Jinx’s Vacation

Cedric’s Perspective
(What Would You Have Done?)
Jim Vassilakos (jim.vassilakos@gmail.com)

Both Cedric and his older brother, Bravin, were born in the vicinity of Abject, which back then was an outpost where criminals and other undesirables (such as crippled war-slaves, street urchins and beggars, and the disease-ridden) were sent from the city of Rallu. In those days, monsters roamed the countryside, and the elves were likewise fearful of mannish incursions and would attack without notice. Nonetheless, despite these hardships, with the steady influx of immigrants, new settlements began to spring up. One of these was called Foundation, which Cedric’s father, Kakaljak (his original name was John, but nobody called him that), founded when he moved his family there along with the families of his fellow party members. They were a bunch of sword swingers and combat mages who wanted to get away from Abject, so they founded their little village down the hill from the ruins of a centuries old castle which they’d discovered while exploring the area. The ceilings and walls had long since collapsed, and all that was left was the foundation as well as a lot of rubble. As the village grew, people dissembled the rubble in order to use the stone bricks to build their houses. Hence, the castle’s foundation eventually became the city of Foundation. They even built a storage building for the grain as well as a great millstone upon which to grind it. However, Foundation’s main draw was the tin mine. A good part of it had already been dug during much earlier times and was occupied by goblins before Kakaljak and his friends took care of that problem. Kakaljak and his fellows, Kazakis, Vrejor, Miamose, and Cedric the elder, among others, eventually retired to raise their families, but eventually they got swept into events involving the defense of their city. One of these was the war against the man-trees, who they soundly clobbered (actually, set ablaze). There is still a place called Entenwold, but the evil plant-creatures who once lived there are no more. Another problem was the elves. Back then, the elves had no liking for humans, and, in fact, they still don’t. They had been pushed out of their forests by a band of gnolls and began raiding mannish caravans. Eventually, Kakaljak talked some sense to the elfin lord, a druid by the name of Khurdlard who had once been an apprentice to a legendary arch-druid by the name of Fluxus1. In any case, the only reason the elves had agreed to talk rather than fight was that during one of the raids, Cedric’s brother, Bravin, had kidnapped Nienna, Khurdlard’s own daughter, apparently sparing her life when he “fell for her” on first sight. After a truce was compromised, she eventually returned his affections, and bore a half-elven daughter who they named Nybotha. Tired of seeing Cedric with his nose always buried in some book (as Cedric had become a mage), Kakaljak ordered his younger son to journey to Rallu to find himself a woman of quality, preferably human, however, the young mage had little experience attracting women. Nonetheless, one thing that did come of this visit was that upon hearing the stories Cedric had to tell, Prince Dasartros of Rallu decided to honor Kakaljak with a “writ of nobility”, officially granting him the land around Foundation and recognizing him as the “lord” of that territory. Kakaljak laughed when he was read the document, pleased that he has been so

Many A&Eers might recall the name of Paul Mason’s zine back when he was with us. I liked his zine so much, I ended up pilfering the name for use in this campaign.

recognized, but annoyed that he now had to pay an annual tithe and even more annoyed that Cedric hadn’t scored any success with the women-folk as he liked to call them (he had a penchant for referring to females as though they were of an entirely different race). Around this time, the ice giants of the mountains to the east realized that there were people dwelling in their foothills and began doing raids on Foundation. This was the worst threat to date, and Kakaljak requested aid from Rallu. Unfortunately, the warriors arrived too late. Kakaljak and his band of merry men had already been slain undertaking an expedition to rid themselves of the giants, however, they must have done some damage, as the giant raids stopped, at least for awhile. Bravin and Cedric led the prince’s troops into the mountains to try to discover what had happened to their father, but they were eventually pushed back by a pair of white dragons along with more giants, and not seeing any hope of victory, the prince’s troops left, ostensibly to request more reinforcements. A few years after they left, the gnolls renewed their activities. By this time, Bravin had inherited the title of Lord of Foundation, so he led an expedition against the dog-men (as he liked to call them), and his & Cedric’s eldest sister in Gormcairn somehow convinced the lord there, Mabris, to lend aid in the form of soldiers. Their expedition was repulsed by an ambush attack, and they were chased all the way back to Foundation where they finally made a stand. Crops and homes were burned and Bravin slain, however, when reinforcements arrived from Gormcairn, the “dogs” were finally defeated, their leader, a gnoll by the name of Vargar, escaping in the ensuing chaos. Once again, reinforcements arrived from Rallu, after the fact, but by this time, the gnoll remnants had melted into the woods and could not be tracked. In the days immediately following the death of Bravin, his elfin mate, Nienna, was absolutely grief-stricken and refused to eat. She told Cedric she would return to her people and take Nybotha with her, but Cedric knew that with the death of his brother, the helm of lordship over Foundation had passed to Nybotha, and so refused to let her go, telling Nienna to go if she must, and that when her grief passed, she could return. Unfortunately, her grief never did pass. She was escorted to Praetor, the elfin settlement, but even there could stomach no food, and so she continued to grow evermore sickly, until they say she died of grief, thus following her mate into the afterlife. Although Nybotha had already started her training as a warrior, Cedric thought that it might be early enough for her to switch and study to become a mage like himself. After all, he had no children of his own and so regarded the girl, who was already somewhat of a tomboy, as his own daughter as well as his brother’s. However, Nybotha wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a warrior (in my campaign you can usually only be one or the other, i.e. mages can’t multi-class). She was obstinate and, Cedric decided, lacking in the required patience for magecraft, so he relented and turned her over to Bryce, the captain of the guard, for training as a warrior. Of course, although she was technically Foundation’s ruler (since she inherited her father’s writ), Cedric remained the real power, as she needed much council and took all of his advice. Much of this ran counter to advice given by Bryce, who believed that more effort should be made in the area of defense, and less in

the area of community growth, not to mention Cedric’s expanding library. Bryce was so certain of his views that he tried to kill the both of them on a hunting expedition, but he was thwarted. Apparently, he felt that if he could dispose of both Cedric and Nybotha, he could make up any story to tell the others and claim leadership of Foundation for himself. However, he was unsuccessful. Cedric never trusted him, really, and was already on his guard when the attack came. Nybotha soon blossomed as a beautiful young lady (albeit halfelfin) as well as a fine warrior and a good lord to her people, which includes about 100 warriors, 130-140 able-bodied men who can act as solders in times of crisis, and an additional 600-700 women, children, and elderly. Nonetheless, the ongoing conflict with the giants heated up again as the giants began making raids directly on the city during the dead of winter and in the middle of the night, killing people just for the fun of it. Since the death of Kakaljak, they had left Foundation alone, but no longer. Many considered moving back to Abject, which had since grown into a prominent city run by an order of knights and which could better defend them. In fact, the leader of these knights was also named Kakaljak, obviously named by his parents when Cedric’s father was a well-known hero in these parts, and hence, simply due to name recognition, there was a fair amount of goodwill between Foundation and Abject. However, for the farmers to move away would mean that there would be no agriculture to support the warriors, and hence Foundation would quickly die. Cedric counseled Nybotha to prevent her people from leaving, even by force if necessary, and he himself began writing to Prince Dasartros for additional troops. The Prince, however, was engaged in a protracted war with another city and replied that no troops were available. Foundation would have to hold out until the war’s end, however, they could reduce their tithe by half this year if they agreed to double it next year. In his reply, the Prince added that he thought he was being more than generous. Nybotha began scouting west toward the Ent Woods which her grandfather had torched decades earlier, looking for ways to move her people farther away from this threat of the giants. To her surprise, she soon began criss-crossing patrols of half-drow (part drow and part elf, apparently created beneath the earth to endure the light of the sun and wage war against the humans). A protracted campaign of ambush-thy-enemy was undertaken in an attempt to force them back, however, one of these battles went terribly wrong, and out of the patrol group, only Nybotha herself survived. Nybotha had been spared by a female warrior, seemingly human, who had somehow made friends of the half-drow and was out patrolling with them. This woman, who introduced herself as Leana2, soon became a close friend of Nybotha and went on a series of raids against the giants as well as other nearby threats, all of which proved fruitful. Before the winter descended upon Foundation, the head of the giant king and his comrades hung outside the city gate, a warning to those who remained that the city was not to be trifled with. As for the half-drow, Leana advocated friendship, stating that the half-drow were themselves escapees, outcasts from drow society. She also advocated peace with the light-skinned elves (which had already been established in this neighborhood but not further north). Nonetheless, she was always very close-mouthed about her own history and even where she was from. Having never heard of her, Cedric was naturally suspicious. Also, her ability to fight and wield magic sent up warning flags which she never adequately explained. As time passed, Nybotha seemed to fall further and further under Leana’s influence, until they went so far as to organize a summit of rulers at Abject to officially welcome the half-drow into the community of human

