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Top 10 – Running Gags

GeekOut Top 10s

Nothing screams in-crowd quite like a running joke. One person does or says something stupid and never gets to live it down, a weird moment of inspiration catches fire and spreads through the gang, or some reoccurring verbal tic becomes a catchphrase. Comedians know this, so do game designers, writers and artists of all types. A good gag can be brought back time and time again, recycled and replayed and somehow it only gets funnier.

Join us as we revisit some of the best recurring gags in geek culture. Ten of them to be exact. And some honourable mentions.

What can I say? We have a pattern.


Top 10

10) M’aiq the Liar – The Elder Scrolls Franchise

M’aiq has been in so many of the Elder Scrolls games now, that he’s a bit of a running joke. But more than that, he’s actually full of rather interesting lines of dialogue, depending on how you interpret his meanings. He runs seemingly aimlessly, from place to place, just sharing his stories, which is hard to believe. He’s not exactly renowned for telling the truth, hence his title.

Only just clawing his way onto our list, M’aiq is definitely an in-joke for Elder Scrolls fans. Well, if not M’aiq himself, his great, great grandson, who is also called M’aiq. This Khajiit knows more than just a few lines of dialogue and usually runs around at quick speed. He’s worth catching up to for a quick chat, so if you find him roaming around Skyrim or even any of the other TES games, stop for a chat!

9) Troy and Abed in the Morning – Community

Unlikely friends in the Greendale Community College study group, sports jock and cool kid Troy Barnes and awkwardly nerdy and fourth wall breaking Abed Nadir bond over a mutual immaturity, creativity, and generally childlike view of the world. Through the various misadventures of their time at college with the others in the group they turn the world upside down, warp genres and create entire worlds. But in their downtime they host a show, Troy and Abed in the Morning.

The catchy jingle, enthusiastic “guests” and the delightful hosts of Troy and Abed in the Morning make it a cheery and oddly grounded highlight of Community’s otherwise deeply bizarre and twisted world. The fact that the boys are making the whole thing up and there are no cameras, or that the guests often have no idea what’s going on, has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they’re enjoying themselves.

8) “Reticulating splines” & Llama fascination – The Sims and SimCity

Everyone who knows the original Maxis brand of Sims titles, extending out to SimCity, will be fondly remember the strange loading words of “Reticulating Splines”. Many of us to this very day are uncertain of what exactly that means, or even if it was just some crazy in-joke, starting from SimCity 2000. In actuality, it was literally made to be a nonsensical phrase intended to just make the Maxis guys laugh. Besides: It sounds cool.

Of course, The Sims is well known for one animal. No, not the pink flamingo! I can only be talking about the Llama, a majestic creature who can be used in everyday conversation. With an insult option for calling someone’s mother a Llama, there’s plenty of different options for how to use the Llama. These include dressing up as one to be a mascot for a team by the same name, bleating like a Llama being an illegal form of interrogation, rejecting a date by saying you need to wash your Llama. Yeah, Maxis are a strange bunch.

7) Horse Mask – Tomska

Creator of the ASDF animation shorts, Thomas “Tomska” Ridgewell is a favourite online comedian of mine. While ASDF may be his most famous series, his life action skits are as good if not better, and his recent fascination with his horse mask has added another rather disturbing layer of comedy. Meet Mrs Johnson.

Appearing in multiple, completely unrelated videos, Mrs Johnson basically a man in a dress and a horse mask who appears long enough to spout a catchphrase “I LOVE IT”. It shouldn’t be funny, but I love the surrealism of Johnson’s appearance at any moment, and it takes one hell of a dark twist when she gets her own skit entitled “Horse”. Sounds like there’s more backstory than what has been hinted at so far. Or Tomska’s just making crap up as he goes along.

6) Short Jokes – Fullmetal Alchemist

“Who you callin’ so puny he could be squished by a bug?!” – Edward Elric.

The Fullmetal Alchemist himself appears to have a running gag, well it was sooo hard to see this one coming. That’s because he is really short and due to that, various characters will allude to this. But he doesn’t like to be reminded of his physical limitations, so he will get pretty angry at anyone who dares insinuate he’s a tiny little man. After all, it’s no different to calling him a child, which he resents. He’s not.

Now, it doesn’t matter how you say it, he really doesn’t want to hear it. He won’t even accept it if you say you didn’t mean it in that way. He’s been known to psyche himself out as well, as he once crawled through some vents, stating how glad he was that he was small enough to fit in the vent, before pausing and screaming out “Aah! I just called myself a tiny little runt!” Oh Edward, we hope you never grow up.

5) Kenny Dies – South Park

Kudos to Parker and Stone for keeping a joke that should have worn out years ago fresh enough that we don’t hate them for dragging it out. This is a joke that has transformed, been cast aside and brought back, observed from every angle and yet… never dies.

The joke originates with a former classmate who was never present and was therefore presumed dead on a daily basis. In early seasons Kenny was killed off every episode only to respawn the very next week. This culminated in an entire season of the gang grieving his death until he spontaneously returned with no fanfare in the last episode. And now Kenny uses his powers for good.

Kenny’s immortal curse now has an overly elaborate backstory wrapped in eldritch mysteries, and looks set to take centre stage in the upcoming game The Fractured But Whole.

4) Wirt’s Leg – Blizzard

Wurt is a running joke in Blizzard’s Diablo franchise, but has gone further than just the Lord of Terror’s titles. He started off as a man in the original Diablo, who basically had his leg tore off by the big bad evils in the game. Then in the second and third games, you could get Wirt’s Leg as an item. In World of Warcraft, you could get Wirt’s Third Leg and in Diablo III you could also get Wirt’s Other Leg. Oo err.

Wirt has had many different legs, which have appeared over at least 5 different games, from Diablo I, II and III, World of Warcraft, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. He was also a test item in the Blizzard MOBA Heroes of the Storm. Now, don’t forget, the most important thing about Wirt’s leg is the ability to create portals to incredibly secret cow levels. They’re so secret that everyone knows about them… Because Wirt’s Leg combined with a tome of town scroll totally makes a portal.

