Hey out there all you dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the start of a horror franchise that I never watched before. This time I am reviewing Saw.
Saw is one of those horror movies that is legendary for being talked about as being highly disturbing. It’s got a bunch of sequels and has made a boat load of money so it clearly caught on with a particular audience. It’s also known for having a ton of gore in it and creative death traps that ensnare victims who have to make terrible choices in order to survive.
This is one of those series that I meant to get around to as a horror fan but just haven’t found the time. I watched the first installment and there is plenty to like but there are also some flaws here. I am going to give mild spoilers for the movie so be forewarned.
The movie starts with a pair of men in a grungy bathroom chained to pipes on the wall. They’re obviously in a dire situation and their lives are threatened. The film develops mostly through these two characters talking to each other about who they are and how they think they go there. They also try to work together on occasion to try to escape. The whole time this is going on, they find little clues that might give them an idea of who kidnapped them but it’s vague enough to keep them off balance. And the audience is welcome to speculate the whole time on who might really be behind the action, including the men chained in the room.
The whole movie plays out like an escape room scenario where if the characters can “win” the game, they may get to live. It’s a pretty sick and twisted idea and it works well as far as horror goes.
I think the thing that surprised me the most, however, was the casting. I had no idea that Cary Elwes, Danny Glover and Michael Emerson were in this. I thought it was so low budget that it didn’t have any star power at all.
Everyone here puts in a decent enough performance but there are some plot holes. The one that really gets me is that one of the characters starts underwater in a bathtub. It’s a cool and horrifying start to the film but on a practical level, how did the kidnapper know that character wouldn’t just drown and then there would be no movie?
There are a few other plot holes that I spotted but I don’t want to go into them because I will say that the end surprised me. I did not expect it and although it was surprising, I’m not sure that it made for a better movie. I respect what the filmmakers were going for but there are some logic problems with it.
While the premise is inventive, and there is plenty of gore in it, I feel like some of this could be executed (pun intended) better as far as filmmaking goes. I liked it enough that I will continue watching the series because I am curious what they come up with for the franchise but this series is not going to replace any of my top five horror franchises unless they really step up the game in the sequels.
One thing I will commend the filmmaker with though–that puppet is really creepy and they used it well!
If you have watched this, what did you think? Was it clever or contrived? Let me know in the comments.
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.
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Year 2217. Earth’s biosphere is dying, Mars’s terraforming projects are in ruin, resource wars are brewing, and even the voidoids—eerie portals into nearby star systems—have failed to yield new Earth-like worlds. But that’s about to change with the miraculous discovery in the Chara system. United Earth Domain and the Allied Republics of Mars, rival powers within Bound Space, each want it for themselves, and a cataclysmic war is about to erupt.
Aiden Macallan, Terra Corp’s planetary geologist aboard the survey ship Argo, a man with a troubled past, finds himself pulled into the center of the conflict and into the heart of a profound mystery where the key to humanity’s future lies hidden. To find it, he must trek alone across a living landscape, guided only by a recurring dream that grows more real—and more deeply personal—with each step. It’s the only way to save an extraordinary world from certain destruction and to give the human race its last chance for survival.
It’s the year 2217 and humanity is almost out of chances. Earth is dying and while there are colonies on other planets, humans have yet to find a planet as habitable as their own home. However, the discovery of what may be a suitable, Earth-like planet may change everything. As governments, scientists, and private companies all vying for the first stakes in the planet collide, Aidan Macallan finds himself wrapped up in the center of things, perhaps the only person in a position to understand the new planet and with the ability to avoid a war that would lead to the utter destruction of all of humankind.
Reminiscent of the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Through a Forest of Stars, takes the reader on a journey into the future based on sound scientific principles. There are several competing interests who all want to be the first to understand, and in some cases possess, the resources on a newly discovered planet. What this planet is and just how similar to Earth it is, remains in question. Aidan works on a survey team and is used to the isolation of space but this new planet is something else entirely. When he becomes the first human with the chance to experience and understand it, he is going to need all the help he can get. Unfortunately, he is cut off from most contact, other than with the Artificial Intelligence that helps him to run his ship.
The book is fascinating and holds the reader’s interest, although there are times when the science can be a bit overwhelming. If you are a fan of hard science fiction though, this will not bother you. The cosmic politics involved in the competing interests for the planet are well developed and complex and add urgency to the story. The fantastical is here as well, as Aidan is guided by recurring dreams and nightmares that seem to be urging him to act before it is too late.
If you love space fiction, especially with a good dose of science in it, this book is well worth reading. If you love Arthur C. Clarke or To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers, you should add Through a Forest of Stars to your read list.
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 kids, why 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, 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, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome, role playing a half-elf, role playing a half-orc, role playing a Tiefling. and talked about Class. Today we are going to talk about playing as a Barbarian.
Oil your muscles up, do a few stretches and get ready to let the fury of your rage loose upon the world. You are a barbarian. You might not have those fancy spells that go flying around the battlefield all the time but that’s fine, you don’t need them. You just need a handy melee weapon, the strength of your rage and something to hit!
I love playing a barbarian and there are tons of examples from literature and popular entertainment you can base this character upon. Barbarians also get some pretty neat class skills which can be quite fun to play.
When I think of barbarians one that I think most kids could understand and relate to would the The Incredible Hulk. While a Dungeons & Dragons character is not likely to go from academic scientist to raging gamma monster (although that would be possible in certain settings) the way that Hulk rages is very much like what a barbarian does. When Hulk gets angry, he hits harder than anyone else. Yet, even in his state of rage, he is usually aware enough to protect his friends and only go after bad guys. Sure, he does a lot of structural damage but he isn’t known to be a killer (at least not in my favorite interpretations of him).
