Tag Archives: TJ Johnston

Gen Con: The Best Laid Plans of Gamers and Geeks

 

shepard

Super Creep Face. I don’t normally look like this, I promise.

 

I’m super-mega excited for Gen Con this year. Not only are John and I both attending again, but we’ll be bringing a couple of friends along with us. Twice the people means twice the fun, right? Probably.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to approach the Con this year. It’s my third year, and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what Gen Con has to offer. There’s so much to do! Even if I went the entirety of the four days without sleeping, there’s no way I’d get to do a tenth of what’s available.

So, here’s the plan.

1.) Meet people — I’m a naturally shy person. I don’t generally like to “put myself out there” when it comes to meeting people, but I think it’s time to put on a friendly convention persona. I bought some business cards and stickers to hand out, and I volunteered to run a game for the good folks at Kobold Press. I really envy people that have friends they meet up with at Gen Con every year. So, I guess my goal is to make friends and influence people.

hypnotoad

HIRE ME TO EDIT YOUR STUFF.

2.) Do more — I’m signed up for some panels, some games, and I’m going to the big masquerade ball. I might even don a costume. I’m trying out my first True Dungeon run, and I’ll pretend to be on the crew of a star ship with Artemis. I’m also hoping to come away with some signed swag. My favorite game developers are going to be there! Maybe they need an editor. ūüôā

3.) Eat food — I had the best steak of my life last year, so I’m (of course) going to hit that place again. Indianapolis offers a lot of great restaurants. I don’t plan on over-indulging, but I’m definitely going to enjoy my meals.

4.) Play games — Whether for a specific event or just demoing stuff on the floor, I had a blast playing games (I mean, it’s “The Best Four Days in Gaming after all), and I’m going to play a whole bunch of them! What’s a gaming convention without trying new stuff?

5.) Keep up — Last year, I kind of burned out by the last day. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m going to take some healthy snacks to help keep energy up; I want to do this right. It’s not often that I get to be a dude without kids for a few days, and as much as I love my children, I’m going to savor being without them for a few days.

In the end, I just want me and my pals to have a good time. Gen Con is only two weeks away. John and I will keep you up-to-date on our adventures. I hope to see you there!

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The Day Before 30

I’m turning 30 years old tomorrow.

I’ll be as old as the 30 Years’ War!

It’s interesting thinking about the past–back to when I was turning 20. I was a brash college kid who thought he was better than most people and smarter than everyone.

I’ve changed. A lot. Because I certainly don’t think I’m smarter than anyone. I just feel like I’m BSing my way through life sometimes. Perhaps that’s just what everyone does. I certainly don’t have it figured out.

In the past ten years, I’ve graduated college, gotten married, had children, helped start a website, figured out what I wanted to do with my career-life, and worked many jobs.

In questing terms (I am, after all, a big RPG fan), my twenties were just the beginning of a greater journey. I’ve learned to cast Magic Missile with ease; now, I need to level up into¬†throwing Lightning Bolt around. Or something. /nerd.

So maybe that’s why, in terms of the stereotypical-I’m-turning-30 freakout, I’m not freaking out at all. Of course, once you’ve had kids, you basically just feel tired all the time.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve learned in my 20s. I may not practice these lessons 100% of the time, but when I do, things go way better for me.

1.) Drop the cynicism.

Life is tough. There are so many times when something bad will happen in my life, and I’ll just have to shrug at my wife and say, “It’s always something.” And it is. I own a home; stuff is breaking all the time. And I don’t know always know how to fix it. I’ve learned, though, that a jaded negativity towards everything doesn’t help the situation.

Cynicism seems to pervade our digital lives. You can’t watch a YouTube video about a kitten jumping on a trampoline without the comments section being full of racism, sexism, and grammar-deficient morons. Cable news channels bombard you with everything bad that is going on (or spin things to seem worse than they actually are). It’s easy to get down.

I’m going to tell you, however, that there is happiness in the little things: going for a walk, eating some ice cream, listening to the birds chirp, enjoying a taco, making a three-pointer, swinging on a swing set. Life is full of small, wonderful things.

Cynicism, by contrast, is grating. It’s anti-good. It’s quick to take offense, and it’s quick to anger.

Being kind is more difficult, but I think you’ll get farther by being kind than succumbing to cynicism. (And this is coming from a guy that worked retail for a long, long time.)

2.) You don’t deserve anything

When I got out of college, I thought that an awesome job would be awaiting me when I entered the real world. I was wrong, and that was even before the recession hit! I was angry for a long time; I thought that because of my (mediocre) work in college, I deserved something great. After all, that’s what I was told so often during my childhood: Go to college; do anything.

I once had a job I loved. And I got laid off from it because they couldn’t pay me. I was depressed because I KNEW that I deserved that job. I was funny, wrote well, and always met my deadlines.

I quickly learned that people don’t always get what they deserve…for better or for worse. However, I also figured out that deciding what you want to do with your life, making a plan, and then working hard at that plan is the best way to get what you want.

It was a few years ago that I decided that I wanted to work in the tabletop games industry. I love gaming. I wish I could do it more,  but I want to help create something that brings joy to people.

So, I made a plan. And I’m working toward that plan. I’m not there yet, but I’ve made progress. Even working hard, I might not get that success; I don’t deserve it, certainly. However, that isn’t going to stop me. I’ll keep trying my best. And really, working hard on a project and finishing it well is a reward unto itself.

3.) Listen and understand.

I’m still pretty bad at this, but I’m trying to do better. Listening is a unique skill. Many people can hear what someone is saying, but few people can truly listen and understand what someone is saying. When you listen, you are forced to give attention to the person who is speaking. Attention is a powerful thing.

It’s easy to get distracted. My phone will buzz at an inopportune moment, or I’ll be watching something on TV when my wife wants to talk to me. However, when I truly listen to someone without distraction by focusing my full attention, I find that it makes me a better person. People are quicker to tell me things. I find myself being better at anticipating how people will react to certain things after I’ve truly listened.

My wife can attest that I’m not great at this. However, I’m trying, babe. I really am.

4.) Play games

My daughter is one-year old and has been playing games for months. She’ll cover her head with a blanket and will leave her face covered until I say something along the lines of, “Where is the baby!?” at which point, she’ll uncover her head and giggle.

You’re never too young or too old to play a game. Whether it’s something simple like “Cops and Robbers” or something more complex like soccer, basketball, or even Settlers of Catan, games are awesome.

And games are good for you! Want to be better at multi-tasking, making decisions, being more social, or being more creative? Play a game! And obviously there are  physical benefits as well to playing games in the form of sports.

Don’t have time to play games with other people? That’s fine. There are studies that indicate that even certain video games are good for you, too.

Want to relieve stress and be a better person? Play some games.

5.) Moderation

“Moderation” has been my soapbox for a long time, now. I try not to go overboard even with things I love and can be good for me. The old saying “Too much of a good thing is not” is something I’ve found to be absolutely true. It’s easy to dedicate too much time to hobbies, or work, or play, or anything.

If you can avoid obsessing too much over something, I think you’ll find your life to be much more harmonious.

I used to work at GameStop. I’ve seen people who have made video gaming their lifestyle. I’ve seen people who can’t make plans with their friends because they have to put in “video game time.” I’ve seen people who have made a lifestyle out of sports. Or drinking. Or any number of things that aren’t necessarily bad when they are taken in moderation.

6.) There are no guilty pleasures. There are just pleasures.

Sometimes, I like pop music. I bought a Demi Lovato album once because it was $3. It’s not great. But, it’s fun to mindlessly sing along with. She has a set of pipes.

I like frozen pizza. Some people couldn’t imagine putting that mess in their mouths. I think it’s delicious. Not all the time. But, sometimes.

