Friday, 24 December 2010

In which Mint Returns to Reasonable Posting Standards

Well, Christmas is on Saturday, and given that I'm suddenly realising that I will be very busy over the next week, I decided that I would end the year (probably; there may be another post given sufficient time and inspiration) on a nice substantial post, with lots of pictures and lots of impassioned ranting. And no, it's not going to be about how much I hate Christmas or anything to do with it.

It's going to be about Pokemon.

Well, it's actually going to be about why Ash Ketchum should not be allowed to train pokemon, but why quibble?

Okay, so as you know, this is our protagonist. After deciding that he was going to be the world's greatest Pokemon Master, he was all set to go off on his great Pokemon journey at the age of 10 years old. Interestingly enough, he is still 10 years old, even after over 650 episodes spanning 13 years. In any case, after sleeping in and turning up too late to get one of the traditional starter pokemon, he gets that pikachu we all know and love, and thus begins Pokemon; the story of one little boy and his outstanding idiocy.

Before I get into the main body of the post however, honourable mentions go to Professor Oak, Delia Ketchum and the general society of the Pokemon world as a whole. Who lets 10 year olds go out basically alone into a world filled with things that can injure, eat and otherwise horribly maim and/or kill them with basically no effort, and worse still, let them carry them around in their pockets? This gets even worse in later installments where we come into contact with pokemon that control time and space.

Also, this is the Pokemon God. Yes, you can catch him.
Despite the fact that Ash becoming a Pokemon Trainer is a fantastically bad idea anyway because of all these reasons, he manages to be so hideously inept at training his pokemon that it's a wonder someone hasn't frogmarched him home and banned him from keeping the things.

The Beginnings
Ash started off his quest in probably the worst fashion possible. Unable to pick the pokemon he actually wanted, he ends up with a stubborn (and to begin with, borderline homicidal) pikachu that is not going in that pokeball thank you and is just as likely to shock him at any given point as it is to look at him (or possibly more likely to shock him actually). Add to that the fact that Ash, for all the tv he's watched (we first see him watching a League fight between two trainers), actually knows nothing about pokemon and we have a recipe for disaster. I mean, are you seriously telling me that he didn't at least go along to Professor Oak a few times to even learn some basics?

Anyway, since he has no clue what he's doing, Professor Oak gives him his handy-dandy Pokedex, which he obeys to the letter. Except when it tells him that pokemon must be carried in pokeballs; Pikachu saw to that pretty fast. Oh, and he also developed a bad habit of frying the bike of any possible-sidekick-material females. Basically, Ash starts off really badly. And doesn't get any better.

Gotta Catch 'em All!
Part of the whole appeal of Pokemon was the challenge of getting every single one of them, and of course, the anime kept this. Hell, the English dub even gave him the surname 'Ketchum' as a pun on the (dub introduced) motto. So of course, Ash claimed that he was going to catch all the pokemon there are. After over 650 episodes, he must have caught quite a lot huh? Let's see, there are currently 649 pokemon with the introduction of generation V. Ash has been through four regions already, so he's had loads of time to catch pokemon.

Oh wait, he's only caught 35.

Okay, there's more than that. Techinally, he's had 37, plus one egg (not counting Togepi's), but he never actually caught those other two, he just sort of let them tag along. Oh, and then there's his Gliscor, except that no one knows what happened to that. It's just... not around anymore. Anyway, to put this is in perspective, by the time Ash finally managed to catch his seventh pokemon, his rival, Gary Oak, had managed to catch forty-five, and train a damn good team too.

Now, we can quibble over numbers here, because Ash actually owns a herd of 30 Taurus that he somehow managed to catch by accident, and no, he didn't technically catch that Charmander or the Chimchar, but the point is that Ash basically goes to a new region, dumps all of his old pokemon bar Pikachu onto Professor Oak (except when he lets them go, or foists them off on other people so they can train them instead of him, but we'll get to that later) and proceeds to catch that region's version of the exact same pokemon. In every region, he catches the traditional starter pokemon, along with the primary flying type (pidgeotto in Kanto, noctowl in Johto, etc.).

Yeah, yeah, like we haven't seen this set-up four times before.
 Ash has at least managed to get the method right by now. In the first episode, he decided that chucking a rock at a pidgey is the best way to catch it. When that didn't work, he proceeded to try it again with a spearow, which was an even worse idea. Gradually, and with a lot of help from Misty and Brock, he did actually figure out what he was doing. However, that didn't stop him from failing to actually catch that Haunter in Lavender Town, and then acting surprised when it vanished for while.

