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Monday, July 24, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #153 - First, Do No Harm

Actions have consequences.
  • Beth has had enough of the madness! Yet another woman has been shot, by her own gun, from inside her purse. This kind of tragedy is 100% avoidable if you use your brain and follow the do's and don'ts of purse carry
  • An assault suspect is found dead in the basement of a Winston-Salem home. What killed him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Just this week, a guy sneaked into the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather press conference with badges he cloned from images on Facebook. Barron tells us how it’s done
  • Miguel is on assignment and will return next week.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the third of a three-part interview series, Charl explains the Christian justification for self defense.
  • What is your calling? Do you know? And are you really being honest with yourself about what your true calling might be?
  • Tiffany salutes those who answer the call of law enforcement, but she also has a warning for those who only do so half-heartedly.
  • Erin breaks a promise this week, but it's so she can explain something you'll need to know for next week. Are you primed for an emotional reaction to stress? Erin explains what that means.
  • Shannon Watts does an interview about the Origins of Moms Demand Action... or at least, how she CLAIMS it happened. Weer'd explains what’s truth and what’s fiction inside Shannon Watts’ mind!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for The Lawdog Files, on Amazon for Kindle.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Emotional Priming
Last week I promised that I would talk about PTSD and ways to break the cycle of flashbacks. However, I’m afraid that I have to postpone that segment for a week, because I need to talk about emotional priming first. 

Put simply, witnessing trauma is itself traumatic to the viewer. This is because humans have structures in the brain called Mirror Neurons, which fire when performing an act but also when seeing an act. This is why you have the urge to yawn when you see another person yawn, why you often vomit when you see or hear or smell another person vomit, and why you wince in pain when you see another person get hurt.

 Mirror neurons are essential to our development during childhood because they are how we learn. “Monkey see, Monkey do” isn’t just a childhood taunt; it’s literally how we and other primates, learn. It follows, then, that if we witness something horrible that happens to another person, our mirror neurons simulate that sense of horror, that pain, that shock within us. And while the sensation isn’t as vivid, it’s still real, and therefore it’s entirely possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder from watching tragedy happen to another person.

In other words, PTSD can be considered an environmental or occupational hazard as much as a psychological one, especially if you work as a first responder. This means that you are more at risk for developing PTSD if you’ve already been exposed to extreme stress one or more times, and this vulnerability can last the rest of your life. This is what is known as being “emotionally primed” for PTSD. 

Think of your mind like a plate. Each traumatic event you witness is a crack within that plate. Some cracks are minor, but get enough of them, and the plate will fall apart. Get a single big crack, and the plate will fall apart.  Unlike bones, which can heal over time and become stronger, the mind retains the memory of the horrors it sees and this can make it weaker, more prone to injury. This explains why so many first responders take up unhealthy habits in their desire to forget what they’ve seen. They’re trying to erase those memories, to heal the cracks in the plate of their psyche. 

So if you have witnessed anything truly horrific or traumatic, I urge you to seek counseling from a professional. Not because you are crazy, not because you are broken; think of it as preventative maintenance. Just as you see the doctor every 6 months for a physical to keep on top of how your body is doing and to get ahead of potential issues so too should you see a therapist if you have a history with trauma, especially chronic trauma. A professional will be able to detect patterns of unhealthy behavior and poor coping mechanisms, and hopefully will help de-prime you so that you don’t suffer PTSD. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Week From Heck

I can't really call it "The Week From Hell" because I know that things can always get worse.

Here's the short version. I had hopes of getting caught up this afternoon by writing back-dated posts for the past week but I had the chance to go see Spider-Man: Homecoming so I took it. (Go watch the movie, it's Amazing.) I'll likely just turn this into blog posts for next week, because I'm tired of playing catch-up.

But just in case I don't, here are the highlights:
  1. On Monday, I received a call from Peter Brownell, the President of the NRA. We talked for 45 minutes on how the NRA can be more inclusive and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals. 
  2. Also on Monday, Florida started having thunderstorms every afternoon. These storms cause intense sinus headaches for me, because the weather brings a pressure change (either as the storm comes in or when it leaves) and the sinus cavities within my skull try to normalize with the outside pressure but cannot do so due to my allergies/ This means I just have to take painkiller and/or take to my bed and wait for the pressure to equalize and the pain to subside. 
  3. This pretty much tanked all the creativity I have, because constant pain is a bit of a wet blanket. 
  4. The announcement that I and Operation Blazing Sword would be working with the NRA to help make it more inclusive was not met with favor by some people. In fact, some considered it a betrayal to the LGBTQ community, while others just thought the NRA was insincere (lying) and/or using us. While I am always happy to listen to the objections of others, this rapidly turned into a verbal blanket party that lasted for about three days. 
  5. By Thursday, I'd had enough and drafted up an Official Statement On the Matter, along with a clarification regarding our Policy On Receiving Comments and Criticism
  6. I am drafting a Mission Statement to further explain, hopefully in precise detail, why working with organizations which reach out to us is indeed part of our purpose. 
So being in pain, monitoring the various threads, and crafting a precisely-worded mission statement is what has consumed most of my available time this week. Fun, eh?

Hopefully next week will be more productive. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Exponential Outrage Theorem

I'd like to propose a thought experiment. (Bear with me here, I've always been rubbish at maths.)

Something big, something monumental is announced. This thing that is announced is a change. Let's say, just for the example, the casting choices in a major science fiction franchise.

One hundred idiots get mad about this change and over-react. From the reaction of these one hundred idiots, a far Left or far Right blog whips up an article containing six tweets from people who are literal nobodies with an insignificant amount of followers (I don't use my Twitter, so let's say 24. 24 sounds like a nice insignificant number.)

Ladies, gentlemen, and multi-forms, your Twitter nobody.
One thousand people read this article, and become outraged by the "huge backlash" of the one hundred over-reacting idiots. They, in turn, overreact. Ten more extreme-end blogs write articles, including the six tweets and six more attacking the original. Ten thousand people read these articles and are now annoyed. They start a hashtag movement which catches the attention of a few mainstream news sites, which write about the massive outrage over the initial decision, more than likely using words like "manbabies", "piss babies", or "garbage humans." One hundred thousand people read this article and are now annoyed. The reaction is no longer the story -- the outrage is -- and it continues well into the millions.

So, then. On a completely unrelated note. What do I think?
Nice coat.
I think she's not Peter Capaldi. But then, as much as I adore Peter Capaldi's Doctor, I knew it wouldn't be forever. Like the man himself said, nothing is sad until it's over, then everything is. Everything ends, and it's always sad, but everything begins again and that's always happy. So I'll let the Doctor handle everything else. To me, he's been the best thing about the show since it came back, and I pity anyone who has to follow in his footsteps.

