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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reaching My Limit

I will put up with a lot of crap on my Facebook wall. So much so, in fact, that my friend David Blackard has told me that I have "the patience of a saint" for putting up with people for as long as I do.

What's ironic about his statement is that I am inherently impatient and don't like it when people disagree with me such that my first reaction is to go "No, you're full of crap, go away"; but because I am aware of my impatient, dismissive nature, and because I do not wish to live in an echo chamber (the first rule of Dunning–Kruger Club is that no one knows they're in Dunning–Kruger club), I tend to let people disagree with me -- no matter how much I find it grind-my-molars irritating -- until they breach certain pre-defined "no go" zones. And when that happens, I take swift and decisive action, which can range from deleting the post and telling them "Don't ever do that again" to blocking them.

One of those limits is verbally attacking my friends. Names which I'd allow against me aren't allowed against my friends, because I figure it if hurts my feelings perhaps I'm just sensitive, but if it pisses me off to see my friend treated that way, you're done.

Another such limit is to go out of your way to misgender me. While it can be difficult to get my pronouns correct in person if I'm not looking my best, it is entirely another thing to look at my female name and my feminine portrait and go "You know, it would cost me absolutely nothing to be polite in this text-based conversation, but I shall make an effort to be insulting."  I've actually had people argue with me over what I actually am!

The third limit is the one which prompted today's post, and that is when someone makes a blanket "You are X and you should feel terrible for being X, you worthless person" statement. Usually these have been people telling me that I'm mentally ill because I'm transgender (I beg to differ, and prefer to think of myself as having been born with a birth defect and am trying to make a difficult life more pleasant for myself), but given the most recent tragedy there's a fair amount of name-calling and finger-pointing at responsible gun owners.

Here is what pushed me to my limit today:

Why, how dare I want the means to preserve my life against violence! How dare I kill another who wishes harm upon me! Why, if I were truly enlightened like Jd, I would offer myself up as a human sacrifice before the criminal who wanted me harmed, because my death would be moral. And if I disagree, why then I shouldn't sully the title of American by claiming it as my own; I should rather emigrate to a less-enlightened country or else exile myself to death in the outermost darkness.

Needless to say, this raised my ire to such a degree that I briefly lost my composure and indulged in some very un-ladylike f-bombs:

Any morality which requires me, a non-criminal, to die because it makes people feel better is a direct threat to my existence and I won't tolerate it. I probably could have continued to debate this... person... but the moment someone outright tells me that they prefer my death, I cease to give a shit about anything they do or say.

One of these days, people will push me until I get so upset that I will actually answer the question "How many people have to die before you will embrace gun control?", and they will be horrified at my response. But that, dear reader, is a subject for another day.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Past Two Days Have Been Terrible

I'm not just talking about the tragedy in Florida over Valentine's Day or the sadly-not-surprising revelation that the FBI had not one but two hot tops about the shooter, one five months ago and one a month ago. Those things are awful, yes, but the past two days have been terrible for me, personally.

Wednesday was bad because it was Valentine's Day, or as I like to call it, Singles Awareness Day. I have a long track record of not liking the Hallmark Holiday and being reminded that I've just spent another year romantically fallow.

But Thursday was even worse. I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon in order to see what could be done about the scarring. I was worried because he had said that the swelling would have disappeared in January, yet the wound had stopped shrinking by Christmas but still looked pretty big. Still, I went in with hope. Perhaps he could stick a needle into the puffy bits and drain them?

Instead, he was very dismissive about my feelings and my appearance, and basically told me that there's nothing he can do. It's still swollen because it's all  scar tissue, you see, and surgery would just cut into it more and create another scar, and it's so thick that a laser wouldn't do anything for it and there are no drugs which can shrink it.

The only thing that he says can be done is for me to massage it as hard as I can several times a day and just hope that it breaks down the scar tissue.

In fact, here's a quote that summarize the entire appointment:
Me: So what you're saying is that I'm stuck looking like this...

Him: Uh-huh.

Me: ... and that I'm screwed.

Him: No, not screwed! You still have full function!
In other words: Everything works, so who cares how it looks? Again, the feeling which I had from him -- and my mom agrees, because she was with me -- was that he really didn't much care, like I wasn't worth his time. Perhaps I was cutting into his lucrative face lift and boob job schedule?

