What Dice Funk Taught Me About Character on Character Violence

One of the most widely enforced rules I’ve seen in Dungeons and Dragons rules that I’ve seen in games has been NO PLAYER ON PLAYER VIOLENCE. I had always thought it wasn’t a very good rule–I thought that there was some value in conflicts in character coming to blows.

Warning, spoilers follow. 

Then I listened to Dice Funk’s last few episodes; a character killed another character and no I don’t feel bad saying that because it’s done in such a way that the spectacle of what’s happened makes for good listening even if you’re sure it’s coming.

The aftermath and the precedent that it sets for the party, especially if there’s a campaign  with some scope or goal in mind, is that they cease to trust each other. It derails the game–it forces someone else to leave or make a new character and to assimilate them into the group .

I’ve never had a game where it really came to serious blows, but I get it now. I don’t think I’ll ever let it happen in one of my games. The episode after the death there was such a somber start that I didn’t even realize the player who had been killed was still there.

If there’s some kind of Game of Thrones style game about deception or you’re the kind of player who expects this stuff I could see it playing well, but it’s just not for me.

Make Way For the Rat Queens

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Ended up doing a search today for some D&D Art for the game a friend and I are running and in the process I came across two interesting things: the first was some kind of porn comic about two hobbit girls and the second was Rat Queens.

Rat Queens is a monthly comic book by Image about a mercenary group who fight monsters and threats in and around their town. Sounds like standard Dungeons and Dragons bullshit, but check it out:

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This is just a fun story. Not just that, the cast is diverse, female lead (with a lot of other females running around doing the adventuring) and it’s not afraid to be vulgar, to get a little serious sometimes and to show some of the things that you don’t really see enough of out there.

It’s done well enough that it’s getting an animated cartoon based on it. If you enjoy things like World of WarcraftDungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings, fun, comics, comedy or just fantasy–I highly recommend you check it out.

You can get it on Amazon for a Kindle or if you’re looking for a paper copy check out a local comic book store. The first two volumes are out so far.

The Adventure Zone

tumblr_o0ykkuU7F81qhbf7no4_1280Just a few days ago I wrote about the podcast Dice Funk that I recently caught up on–I burned through the first seventeen episodes of it in an attempt to make it to the good parts. I got it in my head that there would be something there to make it to. It was entertaining at times, but even in my last post talking about it I couldn’t stop recommending The Adventure Zone. 

The Adventure Zone is a comedy-drama Dungeons and Dragons podcast starring three brothers, Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, and their father, Clint McElroy. It started off as a one off episode that spun-off of their other podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me. Though most of them are inexperienced with the game, they’re totally comfortable with being themselves and with each other. Griffin, who runs the game, does different voices for characters, writes a fantastic story and (more recently) has started to make music and sound effects (which became the subject of a Pitchfork article).

There’s a huge fan following with a fan art community and even a full Reddit section and a Tumblr dedicated to the game. From a story telling standpoint, Dungeons and Dragons differs from other mediums because of the potential for improvisation. The person running the game can prepare before hand, but the players ultimately have the option of going the opposite direction, of choosing not to explore the main focus of things, or doing things in unorthodox ways.

Travis, Justin, and Clint tend toward being the comedic foil to a straight-man made up of the rest of the world. While they travel partake in typical adventure like fighting monsters and rescuing towns they also respond to situations in odd ways, like ridiculing the design of an arcane robot (“Did you put it together from a kit and forget to look at the front of the box”) or hitting that perfect one-liner when besting a superior foe (“Abraca-fuck-you).

Since the four of them aren’t veterans there’s no need to understand the game as they explain it all as they’re going along, but once the game is rolling things kind of morph into a radio drama where no one is quite sure what’s going to happen. There have been moments of brilliance where even Griffin didn’t realize one of them had learned a new spell or attack so he’s forced to act off the cuff and decide what this new piece of information does in the game.

