Wednesday, January 26, 2022

5 People that are Probably Time Lords


Even though the Time Lords have been destroyed (twice now), there’s always a chance more Time Lords exist elsewhere in the universe still. We know about the Doctor and the Master, it’s also possible the Hermit, the Curator, the Monk, and Jenny are still about, as they’ve been known to be off-world. But even though the population of a whole species is likely down to single digits, that won’t stop fans from creating head-canons about other potential Time Lords.


Mary Poppins

I’ve written about this before, but Disney’s beloved Mary Poppins is remarkably similar to the Eleventh Doctor in many ways. Her demeanor for one thing, whimsical at times but also serious. But also she lived on a cloud. Again, let’s bring in her bigger-on-the-inside bag, which is obviously Time Lord technology.


Santa Claus

This one was hinted at by the Doctor himself. Actually, the Ninth Doctor hinted at being Santa. In “The Doctor Dances”, in his joyous musings, he told Rose that he might be, off-handedly referencing her 12-year-old Rose’s Christmas present. Also, a prayer to Santa Claus brought the Eleventh Doctor to young Amelia Pond–though he later said he knew Santa as “Jeff”. But in contradiction to all of that, the Twelfth Doctor also claimed Santa Claus appearing was ridiculous in “Last Christmas”. So who knows? But it would explain why the story of Santa Claus has persisted long since Saint Nicholas; he keeps regenerating.


Willy Wonka

Starting with the fact that his Glass Elevator could be a TARDIS, let’s also look at how Willy Wonka’s eccentric fashion wouldn’t look out of place on the Doctor. In addition to his style and his elevator, let’s also look at the Oompa Loompas. These humanoid creatures came from the mysterious Loompaland. Silly as the name sounds, it could be an alien world whose population Wonka saved. 


Miss Frizzle

I miss the Magic School Bus. It’s how I remember anything about the human immune system and photosynthesis. Miss Frizzle is another with whacky fashion choices. And her school bus, with how it changes shape and travels so quickly through space, might as well be a TARDIS. And with how Time Lords aren’t supposed to interfere, she merely teaches children about their own world. Or maybe she's just River Song?


James Bond

Finally we’ve got the man with a license to kill. While that might be the Doctor’s style, that’s obviously not the case with all Time Lords. I mean, just look at Rassilon. He was willing to kill the Doctor multiple times (and all of Earth). And speaking of Rassilon, don’t forget who he was played by in “The End of Time”, a previous incarnation of James Bond. Coincidence? Probably, but it’s good fodder for a head-canon.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Why We Love the Mary Sue

 I'm going to catch flack for this. 

What is a Mary Sue? 

The term "Mary Sue" refers to a character that can in their own fiction essentially do no wrong. Everything they do is right the first time and everyone either admires them, loves them, fears them or whatever the narrative needs them to be. Mary Sues typically show up in comic book characters though they appear frequently in video game characters and in children's cartoons. Mary Sues in general are thought to be the result of bad writing and are constantly being criticized by the geek community at large. 

And yet we love them. 

Why? 

Rampant Hypocrisy

I've gone on record stating how much I dislike Wolverine (Wow that was ten years ago and I still haven't run out of things to whine about...) and I've hinted at my dislike of Batman, not only for their portrayals of toxic masculinity but for their overall Mary Sue qualities, and yet there's plenty of other Sues I adore. I was thinking about this while replaying The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and realizing how much I love Geralt yet how big of one he is. He always knows how to kill every monster (Even if the player doesn't), he's constantly flexing lore at everyone he comes across, and everyone is either terrified of him or madly in love with him (Seriously, every female character is in love with this guy). 

I'm the same way with Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the titular Sherlock, arguably the first recorded Mary Sue (Okay maybe Odysseus) his super power is to always be right, which while if we were roommates I would crack his head on the pavement outside of 221B Baker Street, I absolutely love watching that show. Truth be told I probably wouldn't be great roommates with Geralt either since he seems like the kind of guy that would take over the TV for some stupid documentary on aliens while I'm trying to get my Golden Girls on. 

That's where my question comes in though: If Mary Sues would be insufferable to be around in real life and if they are a sign of bad writing, why do we love them so much? 

