Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Real World Dungeons

It's Christmas, which means I should be making some sort of Christmas-themed post. Instead, I decided to relate a recent experience which made me think of gaming for some odd reason. I do say odd because only a serious nerd would focus on gaming while in the heart of what is commonly referred to as Sin City.

So I was in Vegas the past few days. The reason is unimportant, but in case you're curious, flights are more expensive than necessary around this time of year and hotels are cheap. It averages out in the end, I suppose. We stayed at the Luxor, a pyramid shaped casino with an Egyptian theme. Names shall not be given to protect the guilty. The Luxor is what I'd call middle-of-the-road as far as amenities go, which outside of Vegas would be pretty badass. In Vegas, it's middle-of-the-road. For $45 a night I wasn't complaining, especially considering my time spent in the room was nigh negligible. The beam of light emanating from the top of the pyramid, shooting off into space, a beacon of unadulterated ostentatiousness, provided a reference point which made getting back to the hotel a bit easier. Even a surly drunk can follow a billion candle power spotlight if necessary, and drunkenness did in fact transpire.

Let me say this first, then move on to the point of this post: I am not cheap. I am mostly Irish, but when you think cheap, that's Scottish. Don't lump us in with those guys. You CAN say I am thrifty, however, and I proudly admit it. The difference is easy to explain with an example. A cheap Scotsman would buy a bottle of Kentucky Deluxe, pour its contents into a flask, and proceed to take it wherever he went, ensuring his booze purchases were kept to a minimum. If he rant out swill bourbon, the Scotsman would simply stop drinking because he was cheap as hell. A thrifty gent, however, would instead purchase a better whisky (VO is my favorite), keep it in a flask to drink, and after depleting his flask acquire tall boys of PBR at convenience stores for $1.59 to keep the inebriation going. In either case, money spent is limited compared to the general populace, but the thrifty man will be drunk the entire time, thus in a much better mood. I am thrifty. Yes, I did buy many, many cans of beer for minimal amounts, carrying them from casino to casino as I travelled the strip. I aged a whole year in merely three days but it was glorious. The liver is a muscle and needs exercise; mine participated in the Olympics.

Given my general state during my stay (literally drunk from the time I got on the plane until I arrived back home...no exaggeration), you might think my perceptions are based purely on alcohol-infused delusions. That's possible, so if you come to different conclusions it simply proves empirical data is indeed as Locke described, thus interdependent upon numerous factors. In the context of rpg adventuring, however, I think my experiences bear out, especially given the predilection of adventuring-types to embrace alcoholism. Ale and whores, right? Vegas offers those things in spades (hah!).

Standing in front of casino on the new strip is a strange experience. The fa├žade is inviting, a funnel of sorts, meant to draw you in. There is no normal sidewalk, parallel to the road. Instead, you traverse hundreds upon hundreds of feet of concrete, lavishly decorated, steering you toward the entrance (the old strip is quite different; after you get inside, however, it's pretty much the same). The doors are enormous and literally impossible to miss...there is no mistaking the way inside. After passing through lit archways, massive glass doors, polite doormen greeting you with smiles, the world becomes dim. Not quite night, definitely not day. On the verge of darkness, you're given the impression that it's almost time for bed, but not quite...not quite. Time passes by at a rate impossible to gauge. The dimness never decreases, nor increases, even in places that it should. Off to seek your fortune! Of course you entered the casino to find treasure, try your luck at a table or slot machine, but the the risk is extremely high compared to the reward. After wandering around, you find yourself lost, and it's nearly a hopeless task to determine the way you came in. Every single way out is guarded by monsters of various sorts, be they dealers or bartenders. After many losses and close calls the allure of treasure in greatly diminished and escape is required. You turn one way and go straight, but are intercepted with encounters impossible to avoid. Eventually, however, you make your way to the exit, using either wits or relying on luck. Unfortunately, somehow you end up in an adjacent casino, and the pattern repeats itself. After many tries, you end up outside and hour upon hour has passed. You have walked countless steps and your legs are about to give out. The bar at this casino looks a bit more inviting than the last so you sit down and order a drink. Putting your last few dollars into a video poker machine seems like a good idea to pass the time. A succubus engages in conversation, attempting to convince you that her services are required to pass the night. Somehow you wind up in your own bed, destitute and hungover when you finally awake.

