Comments On Twitter And What They Really Mean

Social Media

Twitter is a playground for me.  I don’t take it seriously.  If I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t have a Twitter account or even think about using it.  Nothing really makes me mad since Twitter is filled with idiots.  I go for the chuckles – either from posts or responding to them.

In some respects, I am a troll.  There are times I post shit simply to make people overreact.  Snarky comments are my binky in life.  Of course, in the last few months, Twitter has become a savaged battlefield of social media.  Lives and reputations are merely part of the poorly written body count in a war that has consumed the world.  If you make even the most innocent of comments, there are a dozen people that will pounce on you.  In two hours last weekend I was called a Nazi, a member of the Gestapo, a gun-nut, a Socialist, a racist, and a moron.  I am none of these things…though I am toying with “gun-nut” based on the accusations leveled at me.

The social media hostility level is at Defcon 5.  So for those of you that want to venture into the Twitter-verse, here’s some common lines I saw dropped over the weekend – and what my interpretation of what they really mean is.  Enjoy and share!

“I respect your opinion, but…”  You are so wrong I actually threw up a little bit in the back of my mouth.  Who knew you could be so stupid.

“What qualifies you as an expert?”   I am smarter than you and want to prove it.  If proven wrong, I will simply call you a Nazi or racist, so it’s all good.

“Nazi”   You don’t 110% agree with my thinking so my solution is to resort to labeling you the worst possible thing I can think of. It doesn’t matter if the subject is your favorite flavor of yogurt, if you don’t completely agree with me, you are, quite literally, one of the worst persons in history.

“Racist.”  I couldn’t spell Nasi (or is it Nazi?) but I want you to know I am giving you a label and hate anything you type.  Rather than refute or debate it, this is the only bullet I have in my gun, so I use it for just about anything.

“Socialist”  Stop whining about free stuff you believe you are owed by society.  Speaking for society, you aren’t owed shit.  Get back to work.

“I’m no expert but…”  I’m TOTALLY an expert because I can use ‘the Google’…

“Troll”   You dared to challenge my post and rather than use logic, I resort to name calling to diminish your validity on the topic at hand.

“On Fox News they said…”  You are a grumpy old man who is usually busy yelling at kids for being on his yard.  PS – this is me.

“On MSNBC they said …”  You are detached from reality and likely a Marxist, Anarchist, and get your news from The View.  Admit it, you think that Joy Behar is a hottie, don’t you?

“Play adult games – win adult prizes.”  If you go off and break the law and act stupid, don’t be surprised when someone opens a can of whoop-ass on you. (Please post videos of you getting your ass kicked – thanks!)

“We’re all good.”  I grow weary of this battle of words.  Can we call a truce?

“Let me be clear…”  I will use little words so you can understand what I am attempting to say.

“My bad.”  Crap, you called me out on my bullshit post. Curse you!

“Apologies”   Drop dead, but do it quietly.

“You are a bad faith actor.”  You dared challenge my idiotic thoughts and have fought me to a stalemate.  Curse you!

“You’re a hater.”  Actually, I hate you, but it is much more fun for me to call you something bad and hater works for me.

“WTF?”  Are you on booze, weed, meth, or a combo of the three?

“I’m sorry…”  I am totally not sorry but prefer to sound reasonable.

“Gaslight”  You are attempting to manipulate people into thinking a way I don’t want them to.  Stop it.

“Bro”  I was born after 1999.

“Apparently…”  You have no idea what you are writing about.

“Gotcha!”  I am giving myself a participation trophy on Twitter. Mom says I’m the best!

“Quit ur whining…”  1.  I lack the ability to spell complete words.  2.  I don’t have a logical argument to refute your facts, so I am just going to call your comments ‘whining’ and hope you go away.  3.  With these spelling skills I will be working in the fascinating world of fast food as a career.

“It’s extremely disappointing to hear you ___ ”  I am SO much smarter than you that my solution to your point is to talk down to you.  Here, let me draw you a picture…

“Oh, I know…”  No, I really don’t have a clue. I do have an opinion though, one I will shove in your face, right now.

“Peaceful protesters.”  Rioters

“Everyone knows…”  Everyone I know who thinks the way I do believes the way I do on this subject.  I have actually conducted scientific polls to verify this.  We all got together and agreed that you are stupid by the way.

“Vote vote vote!”   Vote – three times, for my candidate.

“If you ask me…”  No one asked me, but I feel my opinion is SUPER important.

“I must have really been on target when I called you a ______”  It is bothering me that, after I resorted to name calling, you have not replied.  In fact, it is bothering me so much that I need to try and prod you into reacting…so I can call you another name.

“Seriously?”  God you’re fu*king stupid.  I mean like drunk cheerleader stupid.

“I have a right to _____”  I know nothing about the law, but play a lawyer on Twitter by describing rights, rules, and laws that simply don’t exist.

“What you don’t understand…”  How could anyone be this stupid?  Now I will explain it to you as if you were a 3rd grader.  Even then, it’s hit or miss as to whether you will get it.

“Using only a GIF, describe _____”  I am far too busy to read.  I prefer pictures but Pinterest is SO complicated.   So please, take 10 minutes to go search the web to tell me something that I really don’t give a shit about.

“It is clear that you ____”  Allow me to accuse of being or doing something that you are not, simply to garner overreaction on your part.

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 37 – The Chalice of St. John

Shit

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Brandon…

“I think the best reason for us to get the chalice is simple – it could be used against us by Barristen,” Theren said as we assembled in the morning. To me it made sense.  The Chalice of St. John was said to have resurrective powers. We had flirted with death many times – and the chance to die and come back had appeal to me.

“I like the idea of an artifact that can keep me living forever,” Althalus added wryly. Somehow when he said it, it made me nervous.  We bid farewell to the Order of the Sapphire and went to the town gate and gathered our weapons.  I was going to miss Alistair.  The people there were friendly and seemed to really like us.

“What was it that was guarding this chalice?” I asked.

“A beguiling female demon.  I think it’s a succubus,” Althalus said.  “So I’m super-onboard with this little side trip.”

Our first night out, I heard the sound of a nearby wolf pack, howling in the distance.  I approached the nearest of the pack.  I pulled some jerky out of my haversack and offered it to the wolf, which it greedily ate. It took some coaxing on my part, but soon I was able to get close enough to pet it. When I looked into its eyes, I could sense a bond between us.  I lured it away from the pack and towards our camp, offering it scraps of food. I knew the ways of the wolf as a ranger, and calmed the beast with a magic spell…convincing it that I was its friend. The wolf cuddled my side.

“I love puppies!” Althalus said from behind me.

“Don’t hug him,” I warned.  “He and I are companions now, or we will be by the time I am done training him.”

The next day was uneventful until the afternoon.  I was on point as usual, when I picked up the murmurs of goblin voices.  They chattered in that babble they call a language for a few minutes, then mysteriously went quiet.  My wolf began to growl.  Theren stepped up and cast one of his fire spells into the brush, flushing out these beasties quickly.  Goblin arrows rained down on me, one hitting in the right shoulder and sticking there.

Althalus blasted away with his emerald green eldritch power, sending one of the goblins flying back with smoking holes in its tiny chest.  Some fired back at our Warlock, I was hit again as I drew my bow and unleashed an arrow, hitting it in the throat mid-squeal, leaving it with gushing blood and a gurgle as it staggered back. My second arrow hit it as well, leaving it clinging to life.  My new wolf companion sprung and tore at it, ripping it futilely.

Theren cast ice knife – hitting one and exploding shards of ice out from the damaged one.  Goblin parts flew into the air, along with a rain of sickly green blood.  Althalus blew another one apart, tossing its bloody corpse back some ten heads.  The remaining three goblins opted to flee in a panic. My trusty wolf tore at the loin cloth of one who managed to scramble and run away, tossing it about playfully.

