The Best of Kunochan from

As you can tell, I am no longer posting regularly to Indeed, from this point forward I will only be posting the occasional feature article, such as a film review or a Tollkien 101; I’ll leave the day-to-day Tolkien news to TORn.

Here are some links to the Best of (so far).

Film Reviews:










Also, here are all the installments of Tolkien 101.

And be sure to read Sauron’s Blog!

Ugly Elves & Inflatable Orcs: Rankin/Bass’ 1977 ‘The Hobbit’ Reviewed

On a review of the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit.


Author JRR Tolkien believed that we each have a great sacrifice to make, for the betterment of all humanity. Frodo bore the Ring, for the sake of The Shire; Aragorn walked the Paths of the Dead, for the sake of the Free Peoples; and I watched Rankin/Bass Productions’ 1977 animated television production of The Hobbit, for you, my readers.

You’re welcome. Do I get to sail to Tol Eressëa now?

Read Ugly Elves & Inflatable Orcs: Rankin/Bass’ 1977 ‘The Hobbit’ Reviewed on

The 50 Laws of Science Fiction Physics


Inspired by such mainstays of geek humor as The Laws of Cartoon Physics and The Laws of Anime Physics, I have assembled the following 50 Laws of Science Fiction Physics.

This list was in part inspired by my previous post, Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired.

Law of Selective Gravitation: All artificial bodies in space generate an internal gravitational field, equal to one gee, with “down” defined as the “bottom” of the body; this gravitational field somehow terminates exactly at the outer hull of the body, even if it is irregularly shaped.

First Law of Gravitational Irrelevance: a spacecraft may travel from a planet’s surface into space in the same manner in which an airplane gains altitude, ignoring the need to achieve escape velocity.

Second Law of Gravitational Irrelevance: a spacecraft may fly directly towards or away from a planet or other large celestial body, ignoring the fact that objects in space must describe elliptical orbits about each other.

Law of Inertial Dampening: No matter how much kinetic energy is directed at an inhabited body (in space or on a planet), the resulting disruption will be enough to jostle the inhabitants and cause minor structural damage – nothing more or less.

Law of User Interface Equivalence: When a spacecraft or space station takes damage to any structural component, the computer screen or workstation used to monitor that structure from the bridge or engineering center will explode.

Law of Ethical Xenopolymorphism: While malevolent aliens come in many forms, beneficent aliens are always humanoid.

Law of Sexual Xenopolymorphism: Humanoid alien females will always have mammalian secondary sexual characteristics (breasts, wide hips, full sensual lips), even if they are non-mammalian (lizard, avian, piscine, insectoid, etc.).

Newton’s Fourth Law of Motion: In space, constant thrust equals constant velocity.

Kubrick’s Law of Motion in Microgravity: all motion in a “zero gravity” or microgravity environment will take place at 22% of the speed it would occur at sea level; this applies to animate persons as well as inanimate objects.

Exception to Kubrick’s Law of Motion in Microgravity: persons in a “zero gravity” or microgravity environment may speak at normal speed.

Allen’s Law of Motion in Microgravity: objects freely floating in a “zero gravity” or microgravity environment will behave as if suspended from a transparent thread within a full gravity environment.

Law of Sound in a Vacuum: Despite the lack of a medium for transmission, sound will travel in a vacuum, with precisely the same properties as in the Earth’s atmosphere at sea level.

First Law of Combustibility: Anything important – spaceships, planets, robots – explodes when it is critically damaged, whether any combustible material is present or not.

Second Law of Combustibility: When anything explodes, the mass of the resulting ejecta will be less than 2% of the object’s original mass; the remainder of the mass ceases to exist.

Third Law of Combustibility: When objects explode in space, all matter that makes up the object comes to a complete stop relative to the observer, whatever its previous velocity. The explosion will then expand in an equal sphere away from the point where the object stopped.

Fourth Law of Combustibility: All objects that explode in space produce a discrete ring that expands ahead of the main shock wave; this is a fundamental principle of Aesthetic Physics.

Fifth Law of Combustibility: The shock wave of an explosion is confined to the visible fiery ball of the explosion; and both will move at 98% of the speed of anyone attempting to fly, drive or run from the explosion. After a certain distance, the speed of the shock wave will quickly drop off for no apparent reason.

Sixth Law of Combustibility: The destructive force of a nuclear warhead, and the resulting deadly radiation, cannot penetrate the skin of a typical 1950s consumer-grade kitchen refrigerator.

First Law of Practical Stellar Physics: as an observer approaches a star, the brightness of the visible light it gives off diminishes proportionally.

Second Law of Practical Stellar Physics: a star will produce no radiation except for (1) visible light and (2) a variety of heat that behaves identically to heat convection in an atmosphere, despite the lack of a transmission medium.

Third Law of Practical Stellar Physics: the dangerous or destructive region of a stellar body ends abruptly at the outer termination of its photosphere, except for the heat and light described in the Second Law.

Law of Teleportation: the amount of energy produced when converting matter to energy for the purpose of teleporting that matter to a distant location is an insignificant fraction of the amount predicted by Einstein’s mass–energy equivalence equation; this is a fundamental principle of Convenience Physics.

Law of Technological Complexity: No matter how advanced a technology, anyone who needs to use it will be able to deduce its basic functioning within a few minutes – even if the person belongs to an alien or less-developed culture, or comes from the distant past.

First Law of Aerodynamic Irrelevance: Objects designed to travel solely in space may nonetheless be designed with aerodynamic properties.

Second Law of Aerodynamic Irrelevance: objects designed to travel in solely in space, and which therefore are highly non-aerodynamic, may still travel in an atmosphere as if they were perfectly aerodynamic.

Corollary to the Laws of Aerodynamic Irrelevance (The O’Brien Rule): any object in space that is not designed to alter its velocity, vector or location, such as a space station, may alter its velocity, vector or location through a minor, previously unrealized engineering trick.

First Corollary to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity may be ignored at any time, for any reason; this is a fundamental principle of Convenience Physics.

