domingo, 31 de enero de 2016

Respect other people's beliefs

Too many times people say things like this when what they really mean is "respect my beliefs", and especially often when it's about religious beliefs. I know a lot of people feel their religion as a part of who they are, not only something they do. A lot of them even have good memories related in some ways with their religion.

Most times those beliefs are what they were told since little children who believed whatever their parents told them, but there is time enough for that part.

The point of this post is specifically that beliefs are not something to be respected. None. But why?

Let's start with some easy ones. Think about the times you've said or been said that "you have to respect other people's beliefs" line and now think about beliefs you or they would never agree with. Like black people being inferior to white people, or women being inferior to men, or women being property, or Nazism.

If you are in a group believing the above, think about the belief that all people should be equal before the law, regardless of race or gender. Now it's easier to see that at least some beliefs don't deserve respect, right?

Now think about the occasions of that respect-beliefs sentence and realize most happen when someone openly disagrees or challenge them, often emphasizing whatever bad things it has brought in the past. That's related but a bit out of today's point. This paragraph's idea is to realize that any challenge to some beliefs is considered disrespectful by believers, so what that sentence usually mean is "you shouldn't challenge other people's beliefs"

I guess that taboo is precisely because religion or similarly held beliefs are considered a part of the believer's identity, at least by the believer, and we are supposed to respect who other people is.

First of all, no belief should be considered part of anybody's identity especially by that somebody. A belief is, by definition, something we think is true or probable, but that we can't prove, and usually something we can find arguments against. That means a choice even when usually it's not an intellectual choice but an emotional one, and as a choice is susceptible to change. That is why we shouldn't held somebody's belief as their identity.

Once we've taken that out of the way, let's focus on the evidence part. Nothing that can't be proved with enough logic should remain unchallenged. Nothing at all. If among the reasons to belief something is that it's nice to believe it, that is reason enough to doubt that belief and challenge it as soon and as hard as possible. At the very least, we should acknowledge, to ourselves if not to anyone else, that it's an opinion and that we are not trying to make other people see the truth but to convince them of our own opinion.

That is not going to prevent violence: the opinion that those things should be mine, yours or theirs have historically being argued violently. Opinions like some people are not other people's property has been violently defended, mostly by the ones being considered property. And of course the opposite opinion has been so by the aspirants to owners.

So, opinions are not to be part of what a person is, opinions are not truth, and opinions don't prevent violence in their sake. Now, what else?

Opinions should be challenged. Opinions must be challenged. First of all, by their owners and defenders, then by everyone else. No opinion deserves special treatment. No belief deserves not to be challenged, debated, argued. And, above all, opinions about how a particular god wants you to act. That's religions, the beliefs most usually getting the "respect my beliefs".

No, you don't have to respect anybody's beliefs. You should challenge every belief.

martes, 26 de enero de 2016


Es profundidad. Fuerza. Estable, siempre en el mismo lugar, aunque nunca igual, siempre en movimiento, siempre vivo. Vida. Inmensidad.
Inmensamente vivo, inmensamente fuerte, inmensamente profundo.
Tan inmenso que fuerza o profundidad son palabras demasiado pequeñas, no se puede abarcar con una sola mente.

Te sostiene, te agarra, se mezcla contigo si le dejas, haciéndote una parte de sí mismo y, después, durante un rato, eres menos tú de lo que eras pero también eres más de lo que eras.

Acaricia tu piel mientras apenas sostiene tu peso, flotando. Tú eres responsable de ti mismo, él sólo te ayuda tanto como tú te ayudes y las corrientes te acarician y te hacen olvidarte.

Olvido. Sólo eres algo que se disuelve en su lenta respiración. ¿Qué son problemas? ¿Qué son ilusiones? ¿Qué son planes? Respira hondo, despacio, despacio, duerme en mí... Cuando despiertes, tu frente estará relajada, aunque ahora sólo sabrías que está tensa si le prestaras más atención. ¿Preocupaciones? ¿Decepciones?

