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Robert E. Bodine, Esq. is an attorney in Virginia focusing his practice on real estate and intellectual property law. He is one of the founding members of the Gamers’ Syndicate, a Washington, DC-based gaming club. He was the author of the Loremaster.org article series, Protection from Chaos, dealing with intellectual property law matters as they relate to the gaming industry, and has represented several game designers on intellectual property matters. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertEBodine for politics, @PropertyAtty for legal matters, @GSLLC for gaming matters, and if you’re a sports fan, @MMADork.
While this was a brilliant way to defeat the encounter, I suspect this is a fake story written by someone with little Dungeons & Dragons experience. In folklore, there’s no distinction between demons and devils; they’re the same thing. However, this is a D&D meme. It mentions the game within its text and claims this is a real encounter. Well, any established player would know that demons don’t “steal souls”; they simply attack and tear you to shreds. They have no concept of negotiation and wouldn’t even have proposed the bargain. Devils are the ones who enter into contracts for your soul, so clearly this is the work of a devil.
Or maybe I’m the devil. Whatever. You know I’m right.
So, here’s stupid theory for you, but one that doesn’t turn out to be so stupid in the end (in a meta sense). Short version: Ultron defeated the Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
He did so by imprisoning them in a virtual reality. That’s what we’ve seen played out over the course of the films since and including the first Ant-Man film. There are many issues with this theory, not the least of which is a lack of any hint that it occurred, which is why it’s stupid.
However, this is something that the Marvel elites should keep in their back pocket. One of these days, the MCU will have to be rebooted. When that happens, this gives them a decent way to do so without strictly invalidating what happened in the prior movies. Obviously, none of what we saw really happened, but it was what the heroes really experienced, and there’s at least some logic behind it. What they saw was their opportunity to pass the torch to the next generation so that they could retire in peace. Sure, there were some tragedies, but only enough to maintain the verisimilitude of the illusion (c.f., the Architect’s explanation of the Matrix). Of course, this isn’t as elegant a solution as the multiverse, but it works if you want to use the same actors to do the torch passing. That lessens the blow of rebooting for the crowd attached to those actors.
Still, some of those who saw these movies as kids, teenagers, or young adults would complain, “You’re ruining the MCU!” Yeah, yeah; we’ve seen this before with Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. fanbases. But much like me now, these people won’t matter at that point. It’s always the younger crowd that has the disposable income, and that’s for whom screenwriters, musicians, etc. create art. If you’re lucky, you’ll turn out like me (in this narrow regard) and just roll with the changes.
Try to remember, kids, that the old stuff (Star Trek: The Original Series for me) still exists, and you can watch it anytime you want. The new stuff doesn’t have to be the same (though sometimes it is). If it’s different but still likeable, watch it even if it violates canon. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it, and stick with the old stuff. After all, you will also be old at that point. It’s really that simple. Whether or not this theory is used to reboot the MCU after I’m dead, one way or the other you’ll be in my current position. Choose to be okay with it. This sort of thing isn’t your lawn.
We all know that cats are chaotic neutral, which in their case means they can fluctuate between good and evil on a whim (as opposed to being motivated towards achieving cosmic balance). Here’s proof of the evil side (as if you needed any):
Well, what’s a theory without data backing it up?
Yeah, but. . . .
Hmmm . . . . Those were surprisingly easy to find. QED, I guess.
The world lost a special songwriting talent when Christine McVie died on November 30, 2022. Below is a list of every songwriting credit I can find for her (co-writers, if any, are in parentheses). After the list, I provide my ten favorite songs of her. Some of my links are to their songs I first heard on their Live album.
Does anyone else find it funny that Sweet Revenge and Forgiveness are found in succession on her In the Meantime album? Anyhoo . . . .
Top Ten List
I’m a Fleetwood Mac nut. That said, I like to say that I was raised on Rumors, so my bias is clearly for the classic line up of Buckingham, Fleetwood, McVie x2, and Nicks. Rumors was the first album my brother owned, and Live was the first album I owned, so I listened to them both incessantly. They’re both remarkably important to me, and yet none of Christine’s songs off of Rumors made it into my top five. Go figure.
The Chain is not on this list because Christine’s songwriting credit is diluted by the fact that everyone in the band has a songwriting credit to it. But that’s a damn fine song too, and I was thrilled that it got so much screen time in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
I received Mirage on vinyl for Christmas in 1982. This song starts off with a lyric that was downright jarring, so I skipped the song every time I was listening to the album. After a month or two, I let the album play nonstop and heard the whole thing. That’s a month without this song I’ll never get back. That specific lyric, which is repeated in every chorus, still has a bit of that jarring effect on me, but the bridge more than makes up for it.
