Calling all DMs! D&D, #Pathfinder, and #Starfinder at the All-Star Comic Con (@AllStarComicCon), June 8-9, 2019, Tysons Corner, Virginia #DnD #RPG

We’re still in need of DMs to run D&D at the All-Star Comic Con, on June 8-9, 2019, at the Sheraton in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The gaming schedule is up (available by clicking here), but only the Pathfinder and Starfinder games are allowing sign ups (do so!) because those are the only ones with assigned GMs. We still need DMs for our D&D games.

If you’re interested, please send me an email at rob@syndcon.net. Let me know which games you’re willing to run. I have two half-price badges for the con available to the first ones to sign up as DMs for a few slots.

On another note, I’ve recently been made aware of a 5th edition sequel to my favorite AD&D adventure, the C2: Ghost Tower of Inverness. I’m still reviewing it, but this is faithful to the original in that it’s written as a competitive adventure. If you’d be interested in running that, I can easily replace some adventures with that one, and I’m happy to run a table of it myself. Even if we can’t get signups for multiple tables at the same time, I can keep track of the scoring from session to session and email the results to all involved after the convention is over.

In any case, let me know if, when, and what you’re interested in running.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow the All-Star Comic Con @AllStarComicCon

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#WotC Complaint #DnD #5e #RPG

A paralegal at Wizards of the Coast sent me an email demanding I take down my one-stop stat block project. It’s clear he really didn’t read the document because he made a rather glaring factual error. He also insulted my intelligence. I can live with that, but it shows what I’m dealing with. I responded and await his reply. I’m mulling over my best course of action, which of course depends on their response and how condescending they are. Even if I decide to comply, I promise you that won’t actually be the end of it. I meant it when I said I didn’t want to be their adversary, but they’ve chosen to poke the bear. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want to be able to create these yourself, I’ve provided a link below to a Word document containing various versions of the stat blocks. This way you won’t have nearly as much formatting to do. You will, however, have to create language for spell descriptions, etc. (at least for now). There’s a quirk in WordPress. You’ll have to click on the link, which brings you to a page where you’ll have to click on a separate link to download the document.

One-Stop Stat Block for 5th Edition DnD TEMPLATE

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#5e #DnD One-Stop Stat Blocks for Volo’s Guide to Monsters cc: @CartridgeBros #rpg

At the request of a Twitter user, I’ve resumed my work on the One-Stop Stat Blocks for Volo’s Guide to Monsters. I’m nowhere’s near finished — I’ve finished only 17 of the 45 stat blocks I intend to convert — but something is better than nothing, and more are coming. Also of note is that I found some errors in two of my existing docs, so they’re replaced below. Please contact me with any errors you find.

These were removed on May 12, 2019, at 8:14 PM EDT. They should be back within the week, along with other material that I wasn’t planning on publishing. If you loved what I was doing, you’re really going to love what’s coming.

I don’t do this for the money, but if you’d like to donate to my efforts, feel free to send me whatever you want (including nothing) via PayPal.

As a last note, I get a recurring question on these docs. People have requested the Word document that I use as a template to create these stat blocks. I don’t give that out because I don’t want to make this easy for people to copy all of the stat blocks from any of the books (something that is clearly on the minds of many people criticizing me*** for not publishing the template). Doing so could damage Wizard of the Coast’s sales for their books. My intent is to fill a hole that they left in their work, not to replace their work entirely and harm their sales. I appreciate the hard work they did in producing the game and want them to enjoy the benefits of that work.

*** Yeah, you read that correctly. I’ve actually been criticized for delivering a free, supplemental product that isn’t comprehensive enough.

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The Real Reason Reboots Are Having So Much Trouble #StarWars #StarTrek cc: @kesseljunkie

Reboots

I can’t tell you why, but I was reading a Cracked article that caught my eye. It was on the difficulties that Disney will have in creating Episode IX. Cracked has lost its step, but it triggered (pun intended) something in me that has inspired this post. I doubt that my argument is particularly novel, so just consider this me throwing my hat into the ring for a particular perspective.

There are a few points I should raise before diving in. You’re free to form your own opinions, and that won’t change mine, so I won’t justify any of these points. I provide them only for context which is necessary to my discussion.

1. J. J. Abrams hates Star Trek.

Go to 2:28. Here’s an image of the relevant portion of the J.J. Abrams interview (also pasted at the bottom of this post).

