Gettin’ Nerdy With It: RPGs

My husband and I reached a whole new level of nerdy yesterday—and for the couple known as ‘the Doctor Who people’ among our local friends, that’s really saying something.

A degrading Changeling: who doesn't want to pretend to be a creepy horny fairy thing?

A degrading Changeling: who doesn’t want to pretend to be a creepy horny fairy thing?

We dug ourselves deep into the land of Storytelling RPGs, specifically Changeling: the Lost, one of the spin-offs of Vampire: the Requiem, and a sort of grandchild to the 1990s game Vampire: the Masquerade.

Whoa. That’s a whole lotta nerdy right up front there, so let me explain a little more for you muggles in the audience. (You muggles know you’re probably way cooler than me in real life, right?)

A Storytelling RPG, to simplify it vastly, is a game for two or more people based on made-up characters engaging in imaginary adventures: it’s not unlike when you and your childhood best friend pretended to gypsy princesses in a fantasy land, but you sit at a table instead of frolicking around the backyard. (Just me? Awkward.) The designated storyteller guides the characters through their quest, and each player rolls dies to determine the success or failure of their actions.

In White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness, everything is similar to ours but just slightly askew. Vampires, ghosts, goblins, and fairies are real. Quests generally involve chasing a magical item, seeking spells, and fighting the forces of darkness—or light, depending on your character preference. There are intricate backstories for every breed of character and every aspect of this universe. Game plots make for fantastic reading, as does the world-building.

It’s… an urban fantasy universe!

So let’s pause a moment here. This is a game that involves making up stories about imaginary characters and spinning out the tension in their adventures for as long as possible.

Why the hell aren’t all fantasy writers already playing this?!

Well, there are a few reasons.

1. It’s super-nerdy, and requires nerdy friends. People already think fantasy writers are crazy; we don’t need to give them more reasons to not hang out with us.

2. It’s time-consuming. You have to make up your character, spend ages learning minute rules, and then spend hours on game play… because we all have so much free time to kill.

3. It can lead to excessive nerdiness, like LARPing, which involves dressing up like your characters and pretending to be them in real life. *shiver*

This history of LARPing goes way back to… wait, no, that’s not history. It’s an old-time fauxtograph of people LARPing as Victorians. (Image via Wikipedia.)

Spouse and I started checking it (Changeling, not LARPing!) out because, well, we’re already super-nerdy, and because we want a new game to play with some of our friends.

Now the real question is… how do we convince our friends to play with us?

Being me, I have listed a few reasons why it’ll be fun:

1. We can pretend to be fairies with specific magical powers! They can look like unicorns if we want them to! We can draw pictures and make up back-stories! (This may not work on the menfolk.)

2. It’ll be hilarious. Come on, grown-ups sitting around a table arguing over why Person A’s vampire is a way better candidate to take on that NPC-troll than Person B’s darkling fae? That’s comedy gold.

3. It’s not that different than historical re-enacting, really. (Our friends used to re-enact.) Actually, it’s just like it, but without the real history or the trips to cool places. And we’d rather not start doing the costumes.

4. It involves some theater! We can turn down the lights and pretend my husband (designated Storyteller because only he actually understands the rules) is telling us a scary choose-your-own-adventure story. And when we need sound effects, like gunshots or ghosts moaning, we can totally add them in!

5. There will be alcohol involved!

What do you think, readers? Would you play with us? How would you convince someone to try an RPG? 

Never Love a Supernatural Man

I will never love a supernatural man.

Obviously if my husband said to me one day, “Beloved, I’ve been hiding it from you all this time, but I need you to know… I am a vampire,” I wouldn’t dump him. I mean, I’ve survived for almost eight seasons, so I probably won’t die in the final battle. (Don’t tell that to Anya, though.)

But if for some bizarre reason, I found myself on a desert island populated with vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, and demon hunters, I would flat out refuse to date a super-powered man without taking some steps to protect myself. If the sexiest vampire there said to me, “Hey, baby, you wanna mosey on down to the cave with fresh water to watch the stars come out?” I’d make him sign a pre-dating contract that would go something like this:

1. No matter how many nasty-happies it would give me to bite you, I recognize that you, Kristin, are not dinner.

2. I swear that if we get pelvic, I will not lose my soul and kill your friends.

3. If somehow we fall madly and tragically in love, and then some supernatural antagonist starts pursuing you with all the dedication of a depressed teenage girl deprived of Ben & Jerry’s, I swear that I will, without angst or delay, turn you into a vampire so that you can defend yourself.

If he refused to sign my contract, I’d tell him to go sun himself.

And werewolves? Come on. I love dogs, but I’m not going to date one. Kibble breath first thing in the morning? Ew. Plus, they’re always exploding into wolf-form before they attack things, but they seem to get their asses handed to them most of the time. I don’t need a man with a built-in fur coat, especially when he’s just going around getting beat up by the cooler monsters.

