Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That Was 2010 That Was

I very sensibly made no resolutions for this year other than to keep trying. Well, I mostly kept trying, or at least I like to think I did. Eventually. After a few slumps. I suppose, all things considered, that's all I can ask of myself.

So what happened this year? I actually passed my viva and graduated - I'm a doctor now. That never quite stops amazing me. I've failed to find any work though, or get any closer to deciding what sort of work I'd like to do if I had the choice. My SO changed her name legally and cleared some of the hurdles the NHS chooses to put in place of anyone wishing to transition. I started blogging about the games I run and play in, which meant I was posting (and writing) something at least semi-regularly. We lost Nana's dog Charley and gained an adorable ball of fluff, Benjy:

There were probably other important things I've forgotten, I'm pretty bad at this sort of thing, but that pretty much sums it up. I have plans for next year, some of which are Plans, but I need to think about them more and will post when I'm next at home. We're off to visit my parents and meet friends up in Durham for a few days before heading south in the new year to visit other family we haven't seen since, well, about a year ago. So I'll be offline for a week or so and will have plenty of time to think, read, and scribble notes the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. When I'm back, I'll have a better idea of what my Plans actually are and how much I want to share with you. Until then, I hope you have had and continue to have a good half-way-out-of-darkness celebration.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bitesize Reviews

Been meaning to write a whole host of reviews of things I've seen or read and not got very far at all. So I'll try a shorter approach. Mostly spoiler-free thoughts on The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson, Locke & Key, Despicable Me, The Event, The 4400 and Misfits follow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Dec 15th

The party continued exploring the Small Dungeon of Koptilla and found one more chamber. Past an ugly statue of some rock-like monster, there was a large column of crackling blue energy flanked by two Blaspheme Imperfects. A small secondary chamber could just be seen at the back, with some sort of glowing symbol on the wall.

The party decided to mostly stay outside. Chuck tried to keep the blaspheme away from them and Mouse and the Drow started damaging them heftily. A large undead ogre emerged from the secondary chamber and teleported the Warlord towards him. After destroying one of the blasphemes, only to have it reappear from the energy column, the party realised they needed to shut that down. Chuck ascertained it was pure necrotic energy, and the Warlord made his way to the back to investigate the thing on the wall. It was a tile, the symbol of Ogremoch glowing with necrotic energy on it. The Warlord wrenched it from the wall before he was drawn back into the fight. The fight was turning into a long one, as the blaspheme regenerated (but rarely got to do any damage) while the ogre swept everyone to the floor with his flail (including himself on one memorable occasion, thanks to the Drow's Chaos Link spell). Eventually, Chuck got to examine the tile and concluded it was the key that was generating the column of necrotic power and, hoping that it wouldn't just explode, flung it into the swirling mass of energy.

It imploded, drawing sparks of blue energy from the ogre and the remaining blaspheme. The two undead then continued to "leak" energy and could only move very slowly, ensuring the party were able to finish them off. A careful search of the chamber turned up a magical silver headband that could attack opponents with merely a thought. Exhausted and depleted of resources, the party decided to rest there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was VII

So it's that time of year again, you know, where people start complaining about how they hate this time of year, or start their festive traditions and I get overly stressed about everything that needs doing. But maybe I'll blog about that tomorrow.

So the weekend just gone then. Watched another 40K game on Friday evening - my SO trying out another variation of Dark Eldar against a friend's Tyranids. The DE got eaten of course, but didn't fare as badly as feared. Another friend was also watching (he's just getting into it and started collecting Imperial Guard) and afterwards the four of us drank wine and played Dominion.

Saturday we went up to Durham to stay with my parents so they could babysit the Terror while we went to a friend's party. Actually remembered to take Christmas cards up, and friend's present, although hopefully we'll be up again at some point to exchange gifts with family. The Terror didn't want to go and then didn't want us to go out without him, but once there he was happy enough to see his beloved granddad and (my cousin) M again. We had tea with family, and then got ready. The party was vaguely fancy dress - I went as the 11th Doctor having found a tweed jacket in a charity shop for not-very-much and the free bow tie from latest SFX Collection. No, there are no pics. Although the jacket was too big, the shirt I stole from the barely-touched side of the wardrobe actually quite suited me and I think I might wear it again. Probably not with a bow tie though. Party was ok - music was good if a touch too loud, SO drove so wasn't drinking much and therefore probably found the conversation a little more dull, and it is always great to see my oldest (in terms of years known) friend, especially as she's now a bit more settled and seems to be coping with all life throws at her. (Note to self: probate's a bitch. Update will just in case....)

Sunday I got to sleep in, and appreciated how much warmer my parents' house is than ours as I was able to sit around in pajamas quite comfortably. We went out for a short walk, just the two of us again, mostly avoiding the ice and only getting rained on a bit. Went home and had tea and then headed out to Nana's to meet her new puppy.

Due to my slump and lack of posting, I didn't mention here that Nana's dog Charley had died. She was fifteen and her kidneys went and everyone was understandably upset, but she'd had a good life. We knew Nana couldn't go on for very long without a dog, so it's hardly a surprise she got one but oh my! He is the cutest thing ever. Six weeks old, called Benjy, about the size of a guinea pig, white and yellow and creamy coloured fur and with more energy than your average toddler it seems. He investigated us straight away (he seems to like nibbling on feet) and ran around lots before the Terror and my SO tried to teach him to play tug-of-war and then he found the small duck toy and spent quite a while killing that. He also tried attacking the bigger one but couldn't get hold properly and mostly tried clambering on top. Those little legs don't quite work right either, but he can sure move at a heck of a pace. He then crashed out and slept on the Terror's lap for a bit. Taking photos was difficult due to him not staying still long enough, but some were managed and I'll have to see if I can get copies. Then I will subject you to the cuteness too.

Oh, and then last night I watched more stuff on 4oD. Maybe at some point I'll blog about those, and other stuff I've been watching, reading, etc. No promises though.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Dec 8th

The party journeyed south to the Catacombs of Koptila - all that remains of an ogre culture that is alleged to have journeyed through time to escape attacks from aberrant creatures, and destroyed the town that had built up in their absence on their return.

In the first chamber, they are confronted by three well armed ogres and their pet Scythclaw Drakes. Acting quickly, Chuck teleported two of the ogres and one drake into a corner of the room and trapped them with a wall of fire. This allowed them to concentrate their attacks on the remaining ogre before the others could charge through the fire to attack. Although the ogres hit the Warlord a couple of times, and the drakes knocked several of the party to the floor, the monsters proved little trouble as they were repeated pushed back into the fire until they perished. While resting afterwards, they inspected the bodies and found each ogre wore a silver bracelet engraved with markings associated with the Earth Primordial Ogremoch.

Moving through the iron doors they followed a short corridor to another open room with a short staircase at the far side. Inside was another ogre, covered in markings implying he was a thrall for an Ogremoch cult, and two hill giants. Although Chuck tried to keep the giants away from the party, they could still do some hefty damage by rolling boulders with large amounts of side or back spin at them. Eventually the three large humanoids were trapped on the stairs, hemmed in by each other and a flaming sphere and taking damage from Mouse's arrows, the Warlord's charges and the Drow's spells. Although the Warlord had to pause to heal himself part way through, the battle was as one-sided as ever. Again on examining the bodies, they discovered the ogre was wearing a silver bracelet. A passageway at the top of the stairs led further in to the apparently badly named "Catacombs"....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Trans Talk

This is a transcript of the talk I gave, today, at the YUSU LGBT "What Is Trans?" event, with partner's name redacted. The first time in years I've spoken in public without panicking or bursting into tears.

I'd known my partner J about five years before she first told me she thought there was a part of her that was female. That's probably not quite how she phrased it at the time as she really struggled to put into words the thoughts and feelings she had but that was the overall impression I was left with. She was relieved I didn't think she was crazy and wasn't going to leave her and I was confused why it should be an issue. I couldn't see how it would affect our lives at all and anyway it kind of made sense. We'd always joked about how she was more girly than me, and that we got the gender roles the wrong way round. And at first nothing did change - she tried on some of my clothes occasionally and we kept it between ourselves. Our son thought it was silly that daddy should wear a skirt sometimes, but after a while just accepted it. But the pressures of life and having to maintain a male front for family and the public meant that after a time it became less frequent and almost forgotten, at least by me. About a year later, she decided to try it again and this time told some close friends. By then she'd read more and found other people online who had similarly fluctuating feelings of gender - sometimes male, sometimes female - and settled on the description of "bi-gender": that is, both male and female. So she asked to be called by a girl's name and referred to by female pronouns, at least in private, and took to wearing skirts and girly tops around the house more. Eventually she decided she needed to choose a new name, one that was gender neutral, rather than splitting herself between two personas, and settled on J. That caused some problems, as trying to explain to people why she wanted to change her name without outing her led largely to handwaving and muttering about "likes the name better". And I suppose that was the start of her public transition, as not long after that she came out to people at university and was overwhelmed by how accepting everyone was.