As we marched on, the mountain range to the west seemed to loom before us. We marched on for two more days with little incident.  During my watch I heard a lute playing in the distance.  I stealthfully woke up the camp.

“That lute…it’s out of tune,” Theren said as he yawned.

“Who would be out in the forest playing a lute?” Arius asked.

We opted for caution.  After two hours or so, the music stopped.  No one seemed to be approaching the camp.  The next morning we notice camp smoke rising from the north of our site. Exercising caution, we paid them little heed.  That night, however, we were approached by one of their protectors.

Cautiously we approached the small gray-robed party.  Althalus opened a dialogue with them and determined they were the source of the lute music.  They were led by Brother Mortimer and said that he and the others were looking for the Stairs – like us.  They said that one of them, Sister Margaret, had gone before them and had not been heard from in days.  To me, they seemed pretty sincere and not much of a threat. I wondered if she was some sort of virgin, off to be sacrificed – and I kind of found that appealing.

Althalus told them we were heading to the Stars as well.  He seemed to know about the Chalice of St. John as well.  Margaret went into the old priory there and she never came back.  There were eight of the parishioners including Mortimer and he invited us to join him.  We didn’t detect any deceit in what he was offering.  Packing up, we joined them. Most of them seemed intrigued with Arius given he was a paladin.

I asked if they knew anything about a succubus, but Mortimer said it was likely an old-wives tale.  “The church abandoned the old priory in the Stairs ages ago, for reasons only known to their exalted leadership.  The pilgrims went there to try and find the abandoned artifacts there and recover them in the name of God.”  So why did the church abandon this place?  That answer was for us to discover.

Two days travel west we arrived at the Stairs.  It was a massive crack in the mountain range, rising high into the heavy mists above. Old worn and weathered stone stairs twisted and rose up crack, towering above us.  Mortimer and the others called out for Sister Margaret but their voices merely echoed sadly upward into the heart of the mountain range. Margaret, we learned through scraps of conversation, had been chosen by her village to lead the pilgrimage.  Her party planned on waiting at the foot of the Stairs, waiting for her to return.  On the other hand, we were planning on foraging onward.

As I led the party upward, the stone walls of the great crack seemed to come to a close, the stairs ending where the walls came together.  It seemed odd to me – after all, the stairs went upward for hundreds of feet, but led nowhere but a dead end.  Theren simply walked forward into the crack, seeming to pass through a veil or magical curtain of some sort.  On the other side the steps continued upward.  Theren leaned back to us and told us it was all an illusion.

We dallied with the thought of telling the pilgrims we had found a way in, but Althalus cautioned against it.  “What good does that information do for them?”  We opted to remain quiet and press on.

The stairway twisted and turned upward – well-worn where footfalls had slowly eroded the steps. We were concerned that a fall might kill one or more of us.  I found a few bits of chain and long dried blood on several steps. At the end, hundreds of feet up and into the mountain, we came to a sealed door with the words, “Speak unto God,” carved into it. We were unsure how to proceed – the door was sealed and would not open.  “Which one?” Althalus asked. “There are a lot of gods.”

Arius stared at the door deep in thought.  The paladin pondered the stone door in silence.  He knocked on the door but nothing happened.  He then lowered on one knee and prayed in front of the door and it cracked open with a deep echoing crack – sending a billow of light dust outward.

The chamber held a large dais in the middle of the room, and two statues flanking it.  We could make out a door at the far end of the chamber.  As we approached we saw that the statues had been vandalized, their heads had been broken off and were on the floor under a thin film of dust. Theren lit the sconces and noticed some strange shadows in the domed ceiling.  The creatures moved on us, thin black shadows, almost a void in the air.  Five of them darted in at us, moving like men.

I drew my bow and fired, missing one, hitting with the second shot. My wolf moved in front of one near Arius and attacked, ripping at one of the ethereal shadow-creatures, knocking it to the floor.  Althalus unleashed his magical beams – slamming into one of them, knocking it into the wall, leaving an inky black splatter where the creature existed.

Theren’s quarterstaff shimmered in the air hitting one hard.  Arius unleashed his holy smite with Skullringer, killing one instantly.  The room became a blur around me.  One hit Theren, making his body sag as it drew away his strength.  I sent an arrow into the injured one, killing it.  My trusty wolf savaged his downed shadow. Althalus’s emerald beams cut down the last one, cutting it into shreds.

We moved to the door on the far wall and opened it.  A rush of air almost blew out the flames from the torches in the sconces.  A long two-head wide stone bridge stretched out over a vast chasm, hundreds of feet deep.  The walls were some fifty heads away, flanking the bridge. Above, the chasm opened to the sky, giving us enough light to see the stark white bones and rusted armor below.

“They could have at least put up some rails,” Althalus said.  None of us thought it was very funny.

Theren devised a plan to transform into a giant spider. He went across for a short distance and two pendulums with spinning blades swung across, one hitting him, one missing. That was enough for him, he moved under the bridge, moving underneath.  In one portion, he found a five foot piece of the bridge missing, it was an illusion.  If we had crossed we would have plummeted to our death.  He spun a web over the spot and reached the far side.

The spider-Theren returned and, after some strange signals with his legs, convinced us to climb onto him and he proceeded to shuttle us across one at a time, under the bridge.  I was forced to leave my pet wolf behind, which saddened me greatly.  He had already proven himself a worthy companion.  One of our trips had triggered a log on chains swinging across – enough to knock anyone on the bridge off if we had been there. It took us over an hour to get across.

The bridge ended in a landing with a single ironoak door.  Arius turned the handle and pushed it open.  It was a sixty by twenty foot room with a pair of alabaster baths and two water pools.  No doubt this is was where pilgrims could cleanse themselves when this had been managed by the church.

As Arius moved near one pool, the water took form and struck at him, slamming him hard.  An Elemental!  Theren fired webbing to restrain the creature, but it failed to have any effect.  Arius bore the brunt of the wet assault.  I leapt in with Nightstalker and Bonebreaker, splashing water about the room. Althalus’s eldritch blasts left wisps of steam from the holes they burned. Arius hit with Skullringer and a blast of holy smites, spraying water everywhere in the room.

Theren changed back to human form, lashing out with his thorn whip spell – the whip harmlessly passing through the creature.

The elemental turned on me, overwhelming me, grappling me.  I could not breathe, water filled my nose and mouth. I wanted to use my teleport ring, but the water made uttering the word impossible.  Althalus’s beams tore into the form.  Arius slammed it again with Skullringer, finishing it off.  I dropped to the floor, gasping for breath.

We found a golden cross embedded with emeralds in the pool. Theren took it and put it in his kit. The room appeared to be a dead end, so we searched for a hidden door, which our druid found.  A narrow hallway stretched out then turned a hard left.  Further exploration led to stairs down, deeper into the mountain.  Theren fell into the trap pit with spikes, falling 15 heads and tore up his legs.  We pulled him out. At the end of the snaking hallway was a large chamber.  Paintings, long ago defaced, lined the walls, which made me cringe slightly.

Althalus spoke up.  “Which one of you want to take point?”  We all gave him a scornful look.  There was a strange symbol in maroon, perhaps dried blood on the floor.  The shattered skeletons of over thirty dead littered the floor.

“That’s demonic,” the Warlock said pointing to the symbol.  “This is some satanic shit right here.”  We saw a hallway at the far end of the chamber.  I got an ominous feeling about all of this. These were once holy grounds…so that symbol boded ill.

“We should rest up,” Arius said.

“Here?” I asked.