3) Phrasing! – Archer

I think we’re all a little tired of “That’s what she said”, this isn’t the 90’s any more and frankly I think we can all agree She has a dirty mouth but doesn’t have a lot to say otherwise.

Now where do you even begin with all of the jokes in Archer? Between the creative insults, the worst passwords ever, the voicemail pranks, and LAANNAAAA there’s so much to choose from. But phrasing rather escaped the show and slipped out into the real world. It’s quick, effective, and points out an innuendo far faster than She ever could, and it spread so fast that the show not only stopped using it, but made a joke out of no longer using it.

The in-jokes of Archer spring up so naturally and organically that it makes the cast feel more real, and less written. It feels like these people are living and working together rather than being thrown together in a comedic situation. And now that series 8 has begun I have to ask…

Seriously, are we not doing phrasing any more?

2) Bart Simpson Writing on the Chalkboard – The Simpsons

Bart Simpson has started up every episode of The Simpsons with a different bit of ‘detention writing’ to put up on the chalkboard of his classroom. Sometimes, these lines he has to write are just purely silly, such as not putting gum under his desk, but other times, it’ll be reference to a real life event or celebrity. He has, in the past, mentioned presidents along with big name celebrities (although they rarely specify the full name of the celebrity).

It seamlessly blends the real with the typical cartoony values that Springfield has become customary of. We don’t watch an episode of The Simpsons without thinking of those ridiculous Simpson openings, either. Bart makes up one of the two major parts that changes episode by episode, also meaning that he’s been doing this since the late 80s. Now, in 2017, we’re going to finally see the writing on the wall for Bart and his family, as it’s officially coming to an end.

This is probably the longest running gag on this list, so if you’d like to see some of these amazing jokes for yourself, check them out at Bartsblackboard.com.

1) Stan Lee – Every Marvel Comic Universe Film

When a returning cameo is so good you have people on the edge of their seats in the cinema waiting for it you know you’re onto a winning formula. The face of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee keeps showing that face in as many films based on his properties as he possibly can, and he’s escalated from a quick and unsubtle look at the camera to being the centrepiece for some of the MCU’s funniest moments. We’ve seen it all from a brief appearance as Hugh Hefner to a librarian obliviously sorting through returns while Spidey and Lizard tear each other to shreds behind him.

The prevailing theory is that Stan is actually playing a recurring role rather than just popping up as a friendly face, Uatu the Watcher, an ancient being tasked with witnessing the most important events in the universe. The kind of power that would give him might explain how his presence spans the cinematic, television and animated aspects of the Marvel property, as well as popping up across the Galaxy, meaning he may well play some kind of important role in the upcoming Infinity Wars.

Throughout 2016, fans waited on tenterhooks as the grim spectre of death stalked one beloved celebrity after another, wondering with each cameo if it could be his last. Of course if he doesn’t turn out to be an actual immortal, then he’ll always live on through his works.


Honourable Mentions

While many jokes will outlive their series and outreach their audience, there are a few that will remain as a calling card for those niche little groups and die-hard fans. Some just fizzle. But let us not forget them, but let us also not list every single one of them here, we’ve got a word count to keep to and nowhere near the man power to list them all. Here’s some honourable mentions.

Ghost Nappa/Nappa Haunting – DragonBall Z Abridged

We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll mention it again – We love abridged series, so much so that today at the GeekOut Bristol Meetup (8th April 2017), we’re hosting an abridging challenge with some great top prizes. Now that we’ve shamelessly plugged this, let’s continue with this entry.

Ghost Nappa is a character that was dreamed up from the pure stupidity that is Nappa. In the actual series of DragonBall Z, he was quite an imposing character, with a lot of seriously deadly skills (at least early in the show). After Vegeta ruthlessly despatches him, Vegeta cements himself as the real bad guy here. However, on DragonBall Z abridged, it seems like Nappa’s personality has an everlasting effect.

Out pops Ghost Nappa, complete with a theme song and all! He’s really damn annoying and he haunts Vegeta occasionally on the Namekian saga. Even in death, it seems like Vegeta can’t get rid of this once proud, but rather unintelligible Saiyan warrior.

Chinese Swearing – Firefly

How do you get around censorship when you really want to swear liberally? Well, a host of sci-fi series would suggest making up your own swearwords that don’t appear on any list, but Joss Whedon’s verse had a rather cunning addition to its backstory that allowed for as much cussing and grotesquely creative insults as you could want, all able to be shown to an American audience during dinner, because it’s all in Chinese.

So it may not be hilarious, but it’s a running bit that adds flavour to an awesome world and deepens its history. When Mal launches into a long string of unintelligible syllables we all know what’s going on, and can’t help but imagine that somewhere there’s native speakers in the audience either covering the ears of the children in the room, or wincing at Nathan Fillion’s wooden and badly pronounced delivery.


 

Some jokes outstay their welcome, get old, and get stale. And yet somehow you guys never seem to tire of our Top 10’s. That’s fine, we love making them, probably more than you guys enjoy reading them. And just like every week you get to pick which Top 10 we discuss next week.

What jokes tickle your funny bone no matter how many times you hear them? What are your favourite running gags? Tell us in the comments or Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

Hey, you there, I see you like our Top 10’s! That’s great, but we need your help now. We are thinking of writing up our Top 10’s as an eBook. Interested? Let us know what you would like to see in our Top 10 eBook!


Top 10 Unfitting Characters

GeekOut Top 10s

When you’re making a cast of pirates, do you ever think of putting a bouncy ball in amongst the crew? Not really. When you’re making a story about war, do you ever think of putting scantily clad ladies all over it? Probably not. What about those times you’re designing a fantasy RPG and you design one of the main characters to be… A robot? Ah well, at least we remember these characters, right?

These characters stand out amongst the crowd; they’re odd-balled, they’re different and that’s why we remember them the most. They are against the grain of the rest of their cast – And today we’re listing down our Top 10 most Unfitting Characters. STOP! Before we continue with this, just be aware: If a whole series is weird, chances are the character actually fits in.


