Monthly Archives: November 2020

Really Wild West “Doomstone” Campaign — After-Action Report (Game Session 7, part 1)

After nearly a month break, I finally ran by Starfinder-Really Wild West-Doomstone campaign again, and people have been asking about getting to see the after-action report. So here’s a write-up adapted from notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”), mostly in second person, as a report for Session Seven!

You can find Session One here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Two here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Three here.
Session Four here.
Session Five here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Six here.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

A lot happened in this one, so it’s been broken into multiple blog posts.

>>We’ve traded the digging bits of the Martian Embanking Machine we captured (that had already been partially-converted by Professor Adrameliche, who turns out to be the Venom King) to the Circle Axe Ranch in exchange for the parts, materials, tools, and assistance we need to convert it into our base of operations. Conversion takes two weeks, during which time we are guests of the Circle Axe. The group decides on a group name (the Knight Rangers), and name the soon-to-be-finished mobile base of operations “The Armadillo.”

(A standard Martian embanking Machine, before any modifications. Twenty feet tall, twenty feet wide, and forty feet long. Art by Jacob Blackmon)

The local Fonts and Bismarck Station Chief, Adler, comes to visit and receive a briefing on the Knight Ranger’s recent activities. Agrees to use official Fonts and Bismarck channels to make inquiries about whether Professor Adrameliche has been seen in Montana. Also helps discover that the Professor’s style of technological invention is very similar to that found in several train robberies (performed with the aid of a robotic derailing machine) performed a few years back that accrued a great deal of cash.

Since the Knight Rangers believe the Professor is in Montana, the fenrin operative bounty hunter looks up bounties in Montana.
·        The situation is complicated, with the state new to the Union and in a very unstable place due to massive damage from Martian Walkers during the War of the Worlds. Various Copper Kings (like cattle barons, but for copper) are in near-open warfare and set bounties on each other, many with local (though not legal) support. State bounties are legal, but often lack local support and are likely to anger one or more factions. Mostly only official Federal bounties are seen to have the weight needed to be legal and not likely to bring reprisals.
·        An exception is that the rare bounty placed by “Gotham Jo” – Josephine Fiery, are also respected throughout Montana.
o   She is a madam and business owner of a hurdy gurdy house in Helena
o   She’s married to a man who’s present, but not in charge. In fact she seems to have him under her thumb, with lcoals knowing not to allow him to drink or gamble.
o   has a reputation for taking care of her employees, and only put out bounties on those who have wronged her people, never on an ex-employee
·        There are currently no active bounties safe to take

Knight rangers made some inquiries about Beard-cutter Ben (who sold them “walking meat,” a chewing gum that turned out to attract the Monstrous Jerusalem Bugs that attacks the PCs back in Session Two.
·        Upon hearing they are looking for him, he shows up at the ranch to apologize and offer us refunds and reparations. He got the material from the East Hudson Fur Trading Company. He will never do business with them again, and he’s spreading word that it’s bad, hired a lawyer to sue the EHBFTCo.
·        We ask him to tell us when he finds out more information
·        As part of reparations, ask him to give discounted shaves for law enforcement. He also gives some cash.

Station Chief Adler reports Professor Adremeliche has been spotted in three places in Montana in the last 60 days.

·        Helena, the capitol (It is 680 miles from here – if Knight Rangers go there, can visit Bute-Silverbow on the way. Economy fueled by lead, silver, and gold mining. Capitol buildings under construction. Most millionaires per capita in the US. Many movers and shakers – includes Gotham Jo. The Copper Kings who are so influential elsewhere in the state have very little control here. Population 13,000. No real bad part of town. Almost no unemployment. The rich people compete in charitable giving.)

·        Butte-Silverbow (Closest to the Knight Ranger’s current location – 450 miles. Population of 15,000 – biggest city in Montana. Center of War of the Worlds refugees in the state. Major EHBFTCo. base of operations–no Fonts and Bismarck office there. Center of where the Copper Kings are waging war against each other. Center of the Asteroid Mining Co. – mine adamantine and other star metals. Growing copper industry. Center of Martian tech research in the state. Two scummy red light districts. Grimy and smoke-filled. Gangs based on foreign national or ethnic origins divided up the town, most with ties to one or another Copper King.)

