Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 9

Gnome
D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human and role playing a dragon born. Today we are going to talk about playing the smallest and most full of life character race, gnomes.

If you think about gnomes outside of Dungeons & Dragons, a few things probably come to mind. You might be thinking of the annoying little gnomes that Ron, Harry and Hermione enjoyed tossing out of the Weasley’s garden. You might be thinking of the vicious gnomes that show up in Grimm’s Fairy Tales or you might be thinking of the little cutesy lawn gnomes that keep watch over your grandmother’s house. When it comes to D&D, that’s all sort of accurate with the game, except that the gnomes don’t tend to be mean spirited or especially annoying and they can be cunning warriors, excellent wizards or even mighty paladins. On second thought, D&D gnomes are really unlike any of the ones you are probably familiar with. The good news is, I’m here to tell you about playing a gnome and why this can be a great character race for a kid to play into, especially if they love to make jokes or puns.

Gnomes live for centuries. Anywhere between three and five hundred years is average for them. Unlike elves, who tend to take the time to slowly savor the world, gnomes feel like they need to make maximum use out of their time and live life to the absolute fullest extent they can. For this reason, they tend to make great adventurers. They really want to get out int the world and see everything there is to see. If there is a quest to kill a dragon, a gnome will want to go, not for treasure, not for violence, but because they have never actually seen one and who wouldn’t want to do that?

Gnomes also tend to be pretty upbeat and cheerful which can be a whole lot of fun to play both as a character and as a nonplayer character if you have one in your game. I always like to have a gnome I can play at some point in my game and I’ll tell you why in a little bit.

Gnomes have a refreshing take on life because they love to joke around but they are also able to get down to business when the stakes are high. They take well to tasks they set out to do. While some set out to become wealthy, and they have a love of gems, their true passion really is just the experience of life. They do live underground but they are likely to be found outside more often than dwarves tend to be. Gnomes can be found as any of the character classes in the rules but they do make especially good bards, wizards and paladins. They even do pretty well as rogues considering their small stature and the ability they have to sneak around when needed.

Gnomes love to joke, play pranks, and make puns. I am a dad and being a dad means that you are legally required to make a certain number of dad jokes, silly pranks and bad puns per year. I get the majority of mine in when I put a gnome NPC in the game. Why? Well, then it’s not dad telling the joke right? It’s the gnome! Okay, so my kid still rolls his eyes at the jokes but I enjoy it anyway. A gnome is a great comedic vehicle when you need oneand that’s how I use it but of course you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to.

Before we get into all the ability bonuses and stuff you get for being a gnome, I want to take a minute and talk about gnome names. In the basic rules they tell you that gnomes love to have a ton of names. They have so many names it’s hard for humans to keep track of what they should be called. But the gnomes always pick the names that they think are the most fun to say. Now usually I would say just name characters whatever you want, and that’s still true in this case but I am also going to give you another great source of gnome name inspiration. The master of all time at fun sounding names is one, Dr. Seuss. When looking for gnome names, his books are a gold mine. Barholomew Cubbins? Cindy Lou Who? Benjamin B. Bicklebaum? Oh those are such gnome names. And those are ones you have probably heard of. Look for some of the more obscure ones if you need to and I promise you are going to find a name that is fun to say.

Gnome Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a gnome

Ability Score Increase

Gnomes take quickly to the things they learn and they have a long lifespan of experience to draw from. For that reason they get to add 2 to their Intelligence score

Age

As I said above gnomes live 300-500 years or so but they age at the same pace as humans and are considered adults around age 40.

Alignment

If you use alignment in your game, gnomes tend toward the good side. This is pretty good news for the rest of the world because they can be a bit mischievous and like to play tricks on others.

Size

Gnomes are the smallest of the playable races in the basic rules. They stand only 3-4 feet tall and are very light usually coming in around 40 pounds. For game purposes your size is small.

Speed

Gnomes aren’t exceedingly fast but they are not exceptionally slow either. Their speed is 25 feet.

Darkvision

Since gnomes live underground they are pretty used to seeing in the dark. For this reason they get darkvision which means you can see out to 60 feet as if it were bright light while in dim light and in darkness you see out to 60 feet as if it were dim light.

Gnome Cunning

Gnomes can be smart, wise and charming so they get to have advantage on saving throws with these traits when a magic spell using one of them calls for it. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what that means yet, just know that gnomes are resistant to a lot of types of magic but certainly not all types.

Languages

Gnomes are fluent in common and gnomish. Gnomish is fairly complex due to the fact that gnomes live so long and learn so much but it still uses dwarvish script when written. Other creatures are able to learn gnomish but gnomes don’t necessarily share the language easily with anyone unless they are very close to them.

Subraces

I just discovered something odd when doing my research for this post. I look at the rules that are posted on D&D Beyond for the basic rules. In there they mention two subraces, the rock gnomes and the forest gnomes. However, they only explain the rock gnomes in there. So, in case you want to play one, I have done the research and I can share with you what the forest gnomes are like as well.

Forest Gnomes

Forest gnomes are quick and stealthy. They have a knack for illusion as well. They are also in tune with the forestand the animals that live in it.

Ability Score Increase

You get to increase your dexterity score by 1.

Natural Illusionist

You know the minor illusion cantrip. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it. Basically what this means is that your gnome can cast a spell where you can cast asmall but pretty convincing illusion. This is a surprisingly useful spell and I have had a lot of interesting role play moments because of the spell so it can be quite fun to have.

Speak With Small Beasts

Forest gnomes love animals and animals love them right back. For that reason, forest gnomes can speak with any animal that is size small or smaller. They have to do it through sounds and gestures but communication is quite possible among gnomes and animals.

Rock Gnomes

Rock gnomes are the most common type of gnome in D&D. They are hardy and inventive.

Ability Score Increase

Because they are hardy, rock gnomes get to increase their constitution score by 1. This just means it’s harder for them to get sick or poisoned.

Artificer’s Lore

This one is a little wonky but it’s cool. here’s what the rules say exactly: Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magic items, alchemical objects, or technological devices, you can add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply. Now, I know that sounds confusing but here is the takeaway, when a gnome is looking at magical, alchemical, or technological stuff, they know more about it than others would. The reason is pretty obvious, gnomes live a long time and love to learn, so they know stuff.

Tinker

This one is pretty cool too. Basically a gnome can spend 10 gold and one hour and make a clockwork device. That’s as long as they have artisan’s tinker tools. Most gnomes do so that shouldn’t really be an issue. The device will stop working after 24 hours unless it is repaired. The gnome can also choose to take it apart and recover the parts of it. they are allowed to have up to 3 of these at a time.

If you are thinking that a gnome could make anything with this, that is not quite true. There are only three types of devices that can be made in this way.

Clockwork toy: This is basically a wind up toy that can be in the shape of a bunch of different stuff. The rules set limits but I don’t think you need to restrict it too much unless your kid wants it to be a tank with full fire power or something like that. If you are wondering what use these could possibly be you have clearly not played D&D before. These toys make great gifts to little kids the characters meet, they can be an excellent way to distract an unobservant guard, and maybe most importantly, they can be used to check if the floor has any traps set into it.

Fire Starter: This device produces a miniature flame. It’s good for lighting candles, torches or campfires. Personally, I think this one is less fun than the clockwork toy but it can come in handy when there are no other light orfire sources available.

Music Box: This is just your basic music box. It plays one song when open. It can also be used in some creative ways and as a distraction if done well, but the clockwork toy is still my favorite of the three.

Deep Gnomes

There is technically another type of gnome called the deep gnome or svirfneblin. They live in the underdark, in the same place dark elves live. They tend to still be good, but they have a lot less humor to them. I don’t strongly recommend this subrace for kids but if they really really want to play it, just remind the kid that these gnomes are still kind and good and want to help.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Gnomes

Gnomes can be a huge amount of fun for a kid to play. They get to be kind, caring, inquisitive and have a sense of humor. If you have a kid who likes to tell jokes, play pranks, or say puns, the gnome option is perfect. Even if your kid doesn’t want to tell jokes and all that, but wishes to play a character that loves life, this is an excellent choice. Most kids love life and they are natural learners so they identify well with gnomes.

Of course they can be played any way you and your kid wants them to be played. Maybe they do want to play the only bored gnome in existence. Or one that has zero sense of humor. That’s totally fine, each character is always an individual, just make sure you understand what direction your kid wants to take it when they start out.

As a Dungeon Master, I think gnomes are really fun to play. They can take the most mundane item and give a three hour lecture on it, all while keeping the crowd entertained. This can be a little challenging to role play, so one thing you may want to do is look up some jokes ahead of time. Got one you have been waiting to tell your kid? Drop it on them in the guise of a gnome character and see what kind of a reaction you get. You might be surprised to see that a joke that normally gets a groan will get a laugh in the game. Try to have fun with it. I also think gnomes make pretty good merchant characters. They can go on and on about an item they are going to sell to the party and gnomes tend to be nice so you don’t have the problem of a store keeper who really doesn’t want to be there.

As always, it’s up to you how you do it, this is just the way I like to run gnomes.

I hope you found this post useful and picked up one or two tips for playing in your own game.

Next time we will get into how to play a Half-Elf.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

skull-splitter metal dice

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Petr – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

After years of living in his grandfather’s shadow Petr Drexel, a member of the space-faring nomadic Star Folk, is on a quest to prove his worth to himself and his family. On his first job, Petr’s shuttle is shot out of the sky in the middle of a Martian civil war. Ship repairs put Petr in debt to Alfred Zwinger, who offers Petr a deal he can’t refuse: pay off the debt by completing jobs for a powerful Martian noble named Rickard d’Helion.

During his first job for d’Helion Petr’s shuttle is stolen by Henrietta, a Star Folk Navigator on the run. Petr retrieves his shuttle only to discover the work he was hired for isn’t as simple as it seems. Deliver mining equipment – and fight off an army to protect the site; capture a rogue Star Folk mech pilot – only to discover it’s Henrietta’s brother, and that Henrietta isn’t who she appears to be. Petr and his motley crew quickly become entangled in solar system spanning intrigue, and now Petr’s problem is no longer just paying off his debt, but whether he will survive at all.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Petr Drexel needs to prove himself worthy of his tribe and his family name. He is a space pilot and on his very first job, his shuttle is shot out of the sky, making it a whole lot more difficult for him to earn a living, let alone a name for himself. Repairing his ship puts him in debt to a wealthy merchant named Alred Zwinger. Petr finds three mercenaries and a navigator who may be hiding secrets to accompany him. Together the team travels throughout the galaxy, performing jobs big and small, from recovering lost goods to stopping highly skilled thieves. As the jobs play out, it becomes more obvious that there is something going on behind the scenes and Petr is determined to find out what that is.

The book is action packed and a fun ride. It’s the story of nomadic viking tribes in space which makes for some entertaining situations. Petr is a charismatic leader and his band of mercenaries provide for not only enjoyable action but humorous scenes as well. The problems in the book stack up for Petr as not only is he indebted to a ruthless loan shark, his shuttle is stole right from under his nose.

At times the politics of the space galaxy could get confusing in the story and it wasn’t always clear what those politics meant for Petr. However, the rest of the book makes up for it with plenty of space fights, power armor, and intrigue. The story of how the mercenaries come to respect and trust Petr is interesting and plays out naturally. There is even a romantic entanglement to deal with. The combination provides for a story that is well worth reading.

If you enjoy military space fiction or books that deal with explorers and mercenaries traversing new territory while trying to survive, then Petr is for you.

Space-ily Yours,

Slick Dungeon

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The Institute – #BookReview

Hello out there all you horror fans, it’s me Slick Dungeon, back with a review of a book from the master of horror, Stephen King. This time I am reviewing The Institute, a novel about kids with psychic abilities and what happens to them after they are kidnapped and taken to the eponymous Institute.

SYNOPSIS

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

REVIEW

5/5 Stars

To say that the book is gripping would be an understatement. King hooks the reader in with threads of people who seem to have nothing to do with each other but in as the reader we know there must be a reason we are introduced to these characters. By the end the reader is fully invested and the action never slows or disappoints.

Luke Ellis is a child genius. He’s able to ace the SAT with hardly breaking a sweat, he is able to get accepted into two Ivy League schools, and sometimes, just occasionally, he can knock and empty pizza platter off of a table with his mind. He’s twelve years old. To him, the least interesting thing about him is his mild telekinetic ability.

Meanwhile we meet Tim Jamieson who makes a sudden and possibly irrational decision to get off of a flight to New York and go wandering for a while. He ends up in DuPray, South Carolina, where he becomes what is known as a night knocker. This is sort of like a police officer, but it’s more like a security guard who walks around town, making sure nothing terrible is happening to disturb the peace of the quiet town. Little does he know it, but eventually, Tim and Luke’s fate will collide.

Luke wakes one day to find himself in a room that is almost his, but not quite. It turns out he has been kidnapped and he is in what is known as the Front Half of “The Institute”. Here kids are kept and fed and experimented on. The people who took Luke don’t care that he is a genius, they only care about his psychic abilities. That’s an unfortunate mistake for them because if anyone can get out of the place and expose what is going on, it’s Luke with his genius level intellect. Only, he will need to do it before he is taken to Back Half. The kids who go there, never are seen again.

Of course, since this is a King book, there are moments that are truly and genuinely terrifying and might just give you nightmares. The book reminds me very much of Firestarter or even Carrie when it comes to kids and psychic abilities but it has it’s own flavor to it. In my opinion it’s one of the better recent Stephen King books and doesn’t suffer from a poor ending the way some of his work can. It left me wanting more and hoping that there might be a sequel. Psychic abilities is a subject that King likes to delve into a lot, from Danny Torrence in The Shining to The Institute and I feel like they all intersect in one way or another. I kept imagining what would happen if little Danny had been taken to the Institute instead of to the Overlook hotel or if the kids in the Institute had gone to that haunted hotel. Whatever the case, if King writes about these psychic abilities, I am all in because it always delivers a great story.

If you like Stephen King at all, pick this one up, you won’t be disappointed.

Institutionally yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Bulbbul – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back with another review of a film, this time, a horror/supernatural film from India called Bulbbul. This is on Netflix right now and although the plot can be somewhat predictable here, if you don’t watch any other movie on Netflix, you should check this one out. There will be very mild spoilers here but I definitely won’t give much away as far as plot, but then again, it won’t really have any twists or turns that knock you out of your seat anyway.

The plot centers around the titular character Bulbbul. At the beginning of the film she is a child bride in the 1880s during the Bengal presidency. Bulbbul is so young in fact, when she is wed, that she mistakes her brother-in-law who is around her age, for her husband, who is significantly older. Her husband, Indranil, also has a twin brother named Mahendra. Both characters are played by Rahul Bose, while Bulbbul is played by Tripti Dimri. Bulbbul, lost in her new surroundings finds some solace in her companion Satya, Indranil’s youngest brother. Satya is played by Avinash Tiwary. Satya tells Bulbbul stories about a witch who haunts the woods they live in. Bulbbul and Satya become virtually inseperable, which causes conflict with Indranil. I’m not going to go much more into the plot other than to say, you can see that it is a story of a romance that is not allowed to be, against the backdrop of supernatural events and the abuses of men who think they can get away with harming women and children.

If that plot is sounding tried and true and like it might not be worth watching, I would say you may have a point. However, the cinematography in this film is breathtakingly beautiful. Honestly, I don’t know if I have seen a better use of color palette in a film. From the very beginning credits, it’s clear how gorgeous this movie is going to be. When supernatural events occur, the screen is awash in deep reds, and even when it’s more of a normal situation, the beauty of the scenery is something to behold. The only time the camera seems to see things in actual real colors and tones is in the scenes between Satya and Bulbbul. It provides an anchor to an otherwise fairy tale or dreamlike quality that the movie has. The acting is engaging and there are no poor performances anywhere to be found. Tripti herself is especially fascinating to watch.

There are moments in the film that remind me slightly of the book Dracula and I think that’s intentional by the filmmakers but it works. The frequent use of flash backs and flash forwards is a little disorienting at times and I’m not sure how much the film benefits from that decision but at all points during the film, there is so much for the eyes to take in, it’s nearly impossible to look away. We can all feel for the plight of Bulbbul and empathize with what happens next but the real triumph of the film is its ability to mix its social commentary with the utter beauty of the film itself. You will sometimes hear film makers remind audiences that movies are a visual medium. This movie proves how true that is.

If you are not sure about this one, just sit down and watch it for a few minutes. If you are not utterly stunned by the masterful cinematography, deep performances, or beautiful music, nothing on film will truly impress you. Bulbbul is technically in the supernatural/horror genre but I think it’s more on the line of a fairy tale, just one of the darker ones. There isn’t much need of blood or gore here, and there is at leas one scene with almost none of that that disturbed me immensely and it’s a scene that I will still think about a long time from now. And as horrific as it was, it still made use of that masterful cinematography I was talking about. If you sit through the movie, I guarantee it will stay with you too.

Visually yours,

Slick Dungeon

July 2020 TBR

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just wanted to share with you my July 2020 TBR list as it currently stands. Note that some of this could change as I do tend to be a slower reader and some books may get pushed back a little. For that reason, you’ll see two books that were on my June TBR showing up on my July TBR. I do my best to get through, but there’s only so much time. This month I plan to go through everything from horrific government experiments to science fiction classics to animal adventures. Check out my list and let me know what you think.

  1. The Institute by Stephen King

I’m a little more than half way through this one and I am loving it so far. Expect a review up on my site soon. This is about a secret “Institute” where kids with psychic abilities are basically being used as lab rats and weapons. As you might imagine with Stephen King there is plenty of horror included, as well as plenty of heart.

2. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

This my next read after The Institute. It’s the first in the Wheel of Time series and I am really looking forward to reading it, especially with the Amazon show on the horizon. It’s the first in a series of epic fantasy books that I am ready to take my first real dive into.

3. Eirwen and Fridis by C.S. Watts

This is book one in a fantasy series starting animals, akin to Watership Down or Wind in the Willows. I have begun this book and so far it has started to grow on me, so I am really curious to see where it goes. I will also be reviewing this for the website Reedsy so you can expect a review, but not until this one goes public on that site. It should still happen in July though.

4. The Invasion of Aeronbed by C.S. Watts

This is the sequel to Eirwen and Fridis and is the second part in a seven book series called The Ravenstones. I can’t really pre-judge this one since I haven’t finished the first book but the review for it will appear about a week after I review Eirwen and Fridis both here and on Reedsy.

5. Lies, Inc. by Phillip K. Dick

Phillip K. Dick is my favorite science fiction writer that a lot of people have never heard of but most of us have seen a story by. If you loved the film Bladerunner or Total Recall, you can thank Phillip K. Dick. Total Recall is based on a short story called We Can Remember It for You Wholesale while Bladerunner is based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Okay, so maybe Dick is not the best at good titles for his stories, but they are always odd and interesting and tend to influence a ton of science fiction storytelling both in literature and film. Lies Inc. is about an overpopulated Earth where people get teleported to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious emigres. It’s supposed to be an examination of totalitarianism, reality and hallucination. To me it sounds highly relevant to our time period and I am very curious to find out.

6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Honestly, I am not sure if I will make it to this one in the month of July but I am going to try. If I don’t make it, this will be at the top of the August TBR list for me.

This is the first in the Broken Earth series and won the Hugo award. It’s the story of how the world ends, for the final time. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this series but I haven’t ever had the chance to pick it up until now. I’m looking forward to it. The author says she likes to write about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and I really want to see how that is handled because that can either be done extremely well or extremely poorly in fiction. From all the accolades that the series has gotten, I am betting this is done extremely well.

Well, there you have it, that’s my list for the month. I am unfortunately one of those people who absolutely loves long books, long series, and is also a slow reader. It makes for a hard life but a lot of time spent enjoying good books.

Let me know what you think of my list and if you have a TBR I should check out, let me know in the comments!

Bookishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Garden and Other Stories – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

With The Garden and other stories, his first exciting collection, author Aaron Ramos skilfully weaves tales of powerful human emotion, modern scientific concepts, and ancient myths and legends within eight beautifully diverse stories.

In Elevated, a young man living in a dystopian future struggles with personal development and romance. In Zero, an elderly woman is confronted with a robotic visitation in small town America. By the Light of the Fire is one woman’s journey to peace with her father in the mountains of ancient Norway. Knocking on Heaven’s door sees a man come face to face with both the Devil and God in an effort to question what it means to be human. In the title story, a father and daughter try to make sense of prejudice, love and what it means to be truly happy in a post apocalyptic universe.

Ramos’ detailed and sensitive imagining of both future and past is an invitation to readers to consider who they are against the vast backdrop of multiple universes.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

The Garden and Other Stories is eight different short stories, varying in both length and subject matter. Most of the stories have some element of love, be it romantic, parental or even societal. While some stories might be stronger than others in terms of tale weaving, there is certainly something here to satisfy any reader who enjoys science fiction or fantasy stories.

At times the stories focusing on myth and fantasy felt a little more contrived in my opinion, but the stories dealing with technology were fascinating. Other readers might find the opposite is true, as it all depends upon one’s taste. Again in my opinion, the strongest stories of the bunch were Zero and Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Both dealt with futuristic technology and what that means to humankind. Zero is a more serious tale about artificial intelligence while Knocking on Heaven’s Door takes on the very idea of creation in a humorous and thoroughly entertaining light. The centerpiece of the book, The Garden is able to blend technological advances with the love a father has for his daughter. An unconditional love that is refreshing to see in a short story.

A nice through line in the stories was how most of them did have to do with love in some way. Even in the stories that were not the strongest, Ramos is able to pull the reader in emotionally. We can all relate to longing or yearning, or familial love and this is what makes this collection stand out. Even inside of fantastical settings full of monsters, myths and technological wonders, the protagonists are decidedly human. The one drawback to this book is that it would have been nice to have more stories in the collection. For that reason, I am looking forward to more from this author.

This is an impressive debut collection from a new author. If you enjoy short story collections such as Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman or the short story collections of Isaac Asimov, then at least one of these stories is sure to entertain.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Lovebirds – #MovieReview

Hello internet people, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back with another film review for you all. I’d been watching a lot of horror, which I love to watch by the way, but I was ready for a bit of a break and wanted to watch something with some humor in it. I went for The Lovebirds which is pretty much just the same plot as Date Night only instead of starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrell it stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani.

The movie centers around a couple who were in love once but feel like they have lost the magic. Jibran and Leilani used fell in love quickly but now they argue about everything including whether or not they would win The Amazing Race. They are due at a friend’s dinner party and even though they have an argument they decide to go. On the way they break up and Jibran, distractedly driving, plows into a man on a bicycle. The man is more or less okay and the couple are about to get on with their lives when a man gets into their car, tells them that he is a cop and pursues the man on the bicycle. At first this just seems like a bit of excitement until the man just kills the guy on the bicycle and then runs over him repeatedly. The rest of the movie is the couple ending up in fish out of water situations where they are mistaken for criminals, cultists or worse.

The plot pretty much plays out as you would expect and I won’t really go much into it here. It’s a comedy of errors with each situation leading to the next and becoming more and more ridiculous and hilarious. Along the way, the couple also, as you would expect, start to realize they still have feelings for one another. The romance isn’t anything you haven’t seen either.

Still, despite the fact that this is a movie with an old familiar plot and subplot, it manages to deliver well on the comedy and the performances are hugely entertaining. Nanjiani and Rae are very well paired, with his dry wit matching excellently with her exuberant personality.

Not every bit of comedy hits but when it does, it scores some big laughs. My two favorite scenes were when the couple are interrogated by the bad guys and are given the choice between bacon grease to the face and something behind a door. I won’t give away what it results in but it’s worth watching. The second is when the couple inevitably get taken in by the police. I can’t give any of that away but it had me laughing pretty hard.

The plot feels almost unnecessary at times because it’s extremely predictable and there are moments when I was wishing this was just a comedy riff off between the two stars. But the physical comedy is fun and there are enough jokes that if you are in the mood for a bit of romantic comedy, this is like comfort food. It’s good and it’s always there and you know what you are getting before you take the first bite. Predictability aside, it’s got some smart humor in it and it never gets so crazy that it’s completely goofy. It’s a fun ninety minutes when you need a little break from reality.

Comedically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Boy – #MovieReview

Hello all you internet boys and girls out there. Slick Dungeon here back to review another creepy movie for you all. There will be some mild spoilers but I won’t give away the whole thing.

The Boy stars Lauren Cohen, of The Walking Dead and Supernatural fame, as Greta. Greta has had trouble at home in America with an abusive boyfriend and she has taken a job in England to be a nanny for an elderly couple’s child. When she arrives, it turns out that the “boy” is just a life size and very creepy looking porcelain doll. The couple give Greta strict instructions on how to treat the boy, what his routine is, and everything she needs to do to take care of Brahms. They refer to the doll as a living being and treat it essentially as you would an actual child.

Greta does make a friend while she is there. Malcolm, played by Rupert Evans, is the local grocer and delivers food up to the huge house in the countryside where Greta is staying. He also treats Brahms like an actual boy whenever the elderly couple are there but it’s clear he is just playing along.

A lot of this movie does unfold in the way you are probably picturing. That is, pretty much like Child’s Play or any of the subsequent Chucky series, but without the humor. Odd things start happening when it’s clear no one else is in the house. Greta’s shoes go missing and are returned. Strange sounds happen. And most importantly, the creepy as can be doll, moves when there is no possible way for it to have gone anywhere.

At first I was getting impatient with this, feeling like I knew exactly where it was going. I was mostly thinking how Lauren Cohen knows those guys from Supernatural and they would make quick work of a cursed doll, and this could be a forty-five minute television episode instead of a full length film. But then, Greta starts playing it smart, if a little oddly. I’m not going to let you in on what happens from there in case you have not seen it, but it’s worth an entire watch through.

While this film got bashed by certain critics, and I can see why some of them did not like it, I don’t think it deserved the drubbing it got. It’s moody and strange and there are definitely some jump scares that seem a bit silly, but overall, I am pretty sure you are not going to expect what happens in the end.

If you like the creepy doll form of horror, this one is right up there with the good ones in my book.

Creepily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

1922 – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to review the Stephen King short story adaptation of 1922 playing on Netflix. There will be some spoilers but I will try to keep them mild here.

As far as Stephen King adaptations go, mileage tends to vary. Consider 1922 to be one that lands on the good side of these things. While the film can’t be quite as disturbing as the novella written by the master of horror, it does an excellent job of getting close.

The story revolves around a man named Willfred “Wilf” James and is played by Thomas Jane. Wilf is a gruff and quiet rancher whose wife has inherited a plot of land after the death of her father. Wilf wants to expand his farm with the land but Ariette (Molly Parker) wants to sell the land and move to Omaha instead. The pair have a fourteen year old son named Henry who is in love with his girlfriend Shannon (Kaitlyn Bernard).

Wilf and Ariette are long past loving each other and it’s clear that this argument is not going to work itself out. Wilf decides that the only way for him to get the land that he hopes to pass on to his son is to murder his wife. He even enlists Henry’s help to do it.

The fact that Wilf murders his wife should not be a spoiler for this because it’s what happens next that is surprising. The act that Wilf and Henry commit come to haunt them both in different ways. The film takes us through the rest of the year of 1922 seeing what happens to Wilf and Henry throughout.