Capaldi's final episode hasn't even aired yet (spoilers!) so we're a little premature on pronouncing judgement on her ability. Do I like the choice? I have no idea yet. But she shows promise, and I maintain there has never been a bad actor in the role. Strange choices, maybe, but never bad ones. Here's what I think:
  • I remember her from Attack the Block and Broadchurch, and looked up a series she'd starred in on Netflix called The Assets
  • I think she's a talented actor. Does a surprisingly good American accent. 
  • I think she's very distinctive-looking, which is far more important than attractive for the role. Prominent nose, high cheekbones, slightly strange-looking (Erin's informed me that saying someone "looks a bit like a ferret" isn't a flattering thing that normal people do, even after I assured her that I think ferrets are adorable), I think she looks distinctive enough for the role. Smith and Tennant both looked a bit weird, with Tennant being very thin and goofy but exuding confidence, and Smith looking like a literal alien with vaguely unformed facial features and an enormous chin. 
  • I think she has enough intensity and range to play the role, and the outfit they chose for her looks decent, if a bit unremarkable, but no Doctor keeps the same outfit forever - even Eccleston changed his jumper periodically. 
  • I was hoping for Emma Thompson if we were going female Doctor, but then I doubt the BBC could afford her.
So as far as Jodie Whittaker goes, I'm definitely going to give her a shot. This isn't the first time I've lost a beloved Doctor and I'm not about to quit watching because I'm not 100% sure on the 'new guy.' If I were type to do that, I'd never have seen Paul McGann be tremendously let down by his TV movie or Eccleston shine for a year. But as I said, there's never been a "bad Doctor."

There has, however, been bad writing. One thing we need to keep in mind is that all the groundwork that's been laid for this change to happen is due to the allegedly EVOL MISOGYNERD that is Stephan Moffat. The Corsair, the General's regeneration, Missy, River changing from white to black and back to white, and even Eleven's throw-away line wondering if he was a girl because of his hair all happened under his watch. Now Moffat's leaving the show, and the incoming show-runner, Chris Chibnall, wrote one very good and several very bad episodes of Torchwood, and was the show-runner for the two series it was on BBC.  He wrote several episodes of Doctor Who that... varied in quality. And while it's true that Broadchurch was his show, it was equal parts good and very, very slow and grim.

Moreover, Chibnall is a fan. As a friend and I recently discussed, fans should be kept well away from the reigns of the show, and Chibnall once appeared on the BBC in his capacity as a fan bemoaning the state of the writing during Colin Baker's tenure. While he wasn't wrong, this would be like a modern fan (say myself or my friend) publicly decrying the state of the writing under Stephen Moffat, then decades later running the show ourselves, and that would be very, very bad. I'm more worried that, in a year or two, we'll be begging Moffat to come back than we will be wishing Jodie hadn't come on board.

I have a final thought here: If you're celebrating something based on the negative reaction that you feel a demographic will have, then you're celebrating it for the wrong reason. The legions of "screaming manbabies" have not manifested. The outrage against Jodie Whittaker is as overblown as "black stormtrooper" or the "Fury Road boycott.' In fact, the demographics of the outrage are so wrong that even The Mary Sue has had to address it (albeit in their condescending and short-sighted way), admitting that there are a substantial number of women that aren't satisfied with the decision (the words "internalized misogyny" were thrown around).

Don't mistake this for me saying you're not a "real fan" or a "fake nerd." I'm saying that if you're salivating at the thought of "evil white men", you might be valuing message over entertainment. You may be a fan for the wrong reasons. And it's supremely annoying to someone who considered the Doctor a role model not because he was a man, but because he was clever and cared and helped people while trying not to resort to violence. As Twelve would really like to hear, he was, all in all, a good man. And I hope he can be a good woman, too.

I just hope it doesn't get lost in causes and messages.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #152 - Facepalm, Give a Sigh, Everybody Roll Their Eyes

This episode is brought to you by the letters W, T, and F, and the number 8.
  • It’s more than just a mom’s dilemma: What do you do when you’re too busy to get to the range for some recoil therapy? Beth gives us some advice.
  • What kind of person cuts, strangled and tries to rape a woman? Sean takes a closer look.
  • What happens when an insurance company decides that they’d like to “help” their customers by sending them information on a USB stick? Barron facepalms himself so hard that he gets a concussion, that’s what.
  • Miguel wanted a break from ranting, so he pulled some books from his book pile. This week, he’s recommending two: The Siege and Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the second of a three-part interview series, Charl tells us how he went from being an ordinary young man to a responsibly armed citizen.
  • Tiffy’s back, back again. Tiffy's back, tell a friend. In this installment of The Bridge, Tiffany talks about that Dana Loesch video and what it means to her.
  • Following up on her segment on "proprioception", Erin explains how our brains think of loved ones as extensions of ourselves, and why losing them is like losing a limb. 
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part three of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
To Our Brains, Loved Ones Are Limbs
In last week’s segment about proprioception, I asked the question “if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being?”

And the answer is “This already happens. We just don’t realize it as such.”

The classic example is a mother with a baby. The act of bonding with that child produces critical changes within the mother’s brain, re-wiring parts of it. While it can be joked that we now have definitive proof that having kids causes brain damage, these changes are in fact vital for the continuation of our species.

When you think about an infant in a clinical, objective sense, what you see is a helpless bundle of needs that feeds parasitically, consumes resources and deprives sleep, and generally acts as a detriment to the parent. Without these changes to the brain, humans would not love their children as themselves, and we would see a huge increase in infant death.

But the fact remains that parents love their children as their own flesh, because their proprioception, their body map, has extended into the child. We see this most strongly in mothers whose arms ache to hold their children. As those children grow, the body map slowly changes to accommodate the growth; the need to hold morphs into a need to have them on your lap, which evolves into the need to hold their hand. This is why parents will forever see their children as, well, children; there’s still a part of them that years to hold us and cuddle us in the same way that those of us who have pets still sometimes wish our dogs and cats were still puppies and kittens.

But this proprioception of another as ourselves doesn’t begin and end with children. It happens with those we love, as well. When you think about it, sex violates the desire of the body to keep its DNA and fluids to itself, but in order to reproduce, we need to bypass this isolationist urge. Seeing our lover as a partial extension of ourselves is how our brains trick our body into violating one of the key principles of our immune system.

This is why losing a loved one causes an aching sense of absence that is above and beyond emotional pain; we are, quite literally, experiencing a phantom limb pain, except the missing limb is the person we lost.

This also explains why so many people seek out rebound relationships: just as a mirror image of the missing limb was able to cure phantom limb pain, so too does finding another person to fill the void of the missing relationship.

So looping back to my first segment on the topic a month ago, losing someone is like losing a part of yourself, which causes anxiety, which activates the rage pathway in the brain.

