liz writes stuff down

The Patriarchy as an otherworldly patron

As we all know, the patriarchy is just a figment of feminist imagination. My friend Geoffrey and I feel that such figments of the imagination are well suited for becoming otherworldly patrons for Dungeons & Dragons 5E warlocks, so we created a variant otherworldly patron for the Patriarchy.

From page 108 of the Player's Handbook:

The beings that serve as patrons for warlocks are mighty inhabitants of other planes of existence - not gods, but almost godlike in their power. Various patrons give their warlocks access to different powers and invocations, and expect significant favors in return.

Some patrons collect warlocks, doling out mystic knowledge relatively freely or boasting of their ability to bind mortals to their will. Other patrons bestow their power only grudgingly, and might make a pact with only one warlock. Warlocks who serve the same patron might view each other as allies, siblings, or rivals.

Here's our new option for an otherworldly patron, the Patriarchy:

The Patriarchy

You have made a pact with a system in some other plane of existence - you're not sure which one, but you're absolutely positive it's not the plane you're in.

You can only make this pact if your character is a cishet man. Since you are a cishet man, the Patriarchy will constantly work for you, no matter how often you try to deny its existence or defy its assistance.

The Patriarchy gains power by working against certain characters, and your pact gives the Patriachy the right to draw from those around you. Any female characters, wood elves, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, dragonborn, tiefling, or fey within a 10-foot radius of you - whether or not they are allied with you - must roll a d20 before attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks at the DM's discretion[1]. If they roll a 1, they roll with disadvantage. It may be beneficial to have a party that consists of none of those characters.

Expanded Spell List

The Patriarchy lets cishet men choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list.

Patriarchy Expanded Spells

1st level: command, heroism
2nd level: calm emotions, enhance ability
3rd level: stinking cloud, water walk
4th level: compulsion, phantasmal killer
5th level: dominate person, mislead

Additionally, you know the friends cantrip and do not have to count it against the number of cantrips you can learn.

Blindness to Privilege

Starting at 1st level, every time you see a character make an attack roll, saving throw, or skill check, if your applicable modifier or skill bonus is higher than theirs, your character believes that they rolled with your bonus. If they fail, you believe it's because they are not working hard enough.

Reverse Discrimination

Starting at 6th level, whenever any female characters, wood elves, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, dragonborn, tiefling, or fey get any temporary bonus or advantage on a roll, so do you, as long as you complain loudly.

Double Standards

Starting at 10th level, when you get advantage on a roll, you get to roll with increased advantage - on every d20 roll, roll four d20 and take the maximum.

Any female characters, wood elves, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, dragonborn, tiefling, or fey within a 10-foot radius of you - whether or not they are allied with you - must roll a d20 before attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks at the DM's discretion. If they roll a 1, they now roll with increased disadvantage - roll four d20 and take the minimum.


Starting at 14th level, your party members react as if you had rolled the best possible number for every roll. For instance, if you were likely to kill an enemy by rolling a natural 20 on attack and the maximum for damage, your entire party leaves combat to celebrate, and the enemy gets a surprise round. Since the Patriarchy draws power from female characters, wood elves, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, dragonborn, tiefling, and fey, those characters do not get a surprise round.

[1] The Patriarchy isn't perfect.


Save your old bio: it stores confidence as well as content

I cringe at having to describe myself or write my own bios. No matter how casually an email, site, or form says "introduce yourself, no pressure", I shrink back. How do I convince myself that other people find who I am or what I do interesting?

I found myself asking this question a lot this past year, probably because I've written myself quite a few bios in the last year. Conference applications ask me who I am, social websites want me to fill out my profile, and social and professional networking has me introducing myself over email. I'm often uneasy about what to write, so I draft my bios in emacs and copy them over when I'm ready. As a result, I've ended up with a copy of every bio I've written in the last year. This turned out to be a happy accident - having copies of previous bios makes writing a new one a lot easier for me.

When I can look back at old bios, I benefit from having words at my fingertips to reuse when appropriate. When I see that I included something about me in a previous bio, I feel more confident that it's something worth including instead of something that isn't good enough. When I reread old bios, I remember what people told me worked well and what could have been better. (Keeping feedback nearby would be handy, too.) But mostly, when I see that I've written successful bios before, I feel confident that I can write a good one again.

And once I've written a new bio, I ask a friend to read it.


Building confidence in the face of impostor syndrome

When I'm plowing away at a project, I almost always feel confident in my abilities. Sometimes, I question if I am a good enough engineer, designer, or statistician, but once I get started, my excitement transforms those doubts into motivation.

But all bets are off as soon as I want someone else to be excited about me and my work - I feel like an impostor. I often feel like I can't be a real software engineer or a data scientist because I do this work within a finance company. I frequently don't feel like a singer or designer because no matter how deep I dive, I have no plans to pursue either professionally. I love the life I live because I span a lot of fields instead of fitting neatly inside a box, but I have trouble feeling like that's something other people will appreciate.

I know I am wrong.

I'm working on fighting it. I haven't figured it all out yet, but here are some things that have been helpful for me:

  • I maintain a list of things I'm proud of. Some are tangible things like code I've written to solve a problem; others, like someone I respect thinking I'm talented, aren't. Looking over this list makes it harder for me to dismiss myself as having done nothing worth discussing.
  • I write down small, even very small, projects that I'd like to see happen. When I'm feeling as though I don't bring enough to the table, I find a bit of time to knock out one of these projects. I get to add another small accomplishment to my list and benefit from something that makes my life a little better, too.
  • Instead of shying away from seeking an opportunity I want but don't think I deserve, I ask a friend to read over my application or talking points and hold me accountable for following through. I find it easier to feel proud of things I've done when my audience is a friend - it's less intimidating when I already know they believe I'm qualified. I'm betting that enough practice with writing first to a friend will translate into being comfortable writing about myself without this step.
  • I remember to pat myself on the back for trying. It's all too easy to decide that not finishing a project or getting a conference talk means you didn't do anything, but that's wrong. You tried, and by trying, you get to think about what didn't work and how to do better when you try again. Or at least feel a little bit more comfortable putting your neck on the line. I can't say thinking this way about failure is easy - it's not. I've been upset on more than one occasion over not getting what I wanted, but after a bit of distance, I make it a point to think of my attempts as accomplishments.

I'd be lying if I said doing these things have eliminated my impostor syndrome, but they've helped me make progress. And I'm going to keep on fighting it.