Author Archives: チョコボくん

About チョコボくん

One of many netizens, I occasionally find something interesting to write about and get down to it. I frequent TV Tropes and as such you may see a lot of links to it in my blog posts.

[Review] The Bacchae (2.1)

On the 28th of January, I went to go watch UBC Theatre’s production of The Bacchae (2.1). As I have never seen a Greek play, I was intrigued to see how it differed from more contemporary plays (i.e., 19th-20th century works). The style is radically different, to say the least. Main page for the production here.

May the wrath of Dionysus fall upon you. Source: UBC Theatre

The first thing I learned is that Greek plays appear to be… very expository. Taking a look at the scripts of both the original and the modernised version, characters (even the chorus) have obscenely long monologues. Most of it tends to be flowery language, text that would most certainly be cut down in more modern plays. I personally dislike this style as it was more “tell” than “show.” At times, it felt more like a sermon than an engaging story. I do not come to plays to be lectured, but to be amused and feel; from those latter two things do I learn.

The re-imagination seemed to be both more philosophical and more ideological. In the original, Dionysus was a flawed, vengeful character that wished to be recognised as a god–specifically a son of Zeus, and in order to do so, carried out a scheme to kill his cousin, Pentheus, the king of Thebes as any worship of Dionysus was banned. The remake featured a Dionysus that seemed to be divorced from reality and challenged one’s perception of where masculinity is demarcated from femininity by dressing up in conventional woman’s garb and near the end of the show, swapped for something more masculine. The incarnation in the remake appears more passive and less overtly confrontational though one could argue that Pentheus and his aides got riled up by his influence. This is one of my pet peeves when someone is making an ideological argument; creating a character that is hot-headed and generally unlikeable (the strawman) and another which is more rational and presents his or her arguments in a cool, logical manner. The way in which the characters are portrayed subliminally pushed to make the viewer feel more sympathetic to Dionysus rather than Pentheus.

Charles Mee, the playwright of the remake, decided to adapt it to make it more relatable with a modern audience. I question his success in doing so, as I felt the nuances behind the modernised touches were too subtle at first and required the audience to put effort in analysing his choices; these touches did not serve to push the plot forward or meaningfully enrich the setting–the setting was plain enough as is, and a time and location did not really come to mind–they only displayed a veil of symbolism that viewers who were curious enough to analyse it at a deeper level would appreciate to some degree. For example, the suits that the “civilised” characters (Pentheus and his aides) wore were contrasting solid black and white, forcing morality, gender, and other concepts into binary systems without any middle ground and using non-vibrant colours invokes a sense of routine, staleness, and lack of expression. The clothes hugged the body snugly (or rather, not loose) and covered most of it (save for the head and hands), acting as a shell that restricts the wearer’s expression. Dionysus and the women, on the other hand, wore less restrictive clothing, which translates to freer expression of self and room for self-improvement. Lively colours (tangerine and earthen colours) invoked senses of nature and creativity. Near the end of the show where the climax occurs one of the women appears to be wearing a long, red, wooden erect phallus, something that I believe was used to question the requirements of gender.

In the second half of the show, Pentheus decides, at Dionysus’ suggestion, to sneak into the abode of the wild women in order to ready himself for an assault against them. In order to so, he decides to dress up as a woman to blend in. What happens in the span of 2 minutes is Pentheus stripping out of his suit and putting on an elegant evening dress, high heels, and a wig. I asked at the talkback after the show the significance of choosing that costume and the costume designer replied that it represented Pentheus’ idea of how the ideal woman looks and behaves. It is also around this time that Dionysus swaps for more masculine clothing, maintaining a duality in gender presentation on the stage.

