Friday, August 14, 2020

Chili Chatter

I love hot peppers. To the right, there's a picture of some habanero bits that I dried in a toaster oven with sugar and salt. Habanero is about the limit of my heat tolerance. Despite their deliciousness, I usually only eat habanero peppers straight up when I want to shock myself out of a funk. 

Okay, here's where I start sounding like a shill because mostly I'm blathering on about some stuff I bought from this one place, Flatiron Pepper Company. I guess it sounds better if we call it a review or something.

There were several that looked good, so I ordered a bunch: Four Pepper Blend, Sweet Heat, Hatch Valley Green, Asian Reds, and Smoke Show. The Four Pepper Blend (Arbol, Ghost, Habanero, Jalapeno) is probably the one I'd buy if I had to pick one. It's got a nice heat level and plenty of flavor. I could see using this in place of any of the others. That's not to say they're all the same, just that this one would do even when one of the others would be a better fit.
 
I was really pleased with Smoke Show (Chipotle, Smoked Ghost, Carolina Reaper) as well. As the name suggests, it's made with smoked peppers and the flavor definitely comes through. It's also the hottest of the ones I got. I think it's the hottest one they have except for "I Can't Feel My Face."

Yes, there's one called I Can't Feel My Face (Carolina Reaper, Ghost, Scorpion, Habanero). I keep looking at it and thinking I should order this and try it but, remember what I said about habaneros? That's the mildest pepper in this mix. The Scoville ranking is over 750k. I'm willing to admit that I have limits.

I was a little disappointed with Sweet Heat (Scotch Bonnet, Ancho, Red Bell). I mean, I knew it would be mild, but it's really too mild. The heat gets completely lost in anything I add it to. That might be okay, but the flavor does too. It has a nice flavor. Sweet, in case you hadn't guessed. It tastes good when I just chew it up by itself. Gnawing on a spoonful of pepper flakes isn't really what I'm looking for in a dining experience, though. Maybe someone with a more, whatchacallit, discerning palette would be better able to appreciate this.

Likewise Hatch Valley Green (Big Jim, Sandia, Jalapeno, Habanero), although in some ways I have the reverse complaint. It's got about the heat level I expected for Sweet Heat, but I'm not wowed by the flavor. I dunno. I'm still experimenting with all of these, so maybe I'll find some other uses that make it shine. Right now I'm mostly mixing it with one of the others, which is also what I'm doing with Sweet Heat.
 
I use Asian Reds (Gochugaru, Thai Chile, Ghost, Tien Tsin) for pretty much the stuff I imagined I'd use Sweet Heat for. It's not as sweet, but it goes with the same kind of things and has a respectable burn. I even put it on otherwise plain buttered toast for breakfast. Or, you know, whenever. And of course I put it on Chinese food. Restaurants around here have to worry about pasty mid-westerners (as opposed to pasty southerners like me) going all Karen because their Kung Pao has more bite than a poblano, so they tend to go extremely light on the spices. This stuff is the cure.

I guess that wasn't too shill-ish. I did have a few criticisms, after all. BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! I've got this coupon link they gave me. You can use it to get $5 off an order, and then I get a coupon if you use it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Try Nihilism

Last weekend would have been Gen Con if not for the plague. I wasn't going this year anyway, so I didn't care, but most of my friends were bummed. Tom even resolved to come up with a "hoot" to fill the void. Once everybody agreed to have it in Point Pleasant, West Virginia (home of the Mothman) I was on board too.

My original plan was to do a Mothman-inspired adventure I had run at Gen Con a few years back, but a request for D&D inspired me to finally try out the 5e Adventures in Middle Earth rules. This was a last minute switch, so I went with one of the adventures in the Bree-Land Region Guide instead of making up my own. That area has always been one of my favorites.

Tom and I got to Point Pleasant on Wednesday, snapped a picture of the statue, confirmed that the Lowe Hotel (right across the street) really was closed, and proceeded to turn our room at the Quality Inn into a walk-in fridge. Tom did Tom stuff while I read through the adventure and crammed as many of the Middle Earth rules back into my brain as I could.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Whatever

I'm just not feeling the bloggery lately, so here's some random social media bits from sort of recently.

