Monday, February 29, 2016

Gwar, Towers Two and the Literal Death of the Author

So Lamentations of the Flame Princess just put out an adventure called Towers Two

…. and the big deal is it was written by the lead singer of Gwar--Oderus Urungus--born as-, and credited here as-, an earthling named Dave Brockie.

For those who don't know, Gwar was kind of to thrash what Dethklok is to modern extreme music. Grossout deathfuck novelty metal on steroids with inflatable dicks rolling around on stage and giant skulls squirting blood, Gwar was a big, loving, knowing parody that's lasted a surprisingly long time on the strength of ever-increasing budgets, total commitment to their bit and the fact that that stuff is pretty fun when you're drunk and waiting for the headliner to show up.

Needless to say, this is exactly the kind of thing that you could see appealing to LotFP's James Raggi, who has promoted the supplement not only the strength of Dave's name but on how it will freak people the fuck out.
Gwar being Gwar

But Will It?

There are, of course, in the online community surrounding games, people who live to be freaked out by games--especially ones released by LotFP. But the thing is they're very particular.

On paper, The Drama Club should have a field day with this adventure, burning it on the floor of the UN and scattering the ashes over the graves of those who died after accidentally hearing someone say they liked the original Captain Marvel costume better than the the new one.

The more obsessive members of the Drama Club refer frequently to the Death of the Author--an idea originally intended by Roland Barthes (in La mort de l'auteur)  to describe how an author's biography shouldn't (and in many cases can't) be used to limit the meanings a writer draws from a piece of fiction, but which Drama Club members exclusively use to mean a writer or speaker's intentions, background and ideas should be ignored when deciding whether something's racist or sexist or inspires people to kill puppies and that only the reaction of their favorite forum regulars matter in deciding this. They get around the fact that their theory means that Mein Kampf isn't racist until someone other than Hitler reads it by claiming that you're harassing them by pointing that out and then writing conspiracy theories about you on 4chan.

Further and more specifically, various Drama Club members have established that they believe all of the following things:

-the fact something is labelled as "for adults" doesn't mean the adult reader is the one at fault if they imitate it in real life,

- the fact that something is labelled as "fiction" doesn't mean the reader is the one at fault for imitating it in real life,

-the fact something is labelled as a "game" doesn't mean that the player is the one at fault for imitating it in real life,

-the fact something is labelled as "a joke" doesn't mean the audience is the one at fault if they imitate it in real life,


-the fact something is a tiny sliver of microculture that will never reach a mass audience doesn't mean the fan who dug it up is the one at fault if they imitate it in real life,

…so the fact Towers Two is all five of those things together shouldn't matter to them.

In real life, if the author is figuratively dead, a naked girl means the same thing no matter who decided she was naked, and if the author is figuratively alive, then it matters that no-one even vaguely aware of the reality around it would or should take anything in Towers seriously--least of all the people who wrote it. If you're triggered by anything at all you should stay away from this adventure, but, like Gwar itself, nothing in it reflects anything anyone actually believes or will encourage any reasonable person to become worse.

Real life, though, is not where the Drama Club lives. Bad things happen to people in Towers Two and Vincent Baker didn't write it, which is usually enough to establish for the Club that Towers Two is part of a culture of encouraging bad things to happen to people in real life and so it's everything that's wrong with gaming. Add on to that the fact it's written for an old-school system and the fact that that old school system is LotFP and the game community should be bracing for another boring inquisition, complete with libel campaigns, twitter harassment, angry editorials, grumpy drunks and failed game designers staging walk-outs, and Fred Hicks frantically retweeting it all like the pallbearer he is.
Gwar: Still Gwar

On The Other Hand...

...the Drama Club has always been incredibly squeamish about applying their ideas about games, comics and movies to music.

This is probably because any consistent application of their standards about who wears what in front of teenagers would require picking a fight with not only Gwar and Jello Biafra but Nikki Minaj and Beyoncé as well--which would reveal how miserably crabbed and out-of-touch their nerd standards are with those of anyone who ever had any fun.

So Towers Two will be--if nothing else--a fascinating test of the Drama Club's commitment to their bit. They've consistently rejected context and--out of context--Towers Two is the most offensive thing in RPGs this side of FATAL.

They now have a choice: ignore TT and abandon all their supposedly earnest dedication to supposedly checking the supposedly pernicious influence of games that have blood and boobs or launch their usual assault and decisively label themselves as the new PMRC.

