Review: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

48188The blog title is not a question for you, good reader.

I have scoured Hulu for more gaming-themed anime after the (Epic!) conclusions of the second seasons of “Log Horizon” and “Sword Art Online“.

I found a new one. It’s title is…unfortunate, and long, but the storyline more than makes up for it.

“Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” (hereafter called “Dungeon”, known by fans by the nickname of “DanMachi”) is the story of a newb. Yes, that inexperienced adventurer that’s certainly going to die in the first few minutes of a quest from grave inexperience, or so you think.

The world of “Dungeon” involves a large town where a massive ancient multifloored dungeon rests below. Many adventurers carefully explore the tower and whoop any monsters found. Monsters continually spawn, so were it not for the adventurers, the monsters would rise up and overwhelm the world. The side-benefit for the world of Orario is that adventuring is a primary occupation.

This world isn’t a game come to life like Log Horizon or a virtual MMO as is Sword Art Online, but uses some gaming principles and mechanics in a “real life” in-universe context, specifically stats. On the literal backs of every adventurer is an elaborate magical tattoo that basically show the adventurer’s stats, skills and magic, if any.

There are gods, too. Quite a few. They aren’t watching over their world from another plane of existence, deciding what fate to give to their “children,” as they call the humans, elves, dwarfs, and others. Eons ago, as the story goes, they got bored. Collectively, they sealed off most of their divine powers and incarnated themselves to live and learn with their children, including taking on both pleasures and inconveniences of bodily form.

What powers they did keep were given to the adventurers to help develop and raise their skills to fight monsters. The gods form guild-like families, or familia, each of which often specialize in something. Magic. Blacksmithing. Drinking. Each god in the familia is responsible for reading changes to their children’s stats by reading their back and mystically manipulating the information there.

Our hero, Bell, decided to become an adventurer after his grandfather was killed. But he knew enough that he would get killed without joining a familia. But he was rejected by everyone until a lone goddess named Hestia offered him a place with her. Bell is generally a lightly armored rogue-like fighter, using (for a time) only a small dagger or short sword.

So now the Hestia Familia is  active, membership: 2. Some familia are rich and live in good homes, even mansions. Hestia isn’t there yet. Bell and Hestia live in the basement of a long abandoned church. Their furniture is ragged and there is only one bed, where Bell, being a gentleman, gives to Hestia, while he sleeps on the couch.

“Dungeon” is filled with familiar characters or roles that they play in adventurer business. There’s a business that advises adventurers, dressed in business attire and who also serve as the government in terms of rules that adventurers must obey outside of the dungeon. That group also exchanges the monster crystals (what’s left of a monster after they are destroyed) in exchange for the currency.

Like DDO’s guilds, familias come in many sizes and leadership. A few are rotten, most are good, some are small and others very large. An adventurer can form a party from members of other familias, but otherwise are discouraged within their own ranks from trying to fraternize too strongly.

news_xlarge_danmachi_kokuchi2Bell’s life changes at the very start of episode 1. This white-haired kid is on a low dungeon level when a minotaur from several floors up goes on a rampage and nearly turns Bell into goo where it not for Ais, a stunningly beautiful blonde and highly powerful adventurer. She’s a level 6 adventurer, perhaps the equivalent of a DDO level 18 character, which took her 10 years to reach.

Leveling up is normally a very slow process. Bell is a level 1 (as are many adventurers there) and, if he levels like other adventurers, won’t see level 2 before adulthood. But Bell isn’t like all the others.

Bell is amazed at Ais but, often, he’s way too embarrassed to approach her. Bell’s pretty shy all around, which isn’t helped by the fact that his dungeon advisor, a couple of waitresses, and even Hestia herself are rather attracted to him.

“Dungeon” isn’t the typical “harem” anime series, however. Conflict and drama abound. Some adventurers take horrible advantage of small people called “Parum” (it’s Latin for “little”, which avoids getting sued by the Tolkien estate), abusing and stealing what they can from them. And one person, a goddess herself, seems to throw all kinds of bad things at Bell, just to entertain herself as some gods once did in their glory days.

Bell’s growth is reflected by the reactions of other adventurers who are first skeptical then astonished at how he becomes less of the blood-stained “Tomato Guy” that Ais saved to an resourceful adventurer ready to save himself and others if he can do so. While the world of Orario has Clerics, death is final here; there’s no resurrection.

“Dungeon” has mild fanservice (Gainaxing, revealing clothing, Bell often put through marshmallow hell) but no nudity and a little cursing. Despite the harem theme, the show does keep the overt sexuality down, although there are obvious indications that one goddess digs other ladies. It’s believable that many of the girls in the show like Bell. What’s different about each motivation comes from the plot.

