I’ve got a massive backlog of news stories and such that I’ve been saving for blogs, but… well… some of it’s outdated (what with the elections over, thank the Lord that Sharron Angle lost!) some of it is boring, and some of it is minor yim-yam.
Feel the Power of Deletion!
I’ll see what I can do about commentary in the future, but really, it’s so time-based and continuously cynically sarcastic that I get sick of it. I don’t care to be a moderate version of Rush Limbaugh, or some other equally militaristic commentator, so I’m shunting that to the side for now.
Don’t worry, I’ll still have strong opinions at times, but I’m not going to be overtly looking for fights for a while.
‘Tis not the season.
Anywho, I thought I’d talk about some happier things…
Like how awesome Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) was.
I really like this image, for some reason.
This isn’t a review, though there might be one in the pipe for later, but I am going to be quite frank, if brief.
This film is gorgeous. Easily some of the best cinematography in the series, and a great example for films period. The music is subtle, the sound effects effective (har har), and the special effects top-notch.
The acting is so drastically improved from Phoenix it’s shocking. Subtlety and realism is now actually a part of their repertoire. The emotions in the scenes seemed true and not some forced facade, and I’m now confident that, if they so desire, they could move into other films competently.
My favorite thing about the movie, however, is its focus on subtlety and character. This is infused in every part of the film. For a blockbuster, this is one low-key and contemplative bit of cinema. Shots linger on faces and scenery, giving a sense of place, weight and context so many modern films lack. This means that when the action does break out at times, mostly near the beginning and end of the film, the sharp cuts and shaking cameras are actually meaningful and impacting. The effect was novel with the Borne Identity, but it was heavily overused. It wore out its welcome some time ago, but I’m glad to see someone use it well.
The film has a definite "Empire Strike Back" feel.
Some people find the camping scenes boring, and cite them often as the worst parts of the book, and they do stretch out the middle of the film, but I loved these scenes. I didn’t need a film that jumped from one event to the next. The series has had plenty of that. We’re heading into the final stretch of the story, and this calm before the storm (so to speak) is necessary. I almost think it’s inevitable that the final film just can’t live up to the skillful implementation of all the parts of this movie. This is the best made Potter film, and probably will remain so even if it is overshadowed by the wow effect of the action in the finale.
On a final note, this film managed to completely confuse my opinion of the director. He was behind the worst film in the series (Order of the Phoenix) and now the best in the series (Deathly Hallows, P1). How that is possible, I’ll never know.
My D&D game is going fantastically. It helps that we have two different campaigns running at the same time, one with Adrian DMing and one with me DMing. The thing I’m most proud of is how well I feel I’m able to infuse the world with story and history. I could do better with encounter structure, I think, and I’m working on that, as well as filling out the world with better minor NPCs alongside the more detailed major characters. I really need to make a back log of NPCs that I can throw in at a moments notice if they’re needed.
Of course what has me most happy is how my game went, despite me still being sick and sore-throated (I couldn’t talk the next day. Ow pain.)
I dropped a number of hints through NPCS for the heroes that there was a tower on there way to Ferron that was rumored to have treasure in it. They eagerly stopped by when the top of the tower appeared over the treetops along the side of the road, only to find themselves locked inside.
Of course, it was a haunted tower. They found a magical ledger that, when asked the proper questions, revealed that the tower was an old high-security prison during the time of the previous kingdom. Each floor of the five story tower above the first was a cell for a single, very important inmate. They were able to call up the profiles of these inmates with detailed notes on their psychology and why they were imprisoned there. These profiles held valuable clues for how to defeat the ghosts on each floor, with each floor essentially being a massive and often quite deadly puzzle.
The second floor was the home of a mass-murderer/painter with ties to an important family of a neighboring kingdom. He had particular ways he had killed his different kinds of victims. There were paintings all around the room of the man’s victims, and every two turns four facsimiles of those painted victims would crawl out of their paintings. One of the facsimiles did not match up with the murderer’s MO, and if the heroes recognized it, they could attack it and not get damaged when they would be suddenly attacked two turns later. If they hit the wrong facsimile, they would get automatically attacked by the fake victim.