This is Christine’s only song from her solo career that makes this list, but not her only non-Fleetwood Mac song to do so (see #5). Definitely an 80s song, and definitely an 80s video. I turned 12 in 1980 and 21 in 1989, so you can imagine why this is right up my alley. The video seems to capture Christine’s style in a different, non-big-hair way. She wasn’t flamboyant but rather stood on the strength of her music. This worked far better in the context of a band than as a solo artist, which is why Lindsey and (especially) Stevie had stronger solo careers. Still, that foundation of great songwriting is something you shouldn’t miss. Click through a few of the links on this post and give her a listen.
As I mentioned above, you’d think all of Christine’s songs from Rumors would make this list, and yet this is the only one. It’ll probably be even more surprising in light of the fact that, when I first heard Rumors, You Make Loving Fun became my favorite song by any artist. I could always listen to it at home, but when I was old enough to, for example, go to roller-skating rinks (it was the late-70s, early-80s, kids), I’d always request it from the DJs. If I was in a restaurant with a juke box, I’d give my last quarter to play it. Yet over time, the song fell further down the list of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs, and even on my list of Christine-written songs. Still, if you look at only Christine’s songs, it makes the top ten. How could it not?
When the average person (i.e., non-Fleetwood Mac maniac, assuming any such person exists) thinks of Tango in the Night, they probably think of four songs (whether by name or by melody): Big Love, Seven Wonders, Everywhere, and Little Lies. Big Love and Everywhere are hard to forget considering that they were given new life to new, younger audiences by appearing on The Dance. But it’s interesting to note that of those four songs, Christine wrote two of them without a co-writer. Obviously, everyone in the band contributes at least a little to each song — I love the Mick Fleetwood’s drum part in Little Lies — but Christine deserves the credit for giving them such a solid foundation.
With Monday Morning, Say You Love Me started off the Live album with a one-two punch. Before I won this album as a door prize at a middle school dance, I had never heard Monday Morning, and more importantly I never appreciated live recordings. I thought they were rough and scrappy, and I was right. I just didn’t realize how awesome that was. Not only does it showcase how talented professional musicians are by being able to stay in tune and in beat with each other without the comforts of studio do-overs, but it also allowed them to riff a bit (see the guitar intro to Monday Morning) and switch up the dynamics of a song (see the intro to Say You Love Me). Live got me into that, and I couldn’t tell you how many times in a row I listened to the live rendition of Say You Love Me.
This is from Christine’s 2017 collaboration with Lindsey Buckingham, which flew far too far under the radar. I assure you that this is no token choice just to make sure this wonderful album is represented on the list. I really love how this song drives despite being relatively mellow, and the harmonies are as brilliant as you would expect from members of Fleetwood Mac.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, what I love most about this song is the keyboard part, which often improved songs by other songwriters, sometimes providing the final touch to put it over the edge towards greatness (e.g., Gypsy). It’s also a perverse twist on love songs. You have to appreciate that.
I’m glad Chevy is getting everyone on board on this song, even though it’s a shameless play at capturing the glory of the cranberry juice guy. As I discussed in my R.I.P. post, Christine had a way of breaking the tension on albums. She was capable of writing energetic music (see #1 below), but Lindsey and Stevie were mass-producing high-energy songs, especially while their relationship was crumbling. Sometimes you needed something light, and Everywhere was one of those songs that did that. It not only gave you a needed step back while listening to the first side of Tango in the Night, but also when listening to a random mix of Fleetwood Mac music. Their best songs were often heavy, but a random list of their best songs usually included Everywhere.
I imagine this might be a surprise choice, especially so high. The composition is fairly simple, and it has a droning quality to it, at times as much white noise as music. But I always loved this song, and I associate it with getting swept up in the fervor of the Miracle on Ice from 1980 and picking up street hockey. The song was still getting plenty of airtime during that event. I never grew out of my love for this song, and it remains one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. Music is often about association, right?
Other than the aforementioned The Chain, which involved the entire band, Tango in the Night was the one and only Fleetwood Mac album where Christine teamed with Lindsey to write some songs (at least to the extent that a co-songwriting credit was appropriate). It produced this song, which is a driving combination of Christine’s sultry, bluesy voice and Lindsey’s terrifying guitar work. It produced my favorite song among any with a songwriting credit for Christine.
So, there it is. Those are my favorites. If you disagree, that’s great; to each his or her own. But I hope this list has given you an excuse to revisit or discover some of her work. Most of us didn’t know her, so we’re not in true mourning. Instead, we’re in a position to celebrate her legacy. Do so. You won’t regret it.
I don’t get bothered by many celebrity deaths because I don’t know the people. However, even I experience the sense of mortality that those deaths impose upon us. Christine McVie has died. As a member of Fleetwood Mac, Christine was an important part of one of my two favorite bands. The other is Rush, who lost who lost Neil Peart just under three years ago. Around that time, I googled all the members of those bands for their ages. It painted a grim picture, but despite some scares, everyone held on until this morning. Because I rarely go to concerts, I’ve never seen either band live, so I was excited to see Lindsey Buckingham had a concert scheduled for nearby Tysons Corner, Virginia. Unfortunately, he cancelled the show at the last minute. Stevie Nicks is on tour, but she isn’t scheduled to be anywhere near me. I may never get the chance to see any of them live, but I can live with that. I’m appreciative that as long as I’m still around, I get to hear their music anytime I want.
The fact that Fleetwood Mac stayed together was always a mystery to me. I understand the idea of being professional even in the midst of personal breakups, but the nature of their jobs was such that Lindsey and Stevie were constantly taking shots at each other through their music. Just looking at Rumors for the moment, you have Lindsey telling Stevie that loving her was a mistake because she had no sense of loyalty (Go Your Own Way), leading Stevie to respond that he was the one abandoning her (Dreams). One of my favorite songs of all time (Silver Springs), which almost made the album, and to which I have a mild, personal connection, was even more biting, as its musical composition drove as deeply as the lyrics did. Then you have the entire band coming together to write a song (The Chain) filled with the bitterness that accompanies a failed relationship. Lindsey and Stevie always had to sing these songs with and to each other as if they were just words.
As completely fucking brilliant as those songs are, too much of anything can grate on you. Christine provided the counterbalance. Despite being in one of the couples that was splitting at the time of writing those songs, she gave us the needed break from that anguish with the optimism (Don’t Stop) and gave us a sense that she was willing to move on (You Make Loving Fun). Even disregarding the lyrics, her compositions changed the tone at just the right times within the album, and it was just as brilliant as the rest of it.
I could go on with other albums, but I’m sure you get the jist. Instead, consider some music that might be new to you. If you get the chance, take a listen to her unheralded album with Lindsey Buckingham entitled, rather unimaginatively, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie. It’s a nearly perfect album for Fleetwood Mac fans.
Here are some thoughts on how that one came together.
R.I.P. Christine McVie. Your musical legacy is on solid ground.
I know what music I’ll be listening to for the next week.
I recently discovered Masterplan by Andy Aiken, which is campaign planning, management, and execution software for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (“4e”). You can download it here. Just click on setup.msi and follow the prompts. If you’re not a 4e player, he’s created a similar online only tool for 5th Edition, Dojo, here. But enough about that. This post is about 4e. 🙂
This tool is fantastic, but it’s 4e-based, so adapting it to my 1st Edition game would be too time consuming without much benefit over what I’m doing now. Because I’ll be a player in my upcoming 4e campaign for the foreseeable future, my first step was to create libraries for my my synDCon Dungeon Delves(referred to as “synDClash” for the convention), my divine stat blocks (with corrections) for the Egyptian and Central American pantheons (which occasionally generate interest on my blog), and some other stat blocks I thought were pretty good.
I’ve finished every pre-existing element I planned to input into Masterplan except Monster Manual 3. That’s going to take a while. Because of WordPress restrictions, I can’t upload the library unless I change its extension to an allowed extension. So, for example, I’ve changed Central American Deities.library to Central American Deities.pdf. Likewise, Giant Problems.masterplan was renamed Giant Problems.pdf. You can download everything I’ve done to date using the links below, but you’ll need to change the extension back to .library or .masterplan. Libraries must be placed in your Masterplan/Libraries directory on your hard drive, but projects can go anywhere that’s convenient for you. They aren’t loaded automatically when the software boots up, so the system doesn’t need them to be in a particular place. Adobe Acrobat/Reader can’t read these files, so you won’t be able to view the material until you change that extension and load them into Masterplan. I’ll add more libraries as I create them, so expect hyperlinks to be added to this list. Well, that’s my master plan anyway.
I want to point out a great feature that mimics what I’m doing in my 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons game with Roll20. You can run your maps and minis online. If your computer has two monitors, you can hide one from the players, but a “player’s view” appears on the other monitor. This obviates the need for a battle map on your table. This isn’t exactly Earth-shattering to a 2022 audience, but this was implemented over a decade before the COVID pandemic accelerated the need for tools of this nature. As such, this doesn’t facilitate remote play over the internet, but as someone who runs my games in person but places maps on a computer screen, this works really well. It’s better than using Roll20 because it’s all self-contained. I can do this on a single computer within a single software application. With Roll20, I have to bring up a second browser, switch to player view, then always bounce back and forth between the two to make sure what’s on my screen matches what’s on the players’ screen. This isn’t a huge burden, but it’s technically a little more difficult. Masterplan makes it trivial. Of course, you may prefer the battle map to either solution for a game like 4e. Players may want to move their own minis around the board, but from the DM’s perspective, moving multiple minis is a lot easier on the screen than on a battle map.
Bug/Defect Report and Wishlist
I’m just getting started with Masterplan, but with what little I’ve done, I’ve already encountered some consistent defects. First off, some of the issues aren’t defects. The system doesn’t properly calculate suggested attack expressions because those depend on how many targets a power targets, but you often enter things like “one or two creatures in the burst” manually, so there’s no way for the system to calculate the proper attack bonus. For the record, an attack against multiple targets’ ACs suffers a -2 penalty in relation to an attack against one creature’s AC (-1 if the monster is a controller). So, you just have to watch your attack expressions.
That said, initiative isn’t even close to correct. According to page 184 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide (“DMG“), a soldier has an initiative bonus equal to its Dex bonus + 1/2 its level (rounded down) +2 because it’s a soldier. For Quetzacloatl, that’s 8 (27 Dex) + 17 (level 34) + 2 = 27, but Masterplan suggests 21. In some cases, Masterplan is off by as many as 9, but I haven’t yet figured out if there’s a pattern.
Defenses are also off. A soldier’s Fortitude should be 12 + level, which in the case of Quetzacoatl should be 12 + 34 = 46. This is exactly what Masterplan recommends. However, Masterplan doesn’t account for how ability scores change the default calculations. Specifically, each defense relies on the higher of two paired ability scores, which are Str and Con for Fortitude. The average ability score for a monster should be 13 + 1/2 level (rounding down), which is 30 at level 34. In the case of Quetzalcoatl, his Str is 36, and his Con is 30. So, take the higher of the two (Str 36), and compare that to the average (30). Accordingly, Quetzalcoatl has a Str 6 higher than average, so you should add half that (3) to his Fortitude, giving him a Fortitude of 46 + 3 = 49. As I said, Masterplan recommends 46, not 49.
I get that small differences in defenses may not matter too much, especially considering that one’s choice of ability scores is often based on flavor considerations or downright arbitrary. However, as the DMG suggests, sometimes you need to give monsters those bumps for game balance. Moreover, the pairing of ability scores facilitates making, for example, a low-intellect character whose Reflex defense can still be competitive due to a solid Dexterity score. Besides, for whatever reason, I’ve included the bumps, so I wish Masterplan factored in that aspect of the games’ rules.
Some of the math is solid. Hit points are good. Skill bonuses are good. Masterplan doesn’t provide damage expressions, so there’s nothing to check there. Also, I’ve created an Excel spreadsheet that performs all the correct calculations and helps me catch the errors, so where there are systemic issues, they’re easily corrected. If you find anything wrong with my calculations, please let me know, but I think I have it right for monsters. Just to make sure, I created and started populating the missing Monster Manual 3 library, started entering creatures, and found my Excel spreadsheet to match the WotC entries perfectly in most cases (exception: Silverback Ape), while the Masterplan recommendations still suffered from the same math errors. NPCs are treated a little differently than monsters (see DMG, page 186), so those aren’t relevant here.
Masterplan gives you the capability to copy an existing monster and paste it. That sounds like it makes things easier, but I find myself ignoring that feature. If the pasted stat block is of a different level or role (i.e., artillery, brute, etc.), when you adjust either, Masterplan will add miscellaneous bonuses to trained skill bonuses to keep them from changing. You’ll have to go through each one and delete the bonus. Moreover, you’ll inevitably have to change most of the attack expressions anyway, so why not do that from scratch? Still, there are some exceptions where it’s easier to make a copy, so YMMV.
To make a change to a part of stat block (e.g., a power), you open a dialog box, make your changes, then hit OK to save it. It returns you to the main stat block but jumps to the top. I’d rather the position of the view not change so that it returns me to where I need to be to continue making changes.
I’ve learned (far too late) that if you’re creating a monster, and you leave the “range” entry blank for a power, the next time you open the software and bring up the monster, whatever you entered in “power details” will be moved to range. To avoid this issue, I’ve started to enter “self,” “melee 1 (see below),” or something similar. You may find yourself having to modify my stat blocks accordingly. This isn’t a fatal flaw. It’s just a bit annoying to see “Range:” before the power details because they’ve been moved into the wrong field.
I’m not permitted to add a trap/hazard to an encounter map even if the trap/hazard has a stat block and is added to the encounter. I’d like to be able to add the trap, but then make it invisible on the “player view” screen.
In the aura dialog box, the tab order for the keywords field is off.
But seriously, this software is amazing. These are nitpicks, and as long as we all help each other identify these problems, we can work with them even if the software is never patched.
Many stat blocks crash the system!!! I did a significant amount of testing, and here’s a strange error I discovered. If your monster (or one that comes with the system) has the word, “hobgoblin” in its name, and if the NPC isn’t of a certain level, the software crashes whether you’re creating the stat block or just trying to view it. A hobgoblin of 5th or 6th level seems to work, and bugbears and goblins aren’t affected. I initially got around the problem by calling my Hobgoblin Warcaster a “Hobo Warcaster” instead. The presence of “hobgoblin” within the powers doesn’t create the problem. I hope Andy has the time and desire to fix this, but I think he moved past this project a long time ago.
Also of note: If the system crashes, you lose all your work since you last opened the program. So, if you’ve made significant changes, exit the library, then exit the software so that it will properly save. You wouldn’t think this was necessary considering that the libraries are separate data files, but it is. Nothing is saved until you exit the program. I’ve lost a good bit of work after unwittingly attempting to open a corrupt stat block entry.
Below is the list of monsters that are confirmed to crash the system. You should expect this list to grow as I continued to plow through the program. I’m replacing them with renamed creatures I built from scratch. “Hobgoblin” is now “Hob Goblin,” “Mezzodemon” is now “Mezzo Demon,” “Nycademon” is now “Nyca Demon,” and “Wereboar” is now “Were Boar.” That seems to solve the problem no matter what else is in the name of the creature.
I also made changes to the Monster Manual 2 library. I added all the stat blocks that were missing (there were about a dozen IIRC), replaced the malfunctioning ones listed above, and categorized all of them. What that last one means is that, for example, Blizzard dragons fall in the section labeled, “Dragon.” There’s a field for that in the database. If it’s empty, the creature is placed in “Miscellaneous Creatures.” Most of the monsters were missing that piece of data, so I went through each stat block and added the category to the stat block. In other words, the creatures are now better organized and easier to navigate. That process didn’t change the underlying data (other than replacing malfunctioning stat blocks of course).
Complete Rework of the Libraries
I’m just now adding this section almost a week after publication. I’m annoyed by the crashing stat blocks, but the other things that bugs me are 1) the “Miscellaneous Creatures” mentioned above; and 2) the fact that some of this data entry was performed before WotC changed how they write the stat blocks. For example, the range entry (e.g., “Melee 1 (one creature)”) didn’t exist until Monster Manual 3. Sometimes, this resulted in strangely expressed stat blocks (e.g., the Solamith from Manual of the Planes, page 123). So, I’m going through all of the libraries and cleaning up the old data. I wouldn’t have expected Andy to do that and am glad he didn’t. I’m glad he spent his time polishing the functionality. Leave data entry to the community (i.e., me). I’ll provide all of the libraries when I’m finished with them. In the meantime, here’s an updated Monster Manual 2 library (also posted above) placing all of the creatures into their appropriate “section,” replacing the corrupted stat blocks, and adding the missing stat blocks. I haven’t yet updated the stat blocks to the new format yet. I won’t do that until I’m finished with Monster Manual 3, though Manual of the Planes is finished, so download that one now. Again, they have *.pdf extensions, which must be changed to a *.library extensions and placed in the libraries folder.
If you want to complete your 4e downloads with the offline Character Builder, then use one of these three videos for instructions.
I provided three videos because at least one of them didn’t work, and one of them I never tried. I’ve forgotten which is which. However, whatever I installed doesn’t include later material, and it appears there’s a newer version of the CBLoader here. This one may include the missing material, but I have no idea how well it works. Caveat emptor. (It’s free.)