Friday, October 30, 2020

Larvae Landed in my Mailbox

Souls of the evil dead?   Now shilling turtleneck sweaters?!
                                                                                                                                                                    
 
 

 cf. Larvae, 1st edition Monster Manual, 1978 (by Tom Wham?)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 12, 2020

My kid finally wants to play tabletop D&D!

 


Here in this lifeboat together, this fallout shelter against the invisible threat, I have been wishing my 9-year-old ADHD-challenged kid would get into D&D or D&D-adjacent things to talk about with Dad.

She is incredibly smart, especially with language, and very creative, but has trouble focusing, and has been diagnosed with a bit of oppositional-defiant disorder.  I can't push my interests on her, even if I was crazy about them at her age. 

She has rejected, when I tried to show them to her, the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, the 1977 Rankin-Bass Hobbit with Arthur Rackham-inspired art, and the 1973 Harryhausen movie, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, in which Dr. Who's Tom Baker plays the villain.  She lost interest even in the faster-paced, more modern 2001 Fellowship of the Ring movie, refusing to watch more after the Shortcut to Mushrooms part. 

As mentioned previously, in 2019, I bought the DUNGEON! boardgame as something we could play together, but the lure of video games and screens in general drew her attention elsewhere.

She has also said she has no interest in seeing any of the Star Wars movies or spinoff cartoons. My wife made her watch The Mandalorian and, besides Baby Yoda drinking soup, my kidlet found nothing to like in it.

So I was surprised and pleased when kidlet comes out of nowhere with: 

"Dad, can we play that game that you write stuff for?"  

My wife, kid, and I all live under the same roof with my 80-year-old mother (who has her own basement granny flat) so quarantining isn't as difficult as it could have been.  My mother and my wife have both played D&D before (my mom played clerics; my wife, thieves and paladins). This is going to be our in-person D&D group.

One bright spot of commonality already here between me and my kidlet is our enthusiasm for Czech culture. 

Her favorite books for me to read to her: Prag Voller Gespenster ("Prague Full of Ghosts") and Czech Folktales by K.J. Erben and B. Němcová, illustrated by previously mentioned humble genius Josef Lada

So I'm writing an adventure including characters, magic items, and monsters from these Czech stories. 

I'll run it for one or two sessions with the family, do revisions, then publish the thing at the Coiled Sheets of Lead shop on DriveThruRPG.com. 

Above is my map for The Fields We Know and the Wilderland.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Stumbling through to the other side

You know that old curse, "May you live in interesting times?"

2020 has been waaaaaay too interesting.  I wanted to hold off and not bore readers, or frustrate readers who are thinking too much about all this and need some distraction, but I can't hold it back.

After 9/11/2001, the satirical genius newspaper, the Onion, was shocked into silence for a while, but then printed a much-needed, well-thought-out issue with headlines like "A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid Shit Again" illustrated with Brittney Spears in a bikini with a snake coiled around her.  I'm not there yet, but if you persevere to the end of this post, I promise some attempt at humor and vaguely game-able material, OK?


The picture is from in front of my house in Minneapolis at the beginning of June.  A unfamiliar woman drove up in an SUV the morning after, took pictures, and said, "Can you believe they are doing this?"

I told her, "People are angry."  I thought the angry graffittists were remarkably restrained.  They didn't use my exterior walls as a billboard, they didn't use the nearby houses' fences as a billboard, and they didn't even trample the wussy little flowers I am trying to replace the grass in front lawn with. 

Either another SUV or the same one took pictures of the neighbors' house and their Black Lives Matter sign.  Yet another damn black SUV was reported a block away, with two young white chicks covered from head-to-toe in black: hoodies, tactical jackets, fancy gas-masks, doing a photo-shoot.  WTF?  Their license plates were missing.  They took off when homeowners came out and asked what they were doing.

I monitored Unicorn Riot and Wedge LIVE! as well as the usual news sources.