Second Corollary to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: when light, or any form of electromagnetic radiation, is employed as a weapon (such as with a laser or blaster), its speed is reduced to approximately 35 miles per hour.

Personal Equivalency Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: alternate universes and timelines do not follow the standard laws of contingency – rather, the same individuals will be born in the alternate universe as are born in ours, although their life paths may diverge; this is irrespective of any other changes, major or minor, to historical outcomes.

Ethical Determinism Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: alternate universes and timelines do not follow the standard laws of contingency – rather, historical outcomes are determined by the moral choices of the identical version of the visitor from our universe.

Abrams’ Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: in an alternate universe or timeline, events will conspire to place equivalent persons into the same social groups they occupy in our universe.

The McFly Rule: If a time traveler prevents a key historical event from occurring, he or she has one week to arrange an equivalent event that will restore the timeline.

First Law of Convergent Evolution: any alien species, regardless of the environment in which it evolved, will morphologically resemble an extant Earth species, albeit with changes in size, color, bodily features and level of intelligence; aliens may also resemble chimera of multiple Earth morphologies.

Second Law of Convergent Evolution: despite the fact that closely-related species from the same planet cannot produce viable offspring, any two humanoid species from different worlds may produce viable offspring that will bear blended traits from both species.

Law of Convergent Visemes: when a technological device is used to translate the speech of a humanoid alien, that alien’s lips and mouth movements will nonetheless appear to match the English speech of the translation.

Omegan Law of Convergent Social Evolution: a humanoid species on a distant planet is likely to pass through exactly the same historical eras, and evolve precisely the same social institutions, as the human civilizations of Earth.

Law of Extraterrestrial Euhemerism: any primitive human superstition is the result of contact with advanced alien technology; this includes psychic powers, magicians, ghosts, angels, fairies, vampires, werewolves, demons, dragons, messiahs and gods.

Law of Technological Trajectory: the more hyper-advanced an alien or future technological artifact, the more likely that it will resemble a large, illuminated crystal.

Law of Irradiated Macrofauna: due to mutations triggered by artificial radiation, animals may grow to enormous sizes normally ruled out by the surface-area-to-volume ratio.

Corollary to the Law of Irradiated Macrofauna: irradiated macrofauna will invariably seek out large human population centers and battle each other.

Influence/Malevolence Relationship in Science: the greater a scientific or technological achievement, the greater the probability that the scientist responsible for it suffers from a mental illness and/or ethical deficit.

Diamond’s Law: an advanced spacefaring species will always oppress, absorb or destroy any less advanced, non-spacefaring species with which it makes contact.

Anthropocentric Exception to Diamond’s Law: an advanced spacefaring species will always oppress, absorb or destroy any less advanced, non-spacefaring species with which it makes contact, unless that species is humanity.

Roddenberry’s Law of Cybernetic Omniscience: any sufficiently advanced computer system will contain the sum all of human knowledge down to the most inconsequential detail, even if the computer was constructed by and for aliens.

Gill’s Law of Alien Impressionability: any humanoid alien species will, upon being introduced to some detail of human history or culture, reconfigure its entire society based solely upon the human example; also known as the Iotian Law.

Law of Atmospheric Inexhaustibility: on a spacecraft, space station or other artificial habitat in a vacuum or near-vacuum, no matter how much air is lost when an airlock is opened or the hull is breached, after the air loss is terminated there will still be sufficient atmosphere to comfortably support the survivors.

Doctrine of Human Psychological Infortitude: any human gifted with transhuman abilities by an alien or future intelligence will initially attempt to perform good works with his or her new-found powers, but will be eventually driven insane and commit destructive acts; also known as the Mitchell Effect.

Doctrine of Hostile Alien Tourism: when technologically advanced spacefaring aliens initiate a war or invasion against the Earth, their first strategic maneuver will be to destroy a number of famous human landmarks, usually ones with no strategic or defensive value.

The ForbinCameronWachowski Corollary to Turing’s Test of Machine Intelligence: it is possible to demonstrate that a machine has achieved genuine intelligence or sentience, as its first act upon gaining self-awareness will be to attempt the annihilation of humanity.

The Lucas-Asimov-Herbert Model of Human Galactic Societal Development: any vast, galaxy-spanning interstellar human civilization will resemble in many or all respects the empires of the species’ ancient pre-technological past.

And… number 51:

Even’s Revision to Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from lazy writing.

Feel free to add your own Laws of Sci-Fi Physics in the comments below.

Sauron’s Blog Gets New URL and WordPress Theme

I just received this mysterious press release, left under the door. The hallway is filled with a foul odor and sticky hoofprints.

The Mouth of SauronGreetings, foul subcreature. I am The Mouth of Sauron, Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, Herumor’s Heir, and Rightful Chief of the Dúnedain. It is my task to communicate to you the commands of Sauron, Lord of the Earth, as well as to share news and recent happenings.

First — there is a new URL for Sauron’s Blog. Although will still work, the proper address is now Use this URL. The Eye commands it.

Second — Sauron’s Blog has a new WordPress theme, one much more severe and imposing than the previous theme. In fact, the Orcs and Wild Men responsible for the previous theme have been tortured and sent to the mines.

Third — by making purchases via Amazon links from this site, you support not only Lord Sauron’s blogging activities, but also His efforts to destroy the corrupt Elves and Men of the West, and unite all The Earth in peace and prosperity. Even if you do not plan to purchase any of Tolkien’s books of Elvish lies, you can click through from Sauron’s Blog any time you plan to purchase from Amazon.

Needless to say, The Eye commands it.

Now, get back to work! Where there’s a whip, there’s a way!

Visit Sauron’s Blog here. Start from the first post here. By the way, those same Amazon links support as well!

Ladies — What Does Your Man’s Choice of Gaming Console Tell You About Him?

Originally published 11/6/07 on GGL Wire.

MSN’s “Dating & Personals” page features a guide for women — what does your man’s gaming console tell you about him? And one of the experts giving the answers is GGL’s own CEO, Ted Owen.

Read the original article here.

Ted’s excellent answers notwithstanding, I feel the need to share my own thoughts on what your videogame system says about you.

What does a PlayStation 3 reveal about a dude?

