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Dragon Ball Z: An Anime Review

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Tales of heroes who find their destiny are always beloved. There is just something that lifts that hearts and spirits about that narrative. To see a person struggle with their true identity and what that means for their future is just a troupe that audiences never get tired of. 

From 1984 till 1995 Shonen Jump had new volumes of Dragon Ball Z being released in manga form. Audiences enjoyed the story and the humor in it. Perhaps that is why it became an anime so quickly. In 1996 Dragon Ball Z got it’s chance to air for a larger audience. The anime ran till 2003. That’s right. For seven years there were episodes airing for fans all over the world. 

Goku learns that he is not of the world he has been living in. He is, in fact, from a warrior planet. As if that isn’t enough there are those from other planets who are coming that he must fight. So he trains and fights for those he loves. However he does it in a comical Goku fashion. Goku is big part of why this story is such a success. His loving and gentle nature is something that has been drawing in fans for years.

The characters in Dragon Ball Z are interesting. There are mothers, trainers, warriors and all kinds of people in between. They mess up, laugh and generally save the world. There are love stories that they play out. There are parents and children. 

The settings and the art are also interesting. Most anime have a style to them. You can always tell a scene or character from Dragon Ball Z. The clothing and hairstyles help tell the story of how characters are transitioning and evolving in the story. The music sets the tone of scenes, whether it be a battle or lighthearted. 

The elements all work together to create a story that people love. The unique style of the anime will always set it apart. The characters will keep you interested. The story itself is fun with twists to keep it going. 

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While it was never my favorite anime I have fond memories of watching it with friends. I have seen people be brought together by it. I have seen the joy that this story brings. Enough so that there is even a new game out! 

So I would recommend giving it a try if you haven’t yet. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Dungeon Crawling: Monks

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Monks in 5e get a bad rap. They are seen as weak and squishy. To those that believe this, I have but one thing to say:

You’re playing them wrong.

Like the rogue, the Monks can dish out a lot of damage, but are most definitely not meant to stand on the front lines. One subclass, the Drunken Monk, even handles this by allowing our flying fists of fury to flee without fear of repercussion. Any of the other many subclasses can handle this with a simple feat; either at 1st level as a variant human, or upon reaching 4th by any other race.

Take Mobile.

With its boost to speed, its handling of rough terrain during a dash, and the ability to disengage freely from any target you attempt a melee attack on, a Monk’s natural speed and multiple attacks can make them excellent at attacking groups then pulling back out of reach.

Some call this a feat tax, making it necessary to play the class effectively. I agree. Nothing in this beloved game is perfect. Min-maxxers, of which I am a recovering one, will theory craft characters from dusk til dawn. The number crunching is part of the strategy.

For those other players that are drawn more to the story, the various subclasses offer many themes and playstyles. Every monk gets some pretty good class features as they level.

In tier one (1-5) they learn slow fall, gain an extra attack, and can use their ki to attempt a stunning strike. In tier two (6-10) their unarmed strikes count as magical, they learn to avoid area of effects with their evasion ability, can choose to end being charmed or frightened with the use of ki, and are become immune to disease and poison. In tier three (11-16) they extend their ki touch the minds of others and can understand any spoken language and be understood by anyone with a language, they become proficient in all saving throws and can spend ki to reroll a failed result, and no longer need to eat or drink nor do they get weaker as they age. Finally. in tier four (17-20) their ki will allow them to become invisible for a short amount of time in which they are also resistant to everything but force damage, or they can even astral project.

The capstone is okay, in that when they roll initiative if they are out of ki points they regain 4 ki points.

In the Player’s Handbook there are 3 subclasses: The Way of the Open Hand, The Way of Shadow, and the Way of the Four Elements. You have your classic martial artist, your sneaky ninja, and your anime bender.

The Way of the Open Hand can knock foes prone, shove them back, or negate their reaction capabilities. They can use ki to heal themselves, between long rests they enter a meditative state that grants them the protection of the Sanctuary spell, and learn the Quivering Palm strike that is a save for 10d6 necrotic or drop to 0 hit points.

The Way of Shadow use ki to manipulate the darkness around them. They learn the minor illusion cantrip, as well can spend ki to cast several spells: darkness, darkvision, pass without trace, and silence. Teleportation from one shadow to the next also becomes a thing, and can blend in with them and become invisible. Taking advantage of the distraction they may also use their reaction to strike an opponent that was just struck by someone else.

