The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – #MovieReview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey all you dungeon dwellers out there, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another movie for one of my 2021 challenges. This time I watched a movie with a dragon in it for my read-watch-play challenge. If you don’t know what that challenge is or you want to play along you can find all the details here. I decided to go with one of the most famous dragons of all time, Smaug who appears in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

If you have read this blog much at all you will know that it is no secret I enjoy fantasy. My favorite fantasy author of all time is J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the writing and the world he builds. Every time I read something of his I feel immersed in it and I am wrapped up in the story whether it is humorous, adventurous, whimsical or dramatic. To me it’s the kind of work that I would always want to see on film, after I have read the story.

I have to preface my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by saying I don’t hate this movie. My review might sound that way but it’s more accurate to say I hate parts of this movie. There are some wonderful things here that are hard not to like. Matin Freeman makes the perfect Bilbo with just enough attitude to make the character work. In my mind no actor will ever replace Ian McKellen as Gandalf and it brings my heart joy to see him reprise his role for this series. And the look of the film is gorgeous and it’s easy to believe the characters are standing in Middle Earth.

I like the opening although I have mixed feelings about having Frodo appear at all in this but the way that Peter Jackson connects the films is more or less fine.

I love the “Good morning” conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo and it plays out almost exactly like the book. I like the way the dwarves come to Bilbo’s door that plays out almost just like the book. I like the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum that plays out almost just like the book.

However, there is a lot in this movie to dislike. There are random character threads that were thrown in for no reason, there is a goblin antagonist that just feels tacked on, there are times when the film takes itself far too seriously and no one who made the film seemed to realize that since The Hobbit is 1. a single book and 2. much shorter than the Lord of the Rings books we did not need to stretch this out into three films.

I think I can sum up my main objection to this movie in a single word. Whimsy. If you read the book, it is chock full of whimsy. There’s a bit of adventure in there and a good dose of humor but whimsical is what the book is. That’s something that is nearly impossible to film. It’s hard enough to capture comedy at all but whimsy is elusive anywhere other than in a book. And in a book it’s still pretty hard to find. There simply is not enough whimsy in this film. There are moments of it, like when the dwarves are tossing dishes around in Bilbo’s house, although to be honest, even that feels a bit forced. The best example is Gandalf asking Bilbo, “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” The exchange establishes that Gandalf does not play by the common set of societal rules. The fact that Bilbo sort of goes along with it shows he has the potential to change but hasn’t done so yet. Then in the book he goes on this magical journey with colorful characters and it’s simply a great time all around. We didn’t need a tragic backstory overemphasized with dramatic music and helicopter shots to convey the feeling of the book. In fact that fights against the feeling of the book.

The film is still watchable, I just have to set aside the fact that it strays from the book so much. I understand that some people think that might be biased because movies can be better than books. In this case, I am not of the opinion the film is superior to the source material. I just don’t understand some of the choices that were made in the filming and it feels kind of like a manipulative money grab for anyone who was a fan of the Lord of the Rings films. I would have much preferred a shorter, more whimsical film that wasn’t trying to pull in an already established audience. I hope that at some point the perfect film adaptation of thee book is made but until then this is the closest we can get. You do have to slog through two more movies to get the whole story but again, it’s the best adaptation available.

If you decide to watch this movie or re-watch it if you have already seen it let me make one small suggestion. After you do so, go read the book and get swept up in the beloved children’s classic that will have a place in my heart forever.

Whimsically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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The Secret Agent – #MovieReview

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello out there internet people, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the third film from my film challenge for this month. This is the third movie in a row I have watched from director Alfred Hitchcock. If you want to play along with the film challenge you can find it here.

There are going to be a few spoilers below so be forewarned.

Secret Agent is a film from 1936 that stars Madeleine Carrol, Peter Lorre and John Gielgud. It’s about a soldier who has returned home only find out that his obituary is all over the newspapers. The reason? England needs him to spy on and kill a German spy so that the war effort can succeed. He agrees to the task and sets off to complete his mission. He is surprised when he gets to his destination to find out the war office has assigned a female spy to pose as his wife. The soldier, his wife and a Mexican general played by Peter Lorre all have to find the spy and finish him off. The catch? The female spy falls for the soldier for real and doesn’t want him to murder anyone.

The premise sets up a complicated moral dilemma that is interesting to watch play out. Does the soldier save thousands of lives for his country or does he lose the woman he loves? As always, Peter Lorre, is fascinating on screen and makes the film much more enjoyable to watch.