Thomas Jane gives a masterclass example of conveying horror in a quiet but ever present manner. When you get down to it, it’s a simple story but the unfolding of events in the film leaves the viewer disturbed and on edge for the entire film. Certain sequences recall other King stories and adaptations, what with the prominence of endless fields of corn growing everywhere.

At no point to we ever really like Wilf but that won’t stop the viewer from being disturbed by what happens to him. The frequent use of rats in the film come at the most unexpected times and the imagery it puts in the viewer’s head will stick with them long after they have seen the film. And of course, the whole time, the viewer is thinking that Wilf really should have moved to Omaha.

Unlike a good portion of Stephen King stories, the end of this one does not disappoint. The horror is raw and gripping all the way through.

If you are a horror fan or a Stephen King fan (I know those groups mostly overlap) this is a great way to spend a little less than two hours. I just wouldn’t recommend having any snacks handy while you do unless you have a strong stomach.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Ten Speed Press Announces a Cookbook, a Journal & a New Book for Young Adventurers

Hi there adventurers, it’s Slick Dungeon! Over the weekend Wizards of the Coast had their D&D Live 2020 event where they introduced the newest Dungeons & Dragons books, merchandise and overall nerdy glory. While the big reveal was the new campaign book coming out called Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden a couple of other things were announced that I am actually more excited for.

In an earlier post I wrote about the cookbook coming out called Heroes’ Feast. I think this will be really fun and the recipes look like they will make a great activity to do with kids.

You can already pre-order this one but sadly it does not come out until October.

The next any age appropriate item was The Book of Holding. This is a journal with some pretty cool art on it that can be used for taking notes about your campaign or just writing your thoughts down.

This one is also available for pre-order but you only have to wait until August 4th for it to arrive. I’m not a huge fan of special journals or anything but if you love D&D this might be nice to put on the shelf.

The thing I am most excited about is the next book in the series for young adventurers called Beasts & Behomoths. This is the fifth book in a series meant to get younger readers interested in Dungeons & Dragons. This one is essentially a monster manual for kids. It should expand on the more unusual creatures found in the game and is a great addition if you already have any of the other books in the series, even if you have the other book about monsters Monsters & Creatures.

What I love about this whole series of books is that the focus is not so much on the stat blocks or mechanics of the game but rather the storytelling aspects of it. This is great for both younger players and people just learning to play. All the numbers in the regular rules can kind of get in the way, so having something like this is a lovely introduction to understand just how fun this game can be. Plus most of these run for between $9-$11 depending on the format you get them in. That’s a huge bargain compared to purchasing the core rule books that can run up to $50 a piece. If you play D&D with kids, I say, don’t worry about buying all those heavy books but you should totally get some of the ones in this series. That’s just my opinion of course but hey, even if you grab these and then get more into the other books, these are a neat little collection to have. To get the new book, you can pre-order it but you can’t get your hot little hands on it until October 20th. I’ll be waiting for my copy on the day, I promise you that.

I hope you are looking forward to this stuff as much as I am. Also, if you follow my blog for movies and books but not D&D stuff, not to worry, my next post will be Dungeons & Dragons free.

Excitedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 8

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling and role playing a human. Today we are going to talk about the “uncommon races” and playing a Dragonborn character.

The next few playable races we will talk about in these upcoming posts will be considered, “uncommon”. What do the game designers mean by that? Well, a few things. First, there are some Dungeon Masters who don’t include certain playable races in their campaign at all. If you are desperate to play a dragonborn character and the DM won’t let you, you’re going to want to find someone else to play with. Since this series of posts is assuming you are playing this game with your kids, I leave it to your discretion if you want any or all of these playable races to be in the game. My opinion is that, if it’s in the rule book, it should be allowed, but that’s just me. Another thing set out in the rules as currently written is that some of these uncommon races are less prevalent in the game world than others. While sometimes this can set up for interesting challenges and game play, it can also be an excuse for some DM’s to create extremely xenophobic non-player characters. As adults, depending on how it’s done, I think we can handle this okay. But for kids, my advice is that even if they play an uncommon race, only the villains should really act negatively toward the characters. It’s disheartening for kids who have their really awesome dragonborn character ready to go into a store and gear up for an epic adventure, only to have the store clerk run away from them. My advice for this sort of situation when dealing with kids would be to have the store clerk instead comment on how brave they think the kids’ character is and maybe ask if all dragonborn are like them. Stay positive with kids as much as possible, unless we are talking about the villain and their minions. Of course, this is just my advice and you can choose to play how you want, but that’s how I run it at my table.

The uncommon races in the simple rules are Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc and Tiefling. We’ll go through playing each one in this post and upcoming posts. We’ll start with dragonborn.

If you are not familiar with the game you might be wondering what a dragonborn is. Is that like something born from a dragon? Yep. They as a group were born or created by dragons long ago. But what it basically amounts to is a walking, talking, humanoid dragon who combines the best of humans and dragons. In other words, they are a whole lot of awesome put together.

These dragons don’t have wings or tails but they are scaly like dragons and come in any shade a dragon does. Like dwarves, these creatures are all about their clan. Everything they do is for their clan. Most of these creatures have a nearly obsessive drive to better themselves in everything they do. And they respect it when they see that in others. This makes dragonborn nearly ideal for adventuring because as impressive as they might be with casting a spell, they will themselves be impressed by a warrior who is able to wield a longsword with incredible skill. While dragonborn want to be good at everything they do, they usually pick one thing (typically their class) that they want to excel at above all others. This also provides players with a great narrative for why they go on adventures. It’s not to kill or seek out treasure, but to learn something. Most kids understand this pretty well. They are learning constantly so it’s pretty close territory for them to role play. The other reason they might adventure is to prove their worth to their clan. Kids can relate to this too. You want to do your best for your family and have them be proud of you. Dragonborn are great for role playing this type of situation for kids.

Dragonborn are capable of a lot but also know that they have limits. They actually are not afraid to ask for help. This is great for an adventuring party because the absolute best adventuring parties do one thing well above all else – they help each other. This makes role playing a dragonborn a natural for kids because the only excuse they need to join with others is that they need help or want to help.

There are a bunch of dragonborn names listed in the rules. My only suggestion for these names is that you and your kids agree on the correct pronunciation, especially when it comes to clan names.

Dragonborn Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a dragonborn

Ability Score Increase

Dragonborn are naturally strong and charismatic. They do come from dragons after all, so it’s no surprise. They get to increase their strength ability score by 2 and their charisma ability score by 1.

Age

While dragonborn grow fast, reaching adulthood by age 15, they only tend to live to be about 80. They are not like dragons who can linger for centuries.

Alignment

If you are using alignment in your game, Dragonborn can basically be good or evil. While some can tend to less extremes, it’s just usually not the case due to their dragon heritage. Dragons also tend to be either all in on the good or all in on the evil. My advice here for playing with kids, is if they play a dragonborn, go with lawful good. Their natural tendency to want to help and prove themselves to their clan leans that way anyway and dragonborn can make awesome heroes.

Size

Dragonborn are usually over six feet tall and weigh around 250 pounds. Somehow they are still considered medium creatures but I guess if a Shaq sized human is considered medium in the game rules, the dragonborn can be too.

Speed

The dragonborn walking speed is 30 feet.

Draconic Ancestry

Here’s the most awesome part about being part dragon, there are some draconic elements you get for playing dragonborn. In the rules there is a table that tells you what color dragonborn gets which damage type and breath weapon. For example a gold dragonborn gets to deal fire damage with its breath weapon.

Breath Weapon

Dragons breath fire, acid, ice, lighting etc. And your dragonborn can do that as well. There are a few mechanics to this that I am not going to get into in this post but the breath weapon acts more or less like a spell doing that type of damage would. The only drawback is that you only get to use your breath weapon once before you take a rest. Well, that and the fact that if your allies are in the way when you release your breath weapon they will also take damage.

Damage Resistance

It makes sense to me that if you are a dragon that deals cold damage, you are pretty resistant to cold damage. The same goes for dragonborn. Whatever type of breath weapon they have, they resist that damage.

Languages

Dragonborn get to speak Draconic and common. Draconic can come in pretty handy because it’s one of the oldest languages and is common in spell casting. This makes dragonborn wizards a pretty natural fit for the game.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Dragonborn

Here is what the simple rules say about dragonborn in their sidebar on uncommon races:

It’s easy to assume that a dragonborn is a monster, especially if his or her scales betray a chromatic heritage. Unless the dragonborn starts breathing fire and causing destruction, though, people are likely to respond with caution rather than outright fear.

While I can see why the game designers would say that these creatures can be mistaken for monsters, when it comes to playing with kids, I wouldn’t lean into that too much with one exception. Don’t have the non-player characters think they are monsters unless the NPC is a villain. But one great way to introduce a dragonborn character breaks my rule here. You can have the adventuring party go to investigate some disturbance where the villagers in the area think a monster is causing destruction. But then when the characters get there, they see a dragonborn who is stopping a monster from doing something terrible. The players might assume for a moment that the dragonborn is bad but they quickly prove themselves by not only defeating the monster but then asking the rest of the adventuring party if they need any help. Kids can relate to trying to do something good when an adult assumes they are up to no good. A dragonborn may have learned this lesson far too often as well, and knows that the quickest way to make friends is to do a favor for someone. That makes for a great start to an adventuring party.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to my suggestions, you can play the game any way you want, I have just found that method of introducing dragonborn to be really fun in the past.

Next time we will get into playing a Gnome (one of my favorites for kids to play).

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Slick’s Guide to the Upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Releases

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just sat through the product reveal panels for Dungeons & Dragons Live 2020 and I wanted to share my thoughts with you all. Several products were announced, some you are probably aware of if you are into Dungeons & Dragons. I will go through each one that was talked about today, and because I like role playing games with my kids, I’ll also let you know which ones I think will better for kids than others. I listed them below in the order they were announced, so that’s the order I will talk about them.

  1. Baldur’s Gate III – Video Game

What is it?

This is the third game in the Baldur’s Gate series (not counting spin offs) and it looks like it is going to be ground breaking for role playing video games. They were able to incorporate the inspiration system from the fifth edition rules, as well as provide reaction opportunities. There was about an hour of demo game play shown today. The game looks like it will be gorgeous and I am definitely excited to play it.

Is it for kids?

Now, to start with, let me say that for the purposes of this post I am defining kids as anyone under 12 years old. While some kids can handle a lot of more mature content, parents will want to know that this game looks like it will be quite bloody and violent. Considering that the previous games in the series were rated T for teen, this will probably be good for teens. I would recommend doing your research on the game as a parent before purchasing, in case it hits any elements you are not comfortable with your children playing. I would be surprised if it got even close to anything like God of War or some of the more mature games out there, but I could see there being some innuendo in addition to the violence. So, again, do your research on this one prior to purchase.

2. Icewind Dale: Rime of the FrostmaidenAdventure Book

What is it?

This is a campaign adventure set in the Icewind Dale area of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It was described as a horror adventure that takes place out in the frozen cold of the Sword Coast where adventurers can expect to fight, yeti’s, the eponymous Frostmaiden of Icewind Dale, and the weather itself. It will be an adventure for levels 1-12.

Is it for kids?

If you go by the standard age range of Dungeons & Dragons ages 12 and up. It’s also a horror campaign so definitely expect some dark elements to come into play. However, Icewind Dale does tend to be a setting that is pretty cool for younger kids to play in. It was also mentioned that there are several adventures in here that might be useful as a sort of mini-campaign. My guess is that some of those will be better for younger kids than others. I would read before purchasing if you are getting this for kids.

3. At the Spine of the World

What is it?

This is a comic book adventure that spins off of the adventure book above. It will introduce new characters in the setting that will have a series of adventures for readers to follow.

Is it for kids?

Considering that the publisher, IDW, publishes everything from My Little Pony to 30 Days of Night, it’s hard to say what the age range is going to be here. My hope is that it is for readers around 9-12 but I wouldn’t count on that.

4. Stranger Things & Dungeons & Dragons

What is it?

Like the title says, this is a crossover between the show Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons. As a huge fan of Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons, I could not be more excited for this. The cover alone is enough to get me on board in about a tenth of a second.

Is it for kids?

Have you let your kids watch Stranger Things? If you have not, then definitely watch the show before you buy the comic book. If you are okay with letting your kids watch the show, I don’t think that there will be any problem with the comics. Do be aware that Stranger Things is full of dark horror moments and those can sometimes scare children. If you kids can handle that and you have seen the show, this seems like a great way to get them to continue to read.

5. Heroes’ Feast

What is it?

This is a cookbook inspired by the magical words of Dungeons & Dragons. It has more than 80 recipes and is categorized by the cultures found in D&D, Human, Elves etc. In case you don’t know, Heroes’ Feast is actually a spell in the game, where an adventuring party can partake in a feast prior to battle and it gives them some bonuses to make the battle a little easier. I think it’s actually a perfect name for a D&D cookbook.

Is it for kids?

This might actually be the thing that was announced today that I am most excited for. While obviously, a cookbook may or may not interest kids, and there are definitely recipes that are not going to be kid friendly (like the cocktail recipes) I think this is a long overdue book. When I want to play D&D with kids we usually have snacks during our session. I’ve often wished that I could have something that is a little more reflective of the environment they imagine themselves in. I can’t think of anything more fun than cooking something together with your kids, then going and enjoying your elven bread as your elf character takes a moment to meditate and refresh herself. And with all this time most of us have had to up our skills in the kitchen, I can’t wait for this one. I can’t see any reason this would not be suitable for kids to read, but obviously supervision will be required when it comes to making the recipes.

There were also several minifigures revealed today, but I’m not really going to get into those in this post. They look really cool but buying minis is up to parents and how they feel about that. Some people love them, but the game is absolutely playable without them.

Overall, I was a little disappointed that there was not more announced for younger kids, as it’s always nice to introduce a new generation to the game. While I love stuff like Critical Role, it can be pretty hard to find D&D stuff that is good for kids to play. It’s not that it can’t be done, it just takes more effort, and I was hoping to get a few things that would help with that this year.

If anything else gets announced over the weekend, I will post about that here as well.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Diversity & Dungeons & Dragons

Hi Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Yesterday Dungeons & Dragons released a statement regarding some of the issues relating to diversity in the game. I wanted to just share it with you below. I feel like it’s a good direction that the game designers are going in, but of course more work can always be done. I personally, would also like to see more inclusive characters representing the LGBTQ community in the game as well but again, it’s a process and it’s a good start. Anyway, you can read the statement yourself below.

Statement:

Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is strength, for only a diverse group of adventurers can overcome the many challenges a D&D story presents. In that spirit, making D&D as welcoming and inclusive as possible has moved to the forefront of our priorities over the last six years. We’d like to share with you what we’ve been doing, and what we plan to do in the future to address legacy D&D content that does not reflect who we are today. We recognize that doing this isn’t about getting to a place where we can rest on our laurels but continuing to head in the right direction. We feel that being transparent about it is the best way to let our community help us to continue to calibrate our efforts.

One of the explicit design goals of 5th edition D&D is to depict humanity in all its beautiful diversity by depicting characters who represent an array of ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and beliefs. We want everyone to feel at home around the game table and to see positive reflections of themselves within our products. “Human” in D&D means everyone, not just fantasy versions of northern Europeans, and the D&D community is now more diverse than it’s ever been.

Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.

Here’s what we’re doing to improve:

  • We present orcs and drow in a new light in two of our most recent books, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. In those books, orcs and drow are just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples. We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.
     
  • When every D&D book is reprinted, we have an opportunity to correct errors that we or the broader D&D community discovered in that book. Each year, we use those opportunities to fix a variety of things, including errors in judgment. In recent reprintings of Tomb of Annihilation and Curse of Strahd, for example, we changed text that was racially insensitive. Those reprints have already been printed and will be available in the months ahead. We will continue this process, reviewing each book as it comes up for a reprint and fixing such errors where they are present.
     
  • Later this year, we will release a product (not yet announced) that offers a way for a player to customize their character’s origin, including the option to change the ability score increases that come from being an elf, a dwarf, or one of D&D’s many other playable folk. This option emphasizes that each person in the game is an individual with capabilities all their own.
     
  • Curse of Strahd included a people known as the Vistani and featured the Vistani heroine Ezmerelda. Regrettably, their depiction echoes some stereotypes associated with the Romani people in the real world. To rectify that, we’ve not only made changes to Curse of Strahd, but in two upcoming books, we will also show—working with a Romani consultant—the Vistani in a way that doesn’t rely on reductive tropes.
     
  • We’ve received valuable insights from sensitivity readers on two of our recent books. We are incorporating sensitivity readers into our creative process, and we will continue to reach out to experts in various fields to help us identify our blind spots.
     
  • We’re proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists. We’ve brought in contributors who reflect the beautiful diversity of the D&D community to work on books coming out in 2021. We’re going to invest even more in this approach and add a broad range of new voices to join the chorus of D&D storytelling.

And we will continue to listen to you all. We created 5th edition in conversation with the D&D community. It’s a conversation that continues to this day. That’s at the heart of our work—listening to the community, learning what brings you joy, and doing everything we can to provide it in every one of our books.

This part of our work will never end. We know that every day someone finds the courage to voice their truth, and we’re here to listen. We are eternally grateful for the ongoing dialog with the D&D community, and we look forward to continuing to improve D&D for generations to come.

End Statement

I hope they mean all of that and will stick to it. From what I have seen in the past, I believe they will but time will determine if that’s true.

By the way, if you usually come to my blog for movie and book reviews, the next few days will be more focused on Dungeons & Dragons because D&D Live 2020 will be going on for the next few days. I’m planning to see what cool stuff is coming up, especially in regards to gaming with kids and I’ll give you my take on it once there are some announcements.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 7

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf and role playing a halfling. Today we are going to talk about the easiest and hardest lesson all of us have to learn, how to be a human.

You would think that role playing a human would come naturally and easily to everyone. After all, we are all human (I assume) so it should come naturally. On the other hand, if you play a human that means you have the entirety of human experience to draw from. That’s a pretty large pool of experience. This can be hard to manage if you are an adult. I have good news for you though, it comes pretty naturally to kids. Kids understand what humans are because, well, they are also human (most of the time anyway). Some kids are just not into being an elf, dwarf, dragonborn, etc. There’s no problem with that because those children can play humans. The challenge for them might come into how humans relate to the other creatures in the game. It’s pretty easy for a human to forget how old and elf is, or for them not to understand that the reason a dwarf is angry at them has to do with something their great grandfather might have done.

Even in the game rules as set out, humans are everywhere. While there might be a few places you find few or none, most places in the game settings tend to have humans. If you want to experiment with that and have it be that humans are their own little civilization far apart from the rest of the creatures in the game, you are welcome to do that. The opposite is true, you can have humans just be everywhere all the time. That’s the way it usually is in my game. While orcs or elves or whatever might have a general attitude towards humans, each individuals’ opinion of them will vary. Not all orcs and humans have to hate each other, even though that’s the typical way it plays out. In fact it usually is the case that some humans and orcs get along because otherwise there would be no half-orcs. How you want to play that is up to you.

In the rules humans are not as specialized as the other playable races we will talk about. There’s not one skill that you can say, all humans are really good at that thing. So instead, they get to have all of their stats increase by one instead. There is a way you can change that with a variant rule where humans would instead be better at two abilities, one skill, and take what is called a feat. Feats are some kind of awesome thing that you can get to do in certain situations. Some dungeon masters absolutely hate these and will ban them from their game. Personally, I think they are pretty nifty, depending on what they are, and I love letting my players use them, but that’s just me. Just know that if you decide you want to let your kids take a feat, you should read what it is and see if it will completely interfere with what you think should happen in the game. Make sure you let your kid know why you are or are not letting them take that feat. For the purposes of the rest of this post, I am going to assume that you are not doing the variant rule but if you need to know more about that variant rule, check the text box in the basic rules, look at the feats, and then treat the human in the same way we did all the other playable races we have talked about.

Before I get into all the score increases etc., let me just give a word on names and locations that are listed in the rules. There is a whole section of names, and made up locations in the entry on humans in the basic rules. If you want to use those, absolutely knock yourself out. Personally, as a dungeon master, I have a really hard time keeping track of what human might be a Tethyrian vs a Reshemi vs an Illuskan etc. They give a bit of description and location as well as name suggestions for each human area in the game. Here’s what I do with that when I am playing with kids. I ignore that section. I mean, I do sometimes take the names out of those sections if I need to name a character or something but I don’t memorize all the rest of it. I figure that humans are everywhere and I can name my human any name from any human I want to. While playing with adults it might feel silly to name a character Jeff, just Jeff, kids will not mind this sort of thing at all. It’s all to your taste as a dungeon master. One thing I will recommend when it comes to names, and this goes for any non-playable character you have, don’t make the name one that is too difficult for your kids to pronounce. What those names are will vary kid by kid but it can be frustrating when they are trying to talk to someone and can’t say the name. If you do go with a name that is tough to say, maybe consider a nickname they can be addressed by as well.

One more note, some people will say that wanting to play a human fighter is boring and the most basic thing you can do in the game. Here’s why that is wrong. First, wanting to play a human fighter doesn’t mean you are boring, it means that… you want to play a human fighter. You know what’s wrong with playing a human fighter? Nothing if that’s what you want to play. Some of the mechanics are easier than other race/class combinations in the game but there’s still plenty of cool stuff to do with a fighter. Don’t discourage a kid from playing that if that’s what she wants to be in the game.

Now onto the traits

Human Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a human.

Ability Score Increase

Your ability scores increase by 1. That’s all six scores. Most other races only get one or two things to increase here.

Age

Do I really have to explain how humans age? I mean, think of humans. They are somewhere in that age range. Playing a 100 year old human is going to look a lot different than playing a 15 year old human.

Alignment

Humans come in all variations of good to terrible people. As usual, my recommendation here is to let kids play the hero. If they are really wanting to play an evil character, I would recommend telling them no in this instance. Most kids want to be the hero and having an evil character makes that very difficult for the rest of the people playing.

Size

Again, do I need to explain human size here? People come in shapes from Danny Devito to Shaquille O’neal. There is no right or wrong shape to play so let the kids have their characters look the way they want them to. For fame rule purposes, whether you are very small or very tall, your size is always considered medium.

Speed

While you might make the argument that humans can be faster or slower than this, the movement speed for humans is 30 feet.

Languages

Humans are able to speak Common and any one other language. Humans do tend to know a little bit of everything so if you want to have a human character speak more, that’s fine if that’s what you want to do. Also, as I have said before in earlier posts, if you have a campaign that is going to be dominated by one language, Giant, for example, make sure that your kids characters speak that. If you have a human character, that’s usually a good character to have speak any language needed.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Being Human

Kids are generally pretty good at being humans. They understand human emotions and attitudes because they have felt them. What can be tougher, really, is how kids who play humans relate to kids who play other playable races. Try to have kids remember that humans don’t live that long compared to other playable races. The other thing that humans have going for them is that their institutions outlive them. They might not know all of the history of something that has happened in the game world, but humans make written records, long lasting structures and organizations that exist for centuries. For that reason, humans can find answers to things they were not around for. Have kids who play humans lean into this if possible. When an elf comments how a human is gone in the blink of an eye, they might reply that the organization they are working for will be there long after the elf is gone.

As always, it should be played more or less how the kids want to and how it works best for you. You can feel free to use all the tips I gave here or ignore them all, just do what works best for your kids.

Next time we will start getting into what are called, “uncommon races” starting with Dragonborn.

Until then, please, practice being a good human.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Eli – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here back with another movie review for ya.

Eli is a Netflix original horror film that packs a heck of a punch. I’m not easily scared and I have a pretty good stomach for gore so it surprised me just how much this one disturbed me in the end. There will be some spoilers here but I am not going to give away the ending here, for that you’ll have to see it for yourself.

Eli, played by Charlie Shotwell has a rare disease that has compromised his immune system. It’s so bad that he needs to live in a plastic bubble and wear a bio suit to just walk outside. His parents, Rose (played by Kelly Reilly) and Paul (played by Max Martini) have decided to take him to get some major but experimental treatment. To cure him, they take Eli to an old house that has been modernized with a filtration system to keep contaminants out. The doctor there, Dr. Horn (played by Lili Taylor) has radical but painful treatments ready for Eli. In a bit of a good news/bad news situation, the doctor may be able to cure Eli, but at the same time, the house may be haunted. Eli is stuck between death on the outside and who knows what on the inside.

As Eli sees evidence of what’s happening and starts discovering the secrets of where he is at, his parents do their best to keep hope alive for him and themselves. Eli starts seeing things but when he tells the doctor and his parents, they tell him he is just hallucinating, probably as a side effect of the medication. Eli’s only contact on the outside and potential hope of solving the mystery he is in, is Haley (played by Sadie Sink). She has been there before and knows something about what happened to patients before Eli.

There are only a few things that really freak me out in horror films. One of them is seeing kids in pain, and the other is medical procedures. So, this movie had the perfect combination to freak me the heck out. That said, I will say, I really thought I knew where this film was going and if I only thought it was average before the end, the ending elevated it for me.

The movie is not overly gory compared to a lot of horror films but I know this is one I am going to keep thinking about long from now. It’s a pretty masterful horror film overall. If you like horror and things that go bump in the night, this is a great way to spend about an hour and a half.

Hauntingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Elantris – #BookReview

Hello all you dungeon dwellers out there, it’s me, Slick Dungeon back with a review of an absolutely amazing fantasy book by the always absolutely amazing Brandon Sanderson.

Elantris is the first book Sanderson ever had published and it’s easy to see why he has become such a popular author. I am going to give my review below. There will be some spoilers so if you have not read the book, seriously, you should, go and read it and then come back for the review. I will try to keep the spoilers minimal though, so if that sort of thing doesn’t bother you too much, I promise not to give everything away.

SYNOPSIS

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

REVIEW

5/5 Stars

Elantris focuses on three main characters, Raoden, the prince of Arelon, Sarene, his intended wife from Teod and Hrathen a priest from Fjordell. The stories interweave with one another and we jump back and forth to all three characters points of view. Raoden awakens on the day of Sarene and Hrathen’s arrival to Arelon to find out that his body has changed. He has no heartbeat, his skin has turned gray and mottled with spots, and his hair has fallen out. This means only one thing, Raoden is no longer considered to be among the living and he is exiled to the fallen city of Elantris. Meanwhile, Hrathen is putting in place actions that will move a kingdom to worship his god. Sarene discovers that although her intended husband is dead (she does not know he has actually just been banished) her marriage contract is valid and she cannot marry again, or go home to Teod. She only has one thing to do, serve as best she can, the people of Arelon. She decides that the best way to do this, is to counter Hrathen at every move.

While I found all three of these characters utterly fascinating, I was blown away by Raoden’s portion of the story. In Elantris he discovers that people have given up hope, many of them have been driven mad by starvation or desperation, and in order to survive he is going to have to bring hope to a despondent city. Unlike a lot of cities in other fantasy books, Elantris really does have major problems to deal with. You see, once someone is turned into an Elantrian, they feel every cut, nick, scratch, bruise, stubbed toe, or any other kind of injury forever. The pain never subsides, so madness makes sense for a lot of the inhabitants of the city. Raoden immediately realizes that what he has to do, is cling to hope. He meets Galladon, a committed pessimist who knows more about Elantris than he should. Together they set out to change the world.

Mixed in with all of these characters are intricate politics on an epic and kingdom making and breaking scale. It’s a huge ensemble cast of characters but not a single one of them is wasted. A lot of fantasy novels have the habit of exceeding the word count needed for the story relentlessly but this one makes every sentence feel absolutely necessary.

