Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grumpiest Old Men Vs. Get Low


I really struggled mightily about what I wanted to talk about here.  There is a distinct part of me that wants to talk about how I’m “another day older, another day closer to death” after yesterday’s birthday.  There is a part of me that desires to discuss at length the sort of sting I felt when no one in my Family acknowledged that beyond my Brother.  There is part of me who wants to talk about how cool it was to have so many Friends come out of the woodwork to give their well wishes.  And there is a part of me who wants to talk about how nothing really changed; I’m still me, tomorrow is still tomorrow, and the only thing that passed was another rotation of the Earth.

Instead I’m going to forgo all those things.  I don’t think it really means anything to anyone, and my heart just isn’t in it to pour out my thoughts and emotions today.  Instead I think I’ll just fulfill my self-imposed challenge to Blog once a week with some…


- It was a good Birthday, thanks for asking.

- I really need to start painting this week again.

- 1st Group D&D met last Friday night.  It wasn’t one of my best sessions.  I think I misjudged the ‘room’ in a lot of ways.  I came in really tired as last week was a slog, and it ended with a late Friday at work in a mad rush to finish a class before they turned the lights off.  We then rushed home, where I had to finish my prep, and BOOM(!) we got started.  The ‘BOOM’ was more about the fact that everyone was sort of in a ‘hey how good to see you’ euphoric, loud state to start the night.  I was no exception.  It was as if we were all sort of trying to let the weight of the week finally slide off our backs.  It may not have helped that I chose that night to give 1st Group their Christmas gifts either, but that’s on me not them.  By the time we finally sort of got going my head was stuck in neutral.  I tried to give the PC’s some role playing opportunities early on which they took advantage of, but I think they sort of grew bored with them as well.
So we launched out into the Hex Crawl of the Harvest Wood.  The beautiful thing about the Hex Crawl is even I don’t know what to expect as things are done with a Random Encounter chart.  The bad thing about the Hex Crawl is when you forget to run the set encounters you have created.  Sigh.  I was just off kilter all night.  The combats that the PC’s ran into were challenging enough, especially the Pugwampi’s with the Gnolls, but I felt a distinct lack of satisfaction.  There was a plethora of TERRIBLE dice rolls on all sides that made combat drag.  The pinnacle of this failing was the final encounter where I attempted to give the PC’s information and a situation where combat was only one of several potential solutions.  I try to ensure that if there are potential enemies that are not irredeemably evil that the PC’s have the opportunity for true interaction and non-combat solutions.  I don’t want all those encounters to just be a place to spew rhetoric and 80’s action movie clichés before butchering their now enemies.  The thing is you can never account for how the PC’s will feel in that moment, how they’ll react, how they’ll interpret themselves and their alignment, or if they’ll just feel like bloodshed is the ONLY solution.  Most of the time I’m decent at working around that, rolling with it (no pun intended), and moving forward, but Friday night not so much.
The PC’s ran across some bandits who ambushed them on a hidden logging trail.  The PC’s didn’t know the number in the group, but were shaken down for a book with information on a potential cure for a curse and for some healing.  There are two Paladins in Group 1; each had a decidedly different idea on how to sally forth.  THE Karl wanted to throw down.  He was confident in the Group’s ability to deal with the brigands, and seemed to view any compromise as untenable.  James is the other Paladin.  He couldn’t help himself by giving the bandits far more information than they had, piquing their interest, and also wanted a peaceful solution to the potential bloodbath.  In the end, James was allowed to help the bandits.  There was a lot of debate about what to do by the party, and in hindsight I may have acted harshly as the DM because after about 30 minutes of discussion I forced the PC’s hand by becoming far more aggressive.  The thing is the narrative was becoming excessively bogged down by the discussion that was going in a circle, and patience by all parties was waning.  So the combat was avoided, but in the end I was given the golden gift of Gene deciding to make a very questionable morale decision and lying to the bandits about the information they sought.  Upon James relaying to the PC’s the full tale of the desperation of the brigands Gene tried to right his wrong, only to further it.  I thought it left the situation and the session in a good place to call it a night.  Overall, it was just a ‘C-‘ session with poor rolling, a lack of patience, an inability for me to get things going, and not enough flexibility on everyone’s part.  When a session like this happens it really sticks in my craw.  It feels like a HUGE let down.  I really have to pick things up the next time, and build something a bit less nuanced, a bit more straight forward, and something where quick fun is the order of the day.  I think I can do that.

