Although it released late in August, this episode was recorded on July 28, 2019, prior to the shootings that took place in El Paso and Dayton a few days later, which have prompted more conversation on the topic of violence in video games. We want to make it clear that we do not necessarily believe that video games are a root cause of the violence we currently see in our society. However, we do feel it is important to stress that the violence portrayed in some games should absolutely not be viewed as an effective or acceptable method of enacting change. We stand with the victims of these tragedies and affirm the ongoing value of all human life, celebrating our diversity and shared human experience.
Coming back with another Super-Sized episode, Geek at Arms returns! Bryan, Mike, and James start off with an impromptu To The Future discussing the recent trailer for Picard and a teaser for the upcoming Lord of The Rings show from Amazon. James starts Geek Out with his thoughts on the final season of the Revolutionary War spy drama Turn: Washington’s Spies and how it led him to dig deeper in the subject by reading Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose. Next Bryan answers a listener question about the Oculus Rift and shares how much he loved Spider-Man: Far From Home. He also describes how things went with his first Primetime Adventures session, Shadows in the Toybox! Mike tells us about his recent vacation and the abundant amount of reading he did on it: from Civil War battleship history to biographies of JRR Tolkien to medieval fencing treatises by Ken Mondschein! Finally, the guys have a long discussion on ethical situations and moral dilemmas found in video games like Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic, and more.
Bryan’s Middle Earth lore failed him. Beleriand was destroyed at the beginning of the Second Age, a result of the War of Wrath. The fall of Númenor was accompanied by the bending of the seas and removal of Aman and Tol Eressëa from Arda.
The boys of Geek at Arms return for another brand new episode! In Geek Out Mike describes much fun he and Bryan had as guests on the fantastic podcast Saving the Game, and how much he’s enjoyed the recent Amazon series (or was it Netflix) Good Omens. Next, James cannot say enough good things about Godzilla: King of the Monsters. He also talks about taking his family to a local fan convention ArlingCon and how much he’s enjoyed watching My Hero Academia. Bryan relates how much he’s enjoyed the return of JL8, a webcomic by Yale Stewart, fighting Darth Vader and evil cubes with a lightsaber on the Oculus Rift, and the start of a new RPG session of the game Primetime Adventures! Finally, the Fantasy Film Club comes to a close with a review of the 1985 medieval fantasy Ladyhawke, starring Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Matthew Broderick.
Welcome back to another new episode of Geek at Arms! James kicks off Geek Out with details on his families latest trip to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. He then shares his recent interest and research into what languages Jesus might have spoken during the time of His ministry. Next, Bryan kindly shares a spoiler-free review of Endgame and discusses his re-watch of the fantastic anime series Cowboy Bebop. Mike talks about how much he enjoyed the cartoon Steven Universe and his experience with the game Batman: The Animated Series – Gotham Under Siege. Then, it’s back to the Film Club as the guys review the 1958 Ray Harryhausen film that helped launch a whole new era of special effects, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (beginning at 00:51:00).
A brief linguistic note: Over the course of Ptolemaic rule, the Egyptian language had evolved into Demotic, which was itself not widely used by the time of Christ, having been replaced by Latin and Greek. Demotic, as you know, was one of the three languages on the Rosetta Stone, the other two being Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphs. Demotic itself continued to evolve, becoming Coptic, which was in turn supplanted in common use by Arabic dialects, but has held on as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church, much as Latin has done among Roman Catholics. So there is a chance that Jesus might have picked up a smattering of Demotic, but it’s equally likely that the only languages he heard in Egypt were Greek and Latin.
