Monthly Archives: February 2023

Now On Patreon: Ten Weird Magic Weapon Ideas

Over on my Patreon I made a quick set of weird ideas for magic/fantasy weapons for typical magic-inclusive ttRPGs. They’re system-agnostic concepts, rather than full magic items for any one game. Also, since swords tend to get all the glory, none of these are swords. (CW: Dentistry/tooth stuff. Also, some puns.)

Since my Tuesday posts are currently Patreon-exclusive as an intentional carrot to get more people to join my Patreon, below I just posted one of the ideas as a teaser, and the names for the other nine. (Once my Patreon’s income level has risen to $1,500/month, I’ll both go back to posting Tuesday posts for free here on my blog as well as on my Patreon, and I’ll make and maintain 5e and Starfinder article indexes for my Patreons — the carrot to encourage Patrons to see if their friends want to join).

Preview Weird Magic Item:

B.O.L.O.s: These bolos have eyeballs painted on the weights. When you hit and entangle a foe with them, you can change your visual point of view to be that of that foe, until the foe escapes.

The Patreon article also presents the Beakaxe, Doppledagger, Flintlock and Key, Greatest Overloud Armor Tassets, Kudzu-Net, Personal Trebuchet, Ring Of Invisibility No Not Like That, Serpentspear, and Toothhammer.

Short Fiction: Battle of the Channel

[Following my medical issues of a week-and-a-half ago, I’m going to be digging through my files for content for folks while I recover, and I have no idea how often I’ll post. This may be my only blog entry for the week — we’ll see how it goes.

The early versions of this snippet of fictional history have been sitting on my hard drive since I published Anachronistic Adventures, nearly a decade ago. It was supposed to be broken up as 1-2 paragraph chapter heads for a dieselpunk Second War of the Worlds setting book, which I played with but never got around to seriously developing for publication.

It appears here for the first time.]

From “A History of The Second War of the Worlds. Vol IV, Chapter 11: The First Battle of the Channel”

“Before it can be understood how a flotilla of Armored Rams was expected to hold the Straight of Dover against tripod war machines, and why those expectations were ill-grounded in the reality of the Second Martian Invasion, it’s necessary to understand the design of the Armored Rams as a class, and the Thunderchild in particular.

“Unlike older its namesake, Armored Ram Thunderchild was purpose-built to fight the Martian war machines, though no Earthly designer could have conceived of how much more dangerous the Second Invasion walkers were than what humanity had seen before. Displacing 21 long tons, the Thunderchild-class as a whole had no exposed turrets or smokestacks, as such protuberances would have been nothing but burs for Martian heat-rays to melt smooth in the opening seconds of any conflict. Its exterior was closer in appearance to the bottom of a typical boat, a curved wedge coming to its sharp, heavily reinforced point right at its waterline. Only the massive steel rivets running in long lines along the ship hinted at the thickness of its exterior hull armor, and the armored quarts viewports were nearly impossible to pick out from their metal frames.

“This exterior armor was just one of the Thunderchild’s defenses. The apparently-contiguous armored exterior was, in fact, a series of carefully overlapping plates. Behind that armor were more water pumps than any seaborne vessel had ever carried before, all fed by intakes along the ship’s belly. Combined, the pumps had a capacity of more than 500,000 gallons per minute, sprayed onto the armor from the inside, ready to cool it against the murderous burning of heat rays. The overlapping armored plates running its full 427-foot length allowed steam created by this cooling to escape as quickly as it was generated, and when the ship moved at speed the design was such that air was sucked through the space between the outer and inner hull for further cooling.

“After the outer hull and the radiators and the water-cooling system, thick layers of asbestos insulated the inner hull from the expected hellish conditions of the outer hull dissipating steel-melting temperatures, and then another layer of armor sat behind that. This inner armor was not vented, but instead able to form an airtight, pressurized seal adapted from the French Aigrette-class submarines. The Thunderchild-class was designed not to submerge, but to keep their crew safe in airtight chambers when tripod war machines covered the sea with their villainous black gas.

“The sole exception to this seal was the engine intakes, which drew in air from just above the waterline (assumed — correctly — by designers to be where air would be coolest in a heat ray-enabled battle) and passed it along sealed pipes to furnaces for the ship’s 18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers to power the ship’s mighty steam turbines. While black gas was deadly to any living creature that breathed or touched it, its effect on machines was more a question of greater anticorrosion measures. Having black gas potentially fill sections of the engines that might call for repair necessitated a new class of “smokesuit engineers,” but this was considered a small price to have engines at full power, and a crew safe from the horrors of Martian chemical weapons.

“Finally, carbon dioxide scrubbers and oxygen rebreathers were installed within the ship to form an  “air support system,” ensuring that it could operate in its fully-airtight “buttoned up” state for several hours if necessary under full steam, or for roughly 30 minutes if the ship was forced to run purely on battery power.

“Lacking any exterior guns, the offense of an Armored Ram was twofold. First, as the name suggests, the entire Thunderchild-class was a throwback to ram-armed ships of the galleys of Imperial Rome. The entire construction of the keel and ribbing was to brace the thickest, most heavily armor section of the ship, the ram prow or “beak,” which was shaped to carry the ship’s massive tonnage into and throw any other vehicle it struck, be that naval vessel or walker. Secondly, it carried five 18 in torpedo tubes, designed to fire the Mark VII torpedo, each carrying 320 lbs of TNT. The torpedo tubes were mounted forward, centered behind and under the Ram Beak, well below the waterline and presumed safe from both heat rays and black gas.

