Back in college, the girl I wanted to be my girlfriend was nice enough to introduce me to a great group of people who were playing Vampire LARP over at UMASS Amherst. I was lucky to play with this group for several years before I graduated and moved to DC. When I left, I wrote the below e-mail to the group, reminiscing over some of the most memorable events that happened to me during my time with the group. I stumbled across it today while looking for a completely different document in my dropbox. I felt it deserved a post.

Enjoy.


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Vampire Run,

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Take chances. Take big chances. The world is going to be filled with missed opportunities, and things that would have been cool to do if you’d only taken the chance. Don’t let the events of the run be one of those things, after all it’s not YOUR unlife. There are a number of things I remember from the run, very few of them are good.

  • The first run I played in a bunch of the neonates went after a rogue Tremere and Brujah. The Brujah grabbed hold of my wrists and turned my wolf claws that I was so proud of in on myself, gutting myself open with them. Had not “Might of Gaia” shown up and summoned the sun I’d have been dead. Sunscreen I tell you.
  • In a battle with some anarchs in the middle of a burning barn, I ended up badly charred and getting thrown out of the second floor window of the barn.. starting from the first floor.
  • In a battle with a vamp attempting to kill the Prince through a night-long ritual, I ended up jumping over the cauldron and grappling with the vamp. He then levitated up through the escape hatch while obfuscated. Apparently kicking down from the ceiling is not enough to bring you and a levitating foe down to the ground.
  • In a battle with a manifested Nexus Crawler I was doused with pure corruption in cloud form. The only cure for getting rid of the wyrm taint involved getting tied down and repeatedly staked by a garou until it was gone. Pin cushion that night.
  • Once while engaged in a business deal I went down into the basement of the fellow making the deal. He wasn’t there at the time and ended up pouring acid down on top of me. I had to break out of the room, ended up starting a fire, tore open each and every one of the 9 coffins in the room and was in frenzy when I was finally taken down by water balloons filled with acid. Moral: Even taking over your own clan can piss other clans off.
  • Once I was a Settite who’d managed to get his Obfuscate up high enough that I could convince people I was actually a ghoul and was attempting to get myself embraced as a full fledged member of the Malkavian clan. Obfuscate apparently doesn’t work against 9th generation members of House Knight who like to lick your blood. It was the sonic blast from a Daughter of Cacophony flaying the skin from my skull that made that death really memorable.
  • I was once surprised by a vampire who used cauldron of blood on me (by the old rules) to drain me dry of blood. In a blood frenzy I pounced the first person in sight who just happened to be a Bastet. Garou blood makes you frenzy out of rage. Bastet blood makes you frenzy out of lust. My last words before I was put down and tossed into the sewers was “I just want to kiss her!
  • I once spent an entire run scared to death because of rumors of a Niktuku. In the end I did manage to do a flip off of a sewer wall before someone let off a charge of C4 that sent everyone flying down the sewers.
  • This led in to me getting my memory back.. sorta.. and having my personality switching back and forth every time someone said the name of my current personality. I wasn’t the only one who was confused as hell by that one.
  • In a battle with the Seekers, I actually ran for 4 rounds worth of combat with no blood in my system at all before I was eventually taken down and taken away for some horrid experiments.
  • Coming back from the sewers as a vampiric shape-changing alligator ended up getting me into a hyper-speeded battle with my arch nemesis Nick Bonner. Needless to say that night ended with a huge alligator carcass getting shoved BACK down into the sewers.

Now, I’ve had plenty of nights where I’ve played it safe, avoided the big battle. But I don’t really remember those nights as well. It’s the big spectacular failures that stick in my mind. Have fun! And wear sunscreen 😉

While my Wife was away doing this:

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A photo posted by Alyson Olander (@alysonwonderlan) on

I was at home with the kids doing this:

Home despot trip… looking for ant traps.

A photo posted by Mister Wonderlan (@mrwonderlan) on

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5e Fighter

After quite a bit of discussion, I’ve finally settled down to start prepping a 5e Dungeons and Dragons game for my son. He’s been playing quite a bit of pixel dungeon lately (a rogue – like available on the android) so I’m planning to go for a fairly straight forward dungeon crawl with him. I hope he likes it.

