Be sure to return your books before the due date ...

Be sure to return your books before the due date …

I’m in grim London for a week, doing some work at Imperial College while the looming skies glower down on me. One great thing about flying ANA to London is you get to see Japanese-language movies with English subtitles, something that’s almost impossible if you live in Japan. Since my Japanese is not yet good enough to properly understand TV (except, strangely, Darwin ga kita), I like to take this opportunity to enjoy a movie I wouldn’t otherwise understand. This time around I stumbled on Library Wars: The Final Mission, a hilarious movie about librarians at war with the state that ultimately made no sense and was vaguely unsatisfactory.

The basic premise of Library Wars is that the government has set out to censor all published work through the Media Betterment Act, but after a violent battle in which 17 people died the Librarian association declared themselves implacably opposed to censorship and established a Library Defense Force that responds violently to attempts to censor books. Naturally in the ensuing years things have escalated, and now there is this kind of hyper-violent kabuki drama in which the Media Betterment Committee turn up to a library and declare that they will inspect it; then the Library Defense Force refuse on the grounds of the Libraries Freedom Act Clause 33; then the Media Betterment Committee tells them they will attack the library for a period of one hour; then they shoot each other for an hour; then everyone goes home[1].

How this makes any sense to anyone is a complete mystery to me, but that’s the background. The movie follows a junior member of the Library Defense Force (LDF), a girl called Kasahara san who is (secretly) in love with her instructor, Dojo san, and is also a klutz and a ditz in a very charming way. She is based in the main base of the LDF, at Musashino (which is near my home), along with Dojo and random other characters. They are charged with escorting the original copy of the librarian association’s statement of principles to an exhibition on freedom at Ibaraki prefectural museum, where they will guard the book at any cost. As they prepare for this mission we see that the older brother of one of the LDF members, Tezuka san, is involved in a cunning scheme in conjunction with the Ministries of Education and Justice to destroy the LDF and end librarians’ independence.

The first half of the movie sees this scheme played out, largely pointlessly, and involving Kasahara san in a random kind of weird plot. Then the second half is an extended battle between the LDF and the Media Betterment Committee soldiers at the Ibaraki Prefectural library. This extended battle is a bit boring since it largely involves lines of soldiers with shields shooting at each other but it’s also hilarious because it takes place in a massive library, so there’s lots of shooting of books and stuff. Also Dojo and Kasahara san end up behind enemy lines so there’s a bit of skullduggery and hand-to-hand violence. There is a surprising amount of brutal slaughter by the end of it, certainly sufficient to convince me that being a librarian is a tough job. To me the ending of the whole thing didn’t make any sense, but then I didn’t really expect it to because how can a story involving a war between librarians and the government have any resolution that makes any sense? It’s madness.

The movie has several good points: the acting is good, Kasahara’s character is really cool (though why she likes grim arsehole Dojo is a mystery to me) and the scheming older brother Tezuka is a good evil dude. Some of the battle scenes are entertaining for either their stupidity or their brutality. But overall the movie suffers from a completely incomprehensible justification, an increasing chain of implausibilities that inevitably get built on top of this background, and a few sections that are emotionally overwrought but probably make sense if you’re into the valour and self-sacrifice aspects of war movies (I’m not; I just keep thinking to myself “this shit is not worth dying for”). Also, the link between the plot to undermine the LDF in the first half and the big battle in the second half is tenuous and not really even attempted, so it’s like a movie with two unrelated stories squished together for no apparent reason.

Like almost every Japanese sci-fi I have ever seen that is set in Japan, the movie also suffers from the tired “Agency A is in conflict with Agency B and they’ll kill anyone to win” basic narrative hook. You see this all the time going as far back as Ghost in the Shell, and I think it’s really boring and often incomprehensible (later Ghost in the Shell instalments have so many mysterious and poorly-explained organizations competing with each other that I just can’t be bothered). I see this plotline, along with the inevitable sacrificial near-total destruction of the good guys that happens in so many Japanese sci-fi movies, as an unresolved trauma from World War 2, where the Japanese defeat was at least partly due to conflict between Army and Navy and the war probably wouldn’t even have started if the idiots in the army had been willing to work with their own government instead of trying to overtake it. I also find this plotline annoying, boring and often incomprehensible, so I’d like to see it just dumped and some other kind of idea take its place. Of course that’s not going to happen for a Library Wars movie, since the Librarians Militant need someone to fight against and it wouldn’t be cool if they were murdering people who return late books (although a spin-off assassin movie on this theme could be fun I suppose). I probably should have thought of this before I turned on the movie, but it was fun fluff for a 12 hour plane trip.

In summary, I don’t think it’s a great movie but some of the characters are nice, it’s smoothly done, and if you want a fun two hours that you don’t have to think about too much that involves a lot of killing and shooting, I can recommend it.

Also return your books on time, or Kasahara san will break your arms.

fn1: More background can be found in the description of the novels on which this movie is based.

Is that a transponder in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

Is that a transponder in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

Date: November 27th, 2177

Weather: Rainy

Outfit: Battle fatigues loaned to me by one of Alt’ s more human-resembling staff, because we didn’t have any spare gear on the bikes, and we can’t sit around for days in Alt’s little super-villain compound wearing our combat armour. I’m even going commando for the day (don’t tell Coyote!!) because I got blood all over my underwear when I shot Theo and a nice lady in Alt’s entourage is washing my smalls for me now. I guess we’ll be leaving here in battle gear though because there’s nothing left out there that isn’t deadly.

Mood: Exhausted and relieved, but kind of hollow. We traded Sam to Alt, just, but to get her there we had to kill her boyfriend and handed her over like a piece of stunned meat because she didn’t want to go willingly and her sneaky boyfriend had a GPS beacon which is why we shot him. After we heard her horror story about what she had been doing and what she had done we all agreed she had to be handed over because she’s like that big bird in that old Oil Age metal song about the annoying sailor who won’t shut up only waaaay worse because that stupid old sailor never killed a god with his own stupidity but Sam did. Her friends would have killed us too but we had just enough warning to get our armour on and defend ourselves, thanks to me shooting Theo and sacrificing my clean underwear for the good of the team. Still, even though we did the right thing something feels wrong about it like there’s something we should have done better but we missed something on the way. It’s nagging at us all like an itch we can’t scratch but once we get our prize from Alt I think the money and glory is going to be good medicine.

News: Let’s hope we get our prize soon because the world has gone crazy. Arasaka are well inside New Horizon now and it’s basically shut to outsiders, there’s almost no way in or out now and it’s been turned into one of those war zones where only the people in orbit feel safe. We don’t really know what’s going on in there but my guess is it’s just like what I saw in the Indo zone two years ago whenever Arasaka hit some helpless little tinpot country – chaos, dirt, communal violence, everyone scrabbling to get out or to get on top of the heap or to get their own back and no safety anywhere until the evac AV hauled your team out through a hail of bullets, and you didn’t even have time to think about what horrible things were going to happen to your interpreter you left behind because you were too busy on the mini-gun to think about anything. Good times, if you’re on top.

