Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fantastic Feasting!



Today is Thanksgiving, so naturally food is on my mind and soon to be in my belly. I read with my stomach. As a child, I did much of my reading in bed with a glass of milk and a piece of string cheese by my side. My reading tastes were often influenced by the descriptions of food found in the books I read. One of my earliest forays into the fantasy genre was with Brian Jacques' Redwall Series, and boy did that man knew how to describe a feast. For those unfamiliar with Jacques' work, the series centers around the adventures of anthropomorphized woodland creatures living in a fictional bucolic land called Mossflower. Every book in the series includes at least one feast, described in detail. Though the later books suffered greatly from uninspired formula, the feast scenes were always some of my favorites. Here's a passage from the second book, Mossflower.
Exclamations of admiration and delight greeted the food as it was served. After all, who could resist roast chestnuts served in cream and honey, or clover oatcakes dipped in hot redcurrant sauce, celery and herb cheese on acorn bread with chopped radishes, or a huge home-baked seed and sweet barley cake with mint icing, all washed down with either October ale, pear cordial, strawberry juice or good fresh milk.
Stepping back, the foods described in Jacques' mouse feasts could either be some of the most deliciously rustic dishes imaginable, or really horrible hippy crap... depending on how they're prepared. I prefer to imagine them as the former. One thing I never could figure out was where the mice and other critters got their milk for cheese and cream? In the 15 Redwall books I own, I don't recall a single mention of a cow, sheep or goat.

Jacques' feasts, along with food descriptions like those from Tolkien's Hobbit feasts and the meals made in Aunt Pol's kitchen in Edding's Belgariad worked their way out of the books and into my own reading-time snacks. I favored rustic crusty bread and cheese with nuts, simple unprocessed foods that seemed appropriate for a protagonist farm-boy destined for greatness.



Unfortunately, though descriptions of foods and feasting are prevalent within fantasy literature, they are much more rare when it comes to gaming. D&D skills like profession (cook) are generally overlooked in favor more "practical" abilities that help with the everyday tasks of killing monsters and looting the bodies. One of my players did actually take some points in profession (cook) and often scrounges for food to make breakfast for the party and the group has a habit of throwing parties for the citizens living near their keep. I've been pondering ways to encourage more detailed culinary roleplaying. Perhaps I could assign minor morale bonuses for well-fed characters or devise a diplomatic negotiation encounter centered on a feast. After all, slaying dragons is always easier with a belly full of pancakes!

Speaking of modern day corruption, while driving home from breakfast, I heard a discussion of turducken on the radio, and my brain naturally imagined the turducken as a living beast. So, for this holiday I would like to leave you with a mental image of the dreaded DIRE TURDUCKEN!



This "fowl" beast is believed to have been created by a cadre of transmuters. Resembling a large cockatrice on the outside, the Dire Turducken possesses several powerful abilities that make it a truly dangerous opponent.

Special attacks:

  • Reach: The Turducken has three heads, each living within the mouth of the next larger (pardon my screwy grammar). The heads may stretch out on long necks, giving the Turducken a reach of 15 feet with the smallest head.
  • Swallow Whole: If the Turducken succeeds on an attack with it's smallest head, it may immediately attack with the next largest head. If that succeeds, it may attack with its largest head, and if that hits, it may attempt to swallow it's victim whole. Swallowed victims take damage from the acids and stones within the Turducken's gizzard. They may attempt to cut themselves free using a light weapon.
  • Breath Weapon: The Turducken can breathe a stream of scalding hot basting juices up to 30 feet. Those hit take damage from the scalding liquid and smell mouthwateringly delicious for 1d4 days or until bathing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Gauntlet has been thrown!

Apparently the post from Animals Talking in All Caps, which I reposted here earlier this month is developing a storyline of sorts. A new character appears to have been introduced - a particularly fluffy gnoll queen and her as yet unnamed champion. We here at ROFL Initiative will continue to monitor the story as it develops.

