Archive for September 16, 2017

I really stepped on this bitch!

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I step on bees…barefoot. No lie GI, I literally step on bees. And get stung on the same left foot every time. This has happened three times in my life to date. Walk across the grass as a kid while on a family vacation – YEEEEOOOW! Go to the beach with other parts of my family a couple years later (it was black, might be a wasp) – YEEEEOOOW! Go many, many years with nary an incident while making sure every bee in my field of view stays in my field of view, if you see them they’re not the problem. Let them do their pollination thing well away from the more deadly of a farmer using neonicotinoid pesticides or me on a mild bee freak out. 

I was going so well until this week when a bee enters my living room. There’s a small hole in my balcony screen that seems to let occasional bugs in, but few out. I had the door open because shit it’s hot. It buzzes around scary me just enough to reach for the nearly empty bug spray can leftover from moving in. Sometimes it’s the noise. Other times the little fucker dive bombs me trying to figure out why my light fixture that could look like a flowering tree isn’t producing nectar and baking the shit out of her with CFC radiation.

This goes a couple days where I really don’t like my time on my favorite couch with the bee overhead. No, I don’t do full blown phobias, but I am nearly grinding my teeth as I read, write and watch TV. I reached for the can at least twice spraying it like a duck hunter giving off warning shots. I need the bee-specific version of the ballistic missile defense radars from the Sixties because I’m not even coming close to making bee meet bug spray. Little yellow and black bitch will get a Strategic Draw Declare Victory and Go Home result largely because she’s too stupid to reverse course through my screen out the way she came.

So two nights ago, there’s no bee. I’m doing my thing barefoot and then there is the bee. I get the can. I step around between the coffee table and the TV. I put the can down on the coffee table. I wonder if I just close the door and wait her out instead. Sure enough, I put my left foot down on the one of many throw rugs covering my crap carpet and – YEEEEOOOW! – feel a familiar sharp sting running through my left heel.

I don’t see anything but what may or may not be a stinger left in me probably with Captain Ahab’s curse translated into Bee – “From hell’s heart, I stab at thee…” I yank it out with pliers and the venom reds up my foot for the next few days. Judging from the lack of buzzing on the nights in between, I got the bitch…pyrrhic victory. I confirmed the body count walking through the spot I stepped near just before this writing session (see picture).

Now, how do I look less like a douche being the guy who steps on bees, the last one on his own carpet? I know! There’s got to be an RPG monster in here somewhere! Because, if I can’t milk this moment overblowing this moment the way Peter Benchley nearly ass-fucked Great White Sharks with Jaws, I’m not sure why I have my imaginary creative license.

I’m pretty sure Dungeons & Dragons has already covered the giant deadly versions of Apis Mellifera (honeybee). Giant bees and wasps have been a feature of adventure movies since forever. Insects just look like they’re out to get you; probably it’s the compound eyes. So why not scale them up to get the most bang for your scare investment?

Original Battlestar Galactica tossed the survivors of the ragtag fleet onto a planet where their alien hosts welcomed them with open arms promising food and rest. They discovered the honeycombs into which anesthetized humans were shoved into next to an egg (typically a wasp behavior, but who’s counting?) somewhere around the third commercial break. Apollo and Starbuck shot it out trying to save the ones they could and then they discovered the deal with the Cylons. I’m surprised Adama didn’t order the planet blown up Death Star style with one of the Galactica’s three big missiles later used to blast a basestar.

Ringo Starr famously squished a bee sized about like a dinner plate (too large for normal bee and too small for giant bee) onto his friend’s face in Caveman. The point was a green and goopy joke getting all over the guy’s face. I’m pretty sure Ray Harryhausen didn’t include giant bees or wasps in his movies because the great stop motion artist might have been too busy with skeletons, genies, flying horses and scorpions to get around to it. So, of course, there is a listing in the Miscellaneous Beast section of the Monster Manual for Giant Wasp (tomato, tom-ah-to) and Swarm of Insects. Someone’s paying attention to the things that scare the shit out of us in our dreams.

However, the assumption is RPG wasp/bees will act like wasps and bees flying around searching for food or defending nests. Images of adventuring parties swinging swords and trying to get the right bead with the arrows should now flood our imaginations. None of which allows me to flog my dead hobbyhorse of bees that lurk on my carpet just waiting to ambush me, by inflicting the same on countless players to come.

Bees that wait in ambush? I’m thinking of a bee that flies just ahead of the party and burrows into the ground ahead just like a Trapdoor Spider tasting the vibrations in the ground and wait for it…wait for it…pounces just when the big juicy fighter gets too close. Does she go for the fighter with all those muscles smacking her mandibles at all that protein? Does she go for the guy in the funny robe and hat remembering the last time the wizard blew up wrong taking out three of her sisters?

Frankly, I don’t know. You, Dear Reader, are more likely to get into a game before I do and each Dungeon Master will do his or her evil thought energy the way that feels best. Bees that lurk in ambush will spark an interesting backstory tap dance for how bee/wasps with known behaviors suddenly come out of the egg as the unholy love child with a Trapdoor Spider. Each DM deciding to do something a little different will invent the right mix of behavior to get the most out of the bee. Do they have epi-pens in the Forgotten Realms? More importantly, cans of Raid and matches?