The PlayStation 3 man gets by on Daddy’s money and connections. He’s spoiled so his parents will buy him anything, from a Yale education and a National Guard deferment, to an overpriced console with few decent games. In bed, his PS3 affiliation suggests he will be selfish, self-involved, and have very, very small “equipment.” Women should avoid Sony fanboys at all costs. If you must date a PS3 owner, do not get him on the topic of consoles — he will never shut up about it.

What does a Wii tell a gal about her potential date?

That he is too young to be going out on a date. The target audiences for the Wii both poo their pants and dribble indiscriminately — I’m talking about young children and the elderly. If an adult male owns a Wii, it is for one of two reasons. If he owns a Wii to be ironic, then he may be perfectly intelligent and mature. Unfortunately, he probably also buys things like Tiki lamps and lawn flamingos, and has open credit at Archie McPhee. Also, he may be gay. The other species of adult male Wii owner thinks the Wii is a great system. This person is a loser, and possibly suffers from a developmental disability. Avoid.

And what does the Xbox divulge about its owner?

The Xbox 360 owner is just an average Joe, not too bright, not too stupid. He made the safe choice as far as console systems go — reasonable price, and a decent stock of worthwhile games. Don’t be fooled by his lackluster exterior — if you want to dominate and hurt a man who will just beg for more, the Xbox 360 owner is the bottom you’ve been looking for. He puts up with all kinds of crap from Microsoft, so he’ll probably be okay with your leather fetish.

But why stop there? Let’s keep going!

What about the man who owns a PSP?

Just like the PS3 owner, except he has an even smaller penis. And he’s going to try to make you watch Live Free & Die Hard on his PSP — don’t let him.

The Nintendo DS?

Owning a DS isn’t as inherently embarrassing as owning a Wii. If he occasionally whips it out in line at the supermarket (I mean the DS), that’s no problem. But if he’s so deep into Animal Crossing that he collects the friend codes of total strangers, you need to find a new guy.

An original Nintendo Entertainment System?

Yeah, you’re gonna be crawling in and out of the basement window of this guy’s house so his mom doesn’t find out you’re sleeping over. Don’t accidentally knock over his stack of Punisher comics signed by Gerry Conway on your way out.

A DreamCast?

Now this is the guy you can take home to mother. Intelligent, sophisticated, learned and wise — an all-around gentleman. He’s a keeper. And if you’re real nice, he’ll teach you to play Samba de Amigo.

Ten Tales of Videogame Terror – Part 2

Originally posted on GGL Wire on 10/25/07.

And now… the final five tales of videogame TERROR:

Saw V

Nooooooo! Not House of the Dead!When Brittany awoke, every part of her lithe, tanned body ached. She tried to move her hands and feet, but they were immobile. Terrified, she opened her eyes.

She had never been inside the shack, but she recognized it from hiking through the Schwarzwald. It sat alone in a dark dell full of stunted, black-skinned elms. She had assumed it belonged to some local poacher, but now she realized the terrifying truth.

Brittany was bound hand and foot, strapped to an ancient dentist’s chair. Various implements of torture were hanging from the walls – specula, knives, drills and other shiny stainless-steel horrors of unimaginable purpose.

She vowed not to scream.

The door swung open, and a man entered – short, stocky and balding, his face hidden behind a mask which amplified the raspy wheeze of his breathing. He closed the door.

“Let me out of here!” Brittany yelled.

The man laughed, low and quiet. He walked over to a television set with built in DVD-player that sat against the wall in front of Brittany.

Slowly, with relish, the man slipped a scratched and mottled DVD into the player.

“What are you doing?” Brittany demanded.

The man spoke with a thick German accent. “Soon you vill know a horror unlike any other,” he hissed.

The screen came to life. It was a movie. Brittany didn’t recognize it at first. Was that the chick from Terminator 3? And the guy who played Ghandi?

The realization crashed down on her. Someone was screaming, screaming at the top of her lungs; and it was a moment before Brittany realized it was her.

The movie was BloodRayne. The man was Uwe Boll!

“Oh god please don’t do this to me! Why? Why?” she screamed.

Brittany had the will to survive. She made it through BloodRayne and Alone in the Dark. But by the end of Postal, her lifeless body had slumped in the chair, her face contorted into a permanent rictus of terror.

Boll dumped her body in the peat bog, and went back to lurking along the hiking trails, watching for hapless young people to kidnap and torture. So the madness continued.

The Pits of DespairThe Pits of Despair

Bobby always wanted to be a game tester, and now he had his chance.

The campus of Electronic Arts was a beautiful cluster of buildings in Playa Vista, a stone’s throw from the Pacific. Bobby’s heart tintinabulated with excitement as he parked and was checked in by security.

“So you want to work in QA?” the woman asked. She seemed pleasant enough, just another ordinary HR drone.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then sign here and we’ll get you started.” The woman pushed a complicated-looking form across her desk.

Bobby reached for a pen, but the woman handed him a strange silver implement with a sharp tip. “Use this?”

“What do I use for ink?”

The woman took the implement and jabbed Bobby in the finger.

“Sign in blood,” she demanded.

Well, that’s weird, Bobby thought, as he bled onto the silver pen and scrawled his name across the bottom of the page with his own sanguineous humours.

The woman snatched the paper away, and locked it in a steel man-sized safe that lurked in the corner of the office. “Come with me, she said.”

Bobby followed her through the offices and down a long hallway lined with paintings of Mediterranean scenes. At the end of the corridor was an ancient freight elevator, the kind with the iron gate. That’s funny, Bobby thought, this building looks only a few years old.

They stepped into the lift, and the woman pulled the gate closed and flipped a giant electrical toggle switch.

The elevator car plummeted at an alarming rate. The sides of the car were open, and Bobby first saw several floors of the EA offices, then a long stretch of dank bedrock. The further down they went, the hotter and wetter the air became.

Suddenly they came out in a massive chamber, an ancient rent in the uttermost depths of the world. Strange gasses spewed from lava-filled rivulets. The whole cavern was lit from above by massive fluorescents that buzzed audibly. The pale white light gave Bobby an instant headache.