Theren and I surveyed the hallway at the far end, hoping to avoid any surprises.  It went back 25 heads to a dead end.  Suddenly a stone slab dropped and began a slow grind.  Theren cast a spell on it to stop it, tipping the stone over. I found a hidden door at the end.  Thoughts of resting vanished for the time-being.  We moved down another twisting hallway.

We entered a massive chamber, 45 heads across, circular, with a tall ceiling that was domed.  I led the way into the room.  There was a massive heap of thick iron chains.  A raised seat in the center of the chamber with a female seated there.  She had giant bat wings and the stubs of horns on her head.  She was adorned in armor.  The braziers next to her lit up as I stepped in, illuminating the room.

Athalus followed me, half-stumbling into the room.  Looking up at her, his skin went pale.  “It’s a Cambion, the offspring of a Succubus.”  I had no idea what he was talking about but none of it sounded good. She seemed unfazed as we entered.

“You’ve made it father than most, for that I respect you,” she said in an eerily calm voice. “I am Chinahara.  Who are you?”

I puffed out my chest.  “I am Brandon Winderford,” I said proudly.

“Oh, so we’re going to tell her?” Althalus asked. “What the hell…I am Althalus, seeker of the Sapphire Eye.”

“Let me guess, you came for this?” she hissed.  “The chalice has been the perfect bait for me to lure in true believers and kill them.  I look forward to tasting your blood.”  She smiled, but not a good smile, a bad one.

She turns on Althalus.  “So you are a slayer of devils and demons? Drethcara, the gnawer of bones!  Long have I wondered what happened to him.  You carry his head like a trophy – Devil-slayer.  You will be the last to die so that you can see your friends perish.”

“I’m oddly good with that,” whispered Arius. She turned her eyes on him and locked her gaze.  I turned and drew Nightstalker, which burst into brilliant light, and charged at Chinahara, swinging hard.  My sword glanced off of her, but Bonebreaker did hit her gut hard.  Suddenly, Arius drew Skullringer and to my amazement, he reeled on Althalus, narrowly missing the warlock.  “What the fuck?”

Theren dropped a moonbeam on her, bursting her into flames, adding to the light in the room. Just then, the chains on the floor started to move, pulling together and forming up to a humanoid shape.  “A chain golem,” Althalus muttered.  Things got instantly worst.

She moved out of the moonbeam and onto me, hitting him with beams of fire. The chain golem started spinning, whipping the chains like massive flails.  Althalus turned invisible, disappearing in a blink of an eye.

I lost my grip on Nightstalker, sending it skittering along the floor, tossing up sparks.  “Aw crap!” I spat, still hitting with Bonebreaker.  Theren heated the metal of the golem, but that only seemed to make it both glow and get stronger.  Seeing that was failing, he transformed into a bear.

The sight of the bear got Chinahara drew her wrath. One of her beams of fire burned the fur of our druid, the stench of burned hide stung my nostrils. The chain golem hit me with a chain hard, hitting me hard, making my ribs ache.  My vision tunneled and I fell into unconsciousness.  The last thing I remembered was hearing with Chinahara commanding Arius to attack the bear.  The blackness took me away, muffling the rumble of the battle around me.

I regained my wits and managed to stagger to my feet.  The battle was still raging around me still.  In a throbbing haze, I moved in behind the Cambion and cast a spell that wrapped her in vines, which she snapped easily.  I hit with Bonebreaker, again, only scratching the armor.

Theren returned to human form, then made an attack, but bearly (intentionally) scratched her. The chain golem lashed out at but missed, the air whishing with the chains.

Althalus, no visible, hit her with his eldritch blast.  Chinahara hit the wall hard, hissing, then seemed to collapse inward, blinking out of the room. I staggered towards the chain golem, hitting it with a glancing blow.  The rattle of the chains from the impact did not bespeak any real damage.

Arius, in control of his senses again, hit the creature with Skullringer.  The smite of the blow made the chains expand outward for a moment, then reform again.  The golem turned on me, hitting me so hard that I once more blacked out, skidding along the floor.  I saw a tunnel in the darkness and started to drift towards a dot of light. Death loomed and I was prepared to face it.  Something tugged at me, pulling me back.

When I came too, there was a mound of chains and my comrades, drenched in blood and sweat, lit up by the flames of the braziers.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Part 35

Part 36

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

Moving and Packing Tips

Duck
Perhaps the worst product ever sold.

My wife and I are building a house so we had to pack and move most of our possessions into storage, move “essentials” into a temporary apartment, and, if that wasn’t enough, tomorrow we help my daughter move to her new house.  So, for the last 2-3 months, moving is something I have developed a competency in.  I thought I’d share some tips that will help you.

It’s just stuff.  Be prepared to throw stuff away. I don’t care who you are, you saved a lot of stuff that you know you will never use.  It is work to box it, costly to store it, and a pain in the lower back if you never are going to use it.  So, get rid of it.  Take pictures of stuff rather than keep the stuff.  Getting rid of your excess house is tricky because of COVID.  Learn the hours and rules of your local landfills.  Ours said they closed at 4:00pm but in reality, the gate closed at 3:50pm.  (I was tempted to argue with these folks but they have a rough enough job, working at a dump.)  Each landfill/dump is unnecessarily complicated – such as you can only bring one load a day or if you come in a truck you drive to a different area.  This weekend I got into an argument about geography – whether I really lived in the county or not (despite the evidence of my driver’s license).  Key here, learn the rules before you start hauling.

Donate.  We wanted to donate a lot of furniture.  That was nearly impossible given COVID.  Goodwill stopped taking the stuff.  Salvation Army stopped all pickups, as did the local RESTORE (Habitat for Humanity).  Even when they are open, they have rules and limitations.  With everyone cleaning their houses out during their time at home, many charities are full up as well.  We found a local charitable thrift store that gladly helped us out.  Make sure you keep the paperwork for your tax deductions to charity.

Boxes.  Some UHaul locations have a fantastic selection of oddly shaped boxes – like for lamps.  Lowes and Home Depot have boxes too.  Use the smaller boxes for the heavier stuff if you can.  I got a mix of boxes and sizes, making it like a game of Tetris for the movers to stack stuff for storage.  They told me that having a mix of sizes is a good thing – you can get more packed in a truck.  So…there you go.

I didn’t buy my boxes all at once.  We got ours in small batches and ended up with only three that were left over.  We used of about 45% small boxes, 30% medium boxes, 20% large boxes, and 5% extra large or strange shaped boxes.  Your results may vary.

Tape.  Do NOT buy Duck Brand Shipping Tape.  If the Duck people are reading this – your product sucks!  It wouldn’t even stick to itself for more than 10 minutes.  I’m not sure how it even stays rolled up.  It frustrated the hell out of us to pack a box and watch as the tape simply let go. I was going to complain to them but I feared they would send me more of their product.  Spend the money on good tape, it is important. This isn’t the thing to try and save a few cents on.

Glassware?  Use paper.  We bought bubble wrap and wrapping paper from UHaul.  The paper was the absolute best for wrapping stuff.  It is relatively cheap, easy to use, and you avoid all of the cutting of bubblewrap.  Most importantly, it works (based on past experience).

Mark your boxes.  Put down what room you want them to go into.  UHaul makes some tape that is great for this with bright colors for each room of your house as well as the name of the room.  Yes, the movers will tag the stuff, but they tag it based on the room it was picked up in.  You are more interested in the room it will be going to.  Keep that in mind.

Spot Shot.  We cleaned the house for two days so that the new owners could just move in.  You will have strange spots on the floor.  Spot Shot is perfect for quick clean-ups.  I have no idea what it is made of, but it works on small carpet spots.  I love this product. We used it for quick spots and the steam cleaner for the big carpet areas.

