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E3 2019 – Actually Quite Interesting

I’ve had a couple of years of just not caring about E3. I know I’m not alone in that, a lot of hype that rarely gets fulfilled, a lot of the hype we want nowhere to be seen, and it’s usually just a chance for big publishers to let us down and make us worried about the future of the industry for one reason or another.

But can I take a moment or two to actually talk about some stuff that I like the look of here? Some of the game announcements and other news touches on a few subjects that genuinely excite me, and I won’t even rag on the more “classically bad” elements like how many games look like Borderlands these days like Outlands and rage 2 both do, nor will I even mention the words “Fallout has battle royal for some reason”… that would be highly unnecessary. (more…)

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Dungeon Situational – A Magic: the Gathering Adventurer

As Wizards of the Coast have already, very kindly, bridged the gap between both M:tG and D&D, this should be nice and easy, right?

But that’s not the point of these articles, a shamelessly self-indulgent stretching of the creative muscles made public for anyone to use, and a bit of mental exercise at the same time. So as we have Planeshift articles for Amonkhet, Dominaria, Innistrad, Ixalan, and Zendikar, and a large guide attached to Ravnica, I’ll have to look to another plane of Magic’s collection to make things a little harder. Theros is too easy, Phyrexia is my favourite plane so probably one of the easiest options for me… (more…)


The Shropshire Dungeon Master XI – UKGE and Comics Salopia

Hey Joel, you’ve published your articles a little late this week.

Why yes, yes I have thank you for asking. Last week was a long and glorious week, and GeekOut Shrewsbury was only the start of it. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – The Plague Domain

Gods are made to explain the inexplicable. Diancecht, Nergal, Loviatar are the cursed divines who bring disease in mythology, from Dragonlance it is the domain of Incabulos or Nerull, and from my setting find Ugol, dark god of the alchemist, whose symbol is a scorpion in a jar. But among these are gods who balance both the disease and the cure, gods who have the power to condemn and to heal.

Plague clerics, also known as plague doctors, strike a balance between life and death, embracing the horrors that befall mortals in the name of healing all sicknesses, and bringing suffering to only those who deserve it. (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury May ’19 – Who’s That Pokemon?

This was a quiet month, a not-insubstantial chunk of our regulars are currently busy, ill, and various other things, but our numbers dropped to a mere twenty-something instead of the thirtyish we were growing accustomed to. Oh no, how terrible, what shall ever become of our dwindling numbers? And what shall ever become of us if we cannot rearrange the pub to our favour? (more…)


Tales of Alethrion – Season Two Kickstarter

Very early in my D&D playing career, I ran a heavily sea-focused campaign in Eberron. Among my players was a man by the name of Eddie, one of my all time favourite players and dungeon masters. I cannot remember the name of the first ship they sailed in, I remember that it was a rundown junker, splintered and warped wood, ragged sails and frayed rope, but the figurehead was pristine, and clearly made of different material, a pale narwhal complete with ivory horn. Might have been the Icebreaker? Can’t recall. The first thing Eddie’s character – a druid called Wren – did was straddle the narwhal. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – Three Halfling Subraces

Halflings – the legally distinct smallfolk that are in no way to be likened to hobbits – are friendly if sedentary people who live in garden-like settlements dotted with allotments and farms that can help sate an appetite that defies their small stature. Occasionally they rove great distances in search of new lands to settle, finding new allies and friends at every turn. In D&D – certainly in 5th ed – they come in two key varieties, lightfoot and stout, but it’s highly unlikely that such a well travelled race would be so limited in diversity.

An important side-note, in my settings halflings are not the cheery big-footed miniature people as in other, more typical campaign settings. Halflings universally come from a distant and unknown continent, about which they never speak except in reference to “home”. They are predisposed to secret-keeping, and when they settle in one place they make their homes impregnable by means of stealth and warding magics. The following halflings come from one such continent, on one such world, but should be suitably balanced for any campaign setting. They also use D&D 5th edition rules. (more…)


The Madness of Queen Daenerys

I was bitterly disappointed with the end of the Night King’s story, but I took a moment to sit back on Daenerys’ turn to the crazy and found that actually… it makes absolute sense, and should have surprised no one. It wasn’t a flawless execution, that’s for sure, I think we’d have all liked more time appreciating the Mad Queen’s development, but there’s a solid foundation for everything that happened in the climactic battle of the series.

