Posted in Tabletop

Murdering Buffy—a dungeon master’s prospective


My sister was a Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fanatic back in the day. I’m not a huge fan of TV shows, but this was one I kind of liked, had a few very good episodes. Something that pissed me off, though? Those vampires and demons were fucking imbeciles.

The best tactic Buffy’s enemies have is walking towards her, and engaging in fisticuffs. When it has been proven, time and again, that she can best a vampire at leisure without breaking a sweat. I would argue—that’s her only advantage on vampires.

Were a vampire in Buffy’s universe, even one of the rank-and-file grunts, to exhibit a decent level of intelligence, she’d have the challenge of her life.

* * *

Ok vampires, hear me out.

First of all, you don’t need to breathe, do you? Good. Does she? Yes. Well, then, this is done. Drag her to a lake or something like that, fight her underwater. Drag her to an enclosed space, release a canister of Zyklon-B, or of one of those invisible, smell-less poison gases if you’re feeling like a dick. Heck, fill your lair with poisonous gas—who the hell cares, were you expecting guests? Let’s see her get in.

You’re a demon? Well, even better—are you immune to something? Fire? Do you see in the dark, when she doesn’t? Can you do anything to put yourself at an advantage?

Let’s talk weapons, too. Buffy basically doesn’t use guns, but you don’t have that kind of moral principles, do you? The one time a guy (a human, and a wimpy one at that) actually bothered to bring a gun, he sent Buffy in a coma and killed one of her groupies. Why the fuck are you walking to her fists up? Why don’t you get a fucking Uzi? Why don’t you bury a few mines in your lair?

Speaking of tactics: let’s talk innocents. You don’t give a fuck if a few people’s worth of collateral damage get offed, do you? Kidnap a few children, tell her you’ll filet them if she doesn’t turn herself in / let you drink blood in piece / do something suicidal. Combine with the previous tactics, maybe—lure her in your poison lair, or in a nice gun ambush.

Why didn’t you think of all these things?

* * *

Because it’s their role in the story: most of the times, vampire fights are filler in the show, so these guys just show up to be cannon fodder. It’s ok, if that’s what you’re aiming for.

But if you’re aiming for these confrontations to be memorable, the challenging ones are the ones which make for a better story. When you read about those tactics, weren’t you trying to figure out how the heroes could’ve worked around them? Wouldn’t it be exciting to see how they could overcome them?

This is doubly true for dungeon masters. There’s no excitement in defeating a kobold, but Tucker’s kobolds are legendary.

Small creatures like halflings or goblins can walk over a pit trap designed to fall under the weight of a human. Ambushing archers have no reason to ever not be behind cover, hell they might even be shooting from a slit in a wall. Fiends can teleport and summon, and should do both in order, without hesitation, when things go south.

In the fifth edition, one or two hidden first-level wizards can be a colossal pain in the rear even for high-level parties. Have them wait for the opportunity to cast Chill touch (forbids healing) or Ray of frost (slows movement). Heck, if you feel like a dick have them cast Sleep on wounded targets.

Use environments. Put a chasm in there, and have the enemy try to push players into it with Thunderwave, an Eldrich Blast (with the Repelling blast incantation) or just combat manouvers. Have the dwarves or kobolds drag your party in a low-ceiling environment where they have trouble moving.

If you want to fill some time because you don’t know how to continue the adventure, cannon fodder is fine. But these kind of encounters are the ones my players talk about, the ones they remember.

(Image from Geek and Sundry)

Posted in GamerGate, Media

Contextualizing the Crash Override Network logs

Following the release of fifteen days of chat logs of Crash Override Network, I believe some context for those could be helpful. The logs themselves have been covered in a followup.

It should be noted that the information here, long as this post is, might not be exhaustive. This post has been updated a few times since it was published, and a list of edits is at the bottom.

What is Crash Override Network?

  • CON self-describes as a “crisis helpline, advocacy group and resource center for people who are experiencing online abuse”.
  • CON has been founded and is headed by media darling Zoe Quinn and her partner Alex Lifschitz. Its staff “a network of experts and survivors”, whose identities are kept anonymous.
  • CON is fiscally sponsored by Feminist Frequency, with donations made on CON’s website going directly through Feminist Frequency.
  • According to CON’s website, they’re actively searching for partners but are not hiring individuals—people wishing to help CON are instead encouraged to complete surveys, publicize CON, or donate.