cities. This, of course, was unprecedented, but with the political influence wielded by Nybotha as well as the support of Kakaljak, the proposal was narrowly agreed upon. Now the half-drow are afforded the same protection under human laws as are humans themselves, although this alliance may be unravelling, as there are reports of the half-drow committing crimes, particularly in the farmlands, and there is a general perception that they cannot be trusted. After the summit, Leana came to meet with Cedric and discuss the future, specifically Nybotha’s future. She said that she had big plans for Nybotha, but that his niece would need training in order to increase her potential as a ruler of these lands. Cedric, of course, wanted details, but could secure nothing from Leana save for a promise that his niece would not be harmed. Some time later, after Nybotha had arrived back at Foundation, Leana came to collect Nybotha. Cedric tried to intervene, but Leana coldly told him that he ought to get used to considering her his niece’s master. To this, Nybotha said nothing, and they left without another word. Assuming that you were Cedric, how would you have responded to this turn of events? Recently a small party of full-blooded drow came to the fortress of Foundation during the wee hours, seeking shelter and claiming to be friends of Leana and adding that Leana would arrive shortly. They said that they had been sent to investigate some crimes (apparently of the half-drow). Against his better judgement, Cedric allowed their entrance and had a room prepared for them, making certain to post guards outside their door. The following morning, Leana arrived with yet another friend, the lady enchantress known as Ashmnet who chairs a slavers guild which rules Cheapside, a city to the north beyond even Abject and the untamed elven settlements of Ludgates. o o o

As I mentioned last time, this is an alias that Jinx often uses for fear of rumors of her presence reaching Ahriman or his minions.

As she approaches, the guards recognize her and draw open the portcullis. “Leana returns,” one of them shouts. As is his obligation, Cedric comes out to meet her, his brow kneaded as he eyes both women atop Laertes’ back, a slight grimace upon his lips when he sees that neither of them is Nybotha. “How be thou, Leana?” “Well and you?” she replies as she and Ashmnet dismount. “As well as might be expected. How fares my niece?” “As well as might be expected,” Jinx replies. “Did my friends arrive yet?” “Early this morning,” he nods. “Never before have we had drow visitors.” “New experiences are what keep us alive,” Jinx smiles, patting the old man upon the shoulder. “Where are they?” “Sleeping, I’m afraid. You’re free to wake them if you like.” “No hurry,” she replies. “Have you met Lady Ashmnet?” “Enchantress Ashmnet of Cheapside?” “One and the same,” Ashmnet nods. “And you must be Cedric the Younger.” “At your service,” Cedric bows. Jinx blinks for a moment, staring at the bald, wrinkled, old man before her. “If you’re Cedric the Younger, who’s Cedric the Elder?” “My mentor,” he grins. “We were a team back in the days of my youth. I wasn’t always the feeble old fart you see before you, Leana.” “I would never have guessed. Does your mentor still live?” “Alas, no. Even great mages must one day pass on to the next world lest they succumb to the black arts,” he glances toward Ashmnet, no doubt wondering what her fate will one day be. “Come,” he continues without missing a beat, “let us discuss all this in the study where we may sit down by the hearth.”

They do just that, Cedric drawing a draught of steaming water from the kettle for a spot of tea, and a page bringing in some bread and cheese. “So, tell me of my niece,” he says, handing Jinx a cup. “There’s not much to tell. She’s in training.” “What sort of training?” “The sort that shall make her stronger,” Jinx replies. “I didn’t come here to discuss Nybotha. I came because there is a new menace threatening these lands, and I wish to investigate it in cooperation which each of the communities that are under threat.” Cedric stares at her for a long moment. “What sort of threat?” “You have heard of the Isles of Oblivion?” He makes an odd face, as though trying to recollect something he’d heard or learned dozens of years past. “There is a legend of such a place. Something about dragons and an elven arch-druid by the name of Fluxus.” “The legends are true,” Jinx states, sipping her tea. “I spoke with the son of Fluxus this very morning, and he provided me with maps of the dragon caves.” “Ah...” Cedric nods. “That would explain your presence,” he glances toward Ashnmet. “I heard about the dragon attack on Cheapside. I take it they were the dragons from these Isles?” “Precisely,” Jinx states. “Since they’ve become active again, I think it prudent that we see exactly what sort of threat they pose.” “I heard a rumor that the dragons were provoked,” Cedric states. “They were,” Jinx affirms. “Do tell.” Ashmnet leans forward, “Cheapside is home to many mages who prefer to practice... shall we say... less accepted forms of magic. One of them was Mortimus.” “A noted necromancer and looter of coffins both ancient and freshly dug,” Cedric nods. “The rumor I heard was that your people discovered his body along the coast near some slaves you intended to sacrifice by way of appeasement. Apparently some of the slaves actually saw a dragon drop the corpse during the middle of the night. This is all true?” “They left out that the body had been dismembered.” “Not surprising,” Cedric takes a sip of his tea. “Dragons are known to prize the sanctity of their lairs. One must wonder what possessed poor Mortimus to venture to their isle.” “We’ve tried quizzing his corpse, but the soul is long gone and doesn’t answer to any summons.” “Again, not surprising,” Cedric puts down his cup. “Leana, you must realize that such an expedition as Mortimus endeavored would likely once again provoke the dragons. In fact, I think it is very wise of you, Ashmnet, that you use Foundation rather than your own city as a staging area.” “It wasn’t my idea to go there,” Ashmnet quips. “No, the idea is mine, and I will do it,” Jinx says. “And you’re looking for help,” Cedric observes. “We could use another mage, and you, I think, could use an adventure.” “Oh,” Cedric shakes his heads, “my adventuring days have passed long ago, and I see no reason to endanger my people as Mortimus endangered his. The dragon attack on Cheapside is a result of the sort of people Ashmnet lets into her circle of friends. I don’t want the same thing to happen to Foundation.” “Nor do I,” Jinx replies. “Precious little that I could offer in the face of dragons anyhow. They’re big and ugly and they’d likely consider me a light snack. You too, I think. You may have defeated giants and slaads, Leana, but dragons are a far cry more fierce and cunning.” “That’s precisely why I intend to bring adequate support.” “Adequate support? Have you ever fought a dragon?” “Yes,” Jinx says. “It wasn’t fun, but yes. I have on more than one occasion.” Cedric blinks, a good portion of his brain refusing to believe her. “When was this?”

