April 11th, 2021

#7597: Sunday, and the grass needs to be cut

Yes, it's mid-April now, and it's been warm, and it rained. Today it rained and it's still wet out there, so no good to cut it right now.

So, we'll start chipping away at it--get the pusher running and cut the front and sides tomorrow, after work. Back lot on Tuesday. You know the drill.

* * *

My left hand continues to improve. I still get a sharp pain when extending my arm, but it's slowly getting better. As long as I only curl my fingers about halfway I've got enough strength for normal activities; I just can't clench a fist without it hurting. It is much better now than it was on Tuesday.

I want to start getting things done, but I know that if I try to do anything, I'll just strain it again.

* * *

So, let me talk a little bit about "Schedule A-5", the first three parts of which can be found here:


"Schedule A-5" was originally a campaign setting for Alternity. I have notes and chharacters and some other materials for the campaign. Stupid gamer group asshat politics did for that campaign, though, with the result that the actual game was never played.

Set in World War II, the conceit for the campaign was the typical "Nazis try to use the supernatural to win" thing. The player characters would have one or two sessions in the US, then go into France on D-Day, which would be where things started to go sideways. Or would have, if not for the stupid politics.

(Would have loved to have done it with the Beyond the Supernatural engine, but creating characters takes hours in that system....)

Did my best to connect the thing with real events and with historical fact, so that it would be as realistic as you can get it when you have people fighting against vampires and werewolves, and worse--to the point that I read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and learned about the Ahnenerbe and did a lot of other research. It was supernatural and occult stuff around a mantle of "nazi super-science" and then, inside that, Jewish folklore.

The innermost bit was the Dybbukhim, a kind of Jewish boogeyman--but in this version, instead of being disembodied human spirits, they were ancient devils or demons which had been dormant for a long time, and which were only awakened with the birth of atomic power. (Because the only way to get rid of them was to vaporize them in an atomic blast.) And it turned out the Nazis had found them, and carefully moved them to various sites, places like Treblinka, Auschwitz, you know...to feed them.

The main point of the camps, though, was to produce something that Nazi scientists had called "Der Auftrieb"--"the stimulant"--which gave a person superhuman abilities, briefly--a few hours or a day or so. In game terms it gave a character extra strengh, speed, dexterity, and so forth, but once it wore off he needed to spend a lot of time recuperating. Its other use was to resurrect the dead, though anyone brought back with the stuff needed to take it every day or he'd die again. Hitler, it developed, had been resurrected using der Auftrieb sometime after the "unsuccessful" attempt on his life--the bomb plot by von Stauffenberg et al in 1944. In the game, Hitler died, but Himmler had him brought back.

Der Auftrieb sounds an awful lot like adrenochrome, at least what the Qanon folks says adrenochrome is. It was made by torturing people to death, and then rapidly exsanguinating them just before they died; the blood was then processed and der Auftrieb extracted from it. One person yielded one dose; it took ten doses to resurrect someone, and of course after that he had to have a dose every day or he'd die within a week.

(Very probably, if the campaign had happened, the characters would have found a "farm" where der Auftrieb was extracted directly from the victims' brains. "Nazi super-science", after all. Of course the victims were all Jews, because Nazis, and concentration camps.)

...but it frightens me, at least a little, how close der Auftrieb is to the Qanon idea of adrenochrome. I'm not sure why it is--coincidence, maybe--but the similarity is more than a little eerie.

* * *

As far as the campaign being aborted, we'd gotten to the point where the players had generated their characters, and we were not more than a month (or maybe six weeks at most) from the end of the current campaign and the beginning of Schedule A-5.

There was usually a weekly get-together over at the home of the guy who was the alpha male of the group and the regular game master. One particular week, I wasn't there, and later that night I got a call from one of them asking if his wife was going to be allowed to play, since I had invited a female friend of mine who wasn't in the regular group. Well, that guy's wife had singlehandedly ruined the last campaign that I'd tried to run, so my answer was "No," and he came back with, "Well, then, I can't play."

So then the regular game master, the next morning, chimed in with, "Well, I can't have one of my players leaving the group! I'll not be playing, either." And then the third of them said, "If so-and-so's not playing, I'm not playing."

And just like that, dude's wife had singlehandedly wrecked another campaign of mine. Still, about a year after that, I made a conscious decision to forgive my friend's game-killing wife, because I'm really not a person to hold a grudge, and I wanted to be bigger than that, and it no longer mattered, anyway; that event had been enough for me to swear off ever running any games for that crowd.

I was crushed when the group decided not to play this campaign--after all the work I did--and I almost quit the group, not that they would have much cared; in retrospect it was obvious that I was beneath "omega male" status in that group, so I don't know why the hell anyone had even agreed to let me run a game in the first place.

It would have been a lot easier if they'd just come out and said they didn't want to play it. No, instead they had to whip up a way to make it my fault, rather than be the bad guys and say, "Look, we just don't want to play this." That was pretty much the hallmark of that whole situation, though; none of them had the guts to say anything to my face because that might have made them look bad.

It was finally obvious to me how things were in early 2004, after I'd moved back to the Fungal Vale, but was busting my ass to drive out there every other week so I could continue to play the game and hang with them--only to be taken to task for "seeming really tired and not interested" when playing.

