I am an infrequent combatant/contributor on the NanoLand Facebook group, where Elliot Schmidt posted a question or a comment about misreading Aesop’s Fables as “Asimov’s Fables” and that sparked something silly in my head.
Asimov, though, I see as more exclusive to science fiction, so I decided to call this series Gernsback’s Fables. This is probably not as good as just calling it Asimov’s Fables, but there it is.
So, as an exercise and constant prompt and as a way to clear out some of the small ideas that come to writers and can clog the creative flow, I’m publishing one fable a day, borrowing from Science Fiction and Fantasy, telling fables about semi-sentient vacuums and Master Accounts and even a wizard’s apprentice or two.
Fables, at least in the editions of Aesop that I’ve read, were meant to be life lessons for little ones, snippets with morals that would help some sprog get through those difficult phases of life (i.e. birth to paying off graduate school), and I have tried to do the same here, even when the setup and the moral seem uncomfortable. I don’t want to dwell too deep into the sociological and political, especially in these trying times, but that will probably come out in the end anyway.
Scatological Utterance version 1.0
A Role Playing Game for Pessimists
SU is a paper and pencil RPG, designed for campaigns that could last anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. A play session longer than that could be very bad for your soul, unless you have a truly twisted sense of humor, in which case: Game On!
SU is not restricted to any genre of game. In any game session the DM (DeMotivator) and the Players could be in high fantasy, gothic romance, science fiction, weird west, bustlepunk, horror, you name it. As long as the genre is agreed upon: Game On!
Characters in normal RPGs have attributes like strength and dexterity and durability. This is SU. Players have the following attributes:
Oafishness. The chance that the character will unintentionally break something.
Butterfingers. The inability to hold onto weapons or tools in dramatic moments.
Jinx. Despite the character’s best efforts, things still go wrong.
Lethonomia. Failure to think of the right word when you need it.
Boorishness. Failure to keep others interested in the character or any interesting fact or bluff they are trying to pull off.
When creating a character, after determining the genre of the game, the players should agree on the number of dice for each attribute. There should be two, three, or four dice used. Roll that number of dice once for each attribute and distribute those numbers as you see fit. Match your mood. Feel like lifting a great log so you party can crawl underneath it just to have it snap in your arms and possibly kill them? Put your highest attribute in Oafishness. Want to throw knives behind you into the wizard instead of at the ogre rushing the party? Go high in Butterfingers. Want to bore the guard with your daring tales of designing PowerPoint presentations? Pick up your Boorishness trait. Of course, if you just want your bowstring to snap, go with a solid Jinx score.
No adventure is complete without a challenge. The DeMotivator will decide if a task is easy (1), run-of-the-mill (2), hard (3), or stupid (4). They will roll the indicated number of six-sided dice from a common pool of five dice. The player will roll the remaining dice and add that to their inability. Low score wins.
Example. Lorto the Inelegant is a 3-dice character who wants to use his body as a brace between two slabs of stone closing off the corridor in the deathtrap designed by Mock the Magnificent to protect his genuine diamelle collection.
The DM decides this would be a stupid test of oafishness, and grabs four dice and rolls an 18. Lorto’s rolls the remaining die and gets a 5, which he adds to his oafishness score of 8 for a total of 13, which is less than the DM’s 18, so the test is a success. This interferes with the first unwritten rule of Scatalogical Utterance: there are no successes in Scatelogical Utterance!
Lorto may be able to keep the stone slabs from squashing him like a bug for a while, so the DM declares that the first person to scramble through his legs needs pass an Stupid test against Jinx to make it through. After all, isn’t crawling through the unwashed legs of an Oaf to progress through one death trap a really stupid thing to do?
Cyrano the Cyclopedia goes first, (ask him about insects. Any insect. We dare you) and rolls one die, gets a 2, adds his 10 Jinx for a total of 12. The DM rolls 15, and Cyrano gets through.
