651 – White Smoke Mountain • 20

Dear Reverend DM,

Solving all the worlds’ problems, one world at a time.

@anonymous coward: Dear Rev. DM, when is it better to use a pantheon someone else made up (like the Greeks or whatever) versus making up your own?

Dear anonymous coward,

There are two excellent reasons for doing this. The first is laziness, but you can claim it was just a lack of time. Or even better, claim it was really the second reason.

The second reason to use an established mythology is to give the players somewhere to hang their hats, contextually speaking. As DMs we are often asking our players to swallow an awful lot of information about a whole new world. New locations, new governments, sometimes new and difficult to pronounce naming conventions, (Kingdoms of Kalamar, I’m lookin’ at you) sometimes players need a little break. Using something that is probably already at least passingly familiar as such a large chunk of your world can really help ground it and get your players into their characters.

@Christine: Dear Rev. DM, why won’t the concept of the D&D alignment system frakking die already? Also, why does the universe hate wizards? I mean… d4 hitpoints. Come on.

Dear Christine,

The alignment system serves some powerful masters in Dungeons & Dragons. First and foremost, it is a roleplaying device (crutch) of great benefit to newbies who have never played an RPG before. Therefore it helps to bring new folks into the fold, and publishers never get tired of new customers. Also, it does make the basic actions of a typical game much more palatable. In the real world, no one is inherently good or evil, and home invasion, murder, and theft are going to get you locked up no matter what color hat the guy you killed was wearing. In D&D however, morality is is dried out, crisply folded, and laid out on a very stark and easy to understand plate. Good violence is good, evil violence is bad. Good people may seek out evil ones for persecution, even if they aren’t doing anything evil… because they’re evil.

Though they get tweaked from time to time, I don’t ever expect to see alignments disappear.

The universe hates wizards because wizards won’t stop fucking with it. Everything a wizard does is all about fucking with the universe in some way the universe doesn’t want to be fucked with. It’s practically the definition of the word. Unfortunately all the poor universe can do is give wizards crappy hit dice and no armor class, which doesn’t stop wizards from becoming the most powerful and versatile class there is later in life, it only ensures that slightly fewer of them make it that far.

@TSED: Dear Rev. DM, Audrey Hepburn in her prime vs your wife, jello wrestling match (non-naked). Who would you put your bet money on?

Dear TSED,

Well of course I would put my money on Lena. That’s hardly a question. Who would I expect to win though…? Probably Audrey. Lena is likely much meaner, but Audrey was a ballerina and stamina counts a lot in jello. Audrey also had about five inches on Lena, which can help out a lot when you’re grabbing… things…

@Alan: Dear Rev. DM, if you only had enough cargo space about the size of a suitcase, and about a week to research, how would you prepare to go time travelling, and you weren’t sure whether you would be going forward or backwards in time, or by how much?

Dear Alan,

Given the parameters of the question, I want you to think of the entirety of existence as one long timeline. Let’s say, end to end, it’s 100 feet long. Now mark on that line where the earth became suitable for human habitation, and then mark it again where it stops. (Just assume the sun eventually turns into a red giant in five billion years. That’ll do.)

Now look at your marks. It the elapsed time even visible? How does it compare to the rest of the line? If you were to randomly jump to some completely uncontrollable place on that line, what do you think your odds are for hitting the spot you have marked out?

In other words, if I had to go, I’d take a space suit and some porn.

28 Responses to 651 – White Smoke Mountain • 20

  1. A Space suit would only last you a finite amount of time. Assuming its one of the one’s the current shuttle cruise use, were talking 5 hours tops, and it won’t protect you from anything out there, a single mole of ionized gases would boil the outer layer and depressurize you. And don’t get me started on the radation that the earth’s magnetic field protects them from.

    Better answer: A deep space iron man suit, a la suitcase, and a green lantern with matching power ring.

    • Kevin wrote:
      “The universe hates wizards because wizards won’t stop fucking with it. Everything a wizard does is all about fucking with the universe in some way the universe doesn’t want to be fucked with.”