The show is sufficiently bloody, however, often involving great moments of awesomeness when Bell does what others believe is completely impossible for him to do.

Unlike SAO or LH, this appears to be a 12-episode series, extracted from its light novel origins.

You can enjoy “Dungeon” completely free on the Crunchyroll movie site, or pick it up with delayed episodes on Hulu Plus.

Bonus points to the producers of the show in using the same voice actor of SAO’s Kirito. That man makes for dramatic voice acting, even if I can’t understand a word he’s saying.

Off Topic: Why I’m Still Catholic

This isn’t a post about Dungeons & Dragons Online or anything about gaming in particular. It’s a response to a challenge by Elizabeth Scalia, a Catholic writer and blogger. I’m merely taking a liberty in using my blog to meet her challenge. (There have been far fewer clever internet challenges lately.) If you’re not interested in my personal insights on my faith, do ignore this post.


The Anchoress, also known as Elizabeth Scalia, made a public challenge to anyone with a web presence to explain why they remain a Catholic, especially during this time where many people warp their desires into political and social pressure to intimidate those who fully practice their faith, not restraining it behind the church doors.

My blog typically restricts itself to discussions about Dungeons & Dragons Online, a multiplayer online world based on the popular tabletop game. So I’m doing something that blogs shouldn’t do much, if at all: Speak off-topic.

I’m going to do so, just this once. I might even be able to show how my faith even intersects with my gaming.

I’m not known anywhere outside of this blog. I’m just a father and husband. As a kid, my family wasn’t particularly religious, although my grandmother was raised Catholic. I did grow with a respect that God existed, but could never understand that “Jesus” thing.

For some reason, God has surrounded me with German Catholics. My high school best friend, my college best friend, and my wife are German Catholics. That was the catalyst that, in 2005, made me enter into the faith. But that’s a story in itself.

In mid-2004, I divorced from a civil marriage. I felt lost, guilty and broken. Despite not looking for anyone, someone appeared at a science-fiction convention I attended. In these gatherings most people have several things in common, and this young woman and I had an interest in wearing costumes the following evening. Specifically, I was going to make an effort to look like the character of Morpheus from The Matrix films, and she as the character Trinity.

While my costume at the time was nothing to speak of, the young woman’s rendition was breathtakingly accurate, and her facial contours were nearly identical to the actress that played the role.

I was smitten. We spent much of the day looking for someone who we heard had dressed as the central character of the films, Neo, also known as “The One.” We never found that costumed man, but the young woman and I found each other.

Over the weeks, she introduced me to the Church again in a more formal way, and I decided, a few weeks later, to enter RCIA (the teaching and discernment classes available at Catholic churches if you are interested in becoming Catholic or want to learn more). Like radio host Matt Swaim of “The Sonrise Morning Show,” I became part of the Catholic Class of 2005.

Thanks to Catholic radio and TV, especially Catholic Answers, I gained a reliable grounding in my faith. I became Catholic and stay a Catholic because:

  • We are founded on history. We mention Pontius Pilate in the Nicean Creed because Christianity came from a real man, in a real place and in real-time. We have witnesses and documents and thousands of years of history as proof of this.
  • We codified the sacred writings that codified what we call the Bible. Other Christians may declare the Bible as the sole rule of faith, but they neglect the point that Christ didn’t found a book, but a Church, and empowered successors to the Apostles to determine what the “table of contents” of Sacred Scripture would become, in the 4th Century.
  • We believe that science is supportive, not exclusive, in our faith in God. We have many, many scientists who, among other things, founded genetic theory, developed the heliocentric theory of the Solar System, and developed the Big-Bang Theory (the science, not the show).
  • We have survived the march of history, as Christ stated. From horrific falls of empires, many many wars, even bouts of corruption within the Church clergy have not toppled the Church. In fact, it seems to have strengthened its resolve to feed the poor, clothe the naked, bury the dead, and bring the word of Christ to a frightened, confused world. Many other Christian faiths, if they haven’t faded away, are changing so radically from their roots–from the teachings of God Himself–that they are shades of what they once were.
  • The Catholic Church sees the teachings of God as supernatural laws of truth, and defends them just as scientists do the laws of the scientific world. Just as the physical laws of the speed of light, mass, energy, and mathematics do not change based on whims, opinion or consensus, nor do the truths that God has revealed to all. While other faiths bend to the winds of culture (which, often, discovers its idea of “truth” was a bad idea), the Church knows that such truths, such as respect for human life, the purpose of marriage, and our ultimate destiny and reason for being on earth, aren’t subject to change, and are just important now as they were 2,000 years ago, today, and 2,000 years from now.

You can find many sources of my faiths on this document from Catholics Come Home.

