Here’s a nice take on the Seven Dwarves…

The rule book deals with drowning and suffocation, but the cliffhanger of our latest session also has a few other issues the heroes will have to deal with — atmospheric pressure (from water) and decompression…

With their flying saucer sinking under the ocean, they have only a few turns to figure out how to get out of the craft…but in that time, the saucer has sank some distance. so that leaves them with a few issues to address:

The first, air. They should have time to hold their breath, but they will be exerting themselves early on. From the core rules,

“…your character can hold his breath for one minute per point of Body rating. In combat, your character holds his breath for one turn per success on a reflexive body roll. After this time passes, your character will be forced to take a breath and suffer the effects of whatever he breathes in. If he inhales water or thick smoke, for example, he will receive one nonlethal wound per turn until he is able to breathe normally. Your character cannot hold his breath again until he has had a chance to catch his breath.”

It will take several turns before they can exit the craft under the best of conditions. By the time they are out, the saucer will have sank between 100-200′ (between 30-600m-ish), with an increase of 1 bar/33′ or 10m…they could be exiting somewhere in the range of 9 bars of pressure.

So, rules for high atmospheric pressure and decompression:

Characters exposed to high atmospheric pressures will suffer 1 non-lethal in damage for every 3 bars of pressure (every 100′ or 30m of depth.) Also, holding one’s breath becomes more difficult at these pressures, as the lungs are not strong enough to fight the crush of the pressure. Holding your breath requires a Body+Will with the difficulty increasing one success for each 100′ of depth. (You can reflexively hold your breath without a check down to 100′) This damage only lasts as long as the  person is under pressure.

That said, rising or decompressing too quickly will cause the damage to remain and possibly worsen as the body cannot reabsorb nitrogen and other gasses released by the drop in pressure. This can be cured with safety stops and a slower ascent of about 30fpm to allow the body to adapt to the lower pressures, but in an emergency assent (as these characters will have to attempt), the character can ascend at speeds up to 100fpm. That still leaves two minutes for the characters. If the character has to surface at unsafe speeds, they will take 1 non-lethal in damage for every 100′ they have to ascent at faster than 60fpm.After the character has reached the surface, they must make a Body test versus the damage they took. If they fail the test, they take lethal damage equal to the number of failures in addition to the non-lethal they have.

(Example: Steve has to ascend from his crashed and sining seaplane. He was able to catch his breath before exiting the craft, but has to ascend 200′ to the surface before his breath runs out. He has 2NL in damage from the pressure, and has to roll a Body+Will vs. 2, and succeeds. He has a Body of 2 — he has two minutes, if he doesn’t exert himself, to reach the surface. He opts to rise as fast as he can, but it will still take all of his two minutes… The speed of his ascent means the damage will not got away on reaching the surface as he experiences “the bends”. He makes it to the surface, but is suffering from decompression sickness. He rolls his Bodyx2 vs. the 2NL and rolls a 1. He now has 2NL and 1L in damage, which will heal at the normal rates.)

Had Steve has a Body 3, he could have ascended slower, and risked a non-lethal or two for breathing water, but that pressure and drowning damage would have gone away once he could get to the air.


The group finally had everyone back together again for the session this week. We picked up a few days after the raid on the Sanctuary and the removal of the chua te, the pirate king, Trihn from the place. The characters are mostly recovered from their injuries during the fight, they’ve been working to sound the old liner that serves as the trade port, and looking for the other cargo cultists that escaped into the jungle. They’ve been building  docks for the pirate ships, having talked those crews into allying after Trihn was packed off to the merfolk to answer for his crimes against them. And they are preparing for their meeting with the hawkmen of “the Aerie” — a mountain topped by a Greco-Roman-looking city that floats a half mile above the “Hole in the Ocean”, a giant whirlpool that swirls into darkness under the rock.

After some character interaction and catching up the one player who was out for a fortnight, they flew to the Aerie in their Atlantean flying saucer, Agni, only to be met by scores of the creatures, armed and flying in intricate formations. They landed, and Gus Hassenfeldt in a fit of exuberance and naivety rushed out to greet the creatures. Eventually, the characters — with the aid of Prince Glaucus of the mermen and Lord Amon (late of Ultima Thule) — were able to establish enough of a rapport with the incredulous Prince Sycrat of the Hawkmen, to have a sit down and talk about an alliance against the cruel Emperor Mot of Atlantis. With some judicious use of style points and a decent “take the average”, they were able to sell the hawkmen on an alliance, with the hawkmen and merfolk working to extend their lines of communication, and find other ready to rise up and fight.