Es una tormenta en una montaña. Los árboles a tu alrededor, pero a unos metros de ti. El agua cae tan rápido que forma un río sobre el suelo que antes pisabas. Te empapa y te llena de risa y de energía, de felicidad por estar en el momento en el que estás. Ves los rayos como líneas fugaces de color azul y te das cuenta de que aunque supieras que vas a morir aquí y ahora nada puede disipar esta felicidad, la inmensidad del aire a tu alrededor, nubes oscuras hasta donde alcanza tu vista, árboles hasta donde puedes ver, la montaña que se alza junto a ti y bajo tus pies, demostrando lo ridículamente pretencioso que son los que se creen capaces de destruir este mundo sin darse cuenta de que nada que pudiera hacer la especie humana al completo es tan destructivo como las cosas que ya ha sufrido.
Y les ha superado, como nos superará a nosotros.

Es una niña que no existe y posiblemente no exista nunca. Una niña a quien su padre quiere absolutamente. Aplaudida cuando piensa en lo que lee, lo que ve, lo que cree. Con pensamientos sobre lo que dice, sobre lo que piensa y sobre los pensamientos que tiene sobre sus pensamientos, y más allá. Una niña feliz en el conocimiento más que tranquila en la ignorancia.

jueves, 21 de enero de 2016

Mountain's son, as 13th Age PC

Today I just want to elaborate on the different versions of character that (almost) the same story can make, in particular, Mountain's Son.
We left him as a dwarf, with the unique of having been born from a geode. I think he has 3 points in a positive relationship with the Dwarf King; as for backgrounds, he's Miner in the north mountains 4 since it's been most of his life, and then Dwarven traveler 2 and Legend seeker 2, because of the travels he's made searching clues about the meaning of his birth.

And the class is the point of that post I mentioned before. The Dwarven armored Fighter is the first image of a lot of people. He would dress in heavy armor, carries a shield and a war-pick. Maybe his helmet is made from the geode he was born from. He definitely has the Tough as Iron and Heavy Warrior talents. Defensive Fighting is a combat maneuver that makes him even harder to hurt and Carve an Opening brings me images of hacking at a foe as he picked at the mine.

Now let's make him a more primal warrior. He has not any training, after all, just natural toughness, mulishness and muscles made from mine work. Now he's a Barbarian. His gear is the same but for the armor, now lighter, maybe the hides he used to protect from cold weather or burning from melting ore. As Barbarian, two talents are clearly Unstoppable and Strongheart, letting him shrug off his foes' hits. I would probably give him the Cleave talent too, mostly because of the adventurer feat to let him heal (again), although at first level I would probably select the Unstoppable feat.

If that's not primal enough, we can make him a druid, most probably Terrain Caster adept since he has such a strong connection with earth in general and mountains in particular.

A final option, maybe more surprising to other characters and players, would be to make him into a Bard. He should have the Mythkenner talent to let him use Wisdom instead of Charisma and raise his Legend Seeker background to 4. Since he's legend seeker and not song seeker, I would take the Storyteller talent too, and probably the Battle Skald talent, to not forget dwarves are famous warriors.
Now, he does not use a shield and probably he sings without instruments, with his low, rumbling, dwarven voice. In this case, though the typical bard we have in mind is more a rapier or sword swashbuckler, I would want him to use the pick he used when mining, to not forget where he came from.

viernes, 8 de enero de 2016

The Silver Spider

Kumoel had been living at the monastery for so long he barely remembers his parents as blurry faces. Kumoel is a silver elf, as they call themselves, a dokkalfar as they were called in old times or a dark elf, as most people calls them nowadays. Kumoel has grown in the monastery since he was adopted, or so he's been told, it's not that easy to trust in what another person tells you, specially when that person gains something out of that trust.