As Pentheus eavesdrops on the women, he grows to become more sympathetic to their thoughts. Throughout most of this scene, he remains silent, an observer, much like an initiate in a movement.When he is discovered, he is quickly accepted as he listens to more of their tales. By the end, he has successfully been converted and he is accepted into the group. Eventually only he and one other woman, Agave, remain on centre stage. As Pentheus lies on Agave’s lap and is gently stroked, his wig comes off and she flies into a rage that a man has managed to breach her inner sanctum and proceeds to kill him. The twist is revealed when Cadmus, Pentheus’ grandfather, enters the scene and woefully divulges to Agave that she had killed her son. The scene in both the original and the remake are similar in that she denies not knowing who her kill was (in the original, a lion; in the remake, an imposter) before coming to realise that she had just committed filicide. Where it differs is the addition of a third party in the remake: Dionysus, who while soft-spoken, begins to embody the incarnation of the original. He appears unseen by all the other characters as he mocks the lengths to which humans will try and deny that which lies before them; for example, the weeping Agave cradling her child’s head while reciting to herself, “it’s only a dream, it’s only a dream…”

I will attempt to tread carefully in this next section, as it has to do with comparing similarities between the reaction of Agave to Pentheus’ reveal to some members of (typically political or ideological) movements, more recently noted in those that purport to be morally superior. While many branches at a local level typically don’t have these incidents occur, there grows a disturbing trend to dismiss and alienate interested, potential members not necessarily because of the opinions they hold and espouse but by traits that are near impossible to change. Just like Agave’s violent reaction to discovering Pentheus’ identity, some members of these movements discount arguments from others (regardless of whether or not it supports their views) by virtue of their sex, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.

In terms of a work that seeks to explore the different sides of humanity (the “structured, civilised” side versus the “instinctual, wild” side) it is quite thought-provoking; when evaluating it as a work to entertain, it does not come off as strong. Perhaps if the characters were less of a voicepiece for the author and given more individual personality, the script would have entertained better while teaching at the same time.

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[DCC] Portal Under the Stars

Note: Because the following post will be talking about content in a pre-made adventure, spoilers will be inherent and not marked. If you are planning on PCing this module, please do not continue reading. If you are GMing, then feel free to read about my experiences with this adventure.

So after that (hopefully temporary) one-time session in which my cat character is now in stasis, my DM directed me and another friend of mine (whom I will christen as ‘M’ here onwards) to another tabletop game known as Dungeon Crawl Classics (abbreviated to DCC) and follows game mechanics from the earlier D&D editions. Some of the ability score names have changed: for example, DEX is referred to as Agility (AGL) and CHA is known as Personality (PER). Wisdom is not present in this game and is replaced by Luck, which can be burnt to boost skill checks. To start us off, our DM gave M and I six or seven 0-level character sheets each, and for good reason: it is very, I repeat, very easy to die in this game. The key was to run these characters through a funnel campaign, where characters that survived after the end would go on to become level 1 characters and thus less squishy. As this happened months ago, some details may be lost to time.

The adventure started off with characters who, from a nearby village, investigate a magic portal that appears when the stars are right and lets travellers into R’lyeh a long forgotten dungeon full of dangers and treasure. The corridor was blocked by a door with some symbols on it. Using an Intelligence check, our smart guy Max (with a +2 skill modifier for INT) deduced that the door depicted the stars in a certain alignment and that their real life counterparts would match them within 2 hours. Me, being the impatient bastard that I am, had the premade character–Ghost–use some Thieves’ Tools to attempt to pry open the door.

Natural 1.

In a rare twist of fate, the attempt was so bad that he ended up falling on his ass as a beam of searing light soared over his head and incinerated Merlina the dwarf behind him. First character gone. After realising this we decided to just wait the two hours, and lo and behold, the door opened.

Further in the party comes across four armour-adorned statues with spears that are thrown at them, jousting two of the members into negative HP and skewering them with extreme prejudice. The remaining characters took the heavy spears (1d8 damage!) and stripped the armour off of the statues, giving a few characters a boost in AC. After experiencing the loss of three party members already due to stupid actions, the rest of the party opened the following door cautiously.

