In mid-2016, the U.S. presidential election had just kicked into high gear with the announcement of Orange Cheeto Dust as the Republican presidential nominee, and I started looking for a comical podcast to take my mind off things. A friend of mine recommended The Adventure Zone, a podcast by the McElroy brothers, without really telling me what it was about. Mostly what I knew about the McElroys was that they were from my own home state and had some well-known podcasts, so I went in with absolutely no knowledge of the game they were playing, laughed at some jokes, and listened to an episode or so when I had the time. Before I knew it, I had somehow gone from “an ep whenever” to “three or four eps a day” because I was so invested in the story, and it’s definitely one of the few things that keeps me laughing even in this news vortex of despair. Now that The Adventure Zone is hurtling towards a sure-to-be hilarious and heartrending finale, I feel like it’s past time to try to get some of you to jump on this train with me.
I had every intention of looking up a fic that had some of that holiday spirit in it, but then something surprising came and slapped me right in the face. There are few things that grab my attention more than Gothic horror romances, so when I found a fic that was both a Gothic Victorian AU and for a series that I’ve come to truly love and appreciate within the realms of fiction and in a more meta context, whatever plans I may have had for this article promptly died where they stood.
Over this year Critical Role has become a show that’s affected me deeply, and its several-year run has helped induce a tabletop roleplaying boom across the web. The show features seven voice actors and actresses—Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel, Laura Bailey, Taliesin Jaffe, Liam O’Brian, Ashley Johnson, and Travis Willingham—along with fellow voice actor Matthew Mercer taking the role of DM, as they play through their D&D campaign. While some may not see the appeal of watching a bunch of people play D&D on camera, for many (myself included) it’s a new, vibrant way of experiencing a story that has just as much impact as a comic or a television show, with the added fun of OOC japes and fan content thrown in. While it’s on its 78th episode, with each episode being roughly three or four hours long, I still highly recommend experiencing the story for yourself. But, without further ado, let’s dive into today’s AU fanfic of Critical Role.
With my intense love of video game RPGs, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I, too, also have an interest in tabletop RPGs. Unfortunately, the one time I actually found a game, the group fell apart one session in and no one had taken the time to explain anything about the Dungeons and Dragons system to me. It was… certainly an experience. However, taking all the chutzpah I could possibly have for the remainder of 2016, I decided that I would run my own session of tabletop fantasy role playing funtimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m driven by the thoughts of my players forging relationships, traversing perilous obstacles, and just feeling really cool in the settings I’ve thought up. But really, what I’m most looking forward to is seeing the ridiculous shit they come up with in the process of all of that, which is what today’s web crushes are about.
I believe wholeheartedly in the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”, and I have no doubt that my players will be able to come up with really… really strange things that I wouldn’t have even thought to think of. That’s part of the fun of tabletop RPGs. This truth is only proven by Tumblrs like Your D&D Stories and Your Player Said What.
I do not play Dungeons & Dragons nearly as much as I would like to. Despite this, I often like to go through various game manuals as fodder for the imagination. Once I was skimming through an expansion manual and discovered an interesting character class: the wu jen. This name is a Wade-Giles rendering of 巫人, which translates most literally to “shaman person”, although other interpretations are certainly possible. Unfortunately I never got a chance to play this character, and even more unfortunately, the manual in question is entitled Oriental Adventures.
Yeah… I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.
The wu jen is one of the magic-user type classes available in this setting, but what makes her unique? Her power is tied to taboos. The specific taboos the wu jen must follow are chosen by the player, starting with one at 1st level and then adding additional ones at various levels as the character advances. If a wu jen breaks any of these taboos, she forfeits her ability to cast spells for the rest of the day. I had never come across anything like this in gameplay before, and was extremely intrigued. Although this was years ago, I still think about it from time to time, and I have recently starting contemplating this more deeply. How do our backgrounds and worldviews influence whether we perceive taboos as restrictive or as empowering, and what does the use of taboo in speculative fiction mean for people who follow religious taboos in real life?
I love books. I love everything about them. I like the way they look, the way they feel, the way they smell, but most of all, I love that they contain a story. All these together sum upwhy I was excited to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.It is a book about old books, secret societies, ancient puzzles, the ever-expanding limits of modern technology, and the sad and rapid decline of used bookstores. I couldn’t wait to download it onto my Kindle. How ironic. Continue reading →