Kumoel sits patiently, waiting for one of the masters, the highest he's ever seen, though not the highest there is. While he sits, he observes the room. The tactical factors were noticed in the first moments after entering, while the monk who showed him the way told him to wait there. A dark oblong room with luminescent fungi in pots at the points; eight columns, thick as a man, so he sat against the column in the dark enough limit, having it between him and the door.

Nothing else to do until the master arrives, so he observes the bas-relieves in the walls picturing spiders and half spider half elf creatures, the carvings in the floor making it look like a spider web, the ceiling adornments as a giant spider's abdomen, the columns sculpted as the spider's legs...
Kumoel pressed his lips: the whole monastery seemed designed by a spider fetishist, no wonder other people had prejudices against silver elves. Not that Kumoel has anything against spiders, but enough is enough.

Kumoel got up when he heard soft footsteps getting near the door, and he was ready as it opened. The soft footsteps got to the room's center and, after some moments, its owner's voice broke the silence.

You have trained for many years, we have taught you as much as we could, but there are lessons that are better learnt than taught and there are needs that need to be taken care of. Tomorrow, you will leave the monastery, you will be known as The Silver Spider and you will walk, speak and fight to help our Queen in whatever task she can't say out loud.

We, Silver Folk, have been feared and hated. Even our cousins of Wood and Sun fell under that deception, but be not angry for that hate or mindful of that fear, for it is the way of this world. Forgive their actions, for they are ignorant, for the End Times are near and the survival of the Shards lay in those who further the same goals.

Go, now, find your weapons and sleep for the last time in our sheltered refugee, for tomorrow you will be shown the sun for the first time and sent in the surface world as another thread of the web that serves the Queen.

Kumoel waited until he heard the visitor go outside and then he went out of his hiding place as quietly as he could. When he got to the room he had been sleeping for the last years of his training, he found a black leather backpack, a wire with spider shaped handles to strangulate people and throwing knives with handles in the shape of, yes, spiders. Kumoel inspired deeply, resolving to sell that conspicuous gear as soon as he could and getting something more ordinary.
For now, though, he packed everything and lay in the bed to rest, thinking. He had been training all his life to reach this point, when he'd be allowed outside, to have his own way. Of course he was willing to help the Queen of Elves, it just wasn't the only thing he wanted to do.

The monastery taught that the Sun Elves were to further the magic's knowledge and power in visible places of power throughout the lands and that the Wood Elves were to keep the natural elven lands strong and protected with more mundane methods. That was obvious enough for everyone, but the masters taught that the Silver Elves were to find ways to help the Queen that she would not be able to ask out loud without damaging her reputation with her allies. An example was the conquest of dwarven underlands through guerrilla, assassination and poison tactics, something that brought metal resources to the three Shards of the Court, while keeping the reputation damage only on the Silver Folk. The monastery of the Spider was devoted to train spies, thieves and occasional assassins, and the particular order that raised Kumoel taught that the most dangerous assassin was that who didn't looked the part. That's was the reason behind all the emphasis on unarmed and unarmored combat, since a commoner with no weapons or armor wasn't thought of as that much dangerous. Kumoel had his doubts, since the idea of calling himself a creepy name like "Silver Spider" or carrying spider-themed gear all around kind of was the opposite idea. Above all, he wanted to go out and actually see the sun and all the lands he could see. He had been in the surface a few times, but only at night, and knew more of maps and pictures of sun-lighted lands than about the actual soil and sunlight. He smiled, happy and wondering what wonderful adventures would live and what interesting people he'd know in the years to come.

Finally, he had actually started a real life.

martes, 5 de enero de 2016

Player characters in 13th Age

13th Age is a game so different from D&D versions I've played (3-5, including Pathfinder) that I just don't know where to start with what I'm enthusiastic about, but the main thing I was thinking when writing this post was that the character has a lot of times between little and nothing to do with its class.

Something that used to set me back from class-based games was precisely the rigid class/archetype thing, with multi-classing being a half-solution attempt to more flexible systems such as Ars Magica, World of Darkness or Fading Suns, in which you get a set of points for skills, talents, etc and you make whatever you can with them. Of course they have archetypes too, but the archetypes are either character concepts or lore things, not only creation constraints.