I Wanna be the Very Best
Okay, so maybe Ash isn't great at catching pokemon, so how about battling? He wants to be the greatest Pokemon Master in the world, so he's got to travel around all the gyms, collecting badges and then challenging the Pokemon League in any given region.

To date, Ash actually does have all of the gym badges from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh, plus the ones from the anime-only region The Orange Islands, and one from the new region, Unova. This would be more impressive if it hadn't taken him until his third gym battle to actually win a badge by himself, and even then, it was a rematch. Before this, and again afterwards he was usually just handed a badge after seeing off the hilariously inept (even moreso than Ash himself) Team Rocket trio.

Also, there's this.
And then we have the Leagues. To date, Ash has only managed to win in The Orange Islands League, which only consisted of five battles with gym leaders and doesn't consist of the tournaments seen in the major Leagues. Also, despite the fact that he's so serious about being a Master, he gets berated by Brock for lazing around doing nothing before his first League tournament when he should have been training his pokemon and making them able to withstand an actual challenge from talented trainers. That said, he did finally manage to beat Gary during that tournament, so I guess that's something.

Teach Pokemon to Understand the Power that's Inside
Hoo boy, this is where it gets good. Or really, really terrible.

Ash is a pokemon trainer. This means, as suggested by the name, that he trains his pokemon, learning how to use them to their greatest potential in battle. Or in Ash's case, ignores all concepts of tactics and just goes with whatever pops into his head at the time.

One thing that people learn very quickly when they start playing the games is the concept of type advantages between pokemon. Things like grass being weak to fire, fire weak to water and water to grass, and the many other type set-ups. Ash... not so much.

Okay, here's the deal, flying type pokemon are weak to electrical attacks. In a double battle against the Hoenn gym leaders Tate and Liza, Ash's Pikachu and Swellow (a flying type) are losing horribly against their Lunatone and Solrock (both rock/psychic types, and therefore resistant to both flying and electrical attacks). So what does Ash do?

He electrocutes the shit out of his swellow.

Given that Pikachu uses Thunder, the strongest electrical attack, and is already stupidly overpowered, this should have outright killed the poor bird. However, Ash's stupidity is apparently on a par with that of Fighter from 8 Bit Theater, and as such, his plan works because no one tells him it won't. And so, we get this:

Thunder Armour. I am not shitting you.
This is not the first incidence of Ash refusing to change his strategy when faced with a losing battle. In his very first gym battle, he gets his ass handed to him because no matter what he does, electricity is not going to do a damn thing to Brock's rock type pokemon, and instead of asking Misty, who clearly has more idea of how to battle than he does at that point (and she probably still does, given that she's a gym leader), for help, he simply decides to charge up his pikachu and try the same strategy again, only with a bit more power.

You'd think he would learn over the course of his travels that this stategy is terrible, but he does it again in the Sinnoh arc in his gym battle against steel-type trainer Byron. Fire is strong against steel, so Ash starts off with a halfway smart choice and sends out a fire type. On using flamethrower and discovering that Byron's Bronzor has an attack that negates a huge chunk of his Chimchar's attack, does he switch to his water type? No, he uses flamethrower again.

The stupid thing is, Ash always has other pokemon on his team that have the upper hand, and in the last case, if he's bothered training Chimchar at all, it should have some fighting-type moves in its arsenal, and those are strong against steel types.

Pokemon, you're my Best Friend
Okay, so we've identified that Ash is pretty rubbish at catching pokemon, winning things with pokemon and battling with pokemon. But Ash is always portrayed as being a good and kind trainer, always making tight bonds with them.

Until something new comes along.

Ash may be shown having some great times with his pokemon, and there's no denying that him and pikachu are solid. But what about his other pokemon? What about his squirtle? What about the bayleef that was arguably just as fiercely loyal to Ash as Pikachu?

Squirtle was shooed off back to his old gang because Ash believed they needed him more than he did. Nevermind the fact that the Squirtle Squad had been doing fine without him while Squirtle was off with Ash, or that he won a match for Ash in his first Pokemon League attempt.

Bayleef was shunted off to Professor Oak after a long hard struggle to become one of Ash's strongest pokemon, evolving from a chikorita in order to save him from Team Rocket. Later, she would help save Ash again from a team of Rocket mechas, only to be left behind with Professor Oak again. This being after it's shown that she gets very distressed when she's away from Ash.

Ash is very prone to building up these friendships and then leaving his pokemon in the dust. I mean, sure, there's that problem with Pokemon where this sort of thing happens:

But surely it would make sense to take more than just one strong pokemon into a new region with you, at least to begin with. Plus, he promised that Pidgeot that he was coming back for it after he finished in the Orange Islands. That was 593 episodes ago and he still hasn't kept that promise.

