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Since this session is at a superheroic martial arts tournament, Weldun prepared 16 different characters for us to play instead of our usual characters.

GM: If I ever try to do something like this again, shoot me.

The organisers have set up an arena near the Laguna complex.

Hero Shrew: Right, where we had the zombie problem.
GM: It was two zombies!
Hero Shrew: Two zombies are still a problem!
Fireflash: He’s not wrong.
GM: They weren’t even the kind that bite and turn you!
Hero Shrew: I’m still not convinced about that - we just didn’t let them bite us.
Flux: He’d better stay away from my lab, is all I can say

Makoto warns us not to mess things up - not only will it reflect badly on her, but we’ll annoy some very capable fighters, and the organisers of subsequent invitationals.

Makoto: Aw, DD wasn’t invited this year? That’s so disappointing!
Hero Shrew: … Doctor Destroyer?
Makoto: No, Disco Dude!

She is shocked to see Bobby Coffin among the contestants - he got caught using drugged boxing gloves in a match last year, went he one-punched his opponent and the referee fell unconscious when he lifted Bobby Coffin’s hand to announce the winner.

Allana: He was probably framed, because putting contact poison on your gloves when you gaurd your face with the same gloves is just retarded.

01 - Lu Deng (Danny Lu) - Kung Fu w/ Flaming Ki powers and abilities similar to "The Glow" of Bushido's higher-ups. Owner and Proprietor of the Eight Lanterns Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco.
02 - Makoto - Shorinji Kempo w/ Psychokinetic abilities. Three time champion of the Valhalla Invitational.
03 - Manni - Personal System (A mix of Parkour and Capoeira). Brazillian fighter with a knack for spotting an opponent's weaknesses.
04 - Sunblade - Personal System (A mix of Krabi-Krabong, Muay Lert Rit and Shotokan Karate). Canadian fighter of mixed Japanese and Thai decent.
05 - The Paindancer - Professional Wrestling. Dirty fighter and general jerkface.
06 - Junzo Izumo - Sumo. Disgraced Sumotori w/ gambling problem.
07 - Tabytha- White Tiger Kung Fu w/ Pyrokinesis. Tiger Moreau.
08 - Winter - Obscure but vicious style. "Wolf Moreau"
09 - Bobby Coffin - Personal School of Boxing. Disgraced Boxer.
10 - Elliott Espinosa - Western Kickboxing. Fun-loving Florida lad with an interest in occult mysteries.
11 - Green Dragon - Kung Fu. Martial Arts Supervillain.
12 - Shogun - Personal System (Gingaken). Leader of the Zone Gang, Bushido, and master of "The Glow".
13 - Fang - Snake-style Kung Fu. Mysterious warrior in identity-concealing costume.
14 - Rikki - Mongoose style. Member of Project Mongoose to boot.
15 - Zack - Savate w/ minor telepathy. Moreau Honey Possum. (?????!!!)
16 - Ghost Shadow - Taijustsu. Weeaboo and Ninja of the Six Teens.

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Nemat OoC: I apologise for forgetting I had Silence, when we were temporarily playing Pitch Black.

As we harvest the dead Yrthaks for body parts and trophies, there’s some argument about whether their sonic weapon is a horn, or something else. Since they’re covered in skin instead of keratin, we decide that they must be related to giraffes.

Deserts are also so quiet that we hear a distant commotion, far across the wasteland. Climbing to the top of the nearest hill and getting out the spy-glasses, we can see distant campfires and the shape of numerous people running around in some uproar. But it’s so far away that even running, it would take hours to get there.

Zenobia: I knew we should have bought those Speedy Camels from Crazy Hassan.
GM: Crazy Hassan only shows up when people really, really need him.
Zenobia: Ah, so if he doesn’t show up there was no real reason for us to hurry.

Onka: Breakfast first. We should have kept some of that meat.
GM: You want to eat Yrthak?
Zenobia: …. I’m not really sure I want to.
Nemat: As a general rule, don’t eat anything listed as ‘Aberration’.

It was a nomad camp, and there are survivors. They’re wary - probably because one of us is a gnoll and we’re only carrying one small tent - but they don’t attack us on sight. They’re understandably more concerned about a second attack by the land-sharks that chewed them up last night. Multiple land-sharks, which is really unusual for these normally solitary monsters. Nemat determines which way they went, while Zenobia patches up the wounded.