I should be honest here and admit that I didn't accept all this as calmly and rationally as I may be making out. I did have worries, and fears, especially early on when J was still struggling to figure out who or what she was. I felt a kind of loss for the man I had fallen in love with, and was afraid of what our future might be like if she was transsexual. How would the family react? How would we be treated by others? What impact would it have on our son, our plans for future children, our sex life? I mourned for a while for the loss of a "normal" family life that we would likely never have. But even at the time I recognised how irrational those thoughts were - we were never a normal family. She was fundamentally the same person I'd known and loved for years, just expressing a facet of her personality that had been repressed for too long. And not once did I think of leaving her, or that transitioning would be the wrong thing to do if it made her happier and more comfortable with herself. So by the time it came to tell family and the wider world, I was completely supportive of J and so unconditionally accepting of her gender that I forgot that this was all news to them and I found myself trying to explain something I couldn't really explain. Gender is not something I really understand and it just seems so obvious to me that a person is the gender they say they are and no-one else has the right to question that. After all, each of us is the only person that really knows what it feels like to be ourselves. But others have their own view of people and it can, admittedly, be difficult to shift that initial label of "male" or "female", especially when someone is filling a gender-specific role such as "daddy". So I suspect a lot of people subconsciously pigeonholed J as "a man who crossdresses" and largely carried on referring to her as "he". And while at first J was largely happy to use either set of gender-specific pronouns, over time it became obvious she mostly preferred female ones.

Indeed, as time went on, and she became bolder at dressing more effeminately more of the time, she found she was only reverting to what we came to refer to as "boy mode" when she felt she needed to to avoid attention in public or to present as more male for the family. And I became more used to thinking of her as a woman, and she felt more like a woman who is a bit boyish rather than a man who is a bit girly. So when it came to legally changing her name, she went for an overtly feminine one, although she still mostly goes by J. And despite this my family continue to refer to her as "he" and our son still calls her "daddy" and "he" and sometimes it's hard not to fall into the habit of copying them. I certainly don't feel able to correct them, although maybe with time they'll come round.

I haven't mentioned doctors at all yet, and that's because most of this happened without any input from them. Referrals from the GP got lost twice and a psychologist dragged out their consultations and insulted her before grudgingly allowing her to see a psychiatrist who could declare her mentally competent enough to be put on the waiting list for Leeds Gender Identity Clinic. It's easy to see why so many people end up seeking treatment privately or through less orthodox channels. But we haven't given up on the NHS yet, and despite my growing skepticism we will just have to wait and see what they can do. And no doubt there will be many more obstacles in the future. University is possibly an unusually safe and accepting environment, but she's nearly finished her degree and may well have to seek work in the wider world. I'd like to think that she can avoid discrimination and that potential employers will just accept her as she is, without any fuss, but I know it is far from a given. Every time we are out together and she grips my hand a little tighter in response to stares, I am reminded that I can't protect her from unthinking strangers who don't know how to deal with someone who defies their expectations. All I can do is stand by her, support her, and let her know she doesn't have to go through this alone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Dec 1st

After dealing with the vampires, the party returned to the inn to demand free food, booze and praise for liberating the townspeople. That night, most of the party wake up the sound of someone exclaiming "Yes!" quietly and then teleporting away, while the Warlord, whose grip Dungeon Master had just snatched his staff back from, slept on soundly.

In the morning, with no idea where to start hunting down the fugitive DM, the party examined their map again and decided to head out to Mad Maldek's Tomb and from there to the Catacombs of Koptila, and circle round back to the coast, visiting the points of interest on the way and hopefully collecting a lot of Treasure/Undead Tax.

They arrive at the tomb and head down some stairs to the small entranceway whereupon they discover a couple of large stitched together corpses guarding the doorway. They attack and manage to pin in the cadaver golems and destroy them without taking too much damage. Heading through the doors, they come to a large space set out as a very messy laboratory of some sort. Along with another golem, there are four putrescent zombies, a skeleton wielding what appears to be a spine, and a floating jar containing a brain preserved in some sort of liquid. As the fight starts, the skeleton turns out to be quite deadly with its spine-flail, and most of the party concentrate on that while Chuck deals with the zombies easily. The floating brain-in-a-jar sends a sparkling ray of psychic energy towards Mouse and causes her to turn her bow and arrow on the Drow causing him quite a lot of damage before she is finally able to shake the effect off. The Warlord charges the brain and hits, only to find himself teleported back across the room. But despite these set-backs, the heroes prevail as always, and find a pair of magic boots and a large sapphire to take as loot. Chuck also investigates the scattered notes and concludes that while the now definitely dead Maldek was indeed quite mad, he had made progress on the creation of golems from cadavers as well as preserving his brain after his body had begun to fail. The appropriate papers are taken, in case they are of further use.

Friday, November 19, 2010

GM/Life Fatigue

So yeah.Another fortnight and no more gaming write-ups. Maybe I'll feel more up to running next week but I think I'm losing interest in my D&D campaign. It has been 12 levels and things are getting a bit samey. I can't seem to find ways to make fights new and interesting and with certain players' abysmal luck with dice turning things into a grind it's all been feeling a bit "meh". I suppose I should talk it over more with the other players, but wondering if taking a break and playing something different for a while might be good. Although I'm not sure if I could run another game right now. I still have a (mostly mental) list of ideas for campaigns and one-shots but I doubt I'd get very far prepping them.

See, it's not just D&D I've been getting bored with. It's just about everything. I have to force myself to pick up a book to read. Life's being a bit of a drag. Sure, some bits are good - I have a laugh with the Terror, or a nice night in with J, friends, playing games, drinking cider, watching Spaced, whatever. But it all fades away and I go to bed tired and don't quite fall asleep or wake up several times in the night and realise that the next day is going to be another whole load of housework and killing time.

Tempting to say it would be better if I got a job (or failing that, volunteer work) but I suspect I'd just end up dreading that as "yet another thing" to be tolerated. I just can't seem to shake this negative mindset. And yes, I know the reason I'm like this is "I'm depressed" but that doesn't make it much easier to live with. The meds help me get out of bed in the morning and mean I maybe only cry once or twice a week instead of once or twice a day, and I am so far managing to get a modicum of exercise/outsideyness a day but I still need "a project" to focus on. I think. But whenever I start one, I get bored within a few days and once I get bored I start hating to have to do things. And with housework and exercise and job hunting I can just ignore the hating it and think "but I have to", that's not so easy with stuff that's supposed to be enjoyable like gaming or reading or writing.

But hey, I cope. I'm mostly slacking off and watching TV/DVDs/iPlayer once housework is finished. Forcing myself to find things I might vaguely find interesting or funny and carrying on reading my way through our collection of Mage: the Ascension books. I'll live. At some point I'll have to stop slacking off and get a job or something but I'll worry about that when I get there.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Nov 3rd

The party paused only briefly before following the mist-form vampire lord through the doors to the innermost chamber. There, they were taunted by what appeared to be a corpse on a throne, which exploded as soon as it was attacked. They were attacked by some battle wights and a human figure at the back of the room cast spells and raised vampire minions which were shot to pieces or died on the end of the Warlord's spear. The vampire lord just lurked in a corner.

As they were fairly worn out from the previous battle, it took them longer than expected to deal with the wights and the necromancer, and suffered quite a bit of damage but had just enough healing to keep going. Once they finished with those, they turned their attention back to the vampire who remained in mist form and tried to bargain with them before (foolishly) turning solid again and throwing himself on their mercy. They quickly ended his (un)life.

OC comments - After quite a break we decided to play D&D again. It ended early because I was getting tired though, and as they were out of dailies/encounter powers the fight was beginning to drag.

Quote of the session
C: "Unfortunately for him, my spear's name is Mercy."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010's been a while...

How've you been? Long time no see etc. Yeah, I know I said I'd blog more regularly but you gets in the way.

Or rather it doesn't. I haven't blogged mostly because I've had nothing to blog about. Gaming took a hiatus and we've been playing Betrayal at House on the Hill instead, which we got for our anniversary. Yeah, we had an anniversary - eight years me and the SO have been together now. We didn't get to go out and celebrate due to her having an infection which resulted in a tooth out - antibiotics meaning no alcohol and eating being slightly painful. Maybe one day we'll get a babysitter in so we can go and celebrate a bit later.

Then there was the boy's birthday. He's seven now. Meep. Presents and party and all that - he mostly seems to have got Lego which is cool and has kept me busy the last few days "helping" him build them. He's more interested in the mini-figures, at least with the Star Wars stuff. Now it's half term and I'm trying not to just let him play computer games all the time but, ugh. Rain. Cold. Don't want to go out. Etc.

Job hunting is still being a pain as there aren't that many jobs. Got one letter sent off and another written for when I get round to printing it out. Not sure if I'll hear anything. Trying not to get too panicky about long term prospects - got a while yet before SO's studentship runs out.

Back on sertraline. Was getting far too depressed and unable to do much. Too early to tell if it's really working - I'm mostly running on placebo effect and sheer willpower now. If I don't collapse again before Christmas then I guess that means they're doing some good.

In a moment of madness I agreed to speak at a trans event next week. Have been fretting far too much about what I'm going to say. At some point I'll just have to sit down and start writing, then ask SO and friend(s) for help editing. At this rate I'm going to be worrying too much about what to say that I won't get to start worrying about the actual talking in front of people thing until it's too late. Maybe that's a good thing actually...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Oct 6th

After defeating the vampires that interrupted their drinking, the party had a good night's sleep. The following morning, they talked to the innkeeper who informed them the vampires were believed to have a lair in an old tomb in the very centre of the forest. After a long, wet, walk, the party found the stone stairs down into the tomb and entered.