Top 10

10) Tails Doll – Sonic Racing R

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The Tails Doll, a character who is so insignificant, so useless and so basically average that you’d hardly believe that they’d put it in the game at all. Let alone the fact that it’s a character that didn’t exist within the Sonic universe before going into Sonic Racing R, you’ve got what’s basically just a filler character who barely fits in with the lore and mythos of the Sonic world. Yes: There’s definitely a lore behind it, don’t question it.

However, one thing that constantly bewilders me is the fact that this little weird possessed doll became one of the biggest talking points of the game. From the Evil Tails Doll Curse, to the Acid Remix of Can You Feel The Sunshine, it’s really out of place for the rest of this rather happy go lucky Mario Kart clone. Still: You can’t really blame them for adding a character like this into the game… He even ended up going into the comics as an evil doll.

9) Manta – Shaman King

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Manta is really small, which isn’t too much of a surprise with a name like that. He’s tiny, he’s got a strange haircut, we know him as Morty in the English dubs of Shaman King and he’s a smart guy. In fact, he’s probably one of, if not the smartest guy in the entire anime. But there’s always been a small feeling of aloofness about him – Like, he’s not all there. Almost as if he’s strung along by Yoh just because he has nothing better to do.

I don’t know why Manta decides to journey through the incredibly dangerous Shaman King tournament, but he seems to stay around because he’s friends with Yoh. Morty isn’t a shaman, but he can see spirits. He isn’t strong, but he’s smart. He isn’t even all that brave, except for rare circumstances, but you know what? The series wouldn’t have been the same without his worrying.

8) Twoflower – Discworld

The Colour of MagicSean Astin as Twoflower©RHI/Bill Kaye

The Disc is filled with people and narratives that point a big fat finger to real-world things and says “This is you, this is what you look like, you burk.” and no one but no one does that quite so overtly as Twoflower, the little man from the Counterweight Continent who goes on holiday and starts a revolution. He doesn’t quite fit in around Ankh-Morpork, as a generally quite dingy and unpleasant city a man with a cheerful disposition and a penchant for offensively colourful shirts stands out a mile, and yet he doesn’t quite fit in at home either.

He is, in every regard, the oddball, and that makes Rincewind a perfect companion because though he looks the part and generally fits in a whole lot better in society, he’s not exactly full-blown wizard material himself. However out of the entire cast of characters from the glorious Discworld series, say if they were laid out à la one of those Simpsons character ensembles, Twoflower would light up like a beacon.

7) Monkey – Time Splitters

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This little monkey packs a serious punch. I mean, it’s literally just a monkey and the game is very happy to tell you this over and over again. From the first Time Splitters, where the Monkey’s entry simply says “It’s a monkey” to Time Splitters 2, where the entry is updated to “Yep, it’s still a monkey”. He’s not a durable character, he’s not even all that great – but he can still wield a gun like it’s nobodies business.

The oddness of the Monkey knows no bounds. From it’s little ooks and aaks, to the fact that it’s simply a joke character, the fact that this Monkey became the mascot of the game is both hilarious and odd. They could have chosen the rather witty characters from this shooter, but they chose the goddamn Monkey!! Also, don’t get me started on just how many times I was killed by this little Monkey in the multiplayer modes.

6) Tex – Red vs Blue

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Amidst the warring teams of idiots duking it out in a box canyon of absolutely no strategic value it seems like a single well-trained individual would be able to massacre both sides* and get out unscathed, but it just wouldn’t be funny like the rest of the series. Red vs Blue began life fourteen years ago in the early days of the internet creativity boom, a crude animation made in the Halo multiplayer. Now it’s immense, and creators at Rooster Teeth are now a major animation studio, thanks in no small part to Tex.

Tex is a badass mercenary gone renegade from an elite military unit who brings a layer of seriousness to the comedy stylings of Red team and Blue team, acting as a “straight-guy” to their “funny-guy”. She’s better trained, in fact she’s the best, and she’s mostly there to save the Blood Gulch boys from all of the terrible forces that want them dead! And she also spends much of that time listening to their arguments and non-sequiturs wondering why she’s going to all the trouble.

*This link has rude words AND AN AWESOME FIGHT SCENE but it gets a little too rude for this site.

5) Tingle – The Legend of Zelda

tingle_artwork_majoras_maskIf you know anything about The Legend of Zelda, it’s that some characters seemingly don’t know when to quit. Even Link, the hero of Hyrule, is barely able to stop for a second. Tingle, meanwhile, depending on the game you see him in, is either a collector, a fan or other. Tingle is annoying and we all get annoyed when we see his stupid face around. Couple that face with the stupid green spandex he wears, damn it Tingle, why are you even in this game?!

But he does serve a purpose, so it’s not all lost. However, just because he serves a purpose, it doesn’t really mean he should be there. In all honesty, he wasn’t too bad in Minish Cap, when really he mostly served as a way to deal with all of the Kinstones. He’s been around since Majora’s Mask, so you can bet your butt that he’s not going anywhere soon. Actually, probably not a bad idea, considering he usually has useful stuff on him. Let the fairy fantasizer be, I guess.

4) Kon – Bleach

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I feel like somewhere in Shonen Jump’s contract there is a requirement for a fluffy and adorable character, or just some bracket with “Grim and Gritty” at one end and “Childish and Adorable” at the other, and all Shonen Jump properties must fall somewhere inside that bracket. So in a world of lost and murderous souls put down by a semi-divine enforcement agency with a solemn duty to save the living from the dead… put in a teddy bear. Make him wear a dress sometimes.

Kon… why? He serves the very occasional purpose for a story, or maybe he just gets a narrative of his own from time to time, and it’s usually better than the filler arcs. He’s a constructed artificial soul placed into a vessel that he brings to life, and while he’s mostly there to occupy Ichigo’s body while he’s on Shinigami duty and saving the world, off-duty he lives inside a fluffy teddy… maybe a lion? On the bright side, he’s just as irritated about the whole thing as we are.

3) Chiaotzu – Dragon Ball

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This one has always confused me, because Chiaotzu is a tiny little human. A tiny human who has always seemingly been able to fly. A tiny human who has always been at the side of Tien and a tiny human who doesn’t look at all like the rest of the humans from Dragon Ball. Now, don’t get me wrong: Dragon Ball is full of ridiculous characters, as we all know and love it for… But Chiaotzu? He seriously seems more out of place than the rest. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it before, but now I think I know why he’s so misplaced.

