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If anyone can help me dig up some HotU chapter reports from 1999 - 2001, I'd be most grateful.
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Anyone who's ever played in a Vampire: the Masquerade LARP, particularly with the Camarilla, and most especially if you played a Ravnos, I could use your help. The Cam is starting a new old-world Vampire chronicle, for which the rules addendum has already been released. Submissions from players to alter or fix things in the addendum that don't work well are welcome, but first they need to be reviewed and commented on by as many people as possible... that's where I need some help. 

I've written up a proposal to greatly expand the description of Chimerstry, so that it's able to be run fairly and in a standardized way rather than leaving it up to storytellers who may hate it or not know / care how to run it well. As written right now in the addendum, Chimerstry can't mimic any power the Ravnos doesn't personally possess, so I've rewritten that part as well, since it makes Chimerstry useless for creating any kind of supernatural effect - there's a power for nearly everything.

Here is what I have so far:


a.Chimerstry cannot mimic the effect of any Obfuscate power, nor can it directly change the appearance of any character. However, Chimerstry can be used to create self-contained illusions with any appearance the user wishes, or with no visual component at all. It can also create items that characters may carry, or clothing characters may wear, which could indirectly change their appearance.

b.Chimerstry may be used to mimic the effects of other powers, provided the character has personally experienced them or has enough Lore to know about them, and the player notifies the presiding ST that he intends to mimic a specific power. Illusions created solely from the player’s imagination will not be recognizable as a specific power unless your character has the appropriate level of Lore. Illusions of a particular power or supernatural creature created without enough of the appropriate Lore will be instantly suspect to someone with that Lore (or someone who has the real power), and could create a valid reason for disbelief.

c.Chimerstry, unlike Obfuscate, does affect cameras and other visual or auditory sensing devices. It does not affect trip wires or pressure sensors.

d.A Storyteller or Narrator (not a player) should always announce Chimerstry effects, to prevent out-of-game knowledge from being a factor in disbelief challenges. If the illusion is of a character, that character's player should portray the illusion whenever possible.

e.A Storyteller may choose give the Derangement “Dissociative Perceptions Syndrome” (Clanbook: Ravnos Revised, p. XX) to any character who frequently overuses Chimerstry.

f.Ignis Fatuus and Fata Morgana: You do not need to defeat an opponent in a Social Challenge to activate these powers. Pay the cost listed and the illusion springs into life, visible or otherwise sensible by anyone present. If a character has a valid reason to disbelieve the illusion, they may attempt a Static Mental Challenge against the illusionist’s permanent Social Traits. Success on this challenge allows the character to see through the illusion (or hear through it, smell through it, etc.). The illusion does not automatically disappear if disbelieved, unless someone puts his or her hand through it, or otherwise shows it to be clearly unreal. Characters who have not disbelieved an illusion react to it as real in all ways (so a wall blocks passage, a knife feels sharp, and fire feels very hot and may provoke Rotschreck).

g.Apparition: You may give an illusion created with Apparition a new action or simple pattern to perform each round. This action may include transforming into something else, if desired, but if you do this in front of witnesses it may be grounds for disbelief. As long as you concentrate only on it, an illusion may interact with PCs or NPCs seamlessly as if it were a real person or animal. If you take any action that requires a challenge, your concentration is broken and the illusion simply repeats the last pattern you gave it. (The Elder power Fatuus Mastery removes this restriction.)

h.Permanency: At any time, a Chimerstry user may have a number of permanent Chimerstry items equal to her permanent Willpower. They must have item cards like any other item, and count toward the total regardless of which character is carrying them. Because Permanency “locks” the illusion into a particular shape, permanent Chimerstry items may only be changed with Apparition into other similar items. (So, for example, a Permanency shirt may be able to become a jacket or pants, but not a cat or a chair.) Each article of clothing counts as one item for the purposes of this total.

i.Horrid Reality: All of the challenges for Horrid Reality apply, regardless of the target's level of Auspex. (An exception to the Auspex vs. Chimerstry rule.) Horrid Reality cannot be used to dictate reality without engaging in challenges. Each turn the illusionist may make Social Challenge to have the illusion create a new effect on the target, such as being hit by a chimerical attacker or engulfed in flame. Damage from attacks created by Horrid Reality is equal to the normal damage such an attack would cause, such as a punch doing one level and a pistol doing two levels. Additional effects of attacks, such as staking, must be tested as normal. Where there is a question on the amount of damage done, consult a Narrator.

j.Horrid Reality can be useful for more than just inflicting damage. The power allows the Chimerstry user to show the target literally anything. This ability may be used to show the target a far-away place, to illustrate something the Ravnos has seen, to tell a story with the benefit of all five senses, to plunge the target into a horrific fantasy world, or really to take the target on any sort of illusionary journey the user wishes. A Social Challenge is still necessary for each new effect created unless the target relents.
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Rather than duplicate my entire Facebook info page and have to put the text behind a cut anyway, here's a link to all the info for Purim this year. Should be even cooler than last year :)


Feb. 10th, 2010 12:54 pm
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Anyone else going? Woo, winter camping!

