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Topics - Setherick

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RPGs / A Tribute to Sir Redgar Orphan's Bane
« on: April 19, 2009, 06:50:56 PM »
We were nearing the end of an extended Iron Heroes campaign run by Ross a few years back when a new member joined our party, Sir Redgar. Now the player playing Sir Redgar was a fairly intelligent guy (he's currently a PhD student in Political Science at a school which will remain nameless), but he wasn't the fastest on his feet and his character suffered for it. Wulfstan, my hunter and defacto party leader, became immediately suspicious of this young knight who did not seem to possess much worldly experience. He made another warm body to throw at enemies, so Wulfstan overlooked most of his follies. Then came the infamous day when Sir Redgar earned his moniker "Orphan's Bane."

The day started out as any other day when the group was in town. The barbarian went to the bar. The elven archer restrung her bow. The charismatic thief went and pilfered the rich. My character tried to atone for all the sins and cultural taboos the party had committed. And Sir Redgar, well, he went to the bizarre to find a new weapon. In the bizarre, he was pick-pocketed by a wandering street urchin and instead of harming or even reprimanding the child, he demanded that the child take him to its parents. When the child replied that he was an orphan, Sir Redgar demanded that the child take him to his guardian. This is when things got ugly.

The guardian of the child ended up being an assassin/thief who was training the thirty some orphans he cared for how to be other assassin/thieves. Sir Redgar took this as an affront to his knightly ways and decided the best appropriate action was to strike the man down as the thirty some orphans watched.
Then things got really ugly.

Ross: The thirty screaming orphans come running at you, smacking at your armor, and pining for their now dead guardian.

Redgar: I start to walk away.

Ross: One of them manages to stab you doing superficial damage, you take one point.

Redgar: I strike them all down.

Ross: What?

Redgar: They are going to grow up to be assassins and thieves anyway, I kill them all now.

Ross: A few minutes later, thirty some dead orphans lie at your feet. You hear the approach of local constables. What do you do?

Redgar: I wipe my blade.

By this point, the entire table was laughing so hard we had to take a break.

General Chaos / Old Game Nostalgia Thread
« on: April 19, 2009, 12:08:47 PM »
We've had a few of these threads. But let's really open up the floor to discuss some classic old school games. I'm a computer guy and have been since the age of three, so don't expect many console games out of me.

Here are my two entries for today:

Autoduel - 1985 adaptation of Steve Jackson's Car Wars. I played this on an Apple IIe. My father and I had a competition to see who could beat it first, he rewrote the code so he could win.

Eamon - The first computer role playing game I played again for the Apple II.

Ran across this today, it's really sweet although there are still only a few comics posted:

RPGs / Game Fodder: Right Wing Extremism
« on: April 15, 2009, 08:13:06 PM »
There has been a lot of talk recently about right wing extremism being on the rise and for good reason (collapsing economy, first black President, immigration issues). One of the unintended consequences of this is that it makes for excellent game fodder.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked a rise in hate groups:

They also include a pretty sweet map of known hate groups:

There is also the recent report by the DHS on the threat of right wing extremism. (Sorry about the Huffington Post link, but it does have the full document that you can read):

General Chaos / Ode to the Man on the Bus Who Looked Like Jack Sparrow
« on: April 15, 2009, 07:20:17 PM »
When I saw pony tail and goatee with upturned mustache, I must admit I was slightly amused. But when I saw your frilled shirt and red vest with white trimmed, I was completely taken aback. My only regret is that I did not have the extra cash on hand to buy you a saber.

So I wake up at 3:30 this morning because I have a crazy dream where I'm giving a conference presentation about how role playing games expose America's underlying cultural ethos. And, if that wasn't bizarre enough, I'm quoting Ross.

RPGs / Share Your Game Ideas
« on: April 14, 2009, 09:41:01 PM »
I have a file of game ideas - mostly for DnD or IH type games - that I probably won't have a chance to run so I've decided to share them on the boards so that someone can use them if they wanted. I encourage everyone else to do the same, etc...


