Thursday, May 24, 2018

Calumet Baking Powder and Symbolism of Native American Genocide In The Shining

One of the drawbacks of having the greatest artist in America, Jenny Mathews, as my partner, aside from taking a drink out of a glass containing paintwater occassionaly, is that she makes dozens of paintings that I want. This one that she did for the Come and Go Motel Show blows me away. I love the colors and pop art sensibility, but there's something else going on here. The theme of the Come and Go Motel Show is several area artists are given a motel room to set up their wares. I'm sharing a room with Spooky Houston, Food Stamp Davis, and Folk Goblin. I will be showing in the bathroom as Zombie Logic. Jenny's paintings are from famous spooky motels and hotels in horror movies, including the Overlook from The Shining.  

Calumet by Spooky Houston

There are a couple of reasons this is my favorite, and why I think it's sheer brilliance. Most fans of The Shining are familiar with the documentary Room 237 and the numerous fan and conspiracy theories surrounding the movie. Kubrick supposedly hid clues about everything from the the moon landing to the Holocaust in the scenery, but my favorite, and what I consider the most cohesive theory is that the genocide against Native Americans is the true curse of the Overlook. 

In this still we see both Tang and Calumet baking powder on the shelf behind Jack Nicholson, and it is postulated that since Kubrick was so obsessive about the details of his movies that this is no accident. 

I'm not sure how much baking powder would be used in a season at a hotel like the Overlook, so I can't say that's a lot of baking powder, but that seems like a lot of baking powder. 

And now that baking powder has been immortalized in a painting by Spooky Houston, a painting that can be seen at the Come and Go Motel Art Show June 29th, but don't be surprised to see a sold sign on it. 

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Our Tal' Dorei Campaign, Week Two: Greyskull Keep and Gilmour's Glorious Goods

Little did our party realize as we wrapped up our scrutinization of the murder scene at the estate of the nobleman Kormallis that we were about to be joined by a new member. From out of the sky the Firbolg Druid Large Silent Friend spotted a small dot growing larger and larger, until it was clear to him a very rare Phoenix was approaching rapidly with two riders. As it made its landing on the lawn, the Phoenix exploded into ashes, and the riders introduced themselves. The older, grey-haired gentleman was Professor von Schlezzler, a renowned necromancer and the head of the City Morgue inside the Alabaster Lyceum. But it was the younger, nerdy looking Tiefling that was soon to join us in our increasingly serpentine web of events. Her name was Amaris, and she was both a wizard and an apprentice of von Schlezzler, but an aspiring adventurer and aspirant to a position in the dark arts. The undead falcon that perched upon her shoulder and eyes us all stonily was a clear indication we were dealing someone marching to the beat of her own drum.

Meanwhile, inside the manor, the Fighter Bromm, standing in for the senator Tyronius, asked the servant if she had a key to Kormallis' library. She did, and went to her bedroom where the key was on a chain she retrieved from the bottom of a trunk. Simultaneously to Bromm finding Kormallis' journal in the library. Professor von Schezzler has cast a spell and animated the ghost of Kormallis, who arises and upon being questioned clearly does not realize he is dead. He is of no use and is allowed to go to his final rest.

Von Schlezzler, a seasoned investigator, working in tandem with his pupil, Amaris, soon concluded that Purple Worm poison had been used on Kormallis. This clue was key because Purple Worm poison could only be obtained in two places: The city of Kamil, or Greyskull Keep, the stronghold of the Vox Machina, though they had long ago all but abandoned it to move on to personal pursuits.

It was agreed Spork Fastwhiler would set off on his own to pursue the many leads he now had, including the story of Marshall Ulder Ravenguard, a hero in the battle against Vecna, who may have a very important role in the current murder spree, and the rest of the party would head to Greyskull Keep to determine if anyone had been there recently making an effort to obtain purple worm poison. Professor von Schlezzler gave his protege Amaris a sending stone and instructed her to join the search for evidence and report back with any discoveries we were able to make.

The trek to the lower slums and the Greyskull Keep was uneventful, and we arrived by nightfall. Along the way Pliz'skin, Bromm, and Trog had skads of indelicate questions for the "whore" Torie about her friend Daisy, but made little headway into gaining her trust with their hardboiled methods. However, with her more subtle approach, the hot nerdy wizard Amaris was able to elicit from the street-hardened Torie that Daisy an elf, and that had a mistrust and aversion to the City Watch, even though prostitution is not illegal in Emon. So why was she uneasy around the City Watch? 

Bromm, being Bromm, used his influence to send two underlings back to Syngorn to search for any official records that could shed some light on the Elven refugee. An Elven streetwalker was not a common thing. Something was amiss here. But what? Who was Daisy, and who was she possible working for that got her killed?


