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Friday, October 18, 2019

Player Characters in Mass Combat for Pathfinder

Battle of Grunwald by Jan Matejko (1878)

There are many rules in Pathfinder for adjudicating battles against armies; I highly recommend Mass Combat Rules for Pathfinder by Saraiso, aka Sarah Wilson, which takes the rules from Paizo's Ultimate Campaign and melds them with cherries picked from Legendary Games' Ultimate Battle and her own ideas.

The problem with these rules is that, although they are very good, they fail to address a critical question: How do you account for player characters in mass battle? Skirmishes, which are most fights in Pathfinder, can take several hours to play out; playing through a pitched battle on such a scale would take forever. Clearly, some manner of abstraction is needed, preferably one where the players themselves can participate in the fight and whose decisions can help shift the tide of battle.

I eventually settled upon adapting the mass combat rules from the excellent Legend of the 5 Rings RPG, where the players could choose the level of their characters' engagement (in the Reserves, Disengaged, Engaged, or Heavily Engaged) and then by consulting a matrix of engagement level and whether their army was winning, losing, or holding steady I could determine how badly their characters were hurt, if they contributed to the success of the battle, and how glorious their deeds were.

I playtested these rules last weekend. My PCs were engaged in a "Magnificent Seven" style battle last weekend, except on a much larger scale as they defended a community of deep gnomes against an invading drow army. For a playtest they worked well enough, although there is clearly room for improvement. It is my hope that enough experienced players and GMs will help me polish out the imperfections and deliver a more streamlined system.

Morning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415, by Sir John Gilbert

Flow of Battle
  1. Consult the Battle Matrix (see below). Roll 1d6 to determine how many Heroic Opportunities there will be in a battle, then determine their placement using a d6 for X and Y coordinates. 
  2. Run the battle using Saraiso's rules. After running the Melee phase but before the Rout phase, consult these rules for the Hero phase (Phase 3.5). 
  3. Determine if the PC's army is currently winning the battle, losing the battle, or evenly matched. Generally the army which has inflicted the most damage upon the other in the Ranged and Melee phases is winning; in cases where the damage is minimal or a tie, whoever won the Tactical Initiative is winning the battle. If it's still not clear, assume the battle is Even. 
  4. Have the players place their characters in one of four categories: Reserves, Disengaged, Engaged, Heavily Engaged. 
    • Reserves are the furthest from the fighting you can be and still be considered in the battle. This is where many spellcasters choose to stand, either to heal the wounded or to cast battle-affecting spells. Siege engines and their operators are in this band as well. 
      • Feats required: Far Shot to hit the enemy with non-siege ranged weapons. (Spells are not weapons.)
    • Disengaged is where most ranged attackers are, such as archers, crossbowyers, gunslingers, javelineers, etc. as well as spellcasters who are casting combat spells. 
      •  Precise Shot to hit the enemy with ranged weapons.
    • Engaged is where the action is. Some ranged attacks are possible, but this is mainly the province of melee fighters. 
      • Feats required: Shot on the Run to hit the enemy with ranged weapons. 
      • Spellcasters must Cast Defensively or suffer +1d6 damage from Attacks of Opportunity.
    • Heavily Engaged is the tip of the spear where the fighting is at its most brutal. Only the most skilled fighters and the heavily armored can hope to last long here. 
      • Feats required: Snap Shot hit the enemy with ranged weapons. 
      • Spellcasters must Cast Defensively or suffer +1d6 damage from Attacks of Opportunity.
  5. TIP: it is recommended that you group the PCs by engagement level, starting with those Heavily Engaged and working your way to Reserves. 
  6. Each PC rolls 1d20 + AC + their best to-hit bonus. This is called the Battle Roll, and represents how well they do in combat both offensively and defensively. Compare it to the leftmost column to determine which row they are in. 
  7. Based on their level of engagement and the success of their army, find their position on the chart. Roll for damage and assign Fame. 
  8. If there is a Heroic Opportunity on that chart position, ask the player if they wish to make use of it. If so, see Heroic Opportunities, below. If not, move to the next player. 
  9. When all PCs have taken damage and earned Fame, resume the mass battle at Phase 4 - Rout.
  10. When the battle is concluded, tally up the total Fame for each PC. See Fame, below, for more information. 

Battle Matrix
Locations of Heroic Opportunities are in bold.

Actions in Combat
Player characters do more than trade blows and take damage in skirmishes, and so it is in mass battle as well. Once per turn, a PC may take ONE action:
  • Move up or down one level of engagement
  • Drink a potion
  • Use a scroll
  • Cast a spell upon himself or another PC (both must be at the same level of engagement)
  • Channel energy
  • Expend rage
  • Use Bardic or Raging song
Using scrolls or casting spells at any level above Disengaged requires Casting Defensively.

Battle of Neville's Cross by Jean Froissart

Heroic Opportunities
Because the player characters are heroes, their presence can shift the tides of battle if they are in the right place at the right time. This occurs when their Battle Rolls place them in a spot on the Matrix where a Heroic Opportunity is indicated.

Heroic Opportunities should be individualized for the character based on his abilities and position within battle. For example, a bard might notice a unit about to rout and rouse them to victory with a use of Inspire Courage, whereas a cleric might channel energy at the right time to heal the wounded or a wizard might engage in a long-range duel with another spellcaster. The actual details are unimportant so long as they suit the PC and thrill the player.

The mechanics of Heroic Opportunities are as follows:
  1. The player is notified of the Heroic Opportunity for his character. If he accepts, that is his Action in Combat (see above) for the round. If he declines, he can take another action but the Opportunity is lost. 
  2. Based on the situation the GM describes, have the PC roll something suitable such as Profession: Soldier, a Saving Throw, a To Hit roll, a Caster Level Check, etc. The DC should be high but not impossible; something in the range of character level + 15 or 20 should do. 
  3. If the PC succeeds, he earns double the Fame for this round and the GM applies a modifier to one of the armies this round. This is typically a +1 to OM, DV, Morale or Tactical Initiative to his army, or a -1 to OM, DV, Morale or Tactical Initiative to an opposing army. 
  4. If the PC fails, he wounds he suffered this turn are doubled. 

