Sunday, March 27, 2011

Re: Census

Those of you with persistent memories will recall I had a crazy plan, which I've been mostly sticking to, but more by avoiding answering the offending question than by explaining why. Still, today is census day, and this meant I needed to actually write a letter to include with the form. Here it is, for better or worse.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to explain why I have left Question 2 unanswered on the enclosed Census form. My objections to the question are two-fold.

Firstly, the phrasing of the question. “What is your sex?” is problematic as it unclear what precisely is meant by “sex”, and the manner in which this is usually decided at birth relies entirely on the appearance of one's genitals. I hope you can appreciate that I consider this to be too intrusive and personal a question to ask. Also, I believe that formal guidance given to the transgender community has clarified that transsexual people are explicitly permitted to select the option that reflects their “acquired” gender regardless of whether they possess a Gender Recognition Certificate or not. Thus I find the decision not to phrase the question in terms of gender, thereby bypassing the awkward question as to what is someone's “true” sex, both baffling and disappointing.

Assuming that the intended question is “What is your gender?” leads me to my second objection. The two given options, “male” or “female”, are too restrictive. Once one acknowledges that a person's gender may differ from that assigned to them by their outward appearance, it is hardly surprising to realise that their gender may differ from either of the two most commonly recognised sexes. Or that they may be unsure as to what their true gender is, and not wish to just answer based on social expectations. In other words, it is both simplistic and erroneous to assume that gender is a binary, as Western society does, and insisting that everyone has to fit into one of these two “boxes” (“male” or “female”) is discriminatory. While it might be anticipated that the number of people in Britain today who would identify as a non-binary gender is small, the truth is we will never know unless efforts are made to begin to collect this data. I feel that the 2011 Census missed an opportunity to do this.

Yours faithfully,

Adele Taylor

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - March 2nd/9th

The long trek through the Underdark with the remaining Kua-Toa was coming to an end, and the party were asked to wait in a side-cave while the rest checked the way was clear. Suspecting a trap, the adventurers stood watchful, and sure enough, they were soon surrounded by Troglodytes when a false wall gave way. However, Chuck was able to hold several at a distance while the rest were butchered, and despite being outnumbered, the party triumphed. The Warlord even got to find out that Troglodytes don't taste any better alive than dead.

However, when the second-in-command of the Kua-Toa finally traipses back, clutching the translation stone and looking fairly miserable, it transpires it wasn't a set-up at all. The Kua-Toa were also attacked by Troglodytes and their leader and several others were killed. However,they finally beat off their attackers, and the remainder of the expeditionary party and the player characters set off for the Kua-Toa settlement. The ramshackle town is spread along the shores of a vast underground lake - almost a sea. The far side isn't visible, and a pyramidal-like structure pokes out in the distance. The characters are taken to the house of the new leader's aunt, and fed well. The Warlord is given lots of fish.

The following morning, they are led into a small "temple",hewn from rock right on the lake's edge. The main area is lined with guards, and they are told to stay back and not approach the "god". The guards then step back to reveal an alcove at the back, where an Aboleth Slime Mage emerges from underneath a large ornate cloak. The party are not impressed. The "god" communicates telepathically with a lot of crackling, images, vague impressions and broken Common. At first it demands a task from them, and expects them to join the ranks of it's worshippers. After that is met with polite derision by the party (and the Warlord entertains the idea of riding the Aboleth like a pony), it changes it's tune and instead offers them treasure in return for completing it's proposed quest. They are expected to go to the ziggurat in the lake, find and bring back a stone table, and hopefully while they are there, discover the "secret" of that place. Deliberately vague though the instructions are, the party decide to go explore the pyramid/ziggurat/whatever anyway, and then maybe come back if they feel like it.

The Kua-Toa leader is apparently annoyed about this, and warns them no-one ever comes back from the ziggurat. He then lends them a row boat to cross the lake. They are about two thirds of the way there, when they are suddenly attacked by a group of Kua-Toa wielding harpoons. Although they don't recognise any of those that attack them, they suspect they were sent by the town they just left. The harpooners repeatedly pull the Drow and Mouse into the water, but rarely manage to hold them there, while the few that climb onto (or are teleported into) the boat are dealt with by the Warlord. Despite the drawbacks of having to fight in water, the party still succeed in thwarting their attackers. They row on towards their destination, although the Drow does have to fight the Warlord to go back for Mouse who was briefly left in the water after the battle. As they approach the black obsidian structure, they realise that what at first seems like it's reflection is actually its continuation underwater - it is not a pyramid but an octahedron.