The next room was a dark room, with barely any light. A towering statue of a muscular barbarian stood in the centre of the room, with an arm outstretched and a finger accusingly pointed at the adventurers. On the other 3 walls were wooden doors just waiting to be opened. As the party moved to the door on their left, the stone swiveled and kept its finger trained on the party. Then Mally (the other dwarf that still lived) and a few others walked over to the door on the right. The finger was still pointing at the people by the left door. It wasn’t until there was an equal number of people at both ends that the finger began swaying halfway between the two groups, unsure as to whom to choose. Max, with his +2 to INT checks begins examining the statue more closely and observed that the base of the statue was well oiled, allowing it to turn easily. The farmer of the group, Tiana, got the idea of striking her pitchfork along the stone ground to generate sparks.

The statue was set ablaze and lit up the entire room, but nothing of note was found. At the same time, a jet of fire blasted from the fingertip and set the left door on fire while the rest of the team stayed huddled around the right door, which one of our Chaotic characters, Amnion, cautiously opened with a 10-foot pole. The room appeared to be a burial chamber as bones were ceremoniously placed in alcoves. On the far end was some equipment; a rusty sword with an enchantment bonus of -1, a suit of chainmail (+4 to AC if I remember) that when Max (who ended up with a natural 1 while studying it and began freaking out), and a +1 battleaxe. We were not the only ones in the room; seven piles of chattering bones taunted us with their clattering teeth. While killing (if that is even possible) the bones would have been the standard response for an adventurer, the frequency of (typically) inanimate objects gave me pause and I suggested that perhaps we should try to acquire the armour without going near those things. LONG LIVE THE 10-FOOT POLE!

By this time, the statue ran out of fuel and sputtered out as the door on the opposite crumbled into ashes and our party took the time to enter this next room.

It was a pretty bad idea, as what we received after clearing it has proven to be useless (for now). In this room that would have been better off left alone, the party came across a demon snake with a single horn on its forehead. First thing that happens? We get our handy lock-picker from the beginning (clad in armour) picked off with a strike that takes off 7 HP out of his 5 HP person. BLAM. Dead, and armour is rendered useless. The demon snake then attacked with a measly 1 DMG one of the party members who happened to have only 1 HP. The fact that it wasn’t overkill was jimmy-rustling.

Eventually, it ended up with Mally the dwarf being knocked prone to the ground on holy water who started rolling around in it. Through DM fiat, the snake took 1 DMG from the holy water; the tide began to turn as more party members were able to hit the creature and inflict damage. After a few hits, the snake crumbled into a pile of smouldering unholy ashes, leaving the horn behind. With the danger removed, the surviving members of the party noted several tablets in the room depicting some images of war. Collecting the ashes and the horn, the team left the room and headed through the third door that was behind the statue.

This room was fairly nondescript; the only things of interest were a pit emanating light and six crystalline humanoids. They did nothing when we approached, save for them being very interested in our torch-bearer. As we lured the crystal creatures away by throwing the torch away, further examination of the pool revealed that there were gems embedded in the sides. A human by the name of Jennifer decided to fill her waterskin. Our intrepid dwarf Mally and two of our party descended and began to pry the gems off of the walls. With each gem removed, the pool gradually became shallower. After removing about 200 pieces over the course of a few hours, the pool floor suddenly gave way and the three people inside fell into a large room and miraculously, only Mally survived, albeit taking quite some damage, probably from having the other two cushioning her fall.

The room that she fell into was filled with clay statues of ancient warriors (about 80 or so if I recall correctly). As soon as she gained her bearings, one of them, presumably a warlord, began to move and raised a glass orb, imbuing the surrounding statues with magic power, animating them as well. Thankfully, because of the water that had been leaking down from above, the clay statues took some initial water damage and incurred 1 DMG per round. Jennifer decided to throw her filled waterskin down at the warlord. With a high die roll, the water flask burst open on impact, dealing more damage to the statue. Without further ado, the rest of the party hightailed it through the door and descended down some flights of stairs before coming face-to-face to some clay statues outside the room. They spent two rounds making sure that these porcelain figurines didn’t come to life; thankfully, they did not.

