Monday, August 10, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 113: The Devil is in the Lands & Grooves

In This Episode
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss some goofy anti-gun proposals and anti-gun double-standards, then talk about the dangers of lasers and why it's a bad idea to use them to blind law enforcement;
  • David tells us about the history of bullet development;
  • Xander talks about redundant multiple methods of redundancy to accomplish tasks in multiple redundant methods;
  • and Weer'd brings us the final part of his fisk of the Brady Campaign Panel of Anti-Gun Gun Owners.

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Show Notes

Main Topic:

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Monday, August 3, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 112: Medicinal Rum Gives Erin the Giggles

In This Episode
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss how the anti-gunners are trying to BS about background checks;
  • Xander brings us his Independent Thoughts on fear and his body's reaction to it;
  • and Weer'd presents Part 3 of his fisk of the Brady Campaign's Anti-Gun Gun Owners, this time with Mark House of New York City.

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Show Notes

Main Topic:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Friday, July 31, 2020

Save Space Camp!

I attended Space Camp in 1985, back before a lot of people knew it existed. (This was before the terrible, horrible movie of the same name made it a national name.) It was an amazing and formative experience for me, and not just because I won the Outstanding Camper award for the week I was there [/humblebrag], but also because it took my interest in space exploration and made it feel real and a possible career choice. 

(Ah, if only I had been better at math, I could have been a scientist. Or if my vision had been better, I could have been a pilot. Still, I think every kid wants to be an astronaut when they're little, and precious few of us make it.)

Unfortunately, Space Camp is in severe financial difficulties due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; nobody wants to go to camp and risk getting sick. As a result, they've lost 66% of their revenue and may close if they do not get funding. To that end, they've started a GoFundMe:
Space Camp has been on a mission for 38 years to educate and inspire students from all over the world about space and science, but now we need mission support.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a dramatic reduction in attendance at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum and Space Camp, leading to a significant decrease in revenue and operating capital. We reopened Space Camp after a four months closure but at greatly reduced number this summer. With limited admission from international students and school groups this fall and winter, we’re forced to close our weeklong camp programs again until April 2021. These ongoing challenges have meant a devastating loss of two-thirds of our revenue.

At this time, we have exhausted all funding possibilities, and without your support the U.S Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp will have to close in October. However, we firmly believe that failure is not an option, so we are turning to you. We need the support of our fellow science enthusiasts, Space Camp alumni and anyone who believes in the spirit of exploration to help all systems return to go.

Will you chip in today and help us raise $1.5 million? This will support us through the winter and allow us time to plan for a future filled with Space Camp and scientific discovery.  We have to save Space Camp, and we know that together we can reach mission accomplished. 
Please donate if you can, and share this campaign if you can't. This is an experience that all children should have -- the future of the human race is in space!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 111: Wait, Erin Can DO that??

In This Episode
  • We discuss the Chipotle parking lot incident in Orion, Michigan;
  • Xander brings us some Independent Thoughts on suppressors and those who want them restricted;
  • David talks about techniques for weak-side shooting;
  • and Oddball talks about heat stress when it comes to shooting outside in the heat, or just generally getting too hot.

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Show Notes

Friday, July 24, 2020

Rights are for everyone, even those you despise.

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” ― H.L. Mencken
I really wish people would stop making me defend the McCloskeys. Based on everything I’ve read about them, they are awful people who sue their neighbors, occupy land and then file squatter’s rights to claim it legally, and they are possibly anti-queer. The husband, Mark, definitely sued his father and sister over a land deed. These are not the kind of people I like, much less want to defend, but like everyone else in this country they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, there are many people who take issue with that.

The official position of Operation Blazing Sword - Pink Pistols is “In regard to the McCloskeys, we can respect their right to self defense against threats as they perceived them. However, we absolutely condemn their appalling ignorance of, and disregard for, basic firearm safety. As to the whys and wherefores of their case, Operation Blazing Sword - Pink Pistols leaves that in the hands of the St. Louis, MO legal system.” In other words, they might be guilty or they might be innocent, and that’s for the courts to decide. We are happy that no one was killed, and we strongly believe that the McCloskeys really need some proper firearm training. I’m a big proponent of Massad Ayoob’s MAG40 class.

I wish that could be the end of it. I really, truly, wish it were. Unfortunately, it is all too common for me to see on social media calls for vigilante “justice” against the McCloskeys because a trial will take too long or it’s believed they will receive a Not Guilty verdict or even because they’re anti-gay. In other words, “I don’t like them so let’s violate their rights because they’re scumbags.”

