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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NIGHTMARES AND SUBURBS: CHARACTER SOCIAL CLASS TABLE

                   CHARACTER  SOCIAL  CLASS

BACKGROUND  TABLE

 

I am a big fan of the “Social Origin Roll” for all my player characters in all my games. In AD&D starting money? LOL. I want the player to tell me about their character and that will be the campaign canon. You tell me that you are a scion of Royal Nobility with a valid claim for the throne, so be it. Of course, you will be on the run from your evil uncle, who deposed you after killing your dad, but as you make your way across the land and meet various former feudal vassals of your father, they will host you and they will help you with men, gold and equipment far above the “starting money” table! This is good, but players all somehow end up with comfy upper-class backgrounds, which give them more chances, than they can use, so, now everyone rolls on the social origins table. Roll low, and you will end up coming from a different place altogether.

The table below is derived from studies into social class and income conducted by the De Pew research institute and the IRS. The distribution of various classes in this table is derived directly from their statistics, some of which are listed in the End Notes. You need percentile dice to roll on this one. Social Classes are explained below. The income listed is for a FAMILY OF THREE, expressed in thousands of dollars (K) per year.

The researchers only classified social class by income, but I believe that there is another important variable, which defines the middle class and strengthens the class structure, and that is Social Stability and Support Network (SS&SN). In brief, this is the extended family structure, in which money, assets, and property has been passing from parent to child for several generations. This means family relatives possessing several homes and a business or two in the family, also various members if the extended family network having inherited sums of money from their respective parents, which they keep in savings accounts or invested in property or the assets. This kind of network provides social stability, which also serves as a safety net, which can help with transportation issues, childcare, and housing, temporary or long term should a relative lose income as a result of becoming unemployed. It is often this social safety net, which makes a difference between being working poor and being in the lower middle class. Consider for example two Mexican migrants. One stands on the street-corner and works as a day laborer or a farm laborer. He may be sleeping at a church shelter, or a boarding house, sends part of his earnings home to Mexico and the other part he spends eating and drinking beer with his buddies, when not working. The other one has his wife with him and they rent a trailer to live in and wife is unemployed, or barely employed, and she cooks meals, cleans, and walks their child to and from school. Even though they make similar wages, the one with his family in a trailer is part of the community, where he can get rides to better and more stable employment, and he is part of the community that will help him. That is the safety net that is part of social stability that defines middle class.

 

14% of the Americans are Poor, 6% are Upper class, and 80% are Middle class, which is broken as 20 Lower Middle Class, 51 Middle Class and 29% Upper Middle Class. The differences between the Poor, the Middle and the Upper classes are not just are matter of income, but also qualitative. Middle Class has the social stability and familial informal support network, poor do not. Middle Class can afford a car and some kind of rent. If the car breaks down, the middle class can, as a rule, still get to work. The poor do not have a car, or don’t have enough money to keep the car going, or had one or more DUI’s and they CAN’T have a car. The poor do not have savings or credit card cushion to fall back on in hard times, and usually can’t afford rent to live on their own. The poor are characterized by the lack of social and economic stability and lack of community roots, that would keep them in the Middle Class. Middle Class itself can be defined as making enough money to be able to afford mortgage payments on primary residence (or at least rent own place) and car payments to get steady transportation.

The Rich, or the Upper Class, have their own characteristics, which distinguish them from the Upper Middle Class, no matter how much money the Middle Class makes. One factor is that the Upper Class does not work for a salary, but earns a return on their investments. This does not necessarily mean some college drop out living in a room in his parents house investing his dad’s 401K and fancying himself a day trader. Nor does this mean some rich kid from another country, who lives in the U.S. investing his family’s money. He is most likely Upper Class in his own country, but not here. The second characteristic of the Upper Class, which distinguishes it from the Upper Middle and the Nouveau Riche is that Upper Class are rich not because of the high paying jobs they have, but they get the jobs because of who they are, because of who their families are. Nepotism is widespread, but whereas prominent middle-class families can get their kids into civil service jobs (police, firefighters) and local businesses or local politics, being of the Upper Class can open doors to Ivy League law schools, West Point or other service academies, corporate jobs with the fast track to upper management, clerkships to judges and internships at DC. They got ties that open doors.

There are two social classes not listed in the table, but which should be described to complete this picture. We are talking about the WORKING CLASS and the CAPITALISTS. Working Class are people who live pay check to pay check and who do not have any resources and who, if they lose they job, they are two or three paychecks away from homelessness. This does not mean someone drowning in debt because of poor spending habits. This means someone who barely makes enough money to live on. It is the same division as between the working poor and the lower middle class, except one can make six figures and still be working class. IT professionals making upper middle-class salaries can be considered working class, if they came from no money and until they get savings to put them in Middle Class. CAPITALISTS are not simply rich and they are not the guy with a construction business, a tow truck or a repair shop. Capitalists by definition are the ones who own the means of production – i.e., manufacturing. Someone, who owns a factory of any kind, or a machine shop, is the capitalist, people who do manufacturing overseas can also be considered Capitalists, if they are not the go-betweens, but actually own the manufacturing facility. These guys are few, and they tend to be way above the 1% in income.

 

PERMANENT WARD

This is a dramatic result to be used in the game. The character is under permanent care of the State and will always be under State observation or surveillance. You father was Hannibal Lector or a world infamous terrorist or a major underworld figure or the character is Harry Potter, or the Antichrist or Rosemary’s Baby. In the real world, if the parents are locked up for the rest of their natural lives, the child is placed with a family via adoption or is in foster care, if unadoptable, and that’s the end of the story – the child identifies with their adoptive parents and grows up as part of that family. In Nightmares and Suburbs, there is always a possibility of parents being not of this earth and of having un-natural lives. Player characters may have been in a psychiatric or a research institution or with the special guardians, from whom the character has to escape or has escaped, or was rescued by his parents’ supporters, who now take care of the character. Think Stephen King’s Firestarter. You can also play it non-weird with the character not knowing his parents and living in foster care, because both parental sides of the biological family are unfit parents.

 

UNDERCLASS

These are indigent non-working poor surviving on welfare and as part of their extended families, and who are allowed to keep their kids. If the parents were in homeless shelters and half-way houses, kids would be in foster care as in Permanent Ward. They may be working off the books and or by committing petty crime and drug dealing, but as a rule, their income hovers around the poverty line. See the rule about the Oddballs and Eccentrics for the possibility of the criminal background.