Fame
Fame is used to reward player characters for their valiant deeds in battle in lieu of experience points. This way, no one is penalized for for having fewer hit points or a lower armor class than others and all PCs continue to progress along the same XP track. 

After a battle, tally up the Fame totals for each character, then consult this table from Pathfinder Society. This represents found magical items scavenged from dead enemies, treasure looted from bodies, noblemen taken ransom, and so forth. This gold piece value can be used to upgrade existing equipment or purchase new magical items with GM permission.


Unused Fame
If a character has more fame than can be used (for example, she has 29 Fame, and uses 27 of it to acquire 11,750 gp of magical upgrades) then she must choose one or more of the following:
  1. Bank it for the next Mass Combat;
  2. Convert it into skill levels of Profession: Soldier;
  3. Keep it to use as a Morale bonus for all Charisma-related skills (each point of Fame so used gives a +1 to the skill check up to character level; such points are deducted from the Fame total);
  4. With GM permission, given to another character so they may reach a higher Fame tier.

The Battle of Towton by Richard Caton Woodville Jr.

Known Problems & Desired Patches
As mentioned, this is a playtest and not everything has been worked out or sufficiently balanced. It is entirely possible that some of my numbers are too high or too low and need to be adjusted. I welcome feedback on this issue. 

Here are the problems I have:
  1. I do not know if the Battle Roll is properly balanced. My 5th level PCs scored consistently high, but that might be because of my failure with #2 below. 
  2. Battle turns are measured in hours, which means that most buffing spells and class abilities will not last for the entirety of the battle. My mistake was that I thought they were measured in minutes and so allowed the buffs to carry throughout the battle. This might account for my players' remarkable success; it might have also kept them alive when in fact my numbers were too lethal. I need more playtesting on this to be sure. 
  3. As PCs increase in level, they will quickly top out the matrix. I would like for the DC to vary according to their level to that the matrix can be used for all parties regardless of their level. The rows probably ought to be measured as DC [level] + [base number] but I'm not sure what each [base number] ought to be. 
  4. Is Fame too high? I don't know. I don't think it is, but as stated my players all have 5th level characters. Perhaps it's too high for lower level characters; perhaps it's insultingly low for higher level characters. 
  5. I don't know if random assignment of Heroic Opportunities is the right way to go. I do know that I want them weighted towards the harder end of the spectrum, but I also know that I want them to be available to all characters instead of just the front-line combatants. This is probably a job for a mathematician or a statistician, not a grammar nerd like me. 
I welcome any and all feedback on these rules. I hope you find them interesting and useful, and that they find a place within your game. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 073: Kind of a Big Deal



In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss an anti-gun town hall held at a gun club, Bernie Sanders’ health issues, and Kamala Harris’ lack of compassion;
  • Oddball talks about camping hammocks and how to use them properly;
  • and Weer’d interviews Dr. Miguel Faria about his new book, America, Guns, and Freedom.




Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


Show Notes

Main Topic:
Oddball’s Corner Pocket:
Dr. Miguel Faria:

Monday, October 7, 2019

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 072: Building Maura



In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d are back from their trip to Arizona and discuss the last day of GRPC;
  • Weer'd brings us part two of Robert Francis O'Rourke's anti-gun interview on CNN;
  • David continues his series on casting bullets, now with sizing and lubing (oh myyyyy!);
  • and Weer'd talks to Heinrich from Geeks Gadgets and Guns about a little project named Maura.






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Show Notes

Main Topic:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:





Maura, Heinrich’s 9mm AR-15 Build:

Monday, September 30, 2019

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 071: GRPC and the NFA



In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer'd bring you a free-form episode from Phoenix, Arizona where they report on the happenings at AMM-Con and the Gun Rights Policy Conference.
  • Joining them is special guest (and Phoenix resident) Wally of York Arms to talk about his NFA collection and some of the many nuances of the National Firearms Act.




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Show Notes

      Sunday, September 29, 2019

      My 2019 GRPC Address





      Hello, my name is Erin Palette. I am the Founder of Operation Blazing Sword and the National Coordinator for the Pink Pistols, which means I am the head of the largest pro-gun queer group in the nation.

      I am also a single-issue activist, and that issue is the Second Amendment. Because without the right to keep and bear arms, without the means to defend my life against those who hate me for who I am and who I love, all other rights are meaningless.

      This panel is“How to Grow Gun Rights”. What would you say if I told you that there was a veritable ocean of support here in America that, if accessed, would make our Second Amendment rights unassailable by the government? It’s true, but in order to reach them you need to be a single-issue activist like I am.

      Let’s do some quick back-of-the-envelope math:
      • The population of America is 327 million people.
      • Reported firearm ownership in America is 30%. We all know it’s higher than that, but let’s go with that low number for now.
      • 30% of 327 million is 98 million and change. Let’s round that up to 100 million to make the math easier and to account for some unreported gun ownership.
      • The biggest gun rights group in America today is, despite their troubles, still the NRA, and their membership is only five million people.
      • Let’s add Gun Owners of America; that’s two million members. The SAF, that’s one million. All of the other groups… maybe all those add up to another 5 million.
      • That still leaves 90 million gun owners who, for whatever reason, aren’t represented by pro-Second Amendment groups which have the ear of Washington, DC.

      Pro-gun votes are good and fine and necessary, but if the past year has taught us anything it’s that anti-gun messages need to be stopped, and preferably countered, before they reach the President’s ear.