Next week. I’ll talk more about PTSD and discuss ways to reprogram the “fire together, wire together” clusters which cause flashbacks. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Save Oro
Oro is a gay Muslim who has fled persecution in Tunisia. He is now in Egypt and hopes to move to a western country that will accept him instead of trying to kill him for his sexuality. The funds contributed to his GoFundMe account will be sent to him as soon as he is able to find an apartment, and will be used to help him get started living on his own or possibly to go to school elsewhere - he wants to attend the New England Culinary Institute and become a chef.

If you are an ally of the LGBTQ community, please donate so that he can begin a new, productive life. Under Sharia law, being gay carries the death penalty.

If you're concerned about his religion, don't be. I've talked to Oro. He's friendly to Jews and Christians. He loves Western culture and shares our values. By helping him, you are supporting love and inclusion and fighting hatred.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Preacher: Adaptation Blues

When I was 18 years old, I shared a flat with a couple. Odd pair, a slightly plump bisexual girl and her effeminate, slightly hippy, slightly techno boyfriend. One of the defining moments of this period of my life was discovering Garth Ennis's Preacher comic series. I remember clearly one night finishing one of the volumes and racing over to Books-A-Million (forgive my plebian tendencies, we didn't have a Barnes & Nobles in the roughly-six-horse town I lived in at the time) and begging them to open the doors a minute before their closing time to pick up the next volume.

When I initially heard Preacher was being adapted for television I had very mixed feelings. I felt that television was the best medium for the series, as the story was far too broad to tell within the limitations of a roughly two hour film, but I was wary at the involvement of Seth Rogen. Rogen has made his name in awkward/pothead humour films, which are some of my least favourite genres in existence, with Pineapple Express, Neighbors, Superbad, Knocked Up, and the unfortunate This Is The End, which had to stand up against Edgar Wright's finale of the Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End and really didn't fare well in my eyes. Seth Rogen is not somebody who I trusted to understand Preacher properly.
Picture courtesy Business Insider
As a young Atheist, banished from a church a year prior (for reasons maybe I'll go into later), Preacher was a story that struck a chord with me. A man of God, given a great gift with a terrible knowledge, sets out to hold God accountable. The anger against organized religion that was boiling inside the 18-year-old me resonated with that message at the time. Now, an undisclosed-but-significant amount of time later, I've calmed somewhat, and despite how juvenile and (ironically) preachy Ennis could be at times, now I just want to see the story done justice.

Preacher premiered on AMC last spring. When it first came out, I missed the premiere, so about a month later I watched the first four episodes... and it was rough going. I have to admit, over the years, I've read the series multiple times, and own a trade paperback release of every volume, including the cover collection and the side stories with Cassidy and the Saint. The series had a very high bar for me, and in those first four episode, it did not meet that bar. Annville was there, but it seemed like every single story element in 7 volumes of the comic series had been packed into a single town, and somehow the series still moved at a snail's pace. Aside from a decent joke about Tom Cruise being vaporized by Genesis, nothing really appealed to me. The Reverend Jesse Custer seemed to be a good translation from comic to screen, only losing his wilder hair and white jeans in the process, I was confused by Tulip being black (until I realized that I'd lived 10 years in the armpit of Texas and the demographics actually justified that entirely) and I absolutely hated Cassidy. I was confused why Arseface lived in Annville and why his dad actually spoke to him. I was confused why DeBlanc and Fiore dressed like business-casual cowboys and were in Annville. I was confused why Odin Quincannon's meat-packing plant was located in Annville. And I was confused why it felt like, in the first four episodes, absolutely nothing happened.

This week, I've sat down and watched the remaining six episodes of the first season as well as the first four (that have aired so far) of season 2. I've softened a little, as starting near the end of season 1 the pace has picked up considerably and the "road trip" tone of the comic series is starting to manifest, and I've even gone so far as to purchase the Jesse Custer figure that NECA released (but not the Cassidy figure). Some of the more drastic changes they've made to the series (why is the Saint immune to Genesis? Why did they nerf his guns? Every shot kills and no shot misses. That's the Saint's Colt Walkers. Why was he just in Hell and not a replacement for... well that's getting a little too much into the lore. Read it for yourself, trust me) are bothering me.
Taking his place on the DC Screen Shelf. Anyone tired of my toys yet? 
I have to wonder if Seth Rogen and friends read the books or just a summary of them. Irish vampire? Check. Girlfriend named Tulip that's good with guns? Check. Texas preacher with the Voice of God? Check. But the details, almost every single one, have been changed, and I can't say for the better. I always give a series the first season as a trial ground and assume it's going to suck, and I grant it that the second season, so far, is better than the first, but I have yet to have any confidence in this adaptation. We'll see how it goes from here on out, and I'll check out the episodes as they come, but I'm still wary.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Extending the 15-Minute Adventuring Day

There are two concepts I need to explain to blog readers who aren't familiar with games like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons before I get on with the meat of this article.
The 15-Minute Adventuring Day: What you get when a group of player characters, after 2 or 3 encounters, decides they need to stop adventuring because they're low on spells and/or hitpoints and/or "X times per day" abilities like Bardic Song or Rage and want to recover them before continuing further into the dungeon. This is because these games are essentially exercises in resource management. 
Resource Management: The mini-game of strategy within the overall roleplaying game that requires decisions such as "Should I use my last healing spell on the fighter now to top him off, or should I wait to see if someone gets injured?" Spells, potions, class abilities, even hit points are all resources to be carefully managed within these games and poor resource management can lead to defeat and death of player characters. 
At low levels, the 15-Minute Adventuring Day is understandable, as player characters have only a dozen or so hitpoints and a handful of spells.At higher levels, this learned behavior becomes an annoying habit of "Well, the spellcasters have used their highest spells, and the melee types are looking a bit peaked, so let's all rest so we can be at full power for whatever is around the corner."

Depending on the GM, such reservation to advance beyond one's safety margin might be warranted, but it can prove to be irritating to move at such a snail's pace - especially if the GM is the kind of person to say "All right, now the dungeon inhabitants know you're coming, so they're on a war footing and spent the day arranging a welcoming committee for you with traps and ambushes."

There have been many solutions on how to solve the 15MAD. Most of them involve what I call "adventure pressure", which is another way of saying that there is a condition of the adventure that makes time a factor, such as a deadline to complete a quest or having to beat other adventurers to a goal. However, I feel that these are external solutions for an internal problem. Put another way, they're using setting to solve a non-setting problem. I feel that the problem is a combination of mechanics and player psychology, so the solution to the 15MAD must come from the same source.