In some cases, the archetype includes personality traits because they're educated in a particular way and culture (just like us). That's the case of werewolf tribes or Fading Suns noble houses.
In other cases, it's because they're chosen by a particular group, such as Vampire clans.
The point is, there's an easy, real-world related explanation for those traits.

In the D&D versions I played, classes defined not only what were the "right" skills of other people of your class (read, class-skills) but how many points you had, so rogue and bard classes had the more general life experience of all, while fighters were usually semi-ignorant, socially challenged brutes because they hadn't the points not to be.
In 13th Age all classes have the same points because thy're not skill points but background points. You have not Perception +3, but you spent half your life as explorer in the Imperial army, so you have a Explorer in the Imperial Army +4 background.
The point idea to backgrounds may even give meaning to what have you done with your life most of the time, and solves a couple problems: one, everybody have a past, being a soldier gives you a different experience than being a rock star, but not less, only different experiences. The second problem is the typical skills importance in RPGs. Some RPGs have so many combat/survival oriented traits that you need a lot of points to be somewhat good at them, while it's easier having a social/intellectual character. Usually that's no problem because most players (as far as I've met) are not the Geyperman type, but I remember that a friend, using the skill descriptions on World of Darkness books, had not enough points to describe what he could do - being a member of army's special forces.

Anyway, on with 13th Age's backgrounds. The point I want to make is that everybody have different experiences based on their past and profession, not that much or little. I know, in real life people do have different experience levels because some people learn faster than other, but I'm not saying that 13th Age's more realistic, but that is more flexible, character centered, than other systems.

Setting backgrounds aside, let's talk about the unique thing. Every player character must have something that sets them aside from the rest of the members of the same class and race. It can be something simple but when I've played, most players have more complicated ideas that are somewhat difficult to imagine in other systems, such as being a dragon trapped in human form or the only survivor of an old battle.

Finally, there's the icon relationships. They provide a connection with the great schemers in the world (or at least the setting) This is a bit more at fault, because not all the character types are going to be related to organizations. As for a system thing, it helps relate what motivates the characters with what happens in the adventures and with the world at large.

The great thing of those three traits is that they have nothing to do with your character's class. I wanted to use a couple examples to illustrate, so let's start with The Mountain's son. That character is a dwarf because it's in its story, as for the backgrounds, I'd say at least 4 points are in something like Dwarf Miner in the North Mountain Range and there's probably some in Dwarf Rock legends because he wants to know what means its unique. Of course, that is being born of a geode. What class is he? He could easily be a barbarian or a fighter as a lot of dwarves used to pickaxes, or a druid (possibly with terrain caster) to relate with the powers of the earth. He could even be a bard if he had time to travel enough, learning legends and stories.
A second example is the Crusader's Foundling. The kid that killed his demon-cultist family have that as unique, but what class is he? Paladin, fighter and barbarian all mix well with the violent twist, but he could also be a cleric (of the dark gods of punishment and revenge, of course, Inquisitor comes to mind) Changing the hammer detail, he could be a sorcerer related with the Great Gold Wyrm's power or a monk of the Crusader's Fist's Order, an order of warriors who only have in common the hate against demons, the will to use violence against them despite the odds, and a past without weapon or armor training. Also, making it a kitchen knife or even a sacrificial dagger, he could had develop his talents into being a rogue to infiltrate other cults or stealth missions to assassinate cult leaders while the main forces attack the cult's base. Or he could be a demon hunter, a ranger. In every case he knows about demons and cults and most probably have some skill at stealth (he freed the other children without the need to kill every cultist, after all)

Both characters' stories relate to what they know, what they do and what their allies are, but not to what class they are. I know, you can use the unique and the relationships in other games, but in 13th Age you have to, and that forces you to think about who your character is, how the world is and how they relate to each other, setting you in the mood.