- For those that know, ‘Ditto Forever!’

- Sometimes no one understands you, not even yourself.

- Sunday I sat down and binge watched the 1st Season of True Detective (Infinite *’s out of 5).
Holy poop, what an absolutely amazing 8 hours of television, I was riveted.  I am literally having a hard time figuring out how to explain the show without spoiling anything.  All I can really say is it is a detective show from HBO starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey that is set in the 1990’s and in the present day dealing with case that was never closed.  See that sounds really sort of bland when I read it, and I’m not sure it’ll sell most of you to drop what you are F’Ning doing and go watch this, which is what you should do.  Ok, the thing is there is FAR more going on than what is on the surface.  Rather than go into any further details, I’ll instead say that if you are a fan of Lovecraftian horror, of long form suspense, and of horrific things lurking in our peripherals then you will LOVE this show like I did.  In fact it is one of the rare exceptions in television and film that gets that Lovecraftian horror correct.  It is all about what you don’t know, all about what they don’t show, all about the horror that is implied and the unraveling of the mystery that in turn unravels your sanity that is truly the most terrifying thing.  True Detective does that in spades with an amazing tale told in staccato bursts of brilliance by a cast that is something to behold.  I cannot recommend this enough.  Do yourself a favor and go forth and watch it.

- The DMG comes this week!
- Thank you to Diamond Dave Wheeler for the sweet magnets!  You rule sir.

