Followers

Why Star Wars Fanboys have blinders on, even when it comes to the Phantom Menace

I spent an hour today arguing with a Star Wars Fanboy who was under the delusion that George Lucas was a great storyteller and that Quinton Tarantino was not.

George Lucas... the maker of horrible but profitable films like The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Quintin Tarantino... the maker of masterful storytelling films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Hateful Eight, Jackie Brown and more.

Clearly you can see which side of this argument I was on.

Now we should note that earlier in his career George Lucas did make some good films, back when he was more collaborative and less worried about maintaining his creative control. But later in his career he started to go downhill and started making films with horrible plots and his storytelling ability basically dropped off a cliff into a chasm of confusion and created lines like...

"I don't like sand."

And it created horrible characters like Jar Jar Binks.

George Lucas's lack of ability to create a cohesive story was basically being weighed down by his desire (greed) to have toy merchandising by introducing useless characters that were there just to sell toys to children... and bore no relevance to the plot.

Think back to Episode I, the Phantom Menace. Imagine how much better that film could be if they cut out Jar Jar from the plot completely.

And yet try explaining this to a Star Wars Fanboy... Oh boy...



So the whole argument began on Facebook when someone was talking about Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi.

And I commented with the following:
I would compare Last Jedi to Kill Bill 2 in that a large part of the film was about Rey and Luke and their master/student relationship.

Interesting that in both films the SPOILER SPOILER and SPOILER SPOIL near the end of the film.

And then of course Luke does his Jedi Master thing and SPOILER before that, proving that he is still amazing.
To which a friend from high school responded:
I would not compare Last Jedi to Kill Bill 1 or 2 because both those movies were piles of Terentino crap and Star Wars is far better than anything from that director. Even the Ewok and prequel movies were better than Kill Bill. In my opinion.
 To which I posted the following GIF.



Because frankly that was so much nonsensical bullshit (and bad spelling) it deserved a GIF.

And he responded:
Kill Bill movies were terrible
 And I returned with another GIF...



 And he responded:
i would rather watch the star wars holiday special again than ever watch kill bill
 And so another GIF came out...



 And he goes:
I have not enjoyed a single Terrentino movie with the exception of Resivour Dogs. He is a hack that doesn't deserve the credit he gets.
maybe the holiday special was worse than kill bill but the prequels and ewok movies were definitely better than Kill Bill
 i will spell this out for you Quinton Terrentino is bad. Not Uwe Boll bad but definitely up there

i am going to stop this pointless arguement because we clearly have different views.
  
I followed with this GIF and the comment below:

No seriously, are you high? You misspelled both Tarantino and Reservoir. 
And argument.
 And then this argument went on for another hour (slightly more than that).

I tried to explain how good plots can be summarized in a single sentence and asked him to explain the plot of Phantom Menace in a single sentence.

Which he could not do. He eventually gave up and said the following:

you can't explain a star wars movie in one sentence because so much shit is going on. Unlike the shit that is Kill Bill. One Sentence. An unnamed woman goes on a revenge murder streak against her former lover and his friends after being left for dead.

You did it one sentence earlier for Episode IV. It is easy...

Luke and his friends rescue a princess, join a rebellion, and blow up a powerful spacestation that destroys planets.


I will do it again...

The Bride wakes up from a coma to find out her baby is gone and she goes on a revenge spree killing all the people she holds responsible.

Easy.


Proof that good films have easy to summarize plots.

And every time he realized he was in a losing argument he tried to claim he was stopping arguing, but kept coming back for more.

i am not continuing this conversation. As bad as the prequals were at least they weren't the equivalent of a fighting video game drawn out into two 2 hour movies like Kill Bill. At least when I play Street Fighter or mortal kombat the fights don't drag on for 20 minutes to a half hour each.


He tried that multiple times, but kept coming back.

i say again, I am stopping this argument. Sorry to everyone who has had to endure this.

I am not showing the full hour worth of messages he sent in which he kept trying to claim that Tarantino is horrible - never with any actual evidence - and kept sticking to his guns that Star Wars is always amazing and that George Lucas is a wonderful storyteller.

Okay so here is the problem with Star Wars.

It, like many other forms of good storytelling, is ripped off from other source material.

Here is an example.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope is just a rip off of The Hobbit.

Luke-Bilbo gets whisked away on an adventure by Gandalf-Obi-Wan and joins a group of miscreant dwarf-smugglers, and encounter space monster trolls/spiders/etc on the way. The get captured by imperial elf stormtroopers, having a daring escape and later Luke-Bard shoots the dragon-deathstar in the weak spot in its armour. The dragon-deathstar is destroyed, a lot of dwarf fighter pilots were killed, and Bilbo-Luke gets to ride on a Falcon-Eagle. He is showered with gold and medals.

The end.

See and now I just ruined that film for you forever. Maybe. Maybe not. It is still an awesome story.
 And that is just the way it is.

Some people point to the idea that there is a monomyth, that all stories are basically derivative of the whole good vs evil plot and that there are only so many versions of the good vs evil story. Episode IV is ripped off The Hobbit, samurai movies and a variety of other sources. In terms of detailed plot points, The Hobbit is closest to the actual plot.

Aha!

But that is what makes Quintin Tarantino films interesting. Instead of one plot they sometimes have multiple overlapping plots. Pulp Fiction and Hateful Eight are good examples of this.

And it takes a master storyteller to make overlapping plots like that work together as a cohesive unit.

George Lucas doesn't have the brain cells to even attempt such complexity... and yet... when asked to describe the plot of a Quintin Tarantino film, it is rather easy to do.

Pulp Fiction - Two hitmen working for a mobster have a series of misadventures, as does a boxer working for the mobster who ends up later rescuing him from rednecks.

Hateful Eight - Eight people, most of them strangers to each other and yet have reasons to hate each other, gather in a cabin during a storm where bloodshed ensues.

See? An accurate summary of the plots and yet anyone who has seen those films will know that they are far more complicated that what I just said.

So here is the thing...