Ultimate Power Fantasy

The appeal to me is in the power fantasy. No matter how bad things are Geralt never loses his cool, even in situations where I would be running aimlessly flapping my arms and screaming incoherently. That effortless confidence in knowing that he has a perfect handle on every situation is something to be admired, even if it is unobtainable. Sherlock is the same way, dripping with confidence with no time to deal with anything inconsequential. 

The truth is Mary Sues have built in plot armor, meaning that because they're the heroes they are automatically meant to succeed. The difference between them and a more flawed character is that the Mary Sue almost knows that no matter what happens they are the main characters in their own stories, and act like they know they have the everything proof plot armor. In a world where things can be incredibly unsure, it's nice to project into a character that has control of their surroundings. 

Mary Sue Vacuum

The best Mary Sue stories to me put the characters into a vacuum where they don't have to interact with other characters that I like. Most Mary Sues charisma only extends to seducing romantic interests. Like I said, living in a house with Geralt, Sherlock and Guts, another Mary Sue I love, it would be a nightmare. Half the time everyone would be arguing over which quests to go on and the other half they'd be trying to outwit the others in a cunning-off. 

Or fight to the death. 

When Batman is alone tracking the Joker with just his inner monologue to accompany him ala the Hush comic arc he's pretty cool. When he's acting like he's the baddest thing in the Justice League with Wonder Woman and Superman standing right next to him and they AGREE with him then that's a character that just thinks too much of himself. Where the Mary Sue finds the most appeal is in a solo setting, where they're only better than the situation and aren't trying to prove to everyone that they're the best at everything and instead are just out being the best at everything. In the former they look insecure and in the latter we get that confidence that we love so much. 

Where Nobody Loves a Mary Sue

I can't go a post without mentioning my favorite thing of all time Dungeons and Dragons. For those who want to extend their Mary Sue persona into the realms of D&D my advice is DON'T. Remember that D&D is not meant to have a main character, it's a cooperative experience, and Mary Sues only exist to annoy everyone else at the table. Even if you were imitating Sherlock, Guts or Geralt I would have your character drawn and quartered if they tried to show Mary Sue traits. 

-JOE

Friday, January 21, 2022

Roguelike Showdown: Hades vs Spelunky 2

 If you ask me what my favorite game currently is, chances are I am going to look at you nervously, sweat pouring down my forehead as I stress out trying to decide between two main options: Spelunky 2 and Hades. While the games are VERY different, they do share the same roguelike subgenre (procedurally generated levels, permanent death, etc). Join me as I compare the two games in the following categories and declare one of them the winner in this battle to the “permadeath” (Eh? Eh? Bad joke? Okay, I’ll get on with it…)

Story

Goddess of Night, Nyx


Journal Entry

Hades wins this category hands down. Sure, Spelunky 2 has lots of wonderful details and story tidbits, but besides the journal entries you unlock on your travels and the introductory experience when you first boot up the game, it isn't really a story-driven experience. In Hades every time I attempt to break out of the underworld I get more witty dialog and commentary filled with Greek mythology and intrigue. And it’s not just when I interact with NPCs. When I discover a new boon from the gods of Olympus I get messages filled with personality that build off of what has happened so far. The game throws you into the thick of it from the get-go. Who is Zagreus? Why does he want to escape the underworld so desperately? Why are the Olympians sending him messages and boons to aid him in his journey? PAFO (Play and find out 😉)

Artwork

Elysium

City of Gold

Another Hades victory. While the artwork of Spelunky 2 greatly surpasses its predecessor, comparing it against Hades is like comparing a comic strip to an oil painting masterpiece. I still remember the first time I FINALLY made it out of the fiery inferno of Asphodel and walked into the fields of Elysium… It was breathtaking. The stunning background imagery is part of what makes Hades such a treat, but all of the artwork is top notch - something I have come to expect from Hades developer Supergiant Games.

Gameplay

Fighting Kingu in Abzu

Receiving a boon from Zeus

I give the two games a tie in this category. It's almost hard to judge them against each other in terms of gameplay because the experiences are very different. Spelunky 2 is a side-scrolling platformer that requires a great deal of minute movements and quick thinking. Hades on the other hand is a third-person dungeon crawler full of button-mashing battles. Both games get progressively more difficult the further you descend/ascend (Spelunky and Hades respectively), and both are compelling enough to keep me coming back again and again. In Spelunky I'm driven by the desire to see what is around the next corner, and find the secrets that lay deep within the caverns. In Hades I love seeing the new combinations of boons and abilities I randomly get to build every escape attempt. If I had to pick one of these games to take with me on my Switch while getting marooned on a desert island... I just wouldn't be able to choose!

