Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year 2011: A Retrospective

I decided to write a retrospective this year, mostly because I'm sitting around, sick with some sorta stomach thing that leads to wondrous bouts of diarrhea.

Stupid stomach, get better!

Anyway. There's been a number of awesome things that have happened this year. I guess I'm gonna list a few of the areas of my life that I think are noteworthy, and move along with that. The order isn't particular, it's whatever popped into my head before I decided I was done.

This was a pretty good year for anime. Ergo Proxy, Evangelion, Eden of the East, Requiem for the Phantom, some pretty evocative stuff. And that's just to name a few. But there's one anime that stood head and shoulders above the rest: Trigun. I know I'd just written a glowing review, but I gotta say, Trigun was my favorite anime of the year. And I'm a bit disappointed it's not on the top ten list, but I suppose I could do an official one.

Eh, already did that, whatever. I'll do another in July or something.

Point being is this: Trigun is easily one of those shows I'll probably spend a lot time writing about. I'm glad that I listened to Carpe and finally finished this show. As far as watching TV shows from Japan went, this was a very good year. I didn't think I was going to find something in even the same league as Clannad, but I'm happy to say that Trigun is that for me.

I started going to Benedictine College for a Bachelor's in Art in January. It was very painful at first, because I had recently recovered memories of being molested as child, and working with art brought them back. But I've persisted through it, and am growing to really enjoy working on things just for the sake of working on them, although it'll probably take til my graduation next Fall to actually get that far.

I can guarantee that I haven't worked so hard in my life, and have produced quite a few works that I'm very proud of. My favorite icon that I did this year is Christ Bridegroom, done for St. George's Romanian Parish:

There's something serene in his face, something I really hope to keep putting in my icons. At some point I promise I'll do it on purpose. Equal to that is the Resurrection icon I did. I'll have to post a picture of it tomorrow. All in all I completed 7 icons this year, and am very proud of the work God managed to do through me this year.

What about non-icon works? Well, first you're asking me to like something I've made that's not an icon... kidding... sorta... but seriously, I'm glad for the secular stuff I've done. The themes in my secular work revolve around relationship (or the lack thereof) in anxiety, and are made as a way of processing the abuse that I went through as a child. My favorite for this year has got to be Love:

It's a bit difficult to see, and that's exactly why I made it that way. Love has a way of peering out of the most unlikely of places, particularly when part of it comes out of yourself, and the other part is directed at you.

This has been a ridiculously good year for RPGs. My 4EMOD is running quite well, and the articles will go for quite some time (I hope). I started a campaign in 4EMOD, and am playing in a 4th edition and a World of Darkness game (run by Carpe, and played with Maria and another friend). Without having an actual position of authority I'm one of the leaders of Benedictine's RPG club, and I'm really impressed with just the sheer variety of RPGs that are being run. 4th edition, Pathfinder, Star Wars Saga, World of Darkness, Supernatural, Scion... it's really awesome to be a part of. Now I own Burning Wheel Gold, almost entirely on the suggestion of Carpe, and I'm excited to see what the game is like!

OK, so it's all personal, but I guess this is just more of a rambling of sorts. Ever since I started working through all this abuse thing, life has gotten much much better. Gosh, does it feel good to not bottle everything up and to express all the anger and hurt! Letting the anger and hurt out, however, let's everything else out. Good stuff. A lot of good stuff. I'm developing friends on purpose, seeking them out and the like. I'm not gonna lie, I still feel pretty skittish at some points, but thankfully nobody really notices that cause I'm so loud. I guess more than anything I guess what's different is that I'm actually trying.

Which brings me to the relationship I'm in with Maria (one of the former writers of The School's Trees).  There are times when people don't make sense to me, when I think they're brutal, selfish, and full of so much bullshit that it makes me want to lock myself away for eternity. But, honestly, being with Maria makes me try harder, to be a better person, to be... myself. And all of this by just hanging out and making it through life. I'm very happy to be dating such a wonderful and beautiful young lady, and I'm even gladder that the feeling's returned. I'm very blessed to have spent one year, five months, and four days dating Maria, and I hope God gives us many many more.

This brings me to my last part, on God. I've never had issue believing in a God. The reality of someone making this entire world was never something difficult for me to comprehend. The questions has always been if that God is building things for our benefit or His. Personally I've always been more of the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God typa guy on the inside, but for whatever reason I've felt an attraction to Eastern Christianity. While I may have issue with the sickening amount of optimism that Christianity has, I gotta admit, it's appealing.

