Back again and again

So, I’ve decided to at least attempt to get back on the horse. A few changes are in order. New blog name, soon a new look, I’m going to go back to the well hopefully. I’ve at least seen some new films that I suppose I could talk about. But I’ve always been saying that I want to get into videos. I have the equipment, and I need to ditch the excuses. I might throw up a few experimental forays into the medium randomly over the next few months, but my life has changed a lot and there’s more of a demand on my time than ever, so we’ll see how well that goes.

I finally joined the modern world and got a Netflix account. It seems strange that someone who does movie related things wouldn’t have one. So I fixed that, and if you have any suggestions for movies under my bailiwick that can be found on that platform, please, let me know.

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Goblin Interstitial: Me on movies. A short post.

I’ve been having an issue for the longest time If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, and are feeling particularly generous, you might say that I can write. I can put relatively good words in a good order. But the issue is that I don’t write…

Here’s me trying to fix that.

I want to talk about movies.In one of my earliest posts, I talked about what made a movie appealing to me. I had three points

  1. To be good a movie has to be interesting.
  2. To be good a movie has to have an internally consistent narrative.
  3. To be good a movie has to have a constant feel.

Let me give an example. Recently I rented Days of Future Past from Redbox. That movie is garbage. But I liked it. It was interesting. It had internal consistency within itself (ignoring the other films. Also, the time travel was bullshit, but at least they didn’t leave how it worked within the movie unexplained, even if it was horseshit), and nothing felt out of place to me. It was a fun film, if nothing else.

But that is a mainstream film. A lot of the films that I like to focus on are generally independent works. Can we really hold them to the same standards? Should they be given some slack because of their more humble roots, or can we hold them to the same standard as anything else, because the whole reason critics and criticism exist is so that an art form can grow?

Well, I would answer that question by saying that because I’m not truly objective, my goal here is to inform and entertain by recapping films I think you should watch, not to pass judgment (unless something really needs a smiting. Fuck you Gamers [2006]). My hope is that by bringing some awareness to these films, that you can be the judge. We need more movies that cater to role-players. It’s a pretty big subculture, and I’d like it if there were more references to my favorite hobby in pop-culture than a few throwaway lines in an episode of Big Bang Theory.

I think that’s all I have to say tonight. I’ve discovered a couple of new films. One I found is kind of pricey, so I hope it’s worth it. I’ll let you know. If you have anything to say to me, destructive or constructive, let me hear it here, via email, or my twitter account. I don’t get enough tweets. I wish I had friends….

I’m back, and I’m DMing…5th Edition D&D

So, it’s been an exciting few days for me. New shift at work, made some new friends, I find my blog has been up for a year now (which isn’t extremely depressing…), and I finally got to try D&D 5th edition in earnest. You guys ready for a long rambling story with no pay-off? Good! Let’s GO!

I had three players, and one of them had bought the latest starter set, so I was stuck running that. It was a perfect storm of mediocrity. Not the game itself (although….meh…), but it was 5 AM when we finally got rolling, I was buzzed (maybe a little drunk), and I had a whole group of newbies waiting eagerly for me to teach them a game I was only passingly familiar with.

Because I had nothing prepared, and was not familiar enough with the balance of the game to make stuff up, I decided to try the module included in the starter set. I usually do not like using modules because I find they make it hard for me to improvise, but I’d heard good things about it from my friends, and I’d watched a little bit of ProJared’s playthrough with his buds. So, I put on my best DM voice (which was weakened from an ill-advised attempt to sing Tenacious D a few hours previous)  and cracked open Lost Mines of Phandelver.

At a glance, it looked like a really well structured adventure But I hadn’t the time nor the patience to read the whole thing. The pre-made characters that came with the starter set are tied to various places and NPCs, giving your characters a more immersing experience. Given the lateness of the hour, we only made it most of the way through the first dungeon, the Cragmaw Cave before everyone went to bed. Actually, we WOULD have had more time, but the players ended up killing all the goblins in the opening encounter, ignoring a non-scripted goblin that I added to get them to follow it, even so much as leaving them a trail of goblin blood to follow. Instead, they made it to town, rested for the night, delivered the goods they were escorting, and only then remembered that the two dead horses they’d found belonged to Gundren Rockseeker, their dwarven friend who hired them.

They doubled back, found the trail of blood, and followed it to the Cragmaw Hideout. They spooked a goblin guard by killing the other one, and then followed him inside, where he ran straight through the wolf kennel and up the natural chimney to Klarg’s lair. After taking out the wolves, Our halfling rogue and our dwarven cleric (Tealeaf and Thoradin, respectively) shimmied up the shoot to an encounter with Klarg, the bugbear “warlord”. The rest of us took the long way around,  getting a nice bath when the alerted goblins opened two sets of floodgates to try and wash us out of the cave. after a brief and fiery encounter, Klarg was dead, and so almost, was our halfling.