We’re not on top, but once we get our payout from Alt we can get out and stay out.

After we killed Carnage and got out of the Oil Rig we headed into the Crash Zone with our two prisoners, to hide out for a day until we could talk to her about her situation. Once we were comfortable in the zone we got to talking with her, and she gave us the full story of her, Alt and Lima. It took a few hours but here’s the condensed version.

So Sam, Alt and Lima were part of this crazy research project somewhere ancient and mountainous like Macchu Picchu, and Coyote’s dad was there doing human experiments on them like every doctor seems to want to do, and they were using this macnic thing, the crazy stone that drives people crazy that Semmtech stole from the Oil Rig, to drive the experiments. Sam wasn’t real clear about what the experiments were but they did something to her and Lima and Alt. At some point Coyote’s dad discovered he had a conscience, but only after he’d gone too far down the dark path of course because what else can you expect from a doctor? And so he offered to help them escape and Sam and Lima were all for it but then Alt betrayed them because she’s greedy or maybe because she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life hanging out in the Peruvian jungle with Miss Goody Two Shoes hiding behind waterfalls and eating raw hairy spiders and swatting hummingbirds while Miss Goody Two Shoes waffles on about ethics and freedom and probably insists on only eating fruit or something. So as they were getting away the security guards grabbed them and there was a fight and Lima escaped but Sam and Alt didn’t, only then Lima came back to rescue them, and in the chaos Coyote’s dad and Sam managed to get away with the macnic, So then they started doing more human experiments on this stupid stone while Lima went on a psycho doctor-killing spree around central America (why did we kill him he’s like the prodigal son compared to his crazy sisters!?) and Alt just disappeared or something. Then Sam and Crazy Coyote Dad managed to get back to New Horizon with the macnic, and this was back before the crash, when New Horizon was a land of milk and honey and Exalta ruled over everything like a god and everyone was peaceful and happy (unless they were allergic to honey or lactose intolerant I guess which is probably half the population but since when do Gods care about their followers’ allergies?) and I’m sure they didn’t have crazy doctors there, right? But Sam didn’t like the ethics in that place, so she offered the macnic to Exalta and Exalta took one look at the thing and panicked and ran away into space or something or maybe she just died but anyway that’s when the crash happened and it was all Sam’s fault for wanting to graduate from human experiments to AI experiments. She’s like the Doctor Mengele of cyberspace, except that he was just a skeezy dude with a twin fetish whose experiments never killed a god and hers did! And I think I heard Ghost whispering that she killed a dream too, but I don’t know about that because I don’t have dreams anymore since I got my booster ware installed and anyway my dreams were all ice and blood and screams and silent rough men grunting in the cold dark while I waited for everything to change so I don’t know why anyone would care if their dreams were killed but that seemed to bother Ghost. Of course I went back and killed all the men in my dreams but I don’t think Sam thinks like me so once she killed Exalta she just ran away and then lost the macnic, which probably ended up in Semmtech’s control. And then Lima came to New Horizon looking for her and the macnic, and so did Alt, and they all were using their special powers to find each other and the macnic like a really crazy family of pscyho clowns doing an easter egg hunt.

Dear Diary, I know when I first met Coyote and Ghost and Pops you thought I had the worst luck in the world and I was only making bad choices but now look at this dysfunctional family we have stumbled into, they’re transhumanist trailer park trash with a cult and heavy weapons. This is weapons-grade family feud leavened with cyber psychosis! It makes Ghost and Coyote look completely normal now don’t you think, dear Diary? It’s a good thing I’m completely sane and everyone can rely on me to keep a level head while the clowns are mass murdering their way across the world killing gods with a stone that bleeds blue blood. I’m also glad that they agree with me about handing Sam over to Alt, even Pops – I was surprised by how quickly he agreed to be rid of her, but I guess her tale of deicide was all the convincing Pops needed…

When we first met Sam Pops was getting all dewy-eyed and doing his Dad Voice but once we heard that story his tone changed and he started doing his Stern Detective Voice, which usually means that someone is going to have to die. But Sam wasn’t ready to give up yet and she told us that she could help Coyote access the contents of the data chip that he received from his family when we rescued them from that prison in the pit. He agreed of course and then went into a quiet room to spend an hour or so catatonic. And while he was doing that Sam had a quiet conversation with Ghost that made Pops really really uncomfortable, I don’ know why[1].

Me and Pops had a quiet talk about what to do while our team were flaking out, and then once Coyote was up again and alert I killed Theo. I just shot him in the head but he saw it coming by just a fraction of a second, so he tried to dodge, but he had no chance. Pops hit Sam with the stun gun at the same time and the whole thing was done by the time Ghost reacted and came over to stand in front of me and protect me from Theo’s gun, I don’t know why he would do that![2]

Once we were sure Sam was down I ran over to search Theo, which is when I got his blood all over my underwear since I did this whole thing naked. Ghost and Coyote seemed really horrified that I was searching his bag while his body was still bleeding out but why waste time? Just as well I did too because that’s when we found the transponder, and realised that the whole time we were here the Children of Exalta were inbound. So we scrambled to get our armour and weapons ready, Coyote put in the call to Alt, and that’s when we heard the AVs coming in.

Just as well we had Theo and Sam under control![3] Pops and Coyote jumped on one of the war bikes we had stolen, and Ghost went upstairs in our hideout to get a good shooting position. I took cover on the ground behind a piece of concrete wall at the entrance, with Sam next to me ready to be stunned a second time if things went wrong. The Children of Exalta attacked on three AVs, one of which circled around to hover near the front of the building and drop troops while the other two attacked Pops and Coyote on their bike. They managed to get airborne and after a few seconds of spiralling and shooting and getting shot at Coyote managed to get above the AVs. Pops had the mini gun so he made short work of them once he had them in his sights, but in the time it took them to shut down the two AVs the third one dropped five men, who I killed two at a time – one as he stood at the door of the AV, and the other as he landed. Ghost killed the fifth from his vantage point. When they saw all their soldiers dead and the other two AVs down the pilot of that AV quit and lighted out for the horizon as fast as they could. We got off without any serious injuries or damage to gear, and we were just cleaning up when Alt arrived.