What I’m saying is that you’re going to like things that people might make fun of you over. I get mocked for playing Halo 4, sometimes (even though it still sold a butt-load of copies, so other people MUST be playing it). People think it’s funny that I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons within the last three years of my life. Shrug.

Don’t listen to the haters if you like something that is innocuous. You can like what you like, and that’s fine. So dress up like Han Solo, or do whatever.

Unless it’s drugs. Don’t do drugs. That’ll mess you up.

The takeaway from these six things?

Be kind. Be confident.

“Do unto others as you would want done to you.”

Enjoy life because we only get one. Unless we live in a comic book; in which case, I’ll see you when the universe gets rebooted, and I get a brand new set of super powers and a new costume.

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The Worst Avenger: Captain America?

Captain_America_posterI was thinking about Marvel’s The Avengers not too long ago, and I realized that Captain America just doesn’t really work in the movie.

I’m not a Captain America hater! Actually, Cap is probably my favorite comic book character. I love the idea of the little guy becoming the big guy. I love Steve Roger’s devotion to the ideals that make America great: truth, freedom for all, morality. He is strong when he needs to be; he protects those that can’t protect themselves. He is willing to take on people more powerful than he is because that’s exactly who he is.

He might be the best humanity has to offer, but in a world of gods and monsters, he’s often the underdog. He feels duty-bound to do so. His nobility differentiates him from many of the other Marvel Universe heroes. In fact, his innate goodness allowed him to be considered worthy enough to briefly wield Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.

I enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger. Cap worked perfectly; he was noble, kind, and determined. He also had a kind of innocence to him that contrasted with his obvious physical superiority. He had a great line about hating bullies, and, in the end, he “gave his life” to stop said bullies from destroying the USA.

In Avengers, Captain America has one really good scene that demonstrates his underdog spirit: He saves an old German man who refuses to kneel before Loki. He then gives a short monologue about how the last time he was in Germany, he saw a man standing above everyone else then, too. Then he has a brief fight where he doesn’t give up, but he basically gets the snot kicked out of him until Tony Stark shows up.¬† (I also want to point out that more time is given to Iron Man fighting Thor than is given to Captain America fighting Loki.)

The scene perfectly captures who Captain America is, but that’s about the last significant thing that Cap does in the movie. You see, in Avengers there are two other “regular people” who are super awesome at fighting. After that amazing scene in Germany, there’s basically nothing else in the movie that contrasts Cap from Black Widow or Hawkeye.

Seriously, think of that street fight where they are fighting the invading Chitauri. Captain America was on the ground, fighting aliens, and… giving orders, I guess? Maybe him directing the police to do things was supposed to show us how awesome Cap is… but really, I don’t remember anything coming of it. Meanwhile, Hawkeye is shooting exploding arrows at Loki, and Black Widow is closing the black hole/portal/thingy.

Maybe the movie should’ve shown Captain America’s orders to the police help turn the tide of battle.

Cap vs HulkIn my opinion, though, Captain America is at his best when he is fighting something bigger than himself. Maybe instead of having Black Widow running away from The Hulk, we could’ve had Captain America fighting him in the bowels of the Helicarrier. Something like this series of panels from The Ultimates (Which was partially what the Avengers film was based on.).

Or maybe we could’ve simply seen Captain America take down one of the giant flying robot snake things. I would’ve been down with that. Again, it shows the underpowered (in comparison to Hulk, Thor, Iron Man) Cap taking down something that is huge.

Captain America fights for the little guy. And, really, that’s what I would’ve liked to see in The Avengers, and that’s what I hope to see in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Otherwise, we have Black Widow and Hawkeye to do the hand-to-hand fighting, with nothing for Cap to do to stand out.

How do you think Captain America could be better portrayed? Or do you think that Avengers did a good job? Let me know!

 

 

 

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Tips for Running a Game at a Convention

Gabrielfe

This elf helped get people to play my game. Team work!

While I’ve been playing Roleplaying Games for a long time, it’s only been this year that I’ve started to run games at various conventions. I first got my feet wet last weekend at Ratha Con, a new convention in Athens, OH. My next experience will be running a game for Kobold Press at Gen Con.

So, with my vast wealth of experience (one game I’ve run at a convention), I thought that you might benefit from what I learned.

Before the Game

1.) Prepare

This goes without saying, but prepare for the game.¬† I didn’t have an already published adventure to run, so I created my own. I had a three-hour game, so I planned for three relatively short encounters battle encounters, with some investigation thrown in for good measure.

I figured that my players would consist of a lot of newbies (which is awesome! I love introducing new players to RPGs!), so I didn’t make the encounters too terribly complicated, and I made sure that there would be no character death. Since we were playing a superhero game, I wanted my players to feel mighty, so I threw some bad guys at them that were tough, but wouldn’t be overly hard so long that the players worked together.

2.) Advertise

Since I was at a small con, I should’ve gotten to the venue much earlier and talked up my game a little bit. Luckily, I had my wife with me (she was cosplaying an elf). She can really turn on the charm; so she was able to secure some players for me just by being awesome. If that isn’t what marriage is supposed to be, then I don’t know what is.

So talk the game up at the convention and on social media. Post it on forums. Be proactive in getting people to play your games.

Bring extra dice!!

Bring extra dice!!

3.) Set-up

Bring extra dice, a battle mat or maps (if you need them), tokens for tracking characters, pencils, and character sheets. I would generally recommend bringing your own pre-generated character sheets (I’m not a huge fan of power gaming), so that things are fair between players.

A note on character sheets: I knew that I would have a maximum of 6 players, so I brought 14 different characters for the players to choose from.  I really wanted everyone to be able to play the type of character they wanted, so I gave them plenty of choices.

4.) Right Before the Game Starts

Before the game started, I reviewed the rules of the game with the new players and let them look over their characters and character backgrounds. I was present if they had any questions for me. I let this go beyond the start time, because I think it is important that players get a good feel for who their character is and what they do.

During the Game:

1.) Be Nice!

I did my best to be welcoming and personable. I’m there to be the facilitator of the players having a good time. I try not to take the game too seriously, because it is, after all, a game. If you get a hardcore group of gamers at an adventure, it’s cool to go all serious, but for most convention situations, it’s probably best to smile and keep the game as light as possible. My wife, Gabrielle, suggested that I bring some candy to share; that seemed to make everyone happy (everyone likes Starbursts).

2.) Be Patient!

Sometimes your newbies just don’t know how to play the game. It’s okay to show them things on their character sheet that they might not have known, or to give them hints about the cool stuff their character could be doing. Stopping to explain a rule is fine, too. Go with your gut and remember that the goal is to have some fun.

3.) Be Ready!

Sometimes a character will throw a curve ball at you that could potentially “ruin” your game. That’s okay! I try to build games in optional modules that can be plugged in where needed. Maybe you need a little more time? Throw in a module with an extra encounter.

I also try to have a list of NPC and location names with general descriptions, that way I can easily put extra elements into a game.

In order to keep things from going off the rails too much, I started the game with an encounter: the governor was getting kidnapped! This set the tone for the mystery and immediately had the players ready for a fight.

After the Game:

1.) End the Game with a Bang

I ended my convention game with a big set piece (Brainiac had to be stopped and all the world leaders needed to be rescued!).¬† While I don’t know if I completely succeeded, I wanted to make the players feel like they were the heroes of the story. Defeating a bad guy and rescuing major political leaders was definitely a heroic thing to do.

2.) Thank Them for Playing

This is the time to say a big “thank you,” get some of the player’s contact information if you’d like to keep in touch with them, and get feedback on the game. If they aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere else, try to ask them what worked about the game and what didn’t. And take criticism with a smile. You’re only going to get better if you know what you need to work on.

