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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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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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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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 www.desmos.com/calculator

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.

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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.

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The Fine Print

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

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