Here's my simple solution: Let an 8-hour rest count as "a day" for purposes of regaining abilities. When you stop to think about this, it makes perfect sense:
  • All arcane casters need 8 hours of rest to recover spells. Why this number? There are a variety of explanations available, but I like the notion that the brain of a caster needs a period of rest from the task of maintaining a spell in preparation. Think of it like rebooting a computer to free up resources and clear out temp files. 
  • If arcane casters only need 8 hours of sleep, then saying they can gain their spells only once per 24 hour period raises questions such as "Is the universe keeping track of how many times they prepare? Is there a fixed pool of magic and only so much to go around? If not, then why an arbitrary 24 hour limit when the rules say 8 hours of rest?"
  • Furthermore, look at the Cleric. The Rules as Written say that a cleric chooses a time of day at which to regain spells, with the implication being that if it isn't that time of day then the cleric receives no spells. I call bollocks on this, for the following reasons:
    1. It presumes that the deity the cleric worships doesn't listen to prayers except at specific times of the day, and
    2. It is contradicted by this passage in the Core Rulebook:  When preparing spells for the day, a divine spellcaster can leave some of her spell slots open. Later during that day, she can repeat the preparation process as often as she likes. During these extra sessions of preparation, she can fill these unused spell slots. If a deity only granted spells during a set part of the day, then this ability wouldn't exist. 
  • Finally, an 8-hour rest restores 1 hit point per character level
I say, standardize everything based on the 8 hour rest. A good night's sleep heals the body and refreshes the brain, allowing the player characters to adventure without having to wait 24 hours -- and 8 hours is definitely enough time for dungeon denizens to compose and execute a proper response to invaders, be it increased watchfulness and patrols, ambushes and traps, or just a counter-attack while they sleep. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Luke Cage: An Executive Summary

More away game material that ought to be showcased here:

If you want an explanation of why I feel this way: The boss fight in the final episode is okay at best, and had a little too much of "All you need to win is the power of love" to make me happy, but it was an acceptable 20 minutes to wrap up the series.

Unfortunately, there was 30 more minutes to go, and the denouement was similar to a souffle slowly collapsing.

If they had just stopped with him defeating Diamondback and Misty doing the whole "It'll be cool, I've got your back," that would have been great. All of the other stuff could have been folded into the second season.

That said, though, it's an amazingly good show and worth the time to watch. The casting is spot-on, the acting is excellent, the dialog flirts with Tarantino without actually trying to be Tarantino,  the music is great (I can't stand rap, but I can grove to funk), and it's just basically a 21st century retelling of a 1970s blaxploitation movie.

It just deserved a better, perhaps tighter, ending.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #151 - The Bacardi Episode

I drink a rum in the mornin' (yeah)
I drink a rum at night (gonna drink a rum at night)
I drink a rum in the afternoon (why?)
It makes me feel alright
I drink a rum in times of peace
and two in times of war (make love not war)
I drink a rum before I drink a rum
and then I drink some more (hey hey hey)
-- The Pyrates Royale, "Drink a Rum", 1999

  • After her recent visit to Washington D.C. with the D.C. Project, Beth reached out to offer firearms training to the representatives in her home state of Alabama. Will anyone take her up on the offer?
  • For Felons Behaving Badly,  Sean takes a closer look at a man arrested for a November shooting.
  • Barron’s back again, this time with a segment about ransomware that isn’t and friends who remind you why you don’t click on unsolicited attachments.
  • For those who have gotten the vapors about Dana Loesch’s nearly three-month-old video about fighting the violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth, Miguel has a simple question for you: Where have you been?
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the first of a three-part interview series, we talk about the church massacre and its aftermath.
  • Tiffany is still on assignment.
  • What is "proprioception?" Erin not only explains it, she pronounces it!
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part two of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for Aiming for Zero.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Proprioception and Phantom Limbs
I hope that you’ve all been enjoying my segue into into physiological and psychological effects of survival. I realize that this is more abstract than what I usually do for Blue Collar Prepping, but I feel -- and I hope you do as well -- that understanding why we do things will help us prepare for, and ultimately cope with, our reactions when terrible things happen. This segment is really going to dive deeply into those waters, and I hope you’ll stick with me through all the science because there is absolutely a payoff at the end.

Today’s five dollar word is “Proprioception”, and it means “The sense of the position of parts of the body, relative to other neighbouring parts of the body.” If you want a demonstration of this, close your eyes and stick one of your hands out at a random angle. Then, with your eyes still closed, bring your other hand to it.

You didn’t have any trouble finding your hand without seeing it, did you? You knew where your hand was in space and found it immediately. That’s proprioception.

Fun fact: The principle is of “hand finds hand” is why the UZI was designed with a magazine that feeds through the pistol grip. This is why it’s so much more intuitive to load your pistol than it is to load your rifle -- unless, of course, your hand is gripping the magazine well.

This principle of your brain having a map of your body also explains the concept known as “phantom limb”, which is when a missing body part, such as an amputated hand, still feel present. This sensation is often uncomfortable -- sometimes it feels like there’s an itch which needs scratching, or the muscles are cramping -- but the end result is that brain insists the limb is still there and it requires stimulation of sort. Yes, this is another example of “All pain is in our brain” which I detailed last week.

But our brains can also be fooled, and this is the cure for phantom limb pain as well as other symptoms of loss. In 1998, V.S. Ramachandran - a neuroscientist at UC San Diego - conducted a series of experiments where people suffering phantom limb pain from missing hands or arms placed their functioning limb upon a table and then looked at a mirror reflection of that limb. By moving their healthy limb while looking at the mirror image, an illusion of moving the missing limb was created.

6 out of 10 patients said they could actually feel the movement coming from the missing limb! 4 of those could then use that visual feedback to relieve phantom limb pain by stretching, unclenching or otherwise doing whatever action the missing limb craved.

What’s more, you don’t even need to have a missing limb to experience this effect. There’s a trick called The Rubber Hand Illusion whereby participants have their real hand hidden from view and a rubber hand poised in nearly the same position. Both hands, real and rubber, are stroked in exactly the same way at the same time. Eventually the participants began to feel that the rubber hand was their own hand, so that when they were asked to touch their “missing” hand with the working hand, many of them indicated the rubber hand.

In effect, their nervous systems “grew” into the rubber hand, adopting it as their own. This adoption was so strong that when the rubber hand was struck with a hammer, threatened with a burning cigarette, or stabbed with a needle, the subjects actually reacted with fear and pain!

This neatly explains why frequently used objects - be they tools or weapons or even vehicles like cars and aircraft - can feel like part of the user’s body. This is because, to a certain extent, they are. Through constant use and identification of the item as an extension of the user’s will, the nervous system integrates them into its own proprioceptive “body map”.

This raises an interesting question: if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being? And in fact, this is exactly what happens with people we are physically close with. That loss, and coping with it, will be addressed in next week’s segment.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunder Wallbane

The following events actually happened during a game of Pathfinder I ran last night. (We're taking a break from Traveller.)

The Player Characters (PCs) were exploring a dungeon and ran headlong into a nasty hobgoblin pincer ambush that ripped them a new one. Despite taking heavy damage, the PCs managed to kill the chieftain and his cleric consort and many of the remaining hobgoblins, and so the surviving hobbos fled to an inner room and bars the doors. The PCs, bloody and low on hitpoints and completely out of magic, retired to their own secure room to rest for the night.

