You have acquired some really great articles on Dungeon Mastering, and merely adequate ones about the failures of Occupy Wall Street. Thank you for creating Yahoo! Games (including Wordracer, a game which allowed me to defeat my father and forever ruin my family’s power dynamic).
In the wrong font FLICKR looks like FUCKR,
I didn’t much like Battlefield 3.
I’ve been recovering from a back injury, and that means a ton of writing and videogame rentals. Unless a game is truly onerous I’ll get through it (with exceptions including Dead Island, which was horrid, aesthetically incoherent, and filled with hackers — I only got to the second act before returning it. My character had a pistol, which she kept dutifully in its holster 95% of the time. The fact she was attacked by hundreds of zombies didn’t change her resolve; it was for only to be used when she was angry*.)
Battlefield 3** tells the story a good soldier not trusted by the military establishment. He fights a terrorist threat called the PLR*** who have one thing in common: they are all very far aware and hard to make out.
Battlefield 3 was optimized for people who:
-Buy videogames (or don’t mind paying another 15 bucks to the right to play online)
-Have really huge TVs
-Care about another squad of interchangable soldiers getting, oh no, slain by nukes! Just like Modern Warfare 4 which came out in 2007!
There was a solid sequence where you’re a fighter-plane copilot; it was breathtaking to take off of an aircraft career. But the dog fight turned into jamming down the “anti-missiles/fire missiles” buttons until I won.
It wasn’t until the “Shoot white targets on the ground, from an untouchable spot in the sky” sequence that I really started hating the game.
Spec Ops: The LIne already did this sequence. (The following video is a HUGE spoiler for the game, but if you’re not a huge videogamer, feel free to watch it. If you are, rent or buy Spec-Ops; it’s fantastic).
<iframe width=”560” height=”315” src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/-b7TaLjdXMc?rel=0” frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen></iframe>
When this “Shoot the guys who you can’t see, from your American-tech fortress”, I started rooting for the PLR. They may be evil, but at least they weren’t team Orbital Lasers.
After that was a shitty tank sequence. In this sequence, I was told to turn on an infrared camera…which couldn’t detect the sun. Or fire.
It’s not that I dislike the series. Battlefield: Bad Company and its sequel focused on a small, dysfunctional squad. Usually separated from the powerful US military, they took on neo-superpower Russia, or military despots.
Also, multiplayer was free. I mean, what else is my 9.90 a month buying me?
No videogame survives contact with the apathy.
*This is, in general, a solid firearms policy.
**Which came out in not 2013, yes I’m aware.
***Which would be no match for my beloved GLA, of the Command and Conquer: Generals series. They have toxin tractors. Isn’t that great?
Why state film incentives hurt.
While retroactively removing tax-laws is wrong, here’s my take:
Films have been made in Hollywood for nearly a hundred years. 95% of the industry picked up their stuff and moved here*. If we continue supporting and utilizing out of state rates, we’re playing whackamole with our entire lives.
I’ve seen too many people here who “just didn’t have time” to start a family, or keep one together. That problem only gets worse if they’re worried about a commute to Wichita instead of Torrance. The states don’t benefit from huge refunds (unless your crew is buying thousands and thousands of dollars of crafty). The jobs won’t last (I’ve seen over a thousand One-Day PA jobs in the last year from every state in this union, but you can’t making a living as a PA in Oahu.)
Films are exportable if we let them be. Unlike auto workers, we don’t have to worry about The 400 Blows going #1 in the box office, sweeping out Infernal Affairs(#3) and La Dolce Vita (strong #2 in revival). American audiences still love American films.
But we shouldn’t have to choose between making movies and making a life.
*Excluding wonderful women like Allie Olson and Allison Brie, who are lucky enough to be from Pasadena. Pasadena: “San Diego minus the ocean.”
It is midnight-01 here, another day in the rapidly dwindling February 2013. And I’ll never be the same me I was today.