Here I want to expand upon what Tyrion said: “Everywhere she goes evil men die, and we cheer her for it, and she grows more powerful and more sure that she is good, and right.” (more…)


Dungeon Situational – Three Constructs

Constructs are fairly unique in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons (et al) in that they are exclusively built for a purpose. Guardians, spies, couriers, and mindless automata built and animated by craftsmen and mages to serve their private needs, or on the behest of influential patrons.

Each of the constructs presented below is presented without statistics so that you can modify a basic creature such as an ape, a knight, or an elephant (for example, whatever’s good) and apply some unique abilities to it. For more advice on modifying creatures. take a look here. CR refers to the creature’s Challenge Rating.

Wicker Witch

In deeper forests where dark practitioners gather far from prying eyes, large swathes of land may be held by covens of witches, territories far larger than they could ever monitor alone. Among the trees may stalk lithe figures of woven reeds and flexible branches, humanoid but unmistakably artificial by the gaps in the hollow structure, and the clay face with a single painted eye. A creature so lucky as to topple the wandering guardian will find that several jars are woven into the structure, containing unpleasant ingredients essential to its animation, dried hearts, mummified animals, and worse by far.

Create a simple but dexterous creature such as a wolf or a scout, if it is of CR 2 or higher it should have multi-attack or magic resistance (advantage on saving throws), and if it is CR 4 or higher it should have both. Anything the Wicker Witch sees, the witch that created it also sees, so long as both creatures are on the same plane of existence. A Wicker Witch might use weapons such as whips or longbows, but otherwise would have claws similar to a creature of the same CR. You can add one or more of the following abilities for flavour:

Breath Weapon: (recommended CR 4 or higher) The Wicker Witch has a breath weapon that deals very little piercing damage for it’s CR (e.g. 1d8 for a CR 4 creature, 2d8 for a CR 7 creature) and the space becomes a cloud of stinging, biting insects. The effect functions as the Insect Plague spell, occupying the space of the breath weapon. It can use this ability once per day.

Shrill Fluting: Concentration checks made within 60 ft. of the Wicker Witch have disadvantage.

Witchsight: The Wicker Witch permanently detects magic as if by the Detect Magic spell. It can also identify any creature with spell slots such as a wizard or cleric, but cannot determine creatures with innate spellcasting, such as a tiefling’s natural ability to use Thaumaturgy.

Woodmerge: The Wicker Witch can move as if via the spell Tree Stride.

Smiling Man

Sitting at the front of the cart is a thing that looks like a man, dressed in an excessive amount of cheap but colourful silks, complete with a large floppy hat that does not quite disguise the face below, a face painted onto a bright blue cylinder of ceramic. As it pulls up along the side of the road next to you, two more identical things unfold themselves from the top of the cart, as a smiling woman appears from inside. The smiling men begin setting up a table, and pulling bottles and trinkets from among their many loose coverings as the woman introduces herself and her wares for sale.

A Smiling Man is not the puppet it seems. They are often encountered aiding merchants, as their strength makes them superb bodyguards, and they contain a hidden pocket dimension capable of storing many items quickly and easily. Often they serve more powerful beings as spies and emissaries, and a particularly interesting creature who encounters a Smiling Man may find that they see one watching them more and more frequently over time, usually at a distance, and in the dark.

To your base creature add the equivalent of a Handy Haversack, and the ability to use the spell Sequester. A Smiling Man is also more likely to have many arms and weapons folded into it’s “disguise”, so a creature with multiattack is highly recommended. It also has one or more of the following abilities:

Nightmare Visage: The Smiling Man marks a creature that can see it. Whenever that creature casts a divination spell of 1st level or higher they must succeed on a wisdom saving throw (of appropriate DC) or the spell fails, and they see the face of the Smiling Man instead. The effect lasts until the Smiling Man ends it, marks a new target with its Nightmare Visage, or dies. A spell effect such as Remove Curse can also end the effect early.

Unfolding Space: Attempts to teleport within 120ft of a Smiling Man provoke an opportunity attack from it as if the creature were within reach.

The Immovable Steed

A horse made of purest platinum, resplendent and beautiful, if a little cold to sit on. The Immovable Steed was supposedly forged by the gods, or back in the day when mortals wielded the gods own magic, the horse can only be gifted by a previous owner to a new rider, such riders include ancient paladins who passed on the Steed from the afterlife, Moradin, and Lor Adanos.