Quintin Tarantino films do very well with critics and fans alike. Pretty much everyone likes them. My friend from highschool is clearly the exception to the rule.

But Star Wars films...

They are not that good typically.

Star Wars has had 3 horrible plot films out of a total of 9.

Episode I = BAD
Episode II = BAD
Episode III = BAD
Episode IV = GOOD, but ripped off from The Hobbit.
Episode V = GOOD
Episode VI = GOOD
Episode VII = GOOD**
Rogue One = Good*
Episode VIII = GOOD

So 3 out of the 9 films were bad. That is not a great batting average (yeah, using sports analogies when talking to nerds!)...

* Some people really don't like Rogue One, although I am okay with it. So if you consider it to be bad, then 4 out of 9 were bad.


** Some people also didn't like VII, but those people are clearly on crack.

But here is the things... those are not the only Star Wars films... if you included the 2 Ewok films and 1 Star Wars Xmas special... and unfortunately my friend from high school kept bringing those up, so I guess we should include them.

So if we include the 2 Ewok films + Xmas special then 6 or 7 out of the 12 films were bad. Depends whether you want to include those, but I guess you can blame my friend from high school who doesn't know when to not mention horrible films.

George Lucas himself hates the Christmas Special so much that he has gone out of his way to try and find and destroy every copy of it. Unfortunately with the internet it is now very easy to find.

Quintin Tarantino meanwhile has never been so embarrassed about one of his films that he has gone out of his way to actively destroy it.

Now if only George Lucas would realize his folly and destroy every copy of the Phantom Menace, etc.

Except there is one huge problem...

Star Wars Fanboys don't like to admit when they are wrong. They have blinders on when it comes to all things Star Wars.

Remember above when the Fanboy claimed that the Ewok films were better than Kill Bill...? Yep. He said that.

And the Ewok films were seriously bad... But don't take my word for it, let us look at some Rotten Tomato scores...

1984 - An Ewok Adventure = 25% on the Tomatometer. 44% of people Liked it.
1985 - The Battle for Endor = So bad that the Tomatometer is Not Available... 51% of people Liked it.
2003 - Kill Bill Volume 1 = 85% on the Tomatometer and 81% of people Liked it.
2004 - Kill Bill Volume 2 = 85% on the Tomatometer and 89% of people Liked it.

Clearly there is no contest between the films.

And yet you if you try to explain that or anything else to a Star Wars Fanboy you get anguished replies of denial...



Wizard, the Card Game

So I learned a new card game today called "Wizard". It is very similar to the game "Bugger Bridge", but has 8 extra cards and some additional rules. (Wizard and Bugger Bridge is similar to another card game called "Oh Hell", which I should probably try sometime.)

Here are some notes...

Assuming a person already knows how to play Bugger Bridge, here are the changes.

8 extra cards, 4 Wizards and 4 Jesters.

The Wizards are wild cards. They can be played even if you would normally have to follow suit and will automatically take the trick - unless someone else played a Wizard first during that round. Thus you really want to be the first person to play it, because then you are guaranteed to take that trick. The only time someone would use a Wizard after one has already been played is if they are trying to get rid of it.

The 4 Jesters are completely worthless. They can be played even if you would normally have to follow suit, and they can NEVER take a trick, even if led during a round. This means they are usually used to protect yourself from accidentally taking a trick. They are "safe cards" to lead and also safe to throw away during a round. If everyone throws a Jester in a single round, then nobody takes the trick - but the person who dealt it has the lead. (Such an occurrence is very rare.)

Now because of the way Bugger Bridge is played, the 8 extra cards have some extra rules with respect to what is trump, what happens when it is led, etc.

Wizard as trump = the dealer decides what is trump before the bidding begins.

Jester as trump = the first player to the left of the dealer decides what is trump before the bidding begins.

If someone leads a Wizard during a round, it doesn't really matter what is trump because that wizard takes everything anyway. Thus this is an opportunity for other players to discard their junk or get rid of cards they don't want.

If someone leads a Jester during a round, the person to their left can play any card, and that is the lead card for that round. (Unless they also play a Jester, in which case the next person to the left repeats the process.)

Scoring is also different from Bugger Bridge.

Each round players get a minimum of 20 points. If they bid 1 trick, they will get 30 points if they success in taking the 1 trick.
No tricks, 20 points
1 trick, 30 points
2 tricks, 40 points
3 tricks, 50 points
Etc
However if the bidder does not take their desired number of tricks, they lose 10 points. (This is similar to an optional rule found in Bugger Bridge.)

Since there is 60 cards total in a Wizard deck then 5 players can play 12 rounds... and during the final round there is no trump. If there are 4 players, they can play 15 rounds... and again during the final round there is no trump. 3 players = 20 rounds. 6 players = 10 rounds.

If there is 7 players then you can only play 8 rounds, 8 players = 7 rounds...

Of course you can also roughly double the length of the game if you progressively go back down to 1 card again, which is what my family usually does when playing Bugger Bridge. However as the woman teaching the game today informed me "That would be if you wanted to play a really long game." Which we were not.

Personal Notes about Strategy

While it is perfectly acceptable to play it safe in Bugger Bridge and bid none on a regular basis, in Wizard the scoring system encourages you to try for more tricks in an effort to reap the benefits in points.

I won today's game because I had an edge from 27+ years of playing Bugger Bridge. I ended with a score of 280 despite screwing up the last round and losing 10 points. The second highest scoring person was the woman who taught the card game (she got 270 points), and my impression was that she was used to winning and was not expecting a beginner to figure out the strategy of the game so quickly. (Like I said, 27+ years of playing Bugger Bridge gave me some insights as to strategy...)

I played it safe during quite a few rounds in the beginning of the game, bidding none regularly and only bidding 1 or 2 when I felt I had no choice but to take a few tricks. (eg. If you get a Wizard, you are pretty much guaranteed to take a trick and you would only not take that trick if you decided to get rid of it by waiting until someone else plays a Wizard first and then getting rid of yours.)

