I read novels not so much in the order they were written or published, but in the order I found them while walking down the bookcase-lined hallway to my bedroom in my parent’s house.)
I haven’t read The Galaxy Primes in decades, but my memory is that early on several characters are competing to be chosen for a crucial, long-term space mission. Two of them happen to be homosexual men. This is mentioned, and even talked about briefly in context of a single homosexual man on a long-term mission, but it’s not central to the plot. As a child somewhere between the age of 7 and 12, my recollection is that this was the first time I’d ever run into the concept of two men being romantically involved with each other. As I often did when reading material confused me (not that uncommon for a pre-teen reading material aimed at mature readers), I asked my mother for clarification.
What happens next in the story is important, but I need to provide some set-up first. My parents didn’t divorce until long after I was out of the house and myself married, but they also didn’t do equal duty raising me. My father was a sad, largely broken man who had allowed a brilliant career as an economist to be destroyed by his addiction to alcohol and a tendency to bemoan his fate as a common man when he wanted to be a high raj or rail baron. I loved my father very much, and I credit him with always being kind and never violent, but he didn’t raise me. My mother was the person I went to as a parental authority in all matters, and I know I was a trial to her.
My mother had long realized I was forming a moral code based, in part, on the books found in that hallway. My ideas on what right and wrong were, and how a person should react to them, began with the heroes of E.E. “Doc” Smith, J. R. R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. Many, many more authors would influence me later in life, but in those years after I was reading on my own but before I was buying my own books, I was fascinated by the vast collection of those author’s works I could just grab on my way to my room. My mother was so aware of this she wrote a song about it, claiming that my father was John Carter of Mars and my mother Clarissa Kinnison.
My mother is both a very conservative Christian Republican and a very smart lady. I have called her the Empress of the Geeks, as she ran D&D sessions for my friends and I, until I was 13, just to give other parents the Sunday afternoon off, has been an organizer of the International Space Development Conference, and took a 0-G flight for her birthday in 2011 despite her advancing age. I know for a fact she tried very hard not to let the family’s more questionable novels, from the works of Jack L. Chalker to the first few Gor books, out of the hallway library where I had easy access. I’m sure having me ask about two men being in love and wanting to get married in an E.E. Smith novel was quiet a shock. But here is how she handled it.
She shrugged, smiled, and said “Yeas, dear. Some men love other men the same way most men love women. If you like, we can talk about this more.”
That’s it. No judgment, no long speech about right and wrong or sin or Babylon. A quick answer that let me get back to my book, and a promise for more information if I needed it. I think my mother gets full credit for letting me grow up knowing I could make my own judgments, while also giving me the support and safety children need. So even though she’s on the wrong side of some moral arguments, I know she’s willing to love and accept people who disagree with her.
So yes, my most influential father may have been a Lensman. But my mother is Empress of the Geeks, and she did right by me.
The governing of Solstice is a complex affair, involving avatars, councils, guilds, divine proclamations, churches, alliances, gangs, consulates, great houses, merchant princes, crime leagues, and adventuring companies. Much of this is built around the Intercession Compact, the rules the gods and their avatars use to regulate their dealings within the city, and the charters of the two Astrological Guilds who hold considerable power as the only bodies proven to regularly predict with accuracy the planar conjunctions that can empower of destroy the entire city.
This mish-mash of regulations, edicts, recommendations, and raw threats has, over the centuries, formed a fairly stable system of determining who is taxed, who takes out the garbage, who brings in the water, and who gets thrown in jail. The so-called Quilt Law manages to give rules for most situations in part by insisting all the charters, laws, and proclamations in Solstice treat all individuals of the same rank as equals. It doesn’t matter if you are a smoke knight of the dusky dimensions or a knight-champion of the shining crusade – a knight is a knight under the law. And while Quilt Law is complex and imperfect, and the fact that all elves everywhere are at best going through their Spring Years and running amok with no elven adults to reign them in (or even slow them down), has put it under immense strain, it is generalyl considered “functional.” There’s rarely more than one riot per night, a few murders in each borough each week, and never more than a few dozen building on fire at once, so overall most citizens are content.
Of course, that raises the question of who is a citizen. And who is a knight, who a priest, who a lord, who a prince, and so on. More than anywhere in the world, the titles an individual can claim and which titles are equivalent in which languages are crucial to the day-to-day workings of the patchwork legal system. For the basic underpinnings of Quilt Law to function, someone must have final say in who has what title, and what individual words mean.
When the Quilt Law was young, and avatars of gods of language and order were more common, all the existing major political powers of the day agreed a single scholarly chamber of heraldic and linguistic experts would be assembled to make these decisions. More than mere pursuivants or heralds, these were the kings of arms, who could define each title, match it to cultural and legal equivalents, and split the hairs between squires and esquires or draw the lines from merchant princes to trade barons. Forty wise men and women of all ages, genders, and races were drawn together, and given vast autonomy to pick their successors and determine their own guidelines. To ensure no single force would ever attempt to take all the power of Solstice under a single banner, the kings of arms were given a single inviolate decree – no title or rank greater than duke/duchess/prince/princess would ever be acknowledged within Solstice.