Some of you who’ve never read this blog before (or likely will again) might find the blog’s title familiar. That’s because my central gaming character, Syncletica, is also the name of one of the first Desert Mothers, a Catholic saint and monastic (an early nun). In the game, I play the Monk class, which has a quasi-religious nature in the concentration of their inner self to perform martial arts feats. I try to reflect the reverence found in the Catholic monastic world within the game’s parameters.

That is, I created this blog (and a guide on the Monk class) to pass on what I’ve learned and to aid others in gameplay, just as St. Syncletica had forsaken her wealth in the 3rd Century to serve others and the Lord.

I was able to re-marry (see this link if you’re a Catholic and wonder how that happened, since you normally cannot divorce and re-marry in the Church) and, soon after, bring my mother and son into the faith, too.

catholicpriesthoodGod wanted me to know that I made the right decision in a personal revelation. 

One day, not long after entering the faith, a friend of mine gave me a poster she created to promote more priestly vocations in the Church.  This one, on the left.

This is Father Jonathan Meyer, a priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He normally wears a cassock, a long black coat that happens to look a lot like the coat that the enlightened Neo wore in the second and third films.

I had found the One after all. (My vocation is to marriage, not to priesthood, however.)

That man is one of many ones who become in persona Christi during the Holy Eucharist, celebrating the holy sacrifice of the One Holy Priest, Savior of Mankind, the Christ.

Yep. The Matrix made me Catholic.


In Mare Crisium: Unpleasant Solitude

It's not the kind of place to raise your levels.

It’s not the kind of place to raise your levels.

This post isn’t being linked on the Fansite thread. It doesn’t contain any play updates or game-related news. It’s just about me.


Mare Crisium is Latin for “Sea of Crises.” It’s one of the ancient dark spots on the moon where ancient volcanoes poured lava onto the lunar surface.

I bring this up as an analogy to a Log Horizon reference. That’s the wonderful light novel and anime that depicts the lives of ordinary gamers who are sucked into a world that emulates (but isn’t completely) a fantasy game with rules very similar to DDO.

Adventurers in that game/world are immortal, but death is still a strange experience for them. When the series’s hero dies, he eventually finds himself temporarily on a very stylized watery shore of Mare Tranquilitatis, the Sea of Tranquility. As with DDO, the Elder Tale game has numerous servers, and “Moon” was one of them, an experimental one like our Lammania server (now host to Update 26 as of this post).

With the game now a reality, the Moon server has become the Adventurer’s temporary afterlife. The price for going back are small fragments of their memory of their past life in the real world.

But there’s little tranquility where I envision myself. Gaming for me, from a social perspective, resides in the Sea of Crises.

For me, Mare Crisium exists with two worlds. Over the past weeks I have staked an existence on the Cannith server, with Mericletica the Zen Archer and Gadgetetica the Rogue occupying my attention. I’m with a guild there, thanks to Saekee, and it’s airship is well-equipped.

But no more than 1 additional player is active on that 105 level ship on any given day. There might be 40 characters total in the whole guild. I was told that the guild is primarily filled with soloing players.

That’s cool. I’m used to playing alone, but then there is the server’s apparent population. I’m sure there’s plenty of players, however, not nearly as many on Ghallanda. I suspect that many raids and quest runs are internally done, without public grouping. There are a number of guilds, but only several very large ones and many, many low-level guilds. This disparity probably makes it hard for the smaller guilds to grow, certainly causing challenges in completing some quests and most raids.

So, it’s a little lonely on Cannith. I love my new characters there and I’ll certainly see how the Zen Archer works through Epic soon enough with a first-life character. But there are few friends with whom to celebrate there.

So, I log out from Cannith server and log in to the populous Ghallanda server, my first guild home, where Ryncletica, Szyncletica, Kiricletica and many others reside. And I feel alone all the same.

This isn’t a post to rant about player participation in terms of grouping. It’s a bit more personal than that.

As many of you might have learned, a guild can form a personality. Often that’s based on the guild’s purpose or theme. Zerging. Raids. Power leveling. The guild’s personality often generates a mood that determines how players congregate. Some may choose to power level. Others prefer specific quests.

And often you befriend others and make regular quest runs together. Often for my old guild, it was not only for loot and XP but for company.

But right now, I feel as alone on my Ghallanda guild as I do on Cannith.

My initial realization in the lack of guildmates asking me to join them to play, with no responses when I’ve regularly asked if anyone needs help, caused me to remove Syncletica from the guild in a fit of spite, partially also as I had legitimate plans to form a Monk support guild for new players there.

Guilds often form cliques. That’s natural. But the cliques that exist now don’t include me. Player turnover, as gamers come and go or become inactive, is inevitable. So do those friendships that develop. I’m not quite part of any of them now.

Every day for over three weeks now, with a couple of exceptions, I’ll log in, check who’s online, say hello and see if anyone’s near my level of my current character.

Yet I cannot find anyone that’s interested in running with me now almost all the time. I’ve purposefully spread out several characters to accommodate different levels. I’d hate to think that was a waste of time.

The funny thing is that I shouldn’t feel all that irritated about this. As a person, I like my solitude. I play Ninja Spies primarily because they are solo-capable. But joining my first guild so long ago has conditioned me to appreciate parties and voice chat and laughter.

It’s never been about the loot.

And it’s never been about this blog, or the Monk guide. These things grew from my love of the game and wanting other players to grab that foothold as I did and leap off into a new world with a little less fumbling that I experienced.

Getting a handhold on Cannith shows me how expensive it is (time and resources) to play on any server. So I have to make due with what I’m honored to have.

I’m not the most social creature. And gaming is probably the province of the young. I’m not so young. It’s a little difficult sometimes for me to post a group.

Mericletica and her sisters on Cannith may never see a major raid unless they post a group for it themselves. It’s harder on Ghallanda to join them as well, although often now this is because the raid times conflict with family or require flagging I cannot do because it’s a slower process without help.

The elephant in the room is obvious.

You can only solo a gaming world for so long before you need assistance. Sometimes I wonder if doing this blog or the guide is alienating me from the camaraderie found in guild play. If that’s the case I’d happily cease posts here and updates to the guide. But I don’t think that’s it. Nor do I put blame to my guilds. The leaders cannot fully control the behaviors of all members, there’s real-life matters to oversee, and my interests may not coincide with other players. I guess I wish I knew what interests they had.

I guess, as with my many characters, I must somehow seek greater enlightenment to achieve tranquility as my time in the game matures. I’m stuck in the not-so magnificent desolation where player personality, preferences and availability make it harder for me to group up.

I certainly hope that most of the other servers aren’t as stratified as Cannith. It’s all too easy for many of us to become stuck in our gaming ways.

It’s too bad I can’t accept every invitation I get through here so we could log in all together and curb-stomp this game. At least I’m privileged to share my experiences with you. But solo-gaming can turn quickly into vanity blogging, so it’s fitting that I keep trying to “fit in” with my guilds and servers so I can write things of interest to you. I don’t learn anything new completely on my own. This blog and the guide only get by with more than a little help from its friends.

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

mea-culpaThe Monk guide and this blog have one author. I prefer to call myself the “editor” of the guide because what I write there isn’t really my work.

Both guide and blog contain a lot of my experience, sure, but it’s also experience from other players as discussed in the DDO forums, player videos, observed gameplay, the DDO Wiki, and comments from blog posts.

But none of that assures or guarantees that anything written is completely accurate, although I strive for this.

The need for accuracy is obvious. A game is a simulation. If the variables (say, the length of the Death Ward buff from the Visor of the Flesh Render Guards) are described in error (the buff lasts 10 minutes), then you, the player, honestly reading something as a resource, will be disappointed to find that the buff is only 7 minutes.

The Monk guide has been around for about 2 years now in its present form. I had written a private guide from my guildmates over a year before that. Making the guide public meant that I needed to do one thing: swallow any pride in designing it.

If I were prideful in the guide’s usefulness or success, I would see it as a personal accomplishment. In situations like that, such things are then defended, right or wrong.

That’s not why I wrote the guide, or enter posts here.

The guide is meant to be as accurate and concise as I can make it with the limited time and resources I have at hand. If there’s any credit to be given, I accept it only as the editor of what existed out in the game world years before I showed up in most cases.

Despite my intentions, there has and will be times where I screw up information. A recent example came up through a DDO forums post where someone suggested to the devs to increase the XP bonuses for no-kill questing (Discreet, Devious and Insidious Cunning). Most responses argued against the idea (although I thought that Cunning should go from 10 to 15% but never be higher). The subject train derailed a little to how such bonuses are attained and why. I referred to my post that casually contrasted the Rogue Assassin with the Ninja Spy, where I clearly admitted a lot of bias but wanted to be as fair as I could with any data I could sort from the DDO Wiki.

That post came and went–until I reposted the link on this thread.

And not only did a couple site some glaring errors in my comparison (such as Assassins gaining vorpal with sneak attacks at level 18), one poster chose to insult my credibility and make it personal with a disrespectful response I made to another poster to a question asked in another, unrelated thread.

My “Lawful Good” nature is my actual personality. I’ll slay real trolls as quickly as the game versions. I was this close to reporting the post to the forum administrator before I remembered that this is the Easter season, where forgiveness should be greatly emphasized.

Besides, my reaction to the disrespectful comment was probably borderline as well. I barely kept my pride in check.