However, the problem with the line of reasoning that goes These people are scumbags so it's fine that their rights are being violated is that it neglects to consider that one day you may be considered the scumbag based upon the accusation. I've seen lives destroyed by false accusations of domestic violence, sexual assault, child neglect, etc, and that's with the protection of the legal system and an eventual verdict of not guilty. Without that protection? Well, it's worth pointing out that the purpose of the police isn't to protect the innocent from criminals. That's a nice side-effect to be sure, but it isn't the main point. 

No, the purpose of the police is to end the vendetta -- “You killed my cousin so I'll kill your brother in revenge!” and “You killed my brother so I'll get my revenge by killing your wife!” etc -- by offloading that hate and guilt onto the state. You don't have to kill the man who killed your cousin; you get the state to lock him up after due process proves he did indeed kill your cousin. His family is upset by that because they figure he was in the right and your cousin was in the wrong, but they're just as upset at the state for locking him up as they are at you for pressing charges; you're upset that the man who killed your cousin wasn't put to death, but he's in jail for 20 years which means you have received some sort of revenge for the murder. Everyone is unhappy with the state, and that's fairness of a sort.

The moment that people decide en masse that rights such as “innocent until proven guilty” and “deserves a fair trial with a proper defense” don't apply to people they don't like, and that rule of law is worthless, is the moment that justice becomes “summary trial and execution by an angry mob” and the return of the vendetta cycle. That's something none of us should want because once you throw away the legal protections of others, you eliminate them for yourself as well.

I am reminded of the most memorable scene from the 1966 film A Man For All Seasons:
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law?
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? 
Roper: Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that! 
More: Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and, if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 110: It's All About Protection

In This Episode
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss some new wrinkles in the McCloskey's legal situation;
  • Xander talks about the pearl-clutching regarding "arsenals" that the rest of us would consider rookie amounts of guns and ammunition;
  • Weer'd brings us Part 2 of his Brady Campaign Anti-gun Gun Owner Fisk, this time with California Representative Mike Thompson;
  • and Oddball talks in-depth about eye and ear protection, and how best to use it on the range.

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Show Notes
Main Topic:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Oddball's Corner Pocket:

Monday, July 13, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 109: We Must Hang Together Or Surely We Shall Hang Separately

In This Episode
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss some corrections on Ken and Karen in St. Louis,  as well as some recent protests with some groups we didn't think would get along but are glad they did;
  • Weer'd brings us part 1 of a series of fisks of the Brady Campaign's panel discussion of self-loathing gun owners;
  • Xander talks about physical fitness and some simple exercises;
  • and David talks about gun safes for safe storage of your firearms.

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Show Notes

Main Topic:

Independent Thoughts:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:

Friday, July 10, 2020

Closet Catastrophe

Four weeks ago, right as I was about to start packing to attend ConFinement, this happened:

I'm glad it happened during daylight hours instead of while I was sleeping, because that would have scared the everliving crap out me. There was a terribly thundering crash and then the doors of my closet bulged as they threatened to vomit its contents into my room.

I had a picture of the cleaned-out closet here, but I can't find it. The short version is that I had put too much weight on it, the hardware failed, the screws holding it place ripped out of the drywall, and it all crashed down.

The reason for the failure is, I am certain, these things:

And the reason I say that is because these were predominantly on the side where the shelf failed, and I can tell where it failed because the brackets holding it up sheared off and/or were fully pulled from the wall, whereas the side opposite it just failed sympathetically.

It's my belief that these items concentrated the weight of the clothing in specific points rather than spreading that weight evenly across the surface of the rack, and that's what caused the collapse.

A month later, I have a repaired shelf/clothes rack/thing, an empty closet, and the joy involved of unpacking all the contents of the closet which I packed up to empty it, all while trying not to overload this new shelf. the mounting points are in new places, and the handyman even took pains to mount it to all the wall studs he could find.

Moral of the story:  If you have flimsy hardware like this, don't use hangars like that.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 108: Ken & Karen Say, "Get Off My Lawn"

In This Episode
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss the couple who defended their mansion against trespassing protesters,  as well as some deadly violence in other protests;
  • Xander returns with another segment of Independent Thoughts, this time talking about the steps he took in getting his first handgun;
  • Weer'd brings us a fisk of former Bloomberg employee and now US Representative Lucy McBath;
  • and Steve tells us another story of somebody unhappy about being watched... but this time, they expressed their displeasure a little more forcefully.

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Show Notes

Main Topic:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Tales From the Trunk:

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

V5: Ground Anchor

There's too much stress in my day job, so it's time again to geek out about something I like: vampires and role-playing games. 

