Tag Archives: geeks

in which i find something unexpected during a Journey Through The Silver Caves

This weekend, I had a last-minute change in plans, and discovered that I had the free time to go play in World Wide D&D Game Day, which was set up by Wizards of the Coast to promote the release of the Monster Manual 2.

I went to my friendly local game shop, where I was able to join a session that was just starting out. I picked a Dwarf Paladin, because I've never played either of those things before, and I thought it would be pretty fun. As it turned out, I was correct. Even though it was a dungeon crawl with people I didn't know, I role-played the Dwarf, as they said in Sherman Oaks in 1983, like totally to the max.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, even though I had to leave before the final encounter because — you know, it's easier if I just tell the story:

Having dispatched the dreaded Rust Monsters in the second encounter, we turned our focus onto the godddamn beetles who kept immobilizing me and the Tiefling. I was getting ready to use one of my daily powers when my phone rang.

I saw that it was Nolan, and sent the call to voice mail, planning to call him back when the encounter was over. He called again, and I ignored it again. When he called a third time, I figured that something important was happening and he really needed my attention.

"Hey Nolan what's –"

"I need you to come pick me up right now and take me and Calvin to the hospital."

My heart jumped into my throat. "What!? What happened? Are you okay?"

"Calvin fell out of a tree and broke his collar bone. His parents are gone and you're the last last last last resort. I know you're playing D&D, but can you help us?"

My heart dropped back to its normal place in my chest. "Yes. I'll be right there."

I told the guys I was playing with what had happened. Luckily, my friend Martin had just come into the store to meet me, so I handed my character over to him. I reminded him to keep role playing heavily, and make sure he didn't roll higher than 7, just to keep things  consistent.

I left, and spent the next few hours taking care of Nolan's friend (who was ultimately fine, but isn't going to be climbing any trees for a few weeks.)

When I got home, I called Martin and asked him how the rest of the adventure went. He told me that Eomer (the Dwarf we played) pulled off some last-minute heroics, and the PCs ended up "winning" the delve:

"That Eomer is a bad mother -"

"Shut your mouth!"

"I'm talking about Eomer!"

"I can dig it."

All of this is preamble to the whole reason I'm writing about it, though. I read this gaming blog called critical-hits. It's awesome, and if you like RPGs, you should read it to.

Anyway, there's a post today about playing the WWD&DGD, written by a guy who ran the delve.

The adventure was Journey Through The Silver Caves, a
straightforward dungeon-crawl that puts the PCs on the trail of a
kobold wyrmpriest who stole an important book of prophecy from a local
fortress. (I will spoil some about the adventure, so if you’re planning
on playing through it at some point later, consider yourself warned).
The PCs meet at the fortress and receive information about what they’re
seeking, the caves nearby, and most importantly, their reward. I
explained that the PCs had traveled together for a short time, but were
forgetful about each other and so should make short, awkward
introductions about their race and profession before continuing. After
the typical introduction around the table, the group arrived at the

Brief interlude about the D&D game days: I love the Wizards does these things, because it helps build the gaming community in a number of ways. An obvious one is making it really easy for new players to give tabletop RPGs a try, but a less-obvious one that I don't hear people talk about is how fun it is for all of us who play, all over the world, to share our individual experiences playing the same characters in the same encounters. It's so fun to hear how some other party handled the rust monsters, for example, and how other players who chose Eomer decided to use his powers.

Okay, back to the reason I wrote this post: I was reading the post at critical-hits, enjoying myself thoroughly, and then I saw this picture near the end of the post. I may have let out a little squeal of joy, because the DM was wearing the shirt I designed for shirt.woot.

I love that. I love that so much, I wanted to share it with the world. Which I just did.

So there.

It’s misty and stormy, and other words that are not also stage names for strippers

Remember when you had some huge project due in middle school, and you really didn’t want to do it, so you just kept putting it off? Then, when you finally get to work on it, it’s actually more fun than you thought it would be and you wonder why you didn’t want to work on it in the first place?

Welcome to me, working on The Last Outpost. Yes, the episode is still tedious and the Ferengi are so fucking lame if they were horses we’d have to put them down, but once I decided to just relax and not worry about making the damn thing something it’s incapable of being, I found some amusing bits.


