GenCon Film Festival

Are you gaming at GenCon in Indianapolis this weekend? Well take a break this evening to check out my Scifi Comedy feature film Dead Drift!

It’s playing tonight, Saturday August 19th at 9:30 PM in the Westin Ballroom IV.

And for those of you who aren’t there, watch it online at http://deaddriftshow.com

Lots of scifi/fantasy/gamer culture references and goodness!

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Meredith’s Beacon – Sample Chapter

Wyatt let the sabre relax in his hand now that the beast was no longer moving. Black rancid blood covered the blade, matching the stains in the dead sawgrass at his feet. He absentmindedly rubbed his shoulder where an old scar showed through a tear in his cotton shirt. It didn’t really ache, but it […]

via Meredith’s Beacon – Sample Chapter — Malaise Contender

Roll Charts: Holidays and Observations (repost) 

(NOTE: This is a repost of a roll chart I put up here a couple years ago, but didn’t see a good way to “reblog” it, so I just did the old copy + paste) ​

In light of Independence Day, here is a holiday roll chart! 

(begin repost) 

While tending to my holiday obligations this year, I began contemplating the conception of holidays and celebrations within a given culture, and how vital they are in providing a cultural identity. Observed holidays can speak volumes about the values, history, and priorities of a group of people. Therefore, providing such “window dressing” when introducing a new culture to your players in a home game can help an unknown city of mindless NPCs take that leap into a living breathing community of believable people. Perhaps the townspeople are busily preparing for upcoming festivities, or maybe they are already in full swing. What is the feeling in the town? Is it pulsing with excitement, or are the people somber and reflective? Holidays can help you set a mood, quickly provide narrative exposition, or give an interesting backdrop for quest hooks. Of course, sometimes a party of adventurers steamroll their way off-script into one of these locations, so having a roll-chart ready to pull up can help an unprepared GM look like a clairvoyant. So for those that want some extra details about their towns, here’s a randomized chart.

* NOTE: This is designed for a fantasy setting, but a couple tweaks could make it work for other genres.

What kind of holiday is it? (Roll 1d12)

 

1. A seasonal festival. Spring planting, Summer or Winter solstice, or Fall harvest.

2. Birthday of a local leader (king, governor, tribal chief, mayor’s eldest daughter)

3: Anniversary of the death of a local hero, king, or town founder.

4. Religious high holiday, marking the adoption of a specific Deity as the town’s patron.

5. A public wedding celebration, perhaps of a notable person or persons.

6. Observed day of remembrance for a great battle, end of a war, or liberation of the town or realm from foreign control.

7. Local election, perhaps for mayor, sheriff, or judge. Public debates or voting may occur.

8. A great tournament, contest, or other organized leisure event.

9. Anniversary of some mystical or magical event that helped shape the town, such as a portal to another realm opening up , or the sudden appearance of a magical object or creature.

10. Anniversary of some natural or catastrophic event that helped shape the town, such as a great earthquake, tidal wave, or meteor that fell from the sky.

11. Strange custom. Perhaps completely superstitious, or based in religion or cultist beliefs. A day where everyone wears buckets on their heads to keep the corn-eating spirits away, for example.

12. Apocalypse celebration. According to legend, an Oracle, or the local calendar, this is the day that the world is supposed to end.

 

How is it celebrated? (Roll 1d20)

1. Traditional feasting.

2. Dancing, singing, and live music.

3. Courting and the admission of love for a secret object of affection. All remaining singles are randomly and forcibly coupled.

4. The granting of a boon upon the townspeople. Perhaps extra food rations, gold and treasure, or practical items.

5. With a day of silent meditation, where no business may be conducted and nobody may verbally communicate.

6. A public execution of the town’s most hated criminal.

7. With the sacrifice of an animal, where each townsperson is required to drink the beast’s blood.

8. With the sacrifice of an innocent person, virgin, or elder, in order to appease the gods or devils.

9. By exchanging gifts with strangers in the street.

10. With a huge bonfire where everyone brings an equal amount of fuel to signify unity.

11. With the juggling of geese.

12. With the choreographed mass suicide of each and every member of the town.

13. With a battle to the death between two armed combatants.

14. With the personal blessing of the town clergyman upon every citizen, including a fortune reading or prayer for luck and prosperity.