Also, anyone willing to feed my kitties from Friday to Sunday, please? (If it helps, you can stay here all weekend if you like, and have full use of my book and DVD collections :) )
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I just created a discussion list for the Pillar of Smoke. Anyone interested in the Jewish occult (+ mythology, magic, mysticism & ritual) should join (and start a topic) at .

Good news

Feb. 1st, 2010 02:39 pm
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For anyone who's into private torrent trackers (Seantaclaus?), I just discovered that Myspleen isn't gone after all. (If you haven't heard of Myspleen, it's a tracker that specializes in old TV shows - particularly MTV, Nickelodeon, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network - and also fan edits of popular films like Star Wars or Superman. ) It used to be, which went down two years ago... but it's now at .

I have a bunch of invites, so contact me privately if you'd like one.
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Since (being sold like likestock and) switching to First Niagara bank from National City, I have had the following problems:

1. No debit card or access to my money for all of Labor Day weekend, forcing me to cancel my plans for a Four Quarters event I'd already paid for;

2. Random cancellation or omission of one of my automatic car payments, causing a late car payment;

3. Erroneous deposit of one of my deposits into someone else's account;

4. Numerous overdraft charges resulting from their holding after-hours ATM deposits for an unreasonable amount of time.

(Clients have also let me know that First Niagara doesn't support Quicken. At all. So people who used it with National City before are just screwed.)

I've been sick of this incompetence for a while now, and just went and did something about it. One of my clients recommended First Commonwealth Bank, partly because they credit deposits before withdrawals. I went in and confirmed this - the teller said that even if a bunch of charges come in at 6 AM, and I make a deposit at night right before the branch closes to cover the amount, the deposit will count first.

I consider that beyond fair and decent, and so should anyone who (like me) has ever been hit with multiple overdraft charges because a bank was holding checks till they cleared. I strongly encourage anyone who's had problems with First Niagara to head over to First Commonwealth... They even have a branch in Squirrel Hill (who knew?).
Also, if anyone knows a good attorney who might want to take on a class action against First Niagara, I would love to hear about it.
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A client sent me this video... apparently the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent is an artist who draws pictures in sand. It sounded odd at first, but it's actually one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen... and since her topic is World War II, it's very poignant as well.
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This has been driving me a little nuts all weekend, so please help me if you can.

After I saw Watchmen, it struck me that Ozymandias was very similar to another fictional character, but I can't remember which one it was. I remember feeling that this was a really interesting insight... specifically, this other character is like Ozymandias in the way he (I think it was a he) does terrible things in service of the greater good.

I think it wasn't someone from comics, but I'm not 100 percent sure about that.
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So here I sit, at home, on Halloween. A long string of things has led to this point, among them the cancellation of several parties, the unexpected sickness of the person who was going to help me make my costume, and so on. I feel like this is my own fault to a large extent, though.

I just want to say to everyone who might be reading this that I'm sorry for being so bad about keeping in touch. It's something I've always had a problem with, and I'm not really sure how to go about fixing it. I could really use a little emotional support right now, as I've been feeling rather lonely lately.

I had forgotten I used to use this journal for more than just posting links and such.


Oct. 25th, 2009 09:44 pm
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So, I had thought I might be going to a party in the Philly area, which has since turned out not to be the case.

What are people doing for Halloween, especially that I might be able to tag along to with you?

Windows 7

Oct. 23rd, 2009 01:43 pm
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If anyone has a connection for a copy of Windows 7, maybe through a school or something, I could really use one for testing.

Posted via

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If you feel (as I do) that all members of Congress should be required to enroll in whatever healthcare bill they pass, please go here:
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If anyone has access to a truck or van and could help me move a sofa and loveseat by the end of the weekend, I'd gladly take you out to dinner for your trouble.

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Late notice, I know, but the Pillar of Smoke will once again be holding Yom Kippur services in Frick Park, tomorrow around noon. Anyone who's interested, please let me know so that I can print out enough booklets. Wearing white is suggested.

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This Saturday is Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world (aka the Jewish new year). In ancient times it was a day of feasting and rejoicing, but today it has become more of a lead-in to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

When I heard there was a sweat lodge this Rosh Hashanah, I could think of no better time to do one. Lodge is both serious and joyful, something that may be hard to wrap your mind around if you've never been to one. In between rounds in the lodge, if possible, I'll be running a few Rosh Hashanah prayers... Or before and after, otherwise.