Las Vegas casinos are real world dungeons, fraught with genuine dangers. During my recent adventures, I leveled up and engaged in some Conan-like debauchery. The spoils of war are best wasted after victory, barbarian style. In my opinion, anyone who thinks gold pieces are a terrible way to determine experience points needs to plan a trip soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Expected Pile

First of all, I must preface this post by pointing out it's been a little over two months since my last. That's not entirely by design, as I had plenty to post about but became somewhat lazy when it came time to write about it. I deleted 12 drafts just now, most of them a quarter or half done, uniformly crap. Maybe the new year will bring a new attitude and desire for updating this blog, even if it seems almost irrelevant and inconsequential to me now. Gaming just hasn't been important to me whatsoever in recent months. But The Hobbit, oh yes...to get to the end, in the beginning, this movie makes me entirely ready to play some MERP in an effort to purge its images from my mind.

Where to start? Well, no disclaimers about spoilers, even if this is in fact a disclaimer of sorts. I'm assuming you've read The Hobbit  at some point in your life (I shall italicize the book title out of respect), therefore nothing I will talk about is predicated upon your seeing The Hobbit (no italics...interpret that how you wish). In fact, if you enjoyed The Hobbit, you might have second thoughts about The Hobbit. If, like me, you can be lumped into the category "pedantic nerds who get pissed when someone fucks with Tolkien's vision", you should avoid The Hobbit altogether. I am certain the only reason I did not go to jail during or following my viewing of the movie last night is due to the beer being spiked with Ritalin. At times I had the urge to throw things, yell, start fights and cause a ruckus, but my will was suppressed, almost unnaturally. I should probably say some things about the movie now. But as another aside, I wouldn't really be "spoiling" this movie if I told you about it, anyway; that would make the implicit argument there was something worth spoiling. I'm not being funny, I am Dead Serious, a distant cousin of Yahoo. Sorry, I just don't want to get to the review because I'm still seething inside with pent up rage. Have you ever just wanted to start throwing bricks around, breaking shit, after experiencing something that you willfully agreed to, but in retrospect loathe with your entire existence? Sort of like agreeing to attend your mother-in-law's 60th birthday party before finding out there won't be any alcohol and it's taking place in the women's department at Macy's. They're just gonna shop all day for old lady underwear, you gotta carry the bags. I'd do that over seeing The Fucking Hobbit (the real title, look it up on IMDB), to be honest. At least your wife might give you a blowjob for being such a good sport. Peter Jackson, instead, ass-rapes you during TFH and politely asks for more money to see the next two shitty installments. Okay, rant has started and I'm still in the intro paragraph. Moving on...