This is one of Hitchock’s earlier works but it’s the kind of film he would go on to make over and over again. It’s great fun and I would recommend watching it if you have not. It’s not the best Hitchcock movie ever made but it is still very good.

If you haven’t seen this one put it on your to watch list, you’ll thank me.

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Rich and Strange – #MovieReview

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hey everyone, it’s me Slick Dungeon back to review another movie for my film challenge. Don’t know about my film challenge? Get the details here. This month I am watching three films by the same director. Today, I am reviewing Rich and Strange directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is also known as East of Shanghai.

The film is from 1931 so some of the techniques and themes are a bit old fashioned. There is still ample use of text cards despite the fact that this is a film with sound and dialogue. I wouldn’t consider this by any means one of the best of Hitchcock’s films and apparently audiences of the day were not too keen on it either as it was somewhat of a flop.

I would be derelict in my duty if I did not warn you that there will be spoilers ahead but this has been around since 1931 so you have probably had time to watch it since it was released.

The movie centers around a couple named Fred and Emily Hill. The two have been married to one another for the past eight years. Fred is bored with his life and wishes he had more money. Emily is relatively happy but would, of course, like to see more of the world.

Their wishes are granted when they receive a letter from a relative who wants to give Fred an advance on his inheritance so he can enjoy himself now, rather than wait until sometime in the future. Suddenly the couple have some money and they decide they want to go on a cruise to “the Orient”. That’s the film’s term, not mine, just fyi.

As soon as they set out Fred becomes seasick. He is stuck in bed for days on end and Emily makes a friend in a Commander Gordon, who anyone can see would be a better romantic fit for her than her husband. They flirt a bit and get to know one another but don’t go too far with it.

As soon as Fred is up and about again, he falls head over heels for a “princess” who happens to be on board. It’s pretty obvious she is just after some cash but Fred doesn’t see it that way.

The film chugs along with our opposing romantic partners, all the while forgiving Fred for his indiscretions, but essentially punishing Emily for hers despite the fact that a. she actually loves the man she is getting to know and b. she doesn’t take it anywhere near as far as Fred does. If you think I am exaggerating, here is a quote from the movie,”If a woman can’t hold her man, there is no reason why he should take the blame.” This is said to Fred by the “princess” who is just after his money but it’s hard not to get the impression that the whole film believes this.

The princess makes off with Fred’s money and he and Emily become stranded. They have to rent a much cheaper boat to return home. That boat has some sort of off screen accident and Fred and Emily are locked in their cabin to work out their differences.

Another boat passes by after Fred and Emily are able to escape their cabin and they get on that one. They make some really cringy racist remarks towards the people on that boat who happen to be Chinese and then make it home where I assume Emily is stuck to suffer through Fred’s inevitable future affairs and never be allowed to love for herself again.

There are a few sort of funny moments in the film but most of what makes this interesting at all is that it is a Hitchcock film that is not a suspense or thriller film. It’s kind of a film oddity but unless you are a Hitchcock completist or really love romance films from the early era of film making, I would say this is skippable.

For my third Hitchcock film I will be reviewing Secret Agent so be sure to come back to check that out.

Historically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog – #MovieReview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey out there all you people hidden by the fog, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I have a film challenge for the year going and this month I am trying to watch and review three films by the same director. After debating about what director I should watch, I realized there is only one absolute master director and his name was Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve seen all of his most famous films but I must admit I haven’t seen a lot of his very early work. Well, his early work that survived anyway. The man was prolific. The first one I could get my hands on was The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. It’s also just known as The Lodger depending on what continent you live on but either way it is a Hitchcock film and you can see his fingerprints all over it.

I’m not sure if this is needed considering the film is from the 1920’s but there will be some mild spoilers ahead. If you can’t stand someone talking about the most basic plot elements of a silent film that is nearly a hundred years old turn back now. You can always read this after you catch up on pre-depression era films.

The Lodger is a silent film from 1927 directed by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. In the streets of London in the late night fog every Tuesday a murderer has struck. The killer has gone on a streak of murders, specifically targeting young women with blonde, curly hair. The film centers on a small inn where there are rooms to let. The family has a daughter named Daisy who happens to have blonde, curly hair. They also have a good friend who is a policeman interested in Daisy in a romantic sense. Joe, the police man, is determined to catch the killer and then sweep Daisy off her feet.