That's my fuzzy man. Some call him Captain Scrappy:

Speckle sizing up a potential adversary:


There's a house somewhere under all that:

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Couple o' Things

"There are two things in life you should always binge on: horror flicks and Wild Turkey."
--Joe Bob Briggs

It's been a while since I did a blog and I don't feel like writing up anything serious, so here's a bunch of random updates.

I've been working at home since everything shut down for the plague and I love it. I can be in my own little space with my cats and all the stuff I like to have around me. I don't even goof off much. If anything, I'm a little more productive than usual. Maybe it's because I don't feel guilty about it if I've gone to the trouble to get polished up and slog my way out there, but I do if I'm at home and not getting stuff done. And "social distancing" is my default setting anyway. I'm gonna be sad when I have to go back. That doesn't mean I want people to keep getting sick, of course. Well, except maybe these dumbass quarantine protesters. Those assholes can go anytime.

I hate to admit it, but I kind of like the company I work for, now. I'm really impressed by the way the way they're handling all this plague stuff and, I don't know, it's just something I'm glad to be a part of, I guess. 

Funny thing, though: I'm getting less done on The Nameless Way. I think I had adapted myself to doing my little writing-breaks at work, which would then bump it up to the surface in my head so I'd work from home. I guess I need to work out a new way to keep myself on schedule. I did fill out the playlist and change a few things, which might not have been the best use of my time, but it was fun. Similarly, I've been collecting and scanning old bits that I still had from the game on which the book is based. This isn't exactly the highest priority thing right now, but it will have an eventual use because I'm planning to have "digital extras" section for stuff like old maps and character sheets and things.

I've done a lot of video-chat gaming. The Defenders campaign is still running, although I've just been writing up some notes instead of posting detailed session logs. I've played in some of Tom & Curt's Scrap Pile follow-up and some Spacers and Charlie even ran a Birds of Prey adventure. Well, the Birds of Prey setup, anyway. The field team consisted of Artemis (my character, based on the cartoon version) and Black Cat (yes, from Marvel -- we know).

Back when I first started drinking, I tried gin and didn't like it. More recently, I tried it again and loved it. I guess back in the day I wasn't enough of a boozehound to notice anything beyond the sting of alcohol. I've been picking it up more often now. I'm still way into bourbon, though. It's just a mood thing. White Claw is pretty nice when I don't want to risk getting drunk, too.

Tweets (Most Recent to Oldest):
  • I hate ghosts that make people do shit like find the body or solve the murder or whatever. Deal with your own issues, ghost; it's not like you have anything better to do.
  • None of the people I've seen tweet-calling for revolution would be of any use if it really happened.
  • I just read that "OK" is just as correct as "okay," maybe more correct because it came first, so I guess nothing really matters to me anymore.
  • I decided I wanted to see what's up with those Friday the 13th movies tonight. I never realized that you don't even see the iconic hockey mask on Jason until more than halfway into the third movie.
  • I wonder who's gonna be the first to release a horror movie called "Shelter in Place."


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Child of Fire

Remember me talking about the Blackridge setting and the series of short novels I had in mind for it? No? That's okay. I was thinking about it the other day and rattled this out. If you want to find out a little more, click that link and scroll down past this post.

Prologue

Lyssa checked the clock for the first time since‭… ‬okay,‭ ‬thirty seconds ago.‭ ‬The storm was almost here.‭ ‬She adjusted Professor Gathright's expensive lens array and looked at the sky.‭ ‬Glowing green and red wisps were already sliding across the horizon.‭ ‬In the grooves of the carved circle and its inscribed triangle,‭ ‬orange salt flickered with more than reflected light.

The crystal lenses lit up as the solar flare illuminated more and more of the sky. The electric lights around her surged with the induced current. One of them popped but the others, chosen with this phenomenon in mind, held up. Lyssa made some adjustments to the array and watched the triangle.