Difficulty


Discovering the Ankh after defeating Olmec


Battling the Lernaean Bone Hydra in Asphodel

Both games are incredibly difficult, but Spelunky 2 wins this round. In Hades, each escape attempt is an opportunity to gain more darkness - basically points you can use to upgrade your base stats like how much health you have each run, or how many times you can revive from 0 HP before getting slain back into the river Styx. You can also upgrade your arsenal of legendary weaponry to give yourself more of an advantage. Spelunky 2 however gives you nothing but the knowledge gained in each play-through. Sure, you can unlock shortcuts to the various stages of the game, but there are hefty disadvantages to using these shortcuts as you miss out on a lot of the equipment that can be gained by starting from the very beginning. There are no upgrades you get to spend run to run... If you die (which happens for me WAY more often than it does in Hades), you lose EVERYTHING and have to start completely over. The caverns don't care... they will chew you up and spit you out just about every time... But it is so worth it!

(Consolation prize goes to Hades since after you make it past the final boss a few times you unlock the ability to make your runs MORE difficult...)

Conclusion

Hades wins the victor's crown if we're judging based on these categories. It is truly a masterpiece, and my favorite game to come from Supergiant yet (though if you haven't played Transistor yet you should really give it a try). I have escaped the underworld three times so far, and apparently I have to do it seven more times to see the "final" ending.

HOWEVER, Spelunky 2 is probably my favorite game right now. I have a goal to some day make it to the Cosmic Ocean (a secret stage that takes A RIDICULOUS amount of hard work to get to... and did I mention that is has like 99 levels? Yeah, life goal for sure). No matter how many times I fall on spikes, get smashed by a rolling horned lizard, or get zapped to death by those annoying laser traps at the very top of Tiamat's Throne while trying to reach the Sunken City... It keeps me hooked.

Both games deserve your attention and require not just skill but an insane amount of luck. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

All of You - The Song from Encanto that Makes Me Cry

I'll stop talking about Encanto when it stops being awesome. 

Let's talk about the part that makes me feel the most feelings. 

Mirabel's Journey

Mirabel hit a note being the forgotten family member. She is the muggle of her family with no special gift and the rest of the family just doesn't know how to treat her. Mirabel's parents try to be supportive and understanding, to the point of being #Lifegoal parents, Abuela and Isabela treat her like the bumbling household servant, and the rest of the family mostly ignores her. 

Our first emotional hit was during the opening song The Family Madrigal.

The entire town knows her family has gifts and that Mirabel does not. They try to make her feel better about it but she still has to get asked questions like "What's your gift?" and "Why didn't you get a gift?" reminding her constantly that, no matter what, she is the oddball in everyone's eyes. Mirabel doesn't let this sour her to her family though as she is enthusiastic to help anyway she can with the party that night, and talks up her family to everyone in town (though she does subtly throw Isabela under the bus in her song). 

Our second hit was in the family photo during Antonio's gift party, when without realizing it she's excluded from the family picture. Nobody actively tells her not to be in it, they just get caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would think though that if Luisa was busy eating they would've grabbed her, but nobody said a word to Mirabel. 


We can tell despite her brave face that she's in pain. The show's second song Waiting on a Miracle shows that she more than anything wants to be like them and prove her worth to the family, which is probably why she is constantly going around being extra whenever she can and takes on the quest to save the family's magic. 

You're wondering when we'll get to the song and we're getting to it. 

Fast Forward to the Song

So Mirabel runs around, the house gets wrecked, Luisa, Isabela and Bruno each get songs, something about a butterfly and a candle and we get to Mirabel rallying the now de-powered and de-toxified family to rebuild the house and we get the song: 


And here's what makes me cry: 

We see how bright you burn
We see how brave you've been
Now, see yourself in turn
You're the real gift, kid, let us in

Mirabel goes through a massive pile of nonsense for her family, all the while being ignored or demoralized by the same family. On top of that, ever since her magic door ceremony, she has had to put on a brave face and do everything she can to live up to them, and now, finally, she is being acknowledged for the amazing person she is. Her family sees all that she's been through and honors her for everything she's done. 


