Monday, June 24, 2024

Ewoks, Insular Dwarfism, and #WookieesAreBugbears

Occasionally I google something and am surprised by how little shows up.  Sometimes I feel the need to put some thoughts down onto digital paper so that others looking for the same information may find some confirmation that their hypotheses are valid and worth exploring.  This is one of those times.

So...why aren't more people talking about the fact that Wookiees are Bugbears?

From HERE and HERE

On that note -- and also seemingly underrepresented in Google results considering that this has to have been discussed ad nauseam among Star Wars fans -- Wookiees and Ewoks are related, right?  And not just through the history of the Star Wars story (the intended Wookiees in ROTJ and all that)...but actually evolutionarily related, eh?  (It seems like it could be a textbook case of insular dwarfism, after all!)

And then since Bugbears are big goblinoids...maybe that means Ewoks are essentially forest goblins?  They don't necessarily match the goblin form in a lot of "standard" fantasy settings, but in multiverses where many approaches to the goblin are employed, they kind of make sense.  In Magic: The Gathering, for example, goblins demonstrate a wide range of phenotypes, including these from the plane of Tarkir:

As you may know, I love my speculation on the evolutionary relationships of fantastic humanoids.  I kind of like the way this fits.

So let's just get crazy with it...

Duloks are hobgoblins.

Gamorreans are orcs.

Wampas are yetis.

Quarren are mind flayers.

And probably on, and on, and on.

Let's get the DNA tests rolling, y'all.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Monstrous Mini-Review: Interstellar

The deal:  This is another one where I am very late to the game on a movie that falls right in my wheelhouse.  I've seen this one enough on "best of" lists (and been told pretty directly that I need to see it) that I took a free choice of the family movie to watch it (on Prime).

2014, 2 h 49 min
Director: Christopher Nolan


The flick:  I probably don't have to say too much about Interstellar, the 2014 science fiction film from Chris Nolan that made use of some of the brain-bending characteristics of time revealed to us by relativity.  You, reading this post...I bet you've seen it.  And if you haven't, I bet you've seen the hype.'s worth the hype.  Interstellar really feels like it fits in the pantheon of great science fiction "pondering-our-place-in-the-universe" screen epics.  You can pick your favorite to compare it to (Metropolis2001The Matrix, whatever)...I think it'll hold up pretty well.

I will note...Matthew McConaughey is very much Matthew McConaughey, and however that statement makes you feel will probably tell you a lot about how you'll like him in this movie.  I think he did a really good job even if I did repeatedly hear "Alright alright alright" in my head.

But acting aside (and it's all good anyway)...if you like somewhat cerebral SF, it's probably a waste of your time to read anything else by me right now.  This is a fairly long film, so I recommend you use that time to watch it, if you haven't already...

The rating:  I should note that it's very possible that rating Interstellar too highly today will force me to rethink the assessment if I rewatch it at some point.  This has happened to me with The Dark Knight (another Nolan film).  At one point, I probably would have said TDK was like a top-five ever movie to me, but rewatching it has made me realize that I don't find it as rewatchable or consistently emotionally/intellectually moving as I guess I want my "favorites" to be.

At the same time, I had really high hopes for Interstellar because of how much I saw it built up, and it still delivered a great movie experience.  I mean, man is it good:

4.5 out of 5 shrews

The monsters:  Huh...I guess there weren't really monsters in this one.  Well, other than the humans are the real monsters angle, which honestly applies less to this movie than to most, and which is a path for this post that would probably give stuff away that I don't want to (just in case someone reading hasn't actually seen the film).

There is, however...and I'll try to word this unspoilerly...a group/being/force that is vital to the plot of the movie and is pretty cool to think about using in an RPG adventure.  Hmm...maybe one day...

Monday, June 17, 2024

The BIG 4 of RPG attributes

It is possible that I would be a little embarrassed if most people knew how much time I spend thinking about character stats in roleplaying games.  And not in the sense of theorycrafting a perfectly minmaxed build...more about which attributes are the simplest or fastest or somehow the best for breaking down an RPG character.

I think my approach to it -- and probably that of many others, honestly -- is rooted as much in beauty as it is in usefulness.  Like a physicist drawn to supersymmetry, I don't know that I am ultimately being guided to the set of attributes that actually describe people most accurately.  I think I mostly want a set of stats that feels whole and balanced...which may or may not be the best approach, honestly.  I mean...that's subjective anyway, eh?

Lots of systems employ a physical/mental attribute split, including the one that probably introduced most of us to the idea of characters as numbers...the six stats of D&D.  Strength/Dexterity/Constitution and Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma are a nice 1:1 divide between body and mind.  The other main approach to rational attribute assignment would probably be the one taken by games that break stats down into Mind-, Body-, and Soul-related attributes (e.g. the appropriately named Tri-Stat System).  That's a different symmetry that still "feels" good, I think.  (Conversely...the five stats of Savage Worlds?  They do not feel good.  I know, I'm weird.)