The character is a non-variant human because I didn’t want to force him to figure out feats. It was a big enough struggle getting him to settle on a flail as his initial weapon. One thing I did do is switch out the 5e backgrounds for the 13th Age specials (One Unique Thing, Icon relationships, and skill style background).

His one unique thing is that he is noticeably strong for a human. I imagine it being similar to Jean Valjean’s strength from Les Mis. Mechanically that should be good for advantage on strength/athletics checks. I tweaked the Icons so they’re more specifically the organization tied to the Icon and not quite the super important relationship that 13th Age encourages. His great gold wyrm/diabolist relationships are the kind of straight forward that a 7 year old needs but I imagine his mixed relationship with the arch mage will make for the occasional hard decission.

Finally, I decided that 13th age backgrounds are more or less equivalent to a free form proficency. In this case he was trained as a Golden Squire though he might not currently be one.

As for the world building, I’ll be keeping it light. I’ll be using the 13th Age map but instead of a “Dragon Empire” the world is a collection of City States. Just because I’ve been having fun reading about the Proto-Indo-Europeam gods, there will be two tribes of divine beings. The Asir are the high concept gods while the Deva are the nature gods. If he gets far enough he may uncover the force that is corrupting the Deva into Demons. The high druid may come into play in this case.

His first adventure will likely be a simple wine cellar -> sewers-> dungeons exploration with rats and goblins. This keeps him close to home base and let’s me hit him with the cliches early. For the sake of survivability and possible story elements, I think he’ll need an NPC healer friend. I’ll work on that tomorrow.

Disc World

Disc World

It was announced that Terry Pratchett was collected by Death today. My best thoughts are with his family for their loss as I am sure millions of other fans are feeling the loss.

I myself have read barely a quarter of the books he has written. I take some comfort in the fact that having written more than 70 books, 25% is still a decent number. I didn’t discover him until college when my one-day-to-be wife introduced him to me by transcribing FaustEric for me one chapter at a time over e-mail. There is an entire shelf in our house dedicated to his work and waiting for me to go past the 25% mark.

His works were also some of the first things we watched when we got our Netflix subscription. Hogfather, Going Postal, and The Color of Magic were all available. I just checked and they aren’t as available now. You can however currently get all three on DVD from Amazon for under $40.

How to Get into Discworld

How to Get into Discworld


I was reading ‘Feet of Clay’ right around the time I participated in NaNoWriMo a few years back. I am not a writer. I wanted to participate correctly. There are so many guides about structure and finding out what works for you. So many expectations that you put on yourself. I want to say he opened my eyes and made me a better writer but I’m not a writer. All I can do is appreciate his gift.

Safe Travels.

Final Tweets

Final Tweets

There are just times in your life when you need a little rest in a quiet room. Unfortunately that’s not what I’ve been dealing with for the past several months. Although right now that does really sound kind of nice.

No. We all have day jobs. Things that we do when we aren’t happily engaging in our various hobbies. For me this involves maintaining a series of interrelated applications in my company’s finance department. Sometime around October of last year we signed a contract with a vendor to completely and totally overhaul one of those systems with a go-live date of January 1st. We made it, although the new system is not without its bugs (that I am still working on… gotta have job security right?)

In order to wrap my head around the time I needed in order to get this project done, I may perhaps have over-reacted and shut down large portions of the internet. I used to have a list of everything that got shut down but that became frustrating as well. I had it in my head that I would minimize my online presence. Or make it so that everything I connected to online was phone only. Or leave the internet and never come back. Something like that. I have a love/hate relationship with the internet.

For this blog, I just downloaded a plug-in that allowed me to disable the site. No deletions of old blog posts. If you came here looking for me, there was just a sign that read “Taking a Break from the Internet”. The break is now over but I don’t have any grand plans for what I plan on doing with the internet.

The new plan is to move from a holistic internet approach to a silo’d one. This is actually the opposite of what people recommend when you are “building your brand”. I have various tools for accessing different sites. I will play on those sites as I feel like and not feel that I need to be connecting one site to another. Cross-sharing hurts my brain.

So if you’re following me on here.. yay! I’ll be posting more.. perhaps not a lot more.. but more, mostly philisophical ramblings or discussion of how things are going with my gaming group. My Pathfinder Rogue just made 2nd level.

