Myths & Monsters Netflix Series Review

Myths & Monsters

Story is essential to human civilization, not just a tool within RPG. And, story takes many forms. What is interesting to me, are stories based on myths and legends. And, understanding real world myths and legends may give insight into creating more interesting stories within RPGs. All of this is explored within this documentary I found on Netflix, aptly named Myths & Monsters released in 2017.

There are 6, ~45 minute episodes. This is a British documentary, with appropriate (if not a bit annoying) British accented commentary from university professors. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the main narrator, Nicholas Day. Each show is based on a main theme per the title of the episode.

Each episode is narrated with interjecting comments over some beautiful pieces of artwork. Many of these are animated in a way. I’m trying to think of a comparison (I don’t know what it’s called; but they did it in American Ripper). What they do is take a 2D image and through CGI slowly animate parts of the image (like the arms of a figure, or arrows in the air) through a motion as if it were a couple frames in an animated scene. Sometimes this gets a little annoying, but usually it’s an interesting effect.

Many of the images are historical pieces that I think I recognize (I’m not scholar of art..) but many appear to be unique to this series and appear to be of a cohesive style. Very inspiring. Nearly all are beautiful. You may want to watch this just for the inspiration from the art. Other than the classical pieces, I think it’s obvious that they have an artist who made other images as half of these have a very similar style (there’s a long list of artists on the IMDB page). These are gorgeous too. And lastly, each episode tells one whole story via a sort of cartoon that is broken up through the episode.

I wish I could screen shot some images to post here, but I am thinking Netflix uses some vile wizardry that’s keeping me from doing so.

Episode 1 is titled “Heroes & Villains” and is essentially a summary on the theory proposed by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I’m going to assume that you already know who this is. If not, then the next thing you need to do is start reading about comparative mythology and Campbell’s theory on the Monomyth. It is the foundation of all modern fantasy story telling, whether the author (or you the reader) know it. You can say this is only my opinion; I’m OK with that, because I really believe I could prove it to be true. This episode focuses a bit on the Arthurian legends and Odysseus to illustrate the Heroes Journey.

Episode 2 is titled “The Wild Unknown” and covers the idea that in the ancient world, the “wilderness” was “wild” and “unknown”. This is illustrated via some Greek Myths, and what I was thinking the entire time is “This is all about Law vs. Chaos!”, if you see “Law” as “Civilization” and “Chaos” as “The Wild”. If you’ve read the DCC RPG core book; you’re gonna see where all of this is pertinent.

Episode 3 is titled “War”, and .. you guessed it, it’s about mythologies centered around war. Simple enough. However, this is where I started thinking “this series is mandatory viewing for any Dungeon Master”. Stories about war are not just about the warfare itself. In fact, a good war story has very little to do with the technical aspects of War (a story that does is more historical, NOT mythological). Rather, a good war story is about the people, places, ideas, politics, etc of all those involved. And, how these things change. What persists (the victors write the history). And, what was lost (maybe only the DM knows what was lost?).

Episode 4 is titled “Love & Betrayal”. My favorite line in this episode is “Sometimes Love is dangerous”. You ain’t shittin’! So true. And, when you look at some of the original myths and stories, the ancients had some wicked and twisted tales. No boring love triangles. No, it’s stories like Agamemnon sacrificing his own daughter to Artemis in order to win her favor prior to the Trojan War, which he finally returns 10 years later a victor and hero, only to be murdered by his own wife who plotted revenge for a decade! Now, that’s an epic tale based on love betrayed!

Episode 5 is titled “Change & Revolution”. In this episode, you start to see how the stories told in a society are a reflection of that society. And, that just as the society changes, so do their stories. For a DM creating a world, I think the simplest lesson here is to not create a “history book” regarding the history of the world. Create stories as they would be told by the people, about what happened in that history, acknowledging that stories are often not accurate in a literal sense. However, when you examine them, the stories not only try to explain something in the past, but also teach a lesson important to that society.

Episode 6 is titled “The End of All Things”. Apocalyptic stories always fascinate me. This episode uses Ragnarök as an example. Related to all the prior episodes, one lesson is that a societie’s end times stories say something about that society. Beyond that, studying some of these stories from real world cultures yields some of the most fantastic ideas that a DM could riff on. Want an epic high level campaign? Well… the 7th seal just got opened. Get ready for some divine whoop ass down in that placed called Megiddo that your party used to explore at lower level where the NPCs dropped all sorts of foreshadowing about a coming Great War between Good and Evil.