While that was happening, one of the clay soldiers threw a spear right at Mally and brought her health down to 0. She was killed just as the tick damage destroyed the clay warlord, and with its destruction the rest of the clay army ceased moving and disintegrated into soggy mud. As M and I sighed in real life, our DM confided in us that there was a saving grace, a Schrodinger’s roll, if you will: as nobody had witnessed the killing blow to Mally, the hit could be cosmically retconned into something non-lethal. M had to roll a d20 to potentially save her, but it had to be a 20. The thought of a 5% chance of keeping the character in play hung over our heads as we watched the die roll on the table.

Natural 20. The next few seconds were just the two of us making incoherent sounds of elation. The RNG decided to smile on us this fine day. The chain of events was re-written to having the spear pierce Mally leg which caused her to collapse in shock. The leg injury ended up with her taking a permanent -1 penalty to AGL, a small tradeoff for the character.

Our party rushed in and made sure that Mally was (relatively) fine before exploring the room. Max took the orb that the warlord had been wielding and examined it. It was a magical artifact, an orb of scrying that for now served no purpose. One of our remaining elves, who was simply dubbed “One,” sensed that there was a hidden door and after some searching, discovered a secret chamber with a variety of items for the taking. Besides another suit of chainmail, an unlit copper sconce and a half of a bronze rod were among the items of interest. As the party moved toward the centre of the room, the orb began to glow, reacting to a pedestal with an indentation in the middle. When Max placed the orb into the groove, an otherworldly voice greeted the party. It asked them to do two things:

  1. Procure some wood from a dryad tree and place it in the sconce. When that is collected, burn it with the fire of a living flame.
  2. Find the other half of the bronze rod.

With these two pieces of information in mind, our adventure finally drew to a close and we got to do the most exciting part of the session: levelling our characters and making them less squishy. The breakdown were as follows:

  • Wizards: Max and Finch
  • Warriors: Tiana and Amnion
  • Cleric: Jennifer
  • Elf: One
  • Dwarf: Mally

Any non-human races got their own character sheet and their own perks. I’ll go more into that when I talk about the next campaign, Doom of the Savage Kings.

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1st time D&D, Session 1.

After weeks of slowly getting into the game mechanics, I finally had my first D&D session on May 20th. I was pretty stoked as I had for the most part planned my character with the DM beforehand and tweaked it to 1st edition D&D rules. Unfortunately, due to players being unable to continue, my level 1 character is now stuck in stasis. 😦

Before the campaign went underway I contacted the DM and sent him a .pdf of The Noble Wild to give him an idea of what I wanted to work with. The book is part of Pathfinder, but with a few tweaks, I had a fully fledged cat PC going by the name of Locke Felister with a magical amulet that could convert his thoughts into speech.

Anywho, me and three other people began exploring a large city that is completely cutthroat and the worst of the worst scum reside here. As all four characters didn’t start off knowing each other and arriving on the same boat. As a newbie, I took what I considered to be a relatively safe choice and tail the slowest PC, who happened to have sand powers (a la Gaara from Naruto). We split up into three separate groups.

One of us, a dragonlike warrior, ended up in a tavern with a ratman, culminating in him chopping off the NPC’s tail and landing himself in jail. Meanwhile, the one who set off first (can’t remember off the top of my head as to what he was) ended up being initiated into a Shadow Cult and swearing his allegiance to the Shadow Mother by essentially becoming an assassin.

And me and the sand mage (whom we’ve affectionately dubbed Sandy)? We ended up outside a teahouse, and Sandy was ushered in to have some tea–two of them. One ended up being a temporary STR-boosting tea but caused STR to plummet after a while; the other was a tea that needed to be imbibed every month or the drinker will die. As Sandy was escorted out, I (Locke) snuck into the teahouse and swiped some black, dried tea leaves into my small pouch. I later tried to knock over the tea urns in order to get some tea out, only to have the owner discover me and toss me into the canal, where I spent hours navigating the sewers to get back up onto the main level, only to end up being a very smelly cat.