According to the Dragon Ball Wiki, he’s supposed to be like a Chinese Vampire. From the way he floats around the place, to the way he attacks with his arms stretched out, he seemingly is a perfect fit to this description. Even the white skin and red cheeks are a reference. Dragon Ball is full of myths and fantasy stories: Heck, it was originally even a loose adaptation on The Journey to the West… But Vampires..?

2) Squirrel Girl – Marvel

wolverine-vs-squirrel-girl

Ok, so Marvel have got just about everything in their arsenal so far as superheroes go. Every viable superpower from the incredible to the insignificant, the terrible to the ridiculous. If a reasonable backstory cannot be conjured then the mutations of the X-Men can always fill in the blanks. That Squirrel Girl exists is not a shock, at most it’s a mild surprise, and the only reasonable response is “Seriously?”, to be repeated, louder, when you find out she’s one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe!

Doreen Green is a human with squirrel attributes born of some odd genetic quirk, a long fluffy tail, robust buck-teeth, claws, agility, and yes, the power to talk with squirrels. With this incredible arsenal of abilities she has killed Thanos, bested Deadpool, and turned aside Galactus himself. She’s good enough to beat Wolverine in a straight fist-fight (no claws allowed), she’s got her own Iron-Suit, and amongst the foremost members of the Great Lakes Avengers.

But she’s a SQUIRREL! And she made friends with the World Eater! Deadpool just doesn’t hold up to that, so if you were expecting him on this list then clearly my friend, you don’t know Squirrel Girl.

1) Giygas – Earthbound

Giygas is literally the embodiment of evil. That’s what it represents; that’s what it is. It’s pure hatred in an ethereal form. It’s also a villain that we’ve grown to both fear and respect at the same time. From that menacing music, to the frightful appearance of Giygas, this is a terrifying concept for most people, as he says some of the creepiest dialogue in the game. Words like “I… Feel… H..A..P..P..Y.” Creepy.

However, Giygas is probably one of the most unfitting characters of any video game made to date. Earthbound is renowned for being really surreal and silly. I mean, one of the enemies is the New Age Retro Hippy, who likes to get rulers out and measure… Stuff. We don’t know what, but that’s one of his attacks. Couple this with the colourful characters, the zany plot and the lovable story behind it, Giygas comes completely out of the blue. Even though you spend the whole game preparing for it.


Honourable Mentions

Okay, we’ve seen some downright weird characters today. But don’t you worry, we’re not finished yet. Here are two more examples of characters that really do not fit within their properties… But yet, they kind of do in a story-related fashion. You’ll see what we mean…

Mr Poopybutthole – Rick and Morty

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Here’s an example that makes itself. The little yellow blob in the top hat joins the cast of Rick and Morty during an episode that generates all manner of kooky and poorly conceived characters like Bacon Samurai, Reverse Giraffe and Pencylvester. All of them are introduced through a series of flashbacks that make it seem like they’ve been in the series the whole time, but they’re all parasites that shapeshift into wild characters to prey on those whose trust they acquire.

The way to spot a parasite is to check your memory to see if you have any bad memories of the beloved part of your family. If they’ve never shot you, kicked you in the face or abandoned you to some terrible fate then they’re a parasite, and need to be killed. They clear out the house of all of these crazy and wacky characters they once thought were friends and settle back down to a meal of the crummiest people in the family… and Mr Poopybutthole. Oh but it turns out that he’s real, which we find out when Beth shoots him and hurts a real friend, a friend who has never hurt her.

I guess sometimes it pays to fit in, just a little more. Mr Poopybutthole is there to stand out, to be “wrong” compared to the others, because he’s the punchline to an episode that makes a huge joke out of badly introduced characters who just don’t work.

Khajiit and Argonians – The Elder Scrolls

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Not a character, but there’s something a little jarring about the bestial races of the Elder Scrolls games when you first begin. Having the sapient cats and lizards pop up in the choices for playable races mixed in amongst the variations of Man and Mer starts out as unusual until you get used to seeing them around, and their particular cultural quirks, and in Morrowind being unable to wear boots or helmets was a nuisance, albeit one that made sense.

They never seem more out of place than in Skyrim however. Cold blooded Argonians in the freezing north? Desert dwelling Khajiit treading the snow instead of the warm sands they adore? There are opportunities for them both in the proud nation, more so than for the displaced Dunmer who are hated and shunned by the more nationalist Nords, but I cannot imagine that any one of them would rather be anywhere but home.


Okay, now will you kindly stop sending me pictures of Jelly Jiggler? I understand he’s pretty weird, but we’ve been through this: Some series are just too weird to have any one unfitting character. But alas, we’re done with weirding everyone out with these rather odd characters who happen to just be there. It’s time for you all to help us for our next Top 10 – I wonder how fitting these selections will be?

That’s it for this week, we can finally stop thinking about the evil that is Giygas. Hopefully, we’ll be saved by the unbeatable Squirrel Girl and who knows… Perhaps Chiaotzu will finally have a new use. But what did you make of this really rather unfitting list? Did we do good, or did we do bad? Did we order the list the way you would have? As always, let us know what you think in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


My DMing Bucket List

One of my favourite discoveries of recent months, the works of Creighton Broadhurst and his group Raging Swan Press have served as an inspiration and a great resource for me to call on in the quiet moments where ideas are running short and just need to be given a push until momentum takes over.

As it stands I am not short of ideas, but after spotting this headline I’m prepared to push a few planned articles back a week. Creighton‘s list and mine will differ quite radically though, I’m not so interested in running famous dungeons or campaigns, while I sit and peruse some of the classics from time to time I’m a firm believer in finding my own style and adjusting as I play, rather than finding someone else’s style and adapting it to my own, and after ten years and forty articles I’d like to think I know my style at this point. (more…)


Skyrim: An Adventure

Fans of the Elder Scrolls franchise will be well versed in Skyrim at this point. It’s not exactly a brand new game, but even with the release of the simply stunning rework, I can’t help but just pick up the 2011 RPG behemoth. Created by Bethesda Softworks, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of those titles you can’t help but be drawn into. Since people have been enjoying encounters of random horses before they set foot in the game for real, I thought I’d actually pick up the original Skyrim and just see how much of a difference it makes… When a computer can max it out.

