Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Star Wars Re-Review: Rogue One

I originally reviewed Rogue One back in 2016. You can click here to read that review.

Taking the time to go back through the galaxy spanning saga that is Star Wars, this is the movie that I find myself returning to. Is it weird that my favorite movie is one that doesn't focus on the Skywalkers?

I only barely touched on Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as Chirrut Îmwe and Blaze in my previous review, which is a crime. These two brought so much to the movie. And sure, they were the stand ins for the Jedi, but given the focus on the Kyber Crystals, it makes sense. Given what's been shown of the Jedi Order in the movies, it's nice seeing others with Force connections. And yes, there's Finn, who is clearly force sensitive, if not yet a force user, but here in Rogue One we have 2 very different force users. Blaze with his heavy blaster cannon and broken faith and his friend Jiang, blind but so connected to the force that he can take on an entire squad of storm troopers with just his staff or shoot a tie fighters out of the air with his blaster bow.

We see these two adrift, their temple raped, their order destroyed, and the boot of the empire crushing all beneath it. Like everyone else in this movie, the inexorable crushing machine that is the empire is rolling over them, pushing them to the brink, and this movie is about how some individuals choose to face it, knowing the odds.

It isn't a perfect movie, but it is good in spite of some of the storytelling flaws, and carried by some excellent acting from some excellent actors. And in the final analysis, I think that this may be the best Star Wars movie so far.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Towel Day!

Just because we're all dealing with the pandemic, and not really going out, doesn't mean you shouldn't know where your towel is!

Happy Towel Day!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Balticon 54

2020 is really the year that wasn't. Basically everything is being canceled and replaced with virtual options. Conventions are really no exception. On the upside, they're mostly free.

So this weekend I'll be attending Balticon.


But all the usual favorites will be hosted, an I'm looking forward to tonight's discussion on the news out of the Trek-verse, the Dinosaur Update, and the Short Film Festival.

Gonna check out the virtual dealers room and artist's alley too.

It's crappy that we can't all get together in person, but at least we have this.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Retro Review: Revenge of the Sith

Apparently I got my posting order wrong, and posted Solo before this. Ah well...

We all know where this is going, where it has to go... how it has to end.

One of the downsides of doing direct prequels is that the story has to end up where you know it will, and because we know who the key players are, we know who lives, and who dies, though we might not know exactly the route taken to get there.

For example, how does Padme die? How are the Jedi killed off? How does Luke end up on Tatooine, while Leia ends up on Alderaan?

Episode III continues to suffer from much that plagued Episodes I and II, namely the terrible dialogue (which leads to flat performances), and an over reliance on CGI. So little of the prequels feels real in the way things felt real in the original trilogy largely because they aren't real. There's nothing there for the actors to see, to interact with. Green screens and characters that aren't really there make for a boring performance.

But I do have to give the CGI artists props for their work. It is all very grandiose, appropriately visually stunning as a good space opera should be. I just wish more of it had been real. Thankfully this is a lesson that the later movies and shows are taking into account, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Chancellor Palpatine has played everyone, from the Jedi Council to the Senate to the Separatists... and as he corrupts Anakin rather blatantly, playing on his fears of Padme's death in childbirth, he admits to being the sith lord, and then waits for the Jedi to come to him. Serious power move on his part. Anakin's fall is possibly the best bit of acting Hayden Christensen performs in the movies. At least it's the first bit I actually believed.

Kenobi's heart break also felt real. When he watched the security footage of Anakin killing the younglings? When they crossed sabres on Mustafar, when he left him for dead... I believed that too.

One of the worst parts of the movie, and the one that gets brought up regularly (and deservedly) is Padme's dying of a broken heart. But did she? Palpatine couldn't let her live. Did he kill her? Honestly, that seems much more likely... I wish the idea was better supported in the movie though.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Stonehell: Karl Returns.... with a BANG!

Session 129 was played on 3/22

The Return of Karl - One upside to everyone being stuck at home is the return of old players and their characters to the dungeon…

Borumar, Thief 7 (Josh)
Karl, Dwarf 8 (Julia)
Alwin, Elf 2 (Robert)
Boris, Cleric 2 (Jeff)
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Wardog - Captain Morgan
Elwood, Cleric 1 (NPC)

While in the market hiring some new meatshields, a drunk dwarf stumbles up to them and hugs Borumar. Startled, Borumar awkwardly hugs back asking Karl what’s up. He replies he’s going to stonehell with them… The rest of the party watches confused…

Gathering their supplies, they head down to the hothouse. At the bottom of the stairs to the pump room, they see a bunch of mushroom folk. The party takes some ranged shots at them, but then Karl pulls out a “nate-bomb” and chucks it at the mushrooms from the back of the party…

And rolls a 1.


The burned party grabs who they can, and runs for the exit. The mushroom folk don’t follow.

On the way out, a troop of berzerkers is heading toward the party. Borumar, not wanting to take any chances, activates his magical war mammoth, and sends it charging down the hall.

Exiting the dungeon, they make it back to town and heal up.

Karl apologises.

With some down time, the party reviews their maps, and the clues they’ve found, and heads back to the dungeon, aiming for 2C, fight some giant bees, strip off their armor to pass through the electrical field, redress, hurry up to the Asylum, passing speedily through the mad mural hall around to the talking mushrooms, and then down to the Dorm. They fight some shadows and retrieve the treasure from their earlier victims, then continue into the northeastern side of the hothouse.

Gains: Assorted coinage, magical throwing hammer.
Kills: shadows, mushroom folk, giant bees, berzerkers
Losses: Goober the dog, Rolestad the linkman, Holden the giant rat

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Review: Neverland: The Impossible Island

While D&D is very often somewhat jokingly described as being able to play as Gandalf and Conan and go on adventures together, there's a large grain of truth to it. The stories, the movies, the fairy tales that we grew up watching and reading directly impact what we want and expect to see and do when we sit down to play. So often though the stories that are told in children's books are ignored in favor of of more "adult" tales.

Which is silly. There are amazing stories that can be told from children's literature. Sometimes what you need is a little bit of fairy dust, and a guide to help you find the way.

Neverland: The Impossible Island is one such guide.

It would be easy to do a copy/paste of Peter Pan, slap some stats on a few key things, and call it a day. The author does so much more than that. Taking the original source material, and looking at it through not only a lens of what would be fun to play, but also tweaking and updating the source material to better fit modern sensibilities.

Yes, that means there aren't racist native american caricatures to be found here.

We can all admit this was trash, okay?

Instead, you get several interesting factions of island inhabitants, descriptions of various locations, and of course stats for important characters, including Pan, Hook, Smee, and the Croc. Interestingly no stats for Wendy or Lilly... But they do get a write up.

One of the things I most enjoy about Neverland are the figments. The creatures of the island aren't natural, and are created from the bits and pieces of the inhabitant's imaginations. There's a fun and infinitely expandable chart for creating simple figments, but as they're literally creatures of the imagination, there's no limit to what you can come up with.

If you've ever been interested in adding a bit of fairy dust to your game, it's worth the suggested price of admission (though it's PWYW) to pick up Neverland: The Impossible Island.