Monday, October 31, 2022

Being a Spooky Fan in the Spooky Season

 I drive down the road, on my way home from running errands, hoping my drive is a little longer than expected because I am enthralled by my podcast. A story about dark eldrich beings awoken in the Apalachas by the exploitation of coal miners and how resident witches have to protect people from monsters that have no issue over tearing a man apart or eating children. 

It was a lovely day in June. 

BTW: All the art on this post is done by me because I figured it was a great place to flex my spooky art. :D

I Don't Wait For October

I love horror all year round. from classic Universal Monsters to Lovecraftian horrors to inserting terrifying creatures into my Dungeons and Dragons games. Little hints of horror decorate my house, including a plaque with the words from a Nightmare Before Christmas song on it and a literal shrine to Cthluhu. I love the scary, the macabre, and the monsterous, and while this isn't specifially unusual in our society it's unusual enough to sometimes still feel like a weirdo, especially to those who don't get it. 

Until one month...

October Baby! 

As soon as I see the first Halloween themed anything at the store my heart flutters, it means that my time is here (and yes, I've stopped complaining when I see Christmas stuff come up early... Mostly...). For 31 glorious days out of the year my tastes in horror are no longer weird, they're downright mainstream. I've seen the cutest church moms start spraying their front porch with fake blood in glee like a serial killer who no longer cares about being caught, and the evil clowns that are usually reserved to just a background on my phone are all over the aisles at the grocery stores, and I am here for all of it. 

Now just for the record, it doesn't matter to me what kind of Halloween you're into. If yours is the super cutesie ghosts and Mickey Mouse in a little vampire outfit I am with you and will cheer you on just as much as the guy next door's tribute to Hellraiser on his front lawn. 

Halloween is the season where for just a brief period out of the year I don't have to feel weird about what I love, because for a moment everyone else celebrates the spooky with me in one way or another.

A Place for Us

Geeks of anything can feel like outsiders, mainly because our interests may not be 100% mainstream. Plenty of people still consider video games, anime and board games for children only, and let's not mention where they still think Dungeons and Dragons comes from. Feeling like an outsider comes with the territory, which is why we love things like Comic Con and Disneyland where we can revel in our interests unimpeded with like-minded individuals. These spaces are created by geeks for geeks to celebrate our passions, and has given those who may not consider themselves geeks a chance to have fun with something they find interesting, if not as heads deep into it as some of us. 

Halloween provides that space for me to let my horror love with the entire world behind me.It's more than  a convention or vacation which only lasts a few days and extends only a few blocks out. It's decorating everyone's lawns, every store selling stuff with ghosts on it, and everybody is handing out candy (That's less for the horror fan inside me and more for the fat kid inside of me) 

The Importance of a Space

Revenge of the Nerds could not be remade today not just because it's problematic but because geeks have infiltrated every level of society. Half the football players on the team now have Twitch streams they set up themselves and find someone in the United States who doesn't know who Iron Man is. That doesn't mean that we don't still need spaces where we can express our passions without fear of being judged. The way to make these spaces without renting out a venue or declaring an international holiday is simple: Let people love what they love. The more we understand that everyone has at least one weird interest we may not understand the better we would be as a species. Halloween validates my love of horror, but so does my weekly murder podcast, my monthly horror anthology (blog on that to come), and all my friends who love me and embrace my passions. 

Happy Halloween and Unpleasant Dreams. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Halo: The Flood of our Fears

Spoilers ahead, for a twenty one year old game series…

“One single flood spore can destroy a species…” -Rtas ‘Vadum, Ship Master of the Separatist Fleet, 2552

If you’ve ever known me really well, you’ll know I’m a big scaredy-cat. I noticeably jumped in the theater for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, when the Kraken screams in Jack Sparrow’s face. When my wife surprised me by being home before me and jumping from behind a door, I jumped a foot and screamed about an octave higher than my voice normally allows for what felt like a minute. I don’t express it often like that, but fear is one of my great weaknesses: whether that be fear of tackling a project, or of messing up talking to someone, or whether that be fear of dark places, or fear of a scary enemy in a video game. No matter how much we feel it, however, It’s what we do with our fears that matters. Sometimes that is why I feel such a connection to certain video games, because their allegory and their structure embody the chance for me to face my fears. Halo, especially in its first three installments, really resonates for me there. Since it’s October, I think it’s appropriate to explain why one of the most prominent and viscerally terrifying enemies in the Halo series is such a powerful embodiment of fear. 

In Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), you play as the Master Chief, a powerful super-soldier who crash-lands on a massive artificial ring-world, named, you guessed it, Halo. You and your AI companion, Cortana, have to try to reunite with your scattered crew, fight a technologically and numerically superior army of aliens, called the Covenant, and get a way back to Earth. Captain Keyes, your superior who piloted you out of a bigger mess than you got into on Halo, sets out to find a weapons cache to beat the Covenant at their own game. In doing so, he accidentally stumbles across an enemy far worse. When you go to rescue him, you encounter the Flood. You see, Halo is a first person shooter. That means that you get to see things as if from your own perspective. There isn’t a magic camera behind you, it’s instead “inside” the helmet of the character you are playing. You get to see things in a more personal way. It also makes it easier to replicate our every-day, normal fears. What’s around the corner? What’s in the dark ahead? You can’t cheat: you have to go in and find out, or else walk away and hope it doesn’t come after you. 

When you go to rescue Captain Keyes, nothing is quite right. Their dropship is downed in a dark, gloomy swamp, playing a distress call on repeat. Even the Covenant’s dropships are crashed, and they’re in complete disarray. When you go down into the facility, you find dead marines, dead Covenant, and hollow, empty silence. Instead of an enemy force sent to defend a strategically important weapons facility, all you find are empty defenses and the bodies of the dead. Green goo drips from the ceilling, and blood is splattered all around. A single deranged marine shoots the moment you see him, saying “you’re not turning me into one of those things!” and never stops acting like you’re the enemy. Dead Covenant lie behind barriers that failed to save them. Your greatest enemy lost to this enemy.  Finally, you catch up to the bodies of the Keyes’s team, and find a recording from a fallen helmet. They were attacked, captured, and turned by tentacled, fleshy parasites. To this point, the Flood instilled fear in you long before you even saw them: now you know the horror, and you have to fight through it. 

From now on, you’re overwhelmed by hordes of Covenant and marine bodies turned into Flood, and all you can do is to escape with your life. Every corner is a horde of the Flood, and you can’t just stand there and take them on: you have to run. The parasites crawl up walls, writhing and jumping, trying to thrust their tentacles into your spinal cord to wrest control of your body. Marines that used to fight alongside you now are unrecognizable, as tentacles and mutilated flesh overtake them and the Covenant alike. They have strength to run and jump impossible distances, and they are absolutely relentless. But they’re not stupid or mindless: remember that crazed marine? The Flood left him there to draw you further in. They employ traps, destroy elevators, wield weapons, and use every conceivable technique to infect more hosts, and consume you with them. They are an absolutely terrifyingly designed enemy, and the only way to win is to run. 

Now, growing up, I had few opportunities to play Halo, but it left an indelible impact on me. The original Halo games are famous for being able to play cooperatively, and memories of playing with my brother and my cousin (though they played a lot more than I did) are still sweet. In many ways, because they’re a fair bit older, I feel like their confidence helped me to not be paralyzed by fear when I played; and in fact, extended to other games as well. While I’m still a scaredy-cat (the tension in Resident Evil 4 is sometimes more than I want to handle), I know how to stand, face the horror, and be strong. 

I feel like our lives are so much like these games. We are faced with horrors that are not gross and life-threatening, but they are existentially terrifying: are we smart enough to pass a difficult class at university? Do we have the talent to stand out in a field of job applicants? Will we be able to hold it together and be collected when we perform in front of everyone? Am I a caring enough father and husband for my family? These sorts of questions can easily grow, fester, and take over our lives. I see it in myself every time my graduation from school is delayed. However, even if we falter and pause in the face of fear, we don’t have to succumb to it: 

“Because the Savior, through His infinite Atonement, redeemed each of us from weakness, mistakes, and sin, and because He experienced every pain, worry, and burden you have ever had, then as you truly repent and seek His help, you can rise above this present precarious world.