Will they take what has been laid out so obviously as bait? Or will they pretend it never happened? My guess is the latter. It is the Year of the Monkey and we do as we please. It's also an election year--and many hypocrisies have been laid bare.

As For The Adventure Itself

Close friends of the late Dave play D&D regularly at my house, and so I've heard the legends about his game--the Gwar bus barreling across America with a hole cut in the floor of the bathroom so shit spilled directly onto the highway system while a Brockie increasingly more preoccupied with partying and groupies than D&D kept sending the rest of Gwar to ever more gruesome deaths, climaxing in sessions that took place entirely in Hell.

To put it simply--this isn't that. Or not mostly.

Brockie's original draft is included in an appendix so it can be compared to the final product as fleshed out by Jobe Bittman after Brockie's untimely demise.

Brockie's sections of this text reads like a nasty but utterly playable Old School renaissance adventure about PCs evading warring factions and weird monsters in the countryside with a few grotty touches ("a pitch-black mud-pit filled with feces-smeared spikes", a monster's mouth is "cunt-shaped", the pig-men are in all ways fucked) that could as easily be played for How To Be A God-style people-are-horrible early Warhammer medieval crapsackism as anything and if someone told you the guy from Gwar wrote it you'd be like "That's funny. I can see him being a D&D guy". The title "Towers Two" is neither an edgy reference to 9-11 nor a flatulent satire of The Two Towers. It's just a dungeon where some brothers live (one evil, one…also a problem) with orcs. (Or, as the revised and LotFP-ified text reads--with pig-men.) It's a slightly higher fantasy version of what you might see from Evan over at In Places Deep.

Meanwhile, the posthumous additions by RPG designer and rabid Gwar fan Jobe Bittman read like…something a rabid Gwar fan would write.

There's a very telling line in the credits:

Text © 2016 Dave Brockie except Deathfuck Magic, Death Phallus, Cunt Whip, Fuckblade, Baby Fax Machine, and The Chinstrap of Accommodation © 2016 Jobe Bittman

One gets the feeling Brockie agreed to write TT because he genuinely loved D&D--and Bittman agreed or was chosen to finish it because he genuinely loved Brockie.


"Huge Feral Pig rutting in back garden."


"Huge feral pig rutting in a back garden, its engorged cork-screwed manhood pulsing in the sun."

Brockie's TT is not so much obnoxious as pitiless: "Dying old woman in stinking-of-piss upstairs room. If comforted will BLESS party +1 to all TO HIT rolls for 3-6 game days. She will die anyway."

Bittman, on the other hand, apes Oderus Urungus style Gwarspeak: "A dying old woman in stinking-of-piss upstairs room. If comforted the woman blesses the party conferring +1 to attack rolls for 1d4 game days. She will die anyway. No treasure. Fuck you for asking."

I cast no aspersions on anyone involved. It's quite possible that, since Brockie's draft was partial (all the major characters and wilderness locations are detailed, but only half the dungeon) Brockie fully intended to Gwarify the final text. However, as it stands, the most aggressively repulsive material is Bittman's and the structure of the adventure overall is pretty much a standard sandbox + climactic dungeon.

The wilderness area consists of a bunch of environments with monsters--ship with a ghost captain on it, old farms with feral animals, a gross ex-cult leader ogre, etc…the towers themselves ramp up both the variety (more detail, more traps) and the Gwar.

Prose-wise, it reads like a lot of Old School bloggers, even when it's recommending railroading--

Any self-respecting referee should take steps, as unfair as they may be, to make sure this happens, and Lord Ragath returns from oblivion, however briefly, to voice his displeasure with the sorry state of the lovely kingdom he left to his worthless offspring. Preferably he should appear at a completely critical moment or even better after the party thinks they have beaten the whole module. Anything for a good game, that’s my favorite rule!

The best part, for my money, is the drawings--by Brockie himself and OSR up-and-comer Jeremy Duncan--which mix confident, chunky linework with a fascinatingly tasteless photoshop rainbow of bad-trip colors, landing somewhere between Russ Nicholson, Mad Magazine and a Juicy Fruit commercial.

It is somehow very fitting that this was one of Brockie's last projects--he died how he lived: paying weird homage to what he loved and getting talented freaks work making disgusting monsters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Some days I use this blog as a platform to talk about the gap between public perception and day-to-day reality in the lives of sex workers, using gaming and game-play (including the terrifyingly Delta-Force style murder-hobo efficiency of which this group is capable) as a lens through which to show that women in porn are far more complex as both individuals and as a group than media stereotypes about them might suggest.

