Saturday, November 11, 2017

Meanwhile, 99 years ago

In Flanders Fields

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

More later,

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cthulhu Lies Dreaming

Let's do some gaming stuff.

At the recent GameHole Con (Quick review - great convention in Madison, you should go), I ran a part of a Call of Cthulhu campaign I had done years ago. Then characters were all underclassmen at Miskatonic University in March of 1925, when, according to Lovecraft's original short story, The Call of Cthulhu, the Great Old One stirred in his sleep, disturbing the dreams of people throughout the world.

And for this I created some pregens, gave them backgrounds, and had them make a POW check. Those that succeeded got strange dreams. Then I asked them what their term project was in the class.  Here are the characters:

Frank Johnson was our athelete, a football hero playing with the Miskatonic Badgers.
Deborah Blaine was our "New Woman" journalist.
Virginia Frink was our science student - her parents disappeared at Devil's Reef, near Innsmouth
Skip Cavanaugh was our dilettante, changing majors six times in six semesters.
Jedediah Wright comes from a long lines of Congregationalist ministers. He is studying theology.
Samuel Whately is pre-med, and comes from a farming community in Vermont. He interns at St. Mary's in Arkham.

Some made their Power Check, some didn't, but it was an interesting writing challenge. Here are their dreams

Frank Johnson’s Dream

You are in the woods, a thick pine woods. It is a summer night, but a full moon provides ghostly illumination, and the stars twinkle overhead. Your path leads west, towards a clearing. As you approach, white flowers glow in the field below you glow like fireflies, and the stars are obscured by a mounting thunderhead. You watch its moon-limned edges grow on the horizon, until it looms over you.

Then the thunderhead turns, and you see two huge yellow eyes emerging from the mass, and you know the towering creature is no cloud. It screams and you scream and you are awake.

Please make a SAN check.

Deborah Blaine’s Dream

You are at a trendy party, mingling with guests in tux and tails, or sequined gowns. There are waiter carrying trays of champagne and appetizers, and no one seems to care about Prohibition. There is jazz music playing in the distant in an odd minor key. You walk towards people and they turn away from you, some in disinterest, some in fear. You are concerned and try to join small groups that break up as soon as you arrive, and soon you are moving quickly from person to person, only to find the other guests flee from you. Something is wrong with your face.  

You reach a mirror and recoil in horror at yourself. Your face has melted, the skin gathered in on itself to form long, looping tendrils around you nose and mouth. You try to scream, but you cannot – the tendrils themselves coil of their own volition. You reach out to the mirror and your reflection touches you as well, but it reaches through the mirror and grasps you by the wrist, seeking to pull you inside. You awaken in a cold sweat.

Please make a SAN Check

Virginia Frink’s Dream

You are in an old house. Belonging to your parents? You are not quite sure. It’s night, and the ocean thunders outside, and you know without looking that the house is up on a cliff (your parents’ house was nowhere near the shore). There are shouts outside, but you know (someone warned you?) not to look out the windows. The sound of the surf grows louder, and with it the groaning of ancient timbers under sail, and the shouts grow louder as well.

You finally look out the window to see a great sailing ship breaking up on the rocks. The crew is abandoning it, and other dark figures are swarming over it like ants, killing the seamen they encounter and shredding the sails. Behind the wrecked ship is a great wave rising out of the ocean, a single pinnacle of water streaming off all sides.

Then the wave parts and reveals the tip of a huge leathery wing, the ocean itself draining off its flesh. The creature it belongs to, some massive dragon, turns towards you and you sudden awaken.

Please Make a SAN check.

Skip Cavanaugh’s Dream

You dream of a strange, burning city. Even on fire, its buildings seem to flicker and fade into and out of phase with the world, and twist inwards on themselves in patterns that seem to make sense but deny all reality. The buildings are huge, built by ancient giants, and you see people like ants trying to scale them, climbing up their burning sides to avoid the waters below.

Waters. Yes. You are now waist-deep in thick, salty waters. The tide is coming in. No. The city itself is sinking, and the ocean is coming in. You try to run to one of the towering, flaming structures, but you are trapped in mud. Not mud. You are ensnared by tentacles, looping round your legs like strong ropes, holding you in place and dragging you beneath the surface. You open your mouth to scream and salt water pours into your throat.

Please make a SAN check.

