High School Legacies & The Resonance of Cobra Kai

Folks, strap in because the following article is going to connect some threads that may leave you thinking, “Wow, he’s really thinking too much about Cobra Kai.” In fact, I already received this feedback a few months ago while writing about my enjoyment of the show on Facebook:

Cobra Kai The OC

I was seven-years-old when The Karate Kid was released in 1984, and like many others I grew up with it being a touchstone movie of my childhood. I certainly saw The Karate Kid Part II in the movie theater and I enjoyed various callbacks to the series in pop culture over the years such as Sweep The Leg by No More Kings and the video essay presenting the case that Daniel was the real bully in the original film. And I still get fired up whenever I hear ‘You’re The Best Around’ by Joe Esposito.

Resurrecting those characters and that franchise over 30 years later should not work. It did not work out well (for some) in Star Wars last month, and as Randal remarks in Clerks, “Let the past be the past.” And yet, Cobra Kai works on multiple levels and I remain delightfully dumbfounded by how effective it is. In an era of sequels, reboots and retcons, Cobra Kai manages to pay homage to the source material and give a slight wink to the audience while also taking the current premise seriously.

How do they manage this feat? And why did this show resonate with me?

Continue reading “High School Legacies & The Resonance of Cobra Kai”

The Rise of Skywalker’s Audacious Cynicism

It has been quite the ride in recent years following Star Wars. What started out as a standalone film a year after I was born evolved into a trilogy of films that captured the hearts and minds of a generation. After a long hiatus, the creator of those films returned for another trilogy – and whether you liked those six movies or not – there was no argument about which individual was making decisions about the events taking place, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

Star Wars was the brainchild of George Lucas and of course he was influenced by countless stories that came before him and benefited from the amazing talents of those around him as the films were created. If we had a problem with the events that played out on screen, then it was easy to point to Lucas as the individual responsible. And many people did hold him responsible after the conclusion of the prequels. So much so that he sold the franchise to Disney and moved on with his life.

The sequel trilogy announced by Disney produced excitement that perhaps the old magic of Star Wars could be recaptured. They brought on J.J. Abrams to direct a script that was written by at least three people including Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3). It was announced that the original cast would reprise their roles, and fans were tentatively hopeful the new films would positively jolt the Star Wars universe.

The Force Awakens accomplished that by stylishly redoing the plot of A New Hope with an enjoyable cast of characters. We got an emotional end to the story of Han Solo and a major tease for whatever might have happened to Luke Skywalker. For whatever reason, Luke’s reveal in the new trilogy of films was held for the second installment; The Force Awakens hinges on the story of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren. It produced memorable scenes, funny lines of dialogue, great visuals, and offered intriguing questions:

  • Who is Rey? Are her parents anyone special? Is she a Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi or Palpatine?
  • Is Kylo capable of redemption? Will he turn to the Light Side or go further to the Dark Side?
  • Who is Snoke? 
  • What’s the deal with The Knights of Ren?
  • Why was Luke hiding? What’s he going to do when he finally speaks to Rey?

As the start of a new trilogy and purposeful jumpstart to the flagging Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens worked well. Critics and fans alike embraced the movie, and it set the stage for two more films that could go continue to mirror the original trilogy or do something a bit different.

Continue reading “The Rise of Skywalker’s Audacious Cynicism”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Dr. Rachel Kowert on Video Games & Mental Health

Dr. Rachel Kowert
Rachel Kowert, PhD

Dr. Rachel Kowert is a psychologist with years of published research examining the mental health effects of video games. She details how her research has NOT supported a variety of commonly-held and spread myths about video games. She discusses her role as Research Director for Take This, whose mission is to decrease stigma while increasing the support for mental health in the game-enthusiast community and inside the game industry. She talks about her history as a video game player and how she manages her personal use of games and that of her young children.

Enjoy the 55th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Making Spell Components & Ammunition… Fun?

I threw a question out on Twitter <checks notes> a few months ago and the amount of responses I received was impressive. It seemed I hit a nerve, and the following article is the result. The question was:

My question was inspired by looking through Bard spells for The Stone and noticing that I had been ignoring the required spell components throughout a Tomb of Annihilation campaign run by the wonderful Dungeon Master (and Professional Nurse Midwife), Jana Flescher. For example, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter requires “a small feather that needs to be waved in the air and tiny tarts that need to be thrown in the target’s direction.” Needless to say, The Stone has (sadly) not been throwing tiny tarts at hags and other targets of Tasha’s Hideous Laughter throughout the campaign.

What a missed opportunity!!