Memorial Day

In RPGs, we play heroes. This Memorial Day, please remember the real heroes of our world.

Kickstarter: The Peasants’ Fell Bargain – A DCC RPG Zero Level Funnel

Let me tell you. I just love these things. I love seeing other people create interesting things. That’s why I like hobbies like tabletop gaming, why I am more and more interested in “OSR” styles of TTRPGs and why I’m a sucker for Kickstarters.

So far there is no sway in my obsession with DCC RPG, and there have been some good 3rd party Kickstarters lately (for zines and for adventures). This one strikes me as particularly interesting. It’s a 0 Level Funnel titled “The Peasant’s Fell Bargain“.

The two things that catch my attention:

First, I love the idea of “striking a bargain with the devil”. Just on the way to work tonight, I was listening to a Podcast about paranormal experiences in Rock & Roll, and of course the idea of Selling Your Soul at the Crossroads came up (See one of my all time fav’s Robert Johnson). This is one of my all time favorite legends!

Second, you can’t watch this video and not want to play anything these guys have cooked up. Seriously, you they just look fun. So, I’m glad to give my twenty bucks. I’m signing (in blood) on the dotted line!

200 Word RPG Challenge

The 200 word RPG challenge starts today. I saw this on G+ and hadn’t heard of such a thing! Mine is entitled “Moonlighting“. You can see all of the 2018 submissions posted so far here.

Obviously this is a creative writing exercise. But also, I see this as another example of the Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich game (mandatory torture for anyone working in a corporate setting at “team building” events).

It was fun to write something that, I hope, clearly gives enough instructions to play a simple game. This is actually very hard; I really doubt that I did a good job at all! But it’s still fun to try.

I wanted to make something that’s probably unique. So, when you’re doing something you’re unfamiliar with? Stick with what you do know! My idea was to have players act out the process of taking a patient history that leads to making a diagnosis. And yes, I wrote it while at work and looking forward to the next night off!

There’s only a few posted so far, but Bugbears really caught my eye. Hilarious!

WOTC Publishes “New” Endless Quest Books and I’m Disappointed

Wizards of the Coast is publishing new Endless Quest books. But if the cover artwork is any indication, they may be just as uninspiring, sterile and boring as everything else they have published in the past few years.

I absolutely LOVED the originals. I would read them over and over and just adore the cover art as a kid. But I’m totally disappointed by the horribly lame art on these new ones. It’s the recycled trash art that WOTC is putting on all it’s licensed material. The originals had some of the best TSR art of the day. I know that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” but I have absolutely no interest in buying these whatsoever. Allow me to go into some more detail.

Of course, these books have not been released yet. So we only have the covers to go on. But it was the covers of the originals that were simply iconic.

First, lets see the new line up:

4 books. Backgrounds are simply the basic colors of yellow, red, blue, and green along with a single character. If you’ve followed D&D 5e and the licensed products, you’ve seen all these characters before many times. None of them have a name (as far as I know) and are some of the worst art in the entire lineup. Don’t believe me?

Here are the originals from the PHB:

Actually, in the original form, I actually like one of these. I always liked this version of the halfling (not the retarded one on page 26 in the Halfling section). But it starts to get old when you see it over and over; look at the 404 page for DND Beyond. It was cute the first time I saw it because this halfling chick is cute and this is a good piece of art that makes you fill in a story in your head (I firmly believe she’s distracting the bartender to get his purse!).

Now, lets look at other licensed products. First, D&D Dice Masters Battle for Faerûn

Yep. Right there on the box, you already see the Dwarven Cleric. Here is one of their banners:

Do you think they use any of this art on the cards? Yep, at least I could find 3 out of the 4 (not a lot online since it’s a crappy game; I’ll have to check my cards to see if I have the elven wizard girl)

How about the Dungeonology Coloring Book? I thought some of these might be there, but I reviewed my video and didn’t see any. I’ll have to re-check the Dungeonology book itself when I get off work. I don’t see them in Rock Paper Wizard either; so at least there’s a limit to reusing the same art. I’ll also have to go back through the Dragon+ issues.

Now, art is subjective. I know that. But I believe “a picture says a thousand words” and I believe that showing some of the original Endless Quest book covers will speak volumes more than this amateur story teller could ever tell:

   
   
   
   

Now, those are some badass book covers! They just make you want to open it up and start reading. There are ~50 books originally published in this series.

I have to be a little fair, some of this TSR art was recycled as well. Here is the  the artwork from Knight of Illusion also seen in Pool of Radiance. But, I’m sorry, this is such an awesome piece that I simply give it a pass.