“Both before and after we first met,” Jinx says. “On one occasion I had to fight several at once. On another, more recently, I had to fight alone and was myself almost slain. Yes, I have fought dragons. I know what they are and how they fight, and I know how to beat them. It takes planning and coordination and a good deal of luck, but it can be done. That’s why I come asking for your support, so that I know that your realm lends its aid to this endeavor as much as the realm of drow and the city of Cheapside.” “Lend aid?” Cedric’s eyes narrow. “What exactly do you mean?” “I think you know what I mean.” “You want me to join you on this mad quest?” “Mad quest,” Jinx repeats, a touch of humor to her voice. “Do you mean to tell me, Cedric, that the races and people you see fit to ridicule, the drow and the slavers, have more guts and determination than yourself? That they’re willing to step up to oppose threats whereas you would be content to merely hide yourself amidst your books and shuffle off your obligations to others who you deem less worthy?” Cedric opens his mouth, then closes it again, not quite sure what to say. “If you’re accusing me of cowardliness,” he finally manages, “then think of me what you will, however, I cannot in good conscience make such a radical decision, which could spell the doom of Foundation, without first consulting with Nybotha.” “You make the assumption that her authority somehow supersedes mine. It doesn’t. I am her master. I thought this was made abundantly clear.” “For purposes of her training, you may be, but for purposes of governance, you hold no claim... not until I hear such from her lips, and I don’t think I shall.” Jinx smiles and turns toward Ashmnet. “Leave us.” “To where?” “Anywhere but here.” Ashmnet puts down her tea and exits, Cedric watching her go without the slightest indignity or hesitation. “You have her well-trained,” he dryly observes. “I haven’t trained her at all,” Jinx replies. “She hasn’t needed it. Ashmnet realizes that I have no wish to govern. Governance is tiring, and my skills are better used elsewhere. However, make no mistake. When I speak, I speak as your niece’s master in all ways which are of importance. She is mine, Cedric. My will is her action.” Cedric blinks again, opening and closing his mouth as though he wants to put something to words but can’t quite manage it. “However,” Jinx continues, “do not think that I have some deep rooted desire to control people. I don’t. I’m quite content to let all of the rulers with whom I come into contact retain their title and lands.” “And my niece?” “She shall have a greater purpose, but one which will enable her to do pretty much as she pleases. You should be honored that she was chosen.” “Honored?!” Cedric spits the word out as though he finds it at once both hilarious and repugnant. “There are those who serve me who do feel honored.” “Such as?!” “Ashmnet, perhaps. Danielle of Yolin, for certain.” “Ah…the lady assassin. My, what prized company you keep.” “Certainly you have heard rumors of how Yolin is growing. Do you think it mere coincidence? And yet Yolin is my pet.” “Indeed.” “Perhaps you should talk to the leadership there, or in Sunev if you have contacts there. Either group could tell you of the taming of the kraken known as Glawkulin who used to threaten their shipping. He is now my eyes and ears underneath the waves.” Cedric blinks for a moment, processing the information. “Even if you did tame a kraken, why would the assassins take you as their liege?”

“I saved the life of one known as Kerrik, a close friend of Danielle’s. After that, I gave her the option of becoming much more influential in the area, as long as she recognized me as her ruler. After witnessing my power and what I could achieve for her, she took the bargain of her own free will.” “Hmm... and what would have been her fate if she had not?” “Fortunately for her, she didn’t have to find out, although I think it probable that one known as Zarith, another ruler in that area, would have continued growing in power, and eventually he would have taken over Yolin in due time.” “Zarith,” Cedric leans forward. “I’ve heard something about a mage named Zarith who crews one of his boats with gnolls and other creatures and who lives in a mansion on the southern coast of Mantero Isle.” “Zarith is an old friend of mine from since before you and I ever met. He was once a navigator of the Styx, so you can bet that he’s seen more worlds than you’ve ever dreamed of.” “How did you and he meet?” “It was on the first plane of Tartarus, although many human scholars call it Carceri. I was lost. He gave me a ride.” “So you are his minion.” Jinx chuckles for a moment under her breath. “Zarith and I have been companions, but if there is any hierarchy between us, then I assure you, you are not dealing with the subordinate.” “Then you are partners?” “We are friends, just as I wish to be friends with all rulers in this region.” “But he was not a ruler of anything more than a boat before you came.” “True, but power has the awkward tendency to seek its rightful place. There is nothing new about this. Whole nations routinely go to war for no other purpose than to test each other’s strength. Thousands die. Thousands more are widowed and orphaned, and thousands further must tread through life disfigured or dismembered, and all so that one king may dominate another. I prefer to avoid all that. Needless death irritates me.” “You wish to come to power through politics…easier for you that way.” “I don’t wish to come to power, as you call it, or to change anyone’s society or collect taxes or raise armies or do anything of the like. My purpose is different... more removed. When you again see Nybotha, after her training is complete, you may then better understand it.” “Why not tell it to me now, this grand design of yours?” “I shouldn’t have to. It should already be apparent to you from my very actions which you’ve witnessed.” Cedric shakes his head, “The treaty between the drow and humans?” “That is part of it, yes. I want to see if all the races of this region can live and prosper in peace with one another, or if war is as basic to you all as is breathing. That is my intention as well as my gift to your niece…to install her as a keeper of this peace.” “You are mad. Nybotha holds no love for the gnolls or their ilk which your friend Zarith apparently prizes. You put her in power, and she’ll seek their extermination, just as she sought to kill off your friends, the half-drow.” “I think you underestimate her ability to gain objectivity in these matters.” “Then you know little of Nybotha.” “I know that the gnolls led by Lord Vargar killed her father.” Cedric nods, “Yes. And until he is dead...” “He is dead.” Cedric blinks, “Come again.” “After she told me about Foundation’s history with the gnolls, as well as her father’s death, I took her south with me on a little hunting expedition. We found Lord Vargar and…well…we dealt with him.” “What do you mean, you dealt with him?”

