Hellboy vs Cthulhu: A Storytelling Moment (and Stuff)

People play different games and they play for different reasons. Sometimes simply because they’re competitively-natured, sometimes it’s just to kill some time, sometimes to be entertained, and sometimes to be social. (These aren’t mutually exclusive reasons.)

Recently, my wife and I were over for dinner with friends, and we decided to play a game of Munchkin Cthulhu.

Our friends’ names are Chooch and Viv; I’m telling you this to make this anecdote flow. Allegedly.

At least one of those names is definitely a nickname. That would be Viv. Chooch might be a nickname. He looks like a Viking, so let’s just roll with this, shall we?


Everyone here knows how to play the basic set of Munchkin, right? If not, for a full introduction please check out Wil Wheaton’s YouTube episode of TableTop, where Wil plays the game with the lovely Felicia Day, the lovely Sandeep Parikh, and the legendary Steve Jackson – the creator of Munchkin.

MunchkinGame

If you don’t have 28 minutes to spare, I’ll give a super high level breakdown. It’s as if you were playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons (or the equivalent) but without a map or character sheet. Everyone starts at level 1. Each turn someone kicks down a door in a dungeon (not literally, a “door” card gets turned over and then the player might fight a monster.) Winning fights against monsters results in gaining combat levels and treasures for the player.

First person to level 10 wins. Often, everyone else in the game tries to prevent this from happening.

It’s GREAT FUN! (In this context, munchkins are not residents of Oz nor the delightful donut-holes that can be purchased at a specific donut shop, but refer to people who play non-competitive games in an aggressively competitive manner.)

We were playing the Cthulhu version of the game (Munchkin comes in many many different genre versions) so we weren’t elves or dwarves, fighters or wizards.

MunchkinCthulhu

This was Lovecraftian. (I hope I don’t have to explain Lovecraft or his literary creation, Cthulhu.) This version of the game includes 1920’s tommy guns, mystical tomes, and tentacles.

The particular gaming session with our friends was a typical Munchkin run: some easy fights, some empty rooms, some running away from Things Men Were Not Supposed To Know, some team-ups when it was mutually beneficial, and many occasions of trying to make the current player’s combats go badly.

Along the way, Viv, my wife Lisa, and I were turned into cultists (a character class.)

CultistMunchkin

We didn’t realize what effect this would have at the end. We cultists were just happy to have a +4 combat bonus.

Soon Chooch, Viv, and Lisa were all at level 9, so the game was close to being over since one of them was bound to win a fight sooner or later and hit level 10. (I was level 6 or something, so it was very unlikely that I was going to win.)

It was Chooch’s turn, and when “kicking open the door” to start his turn, he opted to play a monster from his hand to fight. This wasn’t some easy creature. This monster was Cthulhu.

CthulhuMunchkin

The issue was this: if Chooch fought Cthulhu and won, he wins the game. All of us cultists would lose. (It didn’t matter that we were cultists, we’d lose if we were professors or monster bashers or investigators.)

But if Chooch could not defeat Cthulhu, and was caught by the big bad… he’d be killed and his new character would be a cultist.

That would make everyone a cultist. Munchkin Cthulhu has a rule, if all players end up being cultists, all the players lose and the Great Old Ones (or Elder Gods, one of those) win.

Things suddenly got weird. And familiar.

I’d recently re-watched the first Hellboy movie, starring Ron Perlman as the eponymous demon with a heart of gold and a fist of stone.

Hellboy

Hello Hellboy

The movie’s been out forever, so if you’ve not seen it, I apologize for spoiling the ending where the good guys win.

The climax of Hellboy centers around the mad monk Rasputin planning on summoning something equivalent to Lovecraft’s Elder Gods (or Great Old Ones, I don’t want to split hairs.) He’s assisted by some crazed Nazis (as if there are any other kind) and has some leverage over Hellboy which serves to ensure compliance and assistance from the big red devil.

HBAndRaspWe’ll just say everyone is at level 9. Just like Chooch, Viv, and Lisa. (My level 6 movie analogue would be one of the dead critters, probably. I’m not even in this fight.)

Hellboy eventually turns the tables, the summoners are all killed, but there’s a complication. Hellboy has inadvertently caused the materialization of a huge, tentacled, rapidly-growing creature. That can’t be good.