His anger is often misunderstood and it can be a frightening sight to see even for his friends but ultimately, they are glad he is on their side. Also, when Hulk is angry its harder to hurt him. The blows glance off him for the most part unless you happen to be a god of thunder.
However, this rage can only last so long and after a while Hulk will wear himself out, especially if he runs out of stuff to hit.
Another model of barbarianism I think of is Conan the Barbarian because, well, it’s in the name. If you read some Conan stories though, it’s pretty obvious he may not be the best role model for children. There are some good qualities a kid playing a barbarian can adapt from Conan though. He never gives up on a fight and he will not abandon his friends no matter what the odds are. He’s a bit self centered and will take as much treasure as he can get his hands on but he’s not so greedy that he won’t share fairly in the spoils. And Conan, unlike the Hulk, is able to keep his head (literally and figuratively) not only in a fight but usually in a social situation. He respects magic while not using it and really only cares what someone else believes when it becomes a problem for him or anyone innocent around him.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the female version of Conan, Red Sonja. She’s a little less hot tempered than Conan and she had a very rough childhood where she had to learn to fend for herself, a child whose teacher was nature itself. She learned her lessons well and is one of the few people who can easily keep up with Conan. I actually think she might be a better role model for kids than Conan but she still went through some things that you might want to wait until your kids are older to explain. She has boundless courage and is always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. She is somehow stealthy despite her shock of red hair that you would think could be seen by just about anyone. Her choice of battle gear is a bit… exposed, let’s say. It does leave her flexible though and as a barbarian you don’t want to be clunking around although, it would be wise to get yourself a shield from your closest merchant.
Barbarians tend to live for danger and are willing to take risks for themselves, especially if their actions might protect those they care about. There are all kinds of barbarians though and they often come in surprising packages. Being a barbarian isn’t about how big you are but about how bold you are. Halflings and dwarves make barbarians just as well as elves and goliaths do.
It can also be fun to play a barbarian a little against type. There’s no reason a barbarian can’t be smart or kind or even reluctant to get into battle. the one thing that should be consistent with barbarians is that once they are in battle, they revel in it, almost to the point where they are blind with rage but very effective up close.
So, now that I have given you some barbarian examples, how does one make a barbarian? Let’s take a look at what the basic rules have to tell us shall we?
Creating a Barbarian
When you first play Dungeons & Dragons with kids and the basic rules tell you what to use for a quick build I would say it’s probably best to start there. It’s the least amount of poring over and trying to figure out stats you can do and since this part was written by the game designers you tend to get a fairly balanced class out of it. The one place you might change is in the suggested backgrounds. I feel like the backgrounds are more a role playing choice than a mechanic (although they have that too) and thus should be left up to the kid playing. Also, for those who don’t know, when I talk about “mechanics” I just mean how the rules operate, usually with some number crunching involved.
What do the basic rules suggest we do with our barbarian?
For this class the rules recommend putting your highest ability score in Strength, followed by Constitution. This makes sense because as a barbarian your weapon attacks are going to use strength, your rage gives you some bonuses to your strength. You also want high constitution because this is how healthy you are and since you are likely to get bashed around plenty, you want to have enough hit points that you aren’t getting knocked out ever other round in combat.
Second they recommend the Outlander background. In a later series of posts I will go more into each background but I will say that Outlander can be a great choice for a barbarian but it is not the only choice. I have played a barbarian with the folklore background and that worked out very well for me. I also think that if you made a few adjustments a barbarian could be a noble. Sure, she might not come from a fancy castle and want to pay for the most luxurious accommodations every night but there’s no reason they can’t be the leader of their tribe or a proud noble of a people who shun the niceties of civilization.
There are different features you get for being a barbarian and while you are unlikely to get to the top ranks of levels with a group of kids, I’ll give you a rundown of these things anyway.
Hit dice: Barbarians get to use a d12 when figuring out their hit points and hit dice which is pretty great since a lot of other classes use smaller dice meaning barbarians are sturdier. For your hit dice you get 1d12 per barbarian level.
Hit points: At first level it’s 1d12 + your constitution modifier. (This is where having con as one of your higher stats really helps) For every level after that you get 1d12 (or 7 if you are using averages) + your Constitution modifier per barbarian level after 1st.
Just a quick note here because I know this was confusing to me when I learned to play. What is the difference between hit dice and hit points? Hit dice you get to roll when you take a short rest. These will be however many d12s you roll per level. You get to add the number you roll to your hit points if you have taken any damage. Your hit points are how many points of health you have. The easiest analogy is probably a health bar in a video game. If that number gets down to zero or below, you are likely in trouble. When you roll your hit dice you get to refill that bar. And just like in a video game, you can’t exceed the maximum of your health even if you roll higher than that number.
Proficiencies: These are basically things you are good at. A barbarian has several proficiencies to begin with.
Armor: Barbarians are good with Light armor, medium armor, and shields. While I highly recommend you pick up a shield, you may not want to wear armor because if you do, you won’t be able to use Unarmored Defense which I will talk about more below.
Weapons: Barbarians are good with simple weapons and martial weapons. Spears, daggers, axes these are a few of the types of weapons barbarians are good with. They’re not great with a bow or anything that takes great practice and skill to perfect but that’s fine because a barbarian is going to want to get up close and be right in the middle of melee as much as possible.
Tools: None. Alright, barbarians just don’t have the patience for tools. That’s what rogues are for.
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution. Saving throws are when you might befall an attack or damage of some kind. If the check for that attack or damage calls for strength or constitution you are going to be glad you are a barbarian
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. We’ll talk more about skills more in future posts but for now, these do basically what they sound like although I will point out Survival doesn’t mean just how long yo live. It’s more like, how long can you live in nature on your own instincts.