And maybe I’ll regret the lack of weightlifting, or the people I didn’t call, or the novella I left in my head, but for now I don’t.
Because I’m not restless. I’m not heartsick, or lonely, or hopeless; not short of funds (for the time being). I’m less worried than I’ve been since Christmas.
I know I’ll be stressed by something by the end of the week, and wonderfully surprised by something else. The script I just finished has a not-great-enough finale, but with enough work I’ll nail it.
I need to spec something new for all the writing fellowships. Something will catch my eye.
Tomorrow will be difficult, and brilliant, challenging and wholesome and the tiniest bit less than I can handle. There are things I’ll over-embrace, and others that will fall by the wayside. (Thanks to the Podbay app on my phone, the general cleanliness of my apartment won’t be one of them).
Is this post vague? Yes. Is it funny? There was that last paragraph, but it was more name droppy than truly comical.
See you tomorrow, loyal Tumblerians.
See you today.
Thank you for helping me make Aspergers cool again
Thank you for helping me make Aspergers cool again; we have begun principal photography on My Life as an Aspie!
Lessons on GMing for 3: Drinking, Knives, and Odd Facial Hair
BAR PATRON: …We got moonshine, too. Good stuff. Don’t drink too fast, you’ll go blind. Don’t drink too slow, you’ll go deaf.
SILK THE THIEF: That’s dangerous.
BAR PATRON: What?
When we last saw our adventurers (see: Dungeon Mastering for Eight), they had defeated the curse of the minotaur from the Temple of the Bull God. The group split off. (All the players not-available helped return the villager, Meredith F, back to Brumpton.)
As the ranger Arodef and the thief Silk returned to town, they encountered fellow Adventurers’ Guildmate Tokk of the Iron Hawk temple. He had been dispatched to rid Goblin Cave 5-20x of its unseasonable infestation.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Tokk: Tokk, played by an old GM buddy of mine, was an Initiate. An expansion class not featured in core game, he fights without a weapon. His alignment is chaos (every session, he gets XP if he “Proves his Kung-Fu is superior”). Tokk, who joined the Iron Hawks to take financial pressure off his widowed mother, was orphaned again by the Flaming Tigers, a barbarous group of warrior monks. They razed his temple and ended his training abruptly, which explains the chip on his shoulder.
At this point, I had each player describe the bonds; how did they know the other two, what would their relationships be, and what will they learn? (I imagined that with three people, each relationship could get some good screen time).
Tokk looked down on Arodef for being a bit of a space-case, and thought Silk was weak and needed protection. Silk saw Tokk as kind of a rube, and Arodef as an interesting mark. Arodef respected Tokk as a man with a very low environmental footprint (as Tokk claimed ‘to not particularly dislike nature’). She wanted to teach Silk the ways of the forest.
In actual game play, the trio dynamic was amazing. The characters each went around things differently (schmoozing, eye rolling, seducing, and threatening), and I got a much better handle on things than with eight (where it was important to be loud and unsubtle).
The players had one clue from Meredith; whoever kidnapped her had odd facial hair.
They confronted the Administrator of the local Adventurer’s Guild, Jourmand, whose mustache went up and down like a sine curve. Silk informed him that his mustache was unfashionable, with the wrong end up; Jourmand corrected it.
The players showed tact in asking Jourmand what the story was, and in detailing their adventures in the Temple of the Bull God. Tokk chimed in, explaining that he was fully ready to take on better challenges (utilizing a bond he created; “Jourmand isn’t utilizing me properly”). Jourmand agreed, and told him to travel with his current companions, and investigate any kidnappings.
Jourmand paid them a small gold stipend for their mission, and, having witnessed their group dynamic, moved their pins from the countryside to a circle simply labeled “Doom”.
(I really enjoy Jourmand as a mixture of Charlie’s Angels’s Bosley, taxi dispatcher, and a frustrated police chief. Much more interesting than getting quests off a bulletin board!)
It was evening, so the players decided to investigate the inn.