Jedidiah Wright’s Dream

You are in a church. Anglican, you would guess, from the amount of decoration and stained glass, and the smell of incense and heavily oiled wooden pews. There are parishioners in the benches, but you have a hard time focusing on them. They seem to fade in and out like ghosts. The stained glass seems to shimmer as well, and its scenes are aquatic in nature – coral, tropical fish, and octopi.

The minister is your father, or your grandfather, with a full white beard and wild white hair, gesticulating and shouting loudly. His words are unclear, but it is a hellfire speech. As you walk up the aisle, you see that he is bleeding from the eyes, the blood running down into his beard. And then you realize it is not a beard at all, but rather a nest of snakes, coiling and coiling like tendrils round his saw-toothed, lamprey-like mouth.

You awaken with a start. Please make a SAN check.

Samuel Whately’s Dream

You are in the morgue in the basement of St. Mary’s. It doesn’t look like the morgue you know, but you are sure of it. Instead of a small room with a bank of drawers holding the deceased you are in a great marble-shod palace, the biers of the dead laid out with military precision in all directions, each body covers in a translucent white sheet. Somewhere, far in the distance, a gong sounds.

The gong sounds again, and the cadavers begin to stir. The gossamer sheets slide from them and you see they are monstrosities, partially unmade through partial autopsies and botched studies. Great surgical wounds crisscross their forms, the skin pulling away from the stitches to reveal the oozing muscles beneath, the organs straining to escape. You run, but there is no place to run, the dead are everywhere.

You awaken in your bed, breathing hard. You catch your breath, and hear you roommate snoring across the room. In the distance you hear the university bell tower. Then the arms of the dead things reach up from beneath your bed and seize you dragging you down beneath the floorboards to join them. You awaken again, but are unsure if you are truly awake.

Please make a SAN check.

More later,

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Political Desk - The Dust Settles

So, how did things go?

Those not residing in the Evergreen State may be surprised to discover that we DON'T always know how elections are resolved the night of, or even the morning after. This is because we are all mail-in ballots, and the postmark on the ballot needs to be by election day. So stuff shows up late. Meanwhile, the AMOUNT of votes (even in the reduced circumstances of an off-year election) from Seattle makes for slow counting as well. Short version: the numbers will flux, and the nature of the flux tends towards urban, Democrat, and progressive voters.

Still, this year there have been some major blowouts where it is safe to say, regardless of what rally may await in the uncounted votes, someone (or something) has succeeded)

Advisory Votes 16, 17, and 18,  All REPEALED by 57%, 65% and 62% respectively. Pity that, as advisory votes, they don't really count, but this should give fodder to anti-tax crowd to intimidate officials who believe we should pay for what we get.

King County Proposition No. 1 Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors, and Vulnerable Populations, which does matter more - APPROVED (66%)

King County Executive - Dow Constantine (75%).

King County Sheriff - Mitzi Johanknecht (52%).

Court of Appeals, Division No.1, District no. 1 - Michael S. Spearman (74%), despite a lot of promotion for his opponent.

Port of Seattle Commissioner  Position No. 1 - John Creighton (51%). This might be the one to flip on later ballots, but it is unlikely. [[Note from Five Days Later: Of course I was wrong, for the very reasons that I noted earlier - younger and more progressive voters voted late. At this point, the percentages have neatly reversed themselves and Ryan Calkins now has 52% of the vote]]
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 3 - Stephanie Bowman (67%).

Port of Seattle Commission Position No. 4 - Peter Steinbrueck (63%).

Mayor, City of Kent - Dana Ralph (52%)

Kent Council Position No. 2 - Satwinder Kaur (54%).

Kent Council Position No 4 - Toni Trouter (67%).

Kent Council Position No. 6 - Brenda Fincher (72%). Ms. Fincher's opponent is notorious for saying in his voter's guide that he didn't really want the job, anyway. And yet there are a lot of other results that at this level of landslide this year.

Kent School District No, 415 - Denise Daniels (53%).

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Alan Eades (53%).
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No 1  - Erin Aboudara (67%)

And some other things:

Mayor of Seattle - Jenny Durkan (61%). Actually the only one I am sad to see, but even so I think a competent candidate won the position.
State Senate, 45th District Manka Dhingra (55%). The Democrats have retaken the State Senate by a slender margin. Now comes the time when feet are held to the fire and results are demanded.

And with that, the Political Desk shuts down for the winter. It will be back, of course, but I'm going off to write other things for a while.

