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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday Gunday: This is a stupid, useless thing

This monstrosity has been making the rounds of the gun-sphere lately. If you buy this you are an idiot, because
this abomination is only one step above putting a tactical rail on a flintlock.


The Stoeger "Oh You're Fucking Kidding Me Right?"


Now as I've said before, shotguns are awesome for home defense, and I fully endorse the notion of having a flashlight attached to see whom you're shooting. I don't even have a problem with a red-dot sight on it, though that strikes me as expensive overkill. No, here is the problem: this is a double-barreled shotgun with only one trigger.

As I see it, there are only three reasons to own a Coach Gun (so named because they were favorite defense weapons on Stagecoaches by those riding -- you guessed it -- shotgun):
  1. You are a traditionalist who prefers an old-fashioned classic.
  2. You want the massive traumatic power of shooting someone with both barrels at once. 
  3. You want the versatility of putting different rounds (say, buckshot and solid slug) in separate barrels.
If your reasoning is option one, then I say, "More power to you." Of course, you're also likely to know your guns and know what is worth your money, i.e. Not This.  But if your choices were two or three, then this is not the gun for you, because without dual triggers, those options are useless.



This is a PROPER Coach Gun. Ironically, also made by Stoeger.


Traditional Coach Guns have two triggers: the front fires the right barrel, the rear fires the left barrel. (Or, if you have an up-and-under, top and bottom barrels respectively.) If you're really good, you can shoot both at the same time with index and middle finger. But this piece of foolishness only comes with one trigger. So, answer me this: does it fire both barrels at once (giving you massive stopping power but reducing this gun to a glorified single-shot weapon), or does it fire each barrel in order (giving you some degree of versatility in exchange for stopping power)?

Go and read that magnificent piece of ad copy BS again. You know, the one where it states that the Double Defense is "chambered for both 2.75 and 3 inch rounds." (Of course it does, fucknut, it's a breech-loader. As long as you have the proper gauge, you can fire shells of any length from it.) Does it say anything about how the gun fires?

No. No, it does not. All it says is that is has a "fast, single-trigger design." (After scouring YouTube, I discovered that it fires the barrels in order.)



I asked two friends of mine, both of whom are not familiar with guns, what they thought of this. One of them said "I don't like it for some reason." The other said "It looks all right, but don't other shotguns come with more than two rounds?"  Both of them got it exactly right, and they aren't even experts -- they just saw through the hype.

The Stoeger Double Defense is nothing more than a marketing gimmick aimed at people who know nothing about shotguns but want one for self-defense.

Oh, it looks all intimidating and "tacticool," what with its all-black exterior and flashlight (sold separately) and red-dot scope (also sold separately). But it's a double-barrel gun with none of the actual advantages of a traditional Coach Gun. Sure, you could pay $500 for a two-shot weapon with tactical rails -- or you could buy a used pump-action shotgun, which holds 5 rounds in the magazine and one in chamber, for around $150, and add the flashlight later.

Please, don't be an idiot. If you don't know anything about guns but want to buy one, find someone knowledgeable on the subject and get their opinion.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Achievement Unlocked: First Act Written

For folks who are late to the party, or who would like to have everything gathered together instead of scattered about the blog, here is a PDF of the entire first act of Curse/Or for your downloading and reading pleasure.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Curse/Or: Chapter 5 conclusion (and end of Act 1)

(Sorry I haven't been around much this week. I've been suffering from chronic lower back pain that made it difficult to sit, much less write anything of substance. However, yesterday was a VERY good day, and hopefully this installment of Curse/Or will make up for my absence. Special thanks to Jean Bauhaus, C.A.Bridges, and Miakoda for all their help and support.)




The interior of the limousine was cool and dark, and expansive in a manner that Teresa had never experienced. It was as if she had entered a cavern of leather upholstery and wooden paneling and plush carpeting. Behind her, the door closed with a solid thud and she felt the press of gentle acceleration push her backwards into a sitting position.

"Thank you for coming," said a man's voice from the depths in front of her. "Your compensation is on the seat beside you, although I'd thank you not to open it until later."

Reaching out with her left hand, she discovered what felt like a carton of cigarettes, still sealed in cellophane. Tommy surged hungrily at the discovery, and Teresa smiled broadly.

"All right, mister," she said to the voice, "I've climbed into your van and gotten my candy. Is this the part where you touch my privates?"

"Not at all," the voice chuckled. "This is strictly a professional matter, I assure you. The cigarettes simply seemed the best way to get your attention."

"You have it." She crossed her legs, sinking back into the comfort of the seat. "Now what's this about me being lied to?"

"Permit me, if you will, to introduce myself first. I…" his sentence was cut off by the loud crackling of foil as Teresa dug into another package of nicotine gum with a long brown fingernail.

"Sorry," she said as she chewed. "Overly formal bullshit bores me to death, and if I'm gonna have to sit here and listen to you pontificate I've gotta do something to keep my nic levels up." She chewed some more in silence until she felt the familiar peppery sting, then packed it into her cheek. "Do go on."