As well as politics, romance, and hope, the book also has interesting takes on magic. Most people in the book have these floating orbs called Seons. They are a magical kind of servant that can transmit messages anywhere instantly, keep track of their masters, and even influence events in the background without anyone realizing it. It was a great answer to the problem some fantasy novels have of how to communicate between long distances in a short amount of time.

I will admit that there were times in reading the book that I was certain I knew where it was leading. Occasionally it did, but even then, the next event in the book totally changed what I thought previously.

To say that this book was a masterful debut would quite honestly be an understatement. It’s rare to find new things in fantasy and it’s utterly refreshing when it happens. Reading books like this one is the reason I love fantasy books. They can still surprise me.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who has read the Mistborn series or any of his other works, but Sanderson knows how to tell a story and tell it well. I hadn’t gotten around to Elantris for far too long but I am so glad I picked it up. If you have not read this and you love fantasy books, put this on your reading list immediately.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Babysitter (2017) – #MovieReview

The Babysitter

What’s going on you young hooligans out there? It’s me, Slick Dungeon, back again to tell you about a wacky horror comedy that’s now showing at your local Netflix. I’m not sure this is the kind of movie that needs this type of disclaimer but there will be spoilers for The Babysitter in this review.

I’m a sucker for comedy horror films, especially the ones of the several characters die implausibly horrible yet also hilariously funny deaths in completely unlikely circumstances due to the actions of a child variety. It’s a very specific genre, but I like it okay?

This is also in the category of a ton of critics hate it but somehow people keep watching it anyway. Let me tell you, I’m on the side of the people watching it anyway. No, it’s not high quality cinema, there is no meaningful revelation you will make because of watching it, but it’s fun okay? It’s still okay to have fun sometimes. For real.

The Babysitter stars Samara Weaving as Bee, the eponymous babysitter, and Judah Lewis as Cole, the babysittee. Cole is twelve years old and still has a babysitter. It’s pretty embarrassing because he is already picked on. However, Bee is cool, pretty and gets along well with Cole. Even his bullies think Bee is cool.

One night when Bee is babysitting Cole, he stays up past his bed time to see what she really gets up to after dark. Turns out it’s a whole lot of murdering and satanic ritual stuff. Needless to say, Cole is freaked out and has to get out of the situation without, you know, ending up dead. One by one Cole goes up against the cultists and one by one ends up obliterating them, usually through accidental means. I don’t want to give up the whole ballgame here by telling you how those deaths go, but some of them are downright hilarious. None of them are really believable, but reality isn’t what this movie is about.

This movie is basically Home Alone if Kevin McCallister was up against murderers instead of robbers and Kevin had unleashed full kill mode instead of less deadly methods. Oh, and also if Kevin did all of that nearly completely by accident. Cole and Kevin do both use fireworks though, so there’s that.

Like I said I don’t want to spoil how the deaths happen so I am just going to share with you my favorite part of the whole movie. If you can get behind this part, then you should watch it. If you think this part is stupid, well, there are a bunch of other things to stream. One of the cultists is a high school quarterback named Max, played by Robbie Amell. He has Cole right where he wants him, he’s about to just end Cole forever when he hears the sound of an egg being thrown at Cole’s house. This is one of the kids who bullies Cole egging his house yet again. Max lets Cole go, drags him over and insists that Cole go and confront his bully. He even gives him a pep talk before he goes over there. It’s hilarious how fast Max goes from deadly killer to older friend who is just looking out for his neighbor and back again. Cole does confront the bully and Max is right back to trying to kill Cole. Less than five minutes later Max is dead. I loved how Max was totally cool with killing a kid but thought that egging was just over the top. To me the scene was really funny.

While this is not the funniest, or scariest horror comedy I have ever seen by a long shot, it’s got enough in it that if you are a fan of those types of movies, it’s worth a try. I mean really, you’re probably reaching the end of your Netflix queue anyway so have a little bit of a bloody laugh.

Comedically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 5

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Well hello you little dungeon monsters you. It’s Slick Dungeon back again with a little campaign diary for the ultimate RPG vampire Strahd Van Zarovich.

Before I go too far, fair warning that this has spoilers for The Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first four campaign diaries here, here, here and here if you want to.

I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.

Preparation

First, of course, I read the part of the book that deals with the Tser Pool Encampment and the Vistani that live there, including Madam Eva. This section also has a key element of the campaign, which is the Tarokka reading, basically a fortune telling section, that determines where key items, allies and enemies will be during the campaign. I rehearsed this several times. I was hoping to have it memorized enough that I could do the reading without having to refer to the book but, there are 54 cards, a whole lot of text and a ton of variations on how this reading could turn out. I did end up improvising but I at least had the layout memorized and was able to still make it feel pretty special to the players (I think).

I also took a look at the reddit thread here. There is a section on the Tarokka reading and while I did end up using all the cards, there were still some useful tips in there, especially if you have played this before. I also prepared some random encounters as the session involved a bit of travel. I tend to like to have my random encounters pre-rolled so that there is less flipping of pages on my part when combat breaks out. That doesn’t mean you have to do it that way, but if you want to be a little more organized in your prep, I recommend always rolling for encounters and random treasure ahead of time.

The Fifth Session

At the start of the session, Ismark was ready to take Ireena to the town of Vallaki, where he believes the Burgomaster can shelter her. Of course, he has never met the Burgomaster himself and is pretty protective of his sister, so complications will undoubtedly arise. On the way, the party encountered three Scarecrows. They were able to handle them quite easily, although they did set a small forest fire. They put it out though. Miles Adelard is still getting his magic under control but he was able to display its power pretty well this session. Lady Elarian is growing as a fighter and although her go to move is to just attack it with a long sword, she is learning to use some of the fighter mechanics to benefit her attacks.

After the Scarecrows were dealt with, they arrived at the Tser Pool encampment. The Vistani all greeted them warmly, as if welcoming long lost family. They invited the PC’s to tell a story at the campfire. Miles told what basically amounted to the story of Orpheus, especially as told through the musical Hades Town. I thought that was great as my players are very well versed in musical theater and there are references in one way or another to Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and Little Shop of Horrors dotted into my campaign. Some references come from the book itself, so that’s going to be pretty fun as they discover these things.

Tser Pool Encampment

Lady Elarian was much more tight lipped and Ismark and Ireena were more or less standoffish to the Vistani. At the end of the night, Madam Eva called the players into her tent.

Lady Elarian and Miles had woken up in a previous session to find the Sheperd and Anarchist cards in their possession after a dream was sent to them by Madam Eva. She first asked for them back and told them that she sent the cards because she felt they could help to free Barovia from Strahd. The players are pretty much just wanting to go home and Miles is pretty sure he can just have a rational conversation with Strahd to get out of there. Who knows, he might be right?

After a little bit of small talk and demands to know why they were there, Madam Eva did the Tarokka reading for them. I am going to spoil some locations of items here so if you happen to be a player, maybe don’t read this okay? Okay good.

Madam Eva
  1. The Tome of Strahd – This will be in the Wizard of Wines Winery. This is pretty good because 1., in Vallaki the Martikovs have visiting the winery as a ready made quest. And 2. because in the next session I have some Blight encounters ready for the players which should nicely foreshadow their enemies.
  2. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind – This will be found in Castle Ravenloft in one of the crypts under the “Mad dog”. While this is likely to be the hardest item of the bunch for the group to find, I’m pretty thrilled with how they were left wondering who or what the mad dog is. They have a dog with them and think maybe there is some connection there (there isn’t) but otherwise they have no clue.
  3. The Sunword – This will be in Rictavio’s wagon. This is in the town of Vallaki so it’s likely to be the first item they get. Rictavio is a false identity for another character in the story, so my only concern here is when and how to reveal Rictavio’s true agenda to the players, especially once they inevitably go routing through his stuff.
  4. The ally – The good news for the players is they already have her. Their ally is Ireena. Part of me is really excited about that because they feel like they accomplished something without even trying to do anything other than help people. But the other part of me is a little disappointed because that may mean one less NPC to get to meet down the road.
  5. Strahd – They will be meeting him at the tomb of his mother. The card was the raven and the reading mentioned that so now, they think almost anything raven related could lead them to him. That’s kind of fun because there is one heck of a lot of raven imagery in this campaign.

After the reading, they said their good nights and that’s where we ended the session. Next up should be the road to Vallaki and possibly getting into town and little bit of exploring. I’m looking forward to it because I feel like the campaign can really get going from here on out.

What I would do different

For this session, there are a few things I would change. It went relatively well though, so it’s not an overly extensive list.

  1. It was hard to memorize the whole Tarokka deck. If I had it to do over again, I would have practiced a lot more, to the point where I knew what each card represented and where the treasures were hidden without having to look. That’s a lot of memorization though so I’m not sure how practical it is. I also briefly considered stacking the deck but a. I don’t think I could pull off the slight of hand and b. this is the first time I am running this campaign so really anywhere they get off to will be interesting to me.
  2. This is not so much for this session but for previous ones. Madam Eva is a pretty major deal, so I think I would talk her up more in the town of Barovia next time and make it seem like it’s really hard to get to talk to her and that only a privileged few get to. I’d want to make her almost mythical before they meet her.
  3. Now, I didn’t know that they would intersect with Rictavio, but in reality he is a legendary vampire hunter in disguise. While Ismark definitely knows a dude named Rictavio rolled into town a few months ago, I feel like I want to talk up the vampire hunter side of his personality a lot more. As written in the module, in this section the Vistani talk about the Mad Mage of Mount Baratok. This is a really cool NPC and I hope my characters meet him, but they already knew a little bit about him. If I had this to do over again, I would instead have the Vistani and the Tser Pool encampment talk about Van Richten (the vampire hunter) instead. There will be more chances for him to be spoken of, but I feel like his reputation could easily have been bolstered, had I known for sure the players would likely encounter Rictavio. I think if I ever did a stacked card reading with him as an ally, I would absolutely do that. For this time, I don’t regret doing the story of the Mad Mage, but I also wish I had the vampire hunter in there.

I’ll be back next time to tell you if the characters make it to Vallaki and if anything interesting happens along the way.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Vast of Night – #MovieReview

It’s Like a Long Twilight Zone Episode and I’m NOt Complaining

Hey people out there catching my signal, it’s Slick Dungeon. I’m back again with a movie review for ya. This time I watched the sci-fi, quiet horror film that is getting all the buzz lately, The Vast of Night.

The film takes place in the fictional town of Cayuga, New Mexico and is about Everett and Fay, two characters caught up in things they can’t explain in the 1950’s. Fay is played by Sierra McCormick and Everett is played by Jake Horowitz. Both performances are fast paced, tense and low key brilliant.

Just a warning that there will be mild spoilers in this review but I won’t give too much away.

The film starts off with us looking at a television screen and getting an opening that essentially mimics The Twilight Zone. That sets the tone immediately as we transition into the town of Cayuga, where everyone is abuzz with getting ready for the high school basketball game. We met Everett immediately and it’s clear that he is the smartest guy in the room considering that everyone at the school wants his attention on a number of random things, including fixing scoreboards, setting up recording systems and repairing cables that have been chewed through.

One of the people wanting Everett’s attention is Fay. She has just bought a new fashioned tape recorder and wants Everett to show her how to use it. The dialogue in these scenes if fast paced and cigarette filled and it takes a moment to get your bearings as the viewer. We find out quickly that Fay would be a good match for Everett because she is able to talk about science in a way that impresses him. In fact, for me the scene that really got me into the film is when Fay starts describing these far in the future science articles that perfectly describe smart driving cars and cell phones. After that I was all in on this film.

Fay

Everett is not going to the basketball game because he hosts a radio show and needs to be at work. Fay works the telephone switchboard and is also unable to attend the game. They are about the only ones in town that won’t be there.

Every once in a while the movie reminds us how this begins by pulling back and showing us, or someone or something, watching the events unfold on a screen.

Things really get going once Fay starts to pick up an odd noise on the phone lines. She thinks it’s odd and has Everett listen to it. After that he plays the sound on the station and asks if anyone can identify it. Things get really interesting once a caller says he can.

I don’t want to give the story away from here but let’s just say Everett and Fay spend the rest of the night trying to understand what is going on. Whether or not they do, you’ll have to watch the film to know.

The film does miss on one point, it does not really address some of the injustices that were prevalent during that time period. While this film is not about that, I think that any film taking place in that time period produced now has a bit of a duty to at least address how bad it was for anyone who was not a straight, white, man at the time. There is a little bit but it barely brushes by the audience. But I digress.

The only other thing that really bothered me about this film is one that I have seen in multiple films, books and even in songs. The town is in New Mexico but the radio station is called WOTW. Not to put too much geography on you here but that’s west of the Mississippi. Any station west of the Mississippi is supposed to start with a K. I know how easy it is to make this mistake if you are from the east of the Mississippi. As someone who lives on the west of that river, it is always 100% confusing to see a station in New Mexico start with the letter W. So please, if you are east of the Mississippi and you make a movie on the west coast, start your stations with a K and if you are west of the Mississippi and you set your movie on the east coast, start your stations with a W. There are some people like myself who would really appreciate the effort.

The performances are outstanding and I felt like it was a really gripping, if a bit long episode of The Twilight Zone. Lucky for me, I love that show, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this. The tension is quiet and builds very well. Enough happens to keep the viewer engaged while still allowing for a low budget film.

Right now the place to find this is on Amazon. It’s a worthy 90 minutes to spend if you want to watch a bit of eerie mysteriousness. For my money it’s definitely worth a watch.

Mysteriously Yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 6

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Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf and role playing an elf. That makes today, Halfling day!

I’ll be honest here, unlike elves and dwarves and humans, there are just not a lot of examples of halflings to base your characters on. If you have read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, those are essentially your guides beyond what is available in Dungeons & Dragons. And there is a lot in common with both the Halflings in D&D and those that Tolkien created. I’ll go through what that typically means in a role playing sense but in my mind, I tend to just think of them as shorter, longer lived humans, who mostly prefer staying at home. So essentially, me when you get right down to it. These characters are pretty good for kids to role play because most kids can relate to a reluctant hero and being dismissed or ignored because they are too small to take much notice of.

One difference you do see between D&D halflings and Tolkien hobbits is that halflings in D&D can be nomadic. They still want to be at home for the most part, it’s just that home can move with them. Also, the D&D halflings are actually, shorter on average than hobbits are. They tend to be about 3 feet tall and weigh 40-50 pounds.

You might also be wondering why in D&D they are called halflings but in Lord of the Rings they are called hobbits. Let’s just say that it was a long drawn out legal issue and therefore in D&D we play as halflings but it’s totally okay if in your mind you pretty much think of them as hobbits.

Halflings tend to be cheerful and friendly. They are loyal to their friends, kind and sharing. They also tend to blend into just about any society or culture. In addition, they are good at stealth and hiding because, well, they are small and everyone underestimates them.

One of the tougher to solve riddles to me if you play a halfling is why they want to leave their homes. Sometimes it is because they are different from other halflings and don’t really belong. Others it is because they have an adventurous heart. To me the most interesting reason, though, would be that they want to protect their homes from something that threatens it. This is why Bilbo and Frodo leave their shire and it’s still a gripping narrative to latch onto even if you are a kid. It’s easy to understand how you would want to do that and how difficult it might be to set out in the first place.

If you are playing with a kid, I usually would recommend playing to the most obvious of halfling characteristics. They are curious, and love their homes, they love their family and friends, and sometimes, they want a little adventure, even if they may not be aware of it in the first place. That being said, there is no restriction against playing against type. You could play a halfling who just can’t wait to leave home, is hardly ever hungry and simply doesn’t like most people. It’s all in how you want to play it and I think halfing is one of the playable races that tends to be pretty flexible. The only problem is that like I said above, there are not tons of examples to point to. So if your kid wishes to be a halfling that is a little different, I would say have them think of a human character they like and then just give them the halfling traits.

Speaking of which, here they are.

Halfling Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a halfling

Ability Score Increase

Halflings get a Dexterity increase of 2. If you don’t want to have to do complex math with your kids, just let them know that halflings are fast and flexible. Dexterity is one of the six abilities their character will be good at.

Age

A halfling is an adult at 20 but can live to be around 200 years old. So there is a lot of life in these characters and depending on what age you play, they may have a very different outlook than a human.

Alignment

Halflings tend to be lawful good. That means they are going to follow rules and laws the majority of the time. But don’t feel like you or your kids have to stick to that. Sometimes, breaking a law, is a good act and that doesn’t make the halfling bad if it happens.

Size

Like I said above halflings are about 3 feet tall and don’t weigh a lot. They are pretty much human child size and can easily be mistaken for just that, especially on first glance. Mechanically speaking, in the game, your size is small.

Speed

Shorter legs means it’s a little harder to keep up with humans and elves. These creatures walk at a speed of 25 feet. Basically they can keep up with a party of humans and elves, but they are going to be at the back of the line.

Lucky

This is one reason any kid might choose to play a halfling. They are lucky. Who needs to be able to wield a heavy sword when you can just be lucky enough to be bending over at the right time when someone attacks you? And then lucky enough that your frying pan accidentally knocks them out. In most situations in the game, when a halfling rolls a 1, they get to reroll the die. They have to take the new number but it at least gives them a chance at something better than total failure.

Brave

They might be small but never let it be said that a halfling lacked in courage. They tend to be brave in circumstances that would leave most other people cowering. Because of this, when they have to roll to see if they are frightened, they get advantage. Don’t worry if you don’t know quite what that means yet. Basically, when something happens that could impose the “frightened” condition on a halfling, they get to roll the dice two times and take the higher number.

Halfling Nimbleness

If you are a halfling and you are up against any creature that is bigger than small, you get to move right through their space if you want to. Considering the fact that almost all monsters are at least medium size, this can be used to huge effect (pun intended) on the battlefield.

Languages

Halflings speak common and well… halfling. Halflings tend not to teach anyone other than a halfling the halfling language so that second language is only useful in pretty specific circumstances. Also, it’s generally not a language most other players take as one of their optional languages. Just be aware that there is a halfling language and halflings speak it.

Subraces

There are only two subraces for halflings in the basic rules which is kind of nice because that makes it easy to choose.

Lightfoot Halfling

This subrace of halflings is a little more spread out and just a bit more adventurous so you tend to encounter them more often. Because they are affable and friendly, and not an uncommon sight to most other creatures, they get to increase their charisma by 1. This comes in really handy when you are trying to sweet talk a dragon out of it’s treasure or trying to get the best deal from a merchant on a hunk of cheese.

In addition, these halflings are really stealthy. If there is a creature that is bigger than the halfing, they can hide behind it. And depending how intelligent it is, the halfling might even be able to hide behind the creature they are fighting. There has been more than one halfling who was able to fell an ogre because the ogre didn’t realize there was a halfling riding on its back.

Stout Halfling

Some say that these halflings have some dwarven blood in them. That might be why the special things they get are very similar to what dwarves have when it comes to resisting poison. They get to increase their constitution by 1. They also get to have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned and have resistance to poison damage. In other words, it’s pretty hard to poison these creatures.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Halfling Characters

Usually this spot is reserved for me telling you what I think works best for kids in playing whatever race they chose. In this case, I am instead going to give you a reading/viewing recommendation. Our model halflings pretty much come from The Hobbit in which our halfling plays the reluctant hero called to grand adventure and The Lord of the Rings in which our halfling plays the reluctant hero called to grand adventure in order to save the world. I highly recommend reading The Hobbit book to and with your kids at any age. It’s a beautifully crafted and fun story. The Lord of the Rings is extremely more complicated and for older kids is amazing. But it can be hard to wrap your head around if you don’t have the vocabulary for it. Both of these stories are essentially the hero’s quest story. Even if you have never read these stories, you’ve seen the hero’s quest. It’s what Percy Jackson does, it’s what Will in the Ranger’s Apprentice series does, and it’s what Luke Skywalker does in Star Wars. Here’s the one major difference between those series and the ones with halflings; the halflings don’t want to leave home but the others do. That’s it, it’s that simple. Now like I said, the halfling can be played a bunch of different ways so you don’t have to stick to what I recommend but if you want an iconic halfling to base a character around, choose between Bilbo and Frodo. Sam’s also great for his loyalty but there is a reason he is not the main character. He’s not called to adventure, he’s called to his friend. And for a kid, that can also be an absolutely wonderful motivation for his character to leave home. Let your kids imaginations go as far as they want for these creatures, and then just remember that they have specific halfling traits.

Thanks for reading the post. I hope you got a couple of good tips out of this and I would love to hear how your games with kids go. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Next time I will be writing about how to be human. It’s definitely something we all need a little practice with.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Equilibrium – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, back to tell you about a dystopian country where feelings are not allowed, Sean Bean, does what he does best, and people are not able to shoot each other because of angles.

Equilibrium is a 2002 science fiction film starring Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs and Emily Watson. Now, don’t get me wrong when you read this review. I really enjoyed the film. The film feels oddly prescient for the time we are in now. The action is really good and all of the performances are engaging. But I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t over think this by a million degrees. So just because I am pointing out inconsistencies and giant plot holes doesn’t mean I didn’t like it or that you shouldn’t watch it.

Fair warning that there will be spoilers ahead. I mean, this was made in 2002 so I think the expiration date on that warning is a bit old but I can’t continue the review in good conscience without mentioning that.

It’s the early twenty first century and world war three has just happened. I should mention this film is fiction. A dystopian society much like you would find in 1984 or A Brave New World or even Fahrenheit: 451 has developed. I should reiterate that this film is fiction. As a result, there is a menacing and vaguely defined police force that is cracking down on insurgents for doing such things as looking at art, loving one another, and reading poetry. I should again mention that this film is actually fictional. It was made eighteen years ago but a lot of this film feels like right now is feeling. And it was even more striking when the villain, who turns out to be leading the whole thing says this, “…it is not the message that is important, it is our obedience to it.” He says this to get a law enforcement officer (Christian Bale) to commit an unlawful act. So yeah, spot on to how this moment in America is right now. But let me remind you, this film is fictional.

Enough with my tangent, on with the plot. The whole idea of this society is that we need to suppress our human emotions chemically, to maintain peace. It’s illegal to feel anything at all and those who break this rule are subject to imprisonment and ultimately death. Christian Bale plays John Preston, a “Grammaton Cleric” who is trained in advanced weaponry and fighting skills. It’s his job to seek out and bring to justice, “Sense Offenders”, who are basically anyone that feels an emotion. Preston is good at his job and is ruthless about meting out his twisted version of justice, up to and including, burning the Mona Lisa and killing his partner for reading a volume of Yeats poems in the first ten minutes. R.I.P. Sean Bean. Again. He’s really good at getting killed in the first act of anything isn’t he?

Preston’s back story is tragic because his wife who seems to have loved him, was executed by the same police force he works for. He has since dedicated his life to stamping out all those who feel emotion and is very good at spotting anyone who does. But, he ends up missing a dose of his emotion suppressing drug and starts to feel. Meanwhile, Taye Diggs, who plays Andrew Brandt, a replacement Cleric for Sean Bean’s character, is starting to suspect something is up with Preston. There is a bit of cat and mouse and Preston does some things he’s later not proud of. He ends up meeting Mary O’brien who is played by Emily Watson. It turns out she was dating the Sean Bean character. Preston brings her in but his world view is starting to change.

The movie continues with a bit of action, some subterfuge, some back and forth and lots of gun violence and slick action sequences. In the end, we of course want to see Preston beat “Father” who is the man behind the totalitarian regime. We also want to see Preston show some emotion to his own children. I won’t tell you quite how we get those answers but I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to just say the good guys generally win.

There is also this stark contrast from the beginning of the film, full of drab and dark colors, including the uniform the Clerics wear, that changes at the end when Preston dons a white suit, because, you know, good guy and all.

As enjoyable as the film was, I still wanted to know a few things.

  1. Okay, so emotion is bad but even these Clerics go around talking about being proud or feeling guilt or whatever. The also say things like good morning. Good is pretty subjective and an emotion could be attached there so are these Clerics just exempt or what? It doesn’t seem like it since they have to take the drugs too. How do they define emotion? I didn’t see the consistency here at all.
  2. The Clerics are specially trained to be total killers. They go through this rigorous program and are able to beat hordes of people shooting at them. How do they do this? Because they train to counter the angles of gunfire that are most probable to come at them. Essentially the point is that they would use probability and physics to best their opponents. While that sounds and looks really cool, uh I have a question here. Has no one ever killed one of these guys because they held their gun at a weird angle, got off a random shot accidentally, or you know, found out this secret method of training that seems to happen in the middle of the public and like, lowered their gun by three degrees? I mean really, it seemed to me that maybe James Bond wouldn’t have a shot at killing these guys but what about Mr. Magoo? How did that Cleric die? The guy couldn’t see that well so he shot at a 34 degree angle and well, what can you do about that am I right?
  3. My next question is about the emotion suppressing drug. How the heck did they get that formula so perfect? It seems to be an absolutely identical injection for every human taken at the exact same time. No one has a weird reaction to this? Not a single person feels no effect from this? Heck, we can’t even give Tylenol to the entire human population without huge problems for a good portion of people so, whoever made that drug, give them a raise.
  4. Back to the Cleric emotion thing, there is one point where Taye Diggs’ character and Christian Bale’s character are facing off in a fight, in front of the head honcho of the dystopia. Diggs, great actor that he is, is clearly angry during the whole kerfuffle. I mean no question from his body language and what he says. How did he not get fired for that?!?! I mean that is an emotion! Anger is an emotion, so what the heck. And to believe the dictator here, what he wants is to stomp out these negative emotions that caused war in the past. I can’t say for certain how WWIII starts in this because they don’t say but I bet you anger was involved. Come on evil megalomaniac if you are gonna make that big a stink about reading poetry, get rid of people getting mad too.
  5. Christian Bale lives in this drab apartment with no decorations on the walls and no sheets or blankets or pillows on his bed. They show him at least twice sleeping on his bicep. So, uh, are pillows just to emotional in this world or what? Like, no you can’t have a pillow because you will cause a war if your neck is comfortable. Burn that.
  6. There are a ton of hidden rooms in this movie. Preston is really good at looking at or feeling a wall and punching through to find like a secret room with all kinds of art. Who built this stuff? I mean how do you get a secret contractor so you can build a room where you look at art and play a phonograph? Vinyl was really in during this whole movie too btw.
  7. My last questions get kind of involved and give a bit of a spoiler for the end so again be warned before you read on. The guy who was supposed to be Father is really a sort of simulation that is run by another guy we have seen earlier in the film. This guys plan is to get Preston to start to feel something so that he would be able to join the resistance so that he can get to the resistance to wipe them all out. So Preston does do that, then they trick Preston into coming to where this guy is in a ruse to make it seem like the resistance wants Preston to kill Father. But it turns out that Father brought Preston there so he could kill Preston, knowing that a. Preston is deadly and b. there are still members of the resistance out there. I have two questions about this. First, wasn’t there a freaking simpler way to get to the resistance? You had a woman who was taken prisoner you could have just let her go and then followed her. Pretty sure you could have found them then. Secondly, why would you bring Preston to you to kill him? I mean Taye Diggs’ character had like thirty-seven opportunities to just shoot him at point blank range. Why do that though, when you can bring him to your bunker so that he can just mow through all your dudes and kill you right? I mean, I guess that’s what we needed for the movie to happen? Classic bad guy stupid move and in my opinion it takes what was a smart movie and makes it dumber than it should be.

