Monday, February 23, 2009

Long time, no long sentences about the sea

Here's one for the copy book (from pg. 702 of the Modern Library edition of Sodom and Gomorrah)(It's not about the sea):

"At the sound of these words, uttered as we were entering the station of Parville, so far from Combray and Montjouvain, so long after the death of Vinteuil, an image stirred in my heart, an image which I had kept in reserve for so many years that even if I had been able to guess, when I stored it up long ago, that it had a noxious power, I should have supposed that in the course of time it had entirely lost it; preserved alive in the depths of my being--like Orestes whose death the gods had prevented in order that, on the appointed day, he might return to his native land to avenge the murder of Agamemnon--as a punishment, as a retribution (who knows?) for my having allowed my grandmother to die; perhaps rising up suddenly from the dark depths in which it seemed forever buried, and striking like an Avenger, in order to inaugurate for a new and terrible and only too well-merited existence, perhaps also to make dazzlingly clear to my eyes the fatal consequences which evil actions eternally engender, not only for those who have done no more, or thought that they were doing no more, than look at a curious and entertaining spectacle, as I, alas,had done on that afternoon long ago at Montjouvain, concealed behind a bush where (as when I had complacently listened to the account of Swann's love affairs) I had perilously allowed to open up within me the fatal and inevitably painful road of Knowledge."

As I understand the novel so far, this is the key moment of the story--but to be effective it requires your knowledge of a scene from Swann's Way--nearly 2000 pages earlier.

So, spoiler alert. If only I hadn't been so stupid as to assume again that the plot was unimportant in a book of this kind, I wouldn't have spoiled for myself Albertine's eventual marriage to Saint-Loup by poking around on Wikipedia. The very last line of Sodom and Gomorrah has Marcel telling his mother that he's going to marry her. Well, at least I was able to appreciate the irony on my first read rather than later. (EDIT: I'm actually incorrect here about the events in the novel--so this is actually not a spoiler at all.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Let's see if we can't obtund this a little

Beats & Blunts.

Our Bearded Leader doesn't seem to enjoy my abstruse suggestions of Streethawkiness. My shadowy plan is swimming along now!

But a correction: I was wrong about what obtuse means--I thought it meant 'willfully uncommunicative,' like me--but actually it means 'a little bit dumb' or 'blunt.' Not like me. At all. It comes from Latin obtundere, 'to blunt,' so if you imagine the outside of an obtuse angle as the point of a spear, you can see how the geometrical meaning fits in.

But the real reason I've gathered you here today is to share the word I found while looking up the above: obtund. I've never seen or heard it before, but there it is, plain as a daisy, not even marked obsolete or archaic. It means 'to dull or deaden,' in the sense of making it less intense. I love the way the sound of it is appropriate for its meaning.

It comes from Latin obtundere as well, though this time the AHD4 defines it as 'to beat.'

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

White, Juicy, Edible Flesh

It's been a while since I posted anything that lived up to the name of this here blog, so here ya' go:

I stumbled upon this while checking the AHD4 for Lohengrin (he's not in there):

longan: An Asian evergreen tree having yellowish-brown drupes with white, juicy, edible flesh.

Yellowish-Brown Drupes are obviously a species of tunnel-gobbler (with stats very much like kobolds and goblins), but I can't imagine who would so salivate over their consumption as to require such lyrical praise of mouth-feel of their devoured bodies. . .

And the capper: longan comes from the Mandarin for Dragon Eye.

Monday, February 2, 2009

That first hit die. . .

There's something wrong with a character with just one hit point, isn't there?

I don't mean after they've been chewed on by a tunnel gobbler, or dropped into a pit of flaming snakes, or sprayed in the face by poisonous lasers--it can be fun to have one hit point then, even if only for a short time--I mean when a player rolls their first-level hit die and discovers that they spent all that time and creative energy and pencil lead--no more than 15 mintues and an index card, I hope!--to assemble the Baddest Ass In the Land just to hang all their hopes for survival on a single miserable hit point.

Sure, 3e D&D gives PCs maximum hit points at first level, but I didn't want to do that--but I also didn't know how I wanted to address the problem, so we ran some games with a 1-hit-point PC.

I liked that guy, if only for his frizzy hair--and I mean frizzy, like, electrical octopus frizzy. I was sad to see him go.

So I think I'll map starting hit points to the 3d6 bell curve: 9-12 will be 3.5 hit points, and each standard deviation higher will give you two more (the reverse for lower, natch). Tommy, that means 13+ is +2 and 16+ is +4, right? ( You see, folks, I know nothing about standard deviation, but Tommy loves it.)

How the hell can a character have 3.5 hit points? And we're Old School--we don't want to talk about 3.5.

You figure it out--oh wait, you're not going to do it this way, I am. I'm making it a 50-50 chance for 3 or 4.

Oh, I'm also making 1 hit point a partially disabled, not fit for combat situation--except in the middle of a fight. Maybe. But if you've been lying in the inn waiting for you bones to knit, at 1 hit point you're going to feel pretty stiff and puny. Maybe when an injury takes you to 1 hit point, shock can set in--or begin to set in, or whatever shock does.

And of course, these 1 hit point rules (once I figure out what they are) won't apply to the 1-hit-point cannon-fodder-type mooks. That's right, I'm going to use 4e's minion rules. I like 'em. Don't tell my players.