GM: You MAYBE might be able to create a Bulette if you have a big armadillo, a big snapping turtle, a bunch of spells, and some demon ichor.
Zenobia OoC: It doesn’t just take a romantic evening, a few bottles of wine, and some lube?

The Bulettes get identified as B1 and B2.

Zenobia OoC: They’re bulettes, in pantalettes, and they’re coming down the stairs.

Of course, there’s still the problem of trying to find anything out here, let alone mapping it. Sending Onka up in a hot-air balloon a few times a day can only get us so far, and we can hardly tow him along behind us.

Nemat OoC: As I said previous session, I’d really like our GM to be familiar with compass directions.
Zenobia: We need to commision some kind of marker obelisks out here.

It would probably be worth the expense of enchanting them with Continual Flame, so people can find them at night. Our next encounter is a village of Maftet, a curious race related to sphinxkind. They’re not supposed to be found in flat country like this.

Maftet: Who are you? What is your business?
Nemat: Our goals are three - to end the machinations of the cult determined to resurrect the Forgotten Pharaoh, to return the effects of a dead scorpion-man to his tribe, and to talk to you. This doesn’t seem to your usual kind of country.
Maftet: It isn’t. Drop your weapons and wait here.
Zenobia: We haven’t drawn any.
Onka: And we’re all spellcasters.
Nemat: I can stick my fingers in my ears and go lalalala if that will make you more comfortable.
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Playtest - D&D Civil War

A D&D game, set in Virginia during the American Civil War, February 1862, playing as Union soldiers and associates hunting down what are effectively land-based privateers.

Me: So basically we’re hunting down an adventuring party.

The Willis Gang used to be ‘bountyhunters’, but have now graduated to general brigandage. We’re playing McAllister’s Scouts and assorted Unionist locals. The brigand’s camp is up in the mountains, and despite the fog we can see they have a number of horses hitched up.

Andy McClintoch: *turns to Injun Joe* Your lot steal horses, don’t they?
Injun Joe: ಠ_ಠ

The lawman attached to the party, one William ‘Bull’ McClintoch and brother of Andy, says he’ll go in first and try to end this peaceful, like. The rest of us exchange glances and prepare covering fire.

‘Bull’: I am the Law! Stand and deliver! Wait, that’s not the law.
Andy OoC: Exact opposite, really.
Module’s writer: In response you get a mouthful of stuff we can no longer say in this shop.

Bull shoots Willis’ pistol out of his hand, grapples him, and cuffs him in one round.

Andy: That’s my brother.

There’s somebody else in the building that the bushwhackers are holed up in - one Major George Planter, who tried to take over the town for the Confederacy at the start of the war. He sounds a bit upset about our arrival. Andy discovers the half-hidden back exit on the cabin, and grins. While the rest of the scouts set the cabin on fire, and try to bash in the front door, some of us will be lurking near their escape route waiting for the Major and his allies to sneak out. It helps that in bear country, the doors open outwards and the hinges are on the outside.

Of course, the cave mouth in the hillside near the campsite is probably going to be relevant. Especially since it’s full of Confederate troops. Still, we manage to pull a victory out of our collective arses - Buck & Shot ammunition is a useful thing for firing into crowded cabins and caves. Bayonet training is also handy.

Andy: I got no problems about stabbing a rebel in the back. My brother might, but I ain’t him.

The surviving bushwackers and Confederates in the cabin are choking on smoke in the cabin while we help ourselves to the coffee they had brewing on the fire outside. The wounded corporal in the cave is a McClintoch cousin.

Bull: Went and joined the Confederates, did ya?
Cousin Reb: They were mighty convincin’.
Bull: Well, don’t give me any trouble and I’ll get you some coffee.

Then Bull finds the pen of ‘contraband’ in the back of the cave, and elbows his cousin unconscious.

Bull: On second thoughts, no coffee for you.

There’s a white boy in here too, carrying a satchel with letters of commission for company officers under Planter’s command, and some useful letters from the Confederate governor.

Andy: Hey! You guys in the cabin! You know we hang bushwhackers, right? But if you come out dressed as rebels we have to treat you fairly.
GM: They don’t have any spare uniforms.
Andy: I know >:D
Heading north in pursuit of the cultists/amateur tomb robbers. It might be the middle of the desert, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to encounter - including a scorpion-man in need of proper burial, a Royal Naga archeologist, and some really, really annoying birds. But we do find a river, which is nice, since it means Asrian and Zenobia can wash the dust off.

Onka: And I’m going to camp over here, since I don’t want a knife somewhere uncomfortable.

