The Best of Area of Effect 2015 Dec30

The Best of Area of Effect 2015

If you want to bring in the new year with some Area of Effect reading, check out our best of the best from 2015. These are the top three Editor’s Picks from every category for the year, spanning topics from Iron Man’s sarcasm to cancer and LARPS. Read the stories you’ve missed and refresh yourselves on the articles you’ve loved as we move on to a new year! ANIME 1. “Slaying Zuko”by Christopher Johnson AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER 2. “Meek, Weak, or Chic” by Casey Covel DEATH NOTE , TRIGUN 3. “Not Just Another Number” by Mark Barron SPIRITED AWAY COMICS 1. “Irony Man” by Jason Dueck IRON MAN 2. “Oh, the Superhumanity” by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry BATMAN 3. “Swinging a Mile in Spiderman’s Tights” by Jason Dueck SPIDERMAN FANTASY 1. “Letters from Father Christmas” by Kyla Neufeld TOLKIEN 2. “Fairy Land Meets Real Life” by Christopher Johnson PHANTASTES 3. “A Mennonite Reads The Lord of the Rings” by Robert Martin SCI-FI 1. “Faith Like Obi-Wan’s” by Jason Dueck STAR WARS 2. “Retreating into Mercy” by Michael Boyce DOCTOR WHO 3. “Let’s Be Bad Guys” by Kyle Rudge FIREFLY TABLETOP 1. “Confessions of a DM” by Sheela Cox DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS 2. “Don’t Bounce Burgundy” by Michael Penner DIPLOMACY 3. “Monopolizing My Integrity” by Dustin Asham MONOPOLY VIDEO GAMES 1. “Sorry, Sora” by Casey Covel KINGDOM HEARTS 2. “Does It Matter If I’m a Jerk?” by Steven Sukkau DAYZ, DESTINY 3. “Snuffed Out” by Rob Horsley FIRE EMBLEM: AWAKENING HUMOUR 1. “A Gremlin’s Guide to Gift Giving” by Michael Boyce GREMLINS 2. “Battle of Cute and Deadly” by Allison Barron FUTURAMA, POKEMON 3. “Unlikely Friendships” by Kyle and Allison HARRY POTTER, HALO OTHER/CROSSOVERS 1. “Retcon, God, Please Retcon” by Kyle Rudge LARPS 2. “Mechon, Titan, Black and White” by Casey Covel ATTACK ON TITAN 3. “In Sickness and Unhealth” by Allison Barron BSG, FULLMETAL...

A gamer’s guide to depression...

I am left with oddly strangled emotions as I watch Limbo revert back to the title screen. This was a dark game. As someone who has experienced depression, I am not horrified, but rather relieved that someone else can express the difficult emotions that I have felt in the past. It might sound odd, but by playing a nameless boy who runs through a dark forest solving emotionally disturbing puzzles, I feel like I am not alone. There’s something about actually playing a character myself, about walking, running, and sliding through a dark world, dying and getting up again, that is cathartic. This is different than watching someone go through numbing emotions in a book or a movie—when I play, this is me. I make the choice to go forward or stand still. Though my control is limited to where the game takes me; this ironic similarity to life does not escape me. One of the hardest things about depression is facing friends who don’t understand what it feels like. It can be exhausting trying to explain that you can’t just “cheer up,” even if there is no particular reason for your sadness. Depression can be affected by events in your life, In a game like Limbo, dark feelings are not shoved under a rug because they make people feel uncomfortable.yes, but biology can also play a part. (Recent studies suggest depression is not, contrary to popular belief, caused by a “chemical imbalance,” but other biological factors are likely involved.) Regardless, it’s not something you can kick by plastering a smile on your face and pretending you feel fine. I am encouraged by games that deal with this emotion; not only does it make me feel like other players might understand me better, it is...

In sickness and unhealth Oct16

In sickness and unhealth...

