Intelligent Tinned Ham

I have this horrible feeling that spam might be driving me to a point of paranoia where I may have unapproved a couple of legitimate comments, as some spam is getting clever and just subtle enough for me to think “maybe they did just like my article and want to say so?” despite their login name being something like FreeRegistryCleaner.  Then of course I tie myself in knots thinking that maybe they’d called themselves that to be ironic or that maybe they had the world most boring yet intriguing nickname.

If I have unapproved a comment of yours and you are a real person and not a robot (not that I’m robot-ist) then drop me a line and I’ll reinstate it.

Additional Notes:

The internet can become a paranoid place.  I started looking around on a Minecraft server last night and made the mistake of asking for building rights, which started a long “interview process” where the admin in question was definitely suspicious of me and convinced I was going to try and destroy their carefully crafted world.  I completely understand why this is the case but it is sad all the same.  Maybe there’s a broader comment about the human condition and the few making life hell for the many in there.

Killer Dice: Keith and Derek

The dice are trying to kill you.

I have an affinity for Dungeons and Dragons, one of the most geeky of games.  In the right circumstances can be hugely enjoyable, with those circumstances largely being “not taking it too seriously”. 

One of my first attempts to get a couple of my friends interested in “proper” Dungeons and Dragons did not go well.  It was a standard basic-set adventure involving a dungeon for a dark wizard’s salt mine that started the players in a prison cell and was meant to lead them to an exit that turned out to be a lost city, or something along those lines. 

The two players in question only made it to room number two before killing each other following a dispute about what to do with an unconscious hobgoblin that they were dragging along behind them.

The warning bells for this scenario were probably starting to warm up around about the time the characters were rolled up and given the names “Keith” and “Derek”, the former being a thief, the latter a cleric.  I’ll admit that this was an early version of Dungeons and Dragons which was a little low on character customisation, with Dwarf and Elf being a class as opposed to a race, but in terms of fleshed out characters, Keith and Derek were particularly poorly dressed skeletons.  Of course, this didn’t register as a problem, as after all, these were pretty much new players to the game, and it was probably best just to get on with the adventure and let them work out their characters from there.

What followed is probably more likely my fault than theirs, as I proceeded to allow things that a more seasoned DM would work around.  Keith and Derek, with the help of burly NPC Axel, tricked their hobgoblin gaoler, Jerj, who I consistently mispronounced as “Jerry”, and broke from their bondage.  However, being without any equipment other than the soiled rags they were wearing, they were keen to keep a set of manacles that happened to be in their cell.  Not only this, but they then decided to fill the manacles with an unconscious hobgoblin gaoler.  Now the warning bells were starting to clang a little.  I allowed it, regretted it, and then decided that I would have the hobgoblin regain consciousness slowly, leaving them plenty of time to leave him behind.

Dragging their captive along behind them, for reasons they did not fully comprehended, their captive hobgoblin started stirring into consciousness.  They promptly entered a discussion about what to do with it.  In a reversal of what you would expect, the thief thought it would be immoral to slit the creature’s throat whilst it was out cold, whereas the cleric practically had the knife to its throat before anyone could think.  I can’t quite remember what happened immediately following this, but either Keith killed Derek, or Derek killed Keith, or Keith and Derek somehow accidentally killed each other with some unfortunate rolling of dice (the Killer Dice principle).

Taking a few things away from this misadventure, I learnt some fairly useful lessons.

1)                 Don’t always let players have their own way.

2)                 Learn to fudge the dice.

3)                 Don’t always let players have their own way.

4)                 Make sure your players actually want to play.  A bit of a no brainer, but I have suspicions that Derek and Keith were less than keen.

5)                 Don’t always let players have their own way (but not at the expense of point number 4).

If anyone out there recognises the adventure I’m talking about (something along the lines of “Escape from Zanzer’s Dungeon) and has actually played all the way through, I’d be interested to know because I’m convinced nobody actually made it.  It seemed to go on forever and so in many ways, I’m glad Keith and Derek never made it past room two.

