Roll20 Experiment: Week Six

We ended last week with a lich experiencing death by monk, and the aftermath of battle with hordes of undead. Scooping up the crown, ring and rod of the lich in case someone stumbled across them later, we found that our ranger had died in combat (his player being unable to continue playing due to real world issues).

We then discovered a prisoner in the form of a dwarven adventurer who had been tortured (a new player joining the fray), so our numbers were maintained.

We paused to rest so that spellcasters could rearrange their loadouts, and engage in general headings and restorations requires by frontline warriors (well, ok, by my monk) before pressing on out of the catacombs through a storm grate that led to an open courtyard on the surface.

A distinct lack of planning and communication then led us to an invisible mage sneaking out of the grate to gather information and sabotage the defences of the massed orcs and goblins encamped there.

Amid calls for the wizard to “just fill the courtyard with fire”, the monks moved to attack whatever was closest, to tie defenders up while the rest of the group made their way out. Battle was joined, and reinforcements began appearing, including a hulking giant and an orc shaman. The wizard’s sleep spells made the number of active combatants more manageable, while the giant and shaman became a priority target. As the giant fell and the shaman was silenced, we ran out of time for the session.

On a technological note, we started the session by using the experimental voice tools, but even with everyone using up to date Chrome and Firefox browsers it didn’t work well. We reverted to the Flash-based tools, had a couple of crashes and had everyone restart their browsers before carrying on.

Our GM only deleted on person by mistake this session, but as it was our new player we treated it as a rite of passage for him. We did use the GM’s jukebox successfully though, so I think we’ll be using that more from now on.

I’m going to miss the next three sessions as I’m on honeymoon, but I’ll update the story on my return.

The 10 Stupidest Things You Can Say To A Depressed Person

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2002, and then cyclothalmia shortly afterwards, and I’ve continued to make way through, sometimes a day, hour or minute at a time. I’ve encountered most of these comments at one time or another, and while I would sometimes phrase things a little differently I broadly agree with the responses made and can think of many times when I wish I’d had the energy or wit to make them myself. All props to Thought Catalog for this blog post.

Zen Sarcasm

There are days where a good bit of sarcasm can make your whole day. I wandered across these a while back and saved them in a text file as possible bits of dialogue, but thought I’d share them for those who might appreciate them for their own sake.


  1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone.
  2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
  3. It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.
  4. Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
  5. Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.
  6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
  7. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
  8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
  9. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
  10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
  11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
  12. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
  13. Some days you’re the bug; some days you’re the windshield.
  14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
  15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
  16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
  17. Duct tape is like ‘The Force’. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
  18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
  19. Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.
  20. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night

Roll20 Experiment: Week FIve

This is the week where everything started to kick into high gear – although the shenanigans actually started late on Saturday night with a couple of instant messages from our GM, recruiting me to stir things up a bit in the session. After a bit of discussion, a plan of action was conceived and left ready like the proverbial rake in the long grass.

Unknown to the adventurers, their presence within the college catacombs had been detected and the rather unpleasant lich in control of the area combined a summoning and a wish spell to force a temporary possession of my monk character by a demon. Cue hilarity as I suddenly shifted my webcam to focus on a McFarlane Toys Violater model and proceeded to attack everyone in sight, with a particular focus on the paladin and the cleric – because, demon..! The trade-off was that although the demon was in a berserk state, lowering armour class, he was adding an extra d6 of flaming damage and had a substantially increased amount of hit points. On an eighth level monk, this is… a worrying combination.

The cleric reacted by summoning reinforcements in the form of a number of hydras – which we all found both amusing given recent combats and worrying given the relatively small spaces we were fighting in. The GM ruled that the hydras were unable to injure the possessed monk/demon, which both annoyed the players and saved the GM rolling lots of dice. The demon possessed 90% magic resistance and attackers needed magical weapons to injure it, so the paladin was one of the few people with a reasonable chance of taking the demon down. A knock-down, drag out fight quickly began, with walls of flame, flame strikes and trash talk coming from the demon, and various people either gibbering in the corner or throwing whatever they had on the off-chance it might work.

What helped prevent a Total Party Kill, was some horrendous dice rolling on my side – rolling 100% when asked to resist a lightning bolt, which was very effective, and not really rolling particularly high when doing damage to other people. With the demon reduced to 0 hitpoints in ferocious combat with the cleric and paladin, it was banished, leaving a very battered monk in need of healing.

Just as this healing was being applied, the lich sent in more undead – some of which was cannon fodder to give him enough time to weigh in with fireballs and other unpleasantness. Pressing the advantage while healing options were low, the attack came in on several fronts, splitting the group’s focus.

Perhaps wanting to redeem himself, my monk leapt back into the fray to distract the lich and prevent spellcasting – either that or my blood was up, having been in combat most of the session already. Despite the hordes of minor undead, spells detonating left, right and centre, and a lot of damage and energy draining, we managed to put the lich down, my monk’s combat rolls redeeming the earlier less than stellar performance earlier in the evening. As time was getting on, we called things to a halt at that point.