“The Thunderchild-class were also called Peaceships (as opposed to Warships), because they were designed exclusively to deal with Martian war machines. Though a Thunderchild could theoretically ram an Earthly battleship, their total lack of heavy guns made them no match for modern naval vessels such as the American Virginia class, English King Edward VII class, or Italian Regina Margherita class battleships. As Martian war machines had never used heavy projectile weaponry, it was believed there was no need to develop tactics for anything other than heat rays and black gas, and while the heavy layer armor of a Thunderchild-class vessel could survive glancing blows from 9-inch guns and ignore smaller caliber weapons, the bigger 12-inch naval guns were able to sink an Armored Ram at ranges in the thousands of yards — well before torpedoes or a ramming run were a threat.

“Thus, when the Martians returned in 1909, it was expected the Thunderchild-class and similar ram ship designs worldwide would be crucial to keeping coasts and waterways clear of 100-120 ft. tall tripods. England invested more heavily in such ships because of the heavy fighting in and around harbors in 1896, and the belief that Martians would focus on disabling the English naval fleet. What no one expected was 250- to 300-foot tall tripods splashing down directly in waters all around England, as well as in its interior, and the English mainland falling to Martian forces within days. And, as Europe watched in horror, massive legions of the much-taller tripods marched towards the Straight of Dover, a narrow barrier between England and France no more than 180 feet deep.

“The Martians would not, it was realized, be limited to walking in rivers, coastlines, and harbors. The new War Machines were taller than the Straight was deep, and could simply walk the 20 or so miles to Europe. Fleets were rushed to the waters, but the taller tripods also had greatly increased range of their black gas canisters and could blanket the waves up to 10 miles away. Traditional warships could not get within gunnery ranges without being choked by the gas, their crews choked by the necrotic substance before a single shot could be fired.

“It would be up to the four Thunderchild-class ships.

“Volumes have been written on the command failures of the captains of the Ligetung, Stormspite, and Taranis, which lead to their destruction. Most of these analyses are unforgiving, placing it as purely tactical error for those ships to have stayed at their extreme torpedo ranges, rather than rushing in to ram foes as the Thunderchild did. However, it must be remembered that Martians had not revealed the existence of either their Kraken tendril-canisters or Scylla tendril-augmented black gas canisters. Had the captains of any of the three ships been alerted to the Martian equivalent of kinetic guns, able to fire whirling masses of sliding plate tendrils that could rips targets apart (and, in the case of Scylla canisters, flood an area with black gas while doing so), they no doubt would have closed range as quickly as possible.

“The more interesting question is why the crew of the Thunderchild bore toward the massed tripods walking across the Straight in the first moments of siting the enemy. True, the Armored Ram ships were conceived as close-combatants, but naval doctrine at the time leaned heavily toward soften up any enemy formation at range if possible. Arguably, it was the captain of the Thunderchild who acted in error despite being the only ship to survive the opening minutes of the battle as a result. Tragically, as there were no survivors, the question of whether the officers aboard were driven by tactical brilliance, reckless battle-lust, or a desire to match the boldness of their namesake from the first War of the Worlds will never be answered.

“Moving at its full 22 knots, the Thunderchild proved a difficult target for Martian canister launchers. Even tendril-enabled canisters bounced off its hull too quickly to gain purchase, and the massive spray created by its Ram Beak-enabled prow may have confused Martian gunners. In its first pass, the Thunderchild sank 4 Tripods with ram hits, and one with a lucky torpedo salvo, and disabled the legs of 3 more, leaving them unable to continue across the Straight.

“But this success was not without cost. The expected heat rays did splay across Thunderchild‘s hull to horrifying effect, literally melting and warping sections of its outer armor and largely destroying its port prow cooling pumps. Worse, each time the Thunderchild rammed a Tripod, the naval ship slowed enough for the walker’s tendrils to grasp and scrabble at its upper hull. Numerous plates were wrenched from true, leaving gaps and weak points in the ship’s defenses, and a few were torn free entirely. Reports of the day claim the Thunderchild remained at full fighting capacity after its initial charge, but careful analysis of photos f the conflict put lie to this claim, which was likely more propaganda than bad intelligence even at the time.

“Even so, the ship barely slowed as it arced around for a second pass, which if not as effective as the first still sunk three Tripods and badly injured two more. Though more than two dozen walkers were involved in the Martian advance against the straight, the legend of the Thunderchild and the tripod’s clear focus on the Armored Ram spurred every British vessel able to float to pick that time to flee across the Channel. For dozens of miles up and down the coast, the few remaining naval ships made dashes for France, along with private craft, river ferries, and even makeshift barges. The exodus continued as long as the Thunderchild could float and fight, and is credited with evacuating more than 300,000 civilians and fighting forces. At the time, this was hailed as a great humanitarian victory, and in the years since we have come to understand just how great the impact to the Martian war effort was to remove the people it would otherwise have literally fed into its War Machines.

“By the end of its second pass, the Thunderchild was clearly in distress. It was visible on fire, and had slowed to less than half its maximum speed–a deadly limit for a ship dependent on kinetic impact to do damage. Pictures prove that at least one Kraken and one Scylla canister had found purchase on its outer hull at last, and numerous eyewitness accounts claim a Kraken tendril mass actually climbed into the Thunderchild midships, where only the crew’s small arms fire could possibly slow it. Wounded, boarded, and burning, no one could have faulted the Thunderchild if it had given quit to the battle, and turned toward France.