Being sick sucks. There, I said it. And though I suspect this is pretty obvious, I still think it’s worth saying and perhaps even repeating. Being sick sucks. It is the general consensus that if you are sick, you should be coddled, babied, taken care of, and in some cases even pitied. This is hardly the state we expect a hero to be in. When we doodle Superman on our fourth-grade notebooks (or for some of us, on the edges of the manuscripts we are currently editing), we don’t depict him in bed hugging a blanket with a bucket close at hand. We like our heroes to be strong, and how are they supposed to be powerful if they are suffering from an unbearable illness? Okay, some notable heroes catch the odd bug, like when Lucy comes down with a cold in Fairy Tail and Natsu makes it his mission to help her feel better, or when Buffy passes out because of the flu while fighting a vampire, but those are all short-term. I’m talking about the long-term, chronic, debilitating kind of sickness that seriously sucks and all of us dread. Sometimes we have to give up our independence and ask others to carry us when we can’t crawl any more (flans, unite). The truth is, we don’t see a lot of heroes suffering from this type of disease, and for good reason. It’s hard to write around if it isn’t the main focus of the story or episode. Also, psychological disorders and pain seem to be more romantic or something (Batman, Wolverine, or Deadpool anyone?); so you will probably notice characters thus afflicted a lot more frequently. But when I do see a character fighting a long-term physical illness, I love it. I love seeing that particular battle because the...

Short story contest Sep28

Short story contest

Area of Effect wants YOU! …and your Christmas-themed stories. Then why is the image above not of Santa Claus, you ask? Because we don’t want stories about Santa Claus, or Frosty, or Rudolph, or even Jesus, necessarily. We’re looking for creative stories that focus on the mythos of Christmas that takes place in your fictional land, and that could include whatever you dream up. Perhaps the tradition started when space pirates had to drop a load of cargo and rained down treasure on your planet. Perhaps Christmas is a time of fear because that’s when the dark elves come out. You tell us! Length: Between 300 and 1000 words. Manga, comic, or graphic novel stories may be up to two pages long. Acceptable Genres: fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, dystopian, horror, sci-fi/western, fairy tale, folklore/legend, superhero, space opera, science fantasy, steampunk, graphic novel/manga/comic Deadline: October 25, 2015 Prizes: The top three entries will be published in the Christmas issue of Area of Effect magazine alongside other Christmas-themed stories written by published authors. The winning entries will also be posted online at www.geekdomhouse.com. Restrictions: Stories may not include (1) harsh language or profanity, (2) explicit sexual content, or (3) any bashing of people groups or religions. Stories should not surpass a PG-13 rating. Editing: Geekdom House reserves the right to edit the winning entries as necessary, with author permission. How to Enter: Email your submissions with the subject line “Christmas short story submission” to casey@geekdomhouse.com. Written entries should be sent as a Word document; art entries can be sent as a JPG or PDF. Include your full name and a short biography. Questions? Send Casey an email or ask in the...

The devolved Doctor Sep23

The devolved Doctor

Sometimes change is good, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The Doctor has lost something fundamental to my definition of a hero. He changed. And I don’t like it. Mercy is the ninth and tenth Doctor’s frequent weapon of choice. Here is a hero who doesn’t fight for justice by brandishing a blaster, but who is full of forgiveness and looks for nonviolent solutions to the battles surrounding him (unless we’re talking about Daleks, but I consider them the exception to prove the rule). At the end of the rebooted Series One, the Daleks are back in numbers and threatening the Earth. The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) creates a signal that will wipe them out completely, but unfortunately, it will also destroys everything living, including the humans on Earth. The Doctor has his hand on the lever and is faced with the decision to end the lives of everyone he knows on Earth, though the Daleks are presumably going to destroy them anyway. At this moment when every viewer is holding their breaths to see what he will choose to do, the Dalek emperor taunts him. “I want to see you become like me,” he says. “Hail the Doctor, the great exterminator!” The Doctor weeps over his dying enemy. Now that’s a true hero. And as the Doctor’s fist tightens on the lever, the emperor asks him: “What are you, coward or killer?” The Doctor makes a move to push the lever down, but then steps back. “Coward, any day,” he replies. Cowardice. He chooses cowardice. He is the opposite of a Dalek. He is compassionate and merciful. He values life and abhors violence. He is the hero who warms the cockles of my heart. Fast forward to the newest Doctor (Peter Capaldi). There is a distinct contrast between these two doctors. With this latest Doctor we have a bitter and angry Time Lord, ready to destroy (as demonstrated by his willingness to kill Missy in the episode “Death in Heaven”). A Dalek tells him, “I see into your soul, Doctor. I see hatred. You are a good Dalek.” You are a good Dalek. Becoming what you hate is many a person’s fear, and for the Doctor, whose worst enemy is the Dalek, that fear must be tenfold. (Spoiler warning) The first episode of Series Nine, recently aired, ends with the Doctor holding a Dalek weapon that appears to be aimed at the child Davros. The Doctor is so afraid of what Davros will become, about what he will do, that he has returned to Davros’s childhood to destroy him (or that is the assumption). How ironic that the Doctor should wield the weapon of his enemy. Regardless of what the most merciful act truly is—destroying Davros or letting him survive to kill millions—the Doctor appears to be choosing violence as the solution to the problem. Where was compassion? Where was mercy? These values that the Doctor has come to epitomize are lost in the hatred of an evil being. I can’t help but bring back memories of Ten (David “Dreamy” Tennant), whose repeated phrase is “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” words said with genuine empathy. The major plot in Series Three comes to a climax when the Doctor defeats the Master with words. No weapons, just words. “You are a good Dalek.” “As if I would ask her to kill,” the Doctor says to the Master in reference to his companion, Martha, who has saved the day. Then the Doctor forgives the Master for all the evil he has done, and offers to take the Master with him on his travels. Unfortunately, the Master’s wife intervenes and shoots her husband; the Doctor is left with his enemy dying in his arms. And he cries. The Doctor weeps over his dying enemy. Now that’s a true hero. What makes mercy and nonviolence so much more powerful than cold justice?...

