Thursday, February 28, 2019

Failure is Advancement: A House Rule for Unknown Armies

I've been thinking about my UA game and listening to the recording as a kind of after-action report, and I've come to a few conclusions:
  1. PCs are going to suck at most skill rolls in a stress situation unless they're either really high or are fore an Obsession skill, and
  2. Advancement, while regular, is pretty slow. 
Neither one of these is inherently bad, but in concert they can be frustrating.

For example, Adrastia has a Drive skill of 25%. That's not the best in the group, but it's pretty good and better than the default score of 15%. Now in Unknown Armies, there are three kinds of rolls: Minor, Significant, and Major. 
  • Minor skill checks are trivially easy and the kind of thing that we do all the time, like driving through traffic. With a minor check, if you have a 15% in the skill, you succeed automatically, so you'd only fail if you were learning the skill, didn't have the skill, or were impaired from drugs or damage. 
  • Significant skill checks are harder than trivial but there's no stress to them. These are what I call "job checks" because you do them on a regular basis, like at your job. If you roll under your skill then you succeed strongly, but so long as you roll under your stat, you succeed weakly. The average stat in a UA game is 55%, so that gives slightly better than average chances at success. 
  • Major skills checks, though, are serious life or death things. They happen in combat and any other kind of stressful situation where a screwup could mean injury or worse. Players MUST roll under their skill rating to succeed, and this is where disaster lurks, because while Adrastia is better at driving than most people she isn't a trained combat driver, and in situations where such driving is necessary she has a 75% chance of failure. 
Like the combat rules, these numbers are harsh and probably realistic. It's one of the things which make UA a horror, or perhaps terror, game. There's a good chance that if the shit hits the fan, you're gonna die. 

Now all of this is cool. I can enjoy high-stakes games, and UA characters aren't especially hard to make. But I wonder, I worry, if that realism paired with slow advancement and limited XP will result in players frustrated at their inability to get things done. 

So I think I'm going to take a cue from my game Unknown Ponies: Failure is Awesome (which, ironically enough, is based off the UA game engine, hence the name) and use the concept of "We learn more from our failures than from our successes" to give my PCs a slightly faster form of advancement that won't make them too powerful too quickly. 

Here's the rule: Every time a player character fails a Major skill roll, the player puts a check next to that skill. There can never be more than one check next to a skill, so multiple failures earn nothing. At the end of game session, each skill with a check next to it increases by 1%. 

Here are the limiting factors:
  1. It has to be a Major skill check, meaning in combat or similar. 
  2. The skill only gets one boost per game session. 
  3. It cannot raise a skill above the hard cap of an attribute stat, and those can only be raised through XP. 
Yes, I am aware that this can be abused by player fishing for skill checks in combat. If they want to waste their turn whoring for advancement at the risk of failing the mission and/or the lives of their characters, that's on them. 

I expect there will be rapid improvement in low-level skills that get used a lot during stress situations -- as is proper, I feel -- which will taper off once the 50% level is reached. Of course, if the players spend XP to improve a skill further, that will only accelerate the drop-off. 

There may be other ways to game this system, but I'm not thinking of any. If you can I'd like to know about them. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Unknown Armies Episode 2

The conclusion to the adventure I began last week!

My players enjoyed the weirdness and mindfuckery, so it looks like I'm going to be running (and recording) more episodes of Unknown Armies in the future.

In hindsight, I probably should have had the homeless man sit bolt upright and deliver his lines right as the bus was spinning out of control, just to add to the general WTFery and to head off the expected "PCs want to murder him now" motions. Having him simply not be there when they wake up would have given them more agency than him leaving before they'd recovered their wits.

Ah well, live and learn. I've made a note of it for next time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

My LTUE Experience in Pictures

If you've listened to this week's episode of the Assorted Calibers Podcast, you've heard my recounting of events at the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium in Utah. I'm not going to tell those stories again, but what I will do is give you some photographs to go with them.

Thursday: Fundamentals of Self-Defense Law

Despite the name, this panel was more like "Gun Owners Talk About Things Modern Entertainment Gets Wrong About Firearms."  This series of pictures is from where I described the plot of an Arrow episode where bad guys stole industrial diamonds and used them to tip bullets so they could shoot through police kevlar.

Not shown is where LawDog (left) was beating his head against the table in frustration at the plot stupidity -- I think I caused him actual physical pain and I was worried I'd broken him -- but you can see his anguished reactions.