Greyskull Keep, home of the Vox Machina. Sort of. 

Arriving finally at the grand and majestic Greyskull Keep, no particular investigative expertise was required to discover the two feet we saw sticking out from under the portcullis. Bromm shouted "I am a representative of the Senator from Syngorn, show yourself," but the feet did not show themselves. We soon discovered why. The third murder victim belonged to those feet. The scene was as grisly as the previous two, and done in the same ritualistic way, except this time it was the tongue that was removed. Trog used his Bloodhunting skills to determine no fiends or fey were involved in the heinous act. 

The party wanted to established a time frame in which the murder had been committed, and noticed neither the torches or brazers appeared to have been lit in days, making it apparent this crime had most likely been committed previous to the other two, which would mean the culprits had come specifically for purple worm poison, and maybe something else. But what? The only way to find out was to enter the keep.

Entering with no resistance and with no indication anyone else was present, we proceeded to a large hall that contained a table with nine chairs, maps, and artifacts we realized could only have belonged to the fabled Vox Machina. This was no doubt their war room. Nothing else in the room was of much interest, except a door to the West whose lock had been broken. 

A Glyph of warding was on the door, and the room beyond had seemingly been entered quite recently judging from the fire damage we witnessed. Apparently just breaking the lock was not the only condition essential for entering this room safely. Yet the ever-determined Monk Plis'skin set to work with his thieves' tools to perhaps disarm any traps, but in the attempt set off the glyph, burning himself badly. He was, however, able to determine the detonation of the fire glyph gave us fifteen seconds to enter the room, which all of us did. Once inside we knew were were in a treasure room worthy of the Vox Machina. Artifacts, potions, scrolls, and weapons of all types were present, including what we recognized as the Sword of Kas, used to defeat Vecna. It was also abundantly clear to us that disturbing any of these artifacts would certainly be a futile and fatal gesture. 

What we did note was that someone else had been more successful in purloining certain of these artifacts, including purple work poison, scrolls involving resurrection and contacting other planes, and the journals of the Vox Machina themselves. Whoever had managed to steal what was protected so well must have known what they were looking for and how to avoid being disintegrated doing so. 

But our pressing problem was how to get out of the room without activating the fiery glyph of warding again. Torie believed she had noticed a way to do it without activating the ward. She was wrong, and was burned severely on her arm. Large Silent Friend was able to heal her partially, and the rest of us exited the treasure room safely.

Trog insisted on moving forward, and we made our way to a door down the hall. Amaris contacted Professor von Schlezzler on her sending stone, relaying the information we had collected so far, and was told to continue ferreting out the castle. We made our way to the door at the end of the hall and found it to be locked. Plis'kin further discerned through careful scrutiny that any attempt to open the door without the proper key would activate a trap. The ever-sharp Trog postulated the caretaker we found at the gates of the keep might also have keys to the keep, which turned out to be exactly the case. The only slight complication is that he had ALL the keys. Twenty in all. The studious and observant Amaris believed she might be able to find the right key, and quickly decided she knew which one was right for this door.

Trog insisted he be the one to try the key, and as we braced for impact we were relieved to learn she was right. Sort of. The door didn't open, but a Magic Mouth appeared and refused to respond to any of our inquiries, including Bromm's declaration that he was some sort of official official from an official place. Instead we were informed that it was the mouth's duty to alert the Vox Humana that the door had been violated.

We heard a whoosh of wind outside the window, and a Half Elven Druid woman appeared from nowhere, with a walking stick that looked like an upside down umbrella. All residents of Exandria knew this was Keyleth, headmaster of the Air Ashari, and member of Vox Machina. What could she have thought seeing our motley crew inside of her Keep? Informing her that the gatekeeper had been murdered only raised her vexation with us as we became the prime suspects. We tried to explain how and why we came to the Keep to further investigate the series of murders that was happening, but she seemed far more concerned about the other caretaker of Greyskull Keep, Lynn, and increasingly vexed at our very presence in her sacred place.

Keyleth, headmaster of the Air Ashari

Bromm moved to question the druid, but her attention was entirely fixed on finding the other caretaker of Greyskull Keep. We split into two groups, and Keyleth went up the stairs with Bromm and Amaris went up the stairs to the caretaker's quarters, while Trog, Plis'kin, and Large Silent Friend entered the chapel, where all of the gods had alters. Seeing an alter to the Wild Mother surrounded by plants that had been neglected for several days, Large Silent Friend made his offering to the Wild Mother and quickly nursed the plants back to health, learning from them that they had been uncared for in five days, thereby confirming the timeline that had been established by Trog that the murders here had taken place even before the murders in Emon. The perpetrators had come here first. 

