A Return to Nerdery

Who am I kidding, I love this stuff!

Did I mention that I bought myself a copy of Fantasy Flight’s Warhammer 40k role playing game Dark Heresy for Christmas? Well, I did. So there πŸ˜€

I have a habit of collecting RPGs that I have no intention of actually running. I just find it really interesting to compare the mechanics, and also enjoy reading all the background material. And the 40K background material is always worth a gander (for those unfamiliar with 40k, TV Tropes provides an excellent and highly entertaining summary).

Overall Dark Heresy is a class production. I have managed to find a few problems with it however. Firstly the Character Creation section is a little sloppy. I had to poke around a fair bit to discover how skills work (and hence how to select them for your character) and I’m still not 100% on how experience is used to increase rank –Β  a problem I’m sure will be resolved once I find where they’ve hidden the relevant explanation.

Secondly, the map of the Calixis sector is dodgy. The different planet types are mostly indicated with coloured dots, some of which are so similar that you need to look really closely to tell the difference. Other planets have weird protrusions, the meaning of which seem highly inconsistent (is Scintilla a prison planet? I can’t tell!). The map is so confusing in fact that I had to create my own version.

Finally there are no rules for abhumans. This is a minor quibble really as modern 40k has all but eliminated them (often via oddly convenient tyranid hive fleets) but it’d be nice to have the option. Happily this hole has been plugged by a number of fan created rulesets such as this one from Postmortem Studios, although I note it doesn’t include Beastmen.

So I decided to create rules for Beastmen. Here we go.


Beastmen are the most bestial and inhuman type of abhuman. Their bodies combine the features of both human and animal, usually being horned, hoofed, and very hairy. Beastmen are much more variable in form than other abhuman types. They are considered abhumans rather than ordinary mutants however, as individual Beastmen conform to a general physical and genetic standard and are no more prone to further mutation than normal humans.

Beastmen who have been introduced into the Imperial cult possess a simple but fierce devotion to the Emperor, regarding him as a vengeful god who demands tribute in the form of the blood of his enemies. They are driven by the need to atone for the sin of being mutants by fighting for the Emperor.

Beastmen only come from Feral Worlds and receive the following traits (rather than the standard Feral World traits),

Iron Stomach – as on Page 15 of Rulebook
Primitive – as on Page 15 of Rulebook
Heightened Senses – as per the talent on page 117 of Rulebook
Ill Omened – as on page 22 of Rulebook, with the -5 fellowship penalty applying to non-beastmen

Characteristic Base Feral
Weapon Skill 2d10+ 20
Ballistic Skill 2d10+ 20
Strength 2d10+ 20
Toughness 2d10+ 25
Agility 2d10+ 25
Intelligence 2d10+ 20
Perception 2d10+ 20
Willpower 2d10+ 20
Fellowship 2d10+ 10

Beastmen are limited to the following Dark Heresy career paths: Guardsman, Scum


Sackcloth and Ashes

Sic Semper Arrogance

England has retained the Ashes. Good. The Australian cricket team are a bunch of arrogant bogans who need to lose more often so they can learn to deal with it in a mature fashion, rather than whinging, complaining and generally being extremely sore losers.

While we’re on the subject, can we hurry up and axe Shane Warne’s atrocious talk show already? Thanks.

The Scoliosis Bus

Making light of a serious medical condition.

Had a very enjoyable Boxing Day lunch at Rebecca and Dom’s yesterday. As is usual the postprandial conversation wandered all over the place, and happened to light upon a government funded bus that used to travel around from school to school testing children for signs of scoliosis. Our collective blood sugar levels being all over the place we found the concept of “the scoliosis bus” quite hilarious, and laughed like drains for a good five minutes.

