Blacktip Island Role Players Create Durgons and Dragons Game

durgons and dragons

The common black durgon is a major danger in the new Durgons and Dragons role-playing game developed by a group of Blacktip Island scuba-diving gaming aficionados. (photo courtesy of NOAA)

A group of Blacktip Island underwater role-playing game enthusiasts this week played their first rounds of their newly-developed Durgons and Dragons on Jawfish Reef to celebrate the upcoming end of hurricane. season.

“It’s a riff on Dungeons and Dragons, played underwater,” game developer Lee Helm said. “The Dive Master walks players through underwater adventures, usually quests to find treasure or explore sunken pirate ships or caves.

“There’s no magic per se, but the in-game reef is way different than the real reef,” Helm said. “Sharks and orcas and krakens are the obvious dangers. But all the normal reef fish can be deadly, too.”

As in Dungeons and Dragons, players must navigate dangers and defeat monsters.

“Parrotfish, triggerfish, nurse sharks, even other divers can kill you,” gamer Edwin Chub said. “And you have to watch for swarms of brown chomises. Chromii. Whatever.

“The real terrors, though, are the leafy sea dragons and black durgons,” Chub said. “Just yesterday a durgon chewed through 10 player characters. We’re still recovering from that.”

With players on scuba, game time is limited by air consumption.

“When you’re out of air, the game’s over. Heavy breathers put the entire team at risk,” said player Harry Blenny. “You’re basically playing against game hazards, other players and time. People meditate beforehand to save air.

“It gets vicious. Light breathers try to kill off the air hogs’ characters so the game will last longer,” Blenny said. “And the air-suckers gang up on other players to get those characters killed off. We had plans for surface-supplied air to avoid all that, but decompression sickness issues scotched that since there’s no barometric chamber on the island.”

Some residents remained unimpressed.

“I really don’t get it, but I guess I don’t have to,” cook Jessie Catahoula said. “It’s goofy, but at least it keeps Lee and his buddies out of sight and away from me.”

Players emphasized the game’s positive aspects.

“It teaches people to work together as a team, not knowing if one of the characters is a Random Bad Diver,” Helm said. “When an RBD starts flailing there’s a 20 percent chance the character closest to him drowns.

“Just this morning my 39th-level heliox diver got bent on a rogue upwelling because of a Baddie,” Helm said. “I had to start over with a character that’s barely nitrox certified.”

Others touted the game’s growing popularity.

“There’s already Durgons and Dragons clubs on other islands,” Blenny said. “We’re gonnna have a D and D tournament over the holidays, too. As word spreads, our ultimate goal is to have some women join us. Or talk to us.”

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Blacktip Island Ballot Box Stolen; Mayoral Election On Hold

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The theft of Blacktip Island’s ballot box Thursday has put the election on hold and left the small Caribbean island leaderless. (photo courtesy of Rama)

The 2018 Blacktip Island mayor’s election was stymied Thursday when a supporter of one candidate stole the island’s sole ballot box in an attempt to forestall that candidate’s defeat.

“As always, Jack Cobia was set to win by double digits, this time over political newcomer Val Schrader,” Elections Supervisor Belinda Graysby said. “Then Dermott Bottoms decided to weigh in. He got a snoot full of rum, grabbed the ballot box and ran.

“It was more personal than political,” Graysby said. “Dermott’s always had a thing for Val. Nearest we can guess, he stole the election so she’d notice him. He’s holed up in the church now, howling her name and claiming sanctuary or some such nonsense.”

Both candidates condemned Bottoms’ actions.

“This was a planned political op from the get go,” incumbent Jack Cobia said. “Val knew the only way she’d win was by cheating. And that Dermott’d do anything for her. He’s probably tearing up ballots as we speak. Or eating them. Dermott’s not bright, but he has a certain low cunning.

“Bottom line is, until there’s official, verified results, I’m still the mayor,” Cobia said. “There’s got to be continuity of leadership, for the island’s sake, and I’m the one to provide it.”

Schrader refuted Cobia’s claims.

“I never I encouraged Dermott. About anything,” Schrader said. “He’s just bat-shit crazy. Always has been. I’m trying to lead the island, not deal with some cow-eyed drunk.

“Jack pulled every dirty trick in the book to rig this election, and I wouldn’t put it past him to have put Dermott up to this,” Schrader said. “But that doesn’t make stealing ballots right Win or lose, this isn’t how democracy works.”

The stolen votes have thrown island politics into a tailspin.

“Jack’s term expired midnight. Period,” resident Frank Maples said. “With the votes uncounted, technically Blacktip has no mayor. Jack can bluster all he wants, but he has no legal authority. And Blacktip’s mayor-less.