The players enter into a city that is seemingly abandoned. No one is on the streets. If the players enter any of the buildings, they will find skeletons posed where people would be doing things, skeletal guards are at the posts, skeletal families are eating dinner, skeletal merchants are at the booths, a skeletal lord sits on a throne, etc. If the players stay in the town long enough, after dark or such, the skeletons become animated and begin to move about the city. The skeletons may become hostile to the players. Even if a skeleton is destroyed, however, by the next morning it will be back in the same place that the players found it. The players eventually learn that a curse has been placed on the town and they must decide whether or not to figure out how to break the curse.


A dungeon of the players collective minds, where everything thing the players say while in the dungeon happens in the dungeon. For instance, a player says, “At least there are no dragons.” And lo and behold a dragon appears. Or, a dungeon of some evil villains mind, where the world is labyrinthine, warped, and twisted.

I have more and will post them as I find them.

General Chaos / Stupid Phishers Even Call Themselves Fish
« on: April 13, 2009, 08:40:26 AM »
Got this email this morning - for some reason my spam filter didn't catch it - but it's just too priceless not to share. You know you're a stupid Nigerian phisher when you even call your fake person "Fish".

fromJenny Fish <>

dateMon, Apr 13, 2009 at 7:33 AM
subjectATM Card

hide details 7:33 AM (3 minutes ago) Reply

This is to officially inform you that (ATM Card
Number;5299751493779935  with a fund worth 6.8 Million Dollars has been accredited in your favor,Please Contact Mr Dave Walker
( With the following, Full Name:
Delivery Address: Age: Occupation: and Phone Number:
Best Regards.
Mr Dave Walker.

Holy shit! I can totally see Tom doing this in game. Oh wait, I have seen Tom do this in game.

Karate expert kills two over lice infection
Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:36pm EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian karate expert has been charged with beating to death a 61-year-old woman and her son, whom he accused of infecting his wife with lice, an investigator said Friday.

The drunk 26-year-old burst into a neighboring room in his hostel Tuesday and used karate moves to kill the pair, state investigator Eduard Abdullin said by telephone from Kazan, a city 700 km (430 miles) east of Moscow.

"He literally beat them to death with his hands and feet," Abdullin said. "The family were poor and drank a lot. He blamed them for infecting his wife and the entire corridor with lice."

The 58-year-old husband of the dead woman was also badly beaten, but survived.

The suspect, who studied karate for seven years, faces life in prison if convicted, Abdullin added.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries)

© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.

Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

Role Playing Public Radio Podcast / How Adversaries Get Made
« on: April 12, 2009, 06:42:55 PM »
Ross and I posted one of these before Ross changed the forums. This is a gmail chat session Ross and I had on February 21 that details the initial outlines of the Kurtz/Cortez adversary in the New World game. The character won't actually appear for several more sessions, but there has already been chatter on the board about him.

Ross has changed the background of the character since we have talked, but I still wanted to post this as a way of talking about how games are created and run. (And to let everyone know they can always come to me if they need me to help them come up with some kind of adversary...  ::))


Patrick: so I thought about rolling up a DnD character and giving him a back story today just for fun

Ross: awesome
  make him someone I can use for the new world campaign
  don't worry about stats
  I can do that party

Patrick: nice
what level are the characters currently?