Rebecca kindly gave me a lift home and on the short walk from her car to my apartment my brain insisted on whipping up a set of lyrics, which I now – shamefully – present to a candid world…

The Scoliosis Bus (to the tune of Jingle Bells)

A day or two ago, I thought I’d go to school,
And as I studied there, what vehicle up did pull?
The Nurse jumped out the bus, and measured up my spine,
She said “put on this truss and you will soon be feeling fine!”

Spinal cord! Spinal cord! Spinal chordate truss!
Oh what fun it is to ride in the Scoliosis Bus!
Spinal cord! Spinal cord! Spinal chordate truss!
Oh what fun it is to ride in the Scoliosis Bus!

I am so, so sorry.

Running Low on Snake Oil

A victory for science!

Looks like sanity has finally asserted itself regarding that whole “Power Band” thing. I mean c’mon – a “hologram” encoded with a “frequency” that enhances your body’s “energy field”? Anyone with the slightest bit of scientific knowledge knew that the product was complete crap, but basic scientific knowledge seems to be in short supply these days. Thankfully the ACCC has stepped in and not just slapped them down, but ordered them to refund all the credulous idiots who purchased the damn things. Victory!

(I was actually fairly disappointed the other week when I noticed one of the cute girls down at the sandwich bar wearing a power band. Maybe she’ll wise up now.)

Christmas looks to be stupidly hot. Latest forecast is 38 degrees and there’s talk of unusual levels of humidity. Might as well be in Singapore damnit!

Make Mine Music

Too much musical information.

Well it’s that time of year again, the voting has opened for the Triple J Hottest 100. Naturally I’ve jumped straight in and voted for my favourite 10 songs of the last year and shall present them here for the ridicule of all – but before I do I have to comment on the website they’ve thrown together to take the votes.

I ain’t impressed.

OK, I’ll qualify that. Overall the site is good, but it has a couple of critical bugs that made my voting a bit of a trial.

(For the record I’m using Firefox version 3.6.13)

Firstly, they appear to be using AJAX to add songs to the shortlist. This is fine – except they appear to be using the same XMLHttpRequest object each time you click a song, rather than spawning a new one.

What this means is that if you click to select a song, then click on another song before the result of the first click has been returned, the first click is effectively cancelled, and only the second song is added to the list. So you need to click, wait, click, wait, and so on, which kind of defeats the purpose of using AJAX in the first place.

The second bug is on the submission form you go to once your songs have been selected. I use an extension called CookieSafe to control the cookies on my machine. This allows me to block or modify cookies on a site-by-site basis. On the Triple J site I allow cookies, but have them all rewritten to be session only (ie: they evaporate when I close the browser).

Voting for the hottest 100 appears to require a long term cookie to be set – which is fair enough, I guess they’re using it to stop people voting multiple times. If this cookie is tampered with (or blocked) the form won’t submit. Also fair enough. But – what does the form tell you if this situation occurs?

It tells you that you haven’t filled out all of the fields.

Even when you have.

That’s bad. Really bad. An inappropriate error message is worse than no error message at all. I’m net savvy enough to figure out what’s going on and adjust my cookie settings appropriately, but plenty of other people aren’t, and could easily get so frustrated that they’d give up on voting altogether.

So, the ABC’s web department seriously needs to raise their game.

But, on to the fun stuff. The songs.

Whittling down my list to just 10 songs was a real challenge this year, especially once I realised that I was forgetting a bunch of really good tracks. But I laboured mightily and ended up with the following list, which I present in no particular order (apart from alphabetically by artist).

(Note: Helen and Ali, a bunch of these songs are on a mix-cd that shall shortly be winging your ways, so if you want to be surprised, stop reading – or at least clicking “play”- from this point on :))

The Bedroom Philosopher – Northcote (So Hungover)

The puntastic tale of a pretentious Emo riding around on the number 86 tram. I particularly like the concept of Sad Sanderson performing at the Fitzroy Anti-Social Club.

Cee Lo Green – Fuck You!