“You can overcome the spiritually and emotionally exhausting plagues of the world, including arrogance, pride, anger, immorality, hatred, greed, jealousy, and fear. Despite the distractions and distortions that swirl around us, you can find true rest—meaning relief and peace—even amid your most vexing problems.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” October 2022 General Conference)

Even when fear floods our minds and threatens to consume us, or destroy us, or to drive us to insignificance, we have to be willing to face it; we must be present before it, trust in the Lord, and stand. Stand, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Hopefully, through Christ, we all can find that power, and love, and soundness when we need it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Doctor Who Review: "The Power of the Doctor"

I’ve been a Whovian for nearly ten years (I started watching during winter semester 2013, so I’m only off by a couple months) and it’s been a long time since I was so antsy for a new Doctor Who episode. It was probably the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” that fall that got me so pumped up. My anticipation for the Centenary Special “The Power of the Doctor” might have almost matched my excitement for the 50th. Returning villains, companions, and even Doctors. There’s no way to avoid spoilers in a review like this, so here’s your final spoiler warning. The only spoiler I’m actively avoiding is the cliffhanger of the episode (AHHHH!!!). Anyway, let’s jump in…

The “Extended Fam”

For the first time since Jo Grant Jones appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures, we got the return of a classic companion. But not only one, we got a few. The two major ones were Tegan (last seen in “Resurrection of the Daleks”) and Ace (last seen in “Survival”), but we got the return of Graham, Ian, Mel, and Jo. The Doctor called the group her “extended fam” shortly before her regeneration and extended they are. And did I see a little romantic spark between Ace and Graham?

A Few Old Favorites

Just as the Curator told us in “The Day of the Doctor” we got visited by a few old faces. Returning to help the Thirteenth Doctor in her mental landscape we got the First, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Doctors. In addition, the Fifth, Seventh, and Fugitive Doctors helped out in hologram form, encouraging the TARDIS team and tricking the Master and his Cybermen.

The Spy Master

Returning as the Master, Rasputin, and (temporarily) the Doctor, it was eerie to get Sacha Dhawan playing the role of the Doctor’s nemesis again. And he finally got around to stealing her body, like he tried to do in the TV movie! Only temporarily, thanks to Yaz and the gang, but it had my jaw dropping in the meantime. Even knowing the Doctor couldn’t possibly be gone for real, I couldn’t see how the TARDIS team would undo a forced regeneration.

Goodbye, Dan

I’m glad we got to see him at the end of the special, but I was disappointed to see Dan exit the TARDIS, especially so early in the episode. I really liked Dan during the Flux epic. His comedic air reminded me of Donna (probably because both actors are comedians). I had actually hoped he’d end up joining the Fourteenth Doctor in the Davies 2.0 era of Doctor Who

The Chibnall Loose Ends

With this being Chris Chibnall’s last Doctor Who story, I had heard we’d get more resolution to the Timeless Child arc and the Flux. Specifically, I want to know what the state of the universe is after the Flux. It was mostly destroyed. Is it back now? It seems so, but no one actually confirmed anything is back. And with the Timeless Child, we got a Ruth hologram during this episode, but we didn’t really get any resolution to the Doctor’s lost memories. I’m sure it’s always possible Russell T Davies will pick up one or both of these storylines, but I’m guessing he’ll just go his own direction next year.

And just like that we’re without the Doctor again for a time. No holiday special this year. Instead, we’re waiting for the 60th anniversary next fall. Allons-y!

Monday, October 24, 2022

No One’s Slick like Gaston


This is a recent transcript we, the daily Yen Sid, got from one of geeks before he volunteered to follow the interviewee to a Beast’s castle to rescue an inventor’s daughter named Belle. This is his report.

Reporter: Hello Mr. Gaston, thanks for meeting with The Daily Yen Sid. I see we have the pleasure of having Mr. Lefou join us as well. We have been trying to meet you for some time now, but you’ve always declined.

Gaston: [referring to our news business] How can you read this? There’s no pictures!

Reporter: Well, if you want, we can add images of your adventures, but I must know what changed that made you request us?

Gaston: I'm afraid I've been thinking.

Lefou: A dangerous pastime?

Gaston: I know.

Reporter: Ok, what have you been thinking Mr. Gaston?

Gaston: Picture this: A rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire, and my little wife massaging my feet, while the little ones play on the floor with the dogs.

Reporter: That sounds dreamy, but last I checked Mr. Gaston your Facebook status says you’re single. Is there something you have been hiding from the public?

Gaston: Do you know who that little wife will be? Belle. Belle is mine!

Reporter: Oh Ms. Belle, yes, I have heard about her. She is new here and she is the talk of the town. I thought she was . . .