What makes CON relevant?

  • CON is a Twitter trusted resource for dealing with offensive content. It was promoted by Twitter’s @safety account.
  • CON was listed as an harassment-preventing resource by the IGDA very quickly.
  • CON launch has received an overwhelming amount of media coverage, including large outlets like BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Verge, Ars Technica.
  • CON has been accused of being ineffectual, and even a fraud. Individual members of CON’s staff have demonstrably been engaging in abuse themselves.
  • Quinn is very relevant on her own, given that she has received a colossal amount of media coverage (landing all the way to mainstream media stations), mostly covering her claims to be a victim of harassment. She has talked about her harassment in a US congressional hearing and even at the United Nations, and seemingly was at a point in talks with Sony for a now-cancelled movie deal based on her upcoming book.
  • Chat logs detailing the foundation of CON have been recently leaked. These logs feature Quinn, Lifschitz and a series of figures apparently part of CON’s staff, and show these people engaging in very questionable practices for an anti-abuse group.

What accusations has CON received, before the leaks?

Has CON head Zoe Quinn been engaging in harassment?

The media depiction of Quinn shows her as a victim of harassment—with several journalists having been caught promoting Quinn while having personal or financial ties to her, as noted below—but she has quite often been accused of abusive behavior, even in cases where media depicted her as the victim.

Has Quinn been involved in scams?

Have journalists written about Quinn without disclosing a relationship with her?

Yes, at least fifteen times. I had to cover that in a separate article.

In short, six cases of journalists who have been covering Quinn while in an apparent conflict of interest had been known for years. While making research for these posts, I found nine more instances, even with a fairly superficial investigation.

History of relevant edits

  • 1/10/16: Added link to the second part, modified section about Todd, added info about Quinn’s UN and Congress speeches and alleged movie deal. Removed section about CON members being known harassers, which was moved to the other article.
  • 14/9/16: Added Have journalists written about Quinn without disclosing a relationship with her? section and information on Andrew Todd.
  • 27/8/16: Added Has Quinn been involved in scams? section.
  • 28/8/16: Added bullet points about Candace Owen, Brad Wardell on Quinn’s harassment session.
Posted in Media

Are modern journalists afraid of Werther?

Back in 1774, one of the masterpieces of German literature, Gothe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, was met with great success. At the end of this epistolary novella, the titular character commits suicide.

Allegedly, following Werther‘s diffusion, two thousand young men committed suicide. It has come to be called the Werther effect—from the 1974 paper by David Philips, who observed spikes in suicide rates following an heavily publicized suicide, such as Dr.Ward or Marylin Monroe.

Well, if publicized suicides cause imitation, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be better not to publicize them? As a matter of fact, wouldn’t it make sense not to publicize a lot of things? For instance, not to publicize crimes committed by Syrian refugees in Germany, in order not to stimulate imitation of them? Or, worse, retaliation?

Well, the Werther effect only describes suicides, but it’s not a novel concept. At very least I can remember Micheal Moore saying something to that effect in Bowling for Columbine. Moore’s his oscar-winning documentary blames gun violence in the US on the “fear” felt by Americans, which in turn is spurred by biased news deliberately exaggerating the amount of violent crime and especially crime committed by blacks.

I can’t help but think of Moore when I think of news stories about refugees getting heavily censored on Reddit or when a journalist chooses to frame a suicidal attack by a Syrian refugee as “Syrian Refugee Killed in Blast in Germany, 12 Wounded”.

Does that actually help? Well, I’d argue it does more harm than good. The Straisand effect  is very much in action here, and “journalist deliberately muddles truth” tends to become newsworthy itself on social media, possibly giving more resonance to the events.

Well, at least we can see good intentions in this kind of system? I’d argue against that, too. Moore’s argument, the way I see it, is about sensationalism. I have a hard time reading his argument as a request to be selective in reporting, rather he seems to be encouraging less sensationalism. Not that journalist listened.

If there is a Werther effect, to avoid its negative effects we would be better off just writing the truth, avoiding clickbait. Perhaps trying to give some space to positive news.

There must be some of those. Right?