“Where are we?” he asked tremulously.

“QA,” the HR woman replied.

The lift hit the floor of the chamber, and two burly shirtless men in turbans grabbed Bobby forcefully and dragged him toward a cubicle. They wore cruel-looking whips on their belts.

“What’s going on?” Bobby screamed.

“You will work 20-hour days,” the HR woman intoned, like an ancient Druidic priest offering a human sacrifice to satiate a bloodthirsty deity. “Eight a.m. to 4 a.m. No bathroom breaks, no weekends, no vacations.”

Bobby wriggled, panicking, as the guards wrapped a red-hot manacle around his ankle. The cooling metal melted his flesh, and he wailed in agony.

“We’re two months behind schedule on Mail Order Monsters 2,” the woman continued, “so we’re withholding gruel and water until you catch up.”

“Let me go! I don’t want this!” Bobby cried as he was forced into his work chair.

“You signed a contract,” the woman replied coldly. Then she leaned in, and spoke with more feeling. “Besides, if you ever want to be a game designer, you have to work up through QA. Don’t you want to be a game designer?”

“Yes.” Resignedly, he put his hands on the keyboard and mouse. He cried out as a guard lashed his back.

“Get to work, slave!” the guard bellowed.

Bobby never saw his friends or family again. And it was years later, his crippled frame wracked with years of labor, he realized the truth – they would never promote him out of QA!

Hello? Anybody home?The Last Man

Robert Frisco boarded his flight in Philadelphia, eager to begin four days of fun, sun and gaming in beautiful Southern California.

He would return to his small Pennsylvania hometown impoverished – between the cost of the flight, the hotel, and the convention passes, Frisco had very little money left. But this was E for All, the biggest event of the gaming year.

Frisco was never able to attend E3, but this trip would make up for all those disappointing years reading about all the E3 action on the Internet.

The first sign that all was not as it should be came when the plane descended over Los Angeles.

The city was burning. Massive fires poured plumes of reddish ash into a sky already choked with car exhaust fumes. What had happened while Robert was in the air? Why hadn’t the pilot made an announcement?

But it’s when Frisco approached the actual convention center that his panic began.

The place was EMPTY.

E3 got 30,000 visitors a year! Where were the people? Was it a terrorist attack? Famine? Plague?

Frisco stumbled across the convention floor, looking for any sign of life. No Xbox, no Sony. Nothing at the Nintendo booth of interest but Super Smash Bros. Just a pitiful few survivors playing RockBand, undoubtedly to drive from their minds the horror of whatever cataclysm befell this place.

Something shambled at Frisco from around a darkened corner. He gasped – it was a booth babe, or what was once a booth babe, shuffling forward in her high-heeled shoes, wearing little but a tight t-shirt and skin-tight short shorts. She languidly offered Frisco a flyer for some no-name videogame resale site.

“H-haaave a flyyyy-er,” she groaned.

Frisco ran, as hard and as far as he could. He burst through a black curtain and into a vast unused space – the remainder of the convention floor that the E for All organizers couldn’t sell.

“Why?” Frisco called out to whatever foul gods still hearkened to the prayers of men. “Why????”

Alone in a vast and empty space of total desolation, Frisco fell to his knees. The despair was too much for his fragile mind, and he slumped to the floor, dead.

The Red Ring of DEATH!The Red Ring of Death

Angrily, Susan finished packing her brand new Xbox 360 back in the box. After only two days of playing Geometry Wars, her console overheated; and the button on the front lit up with the dreaded Red Ring of Death. Now her console was completely bricked, and she would have to wait weeks for Microsoft to repair the damn thing.

She left the box on the porch for the FedEx man, and went back into her apartment to watch TV. But when she pressed the “On” button on her remote, she was greeted by a terrible surprise.

At first, the TV wouldn’t some on at all. Then the screen warmed up, and an image appeared. It took Susan a moment to realize the image was not from some television program.

It was a giant Red Ring of Death.

But how is this possible? Susan asked herself. My TV shouldn’t have a red ring!

She went to the phone to call her brother, the tech expert. But when she picked up the receiver — there it was again, the red ring! The phone was otherwise dead, no signal.

Suddenly, the lights went out. Looking up at the ceiling lamp, she saw the red ring, glowing brightly in the near-dark.

Susan ran for the front door – but the red ring shone out from the doorknob. She tried to open the door, but it would not budge. The door had been bricked!

Losing her mind with terror, Susan ran into the bathroom, where natural light from outside made it possible to see. She struggled to catch her breath – there was a red ring on the bathroom scale, one on the shower faucet, even one on the bath mat. How do you brick a bath mat?

Susan turned to look at herself in the mirror, and the monstrousness of what she saw there drove her mind over the edge of insanity. There in the mirror staring back at her was herself – with two giant red rings around her eyes.

She dropped to the floor, dead. She had been bricked.

The Coral Gables SlasherThe Coral Gables Slasher

Dawn broke through the tiny cellar window, and Brendan decided to try opening the cellar door. Still clutching the tire iron he found, he moved the barricade of boxes and old furniture away from the door.

It had been hours since he last heard the Slasher, pacing in the kitchen above, muttering to himself and occasionally singing bits of hymns. Brendan hoped and prayed the lunatic had become tired of waiting, and left.

Brandishing his weapon in one hand, and fiercely clutching his copy of Manhunt 2 in the other, Brandon nudged open the cellar door. Morning light illuminated the dust motes in the stairwell leading up to the kitchen. He heard nothing.

All his friends were dead. Nikki and Elijah, strangled and burned while playing Grand Theft Auto; Clancy was found hanged, with his smashed copy of Quake 4 lying at his feet; Tim and Monica were stabbed and shot with arrows, their eyes sliced out using a broken CD of Bully.

Brandon slowly climbed the stairs, straining his ears for the slightest sound, the tiniest evidence he was not alone. Forcing himself to continue despite his terror, Brandon reached the top of the stairs to face the horror of the kitchen.