 

WORKING POOR

Researchers identify the Working Poor as full-time wage earners making at or below the poverty line (18.8K/Annum), also calling them Minimal Wage earners. Another study identifies people earning up to 2.5 times the poverty line as being especially vulnerable of sliding back into the underclass, should something happen (loss of transportation, loss of job). They also use that as their definition for the lower middle class. I split it based on the availability of the social safety net. Working Poor are struggling to get on their feet, they don’t have a social safety net save for welfare, for which they don’t qualify because of their earnings, and the job they have, for them it’s day to day you got lucky thing you are going to hold on to until your car breaks down or your rent goes up.

 

LOWER MIDDLE CLASS

Defined as the income from just above the poverty line to 2.5 the poverty line. These people struggle economically and their daily lives often resemble the working poor, put they are minimally enfranchised in society, usually belong to some form of a community and they have a better social safety net.

 

MIDDLE CLASS

These people carry the torch for the State. Their income allows them to support the economy by being able to purchase their cars and homes via loans, which they repay. They can carry the full burden of taxes and credit card debt. In fact, the full standard of living of the American middle class is predicated on their ability to carry debt, including student loans. Other than financial burden, the middle class is the most invested in society and as a result, they are the last to flee in wars and other upheavals, being tied by their families and possessions, they are the ones who get the most out of the hope that things will work out for them eventually. As such, they form the bulk of the civilian casualties in any war or genocide. Also, they form the client demographics for the right-wing dictatorship and during the civil war in Colombia, they formed the ranks of the autodefensas, rural armed militia that was formed to defend themselves against the Marxist guerillas, which eventually turned into Colombia’s right-wing paramilitaries and death squads.

 

 

UPPER MIDDLE CLASS

These are professionals, who earn 100K and above. There is really no limit. If you have to work for a living, then you are in the middle class, no matter how much you earn. There are people who talk about making “their first million” but that is mostly empty boasting. There is a talk of “fuck you money” among the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who sell their start-ups. FU money mean that you sold your company for enough money that can quit working for the rest of your life (thereby joining the upper class). In 2008, the Silicon Valley Execs bandied the sum of 8 million dollars, which is $11.4 Million in today’s money, which means that in Silicon Valley, they were accustomed to living on $342K per year. Just under the 1%.

It is very hard for the Upper Middle-Class professionals to make their wealth and retire early, because they are required to maintain the trappings of their wealth and professionalism as a condition of their success. Basically, you won’t get promoted to the next higher level on your ladder to success, unless you drive a certain type of car, wear a certain type of clothes, own a home of certain luxury in a certain location, and send your kids to a certain prep-school.  And the higher you go, the more expensive these trappings become. If you don’t follow the Joneses and you don’t wear that suit and that watch, then you won’t be seen as worthy material and the higher ups will lose their confidence in you. An upper-class professional typically carries a debt burden of five times their annual income and sometimes as high as nine times. That is why it is very hard for a highly paid professional to become a millionaire. Some highly paid investment bankers working in Hedge Funds are even required to buy a full-size yacht as a rite of their passage (and indebtedness). Consider the operating costs for the ship.

 

UPPER FRINGES

These are extended family members of the Upper-Class members. They themselves tend to have regular jobs and lead comfortable middle-class existence, however, they get the benefit of the association with a prominent family. This could mean getting into West Point or being accepted into Harvard. This can mean getting a job on the Capitol Hill as a Congressional Staffer or finding a job in the publishing industry. These people work for a living and they may not be rich in any sense of the word, but they get the maximum opportunity, social support, and good will from the upper management by virtue of their family ties.

 

UPPER CLASS

They don’t have to work for a living, unless they choose to. The trappings of wealth, which bankrupt the Upper Middle-Class is painless to them. Partly it’s associated with the corporate image they are projecting. Not all of course. South Asian millionaires, who control dozens of McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts franchises will not be wearing $100K watches or prance around in leer jets. Those, who are CEO’s Fortune 500 Companies will ride around in a luxury leer jet, but the jet will be bought and paid for by the corporation and they are projecting the company’s corporate image of wealth and power, and everything they say or do represents their company. There is one other fallacy that surrounds the Rich. Everyone assumes that they invest their wealth in a mythical portfolio on Wall Street. They have assets on Wall Street and they have Portfolio Managers working for them, it is true, but they also tend to hire several Business Managers. These look for investment opportunities in local economy – trucking companies, stores, sometimes even medical practices, and they go in as silent partners – they front the money in exchange for a percentage of the profit, usually around 15%, and some rich families have most of their disposable income come directly from small businesses they invested in. In essence their family fortune becomes a business empire.

 

OLD MONEY

These are people who are heirs to great American fortunes. They are wealthy, but often they do not have control over their wealth until they reach the middle age, say around 50, and everyone is sure that they will not lose or give away their wealth. Until then, they live on a stipend and their fortune is overseen by a Board of Trustees, which are very conservative with their money and some times they control the lives of the heirs, whose fortunes they administer – what they study in college, who they sleep with (supposedly) as well as financial decisions. If they want to buy a house, they have to apply to the board of trustees who may deny the request, because the house is too expensive, too extravagant, or for some other reason.

They have certain traditional aristocratic values, which reflect on their lifestyle. They have to build character, which means that they take to sailing (sports yachts) or they climb mountains, or they serve their country, typically as a military pilot, in intelligence, or as a diplomat. At times they also strive to live a simple life, as Henry David Thoreau, living in the woods or on the ranch, and doing manual labor there. This is in stark and sharp contrast to the Upper Middle Class, which tend to establish themselves by showing how much money they have. Rich foreign students in Manhattan all have their parents’ Platinum American Express cards, and everyone is invited to go hanging out with them, they tend to go Dutch and cost for the evening racks up thousands of dollars. Regular American kids sometimes tag along and end up burned with what they charge on their credit cards, and to talk about the money, id of course, vulgar in that company.

 

ODDBALLS AND ECCENTRICS

Not everyone conforms to values and traditions of their social class. You got professional criminals collecting disability and welfare dads working off the books. You have trust fund babies from the old money teaching in the inner-city schools and living with room-mates. You have respectable doctors living as bohemians and single mom secretaries centering their lives around the healing powers of crystals and unicorns.

When people are isolated and under stress, they tend to go off the deep end and invent strange and wonderful alternative belief systems and conspiracy theories to explain the complexities and patterns of their world, not to mention the real force of the supernatural in Little Fears’ setting. People who can’t afford health care will believe in alternative medicine. Societies evolve. Like serpents, they cast off their old skins, moving forward and leaving the past behind. When the past is left on the dust-bin of history, it leaves behind people whose jobs, ways of thinking and ways of living become obsolete. These people often end up becoming eccentrics, once the experience of their entire lives becomes invalid and obsolete. The rest of the worlds experiences these changes every 60 or 80 years. In the United States, these changes are GENERATIONAL – every 20 or 30 years, and coincidentally, United States has the highest concentration of people whose job skills and industries become obsolete after they invested their adult lives into it, about 22-24%.