Picard asks Troi is she’s sensing anything from the Ferengi ship. That’s good, since it’s kind of her whole job and everything. She says she’s sensing nothing, so maybe they can block their thoughts and emotions. That’s bad.

Data says that we don’t know that much about the Ferengi, which is bad, but we do know a few things about them that seem to be reliable, which is good. Data says the Frogurt is also cursed.

Riker tells Data to just get on with it already, so Data says Ferengi are like Yankee traders from 18th century America. This indicates that, in the 24th century, the traditional practice of using 400 year-old comparisons is still in vogue, like when you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway, and say, “Man, this is just like Vasco de Gama trying to go around the Cape of Good Hope!”


Tasha, Worf, Geordi, Data, and Riker all head to the transporter room, where the writers try to make us believe they’ll be in real danger on the planet, but we know it’s pretty safe when they beam down, unaccompanied by even a single Red Shirt.

The planet looks really cool, and it’s one of the first times we can see the difference in budgets and technologies available to the original series and the Next Generation. It’s misty and stormy, and other words that are not also stage names for strippers. We discover that energy in the atmosphere has messed up the transporter’s coordinates, and Riker’s been beamed down alone. He quickly finds Data, who again uses the word “intriguing” to describe things. He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

Riker and Data scout around, and find Geordi suspended upside down when – oh! here come the Ferengi! Holy shit! The evil Ferengi! They’re finally here, in person! We can see more than just their moderately scary faces, and they are…uh…short. And bouncy. And they wave their hands over their heads a lot. And they don’t like loud noises. And they carry whips…and wear Ugg boots. Um. Wow. How…intriguing.

Oh, and one more bit, which – I’m not going to lie to you, Marge – was the part I had the most fun writing, for reasons which will reveal themselves momentarily:

Back on the Enterprise, we discover that, like the script, things have gone from bad to worse. The lights are out, the ship’s heating is nearly gone, and Picard has had the remaining power rerouted to the family decks, where he asks Doctor Crusher how Wesley is doing.

Now, listen, fan fiction writers: It’s not because Picard is actually Wesley’s father, as many of you will argue on Usenet over the coming seven years; it’s because Picard knows that Wesley could totally figure a way out of this, and he’s right. Off the top of my head, I can suggest that Wesley would generate some sort of Enterprise-enveloping control field with one of his science projects, using an electro plasma system energy converter, to reverse the polarity of the Navigational Deflector to emit an inverse tachyon pulse through a subspace beacon, while rerouting the power from the impulse engines through the Okuda conduits to the forward sensor array’s antimatter pod, using the auxiliary fusion generator to turn the power back on and save the day.

Sadly, we learn that Dr. Crusher left Wesley in their quarters to stare death in the face alone, without even the benefit of a sedative. Picard reassures her that leaving Wesley alone and fully conscious was great parenting, because he has the right to “meet death awake.” Legions of Trekkies agree, then curse Picard for getting their hopes up.

It truly is one of the most tedious episodes of the first season, but I realized while working on the rewrite that I’d somehow managed to spread some funny bits fairly evenly throughout the synopsis, so even though it’s not slap-your-knee funny, it’s not boring, which was my primary concern.

I don’t include many bits that aren’t in the synopsis, so here’s part The Bottom Line:

TNG’s struggle to find its way continues with this episode. Obviously, it fails spectacularly with its introduction of the Ferengi, who were intended to replace the Klingons as a terrifying and worthy adversary to the Federation, but were a total joke until Armin Shimmerman brought Quark to life on DS9, and repaired much – but not all – of the damage.

However, If you take away how outrageously lame the Ferengi are, this episode has some cool elements to it. The planet looks great, and the effects that lead to the revealing of the Portal, its point of view about itself, and its interaction with Riker are straight out of classic Star Trek. In fact, the entire story of the titular last outpost would have been a very strong one, had the Ferengi not been so weak and laughable. Imagine, for example, the relationship between Kirk and the Romulan Commander in Balance of Terror, and put them into this situation, where they are forced to cooperate.

See? It’s not all jokes and snark. I manage to sneak some semi- thoughtful stuff in there between the facepalms.

