Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Choose Your Poison...

Hello, Unflagging Followers!

With my savings starting to ebb away like beer from a damaged keg, I find myself now hunting for a new day job.  Given my p!$$-poor track record with past gigs, I've set a few simple conditions in stone for this new career:

(1) I don't want to be yelled at by customers for some stupid decision that my employer made.

(2) I don't want to asked to sell something that I have no vested interest in.  This includes (but certainly isn't limited to) paper clips, window dressings, auto-gyro insurance, salt and pepper shakers and batting practice helmets. 

(3) I don't want to clean up any bodily fluids, regardless of how many assurances I receive from my employer that the protective gear I've been given is "state of the art".   

(4) I don't want people's lives to depend on my ability to put shit together properly. 

(5) I don't want to work in an enterprise that encourages me to knowingly rip people off. 

So, to get a feel for what I'm about to wade into, I thought I'd take a look at the latest employment by industry figures courtesy of Stats Canada.  Here's an impressive-looking pie chart which I cobbled together to help break down the numbers (click to embigginate):

Okay, let's break down these very broad categories with some added description and coupla' 'xamples:
  • Agriculture (2%) includes growin' stuff, running "Poison Ivy's Carnivorous Plant Nursery", keepin' critters in barns n' fences ("ATTICA!  ATTICA!"), choppin' down trees, and wrasslin' with giant squid.  
  • Natural Resources (2%) takes into account pannin' fer gold, gettin' gas (?) and doing your best Daniel Plainview impersonation.
  • Utilities (1%)  includes (as one might expect) electric power generation, water treatment, poo disposal and natural gas distribution.  "Hey, somebody's bakin' brownies!"     
  • Construction (7%) a.k.a. buildin' stuff.  
  • Manufacturing (10%) i.e. makin' stuff. 
  • Trade (a whopping 15%) is essentially wholesale and retail in all of its glorious forms.  This includes retail call centers ("HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!")
  • Transportation (5%) also includes "warehousing".  Air, sea, rail, Pinto, rickshaw, bobsled:  it's all here, homes. 
  • Finance (6%) should also be paired up with real estate, leasing and the aforementioned auto-gyro insurance sales (which, I'm told, gives you ample coverage against liability, collision and Humongous-related firearm attacks):

  • Science (8%) is short for "professional, scientific and technical services".  This category also includes lawyers (for some odd reason), accountants, architects, engineers, designers, consultants as well as your run-of-the-mill beaker-chokers.  
  • Support Services (4%) was chopped down from "business, building and other support services."  Since I still had no clue what this meant, I looked for some examples.  As it turns out, this broad category includes such disparate things as record keeping, collections, employment services, pest control, landscaping, waste management, security, travel agencies and (more) call centers, this time for people who dropped their Blackberry in the terlet.  Seriously, can't you people stop texting long enough to take a pee?!?  
  • Education (7%) Learnin' people up since 859 AD
  • Health Care (12%) also includes "social assistance" and, presumably, "changer of bed pans".
  • Culture (4%)  was truncated from "information, culture and recreation".  This includes makers of newspapers, software, movies, music, telecommunications and the fine folks who brought us such cultural touchstones as Work It
  • Food Services (6%) was also supposed to include "accommodation" and jobs which require the utterance of such pithy statements as "Would you like to super-size your fries for only 43 cents, sir?"  
  • Other Services (5%)  includes such esoteric things are repair, maintenance, laundry services, religions (!) and that always-lucrative cottage industry: death
  • Public Administration (6%) In other words, THE MAN: government, bureaucrats and the po-po.  
So, after careful examination of this data, I can easily extrapolate the following scientific conclusions:

(1)   If "Natural Gas Distribution" is a real job then this means that my buddy Dean has been moonlighting all these years without proper compensation.  Little wonder the poor bastard's always so tired.

(2)   I'm pretty sure Batman falls into the "Science" category.  That is, if he lived in Windsor, Ontario.

(3)   I'm gonna go ahead and assume that independent writers, artists and performers were just lumped right into the "Culture" category, otherwise they didn't even rate in this survey at all.  And, frankly, that's just too depressing a thought to consider.

(4)   As far as I can determine, my return to work conditions have eliminated approximately 92% of what Canadians routinely do every day in order to eat.

