Learning How to Spell 11: Details, Details, Details

Hoard toilet paper!

May 21, 2012

The apocalypse has been a recurring topic in the office lately.

I’ve been doing research for an upcoming game. It’s set decades after a failed alien invasion, and though I wrote about it last year and we gamed for several weeks, my players asked me to restart it. I’ve been doing a little research because we’re going to do new characters and the setting will also be different in order to take the story and game to the next level.

That being said, I’ve been looking back at my notes and seeing the kinds of things this group of cryogenically-frozen would have been given before getting shunted into the future. I also need to familiarize myself with the kinds of things a post-apocalyptic society needs in order to run.

You know what? That’s a lot of stuff. Also, I know wish I had an NBC-proof bunker stocked with food and weapons.

Zombie Survival Kit 1 of 2 by ~tankmonkey2002 on deviantART

The research, though, has helped me flesh out the world as it exists decades after the invasion. I’ve looked at survival kits, bunker designs, and what cities would do without a hundred years of human maintenance. Not only am I seriously considering hoarding food and toilet paper now, but I’ve re-learned that society needs a LOT to keep functioning. The lists of supplies could easily fit in a book. The sheer number of medical supplies is enough to stock a hospital, even if you cut the list down to the things you could expect a well-stocked team to carry around. In a perfect world, I could use all this information to create a very rich, textured world full of possibilities.

I’m not going to do that, though.

Then why do all the research, you may ask? Why not use all this information?

I’m not going to use all of it because it would be a waste of notes. When my players ask me what they find when they raid a medical base or a hospital, for example, I’m going to give them a general idea and if they need something specific, we’ll just assume they have it. I’m not going to keep track of individual aspirins. The game is supposed to be fun and move along, not concern itself with the minutiae of inventory. The game should be about making it past the next flooded section of the city, finding that weapon stash before the bullets run out, or evading the aliens hunting them for food.

Post-Apocalyptic England town by ~indie-rec on deviantART

That same kind of research is also essential in writing. I have pages upon pages of research on Charcoal Streets, for example. The mythology is extensively written and based on two thousand years of Christian mythology and legend.

However, I’m not going to put everything I find on the page. For example, I refer to Carmen as one of the Fallen Sons (or daughters) because the nephilim, half-human, half-angels, are cited as having existed before Noah’s flood. I figured such a title would be indicative of a race of people who were shunned by Heaven. Likewise, Carmen usually uses Glock pistols. I chose these guns because earlier models had interchangeable parts and someone like Carmen could use this to her advantage. Likewise, Glock pistols have a slender profile an assassin could use to her advantage. Plus, I think they look cool and, since many government agencies use them, they evoke professionalism.

I know all this, but it’s not going to go on the page.

Research is a tool to figure out what kinds of details should go into your writing. It’s the thing that lets you know if there are mountains near your city and if they once had mines you can use as a location for your epic final confrontation. Research lets you know the kinds of supplies post-apocalyptic survivalists would hoard. You don’t NEED to show all this, though, but it’s important to know how and why.

Think of research as the practice before an athletic competition. You get all the kinks out and figure out what kinds of moves and warm-ups to do before the big game. Once game day rolls around, you just do it and it makes sense.

See you around the web, folks, and don’t forget to buy your copy of “Elves With Shotguns,” not on sale at RPGNow. Be sure to leave a review, too!

Let me leave you with one of the scariest videos I’ve ever seen. I don’t mind spiders, but even I got squicked by this.

Apocalypse Meh

Party's over, folks. We really do have to work today.

May 23, 2011

So… We’re all still here.

Big surprise, but the impending apocalypse didn’t actually happen. The predictions of a lunatic were taken seriously by thousands and didn’t amount to much more than a few earthquakes and several wackos all over the world thinking that this was their last week on Earth. One woman tried to kill herself and her children because she didn’t want them to suffer through the Rapture. A few guys made thousands of dollars by promising religious folks to give them money to care for their pets when said owners disappeared. Those who followed this prediction now look like fools.

And what have we learned, children?

People is dumb.

Oh yeah, we are. No doomsday prediction has ever come true. Ever. However, when some people believed the end of the world was coming, we had a mix of reactions, and this really lets you know what our priorities are in this day and age.

RaPturE.. by ~azriel911 on deviantART

Hush, Little Baby

Take, for example, the mother who attempted to kill her children and herself with a box cutter. What mother would willingly kill their child? If you’re a proponent of assisted suicide and of ending a loved one’s pain when all other options are gone, then you might understand where this woman was coming from. However, there’s a very big difference between a doctor, someone with an advanced degree, telling you the scientific reasons why your mother, wife, child, or someone else has no hope for recovery and a lunatic who’s been wrong before saying that God’s coming to town.