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) a greataxe or (b) any martial melee weapon
- (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon
- An explorer’s pack and four javelins
These are all good weapons for a barbarian and it’s basically down to your preference of how you want to hit stuff.
Alright, now for the fun stuff! On top of all the things listed above, barbarians get several features. Like I said before, kids are not likely to go all the way to level 20 but I will talk about all of these anyway. The descriptions with the bullets and stuff are taken right from the basic rules but I will give you my spin on each one. The first few are the ones to focus on at the beginning.
This is the key to being a barbarian. Whenever you get into combat you are going to want to Rage. It gives you bonuses that make you much tougher but there are some drawbacks to it so make sure you know how it works.
So what is it exactly?
On your turn, you can enter a rage as a bonus action.
While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren’t wearing heavy armor:
- You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
- When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength, you gain a bonus to the damage roll that increases as you gain levels as a barbarian, as shown in the Rage Damage column of the Barbarian table.
- You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
To sum this up, you are stronger when raging and as you level up you get to do even more damage per level. On top of that if an enemy is hitting you with any weapon that does bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage, you get to reduce the amount of damage you would take.
There are some limits though. They are listed below.
If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while raging.
Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.
Once you have raged the number of times shown for your barbarian level in the Rages column of the Barbarian table, you must finish a long rest before you can rage again.
Those are the limits, let’s talk a little bit more about them.
Some barbarians do a little bit of magic so if you have an awesome spell, make sure you cast it before you rage. If it’s a concentration spell wait until the effect ends before you rage. It’s all about timing.
You can also lose your rage in a number of ways. First of all it only lasts for one full minute. Now, that’s actually quite a few rounds in most combat situations but if it’s a really long battle you’re going to want to make sure you go into the rage at the most opportune time.
Also, if you get knocked unconscious your rage is gone, so try not to get clobbered to the point where you have zero hit points.
On the other hand, you also lose your rage if you don’t either tried to hit an enemy or gotten hit by an enemy so if you are raging, be sure you are in the thick of the fight.
You can also choose to just stop raging, unlike the Hulk, so if you rage and then realize you should cast a spell you can drop that rage.
The final limitation is that you can only rage twice per day so if you are pretty sure you are going to be in ten combats, save your rage for the hardest two. You get your rages back after a long rest.
While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.
Ok, here’s the deal with unarmored defense. You don’t want to wear armor. Why? Because adding all those numbers above is probably going to be more defensive for you than wearing armor in the first place. Plus, if you have a shield you get a +2 to your AC while you use it so you can boost that number even higher. Also, you and your Monk buddy (we’ll talk about Monks in a later post) are going to be the quickest to get out of the inn to see what all the ruckus is in the middle of the night. Why? It takes 10 minutes to put all that armor on but you don’t have to. Your armor is your flesh.
Starting at 2nd level, you can throw aside all concern for defense to attack with fierce desperation. When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.
This is an awesome feature but I will give you caution that using it on an adult dragon might be unwise. Basically at the start of your attack you can do so recklessly which means you get to roll two d20s and take the higher number for your attack roll. The drawback? That same creature has advantage against you on its next attack. If it’s a squishy little goblin with no armor that’s probably fine but if it’s something bigger than you just remember it gets to hit back.
At 2nd level, you gain an uncanny sense of when things nearby aren’t as they should be, giving you an edge when you dodge away from danger.
You have advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, you can’t be blinded , deafened , or incapacitated.
For this one you get a bit more of a chance of escaping damage caused by your environment or your enemies, so long as you can see it. It doesn’t work if you have the blinded , deafened , or incapacitated conditions going against you. We’ll talk more about conditions in a later post but they do basically what they sound like.
At 3rd level, you choose a path that shapes the nature of your rage. Choose the Path of the Berserker or the Path of the Totem Warrior, both detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th levels.
Look, this one sounds confusing but basically you get to pick one of two cool ways to manifest your rage. Since they both get entries in the end of the barbarian section I will go into more detail about both the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem Warrior later in this post.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.
Meh. You get to increase some numbers on your stats here which is cool and all but not that nifty as far as role playing goes. We’ll go way more in depth on Ability Scores in a later post.
Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.
Yeah! You get to hit stuff more. Hitting more stuff is good for a barbarian!
Starting at 5th level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you aren’t wearing heavy armor.
We’ve been over this, barbarians don’t want to wear armor and this is another reason. You can move faster. Faster is good because then you get to hit stuff sooner!
By 7th level, your instincts are so honed that you have advantage on initiative rolls.
Additionally, if you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren’t incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn, but only if you enter your rage before doing anything else on that turn.
If you are sort of new to D&D this just sounds confusing. This is mostly wrapped up in some mechanics. Basically the idea is that you notice when things are about to get hairy before others do so you are more likely to get into combat first. And if you are new to D&D the whole surprised thing can be tough to figure out. It’s a sort of weirdly complicated mechanic of figuring out who goes first in combat. I’ll do a post later that talks about this so for now, don’t worry too much about it. Having the Feral Instinct is very helpful, just know that much.
Beginning at 9th level, you can roll one additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.
This increases to two additional dice at 13th level and three additional dice at 17th level.
I know this one sounds kind of jargony but it boils down to this. You get to roll more damage dice when you roll a 20 on your attack roll. In other words, you hit really hard.
Starting at 11th level, your rage can keep you fighting despite grievous wounds. If you drop to 0 hit points while you’re raging and don’t die outright, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead.
Each time you use this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5. When you finish a short or long rest, the DC resets to 10.
