Thursday, January 17, 2019

#dnd Captain Fotgruhilda Mountainbelly

The other day I mentioned the description of my 5e character, Captain Fotgruhilda Mountainbelly. I commissioned my Twitter Friend A Happy Halfling to do a character drawing.

I gave a few ideas of what she looked like, but not a ton of detail. I really like the result. 'Hilda' styles herself like a dwarf, and while I never thought of the Mohawk-to-braid, that is totally a dwarf thing.

If you are looking for someone to draw your character, ping @ahappyhalfling on Twitter.

Monday, January 14, 2019

My First Foray into 5e D&D

First off, let me describe my character, as I want to get a commission done by my Twitter friend A Happy Halfling.

Captain Fotgruhilda Mountainbelly
Human Fighter

"I am Captain Fotgruhilda Mountainbelly; 'Hilda' to my friends, and 'Opal' to my clan. Oh, no, I am not a dwarf. Many years ago, my great grandmother's great grandmother was part of a protective detail with a merchant train to Northaxe. While there, a goblin attack occurred. The city was in danger of being overrun. My people were trading with the Mountainbelly clan, and as such aided their numbers in the fighting. My forebear saved the life of the Mountainbelly matriarch. The two formed a blood bond, and since that day it was decided that the first born of each, and their successive first born, would trade families. I am the sixth firstborn of that agreement. From my earliest days to my eighteenth birthday I lived in Northaxe with the Mountainbelly clan as one of their own. At home in Amsetrn, I am captain of the 14th phalanx of the West Tower. Today, I return from Northaxe after leaving my recently weened first born in the care of my dwarven kin, who will raise her as I was raised; growing strong wielding a pick in the mines, mastering the dwarven shield wall, and speaking dwarvish as though it were her born tongue. How I envy her."

Hilda is trained to fight in a shield wall with long spear and great shield. In close combat she relies on a military pick. Hilda dresses and wears her hair as a dwarf, and wears an amulet with her clan's rune at all times. As a soldier, she is fastidious and dutiful. As a noble and officer she is slightly haughty, but her dwarvish upbringing keeps arrogance in check. She prefers dwarvish food, and turns her nose up at 'that human muck'.

Part of what I enjoy about 5e is a bit of a return to roleplaying and character traits that cannot be qualified with numbers. 5e has generation rules for background and personality traits to help you create a character on the fly, or even the opportunity to get all traits randomly and then try to play as the character is defined. I created Hilda's backstory, as it fit the world the DM created, but created backup characters as well using the various tables.

Rules-wise, I am enjoying 5e. I think the advantage/disadvantage rules work nicely, and are a nice change from the old +2/-2 to roll. Character progression is nice, as it used to be that prestige classes and paragon paths were so far in the future. Now you get small progression steps as you build. Fighters and Wizards are particularly interesting at 3rd level.

To be honest, I like all editions of D&D (though 2nd edition is my least favorite). I appreciate this edition a lot, so far. It feels a lot like old editions. The rules are crunchier than some, but not cumbersome. This is the first edition in a long time I felt comfortable rolling a character without the aid of a generator, like the one distributed with 3e.

All in all, I'm sold. Bring on the goblins!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

House Rule: No Attribute Scores

Much like alignment, attribute scores are ready for the dustbin of history. Why? Because we have dumbed them down to uselessness. Some history, according to me (no references will be cited):
  • Basic: Roll 3d6 down the line. Take what you get and deal with it. Some adjustments can be made. No limits on what class you can be. 
  • Advanced: Best of 4d6, placed where you like. Adjustable. Some classes have minimum attribute requirements. Some racial and gender maximums. 
  • D20: Either roll as above, select from an array, or use point buy. Class and race limitations are gone, but abilities are dependent upon score (most notably, spellcasting).
Of those methods, Advanced (1st & 2nd editions) is likely the best (though the gender bias is disappointing). My reasoning is that there is still randomness to attribute scores, and if you want to be a specialized class (druid,paladin, illusionist, assassin, or monk) you must satisfy some pretty strict requirements; for example, a 1st edition paladin was required to have:
  • strength: 12
  • intelligence: 9
  • wisdom: 13
  • constitution: 9
  • charisma: 17
So, to be a paladin, you had to make sacrifices where you could. It was hard to roll a paladin, but the added abilities could be worth it.

The modern trend is a bit more democratic, in that if I want to play a paladin, I play a paladin. Also, no one has to play an atrociously bad character, nor play with a character who *happened* to roll three 18s. You can walk into a game with a character you made, and it only takes a glance to see that the character followed the rules.

However, putting everyone on a level playing field means that no one is extraordinary for anything. If you tell 10 players to make a human fighter in a d20 system, you will get 10 fairly equal fighters, and many will have the same attributes. There will be the oddball, like me, who takes a high wisdom over constitution because, "sometimes not being surprised is better than hit points."

