Monday, May 7, 2012

Mini Adventure -- A Tree in the Forest

I used this creature as the killer in a murder mystery I ran many years ago. I present it here in a very brief form -- feel free to add NPCs and clues as the case may be.

How Anaf came to be will forever remain a mystery.

Perhaps he was the imperfect creation of an irresponsible druid who didn’t have the courage to face the consequences of an unsuccessful awakening. Maybe he was given a terrible mockery of sentience by some minor deity as a cruel and twisted joke. Possibly he is the byproduct of an irresponsible magic experiment. Probably, no one will ever know.

The only thing known for fact, is that a few decades ago, an old oak that has stood in the forest for centuries suddenly awakened, becoming an extremely powerful, but dim-witted creature calling itself Anaf, or “branch” in Sylvan. This gentle giant was quick to catch the attention of the children of a nearby lumberjacking community called Horesh. Once realizing that Anaf, for all his strength and size, was harmless, the children spent hours every day playing with the friendly living tree. 

Anaf was barely aware of the fact that the children of Horesh were playing with him, but he was happy that some activity took place beneath his age-old branches. 

But his pleasure was short-lived for when the children grew up, they abandoned the old tree and went about their lives, forgetting all about their childhood “toy”.

The “toy”, however, did not forget about them.

Tragedy about to occur in 3... 2... 1...
Art by Kokecit
Anaf longed for living things to come and play with him. For many years he brooded quietly, mumbling to passing birds and small animals about his sadness and loneliness, waiting for the children, the only pleasure of his simple life, to return and play with him.

One day, a small boy approached the unusual tree, but the potentially happy event has turned into a terrible tragedy as the clumsy Anaf, in his joy and excitement, accidentally crushed on the child and killed him on the spot.

However, after a few hours there were many people in the forest, playing with the dead boy and making all sorts of funny noises that made Anaf happy inside. Anaf realized that for friends to come and play with him, all he had to do was to crush a person from time to time, and wait for his new friends to come and do amusing things for him. Just like in the good old days…

Anaf is a massive evergreen oak, not different from a thousand other oaks that grow in the forest of Horesh. Unless he is moving, there is nothing about his appearance that suggests his awakening.

When active, Anaf behaves like a mentally retarded man; he is not evil per se, but he is too stupid to grasp the consequences of his actions, or the severity of the damage he can cause with his immense bulk and inhuman physical might. Concepts such as death, pain and sorrow are beyond him, although he does have a sense of self-preservation.

Anaf speaks slowly and without emotion, often losing the thread in mid-sentence. He tends to twist words and muddle their order in the phrase.

For all his stupidity, Anaf still has a strong self-preservation instinct and is terrified of fire and axes (as all trees are). Whenever he is damaged, he flies into an insane rage, howling senseless curses and beating everything in sight with a 20-foot-long log that he uses, rather crudely, as a club. His great power and lack of restrain make him a very deadly foe even for experienced fighters.

Shhh... I'm hunting PCs...
Art by Nikaleles
Anaf in Your Game
The PCs may be hired by the terrified people of Horesh to locate and destroy the mysterious goliath that slaughters villagers with such monstrous strength and barbarity. Initial investigation will show the victims were all killed by being struck with a huge club by someone with immense strength, however, except for dragging marks on the ground, there will be no tracks to follow. The best hopes the PCs have of solving the crimes is using detect magic in the area, possibly after questioning woodland beings, or digging into the past of the village.A more risky venture is using a harmless-looking bait, a dangerous experiment since even one blow from the tree can kill a low-level PC.

DMs wishing to make this adventure more challenging may scatter red herrings in the form of nearby giants, a club (actually a broken branch) used for the killings, or trees that seem to shift occasionally, implying the whole forest might be witched.

The PCs can also meet the dumb tree accidentally as they are walking through the forest on some other errand. Because they are far from defenseless children, it is unlikely that he will attack them, but he may be interested in sharing his woes with the PCs. 

Experienced druids and rangers may befriend Anaf and use his great force to battle evil, but they should be careful not to get lynched by the vengeful people of Horesh who will not forgive the murder of their children and husbands that easily.