(5)   The odds of me finding myself in a creative career is approximately the same odds of a celebrity marriage lasting for a lifetime.  Or getting hemorrhoids.  


More wacky information on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Okay, make yer own damn pie graph.

"Never tell me the odds."

FAIL  It amazes me that someone like Harry Knowles has a writing career and I don't.  Check out this inexplicably weird, random and vaguely embarrassing tidbit shoe-horned into his recent review of the Godzilla Blu-Ray:

"SO yeah… I love GODZILLA. It probably has to do with me going to strip clubs with my parents on Halloween with my 'Uncle BOB' in a full-bodied GODZILLA costume for the Costume contest and seeing the Big G dance with naked girls at the Yellow Rose."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Drop the SOPA

Greetings, Fighters of the Power.

News of the recent postponement of the SOPA / PIPA bill might make this post seem a little late to the party, but as Thom Holwerda at OS News observed: "the bags of money sent to DC" by the media industry "didn't suddenly devalue, so I'm sure the next SOPA is being written as we speak."

The United States has a pretty shameful history of tabling distasteful bills which blatantly infringe on the rights of citizens and/or give blank checks to greedy corporate interests.  Greased by lobbyist dollars, these proposals often get rubber-stamped through congress in the stealthiest manner possible, frequently circumventing the litmus tests of public reading and vigorous debate in the process.

Some examples of this include the Federal Reserve Act of  1913, which scrapped the gold standard, gave a creepy cabal of central bankers the ability to print U.S. currency out of thin air and made a lot of  filthy rich a$$holes even richer:

Then there's the awesome Patriot Act, which took a hatchet to the Constitution:

And then, while we were all out getting hammered this past New Years Eve, earnest, well-spoken, snappily-dressed, Al-Green-singin' President Obama smuggled this l'il number in through the loading dock:

Which inspired this typically-hilarious reaction from Jon Stewart:

Now, I know that the mainstream corporate-controlled media has very little incentive to inform North American citizens about bills like the NDAA, but there were still plenty of ways to learn about it instead of, say, watching a marathon of Toddlers and Tiaras on The Loser Channel.  Cripes, even I knew about it and I barely even watch T.V.

Thanks to the catch-all "War On (Insert Nebulous And Unquantifiable Threat Here)" people don't even bat an eyelash anymore whenever government publicly threatens their civil liberties or personal freedoms.  But mess with people's interwebs and "Lookout Abilgail May, 'cuz here comes the blackout patrol!" 

I'm convinced that SOPA/PIPA would have been crammed through just like all those other degenerate laws in not for the grass-roots groundswell of outrage expressed by the general populace.  Yes, I'm sure a ton of people signed the petitions just 'cuz "some suit was tryin' to f#@% up my internets and I needs my pron" but I'm also hoping that a lot of people did it because it was the last straw.  They knew that if an iron jackboot came down on the very last source of free information we have, then we'll never hear about the next bit of sleazy legislation.  Which, at this rate, may very well limit the number of people we can assemble with to a number no larger then the current roster of The Avengers.  

My personal motivation to see SOPA struck down is actually nowhere near as existential or far-reaching.  I just wanted people to watch my stupid Star Trek board game video.

If you've been following this blog with any regularity then you already know that I have an unhealthy obsession with board games.  As such, I'm also a huge proponent of using instructional, informative and/or review-based videos to promote the hobby.  Board Game Geek denizens like Drakkenstrike, Undead Viking, Uvula Bob, Tom Vasel and Scott Nicholson have all saved me countless dollars in wasted purchases with their diligent efforts.  More importantly, though, they've steered me towards games that I'll cherish for a life time, all the while encouraging good designs and fostering independent game companies that can really use some free publicity.

Duly inspired, I recorded a play for one of my new acquisitions: Star Trek: Fleet Captains.   I wanted to  help folks make up their minds as to whether or not they should buy the game and also teach new owners how to play it.  Plus, I also knew that this particular game would give my pilot video a cool "narrative" feel and (hopefully) impress the considerable built-in audience!             