By the end of the game I was regularly bidding 2 or 3 tricks because I realized I was in a race with the woman who taught the game. I needed extra points to beat her, and also to maintain my lead.

During the final round I bid 3, but probably should have bid 4 or 5. I ended up accidentally taking 4 tricks because in the 2nd last round I played a Wizard when I should have waited. I should have discarded my lowly 7 of Diamonds during the 2nd last round, but sadly I made a whoops. I realized my mistake as I dealt it and immediately wanted the card back, but it was already played...

And then during the final round I took the trick with a crappy 7 because nobody else had trump cards and all the kings had apparently been played, and nobody had a higher diamonds. (If I had been card counting I would have remembered that all the kings were already played.)

The addition of the Kings and Jesters makes the game more chaotic in my opinion, but also allows for more strategy and skill on the part of the player. Players with little experience in such games tend to cause more chaos (and lose as a result) as the rounds go by, but veteran card gamers like myself can more or less predict what will happen. eg. I knew I screwed myself during that 2nd last round, but I still won the game so oh well.

Final Note

So I went on Amazon and ended up ordering a deck of Wizard cards and two other card games. I am hoping they arrive before xmas... My family loves card games so the card games will be well used in the future.

Old School Dungeon Design Tricks and Tips

Old School Dungeons like Tomb of Horrors and The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar sometimes have quite a few design features that are similar, and help to make "Old School Dungeons" more entertaining than some of the more modern adventures which are designed to be more hack n slash.

Warning! Because I cite examples of these designs, there are spoilers ahead. I will be frequently mentioning designs from Tomb of Horrors, The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar and others. You have been warned.

#1. The Joke or Private Joke

Sometimes the Dungeon Master or dungeon designer will add something to the dungeon that just doesn't make much sense and is there purely for the sake of it being funny.

Examples:

The chain in The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. PCs tug on it and cannot figure out what it does. It doesn't do anything, but creator Ed Greenwood probably got a laugh out letting players waste time tugging on it before cracking a joke about them yanking on his chain.

"Private Jake" in the Stormreach Waterworks in Dungeons and Dragons Online. The whole point of Private Jake is that you don't know what the joke is, except for the obvious pun of his name.

The teleporter in Tomb of Horrors that takes people's gear and/or turns them into the opposite sex. Always good for a laugh.

#2. The Trap with No Saving Throw that Characters have to Choose to Set Off

In 1st/2nd edition AD&D traps did not have a saving throw. They just went off and there typically was no way to avoid them unless players were smart about it. Some traps took it a step further however and gave players the choice of whether to press the proverbial button and see what happens.

I ran into one of these recently in a game. There is a rope dangling from the middle of the ceiling, similar to the chain mentioned above. You yank the rope and the whole floor collapses. No saving throw. Everyone in the room falls, including the rope.

The beauty of the trap is that characters have to choose to set off the trap by pulling the rope. If you just leave it alone, nothing happens.

Examples

The blank door in The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar that drops a giant stone block on you if you open the door.

The demon mouth with a Sphere of Annihilation inside it, within Tomb of Horrors. PCs who make the mistake of sticking their hand or other items in there, have their hand/etc cease to exist. The proper response is to use a 10 foot pole and you lose part of the pole before realizing that you should just leave it alone.

#3. Details, Details, Details

A smart dungeon designer should sprinkle the dungeon with clues about the story of the dungeon itself. Clues about who created it, who may have lived in it in the past, and who might be living there now.

Examples

Wide slime trails in "The Keep of Koralgesh" indicating that there is a giant slime monster in the dungeon somewhere...

Books and notes left in various rooms which tell tidbits of the story of the dungeon.

#4. The Possible Henchman

You don't usually see henchmen in 3rd or 5th Edition games, but in old 1st and 2nd edition AD&D the dungeon designer would sometimes add a possible henchman to the dungeon which could be rescued and could possibly join your team.

I have written previously about The Rarely Used Henchman and I contend that they are an excellent roleplaying device for DMs to be using to add more flavour and interest to their games.

Examples

Tomb of Horrors has a female sirine in a cave that if freed is available to join the party.

Haunted Halls of Eveningstar has two possible henchmen. A female wizard (Estrel) who lies dead on a table can be raised from the dead and can join the party, and a 2nd female wizard (Miior) lies in stasis in a closet in a different room and if woken from stasis is also available to join the party.

#5. Environmental Health Hazards

There are many ways to do this.
  • The whole dungeon could be teaming with rats (diseased ones) that sometimes bite the PCs.
  • Parts of the dungeon could be icy or greasy, and thus slippery.
  • Narrow ledges or bridges.
  • Heat or cold dealing damage over time.
  • Lack of oxygen in the air causing exhaustion / fatigue.
  • Poison in the air.
  • Poisonous spores (see The Temple of Elemental Evil).
  • Lava chasms in the ground (see The Keep of Koralgesh).
#6. Mix Monsters of Different Types

A common thing that started appearing in 3rd edition and continued in 5th edition is to mix a common type of monster (eg. kobold) and make their leaders something like a kobold cleric/shaman or a kobold barbarian, etc.

In Old School Dungeons however this never happened. Instead if a group of kobolds had a leader it was likely a lizardman or a human necromancer. A group of orcs with an ogre leader. An army of undead led by a demon. That sort of idea.

It is way too easy to just have a single monster and then just make their leader the same monster but with spells. The Old School method makes the boss monster something bigger and more terrifying. Kobold shamans might have spells, but they don't have the physical presence of an ogre.

Or if you really want the boss to have spells, make it an ogre magi.

#7. Not all Traps are Traps, some are Ambushes

A common theme in Old School Dungeons is to give the baddies some advantage. An ambush with a surprise round is one way to do this. Having the PCs fight in an unfavorable situation where the baddies have higher ground, have cover, have mounts, have useful weapons, have annoying pets, etc.

Examples

The stirge in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar that ambushes the PCs on slippery moss covered stairs. Sure, it is only 1 stirge, but it puts up quite the fight with the PCs having difficulty just moving on the stairs.