And you know what's wonderful? Slowly, but surely, I find myself believing in that. Blame it on me falling in love with Maria. Attribute it to watching Trigun. I don't care. I know someone else is behind this. I can feel it. And I know that, whoever it is, He may not be as bad as I originally thought. Who knows: Andrei Rublev might be right!

Not by me.
So, from me, Nathan Hicks of the Kitchen Sink, have a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Saint Raphael, Part 4

So a bit more work needs to be done on the face; the mouth needs to be bigger, the nose just a tad smaller. Overall, however, I really like where this icon is at for the moment. Lots of beautiful colors.

Friday, December 23, 2011


SPOILERS AHEAD! Well, not really...
Gosh, this show took me a long time to finish. I'd watched the show's first 10 episodes about a year or so ago and then... well.. I don't know what happened. I was watching other anime, writing The School's Trees, mourning the death of my grandma, whatever the reasons were, it just amounts to this: I stopped watching.  But Carpe kept insisting that I watch the show, so I kept holding it off. I was going to get to it! Just when I felt like it, that's all. Well, I finally watched it and am done. What did I think? 

I definitely need to see this again.

I have a lot that I want to say about this show,   really do, but when I sit down to write I find that I am at a loss for words. This show covers so much in such a short time that it's a bit mind boggling to put down all my thoughts into one short review. There are tons of themes, questions, answers, all swirling around the characters who embody and channel them. I could go on and on about how Christian this show is, how full of G. K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and anyone whose thought actually matters is in here! I could go on and on. I really could, and someday I might. But, for now, all that needs to be said is this:

Trigun is a show about faith, hope, and love. Watch it if you want to see these things. If you don't, you're not human and need to leave the planet. Like, now.

Me? I'm gonna go and watch this show again. Oh, and listen to this song:


Our Lady of the Morning Star-Concept Sketch

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trigun Before the Last 4 Episodes

Apologies on not posting last week, but finals were in full swing, followed by a 3-day visit to my girlfriend's house. So for obvious reasons I wasn't really interested in posting anything up here. I'm back in the Chicago area for a bit, and I've gotta say, it's good to be back home for a little while. I started up my anime watching again, and am 4 episodes out from finishing Trigun, and I've gotta say, I've liked what I've seen so far.

I had heard that the manga and anime were written by a Japanese convert to Catholicism. At first I couldn't see it. I mean, where's the Catholicisty in some guy in an awesome red trench chasing skirts, screaming, and running for his life like a coward? T'was more than a bit perplexing, I'll admit.

As the show progressed, however, I started to notice the things that mark all good Catholic literature (emphasis there to get rid of all the pious trash that people mistake for our work): sympathetic people, hope to the possible point of delusion, and an evil that is so palpable and horrible that I don't think we could make it up. And Vash the Stampede, of course. While I know there are few Catholics as emotional as this guy, it struck me how familiar he felt. This irritating and immature man reminded me of a number of things. The first thing that came to mind was anything written by G.K. Chesterton. It's such a strong resemblance that I've come to believe that Vash is a pastiche of Chesterton's work, right down to wanting life to be as full and incredible as possible. But whatever it was kept poking at me, demanding that I pay more attention. Where the hell had I felt this amount raw emotion before? It hit me right in between the eyes.

Go to any well-done Eastern or Western Catholic Liturgy/Mass. 

That means go and find a church that's doing the chant, the incense, the organ (in the West, although with the Greeks that's not out of the question), and participate. Those Liturgies almost pop with an emotion that's so deep, so real, so human, that it's alien. Whether it be the joyful exuberance of an Eastern Liturgy or the profound sadness and serenity of a Western Mass Catholics have always figured out how to express themselves as fully as possible. And Vash fits right into all of that.

I'm not sure how good the anime is. With only four episodes left I have no idea if the ending will be good or not. It could go either way, to be honest. All of it depends on the people around Vash, and what they'll do as the two unstoppable forces, Vash and Knives, meet. I don't much, but I do know this: it had better be epic.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Curious Effects of a Car Accident (On the Death of a Bishop)

God, I hated Andrew Pataki.