RISE, BRAVE KNIGHT, AND TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED. DOES LORD BLACKTHROAT TRULY INTEND WAR? IF THE ORANGE BERRY KING THINKS US WEAK WE WILL SHOW HIM WHAT POWER LIES HIDDEN AMONGST THE BLOSSOMS. I WILL STRIP HIS BUSHES BARE.
BE NOT SILENT. IT IS YOUR RULER, QUEEN COLDNOSE OF THE PINK GARDENS, WHO COMMANDS YOU TO SPEAK.
RISE, BRAVE KNIGHT, AND TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED. DOES LORD BLACKTHROAT TRULY INTEND WAR? IF THE ORANGE BERRY KING THINKS US WEAK WE WILL SHOW HIM WHAT POWER LIES HIDDEN AMONGST THE BLOSSOMS. I WILL STRIP HIS BUSHES BARE.
BE NOT SILENT. IT IS YOUR RULER, QUEEN COLDNOSE OF THE PINK GARDENS, WHO COMMANDS YOU TO SPEAK.



Repost from (ATIAC)

Monday, November 21, 2011

What has it got in its pocketses?

Hello, my preciouses

This past weekend was jam packed with fun and auspicious tidings. To start, today is my birthday and so this past weekend was the nearest "go out and drink" time to my birthday. My friends all threw me a wonderful party on Friday, which included a smattering of gifts-none asked for but all appreciated. One gift, in particular brought back a flood of memories that plumbed the depths of my primal gamer self.

A friend of mine gave me a copy of David Macaulay's book, City. While I never had this particular book, I had a slew of Macaulay's other works as a child, and they definitely piqued my early interest in history, architecture and mapping-all fascinations, which are currently fed through my gaming.

Macaulay's detailed illustrations provide a vivid an enticing look into the construction techniques and design methodologies used by ancient peoples and they are always accompanied by a concrete narrative about the construction process.

Anyway, the gift churned up a whole heap of dormant inspiration and drove me to the children's architecture section of Powell's Books (yes the store is big enough to warrant such a section!) where I picked up Built to Last, a 2010 compilation that includes two of Macaulay's other books that used to grace my bookshelf, along with a third that I have not yet read.

Now, for the big news.

While in Portland, picking up childrens' books for my adult self, I asked the GF to become Mrs. Sporkchop, and she responded with a resounding, "yes". Well... first, there was lots of happy crying and repeated exclamations of "You're SO sneaky!" but now, after almost four years of courtship and lots of strange dances, we will finally be making things all legal and binding and stuff.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Fortune's Fool

Another week begins after a particularly fortuitous weekend.



I am now, officially weird uncle Sporkchop. My first niece was born early Friday morning on 11/11/11 which is  significant for those who like seeing the same number written in series, those who really like Spinal Tap, and those who are robots.

As part of my weird uncle duties (not to be confused with doodies) my mind has been mulling various obnoxious nicknames that I might bestow upon the newlyborn. Many of these nicknames, of course, were inspired by her birthdate and include:

  • Nigel
  • One louder
  • Onesie
  • Carbon Unit #63 (binary birthdate in expressed in base 10)
  • Brookie Cookie
  • Trouble
Anyway, other fortuitous (but ultimately less important) events followed in the wake of my niece's arrival. A friend of mine, who works for a well known gaming company called me up, because he had acquired a "butt-ton" (a scientific measurement used in the literary field... of my brain) of game books in a recent purge of his office space and was wondering if I would be interested in any of his "leftovers"

"um?... yes!"

Well, upon arrival at his house, I found that his "leftovers" filled the trunk of his car. He had already selected those that he needed for his personal collection. He had also set aside some for other friends. Fortunately, the claimed books were all either from games I don't play, or were books I already had. I ended up leaving with five new D&D 3.5 books to add to my slowly expanding library. He also presented me with a deck of fortune cards, which are made for 4th edition, but many of which can be used in or adapted to D&D 3.5

When I arrived home, fortune continued to smile upon me when I discovered that one of the books I had grabbed on a whim was directly relevant to my current adventure planning tasks! I will certainly make heavy use of the tome while prepping for this weeks' session.

In closing, I would like to offer a big congratulations to my sister on her successful spawning of a human larvae and a big thanks to my friend Ruxbin for his wonderful generosity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Builds Character

I am reaching an age, perhaps an epoch, when everyone around me expresses concerns about decidedly adult matters, most of which involve either rings of power, which bond one human to another, and/or the spawning practices of modern hominids. The latter subject has been especially prevalent in recent conversations, as my sister is decidedly infested with baby. Not to worry, her condition is scheduled to culminate this very day in a beautiful yet grotesque ritual, which will bestow several new titles on various members of my family -mother, grandparents, uncle.

