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Spider-Manuary – Re-Writing Spdier-Man 3

There’s not a lot can be said about Spider-Man 3, last in the Raimi trilogy, that hasn’t already been said. It’s common knowledge that pressure from the studio forced Raimi into introducing an extra villain that the fans wanted to see, one that he wasn’t entirely happy implementing, and one which he infamously screwed up (and he knows it), Venom. And maybe that’s on us! There was a lot of hype at the time, and I seem to remember a lot of discussions featuring the words “Well it’s got to be Venom, right?” from kids raised on the 90’s series who adored the Venom saga responsible for bringing the symbiote off the page and onto screen. (more…)

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GenCon and Insomnia – Or How I Filled the Summer Convention Drought

2019 is going to be a lot of fun… and incredibly expensive!

I shall summarise briefly because my internet is down and I am writing this (hastily) with mobile data.

You may recall I mentioned a little while back that I’d be heading to GenCon in 2019 in order to fill the void while Warwick Arts Centre is under renovations that are keeping the nerds out. Well, my tickets are bought, plane tickets are priced, and hotel registration begins in a couple of weeks. After some conversation with folks on the GenCon Facebook page, I hear that that‘s the hard fight, turns out registration is less cutthroat than Kita or Ame, but if I want a room that isn’t an air bnb or £400 a night, I’ll have to hone those convention registration reflexes.

Gencon is one of the calendar entries added in the last week or two. In April I will be in Scotland for the wargaming and tabletop nationals one week, and Insomnia in Birmingham the next. I’d intended to get into nationals as a volunteer DM, but I failed to get onto the list before the window closed. That may be for the best, two weekend of solid DMing with no breaks? My gods, it’d be like… some kind of job! Or career if you will.

I have a couple of months to learn a few new role-playing systems, or refine my skills in a few others, and get a lot of new material written. Pokethulhu, Call of Cthulhu, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Honey Heist, Bag of Bones, and Era: the Consortium are all on the to do list. At least for most of those I have material written, but over the last… wow, nearly a whole year… I’ve managed to consistently deliver new games. While I have no internet, probably time to play a few games, read a book or two, and garner a few ideas.

It does make keeping a regular schedule at Oswestry Library a little awkward, but it’s worth persevering because it’s the Dungeon Mastering gigs that have made all of the above possible.

So if you can bear with me this short and rambling article (while I wait for technical support and recover from a cold) then the rest of the year is going to end up a travel diary of some of the nerdiest events in this country and others!


Spider-Manuary – The Best One?

Spider-Manuary continues with Spider-Man 2, second in the ill-fated Sam Raimi trilogy, is regarded by most as the best of the big screen excursions for the wall crawler. Continuing my delve into the series, I want to look at exactly why, and why some people might disagree… oh yeah, I’m going there too! It’s a good film, but not above criticism. Ok, so they’ve refined a lot of the formula, upped the pace and feel of the action, and given us a glimpse into the future of super-hero villains in cinema.

Not going to draw this one out, it’s a fourteen year old film, let’s get into it. (more…)


Departing Realism – Art in Video Games

For many years we have strived for realism in our computer generated art work. Just look at the progression of one of video game’s most enduring characters, Lara Croft, who has seen consistent titles released since 1996 in the days of visible polygons and hard edges on supposedly curved surfaces, through the rubber-doll days of Chronicles and Underworld, and into the modern reboot that can border on photo-realism in stills.

And yet, it seems like the closer we get to emulating reality, the more we seem to want to step away from it. Increasingly we see more stylisation in our artwork, cartoonish features, abstract colour palettes, or a simple distortion of reality to create a theme. I want to look into some of these artistic choices… (more…)


Spider-Manuary – Reviewing Spider-Man 1

This month… and a little bit of February, I will be reviewing all of the Spider-Man films of the century in order. I’ll skip Homecoming as I already reviewed it when it released, although expect a lot of cross-commentary and inevitable comparisons.

Spider-Manuary… I have never been so ashamed and proud of myself at the same time. (more…)


The Pursuit of Perfection

Here’s a positive message on which to end a bad year*. Stop striving for perfection! (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury December ’18 – Gift Wrapped GeekOut

Last GeekOut Shrewsbury of the year, last GeekOut meet of the year altogether, and not a bad send off if I say so myself. It also marks our twenty first Shrewsbury Meet, so there’s a pointless little landmark for you. Merry Christmas everybody, whether you celebrate it or not, whether you enjoy it or not, Merry Tuesday at least. Here’s how we sent off the year…

Pre-Meet

Thank you to the Boiler Room, you guys have seen us through a disproportionate number of pre-meets. Cake, coffee, and environment are always welcoming, and you always seem prepared for us even when numbers are unexpectedly high.