On a technical level, things went quite smoothly, with the GM now being more practiced in moving and adding models as needed, and with no one getting accidentally deleted. Sound levels continued to be variable, with occasional logging off and relogging seeming to be the key to resolving issues. There were seven of us in the session, and to be fair only one of us is using the premium service as the rest of us are being a bit cheap. I don’t know if this is part of what is causing differing sound levels and echoes due to bandwidth and buffering, or just a reflection of the eclectic mix of hardware being used.

Between us we are using desktop PCs, laptops, Apple Macs and iPads, and everything else seems to be running smoothly. Considering the option would otherwise be several hours of travel for some of  our group, we’re continuing to play this way – though we will be looking at the experimental options being offered through the site to see if that helps.


Roll20 Experiment: Week Four

Just about squeezing this one in, mainly because it’s been a busy week and my brain seems to have become adept at turning cartwheels while remaining in place. Week Four’s big improvement was our GM managing to not delete anyone by mistake..! Unfortunately what we did have to cope with was a fair bit of fiddling around to sort out sound levels. This isn’t an issue with the Roll20 website, to be fair, but rather one brought about by complicated audio setups at our GM’s end (he’s been known to produce the odd bit of music here and there, so there are a surprising number of knobs to twiddle). Once our collective audioscape was a little calmer and sounding less like an apocalyptic rave party featuring Mr Snuffleupagus and some Slaanesh Noise Marines, we were able to start.

The previous session ended with a surprise encounter with a kobold – a sort of reptilian humanoid with a reputation for setting traps and being highly organised – weak on their own, but potentially big trouble if allowed to plan and gather numbers. Fortunately, this particular tribe had been native to the area before the goblins and orcs invaded, and had been rather overpowered by the hydra that we had just slain, so after agreeing to rid them of some unpleasant slimes that had moved into another area of their territory, the adventurers were able to negotiate passage through their area into the abandoned complex that was our main objective.

Mindful of stories of the dead rising during the invasion, our initial movements into the catacombs were cautious – which was just as well when skeletal warriors began to harass the group. Other, more powerful, undead began to be drawn to the conflict, and a wall of fire was used to barricade off their approach while dealing with the most immediate issues. Once the cleric and paladin got into the swing of things, the undead began to fall back or be destroyed by their demonstrations of faith – leaving only monstrous spiders to ruin the day of the unwary.

A session of epic battles and growing unease then, as we all start to get used to our respective characters and their limits. It all seems to be going rather well – and it is getting me thinking of running something myself as and when this adventure comes to a close…

Daily Prompt: Michaelangelo’s YOU

Thought I’d have a go at this – today’s prompt is:

Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing, or event from the last month of your life into the glistening marble of immortality. What’s the statue and what makes it so significant?

This is surprisingly difficult to pin down – although I like making a noise and a fuss as much as the next blogger, I’m actually at heart insecure enough to be very wary of praise and adulation. I like it, but I always feel like there’s another shoe about to drop, with an unspoken ‘but’ in the sentence. It could be a consequence of growing up in the era of Dick Emery, or a side effect of being at boarding school, where every moment can feel as if you are under scrutiny and social assassination can be a consideration if you let it.

But I digress…

This is about something significant from the last month, rather than about me, so that forces me to approach this from a very different angle. The statue created by my personal sculptor to memorialise the last month would have to be of a stack of books, to reflect the children’s reading group and work at the library that has brought such a complex mix of exhaustion, joy, relief, angst, fear and laughter into my life. On paper, working in a library is not a complex role, and yet by dint of being that peculiar role of shepherd between the public and the thoughts of others there is a respect offered by many people that I am sometimes amazed by.

For example my wife, the Lady M, has a complicated and high pressure job working for a huge multinational organisation that has widespread recognition in most homes. She manages vendors, working on contracts that have values that look like telephone numbers, and yet she is consistently introduced to people with the extra information that her husband is a writer and librarian. These people are instantly envious and start asking all sorts of questions. Perhaps there’s a name recognition to the role, or that so many people have grown up knowing librarians as such a key role in their education – whether that is in a school or in the community.

So my life has revolved this last year around books – and with this month having thrown all manner of curveballs and moments of sublime joy and humour in with the frustration of working with, well let’s say with challenging individuals… it just has to be a pile of books, ready to share with children, distribute to reading groups, recommend to students, or shelve ready for the next set of customers…

Honeymoon Preparations

So, having been a bit of a curmudgeon the last few months, I’ve finally started to get a bit excited about this honeymoon next month. In part it’s come from the buying of new clothes in pale colours, and linen shorts, and partly from seeing some amazing photos of the places we’re about to visit. If nothing else, we’re going to have plenty to fill the remaining space in our homemade wedding album, which we’ve always said wasn’t going to be completed until we’d got the honeymoon done and sorted.