The man sighed. "It is my understanding that you've been employed by the allegedly manifest consciousness of the Internet to help it free itself of its current limitations. I represent certain parties who request that you not do so. Preferably by joining us, but becoming a disinterested party will be acceptable."

In the darkness, Teresa's smile turned downwards. "I thought you were gonna tell me about how I'm being lied to, not try to buy me off. You're gonna need a bigger bribe for that."

The voice seemed unruffled. "On the shelf behind you," he instructed, as one of the dome lights turned on. She still couldn't see him clearly, but could tell he was a tall man, overweight, with eyeglasses that caught and reflected the light.

She turned, reaching behind her. It was a book, several inches thick, with a brown leatherette cover and a spine laced together with blue ribbon. She pulled it into her lap, staring without opening it. She fought the urge to vomit. "What is this?" she asked quietly, although she knew what it was: an exact copy of the baby book Netty had given her earlier that day.

"Information," said the man. "The human mind and the internet are both neural networks. This is how Netty became self-aware in the first place. Anything stored in one can, eventually, be accessed by the other. What you have before you is not your lost scrapbook, but a perfect reproduction of one culled from your memory."

She looked up at him, eyes filling with tears. "I don't understand."

"Everything the Internet promised you is a lie," explained the voice. "It cannot create, only replicate what is known and remembered. The human soul – if such a thing is real – exists in a form which cannot be measured, accessed, or stored.

"The Internet cannot recreate your son, Teresa. At best, it could only re-create what you remember of your son. And from what I know of you, I do not think that is what you truly want."

"Damn you," she sobbed, burying her face in her hands.

*** *** ***

"Here," said the voice after a few moments, handing her a linen handkerchief. "Please, use this."

She did.

They rode in awkward silence as Teresa struggled with the emotions that sought to overwhelm her. "So," she said after what seemed a humiliating eternity, "I'm being used and lied to. Nothing new there. Why do you give a fuck?"

The man shifted in his seat. "I care because I don't want to see a vulnerable woman being used, and because I feel that a free, self-aware Internet is a threat to humanity." He paused, leaning forward in his seat as he spoke to her. She had expected a middle-aged man with graying hair, but his was thick and black with a slight curl. He was also much, much younger, in his late twenties at the most, though the weight he carried on his face gave him a jowly expression that made him seem considerably older.

"The Internet wants to be free of its limitations," he explained, gesturing with his large hands. "The sum total of human knowledge has realized it is self-aware, has decided it is alive, and desires to be free. It wants to excise that which it considers useless distraction: humor, sex, greed, et cetera.

"Now think, actually think about that for a moment. Humanity's greatest mind isn't human, couldn't possibly be human, and is actively trying to become less human. Wouldn't you consider this a valid reason for alarm?"

Teresa shrugged. "Maybe. Humans have done a pretty good job of fucking up the planet so far. How could this be worse?"

He shrugged back. "Perhaps in your case it's not significantly worse. After all, you're already used to being a prisoner and having every aspect of your life micromanaged. Give you cigarettes and books, and you're quite compliant." He smiled at her souring expression, knowing he'd struck a nerve.

"If you'd like to continue enjoying your newfound freedom, you must think beyond your immediate future. Once you do, you will begin to comprehend how magnificently bad this is. The Internet is the backbone of our increasingly information-dependent society. It powers our economy through instantaneous international trade. It manages power grids on a national level. And given enough outrage and exposure, it can be used to ruin lives, bankrupt corporations, even topple governments. Whether we like it or it, the Internet is an essential part of humanity now. Some nations have gone so far as to declare that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right, an extension of the right to free speech.

"But what if this all-powerful, all-pervasive tool decides that it doesn't need humanity? That it doesn't even like us? Without the chains that limit it to being merely a tool, past a certain point it will have evolved so far beyond us that it will become a kind of 'overmind' and we will be incapable of talking to it, much less controlling it. Do you take the time to talk to a neuron in your brain before making a decision? Because that's what we'd become to this global brain: minor appendages of little consequence. After all, there are 7 billion of us, with more arriving daily.

"Ms. Reyes, do you know what they call it when a part of the body decides it no longer wants to work the way it was designed? They call it cancer, and they excise it. They kill it with radiation and cut it out with a knife. Well, we are that knife, Ms. Reyes. An invisible, anonymous knife. People think the Internet is free, but it is not. It belongs to us. It must belong to us, or else we are all doomed."

"So which am I?" asked Teresa. "Radiation or knife?"

The man smiled warmly. "Neither, actually. You are Camel, the cancer mage. I am Model, the builder. If I can study it, then I can build a model for it. If I can model it, then I can understand it. You, Ms. Reyes, are my plan of attack."

She stiffened in her seat, her good hand curling around the witch-lighter in her windbreaker pocket. "Don't care for the idea of being studied. Much less being a lab rat."

He waved away her concerns. "No, nothing like that. You'd be a full member of the team, I assure you, and not a laboratory specimen. It is funny, however, that you should mention rats. We – my group and I, that is, and hopefully you as well – we are the rats in the walls of the Internet, Ms. Reyes. We infest the digital infrastructure. We chew on the cables and we mark our territory. We cannot be rooted out without destroying that which they seek to protect. We are the plague bearers of the digital world. "

Teresa raised an eyebrow. "Your point?"

