Archive for the ‘heroic fantasy’ Category

GenCon 2012, Part 2 (Friday)   4 comments

We got there early.  These following pictures are chronological in order.

As we walked to the Mariott to run my 9 a.m. T & T adventure we passed these World of Warcraft giant posters stuck onto a business wall in downtown Indy.

We were early, so we stopped and played some Magic at a Catan boardgame table inside the Convention Center’s open gaming lobby. Mayfair was everywhere with Catan stuff.

James is making his way through the halls of the convention center.

I thought the place was like a gigantic crowded maze, so I took some pictures to show you what it was like in the halls.

And then we came to the entrance to the True Dungeon. Talk about larping. A ticket to walk thru and play that game cost $34.

I wanted to explore the True Dungeon. I didn’t have time to buy a ticket and wait around hoping to join a delving party, but I was able to walk around in the free area and take these shots. Obviously a poster of a goblin . . . I wonder why?

It was dark inside. D’oh! Delvers waiting for a trip counted their tokens and prepared for the ordeal.

A chart showing some of the tokens you might win or purchase inside the dungeon. Tokens represent treasure in this game.

Out of the dungeon and back in the labyrinth.

Some adventurers pausing between adventures.

The maze goes on and on. We were working our way back to the Exhibitors Hall. Yes, this is really what GenCon looks like in most places.

There were plenty of hall costumes. These lovely ladies were showing off. I don’t understand the hair tentacles.

The Exhibitors Hall (i.e. Dealer Room) was guarded by a zombie when we entered.

White Wolf shared a booth with Drivethrurpg.com. I probably should have gone in and talked to them considering how many of my products are on drivethru . . . but I didn’t.

Later in the afternoon, James and I met Daniel–a musician (drummer) and a Magic player. We wanted to try out our Magic decks against him, but never got the chance. Seems like whenever we saw him it was time for his band to go out in the halls and play music. I heard them play. They were pretty good, doing a weird kind of folk rock.

Wil Wheaton was at the Con. He seemed to spend most of his time in the autograph area signing things. Autographs were free and there were several notables including Nichelle Nichols of the first Star Trek series. She has snow white hair now, and is very thin and aristocratic looking. Later, I gave Will a D6 that I brought back from OSRcon with me–one from the Argh gaming club with a coat of arms on it. He admired it, said thanks, and tucked it away where it will probably never be seen again.

After leaving Wil, I went and talked to this pretty elf. She was helping to promote a Game Master’s software program–keep track of everything on your laptop when you run a frp game. There were elves all over the convention, and especially in the Dealer area, but she was the most beautiful one I met.

There were many heroic-sized statues located in the Exhibitors’ Hall and some of the dedicated gaming areas. Here’s a magical hero of some sort.

Speaking of elves, here’s Drizzt do Urden and his kitty cat guarding an exit from the Dungeons and Dragons (which I have dubbed “That Other Game”, area in the hall. I managed to sneak in past him.  I didn’t care at all about the products.  I just wanted to see and admire the statues.

10% sorceress, 90% giant spider thing. I’m glad she wasn’t hungry.

And that seems like a good place to break off today’s GenCon narration.  It was a very busy day.  The dealers seemed to be doing well, and the gamers seemed to be having fun and spending money.  Yay!  Spending money!  That’s what it’s all about for the many game publishers and manufacturers at GenCon.  For the rest of us, it’s a kind of huge carnival crowd scene with wonders in all directions.

–to be continued

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My Favorite Editorial   6 comments

That Frisson of Disgust, That Tingle of Fear

I haven’t been very good about doing blogs lately.  Either I’m not having that much fun, or I just can’t find time to write them.  I have been working on a fantasy art calendar for Tunnels and Trolls, and I hope to have that published in the next week.  Meanwhile, tho I’m sure I’ve run this editorial before, probably just last year, let me run it again, and I’ll stick some new art into it.

Two weeks ago at HuntCon, a friendly gaming get together here in Phoenix, I got to run A T & T adventure for 4 gamers.  We did, as far as I know, the first ever adventure in Dwarf World.  My players all had new characters.  I started them out in the frying pan–being chased by the Black Dog people (I invented the Black Dog people on the spot because there were two big black dogs at the party, pets of the host, who were hanging around with us gamers on the back patio) who simply wanted to kill them all, and they swiftly jumped out of it into the fire.