There was blood everywhere, especially on the center island, where it looked like a boar had been slaughtered. But Brandon knew it was Corinne’s blood – Corinne, the beautiful French exchange student, whose only crime was bringing the unrated French version of Indigo Prophecy into the U.S.

“Japanese videogames are the next Pearl Harbor!”

Brandon spun around to find the voice. There he stood, the Coral Gables Slasher, his absurd white hair stained with blood, his cheap suit ripped apart by the clawing human hands of his victims. His eyes burned with insanity, or at least with a serious personality disorder. He held a machete in his had.

Holding aloft his tire iron, Brandon tried to back away – but the Slasher stood in the only exit door (there was no way out through the cellar, or Brandon would have escaped hours ago).

The Sims 2 contains nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair!” the Slasher hissed.

“What?” Brandon could not understand the old man’s ramblings. He looked about the kitchen frantically, hoping to find a better weapon.

“God is in this battle, and I am privileged to be a foot soldier!” The Slasher leapt forward, chasing Brandon around the bloody central island of the kitchen.

Brandon tried to make for the door, but The Slasher was too fast. He caught Brandon across the face with the machete, and a crimson spray shot across the wall. Brandon slipped and fell, and then the Slasher was in top of him.

“I love the smell of burning gamers in the morning!” The Slasher cried as he raised his machete for the kill.

Suddenly the front door burst open, and in seconds the kitchen was filled with armed police officers.

“Alright, what’s going on here?” one cop demanded.

“Thank God,” Brandon cried out. “This lunatic killed all my friends! Get him off me.”

To Brandon’s horror, the cop laughed. “I guess you don’t get it. We’re with him.”

The cop turned to the Slasher. “Will you finish this one up, Mr. Thompson, or shall we?”

In answer, the Slasher plunged his machete through Brandon’s neck. The last thing the young man saw before death was the Slasher smashing his copy of Manhunt 2 while the cops laughed and laughed.

Note: all Coral Gable Slasher quotes used in this story are real.

Read Part One

Ten Tales of Videogame Terror – Part 1

Ten Tales of Videogame TERROR!

Originally posted 10/23/07 on GGL Wire.

Greetings, friend. That most terrifying of holidays, ancient Samhain, which the ignorant call “Halloween,” is almost upon us. Across the globe, the walls between the lands of the living and the dead will fall, and the souls of the slain return to wreak their terrible vengeance on the living.

And people will dress up like Spiderman or a Naughty Nurse, bob for apples and tell ghost stories over an open fire.

Few know there are tales of horror unique to the world of videogaming. Here are ten blood-curdling tales of gaming horror and the macabre. Read on — only if you dare!

The Mobile Phone Game From Hell!The Curse of the Mobile Game

The kiosk stood alone and forlorn in the food court of the old abandoned mall. As the young boy approached, a crone appeared, her cackling laugh splitting the boy’s ears like a knife through rotted cauliflower. She bore a small silvery object in her hand, and held it aloft to glint in the sickly red moonlight.

“It’s a cell phone, boy,” she lisped through splinter stumps of ancient teeth. “And it plays games.”

The boy pulled out his cash, his fingers sticky with the sweat of terror. It was his mother’s dialysis money, but who cared? This cell phone played games!

The crone snatched the cash from his hand and bit down on it, chewing greedily on the brittle tens and twenties. Slowly, almost regretfully, she released the glinting cell phone into the boy’s shivering fingers.

He ran, as far and as fast as he could, and hid in the cellar of the old wheelhouse. Clutching his new prize in the dark, the boy held down the red key – it was sticky with some nameless ichor – until the screen spasmed to life with a sickly pale glow.

He scrolled through the games – Pac-Man, Galaga, Metal Gear Solid Mobile, Destroy All Humans. Crouched in the damp, fetid darkness, he began to play.

Soon, the horror of realization sent chills down the boy’s spine. These games were slow, awkward and ill-conceived! They bore too little relationship to the original game! The controls were clumsy with lousy responsiveness! The graphics were terrible! And the games tore through the phone’s battery life!

A low steady moan from the back of the boy’s throat rose sharply into a scream of eternal terror that rang out across the moors to awaken eldritch creatures better left slumbering. And over it all, the cackle of the evil crone drive mad those men unfortunate enough to hear it.

The Dreamcast of Unknown KadathThe Dreamcast of Unknown Kadath

“He’s quite mad, you say,” quipped Dr. Bent as he followed Dr. Whithers down the grimy hospital corridor.

“Quite,” the elder physician replied. He held an ancient linen scarf to his nose, as scant protection from the twin odors of antiseptic and human effluent that permeated the halls of St. Lucius’ Rest Home for the Mentally Deranged.

Ahead in the dim light of a single electric lamp stood the last door on the ward; Room 101. The steel-reinforced isolation room was reserved for only the most dangerous patients, and this one was the worst yet.

Dr. Whithers peered over his spectacles at the medical chart in his hand. “Charles Mooncalf, age 22. Murdered 16 persons in a rampage at his local Babbages. No known motive.”

The two medical men stopped outside the oak-and-iron door, which was featureless but for a small sliding window and a latch barred by an enormous padlock. Confidently, he pulled the window open and peered inside.

A whispered cant emerged from the darkened hole, a low guttural voice repeating over and over, “Tap on the glass. Make the Seaman dance. Tap on the glass. Make the Seaman dance…”

“What does it mean?” Dr. Bent inquired. He rose up on his toes to view the patient through the tiny aperture.

“No one knows,” Dr. Whithers replied with a sad shake of his head.

Mooncalf sat in the center of his cell, cross-legged, clutching a plastic box in his skeletal hands, scratching at it with his four-inch-long nails. Perhaps the box was once white, but now it bore the patina of years of filth and neglect.

“He beat an elderly woman to death with something called a ‘Samba de Amigo controller,’” Dr. Whithers said.

Whither’s voice roused the lunatic from his babbling. “They cancelled it,” the patient hissed. “No more support, no more new games! They cancelled my dreams!” His voice rose to a high-pitched wail.

Sadly, the doctors pulled closed the window, and continued on their rounds. There was nothing that could be done for a man whose Cast of Dreams had become a Cast of Nightmares.

