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Topics - Doktor Howl

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Aneristic Illusions / Cain, help me with the plot, here.
« on: September 08, 2015, 12:04:44 am »
Okay, so when the Afghanistan war stared, the Taliban were burning poppy fields, and we didn't give a fuck about those fields.

But sooner or later, that opium money becomes necessary to fund the larger battle.  Within a few months, everyone eats the menu, and the war is itself ABOUT the opium.  Just like every other Asian war in the last 500 years.

Is this accurate?

I learned that herpes doesn't have any symptoms in women.   :lulz:

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Normal
« on: August 06, 2015, 05:59:35 pm »
I am a hideous & vile old man.  I am in fact so old that the Earth's population doubled in my lifetime.  Get that around your noodle...An extra 3.7 billion people in less than half a century.  I remember the world as not being so crowded, and I remember correctly.  When I was a boy there were fish in the ocean and turnip trees on the land, as far as the eye could see.

But having seven and a half billion people is the New Normal.

Humans are really good at compartmentalizing stuff.  Nigel could probably give you biological reasons for this, using words that sound made up but sadly aren't, but let's break it down in layman's terms.  When stress gets too awful, when the boogieman is coming out from under the bed with your tax records in his teeth, when your nation is eating itself and howling through mouthfuls of its own skin that it is still strong...The angel of apathy comes along and whacks you upside the head.  All these things are now Normal.  They are part of the routine, and are less stressful.  Or at least you can ignore the stress, at least until it's time to buy an AR15 and join the folks jabbering about Jade Helm.

Manufactured Normalcy.  It's not really a new concept.  How many times have you heard some horrible new band that makes you want to smash your car into a wall?  Everyone hates those guys.  But the radio plays them and plays them, MTV gets some brain-damaged kids to scream on TRL, and suddenly the horrible band is just another part of the scene.  This is how Fallout Boy happens.  Neuroscience is a strange and frightening thing, and not for the likes of you and I.  Unless you're the kind of person that gets off on slicing up thousands of snake brains.

Manufactured Normalcy is also how people like Rick Santorum and Donald Trump can run for president and have 47% of the country keep a straight face.  After all, once you've voted for Palin, you're pretty much at rock bottom, may as well go for broke.  It is how the TSA can now grab your junk for no reason and you just gotta stand there and smile.  It's how police can just start murdering people for any reason or no reason at all, and the outraged masses will...Well, they'll LIKE and they'll SHARE and they'll TWEET, but as mad as they get, it's now NORMAL, so that's all they're gonna do.  Get mad.  Not the clean, white-hot anger of the superior mutant, but the sickening, ulcer-inducing anger of a person who HAS gotten mad as hell, but IS gonna take it some more.  Not because they're cowards, but because that's the way it is

This is The Machine™.  It turns out there never were clattering treads and grindy choppy horrible spiky bits.  Well, actually there were.  But that's to be expected.

Or Kill Me.

People will tie themselves in a knot to avoid being wrong.  Had some guy telling me people didn't live past 30 in the middle ages.  Absolute rubbish.  I posted links demonstrating that people who survived past age 11 most often lived until age 55 (peasants) or 65 (rich folks), but the infant mortality rate of 33% (!!!) skews life expectancy numbers for the period.

Now I have them saying "people didn't know their own ages back then", and were obviously making things up to fool historians of later ages.


I've been there.  Most people have.  It's like the old monkey trap, where the monkey reaches into a jug for a piece of fruit, then can't bring his fist out without dropping the fruit.  So the monkey sits there, railing about how unfair the fruit is being, until someone comes along and rounds the monkey up for medical experimentation. 

There comes a time you just gotta let go of the fruit.

On account of the shit-talking and general hissy fits of the partisans of Sanders & Clinton.

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Dirtbags, part 7
« on: July 13, 2015, 12:27:05 am »
Little Saigon

Well, what CAN go wrong in a Vietnamese restaurant?  Especially a mom & pop outfit; the Vietnamese are mostly a quiet folk, at least here.  We went in, got seated, and ordered a late supper.  The place was almost empty, with only one other table being occupied.  There were 2 couples in their mid 50s sitting two tables over. 