“Certainly you have noticed how the gnolls have recently dispersed.” “I’d supposed that they were amassing their strength deep in the forest.” “Not until they find a new leader. You’ll be gratified to know that your niece had the killing blow.” Cedric chews on this for a moment, not quite sure whether he can believe it. “Even if you and she did kill Vargar, that still doesn’t explain why Nybotha would recognize you as her master. I wish to speak with her.” “I’m sure you do. When it is time, you may, but not now. Not while she is in training.” “Then how am I to verify the truth of what you are saying?” “Because I have yet to lie to you.” “It is precisely that which I wish to ascertain!” “Cedric,” Jinx takes a deep breath, “you may not talk with her. There is no discussion here. A monk does not see his parents during his training. Moreover, he has taken an oath not to have parents. He is devoted to something beyond family. Nybotha will no longer view you or Foundation the same way, just as a good king considers the welfare of his lands and people before his immediate family.” Cedric leans backs in his seat, entirely at a loss for how to respond. “Will she be involved in this mad dragon adventure you have planned?” ‘Already been through this,’ Jinx thinks to herself as she casts about the room for a moment, noticing a chessboard, its pieces scattered in frozen conflict. She rises from her chair and touches both queens, and for a moment, in her mind, she can see Cedric playing each of them. “You play with yourself often, Cedric?” “I’m in the middle of a correspondence game.” “Against who?” “Gwathor, the shadow-mage your people had dealings with.” “Ah, the mage who took in the half-drow. He seemed like a nice fellow.” “He has a great love for games. I use this one to check up on the drow.” “And how do you keep in touch?” “Carrier gull.” “Carrier gull?” “Charmed birds,” Cedric explains, “at least charmed in a fashion. Legend has it that Fluxus tamed a family of seagulls through his druidic magic, and that his spell extended to their offspring and to their offspring’s offspring, in effect creating a new race of bird, one which does the bidding of elf and man alike. He would present them to mages in the various lands he visited, and to this day, we mages continue to use them.” “Interesting.” “Of course, better methods have been developed. Some mages keep boxes of teleportation. They can put some scrolls or papers inside, and send them to another box of the set. Safer and surer than air travel, but rather pricey.” Jinx teleports behind the door, then walks in. “A box is one thing, but abilities are different.” Cedric blinks, utterly surprised. “What are you that you can teleport without the casting of a spell?” “A devil,” Jinx polymorphs to the form of a pit fiend, “or perhaps I’m an angel,” she polymorphs again, this time into a woman with snow white skin and flowing robes, “and now I will be what your niece will one day become,” she says, polymorphing into the visage of Nybotha, then back to herself. “Impressive, I will admit. And which of the three am I to believe?” Jinx looks slowly about the room, somehow sensing that there’s something in the pocket of a cloak hanging from a wooden coat rack. She reaches in and pulls out a wand, and in her mind’s eye, she sees a much younger Cedric watching in horror as another

human gets eaten whole by a great worm. He’s screaming the name “Skegg”. Later, when they slice into the creature, they find the wand along with Skegg’s remains. Later still, he’s using the wand in battle against the gnolls around this very fortress and saving his niece’s life in the process. “Was it worth it, Cedric?” Jinx asks. “If you were to do it again, would you have sacrificed Skegg to gain such a prize?” The old mage regards her for a long and quiet moment. “You seem to observe much.” “You didn’t answer the question.” “Nor did you.” “What do you consider a god to be, Cedric?” “Is that what you claim to be?” “It isn’t my implication, but if you infer such a thing, perhaps you are correct.” “You seem to wield great powers,” Cedric admits, “but what I am in the presence of still mystifies me.” “Perhaps it should.” “And perhaps I don’t like being mystified. What’s going on here?” “Have you ever heard of Leothan, an elf north of Ludgates?” “Leothan, son of Fluxus? It was he you said you spoke with earlier this morning.” “Yes,” Jinx nods. “He said to me that it would take a god to unite the races…or godlike abilities. Very well.” “Come again?” “Are you going to go to the island if requested, Cedric?” “What does going to the Isles of Oblivion and warring with dragons have to do with uniting races except to give us a common enemy?” “I’ll be better able to answer that question after I scout the area.” “What do you expect to find?” Jinx pauses for a moment, putting the wand back where she found it. “I’m not sure,” she finally replies. “Mainly, I want to find out what keeps the dragons at bay. Have you ever heard tales of what these lands were like prior to the quest of Fluxus?” “There are stories. But if my sources are correct, Cheapside put out fifty slaves as sacrifice to the dragons, and not a one of them was touched.” “And I want to know why.” “Legend has it that Fluxus forced some sort of magical oath upon the dragons.” “According to Leothan, that’s not quite true.” Cedric leans forward again. “What did he say to you?” “A great many things which I dare not repeat, except to say that what holds back the dragons will likely not hold them back forever. Eventually, somebody will have to deal with them. If the threat is ignored too long…then you, your lands, your cities, your people….will all burn.” “He said this?” “He acknowledged it as a distinct possibility. That is why I must investigate.” Cedric leans back again, a pale look upon his face as though he’s just eaten some bad food. “I’m just afraid you may be stepping into something you can’t step out of, and taking all of us with you. You may be powerful, Leana, but eventually you will meet with something more powerful.” “I already have, Cedric, but not in these parts. I am the power in these parts. I let you think you continue to rule because I am kind.” He glares at her for a long moment. “If you rule anywhere, it is only by the submission of those who let you.” “Isn’t that how it always is?” Jinx smiles. “As it stands, I rule Mantero, Cheapside, Yolin, Foundation, and the Drow Realm. And if Abject or Praetor should ever deny me, I would find ways of bending them. But I will never have to do that, as force is not my way. I will make the right choices for my continent, Cedric.” “Your continent?”

“You should feel privileged that your ruler allows you to keep whatever rules you desire in your city.” “Privileged?!” he sputters. “My ruler?! You think you can walk in here, belittle me, and then try to talk me into submission? I’ll have you know that I will not roll over like some weak-willed imbecile!” “Cedric, if it were not for my labors, Foundation might not even exist come winter.” “We were doing quite well without you, Leana. Quite well!” “Really? If I remember correctly, when we first met, you were frightfully concerned about the giants, the half-drow, and the gnolls, among other assorted problems. In fact, I would say you were on the verge of annihilation. Have all these problems just mysteriously gone away? Does Foundation prosper now, within an alliance of cities, because of some quirk of fate? All of this I accomplished for you without ever asking anything in return. I even led Nybotha to Lord Vargar, put him into submission, and allowed her the killing blow. But I felt no need to concern you with that, Cedric. Consider it to be one of the small things I do for you without you even knowing about it. But the dragons,” Jinx raises her finger, “there your opinion may be relevant to me, but if you choose to deny me despite the fact that I have done nothing but good for you…so be it. I will leave from here, and what ill befalls Foundation, I will no longer consider my concern. Is that what you want, Cedric? Because if it is, just say so. After all, I can rule through any intermediary. You needn’t be involved.” Cedric opens his mouth but then closes it again, not quite sure how to respond but certain that any response he might make would likely be to his own detriment. “Just out of curiosity,” Jinx continues, “do you question me because I’m a female, because I’ve come so quickly to this area, or simply because I am such a mystery to you?” He continues blinking as she helps herself to some more tea. “There is much about yourself that you have not answered,” Cedric finally says. “Then ask me something,” Jinx sits back down, “for I feel I have made myself abundantly plain. It is not that I haven’t answered your questions, Cedric. It is that the answers I gave you, you didn’t want to hear.” “Then I ask you again. What are you?” “I am she who is before you. Is that not obvious?” “Devil…angel…god?” “I asked you to define what you meant by god, but you never did. You ask for simplistic answers where there are none, for you do not know the nature of the gods, as they call themselves. You think you have some idea of what constitutes a god, but you cannot define it. In short, Cedric, you ask me questions, but I ask you to understand the questions you ask.” “Now you’re trying to bamboozle me.” “I’m trying to educate you.” “Oh, really? If that were the case, I think I should be less confused. The answers to my questions may indeed be more complex than I envision them, however, that doesn’t mean that I lack the mental capacity to understand them.” “On the contrary,” Jinx replies. “You rule one specific place… you are blind outside of these walls.” “Blind, am I? Funny, I don’t quite think of myself that way.” “Perhaps you would see better if you would stop lurking in the shadows. You now replace Nybotha as Lord of Foundation. I give that to you. Now that you are the official decision maker for Foundation, what are the first words out of your mouth? Shall I tell your troops for you, or will you do that?” “I am quite capable of dealing with my people.” “Well, at least you are calling them yours now, and not Nybotha’s…a small improvement.” Cedric stands up, clearly tired of sitting, yet not really intending to walk anywhere. “They are my people until Nybotha returns…or until I hear otherwise directly from her lips.” “I am Nybotha’s lips.”