Everything is fine until a mysterious stranger shows up to rent the room. He’s got more cash than most, seems a bit odd about the pictures in the room he is renting and locks a bag up in a dresser. The remainder of the film is a guessing game. Is the lodger the killer who is doing suspicious things to hide his guilt or is he an innocent man who just looks guilty? To get the answer you’ll have to watch the film.

One thing I will say is that even in a silent, black and white film, Hitchcock knows exactly how to build suspense. He’s probably one of the few early directors who can make a game of chess look utterly menacing. He knows how long to hold the camera on a subject’s face so that we think we know but aren’t quite sure what they are thinking.

In the era this was made I would think this would be considered masterful filmmaking. For modern audiences it is going to be easier to catch on to what is happening but that doesn’t make this any less important to film history.

If you are a fan of suspense, or Hitchcock himself, and don’t mind silent films this is worth watching. It does run a bit on the long side for these types of films and it still has the sort of strange shots where people are talking but we have no idea what is said that was common in silent film. There are plenty of text cards to tell us what is being said, more or less. You’ll be able to glean the plot just fine assuming you are able to sit through a silent film.

If you want to watch The Lodger it’s streaming on HBO Max at the moment.

The next one I will be watching for my challenge is Rich and Strange from 1931. It’s billed as a romance so that should be interesting.

If you want to participate in my film challenge you can get all the details in this post.

Silently yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Saw II – #MovieReview

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Hey everyone, it’s me Slick Dungeon back to review another film in the Saw franchise. The sequel is back with some surprises and plenty of gore once again.

That’s right, the world’s most deadly escape room host, Jigsaw, is back and he wants to play a game. If you find yourself waking up in one of his cleverly engineered scenarios, it’s a good bet you are in trouble and you darn well better play by the rules if you want to win. And survive.

The huge reveal and surprise at the end of the first film is nearly impossible to beat. I didn’t expect a surprise as large as that one in the sequel and I saw one of the twists coming from a mile away. But, the movie still contained enough surprises and interesting death traps to be worth a watch. And there was at least one twist I simply did not see coming although in retrospect, it probably should have been obvious. I think the original is superior in most aspects although, I thought that the performance of Donnie Wahlberg was really solid in this. I liked how the series expanded out a bit too, having a full police force trying to catch the guy before more innocent people die.

The majority of the film has Jigsaw face to face with a police officer who is trying to save his son. I don’t want to give away much more than that because these films are all about the plot twists and I would hate to ruin that for anyone. It did make me wonder for most of the film how in the world the killer might escape to continue the series and by the end the film delivers a satisfying answer to it.

Some of the film felt a bit formulaic already because we had seen it the first time around. There were layers to it though and we get a little more background on who Jigsaw is and what he is all about.

It’s also still full of gorey and bloody imagery and there is one scene that I think will stay in my head for months. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you say the words syringe pit to me, I am going to shudder with horror.

While I am giving this film the same star rating as I did Saw if I had to choose one over the other, I prefer the original. I think both films are clever and if you are a horror fan, I do think this is a series you should explore. They both surprise and horrify enough to keep the viewer’s interest if you have a strong stomach. The original just feels a touch more… original. I’m looking forward to seeing where they take it from here but I have my doubts they will be able to outdo the original. However, they sure have surprised me more than once in this series so who knows?

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Saw – #MovieReview

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Vampires vs. the Bronx – Movie Review

Vampires vs. the Bronx

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.

Vampirically yours,

Slick Dungeon

How You Can Support Short Independent Horror Films

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.

Backstroke

The Guest House is about a bored couple who get more than they bargained for while playing a game.

The Guest House

I hope you enjoyed those. Thanks again to Everlasting Hauntings for the blog post that alerted me to Alter.

If you want to support short, independent, horror films subscribe to the channel.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Butter on the Latch – #MovieReview

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.

Independently yours,

Slick Dungeon

Challenge Yourself! Books, Movies and RPGs for 2021

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. 2020 was a challenge to say the least and not in a fun way. This year I thought that I would face the challenge of the new year in a way that improves upon last year. Instead of the challenge of just muddling through life, let’s have a book, movie, and tabletop RPG challenge!

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through them I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

I haven’t done a post like this before so please let me know what you think and also, feel free to play along all year. Each list has 12 challenges so one per month should be doable but if you are an overachiever, feel free to knock these out in 12 days or less. If you do take up the challenge let me know how it went. And if you happen to post it onto your blog, let me know, so that I can link to your challenge on my blog.

