Monday, August 6, 2012

Detroit Rock City Vs. Scanners

* = This is true, right?

It’s as if I somehow slept through my weekend. It was a glorious dream of fun and laziness, with brief pockets of physical discomfort due to some leg pain. However it ended too damn quickly! I feel like it slipped through my fingers like sand. The more I tried to grip it the more I lost it. I’m surprisingly not bitter about being back at the beginning of the ‘Grind’, however I just wish I was more excited about it.

I realized this weekend I get excited about a lot of things in my life; D&D, comics, MST3K, fun fiction, bad movies, The Venture Brothers, Sci-Fi stuff, Doctor Who, The Nerdist Podcast, my lovely wife, certain foods, etc. I think what slapped me in the face though this weekend is I am excited by possibility. The best example of this is found in people. I am intrigued, fascinated, and excited by new people. I believe it is a by-product of that desire to build pseudo-family around myself in order to feel more secure and less like an outsider. That is the strange thing, in my opinion, about family, you don’t get to choose them, they don’t get to choose you, but for the most part they never really get to leave you. So even though there is a lot of real distance between us, a lot of emotional baggage, and a struggle to find each other through that familial miasma that has developed I know that they are ‘there’ for me.

That isn’t the same with friends. This last year and a half or so I seem to be losing peeps from my inner circle. I find myself with a lot of friends, and not a lot of Friends. ‘Real Life’ has conspired to put us all in situations where our time becomes invaluable, the shifting of relationships, death, distance, and even just the good old fashioned ‘we’ve just grown apart’ have dwindled my inner circle down to considerably smaller numbers. It’s a stark realization for someone who puts such a premium on surrounding myself with Friends.

So when I have the opportunity to get to know and develop new relationships I jump at. In fact I run at like a madman on fire. I’m an ‘all in’ sort of guy. I don’t really have any secrets, I try to be an open book, and I’m not shy. I think this puts me at a disadvantage a lot of times with others. As much as I constantly talk about my pessimism towards the majority of mankind, when I’m confronted with one of these people I’m enthralled with I become some type of doe-eyed optimist. I lose that cynical armor and develop this fanciful and almost adolescent need to be ‘liked’. It’s as if I am terrified of being ‘picked last’ in the playground of life. I think worse yet I’m terrified I won’t be picked at all.

I’m a realist when it comes to who I am. I’m not the smartest. I’m not much to look at. I’m not an artist in any way shape or form. I can be a tightly wound ball of instability. What I’m saying is, as confident as I am I recognize I have to be because I’m always so close to being alone. I dread that thought. It haunts me honestly, this idea of being devoid of interpersonal relationships of value. Now I know this will never happen. I have Cassandra, and we’re thick as thieves. I have David, and if the one ‘fight’ we had didn’t kill our friendship then nothing will. And as stated above I have lots of friends, but I can’t count on them, and nor should they expect me to, after all we’re just friends. What I’m currently missing is Friends.

Therein lies the problem, I want these mysterious Friends. However I’m not sure how to go about the process of securing these people without potentially compromising myself. Because of my willingness to just lay bare the details of my existence, the willingness to invite people into my metaphysical Fortress Of Solitude, and my inability to recognize potential people hazards that are directly in front of my face I, at best, can be sorely disappointed, and at worst taken advantage of. Make no mistake I’m no ‘babe in the woods’, but for whatever reason I am missing some tangible social skills, like the ability to recognize or use subtlety, to notice when the dynamics of a relationships has shifted, or when someone just isn’t that ‘into’ me. You have to look no further than my friendship with J.B., there is someone who for like ten years I thought of as my Best Friend, he was the Best Man in my wedding, and yet to him I was, and am still perhaps, just a friend. When it comes to myself, I struggle greatly in the arts of interpersonal relationships.

Some of this can be the by-product of my personality. I think I can be overwhelming with people, like a flood, and if you’re a new friend, then Gawds help you. I turn into a yippy dog wanting your attention, wanting your focus, constantly trying to find that common spark that will make that person be as invested in me as I am in them. Which brings me back to the idea of am I even worth their investment? I’d love to say I am, but am I Friend material. I’m loyal. I’m giving. I’m honest. I’m flawed. And more than anything else I’m usually invested, and most assuredly invested in someone I want to call Friend.

I’m a Geek (capital ‘G’ thank you), so I collect. What I’ve come to realize is no amount of games, movies, books, comics, etc. will ever replace Friends or friends. I think I really want to collect people. That sounds incredibly creepy in an ‘It Puts The Lotion In The Basket Or It Gets The Hose Again’ way. However it is true. I want people in that circle, even if it is only the friends circle. I want to laugh, cry, share, be there, confide, build memories, and most importantly just be part of that most human of experiences. I just hope I’m ‘worthy’ of that, or at least that people will be able to peel back the layers of my ‘Onion’ to get to who I am. I can hope that they find me ‘worthy’. If I’m honest, I think I am.