We recently had a character creation session for the group’s next adventure. The last one ended when the GM went off to Ohio in pursuit of true love. I can’t say anything about the search for love since I’ve done that myself. I might snicker a little bit about doing it in Ohio but you know, Ohio.

We’re doing the ‘Serpent Skull’ adventure path for Pathfinder. I really don’t know much about it and I’m avoiding spoilers. I did get the impression that it was somewhat Tarzan/King Kong/Treaure Island themed. Something tropical with pirates and lizard men anyway.

With that in mind, “Phay” takes her name but not her personality from Fay Wray. I’m imagining her as a classic Fighter/Magic-User/Thief Half-Elf though she is statted up as a full Rogue. The picture I’m using is one I found by searching for pirates on Pinterest. I wish I could find the source. Basic on the mini I’m using, I imagine that she uses alchemical dyes to darken her hair and take on a more human look but as she spends more time in the jungles it will grow out to show off her elf heritage.

Edit: Credit for the model is Pan Shuang Shuang.

Phay

Phay

Greta Tailor was a silly girl, always dreaming of being whisked away from her humdrum life as a barmaid. She was not however a foolish girl. Though she would flirt and smile with the various travelers who made their way through the Wandering Minotaur Inn, the many who would invite her to their rooms were regularly disappointed.

Then there was ‘Lord’ Nasathaer. He was an elf whose excess of charisma and deficit of wisdom had served him well in his career as an adventuring bard. He and his band of heroes legitimately saved the town from the ghost that had been abducting children. With his slight weight bouncing on top of the barmaid, the elf lord received two gifts that he would never truly appreciate: Greta’s love and a daughter.

Greta raised her daughter well until she was taken from this world by a magical plague that had infected the area. Uncomfortable around the ‘half breed’ girl, Phaeylerheynha was sent off to live with her father’s family. Nasathaer was still living the adventuring life and had little time or inclination to care for his young daughter. Instead she was shuffled around before one enterprising relative dumped the funds necessary to get her into a magic school.

As it turns out, Phaeylerheynha was not a particularly good wizard and she ditched magic school after learning the rudiments of wand and staff use. While she hadn’t inherited her father’s skill with magic, she had inherited his quick reflexes and sharp elven senses. Both of these served her well on boats that came in and out of the harbor and she left her old life behind her on the first boat that would take her. On her own, the family was quite happy to be done with their little embarrassment and Phay was happy to be able to make her own way in life.

Phaeylerheynha Tailor

Female half-elf rogue (scout, swashbuckler) 1 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide 134, 135)

N Medium humanoid (elf, human)

Init +4; Senses low-light vision; Perception +6


Defense


AC 17, touch 14, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +4 Dex)

hp 10 (1d8+2)

Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +0; +2 vs. enchantments, +2 circumstance bonus vs. effects that require hearing

Immune sleep


Offense


Speed 30 ft.

Melee dagger +4 (1d4+3/19-20) or

   mwk cold iron elven curve blade +5 (1d10+3/18-20)

Special Attacks sneak attack +1d6


Statistics


Str 14, Dex 19, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 9

Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 16

Feats Weapon Finesse

Traits rich parents, river rat (marsh or river)

Skills Acrobatics +8, Climb +6, Disable Device +10, Escape Artist +8, Perception +6 (+1 to hearing checks), Sleight of Hand +8, Stealth +8, Swim +7; Racial Modifiers +2 Perception

Languages Common, Elven

SQ arcane training, elf blood

Combat Gear antiplague, antitoxin (2); Other Gear mwk studded leather, dagger, mwk cold iron elven curve blade, chalk, earplugs, flask, flint and steel, grappling hook, masterwork backpack, masterwork thieves’ tools, silk rope (50 ft.), waterskin, 3 gp, 9 sp, 3 cp


Special Abilities


Antitoxin This substance counteracts a specific toxin. If you drink a vial of antitoxin, you gain a +5 alchemical bonus on Fortitude saving throws against poison for 1 hour.

Alchemical Power Component
Like antiplague, this substance can augment certain healing spells.
Neutralize Poison (M): Add +2 on your caster level check to neutralize poison on a target creature. Antitoxin has no effect when you cast the spell on an object.

Arcane Training +1 CL for spell trigger/completion items for favored class, or use them as if 1st level.

Earplugs +2 save vs. hearing effects, -5 hearing-based Perception.

Elf Blood Half-elves count as both elves and humans for any effect related to race.

Elven Immunities – Sleep You are immune to magic sleep effects.

Low-Light Vision See twice as far as a human in low light, distinguishing color and detail.

Sneak Attack +1d6 Attacks deal extra damage if flank foe or if foe is flat-footed.

With the Spawn

With the Spawn

I have the tendency to want to over-capitalize in blog post titles. Up above, I really want to capitalize ‘Keeping’ and ‘Busy’ because they are IMPORTANT words. If I have any grammar nerds following this blog, I could definitely use some help with figuring the proper way to do that.

That picture over there is a terrible picture of me but it is the perfect illustration of the top two things that keep me busy in the best ways possible. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My son does swimming, soccer, and rock climbing. He loves to draw. Pokémon, Super Mario, and Ben 10 are his favorite subjects. He and I play a lot of the Pokémon card game where he regularly beats the pants off of me. My daughter is growing up so fast. She is curious about everything and almost always has a smile on her face. Over the weekend was the first time she came looking for me for comfort. She has always accepted my comfort but this weekend she crawled into my lap and laid her head against me. I must be doing something right.

Work on the other hand… actually, I’m kind of loving work right now too. I’m a little stressed because the deadlines for the current project are so tight. It would be nice to have a little room to breathe. That said, this is exactly the sort of project that I like working on so I can’t complain. I won’t go into specifics but my work title is ‘Financial Systems Analyst’ so what I find exciting might not interest other people.

I was going to make an attempt at Nanowrimo next month but I already know that I’m not going to have to time to dedicate to it this year. This is really too bad because “Jesus’ Erotic Adventures in Purgatory” was going to be AWESOME.

It is also becoming more difficult to keep up with the gaming. I’ve opted to skip out of DC Gameday this year because the scheduling is so tight. I am however doing my best to keep up with my regular gaming group which is currently working its way through the intro adventure from 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. We have met up with one dragon. We ran away.

The person who hasn’t been eating up my time is the Mrs. She’s amazing and I love her dearly. We’re celebrating 11 years of marriage in a few weeks and (don’t tell her but) we’re somewhere in the range of 18 years since we started dating. She deserves special mention since she is what keeps me from going crazy. I love her so much, we’re buying each other a new dishwasher to celebrate.

Romance.

So nobody tagged me on this but I saw the post about this on Anya Breton’s Blog and I told myself that I should totally do that, especially since not a single time-travel movie was included in the list. This needs to be rectified.

I’m posting these in stream of consciousness order. As I posted each one, it would generally remind me of the next one on my list. I also adopted a ‘no peeking at the movie cabinet’ rule because that seemed against the spirit of the game.

 

Back to the Future II

Back to the Future II

Back to the Future II (1989)

Yes, I said 2. Why? Because in the second movie Marty goes BACK into the events of the first movie. That’s just awesome. Don’t get me wrong, watch the whole trilogy but the part where he’s sneaking around trying to avoid himself is what really makes it.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day (1993)

“Don’t Drive Angry!” I still say this jokingly. Groundhog day pretty much defined a whole genre of TV show knock offs. The Stargate one is perhaps my favorite.

Secretary

Secretary

Secretary (2002)

Let’s talk about how this movie is not about domination power fantasies. This is the love story of two broken people who through trial and error manage to find a relationship that not only works for them but heals them.

Wayne's World

Wayne’s World

Wayne’s World (1992)

When you’re a high school boy, sometimes you latch onto a movie in order to bond with your social group. I know some younger guys for which that movie was Anchorman. For me and my friends it was Wayne’s World.

Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Let me be clear. This is NOT a good movie but it did stick with me. Sometime in the first half hour I said to my wife. “This is terrible. Maybe there will be some lesbian sex. That’ll make it better.” It turns out that I was right. There WAS lesbian sex. In fact the whole plot was about that. Turns out I was wrong. It didn’t make it any better.

The Addiction

The Addiction

The Addiction (1995)

A little indy film about a new vampire trying to figure out her new undead existence. Christopher Walken’s soliloquy about what it means to be a vampire who has found balance is the icing on an excellent movie.

Pi

Pi

Pi (1998)

Another little Indy film. This one dealt with the power of mystical numbers and a narrator who was going crazy/gaining super powers/both/neither(?!). The secret order of mystical rabbis was a lovely touch.

