Monday, August 12, 2013

SUETHULU: And a Worse GM

It's been pointed out that I left out a lot of Marty's meddling. Here's an attempt to partially rectify that, especially the bits at the bar when I was trying to put together a trap with a GM who doesn't understand how burning works.

First, although this is transcluded so about 90% of my readership can skip it: this whole process involved a lot of dice rolls. Every camera needed five. Every observation needed two or three -- one to see anything and at least one to make sense of it.

Because, really, who hasn't needed to sit and think for a while about the deep significance of where security cameras are pointing? There are, of course, a ton of them, most of them centered on the alcohol store noted on the map in the last post; I only knew about them from poking my head up through the drop ceiling and looking around, and even then I "had no idea where they were pointing."

Minimum competence please, Marty. It's sitting in a corner of the room. Either Toby really likes his wallpaper or it's looking out from that corner. When I point this out, he just gets this smug little smile. "I can see where you'd get that impression."

I hated this so very much. For one thing, it's transparently a cover for his later changes to the setting to thwart me. That map in the last post is what we eventually settled on; for a while, the various rooms would shift in dimensions if not placement, and the walls went from "inches" to "several feet" thick. When I wanted to cut through them, they were impregnable; when I wanted to use them as shields, they were tissue paper.

Beyond that, though it's just so...fiddly. He did this a lot more with me than with the other players, especially this session. I think it's his way of trying to be clever, but there's a reason it's "razor wit" rather than "whiffle bat wit." Literally every other sentence was some kind of smug, ha-ha-isn't-this-clever noncomittal word game that just reeked of incipient technicalities. They'd come back, as well. "I never said [x], I said basically [x]."

He'd overuse "basically" too. I do it, I know, but at least I don't draw it out and start every declarative statement with it. "Baaasically, you can't because..." Well can I maybe know why I really can't?

But his obsession with fiddly language ran far deeper. Take this, for example:

Me: "How much weight can the ceiling tiles support without obviously deforming?"

Marty: "Roll...knowledge: architecture?"


"Okay, how about Engineering?"


"Materials science?"


"You have absolutely no idea."

"Okay, I'll determine it experimentally. I'm going to put a metal bowl from the kitchen in the middle, on top of my little scale thing, and slowly fill it with wat-"

"But then it'll break."

"I'm not filling it to breaking point. I'm putting my laser pointer in a glass on the bar, pointing it up to the tile at an angle, sticking my hand mirror on one side of the tile and marking the dot on the floor. When it moves significantly, the weight's bending the tile and mirror and therefore the light path, yeah? Then I can just read off the weight."

"Science roll even to think of that."


"Okay, fine. Repair, Engineering, Stealth, raw Dex."

<i pass them all>

"Okay, you get the bowl, laser, mirror, and water in place. The dot quivers when you add water."

"Is it moved from my mark?"

"It's quivering."

"Right, but can I tell if it's moved in any permanent sense from my original mark?

"It's definitely moving."

"Okay, so it's moved."

"Not really; it's still basically in the same place."

"Yes or no, Marty. Has the dot moved?"


Hedge, hedge, hedge. Always with that arrogant little smirk.

It gets worse, infinitely worse, when the supernatural is involved, but that's skipping ahead. It's probably an insult to your intelligence, reader, to point out that this another way to avoid making a declarative statement that can then be "twisted around" via such vicious and underhanded tactics as basic deductive reasoning.

If you're wondering why I'm fiddling with drop cielings in the first place, well, that's down to fancycrete. Obviously real concrete isn't suitable for arcology construction, and Marty here reads "advanced composites" in the Ctech book and loads onto them every smart material property ever theorized. In this case, they're "vigorously self-cleaning", to the point where nothing sticks to them, and they're "programmable" so they don't need extra voids to handle utilities. Apparently with the proper equipment you can just press armored cable into the wall and it will sink into place, and for this reason there's no cavity bigger than a junction box. The logic, it burns...

So anyway, apparently there's an exception for drop ceiling-related bolts, so rather than futz with the "harder than diamond" ultra-slippery adhesion-repelling magic concrete, I dealt primarily with the drop panels. Incidentally, apparently no one in the city has any idea how this magic building material is constructed, because it uses "such advanced nanotech it drives the builder insane." Yep. Magic, brain-melting concrete.

Now, at the same time, there are issues of measurement, especially as relates to pressure waves and the movement thereof. Apparently I have to roll for these. Not because it's hard, but because "Cael never had formal college training in scientific procedures." Using a meter stick (and I had to pay triple for a METER stick as opposed to a YARDstick) is a "scientific procedure." Okay, fine, in the sense that accurate measurement is important, but...carpenters, anyone? Just for a start?