The next morning -- having not been attacked during the night by counterattacking hobgoblins, which was a fear of theirs -- the PCs return to the site of the ambush to see if they can get through the door and into the rest of the dungeon. The resident trapsmith takes a looks and declares that not only are the doors barricaded, but they are probably trapped as well, and so getting past them will be a long and probably risky undertaking. She further observes (because I am feeding her this info) that it would probably take as much effort, and be safer besides, if they just tunneled through the stone wall and bypass the traps entirely.

I suggested this for the following reasons:
  1. They're an all-dwarf party, so tunneling is completely reasonable to them. 
  2. There's a PC, Perga, who has a heavy pick and the Profession: Miner skill.
  3. I like making odd suggestions and seeing what the party will do with them. This has given me hours of amusement, and if a GM can't laugh at her players, she's not properly enjoying her role. 
The party decides that this is actually a great course of action, and decide to have Perga (who is actually a Gunslinger -- this will become hilarious later) do his thing. I immediately start looking up rules for hardness and hit points of dungeon walls, and calculating how many wandering monsters will come investigate the sound of metal on stone. After I'm all set up, giggling to myself at the wickedness of my plan, I have Perga roll his Miner skill.

He rolls a natural 20.

Since this is technically an attack, I have him roll to confirm a critical hit. He does. He rolls another natural 20. He rolls again, and gets a 17. I look at the Break DC of the wall and see that it's 35. I look at the critical multiplier of the heavy pick and see that it's x4.

I think about this for a moment, then decide "Oh, why the hell not. This is a game about magic and epic adventures, and two nat 20s in a row is 1 in 400 odds. Also, it moves the plot forward, and it amuses me." The entire PC party is on the edge of their seats as I describe what happens next:
Perga carefully sets Matilda, his musket, to the side. He looks thoughtfully at the wall, as if to say "Where should I hit?" His decision made, he carefully draws an X on the wall.

He takes his pick out of his pack, spits on his hands, and takes a few swings, limbering up like a professional baseball player. "Right, the power of the swing comes from the hips... remember the follow through..." Then he hauls back and, with a mighty swing, the pick whistles through the air and buries itself deeply into the stone.

It doesn't want to come free. He wiggles it, and there's a cracking sound as a fracture races out from the point of impact. Then another. Then another. Then the entire wall crackles as fissures spiderweb outward from where the pick hit, all while Perga is trying to pry his pick loose. Straining with all his might, he gives the pick one last pull, this time with a bit of a twist to pop the head free by prying out some masonry with it.

The bit of masonry is pried out. The head pops free. And with its departure, all 20 feet of the cracked wall collapses with a roar into rubble, leaving a massive hole into the room.

Perga looks at the wall. Looks at his pick. Wall. Pick. Wall. "Huh," he says. "Never seen that happen before."
Later that evening during post-game wrap-up, I tell Perga's player "Give that pick an epic name, because you managed to infuse it with a little bit of legend."  He chose the name "Sunder".

I told him "Congratulations. You have a Pick of Wall Slaying."

Sunder Wallbane
(Heavy Pick)
Sunder has +2 to hit against structures, and does an additional 2d6 damage to them. Against all other foes, it is considered a magical weapon but has no additional properties.

Further commentary from the GM:
Technically, magical items first need to be masterwork quality, but you live in a magical world and you double-critted, and it moved the plot along, and it amused me, and the rest of the party will be talking about this for years, so yeah, it's magical. Epic actions can turn mundane items into relics in my game.

Given that you critted and one-shotted a wall, it seems fitting that Sunder be a "slaying" weapon, and what it slays is walls. Well, structures I guess, because floors are just horizontal walls and ceilings are lifted horizontal walls and roofs are slanted walls. Don't get cute by trying to use it on non-wall things like rock outcroppings or canyons or hills, because that gets into a semantic argument like "Well, that golem is made of stone, and walls are made of stone, so etc."  No. Sunder kills man-made structures because non-dwarf engineering is feeble. The benefit of this is that so long as it's constructed and not natural, you can slay it.

This is all hilarious to me because it's the first magical weapon the party has, and it's a melee weapon, and it's in the possession of a Gunslinger who shoots things at range. I do expect that it will get more use as a tool than a weapon,  because while it's merely an adequate weapon it's an amazing tool, doing 3d6+2+strength against fabricated structures.

I also love my idea that magical weapons can be spontaneously created through epic deeds. It avoids the soulless "You find or buy a weapon" issue because Sunder now has history with the PC group. They aren't going to want to part with it, because it's sentimental to them. Instead, they're going to use it, and its legend will continue to grow. In the same way that ancestral katana were said to have inside them the souls of the ancestors who wielded them, so too will the deeds of Perga Ironfoot increase the power of Sunder Wallbane. With more epic uses and epic successes, I can see it growing into a magical weapon of legend.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of my players can do. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Great Meme War Has Begun

North Korea.


Saudi Arabia is not on the travel ban but is receiving weapons.

An NYC police officer shot.

A 'drug-fueled gay orgy' in the Vatican (I'm not making that up).

Volvo planning to go 100% electric.

There are so many things in the news that we can talk about right now. And yet, on one of the largest, (if not the largest) news networks in the United States (if not the world), there's one common theme to which we keep returning, one repetitive news horse that has not only been beaten to death, but has been shipped off to the factory, turned into glue, bottled, delivered to stores, sniffed, applied to fingers and then peeled off like a layer of skin to gross out your friends, eaten, and used to fasten macaroni to cardboard by preschoolers:CNN will just not shut up about Trump's Twitter account. At a time when trust in the mainstream media is rivaling a controversial president's approval ratings, CNN has decided that the best course of action has been to hunt down a private citizen and pressure him into apologizing under duress of releasing his personal information.

Avert your gaze, if you're sensitive to violent images.
I want to draw special attention to this. CNN saw a gif of Donald Trump (Stop saying 45! Say his goddamn name, he's not Voldemort!) in his WWE (or as it was known then, WWF) days attacking owner Vince McMahon, but with the CNN logo photoshopped over his face. For the heinous crime that they witnessed, CNN tracked down this person, made contact with him, and seemingly discussed releasing the personal information they found. After the foul demon of a person that made this horrible atrocity apologized, they agreed to keep that information private...
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
... oh. Assuming said user doesn't make fun of them again? Assuming he never says anything bad again (admittedly, I've seen screenshots that prove the guy was no angel, but if you see someone post in /r/ImGoingToHellForThis, what do you expect)? Of all the things going on in the world right now, CNN decides to say "It's the Fourth of July, hold my beer" and track down a random internet shit-poster and threaten to dox him.