Zenobia: Any suspicious logs floating about?

This is also the first time that Zenobia has seen her girlfriend undressed in daylight - she has silver-blonde hair, and skin almost as pale as paper. Rather unusual, since we’ve met her family and they’re all ethnically Osiriani.

Nemat OoC: On the other side of the God-Rock, she’d be gorgeous.
Zenobia OoC: I imagine her mother got some cruel accusations after she was born, right up until her father got kicked in the balls.

Asrian is still extremely sensitive about her appearance, despite the fact that Zenobia isn;t at all repulsed.

Zenobia: You’ve seen the way people look at me, before they know me. I’d NEVER think you’re ugly.
Asrian: You’re fuzzy, it’s nice! I look like I’ve been dipped in flour!
Zenobia: Well, let’s see if it washes off *rolls around in the shallows with her for a bit*

Asrian eventually explains that she had a perfectly ordinary complexion when she was younger, but had an encounter with a djinn, and after she was returned from the djinn’s palace, she looked like this. Apparently she had djinn ancestry somewhere on her mother’s side of the family, and her Suli blood got awakened. Which probably explains why her mother insisted she was still beautiful. Zenobia, of course, agrees.

Zenobia: The power of your ancestry shows on the outside. The light of your soul shines inside. You are gorgeous to me.
Asrian: *hugs tight*

Asrian is at least confident enough to go without her veil when we return to the rest of the party, but she’ll have it back on before we catch up with the cultists.

Nemat: You’re actually quite attractive.
Zenobia: MINE.

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Champions : Return To Edge City - Heist!

Quadrant’s plan to take down the more ideologically-unpleasant gangs of Edge City, one affiliate at a time. At the moment, we’re focussing on the Park Front Dragons. Or rather, were, until we got distracted by an attempted tech heist at UC-EC.

GM: You do realise that the way Allana sniffed out the ganger’s blood types is going to spread around the paramedics, and the rumour is going to be you’re a VAMPIRE bat?

Those crows that Scooter chased were Hooded Crows, an exclusively Eurasian species.

Hero Shrew: Well, all we have to do is check the birdwatcher’s network - because if any hooded crows are flying around California someone will notice.

Of course, the Black Paladin was accompanied by carrion crows, not hooded crows. Hooded crows are more associated with the Morrigan and Cú Chulainn.

Allana: So, who’s pissed off any Celtic death goddesses or Irish Hercules lately?

Flux: Do we really want to spend time tracking down these crows Scooter spotted?
Hero Shrew: If they’re important, I'm sure they’ll come back to bite us on the arse later.
Allana: I assume we just checked the internet while we were waiting for campus security to show up and cart off the battery-stealing idiots.
GM: You spent time explaining to them that what they did was a horrifically bad idea that could have got them charged with multiple federal crimes. That generally makes them back down.

Allana’s right, too - the laws regarding crimes committed in powered armour are still overly broad. Of course, that’s not Allana’s only skill - she overhears one of the security people telling Brent that he’ll put the new superbatteries in secure storage until it’s time for his big presentation. And Allana can also tell that the security guy is COMPLETELY full of it. He also smells of unusual welding compounds and advanced engineering. She considers scent-tagging the batteries, but doubts she can do it inconspicuously. Or she could just carry them back to secure storage herself - she’s strong enough, and Brent went through too many years of high school to doubt the obvious jock can do it.

Hardlight: Well, if we’re down here I’m going to go hang around the chemistry labs.
GM: As Gareth Lowell?
Hardlight: Yes. If they need me as Hardlight I’ll duck into the toilets.
Hero Shrew: It not like you can find a phone booth these days.

Hardlight: What do you actually DO to scent-mark something? Lick it or something? Or do you have a spray bottle?
Hero Shrew: ‘And this is Mine, and this is Mine, and THIS is Mine…’
Allana: Actually, I can always wrap my wings around the batteries as I’m carrying the crate. Then I can do what I like.
Hero Shrew: How much do you want to bet that security guard is planning a heist? Or is he just the Park Front Dragons’ contact on campus?

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So, it looks like somebody is using Ravensholme Biotech facilities to make designer drugs, and the Knights of Hell gang to smuggle them out of Edge City via the tunnels and high-speed jet-ski. And we can’t just go in there without a warrant. Well, we could, but...

Hero Shrew OoC: We’re not an actual Shadowrun team, so we can’t go around blatantly breaking the law.