Inside were several townspeople who seemed to worship "the master" and attacked them, despite the Warlord's efforts to get them to worship him instead. The cultists were easily dealt with, but the three snake constructs that guarded the corridor leading to the main chamber of the tomb provided more of a problem. Eventually, the Warlord had to actually get down from the steps and engage in the fight, rather than leave everything to the others.

The next room was a large one, containing two towering zombie hulks and several vampires. Chuck immediately divided the room in two with a Wall of Fire, so they only had to deal with a few vampires and one zombie to start with. The vampires were once again easily dispatched, and the zombie destroyed by being pushed into the wall of fire. However, once the wall was dropped, they discovered the zombie could get up again...This time, the two zombies caused some problems as they could hit quite hard, while the vampire minions were still mostly ineffectual. The vampire lord that they had defeated the previous night hung back until the zombies were nearly defeated, and then rushed forward and dominated the Warlord before charging at Chuck. The Drow was able to finish off the zombie and deal a large amount of damage to the vampire lord. The mind-controlled Warlord then charged him before being able to shake off the effect, and Chuck rushed toward him to help him recover from the aftereffects of the vampire being inside his head. The vampire lord took this opportunity to turn into mist and flee through another door, deeper into the tomb.....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Primal Adventures V

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)

Another long absence meant we spent a chunk of time recapping where we'd got to. Then we carried on our trek through the woods, noticing more and more odd things - there didn't seem to be a noticeable sun and, come to think of it, the trees did look a little....tentacly. I put another notch in my "weird stick" and the Shaman consulted the spirits to be told it was the influence of the Far Realm on the world. I mused that I didn't really know how to cure an infection of the world, rather than a person, and the Shaman pointed out we should try and find what was causing it and remove it. After wandering around a bit to figure out which way we'd been going (as the ground didn't seem to be taking footprints) we carried on in the direction we hoped the tribe's camp was - the direction in which it was easier to walk.

Eventually the trees thinned out and we came to a grassy area that was less grassy than we remembered it. After a few feet the grass gave way to...sand? We also seemed to be slowly sliding forwards (towards the "desert"). As we started to take this in, some more floaty-tentacly-things came through the trees and we moved, with great difficulty, towards them to fight them. The ground definitely seemed to resist us moving away from the sandy area, and we still kept sliding towards it. This reduced movement didn't help when the Warden managed to get himself surrounded by tentacle-beasts and took sufficient damage to knock him unconscious.

What followed was mostly the Barbarian hacking away at the things which seemed to hit harder and harder with each successive hit, while I thinned out the minions and the Shaman kept picking up the yo-yoing Warden until he ran out of healing and healing potions. Eventually I went down too (in two hits) and the remaining two had to deal with the last couple of baddies by themselves. Thankfully, the biggest had hit a couple of times and then wandered away, presumably bored. We seem to be letting a lot of things escape.

The fight took all night. A quick post-mortem afterwards seemed to suggest the monsters mostly just got lucky - not missing meant their damage got ramped up to the levels of 6d6. With fewer of us helping to take them down, it took the barbarian longer to deal with them despite being able to throw out large chunks of damage, and the reduced maneuverability meant they could surround us easily. Thankfully the two of us who went unconscious only failed one death saving throw each, but unless we get an extended rest soon we're in a fairly vulnerable situation. The feeling of danger was an interesting extra element to the fight, as we'd been going through without taking a lot of punishment thanks to Longtooth Shifting and our Shaman. So all in all, a pretty good session, even if I did end up with nothing to do by the end.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was VI

Celebrated the Terror's first dance class on Friday with tea at the Black Bull with Nana. The Terror lived up to his nickname by not wanting anything on the children's menu and mucking about just a bit too much. Still, he settled down once food came and it was good food with good cider, followed by good chocolate cake so that was, um, good. Still, Friday evening was a bit "bleurgh" once QI was finished.

Saturday, we actually got to sleep in, but still made it to the cinema's Kids Club to watch Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. It was ok, and for 95p a ticket you don't really need much more than that. In the afternoon we headed into town to pick up my new glasses from the opticians, and had a bit of a wander around the Food & Drink Festival trying not to gape at the chocolate, fudge and baked goods too much....We bought a couple of pies to try - a game one which was a tad disappointing and a "huntsman" one which was topped with stuffing and much nicer. On the way home we passed Oddbins and went in on a whim to see what whiskies they had....Spotted A'bunadh on the top shelf but sadly it was only their taster one and they had no full bottles in. The man instead suggested GlenDronach Revival which we tasted and then went, "yeah, ok." That evening we opened the whisky, but only after finishing off the wine C had brought round. We mostly played Dominion, but finished off with a couple of games of Chez Geek which is always fun.

Today has mostly been more "bleurgh" though. I managed shopping, just, despite falling asleep in bed after getting dressed. Had a bit of a nice walk this afternoon, and am settling down in front of the telly tonight while J is out playing D&D. Tomorrow I go see the doctor and decide whether I need to go back on anti-depressants. Can only hope next week will be a bit better than this week has been.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Campaign With No Name - Sept 22nd

Continuing the interrogations of their prisoners, the party managed to establish that the Magus was originally from their world, had no idea (or was deliberately vague about) how he got to this world, and was willing to give them anything they wanted in return for his freedom. His measured opinion on Dungeon Master was that he manipulated people into acting out stories for his own amusement. Mouse, confused by all this talk of other worlds, was given one of the Drow's leaflets on Dave, and once again began to doubt the sanity of her fellow adventurers. After an extensive intra-party debate, during which the Warlord proposed just killing both of them and never speaking of them again, they opted for Chuck's suggestion that they just let the Magus go as he was, at least to start with, as much a "victim" as they. The Magus left quickly, groveling and promising them any magic items they want if they come find him in his tower in Vek.

Moving back to DM, they admitted they had no proof that it was he who was pulling people from outside into this world, and despite some misgivings, decided to risk giving him the ring as Chuck didn't want it anyway (due to its tendency to implant thoughts about taking over the world). After spending five minutes "absorbing" it somehow - apparently turning it into the pure essence of magic - DM looked a lot healthier and was surprisingly compliant when they decided not to give him his staff back and to make him come with them for a while.

After checking that Charles was indeed no longer in the time trap and concluding that there was little point chasing after the chronomancers just yet, they decided to head back to their house to check on the progress of the repairs. The workmen had cleared a lot of the rubble but hadn't yet started rebuilding. They were mostly sitting around drinking tea. The foreman came up to talk to them and explain that it looked like it would be more difficult than they first thought and will probably take longer and cost more money. Oh, and could they get some feed for their horse? The men found it in the stable half-starved and while it had been eating grass and corn from the surrounding fields those plants didn't look all that....healthy.

They took watched through the night just in case, but DM failed to try and kill them in their sleep. He continued to follow them meekly as, after consulting the map he'd given them showing the nearby locations of undead, they headed south to a forest inhabited by vampires. They arrived at one of the surrounding towns, Newtown, just before dusk and went to the local inn. The innkeeper was nervous and kept mentioning how it was getting late, but they continued to drink and had just persuaded him to let them stay the night when a gang of vampires burst in. The party immediately issued a demand for Treasure Tax, which just confused them. As more vampires piled in, they passed the question of Tax to their leader who indignantly replied that round here, people paid taxes to him. After a failed attempt to beguile the Warlord, the vampire-in-charge drew his sword and Mouse promptly shot him.

Chuck moved in front of the group and asked if this really was going to become a fight. The vampire leader simply growled "Kill them," at which Chuck blasted away several of his minions and replied, "Was that directed at them or me?" Mouse shot down most of the vampires as they charged, including those who were outside but entered at the sound of a fight. Their leader attacked Mouse but then became flanked by the Warlord and Cat, and once the last of his servants had been teleported outside by Chuck he turned into mist and fled. The party settled down to finish their drinks and some hours later the innkeeper came back and acted both surprised and terrified that they were still alive.

OC Comments: Was afraid the thing with the Magus and DM would drag on too long, but thankfully the players decided to just do something and then found something else to occupy themselves with. Although I gave them the map ages ago, it shouldn't be too hard to level up some of the adventures and the others I may have to rewrite, but it's certainly easier than thinking up yet more new things.

Quote of the Session
Me: "He draws his sword."
D: "Is it a particularly nice sword?"
Me: "No, just a bog-standard short sword."
D: "Oh, in that case I shoot him."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Convoluted History of The Campaign With No Name, Part Two E: Finally Getting Up-to-date

The First Bit, The Second Bit, The Third Bit, The Fourth Bit

The mages and the party teleported from the Arcanum to the Mages' Guildhouse in Port Haven. Due to a weird glitch in the teleport spell, everyone had a brief "vision": Mouse and the mages all saw themselves in a potential near-future situation, the Drow had a vision of Dave showing him the whereabouts of a magic dagger, the Warlord unearthed a "memory" of a possible past-self, and Chuck merely saw the wizard whose body she is inhabiting and a Tiefling arguing on a featureless plane. The mages chalk the strange occurrence up to "one of those things" and the group sets out cross country to the field where they left Charles. Once there, they check the area is still clear of undead, and the Drow digs in the spot indicated by his vision, finding a dagger that glows with divine light. The mages enter the barrow, examine the area around the frozen Charles and then start preparing for the ritual to free him.