To account for this in Nightmares and Suburbs, if you roll a Prime Number on your Social Class Roll, your parents can be considered to have been non-conformists to their social class. Prime Numbers are given below the table.

 

DIE ROLL
SOCIAL CLASS
INCOME
00
PERMANENT WARD
NIL
01-06
UNDERCLASS
+/- $18.8K
07-14
WORKING POOR
UP TO $47K
15-30
LOWER MIDDLE CLASS
18.8K TO 47K
31-67
MIDDLE CLASS
$47K TO $100K
68-93
UPPER MIDDLE CLASS
$100K +
94-97
UPPER FRINGES
$200K +
97-98
UPPER CLASS
$390K +
99
OLD MONEY
OUT OF SIGHT

 

Prime Numbers to 100:

1,2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29,31,37,41,43,47,53,59,61,67,71,73,79,83,89,97.

 

END NOTES:

- $18.8K is the Poverty Line.

- If your salary is $100K and above, you are in the top 10% of the highest paid individuals in EARNED INCOME.

- Upper Middle Class income range is $100K - $150K.

- 6.1% od Americans claim to be living off their investments.

- 10% of Americans claim to be millionaires. Current annual sustainable interest off a million-dollar investment is $30K. Not enough to live on. To live at the Upper Middle-Class level off your investments, you need a fortune of 4 million dollars or more.

- 14% of Americans are living at or below the poverty line.

- $390K per year is the minimum income that would classify you as being “The One Per-Cent”

- According to the IRS study done in 1992 and adjusted for today, the cost for providing for an upper middle-class household with a mortgage, a single car, and two school age children, where reasonable thrift is practiced and all the needs are met, and no credit cards are used, is $140K. The rest can be reliably banked into savings.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

NEW YEAR'S EVE IN MIDLANDS

The day was cold and gray, but the students were busy and worked to exhaustion without knowing it. They spent the day building a tower and a section of the ramparts, life-sized, made of snow and solidified into ice with buckets of water. There was a circular stairway through the mock up tower and sawdust was spread everywhere so that they could practice fencing and not worry about slipping on ice. Greyhead, they fencing instructor in charge of the school had a few ideas to teach them on taking of walls and fighting their way up the towers. The wall would last three months or so, and then he would have them demolish it with a battering ram.
At the end of the day was the New Year's feast. This year he would be serving his students swan and hare. He could hunt any game he wants, and he could serve it to anyone he pleases, he could wear purple and had it in his coat of arms. He had it in the checkered pattern on his shield - dark purple and robin's egg blue squares, signifying the purity of his innocense and his house's royal lineage. A master swordsman with innocence in his soul and an open table. Everyone wanted to come to his feasts, but only his fencing students were invited, but they could bring a friend with them to dance, only few men at arms danced and few did.
Val had a cup of hot grog for anyone coming in from the cold and snow-building was play, not work, so anyone could go inside to get warm at any time, though again, few did, unless he went inside himself. Now he was sitting at the head of the table in stockinged feet and undershirt, over which he was wearing his breastplate. He did not have a ceremonial suit of armor despite being a knight errant with a retinue of his own, instead, he had his familial coat of arms subtly hammered into his breast plate, which he wore into battle. Being the only one in the entire barony to aford such craftsmanship, his field plate was his ceremonial armor.
Now he sat at the head of the table, brooding over his grog while the junior students were setting the feast under Val's direction. Gone were the healer, the magician and the priest. His best friend and confidant, his own healer, kept spendign more and more time attending to whining peasants until he stopped attending his fencing practice and now he did not know where he was. The priest went back to his seminary, but Greyhead suspected that he took his share of the loot and went back to his father, a tailor in some far away town. The magician, too, seemed to have gone to a semionary to get better acquainted with Christianity. And now he lost Xadas, his lead student, but hopefully not forever.
Xadas, a mere ditch digger's son, met Val and him some years ago at a county fair, where Greyhead was taking on all comers with a wooden sword, all for a few coins to spend at a taverns. Xadas behaved like a street rogue, which he wasn't, actually a barely literate laboreer with a string back, who strived to improve his lot by becoming a swordsman of the froetier, and in Greyhead, he saw his golden chance. First, he became a studious student and his manservant, then he developed consciensciousness and initative in his practice, and took Val. Not that Greyhead saw it coming or reacted affronted, for who could be affronted by a mere tavern wench, albeit one who slept with guild magicians to learn their magic and looking fifteen years or so youngerm than she actually was. Xadas, of course, could see none of it and charged in, becoming a genuine swordhand along the way.
Now he wanted more action than just leading class in practice and openign and closing the place. Few controlled adventures, to which Greyhead exposed his students were not enough. Finally, a well to do local brewer popular among the craftsmen called a meeting at his Christmas Feast. Xadas and Val were invited, and of course Grayhead himself. The four of them went into the Brewmaster's sitting room. A long haired elf and a foreign looking merchant joined them. A rich merchant's daughter was taken for ransom in a large fishing village not to far away and taken to a hideout at a ruined tower. The reward of several thousand gold pieces will be theirs if they can dispose of the kidnappers and put an end to this problem. Xadas was all for it, but Greyhead pulled Val and didn't let her go. The three of them went outside and Greyhead told Xadas that he thought the adventure will be too much for Val, and that there was another Magician at the party, the rich one the scion of a trading house, already in a guild and with many more spells, than Val. Xadas stared at him, and nodded his understanding. There was nore than understanding, there was bovine trust, that can make some people squeamish. Stupid or not, Xadas trusted that Greyhead was only concerned with Val's safety and nothing else. It was decided right there and then, but Val was unhappy.
Riding home took the better part of the Christmas Day. She didn't argue with him as much as she pushed him for the explanation. They all adventured together, and now they were his liveried servants in name only, but was it in name only? Didn't he just assert his rank and ordered Xadas to proceed without her? There had to be more to the situation than meets the eye, he patiently explained to her. Why would a merchant travel at least half-way around the known worldfor the sake of some ruin used as a temporary refuge by some bandits. The Elf was a naive local yokel, who could handle the bandits, but not enough for whatever awaited that merchant down below. Why else would he travel for twod ays and bring a fair haired e;f along to sing the story to them? Xadas was a competent swordsman, who could handle himself, but Val was just a self-taught magician, and he, Greyhead wasn't going, nor was his priest or his healer. Val's eyes widened. Why didn't you tell all this to him? It wouldn't matter to him, he shrugged. I respect him too much as a warrior to try to talk him out of this. He saw in her face that she wasn't believing him. The merchant mage's family paid a lot of gold to that town's Warch to bring recover his body and bring the remains to them should anything go wrong. He said. I dd the same thing for Xadas. They will bring him back to me and I will bring him back, even if I have to go and get him myself. He said. Her mouth dropped open. He is not my best student, he said, but he is best assistant, and you love him." He stared at her as if he said nothing. Her mouth dfropped open and they rode the rest of the way in sulence.
Greyhead waited until the table was sat and everyone took their seat, and then he strated eating. There was mulled wine and cold water and more grog, and then the Christmas carolers came and started playing dance music, and a few got away from theit food to curtsie and dance. Grey saw that Val was beckoning him on the dance floor. He gave her a nod and got up from the table.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Friday, December 9, 2016