   
 

For further comparison, now look at the original art from Larry Elmore on a few of these, and compare to the original art used for the “new ones”. I’m no art scholar (again, all subjective…), but THIS is REAL fantasy art!

   
 

These were excellent examples of fantasy art and had a “pulpy” feel (though I didn’t know at the time what pulp was!). But there is so much more to say beyond just the general aesthetics of these pieces and the unnecessary recycling. There is also a whole virtue signaling component as well. But others are much better at explaining these things than I am. After awhile it becomes more and more obvious to me. I think it’s been 5 years now since D&D 5e release; at first I was a little wowed with 5e and I just gave the boring artwork a pass, but now it is hitting me across the head like a two handed Warhammer.

Disclaimer: Of course, all art used here is for demonstration and reporting purposes and entirely belongs to Wizards of the Coast and/or their respective artists (such as Larry Elmore who is a God amongst fantasy artists and the nicest guy you could meet in the GenCon artist gallery).

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Gencon 2018 Planning

GenCon

And the planning begins for GenCon 2018. Located in my home town (and the city that is the eponymous origin for the name of this blog!), GenCon is now in it’s 51st year.

First off, I’m running games at a convention for the first time. Two sessions of Portal Under the Stars, the zero level funnel by Joseph Goodman included in the DCC RPG core book (I believe it’s technically the ‘first’ DCC RPG adventure?). One session is already sold out and the other has one ticket remaining so there will be full tables with multiple opportunities for player death!

Signed up for multiple games with my friends (D&D 5e, Eclipse Phase, Shadowrun) and then I’m going to get to actually play a bunch of DCC RPG games. I wanted to do miniature painting seminars, but I’m gonna be super booked with games. Next year.

Lastly, the Exhibit Hall map was released today. Some of the stops I’ll definitely make:

  • Anything with “anime”, “japanime”, or “Tokyo” in the title; though these booths usually sell some really cheesy stuff LOL.
  • Ankama the day I take the daughters, cause everything there is super cuddly and cute.
  • Chaosium. Of course.
  • I would say Chessex, but honestly I think we have 20 tons of dice by now.. but you know I’ll still take a look 😉
  • Cosplay Deviants. And bring a camera..
  • Critical Role… lol NOT!!!
  • Dog Might cause those guys are always cool.
  • Dwarven Forge, although every time I stop by I get no respect for being someone who’s purchased > $20k of their stuff.. but still fun to browse
  • Elmore. ’nuff said.
  • Fez-O-rama. Where for 5 years, I always stop by on a Saturday or Sunday and told that the exact fez I want, in my size, “just sold out”.
  • Games and Gears – if they have the painted version of the GenCon special this year (last year they didn’t).
  • Games Workshop, where I always marvel at the painted minis but never actually buy any.
  • Gamescience, maybe I’ll buy some sets for the group to replace the sets I got them before and they blame me for rolling 1’s all the time.
  • Girl Genius, because with a name like that, I need to see what they sell.
  • Goodman Games since that’s my latest thing
  • Got Kilt. Maybe this will be the year..
  • H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Hmm… need to research what this is!
  • Halfprice Books, where half price somehow means paying twice what the collectible item cost originally when it was released. But I’m a sucker for always looking.
  • Hero Forge. Yes.
  • Impact Miniatures! Found out recently these guys are here in Indy.
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Everyone speaks highly; I really need to get around to checking it out.
  • Miniature Building Authority, though the last thing I need is more miniature terrain to find a place to store (see comment on Dwarven Forge).
  • Miniature Market. ditto.
  • Profantasy Software, and ask them if there’s gonna be a MacOS version :p
  • Q-Workshop, every year they have something cooler I want.
  • Ravenswood Leather. Maybe this is the year I go to the Fisher’s Ren Faire drunk AND dressed.
  • Space Unicorn: Battle Over Cupcake Mountain. Really. I’m not joking.
  • The Wizard’s Wagon. ?huh. Have to see what it is. I’ve been talking with the nurses at work for months that I want one of those 70’s style vans with the airbrushed Wizard painted on it!
  • Wyrmwood if I’ve got money left

And probably 20 other booths that I’m just not recognizing the names at the moment; and of course we’ll just browse everything else.

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Tribute to Art Bell

Art Bell
Art Bell

Art Bell died a couple weeks ago (April 13th). Why would I post something about this on a “gaming blog”? Well, you’ll see soon. I finally caught up on my Coast to Coast AM Podcasts (I’m an 11+ year Coast Insider subscriber) and just finished the tribute show that aired April 19th. WOW, was Art an awesome guy! I could listen to him endlessly…

I put Art Bell up there with Gary Gygax. Let me explain why.