South Park Movie

South Park Movie

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

I got my hands on this movie right around the time I graduated for college. I would put it on repeat while I was job hunting. I did a lot of job hunting. I blame Canada. It may have ruined Les Mis for me when I finally got around to seeing that.

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal (1981)

This became a cult classic during college. The kind of thing you would break out to indoctrinate the newbies. I only had it on VHS but I still break out the awesome soundtrack from time to time. Especially if I want to listen to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars”.

Earth girls are Easy

Earth girls are Easy

Earth Girls are Easy (1988)

This was one of my sister’s favorite movies and so I ended up watching it a lot. On top of that though was the (not-at-the-time) all star cast and the sheer campy goodness.

Manequin

Mannequin

Mannequin (1987)

Another movie that I came to through my sister. It is silly, campy, and has Estelle Getty at her absolute best. Plus I’m sure it was the events of this movie that lead James Spader to be the broken man he is in Secretary (see above).

The Frighteners

The Frighteners

The Frighteners (1996)

What is it about me and Michael J Fox films? (The Secret of My Success barely missed getting onto this list as well). This one came out of no where for me. I had no idea what to expect and what I got was a really cool mystery with a cleverly built world.

Unbreakable

Unbreakable

Unbreakable (2000)

Everyone remembers the 6th Sense but I think Unbreakable was really M. Night Shyamalan’s masterpiece. It really solidified what I imagine a low superhero setting to be like where the heroes are super, but only by comparison and they are clearly human.

Independence Day

Independence Day

Independence Day (1996)

I remember the end of this movie with the alien space ships crashing to earth. All of that technology… this is how the Robotech universe got started. I’m sure that the sequel will just be a rebuilt world fighting against another alien menace but I want to see the earth transformed by this experience. On top of that, this movie just hits all sorts of emotional high notes culminating in Bill Pullman’s speech.

The Transformers Movie

The Transformers Movie

The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

“Bah Weep Grah Nah Weep Nini Bahn!” I’m going out on a high note here. There was so much about this movie to love. Optimus Prime’s noble sacrifice. Hot Rod’s coming of age story. “You’ve got the TOUCH!” Before this movie Transformers were ‘robots’, after this movie they were ‘Cybernetic life forms’. The difference is a notable one.

5e Adventure

5e Adventure

Last weekend I came off of my gaming hiatus to play my first session of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. My group had previously played part one of the adventure that came in the Starter Kit and so joining up with them I created a 2nd level character using the free online basic rules.

Only one of the players from the last session kept his pregen character, the other player from before made a new character, and the other two of us were new. So the party make up was one halfling wizard (my character), a high elf wizard (the pregen), a dwarf cleric (built as paladin-like as possible), and a halfling rogue. It’ll be interesting to see how the characters change for next time. I got the impression that we liked our character ideas but most would be interested in tweaking the mechanics behind the character.

In general I found that the game played pretty fast but that were were slowed down by a lot of our side conversations. For instance, as good seasoned players we did our best to concentrate fire. The sleep spell however works on remaining hit points so in order to get the best spread there, it makes sense to spread out the damage and then sleep the area. This sparked a conversation about how best to work that in the future.

One of the things I look for with new systems is how well it will play with my son. I honestly don’t think that he (at 7 years old) would have the patience to go through all of character creation. Even with the basic rules limiting down choices, I found that it took me around an hour to make a character by writing him out long-hand. I’ve already found a few rough draft character generators so I’m sure that situation will be remedied fairly quickly.

In the course of adventure we made it through about three combats. The basics of play haven’t really changed in the past 14 years. Through D&D 3rd Edition, several editions a Mutants and Masterminds, Pathfinder, and now 5th Edition. You roll initiative and take turns based on the roll. Roll to-hit against AC and then determine the results. I find the consistency of it comforting. The differences are in the details.

From my so far limited perspective, the biggest change in 5e from other d20 systems is the smaller range of bonuses. There is a sense that a lower level character still has a chance of messing up a higher level foe. I look forward to playing trhough some higher levels to see how that works out in play. It does rather remind me the E6 variant on D&D where the 3rd Edition ended at 6th level. 5e is still less lethal than that was however.

So far I’m enjoying it but I haven’t had enough experience with it to see the warts yet.