For those of you who don't know who he was, Bishop Andrew Pataki was one of the most controversial figures of the Byzantine Catholic rite in America. He wanted the Byzantine Catholic Church to become as Roman Catholic as possible, and went after it with a gusto that I wish I had about my own life. He was strong-willed to the point of stubbornness, and helped put through a translation of the Liturgy that still makes the Orthodox laugh because of its inclusive language. He closed churches on a whim's notice. One of my best priest friends has memories about arguing with Pataki about shaving in the seminary because clean-faced priests are Catholic, and only do those damned Orthodox have beards. Most people whom I associated with in the Byzantine Ruthenian Church were his most avid opponents and critics. Heck, when I was in high school one of my best friends had a falling out with the man over a few things and had to drop out of seminary for a short time (he is now an ordained priest, thank God!) Everything that I wanted the Byzantine Catholic Church in America to be Pataki was against. So I had a few things against the man, on a few levels. Some were quite petty, and some were ideological.

Yeah, I say I had those issues. Past tense.

Bishop Andrew Pataki of the Byzantine Catholic Ruthenian Epharcy of Passaic died in a car accident. And I can't shake the guilt.

I've only had one actual interaction with His Grace. I was 17 years old, and had just begun iconography. I had just completed an icon for my friend Chaa, and brought it to her at the ByzanTEEN rally in Maryland. It was my ninth icon, and I was so excited with it! I had learned a lot in writing and praying this icon, and I couldn't wait for Chaa to see it. Here it is:

Gosh, I was so proud of those robes, and I couldn't wait for Chaa to see how much I'd done. Now, I've always been a rather... precocious... person. I knew that if I was going to give something to one of my friends, I was gonna do this right. So I decided that not just anyone was going to bless this icon. A bishop would bless it. But not just any bishop, my bishop, His Grace John Kudrick of Parma! So I served at the huge multi-bishop Liturgy, and waited for Bishop Kudrick outside the bishop's "office" where they were all un-vesting. And who should poke his head out to see who the annoying half-pint standing outside was?

I think you can guess. 

He asked me what I was doing, and I told him that I really wanted Bishop Kudrick to bless my icon that I'd written for a friend. Now, this wasn't the first time I had gotten an icon blessed by Bishop Kudrick. This was actually the second icon of mine I was going to present to him. So I was totally fine with waiting. Bishops are extremely busy people. They work days that are the equivalents of our weeks, and even at seventeen I knew I was imposing just a bit by standing outside and daring to get in the way. But, see, the problem was that there was a bus I needed to catch so I wouldn't be stranded at the cathedral. So, as respectfully as I could to the man whom I couldn't stand, I asked if Bishop Kudrick could see me now, if he pleased. He grinned in an unabashed, boyish, way and he vanished back into the office. Not even a minute later he brought out Bishop Kudrick, saying that a young man wished to see him and wasn't that a beautiful icon? Bishop Kudrick smiled a bit weakly (he had just gotten out of the hospital, if memory serves me right), and he blessed the icon. I thanked them both, and ran back to the bus. I was the last person on, and narrowly avoided being left behind. When I got on the bus Chaa was waiting by the door. After a brief scolding for playing it too close she took a look at the icon and grinned. She kissed the icon (a customary sign of respect), and an entire school bus's worth of Byzantine teenagers perked up. They all demanded to see the icon, and each and every person on the bus kissed it and called it beautiful. 

It's one of my most treasured memories as an iconographer, heck, as a person. 

And I ignored the man responsible for it. 

I spent  the rest of my time while Pataki was alive trying to not hate the man, and I mostly failed. When I found out he had retired I rejoiced, and said that the Church could finally recover. I didn't consider the fact that he was in poor health, and was (reportedly) disappointed by not being able to finish the job. And while I won't deny that what Pataki did was wrong, that doesn't excuse me for hating him, or for ignoring his act of kindness towards me. Bishop Andrew Pataki is dead, and I feel pain for losing a man who did so much for me. I also feel guilt that it took until he died to remember his one act of kindness to me. But at least I have one good thing to remember him by. Funny how humanity works like that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

4EMOD: Improvising and Page 42

4th edition is the most imaginative and awesome game I've played so far. Yeah, you heard me right. 4th edition, for all the flaws that I'm pointing out and fixing, has the best structure for making imaginative and fair game play I've seen. Page 42 of the DM's guide, along with the rule of "always say yes", grants people the ability to make up their own powers on the fly. The DM's Guide leaves how to adjudicate this amazing ability wide open.