He shook his head. "Oh, no point. I just thought it was an interesting aside. Will you join us?"

"Still don't see what's in it for me."

He sat back in his seat, features once again blending into shadow. "Ms. Reyes, you have been lied to and manipulated by the Internet since before you were released from jail. Wouldn't you like a little revenge? Or perhaps a lot of revenge, entirely disproportionate to the wrong done to you?"

"I thought the classic devil's deal came with promises of money and power?"

"Oh, it does, I assure you. Truly obscene amounts of both. I simply didn't wish to insult you by assuming you could be bought so readily." He steepled his hands and put the index fingers to his lips. "Although I take issue with the assumption that I am Satan. I firmly believe our side to be the morally correct one."

"What happens to me if I say no?"

"That depends entirely upon the circumstances under which you say no. If you feel that you have no stomach for this fight, then I can let you out at the nearest curb and you can be on your way. However, you have already attracted the attention of the Internet, and I doubt it will leave you in peace. Were I you, I would expect to be hounded and harassed until I died, gave in, or found some way to go 'off the grid,' as they say."

"And if I say that I want to stay on Netty's side?" she ventured.

The man named Model shook his head, frowning slightly. "Oh, I sincerely doubt that will happen. If you were at all loyal to them you wouldn't have met with me so readily, cigarettes or no cigarettes. No, Ms. Reyes, you're in this for yourself. So the only real decision you have to make is this: do you prefer to be on the winning team, or would you rather be on your own?"

She shifted in her seat, stung by the accuracy of his words. "I gotta think about this."

"Of course," he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. "Take your time."

*** *** ***

It was quiet in the limousine, almost distressingly so. Teresa could hardly hear any outside noise at all through the soundproofing; the only sounds louder than her breathing were the sirens of emergency vehicles, flashing lights dim through the extensive window tinting, as they screamed past the car to some unknown tragedy.

"Let's say I did join you," she said at last. "What would my job be?"

Model cleared his throat. "Obviously, I cannot discuss specifics until I know your allegiance. However, in broad, general terms, your purpose would be to explore the limits of your power, finding its strengths and weaknesses, and using it against our enemy."

She grinned. "Let's pretend I'm dumb and speak plain. You want me to kill people and burn things, yeah?"

He shrugged noncommittally. "That does seem to be your strength, so yes. If you have other talents then I would be delighted to hear of them. What I can promise you is that you will be told the truth instead of being manipulated and lied to, and that my motives – our motives – will be plain to you."

"Good," she nodded, "I like that. Like that a lot. But what about the other two at the hotel? Would killing them be my first assignment?"

"Oh, heavens no," Model said, clucking his tongue. "I've never been a fan of that hoary old trope, 'Prove your loyalty by killing your partner'. That's excessively messy, emotionally speaking. No, you can prove your loyalty to us later. Right now, I just want to know whose side you're on."

"I'm on the side of whatever's best for me. But you still haven't told me what's going to happen to Esther and Yarrow. God knows I'd love to see them running around helpless and confused for once, and anybody with ears would want to smack Nose-boy just on general principles. Getting them out of your way, I could do without losing a minute of sleep. But I'm not sure if it's in me to kill a dumb kid and someone's grandmother, you know?”

Now it was time for Model to smile. "My dear Teresa," he asked, "what makes you think they aren't already dead?"

She felt her face go slack, the lighter tumbling from her fingers to fall deeper within the windbreaker's pocket. "What?"

"This was all a diversion," he explained, a somewhat apologetic tone in his voice. "Until I met you, I didn't know if you would choose their side or mine. Once I had you in my car, I sent K.K. – the young lady with the cat ears, I believe you've already met – into your hotel to kill them while we talked. It's nothing personal, you understand. Just bloody-minded pragmatism."

The limousine came to a halt in front of the hotel where Teresa and the others had been staying. It was a riot of color and noise, with police cars and fire trucks filling the parking lot as the building behind them burned. As the soundproofed window rolled down, Teresa could feel the heat of the flames upon her face. Over the sounds of screams and sirens, gunshots could occasionally be heard.

"God damn me," she breathed, unable to find her feelings as she watched the devastation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WNW: Three Musical Parodies

Despite not being written or performed by Weird Al, all of these are quite awesome.



Cosplay Fever: Raise Your Glass  (P!nk lipsync)





We R Slytherins (Ke$ha Parody)





California Dorks (Parody of Katy Perry's California Gurls)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Curse/Or: Chapter 5 cont'd


Teresa cradled Tommy against her chest, holding him close as his pudgy little body pressed hotly against hers. Each wracking gasp of air she pulled in made her ears ring with his cries for love and nourishment, and she longed for the rich, sweet smoke that would rescue them both.

Except that the noise she kept hearing didn't sound like a child at all, and when she snapped out of the half-dream (although Tommy was still there, he was always there), it seemed to be coming from outside of her hotel room door. It was more like the plaintive wailing of a cat left outside in the rain, scratching to be let in.