The kobolds in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar that have crossbows with sleep poison bolts - and attack from behind a wall with arrow slits while the PCs are in a room full of corpses (some of which are undead).

#8. The One Combat that the PCs have to Strategize or choose to Avoid

In Old School Dungeons there is usually 1 room with something so big in it that the party would be better off just avoiding it. Sometimes there is a monster so big it is just there to get PCs to realize that running away is an option.

Typically however that one monster will also have some really nice loot and it is worth the risk and the extra effort of strategizing how to take it down.

Example

The mummy in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. It is way too powerful for a low level party, but if they are rested and prepared (with fire spells) they can possibly take it down.

Funny Note

If the DM has a room filled with vampire rust monsters (level drain + they destroy your metal gear) then the team should probably avoid that room anyway. The DM was being silly when they designed those monsters anyway. Also if the DM actually ambushes the party with vampire rust monsters, clearly they want a more "DM vs Players" kind of game, which isn't really fun any more. It is just completely silly.

#9. Traps that can be avoided with a 10 foot pole

Thieves and rogues are really optional in old school dungeons. Smart players can solve or avoid a trap using wits.

Assuming that players are seasoned at dungeon delving they may have figured out a long time ago that many traps can be defeated with a 10 foot pole... and some chickens.

Example

Most of the traps in Tomb of Horrors can be defeated with either a 10 foot pole and chickens. (Or Sticks to Snakes.) All the players have to do is be extremely cautious and test everything with a sturdy pole or a chicken to see if it safe and they will avoid 90% of the traps.

#10. A Puzzle or Riddle that cannot be solved with dice

I did this recently with a teleporting puzzle where each 10 x 10 section of the room teleports the person when activated. There was clues in the dungeon that help solve the puzzle, but if the players take the time they can solve the puzzle without needing the clues. It works well for low level PCs, but would not work against a higher level party with access to Dimension Door or Teleport.

Sometimes a puzzle will also have a riddle element to it, or a timer (like the room is flooding) or traps within the puzzle to discourage wrong guesses.

Example

The Keep of Koralgesh has a nice lever puzzle in it which when solved unlocks something. The lever puzzle is actually ridiculously simple, but in my experience players think that it is more complicated and end up spending more time on it trying to solve what they think is a complex puzzle when it is actually really simple.

#11. The Physical Obstacle or Old School Dungeon Hazard

A good Old School Dungeon should have some kind of physical obstacle to overcome, at least one - but the players have to use their brains to figure out how. It could be something simple like building a bridge over a chasm, or something more complicated.

For extra challenge the obstacle might be very dangerous - and have a monster lurking near it. Like a watery tunnel that they have to swim through... and it has man-eating fish inside it.

The Old School Dungeon Hazard is things like green slime. Which is not a monster, but it is a deadly fungus.

Example

The Keep of Koralgesh has a number of fissures in the ground with lava flowing further below. They can easily be avoided with wood to make a quick bridge.

The green slime in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar... it is a potential party wipe if the players have no clue how to get rid of it. (Burning the entire room of slime before entering works well.)

#12. The Permanent Change

There should be something in the dungeon that does something that is either a benefit or a detriment. Or both simultaneously. Or it is all random. Whatever the case, the effect should be permanent.

It could be a magic or cursed item, place, monster, or trap that causes a permanent effect: Crosses gender, changes race, raises/lowers hp, raises or lowers stats, and can even change their alignment or age.

Example

The teleporter in Tomb of Horrors that takes people's gear and/or turns them into the opposite sex.

The Fountain of Youth - no explanation needed.

My own little ideas...

The party finds a magical tome that boosts one RANDOM stat. You don't know which stat is effects until after they read it. Watch the party fight over who gets it.

The Gambler's Gambit - The device has a 60/40 chance of raising or lowering 1 stat. Roll a d10 to determine whether the stat goes up or down. Roll d6 to determine which stat is effected. The item only works twice for each PC. Trying to use it a 3rd time causes it to drain half the user's current hp (no save) and takes away 1 point of their highest stat permanently. (A smart player will use divination magic like Augury before attempting to use this item.)

#13. One piece of cursed treasure

Any more than that would feel like you are punishing the players. Just 1 however teaches the lesson that players need to be careful about treasure, because sometimes the treasure IS the trap.

Yes... I totally picked #13 on purpose.

No examples this time. Lets not spoil that one.

#14. The Faux Climax

The false climax is a way to trick the players into thinking that the dungeon boss has been defeated. And then later springing the real dungeon boss on them later. If the PCs fall for it, the real boss fight will turn out to be a real surprise and a challenge. Wise players should realize that the fake boss was too easily defeated.

Example

The fake lich in Tomb of Horrors when the real demi-lich is further into the dungeon. Along with other fake copies of himself.

#15. Something that disorients the PCs

Floors and hallways that move, random teleports, getting trapped in a mirror dimension, becoming trapped inside a monster or a maze (or a monster that is a living maze). Gravity doesn't work properly, time travels at different speeds, etc.

#16. Low on Resources

The party should lose things along the way. There should be something that causes them to lose their food or water, or all their torches, spell components... they might even start running low on air to breathe. Or weapons or armour.

The quick and easy way to do this is to ambush the party with rust monsters. A spell that ages them 1 year also ruins all their food. All their torches are waterlogged and useless. Spell components ruined / rotten.

#17. The Giant Valuable Thing that is impossible to carry...

There should always be one thing that is really valuable, but too big to carry the whole thing. And possibly attached to the wall or floor.

Alternatively, they can carry it - but it leaves the party vulnerable to an ambush.

Example

A giant silver statue, worth over 10,000 gp - but it is impossible to carry.

The old "Bunny on a Stump" trick.
#18. The Sneaky Shapeshifter

There should be a monster of some kind that is not what it appears to be. Like a potential ally who is actually a villain in disguise. Wolves disguised as sheep.

Examples

The mimics in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. Any of them... there is multiple.

The doppleganger disguised as a statue in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar.