For those who feel marginalized, who feel like the outsider, or who are trying to live up to a legacy and feel like they aren't making it, this simple acknowledgement of being seen can mean everything in the world. It can mean the difference between continuing a toxic family pattern or creating a healthy family. It can sometimes even mean the difference between life and death. 

Mirabel is given a doorknob that matches her magical family's magic doors. They have no intention of the magic coming back, but it's symbolic to her. The special gift Mirabel always had was the ability to unite her family, not just physically but emotionally, all by being there for those that need her and being herself, without any magic. 

Cue Joe ugly crying. 

-JOE

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Problem with Armageddon


When it was announced that Flash would premiere with a five-episode crossover, I was excited. Especially once they announced Black Lightning and Batwoman would be appearing. And Mia Queen! In a COVID world, the idea of doing a crossover across one show instead of the current five was a great idea. That being said, I was underwhelmed and confused by the crossover. It felt disjointed in many ways, which left me disappointed.


My first and biggest grievance with the Armageddon crossover event was the timeline. Or rather, timelines. We ended up with three different timelines by the end of the fifth episode and it wasn’t clear how they all worked together. First, we have the timeline where Despero has come from 2031 to stop Barry from causing Armageddon. In this timeline Joe is dead and only Barry knows he’s supposed to be alive (how does he retain that memory when everyone else’s memories changed with the timeline?). Second, we have the 2031 that Despero came from… but in this timeline Barry is the Reverse-Flash and Team Flash has no memory of him being a good guy. So how is this Barry’s future if it’s another timeline entirely? And finally we have the restored timeline with Joe alive and Thawne fading away. That timeline I have no issue with. 

Was that confusing enough to follow? 

Welcome to how I’ve been processing the crossover.


Second complaint: Batwoman, Sentinel, and Ryan Choi were vastly underutilized. I’ve enjoyed Ryan Wilder as Batwoman, in many ways more than I liked Kate. So to see how she’d be brought together with the other heroes was exciting, since none of our other heroes know Wilder’s Batwoman. But instead, we had her in the future already friends with the alternate Team Flash. I suppose that’s fine and Barry can bring that information back to the present day for future crossovers. So despite Alex, Wilder, and Ryan appearing in this crossover… not much happened. Also, what was with changing Ryan Choi’s whole personality in this future?

Speaking of Ryan Choi’s playboy personality, I really didn’t care about Part 4’s subplots. Maybe these plots will surface as a result of the Reverse-Flashpoint bleeding through into the new timeline, like Flashpoint’s memories arising during Season 3 of The Flash. But for now, I really don’t see the point of Allegra and Chuck’s story, Batwoman’s potential pregnancy, and Ryan Choi’s player side. But I guess we’ll see what the rest of Season 8 brings us.


Now with any of my “problem” posts, I like to be fair and mention what I did like. For this crossover, what I really enjoyed was the returning characters. We didn’t get any colossal battles like we did in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but we had some small scale team ups. Which I kind of like better. It reminds me of back when Cisco and Joe teamed up with Laurel and Quentin. Or when Oliver and Ronnie/Stein helped Barry against Reverse-Flash. Or Barry and Kara’s musical episode. These smaller scale crossovers mean more to me, as it reinforces the universe of shows we’re enjoying. They were all combined in Earth-Prime for a reason after all. So one or two returning/crossover characters per episode was basically perfect. 

Besides Atom, Black Lightning, and Green Arrow 2.0 returning, I’m glad they brought Mia back for another reason. Her show, Green Arrow and the Canaries, was never picked up, leaving the fate of her brother unknown. Now it looks like they’re going to use the other shows to fill in those gaps, starting with her appearance in Armageddon. Just like how Legends finished off the loose ends from Constantine, I’m excited to see where Mia’s story will take her next. Superman & Lois? Clark’s other incarnations (Tom Welling, Christopher Reeves, etc.) have time-traveled. Or maybe more Flash or Legends? I guess we’ll see what the rest of this season brings.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Families Are Forever ... Even on Tatooine


The second episode of the incredible Book of Boba Fett is called "The Tribes of Tatooine", and indeed, it very much explores the themes of tribes and family. When I first watched the episode, I found it difficult to connect because halfway through, the story switched from "present" day, to a flashback. It felt like two mini episodes that were disjointed and had nothing to do with each other.

But after watching a second time, I realized that both halves of the show were about the same theme: Family. Tribes. Belonging. 

