Manny and the Necromancer

Putting in the
Putting in the “man” and “romance” in “necromancer”…

June 23, 2013

Last night’s Dungeons and Dragons game had perhaps the weirdest in-game use of liquor, shapeshifting, and seduction I’ve ever seen.

The party was investigating a town recently overcome with cultists of Orcus, the Demon Prince of Undeath. Naturally, such cultists are prone to things like sadism, insanity, and, I figured, occasional necrophilia. The last one was not overtly mentioned, but makes sense.

As the party snuck around the ruined town, they happened upon a tavern being used as some sort of torture chamber for the town’s survivors. Manny, playing the drow wizard Vician, decided he had a plan. He convinced the elf bard Vittoria to go along with it. Confident, he cast a spell to make both of them appear as ghouls so they could sneak into the ruins and free the two men being tortured by a necromancer.

After some routine questions from the necromancer, Manny, still in ghoul form, decided to gift the necromancer a bottle of liquor he had “found” outside. Seeing this, the necromancer took it and threw some of its contents at the very cut and very bloody men hanging on the rack. Their screams of pain filled the room as the rest of the team looking in through a window and wondered what Manny was doing.

As the DM, I too wondered what the hell he was doing.

I then had the necromancer take a swig of the bottle.

“So… he drank it?” asked Manny.

I looked at him and said, “Yeah. Why?”

“Because I bought something… It’s called Love Philter. He’s going to fall madly in love with the first creature he sees-”

“STOP!” I said.

I rushed out of the dining room and to my computer to check the online database. From the dining room, my players counted down as I accessed the site and verified this wild claim.

“Five… four… three… two… one-”

“SON OF A WHORE!”

I stomped back and conceded that, yes, the necromancer would now fall in love with the first creature it saw, but there were six people around him, including Manny, the bard, and a smattering of ghouls and demons. I then had Manny roll to see which one would become the object of his affection… and Manny rolled the number for himself.

Fine… He wanted to play like that? He wanted to make the necromancer fall in love with him. The NECROMANCER.

As in, he “loves” the dead?

Fine.

At this point, another player pulled out his phone and proceeded to play some background music.

The necromancer, being the sick bastard that he is, took what he figured was a ghoul and began leading it to the back of the bar for some… alone time.

“I… didn’t consider this,” he said as a horny necromancer guided his character.

All I could think of was this…

am+i+the+only+one+who+thinks+shes+really+ugly+_b054bfd84bb010c1a6b2c2c705061367

Manny thought quickly and managed to pantomime something to the effect of “I can’t do this with an audience.” The necromancer, eager for some cold lovin’, instructed the demons and other ghouls to wait outside. Meanwhile, the rest of the adventuring party is watching this comedy of errors through the window and wondering what to do about the monsters outside. Vittoria the bard took the hint and untied the two men, carefully leading them through the tavern while the necromancer disrobed of his armor and weapons.

Ever the sick puppy, Manny asked the necromancer, “Do you like violence?”

Also ever the sick puppy, the necromancer agreed. Manny whipped out a pair of manacles and tied the necromancer down, who at this point could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

Leaning in, many blasted the far wall and killed five ghouls before blasting the necromancer’s head into a fine red mist.

The rest of the session involved some more bloodshed and sleuth-work, but the point is that one of my players magically seduced a sadistic necrophiliac and managed to wipe out half his undead posse, thus giving the other players the chance to go after the demons.

Not sure if I should be proud or worried this plan worked.

 

Randomology-Themed Drinks 2

Art, music, gaming, and booze go together like... well, like art, gaming, and booze.
Art, music, gaming, and booze go together like… well, like art, gaming, and booze.

May 28, 2013

I’ve been sick for a few days and haven’t had the energy to really do much, but I thought I’d give you, my dear readers, another round of gaming and literary-themed drinks. I’m assuming you’d already have a good shaker handy for some of these. Standard shaker or Boston shaker both work just fine. Get ready for some fun!

Battlestar Galactica

Ambrosia, a light green drink, appears to be the drink of choice if you have the resources in the Battlestar Galactica universe. Here’s a visual approximation with a kick.