Upstairs Keyleth discovers the body of Lynn, treated in the same vulgar manner as the other murder victims,except in her case her eye was missing. The body was laid out in an outline of raven feathers, and a drawer that had been left partially opened had raven feathers strewn before it. 

It was at this inopportune moment that the always diplomatic Bromm made the error of questioning Keyleth about the ritual murders, the missing pages from her journal, and any possibility she may be involved in trying to resurrect her lover, Vax, who had sacrificed himself during the battle against Vecna, eventually being transformed into a revenant. His line of questioning was met by a flying backfist from the typically demure druid, and an admonition that "If you ever disrespect me or the memory of Vax again, I will wear your skin." However, Bromm's impetuous, ill-advised maneuver did get the druid to speak to summon us to the war room where she told us about many matters that shed light on the details of Vax's death, Vecna, and the betrayer Arkhan, the dragonborn betrayer of Vox Machina.

Banlys asked the very logical question why would Greyskull Keep, if it contained such important artifacts, be left to the protection of only two caretakers. Keyleth explained all members of Vox Machina would have been teleported back if anyone had disturbed any of the artifacts, raising more questions about who exactly could have known enough about circumventing the safeguards to enter and exit with certain artifacts without alerting the Vox Machina.

She wistfully related the tragic details of her last days with Vax'ildan, how he made a bargain with the Matron of Ravens that transformed him into a revenant, and how Arkhan had betrayed the Vox Machina to accrue power with the goal of opening the gates of hell and allowing his dark queen, the Scaled Tyrant, to return to this plane.

It was at this time the irascible Trog blurted out that he would like to speak to the hero of all Goliaths, Grog. Keyleth obliged, and Grog appeared. An instant later a huge tankard of ale appeared in Grog's hand. before Trog sat Grog Strongjaw, grand puba of the doink. Trog asked many questions of Grog, mostly about Arkhan and the cult of the Scaled Tyrant. This made Grog somewhat sullen and the sadness and regret showed in his demeanor, but he answered the questions put to him by his fellow Goliath. 

Grog Strongjaw

Bromm then opened up a line of questioning about the details of Vax's transformation into a revenant, and Arkhan's betrayel. The taciturn Goliath conveyed that he never thought Keyleth's attempt to allow Vax to live on was a good idea. Asked what ever became of the hand of Vecna, Grog boasted he cut it up into many pieces, then scattered it across the world, including dropping it into volcanoes, but he also volunteered the intriguing tidbit that Keyleth had requested and been given a piece of the thumb.

Trog then expressed his admiration for his hero and asked if he could have some memento from their meeting. The legendary warrior complied by removing his bracers and tossing them onto the table before Trog.

At this point we had so many possible paths to follow it all seemed overwhelming. Was Arkhan and his cult responsible for these murders in an attempt to summon the Scaled Tyrant? Was someone trying to resurrect Vecna? Was it even possible Keyleth was so grief-stricken by the loss of Vax that she had resorted to dark methods in an attempt to bring her love back? Was there even another shadowy player who was yet to reveal its presence behind all of this mayhem? 

Little remained to be done at the Greyskull Keep, but Amaris wanted to perform one more examination of the second caretaker's body, and doing so discovered stone flecks consistent with the skin of a basilisk. What part did this creature play in this fourth murder, or more accurately, the second murder, but the fourth we had discovered?

Leaving the Keep Keyleth implored us to find the missing pages of her journal, which were about her relationship with Vax, not any dark plot to resurrect her lover, and when we found them were were to not read a word of it.

Plis'skin says he knows a place where we might learn more about how all of these elements come together, and soon we found ourselves at Gilmour's Glorious Goods. Plis'skin now takes the lead and asks the woman behind the counter, a half-elf named Sherri, if anyone has been in recently looking for basilisk poison. She quickly says she must go to the back to inform Sean Gilmour, human sorcerer, and owner of Gilmour's Glorious Goods, that we are asking. Plis'skin tried to follow her to the back, which made her very uncomfortable, and when Sean Gilmour appeared he upbraided Plis'skin about being creepy, then looked into his eyes and said "Oh, you're Yuan-Ti, forget it."

Gilmour's Glorious Goods


When asked about the basilisk poison, Gilmour related the tale of a recent employee he had, named Amnon, who had begun acting suspiciously, snooping through Sean's journals and customer logs, eventually absconding with several valuable magic items, darts, disguises, and basilisk poison. He didn't believe Amnon was a bad fellow, just misguided, or perhaps run amok. But by whom? Bromm at this point excused himself to the washroom, where he discovered a magic hole in which to do whatever business he had intended to do, and Plis'skin and Sean retired to Sean's office, where the details of their discussion remains unknown to the rest of the party.