Anyone who's a decent person on the internet knows that there's one rule: You don't dox people. Openly advocating for it usually results in a deluge of people condemning it. It's why famous internet dickbag Wil Wheaton was roundly lambasted for suggesting we should use our real names when we game. It's why formerly respectable game journalist-turned twitchy delusional coke-fiend Adam Sessler was met with a sense of betrayal when he suggested he'd like to "put [people's address] out there."
This is the weirdest timeline.
I think CNN is still overestimating their influence. Even during an uptick in ratings, they're not even breaking 8 million viewers. Compare that to someone like Philip DeFranco, a popular YouTuber with a daily news and discussion show, who has over 5 millions subscribers and hits twice CNN's ratings regularly with his daily videos. Speaking of Philly D...
Now I'm no Twitter expert, but to me that looks like something close to 52,000 like/heart/thingies. Which is approximately 50,000 more than CNN got, and I had to go looking because they've spent the last 24 hours tweeting the same news stories over and over in what I can only speculate to be an effort to bury their original tweet. Either that, or they need a new social media manager. (Hey, CNN, I'm still looking for a job. Call me!).

I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the concept of privilege and power dynamics here:
  • HanAssholeSolo, the thought criminal in question, is some complete rando shit-poster.
  • CNN is one of the world's largest news networks. 
CNN wouldn't even have to make a clear threat. All they would have to do would be to make an attempt to contact a regular private citizen to have the result of that person making a mess of their pants. There has never been a more obvious imbalance of power dynamic here, and all I can hear from the people usually advocating against power imbalances is crickets. Literally, #CNNDidNothingWrong.

...oh. Awwwkward.
Things are about to get really ugly, people. This is a warning. Not a threat, CNN, just so we're clear. I, a private citizen and complete rando shit-poster myself at times, am not threatening you. I have no power in the dynamic between us. But I've seen the 4chan threads; /pol/ is gathering personal information on anyone they can find at CNN; Twitter has been flooded with enough gifs of Trump and the CNN logo photoshopped into various forms of comedic violence to drown an army of your scary white supremacist smug frog faces.

It's ironic that, last week, I wrote about a war nobody remembered, when a war nobody will notice is starting now. The echoes of it will be felt, as confused normies will share stories from CNN about how racist nazis are attacking them and a lot of people will have a laugh when their more edgy Facebook friends share funny gifs, but if you keep your ear to the ground and know where to look, there's going to be glorious carnage.

Keep your heads down and stay in your foxholes, my dudes. It's going to be a complete bug-hunt from here on out.

EDIT: I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'm linking to Buzzfeed, who has proven that CNN outed the wrong guy. It's a completely different gif/video altogether.  Good catch, Buzzfeed.

EDIT EDIT: A Mexican channer has taken credit for the original content, providing proof.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #150 - Let's You and Him Fight

It's called "rooting for injuries", and it's what the anti-gunners are doing.
  • Beth wrote a textbook called "Women's Handgun and Self-Defense Fundamentals", and she tells us all about it.
  • A $1M bond for man accused of kidnapping a family and forcing them to... shop at Target? Sean looks a little deeper into the story.
  • Barron’s back with more on the expected second wave of ransomware.
  • Miguel is fired up today. He's irritated at those members of the pro-civil rights community who are blindly doing exactly what the anti-gunners are telling them to do.
  • We welcome Special Guest Ali Slocum, who tells us about her journey from anti-gunner to gun student with instructor Jenna Meeks at Carry On Colorado.
  • Tiffany is still on assignment.
  • Pain? Anger? Sadness? It's all in your head, but Erin tells you why that's neither a dismissal nor a bad thing.
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d starts a three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And Barron brings us our Plug of the Week for the Mission Critical baby carrier.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
It’s All In Our Heads, But That's Okay
About two weeks ago, I received an email from one or our listeners in reaction to my segment on PTSD. I won’t go into great detail on what the letter said, because it’s personal and not my story to tell - but I can say that the listener thanked me for the segment and said it had great applicability to his situation, because he was about to observe the anniversaries of the deaths of two of his children.

So I hope my segment helped you, dear listener. And thank you for writing, because it brings up a worthwhile topic for discussion: why does loss of a loved one hurt us like a physical injury?

The answer again comes from Lawrence Gonzales’ book Surviving Survival, and it’s very simple: the brain is the organ that interprets what is and isn’t pain.

It doesn’t matter to the brain if you’re upset because you’ve stubbed your toe or if you’re upset because you’ve lost a loved one. All it knows is that you’re upset and showing the physiological signs of it -- increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, crying, yelling or screaming or cursing, etcetera -- and so the brain dutifully interprets this as pain.

There are two effects going on here. The first is that the brain doesn’t differentiate between emotional pain and physical pain, because to the brain there is no difference. Pain, anxiety, arousal; all of these are interpreted by the brain from nerve signals that the body is sending out. So when someone looks at you and says that your pain is “all in your head”, you go ahead and give them the stink eye, because duh, where else would it be?

What’s more, because the body sends signals to the brain, and the brain loves to notice and remember patterns -- recall the phrase “Fire together, wire together” -- this means that your posture can influence how you feel. If you adopt a posture of grief -- shoulders hunched, head forward of your hips, face in your hands -- you will start to feel sad even if you have nothing to feel sad about. Similarly, if you smile, the neurons that fire when you smile go “He’s smiling! Therefore, he must be happy! So we’ll feel happy!”

This gives us some effective strategies for coping with grief. First, realize that something “being in your head” doesn’t make what you are feeling any less real. Everything you sense and feel is by definition all in your head, so just stop with that self-defeating line of thought. You feel what you feel, and your feelings are valid.

Next, adopt a posture that your brain doesn’t associate with sadness, and you will start to feel better. (Incidentally, this is why exercise is also good for helping overcome grief and depression -- your brain associates other mental and emotional states with those postures, as well as the endorphin release that comes from exercise).

If at all possible, adopt a posture of a desired emotional state. For example, putting a pencil between your teeth uses many of the same muscles as smiling, so -- fire together, wire together -- you start to feel better because your brain thinks you're smiling and therefore happy.

Finally, understand that your desire to lash out in anger is completely understandable. I thought I was just a jerk with a hair trigger temper because every time I stubbed my toe I had an instant, white-hot desire to hurt, maim, kill and destroy whatever object I’d bumped into. Well, as it turns out, this is actually a reflex that’s been hardwired deep into mammalian brains as a survival mechanism.

If the brain senses pain from the body, its first assumption is that we are being eaten by a predator, and so our immediate reflex is to kill whatever is hurting us before it kills us. The fact that you’ve been able to think “Why would I want to murder a doorjamb? That’s a ridiculous overreaction” isn’t something to be ashamed of; instead, feel relief that your mind was able to realize you weren’t being eaten and was able to reign in that impulse before you did something drastic, like hurt your hand punching the door.

