Advertisements

Geek Proud, GeekOut.

Author Archive

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…)

Advertisements

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.


Dungeon Situational – The Ruin

Not all ruins are created equal, from fallen towers to crumbling keeps, haunted, twisted, and occupied by whatever monstrous squatters are passing, but they’re all bait for any adventurer fool enough to believe that just because the walls have fallen doesn’t mean the traps stopped working. Ruins are a staple dungeon for and D&D game, but where some are simply old castles long ago abandoned, some have a far deeper history for those willing to dig a little deeper. (more…)


Game of Thrones – Basically Over

There’s still a couple of episodes left in the televisual titan’s total run, in that time it has met with international acclaim, made superstars out of its cast and creator George R.R. Martin, and has generally been the most talked about TV series of the decade, possibly the century so far… Breaking Bad is a solid contender, and I’m thinking Breaking Bad will be the more fondly remembered long term because it had a very satisfying finale. The last few episodes, with Walt living in exile to avoid police justice, trapped in a prison of his own making, before coming back to help the one person he considers a friend, confessing his sins, and dying with one last shred of redemption on his proverbial soul. It was understated, heartfelt, and truly glorious.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing the same thing from Game of Thrones. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – 10 Mounts

There are so many more interesting ways to charge into battle than on the back of a horse… or at least in a fantasy setting there are a lot more choices, gigantic riding lizards are no longer available and we are running out of most of the other interesting large animals (seriously we need to do something, we are running out of cool animals to ride into battle). Horses and dire wolves are the classics and perhaps the most sensible options, but there are other, stranger possibilities.

Here are ten different mounts with stories to go with them, individual mounts with personal tales to tell, factions with hallmark choices of warbeasts, and one magic tree. (more…)


Not Reviewing Endgame

It took me a month… a whole month to get through Infinity War. Seriously, here are the articles:

Spoiler-Free Study – The MCU & The Avengers: Infinity War 1/4
Super Team Ups – The MCU & The Avengers: Infinity War 2/4
A Darkness Falls – The MCU & The Avengers: Infinity War 3/4
A Generation In Cinema – The MCU & The Avengers: Infinity War 4/4

And they were some of my best work, I was seriously proud of that content! 6128 words and that’s only a fraction of the content I’ve written on the subject of the MCU as a whole. This is the crowning glory of ten years of cinema, twenty-something films and a host of supporting content, the greatest minds in the industry, the biggest budget, and the finest talent, has been poured into a saga of films. Almost as many titles as James Bond crammed into a little over a decade, all drawn from the pages of comic book history, and featuring actors who have played the same characters in a stunning number of films.

So far as I am concerned, the MCU is over. I might go see the others, I would like to watch Far From Home, which will be Tom Holland’s fifth appearance as Spider-Man, outdoing his other predecessors; I am curious to see Baron Mordo return in a new Doctor Strange, and I am pleased that Gunn has been taken back onto Guardians 3… but ultimately, this feels done. This is my review, Endgame finished the saga in the best way it could be ended. It is not perfect, it has some glaring flaws that I will not go into yet, but will inevitably discuss in future.

It was beautiful, and it has simultaneously made cinema better and worse. I recommend looking on YouTube for the One Marvelous Scene collaboration started by Nando v. Movies and taken up by some of his friends and cohorts, and then onwards to dozens of other film analysts on YouTube, where they look back on the entire project and pick a scene that they love for its incredible depth of character, implications, or ramifications that ripple out across the series.

For what it’s worth mine may very well be the fight between our first three “main” Avengers, Thor, Stark, and Rogers, as they throw down for custody of Loki while the trickster god sits casually above them all. It’s a wonderful moment of synergy in which they learn a great deal about the ways in which they conflict and complement one another, every moment revealing a little more about themselves: Rogers the tactician, acting with authority and fighting in the name of a diplomatic conclusion; Tony acting recklessly but willing to get “experimental”; Thor, accustomed to victory is shocked to take a beating, all while Loki watches with a wry smile. Note the two conspicuous pair of crows that fly by the Asgardians, as father watches his sons squabble from afar. And let’s not forget “the gong strike”. Action and characterisation in perfect harmony.

In short, I’ll be talking about Endgame for quite some time, watching it again soon enough, and I might review it on the back of some other grandiose Marvel analysis series… actually I’m watching the scene on the lab in the Helicarrier following the custody battle, that’s an article in its own right. Maybe I need to get onto YouTube sooner rather than later. But three hours of Endgame that successfully ties up a decade of cinema with a wonderful cluster of callbacks and conclusions, it’s more than any one review can dissect. I look forward to talking about this for years to come.

Next week I want to talk about the two big wars of the week, Endgame and the Siege of Winterfell. There will be spoilers.


Dungeon Situational – Owlbear Encounters

Hoooo doesn’t love owlbears? They’re fuzzy balls of fluff topped with the best spiky bits from nature, but how to best use them without just dumping them into a random forest encounter? This week’s Dungeon Situational I offer up a few different ways to use these adorable hybrid beasties that may give you some ideas of your own… (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury April ’19 – GeekOut Infinity

Pre-Meet

With sincere apologies to the Boiler Room, given the short space of time I had to arrange this month’s GeekOut there was not enough time to forewarn you of our approach, but thank you for taking us on, and for the bacon sandwich, it was delicious.

Chess, as it turns out, was an excellent thing to have brought to GeekOut, I think it was the most heavily played game this month, I certainly got a couple of games in. Scrabble… less so, and Albert, I have your Scrabble Dictionary, it will be returned to you after a series of increasingly tedious fetch-quests.

Monty’s

Busy as ever, although I don’t think I saw any new faces this month there were still plenty of the same crowd, a handful of irregulars, and at least one Norse god of deception and trickery, seriously Cal that was an awesome crown… actually based on a quick bit of research I think that can be classed as a tiara, and the idea that Loki wears a tiara is incredibly satisfying to me. It might be a coronet but… no… no, I like this better.

No competition this month, far… far too busy to prep anything, but that didn’t slow us down. it just slowed me down. I had to spend some time this month sitting down and not doing much. Thank you all for enjoying yourselves without me, fun is hard work.

Also Monty’s

We had to move! We now share our regular Thursdays with Disco Bingo, who make use of the audio system on “our” side of the pub making a bit of casual board gaming incredibly difficult, especially as most of those games require communication. So we picked up our gear and migrated to the other side to evaluate for a potential future. Montgomery’s Tower don’t want us to leave, and are determined to help us make this arrangement work as best they can, and since we have swelled in numbers we can now discuss occupying somewhere bigger.

Admittedly this first attempt, with only a few hours to go on our evening, was a little awkward, but there is time to learn and grow into the new space.

Next month GeekOut returns to Shrewsbury on May 30th for Who’s That Pokemon? and this is a quiz month, so… yeah, this will be somewhat predictable, although we’ll need to find a new method of displaying the quiz. Details on Facebook and Meetup as usual, and with more warning this time.

If you can’t wait until then, and if seats still remain, we will be at the 18:00 showing of Endgame at Cineworld Shrewsbury tonight! Some of you I know have already arranged tickets, hope to see plenty of you there.


NSGRC and Insomnia – TSDM X

What a month April has been.

Today is April’s GeekOut Shrewsbury and sadly it will have to be a fairly tame affair compared to former events because between this and the last, I have been at two separate national events, long weekends in hotels carrying heavy books and masses of paperwork in the name of being a better GM, better gamer, and to shamelessly spread the word of The Shropshire DM. (more…)