#19. Unique Monsters not found anywhere else

Or rarely found anywhere else. Something very rare and unique, like a new type of slime that has its own rules.

Examples

The flying daggers inside Irongard, a quest made by Ed Greenwood. Similar flying weapons are to be found in some other quests also by Greenwood. To my knowledge they are not found in any other quests except Greenwood's.

In the town of Eveningstar there is a type of flying cat (not to be confused with the Catowl below) called a Tressym. Tressym are really only found in the kingdom of Cormyr in Forgotten Realms, and no where else. They apparently make good familiars for wizards or companions for druids.

The Catowl. Not all unique monsters have to be scary. But it is on a stump...

#20. Something that makes no sense at all

This is there just to boggle the imaginations of the players. It should be inexplicable and it is left for the players to argue over possible meanings as to why.

Example

The pile of old rusty adventuring equipment, some of it still in good condition, waiting within the foyer of the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. When touched a magic mouth speaks, warning the visitors that these items belonged to those who came before them.

Or the above mentioned chain, which doubles as Ed Greenwood's private joke that has players "yanking his chain". It has no meaning really, but is worth a laugh.

#21. The dungeon should have an Awesome Name
  • Tomb of Horrors
  • Haunted Halls of Eveningstar
  • Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Keep of Koralgesh.
  • Etc
So seriously, come up with a good sounding name. Often the creator uses a bit of alliteration to create a dungeon that flows nicely, but sounds scary or mysterious at the same time.
  • The Catacombs of Chaos
  • The Dungeon of Infinite Death
  • The Fortress of Finality
  • The Garrison of Ghouls
  • The Hundred Haunted Hills of Hillcrest
Clearly I am just going down the alphabet here and just having fun coming up with names. Having an "of" in the middle of the name is optional, but it does perhaps help to make the name sound more impressive.


Notes!

Just because there are 20 things on this list does not mean you have to use all 20 to make an "old school style dungeon". You might only use a wee number, like 5 of the things and still have a pretty awesome dungeon.

You can mix and match items. eg. The unique monster could be disguised as something else, and it could be the faux climax too. Players might thing that monster was the boss monster because it was disguised as the boss monster...

One of the common themes within bad dungeon design is to use a single theme, such as undead or traps. But the hallmark of good dungeon design is actually having a variety of things in there so it never becomes boring.

"Oh look, another room filled with undead."

A good dungeon should mix things together that you might not normally think work well together... like plants and undead. The plants don't care about the undead, and the undead don't care about the plants. But put them in the same room and suddenly the plants provide hiding places for the undead to lurk behind... and the plants turn out to be "disguised monsters" who add extra spice to the conflict.

Have fun!

Character Death, Party Wipes and Popping your Cherry

We have a term in my games for when a player has the first character die ever. We call it "popping your cherry". Crude, but it allows players to joke about how characters die - sometimes in a funny way.

My games are exciting. Battle is bloody and deadly. PCs get injured, sometimes they die because they make foolish mistakes. And I don't pull punches as a DM, if a PC does something suicidal they are going to get themselves killed.

Like the time a character wandered off to explore a cave during combat and found some traps... decided to run through the traps and got very injured. And then decided to run through the same traps again. So he died alone, far away from the party who was still busy killing some undead.

His death was no fault of mine. The player decided he wanted to run through the traps. I warned him that they looked dangerous. But he did it anyway.

Another time years ago the party was exploring a maze when they found a nice room with an old water fountain that still worked. The water was clean and clear and it was a good place to rest, and the party was already injured and low on spells from an earlier fight with a wyvern. But for some reason they decided to not rest and continue onwards... and found the undead minotaur boss monster. They then began to run away from it and the minotaur killed them one by one as they fled. One character managed to get away (same player as the first example) and would have been the lone survivor when he came to a pit trap the party had previously went around and avoided. So he decides to jump it... rolls badly. He uses a reroll. Still fails. And dies. Clearly that player should stay away from traps.

And this is just two examples from my campaigns which I have been running for 18 years now across 2nd edition, 3rd edition, 1st edition (boycotted 4th and decided to go retro), and eventually back to 2nd edition again. There has been many more character deaths and party wipes over the years.

A few things I have learned...

  • Combat is more exciting when death is a possibility.
  • Players roleplay their characters more realistically when they know the DM doesn't pull punches.
  • Players sometimes make all sorts of foolish mistakes. Things like not using a safety rope when climbing a steep cliff.
  • Players eventually wise up and start thinking and planning more, and learn to make more calculated risks as opposed to reckless suicidal actions.
  • Nobody has ever accused me of killing characters on purpose. They all died by accident or because they did something foolish.

For example... you know the lightning sword of a balor and how it electrocutes whoever picks it up? Character death right there during a fight with a balor. They thought it was a potential loot item. I showed the player the entry in the 2nd Edition Monster Manual so they could read for themself what happens.

Fortunately by the time PCs are fighting a balor death becomes more of a temporary problem. Permanent character death is really only a problem at low levels.

One time I ran the Vecna chapter wherein everyone plays a powerful wizard investigating a tomb wherein Vecna is trapped. So the team of wizards goes through the tomb, solves every problem and then arrive at the room where Vecna is sealed in. They break the seal open and release him... at which point Vecna stops time and begins killing them, as per the original module, and it ends up being a complete party wipe. (My version of Vecna is called Xorek instead and is a powerful Chronomancer, which works perfectly since Vecna tends to use chronomancy spells.)

That party wipe of powerful wizards sets up the whole adventure later on with normal PCs and allows the players to realize just how powerful and deadly Vecna/Xorek is.

I also used a demilich version of Xorek in Tomb of Horrors, in place of Acererak. Xorek has many clones and versions of himself scattered through the centuries and different timelines. As an undead chronomancer he is walking undead time paradox.

However here is the thing about Tomb of Horrors and when my players went through it..

They didn't have a single character death. After years of being in a deadly campaign, playing 1 potentially deadly session every Friday night for years, they had all wised up and had learned how to deal with traps, monsters, and constantly looming threat of death.