James and I were recently delighted to play a short session for the City on a Hill actual play podcast. They run a 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons game, and we were adventuring in a corner well away from the main storyline. The DM, Ryan, instructed us that the only available races were Gnomes, Halflings and Warforged (sort of a cross between a golem and cyborg—a constructed being with a full personality). I’ve played my share of halflings in the past (alas, poor brain-damaged Willem Baggins), and a Warforged didn’t sound interesting to me, so I decided to try a gnome. Since gnomes are among the smallest and weakest of typical D&D races, I naturally decided he should be a Fighter—the mightiest gnome of Clan Spitlk! (That’s pronounced “Spittle Lick,” and yes, it is a Superman reference.) I present Feddernik Singsangsung Thrubmorton:
As the eldest son of the Thrubmorton family of Clan Spitlk, Feddernik stands to eventually inherit his grandfather’s responsibilities as governor of the Thrubmorton Fens. In addition to his own quite large family, Fed is on good terms with the other gnomes in and around the Fens, as well as a few tribes of other races. He strongly believes that a governor’s purpose is to protect and improve the people, not to enrich himself. He tends to be contemptuous and disrespectful of rulers who do not measure up to this ideal, which gets him in hot water when dealing with typical nobles.
Fed left the Fens in order to gain a broader experience of the world and make contacts among the people with whom he would one day need to negotiate. That plan has gone somewhat off the rails since he really doesn’t get along with the leadership of most other races. He’s gone haring off into a life of adventure instead of performing his duties (which, given his idealistic views of governance, is a bit hypocritical, but it doesn’t seem like he’s twigged to that yet).
Standing over 4 feet tall, Feddernik is massive for a gnome. If not for his slender build, he might be mistaken for a dwarf. If there were any dwarves in… Injornu? (Ryan never typed that name, and although he said it quite a few times, I am not quite sure I have it correct.)
Fed is a fashion plate. He delights in fine clothing and is typically the best dressed person in a given room, especially by gnomish standards. He keeps his beard closely trimmed to an elegant point on his chin. He’d like to grow it longer, but it’s not such a good idea to give an enemy something to grab.
Although as a rule, gnomes tend to immerse themselves in thoughtful pursuits, Feddernik’s brash personality and unusual stature have led him down a different path. He is a skilled with sword and shield, and he prefers to be heavily armored if there is any risk of battle. Even if he doesn’t style himself an intellectual, though, he is still wickedly clever and is likely to find an unconventional solution to most problems. But when it comes time to hit something with his sword, he never shirks.
He has a big personality, and when he’s fired up, he is prone to give self-aggrandizing speeches. Ideally, his enemies would throw down their weapons rather than facing a gnome of such power, but more often than not, the speech merely serves to give his comrades time to get into position and to draw the first volley of attacks to himself rather than to anyone less capable of taking a hard blow.
Feddernik Singsangsung Thrubmorton
Level 2 Rock Gnome Fighter
Max HP: 20 Hit Dice: 2d10 Armor Class: 18 (chainmail), 11 (unarmored) Proficiency Bonus: +2
Saving Throws: Strength +4 (Proficiency)
Constitution +4 (Proficiency)
Wisdom and Charisma: +0 Gnome Cunning: Gets Advantage on Int, Wis, and Cha throws against magic
Skill Proficiencies: History (Int) +4, Insight (Wis) +2, Intimidation (Cha) +2, Persuasion (Cha) +2 Artificer’s Lore: Adds his Proficiency Bonus twice on History rolls related to magic items, alchemical objects, or technological devices.
Armor: Chainmail, Armor Class 16. Shield, +2 to AC.
Other Equipment of Note: Bag of Holding, fine clothing, signet ring, scroll of pedigree
Other Abilities: Tinker (gnome): Proficiency with Tinker’s Tools. Can spend 1 hour and 10 gp worth of materials to make small clockwork devices, such as toys and music boxes, that will function for 24 hours.
Protection Fighting Style (fighter): If he is using a shield, when a creature attacks a target other than Feddernik within 5 feet of him, he can use his Reaction to impose Disadvantage on the attack roll.
Second Wind (fighter): Can use a Bonus Action to regain 1d10 + 2 Hit Points. Feddernik must take a short rest before he can use this ability again,.
Action Surge (fighter): Feddernik can take an additional standard action on his turn. He must take a short rest before he can use this ability again.
Thanks to Redrobes of the Cartographers Guild for providing the Thrubmorton Fens, from which Feddernik hails. The Thrubmorton Fens and all related materials are licensed CC BY-NC-SA.
I don’t remember where the portrait came from. Likely it was in one of the Dundjinni community collections. If whoever created it sees it and objects to my use here, please do let me know. I’d be happy to provide attribution.
