Monday, April 13, 2020

A Journal of the Plague Year, Part the Fifteenth - Notes from Lockdown

1. If you want to feel guilty in a pandemic, go down into your basement and rummage through your old paint supplies until you find the battered old disposable N95 mask – the kind you used to be able to get at any hardware store for a couple of bucks – that you wore when you were sanding the walls in order to prime them, and wear it on your weekly mission to the outside world.  On the one hand, speaking as someone who falls into several different higher-risk groups it’s good to have and use.  On the other hand, you feel like you ought to be taking it directly to the nearest hospital, paint dust and all.  It’s a quandary.

2. The other thing that was odd about the whole experience is that it was like wearing a scarf on a sub-zero winter day in that as soon as you exhale your glasses fog over and you’re blind.  So I took off my glasses and spent my entire grocery run squinting at the shelves.  Life is ridiculous, even in times of crisis.

3. Kim spent much of the weekend sewing reusable cloth masks for us all so we’ll have those as well.

4. Oliver spent a good portion of Easter guiding me and Kim through the process of character creation for a D&D run, and I have to say I was not prepared for how complicated an endeavor that is.  It took the better part of two hours and I still haven’t touched the whole area of my character’s backstory (which is apparently a rather freeform part of the process), but now I have a proud alter-ego as a wood elf ranger.  We’re going to go on a quest at some point, because why not.  It’s fun to share these things with your family.

5. I don’t really know why I have not been a D&D person prior to this, since I am in almost every respect precisely the target audience for such things, but I have only ever played this game twice before – once in high school back in the dark recesses of the 1980s and once again with friends in New York City a couple of years ago.  I like the memes.  I understand the jargon, mostly, at least enough to get most of the memes.  But somehow it’s never become a regular activity for me.  Well, worth a try I suppose.

6. Der Sturmtrumper is now actively working to destroy the Post Office because reasons.  Mostly I suspect because that way there will be no vote by mail and the right-wing dream of authoritarian rule will be complete, though Republican Party leaders have been working to destroy it for decades anyway in order to give their oligarch supporters another efficient public service to take over and cannibalize for profit and aggrandizement.  Nothing to see here, citizen.  Move along.

7. I am not drinking nearly enough for this.

8. After much consideration I have decided that I need to reread the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series because it just needs to be done in these parlous times.  It’s actually a nice break from it all.

9. Three cheers for Zoom calls with family and friends, which have been a nice way to keep in touch through it all.  I’ve caught up with folks all over the world (the joy of having far-flung friends) and touched base with some people I don’t ordinarily talk to at all, and it has been lovely. 

10. One of the things that the current situation really brings home to a person is precisely how much privilege one has in a society.  I have a lot of it, and there are ways to use that in the service of others that I try to keep in mind when I am making choices.


LucyInDisguise said...

1. I’m actually unable to wear a mask. Something in my brain will not tolerate my nose and mouth being covered at the same time. At all. (The ensuing panic attack is something that has to be witnessed to be believed.) Strange little phobia, but it’s mine - all mine! Do you hear me? You can’t have any.

6. Okay, moving along … (Well, not actually OK per se, but never let it be said that I can’t follow instructions.)

7. Nobody is. Certainly not me, anyway..

8. I do believe that is an excellent idea. I think I’ll join you.

10. Good boy - Choices in service to others also be good to lead. If they don’t know how to follow, there’s always the leash.


David said...

I'm not a great fan of masks either, though not to the point of phobia or panic attack - that is a hard thing in the current environment!

I'm not sure that drinking enough for this would be survivable, actually. Maybe it's good that we're not at that level.

The Hitchhiker's Guide is always a good refuge in times of crisis. It says "Don't Panic!" right there on the cover, after all. I'm on the third book now and I'm seriously impressed by how many of the things I say in normal conversation are either paraphrased or directly quoted from these books.

Eric said...

I miss running a table, though I'd be less-inclined to run D&D these days than to run Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, or Blue Rose. It's just so time-consuming. But I still hold out hope.

Which D&D version are you playing? 5e has some online tools to facilitate things. Kat is currently playing a 5e campaign with friends and they use D&D Beyond, which is Wizards of the Coast's official online toolset.

David said...

I think it's a 5e version. There's a website where you can play, and another couple of websites for character options, and sheets and paraphernalia and so on. I lose track. So far I've got 80% of a character. Apparently I've rolled well, though, so I have that going for me. :)

Eric said...

Sounds like you're using D&D Beyond! From what I can see, it's a good toolkit. I remember when you had to hand carve your dice from the bones of small animals you caught with your own hands, and you had to make your own paper for your character sheet, and getting to the Dungeon Master's house involved traveling uphill in the snow and you came uphill in the snow to come home again, and at nights around the fire you'd listen to the bard reciting the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide just the same way he memorized it in the mead hall of Gygax, and....

David said...

I do recall a certain amount of that, actually, from my one abortive attempt back in the early 80s. That and a monster that my friends had made up - they called it a Sagan and it had a hit point value of "billions and billions..."

I think the website is roll20? And eventually we're going to Undermountain? I don't know. It's a premade quest so that all Oliver has to do is walk us through it. Given that I'm the more experienced of the party (Kim has only played once before - that same time in NYC) I think he has his work cut out for him.