Just like Chooch choosing to play Cthulhu in a bid to win the game or have everyone lose.

monster and hellboy

To deal with this growing threat, Hellboy allowed the nightmare to swallow him along with the belt of grenades he was carrying.

BOOM! Game over. Good guys win.

Speaking of games…

In our game, Chooch numerically could not defeat Cthulhu. Until he played this…

TNTMunchkin

BOOM! Game over (literally.) Good guys win? Well sure, since Chooch wasn’t a cultist, we’ll say he was one of the good guys. (He’s actually a great guy.)

As it turned out, none of us cultists had any cards suitable to help Cthulhu (and had we helped, we would have been risking a fate worse than losing. I think? Maybe?)

And this is why I like to play games. For all of the reasons that were outlined in the beginning, but also I like being told a story.


In ye olde dayes, my dad would eye me skeptically as I was graphing out a dungeon to be a setting for the weekend Dungeons & Dragons game with my buddies.

My dad did like games and he liked playing games with me. Provided that game was Chess.

His view of my awkward teenage chums and me rolling a lot of dice was this: random chance wasn’t interesting or worthwhile. There was nothing skillful about it.

(He also liked playing cards, but even though poker and its ilk are games of chance, they’re also games of skill. But that’s not my point.)

I didn’t have a good grasp at the time on why I enjoyed playing D & D so much and so I didn’t have a good counter-argument for my pop, but now in my wizened and enlightened adulthood, I realize that I wasn’t gaming as an exercise of skill or competition or just to waste time.

I was in it for the moments of storytelling.

Sometimes those moments came from the dungeon master and sometimes from the players. (And sometimes from the dice. I won’t be lying. We teenage DMs and players were clownish noobs when it came to narrative import.)

And even though the particular story being told to me by the events of Munchkin was a story I already I knew (i.e. the climactic plot of Hellboy) it doesn’t change the fact that my imagination was being engaged. I feel that I could have appreciated the story of Chooch, with his backpack of dynamite, fighting an eldritch horror with the fate of the world on the line, regardless of if I’d seen Hellboy or not.

hellboy1

This probably isn’t world-shattering news to anyone. I assume anyone reading this has had similar experiences where the turn of a card or the roll of a die has the emotional echo of a good book’s plot twist or a movie’s big reveal.

I’m sure we all have similar stories to tell.

This post was written by Patrick Sponaugle, who couldn’t possibly be wrong all the time. Hey, do you like Game of Thrones? Pat is my go-to Game of Thrones blogger. Hey, did you like this post? Also a great reason to check out his blog! Oh, and leave your stories to tell in the comments below!

Are You Watching Lip Sync Battle?

One of our recent finds on YouTube is Lip Sync Battle, a show that needs a little explanation – but also doesn’t. The easy part is that they get two celebrities on and have them battle it out, Lip Syncing a song, and the crowd picks the winner. It’s on Spike, and hosted by LL Cool J.

And so they opened with Dwayne Johnson versus Jimmy Fallon.

Yes, that’s the Rock singing Taylor Swift. Alright, so they had us hooked.

It’s based on a segment that Jimmy Fallon ran occasionally (thus bringing him in to kick off the stand-alone show). Fallon’s segment is based on an idea by Emily Blunt and her husband. Another reason to love Emily Blunt, as Holly will tell you!

Given that it’s also based on Jimmy Fallon’s success, they are of course posting full videos of the songs on YouTube. So even though we don’t have Spike, we have this show, which is great.

They added an online-only element to the show, as well. So they brought in YouTubers to run this – and that’s the last piece that caught our attention. One of their hosts? Elliott Morgan. We’d wondered where he went when he was suddenly no longer on Mashable.

So after the break, check out the pre-show with Elliott Morgan, and then you can watch to see how round two of the Lip Sync Battle worked out between The Rock and Jimmy Fallon!

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Summer of Sandman: Favorite Characters

The Thursday 13 is a meme Part Time Monster does often. I enjoy writing them but don’t have the time to do them every week. When I agreed back in February to blog about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series here , I decided to sit down and write a three of these for it. Here are my 13 favorite Sandman characters. I also have lists for my favorite Sandman stories and places.

I’m excluding the the Endless from this list because there are so many good secondary characters to choose from, and I’m writing a short series on the Endless this month, anyway. If you aren’t familiar the series, here’s a quick, spoiler-lite synopsis from The Book Wars that discusses its significance and has the added charm of being a Banned Books Week post.