Alt floated in surrounded by an honest-to-god army of transhumanists, and she put on the pomp and show for her big moment. She had taken on her handsome young suave man body, the one she had when she gate-crashed Fayling Moon’s concert, and she emerged from a monster military AV surrounded by transhumanists who really had gone past their human state – skin entirely scaled, legs bending back at the knees like lizards, forked tongues flicking and blank inhuman slit eyes staring and blinking slowly. They were all heavily armed, big, with claws and powerful rifles and heavy physiques. So basically like the men I’ve spent most of my life around, but with worse skin problems. They fanned out to make sure none of us caused any trouble and then Alt ran over to – almost charged at – her defeated, despairing sister. She briefly snarled at us about keeping them apart which is pretty sour behavior considering we’re the only reason they’re together, but we spared a glance for the big troglodyte followers and thought better of discussing her gratitude. Although when she started dragging Sam back to her AV Coyote had the sense to ask her about our deal. She just snarled at us but after she’d retreated Mr. Ling, the leader of the transhumanist cult, came over to assure us that we would get our end of the deal. He told us to follow Alt’s crew and we’d be able to hole up in a safe place for a couple of days while Alt sorted everything out. Since we had nowhere else to go, no food or clean clothes, and dirty underwear, we decided his suggestion was a very wise one, and we set off with Alt’s crew. It turns out her safe haven is an abandoned orbital launch facility that looks suspiciously like it’s being reactivated by Alt, just on the edge of New Horizon. It’s close enough to be able to connect to the city but far enough away and abandoned enough that Arasaka don’t care about it – for now. But that’s going to change …

But it won’t change while Arasaka are still doing block-by-block clearance work in the New Horizon megalopolis. So we took a few days out at Alt’s pad to get some medical attention and rest up, and think about what to do next.

I think we know what we’re going to do next. We’re going to destroy that stone. I can feel it coming … I can see Pops is eager to do it, and Coyote wants to find his dad and find answers. Me, I don’t care about the stone at all, but I can see I’m going to be doing another unpaid job very soon.

With friends like these …

fn1: actually Sam worked some kind of charm on him that caused him to become her best friend, which was really scary, but Drew is too stupid to notice something like that.

fn2: Actually Ghost was trying to knock Drew over to stop her shooting Sam, but Drew wasn’t going to shoot Sam and she dodged Ghost so well that she didn’t even notice he was trying to hit her, and just thought he was clumsily interposing.

fn3: Actually it was really just as well! Because our GM revealed to us afterwards that Sam has some kind of weird power that enables her to suck out all our luck points. When she sucks out the luck points it does stun damage equal to our luck, and then she can inflict the same damage back on us as lethal damage in the next round. So if we hadn’t acted first we would have entered the battle with zero luck and serious injuries – Coyote would have been mortally injured, Pops seriously bad, and me lightly hurt (I don’t have much luck!) But then we would have had no luck for the battle – I fired 7 shots in that battle and killed 4 men, and of the three shots that missed two were fumbles[4]. Those fumbles would have led to my only rifle jamming if I had no luck points, and then I would have been in deep deep trouble. So too for Pops and Coyote, who were in an air battle with two armed AVs ….

fn4: Next session we’re going to start using 2d6 in place of d10, and adding five to all difficulties, because the fumble rate is frankly depressing and now all actions are trivially easy using the target numbers given in the books.

Ted Cruz has won Iowa, primarily on the back of the Evangelical vote. The Republican party is clearly seriously divided at the moment, but outside the disputed politics of the Presidential election, it’s pretty clear that Republican candidates for House and Senate are generally very anti-choice. There is talk of a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood, and with Cruz as one of the two leading presidential candidates the anti-choice movement is even more prominent than usual in Republican politics. Cruz himself is supported by a scary bunch of Evangelicals who seem to advocate the most extreme anti-abortion laws in history: executing doctors who provide abortions and prosecuting abortion itself as murder. Cruz is the most extreme representative of this ideology, but in general the Republican party is unrelenting in its opposition to abortion, even after rape or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Normally this kind of politics doesn’t affect many people, especially the people who support it, so it’s easy to pull off. Even in a country with a fragile health system like the USA, most women get decent medical care during pregnancy and most conditions that might risk a mother’s health can be managed, so they have no reason (or desire) to have an abortion. This means that the issue of medical abortions doesn’t affect many people, so campaigning to close “loopholes” is easy, because most people won’t ever be affected by them. Similarly, most Americans can afford to buy their condoms or pills from a normal service provider, so it’s no big deal if Planned Parenthood cops a little bit of stick from the Republican crazies. Planned Parenthood appears to be one of the USA’s most trusted institutions but the people who trust it probably don’t vote, so it’s not going to be a big vote-loser to attack it. This has meant that historically, while anti-choice politics obviously riles up some people and loses a certain amount of votes, it is able to garner votes from a fairly large group of people who can be morally “pure” about abortion issues safe in the knowledge that they probably won’t face those issues.

All that will change once Zika virus hits the USA. Zika is spread by mosquitos, which means that its victims are blameless – although there is evidence of sexual transmission, it’s not possible to cast away the victims as mere sluts, because it is also spread by a mosquito that is endemic to the southern USA. Alarming reports from Texas suggest that conditions are ripe for its spread this summer, so it will be hitting the American population hard during the election season. If that happens then the Republican heartland is going to be hit by a disease that is an environmental rather than a behavioral risk, and which has only one major consequence: birth defects. The only treatment for pregnant women affected by this disease is abortion, and modern ante-natal care will ensure that those women affected by the disease have to face that horrible choice during the summer before the election.

And at that point, they will discover just how hard it is to get an abortion in America, and how full of hate their own community is. If the worst happens and Zika virus spreads rapidly through the southern part of the USA it’s possible that the CDC will further recommend women consider delaying their pregnancies (as some Latin American countries have). This advice is going to reach millions of women at exactly the same time as the Republican party is loudly demanding a shutdown of the government over Planned Parenthood – the leading organization that can supply the goods needed to ensure that this disease doesn’t create an epidemic of microcephaly.

It’s possible that the Republican party is going to be fighting its congressional elections on a strong platform of absolute opposition to abortion at exactly the same time as millions of American women are at risk of a disease whose only effect is a condition that can only be cured by abortion. During this period the media will be stoking both Zika fear and anti-choice activism to a fever pitch (especially if the Senate try to force a shutdown over Planned Parenthood). Imagine if the Republicans manage to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood at exactly the time the CDC and EPA need funds to support a nationwide campaign against a mosquito-borne virus that causes birth defects.

Such a strategy surely can’t end well. It will force most ordinary “anti-choice” people to confront the depth of their opposition to abortion, at which point they will suddenly discover that actually, while they are pro-life, they’re also pro-choice. They’ll suddenly realize that this whole abortion/contraception debate has nuance that they missed because they were comfortable, healthy and conservative, and they missed all the nuances of other people’s lives. There’s not really anything wrong with being clueless about things you never experienced – that’s human life, and I think it’s a very important part of the appeal of anti-abortion rhetoric, which can work very well so long as the majority of people hearing it never need an abortion. But Zika may well change all that.