And so this entire experience of being told that my face looking like a chew toy was just the way it was going to be, too bad so sad get out of my office, left me feeling like ugly, worthless crap. I pulled out my bottle of Emergency Rum and started drinking until the evil thoughts went away, and then I went to bed at like 4 am.

I got up around noon to drink some water and use the bathroom. Then I went back to bed (not because I was hung over, but because I just didn't want to deal with anyone or anything) and didn't get up until 5 pm, because I needed to get dressed and walk the remaining dog.

I still feel like ugly, rejected, spoiled meat. I don't know if I'm ever going to feel better again.

The only thing I can do at this point is to go find another plastic surgeon and fill out more paperwork and pay another first-time patient fee, just so I can get a second opinion and maybe find a doctor who gives a shit about my face, because I cannot believe there is nothing which can be done.

I think I'm going to finish off the rest of the rum and then sleep some more. At least I don't feel hideous in my dreams.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Black Panther: An Addendum

This is inevitably going to be a three-part series, as the review will be up once I've seen it. 

One has to be very careful when picking one's words when talking about something like Black Panther. What was just another high concept super-hero movie in a universe already extraordinarily well-established has, thanks in large part to the cultural critics that have been chapping my ass for the past few years, quickly become an exceedingly commercialized rally point for a puzzling social movement.

Marvel, to its credit, has very little blame in this aside from introducing an already-beloved character in a giant movie and translating him very well to the screen, putting out the requisite toy line, and picking a strategic song for the trailer.

One must be very careful, for example, these days not to imply that "collectivist identitarian" is a flattering term for someone that someone else would rather prefer to call an "asshole Nazi," regardless if both terms apply.

Inside joke, dear readers. I apologize.

But can we talk about Black Panther for a moment?

You're right, we can't. We can't, for example, bring up the fact that Wakanda is a stupendously rich nation in the middle of some very poor nations. We can't bring up the fact that Wakanda is an xenophobic ethnostate with possibly the strictest immigration laws outside of Dr. Doom's Latveria or that, in the MCU, it had no outreach to poor countries despite its wealth until Civil War. We can't talk about how Wakanda zealously defends its borders, notoriously slaughtering intruders, or how T'Challa himself is the ruler of a Patriarchal society, having literally inherited his powers, tech, and position from his own father.

But I suppose if one side can twist things in its favour, the other can do so just as well.

Did they, though? Have we asked actual
Africans how they feel on this?
That'd just be awkward, though. Not that that first side isn't finally getting around to not-good-enough-isms.

In that spirit, I'd like to make it very clear that when I review Black Panther, I intend to hold it to its own merits: Did it tell a good story? Did it fit well in the greater MCU? Did it work well on its own as a movie as well as setting up story threads for future movies, as I expect to see it represented heavily in Infinity War? Does it tie up loose ends from previous movies?

What I'm not going to do is blame any shortcomings on "Trump's America." Seriously, it makes me ashamed that 3/4 of me comes from the same place as you, Ed Power.

When I go see Black Panther, I'm going to see what I hope to be another highly-entertaining entry in the MCU saga, one that I can appreciate as a fan and as someone who has been reading books  starring that character since I was a teenager. The last thing I want is for the movie to fail, because that's going to basically be Ghostbusters 2016: Round 2, and I've had just about enough of that.

I want it to succeed. I want it to be good.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Courtier-ing Perfection

Thanks to all the wonderful feedback I've been given since last week, the "made on a dare" Courtier class is well on its way to being a polished, playable bit of gaming.

Significant changes include:
  • Shield proficiency added and use of shields does not interfere with Suave Grace. 
  • Suave Grace also provides an AC boost at certain levels, like a monk. 
  • Rapier Wit is now a swift action, inflicts precision damage, and causes the Shaken condition instead of a flat penalty. 
  • Strong Convictions now fully adds a courtier's CHA bonus to all saves. 
  • Equestrian Invocation has a greater overall duration. 
  • Chivalrous Sacrifice has been reworked in a manner that is hard to summarize. Lots of clarification has been added and (hopefully) the broken elements removed. 
  • Odor of Ardor's DC has been rewritten to make it have a chance of success. 
  • Stunning Display has had its duration modified to be more in line with other abilities. 

Big thanks to everyone who helped out. Keep them coming -- I think we're about ready to stick a fork in this one!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pathfinder: Morale in Combat

I remember back in the day (Get off my lawn, etc etc) when monsters in D&D had a Morale stat that the DM would check to see if they fled combat past a certain point. 3rd edition did away with that, which means that Pathfinder did as well.