“You are her friend and perhaps even her benefactor, but until she tells me you are also her Lord, then I must remain steadfast in my last statement.” “She’s gone, Cedric. Nybotha is not going to return to take over the mantle of rulership over Foundation. Don’t wait to make decisions because you don’t think they are yours to make. Your niece is gone. She is gone permanently from her former role. She willingly accepted this, and she cannot go back. Do you remember what I said to you when you last saw her?” “You said that I should get used to her considering you her master.” “And she said nothing, Cedric…nothing.” “That is not the way rulership is passed,” Cedric insists. “Until I hear from her directly...” “You won’t! Nobody speaks with Nybotha. Not while she is in training.” “I don’t understand.” “There is nothing to understand. It is my will. She will obey me even if you do not.” “Then how am I to know you haven’t killed her?” “When I can kill anything I want at any moment?” Jinx laughs. “Why would I want to kill her? It would be like breaking my sword. You’re just upset that I’ve just taken your niece away without you having a say about it.” “Why is it important to her training that she not be spoken to?” “Because I don’t want her influenced by beings that can be killed by age,” Jinx replies without missing a beat. “I... I don’t... I ask you again,” he stammers. “Where did you take her?!” “Where she will be trained.” “Where is she being trained?!” “How much do you tell your corporals, Cedric? Do you tell them everything that’s going on, or only what they need to know?” “I tell them…I am not your corporal!” “You would be wise not to repeat that statement, Cedric. It is only for the sake of your niece that I take such patience with you.” He blinks some more at that remark. “The planes that I visit are my secrets,” Jinx continues, “and my secrets are my walls.” “It seems you have many walls. So…just out of curiosity, will Nybotha be attending your little expedition to the Isles of Oblivion which you seem so hellbent on undertaking?” “Yes. She will need to learn to work with those who work with me. But do not think that entitles you to have words with her should you come as well. No communication between the two of you will be allowed.” “Is this to make a point as to your power over her, or for some other reason which I cannot discern?” Jinx bites her lip and then motions for him to follow her. “Let’s go for a walk. I want to show you something.” He follows her outside, into the courtyard, and out the fortress gates for some distance into the woods until they reach a spot of ground which had some months past seen a battle. Jinx can recognize it from the marks on a tree where she had once gone sword to sword with Nybotha. “The first time I spared your niece was at this point,” she says, pointing toward a spot on the ground. “Tell me what you see?” “Trees.” “Then I’ll tell you what I see. I see the way from which we came, back toward the fortress. Toward that way is the city, also walled, and with good reason, I’ll grant. Both those ways are the mountains,” Jinx stretches out her arms both east and west, “walls shaped by the ages and until recently populated by the half-drow and the giants not to mention an untamed dragon. Just beyond them is the ocean, a wall without bricks since Foundation has no boats. Let us take a quarter-turn, and in both these directions were wild lands,” she points both north and south, “that way populated by the dreaded gnolls, the other by other horrors so numerous that travel to Abject was considered nearly suicidal. Everywhere I

look: walls, walls, walls. That was Nybotha’s situation when I first met her. It was her life. All about her, walls, in every direction, and there was no escape.” “So I suppose you see me as her jailer,” Cedric remarks. “No, I see you as the ruler of those walls. You were always the ruler, Cedric, and don’t deny it, because we both know better. Whenever she had a question about what to do, you always had the answer, and she always followed your wise council. Am I right?” “There is now some sin in lending the experience of years?” “No. My point is that she rules a city yet she has never lived. All her decisions in life were your decisions. For her entire existence, since her father’s death, you have been there to tell her what to do, and if she speaks to you during her training and you tell her to quit, which you might just do, she will quit. Why? Because she has grown used to taking your advice, Cedric, both the good and the bad; but as the leader she will one day become, she must learn to rely on her own judgment. You are an obstacle to that. You are a threat to her development as well as her freedom.” “It seems to me that she had much more freedom before you came.” “For the moment, she has less, but soon vast vistas of possibility will open before her. She must learn a new wisdom. You have had most of her life to shape her as she is. Now you must set her free.” “I just want to know that she is safe…and that she hasn’t been magically manipulated.” “As opposed to the sort of manipulation you have practiced over her?” “For her safety,” Cedric shakes his head. “You don’t know what sort of power lay on the Isles of Oblivion. The legend of Fluxus speaks of how he went mad after he returned to the elven woods and also how he later disappeared without a trace.” “His disappearance was by his own choice. As for his madness, one might say that was a choice as well.” “It seems you know much about this.” “I’m learning,” Jinx admits. “But learning requires investigation. Sometimes it requires taking chances. You pretend to defy me out of duty to Nybotha, but that isn’t the case. No, it’s your ego that’s upsetting you…the fact that you don’t have a say in this. Would you have a toddler instruct his tutor?” “If there’s an ego involved, it must be yours, as my concerns do derive from duty.” “And mine derive from my intellect,” Jinx replies. “How so?” “You have these legends of Fluxus, but your lack of resources won’t permit you to investigate them.” “True.” “So you sit behind your walls and say ‘come what may’ without any comprehension of what may come. Would you consider yourself a successful ruler if two years after your death, by old age, the next Lord of Foundation sees dragons swooping toward his castle?” Cedric glances toward the trees, “I suppose the answer to that would be no.” “I should hope so. The threat that the dragons pose may not materialize tomorrow. It may not happen within this decade, but it will happen eventually. It’s only a matter of time. Leothan himself admitted as much to me just this very morning. So I say, let us argue about the threat no further. Let us look and see how much hot water we’re in. I am willing to go alone and scout out the situation, but as powerful as I am, I can’t take on a whole nest of red dragons by myself. That’s why I need help, Cedric.” “You have a strange way of asking for it.” “If I act strangely, it is only because I am tired of bending to protocol. My time here may be limited. What must be done must be done soon.” “Why is this?” “It’s another one of my walls, I’m afraid…something I’d tell you if only I could. After all I have done for Foundation, Cedric,