Ross: 7
 but they've met liches and other high level NPCs
 well A lich

Patrick: you know we could play up a Cortez meets Kurtz from Heart of Darkness and create a paladin-turned-blackguard who was the leader of a previous expedition

Ross: oooo
  an expedition that no one knows about

 Patrick: right

 Ross: like the vikings who landed in the new world
  that is fucking great
  I love it
  the way 4E works now
  there are 3 tiers of play
  heroic (low level)
  paragon (mid level )
  and epic
  players are at heroic
  right now
  As soon as they complete the current quest
  I will bump them to paragon
  and use that idea for the first paragon quest

Patrick: I would say this guy is a real prick too and has traded all his paladin levels that he can for blackguard levels

Ross: I already got a hook too
  several sessions ago they rescued a dwarf cartographer
  who then went out to the mountains to map them
  the dwarf sends a message back to the players
Patrick: he became a blackguard because a local sorcerer of a native tribe summoned a devil to demonstrate the natives power
  but the devil befriended the paladin
  turning against the natives
  because the devil saw the paladin could be seduced
  and was already quite powerful
  how does that work for a brief backstory?

Ross: I think I will probably modify it a bit
  the paladin wants to introduce law to the natives
  the devil helps with that
Patrick: ha so instead of LG, you get LE

Ross: right
  so the paladin becomes obsessed with order
  becomes a despot

Patrick: yeah, I like that
  because good/evil become subjective

Ross: yeah
  and he uses brutality to enforce the law

General Chaos / Happy Zombie Jesus Day
« on: April 12, 2009, 12:45:51 PM »
Shout outs to J.C. the original zomb-ie muthafuckas.

RPGs / Post the Backgrounds of Your Favorite Characters
« on: April 10, 2009, 09:08:42 PM »
I have a lot of fun making character backgrounds to play in games, even one-shot games. I made this thread so everyone can post the background of some of your favorite characters that you have made. Please provide the name(s) the character has gone by and and what game(s) you used the character in.


Name: Orlen Johnson (See the original character sheet here.)
Games: Masks of Nyarlathotep (unrecorded but not unmentioned)
CoC One Shot (recorded but unposted)

Orlen Johnson – Gun For Hire / Hit Man / Gambler

Orlen is an averaging looking American male with a long list of people he has killed. His wispy brown hair is beginning to gray along the sides, but it is always well kempt. He is usually clean shaven, but has been known to wear a mustache. He has a penchant for white suits, bowler hats, and Colt 1911 Model .45s. He keeps two of the last in shoulder holsters under his suit jacket at all times. He carries several forms of fake badges in case he is ever stopped, everything from Wells Fargo to Texas Ranger. He shuns drinking and smoking, looking down upon both as vices which will destroy society if given the time, but he is never one to pass up a game of poker. He would not call it an addiction, he knows when to walk away from the table.

Orlen has a first class cabin on the cruise ship that is heading toward Australia. He was actually going their for pleasure and not for business. Although, if business happens to come up for the right price, Orlen would gladly come aboard. Orlen is usually found in the casino playing cards, in the dining hall, or along one of the cruise ships sun decks. In his cabin, stored in the false bottom of his trunk, is a dissembled Tommy Gun with a drum and two magazines fully loaded and a sawed off double barrel shotgun because one never knows when trouble will arrive. (And if Larsen wants to contract Orlen, trouble will definitely arrive.)


Name: Reginald "Six Gun" McNamara
Games: Hunter One Shot (not recorded)
A different version of McNamara appeared in an All Flesh Must be Eaten one-shot where he led an anarchist revolt in a military compound.

Reginald “Six Gun” McNamara
Age 35
Occupation: Marine—Infantry (retired), Truck Driver

Reginald grew up in a small town in the desert Southwest like New Rome. His ancestors had been part of the Irish that had built the railroad and his father had been a ranch hand that had drove cattle on the mesa. When Reginald was eighteen he decided that he had had enough of dirt farming and post planting and joined the Marines. The Persian Gulf War was starting, so Reginald traded one desert for another one. When he came home, something just wasn’t right about Reginald. He suffered from mild paranoia and flashbacks. He never told anyone about them because the Persian Gulf wasn’t supposed to be another Vietnam and he didn’t want to attract any attention.