      Now if the NRA, an organization that represents only five percent of all known gun owners, is the Big Bad Boogeyman on Capitol Hill which can scare politicians into doing what they want… can you imagine what a pro-Second Amendment organization representing a voting block of 100 million voters will accomplish?

      It will make politicians fetch their brown trousers!

      So how do we access this ocean of support? The answer is easy, but the cost is something which many of us will be loathe to give up: our partisanship.

      We have pro-Second Amendment allies within the ranks of libertarians and liberals, but some of us are actively turning those allies away by calling them names and wrongly assuming that anyone who isn’t conservative is anti-gun.

      I have lost track of the number of people who have told me they are pro-gun, that they own guns, that they believe in gun rights, but they aren’t members of any gun-rights group because those groups have bundled other political views -- such as abortion, or immigration, or economic policy -- into their Second Amendment advocacy. That bundling, that partisanship, that lack of single-issue focus is costing us allies by the tens of millions.

      If you are truly a single-issue activist like me, you will reach out to those you call your ideological opponents and, in the name of the Second Amendment --  in the name of keeping ourselves and our families safe -- in the name of freedom-- you will begin a dialog with them about what we have in common, and what we value most, and how we can best come together to defend that which we hold most precious.

      If you are truly single-issue, you will teach firearm safety and operation to those with whom you disagree politically. You will take them shooting. You will help them pick out guns for hunting and self-defense and, yes, defense against tyranny. You will show them not just through your words, but also through your actions and through your character, that you truly believe that the Second Amendment is for everyone, including them, not just for those who vote a certain way. To do otherwise means you are letting ideology stand in the way of true Second Amendment activism.

      Reach out to liberals. Reach out to minorities. Reach out to queer people. Reach out to everyone you know in order to make them enthusiastic about gun rights.

      Make gun rights unassailable by making firearm ownership and activism not just something that conservatives do, or white people do, or old people do. Make it something that American people do. Make the Second Amendment American again. If you do this, I guarantee you that our Second Amendment rights will be preserved for generations to come.

      I’m Erin Palette, and I am a single-issue activist. Are you?



      Footnote:
      *Of course, this assumes that members of GOA, SAF etc aren’t NRA members as well. Actual membership overlap is likely somewhere between “many” and “most”, in which case there are yet millions more gun owners unrepresented in Washington, D.C. 


      Tuesday, September 24, 2019

      Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 070: Segments Galore



      In This Episode:
      • Erin and Weer’d discus their upcoming trip to Amm-Con and GRPC;
      • The Egghead discusses methods of water purification;
      • Weer'd fisks Beto O'Rourke and his attack on our gun rights;
      • Oddball gives us a list of good knives for under $20;
      • David talks about his debut as a male model at the NRA Personal Protection Expo;
      • and Steve tells the tale of his new Ninja Wagon.




      Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


      Show Notes

      Main Topic:  
      Weer’d Audio Fisk:
      General Purpose Egghead:
      Oddball’s Corner Pocket:
      Tales from the Trunk:

        Wednesday, September 18, 2019

        How About We Treat Transpeople Like People?

        Important Note: Since I am not a transman and I do not wish to speak on a subject of which I know little, I cannot speak to their difficulties within society. My silence does not mean I think they have no problems.


        OK gentlefolks, let's gather 'round and talk about this "Transwomen are Women/Transwomen are Men" argument that's been going on for ages.

        On the one hand, we have the inclusionary position of "Transwomen are Women". While I cannot speak for everyone who says this, I believe that this is not meant as a literal statement of fact -- as in, they do not literally believe that transwomen are truly women in every sense of the word, including genetics and biology -- but rather as a statement of support. They are saying, "You are female in the ways that matter, and therefore I will support you by affirming your identity."

        In other words, it's not denial of biology but rather affirmation of psychology and an assertion of acceptance, which is something that is really freaking important when you've spent decades hating yourself because your body doesn't match who your brain says you are, and so you take a big, scary step in an attempt to find some peace between body and mind... only to have people yelling in your face that you're sick and disgusting and deviant.

        Let me share something with you: all but the most self-assured transwomen will, in their heart of hearts, sadly agree with the people shouting "Transwomen are men!" because that's how we still feel. We know that insecurity, and we crave acceptance from others because we hate what we see when we look in the mirror; and deep down, we think we're doing a terrible job of looking like women and because we'll never fit in no matter how hard we try, maybe we ought to just do what the screaming voices want and kill ourselves.

        Because that's what the "Transwomen are Men" crowd wants: for our identities to die. They probably don't mean it as "kill your physical form"; however, most of the time it's not in the hurtful-but-well-meaning manner of "You have a delusion, let me help you stop being deluded and happy" but rather in the far more visceral "You are disgusting and vile and perverse, remove yourself from my world".

        Let me tell you this: when someone who has been unhappy inside their skin all their lives finds happiness in transition, only to be told that they must destroy that part of themselves before they can be accepted by society, a lot of them feel that they're being told to destroy what makes them them. A suicide of soul, if not of body.

        It's because of this that I get very, very upset with the "transwomen are men!" shouters, because in their shouts I hear them calling for my death, for the death of the person who is Erin. It's beyond rude; it's cruel and disgusting and not at all what any loving God would want from believers.

        Here's what I suggest: Let's be courteous and treat transgender people like people instead of broken things. Yes, that means using their preferred pronouns and speaking/acting/reacting to them in the ways that make them feel comfortable. The first rule of getting along in society is "Be Polite"; or, put another way, "Don't Be Rude." Why is it so hard for so many people to understand this concept?