So Yeah...
I think it's safe to say that Ash is a pretty terrible Pokemon Trainer. I'm pretty sure the only reason he makes any progress is because Pikachu spends all of its spare time training the rest of his pokemon offscreen.

The Poster Boy for 'How NOT to train your Pokemon'

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Month for Mint

Okay, so I was short one post last week, and I have an idea for a post that will make up for failtastic one I made last time, but that awesome post is not this one, because I don't have the time to write the epic post right now. So instead, I'm going to write a simplified rundown of my life over the past month in order to show you why I don't have time for epic posting.

Events may be slightly out of order, since this is going to be written in the way that my brain is currently functioning, which is not very chronologically. In any case, this has been my December.

WARNING: This post contains multiple and flagrant cases of CAPSLOCK ABUSE.

STIRLING: *ker-snowed!*

ESSAY DEADLINES: *appear on horizon*
MINT: *procrastinates*
MINT: *plays video games*
MINT: OMGWTF *spazflail*

AWESOME AMERICAN FRIEND: Hey, so I have to go back to America in a couple of weeks.
MINT:  ):
AWESOME CANADIAN FRIEND: Hey, so I have to go back to Canada in a few weeks

EXAM DATE: *appears on horizon*
MINT: *studyflail*

11TH OF DECEMBER: Hey, it's your birthday today!
MINT: *procrastinates, with SUSHI and FLATMATES*
EXAM DATE: *taps MINT on shoulder*
MINT: Well, shit *more studyflail*

EXAM PAPER: So all that studying you did? Yeah, so not gonna help.
MINT: WTF IS THIS I DON'T EVEN-! *examflail*

FLATMATES: We have exams tomorrow! *studyflail*
FLATMATES: *glaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare*
MINT: I'll be good...

COWORKER: We are having a leaving party for AAF where we work tomorrow. You'll work it right?
MINT: Yeah, okay.
COWORKER: And you'll work the day after that even though it'll be a late night? And Sunday? And Saturday too? Great!
MINT: Wait, what?!

AAF: Thanks for doing this, this party's pretty awesome.
MINT: That's okay, we're-

ACF: I'm really drunk. Can I have hugs?
MINT: Of course ACF
ACF: I'm going to miss you when I go back to Canada.
MINT: Okay!

MINT: *whimper*


MINT:  I can fold up flat packed giftboxes in my sleep. Speaking of sleep, I'm going to do that.
BOYFRIEND: I have to go home now.

MINT: ARGH *plotscramble*

SCOTLAND: *ker-snowed!*
GODFATHER: Come have lunch with us in Glasgow!
MINT: Awesome!
TRAINS: Fiiiiiiiiine, but you are standing on that platform in the cold for an hour before we take you anywhere.

GLASGOW: *ker-freeze!*
GODFATHER: Happy late birthday!
MINT: Yay! *ker-lunched*


RED5: Hey, we have some pretty cool stuff!
MINT: Neat!


SSD: *ahem*
TRAINS: NOT SO FAST! *delayed!*

MINT: IN A MINUTE *failure to giftwrap*
SSD: *facepalm*

So yeah, that's why I'm lame and wrote a lame post last time and it was lame again this time and I'm going to go finish writing that secret santa now...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

In which Mint looks at 4Kids while avoiding studying.

Due to the impending exam crisis of December 2010, we did not have a D&D game yesterday, so here's a post about something else instead.

I talked about anime a bit last time, and today I'm going to continue that theme by talking about that company we all shudder to think about when anime is mentioned: 4Kids Entertainment.

4Kids is a New York based production company that was founded in 1970 as Leisure Concepts Inc. and was then changed to 4Kids when it began television production in 1992. Naturally, it is best known for dubbing anime into English, the best known examples being Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Well, I say it's best known for dubbing these programs. What's it's actually known for is doing this sort of thing:

Was this really necessary?

The Edits

Part of what got a lot of anime fans annoyed at 4Kids was the fact that they made a lot of edits that were, at best, unnecessary and at worst, completely nonsensical. This ranged from their apparent hatred of rice balls in Pokemon (they were called everything from doughnuts to popcorn, or edited out to sandwiches), to the erasure of guns in Yu-Gi-Oh, leading to lots of dramatic and really silly pointing scenes (kids like guns!) to what they did to Tokyo Mew Mew and One Piece.

Tokyo Mew Mew is your typical Magical Girl anime involving 13 year-old girls who transform into animal themed soldiers to fight against aliens. It's a show that would translate well into Saturday morning viewing. So 4Kids got hold of it, changed its name to Mew Mew Power, changed all of the characters' names, inserted terrible pop music and made so many pointless edits to both the script and the animation that it's a wonder there was anything left by the end of it.