SpotShot

Don’t watch the movers.  You will cringe and bite your nails at some of the stuff they do to get your stuff out of the house.  Don’t watch them – focus on some other task like cleaning.

Buy help. If you are moving yourself – get a cheap four wheeled dolly.  We used this to move in a soft, box springs, mattresses, you name it.  And they only cost $11.00 at Harbor Freight.

Harbor Freight

So there you have it – unsolicited tips for moving from a “veteran.”  Feel free to share.

Some Snarky Humor – Things I’ve Learned or Confirmed During Quarantine

IMG_1091 (1)

Here is my observations up to this point – for your entertainment as we all sit at home.  Remember, I am a snarky bastard who sometimes writes stuff just to set people off – a troll of the highest caliber.  I do want to provide folks with a few minutes of provocative thought and maybe a chuckle or two.

  1. We, as a people, are easily manipulated by social media into panic buying (toilet paper).  Don’t try and justify the reality that you panicked.  Be prepared, the marketing people have learned a very dangerous lesson from this.
  2. I have come to better appreciate my wife’s company and her cooking skills.
  3. We have zero survival skills and purchase things that are of little to no use during a real emergency situation.  Good luck surviving on pickles peanuts, and jalapeno peppers.
  4. Ninety-percent of people, when given common sense reasonable guidelines, will follow them out of concern for themselves or others. They are good human beings. Ten percent are validating Charles Darwin and couldn’t dump piss from a boot if the instructions were on the bottom of the heel.  Punishing the 90% because of the idiocy of 10% is irrational.
  5. When deprived of services, people worry about the vanity-based ones the most – such as “When can I get back to my salon to touch up my roots?”  A lot of people are wandering around without their injections of Botox.  As a result of all of this mayhem, in another few weeks there are going to be a lot less blondes in the world.
  6. Many politicians have validated their incompetence – sadly meeting my expectations. Example:  Our governor came on TV to tells us we need to exhibit social distancing, surrounded by seven individuals less than two feet apart, none of whom are wearing masks.  One word: Moron.
  7. When you shut off the world economy and everyone goes home, the effects are strange and sometimes entertaining.  Like my PC, apparently it was time to reboot the planet Earth. While we have never done this before, I have found that it usually works pretty damn good with my PC so I encourage people to chill out.
  8. I have been dazzled by brilliant acts of individual kindness, courtesy, and grace. People can be wonderful.
  9. When faced with fear, people will surrender their Constitutional rights; demand that others do the same; and will report any infraction no matter how ridiculous. Yeah, that whole Hitler thing, that could totally happen here.
  10. Congress, when faced with a crisis, cannot resist spending money on things that have nothing to do with the actual emergency.  Giving themselves a raise, funding the Kennedy Center and PBS?  Really?  One word:  Douchebaggery.
  11. Thanks to Netflix, we all learned that Carol Baskins killed her husband and fed him to the tigers.  Oh, she totally did.IMG_1089
  12. We realize that police, fire, and medial workers are the most valuable members of our society – but in the end, we still won’t pay them what they are worth or for the hard work they have done.
  13. Shutting down professional sports has had negligible impact on our culture.
  14. Individuals believe their fear trumps the rights of others. I find it amusing that other people feel they should have a say about my rights are based on how they feel.  I receive similar lectures about what I say and political correctness – and those never work either.
  15. That Nancy Pelosi shelters in place in a mansion with gourmet food (and I presume a few cases of vodka.)
  16. The internet is as important in an emergency as electrical power.  Kudos to the folks that kept it up so far.
  17. Celebrities show their ‘suffering’ by not wearing makeup or doing their hair, wearing sweatpants, and going on talk shows from their mansions. Let’s be clear, none of us care about Hollywood’s hardships.
  18. Companies love to run advertising camouflaged as public service announcements.  “Look at how we are stepping up to plate to deal with this crisis.”  Yeah, you guys are real humanitarians…  We get it, you are keeping your marketing department from being furloughed.
  19. When an emergency like this emerges the media’s first action is to put the truth up against a wall and shoot it. They would put a monkey throwing feces on the air as an “expert” if it will sow fear and give them ratings.  Spreading disinformation and terror is now an agenda item.
  20. We moved way too much production of goods overseas. Time to bring that shit back home even if it costs more.
  21. Our government has a list of who is essential and tracks our movements on our phones to ensure compliance to their orders.  That should scare the crap out of everyone.
  22. We learned that we can get by just fine not buying stuff for a few weeks.  This isn’t necessarily a good lesson but good to know.
  23. Some people (not me!) have spent far too much time with their spouses and children and it shows in their social media posts.  Who knew you could be so angry?
  24. Regardless of how much money people get from the government, it isn’t enough.
  25. We turn to the wrong people for solutions in panic…like Bill Gates.
  26. Our economy is based entirely on our confidence and nothing else.
  27. Oil can go to a value of negative dollars per barrel.  I guess that means they are paying us to take the oil?
  28. I am amazed and delighted at how quickly and innovatively businesses can change their operations to cope with an emergency.
  29. There are people out there, including politicians, that take delight in this chaos.  They want big companies to fail and are gleeful that oil prices have tanked.  They are pathetic, sad, twisted people.  PS – her initials are AOC.
  30. There is no excuse for anyone not having a great yard this year…you had plenty of time on your hands.
  31. When a crisis happens and our leaders should come together behind their President, they, in turn, call any action he takes ‘racist.’ I guess when you only have one bullet in your gun…
  32. Everyone learned how to sew/make masks pretty darned fast.
  33. There were no emergency plans in place when schools were shut down.  What makes a good teacher in a classroom is not the same as what makes a good virtual teacher.
  34. People stupidly believed that posting their graduation photos somehow made 2020 graduates feel better.
  35. Liberals sincerely believe that shutting down churches and keeping abortion clinics and liquor stores open are justifiable actions.
  36. Millions of people learned how to order from restaurants on-line for delivery.  This will change things for years to come.
  37. The longer this goes on, the more susceptible people become to wild-ass conspiracy theories.  “Hillary Clinton killed Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with the Coronavirus.”
  38. When their constitutional right to free assembly is stripped from them, people will protest and resist.  Our founding fathers would approve, since they dealt with numerous medical pandemics and did not see fit to put a freeze on rights.  You think this is bad, try Scarlet Fever or Cholera. Suck it up, buttercup.  I applaud sensible protests.      IMG_0541
  39. In times of crisis, people idiotically think that the Federal Government should be a supplier of medical supplies and other things.  Seriously people…your local governments are far more impactful than a Federal response.
  40. Board games are still a hell of a lot of fun when there are no distractions.
  41. We learned that we are footing most of the bill for the World Health Organization and getting damned little for it.
  42. Companies are learning that people can work just fine from home and that remarkably little is gained by sitting in an office together.  Further, the solution to road congestion and pollution seems to be people working from home…duh.
  43. We are more of a welfare state than I never fully comprehended. I think we need to fix this.
  44. Every government giveaway of our money is going to have unintended consequences that none of us can fathom.
  45. The blurring of guidelines and restrictions is important to know.
  46. Some politicians seem to care more for non-citizens and incarcerated criminals than hard-working Americans.  This is a decision on thier part.
  47. Americans had to be taught how to wash their hands.  Geez, I learned that way before going to elementary school.
  48. Our grocery stores and restaurants have never been cleaner…and that is a good thing.

I know some of you will feel the urge to rebuttal me.  Let me assure you, I gain strength through your angst.  Like Rick Sanchez said, “Your boos mean nothing to me…I have seen what makes you cheer!”