So what you can get from all that is this: the guide is a public document to me. It’s strength comes from lots of feedback to keep it as accurate as possible. I’m just one of the players, not a Turbine developer and certainly not a subject matter expert or uber player.

Blog entries are less studious and often discuss my reactions, observations and discoveries in gameplay.

Blog entries may also be less accurate because of the more immediate nature of writing them as I desire, rather than due to a need.

I apologize to anyone if anything written here or in guide has not generated the results expected. However, and this is important, I need your comments, criticisms, even complaints, to fix any errors you find. I primarily play one class, and so discussions about other classes might stretch my limits. Just be civil when you respond back. I write and compile all of this out of joy in the game, and I want the work to reflect back to other players to aid them.

The guide will be a poor reference without your feedback. Take the time to help correct me and you’ll have a better reference to use or even recommend to others.

A little update: I think the poster and I are burying the hatchet in that he asked me my viewpoint in a private message. I know he’s a great player but he’s genuinely amazed at my worldview. So I don’t want to make the issue seem too out of hand.

Off Topic: “Log Horizon”

Log Horizon: A "kinder, gentler" trapped-in-game experience...but no less entertaining.

Log Horizon: A “kinder, gentler” trapped-in-game experience…but no less entertaining.

I’m a big fan of “Sword Art Online.” It’s an anime adaptation of a very popular manga series of an excellent gamer that is among the first to use a virtual reality MMO where you are the avatar, within the digital world, a’la The Matrix, and interact completely as a three-dimensional being.

SAO has some critics, as all things do.

Its first story dealt with being trapped in such a world as a death game. Players were forced to complete the game, or die trying permanently–both in-game and their body dying in the real world.

There’s much fridge horror and nightmare fuel for viewers of this show when you consider that, of the 10,000 players trapped in that game by the first story, there were only around 6,000 that survive. SAO’s drama, even when later games that the main characters play aren’t filled with death stakes, still have a sharp edge of gloom and doom.

There have been other manga/anime where you can exist (somewhat) in a virtual reality, but now, riding on SAO’s success and catching up fast is a less-dark but no less dramatic take on the trapped-in-a-video-game concept.

“Log Horizon” centers itself not on a swordmaster like SAO’s Kirito but a spellcaster, a college-age man by the name of Shiroe. He’s a rather introverted sort but has Chessmaster-like thinking.

The game that Shiroe plays, “Elder Tale,” is a 2-D fantasy game set in a long post-apocalyptic Japan, with elements of classes and gameplay like DDO or similarly-themed MMORPGs that’s had a long prosperous life. Shiroe’s been playing for eight years of the game’s 20 year life and knows it well. He even plays it as we play DDO now, at a desk with a display and keyboard and mouse.

He’s logged in at the time as a new update of the game is being applied when something happens.

Suddenly he’s inside the game as his Shiroe character, as are some thirty thousand others on the Japan server that hosts his game. Later you learn that there are many other linked servers that form a worldwide virtual world with many players also mysteriously trapped.

But this is where Log Horizon plays things differently. There isn’t any malevolent entity that explains what the players can or should do. They’re just now inside this world with no instruction and no information about why, what to do or how to leave it.

Most of the players panic but also are quite genre savvy (a poke at SAO), realizing that death in this new world might mean that they might die in the real world, or that the game mechanics for resurrection are still present, where death means revival in a cathedral in town, with no real harm. They thankfully and quickly learn the latter, resurrection, is still true.

Like in SAO, the characters have a virtual floating interface of controls (with a log-out button that fails to work) but they soon learn that the controls aren’t how to play. They need to feel, not think, and eventually have to learn to fight all over again, not by “clicking” buttons but calling out their attacks and behaving as they should as their character (think of the many animations and gestures that we see our MMO characters do after we command them and you get the idea).

Mostly out of fear but for power for some, the guilds in this world start to consolidate players while people figure out what’s going on.

Needs such as food are readily available, but while food looks appealing, almost everything tastes like wet soggy crackers. Shelter is also handy, and there are monsters to kill to earn a little living.

Most interestingly, the NPCs, from shopkeepers to villagers, are now as interactive and alive as you are, although they lack immortality and are a bit suspicious of you.

But now what? What’s an immortal and increasingly bored adventurer to do?

“Log Horizon” is a fascinating deconstruction on the trapped-in-a-game concept. As with other people in the chaos, Shiroe meets up with an old friend, Naotsugu, a guardian (tanking fighter) and Akatsuki, a female assassin that thinks of herself as a ninja, with very strong tracking, sneak and invisibility skills. (You know by now who’s my favorite character.)

From a game mechanics standpoint, these three players fight extremely well–and without any healer in their party. That’s Shiroe’s art. His spells aren’t great offensively but he likes his class, the enchanter, because it allows great party support. Those friends in the past, like Naotsugu, are tuned in to Shiroe’s style and can beat a larger force through cunning and intimidation.

Like SAO’s Kirito, Shiroe is also reticent at joining a guild, even with “The Apocalypse,” (what players call the event that threw them all into the game) but not because people don’t understand him, but because his game knowledge is so vast that people bugged him constantly for game tips. For quite a while until maybe a year or so before the Apocalypse, Shiroe was once part of a mega-party calling themselves the “Debauchery Tea Party,” which were able to complete high level raids and adventures that challenged more organized guilds. The story takes us forward and back in Shiroe’s time with this group, and these three characters soon ally themselves with a few former members of the since-disbanded Tea Party during their adventures.

Log Horizon isn’t like SAO in that, as Shiroe says, this is their reality, not a game. While this world is inspired by the Elder Tales game, its inhabitants that defined the game’s quests no longer behave as they once did. Serious problems involves plots such as kidnapping and slavery, the rights of non-adventurers, establishing a purpose in this world and interacting with the former NPCs, the “People of the Land.” If Shiroe’s new world were merely a game, the People of the Land would be handing out quests to complete, but that’s no longer the case, with ramifications that build up because of this change. In short, for those familiar with SAO, imagine a game world filled with not NPCs but characters like Yui–interactive and very much alive.

To give you one hint without spoiling things terribly, take “The Reaver’s Fate,” the raid and concluding story for the Heroic Gianthold story arc in DDO. In this raid, the Stormreaver has returned and decided that the giants and Eberron itself are not fit to survive. He’s switched on a doomsday device and players have 20 minutes to end the Stormreaver (after he activates several game mechanisms) and turn off the doomsday device. If you fail, Eberron explodes.

Of course, in your reality, with you, the player, sitting in front of your keyboard, only your party dies should you fail, and you can try again, Eberron and Xen’drik none the worse for wear.

But what happens if you have game events like these in progress in this new reality, whether you the adventurer or the People of the Land know or care of them, with obvious epic and disastrous consequences that could destroy the world?

Kawara, a Monk in the West Wind Brigade guild.

Kawara, a Monk in the West Wind Brigade guild.

Log Horizon has many characters, all with interesting stories. Among the many things I like is that there are Monks in this world. I’ve seen an evil Monk and a good Monk in battle, and they behave very much like their DDO counterparts.

Lovers of Bards and Wizards and Fighters and Druids and Rogues will find something to associate with as well.

I won’t spoil things further. If you’ve enjoyed SAO, “Log Horizon” will appeal to you with its humor and very unique take on the game world inverted as a true reality. You can watch the show on Hulu Plus or for free (with more episodes available) on the Crunchyroll website.

Not-So-Off-Topic: Rusty and Co.

"Eat post?"

“Eat post?”

A few weeks ago, a little bored while waiting for some work at work, I started to browse through one of my web pleasures: TV Tropes.

As I was pursuing something D&D related that I’ve long forgotten, a stray link kidnapped me as always, pointing me towards a webcomic called Rusty and Co.

If you play DDO or D&D, this is a must-read with only one downside.

Rusty and Co. is (mostly) the story of three adventurers. What makes them different is that they are themselves monsters that jumped sides to work as Good or Neutral mercenaries.

There’s Rusty, an adorable little rust monster with a simple vocabulary to resolve many plot issues. (“Eat sword?”)

There’s Mimic. He’s a Mimic. He shapeshifts, finds work for the trio and is the most (only) competent spokesman. Good Diplomacy skills, for a box.

Lastly, there’s Cube. He’s a gelatinous cube, the team’s muscle, the very silent type and a complete badass.

None of them have hands. That might make an adventure hard to start when you can’t open the door to it. But that doesn’t slow them down.

Over the course of their adventures, they find human and humanoid allies. All of them have their appeal.

There’s the Princess. She is a powerhouse unarmed fighter that is anything but a damsel in distress and is barely Lawful Neutral. Sound familiar?

We have Madeline, the Paladin. Cute, severely brave, a bit of a ditz (low WIS), and relentless. Has the most awesome fighting style and smites evil with mere gardening tools (you’ll have to read to figure out why).

There’s Roxanne, an elven Bard with incredible cunning. Can weaponize sticks of wood but not in the way you think.

We also have Prestige, a young wizard and a bit of a detective. She gets involved in the Mob–run by a bunch of illitids.

And there’s Stabs, a halfling Rogue that totally lives up to their reputation.

Through the trio’s adventures, you are assaulted with incredible bits of D&D and fantasy lore, puns from the hells, other monsters and tons and tons of laughter, not to mention wonderfully drawn panels by the web artist, Mike R.