If the Republicans go to the 2016 election at the same time as Zika is spreading across the USA, will their anti-abortion message kill them? That’s a fascinating reason to lose an election – especially given the putative relationship between global warming and spread of Zika. That’s a lot of chickens coming home to roost …

Artwork for Brave, Marillion weekend, 2013

But you sleep like a ghost with me
It’s as simple as that
So tell me I’m mad
Roll me up and breathe me in
Come to my madness
My opium den
Come to my madness
Make sense of it again


My Cyberpunk character, Drew, started the campaign with some contraband Russian cyberware inside her, that got her out of a tight spot but also saw her captured as a cyberpsycho by a nameless corporation. Aside from one narrative moment this tech remained just a role-playing detail, but recently as part of a kind of level-up process for our party the GM handed out a special ability to each of our PCs, and for her special ability Drew got to control and use her Ghost. The players haven’t shared their abilities with the rest of the group, but Drew’s ability is kind of … uncontrolled … and potentially very dangerous for the rest of the party, so I thought I’d write it up here where everyone can see it.

Drew’s ability is a kind of super-psychotic adrenal booster with two states: Limnal and Lost. Drew enters Limnal state by spending a point of humanity, at which point she gets all the benefits of the state. Unfortunately she can’t stay there: every turn she is in Limnal state she has to make an Empathy check (1d10+Empathy) to retain control of herself. This check has a difficulty of 8+number of turns in Limnal state – so Drew will very quickly shift to Lost state. Once Drew is Lost she has to fight to regain control of herself; she makes the same empathy check, but the difficulty reduces by 1 for every turn she is in the state. Other details of the states are given below.

In all states, Drew has access to a special boosted bonus to some actions that is equal to her starting empathy minus her current empathy, which we will call her ghost strike bonus (GSB). Recall that current empathy is determined by humanity, so the more she calls on this ability the lower her humanity drops, and the bigger her ghost strike bonus gets.

Limnal state

Once Drew enters the Limnal state she gets immediate benefits. She immediately rerolls initiative with a bonus equal to GSB/2. She receives an extra free attack each turn that can be used for movement, melee attacks, and athletics. Her movement increases by GSB/2, and she gains a bonus to all melee, athletics and movement actions equal to GSB/2. Her damage with melee weapons gets a bonus equal to GSB. Every time she kills someone she gains a +1 bonus to LUCK that must be spent the next turn or lost. Every kill also adds 1 to her Limnal turn count, making it easier for her to switch to Lost state as she kills more. In Limnal state Drew can still use a rifle but she cannot use her bonus action to shoot.

Lost state

When Drew enters Lost state she loses another 0.5 points of humanity. She rerolls her initiative with bonus equal to GSB. From this point on she cannot use missile attacks, but must use melee attacks, dropping any rifle or other tool and switching to her favourite melee weapon. All her bonuses double, so she gets a GSB bonus to hit and 2*GSB to damage, her dodge/escape increases by GSB, etc. She must attack the closest moving target, striking at the most threatening target when in doubt. She must do the greatest amount of attacks and damage possible to her target before moving on to the next target, and if a target drops in the middle of combat she must shift to another target immediately. She also counts one level lower for wounds, and has a bonus to BTM of GSB/2.

For every round she is in Lost state Drew takes one point of stun damage.

Further humanity damage

If Drew kills a friendly or non-combatant target in either state she loses an additional point of humanity. If her empathy drops to 1 (10 humanity points) she will be lost to the ghost, and will continue fighting without further recovery checks until she either goes unconscious, kills everyone, or dies.

Drew currently has 18.5 points of humanity.

What this means in practice

Drew has 18.5 points of humanity and an empathy of 2. Her GSB is currently 6, her BTM -3, movement allowance 5, melee 6 and reflexes 8 (in combat armour). Her preferred melee weapon is a monokatana, which does 4d6 damage and reduces the SP of armour to 2/3 (so combat armour drops from SP 24 to 16). Her combat sense is 8, she has an adrenal booster and reflex boosting.

In Lost state this means that Drew rerolls her initiative with a minimum of 26. She attacks three times per round at -3 per attack, with a final bonus of 18. Her dodge/escape is also 20, so attempts to shoot her in melee will have a ridiculously high target. Her damage becomes 13+4d6, so her average damage roll with the monokatana is (approximately) equivalent to an 8d6 rifle with high explosive armour piercing rounds. Her average damage roll against combat armour will do 11 damage after armour and before BTM. Her own BTM is now -6.

Because her empathy is 2, on the first round of activation of Limnal state Drew will need to roll a 7 or higher on 1d10 to control it. In the second round, after she’s killed two people (she will kill two people!), she’ll need to roll a 10. Even if she somehow misses (Drew doesn’t usually miss), by round 4 she will need to roll criticals (10 on d10) to stay in the Limnal zone. Once she is Lost it’s fairly likely that the kill rate will keep pushing the target number for her empathy rolls well beyond any number she can hit without criticals. It’s likely that she will kill all her enemies before she finds herself, and will only escape the ghost by going unconscious.

With 18.5 points of humanity Drew can afford to call on her ghost perhaps 4 more times safely. If there are any bystanders when it happens we can assume that they will die, and she will lose more humanity. Given her armour and BTM, it’s unlikely that she can be stopped by most normal ammunition, so once she becomes Lost the best option for her team is to clear out and wait for the blood and dust to settle. Killing her or trying to take her down in some other way is complicated by the fact that Pops will go insane if he sees her fall.

The downward spiral

As her humanity drops, Drew is becoming more attentive to the call of her ghost, and less aware of the basic human connections that have sustained her so far. In her last diary report, Drew said this about the feeling of losing herself in the ghost:

She just came howling out, like the frozen wind off the steppes blowing down onto the beach in winter, cutting through you like you’re just bones and whistling over the ice in the bay. And it was just like back in that bay, when I had to sink down cold and lonely on the beach, listening to my father’s bitter imprecations, cursing me into the rocks and the ice as a useless thing, while he dug a hole in the ice and his men lugged their cloth-wrapped, blood-soaked burden over the ice to the hole, and I crouched there hugging my knees against the cold wind and my father’s colder anger, trying to stay silent and hoping I wouldn’t cry because my tears make him madder and the wind freezes them on my face and afterwards the shame of being weak in front of those horrible men stings me more than icy tears ever will, but I’m still too small and helpless to know that one day I will become a whirling storm of death and destruction and everywhere men dying will whisper my name just right before they beg for their mothers who never come. So I sink down behind the rocks and ice as that wind roars over me and just hope I can come back from the cold.

Whether Drew can come back is not something that Coyote is likely to be placing bets on.

Artwork note: This picture is by Alison Toon, it’s the cover image for the Marillion album Brave, from which the quote at the top is taken, and from which I also took a lot of the lyrics used in the original post about Drew’s character. Brave is about a lost girl, it seems to fit.

