Bothering the mayor might be fair enough – but who wears the cost?

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On Saturday night the Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle was rattled by activists outside his home, protesting the proposed changes to Melbourne’s anti-camping laws. The proposed changes effectively punish people for sleeping rough.

In light of the proposed changes it is ironic hearing Robert Doyle complain about having his home disturbed. I can relate to the sense that the mayor is getting a taste of his just desserts. In many ways it seems like a fair response. (I think our leaders can expect to see more of this kind of action if they allow inequality to keep increasing.)

Fair as it may be, I would question whether the action is likely to have helpful results? The changes to the camping by-law have not yet been passed by Melbourne City Council. Call me naive, but I know that there are people from the street community, the homelessness sector and wider society who are seeking to engage councillors on the proposed changes. If we’re not able to stop the changes, engagement with the Melbourne City Council may make opportunities to influence how the by-law is interpreted and policed. (The proposed changes make the law much more open to interpretation.) If the mayor and his family are rattled, I can’t see him or his fellow councillors being more open to building bridges. This will make things more difficult for people who are sleeping rough in the city, not for psuedo-anarchist hobby squatters.

On connections through parcels

As I write this morning I’m on the way off to pack parcels this morning. On Mondays I normally pack parcels for Evan’s online retail business, Rival Sky Games. We’re sending miniatures for gaming to customers around the world, particularly Wings of Glory, Star Wars: Imperial Assault and various Axis and Allies lines. Obviously one of the reasons we do this is because we both need to be earning some money, but I have been thinking about the other reasons for doing the work.

One of the things that immediately comes to mind is that the business connects us with a whole lot of people all over the country and overseas. I also find that playing games is a great excuse to stay in touch with people and maintain connections, as well as make new ones.

When I was talking with Evan about this last week he mentioned that one of the reasons he got into selling games was because he was into the game Wings of War (which is now Wings of Glory), but there weren’t a lot of people into the game in Australia, and so it was hard to find people to play with. (I know what it’s like to have a game you’re really into, but struggling to find other people to play!) For that reason I find it encouraging when I notice two customers in the same city buying the same product, and wonder if they’re friends who’ve both just gotten into the game and will play together?

Acid breath and the corrosion of society

Each Sunday I’m publishing a monster illustration I’ve made for use in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.

This week I’ve drawn a black dragon. (I used this to represent a black dragon wyrmling – a very young dragon – in our game yesterday.)

The breath of a black dragon is burning acid. Black dragons also enjoy witnessing the corrossion of  civilisations. They collect precious artifacts from fallen societies.

In the current political situation in Australia, as the government seems to be falling apart day by day. It can be tempting for those of us who oppose the current government to gloat about the government’s problems. It might be sobering to consider what will be left of our society once the corrosion is complete?

Preparation vs. improvisation in D&D

This afternoon I ran a session of Dungeons & Dragons, and I’ve been reflecting on the question of whether to prepare a lot before playing or whether to just prepare a few details and improvise as much as possible. (This week I’ve been reading The Lazy Dungeon Master, which explains a method of DMing where you do minimal preparation and have a very high level of collaboration with the players. I’ve also been reading Ten Candles, an RPG with a high level of collaboration built into the game system.)

I find that the adventures we’ve been using (expeditions from the Adventurer’s League) require a lot of preparation and are difficult to use without forcing the players to follow the sequence of events envisioned by the author. In today’s adventure the players were wanting to investigate things in a different order to what the author expected, meaning I needed to flip back and forth through the adventure a fair bit. It was easy to miss some important details. In the midst of all the page flipping and backtracking, it was easy to feel like I was on the back foot, despite my hours of preparation. I can think of one example of where my preparation served me reasonably well and another where it could have been a fair bit better.

The adventure involved the recovery of some stolen books, and one was a book about the Weave. In Forgotten Realms (the main setting for D&D) the Weave seems to be almost like an invisible, magical, power grid running through the universe. I don’t have a great understanding of how this is supposed to work in the world, and the preparation I’d done beforehand hadn’t made it a lot clearer. Luckily none of my players in this session were magic users, so when they asked the wizard whose book had been stolen about the contents of the book, I was able to have her explain the weave in a very simplistic and slightly patronising way, as an academic wizard might explain the Weave to a relatively uneducated layperson.

I’d also done some reading up on black dragons, as this adventure called for one, and I hadn’t run a session with an actual dragon in it yet. Despite my preparation, I missed one detail that would have made the dragon a lot more impressive – even though I think the players would still have been able to defeat it. I forgot to let the dragon have a lair action on initiative count 20 during combat, which I could have used to create an environmental effect that may have put the characters off a bit as they began combat. I think the dragons’ lair actions are important because they demonstrate the influence and impact that dragons have on the environment around where they live.

While I’m planning to keep on running the series of adventures our group have been playing, I’m also interested in trying out the more freeform and collaborative method. I’ll probably give Ten Candles a go some time soon.

The call to the wilderness(es)

Beginning in the Third Century CE, pilgrims began to wander from the city to the desert. They saw that the church was trying to align itself with the rulers of the Roman Empire more and more and so they wanted to separate themselves. Athanasius said so many people headed to the desert that the desert became a city.

