Happy February everyone! We are very excited because this month at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival there is a D&D art documentary called Eye of the Beholder. It is not only a great title, but a great topic as well. Its question is: How has the art of Dungeons and Dragons inspired you? It is something we are going to discuss here, but we are going to broaden it a little. We are going to talk about the art of all game books and how it influences us as players and game masters. Once you enter through the door of D&D there are so many other games and systems to explore. We encourage you to do so and we are always happy to give you some recommendations. So we will be using Game Master and not Dungeon Master when we discuss this topic in this post.
The cover art of an unknown RPG is what draws me to it immediately. I remember one of the first times it happened and to this day it is a book I still use. I was browsing the aisle at a game store when a book from Pinnacle Entertainment Group caught my eye. It had pirates on it and in big pirate font Pirates of the Spanish Main. I picked it up and looked inside. It took me 30 seconds to realize that I not only needed this book in my life, I needed to run this game with a strong lady pirate captain at the helm. It used the Savage Worlds ruleset, which I was familiar with. I still love this book so much. It is one of the few books that I had to stop reading and grab a notebook to jot down ideas. I still haven’t run all of them, but maybe with the new edition, I will have another adventure in the works.
As a GM, anything can inspire a great game, but it is usually the art and design of the book that gets my brain racing with ideas. The newest addition to my RPG library and the game books I am currently loving to look at are my Star Trek Adventures books. They are laid out like a Starfleet Manual and the artwork is original and amazing. I have at least three games planned out for this system and I haven’t even finished reading the books. Plus, it comes with a pretty map. The cover is just the Enterprise and it evokes some of my favorite feelings. The other art shows away missions in dangerous caves and a large number of Red Shirts. The thing I love the most is that you can purchase pre-generated characters of your favorite crew, or mix and match for your game if you wanted. We have two “Try an RPG Day” dates this year, and I am pulling this game out for one of them. Although I am still determining which of the seven game ideas I will run. It is not a bad problem to have.
This inspiration is not just reserved for the games I run. It is also reserved for the games I am a player for. The best example I have of that is when we were starting a home Starfinder campaign. My GM had the book out and I was looking down and smiling back at me was the most awesome space goblin I had ever seen. I knew in that moment that was what I needed my character to be. My good-natured GM rolled with it and thus Dr. Spork T. Space Goblin was born. She is the smartest of the space goblins and that is why she is a doctor. Just seeing that artwork of a space goblin with a makeshift machete and a homemade laser gun, I had not only the character concept, but also her personality.
The thing I like most about art in RPG books is how it sets the tone for the game. There are games that are intense, some silly, some fantastic, some gritty. The art, not only on the cover, but throughout the book, really sets the tone for the game as a whole.
My first ever RPG, Rifts, is a complicated mess of convoluted rules, but it’s still dear to my heart. The art in the pages of the many (many, many, many) books sets you up for adventure of the crazy, gritty, post-Apocalyptic variety. The art on the cover of the Ultimate Edition corebook (colloquially known as the RUE) shows a vaguely steampunkish mystical being kneeling in front of a portal (or rift) with a giant eyeball and nasty mouth tendrils emerging from it (this is a particularly big nasty being known as the Splugorth; if you’ve played Rifts you KNOW the Splugorth). When you crack open the pages of it, each image really invokes that crazy adventure feel, from the illustration of the Rogue Scientist scaling a cliff, to the pictures of the Coalition Dogboys.
My favorite RPG in the entire universe, Numenera, also has the most gorgeous artwork. The way the artists portray the Ninth World gets you in the spirit of exploration. The colors are bold, pastels and bright colors combined, unlike the dark colors of Rifts, giving it a more inquisitive feel. And that’s true of the game; it’s all about uncovering the mysteries left behind by the previous worlds. The most used and iconic picture is on the Corebook and Starter Set. It’s a bright orange background, with the Amber Monolith in the center, surrounded by creatures and people. It gives the sense of the vastness of the world and the possibilities. All of the art in every book is full-color and just as gorgeously detailed and vast. My favorite picture in all of the Numenera books is from the pre-written adventure, The Devil’s Spine. The adventure itself is a ton of fun, and I’ll try not to give too many spoilers, but at one point, adventurers may encounter a swamp filled with giant statues of vaguely humanoid shape. The art is in muted tones of gray and yellow, highlighted with purple flowers. It certainly sets the tone of uneasiness meant to be felt in that area, and gives a slight vision of what is to come to those who venture into the swamp.