 

BattleTech Nose Art Project

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I retired a week ago and decided to tackle an arts and crafts project for the game room in our new house we are having built.  There will be a BattleTech theme, because, my wife is awesome.

I have always been intrigued with WWI and WWII aircraft art, or nose art.  The WWII bomber images were often of buxom women and they had a cool vibe to them.  I began to contemplate that we would have the same things in BattleTech as well.  It made sense.  You probably won’t see them at miniature scale, but it would be hard to believe that we wouldn’t have them.  So I decided to create my own and do it for a character from my work – Colonel Rhonda Snord.

I wanted a statement piece (that statement being, “I’m a geek!”) so I opted for three foot by five foot.  I got a ¼ inch sanded piece of plywood for the backing and cut the “ribs” so that there was some curve.  The cutting wasn’t tricky, but I wanted the same angle which took some hand-plaining to get it right.

I wanted a little pattern in the cross-members, so I went with some creative spacing.  These two had to be planed for the eventual curve of the metal.

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The ribs

The metal was from Home Depot, you get it in three-foot-square pieces, so I had trimmed some for experimentation purposes with the paint.

I used a nail gun to nail the ribs and supports to the plywood, along with some glue.  This gave me the frame for the metal.  The key is to make a diagram with accurate measurements of where the ribs are so that when you “rivet” them you know where to drive the brad/rivet.

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That’s right, Endo Steel is really just plywood from Home Depot

 

I laid the metal out and realized (duh) that the curve of the ribs meant my metal wouldn’t cover all of the ribs.  No problem, I decided to leave the exposed part at the top, as you can see.

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Nice eh?

To rivet these, you use an awl and tap a small hole.  I did mine at about one and one-half inches apart.  Using some needle nose plyers, I used some large aluminum thumbtacks and pounded them in.  I learned that at some the ends of the curve the thumbtacks weren’t long enough and popped up, so I sunk in a few screws mixed in with the tacks and glued them in just to be sure.  Next time I am getting longer brads so they will hold better.

Imperfections are okay, remember, this is outer skin for ferro-fibrous armor we are talking about.  Some imperfections are to be expected.  I think the few I have give the piece character.  I liked the aluminum skin so much I was tempted to leave it as-is and put the art on it. But we don’t see too many bare metal ‘Mechs out there, so I went to paint.

It took exactly one can of spay paint to cover this.  For the colors, I referred to my own book, Call of Duty, which described Rhonda Snord’s ‘Mech as a dull green with the Buffalo Nickel, Elvis’s TCB lightning bolt.  Her callsign was Jailhouse Rocker – but I took the liberty of trimming that down.  The nickel, well, it just looked like crap no matter what I did. I assumed this was so big on the ‘Mech that it might not apply with what I was doing. I was going to do the TCB (Taking Care of Business) lightning bolt, but decided against that.  Let’s just assume that was on the other side of her cockpit.  I only bring it up here because I know some fan boy will be convulsing that was not 100% accurate.  Well, bear in mind, ‘Mechs get painted and repainted a LOT.  Deal with it junior.

I was going to hand stencil the letters but my tests on the scrap metal left me worried that, given my lack of artistic ability, I would screw it up.  So I ordered the stencil work, and her artwork logo (Jailhouse Rock) from https://doityourselflettering.com.  The cost was around $50 but was worth it compared to the price of me messing up such a large project.

 

For Rhonda, I went to cover of the scenario set and scanned her.  Three fans jumped in and helped me crop her out perfectly.  I then went to Fat Head’s web site and ordered up Rhonda.  https://www.fathead.com/custom does custom vinyl’s – just upload and rock. The cost was $35.  Strangely enough they sent me two of them.

Total cost of the project, including purchasing of metal cutters, and awl, etc., was around $200.00 total.  I’m not a carpenter or very skilled, but the time involved was around 15 hours or so – with the majority of that being putting the rivets in.

Alright, truth be told, I used my time machine, went to the future, found this replacement cockpit side for her Highlander in a junk pile, grabbed it, and came back.  All of us BattleTech authors have a time machine because all of this stuff is REAL.

You may not like it.  You may think the proportions are off and stuff, but I love it and can’t want for us to get the house built so I can hang it in the game room.

I have a three foot piece of plywood left and am contemplating doing a Black Window one too.

Tips for Writers

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There is no secret sauce that will make you a successful writer.  The definitions of success as an author vary from person-to-person.  I am asked often, “What tips do you have for someone starting out?”  My snarky response is, “Seriously consider a different hobby or profession.” Writing is not easy.  It is not for the faint at heart or the thin-skinned.  It is a profession where you essentially carry on conversations with people that don’t exist, or wonder if that dude you just passed is a serial killer. It is a festering storm inside your head that when it comes out, is a jumble of emotions, words, blood and tears.  It often is a hot-mess that only you, as the author, understand.  Yet it gives you warmth and comfort.

I’ve heard it said everyone has a novel in them.  That isn’t the same as, “They should write that novel.”

No one helped me be an author, so I have no problems answering direct questions from would-be authors.  No, I won’t read your stuff, don’t bother to ask.  It hit me though, there are some pretty basic tips that could help fiction and non-fiction authors.  So here’s my list of unsolicited advice…

Write every day.  Keep a journal; write a blog; pen a column for the local newspaper – just write something! In fact, the more varied your writing, the better.  I have done science fiction, true crime, military history, business leadership, computer books, a wide range of genres.  I have written for newsletters, trade journals, magazines; you name it.  Even this blog is a writing exercise for me, forcing me to compile posts weekly.

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Writing requires discipline. It is easy to come up with excuses to not write. You need to have the discipline to apply yourself to get the next paragraph done. I have always been surprised talking to new writers who will carve out time to watch a TV show every week but refused to do the same with time dedicated to writing. Schedule yourself…make it happen.

Set your ego aside.  I am shocked that some authors ask for feedback then say, “I’m not changing it.”  Look Hemmingway, you’re not that good.  Editors, publishers, (even agents) usually have some good insights as to why you should make changes.  Listen carefully and don’t dig your heels in on the premise you are some sort of artist.  The only exception I allow myself to this is my sense of pride about the entire body of my work.

Have a place where you write.  You need a place where you can do your work – preferably different than where you do other work.  For me, I move my chair three feet to a different desk to do my writing.

Write stuff you would like to read.  You need to be a fan of your own stuff.  There are scenes I write in fiction that I actually get excited reading.  In non-fiction, I make sure I capture the right tone and feel that I like reading.

Everyone thinks they are an English major.  Be prepared for people to tell you that you don’t follow some bizarre rule their 3rd grade teacher told them about the English language.  They will comment that you are not using appropriate grammar, your use of English is poor, your editors all sucked, etc.  Some of my editors have master’s degrees in English, but some moron on the internet knows more than they do…or so they will insinuate.  Look, part of being a writer is to push the limits of our language to create illusions and characters that don’t exist.  Don’t let these idiots wear you down.

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You need thick skin.  The internet sucks and so do people.  There are people that feel compelled to give you negative feedback.  This is not about you, but about their own insecurities.  If you want to write, there are always going to be those that try and tear you down.  On top of that is our society thinks that every opinion needs to be posted and is somehow valid.  Ignore these negative people.  Remember this, they will never write something as good as what you did.

Plot is important – not as important as characters.  When I started doing novels, I put most of my effort on the plot.  As I have matured, I have come to learn that what is remembered is not the plot points, but the characters you write about. People want to identify characters, not storyline. Create real and compelling characters, and the plot will really pop.

In non-fiction stick to the facts and let others arrive at their own conclusions.It is tempting to say, “Here’s what I think,” in writing non-fiction.  Assume your reader is smart and they will come to their own opinions and perspectives.  Your role becomes presenting those facts in an engaging manner.

