Friday, February 29, 2008

L5R: The Shadowlands Taint

So, regular readers of my blog (and I know you all by name at this point) no doubt recall that when last we left our intrepid band of samurai, they had made the honorable-yet-insane decision to go out into the Shadowlands in search of a purportedly powerful yet dangerously under-described and nonspecific ancestral relic whose retrieval would tip the balance of the thousand-year war between the Crab Clan and the armies of Fu Leng.

This was of course the proper thing to do from a Player Character perspective. After all, I'd just shown them a flashing neon sign that strobed Plot Goes This Way and they obligingly followed it. It was, however, not the smart choice. No, the smart choice (from the perspective of the characters they played, at least) would have been to say, "Thank you sir; but no please. May I perform ritual suicide instead?"

Because, you see, while samurai don't fear death, and their lives belong to their Lord, their honor belongs to their families and a Tainted soul... well, it doesn't exactly go to samurai heaven.

The Shadowlands are, quite literally, Hell on Earth. They were formed when a god fell from heaven (which is much higher than geosynchronous orbit), hit the ground, and kept going until he punched his way into Jigoku, which is the spirit realm of pain, corruption, and pure evil. It is equal parts Lovecraft and Heironymus Bosch, with a fair amount of hentai tentacles thrown in. And it had a gateway to the mortal plane.

In the Shadowlands, the air smell like burning plastic. Your eyes sting and your mucous membranes are constantly inflamed. The weather is psychotically unpredictable and often supernatural. Fires burn only a weak, sickly green -- not hot enough to cook food or keep you warm, but bright enough to attract unwanted attention. Wounds don't heal naturally, and special care must be taken that contaminants don't get inside and cause infection. Sleep comes with terrifying nightmares and disgusting visions, so after 8 hours you're emotionally shattered and suffering from sleep deprivation. Predators eat other predators, and the ultimate Apex Predator are demons known as Oni, who come in three flavors:
  1. Significant Obstacle
  2. Fuck a Party Up
  3. Total Party Kill
Then there is the Taint, which is basically a kind of cancer of the soul. You can get it any number of ways: Eating or drinking anything you didn't carry in with you, having unbandaged wounds, or getting injured by one of the many poisonous creatures who live there are all common causes. If you're a shugenja, you can get it from improperly casting spells and summoning a tainted spirit.

Here's the thing about Taint: it never goes away. Ever. You accumulate it in points, and having as little as five means your complexion turns sallow, your hair goes greasy, and you start looking like those creepy people who haunt Wal-Marts at 3 am. At 10 points, you are well and truly Tainted, and you've started to sprout noticeable mutations. Even better, every day the corruption is going to eat away a little more of your soul. Past a certain point, if your character hasn't already become a gibbering cannibal with a vestigial twin growing from his abdomen... well, you've gone to the Dark Side, as they say in Star Wars, and you become an NPC and servant of Utter Eeeeeeeevil. Of course, much like the Dark Side, you can get a lot of cool powers by giving in to the corruption. Sure, you die or go mad that much sooner, but you can accumulate a LOT of raw power.

In short, the Shadowlands is NOT a nice place to visit, and my PCs went there. This is because, as I pointed out in a previous column, players like to suffer. I was more than happy to oblige them and spent the last 3 game sessions flogging them mercilessly. I'll be happy to tell you all about it in another blog post which I will title "Here, Carry This Anchor".

Oh, yes. Before I go, would you like to know the current Taint status of the group?
  • Crab Bushi: Untainted
  • Crab Shugenja: 1 point of Taint, and paranoid about getting more
  • Wasp Bushi: Untainted (and not for my lack of trying! Damn his high Earth ring!)
  • Scorpion Bushi: 5 points of Taint... even though he thinks he has 8.... *cue evil laughter*
  • Scorpion Shugenja: 20 points. This one is not just succumbing to corruption, but is practically diving in. She will definitely be a victim of this adventure.... the fun will be in seeing if she can drag others down with her...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Overcoming Blog Paralysis

Words of wisdom from Jeff Stolarcyk:

Me: My problem lately -- i.e., why I haven't posted anything of substance for a week -- is that I can't think of anything worthwhile to post about. I wonder if I should just go back to my practice of trying to churn out SOMETHING each day, but that means the blog stops being an outlet for creative writing and becomes, well, an online diary. A LiveJournal entry. You know? I don't want to dilute my BIG WRITING THING by having daily bitch and moan sessions. But if I don't make myself write... sometimes nothing comes out for weeks at a time.