·        Hellgate (800 miles from here – due to limitations on moving the Armadillo through mountains and damaged infrastructure from the War of the Worlds, have to go around a forest to get there. Third largest city in Montana – pop. 3,400. In Hellgate Valley [Sections of which were choked with bones due to French fir traders fighting with natives, which is how it got its name. Fur trade has moved out.] Now largely trades in lumber. Home of Hellgate University [oldest in the state and includes the only accredited and licensed school of necromancy not in Eastern Europe]. Next to the Rattlesnake Mts. One of only two places in the world with a Badlands City embassy.

Most information comes from Station Chief Allison Flynn of Helena, Montana.
·        Her information was gathered under the radar. She is convinced Professor Adrameliche is connected with one of the power structures in the state. Found a picture of him for us – he wears black with accents of the same green as the Venom King. He is, of course, the Venom King. Mechanical arm. Cane with human bones and a green skull pommel – [Likely the Venom King’s actual bones.] Eyes = black with tiny, green dots

The Knight Rangers decide they are going to visit the university in Hellgate first, to see if they can find a way to put down the dead spirit that is the Venom King, and who now seems to inhabit Professor Adrameliche.
·        We can make 40-50 miles per day in the Armadillo. Get to the university in 16 days using an alternate route. Our route will take us through Yellowstone, Idaho Falls, Salmon, Hamilton, Lolo, then Hellgate

Around Day 10 into the 14 days it takes to put together the Armadillo. Dwargus invites us up to the big house for supper and new. Circle Axe has been granted 75% of the disputed lands they were arguing with the vicious Hippogriff Ranch – including Neblin Ridge.
·        Dwargus gives us a Federal salvage deed for the Armadillo from the Sixth Federal Circuit Court in Ohio. It might be overturned, but it should at least take a court case to do so.
· Mention that Texas Helium Magnate Tex Tanner has sent word he’s sending a representative to make an offer to buy the Armadillo… but the rep won’t arrive until two days after the Knight Rangers have left. We decide not to wait for him.

Around Day 12 into the 14 days elven ranch hand Waterlily wants to talk to us. She mentions the Ogre ranch hand Bo Hoss has a problem he doesn’t want to bother us with. His family lives in a shield volcano near Rexberg, Idaho. Communication with them has ceased. Dwargus sent an inquiry – got no information. They’re all ogres – only a few speak English – mostly immigrants of Pacific Islander descent.

A Shirren lady comes to measure Liam for some clothes. As a sensate, she asks if she can lick the Armadillo. The Knight rangers are okay with it, and she experiences 15 new flavors she’s never tasted before. In thanks, she gives us all spider silk umbrellas (+2 KAC/EAC against liquid-based attacks if held, but only 1 HP and takes damage if attack it is used against does any damage).

On Campaign Day 31 – it’s time to head out to Hellgate
·        The roboticist mechanic and operative bounty hunter are the best drivers, with the cartogramancer technomancer a close third.
·        The centaur paladin can drive, but her armor gives her penalties
·        The others we set up on rotation to learn

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The Gelatinous Cylinder, Part 3

Yep, yet more abilities for Gelatinous Cylinders, to round out the holiday week. Add them to the gelatinous foe of choice in your favorite d20 game. Each gelatinous cylinder can have just 1-2 abilities from this series, or you can mix and match up to all 6.

Goes Great With: Gelatinous cylinders with this ability have formed a symbiotic relationship with some other creature. The how and why of such bonding it not well understood, and even creatures that benefit from such partnering have no idea why the cylinder came to accompany them.

A gelatinous cylinder does no harm to the creature it goes great with, and can even provide air and water if the creature is within the cylinder. Additionally, the accompanying partner gets to roll all attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks twice and take the best result when within 30 feet of the gelatinous cylinder.

Old-Fashioned: A gelatinous cylinder with this power has two forms–one the standard cylinder (which emulates the stats of a gelatinous cube), and one a more lumpy, spread-out jelly. While still bright red, in this form the gelatinous cylinder emulates the stat block of one slime, jelly, or mold selected when this ability is picked. The gelatinous cylinder can switch back and forth between the two forms at the beginning of each round as part of the first action it takes that round.

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Thankful, 2020

It’s been a dark year.

A dark 14 months, in fact, as my year-of-very-bad-things began in Sept 2019.But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be thankful of. And while its a tad cliché, I DO like taking these national moments to take stock of my own wealth of blessings and support and good fortune, and put off worry and gnashing of teeth over the very-real problems until tomorrow.