The Adventure Zone is the best D&D podcast out there right now and I feel comfortable saying that as I have tried many others. So much effort goes into the whole thing on Griffin’s part and he’s the kind of storyteller you want at the helm of any project. You can tell he really cares about not just the fun they’re having, but the presentation. In an interview with the makers of D&D he went over how there are whole fights and sequences edited out that were just fun for them and wouldn’t have been very good to listen to for an audience (and you can’t tell, they effect the story so little that they just don’t even seem to be there).

I’d recommend this to just about anyone; those looking to find something to pass the time, someone looking for a good story, or someone looking for comedy. If you play or run Dungeons and Dragons games it could be just what you need to raise the bar–make you see what can be done with a product that people have tried to keep confined to this sort of European-Medieval-Fantasy bubble for too long.

Find the Adventure Zone over at its website, or search for it on iTunes, Podbean, Podcast Addict or whatever Android Podcasting app you use.

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The First Two Episodes of The X-Files: A Review

The original X-Files premiere back in September 1993 was one of the few times I remember being gathered with my dad and brothers to just watch a show. I didn’t know back then that I’d be watching this show until I was most of my way through high school or that a lot of it’s procedural traits would bleed into shows like C.S.I.

I was a big fan; every Sunday night the show came on I was there. And when the show moved days I followed. I was too young to see the first movie in theaters by myself,  but I went opening day to the second. Oh, and I own seasons one through nine on DVD.

So, when I tell you that the last few days have been pretty fucking fantastic you can guess why.

The X-Files season ten premier successfully did something few shows can claim. They resurrected a show that ended years ago with the original cast and keeping all of the old story in play.

There’s been some talk of the shows political stance…the Alex Jones-esque Info wars style character that Joel McHale inhabits and I think people forget that that’s always been there. Before there was your Benghazis or death panels there was a smoking man leading a shadowy cabal bent on plutocracy. Before there was 9/11 the Lone Gunman fought to keep a faction of the United States Government from crashing commercial airliners into the World Trade Center (this episode aired in March 2001, six months before the event).

The X-Files has never been afraid to push the envelope and use tragedy you fuel story and they’ve never been particularly disrespectful to their source material.

That rung true in the first episode and as they brought back that in 2002 they had mentioned FEMA as the secret government–a body that during alien colonization would come to control the state of emergency and other government bodies. This was years before Katrina put FEMA on everyone’s radar and that wasn’t the first time the show had name dropped that agency.

And when they named dropped Edward Snowden it seemed right in line with the kind of person Mulder is. The whole truths or bust. The kind of guy who would travel to the artic to break into a submarine or risk breaking into a military base filled with black ops agents just to glimpse the truth.

It felt like the old days or the show, but properly updated for the modern era. Cell phones and modern computers were there and the three title characters are older, but the show feels like X-Files.

The nine season history of the show isn’t used to drag the show back through nostalgic territory and is instead there to help build something new. Never mind that a lot of the conspiracy theories are thought to be held by unsavory types. That was always Scully and Mukder’s arena.

The show had to be a little faster paced because it’s not 1993 anymore and audiences have come to expect it, but it makes the transition well.

We’ve seen a trend lately of continuation shows Girl Meets World and Fuller House, but the X-Files this might be the best one. It certainly feels more necessary.

About Friends

There was a discussion almost a year ago that ended a friendship of mine. It wasn’t the slow breakdown, sort of ending that you would expect. I quit talking to her and, because she never bothered to call or talk to me and we live several hundred miles apart, we never spoke again.

I think at some point I got included in a mass Christmas text or something.

The conversation was about the worth of people and her point was somewhere along the lines of the idea that a person is worth a dollar amount, worth their education or their job. I’m not trying to sound like Tyler Durden or say those things have no value. They obviously do mean a lot, but she was talking about from the standpoint of a relationship. You know, the dating kind.