There seemed to be 4 1/2  groups of people out on the streets at night: peaceful, but understandably angry protestors, a few of whom might have erupting into attacking buildings; opportunists who wanted to loot stuff; people who like to burn and destroy things in general; middle-class white anarchists for whom this was "the spark that would ignite the Revolution"; and scary-ass white "Boojihadis" and neo-Nazis of various types, decked out in really expensive-looking tactical gear, bulletproof black jackets, clean boots, near-military-grade gas masks (and, at maybe in one case, umbrellas - see  this article at Forbes.com). 
 
The drugstore two blocks away from me was hit that night.  I walked over the next morning to get blood pressure pills somebody in my household needed.  I asked the cashier about the boarded-up glass door and heard how schmucks entered that way, couldn't get the nicer, more locked-down drugs, and left with lower-value items.  A jewelry store down the way was hit.  In later days, two cosmetics shops and a coffee shop were hit.

Along with the Cub Foods grocery store and the Target in the neighborhood where I used to own a house until 2013, MIGIZI non-profit organization for Native American youth and Gandhi Mahal Indian restaurant were destroyed.  The public library was attacked.  A construction site for affordable housing was burnt down.  The post office was destroyed.

The "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo" types and the neo-Nazis who fantasize in their (Wisconsin? Idaho?  Colorado? Texas? Illinois?) exurban bunkers about igniting a Turner-Diaries-style race war were extremely scary.  People reported finding caches of gasoline-soaked flammable materials hidden in their yards and alleys.  It was said that these schmucks would use "urban guerrilla" tactics to scatter when their initial targets near East Lake Street got too hot, literally and metaphorically, and they were supposed to run into the neighborhoods in all directions and attack "targets of opportunity". 

A friend who lives in a different neighborhood, but the same ZIP code as the post office which was burnt down, said it looked like opportunists had attacked the liquor stores and pharmacies near her, but that the neighborhood hardware store, with its store cat, had also been attacked.  Luckily, the poor cat was later found alive and severely shaken, but unharmed. 

My friend said she thinks the people who want to incite "Civil War 2" or the race war are targeting nodes of civil society, not only the places which hold us together as neighbors and communities, but the intangibles: the spiritual glue and trust by which we hold together.

In good and more recent news, the DriveThruRPG charity bundle I donated my STATUES adventure to raised $16,763.22 to NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 


The bundle stopped being available on 6-22-2020, but you can still check out and donate to the organization at NAACP LDF.



+++
  
OK, I want to talk about lighter topics right now.

Click on the picture to hear this song I like: Afraid by Exchpoptrue.  Even though, of course, there have been plenty of real things to be afraid of recently, this song pokes deadpan Teutonic (or Gallic?) fun at fear itself.


My wife and I were talking about how the psychological terms she uses in her work would make awesome band names:

  • DECAY THEORY - Minimalist post-punk band  
  • MOTIVATED FORGETTING - Title of Decay Theory's 1st album
  • COGNITIVE DISTORTION - Legendary hardcore/thrash band
  • COGNITIVE DISSONANCE - The highfalutin' No Wave intellectual noise outfit from NYC
  • DISPLACEMENT -Post-metal band
  • SCHIZOID FANTASY - Pioneering stoner doom band.  Played influential California desert shows in 1990.  Beloved 1970s-style double gatefold album highly sought after by collectors.
  • BORDERLINE - Pop dance r&b group.  Height of popularity in 1991.
  • REACTION FORMATION - All-woman r&b group.  Slick synchronized dance routines wearing high-cut one-piece swimsuits and high heels.   
  • PERSONALITY DISORDERS - Cute glasses- and sweater-wearing Oregonian indie rockers.  Give self-deprecating, very funny interviews.  Also the name of a completely unrelated 1970s early punk rock band in New York City.
If you had the persistence to read to the end of this post, but are still annoyed there was no gamable content, choose among the terms of art above and make new psionic disciplines or spells out of any that appeal to you.

(I wonder if, since I mentioned the words that summon them, MADAME LOLA or KING MARK's spells or vampire spam will appear in the comments now.  Even the Pakistani wigs and women's night dress spammer has abandoned me recently)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

$9.99 for STATUES, GARDENS of YNN, and 40 more in NAACP Legal Defense Bundle!


