Deck of Many Things

Gaming Stories: Pick a Card

Every once in a while, I like to send the PCs against a monster that’s just out of their league. When you’re low-level, encountering an adult dragon or a lich can still be fun. The only difference is that the goal stops being killing the other guy and taking his stuff and becomes a matter of survival. After all, sometimes the monsters want to kill some adventurers and take their stuff.

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Mexican Standoff

Hollywood Wants to Kill Us

Movies are fun, but they also exert an inordinate amount of influence over our day to day lives. People accept what they see on TV and in movies as depictions of reality. Fiction has actually altered our reality in some dangerous ways. Here’s a look at a few ways in which Hollywood is trying to kill us.

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Blacksad Rose

My Favorite Comics, sans Superheroes

I spend a lot of time ranting about superhero comics, especially the ones from Marvel and DC. Mainstream comics usually hold the most intrigue for me. They not only serve as a rare example of serial fiction that has lasted for decades on end, but also provide a good cultural snapshot of American society. Characters like Captain America and Wonder Woman are as ingrained in our popular consciousness as folklore legends like Paul Bunyan.

When it comes to sheer quality of storytelling in comics, though, superhero comics usually aren’t the way to go. Not that they are inherently inferior or anything, but they are so continuity-laden, riddled with conflicting interpretations, and driven by corporate agendas that the very best storytelling in comics tends to be divorced from that genre. Luckily, comics are a versatile medium with lots to offer beyond flights and tights. Here’s a look at some of my favorite non-superhero comics. I don’t mention them a lot in rants, but that’s largely because they’re so good that I don’t often have anything to say but, “This is awesome.”

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Superman's Secret Identity

Superman’s Secret Identity

Clark Kent’s glasses are both the most iconic and most ridiculed superhero disguise in comic book history. The disguise has been parodied in Saturday Night Live, called out as ridiculous in The Adventures of Lois and Clark, and called “the ludicrous glasses disguise” by David Goyer, one of the writers behind Man of Steel. How far can a pair of glasses and a changed hair style really get a person?

Well, actually, pretty far.

When confronted with this question in the Silver Age, Superman writers came up with a goofy explanation involving super-hypnosis and Kryptonian glasses. They didn’t have to try that hard. There are legitimate and believable reasons that people don’t immediately recognize Clark Kent as Superman.

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Featured

The MCU’s Incredible Character Arc for the Hulk (That We Never Got to See)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe marks a remarkable cinematic achievement. Despite a few missteps, the movies accomplished some amazingly in-depth storytelling, stringing together almost two dozen films to tell the stories of dozens of different characters. And for the most part, those characters got a reasonably satisfying conclusion by the end of Avengers: Endgame.

Of course, with so many different characters, the films couldn’t present everybody’s story in a satisfying manner. For example, let’s look at the Hulk. He has one of the longest characters arcs of all the Avengers and changes more than anybody…but none of the interesting stuff happens on-screen.

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Frog and Toad

Frog is a Dream-Stealing Monster that Must be Stopped!

My wife played a part in a community theatre production of A Year with Frog and Toad, a play based on the Frog and Toad stories written by Arnold Lobel. If you haven’t read Lobel’s books, I’m sorry your parents neglected you.

The play taught me two things. First, Arnold Lobel had a terrific wit. His simple stories about friendship are filled with wry irony and clever twists. Second, the play made a huge deviation from Lobel’s stories by turning Frog into a manipulative dream monster.

Frog is basically Freddy Kreuger meets Inception, with a little co-dependency thrown in just for fun. He uses some unexplained dream-altering magic to force Toad into a “friendship” that is entirely based on pleasing Frog.

I can tell you’re not convinced. Let me prove my point by referencing key scenes from the musical.

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Pathfinder Flumph

The Awesome Silliness of Fantasy RPGs

Originally published on Sidekickcast.com

If you’re a fan of role-playing games, you probably got introduced to the game through a little thing called Dungeons & Dragons. It may have come by a different name back then, such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but the general gist remains the same. In my unscientific study, about 99% of gamers were found to have come into the hobby via some iteration of D&D.

I’ve hopped around a lot in the RPG hobby, and while I got off the D&D train, my current game of choice, Pathfinder, is an extremely close cousin of the world’s first role-playing game. While there are a lot of reasons I tend to stick close to the D&D tradition, one of the major ones is the oddball humor that the game’s history is steeped in.

I like a good beer and pretzels game, where the play is fairly casual and the jokes are frequent. And when it comes to D&D-style fantasy, the jokes have been baked into the game for decades now.

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