Mew Mew Power was one of the lesser known dubs that 4Kids produced, whereas their dub of One Piece proved to be the final straw as far as the fans were concerned.

This dub had all of the usual edits done; the theme song changed, violence and anything to do with the word 'death' taken out, guns edited to look more like toys, that sort of thing.

I really don't know what they were thinking here...
I suppose edits like those are fair enough for a Saturday morning cartoon, but when you start editing out things that really didn't make all that much difference, it starts getting silly. Any and all signs of cleavage on any woman was edited out, including any body lines that even hinted at it, leading to some odd looking scenes. When they edited out some of the characters cigarettes and cigars, they didn't always bother to replace them, leading to some awkward looking and pointless hand movements, and they sometimes left the smoke in. A lot of background writing was removed from the show, along with any lettering or tattoos the characters had, because kids are dumb or something.

In fact, you know what? VG Cats said it best.

That's all I've got for now. My brain's dying due to protesting so much about studying.

Friday, 10 December 2010

In which Mint muses on some animated shows; the Silly, the Bad and the Weird.

We have already covered in previous posts the fact that I am a gigantic nerd. But that's not just limited to roleplay games. I'm also a manic JRPG fan and I'm a huge cartoon and anime junkie. And since I'm meant to be revising for an exam just now, I thought I'd write a blog post about some of my newer discoveries.

I wasn't your typical kid in regards to TV growing up. I actually spent most of my time watching nature documentries and the Channel 4 learning programs that used to be on in the morning and cartoons barely factored in. My parents didn't have anything to do with that decision either; I was just a weird kid. Eventually Pokemon filtered in and I watched that, along with Flint the Time Detective, which was an amazing anime that actually didn't make a huge amount of sense now that I think about it...

This all changed after my gran had Sky installed at her house, and I discovered that there were whole channels that had cartoons on all the time. I was around thirteen or so at the time, and I had a lot of catching up to do, so every waking minute spent at my gran's house was divided between food and cartoons, and even then, those mostly happened simultaeneously. Since then, I'm constantly looking for some new animated thing to sink my obsessive hooks into, and I'm still finding things, even now.

Not all of them good things.

The Silly:
Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z!

The Powerpuff Girls was one of my favourite classic cartoons. It was, and still is, awesome. It was also a stealth parody (although not always very stealthy) of Japanese Magical Girl shows. And then this happened:

Yep, they made a Magical Girl anime out of it, complete with transformation sequences for the girls. And you know what? It worked. Despite the fact that suddenly Professor Utonium has a son and a robot dog, the girls are aged around 12/13, are not related and got their powers in a freak accident, and it's set in Tokyo, not Townsville, this thing works. Well, as long as you just forget the first episode ever happened. It was terrible, and added nothing to the show.

But yeah, this took the Powerpuff Girls and turned it into a hyperactive sugar-coated whirl of both accidental  and deliberate cross-parodies. Also, for some reason they seem to have almost switched Bubbles and Blossom's personalities around, and Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are not their real names (those would be Momoko, Miyako and Kaoru respectively). Instead, they are applied only when they're in their Powerpuff forms. The traditional villains are still around though, with Sedusa, the Gangreen Gang and Fuzzy Lumpkins making appearances, along with Mojo Jojo (of course) and Princess. The Rowdyruff Boys are in there too, leading to much rejoicing from the original fandom.

Okay, I'm making it sound pretty bad, and on some level it is. As a Powerpuff fan, I do have to divorce this from the original show in its entirety, but you know what? I still enjoyed watching it.

The Bad:
Loonatics Unleashed

Okay, so you know how I said Powerpuff Girls Z was good even though it changed pretty much everything from its original concept? This is what happens they do that wrong:


This is what happened when Warner Brothers came up with the stupid idea that the Looney Toons needed a gritty reboot and an anime-esque art style. Which they didn't, and even if they did, they didn't need this.

I'll admit it, I watched a full series and a half of this show, for much the same reason that I read the first three Twilight books; in the futile hope that it would get better. And, much like the Twilight books, there is so much wrong with this show. These are Looney Toons (well, apparently they're descendents of them, which gets creepy at one point and makes no sense at others, but we'll get to that in a minute) with superpowers. Which they got because a meteor crashed into their 'City Planet' (yes, it's a planet that is just one big city) Acmetropolis and knocked it off its axis. And this somehow gave some people superpowers, more specifically, those six and a couple of villain characters.