On their way back to the Sanctuary, however, they spotted several gleaming objects in the sky — Durga and her escorts, returning to investigate the Sanctuary. They decided to submerge the saucer in the ocean and wait it out, but Glaucus — able to communicate with his people nearby — learned that the saucer fleet had gone to Sanctuary and one of the ships had landed on the old liner! Obviously, the chances that Captain Thoth would discover Olga and Princess Shria, both still aboard the craft, were high. With that, they decided to take the bold (and very pulp) action of attacking the fleet!

Bursting from the ocean in their flying saucer, they got an incredibly lucky hit on Durga that disabled the vehicle. The great war saucer fell out of the sky and exploded when it hit the ocean, doing damage to the nearby pirate ships and the shockwave killing some of the nearby merfolk in the water. Disoriented from fireball, Lord Amon almost crashed the saucer, and a bad initiative test led them to be hit by the escort saucers’ heat rays. While the saucer wasn’t destroyed or incapacitated, they landed hard on the ocean…at which point the water rushed through the damage in the hull and started to pull them under.

We ended the night with the cabin filling with water as they struggled to get the exit open. Then the lights went out…

One thing this campaign is teaching me is every time I think it’s time to pull back and be a bit more “realistic”, I find the better choice is to do the opposite: more over the top, more cliché, more action over plot and character. The result has been one hell of a good game, thus far.

So, I went ahead and loaded the new macOS onto my MacBook Air. Installation was effortless and took about 45 minutes, start to finish. I was able to use the laptop for half of that while the file downloaded. Nothing was changed — my wallpaper, sounds, etc, were left as is; this felt more like an update than a “new” system (which it’s really not…)

The big new feature is Siri. I’ve been using it on and off, and it’s okay. For some things, it works well, like quickly finding a file that’s nested somewhere in a series of folders, or getting the weather…other things, it’s still a little, well, useless. Siri, however, was not the most useful change.

That’s tabs. Tabs in Pages, Keynote, Maps, etc. I usually have several Pages files open at the same time, and having them tabbed is useful. Next up, Universal Clipboard is potentially really useful. I sometimes find an article, or phrase, or picture on my phone and want to use it in a file. You can cut and paste between Apple products. You do need to be on the same network and have Bluetooth up and running. i played with it, and it’s pretty cool. If my iPad were new enough to run iOS10, it would be moreso.

Connected to that, the new iCloud services to store crap you don’t use that much off the laptop is a great idea if you have an Air with a small SSD…however, you only get 5GB from Apple for free. Come on, Cupertino — Google, Dropbox, they all are far more generous with their cloud services, and if you really want this to be a big thing, you might want to give people 20-50GB so that they can play with Continuity and iCloud. If they like it, they’ll use it and might want to start storing stuff online. (I think it’s a foolish thing, from a security standpoint, but there you go.)

Gatekeeper is more of a pain in the ass than it was before. Yes, I understand you don’t want idiots downloading malware onto their overly-expensive hardware…but I don’t want to jump through a load of hoops to get some app I’ve been using for years into action on my computer. (Fortunately, it hasn’t affected anything already loaded.)

The new Os is using IPv6 for networking, and it has been a smooth transition. Additionally, I noted the computer was finding my network drives automatically. I don’t have to go out and do it manually. This is one of the better features of the upgrade.

I don’t have an Apple Watch, so none of the auto-unlocking for me. Don’t really care. APFS — their new file system that’s in the offing and is tailored toward the particular needs of flash drives — is aboard this version, but not in use. Supposedly you can enable a partition using it, if you want to be so bold. Me? Don’t care, right now.

So is it worth it? For me, the automatic locating of my network drives, and the tabs make this a yes. If you use Siri, then, definitely. After all, it’s free…


All this thinking on the metaphysics of a Dungeons & Dragons world has been feeling nostalgic. I’m deeply missing my Battlestar Galactica campaign.

It’s the first time I’ve ever missed playing not just a game, but a specific campaign.

I was looking at the various pantheons in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and while they don’t expand on the personalities, etc. I’m leaning toward using either the Dawn War and Forgotten Realms pantheons (as competing religious traditions in different areas), as well as the nonhuman deities from the Players’ Handbook.

Are these gods “real”? Maybe — as gods by ancient standards weren’t omniscient or omnipotent, but powerful enough to impact the world in grand ways. I’m leaning toward a Hindu-like division of devi and asura. They’re both “gods”, but one is divine and other malign. This works well with the traditional fantasy tropes of good and evil, but also fits the alignment conceit of the rules. Rather than a necessary behavioral guideline, it’s more a tie to which side of the grand fight you’re on. Demigods and demons are the foot soldiers of their mythic creatures.