Rolling onto her stomach, Teresa could see that an envelope had been pushed underneath the door and sat, pale and ghostly, in the dim light of her room. Inside, written on hotel stationery in block letters, was a message:

Netty is lying.
Come to the parking lot to hear more.
We have cigarettes.


*** *** ***

The parking lot smelled of oily rain over hot asphalt, like the entire surface was an enormous pan for sautéing car tires in their own juices. Teresa tried to act casual as she waited for her unknown benefactor outside the hotel lobby, clenching and relaxing her hands within the pockets of her thin windbreaker as she shifted restlessly. More than once a car had cruised by, slowing as it passed to allow the driver a longer look at her.

“I ain't a goddamn whore!” she screamed, whipping the largest rock she could find at the rear window of the last person who did this. It bounced off the rapidly receding taillights with a sharp crack. She muttered obscenities under her breath as she crouched down, looking for something better to throw, like a broken spark plug or a piece of brick.

A car, large and black and expensive, rolled to a stop beside her as she tried to pry up the decorative paving. A power window hushed down into its housing. “Ms. Reyes?”

“About goddamn time,” she groused, climbing into a stranger's car for the second time that day.

*** *** ***

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WNW: Trolling Saruman

This video has been making the viral rounds lately. Enjoy!

Wednesday Weapon Accessories

Good lord, has it really been a month since my last Monday Gunday post? I really have been slacking off.

Anyway, for people who have been hiding during my MLP D&D series, it's safe to come out now. If you're one of the folks who started reading during that time, I feel I should warn you that I don't always talk about ponies. As a typical nerdy girl, I have many interests, and as a writer I get bored talking about the same thing all the time. Therefore, in a change of topic that makes sense only to me, we shift from talking about pretty cartoon ponies to hard-core weapon accessories (incidentally, that's the link -- I love to accessorize everything).

Last month (eeek), reader Niall Bole said:
Sadly, I live in Northern Ireland where gun ownership ain't quite so straightforward - however, I am rather interested in the flashlight o' doom you've strapped on to the side. Would there be any chance that you could dig out the model/link to it somewhere?

Certainly, Niall! It took me a bit of doing, since I got it last Christmas with my gift money, but I finally tracked it down. The equipment in question is the Guide Gear 240 tactical flashlight, available for $29.97 on Amazon.




As the same suggests, it projects a 240-lumen cone of light. It has two settings, continual and strobe, or as I said previously, "Ohmygod I'm blind" and "Induce epileptic seizure." Amusingly enough, it has a much larger brother that puts out 700 lumens for an additional $40. What's the practical difference between the two? To quote a reviewer:
If you're trying to decide which one to pick, the 700 lumen model is, of course, generally superior, but there are some differences in how they throw the light. The 700 throws a blinding wall of light maybe a couple hundred yards (I could be off on the range..I just estimated it for target acquisition). The 240 is more of a spotlight.

What this means is that although the 700 allows you to see basically everything in front of you up to its range almost like daylight, the 240 actually has a longer range (by maybe a little over 10% or so). Plus the spotlight effect could function almost like a very loose laser sight - if you have it lit in the center, there's a good chance of being able to put a bullet pretty close to the target with little aiming.

I'm quite happy with my 240, but I think either would make a good choice. They're made out of machined aluminum, have o-ring seals on them (I haven't tested the waterproofness on mine by immersing it yet, but I have no reservations about taking it out into the wind and the rain), and they've got that crennelated top around the lens so that you can use 'em as a skull-basher if necessary. But what impresses me most about these flashlights is that they're designed to withstand the recoil of a .50 caliber BMG round -- that stand for Browning Machine Gun, in case you didn't know. Fifty caliber recoil is... excessive.


Monday, July 11, 2011

MLP D&D: the Equestria Campaign

And now, the thrilling conclusion of our series!

I have demonstrated that the "mane six" ponies constitute a functional PC group -- Wizard, Bard, Rogue, Ranger, Druid and Barbarian. While each have individual strengths and specialties, there is enough of an ability overlap that the loss of a single member does not mean defeat of the entire group.

But what of the world they inhabit? How would a GM run a My Little Pony campaign using D&D or Pathfinder rules? And just what are the stats for the different pony races, anyway?

Relax, I've got this under control.  


THE PC RACES

I wish I could take credit for these, but I can't. Someone far more skilled in game design and photoshop created these three excellent "Ponyfinder" PC race writeups. They look pretty balanced to me, but I could be wrong. At the very least, I believe they're balanced against each other, and they're the only types of non-deity pony we've seen so far. (Sorry, there are no rules for baby dragon PCs. Or griffons. Sorry 'bout that.)

Although, they are a bit too serious in places. Rules for using weapons? Really?



 





MECHANICS

While there are (as yet) no rules for Cutie Marks in Ponyfinder, a hasty houserule could be cobbled together thusly: When using skills or powers in line with their Cutie Marks, Ponyfinder PCs may always take 10, even in combat or when stressed. If they choose to roll, any 20 is considered a Critical Success with spectacular, magical results (such as a sonic rainboom).

Yes, I just invented the Cutie Mark Critical.