Unfortunately, he's unshakeable on this point, and it's sticking me with a -5 penalty on all Science rolls: without formal education it's impossible to know anything. This, when he's at an institution whose teaching methodology is essentially one of neglect. This, in fact, when he wants to be an engineer. I did bring up autodidactism with him at one point. "That sounds like a high-level Telepathy power." Given the scorn he reserves for actual college classes, I can only assume college degrees are magical didactic scrolls that instantly grant the bearer encyclopedic knowledge. Don't get me wrong, college in general is awesome, but it's hardly the only way to learn anything, especially in a field where it's a full-time job just staying current. Not that Marty does, mind.

That said, he does have a point concerning availability of reference materials. Feinstein nonwithstanding, "bombmaking instructions" are everywhere from your local library to the Library of Congress. Now, I'm not advocating following them. I'm just saying it's so thoroughly embedded it'd take a concerted, intelligent, and above all expensive government censorship effort to remove-- or we could just burn all the libraries. That works too, Marty.

Yes, folks, welcome to Oceania. Wikipedia's gone, libraries are gone, and chemistry textbooks are banned. Apparently I only got my technical manuals because I inherited them; "no one sells them now." I have to say, this offended me more than the ugly-people-are-insane nonsense, although the latter is undoubtedly more offensive. Apparently the people went along with this "out of patriotic fervor." I wish I couldn't believe that.

In addition, they've also taken steps to reduce the supply of dangerous chemicals -- "and if you want it, it's probably dangerous." Chemical supply houses no longer exist, and many of the substances we've come to rely on are no longer sold. Not out of government control, perish the thought that our benevolent overlords would ever do that; apparently "no one wanted them." Instead, we have "composites" that do the same thing, "only better." They are also prohibitively expensive. So what, you might ask, does someone with a headache do when they can't afford nano-neo-aspirin? "They do without; it's not important in wartime." I ran through a list of around two hundred useful chemicals or usably pure commercial preparations thereof, none of which were particularly esoteric. Nothing doing. They don't even have baking soda anymore; I would pity every unimaginative science fair entrant with a defunct volcano if they still had science fairs.

So benevolent, the NEG. We are, by the way, skipping way ahead, but this might explain some of the more totalitarian aspects of the NEG: they're functionally a corporate state. Marty thinks, and I am not making this up, that this is a great thing, because "successful people obviously know how best to run things."

I had wondered, once, why he never really got the idea of Shadowrun.

Thankfully the total lack of industrial chemicals isn't presently relevant; I apparently have "enough" materials on hand. I need only make ten rolls per installation, covering four to six different skills depending on where it's going. Now, I don't get to know whether or not any of them will work, because of course the rolls are blind. I don't even know which roll is for which. "Just roll a bunch of d20s. I'll tell you when you're done."

And when we're all done, after everything's gone off and we're laughing over how relatively effective we all were: (Skipping ahead only slightly.)

"Of course, I was specifically giving you a chance to shine. It won't work so well next time."

How charitable of you, Marty.


  1. Quote: "Of course, I was specifically giving you a chance to shine. It won't work so well next time."

    To be honest, it is a true statement that he specifically gave you a chance to shine, because he is obviously referring to the vision and your chance to prepare the entire scene to the encounter that only you know is coming.

    The "It won't work so well next time", however, is quite true to the hypothesis that this DM does not want you (or his other players) to actually succeed at things.

    (And yes, I said "players" in that last sentence, not "characters".)

    1. Oh, I'm not doubting the veracity of the statement. I'm just laughing at the incessant reminders that we succeed solely at his sufferance.

  2. Ultra-slippery non-stick concrete... Is that what the floors are made of too?

    1. Yep. Hardwood or carpet over that, though. Or asphalt, in the case of the roads.

    2. So, by rights, you should be able to make any wheeled vehicle wipe out by busting up the asphalt layer... HA HA HA I kid, as if Marty wouldn't retcon things to make you looks stupid.

      I can't believe this bozo wants to be hired as an engineer. Please let us know who DOES hire him, so we can avoid any product of service he might work on.

    3. Wait if nothing sticks to it, and it's harder than diamond, then what keeps the hardwood, carpet or asphalt from sliding off...? The lack of logic here burns!!!

    4. In Marty's defense, you could anchor carpet by shaping the material into a ring of hooks at the edges, and assemble hardwood so that it's held in place by the walls. You might be able to do something with asphalt by making the surface textured.

  3. As someone who has suffered migraines for decades, and is currently suffering a sinus headache..I hate Marty for the aspirin thing so very much.

  4. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that Bleach and Ammonia are also banned, because 'cheap and effective' is so inferior to 'expensive, hard to get and ineffective'.

    Meh, the bad guys were probably immune to mustard gas anyway.

    1. Yeah, but even if they weren't the friendlies probably wouldn't be either.

  5. "successful people obviously know how best to run things." Said it in a different comment. He certainly is a fan of atlas shrugged then.

  6. Again, I'm just perplexed by HOW THE FUCK DID YOU MANAGE TO KEEP ALONG WITH THIS GUY. Holy shit.