Before I go on, okay, there are some good things about this show. Two good things in fact; specifically, these two:

These characters are Rev Runner and Tech. E. Coyote, and they are pretty much the only redeeming feature of this show, due to good voice actors (these versions can talk), good dialogue and superpowers that actually make sense. The rest of them... not so much. It doesn't help that our two rabbit characters, Ace and Lexi, are apparently both descended from Bugs and Lola bunny, and yet there are a couple of times where the show seems to want to pair them up, which isn't really that bad since they're probably only distant relatives, but then we have the fact that Foghorn Leghorn and Pepe Le Pew both apparently ended up with human descendents, and this just shoots straight into WTFery.

And speaking of WTFery...

The Weird:
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Okay, when you take a look at this artstyle, you may be fooled into thinking that we're looking at another Powerpuff Girls Z type thing, but believe me, the artstyle is where any and all similarities end.

Just to be clear, when I say this is weird, I mean it's really effing weird. But I don't mean it in a bad way; I mean it in a crazy awesome way. I've watched my way through the ten episodes of this that have been released so far and, although there have been moments where I've had to reach for the mental bleach, there are plenty of other ones where I've had a silly grin plastered on my face for entire episodes.

Panty and Stocking is something of an experimental show; experimental in the sense that the people behind it are trying to see just how far they can push it before the censors explode. To start with, the two main characters are angels who fight ghosts. Their weapons to do so? Well Panty, the blonde, can turn her panties into a gun, while Stocking, the gothic one, can turn her stockings into swords. They have a transformation sequence. Wanna see?

Yep, that's a Magical Girl transformation sequence... with stripper poles. There's also the fact that in ten episodes I've seen more fetishes catered to in this show than I have from visits to 4Chan (admittedly, this might be because 4Chan scares me a little bit and I avoid staying on it for more than ten minutes at a time). Add to that the extreme amounts of bad language, the fact that the girls live with a priest who is pretty much every black stereotype ever and also apparently has a thing for young boys, buckets of awesome fight scenes, comedy and a catchy soundtrack and you get this show, which really just has to be seen to be believed.

And even if you don't feel you can stomach the weirder aspects (I have an iron stomach for these things and even I had weirded out moments), I would still reccomend watching episode 6, because it is around twenty minutes of absolute win.

So yeah, that's all I've got for now. Hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

D&D Stupidity: Week Four, in which the party doesn't suck, and Illyria and Bob have some bonding time.

This week, due to horrible weather, we were again down our regular players for Damakos and Bob. As a result, Lucifer was still sleeping in some bushes somewhere or something and Damakos was in the hands of someone else. Bob decided to hang around with the party, now under the hand of flatmate Claire.

After clearing out the kobold lair last week, the party grabbed the tons of weapons left lying around and headed on back to Winterhaven to report the good news to Lord Padraig. However, on returning to the town, they found the gates closed, the guards alert with their weapons drawn and a rather high militia presence. On seeing the party approaching Lord Padraig called out to them, telling them that people have disappeared from the town and undead monsters have started appearing. The party exchanged looks, and then grudgingly agreed to go look into the problem, the Lord promising them payment for doing so.

Heading off to the nearby cemetary, the party wondered if undead horrors would be any worse than kobolds. They decided they probably couldn't be, since Carric and Larrs had both developed nervous twitches whenever the 'k' word was mentioned. The cemetary loomed up in the distance, surrounded by a wrought iron fence. As they neared it, they noticed that some of the earth around the densely packed gravestones had been disturbed, and behind one of the three mauseleums a sickly glow was pulsing. As they neared the gateway, a horde of skeletons emerged, joined by a pair of zombie hounds. Behind them stood a female elf, armed with a sword and a longbow. If any of them had been paying attention at the time, they may have recognised the elf as the same one who had been sitting in the pub a couple of nights prior. As it was, they had totally ignored her, and so she seemed completely unfamiliar.

Carric, wasting no time, moved forward and lobbed a shuriken at one of the skeletons. He missed. Larrs then pulled Bob up to the front lines along with him, and then just sort of stood there trying to look menacing. Damakos, doing something useful, used his Cloud of Daggers spell to take out one of the skeletons. He then took a shortbow bolt to the arm along with Bob, while the elf narrowly missed hitting Larrs with her longbow.

Illyria made her way along the perimeter of the cemetary, concealing herself but ultimately failing to set off her Dire Radiance spell successfully. Bob, on the other hand, smacked a skeleton in the face so hard that it fell apart. Bob was happy with this. Swiftpaw was then made equally happy when Carric sent her to gnaw on a skeleton's spinal column. She got a bit carried away and proceeded to shake the thing apart as she tried to choose between vertebrae.