      Brilliant. :mrgreen: You summed up the whole premise of Mage: The Ascension. Oh, and Ars Magica, too. 😆

      Kevin, sorry, Dear Rev. DM, wrote:
      “Also, it does make the basic actions of a typical game much more palatable. In the real world, no one is inherently good or evil, and home invasion, murder, and theft are going to get you locked up no matter what color hat the guy you killed was wearing. In D&D however, morality is is dried out, crisply folded, and laid out on a very stark and easy to understand plate. Good violence is good, evil violence is bad. Good people may seek out evil ones for persecution, even if they aren’t doing anything evil… because they’re evil.”

      Sadly, very true. 🙁 You precisely put into words what always bothered me about the alignment thing, but what would have taken me five pages (at least!) to say.

      What bothers me more and more these days is how the D&D alignments seem to attract a certain type of gamer who uses them as an excuse not to have to face any consequences for his character’s actions, in-game or out-game (as opposed to knowingly deciding to play an evil character and accepting the consequences arising from the character’s action). He comes in two types:

      Type A might as well put down “Alignment: Jerkface” or “Looney” on his character sheet, but if the other players/characters/NPCs get pissed off by his behaviour, his cry of hurt indignation is: “But I’m merely roleplaying out my character’s alignment!! Stop being so intolerant!” You know the type.

      Type B (and so far the only players I’ve met of this type were Americans I game with online, sorry) seriously believes that “Good people may seek out evil ones for persecution, even if they aren’t doing anything evil… because they’re evil.” He even defines his character’s alignment as “lawful/neutral/chaotic GOOD” because his character is only seeking out and slaughtering “evil” people and creatures, vigilant-style. “Evil” being defined either by the Monstrous Manual or by himself. He gets pissed off when his world-view is challenged.
      His favorite character from Watchmen is likely the Comedian, and you get the feeling that he just doesn’t get it or doesn’t care that the Comedian is a psychopath, and is meant to be a psychopath, and the only reason the Comedian didn’t end up on the electric chair is that he worked for people who didn’t give a shit about how many people he murdered in open daylight as long as he assassinated people they wanted to see assassinated, or people nobody would miss.

      I’m not saying you should never be allowed to play a character who is a horrible psychopath; heck, in cynical Cyberpunk or Splatterpunk settings such a character concept is practically run-of-the-mill. Just as you can play a delusional (and soon to be ex-paladin) paladin and name him Slaughty Smite-The-Infidels McBloodbath, sure, go ahead, as long as you do it tongue-in-cheek. I have nothing against kick in the door, kill the orcs, loot the dungeon beer-and-pretzel style of play for an afternoon. Heck , I love Pulp Action settings. But at least I am aware that they present black and white morality. Know what I mean?

      And every time his character kills an NPC my character is trying to spare, because it’s easier to kill them than not to, I get a creeping suspicion that Type B feels that I’m the one ruining his good clean game fun with my annoying liberal relativist ethics twaddle, and whose side am I on anyway?

      Kevin wrote:
      “If you were to randomly jump to some completely uncontrollable place on that line, what do you think your odds are for hitting the spot you have marked out?”

      Excellent, if evasive, answer. 😆

      Vinom wrote:
      “and a green lantern with matching power ring.”
      I can take items of supernatural power? I want my own pocket-Vorlon! 😛

      • Christina, I love you 😆
        (Just another way to say I wouldn’t change anything to what you’ve said).

        In my experience, type A usually go for chaotic neutral, like “hey, I”m totally imprevisible, so I roleplay it”.

        If really wanting “alignements”, I prefer personality traits à la Pendragon or Ars Magica: They’ve got the advantage of alignement for roleplay purposes, without their faults.

        LOVED the sparkly vampires bit, too.
        BTW, on the same subject, if I may… http://www.complexactions.com/archive/023.shtml

        • “They do not fuck their food.” LOLZ!

