This Post Will Ruin Your Childhood

Everyone has sacred cows, which is a phrase that both confuses me and makes me want a hamburger, but as shorthand for ideas that are simply so far out of scope as to be inviolate, it’s something that the Internet firmly believes. The idea that there are some elements in our lives that are above reproach, far beyond anyone’s reach, and practically set in stone is often belied by the efforts put forth by Hollywood when we hear announcements of reboots.

“Don’t touch my childhood, Hollywood!” should be a bumper sticker that people can just slap on any old thing, considering how often it’s used on social media. You’ve no doubt seen it driving by when the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was announced. I’m sure it was in full force even as far back as The Transformers movies were mentioned. Remember that Facebook-true story about how they were going to remake The Princess Bride? I barely escaped those riots with my life. Those were dark, dark times.

Aside from the emotional weight that people are ascribing to something so humanly insignificant as a movie or TV show, here’s a few things to consider before Tinsel Town schedules a re-visitation to your favorite franchise:

1. The Franchise Isn’t Yours


How we came to be right now is very important to us, and while our mothers would surely credit the fact that they all made us eat our veggies before we could leave the table, the entertainment we absorbed played just as much a part in the formation of our personalities and our interests. As such, we guard those specific elements jealously, like the idea of letting them out of our control would somehow sap us of our identities and dilute our high-octane personalities.

We could never claim ownership of what we consume. Even in the age of EULAs, the idea that we only “rent” our entertainment is pretty much a scientific fact. Any claims we think we have the right to make under some misguided “nostalgia clause” is just wishful thinking at best.

2. Hollywood Can’t Take Your Memories

Don’t get me wrong, guys. I grew up in the 80’s, the hey-day of fertile ground that Hollywood is currently sowing with it’s attention. I really enjoyed He-Man and the Masters of the UniverseG.I. Joe, and The Transformers back when they were brand spankin’ new TV shows (and glorious, glorious toys). I’ve also gone back and tried to watch the exact same episodes that wallpaper my memories with happiness, and you know what? I cannot fathom how Filmation got away with using just three frames of animation over and over again for 130 episodes, and I certainly can’t understand what the hell is so nostalgic about that.

There is absolutely nothing that Hollywood can do to touch the memories that we have and that mean so much to us. The presence of an updated MacGyver or a reboot of Miami Vice is absolutely no threat to the times we might have enjoyed the originals. Seriously! It’s not overwriting what we experienced, but is just adding on. Hell, in some cases, reboots actually provide a version that’s superior to the original.

3. Consider That You’re Not The Audience

So let’s say that you can’t abide a specific remake of a specific franchise. Maybe you love Mel Gibson’s mullet in Lethal Weapon so much that knowing that any modern reboot would simply not include such an outdated hairstyle renders any appeal to your fandom DOA.

That’s OK, because maybe Hollywood doesn’t care about you this time. Let’s face it: you’re older, maybe a little wider wiser, maybe have less hair and more wrinkles. You’re no longer in the same disposable income bracket as the kids that have always been the target of Hollywood (and TV, and music, and fashion, etc). At some point we get cycled out of frame while the next generation is forced center stage and fawned over. To them, these IPs might be fresh, and with modern sensibilities appealed to, could end up being blockbusters that leave you scratching your head wondering how anyone could have enjoyed such an obviously inferior product. Just sit back, gramps, and practice your cane-waving for the next time those kids are on your lawn.


What we think we remember as being so totally radical probably isn’t. What we remember might be the specific episodes, their plots, and the characters, but what we forget is the bad acting, terrible scripts, and gawdawful production values. It’s the difference between Transformers and Transmorphers.

In reality, our fond memories are actually less about the product and more about our states of mind at the time we started loving them. I don’t have anything against the Transformers these days, but the franchise isn’t something I bother to keep up with. I do have great memories surrounding the days when Transformers meant a great deal more to me than they do now, and that understanding is worth more to me that the toys or the shitty cartoon (yes, even the movie with it’s feel-good theme song).

Besides, hoarding these elements as if they would negate our personal experiences withholds the same opportunities from a new generation. It would be a war crime to subject my daughter to the cartoons and TV shows I watched when I was growing up. Case in point: She has become obsessed with Doctor Who, so when she said that she wanted to watch the show, I started her out with the Ninth Doctor — not the Fourth that I grew up with (and still consider to be “my Doctor”). Doing so would only massage my ego and would have been driven by my belief that if I liked it, it must have intrinsic value. My daughter is growing up in a different time, with different values and different thresholds of what is acceptable and what is “cheesy”. She would never sit for the Tom Baker era, and if I’d made her do so, it might have turned her off of the whole series as a result.

We own our nostalgia, but we don’t own the foundation. The elements that we remember fondly are of our own design, triggered by moments in time and at the hands of entertainment that we enjoyed when we were younger. But the IPs are just keys, and those keys should be free to unlock enjoyment for anyone at any time in whatever format appeals to them. Wishing that what entertained us would just stay in statis forever and ever is selfish and shortsighted, and we need to welcome opportunities for newer generations to experience the same universes we love, but on terms that may speak to them the way out experiences spoke to us when we were kids.