In the present time, we are made to believe that Boba Fett has no idea what it's like to be part of a family. Fett is trying to fight against the Hutt family. The mayor tells him, "Running a family is more complicated than bounty hunting." True! Fett is viewed by others as a bounty hunter without any loyalty or affiliation to a family. A notion that is accentuated by the fact that he is a clone who lost his father at a young age. Boba never really had a family. He doesn't belong anywhere.

But in the second half of the episode, we learn that nothing could be further from the truth. We see, in detail, how Boba Fett gained trust among his captors. Maybe there was a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, but Boba Fett knew that the Tuskens were not "bad" people. They saved him and cared for him. They taught him. They trained him. And when he showed kindness and generosity to the Tuskens, they returned those gestures in kind. The Tuskens even permitted Boba to go on a spirit quest, take part in their rituals, and rise to a prominent position in the tribe. Indeed, if there's anybody who knows what it means to belong to a family, it's Boba Fett. 

The two halves of "The Tribes of Tatooine" pose a question about Fett's character, and then answer that question.

This got me thinking about what it means to be part of a family. I have the most wonderful, most nurturing family in the world. All of my seven siblings are individual weirdos, but we love each other so much and get along famously. We have always been close, but our bonds were forged stronger when my brother died a few years ago. 

On the other hand, I recently got a divorce. I worried about what that meant for my eternal family. Was a breaking up my family, which is a common argument against divorce? Would my kids be lost? Would I still belong to a family? As I have pressed forward on this new path in my life, I have learned what it means to be part of a family even moreso. I'm closer to my kids than I have ever been before. I am a happier and more authentic person, so I am more emotionally available to "be there" for my kids. My family never broke up, we just shifted our responsibilities. I still preside, provide, and protect. My ex-wife still nurtures with love and righteousness. We are still equal partners, we just don't live together. Our "other circumstances necessitate individual adaptation". 

Families come in many shapes and sizes and arrangements. Be it a traditional family with two parents, a blended family, a single-parent family ... or a Tusken tribe. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

5 Times Ross Geller was the Best


A couple months ago I wrote a post about how Ross was basically the worst of the Friends characters. The comments I got in response got me thinking, because it’s not like he’s a bad guy. At his core, he’s a caring, loving person. So in rebuttal to my own post, I wanted to look at some of Ross’s best moments.


Rachel’s prom

While a young college freshman, Ross was home visiting his family when Monica and Rachel left for their senior prom. Rachel’s date had seemingly stood her up, so she was naturally upset about missing her prom. At his parents’ suggestion, Ross prepped himself to take Rachel himself. He was crushing on her back then, but he didn’t have enough confidence to think she’d like him. But as Ross was about to come down the stairs to surprise Rachel, her date showed up and they left. What makes it sadder is that his heroic efforts weren’t even noticed until years later when the videotape was discovered by Monica.


Walking Carol down the aisle

Like Ross said, if Carol weren’t a lesbian and had been marrying a man, no one would have expected him to attend her wedding. Maybe having a child with her helped, but it took a moment of great humility for Ross to be there for Carol. Not only did he attend her wedding, but he walked her down the aisle, after her parents refused to attend her wedding. Again, no one would have blamed him for sitting it out. But he went above and beyond to be there for Carol.


Teaching Phoebe to ride a bike

When Ross found out that Phoebe never got her own bike as a kid, he went out of his way to buy her one (and adult bikes aren’t exactly cheap). Later on when he realized she didn’t know how to ride her bike, he tried to teach her. That ended up with its own sort of drama, resulting in eventually just giving Phoebe training wheels. But it’s the thought that counts; Ross went out of his way to make one of Phoebe’s childhood dreams come true.


Rachel’s broken rib 

Already broken up again for the umpteenth time, Ross found Rachel beaten up with a potentially broken rib (after Monica slammed into her). She was supposed to be off to a gala for work and Ross was supposed to be on the Discovery Channel. But with how pathetic Rachel was that night, Ross attempted to help her prepare for the gala, only to take her to hospital in the end anyway. Ross quietly and selflessly gave up his chance to be on television to take care of Rachel. 