Larrs, finding that all the closer targets had been disposed of, took a shot at a skeleton with his sling and crushed its skull in with the shot. Damakos then downed and took out three of the skeletons by turning the ground to ice beneath them. The elf, severely annoyed, missed shooting the wizard in her frustration, and the skeletons swarmed the party, along with the two zombie hounds. One of them failed to bite Bob, but the other knocked Carric over, delivering a nasty bite to his leg which was unfortunately necrotic. To make matters worse, he was stabbed with a longsword. Larrs was also shot twice and Damakos took a stab wound of his own.

Illyria, still hiding behind the outer fence, took out one of the zombie hounds with Dire Radiance, while Bob took a hefty chunk out of the other one. Carric managed to get to his feet as his fox savaged another skeleton in her excitement. Larrs ordered Bob to help him flank the remaining hound, but the attack he made afterwards failed. Damakos attempted to use his Thunderwave spell but failed to do so, and then got stabbed in the leg while Larrs was shot in the chest. The zombie dog attempted to chew on Bob's leg, but didn't penetrate his plate mail, however Carric was shot in  the back.

Illyria exploded one of the skeletons that moved to surround Damakos and Bob took a swing at the hound clinging to his leg. Unfortunately, this didn't put an end to it, but it wasn't looking too healthy by the end of it. Carric, apparently fed up of this, pulled out his Five Storms kung-fu awesomeness and smashed two skeletons to pieces, and Larrs decided on a very efficient course of action, healing himself, Damakos and Carric, pulling Damakos out of danger and shifting himself closer to the elf. Damakos, hoping to join in on the awesomeness, tried to pull off Thunderwave again. He failed again.

A skeleton lunged at Damakos and missed, but the hound finally managed to sink its teeth into Bob's leg, pulling him over and giving him a nasty necrotic wound. The elf made to move past Larrs and he tried to get an attack in, but unfortunately failed. And then the elf shot him.

Illyria missed the hound with a shot of Dire Radiance, but Bob, now angered, got up, shook the thing off his leg and used his dragonbreath to burn it to death. Or whatever the zombie equivalent is. He also singed the elf a bit, since she had wandered a little too close. Meanwhile, Carric made his way around the back of the mauseleums and took a look at the magic circle that was the source of the glow. On attempting to analyse it, he determined that it was magic. And glowy. And circular.

Larrs tried to fire a glue pot at the elf to hold her still, but he missed and settled for moving away a little bit and healing himself instead. Damakos tried to use Thunderwave again and finally hit something with it, downing the last of the skeletons and leaving only the elf to deal with. The elf, reacting badly to being burned, shot Bob rather seriously, and Illyria attempted to use Vampiric Embrace on her, but didn't quite manage. Bob healed himself quickly and then made his way over to the elf, landing a hefy Holy Smiting as he reached her. This left her very badly off, adn when Carric and Swiftpaw moved to flank her, she was downed in the resulting attack.

On looting the bodies, the party picked up the usual ton of weapons and a bit of money from the elf. They also found a sheet of vellum with a message for the elf written on it:
'I received your report on the adventurers. Next time you see them, put an end to their meddling. Mix the blood of ten people with the elixir my messenger brings. Then trace the following pattern on the ground of a graveyard and pour the liquid into the lines. That should supply you with a force to thwart them. I'm very close to completion; see that I'm not interrupted. As you already know, if you do come to the second level of the keep, the pass phrase is 'From the ground, some magic was found.' - Kalarel

After reading this and feeling vaguely worried, the party decided that they should really destroy the magic circle. Larrs and Damakos did fine with their end of things, but Illyria got distracted and messed up on her end of things, leading to an ominous creaking sound from somewhere. Damakos managed to fix it, however, and the circle disappeared.

The party returned to Winterhaven and were allowed into the city by a very happy Lord Padraig. He took them to the inn and bought their first round, as well as paying Larrsinan for their trouble. On the way to the inn, they dropped off the huge piles of looted weapons at the blacksmith's, but didn't bother staying around to pick up the money for them, instead agreeing to have it dropped off at the inn later. Larrs and Carric did stay around long enough to pick up some magic armour for Carric and a pact blade for Illyria, while the warlock in question took herself and Bob off to the pub where they found the grateful townspeople ready to buy drinks for them all night.