The adventurers guard the barrow to ensure the mages are not interrupted, and it is just as well as with a bang and a cloud of smoke, a small army of undead appear across the other side of the field. As they soon make short work of the charging skeletons and zombies, they take the fight to the site of the horde arrival. The mages finish their ritual and emerge to inform the party of their partial success: they believe they have released Charles from the trap, but possible at the point in time he would have come out anyway. Or possibly another point in time. They're fairly certain he survived. They just don't know when. They suggest they may be able to do "some sort of divination" and retreat back into the barrow.

With another bang and cloud of smoke, the Magus himself arrives, along with a small retinue of skeletons and a "hostage". When he realises the PCs care nothing for the strange woman they have never seen before in their life, he attacks anyway and the woman seeks out Mouse to hide behind. After a kiss, Mouse is unable to attack the woman directly, even when she reveals herself to be a succubus. The succubus and the skeletons are eventually dealt with and the Magus beaten to the point where he flees. Chased and shot down by Mouse he surrenders.

Desperate, the Magus pleads for his life, offering them power, money, anything they want. As this doesn't seem to sway them, and begin contemplating just killing him, he blurts out that he can tell them Dungeon Master's "secret". He had just started telling them that he was working with DM to discover the secrets of a type of powerful magic item known as an "artifact" when the gnome himself appeared from behind a tree and hit the Magus with a colourful ray of magic that caused him to collapse in agony.

What followed was nothing but confusion.

The Drow cast a spell at DM to prevent him turning invisible before going to see how injured the Magus actually was. Mouse took this as a cue to attack, and promptly shot at the newly arrived wizard. The Warlord followed her lead, and Chuck and the Drow stopped the Magus from escaping. A three-way fight ensued, with the DM dropping the Magus at least once while pleading with the characters to stop fighting and just give him "that ring". After turning invisible and trying to sneak up on Chuck but being caught out by Mouse's sharp eyes and a pinch of magic dust, he finally stopped fighting and just tried to plead for the ring that Chuck had - a ring which seemed to be both powerful and evil. As Chuck was unwilling to hand it over without a good reason, they decided to take DM prisoner as well as the Magus.

Tying both of them up, they clubbed the Magus unconscious and questioned DM. He told them he needed to "consume" powerful magic items to survive and explained he'd attacked the Magus to stop him telling them "lies". A lengthy interrogation failed to get much more out of him, other than an admittance that there had in the past been other "outsiders" who he tried to "help" while also getting them to find items for him to feed on. The Magus was from a party of such adventurers, who had turned against him, as they also did in the end.....

And that's it so far! I've finally got up to date and will try and do fortnightly session write-ups, much as I do for J's primal campaign.

Monday, September 20, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was V

On Friday I finally got sick of trying to make a decision and just went ahead and reserved a bike at Halfords. So Saturday mostly consisted of waiting around until I could go collect it, hoping it would be the right height etc. Fortunately it was fine, and the frame is actually a nice colour and the stars aren't too girly so that's all good. We put off buying helmet, lights etc, and just got a lock - I suspect it'll be a while before I'm going fast enough or near roads enough to worry about wearing a helmet. I practised a bit on the way back and despite a few wobbles it seems riding a bike isn't something you forget even after 15+ years. The boy was so proud of me he promised to make me not one, but TWO badges - one for managing corners and one for riding past a group of dogs without running any of them over. Not that he's made them yet. Think he's forgotten.

Had D over for tea and fed him leftovers, which he repaid by buying us cider. I'm not quite sure what we've done to deserve such nice friends...We had a booze and cheese and games evening and managed to introduce him to Carcassone, which he promptly won despite my SO's farming prowess, Zombie Fluxx, which he managed to win on his second turn, and Chez Geek, which he came perilously close to winning too. Talk about beginner's luck....I sucked at usual. But it was fun.

Yesterday I mostly slept.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Convoluted History of The Campaign With No Name*, Part Two D: In Which The PCs Do Politics

The First Bit, The Second Bit, The Third Bit

Shortly after taking office, the new Captain of the Guard learned of the ongoing rivalry between the Guard and the Sheriff. Having spotted the crude assassination attempt, he summoned the Sheriff who blustered and denied everything. He quickly set some poor underling the task of working out how to arrest/kidnap/dispose of the Sheriff and went to the pub. After hearing about this, Mouse did some "investigating" of the Sheriff's house and found evidence that he was blackmailing members of the council. Some kerfuffle and public posturing followed, and one of the blackmailees dropped hints that if the Warlord could possibly sort out the Sheriff problem once and for all that would be nice.

Chuck and the Drow went to the Grand Assemblage of the League of Eternal Discovery, and joined the Arcanum by solving a teleport maze, with the intention of using the extensive library to learn rituals. The Drow had a strange experience with a door in the library everyone else wanted to get away from but he felt strangely drawn to....An epiphany on the nature of the universe followed, while anyone else nearby just got a headache. The door may have hidden a Source of Arcane Magic or something. Whatever it was, it didn't distract him too much from spreading the Word of Dave and having some pamphlets printed.

The mages in the Department of Chronomancy were excited at the prospect of studying a Time Trap in person, but due to interfaculty politics and the need to maintain quorum in the senate, getting permission for a field trip was less than straightforward. The person in charge of signing off on expenses would only do so if the party found his sister first, who was missing presumed investigating leads to the ruins of Alabaster City in the jungle to the south.

So, leaving the mages to prepare for the trip to rescue Charles and the city Guard plotting to take down the Sheriff, the four adventurers headed south, following hints and rumours of a determined archaeologist and avoiding most of (but not all) the dangerous wildlife. They made their way to a hole in the ground that was the adventuring mage's last known destination, and fought some duergar that were guarding it. Making their way down, they faced stirges and more duergar, and an angry dragon at the bottom who told them to p*ss off before attacking. Once they'd beaten the dragon up a bit, it shapeshifted into a humanoid form and admitted defeat. Turns out the dragon was the mage they were looking for, and she thought they were rivals looking to steal her "find" from her. She showed them the decorative portal that she believed led to the Alabaster City but which she had been unable to open. She conceded to return with them, but only to regroup and do some more research before heading back, and they headed back to the city.

Once back in the city, the Sheriff sends an assassin after them, who dies horribly. Then he attempts to settle the situation by a duel, with the winner taking up the combined post of Sheriff and Captain of the Guard. However, as he names a champion to fight on his behalf, the Warlord decides to name his own champion, and persuades the dragon mage/archaeologist to fight on his behalf. The Sheriff's champion turns out to be a bitter, twisted, Pete who had been held captive and tortured by the Magus all this time and now sported a withered Wight claw instead of his normal left hand. The dragon mauled him horribly, Mouse stopped the Sheriff's bodyguard unleashing undead to distract from the fight and the Warlord stopped the Sheriff himself escaping. Once it was all over, the Warlord left some poor sap as Acting Guard Captain, the mage had been press-ganged into sitting on the council and the Sheriff was due to be executed.

Then they finally set out to rescue Charles from the Time Trap with the Chronomancers.

* Yeah, I've given up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

That Was The Weekend That -Ow!

At some point of Thursday my left shoulder went from "slightly achy, must have slept funny" to "Ow ow ow ow ow!" Since then I've been mostly trying to rest it, but the pain crept from shoulder to all around my neck and while mostly just "constant ache" rather than "stabbing pain" it was still enough to make my days kind of....meh. Not being able to keep myself busy with housework, I got bored pretty quickly, as even reading caused my neck to ache after a while from having my head down (bad posture I suppose, but you try holding a book up for any length of time).

So, um, yeah. My weekend has been one of painkillers, naps that are painful to wake up from, and not doing much. Slowly seem to be get better, and might just have to force myself to try some (gentle) yoga tomorrow to see how I fare. But apart from that, and the boredom, and the sense of lacking direction or meaning in my life, I have nothing to report.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was IV

This weekend was less exciting than the previous one, I admit. For the Bank Holiday weekend, we were at the Gathering, and despite depression getting its teeth into me pretty strongly at first, we all had a good time. The Terror enjoyed playing with other children and he was old enough and responsible enough to know he wasn't to leave camp without one of us, so we could pretty much get on with our own thing provided we weren't going to be away for too long. I had a nice surprise at the group meeting when I found out I was being given a factional training voucher (way to instantly buy occupational skills) for manning the gate over the last few years, and after some angsting finally splurged some of my OSPs on various stuff like being immune to disease. That and a Monday of being witness to the death of an eleven-and-a-half year old character and the subsequent angsty role-play, it was pretty good.

This weekend, nothing really happened. I've been a bit stressed for no apparent reason, and my SO has been a bit ill with a cold but only one evening of really suffering thankfully. Friday night, D came round for tea, wine and painting tips as he's interested in playing 40K and we then got to introduce him to Firefly. Last night, C & T came round with healing booze and the ill girl won several games of Dominion. Tonight she's out for her other D&D game, and the evening has flown by, with help of cider. I applied for a job at Boots (stacking shelves in evenings, I've got to try something), watched and listened to some comedy on BBC iPlayer and failed to come any closer to a plan for life, career, or even what to do in my game on Wednesday. So no change there then.

Primal Adventures IV

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

After a prolonged absence due to work getting in the way, we finally got back to J's game and had a pretty awesome session.

We spent some time debating what to do with our "infected" packmates - those that had attacked us and looked "wrong" somehow. After whipping up a potion to sedate them, we tied them up, and deciding against dragging them all the way back to the cave of nasty kobold ritual, found a rocky outcrop to pile them under. As we were hurling the last one in, we all got the brief sensation that we were throwing them into a gaping mouth instead. After prodding the rocks to make sure they really were just rocks, we shrugged it off as a mild hallucination, although we were slightly spooked when we realised we all saw the same thing.