Now some people might say "That moves whether or not the monsters retreat into the ream of the GM where it belongs", but I say "Fer cryin' out loud I'm dealing with running an entire world and trying to mangle six PCs, maybe I just want a quick and dirty way of deciding if a critter runs away that is a little more developed than flipping a coin but less brain-intensive than a case-by-case judgement call."

So I present to you my quick and dirty morale rules for Pathfinder.

NPC Morale Rules
Undead, constructs, oozes and the like do not make morale checks.

When the following occurs:
  • A leader/ champion/ cleric/ pack alpha is killed
  • One of their number is brutally killed by PCs (such as being one-shotted)
  • Several of their number are badly hurt (reduced to 1/2 hitpoints or less)
  • Several of their number are killed by flashy magic (like Fireball)
  • They are clearly outnumbered (2:1 odds or more)

Then have the next creature in the Initiative order make a Will save against DC 15.
  • If it succeeds, it continues to act as the GM feels appropriate. 
  • If it fails, it runs away (withdrawing if possible) and the next creature on its side to act has a cumulative -1 morale penalty to its Will save.
Does this mean that the more wise opponents are, the less likely they are to run away when clearly outmatched?  No. A successful save doesn't mean it will act suicidally; it means that it won't panic and rout. A fighting withdrawal is still possible, as is surrender.

A leader can try to rally its troops with an Intimidate check, DC of 10 + number of creatures which have already run away. Regular success stops the need for further Will saves; each 5 over the DC returns 1 fleeing creature to combat.

As a rule of thumb: If the PCs reduce a creature to half its hit points or less, or actively try to make it run away through demoralizing tactics and good roleplaying, it counts as a defeat and grants XP. But if PCs are steamrolling through everything in sight and sensible monsters would think 'I would rather run away than be slaughtered' then the PCs get no XP, probably because it wasn't enough of a challenge.

Friday, February 9, 2018


It would appear that the Courtier, my version of the Old Spice Gentleman, has prompted some questions from D&D grognards. I decided to post them here so you could see what I was thinking when I designed this. 

Why Appraise and not Perception?
I picked Appraise because the character ought to be able to know quality when he sees it. After all, the Old Spice Man says "The tickets are now diamonds!" and he probably know how many carats they are.

Perception isn't a bad choice, but it's not very common. It's not like the courtier spends a lot of time looking for traps or ambushes; he's more "sense motive" than "perception", if you know what I mean. 

It really doesn't make much sense for the Courtier to have any armor proficiency if wearing it completely gimps him (we're not just talking losing the Charisma modifier to AC; per Fancy Clothes, he has to wear nice outfits to use ANY of his abilities).
He has to wear nice outfits, yes, but that does not preclude wearing armor; you wear armor over your clothes, you see.

My original idea was indeed "no non-masterwork items" but considering that masterwork armor costs 150gp plus whatever the armor cost, I felt that would be unnecessarily gimping a 1st level character. After that, PCs usually upgrade to MW and then to magical, so it was kind of a non-issue there.

What I might do is, since I stole this idea from the monk (just replaced WIS bonus with CHA) that I also steal the "AC bonus per level" idea. Plus there are all sorts of magical items which would help: Bracers of Armor provide armor bonuses but don't count as armor; Amulets of Natural Armor provide another bonus; and of course Rings of Protection provide deflection bonuses.
UPDATE: I have since decided to add an AC bonus per level, like monks get.

Shields? Medium armor too. It is a frontline character and needs to be able to survive. Should at least be able to wear what a cleric can.
Nah, I disagree. The whole idea is basically "Armor? Why would I wear armor? It prevents people from appreciating my fancy clothes!"

Assuming a CHA of 18 (+4 bonus) and a DEX of half that, we're looking at a base AC of 16, which is about right for a first-level ranger. But you've convinced me somewhat; I will allow the courtier proficiency with all shields, which will give an additional +2 AC. 

For Rapier Wit, I'd suggest starting at -1 penalty and increasing by an additional -1 every 4 levels to a max of -3. 
That's not a bad idea. I shall consider it. 

I'd suggest that Strong Convictions simply adds Charisma bonus to saves like the paladin. That's a real bonus. This is a dexterity and charisma character. 
I considered that. I was worried it might make the character too powerful and/or steal some of the Paladin's flavor.
I'm actually rather torn on this. What do the rest of you think?