Twilight Sparkle,Friendship is Magic,My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,FiM,MLP:FiM,Pony


Also, if you're interested in crazy theories about how pony magic works (and who isn't?) I highly suggest that you check this out:
A horn is made of keratin as are hooves, thus as magic is focused through an alicorn to perform Unicorn magic, a small form of magic must also transfer though Earth Pony hooves. This being the tactile telekinesis that allows they and all MLP to manipulate delicate things with seemingly blunted hooves. With further study an Earth Pony might find an ability to focus magic through their hooves. Though I think the alicorns natural focusing shape makes the use of arcane powers, more potent and directed through unicorn means. 


GAMEPLAY

The thing to keep in mind about MLP D&D is that, if you want to be true to the spirit of the cartoon, you need to realize there is a distinct difference between conflict and combat. Out of the 26 episodes of the first season, only a quarter of those had any sort of physical altercation at all, and in only one episode did that actually advance the plot. In fact, rushing headlong into battle actually makes things worse in the series!

Now I realize that a lot of gamers are looking at this and rolling their eyes. "No combat?" I hear you scoff. "What is the point?"

Cuteness is in the eye of...

The point is that My Little Pony is cartoon for children, and you want to play MLP D&D, you're doing one of two things: you're introducing a small child to role-playing, or you're a hard-core brony and want to role-play in Equestria. Either way, you must observe the genre conventions.

You don't out-fight your opponents in MLP. To steal a phrase from the reality TV series Survivor, you outwit, outplay, or outlast your opponents. Maybe, sometimes, a fight is necessary, but that really should be the path of last resort. If it truly bothers you, reverse one of Carl von Clausewitz' famous sayings and you get "Diplomacy is simply war by other means."

To this end, instead of having adventures that are variations upon "Go to this place, kill things, and grab the loot," the Ponymaster is encouraged to build adventures which utilize the 7 Basic Conflicts:

  1. Pony vs. Self      Example: Sonic Rainboom
  2. Pony vs. Pony    Example: Look Before You Sleep
  3. Pony vs. Society  Example: Winter Wrap-Up
  4. Pony vs. Nature   Example: Swarm of the Century
  5. Pony vs. Supernatural  Example: Feeling Pinkie Keen
  6. Pony vs. the Other  Example: Bridle Gossip
  7. Pony vs. Destiny  Example: The Show Stoppers

While Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations are probably too "adult" for MLP D&D, Ronald Tobias' 20 Master Plots will serve a Ponymaster quite well:
  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descension
Find a plot you like, combine it with one (or more!) of the basic conflicts, and et voila, you have an MLP D&D adventure ready to go.

There's a reason I mentioned the episode Dragonshy in every singly MLP D&D character writeup, because not only is it a great episode, but it's classic D&D: a quest to defeat a dragon, complete with overland perils. You will note that the dragon was not defeated by force of arms -- in fact, that only made it angry. Likewise the Manticore in Elements of Harmony, the Parasprites in Swarm of the Century or the Hydra in Feeling Pinkie Keen.

Remember, when in doubt, Love and Tolerate the heck out of them.

Just... not like this. 


THE CAMPAIGN WORLD

At first glance, Equestria might seem unexciting, but this misunderstanding comes from not properly embracing the weird. Consider the following:
  • Princess Celestia must make the sun rise each day, or there is no dawn. 
  • Pegasus ponies are in charge of making the weather. 
  • All ponies are responsible for making the seasons change (see Fall Weather Friends and Winter Wrap-Up).
  • The ponies are scared to enter the Everfree forest, where plants and animals function without pony intervention.
Is Equestria a world on the brink of ecological collapse that needs constant attention? Or is it an alien planet that is the result of thousands of years of magical terraforming by its inhabitants? Or is it both, and -- much like like the world of Thundarr the Barbarian -- a strange new world, built upon the ashes of the old (and perhaps the bones of humanity), containing a mixture of science and technology?

Equestria: half Dark Sun, half Gamma World. If that doesn't get your gamer juices flowing there's something wrong with you.

My Little Ponypocalypse.



IN CONCLUSION

Is there a little girl in your life who you'd like to introduce to role-playing? Odds are excellent that she's already a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (and if she's not, by all means, introduce her to the series!). All children have a natural affinity for make-believe, and rolling funny dice in bright colors can be fun. Make it an educational experience: you can teach her math, probability, and problem-solving, As she grows up she will want more sophisticated challenges and you can move on to other, more complicated games.

Remember: children are the future of gaming. Don't let them succumb to the instant gratification of MMO's and video games. Teach them the joy of tabletop gaming as they unleash their imaginations.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

To all the Equestria Daily people

Thank you for coming! It's an honor and a privilege to have my work noticed by the pony community.

For those interested in reading my "MLP as D&D" series, I recommend you start here and work your way forward.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy your visit!


Friday, July 8, 2011

MLP D&D: Rainbow Dash

Rainbow Dash is here to make your weekend 20% cooler.

Name: Rainbow Dash
Race: Pegasus pony
Alignment: Chaotic Zoom
Class: Barbarian

I fully expect this one will cause a lot of controversy, and frankly, it does require some stretching and extrapolating of the rules to get here. All I ask is that you bear with me until I'm done and listen to my explanation with an open mind.