I have a roof over my head, I am secure in my next meal, I have a tight social bubble of friends I have known for 20-37 years. I have a loving wife, a dear housemate, a supportive family, and a panoply of friends who are no less great just because I only get to see them online at the moment. Many of my friends are so kind, generous, and supportive it staggers my well-exercised imagination.

I have a career that, though not free of hiccups, I am genuinely proud of, and that I believe makes a positive difference in the world. Many of my friends are part of that career, from bosses to work-for-hire producers, but even beyond those in my work life I deal with many of the smartest, kindest, most ethical people I have ever met.

And I have you, a community of geeks, gamers, thinkers, writers, players, weirdos and outcasts, who have embraced me in a way I would scarce credit had I not seen it, and felt it, over and over for years, and repeatedly and strongly during the rough past year.

And I am thankful.

It is less that I am thankful despite it being 2020, and more that I am extra thankful because it’s 2020.

The Gelatinous Cylinder, Part 2

Yep, more abilities for Gelatinous Cylinders, the bright red, reshaped gelatinous cube variant. Add then to the gelatinous foe of choice in your favorite d20 game.

(Art by the amazing Stan!, used with permission)

Phantom Faces: Though gelatinous cylinders are no more intelligent than other forms of gelatinous monster, some can form a face, generally locked into one or two expressions, and repeat overheard phrases. They often repeat things said by those they consume, from prior to the victim realizing they are in trouble. This mimicry is mindless, but the sound is so perfect it cannot be distinguished form the original voices.

Tantalizingly Preserved: Gelatinous cylinders with this ability stop the passage of time for any nonliving material stuck within them, and do not dissolve items that were not living when they entered the gel. Thus they often have foodstuffs, valuables, and even high-end clothing preserved and visible, juuuuust out of reach unless you want to plunge a hand into the cylinder…

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The Gelatinous Cylinder, Part 1

Yeah, it’s themed and silly. But there are some ideas here you can apply to gelatinous foes in your d20 game of choice.

There are more abilities in Part Two.
And even more in Part Three.

The Gelatinous Cylinder

Gelatinous Cylinders are a reshaped, deeply-red-colored offshoot of gelatinous cubes. While sages agree they are magically created rather than naturally occurring mutations, and it’s generally accepted the cylinders aren’t the desired end result, there are numerous competing theories as to what the creators were trying to do.

It’s often suggested their coloration was either an attempt to make sewer-cleaning creature that was more easily spotted by repair workers, or to make gelatinous foes more frightening by seeming to be soaked in blood. The cylinder-shape is also often held up as proof these were custom-built sewer cleaners, designed to fit through pipes. Others theorize are that they were literally made to be festive and silly-looking, possibly to serve as court jesters for the Oozing Empire of sentient slimes.

Gelatinous Cylinders can have a variety of strange powers. You can emulate a gelatinous cylinder by adding one of more of these abilities to your gelatinous cube state block of choice.

Sliceable: A gelatinous cylinder with this ability takes no damage from slashing weapons. However, when a slashing attack hits it, the gelatinous cylinder has a “slice” taken off. This slice is a gelatinous cylinder one size category smaller than the original and has the same stats, but with 20% of the original’s max hit points. The original loses 10% of its max hit points each time is spawns a slice. Slices cannot themselves form slices.

Small and Innocent Looking: A gelatinous cylinder with this ability can shrink down at rest, compressing itself to Tiny size. While in this reduced form and motionless, any ability or skill check to identify it as anything more than an innocent bit of edible food takes a -15 penalty. Once touched, the gelatinous cylinder explodes out to its full size and begins attacking.

We’ll do more gelatinous cylinder abelites tomorrow and Friday!

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Technomancers of the Really Wild West 5: Teslics

Not so long ago I noted on Facebook and Twitter that in the Really Wild West, the most common kinds of technomancers are CartogramancersEdisonadesLovelacers, Telethurges, Teslics, and the Prophets of John Moses Browning.

I thought it might be fun to examine those ideas, and we’ve gotten to the Teslics.

(Image by Nejon Photo)


Teslics are technomancers who attempt to reconcile the weirder scientific theories of mechanic Nikolai Tesla with their theosophic technological equivalents. Though Nikolai Tesla is a relative newcomer to the technological world stage, Tesla’s AC system and motors driven by it were adopted by Westinghouse in 1888 (following a war of publicity with Thomas Edison) giving Tesla international attention.

