Star Wars using Fate Core

With Fantasy Flight phasing out tabletop RPGs, I thought I’d post the notes for a Fate Core campaign I ran a few years ago – Fate Wars: The Requel. This was before The Force Awakens came out, and we were basically reworking the prequel storylines with new main characters and stories that weren’t awful nonsense. This being a tabletop RPG, they were instead delightful nonsense.

Starting Aspects

  • High concept: as usual in Fate Core
  • Trouble: also as usual. Following Order 66, could include Force Sensitive
  • Species: not just your species but the kind of example you are of that species
  • Connection: this can be a connection to an organization, a movement like the Rebellion, or another individual. This Aspect can be left blank until play begins
  • Obligation: this Aspect can also be left blank until play begins. Your Obligation might be an outstanding debt or a bounty-hunter marker, a life-debt, etc. Something that connects you to someone or something else whether you want it to or not.

“Force Sensitive” can be a Connection Aspect, or included in another aspect like Species or even Trouble depending on when in the Star Wars timeline you are playing. But in order to Use the Force via Extras listed below,  you have to have Force Sensitive somewhere in your Aspects list.

Character Parameters

  • 3 Refresh, and Fate points are of course Destiny points in this
  • 3 Stunts
  • 1 Extra
  • Max Skill +4, and Skills are in a pyramid
  • Base of 2 physical stress boxes, 2 mental stress boxes, and 3 consequence boxes

Custom Skill List

Athletics, Blaster, Contacts, Deceive (includes Stealth), Empathy, Fight, Investigate, Knowledge, Mechanic (replaces Repair), Notice, Physique, Pilot, Provoke, Rapport, Resources, Scoundrel (replaces Burglar), Will

Stunts

These are eample Stunts that I handed out to the players. Of course they could take them directly from the Fate Core book, or come up with their own according to basic Stunt parameters.

Athletics (run, jump, swim, balance)

  • Acrobatic: You can roll Athletics to overcome an obstacle that would normally require Physique.
  • Aquatic: You are a member of an aquatic species, and this grants you a +2 to Athletics rolls used to swim or maneuver in water. Ex: Aqualish, Mon Calamari, Nautlan, Rakatan, Selkath.

Blaster (shoot things)

  • Covering Fire: You spend a Destiny Point and can use your Blaster skill to create a passive obstacle to everyone in an adjacent zone. They must roll Athletics or Notice and exceed your Blaster skill to enter your zone. Until you’re out of ammo.
  • Gunner: You gain a +2 to use your Blaster skill when acting as gunner on a starship or using another type of large, fixed-point weapon.
  • Shoot First: You gain a +2 to your Blast roll if it is the first attack in the conflict

Contacts (locate NPCs that the player gets to name and create)

  • Power Player: You receive a +2 to Contacts rolls made to find someone among the aristocracy
  • Scum and Villainy: You receive a +2 to a Contacts roll made in a location frequented by the dangerous and the desperate.
  • Your People: +2 to Contacts rolled to find an NPC who is of the same species. Humans can only take this Stunt if the game takes place in the Outer Rim.

Deceive 

  • Pull up Your Hood: You gain a +2 when rolling Deceive to avoid notice.
  • Uh, We’re Fine Here…How Are You?: You gain a +2 to Deceive when attempting to impersonate someone.

Empathy 

  • Your Feelings Betray You: You can roll Empathy to create an advantage by placing a condition on your target describing emotions they are trying to hide. They can resist with either Deceive or Will.

Fight (assumes you are fighting unarmed or have a simple weapon handy)

  • Deflection: A Jedi or Sith can use Fight to defend against most kinds of blaster bolts as long as they are wielding a lightsaber.
  • Good Against Remotes is One Thing: You receive a +2 to Fight when fighting droids.
  • Jedi/Sith: You must also have a Force-sensitive Aspect. This Stunt allows you to wield a lightsaber as an Extra.
  • Madclaw: You possess a natural weapon that is taboo to use, but if you do, it functions as a weapon with a rating of 2 (Selkath, Trandoshan, Wookie)

Investigate (track fugitives down, read tracks of your prey, discover clues at a crime scene)

  • Bounty Hunter: You receive a +2 to track your prey in an urban environment.
  • Slicer: you gain a +2 to use Investigation to crack computer codes and slice computer systems.
  • Tracker: You receive a +2 to track your prey in a natural environment.