3.) Pack Up

Just like it sounds. Get your things off the table as quickly as possible (there might be another group coming in after you), and, if you can, clean up. I generally try to leave things just as clean as I found them; it’s just common courtesy.

Running games at a convention, I found, is a really good time. You get to meet some new and interesting people, and really, any excuse to game is welcome.

(Hey, if you’re coming to Gen Con in August, I’m running this game for Kobold Press. You should come and say, hi!)

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The Games Workshop Store

WarhammerI’m a fan of both Warhammer universes; though, I’ve never had the money to play the too-expensive-for-my-tastes wargame, I’ve played most of the video games, I own all three editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and I received as a gift literally all the Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy¬†roleplaying books. So, when I (finally) had a chance to check out the Games Workshop store in Rockford, IL, I jumped at the opportunity.

As I walked in, I was immediately greeted by a nice man who ran the store. I wish I could remember his name. (I’m terrible at names. Seriously. I once misspoke my wife’s name when introducing her to a large group of people. It was very embarrassing.) I mentioned my love of all things Warhammer and that I would one day like to play the wargame. He immediately began showing me the starter products and left me alone for a bit to handle other customers.

In the store, various games were going on. I saw a Warhammer 40,000 game going on. I’m pretty sure some Space Marines were battling the forces of Chaos, but I didn’t pay very close attention. I was too busy lusting over Ork army pieces and the new The Hobbit¬†wargame sets (I had just seen the movie and was (still am) very excited about it).

The store employee (Steve? Andrew?), approached me a few minutes later and asked if I wanted a FREE paint lesson that comes with a FREE mini war-figurine. I’m a big fan of free. I picked out a dwarf figure (because dwarves are awesome, and I was still obsessing over The Hobbit), and learned proper painting techniques.

What I got painted of my dwarf looked pretty decent, if I do say so myself.

The employee then played a simplified game of Warhammer 40,000 with me. It was very simplified, but I love rolling dice, so it was fine. The employee asked me if I wanted to buy the set… I did. But, being a guy with two kids and no space to store all the cool stuff, it’s simply too hard to justify the price for plastic figurines (and doesn’t include the paint).

It’s really odd to me that a wargaming store with basically one product can exist. I’m glad it can, and I wish I could support it, but I find it interesting that such a niche store can operate, even if it is VERY small.

Now, let me tell you the horror part of the story.

First, a little background. I’m allergic to a lot of things. And I break out in terrible, itchy hives whenever something sets the old immune system to “crazy.”

After painting the miniature, I broke out in hives.

I’m allergic to the paint.

Meaning, that if I ever wanted to actually start playing¬†Warhammer, I couldn’t paint my own stuff.

And that’s half the fun. I’m allergic to a game. A guy that loves games gets all itchy and bumpy thanks to a game. Ironic terror.

Sad panda.

 

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New Year’s Eve Musings: Pathfinder Online

PfOIt’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m feeling a little bit melancholy. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on a “working vacation,” or because I haven’t been sleeping well. Maybe I miss playing Minecraft and Halo 4. Maybe it’s because my baby has for over a week refused to do anything but scream when anyone but me or my wife tries to hold her. Maybe it’s the cloudy weather.

But, something has put a bit of a smile on my face. And it has to do with one of the articles I wrote in June. We Need A Better MMORPG.

A Better Class of MMO – I’ve wanted a sandbox-style MMO for a long time; a massively multiplayer game in which the players actually built things, created kingdoms, and controlled the economy whilst fighting back the hordes of evil monsters that threatened the land sounds like the best thing ever to me.

Enter Pathfinder Online.

Pathfinder Online seems to be the MMO I’ve been waiting for. You can build structures and kingdoms. You can help control the economy. You and your companions can take control of “hexes” within the game area. Within that area you could build watchtowers, inns, and even cities.

It has something for everyone as well. Maybe you just want to get a hammer and bash orcs in the face. If that’s how you want to play, then do it. If you want to instead wage corporate warfare on another player’s corporation, using assassination and undercutting his prices, you can do that to. Maybe you just want to harvest and build things… that’s there for you. I think this encourages players to work together and found thriving virtual cities. Thinking about it makes me really excited.

Really, there is so much from the initial post that is planned to be included in Pathfinder Online that I feel like my mind was completely read. Pathfinder is one of my favorite roleplaying systems, so I know that character options will be pretty balanced, but it’s the addition of all the other stuff that you can do in a tabletop environment that makes me wish this game was out right now.

;

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Awful Christmas Songs

There are some really awesome Christmas songs.

And then there are the kind that are really, really awful. And since I like focusing on things that suck, here are my least favorite Christmas songs.

1. The Christmas Shoes – New Song

Patton Oswalt has said (NSFW Language) pretty much everything I want to say about The Christmas Shoes. This song is sadistic.

2. Santa Gimme – JRandall

Shirtless dude? Check. Skeezy dude singing skeezy lyrics? Check. This Christmas song makes me infinitely sad.

3. Santa Claus is Comin’ in a Boogie Woogie Choo-Choo Train – The Tractors

The Tractors aren’t the most popular country rock band on Earth, so when it came time to make a Christmas album, what did they do? Took their most popular song and changed the lyrics to be more Christmas-y. This song makes me want to lay my head under the big wheel of a tractor and beg for it to run over my skull and crush my brains out.

 

 

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A Post of Random Holiday Stuff

 

I think we’ve all seen something like this:


It’s generally pretty awesome. (Side note: my wife informed me that these people broadcast the music over unused radio bands. That makes sense.)

Since the holidays are coming (or already here, if you are one of my Jewish readers), I decided to go in search of awesome holiday things. I’m going to warn you that, much like my mind, this list is going to be pretty random, so bear with me.

 

First up, Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I’m so glad the universe conspired to make this happen.

 

Here is a Spock Santa hat. Live long and sleigh ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is pretty. The Piano Guys perform O Come, Emmanuel.

 

This album exists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, to end this mildly strange journey, here is an animated .gif of Lumpy, Chewbacca’s father, from the Star Wars Holiday Special.

I’m sorry you have to see this. Happy Holidays!

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Trilogies: Why the Best Things Come in Threes

JRR Tolkien’s covers for The Lord of the Rings. Fair Use.

Trilogies are most often associated with science-fiction or fantasy, whether it be in film, novel, or even video game. However, the trilogy has been used for thousands of years, dating back to the Greeks. The Greek trilogy of plays known as The Oresteia is the oldest surviving trilogy that we have.

Why have trilogies survived for such a long time? Here are a few of the reasons.

1. They easily fit a thee-act structure

Trilogies are, obviously, perfect for the three-act structure. If you’re not familiar with it, here is a brief overview.

1. The first act generally deals with introducing characters and the world they inhabit. Later in the first act, something will happen that will change the main character’s life.

2. In the second act, the main character will try to solve his problem, but only make it worse, since he is not sufficiently experienced enough to deal with the problem.

3.) The third act will resolve the problem.

For example:

1.) In The Lord of the Rings narrative,  Fellowship of the Ring, is the first act. Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Humans, and the world they live in are all introduced. Frodo gets the ring, which changes his life forever. The problem ensues when Frodo decides to take the ring to Mordor. After Boromir tries to take the ring away, Frodo makes the decision to take the ring to Mordor on his own, which he is not ready for.

2.) The Two Towers continues the story of Frodo, who realizes how complicated his situation is getting. Gollum, Faramir, and the hordes of Mordor all complicate the situation. He realizes that he can’t carry his burden alone, but refuses Sam’s help and trusts Gollum instead of his best friend.

3.) In Return of the King, Frodo and Sam complete their quest after discovering that trust, friendship, and crazy determination (also, Gollum biting off a finger), will always win the day. The subplots are resolved, the characters are left forever changed, but are more mature and complete because of the experience.

You could apply this structure to any number of trilogies. It’s just easy, and if done well, can work beautifully.