To beat the room they had to find the inmate’s self-portrait amongst the other paintings and destroy it. The paintings shifted positions every round.
The third floor had a trap designer who had gone made after one of his traps had killed his fiance. Sufficed to say, there was more to the back story than that, but that’s the gist of it. Five of his lover’s items were located in his chambers, and four of them had traps associated with them. The heroes had to find the correct item (a simple wedding ring) and throw it into the ghostly version of the trap that killed the man’s fiance. The man would run after the ring and get sucked into his own trap and die the way she did.
The fourth floor had a wizard who had tied the souls of children to dolls and then let other children play with those dolls as well as a variety of knives, pins, etc. In other words, he had the other children do the murdering for him unwittingly (for his vicarious pleasure).
Each hero was transported to an alternate version of the same room. In the room were eight marionettes hovering in midair and a table with knives, pins and scissors, as well as a portion of a riddle. The riddle, when complete, indicates that none of the puppets were the right target. The heroes had to destroy the rods that would be used to control the puppets. If they attacked or otherwise damaged the puppets, they would hurt a random friend. I made them go out of the room and take turns at the table with me to keep the effect of being separated more real.
As each hero figured it out, one more pair of lines in the riddle was revealed, as well as two alphabetical letters of the victor’s choosing. I especially loved how well that particular puzzle went. It went perfectly. They did lots of damage to one another while experimenting, and it was fascinating to watch each one figure it out in their own way.
The final floor was the home of a leader of a rebellion against the king. Near the center of the room was a crown on a stone pedestal and instructions carved in the stone telling the heroes to crown the “true King.” When they picked up the crown, eight figures appeared around them around the room. One was the True King, one was the rebellious leader as he presented himself, and one was the rebellious leader as he truly saw himself. All of the others were various levels of convincing fakes. If they figured out they were supposed to crown the real king, and not the rebellion leader at all, then they would face a battle against a weakened version of the rebellious leader. If they crowned the leader as he presented himself, or one of the fakes, they would fight a battle against a middling-powered version, and if they crowned the leader as he saw himself, he would be super powered against them.
They almost figured out that they were supposed to crown the real king, but ended up crowning the rebellious leader the way he saw himself. A vicious battle ensued, but they managed to defeat him anyway.
On each floor they received a haunted item of various uses.
They then proceeded back down to the bottom floor where they found themselves still trapped in the tower. However, the names of the inmates were written in glowing letters on a back wall, and crossed out, with cracks running all throughout the wall. They broke through to find the ghost of the Warden who had gone mad when the other guards left during the last great war. Fearful of the outside world, and fearful of the inmates, he walled himself in his room causing himself and all the inmates to starve to death. The ghost of the warden was promptly torn apart by the ghosts of the inmates, and the tower was haunted no more, leaving the group in possession of a magical key to the tower.
I loved how well the puzzles on each floor worked out, being just complicated enough, yet with just enough hints and clues for the group to figure it out after some wracking of their brains and experimentation.
But MAN was that all hard to come up with! Still, it’s easily my proudest creation. Katie was still thinking over everything that had happened several days later. That, to me, is the sign of an effective session of gaming.
Of course now the challenge becomes keeping the level of quality up while changing back to a more normal paced campaign. I’m contemplating making the town they’re about to visit one giant mystery case, but that’s going to involve some careful planing. I’ll be getting to work on that after I’m done here.
Now on one final note, we played on me and Katie’s brand new table that we bought specifically for our gaming sessions (20 bucks at a thrift store was never better spent.) Let me tell you, playing in Katie’s duplex on that sweet, sweet hardwood table was so much better than our cramped and rickety setting and table in the gameroom at my house. Things keep looking up!
That’s all for today, folks!
– Edward L. Cheever II