To calm himself, Reginald turned to truck driving. There was something about hauling ten to twenty tons of cargo through the desert that appealed to him. Perhaps it was the way the wheels on his rig sung to him as he moved down the interstate. But trucking also offered Reginald a different kind of escape as he fell into a group of drivers that believed that they were the last real American Cowboys. Once he had enough money, Reginald bought his own rig. During that time he earned the moniker “Six Gun” for always carrying two .357 Magnums on his hip like a gunslinger; cowboy boots, blue jeans, and a cowboy hat complete his wardrobe.

The truck stop in New Rome was Reginald’s many haunts. And he keeps in relatively close contact with the owner of it and a few of the drivers that made permanent homes in the area. He chews tobacco incessantly, sometimes falling asleep with it in his mouth, has been known to drink more than his fair share of the whiskey, and has on occasion challenged people to a duel at high noon. No one has accepted.

Ross was talking about giving away some schwag if you purchase the RPPR special Motor Home from Hell set. I decided to post up some schwag of my own. This is the original character sheet for the character who ended up with the highest body count in Masks of Nyarlathotep.

Role Playing Public Radio Podcast / Orlen Johnson Chronicles
« on: April 03, 2009, 10:53:05 AM »
When I was in Springfield last month, Ross and I got to talking about me writing a blog about the character Orlen Johnson (see Episode 27). To recap Orlen Johnson was thrown through time and space at the end of the Masks of Nyarlathotep and ended up in the Sonoran Desert in near contemporary America. There is a yet-to-be-posted actual play that gives some more insight into Orlen Johnson's life after being through time and space.

The blog would work as a series of microfiction stories (~500 words) in a kind of pulp style. I may end up doing more multimedia type stuff with it to like recorded phone calls, patient tapes, etc. The blog would chronicle Johnson's fighting of the mythos in contemporary America all the while wearing his 1930s duster and hat.

Ideas are greatly appreciated.

Not only am I an occasional contributing writer and voice actor for RPPR, but I am a PhD student at UW-Milwaukee. Most of my typical work is done in 19C American literature and culture, but for a class on liberalism and sovereignty I'm writing a paper on The Day the Earth Stood Still. I thought I would share with you guys the short paper / proposal (which will explain some of the formulaic parts of the conclusion) I have to write for my midterm exam. I'll end up turning this into a 15-20 page seminar paper at the end of the semester, which explains some of the initial choppiness in the writing and the formulaic conclusion. In the 15-20 page version, I'll bring in Zizek to help walk through sympathetic association and group dynamics. Some of the formatting will be off because I don't want to go through and edit in all the italics. I hope you guys enjoy this more than you enjoyed the movie.


The Dialectic of Social Contract and Sympathy in The Day the Earth Stood Still

The 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remarkable film not for any aesthetic achievement or box office success, but because it succinctly summarizes the dialectics that undergird the last two-hundred-and-fifty years of liberal thought. The most obvious of these dialectics to film goers is the tension between reason and emotion. Two telling scenes that speak directly to this tension. The first scene occurs when Professor Jacob Barnhardt (John Cleese) tells Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) that she must prevent Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) by appealing to his emotions. As Barnhardt says, “Change his mind, not with reason, but with yourself” (my emphasis). The second scene occurs in the federal cemetery where Benson's step-son Jacob Benson's (Jaden Smith) father is buried. Klaatu watches as Jacob cries in the arms of Benson before saying to her as the grey goo designed to destroy the Earth from ecophagy swirls in the background, “There's another side to you. I feel it now” (my emphasis). But as I will argue in this paper contained within this obvious dialectic is the much more complex dialectic of the social contract and sympathy as the principle social organizational tool. This dialectic can be broken further down in the film into component parts of realpolitik and state politics, which are represented in the film by Benson and her fellow scientists and the military-state apparatus respectively. 