The place itself was shitty (with don’t-ask floors and arrow holes around the dart board). Most of the locals were drunk or getting there. After mistakenly flirting with a farmer, Silk approached a group of small-time hustlers.
They’d talk, but they wanted something interesting; getting guild adventurers to stab themselves was big entertainment. Arodef managed ten mumblety pegs, and Tokk beat her record with 14.
Behind the bar, they found out a likely suspect: Charbennoux Wool.
Arodef (with an amazing 12 knowledge check) knew all about CW…because they were cousins. Charbennoux, currently a guide-trainer for the Pathmakers Protection Agency, was raised by a human/elf couple. When his father died, his elven mother (Arodef’s aunt) had little regard for the young man, and cast him into the woods.
Charbennoux had been hunting at his cabin, a few day’s travel outside of Brumpton. He also was known for his odd beard and pet bear, Clovis.
The adventurers set out, but the journey was snowy and perilous. They arrived at dusk to the snowy hilltop cabin of Charbennoux. The cabin itself was ringed with traps and the carcasses of dead deer; Charb clearly enjoyed his hunting holiday.
Although they gave many contradicting reasons for their visit, he welcomed his cousin and their friends into his home. Both sides lied about what they knew and what they felt, but it wasn’t clear if the half-elf was being evasive or just outdoorsmanly.
Tokk snuck around outside to investigate Charbennoux’s smoke house, and was ambushed by a bear! With three feet between him and a bear blocking his only exit, he took up a defensive stance. Not willing to hurt the creature, he was torn at by its claws and took some minor damage. He threw a pile of meat at it, and tumbled over its back to escape…
Only to trip. Startled by the commotion, Arodef threw herself in front of the bear, who was unwilling to attack its childhood friend.
The Great Hunter, angered at the ingratitude, told the monk and ranger to leave. The thief somehow talked his way into staying, and they sat down together; Silk, Clovis, and Charbennoux.
Of course, Silk’s dinner was poisoned. He barely stumbled outside before being set upon.
His companions, who had skulked around the property examining traps, saw this, and joined the battle!
Silk threw a dagger which caught in Clovis’s shoulder. The betrayed Hunter drew a huge bow, and aimed at his cousin…but was distracted by Tokk. Tokk took two arrows in the chest, but continued his charge.
Arodef, with a heavy heart, fired a barrage at her cousin. Charbennoux pulled them out with a grimace.
Silk kept Clovis distracted, while Tokk closed with Charbennoux. The hunter grabbed a skinning axe, and swung, taking a huge chunk out of his opponent.
Tokk, in response, put the entire axe through Charbennoux’s head, bisecting it.
Clovis ran away, trailing blood into the night. The party chose not to pursue; finding a bear in the woods would be too difficult at this hour. Silk saved Tokk’s life, whispering “you owe me”, and rewriting their bond (Tokk now owes Silk a life debt).
The players searched the cabin, distraught over the failure of their diplomacy. Arodef mourned her cousin; Silk found a secret room under the cabin; Tokk burned Charbennoux’s body.
The room revealed the Pathmaker’s secret plans; when there wasn’t enough danger, they would drum some up. The plans were signed by the mysterious A.B. They also found a few minor magic items, gold, and plenty of jerky.
We took a brief break; all adventurers increased to level 2.
Back in town, the players spent their gold carousing. It was a wild party, and they heard many rumors from drunken adventurers and Pathmakers: their was a Kumite to the northeast, canceled due to the decimation of the Bull God Temple; there was once a group called The Encroachers, who Fought Evil with Evil and nearly led to the dissolution of the Adventurer’s Guild; The Pathmakers and a caravan would soon be headed to the capital.
Jourmand told the group to investigate AB; the documents they brought him would allow him to make a small case that Charbennoux was corrupt, but he’d need more information if people started asking around.