(more…)


Top 10 Gods

For the love of all that is holy, we’re back for another Saturday Top 10. So for God’s sake, pull up a chair and have a gander through these ancient scrolls that we’ve uncovered, telling us all of the power of these beings. They might not always be physical, but they’re certainly righteous in their own way. So whether or not you’re a believer, this list has been made to try and convert you to our beliefs.

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Top 10 – Rituals

It starts with an incantation, sometimes followed with some sophisticated dance. Often requiring some form of reagents, other times it requires sacrifice, we can only be on about one of the most complex types of magics. A mix between pure voodoo, religion and powerful forces unseen in the physical realm, today we’re delving deep in the world of rituals.

To lay some ground rules down for this, a ritual can be anything involving some complex mantra, activity or set-up. It can be easy enough to understand in principle, so long as there’s a reason behind the simplicity, these are rituals which have been prominently displayed in a series, a franchise, or even just as a one off in an episode. It also can feature in a video game, an RPG or otherwise.


Top 10

10) The Rite of Ash’Kente – Discworld

Click for original artist Puggdogg

Click for original artist Puggdogg

Not even the wizards of Unseen University know everything, but they do know a way to contact someone who does. It’s very inconvenient to drag Death from his eternal duties whenever you need an urgent question answered like “What’s that massive new star that keeps getting bigger?” or “What the hell just happened?” and He regularly appears in a bad mood, on one notable occasion still holding the pineapple-cheese stick from the party He’d just been abducted from.

Death is of course subject to wandering off and leaving His family to do THE DUTY, and they also take His place in the circle should the Rite be performed. There are many ways Ash’Kente can be conducted, many of which involve something dying and therefore summon Death by default. The most basic method requires three sticks and 4cc of mouse blood or an egg, but is often dressed up with dribbly candles and octagrams, for the look of the thing.

9) Eidolon Extraction & Cleyra’s Protective Dance – Final Fantasy IX

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Final Fantasy IX, or FF9 as many people know of it, is one of those games that I talk about a lot. Sorry, not sorry. However in this particular instance, it’s worth noting that the game has many different rituals scattered throughout. These are just two of the main ones that affect the game in huge ways:

The Eidolon Extraction ritual is conducted by Zorn and Thorn, the two court jesters to Queen Brahne (and later working for Kuja). They do this to extract the power of the Eidolon’s so their masters can use the power of these beings to wage war across Gaia. They are successful at first, by taking away Princess Garnet’s Eidolons right at the start of the game. They try this at a later point in the game, too.

Cleyra is a settlement of the rat-people, the same species as one of the main protagonists, Freya Crescent. Cleyra is surrounded by an ancient sand storm which keeps their peaceful town safe from all outsiders. To keep the sand storm safe, occasionally they must perform a sacred dance, with music played from their harp. If the sand storm were to disappear, they would be open for attack and thus… war. See how these are all linked, now?

8) Anveena’s Sacrifice – World of Warcraft

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I’d not like to go into too much detail with this one, but this is a condensed version of what this is about. She’s a manifestation of pure energy and was captured and corrupted by Kil’Jaeden’s minions. With the energy of Sunwell Plateau captured and their intent of using all of her existing life force to summon Kil’Jaeden himself into Azeroth via a portal that she would be opening with her own power.

However, true to all heroic characters form, she snaps out of it and she was almost too late. She’s already opened the portal and the humongous demon Kil’Jaeden was already on his way through it. When she realises this, she uses the last of her strength and powers to make the ultimate sacrifice. She seals the portal around his torso, allowing the heroes of Azeroth to unite against this serious danger to their planet. So in short, Anveena both summons and weakens Kil’Jaeden, allowing Azeroth to hold off from disaster and even prevent it… Until Legion happened but we’ll have to wait and see what dangers from the Burning Legion this presents.

7) Summoning Exodia – YuGiOh

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The theory – In order to summon the great Forbidden One you must gather his parts, head and body, and each chained limb. With his entire collection before you he is made whole and you automatically win the game.

The practice – Decks are basically built so that you can do a short series of delay tactics, all while ensuring that the parts come to you quickly and easily so that you slam the lot down on the table and claim a weak victory that no one enjoys.

So far as instant-wins in card games go it’s got a rather nice theory behind it, but sadly Exodia can be readily exploited. If you’re looking for a more interesting instant win then look up M:tG’s Hedron Alignment for something requiring a bit more effort. If you want an enjoyable experience with Exodia it’s readily found in the Abridged Series.

6) Rary’s Telepathic Bond – Dungeons & Dragons Wizard Ritual

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Oh did we ever have some choices here. Amongst the catalogue of spells for all classes and all occasions in the D&D rulebooks, the magic mouths, the unseen servants and floating disks we eventually settled on one that any right minded wizard would have prepped and ready to go every damn day. You see only a right minded wizard should be allowed to do all of the planning and tactical decision making, these stick-waving imbeciles in metal underpants don’t have a clue!

What better way to make your thoughts known (and only amongst your allies) than to have them implanted directly into their minds? The Telepathic Bond allows for immediate mental communication between a full party anywhere in the world (other planes may incur roaming charges) to swiftly and accurately allow the wizard to share his/her ingenious insights into the situation, and to have those insights ignored more profoundly than ever before. A must have for anyone level 10 or above.

5) Summoning Shenron – DragonBall

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Ah yes, summoning Shenron himself can be considered to be a type of ritual. When you think about what a ritual is, it’s something that should be quite hard to obtain, perhaps because of time constraints, perhaps due to resource, or perhaps due to rarity of the objects being used. When you think of it like this, Shenron is in fact a ritual – but how does one simply summon a dragon that will grant you a wish?

You have to go across the Earth and collect all of the DragonBalls. I mean later on, they go off Earth and go to places like Namek and if you count DragonBall GT as canon, then across the freakin’ universe to summon a Dragon. Once you’ve collected all of the DragonBalls, you then have to say an incantation to summon the great and powerful dragon. Only then will you have satisfied the criteria to unleash this massive all-powerful being. I’d wish for unlimited wishes.