I entered into this knowing that I might be playing with fire.  I knew that Star Trek license owners Paramount were notoriously guarded, but if anyone was sensitive to the autonomy of intellectual property, it's me.  After all, my Dad is a visual artist and the concept of someone stealing his images and reprinting them for their own financial gain is sickening to me.  I'm also a struggling writer myself, who'd feel pretty gutted if I found out that someone had acquired my book illegally.  Personally, I don't download at all.  In fact, I own a massive collection of DVD's, CD's and Blu-Rays.

And trust me, that's only about 20% of the DVD's I own and about 45% of the CD's.

My philosophy is: don't rip-off people who create the sort of cool stuff that makes life worth living.  If you feel the burning need to one-up someone, then why not go after corporate criminals?     

With sensitivities in check, I dutifully shot my "script" over the course of several days, taking great pains to shake up the camera angles and incorporate some cool visual gimmicks. After filming a goofy intro and coda, I sat down to edit the nearly two hours of raw video that I'd captured.

I painstakingly excised all extraneous footage, micro-cut my shots to optimize the video's pace, added some silly sound effects and respectfully included some thematically-relevant music. I really wanted to make my debut video play out like a feature film: with the board and the miniatures acting as my "special effects".

So elaborate was this edit that iMovie unexpectedly crashed under the weight of my efforts, seizing up just moments before I completed the final edit. Mercifully, I was able to save my twenty-eight minute magnum opus to my desktop.  After doing a force quit on iMovie, I managed to re-import my video back into iMovie and complete the work. After three agonizing attempts to upload it to YouTube, my inaugural episode of Let's Play! finally went live on December 4'th, 2011!

Since it's release Let's Play! - Episode One - Star Trek: Fleet Captains went on to become a modest little hit with eighty-four thumbs up and forty-four (generally) positive comments on the 'Geek. On YouTube it was a similar story: quickly surpassing fifteen hundred views and garnering a slew of positive feedback.  Now I know that these aren't exactly "talking cat" numbers but the reaction was encouraging so I immediately began to formulate plans for a follow-up. 

But then, on January 17'th, disaster struck.  I received the following bone-chilling message from YouTube:

"We have disabled the following material as a result of a third-party notification from ___________ claiming that this material is infringing:

'Let's Play! - Episode One - Star Trek: Fleet Captains

I immediately took to the YouTube forums, posting the following impassioned plea:

"Why did this happen? How it infringing, specifically? The only thing I can guess is that's it's because of the music I used, but it's the exact same music that I sourced from other YouTube clips that have a lot more views then my own.  My vid was up for an entire month with close to two-thousand views and a slew of positive comments before it got trashed.  It wasn't monetized to benefit me in any way, shape or form.  It was just a work of passion.

Since I slaved away on this for an entire week I do plan on making it available again but until I know the specific reason as to why it was removed, I'm not going to invest my blood, sweat and tears into making these videos only to have them arbitrarily nuked without a proper explanation.

Any genuine insight would be gratefully appreciated.

Thanks in advance."

Initially I received nothing but a link back in reply, which read:

"Without the appropriate licence from the publisher, use of video game or software user interface must be minimal or the associated commentary must provide instructional or educational value. Videos simply showing a user playing a video game or the use of software for extended periods of time will not be accepted for monetisation."

To which I fired back:

"Without the appropriate licence from the publisher, use of video game or software user interface (neither...I reviewed a board game) must be minimal or the associated commentary must provide instructional or educational value (the comments I received from viewers proves that my video was both instructional AND educational). Videos simply showing a user playing a video game or the use of software (board game!?) for extended periods of time will not be accepted for monetization (my vid WASN'T monetized).

What am I missing here?"

And then it came, the death blow:

"Neither YouTube nor the copyright holder is obligated to specify what individual part of a video is infringing, they only have to state that the video contains infringing content. Since you are required to know for a fact that everything you upload to YouTube is either your own intellectual property or has been used with permission (or qualifies as an exception), you are expected to know what you used that you cannot show you own or have permission to use."  

Confronted with such irrefutable iron-clad legalese I left one last, mournful gambit:   

"Okay, thanks guys.  I really do appreciate you trying to help me wrap my head around this.   