2. The J.J. Abrams Movies.

I liked (not loved) Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Beyond. Star Trek Into Darkness was insulting to every Star Trek: The Original Series (“TOS”) fan, whether or not they realize it. At every point in that script, J.J. was insulting us by mangling the characters and ridiculing our sacred cows. He then had the temerity to justify this by referring to these events as “homages” to the original. (Into Darkness was the only time in my life I genuinely felt nerd rage. Usually, I just roll with it because no one owes me anything, but that was too much.) As for the Force Awakens, I also like (not love) it but felt that the Last Jedi was a below average film. I’d watch the Force Awakens again but not the Last Jedi.

3. Star Wars EU.

I know extremely little about the Star Wars Expanded Universe. If any of my ideas are identical to something in the EU, I wouldn’t know it.

4. Ghostbusters Reboot.

I’ve never seen it, so I have no opinion as to whether it’s good or bad.

What J.J. Is Likely Thinking

There have been countless memes, Facebook posts, and Tweets criticizing legacy Star Trek fans for being hypocrites. The argument goes something like this: “You say you wanted something new, but when J.J. gave it to you, you complained about it. He can’t win with you, so why should he care about you?” This was inspired by the flak J.J. caught from legacy Star Trek fans for the “Abramsverse” (i.e., his version of the Star Trek universe). In the first and third movies, he didn’t rehash any old Star Trek stories, but instead included an origin story and then a largely new story. I haven’t talked to J.J. nor have I seen him address this in any interviews, but I believe that he interpreted that hate as anger at telling a new story.

Why do I believe he holds this opinion? When creating The Force Awakens, he seemed to have decided at that point that the safe bet was to give fans the same story. The Force Awakens is essentially a retelling of a New Hope. As the Cracked article points out, J.J. Abrams is “nothing if not risk-averse.” I’m aware that J.J. received the same criticism from the fans (including me) for Into Darkness despite that being a retelling of one of the classic TOS stories, but based on his approach to the Force Awakens, I suspect that he saw that hate as riding on the coattails of the hate from Star Trek 2009.

Why J.J. Is Wrong

Based on his direction for the Force Awakens, J.J. probably is having a hard time reconciling the criticism with Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Beyond with the criticism of Into Darkness. He apparently doesn’t see the connection that all three movies have, which is actually the source of legacy fan anger. The reason people reacted so poorly to Star Trek and the Force Awakens isn’t because he was telling a new story; it was that he completely wiped out everything that we loved so much from the past. In the case of Star Trek 2009, the entire timeline was erased, and not because he wanted to tell a time-travel story. J.J. wanted to wipe out this universe and its characters that he hated so much and rebrand them to his liking. It’s going to be tough, in general, to make legacy fans happy when you tell them that everything they loved so much never happened and doesn’t matter. Only the sycophants will enjoy it as much.

Flash forward to the Force Awakens. Everything the Ewoks (and I guess the rebels too) accomplished didn’t matter, because in the end the Empire survived, just with a different name. That happy ending from Return of the Jedi was an illusion, which means the next time you watch Return of the Jedi, you should do so with a heavy heart knowing that tyranny and global destruction is just a few years away. Hell, Rian Johnson even screwed this up going from the Force Awakens to the Last Jedi. The profoundness of Rey extending Luke’s lightsaber to him was completely undone when he tossed it away. That joke wasn’t worth what it (un)did to the new trilogy.

Now let’s go off on a slight tangent. The same thing happened with Ghostbusters. Sure, it’s easy to slap a label of “misogynist” on a critic of that movie (as many of you did with the Last Jedi). That way, one can simply dismiss the critics as bad people and give themselves an excuse to ignore the critics’ pesky logic. But notice that those same critics are very excited about the new Ghostbusters movie that coming out in 2020. They’re excited even though they have no idea whether the main characters are going to be male or female; black or white; or Jew, gentile, or atheist. That’s because, as far as I can tell, only a statistically insignificant number of people care about that sort of thing. The internet, and the psychological need to look at train wrecks, gives those people more attention than they merit. Most people just want a good movie, but if the franchise is important to them, they want such stories to hold that franchise’s legacy intact. (That said, it’s always bothered my that Ghostbusters II basically undid the happy ending of Ghostbusters, so Rian Johnson was by no means the first filmmaker to make this mistake.)

