Monday, January 28, 2019

ACP Episode 040: F***ing Vox, Man!

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss some listener feedback and the re-introduced Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill;
  • Oddball talks about knife prices, and when it's a good time to spend the money and when too much is too much;
  • Weer'd Fisks Vox news in a hit piece on the NRA;
  • and the Egghead gives us part two in his series on the innovations and merits of the AR-10 rifle.

Listen to the episode here.

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

Weer’d Audio Fisk

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Premiering at SHOT 2019

This photograph, taken by me in 2012 and appearing in Kel-Tec's 2019 catalog:

Late last year, Oleg Volk called me up and said "Congratulations! You sold a photograph!"

My reply was "Blarghle?" or something similarly intelligent, as I had no idea what he was talking about.

"One of the pictures you took of me during the hog hunt," he explained. "Kel-Tec wanted pictures of the RFB for their catalog and they didn't like any of mine, but they loved yours. Since you took the picture, I paid you a licensing fee."

"Huh," I garbled while checking my PayPal. It's uncouth to discuss how much I received, so I'll just say that it went a long way towards easing the pain of Christmas bills.

If I'm being honest, I prefer this picture:

It's a lot more dynamic and really captures Oleg's personality. But I get why Kel-Tec chose the other photo: they want to showcase the rifle, not the shooter, and the one they picked does exactly that.

For the story of how I was part of a hog hunt with Oleg Volk, go here.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Reversi Puzzle-Trap for Pathfinder RPG

This encounter is a hybrid of trap and puzzle for GMs to use. It's a trap, because of the very real likelihood of severe damage to the party, but it's also a puzzle because it needs to be solved before the players can proceed to the room beyond. In fact, it's the best of both worlds in that the PCs will willingly step onto it and damage themselves for your amusement.

First, make sure you know the rules for Reversi.

Set Up
The puzzle-trap begins with an ornate set of double doors which contain this inscription upon them:

Patience and Balance
Aggression and Greed

They won't realize it at first, but it's advice on how to solve the puzzle (be patient and seek balance rather than capturing the board aggressively and greedily.)

Upon entering, the PCs see a gridded (the absolute minimum size is 6x6, but you can go as large as you want) floor in a neutral color (I used gray) with four floor-to-ceiling columns of primal energy, two radiant and two necrotic, clustered around the central point of the grid. Running the length of the sides of the grid are roiling clouds of positive and negative energy, illuminated from within by bolts of brilliant white and utter darkness. It looks like a a thunderstorm mixed with a matter-antimatter reaction.

This trap works best if there is a door on the other side of the board, for reasons which will be obvious later. There is also a non-board strip of floor running the width of the rooms. If you wish to play up the danger with some flavor, mention that the room is plated in adamantine (unless your players are the types to try to pry up the plating).

I was running "Firehammer Hold" from "Scourge of the Sword Coast and wanted a better puzzle than the lame one in the module. But I had this nifty grid, and felt that chess puzzles were over-used and went with Reversi.

Sequence of Play
The PCs walk in and see the board. Using Detect Magic indicates that a very powerful spellcaster (read: higher level than the PCs so they can't disenchant it) found a way to capture a fraction of the primal powers of creation and entropy. The white columns radiate Conjuration and Evocation, the black columns Evocation and Necromancy, and the clouds are a jumbled mess of all three.

The PCs can mill around off the board all the like. Standing near the fog cloud gives an interesting mix of sensation, like the thrill of an electric charge combined with a chill of utter cold, but does no damage. If they step into the fog, see Entering the Fog, below.

Nothing happens if the PCs step onto the first row of squares. Depending on where they step, something does happen in the second row.

Essentially, if the PCs move into a square that is a legal placement for a Reversi token (they are not playing a specific color), then that token is placed and the tokens between it and its nearest matching color change. If they move into a square which is not a legal token placement, then nothing happens. After that, the board places a token of the opposite color anywhere it is legal to play -- preferably in a way that inconveniences the PCs.