But I still don't know where to go from here.  I took a week to film and edit this video with the sole express purpose to educate and instruct viewers and promote a great board game designed from a tremendous license.   This was done merely as a work of passion, with no expectation of personal financial gain.  

The video made it past YouTube's review process and over the course of a month and a half, viewers universally praised the video's 'artistry', told me how helpful it was and said that they'd actually gone  out and purchased the game, all the while expressing their love for all things
Star Trek.

Then, the next thing I know, it gets arbitrarily airbrushed out of existence and no-one seems to possess the decency to tell me why it happened when so many similar videos exist out there. 

I'm not willing to just write off all that work and positive feedback.  I guess I just want a better answer other then: Sorry, that's just the way it is."

But then, after venting through Board Game Geek as per my buddy Andrew's suggestion, something miraculous happened.  On Thursday January 19'th fellow BGG user Alexander Bulkakov observed:

"Hm, but I can watch this video.  Maybe YouTube restored it.  Maybe cause I'm watching it from Russian IP?"

Within seconds I'd confirmed it.  My video was back up!   

I literally cried tears of joy.

But my feelings of vindication swiftly turned to anger.  It's now been six days after the video was first pulled down and I'm yet to receive an official "head's up" or any explanation as to why it was restored.

Honestly, at face value, this might just seem as if an owner of a licensed product is flexing their legal muscles. But it's so much more to me.  To me, it's an omen.

If a re-constituted SOPA does manage to sneak past us when while we're all taking a nap, then it's all over, folks.  Any picture, any link, any reference could result in a blog, website, video or podcast being airbrushed out of existence like dissidents in a Politburo family portrait.

Don't stop being vigilant, people.

And, oh yeah, for the love of God, make sure you back yer s#!% up.        

EPIC  Consider yourself duly informed:

FAIL  Welcome to bizarro world:


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Glorious Wastings Of My Time Part I

Hello, Tireless Readers!

Whenever I'd walk into a bookstore/magazine stand/library as a kid I'd instantly be dumbstruck by all the potential knowledge just waiting to be discovered.  I knew that if I was thorough or lucky enough, I'd unearth something which would stoke the fire of my already-keen interests or ignite a whole new spark in the tinderbox of my imagination.

Now I want to be crystal clear here: the knowledge I speak of certainly didn't put me at any risk of becoming a piano prodigy, an Alex P. Keaton-esque financial savant or a teenager who could strip and re-assemble the engine of a Ford Focus while blindfolded.  No, instead it taught me spectacularly impractical things such as the name of the actor inside the Godzilla suit (Haruo Nakajima for the record), the difference between a Githyanki and a Githzerai and why David Bowie's Tonight L.P. perhaps wasn't the magnum opus that I thought it was.

And then along came the internet, which just allowed me to reconfirm all the things I've listed above within minutes (and without lifting my lazy ass off this chair to boot).  Indeed, as a writer, the internet can be a tremendous ally.  I remember rummaging through stacks of musty old tomes in the Dalhousie library researching late-medieval Italian armor while writing my first book.  Now I can just Google that mofo and be inundated with hundreds of pics and descriptions.  Hell, I can probably even order some late-medieval Italian armor if I looked hard enough.

As a person of certain, shall we say, tenure, who didn't have the internet as a kid, I still consider it to be a modern-day marvel.  I couldn't imagine going back in time with a laptop and somehow-functioning DSL connection to show L'il Dave that one day we'd all have the equivalent of a bookstore/magazine stand/library sitting right on our laps.  A sometimes inaccurate, divisive, opinionated and sleazy bookstore/magazine stand/library, but one nonetheless.

My head would have exploded.  And I probably would have been in danger of seriously chafing something.  

Conversely, as you might expect, the internet is also a writer's greatest foe.  It's like having a little cartoon devil on your shoulder 24-7, constantly tempting you to have a quick peek at her wares: 

"Hey, *Psssst!*  Fanboy!  I got six 30-minute streaming video segments of these dudes playing through the classic AD&D module 'Against the Giants' right here on Vimeo.  Wanna watch?"

No.  Not really.  But I probably will anyway, just because it's easier then working.

They say that half the battle is to "know thine enemy".  Perhaps if I wrangle, brand and corral these siren suspects I'll gain some authority over them, mayhaps even some control.  But be warned: as you saunter through this entertaining zoo, please don't feed or look directly at the animals.  It may result in similar bouts of time-wastage and gratuitous procrastination...