2.) Trilogies are lucrative

Why do publishers and movie studios love trilogies? Because they make money. If the first movie or book does well, no doubt that the second and third parts of the story will also make sales. Guaranteed sales are good for the author and the publisher.¬† So, yes, sometimes it’s a greedy plot to make more money, but honestly, isn’t having more story worth it?

3.) Concerning fantasy/sci-fi

Fantasy and sci-fi readers are more likely to be reading for fun, so long stories are enjoyable for those readers. I love fantasy and sci-fi, so I love series that make up a trilogy (or multiple trilogies). I never feel like I have to plod through those stories, because I am doing it for enjoyment.

I know people complain about the prevalence of trilogies, but they are good for the reader, the writer, and the publisher/studio. They are an ancient form of storytelling that isn’t going anywhere soon, so try your best to enjoy the ride.

 

 

((The featured image is a screen capture from The Fellowship of the Ring. Subject to fair use. Used for illustrative purposes only.))

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The Week in Geek: Oct. 5, 2012

You may not know what you’re going to do this weekend, but after reading this you know you you’ll be doing it full of fantastical Internet knowledge!

Also, whatever you’re doing this weekend, bring a jacket. It looks like a cold snap could be coming. Don’t give me that look! Just leave it in your car. You’ll be glad you have it when it gets dark.

Princess Sally by matthewhoworth

Maybe Sally’s never been considered a Disney Princess because she doesn’t dress like one. This lovely portrait takes care of that! Image courtesy of DeviantArtist matthewhoworth.

You know the silhouettes of you and your siblings that Ma and Pa have over the sofa? Yeah, photographer David Reeves’ action and occasionally zombie-packed vignettes are nothing like those. (via Geeks are Sexy via Geekologie)

TJ is a little excited that Halo: Forward Until Dawn is here.

Etsy seller Tannim is selling Game of Thrones-themed Converse All Stars (aka: “Chucks”) that he or she designed themselves. Insert overplayed play on,”Winter is coming,” here. (via Geekologie)

These kicks might be perfect for John since he just can’t stop discussing Game of Thrones!

What in the World (of Warcraft)?! Maine Democratic state senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz is under fire for her participation in the MMORPG. It has also led to an inadvertently hilarious press release. (via Kotaku)

What the hell is up with these non sequitur covers of classics put out by publisher Tutis? I’m 90 percent convinced this is a Dadaist art project that has gone too far. (via The Mary Sue)

Love the new Leatherface? A fan of the facelifted Freddy’s? Jonesing for some more Jason? Rob’s got a list of his favorite horror remakes.

You’re cold, but you’re too weak to carry a fresh taun taun carcass everywhere for warmth. Think Geek’s got you(r head) covered with these adorable Star Wars hats. Yoda you will look like. (via Laughing Squid)

a_tip_of_the_hat_by_matthewhoworth-d4c43b8

Deviant Artist matthewhoworth has a fantastic series of classic Disney villains done in this style! Image courtesy of DeviantArtist matthewhoworth.

May have guessed this because I’ve told you, but I’m a wee bit on the blue side of the Congressional fence. Because I very much disagree with Mitt Romney (And I’m the writer here), I’m sharing this link showing just what public television contributes to America. (Thanks to my friend Jess for the tip!)

Megan’s Movie Alphabet is not just an example of stunning graphic design; it also makes for some potentially twisted kids’ room art. (via Laughing Squid)

The Doctor Puppet is a blog that’s about pretty much what it says on the tin. I sit sad when you’re envious of a puppet’s globe-trotting lifestyle? (via I forget where! I’m sorry!)

Voters, listen up (You should all be listening since you should all be registered to vote!)! J. Fortune knows you’ve been guilty of fraudulent reasoning.

Are you a lady in possession of a larger than average bosom (counts me out)? Are you an experienced DM? Do you have a half hour to spare? Do you either have very high self-esteem or very low? Then you might want to answer this ad for a topless Dungeons + Dragons DM for a bachelor party. (via Nerd Approved)

Adele’s theme for the upcoming James Bond flick¬†Skyfall¬†was released yesterday. I haven’t listened it yet because I forgot my earbuds.

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The Week in Geek: Sept. 28, 2012

You may have added pumpkin spice to everything you’re eating and drinking, but I’ve got some geeky spice to add to your weekend! (Not my strongest opener, ¬†I’ll grant you. I just got back from the dentist. I’m traumatized; cut me some slack!)

Avengers part 1 by La-Chapeliere-Folle

What if Tim Burton had been given the reigns of The Avengers instead of Joss Whedon? Deviantartist La-Chapeliere-Folle has a pretty good idea. Image courtesy of La-Chapeliere-Folle on DeviantArt.

Edgar Wright screened test footage for his finally confirmed Ant-Man. Thanks to talented Deviantartist Samurai Jack, who storyboarded his recollection of the footage, I can pretend I hopped a plane to San Diego, spent seven hours standing in line for a panel, and then spent two more in a massive room that slowly became filled with fanboy/girl farts. (via Topless Robot)

A Reddit user with the handle “european_douchebag” took a surreptitious photo of a Sikh woman with facial hair and posted it to be mocked. Her dignified, lovely, and forgiving response would have been enough. But then, the internet imploded and the original poster actually wrote a sincere apology. Internet, just when I think I know you, you surprise me. (Thanks to Colleen Carow for the Facebook tip!)

TJ has found a way to make his boredom disappear in a Flash (game)! (Come on, stop groaning! That was moderately clever! No? Alright, then.)

Hope Larson explains why she said, “Yes!” to adapting A Wrinkle in Time. I think the reasoning should be, “They asked me to adapt A Wrinkle in Time. What other answer is there?” (via Huffington Post)

Avengers part 2 by La-Chapeliere-Folle

Loving the Hulk interpretation here. Which is your favorite? Image courtesy of La-Chapeliere-Folle on DeviantArt.

Nerd Approved thinks that this Thor and Loki snuggle blanket is bizarre. I have two alternate synonyms to suggest: “Sold out online” and “Perfect for my living room.” (via The Mary Sue)

You’ll be able to download your tweets before 2013. That’s great because I was getting worried that all my shameless self-promotion on Twitter was just going to be lost forever. (via Geekosystem)

Gabrielle showed us where you can buy fabulous comic-covered kicks; but let’s assume you don’t have cash to burn on these nerdgasmic shoes. The Offbeat Bride has tips on how to make them yourself. (via Offbeat Bride)

Hey, what exactly do you get a search engine for its 14th birthday?

The companion of the Clown Prince of Crime, Harley Quinn, is 20 this year. What better way to remember many women’s (and men’s) favorite felon-ess than with a stunning sculpt‚Ķthat (ugh) features her Arkham Asylum Juggalette of Death outfit. (via Kotaku)

Rapunzel by La-Chapeliere-Folle

A waifish, innocent blonde pulled into a mysterious world? I’m surprised Tim Burton hasn’t made an interpretation of Rapunzel already! Image courtesy of La-Chapeliere-Folle on DeviantArt.

They’re creepy, kooky, spooky, and all related. Rob runs down his favorite Halloweenie families.

Why were the Nazis obsessed with this Buddhist statue carved from a meteorite? If you have to ask, you’ve clearly never seen an Indiana Jones movie. (via io9)

Mark Millar, the creator of Kick Ass, has signed on to consult Fox on the future of the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. As much as I loved X-Men: First Class, I’m hoping this means 100 percent more Nic Cage insanity in future installments. (via CBR)

These adorable images prove Dr. Seuss and Star Wars go together like Boba Fett and a sarlacc. (via Neatorama)

Like sands in the hourglass so goes the flow of power in Game of Thrones. Not really, but John’s back with part two of his hella insightful analysis of the series.