She gasped as a pale blue, almost invisible, flame sprang up from the concrete floor inside the triangle, rising to a height of six feet before thickening to a foot or so in diameter. Much as she wanted to see this, much as she trusted the work she and Professor Gathright had done, she had never really expected it to work. The fire shifted to a deeper blue and tightened into a human-like shape.

Electricity arced from surface to surface. Lyssa could feel the charge tingling in her skin and lifting her hair. The lights flared and faded, but they were unnecessary now. The fiery figure in the triangle grew unbearably bright. Before she had to avert her eyes, Lyssa saw its head tilt back, as if it were looking up through the lenses.

Something grabbed her head and turned her face irresistibly back to the shape of fire. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to raise her hands to cover them, but her arms wouldn't move. The light burned through her lids, first red, then white. She begged. She sobbed. She screamed.

When the phantom hands released her, Lyssa collapsed into darkness.

Monday, February 24, 2020

BASHCon 2020

Had a great time at BASHCon this year. We missed out on gaming with Jerry because he put his Friday game in the system and a ton of people signed up for it. Tom and I would have been late anyway, so maybe it was for the best. The rest of us just arranged to get together for private games because convention registration was a mess.

Chili's was good, met Liam's friend Max, conversation, all that. Tom canceled his Saturday morning game on Saturday morning, which made his upcoming award ceremony even better.

All the usual stuff: vendors, auction, the always-awesome Phoenica restaurant, the cool student center. I got some loot and Tom surprised me with a t-shirt.
 
Cory ran Feast of Legends, an RPG designed by Wendy's as some sort of bizarre marketing scheme. The menu puns are hilariously corny. We had fun being all stupid and corporate the whole time. Cory hammed it up just right.
My Gangbusters game started off normal enough, with a gang of whiskey runners trying to find out how a rival gang was suddenly getting so much cheap, high-quality booze. Then it started getting weird, with a whole town coming out at night to search for bits of something in the grass, then screaming like pod people upon seeing an outsider spying on them. Then it was all monsters and slime and a meteor and a creepy old lady talking to metal box which she called, "mother." Tom has a bit more about it in his blog.

I always wanted to do a surprise session like this, because there's one thing about horror games that always gets lost because the players know they're in a horror game. If people were really exposed to freaky supernatural stuff, they would keep looking for another explanation. Part of the horror is the inability to accept it. And it worked, which is good because now they'll always see it coming, even when it's not, so this was my only shot.

At the El Vaquero after-party, Jerry and I presented Tom with his Quitters' Club award.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Fury

I've been trying to make the second season (Session 5 on) of the Defenders campaign a little more "ramped up" and it seems to be going well. We've got more dangerous opponents, more mystery, and more guest stars. We even picked up a new player last time. The gang continues to surprise me as well.

Another thing we've done is to switch to an alternative dice-rolling method. Instead of both the player and GM rolling one die and adding the modifiers, it's almost all on the players. They roll two dice, one designated as positive and one negative. The total is then added to the same stuff and compared with a target number, usually the appropriate ability score of an NPC. In player vs. player rolls, we use the old method. Mathematically, it's the same, but it helps me focus more on what's going on if I let the players do all the rolling.

Session 7 Recap (02/22/20)

Over the course of the morning, they all eventually saw the latest Daily Bugle headline, Dazzler Lights up WITHOUT Props which showed a picture of Alison dazzle-blasting Pandora. The article, credited to "E. Brock" went on to describe the fight and continued to make the point that Dazzler had powers and was not just using stage lights and technological tricks.

There was also a short article about Moon Knight fighting a werewolf. This seemed odd to Ali, who had seen Moon Knight die, way back in the prologue. Don't worry about that, though; it's just one of those random unrelated plot threads I like to drop.

Eventually the three got together on a rickshaw because Jessica was using a Malaysian burner phone and the only ride-share app was "TurtleRabbit." Seeing the crowd of reporters, Jess pulled up her hood. One reporter asked if Jessica and Pam were Dazzler's "superhero gal pals" and Ali said the team was "Dazzler and Her Amazing Friends."