Knowledge (history, culture, worlds)

  • I’ve Seen A Lot of Strange Stuff: You can use Knowledge in place of Rapport when dealing with obscure aliens and cultures
  • Jedi Archives: You can roll Knowledge instead of Contacts to make contact with another Jedi (or Sith in some time periods).
  • System Chart: You get a +2 to Knowledge rolls regarding a specific star system.

Mechanic (build things and fix things and sabotage things)

  • Override: You can use Mechanic to make an attack against a droid in order to temporarily take control of it (instead of deactivating or taking it out). Normally the droid has one stress box and a core skill at +2. Once the stress box is filled, the droid is either taken out or reverts back to its previous programming.
  • Repair on the Fly: You can make a Mechanic roll to repair damage or malfunction even if you do not have the proper tools or time to prepare.

Notice 

  • I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This: you receive a +2 bonus to Notice rolls to detect an ambush.
  • Only Stormtroopers are So Precise: You can use Notice instead of Investigate when analyzing a crime scene.

Physique (strength and endurance – shrug off blows, lift heavy things)

  • Gut it Out: When you would normally take mental stress, you can spend a Destiny Point and instead take physical stress.
  • Let the Wookie Win: You can roll Physique in place of Provoke in order to intimidate.

Pilot (used for all types of vehicles – unfamiliar craft have the aspect “unfamiliar controls”)

  • Astrogation: You can use your Pilot skill, instead of Lore, to plot a course through hyperspace.
  • I’ve Made a Few Modifications: Anyone but you who tries to pilot your ship is at a -2 disadvantage. Anyone who tries to sabotage your ship must roll against a passive resistance equal to your Pilot skill.

Provoke (intimidate, seduce, taunt – get the emotional reaction you want out of someone)

  • Nerf-herder!: When you use Provoke to taunt someone, you gain a +2 to your roll if you add in a colorful insult.
  • Your Reputation Precedes You: When you first enter a social situation, you can spend a Destiny point to place an aspect on the scene: My Reputation Precedes Me.

Rapport (get along with people and get them to trust you, performance)

  • Another Round: +2 to Rapport when drinking with others.
  • Nice Guy/Nice Girl: You use Rapport rather than Provoke to seduce someone.
  • Veteran: You gain a +2 to Rapport rolls with other soldiers, even if they are on the other side.
  • Virtuoso: You can use Rapport through art to make friends and influence people.

Resources (money solves a lot of problems, but not all)

  • Hiring: Instead of Contacts, you roll Resources to find an NPC who can help you.
  • I Don’t Know, I Can Imagine Quite A Bit: You get a +2 to Resources rolls to buy big ticket items, +5 or higher
  • Money Talks: You can use Resources in place of Investigate when making bribes to get information.
  • Noble Title: You can roll your Resources in place of your Rapport when among other nobles, powerful politicians, generals, etc.

Scoundrel (covers larceny, stealth, and general law-breaking)

  • Kessel Run: You can use your Scoundrel skill instead of Pilot for the purpose of evading other ships
  • Real Quiet-Like: You gain a +2 bonus on Scoundrel rolls to sneak up on someone.
  • Smuggler: Your Scoundrel skill counts as passive resistance to any roll to locate hidden compartments or contraband on your ship.
  • There Aren’t Enough Scoundrels in Your life: You can use Scoundrel in place of Provoke for the purpose of seduction.

Will 

  • Set in My Ways: +2 to Will rolls made to resist changing your mind or being convinced of a new course of action.
  • Strong-Minded: You gain a +2 to Will rolls to resist (choose one of) Force-based attacks, Deceive, Provoke.
  • Unyielding: When you would take physical stress, you can spend a Destiny Point and instead take mental stress.