So, with that waiver firmly set in place, I present to you:  FIVE Hideously Distracting Websites:

(1)  Board Game Geek   If you've got an addiction to board games like I do, well then, welcome to the crack house.  This incredible place is the ultimate online resource/social community for die-chuckers, cube-pushers and card-floppers.  Since its inception twelve years ago, the 'Geek has hunted, tracked and tagged information on 45,000 different boardgames.  With just a few clicks, you can get a glimpse of what's inside those mysterious boxes, read game reviews, get free player aides and even watch instructional videos which teach you how to play the friggin' things!   

Thanks to this site, never again will you need to drop 50 clams on board game like this and then blindly pray that it's good after you crack the cellophane.

P.S.  It isn't.  

(2)  Ain't It Cool News  While recovering from a debilitating injury back in the mid-90's, film geek/human gastropod Harry Knowles (*snicker*) began trolling for genre movie gossip via the embryonic interwebs.  In 1996 he launched his very own webzone, which swiftly become the de facto dumping ground for anonymous nerd rage and unsolicited, barely valid opinions from socially maladjusted virgins. 

Truth be told, Knowles himself is a pretty bad writer.  Occasionally one of his movie reviews might distinguish itself simply because the film made him apoplectic with rage (such as his vitriolic take on the Night of the Living Dead: 30'th Anniversary Edition).  More often then not, his articles feature painfully personal and/or completely embarrassing admissions, sponsorship bias, or unforgivably bad judgement, all of which tends to provoke his horde of trollish readers into piranha-like flame frenzies.

A part of me keeps coming back just to witness Harry's latest foot-in-mouth gaff (and the bear-baiting which resulted), but I mainly still pitch at AICN just to see what's going on with movies I'll eventually see and adore.  Regardless of how many people question the site's current relevance, today I found out that Joss Whedon's working on a supernatural romance movie, I peeped a cool still from the new Ridley Scott Alien movie Prometheus and learned that my beloved BBC series Sherlock will get a third season.       

I just wish he'd stop posting those disturbing GIF animations in the upper left hand corner.

(3) You Tube This site proves that if you have a working laptop and reasonably lively internet connection then you have no excuse to be bored.

Yes, this is on everyone's list of lethal time-suckers, but the amazing thing about youtube is that there's just so much content.  Ergo, my youtube and your youtube are totally different animals. 

The only real challenge with this site is thinking up kooky things to look for, but once you do, it's like a snowball rolling downhill.  And that hill is Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

Here are a few ransom samples, crammed into something resembling categories.  Word to the wise: pretty much every video I've featured in this post is decidedly Not Suitable For Work.  You have been warned.

Pee-Yerrself-Funny Stand Up


Krazee Karakterz:

Teh Weirdz 

Retro Junk

Honestly, I never know when I'm gonna stumble upon some new, hypnotic treasure or click on a link which Admiral Ackback would describe thusly:

The next thing I know, *POW!*, I'm mesmermized.

Case in point: last night I innocently clicked on a Bookfaced link and subsequently burned close to three hours enraptured by this next vid.  Hey, at least I didn't waste my time watching The Bachelor.

P.S. I highly suggest that you watch the following mind-altering vid.  Assuming, of course, that you're not going through a spate of post-Christmas depression, in which case I suggest you just stick to stuff like this.

(4) Cinemassacre  About around 2008 I first discovered the enraged genius of James Rolfe, a.k.a The Angry Video Game Nerd.  It came courtesy of the following masterpiece:

Every since I laughed myself into a hernia watching James dissect the laughably inept Power Glove, I've greedily devoured every single video he's ever made.  I love this dude since he's essentially me, but born ten years later.  Whereas the only technology I had to make movies as a kid was an expensive and impractical  Super 8 camera, James had access to a cheap-shooting and easy-to-use VHS camcorder.

He set to work at a formative age, creating one ambitious mini-movie after another.  He struck internet gold after reviewing the woefully inept and infuriatingly difficult NES games of his child, such as Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  In doing so, James morphed into the pocket-protector-wearin', Rolling Rock drinkin', creatively profane Angry Video Game Nerd (nee Nintendo Nerd).

But my boy isn't just limited to just one shtick.  In addition to posting over one hundred nerd reviews, James has also done a bunch of short films, board game vids, movie reviews and general rants.  His legion of fans (including this cowboy) dutifully count down the days every year until his annual, video-a-day Monster Madness series kicks off in October.      

But it's his Angry Video Game Nerd character that's really put him in the forefront of alternative pop culture.  Right now, James is traveling to Los Angeles to film the AVGN feature film, and I wish this plucky little jobber all the best.

Even if it's just half as funny as his encounter below with Bugs Bunny, it'll be a smash hit:

(5)  Red Letter Media  Like everyone else, I first became aware of Red Letter Media when I first watched their thoroughly exhaustive (and therapeutic) dissection of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  

Little did I know, indie film-makers Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman had already been toiling away for years, first crafting a series of bizarre and acerbic short films and then savaging the Next Gen Star Trek movies.  To distance his reviews from typical geek bitching, Stoklasa cleverly adopted the persona of Harry S. Plinkett, a one-hundred-and-six-year-old, wheelchair bound, pizza-roll swilling psychotic.  Unable to resist an opportunity to flex their cinematic muscles, Stoklasa and Bauman often incorporate tangential sub-plots in their reviews, often centering around Plinkett's bizarre proclivities and the colorful characters that come into  his twisted sphere of influence.

More recently the enterprising duo knocked out Feeding Frenzy a low-fi, feature-length ode to 80's horror movies, kicked off a more traditional (but no less subversive) review series called "Half in the Bag" and unleashed Plinkett on the latest Indiana Jones flick.    

Although these guys clearly aren't working with a ton of money, they have brains, heart and snarkiness in spades.  And frankly...that's half the battle in my books.

Well, that's it for now, Kind Browser.  Hopefully this'll keep ya busy for a bit.  I'll be back soon with five more proficient time-suckers real soon.

Unless, well, you know...

EPIC  Told ya...http://www.a2armory.com/16cenitkniga.html

FAIL  I'm afraid to take this.  Are you?

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Hit It With My Axe - Part V - "Can I Hit The DM With My Axe?"

Good Morrow, Kind Sirrahs and Sirettes! 

To shed light on your travels through the underdark, the first four parts of this epic saga involving Dungeons and/or Dragons can be found below:

Part I       Part II        Part III              Part IV

Well, after Glen's family had the temerity to move, taking along with them their son and (most importantly) our D&D party leader and main fighter, the heavy crown of leadership came to rest upon the troubled brow of Greg's cleric character Amon.  Just days after Glen's U-Haul cleared outta town I was already putting Greg through his paces as the Fellowship's new CEO.

The first thing I did was strip away his entire support system.  I launched into a subversive campaign to prove that Greg's squeaky-clean, goody-two-shoes, in-game personality was really just a front for a secret rebel lurking just underneath the surface.  So what did I do to prove my point?  I lured this straight-laced holy man into a life of crime, of course!

I managed to justify this by convincing Greg that Amon had picked up some rudimentary thieving skills while trying to survive as an orphan on the mean streets of Mayberr...er, Valos, his home town.  I did this as a test just to see how he'd react.  If he refused to use these newfound skills then his Lawful Righteous alignment would remain intact.  If he became an overnight kleptomaniac, then I knew that I could hang him with his own rope.  

And sure enough, when the party's NPC thief Demetrius proposed a little spot of B&E, Amon immediately went shopping for thieves tools and I silently started cackling like Invader Zim.  In the next adventure (pretentiously titled "Ascent on Cragmore") Demetrius and the formerly straight-laced cleric scaled, broke into and then raided the tower fortress of a despotic land owner.  At first, I made it look as if the two burglars got away with their heist scott-free.

But Greg soon realized that you can't avoid the all-seeing eye of your patron god.  Just as Amon was strolling back into town with a sack filled with silverware, commemorative Elvis plates and candle-sticks, he was interdicted by two of his fellow priests.  They told him in no uncertain terms that Zeus was hella-pissed at him for stooping to rank thievery.

"Hey!"  Greg shouted.  "No fair!  I wouldn't have done all of that stuff if I thought Zeus was gonna be angry with me!"   

"You're an effin' cleric!" I shouted back.  "You're not supposed to be stealin' shit!  What the hell did you think was gonna happen?"

Amon immediately hauled ass to the nearest temple to mystically Skype with the Big Z.  The Father of the Gods™ told our fallen priest (in terms that were also decidedly certain) that he'd f#@*ed-up royally and needed to make amends for his pilfery ways ASAP.  His punishment: find passage to Olympus, crawl penitently before the feet of the Gods and then seek and destroy the last of the Rogue Titans.

Piece o' cake, right? 

Well, naturally these instructions came with a few caveats.  First, Amon could only travel with people who shared his same spiritual beliefs.  Since this excluded his usual cohorts Demetrius and Tyrian, Greg was forced to accept help from two previously unknown chuckle-heads.  They also turned out to be fallen priests: Persidius, who ransacked his own temple to pay off a gambling debt and Croesus who denied his faith in order to avoid execution in a foreign land.  The party's charter member and brainy mage Aleara, who'd recently converted to "Zeusaism", managed to sneak in as the forth member of this rag-tag group.

Naturally the Godfather didn't put the portal to Olympus next to the Cheesecake Factory just down the street.  Noooooo, that sucka was waaaaaay the hell up north in the godforsaken and unimaginatively named Place of the Ice.  En route, our fantastic four had to survive nasty snow squalls and life-threatening frostbite all the while tangling with barbarian hordes, frost giants, wolverines (*snikt!*) and two young prepubescent white dragons.

Y'know in retrospect there was no logical reason whatsoever for me to force Amon and company to shlep all the way up north like that.  Well, except to give me a thinly-veiled excuse to trot out a series of arctic-themed monsters, which I still have a fetish for.  I guess that's why I'm loving the bejesus out of Skyrim right now.

Anyhoo, the party eventually stumbles upon a gigantic ice cavern, clearly ripped off from, er...pattered after Superman's Fortress of Solitude:

At the far end of the chamber is a white/blue vortex and some glittering treasure lying next to it.  As they approached the portal a huge, forty-two-foot-long polar worm emerged from the chasm:

After the resulting Pier Six brawl our heroes got sucked into the mystical Tilt-A-Whirl, and spun around weightlessly for a bit until they lost barfed up their iron rations and then lost consciousness.  Here's what they saw after they woke up:

"You find yourself lying on rocks at the top of a precipice with wind-stunted trees around.  All of you are feeling nauseous and disoriented.  A group of warriors dressed in scale mail armor and red robes are approaching.  Armed with short swords and carrying shields, the figures seem bathed in shimmering light.  They motion for you stand up and you follow them up the mountain path.  At the apex there's a huge temple rife with guards and archers.  The occasional spectral figure drifts past you as you take in the unearthly sight.  

You enter the temple and see a massive altar and throne set into the far wall.  Seated at this regal station is a twenty-foot tall, powerfully built bearded male dressed in a pristine white robe.  Lightning bolts crackle around him and the level of energy in the air makes your head swim. There are more figures seated around but everything is blurry and surreal, as if in a dream.  

Suddenly the bearded figure speaks in a booming, all-encompassing voice:

'Seek and destroy the last of the Rogue Titans.  Recompense and absolution will follow.  Wisdom and sport will aid you in your quest.  Go now, and I will deign to follow.'

With a gesture, you're suddenly standing in a clearing in the forest.  With a rush of horror, you suddenly realize that Aleara is missing!  The three of you look around but can only see a town in the distance.  Amon, you instantly recognize it as Valos, the place of your birth."     

As soon as the adventurers enter the town, they sense a pall of sadness hanging over the place.  When asked about it, the citizens begin to describe how Thallos, the last of the invincible Rogue Titans, is threatening to destroy the city.  As if that's not enough incentive, an amnesiac Aleara turn out to be a prisoner of the town and they intend to sacrifice her to the creature!

In order to find a way to kill the invulnerable Titan, Amon begins the equivalent of the Twelve Labors of Hercules.  He's forced to solve a series of riddles, the answers to which reveal the name of the creature he has to confront next.  Each creature he overcomes gives him a clue to the nature of this ultimate weapon.