Alison wanted to talk to her manager, Harry Osgood, about her newspaper appearance and wanted Jess to interrogate Cassie, whose name was on the list, while they were there. Jessica actually bonded with Cassie about their shared issues with Alison while Ali and Pam talked to Harry.

Harry said he was disappointed that Ali had kept her secret, but he had been swamped with job offers since the news broke, and had several for Ali to choose from just for this coming weekend. She chose a concert at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen. Asked if this was really a good thing after all, Harry said Ali should be careful, but it was certainly a big opportunity.

Outside, Ali found out that, while Jessica had made friends with Cassie, she hadn't asked her anything about Hydra. At Ali's insistence, Jessica went back in and said, "By the way, are you a Hydra?" Cassie said she didn't know what that was about so Jessica followed up with a question about being sick after the incident with Kilgrave. She said she hadn't.

The plan after that was to split up, each one taking part of the list.

Alison started with Jackson Day, the closest one to where she already was. He was a dock worker and a first glibly denied suffering any illness after the incident. Then he got a pained look and adopted a completely different manner, saying that yes, he had been sick, and had suffered blackouts occasionally since. He had still never heard anything about a hydra, though. She thanked him and texted the others that they should look into him further.

Pam started with Dontay Jackson, a lawyer at Hogarth & Associates, but couldn't get in to see him until next week, so she moved on to Corwin Manson. Manson was a copy editor at the Bugle, and he hadn't been sick or heard anything about a hydra, but he did remember a chunk of a story that had never been printed. The reporter had interviewed and done background research on everyone present and noted that several of them were sick shortly after. Pam verified that Madelyne Pryor had been one of them and moved on.

Jessica went to see Madelyne Pryor, who was now an agent at the Perez Travel Agency. She found Madelyne in her office with a uniformed policeman who she introduced as Officer Macone. The conversation didn't last long before their eyes flashed and someone tried to telekinetically suck the air out of her lungs. Jessica grabbed Madelyne and jumped out the window, jumping to a nearby rooftop. Jessica kept trying to talk to her, but Madelyne, who was much stronger than she looked, broke free, took a swing at Jessica, and jumped away.

Jessica, enjoying the fight, followed and tried to foot-sweep her, but botched it. Eventually she got Madelyne to listen to her. She told Jessica about the bond of the Hydra units and their goddess, Fury, who promised them a wonderful new world of order and justice. Jessica convinced Madelyne to introduce her to Fury. Madelyne said she needed to arrange it because she couldn't reach Fury on her own. They exchanged contact information.

The information came a bit later. The next night, Jessica was to go to the for-pay parking lot where Midland Circle used to be. Jessica, Alison, and Pam got back together to do some more planning. The other two would hide nearby while Jessica went to her meeting. Before they left, Alison called Danny to fill him in on everything in case something went wrong.

There was nobody in the parking lot, but Jessica kept going and met a transparent, vaguely feminine figure. When asked if it was Fury, the shape said, "Yes, inevitably." Fury invited Jessica to join "my children" in bringing its vision of a utopia governed by superhumans to life and extended its hand.

Jessica accepted.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Contact Form

I had to take the contact form down. Okay, I didn't have to take it down, but spammers either found a new way to abuse these things or they've just now discovered my page. For quite a while, it served its intended purpose with no trouble, but lately the spam has been increasing steadily and I'm tired of deleting their broken-English attempts to sell me herbal remedies and weird random things I don't even understand.

Now there's just an email address in the sidebar. Hopefully the parasites haven't already evolved a resistance to this format. I'm sure they will eventually.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Jessica Jones, Attorney at Law

Session 6 Recap (02/08/20)

Setup Info Sent to Pandora's Player: You've been pursuing a creep people have been calling the Mad Gasser. He gets in through upper story windows in Hell's Kitchen, knocks people out, goes through their stuff, and steals things. You finally caught him in the act. He uses weird mechanical stilt things to extend himself up and then gasses them. You've knocked him down and are beating the crap out of him in the street when we introduce you.