        "But they were born -" I'm going to have to stop you there. If you want to claim that you are somehow serving an absolute truth that is immutable based upon birth, I have some questions that you need to answer first:
        1. Do you still call married women by their maiden names? After all, that's how they were born. 
        2. Do you still call degreed professionals Mr. or Ms. instead of "doctor" or "professor"? After all, they weren't born with those titles. 
        3. If you're in the military, do you still call your superiors "sir/ma'am" or whatever their rank is? 
        4. How about the police? When you're stopped for a ticket, do you call the cop by the name on their uniform, or do you call them "officer"?
        5. How about calling judges "Your Honor?" How about any number of other situations like these?
        If you can call a stranger by a noun which they weren't born with, then you can grant a transgender person a pronoun. If you can call a married woman a name she wasn't born with, then you can call a transgender person the name they've chosen for themselves. If you can do all the things listed above without violating your "sense of truth", then you can be kind to someone who just wants to feel normal.

        And if you won't, then don't claim some moral high ground. Just admit that you're afraid of the severe social consequences for being disrespectful those you see as your equals or superiors, but that transgender people are below you and therefore you can get away with being rude to them. After all, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, what injury does it do you to say that a transwoman is a woman? How does it pick your pocket or break your leg?


        Please, be kind. Don't be rude or callous or cruel, especially in the name of "the truth" or your religion. Understand that we're all trying to find our way through this world in the manner that hurts us the least. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.



        Monday, September 16, 2019

        Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 069: The Crazy Years



        In This Episode:
        • Erin and Weer'd discuss some of the crazy news in the 2nd Amendment;
        • Weer'd brings us Part 2 of his 60 Minutes audio fisk, wherein they claim that the AR-15 is "the Choice of Spree Killers";
        • and Egghead teaches us how to convert an AM radio into a shortwave receiver on the cheap.




        Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


        Show Notes

        Main Topic:  
        Weer’d Audio Fisk:
        General Purpose Egghead:

        Saturday, September 14, 2019

        Sometimes I think I talk too much...

        I came upon this old post of mine recently. Three years ago, I restricted it to friends because I didn't feel comfortable making my insecurity visible to everyone.

        I might regret this later, but today I'm going to share it with everyone. I'm not doing it for sympathy or praise; I'm doing it to show you that I'm human, and that we all have doubts we need to overcome if we're going to accomplish anything worthwhile in this world, and to explain to people why I do what I do.


        From October 15, 2016:
        Sometimes I think I talk too much about being transgender.

        You see, the hope of any transgender person is to be thought of as the gender they are, not the gender they were saddled with at birth. But by continually pointing out that I'm trans, I fear that I keep reinforcing in your minds that hey, in case you'd forgotten since yesterday, I was born male.

        This is troubling to me on a personal level, because I have fought really hard to be thought of as female, seen as female, treated as female... and then I basically shoot myself in the foot by saying (at least to my mind) "Thank you for treating me like a lady. Did you know I was born with a penis?"

        On the other hand, I've realized that there aren't many pro-gun, pro-2A, pro-self defense transgender people out there, and by being outspoken about it I am encouraging the acceptance of queer gun owners. And with the creation of Operation Blazing Sword, I have become a figurehead of sorts, and so I feel I am doing more good by being out, loud, and proud than I am by trying to blend in.

        So I feel like I'm put in a very uncomfortable situation: I can do the most good for the most people by living and speaking as "Hi, I'm a transgender gun owner", but that directly hurts my ability to be seen and treated how I want to be seen and treated; or I can do my best to be just a regular woman, and in so doing deny a voice and representation to others.

        In another thread, John Bouler pointed out that I've done a lot to help cisgendered folks understand what it's like to be trans. That helps me feel better, because it tells me that I'm at least accomplishing things, even if I can't see results. But I still feel like I'm being forced to choose between continually reminding people of what's between my legs, and doing nothing when I ought to be doing something.

        If I could choose, I think I would want a compromise where people somehow tacitly know I'm trans, but it's only in the back of their minds, and they consciously treat me like I'm a cis female.

        I wish I could conclude this post by saying "I got my wish," but I didn't; there are still many, many people who are hung up on what I have between my legs when it's none of their business.

        However, it's not all bad. I have lots of lovely friends who know and accept and love me for who I am, and they treat me just as I wish. Maybe the others will come in time... or perhaps I'll grow enough in confidence where I won't care how others see me.

        Maybe we'll see in another 3 years?


        Monday, September 9, 2019

        Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 068: Number .223 With a Bullet



        In This Episode:
        • Erin prepares for Hurricane Dorian while Weer'd talks violence in the news;
        • David tells you how to turn melted lead into bullets;
        • and Weer'd fisks 60 Minutes' breathless take on the 5.56mm cartridge.





        Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


        Show Notes

        Main Topic:  
        Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:
        Weer’d Audio Fisk:

        Thursday, September 5, 2019

        A Free Taste of Three-Line Rifle

        As I mentioned last year (ye gods, has it really been over a year since I started work on this?), I have a story with the working title "Three-Line Rifle". I say it's the working title because I had a very good reason for using that title when I started writing, but now I don't think it fits anymore. Allow me to explain by quoting an old blog post:
        While it's true that the Mosin-Nagant is called the three-line rifle due to the way the Russians would determine the bore of a weapon by comparing it to a set line and the M9130 required three of them, that's not the reason for the title. No, the real reason, as mentioned in Part 2, is that Grandmother Rifle has been in Bronia's family for generations and my tale will tell the story of three of them: Bronia's use of the rifle for Team Bogatyr; her grandmother Avdotya's exploits with it during World War 2; and great-grandmother Praskovya's adventures with the Night Witches in World War 1. Essentially, it's a story about three family lines of service to Mother Russia and the rifle that binds them all together.
        Three women, three story lines, Three-Line Rifle. That's how it was supposed to work, and my ambitious plan was to write the stories of all three women and intertwine them together. And if this had been a short story, that could have worked.