Flux points out we’re not really connected or sneaky enough to bluff our way into the facilities. So we should just focus on the Knights of Hell section of the pipeline. Or better yet, inform the Drug Squad and let them do it.

Flux: It helps that there’s a standing ordinance in Edge City that the ECPD can enter the tunnels at anytime. No need for a warrant. So the stuff we discovered down there is all legal evidence, since we have police powers.
GM: You’re being perfectly reasonable. Now give me a few minutes to figure out how the plot will go since you’re being reasonable. At the end of last session it sounded like you were going to go full Leroy Jenkins. You probably would have killed somebody.

So, if we are leaving the Knights of Hell to the human authorities, do we turn our attention to one of the other gangs? We haven’t dealt with those human supremacists that were running MercCon for a start. Maybe that gang that uses powered exo-armour? They even fight in the stuff - which admittedly is the illegal part of it.

Hardlight: It’s like fighting in forklifts.

The local police advise that the gang in question also deal drugs, but it’s a bit of a mystery as to how they avoid getting caught doing it. So it looks like another week of covert surveillance. Of course, they could be using their own drones - it’s a low volume product.

GM: Which one was Dr. No again?
Allana: The TV Special on Informed Consent.

So now we have to research how gangs actually deal drugs, including runners, back seat deal, and actual dens. At least we don’t have to look around town for every pair of sneakers over the power lines.

GM: Uber Drugs

Of course, just as we’re about to bring the hammer down on THIS gang, we hear that the Heaven’s Devils, a demented motorbike gang that have Blues Brothers-style races as an initiation, are driving along the top of the Wall around Marsten.

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Pathfinder : The Mummy's Mask - Booty Call

Exploring the wastelands, searching for a particular tomb, currently occupied by one Chesisek, head engineer for the Forgotten/Sky Pharoah - all part of a convoluted plan to track down all the plot tokens, when we are attacked by a pack of giant spiders.

Zenobia: At least lunch is sorted. Was anybody bitten?
Nemat: Yes, a few times. Why? Oh right, these are poisonous.
Zenobia: Venomous. If they bite you and you die, it’s venomous. If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous. If you bite each other and neither of you die it’s a kinky Friday evening.

A bit later we chance upon a camp of more idiots in funerary masks, backed up by fire drakes.

Onka: It’ll be difficult to intimidate them - they’re religious fanatics and tend to be nutjobs.
Nemat: To be fair, so are we. We’re out here in the desert of our own volition looking for the pieces of a dead pharaoh that used to fly around in a pyramid.

Zenobia: But the goddess Sarenrae gives this one chance to surrender.
Asrian: *scimitars and arms suddenly shimmer with frost*
Fire Drakes: … that’s gonna hurt. A lot.

It doesn’t work on the cultists. They’re fanatical.

Zenobia: Absolute certainty in the righteousness of his cause.
Nemat: I’ve got that too. The difference is I’M RIGHT. This is a religious argument in the desert, and they only end one way.

At least the fire drakes decide this would be a good opportunity to fireball some of the cultists.

Nemat: ‘We do whatever is best for us’
Asrian: ‘And right now what is best for us is bad for you’

Nemat: ‘Pepper Breath!’

Nemat OoC: Now I have to play an orange-scaled kobold pyrokineticist in Kingmaker.

Some of the cultists apparently want to add to the pyrotechnics by rushing at Asrian, and exploding. She shrugs it off, because naturally any girlfriend of Zenobia is awesome.

Cultist Leader: I will die in glorious battle!
Asrian: No, no, you’re just going to die.

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#1400 and counting

#1400 - Eacles imperialis - Imperial Moth

Photo by a friend of mine, Bruce Griffin, in Warrensburg, Missouri. It’s not often I can ID a species from overseas, but a Saturniid this distinctive wasn’t TOO difficult. The colour and pattern is a surpisingly good match for a decomposing leaf

The diet of the caterpillars is unusually wide, including conifers like Norway Spruce, and deciduous trees and shrubs including oak, box elder, maples, sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and sassafras. The pini subspecies feeds only on conifers, and the adults don’t feed at all.

Various subspecies are found from Argentina to Canada, and unsurprisingly it’s E. imperialis pini that’s found up at the northern end.

#1401 - Myrmecia ludlowi

One of the species that I posted to BowerBird for an ID, although Colin went on to get his own account there. Hopefully he’ll get his own observations ported to iNaturalist, since he’s a much better photographer than me. 