My 13 favorite characters.

1. Hob Gadling – A 13th Century mercenary who Dream and Death overhear telling his friends that the trick to living forever is “just don’t die.” This amuses Dream so much, Death agrees not to touch Hob until he wants to die. Hob lives into the 20th Century and becomes one of Dream’s few friends.

2. Lady Johanna Constantine – Ancestor of John. Trained in espionage, a skilled cross-dresser, and like John, she hunts infernal beings. Dream sends her on a personal mission to Revolutionary France and by the time she’s done, no more Reign of Terror.

3. Rose Walker – Central character in The Doll’s House. She first appears as a teenager, later as a twenty-something. She is so important to the plot, and so entangled with the Endless, I can’t say much about her without spoiling everything. She’s one of the most real characters in the story to me. She’s also utterly cool.

4. Wanda – A transgender woman who hails from a small midwestern town but lives in New York. She’s well-fleshed out and the story she’s a part of is extremely honest about how society was treating transgender people in the late 80’s. See this post from Hannah Givens for more on Wanda.

Gilbert, via Comicvine.com

5. Gilbert, aka Fiddler’s Green – A dream who takes human form and wanders into the waking world while Dream is imprisoned during the early 20th Century. His human form is a kind, portly older dude with somewhat Victorian manners. Friends with Rose Walker. I’ll discuss Gilbert’s Fiddler’s Green aspect when I do my list of places.

6. Mad Hettie – A homeless alcoholic Londoner who has supernatural longevity. She’s around from at least the late 17th Century into the 20th. She recognizes the Endless and other immortals when she sees them. She notes at one point that Dream always speaks to her and gives her strange coins.

7. Barnabas the Talking Dog – Companion of Destruction, later of Delirium. He’s a bit of a smartass, and quite capable of looking after himself. It’s unclear whether he is a creation of Destruction, a real dog who has somehow become super-intelligent, or a reincarnated human (as Dream’s Ravens are).

8. Thessaly – A witch from ancient Greece who has a deal with the Hecate for supernatural longevity. She looks like a librarian, but she is utterly ruthless, and is likely more powerful than some of the lesser immortals in the series.

9. Matthew the Raven – Dream always has one raven. It’s Eve’s raven (yes, the Biblical Eve), but also Dream’s. Dream’s ravens are humans reincarnated as dream-ravens. When they tire of being Ravens, he allows them to move on to other things.

10. Lucien the Librarian – Keeper of the Library of Dream, which contains every book that was never written. He’s tall and butlerish. After Dream returns from his imprisonment, Lucien is also Dream’s chief lieutenant. He reminds me of Alfred from Batman.

The Corninthian, via Comicvine.com

11. The Corinthian – A nightmare created by Dream to be “the dark reflection of humanity.” He has white-blonde hair and most of the time, dresses in sleeveless t-shirts, jeans, and sunglasses. His eye sockets are mouths lined with fangs. He’s a cold-blooded killer and he will eat your eyes.

12. Nuala the Elf – A gift to Dream from the Queen of Faerie. She serves him well, and when she is recalled to Faerie, she doesn’t really want to go. She’s one of the more sympathetic of the fantastcal/immortal characters in the story.

13. Eblis O’Shaughnessy – A golem created and given life by five of the endless near the end of the series. His name is so odd because it is bestowed upon him by Delirium. He’s an extremely minor character, but he’s just too cool to not make the list.

Want to join us for #SummerOfSandman? Here’s how: Write a blog post about Sandman between now and Aug. 1. Long or short, any format. Share your link with us on a Sandman thread here at CompGeeks or on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerOfSandman. It’s that easy.

Marvel’s Daredevil – Review: Season 1, Episodes 4 to 6

Daredevil

Welcome back for the second instalment of the five-part review on Marvel’s Daredevil. If you missed the first instalment you can catch up here.

Episode 4 – In the Blood

This episode featured Vladimir and Anatoly Ranskahov, the brothers who head up the Russian organisation. It began in a Siberian prison, an echo of their past to demonstrate their violent roots.

vlad and anatoly

Matt (who we saw applying pressure to the Russians), visited Claire to get his wounds patched  up. Since her apartment was no longer safe, she was staying at a friend’s (cat sitting), and using up all her sick days. There was definite chemistry between Claire and Matt, though I think she was hoping for a little more encouragement. Giving her a burner cell so he could get in touch, wasn’t exactly what she had in mind!