More later,

Monday, October 30, 2017

What is an RPG?

I was going through some old Call of Cthulhu books in preparation of running a session at the upcoming Gamehole Con in Madison (this coming weekend), and came across an interesting document. It was on the back of some scribbled notes for an adventure I had put together. The document is unsigned and undated, and while the erratic use of punctuation and Significant Capitals looks like something I would write (represented uncorrected below), the language is not mine (words like "fiat" and "playgroup"). Here's what it said:
Roleplaying Notes:

A Roleplaying Game is

A social activity in which the players engage in mental competition according to agreed-upon rules, in which the players take on artificial personas which have an effect on that competition.

Social Activity - must include others.
Mental - Relies on communication skills as opposed to physical attributes of the players
Competition - There is a rewards system inherent within the game.
Agreed Upon Rules - Previously determined porscribed activities with the game, in the form of a rulebook or generally agree-upon behavior.
Artificial Personas - Within the game, the player pretends to be someone he is not.
Which have an Effect - That persona affects the nature of the game itself.

A TSR Roleplaying Game is:
An RPG that in addition to the previous definition, has the following elements:
     - One player in plays a co-ordination and storytelling role, known as the dungeon master or moderator.
     - There is a conflict and event resolution system which is a combination of agreed-upon moderator fiat and randomized factors.
     - Playing the game entails willing suspension of disbelief among the players for common experience, the full nature of which is unknown to the individual players at the start of the game.
     - The game is expandable in that it encourages serial, episodic play
     - The game has common rules to the game that may be taken from playgroup to playgroup.
     - The game places the non-moderated personas in heroic, dynamic roles.
     - The game encourages players to interact with the game when in non-social settings.
    - There is no universal requirements as far as components or presetation of TSR Roleplaying Game.

Looking at this (and ignoring the grammatical errors), it still makes sense over the years, but I can't exactly date it. Late 90s? After the WotC purchase? Anyone recognize it?

More later,

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Political Desk The Jeff Recommends

I always feel sorry for people who seek out my personal blog, hoping that I will talk about game design or history and instead find long tracks on local politics and collectible quarters. C'est La Guerre.

Anyway, suming up. Let me point back to this entry at the very beginning, which links to a variety of other voices, some of which are well-considered and some of which are the Seattle Times. Then let me hit up the major points (candidates running unopposed don't get an entry, as usual).

Advisory Votes 16, 17, and 18, which really don't matter - Vote MAINTAINED anyway.

King County Proposition No. 1 Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors, and Vulnerable Populations, which does matter more - Vote APPROVED.

King County Executive - Dow Constantine.
King County Sheriff - Mitzi Johanknecht.

Court of Appeals, Division No.1, District no. 1 - Michael S. Spearman.

Port of Seattle Commissioner  Position No. 1 - Ryan Calkins.
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 3 - Ahmed Abdi.
Port of Seattle Commission Position No. 4 - Preeti Shridhar.

Mayor, City of Kent - No Recommendation. 
Kent Council Position No. 2 - Satwinder Kaur.
Kent Council Position No 4 - Tye Whitfield.
Kent Council Position No. 6 - Brenda Fincher.

Kent School District No, 415 - Denise Daniels.

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Merle Reader (and I had to go look that up).
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No 1 (have you noticed the abundance of commissioners this year?) - Pete DeLeyser

End of Ballot, BUT
Cary Moon for Mayor of Seattle
Manka Dhingra for State Senate, 45th District.
Anyone Other than Dino Rossi for 8th District US House of Representatives.

But then, that last one is for next year.

More later,

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Political Desk: A Miscellany

Si, what's left on the ballot?

Not much, and that which is there we talked about way back in the primary. But let me be a completist.

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Position No. 2, I'm continuing with Merle Reader. And for Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 1, I still recommend Pete DeLeyser.  But to be honest, the amount of information on the ground is extremely scarce right now.

And I guess that's it, but I will mention a couple things I CANNOT vote for (as a result of, well, not living in the particular jurisdictions).

I mentioned earlier that the City of Seattle has two good candidates for mayor, which can have the tags "Mainstream Democratic" and "Progressive Democratic" only by comparing the two together. Personal preference? The slightly more progressive of the two - Cary Moon.