Jeff: It seems to me that your issue is differentiating between writing and Writing.Like cooking is only adding food and heat together, writing is jotting down words coherently. Take one kind (based on style, length or content) any more seriously as a creator than any other is limiting and it ends up breeding the sort of "I don't want to write if it's not significant" line of thinking that has led you to this sort of blog paralysis you've been stricken with.

Me: Yes. Well spotted. Now how do I get over it? Other than just jump in and write about crap?

Jeff: Well, that's the ideal outcome. Because even if you think that everything you write is crap, that doesn't mean that your reader thinks it is.

So anyway, to stave off "Blog Paralysis," instead of random blathering I shall do.... another ITEM! post!

ITEM! It's time for me to cull Ye Olde Blogrolle again. My rules are simple: if you don't post new content within a span of one month, out you go. Todays' victims:
I'm really sorry to see you guys go. If you ever get your acts together and update, let me know and I'll re-add you.

ITEM! Jeff Stolarcyk has once again caved to the Wednesday Night Night Wackiness. Unfortunately, he decides to hate on Jericho. However, he betrays his true colors as a fan of the show by demonstrating he knows not only the names of the characters but the actors portraying them. Also, he admits he listens to Maroon 5.

ITEM! Speaking of Jericho, no, I haven't forgotten about it. I'm still watching and am very positive about the writing, the acting, and the current story arc, but I've decided to hold off on posting about it until more develops because it's all kind of expository right now. The past two episodes have dealt with learning about the Conspiracy, and I get the feeling that Important Stuff will happen Real Soon Now. When that does, I'll do a big post where I try to tie everything together and make sense of it all. That said, I hope you're all being good and watching it every Tuesday night at 10 pm on CBS.

ITEM! Hopefully I'm back on track now, and will try to post something every weekday. It may not be creative genius -- it may in fact be the kind of whiny crap you get from an online diary like LiveJournal -- but dammit, I need to get back into the habit of daily writing. If I stop writing, then I can no longer Write, if that makes sense.

ITEM! If you've been wondering about what has happened to my poor abused L5R players, tomorrow is the day you've been waiting for.

And that's it. Sorry, no amusing bon mot in closing. See you all tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WNW: NPR is for Cookie

If you would like to Read More About It, go to the NPR website for commentary and The Rest Of The Story.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

IATD: Flog Your Players

Ah, Valentine’s Day. That time of year when a young girl’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of brutally abusing her players in the RPG she is running. In this week’s installment of I Attack the Darkness, we explore in great detail the forbidden love inherent in all role-playing games: Sadomasochism.

No, really.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

WNW: Cheercake

Over at the ISB, Chris Sims has revealed his feminine side by admitting his love for all things Bring It On.

Today he announced the Bring-It-Ontest:
The rules? Simple: Just bop on over to this post by full-time cheerfiliate Dr. K, read up on the titles we’ve come up with for the next Bring It On sequel, then come back here and leave a comment with your own suggestion. If I pick yours, you get a free movie, a copy of the ISB 2007 Convention Special with a terrible drawing of your favorite character, and whatever else I have laying around when it comes time to mail stuff.
But you guys know I can't just drop a title and let it be.

Oh no.

I go that extra mile, BECAUSE I LOVE YOU ALL:

PS: Cheerleader + Cheesecake = Cheercake. That is all.

Monday, February 18, 2008

This is now my new email signature

Let me tell you about writers.

Writers sit. Then, after a while, they stand. They pace. They sit again. Sometimes, they talk on the telephone. Or they surf the Internet. At some point, they generate words. They go over those words. Then they generate some more. They stand up. They sit down.

I have just revealed to you the great secret life of the writer.

-- John Podhoretz, "The Writerly Life," The Weekly Standard, 2/11/08

What more need be said?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jericho: Reconstruction

Season 2, Episode 1: Reconstruction
Morse code: "WE'RE BAAACK"

Hm. Okay.

Do any of you watch Lost? You know that feeling you got about midway through the first episode of Season 2 when you realized that the show's premise had changed from "Crash survivors on a mysterious island" to "There's a lot of really weird shit on this island"?

Yeah. It's kind of like that. Where Season 1 of Jericho was about "Small Kansas town struggles to survive in the wake of nuclear holocaust," Season 2 seems to be about the rebuilding of America, the upcoming civil war between the Allied States (those west of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean) and the Eastern Block, politics and conspiracies and "the smoking gun behind the greatest crime in the history of the world".

Don't get me wrong, I liked the episode, and I generally approve of where the series is going... it just felt rather abrupt, is all. I would have preferred that the premise had evolved organically over time, much like how Babylon 5 went from "A story about a space station" to a sweeping epic which spanned the galaxy

I'd like to assume the writers did it this way because they were only given 7 episodes in this season to potentially resolve everything, but watching last year's season finale makes me wonder if this was planned all along.

Other random thoughts:
  • I'm a bit annoyed that the war with New Bern was ended so quickly, but getting to see an A-10 Warthog (it's so ugly, it's cute!) drop a napalm strike was rather nice.
  • Oh, Jake. Emily is so wrong for you. Can't you see that you're meant to be with Heather?
  • Martial Law is always interesting. Gotta love that mandatory death penalty for pissing off the Major.
  • Allied States of America? A different flag? Texas as the swing state? This is all very interesting...
  • Is it just me, or is there a definite "Bleeding Kansas" vibe going on here? What with the seemingly inevitable civil war in the making, a divided union -- hell, even the episode's name is a direct antebellum reference -- and of course, the title location being smack in the middle of it all, I think things are going to get much, much worse before they get better.

So in short, it seems like Jericho has gone from "postholocaust survival" to "geopolitical thriller." Which is not a bad thing, really, as I love dark futures, and the prospect of a second American Civil War is pretty darn dark, even before you factor in the possibility that it was all engineered from inside the government so that certain elements could rise to power.

I look forward to more episodes.

PS: If you missed the episode, you can watch it online here.

Now playing: Saliva - Click Click Boom
via FoxyTunes

Black Thursday

Ah, Venereal Day, the holiday I hate.

Still, it's good to know that this year, I don't need to gripe about it; someone else has done it for me.

Valentine's Day: Holiday From Hell
, via

Go, and do thou likewise.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WNW: Salem, this one's for you

I really have nothing more to add here.

Now get off yer arse an' update yer blog, ye wee shite.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jericho Returns Tonight!

Faithful readers of this blog know that I am screaming, drooling, rabid Jericho fangirl.

The (abbreviated) second season airs tonight.

I will be watching it, and I will blog about it after.

And now, some Jericho videos found on YouTube.

"Today Is the Last Ordinary Day": Season 1 Trailer

"Jericho in a Nutshell": A summary of the 1st season

"Do You Wanna": A Jericho music video

Jericho Season 2 trailer (Warning! Here be spoilers!)

Pay attention tonight, class. There WILL be a quiz later.

Monday, February 11, 2008

AuthentEgo (tm)

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Saturday, February 9, 2008


Hi! My name is Gravhammer. I'm a brand-new superhero, and wow, am I excited to be here!

Just a few months ago, I was an ordinary college girl. But one day, when I was out hiking in the woods, I saw a meteor crash to Earth! Naturally, I went to investigate.

Well, you can probably guess what happened from looking at me, but boy was I surprised when that meteor turned out to be a spaceship! It was smashed to pieces, but some of those pieces survived. Wanna see?

When I picked this baby up, I heard a voice in my head saying that I was now a proud member of the Gravhammer Corps, and that only the best and the brightest were selected! Let me tell you, I was excited and proud to have been chosen to join such an elite group.
I put on the uniform I found nearby and it taught me how to use my new Gravhammer.

See this button here? It controls the speed at which I swing by generating a gravity field in that same direction. At Zero, it's just like swinging any other piece of metal, but I can crank it all the way up to a Hundred Gees! That's like a car hitting a brick wall at over a hundred miles an hour! Ouch!

