ALIEN – Destroyer of Worlds

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We are finally nearing the conclusion of Destroyer. It’s taken a while – months actually – because we play later at night and every other week recently, and not for long. Still, even those short recaps add up significantly, and the overall word count for Destroyer will be 20,000+. So it’s definitely the length of a fat screenplay, which is appropriate considering that it is a “cinematic scenario” as described by Free League and not an open ended roleplaying session. You’ve got your three Acts, rising drama and the final denouement.

That’s one reason why I like compiling the sessions into story format with screenshots; anyone reading it will experience the story as one contiguous event, not broken up by weeks of downtime. It has been great, except that I admit I have a hard time keeping the rules in my head. It’s because we don’t play that often, and in the gaps in-between we tend to forget rule details. But we have some handy cheat sheets to use, and the character sheet for Roll20 someone imported looks great and does most of the math calculation for you.

The ruleset for Alien the roleplaying game is clean and simple and does the trick of making your PC feel vulnerable and scared, particularly as your Stress levels rise and your own mortality is shoved in your face by some metal-toothed horror.

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Free League actually has a full Colonial Marine campaign coming out soon, and while it looks interesting, I think after two shorter cinematic jaunts into the ALIENS universe I’m going to take a break from it. I do enjoy it, and would go back to it at some future point, but there are other games and systems to be enjoyed too.


Army of the Dead – Movie Review


I don’t normally do movie reviews (plenty of other sites for that) but I watched part of this last night and felt compelled to spout my worthless two cents. That’s how bad it was. It urged me to blog about its inane stupidity in hopes that someone – someone! – out there reads this and doesn’t waste their time on the film. Don’t be fooled by the amazing cover art! Someone else created that, and it does look awesome.

Now, let me preface my tirade with this: I think director Zack Snyder seems like a nice guy. I do. He’s passionate about his craft, he gets money from studios for big budget films, he cranks them out reliably, and he has legions of fans who really admire his work. I am not one of those fans. I do not like ANY of his movies – to various degrees of dislike – but they all do have kernels of good ideas and swaths of great directorial talent. Occasional good ideas makes a good movie not.



Netflix premiered this zombie heist escapade May 21st but it had a theatrical run before that. I’m not sure how well it performed in theaters, but probably not that good and will really find its roll on Netflix.

To briefly summarize the movie, a government secret has gone awry (heard that before? Same trope from Return of the Living Dead, an actual GOOD zombie movie) and masses of zombified humans erupt from the mistake. The zombies are somehow quarantined in Las Vegas and here is where the Ocean’s Eleven-style of heist comes into play. Dave Bautista (Drax of Guardians of the Galaxy) is hired by a rich guy to put together a team and get his $50 million stash out of a hotel in Vegas that is surrounded by flesh eating zombies. See, the government is about to nuke the city so the clock is ticking; get in, get out, get rich.

That all sounds well and good, and ya know, on paper, I would be on board with such a story. If it had the balls of the movies it unsuccessfully tries to mimic, the aforementioned Ocean’s Eleven and…well, every fucking zombie movie ever made. Army of the Dead doesn’t score many points for originality. And that’s part of the problem; this genre has been dug into the dirt for over a decade now, and while still popular (hell, I will always always love zombies and the genre) I feel that to keep the story going you need to add more twists. Zack Snyder tries to do with this emotional plot points and some father/daughter drama, but for me it all falls flat. I didn’t care. On the zombie side of things, he tries to liven things up with SMART ZOMBIES, something George Romero already tinkered with in Land of the Dead long ago.


The Queen Zombie

So yes, now that means we get a smart, logical Queen Zombie who leads other hordes of calculating nasty zombies. All I could think though when I saw the actress slinking about and sniffing enemies was how much she was overacting. Of course, it was overacting at Snyder’s off screen request. “More snarling! More glaring! Good! Good! Perfect!”

I will be honest, I could not watch this whole movie. So this is a half-assed movie review and really just a rant. I don’t care. I was bored by it. I hated all the characters. The acting sucked (Dave Baustista was fine, I had no problem with him). But as far as breathing new undead life into a half-dead genre; no, Army of the Dead did not do that for me.

The current Metacritic score as of today is surprisingly similar: 57 for the Critics, and 5.8 for the Users. That’s a LOT of people who think this was just an average-not-worth-remembering zombie film. Maybe one day Zack Snyder can make a movie that is intelligent AND flashy, but I have my doubts. This is what he’s good at, shallow films with rehashed ideas and moments of great directing that never quite come together. Good luck, Snyder. I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

Humor – Crappy Children’s Artwork

Crappy Children's ArtworkThis is a website we found a long, long time ago that has given us many hours of enduring chuckles.  I’ll let you pick which ones resonate most for you.  It’s a site for grownups, or at the very least PG-13.  The author has no qualms about using harsh language to insult the artistic skills of children, but therein lies the humor- it’s so unfairly biased that it’s just ridiculous.

CRAPPY CHILDREN’S ARTWORK

Humor – With Kids vs. Without Kids

I’m currently in the No-kids camp, but this was shared with me by people in the Kid-camp. Click on the image to expand to full size.

“Without Kids – 8:30am: An angel comes down and gently kisses your forehead.  Sleep well, sweet prince.” 

nokids

Site update 2 May 2021

I added some more gaming recaps to the Roleplaying section. Part of Tomb of Annihilation (5e), Forge of Fury (5e), Lost Mine of Phandelver 2019 (5e), and Servants of the Cinder Queen (Dungeon World). Tomb and Lost Mine were in-person games, while Forge and Cinder Queen were purely online using Roll20.