It appears that I am not the only one that ignores spell components; two-out-of-three respondents in my poll indicated that they ignore keeping track of ammunition and spell components as well.

Spell components in 5th Edition have resulted in frustration for some and it would seem ambivalence in most others. Like anything in D&D, if there is something you don’t enjoy – change it or ignore it. It seems that most players simply ignore spell components because they add an artificial barrier to an already-limited ability for a character. It introduces inventory management, which can be insufferable. Even the rules provide a work-around as a character’s spell focus can be considered a substitute for most spell components. So most players ignore it, though maybe that’s a lost opportunity for further world building.

How could spell component add to the enjoyment of the game?

Continue reading “Making Spell Components & Ammunition… Fun?”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Matt Henderson on Designing Loke Battle Mats

Matt Henderson Loke Battle MatsMatt Henderson is the designer for Loke Battle Mats, which has been releasing tabletop battle mats for roleplaying games in recent years. Matt talks about the origins for the product line and his inspirations while designing the maps. We discuss how Dungeons & Dragons and other systems have shaped Loke Battle Mats and how terrain has shifted in importance over the years for players. Matt shares his approach to preparing for games including routine use of a Dual-Dungeon Master technique. He shares excellent tips on getting the most out of battle mats and other terrain options!

Enjoy the 54th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Anakin, Daenerys & Math

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way – I love Star Wars (including The Last Jedi) and have enjoyed the Game of Thrones novels and television series so much that I analyzed the contents of the books to predict the series’ future. The following article addresses major plot points from the final season of Game of Thrones, so if you’re somehow not up-to-date on the final season’s details… congratulations on coming out of that coma and welcome back!

Anakin Daenerys

I’ve had this article in my mind since Dany’s ill-fated destruction of King’s Landing because I lived through many – and let me say again, many – discussions and debates about the adequacy of a prominent fantasy character’s heel turn. Fourteen years ago, the world finally learned what it was the pushed Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side of the Force, and the response was, “Wait, that’s it?” Ken Tucker at New York Magazine phrased it this way:

Worse yet, after all these years, Anakin/Vader turns out to be a petulant wuss, a brat who chooses evil because he didn’t get the Jedi promotion he wanted. Instead of meaningful anti-heroism, we’ve got this bitter fellow gulled by the ego strokes and patently false promises of Ian McDiarmid’s Senator Palpatine.

TPM Teaser PosterFor many in my circle of friends back in 2005 (before social media got its clutches into all of us), Anakin’s turn immediately felt – for lack of a better word – lame. We grew up with Vader being the end-all, be-all of menacing villains only to see him ultimately redeem himself by saving his son, Luke, and destroying the Emperor (or so we thought). We were then introduced to the premise that we would see Anakin well before he turned into Darth Vader, and the possibilities of watching him become Darth Vader were intoxicating. The theories about how and why Anakin turned into Vader provided endless hours of speculation for my friends, which were fueled by one of the most-effective movie posters in recent decades.

The Phantom Menace did not give fans much of an answer about why Anakin ultimately chooses a path of evil in his future, though I never understood why the Jedi could not rescue his mother! Attack of the Clones gave Anakin some scenes to demonstrate that he feels misunderstood and held back; not to mention the anger that he unleashes after finding his mother murdered (again, why couldn’t the Jedi help her out?).

I remember talking with friends about “that look” that Anakin gives before murdering Tusken Raiders. That felt like Vader; the scene indicated that Anakin was capable of terrible things, and the relationship with Padme demonstrated his willingness to break rules and keep secrets. It set the stage for his transformation into Vader in the next film.

Continue reading “Anakin, Daenerys & Math”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Matt Dixon on Illustrating Hearthstone

Matt Dixon
Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon talks about his career as a freelance illustrator and his work in digital spaces leading to his work with Blizzard. He talks about starting on the World of Warcraft TCG and how he got hired again for the Goblins & Gnomes expansion in Hearthstone. He has been a contributing artist to Hearthstone since that time and talks about his creative process. He shares his influences and explores how technology has changed the way he approaches illustration. He talks about his need to bring “life” to an image and how he was drawn to computers and pixels at a young age.

He speaks about specific illustrations completed for Hearthstone and what fueled their origin. He indulges me as we discuss one of my favorite pieces of art in Hearthstone, Hecklebot, and he references his earlier work on Annoy-o-tron as when Hearthstone “clicked” for him. We conclude by talking about his recent “speed paintings” and his stunning personal work on his series, Transmissions.

Enjoy the 53rd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

Listen through iTunes!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.