Zero to Indignation in 6.2 Seconds

So, permit me to self-advertise, because I like the way an embedded Tweet looks on the page:

This doesn’t relate to anything specific, although I guess it kind of coalesced in this form as I was looking at a thread on Twitter which I will not be linking to here because knowing the way the Internet works, the point of my post will be overshadowed by what readers think about the topic being discussed in the Twitter conversation. It would probably also land me on the shit-list of several people, so while actively seeking to avoid that is one reason I won’t mention it, it’s also part of the reason for my Tweet. I guess this is a round-about definition of “subtweet” for those without access to Urban Dictionary.

The Internet is great for disseminating information around the world in short order, but it’s also good in exporting anger and stupidity just as quickly. With so many people able to subscribe to the unfiltered thoughts of anyone else, it’s almost a certainty that something said is going to make someone else angry. Sometimes the things that people say aren’t intended or even offered to offend, but because humans can’t ever control how people view us as individuals, especially if they’re making determinations based solely on questionable prose or 140 character Tweets, pretty much anything posted online is subject to outrage.

It’s even worse when people go out of their way to be offensive, or simply post without consideration for a situation. That’s what was going on with the Tweet-stream that kicked off this post: someone expressed an opinion on a touchy and already-controversial subject, and that opinion was met with a swift and violently vulgar response spread out over four additional Tweets.

We blame anonymity for the anger we see on the Internet, but let’s face it: being anonymous doesn’t make someone an asshole. It does allow them to express their assholic nature without consequence. Even when away from the keyboard, those people are still jerks, and that goes for anyone who chooses to be callous and offensive as well as those who believe that fighting fire with more fire is a sound way to confront someone that they disagree with.

I guess there’s three desirable outcomes when these interactions go down. The first is to stop the original offender from repeat offenses using the “salt the earth” strategy. If we swear enough, insult enough, make the original poster feel small and insignificant enough, then they will simply blink out of existence and take their offensive opinions with them. The second is to vent, of course, because it’s simple and cathartic to string a bunch of swears and insults together and still be within Twitter’s 140 character limit. The third, and sadly the most overlooked yet most ill-conceived option, is to try and change the offender’s point of view by telling them in no uncertain terms to fuck off, and what a stupid asshole they are for being alive.

There is no good outcome to be expected from any of these approaches. At best you can block someone (or someones) as a result of the exchange. At worst, people who act and react this way make things…well, worse. Despite instant indignation and the certainty we feel that we absolutely understand another human being based on his or her 140 character comment, being offensive only puts the other person on the defensive; it’s exactly the same as person A getting defensive over person B’s comment that person A found offensive. Sure, maybe person B’s comment is wrong or morally indefensible, but regardless of the situation, nothing will change if offense is countered with offense. In fact, with the Internet being what it is, such an approach can only succeed in ratcheting up the anger and insults until one party decides they’ve got better things to do with their time than argue with some [insert expletive here]head on the internet. Best to lob one final parting shot, tell the opponent that he or she is being blocked, and sit back in sweaty but smug self-satisfaction that while you may not have wiped the jerk from the face of the earth, you did get in the last word you’ll see in the battle with that person.

How does that solve the problem? It doesn’t. It just makes us feel better for a short while because even though we’re using jerk tactics against jerks, we’re often convinced that we’re fighting for what’s right — regardless of what side of fight we’re on. We either believe that our tactics are fitting for the arena (the Internet), or that we shouldn’t hamstring ourselves by sticking to the “high ground” if we know or even suspect that our opponents aren’t going to similarly restrict themselves. When all is said and done, though, nothing is any better than it was before we started…only worse, because where there was one asshole behaving assholishly on the Internet, now there’s two or more.




As of the time of this writing, Apple is on stage doing their dog and pony show where they’ve announced the “iPad Pro”:

  • 12.9″ screen
  • Detachable “Smart Keyboard”
  • A stylus called the “Pencil”

There’s other aspects of the device that will show up in spec sheets once their show is done, of course, but I don’t have them on hand right now. That’s OK: the nitty-gritty hardware specs are relative, but let’s talk about this gem:

I have to admit, that’s pretty amusing, even prescient, since Steve Jobs hated the idea of a stylus. But it’s also very sad, and very disconcerting because it’s true: there’s a contingent out there, possibly a very large contingent, that will find no irony in that comic. To them, the Surface will always be a clone of the iPad, even when the iPad Pro has clearly cloned features of the Surface.

In some ways, there’s a parallel between Apple and Nintendo. At first glance, both companies seem to march to their own drummers, doing what they believe to be great and innovative things that people don’t know they want because they’re steeped in mediocrity. Following the pack is something that both companies want us to believe they are against.

But there’s a difference in the approach of each company. Nintendo introduced the Wii when other companies were beefing up the processing and graphics hardware. They shied away from always online and relied on friend codes. They wholeheartedly support handheld gaming with the 3DS, even though a lot of people never use the 3D features. Nintendo does different and doesn’t really go out of their way to explain themselves except to say that they do things their way because they want to, and that’s a good a reason as any.