- CHIKARA Season 14 finale, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, was Saturday night, and despite there not being a Heel Turn Radio Podcast L.E.W.G.I. did indeed assemble to watch the festivities.
It was a smaller group than we had planned for, but it was the perfect people with which to watch the culmination of another amazing Season.  Let me start by saying Chikara is like a comic book, so while it is Wrestling, it has a distinct 4 color comic feel, and is Family Friendly.  They don’t tolerate profanity, sexualized behavior, or any of the more risqué tropes of wrestling.  Instead it is built on a foundation of LONG term storytelling, a strong adherence to its own continuity, and a smart, friendly, and involved live crowd.  If you continue to read this and wonder why so many people ‘Died’ over this season just keep in mind it is only entertainment.  SO, overall the event itself was heavy with resolution, Face victories, and the set up for what comes next.  Things kicked off with The Young Lions Cup finale had Heidi Lovelace pitted against Missile(!) Assault(!) Ant(!) in the classic brawn versus heart encounter.  Both contestants sold like champions, and the finish with the Basement Hurrancanrana that left Missile Assault Ant a motionless heap was a thing of beauty.  Lovelace is the first woman to hold the Young Lion’s Cup and I think will really do a lot to take the Cup to new heights.  We saw Ashley Remington prove he is the most modest, and best, practioner of the German Suplex when he Coronado with an absolutely stunning Dead Lift German from the apron leaving the Ecuadorian folded up like an accordion.  The match was high on comedy spots, brutal suplexes, and really tight in ring story telling.  I was already a fan of both men’s work, but to me this was the sort of match you go back to and point out how you saw them ‘before they were stars’.
On the flip side was the Delirious Vs. Ultra Mantis Black, Loser Leaves Chikara, war.  Delirious came out in crazy body paint with the words “Delirious Never Dies!” on his back, it was REALLY cool looking.  These two have been allies, enemies, frenimies, and etc.  The only way to end their war was for one to leave.  I thought overall the match had a great sense of desperation to it, a flurry of insanity if you will, but was a bit sloppy.  I also thought the ending of the actual match was obvious.  That being said the fact that Delirious used the Eye Of Tyr to sic Hallowicked and Frightmare on Ultra Mantis post-match was brilliant.  Delirious may be gone, this battle is over, but in his wake he effectively destroyed The Spectral Envoy and left Mantis without his most stalwart allies.  I am beyond intrigued to see where the pieces of the destroyed Envoy go from here, and what about Crossbones & Blind Rage?  Does this signal a return to a time when they were always at Mantis’ side or will they join Hallowicked?  Only Season 15 will tell.  The Eddie Kingston Vs. Jimmi Jacobs tilt wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, as it was really pretty short.  There was a flurry of nasty spots and high violence early culminating with two Backfists To The Future from Kingston leaving Jacobs in a heap.  This gave Kingston ‘3 Points’ meaning he can cash in for a re-match with Icarus for the Grand Championship!  It was a decent match if not very short, but what came next is what really sold me on Season 15 lock, stock, and barrel!  Kid Cyclone destroying Kingston post victory with the pipe wrench, the heartfelt and salient explanation of why he did it, and then the decision to remove his mask and move forward under his real name was utterly perfect.  For a long time Chikara has operated in a ‘Black & White’ world of ‘Good & Bad’ with only Kingston sort of being the ‘Grey Area’ of a man who would do horrible things and yet would ultimately seek and find absolution from Chikara.
Kid Cyclone, whose actual name is currently escaping me, gave a wonderfully poignant explanation of this, which leads to his motivation for his current actions and those to come.  He is your new ‘Grey Area’, as many of the fans actively are siding with him and for good reasons.  Kingston, in his overwhelming desire to regain the Grand Championship, sided with the Flood and helped to wipe out the Green Horn Militia, which Kid Cyclone led.  Many fans are STILL upset about Kingston’s hand in this, and although he ‘Turned Face’ and attacked the Flood it really only came when realized that if we was to ‘TAKE’ the Grand Championship with their help then it would mean nothing.  While a lot of L.E.W.G.I. members and other wrestling fans don’t care for Eddie Kingston’s performances in other places like Ring Of Honor, I can honestly say his work in Chikara is nuanced, character driven, and utterly fantastic.  Without his fall from grace, without his inner turmoil and decent into madness, without his betrayal of Chikara and attempt to right his wrongs none of what is coming now would work.  On Kid Cyclone’s way out of the ring I found it VERY interesting that he did not take revenge on Jimi Jacobs, but only instead demanded his cape back, and then freed the traitorous Snow Troll.  He had said in his speech that others would follow him, and he proved it.  This also was a bit of foreshadowing to the fallout of the main event, but I digress.  The Compeonatos de Parejas match between the champion Throwbacks and the unstoppable Devastation Corporation was simply amazing.  The ring work was solid, the story they were telling was impeccable, and the ending glorious.  It has been a long time coming for Chikara’s true ‘Monster Heel’ team to get some gold, but it was worth the wait.  To me this was the match of the night.
The emotion in the ECW Arena when the Throwbacks hit the Avalance 3D was insane, only to have Sydney Backabella snatch it away by interfering was absolutely pitch perfect.  I can only hope that this is the true beginning a series of matches between these two teams as they tore down the house.  We were then treated to the Team Chikara Vs. Team Flood Cibernetico!  The match was solid, although in some ways it lacked the stakes and emotion that I thought it would produce especially when we got Fire Ant versus the now ‘evil’ Soldier Ant.  It wasn’t a bad match, in fact it was a lot of fun, but I think I just wanted a bit more from something that has been brewing for two seasons and has such heavy repercussions on the Chikara Universe.  The main event had the Grand Champion, Icarus, challenging the Flood’s engine of absolute destruction Deucalion in only the 2nd ever Steel Cage match in Chikara’s history.  Let me first point out that Joel was right, that cage looked VERY unsafe and took about 30 minutes to get up.  The match was decent for what it was.  Having never seen Deucalion actually wrestle, as he usually just Choke Breakers everyone, my expectations were guarded.  Icarus is good inside the ring, but not great, and in my opinion works much better inside a team environment.  All that being said they told a hell of a story.
Icarus would not back down, found a limb and attacked it relentlessly.  Deucalion just kept moving forward like an unstoppable machine, never thinking, only acting, and in the end that is what destroyed him.  I liked the idea that Deucalion came looking for a fight, dragging the masks of all the Chikara roster members he had killed this season, and ran into someone who not only wanted the same fight, but had vengeance on their mind.  In some ways it reminded me of the fight in the Dark Knight Returns between Batman & the Mutant Leader.  Hang on, because I’m about to take you down a serious Nerdery Rabbit Hole.  Icarus took all the wild brunt, aggression, and nastiness that Deucalion could throw at him, and just kept goading him into bad situations before slapping on the Chikara Special and making him tap.  Just like Batman invited the Mutant Leader in their 2nd fight in the mud pit to attack with reckless abandon, to do damage, to work himself in an unrelenting frenzy so he could simply take him apart like a surgeon.  To me, that was how this played out in the match.  Icarus stuck and moved, aggressed when the openings where there, never backed down, but more than that goaded Deucalion into situations that ended up costing him.  However, that wasn’t the end, and here is where that ‘Grey Area’ became FAR more pronounced.  Icarus grabbed the deceased Estonian Thunder Frog’s Hammer Of Peace and killed Deucalion.  The Flood Army watched, and their handpicked field general Jimmi Jacobs simply shouted at their leader “You made your bed, now DIE in it!”  He wouldn’t allow the troops to storm the ring and save Deucalion.
There has been a lot of ‘Death’ in Chikara this season, and Deucalion has been the reason.  I think with the exception of the Estonian Thunder Frog destroying Tursas and whoever killed Private Eye, Jr. during the ‘Ashes Of Chikara’, Deucalion was responsible for the entire body count this season so in my opinion Icarus’ slaying of the Titan of Titor was harsh yet understandable.  However if Icarus is supposed to be the bastion of hope, the face of good, the heart of Chikara and he killed Deucalion, what does that say about the direction and ‘soul’ of the company?  Has he stained it?  Or is this just them moving into a new ‘Grey Area’?  Also what about the Flood?  Are they over as a faction?  Is Jimi Jacobs the new leader?  We also got an end of the PPV vignette where we were treated to the rebirth of the Estonian Thunder Frog!  This was equal parts cool, goofy, and sort of adorable.  I am really excited to see what comes next, and Season 15 kicks off in just over a month!