Anaf       CR 7
Elite awakened oak barbarian 1
TN Huge plant
Init -1; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen -3 , Spot -3
Languages Sylvan

AC 13, touch 7, flat-footed 13
hp 110 (9 HD); DR hardness 5
Immune plant traits
Fort +12, Ref +1, Will -1

Spd 30 ft.
Melee gargantuan club +12/+7 (3d6+10) or
slam +12/+7 (2d6+7)
Space 15 ft. Reach 15 ft.
Base Atk +7/+1, Grp +21/+16
Atk Options Power Attack, rage 1/day

Abilities Str 24, Dex 8, Con 22, Int 3, Wis 5, Cha 10
SQ fast movement, illiterate, plant traits, rage 1/day
Feats Power Attack
Skills Listen +1

Possessions gargantuan club, broken toys

Rage (Ex): When raging Anaf’s statistics change as follows:
AC 11, touch 5, flat-footed 11
hp 128
Fort +14, Will +1
Melee Gargantuan club +14/+9 (3d6+13) or
Slam +14/+9 (2d6+9)
Grp +23/+18
Abilities Str 28, Con 26

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The War on Fun

Last week I joined the Excellent Order of Gamers Banned from Speaking with people on G+, I understand that by now, this is kind of a status mark, an achievement unlocked if you will. So, good for you, old Uri, you did it again!

achievement unlocked

And yet, I can't help but feel that this has farther reaching ramifications than simply people being ubersensitive and admins being trigger-happy... But first, let me recount the events as I perceive them.

I made a post about writing a modern fantasy book about Israel. Soon after, I was attacked by some people who went straight to the jugular, ignoring the thread subject all together. Then I was banned, after asking them to produce some proof of these accusations.

My initial impression was that I was banned for being accused of "racism," also known as being Israeli. As many of you know well, if one, for example, mentions a suicide bombing in New York, or a rocket attack in Sderot, one is a racist. This is quite odd since the mujahadeen themselves take pride in their attacks, but such are the ways of the world.


However, being an ironically open-minded person, I have decided to ask the honorable admins what exactly I was banned for.

Not Racism

After about a week, had finally deigned to tell me why I was banned. It was not for racism, but sexism. What a talented man I must be to excel in both crafts! It seems I had told a bad joke on buzz (remember it?) about two years ago. It was off-forum, off-topic, and privately made, but nevertheless got me banned as a "bad match" for the forums. I had deleted said joke, along with my buzz account, almost two years ago, because it really was a bad joke and because, frankly, buzz sucks. However, someone had made a screenshot of this joke (they must have really loved it) and felt important to warn their fellow humans of my evil. Here’s a screenshot I took five minutes ago of the blog that kept my lovely joke alive all these years...

Not Racism

That "someone" later raped a person (literally, not ironically) which is also bad, but apparently not as bad as my joke. The admins had decided that my joke was so bad, that I mustn't be allowed to ever joke again, not on their shift! Since they could not send me to a tolerance camp, they did the next best thing and banned me. The person accused of rape, however, was allowed the benefit of the doubt, possibly because they didn't joke about it. Speaking of jokes, here are some funny jokes from one of my attackers’ Facebook:

Not Sexism

Now, in all fairness, it was a very bad joke. But my buzz had some other, even more offensive jokes-- You know what? fuck it. I'm just gonna do it. Here is the worst post on my buzz, kindly preserved for our benefit by Kynn. Revel in its ugliness:

Sexism AND Racism AND... foodism?

Okay. I am (or rather, was) horrible. I should be spanked.

But seriously? Are and their ilk are THAT afraid of potentially subversive ideas that they would ban a person because he might say something they wouldn't like? Is this not the very definition of Thought Police? Even in Soviet Russia there was more freedom of speech than that! And I should know; I was born there. How do these people even watch TV, where shows such as South Park, Family Guy or Drawn Together occasionally make light of very serious issues ending in ‘ism’? I bet even the Simpsons sometimes give them the creeps!


The political implication of a group of people systematically weeding out everyone who doesn't suit their ideals and ideas, insuring their increasingly hateful opinions are never criticized, is alarming. Their self-righteous fanaticism, lacking in humor, lacking in irony, lacking in any kind of feedback, grows into monstrous proportions. Good ideas become horrifying; dreams of equality are perverted into crusades for new kinds of oppression. Watching these people and their echo chambers, the roots of monsters such as Pol Pot, Stalin or Khomeini become clear. I am sure most of them (the gamers, not the dictators) have, or at least used to have, good intentions. But you know what kinds of roads are paved with good intentions, do you not?

Returning to the subject of gamers and gaming, we mustn't let bigots of any kind take over the hobby and turn it into a political radicals' playground. The game should be inclusive for all, regardless of beliefs or political affiliation. The game should let people escape their dreary reality and explore whatever fantasy or dream they want. It should not shackle people to endless political debates and it should not become a re-education tool or a vehicle for a political platform imposed by a loud (and often truly sexist and racist) minority on a silent majority.

I mean, lighten up people! It’s only a game! ;)