Example of play:
  1. Taszvya, left, takes two steps forward and stops. Nothing happens because that is not a legal token placement. 
  2. Perga, right, also takes two steps forward. This IS a legal token placement and the board reacts.
  3. Since Perga stepped where a white token would be placed, a column of positive energy engulfs his square, and therefore him, from floor to ceiling. This also converts the square of negative energy into positive. See Effects of the Columns, below. 
  4. Every time a token is placed, movement halts. The board immediately places its own token before other characters may act.
  5. In this example, the board has placed a column of negative energy between Perga and Taszvya. Taz is now in a perilous situation; taking a step forward or backward will count as placing a light token, as will spending a full turn on her current square. If she wishes to disengage from the board her only option is to move diagonally right and down.
  6. Taszvya has chosen to take a step forward, placing another light token. In addition to the columnar effects, the fog cloud recedes one square (as its main purpose is to funnel people into interacting with the columns instead of going around them). 
  7. The game progresses as PCs take steps that place tokens and the board reacts. The fog clouds retract as tokens are placed, eventually retreating to hugging the wall. 
  8. The game continues until the PCs either leave the room or cross the board. See Endgame, below. 
  9. Note: the doors on the other side are locked with no visible means of unlocking them. They unlock automatically as part of Endgame, below, but may be opened by a suitably heroic (35+) Disable Device roll. 

Effects of the Columns
It is recommended that the GM keep a count of how many white and dark columns are placed once the game begins, as the effects increment based upon the number of columns placed. (The initial 4 columns do not count toward this total.)

Each time a PC steps into a column, a column appears in their square, or they spend a turn inside a column, the following effects occur.

If a radiant column:

  • The PC is healed 1d6 hit points for every positive column which has been placed during course of play. Other ailments such as blindness, deafness, missing body parts, etc may be cured/regrown at the GM's discretion. 
  • If the PC is at full hit points, then they must make a Fortitude save with a DC of (5 x Number of columns placed). For example, in step 6 Perga would have to make a DC 5 Fort save, whereas Taszvya in step 7 would have to make a DC 10 Fort save. 
    • If successful, the PC gains 1d6 temporary hit points for every radiant column placed. 
    • If failed, something spectacular happens as their body cannot adequately contain the energy of raw, chaotic creation. Suggestions include: a fireball centered on their location (they receive no Reflex save for half damage on this, although others do); uncontrolled growth; fusion with another PC if they share the same square; creation of a fully-grown duplicate; or other cruel uses of a random magical effect table. 
If a necrotic column:
  • The PC is damaged for 1d6 hit points per every negative column which has been placed during course of play. 
    • GMs who do not wish to kill PCs outright may instead inflict conditions upon them, such as fatigue, blindness, deafness, exhaustion, energy drain, etc. If this is chosen, then require the PC to make a Fort save at DC (5 x negative columns in play) to avoid death. 
  • Any PC who dies in a column of necrotic energy becomes an intelligent undead, such as a wight or wraith. 

Bypassing/Disabling the Trap
Players will likely want to skip this whole mess through use of spells. If so, let them. This isn't designed to be impassible; it's designed to be a resource drain for a dramatic encounter later and a source of amusement for the GM.

A few notes:
  • The columns are floor-to-ceiling, so flying will place a column just like walking. 
  • Intangible PCs will still trigger a column or suffer a column's effects if their intangible form is vulnerable to magical effects. 
  • Teleport, Dimension Door, and other spells will work to get the PCs on the other side of the board, as will spells which send bypass obstacles via another plane (astral, ethereal, shadow, etc). 
This is also a potentially lethal encounter for the entire party, especially if they do not quickly realize the rules of the "game". The trap is designed such that a few people can make it across safely, but the more people who cross -- or the longer they dally on the board -- the worse it is for everyone.

Despite this being a trap, there's really no way for a rogue to disable it. However, an epic roll (such as DC 30+ or a natural 20) will suggest a course of action found in Entering the Fog. Lesser rolls can give the following information:
  • Explain the rules for placement of columns. 
  • Realization that the more people who cross, the worse it will be for them. 
  • Tactics for getting across include: moving to illegal token placements whenever possible; sharing squares (such as smaller PCs being carried by larger ones); or getting charged up on temporary hit points and walking through necrotic columns.
  • Realization that stepping in already existing columns do not further the progression of the game. 

Entering the Fog
Canny PCs will think that entering the fog is instant death. Encourage this, but don't oversell it, because it's actually a way to bypass the entire trap.

