Friday, August 16, 2013

Numenera: The Trade Town of Ashar (An RPG Nerdery Entry)

Ashar is a large town that lies on the upper reaches of the Sadara River.  Nestled in the foothills that, further north, become the Black Riage mountain chain, it is not the most friendly town to travel to.  During the summer months, the land route is hilly and the roads are rough.  The river has a fast current, passable downstream (If your pilot is an experienced hand at the river), but upstream it's an impossible challenge.  During the winter the town is practically impossible to reach.

However what it has going for it is a expansive bridge across the river reaching into the northern reaches of the Matheunis desert.  From that bridge it is but an 80 mile trek to the town of Guran in the former nation of Seshar, and from there, a simple trip to the famed canals of the land.  And so Ashar grew to be a trade town, booming especially in the years since the Garl Nave pass further north had been anchored by criminals.

Due to the geography of the area, the main town of Ashar lies upon a hill, up against a canyon from where the Sadara River has cut through the land.  Further downhill on a road that is frequently being repaired lies the docks upon the river from which goods are transported further into the empire.

The town sits just outside of the bridge's entrance, for they found no real way to control its operation.  Completely made up of light, it forms itself whenever anyone approaches either end of it.  They keep guards near both ends of the bridge to collect fees or to attempt to force travelers not to cross.

The ruler of the town is Viscount Juritrier, who has presided over Ashar (as well as the surrounding foothills) since early in the reign of Challadien II.  He is gaining in age and his small court is beginning to fracture as each member tries to show the new Empress why they would be the best next choice.

Crime is virtually non existent here, as the Viscount is serious about keeping trade running through his town.  The Baronets in his court act as judges before any case and any crime is given a monetary penalty.  The perpetrator's goods are confiscated until the penalty is satisfied.  If the perpetrator doesn't have enough items to fulfill the penalty, they are thrown off the canyon into the river below.

The town's trade is in the hands of the few nobles that preside here.  While there have been attempts from some to create a Mercantile Class, it has been strongly squashed by Viscount Juritrier.  Baronet Kilkoral is trying to subtly create one (and thus gain a type of peasant support) by hiring commoners to handle the shops he owns in Ashar and paying them a percentage of what the shop makes.

The shops are, as intimated above, owned by nobles and frequently operated by staff or younger family they want occupied.  Inside Ashar, many things are available due to the trade that passes through.  And nearly anything that Explorers would want.  Both Common and Rare special items in the Equipment List are frequently found for sale here.  Very Rare ones are still Very Rare.  Cyphers and Artifacts are almost never found for sale here as they are too precious, and often are shipped to Rarmon or held by the Viscount.

Hearsay in Ashar

  • Baronet Verilien has found a device that teleports someone to another location.  It is being kept quiet as to where those teleported end up, however she has put out the call for Explorers to come and help her with it.
  • Baronet Kilkoral is using some of his wealth to send medicine to the town of Redstone in the land of Seshar.
  • While there are several farms devoted to taking care of livestock, given the vibrancy of the grass in this hilly area, it is rather risky due to packs of undomesticated brehm (Reptilian Coursers) hunting the livestock...and occasionally the farmers. 

The Weird in Ashar

  • During certain solar events, the bridge has been known to oscillate through various colours.  No one has attempted to cross it during these times.
  • There is a hill three miles from the bridge that has a rough stone staircase going up it.  It was there before Ashar was founded, and has never seen any damage in the years that followed. No animal sets foot freely on that hill and if forced the animal immediately turns feral.
  • The people of Ashar, and of the farms surrounding it, have yet to succumb to any disease. It is unknown what has affected the health of the people so positively.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

X-Box On

Slipping my headset on, "X-Box On," I say to no one in the room in particular.  It still feels weird, but quickly that weirdness is replaced by satisfaction as my television and gaming system blaze to life.  I smile as I look over my friends list and say "X-Box, play Mass Effect Universe.  X-Box, Connect to Dav0rfiend."  Everytime I say his name I roll my eyes, best friends since gradeschool but that was 30 years ago.  That name certainly doesn't scream 38 years of age.

