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Progressive Is Elementary

So, I recently had an epiphany about why I am so pissed off at all the Right’s lies and failure to treat everyone as people. The Tea Party made all kinds of noise about a “secret Muslim” President, Confederate flags fly all over my home city, and some folks want me to join a theocracy for a religion I no longer hold. And it dawned on me. I’m pissed at the state of my country because of what I was taught growing up. I said the Pledge every day in elementary school and I realized that “with liberty and justice for all” is an outright lie. Liberty and justice are for those with money. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is allowable only if you can afford it. I also wonder, if life and pursuit of happiness are rights, how can universal healthcare not be the law. Chronic conditions damn sure interfere with one’s livelihood and damn sure can make pursuit of happiness impossible. On top of that, poverty and racial injustice help ensure whole swaths of people just don’t get a fair chance. So, if you want to know why I’m a progressive, it’s because a little kid who said the Pledge grew up to see just how far from reality that little chant is.


Agents of Chaos

Aliza, the wanton harlot of a Mind Melter was recruited by the freshly awakened and weak goddess Asherah to be champion for the goddess’ cause on earth. Thus far she has found a high priestess for a temple in Juarez and, in Asherah’s name, placed a shrine in Timbuktu for the Gathering of Heroes that fought the Apocalypse Demons. Aliza, with the party, defeated Death when Mot went to the tomb of his ancient foe, Baal. Two more Horsemen were banished as well.

The party is nominally led by Anna Maria, a Jamaican pirate fathered by Zeus. Her ship is the Revenge and she bears a magic orb of indeterminate origin. Anna was hired to sail the orb to the pirate lord Kryang. Naturally, Kryang was angered by her failure to deliver the orb and placed large bounties on her head. To keep her crew safe, she gave up sailing, during which time she met the party, fell in love with a Cyber-Knight and his wife. Part of her crew acquired another ship, Le Phareon, and sailed off to find her while the rest crewed the Revenge with one of the crew, Ousmane, impersonating her.

Niasa is a newly minted pirate and former Eutrapid Atlantean. The clan worships a corrupt version of the Fates that has them holding a rigid cast-structure. Niasa shed her former identity, even holding a funeral for the Undead Slayer named Pherenike. Niasa changed her wardrobe on the urging of her mate, the notorious pirate and womanized, Marchand Lery. A lifetime of pent up frustration at her fate manifested in Burster abilities after she arrived in Africa, where her clan calls home.

The only willful agent of chaos, Sky Masterson, is a fallen demon now aligned with the party for self-preservation. Sky was a powerful demon lord until he crossed Thoth and lost much of his power and knowledge. He wandered the mortal planes…


Ok,wow, I don’t know how this draft went unpublished for four years. Bad me.

Marketing Salvation

I came to a realization about some strains of Christianity recently. Their brand of salvation used the same formula as marketing does. Both start by presenting a problem then offering a solution via their product. Marketing uses this formula, such as hard to remove stains in clothes or insufficient athletic performance. The solution is their brand of detergent or shoes, respectively. Give the audience a need then offer them the perfect solution. “Christianity is the only religion that addresses the problem of sin” works exactly the same way. The statement introduces a problem. And the solution is acceptance of their theology and christology.


I had a realization about GMing, at least for me. I work better when I have a definitive plot arc for the players to run through. I like them to know what it is, too. After my previous Juarez games collapsed under their own inertia, I decided to try a clear goal for the party to work towards. This try involved the party retrieving the scattered bits of Osiris. Isis would like to get them back, Set would like her not to. Hilarity will ensue. I managed to get the party rolling without a single quest-giving NPC. Rather they figured it out after finding a deific treasure map on a minion of Set they fought and killed. The pieces were scattered through space and time because the game is Rifts and dimensional travel is almost mandatory.

I would like to pick up once things settle down, but between adjusting to teaching four Adult Studies classes, taking a class so I can teach more classes, and an anticipated move, I lack the spare brainpower to keep the party going at the moment.

Nebuchadnezzar II, a king with issues.


With Halloween upon us, I thought I’d write about Nebuchadnezzar II, the great king of Babylon, the one known for building one of the most elusive wonders of the ancient world.