Geek at Arms is back again! Mike kicks things off with his report on PAX East, and then describes the new love of his life, Betrayal: Legacy. James explains how his new game Kingdom Come: Deliverance feels like stepping into 15th century Bohemia and how much he and his wife enjoyed Captain Marvel. Next, Bryan deep dives us into his latest math interest with the Mandelbrot Set and math comedian Matt Parker. He and James also share how their latest rpg session with City on A Hill Gaming podcast went with fellow players Kyle from the Min/Max podcast and Mike from Innroads Ministries. The guys then have a discussion about all the upcoming film and TV adaptations that will hit the screens in the days to come: from the Lord of The Rings to Discworld to The Wheel of Time and many more!
Errata: Bryan said Good Omens was either already out or coming within the next week (of the recording). He was wrong. It becomes available beginning May 31. Bryan also attributed the Wheel of Time television movie to a company called Red Sky, but it was actually Red Eagle. And the Lord of the Rings TV Series may, in fact, not follow Aragorn, but be set instead in the Second Age. Bryan obviously needs a fact-checker. But to be fair, that LotR stuff is still largely conjecture!
Bryan, Mike and James return for yet another super-sized episode! Mike shares his enjoyment at reading The Fellowship of the Ring to his children for the first time and how he barely contained his Geekiness at meeting author and fencing master Ken Mondschein. Next, Bryan talks about how much he’s been enjoying the new Voltron: Legendary Defender and My Hero Academia. Both he and James express how much they’re looking forward to actually gaming in an upcoming RPG session with the City on a Hill Gaming Podcast. James keeps the gaming talk going by detailing a hopeful upcoming Monster of The Week campaign, and how happy he was at finally finishing The Last Duel and playing Biblios. Finally, we see the return of the Geek at Arms Film Club! Shifting from sci-fi to fantasy, the guys delve into the George Lucas written, Ron Howard directed 1988 epic Willow.
Special caution: During the show I recommended the series Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Although the first book, Midnight Riot, was fairly tame, book 2, Body Work, has some rather explicit naughty parts.
Discussed in this episode:
content warning: there’s some explicit naughty stuff in book 2
Welcome to another new episode of Geek at Arms! First off, Mike explains how a pastor’s retreat turned into a board game extravaganza! Then, Bryan shares his thoughts on the Gormenghast book series and his continued enjoyment of Civilization 6. James describes his latest woodworking project and his renewed interest in the card game Magic: The Gathering. Finally, the guys delve into the third movie of their “Film Club” series, the Ridley Scott classic Blade Runner.
The guys are back with a new episode! In Geek Out, James describes his family trip to Silver Dollar City and how much he and his wife have enjoyed the shows The Librarians and The Dragon Prince. Bryan expresses his continued delight in having a new computer and how much he’s enjoyed playing Civilization 6. He also shares his thoughts on his first viewing of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Next Mike tells us all about the various board games he and his family have recently played: from Machi Koro to Forbidden Sky and more. Finally, Bryan leads a discussion on the subject of time travel. From how it’s used as a plot device in movies and TV shows to story elements in RPG’s, they delve into the time vortex for answers!
Bryan refers to M.J. Young’s Temporal Anomalies articles for The Examiner. Those articles can be found here.
Erratum: Turtles in Time was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game. The title of the sourcebook Bryan refers to for the TMNT RPG is Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Bryan, Mike and James are back with a new episode! In Geek Out, James praises the new Lost in Space series on Netflix and then takes us through the contents of his EDC Kit. Bryan describes his enjoyment playing a session of the RPG Tales from the Loop. Mike talks about his latest Star Wars RPG session and how a trip to an air museum turned into a personal tour of a B-17 Flying Fortress! The guys then discuss the world of audio fiction. From audiobooks to podcasts, they share their first experiences with it and how they enjoy it now.
Does it hold up?