Friday: Oppressing a Gender, Race, or Species

I have no photographs from this panel, unfortunately. In my opinion it wasn't very spectacular so you aren't missing anything.

Saturday: Warfare in the Age of Drones and Robots

This is the one you've been waiting for: the International Lord of Hate being presented with an Operation Blazing Sword shirt.

Yes, my hair is different in these photos. I had a wig malfunction and I replaced it with a backup. I think this one looks better anyway.

I wish to state for the record that I got permission from Mrs. Correia before taking this pose. To her credit, she thought it was hilarious.

And here we have Larry Correia posing with a transwoman. Notice how he isn't afraid to put his arm around me. Notice how he doesn't mind that my hand is on his chest. Notice he's smiling so hard he's squinting.

The man is a giant teddy bear.

Monday, February 25, 2019

ACP Episode 043: 40 Degrees of Temperature Swing

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d talk about their travels last week, with Erin at the Life, the Universe & Everything Symposium and Weer'd at Disney World;
  • They also discuss how the anti-gunners only care if you're a victim of gun violence if you choose to be anti-gun afterwards;
  • David continues his series on firearm maintenance with a segment on cleaning and inspecting guns;
  • Weer'd brings us part 2 of the horrible anti-gun musical number called The Birds and the BS;
  • and the ACP House Dick tells us about collecting evidence for cases and how that can play out in court.

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

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Unknown Armies Episode 1

So I've acquired a bit of a reputation as a weird-yet-skilled RPG gamemaster, and people frequently say things like "Your games must be a blast" or "I wish I could play with you."

Well, while I can't let everyone in the world play with me (oo-er, missus!) I can let you listen in on a game session.

Last Wednesday, I ran an adventure for the Unknown Armies RPG to fill in for my currently Pathfinder GM who's been dealing with family problems. UA is a weird, fun little game that not many people have heard about. It's an urban fantasy role-playing game that's hard to describe, so I'll toss out a few similes:
  • It's the game people wanted Mage: the Ascension to be, all gritty and street level instead of high-minded and cosmic. 
  • It's the game you'd get if Hunter S. Thompson wrote a Vertigo comic. 
  • In the words of one of the game's writers, it's about "Power and Consequences". 
  • In the words of another, it's a game about a "Bunch of skeevy weirdos trying to undermine the fundaments of reality because no one else had the brass to try it".
So yeah, that's the game. Urban fantasy with some horror and brutality and high weirdness... and I recorded our first session. I've been given permission by all of my players to make the recording public, so if you're interested in giving it a listen, here's the link to download it, or you can just hit play below.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Some "Inside Baseball" on Three-Line Rifle

In part 11 Bronia says syet, which is the Bogatyr distress code for attempted psychic domination or possession. It means "net", which is short for "network".

(Personally, I think that's pretty cool. It's a one-syllable word so it's quick to say, which is great for distress codes, and if someone is trying to take over your mind or your body then they're kind of trying to form a network, right?)

The problem with this is that syet isn't a proper transcription of the word. That would be set', with an apostrophe at the end. According to professional translator Yuri Mikhailovich, the ' is a palatization, which is when one moves one's tongue to the roof of the mouth when pronouncing a consonant. In Russia this is called "softening" a consonant, and to English speakers it often sounds like a very short e sound.

This was a dilemma for me. Having an accessible pronunciation is important because I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and if this story is ever read aloud I want it done properly.  Readers can muddle their way through spasiba and tovarisch, but will they know how to pronounce a Russian ' ? They'll just think it's "set" with a typographical error.

Using the Cyrillic spelling isn't any better; that would be сеть. English speakers aren't going to know how the hell to say that.

So what I did was settle on a compromise spelling. Syet is accessible to regular readers -- it's like nyet only with an S instead of an N -- and it sounds enough like set' that only the fluent will know it's not correct and only the purists will be offended.

And now you know.

Monday, February 11, 2019

ACP Episode 042: Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d are slightly tipsy and get VERY silly;
  • Erin ponders the concept of politics as generational warfare;
  • Oddball gives us a discussion on general knife safety;
  • David presents a primer on gun cleaning;
  • Weer'd brings us another audio fisk, this time in Musical Theater format;
  • and Steve talks about what snow days are like for a private detective.

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:

Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Schedule of Upcoming Events & Appearances through May

I am going to be a busy little bee for the next few months!