To give you a sample, I present this panel. Here, our paladin and cube are fighting an elder god that stopped by Reality for a cup of coffee, maybe, while threatening to destroy all life as we know it…

Madeline the Paladin + a Ninja Gelatinous Cube = Sheer Badassery.

Madeline the Paladin + a Ninja Gelatinous Cube = Sheer Badassery.

The downside to the laughter and drama and D&D kitsch? It’s a weekly webcomic.

So start from the beginning from the Archives, read it slowly and digest it well.

By the time you’ve caught up, you’ll be dying from anticipation. And don’t forget reading the comments below each panel–they’re just as funny as the comic.

Off Topic: 2015 Superhero Films Reveal Titanic Matchups

At ComicCon 2013 this week, Warner Bros. and Disney officially declared war of the superheroes. The eventually winner will be us, the viewers, by 2015.

Marvel’s news was primarily some spit shining on the next Avengers movie. It’s official title gives it away for the dedicated comic readers (I’m not one of them nowandays for either universe): The Avengers: Age of Ultron. A quick look up on Ultron’s comic-book history tells me enough: crazy killer robot.

Hm. Sure. I’m pretty familiar with crazy killer robots. Joss Whedon, currently invulnerable with his success with the first Avengers movie, teased the crowd at ComicCon with star appearances from the many satellite movies that will form up before the next Avengers film. My personal love is Captain America as shown on-screen, coming soon in Captain America: The Winter Solder next spring.

So what could Warner Bros., owners of DC Comics, do to match, if not outdo the Disney/Marvel announcements? With the exception of the critically acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy from Christopher Nolan, the WB’s attempts to launch a counterpart superhero cinematic universe for DC has been lackluster at best. The 2011 Green Lantern movie, intended to be the first of a series of films to kickstart that universe, wasn’t terrible, but was far from well-received. Christopher Nolan stated that his Batman was in a universe where other superheroes didn’t exist. Thankfully, this summer’s Man of Steel film did well enough at the box office for a sequel to be announced.

With the Superman sequel, DC played the one card it could play that would get everyone’s attention.

You don't want to mess with these two. Ever.

You don’t want to mess with these two. Ever.

Zack Snyder, director of the latest Superman film, announced at ComicCon that the Batman would be in the next Superman film.

Wow. It’s a bold risk but one that fans will come out to see. There’s no other iconic superheroes in any comic book universe that’s more compelling than Superman and Batman in a team-up. (There are many Superman/Batman animated films and graphic novels to illustrate this.) However, Snyder notes that this won’t be a pair-up but something more adversarial, perhaps like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel of a older, future Batman.

As if Batman stood a chance in that mode for long, the fan’s love of Batman’s crazy-preparedness notwithstanding. The film must show the two working together in the end, as the comic universes clearly show, for they really are the best of friends over time. Also, as clearly illustrated in the first film, in a fight between human versus Kryptonian, human loses unless very lucky. Not even the non-powered but brilliant Batman can keep up in a prolonged fight with a determined Superman.

If Warner Bros. can pull off this team-up, they’ll get their cinematic universe in a good position. When you think about all the other attempts to get any of their characters to the big screen with any measure of success, a Superman/Batman film was WB’s strongest, and probably the only card they had left.

Off Topic: “Man of Steel”

Man-of-SteelDecided to take a break from gaming and enjoy the holiday a bit to go to a movie.

I was a bit reticent to see this latest retelling of Superman on the big screen. The last attempt, Superman Returns, was a bland tale that was relatively low on action that I would nickname it, Superman: The Motionless Picture. While director Bryan Singer did well on X-Men and X-Men 2, he lost his mojo for Returns–likely because the movie seemed like there was some anvilicious message in it. That, and the film tried too hard to be a better continuation of the 1978 films.

The only reason I dragged myself to see this new film has a name associated with it: Christopher Nolan. The same guy that brought a realistic but enjoyable Dark Knight Trilogy of films wasn’t at the helm for this Superman film, but his production company headed the venture, and his influence with the script was clearly present.

So, what did I think of the movie?

I liked it. Superman was portrayed realistically and enjoyably. The character was close enough to its comic book legend, the story background from Krypton was primal and engrossing, and the acting was very good. I enjoyed Amy Adam’s Lois (neither quite damsel nor action girl), and I liked how the storyline took a page from Marvel on the xenophobia our society would have in reality if someone like Superman would appear.

The story is filled to the brim with action. Notable roles include Henry Cavill, who did quite well as Clark, as well as Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Clark’s fathers in a potent nod to the need for strong fathers. Lovely Diane Lane was stripped of her usual Hollywood glamour and (along with the actress that portrayed Kal-El’s mom) also sent a great message to the power of motherhood.