Subscribe to Area of Effect Aug19

Subscribe to Area of Effect...

If you enjoy reading these articles that we post online, check out our Kickstarter for the print edition of Area of Effect magazine! There are still some cool rewards you can snatch up, including 1- and 2-year subscriptions, a special edition, and writer for a month. Why print, you ask? Because: 1) There are some amazing artists in there that make it look absolutely beautiful (see the gallery below if you don’t believe us). 2) It will include some special content. 3) It makes a great geek gift. We’ve searched far and wide to find incredible troubadours (think 5e bards, not boring 3e bards) who long to explore geek culture and contribute their voice, their words, and their art to the cause. Some of our writers include esteemed published authors, established bloggers, editors-in-chief, and even the less formally educated but equally passionate and important geeks. Our artists span even further afield. We scour for hours on DeviantArt (and similar sites) looking at the amazing work that so many talented folks have done—and have recruited many to join the AoE team. Our staff and guest writers are passionate about discussing everything geeky under the sun. With your help, we plan to continue providing high quality articles like those you’ve been reading. We are stoked that you readers are enjoying Area of Effect so much: “So beautiful. Thank you for writing.”   “A+ Doctor Who Reference.” “Troy and Abed in the moooooorrrnnnniinnnng!” “As a parent, and one who loves multiplayer interactive games, I have nothing further to say, except well DONE!” “This article awoke my desire to become the Ash Ketchum of underwater basket weaving.” “I absolutely agree. And as more women raise their voices as consumers of all things geek as well as contribute to the creative content of geek culture (I...

Link is fated to die

So this sage fellow tells you that you’re the legendary Hero of Time, and it’s your destiny to save the land from evil. At this news, perhaps your soul puffs up with the righteous thought of your future victory. Or, if you’re like me, you get annoyed at the guy who’s not only telling you what to do, but what you’re going to do, as if you didn’t have a choice. Either way, let’s do this, you say. If it’s your destiny, after all, how can you fail? But then, somewhere along the line, you die. Whether it’s because you let an Octorok spit one too many rocks at you, or because you couldn’t figure out the trick with the first boss, Link’s health will eventually go down accompanied by the annoying beeping and his slight gasp before he falls in slow motion to his doom. Or so it would seem. A second later, however, he’s up and at it with only a few missing hearts to show for his trouble. Now that’s what I call a Hero of Time. Death seems to have found its way so readily into video games because it was the logical fail safe for arcades. You couldn’t have one quarter lasting someone for hours, after all. Pac-Man has to die sometime. Mario can’t avoid being bowled over by Donkey Kong forever.It’s my fate as a gamer to win and fail at the same time in a clashing set of universes. Not only does this impending doom rake in the coins for arcades, but games just wouldn’t be fun without that chance of failure looming over the player’s head. A lot of older games capitalized on the thrill of terror and release. As Churchill put it: “Nothing in life...