What was the evidence? What was the overwhelming piece of information that convinced this mother that death was the most merciful thing she could do? And I use “merciful” in the most hesitant way since death by box cutter seems pretty gruesome.

Why did she do it? Someone said God said so. Faith is blind.

puppy by ~flison on deviantART

I Loves My Dog

Then take the guys who made thousands of dollars by telling people they would take care of the taken’s pets when the Rapture took the faithful away. People were actually worried about their pets. Not only that, but they were so secure in the knowledge that they were sinless enough to be taken into Heaven on Saturday that they made preparations.

They didn’t pray and ask for forgiveness. They didn’t try to make amends. They were already convinced of their inherent moral superiority to the sinners and heathens of the world. There was zero doubt.

Of course, it could also be that they wanted to be sure… just in case. It still shows a surprising amount of confidence on their part seeing as how the payment was non-refundable, which is how our two entrepreneurs managed to keep the cash.

After the Apocalypse by ~VampireDarlla on deviantART

What Now?

One of the big questions is what will happen to the cult members since the world is still here. Do they understand that their leader is full of it and go on with their lives? Do they see the error in believing someone apparently has divine knowledge of a very specific event?


If past incidents are any indication, they will believe even harder. You could, of course, play Apocalypse bingo with the list of excuses that will get paraded around. Everything from Beck’s followers to Y2K survivalists, to the believers in this latest faux-catastrophe will continue to cling on to their beliefs because, in their minds, they were not proven wrong. Something changed. God blinked.


When you believe something on faith alone, just because you felt it, nothing will change your mind. Ever. You’d need a fundamental change in your being to alter your thought. Frankly, this sort of thinking and the sheer number of people who believed in it or felt scared enough to pull crap like this should give us pause. It’s the same mentality every conspiracy theorist holds on to. Evidence to the contrary isn’t proof of an error. It’s proof of a deeper conspiracy.

Me? I was drinking with a fedora on while the world was supposed to end.

Beer by ~PuzzledBean on deviantART

Now let’s see how awesome this world is and what we could have lost if it all had ended on Saturday.

  • You want to see what sheer nuclear death looks like? Check THIS out.
  • Have you ever wondered what a singularity of pure manliness looks like? Wonder no more!
  • And finally, if you want a battle to level buildings and shatter civilization, here’s Beiber versus Beethoven in the rap duel we all knew was coming. Personally, Ludwig won. See you later, Randomologists!

5 Movies You Need to See

It's so cool, it's blue!

March 30, 2011

Let’s lighten things up a bit.

Every year, hundreds of movies get released. Some go straight to video. Others go the big screen, and a lucky few get the star treatment and are put out with a massive advertising campaign that will ensure everyone and their grandmother goes to see it.

This does not, unfortunately, translate as quality.

Here are five movies you might have missed in the last few years but should certainly take a look at.

Aaah! Zombies

Tim: I don’t feel like a zombie.

Nick: Yeah, well idiots don’t feel stupid but they are.

A deadly chemical weapon is lose on the streets of LA and a group of unsuspecting friends have been contaminated and turned into the living dead… except they perceive everyone else as acting strangely while they’ve developed superpowers.

Zombie comedies can be done wonderfully. Shaun of the Dead is one example. Other zombie movies, comedy or not, are just an excuse to show gore. Aaah! Zombies does something other films haven’t done. It shows the classic zombie outbreak, but it shows it from the point of view of the infected. Since their metabolism is moving so much slower, they perceive everyone else as speaking gibberish and moving abnormally fast.

In other words, the infected don’t know they’re zombies.

That’s pretty much the set-up to every comedic scene, everything from the realization that brains are delicious, to an exploding cat, and to the eventual revelation that our heroes are really brain munchers.

For a movie with a very low budget, you really don’t mind the cheap effects. There’s not much gore, but what there is gets used to perfect comedic effect. This is a movie that knows its audience. It uses every stereotype in the book and turns it on its head.

The military veteran. The geek. The dumb friend. They all get their moment to shine and actually develop as characters. You actually end up caring about characters that start out as nothing but stereotypes. To top it off, it contains one of the best death scenes I’ve seen in a movie. I almost teared up.


Madeline: Please, you don’t understand. She’s special. She needs… special food.

Speaking of zombies… What could be worse than seeing someone you love turned into the undead? Not having the mercy to put that loved one out of its misery.

Grace is the story of a mother who, after a car accident, loses her husband and her unborn child. However, instead of having the dead fetus removed, she agrees to go through with the birth. The child is born to everyone’s surprise… but things get downright disturbing as mommy realizes little Grace won’t eat anything but blood. Sucked from mommy’s nipples…

And the human body only has so much blood to give, right?