4) Human Sacrifice – Goat Simulator

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All shall kneel before Goat.

These days it’s fairly common knowledge that Coffee Stain Studios is built downhill from a ritual circle devoted to the great Hellgoat, whose powers are terrible, and whose physics are all kinds of broke. How else could such a success be made of a dumb little simulator game that doesn’t even work properly? But to activate the power yourself you must first have corpses, delicious corpses to feed the circle!

The most basic setting for Goat Simulator features some of the most interesting locales, like the gravity pit, the skate park, and the Tower, and within each are terrible secrets, but none require such devotion to activate as the circle. Oh sure, you could summon a bunch of lesser goats and do it, but where’s the fun when you could just snatch up the bodies of the screaming and insignificant peasantry to feed your unnatural hunger for power? Goats man, I’m telling you, they’re evil.

3) C’Thulhu Fhtagn – Lovecraft

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Between the dates of March 23  and April 2 every year, those who consider themselves particularly “psychically hypersensitive” and those of a particularly artistic disposition are visited by feverish dreams of sunken cities, ancient temples, and the slumbering gods who wait there. During the investigations of Inspector LeGrasse into related phenomena and the shocking similarities to the bas-reliefs and idols worshipped by disparate cults across the world he is shown a wide variety of nightmarish worship of elder and unworldly things.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

It’s a phrase uttered on degenerate tongues, a fallen band of New Orleans voodoo priests, devil worshipping Esquimaux, in the hasty scribbles of mad artists and the most impassioned verses of drug-addled poets. Those who worship the idols and keep Its name alive are known to practice terrible rituals of blood, and they’re not alone. The people-smugglers of Red Hook demonstrate similar necromantic rites before a squat demonic entity in deep cellars, and in forgotten times the ancient de la Poer family ancestry sacrificed humans in terrible volumes.

2) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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This is a stretch, but bare with us on this one. Oblivion is a game about the whole game leading up to the climactic moment when the big baddy comes out and you fight it off. So far, so standard. But I want you to seriously think for a moment here and let us know what you think in the comments as well. The Elder Scrolls IV is about the summoning of the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon.

Now that’s pretty cool and the game was universally praised (Even with the silliness of some of the glitches and voice issues that characters had)… However, if the whole game was about the summoning of Mehrunes Dagon, then how? Why? Do you remember those portals scattered across Cyrodil? Yes, you’re absolutely right… The whole game was actually a giant ritual to summon the Daedric Prince himself. You’re literally fighting against a massive demonic ritual… And when you stop to think about it, that’s kind of awesome!

1) Nationwide Transmutation Circle – Fullmetal Alchemist

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SPOILERS: Be warned, if you’ve not watched all of Fullmetal Alchemist and fully intend to, then this is a bit spoiler-y. You have been forewarned.

So it turns out the entire nation, the entire place the series is set in, all of it… Was a great big transmutation circle. A massively forbidden one which would see all that was within the circle destroyed. This was something that was put together by the government of the series, much to the chagrin of all of the protagonists. This was a group they had served (although somewhat unwillingly from Edward Elrics case) – and if this transmutation circle was triggered, it would see the destruction of all life within Amestris.

Why on Earth would anybody want to make this massive underground tunnel based transmutation circle, I hear you cry out? Why, of course, it was put together not because they wanted to eradicate life per se, but instead to create a massive, all powerful philosophers stone for the original Homunculus, Father. This was the ultimate plan for the Homunculi throughout… And when you think about a political power having someone that corrupt in charge, it’s enough to make you cringe.


Honourable Mentions

Rituals are one thing, but magic is a realm of almost unlimited possibilities. Although these next two didn’t quite make the cut for our Top 10 list, we felt they needed to at the very least be mentioned. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see powers like these…

Dice Superstitions

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We are creatures of habit and bizarre superstitions. For all that geeks tend towards logic and reason we also tend to observe patterns rather quickly, especially when it comes to dice. We all have that one dice that you can never ever use because it’s cursed, or a particular bag that’s lucky to keep dice in, one person at the table who can never roll a decent number until there’s some obscurely dramatic moment where they get that impossible critical.

Dice, cards, lucky controllers and mouse-mats, little habits and tics like not looking when you roll or stacking them up. We know it doesn’t make a difference, we know that they’re basically all the same, but… it is different, somehow, it’s yours and it’s special in its own way, and we hang on to them… almost ritualistically.

Rituals

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If I were to be very honest with you, the reason we picked this for our honourable mentions is because it’s literally called Rituals. We were running out of ideas at first, but when I saw this title, I decided to have a read through and you know what? It sounds pretty interesting. It’s something I’m going to pick up and do a full review on.

Rituals is a game about exploration and the eery connection between civilisation and nature. It looks like it’s quite a short game, but it’s certainly intriguing enough to make me want to get it, play it, record it and share it with you all… But what do you think? Let us know if you’ve played this in the comments below.


Incantations finished, our reagents are expended. That’s it, we’re done, we’ve used up our surplus of supplies and the demand for our next list is just coming through. Sheesh, but we’re spent for this week, so now it’s over to all of you. Help us decide what we do for next weeks’ Top 10 list. You can bet we can conjure up something great from any of the below choices.

Abra kadabra! Hey ho, it looks like we’ve gotten to the end of our ritualistic list of enchanting words and imagery. Nevermind, that’s just the end of the list, but it needn’t be the end of the discussions. How did we do on our list of rituals? Do you think we got the best ones, or did we miss that important ritual in your life? As always, please remember to leave us a message in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


Top 10 – Companions

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Ah yes, the companion. Unlike the sidekick, the companion is something that might not necessarily follow you because it believes in the same things as you do. Instead, a companion is there because it wants to be by your side, for whatever reason. (more…)


Side-Quests in Games

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I love a good side-quest, to the point where whenever I make a tabletop campaign, or work with modding tools, I add in side-quests. They’re fun and they build upon a story beautifully. Recently, I’ve been replaying through Final Fantasy IX, my favourite game in the series and remembering all of the incredible minute details it presents. Join Timlah as we discuss the importance and the joy of side-quests and what makes a game linear.