They survived Tomb of Horrors and the funniest incident they encountered was that teleporter that takes their clothes and crosses their gender.

Also I didn't tell them it was Tomb of Horrors until after they defeated the demilich. To them it was the Tomb of Xorek. Well... one version of Xorek.

After defeating the demilich Xorek, the other Xorek clone was activated and that triggered the game session with the powerful wizards investigating a different and more powerful Xorek tomb.

And eventually those characters and that campaign was retired and I started a smaller sandbox style game where the same players are now playing children in a village in a valley much later in the timeline... and the characters slowly age up. Currently they are teenagers. Eventually they will reach adulthood.

But soon, this Friday, the teenagers will find a book titled "The Many Lives of Xorek"... and the players will all laugh/groan at the reference.

Note - None of the teenagers have died yet. Not because I am not still running a deadly campaign, that has not changed. The big change is that the players are wiser and roleplay better now. They take precautions. Closest thing to death they have encountered so far is a near drowning and a few encounters that surprised them.

So will characters die? Who knows. It has been years since that party wipe. Maybe they will make a mistake.

Lately I have been researching old school traps... like you see a rope dangling from a ceiling in the middle of the room. You yank it and the ground in the whole room collapses. No saving throw, but the onus is on the players for not checking for traps before yanking the rope.

Also working on a teleporter puzzle wherein the party has to get from A to B across a room full of squares that teleport to other squares but has to figure out how to best do it. Some parts of the room has walls of force with a monster in them. Some has a pit trap there so they are teleported above a pit trap. So their challenge is to walk from teleporter to teleporter and find the correct way across. The puzzle will be deadly because of the traps, but should make a good challenge for a low level party.

So as long as they don't make any foolish mistakes...

High AC, a Dungeon Master's Nightmare

To his credit, this dwarf bard has weak armour.
Someone on Facebook was asking how to best handle characters who have ACs so high it becomes hard to hit them. Basically they were describing a nightmare scenario in which the PCs had become so powerful and impossible to hit that anything he threw at them bounced off.

I responded with the following:


How often do characters die in your campaign? I will come back to that idea later.

I determined years ago as a DM that I should rarely provide loot that boosts AC.

  • Magic armour, magic shields...
  • Rings/Bracers of Protection, anything that provides an AC bonus...

The problem is that characters over time accumulate things that provide AC bonuses and that they often stack. Eventually they become almost impossible to hit so that only really powerful monsters and boss monsters can hit them (or sometimes even those things have problems hitting them).

Having realized this problem I prefer to simply limit how much magical items I give out which boost AC. What items they do find are often only +1, rarely more than that.

Smart players in my opinion should be trying to use distance, cover bonuses, footwork and good timing to boost their survival chances. I use those tactics for my characters during D&D Adventurers League play.

As a DM i also like to run a more deadly campaign as it makes things more exciting, so if PCs are hard to hit it is like everyone is wearing seatbelts and PCs rarely die. Having a high death rate teaches the players to be more cautious and approach death realistically with their characters. (As opposed to DMs who *never* kill characters and PCs do all sorts of suicidal stuff knowing the DM will not let their character die. That to me is boring because everyone is basically protected from death and combat just becomes a foregone conclusion.)

The recipe for a more exciting / more deadly game is:

  • Lower AC.
  • Combat that gets bloody.
  • People get knocked out. Sometimes people die.
  • Players learn to be more cautious.
  • Characters are roleplayed with the fear of death. This means more actual roleplaying.

Note - As a DM I don't actually go looking to kill characters. Usually they die because they do something stupid or in accidents.

Examples of past stupid deaths:

  • Climbing without a safety rope.
  • Running through traps without disarming them - twice.
  • Separating the party in a maze with an undead minotaur.
  • Refusing to rest the party when they found a good place to rest... this one ended in a party wipe. They all died.
  • Killing a mammoth while underneath it and already very injured - Zlatgar got squished and became forever remembered as Splatgar.
  • Running off alone during a Spartacus style revolution.
  • Deciding to fight a harpy on slippery steep terrain instead of waiting to attack the harpy on level ground.
  • Teleporting into the skull of dracolich while it is flying... and then the dracolich crashed headfirst into the ground upon its defeat.

The list goes on...

Sometimes PCs do stupid things. And I don't pull punches or coddle them.

Which to my credit means that my games are exciting and players keep coming back for more.

I ❤ Exiled Kingdoms

Okay, so that is a pretty strong statement in the title. I admit it. Makes a good title though.

I started playing "Exiled Kingdoms" 3 days ago and quickly determined it is an awesome game to play on your cellphone (or tablet) and here I am writing about it because of its sheer awesomeness. However I want to explain some things...

  1.  I rarely put game reviews on Nerdovore because quite frankly a lot of games out there are horrible and there is no point talking about games that I hate (unless I have a good reason to talk about it I suppose).
  2. I hate trying out new games on my phone and finding out that they are horrible.
  3. Or worse, horribly addictive and you eventually get bored of it.
  4. Not what I expected - and I end up deleting it because it was not what they advertised.
  5. The game is immediately boring.
  6. The game is too complicated.
  7. And worst of all, they want you to buy things in the game to make it easier to play it.
  8. Horrible game maps, or in some cases - no map at all. :(
And I hate spending money on games that I might get bored of later.

So lets talk about Exiled Kingdoms and why I like it so much.

  1. The trial version of the game has quite a bit you can do. 15 maps to explore and kill stuff.
  2. The full version of the game has 108+ maps to explore and kill stuff, and is only $4.
  3. The creators keep adding more maps. So good for them.
  4. It is an one time fee of $4. There is nothing else in the game to buy. Everything else you have to earn. There is no store to buy gold or equipment or gems or whatever. One time fee and you can play as much as you want. Want to get really cool armour? Need to earn it.
  5. The game has an old school Dungeons and Dragons feel to it.
  6. I have not got bored of it. The trial version alone has a lot of stuff to do.
  7. I am pleasantly surprised at how good the game is.
  8. The game can be quite exciting... just remember to quick-save often, because death is always just around the corner.
  9. It is not too complicated, but there is plenty to do within the game.
  10. Completely open world - the trial version you are limited to the 15 maps in question, but the full version you can explore anywhere you want.
  11. The maps are awesome. The maps have the feel of classic Dungeons and Dragons maps.



