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Brave, New World

Spring Break

by Charles Dunwoody
Jun 08,2005


Brave New World

Spring Break

By Charles Dunwoody

Between weekend trips and changing work schedules, my players and I haven't had time to game since my last column. So I haven't had a chance to playtest Bulldogs! yet.

I decided to write this column about some of the things I've been doing this spring besides gaming and see if I can get them to relate back to gaming. A lot of great entertainment has been recently released.

Movies: Revenge of the Sith
I won't have to work very hard to relate Revenge of the Sith to gaming. However, a few ideas jumped out at me as I watched the movie.

In comparison to the last two attempts by Lucas, RotS really shines. Many loose ends are tied up and you can easily watch A New Hope after enjoying the movie and see how the two connect.

The ideas I pulled out that relate to gaming are make evil evil. Watching Anakin turn into Darth Vader actually evoked emotion in me, something I never experienced watching the other five movies. The planet destroying power of the Death Star was not nearly as disturbing as watching Vader commit atrocities. I won't mention what he does so as not to spoil the movie, but you'll doubtless understand what I'm talking about if you watch it.

Also, fight scenes should involve location and lots of action. Most GMs know this, but watching a visual spectacle like RotS really drives home the idea.

Books: The Taking by Dean Koontz
Koontz has been really hit or miss for me over the last few years. His early books like Strangers, the Watchers, Servants of Twilight, and Twilight Eyes really hooked me. I didn't want to stop reading until I knew what was really happening in the story.

Koontz's latest books, however, have been filled with themes he has explored many times before, especially truly disgusting serial killers. I also missed the sense of mystery and being caught up with his protagonists in something disturbing and frightening.

The Taking is a great book for Koontz fans especially. Although it has the obligatory serial killer, better than normal people protagonists, and some stilted dialogue all that can be forgiven. Koontz draws a picture of a world turned upside down, where nothing is as it seems, and no one really knows what is going on until the last few pages. He managed to surprise me with a twist he rarely uses. He hasn't surprised me in a long time.

In addition, Koontz sometimes sounds like he swallowed a thesaurus. In The Taking, however, he is able to paint visual pictures with his words that really draw you in.

Finally, the married couple that serve as protagonists, despite having more guns than some police stations, seem like real people. Anyone who is married to a spouse who is really his or her best friend will find that the relationship in the book truly resonates and seems real.

What I pulled out of The Taking is use visual description to paint pictures of the world you want to create. And don't forget the ties that bind characters and NPCs together.

Camping: Luddington State Park
Michigan has many state parks and Luddington is one I really enjoy. This weekend, I spent a few hours hiking the Island Trail with my toddler son on my back and my wife by my side.

Island Trail crosses a few islands that straddle lakes on both sides. The pine trees carpet the ground with orange needles and gnarled roots grow above ground in the sandy soil.

I know I'll use the visually stunning sight of water, trees, and islands in my games. I will also not forget to describe the eerie keening noise PCs might hear in the woods, which is actually simply a toppled tree rubbing on another tree. It did sound like the trees were talking and were not happy, however.

Also, my son was in a backpack on my back. He only weighs a little under thirty pounds, but that weight really got to me since I'm not in the best of shape. I'll make sure to mention the chafing of armor and backpack straps the next time I DM D&D.

Board Games: Power Grid by Rio Grande Games
I'm addicted to Power Grid. Basically, you buy power plant cards that can power power plant markers by consuming coal, oil, etc to make money. You place power plant markers on a map of either the US or Germany (one on either side) in cities. Cities are connected by lines that cost money as you connect additional plant markers along these lines.

The game contains some random elements, but is actually deeply strategic. It's easy to fall into a tactical mode and simply try to make money but the game requires much more thought if you want to win consistently.

What I really like about the game is there is not one simple way to win. By varying the sections of the US or Germany you play in and with a random removal of a few power plant cards, each game plays differently. You can try to cut off the growth of an opponent's power plant markers, try to outbid them for power plant cards, or try to stop them from buying natural resources by buying them up.

Power Grid encourages strategic thinking and taking the long view to be the winner in the end game. Since roleplaying games usually last a long time, applying some of the same thinking of looking at the long view is good advice for both GMs and players.

DVDs: Enterprise
My wife bought me the first season of Enterprise on DVD. Unlike many Star Trek fans I much prefer Enterprise and Deep Space Nine over TNG.

I had forgotten just how good that first season was. So many alien planets explored, so many first contacts made, and so many alien ships to board. Enterprise really took Star Trek back to exploring and trying to better yourself, whether you are human or Vulcan.

Enterprise has many interesting characters as well as challenges for them to face. The first season would give many players ideas on roleplaying a character and GMs ideas on new adventures to run.

Next Month
All of my gamers are seeing growth and change in their jobs. I'll see if I can get Bulldogs! run between now and then.

I hope you sit down this spring or summer with a good book or take your spouse or friends to see a good movie. A lot of good entertainment is just waiting to be enjoyed.

Charlie Dunwoody

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