This one is fun because just when it looks like you are down and out, you get back up again. That bugbear that thought it just struck a killing blow against you? Guess what? It’s your turn now!
Beginning at 15th level, your rage is so fierce that it ends early only if you fall unconscious or if you choose to end it.
Yes! You can be in a near perpetual state of rage unless you decide to calm down or you get knocked out.
Beginning at 18th level, if your total for a Strength check is less than your Strength score, you can use that score in place of the total.
By this time you are probably pretty strong so getting to use your strength score is usually going to be way better than a low roll on a d20.
At 20th level, you embody the power of the wilds. Your Strength and Constitution scores increase by 4. Your maximum for those scores is now 24.
Again, this doesn’t seem that neat from a role playing perspective but it does make you stronger and sturdier. I can’t say I have played a level 20 barbarian (yet) so I am not sure how helpful this is but most of the score caps are 20 so an extra four ain’t bad.
So what exactly are Primal Paths and how do they work? This is the part of the class that lets you add a little style to your barbarian. There are two paths you can choose from in the basic rules, the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem.
For some reason the basic rules on D&D Beyond don’t actually give the details for the Path of the Totem but I have you covered.
Here is how the basic rules describes Primal Paths:
Rage burns in every barbarian’s heart, a furnace that drives him or her toward greatness. Different barbarians attribute their rage to different sources, however. For some, it is an internal reservoir where pain, grief, and anger are forged into a fury hard as steel. Others see it as a spiritual blessing, a gift of a totem animal.
Pretty cool right? Let’s take a look at each option.
Path of the Berserker
If your kid wants to basically be the Hulk when she plays, have her take the Path of the Berserker. You get some cool features to use and you get to be the scariest thing in the room.
Here is what you get.
Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can go into a frenzy when you rage. If you do so, for the duration of your rage you can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns after this one. When your rage ends, you suffer one level of exhaustion.
Basically you get to hit more frequently in battle but there is a cost. Once you are done, you really need to take a rest otherwise you suffer a level of exhaustion. exhaustion is a condition and again. we will talk about those in a later post but suffice to say it can lead to death eventually if you are not careful.
Beginning at 6th level, you can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.
None of that mind control spell funny business for you. You are way too focused on your rage to listen to anyone else. When the rage ends that wizard can get back to charming you… if he hasn’t fallen to your greataxe by then.
Beginning at 10th level, you can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence. When you do so, choose one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature can see or hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn. On subsequent turns, you can use your action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of your next turn. This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from you.
If the creature succeeds on its saving throw, you can’t use this feature on that creature again for 24 hours.
The Hulk is big and scary and he makes people afraid. Barbarians get to use that to their advantage. The caveat is that the creature has to be close enough and if they succeed on their saving throw, they don’t think you’re such a big deal anymore. Be sure to have a weapon ready to remind them that they are wrong about that.
Starting at 14th level, when you take damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.
If you hit me I hit you back is pretty much what this is. It’s pretty effective for barbarians.
Path of the Totem Warrior
The Totem Warrior is very in tune with nature and all the animals and spirits of animals around them. This is a much more mystical take on the barbarian and it can be a lot of fun to play.
The Player’s Handbook describes it like this:
The Path of the Totem Warrior is a spiritual journey, as the barbarian accepts a spirit animal as guide, protector, and inspiration. In battle, your totem spirit fills you with supernatural might, adding magical fuel to your barbarian rage.
It’s sort of like Brother Bear but if instead of only learning life lessons about acceptance, you also learned how to be really good in a fight.
Here is what you get with this path.
Yours is a path that seeks attunement with the natural world, giving you a kinship with beasts. At 3rd level when you adopt this path, you gain the ability to cast the beast sense and speak with animals spells, but only as rituals.
Basically what this means is that you can use a beast’s eyes and listen through it’s ears which can be great when scouting an area. You can also talk with animals to find out about what’s going on in the area. However, it takes time for you to do that because you have to do it as a ritual. We’ll get more into that when we talk about magic in a later post but for now just know, ritual spell means you need a bit of time to cast it.
At 3rd level, when you adopt this path, you choose a totem spirit and gain its feature. You must make or acquire a physical totem object — an amulet or similar adornment — that incorporates fur or feathers, claws, teeth, or bones of the totem animal. At your option, you also gain minor physical attributes that are reminiscent of your totem spirit. For example, if you have a bear totem spirit, you might be unusually hairy and thick-skinned, or if your totem is the eagle, your eyes turn bright yellow.
Your totem animal might be an animal related to those listed here but more appropriate to your homeland. For example, you could choose a hawk or vulture in place of an eagle.
Bear. While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.
Eagle. While you’re raging, other creatures have disadvantage on opportunity attack rolls against you, and you can use the Dash action as a bonus action on your turn. The spirit of the eagle makes you into a predator who can weave through the fray with ease.
Wolf. While you’re raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5 feet of you that is hostile to you. The spirit of the wolf makes you a leader of hunters.
I think these are pretty straightforward but the gist of it is that you get to choose an animal and gain some of the benefits that animal naturally possesses.
Aspect of the Beast
At 6th level, you gain a magical benefit based on the totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected at 3rd level or a different one.
Bear. You gain the might of a bear. Your carrying capacity (including maximum load and maximum lift) is doubled, and you have advantage on Strength checks made to push, pull, lift, or break objects.
Eagle. You gain the eyesight of an eagle. You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you. Additionally, dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.
Wolf. You gain the hunting sensibilities of a wolf. You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace.
Again I think this is pretty straightforward but this time the effect is magical. You do only get to choose each animal once so make sure you choose wisely.