THE WINE OF THE DROW ELVES

While on topic of Elven food, I came up with something nifty, wine that Drow Elves pay a lot of money to drink. Made by Drow Elves of the Underdark from surface ingredients expensive in the underwold, this wine is either made from almonds, apple seeds, or cherry pits. In keeping with the traditions of antiquity of our own world, this wine is fermented by a Drow non-magicsl process unknown to us, and then distilled so as ti refine its aromatic essence, this drink is known among the Necromancers as Leichwein, because it is one of the ingredients in making the potion to send a would be Lich into eternal existance. Among the scholars of the Underdark, this drink is known as Pit Wine of the Drow, since it is made form the seeds and the pits of the stone fruit, not the Pits of the Underdark, how laymen imagine it. Among the Drow, this wine is known as Almondine, of it is made from Almonds, Apple Green, if made from apple seeds, and Cherry Deep, if made from cherry pits. Almondine appears a clear liquid with a slight aroma of bitter almonds. Those with artistic talent will [erceive a barely noticeable green hue across the wine surface. Drow aficionadoes will claim that you can tell thhe high queslity Almondine because no two glimpses of that hue will be of the same shade.If one is trying to whiff the aroma of these wines, the smell will become sweeter, then cloyingly saccarine, then will make one nauseous and will make your head spin and you might even faint. Ironically, the Apple Green has no color at all. You can't see it, but you have the fragrant aroma of fresh apples, faint at first. And it is that aroma that the Drow connoseurs fall over. Cherry Deep has its own unique aroma as well, what the Drow think our cherries smell like, but it smells nothing like it. Most people won't amell anything, those whi can smell cyanide will smell bitter almonds. Drow Elves prize Cherry Deep for its powerful intoxication. Despite its complex aroma, Drow Wine tastes awful to humans. One sip will make you nauseus and give you a powerful buzz, two sips and you will be fighting to keep from passing out. Thirs sip, or a large gulp, and you will most likely pass out and die. The Elves, on the other hand, enjoy its intoxication. Like alcohol to humans, these wines serve to loosen the Drows' inhibition, making them more capable of enjoying themselves, making them more arrogant,.more reckless, morfe violent and more sadistic, more cruel among each other at their high fancy social gatherings. Drow wine has a different, but simlar effect on the surface Elves, who consume it. Surface Elves get drawn to its powerful aromas and subtle flavors and easily get addicted to it. The effect of the Drow wine intoxication on the individual Elf must depend on the elf's personality. On intellectual introverts it acts like LSD, mesmerizing them into catatonic stupor, from which they do not want to emerge. Drow wine has the effect of the PCP on the aggressive warrior leaders among the surface Elves. On the extraverts, it has a peculear effect not observed among the men. Elves, who tend to be socially outgoing, lose their inhibitions and all awareness of themselves as they set off to gratify their basest needs in the most desperate and immediate manner possible. Some haters of Elves among men have wryly commented that Drow Wine turns Elves into desperate sluts. In the surface world, Drow wine is as highly sought by humans in the know, as it is by the Drow themselves, except on the surface it is much, much more expensive. There are connoseurs of Drow Wine among humans, the Kingly set, who like to experiment with it, and this non-magical substance is highly sought after by all sorts of wizard who use it for study ad to make powerful potions from it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

CHESS PLAYING CENTAURS AND THE GOBLIN LIFECYCLE

Once upon a time, a certain bit of Artificial Intelligence (AI), dedicated to playing chess has defeated a standing chess champion named Gary Kasparov. That was a first, at the time. Gary Kasparov complained that the computer had the analysis of every move ever made in any historic chess game at its disposal. No human player had that during a match. Kasparov went on to fund a freestyle chess league, where everything went - humans, computers playing each others, teams of players, and teams on players aided by AI. Today, any human chess player who is aided by AI is called a Centaur. Centaurs are the strongest players - consistently defeating both, the human and the AI players.

Historically, Centaurs were invented by the Myceans of the Ancient Greece, after they were invaded by horsemen - i.e. enemy warriors mounted on horsemen. Incidentally, other cultures invaded from horseback, also invented their own Centaurs. To them, Centaurs were real. Monsters were real in the ancient and medieval world, explained by means not available to the minds that invented them. So, the medieval and ancient worlds were rife with the Werewolves, Vampires and Witches, just as today's world is rife with today's monsters who scare people today, just as they did centuries ago. Today we have terrorists, serial killers, drug dealers, and child molesters. All of these exist, all of these are criminals who often perpetrate terrible and awful things, and just as in the past, the general public has a little or no knowledge as to the nature of the beast.

Werewolves were simple, by the standards of today - These were woodsmen, peasants living in the wilderness and their families, who learned to murder lone strangers on deserted roads, murder them, rob them, and take their valuables, disposing of the bodies. Few bothered with a stranger, unless they were noblemen, and nobody suspected anyone, who didn't have a personal connection to the victim. Of course, folks who murder and engage in predatory violence, develop predatory stares, which tends to unsettle others, hence the alien-ness that grew into a werewolf myth. Another name for a werewolf would be an economic serial killer. These proliferated well into 19th Century, where a friendly old lady inn keeper might poison her lone customers so as to enrich themselves. Witches of old, serial killer nurses of today, who intentionally kill patients in their care for whatever kicks that gives them.

Some of the most common creatures in D&D, such as Giants and the Dragons, have been imbued with philosophical and mythical meaning by the cultures that created them. Unfortunately mainstream D&D has none of it. Initially, it was a tactical miniature wargame, and the creatures were the mythological pawns for the battlefield, but then it became a more sophisticated role playing game with serious dramatic, plot and political elements, but the monsters did not grow up with the game, and it even retained its racist and/or colonialist tropes well into its Fifth Edition. Consider the way the game divides the non-human bipedal races into Demi-Humans, equal to or superior to humanity, and into Humanoids, sub-human and bestial.