One of the guys at the table was on one of those Rascal scooters, apparently not having bothered to transfer his bulk to a proper seat.  The back of the scooter seat had a Romney 2012 bumber sticker on it.  He was drunk and loud, braying on about "Obummer" and liberals.

Katie just smiled.  I glared at her...I was hungry, and I didn't want the ruckus to start before I ate.  Even 2 months after the event, it shocks me that I knew it was never an "if", but a "when".  Even knowing that, there really isn't an excuse for what happened.

Halfway through our meal, the lady owning the place flipped the open sign to close, but assured us that we had all the time we needed to eat our meal.  Her daughter came out of the kitchen with a 10 gallon empty rubber trashcan and a broom, obviously setting things up to clean the place when the last two tables left.

"HEY, DRAGON LADY!"  That was the fat guy on the scooter.  "CAN WE GET ANOTHER ROUND OF DRINKS HERE?"

The owner was behind the counter.  She looked up and said, "Sorry, it is 10 minutes past last call.  I cannot serve you more alcohol."

"OH, COME ON, NOBODY'S GONNA KNOW."  The guy was yelling like he was at a ballgame, even though he was maybe 20 feet away from her.


Katie twitched.  Come on, just 5 more minutes here, lady.  I'm almost done with my dinner.

The fat man wasn't having it.  "FUCK YOU, LADY, GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM."

The owner looked pissed.  "You leave right now."


Bad move, fat man.  Katie was out of her seat and moving.  Fuck, no point fighting it now.

I jumped up and grabbed the trash can, as Katie walked up and smacked the fat guy across his face, and said, "You are in the wrong fucking century, you disgusting pig.  You shut your damn face."

The lady next to him burst out laughing.  The other couple looked mortified...In fact, it occurred to me that they hadn't said anything the whole time we were there.

"WHAT THE FUCK, YOU BITCH!"  Fat man started flailing his arms at Katie. 

I up-ended the trash can over his head and jammed it down over his shoulders.  Katie grabbed the broom and started hitting the trash can with it, swinging as fast as she could.  Thumpity thumpity thump.

"ARE YOU UNDERSTANDING ME?"  She screamed.  Thumpity thump.  "AM I GETTING THROUGH TO YOU?"  Thump thump thump.

I grabbed the backrest of his scooter with one hand, holding the garbage can with the other, and started backing up to the door, Katie whaling away at him the whole time.  The owner yanked the door open, and I hauled the fat man out onto the street.

"Your dinner is on the house," she said to me as I passed by, "You come back soon."  The door closed behind us, as Katie kept whacking on the trash can.  I heard the lock engage.  Glancing through the window, I saw the other three customers pulling out credit cards.  I hauled fatass around the side of the building, then walked back out to the street, leaned up against the building, and waited for Katie to finish explaining things.  There was some hollering and meaty-sounding thumping.

She walked out of the alleyway a few minutes later, smiling. 

"Okay, Dok, we're heading over to 6th avenue."

"Okay.  The fat guy alive?"

"Oh, sure.  He probably won't even need the hospital."

"What's on 6th avenue?"

"A party."

"Oh, dear."

"No, I'll behave.  I think I have it all out of my system now."

It turned out that she did.  The party was a collection of working artists, who made me feel very welcome.  I drank too much, but didn't manage to embarrass myself.  Some guy drove me home at some point.  I handed him some gas money and staggered into my house.

I woke up on the couch the next morning, with a 3 alarm hangover.  As I undressed to shower, I felt something in my pocket.  It was a note.

Dear Dok,

Quit that awful job.  It's more fun being a dirtbag.

Love, Katie.

And you know what?  She was right.


RPG Ghetto / Pathfinder NPC Morale/Loyalty Rules.
« on: July 10, 2015, 12:55:51 am »
You know you want to fuck the players over with NPC treachery and cowardice.  Admit it.  It's half the fun of being a DM.  Nothing warms my heart like when Dave the Torch-bearer loses his shit and runs off in the middle of the big fight carrying the only light source.  Or when the porters steal all the PC's shit and wee in their rations.

Best part is, if it's done right, it's the players' fault, with many players using pack bearers as meat shields & trap-springers, etc.

So here's some rules to help you justify this sort of assbaggery.  These rules are still under play test conditions, and comments are welcome.

