Dungeons and Dragons: Suddenly Mainstream?


Anyone else feel like Dungeons and Dragons keeps popping up everywhere? At first, I thought it was a coincidence. Whenever you get into something, whether it’s a TV show, book series or a new hobby, you always feel like you notice it more, mainly because you pay attention to it more. (And maybe internet cookies. They definitely have a role to play.) But generally, it’s because you just end up noticing it more. But now I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s a little more than that.


I got into playing Dungeons and Dragons in the later part of 2018. A few close friends of mine had shown great interest in trying to start a campaign, and were eager to recruit me to their ranks, and they knew I would be totally hooked, because they know me far too well. It didn’t take long for them to convince me to start thinking of a character to create, whilst our soon-to-be Dungeon-Master began crafting a world for us to venture, filling it with various characters, locations, as well as giving it a lore and history. And voicing goblins to a point where beer would almost shoot out my nose.

Creating my character wasn’t that hard. I cheated a little bit, and I used a character template that I had created years ago from my World of Warcraft Roleplaying days. Although there were some slight differences to make her fit into the Dungeons and Dragons setting, but overall the character was practically no different. The created character Shaavra Ragescar, a female half-orc fighter, formerly a Kingsguard of the soon-to-be King in the soon-to-be created world. Our Dungeon-Master was nice and asked us to give him our character backstories, and he would see where they could fit into the world he made.

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I recommend trying to get your hands on a copy of the 7th Edition of the player rules if you’re serious. Even just one person having it in your group is enough!

After getting past some of the initially confusing character creation details, involving choosing stats and such, it wasn’t long before we all got stuck in, rolling dice like our fictional character lives really did depend on it (which they did), and occasionally trying out awkward voice acting, and trying to get more comfortable in roleplaying. It isn’t easy unless you’re used to it, and it takes a lot of practice. But we’re not all sat around a table in full-on cosplay of our characters, taking everything super-duper seriously. No. More often than not, I’ve usually got a mild buzz on after two pints due to me being a lightweight, and there’s some snacks going around, baked goods as our host loves to bake something new for us every week, and there’s plenty, and I mean plenty, of laughs.


I’m getting off track. This isn’t about my first time playing and getting to grips with Dungeons and Dragons, that can be another post for another day. This is about noticing how popular it seems to be. I mean, to some degree it’s always been popular. It’s always had a fierce and loyal following. And it isn’t a single aspect or reason as to why it suddenly seems a bit more popular in the mainstream now. My friends and I were talking about the popular Youtube series, “Critical Role” which they had gotten me hooked on, despite being four hours long at a time. They thought that maybe this was a reason as to why it’s grown in popularity. These are voice actors famous in their fields for video games such as Overwatch and the likes, that get together once a week and play Dungeons and Dragons for everyone to watch and enjoy, as they get fully immersed into their characters, and obviously give amazing voices to them, and adventure in a world that’s oh-so-carefully crafted and thought about.

There’s zero doubt that these loveable nerds have helped to grow the fanbase of Dungeons and Dragons. But I don’t know if they’re the sole reason. In my personal opinion, I feel as though the level of escapism that D&D brings is tantalizing. Maybe it’s to do with the rise of social media in the last decade, and how gathering around a table with your friends for hours and playing pretend in a world with uncanny consequences is just too tempting. Maybe it’s because, generally speaking, it’s very cheap to enjoy playing D&D, and as long as someone has access to some of the books needed and can afford some dice for the many rolls required, it’s not hard to assemble a team and get started. Maybe it’s because it offers an experience that no video game can truly offer. Maybe it’s because Matt Mercer is that good. (It probably is, He’s such a gifted Dungeon-Master!)


Like most things, I think it’s a culmination of all of the above and more. There’s no single source for what seems to be a rise in Dungeons and Dragons. Although, I feel as thought Critical Role has certainly helped to open to the idea to people who may no have even heard of it before, but they’re now completely hooked and like dressing up as High Elves for every game session. If you’ve ever been curious, or perhaps know someone who plays, or even if you’re just after something new to watch on Youtube, no harm in checking it out. Dice are cheaper than Diamonds.


 

Kitchen Confidential: Anthony Bourdain


I discovered who Anthony Bourdain was too late. I first found out who he was while scrolling through Twitter and seeing that former President Barack Obama had tweeted about someone who he deemed a friend, had unfortunately died. It was when I noticed that the tweet had over 1 million likes that it peaked my interest.

Woah, this guy was clearly something of a big deal. And before I know it, Twitter is flooded with people talking about how they’re going to miss Anthony Bourdain, how there will never be anyone like him again, and how iconic he was with his various books and TV shows. Now, I’ve heard the name once or twice in the past, but I hadn’t really paid much attention. But this was clearly someone who was something of an idol. But I knew absolutely nothing about him, what he had done whatsoever. But I knew I had to find out.