I don’t mind profanity in a song, as long as it serves a purpose. In this case the purpose is to form an integral part of a seamless, catchy, funky, brilliant motown track consummately performed by Mr Green. This is my confident tip for the number one spot. Those who find the lyrics offensive may prefer this bowdlerised version performed by the cast of Glee and (for some reason) Gwyneth Paltrow.

Chiddy Bang – The Opposite of Adults

A remix/reworking of MGMT’s Kids. And what a remix/reworking. Just as good as the original, although wildly different.

Grinderman – Palaces Of Montezuma

Ah, Nick Cave! Scary, growly Nick Cave who can make a song about JFK’s spinal cord sound like a visitation from the heavens. OK, it’s not exclusively about JFK’s spinal cord, but believe me, it’s in there, and it’s romantic as all get out.

Gypsy and the Cat – Jona Vark

Gypsy and the Cat were discovered by Triple J Unearthed, and you can just imagine them sitting around giggling saying “we’ll call our song Jona Vark, and everyone will think it’s Joan of Arc, and get all confused! Hurrah”. Normally this kind of tomfoolery would condemn one to a life of complete obscurity, but Gypsy and the Cat seemed to have made it work.

Kate Nash – Do Wah Doo

A few years ago I listed one of Kate Nash’s songs as the worst of the year. Possibly she heard about it, because she’s now come up with a 50’s inspired track that I’m totally in love with. It sounds like something put together by Phil Spector before he went mad and started killing people. Fantastic.

Marina and the Diamonds – Shampain

How to describe Shampain. Like falling into the pit of hell accompanied by a herd of rabid synthesizers? Perhaps, except that it’s awesome.

Philadelphia Grand Jury – Save Our Town

Some good, old fashioned Aussie rock/pop, without which no Hottest 100 list would be complete. Put your money down people!

Sia – Bring Night

Catchy and astronomically accurate! If you travel in the direction of your shadow the sun will go down a little sooner.

Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

A song about boxers from the 1930s. Or something. Certainly they get mentioned in there. I don’t really know, or really care, because it’s energetic, catchy, fun and puts the boot into fascists.

So that’s my ten. Here’s some others that only just missed out on making the cut…

So there we go. Roll on Australia Day!

Hearts and Parks, Bows and Crows


Two great losses this week with the passing of author Ruth Park and musical-oddity extraordinaire Captain Beefheart.

Playing Beatie Bow was on the year nine syllabus when I was at school, so I read and studied the crap out of it. A lot of books suffer when you’re forced to do that to them, but Beatie Bow stood up. I haven’t read it for the better part of twenty years but I still recall vast swathes of it – it’s one of those books that gets into your head and changes it a bit so you’re never quite the same person after reading it.

More recently I obtained a copy of Ruth Park’s Sydney which provides a brilliantly written (if it wasn’t so pretentious I’d even say “sparkling”) history of the city via a series of walking tours. It’s clear that she had an incomparable love and knowledge of Sydney, and the book is going to be the first thing going into my case when I pack for my (Sydney departing) cruise in early 2012.

Captain Beefheart – well, what can you say about Captain Beefheart? A musical genius and provocateur without compare (unless it’s to his buddy Frank Zappa). I’ll let him speak for himself with the 1982 video clip of Ice Cream for Crow – a film so weird that a terrified MTV refused to play it, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York rushed to add it to their permenent collection.

Vale Ruth Park and Don Van Vliet. We’ll miss you both.

A New Word

From the Latin

I came up with a new word today – Sterculient.Β  It’s an adjective that means “not very good” πŸ˜‰

I’m having a rather rough time of it at the moment with the old depression and anxiety – hence the lack of updates. In fact I ended up at the emergency department the other night getting my heart checked out (as I suspected my heart is as strong as ever and the sudden burst of agonising chest pains I experienced was nothing but stress – but I figured I should get it checked out because I wouldn’t be able to sleep otherwise from wondering if I was actually going to wake up).

Only a few working days left until Christmas though, and then a glorious two weeks off, so I should be OK. Eventually.

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