(TL/DR: I wrote my own tabletop RPG. It’s terrible, but I love it. The files are at the bottom.)
I’ve been mulling over an idea for a new blog post. It’s about the idea of “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and how it’s negatively affecting discourse, opinion, and results. It’s a heavy one, and I know it’ll probably piss off a few liberal and conservative friends, or possibly everyone. However, it’s so heavy that I haven’t mustered the energy to produce it. So this post has nothing to do with it. I don’t even really know why this is the introduction to this post, which is about role-playing games. I guess it’s because I treat my blog like a conversation between the two of us, and if you’ve ever talked to me in person you’ll know that I ramble a bit and go on tangents, especially when I’ve had a couple drinks and I’m my Authentic Self. So here we go on the blog post that is about as opposite as a heavy politically-motivated discourse as can be without being just a post of pictures of otters being the representation of everything that is good in the universe.
I love role-playing games of all sorts. LARPs. Video games. Hell, Choose Your Own Adventure books. But my ultimate love of the form is one of the first ones I discovered: the tabletop RPG. I read my first DnD rulebook when I was 10 and fell in love. My imagination soared with the never-ending story potential, and the side of me that later became an accountant loved the idea of rules providing a framework on which I could hang my imaginings. It was like playing Guns (that venerable game wherein two or more people take sticks and pretend to shoot each other, followed by the volleys of “Nuh-Uh” and “Ya-huh” to determine if someone was hit) but with a way to prove who had shot whom and what would happen. I loved it.
A while back I came across some old stories I’d written and mostly forgotten about. I remembered them immediately, like old friends you’d thought long lost. In the world of nostalgia and memory, they were beautiful. Then you look at them and you realize how ugly they are, and misshapen, and your very soul cringes and hopes no one ever sees them.
Then you do like I do, say fuck it, and throw them up on your blog.
That’s right! It’s podcast time. Since almost 5 years have passed since the last one, it seemed like a new one was due. This time, a former Shovelcast guest is back to review Mass Effect: Andromeda with me, the inimitable Allie Gebhart. Join two of the biggest Mass Effect fans in the Milky Way as we spend almost TWO AND A HALF HOURS half-drunkenly talking all things Mass Effect, occasionally breaking away from our lovefest over the original trilogy to discuss the new game. Honestly, we could have probably kept on going for 6 or 7 hours. Our takeaway: it’s a flawed game, but definitely worth playing, and we’re more than happy to tell you why.
I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming this weekend. This post will contain the mildest of mild spoilers for that film. Like, there are less spoilers for the movie in this post than there are in any given trailer for any movie. If you’re the kind of person who would be freaked out to learn that Spider-Man: Homecoming is a movie about the Marvel superhero Spider-Man, and pitch a fit about not being warned about it, this is the point where you turn away, as I am about to spoil the fact that both Peter Parker and Spider-Man are in the new Spider-Man movie. As I have now fulfilled my societal duty to tell people that a post about Spider-Man will reference a movie about Spider-Man wherein I mention that Spider-Man is in the film in question and a detail or two that have already been present since Captain America: Civil War, I can now move on to the part where I briefly discuss the movie, which isn’t even what this post is about.
Ooops, I forgot to warn people that Captain America: Civil War has Spider-Man in it before I just dropped it into regular conversation. It’s only been out a year, and I believe the current level of spoiler-warning necessity on social media is 75 years after the movie/TV show/book’s death. I apologize for my brazen lack of awareness and total lack of empathy.
This is the eleventh chapter of this story, which is at least five more than I expected there to be. If you want to read the others first, or if you’d like to read them in random order, here are the other chapter links. If, like everyone else, you have no desire to read this, by all means do whatever else it is you do on the internet.
I tried to be as casual as possible leaving the bar through the back door. I’m sure I failed miserably. Something about being out in the open when I knew a group of heavily-armed ex-military types were looking specifically for me and had already marked the place I was leaving had my usual equanimity buried under a thick layer of well-earned paranoia. The noodle place Severa was sending me wasn’t far but it wasn’t close either. I would have felt less naked in a skinsuit on stage working for tips. I didn’t want to risk the transit service but walking all the way to the meet-up in the open had my nerves on fire. I didn’t make it a tenth of the way before I headed towards the skycar traffic. I decided I’d rather get shot at the depot and get it over with instead of spending an entire three-kilometer walk waiting for the bullet.
This is the tenth chapter of this story, in case the title didn’t give it away. If you want to read the others first, or if you’d like to read them in random order (hey, I don’t judge), here are the other chapter links:
The universe had other plans for me besides a stiff drink or seven. It always did. “Before you pickle yourself,” Severa said, “I need you to ring my contact. You’ll want to be sober for the meeting.”
I grabbed some filtered Earth water instead with a scowl. The label made it look like Earth was a pastoral wonderland and the water therein was hand-filtered by nymphs. I grew up there and knew it probably came out of a rusty spigot in some filthy bottling plant. I drank it anyway in a misguided show of solidarity for my species. “What’s the name?”
“Don’t worry about that,” she responded, clicking on her omni. Mine buzzed silently as she sent me a message. Just a number with no information. “You have encryption on your piece of terracrap?” She was recovering quickly.
1. Jack Chick died today. If you don’t know who he is, you probably didn’t play Dungeons & Dragons back in the ‘80s. Chick was a fundamentalist Christian comic artist who wrote tracks presented in comic book form. These railed about the terrible things bringing American civilization directly into the ARMS of LUCIFER HIMSELF, like Masons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, sports, role-playing games, music, bare navels, evolution, peach pits, homosexuality, Halloween, girls wearing pants, critical thinking, and wearing sandals without socks, to name a few. They were, and are, terrible, bigoted, narrow-minded, and thoroughly, deeply hilarious. They never fail to make me laugh every time I see one. So in his way, he brought a lot of joy to my world. I think if Jack Chick was right about his beliefs, he’d probably be in Hell right now, but if my worldview is correct, his consciousness is no more and he is as one with the Universe now as he was before he was born. I think that’s a nice thought. It’s certainly more than he would have ever wished for me.
This is the ninth chapter in what is continuing to insist on being told for no particularly good reason. God knows if anyone is reading this, but just in case, here’s the one’s that came before:
The fake C-Sec officers snapped up their guns and sighted us down in a figurative explosion of movement. The literal explosion happened at the end of the bar, where the three going to the back were standing. It sounded like a grenade, so I assumed it was. My estimation of Tomyra’s paranoia level deepened, along with my respect and fear. It made me wonder where else she had explosive devices planted for just-in-case purposes. It also helped explain how she might be on a first name basis with murderous mercenaries.
This is the eighth chapter in what was originally going to be a short intro to the characters and has turned into a much longer story than the original story I planned on telling. Sometimes that’s just what happens. If you’re crazy enough to read it in order, you can find the other chapters here:
It took us a while to get to where I was taking them. I wanted to stick to alleys and back ways and avoid eyes as much as possible. I also didn’t head directly to the destination. Instead we meandered, sometimes doubled back, occasionally stayed put in a hiding spot while Severa got some rest. Lorelei was looking fresher and wanted to talk but the turian wouldn’t let her ask questions, always putting her off for later when we weren’t being actively hunted. I didn’t bring up the fact that we’d be in that situation until we managed to wipe out a large criminal organization that had infiltrated an unknown number of C-Sec operatives. I didn’t want to put a damper on anyone’s chipper mood.
All in all, it was the most effort I ever put into going to a bar, and that’s saying something.