Stepping down from playing keyboard 

The Phoebe/Ross friendship dynamic is completely underrated. Yeah, they’re at odds on stuff like evolution, but they love and support each other like nothing else (except maybe like Phoebe/Joey). After Ross pulls his keyboard out again, Phoebe decides he’s really good at his music (she’s the only one with that opinion) to the point that she stops playing her music at Central Perk. When Ross realizes this, he “plays bad” on purpose to give himself a chance to step down, so Phoebe would feel comfortable playing again. Now no one besides Phoebe or Ross could see any sort of worsening to Ross’s music, but it’s the thought that counts right?

I’m sure there are some shining Ross moments that I’ve forgotten, but these are some of my favorites. Even being the worst of the group, Ross has some redeeming qualities. And if even Ross can have redemption, maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself either.

Monday, January 10, 2022

D&D Class Breakdown: Barbarian

For new players, it can be hard to choose your first class. For veteran players, it can be hard to choose a class and not fall into stereotypes everyone's seen a thousand times. So now I'm going to deconstruct the 5E Player's Handbook classes (Sorry Artificer, you'll come later) and talk about what works, what doesn't, and some interesting ways to play the classes. 

I won't be going into game mechanics as much as I'll be going into roleplay. 

Let's start with barbarians!




What is a Barbarian? 
Traditionally, barbarians are anybody that belongs to a society that's outside of the norm (We'll get to why that's a problem later). Usually used to describe more "primitive" cultures in ancient times, the idea that unless you were living in the same way everyone else was and believed what everyone else believed you were somehow less than. 

The traditional Dungeons and Dragons barbarian has its roots in Viking culture with the berserker, a warrior believed to gain power from going into a blind frenzy in combat. Rather than formal military training these warriors went at the battlefield like a toddler does to their first birthday cake and with roughly the same amount of mess. 

In modern culture we can see this same type of fighter demonstrated in people who have taken a startling amount of drugs and are raging against an innocent victim. Or a tree. Or a car. The idea behind this is that when a person's inhibition's are lowered they put more force into their swings and ignore the pain from incoming attacks, hence why some of the intoxicated can shrug off taser blasts and sometimes even gunfire before they finally drop. 

Barbarians in the Game




In-game, barbarians usually hale from the edges of society, where the populace has to fight every day against animals and monsters to survive. They also commonly come from "savage" races, such as orcs and goliaths, where the strength bonus is more beneficial and where living away from society makes more sense since they're considered uncivilized races. Because they live outside of the bounds of Mrs. Hammarsham School For Culture, barbarians are generally seen as less than intelligent brutes who make social faux paus and have no problem killing for the sake of killing. 

Quick note: Here is the problem with the wildling barbarian trope: It hails back to the idea that anyone not firmly part of western civilization (Vikings, Guals, Native Americans, Africans ect) are dangerous rage monsters who will charge uncontrollably into battle. They also indicate that because a group of people isn't part of a dominant society that they are ignorant. While a player who rolls a half-orc barbarian from the Spine of the World probably isn't trying to be racist, it's good to remember where the trope's roots are planted. 

Barbarians in the party are usually the tank and are relied upon to do anything that requires heavy lifting or destroying something beyond recognition. In 3.5 the barbarian class also had to put special skill points to be able to read any language they knew (more racism). They usually see magic as either bad luck and only belonging to religious leaders and see anything more technologically sophisticated than a wheel to be an act of witchcraft. 

Despite their usual violent tendencies, barbarians often become the tender heart of the group. Their ignorance is played as charming and they take likings and obsessions to more mundane things that to them are extraordinary. Barbarians can sometimes become like a de facto guard dog for the group, protective of them (or a specific member) and will go through anything to keep them safe. 

Breaking the Trope


As much fun as the dumb barbarian trope is, this character can get old fast if the player wants to make any contribution to the game besides hit the stuff and make it fall down. 

Smart Barbarian
Yes, we want the barbarian to be strong and to take a hit, but that doesn't mean that intelligence and wisdom need to be completely tossed. Picture something like a Beast type from the X-Men who can completely devastate a group of grunts but will quote Chaucer while doing it. The barbarian may see violence as a necessity and find it fun to turn off his higher thinking for a second to go into a rage. Or he could have been educated at a formal school before having to learn to survive in the wilds, creating a Tarzan-like character. 

Rage Issues
The rage thing is a good gameplay mechanic, but why not make it into a roleplay mechanic too? Maybe the person flies into these rages and hates it because it's pushed everyone away from him. Maybe his rage is less of a supernatural ability and more of a mental disorder he's trying to overcome but is conflicted because if he truly leaves his rage behind he can't be the amazing warrior he is. The rage can become a fascinating thing to roleplay if done right. 