Don’t ever feel ashamed of your feelings. What you feel isn’t your choice, but how you react to those feelings is.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Doctor Who: A Final Reprieve

So here we come at last, the mysteries having been unraveled. The Doctor Falls, for the first 42 minutes or so (the average length of an episode) is, no doubt, very good. The clever flashbacks of the Doctor outsmarting both Masters while tied to a wheelchair and the house under siege were all very serviceable, with the stand-out moments being the cognitive dissonance of Bill barely holding her personality intact inside of a Cyberman body to the point which she still only sees herself while everyone else is skittish and fearful around her, and the Doctor showing shame for the first time since choosing to not save Davros in last year's premiere episode.

But I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about the extra innings. The last 20 minutes or so.

From the moment Missy and the Master approach the elevator onwards, the episode ramps up to full speed and delivers one blindsiding knockout blow after another. The unanswered question of why Simm's Master regenerated; Missy's change of heart and loyaties; the mutual backstabbing -- Missy with an Assassin's Creed style wrist knife, Simm's Master with a laser screwdriver blast and the implication that she won't regenerate from it.

Make no mistake, though: I completely believe that Missy is not dead, and the trick she pulled earlier in the episode proves it. That woman who told him a long time ago to always carry a spare regeneration circuit,? That was Missy telling him that then. But when did she actually tell him? She'd have to have gone back earlier, as obviously wasn't carrying one then.  No, Missy made it off that forest floor somehow, I firmly believe that. Besides, The Master's been far more dead than just a body on a forest floor. 
Master, Rule Thyself
And in that vein, I'd also like to take note that Michelle Gomez and John Simm have downright astounding chemistry. Capaldi and Gomez have chemistry, but I'd like to think that Ainley and Delgado,  if they could see Simm and Gomez, would have been proud of how well they chewed the scenery together. It was simply amazing watching them work side by side in what I believe to be the first multi-Master story. The hints of Ten's sad motifs were a nice touch in the opening scenes as well. contrasting neatly with Missy's motif of eerie chanting just before the assassination.

Also, Missy's umbrella is sonic. I adore that.

Bill's story is also neatly wrapped up with a season-long Chekhov's gun (something that Moffat is getting progressively better at) as her grief summons Heather, aka The Pilot from the first episode of the series, and turns what could have been a throwaway line into a completely justified Deus Ex Machina and giving her a properly modern outfit for once.

I've been dreading this season for one reason and one reason alone: Peter Capaldi quickly became my favourite Doctor, rivaling even my childhood hero of Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor. The Pilot's final act of compassion allows him to begin the regeneration process as he staggers about, flashing through his previous lives, before Twelve's innate stubbornness kicks in and he refuses to regenerate. His words echo in my heart as he proclaims he never wants to change again. I, too, would keep Capaldi for as long as he's physically capable of playing the role. But I know that isn't possible. 
"When the Doctor was me..."
It was at that point that I was granted the most wonderful gift I could possibly imagine. Twelve manages to stop his regeneration and is confronted by a familiar face: himself.

His first self, the cantankerous white-haired visage of the First Doctor, played by none other than the man who portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Time and Space, an excellent docu-drama the BBC made about the creation and filming of the beginning of Doctor Who. With this being the last episode of the series, it can only mean one thing: the regeneration won't happen until the Christmas special, and it's going to be special indeed.

The parallels are perfect. The First Doctor fell, "wearing a bit thin" as both he and the War Doctor said, after turning back a Mondasian Cyberman invasion in The Tenth Planet. The implications of this absolute cracker of a blindside means that One is going to be there to ease Twelve through his regeneration, and it'll mark the first time the First Doctor's properly been in a story since his final one. His previous appearances have all been stock footage, filmed separately (due to illness in The Three Doctors), and played by Richard Hurndall who, while decent, is blown away by David Bradley's portrayal. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Caretaker's remark about re-visiting familiar faces... 
I *did* warn you about spoilers.
You absolutely, positively, cannot miss this episode. The episode alone is on par with my previous favourite of the series, The Lie of The Land, but the addition of Missy and The Master and the surprise appearance of the First Doctor tip the scales heavily. I have never so much been left on edge waiting for an episode that's still six months away.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

I Hate Barbarians

In the comments section of my "I don't like clerics" post, I was asked which class I'd modify next.

As you may have guessed from reading the title, while I dislike clerics for being too good I absolutely detest the barbarian class. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of an illiterate savage who wears very little and tends to froth at the mouth in battle, it's the execution of the class that annoys me.
  • The level abilities they get stink of pandering. "Fast Movement? Well, okay, I guess if they don't have horses... Uncanny Dodge? Trap Sense? this is a melee class, not a rogue... DAMAGE REDUCTION? Oh, fuck right off."
  • They have 12-sided hit dice. Think about that for a moment: On the one hand, we have the Fighter, a class dedicated solely to combat, and it gets d10s for hit points; on the other hand, we have a class whose schtick is "get really upset and beat on things like the Hulk until they stop twitching" and they get d12s. No, that's just wrong.
Really, the only thing about this class which I like is the Rage, which I'm pretty sure is the main reason people play barbs. But look at how they progress: rage at 1st level, then a rage power every even level. This is the exact same progression as fighter bonus feats. 

So here's how I'd change things:
  1. Delete the Barbarian class altogether. 
  2. Increase the Fighter's hit dice to d12s, as is right and proper. 
  3. Make a "Berserker" archetype for the fighter which gives rage and rage powers in place of fighter feats. 
That archetype would look like this (with a lot of cutting and pasting from the barbarian class and replacing the word barbarian with berserker):

The Berserker (Archetype)
For some, there is only rage. In the ways of their people, in the fury of their passion, in the howl of battle, conflict is all these brutal souls know. Savages, hired muscle, masters of vicious martial techniques, they are not soldiers or professional warriors—they are the battle possessed, creatures of slaughter and spirits of war.

Rage (Ex)
At 1st level, a berserker can call upon inner reserves of strength and ferocity, granting her additional combat prowess. Starting at 1st level, a berserker can rage for a number of rounds per day equal to 4 + her Constitution modifier. At each level after 1st, she can rage for 2 additional rounds. Temporary increases to Constitution, such as those gained from rage and spells like bear’s endurance, do not increase the total number of rounds that a berserker can rage per day. A berserker can enter rage as a free action. The total number of rounds of rage per day is renewed after resting for 8 hours, although these hours do not need to be consecutive.

While in rage, a berserker gains a +4 morale bonus to her Strength and Constitution, as well as a +2 morale bonus on Will saves. In addition, she takes a –2 penalty to Armor Class. The increase to Constitution grants the berserker 2 hit points per Hit Dice, but these disappear when the rage ends and are not lost first like temporary hit points. While in rage, a berserker cannot use any Charisma-, Dexterity-, or Intelligence-based skills (except Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate, and Ride) or any ability that requires patience or concentration.