Jessica got home around 3AM and, having been the sober one for an uncomfortably long period of time, went down the street for a cartful of whiskey and got to work on it before she even made it home. When she charged her phone, she found several calls from a blocked number and a voicemail from a man who said he had turned off some cameras to help her out the other night and wanted to meet with her at the Dewitt Clifton Park tomorrow at 5PM.

Meanwhile, Alison woke up to a bunch of noise outside. She and Danny found a woman with Betty Page hair (Pandora) beating up a guy with a metal tank on his back and some kind of mechanical leg attachments (Mad Gasser/Stiltman). As Ali and Danny arrived on the street, Pandora punched out Stiltman. Then she grabbed his head. Both their eyes glowed and Stiltman started to shrivel up.

Alison used the man's screams to power a weak dazzle-blast. Despite its low power, the beam nailed the preoccupied Pandora right where it needed to, overwhelming her senses and stunning her for the duration. Danny went upstairs to call 911 while Alison (still in her nightgown) made sure Stiltman was okay.

Jessica, reminded of Alison by the "BITCH" scrawled on her door, decided to pay her back with a drunk call. This eventually led to Jessica, Costa, some other cops, and an ambulance showing up around the same time.

Costa got them all to come to the station and held Pandora, who had reverted to her other personality, Pam Schrodinger, for psychiatric evaluation, but kept her powers out of the report because he wanted her out of Powers Division custody in case he needed more information on Stiltman. He had been pursuing this guy for a while and wanted the collar to stick.

Jessica decided that she was Pam's lawyer now and kept throwing in objections and sidebars and referring to Pam as "my client." The next day, Pam was released but Costa (who apparently never sleeps and answers all calls because I enjoy bringing him in when I can) asked Jessica to keep an eye on her as a favor.

Reminded of the investigation by a text about Beefer's upcoming funeral, Alison, Jessica, and their new buddy Pam, got back to the Hydra investigation. Jessica shared the information she had gathered so far. The recap led to her eventually remembering that she had an appointment, so they went to the park to meet the anonymous caller. Ali, Danny, and Pam stayed hidden in case there was trouble.

Eventually the whole gang was talking with dude, a skinny kind of hippy-looking dude with a brown ponytail, which reminded Jessica uncomfortably of Karl Malus. He said his name was Dr. Leonard Skivorski, which elicited a snort of laughter from Jess, and that he worked at the Raft as a biopsychologist. He had ensured her entry and escape (although his friend "Micro" had helped him out with the computer stuff) partly because he knew about her investigation of the Hydra.

Kilgrave's ghostly image was particularly agitated during this conversation, nagging Jessica to the point that she occasionally lashed out at nothing and almost punched Alison once. Skivorski revealed that "ESPer Units" at the Raft were using superhuman biomatter to try to tap into a kind of microbial intelligence that had recently begun to manifest. He said they had been able to trace the manifestations back to November 20, 2015. The date immediately dug into Jessica's mind, even silencing her purple ghost. It was the day she broke Killgrave's neck.

Skivorski apologized for not having more information, but gave her a contact number and left. Investigating further, the team (mostly Jessica) got a list of the people who were present when Kilgrave died: Vince Hayes, Basil Elks, Jackson Day, Joey Macone, Cassandra Means, Ripley Ryan, Patricia Walker, Earnest Miller, Ravelo Ramos, Madelyne Pryor, Dontay Jackson, Corwin Manson, Doreen Green, Kubur Killington, Jason Macendale.

She got pictures and vital stats for all of them. For possibly meta reasons, they zeroed in on Madelyne Pryor, who said she had been sick after the incident, but was better now. When she found out she was talking to Jessica Jones, she hung up.

Pam said Ravelo Ramos sounded hot, but not much else happened.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Little More

Here's a little bit of work I got done while hiding in the basement today.

As they neared the middle of the city, the webs became more prominent. Up ahead, a huge spire towered over a circular plaza. A round symbol was painted on its lower reaches in red and gold. The swirling, self-mirroring yin-yang symbol stood out starkly against the otherwise featureless black stone. She had seen the symbol with less garish colors on several occasions before, but most recently in Timber, on Shao Tsang's tunic. The other buildings in the circle were all covered in webs.