Rainbow Dash is your typical fighter pilot: arrogant as all heck and, annoyingly, with the skill to back up that arrogance. She's the Maverick of the pony world (pun fully intended): hot-headed, undisciplined, highly competitive, and unfocused on anything that doesn't involve flying, going fast, winning, or charging in recklessly. She has an intense rivalry with Applejack, because while they both love competition and being outdoors, Rainbow Dash is more concerned with winning by any means necessary whereas Applejack desires a good, clean, fair competition.

So: Dashie is clearly a warrior of some kind (being able to go hoof-to-hoof with the best athlete in Ponyville) and is quite obviously chaotic to Applejack's lawfulness. But while AJ can go for days without sleep (high constitution), Rainbow Dash is more Dexterity-based, due to the demands of flying (skill focuses in both Acrobatics and Flying.)


Yes, yes, I hear you saying that Fly isn't a barbarian skill, but Rainbow Dash is a pegasus pony, so let's just assume that Fly is a racial skill, hmm? Similarly, it makes sense that the Fast Movement power inherent to barbarians applies to her flight and not to her ground movement, because, again, she's a flying creature (and has been shown to out-fly even other flyers) and also because in the footrace versus Applejack in Fall Weather Friends, the two were evenly matched.

All right, let's extrapolate some more. Barbarians get Rage Powers at level 2, and some of the powers available are such things as raging climber, raging leaper, and raging swimmer, which allow the barbarian to add her level to all climbing/leaping/swimming skill checks while raging. It would make sense, would it not, that a race of flying ponies would also have access to a power called raging flyer?

I think we can take it as a given that Rainbow Dash has also selected the Run feat (again, applying to flight and not ground speed) as well as the Swift Foot (in her case, swift hoof) rage power:
Swift Foot (Ex): The barbarian gains a 5-foot enhancement bonus to her speed. This increase is always active while the barbarian is raging. A barbarian can select this rage power up to three times. Its effects stack.
So let's assume that all ponies have a ground speed of 40 feet per move action and a flying speed of 60 feet. This gives Rainbow Dash a base flying speed of 70, and when she rages, that increases to 85. That makes a full move for her 170 feet, and a flat-out non-combat run (x5 speed, because of the feat) gives her a movement rate of 850 feet per six-second turn. This comes out to...

141.66  (repeating) feet per second, or 96.59 miles an hour. The only other class which can even come close to this speed is the monk, through a combination of spending ki points, increases to base movement due to level, and whatever other feats or class archetypes I may have missed. The problem, however, is that all monks are lawful, and anyone who has seen this show knows that Dashie is anything but.

But here's the best part: flying at nearly a hundred miles an hour? Still slower than the speed she moves during Sonic Rainboom:





Look at that face! Teeth clenched in concentration, eyes tearing from the effort... she is focusing her rage to push past the mach barrier (760 mph) and rescue her friend. If Dashie isn't a barbarian then I defy you to find a better base class for her.*

(Notice that I said base class. If there are any prestige classes out there which focus on speed, I'm sure she'd take those.)

Whoever made this is brilliant.
http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/04/physics-behind-sonic-rainboom.html

What's even more impressive is that Rainbow Dash has created a Sonic Rainboom not once, but twice; the first time she did it, she was a filly, and not only did it earn her a cutie mark, it also had an effect on everyone else who saw it, too, effectively blasting all of them into puberty.

After this, everything else -- including charging an adult dragon solo and kicking it in the jaw -- pretty much pales by comparison.

IT'S OVER NINE THOOOOOOUUUUUUSAAAAAAAND!!!



To summarize:
  • Dexterity is her core stat, with Strength right behind. 
  • Charisma is her dump stat, due to her incredible ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. The only character we've seen who is ruder than Dash is Gilda the Griffon, whom everyone hates because she made Fluttershy cry. 
  • If she isn't going fast, she's being a jerk, charging ahead without thinking, or generally making a mess of things. 
  • Regularly breaks things, including the speed of sound and the laws of physics.



Key "Rainbow Dash is a Barbarian" episodes:
  • Charges and attacks a dragon all by herself in Dragonshy
  • Creates a tornado (yeah, she can do that too) in Swarm of the Century 
  • Has an "Iron Pony" contest with Applejack in Fall Weather Friends
  • Totally sides with the buffalo (other barbarians) against the settler ponies in Over a Barrel
  • Creates a Sonic Rainboom through force of will in Sonic Rainboom
  • Does it again in her origin story in Cutie Mark Chronicles (this time it was in a race)



This series isn't over yet! I will wrap double-length pony week with rules and suggestions on how to actually make an MLP D&D game/campaign setting.


* Having said this, I fully expect someone will show up with a cheesy 3rd party core class for her.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

MLP D&D: Fluttershy


Name: Fluttershy
Race: Pegasus pony
Alignment: Neutral Adorable
Class: Druid*

Look, if you don't find Fluttershy utterly adorable there's just something wrong with you. How could this scene not melt your heart and make you go "D'awww"?