At any rate, I would guess most gamers who care to think very hard about attributes realize pretty quickly that there's an arbitrariness to the division.  And since gamers love nothing more than to fiddle with the games they already love, a lot of work has been done over the years to perfect the spread of stats.  I'm pretty sure that somewhere out there, there's a big list (maybe even called the "Big List of...") compiling a ton of the attribute options on display in various RPGs.  This post isn't about exploring that diversity, though; it's about expressing appreciation for what I consider a sort of Big 4 of RPG stats:

1. How strong and tough are you?
2. How quick and nimble are you?
3. How knowledgeable and logical are you?
4. How emotionally resilient and capable of manipulating others are you?

Or, as the Ghostbusters RPG introduced them to me:


Not necessarily in that order.

I just keep coming back to these as potentially the most succinct yet simultaneously satisfying way to describe a character...two physical, two mental; two based on power, two more about skill.  (I think one of my friends, when I first described the stat breakdown to him many years ago, just said, "Yeah, that pretty much covers it...")

I loved it when Mini Six came out and sort of codified this set of attributes for light hexahedral gaming (as Might, Agility, Wit, and Charm).  I enjoy spotting other games that follow in this tradition.  And I think it's kind of cool to see that even the West End Games Star Wars RPG -- probably the best known game to use the WEG D6 system that grew from Ghostbusters -- basically rehashes these four (as Strength, Dexterity, Knowledge, and Perception) then adds on a couple of extras by pulling out the otherwise Dexterity- or Knowledge-based skills which are technologically oriented into their own stats (Mechanical and Technical, which do give D6 Star Wars some of its space opera flare.)

If in doubt...I could probably stat out most RPG characters using these (with an established scale) and translate them to a ton of other systems without an excess of effort.  I'm not sure if it's best to try to figure out how to define them generically or if I should take on more of the D6/Mini Six spirit and pick my favorite names.  I kind of partial to Might, Dexterity, Knowledge, and Presence right now.  I've gotta let those settle a bit...but they feel pretty whole and balanced at the moment.

This is definitely worth obsessing about for a while.  I'll get back to you on it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A belated happy Ghostbusters Day (40th anniversary!) to all!!

So I'm late to the punch in delivering this message, but as Ghostbusters Day (the anniversary of the first film's debut) was on Saturday (June 8)...and this year is the 40th anniversary of the classic movie...and Ghostbusters occupies a fair amount of my allocated nerd brainspace these days...I couldn't let things pass much longer without hoping all of you enjoyed it!  Or...if maybe you didn't even know that happened on Saturday...I hope you'll take some time soon enough to enjoy the gift to the world that is the Ghostbusters franchise.

I'm lucky enough to live where it was pretty easy to pop over into the city to take part in the big celebration at the actual firehouse...and I don't know if I can overstate how cool that is to this Gen X nerd.  (Click HERE, btw, for some reflections from fellow doggo fan and established GB aficianado Adam Dickstein of the Barking Alien blog.) 

And...I'm so glad I did!  I've gotta admit...I've gotten a little old and selfish with my time to do nothing lately; I could easily have been convinced to stay home and act like I was going to do things around the house on Saturday.  Luckily, Laura got us tickets to see a 2:15 showing of the original film at a theater in Manhattan, so we made the trip!  (Interestingly, that 2:15 showing was cancelled, which I don't think I've ever had happen before...something strange...)

So, what'd we see?

I think Laura was genuinely surprised at how large the turnout was!

The view down N. Moore St.

There were a ton of people there...and pretty much everyone was smiling!  In NYC!

We actually got there too late to see anything in the way of an official ceremony, but the atmosphere around that firehouse was awesome for hours.  I don't really like posting pics of myself, but here's one of Laura and me so I can show off the shirt I was wearing; it's a custom job that Laura created, featuring the "dumb bell" that stars in a certain Claymation Christmas number.  I had a feeling this might be the crowd for it...and for the first time, someone recognized the character...!  That is nerd paradise.

The awesome custom Claymation bell shirt designed by my awesome wife 

It was pretty amazing to be a part of an event for Ghostbusters that literally drew folks from all around the country and the world!

Here are a few more haphazardly curated views of the celebration...

The cosplay was varied and lots of fun!

Multiple Ecto-1 variants made an appearance...see Adam's post at Barking Alien for a selection of their license plates!

Each vehicle had their own details...

The functioning firehouse's engine was parked outside for the festivities.

(Glad to finally pick one of these up...a patch from the station!)

So fun to get this perspective...

Check out all the patches of Ghostbusters fan groups from around the world!

Two actors from the original film, Joe Cirillo and John Rothman, were on hand for pictures and autographs.  Love it!