“Rafe Marquette’s trying to talk Dermott into giving up the box, but Dermott’s having none of it,” Maples said. “Jerrod and Gage snuck in and tried to steal it, but they got whacked up pretty bad. Dermott’s an unholy terror when he’s riled. And drinking. All indications are he’s got into the Communion wine.”

Other leaders focused on more pragmatic goals.

“Our aim’s to get Dermott out of the church so he’ll stop ringing those damn bells non stop and screaming, ‘Val!’ from the rooftop,” B.C. Flote said. “Rafe Marquette popped him with a couple of tranquilizer darts, but Dermott seemed to enjoy them. I guess he’s built up a resistance to pretty much everything. Except misplaced emotions.”

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Marker Thieves Make Blacktip A Black-And-White Island

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The few remaining colored pens on Blacktip Island are locked in the Caribbean island’s police station until the person responsible for a rash of colored-pen thefts has been apprehended. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)

The theft of all colored markers in the Blacktip Island store Wednesday night has left many island residents questioning the culprit’s identity and motives, officials said.

“On the face of it, it’s someone’s warped idea of a joke, leaving only black markers,” store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “But it’s not funny my being out the cost of the markers and lock repair so some idiot can get high sniffing them.

“I got in yesterday morning and the door’d been jimmied,” Bottoms said. “My first thought was someone stole the cash or the safe, but those were untouched. The only things missing were colored magic markers and paint pens and colored pencils. And crayons, for when they get the munchies, I guess.”

Island officials worry the theft is part of a larger crime wave.

“This past week there’ve been reports of colored pens disappearing from homes and businesses,’ Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “I passed that off as people misplacing things, but in light of this break in, I’m re-evaluating that.

“Right now, anyone wants to write or draw in anything but black is out of luck,” Marquette said. “The few colored markers left are locked up in the police station until I get to the bottom of this. The multi-colored insults on the side of the police car aren’t helping the perp’s cause.”

The marker disappearance has many residents on edge.

“This isn’t a simlpe inconvenience,” Ginger Bass said. “The kids can’t draw in anything but black and white now. You should see their blacked-out coloring books. The younger ones can’t rationalize something like that. They’re cranky. Parents aren’t getting much sleep. We’re at a crisis point here.

“Plus, the dive staffs can’t draw dive site maps on the boats without colored dry-erase markers,” Bass said. “There’s some serious safety concerns in all this, you know.”

Others maintain the thefts are an elaborate hoax.

“It makes no sense. That smacks of one of Jerrod’s artsy projects,” Helen Maples said. “He can deny it all he wants, but there are an awful lot of colorful, hand-drawn designs on the outside of that crazy house of his.

“Lots of melted-down crayons tacked to the side of it, too,” Maples said. “There’s no proof, of course, but he certainly has the motive and is hare-brained enough to do it. And leaving the rest of us with only black pens is exactly his sort of humor.”

Jerrod Ephesians denied the allegations.

“I have all the paint and markers I need. Why would I steal more?” he said. “End of the day, folks are missing something that’s essentially useless. Is that really a bad thing? It makes them see the world differently.

“There’s a lesson in all this, really,” Ephesians said. “People don’t realize how dependent they are on something until it’s gone. Blacktippers learning to do without is a positive. It makes us all stronger.”

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New Boat Marshals Safeguard Blacktip Island Divers

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Scuba divers behaving badly on Blacktip Island dive boats have prompted leaders on the small Caribbean island to assign undercover security officers on charter boats. (photo courtesy of Gage Hoase)

In response to increased altercations on Blacktip Island dive boats, island leaders this week deputized multiple, incognito Boat Marshals, based on the Air Marshal program for commercial aviation, to safeguard dive guests.

“There’s been an uptick in verbal and physical confrontations on boats,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Whether because of crowded conditions, bad weather, or just people being cranky these days, it was getting out of hand.

“The shouting matches between dives were bad enough,” Cobia said. “But when guests started flinging weight belts at each other because someone silted a swim through, we had to act. There’s only one island constable, and Rafe can only be so many places at once. He needed help.”

The marshals are former constables with arrest powers, randomly assigned to various dive boats.

“There was no choice. We were taking in the shorts on TripAdvisor,” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “And our dive staff’s not trained to get physical with guests. Not that way, anyway.

“Now we’re putting trained officers on the boats, in mufti, looking like any other guest,” Bottoms said. “Usually in tacky shirts and shorts. Or not. You never know. But any yahoo steps out of line, they’ll have a marshal on them like a duck on a June bug.”

