Monday, September 4, 2017

Parthenogenesis in Sci-fi

When I get a raging fever, I usually end up lecturing myself on a topic I know little about. If I'm lucky, it won't be out loud. Yesterday, the topic was Parthenogenesis in Science Fiction (???). I had three nice examples which, on reflection, I do actually remember watching or reading at some point. I believe the overall point of the lecture was to extract attitudes on a gender's contribution to society from the books.

1. Herland by Charlotte Gilman. This was a serial novel published in a 1910s magazine entirely written by the author and probably distributed to her mom and a stack in her mom's basement. The basic gist is that three Men are wandering lost in the jungle when they suddenly come upon (you know the drill) a Lost Civilization of Astoundingly Pale People for the Latitude. Once upon a time, they were a lost band of all women who suddenly found they could have babies. Now they experience times of "great joy" and know they could be pregnant soon, but if they concentrate hard on their work instead of thinking about a baby, they will not have one. The less desirable specimens in society are encouraged to do this. Meanwhile, all the women live collectively. The men explain that in their society, women do not work, but the men are not able to convince them of this because it does appear to them that the women work at caring for children. The men say that's different. The women do not understand anything that is important to men, their "hallmarks of civilization," in fact. Three women pair off with the men, who begrudgingly agree to try an "equal" marriage. It appears this is intended to mean a platonic relationship because apparently married sex isn't equal or something? Eventually (off-screen, it was the 1910s, so just heavy implication), one of the men tries to sleep with his "wife?" who reacts like she's been assaulted but cannot articulate what's happened to her. The other men say, "Well, she's his wife after all." Other women in the society are horrified and drive them off. I believe one of the woman is willing to give the "unequal" marriage system a try and goes with them back to "the world of man." I read this book in college. My primary reaction to it at the time was befuddlement at the attitude of the men for trying to pair off with the women, who appear to be a different species. Why would they even be attracted to alien creatures with inhuman biology, I would wonder over and over.

2. The Female Man by Joanna Russ. This is an experimental novel from the 1970s (ohgod). There are three or four plot threads involving alternate versions of the main character, I think. The narrative is non-linear and non-just about every element of fiction. In one of the versions, there was a catastrophic failure of the Y chromosome leading to the extinction of men. The women had to quickly become expert geneticists to save themselves and were able to make themselves parthogenetic, though I believe they also do some genetic mixing. Now women divide their lives into age categories. As young children, they are cared for by a family of women. Then, as teens, they form roving bands who wander the earth to explore ancient sites of beauty (uh-huh). As adults, they are assigned a job (work is universally thought to be odious in any form) and form a family group. As is usual in 1970s fiction, everyone is nudist, atheist, and pansexual. Their basic society unit is a work/family group. One of the women from the women timeline travels to 1970s earth and says, "I saw a woman, grossly thickened through the shoulders from years of labor, possessing a grandmotherly mustache." Then she realizes she is looking at a man. That made me laugh. But my primary reaction to the book was, as for every 70s scifi I've tried to read, wonderment that it got published. I was impressed that it managed to convey any impressions whatsoever with such convoluted text, though.

3. No Men Beyond This Point. This is a recent scifi mockumentary. It follows the youngest man on earth around for a bit and gives the history of the ongoing extinction of men after women became parthogenetic AND unable to reproduce with men. This began in the 1950s, and the documentary is set in the present day, with the last man being born in the late 70s. The men are mostly seen to pitch big fits about how they aren't important any more. Remaining groups of them go on "hypothetical" hunger strikes, as in they could go on a hunger strike, but they women are feeding them so they might as well eat but be mad about it. Most men live in Man Preserves, which are depicted as having lavish restaurants and golf courses, but some work in menial jobs. Religion has entirely died out except for a reverence for nature and a monthly 3-day holiday (uh-huh). Women pair off after the start of childbirth, which is called "calling" and starts in the teen years. The pairs of women are just friends. Societal pressure is against any kind of sexual urges, which are seen as being rendered obsolete by "nature," but there is a heavily stigmatized subclass of women who fall in love with men, or even admit to falling in love at all. Some parts of the documentary speculate on "what might have been" (AKA make jokes on what actually is). NASA, the military, and the team that developed the internet were all shut down in this time line. "The moon is an important cultural symbol, but that doesn't mean we need to go and stand on it." That made me laugh. The movie reaaaally gets some important science about reproduction wrong (not every sperm has a Y chromosome), which irritated me.

I find it amusing that the female-only worlds of the Edwardian age and the modern age are so similar in terms of women avoiding sex and not making the things that are considered important contributions by the prevailing society.

There are a scant few man-only worlds in fiction, too. Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold has a planet of men that in the distant past was colonized by group of Catholic monks, who, for reasons best known to them, brought with them donated ovaries and artificial wombs to continue the species. Thousands of generations later, many of the men are celibate, but marriage is also allowed. The men work hard to earn Social Credits (unpaid labor for the good of society, such as childcare for another man) enough to pay for the right to be a Father and grow themselves a son and the Beard of Manhood. Only highly-educated doctors know anything about women, and then only in clinical terms.

Cordwainer Smith wrote a short story about a planet of men. There was a plague that killed females of all species for generations, until the men developed a bizarre, violent fanaticism centered around destroying anything female. I believe they also wore dresses and makeup and went around attacking spaceships. It was a short, weird story.

Should I mention Lord of the Flies or Ender's Game? Both societies of boys. Both extremely violent. Both good books. Eh. Okay, I've had enough awake for today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Meme Concluded

I've previously informed you on my quest to finish a collection of prompts for books from somewhere deep in the bowels of the internet.

First of all, an admission.  I did not finish the entire list.  In my defense, I had the books selected and in a special box I set aside to open immediately after my move.  Such boxes have a tendency to creep away if not constantly watched.  The categories I did not finish are National Book Award winner, for which I selected All the Pretty Horses; poetry, which was going to be a collection of poems by Rilke; and political memoir, which was a book about Abraham Lincoln which was adapted into the movie Lincoln.  I have that one in audio book form, but it is over two days long and requires an internet connection to access.  That was not happening during the move.

What did I finish?

  1. "becoming a movie this year"  Silence by Shusako Endo.  I'm not sure if this one made it to theaters this year after all, but it was scheduled for release at one point.  The book concerns the true story of a Catholic priest sent to Japan at the end of its isolationist period to investigate claims that Christians there were being tortured and forced to recant.  The book is written by a Catholic Japanese man and explores his connection to his Catholic and Japanese heritages and whether it is possible to be both.  This is an example of how thoroughly following this meme has lead me out of my comfort zone.  I cannot say I recommend this book, but it is certainly the most serious one of the year.
  2. "written by a comedian"  An Unwelcome Quest by Scott Meyer.  Meyer is a former stand-up comedian and former webcomic artist who is currently an author.  In my experience, the humor of stand-up comedians translates very poorly to book form, but Meyer is a wonderful exception.  This book follows the adventures of a group of lazy thirty-somethings who have ultimate cosmic power.
  3. "recommended by a family member"  Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham.  My brother and I have been reading theology and history books together for half a decade.  This one was his pick.  The issue of whether women should be clergy must seem altogether incomprehensible to outsiders, but it continues unabated in many churches.  The authors offer support to the argument that women can and should be clergy.
  4. "recommended by someone you just met"  The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigaluni A friend introduced me to another friend who had been prompted in advance to give a book recommendation.  This book has ambitions to be about the Obvious Impending Worldwide Catastrophe, a classic theme in science fiction (so far, the catastrophes predicted in such books as Soylent Green have mercifully failed to materialize).  The book is set in Thailand of the Future, where many genetically-engineered plant plagues force the society to use deadly force in the policing of produce.  Also, GMO super companies sell seeds that grow into plague-immune but sterile crops at a huge mark-up.  The actual story follows around nine jerks who are varying levels of Asian stereotype.  I am not going to pass the recommendation along for this one.
  5. "set in your home state"  I'm going to omit this one for the sake of internet privacy!
  6. "from Oprah's Book Club"  Walk Me Home by Cathrine Ryan Hyde.  This tells the story of two sisters who walk away from their terrible home situation and are taken in by members of a South-western native tribe.  You may be wondering which one, but it doesn't really matter because the author made up the tribe entirely.  I don't really get the point of this.
  7. "written by a celebrity" Death Rat by Mike Nelson.  Mike Nelson is, of course, the host of MST3K during the second half of the series run.  This story is about an older man who writes a "true" story of a man's encounter with a giant evil rat.  After the book becomes a hit, he hires a strapping young man to play the "author" of the book and convinces an entire small town to back up a story.  The plot is...implausible.
  8. "first book you see in a bookstore"  What If? by Randall Monroe.  I would love to dislike Monroe, but his stuff continues to make me smile.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Meme in Progress

