The Blindness of Love?

From September 2012:

Last Friday, 21 September, we had our weekly Socratic discussion. Often, these class discussions are the high point of my week as a teacher. Best of all, the students enjoy them. They get a chance to talk about some important topics in a safe environment where the expectation is that everyone will be listened to and respected. For each discussion, I select a topic relevant in some way to the literature we’ve read that week. Our topic for 21 September was this: “Love is blind.”

This expression has been floating around the English language for a few centuries. Often, I pointed out to my students, expressions take on the appearance of truth after they’ve been used for a long time by a lot of people. Part of what we try to do with classical education is examine ideas that perhaps too often go unquestioned. With this in mind, I asked my students, “What does it mean to say, ‘Love is blind’?”

Hands shot up, and most of my students did a great job abiding by our class rules for discussions: only one person gets to talk at a time, everyone listens to every speaker, we get to speak in the order in which our names enter the queue, et cetera. The students not only offered their individual answers, but also responded to each other. After several minutes (and a few detours chasing off-topic rabbits), a few recurring ideas became evident. Among these ideas, the students reached a consensus that when one is genuinely in love with another person, then one sees good qualities in that person that others might not be aware of.

Next, I posed a hypothetical question to my students: If I went to downtown Houston during lunch hour with two pictures, one of my wife Katrina and one of Scarlett Johansson, and showed the pictures to strangers, who would most people say was the more beautiful? The students admitted (somewhat cautiously perhaps) that most strangers would pick Ms. Johansson.

“But,” I said, “in my opinion my wife is the more beautiful. Mrs. Chance is more beautiful than Scarlett Johansson. Why would I think this?”

More conversation ensued, and the students determined that I’d answer that way because I love my wife, and I see more than just what she looks like. I see my wife’s heart, as one student put it.

“So,” I said, “with all that we’ve said in mind, is it true that love is blind?”

None of the students agreed that the expression was true. Through their own examination of the expression, my students concluded that the opposite is true. They concluded that love isn’t blind, but rather that love sees with better vision.

April 25th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Paschal Greetings!

Lent is over, and the Easter season has begun. It’s been a trying Lent. My goal was to give up making lame excuses. Overall, I don’t think I did well. My three main projects — The Grimms Fairy Hack, The Four Color Hack, and Boogie Knights of the Round Table — have all languished, neglected and sad. It’s not that I’ve done nothing with them. Well, except for Boogie Knights. That one I’ve not even looked at. It’s also not that I’ve been a complete failure. In no particular order:

I have managed to post a few new monsters. I also took the posts I did converting the skaven to Swords & Wizardry White Box and formatted them into this simple PDF. As the school year winds down, so too do the number of sessions left with Ludi Fabularum, the story game club I facilitate where I teach. For our last meetings this month and next, the students are playtesting the core of The Grimms Fairy Hack. I’m using Adventure Most Fowl by Howard Beleiff and Michael Garcia for the scenario. So far, the sessions have worked pretty well, but we’ve not hit any really crunchy parts yet. Next session, the children almost certainly find the goblins.

Part of what has slowed progress has been bouts in illness that started with my wife, moved to me (including the discovery of a class of antibiotics to which I am allergic), then to my son Christopher. Now the dog is sick. Wife Trina and daughter Adrienne are taking Sammie to the vet as I type this, which means we’re splitting up Mass times this Eastern morning. I need to make the 0800 Mass since I usher and Christopher’s in the choir. Later today, we’ve got two sets of in-laws to visit with, one for lunch, the other for dinner.

Tomorrow, for the first time in years, I’m not going to work. It’s nice having Easter Monday off, but I also have a stack of school work to do, including grading and lesson plans. I’d also like to get some writing done. We’ll see. Tomorrow evening, I’m going to hit a very small, local gym for a fitness assessment, have my body mass index measured, et cetera. If Christopher’s up to it healthwise, he’s coming along. We both need to lose some weight and get into better shape, and this seems like the place to do it. I’d rather give my money to a local business than a chain like 24 Hour Fitness.

Well, that’s my life in a nutshell lately. Good times.

April 16th, 2017  in Spes Magna News No Comments »

Virtuous Education

From August of 2012, now with some minor edits:

The purpose of a classical education is to teach children those things they need to know and to do in order to be both free and responsible. In the classical tradition, this focuses on the virtues of justice, temperance, courage, and, most importantly, prudence. The Christian tradition, when it adopted and baptized the classical tradition, added the virtues of faith, hope, and, most importantly, charity.

Once upon a time, there was an additional component to the education in virtue, namely the education in manners. Children were expected to learn and demonstrate the correct ways to behave in polite society. At Aristoi Classical Academy, we want to recapture this lost component of education. To help students learn how to behave in polite society, I cannot strongly enough recommend Ron Clark’s humorous, thoughtful The Essential 55.

Among the essential fifty-five is this rule:

“When responding to any adult, you must answer by saying, ‘Yes ma’am,’ or ‘No sir’. Just nodding your head or saying any other form of yes or no is not acceptable.”

I try to model this with my students in my interactions with both them and with adults. Often I’ve encountered people who object to me addressing them as “sir” or “ma’am”. I remember one lady in particular who attended the same church I did at the time. She bristled at being addressed as “ma’am”. I tried to explain to her why I did so. I’m not sure she ever bought into my explanation, but I think those reasons bear repeating here.