after the peace I have forged and the many human lives I have saved, I am only asking for your trust.” “Well, you don’t have it,” he replies. “However, if Nybotha is to be with you on this expedition then so shall I, for it matters not to Foundation whether one or both of us are caught.” “That’s the spirit,” Jinx grins, beginning to head back toward the fortress. “However, you must tell me, I don’t know what I’ve done which was so deceitful to so earn your scorn.” “Perhaps it is the company you keep,” Cedric says, following her. “Ashmnet, Danielle...” “Not to mention the drow,” Jinx adds. “When you first came here, you were with the enemy,” he adds still further, alluding to the half-drow. “What makes you think that you were not the enemy?” Jinx replies. “You had the half-drow surrounded. You forced the permanent downpour. You hunted them like dogs because of their heritage.” “They were created for the purpose of our destruction.” “They escaped…so you assisted in their attempted genocide. Do you always define evil as those who are racially different?” “We did not know all the details of their situation.” “Just as we do not know all the details of the dragons and their situation.” “So you expect to reason with them?” Cedric queries. “If possible,” Jinx nods. “So you would talk to red dragons yet not allow Nybotha to talk to her dear old uncle…even should he promise not to try to win her away from you. How much sense does that make?” “I cannot have a leader’s need to interject her opinions surface in her at the wrong time.” “Meaning?” “Right now, she is going through an important stage of her training. She’s seeing how things work at the lowest end of the stick. Now imagine yourself in the army. Even the lowliest shield bearer would crumble in front of Mom, song of the family echoing in his mind. It is time for Nybotha to sing new songs. I wonder if perhaps your fear isn’t that she will be influenced but rather that you will lose your influence. Eventually, all birds fly from their birth nest, Cedric.” “Then by that logic, even my presence there would be discomforting, words or no words.” “I’ve already thought about that,” Jinx nods. “If we go in, we’ll likely split our force into two groups.” “Not wise if we are to enter into battle.” “Let me worry about that.” “Oh, of course. You’re the one who’s the experienced dragon slayer. I am completely ignorant.” “What you are is completely sarcastic. Dragons are like any other animal. You hit them, they bleed. You hit them hard enough, they die.” As a GM, I was concerned that I wasn’t giving each NPC their due. Often in a campaign, NPCs are handled with less attention than they deserve. They each are people, in effect, each with their own perspective and each with their own ego. Ultimately, Cedric did relent, but I wanted to make sure I gave him his just due. Please let me know what you think or what you would have done differently were he your character.

although I’ve had some troubles with some of the basic premises inherent to the Traveller universe (see my comments to Paul Rocchi in APAcalypse T-42). Granted, Traveller is arguably not supposed to be predictive-SF but rather a hammered-out version of the mid-20th century science fiction of various SF-writers…and granted, making predictions is hazardous at best. Nonetheless, in the words of Clarke, "We science-fiction writers never attempt to predict. In fact, it's the exact opposite. As my friend Ray Bradbury said, 'We do this not to predict the future but to prevent it.'" 3 This, of course, is a roundabout way of saying that the very point is the exploration of unpleasant possibilities. Hence, whether or not we truly accept a particular threat as being of cataclysmic proportions, able to fulfill the legend of Atlantis in modern times as it were, or whether we think that humanity may eventually solve its various issues, I think it is sort of our obligation as SF-thinkers to try to think through the various potential threats as completely as we can even given the limited knowledge that we have.4 Granted, one can never know the future, and hence, most of our mainstream SF is based on what at this point appear to be obvious misassumptions. For example, Star Trek’s transporters seem a bit like magic, although there are other forms of “instantaneous transportation” that may become increasingly virtual and pervasive. Star Wars seems rather campy, what with space fighters that swoop down steel canyons like WWII planes. Traveller is perhaps the most realistic of the three, but it was, quite naturally, based on SF being written some decades ago, and therefore is (IMHO) in need of an update.5 This, actually, is one reason I liked your SF background involving Muslims taking over the Earth. According to Mark Steyn, author of America Alone6, this may well be our future. Just looking at the demographic trend lines, one would tend to assume that it’s a fairly plausible prediction. However, how many SF writers are looking at this and seriously pondering what it means? Possibly somebody made the comment to me sometime after my prognostications article in A&E #356 that forecasting the future has to tendency to betray ones personal, political and social concerns (i.e. pet-issues). This is perhaps a reason that Miller decided to go so far into the future with Traveller…so that he wouldn’t have to address the sociopolitical issues of the day. But, in doing so, was he not also ignoring Bradbury’s and Clarke’s point7 about the point of science fiction?8 Hence, I think that just as it is incumbent upon any artist (of song, paint, theatre or the written word) to expose himself or herself with prideless 9 honesty, so too is it important for us to look directly at whatever worries us in the least, and then to research it, make some alarming predictions, and then just roll with it, examining the dirty details of what it might mean. And I think this is particularly important, because scientists making predictions is apparently not enough. I mean, for example,
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Comments on A&E #390:
Ty Beard:
I’ve been more of less shocked shitless by your zines. In particular, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, I’ve taken a somewhat perverse delight in the monthly political eviscerations, although, I’m actually also more or less ecstatic that A&E now has a Traveller zine. As you know, I’m a bit of a Traveller fan,

Newsweek, December 2000-February 2001, special edition. See my comment to Brian Misiaszek in A&E #354. 5 It seems that science is advancing so rapidly that perhaps we should not be surprised that science-fiction has had some difficulty keeping up. 6 I think it was Louis who either tipped me off to this book or perhaps sent me a copy…I can’t actually recall, but it’s a pretty good read. 7 Although, in Miller’s defense, my reference to their point is dated post-Traveller by over two decades, so perhaps this wasn’t even a consideration. 8 And what does it say that in cold war America (of all countries and eras) here was a writer envisioning a future of a benign Imperium complete with hereditary nobility and an Emperor that basically, more or less, leaves worlds to themselves (except, of course, when engaged in civil war)? 9 With difficulty, as artists are often as prideful as anyone.

with respect to global warming, most people don’t care about what the atmospheric composition of the ice cores have to say. It’s mumbo-jumbo. Somebody has to sit down and put it into merciless, riveting terms. Statistics are just numbers and are, to human beings, essentially meaningless. Their meaning has to be conveyed into a story, or too few will understand the possibilities in enough detail to do something about it in time to make a substantial, decisive difference. Granted, there’s always the risk of overreaction. There’s the possibility that the Muslim threat will dissipate as reason and moderation take hold in Islamic societies, and there’s the possibility that global warming is overblown as well, but the possible downside of ignoring these problems is almost too awful to contemplate. Hence, they must be contemplated, and RPG-settings can be one venue to put these worries of the future into human terms. But, of course, I would imagine that you already agree with most of this.

Brian Misiaszek:
Regarding the Jinx Campaign: My friend is/was playing Jinx. I am/was the GM. The campaign is basically taking another strange turn. How to explain? I perhaps mentioned at one time or another that my friend teaches high-school English. He is somehow still very motivated to do a good job in this capacity, and he has been, at points, rather frustrated with what he has perceived as the short-sightedness of certain elements within his school’s administration. Teachers, many of them, want to do a good job. True, some are deadbeats. Some people will always do the minimum at any task no matter how important…how critical. But most, at least, mean well, and will step up to the plate and do the right thing if they are simply led by a moral voice that is looking out first and foremost for the long-term interests of the students and the community. In short, he’s a tough teachers, and I could either bore you to death or infuriate you beyond belief with these accounts of…well…of differences in pedagogical philosophy that he’s had to deal with. In any case, we’ve gotten to the point in the campaign where he’s finally decided that what we need to do is chart it out as a novel. Now, I don’t know that this can realistically be done. I mean, it’s a long and winding tale. But what it looks like he wants to do is to try charting out the remainder of it as a structured novel, and then to simply roleplay the scenes, writing them out one by one. I’ll admit that my worry about the idea has to do with this notion of structure, which I also realize is essential if we are to actually do this, because it just seems to me that roleplaying games aren’t really structured in the usual ways of novels, except as happens by accident. True, a good GM can do all the right things, laying out plot with rising action, and establishing various motifs and themes. However, y’know, I’m such a lazy GM that I really just prefer to see what happens and to let the themes and motifs sort of establish themselves. I mean, part of the magic of RPGs, when it’s good and you’re lucky, is that the story just sort of flows out naturally. It’s almost like being on a river and the water just carries you. (Or, in some cases, the sewage carries you, but we won’t go there today.) But, I don’t know, perhaps that’s just my own twisted philosophy of GMing, as it’s not something that I typically see other GMs doing. Most of the time, the whole experience of playing a character in another GM’s campaign is sort of like wearing a straightjacket and being held safely and securely in this more-or-less padded cell. I think this is a reason that perhaps some players prefer killer-GMs, because they want the sense of being out of the cell where bad stuff can happen. Perhaps this is the whole tug of the horror genre…the odd desire to experience unsafe territory. In fact, when you think about it, that’s possibly a