Since the fog is made of equal parts positive and negative energy, the net result is neutral, with radiance healing necrosis and entropy preventing explosion from too many temporary hit points. Therefore, PCs who step into the fog are like birds on a high tension line: safe, so long as they make no contact with anywhere else.

Any PC who enters the fog has the Blind and Deafened condition. Further, they cannot be seen or heard by anyone outside the fog. They do, however, maintain their sense of touch, and by touching the wall they can safely navigate to the other side of the board.

PCs cannot enter the fog if it has receded against the wall. Those characters within the fog when it recedes are considered to have stepped onto the board, placing a column if possible.

Exiting the fog by stepping onto the board triggers an Endgame scenario. 

Endgame occurs under the following conditions:
  • All entities within the room have crossed to the other side of the board. 
  • All spaces upon the board have been filled. 
  • Someone within the fog exits onto the board. 
In the first two situations, perform the following actions:
  1. If a PC exited the fog onto the board, place a column where they stand (if possible)  and suffer the effects of same.
  2. Start removing columns in positive-negative pairs. 
  3. If all columns are removed evenly (the game was a draw), then the doors on the far side unlock with a loud click and the game board resets to its initial state. 
  4. If there is more of one kind of energy than the other, tally how many columns remain. Describe how the energy surges across the board from the fog on both sides (you may, if you wish, give the party time to open the doors/find a way out by having the board fill in the empty squares at a rate of one every round):
    • If necrotic, roll a matching number of d6 as negative energy damage and apply it to everyone in the room. 
    • If radiant, require everyone in the room to make a Fortitude save at DC (5 x number of remaining columns) to avoid explosion from too many hit points. If they succeed, give them that many temporary hit points.
  5. The doors then unlock. 
    • If you wish to give everyone a chance, have the doors unlock just as the last square is filled in but before the energy discharge. 

More/Less Deadly Variants

More Deadly: Have monsters appear through the door or be created by a positive energy surge. Combat on the board ought to be quite exciting. (Energy columns provide a 50% miss chance due to concealment.)

Less Deadly: Use Go rules instead of Reversi and have columns disappear when surrounded instead of flipping.

Monday, January 21, 2019

ACP Episode 039: Back on the Defense

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss the Universal Background Check and Assault Weapons Bills in the House and Senate;
  • Oddball talks about how to deal with the inevitable rust on your knife;
  • Weer'd explains what the Dickey Amendment is, what it does, and what it doesn't do in a Patented Weer'd Audio fisk;
  • Egghead starts a series on his favorite rifles, the AR-10 pattern, and gives some of the history and innovation of the gun;
  • and David gives us another segment on carry, this time focusing on methods targeted for women.

Listen to the episode here.

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

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers

Thursday, January 17, 2019

On Toxicity and Gender

You know the advertisement I'm referencing. We've all seen it, we've all seen the reactions to it, we've all argued about it. I'm not going to say much about that ad. 

What I will do is talk, briefly, about the concept of "toxic masculinity". Because I realize tempers are high and patience is short, I will list my thoughts as bullet points:
  • Toxic masculinity does exist, although it's nowhere near as pervasive nor as powerful as people think. 
  • Toxic femininity also exists, and in greater concentrations than people are willing to admit. I'm prepared to argue this, just not here and now. 
  • The existence of toxic masculinity does not mean that all masculinity is toxic and all men are abusers unless they prove otherwise. 
  • The existence of toxic femininity does not mean that all femininity is toxic and all women are manipulative unless they prove otherwise. 
  • Masculinity and femininity are gender expressions which exist outside of biological sex. It's not only possible to for a man to be very feminine or a woman to be very masculine, I guarantee that you've met at least one of them in your lifetime. 
  • So basically, "People can be toxic -- which ought to come as no surprise to anyone -- and how they express their toxicity is part of their gender expression."
What I find interesting is that this particular commercial came hot on the heels of the recently* released Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men by the American Psychological Association. This guideline is causing all sorts of consternation -- and rightly so, because it makes such proclamations as “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful” and "traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

In other words, the APA thinks that typical male behavior makes people sick.