The night that followed was much fun for everyone except for possibly Damakos and Carric. The former spent the whole night huddled in a corner pretending not to know anyone in the party while Carric meditated. Larrs proceeded to seduce one of the waitresses and had a pleasureable night and morning after. Bob and Illyria seduced a waitress of their own, although they were so drunk that they couldn't actually remember much of what happened. They figured it had been pretty good though, given the general nakedness when they woke up. Swiftpaw also apparently had a good night, slinking in early in the morning looking awfully smug. Lord Padraig was heard remarking the next day that one of his pedigree hounds was looking rather pleased with itself.

However, resigning themselves to going and investigating the keep and hopefully putting a lid on the cult, the party got themselves together and headed out. As they neared it, they noticed how overgrown the general area was, seeing that not many people had come this way in a long time. They entered a clearing surrounded by old ruined pieces of masonry, at which point complete silence fell. Even the wind stopped blowing. Feeling more and more worried about this, the party moved on until they found a set of stairs leading down into darkness. The rubble had been cleared away from the area here, shoved aside to allow access to the entrance.

Slowly, the party descended the stairs towards a light at the base. A cold wind started to blow as they did, carrying the scent of unwashed bodies and the sound of chattering squeaks. As they neared the doorway at the bottom, a goblin came into view. As it sighted the party, it taunted them, and they got ready to attack.

Larrs started off by firing his sling at the goblin, but he missed, the shot glancing off one of the many pillars in the room. Bob charged forward to attack on Larrs' orders, but found himself landing in a spiked pit trap full of rats. The goblins advanced but didn't actually make any attacks, and so Damakos used his ice spell to knock two of them over. One of them lobbed a javelin and got Carric it in the shoulder. Illyria landed a Dire Radiance on a goblin that was sneaking up a side corridor towards them, and Bob got chewed on by the rats at the bottom of the pit that managed to get into the elbow joints in his armour

Larrs made the executive decision to haul Bob out of the pit, but had buried his rope at the bottom of his kit and had to stop and dig it out. While he was doing that, he ordered Carric to to hit the goblins, but he missed due to them being too far away.

Bob languished in his pit, managing to pull himself off the spikes and try to stop the rats chewing on his elbows. Carric then landed a hit on a goblin with Swiftpaw's help. One of the goblin archers got up from the patch of ice further up the corridor and fired on the fox, but thankfully missed and Damakos managed to lower the rope down to Bob to get him out of the pit. Another of the goblins threw a spear past Carric's ear while the one down the side corridor managed to hit Illyria. Distracted by the injury, she failed to retaliate.

Now out of the pit, Bob brushed the rats off his elbows and advanced on the goblin down the side corridor. He marked it, but when trying to hit it with a Holy Strike, he apparently forgot how to use his sword. Behind him, the goblin archers took a chunk out of the fox and Carric with some well-timed shots and Damakos tried to take care of the side-corridor goblin with Cloud of Daggers. Unfortunately, it only took a little damage before sidestepping the cloud and stabbing Bob. Illyria, unhappy that her new best friend was being attacked, proceeded to blast the thing to bits with an Eldritch Blast and Larrs was quickly healed by Bob, while Carric hid himself and did some healing of his own.

Bob, now bored with the proceedings, moved round the corridor hoping to come across a bar or drinks cabinet of some sort. Instead, he found a heavy tapestry curtain that he paused in front of, wondering if there were any goblins behind it. Illyria followed him through, in her opinion, lack of anything better to do.

The two remaining goblins suddenly high-tailed it away from the party, which was considered a bad thing since they were probably heading off to regroup with other things that wanted the party dead. In order to stop them, Carric, Larrs and Damakos came up with a plan that was either brilliant or really, really, really dumb.

Damakos, having illusion magic, proceeded to project what he hoped was the image of (since this was not something the party was familiar with) a sexy female goblin in hopes of luring the fleeing goblins back. This failed miserably, and the goblins disappeared into the darkness of another staircase leading deeper into the keep.

Regrouping, the party shared nervous glances at the staircases and hesitated before moving on.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

In the name of procrastination, and magical drinks.

Okay, here's the deal. I am currently sitting and freezing my ass off in the university library and freaking out over a linguistics project. What I should be doing is actually working on it since it's due on Monday. What I am going to do is write a blog post on a group of products that I've been availing myself of without actually delving into what they are.

The products in question are the line of Neuro drinks. I don't know how many of you will have heard of them; they're only sold in a couple of different places in the UK, including the campus shop at Stirling University. Apparently they're pretty popular with celebrities these days.

And if Gaga likes them, you know they aren't your average drink.

Neuro currently have a range of seven drinks, all made from vitamins and herbal extracts with whatever else they add to get the added effects they claim. After looking at the names and supposed properties of these things, I'm pretty sure this must include fairy dust, because some of these things must be frigging magical.

Warning: magical creatures may have been harmed in the making of these products.


