The Vampire’s Speech

An explosion rocks the line of men cordoning off the city of Las Vegas from the rest of the country. In the light of the fire, a figure can be seen to leap atop a tank, reaching down to grasp its cannon’s barrel and then, with a great snap, ripping the turret free of the vehicle’s body, proceeding to wield the ungainly assemblage as a club against the surrounding soldiers.

From the blaze emerges a figure cloaked in robes, a hood concealing its features – though a pair of bare feet peek from the bottom of the robe, floating a good foot off the ground with no visible means of support. The figure holds the limp, broken body of a soldier by the throat in one hand, reaching up to throw back its hood with the other. The woman revealed smiles at the soldiers arrayed before her, who seem paralysed with fear.

“Gehenna,” she speaks, voice dripping with ire. “The word fills you with dread, and you don’t even know what it means.”

She tosses the body to the ground, continuing to slowly float towards the assembled soldiers at what would be a languid pace were she walking.

“Some of you may have vague images of a fiery pit, of damnation and torment. Fewer still may recognise it as a reference to Armageddon, the end of days. But I tell you, Gehenna is not a distant spectre, to frighten and cajole the wicked to righteousness. Gehenna is real; Gehenna is now.

“These are the Final Nights.”

She casts her arm wide, the sleeve swirling in the air behind it, holding it before her as if delivering a benediction.

“The Grandchildren stir, their long slumber soon to end. Their foul progeny, the secret masters of your civilisation since time immemorial, weave their own plots, both in service and opposition to masters even more ancient than they. One of the Thirteen has risen already, to be destroyed by those who would stop the inevitable, leaving a wake of destruction that threatens the very foundation of our reality. All with blood in their veins shall be their prey, for they seek strength to oppose an even greater threat.

“The Father is coming.”

Her lips curl in a sneer. “Not your father, Kine, for Seth, like all mortals shall be in time, is truly dead. It is our Father who comes; the Immortal Father: Caine. He shall pass judgement upon his grandchildren, and those of their spawn that stand with them. And He shall find them wanting. He shall find them without remorse, without redemption – for there can be no redemption in a world of sin.

“‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ – and yet, cast stones we do, for we cannot help but sin. The world is sin; born of sin, formed of sin, bathed in sin, cleansed in sin. Entering this world is itself a sin, for which we can never be forgiven. The Almighty has forsaken us, left the world to the devils, for who else deserves the sin that is the world?”

Her eyes narrow, casting a glance that to ever onlooker seems to be into their very soul. “Look into your heart, Kine. Ask yourself: am I without sin?” A pause. “You are not. Those who believe they are without find themselves guilty of the sin of deceit, for they have lied to themselves. All who inhabit this world sin. It is in our very natures.”

She raises a hand towards the sky, where the smoke billows and swirls, obscuring the stars. “And the Father shall judge us as well, He born of sin, sustained by sin, cast out by sin, shall know us by our sins. And only one path to salvation lay before us: to serve the Father. To punish the Grandchildren, and all who would support them. To oppose their rise, to deny their blood, and to destroy their corpses.”

Her arm falls. “Two already have fallen,” and here her arm rises again, holding forth a sword, its tip poised at the soldiers, “for we are the Sword of Caine: the path of salvation, through sin. Take up the blade, or throw yourself upon it; either is preferable to what the Grandchildren will do.”

She drops the tip of the sword, and a horde emerges from the flames, charging the lines.

Transparency of income

Hi! Since Shamus has recently once again linked to my site, you probably popped by looking for something interesting, such as a case talking about money, income, and expenses. Now, a lot of the points Shamus referenced are points I’ve made as comments on his site, but I did write one piece here that goes over some basic reasons why I believe our cultural taboo against talking money needs to die, a piece on my recent (and ongoing) unemployment which some of you might not scroll quite far enough down to see.

But don’t worry about scrolling down. I linked it right up there! Oh look, I just linked it again!

Thought Games: Jedi

As I have been watching the Clone Wars cartoon today, I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Wars, and given the last batch of posts I made, I started thinking about how to systemise the Force – I’ve always felt that the various systems that already existed for Star Wars were somewhat lacking; the West End Games d6-based system has numerous balance problems, and the d20 Saga edition, while somewhat better, still leaves things to be desired.

And then I thought about it, and realised that Jedi are superheroes. Therefore, clearly, Mutants and Masterminds is the best system to build them in. I did some rough calculations on a notepad while watching, and Jedi aren’t even very expensive; most aspects of the Force can be bought for less than two power levels worth of points, and a lightsabre only costs one more. Jedi could probably be PL 5 characters.