In Vampire:the Masquerade, there's a vampiric Discipline (suite of supernatural abilities) called Potence. In previous editions, Potence was boringly simple: each point you had in it (and Disciplines run from 1 to 5) gave you an automatic success* at any strength based test, including damage.
* OK so short version: You have a pool of dice which you roll, typically your attribute plus your skill. Each of those has a rating of 1-5, so player characters end up rolling between 1 and 10 dice depending on how buff and how skilled they are. The average difficulty is 6 or better on a 10 sided die, so that's 50% chance of success on each die. The more dice you roll, the greater your chance to succeed and the greater your chance to succeed well, as 1 success is "barely" and 5 is "amazing" and 10 is probably "godlike".

Let's say you're a moderately fighty character with Strength 3, Brawl 3, and Potence 3. You would roll 6 dice, count up how many of them were 6 or better, and then you would add three because of Potence. Stupidly simple, but brutally effective as a combat focused character could end up rolling fifteen dice
But all of that is old style. V5 does away with that and replaces them with a suite of abilities which scale in power. For example, at Potence level 1 you could choose the power Lethal Body, which enables you to ignore increasing amounts of armor and deal deadly damage with your punches and kicks... or you can pick Soaring Leap, which enables you to jump 3 times your Potence rating in meters straight up and 5 times that horizontally.

Most of Potence is like this: you can pick an obvious combat power, or you can pick a utility "feat of strength" power. I like that, especially since the character I play is a priest who is trying really, really hard to be a pacifist.

However, there's only one second-level Potence power, which is Prowess and that basically repeats the old version of Potence of adding that value to their damage and feats of strength. I didn't want that for my character, so I came up with a utility power for second level:
Level 2 Potence: Ground Anchor
Channeling inhuman strength into their legs, hips, and back, the user can absorb the force of a landing after falling from a great height. This strength can also be used to resist being toppled or pushed back by another.
Cost: One Rouse Check
Dice Pool: Dexterity or Strength + Athletics
System: So long as the user succeeds on the Dexterity + Athletics roll to land on their feet, they can absorb without injury the impact of a landing up to 100 times their Potence level in meters. (Due to terminal velocity, at Potence level 5 the user can survive a fall from any distance.) However, this energy must go somewhere, and so whatever the user lands on immediately suffers the effect of falling damage, which is one level of Superficial damage per meter of fall (core book, p.409). 

The user may also add their Potence rating to any Strength + Athletics roll to resist being pushed back or knocked over by another; however, this does require a firm foothold to work.
Duration: One scene 

Google Docs version here

One of the things which I like about this power is that it segues nicely into the third Potence ability Uncanny Grip, which is where "Focusing their unnatural strength into their toes and fingers, the vampire grips and burrows their
extremities into almost any surface, enabling them to climb and even hang otherwise unsupported from walls and ceilings." There's a logical progression: Leap far distances, then fall further distances safely, then spider climb or hang on. Yes, it sounds a bit super-heroic, but it makes narrative sense.

I also like the punny name. You can anchor yourself to the ground... or you can plummet to the ground and bury yourself into it, like an anchor hitting the sea floor. If Cassidy had this power in the first episode of Preacher, he wouldn't have ended up like this:

Finally, to answer the expected question: While I find it highly unlikely that you would actually be able to hit someone with this, as there is no effective way to steer while plummeting to the ground, there's always someone who is going to try it. Well, guess what? There's already a to-hit roll baked into the activation (Dexterity + Athletics). Set the difficulty to the target's Dexterity + Dodge and if you beat it, you hit!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 107: Let's Get On With the Segments!

In This Episode

Erin and Weer’d get out of the damn way and get on with the segments!
  • David brings us a segment on record keeping for your gun collection;
  • Superfan Xander brings us a segment where he explores  the "Common Knowledge" that everybody might not know when it comes to owning guns;
  • and Weer'd brings us a fisk of Joe Biden talking with Wired Magazine about gun control.

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Show Notes

Monday, June 22, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 106: More Bad News from Crazy World

In This Episode

Erin and Weer’d discuss the recent news dispatches from Crazy World:
  • the Supreme Court denying cert to 2A cases;
  • Disarmament of cartoon characters;
  • the real-life soap opera that is Seattle's CHAZ;
  • and the death of Rayshard Brooks.

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Show Notes

Monday, June 15, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 105: It's the Oddball and Panya Show!

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss anti-gun news fresh out of New Zealand and Canada, as well as the political nature of public health guidelines for protests;
  • Panya gives us her observations after attending a BLM protest;
  • and Oddball tells us what he saws while hanging out at the gun shop after buying a new S&W 617 during this COVID gun rush.