February 14-16
I will be a panelist at the Life, the Universe & Everything Symposium in Provo, Utah. Here are the dates and topics of the panels if you want to hear me talk or just ask for a hug:

Fundamentals of Self-Defense Law
Thursday, Feb 14 @ 3 PM
To one degree or another, every society recognizes the right to self-defense, yet this is a field of law filled with dangerous myths. We will discuss what differentiates self defense from murder, fighting, and accidents.

Seed Questions:
  • What are the fundamental elements of self defense?  
  • How have these elements changed over time, and how do they vary over different States and countries?  
  • What is the difference between killing in self defense, manslaughter, and murder? 
  • What makes self defense different from fighting?  
  • How might a fight transform into something where self defense can be claimed?  
  • What factors might lead to a prosecutor deciding whether or not to press charges?  
  • What do individuals do to avoid having to act in self defense, and how might these actions help them if they have to act in self defense

Oppressing a Gender, Race, or Species
Friday, Feb 15, @ 1 PM
A discussion on how a society might oppress or enslave a gender, a race, or a species.

Seed Questions:
  • What is the difference between differentiation of roles of people, and systemic oppression?
  • How does oppression in a society arise? 
  • What kinds of movements typically threaten this oppression?  
  • What role do cultural norms play in the creation of an oppressive society?  
  • What kinds government infrastructure are necessary to sustain systemic oppression?  
  • What do oppressed people do to subvert the system of oppression, even when they cannot change the system? 
  • What do oppressed people do to threaten a system of oppression, and what do people in power do to keep the oppressed in line?

Warfare in the Age of Drones and Robots
Saturday, Feb 16 @ 4 PM 
We have unmanned drones and remote-controlled robots to aid us in our fighting endeavors. How do those guys with hundred-year-old Enfield bolt-action rifles still stand a chance?

Seed Questions: 
  • What role do drones and robots have in helping us fight wars?  
  • What are their advantages and limitations?
  • How does operating a drone psychologically affect the pilot of that drone?  
  • How do people facing drones and robots adjust their strategies in fighting wars?
  • In particular, what role does the soldier with the 100-year-old Enfield bolt-action rifle have in this new landscape for warfare?  
  • How might these tools be used in a civil war?  What political and societal factors might prevent these tools from being used?

March 2
I'll be at the first ever joint shooting event between the Ft. Lauderdale and Miami-Dade Pink Pistols chapters in Homestead, FL!

April 17

I'll be a speaker the University of Mary Washington's Second Annual 2A Day at the UMW Hurley Convergence Center. I don't know when I'll be speaking, but the event runs from 4pm to 7pm.

April 26-28

The NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis is a business trip for me this year. I don't know how available I'll be during the day, but I should be free in the evenings to meet people, hang out, and of course have dinner.

May 31 - June 2

My first ever LibertyCon! Unlike everything else on this page, this one is primarily a fun trip, although it's almost certain that I'll be repping Operation Blazing Sword and Pink Pistols by talking about them to various people.

If you're attending any of these events, please drop me a line so I can coordinate with meeting you!

This picture has nothing to do with the rest of the post. I just wanted to share it because it's AWESOME

Monday, February 4, 2019

ACP Episode 041: SHOT Through the Heart

In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d discuss a very interesting defensive gun use in Massachusetts, and then ooh and ahh over what we saw from social media coverage of SHOT Show;
  • Egghead tells us about a nice little prepper tool for electronics, the Buck/Boost Converter;
  • In Gun Lovers & Other Strangers, David explains the Jewish concept of tikkun olam and why we should practice it at the range;
  • and much to Erin's chagrin, Weer'd brings us part two of his fisk of the Vox anti-NRA Hit piece.

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

General Purpose Egghead

Weer’d Audio Fisk

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Christians, Pacifism, and The Jesus Number

This was originally the Main Topic of episode 146 of the GunBlog VarietyCast. It has been transcribed and updated for your convenience. 

I am a Christian. I also carry a firearm for self-defense. Others might consider this contradictory, but I do not.

I am thoroughly sick of the notion that in order to be a good Christian, one has to be such a pacifist that "Turn the other cheek" has become "Go limp and allow yourself to be victimized." That's a misinterpretation of Jesus' commands, and I'm going to prove it.

Let's start with the Old Testament. I know that everyone thinks that the Sixth Commandment says "Thou Shalt Not Kill", but the proper Hebrew translation for it is Thou Shalt Not Murder. This is an incredibly important distinction, because while the Bible contains many prohibitions against unlawful killing there are just as many rules for lawful killing when it comes to capital punishment, warfare, and yes, self-defense, and some of these are direct Commandments from God Himself.