J.J. Could Have Had It Both Ways

It didn’t have to be like this. I’m not a creative writer (as you can probably tell), so don’t hold me to the details, but let’s see if I can fix this.

Let’s start with Star Trek. Kirk’s origin story was never fully told in Star Trek canon prior to that movie, but there are some rough details we know. You didn’t need to change the timeline in order to provide such an origin story. If they had just told Kirk’s origin story within the prime universe, perhaps including stories that were mentioned in TOS (or better yet, dealing with their aftermath), they could have given 100% respect to canon while still telling a new story that everyone has been asking for. The movie could still end with the crew as we know it coming together. Star Trek Discovery, which I love, is doing something similar, so while it has its critics, it’s quite popular. There’s no hypocrisy here. Star Trek fans really do want new stories, just not at the expense of old ones. For long-time readers of my blog (all two of you), you may know of an exception to this rule that I endorse. For the record, Star Trek Into Darkness shouldn’t have been about (spoiler alert!) Khan; it should have been about Sybok. There’s nothing wrong with retelling a story if you’re getting it right this time.

For Star Wars, I would have made the new trilogy about the rise of the new Sith Order. Imagine that there’s no “New Order,” which means the Empire was indeed defeated, leaving the catharsis of the original trilogy’s ending intact. In the years since Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker starts a new Jedi Order, and his nephew, Kylo, is one of the padawans. Kylo is approached by Darth Plagueis either as a Sith ghost or as a reincarnated Sith. (Both can be reconciled with the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis.) Plagueis corrupts Kylo and takes him on as an apprentice. Notice that so far, a lot of this story is exactly what we have without undoing the value of the original trilogy. Kylo kills Plagueis, who then creates a new Sith Order from among Luke’s other padawans, abandoning the Rule of Two (i.e., “Only two there are. No more; no less. A master and an apprentice.”) Kylo considers the Rule of Two misguided, blaming it for centuries of Jedi domination of the Sith. Kylo believes that he’s found a way to manage the selfishness inherent to the Sith, which could make a Sith Order work. Now you have a new story, which is absolutely a Star Wars story, but respects canon 100%. While I expect most fans would enjoy this, I can accept the possibility that this story may not appeal to the masses. My point, however, is that I just provided an outline for a potentially enjoyable Star Wars trilogy that’s both novel in its approach and consistent with canon. That’s what the critics want, and the new fans would have enjoyed it just as much. Everyone wins.

For Ghostbusters, they should do exactly what they’re planning to do: Continue the original story. I’ll leave it at that.

Conclusion

I have a degree in physics. I’ve studied rocket science. This isn’t rocket science. This is about familiarity, but not story-based familiarity. The familiarity comes from the setting. Give us new characters, using the old characters to pass the torch if possible. Give us new stories, but within the same exact universe so that the old stories still matter. Unnecessarily wrecking our childhood is the crime. The new characters and stories should still make the kids happy without pissing off the ones that are telling them to get off their lawns.

Now get off my lawn.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

J.J. Abrams Hates Star Trek
J.J. Abrams Hates Star Trek

D&D Beyond and the Operatic Bard Class for #5e #DnD #RPG

An opera singer has created the Operatic Bard subclass for 5th Edition D&D, which she’s selling on the DM’s Guild for $1.99. This is interesting, but not necessarily in the way you think.

Journey To Ragnarok AvatarWhy would I pay one cent for this if I didn’t know whether or not it was useful to me?

On the other hand, if she published it without a paywall, then asked for money, she’d get next to nothing regardless of how good it is.

Unlike adventures, content like this will always be cursed by this paradox unless the content retains a value after being published as a PDF. Ergo, I believe the solution here is for WotC to facilitate incorporation of this material into their digital system, D&D Beyond. Beyond doesn’t allow us to create custom classes or builds because it requires more complicated coding behind the scenes. Therefore, the only way for it to be incorporated into Beyond is for WotC to do it themselves, which opens up the market for this kind of community-created content. She could sell the Operatic Bard for $1.99 and get the same cut that she currently gets for the PDF. Or more. Or less. The details don’t currently concern me.