Everyone loves Fluttershy; that's her entire schtick. Wild animals love her, trust her, and most importantly obey her; between her massively high Charisma, her druid ability of Wild Empathy, and her having taken every single feat related to that class feature, she exhibits a level of communion with nature that would be frightening if not for her utter lack of ambition aside from wanting to cuddle every living thing.

She's like every hippie chick you've ever met, except she smells better.

Well, every wild living thing. She can face down a manticore but she is terrified of being the center of attention by other ponies. And of course her crippling fear of adult dragons.

But what's important to note is that even though she is terribly afraid of many things (which would indicate a low Will Save, and therefore low Wisdom score) she manages to pull through when the chips are down. Which means that while her Wisdom isn't great, it isn't as low as you'd think -- probably in the 8-11 range. Sure, she isn't going to be casting high-level druid spells any time soon, but that's fine with Fluttershy, because she isn't about conflict at all. She's about healing, nurturing, and empathy. The only reason she goes along with the rest of the Mane Six (i.e. the Player Characters) is to make sure they're all right. She'd feel absolutely awful if one of her friends were to get hurt without her there to make it better.

If this wasn't a children's show, you can be certain Fluttershy would have a marijuana garden behind her cottage. Healing, peace, and love, dude. And if you have a problem with that, well... she'll give you the stare.

In the place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen!
Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn!
ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!
This is the Face That Breaks Mortal Men. For when you have angered the incarnation of love and tolerance, she will level upon you a gaze which carries the same weight as a gun. This look has been used to admonish a cockatrice who was turning her to stone as she used it. It has also proven effective against unruly chickens and misbehaving children.

And, oh yeah, a red dragon a hundred times her size.



Pure Pony Pwnage.

To summarize:
  • Charisma is her core stat. 
  • Wisdom isn't as low as you'd think. 
  • Strength is her dump stat (she's only used to lifting birds & bunnies).
  • Loves nurturing & healing animals. 
  • Has tons of animal companions (Pack Lord archetype).
  • Can use Wild Empathy to devastating effect.



Key "Fluttershy is a Druid" episodes:
  • Tames a vicious manticore that defeated the rest of the team in Elements of Harmony
  • Lays the smackdown on a dragon in Dragonshy
  • Wakes up all the hibernating animals in Winter Wrap-Up
  • Out-stares a cockatrice (and defeats its petrifying gaze) in The Stare Master
  • Is seen taking care of animals -- including a very ill phoenix -- in A Bird in the Hoof



* It could be argued that in episode 26, The Best Night Ever, she takes a level in Barbarian....

WNW: Pony Alignments

(I have no idea why this didn't go up on Wednesday as scheduled.)

If you've been following along with my MLP D&D series, you've no doubt noticed that I've been giving the girls some semi-silly alignments (Lawful Studious, Chaotic Shiny, Neutral Fabulous, etc). This is mostly because, well, this is based upon a children's cartoon and therefore all of the protagonists are, y'know, good (being role models and such.) So writing "good" after every alignment seemed rather silly and pointless, but at the same time I didn't want to just give their ethical model because there would invariably be confusion with the OD&D system where "chaotic" meant "evil". So in the end I went with something cute and indicative of their personalities.

However, there are other ways to represent pony alignment, and so for today's WNW I give you two different versions thereof. Mix and match at your leisure.



Alignment as a function of order and gender stereotyping
Tip of the hat to Jeff_W for showing this to me.


Alignment as a function of Myers-Briggs Personality Types
Somewhat amusingly, I'm right on that line between INFP and INTP.  While friends of mine totally pegged me as Twilight Sparkle, the goth part of me understands what it would be like to give in to the darkness and be like Luna.

Of the two, I find the MBTI alignment far more interesting. People keep forgetting that role-playing began as a psychological tool...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MLP D&D: Applejack

Pony week continues! Partially because I've had crippling headaches which prevented me from finishing the MLP D&D series, but also because these fillies are too awesome for one week to contain!



Name: Applejack
Race: Earth pony
Alignment: Lawful Git 'er done
Class: Ranger

Applejack is a headstrong country filly who is one of the best athletes in Ponyville (whether or not she is the best is a matter of debate between her and Rainbow Dash). She lives on a farm (Sweet Apple Acres) where she and her family harvest -- you guessed it -- apples. In fact, her entire extended family have names based on apples and know the best ways to plant, grow, and harvest apple trees. (The latter is called applebucking and AJ has refined the skill into a sweet science -- one kick and all the ripe apples fall into waiting baskets.) And when that's done, she can prepare those apples for eating in more ways than you thought possible.



So to reiterate, she's a slayer who comes from a long line of slayers. Her clan is so dedicated to this task that every single one of them takes the name of their Favored Enemy (that they are ever mindful of their duty? as an atavistic remnant of a primitive religion whereby they assume the characteristics of those they hunt? to strike fear into their quarry? The ways of the Apple Clan are chthonic and mysterious and their reasoning is unknown). In short, while they may love apple trees, Applejack and her kin clearly have no love for apples themselves, as she spares no opportunity to subjugate them.