  • First of all, like D&D, the early years of Coast to Coast AM were a little “before my time”. I was born the same year as D&D, so it’s easy to understand that I obviously didn’t play OD&D and AD&D 1e. Similarly, West Coast AM) originally started in 1978 (according to Wikipedia) later to be renamed Coast to Coast AM in 1984. Whereas I did get into D&D as a teenager (read all the Mentzer box sets, but only played 1-2 AD&D 2e games due to no local groups I was aware of in my small town), I didn’t hear about “that strange late night radio show” until college. And then the same “excuse” comes up that I was busy as fuck (and tired as hell) all through college and med school to do much of anything that involved many hours of playing D&D or listening to a 4 hour long radio shows.

It wasn’t until fellowship that I started getting into both of these genres that now define all that makes up my personal hobbies/interests (well, these two and anime). Early on, it was all the “moonlighting” that I did, where I’m stuck in a call room just waiting for an emergency, so otherwise bored as hell, so I started reading, listening to C2CAM podcasts, and watching bootleg Anime off the crappy hospital WiFi.

And now, with both of these icons, I’m left wishing so bad that I would have met either of them. Wishing so bad that I was more involved in the early days when the ideas were more genuine and original. Left feeling like I have to “catch up” with what came before.

  • At least in my mind, both Gygax and Bell “changed the world” and created an entire genre that may not have existed if not for them. Albeit, in both cases, of course there were other players that helped them along the way. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but if you step back a little, it’s there. Nevertheless, they are both absolute icons in their field.

Of course Gygax (along with Arneson) created D&D which then led to the entire genre of tabletop RPGs later to become a complete industry of CRPGs, gaming aids, an expansion of sci-fi literature, movies, gaming conventions, etc.

For Art Bell, his little show became a BIG show that became a platform. A platform for the “average Joe” to discuss and to learn about the paranormal, the strange, libertarian ideas, and the conspiracies that surround us. And, keep in mind, this is 10-20 years before the internet. You could say that what came out of this would have happened anyway, but I think you have to give credit where credit is due. And, just like with D&D, everything after that must be considered to be derivative.

  • What was created in both cases were for the Eddies of the world. I bet there are quotes to support this; I guarantee that Gary said many times that his game was for everyone. No matter if you consider yourself a creative type, or if you struggled with actuarial tables worth of math. I mean, really, what is 50% of the job of a DM other than to be mediator between the game world and the players. No matter who those players are. Similarly, all you need to do is listen to a few “Open Line” calls on Coast to Coast, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The weird and strange is open to everyone.
  • Both were free thinking, curious, and first rate story tellers. But most importantly, they encouraged these same qualities in others. This is what makes someone truly great. When they make others great.
  • The creations of both would later be revised and made main stream. See the next two points.
  • Both were tied to their creations, and after leaving their original associations, they continued to be involved in the genre and create content in their own ways but was limited by failing health and the simple passing of their genre that continued to evolve beyond them.
  • Both created a cult following that continues to this day, and both are having a renaissance of those followers seeking the original wisdoms of the original formats created in the beginning when the emotions and experiences were more raw and unfiltered.

So, I hope you see the connection that I’m making. If not, then maybe it’s all in my head! Either way, both of these wonderful people created genres that I’m fascinated with. For one, it was the weird and the strange within your own mind/imagination. For the other, it is the weird and strange that surrounds us in the real world. And, for both, I draw inspiration that fuels the other.

Somewhere out there…

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Dungeon Crawl Classics PDF Sale on RPGNow

There appears to be a big sale going on over at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG and I just picked up a ton of great Goodman Games PDFs for $1 each. basically this is a deal on their 3e products, but there’s a few more if you look:

DCC RPG and Metamorphosis Alpha are only reduced 20% which I think is the usual price, listing for completeness. But look at the Hurricane Harvey Relief bundle if you haven’t got these three modules (67, 75, 91) yet!

All these have affiliate links; doesn’t hurt my feelings if you take it off, just letting you know.

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Star Wars X-Wing 2.0 Announced

Just in time for May 4th celebrations this week, Fantasy Flight games releases a teaser trailer for Star Wars X-Wing 2.0.

I guess, just in case anyone needs another reason to spend more money on the same little (but don’t get me wrong, awesome) Star Wars ships.

One thing: look at that mobile squad builder. That’s cool.