Honorable Mentions for books whose cover art sets the tone for the game (and either has minimal inside art, or not as thematic art): Ten Candles, a horror game by Calvary Games (I have yet to play this game, but the cover was what drew me to it, as well as the mechanic of using actual candles in the gameplay); Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker (this is one of my favorite games, and the first game I ever ran! The cover art really sets the tone for how post-apocalyptic and open-ended this game really is); and finally, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by James Wallis (the version I own is stark white with black text and filigree; it really sets the tone for how lush and over the top the game is. This game is all about telling the most extravagant lie)!
We are grateful for all the work that it takes to put together games. It is so exciting that Eye of the Beholder is shedding light on one of them. We hope you will consider joining the directors at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival on Friday, February 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM for a screening at the Somerville Theater. We both have plans to be there! (Note: Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival has not paid us to promote this event and we are paying for our tickets. This is just a topic that excites us and we have offered to promote it as something awesome to do with a Friday night.)
We also hope you join us for another fabulous ELS Day on March 10, 2019 from 12-6 at Comicazi. We are working on which woman created game we will be featuring, so we are going to make our game announcement via social media soon.
Until next time…. May all your hits be crits.
Happy 2019!! We are stepping back from our usual game content, so that I can write about my newest obsession. A couple of weeks ago, Red Menace wrote about her hopes for the year. One of my hopes this year is that I want to find more positive things in the world, which is really hard these days. Believe it or not, I have found positive things in the most unusual place – reality competition shows. I will begin this by saying that I am actually not a fan of reality television in general, as most of it is too drama filled for me. There are three shows in particular, The Great British Bake Off, Nailed It and Making It, that I believe are the three best examples of this type of program.
I recently had a conversation with a friend where we discussed if we could just claim that Christmas is now “officially” a secular holiday. While I feel that this idea is still premature, it didn’t stop us from talking about how Christmas has evolved over the years and has been adopted and celebrated by other cultures in new and rather interesting ways. Most notably Japan and their tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas.
After this conversation ended, I pretty much went home and jumped down the YouTube rabbit-hole to see what exactly a KFC Christmas meal would look like and where the tradition came from. To save you the time, I’ve posted a couple of my favorite videos below.
Simon and Martina: Eat Your Kimchi
Simon and Martina have been living overseas and posting about their lives for 10 years now. Previous to living in Japan, they lived and posted videos from South Korea. I’ve been watching them for some time now and appreciate how they can be both upbeat and honest about their lives, even when things aren’t going well. If you like this video, I highly recommend you spend some quality time with their channel. If not just to watch videos of their dog, Spudgy (who sadly passed away not too long ago).
Abroad in Japan
A British gent now living in Japan, Chris Broad does a pretty good job at highlighting both his own culture shock and his desire to learn. He puts in enough research to add context, but if you’re looking for heavy cultural analysis, this might not be the channel for you. Instead, if you enjoy a rather snarky sense of humor and a healthy amount of self-deprecation, Chris is your guy. Think informative without the strange yelling at the camera or bouncing “walking while talking” you can get from other YouTubers. He’s got over a million subscribers for a reason.
Colonel Santa not your thing? Perhaps you’re in the mood for a different rabbit hole that’s also filled with holiday cheer? Might I suggest starting with this list of articles from our archives?
But regardless of how you celebrate (or don’t celebrate) the season, warmest wishes to you and yours. See you in the new year!
As the Ladies resident (but not only) lover of spooky things, I wanted to share three things I am doing to get in the spirit for what is my highest holiday – Halloween!
I’ve only recently started listening to Darkest Night having learning about it via Deadly Manners. We’ve mentioned some spooky podcasts before and there are lots of them out there, but this one really distinguishes itself though the sound design. As you are told in the intro, this podcast really is best experienced with headphones, but beware…the experience can become quite immersive. No joke, the other morning I was listening to an episode while walking to work and I literally leapt across the sidewalk because I forgot the sounds were only in my ears.
Darkest Night is a story based podcast that follows Project Cyclops, an experiment where severed heads are sent to a lab for a process that draws the blood from a victim’s optic nerve so the moments before their death can be experienced and documented….but is that all that’s really going on here?