Apple, on the other hand, wants you to know that they’re different. In fact, they hold these media circuses so that you don’t forget it and so there’s no ambiguity that Apple is not Google, not Microsoft, not Dell, not HP. They open with financial and sales reports. They flash products on a massive screen with minimal clutter. They present feel-good video and image montages over acoustic indie rock soundtracks to capture the attention of the trendsetters who are into those kinds of things. If Tim Cooke delivered his presentation while swinging from a trapeze over a pool of flaming lava, I don’t think people would consider it to be out of place. It’s a show for a show’s sake, but also serves the purpose to frame their actual product announcements within the bounds of a spectacle. If you just want to learn about a product, go to CES and be among the common, sweaty masses. If you want to feel like you’re investing in a piece of The Miracle, then ascend and buy Apple.

Apple’s not that different, though, as you can see if you hold up an iPad Pro next to a Microsoft Surface. There’s the precision stylus. There’s the detachable, fold-over keyboard. If the iPad Pro had been announced to have a collapsible kickstand it wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, except in appreciation of Apple’s apparent design savvy. No one from Apple would ever acknowledge that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or that they’re imitating at all. On the flip-side, Apple would never claim that they’ve cut their features from whole cloth, because doing so would be considered bad form since it’s no secret that the Surface exists. The good news for Apple is that they doesn’t have to admit or deny anything. The hardcore Apple fans might not even acknowledge the existence of the Surface, allowing them to vehemently argue on Apple’s behalf that they did invent the stylus and the flip keyboard cover. The more moderate iFans will simply claim “so what?” because “Apple has surely done a better job with these features because look how popular the iPad is compared to the Surface”, a conclusion regarding two products with similar features which aren’t even congruent in time. There’s already op-eds claiming that now that Office on the iPad Pro is a first-tier application, there’s “even less” of a reason to invest in a Surface. It’s like to many, the field is up for grabs until Apple decides to step foot on the soil, and then the battle is instantly over. No contest, even if Apple beats their opponents with their very own weapons which have gone from “so what” to “oh mah gawd best thing ever!

By doing what they’ve done — basically, copying a few of the best concepts that the Surface advertises — Apple has both admitted and not admitted that maybe they’re not always overflowing with great and magical ideas. But they also don’t care, because people won’t care except to release pent up snark and irritation with Apple (a la this post). If it has an Apple logo on it, it’s automatically vaulted above and beyond all other offerings. At worst, those other offerings will be derided as the copies, and that’s the level that really bugs me. In the end, it’s all inconsequential: use what you like and what works for you, but for crying out loud, give credit where credit is due and don’t leave a blank space where that credit would reside so your rabid fans can fill it with their unbound love for your brand and do your dirty work for you.

Culture And the Hell of Suburbia

I live smack in the middle of what you can easily call “suburbia”. I’ve got a nice house, nice lawn, nice garage, and so do my neighbors. We are one neighborhood among many, all sprouting from central arteries like branches from the trunk of a tree. These trunks are planted haphazardly, and somewhere in the rough center of this copse is our meager garden of goods and services. We have two grocery stores, less than ten sit-down restaurants, a handful of “fast food” places, and a shit-ton of auto-care specialists.

Which makes sense, because when you live in the suburbs, you need your car. Nothing is within walking distance. To get to the nearest grocery store, I have to drive maybe ten minutes (with all of the traffic lights, or twists and turns if I opt to take the “back roads”). If I want to go to the better grocery store, I’m looking at a fifteen to twenty minute drive — one way.

The suburbs is where America went to get away from it all, and by all I mean the city. The city is where shit happens, literally and figuratively. As Rush (the band, not the asshole) put it, “the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dream of youth”, or of anyone who wants to have a life outside of mowing the lawn and relaxing in a hammock every weekend. If you want to visit museums, or dine at the trendy restaurants, or shop at the hottest stores, or go to the most popular bars, you need to be in the city. OK, so the suburbs might have the occasional privately owned restaurant, and I guess the basement of the American Legion Hall counts as a “bar”, but…

The idea behind the suburbs, though, was that affluence meant never having to rent an apartment, deal with crime, or walk anywhere. With cars, people could still travel into the city, get their fill of culture, and then high-tail it back to their safe neighborhoods before dark. Suburbs aren’t supposed to have their own cultural centers because it’s not what people wanted: nice houses, nice lawns, nice garages.


Downtown Nashua, NH. Yes, that’s a tattoo place. We’re not SAVAGES, for crying out loud.

I grew up in a city called Nashua, which is not far from where I live now. Nashua is a “city” like Pluto is a “planet”. Nashua has a downtown — complete with a Main Street — which has shops and restaurants and on the south side you have a fully realized retail arcology jam-packed with chain stores and restaurants, and capped at the Massachusetts border by what used to be the largest mall in the area. Outside of those zones is pure residential, interspersed with the occasional corner store, office building, or home-based business.

This past weekend, I went down to Boston for the day. I detest cities…actually, I detest driving in cities. Once I’m there I’m more or less OK. Thankfully Boston has public transport, which means never having to drive anywhere except to the outskirts where we can pick up the subway. We spent our time along Bolyston and Newbury streets, which are two major thoroughfares through the city. Newbury street in particular was packed, since it’s a long street which is hemmed in by shops occupying multi-decker brownstones. For every narrow building, you get three shops, and there are hundreds of buildings along this road. If you want it, you can probably find it on Newbury street (and we were there because my daughter wanted to go to an anime shop that we had been to before. An anime shop, for crissakes!)