Instead of Equestrian Invocation being a 1/day spell, give it a duration in hours based on the Courtier's level. 
That... is a very good idea. I think I'll change that. 
What do you think of "At 5th level the courtier can summon a mount, as per the spell, with the duration being the courtier's level in hours and dismissable at will (minimum expenditure of 1 hour/summoning)" ?

The only thing I see unbalanced is the 4x move for Chivalrous Sacrifice. I'd put it at 1x move. Maybe scale it up to 2x, then 3x with the improved and "not dead" versions
That's not a bad idea. I did it the way I did it because I wanted the Courtier to be able to use Chivalrous Sacrifice despite having already moved that round (because otherwise we're introducing unnecessary bookkeeping into the game). I figured a 1/day ability which hurt the character would balance out the "nonmagical teleport" aspect of it.

This is another of those "I need to think about it" things. 

How about letting Chivalrous Sacrifice be performed 3 + CHA modifier times per day?
Assuming a CHA of 18, that would be 7 times per day. Seems a little too "battlefield teleport-y" to me.

Perhaps if I let each use of Chivalrous Sacrifice  be just the full move, like suggested above, with additional uses increasing its range by a full move?

Hell, I should probably change the wording on Chivalrous Sacrifice because as written it can already get past guards and work through cracks and bards. This wasn't too much of a problem with the 1/day, but if I increase the frequency that's going to be abused.

Yeah, it's definitely going to need some work. 

Chivalry Is Not Dead is way overpowered. 
Perhaps. It's a capstone ability, though, and as written it's not terrible with the 1/day limit. More uses than that, though, and it probably is. Perhaps I'll limit the "no damage" to just once a day with other charges being half damage?

Post your thoughts below!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Courtier: the Character Your Character Could Act Like

Because ONE of you demanded it, here is my attempt to bring the Old Spice Gentleman class into balance with the Pathfinder RPG. Unfortunately, this will mean some of the humor of the original is lost to seriousness. I apologize for this and have done my best to keep the original fun tone of the Gentleman.

To differentiate between the Old Spice class and my re-work, I am calling my version of this class the Courtier. This is because it has courtly skills and is adept at courting (wooing) romantic partners.

I have no idea if this is balanced or not. It might be underpowered in some places, but I don't see anything in there which would make a GM say "Aw hell naw". And hopefully it maintains the flavor of the Old Spice Gentleman while being more playable.

UPDATE: I am actively soliciting feedback on this class. Suggestions have been made in this post, along with my responses; I'd like to know what others think about them. Please leave a reply with your thoughts!

At the intersection of the mind, the body and soul lies the heart, and this is the battlefield of the courtier. More martial than a bard, more romantic than a cleric, and more (ahem) earthly than a paladin, the courtier not only fights for what is beautiful but also struggles to bring more such beauty into the world... usually in the form of relationships.

Role: "Hello, orc horde. Look at your leader, now back to me, now back at your leader, now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he stopped pillaging and bathed once in a while, he could smell like he’s me. Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a battlefield surrounded by enemies. What’s in your hand? Back at me, I have it, it’s your battle standard, Look again, the standard is now a flag of truce. Anything is possible when you believe in the power of love. I accept your unconditional surrender."

Alignment: Any.

Hit Die: d10.

Parent Classes: Paladin and Bard.

Starting Wealth: 5d6 × 10 gp (average 175 gp.) In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less.

Class Skills
The courtier’s class skills are Acrobatics, Appraise, Bluff, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Disguise, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (nobility), Linguistics, Perform, Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Swim.

Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Class Features
The following are the class features of the courtier.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The courtier is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, as well as light armor and bucklers.

Fancy Clothes: The courtier must be wearing a Courtier's outfit (30gp), Noble's outfit (75 gp) or Royal outfit (200 gp) in order to make use of the class' extraordinary, spell like, or supernatural abilities.

Suave Grace (Ex): When unarmored and unencumbered, a courtier may add his Charisma modifier to his armor class and CMD.  In addition, a courtier gains a +1 bonus to AC and CMD at 4th level. This bonus increases by 1 for every four courtier levels thereafter, up to a maximum of +5 at 20th level.