Seems that this summer is a time for re-dos. As with situations of a previous Star Trek film making its way into Star Trek Into Darkness (yet to be seen, but I know the plot), we get a retelling of General Zod. Contrary to his 1978 movie version, you can understand where this Zod comes from as he is simply not doing terrible things just to be terrible. He truly cares to save Krypton, however flawed his reasoning. Michael Shannon is dark, determined and a great foil for Superman.

The only element of the film I didn’t enjoy is something often glossed over in most of the comics but shouldn’t have been ignored in a “Nolanverse” film. Superman’s fights bring amazingly catastrophic destruction on a level similar to having ten 9/11 attacks with several collapsed buildings and the untold deaths that come from this. The movie ends without any mention of having to rebuild half of the city, nor how the populace feels about Superman’s presence. Personally, I’d be very fearful of being “saved” by Superman if he came to town. I’d find a bomb shelter right then and there. (In contrast, the end of The Avengers lampshades this similar destruction levied on New York City briefly as news reports roll in.)

I don’t want to spoil the film further, but if you still felt unsettled by Returns, go enjoy Man of Steel. Like The Dark Knight Trilogy, this will not uphold certain comic book precepts as, like in Batman Begins, people seem less, uh, stupid. Lois figures out who Clark is in the first 30 minutes. It’s not a story of Clark as Superman, but a story of people who either become better–or worse–because they learn, quite abruptly, that they are not alone in the universe.

(Update: Added a link to a website that calculated hypothetical damage and deaths based on Chicago or NYC as analogues for Metropolis. We’re talking deaths, injuries and missing in the millions, here.)

Off Topic: “Sword Art Online”

The cover of the manga of “Sword Art Online”

With all the drama involving MyDDO’s passing, I thought it would be fun to talk about gaming from a different perspective.

I’m been on an anime-watching kick for some time now. One show caught my eye and then my rapt attention.

Pretend it’s about 10 years from now. There’s still PC gaming, but the interfaces have changed.

You might have heard of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality gaming interface, in development today,  that fits over your face, giving you an immersive stereoscopic display.

In this near-future, you can place a helmet on your head, which immerses your consciousness into a 3D environment where you don’t move an avatar–you are the avatar.

This device, the NerveGear, is the heart of virtual multiplayer online gaming, and the premise of the anime adaptation of the manga called “Sword Art Online.”

“SAO” is a hot new game, and one player, who goes by the name of “Kirito” during his participation in the game’s beta test, is one of the first 10,000 players in the newly released game.

The world of Aincrad, the game’s setting, is a massive floating castle-like structure with lands divided into 100 levels. The goal of the game is the beat the floor’s boss and ascend to the next, beating the game at the 100th level.

All seems well for Kirito and a new player he befriends, Klein, when their avatars (and all 9,998 other players) are suddenly transported to the town square on Floor 1. There, the game’s creator appears, larger than life as a skyscraper-sized, faceless, robed spectre, to tell all the players that they cannot log out. They must stay in the game and complete it to leave. Further–if you die in the game, you die for real, as the NerveGear will zap your brain on your failure. Others on the outside can’t remove that helmet, or it will kill you as well.

It’s a perma-death game in more ways than one.

I haven’t read the book series (but I will once I can find it) but the anime adaptation is said to be quite acceptable. Whoever wrote this story had a good knowledge of gaming lore and skill. “SAO” is a world where swordplay is the norm: magic does not exist as an offensive force (although a later story introduces another gaming world where the reverse is true and magic is dominant). There are hints that unarmed fighting is possible, but sadly, I didn’t see any ninjas.

As such, it’s a tough world to fight within.

By the start of episode 2, you learn that over 2,000 of the 10,000 players have died in a single month. A group of players, with Kirito and his sole party member, a girl named Asuna, tackle the first boss.

This was where I laughed my butt off: It was a ginormous kobold boss, complete with lieutenants that were essentially paragon kobold fighters (as seen in “The Shroud” or “Enter the Kobold”)

SAO_E02Kobolds! And those things were kicking the ass out of this raid party of at least thirty players!

But that’s what you and I would expect, right? Kobolds aren’t particularly powerful unless you aren’t.

There’s much in the way of gaming lore and in-jokes, but the drama of watching a player move up the ranks to be what we all dream of being; the one player that saves the day–it’s exciting, humorous and extraordinarily dramatic.

There are two gaming worlds that Kirito and friends visit in the anime storyline–and you’ll wish you could grab a copy of the game and log in yourself.

Well, discussing this show any more would totally spoil it for you. You can watch all the episodes of “Sword Art Online” –free–on the anime web site Crunchyroll, or, if you have Hulu Plus, you can find it there.