There are some things I wish this game could do however.

I kinda wish it was a MMORPG. It currently is not. It is a RPG and you can hire mercenaries to accompany you on the quests.

But honestly, I am okay with it being a solo game because there are benefits to that... like not needing internet all the time to play it.

I have not purchased it yet. Instead I made a 2nd character, a thief/rogue this time and I am going to get the new character up to level 5 before I make the decision as to whether to buy. But for $4... I am leaning towards a yes.

I do wish there was alternative ways to heal up in the game. Healing potions are a bit expensive and going to an inn to rest is annoying. My characters can currently rest and heal up twice in the wilderness, but after those run out you have to be careful getting back to a village to rest at an inn. (I assume playing a cleric makes this aspect easier.)


About Exiled Kingdoms

They have a forum with lots of active users: http://www.exiledkingdoms.com/forum/

Their reviews on Google Play are pretty impressive.

A lot of people, including myself, happen to like the graphics. Too many games make the graphics look childish and cheesy. This game they went for a more realistic look.

Here is a sample of the game play on YouTube:



And here are some more screenshots of game play.






Look at the details of these collapsed ruins? Don't they have a nice D&D feel to them, feel realistic and not childish or ridiculous?

To see what I am talking about let me show an example. See how everything looks like a cartoon in comparison? Anime-esque aesthetics. I find that really annoying when I play games. It just ends up feeling so childish and ridiculous - and gameplay in such games is often designed to be horribly addictive, which is another problem because eventually you grow bored of the game and delete it.


I will give an example of one I have actually played...

Gameplay of SAO Memory Defrag
"Sword Art Online Memory Defrag"

I love the TV show Sword Art Online, and Sword Art Online II. Both awesome.

So I tried the game.

It is a side scrolling game. To do a quest you click a button. It has ZERO maps. There is no open world. You just click and do a side scrolling fight. Feels a bit like a horrible Nintendo game from the 1990s.

A few months ago I played "Sword Art Online Memory Defrag" for about a week and then got bored of it.

The graphics were annoying me. Everything was so cutesy.

A lot of the game was geared towards selling cute weapons and armour for the heroes to play... and you had to try and collect all the heroes, which also required money - or a lot of hard work to get just 1 hero with good stats.

Within the game there was...

  • No maps.
  • Nothing to explore.
  • No roleplaying elements.
  • Not much of a story because it basically just recapped fights from the TV show.
On the plus side with SAO Memory Defrag, you could team up with other people and do quests... if you really wanted to. But the game was mostly designed for solo questing, so why bother?

Eventually I got bored of SAO. Still love the TV show. Recently rewatched seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix. But I don't see being bored enough that I will log into SAO Memory Defrag again any time soon.

Most likely I will eventually delete it from my phone.

Which brings me back to Exiled Kingdoms.

It has a rich story. Lots of open world to explore. I am going to be very pleased to fork over $4 for a game I can play continually without being expected to ever pay another cent.

And I will finally have found a nice Dungeons and Dragons style game I can play on my cellphone which has all the elements I have been looking for in such a game.

So what if it is not a MMORPG? Perhaps it doesn't need to be. One thing that SAO Memory Defrag has proven, is that even if you do make a game a MMORPG, that doesn't mean it is any good. It could very well be boring.




Other Games I would like to briefly comment on...

Skyrim on PS3 or PS4, awesome!

Witcher 3, my wife is literally playing that game right now in the living room. Awesome.

Dungeons and Dragons Online, a PC game, awesome! (And not childish graphics like WoW either.)

I used to play a Facebook game years ago called Battle Pirates. Typical village building game, but with ships. You build better ships, mine resources, build defenses for your island, and attack other islands and ships. I eventually got bored of it however. It was a huge time waster and was not that enjoyable. Too many pricks in that game and you just get tired of defending your island from pricks.

Clash of Clans is annoying, very much geared towards sucking money from your wallet. Castle Clash however... much better. Almost exactly the same game, but with the benefit that your troops don't disappear after a battle. If they survive the battle, you keep them. Castle Clash also has immortal heroes that go up levels and you can duel them against other players and send them on quests. You can play Castle Clash for hours without getting bored.

Although both CoC and CC are addictive. So you have been warned!

I once recommended Castle Clash to a friend... I never saw him again. I wonder if he is still playing it... I did warn him it was addictive.


My Green Arrow Comic Books Collection

Okay, so this page is mostly for my own personal use. Years ago I collected a number of Green Arrow comic books, but I never completed the collection. I would like to eventually fill in the gaps.

Tomorrow (Friday) I am going shopping and I want to have this list accessible on my cellphone (and future gadgets) so I know which comic books I have, and which ones I am looking for.

Already Have
************

Green Arrow
6, 8-10, 12,14,18-21,
23,25-27,29-33,36,38-39,
41-48,53,55

Longbow Hunters 1 to 3

Green Arrow and Black Canary
Wedding Special
1, 7-12, 22


Priority to Find
****************

Green Arrow
1-5,7,11,13,15-17,
22,24,28,
34,35,37,
40,49,
50-52,54
(Less Priority, 56 - 80)

Green Arrow and Black Canary
2-6,13-21


With Respect to Volumes

Okay, so with respect to volumes, comic books are often released in story-lines that continue from one comic book to the next until the story-line is completed.

There are quite a few volumes to choose from, such as crossovers with Green Lantern, with Black Canary, Green Arrow Return, the New 52, Rebirth, etc. However I am currently really only looking for specific volumes.