I like to think that I have an unusual perspective on gender, since I have been on both sides of the equation. And speaking as someone who was raised male, and who tried and failed to fit in as a male, let me tell you: there's nothing inherently wrong with being male. I was miserable as a male, yes, but that's not the fault of masculinity any more than it would be the fault of my right shoe for hurting me when it's on my left foot. No, the problem is that my foot is in the wrong shoe and the solution is to move the shoe to the proper foot and not force the shoe to conform to my foot or force my foot to conform to the shoe. I moved the shoe to the proper foot by embracing my inner woman, and I'm happier now than I've been in decades.

Since I don't blame traditional gender expressions of maleness for my childhood unhappiness, I'm in total favor of allowing men to be as masculine as they like because I want people to be happy in their own skin instead of trying to be something they're not. 

Of course, I am also in total favor of allowing men to be as feminine as they like, too, for exactly the same reason. I am likewise in total favor of allowing women to be as masculine or as feminine as they like.

You see, when we as a society say "It's bad when a boy does X" or "Men should never do Y", when we focus on the sex of the actors instead of the actions themselves, we are allowing our fears and our prejudices to force people into gender-segregated roles. As a transwoman, I still struggle against people who believe that since I was born male, I should act male and who, given the opportunity, would gladly deprive me of my rights by having me declared mentally incompetent if I didn't go along with what they wanted.

I don't want that done to me, so I won't do it to others, and I will oppose those who attempt to force it upon others.

Remember: any law or social convention used against your opponents can be twisted to use against you when your ideology is no longer in power. 

Remember: always move towards greater freedom and away from greater regulation.

* More like "recently noticed". The APA manual came out in August 2018, but apparently it took social media four months to notice.

Monday, January 14, 2019

ACP Episode 038: .38 Masshole Special

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss The Dumbness that is the Massachusetts License to Carry permit system; 
  • Weer'd interviews Jay Grazio of Shooting Illustrated about growing up as a gun nut in the gun-unfriendly state of Massachusetts; 
  • David continues his series on carry methods by talking about his favorite holsters; 
  • while it may be too late for Christmas, Oddball gives some knife recommendations that might help you to spend your holiday gift money; 
  • and the ACP House Dick tells a story about how easy a GPS retrieval can go...and how hard it can be. 

Listen to the episode here.

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
Oddball’s Corner Pocket

    Monday, January 7, 2019

    ACP Episode 037: Our Headspace on the Bumpstock Ban

    In This Episode:
    • Erin and Weer’d discuss the recent Bumpstock ban;
    • Oddball explains why he hates the term "Sheepdog" to explain gun owners;
    • David continues his series on Holsters, this time with carry methods that don't utilize belts;
    • and the General Purpose Egghead returns, this time to explain headspacing of firearms.

    Listen to the episode here.

    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

    Sunday, January 6, 2019

    The Mithril Duck

    Mithril Duck
    Wondrous Item

    Faint divination
    Caster Level: 1
    Slot: None (held)
    Price: 700 gp*
    Weight: 0.5 pounds

    This small statuette (no more than 6 cubic inches in volume) of a duck is much lighter than it looks, suggesting a hollow interior. Beautifully detailed with exquisite attention to detail, if skillfully painted it could easily be mistaken for an actual duck, especially if put in water (it floats).

    Effect: To use the duck, hold it in your hand and ask it a question. It will answer by quacking (as if a masterwork duck call) and cast the Guidance cantrip upon the questioner.

    Construction Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item; Guidance or Master Craftsman; Masterwork mithril duck (DC 20 to craft; 250 gp for 0.5 lbs mithril)

    * The Mithril Duck is a level 0 use-activated item.
    • Use-activation is Spell level x caster level x 2,000 gp x 2 (1 minute spell duration) x 2 (slotless magic item)
    • A 0-level spell is half the value of a 1st-level spell for determining price, so spell level x caster level = 0.5 x 1 = 0.5
    • So cost is calculated as 0.5 x 2000 x 2 x 2
    • The Mithril Duck ought to cost 4,000 gp
    • However, this is ridiculously over-priced for a magic item which casts a spell that any first-level caster can perform an unlimited amount of times per day, so I apply a GM fiat ruling of dividing it by 10.
    • I mean do you really want your players to be able to sell this for 2,000 gp? I think not. However, 350 gp seems about right. 
    • 400 gp + 250 gp for 1/2 pound of mithril + 50 gp masterwork artisan's fee = 700 gp.

    For those of you who don't get the joke: it's a magical fantasy version of rubber duck debugging.

    The Fine Print

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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