A long time ago in a yarn shop far, far away, a motivated crafter bought patterns for these squee-worthy Star Wars ships amigurumi. Then she gave me one just because I’m awesome, and it’s that kind of story. (via Laughing Squid)

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Doctor Who Series 7 Themes

Thar be spoilers ahead, matey.  /endpirate

Doctor Who has aired only two episodes so far in season 7, but themes have already started to emerge. What they mean and how they pan out, I can only guess, but Steven Moffat and the Who writing team always seem to have a surprise or two up their sleeves. So, I’m just going to list some of the themes I’ve noticed thus far. Let me know if you’ve noticed other recurring themes or if you think I’m just a quack.

1. The Williams/Ponds are involuntary companions.

In “Asylum of the Daleks,” Amy and Rory were kidnapped by the Doctor’s oldest enemies and forced down onto the asylum planet to accompany our favorite Time Lord. In “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” the Doctor just materialized the Ponds/Williams into the Tardis with barely even a greeting.

As much as they both love The Doctor (and as much as Amy says she craves excitement), I don’t think that the Ponds are too keen on traveling with him anymore. You’ll notice during “Dinosaurs” that Amy and Rory are extremely competent during the space adventure, but they don’t seem to be finding a whole lot of joy in it. Not like Brian, Rory’s dad, who seemed blown away by the wonder that was space and time travel. The Ponds aren’t overly impressed anymore.

The conversation near the end of “Dinosaurs” between Amy and the Doctor points to something interesting, too. The Doctor mentions that Amy and Rory and he will be together until something happens to the Doctor; Amy replies something to the effect of “or something happens to us,” which the Doctor laughs off.

This is either foreshadowing that something bad is going to happen to the Ponds, or perhaps they are trying to ween the Doctor off them. Or both. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them gets hurt due to the Doctor drafting them involuntarily into an adventure.

2. Flickering Lights.

Remember Amy’s dressing room in “Asylum?” And then, there was Rory and Brian trying to fix the light in “Dinosaurs.” Lights often represent thoughts or ideas, which brings me to…

3. The bad guys don’t remember/know who the Doctor is.

Oswin Oswald erases the Doctor from the Daleks’ collective “memory” in “Asylum,” and Solomon has never heard of the Doctor in “Dinosaurs.” Plus, the Doctor doesn’t appear in Solomon’s special scanner database thingy.

My theory? I have two.

Theory A: The Silence have figured out some way to infect the Doctor with their forgetting properties. If¬† not the Silence, then someone else has. Memory loss is already a recurring theme this season, like when Amy couldn’t remember that she and the Doctor had the same conversation 4 times. Do the lights point to the Ponds forgetting about The Doctor?

Theory B: The flickering lights pertain to the Weeping Angels. If that’s the case, then they are actually foreshadowing what is going to happen to Amy and Rory.

Theory C: Both things happen, and it’s scary!

4. The Doctor gets violent.

Exploding Daleks. Exploding Solomon. The Doctor hasn’t been afraid to erase his enemies from existence this season. Again, I think this points to the Doctor’s enemies figuring out a way to erase him from existence as well.

Okay. What did I miss? Am I completely wrong in my theories? Is everything just the angry ghost of Adric coming back to have his revenge on the Doctor that couldn’t save him?

Ehh… probably not.

 

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The September 11th Attacks in Geek Fiction

Many of us remember where we were and what we were doing when the September 11th attacks happened.

I was a lowly freshman in college, and I was in Radio Fundamentals, my first class of the day on that Tuesday morning. My teacher walked into the room, and while¬† I don’t remember what was said, I’ll always remember the look on her face when she informed us of what was happening. Since we were in what amounted to a functional news studio, I was able to watch things unfold in mostly real time. I remember seeing the second plane as it hit the South Tower.

I don’t really remember that day very well beyond a profound sense of sadness. And of shock. For some reason, when I think of that day, I think of the color gray. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the metal of the buildings. Or the dust as the buildings crashed down.

Obviously, I was not the only one affected by the attacks; writers, artists, and actors were all deeply affected as well. I’m going to talk today specifically how geek culture dealt with attacks–dealing with every instance would take years to write, so this is a small sampling.

Comic Books

Comic companies love New York; Marvel and DC are headquartered there, after all, so it came as no surprise that they wanted to reference the attacks. These are just a few of those stories.

Spider-Man Volume 2 #36 — Also called “The Black Issue” due to its completely black cover. A lot of people took this issue the wrong way, I think. Many people pointed out that Doctor Doom probably wouldn’t actually be crying over an attack, or that there was no way that the other supervillains would care all that much (especially with all the destruction they bring about themselves!), but I think those critics probably missed the point. Those beloved characters (yes, even the villains) were surrogates for the writers and artists at Marvel Comics, and they were expressing themselves through the medium that they were a part of.

Altogether, it’s a little goofy, but it’s also genuine.

9-11 – There were two volumes of this, and both parts contained work by superstar comics writers and artists: Joe Kubert, Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Dave Gibbons, etc. Some of the stories are simple (a woman reaching over and touching the empty side of her bed), some of the stories are overt (Stan Lee’s fable about mice wearing 666 shirts waking up a giant), but all of them deal with the real issues of revenge, justice, hope, and despair.

Big props to the creators of this, because ALL the proceeds went to charities.

Big props as well to Joe Kubert, who gives these last words of hope: “I’ve lived long enough to see the worst turn into something better.”

Ex Machina – While not a 9/11 story, it is affected by the events of that day. Ex Machina takes place in an alternate reality where a superhero called The Great Machine manages to stop only one of the planes. While his actions get him elected mayor of New York, he still lives with the guilt of being indirectly responsible for the death of thousands.

Books 

There weren’t really all that many books in the geek realm that dealt with 9/11 (that I remember anyway), but I would be remiss not to mention Stephen King’s short story The Things They Left Behind.

It’s the tale of a man whose inner voice tells him to call off work and enjoy the day. Yep, that that day is Sept. 11, 2001. After the attacks, he begins having problems with his survivor’s guilt, and objects that belonged to his co-workers begin appearing in his apartment. If he throws them away, they always return. If he gives them to someone else, they give the person nightmares.

Eventually, he begins returning these items to the families of the people they belong to and starts to finally deal with his guilt.

Television 

TV has a lot of references to 9/11. Law & Order, CSI: New York, The West Wing, and Rescue Me all have characters that have to deal with the aftermath of the attacks.

In geek TV, Fringe deals with the 9/11 attacks, including glimpses into an alternate universe where the WTC attacks were averted, only to bring other types of terrorism into the country. The money shot is at the end of season one, where Olivia and William Bell (played by Leonard Nimoy) are standing inside the World Trade Center south tower.

 

Conclusion 

I think the further we get away from the events, the more they will be referenced a little more dispassionately… and maybe with more clarity. For us that remember the day, it seems that the sight of the towers in fiction elicits certain types of responses: shock, sadness, anger, numbness.

How do you feel when you see the towers in movies or TV? Have your feelings changed at all with time? I’d be interested to know. As for me, I feel a certain amount of melancholy and numbness, not just thinking about the attacks, but the consequences of them as well.

Generally on 9/11, I try to remember the unity, the camaraderie.¬† I remember how everyone suddenly seemed ready to help everyone else out. Strangers were nicer to each other. It only last a couple of weeks, but that kind of unity was pretty nice. I’d love to see that again.

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Borderlands 2 Preview

Borderlands combined two types of games that I love: First-person shooters and crazy Diablo-style killing and looting.  I loved everything about it: The art style, the setting, the millions of guns, and the humor.

Not bad for a game basically made on a whim.

As much as I loved it, though, there were some things missing from the game, like a decent story. So, I was excited when I heard that developer Gearbox was pulling out all the stops for the sequel.