Eventually, I made my way to a square with a fountain spewing forth clean water. Thanks to a crappy roll, I was noticed by a druid who immediately took me to an oaken grove where I was reunited with Sandy, as one of the cityfolk remembered seeing me loitering around him. Suddenly the two of us were summoned for a quest when we all of a sudden had our first encounter with sludge monsters. Combat begins and with a few sand blasts and some dagger slashes, all of the creatures were destroyed and we managed to save all but one NPC from the onslaught.

All in all, it was a good introduction to the world of tabletop RPGs and it is my hope that one day my DM will come back to this so that my Lv. 1 Rogue Cat will have time to shine once more.

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Thoughts on the Elliot Rodger incident.

Just a warning that this post will have upsetting content due to the nature of the incident. Please excuse all the mental masturbation I’ll be debasing myself on over this post. Hover over red text to see small notes and relevant warnings.

Click here for the post.

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[Review] Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (“Heart of Stone”)

This post is a bit late. Finals and labs have been happening.

People of the kingdom, your new queen. Source: IGN

This episode focuses on Will and Anastasia’s entry into Wonderland. It begins from where Will and Anastasia are about to jump through the portal that he stole from Maleficent. Before they jump in, they are stopped by Anastasia’s mother, who cautions Anastasia that “love” won’t be enough for her new life with Will. It’s interesting to see the parallels between Anastasia and Regina from the parent series: cold, overbearing, poor ambitious mothers who coax their daughters into marrying royalty. However, whereas Cora (Regina’s mother) managed to use magic to force Regina into her eventual fate as the Evil Queen, Anastasia’s mother just lets her escape to Wonderland, but cautions her that “love won’t be enough,” and expects her daughter to return (with a bucket of water). At first, the couple seems to be happy by themselves, though their desires for riches eventually overcame as they crash a ball held by the king of the realm (mother does know best, doesn’t she). Formulating a plan to steal the crown jewels, Anastasia gets caught by the king himself, who offers to make her his queen and overlook her burglary. How the king meets his demise has yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, in the “present,” Anastasia coaxes Alice to the Great Divide to acquire magic dust on the other side that can point her in the direction of Jafar’s lair. Alice is still savvy enough to ask why the Red Queen herself didn’t go across and fetch it herself, to which she responds with an “[Alice’s] heart is the purest of them all,” noted by Anastasia’s betrayal to Will and lingering regret evidenced by her giving Alice a look as the girl mentions her love for Cyrus. After falling into the chasm after crossing an invisible bridge, Alice comes face-to-face with a younger version of herself that preys on the hatred she has towards Anastasia by reminding her that it is her fault that Cyrus is gone. The apparition then summons Anastasia into the rift and gives Alice the chance to kill her for all the suffering she has been put through. Alice, being the bastion of incorruptible goodness that she is, puts down her blade and spares the Queen’s life. The being then congratulates Alice and gives her the magic dust. When the two women climb back up from the chasm, Anastasia promptly takes the pouch of magic dust and leaves Alice, but not before the latter had taken some for herself to be guided towards Cyrus. Anastasia returns to the garden where Will had been petrified and uses the dust to cure him and leaving as he gets de-stoned, as if she feels that she cannot face him yet despite her unfaltering love.

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[Review] Sleepy Hollow (“The Midnight Ride”)

Modern innovation of the week: the Internet, computers, and purchased water

The Horseman returns with a vengeance.

Alas, he knows him too well. Source: Project Fandom

Continue reading

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[Review] Sleepy Hollow (“Sin Eater”)

Modern innovation (sort-of) of the week: Baseball

Walter Bishop’s back and doing some more kooky stuff. Source: Carla Day

The episode 2 weeks ago focused on separating Ichabod’s life from that of the Horseman’s. To do so, Abbie (per the urging of Katrina while in the middle of driving) must find a man known as the Sin Eater to purge the sin linking Ichabod to Death. This becomes a problem when he gets abducted by Freemasons (led by James Frain, no less!), who then proceed to determine if he is truly Ichabod Crane by referring to an eyewitness account from his wife. Once they have ascertained his identity, they ask him to kindly kill himself to stop the Horseman.