“But it did not.

“Whereas its previous attack runs had been the swift jabs of trained pugilists, its course plotted to ensure it deflected from each impact on a vector to bring it ramming into another tripod, the third pass of the Thunderchild was the ponderous swing of a drunken barroom brawl. Its only kill was from a final torpedo salvo that took advantage of a tripod attempting to directly block its path, and the two other walkers it damaged simply had their legs bent from glancing blows from the ram’s flanks.

“Though it managed to steam free of the remaining tripods massing to bring it down through sheer weight of tendril attacks, the Thunderchild was clearly in no condition for another attack run. Nearly half its exterior armor was gone, and in a few places its interior hull was also breached. Two explosions had rocked its starboard side below the waterline, and it listed toward that side as it came around. It moved sluggishly at best, and if any of the remaining tripods had tendril-canisters to spare, they could surely have dropped the deadly writhing weapons on Thunderchild‘s near-wreck, and torn it apart at a distance.

“But in a victory as great as the war machines it sank, the Thunderchild had shown the limit of the new Martian weapons. As horrifying as the Kraken and Scylla cannister-launchers were, their reload numbers within each tripod were limited. Most tripods carried only six canisters of this type, and those with prisoner cages carried only four. The slightly larger walkers later identified as command units could carry eight, but at the cost of not having any of the standard black gas dispensers. After the destruction of its sisterships at distance, and three full circuits of its own through the Tripod formation, the Thunderchild had taken the measure of the Martian’s new armament. If heat rays couldn’t sink it, and the ship showed no sign of going down despite belching steam and black smoke into the air, the Martians would have to tear the Armored Ram apart with their Tripod’s own tendrils, in close combat.

“Legend says the navigator for the Thunderchild was the sole survivor on its bridge by this point in the battle, and he lashed himself to the helm to make a final run into the Martian formation. It’s a heroic tale, and one popularized when the navigator’s wife became one of the most famous naval commanders later in the war. But there’s no way to confirm the story and, indeed, no way anyone could have known what happened on the bridge to begin with. But it takes no legends to acknowledge the bravery of the crew of the Thunderchild because, whether helmed by a lone hero lashed to the controls or a few brave men facing what they knew had to be their end, the Armored Ram turned toward the Tripod formation a fourth time.

“There would be no passing through the Martian forces this time. At no more than 10 knots, the Thunderchild made straight for the tallest of the walkers, and the Martian forces swarmed the point to ensure the ship could not escape again. The Armored Ram can be said to have drifted as much as steamed to the engagement, and was riding quite low in the water. As for what happened once it was surrounded, inhuman tripods using long tendrils to tear it apart and pluck bodies (though living or dead it is impossible to say) from its bulk, perhaps it was an inevitable coincidence given the ship’s damage.

“But a case can be made the timing was too perfect. The moment came just as the last War Machines surrounded the Thunderchild, and applied such pressure to its hull that the keel was heard to crack. It might have been coincidence, but if so the coincidence had timing as good as any lone engineer shut into the ship’s bowels could have hoped for.

“For it was only then the Thunderchild heaved in the water and, with a roar heard on the French mainland, exploded.

“No Martian force attempted to cross the Channel for a full2 days following that detonation. Was it fear that held them at the moment no effective defender remained to stop them? Loss of a commander sewing confusion through their ranks? A need to analyze how a lone ship named Thunderchild had, as a generation before, held them at bay?

“The thousands who escaped to France during those two days did not then, and do not today, have that answer.”

Methods of Support
So, a lot of people have offered a lot of support, and I deeply, deeply appreciate it. There are plans moving forward to try to help cover medical bills and loss of income, and when they’re ready, I’ll announce them here. I may end up needing to turn to extraordinary measures, such as a GoFundMe, but I won’t be doing that until I know for certain I have to.

However, if you DO want to offer immediate support, I won’t refuse it. You can join or increase your membership tier at my Patreon, or if you prefer do one-time support through my Ko-Fi.

Thanks, folks.

Now On Patreon: Wyverns & Warrens Preview — Heroic Moments

Wyverns & Warrens (or “WyvWar”) is my current ongoing attempt to design a short, easy, fantasy ttRPG that still had a depth of options. I’m doing previews of concepts for my Patrons, and open to your feedback.

In today’s Patreon-exclusive WyvWar preview, I discuss Heroic Moments — a gamified version of the adventure fiction trope when someone does something amazing and awesome. The priest calls upon her goddess to unleash the sea itself. The berserker grabs the titan’s greave and begins climbing the towering foe, refusing to be shaken free while slashing at any exposed joint.

Done right, they’re awesome. Done wrong, they’re cringe. Done in a ttRPG, they’re tricky. And today, my Patrons get a peak of how I’ll try to do them in WyvWar.

(“I summon the Strength of the Tides,” Art by иколай Акатов)

Right now that rules preview (and all Thursday blog posts) are Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

About My Pulmonary Embolism (Pt. 2) – The Diagnoseificationing

This is a follow-up to my post describing the events that lead to me being admitted to the hospital with what turned out to be (amongst other things) a pulmonary embolism. There’s a tl;dr version near the top of that post, so I won’t repeat the abbreviated account here.