Now, unless you’ve read up on this famous king, or are familiar with the bible, you’re probably wondering what Nebuchadnezzar has to do with Halloween, so I’ll get right down to it…

King Nebuchadnezzar was a werewolf!

Well, he thought he was, anyway. We think. It is believed that King Nebuchadnezzar II suffered from lycanthropy, what Merriam-Webster defines as “a delusion that one has become or has assumed the characteristics of a wolf.”

Conversely, Melissa Barrett writes in her article, “Real Werewolves: Three Cases of Lycanthropy,” that “…clinical lycanthropy is often offered as a secular explanation for the biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzar.”

In my research to put this post together, I found all kinds of sources referring to…

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Distressing Planet

Towards the end of my third try at Running Hell’s on Fire, I found an overarching plot to apply to the game. I used the Edict of Planetary Distress from the Mechanoids sourcebook. There are seven threats and four demons whose presences are causing psychic visions the world over.

The four demons are the Apocalypse Demons, Death, Famine, Pestilence, and War. Death was the god Mot, an ancient, western Semitic deity worshiped in Ugarit. After he was cast down with the rest of his pantheon, Mot made a deal with the Angra Mainu and spread desolation everywhere he went. The party managed to stop three of the four, including Death. The Gathering of Heroes still seeks War in Africa.

The Devouring Swarm was the Mechanoids, but I changed it. The Mechanoids came as presented, but they ran afoul a Necromancer and his minions. Between a pair of Murder-Wraiths and an undead Psi-Mechanic, the Mechamoids fell to their own robotic creations. The Swarm is, instead, a vast host of zombies from another earth. The Necromancer brought the zombies to earth in Dee Sea. His minions were stopped partially by the party and partially by the efforts of the Coalition States armies. The Swarm was beaten back, but not destroyed entirely.

While the threat in a small kingdom is still Merlin (I hate the spellings used in Rifts England), he is not some alien intelligence because Rifts has far too many of those. I prefer human (or formerly so) threats. Merlin Satanson is a scorceror and Nightlord in hiding. He is slowly building his forces and the Kingdom of Camelot with a Warlord named Arthur and his Nexus Knights. Merlin even sent a contingent to Africa, led by Sir Wolfram, who is an Ashmedai. His Nexus Knights are Hounds while many knights are Namtar.

The final, twenty-years-distant threat is Chronos. His orb, carried by Anna Maria, has been setting events and minions in motion to bring his return about. Should he succeed, he will cause much destruction, starting with Atlantis and Europe. He considers the Splugorth colony intruding on his territory and Europe housed some of the descendants of Atlantis.

Old Problems

The term Biblical fanfiction amuses me greatly. I understand it’s a reference to contemporary fiction with biblical elements or subject matter.  I cannot help but think about Christianity setting canon to counter what may be called fanfic. Christianity has long struggled with biblical fanfic. All those Gnostic heresies were rooted in texts deemed non-canonical by Catholic and Orthodox judgment.  Sometimes that fanfic almost makes it into the Bible. Jude made the cut, though a text Jude refers to (Jude 1:6 refers to the Apocalypse of Watchers in the Book of Enoch) did not.

Intellectual property and copyright infringement may be new concepts, but they are old phenomena.  What texts are and are not acceptable to use have been debated for as long as humanity has made texts. The only difference is while Christians (or any religious group) can wail and scream louder, George Lucas (whose understanding of canon merits other discussion) and Disney can call their lawyers.


Here I will go over some of the active or ready to activate plotlines from Hell’s on Fire.

Asherah by the Sea is reclaiming her power with a champion in Aliza and high priestess at a small temple in Ciudad Juarez. As importantly,  the party was able to stop Death before he could siphon off the remnants of Baal’s power before sending the slumbering god to oblivion. Their rescue of the storm god is important, for without him, she is likely unable to rebuild her shattered pantheon. Not only did Aliza help save Baal, she did so by engaging his ancient foe, Mot, in melee combat. Baal will be pleased, if she  can wake him.

Lord Azheria of the Aerihmanus Atlanteans is obsessed with power and unknowingly under the sway of Chronos, who is using the clan in a big to free himself from Tarterus and retake his throne from Zeus. Azheria began exiling political dissidents  on an alternate earth overrun by zombies. These unfortunates are stranded without access to their magic and left as zombie food.  The party recently rescued one of their own from disposal by zombies, though none know exactly who sent him there.