The Enchanting Prelude to The Lord of the Rings starts off with a fucking commercial for The Lord of the Rings by Sir Peter Robert Jackson, ONZ, aka THE GREAT SATAN, stylized as George Lucas in the common speech. A few years back, oh say, 2001, I saw this flick called The Fellowship of the Ring, a fantasy film by this dude best known previously for movies about aliens who ate each other's puke and pornographic puppet shows. Out of obscurity he creates a trilogy of decent films that, while not without their warts (Faramir, anyone?), stuck fairly close to the recorded lore of Tolkien. Close enough that I can enjoy the films without getting too annoyed. When drunk, they are especially quite entertaining to watch. But now, The Fucking Hobbit comes along, rubbing into our collective faces 11 Academy Awards and billions of dollars in ticket and merchandising revenue, all within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Yeah, I get it, you made those other movies and they were great and loved and fuck you I don't give a shit anymore, I just want to see Bilbo and the dwarves. There was no need for a long, drawn out scene featuring Ian Holm and Elijah Wood talking about shit that happens in Fellowship, literally an hour after the conversation occurs. Strangely, this scene almost looks lifted right out of Fellowship, WHICH I SUPPOSE CREATES THE ILLUSION OF ONE CONTIGUOUS FILM OF EPIC LENGTH. You know, how Obi Wan goes to Tatooine and drops off Luke with his fake uncle, even though it's his real uncle in Star Wars? Yeah, sort of like that. In fact, Bilbo isn't Frodo's real uncle, either; they are, in fact, cousins and Frodo is Bilbo's adopted heir. You know that, don't you. Everyone does. Us pedantic nerds who get pissed when someone fucks with Tolkien's vision feel no need to bring it up because it's not really relevant to The Hobbit since that story happened years in the past. SATAN doesn't bring it up, either, but he does feel the need to bring up bullshit that happened during The Fellowship of the Ring because for some reason most of that crap was left out in the beginning of Fellowship. I honestly hate the intro, I really do. Show me fucking dwarves and a hobbit and Gandalf.

So after the infomercial to purchase the extended LotR on Blu-Ray, some crap happens right out of The Hobbit. Haha just kidding, it's more bullshit. They did get the song the dwarves sing cleaning up Bag End right (oddly enough), and the other song sung about the mountain is done pretty well. Although, no instruments; why? Also, no colored hoods but Dwalin has fucking tattoos all over. WHY? I don't need edgy dwarves, I need dwarves with brightly colored hoods and instruments. Who cares. The beards, though...no. Kili barely has a five o'clock shadow. That's not a fucking beard. Sorry, hipster douchebags. For some reason, Thorin is being chased from the start by the PALE ORC, who is named Azog in the film. If I remember my Middle Earth history correctly (and I usually do), Azog did in fact kill Thror and Thorin did in fact attack Moria and Azog did in fact die by the hand of Dain. So why the fuck is he following Thorin around on wargs? That doesn't make any sense at all. Oh wait, yes it does: this is a repeated scene from the idiotic part of The Two Towers where Aragorn falls off a cliff when facing goblin-ridden wargs. Gotta add that part to the movie so Thorin is forced by Gandalf to escape to Imladris, against his will, and get all pissy with Elrond. I guess in the book where the dwarves actively seek out Rivendell and are on good terms with the high elves wouldn't make for good reality television so what the fuck ever. Around this point of the movie I was highly annoyed because there was an interlude featuring Radagast and a sickly hedgehog, attacked by giant spiders. Then he discovered Sauron in Dol Guldur whilst being pulled around by rabbits on a sled. I couldn't make that shit up. Fine, whatever, I have no issue with this part of the film to be perfectly honest as it gives some insight as to why Gandalf takes off during The Hobbit (he was fighting The Necromancer), and Radagast is as good a character as any to figure out Sauron is back. FORESHADOWING with Saruman so we know he's an evil fuck whenever we get around to watching LotR on Blu-Ray this holiday season. Even though Saruman was corrupted by Sauron due to hubris on his part, not through any maleficent intent. Is it so hard, SATAN, to just let the corrupting power of the ring and Sauron shine through? Why must Saruman be evil from the start? He's certainly not stupid, nor a bad guy, which makes Sauron that much scarier. If dudes like Saruman can be corrupted, it makes Frodo and Sam that much more innocent. Right? Right? Nahh, fuck that. It's just a commercial for LotR on Blu-Ray, extended versions on sale at Walmart for a reasonable price.