The island’s dive professionals welcomed the move.

“It makes our job way less stressful, knowing there’s someone to deal with a-holes,” Blacktip Haven boat captain Dusty Blenny said. “Yesterday some dude got up in my grill when I wouldn’t go to Lucifer’s Grotto. Tried to grab the wheel. The marshal du jour thumped him good and locked him in the head.

“They can disarm you of knives, lionfish spears and tank bangers, you name it,” Blenny said. “Today one stopped a snorkel fight before it could start.”

Dive guests appreciate the change.

“It’s reassuring seeing action taken, on the boats and underwater,” Club Scuba Doo guest Donna Requin said. “This morning a knife fight broke out between a photographer hogging an eel and another photographer who shoved her aside.

“We were all in shock when, WHOOSH, in came a marshal who dragged them to the surface,” Requin said. “By the time we surfaced, the two had already been skiffed off to the jail.”

Some officials worry the program may be a victim of its own success,

“There’s so many incidents, and so few marshals, we’re having trouble keeping their identities secret,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We keep disguising them, but they still get recognized because of all the YouTube videos.

“Once word gets out, we’re hoping divers’ll behave themselves so we can phase out the B.M.s,” Marquette said. “At that point we’ll repurpose them for bar security Friday and Saturday nights.”

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Blacktip Island Divemaster Discovers New Fish Species

new fish

Blacktip Island marine biologists say a fish photographed by an island divemaster may be a new species of wrasse. (photo courtesy of Barry Peters)

A Blacktip Island scuba guide diving on his day off Wednesday discovered what scientists say is a previously-unknown reef fish species on the Wrasse Hole Wall dive site.

“Marina dared me to go to 150, and when I got there I saw a weird little fish,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “I shined my light on it and the eyes jumped out at me. I was gobsmacked.

“Back on the boat, people said I was narked,” Helm said. “I had a photo to prove it, though. I was going to name it after me, but I owed Dermott money and I like my face as-is, so I named it after him instead.”

The fish, tentatively dubbed Wrassius bottomsis, is probably a relative of the common Caribbean hairy wrasse, marine biologists said.

“We can’t say for certain without collecting a specimen, killing it and cutting it up – and we’re sending a team down tomorrow to do just that – but it appears to be part of the wrasse family,” Tiperon University-Blacktip ichthyology chair Ernesto Mojarra said. “We have to be sure, though. Anything Lee’s involved with is usually full of crap. It does look kind of like Dermott, though I’d never say that to his face.”

Island scuba operations wasted no time promoting the find.

“We’re running packed boats out to Wrasse Hole Wall two, three times a day,” Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sure, the staff’s got its hands full keeping the guests above 100 feet, but that’s why we pay them minimum wage.

“We’re doing Bottoms Wrasse t-shirts, wrasse hats and Speedos, too,” Skerritt said. “And our own Wrasse Wipe sunscreen. Our bookings are already up in just the last to days.”

Dive professionals worry the discovery may encourage unsafe diving.

“If Lee wants to go that deep and get himself bent on his own time, that’s his business,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Problem is, all our guests want to get down that deep, too, to see his damn fish.

“There’s only so much control a couple of staff can have over 20 divers,” Latner said. “Before, it was like herding cats. Now it’s pure chaos. We snagged three divers at 140 just this morning. Someone’s gonna get hurt, or worse, before this is all over.”

Other residents were less unconcerned.

“Divers go deep all the time. If they’re strong, they’ll survive,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Important thing is that’s my wrasse everybody’s trying to see. My wrasse’s gonna be all over the internet now, you know.”

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Blacktip Island Hosts Underwater Columbus Day Parade

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The reef off Diddley’s Landing public pier will be the site of Blacktip Island’s inaugural Underwater Columbus Day Parade Monday. The island’s Cultural Society hopes the event will ease holiday tensions. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/staff)

The Blacktip Island Cultural Society Thursday announced its inaugural Underwater Columbus Day Parade, slated for Monday night at the island’s pubic pier, as a way to ease tensions among island residents on the controversial holiday.

“Columbus isn’t the hero here he is in other parts of the Western hemisphere,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Here he’s best known for genocide and pillaging. That makes for a good bit of friction between locals and some of the expats.

“Locals shooting expats with red paintball pellets all day releases some of the frustration,” Altschul said. “But it doesn’t address the divisions or heal old wounds.”

The underwater parade aims at bridging that gap, organizers said.