Second, the statement by Jesus to turn the other cheek is a prohibition against carrying grudges and seeking revenge and a commandment that we strive to forgive those who wrong us; it is not a commandment to allow people to victimize us without resistance. I say this based upon three events from the Gospels:

1) Jesus intervened to prevent an adulterous woman from being stoned to death. He didn't turn the other cheek; He saw the inherent value of her life in the face of a crowd who wanted her dead. 

2) Jesus made a whip and went into the temple where the money changers and livestock sellers were defiling His Father's house and he knocked over tables and drove the cattle out. It's unclear if the whip was used on the people, or if it was just to drive away the sheep and cattle; either way cracking the whip and knocking over tables is pretty darn intimidating. He didn't turn the other cheek; He acted to prevent what He saw a desecration. 

3) In Luke 22:36, Jesus Himself told His disciples that if any of them did not have a sword, they should sell their cloaks -- a very important article of clothing -- and buy swords. Now it's worth pointing out the sword is unlike a knife or a club:
  • Knives are tools that are used to cut things; you can use them for eating, or making things, or repairing things, or carving items out of wood. 
  • A club can be a hammer to make or repair things; it can be used for hunting to gather food, and it can be used to separate grain from husks while farming. 
  • A sword however has one purpose: to kill human beings. It is specifically designed and optimized for that, and Jesus told His disciples to purchase and carry one if they didn't have one because He would no longer be present to protect them.
  • What's more, the original Greek word translated into English as "sword" is machaira. It is a short, single-edged weapon; basically a large knife or a dagger, possibly as long as a short sword. In other words, it was too large to be a practical tool but too small to be a weapon of war; it was specifically a weapon of self-defense. In other words, it was the concealed pistol of its time. 
This brings us to something that I have started calling The Jesus Number. When Jesus told His disciples to buy swords, they responded with " 'Lord, behold: here are two swords' and He said unto them, 'It is enough.'" Two swords out of 12 disciples were considered sufficient; that's one in six or roughly 17 percent of the Disciples. And yes, I'm counting Judas in this; Jesus' command to buy a sword (Luke 22:36) came before Judas's betrayal (Luke 22:47).

So how many armed Americans does it take to fulfill the Jesus Number? Let's run some numbers.
  • As of August 2018, there are 17.25 million concealed carry permits in the United States
  • The adult population of the USA, also as of August 2018, is 252,063,800 people.
  • According to Jesus, 17% of that adult population -- 42,850,846 people -- should be carrying a weapon for self-defense. 
  • However, 17.25 million of 252 million means that only 6.845% of the total adult population of the country has a license to carry a concealed weapon (up from 6.0% in 2017). 
(Disclaimer: These are rough numbers that don't account for various factors such as individuals having non-resident carry permits in addition to a resident permit; people in states where permits aren't needed because constitutional carry is the law of the land; or for states which require an adult to be older than 18 to have a concealed carry license.)
Given these numbers, we can see that the United States needs two and a half times the number of armed individuals that Jesus considered sufficient for self-defense. Almost seven percent of the population has a concealed carry permit, and yet according to the Prince of Peace that number is insufficient.

I expect some of you are wondering how I can reconcile speaking of guns and peace in the same sentence. As explanation, I will close with an excellent bit of philosophy that was told to me by Gwen Patton, First Speaker Emeritus for the Pink Pistols:
When used properly, within the law and prevailing custom, guns do not create violence; they negate it. They are 180 degrees out of phase with violence and thus neutralize it. The true core of violence is that it violates law and custom. Violence is force, but not all force is violence. Some forms of force neutralize violence and create peace.
When one engages in self-defense, one applies force in the exact measure necessary to stop a violent attack; no more and no less. One stays within the law and within local custom, and one respects that, even though they perpetrated violence, the violator still has rights and while their violence deserves no respect, their humanity does. Those who engage in violence, by definition, do not respect the humanity of their targets.
Correctly performed self-defense is the act of bringing peace into existence. Peace is not avoiding violence. Peace is an action, not the absence of action. Peace is the negation of violence.
To me, this quote illustrates the difference between pacifism and non-violence. I like to think of pacifism as "Don't start none, won't be none" whereas nonviolence is "Even if you start something, there won't be anything; I'll just roll over and take it." Such extremes of philosophy might be a perfectly valid choice for you, but it is a core of my beliefs that no one has the right to make that choice for anyone else.

There are people who love me and who depend on me, and nobody has the  right to take me away from them.

That's why this Christian carries a gun.

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