If anyone would like to come, I can give you details, directions, and/or a space in my car. (3 more people can fit.) A driver who's comfortable with driving stick shift to rotate driving with me would be ideal.

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Recently I've been lusting after a couple of Asus laptops with fast (2+ GHz) Core 2 Duo processors in them. I was thinking maybe I'd pick one up

Today, a client of mine gave me a Macbook with a 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo and a broken hard drive. After replacing the hard drive, I'm now typing this on a perfectly working installation of Linux Mint on it. (I still have to get myself a copy of OS X, which I'll probably do soon.) This was in exchange for 3 hours' future work, so $150.

Magic is awesome.
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" He had so much to say, but more to show, and ain't that true of life? So we weep for a person who lived at great cost, that we never knew his powers till we sensed what we had lost."
- Dar Williams, Mark Rothko Song

It strikes me as oddly synchronistic that before any of us had heard about his death, Abby and Maggie and I were discussing the King of Pop at Starbucks a little under two hours ago. We broke into a short rendition of that song "I Never Copped A Feel", from that flash video, to the tune of "The Way You Make Me Feel". Then I went to a short appointment, and later in the middle of my dinner, a Panera employee yelled out, "Oh my God, Michael Jackson died!" after receiving a text message about it.

For my part, I'd like to say I felt really bad for Michael Jackson. He was both a great musician and a sad example of what can happen to someone absent some semblance of a normal childhood. From his interview with Martin Bashir, it was clear he had retreated into a fantasy world to escape the pressures and harshness of the real one, and also that he was raising his children there. Even so, whatever the truth or falsehood of the allegations against him, he did help many people in his lifetime, among them Ryan White, a young hemophiliac who contracted HIV from his clotting factor in the 80s. From reading Ryan White's autobiography, it was clear that at his core, Michael Jackson was a kind and giving person, and I hope that's how the world tries to remember him.

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The Pillar of Smoke will be holding its first-ever Rosh Chodesh (new
moon) ritual, Saturday, July 18 at Four Quarters Farm in Artemas, PA.
Since the Rosh Chodesh ritual will also include Havdalah, we'll be
doing a short Shabbat service the night of the 17th as well. Rosh
Chodesh is normally for women only, but I've written it as co-ed, with
women leading it and men serving food to the ladies at the close of
the ritual. There will also be bathing in the mikveh (a.k.a. creek)
afterward for anyone who likes.

(Yes, I realize this is not the actual date of the new moon, but moon
rituals are always held on weekends at 4Q for obvious reasons.)

For those who may not know, Four Quarters is an interfaith sanctuary
of earth religion, a campground whose members are mainly pagan, but
which is friendly to anyone who can treat the land with respect. I've
been spending time there this year and last, and I have to say it's a
really beautiful place full of amazing people. Please think about
camping there for the weekend if you can... on Saturday before we run
Rosh Chodesh, we can go walking in the woods, swimming in the creek,
walking the labyrinth, swinging on the giant swing, or whatever else
people like. For non-members, I believe camping is $10 a night, but it
might be waived for your first night there. You can ask the office
via the web site ( . The site is roughly
equidistant from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and DC... 2.5 to 3 hours in
each case.

Please feel free to bring anyone you think might enjoy a somewhat
nontraditional Rosh Chodesh ritual; Jews, non-Jews and anyone in
between are all welcome. Please also bring drums or other percussion
instruments if you like. The service will include a ritual sacrifice,
updated for the modern times - rather than sacrificing livestock,
which few modern city-dwellers really find too relevant, we will be
burning money. You don't have to bring a lot - just a dollar or two
will do - but I suggest burning an amount that you will miss, even if
only just a little.
Sacrifice is, after all, about giving up something you value to show
your devotion to the divine. (Some amount of the collected funds can also
be donated to a cause of the participants' choice, since in ancient
times it was traditional
for the priests to consume part of most food offerings.) We could
also really use a Kohen, so if you are one or have access to one (yes,
I know how that sounds), please let me know if you're planning to

If the reaction to the ritual is good - which I anticipate it will be
- I would like to do this again at Four Quarters, and I may also want
to start doing Rosh Chodesh monthly in our ritual space in Frick Park
in Pittsburgh.
(Four Quarters has monthly rituals for both the full moon and new
moon, so this could be the new moon ritual there again). I should have
at least two or three spots in my car if you'd like to come but don't
have transportation.

I hope to see many of you there. (Please let me know if there's any
way I can help you to get there if you'd like to come.)


P.S. For those who'd like to read the ritual ahead of time, it's
located at
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