Myrmecia chasei and Myrmecia ludlowi have the same coloration as Myrmecia elegans, but are more robust ants with hairy tibiae. The separation of the two species by is based purely on the colour of the mandibles (yellow in chasei, dark brown in ludlowi), but many specimens having intermediate light to medium brown mandibles. Both species (if indeed they are separable species) are found in the Darling Range, including the Perth area, and elsewhere in SW Western Australia. Colin took this photo way down in the SW. 

#1402 - Myrmecia urens

Another bull-ant, but one of the smaller species. This time photographed by me, in Yellingup, down in the SW corner. Found in large parts of Southern Australia. The short-lived winged males are duped into pollinating the flowers of the Hare Orchid Leporella fimbriata, and may visit and try to mate with dozens of flowers until eventually dying of exhaustion.

#1403 - Physeema sp - Western Ticker

One of the smaller cicadas we get in WA, with five species and outlying populations further north and over in coastal Victoria and South Australia. I found this one tangled in spiderweb, let him or her climb over my fingers while I got some photos, and the little fucker bit me. Which was quite surprising coming from an exclusively plant-sucking family. 

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#1390 - Psilogramma casuarinae or menephron - Privet Hawk Moth

Found by Susie Wade on a hedge in Dubbo, NSW. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell P. casuarinae and P. menephron apart by photos, especially at this stage. And even more so because they both enjoy a diet of Privet and White Jasmine, although the former is also a pest of olives and a wide variety of other domesticated plants. I’ve covered the former, way back at #527.

#1391 - Thalaina angulosa - Blotched Satin Moth

From Naomi Gillespie, in Rushworth, Victoria.

A striking Geometrid moth, found over large areas of Mainand Australia, where the caterpillars feast on Golden Wattle, White Mallee ( Eucalyptus dumosa) and Velvet Bean ( Cassia tomentella, CAESALPINIACEAE ). Probably other plants too.

#1392 - Thalaina tetraclada

Another Satin Moth, this one photographed by Zara Brown in Coondle WA. Bit blurry, but seeing the hindwings makes the species ID certain. Found in New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia, but I don’t have an info on diet. 

#1393 - Metallochlora neomela

AKA Urolitha bipunctifera (Walker, 1861), Nemoria pisina Warren, 1899 and Thalassodes albolineata Pagenstecher, 1900

Photo by Karl Granzien, in Cooroy, SE QLD. 

The Australian Butterfly House website says the caterpillar has been reared fromPlumbago auriculata, and the moth has been found in most Australian states, and in Papua. But that Plumbago is a South African species, so in the wild it probably eats Plumbago zeylanica, a native plant found in most of the warmer, wetter parts of Australia, assuming it doesn’t have a wider diet. 

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#1387-1389 - Some More

#1387 - Trichophthalma sp. - Tangle-veined Fly

Photographed by Kate Fin, 1500m up Mt Buffalo in Victoria.

Tangle-veined Flies, named after the unusual wing venation visible in the second photo, are parasitoids of grasshoppers and beetles as larvae. Although I don’t think they’re going to get much of a meal off the grasshopper in the third photo. As adults, they’re pollinators, and are suitable equipped - Moegistorhynchus longirostris, from parts of South Africa, has a proboscis 80-100mm long, the longest of any fly.

There’s only 300 or so known species, but some are important controllers of grasshopper numbers.

#1388 - Hydroclathrus clathratus

A brown algae with a highly unusual fractal net-like morphology. IDed by Carolyn Ricci at the SA Herbarium, who do an outstanding range of PDFs I’ve found invaluable for identifying Australian macroalgae. 

Found in warm and temperate seas worldwide, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like it. The name means ‘latticed water-lattice’, to really hammer the point home. It’s often found growing epiphytically on another common brown algae, the blob-like Colpomenia sinuosa, which it rather resembles apart from all the holes. (Speaking of which, I hope this doesn’t trigger anybody’s tryptophobia - I made the mistake of showing this photo to a friend who was once extremely ill with a high fever, and was hallucinating patterns like this.)

Brought in to the WA Naturalist’s Club meeting by one of the members, to compliment the talk on Marine Plants I was giving. Naturally I covered all the species I’ve discussed on Tumblr previously. 

Apparently it’s edible, and makes an interesting addition to salads.

#1389 - Everardia picta

Identified for and photographed by Lesley Brooker, here in Perth, based on the resemblance to the more common Ocirrhoe genus of small green stink bugs.

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