Non-Privative
Fun fact about the peoples who were originally called barbarians-they weren't. If the DM is cool with it, and you really want an outsider barbarian, try to make their tribe or culture more fleshed out than cave men and raiders. Maybe the barbarian is part of an elite honor guard who can tap into their rage for battle. Maybe the civilization has only been seen in part to protect its people Wakanda style. Or maybe people just assumed they were primitive because of how they looked or where they lived and nobodies ever bothered exploring deeper. 

Famous Barbarians




Grog Strongjaw (Critical Role) Okay so I know there's a barbarian in the second season, but I haven't listened to it yet because they're like three hours an episode and I got a job. Anyway, Grog is the quintessential barbarian. Small clan of violent raiders: Check. Dumb as a stump: Check. De facto heart of the group: Check. He's even the tank of the group. 

Drizzt Do'Urden (Icewind Dale series and others) I know he's considered a ranger, but in the Dark Elf Trilogy he spends about a decade in the wilds of the Underdark away from any other sentient being. There he develops what he calls the Hunter, a seemingly alternate personality focused purely on survival and suppresses his higher thought processes. He has trouble not entering this state while in danger for a long while after he returns to civilization, which is treated as a form of PTSD. While it's not his main class, he's definitely got a class of barbarian somewhere in his build. 

Bobby the Barbarian (Dungeons and Dragons the TV series) The youngest of the children to get lost in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, Bobby doesn't rage so much as he just charges into battle, usually needing to be rescued at some point during the episode. His Thunder Club can cause small earthquakes and cause rocks to dislodge. While he's not the most interesting or powerful barbarian on the list, he's certainly the cutest. 

Hulk (Marvel) The rage monster Hulk gets stronger the angrier he gets, though when not angry at all he is almost exclusively a non-combatant (Unless he borrows an Iron Man suit from Tony). Hulk can only rage as long as he's angry, but that's usually long enough to solve any problem with the solution "Destroy everything in eyeline". In some versions Hulk even dresses like the classic barbarian, further adding to the comparison. 

Bane (DC) Though his powers aren't natural, he does go into a berserker like rage whenever Bane takes his favorite performance enhancer Venom. He's been seen taking damage that would kill a normal man and destroy objects and people who get in his way. Bane is a dangerous barbarian because unlike the rest of this list he's generally on the bad guy's side. 

So if you want to roll up a barbarian, take a look at how you're going to make them. Are you going to fall back into old racist tropes that reflect the fear of the other? Does he have to be dumb? Does she have to be rude? 

-JOE

Friday, January 7, 2022

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop


There were some beautiful and epic things about the recent Hawkeye series on Disney+:

  • The inept Tracksuit Mafia
  • The inclusion of a character who is both deaf and used a prosthetic
  • The return of Yelena
  • The use of sporadic subtitles when Maya was reading lips
  • All the trick arrows
  • LARP-ing!
  • The reveal of Kingpin
  • The entire ending sequence at Rockefeller Center
  • Rogers: The Musical

But the most wholesome and most relatable element included in Hawkeye was the unlikely relationship between Kate and Clint. Clint is a seasoned Avenger who fought aliens, saved the world, lost his entire family, gained them back, dealt with the death of his best friend, and went through a dark period of being a ruthless assassin. Kate, on the other hand, is a spoiled rich girl who idolizes the Avengers and recently pulled a prank that resulted in a bell tower being severely damaged. 

Yet, over six incredible Die Hard-inspired episodes, Clint and Kate forge a really incredible relationship. It starts off light and simple, two unlikely people whose paths cross unexpectedly. But as things get deeper and more real, they really form a deep and abiding love for each other. It was fun to watch them throw coins, fight the baddies, get tied up, and banter. How could you not enjoy their conversations when Clint lost his hearing aid, and they were talking in circles? But the best moment for their friendship was when Clint was talking to his family, and Kate was tenderly writing down what they were saying so Clint could understand. It was a moment of vulnerability that really helped bond these two damaged individuals.