All that being said, there was some sweet, sweet sword fighting going on, so all good.

I hope you are all staying safe out there and that you enjoyed this review. If you want to feel like you are living in the film, you know, turn on the news. The film is better though, it’s fictional.

Equilibrialy Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Bastion Awakens – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A sovereign empire, the Consortium, defies both science and religion in its race to colonise the Solar System. They carved a God from ones and zeros.
It searches for the Devil.

A hidden planet, Bastion, lies home to a descendant colony of humanity. Its original inhabitants are thought long gone.
But something stirs beneath the surface.

TAREV is a harvester. A moonblood. His life, indebted to the Consortium, entails trudging along the harsh, icy surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan. A life of struggle, harvesting methane for the rest of the Solar System to use, until he and his brother, Sevastian, discover something buried deep within the ice.

Something that will change their lives forever.

ELIA is a Weightless, a gravity wielder, after being injected with the biometal that litters the alien planet on which she lives. She’s also the genetic reprint of an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who paid the ultimate sacrifice over two hundred years ago. Elia struggles to live up to the expectations that come with being a Weightless. She struggles to live normally, while wearing the face of a Catalyst.

She struggles to live, when her planet refuses to die.

REVIEW

5/5 Stars

Bastion Awakens is almost two books for the price of one. In one story we follow Tarev, a methane harvester from Titan. His life is not easy and he and his brother Sev do the best they can to make a living. Things seem to be set to improve when they find a huge pocket of methane to mine but they discover something completely unexpected while they are at it. The other story deals with Elia, a so called Weightless from Bastion, a hidden colony that has no contact with the other colonized planets. Elia not only is able to wield and bend gravity to her will, she is also a genetic imprint from an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who died over two hundred years ago. Needless to say, she has huge shoes to fill and is doing the best she can to live up to enormous expectations.

It takes a little while to get your bearings in the book (at least it did for me) but once you see how the stories reflect one another and start to understand the nature of the current state of civilization, the book is utterly gripping. It’s a huge space opera that touches on thematic elements from expectations brought about by ones surroundings, to grief, love, loss and self sacrifice. All this while still having a ton of action and life threatening situations to keep the reader engaged the whole while. And while a reader might wonder what the two stories have to do with one another, by the end, all is made clear, while still leaving questions out there that make one instantly want to read another volume in the saga.

To anyone who loves a good space adventure with intricate complexities and deep human emotions, you have got to read this book. While I am tempted to compare this to something like Dune, in that it takes place in space and there are complex politics happening,this stands in its own right as a unique story. By the end of the book the reader cares deeply about Tarev and Elia and can sympathize with all they have been through, gained and lost. To me this can stand with the best of space fiction and is an absolute must read.

Space Operatically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

June 2020 TBR

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here. I’m trying to get a little more organized with my blog so I thought I would post here a quick TBR (To Be Read for those uninitiated) list I have for the month of June. Now, I reserve the right to push these out in case I don’t get through them but I have a few books I am hoping to post reviews for. I’m not a fast reader, so I may or may not make it through them all but here is what I have planned so far.

  1. Bastion Awakens (The Remnant Trilogy Book 1) by Christopher M. Knight

This is an epic space opera. I’m about a quarter of the way through but I am going to review it on Reedsy Discovery so I will definitely finish this one. I’m excited for it because I tend to love a good space opera, if it’s told well.

2. The Garden and Other Stories by Aaron Ramos

This is a collection of 8 science fiction short stories. I’m a sucker for a good short story and I like to read them right before bed as a little “mini-snack” of reading. I hope this one is good and I’ll let you know once I’ve read it.

3. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I’m about half way through this. Yes, I read multiple books at the same time, it’s just how I roll. So far, this has been, as I would expect, outstanding. There are original thoughts and concepts here and it’s mind bogglingly good. I have no idea how the story is going to end. None.

4. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

For years, literally any time I bought a fantasy book that was not in The Wheel of Time series, the cashier would ask me if I had read it. Sad to say, I haven’t but what with quarantine and all, plus an amazon prime show coming up, this definitely feels like the right time and I’m really excited to see what all the buzz is about.

5. The Institute by Stephen King

I have read nearly everything the master of horror has written and I have heard that this is one of his best in years, so I can’t wait to get into it. I do feel like his endings can be disappointing sometimes but almost always when I read a Stephen King book there is enough in it to keep me fascinated and coming back for more.

I’m not sure I’ll get through all these this month but I’m gonna give it my best shot. I hope you’ll come back and read the reviews once I finish. I can’t wait to see what everyone else is reading.

Organizedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Uncut Gems – #MovieReview

The One Where Adam Sandler Yells and Kevin Garnett Obsesses Over a Rock

Have you ever seen an Adam Sandler movie where he didn’t yell like a maniac? I don’t think I have. Some of his movies are funny and he has one or two that are better than the rest. But this one is supposed to be different because… it’s a drama? Okay, yeah, that makes this yelling different I guess? Also, Kevin Garnett is in this so, that makes it different too?

I just watched Uncut Gems, and while I can see why some people think this is the performance of Adam Sandler’s lifetime, I don’t see it. Fair warning because I am going to spoil this movie in this review. If you want to watch first before you read on, you have been warned.

Uncut Gems is a story about a jeweler who has purchased well… uncut gems. He is hoping to sell them at an auction to make a huge profit over what he paid for it. The jeweler, played by Adam Sandler, is in major gambling debt, is having a terrible time in his relationships with his wife and children, and scams every third person he sees.

One day, Kevin Garnett, played by, uh Kevin Garnett of course, shows up to the jeweler’s store. After trying to sell hims some stuff, Adam Sandler shows Garnett his uncut gems. Garnett asks to borrow it and the jeweler lets him. Sandler then places huge bets on the game, because, you know, gambling addiction, and as you might expect, things get worse from there.

The rest of the film basically follows Adam Sandler running around, scamming people, and chasing down Kevin Garnett to get the rock back. Meanwhile, a bunch of goons are after Adam Sandler because he owes them money. There is a lot of yelling, a lot of toxic masculinity happening, and a somewhat shocking end.

I did think the performances in this were actually good, and I can see why people respected Sandler’s performance. But here’s the thing with this one, it’s just any of Sandler’s characters if they were not funny and they got to say the f word every three seconds. I didn’t really feel like there was much point to this film somehow. It was just a lot of run around and trying to keep up with how Sandler scammed whoever got a little exhausting.

Honestly, to me the bright spot in this was Kevin Garnett. He plays himself but there are professional athletes who have a hard time pulling even that much off. I’d sort of like to see him in a different movie, actually playing a character in the future.

While this movie got some award buzz, it’s really not there in my mind for winning. I think Sandler could have an Oscar turn in him sometime but between this one and Punch Drunk Love, I prefer the latter.

Another side note here is that they have Idina Menzel in it but she doesn’t sing. That’s a complete waste of talent, although she does a great job as an actress here.

I did have a few thoughts on the movie.

  1. The very beginning shows a horrific accident that happens in the mine where the gem is discovered. It then transitions to Adam Sandler’s colon. I am not kidding. His colon! Did we have to see that? I mean really?
  2. The jewelry store that Sandler works out of is in some upper story of a building and you had to be buzzed in to get to the store. I’ll be honest, the whole geography of the store in the building confused the hell out of me. I couldn’t tell what freaking floor it was on, let alone how you would ever hear about this place. Who runs a jewelry store like that?
  3. Speaking of that door, it sticks and is a major, major plot point in this thing. You know what I couldn’t help thinking? Why wouldn’t you get that fixed?!?!?!?
  4. What kind of an idiot loans a gem that you think is worth a million dollars to anyone, even if it is just overnight? This is one of those films that could have been over five minutes in if the main character had made one single rational decision.
  5. Adam Sandler in this movie is like, the worst husband and father ever. Like seriously, the worst. In addition he seems to have an apartment while also living in a house with his wife and kids. Just seeing how sleazy this guy is, how in the hell is the wife ever surprised at the terrible stuff he does?
  6. Speaking of which, why is anyone friends with this dude?
  7. Also, how does he know freaking everybody? Is being a jeweler how you get famous? Man, I missed my calling.
  8. The door with the buzzer seems to let you in or out. I was also under the impression that you could let someone only in or out with it. At the end there are some guys who are really mad at Adam Sandler (justifiably so) but Sandler lets them into rather than out of the store. Not that the guy deserves what happens next, but that was a stupid, stupid move.
  9. I really did not need to see Sandler ugly cry.
  10. Could we just have The Wedding Singer 2 next time Sandler is going for dramatic yelling? Please?

I hope you all stay safe out there and if you see any uncut opals, don’t lend them to Kevin Garnett. Just don’t.

Sparklingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Best 5 Fantasy Graphic Novels Every Kid Should Read

Slick Dungeon here and I was just thinking about some of the books that made me love fantasy. While I love reading books like Lord of the Rings, I also love a good graphic novel. And for kids, sometimes a more complex fantasy book can be boring. So I thought I would give you my recommendations for five fantasy graphic novels that I think all kids should read. At what age they should read them is entirely dependent on the kid but the subject matter in these is age appropriate for kids under 12 in general. Here are my top five.

5. Amulet

This book starts out with a major tragedy so just a fair warning there but it gets us into a magical land full of Elven kings, mechanical rabbits, giant robots and a brother and sister fighting against evil. The tragedy at the beginning is worth every page thereafter, the art is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s a magical read. It’s not overly word heavy, so even early readers can enjoy a good portion of this.

4. Coraline

While my favorite version of this story is the original book, the graphic novel makes great use of tone and setting to set a visually stunning story. This is more of a dark fantasy than an epic fantasy and some kids do get scared by it. I can see how the other mother could creep someone out but honestly, I think it’s healthy for kids to have a good scare now and again. And this book is utterly memorable and a great ride for kids.

3. Oddly Normal

It’s tough having a mother from a magical land and a father from Earth. Oddly Normal is ten years old and just wants to make friends at school. Making a wish when blowing out her candles on her birthday cake leads her to travel to Fignation to uncover the mystery of her parents disappearance and a fantastical adventure fighting monstrous bullies and Evil itself. With sophisticated literary references, this makes this a good read for adults too. A vampire named Bram? Count me in.

2. The Witch Boy

Boys become shapeshifters and girls become witches. 13 year old Aster has not shifted and his real interest is in witchery. This book takes on gender stereotypes while still providing a wholly satisfying fantasy story. The artwork is charming and it’s great for kids ages 8-12 but I think it’s still a great read even if you are older.

1. Bone

This is Jeff Smith’s opus and it is magnificent. This ran for 15 years and you used to only be able to get it in black and white single issues. Now you can get the whole volume in lovely color for a reasonable price. Don’t let the cartoonish look of the three main characters fool you, this is a complex and interesting story. It’s an epic fantasy that can stand alongside the best of them. If you read the second volume, The Great Cow Race, and are not charmed by it, you have no heart or no soul. And if you stick with it until the end, you will be able to see what a beautiful, well crafted, and intelligent story this is. If you don’t read a single other book I recommend here, pick this one up, trust me, it’s worth it.

Honorable mentions

These next two have content that some parents might find a little mature for under 12 but it really depends on the child and the family. I think that there are definitely kids under 12 this is suitable for but not all parents and families will love some of the content. For this reason, I would say that I still recommend these but you may just want to give a read before giving it to your kids. And hey, you might find out that you love these too!

The Mice Templar

This is about an order of mice Templar who once preserved order in the natural world. The brotherhood was broken and now predators and scavenger creatures rule the land. One mouse is prophesied to change the world. This is listed as for ages 13-16, mainly because the dialogue can be more complex than some of the others on this list and because there is a fair amount of violence in it. It’s a complicated and gripping read though, and well worth the time. A good reader at age 10 who can stomach a little bit of battlefield action is probably okay to read this. Still, like I said, be sure to read ahead if you don’t know if you are comfortable with your kid reading this.

Elfquest

Elfquest is the longest running independent fantasy series in the USA. It lasted for a whopping 40 years exactly. With a series that long running, there is clearly an appeal to it. There are things here that can be considered more mature and not just when it comes to violence if you know what I mean. But it’s such an epic tale that I think almost any kid or adult could easily latch onto it. There’s a huge story here and it would be nearly impossible for me to summarize it, so let me just say, it’s one of the greatest epic fantasy tales ever told.

There you have it. Let me know what you thought of my list. Did I miss your favorite? If so, let me know and I’ll add it to my TBR list if I haven’t heard of it.

Comically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Orb and Arrow: Duty – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

The lords of southern Dereff have asked Brillar and Elden to establish a House of the Four Powers near Obreth. They have accepted the challenge and travel north to recruit from both Great Houses. Those who agree will have to say their farewells to friends and relatives, cross the Wild with their families and take up new duties in the south.
But deep in the earth, evil is stirring. The Mother has been roused, the maker of the Savic, enraged by the death of her daughters at the hands of the mages and their supporters. She has summoned a quartet of daughters, vowing vengeance. Brillar must die and her friends with her; then the House of Life must be destroyed and the town of Laurenfell laid waste.
For the first time in a thousand years, the north will be at war!

REVIEW

4/5 Stars

Brillar and Elden, master and apprentice are returning from Obreth in the south. It’s been decided that they will start a House of the Four Powers, a magic school, to help those in need there. To do this, the pair will need to return to their homes in the north and enlist the help of the Great Houses. The story follows the two of them as they make their way past old friends, solidify new alliances, and face ancient threats from the Savic.

This time the story starts off with Elden and Brillar in a new type of relationship. Husband and wife rather than master and apprentice. Their journeys have taken them far from home and they have come to realize where they truly belong. In the south, helping as many people as they can. Brillar wants to recruit Sisters and Elden wants to recruit Brothers from the Great Houses. This could prove difficult since Brillar has killed, which goes against the oath of the Great Houses and Elden has been gone from his home for a great deal of time.

Much of the book deals with the diplomacy of the situation which is quite interesting. As the pair are making their moves, the darkness is growing. Brillar is still recovering mentally from the events of the last book. Her trauma is real and it is impressive to see mental trauma actually dealt with in a fantasy setting. This book manages that extremely well. The enemies that Brillar and Elden face are threatening and intelligent and that makes the story seem much more real.

Like the other books in the series, there are a frustrating amount of grammar errors, however, the content of the story is enough to make this a worthy read for anyone who like fantasy. If you love books where heroes full of light and goodness fight against darkness and the forces of evil, this series is for you. The final book in Orb and Arrow is interesting, impactful and utterly satisfying.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 4

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Well hello you little dungeon monsters you. It’s Slick Dungeon back again with a little campaign diary for the ultimate RPG vampire Strahd Van Zarovich.

Before I go too far, fair warning that this has spoilers for The Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first three campaign diaries here, here and here if you want to.

I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.

Preparation

First, of course, I read the part of the book that deals with the village of Barovia since that’s where the characters are. There are a good number of NPC’s there to manage but it’s not a huge village so it’s more or less manageable. I took notes about each one since I wasn’t 100% sure what the characters would choose to do.

I also took a look at the reddit thread here. There is a great section on beefing up the village of Barovia since there aren’t a ton of obvious missions to do there. I also re-watched the video below.

This is just one of a great series of Strahd DM videos

The Fourth Session

At the start of this session, Ismark who is now the Burgomaster of Barovia because his father recently died, has two goals. First, he wants to bury his father. Second, he wants to get his sister Ireena to the town of Vallaki so that she might be safe from Strahd’s clutches. The players basically have one goal. They want to get the heck out of Dodge which is proving very difficult right now. They do keep having dreams that feature Madame Eva, a powerful Vistani psychic. They even find a Tarokka card once they wake up. Ismark has told the players he knows where a Vistani camp is and that he will accompany the players to it, if the players help him to bury his father and get Ireena to Vallaki in exchange. Everyone readily agreed.

My players also seem to have some idea that vampires must be invited to enter a building. To my players what this means is that, they want to become experts in Barovian real estate law, and say that Strahd is not rightfully invited to his own castle. I think that’s their plan anyway? It can be hard to tell with players sometimes.

As the players were waiting around to have the funeral start, they explored town a bit. There they ran into a woman with a cart who is selling meat pies. Now, my players are musical theater fans and so the instant they heard the words meat pies, their suspicions were up. If you have read the Strahd module you will know why. And of course, they are right. But so far, the woman has only presented herself as a sweet old lady. A lot of people around town seem to be really into the pies though. My players bought some but then gave them away. Then they bought some more but never ate them. Honestly, I don’t think that the characters actually have to eat these things for the part that comes later in the book to still be horrifying.

Once the party had wandered around, it was time for the funeral. It was a somber affair with a good portion of town showing up. Ismark was of course sad and Ireena was nearly inconsolable. Ismark didn’t even want Ireena to go to the funeral, figuring it was not safe.

Ireena

If you read far enough into Curse of Strahd, you will get to a character called Rahadin and to me this is one of the most interesting and awesome NPC’s in the book. The guy simply radiates evil. He has killed so many people that if you get within ten feet of the guy, you can hear the screams of all the men and women he has killed in his lifetime. When I first read the module, I felt he was sorely underused. Thankfully the reddit thread I have linked to above gave him a great cameo and I used that.

So, the players meet the Priest, father Donavich. He has a bandage on his hand but is a kindly man. He brings everyone out to the graveyard, not going through the church, but rather around the back, and has a quiet service for Ismark and Ireena’s father.

After the service the players notice a man standing in the shadows. He comes over to the party and they hear the screaming of tons of voices that sounds like it comes directly from him. (Note: I did not use this trait in a combat sense for this encounter because the players were never threatening toward him and vice versa). This of course was Rahadin and he delivered a letter to Ireena and faded away. It was a fairly sympathetic letter from Strahd himself. Hopefully by now my players are realizing that Strahd is fond of correspondence and can basically drop a letter to anyone anytime anywhere.

Miles, the human Acolyte sorcerer player asked Rahadin if he was okay and if he could hear anything odd. Rahadin said no and wished everyone a good day and disappeared into the mists.

That left the players pretty well freaked out. Ismark and Ireena are none too happy either. They said their good nights and got some rest. But before they left, Ismark asked Miles to look into the fact that people have been disappearing in town lately. He’s pretty sure it’s not Strahd’s doing but he hasn’t had time to figure out what’s up. Miles agrees and Ismark tells them that they have a couple of days to get it sorted out since they need to pack at any rate. Also, Miles asked Father Donavich to look around for books related to Barovian real estate law. He said he’d give it a shot.

Father Donavich

Wandering around town the next day, the players made it to Mad Mary’s house. To tell you this next part, I need to tell you a little history of Mad Mary. Also, this part is more or less from that reddit thread, with a little from the book. Mad Mary has a daughter named Getruda who she never told anyone about. Gertruda has been locked up in Mary’s house for ages. Well, Gertruda is a fifteen year old girl who wants to see the world. The week before the players arrived, she escaped her house. She has disappeared but it’s totally unrelated to the missing people in town.

Gertruda is the owner of the dog that has been palling around with the players. So as they walked by the house, Lancelot, the dog, runs into the house and sits in Mary’s lap. Mary has been essentially driven insane so she doesn’t make a ton of sense when she speaks to the characters. (That was fun but also a little difficult to role play) The characters do get out of Mary that she has a daughter who is missing but she’s confused on when it might have happened. She also saw someone dragging a body through the streets. She’s sure that the body wasn’t Gertruda and that it was not the same night that she left. The fact that the two events were not the same event wasn’t conveyed very well but then again, Mary is not in her right mind.

The characters explore a little more around town and find a house that seems to have been broken into and has a bloody candlestick holder on the ground. Eventually they made it up to the church. It turns out that Father Donavich had a son who went off to fight Strahd. It did not go as planned and the son who was in his twenties or so, was turned into a vampire spawn. With a little intimidation and some persuasion, Lady Elarian and Miles got the priest to admit the fact that he has been knocking people out and then feeding them to his son to sate his blood thirst.

The players were smart enough to not want to tangle with a vampire spawn on their own so they convinced Donavich to do the right and noble thing and kill the thing in the basement. They helped him sharpen some wood into stakes and waited until the deed was done.

With that accomplished they went back to Ismark and told him what had happened. They also ran across the meat pie woman once more but still did not eat any pies. Shame.

Ismark let them know he and Ireena were ready to go and they are provisioned up and going to set out at dawn.

That’s where our session ended and I’m really looking forward to the next session or two because very likely we will be doing the Tarokka reading for the players which should be quite fun.

What I would do different

For this session, there is not a huge amount of stuff I would change. I did have a couple points though.

  1. It was really difficult to get my players to understand that Gertruda is missing but no one knows who she is because she has never been revealed to the world. The only real clue to her is the dog and it’s not even guaranteed that the players will come across her in the game but now they think that they have to find and rescue this girl. We’ll see what happens with that because they also think it’s possible this happened years ago, since Mary has not been in her right mind in a long time. They got that impression from an offhand remark Ismark made about Mary being “mad Mary” for a long time. I think I would have someone else provide the clues about missing people if I went with this scenario again.
  2. You can never fully predict players so I seriously did not expect them to want to become experts on ancient Barovian real estate law. But they do want to be which makes sense in a roundabout way. They also have a deed for a house and windmill so technically there has to be some law surrounding property in these lands. This is not something I would change since I didn’t predict this whole thing, but I think I am going to do all I can as a Dungeon Master to have these characters running around all over Barovia looking for the one guy who knows real estate law. I haven’t exactly figured out how to do it but for now, they were just told to check in the town of Vallaki. In the town of Vallaki I will have someone tell them to go somewhere else and so on until I finally give in and let them meet some random NPC who just loves real estate law. That should be entertaining.

I’ll be back next time to tell you if the characters make it to Madam Eva and what she tells them if she does a reading for them after we have our next session.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Empire Strikes Back Turns 40 today!

And I Explain Why I can’t Review Star Wars Films

Hi out there internet people. This blog post is going to be a little different than most of mine. This is not a review but rather a few thoughts I want to share on my favorite franchise and favorite film of all time. I have a duty as a Star Wars fan to notify anyone reading this that there are HUGE spoilers in this essay for several Star Wars films. I know, it’s a forty year old film and perhaps the timeline on that warning has expired but for anyone who hasn’t seen these films, missing out on the twists in this movie is an experience I do not want to burden anyone with.

The Empire Strikes Back has turned 40 today. It’s probably the most highly regarded Star Wars film of all time and it’s absolutely my favorite film. If you were a kid back when this premiered and got to see it in the theaters like I did, before there was Return of the Jedi, or any of the prequels, sequels and spinoffs, this movie likely takes up real estate in your imagination.

After I saw the film, my friends and I were absolutely blown away. Darth Vader is Luke’s father?! Wait, is Lando a good guy or a bad guy? I mean he seemed friends with Han but then let the stormtroopers take him and then tried to help but still, what if he is in league with the Empire? Did you see those bounty hunters? Man, I want to see a whole movie about those guys! And the one with the jet pack who captured Han Solo, what’s his story? Will Luke be able to save Han? Is Luke in love with Leia? Leia is definitely in love with Han and vice versa though! And of course, my favorite question of all time when it comes to Star Wars, who is Yoda? Where did he come from and what is his story?

I used to want answers to all of those things so badly it drove me wild. I spent hours playing with my friends, pretending to be these characters. As I grew older, I would have hotly contested debates about the franchise and most often about this movie. We all loved this one the most, even after Return of the Jedi answered a lot of the questions we had. The fact remained though, that we never got all the answers. We still wanted to know more about Darth Vader’s origins and where Leia had been before she met Luke and company. We were given novels, comics, and other speculation as to those answers for years. And again, when the prequel films came out, we got some answers but not all.

The truth is, I don’t want all the answers provided in Star Wars. I know that now we have a fierce drive and desire to see every plot hole filled, all characters have an arc, and a satisfying conclusion to a saga once it is time to be wrapped up. This is why I can totally understand how much people love the MCU. That franchise is exceptionally good at tying up almost everything in a neat package with a neat little bow on top. Of course there are some things in those movies that are still open ended but many times these things are explained away in an interview or with a tweet or a timeline flow chart. Once the answer is officially given, it’s cannon and we don’t have to wonder so much anymore.

Yet in Star Wars, what is left unanswered fuels the imagination of tons of creators. Not only are there gaps in plots, there are gaping holes. Those holes can be filled with more stories but those tend to bring up even more questions. I love that. It makes the universe of Star Wars feel so much more alive. Here on earth, in our current time, our lives have plot holes. We don’t have a character arc. Sure we can learn and grow as people but for the most part we are, “just a simple man (or woman or person or pick your pronoun), trying to make my way in the universe.” That means that we don’t get all of our questions answered. And you know what? That, to me, is what makes Star Wars seem real and full. It’s a fully realized universe because it is so lived in that you can’t find all of the answers.

When Rise of Skywalker came out, I was in line to see it on opening day. Most of my friends were too. I know, that there is a lot of criticism of this film and I completely understand that. We don’t know a lot of the answers to the questions this movie brings up. And while I am hesitant to give any spoilers of this movie because it is more recent, I do see how at least one major plot point doesn’t make a ton of sense. You know what though? I don’t care. I still loved it. Why? Because it left me with questions that I want answers to, just like The Empire Strikes Back did.

Now, that’s not to say that I think all Star Wars films are perfect. Far from it. From the early movies which hardly featured a single female character (Leia excepted of course) and virtually no people of color, to the still currently lacking LGBTQ representation, there are quite valid criticisms of these movies. What I don’t think they should be criticized for is for leaving your imagination open to wonder what more there is to the story.

There are character arcs in the sequel films that were changed mid stream. There are characters who unjustly got far less screen time than they deserved. And there are huge unexplained plot holes. I understand how someone can find all of that frustrating. But, with Empire at least, those things fueled my imagination and the imagination of countless people world wide. I suspect Rise of Skywalker will actually do the same.

While that one is not my favorite Star Wars film, it has a place in my heart, just as anything Star Wars does. That’s why I can’t bring myself to ever review a Star Wars movie. I know that I genuinely cannot be objective about it. I’ve loved it for too long and that’s never going to stop. I personally think we could use more films like Empire, that force our imaginations to ask questions. Be honest with yourself for a minute, is it really that bad to come out of a film wondering about something that happened in it? Is it so awful to wish that there was more of an answer? I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think that is because those questions propel the story forward like the Falcon entering hyperspace.

Don’t you want more out of film? Don’t you want to be asking questions because of a movie you saw? With Empire Strikes Back, my deep love of film was truly born. And not because of the fact that every twist, turn and event was spoon fed to me with nothing left to know. No, it’s precisely because it made me ask questions that this is and always will be my favorite film.

I can’t wait to see what the next forty years of questions brings me from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

May the force be with you.

Always,

Slick Dungeon

Orb and Arrow: Honor – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A thousand years have passed since the Great War that banished magic users from southern Dereff. Not knowing about the ban, Brillar has chosen to travel to southern cities as apprentice to Master Elden, Mage of the Four Powers. Her unique skills are needed in the southern towns; his would be feared.Their plans for a peaceful journey are shattered when they reach Obreth where a terrible pestilence rages and is devastating the city. They quickly learn that all their Powers are needed to combat the plague and find the man who set it in motion. But struggling with the pestilence has left them vulnerable and now – Brillar is missing!