"Yo! Sammy! Comin' into a match with me," his voice asks over the headset, eagerness dripping from his tone.

I roll my eyes in response, and I'm sure that coloured the inflection of my voice as I replied, "Yo? Really? Are we back in the '90s?"  I quickly ease into the rhythm of the game, mindlessly shooting my way through the level.

The voice on the other end of the headset sounds affronted, "I say Yo sometimes!"

"Only when you're trying to sound casual to anyone with a female avatar," I tort back, just as I warp the reality around his on-screen depiction and shoot him while he's helpless.

"Uh..." he replies, with a long pause, "I guess you're right there."  He even sounded chagrined.  Man, Dave must be having a rough day.  I shrug and put the controller down, "It was nice playing with you but, well I should be getting ready for work."

"Y'sure, Sam?  This thing gets more sweet the longer you play!"  I roll my eyes again and say "Don't get too sucked in, don't want to be one of those losers who call in sick just to play video games.  X-Box Off."

I'm late getting back home, but the fast food was...not really worth it but I'm filled up.  I think I can spend a few hours trying to get deeper into this thing.  "X-Box On" I state again, and rather quickly I see that Dave is already online.  I start to shake my head in bemused judgement until I realize I'm getting on right after getting home as well.

"Sammy! You should check out this Forza game! It's sweet!"  Dave's voice is overly enthusiastic.

"When do you play racing games.  ... When did you start thinking I'd want to play a racing game?"

"Oh here...It's bought for you! Now just try it!"  I stare dumbly in my screen at just how quickly he was willing to buy me something.  The last time that happened the pizza included pineapples.

"Uh...Guess I sort of have to try it now don't I," I ask.  I hear him laugh on the other end, "Yep! Now hurry, I want to race!"

An hour into the game, it was alright.  More exciting than I had thought but I really wish they included flying cars.  Eventually I need a break, "I"m going to go break the seal and then try to go deeper into that Mass Effect game."

"You're going to go ... take a piss! Oh right, sure, I'll be in there waiting for you."

I smirk and say "Please don't, it was awkward enough turning you down in college," I slip my headphones off and walk away.  Once I'm back I see a giant black screen staring at me. I look down at my X-Box and see the light on, but next to it sits the modem and the internet light is out.  Fucking Comcast.  I end up shrugging and grabbing a book.  Eventually I remember to say "X-Box Off."

After work the next day I finally get back online, immediately I hear on the other end of my headset "There you are!"

I tab my way over to Dave's user information to take a voyeuristic peak at how he's doing at games, "Yeah Comcast fucked up my internet last night."

"Oh Sammy, you should try Xfinity! It's a whole new era of entertainment."  I barely hear him though as I stare at just how many games he's been playing, "Uh Dave?  How are you playing all these things...How the fuck are you affording it?"

"With my Visa Capital One card, silly!  C'mon, let's play something!"

This time he didn't buy me a new game, so I talked him into Mass Effect again, despite him saying how bored he is with it and he wants new challenges.  "Dave, tomorrow think I could come over?  We haven't hung out for a while."

"We're hanging out now, Sam!  Besides I'll be out of town for the weekend."

"Oh?  Huh, okay."  I shrug it off and keep playing, until too late in the evening.

I wake up and shower, get dressed, all the normal boring things I do everyday.  Eventually heading to the living room and saying, "X-Box On."  Almost immediately, over my headset, "Hey Sammy!"

I let out a curse and follow it with, "X-Box off!"  I storm out to my driveway and get into the car, fuming.  Sure it's an hour drive to Dave's house, but fuck it.  It's the principle of the thing.  Going out of town, bullshit.

It's rather amazing how much you can fume in an hour, pulling up to his house I find it dark but there's his car sitting in the driveway.  I go to the door and knock on it, repeatedly, for five minutes before screaming "Dave! Get your flabby ass out here!"

I go to the windows and stare in, and everything is dark.  Everything is off except for his X-Box.  He had the wherewithal to turn off his tv but not his X-Box when he went to hide when I pulled in? Wow, that's insane.  I go out to the backdoor and pound on that for a while before I hear someone pull into the driveway.