Thus it is often said. “There is no King of Solstice, for Solstice has the Forty Kings.”
The Forty Kings have broad rules determining who becomes a citizen of Solstice at birth, who can gain citizenship and how, and who has a title automatically accepted by Quilt Law. In addition to their “rules ordinary,” which can be applied in nearly all cases, the Forty Kings can also grant an ancient title, local appellation, or even nickname the power of legal authority by declaring a “rule extraordinary” which applies in just one case. If Bloodburn Jill is a pirate captain of great renown who has worked diligently to aid and protect Solstice from naval threats, the Forty Kings can declare “Bloodburn” to be the equivalent of being a countess under Quilt Law as a rule extraordinary that applies only to Jill. Or they can decide to make it a rule ordinary, that when Bloodburn Jill gives up her ship, whoever she chooses as her replacement becomes the new Bloodburn.
The Forty Kings also have vast influence over the definition of words for the dozen languages in common use within Solstice (which are the definitions Quilt Law uses when interpreting a contract) and what are acceptable names for newborn citizens (which may not count as citizens if their names aren’t recognized as being names). As scholars and influential people with no one but themselves to answer to they are often catered to by the rich and powerful within the city, causing them to also be fashion setters and trend-makers in matters of clothing, art, music, culture, tradition, festivals, and even what is and isn’t considered socially acceptable public behavior.
The membership of the Forty Kings is made up of forty numbered “chairs,” numbered 1-99, with 17 numbers retired (to never be used again, either out of respect for their past owners, or as a mark of shame), and 42 numbers not yet ever assigned. When a chair becomes open, which happens only at the death of the previous holder, anyone may send an application to take the chair’s position. In addition to letters of recommendation, scholarly works, and a written argument for why the applicant should be accepted, each applicant must also write a eulogy for the fallen King of Arms, the delivery of which is the new King’s first official duty. As a result, some scholars refuse to apply for specific chairs, as their academic feuds with the previous occupant were so great they are unwilling (or unable) to write and read a noble and praising send-off speech.
Once all applications within a designated period have been received, the Dean (the King who has served the longest), Perpetual Secretary (voted on by all Kings when the previous secretary dies), and the Chancellor (determined at random every three months from among the members, and possibly also the Dean or Perpetual Secretary) go over them, and each may veto up to one quarter of the applications. Then 5 randomly selected chairs are given the task of choosing from the remaining applicants using whatever method they all agree upon, but coming to a final agreement within 180 days. If no agreement is reached in 180 days, the front page of the 5 applciations are all soaked with buttermilk and placed equidistant from a hog that has not eaten in 12 hours. The first application touched by the hog wins the seat.
The current Dean is Tranth Urhudoun, a 120-year old uriphant, that has the distinction of also being the oldest member of the Forty Kings, as any humanoid is limited to 110 years as a result of the Fiery Time of the Necrologer. The current Chancellor is Forgrim the Forgemaster, a 110 year old dwarf who is believed to be the oldest humanoid left in the world (by a matter of seconds over the next-oldest, the elven “Spring Queen” Feyla Feylona, ‘she of the golden ink’). The current Dean is Miserrle Fallenbrook, a half-elf of 31 years who is trying to avoid having her studies interrupted by an unwanted position of great power.
Because it was well known, the God-Mage did not sleep…
It’s become something of a joke among my friends and online followers that when I am suffering from massive sleep deprivation, or am on powerful narcotic painkillers, or both, I tend to be more creative in my online writing. I think some of this is the killing of my internal censor, that often squelches ideas before they have a chance to grow. It’s also been suggested that these ideas may be the fleeting flashes of inspiration I’m always having, but must postpone to be responsible and get my work done. Obviously when I can’t focus for more than a few minutes at a time and don’t trust my ability to do quality work, I tend not to worry about restricting myself to crucial projects.
So it is, tonight.
I had a flash of nostalgia tonight for the cavalier-paladin class from the days of Dragon Magazine. One of my early rpg experiences was playing a fighter in thrown-together night of gaming, where all the characters were competing in a tournament. Someone who became one of my very best friends played a cavalier-paladin who, despite my rolling something like 5 natural 20s in 10 rounds of combat, still kicked my ass. But she also decided my character was valiant and worthy, and the two PCs became good friends.
Just like the two players.
So most of the actual features of the cavalier-paladin aren’t things that would work well as a focus mechanic for a Pathfinder class. But in my mental haze, I decided I really wanted to create cavalier-paladin hybrid class, and one with very little “new” mechanical consideration. I expected to jot down some notes to maybe work on some other day. Instead, 30 minutes later it was done. (Writing this foreword has taken longer than writing the hybrid class rules.)
So I am proud to present the world’s first Hybrid Nostalgia Class: the cavalier-paladin.