We can’t get this kind of thing at home, and that kinda sucks. I’ve been seeing people on social media posting about different locations near them that I think I would like to visit if there were similar establishments near me. One was a boutique doughnut bakery. The other was a combination bar/game store. Now, I’ve not been everywhere in New Hampshire, nor have I been everywhere here in Southern New Hampshire, but I’m pretty sure there’s no bar/game store within reasonable driving distance of where I live. We have FLGS — friendly local gaming stores — but I often find it hard to drive there when I can order something from Amazon and have it drive to me. Suburbs for the win, I guess?


Heat-map of cultural attractions in southern NH

I started thinking why this was. What is it about this town, this area, this region, or this state that no one has either thought of, or has been denied the opportunity to, open similar establishments? One logical answer is that no one has, in fact, thought of it. But, show of hands: who among the geeks reading this (if anyone) hasn’t thought about a public place where geeks and family can hang out, maybe get something to eat, and play or buy a game? How about a themed bar? We’re drowning in sports-themed bars up here, and some (oh gawd why) nautical themed establishments, but that’s about it. Everything else is either kid oriented, or is straining the limits of credibility in trying to pass themselves off as a culturally relevant establishment for discerning adults. I can’t believe that I’m the only person in a 100 mile radius who would love to have something like this.

"Ohhh....who dines in a shithole under the sea?"

“Ohhh….who dines in a shithole under the sea?”

A second possible answer is just apathy. Southern NH is an ultra bedroom community. We’re also in the center of New England. As much as I’d like to dispel the stereotype of NEer’s being rather…insular, I can’t. We just don’t care to talk to one another, and we’re all pretty much wrapped up in our own fiefdoms to give a shit about anyone else — unless someone else is encroaching on what we consider to be “ours”: our land, our views of the sky, our right to stuff 500 holiday-themed lawn ornaments onto our lawn from October to August. I’d be willing to bet that the few non-chain restaurants we have in our sphere were started by people not from this area. Everyone else is pretty much content with the basics, which would explain why we have chain-everything coming out our ears. We seem to be OK with “good enough”, but not culturally aware to the level where we demand better. We’ll take it if someone wants to offer it to us, but going out of our way to make something happen that exceeds that bare minimum? Nope.

"I know I should care, but I just don't care."

“I know I should care, but I just don’t care enough to care.”

A third possible answer — and one that I think kind of overshadows the others, but doesn’t preclude them — is that this is a state of cranky-ass old people. When I was growing up, I knew a lot of kids who were always itching to “get out”. Mind you, we’re not farm country; Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth combined can offer people a lot of things to do, if you have a car and the time to travel. But as teenagers a lot of those places are still out of reach. People always hated being in NH and thought that being elsewhere — anywhere — was a better deal. Now that I’m older I can see how the sausage is made, and the people making decisions here in NH aren’t at all interested in focusing on the needs or wants of the very people they worry about losing. NH is aging, which means that those who stay here are increasingly worried about themselves and their own amenities, even to the exclusion of consideration of amenities that could reverse the aging population trend. I used to live in a town called Hillsboro, which was at the foot of our mountain country, and their downtown was decrepit. Buildings with peeling paint, abandoned buildings, you name it. There were two restaurants, one Burger King, two pissant little grocery stores, and a gas station. But there were several buildings that…I can’t even remember if they were occupied. It had a lot of potential though. It was the perfect town to have attracted a class of people who wanted to be in between the outdoor activities of the North Country, and the “civilization” of the southern tier of the state, if only they could dress up the town to make it somewhat attractive to that young, affluent, active kind of people. But nope, the town council wanted nothing to do with those kinds of ideas. Their downtown was “historic”, and they’d rather see it rot with history than do anything that they felt might bury the past for a shot at the future.

Cad Nelson, now in his 332nd year on the Town Council

Cad Nelson, now in his 332nd year on the Town Council

So I suppose the end result is “why not do it yourself?” Thanks, peanut-gallery. I’ve thought about it. Hell, my wife has thought about it, but there’s a few things in the way. The first is that I’m not a risk taker, especially when it comes to my livelihood. If our circumstances allowed us to continue living in the manner to which we have become accustomed on only one income (although my wife does make more than I do), then OK, maybe. But we’ve got a mortgage, a car payment, and a kid going to college in — CHRIST! — four years. Second of all, I’ve got zero experience in running a business. I’d like to make this establishment a cool bar, maybe? What do I know about that? I’ve worked hard to avoid going to bars, and I’ve gotten good at it, which means I’d be horrible at running one. Maybe I could make it something lower key, like a coffee-shop-slash-game-room, but what kind of clients would I attract at that point? Third of all, I’m still stuck on the reasons why it hasn’t been done yet: apathy, and cranky-ass gatekeepers. We’d need to find a location that was accessible to the most people, and somewhere between Nashua and Manchester could work, if we were off the highway. There’s not too many places like that around here. Then we’d have to convince the Powers That Be that we’re not a bunch of hooligans who would be breaking windows and blasting loud music when they were trying to sleep at two in the afternoon (the default stance on anything they don’t understand). They might ask for “good of the community” stats, which means I’d have to put that apathy element to the test: see if I could poll the entire southern part of the state in order to see if anyone would even show up if a geek-themed establishment were to open. I mean, I think we could get enough people, but enough people to stay open for a few years? More than a few years? Not if young people are fleeing a state that’s under the tyrannical fist of the elderly*, and I don’t think I’d want to open something like this just to see if filled up with loitering teens who are…holy crap I’m turning into one of those cranky-ass gatekeepers.