CW – ambulances, breathing issues, health issues, hospitals, blood and IVs.

Storytime: My Pulmonary Embolism, Part Two – The Diagnosificationing

This post picks up with me already admitted to the hospital, but with no diagnosis as to why I couldn’t breathe without oxygen, why just standing up left me trembling with exhaustion, or why my heart rate — once raised — stayed elevated for an hour at a time.

I really wanted to get diagnosed, get a pill that fixed the issue, and get home. But as the staff drew 6 vials of blood, hooked two different sets of wires to my chest (one for keepsies throughout my whole stay, one just for a specific set of tests, which they applied and removed three times during my stay), drew 4 more vials of blood, stuck an x-ray plat under me, drew 4 more vials of blood, listened to my chest, drew 2 more vials of blood, and shuffled which “machine that goes PING” they had in with me at any one time, it became clear I wasn’t going home that night.

Eventually, a doctor confirmed it. Their then-best guess was severe pneumonia, with its stress and overexertion leading to tachycardia and arrhythmia… which is just a fancy way of saying “You’re sick, you were dumb, and your heart freaked out.”

And, to be fair, it turned out I DID have pneumonia. And was suddenly anemic. But those were just frosting, not the true Bad Health Cake.

So that night, they finally admitted me to the hospital. I had to wait from a Bariatric Bed to be available (fancy term of “partially inflatable fat-person crib”), did one final set of ER-based injections into my I.V., and took me up an elevator.

Oh, lord, the I.V. You know, I’m going to take a quick aside to talk about my I.V.

I have tiny little fuckers for veins. They hide, dodge, dry out, and are generally difficult for phlebotomists to deal with. When I was in the ambulance the paramedics tried to get an IV in my left hand… and gave up. Then they successfully started one on my right hand… and it stopped working while they were hooking up a bag. So they decided to try on my left arm, and (with a team effort) got one working.

That was the IV I had when I got into the ER, and within a few minutes, it stopped taking the fluids they were pumping into me. So the young nurse called the old nurse, and the old burse wiggled it, got it working again, and decided to tape it down more. We’ll that IV Mark 2.

Then they decided I needed multiple antibiotics, because my x-rays showed I had pneumonia… and the Mark 2 IV stopped taking in fluids. So the old nurse called a SNTTFST (Specialist Nurse Trusted To Fix Such Things), and he wiggled it, re-lay the tubing, used tiny shims of tape to keep it in just the right position, and then added more tape.

A LOT more tape. Like, a “this ductwork needs some tape” amount of tape.

We’ll call this IV Mark 3.

That survived until I got up to my actual hospital room, where a new set of injections has to be made directly into my IV and… it did not go. So the nurse wiggled it, and added some tape, and could flush it, and got my injections in through it. That was IV Mark IV, which I liked the sound of, and it lasted a full day.

But a little more than 24 hours later, my drip stopped feeding into my IV again… and the nursing staff was Not Having It.

So the Entire Nursing Staff On My Floor had a conference, held an exorcism, threatened by veins at gunpoint, and decided everything but the needle Had To Go. They reworked the entire tube looping, juggling, shimming, and taping process, and slapped a patch with a clear section right over the insertion point. I called this IV Mark V, also the Window of Horrors.

It lasted until I was discharged… but was visually gross. Below is a picture. You were warned.

(It’s not as comfortable as it looks. … Nope, even less comfortable than that.)

The only issue we ever had with the Window of Horrors was, once, a new nurse let the blood pressure cuff slide down halfway over it, and then turned on the machine to squeeze the hell out of my harm. And, in this case, the “Hell” that got squeezed out included a tiny stream of my blood, like a crimson water fountain for ticks.

Okay, enough of the aside.

My wife Lj had to go home to get the things we’d need for a stay of, we had been warned “a couple of days if it’s pneumonia, or up to a few weeks if it’s sepsis.” I got hooked into the wall-mounted oxygen, and a few banks of monitors checking my blood 02 levels, my heart rate, my respiratory rate, my blood pressure (originally set to take itself every two hours, eventually downgraded to a nurse doing it every four), my IV fluid intake, and I am sure a half-dozen other things I never know about.

For me, the main thing I hard to remember about the oxygen and monitors was, if I had to go pee, that required unhooking three sets of wired sensors, unplugging the rolling IV stand, and curling up enough oxygen hose to play out in the slow, daunting, exhausting, trip from the fat-cradle-bed 5 feet to the bathroom. It took planning, perseverance, and patience to go pee.

Lj wanted to stay in the room with me, but I saw the chairs they had in there, and began to tell her not to. An overnight in one of those not-padded-for-spit, kinda-reclines-but-not-really, hard-arms-that-dig-into-your-sides chairs would leave her back aching, her legs cramped, and her so sleeplessly tired she couldn’t safely drive. Trooper that she is, she refused to budge and insisted on staying.

Until about 3 am, when she had to go home before she was so pained she couldn’t. My wife is determined, not stupid.

The next 24 hours was hard on me, maybe the hardest of the whole time I was hospitalized. Lj got stuck at home trying to catch up on things left undone, and a thunderstorm, and other issues, and I told her not to come see me the next day because it was going to be too much for her. I cried a lot, because I couldn’t sleep (getting your blood drawn every four hours, and a nebulizer strapped to your face every 4 hours, and your blood sugar checked every four hours, but all by different people on different schedules, makes sleep tricky-at-best), and because no one could tell me what was wrong with me for sure, and nothing was getting better, and I was afraid this was what I had to look forward to for the rest of my life.

