A Star Is Born With My Guard Down

Spoiler Warning: The following post contains numerous plot details for the film, A Star Is Born. I encourage you to see the film before reading any further. If you continue reading, multiple plot points will be ruined for you. Thank you.

Are you happy in this modern world?

My wife and I took some vacation time from work yesterday to have lunch together and see a movie. It was a rare weekday date for us while our son was in daycare. She picked me up from my office, we ate lunch at Wahlburgers in the Mall of America (she refrained from asking our waiter if he ever met Donnie), and went to see A Star Is Born at the mall’s new theater palace.

I stayed away from reviews because I knew I wanted to see the film, so I entered the theater with a blank slate. I knew there were prior versions of the same film, but I could not recall too many details about them. I assumed A Star Is Born would provide a compelling story and engaging music. I’ve found Lady Gaga to be an intriguing and impressive artist over the years; for example, I respected her dedication to a performance during the 2011 MTV Music Awards when she took on another persona and COMMITTED to that as she launched into You & I with Queen’s Brian May. I remember watching that, and just finding the whole thing so epic; the BALLS it took to do that. The creativity required to generate the idea and the fearlessness to execute it was inspiring. I recall showing it to my wife and saying, “You should watch this. It’s amazing.”

A Star Is Born
Jack & Ally

Meanwhile, I’ve been on board with Bradley Cooper since his performance as Sack in Wedding Crashers; probably the most I’ve ever laughed inside a movie theater. He’s provided quality performances in other movies too, and I gleaned from kinda-sorta, not looking at headlines that he took this movie with Lady Gaga very seriously.

So I had high hopes for A Star Is Born, and I assumed it would have something important to say.

My guard was down. I was not prepared.

I can only imagine what it would be like to see this film without living through the experience of my brother ending his life last year. You ever wish you could “unsee” a movie so it could surprise you all over again? I’d love to “unsee” The Shawshank Redemption, The Usual Suspects or Fight Club so I could experience that “ah-ha” moment all over again.

I imagine A Star Is Born would still be a powerful film to watch had my brother not decided to end his life. However, I only know this reality where I sat in my seat yesterday watching the final portion of the film – knowing and dreading what was unfolding before my eyes.

I am happy this movie exists, and I hope it increases the volume on a conversation about depression and mental health that is still much too quiet in this country and worldwide.

Continue reading “A Star Is Born With My Guard Down”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 33 – Steve Lubitz

Steve Lubitz
Steve Lubitz

I’m joined this week by Steve Lubitz, host of the Off Curve podcast, a show about Hearthstone that Steve records while driving home from his job. He talked about the creation of Off Curve and how he has been a fan of Blizzard games since the original Diablo. He shares his thoughts on the differences between Hearthstone and other card games such as Magic: The Gathering.

We talk about the shifting Hearthstone meta, and how resources like Vicious Syndicate and Hearthstone Replay have changed the game for both the players and developers. Steve highlights some of the current challenges in Hearthstone including the lack of tournament mode and engaging end-game content for veteran players. We explore some ideas for how to keep the meta fresh, and answer a listener question about the possible mechanics that could be added to improve the game.

Enjoy the 33rd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Listen here!

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.

Art & Arcana Will Galvanize Your Fandom of Dungeons & Dragons

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana over the weekend by the kind folks at Wizards of the Coast and Ten Speed Press. My review and discussion of the book could be influenced by the fact that I was given a copy at no cost. However, I am confident I would find this book amazing if I paid the full price for it.

I was anticipating the mail over the weekend because I knew I would be receiving a copy of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, which is authored by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer; the book also has a foreward by Joe Manganiello. The mammoth book contains nearly 450 pages that span the game’s entire history. The one-page press release that accompanied the advance copy summarizes Art & Arcana well:

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “art of…” book; rather, it’s more of an archaeology project that involved lots of needle-searching in haystacks….

The author team spared no expense in finding these pieces; unearthing sketches, memos and internal drafts of some of the game’s most iconic material; locating and interviewing early artists whose names had since been lost to D&D lore; gathering pristine products and obscure advertisements; and obtaining hard-to-get-licenses – a labor of love all leading to a previously unavailable visual archive and untold story about how D&D truly came to be. No matter what edition of D&D you play or played, or even if you are just a casual observer or pop culture enthusiast, this book will have something special for you.

Honestly, after I read the press release I wanted to immediately delve into some dungeons and fight some dragons!