So, here is my idea. It may not be new, and I have not played this way, so I present it for discussion: no more attribute scores. Attributes, but no scores. Instead, your class' primary attribute gets a bonus die, when applicable. You're a fighter using strength? Roll your bonus die along with your d20. Thief using dexterity? Roll your bonus die along with your d20. If your class has multiple primary attributes, say strength and constitution for a fighter, you pick one to get the bonus. Now you have striker types, and meat-shield types. One breaks down doors, and one isn't poisoned easily. The bonus die would increase periodically, say whenever you would normally get an attribute point increase.

Additionally, you could choose a second attribute to get a bonus on, but with this one you would also take a minus on another. You want to be a cleric who is strong? Take a bonus die on strength, and a penalty die on constitution. Want to also be charismatic? Take a bonus die on charisma and a penalty on dexterity. If this method is added, one could forgo the increase to their primary attribute and increase one of the secondaries, or perhaps even eliminate the penalty on one?

The idea is to add a bit of randomness back into a stale idea. If everyone is +3 to attack, then everyone might as well be +0. I recently played a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics where the judge provided characters. These characters were clearly fudged, as all characters had an 18 for their primary attribute, and some had more than one. He did this (I assume) in part because it was a Try-It-Out session, and to get new players interested it is hard to hand them a sheet full of single digit attributes. The other part, I think, is that he agrees with me. Attribute scores do not matter, so let everyone be a bad ass.


You know how much fun it is to hit that natural 20, or even a 19? Think of adding the excitement of maxing out your bonus die as well? I think it would add drama, and liven up combat, which frankly, can get a bit stale these days.

As for mechanics, I'd say start with a d3 bonus die. If your game (like 5e) has a proficiency bonus, use that. If not, maybe start with a d4.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Tumblr Made Me Stupid

My last published post on this blog was in 2015. That is three years ago. That is not, however, my last attempt. I have a slew of drafts, all waiting for a reason to be; a witty flourish; a point to be made. Why is this so hard? I used to blog daily. The answer is simple.

Tumblr Made Me Stupid.

While I could just post a picture here (there are Blogger users who do that), but I always felt that this platform demanded words. Words that educate or persuade. "Hey, here's a great game I played," or "why this movie is important," is how Blogger works, in my opinion.

Tumblr is the opposite. Press a button and the post happens. Your feed will be full of the same post, over and over again. Here that is different. I may follow twenty blogs which all discuss some new television show, but none will be a copy/paste of another. Each of us had to think about what to write, and have a variety of results. Even if we all had similar reactions, there will be nuances which may grow each other's appreciation.

Also, Tumblr sucks.

I have removed my Tumblr accounts, and likely all of my blogs are gone... I have not checked on shared ownership blogs.

Anyway, I just needed to pull the trigger and post something here. Maybe I'll be back soon? I have played a session of Dungeon Crawl Classics and will be trying out D&D 5th edition soon. We shall see.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dark Rising (Andrew Cymek, 2007)

B-Movie, straight-to-video fantasy and sci-fi is always a crap shoot, isn't it? If one expects too much, they are destined to be disappointed. An openness to the possibility that something is good will at times lead you to something wonderful. And sometimes you get exactly what the genre offers; a mildly entertaining movie with a mixture of classic tropes and appropriation of interesting concepts that were better suited elsewhere. Throw in to T&A, and you've got a movie.

Dark Rising is of the last sort...

That's not to say it isn't worthwhile. It is slow to get going, pretty sexist, and full of unlikeable characters. On the the plus side, it has a decent sense of humor at times. It has some classic rubber-suit monsters, which are on-par with Meatball Machine and other Japanese video horrors. The basic plot is a mix of The Ancient Dogoo Girl and the comic book Cavewoman.

Jason, our hero, and his douchebag sidekick, Ricky, plan a camping trip to get Jason back with his ex-girlfriend Jasmine. Renee (Ricky's girlfriend) and Marlene (now Jasmine's girlfriend) plan to go along. The three are witch-wannabes, and have a magical book from a local bookstore. They try to summon the spirit of Summer Vale. They are... successful. Naturally, Summer's spirit does not come alone; nor is it her spirit. She has been trapped in another dimension/plane since childhood, and when she returns a demon comes with her.

Summer Vale (Brigitte Kingsley) has not really grown up since her abduction. She considers herself a princess (because her father said she was one), and is childlike, despite her oh-so-apparent physical maturity. In the other dimension, she was trained to kill demons... So, she is a lot like Meriem the Cavewoman, who is physically grown but innocent. She is also like Dogu-chan from The Ancient Dogoo Girl, the relentless demon-hunter who is out-of-touch with the modern world who becomes attached to the first "boy" she meets.

I'd love to tell you this one is good. Really. It has moments where it is clever and funny. There is not a high jiggle-factor, but there is a dash of nudity and chicks making out. Kingsley's fighting is not at all convincing, but her costume is pretty awesome. The rubber monster demon is cheesy enough to not be laughable; as in, there is some skill that went into making it, but not so serious that it seems stupid. Does that make sense?

Not great... Not horrible... Apparently it launched a television show, and there is a sequel (Agency of Vengeance). This is a decent launch point for more, as Summer's story is left untold, and there is no major enemy to confront.