It was a dark place. The nurses noticed, and got me some anti-anxiety prescriptions, and that helped.

Thurs-Fri-Sat were better, though the longer I was stuck in the bariatric bed I was at war with, and went without a shower, the grumpier I got. But I finagled a better chair for Lj so when she did return, she could (and did) stay with me. And the diagnosis began to firm up. In addition to the pneumonia and the anemia, I almost certainly had a pulmonary embolism (that’s doctor-talk for “blood clot in your lungs choking you like an evil little chest-gremlin), which led to testing for and confirmation of a Deep Vein Thrombosis (doctor talk for “don’t sit in a chair for 12-14 hours straight each day or you’ll die”). Blood thinners were added. I began to be able to walk a bit.

Walking 35 feet while on oxygen before collapsing in a chair sweating like a Thousand Sons at a big Emperor of Mankind’s Birthday party may not sound like much, but it was a far cry from only being able to go 3-to-5 feet.

(Yes, that’s a 40k reference. I have a specific friend I snuck that in for.)

My doctor wanted to confirm my pulmonary embolism with a cat scan. … he wanted to, but couldn’t, because I was too fat to fit in any CAT scan they could get me to. But the proof of the clot in my leg, combined with the blood thinners showing improvement, finally convinced him to let me go home.

It was, as I noted at the time, victory in the tactical battle… but a strategic war remains to be fought. Pulmonary embolisms are serious, can be deadly, and this one nearly got me. And there are still unknowns — my lung x-ray suggested, inconclusively, possible lung scarring which would mean permanent lung capacity loss. I need physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, follow-ups with cardiologists and various other specialists. I have a serious bleeding issue that needs to get addressed, and it’s exacerbated by my being on blood thinners for at minimum the next 6 months.

I have to learn how to sleep again, learn how to sit again, learn how to moisturize my sinuses again (nothing with glycol or petroleum… but I finally found an option and I do NOT want to set my nose on fire), learn how to eat again (and not the way I’d expect — I need more iron, magnesium, and protein), and it still takes significant planning to pee. (Especially if I need to pee at night — I have to either unplug the oxygen from my CPAP and reattach its own nose-valve, or have the separate oxygen tank nearby so I can swap from CPAP to tank…)

Doctor’s visits every couple of weeks, maybe for months. Bruising at the drop of a hat, maybe forever. Laying down every few hours to elevate my legs, BUT standing every hour to move them around. And every time my breath runs even a little short, I have to fight a wave of panic. The long stretches where my heart pounded for hours, and my lungs were on fire, and my brain was screaming that I was going to die with silent, gasping screams my final act on this Earth… they have left a mark on me.

Even if I was at full health, it’d be exhausting. But I’m not. I can sit totally calm without oxygen, but need it to do anything or stand and go anywhere. My reserves do not exist. If I do too much at 10 am, I’m still feeling it at 10 pm. Focusing on anything is tough, and thinking (or writing, which I admit does not always involve me bothering to think) tires me at a frightening speed.

I’m alive, but my life is radically changed. My capacity is reduced drastically. Maybe this is just-for-now. Maybe it’s forever. Most likely, it’s somewhere in the middle.

As my journey goes forward and evolves, and I figure out what I am doing about my career, my place in this industry, my total-lack-of-retirement-options, and my current health challenges (especially how they relate to this blog and outstanding projects of mine), I’ll let you all know.

Methods of Support
So, a lot of people have offered a lot of support, and I deeply, deeply appreciate it. There are plans moving forward to try to help cover medical bills and loss of income, and when they’re ready, I’ll announce them here. I may end up needing to turn to extraordinary measures, such as a GoFundMe, but I won’t be doing that until I know for certain I have to.

However, if you DO want to offer immediate support, I won’t refuse it. You can join or increase your membership tier at my Patreon, or if you prefer do one-time support through my Ko-Fi.

Thanks, folks.


About My Pulmonary Embolism

Hey folks. You may have noticed that I haven’t posted to my blog much for the past week, and there’s a pretty compelling reason for that.

CW – ambulances, breathing issues, health issues, hospitals, and frank discussions of how fat people are treated by some healthcare professionals.

I was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism. It wasn’t fun.

(This is me on Feb 16th…not having fun.)

For the tl;dr crowd: I was taken to the hospital last Tuesday (2/14/2023) with a blood clot in my lungs, kept there until Saturday, and am home now but still extremely week. I’ll need weeks, maybe months, to fully recover, and it could all happen again without warning.

Okay, that’s the extremely short version. Now, it’s storytime.

Storytime: My Pulmonary Embolism, Part One – You Should Go To The ER

I’ve been having health issues since 2014. In fact, I’ve gone to the ER once a year on average since December 2014, and have been suffering some infection or other literally 25% of my life for the past 8 years. A lot of that was colds, but I have also had pneumonia 4 times, bronchitis twice (once concurrently with the pneumonia), the flu 6 times (yes, despite getting a flu shot every year), the super-generic sounding “upper reparatory infection” five times, had long periods (weeks or months at a time) where I suffered apparently random sudden-onset fatigue that could shut me down as if someone had flipped a switch in my brain to make me unable to think to do anything except fall asleep… and had staph infections. A LOT of staph infections, involving more than half those ER trips I mentioned, and hospitalizing me once in 2019.