Rating: 4 out of 5 severed heads
Whooo boy, we finished this over the weekend and what an emotional roller coaster. This Netflix show whips you from fear, to sorrow, to anger as it pairs terrifying images with the equally terrifying human condition. The Haunting of Hill House is a modern adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel and a love-letter to the 1963 film The Haunting (also based on Shirley Jackson’s novel). Like all good horror, it’s not just about ghosts or murder. HoHH looks at trauma, obsession, and grief and how the lasting impacts can follow you through life, even if you think you have locked them away.
Don’t get me wrong – this is real deal spooky. As you watch, pay attention to everything, because things happen in the background and in your periphery to keep you as off balance as the characters are. Episode 6 is particularly masterful is how it pulls you reluctantly through long shots that become more and more dizzying to reflect the downward spirals of the characters.
Too late in the series I really started to key in on the color symbolism used in the filming, and now I want to watch it all over again to follow that thread. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this yet, I’m a little jealous of you getting to experience it for the first time.
Rating: 5 our of 5 red doors
Hopefully some of you were able to make it to the Comicazi Cookie Clash this year. It’s an amazing dessert filled event for a great cause, Boston Partners in Education. While I am not someone who loves or thoroughly enjoys baking (I’m not great at the exactness of it since I tend to like to experiment – not a good idea in baking unless you are really down with the science), I have competed in the cookie clash every year since its inception. Fun fact: The Cookie Clash started originally as competition between The Red Menace’s cookies made with love (she LOVES baking and is quite good at it), and my Cookies made with Hate™ (recall: I don’t love baking).
But I digress…this year I decided I wanted to go for flash rather than substance and made these gooey eyeball cookies for my baker’s choice entry. While these cookies taste good – sort of a cheesecake sugar cookie, they aren’t super exciting or nuanced. But then again, you aren’t making them for nuance, you are making them because they fun, colorful, and involve so many candy eyeballs.
The best advice I can give it to follow the recipe directly, and that getting the neon food coloring colors is totally worth it if you want that bright popping color. I also got 3 different sizes of candy eyes and found that the mixing of different sizes really adds a lot to the aesthetic. Otherwise, these cookies are pretty easy and a lot of bang for your buck.
Rating: 4 out 5 Beholder eyes
Today is the last day to register to vote in Massachusetts. Are you registered? Up to date? Good!
With an important mid-term election looming, and the news cycle, well, all the time really, but particularly in the last few months, many folks I know and particularly folks who identify as women have been feeling pretty stressed out of late. The Kavanaugh hearings were difficult for a lot of folks and the results were even more so. It’s important to allow ourselves to feel those feelings and, if possible, use them constructively. But sometimes you just need to take a break and feel some positivity. Here are a few things that have been working for me, lately.
Tussetroll and Tingeling: Fun fact, I am not particularly an animal person. I’m not afraid of them – I’m just…not that interested. However, once in a while there comes a pet Instagram that I can’t help but fall for, and this is the latest. The animals I like have a lot of personality and are usually a little different from the norm, and huge, flat-faced Persian Tussetrolle and his pitch-black, Scottish Fold flat-eared sister Tingeling hit all of the right notes for me.
Little Allejandro: Another Instagram feed, but this one’s closer to home. The Giant Party should have made it obvious that I am in love with tiny things. I also really love inanimate objects having grand adventures – it’s a little bit of magic in a world that is often far too mundane. Little Allejandro is a doll who lives in a house quite nearby to my own – and the house has a little dollhouse BUILT INTO THE FRONT OF IT. Child-Me would have been obsessed with it – and frankly, adult me is, too. The homeowners change up the scenery of the dollhouse frequently to match the seasons, holidays, and events in the neighborhood, but they also run this Instagram feed for their most iconic resident, Little Allejandro. He accompanies them on trips and occasionally runs into trouble. It’s a brilliant, soothing bit of everyday magic.
Making Ice Cream: I’d never suggest eating your feelings, per se, but this summer I finally broke down and bought my own ice cream freezer and I’m having a lot of fun figuring out how to get the most out of it. So far I’ve mostly made very traditional, custard-based ice creams, largely inspired by http://bravetart.com/, but there’s a whole world of sorbet, ice milk, and other delights waiting to be explored.