I do know I want to lose the connection to Earthly pantheons and notions of divinity. There’s too much baggage with that, and I’m doing Hindu and classical riffs for our Hollow Earth Expedition game, and Battlestar Galactica was completely infused with Greek myth (which I love.)

Connected to that are the “planes” and the idea that they house these creatures. The dozens of planes aren’t needed. Astral and etherial are more as a function of their connection to spell-users. The Shadowfell and Feywild are much more useful — strange worlds just a half twist off of our own. (I’m seeing the Upside Down from Stranger Things for the Shadowfell, and a MAxfield Parish-like realm for the Feywild.) Then you need the positive and negative energies, or planes. It’s not Hell or Heaven, but rather Life and Death. But are they really dualistic? That could be part of the mystery for the wizards or magic users — what’s the real nature of the universe?

So…much to my surprise and chagrin, I’m considering running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, using 5th edition. Before any of the veterans of the editions wars gets started: shut up. I haven’t played D&D since one session in 1993-ish, and before that 1984.

That last high school campaign ended with the characters taking on the “ultimate evil” of our campaign and winning. What the hell do you do after that? Our answer was more James Bond: 007 and Car Wars. I haven’t returned to fantasy since; in fact, I’ve actively avoided it.

The guy managing the local Meetup group for RPGs saw a sudden jump in interest after one of the members started running D&D 5e on their Meetup night. He’s a bit butthurt, since he had envisioned the group as a place where folks would get together and try loads of different (read, indie) games. Membership is high, but participation is low — Albuquerque is one of those places where you find a group and stick with it, mostly due to the commute time if you live on the Westside — but with the D&D game, suddenly people were coming out of the woodwork. Two tables of D&D are running and there is a waiting list. Apparently, people prefer D&D to Dogs in the Vineyard, and Night’s Dark Agents, and Apocalypse World, and all those artsy-fartsy games.

He asked me to run a game, and since he gave me his set for free, I feel a bit obligated. I made the mistake of mentioning his conundrum (people don’t want to try a different game every damned week; they want something to sink their teeth into…) and got four people say “You run it, I’ll play…” So without even trying, I’ve got a viable group. What the what!?! One of those is a regular in my other group (and an important part of the fledgling Black Campbell Entertainment), and his response was “I’d be interested to see what yu’d do with it…)

Well, now, so am I. I busted out the books and looked through the rules — it’s almost exactly the old AD&D I remember, but with some improvements. I’m intrigued by the tiefling, which weren’t around when I played. Thinking on it, I started laying out some rules for myself to avoid a lot of the “traps” of fantasy games…

First, start small. A county or province or whatever…I don’t need the whole world mapped out and an 80-page primer on the world to get started. (Yeah…the guy from 1993 wanted us to familiarize ourselves wth his world bible before playing…he also gave my ex-wife a female cleric character that was mute.)

Second, game balance — fuck that. If someone wants to play a starting character and another a more experienced one, I think I’m going to let them. Players don’t necessarily advance at the same rate in a game, as it is. Let them play what they want. That said — keep the levels manageable. Level 4 and down to start.

Third, no random tavern meeting BS. They should all have some sort of connection, or sets of connections that meet up. They need a reason to adventure beyond killing monsters and getting treasure.

And on that — monsters, magic, treasure…these things should be rare or at least uncommon, to my mind. Dropping in on the monster of the week isn’t exciting or shocking. After a while, it’s just another day on the job. Keep the magic use to a minimum and make it something surprising, even if it’s a PC using it. Make them get the bits for the spell, make them have to have time to enchant. Monsters should make sense — why is this thing here? Where did it come from? What’s the impact on the surroundings?

Connected to that: You don’t need to use the whole Monster Manual. pick things that make sense for the story and the campaign arc. I’m thinking of cutting out the old stand-bys like orcs and kobolds in favor of focusing on the main PC races as bad guys.

Alignments. Hate ’em. Always did. It might not be a bad place to base your character’s actions on. I was thinking of the notion of a tiefling that wants to be good…but in the end, that’s not their nature, and no matter how hard they fight it, sometimes, mature is going to trump nurture… But that brings up the necessary questions of what is good and bad in this game? What god/s and their antitheses exist (or don’t but we think they do..?)

You don’t need to have the universe jump, fully formed from your head, but anything that might be connected to the players’ motivations and back stories should be, at least half-assedly, laid down.

But, as always, I could be full of shit.