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Show Notes

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Pulse: Four Years Later

Pulse: Four Years Later

On this Fourth Anniversary of the Pulse Terror Attack, Operation Blazing Sword founder and president and Pink Pistols national coordinator Erin Palette is away at a convention spreading the word about our mission and the necessity of  firearms education. Because she is not available, she has asked other people who have been affected by Operation Blazing Sword to share what the last four years has meant to them.

John Doughty, one of the first OBS students:
I'm really not a gun guy. My friends think I'm a gun guy, but they're wrong. What I am is a queer guy whose comfortable assumptions about safety got eviscerated by the Pulse massacre, a queer guy who is willing to stand up and say "Never again. Not if I can help it. Not on my watch."

No, I wasn't there myself. I'd already moved out of Orlando and I'd only been to the space a couple of times when I did live there. I'm not much of a party-goer, but where my community is, I am, so any one of the 49 could have been me. Remember their names, because they are all of us. They could have been any of us.

I had angry, helpless nightmares for a long time after Pulse. I read texts describing how people died on their knees on a bathroom floor, some hiding under the corpses of their friends for hours, waiting for a rescue that never came for them. I decided right then that I was not going to be a helpless victim, no matter what it cost me.

In the first few raw weeks, I listened to others in my community who were talking about how to keep us safer. When the conversation turned to how they could take guns away from criminals by passing more laws, I had to point out that there were already laws about shooting people and that criminals were already breaking them. I noticed that “common sense” gun control laws always disproportionately affected poor people, brown people and transgender people. I wasn't okay with any of that. Gun control doesn't actually work very well in this country to keep people safe, especially marginalized people. More accurately, it makes marginalized people a lot less safe, which is generally what it is intended to do. Look up the history if you weren't aware; it's a painful but enlightening lesson.

I also noticed that the places with anti-gun rules were more often the ones targeted by shooters. I'm sure that nice, polite, law-abiding criminals will always turn right around and take their illegal guns elsewhere when they see your “No Guns Allowed” signs, but the rest of them will laugh and thank you for letting them know they have an open shooting gallery for at least ten or fifteen minutes before anyone else with a gun will be there to oppose them. I'm also pretty sure that the percentage of nice, polite, law-abiding criminals is, by definition, awfully low.

After Pulse, I started feeling genuinely unsafe anywhere I saw those signs. They don't deter violent criminals, they attract them by advertising to criminals, terrorists and bigots that everyone inside is an easy target. Feeling deeply uncomfortable, I started looking for a better way to be safe, a way that would give me a real chance to survive those long minutes (or even hours) before the police could get there. When seconds count, the police will at best always be minutes away... assuming they are even going to help you at all when they get there, which is not always a good assumption. Our lives and our safety are ultimately in our own hands, and thinking it's a good idea to subcontract that particular job is not likely to end well in those moments when we need it most.

I went gun shopping, which was an uphill struggle for me. I'd never shot a handgun before; they just weren't part of the culture I grew up in. Gun stores did not seem like a safe or welcoming place to me, because I assumed that most “gun people” would be more interested in shooting at me than with me. What got me over that hurdle was finding Operation Blazing Sword and its offer of free, queer-friendly and accessible firearms safety training.

After getting that introduction, I felt a lot more confident navigating 'gun culture'. I went on to take quite a few more classes so that I could feel safe and confident being a responsible, effective concealed carrier. A few years later, I decided to pay it forward and started a local chapter in the Triangle area.

I have zero illusions that I'm the next John Rambo. I'm old and small, and I have too many body parts that don't work right any more. I'm not here to play Queer Avenger, pick fights, or even defend property. I am not a cop or a vigilante, and not trying to be one. I believe in avoiding the use of force whenever reason, or just getting the hell out of Dodge, will suffice. If that's possible, that is; it isn't always, and if you back me and mine into a corner and threaten our lives, I will fight. Because of Operation Blazing Sword and the Second Amendment, I can fight effectively even if the aggressor is a lot bigger, younger, and stronger than me. That chance means everything to me. I will not be a helpless victim; I will not die on my knees, and if I can help it., neither will you.

It is love, not anger, that makes me willing to stand up and fight. I know that makes me the first target; I know that I will probably not make it out alive if I am opposing a long gun or multiple long guns with my concealed weapon... but that improves the chances that you will make it out alive, and that's what matters to me.

Let the bigots know that we are not a soft target. Let them know that some of us can and will shoot back if we need to. Let there never again be another Pulse.