At 14th level, you gain a magical benefit based on a totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected previously or a different one.
Bear. While you’re raging, any creature within 5 feet of you that’s hostile to you has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you or another character with this feature. An enemy is immune to this effect if it can’t see or hear you or if it can’t be frightened.
Eagle. While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.
Wolf. While you’re raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with melee weapon attack.
Ditto for this one, you get the benefits of the creatures you choose and they are magical. They are all pretty useful so have fun with it.
Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Barbarians
When you tell a kid that they can play a barbarian you might think you would regret that decision. I mean, a character who is all about rage and anger? Is that something we want our kids to do? Well, I think yes because anger is a huge emotion for kids. It’s something they understand and if they have ever had a tantrum they know there are times it is scary and they might feel like there is no way of controlling it. Guess what? That’s just like a barbarian but there is one major difference. They get to experience this in a safe environment without real world consequences. They might be able to see that their character is able to reign in that rage when needed and they can use that emotion towards something positive, namely protecting their friends. Also, kids are kind of egomaniacs. That’s not an insult, it’s just who kids are and how they develop. That being the case, sometimes they want to get to feel super powerful and playing as a barbarian is a great outlet for that.
The main caution with playing a barbarian is not to take things too far. You don’t want the role play of the rage to turn into actual anger so make sure that the rules of what is allowed at the table while playing are well set ahead of time.
Other than that, let your kid have fun, let them be powerful. Let them feel like the strongest in the room. It will be a ton of fun, I promise you.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for reading to the end if you are still here with me. Next time we are going to talk about the ultimate in entertainment and support when we talk about bards.
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Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, hoping January was a fantastic month for you and that February will be even better.
Last month I put out three challenges for this year, one for books, one for movies and one that combined books, movies and role playing games. I wanted to take today to see if anyone has done any of the challenges and update everyone on my own progress.
As a reminder, if you complete any of the three challenges and talk about it on your blog, I will review anything in that category that you want me to and post that review on my blog with a link to your blog.
Don’t worry if you haven’t started, each of my challenges is only 12 items long and there is still plenty of the year to go.
In case you want to participate and still need the challenges, just take a look at this post and download yourself a neat little PDF or three.
Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, how did I, Slick Dungeon do on my own challenges in January? Let’s find out.
Challenge 1: Book Challenge
This one took me the longest to complete but it was well worth the time. The first box on this one was the book at the very bottom of your TBR list. For me that was a book called The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hajdu. You can read my review of it here.
Challenge 2: Movie Challenge
This challenge item led me down a long strange trip to watch a movie called Butter on the Latch which involved absolutely no butter or latches anywhere. It was an experimental film and while I didn’t exactly understand the experiment, I think it’s always good to branch out of your own boundaries now and again and I absolutely support independent film. You can see my review of it here.
Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge
I’ll be honest, I got lucky here. The challenge item was to read a book with a dungeon in it. It just so happened that a book I was enjoying and going to review anyway happened to have a dungeon in it. The book is called Overworld, the Dragon Mage Saga, book 1. It was a pretty cool read that was reminiscent of Ready Player One and you can read my review of it here.
Well, that’s three out of three for January. I have no idea how February will go but here is what I will be attempting.
- A book recommended by a friend
- Three movies by the same director
- Watch a movie with a dragon in it
Good luck to the rest of you out there and if you have decided to participate, feel free to let me know how it is going in the comments.
Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to review another book. This time I am reviewing the book that was on the very bottom of my TBR list. I always meant to read this book but hadn’t gotten around to it. Reading the book at the very bottom of my to be read list was also the first item in my book challenge for the year which you can find here.
The book I read was The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America. That’s quite a mouthful but it was a great read. It’s a non-fiction account of the period in the 1950’s in America when there was rising concern that comic books were contributing to the juvenile delinquency of the country. The idea was that books that depicted horrific acts and showed criminals committing crimes were causing kids to imitate those actions in real life. This was mostly spurned on by a book called Seduction of the Innocent written by a psychiatrist named Frederick Wertham.
There’s a lot more to the story than that but essentially, there was a crusade that was enacted and culminated in not only hundreds of thousands of comic books being burned but also led to legislation that banned the distribution of certain types of comic books (pretty much most of them) and caused the comic book industry to adopt its own censorship organization that nearly destroyed comic books as an art form entirely.
While Wertham had some real credentials and was a leader in many ways in his field, when it came to his book about the link between comics and juvenile delinquency, he only used cases he had come across, and his methods were anything but purely scientific. He excoriated comic books, called nearly all of them crime comics, no matter what the subject actually was and made bold proclamations about how these books were ruining children’s minds.
Interestingly, Wertham also was friends with and highly respected Richard Wright, the author of the fabulous book, Native Son. Somehow, it never seemed to occur to Wertham that if Wright’s book were drawn in comic book form, he would not want children to read that either. In fact, there are plenty of instances of classic literature, right down to nursery rhymes that depicted as much violence as some of the comics that were complained about. The difference? One was drawn and sold for ten cents and the rest was considered classic literature.
If, like me, you are an avid comic book reader, you probably know much of the history found in Ten Cent Plague already, however, it is still worth a read. The author David Hadju gives a brief but somewhat oversimplified history of the early start of comics from the first strips in newspapers, to the popularity of Superman right through the explosion of crime and horror comics that were mostly printed by EC comics.
What’s interesting in this book is just how heroic EC actually comes out in the story. They were blamed for causing the antipathy and hatred of comics by concerned parents but they were also about the only company really fighting back, saying that no one was talking to the actual readers of comic books. Particularly, Bill Gaines who was the head of EC at the time went to testify in front of a senate committee and stated that a comic book that had an ax murderer holding up a severed head was in good taste, “for a horror comic”.