I wanted more character customization. It’s in Borderlands 2. I wanted a better story. Gearbox promises that it’s in Borderlands 2.¬†In addition to making the new game an overall better experience, they’ve added the wub wubs. I think most of us agree that we need more dubstep in our lives. Alex Clare thinks so, anyway.

So, because I’m basically crazy excited about the game, let’s talk a little about why it will be so awesome, and hopefully (if I have the money), it will be a day one buy for me.

The Characters:

Borderlands 2 features an all-new cast. Don’t worry, the main characters from the first game are still there, but they aren’t playable. They’re going to play a major part in the story, though. Our friends Mordecai, Lilith, Roland, and Brick will all be there, along with our favorite beatboxing robot, Claptrap. Plus, the Guardian Angel, whom we still know almost nothing about (other than she is a satellite), will also be returning.

But, let’s focus on the NEW main characters.

Axton is a commando who, like Roland, depends on his turrets for his special attacks. I played mostly as Roland in the first game (I had to solo a lot, so the extra firepower is always welcome), so Axton will probably be my first choice.

Zer0 is an assassin who can disappear and make decoys of himself. He uses these abilities to sneak up and get close to enemies so he can cut them in half with his rocking laser-edged sword. He looks like he’ll be a lot of fun for people who like to be sneaky-sneaky and kill bad guys with a little more flair.

Maya is a siren like Lilith who controls the elements and is basically a genetically-modified wizard. I know people that had a lot of fun as Lilith in the first game, but I’m not sure if Maya plays quite the same way. Maya looks much more focused on straight breaking things (by phasing them into other dimensions) than Lilith, who was a little more stealthy.

Salvador is the “gunzerker.” He’ll play a lot like Brick, but instead of using his fists to break things, he can use his ability to go nuts and dual-wield any combination of the weapons in the game. Want two rocket launchers? Okay. Do it. He’ll be a lot of fun for players who want to just cause insane wanton destruction. So… everyone will probably find him fun.

There’s also a fifth class, Gaige the Mechromancer, who can summon a floating death robot called “Deathtrap.” She is the root of the “girlfriend mode” controversy. She’ll be available for download later.

Setting:

Borderlands 2 takes place five years after the original game. The villain of the game, Handsome Jack, has taken credit for the work of the Vault Hunters in the first game and has basically bought all of planet Pandora (and apparently its moon too, since he has a giant moon base).

Players will go through snowy tundra areas, desert areas, jungles, caverns, and urban locations in their fight against Handsome Jack. Each area has some unique enemies to blow up and loot.

Guns N’ Loot:

Gearbox really focused on the guns for Borderlands 2 to make each gun manufacturer more unique in order to help players more easily find the gun they want. Jakobs guns will be fast on the trigger and precise and have “old West” styling. Vladof manufactured guns will look like Russian guns and have a high rate of fire.

Most fun (to me) look to be the Tediore guns, which Gearbox head Randy Pitchford described as the “Walmart” guns of the game. When you are done firing them, they don’t reload, you just chuck them and watch them explode. I love explosions.

All in all, Gearbox has promised that there will be even more guns in Borderlands 2 than the original. I’m more than okay with this.

Other loot includes ways to customize your character (you can do more than simply palette swap this time!), including different heads, clothing, and miscellaneous gear. You’ll also get grenades, weapon modifications, and other secret stuff that they haven’t let slip yet.

I’m stupid excited.

The Mecromancer

Borderlands 2, liked every other game, is available for pre-order. No matter where you preorder the game, you’ll get into the Premier Club, which is just a fancy way of saying that you get some shiny golden guns, a key to unlock a special chest, and the Mechromancer class for free.

If you preorder from GameStop in the US, or GAME (does that place even exist anymore?) in the UK, you’ll get the “Creature Slaughter Dome.” I’m guessing that this is a place where you slaughter creatures. Probably for McDonald’s. Maybe you’ll get a double cheeseburger out of it.

But, wait! There’s more! Today, Gearbox announced that there would be a “season pass” for Borderlands 2, in which you can get all the downloadable content (which you’ll want to get anyway, because if the DLC in this game is anything like the last, it will add a TON of content to the game) for $30, which is ten bucks off of buying all the DLC separately. You should probably do that. Just sayin’.

Also, there are three editions of the game: the regular ($59.99), Collector’s edition ($99.99), and the Ultimate Loot Chest Limited Edition ($149.99). The Collector’s and Loot Chest editions come with all sorts of cool stuff. However, I’m almost sure they are mostly sold out of those. It’s okay, the regular edition will do you just fine.

Split screen and online four player co-op is back in Borderlands 2. Which is awesome, because it’s the best part of the original game. Nothing like killing baddies with your buddies.

Borderlands 2 releases on September 18th, so go get it. And hey, if you need a buddy to play with, you can send me a friend request at gamertag: Spumis.

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Superheroes Dating Each Other Makes Sense

When it was announced that Superman and Wonder Woman were getting it on, I got really excited. I’m not a huge fan of the Superman/Lois Lane dynamic, so I thought it was a good idea for the two powerhouse heroes to be dating. Yesterday on io9, however, Charlie Jane Anders had a different idea. While I don’t totally disagree with her on some of her points (the article is excellent), I do think that, at least in the Superman situation, dating regular people is unwise.

1. Superman and Lois Lane aren’t equals.

She is the world’s foremost reporter. He is the world’s foremost superhero. That doesn’t make them equal, unfortunately. Superman is essentially a god able to fly through space, run faster than the speed of sound, destroy things with his eyes, and punch Venus out of orbit.¬† Like I said, a god.

How can Lois Lane ever really understand what that is like? How could Superman ever really understand what it is like to be Lois Lane? She could get hit by a car and die going to work… that would never happen to Superman. She will age and die. He won’t (at least for a long time).

Wonder Woman, at least in the new 52 continuity is the daughter of Zeus (as we learned from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, he’s the all-powerful king of the gods!!) and has inherited many of his powers. As a goddess (or at least demigoddess, herself), Diana is able to understand many of the things that are going on in Superman’s head. She is able to understand his strength, his speed, how much restraint he has to put on himself not to accidentally kill someone, and is able to bond with him through that. She is also immortal, like our boy, Supes.

2. Superman always has to save Lois.

Let me describe a certain relationship to you. One party in the relationship is curious and is always getting into all sorts of trouble. No matter how bad things look, that person is ready to charge in and find out what is going on. Because of this, the other person in the relationship is constantly having to save the other’s life, fix that person’s problems, etc.

Want to know what I just described?

The relationship between me and my son. But, I bet you were thinking that I was describing the Lois Lane/Superman relationship. How independent of a person can you truly be if you know that someone is always going to scoop you up and save you from nearly every situation?

With Wonder Woman, he’ll almost never have the same problem. She is able to take care of herself, whether it be addressing the UN or fighting your major super-powered baddie of the month. In fact, I find that Wonder Woman often has a confidence that Superman sometimes lacks.

Really, if Superman needs to be grounded in humanity, perhaps it is best if he does it through family and friends. He doesn’t need to date a human.

3. Wonder Woman provides for some really interesting story opportunities.

How does the power base in the Justice League shift is two of the founding members are now dating? How are things resolved if they disagree? Will the Hall of Justice be destroyed if they have sex in it? If Wonder Woman kills someone, how does that affect the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman? Will Batman go absolutely insane when he realizes that the two (arguably) most powerful members of the Justice League are hooking up?

Let’s face it, relationship spats are interesting. A relationship spat while the fate of the world is at stake? More interesting. And it doesn’t have to be your cliched “should I save him or should I save the world?” story. Give the writers a little credit. They can come up with something awesome. Some of the most interesting “discussions” my wife and I have are over our differences of belief or opinion. Because of these discussions, I often find out more about my wife, and I love her more because of it.