Holiday of HorrorsHoliday of Horrors

Stanley was nine years old in 1982, the year his father disappeared forever.

It was the most anticipated Christmas in young Stanley’s life. That Summer, Stanley and his father had gone to see the greatest movie ever made, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The film’s message of love and acceptance built a special bond of friendship and affection between Stanley and his father.

And now, for Christmas, there would be something even better – the Atari 2600 game based upon the movie!

For a month, Stanley had lain awake nights, wishing the holiday could come sooner. But now it was here – Christmas Eve, when young Stanley could choose one present to open in anticipation of the next day. And Stanley knew exactly which one to choose – the small flat package wrapped in cheery Santa paper, the exact size and shape of a 2600 game box.

Neither Stanley nor his father could ever have known the terrible truth – that the Chinese factory where the game cartridge was manufactured lay upon an ancient American Indian burial ground, where laid the desiccated bones of slaughtered Navaho tribesman who became very lost on their way to a powwow and were massacred by Chinese Imperial soldiers. Their angry spirits cried out for revenge.

At his parents’ bidding, Stanley tore open the wrapped gift – it was indeed what his heart wished for, an E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Atari 2600 cartridge! Cradling the treasure in his young hands, he excitedly pulled the cartridge from the box and, yanking out the copy of Breakout currently in the slot, pushed the game into the 2600’s cartridge slot.

The game came to life on the screen of the Sylvania color TV. An electronic version of John William’s beloved E.T. Theme came wafting from the speakers. Stanley was beside himself.

As Stanley began to play, a look of horror slowly crossed his father’s face. Stanley was too excited to notice it, but across the living room, objects began to move of their own accord, being slowly pulled toward the television screen.

“What is going on?” Stanley’s mother asked. Then one of Stanley’s other presents, a baking kit for making plastic bugs out of hot molten goo, flew across the room and into the television screen, as if it were a portal to the deepest levels of hell rather than a piece of convex glass.

The mother screamed as more objects were pulled into the TV screen. Stanley’s father yelled at him to stop, but the boy was trapped – certain he could complete the first level, unaware that this was impossible.

“Stop, Stanley! Shut it off!” the father screamed as gifts, furniture and decorations whirled around the room in an orgy of violence before disappearing into the demonic video game.

“Just a minute, dad – I have to levitate out of the pit!”

“What is going ooooooonnnnnn??? The mother screamed, clutching the chaise lounge for dear life.

“Don’t you understand,” the father cried above the din, “the game SUCKS!”

Suddenly, the family Christmas tree came loose from its base and flew towards the TV. The father leapt to grab it, and Stanley looked up in time to see his father, tree and all, sucked forever into the TV screen.

Stanley shut off the Atari 2600, and never turned it on again. But it was too late. His father was gone forever, drawn by a terrible curse into a world where delightful children’s movies became suckfests of dull incompetence.

Men from the government would come, close down the house, and take the TV away for study. The company that made the game would shut down, but Stanley’s father would never return.

The Death By A Thousand CutsThe Death By A Thousand Cuts

Claymore stood at the edge of the lake, poring over the ancient map. It was night, and he could only read the fading characters by the waning light of a gibbous moon.

It’s here, he thought. The holy grail of gaming. The free MMO. And all I have to do, he thought, is cross this lake.

Claymore stuck his toes into the black, brackish water, and his feet at once were freezing, despite his heavy leather boots. The water was colder than sin, cold like the murkiest depths of the bottomless ocean trenches, where eyeless beasts swam in a darkness too complete for even the eyes of God to penetrate.

I must cross, he said to himself, and with a deep breath, plunged himself into the chill lake.

The cold took his breath away, but he began to swim, remembering always his goal, the long-fabled free MMO. But halfway across the lake, he felt a nip, like a tiny bite, upon his knee.

Stopping for a moment and treading water, Claymore felt for the tiny wound, little more than a bug bite. Looking down into the dark liquid, he realized he could see the culprit – just below the surface, a tiny bug-eyed fish, like a piranha but much smaller, luminescing from within with a pale green light.

It’s almost cute, Claymore thought. But there’s no time. And this fish can hardly harm me.

But then Claymore felt another tiny bite, and another. Suddenly, the little fish were everywhere, hundreds of them, thousands, nibbling at his clothes and skin. He flailed his arms and kicked his legs, but the tiny predators ignored his efforts to dispel them.

Panicking, Claymore tried to swim away, but the damn creatures were everywhere. Now they were on his face, and in his mouth. He screamed, and cold water choked his lungs.

The pain of the tiny bites became torment as whole swaths of skin and muscle were relentlessly stripped away. Within a minute, only Claymore’s bones remained, his body eaten alive from inside and out – with only his bugged eyes, strangely unmolested, left to stare lifeless at the water-logged map that floated upon the stagnant water.

There, in an evil hieroglyphics that predated the first writings of Men, it warned in an eldritch tongue forgotten in these days, “BEWARE OF MICROTRANSACTIONS.”

Dialup of the DeadDialup of the Dead

Inspectors Wong and Chen found the body, sitting upright, in a chair at the Internet Café, just as the owner had reported it.

“He came in three days ago, and never left,” the woman said. “Never left the computer, never even to go to the bathroom. He just sat. And played.”

“Which game was he playing?” Inspector Chen asked, as he searched the man’s papers.

“I don’t know,” the woman replied. “One of those MMOs. The one with the little anime wuxia characters.”

Oh, Wong thought to himself sarcastically, that one.

This was the third addicted MMO gamer to drop dead in an Internet Café in the last month. Wong’s superiors at the Ministry were concerned, and ready to enact sweeping new rules that would effectively cripple one of China’s fastest-growing economic sectors. If Wong could prove the gamer were not to blame, it could give his career quite a boost.

The coroner’s office was located in what had been, before the Cultural Revolution, a mausoleum. Ancient Buddhist deities still looked down from the ceiling as Inspectors Wong and Chen arrived to inspect the body of the dead gamer.