The Way of the Four Elements grants them spell like ability that they spend their ki on. Various water, fire, earth, and wind spells are at their disposable, using ki to fuel them and increase their effectiveness as they level. This subclass is considered by most to be the weakest of all the monk subclasses. I haven’t played it myself, but I have allowed a player to use the water spells on alcohol. Fun is what you make it.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything presents three more subclasses: The Way of the Drunken Master, The Way of the Kensei, and the Way of the Sun Soul.

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Now Drunken Master brings to mind the classic Jackie Chan film. You act drunk, swaying about and making it difficult to land strikes on you. The acting is presented as proficiency in Charisma (performance). When you use flurry of blows your speed increases and you may also disengage freely. You can also quickly get back to your feet from prone, or spend ki to redirect a missed attack against you towards another creature. Later levels will see ki points being used to avoid disadvantage on saving throws, or a veritable storm of fists as your flurry of blows can strike five targets.

The Kensei is a master of weapons, gaining up to five weapon proficiencies that are considered monk weapons. These weapons can be used to parry, boosting your armor class when you make an unarmed strike, and avoidance is the ki (haha!) to a monks survival. You can also use a bonus action to buff your ranged attack’s damage until the end of the turn. The bonus is small, but as you level you’ll be able to spend ki to add your unarmed die to one strike per turn, much like sneak attack.  The tier 3 ability allows you to dump up to 3 ki points into a chosen Kensei weapon granting it a bonus to hit and damage equal the number of ki spent for a whole minute, provided it’s not already magical. The capstone for Kensei allows you to reroll one missed attack with a monk weapon per turn.

The Sword Coast Adventurers Guide has only two new subclasses: the aforementioned Way of the Sun Soul, and The Way of the Long Death.

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If you want to go channel Dragon Ball Z or Streetfighter then The Way of the Sun Soul is for you. You gain a short ranged radiant damage ranged which can substitute for any of your normal attacks, or by spending ki you can throw 2 more as bonus action. As you level this evolves into the ability to cast a radiant vewrsion of burning hands and a fireball, all at the expenditure of ki. Finally you can light up with an aura that does retaliatory damage to those who strike you. Shiny!

The final subclass here is The Way of the Long Death. Obsessed with death and process of dying they have learned an innate understanding of mortality. When they defeat an opponent they gain temporary hit points that scales with their level and wisdom modifier. As they grow in power they can inspire fear in any creature within 30 feet until the end of their turn, but it requires their whole action. This will affect allies as well as foes, so I’d probably just dodge rather than risk your friends having disadvantage as well. Their tankiness comes into play at 11th level where they can spend 1 ki point to come back from 0 hit points with 1 hit point. Their final power allows them to spend up 10 ki points and force a target to make a Constitution save or suffer 2d10 necrotic damage per ki point. Even with success saving for half, this is still pretty awesome.

As future supplements come out, I’m sure there will be colorful subclasses, but these 7 presented here are a pretty good place to start.

Death Note: An Anime Review

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What would you do if you found a way to punish those who do wrong? What if it seemed simple but in reality it had some big consequences? What is the only way to do it resulted in a person’s death, would you still do it? 

It is an interesting concept. Anime is a fantastic medium to explore such a question. It’s potential consequences. That is the aim of Death Note. To explore a world where such action could be taken by one person.  

Like many other anime Death Note started off in book form, a manga,  written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The manga was first published in Japan in 2003 the series became extremely popular. It is not surprising that by 2006 an anime form of the story was released. The anime did not disappoint and is a favorite among many fans. No doubt a factor in its popularity is the story itself.

Light is a high school student. He is extremely intelligent and seems to have the world opening up to him. There are just two problems. One is that he is bored beyond belief. The other, the world around him is dark and full of crime. One day Light finds a book with “Death Note” written on the cover. What Light doesn’t know is that the book was dropped by a rogue death god. After he discovers what the book really is he begins to use it to kill those who he deems as worthy of such a punishment. 

This starts a series of events into motion. People are dying suddenly. International police are called in. Will Light stop? Will he be caught? Is he going to spin out of control? Will the Shinigami ever have enough apples? 

Death Note has a great vibe. The whole anime is dark by design. There is almost a layer of grit on so many of the scenes. The character designs are just really interesting. The music is good and helps set the mood for scenes. 