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Video Game Review

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Title Screen

The Elder Scrolls, one of Bethesda’s biggest franchises. During its tenure, this series has had 5 single player games, an MMO that has seen two expansions and of course all of the single player expansions as well. It’s no fluke either, as The Elder Scrolls games are constantly known for delivering excellence in video games, no matter how buggy some of them can be. But with this in mind, are they actually any good?

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Top 10 Eccentric Characters

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What do you get when you cross a character whose motives are rather simple and ingenious, with some really garish clothing that really doesn’t suit anyone in the world? Or how about when you cross a character who wears a full suit to a gymnasium and ends up schooling those guys in their workout wear? Generally, you end up with one rather eccentric character, someone who breaks conventional norms.

Yes, the eccentric is often an integral part of a story; They’re there and they help progress the plot, though you might not always expect what they are going to do. This is because the eccentric has a mind of their own, a purpose only they can determine… and we just get to sit back and watch how they go about a rather simple world. This is our salute to the men and women who are seriously out there.


 

Top 10

10. Donkey – Shrek

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It’s hard to be normal when you’re a donkey that talks. There’s no need to sing, or hum, or whistle, or dance, or talk to absolutely everyone until they hate you, imprison you and generally belittle you in any way possible but dammit if you’re not going to try to be friends with them all. Donkey is enthusiastic and so filled with nervous energy that it repeatedly gives him very close to death, one such incident resulted in an unlikely wedding and a brood of half-dragon donkeys.

Comedy foil to Shrek’s serious performance (a rarity for a Mike Myers role) Donkey provides most of the goofiness and very obviously Eddie Murphy style shenanigans, but there’s a quirky charm to Murphy that he lost somewhere around the Nutty Professor sequel that he manages to reclaim as the loveable misfit ass with a love of music and absolutely everyone.

9. Emmet Brown – Back to the Future

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A student of all sciences, Emmet Brown (“Doc”) is the inventor of the very first ever time machine… A freakin’ DeLorean. I’m sorry, I could stop this entry right there. I mean he decided that the best machine to build a time machine around is a DeLorean?! Alright, whatever. Let’s think about some of the less practical aspects of his life.

Well, he came from a rich family – And decided that the best use for all of the money is his Time Travel project. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clear that spending all of that money was a good thing, because he actually managed it… But when you think about it, all of that money is gone and all he’s got to show for it is a DeLorean. With catch phrases such as “Great Scott”, the Doc is certainly more than a little bit out there.

8. Johnny Bravo

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I want you to go to a beach – I know this is a weird thing for a geek to ask a fellow geek (I don’t get along well at beaches personally). I want you now to look around at all of the people on the beach. You’re going to find a man who is similar to Johnny Bravo there. Crass, crude, a little bit rude, but over all they’ll have a very toned body. Does it necessarily make them strong, or manly, or even heroic? Not in the slightest.

But what separates Johnny Bravo from the boys on the beach is his incredibly diverse set of… Shall we say interests? He’ll chase any woman, even alien women, but he’ll always blast out his catchphrase “Ooh mama!” even to his own mama! Sadly, perhaps Johnny Bravo isn’t too different to some of the muscle heads out there, but if there’s one thing he knows how to do better than anyone else, it’s The Monkey. Dance on, Johnny. We salute you!

7. Mr Satan – DragonBall Z

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Mr Satan, or Hercule, if you saw the English versions of DragonBall Z, is a bit of a light relief from the otherwise generally serious show that is DragonBall. On Earth, he is considered the strongest human (Although this is certainly something that belongs to Krillin… I mean even Yamcha could probably beat Mr Satan). No matter, he’s got his own sense of style and with his image to protect, he has plenty of powers which makes people not only question him, but kind of pity him.

For instance, he believes his own hyperbole, which he puts so much conviction into. If you think that’s not bad enough, he worked for ages on developing a technique, which goes by many names. Be it the Dynamic Mess Em Up Punch, the Megaton Punch or otherwise, he believes this is the most powerful punch in the world, to which Android 18 was rather unamused by. Still, it’s with his showmanship attitude and flair for hamming it up that Mr Satan gets through so much. He won the Cell games, did you know?

6. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

“HOOOOOO!” – ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan

Okay, this man is utterly barmy and we have to love him for it. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is a retired professional wrestler, who was infamous for shouting out “Hooooo!”, being damn proud to be American and for being incredibly loud. When he had his eyes set on something, he became hell bent on getting it, often to his detriment. With this said, he is an iconic character from the world of what was then called the World Wrestling Federation.

For the wrestling fans out there, you may be wondering why we chose Hacksaw over the one and only Macho Man Randy Savage? It’s simple: Macho Man was indeed pretty darn out there, incredibly eccentric and outright entertaining as all hell. But “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan didn’t even need clothes, or to constantly say “yeah” to be eccentric. Macho Man is amazing, don’t get me wrong for a second, but the “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan deserves a little respect. Besides, he’s the only character I’ve ever known to be so out there that he’s allowed to carry his 2×4 everywhere with him. I mean that… Everywhere.

5. Professor Elemental

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Character and stage persona of the exceptionally British rapper Paul Alborough, the Professor is a pith helmeted adventurer and steampunk airship captain with an orangutan butler named Geoffrey who’s hopped all over the world, through time and into untold levels of peril. He’s bounced across time, space and a variety of dimensions in pursuit of… something, probably a better brew than he can find at home but it doesn’t seem likely. More recently in pursuit of aforementioned orangutan butler who appears to be missing.

And yes, I got to interview the man behind the lunatic, and I am far too proud of the fact.

Anyway, the man himself is comparatively down to earth and approachable, with only a few traces of the personality bubbling and brimming behind the amicable smile. To say that the Professor is a character is true enough, but it’s a character deeply rooted in his creator, that maniacal and gleeful fiend that Paul Alborough has been sitting on for far longer than he’s been bringing him to the stage.