My impending promotion to the status of "weird uncle Sporkchop" has naturally wormed its way in to my thoughts on gaming, specifically the notion of creating a character. The ideas of fatherhood and rpg character generation hold a bizarrely similar appeal in my mind. I see both as a way to craft another sentient being, to project some aspect of my own personality and style onto the world and to take pride in their mighty deeds. When creating an rpg character, the world and person are fictional and the imprinting is done with pencil and paper. When forming a babby, the person is obviously very real and the character building is done through years of nurturing and acting all role-model-y.

Of course, there is also a great deal of chance involved with raising a child. They could have serious health problems, or do poorly in school, or develop tastes and opinions entirely opposite to yours. They might even grow up to be *gasp* a douchebag... or get eaten by orcs. These are all concerns that no doubt weigh upon the mind of every parent, keeping them up in the wee hours of the night. I suppose all you can do is hope that your care and example will guide your child in the right direction.

The girlfriend and I have had numerous conversations about real-world character generation and seem to be on the same page. We both want to have at least one kid, and want to do so in the not-to-distant future. The urge to procreate is weighing more heavily on the GF, whose ovaries have lately been holding her mind in thrall like some sort of fallopian illithid.

Side note: for those not familiar to the D&D beastiary, illithids are the game's shoutout to Lovecraftian octopoids that wreak havoc on the minds and sanity of those who behold them. To those not familiar with Lovecraft, picture this guy, but evil, and more psychic. 





Fortunately, my maleness has spared me from a similar level of emotional anxiety, though I do occasionally pause and think, I'm not getting any younger! Best get into the game!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Kenku

Lately, I've become horribly addicted to the blog, ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS, because... well... it just cuts so close to the essence of the internet. It speaks its true name, exerting a tremendous gravitational force over all who behold it. Anyway, an entry from this morning made me giggle and seemed to resonate with the themes of this here blog.


HA HA HA!
DID YOU WANT SOME LITTLE ORANGE BERRIES, STRANGER?
WELL YOU CANNOT HAVE THEM! BECAUSE THEY ARE MINE! ALL THE LITTLE ORANGE BERRIES BELONG TO ME!
I AM THE ORANGE BERRY KING!
GUARDS! SIEZE HIM! PUT HIS HEAD ON A PIKE OUSIDE THE CASTLE GATES!
LET THE PEASANTS KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEONE ATTEMPTS TO TOUCH THE PRECIOUS ORANGE BERRIES OF LORD BLACKTHROAT OF BERRYLAND!
Let this be a warning to my players... should you run across a boistrous Kenku cheiftain in the course of your adventures, please know that he is not one to be trifled with.

Happy Monday, y'all!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

O, for a Muse of fire


Being my third submission to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group

November is the month of Thanksgiving, so I thought I would post a bit about things that have contributed to my abilities as a writer for which I am thankful.

I am very thankful for my past English and writing instructors who helped me build the skills to compose my writings with clarity and style. Do I still suffer from an itchy comma finger? Of course. Do I still occasionally commit grievous grammatical errors? Yes. However, after spending a great deal of time reviewing and revising others’ work, I have grown very thankful for the modest tools I have been given. 

Foremost among these tools is the ability to read a block of text sentence by sentence. My college writing instructor taught me this, and to this day, I am amazed by how many people seem unable to look at a sentence on its own, to analyze its structure and then to understand how it connects to the sentences that surround it, the paragraph in which it lives and the piece of writing that forms its world.

YSW Artistic Director, Darren Lay with
1st-year student, Danesha Harris and the First Lady
I am also thankful that I had the opportunity to be involved with a program that just popped up in the news yesterday. The Young Shakespeare Workshop, a program that really sparked my love of the Bard and language in general, just received a National Arts and Humanities Youth Award. The summer program immerses teens in the study of Shakespeare; participants study Shakespeare’s works beginning with sonnets, then monologues, then scenes. They receive vocal training and instruction in Elizabethan rapier and dagger fencing. Plus, each applicant is handed their very own Complete Works of Shakespeare on the first day of class. Here’s the kicker... it’s all COMPLETELY FREE.

I spent my summers as a teen immersed in this program. I went through both years as a participant and then returned as an assistant director while I was in college. The Complete Works I received still holds a place of honor on my bookshelf, dog-eared and besmirched with notes and doodles. The Young Shakespeare Workshop was absolutely formative to who I am today, and could not be more deserving of this award.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

-Henry V, Prologue

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