In short I have become, as a dear friend noted to me shortly before the pandemic, fragile.

The early days of the pandemic were actually a break of health for me, for about 4 months. I got more done, had more energy, and was never sick. But by the end of 2020, I was exhausted all the time, often with no explanation, back to getting pneumonia and staph infections, and often had trouble focusing on tasks.

So when I got a bad cold last December (having dared to go outside my social bubble to see tiny groups of people in well-ventilated areas, like my in-town family), and that turned into a bacterial lung infection, and that turned into pneumonia that took two courses of antibiotics and a course of steroids to get rid of the worst symptoms, I was not surprised. And when that left me with extremely low endurance, I chalked it up to being a morbidly obese man in my 50s who had been sick for six weeks. I mean, that pneumonia had been so bad my doctor had told me if I ended up having trouble breathing, “you should go to the ER.”

Sure, walking across a room left me slightly short of breath, but that was something I could fix (as I always had) over time. I wasn’t “having trouble breathing,” right? Just getting winded easily. I’d recover my endurance.

But oh, no. Not this time.

Unbeknownst to me, I have developed Deep Vein Thrombosis in my right thigh. This is a fancy way of saying I had a blood clot. And a bit of that blood clot had broken off from the mothership, moved to my lung, and begun reducing oxygen flow to my heart.

This is bad.

But I still had no idea what was going on. So I struggled along for another week and a half… and things got worse. I went from being slightly winded if I crossed a room to beginning to wheeze the moment I stood up. This freaked me out, and I made an appointment to see my doctor, and got some bloodwork done. I mean, I could breathe, so the ER wasn’t necessary. Maybe just one more round of antibiotics, and my doctor would need to see my lab results to know what to try this time.

I ran a game on Saturday the 11th, despite being unable to walk more than 5 feet at a time. I had to bow out of playing in a game on the 12th. I cried about how weak and tired I was on the 13th, and had to plan any moment requiring me to stand very, very carefully.

So, yes, something was obviously very, very wrong. And, equally obviously, I should have gone to the ER. And I didn’t. And there are multiple reasons for that, ranging from the expense (even with the insurance I scrimp and scrape t pay for, an ER trip is a bit hit to my budget) to my CPTSD (I can get panic attacks in any circumstance where I don’t understand what is going to happen). But a big one is… I’m fat.

Very, very fat.

Fat people have problems with healthcare professionals. A lot of that can be mitigated by finding one who actually treats you like a person, but at an ER you don’t get to pick your doctor. I have been told at ERs that my fever was “normal” for someone my size when I actually had pneumonia. I’ve been told a staph infection was weight-related acne, shortly before I began vomiting from it. My rheumatoid arthritis has been dismissed as weight-related osteoarthritis with a glance and exactly 0 testing. And, many, many times I have been told by a doctor, without talking to me or looking at my records, that a given problem is a side-effect of uncontrolled diabetes.

It’s worth noting, as part of that story, that I’m not diabetic. Never have been.

So, yes, I needed to go to the ER for days, and just muddled along in pain, short of breath, and constantly exhausted rather than face dismissal, insult, and misdiagnosis yet again.

And that brings us to February 14th. Valentines Day. And boy, did I have a heart-shaped surprise coming.

I had trouble sleeping (no shock, I’m an incurable insomniac, even with my sleep apnea well-treated and managed), so I got up late. My wife Lj was, as she often does, taking up the slack in what needed to get done and was herself exhausted. Since I was up to deal with things like expected deliveries, she lay down for a nap. And I decided to freshen up with a shower.

Showering had been a chore for days, but I was determined to push through it. My breath got short, and my legs got weak, but I’m already nearly a shut-in thanks to the pandemic. I was determined not to be an invalid. No matter how much I gasped for breath, no matter how much my heart began to hammer, I forced myself to push through it. And when it was done, I sat down to catch my breath.

Minutes passed. I was still wheezing and my heart was still pounding. My vision was filling with spots. I nearly passed out.

“So, Owen, you finally went to the ER, right?”

Oh, no friends. No such thing.

No, I went and woke my wife and told her I couldn’t be the one to stay up to deal with things. I had to lie down. And, to be frank, she was pretty ticked about it. But she saw I was panting, thought I’d just done something requiring exertion despite being chronically short of breath and seeing a doctor about it the following week, and let me lay down. I strapped on my CPAP… and kept gasping for air.

I’m not sure I can accurately describe the nightmare that followed. Not only was my heart not calming down or my breathing easing, it was getting worse. My vision blurred. I waited. And waited. For 30 minutes. And then when I decided to call for help… I couldn’t. I could barely choke out words one at a time. Thankfully, we have a smart speaker system, and I used it to cough out a housewide cry for aid.

My wife heard, came and saw me, and asked if I needed to go to the ER. I finally said yes. So she started to get ready, and we discovered I couldn’t stand.

THAT is when we both started to get really frightened. I am slow. I tire quickly. I’m fragile. But I have always, always been able to get up on my feet and do the crucial thing when it mattered.

But not that day. Happy Valentine’s Day, honey. Call an ambulance.

The 911 call went well. Upon discovering I had some bleeding issues (another thing I was to discuss with the doctor a week later), the emergency operator made sure they *didn’t* give me the aspirin otherwise called for in this case. Eight firemen showed up, took my vitals and, to their eternal credit, never assumed anything about why I was unable to breathe and my heart was beating hard, fast, and unevenly. Then the paramedics showed up, took my blood oxygen, strapped an oxygen mask to my face, and it was immediately time for me to go to the ER.