Eclipsing the future Jul21

Eclipsing the future

My immediate response was, “NO WAY.” But then I thought about uploading my consciousness into a robotic body some more. The role-playing game Eclipse Phase takes place in a society where the technology to supplant a person’s consciousness (their ego, memories, knowledge, personality, and skills) into a new, often robotic, form exists. Should you get old, sick, or damaged your body is disposable and easily replaced. I was reminded of the argument by Sheldon Cooper—one who displays robot logic himself—about teleportation: “Assuming a device could be invented, which would identify the quantum state of matter of an individual in one location and transmit that pattern to a distant location for reassembly. You would not have actually transported the individual, you would have destroyed him in one location and recreated him in another.” I have a similar problem with this idea of being able to “live forever” in a digital environment. Would it really be me living on? Or would I have died and my memories, personality and skills simply be recreated? Scientists are actually working on the concept of memory transference, even conducting successful experiments by electronically inserting memories into the brains of mice. Perhaps the technology to pass on all my emotional baggage will be available sooner than I would have guessed. And if it works, I ask myself: what if I did it and found myself lost in a sea of ones and zeros, no longer the person I used to be but just a faint reflection? Who would be the one who holds the power behind the technology? Can we trust Skynet? You know, the important questions. If it’s okay to accept a heart transplant or brain surgery, why not this? In Eclipse Phase, various factions control agents who run black ops missions; these...

Happy endings aren’t all that Jul20

Happy endings aren’t all that

As with most TV show finales, some people loved the ending of Chuck, and some people hated it. Personally, I love the traditional happy ending. It gives me warm fuzzies when the criminals are dealt with, the best friend is alive, the guy gets the girl (and vice versa) and the show ends on a positive note with them facing life together. The ending of Chuck is not like this. I think most viewers who had journeyed with Chuck and Sarah thus far expected them to end up together in the white-picket fenced home that Sarah imagines. They would live happily ever after and have little spy babies. What happens instead is something that I think is even more beautiful, though it is devastatingly sad. He is willing to sacrifice everything for the ones he loves Sarah loses all her memories of her life after meeting Chuck. She doesn’t remember knowing him; she doesn’t remember the battles he fought to capture her heart; she doesn’t remember marrying him; she forgets that he is her best friend. In the series finale, Chuck has the opportunity to get Sarah’s memories back by using the Intersect glasses. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief at that point. Here it was: the solution that would tie the ending of the show together in a nice, neat little bow. The answer to our favourite couple’s last conundrum. But then the unthinkable happens. A bomb is about to destroy hundreds of people, and the only way for Chuck to save the day is to use the Intersect glasses on himself. He has to choose: does he bring back Sarah’s memories or save hundreds of lives? It’s not much of a question for Chuck, though that doesn’t make it any less hard for him to do or diminish his sacrifice. He chooses to use the Intersect glasses on himself and diffuses the bomb. The day is saved, but there are no downloads left on the glasses, the Intersect is no more, and Sarah is left without her memories. Every time I see a story emulate this theme of sacrifice, it speaks to me about what is important in my life, about what I put first. Giving up your innermost desire—in effect, sacrificing yourself—for others is the most admirable and loving act I can think of. And Chuck does it without complaint. Sacrificing yourself for others is the most admirable and loving act I can think of. If Sarah can’t see what an amazing guy he is just by that single act, regardless of whatever else she remembers, then she needs to have her brain examined. The show doesn’t end there, though. Morgan persuades Chuck to go find Sarah, and he tracks her down at the beach where they first became friends. There she asks him to tell her their story, and he does. Through her tears and laughter, we see Sarah begin to reconnect with Chuck. We’re also given hope that her memories might come back because of a few tidbits earlier on in the episode. But even if they don’t—and even if their magical ending kiss doesn’t jolt Sarah’s memories back into her brain—if Chuck has demonstrated anything in the past, it’s that he’s willing to fight for her to the very end, and that he is willing to sacrifice everything for the ones he loves. That, in my books, is a truly meaningful...

To punch or not to punch...

Punishing bad guys is the staple to most video games, and for good reason. After all, who doesn’t feel satisfied after sending Bowser hightailing it away, destroying Ganondorf  by using his own magic against him, or giving Sephiroth what for? These games appeal to the desire to right wrongs and to give the villains what they deserve. I want to bring justice to my wounded hero, naturally. The Mass Effect series has some impressive dialogue and morality options (yes it is unfortunate that you have to choose mostly Paragon or Renegade options to get the most out of the game, but I won’t get into that here). I like getting to make my own mistakes and deciding whether I want to punch someone in the face or not, rather than watching the hero commit to actions beyond my control. As such, I get to choose (to an extent) how to carry out justice as Commander Shepard. Many scenarios in the Mass Effect games require choices that affect later outcomes, and a lot of those choices involve dealing with injustice. How I go about doing something is just as important as the end it accomplishes. Is it the “right” choice, for instance, to kill the Rachni Queen on Noveria, or to let her go? The rachni are incredibly dangerous and previously hostile, as proven from the Rachni Wars. The queen’s offspring had just rampaged through Rift Station, slaughtering a lot of people, and you don’t know if she is telling the truth that she wasn’t behind the attacks. Would killing her be just? On the other hand, the scientists on Noveria had trapped her and used her children in an experiment, and if she is telling the truth, she had nothing to do with the murders. Maybe...

The secret of Merlin Jun16

The secret of Merlin

If you’ve ever seen BBC’s Merlin, you’ll know it’s all about keeping secrets. One secret in particular, actually: Merlin’s ability to use magic. In the show, Merlin and Arthur are both young adults, and they become best friends (though it can be hard to tell because Arthur treats Merlin like a lowly manservant most of the time). Magic has been forbidden by Arthur’s father, Uther; it is considered evil. Thus, Merlin continually struggles with his secret: that he is the most powerful wizard alive. He wants to tell Arthur (not only to let him know that he’s saved Arthur’s life countless times without Arthur realizing it, but because keeping a secret from his best friend is hard), but he’s afraid. He knows Arthur, having been taught that magic is evil, might not understand, that he might send Merlin away or even have him killed. “I want you to always be you.” But I think what really scares Merlin the most is that Arthur might not accept him for who he is. Magic is a part of him, and if Arthur can’t accept that, he’d be rejecting Merlin as a person. Sound familiar? I think hiding part of ourselves in order to be accepted is a common reflex, especially when we’re younger; though even I as an adult find myself automatically doing it sometimes. If I think I’m not going to be accepted, if I think I’m going to be laughed at or looked down upon, I am going to want to hide that part of myself. If I’m talking to an acquaintance who thinks video games are a waste of time, do I mention that I played them all day yesterday? Probably not. If it’s because we’re talking about something else and the subject just doesn’t come...

Forcing vulnerability Jun10

Forcing vulnerability...

Truth serum is a good idea in theory, I suppose, but Tris Prior would tell you otherwise. In the movie Insurgent, Tris is forced to take truth serum on trial so that the Candor can validate her story about Jeanine’s betrayal. Tris is adamant about not wanting to take it, but Four convinces her to do it, as it’s the only way to prove their innocence. It’s obvious Tris has been hiding something from Four. She’s been having nightmares, but she hasn’t talked to him about them. She isn’t ready to open up. The truth serum forces her to admit what she’s feeling: guilt for shooting one of her best friends, Will. She might have shot him in self defense, but that doesn’t change the fact that she shot him. When I’m struggling with something, I need to feel ready to talk about it. Opening up about your feelings is good, right? It’s important in relationships to be honest. So that means this should help her relationship with Four and assist her in getting over the trauma, right? Wrong. I can imagine exactly how Tris was feeling, shutting away her emotions so she didn’t have to deal with them. I do this all the time (I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it’s often how my brain deals with things). And it sure doesn’t help when someone, even a friend, tries to dig those emotions out of me. In fact, that just makes me shut down and I am more likely to retreat from that person, not open up more. Unfortunately for Tris, she didn’t have the luxury of retreating. Tris didn’t have the luxury of retreating. The scene where she admits to killing Will in tears to a huge crowd of Candor people is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve ever...

Concerning Writers: Try and make me Jun04

Concerning Writers: Try and make me...

“We never fully understand other people’s motivations in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motivations with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.” —Orson Scott Card “My story sucks and my characters are boring.” Last time I said this to myself, I really thought hard about why it was the case; I had an interesting world, some quirky characters, and a plot to die for (literally). What was missing? After taking a look at some of my favourite books, television shows, and movies, I figured out what it was: motivation. Go on, try and make them. My characters had no reason for doing what they were doing. The plot might have been interesting, but the stakes weren’t high if my characters wanted nothing. Are they out to save the world? That’s all well and good, but purely altruistic characters are boring (besides Captain America, of course). I don’t want to write about a perfect goody two-shoes, and I’m sure you don’t want to read about one either. That being said, I also don’t want to write about a totally selfish butt. So how do we find a proper balance? Let’s take a look at some of my favourite stories. The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen’s motivation is twofold: 1) to save her sister, and 2) to stay alive. She doesn’t really care about much else. Thus, her story is incredibly dark and exciting. Personally, I never felt very attached to Katniss, though. In fact, I didn’t like her very much at all. She found herself in a position where she could make a difference, and all she really cared about was staying alive...