The players wormed their way into the Pathmaker’s caravan, by bribing the half-ogre captain Krok with a “magical item”. Silk implied it would cause virility; it was actually the pendant of the minotaur, which will definitely cause problems down the line.
Overall, adventuring with three people allowed a much more character focused game. I avoided the specialties the party lacked (mysticism and religious power), while giving them opportunities to do what they do well (carouse, avoid traps, and cover the outdoors). Disagreements of what to do weren’t dominated, as they sometimes are in each group; it was easy to see who was and wasn’t getting screen time. Although I normally like four, three adventurers is a perfectly reasonable amount for a jaunt in a Dungeon World.
Lessons on DMing for Eight
If you have a broad enough group of friends, you’ve probably thought about DMing for them. But hopefully not all at once.
Aiding me tonight was Dungeon World and nine printed character sheets. Not helping me: the fact only one of them had played an RPG before.
I had a vague idea of an adventure arc (League of Adventurers is secretly corrupt) and a module (The Heart of the Minotaur). So first was explaining to everyone basic stuff:
Name your character, give them a description (selected from options in the upper right corner of the sheet). Getting stats done didn’t take tremendously long, maybe 40 minutes for eight people.
Lesson 1: Your system will guide you. Your players create the content.
What really got the party started was asking personal questions. I went around and asked everyone one or two, from “What are you most proud of?” to “What’s your biggest blunder”). This not only gave me some plot hooks (the Thief mentioned that he once escaped a planned wedding by hiding in his own wedding cake), it also got me a sense of what interested the group.
A third benefit was that nobody’s answers were perfect; infighting and disagreement over motives can give you time to think, which is crucial when you’re handling eight actions!
I started the group in an interview with Jourmand, the Head of the Adventurer’s Guild. (I figured that a giant guild of adventurers would explain why eight people are traveling together; I want the campaign to explore what it [i]means[/i] to go out and raid ancient tombs.)
Jourmand was fussy, short tempered, and sneering, and was utterly unconvinced that the players could work together, let alone not-die in the Tomb of the Bull God. But after some rhetorical magic (“what if we’re better than the worst other group isn’t?”), the players exited town and headed to the location. Snow began to fall.
Lesson two: Introduce concepts one at a time.
We entered the overland movement phase, allowing the Ranger and Druid to shine.
Then, I gave them their first physical obstacle: a 25 foot gorge. The players did a lot of work for me, arguing about how to jump across, who to tie rope to, and whether or not they’d sacrifice each other. (The Barbarian even sliced the rope while the Cleric was crossing, out of spite, splitting the party!) While one group fell to the mouth of the gorge, the other encountered a group of wolves…
Lesson three: Split groups require quick spotlights.
The fallen group (which was conveniently seated all in a row) find a way into the mouth of the minotaur cave, and deal with a potential avalanche. The Druid transformed into a wolf (with a roll that had him half covered in feathers). The druid-wolf convinced the others that his adventuring companions weren’t tasty, and the wizard sprayed them with fake blood.
The groups reunited, with the Barbarian and the Cleric exchanging words.
Lesson four: Puzzles require a world.
I then tried to do a Complete The Line stock market puzzle. (Bull God, Bull Market…) It didn’t make much sense in the context of the world, required out of game knowledge, and stumped the players for a bit. Bleh! The “how do we get across the gorge/down into the gorge” was good, since the players could grok it and use their abilities.
The Barbarian took a forward and thoroughly incorrect solution. Instead of saying ‘no’ and poisoning the room, I just gave her a -1 intelligence penalty and continued on with a big ol’ goblin fight.
Lesson five: Big groups require big space!
I had the goblins come through an open door. The paladin kept his shield up, and it was hard to explain in the fiction why that wouldn’t work.
Sunken arenas with archers work better.
Lesson six: Skip to the good parts!
It was nearing midnight, we were all drinking, and the dungeon was pretty complex.
So I summarized.
“After a rollicking adventure we’ll probably handle in a flashback, you emerge to the end of the dungeon.”