The UK has announced plans for a new set of laws on migrant spouses, which will see them tested on their English skills after 2.5 years, and their visa terminated if they are found to be lacking English skills. David Cameron is selling this as both a law to empower Muslim women, and also to help fight terrorism.

This law is so stupid and cruel it is unbelievable, and the language being used to justify it is so heartless and idiotic it’s hard to believe that anyone takes it seriously. Is this a paper-thin veneer on another stupid racist law, or are the Tories genuinely so stupid that they think this law is worthwhile in any way? Sadly, I think it might be the latter. In any case, the law is both cruel and pointless.

The law is a heartless abomination

I don’t know if Cameron can speak any second languages (most Brits can’t) but if he can my guess is that he’s passable in some kind of dialect of English, like French. I live in a country (Japan) with a language completely different to English, which any adult learner (like me) has to really battle with, and which is absolutely essential if you want to really enjoy the life this country has to offer. I know a lot of people who manage to contribute significantly to this country without every learning a single word, and I know a lot of British migrants here – many with spouses – who contribute nothing to this country but still haven’t learnt a word of the language. There are many reasons why adult migrants to Japan don’t, won’t or can’t learn a word of the language, but here are a few:

  • Some people just can’t learn languages: In my intensive course I had a good friend, Ali, who was fluent in Arabic and English but couldn’t learn a word of Japanese no matter how he tried, and he really did try. I had another friend, Rana, who was a great reader and listener who couldn’t speak a word. This isn’t because they were stupid or ignorant – both knew at least two languages already, and were qualified doctors – but because learning a new language as an adult is really fucking hard. Sure, if the language is basically just a variant on your existing tongue – like Korean to Japanese, or French to English – it’s not hard, but if it’s genuinely different – like English is to a lot of people – then learning it is really challenging
  • There are no opportunities: I cannot stress what an exhausting waste of time it is to try and learn a language in all its depth and complexity from a few hours a week of poor-quality teaching at a night school. In a country like Japan it is almost impossible for most people to find a class for more than an hour or two a week, it’s even harder to find a class that is taught well, and it’s even harder to stick with it when you have a full time job, family, etc. Many of the white people in Japan are English teachers, which means they work evenings and weekends in an exhausting job. The idea that they will put in hours of intensive study at weird times to pick up a language is really stretching it. In the UK, the Cameron government has massively cut funding for English teaching. What are the chances that a poor migrant spouse who doesn’t need the language will be able to find a class?
  • Learning languages sucks: It’s tiring, boring, and often humiliating and the teachers are often really poor quality. There’s always someone else in your class who should be in a higher class and humiliates the students with his (it’s always a he!) skills, and a lot of what you learn is irrelevant to actual life. Many classes require you to perform your piss-weak language skills in front of others, and you’re constantly screwing up and embarrassing yourself. Then you go out into the real world and none of the language people use with you is taught in class (this is a universal problem). Try to keep that up for 2.5 years!
  • You don’t need the language to contribute to society: A challenge for shallow Tories like Cameron to comprehend, but you can actually contribute to society without being able to speak a word of its weird gobbledigook. From the trivial – working hard and paying taxes – to the culturally deep – writing books that introduce the culture to other societies – it’s possible to contribute without ever learning a word. In Japan I have known people who are having multiple children (a big contribution here), who are working wonders in their chosen field, or who are big figures in a movement to popularize the works of a famous writer. I know people who have lived here for years, never learnt a word, and have children who are fluent in Japanese, speak no English, and are really engaged with the local culture. How do those parents compare to a wife-beating Japanese pachinko addict who speaks perfect Japanese? Language is a useful tool but a welcoming and accepting society doesn’t need you to speak it in order to contribute.
  • Adult life betrays your efforts: No doubt whatever patois of crappy French Cameron speaks, he picked up in high school, when he had all the time in the world, and anyway it was easy. But could he learn Pakistanian if he lobbed up in Pakistan as an adult, living with his wife and kids, working a 40+ hour week and only hanging around with Pakistanis who spoke fluent English? I think you might find that he could not learn a word, because he doesn’t have time for serious study, none of his friends expect him to, it’s embarrassing to struggle to say hello in Pakistanian to someone who can debate the Quran with you in English, and when he’s at home he speaks English exclusively because wtf?

For all these reasons, it’s really common to find adults who are really committed to the country they moved to but who don’t speak a word of its native language, or are only dabblers in the complexity of that language. Even people who are determined to learn, as adult learners, will be struggling to get their language together in 2.5 years. But despite all their efforts and the vagaries of life as an adult in the modern world, Cameron aims to deport these people. His reasons are so horribly shallow, as well. Today he said:

If you’re not able to speak English, not able to integrate, you may find therefore you have challenges understanding what your identity is and therefore you could be more susceptible to the extremist message coming from Daesh

This is a hilarious piece of stupidity. If you’re staying home, not learning a word of English, and a woman in a traditionalist Islamic family, chances are that you have a very strong identity centred around hearth and home, and there’s almost zero chance you’ll be susceptible to extremist ideology. It’s fascinating to see a party that has traditionally respected the role of housewife (and criticized feminists for undermining that role) suggesting that such an important and powerful cultural figure would “have challenges understanding” their identity. Is this really the party of Thatcher? Was Thatcher ever so cruel? Because rest assured this law is cruel. But it is also pointless.

This law is pointless

Cameron seems to think that deporting the wives of Muslim migrants after 2.5 years is going to prevent terrorism. Maybe he really hates his wife, so much that he wouldn’t resent the government if it took her from him after 2.5 years, or maybe he’s just really ignorant, but does he not think that separating families on completely arbitrary grounds might possibly be a source of radicalization? Even putting aside the obvious counter-productive images (and court cases) we’ll be seeing in 2.5 years’ time, there are so many reasons why this law is targeted at all the wrong people. For starters, all the people we know of who were radicalized in the UK appear to have been born there, and seem to speak really good English that the “intelligence” services try to track down by using a database of regional British accents. Secondly, it’s likely that the standard they set for staying in the UK is going to be pretty low, and well below the level at which it is possible to debate nuances of religious theory, so it’s unlikely that whatever English skills the spouses learn will be sufficiently advanced to enable us to engage with them to prevent radicalization, or for them to be exposed to anti-radicalization messages by chance. Thirdly, if the reason they’re being held back from learning English is “patriarchy” as Cameron suggests[1], it’s unlikely that the spouses are the people we have to worry about in the first place.

