The Usenet Monk

Originally posted to and on 29 Sep 2001.

What is Usenet? Ask ten people, and you will get twelve answers. Usenet is nowhere, and everywhere. Those whose lives it affects the most may be utterly unaware of its presence. It controls our destinies, and yet it is within our control. It surrounds us, it permeates us, it binds the Universe together. Or maybe that's duct tape.

In any case, a Usenet monk is one steeped in the mysteries of Usenet. Some monks seek enlightenment and spend their time trawling through musty, abandoned newsgroups in search of occasional pearls of wisdom (these types are usually incurable optimists). Others seek to test their mettle by searching for the most dangerous foes they can find, and besting them (these types are usually just nuts).

A monk is peaceable. Violence is met not with violence, but by turning the attacker's own force back against him. The best remedy to a flamewar, a monk believes, is a redirection of violent energy to a "sink": a place where the heat of conflict can be dissipated without doing further harm. This can be literal, as when followups are redirected to another newsgroup; or symbolic, as when a monk changes the tone of a thread by making seemingly cryptic and/or incomprehensible posts. Such as this one, for instance.

Unfortunately, sometimes a monk's good intentions are misinterpreted, causing him to be labelled a "troll" or a "troublemaker" or both. A monk therefore must learn some means of self-defence, if he is to survive in the harsh landscape of Usenet. Some go beyond this, becoming true masters of their environment. Opinions remain divided on whether such a character is to be feared or pitied.

Class Statistics


Hit Die: d8


Level    Attack     Fort    Ref     Will   Special
         bonus      save    save    save
1         +0         +0      +2      +2    Verbal acrobatics +10
2         +1         +0      +3      +3    Improved grapple
3         +2         +1      +3      +3    Damage resistance 1
4         +3         +1      +4      +4    Surreptitious followup
5         +3         +1      +4      +4    Attract sycophants
6         +4         +2      +5      +5    Verbal acrobatics +20
7         +5         +2      +5      +5    Damage resistance 2
8         +6         +2      +6      +6    Thousand faces
9         +6         +3      +6      +6    Stronghold
10        +7         +3      +7      +7    Troll without thought

Special Abilities

Verbal Acrobatics: At 1st level, a Usenet monk gains a +10 competence bonus to his Sophistry and Bluff skill checks. At 6th level, this bonus increases to +20.

Improved Grapple: At 2nd level, when facing an opponent up to two sizes larger than him, a Usenet monk can tie his opponent up in knots by making a successful grapple check.

Damage resistance: At 3th level, a Usenet monk gains damage resistance 1. He can ignore the first flaming followup posted in response to a troll of his. At 7th level, this increases to damage resistance 2; he ignores the first two flames directed at him in response to his troll.

Surreptitious Followup: At 4th level, a Usenet monk's Followup-To headers are rendered invisible to lesser beings. Only a fellow monk of at least the same level can see through the Surreptitious Followup. This is a supernatural ability.

Attract sycophants: At 5th level, a Usenet monk gains the Leadership feat. He automatically attracts a number of followers equal to 3d6 plus his Charisma modifier. Followers who are killed are not replaced, but may (at the monk's option) be reanimated as bots.

Thousand Faces: At 8th level, a Usenet monk gains the ability to move between newsgroups, as per the spell _dimension door_, three times per day (but only once per troll). This is a supernatural ability.

Stronghold: At 9th level, a Usenet monk gains the services of his own newsgroup.

Troll without thought: At 10th level, a Usenet monk gains the ability to troll newsgroups without conscious effort, or sometimes without even intending to. This, needless to say, can be more trouble than it's worth.

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