Sadly, this one is not on Netflix (though the sequel currently is), nor Amazon Prime.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (Glen A. Larson, 1977-79)

So this weekend, the wife finished watching Bloodline on Netflix, and the television went silent. I am not a big television watcher these days, but having some time off I needed to find something. "I want something stupid, fun, and not mentally-taxing. Low-and-behold, as I scrolled through my Netflix list I saw that I had added The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, which I remember as a child but did not watch. Well, it did indeed suit my viewing needs, except that it is not exactly stupid. I was never a Hardy Boys reader, nor Nancy Drew for that matter, so I was coming to the show with no real preconceptions. It is an amazingly fun show, and while dated, much better than I expected of the time.

The basic stars are Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson as Joe and Frank Hardy (respectively), and Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew. In general, the show does a Hardy Boys mystery and a Nancy Drew mystery. The two seem to not cross paths until the beginning of series 2 (which I have yet to watch). The Hardy Boys episodes are often either very Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? or Johnny Quest flavored, dealing with pretend ghosts, aliens or espionage, and Nancy Drew deals primarily with thefts, though they often have a "haunted" element.

As for the structure, Joe and Frank work for their father, investigator Fenton Hardy, and have some sidekicks. Callie Shaw (Lisa Eilbacher) shows up a lot. Nancy works on her own, but is often assisted/guided by her father, lawyer Carson Drew. Nancy has two full-time sidekicks in George Fayne (Jean Rassey) and Ned Nickerson (George O'Hanlon Jr.).

Part of the fun, for me, is all of the 1970's nostalgia. There are some obvious ones, like the use of CB radios, but also less memorable things like gliders; a whole Nancy Drew episode revolves around her and flying a glider (or "sail plane").

Sadly, as I watched more episodes, things went a bit downhill, both with the show, and with Netflix. There are numerous missing episodes on Netflix, and season 3 has only 4 total episodes. Halfway through season 2, Pamela Sue Martin left the show. The actress playing George was replaced for some reason I have not researched, and the show becomes more Hardy Boys centered. The Hardy Boys become less interesting as things go on, and Nancy Drew gets to be very two-sided (in a bad way). Sometimes she is independent and ready to go-it-alone, then in the next scene she is a damsel in distress.

Bottom line, sadly, is to watch the first season for Nancy Drew. Those are the better episodes from the series. It won't take you long, perhaps, to discover that the Hardy Boys are a bit dull, and the stories overly goofy. I enjoyed making fun of Joe Hardy throughout, though he does have to stellar moments (for him) in the first episode pair ot season two. It would be nice to see those missing episodes, but don't really care to buy the DVD sets for the few I'd be interested in. Oddly, none of the Nancy Drew sans Pamela Sue Martin appear on Netflix.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Partisan Triple Feature

While I dislike Nazism greatly, Nazis do make wonderful villains. So much so that we continue to make films with faux Nazis as villains, because, well, their days are over. So, long ago I had come up with my "Super Depressing Nazi Triple Feature", comprised of three wonderful films that made a bit of a timeline:
  1. The Damned involves itself with the centralization of power under Hitler and the infighting among various fascist groups.
  2. Cabaret is about the changes in Germany as the war went on, and the effect on the populace.
  3. The Night Porter is a beautiful and disturbing film about Nazis in hiding after the war.
All three are fantastic, and well worth watching, but I thought "there must be an opposite set of films, right?" So, I set out to find three films about partisans, and hoped to get the same flow as the first triple feature. The problem was, finding an opposite for The Night Porter. I think I finally have it:
  1. Casablanca is nearly perfect and covers the time when the Nazis invaded Paris through the middle of the war. The escape of a resistance leader is the plot motivator.
  2. Flame & Citron is set in the middle/end of the war and focuses on two assassins who kill Danish collaborators.
  3. Marathon Man
It took me a while to find Marathon Man. I had certainly heard of it, but it was never streaming. Now it appears to be on Netflix, so I gave it a shot. I am glad I did.

Superficially, it is a complicated story, but the complications it presents are red herrings. Dustin Hoffman is a PhD History candidate who is doing his dissertation on the McCarthy Era. We soon learn that his father was implicated by McCarthy, which caused his suicide. Roy Scheider plays Hoffman's brother, who is a successful businessman. Or is he?

The plot turns to the search for a Nazi war criminal who must come to the United States clandestinely, and Hoffman becomes involved. It is at times a rather brutal film, but not gratuitously so. The twistiness of the plot is enjoyable, but fortunately there are no "hey, wait a minute" moments that I remember. Everything is setup nicely. Sure there are a few tactical moments that I quesion, but these are not sufficient to ruin the film.

All of these films are great to watch. Casablanca is easily one of the greatest movies ever, and you should watch it. Flame & Citron is also a beautiful, albeit violent, compelling film, though it is in Danish; the only subtitled entry in my list. Cabaret is a thing of beauty, and not some happy-go-lucky romp. The Night Porter is a beautiful, tragic film, and Dirk Bogarde's portrayal is masterful. He is simultaneously able to make you despise and pity him. This is easily the hardest of the group to watch, at times, but it is so worth it. The Damned is fantastic, but is a bit like a soap opera; think Falcon Crest meets the Third Reich. Wonderful, but it can be a slog if you are not in the mood.