Eric said...

Ah! Roll20 is a virtual tabletop. I've been looking at that one, but have wondered if it's a bit beyond me learning-curve-wise. I look forward to hearing any thoughts you care to share about the experience of using it.

Carol Elaine said...

Lucy, I have troubles with things over my nose and mouth, too (I once tore off an oxygen mask). I managed to go for a short walk today with a cloth mask, so it is possible.

Unknown said...

We (for large N value of 'we' mostly meaning 'other people') are in the process of modding R20 for use in ancient miniature wargaming. It appears highly flexible.

Your #1: for bonus angst, have said mask only come to light when your 11 year-old is assisting in basement tidying (I think we are ahead of schedule here, surely that's with closet-waxing for the fourth month of lockdown?), and brings it to you to ask whether this is what your nurse friend needs? [Yes, we had exactly this experience..]

I appear to have lost the argument that the data show wearing masks when not infected to be actively harmful. I can see that they act as a virtue signal, but suspect that this will only cause my reluctance to conform to increase :-/. A local printing business friend did make a set for our family, though, that are as attractive as possible. [All of my actual surgical masks were given to the local nurses long ago, of course.]. I am glad that there's no suggestion of going full snorkel: I would very very much like to scuba dive, but my brain does NOT want my nose blocked, to the point of making me levitate out of the practice tank of the fancy dive training... :(.

Also, oops, I think that I am logged in as Keiran (the afore-mentioned 11 year-old) rather than me (Ewan). Oh well.

Amber said...

Catan is just as good as D and D.
Nobody is drinking enough for this
At first I thought the putrid oompa loompa was a version of Zephod Beeblebrox now I think he is just an ads

David said...

@Eric - I'll let you know how it goes. I suspect we won't even begin to get to it until this weekend at the earliest - this is the last week of Oliver's class (his college has an odd block schedule) so I may or may not even see him for dinners). Apparently we're coming into this at Level 5, so I expect my experience to be short, bloody, and fodder for rueful reflection, but enjoyable nonetheless.

@Carol Elaine - that's impressive! My phobias involve needles (I've had teeth filled without novocaine, though that was NOT worth it and now I just get the shots) and fabric on my neck (turtlenecks - ugh; I must have been hanged in a former life).

@Ewan - You know, I've not been impressed by the arguments for wearing masks, beyond the simple "it reminds you not to touch your face" one. I haven't heard that they're actually harmful though. I can't imagine going snorkeling - all the pleasure of claustrophobia with the added possibility of drowning. Good news about R20, though - I'll report back when I have some experiences. Lauren is pushing for us to clean the basement and it really does need it, but 1) teaching/advising online is actually MORE time-intensive than face to face so I'm busier than ever now, and 2) we have nowhere to get rid of the stuff we need to get rid of until they reopen the landfill. There's a lot of stuff down there that has long outlived its usefulness, sadly enough.

@Amber - it's hard to get this crew up for games. We have Catan (and my favorite, Carcassone) but so far no takers. Zaphod Beeblebrox has a sense of humor, which der Sturmtrumper has never possessed, so it can't be him.

Eric said...

Personally, I'm not a big fan of either Catan or Carcassone (which is unfortunate for Kat--she loves the latter). Not to disparage anyone else's enjoyment; my own personal thing with Catan is that I just find it to be a combination of the some of the things I least like about Bingo and Monopoly; as for Carcassone, the scoring system gives me a bit of a headache (I will admit the phone app version alleviates that a lot).

Kat and I recently got our hands on The Fox In the Forest and Crypt. The former is a two-player trick-taking card game (you know, like Spades or Hearts) with some interesting twists, the latter is a one-to-four player card game with resource allocation and press-your-luck elements; it does play better with more people.

Starting with fifth level characters in D&D is actually more likely to give you a solid experience: 3rd-to-7th level (at least in previous editions) is kind of like the "age 35" of D&D--old enough to have some sense and useful skills but your knees haven't gone out and you're still in relatively good shape in general. Or, in D&D's case: you have enough skills, feats, hit points, etc., to be interesting and not a pushover, but you haven't yet gotten into levels where you're a game-breaking demigod. (I recently read an interesting explanation for this: RPGs are often playtested with characters in this level range, so games often end up unintentionally calibrated to it.)

At any rate, an RPG can be lethal or benign at any level, depending on what kind of game it is, the gamemaster, and the players. Some games, like Call of Cthulhu, even have a certain degree of lethality kind of baked in (in CoC's case, it's a cosmic horror game, after all; it's almost unsatisfying if nobody has been driven insane and/or suffered a gruesome fate by the end of an adventure). I suspect you're going to be more than fine (starting you off at 5th level is frankly already a sign of good judgment by your DM) and I hope you have a brilliantly fun time.

David said...

I like Carcassone because it's interesting enough to hold my attention but not so involved that I can't eat, drink, and have conversations while playing it. Plus we tend to play fairly cooperatively (not completely, but mostly) so the scoring is kind of secondary. I've only played Catan a couple of times, but it seemed fun. To each their own.

For cards we tend toward Phase 10, for the same reason we play Carcassone actually (see above).

I have no idea how RPGs work, really, but I suppose I'll find out! I'll let you know. :)