Finally, of course, Cameron previously introduced a law that requires migrants to the UK to have a certain minimum amount of savings before they can bring their spouse. This amount is high enough that it’s unlikely your average Middle Eastern migrant will be able to bring their spouse over in the first place unless they’re from a social class that already speaks English really well – or are a refugee. Which means that this law is going to break up refugee families in 2.5 years’ time – as if they hadn’t been through enough hoops just to get to the UK. A cynic would suggest that was his purpose all along …

This cruel stupidity would make UKIP blush

Immigration policy under the Tories has been moving into the gutter over the past few years. The savings requirements for bringing one’s spouse over are vicious, nasty policy that achieves nothing at the expense of perfectly legitimate relationships between British people and their foreign lovers. These laws are absolutely reprehensible, unjustifiable nastiness. The new proposal simply adds a new level of viciousness to a migration system that is vindictive and petty beyond all reason. All of this is being done because Cameron is desperate to show he is tough on migrants without actually touching the main source of UK voters’ apprehensions about migration: Europe. Cameron is campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU even though most of the British public are skeptical, and even those who want to stay in the EU want to see the end of the rules on free movement. He can’t do that and keep his business mates happy, so he needs to try and show he is doing something to keep out migrants to counterbalance his weakness on this issue. But the real source of British fears about jobs and benefits is EU migration, not a couple of badly spoken Muslim wives. Publicly humiliating those women will work for him in the short term, but will it fool grassroots Tories in the referendum? Or will we see the UK leave the EU even as it introduces ever harsher, ever stupider rules on non-EU migrants?

I think we will. And I think those rules will be a disaster to ordinary families, and will do nothing to prevent extremism.

fn1: Good to see a once radical idea becoming a mainstream conservative principle. I’m looking forward to mandatory gay sex abortions for all British citizens now that the Tories have found their radfem groove.

Hiding out

Hiding out

Date: 25th November

Weather: Clear, cloudless skies and nuclear fallout

Outfit: I’m in my underwear right now, and some kind of sealskin cape that Pops insisted I wear because he can’t just let me lounge around in the crash zone in comfortable clothes can he? And the only other clothes we have are our body armour, which is all sweaty and stinky after a hard fight. It’s not like Coyote and Ghost have never seen a girl in her underwear before (well, I guess they maybe haven’t, though Coyote likes to drop lots of hints that he is friends with all kinds of crazy girls, but you take one look at that pistol of his and you know there’s a lot of compensation going on, so maybe I should cover up!)

Mood: Bereft! And kind of suspicious! That stupid Carnage guy died too slow, and he managed to get my precious sniper rifle off me and throw it into the sea, the stupid little thug. Of course I killed him but that rifle was worth a lot! Still, we got his bikes, and his cyberware, so I guess we’ll come out on top, but right now here we are in the wilds of the crash zone and I don’t have my best gun! And now we have to have a long, hard talk about that stupid girl we brought with us, who is coming on like the helpless daughter with Pops, who is a sucker for a damsel in distress. Maybe I should have sliced her up when I had the chance …

News: We haven’t had a lot of time for channel surfing, but when we opened a brief comms link with Alt we got a big download of news, and it looks like Arasaka have gone crazy in New Horizon. The whole city is in lockdown and Arasaka have invested a lot of areas, so there’s ground fighting going on even in Main Hub. Arasaka have got a lot of troops in there, and seem to have run some kind of huge hack on the city, so Goliath FBRs are turning and attacking Goliath soldiers. But Goliath have deployed some kind of twisted new soldier that is half cyberware and half robot, but they’re monstrous things and they’re immune to hacking. There are big holes opening up in the pits and things crawling out of them, and everyone is fighting everyone while the FBR’s go crazy and scream their rage in a voice we have all heard before. Arasaka have also started taking over small countries and city states across the Pacific. Something big is happening, and we’re out here on the edge, in the Crash Zone, with no chance to profit. Good timing, really, since Arasaka would surely have found me and Pops if we’d stayed in New Horizon. Maybe it’s time to move on …

All is not quiet on the home front ...

All is not quiet on the home front …

So we got to the top of the oil rig and of course the moment Pops and Coyote stepped up onto the platform where our bikes were they stumbled straight into this stupid Carnage guy, who thinks he’s cool because he’s got a bit of cyberware and the kind of hairdo an Oil Age Rocker would be embarrassed by. Fortunately me, Ghost and our captives were out of sight on the stairs leading up, so I could creep up to near the edge of the platform while the boys did that thing they call “negotiation,” where they pretend to be trying to make a deal with each other so that when the dust and blood settles everyone can claim they were trying to be reasonable and it’s really the dead guy’s fault that it didn’t all work out, and isn’t it funny that it’s always the dead guy who was the unreasonable “negotiator”? This time they had to pretend to care about the bikes, and what was a fair trade for letting us just take the bikes and go, even though we all know that no one is just going to give away their bikes, and even if Carnage was stupid enough to give up his motors he was going to change his mind the moment he saw us hustling Sam across the platform. Still, Pops and Coyote thrust out their chests and acted tough for just long enough for me to get up near the platform, so at least one of us was ready to do the sensible thing and put a bullet in Carnage when the inevitable breakdown happened.

Then of course the breakdown happened, but in amongst all the posturing Pops had let Carnage get close enough that Carnage managed to knock his chain gun out of line, and he ended up shooting holes in the ceiling instead of Carnage. By the time I got up onto that platform and got my gun level, Pops had been disarmed and thrown across the room, and Coyote’s cyberdog had somehow managed to cover him in a super-deadly electrified net[1], and Coyote was shooting one of Carnage’s minions. I put a bullet in Carnage’s leg while he was standing gloating over Pops’s immobile body, but somehow that bullet didn’t blow his leg off[2]. There were three other guys up there, some sciencey dude in a white coat and two soldiers with assault rifles who were too slow to do anything useful. It didn’t look particularly bad – three on four, since Ghost was back on the stairs keeping Sam and Theo calm – but this Carnage dude was obviously bad news and now Pops was down and Carnage was laughing like he had a whole bunch of trouble still to come. And Coyote was pretty badly damaged from the battle downstairs, so only really me and the four of them.

So I let my ghost out.

She’s been clamouring to come out since this started, like she can smell blood and tears. Or maybe she can hear the happiness singing in me when I’m on the move, shooting and killing, and she wants a part of the only thing that makes me feel anything. Mostly I can keep her down, but she’s a part of me now, growing stronger every time I fight, tense and strong in my limbs when the action starts, and she can feel as clearly as me when the odds are stacked against us. At that time she starts to sing in me, a low, growling hiss of static telling me she needs blood and smoke, a creeping need for speed and death. When it’s just the joy of killing I can hold her off and take it all for myself, like down on the deck when it was just me and my team against a horde of amateurs, but when I start to feel the edge, when the risk begins to stack up, that static hiss becomes a raging tempest of need, a storm howling inside me for release, and I can’t hold her back then. So I let a bit of her free, just a bit, enough to let the pressure off her, and to make me better.

I don’t like to let her free, because I think she might kill my friends too.