  • 3 oz absinthe
  • 3 oz simple syrup
  • 5 oz Sprite
  • 4 oz sweet and sour mix
Pour the absinthe, simple syrup, and sweet and sour mix into your shaker filled with ice. Shake well and pour into glass containing sprite with no ice. Enjoy, but be careful. Absinthe has a bit of a kick you’ll never feel until it’s too late.
The Cyberpunk
Many cyberpunk settings are all about synthetic food and cheap booze to dull away the rainy nights as megacorps watch over everything. Whether you’re reading Gibson or playing some Shadowrun, this drink should evoke that same feeling of cheap life and hard drinks. I call it the “adrenalin shot.”
  • 2 oz light rum
  • 1 oz Rockstar energy drink (Low Carb)
  • 1 oz Gatorade (any blue one)

Mix ingredients in a glass and stir. Be careful, though. Energy drinks and liquor can be even more dangerous that regular alcoholic cocktails, so use caution.

The Elf

Elves are all about nature. I figure they’d appreciate a cool, refreshing drink, and for some reason, the idea of elven moonshine appeals to me. Our elf, a bard, is currently a countess and royalty. Still, she’s a tavern fly first and foremost, so there. I give you, the “Minty Elf.”

  • 1/2 oz white creme de menthe
  • 1 1/2 oz corn whiskey
  • 1 dash lemon juice

Add all ingredients to your shaker with ice, mix well, and pour into a glass. And watch your elf fly… or pass out.

The Dragonborn

This one is based on my wife’s character in our current game. Her name is Kali, a dragonborn barbarian who is fond of spitting acid at her foes. Her companion character, a little imp she named Sally, has had her moments, too. In honor of these two characters, I present to you the “Kali and Sally.”

  • 1 oz Bacardi 151
  • 1 oz Wild Turkey
  • Coca Cola
  • 1 oz Doctor Pepper
  • 1 oz Jim Beam
  • 1 oz orange juice
This drink actually has two parts: the shot and the chaser drink. For the shot, pour the jim beam and orange juice into your shaker and mix well. Pour into a glass with the Doctor Pepper and ice. For the chaser drink, pour the Bacardi and Wild Turkey into a highball glass filled with ice. Add the Cola and stir. When you’re ready, down the shot and enjoy the chaser drink. Warning! Much like an angry dragonborn, this drink will knock you on your ass if you’re not careful.

The Tiefling

Tieflings are humans that long ago made pacts with devils. Modern-day tieflings are the descendants of that infernal deal, but most would just rather be left alone. Our tiefling, Melek, still has that fire from hell within him, and he uses it, so I give you the “Frustrated Tiefling.”

  • 5-7 dashes hot sauce
  • 1 oz Smirnoff vodka
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Mix all together in shot glass until. Add more hot sauce if necessary, and drink immedietly. For a non-shot version, add the mixture to a lager beer and enjoy slowly.

The Drow

Drow are secretive, underground elves with a penchant for torture, slavery, and sadism. So, of course, it figures out group has one. He’s actually pretty mellow, though, but he has moments of insanity. Like suggesting the group set an inn on fire so everyone will get to safety when a fight breaks out. Anyway, I give you the “Mad Fey.”

  • 1 oz cream
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 2 oz raspberry liquor

Pour the ingredients into a glass with ice and enjoy! For a slightly less strong drink, consider using simply grape juice instead of raspberry liquor.

If you happen to try any of thee, write a message below and let me know what you think.

D&D Next Preview

November 20, 2012

We finally got a chance to go through a playtest session of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and I had a chance to take notes, see how my players worked with the new rules, and get a general feeling for how this new edition will or will not appeal to players.

In my head, however, I just kept screaming “SQUEEEE!”

The Set-Up

I’m part of the D&D Next playtest group, which means I get access to the new materials as they are designed and I, along with hundreds of others, report back what we feel about the new changes.