Finally, I worry that it has been tried, but has failed so spectacularly that it was wiped from the memories of everyone who’s lived, past, present, and future.

In the end, I’m not sure a supporting culture does or even can exist in this area. I’ve been to some of the FLGS and I’ve seen some of the people there; I’d like to attract those kinds of people, because they are like me in so many ways. I don’t want it to be neutered by caveats applied by know-nothings who require conformation to the “spirit” of the town, nor do I want it to be a place where parents dump their kids during Summer vacation. I’ve got no experience, and am rather risk-averse, which leaves me with one option: wonder why no one else has done it, and wonder if anyone ever will.



* I’m 41, and since I’m considering this situation means that it’s not just Millennials and younger that would be attracted to an establishment like this, but there’s always that shadow of the career small-town politicians who kowtow to people who’d rather waste away in silence than to allow someone to change The Way Things Have Been Done.

Off The Beaten Trail

I don’t know if I like the title of this post. It’s the first thing that popped into my head when I looked at this picture I took from my time in Wildstar last night.

The hookah-smoking splorg

I found this guy (and another “Alice in Wonderland” reference in the next room) because as an Explorer, I was on top of a waterfall looking for the last element of a scavenger hunt. In that process, I noticed some mushrooms outside of a tiny cave, and when I activated the mushroom, I was shrunk to a size that allowed me to scoot into the cavern, where this guy apparently still thought it was 4/20.

This is where MMOs tend to really shine, with the inclusion of these “off the beaten trail” perks that you find only when you’re not so head-down and rushing to the end game. While relatively inconsequential to progress (I scored an achievement, and some housing items in the cave), someone on the design team thought that this would be a cool thing to include in the game…but only if someone happened to be at the right place to find it. Why would someone be at the right place, especially if they hadn’t started on the scavenger hunt? Normally I can’t see any other reason except for someone seeing the waterfall and it’s levels of plateaus and wondering if there was anything worthwhile up there. Which there was.

Unpopular Opinion – I Am Entertained

One of the worst parts about being part of this geek community is the self-gratifying nature of many of it’s members. I always point to the origins of “modern geekdom” being the days when people who liked comic books and science fiction and fantasy novels and movies were forcibly pushed from the mainstream, and when the terms “nerd” and “geek” were actually derogatory, and not plastered on merchandise sold at one of the MegaFanCons found all over the world every month. You’d think that a group with roots like those would be more, I dunno…conscientious about not being dicks to other people, but another problem with this group is their lack of emotional and, yes, intellectual maturity.

Case in point: the unspoken “rules of engagement” whenever two or more geeks cross paths from opposite sides of the tracks. This nerdy West Side Story isn’t fought with guns or knives, but knowledge. The victor is always the one who lays down the most facts (not truths…facts), which is why the stereotype of D&D “rules lawyers” or of two geeks arguing over comic book minutiae is still prevalent today. It’s funny (supposedly) because it’s true…and because it’s absolutely meaningless outside of the context in which it’s being argued.

Last week was the highlight reel of this phenomenon. We had the release of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens ( I actually wrote “The Force Unleashed” for a second there), as well as the initial shaky-cam footage of the Batman vs Superman trailer. One caused orgasms; the other was the equivalent of waking up next to a  deformed goat, if the reaction of the Greater Internet is what you base your comparisons on.

I liked the Star Wars trailer. A lot. Several times. I also watched the “official” BvS trailer, and I liked that too. I am one of the handful of people who liked Man of Steel non-ironically. Yes. Read it as many times as you like; it’s not going to change before your eyes.

When the need to be “right”, or to be seen as being right supersedes one’s ability or decision to be entertained, I think we’ve lost. In fact, I think people have missed the primary irony in last week’s trailer dichotomy. People were all over the Star Wars trailer because it instantly brought them back to their childhood, when they didn’t have self-important Internet slap-fights to worry about, and when they only cared about enjoying the hell out of something. They then turned around and totally lost any and all ability to be entertained by something that should have been entirely within their wheelhouse. One on hand, we had the willingness and desire to be children again; on the other, cranky elderly people complaining about anything that came within five feet of them.

All the snark and the sarcasm and the hate is counter to the core of geekdom, really. We consider ourselves part of this community because of the things we like, and that puts us into contact with people who like the same things. Instead of coming together whenever possible, we opt to fight one another over who likes something more, or why the thing someone else likes is stupid. All arguments are supported with “who the fuck cares” tidbits of wisdom, the more obscure the better (because the more obscure the knowledge, the more of a super-fan (i.e. deserving) you’ve proven yourself to be!) until the argument ends not with an earned “win”, but because one side quits due to “stupid-fatigue”.