That's a mistake. If there's anything people need guidelines for, it's how to improv. Without structure most people are paralyzed by choice gloat, and since 4th edition has a very good structure, people feel paralyzed without it. This is a truly amazing aspect of 4th edition that is so underutilized that it's a bit unfair to have even an opinion on 4th edition without trying it.

So here's the guidelines that my group and I have started to throw together. They're not perfect, but they'll work. All final decisions are to be made by the DM, appeals should be few and far between.

1. Determine the type of action it is. Is it standard, move, minor, free, or any of the interrupts? The action can combine up to two of these types. Any more and it starts getting ridiculous.

2. Determine if the action should use up an Encounter, Daily, or Utility (Encounter or Daily) power. Sometimes your players want to use an ability that's truly over the top. Instead of trying to tone it down, ask them if they're willing to give up an encounter or a daily power to use their idea. Discuss this with the players, and most important of all listen to them!  All it takes is screwing this up once for people to get the idea that you're inflexible, and they won't want to try again. If the player is out of encounter or daily powers then do not allow them to use their action. This is where things stay balanced, because a character is only able to be that awesome so often.

This is where the structure of 4th edition is extremely helpful, because as the characters get more powerful they get more powers, and thus have more slots to mess around with. The players will actually feel their power increasing because of their ability to make up more stuff more often, with their established powers as fall backs in case they can't think of anything.

3. Work out the details. What defense will the power target, if it's an attack power? What should the exact effects be? DM's, I suggest you base whatever scale you're using be off of the following:

For At-Wills
  • No more than a +2 bonus or a -2 penalty to attack rolls, regardless of who the beneficiary/target is.
  • If they're looking for a damage boost do not grant anymore than their second most powerful modifier at heroic, secondary+3 at paragon, and secondary+6 at epic.
  • Do not allow for stun as an at-will, ever. Just don't.People will abuse the hell out of it, and the fight will drag on and on.
For Encounters
  • These are the most troublesome to make up, because they're right in the middle. When it comes to assigning increased damage, look at the character and his encounters. Consider his class. If you have a Warden, he probably shouldn't be getting too many 2[W]+highest ability powers, should he? If that's something they're trying for ("I don't want any effects, just give me damage!") that's a bit different. Give them  a 3[W]+highest ability that targets AC, and move on.
  • I would still hesitate to give anyone a stun move at this point. If they insist, reduce the damage to 1[W] and only have it last til the end of their next turn, and even then it's only a single target. Never give a multi-target stun, no matter what tier you're playing at. 
  • This is, by far, the easiest thing to make up stuff for. Go for a minimum of 2[W]+highest modifier damage for any Daily. Anything lower and the effect had better damn well be AWESOME. 
For those who aren't using weapon powers us the damage tables in the DMG.

These are rough guidlines, and, with the exception of the multi-target stun admonishment, treat them as such. Making up powers is more of an art than a science, and more haggling than any of the two. Be prepared to make mistakes at first, and make sure to inform your players of that. They'll understand and, if not, they probably shouldn't be in your game anyway. Give this a spin, experiment, and give me some comments on what you find! I'm very interested in feedback.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shows I Need To See/Catch Up On Over Christmas Break

So here's the list of shows I'll be watching:

Trigun (Finish)
Kara no Kyoukai
Fate Zero
Eureka 7 (rewatch)
Sword of the Stranger (rewatch)
Leverage (catch up)
Once Upon a Time (catch up)

Sound off on what I should add to the list!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Art: Faith

The Place Where Dreams Come True, Part 1

In my art class I was told to make a personal/spiritual image, so I decided to make a painting based off Clannad: After Story, Episode 18. Yes, this is based off Tomoya's and Ushio's reunion. It's not quite done yet, but here we are! I've always wanted to make a Clannad-inspired piece of art...

New Art: Love

Monday, December 5, 2011

The School's Trees: Family First

So another set of friends finished Clannad, and they had some questions about the ending. Now how did that happen? It's not like the end is complicated or anything... One of the friends who finished told me the ending was a mistake. She says this because undoing your experiences invalidates the person. And to make matters even worse, the entire world had to reset itself five years to do it! It's a pretty big accusation against my favorite anime of all time, so I promised I would write up a School's Trees post.

One of the reasons why Clannad is my favorite anime is because of its complexity yet simplicity. While the actual events of the end are difficult to get your mind around sometimes, its wonderful how all that's needed to explain Clannad are a few awesome video clips.