When I send this to Andrew, I’m done with the bulk of the work on this book. All that’s left is transcribing some interviews I did with friends from the show so I can include a few of their thoughts (I’m not saying who I talked to, nyahh nyahh) and then I have to put everything together in one big tile and read it all, looking for jokes or phrases that I repeated and areas in the behind the scenes stuff where I can add additional material.

Yep, this is dangerously close to being finished.

regarding the difference between embracing and exploiting geek culture

I've gotten a ton of criticism from people about the I Am a Geek video that launched yesterday, and I feel the need to respond to it.

After watching the video yesterday, I was impressed by the production values, and I thought it was really awesome that it was just one small part of a larger project. I love that the whole thing is supposed to encourage literacy (if you really look for the links) and intends to support a good cause. As a writer, I certainly want more people to be readers!

But as I watched it a second and a third time, something didn't feel quite right to me. I couldn't put my finger on it, until e-mail started flooding in from people who could: this was supposed to be about refuting stereotypes and celebrating the things we love, but it ends up feeling like we're trying to convince the Cool Kids that we're really just like them, and a promotional opportunity for celebrities who don't know a damn thing about our geek culture, and don't care about the people who create and live in it.

I was under the impression that this video would feature actual geeks who are important to our culture, like Woz, Felicia Day, Leo Laporte, and Jonathan Coulton. Instead, I saw a lot of entrepreneurs who have good marketing instincts, joined by a bunch of celebrities who are attempting to co-opt our culture because it's what their publicity team is telling them to do.

When you're speaking to people who read TMZ and People magazine, getting contributions from MC Hammer, Ashton Kutcher and Shaq is a logical choice. But when you're speaking to geeks, it's insulting to us to pretend that they are part of and speak for our culture. Those people are not geeks; they're celebrities who happen to use Twitter. Featuring them as "geeks" undermines the whole effort, because they aren't like us. I've been a geek my whole life. I've suffered for it, I've struggled because of it, and I've worked incredibly hard to remove the social stigma associated with all these things we love, like gaming and programming. It's like a slap in the face to be associated with these people who claim to be like me, and want to be part of our culture, but couldn't tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs. In other words, they haven't earned it, but they're wrapping themselves in our flag because their PR people told them to.

Having someone in a video that purports to celebrate our geek culture say that they don't play D&D, like playing an RPG is something to be ashamed of, is profoundly offensive to me, because I play D&D. In fact, it's the chief reason I am a geek. D&D isn't anything to be ashamed of, it's awesome. I don't recall seeing that in the script I was given, and if I had, I never would have agreed to be part of this project.

I loved the idea of creating a video that celebrates our culture and shows that we're proud to be in it. That's what I thought this would be, but I feel like we ended up with some kind of self-promoting internet marketing thing that plays right into established stereotypes, and hopes that The Cool Kids will let us hang out with them.

I am a geek. I have been all my life, and I know that those guys are nothing like me and my friends. If we're going to celebrate and embrace geek culture, we should have geeks leading the effort, not popular kids who are pretending to be geeks because it's the easy way to get attention during the current 15 minute window.

I want to be clear: I wasn't misled, I think that the project just changed from conception to release. I think their heart was in the right place, and I think their fundamental idea was awesome. But what I saw isn't what I thought I was going to be part of. I thought I was going to be part of something that said, "Hey, I am a geek, I'm proud of that, and if you're a geek you should be proud of it too!" What I saw was more like, "I am using new media to reach people. Yay!" There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't mean the people doing it are geeks, and it's not what I thought I was contributing to.

There was a great conterpoint on Twitter just now, while I was wrapping this up. Wyldfire42 said: "Seems to me that we shouldn't be deciding who is or isn't a geek. If we start passing judgment, we just become the bullies we hated." I can't disagree with that, at all, and after reading that, I feel a little grognard-y. Who knows, maybe these celebrities who have recently shown up in our world love these things as much as we do. Maybe it's not their fault that they bring hordes of celebrity-obsessed non-geeks with them wherever they go. Maybe they're as upset about people telling them they're not "real" geeks as I am about marketers pretending that they are.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but I care deeply about my fellow geeks and there is a fundamental difference between embracing our culture and exploiting it. Please, come and be part of our culture. Read our books and play our games and watch our movies and argue with us about what is and isn't canon. But if you try to grab our dice, and then don't even know or care why we're a little touchy about it … well I cast Magic Missile on you, dude.