Why is it that this community feels that they have to be “right” over being “entertained”? What’s the prize to be won in taking your displeasure to the public? Seriously, I think that this attitude is really why we can’t have nice things, because even if we did have them, we certainly aren’t capable of appreciating them.

Adventure Co. Is Hiring!

Our D&D 5E group has encountered some perpetual bad luck concerning the fifth member of the party. Our cleric got tired of the adventuring life and set up shop at the tavern (not a tavern owner; he just refuses to leave). His replacement, a druid, got permanently stuck in animal form, and was never heard from again (popular opinion was that he morphed into a rabbit, and is now in the possession of a little girl who refers to him as “Mr. Fluffybutt”).

That means that the Adventure Co. Brand Adventure Company has been down by an adventurer for a few weeks now, and is interested in getting back up to full strength.

Do you have what it takes to stick it out for two, maybe three, Thursday night (9PM – 11PM EDT) online D&D 5E sessions via How about for longer than just a few sessions? We seem to go through fifth members like Spinal Tap goes through drummers, and we’d really like to find a proper fit to fill the empty position.

If interested, you can leave a comment here, or ping @Scopique, @Tipadaknife, @Girl_Grey, @Bluekae, or @grilledcheese28 on Twitter.

About Adventure Co. Brand Adventure Company

This is kind of a casual D&D group, if by “kind of” I mean “really, really”. We enjoy having fun with the process as much as we enjoy having fun playing the game, and that means that sometimes we can get a bit off track, or distracted by how much fun we’re having. We’re like our own laser pointers to our own spirit-cats. We’re not rules lawyers, preferring to put the enjoyment of the game ahead of coloring inside the lines as “The Man” taught us to do in kindergarten. Sometimes it feels like kindergarten, but that’s all part of the fun. We’re also don’t make hardcore demands: RP in first person, third person, lizard-person, potted plant, or watercolor painting, if that’s your thing. Or not at all!

Currently, we’re plowing through the Hoard of the Dragon Queen module, and all players are level 4. We currently have a monk, a ranger, a fighter, and a bard. There are no restrictions to what class you could bring to the party, although we’re only prep’d via the Player Handbook.


A River Cruise

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the Adventure Co. Brand Adventure Company, so let’s see what they’ve been up to, shall we?


Frume, the Torm Paladin, has tasked the party with intercepting the dragon cult’s caravan ‘o riches before it leaves Baldur’s Gate. The quickest way to get to the city from Elturel is by river transport, and Frume has thoughtfully booked the party on a vessel that’s headed in that direction.

The Serpent’s Tail is a large, river-going “luxury entertainment yacht” which carries well-to-do citizens between Scornubel and Baldur’s Gate, and was the only passage available that would get the players down-river ahead of the cultists. Frume advised the party to get themselves some fancy duds, because the patrons of The Serpent’s Tail aren’t the kind to rub elbows with rough and tumble adventurers.

The boat/barge/testament to excess sported an open-air atrium (complete with four piece musical ensemble to greet the passengers as they embark), a lavishly appointed ballroom, a sumptuous dining room able to accommodate up to 60 guests, and a casino featuring the hottest gambling action this side of Luskan. The players, dolled up in their finest frippery, slipped on board with nary a sidelong glance that wasn’t judging their level of wealth and refinement. The bard, ever the performer, decided that she would take on the role of a Princess of Stripscrew Caverns, and pushed her way to the front of the gangplank to announce her presence to the halfling captain and her human first mate. She attempted to rope the monk into playing the role of her valet, but he constantly played the part of “I have no idea who this woman is” instead.

Once the cruise got underway, the party split up. The ranger kept himself out in the open, preferring the sky to the lavish canopies afforded by the yacht as he eavesdropped on passenger conversation for cultist plots. The monk took a nap. The bard visited the ballroom and warmed up with the orchestra who were preparing for the night’s festivities. The dwarf, however, ran into a bit of a situation at the casino (the dining room wasn’t yet serving lunch, so the casino was her second choice).

The casino was guarded by two bouncers who were asking all patrons “are you currently carrying any weapons?” as they entered the room. The dwarf was, of course, armed, having stashed her throwing axes in her beard. Unfortunately when it came time for her to answer the question, she couldn’t. Her throat seized up, and she was unable to assure the men that no, she was not armed. Realizing that the doorways were guarded by wards of truth, she had no choice but to return to her cabin, stow her weapons, and return once again.

At lunch time, the bard and the monk were first in line for a table. Eager to sample the delicacies that Frume’s passage had bought them, they plowed through the food in relative silence, only tossing their leftovers onto the floor three times as the horrified gentry looked on. Feeling a bit famished himself, the ranger came inside just in time for the main course.

The dwarf, having suffered through a curiously unlucky streak at the “D&D-equivalent-of-Craps” table, was feeling down on her luck and contemplating lunch when she glanced up and across the room. There was someone that she thought she recognized. It couldn’t be, could it? What would be the odds?