Curse of Strahd 5e

I have been running this campaign on Roll20 since mid-2020 and it is still going on. I’ve long heard it was one of the best 5th edition campaigns, and now that’s we’ve put the foot to the pedal and ground out a sizeable chunk of the adventure, I would have to agree that it is one of the better ones – if not the best. I never got into the Ravenloft setting in 2nd edition (which I now regret) but I did run Ravenloft I6 several years back (link here) and it was great fun. But Curse of Strahd is a different beast, taking the PCs from 1st to 9th level (more or less) and pitting them not just against Strahd and his deplorable castle of death, but the whole kingdom of Barovia and the myriad NPCs and mysteries enmeshed within. And there are a LOT of NPCs and mysteries.

One of our favorites so far has to be Pidlwick II, the evil Chucky doll. Although the PCs were supposed to meet him much later in the campaign, I loved the picture and idea of the character so much that I transplanted him to Vallaki and included him as part of a Tarroka clue to directly benefit a party member, and used Pidlwick as a permanent ring of regeneration. The player benefiting from P2 loves him so much and would rather have his own PC die than give up the evil doll! Now that is devotion.

Princes of the Apocalypse – Reloaded


I doubt anyone is reading this 6 year old D&D campaign anymore, but if you ARE, I have reloaded and updated all the links to the stories so they should be accessible now. Princes gets some flack in the community for not being that great, but I thought it was awesome. I did change things up some, so maybe that had something to do with it. We never got to the absolute end – maybe one session away – but life interrupted and the campaign had to stop. However, the penultimate session really works well as a campaign capper and was fun as heck, so I’m happy enough with that. My favorite parts of Princes were all the sessions at Feathergale Spire, and the side quest at Yartar that I inserted myself, it wasn’t part of the adventure really except as a passing mention.



Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft


Hot off the Wizards of the Coast press is a brand new sourcebook that I’ve been eyeing for a while. As a DM currently running (and loving) Curse of Strahd, this book may come a little too late, but from what I have seen so far it is way more than just “Strahd and Barovia.” Much more.

The cover notably has the quintessential vampire himself, along with Van Richten and Esmerelda (who nearly died herself in my current campaign at the fists of a grumpy golem in the Amber Temple). So while the sourcebook certainly does help one flesh out Barovia, it is much more as it fleshes the Domains of Dread as a whole, which incorporates other demiplanes and darklords other than Barovia and Strahd, including (but not limited to):

Bluetspur and the God-Brain, Darkon and the Inheritors, Mordent and Wilfred Godefroy, G’henna, The Nightmare Lands, Sea of Sorrows and more. It’s a book for DMs and players, but mostly DMs, which is nice because the majority of 5e books geared toward players don’t interest me.


DR. VIKTRA MORDENHEIM, DARKLORD OF LAMORDIA

Some of the new rules include:

Seeds of Fear

Aside from supernatural sources of dread and monsters who strike terror in their victims, fear is subjective and often quite personal. A battle-hardened warrior and a reclusive scholar might not deal with frightful circumstances in the same way. During character creation, a player can choose up to two Seeds of Fear to represent things their character finds truly frightening. The Seeds of Fear table offers some examples. These can change over time as characters grow, overcome old fears, and discover new uncertainties. Work with players to determine when their Seeds of Fear might change.

A character never has more than three Seeds of Fear; if you gain a new seed and already have three, choose which of your old fears is replaced by the new one.


Fear

An overwhelming foe or horrid monster doesn’t need magic or some supernatural ability to strike fear into the most stalwart adventurers. During any frightful encounter, you can call on a character to make a saving throw to resist being scared. The character must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened until the end of their next turn.

Any of the following circumstances might be reasons to have one or more characters make saving throws to resist being frightened:

  • The character experiences one of their Seeds of Fear.
  • An enemy is immune to the character’s attacks or spells.
  • An enemy demonstrates it can deal enough damage to reduce a character to 0 hit points in one blow.
  • A creature is alien or monstrous in ways the character never could have imagined.
  • An object undermines a character’s understanding of reality.

Stress

Charging headlong into terrifying situations is the stock in trade for adventurers. Among the Domains of Dread, though, periods of respite between harrowing experiences can be rare. Even the hardiest adventurers find themselves worn down over time, their performance suffering as they struggle to cope with the dread and despair.

Various circumstances might cause a character stress. Stress can be tracked numerically as a Stress Score, increasing in trying situations and decreasing with care. At your discretion, a character’s Stress Score might increase by 1 when one of the following situations occurs:

  • A tense, dramatic moment, especially one involving one of a character’s Seeds of Fear
  • Every 24 hours the character goes without finishing a long rest
  • Witnessing the death of a loved one
  • A nightmare or darkest fear made real
  • Shattering the character’s fundamental understanding of reality
  • Witnessing a person transform into a horrid or unnatural creature

When a character makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, they must apply their current Stress Score as a penalty to the roll.



Now, of course these rules are all optional and are ultimately meant to invoke a sense of dread that pervade the various domains. In my current Curse of Strahd campaign, fear and dread ALREADY pervades the campaign pretty darn well, so I’m probably not going to jump in and make it any harder (except in maybe some exceptional circumstances). The players long ago learned that in Ravenloft you have to pick your fights, and running and hiding is a very viable solution to things you can’t beat to death with heavy weapons and harsh words.

This is not a comprehensive review of the Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft but just a quick heads up and nod to its existence. After I’ve had more time to read and absorb the material I will probably add a more in-depth analysis.

Until then, keep gaming!