I try to address people as “sir” or “ma’am” as a sign of respect. This seems rather obvious, I think. Those two words are verbal clues, so to speak, that I view the person I’m speaking to as worthy of being taken seriously, of being appreciated. It doesn’t matter who the person is: a cashier at a fast food joint, a panhandler at an intersection, a door-to-door salesman, et cetera. Everyone deserves at least this modicum of respect.

“But not everyone,” I’ve heard people respond. “People have to earn respect, after all.”

Well, maybe they do, but there’s more to this rule. “Sir” or “ma’am” aren’t just signs of respect for that other person. They’re also signs of self-respect. I ought to value the quality of my character too much to speak to other people in a disrespectful manner, even if (or especially if) they seem to deserve it.

The trick is communicating this distinction to my students. When I answer a 5th grader with “Yes sir”, it’s not just a sign of respect for that student. It’s a message to others and myself that I am trying to be the kind of person who gives others respect as a matter of habit.

And that’s what a virtue is: a habitual tendency to behave in a manner that is aimed at the good.

April 11th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Three More Monsters

More monsters inspired by Domenico Neziti.

Mamac
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: Bite (1d6)
Special: See below
Move: 6/12 (when swimming)
Save: 17
HDE/XP: 3/60

Mamacs are humanoid creatures that dwell in murky coastal waters. They appear more fish than man, with webbed fingers and toes, a prominent doral fin, an eel-like tail, and a large head split by a wide mouth. Long barbels grown from the upper and lower jaws, and mamacs have large, lidless eyes. A fleshy esca grows from a mamac’s head. This organ glows with a soft, comforting light. A mamac’s barbels pick up vibrations in the air or water, making mamacs difficult to surprise (half normal chance) and enabling the monster to fight in melee even when it cannot see. A creature not already engaged in combat who sees the light of a mamac’s esca must make a saving throw are be lulled into a passive trance that lasts as long as the light is visible or until the victim suffers damage.

Kriti
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: Beak (1d6)
Special: See below
Move: 6/12 (when flying)
Save: 13
HDE/XP: 7/600

Kritis are magical avian humanoids. They are darkly feathered with heads like those of crows or ravens. Wings grow from their shoulders, as do human-like arms. Their legs resemble those of a great bird. A kriti can don a few items of clothing in order to create about itself the illusion that it is whatever humanoid creature the clothing is common to. They use these disguises to move about villages in order steal shiny objects and abduct particularly beautiful children. Kritis can Speak with Animals, and once per day each they can use Phantasmal Force and Confusion.

Fenjer
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 3+3
Attacks: Touch (see below)
Special: See below
Move: 12
Save: 16
HDE/XP: 4/120

Fenjers are a type of ghost it seems, perhaps the spirits of those who died while lost. They appear much as they did in life, but are obviously not corporeal. Fenjers pass through most solid objects as if those objects weren’t there. They can only be harmed by magical weapons and by spells, except for those that cause sleep, charm, or inflict damage via cold. A fenjer’s touch is painfully cold. With each successful hit, its touch drains one point of Dexterity. If a victim is brought to 0 Dexterity, he freezes solid and dies. Dexterity points return after an hour, assuming death has not occurred. All fenjers carry a lantern. These lanterns cause night-time darkness in a 20-foot radius.

April 7th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Ledpauks & Rojîyans

Ledpauks are monstrous spiders that are difficult to immediately distinguish from the more common web-building giant spider. In combat, however, the differences between giant spiders and ledpauks become evident, revealing why the later are the more dangerous monster. Ledpauks are immune to fire, even magical fire such as a fireball. The bite of a ledpauk is poisonous. A victim must save versus poison or be killed. Ledpauks spin their sticky webs horizontally or vertically so as to entrap any creature which touches them. The web is as tough and clinging as a web spell. Any creature with 18 or greater strength con break free in 1 melee round, a 17 strength requires 2 melee rounds, etc. Webs spun by ledpauks are are invulnerable to fire. Worse still, these webs grow instantaneously upon contact with fire. If a torch, flaming oil, or a fireball contacts the webs, they row 2,4, or 8 times their size as they “feed” on the heat.

Ledpauk
Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1-4
Armor Class: 4
Move: 3″*12″
Hit Dice: 4+4
% in Lair: 70%
Treasure Type: C
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 3-9
Special Attacks: See below
Special Defenses: Immune to fire
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Any evil
Size: L
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
Level/X.P. Value: V/320 + 5/hp

The link at the top of the next stat block takes you to another excellent illustration by Domenico Neziti.

Rojîyan
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: Claw (1d6)
Special: See below
Move: 15
Save: 15
HDE/XP: 6/400

Rojîyans are embodied spirits sent to punish sinners. Each rojîyan is attuned to a particular sort of sin, such as one of the seven deadly. A rojîyans can always detect such a sinner out to a range of 120 feet. These monsters are immune to all non-magical weapons. Against sinners to which they are attuned to punish, rojîyans drain 1 level per hit, and they take only one-half damage from the sinner’s attacks. Rojîyans are immune to sleep, charm, and hold effects.

April 3rd, 2017  in RPG No Comments »