A berserker can end her rage as a free action and is fatigued after rage for a number of rounds equal to 2 times the number of rounds spent in the rage. A berserker cannot enter a new rage while fatigued or exhausted but can otherwise enter rage multiple times during a single encounter or combat. If a berserker falls unconscious, her rage immediately ends, placing her in peril of death.

This ability replaces heavy armor and tower shield proficiency.

Rage Powers (Ex)
As a berserker gains levels, she learns to use her rage in new ways. Starting at 2nd level, a berserker gains a rage power. She gains another rage power for every two levels of berserker attained after 2nd level. A berserker gains the benefits of rage powers only while raging, and some of these powers require the berserker to take an action first. Unless otherwise noted, a berserker cannot select an individual power more than once.

Any berserker who meets the powers’ prerequisites can select and use rage powers. Totem rage powers grant powers related to a theme. A berserker cannot select from more than one group of totem rage powers; for example, a berserker who selects a beast totem rage power cannot later choose to gain any of the dragon totem rage powers (any rage power with “dragon totem” in its title).

This ability replaces all bonus feats gained at even levels.

Greater Rage (Ex)
At 11th level, when a berserker enters rage, the morale bonus to her Strength and Constitution increases to +6 and the morale bonus on her Will saves increases to +3.

This ability replaces armor training 3.

Indomitable Will (Ex)
While in rage, a berserker of 14th level or higher gains a +4 bonus on Will saves to resist enchantment spells. This bonus stacks with all other modifiers, including the morale bonus on Will saves she also receives during her rage.

This ability replaces bravery 4.

Tireless Rage (Ex)
Starting at 17th level, a berserker no longer becomes fatigued at the end of her rage.

This ability replaces weapon training 4.

Mighty Rage (Ex)
At 20th level, when a berserker enters rage, the morale bonus to her Strength and Constitution increases to +8 and the morale bonus on her Will saves increases to +4.

This ability replaces weapon mastery.
I had hoped to be able to include a Hero Lab file for the Berserker, but it's taking me longer than I expected to figure out how to make the editor do what I want, so I'll have to post it later. But here's an archetype that does nothing but increase the Fighter's hit dice to d12. It has no other requirements so it'll stack with everything else. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Moment: The War Nobody Remembers

     The man sits alone at the edge of a small cliffside, on a planet that shouldn't exist in a time that shouldn't be reachable. He stares, impenetrably, into the distance, the lines on his face forming caverns that travel down eyes that have seen unimaginable horrors into the grayed forests that frame his perpetually scowling mouth. He looks tired, more tired than he has with any other face. Tired enough to give up completely. To check out of the horrors of this war that he didn't want to fight, and spent so long running from when he was young and dashing. But that young and dashing romantic man is gone now, leaving a hollow weapon in his place. A weapon that has expended so much ammunition it can't possibly fire anymore.

     From observing him, you would think that he is no longer paying attention. But he hears the soft rustle of bone and silk behind him and, without turning, he acknowledges the presence approaching him.

     "You shouldn't be here. It's not safe." 

     The young woman in the bone armour does not approach any further, but instead kneels almost reverently. She bows her head slightly, averting her gaze. "My apologies, Grandfather, but there is nowhere you can go that we do not see you." 

     "I'm not your Grandfather, and I want no more part of this," he grumbles, his voice at the same time soft and piercing.

     "I petition you, on behalf of what remains of the Eleven Day Empire. I petition you, Grandfather of House P-"

     "I'm not your Grandfather," he brusquely interrupts, "and your House can go hang itself, along with the rest of them. I've no more to do with this atrocity. Perhaps it's time the universe burns itself apart. Let something better take its place."

     The girl is silent for a moment, carefully considering her next words. She's one of the last of her House, having worked in secret through the war, tracking the Grandfather's movements as he cut a swath of destruction first through machinations of mutants, then through rogue elements of his own people. "Apologies, Grandf... sir. But there's something you should know. Something you wouldn't remember. Something only few remember, those who were outside it all. Our House remembers, the Sisterhood remembers, and would probably tell you, and only you, if you were only to ask the right questions."

     He turns, the first time he has moved in quite some time, taking in the appearance of his petitioner. Her armour crafted of the bones of creatures that never existed and covered in a black cloak that seemed to move of its own accord. But most importantly, her shadow, a shadow that drifts on the ground about her as if it were a sentry, and appears to be holding a rather large dagger that she herself is not.

   "Little Cousin. What's your name?" he asks, after a long moment.

     "Cousin Talia, late of House Paradox," she answers, with a hint of sadness.

     "And Cousin Talia, late of House Paradox, you are aware that your shadow seems to be holding a machete?"

     "Yes, Gra...yes, sir. I wield the Grandfather's shadow. I am all that is left. Cousin Eliza fell in an ambush, and passed the shadow to me."

     "Why are you here, Cousin Talia? Can't you see I want to be left alone? I'm tired of being swept up in a conflict that threatens to end the very universe itself."

     "Sir, there's something you should know. Something you wouldn't remember. The enemy you face now... is there any logical way they could be a threat to your people on this scale? Your people control time itself. The more ruthless amongst you could easily go back and do that which you chose not to do so long ago. Your people are weak. They were caught unaware after a greater conflict. One with an enemy that was not only greater than what you currently face, but was far older and more powerful than even your people could begin to imagine. You were in that war, you and the renegade you count as brother. You triumphed, but at great cost to the universe. Your people were too busy rebuilding time itself from the shattered fragments that were left over when the mutants attacked. Your most powerful weapons had been expended, your most potent soldiers sacrificed. That is the only reason why they threaten you now."

     The man does not respond at first to this. He turns inward, and turns away from Cousin Talia. His eyes scan the horizon physically, but internally, he is searching his memory for inconsistencies. He meditates on his past lives... and there. In the cracks of his memories. Three. Seven. Eight. The memories feel wrong, things missing, things that couldn't happen but did. Plaster, over cracks in the wall. He pushes at the crack and... there. The prior war, the one that ended before he was on a crashing ship with a pilot that hated him for being what he was.

     "You remember, don't you? Or you remember enough." She sounds almost confident now.

     "Yes. Enough. The moment has come. No more."

     He stands up, finally, and walks back towards the blue box sitting in the distance. He stops a few feet away from Cousin Talia. "Thank you. You've given me what I need. It's time for this to end."

     Cousin Talia, if you could see past her shadow and the bone shards framing her face, might be blushing when she responds, "Grandfather, it has been my honour. Spirits protect you... and watch over you." 

    As he slips the key into the door of his box, the man turns back to Cousin Talia, whispering a barely audible thank you to her, then pausing.

     "Cousin Talia, if you truly are all that is left, then surely you should consider yourself more than a Cousin, if you are to rebuild."
      She nods, before fading out in a whispering, groaning noise. He enters the impossibly large space inside his box, pressing a few buttons to set the coordinates for the Homeworld, steeling himself for what is to come. 

The Fine Print

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