Hilda: I don’t want to step on the toes of any other Ladies who might want to do a more comprehensive review of this Netflix gem, but if you’re looking for something comforting to watch, you couldn’t do better than Hilda. Based on the popular graphic novels by Luke Pearson, Hilda is the story of a little Scandinavian girl who has adventures meeting the magical creatures who live in the woods and city around her. The animation is beautiful, the voice acting is top-notch, and the whole show is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket with a cup of cocoa. (Hilda herself is voiced by Bella Ramsey, better known as the amazing, scene-stealing Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones.)
Work with the Rage: Finally, sometimes you just have acknowledge your anger to let it go. The Believer published this excellent long read by Megan Stielstra about women’s rage and why we have so much trouble acknowledging and processing it. She’s been dealing with her own anger in part by throwing axes, which you can now do here in the Boston area, if that appeals. However, you can also use those strong feelings to make a donation or volunteer for a nonprofit in your area (here’s my personal favorite), campaign for a politician or cause you believe in, or start a Meetup for folks to come together to share other ideas for engagement, learn more about candidates, or just talk about how they’re feeling.
So that’s how I’m dealing with my anxiety about November 6th. ON November 6th, of course, I’m going to do the only thing I can do – I’m going to vote! What are all of you doing to deal with your hopes and fears? Tell me all about it in the comments.
After much anticipation, the world was finally introduced to the first female Doctor. And, to the credit of the writers, the Doctor accepts the change and immediately moves on to the action. However, being part of a group that always has an eye on how women are portrayed in the world of popular culture, I couldn’t help but want to add my voice to those discussing this “first” for the Doctor Who franchise.
So, I give you a mini review of the first episode of Season 11’s “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” Buckle up and consider this your spoiler warning.
My husband and I just celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary. It marks a little over half of the full time we’ve been together. Our relationship has a lot of the same qualities I see in other happy, committed couples: respect, trust, affection, and a desire to continue growing and improving together. But we also have our share of unique elements in our relationship. One of these is a shared appreciation for transforming robots.
Transformers, the well-known transforming robot toys, and the media surrounding them have been a constant in my relationship with my husband. Weird as it may seem, the toys and shows have had a role in our courtship and marriage. Here are a few of the highlights.
Last year I reviewed GLOW season 1, so natural next step: review GLOW season 2. This review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched season 2 yet and you care about that sort of thing, come back and read this later. The 30 minute episodes make GLOW super bingeable so it’s pretty easy to cruise though the entire second season.
GLOW season 2 picks up with the ladies returning to work, trying to exhibit a little more ownership over their roles. For Ruth and Debbie this means trying to take on new roles on the other side of the camera, and for the other women, it’s exploring their characters and relationships more. As I mentioned in my season 1 review, it’s the side characters of GLOW who really hold my heart. And while the incredibly complex relationship between Debbie and Ruth continues to be a central-ish plot point, each of the other ladies (and Bash) also get their chance to shine. They are no longer “the one who dresses as a wolf” or “the British woman.” Instead we get a deeper look at these women in terms of what drives, motivates, and in some cases, transforms them.
This is important not just in terms of giving the diverse cast opportunities, but because for me, the relationship between Debbie and Ruth doesn’t have much of an arc and therefore, neither do their characters. At best, you watch them go from friends to enemies to begrudging co-workers, neither overly likable, despite the fact that outside the ring Ruth is often set up as hero of sorts whereas Debbie remains aloof and purposely removed, at times casting herself as a villain. These roles being the opposite of their wresting characters still isn’t really interesting enough to make up for the fact that Debbie and Ruth seem more like the anchors for the ensemble than anything else. More than anything, they provide a static touch point rather than any dynamic catalyst.
Another focus of this season is how these women operate in the space that has now been made for them. In season 1 we see them fighting for their place, trying to get a foot in the door, even if that means playing up to 80’s stereotypes of race and gender. In season 2 you get the sense that now that there is a bit more stability in their wrestling shows (they have fans and everything), many of the characters are exploring that space and are trying to take ownership of it. One of the more interesting arcs is Beirut’s. While she accepted her character in the beginning, her real desire is to shed the guise of a terrorist and rise again as her truer self, a phoenix. This, in parallel with the exploration of her sexuality make her character the one who has perhaps gone through the most transformation.