Understanding how thoroughly The Day the Earth Stood Still sets up the dialectic between social contract and sympathy partially requires understanding how the 2008 remake of the movies forms a dialog with the the 1951 original adaptation. The 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still ends with Klaatu (Michael Rennie) explaining to the leaders of major earth power how other planets have created a peace through the use of powerful robots that activate at the first sign of aggression. Klaatu ends his speech with an ultimatum that either the Earth can enter into the same compact with the other planets and “live in peace” or “face obliteration.” The 1951 version of the movie, then, speaks directly to the increasing hostilities and ensuing arms race between The United States and Soviet Union after the end of World War II. At a time when power was becoming concentrated in the hands of two nations and their allies, only the imposition of a third outside, and perhaps alien, force more powerful than either of the first two could sustain a peace. The designed purpose of the robots in the 2008 version is elided with Klaatu explaining Gort's actions, or more appropriately to the 2008 version G.O.R.T.'s (“Genetically Organized Robotic Technology” a name provided by the military and not Klaatu) to Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) that, “It activates in the presence of violence.” This elision is made so that at the end of the movie Klaatu can appear to be acting on his own free will in stopping the grey goo in a sympathetic gesture.
The dialog between the two versions of the film also helps in understanding how the military-state apparatus of The United States is portrayed in the 2008 version. The United States through its military-state apparatus functions similarly in securing a peace through the use of violence. An exchange between Klaatu and Secretary of Defense Jackson while Klaatu is being held in a military hospital demonstrates this function of The United States. Klaatu explains his want to speak to the United Nations, which Jackson denies saying instead he should speak to her. Klaatu then asks, “Do you speak for the entire human race?” Jackson responds, “I speak for the President.”
The scene implies that as far as the military-state apparatus is concerned, the President of The United States speaks for the entire world as a type of sovereign authority. The powerful robots of the 1951 film and The United States in the 2008 film are similar to what Thomas Hobbes defined as the Leviathan. Hobbes argues that “during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as if of every man, against every man” (185). To sustain a peace individuals have transfer their rights to another and “the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a Common-wealth” (227). The “one Person” is the Leviathan or “that Mortall God, to which wee owe under the Immortall God, our peace and defence” (227): “For by this Authoritie, given him by every particular man in the Common-Wealth, he hath the use of so much Power and Strength conferred on him, that by terror thereof, he is inabled to forme the wills of them all, to Peace at home, and mutuall ayd against their enemies abroad” (227-228). The robots secure peace by ensuring the destruction of any aggressor, while The United States ensures peace similarly on Earth with the Iraq War and also by assuming a lead role in the defense of the Earth by the capturing of Klaatu. The perceived failure of the Iraq War and literal “change of heart” Klaatu has in the 2008 version of the film suggest a rejection of Hobbes' model of social contract theory. The rejection of Hobbes' social contract neatly parallels that of Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith rejects the very basis of Hobbes' argument saying instead of a war of all against all being the need cause for a commonwealth, “Virtue is the great support, and vice the great disturber of human society” (372). Furthermore, virtue is determined not through reason but through “immediate sense and feeling” (377). Smith's rejection of Hobbes rests on sympathy as the modus operandi of his theory of proprietary action. Klaatu's rejection of social contract for sympathy suggests all social contracts should be reject on the basis that they ignore the emotional valency of contractual members.
The film suggests these rejections of social contract for sympathy occur continuously in terms of realpolitik. When Benson is first taken to the military staging area, she manages to sneak in her specifically forbidden cellphone. She later manages to hide in the women's bathroom and place a call to her step-son Jacob. A uniformed female officer bangs on the stall door and as Benson opens it authoritatively asks, “Is that a cellphone?” There is a momentary pause to build the dramatic tension of the scene before the officer haltingly continues, “Can I borrow it?” The shifting tonal register and disruption of anticipated result allows the audience a brief catharsis. What could be better than knowing that not all of the characters in the film are going to be heartless? But the scene also clearly exemplifies how realpolitik organizes through sympathetic associations in the film. The officer is contractually