Monday, August 21, 2017

Now THAT's F---ing D&D

All right, this is a TV post. And it's going to be about that damn Game of Thrones show. And, yes, it's going to have *SPOILERS* If that matters to you, you've been warned.

[yes, I'm still watching The Defenders on Netflix, and I have a LOT to say about it. Unfortunately, I keep falling asleep while watching it, mainly because I'm doing it late at night after looong days of heavy manual labor. I'm tempted to post a picture of the home project, but it probably won't do justice to how labor intensive it is. POINT IS: I'll get to The Defenders. Just probably not in a timely matter]

There's a lot of "good TV" on HBO these days, by which I mean "quality entertainment." It comes in a variety of forms. I enjoy Veep because I've worked in government and while it may seem (to the private sector) like House of Cards ("hello, conspiracy theorists") there's a lot of it that's just absurdist dumb-fuckery and political aggrandizing (which Veep pokes fun at). There's Ballers, which is similar to the crack that was Sex in the City, except for football fans; most of it depicts fairly awful people, but Dwayne Johnson may have the most powerful charisma of anyone living in America today...he's just so damn watchable, everything he touches turns to gold (he's like Tom Cruise in that way). There's John Oliver's watered-down version of The Daily Show (and I haven't watched much Daily Show for about a decade now for, well, *reasons*) which is great because, with the state of the news, once a week is about the extent of which I can stomach a close examination of what's going on in my nation. And then there's Insecure, the creation of writer/director/actor Issa Rae, an incredibly talented individual. Her show is one of the best things on television at the's like the newest iteration of awesome comedy (like what Arrested Development was, except that it's on HBO instead of FOX, so it won't be f'd over and preempted for the lowest common denominator).

[I'm sure some would crucify me for saying this, BUT even though I'm a white dude in Seattle, there's a lot in Insecure I can relate to. Except, of course, being black in America (and dealing with all that means). Fact of the matter is, Rae is smashing many "accepted stereotypes," both within the drama of her show (and its portrait of black lives) and in Hollywood itself (what can be accomplished by an individual who is outside the regular norms). Plus, she's funny as hell...Issa Rae is a 21st century friggin' Lucille Ball]

But whatever...yes, yes, there's mucho good TV shows on the "boob-tube" these days; plenty of shows that are ready to suck your precious, precious time and interest and keep you from doing something constructive with you lives. Most of you already know that...I won't insult your intelligence or anything. But can I just say a few words about Game of Thrones? Please?

How frigging awesome is this show?

Sure. There are a lot of neat things in it. Fantasy tropes. Special effects. Good acting. Big battle scenes. Drama. Violence. T&A. Pick your fancy, Tolkien geeks. Martin's stuff is a lot better than Robert Jordan (or so I gather...I haven't actually read Jordan, but my brother gave me a scathing review of The Eye of the World, and I value his opinion)...but we already knew that. That's not what I wanted to gush about. Certainly, not about George R. R. Martin.

For those who don't know, the GoT television series was originally based on Martin's multi-book saga; now, however, it has surpassed the novels he's written, and the show's creators are writing episodes based on his "notes" and using their own continuity (they started going "off-book" early on, due to the constraints inherent in the television media). They...the creators...have taken those notes and run with it, outdoing themselves again and again, both in terms of spectacle and drama. It's wonderful to watch...and even more so because it's soooo "D&D."

Last week's episode..."oh, we're going on a quest"...was about as D&D as it gets. But THIS week, we actually got to see the "quest:" a bunch of frigging miscreants trudging across a snowy wasteland, snarking at each other, really doing something epic'ly stupid, plus guys getting mauled by an undead cave bear...all that is frigging D&D. Old school D&D...the oldest, really.

Sandor Clegane ("the Hound") reminds me of so many D&D players characters I have known. So, so many.

And Melodrama. Most of us (including me) use the term fast and loose, rather than its original, theatrical definition. Just high drama inspiring high emotion. Oh boy. This is melodrama. Peter Dinklage (damn the camera loves that guy...his charisma is on par with the Rock) entreating, begging the Dragon Queen not to fly off to the rescue? So good.

And Daenerys herself. Again, I've known (in game) platinum haired demigoddesses like her...not dragon riders, no, but characters just as magnificent in their power, trying to do the right thing, torn between their heart and their "duty." And, no, never with anything so serious as a kingdom or continent at stake...nothing so bad as a zombie apocalypse on the horizon. But when you're playing The Game...when you're really playing it create those stakes in your mind. In the shared imagination of the players.

Let me say this: in last week's episode, when the principal characters are standing around the table in the war room coming up with some incredibly half-assed plan to go north and hijack a fucking wight? THAT is D&D, my friends. That is the kind of bullshit ideas players are always coming up with. This week? Getting trapped on an f'ing island of ice, surrounded by a multitude of undead? THAT is the kind of predicament PCs are always getting their sorry asses into, trying to follow some half-assed bullshit plan. It is soooo D&D, because (just like real life) we often fuck ourselves into some stupid problem that we shouldn't have. All the frigging time.

I love it.

I love watching it. It's fun. These days, it's not all T&A and lingering camera shots (as in earlier seasons). It reminds me of some of my best D&D sessions (both as a player and a DM). Half-assed and melodramatic. Inciting the zombies to attack by throwing stones. Ordering your hirelings around. Watching the cleric die and wondering who's going to raise you now (since the dead cleric obviously can't raise himself). Negotiating who gets the magic sword, and justifying the decision with in-game fluff.

If this were D&D,
I'd be a dwarf.
I love it. It pokes my "D&D nostalgia" buttons as hard as anything does. Not that I haven't been on the edge of tears lately anyway. The kids have been gone for more than a week. I've been doing a lot of heavy labor around the house. I'm stressed the fam will come back and the work won't be done, plus the school year's starting up soon and I have that to think about. I'm half-shattered at the moment...the escapism of Game of Thrones is something incredibly valuable to me at this particular moment. Damn, it's good...if only for reasons that appeal to me. And right now, that's just fine and dandy.

[I also want to say this: cool as Jon Snow is (and who doesn't think he's cool?) I've never run a character like him (PC or NPC). While I admire the brooding, Saturnian dude with twenty pounds of honor in a ten pound bag, that was never my shtick. I was usually the one-eyed guy who'd been resurrected six or seven times. And usually blondish in hair color]

So many D&Disms (this week's episode is playing on my TV for the second time while I type this). I find myself trying to pick out alignments for the various characters. Jon is obviously Lawful Good. Arya Stark is pretty clearly Neutral Evil. Cannot get a read on Sansa to save my life at the moment. Daenerys is Neutral Good. makes me want to pull out the old DMG and read Gygax's descriptions and fit them to all the characters. That would actually be fun (for me anyway).

Maybe tomorrow.
: )


  1. I didn't saw the last two seasons of GoT because I got tired of the gratuitous sex-violence blending. Maybe I give it a try after you said.

    Most of my players was of the Hound* kind but there were the ones who played Little-finger/Tyrion (the scoundrel), John Snow/Brienne (the naive) or Melisandre (me when not DMing).

    *If you haven't a Hound in your table, you are not playing D&D.

  2. They even had backpacks and a sled full of supplies! I'm still pretty sure their DM just handwaves outdoor travel speeds.

    1. It's not called "The Narrow Sea" for nothing.
      ; )