As previously stated there have been a few incarnations of the story of Death Note. First the manga, then the anime and most recently a live action series by Netflix. The last was met with more of a mixed reaction. That is to be expected with source material as loved as Death Note

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I would highly recommend the anime. It is a great anime for an older audience that enjoys a slightly darker story. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Thia’s Top Ten “Superhero” Movies

Heroes. I love stories of heroes. Stories of those who overcome all the obstacles and odds to save those who cannot save themselves. Like most fans of comics/graphic novels I have been thrilled with the influx of movies that have come out in my lifetime. How lucky we are to see our favorite heroes and villains on the big screen. Here is a list of some of my favorites. Some are movies that do not, strictly speaking, feature “heroes” as the leads but they still fit and I love them so in no real order here we go. 

  1. The Incredibles: Written and directed by Brad Bird this animated movie hit hard with a lot of heart in 2004. After Supers are outlawed what are the former masked fighters supposed to do? Get a job in a cubicle? What if your children have powers and now have to hide them? This family friendly movie features a family dealing with these issues. This movie is full of humor and love.
  2. Thor: Ragnarok: The great Taika Waititi gave the Thor franchise the lift it desperately needed when he directed this 2017 film. With a tight story line, great cast and a lot of humor this movie is a must see. Thor returns to his home and falls into a wild series of events that will push the god of war. Thor has to navigate new family drama as well as trying to save his home world. This film has the quirky brand of humor that fans love from Taika. 
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rodgers finally got his own movie in 2011. Steve’s story is of a little guy who always tries to fight for what he believes is right. Joe Johnston directed this fantastic film about a hero who is so beloved by many comic fans. All Steve wants to do is join the army and fight in World War Two, however he is repeatedly denied due to his poor health. He finds a way and allies to help him. 
  4. Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman has been an American hero for years. She is part of the triad that also consists of Batman and Superman. Patty Jenkins directed this 2017 movie. Diana is a restless warrior who finds a purpose when an American pilot lands on her island and tells her about the war outside. The film finds the balance of humor and Diana’s warrior ways. I was so happy as a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman to see this movie. 
  5. Shazam!: Superheroes are complicated. Shazam is a great example of this as he is both an ancient wizard and also young Billy Batson. David F. Sandberg was a great director for this 2019 film. Billy is a foster kid who is just looking for his mother. Instead he stumbles into a cosmic war. Tough situations and feelings are dealt with such humor in this movie. 
  6. Batman Returns: So there had to be a Batman movie. Like Wonder Woman Batman is one of America’s oldest heroes. In 1992 Tim Burton directed this campy movie that takes place in Gotham at Christmas. I know a lot of people have written off these earlier films, they aren’t as dark as many of DC’s newer movies. I like that they aren’t as dark though, Bruce’s life is dark enough. He needs a few laughs thrown about. I also love this Catwoman and how they played with her story. 
  7. Deadpool: Oh what can you really even say about Wade Willson? In 2016 a wonderful movie came out in time for Valentine’s Day directed by Tim Miller. It was funny, violent and yes there even was a love story in it. I think it was interesting to have so much of Wade’s story be about his love. For a movie about a mercenary there is a lot of humanity in it. Wade is a beloved character and this movie has all the reasons why; from his dark humor, to the fourth wall breaks to all the wonderful things in between. 
  8. Captain Marvel: Carol is such an interesting character. She is funny, she is dealing with trauma and she loves to fight. She fights for what is right. She fights to break down barriers. Anna Boden directed this great take that was released in 2019. I was really happy with how they treated this story, Carol has a lot of source material to play with. Carol encourages us all to go higher, further and faster. 
  9. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse: One of the reasons why some people won’t get into comics is because of the multiverse. Comics go through a story line and then there is a reset that happens when new creators take control. Instead of choosing one version of Spiderman to make this movie a story was woven together by taking multiple versions of people who have the powers and use them in their own ways to protect others. Bob Persichetti’s 2018 film gives us an amazing story of a hero’s struggle, complete with multiple styles of animation. The music and the characters of this animated film are just wonderful. 
  10. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey: This movie has everything. A strong ensemble cast, good dialogue and a tight storyline.Cathy Yan, thankfully, took over this 2020 movie and gave fans the origin story that the Birds of Prey deserved. The story is told from the perspective of the one and only Harley Quinn, who is newly dumped and trying to find herself. What she finds is a lot of trouble and perhaps even a purpose outside of her old life. I walked out of this movie so happy. I didn’t know how badly I needed this story, for it to be told this way and with this cast. I can even forgive them changing the title of the movie to make it easier to process tickets. 
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Wow this was a lot more difficult then I thought it would be. I thought that my very strong opinions about this genre would make it a little easier. 