When Tesla claimed to be able to communicate with spirits of the dead in 1889, and that they warned an invasion from another planet was imminent, numerous serious researches and companies wrote him off. When he revealed he was boosting his own intelligence with the applciation of electircal current through an implant, there was serious discussion of having him committed.

When the Martians invaded, and tesla proved able to intercept their communications, predict their movements, and was the first to begin understanding their technology, all that changed. The US War Department has since given him nearly unlimited funds and facilities, and his Grand Street Laboratory in Manhattan has rapidly expanded to cover most of a city block. As a result, Tesla’s creativity has exploded.

Spirit phones. Cosmic auras. Teleforce. Broadcast energy. Death rays. Polyphase converters. Oscillating generators. Radiant energies. Remote controls. Magnifying transmitters. Tesla creates ideas in frenzied dashes of invention, rushing from one concept to another and forgoing sleep in favor of direct electric stimulation of his body. Some ideas he completes, and can be put into near-immediate use. Others are barely described at all, with little more than a single working prototype and a few scrawled calculations and theories. All efforts to bring tesla back to flesh-out his more esoteric concepts fail, and the War Department is so desperate for the inventions he completes–which they believe will be crucial in predicting and possible preventing a second War of the Worlds–they refuse to cut off his support.

After some weeks of having top-secret panels try to make sense of the fragmentary advances in technology Tesla has already abandoned for new ideas, the War Department generally leaks what little is know to private think tanks, and over months they become more widely disseminated. While dedicated mechanics and engineers attempt to recreate the pure-science answer Tesla has clearly discovered, some going to far as to install electric “exocortex” stimulators in their own brains, some technomancers seek to bypass the need for understanding the core principles of these technologies by building theosophic, sympathetic magic answers that can create the same end result without knowing exactly how it is done.

Teslics are often considered to be toying with forces no mortal mind can comprehend, and thought of as likely to become unreliable and possible even dangerous with little or no warning. At the same time, a Teslic’s willingness to risk their mind to unlock some discovery that might help the Earth defend itself from Mars is also seen as crucial on a grand scale, even if most people prefer Teslics do their crucial work far, far away.

Technomancer Alternate Class Feature: Teslic

Theoretical Theosophy: One spell known of each spell-level the technomancer can cast is randomly determined, representing what concepts the technomancer doesn’t quite understand they have managed to temporarily lock into a theosophic frame. However as the stars alignment changes, planets move, weather patterns shift, and the technomancers own understanding of the universe evolves, the tehcnomancer can loose the ability to use an old random spell, and can a new spell in its place.

Normally the randomly-selected spells shift once per month, and each time the technomancer gains a new technomancer level. These spells may be drawn from any spellcasting class (roll 1d10– 1-3 random mystic spell, 4-6 random technomancer spell, 7-9 random witchwarper spell, 10 technomancer may select a spell from any class allowed in the campaign). The random spell is always of the same level as the spell it replaces and one the technoamncer can use (for example, if a personal spell only functions with some class feature he tecnomancer lacks, a different random spell is selected).

Additionally, the technomancer may select one spell known at each spell level that is drawn from the mystic or witchwarper spell list. These may be any spell of the same or lower spell level. The technomancer may never select more than one such off-class spell known at each spell level in this manner (such as if they later swap out spells known upon gaining a level). However, the spell-per-spell-level-known that is selected randomly does not count against this limit.

Teslic Magic Hacks

The following magic hacks are available for selection by Teslics, beginning at 2nd level.

Broadcast Magic: You can attune a number of technological devices equal to your key ability bonus. This takes an hour, and they remain attuned until you attune new items in excess of your maximum. When these items are within short range (25 feet +5 feet/2 levels) and within your line of sight and line of effect, as a move action you can make them the origin point of a spell you cast that has a range greater than personal. You must cast the spell by the end of your next round to do this.

Teleforce: If you cast a damaging spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less as a full round, you can change the type of damage it deals to be bludgeoning damage, and it becomes a force effect. If you cast the spell using a spell slot one or more levels higher than normal, you can also force the target to make a Reflex save (at the DC for a spell of the level of slot you used) or be pushed back 5 feet for every point by which it fails its save, and knocked prone.