This button here affects the density of my hammer relative to what it hits. I think it does that by creating a kind of gravitic "event horizon" around the head. Anyway, what it means is that I can change how hard I hit things! At the bottom of the scale, it's like being hit with a pillow, but go all the way at the top and whammo! It's heavier than depleted uranium.

But this button here is my favorite. I call it the "Fungo" switch and it affects the hang time of whatever I hit! You'll note that the readout here has both a positive and a negative scale. If I go positive, then at the moment of impact the hammer can impart massive velocity to an object... but if I go negative, then that means that no matter how hard I wail on something, it won't move at ALL!

So like, depending on how I configure it, I can hit you at 100 mph with the force of a feather and send you FLYING BACKWARDS, or I can barely tap you, pulverize every bone in your body, and the only movement you'll make is slumping to the floor in a puddle. Cool, huh?

And this suit? It does more than just look pretty. It protects me! See, I'm just casually tapping the end of my hammer into the concrete, and I'm crumbling it, but watch when I whack myself on the arm!


See? Nothing happened! That's because the suit is linked to the hammer and it generates its own counter-gravity field to protect me! I'm, like, indestructible!

So here I am: Gravhammer! I'm invulnerable, with a high-tech beatstick that can do all sorts of things!

... you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the Gravhammer is a tool designed for driving neutronium nails into girders, and that the Gravhammer Corps is another way of saying "Union for Rivet Drivers". I'm so embarrassed.

I wonder what'll happen to the hammer if my union goes on strike?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I Attack the Darkness

Since many of you have no doubt been wondering, "Where the hell has Palette been lately and why isn't she updating regularly", I am pleased to announce that I am now a columnist at Another Castle. I will be covering "unplugged" RPGs -- the funky dice and dead tree kind, as opposed to console or computer games.

My debut article can be found here. I'm currently on a biweekly schedule, though that may change in the future.

For those folks who are baffled by my choice of title, and for those who felt that yesterday's WNW was insufficiently wacky, I give you this:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WNW: Transcript from a Gothic Church

Partial transcript from the evening Ash Wednesday service at Sepulcher of St. Mary's Bloody Tears, sister Peine Forte et Dure presiding:

PFD: Good eeeeeefning, Christian Children of the Night!

Congregation responds with "Good eeeeeefning," though some orthodox members respond with feral hissing. Brother Malkav the Mentally Unwashed responds with "Bleh Bleh!" In fact this is his sole response throughout the entire service.

PFD: I have a few announcements to make before we begin our worship service. Today marks the first day of Lent, which means that purple is the official church color until March 22. Please update your wardrobe accordingly, and give thanks for no longer having to coordinate with that awful green of Epiphany.

Murmurs of approval.

PFD: Lent is a time of sacrifice, where we commemorate the Lurking of Our Lord in the desert for forty days and His temptation by the forces of Conservatism. For other Christian denominations this is a time of introspection, sacrifice, and sometimes even depression. So, business as usual for us. Some of you may see this is an opportunity to freak the mundanes by engaging in "more self-flagellating than thou" behavior. Please keep in mind that God hates a suck-up.

Congregation hisses in dissatisfaction.

PFD: Many people choose to observe Lent by giving something up. I would like to point out that it should be something you enjoy, so no more claiming to give up being happy, wearing bright colors, or going out in the daytime. You would be better advised to help one of our less-spooky brethren in dealing constructively with these feelings.

More hisses.

PFD: Finally, with today being Ash Wednesday, we shall be anointing your foreheads with ash crosses. You may not have it applied upside-down, I don't care how cool, ironic or iconoclastic you think it is.

Congregation frenzies. Howls, hisses, and screams build to ear-splitting pitch. Many church members bare their fangs. Order is restored when Sister PFD throws the hand sign for Advanced Presence. More "Blehs" from Brother Malkav.

PFD: After the anointment, we will serve communion. It will be through Intiction, a.k.a. "Slop and Drop". Please pay attention to the Fall of the House of Ushers, because if you go the wrong way you're liable to drip Christ's Blood into the ash, and while that would definitely make a striking fashion statement it is also extremely poor form. And now, Father Armand Cobwebb will lead us in prayer.

House lights go down. Fog generator starts up. Transcript ends as Worship Service/Rave begins with pipe organist beginning to play E Nomine's Vater Unser:

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