Walking back around I see men in white coats getting out of a van, "Samuel Houston," one of them asks me as I walk up to them.

"Uh, ... yeah?"

"We have your information and enough of your personality.  You are now rendered obsolete."  I stare incredulously, never noticing the guy who walked behind me, and barely feeling the electricity as it overrides my nervous system and sends me off into blackness.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Voyeurism of America

In 1985, Joe Theismann suffered a career ending injury on Monday Night Football.  The injury was not replayed again and again and again.  It was shown once on live tv and they did not hover over it.  They obviously talked about it, of course, but that was it.

In 2013, Kevin Ware, a student athlete at the University of Louisville, suffered a very similar leg injury in their Elite Eight game against Duke University.  This was replayed constantly and it's only a couple hours old as of this writing.

In this country we (collective we) watch things that disgust us. We watch it with a kind of horrific wonder.  Whether it's reality shows (especially TLC's slate of them) or YouTube vids, we consume this stuff.  This stuff would not be consistently popular and shown if people did not watch them.  So the problem is not quite the media's fault but our own.

Yes the media could decide not to air something, and in all honesty I wish they would but they're in a race for the bottom in their zero-sum game of reducing the intelligence quotient in this country.  Everyone in the news media, or sports media, or sports entertainment media (No not the WWE. I mean ESPN) knows that if they do not show it, someone will.  And if no one did (which would be a miracle) it would still end up on the internet and some blog somewhere would get it.

Because we as a people consume this stuff as if it was made out of delicious high-fructose corn syrup.  We love to watch things that horrify us, that disgust us.  If it creates a visceral reaction in us we seek it out.

And if our current media is rushing to the bottom in trying to shovel this that we guiltily crave down our gullets?  What will be shown 10 years from now? 20?  Where are we going as a people?  Frankly it fucking disgusts me.

(Yes I realize part of this reads as "Things were better in my day"  I'm old, deal)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2nd Amendment Silences First. Gun ramblings.

So the great Val shared this on Twitter not too long ago: Men With Loaded Rifles Intimidate Moms Gathered At Gun Safety Rally.

This is an under-reported type of story.  Because it underscores a very real problem.  People do not engage in their Rights to Free Speech/Assembly when they're afraid.  (As an aside, this is one of the reasons I do not write.  But that's the inner fear of criticism/judgement/whatever.  It's also why these posts never get a link posted on Facebook).

Guns silence critics.  People show up loaded to counter protest an assembly?  They aren't really there to counter protest, they are there to intimidate.  To silence the other side.  They want people to see those guns and have those people imagine those guns pointed at them.  Most people who do this tactic are smart enough to know all it takes is the presence of guns, they don't need to threaten.  They don't need to look like they're doing anything illegal.  But they are threatening all the same.

Guns are not toys.  They are not fashion accessories.  Guns were built for one purpose and one purpose only, to fling small pieces of metal at high speeds into the bodies of living creatures.  They have no purpose to be worn to any type of protest.

In this supposed civilized age (Hey we're not using them to permanently silence protesters) the fact that people truly believe that they have this inherent right to hold these items made to kill out in public disgusts me.  And it frightens me, greatly.

The fact that people still truly believe the NRA fights for their rights, rather than the rights of Gun Manufacturers sadden me.  But then, the ability of people to delude themselves is great. (It's not just a Right thing.  How many left wing Dems keep getting re-elected despite their electorates hatred of the banks the Dems answer to?)  We have not truly evolved as a people, as we're still the same cave-men, afraid of the loud noises out at night and easily manipulated by our leaders to respond how they want us to to those loud noises)

This is yet another reason why our country is not great.  Why our country is not free.  For all it takes is a few people with guns to stand there silently, to silence a large group.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wherein I reply to random Facebook people

My wife posted this image to her facebook account before going to sleep tonight.  One person asked if it was wise that we pay someone to reproduce when the human race is overpopulating the earth.  Another person asked why should a company pay someone for not doing anything for them.

I had two responses to this: