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Mass Effect Andromeda First Thoughts and Speculations

At E3 this year, EA dropped a new trailer for Mass Effect Andromeda. It doesn’t explain anything, doesn’t show gameplay, and isn’t everything that I’d hoped would be released (by which I mean I want to know everything RIGHT NOW like the impatient petulant child that I am). There were, however, some clues and hints about what’s to come. I need to talk about it, just to keep myself sane, so this is just going to be a scattershot of thoughts and speculation about what’s to come.

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Defending Ashley Williams of Mass Effect

Mass Effect, as a series, is probably known and loved more for the cast of characters Shepard pals around with while saving the galaxy multiple times than any other aspect. Other games do combat better (although I’ve never enjoyed any shooter more than Mass Effect 3, especially the multiplayer), or have better plots or storylines, but no game really comes close to having characters who grow and evolve during the series, in many cases shaped by their interactions the player has with them. Fan favorites like Garrus, Wrex, Tali (I even named my dog after her), Jack, Mordin – all of them are incredibly well fleshed-out, have real growth arcs through the series, and have real resonance. They are beloved.

There is one character, though, who is not beloved. She is rarely even be-liked. She is usually be-fucking-hated. She is Ashley Williams.

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A Serpent in the Citadel, Chapter 5: Watchful Eyes

This is Chapter 5 of my sci-fi detective noir short story. If you’re one of those weirdos who likes to start from the beginning, choose something earlier below:

Chapter 1: The Big Sister

Chapter 2: Long Walks and Short Thoughts

Chapter 3: Time for a Drink

Chapter 4: The Turian Inquisition

Either the bed was deceptively comfortable, or a day that included dealing with my sister, traveling millions of miles, and ending in a police station made me a lot less picky. My head was aching from my high-speed introduction to yesterday’s wall, but some painkillers, scotch, and a shower improved my outlook. I didn’t normally drink this early, but, to be fair, I wasn’t often up this early either. I suited up, wishing I was wearing some heavy assault armor instead. The message I got saying “Congratulations! Almost twelve hours before you got picked up by the cops – M” certainly didn’t improve my mood. I had a bad feeling about the day. That wasn’t unusual, because the days I woke feeling like life was great always ended up terrible. A bad feeling was almost encouraging.

I hit the streets and made my way back to Tranquility. The streets were busier than yesterday, the respectable folks and their opposites going about their business at the tail end of the Ward. I got propositioned twice for action, one that called for a bed and another that called for k nuckles, and passed on both. I figured I had enough problems already.

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Iron Crown Enterprises, Rolemaster, and MERP: A Love Letter

Last night, I finally got around to watching the Season 2 episode of Community where the group plays Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (I know, I’m way behind the times, see this post for why). It was great, of course, presenting it in a funny way that still showed a love for the whole concept of table-top role-playing underneath (similar to how the movie Role Models approached LARPing – an endeavor silly and ridiculous like the movie shows, but worthwhile and a kick-ass time anyway). Ever since I watched it I’ve been thinking about tabletopping, something I haven’t done in a few years now, and growing up surrounded by the very books that were in the episode (and that still take up several boxes in the back room). I remember the Satanic backlash and having to explain to my mother that I was aware of the fact that magic wasn’t real and that raising an army of the dead wasn’t something I could actually do – a fun conversation, lemme tell you – and all that Jack Chick nonsense. Growing up with that stuff had a huge impact on my life. Without it, my two books don’t exist, I never would have written my own multi-volume system, and I never would have gotten so interested in rules systems that I probably never would have ended up an accountant.

I actually kinda have been invited to join a coven, but it wasn't nearly as awesome as this one.

I actually kinda have been invited to join a coven, but it wasn’t nearly as awesome as this one.

You know, maybe Jack was right. That shit has ruined my life.

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Shovelcast #2: It’s Lady Gamer Night!

OK, Shovelbuddies, the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Female Gamer Perspective podcast is here! Listen as we talk gaming from tabletop to console to computer to LARP, hear my words begin to slur and giggles get drunker. Drink along at home with the Me and My Shovelcast Drinking Game listed below!

From left to right: Lisa, Lori, and Allie. Behind: Smarmy Creep.

Special thanks go out first and foremost to the participants, who were kind and generous and especially indulgent to their host, who was so nervous before the recording began that I was asked if I needed a paper bag to breathe into for a bit. Seriously. Allie, Lisa, and Lori are amazingly cool human beings who also happen to be really good at gaming – like me except for the whole “amazingly cool” part! – and I really can’t thank them enough. I would happily do another 4 or 5 of these with them.

Also, I want to thank the people who came up with questions to ask. I tried to mention the people who asked by name to give credit where credit is due. In fact, I got so many questions I couldn’t get to all of them in an hour and a half. Yes, it’s over 90 minutes long. I would have gone for 3 hours if I was allowed to. Anyway, thanks to those who submitted questions for my guests. They were much appreciated and meant that I had to do almost no work and could kick back and be lazy, which is all of the win.

Oh, and unbeknownst to me, there were two hidden cameras set up that I didn’t spot. That’s right: the women are smarter.

Click here for the downloadable mp3—> Shovelcast 2 – Ladies Night and listen as you run or ride the bus or your bike or use some other form of hippie transport.

Or you can play it in the browser right here. Up to you.

The Me and My Shovelcast Drinking Game

Take 1 drink when:

  • I say something stupid
  • I use the word “awesome”
  • I use a 25-cent word when a 10-cent word will do
  • I giggle mousily

Take 1 shot when:

  • We tell Trey to do so
  • I slur a word
  • Whenever “immersion” is brought up

Good luck and please drink responsibly.

Shovelcast #1: From Realm of LARP, Sir Barrington / Christian Gebhart

Imagine me looking like this throughout the interview.

I warned you. And here it is. An hour and thirty-seven minutes of pure nerdery.

It’s the first-ever podcast, excuse me, SHOVELCAST, from Me and My Shovel, so it’s just like the typical post: long, rambling, full of curse words, unedited, and probably awful. I aim to please! Seriously, though, I had a lot of fun doing this interview with one hell of a great dude. We talk about LARPing in general, being nerds, and Realm of LARP stuff for a good long time. Christian was a hell of a good sport, considering that his first post-show interview was with an amateurish half-drunk boob (that’s me) who had no idea what he was doing.

Fun fact: as nerds, we were of course sitting at a gaming table in someone’s basement as we did this. Totally appropriate.

So anyway, if you want to hear Barrington’s side of the story from the infamous Episode 5 Debacle, you’re in luck! If you want to hear my words get a little more slurry as time goes on, now’s your chance! If you think I remember half of what’s on here, you’re out of your mind!

I need to figure out how to make this a drinking game.

So, here is the last bit of ado: thank you to John and Lori for the use of the basement, and to Kyle for the use of the voice recorder. And also thanks to Christian’s wife and mine for letting us get all bromancy for a couple of hours unsupervised.

Here it is. God help us all.

Oh and I should probably add: NSFW (occasional potty mouths, constant levels of man-crushing).

Interview with Christian Gebhart

Web Series Review: Realm of LARP

“Nerd Culture” is taking over. Face it, Brosef, with your “Sun’s Out, Guns Out” tank top and oversized shades and flip-flops. The Tyranny of the Bully Era has ended, and popular culture has embraced everything that used to get some poor skinny kid wedgied and stuffed into a locker. Comic books? Only the highest grossing movies at the box office. Computers? Yeah, I think they’ve gone a little mainstream. Video games? You get the point, Mr. Straw Man, so suck it. Even things like tabletop role-playing games are no longer an automatic ticket to Nerd Hell, thanks to offshoots like World of Warcraft making the concept approachable, and having someone like Vin Diesel come out and say they’re cool also helps, because you go ahead and call Vin Diesel lame, then let me know when you finish fishing your forearm out of your own throat.

Now, not everything that geek culture embraces is mainstream yet. Cosplay? Slowly but surely getting more accepted, thanks to the exploding popularity of Comic-Con and the other hugantic cons (that’s “conventions” for those unfamiliar with the term) out there. Anime fanatics? Well, some things still deserves wedgies. (I kid, I kid. However, Dragonball Z and a lot of popular anime is some of the worst dreck I’ve ever seen in my life. Yes, Princess Mononoke and Akira and Ghost in the Shell are incredibly beautiful and moving pieces of art, but most of the big-eyed panty-flashing’ tentacle-rapin’ underage-girls-who-are-“eighteen” kung-fu superpowerfulragefestin’ anime shit is purely awful in every way. But that’s neither here nor there.) There’s another geek staple that still isn’t embraced, and it’s near and dear to my heart, as I’ve said before.

LARPing.

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More Mass Effect 3 SPOILER Ending Thoughts – The Indoctrination Theory

OK. When it came to the Mass Effect 3 ending, I’d said my piece (spoiled and non-spoiled) and counted to three. I was good, I was finished, I was content. Then I had a brief conversation with a friend yesterday. He’d never played any of the Mass Effect games and wanted some questions answered, so he could put the frothing waves of rage into context. I answered them from my perspective. Then he said something about a theory that was the hot thing on the Intarwebs, something I’d paid zero attention to, a little thing called the Indoctrination Theory. I decided to check into this theory. What I read changed everything.

Essentially, my friend took a stick and jammed it into the anthill of my brain and stirred it all up. The rat bastard.

Oh, and if I haven’t been entirely clear, there are spoilers below the “Read the rest of this entry”. SPOILERS. Spoilers. (spoilers)

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My SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Thoughts About Mass Effect 3’s Ending (UPDATED)

I’m going to go ahead and talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 and their curious decision to have Chewbacca appear at the very end of the game and lead everyone in the Macarena while the blue elephant plays his round piano. Yes, I know that didn’t happen, but I didn’t want the preview thing to show any actual spoilers to ruin someone else’s experience. I will wait until after the jump, which is right here.

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My Spoiler-Free Thoughts About the Mass Effect 3 Ending, And Endings in General (Updated)

An angry gamer, via The Gamer’s Paradox.

I finished Mass Effect 3 this weekend. It took me a long time to get there. The game has a ton of content, and I played a lot of multiplayer as well (because playing multiplayer actually makes a difference in your single-player campaign – you don’t need to, but it helps if you aren’t a completionist. I, however, am both, so I played the shit out of the game and it still took me 10 days to play through). I am sad that my first playthrough is over, because I love the game and the series that much, but I’m already into my second playthrough, so that’s OK.

Before I could finish, though, I’d heard enough about the ending to make me concerned. No one spoiled it for me, thank goodness, but even though I made a great effort to avoid hearing anything at all about became impossible. What I heard, though, wasn’t about anything game-specific; rather, what managed to get past my filters was loud enough to make it unavoidable.

That’s what’ll happen when a huge fanbase goes out of their ever-lovin’ minds.

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