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Technomancers of the Really Wild West 4: Telethurges

Not so long ago I noted on Facebook and Twitter that in the Really Wild West, the most common kinds of technomancers are CartogramancersEdisonades, Lovelacers, Telethurges, Teslics, and the Prophets of John Moses Browning.

I thought it might be fun to examine those ideas, and we’ve gotten to the Telethurges.

(Image by Phil)


While telethurges are very strongly associated with telegraph wires in the 1891 of the Really Wild West, their discipline is significantly older than that. The idea of ranged data transmission goes back almost as fat as the discovery of fire, and numerous ancient cultures used signal fires, smoke signals, and even lighthouses to send coded messages. The first “modern” telemancer, however, was British polymancer Robert Hooke, who combined a series of optical telegraph stations with specific theosophic principles on how to boost and encypher transmissions using that system.

However, the first widespread, successful use of optical telegraphs enhanced by theosophic principles was built by French engineer Charles Chappe during the French Revolution, and as a result numerous telethurge schools still teach in French. This was also adopted by naval “weather witches” who developed flag signals and eventually the large-flag system of wigwag, which proved its use during the American Civil War.

The development of the electric telegraph, followed quickly by Samuel Morse’s code for using it in 1838, turned telethurges to find theosophic ways to transmit and receive electric telegraph signals without the wires normally required. This allows access to such wonders as the Babbage-Bell Grid (a global cogitating and data storage system normally accessed through teletype machines in cities and major educational centers), global communication, and in recent years even telephone communication.

Telethurges are often see as “common folk” spellcasters, on par with linemen, polemen, and telegraph operators. In smaller towns, especially in the years just after the War of the Worlds, the local telethurge may be the most reliable method for getting news, sending important letters, and calling for help.

Technomancer Alternate Class Feature: Telethurge

Graphapathy (Su): A telethurge can access information from a telegraph, telephone, or other telecommunication wire without the normal equipment needed to do so. The wire or device must be within 400 feet +40 feet/level, and within line of sight and line of effect. The telethurge can use the communication system as if she was sitting at an appropriate device wired into it. The telethurge can even take a message from one wire or device, and move it to another (such as taking audio from a telephone line and transmitting it directly to a wax-cylinder recorder or Edisonade’s playback device).

A telethurge can extend the range of this ability by expending a spell slot. This allows the ability to function if there is a telecom wire or station within a range of 50 miles, +50 miles per level of the spell slot. Anything that would block a detect magic spell from detecting a source of magic at the same location as the telecom wire or station blocks the telethurge from being able to reach it. When messages are send or received in this way, they have a maximum of 10 words per caster level for each spell slot expended.

Additionally, when using telecom devices to send coded messages or trying to decipher coded messages, rather than Bluff or Sense Motive, the telethurge can use Mysticsm, and gains an insight bonus to their checks equal to 1/3 their class level.

A telethurge gains the following spells known as bonuses when they gain spells of the appropriate level — telepathic message (0-level), akkashic download (1st level), status (2nd-level), tongues (3rd-level), telepathic bond (4th-level), telepathy (5th level), telepathic jaunt (6th-level).

A telethurge has one fewer spells known at each spell level.

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Technomancers of the Really Wild West 3: Lovelacers

Not so long ago I noted on Facebook and Twitter that in the Really Wild West, the most common kinds of technomancers are Cartogramancers, Edisonades, Lovelacers, Telethurges, Teslics, and the Prophets of John Moses Browning.

I thought it might be fun to examine those ideas, and we’ve gotten to the Lovelacers.

(Art by Andrey Kiselev)


Lovelacers are students of the principles of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, and her the Mathimatikí Poíisi, the mathematical poetry that allows Analytical Engines and Cogitators to do more than solve equations. Ada Lovelace was the only child of famed poet Lord Byron and mathematician Lady Byron, and she recognized the potential of Charles Babbage’s mechanical calculating machines, beginning with his first Difference Engine, and combining their capacities with the clockwork minds of automatons, making the standardized construction of Androids possible. (Countess Lovelace also formed the Sapience Sequence, a series of questions and tests that can differentiate between a difference engine pretending to be sapient, and a true android that is the vessel for a soul.)

It’s also worth noting that Countess Lovelace was not, herself, a technomancer. Though she created numerous Mathimatikí Poíisi formula for use by technomancers, she herself was not a spellcaster but a pure theoretician and thinker. She had a sapient drone built using her designs and created numerous theosophical principles that have since become tehcnomancer spells, all without any spellcasting ability herself.