Additional Notes:

Years later I would start a campaign and allow a game-breaking Barbarian-Wizard to be created.  I swear the player used loaded dice to roll for his characteristics.  It is an all new variant on the Killer Dice Principle resulting in a long slow death from exasperation for poor soul trying to run the game.

Incidentally, if anyone laughs at you or otherwise teases you for playing Dungeons and Dragons, remember the following two things:

1)  They have heard of the game and therefore probably know what it is thus maybe just as geeky as you.

2)  They are secretly jealous.

Love Never Dies: The Phantom in Plain Sight

The mask from Phantom of the Opera. Of course, in Love Never Dies it has been reduced to a quarter mask. Maybe if they do another sequel he’ll just wear an eye-patch.

A quick disclaimer before I launch into what will probably read like a bit of a grumble or small rant:  Love Never Dies was not an awful performance.  I generally dislike musicals as I find myself frequently wanting to scream out “Just stop bloody singing and say it!” but that doesn’t mean I hate them and I have a certain fondness for Phantom of the Opera at least.  The performers themselves did a fantastic job with the material given (with the exception of a ten year old boy who might have been a volunteer from the audience or somebody on the crew’s nephew) and despite the fact that the story, setup and most of the songs weren’t very good did not stop me from enjoying my evening.  This could possibly be because of my general disposition for anything shown at the theatre generally being “good until bored to tears” that saved it for me, or it could have been the one or two redeeming moments after the interval, or it could have been the fact that I’d heard it was awful going in and was thus very happy that I wasn’t going to have to grit my teeth and say to people afterwards that I enjoyed it when I didn’t.  I am as of writing this, not gritting my teeth, so I am therefore perfectly happy.

Love Never Dies takes off “ten long years” after the events in the Phantom of the Opera.  Don’t worry if you can’t remember that fact as you will be reminded of it several times throughout the performance in all mediums, including dialogue, song and spinning-newspaper-headline forms.  We have well and truly left the Paris opera theatre burned to the ground and are shown that a couple of the key players from Paris have relocated to Coney Island in America to set up a sideshow under the name of “Phantasma”.  Oh, and the sideshow is owned by the Opera Ghost himself, the Phantom.  We are told that Madame Giry and her daughter Meg helped him set it up and that he’s been running it for “ten long years” and that he has been unable to really write anything for “ten long years” because he has been apart from Christine for “ten long years”.  The plot comes along when Christine and husband Raul with tone-deaf son turn up “ten long years” after the opera house in Paris burned down and are reunited with the Phantom who essentially kidnaps them as they get off the boat.  From there unravels a paper thin plot resulting in a brain dead reveal and a slightly rushed ending.

I will reiterate.  It is not good, but it is not devoid of any enjoyment.  I just want to state again that I didn’t hate this.  This is not a post born out of hate.

On the off chance that anyone reading this considers anything else I say to be spoilers, I will put the rest behind the jump.

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Killer Dice: Arkham Horror

You have seen this box. If you haven't seen this box, you will see this box.

If you play board games for any length of time, you will know about Arkham Horror.  You’ll see it’s box adorning the shelves of your local gaming shop and you will be aware of its existence.  Eventually you will hear rumours of it’s arcane game mechanics; a clunky and intricate aggressive underbelly geared towards devouring fleshy unsuspecting players.  I’ve seen reviews that discourage and recommend the game at the same time for its poor yet simultaneously amazing mechanics.  In short, Arkham Horror is difficult to explain and to define.  With most games you can say “well it’s like Risk, but with terrorists and oil” or “well it’s like Monopoly but my friends still talk to me once we’re finished” but with Arkham Horror, all I can really say is that there are counters, dice and a board.

Arkham Asylum Horror is a board game for 1-8 players set to the theme of the H.P Lovecraft mythos.  It is a co-operative game, and as a group you win by preventing an elder god from awakening from its slumber by sealing enough inter-dimensional portals or by defeating said elder god once it awakens.  The game puts you in the shoes of a selection of investigators and sets you out on the streets of Arkham to search for clues and fight of mind-destroying monsters and abominations.

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