Eddie is next. The Demotivator decides that, emboldened by the walls being held and Cyrano making it through, the challenge is downgraded to Hard. He rolls three dice and gets 12. Eddie rolls a 10, adds it to his Jinx score of 9, and as an end result forgets to remove his backpack before crawling through the hairy arches and smashes Lorto right in the soprano makers. The walls may now close in on the pair for fun and games.
Health and Combat
Unlike the disability scores, a character’s health is measured on a scale:
Zippity-Doo-Dah: The player is feeling good and optimistic.
Feeling Groovy: The player is not so hot, but holding on to a positive world view.
Meh: The player could call it quits anytime now
Yesterday: The player has regrets
Smile: Short for “Please Don’t Ask Me to Smile”
Plate Mail: Short for “donning plate mail, going to the top of the mountain in the storm, and blaspheming the local thunder gods”.
Dead: When all else fails, the only option is to go through the character’s pockets and look for loose change.
Combat is meant to be fast and flexible, so SU does away with all “to-hit” checks or rolling up points or any of that recordkeeping nonsense. Characters who attack with brute force should check against their Oafishness to see if they break their weapon or not (any residual energy could, in theory, be applied to to downgrading their opponents health label). Characters who want to fire a gun or a bow or throw something check against Butterfingers or Jinx, depending on the circumstances. Naturally, a spell thrower or esper would have to remember the inflection tone for fireball is almost, but not quite, the same as the chirp that turns themselves into a parakeet. Bard types, when not being strung up by their party for the obvious reasons, need to check against Boorishness to ensure they don’t sing their tank to sleep instead of the thing the tank is fighting.
Your job is simple: entertain the players and challenge them in ways that get them to plate mail as soon as possible. Killing characters is generally discouraged unless the party goes into the game planning for multiple personalities, in which case the game session should feel less like The Lord of the Rings and more like Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The players should, despite the many ways these should go wrong, at all times embrace the attitude of Joel and the Bots (or Mike, or Jonah, if you prefer): This is gonna suck, may as well get in a few snarks before we die.
Today’s Gospel is Matthew 11:2-11. This is the story of John in prison sending his disciples to Jesus to ask “are you, like, the Dude, or what?” [Obvious paraphrase from The Bible for the Laid Back]. Jesus says a lot of things about the blind seeing and the deaf hearing and lame walking and the poor having good news for a change, but in paraphrase:
Jesus waved his arms to those around him and said, “dudes…”
But the second time I heard this story, I kept thinking that this was a really dumb question for John to ask in the first place. He was Jesus’ cousin. He knew who Jesus was (Matthew 3:14-15). He knew who Jesus was in the womb (The BLB skims the birth narratives, but more reliable translations do not).
So why would John question this? It is possible that he heard the stories of a new prophet running around while he was sitting in a rock room with stale hay for a bed. Maybe he didn’t know if the stories were about Jesus or someone else. The jews were on the lookout for a messiah to save them from the occupation, after all. So one solution is that John sent his disciples to find out if this was Jesus, and those desciples should have known better, too, if they had witnessed the baptism of Jesus.
But instead, I think John heard those stories and knew who it was and what it was all about and thought “finally that lathe-turning waffler is getting busy.” (It may not be fair to think of our Lord and Savior in these terms, but a cousin is a cousin.) But John’s disciples come to him and talk about this interloper, preaching about the Kingdom of God and getting it wrong, ignoring the fact that John was pretty deliberate about the “one who comes next” was going to be different. Of course the one John foretold was going to be different that John.
So my question was this: Why would John surround himself with dimwits.
A better question came to mind: Why would Jesus surround himself with dimwits? The Apostles just don’t get it. Jesus is always correcting them when they tell him to send away the poor and sick, or when they ask if they should send lightning to smite people who doubt Jesus, or when they get scared when a wave rocks their boat. (Fishermen!)
Then I came up with a theory: Jesus surrounded himself with these dimwits to serve as an attitude check. Jesus was fully human. To say He didn’t have human desires is to deny something fundamental about being human. He knew temptation, he got tired, he got cranky. I’m willing to bet that when he went out to the desert and Satan said “rock the world, little dude, but worship me instead and I’ll grease the wheels” Jesus thought about it. Jesus didn’t just say “thanks but no bro” but gave it thought.