That more or less sealed the deal for censors and then the Comics Code Authority was born. It restricted what could be put in comics and made the whole industry a lot less free. The Ten-Cent Plague only touches on it briefly but the whole industry would have gone under if it had not been for Stan Lee and his cohorts at Marvel for reviving the industry with new and interesting superheroes.
EC basically lost everything, except for Mad Magazine which they kept and used to poke fun at everything and everyone. It’s a magazine, not a comic book because it would not have passed through the Comics Code Authority’s restrictive standards. It has the goofy face of Alfred E. Neuman on it so that censors would think it is just a goofy kids magazine, never realizing that inside the pages of Mad was biting satire that was often more politically relevant than some of the major newspapers of the time.
The most difficult section of The Ten-Cent Plague to get through is the part where Hajdu talks about book burnings. Often times, kids were not told that the comic books would be burned. Most of the adults who were on the crusade of destroying these hadn’t read them and couldn’t articulate why they were bad but obviously seeing these covers with the words CRIME, HORROR and WEIRD in capital block letters must have been doing something to their children. It wasn’t all adults though, there were plenty of kids who thought that these books were no good and organized drives to do so themselves in several towns across the country. These were typically good kids trying to do the right thing because what they were seeing in the news was that comics were bad.
The fact that less than a decade earlier books had been burned in Germany prior to and during the second world war didn’t seem to matter to those who wanted to censor comics. They didn’t see it as the same thing but there are distinct parallels. The same parents that would encourage children to read Hamlet would be horrified by a child reading a comic book titled Crime Does Not Pay. Yet, there is plenty of violence and crime in Hamlet. I guess it’s worse if there are pictures to accompany it?
Anyway, The Ten-Cent Plague is a good read even if you are not that interested in comic books, it’s a strange and unique look at a part of American history that we should probably take the time to learn from.
After reading this book, I want to go out and read some pre-code EC comics. They’re pretty interesting, the horror ones are quite gruesome in fact, and over the top. They did not deserve to be burned though and Bill Gaines didn’t deserve to be chased more or less out of comics but it’s what happened.
If you don’t want to go read The Ten-Cent Plague, then do yourself a favor, go out and find a comic book. Read it and enjoy it and think for a moment about the fact that it very nearly did not exist due to the hysteria of a minority of people who never even read the books in the first place.
Hey everyone out there in internet land, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I watched a movie on Netflix called Vampires vs. the Bronx and I’m here to tell you all about it.
Most vampire movies are pretty standard fare, you have blood sucking immortal enemies, some group of heroes and the two groups face off in a bloody battle for the world. That’s basically the plot of Vampires vs. the Bronx so I can’t say it is touching much new ground here. However, this film has something in spades that I have missed in vampire movies lately. What is it? A sense of fun.
The film follows a group of boys who live in the Bronx and are concerned with the fact that their neighborhood is being sold off bit by bit to a wealthy real estate development company. In addition to that, there are people that have gone missing lately. Some of those people seem to have sold off their property or business and it would make sense that they left but others are simply missing persons cases.
One boy, Miguel is particularly concerned that one of the businesses he basically grew up in is in danger of being sold. He goes around the neighborhood trying to raise funds to save Tony’s Bodega. He has a pair of friends who help out, although they are a bit more interested in just hanging out than saving the neighborhood.
Since this is a film about vampires, I think you can guess the real reason these people have gone missing and businesses have been closing. Miguel is the first in the neighborhood to clue into what is going on. And like any good horror film, they main character is not believed by anyone else until they see definite proof of the vampires themselves.
I don’t want to get too much more into the plot here but this is basically The Lost Boys set in the Bronx. The location is a refreshing change for a vampire movie and although there are plot holes you could drive a semi-truck through, it doesn’t really matter because it’s just an enjoyable watch. It’s not scary and it’s not particularly original but it still works.
If you have been looking for a vampire film that can be a fun and enjoyable watch, have a look at Vampires vs. the Bronx.
Hey out there all you dungeon creatures, it’s me, Slick Dungeon, here to review a super cool Dungeons & Dragons supplement you can get your hands on. I went through the first issue of Arcadia put out by MCDM and am here to give a thorough review of all the articles in it.
For those who don’t know, Matt Colville is a major name in the online Dungeons & Dragons community. He makes YouTube videos talking about his philosophy on the game, gives advice on running the game and he publishes some awesome products you can use in your own game, including a supplement I really enjoyed called Strongholds & Followers. He is currently busy with a follow up to that book with one called Kingdoms & Warfare that I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on.
I might sound like I am gushing a bit here but to be clear, I have no affiliation of any kind with MCDM, I just think the stuff they put out is extremely high quality and worth the money and I am guessing you will think so too if you love Dungeons & Dragons.
While we have all been waiting for Kingdoms & Warfare, Matt has assembled a team that just laid down a surprise product on us and, I’ll be honest, it’s chock full of awesome. It’s a magazine inspired by some of the stuff you would see in the 1980’s like Dragon magazine that not only provides cool art and talks about the game but also gives things like mini adventures you can run or stat blocks for cool creatures. This first issue has four articles and I am going to review each one of them. But first, you might want to check out what this is from Matt’s own words. The video is a little on the long side at 16 minutes or so (although that’s actually short for one of Matt’s videos) but even if you just watch the first couple of minutes you’ll get the idea of why they came up with Arcadia.
Basically, Matt felt bad his patrons were not getting anything while he is hard at work on his next book and decided to have some other people launch a magazine. And lucky for those of us who are not Matt’s patrons on Patreon, you can still purchase Arcadia at the MCDM store. You’ll have to pay around $8 if you are not a patron and if you are a patron you get it at the $5 per month level. In case I have already talked this up enough before I get into the review (which will contain spoilers) here is the link where you can get Arcadia #1.