It started like most things, with a quick google search. Anthony Bourdain was a chef, and a very well known one at that. Maybe not a super-fancy one, but a chef with strong opinions and lots of character and flare. One of the first thing that came up when I searched for him, aside from lots of tributes pouring out from every corner of the internet, was one of his famous TV shows called “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”. From just looking at the title, this wasn’t a dead giveaway. Although, finding out he was a chef did give me the hint that it was most likely a cooking show of some description. Which I guess was half right, in a way. Turns out most of the seasons of this show were on Netflix, and I instantly flicked the TV on, got comfy, and decided to see what the show was all about.

7 hours later, I decided to take a small break. I was instantaneously hooked. The first episode was set in Myanmar, which already seemed quite different for a location for a cooking show. I tuned in expecting it to all be about the food of the country, and okay, that was sort of right, but it had so much more to tell. Food was the glue that held the show together, but it showcased the culture of the country, as well as famous and sometimes infamous parts of its history, and had many interviews with people that were either experts in their field, or just someone who knew the area well, or even just random people who happened to be in the right place at the right time (Although, they usually had food to offer!) It was a mixed bag, but it had so many interesting facts and views that helped to give you a new perspective, it was hard to not keep watching. I didn’t really know anything about Myanmar, but I knew slightly more than I did beforehand after having watched it. Then there was Korea Town in California, then Quebec, London, Libya, Ethiopia, Manila. He really had started to cover the globe with this show, and in some cases going to very dangerous or isolated parts of the world, and always diving right into the cuisine and exploring the culture and how it more often than not, links together.

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Don’t expect 5-Star restaurants.

He had this gift of the gab unlike a lot of hosts for these kinds of shows, and what with visiting so many places that peaked your curiosity, and often going into such depth, it was hard to resist. He made practically everything he ate seem irresistible. (Most things anyway, some seemed interesting… but only for the brave to try, which he certainly was. I don’t fancy trying “Blood Soup”.) And before I knew it, I was starting to get close to finishing the episodes that were available on Netflix, but I had to have more. And if not for more episodes of Parts Unknown, then it had to be something else. Without thinking I ordered his first book, Kitchen Confidential and eagerly awaited Amazon to ring my doorbell.


As soon as it arrived, I was stuck in. From what I’d gathered from my Dad who had already read it, it was about his early career as a chef from his humble beginnings, through all his various misadventures, pretty much to the point where he was given the chance to work on television.

From working in small-time restaurants in his home town, to moving to New York and jumping from place to place, all the time, his life never seemed to slow down, other than the occasional slump. He wrote in such a colourful language, it was hard to put down. (Admittedly, it did take me a while to finish it since I’m a bit of a slow reader, but I didn’t want to finish it too quickly either! It was great.) From his brief memories as a child in France, especially his first time having oysters, which for him was described wonderfully as this defining moment in his life, and changed him forever – to starting his first job, talking about all the various characters he worked with, whom a lot seemed fairly dodgy bunch, but full of character and must had been undoubtedly unforgettable for him.

From these early chapters to his journey into Culinary School, and about his many different teachers for the different aspects of cooking. Some of whom sounded ruthless, as he described the dread of particular classes. He talks a lot in these chapters about his comrades, and how it was a very sink-or-swim atmosphere. It made the call of becoming a cook seem like a brutal path to following, which it is, even now. (Although he assured us that this is not the typical standard these days. Sometimes.)

Then we get to his misadventures in New York. This part of the book did feature some dark moments and showcased the problems he faced at this time in his chef as a career. From some very serious drug addictions to bouncing from restaurant to restaurant, and not really seeming to fit in anywhere for too long. What brief moments of success he had during this period didn’t seem to last, and he seemed almost cursed for a while, but of course, that would all change in time.

He talks about some of the characters he had worked for over the years, with one getting his own chapter, although he never gave away his real name, although he does reveal the location of where the restaurant was, which he says that anyone who’s been a chef in New York, or knew of the area or worked nearby, would know who he was. But he simply refereed to him as ‘Bigfoot’. He talks about him at great length, and about how merciless yet generous he could be. He took him in and lent him money to find a new place when he was down on his luck and was known for doing the same for many young chefs and helping to train them up and be more immersed with all the other factors that came with running a restaurant in general. From what Bourdain tells us of Bigfoot in this chapter – this guy knew how to run a restaurant well, like a well-oiled machine. How meticulous he would be with food orders, making sure he always got the best deal, and how he would treat those who didn’t give him anything but the best for his hard-earned money.

Later, Bourdain is now doing very well for himself. Married, working in decent restaurants and earning more than enough money, and had kicked his nasty heroin addiction. After taking us through an entire chapter of his daily routine as head chef, talking us through the many tasks he would have to do, as well as keeping his staff in check, taking deliveries and actually cooking, it seemed exhausting. Overall, he said that he would work 6-7 days a week, often working 14-hour shifts at a time. At this point, it’s very clear that to work in this field, you had to have the passion. You had to love almost every aspect of the work you had to do, which is was extraordinarily clear that Bourdain did, and he excelled at it.