Who knows? I know I don’t, all I can do is be ‘Me’, let them be ‘Them’, and just hope for the best. I think that might be the one thing that beyond the veneer of indifference, obnoxiousness, sarcasm, frustration, and insanity that I wear like armor that makes me ‘Me, and that is Hope. I hope to find people to be friends & Friends with just as much as I hope that tomorrow I’ll be better than I was today. It’s strange that a self-described realist about the human condition would list his best trait as Hope, but I think it is.

Well enough ‘self-exploration’, insert Masturbation Joke HERE David, let’s talk some Nerdery! Saturday was the monthly D&D game. It was coming at a strange time as we lost ‘Mighty’ Mike to ‘Real Life’ at the last minute and subsequently lost him from D&D permanently. I thought I was going to be down a player, but was pretty sure I’d talked our new pal Mick into Co-DMing with me. Then at the last minute Dave roped his buddy Cordell into our group. So to recap; down one Player, up one DM, up one Player! That’s a net gain of one, so in my book it is a win. However, as anyone who ‘Runs’ knows DMing is a skill, and it’s made infinitely more difficult by adding unknown quantities. These new portions of the equation, Mick & Cordell, really had me perplexed and excited.

Let’s be honest, when you invite two new people to your table who aren’t familiar with the Edition or with most of the people at said table it’s basically the perfect recipe for disaster. Not so much here. In fact quite the opposite, it was a smashing success. Cordell took on the role of a Tiefling Hexblade, which saved my bacon story wise after Mike’s exit. He was an able Role Player, a solid tactical player during combat, and just fit in like a glove. Mick has not played D&D since her childhood and had more than a little trepidation going in. Who can blame her? You’re coming to a social game only knowing three people and jumping into help run a game you’re unfamiliar with, and you’re throw into the deep end of the pool story wise. She crushed it!

From the perspective of a DM that hasn’t been able to play for quite some time, having a Co-DM is just outstanding. She took the loose overviews of the NPC’s she had and ran with them in directions that we’re by and large BETTER than anything I had planned for them. I dug the fact that it gave us another Role Player at the table, and by the end I felt like she was picking up the tactical combat aspect really well. I for one loved the voice, and seedy underhandedness she infused Murgol Firehand with, as well as the creepy sexual undertones she brought to Freya Van Karnstein. Seriously, this went better than I could have imagined. Being able to sit back and watch a ‘scene’ unfold and not feel the anxiety of being solely responsible was fantastic. It was as good as when Zack Co-DMed with me, before joining the group as a player. So I’m sure you’re asking yourselves, ‘Ben, I don’t mind this re-cap of your game, but I want a RE-CAP not just you’re blubbering’. First off, if you’re thinking that, sod off, secondly I’m not really feeling like the full-blown re-cap today so instead it’s time for;


- There are Four ‘movers and shakers’ in the Abode Of Order, aka Monastery Of Erathis. They are;
o Claudette De Souzza – The head of House De Souzza, a Tiefling Infernal Pact Warlock, known for her magnanimous nature as well as her brutal business acumen. The Northern Lands are full of De Souzza’s, but only one has been able to insinuate herself into the power structure of the Abode Of Order and thrive. She is also the aunt of Cordell’s character. She has tasked her nephew with keeping an eye on the PC’s so they don’t upset her plans, of which he is in the dark about he details.
o Ivar Steelhewer – The Duergar Thane of the Monastery. Ivar is a large infernally powered warrior; however behind closed doors he’s an intelligent, articulate, cunning planner who wants control of the Abode Of Order. He feels as the ‘Chosen Of Asmodeus’ only he is fit to lead. He’s Joe, Cordell, & Cassandra an offer; kill High Priest Kevros and The Seer, and he’ll give them not only ‘The Book Of Black Flame’, but Isabella (Joe’s lost ‘love’ as well as the sister to Bob & Zack) as well.
o The Seer – A ‘Fallen’ Diva hoping to adjust her own destiny. The Seer has had visions of Bob’s character that she refers to as ‘The Traveler’. In her visions she’s seen the world conquered and the process decimated by the whims of a Mad God. In ‘The Traveler’ she thinks she has found personal salvation, as well as potential salvation for the world. She has demanded only that Bob slay the ‘Aberration’ in his midst; this of course refers to his brother Zack.
o High Priest Kevros – The PC’s haven’t met the Abode Of Order’s High Priest of Erathis. They know next to nothing about him, beyond the fact that at the end of the session he sent a group of Dopplegangers to assassinate them.
- The PC’s learned that Murgol Firehand, Master Of The Lash & Keeper Of The Black Vault, wants his Thane, Ivar Steelhewer dead! He’s promised Zack the ‘Stairway To The Stars’ if Ivar is slain. He also has access to Isabella since he is in control of where she is kept. In the process he ‘gave’ Zack a horribly disfigured and beaten Illithid slave in order to assist him in getting rid of his rival.
- David went further ‘down the rabbit hole’ with his new ‘Family’, the Von Karnsteins. He learned that Elias is working on some sort of synthetic blood to allow their brood to break free from the yoke of their ‘Food’. He also found that his ‘Sister’ Freya has an agenda that may or may not coincide with the rest of his ‘Family’, and he now finds himself in her debt. Dave left The Vault in which his ‘Family’ is forced to reside, and left a message of revolution to his ‘Brother’ Ulysses.
- In the end the last Doppleganger, rather than face certain death, parlayed with the PC’s and told them that High Priest Kevros ordered their deaths. She claims she’ll help them kill him, but at what cost?