It’s so rare to get a show with such a large female ensemble cast, let alone one where the focus is on the internal relationships of the character themselves, rather than an outside male influence. As much fun as watching the evolution of the wrestling was, what really held my heart in GLOW was watching the evolution of the friendships and the formation of the family.
I have been trying for ages to write about my love of Steven Universe. I’ll happily go on at length about the show and my feelings about it in person, but getting it all down in writing seems more elusive. I think it”s a sign of just how good the show is and how much I love it that my attempts to get it all down come off as a messy jumble of feelings and details that never really gets to the heart of what makes the show so good.
So instead of describing the entire show and my love for it, I’m taking on the still difficult but more manageable task of listing my favorite episodes. To give you an idea of how tough this is, I started out writing about my five favorite episodes and quickly discovered I couldn’t do less than ten. But, unlike an overview of the whole series, it gives me a narrower window to look at the series and my feelings about it through.
Like any such list, this one is totally subjective and reflects my opinions of the moment. Your list is almost certainly different. Next week, my list may be different. Heck, it may be different tomorrow or an hour from now. Discussion is welcome and encouraged. Continue reading
Hope you are all enjoying the summer and staying cool. In previous posts, we have discussed some podcasts and books that we have been into lately. My current summertime media consumption has included reading The Vision and watching Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
So why am I talking about these two things together? Besides being the things I have most recently read/watched, they both employ a style of narrative storytelling that warns you what’s coming. Rather than dampening the story, these breadcrumbs lead you through the drama and guide you into darker elements without even coming close to diminishing the gut punch or (especially in the case of The Vision) some truly difficult emotional moments. The story remains compelling despite what could be termed as spoilers built right in.
Of the two, A Series of Unfortunate Events (SoUE) is clearly the lighter fare, geared for ages…well I would say 8 and up, but you know your kid. These stories were first a book series and then a Netflix series. The story follows the Baudelaire children as they are orphaned and then repeatedly terrorized by Count Olaf, a villain obsessed with getting his hands on the fortune the oldest daughter will inherit when she is of age. While I stopped reading the books after about 3 (there are 13 in the series), the Netflix series manages to stave off some of the repetition with a very strong cast and interesting stylized visuals. The most fun part of the series is Patrick Warburton who plays author and narrator Lemony Snicket. Snicket, with a dry gravitas that Warburton is just perfect for, tells you right off the bat what you are in for. And what you’re in for is horrible people treating some innocent kids horribly. Anyone around them is also pulled into the horribleness -horribleness that is largely orchestrated by Count Olaf. The narration acts as a teaser, breaking the fourth wall to remind viewers of the drama they are watching play out, reminding them that they are watching a show that is literally telling you it’s a series of unfortunate events. And yet, you still think and hope things might go the Baudelaires’ way. But don’t hope, because they don’t. But still, I found myself moaning and groaning and hoping maybe, just this time, things would be okay, even as Patrick Warburton’s dulcet tones continuously told me they wouldn’t.
The Vision is a 12-issue comic series by Tom King. It’s available in two trades, so do yourself a favor and just buy them both because if you start this series, you are going to want to finish it.
This story uses a similar narrative device to the one used in A Series of Unfortunate Events, SoUE is largely comical in its misery, The Vision is too real. An unseen narrator tells us that Vision decided to create a family. They move to a suburban neighborhood in the Washington DC area and try to fit in. This never happens. Instead, the Visions exist in a limbo, not quite human, not quite synthezoid. Sometimes they go through the motions, acting as they think humans should. Other times they are perhaps too human, unwittingly falling into the perils of violence, mania, and love. The villain in this story is largely unseen and debatable. Is it life? Ultron? Vision himself? Despite this story not having a mustache-twirling antagonist like SoUE, you know in the first few pages that this experiment in family won’t end well. Over 12 issues, we watch the pieces fall and shatter on the floor. Knowing this is coming doesn’t make this story any less compelling. Instead, it’s a study of an unraveling of a dream – its own series of unfortunate events, and we are never lead to believe it will be anything but that.
So, a similar narrative device, but 2 different stories in tone and weight. I would recommend them both but maybe have some tissues available when you read The Vision.