Minneapolis has seen some truly terrible things in recent days, although right now it's quieter.

If you want to ask me for a local point of view, feel free to send me an email.

OneBookShelf sent me an invitation to participate in fundraiser bundles for Black Lives Matter and NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

I wanted to do something to work toward justice beyond slacktivism and calling politicians and signing online petitions.  Demonstrating on the streets is not what I wanted to do, at my age, and in my situation.  I can't really donate big amounts of money in my current (unemployed) financial situation, either.

So even if this is the only way I'm helping now, I'm glad I have the opportunity.  I feel a little less of a putz. 

I offered my STATUES adventure on DriveThruRPG - It seems to be the main adventure of mine that people are interested in.

As of June 10, 2020, 1:00pm, 75 people so far have shown up in my DriveThruRPG sales figures as having bought the NAACP Legal Defense Fund #1 Bundle.  STATUES appears within.

People get more than 40 RPG products for $9.99. 

As DTRPG says at the bottom of the bundle:

Total value:$489.78
Special bundle price: $9.99
Savings of:$479.79 (98%)
 
I feel like the tiny opening band at a giant fundraiser lineup among such luminary headliners as GARDENS OF YNN. 

I'm honored to be part of this.

According to my calculator app - $749.25 has been raised so far for NAACP.

I know the worthy cause is the overwhelming appeal driving purchases (as well it should be!) as well as the draw of creators of Emmy Allen caliber who made the other stuff in the bundle (as should be expected), but it feels really good to be a small part of this greater whole.
Now I'm going to schlepp off to the granny flat portion of my house and prepare late lunches for my hyperkinetic kid and her convalescent grandmother.


Monday, May 25, 2020

"Everything is Fine..."

Walking down through muddy, lower, poorly-lit ruts in the life path today.

I would like not to kvetch overmuch here, and focus instead on some positive things:

My wife felt really moved listening to former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy give valid advice on loneliness, before, during, and after the pandemic.

Doing sweaty exercise in the morning, watching comedy and travelogues, however, has been my healthy self-medication since I started having panic attacks and not being able to sleep for up to 3 nights in a row.

Recently, armed with sleep of sometimes up to six or seven hours per night (this is a very welcome contrast to conditions before), I have been able to enjoy things I haven't been able to enjoy since November, such as writing pulp fiction for pleasure (the Terror of the Trdlo saga in March) and listening to sad music without slowly capsizing my own soul into a deep, sticky sea of tar.
I can listen to sad or disturbing music again and feel comforted that I am in a similar boat, rather than just getting pulled under by it. 
                                                  

I feel empathy for the fellow humans - young musicians - who covered the song below and made this video during the worldwide pandemic. They are acknowledging fears that a lot of us are facing.

The title of the song means, "Everything's fine, everything will pass" - I don't speak Russian, and don't understand the lyrics, but I think the protagonist of the song (or the video's interpretation of the song) is trying to reassure his girlfriend or platonic friend that, although things are scary, and although he's walking around their Russian panelák-building-filled housing development at dusk and at 3 am and they can't sleep, things will eventually turn out right.  Maybe she's reassuring him, too.  Maybe they are both trying to convince themselves and each other at the same time.










Click for an alternative way to reach the video:

Maxim Rudenko and friend do a great cover and video HERE

The original band who created this song is Несогласие - which to my Cyrillic-illiterate eyes looks like HE-CORN-ACNE, but really is Nesoglasiye - a Russian word which means "Dissent" or "Disagreement" in English.  They started a few years ago as a tight, energetic, but undistinguished punk rock band with songs like Haters Gonna Hate but have since evolved into something transcendent and Joy Division-esque.

A video at YouTube with image of the album cover

The idea of "Everything is fine" being said but conveying the opposite gets a different approach in   Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft's  Alles ist Gut (Translation: Everything is OK)

This chilling song intones a hypnotic pattern of messages: "Be still...still!  Close your eyes!  Please think about nothing!  Believe me! Because everything is OK." 