Loyalty & Morale Checks for NPCs:

NPCs are not robots that fight to the death, or put up with any amount of abuse from PCs.  Periodically, and when the situation calls for it, a loyalty check must be made to ensure the loyalty of the NPC.  Additionally, in dangerous situations, the NPC must make a morale check, which is a modified loyalty check.  PCs and cohorts are always assumed to have passed these checks, unless magically compelled.

Base Check:  The basic loyalty check involves the NPC making a will save against the Charisma of the party leader (or the PC who hired him, if they're not the same person), or the person who wronged the NPC.  The base DC of the check is the Charisma score (not modifier) of the PC in question plus the morale score of the NPC in question, with modifiers listed below included.  If the PC has leadership, he uses his leadership versus followers score instead, if it is higher than his Charisma. 

If the NPC makes the save, he becomes disloyal.  For good NPCs, this may mean anything from sulking to quitting.  For Neutral  or evil NPCs, it means sulking, quitting, or treachery.  Sulking means the NPC is considered shaken until morale has been reestablished, and will attempt to sap the honor of the person who offended him.  Quitting means exactly that.  As soon as the party is in a safe place, the NPC resigns and leaves.  Treachery means the NPC will try to take revenge on those he feels has wronged him.

The base morale check is the same, except the DC of the encounter (or the worst encounter so far in a given session, if there is no immediate combat) is subtracted from the target PC's charisma.  If the NPC makes his save, he stands frozen in panic.  If he is struck, he flees.  If he is not struck, he must make an immediate loyalty check after the battle or situation.

When to make a check:  A loyalty or morale check is made when the negative modifiers totaled up exceed the NPC's morale score.  Also, an NPC placed in a position of temptation may have to check, at the discretion of the DM
Modifiers  All of these modifiers stack. 

Temporary modifiers are based on the current (and possibly past) situation.
Pay            Modifier to DC
Less than one half book         -2
Less than book                    -1
Book                                0
More than book                        +1
Double book                   +2
Triple book                           +3
Pay is in arrears                    -3, pay modifiers are not used.

Each offer to raise pay forces a re-reroll on a failed save, provided the new pay scale is higher than the last one and at least book.  A new check can be forced for each offered raise, though if the raise goes up more than one bracket on the first attempt, it gives a +1 for every bracket jumped.  Pay in arrears must be made up before any chance of recovering loyalty, unless a better offer is made and a DC20 diplomacy check is made to convince the NPC to defer his pay.

Treatment:  An  NPC who is well treated (DM's discretion) gets a +1 to +5 modifier to the DC.  If an NPC is raised, he and all other NPCs take a permanent +1 to the DC, in addition to the bonus gained from the increase in leadership score, if appropriate.  Poor treatment has the exact opposite range of modifiers, and if an NPC is left to his death, the other NPCs take a permanent -1 to the DC.  If a PC kills an NPC, the other NPCs immediately gain a -5 modifier to the DC and make an immediate check.  EXCEPTION:  If an outright mutiny is in progress and a PC harms a disloyal NPC, an immediate loyalty retest is made, with a success meaning the mutiny spreads or gets more daring, and a failure meaning all surviving mutineers sulk.  They are disloyal at this point, but at least they aren't in mutiny. 

Morale check modifiers are as per loyalty checks, but have additional modifiers to the DC.  A morale check is made when the value of all modifiers (loyalty and morale) exceed the NPC's morale.

Encounter CR = +5 or more the PC APL:  -5 (does not stack with +3 APL)
Encounter CR = +3 or more the PC APL:  -2 (does not stack with +5 APL)
Encounter CR = below PC APL:  +2
Per PC fallen or fled:  +2
PC who hired PCs fallen or fled:   +4
Per NPC fallen or fled:  +1
NPC is wounded:  -1 (Remains for duration of combat, even if healed.  Stacks)
PCs cure NPCs:  +2 (Remains for duration of combat.  Stacks.)

NPC Morale Score:  An NPC's morale score is based on his personality and his alignment.  Law and Good each grant a +1.  Evil and Chaos each grant a -1. NPC  traits and goals from Game Mastery Guide, pages 94-96, may add or subtract to the score as determined by the DM, ranging from -2 to 2. 

NOTES:  The same rules can be applied to monsters, with the master of the monster taking the place of the PC, or if there is no master, the check is equal to 10 plus the CR of the encounter.


