Random Encounters (Friday, June 5 2015)


Welcome to Random Encounters, the weekly round-up of interesting bits and pieces from across the worlds of gaming that didn’t really fit anywhere else. Roll a D5 (they exist!) and begin:

1 – Motherland: A Retrospective on Magic’s Lost Set

Evan Erwin from Good Gamery looks back at Motherland, a half-finished MTG set produced by Richard Garfield and based on Russian literature. Some very cool stuff that you would never see in the MTG of today.

I see a lot of parallels between the work of Richard and Franz Kafka; the shuffling, the obsession with paper and numbers, the competitiveness over small shifts in prestige. Wizards of the Coast itself has become that shadowy bureaucratic authority that Richard and Kafka set out to critique. And Gregor Samsa is a scathing critique. Life as a process of toil until death. The specification of it being Gregor Samsa, the totally arbitrary change counters, all of this speaks to the minimum wage jobs Richard was working as a starving artist at the time of Magic’s conception.

2 – On the Defining Characteristic of 5th Edition

An interesting take on D&D 5E which muses that the Reaction might be the defining aspect of this edition.

What this means, is, that high level encounters involving tanks and wizards, involve trying to eliminate reactions, bait reactions out, or get within range of creatures to use your reactions. Any encounter where one side is using their reactions to nullify the actions of the other, and the other side isn’t has a huge advantage.

3 – Having Vin Diesel as your dungeon master is really soothing

A Twine game where Vin Diesel helps you play a game of Dungeons & Dragons? Surprisingly, yes.

There is a pure element of gentleness and care about the project: imagining Vin Diesel as a guy who invites you to join a quick fantasy roleplay because he just wants you to feel a bit better about yourself is playful, surprising and ultimately delightful.

4 – Rival fantasies: Dungeons & Dragons players and their religious critics actually have a lot in common

Joseph Laycock of Texas State University writes an intriguing essay on the history of the ‘occult crime’ and ‘satanic panic’ surrounding the D&D scene of the 80s, and how the conspiracy theorists promoting it were often themselves spinning fantasies.

When I traced the claims about the dangers of D&D back to their sources, I arrived at a handful of people who appear to have been either hopelessly uncritical, liars or mentally disturbed.

Figures who claimed D&D was a Satanic conspiracy included Patricia Pulling, founder of Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (and author of The Devil’s Web: Who Is Stalking Your Children for Satan?), evangelist Mike Warnke, conspiracy theorist John Todd and author William Schnoebelen.

Warnke, Todd and Schnoebelen all claimed to have been powerful leaders of Satanic cults before converting to Christianity – claims that were eventually debunked in various Christian publications.

5 – Inside the World’s Biggest ‘Magic: The Gathering’ Tournament

A great article by David Greenwald of Rolling Stone about a bachelor party that just happened to revolve around attending the Magic: The Gathering Las Vegas Grand Prix. Well written and lovely stuff.

Round one starts, finally, and I dismiss my first opponent in straight sets. He’s playing a blue control deck, which works by keeping my cards from entering play, but eventually he runs out of counterspells and gets trampled by my Pelakka Wurm. After, I sip Gatorade and eat almonds: I’ve read they help with brain glucose production, which we run out of like a Street Fighter 2 life bar with every daily decision. Magic is entirely decisions.

“You’re in good luck,” my second opponent, a middle-aged fellow from North Hollywood, says as I sit down. “You’ll be moving up.” He’s rueful of his play in yesterday’s drafting. “Couldn’t get my cards to come out.”

We’ve both playing green-red-blue – the dreaded mirror match – but I take the win. I make a dumb fumble in an opening play, drawing too many cards and having to discard one to return to a seven-card hand. Have to tighten up. I eat more almonds.

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