Below are the rules as far as I am going to follow them. You don’t have to follow the same way I do but these are the rules I set for myself.

How Does This Work? The Rules

  1. There are three separate challenges, one for books, one for movies and one for books, movies and RPGs lumped together. I will tell you a little more about each one and give some potential suggestions for what I think I will do to complete the checkboxes.
  2. Once I finish a challenge I plan to check it off and then post about it on my blog. If you just want to do this for fun and not post on your blog, that is totally cool. If you do post on your blog, let’s compare notes!
  3. These can be done in any order. Feel free to skip to the bottom, go to the middle or meticulously hit each one as they are listed.
  4. I am not in the camp of double dipping so I will not be doing that. If you want to, you won’t get any judgement from me.
  5. If you complete any one of my challenges and post about it on your blog, I will let you choose any one thing in that list’s category for me to review (within reason). For example if you complete my movie challenge and you want me to review The Emoji Movie, I will do it. If you complete my book challenge and want me to read and review a book that you published, I will do it. If you complete my Read-Watch-Play challenge and you want me to play an RPG that you think is really cool, I will play and then review it. Side note: I won’t review anything that I think is too extreme and I have ultimate veto power over what I post on my blog but otherwise, you can tell me what to review.
  6. This is not a rule but these are all downloadable PDF’s so feel free to download and print them or pass them on to friends, relatives, neighbors or office mates looking for something to do!

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

The book challenge should be pretty straightforward. Pick one of the challenges and find a book that matches. Or if you are reading a book and realize that it fits in one of these categories, check it off once you have finished the book!

Some examples of what I plan to do are as follows. The book at the very bottom of my TBR list right now is The Ten Cent Plague, a non-fiction book about the comic book industry that I have been meaning to read forever. Maybe this challenge will finally get me through that one. For a graphic novel that is not about superheroes I plan to read Berlin which I have been told is an excellent book about the fall of the Weimar Republic.

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

This one should also be pretty straightforward. Watch a movie that matches the category and check off the box once you have finished watching. I watch a lot of movies so for this one I might just watch first and then see if it fits the category after, although I do have some ideas for some of these. For three movies by the same director I am thinking I might take a look at Quentin Tarantino’s movies since it has been a while since I watched some of those. For a movie with an ambiguous ending I am thinking of Inception although I think there are definitely a lot more movies besides that one that have that kind of end. It’s just the first one that popped into my head.

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

Out of all my challenges, this is the one that I will most likely do in order. It’s pretty easy to find books and movies to fit these categories but I realize that not everyone is familiar with good Tabletop RPG choices so I am going to tell you the ones I plan on doing and even provide you with helpful links if you need a suggestion. (These are affiliate links and if you do buy anything there it helps this blog out immensely at no extra cost to you. No pressure though, never buy anything from a website that you don’t want)

For my D&D 1 shot adventure, I plan to play Second Glance. It’s the follow-up adventure to First Blush, a one-shot that I enjoyed and reviewed on this blog. They are both duet campaigns, meaning you only need two people to play, so great for learning how to play the game. Also, they only cost $2, so it’s a great bargain to get you started.

For a Tabletop RPG I have never played before I have three that I am thinking about. I may end up playing them all but we’ll see. If you have played any of these, let me know what you think. The first one I am considering is Cyberpunk Red. While the video game release was a mess, I’ve always thought Cyberpunk made more sense as a tabletop game anyway. The second I am considering is Wicked Ones. This is sort of a reverse D&D where you play the monsters and try to keep those pesky adventurers from taking all your stuff and wrecking your dungeon. The third one I am considering is Altered Carbon, the TTRPG based on the popular book and Netflix series.

For a Tabletop RPG that takes place in space I plan to play Stars Without Number: Revised Edition. It’s a game about humans returning to the skies after their empire has fallen. I feel like it has a lot of sandbox potential and I’m really looking forward to it. The game has gotten great reviews and it should be interesting.

For a Tabletop RPG starring animals I plan to play Pugmire. It’s like D&D but with all pugs! The world of man is over but Pugs have evolved to take over. How great is that? If you like cats better try playing Adventures for Curious Cats set in the same setting.

I hope you enjoy the challenges I have come up with. Don’t forget to let me know if you plan to play along and how it goes if you do.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon