Posts Categorized: Prose

Interactive Museum of Physics and Engineering

Nothing reminds you that you’re 40 quite like a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain. I used to go religiously, in that our church group had an annual field trip to the theme park, but that was back when Goliath was new and Viper was arguably the baddest coaster on the block. And hamburgers cost a nickel, and you had to trek to the line for Ninja uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow, with nothing but your own wits to guide you. The park map isn’t too big an improvement, by the way.

My younger brother was with me, whom the wife requested to take her place since she isn’t the roller coaster type. Before the trip, he popped a pill to counteract motion sickness. He offered me one and I declined because uphill, both ways, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t win The Battle of Hoth without the use of dramamine. (Um, we lost Hoth, man. Wait, which side were you on?)

First was The New Revolution, which was The Old Revolution but with VR goggles. Great concept, but I’m not sure the technology is quite there yet. The framerates were too low and caused motion sickness as it was. The motion tracking seemed a little off, and looking around in a virtual environment while The Old Revolution did its thing was already going to be a little disorienting even without a technology gap. When better VR comes in, I’m sure these types of things would be great.

Next on the list was X2. I hadn’t been on the original X and was thus concerned that I couldn’t follow the story in the sequel. Spoiler Alert: There is no story. There’s a lot of EXTREEEEEEME branding around the line, though along with a Monster drink tie-in. When we got on the ride, I turned to my brother and confessed that I was actually nervous about this one. On the second ride of the day, that great epiphany hit me – I’m nowhere near my 20’s, and all the roller coaster technology I’d become familiar with growing up will soon feel like the thrill I had when I first went down a playground slide. VR was one thing. X2 promised to hurl me through a track in angles I’d not experienced before and I honestly wasn’t sure how that was going to work out. “It Had To Be You” interrupted by Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on the speaker system hyped the climb, as if to get one last Old Man joke in there before the drop. Then controlled turmoil and a semi-obstructed view as I tried to make sure my glasses didn’t fly off. Then it was done and I made it through.

Next was Tatsu, which, while milder than X2 (though what isn’t?), did give a great view of that large loop right before you plunge into it headfirst. At ride’s end, we waited to disembark, granting a few moments to reflect on the life choices that led me here, hanging by a harness on a culturally appropriated metal monster. Brains sufficiently rattled, we had lunch.

Afterwards, we went on the Superman ride, geeking out about Mag-Lev technology and the whoooosh as the car accelerated to 100MPH in 6 seconds. There were discussions about Elon Musk and the Hyperloop along with TV recommendations that I’ll need to catch up on.

Then the obligatory trek to the Batman ride, stopping to take a selfie near the Batmobile. The ride itself wasn’t overtly thrilling and I felt a little guilty that I did it just because I was a fan of the character. Comparing between Superman and Batman, the superhero with the dead Martha lost this day.

We sat down again and looked at Goliath. “I remember what Goliath did to me last time I was here. There’s no point going through that again.”

“Did you black out?”

“No, but I think I knew someone who did. Either way, I didn’t feel well afterwards.”

The last ride we went on was Twisted Colossus, which had been a re-imagining of the iconic wooden coaster which is now more metal than wood. The park built an entire steampunk theme around it, which was really nice. The ride was smooth, with just the right amount of “holy crap” and enough downtime to recover from the first part of the track and anticipate what the second go-round brings. It was a great coaster to end with.

I accept that I’m an old man. I’m sore from yesterday. I’m pretty sure I have bruised shoulder blades but I’m not sure which ride’s safety harness did that. I didn’t ride all the thrill rides and I was ok with that. I was satisfied knowing I could have survived them all if I wanted to, but the brain-wobbling headache wouldn’t be worth that badge of faux honor. I survived X2, it should follow that I could deal with the rest. Maybe when I turn 50, they’ll have a ride called SpaceX2 which uses Magnetic Levitation to shoot you to the edge of space and back. Maybe they’ll finally consolidate Log Jammer and Jet Stream into one extremely long, moderately exciting log flume ride called Jet Log. Maybe they’ll fix VR by then, too.

Dungeons and Dragons Online Vignette – Two Weeks A Cleric

Estocean was less than mediocre as a human paldin.  That is, he thought it would be great to be a cross between a fighter and a cleric and ended up being horrible at both.  At level 18, he couldn’t tank, he couldn’t do enough damage, and he certainly couldn’t heal.  One day the gods bestowed upon him a second chance: a +20 Heart of Wood with which he could undo all the horrible choices he had made in life.

He didn’t want to deviate too far from his current build.  After all, he already had good armor and a few shields to choose from.  He wanted to make a difference in a group, and most of all, he wanted to be accepted.  The choice, he thought, was obvious — he was going to be a cleric.

A +20 Heart of Wood is a curious thing.  Normally, becoming a cleric took years of devoted training, a bit of book learning, and eventually a certificate of ordination from bought for a few plat and a promise not to get too much into necromancy.  With the +20 Heart of Wood, this all happens within a few minutes.  First you are a poor excuse for a paladin and three minutes with some new and improved horrible choices later, you’re a poor excuse for a cleric.

There he was, Dungeons and Dragons’ latest worst babysitter.  As a cleric, however, he found that people seemed more polite to him.  Even as he floundered through casting healing spells, resurrecting people he couldn’t save, and making numerous rookie cleric mistakes, people didn’t seem to mind.  He apologized a few times for his ineptitude and the other party members deflected blame away every single time!  Inept paladins never get that kind of break.  Maybe it was true — everyone does love a cleric!  Seriously, this sort of treatment is usually reserved only for clerics…and extremly high skilled trapmonkey rogues.

Estocean went from level 18 to level 20 in a couple of weeks with a large part of the XP gained by grouping with adventurers happy to have a cleric.  At the moment he turned 20, as if guided by a malevolent god, he walked towards the hall of heroes in the marketplace.  He was finally accepted, he thought.  People were finally happy to see the good cleric, he thought.  Why am I being led to the hall of heroes, he wondered.  He didn’t notice that his god had placed a True Druidic Heart of Wood in his backpack.

Estocean woke up on the shore of a sandy beach.  He was a level 1 Elf.  He noticed, though, that he was a little bit taller than the elves he remembered seeing.  Given a choice of weapons, he was inclined to pick a rapier but what he really wanted was a bow.

On Being John the Baptist

Years ago, I spoke of a boy in prophecy, a youngling with the skating stride of a three-legged dog on ice. Almost in silent secrecy, we knew and understood what we had in our midst. We assumed the roles of protectors, nurturers, shapers, fearing that unleashing the boy onto an unsuspecting world would be at the very least irresponsible, and at the very worst, destructive. It was foolish to think we had this sort of power.

Two days ago, I came to hear this boy’s message but the boy was nowhere to be found. Instead there was this man who spoke passionately to the crowd. He spoke of the new gods. He spoke of dragons. He told them the story of the necromancer. His was a voice in this revolution, and he made them believe.

To say that we are proud of him is to state the obvious. We know what he is capable of, and if the prophecy is to be believed, there will be many epic adventures ahead. Fortunately for mankind, I may have knowledge of the only way to stop him. Force him to shoot from the point – his slap shot still sucks.

Dungeons and Dragons Online Vignette — Avast Conspiracy

This was my last stop before Eveningstar. This also marked the last time I travel via the Phiarlan Carnival Cruise Line. While I did pick up some nice armor and lovely cutlery here, I ended up finding better gear when I got to the Forgotten Realms. As the ship was slowly being towed to a port in Alabama, I leisurely started reanimating the food (a nod to the “Delirium” quest) and amidst the ensuing chaos, teleported the heck out of there. Some stranded people have no sense of humor.

Dungeons and Dragons Online Vignette — Eveningstar

I had just about gotten used to the strange looks I got every time I walked into a new town.  The glowing red eyes, the maniacal grin, and the occasional aura of death I drag around while in lich form tend to draw the eyes of those who had never seen a wizard Pale Master before.  I was ok with that.  The town of Eveningstar, however, gave me the stink-eye for a very different reason: because I am of the Drow Elf race.

While it may sound like a hilarious scene from “Blazing Saddles,” the anti-Drow sentiment around town made me very uncomfortable.  Everywhere I went there was at least one knight following me around as if I were about to pillage the whole place.  All the NPCs seemed to have something disparaging to say about my race.  Even Elminster, the town cuckoo had a few bad things to say about the Drow.

Begrudgingly, I took a few quests in order to win the townsfolk’s trust.  A few yards from town, at the King’s Forest, I began to understand where the negative attitude came from: two Drow archers mugged me.  It was your classic Drow-on-Drow crime, except in Lich form, I happened to have a tremendous advantage.  Two dead Drow archers later, I immediately thought about pleading self-defense or some Eveningstar equivalent of the Stand-Your-Ground law.  I went back to town to turn myself in and the gatekeeper asked me how many I had killed.  After confessing to killing two, the guard smiled and said “you get a prize at ten.”  What the hell was that about?

After turning in a few piles of Drow bodies for experience points, that strange conscience thing kicked in again.  It came at around the same time I discovered that the Drow had enslaved a few of the villagers using mind-control collars to bend their will.  See, I have a very strict policy about these things.  Hirelings, yes.  Slaves, no.  Thus I went all Abraham Lincoln on those Drow Slavers…that is if Lincoln was Death incarnate and was a pretty good shot with necrotic rays.

The collars were relatively simple and I noticed quickly that I had enough skill to disarm them once the slavers were dispatched.  I recognized a couple of the slaves as townsfolk that had thrown rotten produce at me earlier in the week.  Their collars unfortunately malfunctioned as I was disarming them.

The latest quest I’ve been given involves infiltrating an underground Drow town.  The War Wizard that gave the quest said he cast a spell that activates at the appropriate time in order make adventurers “look Drow.”  Going Drow-face in this day and age, really?

Perhaps someday when the worlds have gotten past their ignorance and bigotry, we could have a Drow president.  Of course they’ll start unfounded rumors that he or she was actually born in Eberron.