Grace is that rare horror movie that actually disturbs you on a deep level. It’s not about gore or blood, although those play a part. It relies on the premise that a mother will do anything and everything to save her child. If that includes using her own blood as milk while her abomination of a child sucks it from her breast, so be it. If it means killing others for blood, okay.

But there are no villains in this story. Not really. The horror is internal. The baby is not a monster in the traditional sense. It was born this way. This film uses the idea of the horror within and takes the concept of motherhood to a horrifying extreme.

Let me just say right here and now that this movie is not for the psychologically squeamish. This movie can grab you by the brain.

Trick ‘r Treat

Billy: Charlie Brown’s an asshole!

Remember old slasher films from the 80’s? Dark neighborhoods, creepy killers and things in the darkness, urban legends, and enough camp to fill a season of Star Trek?

Trick ‘r Treat takes the best things about all those movies and mixes it into an anthology of Halloween-themed stories.

Set during a single Halloween night, the four stories intertwine Pulp Fiction-style into a single narrative detailing the lives of people in a nameless Midwestern town. Careful viewers will see characters from different stories in the same scene as events in one story inadvertently affect the others. Although it appears to follow the standard slasher formulas, like Aaah! Zombies, it plays with those expectations and delivers a movie that satisfies the hunger for real entertainment.

Perhaps more than Aaah! Zombies, this one aims for the horror audience and uses the tropes of 80’s slasher movies and gives them a fresh look and feel. It’s a modern movie, but it has the same fresh feeling that Halloween did when I first saw it more than fifteen years ago. It’s not so much that it imitates other movies. It’s that this movie can’t be imitated.

RoboCop: Prime Directives

John Cable: What the hell is that?
Alex Murphy: That’s the hell I got you beat your next move.

RoboCop was a landmark movie event. It was gritty, ultra-violent, and a surprisingly sophisticated commentary on modern consumer culture. In short, it provided a standard for action science fiction that has rarely been equaled or topped.

The sequels? Not so much…

Somewhere along the way, the franchise lost its sense of direction. The television series was okay, as far as it could go on television, but when Prime Directives came out, it was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Set more than ten years after the original movie (and ignoring the sequels and television show), Prime Directives shows a RoboCop who is very much aware of his own age in a city nearly dominated by OCP. As flashbacks reveal more of Alex Murphy’s life before being turned into Delta City’s cyborg defender, RoboCop must deal not only with a terrorist plot that could kill every human on Earth, but with a former partner turned into a deadlier, more advanced RoboCop unit.

The movie starts small, but it quickly balloons into an epic story that ends with, perhaps, the only way the RoboCop franchise could end. I won’t give it away, but I’d say it’s more than satisfactory.

This miniseries is no RoboCop. I won’t pretend it gets anywhere near the original. However, it goes back to the satire, the dark humor, and the character-centered plot that made the first the classic it is today. It’s got plenty of allusion to the original film. The miniseries debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel (yes, before it changed to “Syfy”) and got very little publicity. I saw it, though, and it still stands out to me as a great example of what can be done with a small budget and a lot of heart.

Pardon the crappy low-res trailer with bad late 90’s trailer music. It’s the best I could find.

Mother Maiden

Mother Maiden: We are the things that you see out of the corner of your eye. The shapes and shadows that skirt the periphery… We are the folklore legends… the frost giants… the leprechauns… the trolls under the bridge… the ghosts in the attic…

Within Temptation is one of my favorite bands. They have an epic, cinematic sound that goes great with things like Dungeons and Dragons. I usually listen to them as I write story concepts. Their new album, The Unforgiving, is their best, so far, I think, and it goes a little further by creating a modern fantasy story where damned souls work towards absolution by fighting evil with an enigmatic figure named Mother Maiden.

The band has released two of the short films tied to the album. Comic books will follow soon, too. Although the films barely touch on the world of The Unforgiving, they’re enough to keep me wanting more.

Oh, and the music’s good too. The second film is already out in case you want to see that one.

And now on to the links!

  • Any good tabletop gamer knows that dice stacking is a time honored tradition. I, however, would be hard-pressed to do these incredible balancing acts.
  • Grumpy Dudes is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. As has been pointed out in other sites, a minister with no education proclaims that next month will herald the end of all things. Please take a moment to visit the Grumpy Dudes and see what you should do before the End of Times next month.
  • For anyone who needs some cuteness in their life, I present to you some pug thugs.
  • And finally, in the tradition of movies so cheesy they might be pure awesome… Hobo with a Shotgun.

Why America Should Die

Yup. It needs to roll over and die. Yuppers.