REVIEW

4/5 Stars

Brillar has been apprenticed to her master Elden, Mage of the Four Powers, for about half a year. The two decide to make their way across the Wilds and down south to explore regions they have never seen. Dark powers including undead warriors, evil potion makers and Dark mages known as the Savic all threaten the pair. They make it to a town threatened by illness and just when things seem like they might turn out okay, Brillar goes missing.

In this second volume of Orb and Arrowthe stakes are higher, the emotions run deeper and the intensity is heightened. While this volume doesn’t have as many action scenes as the first book, it was a more gripping read. Brillar and Elden make some powerful friends and some powerful enemies. On top of that, Brillar has taken lives in the past out of necessity and is now unable to take the Oath of the healers. When Elden and Brillar make it to a southern town all her healing skills will be needed. Yet there is an unseen threat that could be the end for both Brillar and Elden.

It was fascinating to read how Elden and Brillar react when they are separated. There were parts of the book that I found incredibly dark. That’s not a criticism of the book, it made me want to keep reading, but it was very intense. A few more scenes of action would have been welcome in this volume but the narrative doesn’t suffer much from the lack of it. What could have been improved in my mind was a bit more detail on how Elden reacts to Brillar’s disappearance. That was a subject that left me wanting to know more.

If you enjoy fantasy fiction books like The Lord of the Rings, you will most likely enjoy the Orb and Arrow series. The end leaves the reader curious to know more and I look forward to reading the next volume.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Girl on the Third Floor – #MovieReview

Hey all, it’s Slick Dungeon here and I wanted to give you my take on the dramatic drywall antics of the film Girl on the Third Floor. Be forewarned, before you read on, there will be spoilers right in the very foundation of this review. If you really want to watch the movie before you read the review, go for it and then come back. If you don’t mind spoilers, read on. You do you.

The film stars CM Punk (aka Phil Brooks), Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks and Tonya Kay.

I’ll give you a quick run down of the plot but then I had a few questions about this movie.

Don, a class A jerk, who has defrauded a bunch of clients of their retirement money has moved into an old house. As is typical with horror films, the purchase of an old house is a poor investment and to make matters worse, the dude is trying to fix up the place on his own. He needs to fix it up before his pregnant wife moves in. About the first thirty minutes of the film is watching CM Punk listen to angry metal and totally mess up drywall. There are also lots of shots of him walking slowly as if he thinks someone is in the house and wondering where his dog got off to. Plus he picks up a lot of marbles that roll around out of nowhere and he doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal.

Guess what? Don is still a jerk when he meets an attractive woman named, Sarah, and then instantly sleeps with her despite the fact that he has a pregnant wife. We also get to see him talk to his neighbor across the street and go to a bowling alley. I had major questions about the bowling alley but we’ll get to those in a bit.

Don, despite being a jerk who likes angry metal, yelling at his dog, and cheating on his wife, also has a friend named Milo. His friend, who is innocent in all this, finds out that Don is still a class A jerk and had an affair. After a fun day of doing more drywall and then going to a bar, Milo goes back to work on the house only to end up talking with Sarah for a moment and then getting his head crushed in with a sledge hammer. To finish up the job, the also innocent dog is killed, cut up and stuffed into the dryer for Don to find. So for those keeping track, Don has ruined peoples lives, cheated on his wife, gotten his buddy and his dog killed and also been rude to the pretty odd bowling alley owner all because he wouldn’t just admit he sucks at drywall and hire some contractors with that money he defrauded people of. If you are getting the impression I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Don, you would be right. That guy sucked.

Turns out that the woman who Don had an affair with is a ghost. Yeah, you probably saw that coming. Or, if you were watching the film you would. The house they are renovating used to be a house of ill repute, if you know what I mean. And bad stuff happened there and then it seems bodies were buried and hidden and those spirits don’t exactly like it when renovations to the house are made. The rest of the movie is basically seeing if Don will survive, it his pregnant wife will end up dead and if anyone will figure out where the heck all those marbles are coming from. I won’t spoil the end but yes all those questions get answered.

The performances were interesting and the pacing of the film was overall good if a little too slow at times but I still wondered a few things about this movie.

  1. Don shows up and starts poking around in the house. This disgusting black goo starts coming out of the wall. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t instantly make you think the house is haunted but I would think that maybe you would want to find out if that stuff is some kind of leak or dangerous chemical or something but Don is just like yeah okay. Why didn’t he watch more home improvement videos before starting?
  2. Similarly, this white goo comes through the electrical outlets at which point, I would think you would freak out. Not thinking that the house is haunted still but definitely, like, man I need an electrician here because, like, I don’t want my new baby to get electrocuted because I am pretty sure there is something wrong with the wiring. Why would you ignore that?
  3. Next Don talks to his neighbor who seems to give cryptic hints about life choices and the house he just bought. Why wouldn’t you want to know more here?!
  4. Then the dude goes to this bowling alley. There is no one there and there are only three lanes. The owner makes Don some food and asks him if he is visiting or new in town. Don tells him about the house he bought. At which point the owner asks Don if he is gay and tells him that the house has a history of being, “bad for straight men.” Dude. Someone tells you that about the house you just bought and your impulse is not to say, what do you mean by that tell me more?!?!? Really, I would be like that is one of the weirdest things anyone said to me but all Don does is say, “You’ve got a real nice way of welcoming people to town” angrily at the dude. I get missing the dry wall, the white electrical goo and rolling marbles not tipping you off about your haunted murder house but if a bowling alley owner tells you the place is bad for straight men and you don’t follow up, that is entirely on you.
  5. What did Milo ever do? This house seems to kill men who are bad to women because it has a bad history, but that Milo guy was just there doing some home chores. While the house doesn’t seem to like it, I’m not sure that the rules as this movie has set things out should have had Milo die. He didn’t cheat on anyone or anything. All he did was say that Sarah probably shouldn’t be there and he gets a hammer to his head for that? Come on murder house, stick to your own rules!
  6. When Milo comes in the first place he is baffled by the fact that Don hardly has any tools. Why didn’t Don look this stuff up? I’m gonna renovate a whole house. You know what I’m not gonna do? Read about how to do that!
  7. Okay so again spoiler here but Sarah is a ghost who died in like the twenties maybe but she seems to be up on modern lingo and able to use a cell phone. Do ghosts still get to learn stuff after they are dead? Also she can totally touch stuff all the time and Don even sleeps with her but she is dead, so uh, how does she even feel warm to him?
  8. Later the bowling alley is packed and there are a ton of people there. Does no one else there know that Don bought a murder house? If they do, then it’s pretty messed up that they didn’t warn him. Then again, Don is a class A jerk so I guess it’s all good.
  9. In the end one of the characters lives but then does more renovation on the house. The thing is that there are still at least two bodies in the place. This character knows about the house and why it is haunted yet they don’t check everywhere for other bodies. What the heck man? If you find one, you check the whole house, that’s the rule.
  10. A major plot point in this is this hidden third floor that Don finds when the roof of his bedroom basically collapses. His reaction to that? Just seal it back up. Okay, I get that you don’t get creeped out by a ton of marbles rolling around unexplained. I get that when you hear a laughing voice at all hours, you think it’s in your own mind, I get how you ignore that weird white goo coming out of electrical sockets, and I guess I get why you didn’t ask more at the bowling alley (although I totally would have) but how in the world do you look at a surprise third floor and not at least call someone about it?!?!?!
  11. I’m pretty sure that a neon sign flashing that said this was a bordello where people got murdered so you should probably stay away Don, would not have been enough for this guy to forget about the amateur dry walling. But when you find your dog murdered in the dryer for any reason, it is time to leave. What kind of an idiot stays in a house like this?!
  12. I guess a class A jerk is your answer.

I hope you enjoyed this review and remember that if you are about to take a sledge hammer to a wall because there is weird black goo coming out of it, you are probably better off going to the bowling alley and finding out why it isn’t a good house for straight guys. Or you know, watching some home improvement videos first at least.

Handily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 5

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Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf. Today we are going to continue by talking about role playing Elves with children.

Elves are mystical and ethereal creatures in Dungeons & Dragons. They tend to be thin and just slightly under average human height. They are very long lived and can be well over 700 years old.

For a kid, those are a lot of fun traits to portray. Who doesn’t want to feel like they can live forever, be beautiful and graceful, and know more than most of the people around you? Still, this can be challenging to role play. But remember that kids are the ones driving their characters so if they want to role play the Elf they play as being younger and not knowing as much, there’s no problem with that. And if they start acting like their Elf knows everything, but you know in fact that what they are saying is silly, don’t spoil it for the kid. Let them believe their character has vast and deep knowledge if that’s how they want to play it. Don’t let your own worldview cloud what they think is deep insight. Elves also tend to be diplomatic. For most kids, that’s not an easy thing to role play but it can be done. As long as they understand that their character would be the one that is trying to smooth a situation over, they’ll be able to give it a shot.

Most elves come from woodlands and tend to be more in tune to nature than shorter lived races such as humans. The most common reason that elves take up adventuring in the first place is more or less out of boredom. They have long lives and want to see the world, so after a few centuries of hanging out with your family, you’d probably want to get out for a bit too. That doesn’t have to be why your kid’s character plays one but it’s pretty easy reason to give if they need one.

Another cool thing about elves is that they get to choose when they are adults. No one declares it for them. A lot of kids can get behind that for sure. In the basic rules they give child names and adult names for elves. This can be confusing, so make sure you know if your kid is playing an Elf who is a child or an adult.

Elf Traits

There are a few things you get for being an Elf.

Ability Score Increase

Elves get a Dexterity increase of 2. Again, if you don’t want to have to do complex math with your kids, just let them know that Elves are fast and flexible. Dexterity is one of the six abilities their character will be good at.

Age

As stated above, the ages can range hugely with elves. Typically a 100 year old elf is going to be a young adult and one who is in their 700s is getting on in age.

Alignment

Elves tend to be a little chaotic in their alignment but tend to be more on the good side. The definite exception to that is the Drow, which we will talk about when it gets to subraces below.

Size

For this I would just think slightly shorter, somewhat skinnier human. Mechanically speaking, their size is medium which can be important in game play.

Speed

The speed for elves is 30 feet which makes them pretty much the same speed as humans.

Darkvision

One of the cool things about being an elf is that you can see in dark and dim lighting. If it’s dim light to everyone else, it’s bright light to you. If it’s dark to everyone else, it’s dim to you. That effect extends out 60 feet. But when you are in darkness, you can only see shades of gray and not colors.

Keen Senses

In the rules it says that Elves have proficiency in the perception skill. The main thing to remember if you are the Dungeon Master is that elves are far more likely to notice a threat before others do.

Fey Ancestry

If you are new to D&D and you read, “You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.” the second half probably seems fine but the first half of that sentence may be confusing. There are some magical ways that a creature can be “charmed” which is a condition that affects the character. Basically elves are hard to sweet talk into doing anything they don’t want to do, even when someone tries to do it magically. That’s one of the advantages of being an elf,

Trance

This is honestly my favorite thing about elves in D&D. They don’t have to sleep! They basically meditate for four hours a day and they are fully rested. Between this trait and their high perception, elves make the best creatures to take watch in almost any situation. They are much more likely to detect a threat and rouse the party. That can be a ton of fun to role play.

Languages

Elves speak common and elvish. The elvish language is beautiful and melodic. This is perfect for bards to weave into song, that is, if they can get a grasp on the complex language. While it can be nice for other characters to be able to speak elvish as well, I don’t think it is as vital as having at least one character be able to read Dwarvish characters.

Subraces

There are three basic subraces for elves and I definitely have one that I prefer when it comes to kids.

Drow

There is one subrace of elves that I personally don’t recommend much for kids to play. That’s the Drow. The reason? Almost all Drow are supposed to be evil. The most famous Drow of all is Drizzt Do’Urden, ranger of the North. He has had tons of books written about him and gained the trust of most of the people who have fought by his side. But guess what? It’s really complex to play a dark elf how is just trying to break through and be good. Some kids, of course can run with this and make it work but in my experience I wouldn’t recommend this for a kid under 12 or so. If your kid just really wants to play a Drow, there is no reason you can’t have Drow be good aligned in your campaign. And again, this is just me but I think most kids want to be the hero of their story rather than the villain, which is just much easier if you don’t come from an evil group to begin with.

High Elf

These elves are a bit more knowledgeable than others and therefore they get to increase their intelligence score by 1. They are good at using the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow. In addition they get to learn a spell from the wizard cantrip list which is always fun. It can be a little complicated when you get into spellcasting so that can be a barrier for kids when there is too much to figure out. These elves also get to speak an additional language. When I picture this type of elf in my mind, the character that comes to me is always Elrond from Lord of the Rings. That’s just my take on this subclass though, it doesn’t have to be yours.

Wood Elf

Wood elves are my favorite for kids. These creatures get to increase their Wisdom score by one, they get to have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow, they get to add 5 feet or movement to their movement speed, and can attempt to hide even when they are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena. Which makes them exceedingly useful in any campaign that might take place with some woods or some bad weather. I love to see it when kids try to sneak up on their enemies and are successful. Plus this subrace is more in tune with nature and plenty of kids can relate to that. I just think this kind of elf is a whole lot of fun and the role play potential is huge.

Slick Dungeon’s tips on Elf characters

As always, everything I put up above is totally subject to change based on how you want to run your campaign. Elves can be a little difficult to role play since they are supposed to be aloof. Some kids interpret that as silence. I can see why too. If you watch Lord of the Rings, Legolas does a lot of standing around staring and looking graceful. He spends a lot less time chit chatting than the other characters. While that works awesome in a movie, that’s hard to pull off with kids. If you kid wants to play a talkative wood elf, there is no reason she can’t do that. If your kid wants his elf to be clumsy and a bit silly, that works too and could be really fun. I think getting some of the mechanical stuff in this class is really useful. Like I said, they make great lookouts and they are very good at stealth a lot of the time. Plus elves are generally deadly when it comes to combat. I would just make sure that your kid really wants to play one and understands, not necessarily what elves are supposed to be like according to the rules, but how they want to play an elf. Make sure it’s something you can get on board with and that won’t just turn into the role player staying silent to seem aloof.

As far as playing Elf NPC’s, that can be a little easier. You just need to make sure you understand the culture of the elves in your campaign. Are they a secluded society or do they tend to blend in with everyone? Would it be uncommon for someone to encounter elves in your campaign? If so, why? The typical trope is to play elves with English or Welsh accents but you don’t have to do that. You can have an elf who sounds like he is from New Jersey or Boston or whatever if you want to. They don’t have to have any kind of accent either, but since elves do tend to be ethereal creatures, there is usually something to make them stand out. Other than the pointy ears of course. Just decide what that is for your game and lean into it, I’m sure you and your kids will have a blast.

Thanks for reading the post. I hope you got a couple of good tips out of this and I would love to hear how your games with kids go. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Next time I will be writing about role playing a Halfling.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 3

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Hi all you dungeon creatures, Slick Dungeon your friendly Dungeon Master back with more campaign diaries for the Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first two campaign diaries here and here if you want to.

I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.

And once again, warning that there are spoilers below so if you are playing Curse of Strahdwait until you finish to read this post. That goes for my players too!

Preparation

After being stranded in the lands of Barovia and defeating the “Death House”, my players were ready to see more of the area. They basically had two choices, try and go through the deadly mists (that they didn’t know yet were deadly) or head toward the village of Barovia. Guess which they ended up choosing?

I knew they would have to walk down the road so I was ready to roll on some random encounter tables and I had stat blocks handy for what they might run into. I also took a look at the reddit thread here. There is a great section on beefing up the village of Barovia since there aren’t a ton of obvious missions to do there. I also made a lot of notes on NPC’s because, there are quite a few in this book.

Finally I took a look at this video to prepare.

With that all set up, we were ready to play.

The Third Session

Right off the bat, I told the players that they were on a road and on one side was a mist and in the opposite direction there was a sign pointing toward the Village of Barovia. They were pretty freaked out by Strahd from the last session so they wanted to try to get out of there as quick as they could. Unfortunately for Lady Ellarian Brysalor and Miles Adelard just entering the mist gives you one level of exhaustion. It didn’t take them long to figure out that they were going nowhere that way. They headed towards the village, along with the dog they found in the Death House.

I rolled on the random encounter table and it came up with four wolves. I was pretty sure that they would totally kill the party if any roles went really bad so the wolves followed and kept getting closer. In addition to that there was a raven that seemed to be leading the part along, although I don’t think my players actually made the connection there. That’s fine though because the raven is actually a Wereraven and will come into play later in the game.

It took them about two in game nights to get there and the wolves did end up attacking. Miles rolled really low again so none of his spells worked (he’s a sorcerer at level 3 at this point). Luckily before the wolves totally overwhelmed them, a swarm of ravens attacked the wolves and the characters made it out of there.

A hungry wolf looking for supper

When the pair (or trio if you count the dog and yeah, my players totally count the dog) got to the gates of Barovia they were a bit weary. They knocked on the first door they saw and found a Barovian family with a sick father. Miles leaped into action to cure the father but rather than be appreciative, the people just seemed kind of hollow. This is because they don’t have souls as is written for many Barovians in the campaign book. The players thought it was a little weird that they weren’t more appreciative but didn’t think too much of it.

Gates of Barovia

They made their way over to the Blood of the Vine tavern where they met a few Vistani. Considering the experiences they have had with Vistani so far, my players are not very trusting of those people and I can’t say I blame them, what with them getting tricked into going to Barovia and all. They also met Ismark Kolyanovich, a pretty major NPC in the book. He asked the party to help him protect his sister from the vampire Strahd and so far they have an uneasy trust of him.

They explored the town a bit and made it to Bildrath’s mercantile where they met Bildrath who gave them a quest in exchange for a discount at his store. They ended up finding and fighting an Ankheg, and successfully brought the goods back. Even so, Bildrath is a real cheapskate in this book so he still tried to take advantage of the characters.

Later that day, Ismark wanted to show the players just how dangerous it was to take on Strahd. He told them he would help them find a Vistani encampment in exchange for helping him to escort his sister Ireena to the town of Vallaki where he thinks she will be safe from Strahd. Then he showed them that there was an army of ghosts that walk toward Castle Ravenloft at midnight every night. This is all that’s left of the previous adventurers that tried to take on the vampire. I think Ismark showing them that before he allowed them to agree to their mutual deal gained him a lot of trust from the party.

Ismark

At that point the players decided it was time for a good long rest but they did spend a few minutes talking to the bartender at the Tavern and to the Vistani there. The bartender is soulless and so that gave the characters a good chance to ask about what was wrong with the guy. They learned that not everyone here has a soul and in fact, there are a lot of people that don’t. The Vistani told them a little bit about what they knew about Strahd but not much. The characters also wanted to know how they could get their hands on Stanimir for bringing them here in the first place. They’re not too happy with that guy.

The next day, Ismark plans to go with Ireena to bury his father’s body. We ended our third session here so I will be back more with what happened next in later posts.

What I would do different

I think most of this session went well but there are a couple of things I would change if I ran this again.

  1. I think I would roll ahead on the encounter table prior to the session to make sure that whatever the players encounter wasn’t going to wipe out the party at the earliest levels. (I do usually do this but wanted to give it a shot the other way this time)
  2. Honestly, I am kind of tired of playing merchants who can’t stand their customers so I think I would make Bildrath less miserly the next time I played this. I know it’s kind of a common trope to have merchants that are overpriced and just don’t like that characters and while that fits well with this story, it gets old just telling players that everything is way out of their price range.
  3. I think the thing that worked best was Ismark earning the trust of the characters but I will be honest, I didn’t feel like I role played him that well. I should have read up on him a little more before the start of the session.

I’ll be back next time to tell you how it goes with the burial of the Buromaster in our next session.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Orb and Arrow – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

Brillar was expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a healer but she had other plans. Now a highly skilled archer, she has been forced to kill to release a bound mage. It may have been self-defense, but that is no excuse for a healer. Releasing such a skilled War mage from bondage could get you killed…or apprenticed. When she chooses the latter, Brillar finds herself on a desperate journey to stop the rising tide of Darkness. Her decision to apprentice herself to Elden, the man she rescued, sets her further from the healer’s calling. Still, her healing spells serve them both well as they face the dangers of a world often torn between the Light and Darkness.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Brillar is a healer but is also skilled with a bow. She sets out to learn more about the world and gets more than she bargained for when she happens upon a mage trapped in a cruel lock. Brillar must decide if she should take a chance on the mage and ease his suffering or leave him to die. Brillar chooses to free Elden to find that he is a powerful mage and a worthy teacher. She apprentices herself to Elden and they spend the next year traveling, learning, teaching and fighting evil together.

This was a sprawling adventure that covered a lot of ground. The dimlock that Brillar has to free Elden from exudes evil and everything about it in the book is fascinating. It would have been nice to see a little bit more about the background of it and where it got its power but I suspect that may come up in future volumes. The relationship between Brillar and Elden was entertaining and it was enjoyable to see how their relationship developed.

There was a portion of the book that was a little bit slow, when Brillar and Elden go out into the wilds. But even then, by the end the story and the action picked up enough pace to make that section work. The only other negative in the book is that there are quite a few typos but the story was compelling enough that it was forgivable.

In some ways this book is reminiscent of The Witcher series although, the protagonists are quite different from the ones in that series. Elden and Brillar are basically good at their core unlike some of the protagonists in The Witcher. What the two series have in common is this sort of open world feel where the characters wander around and do what good they can when they can. If you like fantasy adventure series, this one is a good addition to your bookshelf and I look forward to reading the future volumes.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Fog (1980) – #MovieReview

“Eleven fifty-five. Almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before twelve. Just to keep us warm.” That’s how John Carpenter chose to start his masterful follow up to Halloween and prove that he is one of the all time horror greats. He showed us he could take a shoestring budget, a simple ghost story, a menacing tone and a crap ton of dry ice and fuel nightmares for decades.

What’s going on everyone? Slick Dungeon here and I just re-watched this classic from 1980 and wanted to give my thoughts on it and a little bit about horror in general. It has been a long time since I saw this movie so although, I certainly remember thinking it was a decent film, I had forgotten how good it actually is. Needless to say, I will be giving some mild spoilers here so be forewarned.

The beginning of the film is a story around a campfire. At this point in cinema history, that’s probably over done and most of the time would not work. But here, in this film, the whole movie is what amounts to a campfire story so it makes a lot of sense. Also, by framing it this way at the beginning, Carpenter is able to set up the atmosphere, give us most of the information that we need to understand the story, and introduce us to the town the story is set in. He takes the time do one very important thing that I think a lot of modern horror films lack. He sets the tone. If you think about one of the best horror films to come out in recent decades, Get Out, does the exact same thing. I know that gore splatter and body horror films are popular but they never scare me as much as a film willing to be patient enough to make the scares matter.

We’re told the legend of the founding of Antonio Bay, involving a tragic shipwreck and it’s obvious from the start that even if every word of this legend is not going to turn out to be true, it will still be deadly. Even more so because the teller of the tale is able to time the tale so that it is finished at the very second that it is 100 years to the date that the shipwreck happened. We know there are ghosts coming for someone from the depths of the bay, through the fog.

Around the same time, a priest in town discovers an old journal belonging to his grandfather, full of murder and secrets buried for a century.

It turns out that the campfire story was only partly true. The shipwreck was deliberate and six men met their deaths because of it. Now, one hundred years after, these six men are coming back through the fog to take revenge on six victims.

Simultaneously, a ship out to sea is enveloped with fog, and a radio station operator starts seeing the impossible. The fog moves against the wind.

The rest of the movie is basically what amounts to guessing who will get killed and who will survive. And to be honest, the effects don’t all hold up that well. But it still works for a few reasons. First, Carpenter waits long enough to truly show us the monsters that they don’t have to look that good. Second, the performances by everyone in this are outstanding. To top that off, the film stars high quality actors including the ever entertaining Hal Holbrook, scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and of course, the most famous Hitchcock blond of them all, Janet Leigh. Finally, Carpenter makes the stakes high immediately by murdering everyone on the ship at sea.

It’s a fascinating psychological portrait and while there are things that jump out at you and startle you, it never has to rely on that to be frightening. I wish more films could learn these lessons. Jump cuts are fun and entertaining but they simply don’t make for the greatest tone, and personally, I usually notice the edit and think, “yeah okay that was a jump cut, let’s move on.”

I can see how a lot of horror fans may have missed this film as it was never as popular as Halloween and it’s sequels and while it doesn’t quite grip you as well as The Thing, it is still masterful cinema. If you love a good ghost tale and have about ninety minutes, you should definitely check this movie out. And if, like me you haven’t seen it in years, it’s a great and fun look back on when horror took it’s time to creep up behind you before striking out.

Foggily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Emperor’s Railroad (The Dreaming Cities Book 1) – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Young Abney doesn’t have a lot in this world. He has his mother, his wits, and a whole lot of undead creatures threatening their existence. Over a thousand years ago the world was thrown into war between angels, a zombie plague broke out, and civilization was thrown into a standstill. In the kingdom of Virginia, Abney and his mother decide they need to go to the town of Charleston, Virginia, along the Emperor’s railroad. When they get into a spot of trouble, a Knight of the Dreaming City of Atlantis arrives and saves the day. Quinn, the heavily armed knight, brandishing sword, falchion and gun befriends the pair and is hired to escort them to Charleston. Even when the road seems clear, what they find is mostly trouble. Will they survive the next moment, let alone the next day?

When I first picked this up, I was expecting a traditional fantasy with maybe some modern technology added in (I admit I judged this one on the cover), but what I got was a lot more interesting than that. The blend of angels, who are not infallible, zombies, and a lethal dragon made for a fairly gripping read. And that’s to say nothing of the plain old human threats that faced the trio of Abney, Quinn and Abney’s mother. It was not what I had expected but that didn’t make it a bad read at all. I’m not sure how much I liked the story being told from the point of view of Abney and it did make me wonder how this series will progress. Will we get different tales of Quinn from other people’s perspective or will it be something entirely different? It was also a little jarring to read about these things happening in America, albeit far in the future but occasionally, the mention of some landmark would take me out of the story for a bit.

If you like books full of wandering adventure, fantasy, or dystopian post apocalyptic books you’ll probably enjoy this. It was sort of a mash up of Lord of the Rings, The Walking Dead and True Grit. While it’s easy to like all of those things separately, not everyone will love them all being thrown together. I am definitely interested in where the series will ultimately go with this.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 4

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Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple rules, went through the Introduction of the simple rules with you and walked you through the first section of the simple rules. Today I am going to talk about the first step in creating a character for the game which is choosing a race. I will also talk about role playing a Dwarf.

There are a ton of choices when it comes to choosing a race for a Dungeons & Dragons character. It can be overwhelming for a kid, especially if you aren’t familiar with what each one is. The most common race in D&D is by far the human race. This is easily relatable to any human because, well, we are all human. But, for kids this may be dull. In each of my posts for a while, I will be delving into the separate races listed in the basic rules and talking about any unique challenges or benefits when it comes to role playing with kids. There’s really no limit on what kind of creature a player can be in the game, but the ones most commonly played do have a set of rules around them. Like anything in the game, you can change and adapt them to suit your campaign.