        Instead, 3LR has blossomed into a novella of currently 19,000 words and a projected total of 25-30,000. Trying to tell three independent stories would probably make it a 100K word monstrosity that I don't know when I'd finish and might be confusing and frustrating to read. At this point I don't know what I'll do with the other two stories; maybe I'll write them later as sequel-prequels, or maybe I'll leave them as back stories and keep writing in the present. Either way, I'll need to change the title to something else. Maybe The Grandmother Rifle Chronicles or something.

        But first I have to actually finish writing this story, and I've been in a bit of a slump lately. After giving it some thought I've decided that what I really need is some enthusiastic encouragement from readers, so I will release this chunk of story -- originally published on Patreon for patrons only around this time last year -- for free so that all my subscribers can read it and enjoy it.

        This segment is the "origin story" of the story's protagonist, so it's the ideal introduction to my world (which might be somewhat familiar to fans of a certain action-horror series, but hopefully it's unique enough to be its own creature).

        At the bottom there is a glossary of Russian words.

        Image found on Pinterest.

        Three-Line Rifle: Origin

        I stood at the gate to the private shooting range out side Volgograd, the rifle case in my right hand heavy and nearly as tall as I was. It was a bright sunny spring day, the air crisp with the sharp smell of gunpowder, the high caliber gunshots cracking with such intensity that I could feel them through my body... or maybe that was just my heart, threatening to burst from my chest.

        I took a deep breath in the hopes it would stop my giddiness, but instead I just grinned broadly. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t scared or filled with self-doubt; this was something I knew I could do. This was where I belonged, and no mouth-breathing neanderthal would tell me otherwise.

        “Go away, little girl,” sneered the neanderthal in his striped tank top. I knew that shirt was military issue, the color of the horizontal stripes indicating how he served, but I could never remember if light blue stripes meant marines or Spetsnaz. All I knew was that this Ivan Drago caricature, with his close-cropped hair and bulging neck muscles, was going to let me inside to shoot one way or another. “Private range. Professionals only. Invitation only,” he emphasized.

        I nodded briskly, setting the heavy rifle case down on the gravel driveway with a slight crunch and began digging through my suddenly bottomless purse. “Good, we finally agree on something… aha! Here it is.” I pulled out a sheet of folded paper and tried to give it to him, but he just arched a bristly eyebrow. “My invitation.” It made flapping noises as I waved it up at down at him.

        He just sneered and laughed at me. “We don’t print invitations, little girl. What are you, press? Some sort of activist? Or maybe just a range bunny looking to score?” He leered at me through broken teeth that would make a hockey player envious. “Whatever you are, we don’t want you, so kindly fuck off.”

        I sighed. Before I’d left home for university, baba Praskovya had given me little sachet of dried herbs for my protection. “Boys,” she told me, “often don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. When that happens, throw this in their face and run away.” I took the sachet from the pocket of my purse where it had lived for the past four years and, hoping that it would work just as well against a man who wouldn’t say ‘yes’, I tossed it at his eyes. He wasn’t expecting it, so I had the element of surprise in my favor, but frankly I didn’t know if the herbs would still work after so many years.

        In fact, I didn’t even know what they would do, although I was reasonably certain they wouldn’t turn him into a pig or strike him stone dead, because Mama had gotten into a row with Baba over excessive force the first time a boy had broken my heart. Baba wanted to roast him alive and serve him as our Sunday dinner, but Mama finally convinced her that such a thing just wasn’t done this century, and that a curse involving explosive diarrhea in front of the entire school during a slow dance with his new girlfriend would make me happier.

        It did, by the way.

        The sachet ruptured in a puff of scented powder – pepper and blueberries, maybe? – and unsure if stripey would be on my heels or not, I quickly picked up my rifle case and tottered into the range as fast as I could manage. Gravel crunched under my feet as I stumble-ran down the slight incline, the volume of the gunfire increasing through my pink electronic earmuffs with each step. Once I was within shouting distance of the uniformed men on the wooden platform that delineated the shooting lanes, I risked a look backwards and saw that stripey was still standing there, looking befuddled. I had a brief pang of regret over what I’d done, but I needed this opportunity.

        “Hello!” I shouted to the closest man, tall and lean with a waterfall of chestnut hair to his shoulders that contrasted nicely with his black tactical uniform. “Hello! I’m here for the Bogatyr tryouts!” I waved my printed invitation overhead to catch his attention as I trotted towards him on unsteady feet.

        He turned and gave me such a grin of amusement that it nearly wrecked me. I’d seen that look before; it was the look men gave to women they thought were cute but incompetent. And in my defense, I am quite cute, especially when my auburn curls frame my face on a good hair day. It’s just that today I wanted to be thought of as competent as well, which is why I was wearing jeans, a turtleneck sweater and boots to a shooting range instead of a dress and heels.

        “Well hello,” said chestnut as he walked over to me, his tone that of the indulgent, patient babysitter.  “And who might you be?”

        I set the rifle case down, winced as it made contact a bit too quickly, then straightened up to my full height and stuck out my right hand. “Bronislava Artemievna Vinogradova, here to shoot qualification for the Bogatyrs.”

        He bent at the waist to bring his head closer to mine in a gesture I chose to interpret as polite instead of patronizing and took my hand in his. It was covered in a thin shooting glove but was surprisingly warm. “A pleasure, Bronislava Artemievna. I am Grigori Maksimovich Markov, but please call me Grisha.”

        I beamed. “Only if you call me Bronia.”

        He smiled broadly and we shook on it, striking the deal. “Well then Bronia, would you please tell me what you’re doing here?”

        “She is leaving,” said an angry voice behind me. I whirled, narrowly preventing stripey’s ham-sized fists from landing on my shoulders, and fell into my best fighting crouch.

        “Dima, relax,” Grisha said to stripey in a mollifying tone. “I have this. Go back to the gate.”

        “She’s a child!” he countered, un-mollified.