When conceptualizing Midlands, in 2003 or so, I thought about making it a humans-only campaign precisely to avoid the racial stereotyping and race as character tendencies inherent in AD&D, which was superior in every other way to every other fantasy role playing game that I was considering for the campaign ruleset. Along the way I was deciding if I was going with no magic/low magic or with the standard AD&D magic spell system. Ultimately I decided in favor of realistic diversity and complexity, which meant that the human race had plenty of competition from other sentient species, some almost human, some not at all, and I came up with physics and cosmology for the campaign, that allowed spell-casting and I replaced the artificial concept of a level with a realistic concept of "Complexity", and thus, a first level Magic User can potentially learn a Fireball spell, but due to its complexity and lack of readiness on part of the novice Magic User, it will take a long long time to get the spell down, with a great teacher at the side, and chances of getting the spell are pretty slim, on the order of 2-5% per six months of full time study, but in theory, you can have a first level magic user throwing fireballs.

Regarding the non-human races, whether Elves and Dwarves, or Goblins and Orcs, I came up with suitable ideas for their origins, and I am sticking to the notions of the Pig-Faced Orcs, Pointy Eared Elves and Bearded Dwarves. I have also developed suitable ideas for the Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears. I was always fascinated as to what was the nature and differences of these three related creatures. Crappy work aside, I wanted to know if there was more to them, than the crappy artwork and varying degrees of Hit Dice to power these creatures. I worked out these creatures for myself, but I wanted to see what the official line was, so I stopped at one of the last few remaining Barnes and Noble bookstores to see what the Fifth Edition Monster Manual said about the Goblinoids.

I was quite disappointed, because nothing new has been added since the first edition. The Goblins are ruin rats, living in the darkness of caves and looted dungeons, sometimes riding wolves and breeding rats for household pets. They are weak and tend to be enslaved by the bigger Hobgoblins and Bugbears. Goblins are pictures as hook-nosed caricature of indiscernible origin, with large tubular ears, the kind plastic surgeons will modify for a fee. Next up are the Hobgoblins, they are bigger, stronger and better organized, than Goblins, and they fight an eternal war against the Humans and the Elves. Their identity is their military service. They have the same ugly faces as Goblins, but tend to wear their hair in a medieval Japanese topknot and are drawn dressed like the medieval Japanese men at arms. Interesting. Next, the Bugbears. These are big brutes, vaguely reminiscent of the great Bears, of course, these are cowardly and cunning, large sized and moving quickly. Again, these are portrayed as unidentifiable beast-men. We have one other interesting bit about the D&D Goblinoid race: Their armies are massed outside the human kingdoms, which serve as origins of the player characters. So, the Goblinoids are the literal D&D incarnation of the vilified enemies engaged in a war against the kingdom to which the player characters belong. The more interesting question is, why aren't PC's slaughtering human opponents, why are they looting and pillaging dehumanized humanoid enemies, evil by definition, to which the 5th Edition Monster Manual refers as an it? Could it be that the D&D writers are unknowingly perpetuating the stereotypes of the bygone era? I may be reading too much into a simple fantasy game, but the D&D writers also unknowingly perpetuate another dynamic, that of the weak and the dispossessed tribes. Consider that the Native American name Adirondack, means Bark Eater, at one time give pejoratively to a band of Native Americans who were forced out by other Native American tribes into a barren stretch of land, where they couldn't feed themselves. 

Goblins, dwelling in caves and looted dungeons, filthy and ready to eat anything, ripe for enslavement by stronger others, sound a lot like a dispossessed weaker indigenous nation forced to live in a barren or non-productive area by stronger tribe. Furthermore, Goblins correspond to the weaker member of the tribe - the elderly and the young, the last ones to take food at the table, the bottom of the pecking order, the ones living in most squalor and poverty. Eventually, some of the little goblins grow into adulthood, pick up spears and other soldierly accoutrements, and morph into martial Hobgoblins. With years, some of the Hobgoblin soldiers, or Braves, develop into Warriors and capable leaders of men...er Hobgoblins into battle. Notice how the Bugbears are imbued with the attributes of a capable warrior - they are large, intimidating, they are strong, as warriors should be, and they are also deceptively quick, in other words cunning, Speed is what makes a fighting pro, as well as all those other Bug-Bear-ish attributes, and the Alpha-Male-esque language of barely legible grunts, growls and hollers. The Life-Cycle of a Goblin.
    

Saturday, June 11, 2016

THE CONTEXT OF THE MIDLANDS CAMPAIGN

A couple of days ago, Noisms posted an interesting article in his Monsters and Manuals blog. It deals with the cultural context in which D&D emerged in the U.S. in the 1970's and 1980's and measures it against the cultural kitsch of the Tiki escapism. The post is here.

I just want to add, that Tiki was not all kitsch to the California people, who enjoyed it. This was late 1940's and 1950's, those dudes fought a horrifying and a brutal war in the Pacific, and when they came back, they got engineering degrees on the G.I. Bill and took on well paying engineering job in the Aerospace industry. In the meantime, they were enjoying themselves, and their social privilege, such as that they had, and having money and enjoying the world of sex, shiny cars, booze, and tobacco. And escaping into Tiki bars, lifiting weights on the muscle beach, and surfing, and martial arts and occasional bouts of eastern philosophy, that was just staring to take hold on the left coast. To their hippie offspring, they became squares, but they themselves were simply enjoying life after not dying in the horror of the Pacific. Skip a few years into the future, and you get a fairly decent, I enjoyed it, article about the context of D&D, and then Noisms wrote about his unique context of his D&D in 1994, and I got to thinking about my 1994 and the context of my D&D, The Midlands, and here it is:


D&D was on an eleven year hiatus for me in 1994. I started playing in 1981 with the Tom Moldvay Red Box basic set, when I was 13. It was a model hobby shop that sold it to me. I had no idea what it was, I ran a newspaper route for the guy, little did I know that I worked for next to nothing. The guy sold me the Basic Set and went out of business the next day. I heard of D&D scare among the parents and teachers and knew nothing else. By 1985 I was into Gygax’s AD&D 1st Edition.

I went to seventh grade at the IS 145 in New York, and they had a temporary building to handle the overcrowding. Someone painted a mural along the entire length of the temporary building facing he school playground. It was a mural depicting a panorama of the gray lakeshore and heavy pine forest featuring dark greens and browns. There was a silhouette of a castle in the distance against the backdrop of grey mountain peaks, and there were dragons! There was Red Dragon, and there was a Green Dragon, and there was a Blue Dragon and a Black Dragon. They were not life-size dragon drawings, as the temporary building was only one story tall, but they were definitely larger than man-size. In one corner, instead of the artist’s name, someone signed it simply as “Dungeons and Dragons”. The year was 1979-1980. I looked at it and was mystified, every time I went to that playground during lunch. So, to me, D&D was always about the Wilderness, the Exploration, and the Mystery, and dungeon building and room stocking was a guilty pleasure. That is why I always write my own adventures and settings to DM.