We discovered the reason Prohaszka was eliminated last week – his holdings had already been transferred to the new cab company; doubling distribution. Wesley argued with the Vladimir and Anatoly about Fisk’s input. The brothers weren’t particularly impressed by his criticism over the ‘mask’ situation, especially his gag about the absence of an iron suit or magic hammer. Still, it was a nice Avengers reference.

semyon

The brothers decided to visit Semyon in the hospital (the man Matt threw into a dumpster), and woke him with a shot of epinephrine. After learning of Claire’s involvement, they sent men after her.

As Foggy and Matt are leaving the office, with Foggy complaining about their lack of equipment and wishing he’d taken his mother’s advice to become a butcher, Matt received a call from Claire. Upon hearing her scream, (by then Foggy was in a taxi), he dashed into the alley and vaulted up the building onto the roof (throwing the stick was a nice touch). This whole scene was fantastic for a number of reasons – did I mention the vaulting? When he realised Claire was gone, he began listening to the sounds of the city, honing in on the Russian accents, followed by a woman’s distinct scream.

claire kidnapped

He missed them by seconds, but it didn’t slow him down all that much. He followed the breadcrumbs, and managed to save Claire from her captors.

I love how conflicted Matt was during the scene in his apartment. His vulnerability really shows with Claire, because she’s someone he can confide in. He has no fear when it comes to facing the darkness in Hell’s Kitchen, and that’s part of his strength, but his weakness lies in the responsibility he carries – for all those who get hurt in the crossfire.

It was interesting to see the roles being reversed, and Matt doing the patching up this time. He was clearly thinking of his father. It was an emotional scene, and Matt finally decided to trust Claire with his secret. He started by giving her his name – until then she’d been calling him Mike.

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Cleopatra 2525 Review

For 2015, I decided to start watching all North American Science Fiction shows (mostly since the 1980s but going back as far as Star Trek: The Original Series) I never saw before. I know I have enough to watch for at least a couple of years, but since Science Fiction, especially North American, is one of my main field of research as a scholar and nonfiction author, it is important for me to get this done.

One of the first series I saw this year was Cleopatra 2525 (2000-2001).

An exotic dancer, cryogenically frozen in the year 2001, is accidentally thawed out in 2525 by two female warriors who are fighting against evil robots which have taken over the world. The three join forces and try to escape the underground caverns to which humanity has been banished, meeting up with all sorts of strange creatures along the way. -IMDb

With the few reviews I had seen, I was worried that this show may just be horribly cheesy. It is cheesy and the whole “babe” aspect of the three female leads can’t be forgotten. The show has a lot of flaws because of how it didn’t always seem to know whether it should be serious or comedic and kitsch.

Yet, I liked it, and not just because of Gina Torres playing the trio’s lead, Elle. I never saw Torres act badly but I did care for her character, and even for the others, Sarge and Cleopatra.

Source: IMDb.

Source: IMDb.

Beyond the cheesy and cliché looks of the show, Cleopatra 2525 gives more depth to its characters and the overall story than one may expect when picking it up. There is patriarchy lurking around on several occasions, but women are most often seen as capable and don’t need men to achieve anything. They are able to stand their ground, without being emotionless drones. They watch over one another and kick ass as well as being emotionally strong.

I was also expecting romance to be a bigger part of the story given the looks of the show, but it remained much of a side note. To me the show mostly focused on family and friendship. Yet, Cleopatra and Sarge do have romantic entanglements at times, for better or worse. I very much see Elle as a demi sexual character, which I find interesting because such characters are needed in representation as well.

In a way, the hyper sexualized look of the heroines, meant for the viewer, is pretty normal in the fictional universe, which alleviates its cheesy side to a degree.

One thing I didn’t understand was why the show was called after Cleopatra, the member of the female trio who was frozen for many years before being awoken in 2525. It would have made more sense to have the show named after Torres’ character, Elle, for she is the leader of the group. With how significant Elle’s role as a woman of color is, it would have been great to see the show gets its title because of her.

Did you ever watch Cleopatra 2525? What did you think of it?

This post was by Natacha Guyot of Science Fiction, Transmedia & Fandom. Help thank her for her guest post by heading on over and giving her a follow!