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Those Knives though.

He also tells us about certain individuals that he worked with in the later parts in his career. Although he doesn’t give away most of their real names, he tells us how some of them never truly kicked their bad habits, as well as how some excelled further and shot up to fancy-hot-shots. He really worked with all kinds of people, from all over the world. Now, I really shouldn’t give too much away, since I do believe that it’s much more enjoyable to find out more yourself if you’re truly interested. Although, I will say that one of the last chapters in which he goes to Japan very briefly was amazingly written, and really captivated me, as it clearly did with him. I’m pretty sure I was at least craving sushi afterwards.


After finishing Kitchen Confidential, I felt a sadness overcome me. It had been one of my favourite reads in such a long time, and it was over, and knowing that he had unfortunately taken his own life added to that sadness. How could someone with such an amazing life, who had so much to offer, and brought so many people so much joy and intrigue possible even consider of taking their life? Sadly, that is the grim reality of mental illness. It affects anyone, and no one is exempt.

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Sadly, Bourdain died in 2018.

 

Regardless, he has obviously had a huge impact on so many people. Whether they were aspiring chefs, documentary aficionados, food lovers, or just enjoyed his flavourful writing, he had a lasting impact on everyone who had read or watched or maybe even tasted his work. I don’t have many heroes, but it’s unquestionable that Anthony Bourdain became one of mine quickly and swiftly, even after having passed on. If you haven’t heard of him, or seen or read his work, I highly recommend it. I can’t promise it’ll be your cup of tea, but you never know. It’s worth a shot.

 

Marvel Netflix: Cancellations

How is it that the Goliath known as Disney, who shows absolutely no sign of stopping or slowing down in terms of films and TV shows, make the strange and upsetting decision to cancel some of their most popular shows? Okay, to start off by cancelling Iron Fist was a somewhat foreseeable move by Disney, but to then cancel Luke Cage? I know some people weren’t huge fans of the show, although personally I did enjoy the style of the show, as I particularly liked a lot of the villains in the shows. Then Jessica Jones got axed. Why would they do such a thing? Maybe the second season wasn’t up to everyone’s standard, but to cancel it just felt wrong. Then they came for Daredevil. How could they do this? Did the Disney executives not even bother to watch Season 3?

Something seemed wrong, and Marvel fans around the world were angry, rightly so, and demanding answers. Fans around the world hold their breath as we await the fate of the Punisher, who unironically will make his final stand before being undoubtably being slashed down and meeting the same fate as his Marvel Netflix companions. But why is this happening?

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Only Jessica Jones and The Punisher remain.. (For now!)

At first, it all seemed like a bit of a strange and eerie mystery, with no one at Disney really giving any explanation, and Twitter being filled with the anger of thousands of fans, and the sad farewells of actors, writers and others from the cast and crew who helped work and create these shows. If the CBS Warner Bros DC comics shows are surviving, how is it that these Marvel shows with a lot of money behind them are getting cancelled and the indisputably slightly more corny shows that DC are churning out live onwards and upwards? I’m not saying I dislike the CW DC shows, but there’s no doubt the qualities between the shows differ. But this isn’t a Marvel vs DC argument, because I like both for very different reasons, it was just weird that these good shows were dropping like flies.

Like I said earlier, it was arguable to foresee the fall of Iron Fist. I didn’t mind it myself, and season 2 did show a lot of improvement, but most people shrugged it off as tough luck. Not many were worried. It was not long after when Luke Cage got the axe that people began to worry slightly more. Some people were fans, some were not. Perhaps they were going to end their own shows and merge them in a “Heroes for Hire” show? That could work. It could be interesting to portray as its own standalone series.

People wanted answers, and took to Twitter and other social media platforms, and wanting to know why some of these shows were cancelled. Word gets out about how Disney’s soon-to-be-made streaming service, Disney Plus, was going to come into existence, and they had negotiated with Netflix and bought back the rights to the characters. Jessica Jones and the Punisher hang in the balance, although no-one appears to be holding their breath over whether they are going to be cancelled or not; at this point it seems all too likely they’ll meet the same fate as the rest of the Defenders.

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Don’t let the mouse take you down, Frank.

But why are they cancelling these shows? It’s not very clear at this point. It is known that the new Disney streaming service coming summertime this year will showcase some new live-action Marvel shows, featuring characters such as Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Whilst this is interesting and somewhat exciting news, the fact that some of the well-established shows created by Netflix are sorely missed already, and personally, I’m either scared about them attempting to reboot the shows, or just deciding to leave them alone entirely. I feel this would be a very foolish decision, since the shows are involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Okay, maybe they’re not rubbing shoulders with the Avengers, but there’s lots of nice little hints and Easter Eggs that prove they’re all in the same universal setting e.g. the Battle of New York.