So she came out, just that little angry sliver, and in we went. Somehow Pops had shaken off that net the stupid dog put on him, and unloaded an entire magazine into Carnage, but that wasn’t enough to stop him – he was down on one knee but that freakish arm was still functioning and he didn’t even look worried even though he’d just taken a swarm of armour piercing bullets. Coyote was busy fighting the sciencey guy, who had stolen his sword, but I was ignoring that because Carnage was where the danger was. Carnage was fast, and as my ghost was seeping out he was still faster than me, so before I could shoot him with another round from my rifle he extended the whiplike cyberarm that had thrown Pops like a ragdoll, and tore my rifle out of my hands.

No matter, I switched to my assault rifle and let rip on him with a burst of high explosive armour piercing. Even that didn’t take him down, though I destroyed one leg and wrecked one arm. Over there in the shadows of the building Coyote was fighting with the sciency guy still and his dog was blowing up the other two soldiers with a fusillade of rockets, but here on the edge of the wreckage Pops was reloading and distracted by the net, so it was just me and Carnage.

And that’s when something slipped. Maybe I’d been distracted by Coyote’s battle with the scientist, or that stupid dog, but I missed something, and suddenly my ghost broke out[3]. She just came howling out, like the frozen wind off the steppes blowing down onto the beach in winter, cutting through you like you’re just bones and whistling over the ice in the bay. And it was just like back in that bay, when I had to sink down cold and lonely on the beach, listening to my father’s bitter imprecations, cursing me into the rocks and the ice as a useless thing, while he dug a hole in the ice and his men lugged their cloth-wrapped, blood-soaked burden over the ice to the hole, and I crouched there hugging my knees against the cold wind and my father’s colder anger, trying to stay silent and hoping I wouldn’t cry because my tears make him madder and the wind freezes them on my face and afterwards the shame of being weak in front of those horrible men stings me more than icy tears ever will, but I’m still too small and helpless to know that one day I will become a whirling storm of death and destruction and everywhere men dying will whisper my name just right before they beg for their mothers who never come. So I sink down behind the rocks and ice as that wind roars over me and just hope I can come back from the cold.

Drew will fix it ...

Drew will fix it …

I don’t know what I did but I came back standing on the stairs just below the platform, my blood-soaked katana held against Sam’s neck[4]. Ghost hadn’t even seen me coming and was staring at me with this stupid goldfish face, and Theo was so useless that he was still raising his gun to point at me, when I sank gasping to my knees on the steps. Carnage was dead, and Pops and Coyote were looting the platform when I returned to it, helped by Ghost. We hustled then, getting everyone onto bikes, and lighted off that platform as fast as we could on four separate bikes. An AV from Alt’s crew tried to follow us but we gave it the slip, and Coyote sent Alt a brief message telling her that things had got complicated and we needed to get away to a safe place with Sam. Then we headed off to the Crash Zone.

The Crash Zone is maybe six hours at full bike speed, if you’re avoiding New Horizon. You end up in this messed up slaughterhouse, a stretch of what was once China covered in wrecked cities and the occasional radioactive wasteland. I guess we ended up in what was once Guangzhou, that was then a city of 30 million people before a series of fusion reactor explosions turned it into a wasteland. There are people living in there, and whole ecosystems of post-apocalyptic madness stretched across a large portion of the coast of what was once China, and that’s where we went. Eventually we settled down into this tableau of wrecked trains under a crumbling highway bridge, to have a small chat…

We put the bikes down and set up inside one of the wrecked train carriages. I helped Sam relax and clean herself up, and while I did so I made sure to mention that if she messed around with Pops I would gut her like a seal – just a sisterly warning, so she doesn’t make any stupid mistakes – and I also thought about sending a message to Alt telling her where we were, because Coyote and Pops had turned off all our signalling gear and weren’t going to turn it on until we knew what our next steps were. They seem to think it’s very important that we discuss whether we should hand Sam over to Alt or not, and they had a big argument over it.

That’s not a conversation I’m interested in. Alt is getting Sam. That’s what I promised to do, and that’s what I am going to do. Those two can debate whatever they want as long as they want, but I know where Sam is going to end up. I messed up once crossing Arasaka, and the price on my head is growing every day that they can’t find me, I don’t need more people chasing me because my team suddenly decide they haven’t got a taste for the human trafficking they signed up to do. Last time Arasaka sent Pops, but Alt will never make the mistake of sending someone as broken and fragile as Pops – whoever she sends will be much, much crueler than sentimental old uncles like Pops. I aim to die fighting, not strangled in my bed by some transhumanist monstrosity in the pay of a woman I had no intention of ever crossing. And I can’t die fighting if I’m constantly hiding from all the enemies my team makes because they can’t keep themselves from “protecting” the first mark they find who acts vaguely feminine around them.

Sam is obviously older than she looks. It’s easy to think she’s some kind of vulnerable prodigal daughter, like an angel who fell to earth to look after that broken flock of Children of Exalta, but I’m not looking at her soft little heart-shaped face and her gentle eyes the way the boys are. She’s older than Pops, and she holds a secret that corporations have been killing their way across the planet looking for. Everyone who knew Sam is dead or dying, and everywhere she goes she leaves a wake of destruction and wrecked lives. She’s the custodian of some dark and deadly secret so valuable that those who seek it will brook no mercy, no compassion and no error in their quest. Whatever evil spirit of destruction stalks her will find us too if we don’t keep moving, and get rid of her as soon as we can.

Sometimes I know she catches me watching her and before I can put on my face I think she sees what the boys don’t – that there’s nothing in here her pretty looks and pleas of innocence can touch. To me she’s meat, just meat, chum in the water, and I have to get clear of her before the sharks start to circle. And I will.

No matter what.

fn1: Drew is a solo but somehow managed to get the worst possible initiative roll, so by the time she got onto the platform everyone had acted, Carnage had used some kind of mega-cyberware to throw Pops around and Coyote’s dog had rolled a fumble. It’s a crowd-control police dog, which is why it has a super-deadly net and a swarm of armour piercing missiles in its chest. Go figure.

fn2: 39 on 9d10 wtf? I have the worst luck.

fn3: Once I unleash the ghost I have to make a check every round. Of course I fumbled it immediately. I have the WORST luck.

fn4: I actually killed Carnage with this sword, and then ran down the steps to attack Sam but recovered myself at the last. This is relevant because the rules for the Russian ghost state that I must always attack the nearest, biggest threat…

Let's be good to each other this year, too!

Let’s be good to each other this year, too!

Another year has come to a close, and as I relax on the laziest day of the Japanese year, I naturally think about all the great gaming I have done over the past year, and my plans for next year. Although I only have one gaming group, which we loosely refer to as Team WTF, and this year our gaming group’s cohesion has been compromised by life commitments, it’s been a pretty great year. Here’s a brief review of our main campaigns and the one-offs I have enjoyed in this year of gaming.