Here's the four that need to be seen:

It's established in the first clip that it's possible for a miracle to happen by having people's feelings reach other people through physical objects. Tomoya needs a miracle. What's the object this time? Ushio. She's been hanging around the town and earning everyone's love for five years. Every single person who meets Ushio loves her immediately, and connect to her in a way that no other person in this anime does. Fuko pulled off a miracle in a matter of weeks with a bunch of wooden starfish and a contrary personality. What could the absolutely lovable and adorable Ushio accomplish with just herself and her father's pain? The answer is a miracle that would make the first part of the show look like small potatoes. And Ushio dying in the snow means that there are people watching, people who can feel Tomoya's heartbreak and the death of Ushio. Tomoya, if remembered, calls upon the world itself, asking that someone, anyone, save Ushio. It's heavily implied in the show that right after making this wish Tomoya dies of a broken heart. A great tragedy just happened, the world is going to notice. The city, the people within it, heck, even God had to take notice of that one. And don't forget that the same place that saved Nagisa attached itself to Ushio as well.

The second clip tells us what the city is willing to do to make one of its own happy. Families do not give up dreams for each other, they change their dreams so the other members of the family can be happy. Tomoya and Ushio are not happy in this world without Nagisa, it's just that simple. What the city wants to do isn't forsaking what it once was: it wishes to change itself so that Tomoya and Ushio can be happy. And when I say city I mean the people in it. This is a huge collective unconscious thing going on, folks. Everyone wants this for each other on some level, that's the point that the show is trying to make! That's an incredibly profound statement. 

The third clip shows that happiness without Nagisa at this stage in the game really is beyond Tomoya's reach. Seriously, look at his father. His father swore to raise Tomoya without help, and look what happened? Tomoya's dreams were ruined, and his father became a good-for-nothing-drunk. Tomoya's father refused help, and this is the fate that he found himself stuck with. The fact that the city eventually offers Tomoya a second chance is all the more proof that he needs this so desperately. And fortunately, Tomoya does cave in. He admits that he is nothing without others, without the family that is community. Tomoya's pride stops mattering to him; he wants to save Ushio, no matter the cost to his ego.

And the fourth clip ties all of this together. The city grants Tomoya the light orbs he needs to have a happy life, and changes its wishes to Tomoya's. This isn't because it would be nice for Tomoya and Ushio to have Nagisa back, it's absolutely essential. For these two there is no changing that. So the city makes the change. This is a collective effort on the part of all humanity, never mind Tomoya for a moment! Humanity wishes for Tomoya's happiness so much that its willing to rewrite itself to make that happen. The world gives up five years for  Tomoya's sake, and he finds himself with his wife and child. All is well. 

In the world of individualism this would be the wrong choice, to be sure. How dare we interfere with Tomoya's experiences that are so rightfully his? How dare we interfere with his misery, which must be left alone, but want to share in his happiness, which is all of a sudden for everyone? That's about as sensible as wishing a couple happiness in their marriage, but not trying to alleviate their suffering should they lose a child or divorce. 

But fortunately we're not individuals, we're persons, made for communion with others. And if anyone wants to if individualism is true, take a look around you. Something is horribly wrong with our world. Families are dissolving, people report having less friends than before, divorce, suicide, and depression rates are up, and people's general faith in humanity has sunk to a new low. We have had two World Wars since we rejected Christianity (which very much so stresses that we are part of a giant family), the likes of which no supposedly-religious war ever gave us. And during the time that all these horrific things were going on? Individualism and the power of the mind were blown out of proportion in art and elsewhere. You can choose to argue with me, and say that Individualism didn't cause this, at least not directly. Well, you're probably right. But that doesn't change the fact that Individualism's rise to being the "de facto religion" of the Western World was the bloodiest of any I know of. If the major thing that changed ideologically was the Enlightenment, what else is there to blame? If you can legitimately find something, please let me know. I'll be more than willing to discuss/argue.

Now I'm not saying collectivism is the right way to go, mind you. A single person can't be ignored for the sake of the whole. I'm saying that we collectively care for persons, instead. The middle path between those two has to be taken, and that's what the show sketches out. I mean, look at what the early Christian community, when they were one giant family! People were healed by having people's shadows pass over them, they spoke in languages that no one even knew existed, they resurrected people from the dead, and they saw visions that brought joy to everybody. That's the power of what happens when people are united in faith together: death itself has no influence over them. I like that way better, personally. If someone reading this blog thinks Christianity is evil, that's your business, but please don't attempt to argue with the results of those who actually practice it. 