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 2) May27

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 2)

There were boulders lining the top of the cliff, and enemy cutthroats hiding behind them. I counted at least four, and recognized Varis among them. They all wore the same black garb, so it was understandable, though incredibly stupid of them, that this group had mistaken Varis for one of their own. Varis must have just gone along with it. I padded forward so I was directly in front of Varis. He noticed and made clicking noises with his tongue at me, patting the ground in front of him as though I was some sort of pet that had come by for a scratch behind my ears. If squirrels could roll their eyes, I would have. I darted up to him and put my paw on his hand. He jumped back in surprise. “What are you doing? came a hiss from the shadows beside us. “Stay down or you’ll blow the whole thing.” An arrow pierced my side as I lunged forward. It barely tickled. This was getting me nowhere. I left Varis to make up some excuse and scurried as fast as I could back to Kriv, transforming back into my half-elf self. I explained the situation, and we came up with a plan. “Good luck,” I whispered to him as I walked back to the cliff base, ready for his signal. But before we could put the plan in place, there was a commotion at the top of the cliff, a yell, and a body came tumbling down, bloody, dead. I didn’t recognize him. I did, however, recognize Varis, who stood at the top of the incline with his sword dripping blood. More shouts pierced the silence and shadows flitted behind him. I took that as my cue and transformed into my most powerful form: a huge, white dire wolf. I leapt up the incline in several bounds to stand by Varis’s side, teeth bared at the oncoming enemies. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, I would have laughed at the surprised expression on Varis’s face as I bounded up the cliff. The enemies didn’t look too keen on approaching Varis now that he had a snarling wolf at his side, either, but we didn’t give them much chance to do any thinking. An arrow pierced my side as I lunged forward. It barely tickled. I was tough. I was winter. My claws were ice. my fangs were knives. I ripped the first enemy’s head off and tossed it over the cliff edge with my teeth. If squirrels could roll their eyes, I would have. Varis swung at one of them with his sword, but the enemy ducked and Varis lost his balance, keeling at the edge of the cliff. Then he pulled his dagger out of nowhere and stuck it in the enemy’s leg, pulling himself up from what would have been an untimely tumble, and causing the enemy to fall off the edge instead. I let out a heaving snort, the equivalent of a wolf chuckle. Rogues certainly were resourceful. Another arrow sailed past me from out of nowhere. The last of the cutthroats, wisely, turned tail and ran. “Oh no you don’t,” Varis growled, pulling out his longbow. I left Varis to deal with the runner, leapt across the chasm to the other side where the arrows were coming from. A second group of four enemies lay in wait, though by that time Kriv had made it up that side of the cliff as well, and they were no match for a dragonborn and a dire wolf. We met up after it was all over, dragged the bodies to cover and looted them. Exhausted, Varis and I collapsed for a quick rest while Kriv stood watch. Then the DM proclaimed the session complete; I got up from the table and went home thinking druids were pretty darn awesome. And that I still should never trust a...

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 1) May26

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 1)...

The DM led our party of three down a path to infiltrate a camp of enemy soldiers. It was just nightfall, and up ahead loomed cliffs that jutted above either side of the path. “We shouldn’t walk through there. That looks like a perfect spot for an ambush,” said Kriv, a dragonborn whose scales glinted in the light of our torches and whose armour weighed more than I did. He probably made an intimidating figure to outsiders, which is a nice trait for someone who had my back. I glanced at Varis; the rogue’s hooded eyes revealed nothing of what he was thinking, as usual. Never trust a rogue, I thought. Just because I couldn’t forgive him for what he’d done in the past didn’t mean I wanted him to get his throat slit. I could’ve volunteered to survey the cliffs, but I was loathe to waste one of my druid transformations. And besides, with our luck we would be outflanked later on by kobolds somewhere; everyone would look at me for bear-fueled tankiness and then I’d have nothing but my staff to hold them off with. While I didn’t trust Varis to maintain his composure anywhere near a keg of ale—plus, never trust a rogue—he was a very good scout. “I’ll do it,” Varis said. Kriv and I nodded in agreement and the rogue left the circle of torchlight, his black cloak merging with the surrounding darkness. Kriv turned to me. “So, got a deck of cards, Lux?” he asked. “I do,” I replied. “Best two out of three?” “You’re on.” Five rounds later, after Kriv had proven he’d spent much more time in taverns gambling than I did, I glanced worriedly in the direction that Varis had disappeared to. The night was eerily silent. “He’s...