Rewriting is part of writing.  Every good author has to rewrite.  Some comes from the publisher, some from the editor, some from your own gut instinct that there is a better way.  Resisting this is the path to arrogance.  Some chapters I will rewrite three times before anyone even sees them.  I have had editors that ask for additional scenes, changes, tweaks.  You do them because ultimately it makes you a better writer.  Listen to them and learn.

In fiction – use all of your characters senses in a scene.  My most seasoned BattleTech editor told me once that I was describing what people saw – but not using all of the senses.  What did the characters smell?  What did the air feel like?  I found that advice useful and have leveraged it where appropriate ever since.  It made me a better writer.

Internet facts are not facts.  Oddly enough this applies to fiction and non-fiction. Go to source material, not what you read on some web site.  It takes more time, but it is worth it in the long run.

Understand the industry. Traditional bookstores are dying.  The age of agents and big publishing houses is waning.  I had one would-be author tell me that he had to go with a major publisher rather than KDP because, “You’re only a real author if your book is in a bookstore.”  Sorry kid, it’s not the 1980’s.  With print on demand (POD) and Kindle Direct Publishing, anyone with talent can publish their book.  Easily 50-65% of book sales are digital.  Bookstores can stock your POD book. Get to know the business.

Critically read other authors. One of those uh-duh tips – I get it.  It isn’t enough to read other authors, you have to stop and ask yourself, “What is it about this part of the book I really like?”  Pull apart one of your favorite books to see why you loved it and you will learn a great deal about what you should be incorporating into your own books.

Promoting your work is part of writing.  Make yourself available for podcasts, interviews, etc. I don’t enjoy this aspect of the work personally, but it is part of being an author.  We all have spent that humiliating time sitting at a lonely table at a Borders books as people walk by.  (Yes, I am dating myself there.)

Talk to other authors.  Don’t ask them read your stuff…God I hate that.  Network with other writers so that you can get advice about the industry, tips, stuff like that.

Anyone charging you money to help you get published is ripping you off. I have never seen this work out for the author.

You have to start somewhere.  Too many authors presume you should start at the top.  True story.  I had someone reach out to me wanting to write a BattleTech novel about two months ago.  He’d never had anything published professionally, had no background in writing in the universe, but wanted one of the prime assignments you can get – a novel.  Some authors bust their ass for years to get a shot at a novel, but you want one handed to you because, and I quote from this individual, “I have an idea no one has ever seen for a book.”  I suggested that he reach out and see if he can get a gig doing some fiction for sourcebooks or tech readouts, to prove himself.  “That sounds like it will take a long time.  I don’t want to do that – can you just send me the editor’s email?”  The reality is you can’t just show up the Olympics without qualifying, and expect to run in an event.  It is lazy and arrogant of anyone to think they can just jump in with their first work as a book.  Oh it does happen now and then, but these are flukes or genius authors.  In the real world, you need to develop your skills, learned to work with editors, earn your stripes…you have to put in the work.

George R. R. Martin and the rest of the books for Game of Thrones – My Perspective

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His success eclipses himself.  

You see it on social all of the time now, “When will he be done with the next book for Game of Thrones?”  It is overdue on a cosmic scale from a writer’s perspective…years overdue.  I don’t miss my book deadlines as an author, so the concept of being years late staggers me.

People want the books because they are different than the series, in some less-than-subtle ways, and they have invested long hours in reading the series up to this point.  More importantly, they have watched the stunning HBO series which has gone far past Mr. Martin’s storyline in print thus far.

I’m not anxious about the next book being published.  Why?  Because George R. R. Martin has done something that I have not seen with almost any other writer – he has made his written books obsolete.  His creation has eclipsed anything he might ever write again.  The popularity of the HBO series is so big, so vast, so visually compelling, that whatever he writes it will be compared to the series, which is nearly impossible to top. Whatever he produces as an author will be held up against the TV series based on his books!  The irony here is incredible.  George R. R. Martin has actually created a situation where writing the books is not necessary.

It is hard to comprehend of an instance where an author’s success is so great because of his works, that he cannot surpass it with the written word.  Perhaps Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  As good as the book is, when the title is mentioned, we all see Gregory Peck in our mind’s eye.  When the sequel to the book two years ago, it was ridiculed and mocked. Her characters and story had eclipsed her own vision.  People were saying that she, as the author, had not been true to the characters that she had created! The readers (and viewers) had seized her work and held onto it so dearly that no matter what was published thereafter was destined to be scorned.

Similarly, Mr. Martin doesn’t have to write the rest of the series because he will be remembered for the HBO series far beyond any words he might write.  He is facing a problem that every writer dreams of, stunning success to the point where his written worlds are obsoleted by another medium – in this case, television.  In fact, producing the books is bound to draw comparisons and raise scorn with fans, because that’s what people do on the internet, they get pissed.  Having seen the series, the haters will whine that the coming novels don’t live up to what they have seen on HBO.  If the books were released now, wrapping up the series, he would draw ire for their tardiness on top of being late, everyone will expect something miraculous.  Writing the rest of the books will only serve to fragment his fan base. I have never quite seen anything like it.

The winning move for Mr. Martin is to not play the game.  As a great fan of his work, I honestly don’t know if I would encourage him to publish any more in this series. His body of work, which encompasses the TV series, is stellar and little more can be done that would improve upon what we have all experienced.

Non-Spoiler Review of Captain Marvel

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“I feel the need…the need for nostalgia” 

I have to admit, I was never a big Captain Marvel fan from the comics.  I found this movie to be okay, not great, but it didn’t suck like so many have said.

As far as origin stories, this didn’t follow the traditional format of telling the story.  Instead much of the movie is the hero learning her true origin and origin story – which is fine. For this kind of format to work, you really have to care about the character to begin with.  I never really bonded with Carol Danvers on screen, so I found myself saying, “let’s get to it.” With a slow-reveal origin, you really don’t get what the plot is until you are well into the film.

There are some nice plot twists in all of this that I didn’t see coming.  I appreciate that in a film like this. It wasn’t a linear plot, but one that was well crafted – if not a bit drawn out.

I wish these films wouldn’t push their PC agenda on me.  Let her be a hero that happens to be female, don’t make it out that she’s different because of that.  I didn’t like that in Wonder Woman either.  Just tell the story.  Trust me, I know she’s female.  Releasing it on International Women’s Day just was over the top too.  Look, I’m a fan, just give me a good script and casting.

Things I liked was seeing a younger Nick Fury and Agent Colson in the field.  This was not the embittered Nick Fury of Winter Soldier.  He’s fun, joking, kind of cool.  It was a bit strange to see the 1990’s in the light of nostalgia. God we had ugly cars back then.  Seeing Ronan the Accuser and some other characters we experience later in the Marvel cinema universe is neat too.

There are two post-credit scenes, so stay in your seat. The first one has a direct tie to Avengers Infinity War Endgame – which was awesome!

Overall this was not the best outing in the MCU but it wasn’t as horrific as some people have insinuated.  I liked it and got my money’s worth – which is what you want with a movie.  It adds to the Marvel universe and sets the stage for stuff coming in Endgame.  I give it a 3.7 stars out of five.

 

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 31 – The Battle of the Horns of Essex

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Brandon…

We were exhausted and victorious and in constant danger.  We awoke, still stinging from the fight. We pulled opened the massive Stoneoak doors of the chamber to begin our journey out of Tempora.  Our new comrades, the paladins we had saved, looked far worse than we did.  I can only imagine the nightmares they had endured as prisoners of Victor Barristen – hellspawn, former paladin, master of the undead.