At this point. I figured we needed to go to bed. We called a break for the night, and resumed, sans one player who had an errand to run. I took over Thoradin for him.

This is where I ran into a couple of problems. The way this dungeon flows, you can go wherever you want. east to Klarg, or west to the goblin living area, where an important NPC is being held prisoner. the way the adventure is written, the “right” way these events go down is west first, meet Klarg’s traitorous second in command who promises to pay you with Sildar’s (the NPC who was guarding Gundren) life if you kill Klarg for him. At this point, Klarg was already rotting away on the other side of the cave. I wasn’t sure how this should go down. I didn’t want to force another battle. The potions we found in Klarg’s stuff weren’t enough to bring everyone up to fighting readiness, and I didn’t want anyone to die on the first dungeons. I got the group to trade a whopping 600 copper pieces to the new chief for Sildar’s life. Specifically, the dwarf threw the chest with all his might at the wall, and all the goblins lept for the coins while we made haste to safety.

The game stopped here. I had trouble motivating my players to talk with the NPCs, and on top of that, I couldn’t find where in the module it explained what happened to Gundren, who has dissapeared, and I wasn’t feeling well. I want to play more with this group, but I want to play a system I’m more comfortable with. I had my remaining players create characters for 3.5. I managed to set up enough of a story that I can now actually prepare for the next session. I’ll let you know how that goes. Until next time!

Proper Party Put-together.

I’d like to make this little impromptu post to address a concern I’ve had. As you may know, I’ve been slowly growing weary of D&D. I don’t WANT this to happen. I love D&D. I love the stories I get to tell, the decisions I get to make. It’s amazing. But I’ve had to deal with a lot of…interesting players. It seems to be a growing trend that players always fall into one of three categories: People that build characters for versatility, People that Build characters for their Special Little Snowflake (SLS) status, and for the purposes of this article, the people who do it “right” (remember folks, cum grano salis I’m only one man). Here’s my issue. At it’s core, D&D is a game about creating a team that works well together, has adventures, faces dangers, and generally cracks skulls. 

When I see a party that ultimately looks like this:

I say to myself “What’s the point?”. You’re all basically playing the same character. There’s little variation, there’s no real stand outs. Everyone is functionally the same. You can all do magic, you can all use magic items, and you all have a lot of points in Dexterity.

And when I see a party that looks like THIS:

Just…Are you freaking kidding me? It creates a case of “If everyone is special, then no one is.” They probably bicker, because each player has so lovingly created a unique and tormented backstory that strives to dominate the narrative. And believe me. This game will be narrative heavy. All the players will talk in character in low tones, growling at each other.

“But Goblin!” I hear you saying. “This type of party can totally work well together”. In a perfect world, yes, sure. But we live in a world of selfish, broken people who have a hard time empathizing with others. If you didn’t want to deal with this type of person, you’re in the WRONG hobby, Dave.

Here’s my argument. D&D is a team game. A good team is made out of individual pieces that work together. checks and balances. Not everybody is going to be great at everything, and not everybody should. Playing with different strengths and weaknesses means you actually have to do this crazy little thing called relying on others.  The best part of playing a more traditional party, doing it “right”, is that each archetype, those being stuff like Cleric, Fighter, Thief, Wizard, all have dozens of interpretations, each one with its own bailiwick of abilities and outlooks on life. Simply amazing opportunities for role-playing. Try them out next time, instead of making that CN Dragon-blooded half-demon Hadozee soulknife-necromancer you’ve been thinking about, consider seeing what kind of mileage you can get out of an Elven Wizard. You may surprise yourself,

Preparing for your game.

So, you’re finally ready to play D&D. You’ve gotten your friends together, made your character sheets, purchased all the beef jerky your starting gold can get you, and you’re here to take on the world. But unfortunately for you, you’re the Dungeon Master, and everyone will be over at your place tomorrow for the first session! Whatever will you do!? Well, I never claimed to be an expert DM, and I’m sure that there are far more experienced people for the job. But it’s how I got my start in the game and it’s what I like doing best. I’ve had games derailed by everything from not having a place to game, to not having anyone show up, to doing a silly Jamaican accent (he was a Planeswalker. Can you blame me?). I’ll tell these stories some other day, I promise. Today we’ll focus on a better-case scenario. I run games using what I’ve referred to as “The list method”. I’ll have a basic outline of what I want to happen in a game’s storyline (e.g. travel between two in-game locations), and a list of stuff I want to add. I’ve given an example of that in a previous post, but I thought I’d start over. Here’s what I came up with.

  • Swarms of tiny demonic piranha-chihuahua hybrids called nits.
  • An island of giant, talking plants.
  • a necromancer blocking off all travel through a mountain pass with two giant zombie umber hulks
  • a man stranded in a town, with no money for supplies for the journey home and a bag full of oddities.
  • a telescope that allows you to talk to anything you can see in it as if they were right next to you.
  • A sword possessed by the spirit of the man who wielded it in battle,
  • A traveling magician who is essentially a less goofy version of Maurice from Beauty and the Beast

I’m going to stop there because, well, I’m tired. Having this list can do many things for a Dungeon Master. From the list above I’ve gained 2-4 recurring NPCs, a location, 2-3 encounters, and at least three chances for magic items. Each one of these, whether you use them or not, can lend itself to something new. I’m a very free-form DM. This lends itself neatly to my weakness: In the moment physical narration. Running battles tends to bore me because I’m not great at doing it. Aside from a few favorites like the zombie spellslinger fight, a lot of my combats consist of “….12. You miss him. He moves towards Steve….16. Steve is hit….”. It sounds lame because it is. I hope to improve on this in the coming months. It’s like Don Draper said “Just think about it deeply, then forget it…then an idea will jump up in your face.” When you make your list, what you’re really doing is planting seeds. Each one gives you a little bit more of the setting. In D&D, drawing players into a well-developed storyline through setpieces, items and NPCs? Pretty Fuckin’ Smart. A couple other things about my DMing. I have some rules I make people follow around the table.

  1. No Drugs at the table. No weed, nooo nothing, unless it A. Is medically necessary and B. Won’t get you really high. It’s not because I’m against the use of recreational drugs (which I am), it’s because of situations like this. I was running a game at a table at my local game store, Moondragon Games, when two of my players (one of whom knew the rule, one of whom didn’t) ducked outside for a few minutes while I was setting up a new encounter. I looked up from my mat and they weren’t there, I knew exactly what had happened. I ran outside to confront them, and the guy who knew the rule was being a huge douche about it. I herded them back inside, and the game progressed, and toking even helped the other guy concentrate on the game better. Why was all this bad thing? Because another one of my players, who was sitting next to them, spent the entire session like this:

She couldn’t handle the smell. Be considerate to the people around you. I’m no longer friends with one of those guys for this reason, as well as a few others.

  1. (yeah, there are two number ones, they’re both important) No Cell phones. Unless you’re expecting a very important, specific call, turn it off. Especially if you’re going to text at the table. Get the hell out. It’s disrespectful to divide your attention when it’s hard enough to get a game together as it is and everyone put effort into being here.
  2. Unless you don’t have a problem with jokes, make it clear beforehand how serious you want the game to be and make it clear that some “jokes” might be taken as your actual in-game intent.
  3. No laughing at the DMs  fake Jamaican accent.

Food on the Table

Okay, that was weak. I was tired and on my way to work when I wrote that last “update”. Let me try again.

I’ve even got a good topic. Food around the table.

We’ve all heard the Mountain Dew and Cheetos jokes, right? Well, as far as they go, I prefer Doritos, and the Dew? It has to be Code Red. Code Red is my DM fuel, in the most literal manner. I’m currently not of drinking age in America quite yet, but if you want to talk alcohol….I dunno. Ask your parents. I once tried to teach a room of drunk people how to play Munchkin, and it went about as well as trying to put a cat on a vegan diet, with similar results.

I’m well acquainted with snacks, and I’d like to share a few tips and ideas:

  • If you’ve got a fancy-shmancy expensive game mat like I do, it’s probably a good idea to limit the messy foods. stick to small, handful-style foods, like M&Ms, Skittles, pretzels, or chips. No dips though. Expensive game mat, remember?
  • These will probably get me laughed at, but if you’re of a healthier bent, then nuts, raisins, trail mix, and my personal favorite, dried fruit (pineapple especially, but trust me when I say that eating more than a pound of the stuff in one sitting? Not a great idea.). IF you spill any of these, you probably won’t ruin any character sheets.
  • If you want to get a little more creative, you can tie in the foods you eat into your game. Smell and taste are your major memory trigger senses. If you’re running the game, and the PC’s are traveling over a long distance, serve them up something that might be a part of their rations, aside from the dried fruit and nuts mentioned above, people tended to take foods that wouldn’t spoil on long journeys, and this meant preserved foods like pickles, dried meats like beef jerky and smoked fish (As a former Alaskan, that means salmon). If your PCs are in a tavern then you can try simple stuff like cheese and bread and pickles (a cheap plowman’s lunch). If you want to put in the effort and make it a party, meat pies still might be a little messy, yet historically accurate.