What are your favorites? Did they make the list? If not then comment below so I have suggestions on what to watch next. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Gladius live on Kickstarter

1. Tell our readers who you are.

Hi Everyone! I’m Victoria Caña, a producer for Wizards of the Coast by day, and an award-winning indie game designer by night. Before I got into the games industry, I did work in a bunch of different fields: management consulting, marketing, ad tech, consumer insights, fashion PR, creative writing. Over time, my dreams changed, but I’m thankful I went on this exploratory journey to find my true passion: making awesome games that empower marginalized creators and players. 

2. What was the first board game you remember playing?

It was Slamwich, an educational dexterity game about making sandwiches (essentially Slapjack for kids). Another early board game I played was Diploma Dogs, which the box describes as “The game that makes learning fun!”. I think it achieved that goal for sure. You play as one of six tiny stuffed dogs with backpacks (Geography Dog, History Dog, Math Dog, Language Dog, Health Dog, or Science Dog). And, get this: when you answer trivia questions correctly you get to fill your dog’s backpack with bones and biscuits. How adorable! I loved playing Diploma Dogs with my sister growing up and I highly recommend it for families with young children. 

3. What are your favorite board games right now and why? 

My current favorite games are Kolejka (a game about fighting to get the items on your shopping list in Communist Poland), Rising Sun (an an area control strategy game set in feudal Japan), Rococo (a euro game where you play a dressmaker running a ball), Yokohama (a game about building a successful business in Meiji period Japan), and Just One (the fun-for-all Spiel de Jahres-winning party game). I enjoy many types of games and am generally down to play anything, but games with good reviews and interesting themes appeal to me the most.  

4. Tell us about Gladius.

Gladius is an award-winning board game of spectacle and sabotage for 2-5 players. You play as cunning Roman spectators trying to make the most money by betting on and rigging the gladiatorial games. Each round, players secretly place bets on competing gladiator teams. Through the skillful use of underhanded tactics, players can help and hinder teams to alter the outcome of each battle. The player with the most money at the end of three rounds wins! We’ve demoed Gladius hundreds of times at gaming conventions over the past few years, and I’ve noticed that people who like card games, video games, bluffing, and Rome have a very high likelihood of enjoying Gladius. We also attract a lot of people who like our game’s fun, lighthearted art style. 

5. What was your inspiration to create the game?

A lot of different factors came together that led to the creation of Gladius. First, my co-designer Alex and I met veteran game designer Stone Librande at the Tribeca Games Festival. He told us that if we want to be game designers, we should try to make a game out of cards. While thinking about what we should make a game about, we found inspiration from two different games. First, Domina, a video game where you run a school of gladiators. Second, Council of Verona, a betting and bluffing game themed around Romeo and Juliet. We love Roman History and liked the idea of spectating the gladiatorial games as opposed to being a gladiator. We also really enjoyed Council of Verona but wanted something a bit heavier. These different forces led to the creation of what we now know as Gladius! We’ve been working on the game for the past three years now and are excited for it to launch on Kickstarter on February 18. 

6. What are the most challenging issues that you’ve come across in designing a board game?

The most challenging issue when designing a game is picking a direction to push the game in. When we start with a design it can go a million different places depending on so many different factors: what you as the designer want, what newer players want, what seasoned board gamers want, what publishers want, what playtesters want. All these different opinions are in constant conflict with each other and choosing which direction to choose can be daunting. 

7. What aspects of board game designing do you enjoy the most?

I love the blue sky phase when there are no limits and you think of crazy ideas and get excited about how awesome they could be! I also enjoy the playtesting phase because seeing your game in the hands of players helps you learn about how to improve it. Through playtesting, you get to observe what parts of a game are working and which ones are not. On top of that, you get to connect with people face-to-face and meet new friends and fans. 

8. What were some hurdles you’ve overcome, as a woman, to get to where you are in the industry?

The tabletop industry has come a long way, but it is still so hard to be a woman designer let alone a player. People still give me weird, skeptical looks like I’m in the wrong place when I go to game stores, events, and conventions. Sometimes people think I’m an “assistant” and only acknowledge my co-creator, who is a man, as a designer when we’re both demoing the game. And worst of all, I’ve had to overcome bullying. My sister and I were bullied by a high-profile game designer who was judging a game design contest we were in a few years ago. He made fun of us and our game in front of a live audience, and he didn’t do that to any of the game designers who were men. To top it all off, right after the judging panel ended, half of the audience came up to us one by one to apologize for the judge’s behavior. That’s how we knew it was really bad – it was so bad that complete strangers in the audience felt compelled to apologize to us for bad behavior they witnessed.