“We’re not celebrating Columbus so much as we are the arrival of scuba tourism,” BICS chair Peachy Bottoms said. “That’s the one thing that truly unites Blacktippers. Scuba is the industry on this little rock. We’re all thankful for that.

“The underwater parade, with divers from all walks of life, from all the resorts, will emphasize how we have more in common than we realize,” Bottoms said. “People can still shoot each other with paintballs until sunset, but the parade will be non-violent, totally inclusive and focused on the positive.”

To engage non-divers, event organizers made the parade spectator friendly.

“Divers’ll wear multicolored marker lights so they’ll be easy to follow,” parade grand marshal Catalina Luxfer said. “And they’ll be diving off Diddley’s Landing, so there’s plenty of room for a crowd.

“We’ve built a scaffolding with bench seats to allow for as many viewers as possible,” Luxfer said. “The divers’ll go in at sunset, after the police collect all the paintball guns, then after the parade there’ll be a big party on the pier.”

The after party will feature the first performance by island supergroup Ragnarok Lobster, made up of members of defunct island-favorite bands.

“From the Social Morays there’s Alison Diesel on lead guitar, and Marina DeLow on bass and backing vocals,” Bottoms said. “From Effing Zeagles there’s Finn Kiick on drums, and from Ivan and the Embolizers they’ve got Gage Hoase on lead vocals and beer cans.”

BICS members hope to cap the evening by burning a scale-model Spanish caravelle as both a celebration and a protest of Columbus’ arrival.

“Everyone was in favor of setting something on fire, for whatever reason,” Luxfer said. “People can interpret the ship burning however they want.

“It’s a no-go unless there’s an offshore breeze, though,” Luxfer said. “We launched a trial ship last week, and the wind pushed it back into the mangroves. We barely got the fire put out before it hit the Tale Spinner lounge. Fire ships are all fun and games until a bar burns.”

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Blacktip Island Braces For Weekend Underwater Villanelle Fest

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Several Blacktip Island dive sites and multiple resort swimming pools will host this weekend’s ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, sponsored by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society. (photo courtesy of Reg Gurnard)

Blacktip Island’s poetry aficionados will gather at multiple venues this weekend for the third annual, two-day ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, organized by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society.

“Every yahoo and their cousin participates in the Easter Poetry Slam. It’s a drunken, free-for-all, anything-goes affair,” festival organizer Doris Blenny said. “We came up with the ‘Mad Night’ concept several years ago after people mistook ‘poetry’ for ‘poultry,’ and all hell broke loose.

“This is a separate event, limited to one poetic form, that really separates the wheat from the chaff talent-wise,” Blenny said. “A villanelle shows your chops, or lack of them. There’ll be no ‘cat sat on the mat’ dreck this weekend. Unless it fits the rhyme scheme and line repetition pattern.

“The name’s a hat tip to Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ and Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Got Gentle Into That Good Night’ villanelles,” Blenny said. “Plus, it pretty well sums up the last two Fests.”

The two-day event will feature underwater readings of published villanelles as well as sessions for local poets to read their own work aloud.

“The underwater aspect helps with crowd control. And author control,” BIPS sergeant-at-arms Peachy Bottoms said. “There’re separate categories for full-face-mask readings and through-the-regulator readings – both beautiful in their own way. There’ll be interpretive swimmers on hand, too, to enhance the experience.

“We’ll have readings on multiple dive sites, in resort pools and in the Heritage House bathtub,” Bottoms said. “There’s also a kids’ session in the Eagle Ray Cove hot tub with snorkels.”

BIPS judges said the form restriction will be strictly enforced.

“If it’s not a villanelle, we’ll cut the mike. All our participants have been warned,” Reg Gurnard said. “We’ll make an exception for the occasional terzanelle, but sonnets are right out. And don’t get me started on sestinas. We’re still repairing the Heritage House after Antonio Fletcher’s x-rated open-mike debacle.”

Some island poets protested the festival’s limitations.

“It’s not fair, excluding people because we don’t use rhyme or a strict structure,” Lee Helm said. “The elitist judges are biased against us. I mean, what’s next, bloody Epic Greek Lyric Fest?

“My gran wrote villanelles. As a schoolgirl. And hated them,” Helm said. “This is the sort of hidebound, Structuralist mindset that’s holding back Blacktip’s poetry community. And creativity in general.”

Blenny defended the festival’s rules.

“We haven’t replaced the Poetry Slam, we’ve simply created a new, different event with a more refined focus,” she said. “If we hadn’t imposed this strict structure, we never would have heard Dermott Bottoms’ interlocking villanelle cycle about inebriation. His ‘Rumward by Booby Flight’ brought the house down. It truly did.”

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