ETA: I've been pretty active in the comments of this post, because I see the same misconception over and over again, largely the result of me being unclear when I wrote part of this post.

Somehow, a bunch of people have turned into "Wil Wheaton says you have to do a, b, and c or you're not a geek, so fuck him because he's a dick."

That's not what I meant, at all. Most people seem to get that, but there's enough who don't that I feel a need to respond, in case you don't feel like digging through hundreds of comments to find my replies in there.

I never meant to say that unless you do a or b or c even ∏, you don't "qualify" for admittance to some super secret clubhouse where I am the gatekeeper. When I said, "…couldn't tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs…" I didn't mean that unless a person does know what these things are, they don't pass some kind of test. I was making an example, picking out some things that I happen to be geeky about, in an attempt to illustrate a point, and I did that poorly.

I was not trying to be, and I don't want to be, some kind of exclusionary geek elitist. That's just the most incredibly stupid and offensive thing in the world.

As I said in a comment somewhere in this post: Creating a world where my kids don't have to grow up being picked on for loving RPGs is awesome. But what I see – not just here, but in general at this moment – is a bunch of marketing jerks trying to take the things we love and turn them into something from Hot Topic. I didn't mean "you're not geeky enough…" at all, and I hate that people seem to latch on to that, because it means I wasn't clear enough. If these guys I mentioned truly love what we are, and they have been here all along (and I've just missed them for my whole life) than it's great that they're not ashamed to love the things we love … but I haven't seen anything to indicate that they genuinely are interested in the things we love as much as they are riding a pop-culture wave that's driven by Twitter's explosive and pervasive popularity. It feels calculated and planned out by PR and marketing people, and as someone who loves this culture, that bothers me. I didn't mean to imply that you have to meet this list of criteria to come be part of our club (vi, d10, etc) as much as I was attempting to illustrate a point: we know what at least some of those things are, and Cool Kids have teased us for it our whole lives. It feels to me like those same people are now trying to take our culture away from us and make a quick buck off of exploiting it, and us. It was not my intention to create some sort of Geek Literacy Test. That's lame. Like I said, all are welcome, but at least make an effort to understand why we care about these things.

Finally, I've been trading e-mails with Shira Lazar, who had this idea in the first place. She says:

Well, I think the hornet's nest was stirred up a bit. But that's ok. I rather open, honest discourse than people to feel shut off or alienated. That would be ridiculous and horrible.

Anyway- from reading the post and comments it's important off the bat for people to know this isn't a marketing ploy or some evil plan to take over the world. ha

also, It sucks that the d&d line got misconstrued. It's important to point out that a lot of ppl besides you in the video actually do play the game- the line was more to say yes lots of geeks play d&d but you don't need to play d&d to be a geek.

It really started as a fun way to bring people together, geeks of all extremes. To break down stereotypes. I consider myself a geek. Yes, the level of geekiness changes depending on the context. Amidst developers and my gamer friends, I might not know a lot but with some of my friends I'm queen geek. While I might not know certain things in certain situations, I still have a yearning and passion to know and learn and a love of accepting those geeks who do know it all. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and the first person to make it digital. I would hang out in my computer room at school until midnight working on photoshop and quark while my friends were out and about doing their thing. I participated in my high school science fairs and went to regionals twice. My mom is also a coordinator for children with special needs- i've seen kids that are alienated from their peers who need to know it's ok and they have a place.

While some of us have struggled and some have not, some know more, some don't- this was simply a video that was supposed to be a fun way to bring everyone together.

happy jedi day

Last year, while we were out running errands, my wife surprised me with an awesome geek moment:

Anne: It's Jedi day! Me: What? Anne: May the Fourth be with you. Me: OMG I am so sending that to Twitter.

Just so the historical record is clear: my wife, who is the beauty half of our beauty and the geek marriage, figured out Star Wars day before I did. As you can imagine, this delighted me.