This is not one of those days.

The first thing that went sideways was Mandy (cleric, highest level PC in the game) was too sick to play, so she just liveblogged the game on Twitter. The previous session had been quiet and it all started innocently enough:
I still have that plastic vegetable tray, it seems like a good place to put dice.

Without Mandy's Roger-Waters-esque lead-from-behind style the party was bereft of direction, a dangerous thing in the cruel white wastes of the Devoured Land. They were not, however, bereft of alcohol.
Adam arrived and was quickly elected new boss:

Stokely: Adam is the pussy wrangler.

Zak: It's the Second day of the Purifier so Ratatoskr--the slandering ferret--will leaves his fastness to gaze upon his shadow and thereby measure the depth of the coming winter. 

Alondra (druid): Wait can I turn into a ferret & fuck that Valentines Day ferret dick? I'm gonna get some Valentine Day ferret dick or pussy I dunno what it is.

I allow that should the animal in question be encountered there is nothing in the rules to prevent the occurrence of said assignation.

Stokely climbs up an embankment for some reconnaissance. There appears to be a wolf, pacing behind the piled snow, waiting to pounce.

Stokely: I turn back to the party & I go like this.

Karolyn: I don't know what that means--does that mean eat some pussy?

The battle is joined and becomes quickly desperate. The animals of the Devoured Land are not like ordinary animals. Things are here as the once were and will be again--beasts intrigue like gods, understand our languages, do not fear fire, are not distracted by meat or scattered by thunder. They have goals, and would see them efficiently achieved. People are running out of options.

Alondra: I have a snow a leopard you can ride on.

Stokely: I said I cast Fire Shield.

Zak: Yeah and I said you can't because you're in hella close combat.

Stokely: You were distracted because I unbuttoned my blouse.

Zak: All I know is 3 wolves are attacking you.

Zak: You guys have theories within theories.

Alondra: I cast flaming sphere.

Karolyn: Is your flaming sphere named RuPaul?

Zak: RuBall.

Mandy: This game is chaos so far.

Karolyn: Seriously.

The party beat up two wolves, scared away two others and captured a third. It turns out the wolves can talk--all the animals can because Things there are as things were in the day before all days, when all that is now knew a common tongue and a young, smoother moon hung pearl-like in a black bed of stars yet unborn.

After some questioning, the wolf agrees to leave the party alone if it is let free.

Then the party decides to camp for the night. It's two wizards, and druid and an alice, 5 inches tall.

The spellcaster sleeps while the tiny DelRay the alice stands guard. Meanwhile the wolf (who is a liar, duh-wolf?) spends a few hours corralling its friends, the GM rolls some encounter dice, the alice fails a perception check, and is promptly ambushed.

The party awakes to the sound of a doll-size scream and a line of bloody tracks.
A pursuing Adam casts Evard's Black Tentacles, the wolf saves against them.

Karolyn: So there are tentacles and I'm not having sex with them because I'm unconscious?

Alondra: I think I have a bow & arrow.

Everyone in the room in unison: You have a boner?!

Karolyn (having now lost her 5th PC in a year): Drunken color commentary here we come. RIP DelRey.

Zak: You died fighting for what you believed in, not unlike Antonin Scalia. Does anyone have more than 60 feet of dark vision?

Stokely: I have a big dick.

Alondra: I have 60 feet of darkvision.

Stokely: My dick is 2d4.

Karolyn: My dick is going home.

Someone else gets ambushed by the wolves' remaining companions and Adam the wizard is running out of spells.

He tries to cast Fabricate to create a structure to protect his friend...

Dave: Nevermind--the casting time is ten minutes.

Chaos continues to reign.

Stokely: What do I do next big daddy?

Zak: It's your spell not mine.

Luckily Alondra has her shit together, or at least her pet does...

...and, just as the party is in need of tracking, the ranger arrives...

...though she was perhaps not taking things as seriously as the situation warranted...

Alondra rolls another 20. And there is much rejoicing:
Alondra, oscillating in celebration so her ponytails hit her in the cheeks: "I don't need a man! I can smack my own face!"

Ela: Does anyone want some beer? I stole it from my parent's basement.

Karolyn: Your live tweeting is highlighting the hoe-ness of this game.
Eventually they find a safer place to sleep. When they wake up...
There are like, some clues and stuff, and landscape. It looks like the ferret tracks are four hours old and run perpendicular to a set of leopard tracks.