My experience (and I think many of my friends share it) has been that we’ve been called back into the city, to the wilderness at the centre of empire. I think the imperial powers are still at work in the city and the church and they’ve often isolated and scattered us. A lot of people relocated to the city have found there a call back to the natural wilderness.

As we approach the season of Lent, do you find yourself called to the wilderness in anyway?

#DungeonDrawingDorks February 15-21

vHere are my second week’s worth of drawings for the #DungeonDrawingDudes / #DungeonDrawingDorks challenge. The best place to look at what everyone is contributing is on Instagram.

15. Kobold Warlock

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16. Treant

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17. Bandit Captain

18. Drider

19. Human Pirate

20. Gibbering Mouther

21. Mezzoloth

I’m open to commissions if you’d like me to draw monsters or adventurers for your game. Send me a private message or email me – christop@gmail.com

Unauthorised camping is Melbourne’s founding story

Melbourne 1836, Reinhart Hofmann.
(You can have a look at this painting at the State Library of Victoria.)

A lot of Australians seem to like camping.
Australians seem to like going to the beach, even in Victoria where the water’s pretty cold.
Australians seem to like having a barbeque, and in Melbourne we have public barbecues all over the place.

Melbourne started as a camp, where people came in from the beach, at the spot that is now enterprize park. Camping and other forms of outdoor living are part of our social practise because they are connected to our colonial history. John Batman’s party were camping on contested land. The area that is now the location of Melbourne, was already the homeland of the Woiwurrung and Boonerwrung peoples, who called the area ‘Narrm’. The colonial government of New South Wales believed the land belonged to the British Crown. Batman was trying to acquire land for his business, then Port Philip Association. This created a complex conflict (which I struggle to get my head around) between Tasmanian businesspeople, New South Welsh bureauocrats and local Aboriginal people.

Once again we have a situation where camping is contested in Melbourne. The proposed changes to Melbourne by-laws make it easier for authorised officers to interfere with people who depend on camping in the city. I wonder if we would see the current conflict differently if we humbly recognised that our city began as an unauthorised camp?

You can make a submission to Melbourne City Council about the proposed changes here.

Where are you from? Who’s your mob?

When we have guests arriving to stay at our house, we’re often asked, ‘Where are you from?’ I’ve sometimes found this awkward because we’ve had guests who’ve presumed that I must also be Aboriginal and that they might know my family. I’ve tried to be clear that I’m mostly European and not Aboriginal, while still being forthcoming about where I grew up, what places I’m connected to through my family’s story. That’s proved particularly interesting when we’ve had guests from the area where some of my ancestors settled – the father of the family had worked for one of my relatives, on land that may have been taken from his family.

My understanding is that when our Aboriginal guests ask us where we are from and who our family is, they’re working out how we’re connected. I think there’s a security in knowing who we know and who we’re related to. If you treat someone badly and they know who your family is, it’ll get back to your family. If they know where your hometown is, it’ll get back to your hometown.

(I want to acknowledge that I could be wrong about any of this, and I’m happy to be corrected.)


On Monday my mum sent me these family photos which I don’t think I’ve seen before.
This is my mum in 1961:

This is her dad (my grandad) around 1935:

And this is his mum (my great-grandmother):

I think my grandmother was born in Edinburgh, and my grandfather in Wolverhampton, but since arriving in Melbourne we’ve mostly stayed in Melbourne. the information we have about this side of the family doesn’t go back very far. some of our family say they’ve always understood that my mother’s father’s mother had Indian heritage, but this is something my mum hadn’t heard until a few years ago.


On Wednesdays I’ve been reading and reflecting on Genesis. Today I’ve been looking at the genealogy in (what we now call) Genesis 5. I think the genealogies in the Bible often don’t mean a lot when we approach with a Western mindset. Many of us don’t know much about our families. In Australia a lot of Europeans don’t know where their families came to Australia from. I wonder whether for the original readers, the inclusion of genealogies would have given a sense that the stories could be trusted?

One of the things that stands out in this genealogy is the pattern of men having children (without reference of the women who actually give birth) and then dying. That pattern is broken by Enoch, who is said to have walked with Elohim. Instead of saying that Enoch died, the genealogy says that he was no more because Elohim took him away.

The other thing that stands out to me in a more ominous way is the prophecy about Noah. Noah’s father Lamech says of his son, ‘Out of the ground that YHWH has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.’

Remembering the Temple of the Screaming Electron

On the weekend a friend posted this article about 4chan and Donald Trump. I was never a 4chan user, but for part of the same era I was a TOTSE (Temple of the Screaming Electron) user. (I know some TOTSE users were also 4chan users and would refer to 4chan.) TOTSE doesn’t exist to any real extent anymore, but my experience was that it was a place where you could talk about anything. It started as a place to access text files on different topics, including some controversial topics related to drugs and weapons. However, what I really appreciated was I just loved the fact that on the TOTSE forums you could find somewhere to talk about pretty much anything. I found the wide range of contributions to threads was a real eye-opener to the diversity of human experience and opinion. These days it seems like online space is much more settled into segregated ghettos.