He first battles a swamp-dwelling hydra:

Then a Frankenstinian chimera:

Next, a poor, innocent, wine-making cyclops:

And finally a maze-dwelling minotaur:

After defeating each beastie, I give Greg a none-too-subtle clue like "fetid serpents", "half snake, half goddess", and the ultimate spoiler alert: "flesh to stone, its head you must claim!"  As soon as Amon uttered the name "Medusa" he instantly found himself standing at the bank of the River Styx, gateway to the Land of the Dead.  Here's the ham-fisted way I originally described this transition:

"You are suddenly standing on a sandy bank and the river before you is wreathed in fog.  Nearby is a withered tree and you notice a small horn hanging from a skeletal branch."   

 After Curious George blew the horn I read the following passage:

"A long riverboat appears, guided by a gaunt, cloaked figure standing at the stern.  You hear a low hiss as the prow of the boat cuts into the sandy bank.  You move to get in but the ferryman drifts to the front of the boat and raises a skeletal hand.  It is Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx.  He demands a gold coin from each of you before you board."

Eventually the cheap bastards coughed up the cheddar and I let them proceed:

"As you drift across the river, lightning occasionally splits the sky.  Eventually you begin to see through the thick fog to the other side of the bank where an ancient temple has fallen into disuse.  Half of it has collapsed and the edifice is covered with fungus and mold.    

After you disembark, you climb up a set of broken steps onto a thirty foot square parapet.  Immediately ahead of you is a dark, foreboding entrance between several columns of stone and a set of stairs on either side leading down into the murk.

Suddenly you hear the sound of chains dragging in the gloom ahead.  It's quickly followed by an eerie sight: three sets of hellish eyes appear accompanied by a blood-curdling howl.  A monstrous creature emerges from the darkness: a fifteen foot tall beast with three mastiff heads, grizzly-looking gray fur and a coiled, muscular frame."   

After putting Cerberus, the three headed dog to sleep permanently, Amon and company ventured down into the crypt.  Here's what they saw:

"You emerge into a large, one-hundred-and-twenty by fifty-foot room lined with columns.  The area is nominally lit with torchlight.  There are about thirty statues in the room, all of them appear to be adventurers.  You suddenly hear a hissing noise and then a rattling sound, like the tail of a cobra."  

Even after plowing through everything that had come before it, the trio really had their hands full with this boss-before-there-were-bosses chick.   In addition to her Butterfacial ability to turn a bloke into stone, Medusa was also armed with a composite long bow for long-range attacks and a polearm for fighting up close.  As if that wasn't enough, her acidic blood could be used to poison her arrows and also cause major  Alien-like splash damage in hand-to-hand combat.


While Croesus and Persidius finally received forgiveness from Zeus by dying horribly in this encounter, Amon managed to survive the battle and claim the hag's head.  With the aid of a previously domesticated Pegasus (!), Amon hastily sped back to the place of sacrifice where Aleara was already being menaced by a very punctual Thallos.


So, after a spectacular aerial battle, Amon used the gorgon's head to turn Thallos into stone.  After being reunited with Aleara (*know what I mean, know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink*), our hero made amends with Zeus (they went swimming together), claimed the legendary Hammer of Hephaestus as a prize and was promptly sent packing back to his home realm.  Drop curtain.

Despite being shamelessly manipulated like a dime-store marionette, Greg soon confessed that this was his favorite adventure to date.  

Um, what?  Excuse me, what's that you're shouting?   I can't hear you... 

You're saying that all you did was rip off the plot to Clash of the Titans just to teach my friend a lesson about something I tricked him into doing in the first place?

Well, d'uh.  Thanks for providing a great segue into the following two incidental points:

(1)  It's never too early to use the soapbox provided by a role playing game to make yourself feel superior to a friend by lecturing them about hypothetical ethics.

(2)  In the pre-internet 80's, quite often your best D&D adventures turned out to be movies that your players hadn't seen yet.         

'Til next time, may all of your hit rolls be crits!

EPIC  Honestly, any similarity to my adventure and this film's awesome fan-made trailer are strictly co-incidental!

FAIL  I fear that nowadays kids are stealing from infinitely inferior sources...