Then we headed on towards the tribe's camp, cautiously in case of any more attacks. But it all seemed peaceful. Too peaceful. Despite everything looking normal (grey leaves making the ground springy underfoot, trees turning to follow our progress like they always do) we did eventually notice that it was unnaturally quiet. There was no sign of birds or other creatures anywhere nearby. After deliberating for a bit about whether to retrace our steps or not, the shaman discovered that the ground was slippy when walking in one direction, but not in the other. I started to keep track of "weird things" by making notches in a stick. Despite being slightly worried now, we decided to press on towards the tribe.

We found a suitable clearing to spend the night, but were woken by a group of floaty-tentacly-things and a Thing-With-Eyes. The fight against them was somewhat disorganised, and more insubstantial floaty-tentacly-things kept coming out of the trees to surround us, but we were eventually successful. I did add another notch to my "Weird Stick" though as every time we were hit by a floaty-tentacly-thing, as well as the searing pain in our head we briefly saw the world in strange colours (green grass, brown tree trunks etc).

Afterwards we all praised J for her brilliant GMing - she totally managed to get the point across to the players that the forest was changed in very disturbing ways, but that our characters just accepted it as normal. The intrusion of the Far Realm has clearly gone further here, but how our characters are going to realise this or what they can possibly do about it I have no idea. We've had another break from gaming due to work and larp, but once again I can't wait to get back to it. While at the same time having no clue what we should be doing. It's great.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Convoluted History of My Campaign*, Part Two C: Adventures in Time and Space (In Character)

The First Bit, The Second Bit

Charles, Mouse, the Drow and the Warlord touched a magic mirror and found themselves teleported to a small room at the top of a tall tower. Thanks to some clues left by previous explorers, and the Warlord's uncanny knowedge of history, they managed to establish this tower belonged to a castle that was under seige and existed about three hundred years in their past. The area was apparently caught in some sort of time loop, resetting after the beseiging general was killed by a demonic arrow. After trying various other methods of saving the general's life, they decided to avoid confronting the demon prince directly, and instead took on his mortal ally, the beseiged king. Butchering him and taking command of the castle, they surrendered to the surrounding army and were then able to leave via the portal they arrived through.

Back in their present, they headed for the coast to hire builders and ignore Dungeon Master's heavy hints about finding the lucky stones. Instead, after destroying a proto-railway, capturing a pirate ship, setting up their own shipping business and taking over a mine by force, they set off to investigate areas of Shadowfell "taint" in the region. The first they went to had a haunted bridge, and after dealing with the undead there they were approached by a farmer who had a wight problem in one of his fields. The three battle wights caused little trouble for the heros, but as Charles approached a treasure chest he suddenly froze in mid air.

Dungeon Master turned up to berate them for wandering off, and, after careful examination, came to the conclusion that Charles was caught in a Time Trap - frozen in stasis until a predetermined instance when he would be let free as if nothing had happened to him. With no way of knowing how long he might be held in the trap, the party decided to travel south, to find a group of mages who studied time magic.

They sailed to Somewhere South on one of their own ships. After a storm, they needed to stop for repairs at an unmapped island. As they headed inland to find drinking water, they were attacked by Sahuagin. Following them back to the other side of the island, they found a cave occupied by their leader - a young Bronze dragon. Rather than just killing it, as they had with all its followers, they convinced it they were Treasure Tax Collectors and raided its hoard. Among the items they took was one of the very stones that Dungeon Master had been urging them to find. And a shark's head in a jar.

From Somewhere South, they struck out south east across land, finding another dragon to kill/tax and showing up a local lord who had run a group of kenku off their own land. On hearing of a necromancer that had been hunting for a tomb of a tiefling empress, they decided to investigate, wondering if it was the Magus. They found the tomb, and despite lacking their cleric, they managed to destroy all the undead within. To their surprise, the necromancer was not the Magus, but was a familiar face - the wizard who had been Tom's character before the Warlord. Claiming the Warlord has stolen his "soul", the wizard fought them angrily, but they spared his life and decided to take him with them until something could be sorted out. The Drow decided to ask Dave (the GM) if another player could be found for the wizard. Mouse, utterly confused by the whole situation, found herself on the receiving end of a sermon about the creator Dave and how her fellow adventurers weren't actually from this world at all. Fortunately, crazier beliefs exist in the world, so she didn't run away from them just then.

As they continued on their journey, they passed through a swamp and were ambushed by some snaketongue cultists. The wizard convinced them he would be more use fighting alongside them, and was freed from his bonds and given his wand back. The party explored the cultists' temple, killing more of them and resting the night there. While they all slept, both the wizard and the Warlord had a dream of Chuck speaking to them, claiming to have been trapped in a noncorporeal state observing the world and being unable to exert (much) influence over it, but had discovered how to talk to the party members while they slept. Now, however, in this shared headspace, Chuck couldn't leave. The Warlord woke up as normal, and Chuck woke up in the body of the wizard. On discovering this, the Drow pointed out that his "prayer" had been answered, and vowed to become a Paladin of Dave. Oh, and then they killed some yuan-ti and some snakes.

They finally arrived at the city of Pravarum, where the mages they sought could be found at the Grand Assemblage of the League of Eternal Discovery. On entering the city they discovered two things: that the position of Captain of the Guard was vacant, and that there was an archery contest being held. Mouse soon won the archery contest, and the Warlord became the Captain of the Guard by virtue of turning up.

* Does no-one have any good ideas for a campaign name? Come on guys!

Friday, August 6, 2010


I'm a bit behind on my gaming posts, got another one for the primal campaign and n more to catch up on my campaign's history. But I just can't be bothered these days. Not that I've got better things to do mind. Just summer holidays/job hunting/general life getting in the way and tiring me out.

So, um, yeah. Just to say I'm not dead I guess, just bored and apathetic and unmotivated to blog about anything other than why I'm not blogging. Go figure.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Convoluted History of My Campaign*, Part Two B: Giraffes and the City (In Character)

The First Bit

The countryside near the City of Vek is more varied than usual due to forgotten ancient deeds of wizards, or something. First, the intrepid party passed through a forest. They were attacked by a polar bear, a stirge and a rather ineffective giraffe. They managed to kill the stirge and the fleeing giraffe, and subdued the polar bear enough so that when the owner of the circus it had escaped from arrived he was able to recapture it. Unfortunately a misunderstanding about the circus folks intent led to the wizard setting them on fire. Dungeon Master appeared, furious. He took the wizard with him when he vanished and later on a dragonborn warlord who also claimed to be Tom turned up. They were beginning to get used to this sort of thing.

While stopping to rest at an inn, their cart and horse was stolen along with two others by a hapless group of goblins. The party soon chased them down and retrieved the stolen goods, although one horse was slain and its cart destroyed in the process. Next, they passed through a desert. On hearing of some gnoll raiders that had a base to the south of the road, they decided to go "deal with" them. The gnolls were sharing their lair with a grell, which posed more of a challenge. Finally, they passed through a swamp. A foolish young black dragon decided to attack them. It failed to stay out of their reach, and was slaughtered. Charles reluctantly took only the head as a trophy.

On finally reaching the city, they gained entry by claiming to be merchants, and promptly got involved with some gang warfare and became acquainted with a wanted criminal. They cleanly sorted out both problems by helping the criminal to escape the city and faked his death using a magical amulet and the body of an alchemist who'd been supplying bombs to the gangs. They were then able to claim the bounty on the outlaw, and as part of it were given the deeds to a house in the west. They explored much of Vek's sewers, hunting down an escaped mutant crocodile and allowing it's prey, a giraffe, to escape. A straight-forward task involving retrieving stolen property led them to uncover a group of assassins. While wiping out the assassins, they encountered a young elf ranger called Mouse, and her animal companion, Cat. The head of the assassins turned out to be a crippled black dragon who'd made her home in the sewers. The five of them soon made short work of her, before retiring to the inn.

During the night, Mouse was woken by another assassin who had just slit Chuck's throat. The assassin and his partner were soon captured and while claiming to not know who had hired him, they admitted he was ordered to kill all of them except the Warlord, who they were to kidnap and leave at an arranged spot at dawn. Dropping the assassins off with the authorities (and leaving Chuck's body for someone else to deal with), the remaining four made the rendezvous and discovered those sent to collect the Warlord were warforged soldiers from the castle. Suspecting the Magus, the King's advisor, to be behind this, they decided that they possibly still weren't ready to take him on. After exploring the sewers some more, and finding a way into the Magus' undead guarded tower from there, they left town and headed to their new house.

Approaching the estate, it was obvious something was wrong. The crops in the surrounding fields grew progressively sicklier and warped as they got nearer the house, with the nearest plants being almost unrecognisable as anything of this plane. Searching the outhouses carefully, they found only a shadow-tainted horse who had apparently been recently fed. On entering the house through the main door, they discovered it to be overrun with demons and the restless spirits of the cultists who summoned them. After killing all the invaders they came across, they went down to the basement where a portal (presumably to the Abyss) lay. Dungeon Master appeared to help them close it. He then informed them of a set of magical stones, scattered across the world, that had untold power when reunited. One of these stones happened to have surfaced in the nearby town of Port Haven. As the party wished to engage craftsmen to rebuild the ruined wing of their house, they resolved to go there next. However, while searching the house for valuables, they came across a walled in mirror that was obviously magical. Throwing caution to the wind, they touched the mirror one by one and vanished from that place.