The worst of the lot, though, might be the demon-killers. At least a monster is capable of protecting you with tooth and claw, but those hunter-guys have only guns and knives. Plus, they attract danger. When they’re not seeking out the baddies, the baddies are grinding them to a bloody pulp or dragging them into hell. And the mortality rate for love interests on Supernatural is shockingly high: if I ever meet a sexy guy who says he hunts ghosts and ghoulies, I will run far, far away. After I kick him in the shins to debilitate him so he can’t chase me, that is. (Running away is foreplay, you know.)

No, I’ll take a nice, well-adjusted human, thank you very much. I recommend you do the same.

Zombie Defense: The Squirt Bottle

The trouble with your average Zombie Apocalypse Preparation program is that it neglects the most disturbing and dangerous of all zombies:

THE ZOMBIE CAT.

Sure, we’re sad ’cause it’s dead–TILL IT RISES AGAIN.

The zombie cat is no laughing matter. Behind that soft fur and those long whiskers lurk glowing eyes, sharp (if broken and decaying) claws, and the deadly ability to half-bury you in a litter box after they LAP UP YOUR BRAINS.

I’m telling you. Cats already want to kill us all.

Look at the murder in those eyes.

I’m telling you: we must prepare.

And only the best zombie apocalypse training programs will teach you how to defend yourself. So when ZAP General Emmie Mears asked me to write about the best weapon in the zombie small animal defense arsenal, I agreed.

Because what do all cats fear above ALL ELSE?

This specimen exhibits abnormal bravery in the face of the squirt.

The deadly squirt bottle.

A cat’s fear of the squirt bottle is so powerful, so primal, even the compelling need to consume brains cannot overcome it.

Should you ever find yourself cornered by the furry, rotting, grime-bucket of DOOM, you need to know how best to use your squirt bottle.

1. Know where the nearest water supply is. Your squirt bottle ain’t no use empty.

2. Practice twisting the flow-control nozzle to the right setting. That scattered mist scares no feline: you need the jet setting, and you need to get it fast.

3. Target practice is essential. A truly determined cat will not be phased by a flank hit. No, you need to aim for the face, the ears, the eyes, and the neck. That’s the only way to stop the assault.

Of course, all these methods will only stop a finite number of LOLing-zombies demanding brain-cheezburgers. There’s only one weapon that will stop a pack of zombie-cats, the nuclear bomb of the cat-world, but it merits a blog post of its own:

The jar full of loose change.

Be prepared, folks. You never know when you’re going to need your weapons.

The Epic Kitchen Woes of Kristin McFarland

I am, dear readers, clumsy.

This afternoon I was sauteing onions, green peppers, and carrots to put into a slow-cooker soup. I used my cast iron skillet—I always use cast iron because it was an AMAZING wedding gift and because it’s good for vegetarians like myself. But when I hoisted the skillet to dump the vegetables into the slow cooker, I wasn’t quite prepared for the weight, and I proceeded regardless. I discovered, however, when I turned my wrist to pour out the contents, that the side of my index finger was touching the gap between the handle mitt and the edge of the skillet itself.

Ouch.

That skillet probably weighs 10 pounds, and I knew I couldn’t drop it onto our cheapo ceramic apartment tile or I’d be facing a far worse disaster, one that would require a phone call to our evil property managers. Instead, I tried to get the skillet back to the stove… and I managed to spill a chopped onion, a minced green pepper, and a crapload of chopped baby carrots, all cooked in olive oil, on the tile.

I then sat down and had a teacup full of wine. (The wineglasses were in a cabinet over the mess.)

You see, this isn’t the first kitchen incident I’ve had—and most of my kitchincidents are more catastrophic than inconvenient. In the most famous accident, I dropped a mixing bowl full of half-mixed cookie dough on the floor, throwing flour and moist dough all over the floor, ceiling, cabinets, and appliances. I even had flour in the part of my hair. In the process, I broke the mixing bowl and the hand mixer, and I managed to chip the grout of the tile.

Once, I mistakenly added a tablespoon of powdered cayenne to our pizza sauce instead of a teaspoon. That was some seriously spicy pizza, and my poor husband manfully ate it anyway.

The cats stay clear when I’m in the kitchen.

I’m actually a pretty good cook: really, I am! If you like spicy vegetarian chilli, homemade pizza, or blueberry crumb muffins, come to me and I’ll blow your mind. But it’s hard to get a reputation for culinary excellence when, every few times you cook something, you turn a clean kitchen into a disaster area no one would dare enter without steel-toed boots and a hazmat suit.

Is anyone else this clumsy? Please, make me feel better and tell me a similarly shameful story.