Now imagine this on a cosmic scale. Pretty interesting, I’d say.

4. It’s time for something a little more new.

I know that Superman and Wonder Woman have been explored as a couple before, but never in a long-term way. I don’t think that Superman and Wonder Woman can worm their way past nearly 75 years of people being used to Supes/Lois, so give them a little time to make things interesting.

Superman has been pining for or dating or married to Lois Lane for a long, long time. Let’s try something new. Comic book characters are constantly in danger of becoming overly stagnant, so anything that injects a little newness into the story is more than welcome in my book.

5. Super couples can work.

Sue and Reed Richards show what a relationship of equals can offer comic book stories. Cyclops and Jean Grey are also a good example of a superpowered couple fighting the good fight together. It can most definitely work storywise. I’d love to see it work with two of the most powerful beings on Earth.

From a DC universe standpoint, it could be awesome. It could be frightening. It could end up like Antony and Cleopatra. I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out where it goes.

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Con Men: GenCon Day 3

I’m just going to get this out there and say it.

If you knew about Gen Con, and you didn’t go, you lose. Plain and simple. You lose.

Know what I did today? I hung out with Green Lantern. I sang my way into battle alongside a warhammer-swinging Paladin. I served with Captain Malcolm Reynolds and a sexy assassin aboard the mighty starship Artemis.
The day started early. John and I got up around 7 o’clock (after about 4 hours of sleep), and headed out to the Con. We walked nearly the entire length of the Indiana Convention Center to get to the JW Marriott hotel, where our first event was being held. Let me say that every gaming session that happens should be in a meeting room of a fancy hotel: comfortable seating, hard candy, ice water, big tables, pens/paper provided.

Anywho, the game was called “Dead End” and was built using Mutants & Masterminds/ DC Adventures. We got the opportunity to play as many of the members of the Justice League, but mostly all the players picked B and C-list heroes. Our team consisted of Green Lantern, Batman (played by John), Dr. Light, Plastic Man, and our only D-list hero, Booster Gold (played by me, because I think he’s hilarious).

The team had their work cut out for them. Lex Luthor, Clayface, Sinestro, Deathstroke, and Gorilla Grod had all teamed up to build a dimensional portal… but our terrible Justice League team managed to fight them and send them to jail… except for that slippery Lex Luthor… he jumped through the portal. On the other side… we found Marvel Zombies.

Hands down a great game. I wish I could remember the DM’s name because he did an amazing job. He was part of North Coast Gamers from Ohio. If you’re reading this, DM, email me. I would love to ask you some questions about your DMing style or just chat. And I will definitely look for your event next year.

Next up came some Pathfinder Society action. This one… was a little disappointing, I have to say. The DM was really, really tired. And we had a really loud, jerky power-gamer incarnate sitting at our table. The guy couldn’t relinquish control of anything.

Other than that awful, harassing person, the other people at the table seemed legitimately cool, and I mostly had a good time. I felt bad for the DM, though. He looked like he needed a nap. I wonder how many games he had to run that day.

Pathfinder Society is a lot of fun. I’m going to be looking for ways to play nearer to home. I’m pretty sure there is a group in Columbus that plays. I need to start leveling up my character!

Next came the movieMisfit Heights.It’s a zombie puppet musical that we went to see because we liked that Vampire Puppet show fromForgetting Sarah Marshall.I don’t consider myself much a film critic… but I was a little disappointed. It’s ultra-low budget, and you can really tell. The picture was OFTEN too dark to see. The singing wasn’t really great. The sound editing seemed a little off. It also seemed a little overly long. However, I did laugh out loud more than a few times, so I suppose it was certainly worth seeing. And it was free, so the price was hard to beat.

Finally, the highlight of my day. Artemis, a starship bridge simulator. I’m going to try my best to adequately describe to you how amazing I think this game is.

How it works: Artemis is basically a program that runs using a LAN or internet connection. 6 displays are linked together, and each display represents a different station on a starship: Helm, Tactical (John got to shoot the bad guys), Communications, Science, Engineering (this was my specialty for the evening), and the Captain.

The Captain has the job of overseeing all the stations and giving orders. He’s the macro-organizer of the ship, and you mostly have to depend on him to organize all the stations to work together. The guy who volunteered to be our Captain was pretty amazing. He seriously took to it instantly, and by the end, we were all calling him “sir” or “captain.” Pretty impressive.

The Helm steers the ship by controlling the maneuvering engines, the impulse engines, and the warp engines. Our Helmsman started off a little shaky, but by the end was controlling the ship like a pro.

The Comm officer monitors communications throughout the star system and relays them to the Captain. Our comm officer was played by a cosplayer dressed as Malcolm Reynolds. It was weird to have the Browncoat hero sitting in the comm, but he did a great job. Comm officers are also able to get enemies to surrender and can also taunt the baddies into attacking us rather than one of our allied ships or space stations.

The Science Officer is responsible for keeping tabs on approaching ships and scanning the many anomalies in the darkness of space. Our Science Officer was played by the girl hanging out with Malcolm Reynolds (wife, girlfriend?) who was dressed as a sexy assassin. She did a good job keeping tabs on the bad guys.

The Tactical Officer is responsible for shooting bad guys and defending the starship. John was our guy, and he was the king of setting off nukes in such a way as to kill 3-5 ships in one fell swoop. After learning how to manually control the lasers, he basically became the boss of killing bad guys. Seriously.

Represent.

Finally, my part the Engineer. I was the guy responsible for shunting power into various systems, making sure those same systems don’t overheat, and sending engineering teams to fix any damage to the ship. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I think I did a pretty excellent job of Scotty-ing (I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!!) my way through the game. By the end, I was a master of repairing shield damage and shunting enough power into John’s lasers to cut enemy warships into ribbons.

Basically, everyone should play Artemis. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to turn my shed into a starship bridge. I was so impressed with the game, I’m even considering getting an Engineer’s badge to show off my love for both the good ship Artemis and the lonely Engineering station.

After that, we headed to BW3s for some chicken wings, and we got to watch this woman at the bar have a terrible date.

All-in all, a pretty awesome day at the con.

Editor’s Note: John ended up remembering the DM’s name.

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Gen Con Adventures: GenCon Day 1

None of this bad stuff would have happened if Peyton was still here.

Well, today has been… pretty weird/terrible.

It started out pretty well. I was packed and out the door by 6 AM. John and I were on the road and discussing life, politics, etc.

Finally, after what seemed like an extremely short drive, we were in Indianapolis. Gen Con was just within my reach. All the games were going to be played.

But I suddenly realized that I forgot the tickets. They were sitting on top of my microwave in my kitchen in my house. I called my wife, John and I turned around, and away we went. We met at an A&W somewhere between Albany, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. We decided to have lunch at said A&W, and the service was absolutely atrocious. The food wasn’t spectacular either, but John declared that the root beer was delicious.

Back to Indy we went. All the games were before us. Nothing could stop us.

Except the insane amount of road construction. We literally spent nearly an hour and a half within sight of our hotel… but we couldn’t get to it. A bridge was out for road construction… and there were no signs for a detour. An insane amount of driving ensued, but we got checked in. The room is really nice!

So, off to the convention center we went! All the games were again before us. But…

John couldn’t get his press badge. I actually watched as the press coordinators left the room, but I was too far away to do anything about it or say anything to them.¬† John thought about buying a day pass… but at $50, it was a little too steep a price to pay.

So, I played some Pathfinder… Which was fun. But, John went back to hotel and slept.

A super late dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse after that, and now I’m writing this piece; I can barely keep my eyes open. So I’m going to sign off. Hopefully, things are better tomorrow.

 

 

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Gen Con Coverage!

John and I are going to the most magical place on Earth.  Not Disney World.