4. James – Pokemon

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One of the Team Rocket duo, James deserves a spot in this list, simply because he’s a man who happens to have some of the most incredible sense of style and timing. I don’t think he does it for dramatic effect, I think his brain is wired in such a way that he only sees himself being prepared for any event. Of course, with Team Rocket, the plan is pretty simple: Capture that Pikachu as best they can.

So whether he’s dressing up as a lady and having a larger bosom than anyone else, or he’s crying over his belt buckle, James is a man who puts his sense of fashion first. He’s faked amnesia, because he sort of believed his own amnesia, at least whilst it was convenient. He’s an oddball, he’s not really afraid to revel in that fact. Still, if you’re going to steal a Pikachu from some snivelling children, the best thing to do it in is a hot air balloon in the shape of a Meowth face, right? No one will see THAT coming at all…

Oh and James is loyal, but in bizarre ways too. He once gave up his entire bottle cap collection for Meowth… And not only that, he even cares for his opponents, having told Ash that he’d rather take an honest Pokemon battle over underhanded tactics. If nothing else, James does his dastardly deeds with style and class.

3. Ruby Rhod – The Fifth Element

Chris Rock in an elegant evening dress with multiple hair bobbles and a stick mike should paint a clear enough picture in your mind for interstellar DJ extraordinaire, lover to the stars, in the stars and personality super-titan Ruby Rhod but it doesn’t quite capture the character. I don’t actually think words are adequate to sum up the strut, the wildly swinging pitch of his voice, the leopard print that somehow seems to have reached into his mind and taken control.

Even once the action steps up several notches, bullets start flying and bombs start being thrown around indiscriminately, Ruby Rhod’s panic stricken screams somehow manage to keep the same level of ferocious energy, and faced with the end of the world and being one of the only people who can stop it he’s still giving it every ounce of energy he has, and that’s a lot of energy.

2. The Mad Hatter – Alice in Wonderland

Interestingly, the Hatter started this list much lower down until someone screamed “change places”.

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Tea is a noble enough pursuit, some might even call it a lifestyle. In a world entirely dominated by pervasive madness we find a man who seems to have particularly taken it all to heart, master of ceremonies to the eternal tea party in the middle of the woods, a mere throwaway character in the original tale who has become some great mythological figure to fans of Lewis Carol’s epic. The Mad Hatter has seen many hundreds of iterations, including DC’s villain Jervis Tetch, variations in Tim Burton’s interpretation, Once Upon a Time, and the terrible pawn of the Jabberwock in the Zenescope darkly reimagined version.

But the man himself was of little consequence to the story compared to the many weird and wonderful characters, the Red Queen, the March Hare, the Mock Turtle, and yet ask someone to name a character from Alice in Wonderland how many would say the Mad Hatter before Alice. But still, there are more important things to discuss over a nice hot pot of tea, such as the time for example, and how much of it there is.

1. Sheogorath – The Elder Scrolls

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The Daedric Prince of Madness himself makes it to our number one slot, because of many reasons, but I’m going to focus purely on a few things. Shall we begin with this demons attire? As you can see above, his demonic armour is a little bit of a miss-mash. He likes the colour purple, a colour of royalty, but the armour seems to be a little bit… Unfinished? But he’s a man of class, he walks with a cane, with well kept hair and a trimmed beard. He loves his luxury and it shows in everything that he does…

But then, we move on to how this demon talks to you. He talks to you as if you have even the slightest bit of an idea what he’s going on about… But there’s a lot of method in everything that he says. You feel as if he has an important message behind everything he says, so let’s end this list on quotes from the master of madness:

“You are the best Septim that’s ever ruled. Well, except for that Martin fellow, but he turned into a dragon god, and that’s hardly sporting…”

“Do you mind? I’m busy doing the fishstick. It’s a very delicate state of mind!”

“The game is a foot. Or a leg. Or all manner of severed limbs!”

 


 

Honourable Mentions

Woah, hold your horses there. We’re not done with our list just yet. There were way more characters that we considered, but we thought we’d throw in these two extras as usual. They might not have made the list of our Top 10 Eccentric Characters, but they certainly are eccentric in their own right. A little out there, or even wholly bizarre, these two deserved a nod from us at the very least.

The Taunting Frenchman – Monty Python

ARGH. It was so hard to narrow all of Monty Python down to a single, solitary character, a single eccentric individual that serves as a prime example of the comedy collaborative that sums up what British eccentricity is. Had we called this list some like “eccentric groups” or something…

~sigh~

Anyway, such is life, and so we find lurking in those most honourable deeps the continental gargoyle, cow thrower, ballistic flatulator and general all round silly person the Taunting French Guard from The Holy Grail. Why? Well there was probably a better pick, but in addition to the creative insults carved from the frenchman’s second language and the ballistic use of cows, you can’t help but love the sniggering behind the crenelations and general helmet-tapping, raspberry blowing, barefaced cheek of John Cleese’s most memorable moment from the film.

Jayne Cobb – Firefly

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It was a tough call between Jayne and Wash, and while Wash’s fascination with kids toys and Hawaiian shirts was great, somehow we just couldn’t pass up on the man they call Jayne.

Gun toting for some is a profession, a job, a calling perhaps, rarely a hobby, but there’s just no describing the way with which Jayne embraces the thug life. While he does not fit in with the unconventional sort in a conventional way, with his permanently fixed dour and/or grumpy expression, there’s no small amount of pleasure to be found in the grin his bobble-hat brings to his down-turned face, or the way he feels that a gun is adequate exchange for a person.


 

Okay, let me try to get a hold of this list. We need a dose of daily sanity to counteract this list of whacked out nutjobs, but hey – At least they have their purposes. Sure, some of the characters are literally written to be eccentric, such as Sheogorath, but at least he fits the mould so beautifully. Now I turn to you to help us cast our vote to next week:

For next weeks list, if you’d like to get involved and write it with us (Joel and I get together on Thursdays to discuss the list), then please just drop us an email. As always, thank you very much for reading, please remember to vote for next weeks’ Top 10 and let us know what you thought of this list. Did you enjoy it? Were there any characters we missed, or you felt deserved higher on the list? Perhaps you feel some of our character choices were spot on? Let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. As always, keep being you: because you rock, much like the characters in this list!