* Still need to think of a name.

The Infernal City by Greg Keyes

I don't expect much from a video game tie-in novel, let alone one I happened to win in an online competition. Which is just as well, as, honestly, The Infernal City doesn't offer much.

This is not to say it isn't a reasonably entertaining read, but probably only if you're familiar with The Elder Scrolls games. Most of the fun comes in recognising the setting, being able to visualise well the locations and spotting the various references to the games: Vivec city and the Ministry of Truth are mentioned, the eruption of Red Mounatin is referenced, the sword Umbra is a key plot point and even the Huntsman Hircine make an appearance. Aside from this, the floating city of Umbriel is a fascinating creation and vividly evoked: its alien nature is described well and you get a feel for the social dynamics without too much exposition. The potential of it as a location makes me wish Bethseda would release a game set there - maybe another expansion for Oblivion?

The plot is fairly basic: floating city appears, killing people it passes over. Various heroic types set out to try and stop it. Presumably being only the first in a series, they don't get very far, and the ending seems a little rushed. Also, there are far too many characters for so short a book, and some have distinctly less to do than others. Indeed, the subplot involving the spy/government agent Colin could have been dropped completely - I assume it will be continued in further books but here just seemed an unnecessary addition. He only appears about three times, and his investigation doesn't uncover much that isn't at least implied during Prince Attrebus' storyline.

Overall, its just a bit too pedestrian and predictable. I probably won't go out of my way to read any follow-ups, but if I see them in the library (or happen to win them in another competition) I'll probably pick them up. I admit to being slightly curious to see how Umbriel will be stopped and the protagonists stuck there escape.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds' House of Suns tells the story of Campion and Purslane - two clones or "shatterlings" of the Gentian Line whose sole purpose is to explore the vast reaches of the human-colonized galaxy, experience as much possible and share those memories with their fellow shatterlings. An unexpected and horrific act of violence upends their world and while they attempt to solve the mystery of who was behind it, further betrayals lead to a desperate chase and fight for survival.

Reynolds certainly write very well, and specifically writes space operas very well. A human race spread across the galaxy and remnants of a vanished super-advanced race might well be age-old tropes of the genre but still feel fresh in his hands. Fans of his Revelation Space series will recognise his distinctly realistic approach to the physics of the setting including believable space battles, mind-boggling lifespans due to relativistic speeds and ingenious weaponry that only an astrophysicist could think up. The book has its fair share of intrigue as well as spaceship porn, and raises a lot of questions about identity and how important memories are to making us who we are. Add to that a carefully weaved plot that manages to both reward reader expectations and subvert them without it feeling like a cheap trick and you've got a pretty good read.

A not necessarily major criticism however is that, towards the end of the book, the protagonists' actions can seem meaningless and futile as they are trapped by events beyond their control and at the mercy of smarter, more capable and almost god-like beings. Their failure to achieve their goals can be a little depressing, and the ending is...odd, as if they've accidentally completed someone else's pilgrimage and you're not entirely sure how you or they are meant to feel about that. But nevertheless, it is still a book I would and will read again - not least to reread the flashbacks to Abigail Gentian's early life with the benefit of hindsight to see how it ties in with the main plotline.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Convoluted History of My Campaign*, Part Two A: Four Players and a Dungeon Master (In Character)

A masterful GM called Dave decided to run a 4th ed D&D game. He gathered together a diverse collection of his friends: Charles, an upper-class Englishman who hasn't quite realised the Empire is no more; Pete, an Australian philosophy lecturer; Ed, an experienced roleplayer; and Tom, who...well, he's just Tom.

They created their characters (Charles made a dwarven cleric, Pete, a human swordmage, Ed, an eladrin rogue and Tom, a human wizard) and settled down to the first session. A storm hit, causing the electricity to go off. Dave borrowed a black, skull-shaped candle from his creepy housemate - a mistake as it turned out as it gave off a lot of smoke and smelled awful. First Dave, and then the players blacked out.

And the four players came round in woodlands, inhabiting the bodies of their characters. To their confusion, they seemed to have all the knowledge and abilities their characters would have. Before they could spend too long pondering over what had happened, they were attacked by a group of kobolds. Shortly after obliterating them, they were approached by a Gnome wearing red robes and carrying a staff, who told them they would have to search to find the way home and gave them all shiny items. Pete got some magic leather armour, Ed got a dagger which did thunder damage, Tom was given a green hat which could conjure up a small creature to fight for him, and Charles got some goggles which told him more about the creatures he was facing. The Gnome (quickly nicknamed "Dungeon Master" by the players) also told them of more kobolds hiding out in an abandoned hall to the north, who had been harassing the nearby town of Fallcrest, and suggested they do something about it. He was confused by their apparent reluctance to do as he said, but as they had nothing better to do, they decided to go hurt some more kobolds anyway. After that, they mostly refused to pay attention to Dungeon Master (much to his annoyance) and headed north to find more dragons to kill, as Charles wanted a trophy.

There was a brief interlude where they were attacked by drop-bears, took one prisoner, and then negotiated peace between the drop-bears and some lizardfolk. Then they came across the remains of a battle and were attacked by some skeletons that were less dead than the rest. The nearby town was populated by creepy clones who seemed blissfully unaware that the battle was long over and were awaiting the return of their warriors, oh, and who turned into mindlessly violent zombies come nightfall. Dungeon Master arrived to provide exposition - turns out some guy called The Magus had arrived and performed a ritual that went wrong - during the day the townsfolk looked like him but carried on with their previous lives - and also took the magical stone that was preventing the dead from rising in this Shadowfell tainted part of the land. They enlisted the help of a nearby dragon who was an expert ritualist (and much too hard for them to kill, yet) and managed to undo the worst of The Magus' doing, but without the magical stone the town would continue to be plagued by zombies. The party set off after The Magus, to the City of Vek.

On the way they came across a ranger and his son who were vaguely helpful and offered them shelter while telling them of a mining operation nearby which was causing problems. The morning they decided to go investigate this, they awoke to find Pete had disappeared and in his place was a half-orc fighter who claimed to be called Chuck. Mysteriously, Chuck told them she'd come in place of Pete as he couldn't make this week's session. As none of the others remembered anything from outside game, this didn't seem to make much sense, but they soon forgot about it and beat up some orcs. Investigating the orcs' mine they came across some kuthrik which they killed, and some more orcs, which they killed. The deepest point of the mine turned out to be the lair of two purple wyrmlings....the party fought well, but the wyrmlings' breath dazed them and after a long fight and the rogue and fighter on the ground, the other two decided they had to flee to heal up. Before they could come to the rescue, Chuck came round, alive and a prisoner of the orcs. After fighting off the orcs, Chuck met up with the others and they went back to finish off the wyrmlings, finding the rogue's corpse there. They took the body of their friend to bury, and one of the wyrmlings to stuff for Charles' trophy. They also discovered that part of the treasure they'd looted was a special Artifact that could by used by the cleric to deal extra damage to undead. This seemed like a useful thing to have when going to confront a necromancer like The Magus.

Outside, they ran into a drow sorcerer who looked a lot like Ed. In fact, he claimed to be Ed, although he also had a vague memory of having always been a drow. Chalking this up to another weird thing about this place, they continued on towards Vek.

To Be Continued....

*Still trying to think of a name.

Monday, July 5, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was III

The last few days have mostly been lost to a low-lying fog of depression. Saturday was mostly good, with friend visiting for a few hours in morning and lunch out. SO had to go plot evil in Nottingham and, due to lateness of plotting, stayed overnight so it was just me and the boy for a bit. We coped, although I did get very bored once he was in bed. Realised I was still sucky at fighting in Oblivion and tried Black and White instead but got a bit bored. Despite the handholding, I felt I was still going much to slowly and didn't quite know what to do. Maybe I was just in wrong state of mind.

Sunday morning must have happened, and while waiting for SO to come back I started to read House of Suns. Reynolds fast became one of my favourite authors after reading Revelation Space a couple of years back, but it's been a while since I've read any of his stuff. Will try and do a proper review when I've finished it, so far it's being interesting with the usual Reynolds thing of far future civilizations, realistic physics and cunning tech.

Rest of Sunday I don't think went too well. I had a couple of naps and was mostly stressed. Some Carcassone in the evening helped lift both our moods, and today started off ok but it didn't take too long for apathy to kick in. Lack of suitable jobs to apply for meant less stress but more pessimism for future. Housework is hardly enthralling either, and again this afternoon I had a nap rather than do anything useful or even fun with my time. I managed to drag myself to school to pick up boy and started to wake up more on way home, but suddenly got a hit of agoraphobia and began to get jumpy whenever someone walked by. We were still on campus at this point, so my far-too-sensible six year old suggested we go see Daddy as he knows to tell Daddy when I'm "not feeling well". Hugs helped calm me down a bit, and we went home together. Got boy's school report which was mostly good (only problem is he talks too much and doesn't always pay attention - quelle surprise. So after going through it with him, we decided to "celebrate" by having a meal out, as it's been ages since we went to our usual pub meal. Probably didn't do my diet any good, though.