When the two emerged Plis'skin inquired about a hat of disguise he was enamored with, and was told it cost 500 gp. The party had no way to pay for such an item, so Bromm stepped in and asked if he could run a line of credit in Tiberius the Senator from Singhorn's name. Sean agreed, but said any item not paid for in sixty days would have it's magical powers reversed. At this point Bromm reneged and left the establishment. At this point the wily Plis'skin signed the contract Sean had pulled out, and was the proud owner of a hat of disguise.

As his final nicety, Sean told us he was actually quite a good friend and benefactor of the Vox Machina, and put us on our way to the dock district where he believed Amnon lived, having sent him a turkey as a gift on a recent holiday. The rest of us left Sean's Glorious Gifts and rejoined Bromm. 

Thus ended week two of our Tal' Dorei campaign. With more questions than answers, for sure. 

Review what happened in week one 





















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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Tal' Dorei Night One Notes From Planescape Tuesdays

Our Tal' Dorei campaign began last night, and none of us knew what to expect as we sat down at the table. I think it's safe to say none of us was expecting a gritty, noir-style murder mystery. Which is what we got.

Taking place some time after the Vox Machina had dispatched the dreaded Chroma Conclave and the bane arch lich Vecna, our campaign begins in an Emon rebuilt partially by the crime syndicate The Clasp, and restored to a thriving city of some 280,000 creatures, mostly human, but with a substantial population of humanoid creatures of all races. A cosmopolitan city with a robust shopping district, government, military, and noble classes, as well as busy docks and slums. The Vox Machina is still with us, but has largely moved on to other pursuits away from Emon, maintaining Greyskull Keep just outside the slums on the Southern side of the city. It is a time ripe for new heroes.  

How we all got to the capital city of Emon is still a little hazy, but the seven of us found ourselves settling in various sections of the city, not knowing each other at all.

My name is Large Silent Friend, at least that's what the creatures of the forest call me, and since I am a Firbolg I have no name but the one I am given by those around me. I was exiled from my tribe as an adolescent when I inadvertently caused the death of a magical creature I wanted to show to my elders. I grew up in the forest guided by the Wild Mother. But recently Ravagers have been encroaching into these sacred lands. And where there is evil, Blood Hunters seem to follow, and that's how I met Banlys the Aarackocra and Trog the Goliath, both Blood Hunters I moved to Emon with last week.

We arrived in Emon on the 11th day of Undular, at the height of the festival, which meant nothing to any of us. We crashed at the meager apartment of  Banlys' and Trog's mentor, Thelius, who was happy to see us, but having two giants and a bird in his small space soon started to try his nerves. We needed to move, but first we needed jobs. Fortunately for us our first opportunity in Emon soon knocked on the door. Literally.


The City of Emon, capital of Tal' Dorei

A former City Guard turned private detective named Spork Fastwhiler knocked on the door and demanded to speak with Thelius. He seemed as if he had just ended up on the losing end of a tussle, and we soon were to learn this was exactly the case. While investigating the strange, ritual murder of a street walker he had been swept up into a mystery that was soon to involve us all. The mystery was soon to entail ritualistic murders, missing hearts,  raven feathers, cults,  necromancers, The Matron of Ravens, the two local crime syndicates The Clasp and the Myriad, and who knows who or what else, but it became clear a chain of events had been set in place that would eventually effect all of Emon, and the entire world itself.

But what part did we play in this Universal imbroglio?

What did Spork already know that he wasn't telling us? What the three of us did know, and we had to take Spork's observations at face value, was that he was contracted by a street walker named Torie to investigate the murder of her friend, named Daisy, in an alley in the dock district near Thelius' apartment. Pouring over the scene, which had already been combed over in a cursory way by a clearly unconcerned City Guard, Spork deduced the grisly murder was actually a much more coordinated and surgical attempt to remove the young girl's heart. And what part did the raven feathers play in the scenario?

His investigation soon led him to the Frozen Sicle tavern where he quickly realized a Clasp member was using a corner table to sell alura root. He learned the Clasp member's name was Dagger, and he was soon to find out why. Following him out of the Frozen Sicle he saw Torie on an adjacent corner, and decided to cross the street and join her to spy on Dagger. Against her admonitions, he followed Dagger to a shabby tenement where the small-time alura dealer was apparently waiting to confront him, drawing both his daggers. But before the two could scuffle a Tiefling named Chastity entered the scene and attacked Spork psychically, causing him to fall to the floor clutching his suddenly aching head. Dagger seized this opportunity to redraw his daggers and "suggest" it might be a good time for the private dick to retreat from the dock district. The bull-headed Spork dug in and was resolute to not accept the recommendation, but Torie convinced him otherwise.

