Ted's RPG Rant

A place to rant about RPG games, particularly the Temple of Elemental Evil. Co8 members get a free cookie for stopping by. Thats ONE cookie each, no seconds.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Its winter here in Oz, for those of u who don't realise it ;-) Yvy returned recently from her jungle home and is freezing.

There've been some great songs about Winter: in fact, there've been some great songs just called 'Winter'. A lot of winter songs have to do with Christmas - "its beginning to look a lot like Christmas" etc. No, no it isn't, you northern hemipsheric bigoted bastard you. Not down here where Christmas is in the middle of summer - not in Malaysia, for that matter, where its summer all year round. But I'm talking about Winter songs, not Christmas ones.

Funny that winter songs should be so emotive to someone like me, who has never seen snow in his life. But I love 'em (well, the good ones). Snow and ice and such things seem very exotic to me. I hate the cold and love being warm, yet I have a hankering to see cold faraway place like Nova Scotia and the Yukon. Trips there seem very far away indeed atm - more likely on the wish list is a fly-over of the Antarctic (you can do that from Melbourne).

Where was I? O yeah, songs. "Winter" by the Waterboys comes to mind - 26 seconds or so of bliss - and "Winter" by Tori Amos, thats as good a song as anything about anything. Amazing tune.

What really suggests Winter? What does a great job bringing all the themes of winter to life...?

Can you guess?

If you said 'UV: Lazarus' then go to the top of the class!

The did a great job with Minoc, making it a mountaintop village up in the north, where you just know damn well it is going to be cold (they also add an 'arctic' element to their wraparound world, with frozen little islands in the sea when you cross from North to South. Nice touch. One was full of bears: that was different). Anyways, Minoc was fabulous, and the best part was the lighthouse, Fogsbane (or whichever one it was): damn it just felt cold! You got up to the top and looked out into the fog of war, and what an impact!

I remember thinking, how good it would be to live in a place like that. Whats good about it? I can tell you now, when you live a life of deprivation - in this case, of isolation and deprivation of a variety of comforts - then those comforts suddenly become wondrous. Can you imagine how good every cup of coffee would be living in a freezing lighthouse? Absolute bliss! During my own period of monastic withdrawal we got free room and board (not surprisingly) but only got 'paid' $40 a month. Now, here in Oz, a coffee costs about $3, a Big Mac meal about $4.95 and a movie ticket about $16 (or $8 on Tuesdays - thieving bastard movie f*%#ers. And they wonder why people pirate stuff. HELLO?!?!?!) So on $40 a month you ain't going out very often, even for a coffee.

Also factor in that this was 2003 - between Two Towers and Return of the King, with the Two Towers extendy version DVD coming out in a few months and Ted counting the days (you all remember what that was like). I was saving up for it - I forget how much it was going to cost... $60? Less? More? Not much more... I have the figure $68 in mind for some reason, but I may be wildly wrong.

Aside - I got bailed up by a professional beggar one day - you know the type, they work for UNICEF or Oxfam or some other charitable organisation, and they grab you as you walk along, spin a terrible (and quite genuine and serious) story of the plight of whichever group they represent, then try to guilt you into handing over your credit card details and signing up to be a regular sponsor. Don't you know the difference you can make for less than one dollar a day? I am a big fan of giving to charity (some people are dead set against it - "no no no, you mustn't give them a fish! You must TEACH them to fish... but don't ask me to pay for the pole!" I am in favour of it) but since I have worked most of my life for a charitable organisation that paid me crap wages, I figured I had already made my sacrifice. The rest goes in the collection plate, not to other NGOs.

Anyways, this guy went right thru the whole spin - I forget the charity, but he painted a picture of the tragic situation of... ummm whoever it was... then showed me as the shiny beacon of hope, all for less than one dollar a day! And I could afford that, couldn't I?

"No", says I, "no I couldn't".

"You can't afford one dollar a day?" he asked with a practised disdainful incredulity.

"Nup", Ted replies, "I only make $40 a month. You can do the math, $1 a day is about 3/4 of my monthly income".

"Ahhh", says the guy with a certain apologetic understanding (he gets rejected regularly and doubtless doesn't mind it too much), "you must be unemployed."

"No, I have a full time job."

He didn't take the bait and we left it at that :-)

Back to my story. The point is, I was saving up for something. On $40 a month. So I was effectively on something like $18 a month. Ugh... a couple of cups of coffee while out in the world and suddenly, you could become very very broke.

People assume that the hardest part of religious life would be celibacy. Lemme tell ya, all 3 of the vows are hard at times. All part of learning humility, and definitely a good way of divorcing yourself from the world as it were and concentrating on higher things. Good. Effective. But damn hard at times.

Personally I was quite used to my middle class creature comforts and not being able to go buy stuff like a Big Mac when I felt like it grated on me. Not that I eat them often normally, its just that feeling of knowing you can if u really want to... that feeling of freedom, of being in control. Its a hard thing to live without.

Sooooo... to get around all this (or to deal with it), I used to go buy a case of Pepsi every month. 24 cans, $9 on special. One can a day. Factor in the Sundays each month (when the Priory laid on soft drink and grog for lunch), the occasional major feast day when they did the same, and fasting on Fridays, and a case of 24 would easily last a month. Of course, they weren't on special every 'pay day' so I had to grab them in bulk when I could get them cheap (carrying 2 cases of Pepsi up a hill to a Priory is no fun, for the record). So those months, I had no money at all. U see the problem.

My point? I would have that can of Pepsi in the down-time befor dinner each day (we had early starts but not particular 'hard' work, just studying latin, the constitutions of the Order, living religious life, some Thomistic philosophy etc, as well as gardening and social-worky stuff in the afternoons). It was the best time of day, the hour or so relaxing before Mass and Vespers (then dinner). We had an old bathtub too and I would actually get to have a soak every now and then, something I certainly don't get to do normally. Ahhh... a hot bubble bath and a cold Pepsi, what could be better?

The thing is, that Pepsi was not just one more cold drink (I go thru gallons of the stuff nowdays). It was one of the highlights of the day. A true ritualistic pleasure of gargantuan proportions.

Much like having a hot coffee in a cold lighthouse. Hard, cold work, walking up and down stairs, lonely, night work. But those coffees must be damn, damn good.

I was thinking about all this recently, what with winter being here. I was thinking about the lighthouse kitchen, with its coffee and soup and roaring fire, the haven from the elments, the mini-paradise in the artic waste. And it struck me.

Yvy was RIGHT to be constantly complaining about the cold in our unit! It was freezing, we were rugged up all the time, and I would come home from work and instead of walking into the comfort of my own home, I would walk in and think how cold it was.

Something was amiss there!

So I gave in and bought a little heater. It doesn't do much - we can't afford a big power bill, and already have a massive fridge to run (and a 20" monitor on the PC ;-) ) - but it does mean the flat is slightly warmer inside than outside.

On the KotB front, i think I am going to give that whole 'snow and rain from spell effects' thing a go. I know just the map :-)