The relationship between Clint and Kate reminds me that we can’t always dictate who will enter our lives, and who will cross our paths in this life. If Glinda from Wicked is to be believed, then people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them, and we help them in return. I’ve had so many people come and go in my life. Sometimes I would get frustrated that people would only show up for a few moments of my life. But I’ve learned to view relationships with other people as wonderful moments that may or may not last. I’ve learned to enjoy what they’ve brought to my life, how they’ve helped inspire me or support me or the humor they’ve helped me see. And I’ve learned to enjoy helping them in return, giving to them of myself, being vulnerable with them, sharing my experiences with them. 

But I’m rambling on about relationships in a review of Hawkeye. So back to the Marvel series. It was good. Lots of fun. Great action sequences. Terrific cast. Sharp writing. Clever direction. And I would totes watch it again next Christmas.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Sorting Boy Meets World into Hogwarts Houses


My wife and I recently finished re-watching Boy Meets World for the second time since Disney Plus came out. We both grew up with this 90s classic and (though Cory is insufferable at times) we love it. Now as we start Girl Meets World again (which we also love for bringing a piece of Boy Meets World to Disney Channel), I wanted to take a look at six of our favorite characters and give them the Hogwarts sorting treatment. Over the course of seven seasons, Boy Meets World had many main characters between Feeny, Minkus, Turner, and others. But I've decided to focus on the six main characters of the last few seasons.


Cory Matthews - Hufflepuff

I've already called Cory insufferable, so it kind of pangs me to put him in my beloved Hufflepuff house. But Cory's defining traits always come back to loyalty and fairness. When Shawn left for the Center, Cory did everything he could to bring his friend back. When Topanga lost faith in love, Cory stood by her, even though she didn't that. We see it again in Girl Meets World as he stands by his students (well, at least Riley and her friends), 


Topanga Lawrence - Ravenclaw

Putting Topanga in Ravenclaw is probably the most obvious answer. But it's so accurate. The hippie Topanga we see earlier on is definitely reminiscent of my favorite Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood. Even after hippie Topanga was written out in favor of quirky/intellectual Topanga, who's more like Hermione. But even though they're similar, I still maintain that Topanga belongs in Ravenclaw. She excelled at intellectual endeavors, not just in school, even though she did get into Yale. And honestly, as she became a lawyer in Girl Meets World, she ends up using her logical, sharp wisdom for every day life.


Shawn Hunter - Gryffindor

In many ways Shawn could also go in Slytherin or Hufflepuff, but I think it takes a particularly brave person to rise above their family of origin. Don't get me wrong, his dad went through a lot of development over the series, but Shawn's family was still broken. Instead of falling into the same traps as his father (alcoholism, among other things), he did the hard thing and excelled more than he ever thought possible. And maybe it's just that my dad did the same thing as a young adult, but it takes a particularly daring and chivalrous man to become a step-dad (at least any particularly decent step-dad) in Girl Meets World. Also, let's not forget when he protected his friend Claire from her physically (and probably emotionally) abusive father.


Angela Moore - Gryffindor

Like Shawn, it took Angela a lot of courage to rise above her family situation. She had an honorable father, but a non-existent mother. In the final two seasons, it was scary for her to trust Shawn and plunge into that relationship, scared she would be like her mother. This fear later came up in Girl Meets World when her husband wanted to start a family. It was Shawn who encouraged her to take a chance and be brave both times. I would have loved to have seen her become a mother at the end of Girl Meets World, just to bring her story full circle.


Eric Matthews - Hufflepuff

He's definitely a two-sided character, as he's calm and collected in earlier seasons, but progresses to an insane goof in later seasons. Honestly, I like his goofy Hufflepuff side better. He's the one that proves loyal to everyone in their War, even though none of his friends were loyal to him. It was Eric who brough them all back together and stopped the "what if" scenario from happening. He was so loyal to Tommy that it tore him up inside to send him away. It's why he ended up being in politics in Girl Meets World, because he cared about the people and their issues. This is why I love Eric, even if he is insane.


Jack Hunter - Slytherin

Even though he ended up as a sleezy business tycoon in Girl Meets World, I'm not saying Jack's an evil Slytherin. I've sorted plenty of good guys into Slytherin, like Toph, Mulan, and Hook. That being said, Jack does let his greed get the better of him quite often (remember Eric's fifth sense or ImJack.com?). He's also incredibly conceited, as he used his 6% body fat to get attention. These traits are very stereotypically Slytherin. His cunning, ambition, and family loyalty ring true for any fellow Slytherins. All the same, he still uses these traits for good at times too.

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