Brena Bock, OBS volunteer:
I remember sitting in shock and horror when the attack on the Pulse Nightclub occurred: "How could this happen?" I saw many of my friends in the queer community blaming guns and peaceable gun owners; in contrast, my friends in the Pink Pistols seemed as shocked and horrified as I was. No one had any good suggestions until I saw a post from a Pink Pistols member who wanted to help her friends on both sides of the 'gun closet' door. That post was by Erin Palette, and she called her plan Operation Blazing Sword.

Over the past decade-plus I’d taught a number of my friends to shoot, safely and competently. Why hadn’t I thought of this? I jumped on board and offered my knowledge and support. Not many months later I was contacted by a member of the queer community who was uncertain about guns but eager to learn. We met at the range twice: the first time for basic orientation, and the second to help them set up the rifle they’d bought.

While I haven’t had any more Operation Blazing Sword students since then, that first one has expanded their collection and is applying for a handgun carry license. We still communicate occasionally and I offer what advice I can.

Looking back, that one step of offering my services enabled me to make a difference in the community and build a collection of new friends.

Xander Opal, OBS student:  
My experience with OBS was very positive. I was quite clueless around pistols, and quite intimidated by my lack of knowledge. I asked Operation Blazing Sword's founder, Erin, for a recommendation for someone in my area. She introduced me to Tim, who generously gave both his time and ammunition to help me out. He put me at ease and was very non-judgmental, and so I felt absolutely no shame in turning to him and saying, "I have no idea what to do," when a jam happened. He also ensured that I was safely attired as well as properly instructed in firearm safety and shooting range-specific rules. I was not pressured to go with any particular choice; the decision of what to be armed with, should I choose to be armed, was left to me. I was given the information I needed to choose wisely, and the freedom to make the choice.

His quiet acceptance of a queer person will make it easier for me to eventually find my way out of this closet I'm in the back of. Operation Blazing Sword continues the goal of queer rights, where each person is treated as an individual and not stuffed into a narrow box with narrow choices in life.

Chris Olsen, OBS volunteer:
Post-Pulse I, like a lot of firearms instructors, sat helplessly by while we were ridiculed and made to feel like the shooting was our fault. What came after was something that I and a lot my fellow instructors had wanted to see happen but could never quite get off the ground: a bridge to help train those people who were vulnerable and often at risk in a way to defend themselves and loved ones. I immediately volunteered my time.

Through that I have made some very great friends, what I didn’t expect from the last four years is how much it would change me as a person. I am more aware of the issues the queer community faces. I have become much more open to a lot of things, and much more of an ally. Since Operation Blazing Sword started I have taken about 20 new shooters to the range and worked them through those first timid shots until they were rocking full mag dumps. I have probably helped new gun owners buy well over a dozen firearms, and have become the 'question and answer guy' for many of their friends.

Allison G., OBS student and volunteer
"It couldn't happen to me. I don't go to those places. I don't take those drugs. I don't hang with that crowd. I don't anger those people. I mean, I get sad when I hear about something that happened. Someone got stabbed, violated, kidnapped, murdered. I don't blame the victim, right? It's not their fault....but they should have played it safe like I did."

... those illusions have been cracked. So many of us are trying to hold on to those falsehoods, but almost as many of us just can't do it anymore. The lie is shattered, and the truth undeniable: there are people out there who want to hurt us, to kill us, and there are no actions we can take to avoid being targeted.

It can happen to me, too. There are people who won't ever harm me, but they will blaze a road. They will look the other way. They will write the laws, or fail to write others. They will unlock the door to our safe places, for those predators to do it for them. They are as dangerous as those who mean me harm.

There's nothing I can say, no amount I can beg, plead, even demand that my life be spared, valued, preserved. That which can be destroyed by the truth should be destroyed by the truth. I'm glad the illusion is broken. It was hurting us. It was failing to keep us safe in a dangerous world.

It's long past time to stop pretending that we're safe if we believe hard enough, or beg those above to keep us so. It's time to secure safety, with or without the consent of predators.

OBS is how we do that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

V5: Vampire Values

This is something I made to help me with a  project* that never fully gelled. But it's a neat thing in its own right, and so I figured I'd share it with you. 

The Left-Right axis represents how much emphasis the typical vampire of that category feels towards his clan. The far left is "Leave me alone" and the far right is "We are brothers".

The Up-Down axis represents how much respect members of that clan have for rules, traditions, and authority. The very top is "Hidebound traditionalist" and the bottom is "Screw you, I do what I want."