Someone Nother sent me a meme on reading books this year--a list and a challenge to read a book of each type on the list.  I've been working my way through, even though the categories are irritatingly varying in scope.  There is a complete list at the end of this post if you would like to attempt the challenge, too.

The Ones I've Checked Off, (With Matching Item From List in Parentheses)

1. Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold (book and its prequel)  The first books I read this year, rereads, and ones I read before I had even heard of the meme.

2.  Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (guaranteed to bring you joy)  This is a road-trip book, but the catch is it was written in the Edwardian era.  The first thing I like about this book is that that name is not a pseudonym, and the other thing I like about this book is everything else.

3.  Scary Close by Donald Miller (self-improvement book)  My ability to tolerate Donald Miller ebbs and flows.  He's pretty emblematic of everything you think of when you think "Portland" (I don't know whether he's from there), but he has Interesting Thoughts.  His most famous book, Blue Like Jazz, has a short cartoon in it that may be the most depressing thing I've ever read.  I'm not sure if this is what is meant by "self-improvement" but it's probably as close as I'll get.

4.  Blood of the Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (translated to English)  eh...not the best Polish book I've read this year

5.  Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold (romance set in the future)  Bujold has written some of the best space opera of all time, and she's also written this book.

6.  The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher (more than 600 pages)  An adventurous steampunk.  It has talking cats, if that's your thing.

7.  Career of Evil by Robert Gilbraith (murder mystery)  See, this category is very broad compared to the others so far.  Do the authors of this meme expect you to read so many romances that they have to narrow it down to "set in the future" to make it a challenge, but expect you to have to force yourself to read even a single mystery?

8.  The Driving Lesson by Ben Rehder (about a road trip)  I was wanting to read something like Peace Like a River, so I searched Amazon for that book and looked at the other things that came up.  I would say this book is _set_ in a road trip, but it's actually about euthanasia.  Not exactly as uplifting as Peace Like a River.  :(

9.  The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (takes place on an island)  This book also came up in the Peace Like a River search.  It, like the last book, is "literature."  I'm not sure that it's about anything, but it's set in a bookstore/house, and I think the author may have written it to revel in the feeling of growing up in a bookstore.  (Does everyone but me fantasize about owning a store?  That's hard and thankless work, y'all.  The taxes alone...)

10.  Boundary Lines by Melissa Olson (blue cover)  This is one of those stories where a Strong Woman gets herself some leather pants and a supernatural boyfriend and goes around talking smack to ghosts/zombies/whatever.  It just showed up on my Kindle one day.  I think I might have gotten for free in some promo, like Kindle First maybe?

11.  The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson (under 150 pages)  This is what I think of as a typical fantasy book.  There are castles, something epic is going on, and no one has much of a personality.  MEDIOCRE

12.  House of Shadows by Darcie Coates (can finish in a day)  I wanted to read a gothic book, and Goodreads reccomended this.  It was also free.  Pros:  has creepy house, has other creepy stuff  Cons:  nothing is really done well, tonality is especially bad

13.  The Raven and the Reindeer by T Kingfisher (based on a fairy tale)  T Kingfisher adds a little touch of reality to her fairy tales, which gives them more structure to hang a plot on.  I have been following her books for a while.  I originally read something by her in Lightspeed's "Women DESTROY Fantasy" issue.  *heehee*

14.  (published in 2016)  I've read a lot of things published in 2016, okay?  *sigh*  I'm not going to talk about the specific book I put in this category.  You will just have to find a way to live with that.

15.  Various Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I got a lot of milage out of these, checking off a bunch of stuff.  If you haven't read Wilder's books, go read them!  They are amazing snapshots of history.  Here are the categories I matched, picking only one per book I read:  (classic from 20th century), (haven't read since high school), (YA bestseller), (autobiography).