And then this evening I've been feeling pretty good. Silly moods. Watched University Challenge and then had to watch the Only Connect repeat on iPlayer as our digital TV reception is still only partial (after a few days of being non-existent). So, um, yeah. That's it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Primal Adventures III

(Part One, Part Two)

To recap: we're longtooth shifters, bad stuff is happening, we were on our way back to the rest of our tribe when we got attacked by some of them looking not-right.

After beating our tribemates into the ground, we paused to catch our breath and then while the others debated what to do with them, I examined them. They didn't appear to be infected or ill, and no signs of anything outwardly wrong with them except their colouration which was a bit too grey/black. Whatever had changed them and caused them to not recognise and attack us was definitely not natural and beyond our experience, and indeed understanding. As they others took weapons off them and talked about tying them up and taking them back to camp, I suggested trying to sedate them. It was while the Warden and I were scavanging for ingredients to do this that the Shaman spotted more coming through the trees towards us, weapons at the ready.

A fairly chaotic fight kicked off. The Barbarian charge at stuff through the trees, the Warden went after others that were coming in from the left, and I ended up being flanked after charging one on the right. I got stabbed up pretty bad, and the Shaman and his pet spirit bear came up to heal me up, and then got stranded as I charged something else. Things went kind of badly for him, and me, as the two squishiest party members, but miraculously neither of us went down. I think I was on four hit points at one point though. By contrast the other two were barely being hit. Then one of the enemies got past everyone, picked up one of the unconscious "prisoners" and made a break for it through the trees. The Barbarian chased him down and killed him, while I had to intervene to stop another one grabbing another body. Another badly injured one fled, but we let him go to gang up on the last one who'd barely been touched all fight.

After beating him into the ground, the DM told us we felt great, stronger and more powerful. We hit level 5.

So the game pretty much stopped for bookkeeping. The DM was giving us the appropriate Weapon/Implement Expertise feat for free, but as most of us had already taken it, we got to pick another feat as well as a level 5 daily power. I decided it might be big and clever to get Longtooth Spirit Shifting which ups the regeneration given by our racial power by two - in other words doubling it for heroic tier. This should help me recover a bit faster as I seem to get hit a lot (from the charging into fights, I suppose). I also reluctantly decided to retrain away my level 2 utility: Skittering Sneak (which lets me turn into a mouse-sized animal and gain bonus to Stealth) while fun, has few actual applications, whereas Sudden Bite (which lets me shift into beast form before making opportunity attacks) is a lot more useful as my basic attack in human form *suck*. Mostly due to my refusal to carry a weapon, but still. I think I like the idea of emphasising the difference between my character in human and beast forms - she's more aggresive and impulsive in beast form, and more curious in human. That could work, if I ever remember to roleplay it that way.

Turns out that fight was a very hard one by XP budget - the enemies were a higher level than us and there were more of them. Yet we still coped, even with lack of coordination on our part. Slightly worried how far the DM might push it in an effort to challenge us. Will just have to wait and see I guess.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was II

Yesterday was a good day. Bit hot maybe, but we had some friends from larp visiting York and we met them for lunch in the Old White Swan. They do fantastic sausages there, even if their "toad-in-the-hole" is really just "sausage and veg in a giant yorkshire pudding". Afterwards we bought ice-creams and wandered round the Museum Gardens and by the river for a bit before going to look at the Minster and then heading out round the walls. We set off home once we reached Walmgate as the boy was getting tired and bored, and anyway we needed to get home in time for Doctor Who.

Blimey. What can I say about Doctor Who? Well, I'm still slightly diappointed Amy's house didn't turn out to be a TARDIS or something similar, and the way the Doctor escapes seemed a little too easy, but then Moffat does love his predestination paradoxes and the whole thing was great fun. Fezes are definitely cool. And we knew that scene in Flesh and Stone was important, and it was great to see more of Amelia. Oh, and Rory is now my favourite companion of the new Who. Even if he's not plastic any more. And actually leaving some questions to be answered next year was definitely a smart move. Still unsure about River - I keep wanting to like her but sometimes she's just a bit too smug and the "being mysterious for the sake of it" is beginning to wear thin. Maybe once we get to see "earlier" River, when she doesn't know more than us/the Doctor, she'll be a little less annoying.

Last night was topped by C coming round and buying us booze from "the beer shop". Rather than subject him to more football, we played Munchkin (which I lost horribly, twice) and Zombie Fluxx (which I won less horribly, once). Good fun.

Today's been a bit more "bleh". Too hot, mostly, and then we watched the England-Germany game. Ahem. Well we didn't deserve any better, to be honest. We've done pretty rubbish this tournament, and our defense today was mostly absent. Boy didn't watch it, and was only briefly disappointed to discover we wouldn't be playing again. He's got Black & White to keep him busy.

There may be more gaming tonight, and I still have some booze left as we bought more for the match. May need it, too. Monday tomorrow, and I'm not exactly looking forward to trying to job search thing. I know nobody likes it, but it's just a bit more dispiriting when there really isn't anything to apply for except those damned "work from home" schemes. I may have to start applying for jobs I have no hope of getting just for the practice. And that does feel soul-destroying.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Convoluted History of My Campaign*, Part One: Out of Character

You might want to take notes, this gets complicated.

So I started my D&D campaign with four players - my SO, JS, T and C. Their brief was to think of a character they wanted to play and then build a D&D character they would make - the intention being the character they ended up playing would have their "player"'s personality but their "character"'s abilities and skills. Confused? Yep, well, it wasn't such a good idea as it first seemed for many reasons, not least because while my SO and JS chose previous characters from other games as their "players", T and C chose real people they know. It largely fell by the wayside, though, except as a slight backstory quirk, so never mind.

So we started with my SO playing a human swordmage called Pete, J playing a Dwarven cleric called Charles, T playing an Eladrin rogue whose name I've forgotten and C playing a human wizard who never had a name as far as I can recall. They did some stuff, all was good, then my SO got a bit bored of playing the swordmage and wanted to give a half-orc fighter a go. Being GM's SO has it's perks, so we happily invented another "player" called Chuck who takes Pete's place.

Shortly after that, I misjudge how hard a couple of Elite Controllers can be, and we narrowly avoid a TPK by me letting the half of the party still on its feet to leg it. I give the players who were left behind a few choices, and as my SO hadn't been playing Chuck long, she opted for the character to be taken captive. T was quite happy to let his rogue die though, and built a Drow sorcerer instead (still played by the same "player").

Next change happens when C finally gets sick of playing the wizard and asks to try a different class. He makes a Dragonborn warlord and after a few sessions decides to stick with that over the wizard. Of course, then my SO's gamer ADD kicks in again and she asks to play a twinked out elf ranger to help the party dish out more damage. I say yes, because I'm a sucker, and because it gave me an opportunity to shake things up a bit. So my SO's new character, Mouse, is a "native" to the game world and has no "player" behind her. Chuck gets killed in a scripted assassination attempt.

So at this point the party consists of a Dwarven cleric "played" by Charles played by J, a Drow sorcerer "played" by E played by T, a Dragonborn warlord "played" by someone who may or may not be T played by C, and Mouse, an Elven ranger "played" by no-one played by my SO. Got it?

This actually lasts a reasonable while, before out-of-character drama happens and J takes a break from the game for "some time". I play Charles as an NPC for a bit before realising "some time" could be anything from months to forever, and cunningly manage to write the character out of the game for an arbitrary amount of time, simultaneously sending the remaining party on a quest away from all the undead they'll have difficulty dealing with without a cleric.

We ran with three players for quite a long time. Then, just after I foolishly introduced C's old character (the wizard) as an NPC which had reason to tag along with the party, a colleague of my SO asked if he could join in. As he was new to 4th ed D&D, we thought we'd give him the quite easy to run Mouse (if in doubt, Twin Strike) and resurrected Chuck to "play" the wizard.

So as it stands we have D playing Mouse; C playing (via some intermediary) The Warlord; T playing (via some intermediary) The Drow (aka Balthus); and my SO playing Chuck "playing" C's character's old character. I'm hoping this set-up actually lasts for a bit.

* If anyone can think of a decent campaign name, by the way, I'm quite open to suggestions. Otherwise I'll just have to keep referring to it as "My Campaign" which is a bit dull.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bugger it all, I'm just going to write

I was thinking about blogging about the Budget, but meh.

I've been in a bit of slump lately. Whatever the cause of this slump, it hasn't been helped by my inability to think of things to write, either fiction or for this blog. There've been a number of competitions over the last few weeks for short stories and flash fiction that I've looked at and maybe even started writing something for only to peter out within a few lines. And when a friend linked to this and said she was going to give it a go, my first thought was "oooh" then my second was "nah, I can't write a whole novel" and my third was "but maybe I could give it a go...." Cue a couple of days of wracking my brain for ideas that would fit in with the brief - and coming up with nothing. I despaired, wondering what had happened to all my ideas. And then gloomily sulked, because even if I had a clue what to write about I wouldn't do anywhere near a good enough job actually writing about it.

But you know what, I'm bored. I spend large parts of the day not knowing what to do with myself, and even if I'm not a good writer and even if I never do get better, it's not going to harm anyone to put words into a text file and see what happens. So while I have no idea what I'll write, I'm going to write. Maybe I'll never write more than a hundred words here and there, half scenes and semi-descriptions and not quite poems. But maybe if I keep writing it all down, all the crap, all the starts of ideas, maybe eventually I'll be able to start pulling bits and pieces together into something longer, something coherent. But even if I don't, I'm no worse off than just not trying.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Was The Weekend That Was

Blimey, it's been a busy couple of days.

