Sunday, February 1, 2015

Weird Hobbies

Hi there blog. The last month has been really, really rough for me, but since I dedicated my last blog post to drama, it's time to focus on, as Mary Flournoy would say, “a much nicer topic.”

First, let's talk D&D. What is D&D? It's Dungeons and Dragons, a tabletop roleplaying game. If you're not aware of how this works, it's a bit like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books. There's a Dungeon Master (DM) who creates a world with items, characters, culture, rules, and so on; the players all have characters with traits and their actions either fail or succeed based on dice rolls, which take into account their traits. It looks like this:

I mentioned in my last post I wanted to talk about Lucious Bloodsmythe, my orc, who is a character that is 4th in his line. The BloodSmythe family has a curious legacy; they have a son, wait until he's old enough to understand, tell him to avenge them, and then go off adventuring. They all die in battle; they all get their legacy name from the manner in which they died (or their singular accomplishment in life). The Bloodsmythes are not very smart. They're strong, brutal, and a tiny bit gullible. They also have a reputation for fucking up campaigns beyond all belief, and accidentally killing their own allies.

Behold the BloodSmythe legacy!
(Click for larger size.)

Now, Andrew thought it might be fun to play as a DM and I agreed. As a DM for our main campaign, I am supposed to act as a neutral “interpreter” for the game, and am not really allowed to have real characters myself or to get invested in them. Letting Andrew take over referee duty let me whip out one of the Luciouses. Enter Lucious IV, son of the Cutter of Strings, who got his name when he smashed an invaluable magical fiddle that allowed one to control legions of the undead. 

Lucious IV is generally a nice guy, but is dumber and more gullible than his predecessors. For one thing, he's absolutely awful at any sort of subterfuge. In the current campaign, our group (Sonya the alchemist, Sincy the monk, and Honton our guide) has infiltrated a group of pirates and are trying to take down a slave-trading ring. To keep Lucious from fucking everything up, they've convinced him he's actually a pirate, since he's frankly too dumb to be expected to deceive anyone. Recently we had two hilarious “goddammit Lucious” moments.

The first occurred during an escort mission. An orc on an escort mission is like putting a bull in charge of a china shop. The man we were escorting, Lucky Tobias, had one eye, one ear, one hand, and one leg. He was called Lucky Tobias because he was very well-endowed. His weapon of choice? A huge spiked codpiece.

That should have been a clue to us that he was both insane and evil.

At some point in our travels, Honton and Sincy made the incredibly preventable mistake of leaving Lucious alone with Lucky Tobias at the dock, with the ship. (This campaign takes place at an island chain and involves a lot of sailing.) (Sonya was there, but didn't want to get involved with Lucky Tobias, who had been acting like a bit of a creep.) Lucky Tobias decided to cause mayhem. Espying a poorly-guarded boat, with only one crewman aboard, he asked Lucious, “Sonny, do you know how to create a diversion?”

Andrew had me roll a die. Did I know what a diversion is? Turns out, no. Lucious is not smart enough to know what that is.

Having been left alone by L.T., he walked up to the nearest person, screaming his simple little orc head off:

“EXCUSE ME,” he bellowed to a young dock worker, in a voice not dissimilar to Christian Bale's Batman voice, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT A DIVERSION IS?”

The boy ran, and so Lucious went up to the next person: the old man on the boat that Lucky Tobias was boarding. He began talking to the old man about what a diversion is, and how to create one. Lucky Tobias, meanwhile, snuck up behind him, and promptly shoved the spiked codpiece through the back of his skull, killing him instantly. From Lucious's perspective, of course, he was having a pleasant conversation with someone when their head suddenly exploded. He panicked and began attacking the man's corpse, screaming bloody murder. Sincy and Honton heard him clear from the tavern, and came running. Sincy arrived on the scene first, to find Lucious sobbing and holding a mangled, bleeding body.

“What happened?!” he cried.

“I created a diversion!” wept Lucious.

They disposed of the body, and Sincy left to get back to what he was doing, giving Lucious strict instructions not to fuck up anymore. Lucious went back to the ship to take a nap. But even sleep can't stop him. Sonya, bored, cast a spell: phantom sound. The sound? Fiddle music. 

Lucious, son of the Cutter of Strings, has something of an issue with fiddles. He woke up to an orchestra of fiddles, went into a rage, and charged up onto the deck, ready to kill whomever was playing the fiddle. (Since the destruction of the Fiddle of Death and subsequent death of Lucious III, all Luciouses now have an insane fear of fiddles and will automatically kill anyone playing one.)

Sonya, who had witnessed the death of the old man and concluded (correctly!) that Lucky Tobias was evil, merely pointed.