And soon after Spork knocked on Thelius' door. Which is where me, Trog, and Banlys' story begins. However, the story does not start without some bruised feelings, as Spork insulted Trog by referring to him as dumb muscle. I saw my new friend bristle and restrain his rage, being the disciplined creature he is, but I knew the slight would not soon be forgotten.

Spork had questions for Thelius. Questions about necromancers. Questions about the Matron of Ravens. Questions about missing hearts and the Myriad and the Clasp. Being a seasoned Blood Hunter, Thelius knew quite a lot about each topic, but there were aspects of this crime that mystified even him. Further investigation was needed, and Thelius was all too happy to suggest the three of us move into Spork's office for the night pursuant to meeting with a monk of the Cobalt Soul who might know more about the mysterious events that were unfolding. We rested and headed to the Temple District first thing in the morning.

That's where we met Pliz'skin the monk of the Cobalt Soul.


Pliz'skin, Monk of the Cobalt Soul


Was he happy to see us?

Probably not.

Was he hiding something?

Probably.

Steely, cold, and matter of fact, Pliz'skin listened to our story, then was instructed by his master to join us to help solve this mystery. He didn't seem to like us, but he was skilled, confident, and clearly more than capable of handling himself. Our group now included five.


The Druid Large Silent Friend

We were a group set in motion to discover who it was that was seeking dark knowledge.

Dark names and societies dedicated to evil were bandied about. Was it a cult of the Matron of Ravens? Was it the Chain of Oblivion? Adherents of the Scaled Tyrant? Maybe just one solitary madman, albeit a very powerful madman adept in necromancy and ritual. One piece of evidence that could not be overlooked is that the raven feathers had been magically treated so as to not be traced. That was a powerful magic and limited the search to powerful necromancers and certain cults. But it did not limit it to one, and so the search was afoot.

The master of the Cobalt Soul set us on a path to the Alabaster Lyceum. The Alabaster Lyceum is the arcane college and research facility for magical and divine artifacts in the city of Emon.

"The building appears to be built out of white marble, with very high ceilings, stretching up in some areas as high as 80 feet. Much of the building appears to be lit by magical orbs that are either set into the walls or into chandeliers. Some of the rooms have carved pillars depicting battles between devas and demons that spiral up the pillars. The building has guards near the entrances adorned with silver and gold armor wearing elven-like helmets." -from criticalrolewikia 

 So we were off to the Alabaster Lyceum, where adolescent guards refused us entry. We had no written appointment. It was at this time that Trog's anger, still seething from Spork's initial insult. boiled over. He angrily pounded on the force field of the Lyceum and demanded that he be allowed to enter the college of knowledge despite their refusal. The force field held, and we were sent on our unmerry way to seek written permission to enter the arcane college.


Trog Gunga Galunga (Googie) the Goliath Blood Hunter 


Our adventure next took us to the Cloudtop District and the office of the Master Arcanist, Allura Vysoren. A headstrong bureaucrat of the highest order, she also was less than overjoyed to see us. In fact, she was already expecting to meet with the august senator from Syngorn, Tyronius. The only snag is that Tyronius was back in Syngorn with a five day migraine, and had sent his seneschal Bromm to stand in for him. Vysoren was not amused. As the lackey hemmed and hawed, trying to stave off the bureaucrat's rising anger, the conflagration was further complicated by an unannounced investigator's knock on the door. "If this isn't about a murder I have no time for you Vysoren roared," but just as she said those words her sending stone began to glow, and as her eyes rolled back in her head she received the message that the nobleman Kormallis had been murdered in the most grisly and macabre way.

Although Spork's story about the murdered street walker fell on deaf ears, the new revelation that a nobleman had been murdered in a similar manner sparked the overly officious officials' interest, and Bromm was charged with the task of escorting us to the crime scene to investigate and report back the new details of what had now become an official case. We were to meet the detective Marcolas and stay out of her hair while simultaneously doing our own inspection of the crime scene.

This time it wasn't the opulent gentleman's heart that was missing, it was his liver. However, the modus operandi was exactly the same: an expert break-in and entry followed by a grisly mauling and disfiguring of the body, excepting the part of the body that was to be surgically removed, which miraculously remained pristine. Raven feathers had been pressed into the carefully scattered parts and were found under the fingernails. It was a scene that seemed carefully orchestrated to make it appear as if the Matron of ravens was involved. 