In all of those tired stories you hear about couples in the seventies and before there is that sense of struggle. The small apartment at the start, learning and growing together and sticking through tough times. Most people are going to hit that rough patch, even if it’s only relative to how smooth everything is around it. When you’ve gone through that with someone or are willing to go through that with them it means something.

This especially matters when you live in a country where most of us are one accident away from ruin. We’re overburdened by medical bills if we’re hurt and even with the help of insurance you can only sustain yourself for so long.

What do you do when that happens? What happens to those couples that selected on good jobs and money when those things are gone or aren’t possible anymore? She got offended by my answer and I got tired of being the only one reaching out and communicating with a person who didn’t seem to want friends as much as she wanted networking–or just someone who was there when it became convenient again.

It’s not fair to ask that someone agree in all things, but you get a lot of points for agreeing in one–just be available. Make time for others. There’s a difference between someone who just talks to you in their free time and someone who makes time to talk to you.

Dice Funk – The First Seventeen Episodes

kd9RywHAxOonB5nPI07OMTkIuHKvP2RF1dI0WeUVvbJuIcmAkuIWg1mRLwOYPGAu_large_2Back when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons the first Penny Arcade podcast episodes made to promote fourth edition had just come out. There was still a flurry of activity and excitement surrounding the new edition and what it meant for the game or even if it was really considered still the same game.

This was in 2008 or so.

The Penny Arcade games were what I cut my teeth on both in podcasts and in learning exactly what kind of fun D&D could be. Looking back on them they aren’t the best produced, but they’re special for me for those reasons.

Fast forward to now. I listen to about seven or eight different podcasts on the regular, though I am starting to drop some due to issues with interest. Where I once loved Read It And Weep, I’ve begun to feel as if the show has disappeared up its own ass. It seems far too proud of itself and I can hardly pay attention to what I’m hearing. Other shows I love like The Flop House and How Did This Get Made have been coming out so sporadically that it’s been hard to fill the time in between them.

I picked up The Adventure Zone because of a friend’s recommendation and I’ve been floored; it reignited my love of listening to others play the game and just have fun with while at the same time it’s given me something to look forward to every other week. The only problem is that it might be the best Dungeons and Dragons podcast out there and everything else is far, far behind.

Which brings me to the subject of my current post: Dice Funk is a relatively new podcast (in that it just started in the last several months). It doesn’t seem to have the following of a lot of the other things out there either and it is produced under the Channel Awesome banner.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of Channel Awesome or That Guy With Glasses–while some of the people I like to see content from online came from the site, it always felt that the site tried to project this kind of image of itself out there. The creators also didn’t seem to be able to stand on their own enough and that bothers me the same way networks crossing over unpopular shows with popular ones in shoehorned ways bothers me.

I won’t say the site isn’t popular,  but it’s not my cup of tea. Dice Funk, despite this, caught my attention and there are some cool things about it. To date it’s been the only other D&D podcast I’ve been able to take more than three episodes of. That being said, it’s got a lot of issues. No one seems to know the rules of the game and they don’t seem to be learning them or what they can actually do. The comedy is less organic and is pushed to absurdity. It’s the kind of thing where someone playing a character in a movie is written to do something very strange and out there because “I’m in a movie, look how wild I am”. We’re not behaving the way that people would actually be in these situations.

It’s fantasy and make-believe, I get that, but my issue with it all is that if you’re going to cock things up and act like a jackass, there should be some actual humor in it. Not just “these guys are gay–how funny” or “watch me act against the party because my character has an intelligence stat so low she should literally be too dumb to make the moral choices necessary to be considered evil”.

The sad thing is I’m going to continue listening because the story is very well thought out and different. It’s not the typically fantasy thing and that’s one of the things that draws me into something like this. I don’t particularly like much about the guy running the whole thing, but his story writing abilities seem to be admirable.

If someone’s recommended this to you as a way to get into the game or just something you can put on for an hour while you ride home and laugh, just go listen to The Adventure Zone.  Or maybe listen after–that will make this a lot easier to get through.