The Immovable Steed functions as a warhorse, except that it is immune to damage from non-magical weapons, and has resistance to all other damage except psychic and acid. As an action the Steed may choose to become Immovable. It cannot move while it remains Immovable, nor can it be forced to move by any means, magical or otherwise, including teleportation or transportation to other planes of existence. If it was falling it stops where it currently is, if it was being transported it halts in space while the transport continues to move around it. The Steed can support up to 40,000 lbs of weight while immovable.


I’m not getting tired of these, and I have some work I need to prepare for an upcoming campaign, so next week:

A list of spells and a wizard subclass for a wizard drawing from the divine realm of Bytopia, the twin paradises.

Three subraces of halflings, be warned, they have a particularly grim theme.

And a complex quest, something requiring many tasks to be performed to complete.


Detective Pikachu – A Short Review

I have very little to say on this one. If you have seen the trailers of the film then I can tell you that you already have a solid grasp of the film’s tone and quality: it’s a kids film that gets dangerously close to being extremely adult, it does a wonderful job of bringing pokemon to life and blending them with reality without it feeling outlandish. It’s still a film for kids, so don’t be surprised when the plot is predictable and those elements presented as twists are conspicuous from a mile away, I was only surprised once, and I’ll save commenting on it until I’ve put up a spoiler tag.

As a 90’s kid (by technicality, didn’t live through enough of the 80’s to get the memes) I was raised to expect a very different sound coming from a Bulbasaur, but watching a troupe of them skipping through a stream was an absolute delight. I know I’m not alone in noticing a lack in diversity in the different types of pokemon on screen across the film, and considering that the number of pokemon and number of real species are starting to meet in the middle that lack of diversity is very conspicuous, multiple slakings, a lot of joltics, a lot of greninjas, a lot of panchams a lot of doduos and dodrios, and in most cases I’m not talking about them having a major screen presence, a lot of this is background material too.

I wanted to complain about the excessively fluffy pikachu, not the most rodent-like of fur, I was expecting something sleeker, but gengar took care of that for me, I genuinely loved the the depiction of gengar. It was about as family friendly as I’ll accept without being as harrowingly dark as I’d have liked, but all-in-all stunning. Actually every depiction of pokemon abilities was made realistic with no effort, making for a surprisingly immersive experience given the source material.

Odd question, is this a video game film?

And yes I know about the 3DS game, and yes the storyline is broadly lifted from the title of the same name. But Detective Pikachu is not that well known so far as the franchise goes, and while being based in the world, does not adhere to any of the mechanics that make the franchise great, it’s closer to a point-and-click. Even then, is it fair to compare it to other video game films?

I don’t think it is but hear me out! Detective Pikachu is filled with references, no two ways about that, but most of them come from the anime (and one Home Alone reference), like the entire Mewtwo narrative, a lot of the background details, kicking the magikarp, the squirtle squad, shamelessly heavy use of the theme tune. I noticed a couple of video game references beyond the fact that both this and the anime are based on a game franchise, the snorlax blocking traffic, and the background details. But here I think is a film based on an anime… based on a video game. In either case I think it’s a little unfair to include this in the discussion around video games and films.

The storyline – oh spoilers by the way – is shockingly noir! A street drug that enhances the aggression of pokemon for combat, a suspicious corporation and a contract that goes sideways, the journalist and her self-destructive pursuit of a story that nearly gets her killed. A ramped-up ditto shapeshifts into people, and not only does it make everyone you encounter highly suspicious, it’s also profoundly creepy when you see people with ditto-eyes. When Bill Nighy takes over the mind of Mewtwo, it’s a beautiful match-up of voice and character that I did not anticipate, and while it’s easy to predict his “turn for the evil” from his scene in the office, I still loved his dark mastermind moment at the finale.

Spoilers over but to be honest so is the review. I genuinely have little to say on Detective Pikachu but that may be the biggest compliment I have for it. I’m accomplished at complaining, and tend to be at my most verbose when irritated. This isn’t an unforgettable experience, nor would I advocate rushing to the cinema for it, but it’s certainly worth a watch and deserves all the praise it’s had so far, and Ryan Reynolds crying his way through “I Want To Be The Very Best” is a moment I think deserves to be well remembered in cinema and pokemon history.