obligated to follow the orders set by her commanding officers, which include the confiscation of cellphones. She breaks this contractual obligation by not confiscating Benson's cellphone on sight. Instead, the officer sympathizes with Benson's desire to call her step-son – I will ignore the obvious gender constructions in the scene – and asks Benson for her sympathy symbolized here in the cellphone itself. She does this to prove she is like Benson enough that she has the same innate desires for family in a time of crisis. Although the scene breaks on the officer's second question, watchers can assume Benson will lend the officer her cellphone. The exchanging of the cellphone corresponds with the completion of the sympathetic association: Benson accepts the officer into her group and recognizes the officer's rejection of the social contract.
This early scene foreshadows the crux of the film when Klaatu explains to a pleading Benson the terms of the social contract under which the Earth is an unwitting, if not unwilling, participant. Klaatu explains that if the human race is exterminated “the Earth survives.” Survival of the planet, he continues, is of the utmost importance because, “There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos capable of supporting complex life.” The scene is interrupted by a highway patrolman whom Klaatu briefly kills before bringing back to life. Klaatu's actions allow Benson to question why Klaatu would bring the patrolman back to life since the human race was going to be annihilated anyway. The interruption hinges on Klaatu's agency and his ability to show sympathy. Benson challenges, “You could stop this. Couldn't you? If you wanted to,” implying Klaatu has more agency to act within the terms of the social contract than he is acknowledging. Klaatu maintains the language of the social contract in his response: “I tried to reason with you. I tried to speak to your leaders” (my emphasis). Benson retorts, “Those aren't our leaders. If you want to speak to one of our leaders, I'll take you to one” (my emphasis). Benson takes Klaatu to the aforementioned Professor Barnhardt who tells Benson to convince Klaatu through emotion and not reason and whose Nobel Prize, coincidentally, had been awarded for his work in biological altruism. The emphasis that Barnhardt is one of the Earth's actual leaders, and not the President of The United States represented by Secretary of Defense Jackson, signifies the divide between science and the military-state apparatus. The division also represents the division between realpolitik and state politics. Barnhardt's disciplinary specialty only serves to further emphasize that science, and realpolitik, functions through sympathy, while the military-state apparatus only functions to maintain a social contract. In fact, Barnhardt knows the genetics of sympathy as well as represents it as a social organizational tool. And it is at Barnhardt's that Klaatu is moved by Bach's music to “feel” “another side” of the human race that becomes fully realized at the federal cemetery.
There are specific problematics with sympathy as a social organizational tool that are represented in the film that I do not have the space to detail here. Many of these problems are associated with the differing postulates on human nature that Hobbes and Smith begin their arguments from. Hobbes begins with the postulate that humans are innately selfish and violent in their actions, while Smith begins with the postulate that the selfishness of humans makes them innately sympathetic. Instead of always and only wanting to war with one another in a natural state, as in Hobbes, Smith assumes humans will work to develop peace through sympathetic associations because sympathy promotes virtue and order. The film suggests then a rejection of social contract theory, at least a social contract that favors intervention by the military-state apparatus, in the American populace and its corresponding realpolitik in favor of a more sympathetic approach to dealing with world conflicts and disasters. What the film does not provide is a dialectical synthesis between social contract theory and sympathy, such as one modeled after Rousseau who does attempt to include emotional valency in his theory of social contracts. Finally, the major problematic aspect of sympathetic association as social organizational tool in the film revolves around the contingency that sympathy can only be granted to persons who have been admitted to a group. Klaatu's sympathy toward the human race in stopping the grey goo not only rejects the terms of the social contract he explicitly outlines, but offers the human race admission into the larger group of alien races to which Klaatu serves and is part. Of course, Klaatu's agency in offering this admission must be questioned. Does Klaatu's sympathy represent just a temporary reprieve from destruction? As I continue working on this paper, I will have to address questions such as these.

Works Cited
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Ed. C.B. McPherson. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.
Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Ed. Knud Haakonssen. New York: Cambridge UP, 2002.

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