It was my superior tracking skills that enabled us to survive and escape.  I looked for the tracks of the paladins that had brought into this chamber.  I suspect that my comrades did not fully appreciate the subtleties of tracking and the amount of skill required.  The musty air and the lack of good light made things even more challenging, but I proved up to the task.

We made our way room-by-room, hallway-by-hallway, trying to figure out where we were.  I came across one chamber that tore at my nostrils with the stench of death and rot. Althalus waved a hand and projected a bright light in the room for us to all see what was in there. Stacked like wood, were the shriveled corpses of more than a hundred paladins that had been Barristen’s victims.  Sir Bentblade entered the room and I saw the tears streak into his gray-white beard.  He knelt and prayed and for a few moments, we remained silent.  After the paladins said their prayers we sealed that room shut and moved on.

We trudged onward into the darkness – the musty and moldy smell filled the air.  Beyond a set of tarnished bronze doors we found a spiral staircase up.  We cautiously made our way up, fearing a sudden plummet downward. Climbing nearly 80 heads upward, the staircase ended in a door and a hallway beyond.

We continued on, my tracking skills backtracking the paladin’s footsteps that led them into this place.  Althalus complained, “I am not convinced we are still in Tempora.  She could have transported us anywhere.”  Theren disagreed.  There were twists and turns in the trail we followed, confusing and disorienting us.

In one chamber we found four coffins in a large chamber with some sort of statue in the middle.  My sword began to glow and Arius grabbed his hilt.  “I sense the presence of undead.”  The paladins in our party drew their blades as well.

“I have some oil,” offered Theren.  “We can soak the coffins and set them ablaze.”

“Does fire kill vampires?” asked Arius.

“Vampires?” I asked.

“I don’t know if they are vampires or not, but I do not wish burning undead attacking us as opposed to those not on fire,” he replied.

“Mummies would be worse,” Althalus said, not calming my nerves at all.

We opted to jam the door shut rather than risk their wrath. Returning to the trail, we found another chamber with a raised throne in the middle of it.  There was a thick old carpet laying between the raised seat and where we stood.  The shadows beyond the throne seemed to move, as if something was in there.  As we approached the room a hoard of zombies rushed out at us, their rotting flesh and putrid yellow eyes made me wet myself, if only just a little.

My glowing sword Nightstalker swung through the air, just missing one of the hideous creatures.  Our paladin comrades sprang at the undead as did the rest of our party, surging forward.  Arius blasted the arm off of one zombie, sending it hitting a wall and sliding down with a sickening thump.  I thrust Nightstalker again, driving the blade through the rib cage and its spine, making the undead even deader. Theren jabbed at one of the creatures, knocking out some teeth but doing little more.

Our silent monk, Dimitrious, punched one through the throat, destroying it with a blur of his fists.  Althalus unleashed an eldritch blast, which all but disintegrated one of the zombies. One of the creatures tried to flail at me but missed.  Sir Bentblade killed my attacker with one mighty sweep of his sword, sending rotting body parts spinning on the ancient white marble floor.

I sat on the throne, if nothing more than to see if it was magical in some way.  Behind a threadbare tapestry on the far wall, we found a hidden passageway and continued through it.  We snaked our way through several twisting and musty passages and eventually came to a chamber with a stone sarcophagus in the center of it.  We cleared enough of the dust on top to read that it was the tomb of the Dwarven Queen Silvistar.  The carved images on the lid showed her as she must have been in life, beautiful – no beard (I had always heard that their women had beards…imagine my surprise!)  The image shows her holding a massive war axe with runes carved in it.  One of the paladins in our party read it.  “The word for that is soul-thief or stealer…depending on the dialect.”

The lid showed signs of desecration, it was ajar on the top.  Her image showed chips from a blade hitting it and a crack was found in the dust as well.  I saw browning maroon blood splattered there as well.  I called out, “Althalus, what do you see?”

“From where I am standing, a lot of man-ass,” the warlock responded wryly.  He made his way through the line of paladins to join me.  I wanted it opened.  Along with Dimitrious, we pushed the lid off with a thud on the stone floor.  Inside was her rotting body – with signs that someone had looted her remains.  She must have been holding that axe at one point, but it was gone ages ago.  Out of respect, I put the lid back on, though I could feel the icy stares of Sir Bentblade on me.

We trekked on, finding one room that apparently had been used to prepare bodies for burial which made my skin crawl.  Arius’s mapping was enough to give a sane man a nosebleed, it had so many twists and turns. We came to an iron door that was hard to open.  We came to a large domed room, the murals on the ceiling showed the burial processions of dwarves – many apparently royal by what they wore. In the center of the room, on a wide pillar, were two bat-like statues, massive – eight heads tall with stone carved wings and nasty talons.  Their pointy ears made them look demonic.

There were rune on the pillar which our paladin comrade translated for us. “Hmm,” he muttered.  “Interesting.  Bow thy heads in honor.”

“That’s it?” Theren asked.

“That is all,” the paladin said.

“Those are gargoyles,” Althalus said.  “They may look like statues, but they can move and kill.”

Althalus and Dimitrious stood before the creatures and bowed deeply.

“You’re following random Dwarven instructions?”

“In lieu of anything else,” the warlock replied, “yes.”  Dimitrious silently nodded in agreement.

Arius did not bow as he passed and suddenly both of the gargoyles came to life, moving on our brother the paladin.  I was stunned with the speed they demonstrated.

“I warned you!” Althalus chided as we all drew our weapons.

One savagely bit Arius and tore at him with his razor sharp claws.  Blood sprayed in the air and Arius staggered back a half-step, gore flowing over his armor.  My arrow went wild almost hitting one of the paladins who deflected it with a speed that surprised me. “Sorry…” I said pulling another arrow from my quiver.

Swords rang out on the stoneskin of the gargoyles and their gray blood splattered the floor tiles and on our party.  Bentblade took a savage cut from the creatures, and the older paladin dropped at Arius’s feet.  Our paladin comrade’s blade lit up with magical flames and he jabbed deep into the hide of one of the gargoyles.

I felt a surge of heart and focus – clearly a magical blessing from one of the paladins.  One of the gargoyles tore into Sir Harold the Quick, biting him in the forearm, then ripping his chest with a claw.  One of the paladins swung Skullringer, Bor’s warhammer.  He struck one of gargoyle’s square in its chest and unleashing a thunderous smite in the process.  The creature was thrown backwards to the far end of the chamber, hitting the wall so hard it made a thudding sound.  Bentblade slashed at it mid-flight, cutting it deeply and sending gray blood in the air.

Harold the Quick did not live up to his name, getting bitten again by the other gargoyle.  Dimitrious unleashed a flurry of fist strikes to protect the paladin, each one cracking the stoneskin of the creature.  The monk’s hands were bloodied from the assault, but he had done more damage than he had taken.

Theren swung his shillelagh at the creature thrown against the wall, leaving a furrow in its cheek from the hit.  I dropped my bow and drew Nightstalker and Bonebreaker, spinning the morningstar furiously as I moved into position for an attack.  Dimitrious chopped at the creature and threw it hard to the floor.  Arius jumped and impaled his blade into the closest of the beasts, killing the statue-like creature.  The other gargoyle suddenly sprang at me, biting me on my upper right arm.  I managed to stagger back, blood everywhere around me.  Everything went dark and I collapsed to the floor.  I barely felt the tile slap me in the face as I dropped.  No!  It cannot end like this!

I came to in a cold sweat with my friends hovering over me.  “Did we win?”  Althalus shrugged.  “We did.” They helped me to my feet but I was dizzy from my brush with death.  I looked around and saw we were still, for the most part, alive – battered, but alive. I ached and felt bruises that I did not know I owned, but I was back from the eternal darkness.