This guy may be fictional, but he's my hero.  Forever.

This thing:

And I gotta agree in every particular, there's something else I feel I must mention.

Right now, I feel like I am hogtied in the backseat of a car, wearing no seat belt.  The Koch brothers are in the front seat, smoking meth and devouring themselves.  The one driving keeps texting about how great everything's gonna be, and his brother is looking into the back seat and screaming "PEASANT" through mouthfuls of his own skin.  Traffic is heavy.  I don't understand how we lasted THIS long.  I am, in short, uncertain as to what I should DO.

I thought he died years ago.  Apparently not.

RPG Ghetto / Running my own take on The Temple of Elemental Evil.
« on: July 04, 2015, 05:05:34 am »
The idea was great, but all 3 published versions sucked.

So, doing it myself.  Instead of some demon lords being behind the fake elemental cult, it's run by an inner circle of Vecna cultists.  Of course, the undead Vecna has moved on to bigger and better things than being a moldy old undead thing, so he has no intention of coming back.  But they're dumb and maniacal, and yanno...

Anyway, I have two groups going through the campaign at the same time, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.  I am not running the same adventure twice, I am running them both through at the same time, and the actions of one group affect the other, and vice-versa.  In fact, tomorrow they all sit at the table together for a massive "Rumble in the Slums".

The groups have cleared out and set up shop in a couple of arcane sites, smacking around some temple heavies in the process (and learning of the return of the ancient threat).  The local wizards guild has decided they want the sites, and have hired goons to take the parties out.  The more experienced party has gotten wind of this, and the fact that the guild is going to take out the less experienced party first.  So they send a henchman to warn the group (who is going down to the docks to meet a guy who supposedly knows where the ancient evil temple is).

The more experienced group arrives just as the bad guys kick off their ambush.

The map of the docks and the adjoining slum is divided into 19 segments, and each segment has either hit men of one kind or another, or nothing, or helpful people from a gang the parties are friendly with (which is to say, they have common enemies).  Each segment also has "chase" conditions that have to be met before anyone can enter them (crowded street, etc).  This of course applies to the good guys and the bad guys, and may result in groups of both being split, as individuals make the required checks.  The less experienced PCs arrive randomly in one of the first 8 zones (the Northern half of the map), and the other party arrives in either zone 1, 5, or 9.  The less experienced PCs are out of their league, and have to survive until the other party shows up.

Also, there's a pack of pit bulls that wander the map and attack either side.  Because life is just more FUN with a horde of feral pit bulls.  Oh, and more giant rats than you can shake a stick at. And a swarm of carniverous cockroaches. And CANNIBAL STREET URCHINS.  Because slums.  And it's raining like Goddamn Portland, mostly so they don't burn the city down, but also because the modifiers are universal and vastly amusing (to me).  Lastly, the bad guys in an adjoining zone may see the PCs if they make a ruckus, and attempt to move into their zone to attack, and all bad guys chase good guys no matter where they go.

Victory conditions are:

PCs are killed - obviously, bad guys win, campaign over.
PCs survive by fleeing the slums - draw, no information, and the goons are still out for them.
PCs get to the informant and then escape - PCs win, get information.
PCs wipe out 80-100 percent of the bad guys - Crushing victory, PCs get information, wizards guild humiliated, bonus experience for everyone.

The parties have three (3) hours of real time to complete their objectives.

The bad guys are a mixed bag of lunatic bleachling gnomes, red mantis assassins, street thugs, some murder cultists, a solo monk bounty hunter, and some Sczarni (ie, Roma) hit men (among other things).

The friendly gang, the Garbanzo brothers outfit, is located in two zones, and can be made helpful with a diplomacy check, in which case they either toss the PCs a healing potion or two OR eliminate any one group of assassins chasing the PCs.

Now, this comes off almost like a boardgame, and it really is for this session, but that's the best way to get the cinematic feeling ala Indiana Jones or Brandon Fraser in The Mummy.

If they live through this, then phase two starts, and the more experienced party goes off to the temple, while the less experienced party works for that nice old deformed noble that's been paying them for odd jobs that are getting more than a little disturbing.

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / HAHAHAHA *snort*
« on: June 26, 2015, 07:28:56 am »

The ultimate endgame of the MRA page.   :lulz:

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