The new edition feels like a strange hybrid of 3.5 of 4E, a bit like what Pathfinder tried to do, but this one is much more streamlined and open-ended. If you want to skip the technical stuff, read on ahead, but for those who are wondering, here are some major changes from 4E to Next:

  • Class cherry-picking appears to be back. Players will be able to take levels in whatever classes they want instead of having to choose multiclass feats from a single class beside their starting class. This means your fighter/ rogue/ wizard rides again!
  • Backgrounds and Specialties, new optional rules, can provide minor abilities such as spellcasting, contacts, and military ranks.
  • Healing surges are gone, instead replaced with Hit Dice, a pool of dice you can roll throughout the day to regain hit points. Once you roll all your Hit Dice, you better rest for the night to regain them.
  • It seems the “standard pantheon” will be done away with. Clerics, for example, get special abilities based on the god they serve, but these are specifically designated as the Lightbringer, the Trickster, etc. Text indicates this is done so players can create their own pantheons.
  • Powers are gone, instead replaced with both maneuvers and spells. Martial characters like rogues and fighters get to choose from a set of maneuvers which cover everything from reactions, to attacks, to fighting styles, to weapon tricks. Maneuvers have virtually no restrictions aside from what class you have a level in when you can choose one. It seems you will be able to multiclass rogue/ fighter, for example, and get to pick from almost everything on the list. These abilities can be used at will.
  • Vancian spellcasting is back! Fans of older edition will remember the age-old question for clerics and wizards: “Have you prepared your spells today?” Spellcasters must once again prepare spells that are lost as soon as they are cast, but there are slight differences. Characters don’t get extra spells per day based on high ability scores. Instead, clerics become more spontaneous, gaining the ability to cast from a set pool they choose every day. They can cast one spell several times or cast several throughout the day until they run out. Wizards also have the option to choose spellcasting traditions to give them at-will spells they can cast as long as they wish.
  • Solo, elite, and minion monsters are gone.
  • There is an actual condition called “intoxicated,” once and for all eliminating the need to cherry-pick conditions when a player decides to hit the ol’ dwarven ale.
  • Defenses and attacks do not scale up, but hit points, hit dice, and skills do increase, albeit gradually. This means that low-level monsters can still be used at higher levels to function as “minions,” or one-shot-one-kill monsters.
  • One of the biggest changes, and the one Wizards of the Coast will help unite the varying factions pushing for AD&D, 3.5, and 4E, is the fact that the new system is modular. If you’re a fan of old-school, classic D&D, you simply play the game as is. If you want a 3.5 or even AD&D experience, you can bring in the specialties (feats, special abilities, etc), and powers. In essence, they’re broken up the  rules into distinct packages that DMs and players can choose to use to create the kind of game they wish.

Our party was 4th-level and consisted of a hafling fighter, an elven cleric of trickery, a dwarven wizard (academic tradition), and a human rogue.

Their names were, respectably, Chikis, Sadie Moon Blue, Vorg Hammertime, and Kent. Obviously, Kent was the freak in the group.

Now, for those interested in the way this all played out, here we go.

The Good

The game did away with powers and a lot of other crap and went back down to basics: adventuring. Since there are no more encounter powers, the adventure design philosophy went back to a day’s worth of adventures. That may seem academic, but think about it. You can no longer just rest and get your hit points back or get all your encounters again after a skirmish.

This makes adventuring more tactical and much more dangerous. When confronting a single low-level spellcaster and her thugs, the party made a few mistakes and the rogue wound up getting a shocking grasp to the face… and got knocked to 0 HP. After getting healed by the others, he had to contend with a handful of HP from his lone healing potion, his Hit Dice, and the protection of his comrades.

It was a sobering return to the days of clerics (AKA armored first aid kits) and healing potions, and it worked very well. Players knew they could no longer be reckless and just hope for everything to reset.It gave a slight edge over the 3.5 system, but it didn’t turn the PCs into walking hit point reservoirs like 4E.

The simplicity with the system is also a breath of fresh air. We’ve been playing 4E for almost four years now and the group is at 25th level and on its way to fighting gods, primordials, and horrors from Lovecraft’s nightmares, but even at low levels, DMing was a CHORE.

The new streamlined rules are closer to 3.5, but without the baggage or ten thousand monster special abilities. This doesn’t mean the flavor is gone. The orcs, for example, felt like brutes and powerhouses while the bandits still felt crafty, mobile, and sneaky.

One of the biggest changes, though, is the ability to do almost anything you wish with the new Contest rules. Want to flip that table over and knock someone off-balance? Make a Strength versus Dexterity check. Want to grab the guard’s sword in the middle of the fight? Trip someone? Push them? There are quick, easy rules for all of that. Plus, the new edition has the advantage/disadvantage rule. If conditions are very favorable (such as you having just thrown dirt in the orc’s eyes or having flipped said table over to knock someone off-balance), you can roll your d20 twice and use the best result. If, however, you have unfavorable conditions (you’re drunk or just happened to be set on fire before trying to concentrate), you roll twice and take the lower one. It’s a quick, easy way to handle modifiers.

The Bad

There are only four classes out right now (five including the recently-added monk), and the classes only go up to level 10 for the playtest. This, however, is a product of the system still being in development, so it’s forgivable.

My biggest gripe, however, is with the way skills and damage don’t scale up. I foresee a major problem like with 3.5 wherein the players will beat on an enemy for an hour and still only deal a small amount of damage relative to Hit Points. This damage progression was fixed in 4E, but there isn’t anything like it in the new edition. Maneuvers and high-level spells might offset it, though, so we’ll see.

The fragmenting of skills is another. For example, was there a big push to make Knowledge: Heraldry, History, and Warfare skills? Any need to split Perception into four skills: Spot, Listen, Track, and Search? That was one of the nice fixes with the last edition.

Some classes also feel much less adaptable. Without a solid set of at-will powers, wizards and clerics can easily find themselves at a loss once all their spells are expended whereas fighters adn rogues can keep regenerating their maneuvers.

The Verdict

Overall, much more good than bad. The new edition is still in its early stages and things are changing all the time. For example, last month, they released the initial drafts of the sorcerer and warlock builds… and promptly took them back after a huge negative reaction in order to retool them.

At the end of the day, it’s like they took the lessons learned from 4th edition on ease of play and applied them to the customizability of 3.5 while streamlining the whole system. Some parts, like the skills, still feel very clunky, but since this edition is being playtested by fans BEFORE release, I’m somewhat hopeful that the final product will fix most of these problems.

And now, as promised, a few picks from our game. Have fun, and I’ll see you around.

Fired, Broke, and Beaten… Best Thing Ever

Seriously. That thing annoys the crap out of me.

November 9, 2012

Four years ago, I was in Washington DC, working as a speechwriter. I was working 50+ hours a week but making decent money. I was also freelancing on the side to help pay off the debt I’d incurred moving to DC. I was staying with a friend in Indiana who was kind enough to open the door for me while I found a job, but had to leave after only one week. The job started literally the day after I arrived and managed to find a place to live. I was stressed, lonely, and barely slept, but I was prepared to work even harder to be the best I could be and make my mark and possibly a new career…

Then… things happened. And I was $3,000 down, jobless, and had to pack what few belongings I had left into my car and drive and hope for the best. Longest 40 hours of my life.

Now, I’m making less than a third of my former salary…

But I met the love of my life upon returning to Laredo, I have a job with two bosses that I respect, teach children how to write using Mythbusters and Batman, have the time to write and do what makes me happy, started Randomology.org, and have a kick-ass D&D group. And did I mention my AWESOME wife?

All I’m saying is… plans change. The world kicks you in the tender spots. You know what? Get drunk. Cry. Meet up with friends and tear it up. Pack everything up and drive through snow and hope you don’t die… and when you get to your next destination… well, you never know.

Someone asked me upon returning, “What are you going to do now?” I just said, “Start over. What else is there to do?”

I guess as I sit here editing Charcoal Streets and reading the news for a new video for Monday, I look over at my wife working on her graduate studies, translating a new document, and I can’t believe I might have missed all this. I might have missed her.

Just four years ago, the world seems simple and difficult. Now, it’s still difficult, and I may not be making the kind of money I was making before, but I’m happy. Plus, I get to prove that I can bounce back from something like that and make the people who doubted me eat crow.

What more could I possibly want?

Oh right! We’re going to watch Mister Bean, Parks and Recreation, and Star Trek and drink Blue Moon later. WORLD. GOT. EVEN. BETTER.

Gaming, the Writer, and the Great Mirror

Mary plays a dragonborn. Manny, our new player, gave her a little Charizard toy. Said toy is now her marker on the board. Here's Mary's dragonborn encased in a block of ice because she failed tow saving throws. Any questions?

May 1, 2012

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about tabletop gaming. It’s no surprise, seeing as how “Elves with Shotguns” is just about ready to hit RPGNow. However, I’ve also been thinking about my experience in RPGs. In a way, I can chronicle my journey through gaming the same way I chronicle my journey through writing.

My first character was a runethane named Seth. He was curious about everything (much like me since I was new to the game), and used words to cast his magic. Writing and runes were his power source. This echoes my own mentality that writing was an important, if not vital, aspect of everyday life. However, Seth was also a very squishy mage. Two or three hits and Seth went down faster than Lindsay Lohan trying to get into a nightclub.

Seth was a reflection of how I saw myself. I was fairly new, and while I was proud of my early accomplishments, I knew I could do better.


Ancient rune magic. by ~KypcaHT on deviantART

My next character had no name. He was simply called the Envoy, a warrior with a purpose. He was a soldier through and through, flexible enough to fling razor-tipped darts before unsheathing a sword and going to town on the enemy or either beat a prisoner into submission or scare the information out of him. He even got the kill-shot on an elemental after having been poisoned for much of the fight. All in all, a good sophomore try, but he was tough and boisterous and lacked the subtlety of Seth.

Likewise, my early forays into writing left me with a bruised ego, so I overcompensated in some ways. I wanted the writing to be tougher, grittier, but it only lost the little elements that I enjoyed inserting into my work.

Next came Jareth, a half-elf rogue who could do a lot of things… he just wasn’t that great at any of them. One running gag with my group was that it was better to have me try and lock something than to try and open it. Because I rolled so low, it was just assumed that instead of unlocking treasure chests, I had somehow just put an extra lock on it. Yeah. That bad.

Jareth represents the evolution from enthusiastic to hard-headed and then to jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I had to find the right balance…

Next came Pommel, my warforged fighter. Resolute to not fall into the trap of the meat shield again, I built him to fit the world: this was an evil campaign. He was strong and tough but had some smarts. He wasn’t reckless… except for that level of barbarian that let him rage. Pommel was controlled chaos. He was simple but effective in what he did, and he could be versatile if the need arose.

After realizing I couldn’t do everything as a writer, I did something similar. I started specializing, but I never forgot to pick bits and pieces from here and there to supplement my work. Every writer needs to read poetry, news, and memoirs even if he or she only writes novels. Likewise, a fighter could always benefit from a level of wizard and barbarian.


warforged by ~monkesso on deviantART

Finally, we get to my latest character: Wren the warlock. Wren was very much a hard-hitter. He was a striker. He did the most with the least. He also had that bit of versatility I’d come to embrace in Pommel. He could cast ritual magic aside from blasting things at long range. He was also personable and could handle himself in social situations if need be, but there was nothing that said he wouldn’t pick a pocket if it got him.

Wren embodies my most current attitude towards writing. I write short articles like this, but I also have learned to say the most with the least in everything from Charcoal Streets to the upcoming gaming book. I read news, journals, poetry, and anything else that seems interesting if only to be exposed to new writing styles and keep mine from getting stale. Of course, I don’t doubt my writing and gaming will change. It’s just interesting to me how each stage can get represented by a character form that time period.

And now, back to making prints and proofreading the final chapters.

See you soon. Oh, and feel free to share your own gaming stories below. How do your characters represent you? Or are they reflections of what you wish you could be?

While you ponder that, please enjoy two and a half minutes of sheer nergasmic joy.

Guns, Elves, and Fireballs

Who needs a gun when you can summon a demon from the Abyss to crush your enemies?

November 30, 2011

It’s no secret that I like me some fantasy. I started out and still love science fiction, though, and you’ll find most fans have a nice overlap in their tastes like this. Sword and sorcery is awesome, especially if I can make it part of an Saturday RPG session. However, one thing that’s always bothered me is the lack of guns in fantasy.

Please note that I am not advocating gun use or gun control or anything like that. I’ve always just wondered why fantasy in general, even in stories set within a medieval time period where gunpowder could exist, shy away from firearms. Science fiction isn’t shy about including “magic” like the Force, so why is fantasy afraid of technology?

Historically, firearms have existed in one way or another for hundreds of years. Everything from single-shot hand-cannons to rocket-powered arrows made a bang on the battlefield, even if they weren’t primary weapons. Most of us probably know early firearms as the slow-loading muskets and flintlocks from old Revolutionary War movies and Three Musketeers. For most fantasy stories, a bow or a crossbow will do.


Dragon’s Breath Crossbow by ~orcbruto on deviantART

There’s something elegant about an archer with a bow, so I can see why a black powdered-fueled firearm seems clunky and overtly modern. Even a crossbow looks too much like a gun. Some writers and players want that feel of agelessness that bows and a gun-free world evoke. Imagine the elves in Lord of the Rings wielding muskets or shotguns instead of bows and arrows. It might look awesome, but it would also be noisy and time-consuming to shoot and reload.

There are valid reasons for not using firearms in fantasy, though. Some people believe they led to the death of the knight and all those wonderful medieval combat clichés we’ve all come to know and love (they didn’t, but contributed). Say goodbye to shining armor and clanging swords. Who needs those when you can shoot a .70 caliber ball of lead at your enemy from fifty yards away? There goes the one-on-one duel. Likewise, firearms are more closely tied in with modern times. Even though gunpowder and gunpowder-based weapons have been around since the 14th century, we still mostly associate them modern war. Of course, all this is moot if, in your fantasy world, magic has advanced to the point where wands and spellcasters can rain eldritch homicide on their enemies. Firearms maybe accessible… but why use them?


Vampire Hunter-Gun by ~Maury73 on deviantART

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Plenty of fantasy uses firearms. Urban fantasy justifies it by usually being set in a modern world. The Harry Dresden series, for example, has the titular wizard carry a gun to deal with threats magic can’t handle or if he tires himself out. Likewise, Final Fantasy hasn’t shied away from guns, either. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower has the main character be a gunslinger who would be right at home in an old Western (except for the whole End of the World and different realities thing).

It just depends on flavor. For example, in my own Dungeons and Dragons game, I’ve always been interested in introducing firearms, but making them one-shot weapons that have to be reloaded more slowly than a bow and arrow. I don’t want to get rid of the sword, shield, and bow and arrow, but I want to show a world in transition. Eventually, I’d like to actually have something like the Old West… but not yet.


Fantasy Pistol 01 by ~TypoCity on deviantART

Besides, it’s FANTASY. If you want to have samurai swords and revolvers next to each other, why not? If in your world, dwarves use shotguns heavy enough to double as warhammers, what’s going to stop you? Me? I’m thinking of actually writing up rules for firearms in 4E in maybe selling that pdf at some point. Don’t hold your breath, though…

In the meantime, let’s enjoy a trailer for a movie that takes this kind of genre-bending to heart, shall we?

Why Plagiarism is Good 2: The Return

If you squint, you can almost see the public domain rights.

November 16, 2011

As I work on the next Charcoal Streets story and edit the manuscript, I can’t help but wonder at the morality of borrowing characters, ideas, even entire storylines. Every writer’s done it. House? It’s Sherlock Holmes in a hospital. Lion King? It’s pretty much Hamlet with animals. Even my beloved Batman is a copy of Zorro, another childhood hero of mine.

Speaking of which, where did the Spanish and Mexican superheroes go?

Anyway, back to the subject at hand…

Borrowing ideas is not a necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re just starting out. They can be the launch pad for another, better idea. When I first started writing fiction, it was mostly science fiction and I shamelessly borrowed ideas and plots from Star Trek, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and anything and everything I could find in the genre. Looking back on those old stories will no doubt show shameless plagiarism, but it was a way to learn the ropes, how to structure a story, characters, etc.