Extras

Armor 

  • Light armor, like basic stormtrooper armor subtracts 1 from damage dealt by Blaster, Fight and Physique. (Cost 1)
  • Heavy armor, like Mandalorian armor or elite stormtrooper armor, subtracts 2 from damage dealt by Blaster, Fight and Physique, but it also has the aspect “Cumbersome.” (Cost 2)

Lightsabers

  • A basic lightsaber constructed by a new Jedi Knight adds 2 to the damage rolled using Fight. It also enables a Jedi to use Fight instead of Athletics to defend against blaster fire (with the Stunt). (Cost 2)
  • An advanced lightsaber, like a double-bladed model or with special focusing crystals, adds 3 to the damage rolled using Fight. (Cost 3)

Use the Force

Use the Force is essentially a list of special Stunts for Force-sensitive characters. All of the following Cost 1 each.

  • Force Defense: adds +2 to Will rolls to defend against Force attacks
  • Fore Leap: spend a Destiny point to leap from one zone to another
  • Force Sense: enables you to use Empathy to detect other Force-sensitive characters, even at a distance
  • Force Sight: spend a Destiny point and add an aspect to a scene in the future or see and hear a distant location
  • Lightning: spend a Destiny point to use Will to deal damage for a scene (must have a Dark Side aspect)
  • Meditation: spend a Destiny point to erase one negative consequence or clear your mental stress track
  • Mind Trick: enables you to use Will in place of Deceive against the weak-minded
  • Suffocate: enables a Force-user to roll Will to damage from a distance, as well as impose the condition “suffocating” (must have a Dark Side aspect)
  • Telekinesis: spend a Destiny Point to use Will to lift or throw objects rather than Physique, including more than one at a time with a simple push or pull
  • Telepathy: spend a Destiny Point to speak to someone’s mind directly for a scene

Vehicles

  • Terrestrial Vehicle: like a swoop bike, speeder, or similar vehicle, seats one to three and hovers over the ground but cannot rise more than a meter or two. May also get around by other means, like on mechanical legs or underwater. (Cost 1)
  • Individual Starship: most starfighters are in this category, like X-wings and Tie-fighters. Has shields, a weapon system, but no hyperspace capability. (Cost 2)
  • Freighter: more modest weapons than a star-fighter, but has hyperspace capability. Can hold cargo, or a crew of up to a dozen. (Cost 3)

Weapons

  • Blaster Rifle: adds 1 to any damage rolled using Blaster (Cost 1)
  • Bowcaster: adds 2 to any damage rolled using Blaster (Cost 2)
  • Grenades: either add +3 to damage dealt with Athletics, with boosts spent to hit more than one nearby target, or impose a condition on everyone in a zone, such as “deafened”, “stunned”, “blinded”, etc. (Cost 2 to carry 1 or 2 grenades on your person)
  • Repeating Blaster: Requires a Physique of +3 or a tripod to wield effectively, adds 2 to any damage rolled with Blaster. Boosts can be spent to hit additional targets (Cost 2)
  • Thermal Detonator: adds +5 to damage dealt with Athletics, with boosts spent to hit more than one nearby target. (Cost 3 to carry a thermal detonator on your person)
  • Vibroblade: adds 1 to any damage dealt with Fight

 

Baptism in the Age of COVID-19

I just had someone run a question past me, as a pastor, and it got me thinking. At a time when an increasing number of us are quarantined or sheltering in place, and all of us are being told to stay at home by healthcare professionals, how should we handle a baptism? I can think of some immediate options:

  1. Don’t. There isn’t a hurry to baptize, unless the person is imminently dying and requests it, in which case, consult with a chaplain to learn the usual procedure, or check with your own tradition.
  2. Perform a baptism with minimal people present and strict contact protocols – masks, gloves, washing before and after, using a throw-away gown instead of a robe if possible, on and on. And in doing so, basically, risk everyone involved, but risk them as little as possible.
  3. The one I’m thinking through now: baptism at a distance.