This was the first T & T game ever for 2 of my 4 players.  They were horrendously outnumbered, and in a terrible situation.  Don’t you just love it when you can set up a game like that?  Players really have to get creative when just running out and killing everything in their path isn’t going to work.

Image

Do you remember your first fantasy role-playing experience? Do you remember struggling to understand unfamiliar rules, the effort to fit your character into that of someone not yourself? Do you remember the dread with which you faced your first monstrous foe?

There has never been anything else quite like it, has there?

As you continued to play, you learned what to expect, and how to turn the tables on your Game Master. You learned how to balance a party of delvers to deal with all emergencies, how to anticipate traps, and trick monsters. You learned when to fight and when to talk. And as you learned all these things, your character found artifacts of power and grew ever more potent and dangerous.

And now that you are a 20th level wizard-warrior with a pet dragon capable of dishing out 6421 points of hit damage, spells capable of halting time or destroying a mountain, armor that can protect you from a nuclear explosion – now that you have achieved all your desires, don’t you find yourself looking around wondering where the next challenge will come from, and not finding any?

Wasn’t it better when you were just a first level wizard, agonizing over whether to throw a TTYF for 16 whole points of damage on that charging monster, and then hope the party can protect you until the combat is over, or whether to vorpal the blade of the best warrior and possibly strike a few blows of your own with the quarterstaff?

The truth is that we as human beings gain just as much pleasure from making small decisions and gaining small victories as we do from making earth-shattering decisions and saving the world. We are each our own world, and when you manage to elude that horde of MR-5 rats and scramble to safety, it is as good or better than causing the earth to open and swallow 20,000 attacking Ores. The first is just a personal triumph; the second example is history. But what do you as a person relate to more – personal triumphs or history?

There is no doubt that the longer you continue to role-play, the better a role-player you will become, and the more effective your character will be during the game. But when you can effortlessly wave your hand and destroy that hulking troll, the satisfaction is gone from the game. When you had to think fast, dodge, rig a landslide, lure it into a pit, the challenge and thus the fun was greater.

The Black Dog People probably looked like this.

Which brings me to my point – low level games are more fun than high level games. Being powerless and fighting for your life is more of a thrill than being godlike and annihilating the opponent. High level games turn into bragging contests, where players and Game Masters try to top each other with one super feat after another. Low level adventures are more the kind of thing you could see yourself actually participating in.

And that is why, in over 25 years of role-playing, I have never actually developed a character higher than 9th level. High level characters are like gods, and if I need a god, I’ll make one up (Gristlegrim, Lerotra’hh) when I’m the Game Master. Or. I’ll ask the current G.M. to do a divine intervention.

Then again, if a beginning character dies, you can always roll up a new one – no great loss! But if a high level character gets toasted, then you lose months or years of role-playing labor. No wonder AD&D allows practically unlimited resurrection of dead characters. It’s a power trip, and once you accumulate a fair amount of power, you really hate to lose it.

The solution to having the most fun, of course, is to retire those high level monstrosities – turn them into NPCs. Perhaps someone will encounter old Drax the Demon Dodger and get his help on a particularly difficult mission that all those first to third level types had no chance with, but your emotional investment is not tied up in Drax. Instead, it’s with Itchy the Kid who’s just finding his first magic kazoo.

Turn your high level characters into Kings and important NPCs when you run an adventure for others.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. High level games can be awesome, but low level games are a lot more fun!

Oh, and I’m happy to report that my characters got a chance to do something heroic at the end of the adventure.  They fought and killed an Obsidian Spider that was tougher than all of them put together, saved their Dwarf guide who had earlier saved them, and wound up with a fortune in rubies.  Then, since we had been playing for about 3 hours, I used a Deus Ex Machina device to wrap up the adventure in a hurry and end the game.  Everybody felt both tested and rewarded.  I thought it was an excellent way to introduce new players to T  & T.