I quickly got disillusioned with D&D, because it did not have a realistic combat system, combat is never linear, and moved on to other games. I owned pretty much everything that came out between 1982 and 1988. AH Runequest, Man Myth and Magic, Espionage! Gamma World, hated Top Secret as unrealistic, Escape From New York was my favorite movie and Aftermath and Twilight 2000 (first edition), were my favorite two games. Also had Call of Cthulu and Chill! which was like Cthulu Lite. Somewhere there also were the Illuminati card game, and Car Wars and Battletech, both quasi-RPG’s. Met dedicated martial artists in high school, who were religiously playing the Iron Crown’s Character Law, Arms Law, Claw Law, Spell Law series of books, each was hard bound and cost a fortune, I couldn’t afford, so I never got into it. In the military I ran into a bunch of much older guys playing GURPS and talking how Steve Jackson’s ex-wife was driving him nuts and taking his money. By 1992 I got my college degree and found my first professional job. Idiot that I was, I gave away my treasure trove, thinking I will have a career and not enough time for D&D!

I never really stopped playing CRPG’s at home late at night, starting with the Gold Box games, and moving on to the Baldur’s Gate and Fallout, when they first came out. When Fallout 3 came out, it was transformed into a first-person shooter, and I didn’t like it any more. In 2003, I found some friends and decided to start gaming again. I thought for a while, decided on D&D, though a while longer, decided that between all of the versions, I will get into Gygax AD&D first edition, but it will be mixed with Runequest skill system and Vancian Magic had to go – not enough action for the Magic Users, also MU’s can learn the sword and the light crossbow, if they spend skill slots on them. Historically, the crossbow was the rule changer. It took a British Yeoman a lifetime to learn the Longbow, but the crossbow can be taught anyone in 1-3 days, and a mere untrained man can punch through a knight’s breast plate at a close range. For that reason, Crossbows were banned in the British Isles. Magic User with a Crossbow reflects that reality. I got everything ready and ran the first session in 2006.

Regarding music, it is a part of my writing process as a soundtrack to a movie. I have invented stories for songs, and found songs that complement the story. The first D&D Midlands campaign ran from 2006 to 2009, and I made a music CD for the with the songs to match the key moments in the story and in the game. It is an eclectic mix of obscure stuff and some unreleased cafĂ© bardic music. I like all of the songs, naturally; the players inevitably found a song or two that knocked their socks off, but did not like as much the collection as a whole. Notable songs on it were – Ashes to Ahes, live, by Steve Earle; Rainmaker, Sand and Blood, The Amulet by Planet P; Take Another Look, by The Cars; Still I Am Sad instrumental version by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow; Ice by Medeski Martin and Wood; Black Blue White by Wang Chung, and Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme) by The Tangerine Dream (that’s a 1977 tonka truck jungle adventure movie, not anything magical. This music sounds so scary and unsettling, I matched it to the moment, where the players burst into the Necromancer’s laboratory and discover evidence of human experimentation. One of the major treasure troves in this adventure was a set of antique silver vivisection tools that could be worth a small fortune to a Necromancer, unfortunately if the players were to get caught in possession of said tools, it would be the hangman’s noose for them. It never crossed he players’ minds, that the surgical tools can be valuable, and they did not take them.)




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

RPG PUNDIT BEING A POSER AND A COWARD

RPGPundit loves to insult others in the name of protecting hate speech. RPGPundit revels in Latin American racism and celebrates the fact that there are bigots at his Wild West game who like Cubans and look down on Mexicans, because they are darker people. That is what he wrote on his blog entry.

RPGPundit reviewed a Spanish role-playing game, called Walkure, which fetishizes Nazi imagery into cosmos and features an alternative history line, where Nazis won WW2. RPGPundit's review was remarkably restrained, tolerant, and well behaved, where he praised the production value of the game, where he could, and did not raise any moral or ethical issues of the game that celebrates Nazi Germany. Don't get me wrong, I would have reviewed the game, if anyone asked me, but I would have written on how the Jews and East Europeans are treated in the game. In his review of the game, RPGPundit showed remarkable ignorance of history, when it comes to Spain's neutrality in WW2 and of Franco's negotioations with Hitler during his attempt to get the Spain into the war on the Axis side.

In light of RPGPundit's self-proclaimed commitment to free speech, it comes as a surprise, that he gave a short shrift on his RPG game website to some supposed neo-nazis, who wanted to talk about some role-playing game, which apparently features a race war. Such self-censorship on RPGPundit's part is amazing, when you consider that everyone is entitled to free speech, especially those hated and ostracized by society at large. I despise any racism, prejudice, fascism, as well as authoritarianism, but I would have allowed the conversation to discuss the merits and flaws of the game, including its racism, so long as the discussion did not degenerate into slander and racism.

This is over RPGPundit's head, or more precisely, RPGPundit does not believe in free speech. RPGPundit's only purpose in blogging is to promote his writing, and he shies away from anything that would hurt the sales of his games. Any real or imagined association with Neo-Nazism may certainly do that, and so RPGPundit will give up on his commitment to freech speech, if he had any to begin with, for the sake of his bottom line.

He banned me from his blog, because I remarked that the Social Darwinist underpinnings of his Livertarianism and his disdain, for what he considers to be weak and decadent Western youth of the authoritarian mindset and of thinking in Nazi Germany. Nobody would overreact to a comment like that, unless it applied to them.

What prompted me to write about him today, was not his reprehensiveness, but his trashing of the Appendix N, in the Gary Gygax's Dungeon Master's Guide as totally useless. On the surface, this is more of RPGPundit's saying shit to draw attention to himself for the purposes of controversy and self-promotion, but underneath the surface, there are several reasons for him attacking the Appendix N.

RPGPundit will attack anything to make himself stand apart for the sake of name recognition and notoriety, he believes will promote his writing. He is too young and came the hobby in a different country and does not understand the significance of the fantasy books in the Appendix N on the conceptualization of the game. Underlying this is his position that D&D is just a game with no significance beyond the die rolling experience of the game. He does not understand that most people have a more complex relationships with their fantasy worlds. People typically invest a portion of themselves in the role-playing experience, and often grow and strengthen their identity as a result of that. There is hard scientific research that proves at least this much, not to mention the intangibles such as inspiration, escapism, and vicarious learning.

I believe that RPGPundit has this hardline position for two reasons (beyond making the grab for the OSR Torch-bearer). Fits reason is that he exists in Uruguay, a different country, where Catholicism is part of political ideology. He has a working relationship with some youth development center or such state run organization, and he may not want to scare the conservative powers that be with weirdness that can be associated with role-playing.