Lovelacers are respected as adepts at mathematics, poetry, and machine intelligence. Even before the social upheaval of the War of the Worlds broke numerous gender-based biases against women as technomancers, Lovelacers of any gender where considered respectable and competent, due in no small part to their ties back to Countess Lovelace herself, who was seen as a nearly divine intellect and the inheritor of significant social cachet as a result of her parentage.

Lovelacers are generally expected by the public to be “genteel” technomancers, the sorts of people who spend time in intellectual salons and academic settings, rather than on the frontier or in grimy workshops. However, they are also perceived to be serious thinkers, and when they do feel moved to put themselves in rougher ettings, people take their reasoning seriously.

Technomancer Alternate Class Feature: Lovelacer

Data Cache (Ex): A Lovelacer has a series of cogitator gears and difference engine formula that allow her to quickly and easily store data, run sums, and operate certain kinds of gizmos. Rather than a spell cache, this serves as a data cache. The Lovelacer’s data cache does not function as normal for a technomancer. Instead, it acts as a computer, with a tier equal to half the Lovelacer’s tier. At 2nd level, and each even technomancer level thereafter, the Lovelacer can add one module, countermeasure, or upgrade to the computer at no additional cost. Additionally, as long as you have your data cache, you are considered to have access to an InfoSphere. Your data cache can be repaired or replaced in the same way as a spell cache. Your data cache counts as a spell cache for prerequisites and interactions with other class features.

This replaces spell cache and cache capacitor.

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Technomancers of the Really Wild West 2: Edisonades

Not so long ago I noted on Facebook and Twitter that in the Really Wild West, the most common kinds of technomancers are Cartogramancers, Edisonades, Lovelacers, Telethurges, Teslics, and the Prophets of John Moses Browning.

I thought it might be fun to examine those ideas. I started with the one I’ve used the most, cartogramancer. Now its time to look at the Edisonade.

(Art by LaCozza)


Edisonades are inspired by one of the most famous living technomancers, Thomas Edison. Many can trace their training back to Edison himself–usually not from instruction directly from the Wizard of Menlo Park, but having learned from those who worked at Menlo or Edisons current facility (as of 1891) in Fort Meyers, Florida.

Edisonades are often seen as the “best” technomancers by the general public, due in large part to their continuation of Edison’s work in the theosophic value of sound, electricity, and data recording. They are also often seen as arrogant and too business-oriented to be trusted by common folk. While neither of these generalizations are actually rooted in the techniques of the Edisonades, they are widespread enough impact how most people react to these technomancers.

Many Edisonades try to also try to be inventors, seeing that as part of the Edison tradition, but their success rate is no greater than any population of educated, scientifically savvy people.

Technomancer Alternate Class Feature: Edisonade

An Edisonade can convert any damaging spell they cast to do electricity or sonic damage. If casting a cantrip that does electricity or sonic damage (including those that normally do some other damage type which they convert with this class feature), the Edisonade adds their class level +1d6 per 3 class levels to the damage done for spells with a single target, and add half their level +1d4 per 3 class levels for spells with an area or multiple targets.

This focus on energy types and manipulating them comes at a cost in other technomancy expertise. An Edisonade has one fewer spells known at every spell level.

Edisonade Magic Hack

A character with the Edisonade alternate class feature can select the following magic hack in place of a standard magic hack.

Playback (Su): An Edisonade with this magic hack can record and playback video and audio using their spell cache. The playback can be seen and heard by anyone able to see and hear the Edisonade. They can record up to 1 hour/level of audio and visual and play it back if they choose to do so in advance, though if they exceed a total of 1 hour/level of recorded material, some older recording must be erased. For any specific detail to be revealed in their playback, the first time they attempt the playback they must make an Engineering check with a DC equal to the Perception check DC to notice the detail when it first happened. The total recording time that can be stored can be divided into multiple recordings, but each recording uses at least 5 minutes of capacity.

An Edisonade can attempt to playback up to 1 minute of audio-visual they experienced but did not think to record at the time. This is always fuzzier, less perfect recordings, and the Engineering check DC to reveal any detail is equal to 10 + the DC of the Perception check to notice that detail when it first happened. this check can only be attempted once for any given moment. If the Edisonade wishes to keep this playback beyond a single viewing, it counts against their total stored recording time.