GEN CON!!!!

And we are going to play ALL THE GAMES!*

(*Editor’s note: We’ll be playing a lot of games… not all of them.)

So every day we’ll give you coverage of what we did, who we talked to, what swag we got, and other awesome things. Maybe a cosplay gallery? We’ll do what we can. We want to party with Wil Wheaton, but we’ll settle for partying with Nichelle Nichols.

So keep it your interwebz tuned to The Cool Ship (because we all still “tune” things, right?).

And if you happen to be at Gen Con, come say hello.

 

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NBC Keeps on Failing

From Wikimedia Commons

NBC keeps failing.

As I watched the coverage of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, I couldn’t keep myself from yelling at Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira to just shut up and let the program happen. It wasn’t a freaking parade!

Then, I started to wonder why NBC keeps screwing up so royally on everything. I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I do miss the ’90s when they were running shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and Mad About You.

So what, that I can see, is NBC’s problem?

A lot of things.

Identity – NBC is struggling to figure out what kind of network they are. Remember how I mentioned the ’90s? NBC used to be a darling for acclaimed shows. Law & Order, Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, etc. were all widely watched and critical hits. However, after the ’90s ended, cable channels began to rise in prominence, bringing the new critical favorites: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Weeds, and others. The list goes on and on.

Cable channels can do things that NBC can’t. Now, NBC is left trying to make poor copies of what cable is doing (The Playboy Club…really, NBC?).

As for Law & Order and its million spin-offs, it’s been replaced by CSI, NCIS, Person of Interest, Hawaii 5-0, and all their billion spin-offs.

What NBC is left with is… nothing.

The audience that NBC wants right now seems to be young, smart, media-savvy people, who like to have their media choices scheduled by corporations. (Pro-tip: I’m not sure that audience exists. Too bad for Community.)

The Writer’s Strike – Of the Big Four networks (CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC), NBC was hit the hardest by the 2007-2008 writer’s strike. None of the shows it put up to replace the scripted shows were a success, and ad-revenue and ratings dropped by around 10 percent. Making Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno return without a writing staff didn’t garner any good will from the Writer’s Guild, either (It should be noted that David Letterman managed to come to an interim agreement with the WGA).

The Writer’s Strike also managed to shorten the season of NBC’s most popular show at the time, Heroes. It’s my opinion that the show never recovered from the shortened season, and the quality of the show plummeted during season two.

The Tonight Show Controvesy РThis debacle probably hurt NBC the most in terms of public relations, but it also hurt them  in the ratings.

When Jay Leno was moved to his prime time slot, and ultimately failed to get the ratings (affiliates were pretty upset), NBC was left with a hard decision. Rather than have a show fail in one time slot, though, it effectively failed in five. NBC had to find a way to fill five prime time slots, none of which went on to garner huge ratings (I believe that the only show from that time that is still airing is Parenthood, which I think is a great show, by the way).

The firing of Conan O’Brien really hurt the network in the PR department. Many celebrities and fans immediately rejected Leno as The Tonight Show host, and although Jay’s ratings have recovered, his image was permanently damaged.

The Today Show- NBC’s biggest moneymaker is the morning show staple, but even its ratings have been declining as of late. I’ve heard a lot of reasons given for this, but I’m going to focus on two.

1.) Matt Lauer is getting harder and harder to work with. Rumor is that the guy isn’t very nice to his co-workers and was basically behind Ann Curry being fired.

2.) It’s become waaaay too pop culture oriented. I don’t watch a whole lot of The Today Show, but what I see when I watch is coverage of popular YouTube videos, news sensationalism, and interviews with useless pseudo-celebs. If other channels are picking up the slack and covering real news, I can see why the ratings are slipping.

Asim Bharwani [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Streaming, Cable, YouTube, Video Games –¬†NBC, like most of the networks, wasn’t ready for the Internet entertainment revolution. NBC also doesn’t seem to understand that the younger demographic they are targeting with shows like 30 Rock and Community aren’t going to watch a lot of TV when it initially airs. There are too many other entertainment choices out there. Plus, NBC hasn’t figured out a way to make a lot of money from Hulu, yet.

The Olympics -This is what got me thinking about the topic in the first place. I’m not sure how NBC could do the Olympics better, but they could start with not airing promos including who won the gold medal before they publicly air the event.

Also, could they air better events? I’m sick to death of gymnastics and swimming. Let’s see some fencing, boxing, judo, and other events where people fight. Those things are awesome.

Cris Colinsworth – I hate this guy with a passion, so I had to include him.

All-in-all, these are the reasons I think NBC is failing in the ratings game. Its biggest problem is that it just doesn’t know what it is anymore, especially since other cable networks are doing it better than they are.

Also, The Office has overstayed its welcome. Can we let it die already?

Also too, just give Alison Brie her own show.

[Featured Image: By ASTaylor [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

 

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My Current Campaign — Superheroes

I love superheroes.

The fascination began when I was but a wee lad watching¬†Batman: The Animated Series¬†at my babysitter’s house. Movies, video games, and comic books soon followed. Since I’m also a big fan of role-playing games, it didn’t take me too long to find a couple of superhero RPGs to play.

That brings us my current campaign, a custom world for Mutants and Masterminds, 3rd edition.

My buddy John approached me with a scenario and an idea for a character he had: a sidekick apprenticed to an ultraparanoid superhero is left alone after his mentor is murdered. I loved the idea and started worldbuilding right away.

It’s a combination of all the tropes I love about the superhero genre. In fact, my main goal was to take characters from all over the various comic book publishers and combine them in interesting ways. I’ve also given them some fun, goofy names that either elicit laughter or groans from the players. They’re superheroes, so you can’t take them too seriously.

Here are some of the characters:

Big Brother – He’s the superhero who was murdered. He’s basically a combination of Batman and Big Daddy from Kick-Ass. He was brutal in his dealings with criminals, and he owned the private prison and insane asylum, so he was able to continually torture them in terrible ways. He didn’t really trust anyone, and that includes his sidekick, Kid Impulse (played by John), whom he just barely seemed to tolerate.

Prometheus – The world’s foremost superhero, Prometheus is a combination of Superman and Thor. Unlike Superman, he doesn’t have a secret identity, and he doesn’t care to. Nor does he try to understand humanity. His motivations for protecting the Earth are unclear.

The Blue Beast РTBB is a combination of Hulk and Nightcrawler. Not much is known about him except that he will randomly teleport from place to place, rampaging and destroying wherever he goes. In our first session, our player characters had to fight him off long enough for Prometheus to arrive and take him to superjail.

The Hedge Knight – She’s a combination of the classic knight archetype and Poison Ivy. She’s a swordswoman who controls plant life.

That’s just a few of the (so far) 60 super characters I’ve made for the campaign. It’s a lot of fun, and I love that basically anything can happen.

The player characters are as follows:

Impulse – Formerly Kid Impulse, Impulse was kicked out of the mansion by Big Brother’s mysterious oldest son after the superhero’s death. Impulse is a superb hand-to-hand combatant and hacker. If you hadn’t guessed, he’s based on Robin/Nightwing.

Lightspeed -A superfast superhero, he’s another sidekick trying to prove himself. He and Impulse are used to hanging out in the same circles, so it was obvious that they should team up.

The War Witch РA magic wielding warrioress and a  fixture in the Justice Gang, she is the sponsor of the other heroes. It is intimated that she once had an affair with Big Brother.

Crackshot – He’s a¬†rich, ruthless, cocaine-addicted assassin. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him; he just likes to kill. He’s more of an antihero (obviously) and tends to show up whenever something major is going down in the city (which inevitably leads to him begrudgingly teaming up with the other heroes).

My campaign isn’t exactly groundbreaking in any way, but it is a ton of fun to play.

What is your favorite campaign setting?

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