Was she? Did someone just want us to think so to throw us off the track?

Spork and Bromm and Pliz'skin culled over the scene of the crime while the rest of us waited outside. They questioned Kormallis' servants, an aged husband and wife, gleaning whatever clues they could from them. On a whim Large Silent Friend decided to talk to the hedge maze and see if the shrubbery had noticed anything unusual the previous night. To his surprise, they did, and told him of two creatures with skin the color of nightfall who had entered through the east door and exited through the west. They asked if they would ever see their beloved master again and were told by LSF that he had passed into the next realm. The Bloodhunter Trog recognized their description of the infernal looking creatures as Tieflings, and the session concluded with us wondering if all of this was related to the Tiefling Chastity who had sent Spork to the floor clutching his head the previous evening.

The session ended with all six of us wondering where this mystery would take us. And what exactly had the Bloodhunter Banlys observed? I am sure there are now six different versions of reality that we must piece together in an effort to work together as a cohesive team to solve this mystery and defend our new home against whatever sinister and dark forces are at work here. 


Dramatis Personae

1) Large Silent Friend: Firbolg Druid
2) Banlys: Aarakocra Blood Hunter
3) Trog Gunga Galunga (Googie): Goliath Blood Hunter
4) Bromm: Human Fighter
5) Spork Fastwhiler: Human Ranger
6) Pliz'skin: Monk 
7) Tyronius: Half-Elf Warlock
8) Travis Legge. Dungeon Master 

















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Sunday, April 29, 2018

You're Always Playing Planescape Whether You Know It or Not

Our Planescape Tuesdays campaign that started in Dragonlance and ended up with the Great Wheel turning and wiping the entire multiverse out of existence concluded this Tuesday. Well, to be truthful, the campaign began almost two years ago with a cast of characters that didn't even include many of the people who were in the room Tuesday night, and only three of the characters, Rowan, Dench, and Kerfuffle, but nonetheless as the great light overtook us and the Great Wheel turned, eight of us were playing the fifteen characters remaining in our campaign. My two characters were the High Elf Bloodrut Silverthistle and the human Elritch Knight Perterberator.



Bloodrut Silverthistle

This campaign actually began half a year ago confined to the world of Krynn, but soon spiraled out of control and careened towards the Planescape campaign we though had concluded prior to starting Dragonlance. My character, Bloodrut Silverthistle, is a High Elf wizard who dreamed that there were other worlds out there somewhere. Turns out there were, and as soon as the mists of Boravia rolled in and the spider queen Lolth made her presence known, Bloodrut's only goal was to somehow get out of Krynn. 

I'll tell that story later, at least what I remember, but what was so memorable about Tuesday night's finale is when we got to the DM's house he had a plastic hex stage laid out on the table and a box full of plastic miniatures at the ready. Being the final showdown of a two year campaign we knew we were in for a battle royale that included at the very least our mortal enemies Lolth and Acererak, but soon expanded to include Orcus and the Gnoll god Yeenoghu. 

Aramus Perterberator

I'd had a couple of weeks to strategize for this battle as we played one offs until we could get everyone in the same room, and the strategy that seemed to make the most sense, and ultimately worked, was to attack Lolth with my Great Weapons Master bonus, then use Arcane Charge as a bonus action to teleport away, also casting Ottilukes Resilient Sphere with Action Surge (I'm 20th level). Bloodrut's strategy was to prepare for inevitably being reduced to zero hit points, which she did by casting a Contingency spell that would activate a Blink spell if she were reduced to zero hit points, which eventually happened, sending her to the Ethereal Plane. Since she had a Ring of Healing she was restored to at least one hit point and would still be there floating around if the entire Universe hadn't ended only moments later. 

Even though her plan was to hang back and play a support role, perhaps buff others up and even throw in a damaging spell if possible, Bloodrut got to steal the show for a moment when she thrust herself into the middle of the action and decided to go for broke and cast a Disintegrate spell against Lolth, who had been taking oceans of damage from our fighters. What Bloodrut did not plan for is that Lolth would roll a critical fail, thus not making her saving throw at all AND doubling the damage, which turned out to be a mammoth 164 points. 

As is our tradition, our DM asked me how I wanted it to go and I said "So long, Arachnerd." Lolth slowly melted into a pile of component spiders, then was gone from our Planescape world.... forever.

However the battle was not over. Orcus and Yeenoghu remained, but were soon to be rejoined by Perterberator and Patsy the Minotaur's nemesis... Acererak.


Patsy Tightbreeze. The Minotaur.


With that blood-curdling cackle he had become famous to our party for in our skirmishes at The Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, and seemingly everywhere else we ever traveled, the legendary lich was called back by the demon prince Orcus for one last go-around. No matter how many times we thought we had killed Acererak, made a deal with Graz'zt to trap him in sphere of annihilation on a desolate demi-plane forever, or just plane blasted him off the battlefield as we had only moments before, the son-of-a-bitch always returned. 

And every damn time he was cocksure that he was going to show us a beating like we'd never imagined.

I don't think the group has ever had a better time. The Old Grand-Dad was flowing, and nothing our DM threw at us could stop us. The gnome Gnixon had a wish gun he fired after a couple of rounds of sustaining damage and restored us to full hit points and spell slots. From that point, no one, not even the gods and demon lords stood a chance against us. 

As the battle wound down the light overtook us and the Great Wheel spun. The world we had known was no more, but the new Bard of Ormin, our very own party member Argar Da'argagaar was allowed one final act, and he chose to teleport us all to the False City of  Ormin to live out our lives in the new world. 



Both Bloodrut and Perterberator had mixed feelings about never being able to leave Ormin and join the eternal battle again, but the world on Krynn that Bloodrut wanted to change no longer existed, anyway, and as for Perterberator, he holds out hope that never really never means never and he'll find a way to slip free from the peaceful prison of Ormin and re-establish The Hall of Bad Dudes and travel the planes righting wrongs and spreading freedom and enlightenment for all. 





With a face like this there's no way Aargar can walk the straight and narrow forever. Aargar and Perterberator will be out there again someday soon doing what they do best: cause problems, then solve them. 

As for our group: we're on to Tal' Dorei. 
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Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Venus 2000" By Rockford Artist Joe Tallman

Last weekend we went to Joe Tallman and Allison Wuest's show at J.R. Kortman here in Rockford, and I saw this piece that really knocked me out. Since my heart surgery I'm always drawn to works of art about the human heart, or in this case, the robot heart, which in my case has even more applicability. Jenny got me this piece for my birthday and had it framed by the resident genius at Mainfraim. Aside from it just being a wonderful piece, I like that three different local artists and gallery owners can share in the benefits. I think we should all make an effort to buy from people we know in our own neighborhoods. 

"Venus 2000" By Joe Tallman. See more from Rockford artist Joe Tallman here
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A Few Fantasy Novels Banned At My High School During the Satanic Panic

During the rabid years of the Satanic Panic, circa 1983, they started removing books from the Byron High School library, then eventually cracked down on anyone playing Dungeons and Dragons on school property or reading "objectionable" books on school grounds. All  weekend I've been trying to recreate in my memory a list of a few of those books. Then I did what I always do: I went to Ebay and Abe Books and started buying those books for my library. Surprisingly, after that episode in my teen years I never read sci fi or fantasy at all, but for the past year I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons on Tuesday nights and my interest has been rekindled.

Before I list the books I must relate another memory that puts it in a little more perspective for me. At that time we got a young librarian from NIU who was young enough to notice a bunch of us were hanging out during lunch and playing D and D instead of shooting baskets or outside smoking. He asked us what types of books we were interested in the library acquiring, and he got requests from a lot of us. 

We were overjoyed, and started checking the books out.

Others were apparently not overjoyed, and a few weeks into the books arriving they were pulled from the library shelves and never returned. Then we were banned from playing Dungeons and Dragons on school grounds, and eventually many of us bought the books on our own but soon found out they were banned on school property, also.


1) Hobgoblin- John Coyne. Hobgoblin is the first of the books I remember having read. It's about a teen who loses himself in a character he plays in a fictional RPG named Hobgoblin. Apparently Coyne had seen his nephew playing Dungeons and Dragons and wondered what it would be like to write a novel where a character actually came to life. I haven't read anything else by this author, but he was known for some lurid material, and there is some sex and violence in this book. Not as much as in about a thousand other books in the library no one was complaining about, but Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters had really started a frenzy. Speaking of. The second book I bought was...


2) Mazes and Monsters. Rona Jaffe. I learned a new term today. Problem novel. The social novel, also known as the social problem (or social protestnovel, is a "work of fiction in which a prevailing social problem, such as gender, race, or class prejudice, is dramatized through its effect on the characters of a novel". For some reason AIDS wasn't considered a problem during the Reagan administration, but role playing games and fantasy novels were. 

We came back for the Spring semester, and the young librarian was no longer there. For the first time there were now electronic chutes at the door which monitored the egress of books with a chip. Whereas before the congregating of a few nerds in tha back room was of no interest to anyone, our gathering was now scrutinized closely.

What I can tell you about that group of kids is that one of them became a high-ranking Marine officer, more than one, and even more than two made a lot of money in Silicon Valley, and the one who came closest to freaking out and becoming like a character in one of these "problem books" now lives on one of the most hum drum and Pleasantville roads in this town. That would be me. And I'm still contemplating flipping out and just entering a fantasy game one evening and not returning at nearly 50. Here's a few of the other books I have already ordered or will still be ordering.


3) Magician. Raymond Feist. At Crydee, Pug, an orphan boy is apprenticed to a master magician. Suddenly the Kingdom is aswarm with alien invaders, destroying the peace of the kingdom. Pug and his friend Tomas are swept up into the conflict, with Pug's destiny leading him through a rift to a new world.

That sounds vaguely familiar to me, but I'm not sure if I finished this one. Just ordered it from Abe Books. Saw copies selling for several hundred dollars, but I settled on a more economical book club version. Here are a few of the others I remember.


4) The Mists of Avalon. Marion Zimmer Bradley. In this one the Camelot and King Arthur legend is told from the perspective of the female characters. Morgan la Fey is less of an evil witch bent on destroying the Knights of the Round Table than a druid priestess trying to save her pagan religion from zealous Christian barbarians. I wonder why they didn't like this one.


5) The Crystal Cave. Mary Stewart. In this one, written before the ohers, I think in 1979, the Arturian legend is told throuh the eyes of Merlin. This is the first of a trilogy, and is about his adolescent years and travels as he comes into his own as the sorcerer and prophet he is. This isn't my copy. I haven't bought it yet.


6) Sanctuary. Edited by Robert Lynn Asprin. 22 stories of heroic fantasy including: The Gate of the Flying Knives, by Poul Anderson; Blood Brothers; by Joe Haldeman; Looking for Satan, by Vonda N. McIntyre; The Secret of the Blue Star, by Marion Zimmer Bradley; Myrtis, by Christine DeWees; The Price of Doing Business, by Robert Asprin; Shadowspawn, by Andrew J. Offutt; Shadow's Pawn, by Andrew J. Offutt; The Face of Chaos, by Lynn Abbey; Sentences of Death, by John Brunner; To Guard the Guardians, by Robert Asprin; Vashanka's Minion, by Janet Morris; The Dream of the Sorceress, by A. E. van Vogt; The Fruit of Enlibar, by Lynn Abbey; Goddess, by David Drake; Spiders of the Purple Mage, by Philip José Farmer; A Man and His God, by Janet Morris; Then Azyuna Danced, by Lynn Abbey; The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn, by Diana L. Paxson; The Vivisectionist, by Andrew J. Offutt; A Gift in Parting, by Robert Asprin; Ischade, by C. J. Cherryh. Also includes maps of Thieves' World, introductions, and essays.

This one I'm looking forward to getting and reading. Maybe again. 


7) The Chronicles of Amber. Roger Zelazny. The Chronicles of Amber is a series of fantasy novels by American writer Roger Zelazny. The main series consists of two story arcs, each five novels in length. Additionally, there are a number of Amber short stories and other works.
The Amber stories take place in two contrasting "true" worlds, Amber and Chaos, and in shadow worlds (Shadows) that lie between the two. These shadows, including our Earth, are parallel worlds that exist in, and were created from, the tension between opposing magical forces of Amber and Chaos. The Courts of Chaos are situated at the very edge of an Abyss. Members of the royal family of Amber, after walking a Pattern that is central to Amber, can travel freely through the Shadows. While traveling (shifting) between Shadows, one can alter reality or create a new reality by choosing which elements of which Shadows to keep or add, and which to subtract. Nobles of the Courts of Chaos who have traversed the Logrus are similarly able to travel through Shadow.
Ordered those last night. 

When I talked about this to one of my Planescape buddies, also a child of the 80's, he told me about the Streisand Effect, whereby when you try to erase something from the memory of others it just creates the opposite phenomenon, and the thing becomes even more powerful. This is a list of books I may very well have read, enjoyed, and not remembered very much at all if there hadn't been some concerted effort to make them off limits to me, to demonize their content. The effort was even more insidious now that I think back about it because what they were really trying to do is get me to censor myself, to passively accept their introjects and their sense of morality and never question it again. The censor would become internal, and I would have believed it was really me, not them. 

A few weeks into that second semester I was suspended for continuing to bring these books in. I had gone as far as to ask for them from a book club for Christmas, and would share them with anyone who was interested. It has been a lot of fun for me reclaiming these memories from the void, and like the character in The Chronicles of Amber who has amnesia, seeing the books laid out before me in a growing pattern as I remember one after the other. Some of these are most decidedly not literary classics, but I hope you, too, will pick one up and read it, whether the ghost of Edwin Meese likes it or not. 
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