certain feature of why people were drawn to RPGs in the first place. It’s a cheap way of making memories.10 But I would really argue that what players are looking for is freedom, the freedom not only do what they want within a given setting, but also the freedom to affect that setting, to not merely interact with it, but to shape it and mold it, to interact with it on a level where it feels like it is interacting back…the power to effect their world…that, in my view, is what the players really want. And as for the GMs…we want, at some level, to play God...and to play God in a way that a beautiful story in the outcome (as, perhaps not so surprisingly, is occasionally the case in reality). There have been many arguments about system, what is good in terms of system and what is bad, but I would perhaps argue that system only matters insofar as it is really giving the players more freedom to have more of an effect over the setting. This is perhaps why the D&D level-advancement system was such genius. It essentially stipulated that no matter how ridiculous the notion, no matter how obviously unrealistic, it is writ right in the character rules that the character will eventually rule, such shall their power become. And so it forces the GM and the player to walk through this tale of ever-advancing power of the player over the GMcontrived setting. And as the players become more and more powerful, the GM has to increasingly accommodate their wishes. He or she (the GM) can raise the power of the setting, raising the stakes as it were, but eventually the player or players are more or less forced to retire for want of the rules to provide challenges that keep up with their newfound abilities. …Which is totally ridiculous, because what we’re talking about here is imagination. I mean, we don’t have to pay a special-effects studio. We don’t even have to follow the freaking rules. If you can say it write it or somehow otherwise convey it, then in an RPG, you can do it. But, at the same time, I think what players are also looking for is a satisfying end to the story. And Jinx’s player, I believe, is searching for that satisfying end to a campaign that has been going on for so very many years. He wants an ending of his choosing, and being an English teacher, he wants to establish the themes and motifs before the first line is written. He wants to borrow liberally from what we’re written so far11, but he also wants the whole thing to have a very definite and understandable structure. In other words, he wants to plan it all out. Now, I as GM had some secrets in my back pocket, and I knew that there was at least three or four very different ways that the plot could progress based on decisions that Jinx would have to make. So, after waiting a few months too see if Jinx’s player was truly steadfast in his devotion to this scheme of trying to design the rest of the plot as a novel, I decided to just do the unthinkable, and lay out my cards. In other words, I told him my thoughts in terms of what’s really going on that Jinx doesn’t know about, what could happen based on the choices she might make (including, sadly, her possible execution), and so on and so forth. I mean, it’s the sort of thing that you just never, never, never do as a GM, but if he wants to construct a very definite structure around these ideas complete with motifs, and themes, all the while working in his own thoughts on how he wants the story to end, then I don’t see how I had any other option but to just put the cards on the table and say, “Okay…this is the big pile of feces that’s being stinking up my brain…now what do you want that we should do with it?” So, it should be interesting, but I am concerned, of course, that by peeling away and exposing the mysteries, I will also cause him to lose the drive. I should mention that in the write-ups that I’ve submitted thus far, I’ve essentially been the main writer and editor, and he’s been writing the words and actions of the main character, Jinx. However, in some material that I’ll hopefully send through A&E in the upcoming issues, he took more of a role in doing such normally GM-oriented tasks as description and even
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“Nothing is waste that makes a memory.” – Ned Rorem There will, no doubt, be some extended flashbacks.

some NPC dialogue on occasion. His description is actually quite outstanding. And occasionally, when we meet together and are writing a scene, there is a sort of magic that can occur with the words. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it’s basically a situation where one of us writes an initial draft of a couple of paragraphs, and then the other steps in and fixes whatever he sees as wrong (even to the point of completely re-writing a paragraph or two if necessary, or snipping a paragraph, or adding a paragraph or some dialog or whatever). And then the first-draft author takes a look and does the same thing, and then we just keep going back and forth, until we get down to sentences and then to words, and finally to a situation where even the place of a comma or a semicolon becomes absolutely critical to the meaning of what is being conveyed. I mean, we can get right into the details, and inso-doing, create something of which neither of us is solely capable of producing. And when it works well, it’s just great. It’s very much like the rush you get from a good gaming session, except that the satisfaction isn’t so much with the sequence of events but rather with the very details of the writing. It just feels like a job well done.12 And, I guess, if we can maintain that level throughout a structured plot, a plot that includes the best of our ideas and still somehow make sure we scrap all the cheese which often seems to come up in non-cooperative storytelling (and even in RPGs when the group just isn’t in top form), then we’ll be okay. But it also won’t be as exciting as knowing that the scene could go left or right at a moment’s notice. I mean, he plays Jinx a certain way because of incertitude as to her future, and knowing her future might take that away. And also, I play the NPCs a certain way because of their incertitude, and perhaps that would change as well. I think it’s the incertitude that keeps the game interesting, that keeps both sides on their toes, and if you take that away, there’s the fear that it just becomes another preconceived plot, and if that’s the case, then I certainly made a mistake and should have insisted that the plot-construction continue as a game. In any case, at his urging, we are now entering a phase where it is to become a novel (or at least an attempted one), and of this new material, he has requested that I share not single a word of it, and so you won’t be seeing any of it in A&E. But as far as rummaging in the archive of the past few years and just pulling out random bits, he’s already said that he has no problem with me sharing that. So that’s what I’m doing, and actually, I’m only going to do it when I have my back against a wall with respect to the deadline. I admit, it’s a lazy way out of having to write a submission, but honestly, I can just grab some material and copy/paste it, add a few footnotes, and voila…the submission is done. It’s just so damn convenient. As for this so-called novel, I don’t really know that we’ll be able to put it together, but it has long been my philosophy that the GM has to regard the game as essentially belonging to the players, that the story is for their benefit, and so…he definitely wants to do this. It’s not my place to stand in his way. Regarding your comment to Ty Beard: You state “Your copious Not-So-Gaming Comments are so often such a turn-off that I’m often not very motivated to read your often excellent home-brew Traveller material. Why not just focus on the gaming parts in your A&E submissions and expand on gaming comments to others?” To which, in response, I would answer, “Why do you find his Not-So-Gaming comments a turn-off? They are, I’m rather sheepish to admit, the part of A&E to which I first turn when I open every issue.” Paul Mason, someone of an entirely different