16.  The History of the Church by Eusebius (at least 100 years older than you)  This was written c. 300 AD, so we could increase that number by an order of magnitude or so if we liked.  You might think there's not much church history to write about in 300 AD, but Eusebius, man, he could write 10 paragraphs on that time someone sneezed.  (MAKE IT STOP)

17.  Coroner's Pidgin by Margery Allingham (set in Europe)  After I had categorized this book, I suddenly was uncertain whether England was part of Europe or if it is just considered, "an island near Europe."  It certainly isn't set in any other continent, so...

18.  Saga, vol. 3 by Vaugun and Staples (graphic novel)  The art in this is very good.  I normally can't stand comic books, but this was even enjoyable.  I think it's the art.  It's very clear, and the text has a lot of breathing room.

19.  Andy Nebula by Edward Willet (science-fiction)  This category.  Even that hyphen offends me.

20.  Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber (from the library)  In this book, a smug professor finds that his wife has been making him lucky- and protection-charms and commands her to stop her superstitious nonsense.  It turns out that in this world, everyone practices magic except white men, and since the main character is such a smarmy little weasel, everyone he knows has been attempting to curse him.  It felt really nice to see this guy get his comeuppance.  He kept saying things like how his wife, with her fragile non-logical female mind, was highly susceptible to the Deep South superstitions she had been typing up for him as part of a paper he was publishing.  I can't tell if the author is just a horrible person or if he hated the main character as much as I did.

21.  Amish Zombies in Space by Kerry Neitz (satirical)  There is a trend in Christian fiction to write novels with Amish characters, set in Amish communities.  According to the author, this novel satirizes that trend and also the trend where absolutely everything has zombies in it.  The pacing of this book is pretty bad.  The author spends a lot of time getting all his people on one planet so he can have the zombie part of the book, and then we moan and shamble a bit, and the book ends.  I would say more, but then I will have put serious thought into criticizing a book called Amish Zombies in Space, and what am I doing with my life?

22.  The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis (dystopian)  This book is an alternate history where the British empire of the early 1700s developed robots and are using them to expand their global empire.  France and "New Amsterdam" are living in increasing poverty.  The Empire is rather low on Freedom of [X], so many undesirables are being hunted.  The 1700s, in the real world, always strike me as a time when the popular perception of the value of life was at a low ebb in many countries, and this book captures it well.  Contemporary books, and this emulation of one, make me very uncomfortable.  Also, mechanical robots?  So implausible that they break all suspension of disbelief.

23.  Fool by Christopher Moore (NYT bestseller)  Fortunately, I occasionally mess around with its crossword puzzles or I would not have known what NYT stood for.

24.  King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels (about a culture you're unfamiliar with)  This is a true story about a Ghanian-American woman, a secretary, who was appointed King (queen is a separate position with different duties) of her...I'm going to go with "neighborhood" back in Ghana.  She flies over once a year or so to settle disputes, oversee development, etc.  She has brought clean water, new schools, and more, so far to her kingdom.  Way better story than The Princess Diaries.

25.  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson (protagonist has your occupation)  I'M KIDDING...maybe...I could not find any fictional books with mathematician protagonists, although Neal Stephenson has some mathematicians in his books, and I may read one later, but the book I am putting here for the meantime is Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl by Bryce Anderson, which has a graduate student/TA protagonist.  It's a sort of thought experiment book.  The protagonist invents a technology which allows her to upload a simulation of herself to computer memory before her death.  The department she worked in devotes itself to running and improving the simulation.  Eventually, every possible complication is explored.  Why just run one simulation?  Why should the simulation be restricted to what humans can do?  Why not connect the internet?  Why not add holograms to the mix?  Etc, etc, etc...there are a lot of events in this book.  (I've read Octavian Nothing before, but I may read it again for its National Book Award winner attribute if I never get around to All the Pretty Horses, which I already have on my shelf for some reason.)

Follow Along With The Books I've Finished So Far:
book and its prequel
guaranteed to bring you joy
self-improvement book
translated to English
romance set in the future
more than 600 pages
murder mystery
about a road trip
takes place on an island
blue cover
under 150 pages
can finish in a day
based on a fairy tale
published in 2016
classic from 20th century
haven't read since high school
YA bestseller
at least 100 years older than you
set in Europe
graphic novel
from the library
NYT bestseller
about a culture you're unfamiliar with
protagonist has your occupation

And The Ones I Have Yet to Go:
National Book Award winner
set in your home state
becoming a movie this year
written by a celebrity
political memoir
from Oprah's Book Club
recommended by a family member
takes place in Summer
written by a comedian
first book you see in a bookstore
recommended by someone you just met  (I have recommended a few books this year because people tend to ask me what I am reading if they see me with a Kindle, and people have taken the time to write down titles, but no one has reciprocated with their own recommendation so far.)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Community Game: Driftmoon XIII

You search the first building to the south--the Mayor's Office.  The Mayor's statue is seated at her desk.  The legs of the chair underneath her have cracked due to the sudden weight of the stone.  You can't recall ever seeing the mayor anywhere but at her desk.  A notebook is in front of her with the inscription, "DO NOT READ  If found, return to the Office of the Mayor.  PROPERTY of Mayor Bisquit."  On the shelves are stacks of legal documents.  You find some copies of the mayor's proclamations, including the one to Word's dad.  There is also one to someone named Plotho:  "Mayor's Order 231.  Plotho, I've heard about your terrible luck.  It is clear to me that the Gardening Tool of Doom or whatever it is called is dangerous.  I am ordering you to lock it up in your shed until further notice.  I will be coming to take away the key tomorrow.  Yours, Mayor Bisquit"  You also find a copy of Hogpuff's Biggish Book of Monsters, that ubiquitous tome.  You flip to the familiar section on wolves.  Young wolves are called morning wolves and older wolves are night wolves.  You wonder if it's impolite to ask a lady wolf which one she is.  (You may now consult this book for information on any creature.)

"Look at this!" says Word.  "It's a gargoyle.  I've seen one before!  We have one at the shop."

"Password," says the gargoyle in its stony voice.

"They are the latest thing.  It's guarding something, and we need to give it the proper key phrase," she says excitedly.  "Password...okay, that's not it," she adds.

You don't have the heart to tell her you've seen entire cathedrals full of the things in your travels.

Player B:  Let's check our reference book to see if there is an entry in gargoyles. Then let's investigate the mayor's secret book to see if we can find the password. 

Player A:  I second all of [B]'s motions.

Gargoyles are a new kind of technology, so you can't look them up in the monster reference.  You do think they are tacky.  A statue shouldn't talk, you know?
"Shall we open the mayor's book?" you ask Word.
"Ooo, we're going to get in trouble when she wakes up!" she says.
The notebook turns out to be a false cover for a bodice-ripping romance, but there is also a scribble on the inside.  "The password is Mr. Scrubbs.  DON'T FORGET"
You show it to Word, and she takes it upon herself to give the password.  "Password accepted," says the Gargoyle, and a previously-hidden wall safe pops open.  Inside is the Official Armor of the City guard, which the mayor hands out on the rare occasion that she needs a city guard for the day.  There is also a an old-fashioned long-stem key.
"I may need some armor," you say, pulling it on.  Word helps you with the adjustable straps.  "At least I have my apron," says Word.  You take the key as well.
South of the mayor's house is the Strawberry Juice Fountain with the Five Plaques of Holy Writings around it.  The road forks here.  To the east, the road curves down the cliff to the entrance to the abandoned mine.  To the west is historical landmark Hogpuff's House, which is in a sad state these days.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Community Game: Driftmoon XII

Walter "Fluffy"
Strength:  11 (WALTER SMASH)
Intelligence:  10
Dexterity:  9  (I'm just big-boned.)
Health:  10
Pottery +3 to base score
Nose of the Gods +3 to base score
Knots +3 to base score

Normal Clothing for + Clean but damp do-rag for Armor 1
3 changes of socks and underwear, damp but clean
About 2 days worth of food, including dried fish, cured meat, berries, and carrots.
Soldier's Dagger
15 steel arrows
1 Silver Feather

Word has:
Potion of Coloring Things Gold (2 doses remaining; lasts 6 hours)
Potion of Create Back Hair (3 sips remaining; permanent; only works on things with backs when ingested)
Potion of Banish Back Hair (3 sips remaining; permanent; only works on things with backs when ingested)
Potion of Reduce Weight 90% (only a teeny bit remaining, maybe not enough to work)
Apprentice Alchemist Leather Apron and Gloves + Clothes for Armor 1

Belt with Pouches to Hold Stuff
Big Stick
Water Flask

Walter attempts to find something to prop open the door.  (Rolls 13:  Failure)  "Word, do you have anything we can use here?"  (Rolls 11:  Success)  "I found some driftwood!," says Word.  Hopefully that will hold, but if not, you are on the side with the chain now, so you can probably figure out another way to open it.
"Okay, what are we going to do about the wolf," says Word.