Among this month’s more entertaining pre-meet moments, losing Murray for half an hour as soon as Harley put the Binding of Isaac card game on the table, followed shortly by his amassing a frankly insulting amount of health in a Magic game. We also introduced new-ish member Richard to Love Letter, along with a few other games this month.

But moving on…

Monty’s

What a wonderful way to “wrap up” the year, and the puns were no better on the day! There may have been some minor HDMI issues, because I did not bring mine, and many people were trying to hook up a Nintendo Switch to the projector. Turns out if we want to try that again we’ll need to fetch an extension cable too, the distance is too long to safely stretch from the projector and to the mains ports, and we need both. Ah well.

The pub was busy, and at times a little crowded, but it never slows us down. I brought Robo Rally at Harley’s request, and so lost her and a few others to a game that only lasted for a short while. Also this thing:

Character Creation

At the request of a few of our regulars, I held a short character building workshop, during which Sod’s Law prevailed. I have a collection of quick-start guides to throw together first level characters easily, and of course three members of the party were classes missing the sheet in my folder! Here I thought I was so well prepared. Characters were all created for the setting I am working on for regular play, using a system in which players roll their abilities, and the worse your stats are the better your starting bonuses. So, going around the table:

Alfie will be playing a wood elf ranger, a bit cliche but he randomly rolled the class.
Nicole is a high elf rogue. Her stats were low enough to start with that she could buy an extra level and a magic item, but not a good one.
Jardel is a bard of The Ormud (a human nation), born to the winter caste. He will be playing a failed jester with a mallet that honks.
Hannah rolled so well she had no choice in race or class, and is now a kenku cleric to goddess of the moon, Nuren’Ue. She has already acquired the nickname “Buff Bird” for being crazy strong.
And Kim is a god-born halfling (aasimar) rogue. I owe her a magic item too, and I owe them all some extra information to help them get started in the campaign.

Hopefully this group will gather on the pier at Meadsbridge some time in the new year…

Gifts

Thanks to those of you who joined in the Super-Secret Santa, pretty sure everyone walked away pleased with what they got, although I have no idea about Julia who accidentally walked away empty-handed. Not to worry, it’s on its way to you, and thanks for the cornflake wreath too, it was delicious.

And thank you Harley and Vinni both for the handmade additions to the Shropshire Dungeon Master accessories, the dice tray from Harley will be making a few future appearances at games, the coasters from Vinni I think will be staying home for the most part, that’s where they’ll see the most use.

Resolutions!

January folks! A lot of you (more than I thought actually) committed to some geeky pledges for the new year! I know that at least one person (not me) managed to stay true to theirs, and if you were at January’s event have a look at the cards that were pulled from the box. How did you do? I failed! Although I did have a very productive year either way, so… maybe I’ll get a comedy skit out next year? Along with a Pokenomicon, a book of item enchantments for 5e, and a whole bunch of other projects that are jamming up the proverbial pipeline.

Next Year…

There may be some changes in format next year! Monty’s Tower have other plans in the works that may prove either a boon or a hindrance to us at GeekOut but they want us to keep coming along, so will work with us to keep our events every bit as fun as they are now, and I don’t know about you guys but I’ve certainly been enjoying myself.

As it stands, the next event is booked for the 31st of January, a whopping six weeks away, and provisionally entitled “The Frozen North”. We hope to see you, all of you, more of you, there. And Merry Christmas or whatever.


Gifting in a Digital Age

At this time of gifting for a substantial proportion of the planet, we find ourselves in an increasingly odd situation. Common retail is dying, shops are closing, and town centres are lined with shutters that are slowly rusting in place. We order online more and more, and that shift is changing the nature of media too. As DVD surplanted VHS, we thought Bluray would do the same to DVD in turn, but it appears ever more evident that digital distribution will prove the dominant format. One cannot cover Netflix in colourful paper… one could, but there may be conflicts with Netflix employees.

Is it at all possible that the days of presents gathered at the foot of a fir tree (or plastic facsimile thereof) are slowly dying? Can we no longer open a card in hope of a voucher or cash, but instead watch our inboxes with baited breath? Will Santa one day arrive in a red jacket bearing the names of every delivery company, and if so can we expect a note down the chimney telling us Christmas can be collected from the depot?

The times, they are a-changing, and Christmas too must change, as it changes its name, and once again grows to swallow all other cultures, the holiday undying, as old as the changing of seasons and the rebirth of the sun.

But if you still yearn for the look on someone’s face as they pull your meticulously crafted wrapping aside (or haphazardly taped up bundle) to reveal the thoughtful tokens within, all may not be lost. Long term readers may recall that we proffered a few suggestions last year for things to obtain for your geekier loved ones, but there are other things you can make, do, and buy.