Gaston: Here in town there's only she, who is beautiful as me! So, I'm making plans to woo and marry Belle!

Reporter: According to her last tweet, Mr. Gaston, she said, “I'm very sorry, Gaston, but I just don't deserve you!” Included in that post is a picture of her being held romantically to a hairy beast. 

Gaston: I'll have Belle for my wife! Make no mistake about that! Did you honestly think she'd want *Beast*, when she had someone like *me*?

Lefou: No one's slick as Gaston. No one's quick as Gaston. No one's neck is as incredibly thick as Gaston. For there's no man in town half as manly. Perfect, a pure paragon. You can ask any Tom, Dick, or Stanley and they'll tell you whose team they prefer to be on. No one's big like Gaston. A kingpin like Gaston. No one's got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston.

Reporter: This is true. Mr. Gaston as a specimen is intimidating. That post must be a plea for help. Speaking of which, your fans have been dying to know how to become like you.

Gaston: When I was a lad, I ate four dozen eggs every morning to help me get large. And now that I'm grown, I eat five dozen eggs. So I'm roughly the size of a barge.

Reporter: Wow, that is unbelievable. In preparations to meeting you, I met one of your students from the Bikini Bottom universe and he informed us that he’d rather eats nails for breakfast without any milk than keep training with you.

Lefou: No one plots like Gaston.

Reporter: That is true, Mr. Lefou. I recently read an autobiographies from another apprentice from one of the Murata universes and he mentioned that you told him to perform 100 sit-ups, 100 push-ups, a run 10-kilometers, and then 100 squats a day. In the summer no air conditioning and in the winter no turning on the heat. He is now the strongest man in that universe. What do you have to say about that?

Gaston: It's about time you got your head out of those books and pay attention to more important things. Like me.

Reporter: Right, I am sorry Mr. Gaston. This is an interview about you, but I must know how will you separate Belle from this beast?

Gaston: If I didn't know better, I'd think you had feelings for this monster.

Reporter: That is not true, Mr. Gaston! I know the town is going to go to beast’s residence and rescue her. 

Gaston: Come on . . . and fight! Take whatever booty you can find, but remember, the Beast is mine!

Reporter: Alright! I will join you if I can come to your wedding.

Gaston: First I'd better go. . . and uh, propose to the girl!

That was the end of our reporter’s interview with Gaston. We haven’t heard from him since the raiding of the castle but, rest assured reader, he is with Gaston. No one hits like Gaston and matches wits like Gaston. He is probably enjoying the wedding and hasn’t reported back to The Daily Yen Sid.

Thanks for reading. See you in our next report.

Friday, October 21, 2022

5 Scary Lesser Known Dungeons and Dragons Monsters

 Man that title is clunky...

Dungeons and Dragons monsters are a wide range from cute and cuddly to giant kaiju monstrosities made to slap the smug smile off of any player. As a horror fan, I love finding the exceptionally scary, exceptionally gory monsters to add that little touch of fear to my games. Here are five lesser known but incredibly terrifying Dungeons and Dragons monsters that are not in the Monster Manual. 

Unpleasant dreams. 

5: Carrionette (Von Richton's Guide to Ravenloft)

In the proud tradition of Chucky and Annabelle, D&D now has its own scary doll. The carrionette is a construct made to look like a child's toy, but when it animates it only has one goal: Stab a living being with an enchanted silver needle, making them switch souls with the victim. The carrionette can then cause havoc in the victim's body, making them perform whatever sinister acts come to mind while the victim is stuck in a dememnted Barbie body. It makes you wonder weather the carrionette really is a demonic soul or if it's another adventurer that was body swapped long ago and has since gone completely mad...

4: Star Spawn (Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes)

The Far Realm is a place beyond the realms of sanity where only the most desperate or mad adventurer dares to travel. Emissaries of the realm, such as mind flayers and star spawn, only hit at the madness that can be found there. Constructs of insanity, the star spawn only come to the Material Plane to prepare the world for its inevitable slip into darkness. Perfect for any Lovecraft fans who want to add some more cosmic horror into their campaigns. 

3: Yuan-Ti Anathema (Volo's Guide to Monsters)

You know what would be scarier than a medusa? If we just skipped the woman's head and had all the writhing snake heads come right off the neck like a hydra nightmare. That's what the Yuan-Ti anathema is, a snake tail, human torso and arms, then a bunch of snake heads. Their Ophidiophobia aura makes any creatures looking at them fear both Yuan-Ti and snakes in the area, making some of the strongest party members completely useless with fear of the slithering hoards. 