Baptism at a Distance

What are the key elements of baptism, generally speaking? I would say they are the following:

  • Consent
  • Water
  • Some form of the Matthew 28:19, trinitarian formula
  • And ideally, the person is being baptized into a community of practice

Now, this differs somewhat from the “official” stance of the PCUSA, and if I were baptizing someone in our church building, certainly as part of a worship service, I would studiously adhere to our denominational standards. I’m talking about someone asking about a baptism at a distance because, in part, they are reasonably afraid of someone in their immediate family dying in the next year or so and don’t want to feel that regret.

There’s an advantage that we don’t have to have holy water, since if I had to bless water and then send it to the family, there’s a danger of contamination there from me to them. They can handle the water on their end and I can handle the words on my end.

Whatever a person’s tradition thinks of baptism at a distance, we are all going to have to give it some thought. It will be 14 months until there is a vaccine, and months after that until enough people have recovered from COVID-19 or gotten the vaccine for us to approach “herd immunity” and be able to be close to each other again. 18 months is a common estimate I am reading consistently. For those 18 months, all of us, churches included, will have to rethink the way we remain in community. This is an especially challenging time for the church, because church is unable to do what we do best – build in-person community and connection. Practice shared rituals that orient us in time and space and punctuate the meaning we make of our lives. Instead we have to pretend we are YouTubers and Zoom conference organizers and limp along.

But during those 18 months, will we not baptize at all? Will we risk close contact to baptize in the traditional way? Or will we have to come up with something else? What do you think?

5E Setting Ideas: Alaam Part 1

I actually have a lot of ideas for this setting (which is a good thing of course) so I think this will be part 1 of 2. Maybe more than 2.

Anyway, I wanted to create a setting that was inspired by the various cultures of the modern Muslim world, or at least big parts of it – Pakistan and northern India, Indonesia, the Middle-East, and north Africa. The goal isn’t to represent those cultures, but to draw some inspiration from them, and to treat what inspires me in a respectful way. All of this is before any kind of reader, including sensitivity readers, have had a chance to look at any of it. Comments are always welcome, but know that there is plenty more that I’d put into it before any part of this would see the light of day in a permanent form.

Rather than creating a complete guide to the setting, I’m just going to provide some glimpses into what I have in mind. In brief: four powerful genies created a world, roughly divided along elemental lines – earth in the north, wind in the east, fire in the south, water in the west. The world is then governed by genies (dao/shaitan, djinn, efreeti, and marids respectively) and inhabited by humans, qareen (genasi), dragonborn, mephits, and a few other intelligent species. In theory, no one knows that their whole world is essentially a snow globe floating on the Astral Sea.

The Temple of Redemption

A core tenet of the theocracy that exists in the north is the moralization of debt. This is taken to such a degree that if one dies in debt (as many do), their body is claimed by the priesthood and raised to be an undead slave, the idea being that they will work off the rest of their debt before offered the oblivion of death. The reality is that upkeep of the undead is another way that debt is incurred, meaning one serves as long as the priesthood wishes.

The Temple of Redemption is where one goes to pay one’s debts to the Durah to avoid being raised as a zombie slave when they die. Corpses are prepared by being taken up the mountains to be dried out, and then are worked with herbs and oils so they don’t flake and fall apart. Undead slaves are commonplace in the north, and undead troops make up a large part of their army. In battle, priests come out in the aftermath and raise the corpses, expanding their forces while their opponent’s shrink – a terrifying sight.

The Edges of the Map

Beneath the Water Realm is a vast abyss that continually wells up water, as well as sometimes monsters, from the infinite deeps. (Because water drains and evaporates away, it has to be replenished from the Plane of Water.) At each edge of the world, more elemental power and material piles in and also falls off the edge, as the world continually overflows. To the east is a vast storm that obscures the fact that it is the edge of the world. To the north, the mountains pierce the atmosphere and are impassible, wracked by freezing winds. To the south is a churning volcanic miasma. At each cardinal direction, at the edge of the world, is a direct connection to one of the elemental planes, providing energy to keep Alaam in place.