Jesus knows that Easy doesn’t work. Hard works. Satan offered Easy Mode and Jesus said:
“Dude, I got this,” and dope-slapped Satan on the back of his head.
When I was in tech support hell, working in a cube farm and tethered to a phone dealing with people who didn’t have an upper-left-hand-corner of their screen or broke their computer’s drink holder or couldn’t double click an icon without moving it around the screen, I got frustrated. This is understandable and a hazard of the job.
I was at my most patient with the people who got a full ten minutes into the call before admitting their power was out which is why they called on their cell phone when I was sitting over the half wall from someone who constantly lost his cool. Every call was followed by a litany of insults about the lack of common sense or evolutionary progress of his latest caller. Every time he went off, muting his phone mid call to utter a stream of profanity into his headset, I found myself getting more patient with my callers. I am impatient, but next to a truly unhinged impatient cube-dweller, I am Job.
I think Jesus was like that, too. He surrounded himself with dimwits who overreacted to the littlest thing to remind himself of what he shouldn’t be like. When the apostles said “if you dine with one more tax collector I’m out of here” Jesus doubled his resolve to find a tax collector and be nice to them.
John sent his dimwits to see Jesus for themselves.
Surrounding Himself with extreme examples of his own human faults, Jesus knew how to avoid them.
So must we, as Christians, practice good responses to a frustrating and frightening world. We must push ourselves to respond with Love to Hate, Peace to War, Hope to Anger. Let the evils of the world fertilize our love and strength to make the world a better place.
You know, like Jesus told us to when he said,
“Never say ‘sucks to be you,’ because that’s just not cool with God, all right? You wanna live in a bette world? Do better by it.”
Technically, Friday was my last day at my job. I am going in for a few hours on Monday for reasons I cannot rightly express.
The important things in work is knowing you are doing a good job. knowing you are being productive, and getting along with people. There were multiple points of failure in this job, which I’ve had for almost five years now.
I know who I am, and who I want to be, and those people didn’t fit with the culture of that place at this time.
So, as my friend Day Tooley said, I’m letting go of the trapeze and flying on faith. I have no unemployment benefits, and no jobs lined up, but I do have some interviews already, so hopefully I can find temp work and full time employment soon.
During the past week, I made some changes to my ISP-hosted web site so it now crossposts to my WordPress-hosted site, and to my LiveJournal, which is languishing in obscurity.
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Most of these 70 or so comments are from drupalgardens.com addresses. Bost of the address are Best___.drupalgardens.com, so I’v got the best vacuum cleaners, bird baths, toothpaste, home security systems. It’s like they downloaded Mark Pilgrim’s Kant Generator and just went to town.
It is almost as fun as checking out my Alternate Universe Identities. I need to check in on them, I had several auto purchases and reverse mortgages to settle.
Today is a great day if you care about civil rights. Today is a great day if you care about loving your neighbor as yourself (you know, as Christ commanded His followers to do). I can understand that some people are upset, but I have a hard time understanding why they’re so upset, other than reasons that are not good reasons.
Naturally, I’m talking about SCOTUS deciding that every American citizen has the basic right to marry.
This country was founded on an ideal that “all Men are created equal” and even when those words were published, they were not practiced. Slaves would be only 3/5ths of a person, and only for headcounts, and women were not included, nor were those who didn’t own land. Guess what? We started to change these things and bring the United States closer to being a country where equality was true and real thing that affects everyone.
The US has also had a culture of the Invisible Unequal. Sometimes they were clearly visible, but the inequality was seen as the way things are. We slowly allowed more people to vote, and slowly granted more people the same rights that “the people” naturally took for granted.
Today, a large group of people came closer to being Full Citizens with Equal Rights in this country, and that’s a good thing.
Tomorrow we must continue the fight for Equal Pay for Equal Work. Tomorrow we must continue to mourn our losses. Tomorrow we must continue the journey towards our American Ideal. (Yeah, that’s a lot of capitalization, but these are important, damn it.)
Today we celebrate.