I imagine the protagonist shuddering in an underground bunker during a (nuclear?) war, fiercely clutching his child or his lover, trying to calm this person down, trying to convince himself that the horrific reality outside and nearby will not puncture the safety of the bunker.  Maybe muffled gunshots and explosions are sounding outside, coming closer.

Of course, this could be the full weight of an oppressive government, anthropomorphized, telling the Everycitizen to shut up and drink the Kool-Aid.  Or it could be something awful that is personal or domestic.

Any interpretation of the song finds the meaning that everything is actually NOT good!  

In any case, DAF is well worth your time to listen to.

Sadly, Gabi Delgado-López who was the core of the band with Robert Görl died this March 22, aged 61.

Also, the great electronic music pioneer Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk died April 21, 2020. 

Kraftwerk's Die Mensch-Machine was the first record I bought for myself in 7th grade.  My aunt was kind enough to buy me the English version, The Man-Machine at Christmas that year. For years afterward, whenever a friend let me on their high-school low-wattage radio station, I would beg to play the German and English versions on two turntables, one started slightly before the other. Out would crackle: "Wir sind die Roboter" then "We are the robots" shortly after.  It worked well to put the two records spinning slightly out of sync with the instrumental swirling part toward the end of "Neon Lights", too.
 
Anyway, take good care of you and yours and stay safe!








  

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Revolting Nature

Some post art on their blogs and preempt reader complaints by calling these "Lazy Art Posts"
- Me, I can't offer any apologies - this is what I want to post today...

Trdelniky, not so much the pastry as the odious fictional beasts, the trdla, have been obsessing me of late.  They were the monster baddies in my big fat recent story:     

                                                               The Terror of the Trdlo



I will purge the trdlo soon, but ease out of this obsession gradually, with a Lazy Art Post on the theme of Nature in Revolt, a subject adjacent to the trdlo.

"The Hunter's Funeral Procession" - Mortiz von Schwind via Wikimedia Commons
From Tereza Papamichali dot net
Laibach - The Hunter's Funeral Procession (From the Wunderhorn Trilogy)

And then there is the Third Movement of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

Josef Vachal, The Discussion of the Animals With People.  From what I understand -very imperfectly: The animals kvetch that they act as watchdogs, they help people, they taste good to people (!) but what all of them are looking forward to is humans kicking the bucket (lower right corner).


+++
These emotions and situations are asking for gameable treatments.

1. At the dying of every Old Year, the beasts of the Ancient Forest, which is itself only a remnant of a remnant of the archetypal Urwald which stretched over the entire continent before the ascendency of humans, are granted three days grace to travel to the umbilical stone at the absolute center of the wood.  From dusk until dawn on the final three days of the year, all regional animals (and bestial monsters) can speak the Common human tongue (which belongs to no animal, and is thus neutral ground for all animals).  They meet in the clearing around the stone and confer on important matters.  A human without recourse to other magics, who needs information from an animal eyewitness to a dastardly deed, or to the secreting of fabulous treasure, or who wants the answer to an important question, could consult the animals during their rare loquacious interval.  Certain legendary heroes did so.  But the legends also warn that animals are unwilling to speak to, or be seen by humans at this sacred conference, or even in transit. Transgression is likely to rouse the collective wrath of the entire Forest, in all its beasts and spirits.

2. The disunited beasts of the Ancient Forest, and even those of the farms and hamlets of men which border the woods, swell a larger and even more excited congregation around the stone at this year's Year-Turning than any previous gathering.  This year, a leader is rumored to be using the temporary grace of a common language to unite the beasts, despite their differences, and lead them in planning a murderous simultaneous coordinated mass attack and overthrow of humanity's dominion.