Outlaw Science

In Alaam, scientists are fugitives from the genies. Especially those who study physics, geology, and astronomy, and planar sciences. But there are going to be stories of certain explorers and scholars who disappear one night, never to be heard from again, after which their research (homes, laboratories) are burned by “vandals.”

The Four Laws

The lawgiver-priests of the western islands have propagated the Four Laws which, in theory at last, apply in all of the islands and on all ships. The lawgivers have a hand in arbitrating how these laws are applied, but have been mostly successful, in that many see them as traditions that are recognized without argument.

The Salt Law: a captain is the final authority on their ship, and a governor is the final authority on their island.

The Wind Law: if you get into serious trouble, you can always leave on a ship if one will have you. If not, execution or branding are the common punishments. But you can always-self exile if you can find a way.

The Blood Law: family members have the right, and even the responsibility, to seek revenge. This includes chosen families, as long as their are recognized as such, having taken on this responsibility.

The Iron Law: on an island, the one who can muster the most iron wins the conflict, on an island or on a ship. In theory, this was intended by the lawgivers to prevent more widespread bloodshed when two leaders were fighting for the same position. In practice, unfortunately, the iron weapons must usually spill blood before the question is settled.

The Age of the World

Archaeology exists as an area of study in Alaam, but it is the study of previous tries the genies made and then buried. It is therefore a highly secretive science undertaken only by the very bold or the very well-supplied. But often, if one digs beneath an existing settlement, they find more layers of settlements from previous attempts at creating the world. This gives the impression of a long time having passed when, in reality, it has at most been a couple of thousand years since the four progenitor genies first came together.

Real-World Geographical Inspiration

As I’ve been working on this setting, I’m realizing what a challenge it’ll be to make a map that makes sense, and to present the world as not immediately, obviously, a snow globe. Part of what’s interesting about a campaign in Alaam is the PCs figuring out the back-story of the world itself, and at higher level, escaping it somehow. As they become stronger, they’ll be able to explore more widely, to face the hazards at the limits of the world. But in the meantime, the world has to be plausible.

Really what I’ll need to do is find and pay for a great cartographer.

Capitalist Exploitation Reflex

Brothers Who Hoarded 17,000+ Hand Sanitizers Forced To ...

I wonder if this guy wanted to be famous? Maybe he just wanted to exploit thousands of people for profit. Well, now he’s famous.

The problem isn’t billionaires – billionaires are a symptom. The problem is capitalism. The common lie is that capitalism is the functioning of free markets, but this has never been the case on any large scale. Actually, capitalism has always demanded slavery in some form, because capitalism has always been exploitation.

We can see what I’m calling the “capitalist exploitation reflex” at work right now, as we adapt to the coronavirus and watch opportunists do things like drive across three states to buy up all of the hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes so they could price-gouge people on Amazon and Ebay, or buying up toilet paper rolls so they can sell them for $5 each out of the back of their car. Under capitalism, this is perfectly rational behavior. If you aren’t hoarding and price-gouging your neighbors in the midst of our shared fear and uncertainty, you’re the sucker.

In order to address this exploitation, Amazon and Ebay had to temporarily suspend capitalism. They had to actively prevent the so-called “free market” (which is never, ever actually free) from setting prices the way economists relentlessly teach us markets are supposed to. They had to set price maximums and cancel the accounts of price-gougers. And of course they did – we always punish the small-time gougers, while we let the big-time gougers run everything. We are, after all, capitalists.

The cruelty isn’t a glitch, it is demanded by the system. It is poisonous, diseased billionaire-ism, and it infects many of us whether we know it or not. It shows up when we are anxious, and some of us immediately begin to frantically hoard and exploit. Hoarding and exploiting are the two basic instincts of the capitalist.