“Obesity, and an unhealthy fascination with these Western Capitalist computer games,” Chen declared the cause of death without any concern for the facts. “A healthy diet and a firm familiarity with the Little Red Book, and this man would still be alive.”

The coroner was a wizened old doctor, not out of place amongst the crumbling idols. He poked and prodded the corpse with a variety of instruments.

“I don’t understand why you waited,” the doctor snapped.

“Waited for what?” Wong asked?

“Waited to bring this one in. If you want the cause of death, I need to see them right away.”

For some reason, a chill passed down Wong’s spine.

“He died today. We brought him right to you.”

The doctor shook his head. “Nonsense… this man has been dead three days!”

But — the Internet café proprietor saw him playing – the online records confirm it – the terrible implications swam in Wong’s head. Staring in to the man’s lifeless eyes, Wong felt his sanity slipping away. These games were turning players – into the LIVING DEAD!
Read Part 2!

The Ten Commandments of Tabletop Role-Playing Games

I spent many, many years playing tabletop and live-action role-playing games. Many, many years. Years I’ll never get back.

But I learned a lot, especially about how to keep a game fun and successful. And now I’ve decided to share my wisdom from on high with the Ten Commandments of Role-Playing Games.

Follow these rules, and you will go to gaming heaven. Sin, and burn in the fires of gaming hell.

I am far from perfect. I have been guilty of most of these sins. But in any game I play today, I am a Saint.

Each Commandment is followed by an explanation, or exegesis, by Rabbi Kunochan Ben Tatewaki.

It’s Gary GyGod!

I. I Am RPG Thy Game, Thou Shalt Have No Other Games Before Me

Exegesis: It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to properly prepare and run a good RPG. Gamemastering, when done well, is labor-intensive. If you’re not going to dedicate yourself to an ongoing game, then don’t play. And once you have committed to a game, and your character is central to the story, you cannot just run off to play Halo, or spend a semester in France, or date girls. Role-playing is a responsibility.

And absolutely, positively don’t give up tabletop to play World of Warcraft. These people are traitors, and will be shot. (Full disclosure: I gave up tabletop to play WoW. Gave up LARPs, too.)

Just write your stats in pencil…

II. Thou Shalt Not Cheat, It Is An Abomination

Exegesis: This goes for any kind of game, anywhere, anytime. Tabletop games, LARPS, wargames, card games, computer and arcade games, sports, Chess, Bingo and thumb wrestling.

I have never understood why anyone would cheat. Scratch that – I have never understood why anyone over the age of 14 would cheat. Unlike work or taxes, games are entirely voluntary activities. So cheating at work or on your taxes, while evil, I can get. But why play a game at all if you’re just going to cheat? If you’re cheating, you’re not playing.

If you’re cheating for money, say at gambling or sports, then I understand. You’re an asshat, but I understand. But if there’s no money riding on a game, then you’re just ruining the game for yourself and others. Which means you suck.

What’s that? You cheat to win? If you cheated, you didn’t win. Somebody else won, and just doesn’t know it. You’re a loser. And if no one else knows, you know. And you care, if you have an emotional age over 14.

What about exploits, such as in computer games? Well, if you’re hacking game software for the sole purpose of sharpening those computer skills, then you are a 7334 h@xx0r — knock yourself out, sport. If you’re cheating to “win,” then see above.

In RPGs, cheating is a betrayal of everyone else at the table. And if you’re willing to do that, then you are a waste of protein. Go feed yourself to the boars.

Stop pissing me off!

III. Thou Shalt Not Take Thy Game Too Seriously

Exegesis: There are many ways to ruin a tabletop game or LARP for everyone. But the worst is to take the game too seriously. Nothing is worse than the guy (and there’s always one) who, upon losing his character/failing a saving throw/making a bad roll, freaks out and storms out of the room. That’s the end of the game for the night, folks.

Read my lips: it’s just a game. Now, I know this flies in the face of Commandments I and IX. I never said religion would make sense. But the reason we treat the game seriously is to keep it fun. Take the game too seriously, and it’s not fun anymore.

You will make a bad roll. Your beloved character will die. The gamemaster will make a bad or unfair call (see Commandment VI). You will lose one of your dice. Another player will do something stupid. Something bad will happen – it always does. It’s all part of the gaming experience. If it’s unavoidable, like a bad roll, then learn to deal with it. If it’s something that can be helped, like a poor decision by the referee, then feel free to defend yourself — right up to the point where you’re detracting from the fun of the game. Then stop. Just give in – be the better person.

If you’re upset about something, you may consider just going home. Don’t — it will ruin the whole evening. Unless you can genuinely convince everyone you’re leaving for some other reason (hey guys, my girlfriend called, and she’s ovulating), then just suck it down for the rest of the evening. If you still have your panties in a twist later, you can stop coming to future sessions.

Everyone contributes to making the game civil, successful and fun. Even you.

Loaves and fishes?

IV. Thou Shalt Not MinMax

Exegesis: Everyone loves a rules tweaker. Except we don’t.

Here’s a news flash, Pacho — role-playing games do not have winners. Having the most powerful character is not the point. Tweaking the rules to get powers and abilities the game designers did not intend may be fun for you, but it’s not fun for anyone else. And it may not technically be cheating — but whenever you have to say “not technically cheating,” you’re cheating.

The point of an RPG is to have fun, and to communally tell a story. MinMaxing your character to maximize every possible advantage under the rules does not contribute to either goal; in fact, it’s detrimental. It’s annoying, and it pisses people off. Don’t do it.

That doesn’t mean you can’t design your character intelligently, or take advantage of your superior grasp of the system. It’s all a matter of degree. The minute you’re detracting from the fun, you’ve crossed the line.

Why do Christians believe in Bird-Men? Someone please explain it.

V. Thou Shalt Not Break The Game

Exegesis: This has always been my great sin — intentionally pushing past the limits of what can be done in the game, for the sole purpose of pissing off the gamemaster.

I loved to invent races, powers and abilities the game could not support; devise solutions to problems the gamemaster had not anticipated; drive the party off the main plotline and onto some irrelevant subplot the gamemaster had not planned out. I did these things as a player because I lived for them as a gamemaster. I loved it when players pulled this shit — it was a challenge.