Good shit! One final puzzle, a plot twist (is Jourmand all he appeared to be?!), and the players solved the mystery.
Lesson seven: Quit when the getting’s good.
Next time I run the game, I’ll be doing it with five. Five is reasonable. Eight is insane.
Inaugural Poem 2012:
Inaugural Poem 2012:
To the 12-point-2 million who see sleep as their fortress,
The sun is no ally.
It sends volleys o’er the gates of our powerfulness, and we
tumbled out of whatever denial we can coax from melatonin or Mad Dog.
Today is the birthday of a dreamer. A hero, a man of faith,
raised up and shot dead.
Today adequacy has defeated repugnance, and Our King can defend the White House against a siege of antagonism.
The drones are Lancelot. Shit, I don’t know.
I majored in fucking journalism
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A surprisingly needed clarification
I don’t know why I even have to say this,
But I am not famous actor Adam Goldberg. Hence “Ultrablog”. He’s a great dude, hope to meet him soon, but I did not star in the Hebrew Hammer.
Help Me Help The Oscars Reach You!
Hey everyone! I just applied to be a
card carrying member of White America Social Media Assistant at the Oscars!
Here’s what I wrote!
Do You like Click Self-Referential Emails for Social Media Assistants?
My name is Adam. I am very web 2.3 savvy (I was web 2.0 savvy but Chrome updated). If you need to promote large award ceremonies, or even just statue presentations, I am your “Man” (captalizing Man is very Web 2.3).
Social media stuff:
Twitter: @AdamUltraberg (Twitter, please follow!)
Now all we have to do is have one of us get hired as the Hiring Manager at the Oscars, and then I can
get even with Megan show everyone how social medium I am!
Yours in Tumblr,
Hello to my 15 new followers!
How’s it going, Tumble Gang? I’ll do my best to be worthy of your follows. Have a great week!
Thing I forgot I said
- Erin: Spencer may I use my bird to deliver a message to Mango?
- Spencer: I don't think you have a bird.
- Erin: I have a bird! It says "One Bird."
- Spencer: Oh that's token. Yeah yeah you could. Ok...she's talkin about Quall's Feather Token you guys. It's a magical item that summons a bird that can deliver a message. That's what's happening right here. There's your behind the scenes.
- Erin: uhhh...I'm sorry.
- Spencer: No no I'm just explaining the game because it's hard...
- Erin: You're just frustrated.
- Spencer: I just sound like a little bitch sometimes sorry.
- Erin: No no no no.
- Jeff: Mulraine! This is the perfect time to summon a bird.
- Spencer: Two of your friends lie flat on their back...
- Jeff: Yeah yeah go get that bird.
- Erin: Well I wanted to deliver a message to Mango and let him know that Buttsalot is his son. The bird.
- Adam Goldberg: Use your mouth to deliver that message.
- Dan: Shut up Adam.
Luck and Light: For Dan Harmon’s 40th Birthday
I’m lucky to have met Dan Harmon, and “I’m lucky” isn’t just a phrase. We wouldn’t be friends if the following hadn’t happened:
· Someone didn’t offer a free ticket online (my paypal was borked temporarily),
· I hadn’t been free that day, or found parking
· I hadn’t run into a group of friends sitting near the front of the Meltdown Theater
· Dan didn’t invite someone on stage to read Bones Harmon’s emails
· I hadn’t been booked on Community (which led to me watching Community, which led to me loving Community)
· He hadn’t invited me out months later.
Since then, I’ve had the honor of sharing the stage with him on a regular basis.
The thing is, Dan treats me differently than anyone else in Hollywood does. I’ve been booked as Nerd #3, Confused Nerd, Nerd at ComicCon (three times), Crowd Nerd, Chess Nerd #3…and never once been called a nerd on set. Maybe everyone assumed it’d be redundant, or that I was just a super cool guy wearing glasses for the chance to work on Geography Club.