I think, with the rain battering the outside of the flat, and the Indian summer seemingly finally slipped away, that the heat of a winter holiday is increasingly attractive – even though I suspect we’ll be mildly traumatised by the British winter when we get back. Our preparations therefore are starting to gather pace. Clothing is sorted, travel vaccinations have been endured, spare mosquito net is sorted, insect repellent has been stockpiled… and now that I’ve finally got round to sorting out my tax return, we have a clear idea of our cash resources for while we’re out there. There’s an underwater nightclub we want to visit while we’re out there, and I suspect there’s some diving that Lady M would like to take advantage of…

Now I’ve just got to battle my local GP for prescription renewals and documentation for my byetta injections – so that’s something to look forward to this week.

Who’s ashamed of the big bad ‘B’ word?

Having been forced to live on benefits while caring full time, and having taken up writing (something I’d always dreamed of), simply as a way of getting food on the table some weeks, this hits a lot of buttons with me. Food for thought.

Mike Sivier's blog

“Why are you ashamed of being on benefits?”

One of our commenters asked this of another after they admitted that being on benefits made them feel ashamed. It took me completely by surprise as at first I thought it was aimed at me. Then it occurred that it might have been a general question aimed at anybody on benefits. Only then did I see that it was a response to someone else who had said as much.

In the period between reading the comment and realising what it was about, my mind went through several different thought processes which, in the spirit of Douglas Adams, we may call the Why, How and Who phases. The first could be characterised by the question, ‘Why should I feel ashamed?’; the second by the question, ‘How could shame be an appropriate response?’; and the third by the question, ‘Who should feel ashamed?’


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Roll20 Experiment – Week Three

A little later in the week than expected, but I’ve been rushing to beat some self-imposed deadlines so that I’ve articles scheduled to come out for clients while I’m away on honeymoon – now that I’ve managed that, I can do some writing on my own time..!

This week we managed to avoid most of the previous technical sound issues – although we found that those of us using the built-in microphones in our laptops could suddenly create an awful lot of noise if we started typing rapidly all at the same time. I think I’ll switch my settings next time to use the mic in the webcam, and see if that works any better. Our otherwise stripped down approach to using the system continues to work, although I think it’s safe to say we’re all starting to appreciate the value of macros and actually doing the work required to plug values in for statistics and critical skills and abilities. Even running a 1st Edition AD&D game, there are plenty of things that could run more smoothly if we did some setup (and I’m mostly talking about myself and my own convenience here – nothing like trying to suddenly remember the number of dice needed to roll for a flame strike spell at a certain level cast by a magic item to focus your attention).

In terms of what happened this week – our intrepid explorers have picked up the next part of their mission – to infiltrate another overrun temple – this time by making their way through abandoned mines and warrens beneath the complex to avoid the massed armies that have taken over the area. The reason for taking this route is that it is apparently the route that the lone survivor of the assault took to flee the invaders. He got lost on the way out, stumbled through the cave network and away to freedom.

Aiming to follow the trail left through the caves as best we could (cue a ranger looking moderately horrified), we took down a number of goblins guarding the entrance and hid the bodies, realising this meant that the invaders had likely fortified this approach to some degree. A slow exploration of the caves led us to a choice – head west towards signs of kobold activity (highlighted by graffiti, tracks and noise) or north, which while still having graffiti on the walls was a lot quieter.

Opting to try and sneak around signs of activity, we duly headed north – and straight into the lair of a monstrous hydra that had eaten the kobolds in the stretch of caves we’d headed into. With over half the party surprised by its sudden assault, the monks deployed magic items (hence the sudden need to work out the damage for a flame strike), and tried to pummel it into submission.

Being somewhat tougher than opponents battled to date, the hydra recoiled from the flame strike, more or less ignored the pummelling, trampled a few people and then spat poisonous venom at some hapless soldiers, melting them rather rapidly. With the whole party able to join the fray, an epic struggle began, with spells fizzling out in contact with the creature more often than not, and its armoured hide deflecting most of the attacks aimed at it.

The tide turned when the rather erratic priest accompanying the group changed tactics. Rather than directing attacks at the beast itself, he instead summoned creatures to fight on the party’s behalf – hoping that they would be more than a match. Four owl bears duly appeared from a rift in reality – or possibly elsewhere in the caves, it was hard to tell at this point – and… well they basically ate the hydra, and the wizard burned the remains to make sure they couldn’t regenerate and come back to haunt us. I’m reminded of how the Hulk defeats the Big Bad in The Ultimates…

A search of the area revealed a treasure trove that was quickly divided up for ease of carrying – including a protective amulet claimed by the wizard, and an enchanted scimitar. Gathering ourselves, we began to check for any way forward, only to find a number of dead ends. It looked like we would have to go towards the sounds of activity after all.

The evening ended with our scout turning a corner and running straight into a kobold.

cue freeze frame, ready for mayhem next week…