The second reason is that he wants to keep his potential competition ignorant. He made a statement, that the players can use the random adventure generation tables for inspiration, but not the books in the Appendix N, that inspired those tables. He can not be that stupid, so I am guessing that this is deliberate, so that no budding writer can threaten him. You read a bunch of sword and sorcery books, you might think out of the box. RPGPundit has used his knowledge of the comparative religions to his advantage to create a unique setting for his OSR clones. This gives his games the edge over competition.

However, one thing I noticed, is that his games lack spirituality and mysticism, or any sense of the unknown. His game set in Ancient India, has no mystery I associate with Ancient Indian religion and philosophy. His second game, dealing with witchcraft, treats the Cults of Chaos as Satanic and any deviatiomn from the Mother Church as a Heresy in the same way, that a medieval inquisition might view it. RPGPundit is probably too ignorant to know how and why the medieval inquisition actually functioned, but he penned a great game based on occult, where witch-hunting is justified, and witches have the evil powers, that were ascribed to them in the middle ages. I find that deeply disturbing. As a contrast to his ancient india game, I am actually aware of the 1960's hippie commune, that was centerd around the teachings of an Indian guru, who created a theater production company, to introduce the audience to concepts and idea oof the ancient indian religion and philosophy (ZBS Productions, Meatball Fulton) They did a number of radio shows into 1980's, that featured Space and Haunted Houses and explorations a la Indiana Jones). Their last offering was an early CRPG style text adventure in the early 1980's. This is exactly the opposite direction from what RPGPundit is doing. The real question is whether this behavior on RPGPundit's part is deliberate or he genuinely doesn't get it.

What I find fascinating, is that RPGPundit claims to be an occultist, a free mason, and a scholar in comparative religion studies, who has participated in esoteric rituals and has explored his past lives. He has got to be a poser, who does not really believe in anything. One thing that sets apart spiritual leaders from any tradition, is their universal kindness and tolerance of others. RPGPundit does not tolerate much, so his claims of religious enlightment are bullshit. The other thing that fascinates me about RPGPundit, is that here is a man, who claims to be an occultist, and yet he publishes a game, where occult is reduced to something inherently evil, something to be burned at the stake. How can anyone live in a free and democratic society, and betray his faith and his ideals like that? Either RPGPundit is utterly spineless and will do anything to get published, or he is so cynical that he doesn't believe in anything, and it's all an act with him.




Thursday, June 2, 2016

STORY GAMING STRIKES AGAIN


I ran the second game this Memorial Day Weekend. It was great, but it turned out a one-shot deal. Next time we get together will most likely be sometime in October. We played the game over the course of two day between watching reality TV, bouts of drinking, BBQ, and action movies.



My character generation and introduction are story-games. I think that someone has defined role-playing as consensus reality building, and this is what it turns out to be, a process, where DM and the player mediate and come turn with the setting, the player's desire and the die roll results.



Not only have the characters turned out to be amazing, but the older vets playing pushed the game way in the different direction. I thought that they would all want to be warriors, but behaved otherwise. The Alpha remained a warrior. I told everyone to come up with a basic character story that would fit in with the Alpha. Alpha rolled first and ended up with a STR 16 fighter, who had most scores over 12 and the lowest was 12. I told Alpha that his father was a full time house warrior and that his PC spent his life (short 17 years) practicing to be a warrior. Alpha immediately set up the group - Red is a best friend for life, they work out together, Wraith is the kid always getting into trouble (wink and a nod, a thief), Stephan is the kid whom Alpha defends from bullies (a bookish Magic User or a Cleric, anyone?), and the last player was the kid he practice archery with.



After much conversation, die rolling and picking of cards a la fortune telling, I ended up with four dynamite player characters. Leader if the pack was Solla Tere, baptized into Christianity as Exavier, known as SAVIOR, because he rescues people from bullies. This is a well-off fighter, son of a sergeant at arms, who believes himself to be a descendant of a legendary half-elf mercenary, a character in the fantasy novel that the player is writing, and indeed, THE SAVIOR is a striking 5'7" 200 lbs. strapping youth with natural platinum blond hair and steel-grey eyes, who can dance with girls, and is skilled with the long sword, long bow, dagger, and weapon and shield fighting style. He uses chain mail armor, like a typical man at arms and is skilled in Outdoors survival and Horseback Riding. It seemed to me, and thus became part of Midlands canon, that the parents (themselves of humble origins) spent their lives preparing THE SAVIOR to be a squire at the Baron's Court.



RED, Savior's best friend turned out to be of humble origins, a laborer's son. A tall and skinny youth with shaggy red hair, who decided to live by the sword and that he will never work in his life, and who sees violence as a means to that end. A dark character, but a straightforward fighter.



STEPHAN was a surprise. This was a natural 18(85) STR character with all other stats above average and a social standing slightly above Savior's. Now, how does someone like that get bullied? Answers came gradually from other rolls. There was a miniscule chance, but Stephan's father turned out to be a high-level adventurer. His random non-adventure skills were Gardner and Cook. I decided that Stephan was born out of wedlock to a local woman, sired by a fencing master from another and culturally different warrior house. The father never abandoned his son, but he set him up a good six-hour ride away from his own home. Stephan's father is well regarded as a go-to fencing instructor by the local men at arms and thus Stephan started getting trained by them as well as by his father, who trained him as a 2 Handed sword specialist and prepared him for Plate Mail Armor. When not practicing, Stephan helps his mom and grandma in the Garden and helps his grandfather, who is the Chief Cook at the local manor house. Stephan is another blond beast, also tall, who was bullied by others as a child, because he was different, also because he was shy, soft, and a fatherless bastard, according to some. Stephan grew up into a withdrawn squire, who writes poetry, practices martial arts, and lives Chivalric code and courtly graces.   



WRAITH turned out another fighter, fascinated by demons (Midlands is essentially a frontier bordering on alien and demonic), and with a low charisma of 6. His random non-adventuring trade was animal husbandry. I was thinking, maybe, life-energy, Necromancer (a big deal in Midlands - Assassins, Slavers, and Necromancers), but the player was nice and not really a dark type. Then he picked Chaotic Neutral for his alignment and the die was cast. WRAITH was getting into trouble not because he was stealing or being a bad boy; he was getting into trouble, because of his abrasive personality and talking weird stuff. Here was a guy, his hands stained with the blood of farm animals and horses that he helped deliver, talking demons and obsessing about cleanliness! That was the source of his problems, and I made the character a Fighter/Self-Taught Magic User, an Abjurer (protective spells), practicing traditional White Magic. Player had no clue as to any of that, but I had him pick a protective spell and told him that he wants to advance any further as a Magic User, he will have to dedicate gamin, time, gp and effort in pursuit of that goal.