Stealthily, she wound her way through the crowd until she was absolutely sure: here was her longtime love, a dwarven prince, Ruret Ironstone, heir to the Ironstone Clan — a family that was engaged in a blood feud with her own. She couldn’t just walk up and introduce herself; his parents were also present, and the last time she had run across Ruret’s father, Delg Ironstone, he had threatened to throw her into a chasm, straight down to the Underdark. He had done it before to dwarves who had displeased him less than those who bear the name Battlehammer. She needed a plan.

Running to the dining room, she roped the monk into crafting a note: “Meet me on the aft deck tonight”, and then signed her name. She was adamant that Ruret know it was her, and not some random dwarven floozy who shaves her beard. The monk returned to the casino with the dwarf, where he not-so-suavely walked up and handed the note to Ruret.

Delg, surprised by the appearance of a gnome in what looked to be a formal bathrobe, snatched the note from his son’s hand and read it. Delg instantly comprehended the message, and his face grew red and twisted in rage. Both the dwarf and the monk beat a hasty retreat: the dwarf for fear of her life, the monk for fear of missing dessert.

*   *   *

The HotDQ module only mentions the river trip in passing, saying that it’s the quickest way down-river to Baldur’s Gate, but since it was presented as a throw-away scenario, I figured that this might be a better time to inject some custom content. Last time I had tried, the group was still getting used to getting back into the swing of tabletop gaming, and had pretty much torpedoed my side-adventure. This time, I figured we were all a bit wiser, more relaxed, and prepared for some relatively light-hearted content.

A simple boat ride down the river on a ferry (as the module suggests) could have been “ok”, but at some point I got it stuck in my mind that this should be a riverboat casino, like the stereotype of the steam paddle boats that plied the Mississippi River in the 1800’s. Putting the party amid a different class of character (socially and financially, not adventure-wise) might lend itself to some interesting hijinks as they attempt to fit in, but everyone seemed to take the concept naturally enough to fit in undetected.

I had a few “happenings” planned out that could be used during the three day trip. I had built the dwarf’s scenario from her chosen Background which stated that she was in love with someone whose family hated her family, and thought that this would be an interesting situation: trapped on a boat, the dwarf would be trying to hook up with her love while also trying to avoid the wrath of his family. Unfortunately for her, her compatriot was more interested in the dessert than in helping her out.

The Big Deal of this session was that it was all RP. There was no combat. The truth-wards on the doorways are there to ensure that everyone has a safe and pleasant trip. All of the rooms are fitted with Antimagic Field crystals which prevent the use of magic (especially in the casino). Since the next several sections of the module will require the party to do more talking than fighting, having a relatively low-consequence “RP re-education” session for all of us was probably a good idea.

I should have been doing this on previous posts, but after the session I thought I should include a footnote for the “joke of the night“, since we seem to have a new one every time we play. This week was the “single use monocle“, which can be used specifically to pop out incredulously, and then disposed off and replaced from a spare kept in one’s wallet.

Fantasy Grounds And Dungeons & Dragons

I’m sure folks are pretty sick of my going on about this, but I realized I didn’t have a long form explanation as to why I’m so excited about the partnership between Wizards of the Coast and SmiteWorks.

WOTC5EPHBDELUXEI’ve owned Fantasy Grounds for many years, and it was many years before I was actually able to use it. What sold me on FG over other virtual tabletop apps was that you could write your own modules within FG and benefit from having everything you need for the adventure right there in that app. All story elements, all notes, all NPCs and maps were just a drag and drop away. Being a vtable meant that a lot of the mechanics were handled by the application itself, which means that you don’t need to hunt for info about how much damage a sword does; you just press a button and the damage is taken care of.

While FG was good for home-brew modules, what it couldn’t WOTC5ELMOP2provide was a sanctioned core materials. This put the onus of translating something like “Keep on the Borderlands” entirely on you. You’d need to copy over each and every stat block by hand (or if you’re technically inclined, use one of the parsers that were written by hyper-intelligent FG users to scrap the D&D Insider website or PDF). Some companies, such as Paizo and Chaosium licensed products/names like Pathfinder or Call of Cthulhu which included core rules, tables, and other awesome stuff, but Wizards has always been conspicuously absent. WotC didn’t license 4E, which I suspect had a lot to do with whatever experience they had with 3.5, and a possibly bad experience with their early attempts to get into the digital space with 4E (PDF piracy, a failed virtual tabletop of their own, etc).

That’s why I’m so excited about seeing WotC jumping back into digital with D&D, and for choosing FG as their first partner*. It makes a lot of sense, since FG has dozens upon dozens of systems and adventure modules available through their store or through third party sites like Drive Thru RPG. FG is a complete system — tabletop, adventure modules, reference system, character manager, and game-play aide. The only think FG doesn’t do** is provide voice chat, so while it’s not a complete solution for bringing together disparate players, it at least brings everyone 4/5 of the way there.