15. By sacrificing an object of personal value or importance.

16. By throwing food and excrement at all outsiders until the sun sets.

17. By participating in a seven-hour chant while holding hands in town square.

18. With the release of 1000 chickens into the village, which must be collected alive in the highest amount in order to crown the Festival Champion.

19. By marching to war on a neighboring city.

20. With a 24 Hour “purge-style” day of lawlessness with no legal ramifications.

 

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Progress Report 

Lots of little things have been added or updated to Shattered Empire this last week as I continue the slow crawl towards a proper 2.0 release package. Here’s the list:

  • Added heights and weights for all player races in the PHB
  • Revised Bard Songs and added a couple of additional powers 
  • Created an exhaustive list of Bard Instruments and Magical Implements for the Treasury 
  • Updated the Class Point section and visual charts in the PHB to reflect recent changes and remove redundancies 
  • Updated the Character Sheet with sections for Class Point tracking and combat action quick reference 
  • Made some village and regional maps 

This probably means nothing to anyone, except maybe the six people that have actually played Shattered Empire. That’s okay. Making lists is fun!

Revisiting Rogue One: A Star Wars Post

Yes, I spent the evening of May the Fourth watching a Star Wars movie, like so many other people across the world. To be fair, I had planned on watching Rogue One last night BEFORE I looked at a calendar and realized what pretend holiday it was.

I watched Rogue One in the theatre; not opening day or anything, but I made sure to have the theatre experience for this one. I don’t go out to the movies very often. I much prefer watching them at home, where I can drink some whiskey, eat popcorn that doesn’t cost $12 and hit pause to use the bathroom when I need to. Being in a crowded theatre with 100 other people doesn’t add to the cinematic experience for me. In fact, it usually takes away from it. I have a hard time getting lost in the moment or allowing the mood to overtake me when I can hear people chewing and coughing and shifting in their seats. No, give me a dark, empty living room with nobody around, not even my closest friends. I want to disappear from the physical world and become the camera lens, capturing the story and the vistas and the horrors and the budding romances and the heartbreaks and the triumphant victories.

Even so, Rogue One immediately became my favorite Star Wars movie. Even after watching it in the *gasp* theatre.

Now, before you get all defensive about your precious galaxy far far away, let me explain: I don’t think Rogue One is the BEST Star Wars movie. It’s just my favorite.

There were two main reasons that I felt this way after watching the movie on the big screen.

** MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD **

First, it tells a story that has been churning, building, and desperately waiting to be told for forty years now. FORTY. How did the Rebel Alliance get the plans to the Death Star? How did they know to look for a weakness in its construction? WHY was there a weakness in its construction in the first place? These questions have been asked and speculated upon for two generations, and finally we know the answers.

Second, it didn’t have a happy ending. War is brutal, and heroes often die. There was no escape for these protagonists, it didn’t candy-coat or white-wash it. They fulfilled their mission, yes, but they would never be the ones to reap the rewards of their success. There was no celebration. It just told the story, the way the story was supposed to be told.

Rewatching last night, a couple new things stood out to me, and it forced me to add to this list.

Third: There is no romance or sexual tension in this movie. That’s huge. Romance is the easiest writing crutch there is, and although it is so prevalent in all media–and cinema especially–because of its mirrored prevalence in our real lives, I find it tiresome and cheap when a writer uses it for tension, plot advancement, or character building. Doubly so in a war film. Some people may try to link Jyn and Cassian romantically, based on a single extended look and a climactic embrace, but this would be cheapening the real emotions of these scenes. They were not finding love within one another, they were finding Hope.

Which brings me to my fourth bullet: Hope.