Stokely (Very softly): Zaaaaaaak what does that mean 'cause we're not paying attention.

Zak: It means you're gonna die.

Then the druid has to go, to meet a Valentine's date:
Karolyn: We support each other.

Zak: We can stop now if you guys want...


Zak: Uh ok.

Following the frozen course of the River Slith, they run into Amazons of the dread Ulvenbrigad, who will not hear the words of men. This requires some quick explaining about Adam and Dave.

Stokely: By the way milady I have pink nipples.
The quotation mark was emphasized.
Adam (to Ela): Excuse me mistress may I speak?

Ela: I like this a LOT!

Siri plays a Rihanna song. The party begins to realize they've been captured.

The amazons take the party to their leaders, KylesaMara and MaraKylesa, the lychewives.

Ela: Can my rat do anything?

Zak: I feel like I should not have to explain to a Harry Potter fan the vast capabilities of a rat.

In the manner of all vastly outnumbered PC parties brought before high-level foes, the PCs begin to say the completely wrong things--almost immediately bringing up, before the wolf-worshipping Ulvengbrigad, the amount of canis lupus they've chewed through in the last 48 hours.

Their attempts to rectify this faux pas were less than impressive:

Dave: Tell her something like 'I'm just on the rag.'

Stokely: Slave no one asked you!

They begin to strip the party of their arms and armor, and while the wizard does beg successfully to be allowed to keep a ration of cheese, the PCs don't manage to keep their heads.

Adam: She's a tool of the patriarchy she started this!

Ela: Slave!

Adam: You're gonna want me to talk soon!

Caroline Pierce: Oh shit.

After two brutal rounds of combat Stokely is unconscious, Ela is surrounded and Dave is grappled.

After a lot of metagaming, Adam decides the best he can do is touch the remaining awake PCs and Shadow Walk out of there to a spot about 3 miles away.

Dave: I'm gonna cast Scry on Stokely.

Zak: You see the Amazons preparing to cut the arms and legs off an unconscious Stokely so they can torture her and find out where you went.

She took the news surprisingly well.
Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Opponents Wanted '16

It's been a while since we did this:

Want someone to play D&D with in your town?  Or any other game?

If you wanna find someone local to roll with put your name, location, contact info and preferred games here in the comments.

There's a matching thread on G+, if you're not in my RPG circles but want to be just send me a message ( Zak Smith ) asking to be added to those along with a link to your Google + page.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gotta Remember to Possess More People

Nails matching dice is a thing around here.
5th Ed D&D

Sunday, Jan 31--

There's a 900,000 gp bounty on the party's heads, from that time they single-handedly destroyed a noble elven family in Nornrik for defying Mandy's frost-giant princess girlfriend.

After some pretending to be zealots of the White-Lipped Goddess, The Alice used her "know one secret about anyone per session" ability to figure out that the murder-crowdsourcing survivor of the doomed house of Rath Orlath was hiding in The Devoured Land.

The girls were eager to meet the Amazons Who Ignore The Words of All Men, but so far have only found:

-a severed tongue

-a hunting party seeking a hart whose horns map the flow of the River Slith

-some crates.

One contained a starving snow leopard, another contained a lot of beets and a champion rat named Ribboned Jenny, escaped from the fighting pits of Rotting Crowns.

Ranger rolled a 2 to befriend the snow leopard, then just got bored and shot it, but then a nat 20 to befriend the rat win some you lose some? Now she has a rat.

It was an oddly quiet session, but kind of nice--just enough inertia that it felt like the players were genuinely trekking around a frozen doomforest looking for clues. It nicely built suspense.


Monday Feb 1--

Other group: The Inexplicable Isles. They found themselves (inexplicably) in a dungeon with a guy on a platform in the middle of some lava guarding a narrow causeway. The 12th level wizard incinerated him, then appeared in his place, now compelled to guard the causeway from the other PCs.

Yeah so whoever kills the guardian becomes the guardian (and yeah old trope, fucking works too). But Mandy's there so she's like Wait I have the Hammer Of Exorcism!

She has been carrying this thing since 2011 and has never used it. Which is a shame because it is so. Much. Fun.

Basically you have to beat the possessee in the head with the hammer until they're unconscious and then the evil spirit flees. Also: chance of side effects each round.

Which is hard when the patient is a 12th level wizard who doesn't want you to do that and also funny.