If you’ve ever played Dwarf World, or have any opinion about high level vs. low level adventuring in frps, please go ahead and leave a comment.

–end

P.S.  All the art in this blog was done by David Ullery.  He has a massive new solo adventure available at http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=99174.  And guess what?  It’s for low level characters, and is lots of fun.

An elemental battle--delver versus hungry reptile.

Strange and Bloody Movie   1 comment

Greek mythology--the ancestor of heroic fantasy

On Sunday evening, November 13, I went to my nearest Harkins theater to see Immortals.  I had been watching the previews for this movie for months, and had it slated as one that I would definitely want to see.  Also, I had an unstoppable craving for movie popcorn, and I have the Harkins loyalty t-shirt that gets me a free medium popcorn every time I go to the theater, not to mention the cup that gets me $1 softdrinks.  I figure that what I overpay on the movie ticket, and $9 admission is definitely getting too damn high, I make up  for on cheap movie refreshments inside.  I could tell from the previews that Immortals would be about Gods and Men in some kind of fantastic combat, but the why of such a struggle, since there is nothing like that in real Greek mythology, is not clear.  That’s a good preview–makes me curious while still pandering to my favorite fantasy elements–pretechnological violence, magic, and heroism.
Wikipedia has this capsule description of the film:

Immortals is a 2011 3D fantasy adventure film directed by Tarsem Singh and starring Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, and Mickey Rourke.[3] The film also stars Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, Joseph Morgan, Stephen Dorff, Alan Van Sprang, Isabel Lucas, and John Hurt. The film was previously named Dawn of War and War of the Gods before being officially named Immortals, and is loosely based on the Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy.

It was released in 2D and in 3-D (using the Real D 3D and Digital 3D formats) on November 11, 2011 by Universal Pictures and Relativity Media.

So much for the credits.  The story is confused, although if you blither long enough you get the gist of it.  A crazed king named Hyperion has decided to conquer the (known) world, which at the time around 1250 B.C. consisted of the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt.  To do this he wants to find a divine weapon called the Epirus Bow, a godly weapon that fires energy arrows.  In his ruthless quest for the weapon he callously cuts the throat of the hero’s mother–thus gaining the eternal enmity of young Theseus, supposedly a Greek peasant with an unknown father.  Also, there is a group of really nasty immortals called the Titans who are imprisoned within Mount Tartarus by the gods led by father Zeus.  Should the Titans ever break free, there would be a dreadful war between Gods and Titans that might destroy all life on Earth.  The Epirus Bow is the appointed instrument of Titanic liberation.

Having said all that you can see where the movie has to go.  Theseus and his friends–there are always friends and second banana sidekicks in these movies–fight the incredibly evil forces of King Hyperion.  At one point Theseus gains the Epirus Bow.  A bit later King Hyperion’s forces manage to take it away from him.  There is lots of bloody combat along the way–it’s special effects blood–but it does spray in all directions–I can only imagine what that must be like in 3D.  I saw it in 2D as usual.  Finally Hyperion frees the Titans.  Then Zeus and the Gods must intervene.  More combat.

The combat scenes are incredible.  For a really peaceful kind of guy, I have an unholy love of combat for its own sake.  As a relatively sane and intelligent guy, I know better than to get myself involved in physcial combat, though I had my fights when I was a kid, and I studied combat arts like fencing and archery in college.  That’s what I like about sports–I see them as ritualized combat, not games.  The swing of a bat or a hockey stick is symbolically the same as swinging a sword.  That’s what I like about games–they are a form of mental combat.  However, I know full well that in real physical combat such as Theseus or Conan participate in, I would be one of the dead guys in very short order, and since I enjoy life, I tend to avoid things like combat that would get me killed.  If you enjoy combat, then you want to see Immortals.  Forget about the incoherent plot.  All  you need to know is that there are bad guys and good guys, and they fight each other.

When I first saw Theseus, I thought he was the reincarnation of Gordon Scott.  Scott was a muscular bodybuilder and film star of the 50s and 60s, best known for playing Tarzan in several movies.  Scott was smooth in a way that few other Tarzans were.   Here’s a picture of Gordon Scott, followed by one of Henry Cavill.