This is Neuro's equivalent of an energy drink. I've actually had this a couple of times, and it really does work. Probably because there's a shit ton of caffeine in it. Sure Neuro, you can claim that 'Unlike other energy drinks, NeuroSonic® uses a unique combination of plant extracts, amino acids, and other dietary ingredients to provide the fuel you need to stay alert and focused for hours.' but that doesn't change the fact that there's a shit ton of caffeine in there. Like, over 140mg per bottle, and you're not meant to give it to kids under twelve because of this. I'm not sure if that's because it's unhealthy for them or hellish on their parents, but I will say that unlike other energy drinks, it actually tastes nice, so I'll give you that one.


This is the first of the 'fairy dust' drinks. Bliss claims that there is 'happiness in every bottle'. That's right folks, Neuro are officially selling bottled happiness. That said, I have actually had a bottle of this one too, and while it didn't make me happy per se, it did leave me feeling wonderfully non-stressed for an afternoon. This one apparently 'uses ingredients like L-Theanine — found most commonly in green tea — to reduce your stress by shifting your brain waves from the beta to the alpha spectrum. This change allows your brain to be focused and alert while remaining calm.' So basically, you could buy this, or you could switch to green tea, which may actually be cheaper. But green tea doesn't taste like ginger ale I guess, and this does, so that swings it for me. Actual happiness notwithstanding.


Okay, now we're just getting silly Neuro. Let's see... 'The key ingredient that makes NeuroTrim™ work so well is derived from a centuries-old Japanese fiber that we really couldn't make up if we tried. It's called konjac, and it expands to 200 times its size after it enters your belly. So you drink a little — and you feel like you've consumed a lot.' It feels like you're making excuses there Neuro, and I don't care what you may say about those 20 clinical trials that say it's perfectly safe; making people not hungry by drinking this stuff ain't gonna help them lose weight in anything like a healthy manner.



'The key to giving you a passion-filled night is nitric oxide. Every bottle of NeuroGasm® contains two L's — L-Arginine and L-Citrulline — that help your body produce more of it.
What does a combination of nitrogen and oxygen — the two most common elements found in the Earth's atmosphere — have to do with your evening plans? Well, nitric oxide regulates your blood flow so the right nutrients get to your muscles and brain, kicking off a physiological process that stimulates a sexual response.
To keep your date coming back for more, we add green tea and L-Theanine to promote energy levels without nervous anxiety or tension — two things that can ruin even the best rendezvous.'

Neuro is selling sex in a bottle you guys!!! Seriously, if you ever see this, it might be worth buying it just to say you did. Unfortunately, this one hasn't been released outside of the US yet, but when it is, I'm totally tracking it down. Imagine looking into the eyes of the shopkeeper as you handed this baby over.

Although I will point out that nitric oxide is also an air pollutant. The air pollutant that causes acid rain in fact. Sexy.


Okay, right, no, seriously, what? Well, okay, I suppose this still makes more sense than the bottled aphrodisiac, and it has a less silly sounding name, but since it apparently contains 'an amino acid that is directly related to tryptophan, the active ingredient in turkey that makes us tired' I am going straight back to the WTF end of the scale. I was not aware that turkey made you tired. Does turkey make you tired? Well, Christmas is coming up; I guess I'll get some experimentation done. This, again, has not been released outside of the US yet, and neither has the next one on the list:


... It's water.
FRIGGING WATER NEURO. Don't you give me that fancy 'critical electrolyte' crap. You imported some spring water from California and putting it in a pretty bottle and telling us it's better than regular water does not change this fact. Treating it like some sort of celebrity or something. I bet you like Katy Perry's California Girls, don't you Neuro? Don't you?


Let's see here... 'NeuroSport™ has all five key electrolytes — potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride — which is three more than most sports drinks on the market. Two electrolytes simply isn't enough to keep your body properly hydrated. What's more, NeuroSport™ has 12 other good-for-you minerals that get depleted when you work out. Replenishing these minerals while you exercise will improve your endurance and increase your overall fitness levels.'
So... all we know is that it has stuff that's good for us, and it isn't carbonated.
It's NeuroAqua in a different coloured bottle. Isn't it?

I don't know you guys. I mean, I like the Sonic stuff, and the Bliss one was okay, but do we really want to trust a company that is apparently trying to sell us everything we need in our lives in pretty coloured bottles? I mean, what's next? NeuroAttract, to make you more attractive to the opposite sex? Heck, if they made NeuroGasm, I reckon they'd try to flog that.

 Here's Neuro's website by the way, just in case you're suddenly desperate to know where you can buy these things.