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…

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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: Zero Charisma…Finally

I’m back folks! Please, let’s hold off the raucous applause and adulation until after the review.

Today we look at one of the newer entries into my bailiwick. I proffer to you, Zero Charisma. Released last October, the film was funded on Indiegogo.com, making about $25,000 for production.

It follows Scott, metalhead, delivery boy, and the general stereotype of a Game master that takes his fantasy too seriously.

As our film starts, it’s interesting to note that this is the second film I’ve looked at that starts in a supermarket. The main character Scott is buying snacks for his gaming group.

ZC1

If you could call them that.

I like this guy’s style. He’s got a bumper sticker on his car that says “Because I’m the Game Master…that’s why”. He arrives to his game, and the night seems to be going really well, he’s got snacks, a real DM screen (Lucky him, I made mine out of cardboard, and then glued a bunch of AD&D rules inside it. Alas, it was destroyed in the purge [when I moved a few months ago]), all his players sitting around his kitchen table, and he seems to be working his magic as a game master, until his friend makes a small joke that happens to interrupt his narration.

ZC2

I’ve been there. It took a week to get the blood off the game mat.

Slightly irked, he continues his narration, that is until his grandmother comes in to make a sandwich and asks him to open a jar for her. When he gets up to do that, one player leaves the room to make a call, and the others start watching the latest episode of their webseries.

ZC3

Scott goes to check on Kenny, the guy who left the room. You know, it’s a pretty big rule of mine (and I’m sure the same goes for a lot of you) that I don’t allow cell phones at the table. I don’t know what this guy’s doing that’s so important, but he did get up without saying anything. That’s pretty rude. Scott chooses to ignore Kenny’s blatant disregard for etiquette and just tells him to come back to the game. He says he’ll be back in a minute. Dude, you can’t start the game without everyone at the table! What’s your deal?

His wife’s leaving him? Oh. Umm…that’s not good…Well, I guess he’s allowed to have a reprieve. He says he can’t play anymore, and Scott tries to reason with him, saying they’ve been playing the same continuous weekly game for three years.

THREE YEARS?!? Kenny, bro. Let’s be reasonable, there are other fish in the sea…

What? You think that’s cold? I’d move to Tiksi if it meant a weekly game.

kerrik in the snow sad

I jest. Kinda.

Anyway, this means that Scott’s group is now incomplete. Because Scott is the kind of guy that can’t tie his shoes without rolling a success check, this comes as a bit of a shock. Seriously though, you can really tell that RPGs are his life. He gives this impassioned speech about “reawakening the tradition of communal storytelling” to one of the prospective players, and even though it didn’t get him very far, and was so much marketing baloney.

While delivering Chinese food to the local game store (from which he was fired the previous month for letting the cash register get robbed), he runs into Miles. Miles is looking to get back into D&D, and Scott takes the opportunity to rope him in.

The next game session rolls around (see what I did there? Like dice!), and Miles shows up. This guy seems really cool, he brings a six-pack, he’s a hugger, he’s up on his nerd trivia (Apparently the Millennium Falcon is faster than the Enterprise. Who knew?), and he’s a really great role-player. He’s a little too perfect for Scott, who likes to be in charge in order to put himself above others, (plus Miles answered a text at the table. Seriously, that’s just wrong) and heads are butted.

That night, Scott’s grandmother has a stroke, and his mother, Barbara, comes to visit her. Apparently Scott and his grandmother share a dislike for her, and it’s easy to see why. She’s pushy, controlling, and dramatic, and a little self-centered. Her fiance that she dragged along with her seems a little backwoods, but you can tell he’s trying to be a good guy. And she clearly doesn’t approve of him playing “that little dragons game”.