(You attempt an intelligence-based Sniff.  You need a 13 or less (10+3)  Rolls 12.  A success!)  "It doesn't smell sick or hungry, so it's probably not dangerous," says Walter.
"Oooookay..." says Word, "if you say so.  Like, when did you get super powers?"
"It's a defense mechanism from growing up with an absent-minded alchemist."
You adopt a non-threatening posture and approach the wolf slowly.  It is, after all, by the path, and it will probably see you anyway if you try to sneak past.  "Nice wolf," you say in a soft voice.
"STAY BACK!" says the wolf.
"Whoa!  Sorry, ma'am.  No offense intended."
"I don't care what you intended.  You stay away from my cub!"
"Aww, her little cub is a statue too," says Word with liquid eyes.  "Poor thing."
The wolf sniffs.  "You seem different from the two legs that did this," the wolf says.  "I dooooooooooon't know what to dooooooo.  ARRROOOO"
"Can you tell me what happened?" asks Walter.

"I was in town to visit my two brothers.  They are..." she pauses uncomfortably, "domesticated.  Very sweet, but they just need a little help, so we sent them here.  Suddenly, flashes and bangs everywhere!  I was terrified.  A group of ten or so green two-legs with a pale two-legs come this way.  My hackles raise immediately!  But sweet, kind Jazz, my daughter, crawls towards them, wagging, and I can't even move.  She was scared, but she wants to be nice to everyone!  AWWWROOO!!!  They did this.  They did this!
"They got my father, too!" says Word.
"My mother," says Walter, "But the pale one, that might have been my father.  Do you remember anything about him?"
"I thought at the time he was with them, but he did seem frightened.  What can we do?"
"I'm going to get everyone back!" you declare.  "Do you want to come with us?"
"Noooooo...I will stay with my cub.  Guard her.  No one can come near."
"In that case, can you guard the rest of the villiage too.  Keep it safe until we can figure out a way to undo this?"
"I can do that, human."
"Thank you!" says Word.  She hugs the wolf, who barely tolerates it while showing her teeth a bit.  "We'll be back!"
The town is arranged in a ring around a central island.  At high-tide, the water floods the southern path and refreshes the tide pool around the island.  You remember it being an idyllic fishing spot.  You are standing in front of a bridge to the island.  The path curves north to another bridge to the northern part of town.  Town itself is arranged from the north side in a half ring around the island down the the southern path, which is currently not underwater, though it is, quite deeply, twice a day.  If you were to go south, you would find a path leading down to an abandoned mine in the cliff side.  Word says the new Alchemy shop in on the town ring West of the island with the rest of the buildings.  You can go straight there or investigate some of the other buildings.  There are also buildings outside the town that you haven't explored.

Player B:  Let's investigate some other buildings and see if we can find any goodies.

Player A:  Let's especially look for food and weapons.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Community Game: Driftmoon XI

At this point, I didn't reply for....a while, and one of the players decided to encourage me.  I received the following in an email from Player B:


[Me], a gifted mathematician who modifies video games off the cuff as an amusement for her friends.
[Player A], friend and everyday gamer.
[Player B], friend and everyday gamer.
Walter “Fluffy” Argylebutter, a video game character whose ability to be controlled by a trio of giggling females has yet to be determined.
Word, Walter’s sidekick of questionable cognitive ability.

Setting:  Interior of an abandoned 1950’s-era school building.  There is a long tiled hallway with windows along one side and lockers along the other.  Light streaming through the windows illuminates dust particles floating in the air.  A classroom door stands ajar in the background.  In the foreground is a 1993 Apple Computer with a black screen and blinking green cursor in the bottom left corner.  The system is rebooted and ready.
Act I, Scene I
A pin drops.
Fluffy?  Fluffy where are you?......Hello??......
                (The question is met by a keening silence.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Community Game: Driftmoon X

Player A:  Would repairing the chain allow us to open the door from our side? I think not but if it could, then let's repair the chain or something. Otherwise we should go around the wall clockwise looking for a likely place to break in.

Me:  Repairing the chain would require some long distance welding through the peep hole.  It doesn't sound possible without some serious equipment.  The town is built against a tall cliff, and the fence butts into it at both ends.  It looks in good repair, despite the fact that the gate is usually standing open.

Player B:  Can we toss Word over the gate?  Can she stand on our shoulders and reach the top?  If there's no apparent way into the Village, then I guess we should go explore the Well and Stable to see if there are any clues.

Player A:  THROW WORD OVER THE WALL! Yes, this is what we should do! Human catapult!

"Here, let me give you a boost," you say to Word. 

She takes a running start, and you cup her foot and heave her mightily in the air!  (Rolled 3d6 against 10 Strength - 4 for difficulty.  You need a 6 or less to succeed!  You rolled a 4, a critical success!)  Word lands perfectly at the top of the fence and pulls herself up.

"Oooo...I don't know.  It's really far down," she calls.  (Word rolls against 14 Intelligence.  Word rolls a 10, a success.)  "Oh, right."  Word riffles through a pouch on her belt, then disappears on the other side of the fence.  You hear giggling, then she falls silent. 

"Word.  Word?" you whisper.

"Shhh!" she says in the same whisper.  "See if you can push the gate up." 

You bend your knees, wipe off your hands, and heave.  The door hurtles up and crashes back down.  Instinctively, you try to catch it, and to your surprise you hold it up in its track with ease. 

"What the..." you say. 

"I used the lightness potion on it.  Pretty neat, huh?  And check it out."  She leaps about 10 feet in the air and comes down grinning.  "No broken legs coming down from the fence, either.  There's only about a drop left, though."

"How long will it last?"
"I'm not 100% sure?  We should probably prop open the door or something if we're here very long."

"Why are we whispering?" you ask.
"Look over there...I think I see a wolf."
You look over in the grassy area that has just come out from the shadow of the cliff as the sun rises.  You see a small statue of a wolf...but the grass is swaying though there is no wind.  Behind the statue, a huge wolf is pacing.  You don't think it has seen you, but its pacing is taking it quite near the path into town.
WALTER HAS REACHED LEVEL 2.  Please suggest three skills or areas of expertise for Walter.  You may also increase one of his attributes by one if you provide a backstory to justify this (see last post).  You can also make suggestions for Word if you like.

P.S.--In the actual game, you have to locate a crab who will climb through the peephole and fix the gate for you.  I went ahead and let you try another way, as it seemed plausible (enough).  It's not like the crab scenario was terrible plausible...

Player B:  I suggest we increase +1 in Strength.  I'm envisioning a Hodor or Andre the Giant type.  His backstory can be that he wrestled in secondary school. 
Player B:  I also suggest one of his skills as pottery.

Player A:  Maybe there will be a lizard who we can bean later worth a poorly fired vase.

Player A:  I suggest a keen sense of smell as a skill. (He had honed it over his childhood sniffing out food his mom used to hide from him.) I hope his olfactory knowledge and awareness will aid him in avoiding danger and identifying substances. 

Player A:  As a final skill, I suggest that Walter loves knots and is fairly skilled at tying and undoing them. His childhood neighbor had an uncle who sometimes visited for two or three months at a time. He was a sailor and enjoyed teaching knots to Fluffy, because his own nieces and nephews were too unfocused to sit down to learn.

Player B:  Sounds good to me.  Now turning back to the story, what to do about the wolf?  I would guess the wolf is there grieving/guarding his stone-turned mate/child/friend, so he's probably not a bad sort.  However, one can never be too cautious around wolves.  Should we try and approach slowly, using our superior nostril prowess to determine his mood?  Being this early in the game, there's a good chance he's friend instead of foe.  Also, since the game has established that we can communicate with crabs, why shouldn't we be able to communicate with wolves too?

Player A:  I think we should prop open the door and approach the wolf.