political persuasion, used to hold that honor (or perhaps dishonor) back when he was a contributor, and now Ty has the dubious distinction. But why I mention this (about Paul) is because no matter what the point of view, I find myself drawn to strong opinion, particularly of a political nature, so long as it is written with style and with zeal. Perhaps it is a sense of certitude that I crave…a sense that perhaps out there, somewhere, there is certainty. If so, I have certainly not found it. But what bothers me about your comment isn’t this tiresome fact, but rather the sense of derision that it conveys, or, at least, the feeling of antipathy that I read in it. I mean, it is one thing to be apathetic about the notions that another person holds dear. It is quite another to be asking them to please be quiet. To no zine published in A&E do find myself reacting with the smallest desire to quiet the writer, no matter how nicely. Even when Patrick took a rather irked tone with me13, I did not say “quiet, you” but rather, simply, “watch your tone,” which I perhaps naively thought was in order. The truth is that I don’t mind how anyone conveys their political opinion so long as it is done semi-respectfully, or at least as respectfully as the addressee deserves, which, in some cases, is not very. However, having said that, I don’t believe in tearing people down for what they believe. I mean, if I lose respect for someone, it is not their political beliefs that will cause this. Rather, it is the manner in which they speak. It is their tone. It is their desire (or rather a lack thereof) to be good and decent to their fellow human beings. Bear in mind that I also understand that it is possible to lose one’s temper. We are, after all, merely human. But I also feel that A&E’s nature of being a monthly largely precludes this excuse, for to make mistakes of spelling and grammar are bad enough (I do this often), but to make mistakes with basic human respect and equal dignity to your fellow soul, this is beyond the pale.14 It is unacceptable. I feel this very strongly, which is not to say that I am perfect, for I am not, but it is to say that there is something here worth striving for in every comment that we write. If we fail in this, at least we tried, but if we fail to even undertake the task of trying, then what does that say about us? Do you see what I am trying to say? I am reminded of a time several years ago, when RPG publishers had mentioned that they were afraid to express their political opinions in public for fear that there would be an economic backlash to where some segment of the customers would turn away from their products. I don’t recall the exact details, it has been so long and I wasn’t keeping notes, but I seem to remember this, and what I recall most is feeling sad…very sad…that in America of all countries, in the so-called Land of the Free, people should feel the necessity to censor themselves in terms of their very opinions out of concern for economic viability. And I felt sad that money should so overrule any person’s desire to make their opinion known. Somebody once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”15 That used to practically be America’s motto, I seem to remember. At least, I remember being taught it in school (my undying gratitude to all those who teach tolerance to children). This sentiment used to be what we were all about, but now everyone is so polarized that to talk politics is to invite the scorn of people who would otherwise open their hearts in friendship. Anyway, you wanted comments. My apologies for being so verbose, but these are my comments.

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By contrast, Jinx’s player regards some of the stuff that I’m currently sending through A&E to be “cheese”, material that is overly-derivative of all that is commonplace in fantasy literature, namely elves, dragons, etc…etc…yawn…etc.

See Patrick’s comments to me in A&E #357. I appreciate the footnote to the comments you wrote me in A&E #364, but please bear in mind my reply in the following issue. 15 This quote is often attributed to Voltaire, but it may have been penned first by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, one of his no-doubt numerous admirers.

Louis La Mancusa:
RYCT to Patrick Riley: I tried recommending16 a strategy of responding to angry comments that involved basically restating the comment in terms that are less inflammatory and more constructive. However, as I recall, this didn’t exactly go over very well. 17 I also recall a contributor by the name of Robert Rees (one of Paul Mason’s friends, if memory serves), who ended up leaving A&E somewhat angrily, and while I wasn’t yet including comments with my submissions back then, I did wonder at the time if the whole thing (people being upset with each other) was really necessary. My general take, I guess, is that a lot of people end up leaving A&E over minor differences that evolve into major brouhahas, and that in the end, we’re all a bit poorer for these tempers having been freed from their usual, socially-devised constraints. It’s sad, but what’s the solution? I guess we can just try to ignore the people who do this.18 But, of course, that strategy concedes the playground to the bullies. Regardless, if you do go this route, I wouldn’t recommend ignoring them in totality (that would be just a tad immature). After all, even those who have the unfortunate tendency to take political discussions to a personal level often have gaming-bits that are comment-worthy. Hence, maybe we should honor the good in people and simply try to look past those parts we find offensive. Just an idea.

In Memory of Gary Gygax:
I never met him, and I probably haven’t had a deep conversation with anyone who knew him personally. Hence, he is to me simply what I have seen projected upon our culture. But what I feel he did is more than merely putting kids (or even adults) who might otherwise have little to do with each other into the same room and get them talking and laughing and…well…sometimes also being angry with each other. I mean, there are people out there today who are best friends because of Gary Gygax. There are probably people who are married because of the influence that his (and Dave Arneson’s) work had in their lives. The impact that he had on our culture is therefore impossible to ever know, but it is my tendency to believe that it will be higher than any of us calculate. He was a great person in that he had a great impact, but what impact, precisely, can never be known. In this sense, he is a great dichotomy. But I think in one sense, we can guess what the result of his being among us will be, at least during the now and in the near term.
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Gary Gygax called upon us to nurture our imaginations. He coaxed us to undertake adventure in that sense of first imagining it. But the great thing about this wondrous hobby is that the adventure is only the starting point. For example, I’m not sure how interested I would have been in history had it not been for RPGs, and once I got interested in history, it was only natural to become interested in politics. Also, I’m not sure how being the allpowerful GM had an influence on my development as I was growing up. Like many young GMs, I’m embarrassed to admit that I did let the power go to my head, but in so doing I also learned that power over others should never be abused (even in a game). As for Jinx’s player, he has remarked that playing RPGs has possibly had the effect of making him into more of the sort of person who sets goals, creates plans, takes risk, and basically tries to get the most out of life. In short, he thinks he’s become more proactive as a result of playing RPGs (or perhaps he had this trait to begin with, but even if this is true, as it may well be, perhaps playing RPGs has… ironically…helped him to develop it further). He’s also said that he tends to view his co-workers somewhat as NPCs, which he said is not necessarily a good thing, but that playing politics in RPGs has taught him that you can win a lot more by persuasion than by animosity. He’s actually one of the only players I’ve ever seen who will try to subdue monsters and make them into allies rather than just finishing them off at the end of a combat. And this may, in part, be because I threw the “Horta-dilemma” at him once too often, where the PCs slay a monster only to discover that it was protecting its young. (GMs: How often have we pulled that old trick?) I may be overplaying my cards here, but I honestly believe that RPGs do have a larger effect upon players than people realize, but rather than turning us toward the devil, as critics once claimed of our hobby, I think they do the exact opposite. One does not often confront moral questions in computer games (although, I suppose, there may be some CRPGs where this happens). I have never seen a player try to hold a conversation with a monster in “Doom”, for example. RPGs are a very different sort of beast. We can do with this concept whatever we like, and in so doing, shape ourselves, making memories, sharing imaginative experiences, and telling stories, exposing who we are by our decisions in those stories, and thereby helping us understand ourselves. Thanks, Gary...thank you for a life well-played.

See A&E #363. See Lee’s comment to me in A&E #364 and Joshua’s comment to me in A&E #365. 18 In A&E #365, in his comment to me, Spike mentioned Robert Plamondon’s five points which basically boils down to this idea of ignoring those who are rude. Apparently, Plamondon advocated this solution as far back as A&E #161. My response, in A&E #366, was that perhaps we should invoke Plamondon’s suggestion whenever we feel that the language used is becoming unnecessarily inflammatory. In that way, we allow ourselves to exit the conversation while stating clearly and concisely our reasons for doing so. I believe the acronym I suggested went something like this: RADEYC&apRP’s5PDNTR. I think that basically says it all. J

For those few who might care…
My past A&E submissions are at: http://www.esnips.com/web/Alarums And my general/political blog is at: http://jim-vassilakos.livejournal.com/

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