With great music comes great responsibility May18

With great music comes great responsibility...

The mournful song after Gandalf’s death in The Fellowship of the Ring can still bring me to tears, even though I know he’s not actually dead. The quick violins and orchestral explosions in Fairy Tail gear me up for the magical battle that is always about to ensue. The cheerful tune in Portal combined with GLADoS’s sarcastic lyrics makes me giggle. Music is, without a doubt, powerful. On screen, music is used specifically to create the desired emotional response in the viewer, and it’s proven effective. Yes, we are being manipulated. Yes, it’s a little bit eerie to realize that. “It’s just something I can’t get outta my head. Some way outta here.” Though we know what we’re getting into when we take our seat in front of the screen. Emotional manipulation is just par for the course (I had to look up that analogy to make sure I got it right). What I find even more creepy is when the on screen characters themselves are manipulated by music. Music as a trigger is a TV trope that never fails to give me chills, whether it’s Nyu shifting to her murderous side when she hears the music box playing in Elfen Lied, River Tam turning into an assassin to the tune of the Fruity-Oaty Bar commercial in Firefly, or Spike killing humans when he hears “Early One Morning” in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The creepiest by far has got to be the assembly of the Final Five in Battlestar Galactica. The Battlestar’s crew has known for a while that some of its members are sleeper-agent Cylons, though they don’t know who, and some Cylons themselves don’t even know that they aren’t human. The Final Five fall under that category, and the plot only thickens to know the other seven Cylon models don’t know who they are. It’s thus with great interest...

Life in full colour May13

Life in full colour

There’s a reason why Voldemort can’t touch Harry. There’s a reason why the Elric brothers stick together no matter what on their quest for the philosopher’s stone. There’s a reason why Frodo manages to get the ring to Mordor. Love is powerful. And that’s why I’m afraid of it. Loving someone opens yourself up to a world of hurt, like Kousei experiences when he loses his mother. It’s hard to watch him struggle over falling in love with Kaori, because I have a sneaking suspicion of what’s going to happen to her. I wasn’t sure what I was in for when I started watching Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso); I just knew it was about performing music, something I could relate to. “Just seeing the same sky as you makes familiar scenery look different.”I was immediately caught up in the story of Kousei Arima, a boy who is famous for his piano playing by the age of eleven, but his mother’s death results in a mental breakdown during a performance. Two years later, he hasn’t touched the piano since. Until he meets a girl who changes his perspective on everything, of course. Kaori Miyazono is a free-spirited violinist who loves to perform her own interpretation of the score, much to the chagrin of the judges and delight of the audience. She becomes friends with Kousei and persuades him to start playing the piano again. Even though playing the piano again takes Kousei through traumatic memories, Kousei is encouraged by Kaori’s vibrancy and agrees to be her accompanist. He begins to see colour in a world that used to be monotone. It’s not until Kaori collapses during their first performance that I realize where this story is going. “A lump of steel, like a shooting star. Just seeing the same sky as you makes familiar scenery look different. I swing between hope and despair at your slightest gesture, and my heart starts to play a melody. What kind of feeling is this again? What do they call this kind of feeling? I think it’s probably… called love. I’m sure this is what they call love.” —Kousei Arima He lets himself fall in love with her, just as he lets himself fall in love with music again. He even tries not following the score like the “human metronome” he used to be, but searching for freedom from the past by mimicking Kaori’s style of playing. Love is powerful. And that’s why I’m afraid of it. There is a scene I found beautiful in the second-last episode where Kousei is visiting Kaori in the hospital and tells her he is again giving up music, claiming that it is taking everyone he cares about away from him, that he’s afraid of being alone. But she tells him that he has her, that she is going to struggle to live so she can spend more time with him, and he should struggle to. “We risk our lives to struggle, because we’re musicians, remember?” —Kaori Miyazono She breaks down and tells him not to leave her, because she is also scared of being alone and wants more time with him. As if that isn’t heart wrenching enough, Kousei, encouraged by Kaori’s words, does go to his big performance, and it is during this same time that she is having risky surgery. Love is powerful and brings powerful emotions along with it. There’s no avoiding joy and there’s no avoiding hurt when it’s involved. I wonder if I was Kousei, would I have been brave enough to step out of my lifeless world when love had scarred me so? I think I would have, and I think I have already done so in the past, but that doesn’t make it any less scary or any easier moving forward. I can’t be the only one that feels that way. I like to think...