So much for the credits.  The story is confused, although if you blither long enough you get the gist of it.  A crazed king named Hyperion has decided to conquer the (known) world, which at the time around 1250 B.C. consisted of the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt.  To do this he wants to find a divine weapon called the Epirus Bow, a godly weapon that fires energy arrows.  In his ruthless quest for the weapon he callously cuts the throat of the hero’s mother–thus gaining the eternal enmity of young Theseus, supposedly a Greek peasant with an unknown father.  Also, there is a group of really nasty immortals called the Titans who are imprisoned within Mount Tartarus by the gods led by father Zeus.  Should the Titans ever break free, there would be a dreadful war between Gods and Titans that might destroy all life on Earth.  The Epirus Bow is the appointed instrument of Titanic liberation.

Having said all that you can see where the movie has to go.  Theseus and his friends–there are always friends and second banana sidekicks in these movies–fight the incredibly evil forces of King Hyperion.  At one point Theseus gains the Epirus Bow.  A bit later King Hyperion’s forces manage to take it away from him.  There is lots of bloody combat along the way–it’s special effects blood–but it does spray in all directions–I can only imagine what that must be like in 3D.  I saw it in 2D as usual.  Finally Hyperion frees the Titans.  Then Zeus and the Gods must intervene.  More combat.

The combat scenes are incredible.  For a really peaceful kind of guy, I have an unholy love of combat for its own sake.  As a relatively sane and intelligent guy, I know better than to get myself involved in physcial combat, though I had my fights when I was a kid, and I studied combat arts like fencing and archery in college.  That’s what I like about sports–I see them as ritualized combat, not games.  The swing of a bat or a hockey stick is symbolically the same as swinging a sword.  That’s what I like about games–they are a form of mental combat.  However, I know full well that in real physical combat such as Theseus or Conan participate in, I would be one of the dead guys in very short order, and since I enjoy life, I tend to avoid things like combat that would get me killed.  If you enjoy combat, then you want to see Immortals.  Forget about the incoherent plot.  All  you need to know is that there are bad guys and good guys, and they fight each other.

When I first saw Theseus, I thought he was the reincarnation of Gordon Scott.  Scott was a muscular bodybuilder and film star of the 50s and 60s, best known for playing Tarzan in several movies.  Scott was smooth in a way that few other Tarzans were.   Here’s a picture of Gordon Scott, followed by one of Henry Cavill.

Tarzan (Scott) looking grim.

Theseus (Cavill) looking grim.

I don’t suppose the resemblance to a 20th century bodybuilder makes any difference.  Immortals is an action/special effects movie, and no matter how good (or bad) the acting is in such films, nobody ever remembers it.  Sometimes the film makers try to do something sneaky, like put ideas into the film as well.  I suspect that happened with this one–there are certainly things one could talk about, such as Are the Gods justified in interfering in the life of mortals, or should they be strictly hands off?  What about the brutality of the world?  There are scenes in the movie that just make you sick if you stop and think about them at all.

I haven’t read any official critics on this movie.  I wonder how they feel about the hideous distortion of Greek mythology presented here.  The legend of Theseus–hero of Athens, slayer of the minotaur–has been completely changed.  The hero does everything a hero can be asked to do except one–he doesn’t find a way to survive the final battle against overwhelming odds.  He dies, and Zeus takes him to heaven.  The Gods of ancient Greece seem surprisingly mortal at the end–several of them die fighting against the Titans.  This is just confused and wrong in so many ways.  Somebody tell the director that Immortals don’t die.  Definition of immortal–somebody who never dies.  That could be literal or metaphorical, but IMMORTALS DON’T DIE!

I would watch Immortals again just to revel in the action, but I’d wind up just as frustrated and revolted at the end.  I wonder if Immortals would benefit from a Director’s cut edition–they have all the elements for a good movie there.  Somebody just needs to go in and do something with the story to make it make sense.  Maybe go back to the original legend of Theseus–something not as epic, but more satisfying. Leave the gods on Olympus, and tell the story of men.  Men and monsters–that’s all you really need for a heroic fantasy movie.

If you have any opinions or insights about Immortals, please put them in the comments here.

end