        “She’s an adult who knows who we are and where we were shooting qualification, despite the fact that we don’t advertise such things. She’s also wearing ear and eye protection, and based on the size of her case I think she has a hunting rifle with her. If she belongs here I’d like to see what she can do, and if she doesn’t belong I’d like to learn how she learned of us.”

        Grisha touched my upper arm with his fingers to get my attention, and I relaxed enough to take my eyes off this Dima person and look at him.  “What do you say, Bronia? You tell us how you knew we’d be here, and if we like what we hear we’ll let you shoot. If we don’t, I – not Dima, but I – will escort you off the premises. Sound fair?”

        I nodded, and the neanderthal stomped and swore in irritation while Grisha called over another man, tall and thin with a bearing like a university professor despite his narrow, tidy uniform. “Bronia,” Grisha introduced, “this is our leader, Anatoli Sergeievich Fyodorov.” He inclined his head in my direction. “Anatoli Sergeievich, this is Bronislava Artemievna Vinogradova. She wishes to shoot for us.” The man reminded me of every headmaster I’d ever had, and I felt the inexplicable urge to curtsy before him.

        “How curious,” said the Professor as he eyed me through round-framed glasses that looked like they came from the Soviet era. “I have never heard of her before, and I contact all potential recruits myself. How does she know of us?” He asked this question without taking his eyes off me, as if I might fly away like a scared dove at any moment.

        “An excellent question,” Grisha said, turning to look at me, and in reply I noisily waved my invitation at both of them. He took the paper and unfolded it for all to see.

        It was an illustration of a young woman sitting on a bench, listening to music on headphones while three zombies menaced her from behind. The ones to either side of her had bullet holes where their eyes used to be, and the third zombie, much smaller with its body obscured by the woman’s head, had a single bullet hole through its nose. At the bottom were the words “5 shots, No misses, 1 km range. Witnessed by me, March 11 2018.” The signature read “Maxim Burov”.

        Grisha let out a low whistle. “Maxim Burov, the competitive shooter?”

        “No, the freestyle skier,” I snarked, then immediately regretted it. “Da, the shooter. I went to see him compete, and afterwards I asked him if he would sign my target. After he saw me shoot it!” I hastily added.

        “Mhm,” said the Professor through tight lips. “And how did you hear of us?”

        “Family connections, Anatoli Sergeievich, sir. My grandmother Avdotya was a sniper in the Great Patriotic War and earned the Order of the Red Star. Since then our family has taken pride in our marksmanship as well as our service to the Motherland.” My words became a torrent, rushing out nearly faster than I could think them, so eager was I to have them believe me. “Most recently, my uncle Petya fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and after a few drinks his tongue would loosen and he’d talk about his time in the Hindu Kush. He'd tell stories about the men in white robes who didn’t show up on thermal and who disappeared into smoke, and of sighting Barmanu in this distance, and the one time his unit was attacked by a lion the size of a bear but it had a man’s face and shot shrapnel from its tail. They killed it with an RPG! One of my father’s comrades from the war, Mr. Azad İlkin, still hunts bears and… other things… along the northern border. I believe you contacted him years ago, and he gave the letter to uncle Petya. I found that letter while growing up and knew from the moment I read it that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Everyone in my family has shed blood for Mother Russia and this is how I want to serve, if you’ll have me.” I was practically hyperventilating when I finished and I flushed with embarrassment. Very smooth, Bronia, I chastised myself. Very professional.

        Grisha and Dima looked at me, then to each other as if they were trying to process rapid-fire Morse code, then to the Professor whose stoic expression told me nothing except that he was absorbing this information. “Azad İlkin is known to me by reputation,” he said at last, “and your uncle’s stories match the descriptions of the jinn and martichoras of the Kush.” More silence followed.

        “Very well,” he said at last, “I find your application acceptable. You may shoot your qualification. What did you bring?”

        An idiot grin split my face. I knelt and opened the hard plastic rifle case, slightly scuffed from where I’d set it down too hard, and once I lifted the oilcloth from the weapon inside the stripey neanderthal behind me guffawed. “A Mosin-Nagant? Bozhe moi, she brought a bolt-action rifle old enough to be her grandmother! And she thinks she can join Bogatyr with that relic?”

        https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/a1-768x319.jpg

        I whipped my head around and gave him my best glower. “Grandmother Rifle,” I said slowly, making sure he could hear each word of her name being capitalized, “is the weapon my grandmother used alongside Aliya Moldagulova, the Hero of the Soviet Union, at the battle of Novosokolniki.” With loving hands I lifted her out of the case and rose, still glaring at him. “She has been in my family for generations, passed down from mother to daughter. If you disrespect her then you disrespect my family and all that we have done for Mother Russia, so choose your next words very carefully.” I did not point the rifle at him, although I dearly wanted to do just that.

        Dima tensed and scowled, his mouth opening to say something, only to be interrupted by Grisha. “Such passion! Love for family and country is a core value of the Bogatyrs, wouldn’t you agree, Dima? Of course you would,” he continued without stopping, “and so you clearly meant no disrespect to this young lady’s ancestral rifle. I, for one, would love to see what she can do with it. Don’t you, Anatoli Sergeievich?”

        The Professor nodded in clinical assessment. “Yes, quite. But in due time. First to pistols.” He gestured to the 25 meter lanes on my left, took a few steps and then stopped to see why I wasn’t moving. “If you would follow me please?”

        I blushed a deep crimson. “Anatoli Sergeievich, I am ashamed to tell you that I do not know how to shoot a pistol.” Dima guffawed again, meaner this time, like the bully on that American cartoon The Simpsons.

        “I see,” said the Professor. “And what do you know how to shoot?”

        I hefted Grandmother Rifle, smiling weakly. “Just this. But I assure you, I am a very good shot with it.”