One thing I would recommend as a Dungeon Master when playing with kids, is to make sure to let there be all kinds of races show up in your world. The kid doesn’t have to play a fantasy race, like a gnome, to enjoy the fact that they are there. Just like in the real world, in fantasy settings, the larger the city, the more kinds of people you are bound to find there. So, even if none of your players are non-humans, be sure to include some characters that are. There can of course be sections or areas that are dedicated to say, only dwarves, but make sure that lots of creatures get encountered by the kids. It can be fun to play into what is expected with these characters but it can also be really fun to play against type. A half-orc that cries whenever it gets a paper cut? That is great and can make for a ton of fun role playing opportunities. Just keep in mind that whatever, “race” the character belongs to is not the only definition of that character.

No group in this game should be a complete monolith, even though certain races tend to have certain traits as described by the rules. The same thing goes when considering gender. A boy does not have to role play a male character and a girl does not have to role play a female character. And although, this comes up less when it goes to role playing with kids, this goes for sexual orientation as well. Just be mindful of how you want to play but just as in real life, there is no one right way to be someone.

Before we get into role playing a Dwarf, we need to talk a little bit about the mechanics of Racial Traits. The rules as set out, give each race some things that are common to members of that race. This doesn’t mean you have to use it, it’s just shorthand for role playing.

Briefly I will talk about Ability Score increases, Age, Alignment, Size, Speed, Languages and Subraces.

Ability Score Increase

When making a character, everyone has ability scores. These were listed in the simple rules and in the last post I wrote for this series. It’s one of six things that a character can be good at. These include Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Just know that depending on what Race your kid decides to play, they may be better or worse at some of these things. As I go through each Race, I will tell you what is usually the increase that the character gets just for being that race. If you don’t want to have to do a lot of math in your character sheet, you can just let the kid know that their character is good at x because y race is usually good at that. Then make sure to mark off on the character sheet what thing the kid’s character is good at. (P.S. let me know if I should do a post with a walk through of a character sheet as I know those can be confusing)

Age

In the simple rules, they tell you at what age each race is considered to be an adult. It’s very likely your kid will want to play an adult, but it’s also fine for their character to be a kid if that’s what they want. Just use common sense though. If an Elf is supposed to mature at 100 years old but your kid plays one who is fifty, they are not going to be as strong or as experienced as an older Elf. Same goes for any race, relative to their maturity. If your kids want to play an older person, depending on how old they are, they may be less strong than they would have when they were younger. Generally age is not too much of an issue when playing with kids, as long as no one is trying to play an infant or someone who is extremely elderly. I would give broad leeway to letting kids choose the age of their characters.

Alignment

If you spend about five seconds researching Dungeons & Dragons you will see that there is a huge argument about alignment in the role playing community. Some people love it, some people hate it. It’s one of the aspects of the game that can be totally irrelevant at times and at times can make for great role playing opportunities.

Each race is supposed to have a tendency towards a certain alignment. If you want to keep that, feel free. If you want to just ignore alignment, sure but I will give one word of caution when it comes to kids. I would not recommend letting kids play into any evil alignments. It gets too morally gray and messy. For adults, this can be hugely entertaining. And while kids are not necessarily thinking about the world in strict terms of good and evil, it can be difficult for them to navigate in a role playing setting.

I am sure that there are plenty of kids who would be fine with playing a chaotic evil character and have a blast doing it and have no problems outside of the game with it. But I recommend against it for two reasons. One, the point of the game is to get to be the hero of the story and that’s what most kids want in the first place. That’s pretty difficult when you are committing acts of evil in the game. Two, it can cause huge problems with the other players. If you have two kids who are being, “the good guys” and one who is, “the bad guy,” you are just inviting arguments. To me it makes more sense to simply, not consider alignment at all, and kind of operate on the assumption that your kids want to be heroes. As they get to be older, say 12 and above, then it makes more sense to bring alignment into the picture.

If you have read this and still have no idea what alignment is or why it is there, don’t worry. It’s not the most essential part of the game and it’s just there to kind of inform how a particular character might act in a given situation. That will change with every individual player anyway, so don’t stress too much about this part.

Size

People come in all shapes and sizes. This is also true for fantasy creatures. Most of the races in Dungeons & Dragons are between 4-8 feet tall. There are a couple of smaller races that tend to be 2-4 feet tall. The main thing to know is if your character would be small, medium or large. This is strictly a height measurement for the game. You could have a large halfling, but that would be extremely rare and, honestly, I’m not sure how I would role play that. I guess like Buddy the Elf from Elf? Anyway, there are some rules that matter when it comes to size. It’s much harder for a halfling to wield heavy weapons and it’s a lot harder for a Half-Orc to hide. This doesn’t mean those things can’t be done, just that they are more difficult. For this part of character building, I would tend to stick to the book descriptions on size more for the rules that go along with it than anything. If you explain to a kid that halflings are small, but that they can easily hide from an ogre, they are going to understand that pretty quick.

Speed

This I would more or less strictly follow if you are planning on using miniatures in your game. If you are doing only theater of the mind, it’s a little less vital but you still need to know if the character can move a lot or a little each turn. Even if your kid can’t count past ten, you can have them know if their character is faster or slower than other characters.

Languages

This one can be a little tricky with kids. Each race has a particular set of languages that they can speak and write. These can be added to and changed around with the personalities and background section of the rules. Most of these are pretty obvious, a Dwarf speaks Dwarvish and an Elf speaks Elvish and a Halfling speaks Halfling. The player characters will also be able to speak common which is just the default language everyone talks. If you know Star Wars and that people speak different languages but almost everyone speaks basic, you can think of it like that. Common is essentially the basic way everyone communicates. However, if you plan on having a campaign that is just chalk full of Giants and you know that Giants don’t necessarily speak common, you need to do one of two things. You can either, just assume everyone in your campaign speaks basic so that you can role play with your kids or you can make absolutely certain that one or more player characters speaks Giant. With very young kids I would go with the first option, and with kids from say 7-12 I would go with the second option. Older kids can get into the fact that they may not necessarily understand everything that is said by a non-player character but younger kids might just get frustrated by that fact. It’s up to you how you handle this but think about whether even having different languages matters in your campaign.

Subraces

Some races have subraces. In other words you could have a dwarf that is a hill dwarf or a mountain dwarf or something like that. Mostly this is just a bit of flavoring for role playing but it can be something to consider when building a character.

Role playing a Dwarf

Dwarves are bold and hardy. They tend to be tough warriors and skilled with their hands. They can live up to 400 years, so they take the long view when it comes to human friends that may only last a quarter or that time at best.

Dwarves can be stubborn and set in their ways, not just because that is who they are, but because they have been around a while and have a pretty good idea of what works and what does not. They also tend to remember it if you wrong them. Likewise they remember if you aid them. It usually is a good idea to be good to a dwarf.

Most dwarves are part of a clan and while they welcome outsiders who are friendly to them, there are things that dwarves never share. For example, dwarves who are good at crafting weapons may never share those secrets for fear that in the next century, humans might go to war with dwarves. Male dwarves tend to have beards and be as prideful of them as the hippest of hipsters. To cut the hair of a dwarf beard is not highly recommended.

Dwarves tend to be loyal to their friends but you really have to earn that loyalty. They are slow to trust, especially from a human point of view but they can make excellent allies.

Dwarves tend to become adventurers for a myriad of reasons, from just wanting to see more of the world, to finding a specific item for their clan.

I think the most typical trope you see about dwarves in fantasy role play is that they have a Scottish brogue. I for one, can not come even passably close to this accent. So when I role play a dwarf, I just tell people that they speak in a Scottish accent.

There are pretty handy suggestions for names in the simple rules for dwarves, just make sure you and your kids agree on how to pronounce it.

Dwarf Traits

There are a few things you get for being a dwarf.

Ability Score Improvement

First your constitution score increases by 2. Or, if you don’t want to do the math, this is one of the things that dwarves are good at. That means it’s hard for them to get sick or poisoned, which can be greatly helpful in the game.

Age

Dwarves are mature at around 50 years old and live to be between 350-400 years old.

Alignment

Dwarves tend to be lawful but again see above for my thoughts on alignment. They also tend to have a sense of fair play so they are mostly good.

Size

Dwarves are between 4 and 5 feet tall. This means they are medium sized for rules purposes.

Speed

Dwarves walk at 25 feet. That means for each turn that is how far they go. This is on the lower side of average so dwarves tend to be a little slower than some of the other races in the game.

Darkvision

One of the cool things about being a dwarf is that you can see in dark and dim lighting. If it’s dim light to everyone else, it’s bright light to you. If it’s dark to everyone else, it’s dim to you. That effect extends out 60 feet. But when you are in darkness, you can only see shades of gray and not colors.

Dwarven Resilience

Another great thing about being a dwarf is that you have advantage on saving throws against poison. And, you have resistance against poison damage. We’ll get more into what those things mean in later posts but just know that dwarves are pretty hard to poison.

Dwarven Combat Training

Dwarves are good at using battleaxes, handaxes, light hammers and warhammers. In other words, they are pretty deadly in a fight!

Tool Proficiency

Dwarves can use smith tools, brewer’s supplies or mason’s tools. These are all tool sets that can come into play during a game but don’t necessarily. It’s up to you if you really want to get into these too much with kids.

Stonecunning

Dwarves know about the history of stonework. There are some mechanical rules behind this but my rule is just that if a dwarf is looking at anything carved of stone, there’s a really good chance they know all about it.

Languages

Dwarves speak common and Dwarvish. If you do go with using languages one thing to note is that a lot of the other languages in the game tend to use Dwarvish characters so it is usually good to have someone who can read those symbols.

Subrace

There are technically three subraces in the simple rules if you include Duergar. These are basically evil dwarves who live underground so might not be the best choice to role play with kids. It can work though if you make one of them a misfit who wants to go to the surface and do some good in the world.

Hill Dwarf

As you might expect, these dwarves come from the hills. These dwarves get to increase their wisdom by 1 and their hit point maximum increases by 1, as well as increases by 1 with every new level. To boil that down, these dwarves are wise and hardy.

Mountain Dwarf

These guys are a little stronger than the other types of dwarves so they get to increase their strength score by 2. In addition, they have proficiency with light and medium armor, meaning they can use a lot of different defensive options to increase their armor class (how hard it is for an enemy to hit you).

Slick Dungeon’s tips on Dwarf characters

Now that you have read all that, feel free to throw as much of it as you want out the window. You can play a dwarf who has never done a days hard labor in his life if you want. You can be a dwarf who really loves climbing trees. If you are the Dungeon Master, I would recommend that you tend to have the dwarves be in several settings and have them all behave differently as people but maybe keep one thing in common with all of them. For my games, I tend to keep it that dwarves take huge offense to anyone insulting their clan or to anyone with the audacity to trim their beards. Other than that, I try to play them as individuals, but it’s up to you how you want it to be. If your kid is role playing a dwarf, I would have them look up dwarves in the rules, decide what they like about them, and keep that. Toss out the rest and fill it in with personality for the character.

Thanks for reading the post. I hope you got a couple of good tips out of this and I would love to hear how your games with kids go. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Next time I will be writing about role playing an Elf.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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The Sawyer Shepherd Chronicles: Rights of Passage – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

An ancient evil, a teenager on the run from a tragic past, and a collision course with destiny, fate, or maybe something else entirely.

Sage City Colorado is a beautiful but struggling town. It’s mining history has dried up, leaving it only with a dark local legend that may just be more history than myth. But an East Coast developer named Lucius Furr and his team, including Lennox Dupree and Elena Cordova, might just bring salvation- or awaken a long dormant evil.

Sawyer Shepherd, an eighteen year old orphan on a road trip of self discovery- and running from a tragic past- finds himself caught up not only in Furr’s plans for the small town, but also an ancient and epic battle between good and evil. Guided by locals Eli Romer and Mandy Jane, Sawyer will seek to overcome the demons of his past while also trying to survive a real life demon that seems to seek only to consume. Or is it also trying to open the door for an even greater and more powerful evil?

REVIEW

2/5 Stars

Sawyer Shepherd has a tragic past and is taking some time to see life on a road trip. He finds himself in Sage City, Colorado, a small town with a bit of mountain charm and a bit of dangerous wilderness surrounding it. While there he runs into Eli Romer, known as the town drunk, Mandy Jane, a beautiful and intriguing local, and a group of developers looking to invest in the town. Soon after he arrives, Sawyer finds himself face to face with a snow storm, an ancient evil, and the tragedies of his own past. Will they survive or will this be the end of Sawyer and his companions?

While the concept of the book was intriguing, a town trapped in a white out with something hunting the people in it, the execution left a bit to be desired. The main characters fall into most of the typical horror tropes. The main focus, Sawyer, has a tragic back story, while still being the cool action hero type, and finds out there may be more going on to this story than he is being told. This could have worked better in my opinion but I do see it having the potential for a series. And while the monsters were well described, they were also somewhat repetitive in their actions which eventually makes the story feel less frightening than it could have been.

There were quite a few spelling and grammar errors in the book. While that’s somewhat to be expected in an advanced review copy, these were excessive in this book. That did make this a somewhat difficult reading experience.

Undoubtedly, there will be people who enjoy this book but it did not ever quite work for me. The concept is similar to things like the television shows Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The best moments of the book were when the group felt trapped with no way out, especially during the snow storm, similar to The Shining but with a different kind of monster coming after them. It felt like something we have seen before in horror books but didn’t add much of a new take to it. There were twists and turns, and there is an ever present amount of gore involved yet the fear one would hope for in a horror book never quite came through for me.

If the series continues it would be nice to see a little less of the expected tropes and a few more surprises for those of us who like a good horror book.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

100 Monsters for 100 Followers!

Slick Dungeon here and I just reached 100 followers on WordPress so I just wanted to say thanks! And give you 100 of my favorite monsters (or near monsters) of all time. I am going to count them down in no particular order whatsoever. Thanks to all one hundred of you monsters for following me!

1oo.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Silly, yet scary. They gave me nightmares as a kid.

99.

The Babadook, creepy and a great way to keep kids in their beds

98.

Half Drow, Half spider, all terrifying

97.

I wants me gold! The Leprechaun is always good for a little scare laugh

96.

Creepy cakes. Gross but I’ll eat ’em!

95.

What’s with creepy clowns anyway? Captain Spaulding’s definitely one of the more terrifying ones.

94.

Occultists. Can’t live with ’em… yeah can’t live with ’em.

93.

Boring race car movies pretending to be amazing that are just an argument for living a mediocre corporate existence. I have nightmares about these all the time.

92.

The kindest, classiest monster ever, Sweetums

91.

They might be a bit over used but Goblins are an essential monster to me.

90.

Every Michael Bay film. It’s horrifying in it’s terribleness

89.

Killer tomatoes. The deadliest fruit of all time.

88.

That thing from Starship Troopers. I don’t know what it is, but it looks hungry.

87.

Not so much the monster from Tusk as the fact that it was made at all,

86.

Evil Santa

85.

Strahd Van Zarovich, the coolest vampire since Dracula

84.

Evil robots in a mall that don’t do any chopping but definitely kill people.

83.

Mike Wazowski!

82.

Real Estate monsters. Don’t buy houses where walls bleed and stuff okay?

81.

Spoiler: There is a monster at the end of this book.

80.

The Stay Puft Marshmallow man. He’s big but imagine the s’mores potential!

79.

The monster of bad spelling and mispunctuation.

78.

Tremor worms. You might not see them but you’ll feel them.

77.

Whatever this space gorilla thing is supposed to be

76.

John Travolta’s monstrously bad performance in Battlefield Earth

75.

Daylight festivals

74.

That good ol’ Toxic Avenger

73.

The dreaded, deadly, dangerous Dracolich

72.

This guy!

71.

Jason. There are 12 movies about him. How about 13th huh?!?!?!

70.

Sad clown = scary clown

69.

Honestly, nothing is scarier than rich people.

68.

Great scarer Sulley

67.

Treehouses

66.

It’s the Demogorgon!!!

65.

Ghostface is a Scream

64.

Not sure exactly what this is but it’s a monster!

63.

Pardon me but I do believe I hear mother calling…

62.

Tom Savini is not a monster but he sure knows how to make them

61.

Someone needs to moisturize…

60.

Baby it’s cold outside. Also I am gonna kill you.

59.

Is this guy the next Jason? We need that 13th movie still!

58.

Vampires who can do kicks to the face? I’m in.

57.

More clowns

56.

Bards. Horrifying. Yet useful?

55.

Dragons. Often better when paired with Dungeons &

54.

Is it Halloween yet?!

53.

It’s about time Freddy joined the party.

52.

I think I need a midnight snack. Want to feed me?

51.

No, you’re a Pinhead.

50.

Stuff… thangs…

49.

Every day feels like the same day now.

48.

Spiders

47.

I’m thinking it’s time for a shave.

46.

I. Am. Your. Number. One. Fan.

45.

Not monsters. Well not usually. Sometimes it happens but it’s usually fixed.

44.

Can we get this a better name than xenomorph?

43.

Peer pressure is the worst.

42.

Feed me Seymour!

41.

This man has fueled nightmares for decades

40.

Sharks inside of tornados.

39.

One of us! One of us!

38.

Fire bad

37.

Whoever came up with this cake is a monster for sure.

36.

The Death House

35.

Pre-hocky fan Jason

34.

This is not a nice neighborhood

33.

The bandages are a smidge tight

32.

The Creep himself

31.

Well, Sweeney was a good barber…

30.

Don’t let anyone steer you wrong. Dracula the book will always be more terrifying than Dracula the movie.

29.

The king himself

28.

Behold the Beholder!

27.

Godzilla the king of the lizards

26.

Terror dogs. Luis Tully, “Your Honor, ladies and gentleman of the audience, I don’t think it’s fair to call my clients frauds. Sure, the blackout was a big problem for everybody. I was trapped in an elevator for two hours and I had to make the whole time. But I don’t blame them. Because one time, I turned into a dog and they helped me. Thank you”

25.

These guys.

24.

Gmork wants there to be the nothing and honestly, that’s terrifying.

23.

The Hydra. Many heads, even more death.

22.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Ludo

21.

Even though I like book Dracula more, movie Dracula is still a great monster

20.

It’s never good when dwarves delve too deep

19.

Anyone want to go swimming in the Black Lagoon?

18.

These guys are why I keep a sharpie on me at all times.

17.

Honestly, these guys still creep me out.

16.

I think this guy must be in high school because he keeps talking about his locker.

15.

Sharks not in a tornado

14.

Bring a mirror before you try to talk to Medusa

13.

This guy is relentless

12.

We are Borg

11.

Don’t blink.

10.

The most vile gangster in the galaxy

09.

The Swamp Thing.

08.

Beware of the blob, the blob, the blob

07.

Bad weather can be really bad. Even just the mist.

06.

The doctor is not in, but Mr. Hyde sure is

05.

Anyone other than me have a soft spot for Cat People?!

04.

Want to arm wrestle?

03.

This guy still haunts my dreams sometimes

02.

Yeah this guy is perfectly normal…

01.

Okay I did actually save my favorite monster for last. I was really broken up when some jerk dropped a huge gate on him. Still haven’t really gotten over that one.

Thanks for following my blog all you little monsters!

Gratefully yours,

Slick Dungeon

An Interview with G.E. Hathaway Author of Burn

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who crawled into my dungeon! G.E. Hathaway, the author of the spectacular book Burn about a post apocalyptic Tucson, Arizona, that you should all go and read, right after you finish reading this post. She was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about the book, about Tucson and about her writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, G.E., and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: Let me start with the obvious question. How does it feel to have a book out that is post apocalyptic while we are in an actual worldwide pandemic currently?

G.E. Hathaway: I have to admit, it’s a bit strange to drive around an empty downtown Tucson- like I’m a character straight out of the book!

I’ve been doing a lot of observing. There’s the world I imagined dealing with a large-scale emergency in Burn, and then there’s our actual reality dealing with COVID-19. I think the fears associated with living in a desert city are quite consistent with the reality. Water and shelter are essential against the heat, and we started hitting three-digit temperatures this week. If the power grid gets overwhelmed, outages occur. Something I’ve been greatly encouraged by, however, is the way people have come together to support each other during this difficult time. Even when things seem the most divisive and hostile, there’s always the helpers.

Slick: Your book is set in Tucson and it’s clear from reading it that you have a love of the area. What about the area inspires you and how did you decide to set your story there? Was there any consideration of setting it somewhere else?

G.E. Hathaway: I was greatly influenced by my time living near downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus. It’s a very old neighborhood, first of all, with a unique charm that you don’t find in many other places. With the development of the downtown area, you have an interesting combination of worlds; modern industrial and traditional Sonoran styles. As a result, the culture is delightfully mixed, and there’s great support for artistic expression. I wanted to present the city in a way that is recognizable to the locals today, and not just as another cowboy western. Tucson has evolved, but at the same time, I knew I needed to introduce it to new readers in a way that may be accessible to them, hence the idea of the “new wild west.”

Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

G.E. Hathaway: I write full time in a different industry and I’m a parent, so my creative writing goals are structured for maximum efficiency, which sounds so dry and uncreative! Basically, I keep a journal of writing concepts, and once I think a concept has enough legs to keep my own attention let alone someone else’s, I flesh out the beats. I sit on it for a while, making edits as needed, and if it continues to hold my interest, I outline the chapters. It takes a couple months before I’ll even sit down for the first draft, and by then I’m dedicated to a full writing schedule. I try not to go too long without writing during this time, because I don’t want to lose momentum.

After I complete the first draft, usually over a couple months because I write straight through without editing, I put it down for another month. Then I revisit it, edit it as best I can, then submit it to beta readers. I want to catch huge plot holes and narrative issues early before I send it to a professional editor.

Slick: Do you remember when you first got the idea for Burn? What was that like and why did you feel the need to tell this story in particular?

G.E. Hathatway: I was driving across town near the end of a very dry, hot summer, when the first monsoon storm hit. The monsoons here are gorgeous. The clouds roll in like a wild animal. Similar to how someone in the Pacific Northwest may come out to enjoy a sunny day, everyone in Tucson will go out to watch the rain. As I watched the first storm roll in, I realized wanted to capture that transition and heighten the stakes of what that relief means for the locals. I imagined the opening scene of the book that day. While the rest of us humans are enjoying the rain, there’s an actual battle going on between the weather, and I wanted to personify that. Although in those early days of brainstorming, the fight between the gods happened in the open desert instead of a convenience store!

Talisa

Slick: In Burn there is a technology called the Grid, which seems to be a renewable power source that doesn’t rely on any traditional power supplies. How did you come up with the idea? Do you think this sort of technology would be something that could exist in reality in the future and, if so, do you think it would be a good idea to use it?

G.E. Hathaway: It’s funny, after I started distributing an earlier draft of Burn to readers, I started getting articles from them they’d found on experimental technology that supposedly generates electricity from ‘thin air,’ either through microbiomes or water vapor. The future is here! I think one of the biggest things to think about is how to set up boundaries to the technology and keep it contained. Similar to dropping a boom box in a bathtub, how can you use the energy without having residual effects somewhere else? I’d also be curious about its finite conditions. If there’s no catastrophic fallout, I think it would be cool to see.

Slick: I loved the interplay of nature and technology in the book. Do you feel that the two can coexist well together or do you have more of an affinity for one or the other?

G.E. Hathaway: That’s exactly what I hope to explore in follow-up books! I think the big question I’m trying to address is: how can the two coexist in a way that isn’t detrimental to the other? I think having this story take place in the desert is perfect, because the environment is so fragile to begin with. On the one hand, our existence as a species is dependent on the health of the environment, but on the other hand, we need technology to survive the brutal heat. As a Tucsonan, I’m in a place that needs both.

Noah

Slick: To me, this book feels kind of like a cross between The Stand by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Were you influenced by those authors at all? If not, who are your main influences when it comes to writing?

G.E. Hathaway: American Gods definitely served as an influence because I wanted to explore the deities in this book by how they evolved and are defined by the existing society. I love Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Their world building is magical. Other authors I love include V.E. Schwab and Jason “David Wong” Pargin.

Slick: What are you reading right now? Any great books you can recommend to people who like Burn?

G.E Hathaway: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is amazing. I keep going back to that one. A time traveler who lives in the ideal futuristic scifi world we originally envisioned from the 50s accidentally changes the past, and creates the present we currently know and recognize. The science fiction in this book is so interesting, with the time travel machine powered by the Earth’s axis. I also highly recommend Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by Jason “David Wong” Pargin, which looks at a dystopian future where our own social media engagement enforces a surveillance state. It’s also supremely funny and smart.

Liam

Slick: Three of the main protagonists, Liam, Ellie and Noah, all find themselves face to face with Gods and Goddesses. Was it difficult to personify these Gods and Goddesses while still making the interactions believable for the human characters?

G.E. Hathaway: I had fun with this one. Each character is driven by their environmental purpose. The Sun God is ruthless and unforgiving, much like the sun in Tucson. Alternatively, Winter is indifferent to humans, more peaceful. Winter doesn’t have the damaging effects in Tucson like it does in other parts of the world, but it does provide relief from the summer. The Rain Goddess gives life to the region, so I saw her as a motherly figure, and therefore more empathetic to humans. Those characteristics fed their interactions with the main characters. Hopefully trying not to give away too much, the stranger the humans meet in the desert was both the most fun and saddest character to write, because it aligned with how humans interact with the area wildlife as both a threat and a treasure.

Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

G.E. Hathaway: Yes! I have book 2 outlined, with ideas for book 3 in development. I just hope my pandemic anxiety calms down enough for me to stick to a writing schedule! Book 2 is going to answer a question that Book 1 leaves hanging. I’m excited about this one, because it will introduce more gods as well as give the readers a glimpse of a modern and active Grid city.

Slick: In the book we find out what happened in Tucson when the Grid goes down but we don’t see what happens outside of Arizona. Will we get a glimpse of that in future books?

G.E. Hathaway: Yup! Our heroes will go outside of their comfort zones and visit the capital Grid city, which is located outside Arizona. Readers will also get to see what politics looks like since we’re in a future where a powerful corporation, Utopian Industries, has merged with the government system.

Ellie

Slick: The book is cinematic in scope and I could see this working as a graphic novel, movie or television series. Have you put any thought to trying to adapt it into any other kind of media?

G.E. Hathaway: I would love that! My hope is that the book picks up some steam in the indie world and attracts the attention of those who could make that happen. I actually have another manuscript with an agent at this time, so maybe if that one takes off, I can bring attention to Burn.

Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

G. E. Hathaway: Burn (Desert Deities, Book 1) is available now on Kindle devices at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086FZ9K4C. I hope to get it formatted for paperback soon.

My website is https://gehathawayauthor.wordpress.com/

Email: g.e.hathawayauthor@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/g.e.hathawayauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gehathaway

Thanks so much for stopping by my dungeon! Now if you could just show me the way out? Oh, um I think she left. Anyway go read the book!

Inquisitively yours,

Slick Dungeon

Note: all art in this post was created by Sofia Bjerned and are property of G.E. Hathaway and can be used for personal/non-commercial use. They cannot be modified/edited for commercial purposes.

Burn – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

Welcome to the New Wild West.

After a devastating power outage wipes out most of Tucson, survivors Liam, Noah, and Ellie have more than the hot summers to worry about. In the absence of modern technology, ancient spirits awaken and the Sun God and Rain Goddess resume their timeless war over the elements. Friendships are tested and lines between good and evil are blurred as the humans are thrust into a strange and dangerous journey that reveals the mysterious forces ruling the desert. When the Rain Goddess is injured and the temperatures rise, Liam, Noah, and Ellie must find a way to restore power to the city before they all burn.