The timing of this article is of particular interest to me because I just received the magnificent Journey to Ragnarok and have no way of incorporating the new class (Rune Master) into D&D Beyond, nor can I add the new builds for the barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard (yeah, pretty much all of them). My gaming has dropped off dramatically as of late. Long story short, it’s not worth the time investment to play. Being able to run Journey to Ragnarok with access to D&D Beyond would be quite an incentive to get me back into the fold. If not, then my interest will continue to wane. I don’t know if I’m in any way representative of a large group of people, but there’s some anecdotal evidence as to why this is a good idea.

Again, I don’t think this applies to NPC stat blocks because they’re easily added to Beyond by the end user. I also don’t think this applies to adventures because players are willing to take chances on adventures based on the synopsis and based on the fact that even a “bad” adventure can still be fun. This applies only to classes, builds, or anything else that end users can’t add to D&D Beyond themselves.

What do you think? Is WotC dropping the ball to some extent by not incorporating community-created classes and builds into D&D Beyond? Would you be more inclined to create classes and builds if you knew they could sell.

Follow me on Twitter @GSLLC

Turning 50: Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes #happybirthday

One Year Later!

This past year has been a great ride. A collection of small and not-so-small things inspired me to make some changes in my life. I don’t like discussing it, but many people have credited me with inspiring them to make changes, so here I go again.

On May 21, 2017, I weighed 303 pounds. I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, a B12 deficiency, and developed osteoarthritis in my hip. All of that sucked, but it didn’t inspire me to make any changes. What ultimately put me over the top was the burden I had become on society, and more severely on my friends. My gluttony and sloth were affecting others, and that wasn’t fair.

So, on May 22, I stopped drinking anything but water (occasionally with a bit of lemon or lime juice for flavor, but usually by itself). On June 5, I dropped my daily carb count to 70-75 grams per day and eliminated all but trace amounts of sugar from my diet. Everything that I eat has one of three things on the label: “0 g sugar,” “<1 g sugar,” or “not a significant source of sugars.” If it says 1 g of sugar, I won’t eat it. I don’t eat even onions and peppers because they have a higher natural sugar content then other vegetable options (spinach is your friend). To get me started, my first meal was at Wildfire in Tysons Corner. I had filet mignon and broccoli with lemon juice. Nothing wrong with that. When I had carb cravings, which happened a lot, I’d cook up an entire pack of bacon and eat that as an in-between-meals snack, and I’d still lose weight!

Note: If you have certain medical conditions, my diet won’t work for you. Also, if you’re only 20 pounds overweight, things won’t move as quickly as someone needing to lose 100 pounds. Consult a doctor if you have a genuine medical condition, but if you don’t have any genuine medical conditions, don’t pretend you do. Creating excuses will doom you from the start. This took dedication and persistence.

On July 6, I went back to my martial arts dojo and started working towards my 2nd degree black belt. In late September, I added weightlifting to my regimen, which is the first time in my life that I’ve regularly lifted weights. As my endurance improved, I started running. I do interval training, alternating between a jog speed (4.5 mph) and run speed (6.5 mph), but my goal is to regularly run at 7.5 (i.e., the fabled “8-minute mile”). Because of the workouts, I’ve actually had to force myself to eat 135 g of carbs per day and drink sugar-free Power Zero to replace potassium and sodium, but I never once faltered and resumed sugar intake.

My Results So Far

Today, I turn 50, and here are the results. I’ve lost 75 pounds. All of my numbers are great, and I have no persistent joint pain. I feel better physically, emotionally, and even mentally (i.e., no more B-12 deficiency causing vertigo, etc.). Don’t get me wrong. I’m 50. That means that lifting weights for the first time in my life can cause intense soreness. Even the very familiar martial arts has resulted in a badly-pulled hamstring and other assorted aches and pains. But that’s all temporary. If I give myself a little rest, it goes away, and then it’s back to the grind.

My Goals Going Forward

All I have is MS Paint. No Photoshop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, not quite. Here are the real goals: The aforementioned 8-minute mile and 2nd-degree black belt, another 8 pounds lost, but more importantly, everyone realizing that they can do the same thing. If you want to lose weight, start dieting right now, and then when you’re ready, start working out (preferably weights first, then cardio, but do whatever you enjoy more so that you’ll stick with it). If 50 isn’t too late, 40 sure isn’t, and neither is 30. The longer you wait, the more permanent damage you’ll do to yourself that will never be undone (I’ll spare you the gory details).

Get on it! If you have any questions or need a sounding board, let me know.

A special thanks to Ben Barr, champion of the First Amendment, whose post about a year ago gave me some good ideas.