Lucious charged the dozing figure of Lucky Tobias and cracked open his head like a ripe cantaloupe. Sonya, in a moment of uncharacteristic bloodlust, cast electric jolt, charring the body. Lucious kept swinging his falchion, mashing the body to pieces; Sonya eviscerated him; Lucky Tobias spread across the deck. At some point in his rage, Lucious cracked open a hole in the ship (on the upper deck, luckily). Slowly calming down, he realised Sincy would be back soon, and attempting to nudge the body into the hole. Lucky Tobias's organs slid into the hole, but his torso got stuck. And so, when Sincy returned a second time, it was once again to see a guilty-looking orc standing in close proximity to a mangled corpse.

Sincy has since come to conclusion that any time he leaves Lucious alone, he will probably return to discover a body and hear Lucious give him a confusing, child-like version of events leading up to the murder. Though, as Sincy pointed out, it could have been worse. It could have all gone down on the lower deck.

SINCY [returning to the dock]: Hi guys, I came back with... uh... er... [He stops, seeing LUCIOUS standing on the pier holding a CORPSE. Behind him, a MAST sticks out from the water.] 

SINCY: ...where's the boat? 

LUCIOUS: I know this looks bad, but hear me out, okay? ...This guy here... [indicates the CORPSE] ...was playing fiddle music. [He pauses.] When I hear it out loud like that, it sounds like it's possible that maybe I over-reacted just a little bit. 

D&D, as you can see, can be a really fun game, but it's not for the faint of heart, and it really helps to have good players and a flexible DM. A lot of the game depends on the roleplaying (as opposed to roll-playing) aspect, and a person has to be decent at both improv and math to play effectively.

Do I recommend it? You bet I do!

I envisioned putting a "seal of approval" here, featuring a seal in medieval battle armour.  
But searching for a "seal in armour" gets you the Navy Seals, and searching for "medieval seal" gets you actual wax seals.  Then I searched for "battle seal" and found this.  Enjoy.  More photos here.

Another little hobby I enjoy is RedditGifts. RedditGifts is a community of people who do year-round Secret Santa exchanges. Most exchanges have a theme. There's a two-week period for signing up before sign-ups close and you get your “match.” Matches are, for the most part, random, though considerations are made for some things, like whether or not you'd like to ship internationally.

After getting your match, you have another two weeks to buy and ship a gift, with proof of shipment. Then there's a two-week period where people post what they got online for others to see. I've done 12 exchanges so far.

Curious about statistics? Out of 12, eight were female and four were male. Ten of them were under 30 years of age. Out of 12 exchanges, I had only one where I received nothing, though I had two where I got a cheap, shitty, thoughtless crap gift. I had five of them not upload pictures of the gift I sent them, though all 12 acknowledged getting my gift, at least.

On Monday, I have two new exchanges: Colours (get someone a gift themed with their favourite colour!) and Socks (just what it sounds like!). I undertake each gift like a craft project and I like to decorate each box just so.

 Above: these were actually pictures of me hand-painting ornaments for the LAPCC Christmas Blind-Bag exchange, but nonetheless, this is an accurate representation of what our kitchen table looks like when I get involved in a project.

 The 2014 Secret Santa exchange!

Here's a PostCard exchange.  My match said she lived in a small town and was enchanted by large cities. 
Lucky for her, I live in a big city!  

My crowning glory was the Apocalypse Exchange, which included a knife, a bottle of whisky, a first-aid kit, a canteen-style water bottle decorated with biohazard symbols, and a few packs of beef jerky.  I'm pretty excited and it's something to look forward to. So far, giving out my address to strangers online has had zero negative consequences, lulling me into what is no doubt a sense of dangerously lackadaisical security. Just wait until I get a Lucious...


The only downside to these exchanges is that they cost money, in the sense that you have to buy someone else a gift.  Fortunately I was able to sell another short story to the NoSleep podcast so I have some extra money to keep gifting.  Things have been tight since Ruby's surgery and Andy and I won't be able to attend Sin in the City this year.

But, she's recovering well.

In other news, my friend Dan visited us back in December.  It was good to see him again.  I haven't seen most of my friends in two years, since I moved to Los Angeles.

Here's Dan.

No, wait!  THIS is Dan!  That last one was a freak show we took him to.  

Sorry about the potato quality of this one.  It's hard to get a good photo from inside a columbarium,

That's about all I fancy talking about today.  Like I said, January's been a rough one for me.  But today's a new month and I'm hoping it'll be better.

This is the view from my front porch.  So inspirational.  So many colours.

Better feels.  Many comforts.  Wow.

But seriously, it's got to get better, right?  ...right?