Plagiarism by ~FatesDarkHand on deviantART

One assignment I received in college was to try and imitate a poet’s style. I can’t for the life of me remember who I picked, but I remember thinking that imitation was the last thing you wanted to do at that level. I wanted to find my own voice. However, we found that trying to imitate the style made us aware of our own style, for better or worse. We saw the words we used over and over again and even the type of diction we were more comfortable with.

Such an exercise is good for any writer, or any artist for that matter. If you’re a photographer, try to imitate a style or even a photograph you really like. You may find a new angle or even location filled with opportunity. Painters and other visual artists can do the same thing with famous works of art.

There is, however, a flipside to this exercise. You can easily become enamored with someone else’s style and forget to develop your own. For example, a lot of young artists start by drawing anime-style. It’s a simple, well-known set of designs that people can use to learn things like proportion and movement. Fine. I get that.


Anime by ~AmaraKaiba on deviantART

I don’t, however, get why many people continue to use that same style for everything they draw. I can’t tell the difference between one person’s chibi and another’s manga. This is also the problem with action and horror movies. It’s one thing to try and imitate John Woo or Alfred Hitchcock, but some people never get past the imitation. Musicians can also easily fall into this as they religiously hold on to certain styles. It takes skill to get past that initial exercise and make something unique.

Take the Ravenloft campaign for Dungeons and Dragons, for example. The original setting and adventure are shameless copies of everything from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Strahd stands in for the Count just like Adam stands in the Frankenstein’s creature. Over the last several years, though, the setting has been fleshed out. The Vistani, who originally stood in for the gypsies in Stoker’s novel, are now a full-fledged culture in the game with their own rituals, history, and the like. The land of Barovia is superficially Transylvania and any other European country that can’t pronounce its w’s, but now it is part of an elaborate prison for dark forces and offers a lot more than just Gothic locales.


Barovia by ~coyotemax on deviantART

Indiana Jones was a throwback of old pulp stories and tropes. Now, it’s a standard in action-adventure. Battlestar Galactica was a blatant rip-off of Star Wars, but it evolved into one of the most acclaimed SF series in a long time.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It was can also be a wonderful exercise into your own limitations or an experiment to try new techniques. It should not, however, become the end.

Now go out there and do some plagiarism.

Uhm, I mean research.

And if you need a short break, here are a group of guys who took eighteen different genres and turned them into something new and awesome.

Randomology-Themed Drinks Vol. 1

Art, music, gaming, and booze go together like... well, like art, gaming, and booze.

November 9, 2011

I recently discovered Drinkify, a website that matches muscicians with the type of drink best suited to listen to their music. There’s a short list of a few samples over at Buzzfeed, but I think someone needs to make a database for drinks best suited to artists and other areas of art. And gaming.

In fact, we need to get some drinks together. Let’s get started.

Edgar Allan Poe

Black Faerie

  • 1/3 oz absinthe
  • 2/3 oz blackberry liqueur

Add blackberry liqueur to shot glass and layer absinthe on top.

H. P. Lovecraft

Dark and Stormy

  • 1 oz black rum
  • 1 beer

Pour rum into the beer. Drink.

Don Quixote

Butterbeer (light)

  • 1 part Schnapps, butterscotch
  • 1 dash Schnapps, vanilla
  • 7 parts cream soda

Add both vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps to mug. Pour in cold cream soda and stir very gently.

Neil Gaiman

Scotch Toddy

  • 1.5 oz Scotch
  • 1 tea bag
  • 1 tbsp honey

Put scotch and honey into a mug. Add a tea bag and fill with boiling water. Steep for a few minutes, then remove the tea bag.


Fizzy Drinks by ~JS92 on deviantART

Dungeons and Dragons

This one actually has several drink suggestions based on your style of play. I’m planning on making the spiced wine this weekend to try it out.

Boiler-maker

  • 1 bottle of beer (bock works best)
  • 1 shot bourbon (Jim Beam works best)

Add the shot of bourbon to the beer. Drink.