A select, worthy few are called to be warriors for the divine, and seek to perfect their skill by dedicating themselves to an organization fighting for a cause. Though still entirely devoted to the service and justice and righteousness, these crusaders believe they can best serve as part of a larger whole. Known as cavalier-paladins, these fearless knights are blessed with boons to aid them in their quests, but also ceaselessly train to improve and inspire others. The cavalier-paladin’s power comes from adherence to ironclad laws of morality and discipline, the conviction of her ideals, the oaths that she swears, and the divine power to smite the wicked.
Role: Cavalier-paladins serve as beacons for their allies within the chaos of battle, marshalling allied forces and controlling the flow of the fight. While deadly opponents of evil, outside of battle cavalier-paladins can be found advancing their cause through diplomacy and, if needed, intrigue. Their magical and martial skills also make them well suited to defending others and blessing the fallen with the strength to continue fighting.
Alignment: Lawful good
Hit Die: d10
Parent Classes: Cavalier and paladin
Starting Wealth: 5d6 × 10 gp (average 175 gp.) In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less.
The cavalier-paladin’s class skills are Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Swim (Str).
Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.
Order: Abilities from her order that state they function when a cavalier of the order is using her challenge ability instead function when the cavalier-paladin is using smite evil.
Every cavalier-paladin follows a paladin code (either the standard code from the base paladin class, or a special code determined by the deity the cavalier-paladin worships). A cavalier-paladin must select an order that has edicts that do not violate the paladin’s code. If a cavalier-paladin violates her code, she loses all cavalier-paladin spells and class features (including the service of the cavalier-paladin’s mount, but not weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies). She may not progress any further in levels as a cavalier-paladin. She regains her abilities and advancement potential if she atones for her violations (see atonement), as appropriate.
If a cavalier-paladin violates the edicts of her order without violating her paladin code, she loses the smite evil benefits from her order, and all order abilities (though not the order’s skill benefits) for 24 hours.
Divine Bond: If the cavalier-paladin selects a weapon bonus, initially enhancing the weapon only causes it to shed light as a torch and count as a magic weapon for those purposes where a magic weapon functions differently than a mundane weapon (such as bypassing DR). Beginning at 5th level, the weapon bond functions normally.
If she selects a bonded mount, this works normally as the paladin option.
Spells: Beginning at 8th level, a cavalier-paladin gains the ability to cast a small number of divine spells which are drawn from the paladin spell list. A cavalier-paladin must choose and prepare her spells in advance.
To prepare or cast a spell, a cavalier-paladin must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a cavalier-paladin’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the paladin’s Charisma modifier.
Like other spellcasters, a cavalier-paladin can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given on Table: Cavalier-Paladin. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if she has a high Charisma score (see Table: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells). When Table: Cavalier-Paladin indicates that the cavalier-paladin gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level, she gains only the bonus spells she would be entitled to based on her Charisma score for that spell level.
A cavalier-paladin must spend 1 hour each day in quiet prayer and meditation to regain her daily allotment of spells. A cavalier-paladin may prepare and cast any spell on the paladin spell list, provided that she can cast spells of that level, but she must choose which spells to prepare during her daily meditation.
Through 7th level, a cavalier-paladin has no caster level. At 8th level and higher, her caster level is equal to half her cavalier-paladin level. Unlike a paladin, a cavalier-paladin never gains 4th level spells.
Bonus Feat: The cavalier-paladin gets a single bonus feat at 6th level. No additional bonus feats are gained every 6 levels thereafter.
Warcaster. A warcaster is a powerful tool of divine retribution answering to a god or some other spiritual power. Use hit dice, proficiencies, class skills, base attack, base saves, starting wealth, and starting age as a cleric. Gain 4 skill points/level. Gain spells known and spells per day as a medium, selecting spells from the cleric or inquisitor spell list.
The warcaster gains a spirit blade as a supernatural ability at 1st level. This functions as the spell spiritual weapon except as follows: the base damage is equal to the sacred weapon damage of a Medium warpriest of the same level (rather than 1d8); it threatens on a 20 and has a x2 crit multipler; the weapon has a range of 10 feet + 10 feet per class level; it uses your caster level as its base attack bonus (including multiple attacks as caster level 6th or higher); it strikes as a weapon rather than a spell (ignoring SR but subject to DR, and subject to spells and feats that augment weapons); it may take the appearance (and deal the damage type) of any weapon you wish (but once selected this cannot be changed). The spirit blade takes a full round action to summon, can be summoned an unlimited number of times per day (though never more than 1 at a time), and remains until dismissed or dispelled (as a spell). The warcaster has an arcane pool as a magus of the same level, which can only be used to augment the spirit blade. At 2nd level the warcaster gains spell combat as a magus of the same level, but attacks made when using this ability can only be made with the spirit weapon. (This functions as improved spell combat at 9th level, and greater spell combat at 15th level.) At 4th level the warcaster gains spellstrike as a magus, but attacks made when using this ability can only be made with the spirit weapon. When using spellstrike, the warcaster may choose for the spirit blade to deal no damage.
The warcaster gains no other class features. #QuickBaseClass