The volumes I am most looking for are in dark red, the ones in orange are less important.
  • Green Arrow Vol. 1: Hunters Moon #1-6
  • Green Arrow Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragons #7-12
  • Green Arrow Vol. 3: The Trial of Oliver Queen #13-20
  • Green Arrow Vol. 4: Blood of the Dragon #21-28
  • Green Arrow Vol. 5: Black Arrow #29-38
  • Green Arrow Vol. 6: Last Action Hero #39-50
  • Green Arrow Vol. 7: Homecoming Green Arrow #51-62
  • Green Arrow Vol. 8: The Hunt for the Red Dragon #63-72
  • Green Arrow Vol. 9: Old Tricks #73-80

So with the exception of the Longbow Hunters series, I don't have a single completed volume.

I am less worried about completing volumes of Green Arrow and Black Canary, but if I find them I will be buying them anyway.

Personal Notes as an Archer

As an archer (I taught archery for 8 years professionally and studied Olympic archery in South Korea) I would like to say several things.

  1. I definitely prefer DC's Green Arrow over Marvel's Hawkeye. While Marvel does do lots of nice things, archery in comics is not their forte. (And yes, I do have some Hawkeye comics.)
  2. One of the things I really dislike in comic books is when they don't depict bows or depicting archery form accurately. While the artistic inaccuracy can be found in both Green Arrow and Hawkeye, I find the level of ridiculously is worse with Hawkeye - especially in the recent Marvel films. The "Arrow" TV show meanwhile does a much better job when it comes to archery form.
  3. As an artist (I studied painting and sculpture for 5 years in university) I am appalled that comic book artists don't bother to learn more about their subject matter. As an artist, if I was drawing archers regularly - I would go out and get some actual archery lessons. Fortunately I have been doing archery since the age of 10, so I don't need such lessons, but still... learn your subject matter people!
  4. I would love to see more accurate depictions of archers in comic books and films in the future.
  5. I also feel like if the artists learned more about the subject matter they could do a lot more in the comics to explore different ideas. Such as:
  • Archery on horseback (aka Equestrian Archery).
  • Hunting game or bowfishing for food/survival.
  • Bowmaking in an emergency.
  • Tracking / survival skills.
  • Flintknapping.
  • How to use burning arrows, whistling arrowheads, howling arrowheads, etc.
  • Crossbows (there is a whole storyline wherein Green Arrow loses his arm... and he could have switched to using crossbows, but for some reason does not).
  • Play around with different styles of bows, including Penobscot (double limbed) bows.

As a fan of the TV show "Arrow" I feel they (the makers of the TV show) could also have more fun with the various different kinds of archery out there and explore some of the above topics. Not touching on some of these topics just seems like a horrible oversight.

As an author (I do many things...) I have made a habit of including some archery tidbits in my written work too. In the future I want to do more of this in my Wrathgar series of short stories. Wrathgar is a character I created years ago which is similar to Conan the Barbarian, but while he does carry an axe and a two-handed sword his primary focus is his skills with the bow.

I have also speculated about writing a more contemporary fiction book about survivalism, in which archery would play an important role in staying alive in the wilderness when the protagonist gets lost in Northern Ontario. Such books have been written before, but I have yet to hear of one wherein the author knew quite a bit about bowmaking, flintknapping, bowfishing, and other archery topics.

So far I have only released one Wrathgar anthology, but I have more written that I need to edit and release eventually.

Things to do, just need time to do it.

Note - Apparently I like making lists today. Earlier today I wrote a post on another blog titled: My Bowhunting / Archery Magazines Collection. I am sensing a theme today.

Mists of Ravenloft coming to DDO

October 26th 2017.

Okay so there are two big things I am looking forward to right now.

#1. Season Two of Stranger Things on Netflix (which I will be binge watching tomorrow).

#2. Mists of Ravenloft being released on Dungeons and Dragons Online on December 5th.

So I have no doubt that Stranger Things Season 2 will be amazing, mindblowing, and I shall watch it again and again. (There is a tiny chance I will be disappointed and downcast as a result.)

But with Mists of Ravenloft I am looking forward to playing DDO again - I took a break from playing it from May to October, so I am happy to start playing again. This is something I do with DDO, which is hugely addictive, and I find it helps keep things balanced in my life. I will take long hiatuses from the game and not play it during an extended period of time.

During the past 15 months roughly I have been spending a lot of my "gaming time" playing Pokemon Go, but with winter coming and me disliking the idea of spending another winter outside playing Pokemon, this year I have decided to not play Pokemon and instead focus on playing various games indoors... where it is warm and cozy.

Games like...
  • Skyrim (and Skyrim Expanded Edition)
  • Oblivion
  • The Crew
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online
Part of this is fueled by the fact that I no longer have much time for pen and paper games (traditional D&D with dice, paper, etc) now that I have a baby boy and not much gaming time.

Thus what little gaming time I do have, I need to be using it in different ways.

So no more Pokemon Go during the Winter.

No more pen and paper D&D for me. Or at least not as often as before.

Hello, Dungeons and Dragons Online...

Now to be clear, I have been waiting for Ravenloft to be added to DDO for years. I made numerous suggestions years ago that various classic D&D modules should be added to the game, and it appears the producers of the game are finally listening.

They came out with a series of quests in Eveningstar - and the classic quest Haunted Halls of Eveningstar (aka HHoE).
After that success they came out with Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE).

And now, finally... Ravenloft. The first big expansion of the game since Eveningstar.

Yours for $39.99.

Sigh.

As is usual, each expansion costs more than the original game. (DDO is currently free to play, but a lot of the more fun and interesting quests you need to buy access to.)

But whatever. It is Ravenloft. I am so paying for it when it comes out.

My only disappointment is that they didn't release it before Halloween. Instead we have to wait for December 5th.

Historical Context

Decades ago there was a computer game released by SSI called Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession. Followed by the sequel, Stone Prophet. Stone Prophet was my favourite of the two, but the beauty of the two games was that they were both awesome, and you could play characters through to the end of Ravenloft - and then use the same characters in Stone Prophet.

My one beef with those two games is that monsters never respawn. Both games could have been so much better with respawning monsters in the wilderness areas.

The new Ravenloft expansion will of course have a wilderness area - which I am going to have a lot of fun exploring.

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