REVIEW

5/5 Stars

It’s been a couple of years since the Grid, a modern technology powering the world fell. While survivors are trying to do the best they can in Tucson, Arizona, three people have their lives and beliefs changed forever. Liam, Noah and Ellie meet a strange woman named, Talisa, who seems to have powers beyond human understanding. She’s on the run from a man that seems to be even more powerful than she is. While Liam and Ellie work to protect her, Noah works to restore power to the Grid. The future looks uncertain for everyone unless they can succeed.

Captivating from the very beginning, this book kept me guessing the entire time. The threats are vivid and well developed. The journey the main characters take is difficult and engaging. The theme of how technology and nature interplay with each other was a constant and welcome presence in the story. While I have never been to Tucson, the descriptions made me feel like I was there and you can feel the author’s love of the city and surrounding areas in the writing.

If you’ve read The Stand by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and enjoyed those, this book is for you. I felt like this took some of the best elements of those books and put them together in an extremely effective manner. The characters are believable even when unbelievable things happen to them and around them. The odds are overwhelming against the characters in the book yet they keep fighting in their own way.

This was a welcome fresh take on a post apocalypse book and I couldn’t put it down until I had read it through. It’s cinematic in scope and I am hoping that this will be the first in a long series of books as I kept wanting to know what would happen next. I highly recommend it.

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Blood Quantum – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Shudder dropped a surprise zombie movie on everyone for halfway to Halloween and it was freakin’ fantastic.

I am a huge fan of zombie films. I know some people think they are played out and the whole genre is getting a little boring. While I may not agree, I can understand the sentiment with that fact that we have had umpteen seasons of The Walking Dead, several spin offs, other zombie shows popping up on Netflix and other streaming services. But, like zombies themselves, the takes on them are endless.

I will admit that I have never been a huge fan of the whole, “fast zombie” thing, maybe with the exception of 28 Days Later so I wasn’t sure I was going to like Blood Quantum.

I could not have been more wrong about that. Like the best zombie stories, this one is frightening, it has genuinely surprising moments, the action is intense and it reflects on modern day issues. The most fascinating part of the movie isn’t even the zombies themselves but the characters who are the focus of the story.

I’m not willing to give much away on this so I am just going to give you the blurb from IMDB and post a trailer for it.

Here’s the blurb:

The dead are coming back to life outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its Indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague.

And here’s the trailer:

If you are a horror fan, or a zombie fan, I am going to summarize it simply for you. You have to watch this!

The performances are spectacular and the whole thing is finally a fresh take. It’s not just the best zombie movie I have seen in a long time, it’s the best horror movie I have seen in a long time. Watch it if you haven’t!

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Christmas Evil – #MovieReview

Hi everyone out there, it’s me Slick Dungeon. Today is the 75th of whatever, so I decided it would be the perfect time to watch a horror film about Christmas. Yep, you’ve seen Halloween, you’ve marveled at Friday the 13th but you know what? There are a whole lot more holidays out there so, why not Christmas? It’s as bad as it sounds so buckle up because I have an exclusive Slick Dungeon treat for you here.

First let me say, that there will be spoilers for Christmas Evil, or as it was originally titled, You Better Watch Out, or also as it was once titled, Terror in Toyland as well as for… Santa Claus. No not the movie, the person. Also, at the end of this I am going to tell you how you can watch this movie for free. That’s right, a no cost blood letting of a movie set during Christmas time. Just think of me as your local dungeon Santa Claus.

I saw the title of this movie and I knew I had to review it. I watched it and it’s not as easy to summarize as you would think. Believe it or not, it is somewhat difficult to give a fresh take on a movie where a guy watches his father, dressed up as Santa Claus, rub his mother’s stocking, gets a bizarre Oedipal complex because of it, becomes obsessed with Santa, creepily peeps into windows to watch children, steals from his place of employment to donate to a children’s hospital, commits some homicide, goes to an office party, sneaks into homes to give presents, commits some more homicide, drives around town in a van painted like a sleigh, runs into some neighborhood children and then gets in a switch blade knife fight with their parents, finally goes over to his brother’s house and is almost choked to death by him and then drives off of an overpass. Okay, actually, maybe a fresh take on this is not needed but… I have discovered something here in my dungeon and you are not going to believe it. I found Harry Stadling’s diary. Who’s Harry Stadling? Why, the homicidal Santa Claus of course!

Without further ado, here are his entries.

———————————

Christmas Eve 1947

Dear Diary,

Oh boy am I excited! I just saw Santa Claus putting out presents. My brother Phil saw him too but he’s convinced that it wasn’t Santa. He thinks it was Dad. Phil is going to be so messed up when we grow up, I just know it.

Later the same night

Oh man, oh man, I just saw Santa gettin’ frisky with mom. It was weird and I am sure Dad is going to be so upset. I’m not going to let it bother me though, I’m sure thirty years from now I’m not going to become obsessed with Christmas, make my own Santa suit and commit triple homicide or anything.

Also, I must have been good this year because I got a lot of toys and I write surprisingly well for a four year old. Too bad I smashed a snow globe and cut my hand with the pieces just to see my own blood.

Anyway, I gotta get to bed now. I’ll write more here soon.

Love,

Harry

Thanksgiving Eve 1980

Dear Diary,

I know it’s been a while since I wrote, sorry about that. Next year I am making writing in my diary my New Years resolution. I’m sure I will live past Christmas, why wouldn’t I?

I’ve been watching some neighborhood children with binoculars that I got last Christmas. My brother Phil is a real jerk cause of that thing he said about Santa when he was six but these binoculars are nice. Most of the kids in the neighborhood are great but there’s this one who looks at dirty magazines. Not sure if I will strangle him but I am definitely going to get a closer look at the bushes by his house later.

I work in a more depressing than can be expressed toy factory now. I have insanely decorated my house with all kinds of Christmas stuff but hey it makes me happy. It was a rough day at work yesterday. See, I used to work “on the line” at the factory making toys. But they promoted me to be a manager so now I just mostly get aggravated at ad campaigns for false charity that the factory puts out and tell people how much the toys they are making suck. Strangely, I still plan to give out several of these toys to good boys and girls.

Anyway, work was a real downer again. See there was this one guy, Frank, who still works the line and I mentioned to him how I missed it. For unknown reasons he then straight up grabbed my sandwich out of my hands and ate it right in front of me. He’s a nice guy though. Well, I thought so anyway. See he wanted to get out of town early with his wife. He asked me to cover his shift so I did. Then I went to the bar to get a drink. Guess who was there? Diary you are never going to believe this! It was Frank and he called me a schmuck! I wish I could put him on the naughty list! He wasn’t leaving tonight, he was leaving in the morning. What a jerk!

I got so mad I decapitated one of my dolls. With my bare hands! While humming Christmas tunes!

After that I wanted to unwind so I peeped into my brother’s window and saw him making out with his wife. The way you know it was my brother’s house is that there is a random sign in the middle of the lawn that says Stadling for no apparent reason. I stood next to it for a while and gawked awkwardly. I was pretty tired so I left without saying hi or anything.

Love,

Harry

Thanksgiving 1980

Dear Diary,

My brother Phil, who has two sweet kids, wanted me to come over for dinner but I flaked on him. Why? Well, see I watched the Thanksgiving Day parade at Macy’s and I saw Santa in the parade. I decided to ditch dinner and make a home made Santa suit of my very own instead. Yeah, I know that there are still more than twenty days until Christmas and that I put the suit together in a single afternoon but it’s important to be really prepared. Phil will get over it I’m sure. Anyway my flaking on him can’t possibly be as bad as him at six years old saying Santa was not real. That’s just evil.

The fur in the suit was real soft so I hugged it and smelled it like a maniac. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with me.

Later that night

Thought the old van could use a spruce up so I painted Santa’s sleigh on it. I made good use of my time though by also reciting my nutso Christmas list while I did it. I think it looks really nifty and no way it will stand out to say, people who see me murder someone later when I do it in front of a crowded church. The cops will never catch Santa Claus! Err… I mean, paint job looks great!

Love,

Harry

The next day

I came across some kids from the neighborhood today. They told me about what they had been wishing for. One of them wished for a lifetime subscription to Penthouse magazine. It’s that same little punk from before. I’m really going to telegraph in this diary that I might kill him but never do it in this movie. I have a better idea.

Later that night

Hid by the bushes at that kid’s house. I rubbed dirt on my face then kissed the side of his house because… well I don’t know why I did that. I don’t think the audience will know why I did that either. Then I nearly grabbed him but he got in the car with his mom who never saw me even though I am a grown man who hides in bushes and am really obvious in every shot where the kid shows up. And by almost grabbed him I mean my closed fist was about a foot away from him the whole time even though I could have grabbed him. Also the kid’s mom totally slapped him and it seems like that might be a regular thing but I guess that’s fine because any kid who points out a man hiding in the bushes deserves a good slap from his mother?

With that done, I went back and made some toys in a make shift toy shop that I have in my house because, well, it’s there.

Love,

Harry

Christmas Eve Eve 1980

Dear Diary,

Went to the office Christmas party. Guess what? Everyone here is a jerk! They made this ad campaign about donating toys to a kids hospital but they didn’t even know how many kids were in the hospital or how many toys were actually needed. Oh and in a bonus jerk move, they expect the workers to donate some of their own money to contribute to this so called charity drive they are having. It makes me want to murder someone!

Then again I might have freaked some people out by talking about how I know the tune now. Some of them don’t know the tune and some know it but use it for ill gotten success. They need to get with my tune!

Had to bail on the party, I’m not much of an office guy.

Later that night

Went back to the factory and stole a few bags of toys. I know I said they sucked and weren’t good enough for kids but I’m going to take them right over tomorrow to that kids hospital and giving these sucky toys right to them, dressed as Santa!

Love,

Harry

Christmas Eve 1980

Dear Diary,

I glued a beard on my face. I am now Santa Claus. First on the agenda, laugh like a maniac in the mirror. Next I invaded some houses and tossed some packages under the tree for them, even though they already had a bunch of presents. For unknown reasons I brought the big kitchen knife with me and cut into some packages while leaving others. No one will notice my painted van, I am sure.

Also I left a huge bag of dirt for that one kid, so there. I did leave it outside his house though, so it’s not under the tree and I’m not sure the kid will understand it was from Santa. Still, sweet justice!

Went over to that hospital and gave those toys. They totally accepted them even though there was no arrangement and the staff had no clue who I was. Well, I mean they knew I am Santa Claus obviously but they still were a little suspicious. Maybe they’ll remember me by my van next time. It’s the one with a sleigh painted on both sides.

After that I drove over to the church. I waited for everyone to start coming out while I waited at the bottom of the steps. These three people were real jerks to me. So I stabbed one of them in the eye with a toy soldier. Note to self, that’s maybe too sharp for the kids. Then I murdered two other people with an ax because they were also jerks. Good thing no one looked at my license plates or followed me at all. Also good that no one called an ambulance or even attempted to give first aid to those people I killed. I feel great though!

My next stop was leering in at a different Christmas party. They saw that I’m Santa and made me come in and dance. I gave some gifts away and then intimidated the children as much as I could. It was great!

I heard while I was at the party the cops couldn’t find me because I was dressed as Santa. Thank goodness they didn’t think to ask about the hugely obvious van I drive around or anything.

My next stop was Frank’s house. I first tried to suffocate him with my sack of presents but then I decided to just slit his throat with a Christmas decoration. Man those stars on top of trees are sharp! Also, his wife is a real sound sleeper cause she didn’t even wake up until Frank was bleeding out on top of her. I did leave some gifts for the kiddies though, cause they were good all year. I’m pretty tired but Santa’s work is never done.

Love,

Harry (I mean Santa Claus)

Christmas Day 1980

Dear Diary,

Been driving around for a while now. Decided to go back to the factory. I turned on all the assembly lines and just let all the toys fall and break. What’s that? Are they some of the same toys that I delivered to the kids hospital? Yes, why do you ask? I hate those toys but those kids deserved some really bad toys because… they were good?

Once that was done I started to drive over to my brother’s place but the thing is… Christmas lights. I saw them and got my van stuck in a snow drift. Then these kids showed up and they were like, yay, Santa! They came around and started to hug me and I gave them gifts. But then this one guy who was at the church saw me and he pulled out a switchblade. I was pretty worried there but his daughter easily disarmed him and gave me the knife. There was a bit of a scuffle but I got away okay in the end. In my van. That no one has identified to the police in any way whatsoever yet.

Finally got over to my brothers house to celebrate Christmas with him, and the fact that I had snuck into his house to give his kids inferior presents. Oh, and that I had murdered four people. But you know what? Phil, my brother, he tried to choke me to death! We got in this big argument about how I am homicidal and how he told me Santa wasn’t real when he was six. Some people just can’t take a little Christmas cheer I guess. His kids stuck up for me though and were sent upstairs. For a minute I was really out of it. I seemed like I was dead and everything so my brother did the logical thing and dragged my body to my van and put me in it. Jokes on him though because I woke up and slowly punched him right in the face.

Then this angry mob carrying make shift torches showed up. It was crazy! They were marching down the street, switch blade guy right in the front. I knew just what to do. I jumped in my sleigh and drove off the overpass. That’ll teach them.

My van may or may not have flown up into the air but you know I ended the movie with, “A merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Maybe I’ll land on Tim Allen’s rooftop and I can get a new job.

Love,

Harry (Santa Claus)

———————————–

Wow, so there you have it folks, straight from Harry’s mouth! What a weird story. And it only took ninety or so minutes to watch. I know you are dying to see this so I did promise to tell you how to do it for free.

It’s easy. Sign up for Shudder for a free thirty day trial with the code SHUTIN. You can get the channel on Amazon prime video here. If you don’t have Amazon prime you can sign up for that for a free trial too and then look for the channel Shudder. Put in the code above and you are all set to watch some amazing Christmas mayhem. Enjoy! Tell ’em Harry sent you.

Merrily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Roland’s Vow – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

The Warlock of the Marshes is a man marked and cursed by a past of horrible deeds. Will Roland hear his plea? Can Roland trust the daughter of such a man, or will his own desires betray his reason?

Roland and Eldryn take to the seas of Stratvs, alongside their new Slandik friends, and discover an exotic city that exists in the shadow of harsh laws and savage practices. Lavon is home to every type of trade and pleasure. However, such riches place its very soul in peril.
In the distant land of Lawrec, Roland will face trials that will test not only his physical strength, but his own code of honor as well. Roland’s constitution continues to be forged as he struggles against the evils of the world and his own pride. But will his efforts be enough to save a land besieged by raiding armies and a people starved of hope?

Join Roland as he takes Swift Blood in hand to battle pirates, fallen champions, and worse. Roland’s quest to earn his father’s approval continues in Roland’s Vow, Book II of the Heirs of Vanity series.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Roland and Eldryn set out on their journey as young men but now have experience on their side. They continue the hunt for an evil mage that escaped his punishment in Roland’s Path. Along the way they make new allies, learn new tactics and realize that the world is a much larger place than they could have imagined. The world is at risk from the evil Daeriv and Roland knows he must act to stop it from overwhelming the innocent. Along the way he learns more of his heritage and meets beings of incredible power. The companions must decide whom they can trust and watch out for one another before it is too late.

The action Roland’s Vow is excellent and does not let up. The battles are epic in scope and extremely enjoyable to read. The danger keeps looming larger and it was fun to see how it all played out. Roland and Eldryn are not such young men as they were and they are beginning to get some recognition for their deeds. There are new allies that shine in this book and it will be interesting to see how these relationships grow and change throughout the course of the series. Also refreshing was how the motivations of Roland and Eldryn moved from trying to prove themselves to their parents towards doing good for the sake of helping those who cannot help themselves.

The weakest part of the story was the romantic entanglements that both Roland and Eldryn are swept up into. Between that and the somewhat frequent spelling errors, this book doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. The villains motives also remain somewhat vague, although this will surely add to the plot in future installments. Those issues did not stop the story from being an enjoyable read however.

Anyone who loves Dungeons & Dragons and enjoys epic quests, large battles, fast action, and the forming of a fighting party to take on evil will find this book a thrill most of the time. If you love books like The Sword of Shanara then the Heirs of Vanity series is a worthy companion to place next to it on your shelf.

Epically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 2

D&D Campaign Adventures for Tales of the Yawning Portal - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone, Slick Dungeon your friendly Dungeon Master back with more campaign diaries for the Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first campaign diary here if you want to.

I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.

And once again, warning that there are spoilers below so if you are playing Curse of Strahd, wait until you finish to read this post. That goes for my player too!

Preparation

My players were left stranded in Barovia on the road leading to the village and the first building they came to was a house. Outside were two children who beckoned them to come in and save their little brother from a monster in the basement. The players readily agreed but did not know they were entering the so called, “Death House.”

The Death House is a module for 1-3 level players that you can find in the appendix to Curse of Strahd. You can also get this as a free module to play as a stand alone one shot adventure here. This is a great module to do if you want a bit of a grinder haunted house for low level characters. I think it would probably be fun to run around Halloween and I would say it takes about four hours total to run so it’s not a huge session commitment.

I prepared for this part by reading the Death House section in Strahd, then I took a look at this reddit thread and used some, but not all of the changes in there.

I am kind of an over preparer so I made notes between the book and the thread and wrote an outline that I then printed out. If you do that when you run a campaign, remember not to rely solely on your notes. It’s still fine to improvise right in the middle of what you are doing and there is no predicting what your players will do. I often find myself happy to have the crutch of the notes but then only kind of glancing at them during the session.

With that all set up, we were ready to play.

The second session

Lady Ellarian and Miles Adelard have entered and explored the first floor of Durst Manor. They found a few curious items such as a book that told Miles’ life story in exact detail up to the moment he was in, with the last page saying a creature attacked and then a blood splatter at the bottom of the page. When Miles went to look behind him, there was no creature. Lady Ellarian looked into a mirror and found herself reflected back but ten years older. There was a room where some stuffed wolves moved but… only when they were not looking.

They made their way up to the second floor at which point they made their first mistake. They rushed past a suit of armor only to discover that it was animated. The suit kept trying to push them off of the balcony but they eventually defeated it. Miles did have to make some death saving throws first though. He passed them and his character is still alive.

The battle was pretty vicious but the characters got to level up as a result. They explored all the rooms and realized that the only way to go was up.

In one room they found a note written by Strahd Van Zarovich and they freaked out. It was pretty awesome because they were convinced Strahd was there and were panicked about what to do. That’s perfect in a horror setting because you always want the players to feel unbalanced and like anything could happen.

Eventually they encountered a few ghosts, ghasts and spirits and started to piece together what happened years ago at Durst manor. They story is that the father of the house had an affair with the nursemaid. The mother who was already going a little off the deep end lost it. They had been conducting rituals with a cult in tribute to Strahd in hopes of gaining his favor. One night, the mother, locked her two oldest children in their bedroom so that she, her husband and the cult could complete this ritual. But before that happened, the wife killed the nursemaid, the husband hung himself and then the wife sacrificed the baby. The ritual worked, but it didn’t call Strahd, it called a Shambling Mound instead. That creature devoured everyone who was left in the basement dungeons, including the wife. Strahd thought this whole family was pathetic and was pretty much glad to be rid of them for annoying him with their stupid rituals in the first place. Poor Rose and Thorn starve to death in their room, thinking that there is a monster in the basement, because that’s what their mother told them. In addition, they are pretty sure someone took their baby brother Walter down there. That’s why Rose and Thorn ask anyone passing by to help out.

After a few encounters with these ghosts who are in the house (all of them non-combative) and finding some keys, the party was able to unlock some secret doors that would allow them to go down into the basement dungeons. They also picked up a dog that is still following them around.

That’s where things started to get serious. They started by entering the crypts of the house. Somehow, even though I gave pretty much every clue possible they couldn’t figure out that the crypt labeled Walter Durst was for the baby. I don’t think that was my failure in this case, I just think that they missed it.

They found some treasure which was exciting for them but then promptly fell into a spiked pit trap which was also exciting but in more of an oh no we are going to die here kind of way.

While exploring the Larder they were viciously attacked by a Grick. This one knocked out Miles with ease and although he technically died in the encounter, he was brought back although he is not sure how. I do but I’m not going to spoil the surprise here because it should come into play in a later session.

The Grick was a lot tougher creature than I remembered though and it had a pretty easy time going after the adventurers.

In their next encounter they had a little more warning because Lancelot (the dog that they found) started whimpering when a hand rose out of the ground. The fought courageously against four ghouls and stood their ground.

After that they moved onto a room with a statue in it and the statue was holding an orb. Miles touched it and boom, now Strahd knows the adventurers are in town. Of course the players and PC’s don’t know that but I do.

As they delved further into the basement they realized that there were ghostly specters performing rituals over and over again. The characters were either going to have to stop the ritual or stop whatever the ritual called forth. Or I guess they could have sacrificed the dog and completed the ritual but, who wants to kill an innocent dog? So the Shambling Mound was summoned and there was a loooong battle. Miles hit it with some magic and Lady Ellarian stuck it with her longsword more times than I could count but in the end they were triumphant.

Then chaos broke loose. The house began tumbling down around them. We ran a skill challenge for them to escape before sudden death. They had to succeed on four skill checks before getting three failures. Using dexterity, stealth, acrobatics and deception, they were able to avoid various obstacles and survive.

What did they find once they got outside of the house? A gift basket from Strahd himself with four potions of healing and a thank you note for dealing the the “Death House” for him.

To say the players feel off balance would be an understatement I think. They are essentially stranded on a road that leads one way and have to basically walk into the town where they know things can’t be good.

What I would do different

Here’s what I would do different next time I run this part.

  1. I would use Lancelot more as an early warning for characters to realize combat is coming.
  2. I would give even more clues about the whole situation of what lead up to the death of the Dursts.
  3. I would probably ratchet the Grick down a bit depending on how experienced the players I am playing with are. That thing hits really hard once it has hold of you.
  4. I would find more opportunities to have Rose and Thorn show up. (By the way if you use Rose and Thorn, showing their picture just kind of makes it so the characters won’t trust them. They can actually be helpful to the characters so I hid their picture from my players.)

I’ll be back next time to tell you what happens on the road to the Village of Barovia.

f you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 3

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple rules and went through the Introduction of the simple rules with you. Today I am going to talk about the step by step process of creating a character. This is the first chapter of the simple rules and is a good outline of what we need to do in order to have a character. We won’t be able to go into everything in this post alone so keep an eye out for each section as we go along.

CHAPTER 1: STEP-BY-STEP CHARACTERS

Here’s the list of things you need to do to create a character according to the simple rules.

  1. Choose a Race
  2. Choose a Class
  3. Determine Ability Scores
  4. Describe Your Character
  5. Choose Equipment
  6. Come Together

Additionally this chapter talks about what happens beyond 1st level.

If you ask me, some of that list seems obvious and some of it seems pretty difficult. The first time I read Dungeons & Dragons rules, I was scratching my head for a while and had to read through everything, go back and figure it out again. I mean, equipment sounds easy right? I get that characters need stuff. But what’s an ability score and how do I figure it out? Why am I describing my character after choosing a class and race? Aren’t those things descriptions of my character? And then of course, what are the levels, what do I do with that? This can all be overwhelming and confusing. I am hoping to make this a little less painful and also, let you know the parts that are a little more flexible with kids.

As usual, the secret to all this, is right in the text at the beginning of the chapter. Here’s the beginning of the first chapter of the Simple Rules. “Your first step in the Dungeons & Dragons game is to imagine and create a character of your own. Your character is a combination of game statistics, roleplaying hooks, and your imagination.”

Don’t let the word statistics scare you off there. The point is, you (or your kids) need to just imagine what type of character you want to play. You could simply have them describe their character to you and go on and play, without even figuring out the game statistics. You’d just have to make judgement calls on whether or not it is reasonable that their character accomplished something.

Still, most of us want rules and structure around this game. So let me go into brief detail about each of these sections. I’ll also give you my advice on whether or not to focus on each section the first time you play with kids.

The main thing to remember here is that this game is about storytelling so make sure it’s a story your kid wants to help tell. The best way to do that? Make sure they get to make a character they really want to play.

Let’s dive into the steps.

CHOOSE A RACE

This one seems obvious to me, but then again I have played D&D for a long time. Your kid needs to decide what kind of a character they are going to play. As it says in the chapter, “Every character belongs to a race, one of the many intelligent humanoid species in the D&D world.”

You might be thinking, great but what does that mean exactly and what are the choices? Okay so for this game you get several options as far as race goes. Now, I am operating under the assumption that you are playing in a fantasy type setting. However, if your kids are more into superheroes or whatever, you can adapt these races to fit your narrative. For example, Elves are graceful, wise creatures and Dwarves are bold and hardy. So just think of characters from the world that you are imagining and fit those to that description.

The races that you have as options in the simple rules are as follows: Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human, Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc and Tiefling.

Some of those probably seem obvious and you’ve likely seen some portrayal of them in popular media. Others might just seem like someone typed a jumble of letters in a keyboard and hoped for the best. I’ll give a super brief description of each one here but in later posts we’ll take a deep dive into each one.

Dwarf– This is pretty much what you would guess. Strong, hardy folk who love to mine, drink ale and fight. They are tough and they are difficult to poison. They can be a really fun race to play in the game and most kids can wrap their heads around this one.

Elf- Again, this one seems pretty straightforward. If you have seen Lord of the Rings, you have a pretty good idea of what an Elf is like. They are kind of mystical, very graceful, often wise but they can also be lethal when called to action.

Halfling- There are not a ton of Halfling examples to point to outside of The Hobbit, so if you are thinking of Bilbo or Frodo Baggins, that’s exactly what Halflings are all about. They are small, live for a long time, and most of them are not big on traveling everywhere all the time. That said, there are always a few that want to go on an adventure and Halflings can be really fun to play.

Human- I don’t think there is much to explain here. Humans do have the advantage in this game of sort of being a jack of all trades and can learn stuff easier than some of the other races listed, so that’s something to keep in mind when choosing a human. They do have the disadvantage of not getting racial bonuses in the game mechanics at the start, but like all real humans, they can improve over time.

Dragonborn- A what now? Yeah, Dragonborn you may not be familiar with. These are basically dragons walking on two feet. They don’t have all the characteristics of dragons but they are scaley, they look like they are tough (because they are) and they can in fact use a breath weapon that does a type of damage that an actual dragon from the game would do (just on a smaller scale).

Gnome- These folks are small and energetic. They’re even smaller than Halflings and are endlessly curious. They love to live life and are enthusiastic about just about everything and that can make them excellent adventurers.

Half-Elf- This is a combination of an Elf and a human. They walk between two worlds but are never entirely accepted in either. This can be a little hard to role play as a kid, but if they want to be a little bit elf, and a little bit human, this is a great race to choose. The fact that these characters don’t quite belong anywhere makes them very good at being diplomatic and understanding the needs of others.

Half-Orc- Unlike Half-Elves, the Half-Orc stands out in a crowd no matter where they go. They look like Orcs and many people mistrust them. This could be due in part to the fact that a lot Half-Orcs are very strong and quick to anger. This is a great race to play if your kid wants to be a fighter.

Tiefling- Again, this might be one you have never heard of. These creatures look like demons but in humanoid form. They have a very tough time fitting in to society because everyone assumes the worst at first glance. The fact is though, that there are plenty of good Tieflings who just want to have an adventure.