For my part, I just hope that they decide to bring the shows back with the original crews and cast that have worked on the previous incarnation on Netflix. It certainly doesn’t seem like an impossible feat, and it would greatly appease fans worldwide. I think a lot of people have come to like Charlie Cox’s version of Daredevil and trying to run another reboot with someone else will bring up constant criticism, and it very well may not take off as well as the original Netflix series. This deal may not spell doom for the shows yet, as when Daredevil was cancelled and the inevitable outcry came, Marvel was quick to announce that there would be a future for Daredevil, although there wasn’t anymore details than that really. Is he coming back in a movie? A new series? Will it be Charlie Cox? Will it be a continuation from Netflix’s version? We simply don’t know anymore.

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Daredevil was cancelled practically as soon as the acclaimed third season came out!

We know there is going to be a future for Daredevil. And it’s as vague as hell. The other shows, we can assume are probably not going to see the light of a TV screen again. Yet we have no idea. The internet continues to speculate wildly, and no more answers seem to be coming, for now at least.

I think Marvel will eventually come out with some of their plans for some of these shows or characters in the future, but that will undoubtedly be closer to summer this year once the Disney streaming service is much nearer to completion. For now, it is anyone’s guess as to what’s going to happen next in the coming days of Marvel TV shows.

For now, all we really know is, Iron Fist and Luke Cage have bitten the dust. Daredevil seems to as well, although with a glimmer of hope perhaps. Jessica Jones and Punisher seem to be next for the chopping block. However, it does, for now at least, seem to be limited to Marvel’s Netflix ventures. Various other Marvel-related shows appear to be safe for the time being, such as Cloak and Dagger and The Runaways. Maybe it’ll stay that way, but like I said, no one knows what the future holds for the ever-hungry Goliath that is Disney. Disney money can do whatever it wants.  


 

2019 – New Year, New Challenges.

It’s been a while since my last post, and I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been super busy writing, but that’s not entirely true.


The last stretch of 2018 was busy, working, seeing relatives, eating like a pig, etc. It’s frustrating that I’ve not been keeping to my workout routines, or my running, but December is a month that tests all of us in lots of different ways. For me, it resulted in working more and comfort eating and seeing as many people as I could over the busy holiday period.

But I knew that once it was new year, I would do the typical “New Year, New Me” crap that everyone loves to do. I also knew, that I was a secret weapon to kick-start the process for myself. And it was cruel.

I’d signed up for the Garstang 10k Run, which I had not trained for whatsoever since November, and even then, my training was beginning to slip up, as was my diet. (My birthday is in November, I’m not made of stone.)

I’d been dreading it. I considered dropping out, and telling myself that I should do little runs, train up for the next one, whenever that comes around. (I am also going to sign up for the Manchester 10k Run too, so I have another running goal for the summertime!) But, I felt a bit like if I gave up, I’d ending up beating myself up about it relentlessly, and maybe even sink further into a rut over it. I would end up moping around about it, and fall into a little spiral, and it would take a huge blow to my self-confidence. So screw it, I went for it. I signed up to it, I should make sure I run it, right?

So I ran it yesterday. (On a cold, wet, windy and pretty horrid Sunday morning.) I wasn’t feeling at all confident at first. I was worried about my breathing, my legs, and how hilly the run would be, and I was right to be worried about all three. But, I just went for it. I didn’t go crazy and push myself too far. (I did almost have to have a tactical throw-up about 400 metres from the finish, which was a new and horrible sensation.)

But I finished. It was one of the worst 10k runs for me ever, only due to the amount of times I felt queasy whilst running, and the weather was pretty poor. But I felt amazing about myself afterwards. (aside from some chaffing – No, no I won’t go into it.) And whilst I’m hobbling around a bit today as a result, I feel pretty good about myself.


Okay, so far this whole first post back is just seems like me patting myself on the back, and okay, I am a little bit. But I don’t do it often, and I did come out the other end feeling incredibly motivated and encouraged for the rest of this year. I just need to keep that ball rolling, and don’t let it slow down too much.


But, writing and running, whilst both require a lot of self motivation, are completely different. I’m still a little worried about getting into the full swing of writing as much as I can, as often as I can. I need to find the same kind of motivation that I had in regards to running and apply it to my writing. I still want to keep this blog active, even if it’s only me reading it. (That and some of my friends who’re nice enough to let me bug them to read it!) But it’s going to be a new challenge.

If anyone has any advice for what personally helps to motivate them to sit down and start typing, especially if you’re trying to juggle things around as so many writers are so often doing, feel free to speak up!

Here’s to 2018, and hopefully a successful 2019.