Features > Tell Me About Your Character > Greg Morrow

Your name: Greg Morrow. In the days of Usenet, I used "Elmo" (or Dr. Elmo after 1997), so a lot of people know me that way.
Location: Houston, Texas
Age: 39
Sex: M

Family: Single. Growing up, I had the unrecognized benefit of being a member of a functional family, with two parents, still together, and a sister, and all of us loved and liked each other.

Political party/affiliation: Democrat. It's kinda lonely here in Texas.

Religion: Atheist. Science is the only way of knowing anything true about the physical universe, so I pretty much reject religion insofar as it makes claims about the physical universe. However, opting out of God does not mean opting out of morality; it means you have to think about why something is right or wrong because you can't rely on divine authority.

Education: Ph. D. in physics

Hobbies/Activities: I'm interested in constitutional law, linguistics, and evolution, at the "educated layman" level. I collect comics, mostly superhero. I help run the Howling Curmudgeons comics blog.

What is your favorite word? The latest one I've learned. Currently, that might be spall, the small fragments of material shed by a large solid piece due to corrosion, weather, fatigue, impact, or other source of damage, which I learned after the I-35 collapse.

Just to test the stereotype - Have you ever lived, or are you
currently living, in your parents' basement?
Nope. Went
away to college, went away to grad school, got a job. Now I
have a great house of my own.

How many languages do you speak? English. I seem to have
an unusually large working vocabulary in English, exacerbated
by my interest in various jargon-heavy fields. Life is just more
interesting when you can throw in reify, sympatric, or clitic (not
a dirty word!) into a discussion.

I can read a fair amount of French, though I can't understand a word anyone says. I have the ability to make any Spanish speaker laugh when I say anything in Spanish. I know a tiny amount of Japanese. Of course, as a physicist, I can sight-read the Greek alphabet.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'm lazy, and it's contributed to my being overweight. I'd like to be one of those people who enjoys exercise, and I'd like to be one of those people who don't look forward to slumping down on the sofa and doing nothing.

Did you have any embarassing nicknames as a kid? My mom calls me "Geech", but that's not exactly embarassing.

What was your favorite toy as a child? Legos! You can build things, create characters, and tell stories with them. There is no finer toy for a child!

What makes you cry? Twu wuv. Despair, poverty, helplessness, hopelessness (e.g. John Scalzi's "Being Poor", or the first part of Elizabeth Moon's Oath of Gold).

What is your favorite section of the newspaper? The funnies! Webcomics, incidentally, represent a second Golden Age of the comic strip, where the unlimited canvas of the Internet gives the artist the kind of room for size and scope and diversity that hasn't been present in newspaper comics since the comics started shrinking around WWII.

If you could have one superpower - or be any superhero - which power would you pick, or which hero would you be? Teleportation. I'm lazy and impatient, and the ability to just port anywhere I wanted to be is so appealing. I could spend all my free time on beautiful sandy beaches!

If I were a superhero, I'd want to be Superman; virtually limitless power, and the moral strength to use it for the benefit of others.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A paleontologist. My mom says that strangers tend to be surprised when a four-year-old can pronounce "paleontologist".

What is one thing that you regret that you would go back and change if you could? I would have spent more time dancing. Not that I'm any of those fancy dancers with, y'know, skills; I'm talking about going to the club and dancing to rock'n'roll and electronica. My advice to teenagers would simply be: You will not regret the time you spend dancing

Tell us about your favorite RPG character that you've ever played.
While I will always remember half-ogre Gunther von Grafsburg's motto, "Destroy the forces of evil! Then
loot them to the last copper penny!", my all-time favorite character was Mordrannoch
eic Uilgan, in Andy Solberg's Q2: Return to the Demonweb Pits (not related to
the recent WotC adventure). 3rd ed D&D (3.0). I played him from about
11th level through to 26th (ECL 29); he was what we call a "blaster mage",
meaning a spellcaster focusing on damage spells, in this case an evoker.

Mordrannoch was curious. In the early days of the game, I would sit near the combat
mat. The other players would organize the party marching order, putting the wizard
safely in the middle. I would then subtly switch figs around when people weren't looking,
to move Mordrannoch near the front. By the time the encounter happened, likely as not,
I was in the front rank, getting blown up and ambushed by whatever we ran into. Eventually,
they learned to just put me in the front rank.

Mordrannoch was the last male heir of the Uilgan line, which meant that he had inherited an intelligent, talking sunsword that could only be used by males of the Uilgan line. Which I couldn't do, since I was a wizard. The only power the sword let me use was detect magic; I called him my "pointy wand of magic detection". The sword constantly tried to hook me up with anything remotely female in the hopes of breeding another male in the line. Letting the GM have a voice in game to be sarcastic and abusive of you with is a good way to keep him favorably inclined toward you when you come to him with a new mechanic for abusing the game!