Elrond comes off as a massive dickhead, and tells Thorin not to go to the mountain. Why? It's HIS FUCKING KINGDOM, and Elrond isn't a dumbass. If Smaug took over Rivendell, I'm sure no one would have a problem with Elrond going in and kicking his ass out. That is just stupid and it pissed me off, but hey, you know, elves vs. dwarves. There has to be real animosity there as opposed to just plain old Jews. vs. Catholics post-Inquisition dislike. Except the dwarves were never murdered by the elves, it was the Muslims I mean orcs doing all the killing. Or something. It's easy to draw religious parallels to the movies made by SATAN, but it was never in Tolkien. Christ, I'm just pissed and ranting again. I need to finish this up quickly before I smash my monitor. Anyway, the best part, and of course I mean the very worst part, is when Gandalf has to convince Thorin to show the map (yeah, you know which map) to Elrond so he might be able to decipher it. What. Elrond, you know, one of the most powerful, benevolent individuals in the world who forgot more shit than most people ever know and can read 98345798347789 languages and has ridiculous resources and a memory of history from thousands of years ago. Yeah, Thorin says fuck you, loremaster, I don't want your help. What. Oh yeah, more racial tension! I glossed over the part where Elrond rides in after killing the goblin-ridden wargs chasing the dwarves which forced them into Rivendell in the first place, but who cares...the dwarves get on guard in case those evil Catholics I mean elves attack and try to steal their Jew I mean dwarf gold. Speaking of dwarf gold, Thror is painted out to be a greedy fuck, obsessed with gold to the point that he grows mad and Smaug attacks to get some of that treasure. The other dwarves cannot understand his obsession with treasure. Did you ever actually read any of those books, SATAN? Dwarves love gold and that's it. All of them. Fuck it, I don't care anymore.

So blah blah blah, meet the Great Goblin, who is a fat idiot. Bilbo gets lost because he actually escapes but then falls into a pit. This is right after he tries to go home. Yes, he has second thoughts about the whole thing and tries to sneak out on the dwarves. You know, after he already signed a contract. There's no need to explain why that undermines Bilbo's character completely as I already alluded to Faramir earlier and that's enough. Fucking retarded. Yeah, the dwarves escape from the Great Goblin's lackeys after Gandalf kills him. Of course, the riddle game with Gollum happens during this time, and this part of the movie is actually fine. I thought it was well done, right up until the part where Bilbo kicks Gollum in the head on his way out of the mountain. Then they're chased by goblin-ridden wargs again, lead by Azog who is dead but makes an appearance anyway because we need a segue into the next film. In lieu of simply writing about the final scene, I decided to paste that portion of the script to save some time. It should be evident from reading said script what the issues are with this part of the film.


DWARVES are being chased by GOBLINS on WARGS, led by AZOG, a goblin with pent up animosity toward THORIN, leader of the dwarves.

Azog finds the dwarves hiding in the trees, trying to escape being eaten.

Come down, dwarf, and I shall kill you!

The trees begin burning after GANDALF starts throwing lit  pinecones at the wargs and goblins. The dwarves appear frightened.

*whispers something to a moth*

The dwarves are thrown around as the trees are toppled by wargs. Thorin gets a murderous intent in his eyes and attacks Azog. The warg Azog is riding picks up Thorin and throws him around, just like when Aragorn got fucked up in The Two Towers. Just watch that part to see what I'm talking about.

Thorin! Oh no! Oh my! etc. etc.

BILBO picks up STING, an elvish blade without a name because it's not actually a sword or something and stabs a goblin before it can kill Thorin. Azog is pissed but right before he attacks again a squadron of F-14s flies over in formation. The F-14s begin picking up the dwarves with their talons and carrying them to safety, dropping them on the deck of an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

As Bilbo and Gandalf climb down, they see their wingmen on the deck. Thorin is looking in Bilbo's direction. His face is inscrutable. Bilbo gets mobbed, but pushes over to Thorin. They stare at each other for a moment, eye to eye even as they are buffeted by the crowd. Finally, Thorin breaks...a grin.

I guess I owe you one.

You don't owe me anything.
We're on the same team.

You can be my wingman any time.

No. You can be mine!

Thorin laughs and embraces Bilbo. Kenny Loggins plays a guitar solo in the background as the screen fades to black.