The firemen rolled me back and forth to get two traps under me… and carried me out of the bedroom, around an immediate 90-degree corner, and out the front door. Now, I am a BIG guy. When I walk through a doorway, there’s no spare space. But somehow these 8 calendar-worthy men surrounded me, 3 to each side, one at my head and one at my feet, and walked me through doors I barely fit through by myself.

Which is not to say it was easy for them. They were carrying me out head first, when one of them noticed the gurney outside was set to receive me feet-first.

One panting fireman; “Hey, we’re bringing him out head first. Turn the gurney.”

One calm paramedic: “No, we’re set up feet first. Turn the patient.”

Eight panting firemen: “TURN THE GURNEY!”

They turned the gurney, and the firemen got me into the ambulance. My wife Lj was right behind them, sitting in our car.

For minutes. It took them a long time to consider me stable. The paramedics were monitoring my blood 02, my heart, my mental state… and had to decide which of the two Emergency Rooms in range was better qualified to handle me. Lj has to sit for long minutes, knowing I was in the ambulance, and for some reason it wasn’t moving yet.

But eventually, they made a call (the right one, to their credit, we’d work out days later once my issue was actually diagnosed), and I got my first ambulance ride.


Residents of Norman, Oklahoma may recall there was a high wind advisory that day. As I rode in the ambulance to the hospital, I got to hear the dispatch report downed wires… then reports of smoke, then brush fires. Then MORE downed wires. And a flipped car. It sounded like a busy day.

It was.

When I got to the hospital, there were no slots open in the ER. So I was parked, along with the paramedics, still on the not-designed for-7XL-scale-humans gurney, in a hallway.

For an hour.

During which time my wife couldn’t come see me. But eventually they got me in, and she could sit with me… and worry. All we knew was that if they took the oxygen off my face, by 02 level dropped like a rock. From 97 to 70% in the seconds it took to switch me from the paramedic’s tank to the ER supply. And we did not know why.

Thankfully, our good friend Carl had, as soon as Lj had notified friends I was headed to the ER, told her he was on his way. They let him come into the ER bay I was in, and stay with her. And for a few hours, we all waited, while they took blood, strapped electrodes to me, ran machines in and out, slid x-ray plates under me, and said they’d try to figure out if it was an infection, covid, an as-yet unknown virus (yeah, they called that out as a specific possibility), sepsis, heart attack, or something else.

But at least I could breathe… shallowly, with the help of a machine.

We’ll get into the move to a hospital room, the diagnosis, and my eventually discharge in Part Two… which will be out when it’s out. [Edit: It’s out, find it here.] This post represents all I have been able to do over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and I have no idea how long the next post will take. I’ll do my best to update y’all as soon as I can.

I DO want to say that from firemen to doctors to nurses to account reps and outpatient services, everyone I dealt with was professional, efficient, never dismissive and (with the exception of one grumpy nurse who was at the tail end of an 14-hour shift) polite and considerate.

Methods of Support
So, a lot of people have offered a lot of support, and I deeply, deeply appreciate it. There are plans moving forward to try to help cover medical bills and loss of income, and when they’re ready, I’ll announce them here. I may end up needing to turn to extraordinary measures, such as a GoFundMe, but I won’t be doing that until I know for certain I have to.

However, if you DO want to offer immediate support, I won’t refuse it. You can join or increase your membership tier at my Patreon, or if you prefer do one-time support through my Ko-Fi.

Thanks, folks.


Storytime Video: Backwards Bowling

I’m thinking of getting back into videos and maybe podcasts.

Here’s my most recent effort.

Now On Patreon: Wyverns & Warrens Preview — Paths & Edges

Wyverns & Warrens (or “WyvWar”) is my current ongoing attempt to design a short, easy, fantasy ttRPG that still had a depth of options. I’m doing previews of concepts for my Patrons, and open to your feedback.

On today’s Patreon-exclusive WyvWar preview, I discuss Paths and Edges, the primary customization/role definition tools for characters in the game. I’ve mentioned the concepts of Paths & Edges in WyvWar articles before, and people who follow some of my previous projects (such as the “Talented” line of Genius Guides) are going to have some inkling on how these things work, but I want to go into specifics on how I see these things working, and how the game distinguishes between (for example) a Dwarf Stone-Touched Summoner and a Noble Summoner Envoy

(Art © Brett Neufeld)

Right now that rules preview (and all Thursday blog posts) are Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

New RGG PF1 Class PDF for Sale -The Wolfshead

The Wolfshead started life on Facebook, and then got a draft on my blog and Patreon. But I’ve only now managed to create a developed, finished, refined version of this 1st-edition Pathfinder hybrid barbarian/rogue class.

It’s it’s going up for sale on DriveThruRPG and the OpenGamingStore as a Rogue Genius Games product. However, it’s also available now, for free, for all my supporters at the $10 Mega-Patron and higher tier!

That pdf will remain a free gift for backs at those tiers. So, if you have been thinking about joining the higher-tier of my Patreon, now there’s a little extra incentive for you to do so!

Now On Patreon: Wyverns & Warrens Preview — When Are Hit Points Not Hit Points?

This article is not covered under the OGL 1.0a.)