Quick tangent. Sorry. The thing is, I have never understood why people can look at certain things and think “Oh, that’s immature”. The really cool thing about being an adult? It’s that I get to decide what being an adult means, no one else. If I want to piss away hard earned money on plastic figurines and dice and books, that’s my prerogative. You watch football? I watch Game Grumps. Entertainment is entertainment. To each his own, right?

ugly_strange_men_07

Even this guy. Especially this guy

Anyway….sorry.

At the next game session, Miles wants to put the webseries the two guys were making onto his website, a popular geek-gaming-pop culture news site called geekchic.com. Which is apparently like a Nerdist.com or Kotaku stand-in for this movie. Scott tries to puff himself up. He’s got a blog, a totally awesome blog that is “mostly game related, but he writes about movies and other stuff”….I wouldn’t know anything about that. I’d kill for his “14 visitors a week” though….

Barbara tries to stop the game, telling him it’s late and to “be an adult”, and he tells her to leave. This means war, and she sits down with the group, telling all kinds of embarrassing stories about Scott until he quits. He storms up to his room, and in classic “I can’t deal with my emotions” fashion, blasts some thrash metal and puts his fist through his bedroom wall.

They decide to hold the next session at Mile’s house. Things just can’t get much worse at this point, right? WRONG!

Miles not only runs a popular website, is relatively physically attractive, nerd-savvy, and has a super cute girlfriend, he’s also a talented comic book artist with a really nice house.

After a failed attempt at claiming he wrote The Matrix (long story), Scott ends up crying in Mile’s bathroom. Throughout the movie, we see Scott painting a mini of  Ulric Bennevon, his DM avatar character in his campaign setting. He uses Ulric to block the PCs from gaining a certain plot-necessary magic item called the Stones of Light, and tries to shepherd them into a quest.

Miles decides he wants to just kill the guy and take the stones. Having been confronted on his controlling nature, Scott flips out and reveals to the room that essentially, he thinks that all his friends are losers, that he thinks their webseries sucks, and he hangs out with them to be the big man, something he just accused Miles of doing.

As much as I want to hate him, I can’t. Honestly I used to be this guy. I’m sure a lot of insecure nerds have done similar things in the past. Especially the ones that are big on fantasy because they prefer it to real life.

There’s a lot going on in this movie…Barbara tries to sell her mother’s house because she’s in a lot of debt and doesn’t want her fiancée to know. As the house had been promised to Scott, he’s more than a little upset.

You should have seen it before…

Amidst the rubble, he sees a picture of Greg “Totally Not Gary Gygax” Goran, the Godfather of Gaming. Who he remembers is making an appearance at the game store soon. He decides to go and see him, to clear up some of his doubts (as well as try to get his old job back). After this fails, and he’s at the lowest of the low and seething so hard you can see his ears steaming, he shows up to Miles house, where he’s having a party and all the cool, hipster-y people are there (excluding the game group). This random party guy named Kevin who looks a lot like Oancitizen goads Scott into challenging Miles to a medieval-style duel. With Crutches.

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Screw Kevin.

Miles is clearly panicking, his thin veneer of plastic glasses and cool-guy facial hair fading, he has nothing else to do but follow along. But then he gets a shot to the face, and repays in kind with a punch to the stomach that floors Scott. Scotts sidekick, who shows up to pick up Scott, jumps on Miles and gets a fistful of his hair.

After a brief time skip, Scott is now working at the retirement community that his grandmother agreed to go to after the house was sold. He’s looking after his grandmother and running an RPG for some of the old folks. One of the old guys tries to put the moves on a female character. It’s pretty cute. Fun Fact: Did you know that the STD rate among retirees has doubled in the last decade?

I think a lot of freaks and geeks can identify with some aspect of the main character. I know I could. That’s actually one of the reasons this took so long to do. It felt a bit too personal for me to comment on it. He’s socially inept, controlling, selfish, takes things way too seriously, can be over dramatic, can’t handle his emotions well, and puts other people down in order to make himself feel better. At least half of those were me in middle school. But that’s the point. He realizes all of these things and by the end of the film, he hasn’t changed too much, but he’s a lot happier and a lot more self-aware, as well a bit more forgiving of others.  And I think that makes all the difference.