German Hot Spiced Wine

  • 1 gal Burgundy wine
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1 tsp all-spice
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • 3 lemons
  • Sugar

Slice half the orange and 2 lemons. Peel the zest from the last lemon. Drop into pot. In a tea ball or a piece of cheese cloth, put the allspice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, drop into pot. Add the burgundy and water. Heat on low until hot, add sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours. Turn off and let rest 30 minutes. Remove tea ball or cheesecloth. Serve in warmed mugs and garnish with 1/2 slice orange floating in cup.

Neon-geek

  • ½ oz bourbon
  • ½ oz Mountain Dew
  • 1 oz cinnamon Schnapps

Mix all ingredients in mixing glass, along with 1 cup crushed iced. Strain into margarita glass and serve immediately.

That’s it for today, folks. I’d like to make this a regular feature. If you have specific drink recipes or combos you think are applicable for authors, art, gaming, movies, whatever, send me a message through the Contact Me page and I might include it next time. For now, with the recent announcement that Where’s Waldo? might be made into a movie, enjoy this possible sneak peak at what this cinematic, uhm, experience, might be like.

The Luck o’ the Skittish

It's real because I say so.

June 15, 2011

Careful readers may have noted how I tend to knock on people who hold outrageous beliefs for the sake of tradition or comfort. Think gays are committing a sin by loving and existing because the Bible says so? Do you think that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles despite the Bible being entirely opposite to what the Bill of Rights guarantees?

Guess what? You’re a moron for ignoring reality.

On the other hand, it’s comforting to believe in something that has no basis in reality. It’s yours. It’s personal. Conspiracy theorists work this way. They see themselves at the center of some unimaginable tangle of powerful beings and organizations that can somehow control everything from the political landscape, to the progress of technology, and yet cannot catch these desktop detectives as they unravel the web of deceit.

And yet you and I are much too smart for that, right?

Well, I got to thinking…


Tempting fate by ~jsings on deviantART

How different is superstitious thinking from fanatical religious thinking? Not that far off. We had people who believed, who genuinely believed, the world was going to end last month. Some people, even if not religious themselves, will cross themselves before entering a Catholic church, just in case. My sister refuses to shuffle cards a certain way when we play poker because it will disrupt her card-ma.

Yes, “card-ma.” Her word, I swear to Bob.

I have a Dungeons and Dragons player who insists her dice rolls don’t count if the die touches an object before it comes to a standstill. While I don’t think she really believes it, she insists that touching another object throws her off. In fact, gamers are finicky when it comes to their dice. Some dice are just “lucky.” Of course, gaming dice aren’t tested for balance like casino dice, so there very well might be lucky and unlucky dice.

Everyone’s done these sorts of things, and I tend to laugh when I see them or hear about them.

I believe in chance and choice. I believe there are things I can and cannot control. The things I cannot control are the events that are beyond my grasp, the choices others make, and the totality of existence. I can’t tell lightning where to strike. I can’t make others think what I want them to think. I can’t luck out and hope a publisher sees my work online and offers me a contract.


love is chaos by ~parasite3 on deviantART

I can, however, choose to not stand out during a lightning storm while wearing a tin foil hat. I can learn how to put together a coherent argument and make my point as persuasively as possible. I can make my work the best possible and look for ways to advertise and get the word out.

There is nothing that says charms, spells, or even good luck rituals work for us, and yet so many of us really do cling to these beliefs. I know someone’s going to fire back with, “But that’s the die I used when I slew the vampire king! It’s lucky!” or “I was wearing this shirt when I met the love of my life. It’s my lucky shirt.”

Well, show me the study where we discovered luck. Show me equations. Prove to me that our lives and random events around said lives are controlled by invisible force fields and I’ll eat my words!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do laundry and make sure I have my gaming shirt for this Saturday. When I wear my Star Wars shirt, I KILL!


Old school gaming by ~Kiaaaa on deviantART

And now, for your viweing pleasure, links.

  • And finally, I have to say that while I’ve never heard of or tried this beer, this commercial alone makes me want to do it. it’s over the top, obviously conscious of its own absurdity, but it owns it like a boss. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Friday.