It has been remarked that we crave experiences more than physical items, so taking someone – for example – to see a live stage show, or to theme parks or other pay-to-enter attractions is a fantastic gift that lacks a physical component, all being managed via online booking and emails. However, there is no reason why a ticket cannot be printed and folded into a card, perhaps something hand-made or thematic.

For digital media, there are a few ways you can make a gift out of something ephemeral. The obvious solution is to load – say – a new film onto a datastick that can be wrapped as an individual item, or placed in a comically oversized box. Or perhaps you want to load a family member’s phone with new music? Consider demanding it from them at Nerfpoint, loading it with an album or two, wrapping it up and putting it back in their hands. How often do people despair that we spend too much time on our devices and not with our families? Could be a great way to make phones a part of the family.

And until the days when 3D printing allows us to send Pop Vinyls straight into the homes of friends so they can watch their presents revealed piece by piece before their eyes – next logical step, just saying – there’s still an abundance of geeky objects in this world to give as gifts, but as times are changing it may be worth considering shopping earlier and earlier to account for delivery times. And you too could become a warehouse of Christmas presents, holding onto lots of objects for months on end that you intend to give to someone else! Just like me.


Review – Strongholds & Followers

In the long distant history of February (2018 for you strange future-people) one of my favourite personalities in role-playing games released a kickstarter, Matthew Colville’s Strongholds & Streaming. Begun with the simple intent of getting a Critical Role style D&D twitch game underway, offered with a physical product so that people were not simply funding an ephemeral and conceptual project, a Dungeons & Dragons supplement for 5th edition, Strongholds and Followers. Oh, and dragon minis too!

As weeks rolled by, Matt’s videos were often started or closed with an awed thank you, as the campaign not only obliterated goals, but is the current record holder for most funded roleplaying book, and remains in the top 100 Kickstarters of all time. We’ve seen work unfold on a studio space, designs emerge for the miniatures, and even had insights into the design process of the book, and finally, we have a finished product in our hands…

Assuming you have removed your harddrive and are currently sat holding it. I got the pdf the other day, is what I’m saying. Here’s what I thought. (more…)


I Write Horoscopes

Not serious ones of course.

When I express a love of cosmic horror, the link between horror and comedy, dark and angry surrealism, nihilism, and all of the other things I over-analyse, it’s an expression of interest and fascination that is – at its core – what geekiness is all about: an open expression of passion for a particular subject or subjects. And as a creative person I like to let free my own reflection of those genres and subjects that fascinate me.

When I started putting my own particular brand of horoscope onto Facebook, I’d been listening to a lot of Welcome to Night Vale, and H.P. Lovecraft, watching Dylan Moran, and Rick and Morty. That, and I was in a mood to write and get weird with it, as I am wont to do, previous examples include corrupted christmas cracker jokes, a crowd sourced poem about being on the toilet, and some early evidence of my own mental health issues before I recognised what I was looking at.

Amrit Brar – Click for the website and a huge collection of other zodiac signs

All of this narcissistic rambling to say that for me… it’s a kind of fan art. I ingest the media that I love, and out comes some blended product born of my own creativity. Some examples:

Aries: Check your liver against the colour chart. Are you within the safe zone?
Taurus: You have no power here, only the howling of a chained beast
Gemini: They’re closing in
Cancer: No horoscope this week, seek answers from the Grand Tapestry of Bucharest
Leo: Square peg, round hole; angular logic, circular reasoning
Virgo: Citation needed
Libra: The association are concerned about your recent activity in the temple. Burn the robes and ditch the sceptre before they send in the auditors
Scorpio: Avoid log flumes, better to stay away from all carnival activities where possible
Sagittarius: Are you doing something different with your arms?
Capricorn: Death of a spider, birth of a fly
Aquarius: Hold onto the past, you never know when you might need it
Pisces: Everything will be fine. I am so sorry

I mean… a lot of Welcome to Night Vale.

It’s a thought that should horrify you, that either the stars are so utterly powerful that they can impact the finest details of our lives in a plan they concocted millions of years before our existence, or that we impart such incredible meaning to an elaborate and contrived dot-to-dot picture in the sky that a vast industry revolves around it, and some people think it has greater impact on their nature than – say – rudimentary psychology!

I endeavoured to bring together cosmic horror and cynicism, weave in some surrealist humour, and offset it with just a little profundity that you could believe, for just a moment, that there might be a purpose to it all. And yes, maybe there is – on some level – a little genuine philosophy leaking out, I’ve written dozens of these things, and anything to which you’re willing to commit that much time must be important to you. And if it entertains a few people then all the better.

What do you do to exorcise your creativity? What sources of inspiration do you draw from, and how do they reflect in what you create? Come chat to us in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.