So the party take out years of frustration and inferiority complexes on their acid-spitting mutant wizard and grapple him, regrapple him and eventually tie him up beat the bad thing out of him and then it then possesses the barbarian. Who for some reason I can't remember was carrying the wizard down the causeway when it happens. So he throws the wizard down to run back to the platform and guard it, but throws poorly, so the wizard falls in lava. 3d6 damage on top of having already been beaten unconscious, the hallowed wizard was a cocked die away from permadeath in lava.

Now in a miracle of D&D-time, in the other half of the initiative (possessee goes first), Mandy runs over to the wizard (30 feet, half move) casts Heal and heals him (touch spell) as he is in the lava then wins initiative and rolls a crit success to yank him out. Which technically all can happen since as soon as you see a barbarian about to throw a tied up wizard you start running, that makes sense.

They then beat the shit out of the barbarian and wisely fled, leaving the spirit casting around for someone else to possess. Probably gonna go back in, though.


Tuesday Feb 2--

First session of the Everything Is Terrible.

Hannah Von Berlin, electrical-touching mad scientist played by Actual German Matze goes in search of #1 Most-Wanted Jewish Terrorist (or, if you're not a Nazi: Petty Car Thief) The Shocker.  Instead she finds the masterfully deadpan confused everyman Dr Velocity, who pretends to be The Shocker because Hannah seems insane and can fry people like spit pigs just by touching them.

Meanwhile The Sleepless, a paranoiac with a self-programmable endocrine system discovers an ordinary commuter train harbors Morgenstern the Man Who Fell To Earth Only To Be Put On TV By Fascists Who Claimed He Was A Perfect Aryan From the Future And Is About To Betray Them With Plasma.

In what the GM feels comfortable calling a coincidence, all four witness-, and somewhat participate in-, a high speed chase ending in a 3-cop-car pile-up next to a moving train and then kill a bunch of Stadt cops who can't shoot straight.

For lack of anything better to do, our heroes go look at a massacred underground cell in a brownstone. Then our heroes notice they're being watched...

As the moon rises, Sleepless snipes one of these undercover minders white-van only to discover these are no ordinary plainclothes Gestapo but the might Weremacht, skinchanging man-beasts who can only be harmed by silver!

So a lot of brand-new superheroes are about to be eaten by Nazi secret-police wolves, but then two things happen:

1) Morgenstern asks the neighbors where they keep the good silver

2) -False Patrick wakes up and realizes he missed the first half of the game. The Shocker rolls up in a stolen car. And realizes Hey you may not be able to kill that wolf that stopping short just sent hurtling through the windshield but you can sure park a Mercedes i8 on top of it., breathing heavily, Dr Velocity, Morgensterm, Hannah Berlin, Sleepless and The Shocker survive their first adventure and are about to find out what's in a van...


Monday, February 1, 2016

White-Lipped Goddess

She of the Broken Statues, Queen in the Moon.

When the 12 Medusa sister transformed the primordial demons into the rock from which the world is hewn, a girl accidentally caught their eye. She lives in the sky now, unmoving, gleaming.

Some say she is the eldest goddess, for her idols are the most ancient. Some say that, wait, since like all broken statues are sacred to her and supposed to be her, then maybe those old statues aren't statues of her they're just statues of like random women that broke because they're old and then we found them. Some say Oh fascinating theory wise guy, nice statue of Vorn you got there, would be a real shame if somebody sledgehammered the top of its head off and then hey look at that it's consecrated to the White Lipped Goddess now. Some say Fine, fine, whatever, it's the Queen in the Moon, they're all the Queen in the Moon.

Anyway opinions differ is the point.

The Queen in the Moon, who has a mouth but no face, does not get on well with Vorn. Her children are lycanthropes and sublunary men, she watches, eyelessly, over assassins, orphans and adulterers.

Frozen lakes and shattered fortresses are sacred to her.

Her Path (for 5e clerics) is as follows

1st Level

-Bonus proficiencies w/daggers, hammers & light armor.

-+2 stealth.

2nd Level

-You take half damage/effect from light-based attacks at night and darkness-based attacks at any time.

6th Level

-Silver will not hurt you.

8th Level

-Faerie Fire-like effect a number of times per day=Wisdom mod.

14th Level

-You can intensify any moonlight until it's literally blindingly bright for one hour a day (or until "a long rest" if you're playing straight 5e).

17th Level

-Lycanthropes cannot harm you and, on a failed save, must obey your commands until the sun rises.