So now I’ll attempt to build Anakin Skywalker as he appears in the Clone Wars cartoon at power level 5 – with a caveat that allows bonuses as if he were power level 10.

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DnD: Partial Levels

So I asked my DnD group this evening if they’d be interested in this idea, and they asked that I write it up so they could see it in the cold light of day (our Dutchman wanted to go to sleep).  So here’s a proposed system for doling out DnD level-ups in a smoother method, rather than having sudden blips of power increase.

Credit for the basics of this idea goes to Dungeons and Dragons Online, which implemented “Action Points” as a sort of mini-level-up.

Whenever a character achieves 1/4th of the experience needed to reach the next level, they can partially advance in a class.  Which class they are taking as their next level must be chosen at the first of these landmarks in any given level, and that class choice cannot change until a full level increase has been reached.  At each partial advancement, they may choose one of four aspects of the class to increase: bonuses, hit points, skill points, or class features.

Now, I know none of my players are this joker, but just in case this joker shows up and starts being a smart ass: a character must choose all four of these options on the way to a full level increase.  One cannot pick bonuses four times while taking partial advancements; once a particular choice has been made, it is unavailable to pick again until the next full level increase.

Picking bonuses increases the character’s base attack and save bonuses as they would increase with a full level.  No other benefits are added.

Picking hit points increases the character’s total hit points as they would increase with a full level, and any level-based increases in attributes that would be rewarded by a full level increase.  No other benefits are added.

Picking skill points increases the character’s skill points as well as maximum skill ranks as they would increase with a full level.  No other benefits are added.

Picking class features would award any additional class features – rogue sneak attack, fighter bonus feats, special abilities, or spells known and caster level – that would be gained with a full level increase.  This also includes any level-based feats that would normally be granted with a full level increase.

(It should be noted that these four choices leave nothing out; the final, fourth choice results in a full level increase with no lingering parts to add aside from the aspects of the final choice.)

I as DM would keep track of when partial advancements would be due, as well as which options (and classes) players had already chosen.

Thought Games: Thor

Time to finish out the core roster of the Avengers by nerding up their resident godling, Thor. Unlike the other Avengers, there’s not a lot of nuance to Thor; he’s a straight-out brawler whose power comes from his hammer. Without his hammer, Thor’s still an Asgardian and pretty impressive; with the hammer he’s a literal god.

It was actually a bit trickier not to make Thor too powerful, because Thor’s lack of nuance and subtlety (and not having to give him a bunch of skills to round him out) made it harder to keep everything balanced with the other Avengers, but I think I finally hit on a combo that works.

Finding the points to accurately reflect a character’s power is a lot easier when you don’t have to sink an entire power level (or more!) just into reflecting their ridiculous super science skills.  Damn you Tony Stark!

Anyway, on to Thor.

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What it means to me when you say I’m “privileged”

I don’t think I’ve ever documented the full story of what happened to me and why I am currently (and may be perpetually) unemployed before, and there’s been a lot of talk lately (largely due to this article being released) about how great it is to be a white male and how many awful things don’t happen to you simply because you’re a white male (and thus why white males should at the very least stop voicing their opinions, if they’re not willing to actively change things).  All this stuff bugs me a whole hell of a lot, but to know why, you have to understand my experience.

“Oh great, another white man whining about how hard it is to be privileged.”

Right.  I’m white and male, so obviously nothing bad has happened to me, or if it has happened to me, it’s for reasons other than because I’m white and male.

You’d think that – but you’d be wrong.

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Thought Games: Iron Man

Next on the roster of nerdery is Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man. Of course, the movies tend to make the point that he is not “invincible” as such, except inasmuch as, befitting a protagonist, he always emerges triumphant.

Most incarnations of Iron Man have cast him as the leader of the Avengers, and for good reason. Unlike Bruce Banner, Tony Stark remains in control of his intellect while in battle, and most versions – especially the version portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. – are highly charismatic and (over)confident. Steve Rogers might have experience commanding men, but he’s – quite literally – a captain, commanding the front-lines. Tony Stark is a general, directing the battle as a whole.

Building Iron Man proved to be the far most difficult Avenger so far, probably because he’s already had more screen time than any of the others and thus has portrayed far more ability than any of the others. As such, I’ve built Iron Man as a Power Level 11 character instead of 10, further cementing him as the leader of the Avengers.

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