Hope is the Antagonist in this film. Let that sink in. To repeat, the antagonist in Rogue One is not Krennic. It’s not Grand Moff Tarkin, or Darth Vader, either. It’s not even the Empire itself. It’s Hope. Finding it, fighting it, believing in it, surrendering to it. Hope is what must be conquered. It’s what stands in the way of the protagonists. They must discover hope within themselves, define it in others around them, and release their personal notions of morality, survival, and cooperation to be overcome by it. The Hope they must conquer in Rogue One is a hope that there is enough balance in the universe that the Rebellion can even exist in the first place. The rebels are torn apart, of different minds. Some fight because they WANT to change the universe, but not because they think they CAN. Some fight because they are angry. Some have no other reason to live. And some would rather die and fail TRYING to achieve something unattainable because they find it right, not because they find it possible. These people all have a different type of Hope. What they need is One Hope. What they need is A New Hope.

That’s why its so important that Jyn and Cassian die in that final non-sexual embrace. Cassian had to learn that he was fighting for Hope itself, not for the Rebellion. Not for victory. Not to win a war. Jyn had to learn that survival was not the ultimate goal, which is a tough lesson to learn for someone that was planted and grown in the soil of Strength. Hope supersedes our will and our desires.  The moralists had to learn that even an imperial pilot was not outside of Hope’s reach. The faithful servants had to learn that Hope was not going to win because of its intrinsic nature; it needed a catalyst. The downtrodden needed to learn that Hope existed at all, even though a shadow covered the galaxy, and they would never see its end.

The Hope they found at the end of Rogue One was the real segue between films. They discovered it, believed in it, chose it. They were not going to win just because they were right. They were not going to lose just because they were weak. And the Force was with them whether they survived or not. In fact, it was with the Empire, too. It was impartial, balanced, and essential. Hope was the force that could unbalance Chance. Hope was the force that could overcome Faith. Hope was the force that could conquer Chaos, win or lose. And now that they’ve found it, it’s time to let that Hope grow into something bigger and better. Something New.

Star Wars IV is aptly named.

Echoes Of The Goblin King

It’s hard to quantify the impact that David Bowie has had over the sci-fi and fantasy landscape. He wasn’t a George Lucas, or a Jack Vance. Still, he was a creator of worlds, a writer of atmospheres, a portrayer of characters. He, in many ways, was a role-player.

His music was a soundscape that not only accompanied fantastic stories, it actually conjured them. The characters he became burrowed their way into the collective cultural ideal of fantasy-as-art, and perhaps no one did it with more conviction.

His music was nothing short of groundbreaking. While the airwaves were being dominated by the likes of R&B singers Al Green and Roberta Flack, Bowie was becoming Ziggy Stardust and releasing science fiction concept albums. Not many have done that, fewer still in 1972. While prepubescent Michael Jackson sang about Rockin’ Robins, Ziggy sang about pink monkey-birds and spiders from Mars.

The personas he created have flavored a generation of gamers, whether they realize it or not. When kids in the eighties watched Labyrinth for the first time, they fell in love with a feeling and a mood and an experience. It was a live-action dungeon crawl, full of mazes and puzzles and monsters and magic, and waiting in the center of it all was the boss fight with the Goblin King. This wasn’t a faceless unknown evil, it was a motivated, enviable, and most importantly, understandable foe. There was depth and intrigue to this Big Bad. It was a quest hook based on decision making and investigation of character; it was the best campaign you’ve ever hoped to play. David Bowie WAS Jareth. He role played the character like only the best GM can, with mountains of unseen information and backstory that makes the character real, even if the players never discover it.

Those manifestations have left fingerprints on many other mediums over the years, one of which is undoubtedly my love for fantasy and science fiction gaming. Gaming as an expression of art is a concept I’ve wrestled with for a long time. I know that gaming has made me a better actor, and acting has made me a better gamer. There is very little difference for me between the two: wearing another character’s skin to drive a leisure activity and doing so for art’s sake use the same muscles, and Bowie as Jareth is my reference point for that marriage. Perhaps if I would have pursued music with more intensity Ziggy Stardust would have been a musical analog. I have reflected the energy Bowie put into his art, and therefore onto the world, onto my own art. I’m willing to bet many others out there have too.