The aforementioned Chronos has been quite busy, though via intermediaries. Azheria is under the Titan’s influence, though Chronos does not expect the rogue clan to contribute to his freedom. Rather, a particular orb was set loose upon earth with his freedom as its goal. To that end, it created a clone of Cody the half-Atlantean Cyber-Knight. The clone is working with a Necromancer named Maharet and a resurrected Rathos named Crab. Nega-Cody and crew are working towards Chronos’ freedom and keeping earth out of rival beings’ hands. They thus have fought the followers of Death, including Haggis, vampires, and the Church of El. The orb’s influence is mitigated by its bearer, Anna Maria, though it also tries to corrupt the demigoddess to its service.

To the south, the Vampire Kingdoms stir as (insert kingdom here), at Death’s bidding, began a war of expansion, starting with a rival kingdom. The dispossessed kingdom sought a new home in Ciudad Juarez during the Night of Blood. The city survived and the group gained an ally in the vampire known as Gash. Gash claims to be daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstauffen. The party is skeptical of her claims but has benefited from her abilities. Thus far, Reid’s Rangers have kept the vampires from expanding, but how long they can do so is questionable. Raoul Lazarius was wounded in battle and not been seen for some time. Likewise, Carlotta the White, Sir Raoul’s lover has disappeared.

An unnamed necromancer  has assembled a formidable assortment of undead to assist him in spreading death to the world. He is a worshipper of Mot but does not carry the mad being’s grudge against specific deities.  He used the dimensional disturbances from the Mechanoid invasion to gain access to a dimension of zombies, proving Azheria’s dimensional disposal is not as foolproof as he hoped. Among the necromancer’s undead servants are (or were), Roxy (Headhunter, destroyed), Haggis (Murder Wraith), Wez (Murder Wraith), Caranthir (Biomancer, destroyed), Hafgan (Temporal Warrior), Tinkerbelle (Psi-Operator), and Ashkii the Tormented (Psi-Stalker). The party only met Haggis, Wez, Roxy, Caranthir, and Tinkerbelle’s work. The Shemarrian the party rescued in DeeSea narrowly escaped Tinkerbelle while a number of Skelebots and Mechanoid Thin Men accompanied Roxy.

The King Under the Mountain, Frederick II, lies entombed at Kyffhäuser. While his daughter, Lady Margery of Palermo, has the ritual to restore the emperor and his army of knights and footmen to life, she does not know where his tomb lies.  Lady Margery became a master vampire known as Gash after her father’s wars with the papacy. After the Night of Blood, Anna-Maria used a ritual created by Michael Scott (an amchemist in Frederick II’s court) to restore some of Margery’s humanity. She now goes by Meg and is a Wampyre.

Maybe next I’ll untangle the PC and NPC backgrounds and relationships. I’ll try and simplify them to merely convoluted.


As anyone familiar with Rifts knows, there is a multitude of pantheons from several religions from all over the globe that are part of the canon. The number of religions noted as real present a cosmological problem as they all have independent, differing creations and afterlives, which are not as problematic as the preponderance of chief deities, evil divinities, and apocalypses.  But to me, the most glaring omission for a setting supposedly directly descended from modern day earth is a lack of Abrahamic religions.

The Old Ones loom in the background for Palladium and solve some of the cosmological questions such as creation and why pantheons are not universal. The gods are not the top of the food chain. Nor is there an overriding good/evil dichotomy. The great evil, the Old Ones, slumber and have done so for uncounted eons. While some cosmological conflicts are light versus dark, others are personality issues, lines of succession (Zeus, anyone?), and other, somewhat mortal motives. I do this because I find gods are amplified, magnified, and more powerful mortals.

The biggest cosmological struggle on earth fixes Palladium’s glaring omission of the Abrahamic faiths. El, a western Semitic chief deity  looked to expand his dominion. He absorbed other portfolios and even stripped his wife, Asherah, of her power and authority. His power gradually expanded until he was the only divinity left in his pantheon. Even his seventy sons were cast down for his ambition. El’s people then were conquered by the Romans. El fathered one last son, to be a military leader and rule an empire. Instead this son rebelled and taught compassion, love, and understanding. El’s priests killed the son and gradually took Rome anyway. El even branched out and infiltrated another set of Semitic tribes, though that attempt ended up warring with the church his son began. All the while, the other gods were pushed further back and lost progressively more power.