“You guys should have bowed,” the warlock said wryly.  Given the blood soaking my jerkin, it was hard to argue that he was right.  If nothing else, Althalus was all about reading and following directions.

We left that chamber and the warlock stumbled into a poison dart trap, one that Arius incapacitated, paralyzed.  The darts came from dozens of little holes on the floor, ceiling, and walls.  We hadn’t noticed the tiny holes until we were deeply into the middle of the trap.

Our solution was for Theren to transform into giant spider and to ferry us over the trap triggers on the floor.  It took long tedious minutes, but worked well – though the paladins with us sneered at the spider.  The church was against the use of magic that they did not govern or mandate, and they had waged an inquisition against the druids.  Necessity forced their compliance with our bypass, but I feared there would be retribution at some point in the future.

Lumbering on, my superior tracking skills led us to a staircase up.  When we reached the top, I took a sigh of relief…this is where we had been attacked by Cyrilla Drex!  When we were here last she had teleported us into the sword.  We knew our way from this point.  At the far end of the room was the Well of Fates that had showed us our futures.  As we passed the pool, I swear I saw Bor’s face there, in agony and torment.  Sir Bentblade glanced at the pool then to us.  “It is okay, we have been here before.  We know our way out from here,” I assured him.

I thought we would have an easy going, but we encountered a mummy several hallways further – coming in behind us.  Theren, still a giant spider, webbed the mummy.  He tore through the web, but it was enough to slow him further.

Dispatching the shambling undead proved easier than I would have thought – though the narrow hallway proved challenging for our rather large party.  My weapons illuminated the passage and I used Bonebreaker to shred off a layer of the mummy’s wrapping.  Another swipe tore off the bandaged arm of the monstrosity and sent it spinning down the hallway – causing it to groan in a voice that chilled me.  The shambling creature did not stand a chance against all of us though.  Dimitrious drove his fist into its chest cavity, permanently killing it.  Its mouth opened and bellowed a foul cloud of death-dust on us, the stench of it hung on my clothing for hours afterwards.

We made our way backtracking our journey into Tempora.  It was strange visiting so many places where we had fought and bled.  I was most nervous in the ruins of Tempora itself, where I could hear those teleporting spiders clicking above us.  They did not attack, no doubt because of the size of our party.

We travelled the long underground roadway back out to the Vale of White. We remembered to disable the bones in the vale, and trudged out into a cold rain.  Sadly, we came across the carcasses of our horses that we had left tied up outside the vale. Oversight on our part, we had left them tied up.

Even the light of a stormy day felt good on my skin.  We had been underground for long and perilous days.  Now we simply had to deliver the paladins back to the Order of the Fang and maybe, just maybe, they could free the paladins trapped in Drex’s massive sword.  We camped that first night, then set off down the old road back to the lowlands.  Our sense of day and night had been lost in Tempora.

The next night stopped at the Horns of Essex to camp and retain our bearing and strength.  Here the massive horns of a long-dead creature jutted upward to the gray skies. I remember it being spoken of as a place of great magic.  The giant stony horns were eerie, but marked our passage downward out of the wilderness.

It was in the middle of the night that Althalus woke me and the others.  Something was amiss – he had heard something in the brush.  He called out to the bushes, “Who goes there?”  Motion stirred in another location.  “We know you are out there, show yourself!”  The warlock was bold, if nothing else.

Dimitrious quickly lit a torch and tossed it into the brush.  Suddenly, three packs of rats burst out at us.  They were a trio of swarms, a mass of vermin, all coming at us.  Behind us, Hell Hounds burst out of the foliage, their glowing jowls lighting up our camp.  They snarled and growled as they closed on us.

Arius waved his hands and chanted – blessing some of our party. I could feel the surge of holy power pulse through my veins.  One of the hounds tore into Biff the Bold, one of the paladins, its fangs clamping onto his arm and tore at his flesh.  Fire burst out from the wounds and the paladin dropped to the ground unconscious.  Another lunged at Theren who was injured by its claws. Another tore into Sir Biff, ripping off a leg and tossing it into the brush.  There would be no healing that could bring this holy warrior back from where his soul went.

Sir Rippen, a rather unremarkable paladin, missed a Hell Hound entirely, planting his blade in the soft ground.  Arius used Skullringer on a rat swarm, sending bits and pieces of dead rats spraying into the air – his thunderous smite splattering many.  Blood dripped from Skullringer as the hoard of rats reeled under the assault.

I notched an arrow and planted it in the hide of a Hell Hound.  It ignored it entirely, which I was satisfied with.  This was not a time to draw a great deal of attention.  Althalus fired an emerald burst of power into the same hound.  The searing smoke hole in its hide only seemed to make it angrier – if that was possible.

Theren stabbed at one of the hellspawn creatures, planting his blade deep.  Black-red blood spurted out and the creature growled in pain and anger.  The paladins joined the fray, their weapons flailing in the night, slashing at the Hell Hounds.  Dimitrious bludgeoned on of the hounds, hitting him hard.

One swarm of rats tore into Sir Harold the Quick, crawling over him, seeking any exposed flesh.

A boiling green cloud emerged in the middle of our ranks near Arius and Viktor Barristen appeared, his skeletal face with horned helmet striking fear in me.  I will not lie, I wet myself just a little at the sight of him rising on a cloud of mist.

“We are doomed!” Althalus called out.  I had to agree.  Arius swung Skullringer at him, capped with his holy smite, hitting the quasi-lich anti-paladin.  The skull grinned in response.  “I have come for that sword…” he hissed.  Arius alone was horribly and hilariously outmatched.

My next arrow planted itself in the black fur hide of the Hell Hound I had hit earlier.

Harold the Quick flailed about with his pack of rats, sending rats scurrying as he snapped the necks of two of them with his hands.

Theren, morphing into bear form, tore into a Hell Hound, clawing and biting viciously at the Hell Hound which responded in kind.  The smell of burning fur filled the air. I kept worrying about Barristen, but the Hell Hounds were more pressing.

One Hell Hound scotched a paladin warrior in evil flames, leaving him screaming, which did not help my calm. Another beast broke off with Theren and jumped him as well, savaging him into unconsciousness.

Barristen was what really worried me.  He swung his staff in front of him, pointing it at Arius.  A brilliant beam of azure energy hit our comrade and he dropped, paralyzed. The evil undead anti-paladin reached down to his backpack and grabbed the sword of Cyrilla Drex.  I swear I saw him grin evilly as he hefted the heavy blade.

The sword!  I cringed.  In his hands those imprisoned paladins faced a fate worse than death.  Before I could fully comprehend the events, Althalus knocked one of the Hell Hounds back with a blast of eldritch power, allowing the paladins to pounce strike him.  Theren’s clawing attack tore off a piece of hide from one Hell Hound, sending it flying into our campsite.

Dimitrious tore into that creature, his fists thrashing the beast until it collapsed, its chest shattered.  The blue robed monk grabbed the fire gland of the beast and ripped it from its chest and tossed the black-bloody organ to the ground as the creature dropped.

I spun on Barristen, just in time to see him turn into a cloud of greenish smoke and disappeared into the night…taking the sword with him.  I spun on one of the Hell Hounds and fired another arrow, hitting it true.  We circled the remaining Hell Hounds and in a flurry of sword blows and magic blasts, we slashed at them.  I proudly delivered the killing blow on the last of the creatures, earning honor and respect of my comrades.

Suddenly things went very quiet, except for my ragged breathing.  We had won the fight, but in losing that sword, we may have lost on a larger scale. As Arius regained his control and rose we all looked at each other in a mix of victory and concern.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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