Will I use Giant Trapdoor Bees myself as a monster? Ask me when I break the pattern for much of my entire RPG life (game implodes after three sessions on average) and I resume being the sadist behind the DM Screen. Will I have to do penance because bees are good things that pollinate plants and write a positive representation to get out from under hypothetical silly people who can’t take a joke? Probably not, everybody squirms just a little bit around bees and wasps. Take your pollination a little further down the road, Missy!

Inspiration? Perhaps…

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Yeah, yeah, even I’m already tired of bragging up my various RPG characters. But, if you read further there ain’t no braggin’ here. Si-Yun the Fighter…well, he’s playable, but I quickly tired of his motif after one session. Why? The concept that sounded so good between my ears just seemed ridiculous laid out on a gaming surface. What does he do? He throws rocks and baseballs at your head. 

So there I am on my periodic Meetup expeditions trying to find a game that doesn’t require that I A) give up my sacrosanct Wednesday night writing session or B) drive long ways in unfamiliar traffic. I find a Culver City game. I sign up. We meet at a gaming store set in the mushy spaces on the map between Culver City and Fox Studios. The DM tells us to use the point allocation system buried on the last page of the character creation section in the current Player’s Handbook where the player starts with average stats and applies a set number of points to get the results he or she wants.

I take a few days thinking up the concept sure to kill every freakin’ monster in the room. I wasn’t even watching any baseball when I had this brainwave to go for a rock thrower. Suddenly, I’m goofing around with baseball players, specifically pitchers. Si-Yun…Cy Young. Yeah, heavy-handed metaphor is one of my fortes when developing certain types of characters.

Once Cy Young becomes Si-Yun, I’m not going to spoil the concept by actually looking up the pitcher for whom the pitching award is named on Wikipedia. I think he’s a right-hander but why spoil a character with too many facts? Doesn’t matter, I’m a righty with a marked sense of wonder for the few southpaws among us as in – “How the hell do you throw stuff without getting all disco-bobbed in your shoelaces?” So I play righties. Always have.

Naturally, choosing a rock thrower with a folk hero background, probably means I’m world famous in Poland (or local equivalent) for being the guy that hit the scary crows with a rock during the bird invasion. It means optimizing my stats for three fifteens (Strength, Constitution and Dexterity) and three elevens including race bonuses for human. And double specializing as a fighter in rock throwing, along with quarterstaff and dagger.

So have a bag of tennis ball sized rocks will travel. Designing a pitcher as itinerant hero still seems a good idea to me. I’m making jokes about being a four-weapon pitcher. I have a rising four-seam fastball signaled from the catcher as Number One. I have a sinking two-seam fastball as Number Two. A big curveball as Number Three. And a hard slider in the Number Four slot. Fancy blovius for “I’m throwing at your head Mr. Ogre.”

It wasn’t until a little later that my dark imaginings about a baseball character motif naturally led to some funny, in the abstract, thoughts. You throw at the ogre (orc? Whatever). You miss close moving him back a few feet from the inside corner. Now, if we really dive deep on the baseball metaphor, does this now mean the ogre must now whistle to his buddies for a bench-clearing brawl in which they curse your parentage as they swing with ejections, suspensions and fines to follow? Oh, right, it’s already a fantasy RPG us or them pub brawl. Who would notice? In all cases, better get him in the ear, Si-Yun.

I must’ve also imagined the real world results of too many bean balls inflicted upon batters or the similar ugly results of the frozen rope shot straight back to the pitcher’s mound. They’ve listed pitchers getting hit in the head as a risk factor for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). I remember players and base coaches on my team, the Dodgers, taking fearsome shots usually just below the ear that messed them up for a long time.

However, real world head trauma isn’t exactly well reflected in the mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons. A sharply thrown rock has really always been a mere D4 in damage. True, I throw my fist-sized rocks and replenish by searching the riverbeds or back alleys for new rocks, brick chunks, road pavers and actual baseballs so ammunition is free everywhere. And equally true, there are really good reasons to have at least a few of the steely-eyed missile men in the party throwing stuff that specifically deals out blunt force trauma: skeletons, zombies, or Giger’s alien xenomorphs. I’ve been in parties that have fought all three.

Maybe you want to break bones for double damage (is that still a rule for skeletons?). Or the monster is basically contagious (I’m looking at you Abercrombie the Zombie). Lastly, the beast might’ve been built by a dungeon master on a bad no coffee day to wipe you out in a spoilsport acid bath after the fact. Blunt force missiles do help the party survive.

So after one play session, why did I suddenly walk back Si-Yun from being a great idea to an okay, playable concept? I’m not sure if it’s my natural ADHD fickleness with characters (I have switched out characters in the past to the groans of certain DMs). Or, perhaps, with a folk hero background that likely says I’m an ambassador for baseball in whatever campaign world I find myself with Si-Yun, that I just didn’t want to talk like a baseball player turned adventurer at the gaming table. How many ERA stats can I bloviate about? Quite a lot if I care, which truthfully isn’t much except when it’s November ball and the Dodgers have survived their traditional August slump.

 And let’s not underestimate that at D4 blunt missile damage throwing rocks just doesn’t do damage quickly enough for the average bloodthirsty RPG player. I’ve played with out and out bloodthirsty (Set Phasers for Deep Fat Fry!) characters in the party. More often than not the bloodthirstiness, even among good characters, is simply the basic survival instinct of – “Maybe the idea is to be the guy that always brings a shotgun to a pistol fight.” Peace through superior firepower, indeed.

So there you have it, a small piece of my character generation thought process…for what it’s worth.