So as you can see we are seriously speeding headlong into potential disaster. There are PC’s who have VERY different personal agendas, who have also made deals and bargains with individuals in power who want nothing more than either the death or subjugation of their peers, and yet cannot take a direct hand in fulfilling that wish. The best part is I now have someone to effectively bounce the big arcs off of, reign in some of my more spastic creative energy, and bring together the Heroic Tier to an explosive end.

With the Rise Of The Runelords release being upon us, Paizo and Wizkids have already started releasing previews for their set for January next year. This one will coincide with an unreleased Adventure Path, and pseudo-sequal to R.o.t.R.; The Shattered Star! So here’s what they gave us to satiate our appetite;
First off is the Mite, a small Common. I’m all for more minis that I can use in a horde of minions, and this one fits that bill perfectly. I really like the diseased and discolored skin, the wrinkles, and the tattered cloak, and just the vibe this mini gives me. I know we’re quite a ways out from this set coming to shelves, or in my case secondary market, but this is a ‘Must Buy’ Common for me.

Second up is one of my favorite races and that is the Derro. This one is Caedimus, who apparently is being named in order to differentiate it from the OTHER Derro in the set! Back in the heyday of DDM we were only given one of these mad buggers and I always thought that a shame, so I should be really excited about the potential of not one, but TWO in this set. However for some reason I’m left a bit cold by this miniature. I don’t mind the emaciated look, the awkward pose, the spotty paint job on that epic moustache, but you throw them all together and I’m feeling a bit let down. That being said I’ll be picking some of these bad boys up for no other reason than I love Derro’s, but I just wish I’d been more ‘wowed’.

Speaking of ‘Wowed’ I just realized how much I’ve written so let’s wrap this bad boy up with some…


- We’re recording episode 2 of Careers In Evil tomorrow. I’m shocked at how many people listened to the first one, how many said some decent things, how many said nothing, and who said negative things. Good thing I only do things like the blog and podcast for my personal entertainment or my feelings might have been hurt.
- Last night I destroyed a plate of delicious enchiladas. Today my stomach has revolted. VIVA LA REVOLUTION!
- I know I beat the horse to death above in the blog about D&D, but I just have to again point out how fun it was. As for any Grognards who stumble into this blog and actually get to this point of reading without choking to death on their own venom and vitriol about how ‘4E is not D&D because there isn’t any Role Playing’, well get those heart pills ready for this next statement. My group Role Plays more than any other group, playing any other edition, that I have ever gamed with and I’ve been playing since the ‘White Box’. It’s not just a combat slog. We had one combat situation on Saturday the rest was Role Playing, and fantastic Role Playing at that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you don’t have effective Role Playing in your group it’s on you as a player and your DM, Edition has nothing to do with it.
- Joe, aka ‘The Koala’, I have to point out that you are an F’ing Saint. Thank you for the mower. Seriously.
- Yesterday Cassandra and I started watching the first season of ‘Falling Skies’. I was prepared to think of it as an alien invasion version of ‘The Walking Dead’, and after five episodes I’m being force to re-think that idea. The insidious nature of what the aliens are doing coupled with the fact that we only know what the humans on the show know about the aliens, which is nothing, has made this show less like ‘The Walking Dead’ and more like ‘Jericho’. I also like that the star, Noah Wyle is channeling his best Christian Bale as John Conner vibe. This show has snuck up on us both, and we both look forward to finishing the first season this week.

I know there was other stuff I wanted to rant about, but I think I’m going to save that for the Podcast.

“I'm gonna move to the outskirts of town
Where none of your friends are hanging around
That's right, I'm gonna move to the other side of town
Where none of your business is hanging around

Woman, please let a poor man be. Let a poor man be
Columbia, girl, please let a poor man be. Let a poor man be

I'm gonna build a castle out of Goodyear tires,
Cinderblock and busted doors; that's where I'll retire.
Gonna dig a moat. Fill it up with ale.
Not much of a defense, I know, but the supply never fails.

When you come knocking all in tears wringing hands and genuflecting,
You'll understand that I am a busy man and my subjects demand my attention.
These walls don't build themselves and I am running out of time.
So if you desire anything else, you had better get in line.”

    * = I've seen my future in this meme.

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