As I mentioned, there will be spoilers to follow so if you are a player who has a Dungeon Master who might use this magazine stop reading here. Or, if you are the type of person who hates spoilers entirely, stop reading here. You have all been warned!
You can see a bit of the artwork at the top of this post but I would be remiss if I did not mention the art in general for this magazine. When I saw the cover it took me right back to the 80’s when you could find amazing fantasy art in two places, any magazine dealing with Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal album covers. In Matt’s intro video he talks about this and low and behold, what they were going for is exactly what it reminded me of. All of the art here is spectacular.
There are weird and interesting creatures, and even some cool maps that you can use in your game. As far as the art goes, I give this an A+.
Article #1 – The Workshop Watches
The Workshop Watches is an adventure for fifth level characters. The premise is a group of magic users was tasked to come up with a magical workshop that could attend to their needs, assist in spells and generally make life a bit easier for those who are into learning magic. They have a wealthy sponsor who has not heard from this team in a while and he is starting to get worried something may have gone wrong.
It wouldn’t be fun if something doesn’t go wrong in Dungeons & Dragons so of course something is wrong! What the party will find is a sentient magical laboratory doing its best to help magic users but is not real clear on what might or might not kill mortal beings. It’s reminiscent of Hal from the movie and book 2001: A Space Odyssey. More modern audiences might think of this as Jarvis from Iron Man gone wrong, or if Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron had essentially become Jarvis but didn’t turn evil, he just didn’t understand humanity.
My favorite part of this adventure is how the magical laboratory interprets things. It knows humans are mostly made up of water, so there is a chance the lab will fill the place up with three feet of water to make sure the party stays hydrated. There are several things like that in the adventure and if you want to read all about it, you’ll need to buy the issue.
I found this article to be a ton of fun and I really want to play the scenario. Of all the articles in this issue, I think this one is the best suited to play with kids and I would encourage parents to get this issue for this article alone. (Also, for more about playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids check out this post).
This article is full of fun and I could see it as a good entry point to start a whole campaign on. I am giving this article an A.
Article #2 – Titan Heart
This article is not an adventure but rather a subclass for sorcerers. It takes the idea that titans, you know those huge monstrous creatures such as krakens, demi-gods and the like, can infuse certain people with some of their magic. Thus is born the Titan Heart Sorcerer.
This is a well thought out subclass with some majorly cool stuff players can do. They get to do things like increase their size, have magic that titans know, albeit to a lesser extent than the titans themselves, and increase their armor class.
This has been play tested by MCDM but it is definitely not an official subclass at this point. Dungeon Masters will need to thoroughly review and decide if this is something they will allow in their game. There are lots of possibilities with the subclass and ways it could be used but it’s not going to be appropriate for every table.
There are two things that gave me a little pause about the concept. The first is on the player’s side. The subclass allows certain spells to be used while in titan form but only while in titan form. To me it’s a little unusual to have spells not accessible most of the time to players so depending on your game, you may need to adjust that a bit. The second is on the Dungeon Master side. While in Titan form the player gets a +2 bonus to their Armor Class for a full minute which is a pretty major bonus, especially at lower levels. However, I will say that after seeing how the creatures in Strongholds & Followers were scaled with their armor, in a MCDM campaign +2 might actually be necessary.
While I really like the concept here, I feel like it might be necessary to play around with to get right for your table. I am giving this article a B+.
Article #3 – Jumping on Mounted Combat
This expands on and adds to the mounted combat rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. If this were only a rules update, I would probably not think much of this article but there is a lot more to it. This not only gives some rules of how to train a mount and makes mounts capable of living longer and becoming more useful in a campaign, it also has a mini adventure (including some cool audio narration in the PDF!) and provides several examples of mounts that can be used in a campaign.
The adventure in this one is something you could drop into the middle of almost any campaign, assuming that there are creatures capable of being mounted in the campaign. It’s got a bit of a western feel to it and lays on some Dungeons & Dragons undead creature style right into it. It’s nowhere near as robust an adventure as The Workshop Watches but it would make for a great encounter if you have a party that really wants an unusual mount.
You might be surprised how often this kind of thing comes up. When I was playing Storm King’s Thunder with my son and his friends, they found and tamed an otyugh and they all wanted to ride it. I let them because I thought it was fun but I wish I had these rules at the time! It would have opened up more role play possibilities and given some rules around how the party rode.
This also has stat blocks for six new mounts, including my favorite, the owlbear. Because this article provides so much at once I am giving it an A.
Article #4 – Uqaviel the Recreant
This article is about two celestials who could become major villains (or allies) in your campaign. This article by far deals with the most unusual creatures of the whole magazine. Uqaviel is a disgraced archangel who was framed for a sin he did not commit.
I found the backstory here a little difficult to follow but perhaps I just don’t know enough about how celestials operate to get the proper appreciation for it. This article gives stat blocks for both Uqaviel and the creature that betrayed him Anahita. Just glancing at the stat blocks, these are major powerhouses. These are definitely end of campaign level creatures and they do some really cool stuff.
I am not sure I would personally incorporate all the backstory suggested in this article but both creatures are well worth using, just make sure that they are something your party has a hope of handling before they encounter them. The artwork in this article is phenomenal and even if you don’t use Uqaviel or Anahita’s stats, you might want to put their art somewhere in your campaign, especially if you have a campaign dealing with celestials at all.
While I really like the creatures themselves, the backstory felt a little less clear than I would have preferred. I am giving this article a B.