Portrayal of RPGs – 4/5

There isn’t really a lot of RPG in this RPG movie. It’s about the gamers. There’s no “game world” footage, no random in-jokes about kobolds or mind flayers, and we barely see the sessions that take place throughout the film. The few times we get a good look at them, they’re very solid. and while Scott (the character, not Sam Eidson, the guy playing him) isn’t the greatest of actors, you can tell that he puts a lot of himself into the game. I would have liked to see a little more of it as the film progressed.

The Plot – 3/5

This movie, technically, is really well shot, well-acted, and the writing is pretty good. It almost seems to  suffer from another case of “Don’t sue us, please”, but it’s more subverted, in that the real counterparts do exist in universe, they just choose to do their own thing.

If I had to not like something about this movie, it’s the time skip at the end. It’s not jarring, but it really implies a lot that I would have liked to see. I can’t believe I’m saying this but “SHOW! DON’T TELL!”. You can see that Scott is a lot happier with this life, and although he hasn’t learned much, he’s much more relaxed.

Huh. Well, I guess this didn’t need that much editing after all. If you want to check out Zero Charisma, it’s available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon instant video and…Google Play? You can watch movies  on that? Huh. Cool. Anyway, until next time, See ya cyborgs!

NOTE: Due to a shift in my schedule, Tuesday will now be the day that I’ll be regularly updating. I can’t promise movie reviews, but I’ll have something for you to see here!

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.

Goblin Interstitial: Fantasy Sequences

So, it could be argued that a gamer movie is usually made up of two things. Reality and fantasy sequences. Film being a visual medium that it is, it helps to take the viewers in for a closer look at what goes on in the heads of the players. Usually this consists of the actors playing the players dressed up as their characters. Some movies get artsy with it, like GamerZ, and it’s easily the best part of that movie. Some movies go half and half, like The Gamers, and the counterbalance is really neat. I had a thought though. No single gamer pictures a scene the same way. You say ” Inside the dusty room, there is a table with a frayed red tablecloth lain across it, and on the table rests a dusty old book” You have three players playing. Let’s call them Bob, Jasmine, and Ozymandias. All three players will focus on the book. Here’s what they see:

Bob:

book1

Ozymandias:

book2

Jasmine:

book3

She has issues.

Point is, even a single, simple detail can be seen different ways by your three players. So why are they always the same in movies? I propose something different. Those of you who have been on Cracked.com have probably seen After Hours. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a group of people from Cracked sitting at a diner and talking about stuff. What stuff? Doesn’t matter. They discuss pop-culture stuff, and occasionally, like a gamer flick, they slip into a kind of imagine spot. But the main difference is, every character in After Hours has a different artist illustrating their brain.

This is  a free idea for anyone working on a film. Try that. Show each fantasy in a vastly different way. Imagination is important because no two are alike. Might be a nice shake-up. Have fun!

Goblin Interstitial: Accentuating the Positive

Hey folks. So, today I was going to do a look at GamerZ, a neat Scottish film about a fantasy role-playing game group, but I’ve had some issues.

Thing is, I want to like the films I talk about. The whole point of this is granting exposure to the gamer films I want people to see. While I still want to look at GamerZ eventually, I found myself being pretty negative towards it, or at least passive-aggressive, which isn’t fair to it. It’s actually a pretty decent movie. The camera quality is a little low, but the characters are realistic (as they can be), and the fantasy sequences are really visually engaging.

Whenever I turn on my reviewer-senses to sit down and watch a film, I tend to be much more critical (in the negative sense), and this bugs me, because not everyone watches films with the intent to pick them apart.

