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!

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Goblin Interstitial: The most powerful DM tool at your disposal.

So, throughout my tenure as a DM, I’ve garnered a few tricks of the trade that make my job just a little bit easier. I’m feeling charitable, so I’ll let you in on the biggest innovation in gaming since the to-hit roll. It may seem a little crass, but the sheer brilliance of it will blow your mind.

Are you reading intently by now?

Steal anything you can get by your players. And a few things you can’t.

I occasionally challenge myself to see just how much I can do to stretch immersion. If you wanted to say, slip the entire plot of Fight Club into your game. Do it. I have. It’s actually really easy, depending on how subtle you are, and just how many in your group have seen it. If I were to approach my players with “You hear the sounds of a scuffle around the corner. If you choose to follow it, you find a young half elf exchanging blows with apparently no one”. That immediately draws the whole group in. As soon as they learn that his name is Tyaldur Denn and that he runs the soapmakers guild/laundry, the players who have the movie fresh in their minds might get a little suspicious, and when he invites them to a secret club that meets in the laundry basement, that’s when the rest of the alarm bells will go off. The subtlety comes in when you space out this information, perhaps even over a session or two, at that point, by the time the jig is up, they rest of the players will look at you with a collection of looks that either say “this man is the cleverest guy on the planet”, or they’ll look as if you just told a really bad pun (and who doesn’t secretly love puns?). Either way, by this point, you’ve still given them an interesting set up, and from there, you can decide whether or not to stick to the movie, or throw them a curveball (hint, use the curveball. Keep those sons-of guessing). You’ve got whole universes of fiction to pilfer. Your players can’t have read all of them.

RPGs are the best medium for idea stealing. It’s not like anyone’s going to sue you over adding Gollum to your D&D game. Have some fun with it. Some call these “references”, or say they were simply “inspired by” a certain work. I say I just stole an entire dungeon from the ending scene of Freddi-Fish 3, and I’m extremely happy about it. Who the hell remembers that game besides me? They aren’t going to notice. Plus, saying I stole something of that type makes me feel like Carmen Sandiego. She stole locations too. and she loved it. Don’t you want to be like Carmen Sandiego? No? Liar.

If you’re not too amazed by my DMing savvy, and aren’t currently preoccupied scraping your brains off of the wall behind you, leave a comment or find me on twitter at @GoblinGilmartin and harass me. I don’t mind. I’ll get back to movie reviews shortly. I just need a LOT of time to recover from that last one…

Gamers (2006)…let me elaborate.

So I’ve had a couple of stressful days away from this film, and I have a few more things to ad. 

My biggest issue with this film is how very crappy the characters are as people. We’ve got (and I’m stealing most of this from the sparse tvtropes.org page):

  • Paul: A telephone relay operator who lives with his parents. 
  • Gordon: A low-level public television employee who lives with his parents.
  • Kevin: The GM. A musician (in the loosest sense of the word) who rents a room from his grandparents. Kevin insists on never fraternizing with the players outside the game.
  • Fernando: Sent to America from Argentina after he embarrassed his family by sucking at “the soccer”. Fernando supposedly learned English by playing DND. Lives with his girlfriend but suspects correctly that she is cheating on him. He jerks off horses for a living.
  • Reese: A late addition to the group who none of the other players much care for. Fills just about every stereotype of the annoying and creepy gamer. Lives in a one bedroom apartment with his mother.

These characters gave me nothing. NOTHING to care about. They’re either losers, creepy weirdos, or jerks (see what I did there?). They don’t even seem to like each other. Why should I care about them, or their gaming streak, or any of the weird, stupid stuff that happens to them? I’ve got my own problems, that involve real games. 

I may have issues with GamerZ ( which I’ll get too soon, i hope. Also, can we decide on something DIFFERENT for a gamer movie title from now on?), but at least I thought the characters were interesting, if not likeable. They were strange, but they were strange in a way that made you WANT to see what happened next. Gamers started right away with the gags and crappy jokes, and gave you nothing. I payed for this movie, with real money. Don’t waste yours. Or do, I’m not a cop.

Diceroller Flicks: Gamers (2006)

This movie sucks. I was originally planning on saving my negative reviews for video reviews, But I don’t have too much to say about this one.

This movie pisses me off. The cover is really presumptious. “5 out of 5 stars” says efilmcritic.com. “Old School funny” says John Gaudiosi of AOL Games. Based on the capitalization, I’m assuming they mean the Will Ferrel film? But the real doozy of a blurb is on the back. “Funnier than Knocked Up and Superbad combined”. I’ll let that speak for itself.

But the cover isn’t done name-dropping. Kelly Lebrock of Weird Science fame. William Katt, the former Greatest American Hero. John Heard. And Beverly D’Angelo. So a bunch of has-been cult icons and the dad from Home Alone. They’re top billed on the box (not even mentioning the main cast), and they’re all cameos.

The movie is shot documentary style and is about a group of losers in their forties, they live with their parents (or grandparents, as it may be). They’re all maladroit weirdos who care waaay too much about DND (Demons, Nymphs, and Dragons. Thanks copywrite!). They’re about to break the record for Longest Continuous Campaign, at 74,558 hours over twenty years.

If you’re a fan of dick jokes, you might like this film. If you’re a fan of homo jokes, you might like this film. If you’re a fan of gross-out humor, you might like this film.

I did not.

“Funnier than Knocked Up and Superbad combined”? Sure, if you took out all of the charm, and the likeable characters.

Portrayal of RPGs – 2/5

There ARE RPGs in this movie. They aren’t really looked at too closely. There are dice, and character sheets, and people sitting around a table.

The Plot – 1/5
To be fair, there IS a plot. It’s not that important to the movie.

 

It baffles me that it got as much as a 41 percent on rottentomatoes.com, and a 7.1 on IMDB. I had more fun listening to the answering machine gag on the main menu screen of the DVD than I did watching the film.

If you thought differently, I don’t hate you. If you like this film (available on amazon and the iTunes store), let me know. Leave a comment.

Lions and Tigers and Updates, oh my!

Oh…yeah. You’re still here….well, I don’t really want this to die, but I don’t have time for it these days. I mentioned a while back that I had a super-secret project I’m working on, well, I might as well tell you. I want to transition to video reviews. There were some films that I looked at, namely Gamerz, that I felt text just couldn’t do justice to, and hopefully, if I can get a little face to face time with you all, that might help. I’m chasing a few leads to get that up in the air, but my partner-in-crime on that venture is being somewhat of a flake. I also want to branch out into tabletop RPG inspired video games, and some other things (whatever I feel like doing, really). IF you have suggestions, put them in the comments, please…please?

I’ve been trying to learn how to animate, but it’s slow going. Can anyone out there help out?

In gaming news, I recently purchased a Chessex Megamat (it was a bit spendy, but I worked a little overtime recently, I think I can afford it.) and I’m slowly building up a collection of miniatures from the Pathfinder sets. If anyone has any minis they don’t want, I’d be glad to take them off your hands (I’ll pay if you’re not into that whole charity thing…).  I’m hoping to get a 3.5 game together with my roommates and ease myself back into it.

This year’ll be an interesting one, to say the least.

Diceroller Flicks: Unicorn City

Hey folks, after an 80 dollar replacement hard drive made its way to me, I’m back in business.

This week, we’re taking a look at Unicorn City (which came out in February of this year).  Distributed by Gravitas Ventures and Written by Adrian and Bryan Lefler, one of whom had a hand in Napoleon Dynamite. Unicorn City is a solid whole of a film. It won a bunch of awards at film festivals and even got “Best Film” at Gencon.  It’s when I turned on the critic-vision and looked closer that I had some issues with it, but I’ll get into those later. 

The story follows a man named Voss, and his attempt to get a job at “Warlocks of the Beach”. This film suffers from a heavy case of “don’t sue us, please”, replacing well known entities with off-brand names in order to not have to deal with intellectual property issues. Expect to see that a lot here. Anyway, on with the summary:

The film opens with Voss and his gaming guild playing a game of DoD (Dawn of Days), run by a creepy old guy who goes by his character’s name, Shadow Hawk. Shadow Hawk, is a “me vs. them” DM, also known as the worst possible kind. The usual suspects have been gathered: a gaming group composed of our main characters: Guy with his girlfriend hanging off him, quiet girl who seems to be there more for the players than the game, the foreigner, a guy who reminds me of Badger from breaking bad if he gain a ton of weight, and a biker looking guy. Voss seems to be the intense one, taking things pretty seriously, arguing with the GM, and in a moment of passion, stabs the gaming table with a sword.

As Voss and Marsha (the quiet girl who would like nothing better than to be in a Voss sandwich) head home after the police show up, it is revealed that Voss works with his brother selling tacos, but has a job interview with Warlock of the Beach. Also Marsha is e-dating someone named Tanick Stormblade. Don’t you just love fantasy character names? Me, I tend to stick to faux-Greek sounding names and Disney characters, but that’s just me.

ariel_warrior

Unfortunately, her animal companion is a flounder.

Voss tells Marsha that his girlfriend broke up with him, and you just feel that wave of holycrapyesyesyes!!! that she is suppressing because of the ladyboner that she has for Voss that he’s too wrapped up in his own little word to see.

As Voss fixes a real knife onto one of his miniatures, he expresses his philosophy “you are what you pretend to be. “Wanna be a knight? Pretend you’re a knight, live by their code. Think like one and in the end, you are a knight”. Well, this much is true. Actually I’m just pretending to be a blogger. Seems to be working out so far. At least, better than that time I pretended to be a licensed OB/GYN. Waay better.

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Is this thing on?

Then in walks the Hobbit- Lover himself, Kevin Weisman, playing everyone’s older brother who rocks sleeveless shirts, wears sunglasses at night, and takes himself way too seriously and puts his siblings in choke-holds. Apparently they’re going to be evicted from their apartment if Voss can’t help with the rent.

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“Say you like Dave Matthews, go on, say it!!!

Social anxiety Stacy is playing Shmerld of Shmorcraft with the online boyfriend she mentioned. She breaks up with him because Voss is now available. That’s cold. She then runs over to Voss’ house out of nowhere and says she wants her character and Voss’ character to be love interests, all while the man hasn’t finished brushing his teeth yet. You know, if she weren’t so endearing and anxious and pretty, and the object of her affection so oblivious, this would be stalking.

He interviews for a position managing an ARG, but the interviewer says he needs to have experience leading a team and gives him a couple of weeks to wow him with some kind of project demonstrating leader-type qualities.

Voss comes out to his group that he wants to be the new gamemaster. They all jump at the chance to get away from the creepy old man in the shiny shirt. The GM cheats and issues one last challenge: Defeat the final boss of the campaign, whose stats have been secretly boosted up. After a couple of bad rolls, his character is killed, and he storms off to plan his next move.

Marsha brings it up that they should start a new campaign, and Voss says you can’t just “willy-nilly a campaign together. My thoughts on that later. She says that the other players trust him to lead them in a game, so why not in real life? Why not indeed…

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Definite upper-level management material, don’t you think?

He figures out a solution to his problem. Starting a LARP! but he can’t tell his friends why, because they “won’t be themselves”. Somehow this works, and all of his friends are willing to drop everything for days and come with him to the mountains.

Their first adventure is a hit, and Unicorn city soon gathers more LARPers for their project, including a centaur, a kenku, an elf, a knight and a succubus.

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Llllladies…

During an unsuccessful mission, The elf gets picked up by the police for loitering.

Getting nowhere with Voss, Marsha is persuaded by her friend to do a seductive dance by the fireside, for some reason she’s wearing her bra on the outside. after this doesn’t ellicit the response she wanted, she takes Voss aside, throws caution to the wind and kisses him. This gets his attention, but she freaks out and runs away.

The next morning, trouble brews. a Greyhound bus sits across from their camp, and evil should lurk inside? It’s the douchebag GM from earlier they all ditched and a bunch of guys dressed up as orcs, Also known as any average convention weekend.

And soon a news crew appears and wants to interview Voss. They ask for a shot of him on top of a mountain for their piece, and he and the Badger-looking guy from earlier, Clancy, get in the back of their van. When they get far enough away from the camp, the “news crew” ditches them. I’ll just let what Cat-man Clancy had to say speak for itself:

“How did we not see that coming? We were such idiots, man. Like, there were no channel numbers on the van, and then we got in and they’re like ‘hey, you want some candy?’ and then we’re like sure, take us to an undisclosed location and dump our bodies!”

After fighting with Clancy, Voss takes the long, silent walk back to camp. He arrives to find that his entire camp has deserted him, except for Marsha of course. Figuring Shadow Hawk had something to do with his abduction he challenges him to a duel, the weapon? Yo Mamma jokes. No, I’m serious. Someone call Wilmer Valderama. I can’t be the only high school sophomore to have seen that show, can I?

Voss loses, and is banished. In the resulting scuffle, Marsha gets smacked across the face. At this point Voss might as well be double banished. and he goes home to his brother.

After he gets some sense choked into him, Voss returns to the camp to win back his people, and Marsha, who’s being worked over by Shadow Hawk, who reveals himself to be none other than Tanick Stormblade. Posing as a 26 year old online is a great way to pick up chicks. Understandably skeeved out, she escapes just as the police show up and explain that the entire area they’ve been camping in is a toxic dumping ground, hence the elf being arrested for loitering previously. After chasing off Shadow Hawk and getting tased by the cops, Voss leads a charge that chases off the police. You can just smell the “not gonna end well” from here. A SWAT team arrests them, and they get taken to court, where the judge lets them off with community service, turning Unicorn City into a community event where people can bring their families and play games.

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Although I admit this gives me a sudden craving for snow cones. 

The judge did have one minor stipulation though. He’ll knock 100 hours off of their punishment as long as he gets to be the king.

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S’good to be the king.

Also Voss gets the job, of course he would. the interviewer says a canned food drive probably would have been enough. He turns it down anyway to be with Marsha. He sets up Unicorn City in the city park, and it becomes a smash hit. All’s well that ends well, except that our hero is still jobless, with no way to pay his rent except for unemployment.

Portrayal of RPGs – 2/5

I wasn’t happy with the way gaming was portrayed in this flick. It seems like thanks to suffering from “don’t sue us” syndrome, where really obvious facsimiles for real world companies and products stand in for the real thing, they end up glossing over a lot, and it seems poorly handled.

Another big aspect of the film was the LARPing. Like I stated before, somehow over a dozen people are just able to drop everything to come to this LARP/camping trip on a moments notice, it’s a suspension of disbelief that I have a hard time with in a realistic setting. But that’s just my own opinion. I spent the entire duration of Man Of Steel cringing at the property damage during the final action scene.

I’m going to put up a mini-post in a day or two with some extra thoughts about gaming in this movie.

The Plot – 3/5

Honestly, the first time I saw this movie, I really liked it. On my second viewing, with my reviewer hat on, I thought it ran a little long. Not in a really damaging way, but I think the middle-third could have used a little trimming. Everything works out in the end, kinda.
All’s well that ends well, except that our hero is still jobless, with no way to pay his rent, because he’s too good to sell fish tacos, and this is all glossed over. As someone who is currently unemployed, I’d take that job in a hot second.

I have a bit more to say on the subject, but I’m going to save that for it’s own post. too much to discuss.

I’d just like to close saying that I really wanted to like this movie, and it isn’t all that bad. if you think you might like this movie, it’s available on all sorts of on demand services, like Hulu and Netflix, also you can purchase a copy of the film from the film’s website, unicorncity.com.

Also sorry about some of the image sizes in this post, I’ll fix ’em so that the ants can’t get to them. I hope you liked these ramblings of mine. If you did, expect a little something extra soon. If not, I’ll see you next Sunday for the next full review. I’m keeping it a surprise this time. Bye!