WOLF turned into another dark character. He had to be superior in Archery to Savior, and he rolled a natural 18 for DEX. He wanted to be an Archer specialist, so I made him into a Fighter/Thief. His background dovetailed naturally into Outdoorsiness - a Forester's son. Player picked short-sword and spear as his other weapons, and a bunch of outdoors skills. Other players assumed that WOLF is an outdoorsman and a fighter. WOLF is the only outsider in the group. he is 22, but he is passing himself as a 19 year old, to better fit in with the 17-19 other characters. Based on player's inclinaton and if the game went in that direction, I think that the player would have joined the Assassins Guild. Players have caught the hint, that there is more to wolf, but they aren't familiar with D&D concepts, and none of them, really cared.



Anyway, this older group rolled better and produced more colorful characters, that my regular group. Players too, pulled this game into an unexpected direction. I was going to run them through the Journey to the Rock Module. Sort of Outdoorsy, nice, but also D&D kitsch from 1984. I had to make it fit into Midlands. I decided to keep the corny names, such as the Krayzen Mountains and the Wizard named Arkayz, which sounds suspiciously like a 1980's chain of movie theaters. So, I decided that Out West in Midlands is a kingdom called MLODY AVOT, an anagram of Tom Moldvay, where all of the Basic D&D Elves and Dwarves and corny names and modules from 1980's are going to live. I wrote the City of Tuma into the setting and added a new nation to Midlands Campaign - a nation of Greckland (Old English for Greece) that sits south of 'Avot.



I wrote the module into the setting and further developed the different types of terrain that players will cross during the adventure, to make the outdoors adventure more vivid and to enable characters to explore off trail. I also created an end-of the line frontier large village cum town of Vilna.


Essentially it is a sprawling prosperous village that grew into a large town or a small city. I needed the place with all its interesting venues so that the players can recruit a Cleric and a Magic user for the adventure. They forgot about the Thief, but there were a couple of clandestine thieves as it were. The Patron of the adventure needed some fresh and unknown faces to recover the objective of the module, and so he contacted a wealthy merchant from a land a month's journey away by horseback. If the patron can resettle the City of Tuma, locked in a dimensional warp of sorts, he would be able to claim the region as an instant landed baron, the area will become a colony of Midlands and the Baron Of Blacklands will become the overlord of the area. To make that possible, he provided the merchant with the most promising future squires and men at arms that he could find - SAVIOR, RED, STEPHAN, WRAITH, and WOLF. He also made the merchant aware, that the merchant need not return should anything unfortunate befall the four.



The essence of the Midlands campaign is that it is a frontier  region to an alien world. On this side of the world, the humanity is holding the alien tide back for the corrupt and oppressive Ancient Realms of Humanity. On the other side of the divide, in the areas being colonized by the human settlers, the humanity adapts to the alien world it finds itself in by becoming a part of it. To give the frontier its spirit, I developed a bunch of intricate and detailed tables to give any NPC encountered and willing to talk, a point of origin, from all over the fantasy world, and a motivation. There are adventuring NPCs who are explorers, raiders looking for easy gold, people on personal quests of enlightenment, philosophers, missionaries and others. They total less than 3% on the encounter table, but they are there. They define the frontier. Also, there are delusional people. An NPC might think themselves a Ranger, but only be a Fighter with outdoorsman's skills, or they may fancy themselves a warrior, but only be a 0 level Normal man with a sword skill.



The players went to town to look for a Cleric and a Magic User to join their party. They had one of the adventure patron's NPC's act as their guide. The day was running late, and they entered a place called Asseghai, a high-level adventurers' brothel (picked from a dozen or so other venues). Of course, it wasn't just high level; adventurers there, just as there are Magic Buffs hanging around the Magic Shops, there are rich merchants, landowners, noblemen and their retinues, spending their gold at the asseghai. Players spent 45 minutes real time checking out the patrons and dancing with the local girls, before taking them upstairs. SAVIOR spent time conversing with a randomly encountered 9th level monk, who was sitting at the bar dressed in foppish finery. It was an interesting role-playing encounter. First one player, then the others started scanning the imaginary dance floor looking for the type of girl that they like. Most found what they were looking for, role played the dance and the small talk before taking them upstairs.



Next day they went to the Magic shop, where there was a lively crowd of eight patrons. They waited for someone to break away from a crowd admiring a newly arrived magic ring on display. The first person that broke away was not a charlatan or a zero level magic buff, as I hoped. it was a lower level Journeyman Wizard at the Guild. In practical terms, this meant more than the average number of spells in his spell book. I rolled the dice, drew his cards, and decided that this was an ambitious wizard, who joined the party and charged them a really bizarre contract, written in such a way as to satisfy the Wizard Guild's pay scale and make it affordable for the (largely) penniless players to hire him. His real motivation was that he wanted to work with a great wizard (the adventure patron).




Things got interesting thereafter: Players told him that they were looking for a Cleric to join the adventure. QUINT, the Journeyman Wizard told them that je knew a Priest who might be able to help them. The players encountered a Cleric, who ministered to their needs and they let him join. I was thinking a 3rd level Cleric, however, the dice decided otherwise. What I got was a delusional catholic priest, someone, who might function well in our world, but without any spell-casting ability or Clerical abilities. Oh, he could minister to the needs of the players and adventurers, and he even has the healing and herbalist skills to stabilize the wounded and speed the recovery, he just can't cast a Cure Light Wounds Spell or turn the undead. It was a brilliant roll of dice to complicate the game for the players.



Players also spent some time at the Magic Shop finagling a Healing Potion without having any money to make the purchase. After some decent role-playing, they dropped the adventure patron's name, and got themselves three free Healing Potions in case the Cleric gets hurt and could not cast the healing spells. SAVIOR insisted om giving the merchant all of his money and stating that he will pay fully for the three potions once they come back with some treasure from the adventure.


Just as the real adventure was about to start, the players called it a night, and we went to sit in front of TV and watch Jack Reacher. This was a bit of a disappointment for me, but I don't force anyone to play. I did as much with the wilderness setting of the module as I did with the town. I described the forests and the rest of the terrain in terms of topography and geographic features to give the unique feel to the wilderness, and I will run the adventure with my regular group at some later point. The Magnificent Five too, will be featured prominently as NPC's in the upcoming gaming. The one thing I am working to explain, is how the regular group and the Five have never come across each other previously. The regular group consists of a Fighter with an epic Strength of 18(00), of noble blood, and the rest of the players are his friends of humbler origins and poorer means, middling first level characters, a power gamer's nightmare. The Five, by contrast, are the ambitious, talented, and popular group of future men at arms and squires. I suppose that the characters in my regular group always were aware of them, but paid them no attention.