          @Vinom: Well if we’re going to play THAT way, I’d just bring a more accurate time machine.

          • All I’m saying that nothing in the technological capacity of this generation of humanity would allow us to survive for more that 6 hours in most possible destinations.

      • Re: Type B
        I’ve met some non-American versions. They belong to a culture famous for it’s persecution, and more public members of their culture are infamous for their behind the scenes handshake with the US government. I won’t name them which would be persecuting them as a group, hoping that I’m only biased from the few representatives of that culture that I’ve met and thus not completely bigotted on the matter.

        Weird thing is, that my prime example, also got a degree in Sociology.
        Sexually assaulted a flatmate in his second year of that (his second) degree (and denied it, despite witnesses).
        And also tried to run for University Council rep, in that same year, after said incident.

        He sees himself as “good”. He serves the others and attempts to share goodness with the world.
        He also joined the Salvation Army several years before we flatted together this time. He joined because he felt lost and unsure of himself…and because it wasn;t sure if Jesus was the son of god (see above culture) so he joined to cover his bases…..

        If he plays his declared game alignment just as badly…

        • I consider myself to be “good”, although given many of my statements I’ve made here I’d suspect that huge swaths of America would label me as evil.

          Of course I’ve never sexually assaulted a roommate nor run for political office, both of which are patently evil acts.

          • This actually relates a great deal to alignment in D&D (and in general). See you believe yourself to be good despite whatever, the sexual criminal ditto, and so does everyone in between be they jerk or not. Heck, everyone from a saint to Hitler does. So when roleplaying, no matter where someone is on the alignment spectrum he always *believes* himself to be good. This is how you make truly in depth characters.

        • To paraphrase Terry Pratchett: “Someone can be a member of a persecuted minority [or other group of choice] and still be an asshole.”

  2. re: the comic

    Gee, Martin, your character may have high Bluff skill, but you’re not nearly as good at lying in real life, aren’t you?
    Tell me again how you didn’t read the adventure module beforehand…

    Sparkly vampires. Heh. 😆

  3. The universe hates wizards… probably true. I play a low intelligent giant of a man with a large hammer, when things annoy, pesture, aggravate, or harm small bunnies and ducks I smash them.

    Life is simple and most problems are solved quickly – or run away quickly screaming. I think for the most part the universe is very happy to have me around.

  4. A suitcase eh? Well if we’re talking magical items, I suppose first I’d have the suitcase itself be like a bag of holding, and all I would need would be Aladdin’s magic ring (The one almost no one remembers from the original story, no silly hollywood “3 wishes” stuff, and the only apparent limitation on the servant of the ring was that it couldn’t undo anything that was done by the servant of the lamp.)

    With that ring, I could command the servant of the ring to make or bring me anything I needed once I got where I was going, and with the “Suitcase of holding” I could carry the stuff around easily enough.

    • What about a ring that turns anyone who wears it through a time machine journey into Thor, god of thunder? Then you’d have an epic motion picture coming out about you, you could spin your hammer to create your OWN time portals, and you’d get to boink Sif, who is a major god hottie.

      • If I remember correctly, Sif[1] was usually enjoying Loki’s company (ifyouknowwhatImean 😉 ) whenever Thor was away from home doing dumb manly things like beating up frost giants and drinking lots of beer. Unless he took Loki along with him on one of their silly adventures.

        [1] Sif and all the rest of the goddesses in Asgard. According to the Edda, Loki was pretty popular with the ladies (not only was he a shapeshifter, but also good with the sweet talk [insert cunning linguist pun here]). Or at least that’s what he claimed in the verse Edda in the ballad called Lokasenna or “Loki’s mocking” in which he crashes a party of the gods at Aegir’s hall and slanders and taunts them all until they threaten to kill him if he doesn’t leave. Well, everyone else in Asgard, all the Aesir and Vanir, had been invited except Loki, which was a deliberate insult back in the day. So he came to pay them back.

        And knowing Loki, he probably spiked their mead, too. 😆