This episode focuses on Ichabod’s backstory, to the time where he first meets Katrina while on a mission to interrogate freed slave Arthur Bernard, using time-tested methods such as repeated bludgeoning while the subject is tied to a chair. Ichabod does not follow orders blindly, however; he is never the one to actually lay a hand on Bernard, and feels that the public hangings cross a line. He makes a few complaints about the treatment of the townspeople to Colonel Tarleton, who implies that Ichabod will get the noose if he does not follow orders. Even though it may have been in the 18th century, I highly doubt that disobeying orders would warrant the death penalty; if that’s the case then the demon masquerading as Tarleton does not blend in very well.

Ichabod’s sin is revealed to be self-inflicted: while taking Bernard out into the woods to dispose of the ex-slave, he decides to spare the man’s life, but not before Tarleton catches up and dispatches Bernard himself, Ichabod blaming himself for the events that have transpired. The commander then confronts Ichabod and wounds him before vanishing. Afterwards, Ichabod makes his way to Katrina’s abode and utters the last few words that Bernard told him: “Order from Chaos” to have her accept him to fight for the Americans. It takes the manifestation of Arthur Bernard while Ichabod is meeting with the Sin Eater–now known to us as Henry Parrish–to finally forgive himself and let the man literally eat blood that is representative of the sin of guilt. This probably won’t be the only time we’ll see him around.

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[Review] Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (“The Serpent”)

Pun of the week: wishbone

After a week’s hiatus, the denizens of Wonderland are back to continue their little chess game.

(Ex-)Lovers reunited. Source: Seriable.com

Following the trend from its parent series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has given the chief villain a justifiable motive for their start of darkness. Jafar is revealed to be an illegitimate son of the Sultan of Agrabah whom has been abandoned and falls under the sorceress Amara’s tutelage. Like Regina, he was unwilling to take the life of an innocent at first, but with some prodding from his mentor, that habit was slowly forced out of him. The clear difference is that Amara is enamoured by Jafar (of course, seeing as how she took him in at a young age (when he was conspicuously a boy, giving off a creepy implication of sex-flipped wife husbandry) during the time they’ve spent together  compared to Rumplestiltskin finding Regina (and her mother’s) antics amusing. Unlike Rumpelstiltskin, Amara ends up getting turned into Jafar’s iconic serpent staff.

Meanwhile, a new character is introduced–Elizabeth (who also goes by Lizard)–who like Anastasia has run with Will in the past. Whether or not she is an original character remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Alice has reached an ultimatum during the escape from the Red Queen: she uses her first wish to bind her life to Will’s to prevent Jafar from killing him. This doesn’t stop him from turning Will into stone, however, and that probably means we won’t be seeing Michael Socha for a while now.

I still find Alice to not be as interesting as the other characters in the series, particularly Anastasia. Will, for the most part of his capture, taunts his ex-lover to kill him, something that she has been pressured to do by Jafar. In fact, the few close-up shots of her show her frustration breaking through her stony facade. It is interesting to note that the Tweedles answer not only to her but also to the sorcerer from Agrabah; one could make the argument that the servants are being shared among the two, but there should have been a sequence where they answer to Anastasia before Jafar.

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[Update] Thoughts about the Recent String of Sexual Assaults at UBC

Original post here.

The Ubyssey has published their opinion on the Take Back the Night rally.

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Thoughts about the Recent String of Sexual Assaults at UBC

This post will most likely be updated with further developments.

A map of where reported sexual assaults on the UBC Vancouver campus in 2013 occurred. Source: RCMP (from Globe and Mail)

For almost every weekend since the end of September, a report of a sexual assault was filed ([1] [2] [3] [4] [5]). If the pattern holds (which hopefully it won’t) another attempt will be made sometime this weekend. While the presence of at least one sexual assailant on campus who appears to be becoming more comfortable as the semester goes on is scary enough, I am somewhat dismayed by the response by campus inhabitants. Due to the controversial topic being discussed, reader discretion is strongly and strictly advised. Continue reading

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