        Grisha came to my rescue. “With respect, Anatoli Sergeievich, if she knows the fundamentals of shooting a bolt-action then bringing her up to speed on modern rifles is easy. Pistols are harder, of course, but then - ”

        “Why are you so eager to make excuses for this brat, Grisha?” Dima spat. “Looking to get your khui wet?”

        “What did you just call me, Vadim Andreievich?” Grisha shot back, anger in his voice for the first time.

        “Gentlemen, please,” said the Professor in a tone of mediation. I took the opportunity to slowly back out of the impending argument and quietly made my way over to the shotgun field, Grandmother Rifle slung over my shoulder.


        “Excuse me,” I said to the woman who was standing next to the pigeon thrower and smoking a cigarette. Her long dark hair was tied back in a severe bun and she’d taken off her fatigue blouse, showing a black t-shirt with the words ‘Yob tvoyu mat’ written in a glittery font. She looked older than Dima and Grisha, though not as old as Professor, and looked so very tired that I thought she subsisted on coffee and nicotine.  “Can you tell me what’s behind the range that way?” I nodded in the direction the clays would be thrown.

        “Just forest,” she muttered, her cigarette bobbing with each syllable. “Miles and miles of forest.” She took a long drag and glowered at me, blowing smoke through her nose like an angry bull.

        I put on my most friendly expression and stuck out my hand. “Hi, call me Bronia.”

        She looked at my hand like it was rotten, then turned back to look at whatever she was staring at before. “Irina Aleksandrovna. What do you want?”

        This was not going according to plan. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the three men headed my way. I had to act quickly.

        “Irina Aleksandrovna, I realize this will sound very silly but if you will just turn on the pigeon thrower I promise you that it will deal a devastating blow to Dima’s ego, and from his behavior I think you’d enjoy that.” I tried, and failed miserably, to keep the wheedling tone from my request.

        She looked me up and down, then at my slung rifle with a scowl of disapproval, then to the men, then back to me. She shrugged in an exaggerated gesture. “Eh, why the fuck not. Either way, I get to laugh at someone.” She turned the machine on while I took five rounds of 7.62x54R ammo from the nylon pouch on Grandmother Rifle’s stock and thumbed them into the magazine. “Say when.”

        “Don’t wait for me,” I said as I took a firing stance. “Just pull whenever it amuses you.”

        The tosser thunked as it hurled a clay into the air in a long, low arc. Grandmother Rifle came alive in my hand, quickly finding the pigeon in the 3.5x PU scope and then leading it, compensating for drop and distance to target. “Bang,” I whispered, and Grandmother Rifle echoed my sentiments with a sharp crack and a hard shove against my shoulder. Even braced, she kicked hard.

        The bullet took the clay through the middle and it disintegrated in midair. “Again,” I said to Irina, as I worked the bolt to chamber a new round.

        Thunk. Bang. Crack. Shatter.

        “Again!” Thunk. Bang. Crack. Shatter.

        “Again!” I shouted, but this time she fired off two clays, one high and one low. I shot the low one first, then searched for the other one while I worked the bolt. I managed to find it just before its slim form dropped below the tree line and fired. The bullet clipped the pigeon on its rim and it tumbled into the ground. It wasn’t a clean hit, but it still counted.

        “Bitch!” I laughed as I ejected the last spent round. “Two at once? You fucking bitch!”

        I must have won her over, either with my skill or my daring, because she grinned back at me. “I’ve been called that before. You, though, can call me Irka.”

        “You fucking Irka?” I quipped, and we both laughed.

        The three men were beside us now, the Professor looking like he’d eaten something sour and the younger two with their mouths open. “How?” asked Grisha.

        “The power of family,” I replied, then addressed Grandmother Rifle in their presence for the first time. “Mosinka, hover.” I dropped my hands and she stayed in place, hovering in midair like duck bobbing on the surface of the water.

        Vedma!” cried Vadim.

        “Yes,” I agreed with him but addressing to the Professor. “I am a witch, from a long line of witches who served the Motherland, and I can be your witch if you’ll have me. There are worse things out there than us, and I want to help you fight them.”

        The Old Professor considered this for a moment, then turned to Grisha. “Grigori Maksimovich, she has enormous talent but precious little skill. If we take her on, it will be in a diminished capacity until she is brought up to speed, and you will be the one responsible for teaching her. Are you willing to do this?”

        “Oh hell yes,” Grisha said. “I’ve always wanted to apprentice someone in the sorcery of sniping. She just has to promise not to eat me,” he added with a wink.

        “The first joke is free,” I winked back. “Then I start measuring you for an oven.”


        Glossary

        Spetsnaz: Russian Special Forces. 
        Baba: Granny. The formal version is "babushka".
        Bogatyr: Russian version of a knight-errant.
        Da: yes.
        Bozhe moi: Oh my god!
        Khui: Colloquialism for the penis.
        Yob tvoyu mat: Literally, "Go fuck your mother."
        Mosinka: The diminutive form of "Mosin." Grandmother Rifle is a Mosin-Nagant, so her nickname in Russian is Mosinka in the same way that Bronislava's nickname is Bronia.
        Vedma: Technically "wise woman," but colloquially "witch".


        Monday, September 2, 2019

        Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 067: Round Table vs. Dumb Gun Laws



        In This Episode:
        Erin, David, Oddball, and Weer'd discuss the currently proposed anti-gun laws and why they are so stupid, why you shouldn't trust the media, and a number of other digressions.





        Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


        Show Notes

        Sunday, September 1, 2019

        I Made This

        Well, to be correct it was started by Aimee Morgan and contributed to by Mark Gipson, and the image made by Gordon Mac Promish. I added the rest of the words and arranged it.