At one point, we got hold of a Deck of Many Things-like thing. It was balanced only very slightly toward good things. We pulled a total of, I think, twelve cards out of the deck, and (as I recall) only two of them were negative, and both of them were mine. One of them changed my alignment, randomly, from chaotic good all the way to neutral good. I was OK with that. The other left me permanently flat-footed with a substantial initiative penalty. That is, rogue bait. However, on the plus side, I got turned into a half-celestial, with +20 in ability boosts, plus spell-like abilities, plus immunities, plus wings. So I'm OK with that. My henchling, a drow priestess of Eilastraee, got turned into a half-silver dragon. We hit the jackpot.

As the arcane spellcaster in the party, I got given all the magic staffs and arcane scrolls and whatnot that I could theoretically use. At one point when we had downtime, I cashed in all that loot that I wasn't really using, doing so without the party's knowledge, plus all the cash I'd been accumulating, and got four wishes, which I used for +4 inherent Intelligence boost. My brain was enormous; by the end, I was getting bonus 11th level spell slots, and throwing maximized force-damage Chain Lightning spells.

I missed a session in which the characters stumbled into a den with multiple dragons. They were in serious trouble when the session ended. At the beginning of the next game, my character having rematerialized from my absence, Mordrannoch flew into the middle of the room, threw a 3.0 Haste, a Time Stop, and a stack of blast spells, single-handedly turning the battle in our favor.

Mordrannoch had an enormous Con and north of 300 hp by the end; my favorite battle was the one against a roomful of very high level drow, in which he got brought down to less than 20% of my HP, Healed, brought down to less than 20% again, Healed again, and by the end of the fight was down to about 1/3rd and in need of a Heal again. That's a fight!

What are your favorite RPGs? D&D. 3.x is far and away the best version of the game to date. Nowadays, it's displaying the kind of optional rules/power creep/balance issues that plagued late 2nd ed., which makes the skill of the GM so much more important. Plus I hate the new monster stat block and encounter formats.

Other than that, I adore Champions; no surprise, since I am a superhero comic book collector.

But, ultimately, it's not the game; it's the people you play with. My current primary group is a bunch of rules wonks, so we tend to like games with rules we can chew over, but as long as you're with good people, you can play anything and have a great time, and that's why I game.

What was your first RPG session like? What game did you play, and where did
you play it?
I'm not sure I remember a specific first. It would have been blue-cover basic
D&D, back around Christmas 1978, and quite possibly module B1. Some of my
earliest games were with other middle school kids, and some were with my dad.

What was your WORST RPG session like? What made it so bad? I don't like to talk about it, because it was one of the (hopefully) few times that I have been genuinely been part of the problem. But, briefly, I was playing a deliberately-obnoxious character (Joe Pesci crossed with Dennis Franz), and I didn't pick up exactly how pissed off I was making the other players. The
character of one of the players took a serious action to quell my character's obnoxiousness, and I retaliated, in the process making it impossible to continue the campaign. I have been told that my reaction was not entirely disproportionate to the offense, but nonetheless, I am still ashamed of my part in the incident.

Who is your all-time favorite person to game with? That's hard--I've been privileged with truly exceptional gaming groups over the years, but I can plug a few special friends. Jason Modisette co-GMs a special event at Owlcon (see below) with me, and I couldn't ask for a better partner. Ginger Stampley asked me a single insightful question that led to more than a year of games for my most successful campaign, and thereby taught me a lot about how to GM. Andy Solberg makes the best puzzles. But Angelo Benedetto is my best friend, and whether he's playing in my game, I'm playing in his, or we're playing in somebody else's, it's always a great time.

Do you have anything gaming-related to plug? Owlcon (www.owlcon.com), the premiere gaming convention in Houston. We feature RPGs (including a substantial RPGA presence), miniature gaming, board and card games, LARPs, and other gaming-related events. Almost 30 years old, the con, held at Rice University every February, has exceeded its own size record seven of the last eight years. We donate half our net profits to charity. It's a great time--ask last year's special guests, Steve Jackson of SJG and Steve Long of Hero Games!

I'm tabletop RPG chief, which means I'm in charge of managing all the RPG events (other than RPGA). I co-run (with Jason Modisette) a D&D tournament focusing on the Master Maze modular dungeon models produced by Dwarven Forge, which make just an amazing enhancement to the D&D experience. And I'll also plug my friend Mason Hart's Shadowrun events; they're so popular that last year we had people camping on the pre-registration page waiting for it to go live in order not to miss his game


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