Well, yeah, of course I was tired: I'd drive 5 hours and get to Cedar Rapids at 10 PM, so I would be arriving approximately after my friend (the one with the game-killing wife) got home from work. I'd crash on his sofa but get kept up late (2-3 AM) by him whacking away at his computer; then I'd be awakened at 7 AM by his kids watching Saturday morning cartoons. Of course friend and his wife--in their bedroom, away from the noise--slept until 10-11 AM, so it wasn't any problem for them.

When I explained it to the game master, he countered that one of the other players also drove a similar distance--but he stayed with his sister, and was able to get to bed at a reasonable hour, and then sleep until a reasonable one.

Friend who hosted the game could have let me sleep on his sofa, but letting me stay over Saturday night was his limit because another player had lived off his sofa for a couple of months and "this is what I'm willing to do." It was extremely passive-aggressive, but it pointed up how well-valued my friendship was, anyway, which is why I stopped going. It had become obvious that I needed them a lot more than they needed--or wanted--me, so I just quit.

The baffling part was that after I'd announced I wasn't playing any longer--in the wake of the abortion of Schedule A-5--the game master called me and talked me into coming back. Why did he bother? In retrospect it's pretty obvious that I wasn't wanted there. I'm trying to remember who was running characters at that time: me, 1, 2, 3, and who else? The game master's wife's daughter (from another marriage) had accused one guy of molesting her (because she wanted to get attention, and was fucking insane) so he had left the group. The GM's son hadn't started playing with us yet. Was it really just four people?

I think I was asked to remain only because the GM liked having at least four players, and if I'd left, there would've been just three. #1 was an old friend of his from his high school days; #2 had the game-killing wife. #3 had come into the group because the GM's wife ran a day care out of their house, and he'd seen all the books. And me, of course.

Part of it was ego, I think. But in retrospect, I realize now that the table had the turnover it did because every time the omega left, someone else became the omega, and he would get chipped away until he finally departed. If I'd left, I think #3 would have been next. You could hear it in the way #1 and #2 talked about him when he wasn't there but I was. And it is really, really hard to find good and serious players; a lot of them are munchkins ("This is my character sheet for myself! He has an eighteen intelligence, and he's a twentieth level wiccan!") or have other defects. So yeah, I'm pretty sure that I was only cajoled into remaining because so-and-so wouldn't have had enough players to satisfy his ego, and because the knives would have turned to #3, it would not have been long before there were only two players at that table.

But in 2004, with his son and the game-killer now admitted to the game--and that other guy who drove a long distance to attend the games--I was superfluous. I bet it wasn't very long before #3 got whittled out of the group, either, because even while I was still there, #1 and #2 were sniping about #3's weak points...and as always, the GM chuckled over their quips. As the alpha male of the group, that signaled that they were okay to continue. He'd shut down any unapproved commentary, and it was always clear what was off-limits for satire.

Well...not my problem, anyway, and hasn't been for 16 years.

* * *

As for the campaign itself, I had someone ask me if I was willing to share the campaign notes with him, so he could run it. I demurred; the thing is, most of it was never written down, exactly. I have a stack of notes but I had not yet sat down and assembled the actual player guide for the thing, nor had I written down more than a basic outline of what I would try to make happen.

The problem with a properly-designed campaign is, the plans the GM makes only last until they make contact with the players. Knights of the Dinner Table makes a great deal of hay from this simple fact; no matter how diligent and careful the GM is, the one thing you can absolutely count on is for the players to miss half the clues and hints you give them, and then to misinterpret--wildly!--at least half of the ones they do see.

In the abortive Alternity campaign set in my SF universe, a couple of times I had to pull a fast one (on one of them was so bad that I got called on it, out of game) in order to keep the whole campaign from ending on the spot. The players will always think of the one angle you missed--always. So, I was going to write each adventure in off weeks, so that each new session was built on what had happened in the prior ones. It's all you can do.

But after the campaign was sabotaged, I stopped working on the materials, so nothing else got written down, at all. So the rest of the campaign materials--settings and NPCs, a very basic outline of what I was planning to do if the players didn't take the junker for a spin, maps and timelines and all the rest of the nitty-gritty plans and details for the campaign--they're still in my head, but not on paper.

And so what I have are the basics--a discussion of the Ahnenerbe and how the fictional one differs from reality. A description of the dybbukhim. An explanation of der Auftrieb and how it works in game mechanics. A brief history of some of the key NPCs, more of an outline than a solid background. The GM-eyes-only "this is what's really happening, and why". Nothing like what I'd consider a complete campaign setting; just a framework. Not really enough to share with anyone.

Sorry about that.

* * *

Anyway, it's a rainy Sunday and I've spent a lot more time writing this than I originally planned. I had just gotten up to hit the can and have a slice of Ginzo bread with butter, but ended up doing this. *sigh*

#7598: FIVE?

How the hell is it five already? I took a nap--

Guess I needed it.

* * *

The ham and bean soup, in the refrigerator, took on the consistency of modeling clay. Reheated in the microwave it's back to eating temperature and consistency.

The stuff congeals when cold. That's how you know it's good.