Dan asked, then implied, then diagnosed that I had Aspergers. Every week, I’d be invited or invite myself on stage, and we’d do a bit, and we’d commune. Me, background artist, and the executive producer of one of the most daring shows ever made. Someone who saw fellow geekship, who called me out on shit in a context other than “you’re perfect, it’s everyone else’s fault” or “you’re fired.”
Dan Harmon has had a hand in some of the most defining comedy of my childhood, from The ‘Bu to the D&D Dead Alewives sketch. And he’s done some of the best of my adulthood, from Community to Heat Vision and Jack, to Gumbel and Karate P.I. That’s not why he’s a great person.
That’s not why he’s a great friend, and if it was just that, this post would be a funny picture with Zazzle.com graphics.
The thing that’s unique about Dan Harmon is he tells the truth. In a town with a hundred-year history of deception and skullduggery, Dan is a bastion of truth. If he thinks you’re weird, he’ll call you weird, and admit to being weird himself. If your ideas are great, he’ll laugh. If something sucks, he’ll tell everyone. Just check his Facebook job posts; in front of thousands of people, he openly notes his trepidation about new networks. This isn’t yelling about the nude emperor Tinseltown, It’s building a bullhorn.
And that’s bit him on the ass, sure. There’s no point playing What-If, and thinking about how DH could’ve saved Gwen Stacy and gotten another season of Acceptable.TV. There a lot of people in Hollywood who did their job, got their notes and went home at the end of the day. Their names are there, on IMDB, and their families and friends knew them, but so what?
Through engagement, through wit, through honesty and sheer force of personality, Dan created the cult of the showrunner. And if it’s a cult, I am a cultist. Gladly so. Because an honest Dan is worth a thousand of the bug-filled suits that walk the corridors of Los Angeles. Easily.
There’s a wonderful bit in the Talmud, about how the Torah was delivered:
It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
For a lot of Harmenians, or Channel 101ers, for a lot of people in general, success in Hollywood may as well be across the ocean. It may as well be on the other side of the Sierras, buried in the sands of El Mirage, on furlough in Louisiana, in the trades the same was space travel is in the Times.
One June evening at Meltdown Comics, that thing was very near to me. That thing that burns in everyone who comes out here for the right reason:
I want to do this without losing who I am. I want to share with the world without demeaning it, or pandering it, or hating it.
As little as he might like to admit it, Dan brought us this light. I wish him all the luck in the world as he brings that light across America.
I hope you get a chance to see it glow like I have.
Happy 40th, Dan.
 Except the Halloween episode, where I dressed as Sarah from Labyrinth but didn’t say much of anything, a few ones I was cut out of, and the weeks I just didn’t have anything to add.
 Or one crew member on Bunheads said, “Moving Furniture”.
 We still want a finale. You listening, Jorma?
 Mary Jane would’ve been Green Goblin, and Acceptable.TV would run 6 seasons under Executive Producer Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross.
An Open Letter to my Ass
An apology is in order.
Last night was the fault of my shoulders (the place of pride; anyone with stooped shoulders isn’t too proud). I heated up the defrosted bag of chicken ???s, which appeared to be entirely fat. I was smart enough to try and ‘leak’ them before eating.
Pretty sure that if we didn’t get food poisoning, then we at least ate 300% of the recommended daily saturated. Which would’ve been fine if it wasn’t for the wine and cheese party. (I guess you should apologize to kidneys, if you see’em; there’s probably a medicine interaction there, or they are not doing their jobs.)
The night fever thing probably didn’t help, but those are annual and unpredictable. On the upside: collapsing onto the floor with weakness is a great prep for eventual heart attacks! Consider this a firedrill for death.
Brain: look up trendy Med-alert bracelets that we can do something with. The goal is to be cool, but not too-cool, and also not to die.
Ass: sorry I mentioned other people in this open letter. I promise a lot of standing in the coming weeks and months. And if this gut pain continues, we look forward to sleeping on our side!