Star Wars books for kids May04

Star Wars books for kids...

So you want your kids (or nieces or nephews or cousins) to love Star Wars as much as you do? Consider reading some of these series with them. I grew up reading these and they still have a fond place in my heart. In honour of May the 4th, you might want to check some of these out! 1. Junior Jedi Knights by Nancy Richardson This series is about Han and Leia’s son (that’s right) Anakin, his friend Tahiri, and their adventures while training at the Jedi Academy. R2D2 is along for the journey as well, of course. When you’re done these, try the Young Jedi Knight series, which is about Han and Leia’s older children, twins Jacen and Jaina. 2. Jedi Apprentice by Jude Watson Ever wonder what Obi-Wan was like as a kid? Short answer: he was awesome. But to find out why, you’d have to read the Jedi Apprentice series. It begins with Obi-Wan being sent away from the Temple because he passed the age he was supposed to be accepted as an apprentice and Qui-Gon refused to take him on. 3. Galaxy of Fear by John Whitman Tash and Zak, survivors of the destruction of their home planet Alderaan because they were off world at the time, accompany their uncle around the galaxy as he studies sapient races. And they encounter some really scary things. Seriously. These books are creepy. But for some reason, I couldn’t read enough of them as a kid. Watch out for cameo appearances by some classic Star Wars characters. What were your favourite Star Wars books to read as a...

A heart made fullmetal Apr22

A heart made fullmetal...

Burning down your house might seem like a crazy thing to do, but for Edward and Alphonse Elric, it symbolizes their determination to never turn back and to start over. They had made a horrible mistake and they resolve to never do it again, and never let others follow the terrifying path they went down. As young boys with the gift of alchemy, a grieving Ed and Al try to resurrect their mother using their powers, and they fail miserably. Not only does their attempt create a monstrous shell of nothing like their mother, but it completely obliterates Al’s body and destroys Ed’s left leg. They had made an enormous mistake and they had to pay a terrible price, but Ed refuses to lose his little brother: “There’s no such thing as a painless lesson.” “No, dammit. You won’t take him too. Give him back! He’s my brother! Take my leg. Take my arm! Take my heart, ANYTHING, YOU CAN HAVE IT! Just give him back! He’s my little brother, he’s all I have left!” Ed sacrifices his right arm to bring his brother’s soul back and attaches it to a nearby suit of armour using alchemy. The two are then left to face the consequences of their actions with the realization of why resurrection is taboo to alchemists. Humans are not meant to have that kind of power. What I find amazing about Ed and Al’s story is their acceptance of their own sin and their willingness to suffer, not as self-inflicted punishment for what they did, but simply as an acceptance of the consequences. They choose not to ignore or forget the lesson they learned, but fight against others who are trying to abuse alchemy in a similar way. They also suffer a hell of a lot for each other along...

The villainy of the soulless...

She doesn’t have a soul. I wonder, is that what makes GLaDOS such a great villain? Killing a test subject is of no consequence to GLaDOS, and she appears to delight in playing mental games. Having a soul is apparently not a prerequisite for wonderful sarcastic wit: “Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official test record. Followed by death.” Lots of gamers (including yours truly) will tell you that they love GLaDOS. It is curious, since you don’t often hear people saying that they love a villain. “I love Professor Umbridge.” “I love Saruman.” “I love WaLuigi.” Seriously, who’s great idea was that one? “Well done. Here come the test results: ‘You are a horrible person.’ That’s what it says. We weren’t even testing for that.” —GLaDOSHmm… nope. Uncommon words, those. These dastardly characters might be amazing (or annoying) villains, but am I personally attached to them? No. I do love to hate their guts, but I’m glad when they get what’s coming to them. Portal’s GLaDOS is a completely different story. I would mourn the loss of this beloved A.I. because I don’t think she’s truly evil. Sure, she’s soulless, but this begs the question: can you be both soulless and awesome? Perhaps a deeper question would be CAN something be good or evil without a soul? Do we only see GLaDOS as “evil” and ATLAS and P-body as “good” because that’s how they’re programmed? The concept of a soul is explored a lot in science fiction where artificial intelligences abound. What about Data? What about Boomer? EDI? Baymax? We can hold A.I. accountable for their actions. That much is as easy as altering a few lines...