Across the water, Bellevue and its environs in the 45th District are voting for a State Senator to fill out the one-year term of Andy Hill, who has passed on. Despite being a one year term, there is some serious cash being flung around in the race between Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund and Democrat Manka Dhingra. Both are women of Asian heritage, which is cool but may give some Republicans east of the Cascades cardiacs. This election is important because it can swing the razor-thin margin of GOP control in the senate back to the Dems, and to that end, conservative groups have been running bogus ads about how voting for a Democrat would turn Bellevue into just another Seattle (you know, crowded, young, and successful). Because the State GOP believes that the eastern part of King County is a bunch of rural rubes who would believe that stuff. Needless to say, I would recommend Manka Dhingra, swing the senate back to the donkeys, and then hold their little donkey hooves to the fire to get things done.

And lastly, there is NEXT election. Yeah, they're already running people for 2018. In particular in the US House, 8th District, which was redrawn to be more safely Red. Despite this, there are a lot of folk already running for the position with incumbent Dave Reichert stepping down, and expect a lot of money to flow into this one as well. I would just like to cast my endorsement for SOMEONE OTHER THAN DINO ROSSI, the anointed GOP candidate. The Political Desk cut its eye teeth on the Rossi/Gregroire election many, many moons before most of the rest of you moved here. The resulting lawsuit showed Mr. Rossi's team to be oilier than a Wesson handshake (fun fact - at the time his lawyers shared the same building as Pokemon USA, and they had a tendency to talk in elevators, About their strategy. Loudly.), and, yeah, I will remind folk of it if he chooses to stay in the race.

Yeah, I guess I had a few more things to say. Next up - Summing up.

More later,

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Political Desk - Lighting up a Kent

You know what I really like? An election with candidates that both have strong points. For example, in Seattle itself, former US District Attorney Jenny Durkan is squaring off against local activist Carry Moon. I like Moon, but feel OK with the establishment candidate in this one, because they would both make good mayors. This is the way elections are supposed to work.

I just wanted to get that off my chest, because I am less sanguine about Kent's choices this year. Both candidates. former councilbeings Dana Ralph and Jim Berrios, failed to impress me during the primaries. It is really little things, I will admit, but it got my goat enough at the time to sour me on both candidates.

Back during the primary, I got a robocall from Dana Ralph's campaign toting about her not being a politician, despite a) being a councilperson, and b) running for political office. Both of those kinda make you a politician. (Also making you a politician - campaign contributions). Jim Berrios, on the other hand, in a debate played down that we're going to lose a chunk of municipal cash because in a change in the state sales tax, which sounds like wishful thinking and makes me nervous as well.

So for this year, I give NO RECOMMENDATION. Ultimately, I'm going to have to figure it out, but I don't feel comfortable directing people in one direction or the other, so you're on your own. Hey, it's my blog, I'll do what I want.

More locally still, let's see who we have for the city council: We don't get enough general information on this because, other than the Kent Reporter, there is not a lot of raw data. I almost want to hire a private detective, some hardened gumshoe which the assignment to patrol the bars and paw through the old records to see who has the most parking tickets or the secret support of Old Man Burns who lives up on the hill in his mansion (the one with the hounds). Lacking that, I'll go with recommendations I made for the primary - Satwinder Kaur for Council Position No. 2 and Tye Whitfield for Council Position No. 4. And since I'm in the neighborhood, let me re-recommend Denise Daniels once again for Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 4  (interestingly, Agda Burchard, who came in third in the primary for this position, also endorsed Ms. Daniels/

Now for most of these positions, the statements in the voter's guides are veritably identical - lived in Kent for X number of years, putting citizens first, importance of enough officers on the beat while keeping Kent an affordable place to raise your kids, and of course they are honored to be running. So it was a breath of fresh air to see Russel L. Hanscom, candidate for the Council Position No, 6, to lay out his own opinion. Here's a direct quote from the guide:
Frankly, I'm not really sure I want this job. The pay is crummy, it takes time away from my family, and it's pretty thankless a lot of the time. 
However, my lack of enthusiasm does not diminish my competence or honesty.
I'm writing this statement on August 4 and I'm right in the middle of starting a business. If the business takes off like it's supposed to, between now and November, I sincerely doubt I'll have enough time to be an effective representative for your concerns. 
I honestly don't know what else to say. This is the reality I'm facing today.
And while I can admire the honesty (he said later that he was writing this on a particularly bad day), I'm going to take him at his word and go with Brenda Fincher, and hoping that Mr. Hanscom's new business has taken off.

More later,