Like with everything in D&D, you don’t have to play to the classic type on these. If you want to play an Elf who is clumsy, go for it. A dwarf who can’t stand being in a mine? Sure thing, no one is stopping you. Let your kids have fun with the race they choose.

CHOOSE A CLASS

To make this part easy, just think of this as the job that the character does. Like with races, I will do a post with a deep dive into each of these.

Here are the options you have for class: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlocks, and Wizard.

I’ll again give you a super brief description of these.

Barbarian- Barbarians are excellent fighters, they tend to like being outdoors, they love to be in the thick of battle and are quick to anger.

Bard- Bards are entertainers to the core, be it through music, poetry or some other means. Bards are excellent at supporting other characters with their magic and can make the whole party better at anything they are trying to do.

Cleric- Clerics get their strength through the gods. They can wield powerful healing magic or deal devastating damage and they are imbued with divine magic.

Druid- Always in tune with nature, Druids never try to claim control over it. These characters use natural forces and natural magic to accomplish their goals. One of the neatest things about this class for kids is that some of them can change into animal forms which makes for an endless amount of role play opportunity.

Fighter- Yes, this is what it sounds like. Fighters are good at fighting. There are a ton of different options for how you fight, but all fighter are, well… good in a fight.

Monk- The strength of a Monk flows from within. Unlike fighters, most Monks don’t use weapons but they can pull magic out of themselves. If you have seen any of the best of the Bruce Lee movies, you have a great idea of what a Monk is and can do.

Paladin- Paladins are bound by oaths to stand against the forces of evil. They are the closest to knights of the round table that this game gets. They try to do the honorable thing, whatever way they interpret that. They are capable of great fighting and strong magic and are a highly playable class.

Ranger- Rangers roam the wilderness on the hunt for monsters that threaten the lands. They tend to be loners and isolated but never forget the people they fight for. They are very good at surviving in the wild and are great at hunting and tracking.

Rogue- Rogues are stealthy and skillful. They are good problem solvers and pick things up quickly. While not every rogue is a thief, a great many thieves are in fact rogues. They are excellent for sneaking into a lair and dealing massive damage through their sneak attacks.

Sorcerer- Sorcerers are gifted with magic through a number of methods but unlike wizards, it’s not from book learning. You can’t learn to be a sorcerer, you either are one or you are not. They are fantastic at magic spells and can do a great many things, however, the magic can sometimes go a little astray and cause damage to themselves and others. This is a very fun class to play because of the unpredictability of their magic.

Warlock- Warlocks make pacts with supernatural beings to gain knowledge of magic. They are beholden to these beings and the role play potential with this class is enormous from that fact alone.

Wizard- The most traditional of magic users, this class learns from books and a natural talent for magic how to cast spells. Think Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter and you have a great idea of a wizard.

DETERMINE ABILITY SCORES

To me this is the hardest part of making a character and when it comes to playing with kids, the least important. For now, my advice is this. Understand what the ability scores are, and have your kids just choose one of them that their character is good at.

So what are the abilities that there are? Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. I’ll give you the two second take on each one and like I said, just have your kid choose one that their character is good at.

Strength- Just what it sounds like, how strong you are.

Dexterity- How nimble you are. Can you dodge a sword blow? Can you you dodge under a falling rock before it hits you? Then you have good dexterity.

Constitution- This is how hardy you are. Can you eat anything and never get sick? Is it tough to poison you? Then you have good constitution.

Intelligence- This is basically your book smarts. You want high intelligence if you are a wizard but anyone can be intelligent if they put enough effort into it.

Wisdom- This is your life experience. You might not be educated in the traditional sense, but you can tell when someone is trying to fool you.

Charisma- This is essentially how charming you are. An important note on this one, is that charming doesn’t always mean kind. In Harry Potter, Voldemort is charismatic because he has many followers that do what he says. If you want to be able to influence people, for good or bad, Charisma is important.

DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTER

This is taking the character you have so far and giving her personality and a back story. I’ll go into the options on this more in a later post but the possibilities here are as endless as storytelling itself. This is the spot where imagination really helps. That being said, there are some short cuts you can use in the simple rules to drive your imagination.

CHOOSE EQUIPMENT

Each character is going to need stuff. A swordsman needs a sword, a wizard needs a spell book and materials to make spells with. Some of the equipment is automatically given based on a characters class and background but there are options to buy the equipment using the gold in the game. I’m obviously not going to go into every item that can be purchased but the simple rules have a handy section for that. I would just say, try to make the equipment purchases be something that makes sense for the character and the type of adventure you are trying to have.

COME TOGETHER

This is just having the players form up as a team. This is usually done through role play with the Dungeon Master at the beginning of a campaign. There are an infinite number of ways this can happen so be creative here.

GET YOUR KIDS EXCITED ABOUT PLAYING

This is not an official step in the rules but I highly recommend it before playing.

In my next posts I am going to start going through each race in more detail. But before I end this post, I wanted to point you to some resources to help your kids start to think about what kind of character they want to play. Lucky for us, Wizards of the Coast, the company that publishes Dungeons & Dragons has a bunch of resources for this.

I’m not pushing you to buy these but if you do decide to and order through my site, it will help out the site a ton. If you are considering buying these books, consider purchasing through this post, it will not cost you anything extra at all.

I will eventually do a review of each one of these books but suffice it to say that both of these are great at getting kids excited about playing D&D.

Warriors and Weapons is a primer on characters you can play and the kind of equipment they can use. It has great pictures, easy to digest information and is a really fun read, even if you are an adult.

Wizards & Spells is dedicated to the magic users and beings in the game. It’s a great little primer on magical characters and creatures and will give kids a good idea of what can be done in the game with magic.

I actually think the whole series of these books are great but the two above are the best for learning about characters and what they can do. Even if your kids can’t read, the illustrations convey a ton of information so I highly recommend them.

Next time I am going to take a deep dive and delve into the world of Dwarves. Until next time, I hope you all stay safe and have fun. Roll high!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Friday the 13th (2009) – #MovieReview

File This under Did We Have To?

Just when you thought my reviews of Friday the 13th movies were over, I’m back with another one. Slick Dungeon here, wondering why I just watched this. Maybe my review will answer my own question?

Okay so, I know I missed some of the originals but there are some films that can’t even be found in my own dungeon so I was left to watch this one. Just go with it and pretend those other films didn’t really happen. Kind of like this movie does.

I’m going to give you a summary of the… plot? And then I have a few thoughts about this thing. There are spoilers for this that will flow as free as the blood from a machete wound so you have been warned. If you haven’t seen the movie and you don’t want spoilers, watch it now and come back.

The movie starts with the decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees to dispel us of the notion that she could be the killer or that this is at all a straight remake of the first one. Then we get a group of teenage campers who are out in Crystal Lake, looking for weed, having sex and the whole bit. Of course they camp right near Jason, tell a story about Jason, then get killed by Jason. Finally, the credits roll like twenty minutes in to the movie. It’s a few months later and Clay (played by Jared Padalecki) is out looking for his sister who we know is one of the campers from earlier. We also know that she looks exactly like Jason’s mother. We don’t see her die on camera so there’s no guarantee she’s dead.

A different group of people are going up to Crystal Lake to spend the weekend and run into Clay. This one dude Trent is a total jerkwad and from the first second he is on screen we are all waiting to see Jason finish that dude off. Anyway, the story goes like you would expect, Jason stalks the people, kills them in horrific ways and in the end he is stopped at last. It’s a story we have seen on screen at least eleven times before and there isn’t really much new here, other than the fact that after eleven films, this doesn’t work so well when you try to start over.

Still, I had a few thoughts about this movie.

  1. I wondered why I didn’t like this but then I figured it out. I hate virtually everything Michael Bay does. This was only produced by him but I still see his fingerprints all over it. There is modern (for 2009) music in it and it just feels wrong. Everyone is sweaty in practically every shot. The camera doesn’t hold still long enough to actually build tension. The characters are one dimensional for the most part, with the notable exception of Clay, his sister and the character of Jenna (played by Danielle Panabaker). It feels like a big Hollywood set even in the parts that are clearly just people walking in the woods due to the way it’s shot. In the end this is like trying to do horror with a glossy color poster with attractive people from 2009 instead of an old black and white Victorian portrait that actually looks creepy. Putting a modern spin on the film making style does not help this.
  2. It seems like they wanted to feed into every stereotype from these movies to give the audience what they wanted. The thing is, that what the audience actually wants is to be surprised and scared by these movies. So if you see people doing drugs or having sex or whatever, and then they get killed, it’s not scary and it’s no longer a surprise. Also, I never related to these characters much (not that I do in the other ones either really) so when they die, it’s not real impactful.
  3. There was a disturbing lack of car trouble in this movie. How can this be a Friday the 13th movie if the only reason that a car doesn’t start is that there are no keys? Did someone open that Crystal Lake auto repair shop? Cause that was my idea!
  4. Also, the guy who tells the campfire story of Jason does a terrible job. It’s not suspenseful and there is no one to jump out at the end. Come on man, learn to tell a story, otherwise this is just lazy.
  5. This stars Jared Padalecki and there is no Jensen Ackles in the movie. Come on Sam Winchester, you can’t win this without your bro.
  6. I didn’t find the kills in this one particularly inventive. I know after all those movies that came before it’s hard to come up with something new but try a little harder guys. I saw a circular saw and you know how many people got killed with one? Absolutely none.
  7. Jason doesn’t kill Whitney (the missing sister) because she looks like his mother. But he basically keeps her prisoner in his house. Sorry but this makes no sense. Why would Jason take his own mother prisoner. Also, Whitney finds out right in the beginning that she looks like his mother but doesn’t really pull the whole impersonating his mother until the end of the film. What? Why not? I mean she could have done that in the first fifteen minutes and then the movie is over.
  8. Trent is a jerk. They make Trent such an obvious jerk in this movie that you can tell the film makers were like, here’s the guy you can cheer for when he gets killed. Look how jerky his jerkiness is. Let’s make him more of a jerk. Wait he’s not jerky enough so let’s have him cheat on his girlfriend so the audience understands how jerky he is! So yes, there are not one but two attractive women who just want to be all over Trent even though… he is a jerk. Okay…
  9. I did not see an old man warns those kids away from that place scene. This movie fails. The closest we get is an old woman telling Clay that “he just wants to be left alone” with no other explanation. I need an old guy warns people away scene. If you make a sequel to this movie, hire me for that scene, I am available. Also, I work cheap.
  10. While Derek Mears does a great job playing Jason, he’s on camera too much. These movies are always better when you are not sure when he’s going to pop up or from where. As soon as we see Jason, it gets a little less scary and in this one we see him almost right from the beginning. The early ones hid Jason a lot more and that worked to their advantage.
  11. The jump scare at the end of this was so predictable. Again, if we have seen it a bunch of times, even though you are doing a reboot, we are going to see it coming. How about just try something new? Oh wait, you can’t. That’s why you did a reboot. Okay fine.
  12. For a reboot though, this is actually not that bad. I have definitely seen worse reboots. It just never felt… necessary to me though.
  13. This film make the 12th movie about the Voorhees in the series. Can we please, please get one more? Let’s get everyone who survived these to team up and hunt down Jason. And let’s make sure that I am there warning those kids away from that place!

I hope you have enjoyed my reviews of this series. It was fun to take a look at these movies again. Until next time, I’ll be hanging out at a local hardware store near a lake and telling people not to go to that place.

Superstitiously yours,

Slick Dungeon

PS Want to see Sam Winchester without his brother and Killer Frost without the Flash face off against the Voorhees family? Check it out below.

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Roland’s Path – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

When two servants of evil escape during young Roland’s watch, he is driven by his own shame and vanity to take up his axes and track them down himself. Raised on the rural edges of Gallhallad, can he survive the dangers and complexity of the road ahead?With the help of his lifelong friend Eldryn, the Cavalier hopeful, and an uneasy bargain with a dagger wielding cutpurse, Roland pursues a wizard of unknown powers and a woman of uncommon beauty and skill.Will Roland’s vanity not only doom him, but a kingdom he hoped to one day serve as well?In Roland’s world of Stratvs, vanity has a high price. A price paid with the blood of the innocent and the guilty. Around him, swords once pledged to justice rust on the altars of the self-righteous.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Roland and Eldryn are young men who have large shoes to fill. Roland is trying to live up to his father’s expectations and has his first test before him when two prisoners escape under his watch. This leads to an epic adventure across the lands where danger is around every corner, friends are few and knowledge and training make the difference between life and death. Roland and Eldryn make an alliance with a cutpurse to help them track down and return the escaped prisoners. They will be tested, challenged and hunted. Will they be able to survive, return the prisoners and fight with enough honor to make their ancestors proud?

Rolands Path reminded me of an extended Dungeons and Dragons session. That is not an insult in any way. I love those types of adventures and any time I can go on an epic quest with a well written character, I am on board. The best moments of this book were full of action and heroic sword battles. The action is constant and very well detailed. The danger is palpable and it never feels guaranteed that any of the main characters are going to survive the next minute, let alone to the end of the book. At its best this story feels like something that could sit next to R.A. Salvatore’s famous Homeland book, although with a less flawed protagonist than that series has.

While the heroes are well fleshed out and there was a good sense of where they came from and what they wanted, the villains were another story. Their motivations were unclear and some of the tactics they were using did not always make sense. Some of this is probably due to the fact that this is the first in a series of books and hopefully these characters will be more well developed in the future books.

This was close to a four star book, except for the vague definition of the villains and the fact that there are a lot of distracting spelling mistakes. The ride is fun and the action is good. If you are a fan of fantasy books, this is a good one to pick up. The follow up is sure to be an exciting ride and something to look forward to.

Epically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 1

DriveThruRPG.com

Hey everyone out there, it’s your friendly Dungeon Master Slick here. I’ve had a lot of time to hang out with some friends lately and we decided to play a little game you may have heard of called Dungeons & Dragons. We wanted to go with Curse of Strahd since none of us had played it before. I got to be the Dungeon Master and I have two players playing. Before you ask, yes we did this while practicing social distancing. I stayed in my dungeon and they stayed in theirs and we played online. If you click the link above for Strahd, do be advised that it is for Fantasy Grounds that is an online platform you can use to play Dungeons & Dragons, not just a PDF you can download. I will also provide a link at the end of the post where you could get a physical copy of the book if you want.

A couple notes before I get into the game session here. First, if you have been reading my Kids Kill Monsters series about playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids, this post is not about that. I will get back to doing those posts soon but I really do not recommend Strahd for kids or dungeon masters new to the game because it gets a little complicated, there are dark horror elements to it, and there are so many ways this can end up going wrong. That said, if you have a kid who loves horror (I have since I was like eight years old) and you feel they are mature and sophisticated enough to take on some pretty dark stuff, have at it. Also, there will be spoilers for the module of Curse of Strahd so if you are a player who is either about to play or is currently playing this campaign, you should probably not read this. That goes double for my players! Don’t read this guys.

I’ll wait for players to exit the room and we have all Dungeon Masters or would be Dungeon Masters here.

Okay the coast is clear, DM’s read on.

In these diaries, it’s my intention to tell you what I did to prepare, how the session played out, and what I would try to change or improve the next time. I hope you’ll find the story a little bit entertaining but mostly I hope I can give some advice to anyone interested in running this campaign for themselves. I’m going to be writing these campaign diaries with the assumption that you know at least a little bit about how the game is played but if anything in here seems confusing, feel free to ask about it in the comments. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Preparation

I’m going to give you the most obvious advice ever but, if you want to run a campaign well, one thing you have to do is… read the module. Yeah, I know, you probably know this already. In order to prepare I did just that. I read the book. After reading the book, I still had a ton of questions on how I wanted to run certain things, and how certain things worked.

If you have read this module you will know that there is this sort of Tarot card style reading using what they call a Tarokka deck. You can use regular playing cards to do this reading, as long as you have all 54 cards in the deck (jokers included). The module tells you to do this reading once on your own and once with players. I highly recommend practicing this a few times. I think I have it down, but that hasn’t been put to the test yet because my players have not gotten to the point where they would have their reading done.

Once I read the module and I felt like I had a somewhat decent handle on how it’s supposed to run, I started scouring the internet for resources. I love the Gothic horror aspect of the campaign, although I do cringe at some of the parts of the module that seem like they might lead into uncomfortable territory for players. I did find a really handy resource though and if you want to run this campaign, I think you should definitely check out this channel, and the resources on it. Lunch Break Heroes has thoroughly turned up the narration and the horror on this campaign to eleven. I linked to the whole play list of his videos for the campaign below so you might want to start with the earliest videos about adventure hooks and running the “Death House” module first.

If you would rather read through his awesome guide, you can get it here on his Curse of Strahd Reloaded reddit thread.

I took the parts that I liked from the module and from the book and added a little of my own flavor to how I thought things should go. Once I was prepped, we met to make characters.

Characters

One player decided to be Lady Ellarian Brysalor, a wood elf noble fighter with a tragic past and the huge burden of having inherited a large estate after her whole family was wiped out in a zombie attack. (My players decided to make it a zombie attack because I have zombie anxiety dreams and they thought it would be funny… so yeah there’s that.)

Also just a side note, I am not sure where the pictures I am posting below come from so if anyone knows, let me know and I will credit the source. Or if you own the image and want it removed just let me know and I will take it down.

The other player created the character of Miles Adelard a human Acolyte Sorcerer also with a tragic back story. When Miles was young, his family was killed by a cult of some kind. Later in life he was adopted by a kind hearted family. They taught him the ways of Lathander and he became a devote religious student. Sadly, his family was also attacked and killed by what may be the same cult as before.

I don’t know why my players both wanted to have their entire families dead at the beginning of this but Strahd is definitely dark enough to encompass this sort of thing.

We decided to start everyone at level one. I’m not going to put all their stats and stuff here but if you really want me to, just let me know in the comments. Since we were going to begin with level one, I had to make a couple of decisions. First, what adventure hook did I want to play and, should I run the so called, “Death House” module that is in the appendix of the book.

I decided to go with the “Mysterious Visitors” adventure hooks with a couple of the changes from the reddit thread I posted above. In this hook, basically, the characters start in Daggerford, are asked to deal with some bandits who turn out to be Vistani from Barovia (the realm that Strahd rules over) who then ask the characters to come and help them. I added in the little plot idea that Madam Eva, an important NPC that shows up later in the game has sent them some dreams that have haunted them for the past few nights.

I also decided to run the Death House module which was a little trickier because we weren’t starting in Barovia. The reason I didn’t want to start in Barovia was twofold. First, my players are quite familiar with The Sword Coast and were pretty good with starting there. Secondly, I like the idea of feeling like you pass from one realm to another, with no way out. Again taking a cue from the reddit thread above, I placed the house, rebranded Durst Manor just outside of the village of Barovia.

After all that was set, we were ready to play.

The first session

At the beginning I leaned hard into the roleplay. I wanted to set the tone and the mood early on, so I didn’t just read the boxed text that says the characters are having dinner with Lady Morwen. She’s a noble character so I thought it made sense that she would know Lady Ellarian Brysalor. Miles was accompanying her because they had in the past befriended one another when Miles was curing one of Ellarian’s townsfolk and asked for no repayment or reward. From then on, the two of them had become fast friends and often traveled together. Ellarian had some business to take care of in Daggerford and got the invite to dinner with Lady Morwen.

While at dinner, Lady Morwen made it known that there had been some trouble outside the gates of town and her guards seemed like they had potentially been the subjects of a charm spell. Naturally the players offered up their assistance immediately.

When Miles and Ellarian approached the Vistani wagons, they wanted to go in stealthily but Miles failed his stealth check badly so he fell on his face and the Vistani were well aware that the characters were traipsing around the camp.

In the book, Stanimir is supposed to be the leader of the Vistani here and tells a little story about Strahd and how he is more or less cursed and a tyrant. Then he is supposed to ask the players to come and free Strahd. I felt like that was a little too straight forward so I played Stanimir as if he was a little sketchy bur really friendly and warm. I think the book expects for the players to suddenly think these people are totally harmless even though Lady Morwen is suspicious of them. If I did this over, I think I would have just made Lady Morwen ask the characters to conduct some business on her behalf instead of cast the Vistani in a poor light right from the get-go. I did even have one player say during the story that it felt like an adventure hook. He was right of course and he’s an experienced player so I am not surprised by it, but I didn’t want it to feel quite so railroaded. I also took the advice from that reddit thread above to say that the characters could share stories with the Vistani before Stanimir did his. Miles told an excellent impromptu legend about a dragon that swooped in to save some heroes during a mighty battle. It was a really great role playing experience and was my favorite part of the session. Then Stanimir started talking about the same woman that the characters had seen in their dreams, Madam Eva. I won’t say it convinced the players to go, but it didn’t hurt.

In the module Lady Morwen basically wants the characters to leave by dawn but the characters are supposed to go with them. I felt like this part did not work at all because also in the module the Vistani in this camp agree immediately to leave at dawn anyway. So mission accomplished. Like I said above, if I ran this again I would change a bit of what Lady Morwen is asking here. Lesson learned for next time.

After a bit of back and forth, the players went back and reported to Lady Morwen what they had seen. The players were still really suspicious of Stanimir. In order to get them to sympathize a little more with the Vistani I revealed that Lady Morwen’s servant had been caught trying to steal the Vistani’s wine, so they roughed him up for that. I even had Lady Morwen go apologize to Stanimir to get them to agree to go in the wagons toward Barovia.

In the module as written, the characters travel a while with the Vistani and then the forest suddenly becomes unrecognizable as the fog creeps in around everyone. The players don’t know it but this is a plane shift. Of course, when I described it to them, the players lost it on Stanimir and got pretty mad at him. Stanimir talked them down a bit as if it was no big deal but told them that it would be a bad idea to go into the fog on their own.

In order for the Death House module to work, it made the most sense to me to have Stanimir leave the characters when they were just outside Barovia. He stops the wagons, confesses that Madam Eva has banished Stanimir and his group and that his punishment is to bring people to these lands until someone frees Barovia of Strahd. He then splits out of town in a hurry.

The rain starts to pour and it gets late. As the characters are stumbling around in the dark, they see a lantern. They make their way over to it and see a girl with her little brother. The girl tells the characters that there is a monster in their house and they are worried about their little brother. I honestly thought I would get to role play this part a little more. Rose and Thorn are the siblings here and I did find them pretty interesting in the book. But the players were just like, yep, let’s go save that kid, find the basement! Hehehe… trap sprung.

I will say that one of the really smart bits of advice in the reddit thread is to not call this part Death House. I’ve just been referring to it as Durst Manor. I think the players are aware that they are in a haunted house but they have no idea what they are really in for.

They spent the rest of the session trying to figure out how to get to the basement. In the dining room there was a magnificent feast laid out and Miles took a huge bite out of a pheasant. I had him make a DC 15 wisdom save. He rolled a 7. After a minute the food turned rotted and to what it really was and Miles is currently poisoned.

It wasn’t all bad for poor Miles though, as he did find a very serviceable crossbow in one of the cabinets. The players then figured out that there was no access to the basement from the first floor, that the front door was locked, and that the only way to go on is up.

That’s where we will be headed next time.

What I would do different

Here’s what I would do different next time I run this part.

  1. Reduce the role of Lady Morwen and her demands or start the characters right in Barovia.
  2. . Play up the dreams that Madam Eva sends more (this is straight from the reddit thread not from the Curse of Strahd module so don’t look for it there)
  3. Find a way to get a little more star time for Rose and Thorn.
  4. Make the Vistani a little less suspicious but definitely keep the storytelling around the fire.

I’m sure there are lots of other mistakes I made but I would say overall it was a really fun session. I’ll be back to tell you all how the next session goes once we have had it.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th – #MovieReview

Happy Friday out there to all of you! Is it Friday? I mean, maybe? Anyway, I spent six hours and forty minutes watching a mega documentary about the Friday the 13th series and I am here to give you my take on it.

Let me start by saying that I am a horror fan and one of the series I have fond memories of is this series, so I am somewhat predisposed to enjoy this documentary. That being said, I think that anyone who has an interest in film making at all, would get a lot of value out of this film too.

Perhaps it’s a little twisted but I loved as a kid, to watch something that just scared me so bad that I couldn’t sleep and Jason was one of those movie monsters that often haunted my dreams. I think there is a deep human need in all of us to allow ourselves to be frightened. I think we need these movie monsters and we need to see our fears on screen and then see them defeated. And I think we still have a deep need to think that at any time, that fear we thought was gone, could come back. It’s cathartic to watch these movies if you ask me, and I don’t apologize for being a fan of horror. But still I recognize that not everyone would want to watch these or to watch a documentary about them. But if you are interested in horror, I am not sure I have seen a more extensive and well done documentary than this one.

The series goes into the extensive history of all the films, including the originals, Freddy VS Jason and the Friday the 13th (2009) reboot. But it also includes some talk about the comic books, novels, toys and even goes into the often forgotten Friday the 13th television series. And as if that wasn’t enough, it is hosted by none other than the original Tommy Jarvis himself, Corey Feldman. It’s got interviews with nearly everyone you would want to hear from that had something to do with the movies. It is quite the time commitment though, so you’ll probably want to break it up by chapters unless you happen to have nearly seven hours to sit there at once. Okay, yeah so one sitting might be fine in this day and age…

I really found this documentary fascinating and informative. Everything from how the shoestring budget original film came together, to how Freddy and Jason finally got pitted against one another. It pulled back the curtain on a lot of the effects, and a ton of the choices that went into making each movie. It also showed how the struggle with the MPAA was a running theme through everything they did. It’s got Kane Hodder giving his take on the films he was in and how he (in my opinion) totally got ripped off when it came time for Freddy VS Jason. It delves into the controversies surrounding some of the films and it surprised me just how aware the film makers were of the parts that fans did not react well to. Whether you love or hate these movies, it’s apparent everyone was trying to make the best films they could, and it’s a gripping look at how it was done.

I don’t want to spoil too much in this so I just want to give you my favorite moment from the whole thing. Ted White who played Jason in one of the films was doing a stunt where he was near the final fight of the movie. The actress was supposed to bring Jason’s iconic machete down onto a pick-axe he is holding. The head of the pick-axe was supposed to meet the blade of the machete. That’s the shot you see in the film. But, when they did the stunt the first time, the actress was a little too fast and Ted White hadn’t yet rotated the pick axe up. As a result the machete cut his finger and he needed to go to the hospital for stitches. Well, being that this was a movie and near the end of Jason’s final battle, Ted had a prop machete sticking out of his shoulder with all this fake blood on him. He goes to the emergency room and walks up the nurse there and everyone is freaking out over it. As soon as he gets to the nurse he calmly says, “Do you have anything for headaches?”. To me, that moment just summarizes the horror, the humor and the the perfect reaction to the best of Friday the 13th. And honestly, that’s just one in a ton of great stories in this documentary.

I know it’s a long time commitment but I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you haven’t yet gotten Shudder you can sign up for it on Amazon Prime for a free trial. To me Shudder is worth it for their Friday the 13th collection alone, but they have a bunch of other good stuff on there too. I believe that you can still get a free trial of it for 30 days if you use the code SHUTIN too, so you don’t have much to lose other than time. (Not trying to give the hard sell here, just saying that I really like Shudder)

I’ve watched the entire Friday the 13th collection on Shudder and while they don’t have every movie in the series, they definitely have the best one (the first four). But out of all the movies in that collection, I enjoyed this one the most. I hope you’ll take some time and check it out.

Documentingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!