9. What has been the proudest moment of your career?

In addition to making a great game, one of the goals for Gladius was to help my co-creator Alex get into the games industry. In a surprise turn of events, Gladius ended up helping me get a job in the games industry. I was a management consultant at Deloitte before I became a producer at Wizards of the Coast, and honestly, it was a great transition because I spent all my free time designing and playing games anyway. I had just never thought that I could be in the industry because of the imposter syndrome I feel as a woman of color. I’m so proud and happy to be here because now I can show other women of color that they can make games too! 

10. Do you have any other board games in development or currently available that you would like to share with our readers?

My co-designer Alex and I have a few other prototypes that we put on hold to work on Gladius: Red Cliffs (a wallet game where you play a strategist during the pivotal battle of China’s Warring States Period), Hot Takes (a party game/liar’s dice hybrid about dishing out hot takes and guessing your friends’ stances on them), and Dim Sum Rush (a game about eating the tastiest and cutest dim sum).

Netflix’s Witcher: A Review

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Well done high fantasy is such a wonderful story to enjoy. The mixing of myth, history and modern forms of storytelling can be difficult to get right. However when it is mixed properly it is truly fantastic.  

Witcher began its story in novel form. Written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and translated by Danusia Stok the first novel in the series was a hit. Since then the series has grown, much to the delight of fans. The story continued to evolve in the form of video games. This different format brought new fans to The Witcher franchise. With multiple books and games there were many who wanted to see the story evolve even further. In 2019 Netflix released a dramatized version of the series to stream on it’s platform. 

Geralt is a witcher. After being mutated by magic at a young age now he travels to kill monsters for coin. His world is one of magic and uncertainty. Wars between men, elves and other things are waging. As Geralt travels he finds possible comrades. He also ends up on crazy adventures, the effects of which ripple through the kingdoms for years. In the Netflix series viewers also get to see many different stories play out that will connect to Geralt.

These stories give us rich characters. Some are just beginning their journeys while others are at the end of theirs. These characters are interesting all on their own. They not only enrich the story but make it more fun, no matter what side they are on. 

The story is interestingly told in the series. From all the source material to choose from a rich tale is woven for fans. The characters are just as multifaceted. The soundtrack is amazing, yes particularly that one song. The one that is still stuck in our heads. The costumes and prosthetic pieces are magical in and of themselves. The sets are phenomenal. 

So much work went into bringing this story to life.  The writing is a love letter to high fantasy itself. One of the shining accomplishments is how the female characters are treated. They are so richly created. They are so diverse and real. Truly the work put into the characters of this show are what I wish every fantasy show would be bold enough to do. 

Yes I highly recommend Witcher. This lowly bard will sing its praises to all who want to talk about it. If you haven’t seen the show yet do yourself a favor and watch it now. 

Always keep sparkling!!!

Sarah Graley: Female Creators in the Nerd Community

sarah_graley The nerd community is vast and full of amazing creators. With an immense amount of subject matter to draw from, these creators bring so many ideas to light. They are artists who use their passions to bring joy to others in many ways. 

Sarah Graley is an artistic creator who is using her talent to make a plethora of comics. Starting in 2013 Sarah started a comic called; Our Super Adventure. It was almost like a diary of her nerdy life in comic form. As her popularity grew so did her opportunities. She has also made a comic about a girl who can enter her own video game. A unique look at love in a comic about a part time grim reaper and the girl who has a crush on her. 

Sarah uses her platform to tell diverse stories. Female heroes. Different body types and races grace the pages of her stories. The importance of this has not been lost on the big name comic industry. Sarah has also created a comic about Minecraft published by Darkhorse comics. She has also gotten to do variant covers for Doctor Who comics!

A resident of the UK Sarah has been drawing for years. As documented in her comics she loves cats and four of them. She also lives with her “cat-like boy” who has been featured in her comics as well. A proud nerd she draws what she loves. Sarah has created wonderful worlds, and opened up her own, to her readers. She has created a safe space for different protagonists and different love stories to thrive. Her work is a place where readers can see themselves as heroes. 

So if you have a comic fan in your life steer them toward Sarah’s work. If you like comics go take a look. If you have never read a comics but think you would like to she has books that are great to start with. 

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If you would like to connect with Sarah on social media her is her Twitter

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!