Dungeons & Dragons has been in my life off-and-on for close to 40 years in some capacity, and that history is very important and personal to me. I even celebrated the classic art from early D&D modules by decoupaging my gaming table with those images, which still stands proudly in my home. So it feels wonderful to hold a study, well-produced tome that captures – and celebrates – D&D’s history!

Art & Arcana is a feast for your eyes as every page is lovingly curated to highlight moments from over four decades of Dungeons & Dragons history. From crude concept designs to massive, pristine spreads of iconic images, Art & Arcana will trigger those nostalgia neurons in your brain and cause your heart to skip a beat. No area seems taboo or off-limits as the book presents an overview of the rise and fall of Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) with never-before-seen artifacts such as personal communications and invoices. The sale of D&D to Wizards of the Coast is also covered in detail as Art & Arcana provides commentary and context for the movements and development cycles of the game over the years. It’s clear the authors adore the game, though the book is willing to examine (and delightfully poke fun at times!) D&D’s potential shortcomings. The treasures in the book provide a feeling of, “Whoa!” as nuggets of information are organized in a visually pleasing and accessible manner across the pages.

Art & Arcana is beautiful to consume visually, and it is also quite educational. I imagine there are new details in here for even the most hardcore fans of D&D. For someone like myself that skipped about 15 years during the 2nd and 3rd Editions, the book is a master class on how – and more importantly, why – D&D evolved over the years. Art & Arcana also has a sense of humor about it that makes the book fun to read, and I read every piece of text before writing a review; I encourage everyone to do that same! It has everything you could ask for from a visual history – classic advertisements, screen shots from computer games, pages from manuals, pictures of miniatures and toys, black-and-white photos of Gary Gygax and company, glorious maps of dungeons and cities, and an enormous collection of the best pieces of art that have been created for the game – quite simply,  Art & Arcana will galvanize your fandom of Dungeons and Dragons.

The only situation that comes to mind that is comparable to how I felt after devouring Art & Arcana is my reaction after watching the documentaries about the making of The Fellowship of the Ring on the Extended Edition DVDs. I had previously read The Lord of the Rings and even taught a class on the books along with other modern mythologies while in graduate school. I enjoyed the film, but seeing how much care and devotion went into the making of the movie increased my adoration for the franchise. My wife and I even traveled to New Zealand back in 2012 primarily because we fell in love with the locations from hours of watching those films get made. I’m a much bigger fan of The Lord of the Rings because of those documentaries, and I believe Art & Arcana will have a similar effect for fans of D&D.

I just wonder where I should travel now that Art & Arcana has me fired up? Watch out, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, here I come!

If you are a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, then treat yourself to this book. I cannot imagine a material plane of existence where you would be disappointed.

Now, please enjoy my in-depth musings on Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History.

Continue reading “Art & Arcana Will Galvanize Your Fandom of Dungeons & Dragons”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 32 – Danny Rupp

Danny Rupp bio
Danny Rupp

I’m joined this week by Danny Rupp, co-founder of Critical Hits and a very active participant on social media discussing Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games. Danny talks about the origin of Critical Hits and how it gained increased prominence in the early days of 4th Edition. We spend a good deal of time on his approach to worldbuilding and how his background in architecture helps him design dungeon and story elements for his gaming sessions.

We discuss player management at the table, such as how to ensure that efforts spent by the DM to create an interesting world and plot connect with the motivations of the players and their characters in the game. We answer a listener question about worldbuilding and offer strategies to help DMs efficiently build his or her world while pulling the players into the setting.

Since we recorded on World Mental Health Day, Danny and I also talk about mental health issues and how they might affect gameplay at the table. We provide examples of how players bring everything to the table each game, including possible stress, anxiety, depression and suffering. We offer advice on how to be patient with players and cultivate an environment of trust for players to support each other.

Enjoy the 32nd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Listen here!

Dice Giveaway

I have politely asked in the past for listeners to leave a review on iTunes, which helps the show reach a new audience. I have decided to sweeten the deal if listeners are willing to leave a review.

So, over the next week, anyone that leaves a review on iTunes (positive, negative, or anywhere in between) will be entered into a random drawing to win an official Dungeons & Dragons Dice Bag and set of dice.

Dice Bag
It could be your dice and dice bag if you accept the quest!

To be clear, this giveaway is not sponsored or sanctioned by Wizards of the Coast; it’s just something I want to do with a set of my dice. Leave a review through iTunes, and I’ll select a winner at random. The winner will be posted in the Comments below next week.

So again, please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. You could win some dice!

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.