I suppose Friday night is usually considered the start of the weekend, and like many other people we spent ours drinking alcohol, watching twenty odd people kick a ball around for a bit and wonder where the hell all their motivation went. The boy stayed up for the first half but was plainly getting bored even during the ten minutes or so that England decided to actually play some football. Afterwards, we played Carcassone, and I did even worse than usual. I'll blame the wine.

Saturday we wandered into town for Free RPG Day and picked up the D&D and Exalted freebies. I also finally bought Underdark, thereby ensuring my players don't go anywhere near that place at any point in the rest of the campaign. Then we packed ourselves into the car, along with a friend from SO's other game she plays in, and went up to Durham for "Nerd East" - a mostly LARP kit fair run by the uni's student larp group, but which also had a games room and several stalls selling minis, used and new rpg books etc. The main draw was not so much the fair itself, but the people we knew who would be there, and despite the boy getting quite bored at points, it was a nice enough way to spend an afternoon. One couple of friends were down from Glasgow with their little boy, and the two youngsters got along like a house on fire (only slightly less destructively). I resisted buying anything and got to play a couple of games of Ca$h 'n Gun$ which was quite fun (you get to point foam guns at your friends and shout bang occasionally - what more could you want?) and then, after some working out of logistics, we ended up going to a barbeque. It was a very late night for all three of us, boy was falling asleep after his playmate went to bed, and we didn't get back to York until half eleven, but it was great to spend time with a bunch of people we mostly only see while larping.

Due to getting home so late, I deliberately avoided the internet this morning so as not to be spoiled over Doctor Who. We went to my (former, I suppose) supervisor's house for lunch. Despite some hiding and name calling to start with, the three eldest children (our boy, their daughter and eldest son) were soon playing together happily and energetically, while all four adults got to coo over the eight month old baby. After a lunch of some of the best burgers I've ever tasted (in homemade bread buns, nom) we went to Burnby Hall Gardens for a lovely walk and to let the kids run around some more. Not of course that this helped wear them down in any way, as they were still hyper when we got back to the house. But despite having to drag a very tired and grumpy boy away, it was a brilliant afternoon - they really are a lovely family and it's always reassuring to realise its not just your child who can cause chaos! Although I'm still not sure how anyone manages with more than one, so I don't think I'll be changing my mind on that front anytime soon. No matter how cute babies are, and how good the boy seems to be in the "big brother" role.

When we got home we finally managed to watch "The Pandorica Opens". Wow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Primal Adventures II

So after a skip week where we played the Battlestar Galactica boardgame instead, we went back to my SO's Primal game (story so far here).

We decided we'd best just catch our breath before racing after the escaped "floaty-tentacly-eyes-on-stalks-monster". Thankfully, we'd injured it enough so that it was leaving blobs of, well, goo, behind otherwise tracking a flying thing would have been difficult. As it was, we were able to follow a trail of goo blobs to the nearby swamp - home of the dragon that told us bad stuff was happening and not to interfere with them stopping it. With no idea of where it might be heading, and the swamp slowing us down much more than it (as it could fly) we reluctantly admitted we were never going to catch it up. We trudged back to the cave to make camp, intending to head back to the rest of the tribe after a good night's sleep.

My inquisitive Druid examined the patches of earth where the goo had fallen. It looked.....wrong, somehow. Not necessarily darker or twisted, but more defined than the surrounding area and slightly surreal. Being reluctant to actually touch the goo, I tried setting it on fire. It didn't really burn though, which is probably a good thing.

We had a disturbed night, with maddeningly surreal, weird and physics-defying dreams. Probably sleeping in the entrance to a cave where an otherworldly being had been summoned wasn't the brightest plan. The Warden was on last watch and in the brightening day heard the sounds of an approaching group of creatures and woke us all up. Suspecting it was another band of goblins (as we'd run into a few before) I scattered caltrops over the path just before it widened into the clearing in front of the cave and we all attempted to hide. (Not being particularly stealthy, this ranged from crouching behind rocks, to blending in with the trees and standing in the cave entrance hoping it was shadowy enough.) But rather than it being goblins, it was in fact a chattering group of kobolds.

As they didn't immediately look like the corrupted, warped kobolds that had been doing the summoning, I called out "Are you nice kobolds?" and after some intense discussion one was pushed forward to do all the talking. In a conversation limited somewhat by their halting common, we managed to establish that they were there to stop the summoning ritual which we'd failed to stop. We admitted we'd killed all the bad things in the area but one had got away, and they investigated and poked around the site a bit (shadowed by my druid who desperately wants to learn everything she can about what had been going on). They went off to report back to "Boss", and I told them to say we were willing to help. Rest of party were less convinced about being willing to help, but my character at least is worried by this incursion into her reality, as well as fascinated by these things she doesn't understand. Plus the dragon had compared this incursion to an "infection" and infections spread....

we finally retraced our steps of long ago to head back to the tribe's camp and let them know what lay this way. On the way we ran into a small group of longtooth shifters who looked slightly familiar but who didn't seem to recognise us. Oh, and they too were slightly...wrong. Edges too well defined. Surreal. Just like the patches of ground the Far Realm creature's goo had fallen on. When they first saw us, they just growled.

While most of us held off attacking until they did anything hostile, the Barbarian ran up and (failed to) hit one of them. To be fair, this was probably how the barbarian greeted most people. But attack us they did, and we had a pretty hard fight, not least because the dice hated us and we kept missing repeatedly while the GM rolled good damage. With some struggle, a lot of chasing after two sneaky ones who kept running to hide behind trees, and the barbarian not only getting hit lots but taking a wack of damage too, we finally managed to knock them all out (for once we reined in our killer instincts). And that's where we left it.

Hopefully it'll only be another fortnight until the next session. I'm really getting into this, and the plot is a lot tighter and more focused than my own rambling game. Or at least, that's how it comes across - maybe my SO is making it up as she goes along too! Will need to keep poking her to make sure she does enough prep to keep on schedule.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A sentence

I read a sentence today. A sentence I feel needs sharing with the world, along with my views on why this sentence is so wrong.

First, though, let me point out the context of this sentence. It was in the final paragraph of this book review - a review that for the most part was even handed, interesting and led me to be vaguely interested in the book. Unfortunately, it ended with what I can only presume is the reviewer's own pet cause which apparently isn't mentioned in the book, that of "population control". Alarms bells should already be ringing - rare is the person who thinks it is themselves, their family, and their friends who need "controlling" as they, of course, are responsible citizens whose impact on the environment is either sustainable or at least justified by the worth they bring to society. It's a slightly jarring shift, from sympathetic discussion of changes in human society (which is what the book is about) to a sudden polemic on a contentious issue which he feels the books should have addressed. Whether a book review is really the place to air one's political opinions is another moot point, but not one I have strong opinions on either way.

Also, I'd like to point out in fairness that I don't know whether the reviewer does indeed hold these opinions, or whether he was merely espousing a possible argument or pointing out the rational, but hardly ideal, conclusion. Indeed, it would be strange for someone to refer to something they support as "draconian". Maybe it's all a terrible editing error, but regardless I want to address this one particular sentence just in case someone is wondering what is so repellent about it.

So, to the sentence.
In order to stem population growth, governments should close international borders to migration and impose a draconian policy of family limitation like China's where it is needed.
I cannot argue against the aim of stemming population growth, although some would, as the impact of an aging population in developed countries begins to make itself known. However, history seems to suggest that better education (especially for women), less poverty, lower infant mortality and accessible birth control will all tend towards people choosing to have fewer children. This certainly has happened in Europe - a few years ago, Italy introduced financial incentives for women to have more than one child in an effort to boost its population as birth rates had fallen so low. As better education, for men and women, less poverty, lower infant mortality and greater freedom of choice in planning families all seem like laudable goals in and of themselves to me, a side-effect of reducing population to a more sustainable level is just a bonus. So my issues with this sentence are not necessarily with the stated goal, but the suggested means.

Firstly, "close international borders to migration". Aside from the fact this smacks of xenophobia more associated with the likes of the BNP than anthropologists, I fail to see how this would help. Common sense says that the movement of people around the world has little impact on global population (unless I missed an important part of sex education). In fact, all a lack of migration would achieve is to ensure that the overpopulated parts of the world stay overpopulated, and people in poor countries with no food, education or jobs are stuck there. Unless of course that's the idea - famine, war and other such things will "self-correct" the too big population.

Secondly, enforced family limitation, while certainly having the potential to be very effective, is a horrendous violation of human rights. I'm not sure I can present a rational argument against it, it's just so obviously a gross invasion of privacy to have the government decide something as basic as the size and shape of one's family. Problems with China's programme are many and varied, not least an increase in abandoned children (predominately girls). It's hard to imagine a scheme which would, in practice, be both effective and humane and even if one were to agree with the idea of government dictating how many children a family should have, a "draconian policy" is, pretty much by definition, not an agreeable one. More telling is the phrase "where it is needed" - in other words, only in countries with high birth rates, which just happen to be the poorer ones of course. It's true people do tend to be more in favour of "draconian" laws if they don't apply to them.

In conclusion then, this sentence is several shades of stupid. The kind of jaw-droppingly stupid that means I've spent a good part of the day thinking about how stupid it is and pointing it out to other people so they can see how stupid it is too. That it isn't the stupidest thing I've encountered today is a story for another time, however.