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates this style of play. I always frustrated the gamemaster, even my friend who did the same thing in my games. Sometime the players found my antics amusing, but often not. Gamebreaking becomes a sin a moment the fun stops for others.

A top-rate gamemaster won’t let anyone break his game. Then again, a top-rate gamemaster won’t let anyone break any of these commandments.

You guys seen my DM’s screen?

VI. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Gamemaster and Storyteller

Exegesis: In a role-playing game, the gamemaster/Dungeon Master/referee/Storyteller must have absolute authority. He or she is GOD.

There are two systems whose rules made this perfectly clear; Paranoia and the World of Darkness games. But it’s true for every game. As soon as the gamemaster loses his or her authority, the game is over. Nothing is worse than a gamemaster who lets the players walk over him or her. I should know — see Commandment V.

If you don’t want to cheerfully accept every single judgment of the gamemaster, good or bad, major, trivial, or whim, then don’t play again. Note that I said cheerfully accept — begrudgingly following along just makes you a fun-sponge.

The Sacred Eight-Sided-Die

VII. Thou Shalt Bring Thine Own Dice

Exegesis: And books and paper and pens and chips and Mountain Dew. A mooch is no one’s friend.

Conversely, Thou Shalt Share Thine Dice. Jesus Christ, people, they’re not made of diamond. Share your dice. Lend your pens. Give your friend a Coke. Be a mensch. A miser is as bad as a mooch.

Also falling under this Commandment: Thou Shalt Care For Thy Friend’s Dice As If They Were Thine Own. Don’t lose dice. Don’t break or chew pencils. Don’t write on the mat with a Sharpie. And for God’s sake, be careful with painted miniatures.

Wanna kiss my rat?

VIII. Thou Shalt Learn The System

Exegesis: This is my other great sin. I have played and even run countless games without ever learning the actual rules. I ran a successful AD&D game for years and never understood the magic system. Still don’t. It’s not complicated, and I’m not stupid. I just didn’t want to learn.

But if you don’t know the rules, then someone has to do the work for you, and that’s not fair. Take care of your own character creation. Do your own bookkeeping. Understand how your abilities work. Otherwise, you’re just a douche.

If you’re going to play, then learn the damn game.

How do you play this thing? How do you win? Are those dice? What are you writing? What do you mean I can “be” and elf?

IX. Remember The Gaming Day And Keep It Open

Exegesis: This is a corollary of the First Commandment. The gaming day is for gaming, and nothing else. Be on time (right, as if gamers will ever be on time), be prepared, and don’t plan anything else.

Also: Thou Shalt Not Allow Gentiles To Defile The Temple. The Temple is the game, and the Gentile is your girlfriend, little brother, or some other non-gamer. If someone you know genuinely wants to learn the game — if it was their idea — then fine. But don’t invite your girlfriend to the game just because you promised to spend the day with her. She’s a distraction. She’s an embarrassment. She’s a Philistine.

It was the dice!

X. Thou Shalt Not Blame The Dice

Exegesis: Luck does not exist. Read it again. I’ll wait.

Probabilities are probabilities. If you roll 3d6, there’s a 0.4629% chance you’ll roll an 18, a 0.4629% chance of a 3; and a 25% of a 10 or 11. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what you rolled last time. You’re not “on a roll.” There’s no good luck or bad. Just roll the damn dice, and accept your fate.

Also, there are no good or bad dice. As long as you bought your dice, and didn’t make them in shop class, then they are properly cut and weighted. Any possible variations between manufactured dice are too small to matter. (Unless you bought one of those old-school d100s with the seam around the middle. That’s a novelty die, dude. No one uses that.)

There is no better way to roll than another. If you have some trick that supposedly makes the dice roll better, then you are cheating. See Commandment II.

The point is, if something goes wrong, don’t blame the dice. You sound like an idiot. If you must blame something, blame the laws of mathematics.

LOTRO Announces One Million Open Beta Accounts: A Play In One Act By Kunochan

Originally posted 3/30/07 on Avataritoria.

Bilbo Baggins: Master Elrond! Master Elrond!

Elrond Halfelven: Not now, my little friend. I am composing an history of the First Age, one that fails to mention Túrin Turimbar. So as to be less depressing. Also, the bit with the dragon is a bit much.

Bilbo: But Master Elrond! Rivendell is overrun by strangers! And they have odd, non-Endorian names, like “HarryPotter1217” and “Arwensaslut!”

Elrond: Yes, I am well aware, my Periannath friend. Naught occurs in Imladris without my knowledge.

Bilbo: But there are thousands of them! Many many thousands! Eleventy-hundred thousand!

Elrond: Ah, your Hobbitish innumeracy amuses me. But there are in fact one million visitors, Mr. Baggins. They have taken advantage of Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online Open Beta offer.

Bilbo: Huh?

Elrond: From April 6th to April 24th, anyone can get one of one million open beta keys, and play. Of course, one must purchase a copy of PC Gamer or sign up on the GameSpot website in order to obtain such a key.

Bilbo: I do not understand you, Master. Have you lapsed into Quenya?

Elrond: No, no, my diminutive gastronome. But my wife left me, and traveled into the West, 510 years ago. And the loneliness and sexual frustration may have driven me mad.

Arwen Evenstar: You’re sexually frustrated? I’m 2,777 years old, and I’m still a virgin! And you won’t even let me screw my boyfriend!

Elrond: My darling daughter, perhaps we can discuss this later…

Arwen: And I pre-ordered! When do I get into the beta?

Elrond: Why, today, I believe, my daughter.

Arwen: Oh! Nice! I bother to pre-order, and I get a one week lead on the rest of the planet! And my box hasn’t even arrived yet!

Bilbo: Please do not fight! It aggravates my incontinence!

Arwen: And speaking of my box, I’m going to my room. I think the “evenstar” needs some “polishing.” [Exits.]

Bilbo: Curses. I have soiled my trousers.

Elrond: Sigh. I should have volunteered to be King of Númenor. I would be dead, but I would be happy. [Exeunt.]