3. If the party are animals, elves, or other non-humans, they are, or are mistaken for, expected attendees meeting around the umbilical stone.  Cyrus, the would-be-unifier of the animals, is assassinated in the midst of a rousing anti-human revolutionary speech by a crossbow bolt that "looks and stinks of human manufacture."  The party is slandered as being the culprits, and of being traitors in league with humans.  They have to make their way to their home turf on the outer edge of the Forest, and have to cross thousands of acres filled with now-hostile groups of beasts and monsters to get home.  Yes, this idea is stolen from The Warriors (1979).

4. During the three last days of the Dying Year, farm animals at the Manor Farm at the edge of the Ancient Forest can be overheard plotting in human Common to murder the drunkard minor human noble who runs the place with his human staff.  The pigs seem to be taking a leadership role, and say they have a plan, which requires eldritch magic, large quantities of human blood, and unshakable faith in the animal revolution, to extend the ability of the animals to speak Common for all time.  If that does not work, some of the pigs admit, all animals will have to learn to speak Porcine as a plan B.  Cough! - Animal Farm.

5. During the last three days of the year, animals from all corners of the world stream by moonlight to the clearing at the heart of the Ancient Forest.  They will dance in vast concentric circles around the sacred umbilical stone.  It is said that daring sorcerers can extort terrible knowledge and powers from a forest being kidnapped en route to this Grand Sabbat.  The powers and knowledge to be gained increase in proportion to the ferocity of the beast and difficulty of its capture.  The potential consequences to the red-handed sorcerer for discovery by the assembled animals are even more terrible. For a human to even witness the animals' moonlight transit at this time, much less the sacred circle dance, is forbidden under penalty of death.

6. In the primeval woods, in the deepest night of the autumnal Turning of the Year, the party sees a row of torches approaching through the darkness and trees and hears a peculiar dissonant musical wailing coming closer.  The song sounds like a funeral lament, but it seems insincere.  There is a mocking, festive undertone.    The animals marching on hind legs and singing, some wearing human clothes, stop nearby in a previously unseen clearing (or a clearing which uncannily didn't exist in the daylight) and begin to set up a torch-lit funeral feast. If the party's actions permit, the animals will explain in human Common that they are celebrating the funeral of a greatly-feared, very successful human hunter of the local district.  They will wonder at his foolish arrogance, that he chose to go hunting at the sacred Turning of the Year, when animals' power is greatest, when it was easiest to arrange his demise.  They will go on to say they have nothing against other humans, and invite the party to feast with them.  The meat at the midnight dinner will resemble spit-grilled boar, and will be explained away, if inquired about - "natural lifespan, etc." but if the coffin the animals were carrying is opened, it will reveal the human hunter's body field-dressed like venison, and with several substantial chunks sawed off.  On this discovery, or in any case, when relations with the party deteriorate, or the animals deem the moment ripe, the full community of beasts will attack.  The animals will lose the ability to speak Common, stop using weapons and wearing clothes, and fall back on all fours at daybreak.  They become afraid of fire (even the fire they have been using) and attempt to flee.

The Terror of the Trdlo - All links thrown together in one giant hot dish

This poor nun just wants to make a smoothie
My entire story, The Terror of the Trdlo:

Part I - The Adventure Begins (But Not Really the Terror, Yet)
Part II - Zdenka vs. The Green-Eyed Monster (Jealousy - That Is)
Part III - Nun: The Wiser
Part IV - The Hermitess
Part V - Silvernose Arrives Minus His Weird Girlfriend
Part VI - She's Gone Feral
Part VII - A Little Traveling Music
Part VIII - Horror at the Hermitage
Part IX - The Rutting Moon
Part X - Herbal Interlude
Part XI - "It's Blood"
Part XII - Empty, Disturbed, Dead
Part 13 - Hut Stinking of Musk
Part 14 - The Howling, Squealing Horde
Part 15 - Something Wicked This Way Comes...UP
Part 16 - A Heaving Sea of Beasts
Part 17 - Hymns Above the Battle's Din
Part 18- Wreathed in Blue Fire
Part 19 - Not Exactly a Witch
Part 20 - This is the End

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No, really, what IS a  trdlo  or trdelník?

Do they really clog up the modern-day center of Prague?  YES.and yes.