An old servant of El, named Mot, was cast out as well. During his banishment, he encountered Angra Mainyu, a cosmologically evil primary deity. Mot, who fed off mention as the apocalyptic being Death, became a willing servant of Angra Mainyu whose purpose of the destruction of all life. The other allies of El to survive were his consort, Asherah, and Baal, the storm god he suppressed to break the power of the other gods in his pantheon. Asherah and Baal lingered, slumbering on, barely sustained by the trickle provided via their incomplete purge.

The other lasting effect from El’s ambition was a pact among the remaining gods. After the Coming of the Rifts, those deities with power to manifest met and made an accord that none should attempt becoming universal powers like El had. Should any try, the others would band together to destroy the usurper. The signees also do not directly intervene in mortal affairs beyond a personal level. Unlike with Arjuna and Achilles, the gods would not interfere with empire-making so long as the cosmological order is not threatened. This agreement does not cover more intimate meddling, thus semi-divine children abound. Zeus has gleefully taken advantage of this allowance, as have many others. Such offspring often become agents of their godly parent, though not always willingly.

Some gods, such as Loki, Set, Tiamat, and Ravana refused to agree.  Most New World gods have agreed to the peace, though they remain wary of the Old World gods after what their people endured at European hands. Though shaky, the peace is largely maintained by a tribunal of justice-inclined deities such as Tyr and Athena. Demon and devil lords like Modeus have a vested interest in mortal souls but seldom personally venture into mortal realms, though their underlings may and frequently do.

Tone and Setting

I ought to say something about GMing if I’m going to claim to be a BastardGM.

My settings tend towards the Homeric. I want the PCs to be the doers of great (and sometimes horrific) deeds. I’ve been mulling it a while, but a friend helped cement my understanding of what I aim for. I picked on him for some of his artwork. He often does space opera themed work, but invariably, there will be an ancient, inhuman, terrible thing come up. He replied that “that’s what happens when you discover Lovecraft during your Star Wars obsession.” I grew up first reading Greek and Roman myths. I have used the names from obscure myths I don’t even remember reading, a fact I only realized twenty years later.

Due to my Homeric inclination, I prefer the PCs be remarkable in skill and ability. PCs with divine heritage, legendary prowess, and other exceptional traits. Since I GM Rifts, such PCs do mesh into the setting and system as well as anything can be said to mesh in Rifts. I expect the PCs to do great deeds, whether heroic or terrible. I prefer the heroic, but some PCs just have to be horrific on occasion.

Also due to my Homeric perspective, I do not care as much for armies with giant robots to be featured. While I admit there is some room for Homeric figures in heavily mechanized combat (the Red Baron, Roy Fokker,  Miriya Parina Sterling, etc.), I prefer more intimate combat, where the opposing parties may converse. By the same token, I dislike mass combat where armies are involved. Since I use Rifts, it’s much easier to avoid armies since the combat system is slow for even smaller groups. I shudder to think of a large-scale engagement run via Palladium.

While I use SDC rules for Rifts (and have yet to come up with a scaling method I like), most of my changes are in making  Rifts a whole world rather than a ton of crazy ideas cobbled together with duct tape and bailing twine. While this occasionally requires some mechanic tweaks, it usually involves reworking the setting, such as explaining how competing cosmologies and pantheons can exist without one being right and all others being wrong.  I also address Palladium’s omission of Abrahamic faiths, which I find puzzling given its modern-day settings and heavy use (often butchery) of real-world mythologies.

And, in counter to my friend’s Lovecraftian evils, I prefer evil with a human face.Where Rifts includes so many Alien Intelligences that one cannot sneeze without tripping over one, I keep them few and far between. The only known AI in my campaign is Splynncrynth, the Splugorth lord of Atlantis, who is hardly alien at all if in motivations and demeanor. Though Splynncrynth’s body is a giant eye with too many tenticles, his outlook and mentality seem very human. I do however, use gods, but I have precedent from Homer, who had the gods directly involved in human affairs, even when not having affairs with humans.