Kala and Oeklor were checking every corner now, starting at every echo. They drew their swords. Kala absent-mindedly traced tiny circles with the point of her blade while Oeklor kept switching his grip back and forth from forward to backward. Looking more closely at the webbed-over buildings around the circle, they found human-shaped bulges in the fabric. Each of these had one or two smaller, rounder bulges near it.

Speaking barely above a whisper, Kala said, "I think you were right. This was a--"

Oeklor poked his sword into one of the little round bundles and wiggled the blade.

"--Bad idea." Kala grimaced and backed away. Little black shapes squirmed around the blade and the cut began to widen on its own.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Hydra

Session 5 Recap (01/11/20)

The holidays came and went. Jessica and Alison exchanged gifts (at Ali's prompting) but, with the threat to Dazzler's life gone, they didn't otherwise stay in touch. One morning in January, Dazzler stopped by Harry's office to check in on a job. Harry was closing up the office for the day. He was disheveled and had obviously been crying, and revealed that Hamilton Glatt (known to Dazzler and the crew as "Beefer") had died. He said they had tried to reach Alison, but Cassie said she wasn't answering her phone. 

According to Harry, Glatt's body had been burned black and there had been "some kind of flower" drawn on his spine. Ali took him out for a drink or ten, made sure he got home, and proceeded to get even more plastered. Eventually she called Jessica, intending to ask for her help. She wasn't communicating very well, so they both just got mad and hung up. Alison went to Jessica's apartment around 5:30 AM, but Jessica hadn't gotten home yet, so Ali lasered BITGCH, with the "G" crossed out, into her door and passed out.

Eventually they hooked up at Ali's place in Chelsea. Jessica did some research while trying to sober Alison up, noting the irony while she ordered Chinese food. Alison concocted a horrible mixture of champagne and wine coolers and kept drinking when Jessica wasn't paying attention. She called Danny Rand and, over Alison's shouts of, "Is he seeing anybody?" asked for his help with the mysticism-related elements of the case.

Meanwhile, using some "borrowed" passwords, Jessica found the crime scene photos. As Harry had said, the body was completely charred and shriveled up like a mummy. Along the spine were five identical symbols in white ash, with two more on the head – one on the back and another on top. The figures were shaped like flowers with lots of tear-shaped petals.

Danny showed up at about the same time as the food and identified the flower patterns as lotus. He confirmed Jessica's suspicion that the arrangement matched the seven main chakras and mentioned that he had come across references to similar psychic vampirism while researching ways to undo Davos's theft of the Iron Fist.

Jessica made sure Ali ate something, then asked Danny to look out for her while she followed up on an idea. The two went to a nearby bar, the Lava Lounge, where Ali subconsciously used her emotion-shifting aura to make everyone want to dance. Danny resisted the lightshow, but danced anyway. Then her thoughts drifted back to her dead friend and she accidentally made everyone else sad. 

Meanwhile (I love saying "meanwhile"), Jessica got a ride south and then jumped from ship to ship to eventually land on the artificial island prison known as The Raft. The prison itself was windowless concrete with only one entrance. Well, two if you count the yard in the middle. Avoiding searchlights and patrols, Jessica crept closer and jumped to the roof, then dropped quietly into the yard. She convinced a guard that she was a civilian inspector who wandered off and found Davos's cell. 

Davos was surprisingly accommodating and told Jessica about a series of similar murders in K'un Lun. He laughed as he told her that she was pursuing a hydra. In the incident in K'un Lun, the Hydra was group of telepaths working in concert, led by a controlling mind that never physically manifested. He asked for dust from the collapse of Midland Circle in return for his help.

Jessica went back to Manhattan and eventually Dazzler passed out. While that might seem like a decent end, the truth is that we expected to play a fair bit longer than we did. So some time passed, and a mostly-sober Dazzler put the moves on Danny, who mentioned earlier that he and Colleen were kind of on the outs. I think we were cutting back to Jessica when real life stuff ended the session.