Wyverns & Warrens (or “WyvWar”) is my current ongoing attempt to design a short, easy, fantasy ttRPG that still had a depth of options. I’m doing previews of concepts for my Patrons, which are open to their feedback, and today I posted another rules preview discussing how Hit Points will work in WyvWar.

(Art by Nyothep)

Hit Points. Sort Of.

WyvWar has a mechanism currently called “Hit Points,” but I am very likely to change that name, because they don’t act like Hit Points in any other system I’m aware of that uses that term. In other words, they are not primarily a measure of how much damage you can take — if someone deals 7 points of damage, those don’t come off a character’s “Hit Points.” Instead, Hit Points are primarily points a character expends to hit, and avoid being hit. So, as much as I love having my game mechanic about being hit or hitting others (separate from damage) being called ‘Hit Points,’ it’s bad game design to take a term you KNOW most players of your game are familiar with and have it work totally differently than they’re used to.

But in a draft, I can call them what I like to entertain myself, and it’s an easy fix when I move to a playtest manuscript. But that’s the name I’m using for the rules preview discussing HIt Points in Wyverns & Warrens, over on my Patreon.

Right now that rules preview (and all Tuesday blog posts) are Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,500/month, I’ll both go back to posting Tuesday posts for free here on my blog as well as on my Patreon, and I’ll create and maintain Starfinder and 5e article Index Pages for my Patrons, with links to all my 5e and Starfinder blog and Patreon content (as the carrot to encourage Patrons to see if their friends want to join).

“Batman” is a Brand, Not “a” Character

(This article is not covered by the OGL)

I enjoy a lot of Batman stories. But I am ever-cognizant of an important truth.

Batman is not “a character.” Batman is a brand. This has been true for at least decades, and has likely been true since Detective Comics #32, published August of 1939.

Now, a LOT of characters owned by corporations are brands rather than cohesive individual characters. Maybe even “most” such corporate-owned characters are actually brands. But I’m going to stick with Batman in this essay, both because it’s easiest to cover this concept with a single specific example, and because Batman is one of the Brands I most see fans and even professional writer’s treating as a single, unified character. Analysis of the totality of such characters is best done as an analysis of Brand Management, rather than as analysis of the fictional traits of a single person.

The Batman brand happens to include a lot of characters who are all presented as “the” Batman, who may have the same origin stories and costumes and names and rogues galleries. But a character named “Batman” in a Justice League Comic is not the same character as “Batman” in Detective Comics, or “The Batman” in a live-action movie, or “Batman” in a cartoon about super-pets.

Oh, Warner/DC will often pretend it’s the same character. That’s part of the Brand Identity of the Batman Brand.

But universal questions about a theoretical “Batman,” as if every Bruce Wayne Dark Knight character was part of a single unified characterization, are pointless. You can analyze a specific Batman character, calling out the character within the Batman brand as presented in a specific story with a unified medium and creative team, and analyzing what the expression of the Batman brand was like within it. But discussions about Batman as some kind of consistent entity across even all of one medium (say, comics) is a waste of time. There is no one true ur-Batman we can use as a point of universal comparison.

That’s actually a really freeing truth. The claim “Batman would never do [some specific thing from some specific story]” is pointless. Batman is fictional, his corporate owners are the only ones that can say whether an official Batman(tm)-branded character would do a specific thing, and if it happened in an official source, there’s no debate to be had. “Batman” would do that thing… he just did. But, there is legit criticism space to discuss both “I feel this specific, ongoing Batman-branded character (who happened to be named Batman) is not a good fit for the Batman brand.

Imagine, for example, if McDonalds added floats to their menu, and to kick it off ran a TV commercial where Ronald McDonald lurked in a sewer with a red balloon, and promised children “We all get floats down here!” There’d be no one claiming “Ronald McDonald doesn’t live in a sewer,” because it’s accepted Ronald McDonald is corporate mascot rather than attempt to faithfully portray a specific clown’s life, fictional or otherwise. But there would be a LOT of people pointing out (correctly) that it was VERY “off-brand” for Ronald, and a terrible choice for the McDonald’s corporation.

I picked on Batman for this essay in part becaue discussion of what Batman would or wouldn’t do, or could or couldn’t do, come across my social media a lot. Perhaps more than any other corporate brand that happens to focus on a series of fictional characters. And those debates often seem built on media consumers claiming they understand “the” Batman character, and acting as if they had some ability to veto the inclusion of a Batman element they dislike from the “real” Batman they portray as existing in some combination of media appearances.

Now, if someone wants to discussion their “personal head canon,” I’m all in favor of that. And if they want to discuss what are good or bad specific portrayals of Batman, that’s a reasonable analysis of the Batman Brand, even if not couched in branding terminology. Trying to form some universal singular “correct” view of Batman as a character which anything that violates should be

Not that there’s ever much point to pointing that out to people invested in such arguments. The purpose of this essay is not to call out or shame any specific Batman fan, or even their view of what “Batman” is in modern media. Batman, and his corporate owners and his fans and even his critics, are just useful specific examples to illustrate a different way of viewing some creative endeavors that it’s tempting to see as specific characters (or worlds, or ongoing stories, or game brands, or even the output of specific creators) rather than as a Brand, with all the implications that branding brings as a concept.

This blog, and making most of the posts freely available to the general public, is a big part of my personal brand. If you’d like to support that brand, please consider joining my Patreon.