        Yeet is a versatile word. It is an excited shout; it also means "to throw something at something else". For example, if a basketball player were to shoot a three-pointer that they are sure will go in the hoop, they will yeet (shout) while yeeting (throwing the ball). Others watching the shot may also yeet if they wish, although they should be careful not to yeet and spoil the shot. However, the yeeter's opponents may also try to yeet (while yeeting) the yote before it yites the yute.

        This reminds me of something I wrote back in January.


        For those who don't speak the lingo:
        • To be "fleek" or "on fleek" is to be impeccably groomed; stylish; fashionable. 
        • To "skeet" is to ejaculate.
        • We've already covered "yeet". 

        You may now hate me if you must. 

        Thursday, August 29, 2019

        No More Unknown Armies Posts



        This is most likely the last post you'll see about the campaign I've been running. The main reason for that is because I will not be recording and posting future sessions. If you're one of the handful of people who enjoyed this, I apologize.

        For those who are wondering why, it's because one of my players told me that being recorded makes them very uncomfortable and less likely to say anything, which results in decreased participation. While I wish I'd been told earlier about this, the simplest and kindest thing to do is to simply stop recording the sessions altogether. Which is a pity for me, because given that there's at least a week between each session, listening to the recording is a perfect way to refresh my memory.

        If I'm being honest, I don't think this campaign will survive much longer anyway. As I referenced last week, my GM style and what the group wants appear to be two different things. This leaves me with the following choices:

        1. My GM style doesn't suit what kind of game the PCs want to play and I'll have to re-tool the adventure and how I run this game. 
        2. I'm the wrong GM for this group and I need to bow out. 
        3. This is the wrong game for this group and I need to run something else. 

        Which unfortunately boil down to "Quit or do a lot more work." Thing is, I only started running this game because the GM of my Wednesday Pathfinder game became overwhelmed with Real Life Issues and needed time to get things in order. I volunteered so that we'd have something to do on the off-weeks, and I
        specifically picked UA because it's a game that's easy for me to run. I know from personal experience how much effort it takes to set up and balance a Pathfinder session -- I run one every Saturday night, after all, and a good bit of the Saturday afternoon before and Sunday afternoon after are used in preparation. I simply couldn't do the same for another game, so I went with a game which is rules-light and more about story and setting and role-playing than about mechanics and combat.

        But people aren't having fun, and frustrated players mean a frustrated GM and that means no one is happy. So right now, UA is on hiatus as I try to figure out if I have the energy and desire to re-do the entire campaign.

        If I decide to end it, I'll write up a synopsis of what was going on and how the plot could have unfolded for my Patreon patrons so that they can have their questions answered.

        Thanks and goodnight.

        Monday, August 26, 2019

        The Genteel Curse

        I'm not certain, but I think I've devised the most genteel curse ever:

        "I hope that I'm in a position to help you one day."

        Much like Bless Your Heart, its vagueness is its versatility. Said nicely, they won't even know it's a curse; said with verbal stink, it's obviously a curse but multi-layered:

        • Does it mean they are so screwed up that their dysfunction outstrips your ability to provide aid to them?
        • Does it mean that you sincerely hope that in the future they will ask for help from you, giving you the pleasure of telling them "No, I won't help you" ?
        • Does it mean that you look forward to the day when they come to you on their knees, apologizing and begging for help?

        The answer, of course, is that it could mean any or all of them, depending on the speaker's mood, or it could mean just what was said: a sincere desire to help in the future. Context is the only clue.

        Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 066: Return of the Weer’d



        In This Episode:
        • Weer'd is back from vacation! Hear where he went and what he did, and the various problems Erin had with editing the podcast in his absence;
        • Egghead explains why financial prepping is necessary despite being unsexy;
        • David tells us how to cast your own bullets;
        • and guest Sean Sorrentino details why you're making the wrong argument against red flag laws.



        Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


        Show Notes

        Gun Lovers and Other Strangers

        Thursday, August 22, 2019

        Unknown Armies Episode 11



        So... that didn't go as I expected.

        Sigh.

        Let me tell you a story. Back in 1995, I was asked to GM a game of Vampire: the Masquerade at the local engineering college. They were all members of a local RPG group who really wanted to play this hot new game but didn't have anyone to run it for them. I was active on the various World of Darkness mailing lists at the time (ah, mailing lists. How 90s) and someone saw I was in their area, said "Would you like to run for us?" and I was all "Sure!"

        So I showed up and saw that most of them had made their characters. OK, cool. I get an idea of who they are and what kind of characters they're running. I start an introductory scenario where they, newly made vampires, present themselves to the head vampire of the city (the "Prince" in V:tM lingo) and meet the local clan heads (movers and shakers of power). Then I say to them, "OK, what do you do next?"

        I was met with blank stares. Apparently the idea that they, as player characters, should have goals and motivations was foreign to them. They wanted to be told what to do. They wanted to given a quest, go do it, then come back and get a reward and another quest.

        They were D&D players in a very NOT D&D game. I was frustrated by this and tried to make it work, but I failed. I was told by one of them (who was a good friend of mine for many years after) that I was expecting a "very advanced form of roleplay" from them.

        I feel like that's what is happening in this game. I put the players in a strange place, and instead of trying to blend in, lie low and figure out why they are there, they fight it and do their best to opt out of the scenario. I think you can hear it in my voice as I die a little bit inside in what is supposed to be the climax of the scenario.

        Honestly, the only thing I thought was successful was when they (probably unwittingly) crafted an ad-hoc ritual to pull them back to Texas. They technically shouldn't have been able to do that without a magickal charge, but at this point I was basically "Oh thank goodness, they're actually working together and engaging in ritual symbolism" and I decided it was better to reward them for desirable behavior rather than drag out an obviously unfun and unhappy scenario for purposes of rules.

        I don't really know what to do. These are D&D players in a very not-D&D game, and I don't know if I can change this game to suit their playstyle without eliminating the elements that make it fun for me to run.

        Thanks for letting me vent.


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