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Writing Through Grief

Whether you write as your whole career, just do some freelancing, or write only for your own satisfaction but are driven to do that, it’s going to come up. At some point, you are going to find yourself needing to write while experiencing grief.

I wish this essay told you how to do that. It doesn’t. It can’t. I don’t know how. Every time I find myself having to do it, it becomes a new problem, because every moment of grieving is different. The problems grief causes change. Sometimes I lack motivation. Sometimes I find myself getting angry. Sometimes I can’t see the screen through the nonstop tears.

Whenever I talk about writing while grieving, a slew of well-meaning people come out and tell me to just give it time. I know they think I am just being too hard on myself, but I come from more than 20 years of writing professionally. This is my job. I’m a full-time freelancer again. I don’t get sick days, or bereavement. If I don’t write, I don’t get paid.

And yes, most people in the industry will cut you slack when you are dealing with something hard, but there are limits. Printers wont change their print dates for you. Conventions won’t shift when they are happening so you can have a big release bump a month alter than planned. People who make money by selling the work you are writing can’t hold off on payroll until you can get yourself together. Some projects have lots of slack built in, others have used it all. It’s worth talking to the people you owe work to, but trust me friends and fans, sometimes I have to write.

Other commentators want me to build everything around their favorite grief roadmap, such as the 7 stages of grief. If someone is totally unaware of some of thinking on how grief works, mentioning the existence of various roadmaps can be useful. But, again, I’ve been here. I know the maps are out there, and I also know the map is not the map is not the territory. Some grief follows different paths. It may jumble the order, or hop back and forth, or find brand new trails of misery, especially through my already-compromised brain.

So, advice from the outside tens not to do me much good. Support can help, like a blanket against the cold–it doesn’t make the cold any less, but it helps you to weather the storm. Of course some support helps more than others, and beyond noting that support that does not give pointless advice or make demands on me in return for the support has a much better track record than those that do, I can’t really tell you which will help more for any given grief.

Because every grief is different, and I can’t analyze it until i am at least mostly past it.

But the grief itself is not really the problem when writing. It’s the symptoms it causes, and those I can try to work through. Sometimes I’ll be successful. Sometimes I won’t. But I’ll get more writing work done by trying than by giving up on it.

So, what have I found works best?

*Accept that it’s not going to be as fast as if you weren’t grieving. Yes, maybe you need it to be for career purposes, but reality often doesn’t play nice with career goals. Take steps accordingly. Reach out to people you owe work to see which projects can spare some slipped deadlines. Cut back on expenses. Consider scaling back optional projects. Whatever you can do to reduce the impact of your reduced capacity.

*Prioritize. Don’t spend a lot of mental time and energy on it if that’s hard for you, but take a moment to decide what is most important. There’s very little as annoying as realizing you’ve been grinding through something you could have skipped, and not touched the crucial thing that needs all your time and attention.

*Write down every step you take. I, at least, suffer serious memory issues when grieving. Having a single place where I keep track of any deadlines, extended deadlines, changed project scopes, and so on, lets me go back and see where I am on things.

*Consider timing things. Need a break? Decide how long you need, set a timer. Having trouble focusing on work? Decide to hammer on a project for 20 minutes, then walk away. Need to do some online research? Set a timer so it’ll pull you back if you go down a rabbit-hole. Much as I have trouble remembering and tracking things when i am grieving, I often lose track of time. A nudge that I’ve been checking Facebook for 10 minutes when I meant to look up a single thing keeps me from wasting what time I have.

*Forgive yourself. If you can. If not, see if you can get therapy to help you forgive yourself. Some things are going to go wrong. I can’t say anyone else will forgive you, and you may make life hard for others or end up damaging your career. But you know why, and there’s no point in adding guilt or anger with yourself to the heavy emptions you are already carrying.

*Make self-care checklists. I often wallow in my grief, and if I am not sleeping, eating, taking my prescriptions, or socializing at all, my writing is going to suffer. Yes, sometimes I need to put off socializing to make more time for writing, or pull an all-nighter because the drop-dead deadline is 8am, but for the long haul, you can’t be an effective writing machine without fuel, downtime, and maintenance.

I wish I had more advice. But the one thing I can add is that writing through grief is possible, but will always take more effort and produce less results. Try to be kind to yourself and others when you have no choice but to give it a try.

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