2: Oblex (Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) 

What's scarier than a slime? A slime that can take human form and pretend to be a person until it's too late. Combining the mimic and the slime into a John Carpenter horror monster. The oblex looks human until you notice a tendril of ichor leading to a giant blobby mass of evil. It's unnerving to see one, but how about a whole village of monsters all interconnected by tendrils and all mimicking humanity until the poor adventurer comments on an oddity.... Then they all look at once...

1: Elder Brain Dragon (Fizban's Treasury of Dragons)

Combining the overwhelming raw power of a dragon with the horrifying implications of a mind flayer and you get the elder brain dragon. After an elder brain takes over the body of a dragon, the creature's breath weapon becomes full of infectious illithid tadpoles which can turn anyone into the octopus faced monsters. It's greed for treasure and the lust for power combine into a creature that few can stand against. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Killer Bunnies: A Must Have Board Game

Do you like games where you make alliances and betray them later like Risk? Do you like when you have a good strategy and then one card could give you terrible misfortune and ruin everything like Betrayal at the House on the Hill? Do you like games where everything relies on the role of the dice, like Dungeons and Dragons? Do you like games that doesn’t matter how well/bad you played because there is a random chance of winning like Yahtzee? Do you like games with puns, like Munchkin? Well, Killer Bunnies card game is that and more!

“Killer Bunnies is a fun, light-hearted game of social interaction which is great to share with both family and friends . . . Killer Bunnies is a comical journey through pop-culture” –

The objective of the game is to play as many bunnies as possible to collect carrots (one of them being the winning carrot). While collecting carrots you can use your bunnies to kill your opponents bunnies; steal their money, bunnies, and saved treasure; have aliens abduct their bunnies; and gamble/auction your opponents bunnies---preventing them from getting carrots.This is crucial, because if the other players don't have a bunny then they are not be able to win. 

To play the game you receive 7 cards and place two cards face down in ascending order each time it is your turn you play the top card, meaning you must think two steps ahead. The goal of the game is to obtain as many carrots as possible. To get a carrot, you must have a bunny in play. In the base set there are 12 carrots each with their own personality like Arnie (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Presto (a magician), and so much more.

After the end of your turn, you draw until you have 5 cards in your hands. In my family we allow you to sneakily steal more cards from the draw pile and if you are caught with more than 5 cards, your opponents discard random cards from your hand until you are down to 5 cards and you skip your next turn. Sometimes when you draw a card you get a play immediately card that causes terrible misfortune killing off one of your bunnies. It’s always fun to read out loud how your bunny died by misfortune like “One of your bunnies is exposed to illegal buried Plutonium loses its fur, convulses for a bit and dies”, “One of your bunnies is smothered in barbecue sauce, bound to a stick, and slowly cooked for a Hillbilly Hoe Down!”, and “One of your bunnies’ experiments with flint stones while kneeling near a leaking gas main!”


The base game is fun, but when you buy the expansions then new game mechanics are presented. Usually, with expansions the games stay the same with more cards, but I really enjoy these games expansions because of the additional mechanics, like defense cards for when your enemy fires a weapon at one of your bunnies, Rank cards that always the highest-ranking player to play an additional card per turn, and yellow ball with red stripe that allows a player to take other players cards that contain that image. The expansions make the game more fun and there are a lot of them.

Also, the expansions include bunnies that reference your favorite shows/movies like Star Trek, Harry Potter, Sherlock, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Stranger Things, and so much more. Do you want to see the Harry Potter trio, your favorite doctor from Dr. Who, or Lord of the Rings characters as bunnies? Then this is the game for you.

Killer Bunnies is a game that should be a staple in every household. Growing up I played so many hours of this game every weekend with my friends for years. We had a man cave in my friend’s garage with a fold up table multiple stacks of cards, chips, soda, and laughter that will be remembered for eternity. Some of my best memories growing up are in this garage playing this game. We formed packs, betrayed them, auctioned bunnies, gained military rank, and received many terrible misfortunes.

I like this game for a couple of reasons. You can play this with two or more people. When the game is over there are never hard feelings because even though one player has most of the carrots, there is a chance that the other player has the winning carrot. All geeks who like this blog would appreciate this game. What games are staples in your household?