Cheers to a great performer, artist, creator, and role-player. Thanks for everything, Mr. Jones.

Roll Charts: Holidays and Observations

While tending to my holiday obligations this year, I began contemplating the conception of holidays and celebrations within a given culture, and how vital they are in providing a cultural identity. Observed holidays can speak volumes about the values, history, and priorities of a group of people. Therefore, providing such “window dressing” when introducing a new culture to your players in a home game can help an unknown city of mindless NPCs take that leap into a living breathing community of believable people. Perhaps the townspeople are busily preparing for upcoming festivities, or maybe they are already in full swing. What is the feeling in the town? Is it pulsing with excitement, or are the people somber and reflective? Holidays can help you set a mood, quickly provide narrative exposition, or give an interesting backdrop for quest hooks. Of course, sometimes a party of adventurers steamroll their way off-script into one of these locations, so having a roll-chart ready to pull up can help an unprepared GM look like a clairvoyant. So for those that want some extra details about their towns, here’s a randomized chart.

* NOTE: This is designed for a fantasy setting, but a couple tweaks could make it work for other genres.

What kind of holiday is it? (Roll 1d12)

 

1. A seasonal festival. Spring planting, Summer or Winter solstice, or Fall harvest.

2. Birthday of a local leader (king, governor, tribal chief, mayor’s eldest daughter)

3: Anniversary of the death of a local hero, king, or town founder.

4. Religious high holiday, marking the adoption of a specific Deity as the town’s patron.

5. A public wedding celebration, perhaps of a notable person or persons.

6. Observed day of remembrance for a great battle, end of a war, or liberation of the town or realm from foreign control.

7. Local election, perhaps for mayor, sheriff, or judge. Public debates or voting may occur.

8. A great tournament, contest, or other organized leisure event.

9. Anniversary of some mystical or magical event that helped shape the town, such as a portal to another realm opening up , or the sudden appearance of a magical object or creature.

10. Anniversary of some natural or catastrophic event that helped shape the town, such as a great earthquake, tidal wave, or meteor that fell from the sky.

11. Strange custom. Perhaps completely superstitious, or based in religion or cultist beliefs. A day where everyone wears buckets on their heads to keep the corn-eating spirits away, for example.

12. Apocalypse celebration. According to legend, an Oracle, or the local calendar, this is the day that the world is supposed to end.

 

How is it celebrated? (Roll 1d20)

1. Traditional feasting.

2. Dancing, singing, and live music.

3. Courting and the admission of love for a secret object of affection. All remaining singles are randomly and forcibly coupled.

4. The granting of a boon upon the townspeople. Perhaps extra food rations, gold and treasure, or practical items.

5. With a day of silent meditation, where no business may be conducted and nobody may verbally communicate.

6. A public execution of the town’s most hated criminal.

7. With the sacrifice of an animal, where each townsperson is required to drink the beast’s blood.

8. With the sacrifice of an innocent person, virgin, or elder, in order to appease the gods or devils.

9. By exchanging gifts with strangers in the street.

10. With a huge bonfire where everyone brings an equal amount of fuel to signify unity.

11. With the juggling of geese.

12. With the choreographed mass suicide of each and every member of the town.

13. With a battle to the death between two armed combatants.

14. With the personal blessing of the town clergyman upon every citizen, including a fortune reading or prayer for luck and prosperity.

15. By sacrificing an object of personal value or importance.

16. By throwing food and excrement at all outsiders until the sun sets.

17. By participating in a seven-hour chant while holding hands in town square.

18. With the release of 1000 chickens into the village, which must be collected alive in the highest amount in order to crown the Festival Champion.

19. By marching to war on a neighboring city.

20. With a 24 Hour “purge-style” day of lawlessness with no legal ramifications.

 

Enjoy, and happy holidays!