- I still really want Beer Cheese Soup.

- D&D 4th Group is Sunday!  Who’s afraid of some ghosts?

- After immersing ourselves in True Detective, Cassandra and I sat down and digested X-Men: Days Future Past (*** out of 5).  I think I’m not out of line in saying both of us enjoyed the first two X-Men movies, universally reviled the third one, and thought X-Men: First Class was VERY good.
So I had high hopes going into this one, especially considering it is loosely based on one of the most universally loved stories in the comic franchise’s history.  I’m not sure how describe my feelings on the flick.  I wasn’t over or underwhelmed, I think I was simply whelmed.  It was alright flick, tied a lot of things together, was a fun period movie, and gave them cause to mix the characters from both the original Trilogy and the First Class.  However, I wanted more ‘X-Men’, in my X-Men movie.  I also felt like the motivation and how it played out of both Mystique and Magneto was really suspect.  The acting overall was pretty decent, with the crazy version of Quicksilver being exceptionally fun.  I feel like the last two of these movies are fantastic at set-up and build, but fall apart in the climax, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why.  The final scene post credit with Apocalypse rising to power makes me wonder how they will tie that in with the way the actual movie ended.  We know they are getting ready to start the third installment I just can’t tell how interested I am, especially with the tide of comic movies that do have my attention on the horizon.  This one is a decent watch, but I just left wanting something a bit more.

- Cassandra got me some amazing swag for my birthday!

- I really do need to build a map to my Campaign world.

- The Hero Forge website finally went live.  I didn’t contribute to the Kickstarter, for whatever reason I can’t recall.  However I played around with the miniature builder last night for an hour and was blown away.  Granted I don’t want to spend $25.00 on a miniature unless I have NO other options, but the ability to customize the design down to facial expression is amazing.
I loved being able to mix and match armor, weapons, helmets, etc. and come out with something different every time.  It is a fantastic design tool, and I really wish I had the money to make real use of it and get minis of all the PC’s in my groups.  And let’s be honest make some cool as miniature for myself, but currently that is a bit rich for my blood.  That being said, if you dig miniatures you at least owe it to yourself to check out their site and fiddle around with the tool.

- Is it time to make people open their Christmas presents yet?

- Thank you to my brother, Sean, for the phone call on my birthday.  It really meant a lot.

You know, I think that is all you and I can both stand of one another today…

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