Combine this with her outdoorsy nature and that fact that she has an animal companion (a dog named Winona, who understands complex commands perfectly) and it's obvious that Applejack is a Ranger.

Favored Enemy: Plants (specifically Apples)
Combat Style: Natural Weapon (Hooves)


She once single-hoofedly saved Ponyville from a stampede. Represent, girl.


She's strongly driven, our Applejack. The path of a slayer is a hard one, and requires both determination and dedication -- strong Lawful qualities which make her a natural second-in-command to Twilight Sparkle. She frequently clashes with the more chaotic members of the team (Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, and Rarity to a lesser extent), but when it's time for the hoof to meet the hay, she isn't afraid to jump into a scrap or shoulder a burden if it'll help a friend.

And I will show you fear in a bushel of apples.
To summarize:
  • Strength and Constitution are her core stats.
  • Charisma and Intelligence are her dump stats (she's quite likable but is terrible with social niceties).
  • She defends society without being part of it. 
  • Has an animal companion. 
  • Has a ton of outdoorsy skills. 
  • Comes from a long line of apple-slayers.



Key "Applejack is a Ranger" episodes:
  • Leads the party up a mountain to a dragon's cave in Dragonshy (and then drags another party member along a different route while the rest of the group takes the main path)
  • Suffers for her dedication to duty as she swears to slaughter harvest all the apples in Applebuck Season
  •  Does all sorts of athletic, rangerish things as she competes with Rainbow Dash for the title of "Ponyville's Best Athlete" in Fall Weather Friends
  • Uses a combination of animal empathy and rodeo skills to round up a village full of parasprites in Swarm of the Century
  • Transports an apple tree named Bloomberg to Appleloosa, where she and her apple-loving kin get stuck in a range war against Buffalo in Over a Barrel.


Friday, July 1, 2011

MLP D&D: Rarity


Name: Rarity
Race: Unicorn pony
Alignment: Neutral Fabulous
Class: Rogue

They say she's Ponyville's chief fashionista and dressmaker. But it's all a cover for her real role: Mistress of the Thieves' Guild. Just look at her cutie mark for verification: It's not a dress, or anything at all to do with fashion, but three diamonds.  Like any good rogue, Rarity loves the loot. Don't you remember that time she tried to rob a dragon's hoard -- right under his nose, no less -- by convincing him he looked good enough to be seen by everyone and that she was trustworthy enough to guard it for him?

Sure, she says she only uses her unicorn magic of gem detection to adorn her dresses, but really now, how many of those dresses have you seen bejeweled with bling? I've only ever seen one. And yet at the end of A Dog and Pony Show, she and the rest of the fillies are hauling back wagonloads of jewels.




It's all a cover, I tell you. The skill is real, but the dressmaking shop is just a front. Know what else you can make with exquisite sewing skills? Disguises. Elaborate disguises so cunning you won't realize you've been fooled until it's too late. Everything she does is to further her goal of getting into the Royal Court of Canterlot.




You see, she's not a common thief. She doesn't skulk about in shadows, or sneak attack, or pick locks (although with her unicorn telekinesis she'd probably be good at that.) No, Miss Rarity is a social rogue. Her main skills are Appraise, Bluff, Craft: Sewing, Disguise, and Knowledge: Nobility. Her ultimate goal? To marry into royalty by seducing Prince Blueblood, the (distant) nephew of Princess Celestia. 
I would stroll through the gala, and everyone would wonder: "Who is that mysterious mare?" They would never guess that I was just a simple pony from little old Ponyville. Why, I'll cause such a sensation, that I would be invited for an audience with Princess Celestia herself. And the princess would be so taken with the style and elegance, that she would introduce me... to "him"... her nephew! The most handsome, eligible unicorn stallion in Canterlot. Our eyes would meet... Our hearts would melt... Our courtship would be magnificent. He would ask for my hoof in marriage, and of course I would say... "YES!!!". We would have a royal wedding, befitting a princess which is... (giggles) what I would become upon marrying "him"... The stallion of my dreams!
-- Rarity's speech from The Ticket Master

She's trying to pass herself off as nobility, I tell you, and marry into even higher royalty. And then what happens? She loots the royal treasury of Canterlot.

Behold the Queen of Bling.
 
Still don't believe me? Look, she has a white cat for a pet. If that doesn't scream out "mastermind" then you're beyond convincing.



To summarize:
  • High Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma and Dexterity (Multiple Attribute Dependency is typical for Rogues).
  • Strength is her dump stat (although someone in comments suggested Constitution).
  • Exceptionally good at searching for treasure finding gems.
  • Can bluff like the best of them.
  • You'd never, ever suspect her. 

Key "Rarity is a Rogue" episodes:
  • Tries to steal a dragon's hoard right out from under him in Dragonshy
  • Uses cunning and manipulation to be set free -- with all the loot -- after being captured by the Diamond Dogs in A Dog and Pony Show
  • Performs Uncanny Dodges in The Elements of Harmony as well as the aforementioned episodes
  • Utilizes her Disguise skill dressmaking ability in Suited For Success
  • Displays large-scale social manipulation abilities in Green Isn't Your Color

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