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Back in 1992 when the SNES was still pretty new, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past hit the shelves, and the cartridges quickly hit our consoles. Still basking in the new found radiance of 16-bit graphics, SNES gamers like myself reveled in the layered graphics and dazzling sound. Though at Geek at Arms we have to ask, “Does it hold up?” Nostalgia clouds judgment, and far too often we find that the wonders of our childhood are baffling under more mature scrutiny. And today I’m taking a fresh look at a game I used to love to find out how it holds up with a fresh look.
The basic premise of the game – in case you have been in a coma since 1986 and are unfamiliar with the premise of almost every Zelda title – is a young boy, Link, is awoken in the middle of the night. A voice guides him to the castle where he helps Princess Zelda escape. No one is quite sure why you do this, since being a Zelda title, you’re pretty sure she’s going to get captured again. And the person responsible for all this evil you’re fighting is – spoiler alert – actually Ganon. You spend the majority of the game traveling back and forth between the Light World and Dark World versions of the overworld map gathering items, solving puzzles, and completing dungeons.
But how was the play through? In short, I felt a little frustrated at the beginning. You start your journey heading up a clear path. Once you rescue Zelda and take her to the sanctuary, you get your next destination marked on a map. Once you finish that dungeon, you talk to an old man who gives you the only thing that can get you a book you need. Once you get the book, you can gain access the second dungeon. In the second dungeon you get the one piece of gear that allows you to access Death Mountain.
What’s my problem so far? It’s the “follow the breadcrumbs” method of adventure design.
The great thing about the original NES Legend of Zelda was a pretty open game. Want to skip Level 1 and jump right on to Level 2? Go ahead. Want to go from Level 2 and march your way up to Death Mountain just to have a look around? No one is stopping you! Do you want to skip getting the wooden sword on the start screen and instead wander around swordless, until you get some hearts and grab the White Sword? You can do that. With only a few exceptions, the exploration is open enough that the map has soft barriers. It’s only the difficulty of the monsters that prevent a newbie player from marching right from the start screen to exploring more challenging areas.
By contrast, A Link to the Past forces you to complete the first three pendants before going to areas of higher difficulty. The first thing I wanted to do when I got to the Dark World was take a look around and re-explore areas I was familiar with in the Light World. No dice. You have to get the Hammer from Level 1 in the Dark World to even access any other area of the map.
That being said, on my second play through, I went right from the Level 1 – The Dark Palace to Level 4 – Blind’s Hideout. In Level 4, you pick up the Titan Mitt, which allows you access to almost the entire map. None of the rooms in Level 4 required either the Hammer or Hookshot to finish the dungeon. So, the game allows some limited non-linear play.
That frustration circumvented, the game was actually a lot of fun. Having the Light and Dark Worlds essentially doubled the map size. The levels were well designed, and legitimately a joy to explore. They were challenging without being ridiculously frustrating. The ability to have catwalks overlaying rooms on the same level adds a new dimension of play. But two things really stood out in my playthroughs: the monster design and Link’s arsenal of gear.
The brilliant thing about the monsters in this game is that there are so many diverse kinds of creatures. It’s got variety not only in stylistic design, but also in regards to individual creature effects and vulnerabilities. Striking a Hardhat Beetle knocks both you and the enemy back several squares; Terropins are only susceptible to sword strikes after flipping them with the hammer; Helmsaurs are most easily killed with a skull or jar. The point being, the dungeons are packed with their particular denizens, and all require a slightly different approach. It keeps every level fresh with different kinds of challenges.
The second piece of design excellence is the inventory. In some adventure games (and even later titles in the Zelda series), designers will place a treasure that is fundamental to that level, or level’s boss, and then it has limited usefulness in the rest of the game. And while there will always be items you lean on more heavily than others (I’m looking at you, hookshot), the treasures are pretty well placed through the game, and useful across dungeons and on overworld maps.
So, does it hold up? I’d say it’s a pretty solid yes. While modern graphics and sound have left 1992 in the dust, A Link to the Past shows its age without looking or sounding clunky. They feel like something representative of an age without feeling like you’re missing out on contemporary developments. Both in the 90’s and now, I still think that the sound effect when Link transitions between Light and Dark Worlds is cool and a little freaky.
Apart from the previously mentioned merits, the game has clever level design, good play control, and satisfying boss battles. All of these make the game a classic and not a relic.