September 29, 2010

America is dying.

Listen to the furor on the right. This nation has been changing, little by little, until it is almost unrecognizable by the hard-working average American. Health care, gay rights, secularism, and a host of other problems are taking this country and changing into something our own parents won’t recognize in a few years.


Progress is not evil. “Progressivism” is not an evil term. I am not a Marxist. I do not condone genocide. And as much as I cannot stand Beck and the Fox noise machine, I don’t want them censored. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I am a naturalized citizen. I wasn’t born here, so it scares me when I a) can writer better than the “patriots” in the Tea Party, b) understand American history and government better than the voice of the people, Fox News, and c) must explain to people the difference between liberalism, progressivism, Nazism, and communism and that we don’t believe in government handouts.

bleeding heart liberal by *aNg76 on deviantART

What is progress?

Let’s take the evolutionary viewpoint. Everything that lives must adapt to its environment, to different conditions. If it gets too cold, those creatures that could withstand a little more cold will thrive. If food becomes scarce, the more efficient hunters will survive.

Likewise, our country’s changed. In the last twenty years, the internet, television, and mass media have brought us all together. Whether we like it or not, we are living in a global community. What happens in China affects us in America. Drug violence in Mexico stirs up political movements in the Southwest. These connections always existed, but now each one of us can participate. This site alone has readers in the North America, Australia, and a few other places.

With zero advertising budget.

Imagine the kind of impact actual world-shattering events create.

This multiculturalism and melting pot of ideas is the new environment for our country. Like an animal in the wild, we find ourselves in a world filled with new creatures, new neighbors, and limited resources. We have to adapt, learn from others, or else risk sinking into stagnation. There are already signs the United States is losing ground in the global stage.

Of course, the fear that America will change hinges on one basic premise: the United States of America cannot be better than what it already has become.

I’m calling crap.

Miss America by *mbreitweiser on deviantART

Anything can be made better. Anything. Your mom’s cooking? Could use more salt. That perfect date? There were no fireworks. Your favorite movie? Wasn’t narrated by Christopher Walken.

My point is that America can be better than it is. In fact, it can be better than our Founders intended.

What!!? The Founders were WRONG?!

Well, that assumes they all agreed. They didn’t. The biggest mistake we can make is thinking America has a destiny. It doesn’t America isn’t a government. Government is people. Americans come from dozens, hundreds of backgrounds. We came from different countries, spoke many languages, and today we live together and believe very basic principles. We may disagree on how to get there, but if we’re not trying to make this country better, what are we doing?

Every person who says we need to go back to the way things were is dangerous. They’re dangerous because they wish to relieve the mistakes of the past based on some vague sense of duty to the intentions of our Founding Fathers. They want us to just have faith that, somehow, the work we did getting here was a mistake and everything will somehow right itself.

No faith.

Faith is blind. Trust goes both ways.

Blind faith by *ValentinaKallias on deviantART

I can’t trust the Founding Fathers since I’ve never and will never meet them. The only thing I can do is rely on years of education, common sense, and the observations of tangible reality all around me.

Oh noes!

And what do these observations tell me?

We can do better. We can always do better. So next time someone tells you that we need to go back the way things were, or that we’re not doing what the Founders wanted… Tell them that the Founders aren’t here, they were men, flawed men, and that if they know of a way to stop the social inertia of hundreds of millions of people, go right ahead.

If the America of today dies, ask yourself what part of it is dying. Is it the part that clings to outdated ideas, beliefs based on emotion and gut-feelings instead of reason and observation, and a need to fight against the “other”?

Then yes, let it die. In fact, take it outside and shoot it.

New American by ~Chrislore on deviantART

And now on to the links.

  • Ever flown and picked up a Sky Mall magazine? The things in there are neat, sometimes, but sometimes I see something that just… no one needs crap like this. No one!
  • Justin Beiber recently said he was this generation’s Kurt Cobain. There are SOME similarities. Apparently someone took offence and noted the many ways Mister Beiber and Mister Cobain are different.
  • I’m sure most people have heard by now, but Katy Perry was kicked off Sesame Street because she apparently provided a little more boob for the sketch than the kids had seen since breastfeeding. Oh well.
  • Dark Archivist is a blog run by a good friend of mine. She’s got some really good posts, but this one on the Tea Party is one of my favorites so far.
  • Who exactly is fighting the legalization of marijuana in California? As it turns out… it’s the alcohol industry. Guess no one likes competition, huh?
  • And finally, Priest will be coming out in a few months. I’m kind of excited for Karl Urban and Maggie Q, but I understand the movie bears no resemblance to the comic. Oh well. Looks like it might be a decent splatterfest.