Fun fact: in D&D or one of the spin-off video games, you might have seen an item called an “Iron rations”. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, assuming it was something like beef jerky or something else with a high iron content, but after looking a little into it, Wikipedia tells us:

The first attempt to make an individual ration for issue to soldiers in the field was the “iron ration”, first introduced in 1907. It consisted of three 3-ounce cakes (made from a concoction of beef bouillon powder and parched and cooked wheat), three 1-ounce bars of sweetened chocolate, and packets of salt and pepper that was issued in a sealed tin packet that weighed one pound. It was designed for emergency use when the troops were unable to be supplied with food. It was later discontinued by the adoption of the “Reserve Ration” but its findings went into the development of the emergency D-ration.

Sounds less than appetizing to me. Why, you ask, is something  that was invented in the 20th century found in a medieval fantasy setting? Remember, the first D&D players were wargamers, people who studied the culture and tactics of wars throughout history. Gygax, a huge wargamer himself, probably borrowed a little something from that to add to his games.

If you’d like to share your typical gaming fare, leave it in the comments below. Until next time!

My campaign, my maps, and me

So, let’s just chill for a while and shoot the breeze. I’m still working on getting my 3.5 game together. I’m looking at a Healer Elf, a Kender Rogue, possibly either a Human Sorcerer or Bard, and I’ll need to toss in a GMPC to fill out the party balance though.

I thought I’d share my campaign seed, in case anybody was interested. I’m not ALL talk, you know.

The game will start at the funeral of a great warrior named Kilvarough Harmonsen, also known as “Kilvarough Orc-Friend” or “Kilvarough the Key. Bandits attack the funeral, and attempt to steal the body. The campaign will center on the history of this one warrior, and the players will learn more about him as they travel, possibly building to a culminating battle with the guy’s arch-nemesis.

Here’s what I wrote about Kilvarough, this’ll be a bit of a long one. If you’re one of my players…you don’t read my blog anyway:

Kilvarough Harmonsen grew up in the small hamlet of Honeymill, the son of Harmon Jaeksen, the mayor of Honeymill, and his wife, former royal courtesan Beritzia Roth.
Harmon struck a deal with several bands of orcs that lived in the surrounding plains. They wouldn’t raid, and they could work in the village as farmhands, guards, and any other work they wanted. Harmon and the chief Orcs, Rocksplitter and Three-Eye, were great friends, and often hunted together, bringing along young Kilvarough. On day, they were tracking a group of deer through a forest to the west of Honeymill, and the village was attacked by a Black Dragon named Throdenoth (Many-Toothed) and a small group of mercenaries. The men arrived, leaving Kilvarough hidden safely in the forrest. They fought The dragon and his men, eventually winning out, but it was too late to save the village, and it was left burned to the ground, and over half the village was killed. Beritzia survived, but if she knew how, she wouldn’t tell anyone.

They retrieved their son, and struck out to find a new place to call home. The orc chieftains went their separate ways as well. Harmon became an adviser to King Halva VII of Rebloss Kingdom. Kilvarough trained to be a warrior in the Kings guard.

Quickly advancing through the ranks, he became one of the most valuable men in the guard. Another of the advisers of the King, however, was a sorceror by the name of Silasso Venethel (He later changed his name to Vorastrix Tibur-Silasso [Draconic for “The sorcerer once known as Silasso”]). Silasso was once the apprentice of Throdenoth, and boded his time, waiting until the perfect moment to strike back at Harmon who, while now older and weaker, was protected by the king same as he. He almost succeeded, poisoning him during a great party held commemorating the visit of Three-Eye, one of Harmons oldest friends. He fell ill that night, and Silasso caused a panic that pinned the blame on Three-Eye’s men, almost causing a war between Rebloss and the orc nations until Kilvarough spoke up, delivering a speech that spoke of his childhood and the friendship that Three-Eye and his father had, this speech gained him the name “Orc-friend”. Silasso disappeared, and Kilvarough persued him for years, eventually killing him with the help of Three-Eye and Rocksplitter. Now, his quest complete, and far away from Rebloss kingdom, he made home in Churne, a small village where he spent the rest of his life, defending it, becoming the “Keystone” of the village.

At the end of his life, Kilvarough didn’t realize that Silasso hadn’t been killed, but he’d survived and become the lich Vorastrix.

On the day of his funeral, bandits allied with draconic creatures raided the village, kidnapping his granddaughter, and “trying” to steal the casket. Vosrastrix wants the body of his fallen enemy to use in an ancient magic that could turn him from a lich into a true dragon like he always wanted.

 …whew…

You may have noticed that I’m not great at naming things. If you have any better names for anything, lemme know.

In other news, I’m going to try and make my own 3D dungeon walls for my game. A friend of mine (my friendly local game store owner) gave me some tips. I’ll document the process when I do it, so…that’ll be cool…

kerrik sad

See you next time…