Alright, there you have my thoughts on the individual articles but what about the product as a whole? In some ways I have to reserve my judgement here. I am not saying it is easy to put out a great product the first time but if you do, that will make the next product you make have to live up to a high bar. MCDM has set an incredibly high standard here. There are two more issue slated to come out for sure and Matt has said he needs to see what the reaction is before guaranteeing issues beyond that. I will absolutely be picking up the next two issues. We’ll see if the quality and variety can be maintained. If so, I will be a loyal reader of this magazine. I will be back next month to review the next issue and let you know what I think.
For now, as a Dungeons & Dragons product I give this a solid A. And once again if you want to buy this you can do so here.
At $5-$8 depending on how you purchase this, I’m honestly not sure I can think of a better value in a Dungeons & Dragons supplement, so help out some independent creators and get a copy for yourself!
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.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)
A magic apocalypse. Refugees from Earth. A new world. Elves, orcs, and dragons!
Portals from Overworld have appeared on Earth, and beings intent on conscripting humanity into the mysterious Trials have invaded.
Earth is doomed. Humanity has been exiled. Can Jamie save mankind?
Jamie Sinclair, a young man with unique gifts, must find a way for his family and friends to survive Earth’s destruction and build a new home in Overworld.
The Trials is not a game. Will Jamie survive its challenges?
Join Jamie as he struggles through the brutal Trials while wrestling with his new magics and Overworld’s game-like dynamics.
A fantasy post-apocalyptic survival story of one man’s journey to save humanity.
Jamie Sinclair is an avid gamer who loves the challenge of playing online games. When Earth is threatened with extinction and forced onto a new planet called Overworld Jamie will have to put all his skills to use, only this time it is no game. On Overworld there are life and death consequences to your actions and one mistake can mean the end for someone in the Trials. Jamie has a bit of a disadvantage in the Trials because he has a hobbled foot but he doesn’t let that stop him from being as much of a hero as he can. He does have one thing going for him though–he can cast magic and that makes him valuable to his friends and potentially deadly to his foes.
At times there is a bit of overexplaining of how the Trials game system works but if you love playing video games or are really into hard magic systems in fantasy this won’t be an issue. The enemies are deadly and dangerous and make for interesting foes. Jamie’s character develops well in most parts of the book and keeps the reader engaged. The action is fun and frenetic with what feels like real stakes involved. There are some standard fantasy bad guys but there are at least a few enemies that were surprising and fun to read about.
The world is quite well thought out and it’s easy to get an understanding of how it works even if the reader is not a gamer. The author does a good job of setting up the first book while laying the groundwork for a sequel.
For readers who love books like Ready Player One, Warcross, or fantasy books full of orcs, elves, and the like, Overworld, the Dragon Mage Saga is a book that will be thoroughly enjoyable.
Also, as a bonus this book met one of the requirements of my Read, Watch Play challenge, read a book with a dungeon in it! If you want to see the challenge and perhaps participate yourself, check it out here!
If you’re like me, you think it is vital to support independent films. If you’re like me, you’re a fan of the horror genre. Yet, there are so many films out there it can be hard to find a good one. Also, who has time to watch a whole bunch of feature-length horror when there are other responsibilities we have to live up to? I’ve got good news for anyone who fits into these categories.
I read about a horror film channel on YouTube called Alter that hosts short horror films you can watch each week for free. I first read about this on the blog Everlasting Hauntings, a great horror blog that you should check out.
Alter features three different short horror films each week so it’s likely you will find something worth watching, no matter what type of horror you prefer. The production values tend to be high quality and the acting is generally good as well. To give you a good example of two short films I think are worth watching, check out the videos below. If you like them, you should subscribe to the YouTube channel asap.
Backstroke is about a runaway who ends up in a precarious position after stealing a car.
The Guest House is about a bored couple who get more than they bargained for while playing a game.
If you want to support short, independent, horror films subscribe to the channel.
Slick Dungeon here, back to review a movie I watched for my movie challenge. This one was for the first category: a movie made by an independent movie studio. To check out the full challenge click here.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)
Butter on the Latch is an experimental film classified as a psychological thriller/drama. It’s independent and it is experimental. As far as the rest of it goes, um, I’m not sure how to explain this film to you.
We start with Sarah getting out of some kind of dance performance. She receives a call from her good friend Isolde who has woken up in a house with people she has never met and in a panic. Sarah tells her to leave immediately which seems like a good call to me.
Then we are in the woods of Mendocino, California. Sarah and Isolde are both there and from that point the film dares to ask the question; what if someone filmed their musical band camp experience? There’s a lot of wandering around in the woods, some music rehearsal, some flirtation, some going off in the woods where flirtation goes a bit further, then some things that are unclear happen and the movie sort of ends with Sarah, crying and laughing while this huge musical performance is going on. One thing I can tell you is that when you are in the woods camping, even if you go off with someone to, you know, do that, tell people where you will be. It will save you from getting lost and possibly from experimental film making as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I think experimentation in film is a good thing. I think there should be more of it. The problem with experiments is that sometimes they fail. While I can mostly fashion together what seemed to have happened in the movie, it’s kind of a jumble. There is some interesting camera work and I think on a technical level it was well made. The dialogue was all improvised and feels very real because of that. Unless you are into experimental film, however, I don’t recommend giving it a watch. If you are into experimental film, you may enjoy it but I doubt you will make complete sense of it. If that’s fine with you, definitely give it a watch because we do need more independent films to be made.
One final thing to note. I might just be missing something here but as far as I can recall there was no mention of butter or latches in Butter on the Latch. I mean, come on, I was kind of looking forward to seeing someone butter up some kind of latch.