Rallying Cry (Ex): As a move action, a courtier can shout a word or short phrase which inspires all  allies within 30 feet who are able to hear or see the courtier, granting them a +1 morale bonus to a single attack, saving throw, or skill check. This bonus lasts until used or the end of the courtiers next turn, another Rallying Cry is uttered, or combat ends (the effects last for 1 minute outside of combat). This bonus increases by +1 every 4 levels.

Rapier Wit (Ex): At 2nd level, a courtier may make a witty bon mot, savagely cutting critique, or an atrocious pun as part of an attack against a target who must be able to hear and understand what is being said. The target must then succeed on a Will save vs a DC of (10 + 1/2 courtier level + courtier's CHA bonus) to resist its effects. If the save fails, the target takes an additional 1d4 points of precision damage and is Shaken. Rapier Wit may be used without a weapon, in which case the damage is nonlethal. This damage increases by 1d4 every 4 levels.

Strong Convictions (Su): At 3rd level, the courtier has become so charming that he gains a bonus equal to his Charisma bonus (if any) on all saving throws.

After You (Ex):  At 4th level, the courtier can switch initiative order with any ally with a lower initiative score so long as they are within 30 feet and can hear him. This lasts for the duration of combat.

Spells: Beginning at 4th level, a courtier  gains the ability to cast a small number of divine spells which are drawn from the paladin* spell list. A courtier must choose and prepare his spells in advance.

To prepare or cast a spell, a courtier must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a courtier's spell is 10 + the spell level + the courtier's Charisma modifier.

Like other spellcasters, a courtier can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is listed on the class table. In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score (see Table 1–3 of the core rulebook). When the class table indicates that the courtier gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level, he gains only the bonus spells he would be entitled to based on his Charisma score for that spell level.

Courtiers must spend 1 hour each day in quiet exercise of what it is to be a gentleman or lady (shaving, putting on makeup, preparing the day's outfit, etc) to regain their daily allotment of spells. A courtier may prepare and cast any spell on his spell list, provided that he can cast spells of that level, but he must choose which spells to prepare during his daily meditation.

Through 3rd level, a courtier has no caster level. At 4th level and higher, his caster level is equal to his courtier  level – 3.

Equestrian Invocation (Sp): At 5th level the courtier can summon a mount, as per the spell, with the duration being the courtier's level in hours and dismissable at will (minimum expenditure of 1 hour/summoning).

Chivalrous Sacrifice (Ex): Once per day at 6th level a courtier may interpose himself between an ally and incoming damage as an immediate action. This ability cannot be used if the courtier has taken more than a 5' step this round.

The courtier automatically takes this damage, which cannot be prevented in any way. This ability affects even damage which auto-hits, such as a magic missile spell or a trap.

The courtier provokes no attacks of opportunity while performing Chivalrous Sacrifice, but the ally must be within sight and within a distance of 2x the courtier's move speed, and there must be a legal path to the target of this effect that the courtier can take.

Creatures do not count as 'blocking' the path and the ability does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

At the courtier's discretion, the ally may be knocked prone or moved 5' in any direction. The courtier must end his movement after taking damage.

Chivalrous Sacrifice may be used one additional time per day every 4 levels. At 16th level this becomes Improved Chivalrous Sacrifice.

Odor of Ardor (Sp): At 8th level the courtier gains the ability to cast the charm person spell 1/day, with the DC of the spell being 10 + Charisma modifier + 1/2 the Courtier's level.

Stunning Display (Ex): At 9th level, the courtier may take a full-round action to look, sound, and smell his best. After this display he gains a +5 competence bonus to all Charisma-based skill checks for the next minute.

Improved Chivalrous Sacrifice (Ex): At 16th level, Chivalrous Sacrifice becomes Improved Chivalrous Sacrifice, which works like the former except the courtier only takes half damage and can move up to 4x move speed.

Chivalry Is Not Dead (Ex): At 20th level, Improved Chivalrous Sacrifice becomes Chivalry Is Not Dead, which works like the former except the courtier takes no damage. This does not render the courtier immune to other effects, such as suffocation or immobilization.

* Designer's Note:  I admit that swiping the Paladin spell list wholecloth is a bit lazy. The Courtier should be an arcane class, and possibly even a spontaneous rather than a prepared caster. But I was pressed for time and didn't want to deal with the issues of crafting a new spell list and blazing a new trail for spontaneous 4-level spell progression.

Epic Levels of Awesome.

The Fine Print

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