This isn’t vapid “all are sinners” kind of reasoning, this is a specific system playing out in predictable, horrifying ways again and again across time and throughout the world. It isn’t that markets exist – they always have. People get together and trade things with each other without any outside encouragement. Capitalism is not markets – that’s just capitalism’s marketing. Capitalism is hoarding and exploitation, deep down to the core. It exploits everyone it touches, relentlessly, blindly, like a blasphemous idiot-god from a Lovecraft story. (From a Christian perspective, I would say that it is literally a blasphemous idiot-god, and we its idolatrous servants)

It is a dragon that breeds dragons, and we need to slay it.

Whence Evil? How D&D Added More Racism to Tolkien

Why Orcs are Evil in Middle-Earth

Left to their own devices, the ‘Free Peoples’ of Middle-Earth are not concerned with orcs one way or another. For hundreds, even thousands of years at a time, the orcs go quiet, retreat to the far north, or the east, or deep into the mountains. They might remain a hazard of the ‘deep places of the world’, but in the same way that avalanches or cave-ins would be. Just one more thing to be careful about when you go poking around buried ruins. But generally speaking, when orcs leave other folks alone, they leave the orcs alone. The don’t conquer and colonize orc territory, for the most part.

So, why are orcs evil in Middle-Earth (at face-value and in popular understanding anyway)? Orcs are evil because they threaten people who are otherwise living in peace. They don’t engage in significant trade, or seek to intermarry. They don’t try to open embassies in Minas Tirith or Edoras. They don’t sign treaties or negotiate. Periodically, orcs assemble and wage war on the west of Middle-Earth. They make themselves a threat that must be dealt with as a simple matter of survival. Whether orcs are innately evil is not of great concern – there aren’t attempts to exterminate orcs in some sort of genocide. When the orcs attack, other people must come together to fight back, and drive them away.

Of course, at the same time, there aren’t emissaries sent to try to negotiate with the orcs to avoid these wars. No one is going into orc territory like Doctors Without Borders to try and raise their standard of living. When there is peace, it is a situation of out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.

Why Orcs are Evil in D&D

Along came D&D, and the orc stat-block, and a new answer to the question of why orcs are evil. D&D makes the claim that they are innately evil. It says so in the stat block for orcs, right there with hit dice and number appearing. Now, you have adventuring parties that have an interest in going, seeking out orcs, and killing them to take their stuff. This isn’t something the Dunedain ever did, at least not in Tolkien’s writings as we have them. When Balin’s colony entered Moria and fought the goblins there, they did so in an attempt to reclaim an ancient home. Their ancestors built Moria, and they wanted to live there again, but the goal wasn’t genocide, but rather to recover something valuable that had been taken.

But the idea that orcs are innately evil and must therefore be exterminated wherever they can be found is something that D&D added to the idea of orcs adapted from Tolkien, not something they found there. That difference, though, between orcs being evil because they threaten our communities, and orcs being innately evil no matter what they are up to, seems huge to me.

Yes, Both are Racist

I’m not arguing that there was no racist element to Tolkien’s depiction of orcs – that has been thoroughly studied and examined elsewhere. Orcs are clearly coded as Other in contrast to the European ‘Free Peoples’ of the West of Middle-Earth. They are given a paper-thin culture and their origins are not carefully examined. They are not interacted with during peace-time as people, but only arise as an impending threat with which one cannot reason.

But I do think that D&D added something, and it is incredible to me that it has not been removed since. The idea that orcs are innately, or even largely, evil, is literally and precisely racist. They are still coded as culturally Other in most D&D settings, compared to the Western European, pseudo-medieval default. They are savages and tribal and raiders and rapists and primitive and all the things that Europeans said to justify our real-world genocides in history.

I guess it’s just amazing to me that in the 1970s D&D took an idea from a novel published in 1954 and made it more racist than it already was, and that in 2020 we still have that basic idea carried forward almost entirely intact. It’s the digital age and our orcs are more racist than the orcs from the 50s.