* There was that initial partnership with a company that was making a tabletop companion app for tablets that suddenly went belly-up. The rumor that I heard was that those developers wanted to make the app a supplement to live games, while WotC wanted an entirely on-line tool that allowed people to play remotely. If that’s true, it’s a marked change from the 4E days when WotC tried to make their own vtable, failed, and allowed it to flounder in limbo until they announced that it was dead. In this case, it sounds like they wanted something, didn’t find it with their current partner, and opted to seek out one that was already aligned with what they wanted to accomplish.

** Fantasy Grounds is currently in the midst of a re-write. While I think the current application is 100% spiffy, it’s current incarnation more or less stretches back several years. FG developers have mentioned that they’re re-building the app from the ground up using Unity, so hopefully they’ll consider integrating at least voice chat, if not voice and video.

A Small Demographic Study on Social Media

I like statistics, even though they’ve gotten a bad rap in today’s world for being “eye of the beholder” kind of measurements. Statistics are really just counts of “things” that are then grouped and looked at to find patterns. You can’t really mess with that: if your sample of 100 people contains 75 people who claim to like Oreos “more than life itself”, then 3/4 of those surveyed have a very low appreciation for life, and an unhealthy fondness for sandwich cookies.

I think where stats get a bad rap is when we start extrapolating the assumptions that the numbers represent. Our example above tells us that we wandered into a cult of Oreo lovers, but that doesn’t tell us why they love the cookies, what kind of depraved activities they use their cookies for, or even that 3/4 of the greater population outside this sample does or doesn’t give a Fig Newton about Oreos. We just know that three out of every four people surveyed really like Oreos.

Long winded BS aside, I often frequent my Activity stream in Twitter to see what’s going on behind my back. When you see people you follow picking up a new follower, you see that new follower’s bio. I’m always interested in people’s bios, because these are the things that people write down when no one is looking, or the things that they want to tell people about themselves in 140 characters.

tl;dr: a bio is a really short resume about what to expect when you follow that person.

To that end, I casually skimmed the bios of the limited number of people I follow (a whopping 85 of the best and brightest the Internet has to offer) and tried to pull out trends in what folks are posting about themselves. This is, of course, 100% un-scientific. I used keywords, but also kind of used what I knew about people to parse some of their more ambiguous statements.


In an absolutely unsurprising announcement, I follow a lot of people who self-identify as “gamers” (20). People who like video games are pretty much the only people I follow, so that’s not surprising, but that also means that 65 people aren’t explicitly tagging themselves with this label. Fear not, though, because people do tend to get more specific in some cases. A lot of folks are MMO players (9), RPG players (3), and one person likes FPS games enough to call it out.

What surprised me, though, was how few people name-drop specific games. Right now FFXIV has the most (2), with GW2, Destiny, STO, GTA, and EQ getting one shout-out each. Most surprising: only one mention of WoW.  In fact, more people ID’d themselves as D&D fans (2) or general tabletop/board game fans (3) than did WoW players. And not to omit games of all kinds, three people listed sports (2 for hockey, 1 for football).


In the “how do you ID yourself” category, 11 people lay claim to being “nerdy and/or geeky” or some similar label. Again, not terribly surprised. Three people included content in their bio which I consider to be “snarky”, meaning they’re putting comedy in their bio which doesn’t really tell us anything about themselves except that they have a high opinion of their own sense of humor.

Two people ID’d themselves as female/girls. No one ID’d themselves a male/boys. So that’s that.

A lot of people like to write (5). Some people like to read (2). Crafts (2), TV (1), and other hobbies (all 1) show up occasionally. A whole three people ID’d themselves as someone participating in fitness activities.


Some folks really like what they do. I follow a lot of developers (7), some artists (1), audio specialists (2), and a smattering of other professions (1 or 2 folks here and there). I did include “blogger” in this category because I do know that some folks “blog professionally”, unlike me who “blogs half-assedly”.


“Conceits” is the name of the aspects that cover straight up self-promotion.

Six people name-dropped their company. Only 2 name-dropped their spouse or S.O.

I’ve included “blogger” in this category as well, and it overlaps the Job category because blogging is blogging, for free or pay, but 11 people mentioned that they were a blogger and/or included the name of their blog (I didn’t break out actual name-drops). There are a lot of podcasters (4), streamers (4), and YouTube posters (3).

There are mothers (5), fathers (2), a husband (1), and a wife (1), some of whom I assume cross bounds of those counts.

Food didn’t make a huge appearance, but coffee (1) and tea (2) are notable appearances.

So What?

Yes, so what indeed. This was more of a personal edification experiment than anything else. It doesn’t tell me anything I don’t know — I follow a lot of gaming nerds who like socializing (100%).

What I didn’t find was what I see in the general Activity stream: people who carefully craft their bio to sell their personal brand, or people who are aggressive and confrontational right off the bat. Nor do I follow anyone with uninspired bios (stealing quotes, one-liner bios, over-the-top begging for subs on Twitch or YouTube, etc). The overwhelming majority of bios of people in my stream are kind, silly, and informative, which I like. I’ve got really good taste in people.

I’d like to do a wider assessment, but I really don’t have the time or the desire to parse a crap-load of bios of random people. Maybe I can find or make a scraping tool that will pull out keywords from the bios of people in my activity stream and sort them into buckets…Nah, nevermind. Still too much work.