Special thanks to my Lovely Assistant Adrian for helping me pretty up this graph.
Graph designed at

From left to right, and top to bottom:
  • Tzimisce: Traditionally, fiends want to be left alone to do their own thing, and they will fight anyone who makes them conform. However, they adhere so strongly to their own customs and traditions that they will fight a friend, or protect an enemy, rather than break them. 
  • Lasombra: The magisters believe in order -- their order, to be precise. Unfortunately, so does every other Lasombra, and in a clan which believes in survival of the fittest, turning on each other is inevitable. However, one does not just wage war willy-nilly; no, there are proper ways to engage in internecine conflict.
  • Ventrue: Don't try to separate the Ventrue from the Camarilla. The blue-bloods are the Camarilla, and they won't let you forget it. To attack them is to the attack the clan is to attack the Camarilla, and so if you want to take one down you had best be subtle, cunning, and have the backing of as many fellow Camarillians as possible. 
  • Ba'ali: I hate the Followers of Set and so the Ba'ali are the super-evil baddies in my VtM world. Infernalists are hated by both Camarilla and Sabbat, and so the philosophy of "We must hang together or we will all hang separately" is definitely in play. Furthermore, even though demons are typically backstabbing individualists and therefore opposing covens may feud if they serve different masters, by and large the Ba'ali are fanatical servants to their masters and their causes. 
  • Pyramid Tremere: Ironically enough, the Tremere built a tightly-knit organization much like Ba'ali to survive their first centuries as a clan due to all of the other clans wanting to kill them for their ursupation of Saulot's line. This organization further stratified when they helped form the Camarilla during the Spanish Inquisition. As such, they are very loyal to both clan and sect, but blood has primacy. 
  • Non-Pyramid Tremere: After the destruction of the Vienna Chantry by the Second Inquisition in 2008, the Pyramid shattered and the clan was thrown into disarray. Without the strict internal hierarchy, individual warlocks compete heavily for the lore, artifacts, and secrets that the united Clan once possessed, fearing their clanmates as much as their enemies. Shattered Pyramid Tremere can and do exist in any quadrant, depending on which House they back and what they do to survive. 
  • Toreador: The artistes and degenerates don't so much love the Camarilla the stability it brings. After all, it's hard to be artistic and indulge in bacchanalia when the city is burning and there's no one to appreciate your art. That said, there is frequent infighting between clan mates, as good adjectives for them are "catty, bitchy, and backstabbing."
  • Brujah Idealists: Often as old as they are rare, the "intellectual rebels" of the clan hearken back to their old days as warrior-scholars and philosopher-kings of Greece. They are moderately conservative in terms of both clan loyalty and adherence to authority, which in an odd way makes them "bold, punk rebels" against the majority of their clan. 
  • Banu Haqim: This position is more of an averaging than anything else. What was once a highly unified clan of strong Tradition has now schismed due to the rise of Ur-Shulgi, the reversal of the assassin's blood curse, and parts of the clan affiliating with the Camarilla. Weirdly, in an attempt to make them less of a Muslim stereotype, V5 has done just that by turning them into feuding groups a la the Shia and the Sunni. So they are highly loyal to their groups and traditions, but the groups and traditions of others are the enemy. 
  • Gangrel: Pretty much the clan of lone wolves, the animals can best be described as "If we don't like the way things are, we'll just turn into wolves and live in the forests for a few centuries, and you can't do anything about it because we're outside your jurisdiction." They follow their own code, and to hell with you. 
  • Malkavian: The lunatics are all over the board and cannot be pinned down in any way other than "unpredictable", so they exist at 0,0 because I needed to put them somewhere. 
  • Nosferatu: The lepers are the canonical example of "my clan, right or wrong, and to hell with the rest" as from as far back as first edition they have been described as ignoring sect differences in favor of clan loyalty. Sabbat, Camarilla, Anarchs? Doesn't matter. A Nos is a Nos and they all hang together against the world, sometimes playing the sects against each other for the benefit of the clan. 
  • Caitiff: "Everybody hates me and abuses me. I wish I could overthrow the system, but no one wants to associate with me and I'm pretty powerless, so I'm going to keep my head down and hope they ignore me."
  • Hecata etc: First they were the Cappadocians, then the Giovanni, and now they're known as the Hecata. Named after Hecate, the multi-faced Greek goddess of magic, they are a sect in themselves and comprise multiple bloodlines (Giovanni, Harbingers, Samedi, Lamia, Nagaraja, etc) with all the associated infighting that brings. They're also not much liked by the other clans due their preoccupation with necromancy and the fact that a deal struck with one is not necessarily a deal honored by another bloodline, let alone the clan as a whole. In short, they fight among themselves like the Lasombra (only with less style and restraint) and try to keep their heads down like the Caitiff so they don't get slapped down by the larger sects... all while trying to increase their power, and that of their bloodline (and, unavoidably, their sect) until they are again a force with which to be reckoned.
  • Inconnu: These powerful vampires have somehow managed to remove themselves from the eternal struggle that is unlife, and spend their nights doing their own thing (pursuing hobbies and studies, achieving Golconda, watching the other undead squabble like children, etc). They want to be left alone, and other than that no two are alike. Think Methos from the Highlander TV show, only far less personable. 
  • Brujah Iconoclasts: This is where the vast majority of the rabble exist. "Burn it all down, man! Tear down all the structure, all the hierarchy that keeps the Man in power! Traditions are just rules that anchor you to the past,  and we live in the now! Only in anarchy do you find true equality, and if anyone says otherwise, beat the crap out of them! Especially those bastards of our clan who say otherwise!"
  • Ravnos: Known as charlatans, thieves and liars, this clan is basically hated by everyone and blamed for everything that goes wrong, so of course they're going to stick together, thumb their nose at authority, and do what it takes to survive. You would think that would result in highly ritualized and codified clan traditions, but the paradox-seekers are just as likely to regard them as hindering nonsense which blinds them to the truth  of reality as the customs of others. 

* The project was based on "If I have X amount of status within the Camarilla, how much status does that give me within my own clan and in the eyes of other clans?" I figured that before I could derive that I would need to see how much stock other clans put in status with the Cam, with others, etc, and that's how the chart came about.

I still think there's merit to this project, but it's too complex to turn into a simple formula of "If you are of X clan with Y status, then you have A status within B clan", so this chart serves as a sort of guideline in that regard. For example, a Ventrue would view a Nosferatu with high Camarilla status in the same regard that he would view a member of his own clan, but the Nosferatu clan would not do the same. They would, however, appreciate clan loyalty when they see it, and treat him with the courtesy of "He might be a bastard, but he stands by his own and I respect that."  A Tzimisce might arrive at a similar result via a different method ("You are petty and controlling, but you honor your traditions as do I"), a Gangrel wouldn't care and if forced to do anything would probably bugger off, and a Brujah would see him as The Enemy and give him no respect at all.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 104: Riots Destroy Prosperity

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss the recent nationwide riots and the George Floyd case. Well, Weer'd calmly discusses it, but Erin is a towering pillar of outrage;
  • David tells us how to be a Range Safety Officer for an informal range session;
  • Weer'd brings us a fisk on Giffords and their current campaign against "Ghost Guns";
  • and then Weer'd and Erin discuss how Giffords is attempting to pander to Operation Blazing Sword members to convince them to agitate for more gun control.

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:

Monday, June 1, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 103: Lots of Stories

In This Episode:

It's another Round Table! Enjoy Story Time by the ACP crew as David and Oddball tell us about attending the Tennessee Blogger Shoot, Xander describes shooting his new CZ at the farm for the first time, and Erin and Weer'd swap stories for effect.

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, May 31, 2020

V5: Nosferatu and their Curse

After I posted my version of the Ravnos last week, a friend of mine asked me this:

And then I got to thinking, like I always do, but specifically because I am playing a Nosferatu in my Sunday night and, through circumstances which surprise even me, my character has become the face of the group.

I need to explain why this is hilarious. You see, in Vampire: the Masquerade, each bloodline of vampires has a specific weakness. Those of the Nosferatu clan are hideous, like the vampire in the Murnau film of the same name.

Back in previous editions, all Nosferatu were inhumanly ugly. As in "There's no passing for human, you are obviously a supernatural(ly ugly) creature." This is problematic because in this game, the most important rule that vampires have is The Masquerade, which basically says As far as the humans are concerned, There Are No Such Things As Vampires, and if you reveal our existence to the public we can and will put you to death for it. The humans almost killed us once during the Spanish Inquisition, and nowadays there are billions more of them with much better weapons. We will kill you before we allow you to kill us all.

As you are probably guessing, this is a Big Problem for Nosferatu because they can shatter the Masquerade at the drop of a hankie. Most players got around this by putting a lot of points into the discipline (vampire super power) of Obfuscate, which is a power that starts off as "You don't see me" and develops into "Now I cover myself in illusion and I can look like a normal human, so no problems here." This was kind of annoying for a lot of players because it meant that you either had to sink a lot of points into Obfuscate, or be a stealthy creepy type, or just not interact with mortals by living in the sewers and eating rats.

Fifth edition of the game changed that curse somewhat, in ways both good and bad. The good news is is that they no longer immediately break the Masquerade when seen by humans, but instead have the Repulsive flaw (a penalty of -2 dice to all social rolls which depend upon appearance) and can never look any better. So in other words they look horribly deformed, or maybe having suffered grievous injuries, but they don't look supernatural.

In addition, trying to hide their repulsive nature incurs a penalty equal to their Blood Potency, and this applies even while using Obfuscate to mask themselves. This last part struck me as odd, because if I have the supernatural ability to mask myself in an illusion to look like anyone, even a specific person, it seems weird that I would still be repulsive even if I looked like a supermodel. Admittedly, it's just a dice penalty to overcome and not a blanket "No", so it works well enough for most people. It still bothered me, though, and part of that is because the Nosferatu no longer had reasons to live in the sewers and other deep dark places of the work, which had become part of their trademark over the decades.

One of the core rules of V5 is the concept of "Bane Severity" and it is tied to Blood Potency. The short version is that the older a vampire gets the more powerful it gets, but so too does the power of its bane. In the case of the Nosferatu, that would be their hideousness... except not. They'll always be Repulsive, but that won't increase; only the difficulty in hiding their hideousness increases. So... they'll still be ugly as they become older and more inhuman... but they won't be any uglier... they'll just have a harder time hiding it despite their experience?

No. No, no no. I did not like this, so of course this meant I would need to re-work their bane so that the flavor and the lore would match while still making the clan more friendly to new players. I think I succeeded.

First I cherry-picked a neat bit from Vampire: the Reckoning*, which also featured a version of the Nosferatu clan. In VtR, the Nosferatu were repulsive, but not specifically when it came to looks; it could be "A palpable aura of menace, a charnel odor, or the undeniable manner of a predator is just as compelling as a twisted body," meaning you could absolutely have a Nosferatu who was average looking, even beautiful, but still be repulsive. Using that as my base, I decided that the bane of the Nosferatu would be a penalty equal to their Bane Severity for social interactions, and how that manifests depends on the nature of their repulsiveness.
If physically repulsive: Appearance is very important for first impressions, and the Nosferatu’s repulsiveness colors all social interactions (Bane Severity as a penalty to all skills paired to social attributes) the first time she meets any non-Nosferatu while not under Obfuscate and continues to until she manages to convince them (through good skill rolls, effective roleplaying, or demonstrations of sincerity) to look past her physical flaws and judge her on the merits of her character. Nosferatu with this bane effectively possess a modified version of the Repulsive Looks flaw and cannot take it again.
If socially repulsive: The Nosferatu is a gilded turd, gives off a serial killer vibe, or is otherwise odious in manner. So long as social interaction with him is kept at the superficial level everything is fine, but when he interacts meaningfully with a non-Nosferatu he suffers a penalty (Bane Severity to all skills paired to social attributes) unless he manages to convince that person that he is normal, or at least harmless, in a roll opposed by Wits + Insight and succeeding by a margin equal to his Bane Severity. Nosferatu with this bane effectively possess a modified version of the Obvious Predator flaw and cannot take it again.
In both cases, success in one encounter does not remove the penalty from future encounters unless that person has not left the Nosferatu's presence.

A Nosferatu wishing to help a non-Nosferatu acclimate to their presence must succeed at a difficulty of his Bane Severity. This cannot be done in a single sitting, but rather over a period of time, until the number of successful attempts is more than the Nosferatu’s Bane Severity. If the Nosferatu increases his Blood Potency, then he must start over with the new difficulty as previously acclimated persons must adjust to the new change.

Alternately, you can use my Unknown Armies-style Stress Gauges for Vampire 5e rules that I made a few months back and require anyone who interacts with that Nosferatu succeed in a stress check -- depending on the nature of the hideousness, I'd say Self or Helplessness checks for physical ugliness and either Unnatural or Violence checks for social ugliness -- with the difficulty of the stress check as Bane Severity/2. There's no need to "roll to normalize" because a Stress Check is exactly that.

Here's a Google Docs version for use in your game.

What I like about this system is that newly-made Nosferatu are just slightly hideous, and they don't have to spend points to hide it, which gives flexibility to new characters and makes the clan more accessible to new players. However, as the characters get older and gain power, they begin to look or act worse and worse, and so those characters have a choice: put points into Obfuscate/increase their social skills, or go live with the rest of the repulsive freaks underground. Not every Sewer Rat is going to want to learn Obfuscate; some may want to focus on Animalism or Presence instead, and now they have a reason to congregate in warrens, just like in first edition.

* Oh boy, how to explain? Short version: the publishers of Vampire: the Masquerade decided to end their game universe and release a game similar to but not the same as it, titled Vampire: the Requiem. It took a lot of VtM concepts and mangled them into different positions. It was... not well received by fans of the old game, in much the same way that 4th edition D&D was not well received by fans of 3.5e. I think it tells you all you need to know that VtM was rebooted into the 5th edition a year or two ago, whereas VtR has ceased publication.

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