Our True Addictions

It is common to talk about how people are addicted to technology. But I don’t think we are addicted to technology at all. I think we are addicted to what technology offers is easy access to: each other, games, and stories. I think that a large number of companies have found that these human needs can be leveraged and made highly profitable, especially if they are allowed to exploit them without limits, as they currently do. But even calling these ‘addictions’ is a misnomer. They are just fundamental human needs which many of us are trying to fulfill through digital technology.

Addicted to Each Other

It helps me when I remember that most of the folks I encounter on social media are starving. Not physically, but emotionally. We just aren’t built for this nonsense. We are not made (whether by God, evolution, both, aliens who seeded Earth with life, etc) to stare into a flickering screen alone seeking social connections. We only do it this way because our society doesn’t work.

Every few years, we find that people have fewer friends. The average white man in the United States right now has zero close friends. Zero. First our society uprooted all of us, so that we do not have a sense of place or lasting in-person relationships, and then to address this we developed Web 1.0 and then Web 2.0 and social media. These are the things that would connect us as never before, and they have. What they cannot replicate, however, are the in-person relationships that every single human being craves. Without those relationships, we’ll starve, and like starving people, we’ll end up willing to try to eat almost anything.

Addicted to Games

Every soldier’s kit historically included gaming pieces. I’m not an expert who is certain this was always true, but this does seem to be broadly true. So when you have to decide every ounce you are carrying, whether you want to carry that marching hundreds of miles through all weather, whether you want to wear that into battle, one of the most important things soldiers have with them are gaming pieces of some kind.

Gamification is a term that’s come to common use over the last decade or so, driven by people like Jane McGonigal and others who are learning how to use games as leverage in shaping human behavior, whether our own behavior or that of others. Gamification would never succeed if people weren’t already strongly inclined to love and play games.

I would personally go farther to say that we are, as animals, strongly inclined to play. You can observe stingrays playing; whales breaching; dolphins passing around narcotic puffer-fish like a ball. The more I learn about animal intelligence and animal behavior, the more I learn that animals play. One of the forms that basic living need to play takes is the human obsession with games.

Addicted to Stories

Humans love stories so much, we impose stories on seemingly random events. That, at least, is how people without supernatural beliefs account for those who have supernatural beliefs, but it’s also why we impart meaning to noises in the dark or see faces in objects. Confronted with a world with no table of contents or user’s guide, we create stories out of what we experience, and those stories in turn help us navigate more of the world.

People will live and die for stories. Right now, tens of millions of Americans are committing collective suicide for the sake of the story: Make America Great Again. They are eagerly voting against their own best interests, exacerbating problems that will destroy the lives of generations to come, for the sake of that story. Stories drive our triumphs and our failures, as individuals and as communities.

So What?

In order to flourish, I think that we as human beings need to find better ways to be connected to each other, better ways to play and play games, and better ways to tell one another stories. Right now we are locked into multiple exploitative, extractive, destructive, suicidal systems that provide a version of those things only to use them as leverage to commodify us. Fortunately there is a very long human history of knowing one another, playing games, and telling stories. We have a lot of practice in doing these things; we just have to understand what it is that we need, underneath all of the noise and consumerism that is currently strangling us all to death.

5E Dragonlance Round-up

Laurana Kanan | Chronicles of Astinus | FANDOM powered by ...

Above: Death of Sturm by Larry Elmore, the best Dragonlance art of all time

I’ve posted some thoughts and hacks for running a game on Krynn, in particular during the War of the Lance, using 5E D&D. Here are links to those posts.

D&D Dragonlance (War of the Lance)

Kender Player Ground-Rules

Dragonlance, Gully Dwarves, and Race

Dragonlance: Draconians!

5E Dragonlance: Campaign Finale

Arcane Traditions: Wizards of High Sorcery

5E Magic Items: Dragonlance

Seeing those all lined up makes me wish that I’d come up with a more regular title convention, but I’m going to leave them as they are. If you’re a Dragonlance fan, though, there’s definitely some quality there for you.