I think one of the problems is my subject matter. I’ve gone over this before, but the genre that I’ve chosen, gamer films, tend to be a little on the dramatic side, focusing on the characters, rather than the plot. The problem with this is that gaming should not be a dramatic thing. It should be a fun diversion from the drudgery of modern life. (not an escape as many use it as).  A lot of gamers (but not all, I’m not trying to stereotype here…) in real life are at least a little bit unbalanced, preferring fiction to reality, being socially inept (i know the feeling), some even have diagnosed mental problems, such as Aspergers, ADHD, and other various mental maladies. These people should not be made into dramatic devices, at least not in most circumstances.

In GamerZ, the love interest character, Marlyn, is actually really creepy, identifying too hard with her character, even getting a tattoo of her on her back, and trying to stab the DM when he PK’s the party and her elf gets captured by orcs, meeting a “sticky end”, if you catch my drift. I have not a single good thing to say about this character (except maybe that the actress did a really good job of portraying a deranged woman), and the fact that so much time in the film is directed towards her–being the love interest and all–bugged me. I found myself making a lot of crude jokes at her expense in my first draft of the post, and as much as I admire critics like The Spoony One and his early text reviews and were inspired by them, I don’t want to write like them. I want to be my own goblin, and I want to be positive. Currently I don’t think I’m in the right mood to discuss a film of this “depth” in the manner that I want to. Join me in a couple of days for a different review, of a film that still fits my hint.

Diceroller Flicks: Technical Difficulties, my thoughts on films, and Zero Charisma

So, I was hoping to have a new review up today or Sunday, Unfortunately, my laptop hard drive got corrupted, and It’ll cost me about 80 bucks to replace it. I’m posting from a public library right now. I was thinking I’ll tackle Unicorn City next.

A note about the mind behind my reviews, I used to be a very cynical person in high school. These days, I’ve tired of all the unnecessary snark. These days,  in my mind a movie needs to do a few things for me to receive it well:

First, it needs to be consistent within itself. If you went and saw THACO after my last post, you may have noticed that the acting is very…stage-y. While I understand that different art forms have different requirements, the film was adapted from a stageplay, and I find it worked in the flick’s favor. I listened to Monkey in The Cage Podcast’s review of the film. They didn’t like it, and that’s their opinion to have, but I like building up the films in my bailiwick. In theory, it’s like buying a burger. Sometimes you just crave a McDouble with a McChicken shoved inside it. It won’t ever be called a masterpiece by any stretch, but it was still good.

Second, a movie has to hold my interest. Anyone ever seen the MST3K riff of Eegah? That film is one of my least favorite films, not because it’s bad, but because it’s boring. The Satellite of Love crew couldn’t save that one from  a cave man simply  walking around for a half hour. THACO, on the other hand, was clever at points, played to my interests, and you could tell the actors were gamers themselves, discussing something they knew well.

Third, and this one kind of ties in with number one, it has to present itself well. And I don’t mean it has to have perfect sound and display in HD, it just has to be visually consistant. I bring up number one again because for the most part, the sound was consistent,  the editing was solid without too many glitches, and even though you can guess that it was shot on a cheap and or borrowed DV camera, it doesn’t overstep its bounds which is the real gauge of quality. I think a lot of movies we consider bad are thought of as such because they try to present themselves as something they are not, like The Room. Among the 1001 other things wrong with that movie, I think the biggest offense was that it tried to play itself off as a thoughtful, artsy, heart-wrenching story about a man betrayed by his wife, when in reality, it’s a poorly written, poorly acted, over-advertised train wreck that you don’t want to stare at, but you can’t look away. The delusions of Mr. Wiseau were many.

In closing, I just wanted to mention Zero Charisma, a film that comes out in a couple of days on the 11th.  The money for it was raised on Kickstarter and the trailer looks good (I’ll link to it at the bottom of this post). It’s just the kind of movie I hope to tackle on here, and maybe I will eventually, but first I want to get some other stuff out of the way. Anyway, I’ll catch you next time for Unicorn City.

Zero Charisma Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtgoAt7ZTyE