New Horizon Campaign

Our regular, ongoing campaign has been our Cyberpunk campaign, set in the fantastic multi-tiered city of New Horizon and GM’d by the Fantastic Mr. E (not me). This campaign started in 2014, and we’re up to the 16th or 17th session, all of which I have recorded here. Most of my campaign reports are written in the voice of my character, Dedicated Retribution Unit 471 (Involuntarily Demobilized), aka The Druid or Drew. Drew is a 19 year old girl with pscyhopathic tendencies who is good at only one thing: shooting people. She is also very poorly educated and not so bright, and playing her is really fun – she’s been one of the most entertaining characters I ever played, and an excellent evolution from a similar girl I played in a Feng Shui campaign some years ago.

This cyberpunk campaign has been a GMing revelation. Our GM has put so much effort into the world and the plot, and produced such a convincing world and adventure, that even though we all agree the system sucks (seriously, Cyberpunk 2020 is bad news), we have been completely immersed in our world and really enjoying every aspect of what has been a very tough campaign so far. This campaign will probably end sometime around March, which means it will be up around 20-22 sessions and have lasted 18 months, a pretty sterling effort for a group of working adults. It will be, I think, one of the most memorable campaigns I have ever played in.

After the Flood mini-campaign

I managed to GM a short campaign called After the Flood, set in a post-apocalyptic ocean world based on the books by Stephen Baxter. This world has been flooded by some geological catastrophe (not global warming) and all the land but for a small patch of the Himalayas has been drowned. Set about 70 years after the catastrophe, the campaign followed the adventures of a small group of operatives for an ocean community called the Gyre, as they first tried to recover some vital information on lost resources, and then explored a possible lost community in the Arctic. This campaign was run using the Cyberpunk rules as well, because they seemed suited to the low-tech and basic nature of the world, and although it was only six or seven sessions long it was a really enjoyable world to game in. The game reports are on this blog, along with a bunch of background material, but I wrote the whole thing into a book that you can download in pdf form.

GMing this campaign was a lot of fun, even though it had no magic and was very rules-lite. I intend to revisit this again sometime in the next year, but to run it using a Fate-type system that is a bit more freeform and a little less punishingly stupid than the Cyberpunk system.

Spiral Confederacy Campaign

I also started GMing a Traveler campaign in a post-scarcity space opera setting called the Spiral Confederacy. We’ve only played four sessions so far with a reduced crew, on off-sessions, but it has run well and I’m enjoying it, though rumours have reached my ears that some of my players find the system itself boring. The settings so far have been great – an exploding space station over a blockaded desert world, an encounter with a huge and super-powerful space ship, and an ice planet with strange spiders and behemoths – and the PCs seem to have been caught up in some kind of human trafficking mystery by their own stupidity.

I’m really excited by the possibility of a big campaign arc for this setting, with a lot of mystery and conflict along the way, and hoping that in 2016 this can become our main campaign commitment once Cyberpunk finishes. It’ll be my first Traveler campaign in 20 years and hopefully will involve wide exploration of a galaxy that is part Culture, part Firefly and part Star Wars. I’m hoping we can achieve big things in the gulf between the stars this year!

One-off adventures

In 2015 I also joined a couple of one-offs, though my work schedule prevented me from enjoying all the games our group played. I GMd two sessions of Warhammer 3, running an old Warhammer 2 adventure, Slaves of Destiny, for two stupendously strong Dwarf PCs, which the players say they want to continue with more players in 2016. At the beginning of the year I joined an entertaining Dark Heresy adventure set in the Hive Desoleum, playing a fanatical voidborn seeker called Suleiman the Lost. Playing Dark Heresy is fun because it is so comically grim, and you can really let out all your inner demons in a world where no one is innocent and no measures too extreme. The adventure I joined was finished in a subsequent session, with a lot of heretic-burning and sacrifice before the chaos was hunted out and destroyed, but I wasn’t there for that, unfortunately. I don’t really like the Dark Heresy system, which is a shame because the universe is a lot of fun. One of our members, Tall B, objects to Dark Heresy as a campaign setting on the grounds that it is too grim, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this.

We also played a session of Seventh Sea, which I never got a chance to write up, in which I played a hilarious little arsehole called Tom Fumb, a tiny thief who “goes where ‘e’s gotta go, to do wot’s gotta get dun.” The Seventh Sea system is entertaining and it held a lot of promise but the session got drawn out and exhausting in a duel that no one could win (broken combat rules, I think). One of Team WTF’s members, Grim D, wants to run more of this, so I think we’ll be revisiting it sometime this year. More Tom Fumb will be awesome.

Finally I got to sample a brief End of the World adventure just before Christmas, my first ever attempt at playing in a zombie setting, and it was fun but not as satisfying as I expected. I missed out on Dragon Age, which the group ran as a 2-3 session mini-campaign, so I think in total this year I missed one Dark Heresy, a couple of Dragon Age and one Cyberpunk session.

Experimental writing

I also tried my hand at writing a few short stories for this blog in 2015, something I might try and do a little bit more of in 2016. I wrote a brief cyberpunk story, Naming Rites, about the past of one of the campaign characters, that got linked to on Reddit and attracted a tiny bit of attention. Along the same theme I wrote a bit of background for my cyberpunk character, Drew, called Russian Ghosts, and she also tried her hand at travel writing in A Siberian Druid in Venice, in which she takes a brief trip to Venice after killing the Pope. I wrote that while I was in Venice, as my attempt at offering a critique of some of the museum-like aspects of that strange town. I tried out a few other voices too, for example Gael the Plague Doctor in the Loser’s Vignette, my report of a Darkest Dungeon (computer) gaming session that didn’t work out. A lot of my writing is based on game reports, for example the attempt at fragmentary stories for Cyberpunk session 16 (Chaos Vignettes), but this year I aim to try my hand at a little more writing from outside of the games. I have also written a few personal posts this year, about growing up in the UK and Australia, and dealing with family, and I might put a little more of that on the blog too this year – I have things I want to say about growing up poor, and maybe some more historical gaming experiences to talk about. If I can find the time …

Gaming plans for 2016

In total this year I think I played or GM’d on average every fortnight, and our group met slightly more frequently than that, though we weren’t all present at every session. That’s a really excellent level of gaming for a group of adults in their 20s to 40s, with all the life commitments that adults have. I’m hoping that in 2016 we can maintain the pace. We lost one member, Killkat, to a different country, so we need to recruit new members. For 2016 I aim to explore other groups a bit, to see what else other people are doing and look for new members, but my main gaming goal for 2016 is to run a full-blown Spiral Confederacy campaign with Team WTF, and to see what fantastic adventures they can take me to in that universe. Let’s enjoy gaming together in 2016!


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