Not a single person can make it without others, especially those right around us, and there is no shame in needing help. Because we are all in this together on this little speck of earth and water. One man's sorrows and joys are all of ours. That's common sense, compassion, hell, it's Christianity. I mean, who else do you think invented the hospital, the place where our "precious" pain and suffering is denied its meal for just a little bit longer, so we can go back out and live a happy life? If you believe hospitals are good, then Clannad's ending is better than happy, it's true. If not, then, well, I'm sorry.

A shout out to my old buddies at Clannad Central, the people who graciously provided these Youtube clips, but especially Taylor, their chief uploader. Thank you guys, my blogging experience wouldn't be what it is without you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

4EMOD: Player's Handbook 1 Fiddly Bits

Random Powers and Feat Scaling
Some At-Will powers and feats don't scale with level, such as the Paladin's Bolstering Strike and some feats, making them useless at higher tiers. There are too many of these powers and feats to list individually, so the general rule if an at-will or feat doesn't scale, give it a +3 bonus at 11th tier and a +6 bonus at epic tier. Do not ever make feats that grant a bonus to attack rolls or defenses scale.

Feats: Weapon and Element Feats
Remove all stat requirements for all weapon-related feats. Yes, all of them. Hammer feats no longer require a high Constitution, blades don't require a high Dexterity, polearms a high Wisdom, and so on. This also includes the critical hit feats in epic tier. Wizards didn't have stat requirements for further weapon feats, so why should these feats? Why can't a paladin or a swordmage be good with the very blades that iconic to those classes? Also, improve the damage bonus from Weapon Focus to +2 at heroic, +3 at paragon, and +4 at epic.

This also applies to all the element-styled feats in the first Player's Handbook, such as Burning Radiance. Those stat mods just make what's already a questionable feat worse. Improve the damage of all those feats to +2 at heroic, +3 at paragon, and +4 at epic. Those bonuses will make people actually want to take the feats and change their style to fit using one (or two) elements, not the pitiful +1's, 2's and 3's of the old feats! Players need to feel iconic with their specialties, and a +1 to damage does not do that.

For those of you who are looking at these changes and ask "But what about game balance, Spyder?" Please remember these are feat bonuses, so you can't have the bonus from Weapon Focus and the bonus from Burning Radiance apply to the same power.

Multiclass Feats
Multi-classing is... tricky... in 4th edition. Most people don't attempt it because of the huge feat investment that it takes to only swap out powers. The solution?

Take away all the power swap feats. But just having one feat for something that powerful is too much, however. There should be one more power that allows you to swap out one encounter, one daily, and one utility power from your multi-class class. But all things come at a price to stay balanced, and this houserule has that too. You'll need to remove the bonus trained skill from the multiclass feats. Those feats are now good and do exactly what they're supposed to do without overshadowing the Skill Training feats.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Saint Raphael the Archangel-Part 3

This one of my favorite (and most anxiety-ridden) stages of the process. This is where you start putting highlighting everything and hope that it comes out even. This doesn't mean I don't pre-plan my colors: I do. But it always looks different on the board then it does in a test. So far I'm pretty excited about that green robe. I may have to re-work it a few times, but the basic concept's definitely in place. Now I just need to highlight the face a bit more so I have an idea of how much brighter the rest of the icon will get.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Now y'all are gonna laugh at me, but I was checking out my page views, and I noticed that people from the Netherlands and Singapore are looking at the site. Now, I realize that this is the internet, and everything I post gets seen by the whole world, but I gotta say:


I apologize for that... outburst. It was childish and immature. Oh well. SWEET!
EDIT: If you are outside the U.S., please don't hesitate to leave a comment! I've always wanted to go traveling, but funds (and timing) has always been less than satisfactory. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4EMOD: V-Classes

For those of you who don't know what V-Classes are, I'll explain. Most classes have one attack stat, with two (possibly three) secondary stats its based off. These are called A-Classes (one attack, two secondary). Most classes in 4th edition use this set up, especially the most successful: fighter, rogue, etc. And it's considered good design, for good reason! It works. But there are four classes with a different class set-up: Cleric, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock. These classes are known as V-Classes because they have two attack stats and one secondary stat. And I have to ask why. I really must. Why the designers thought this was a good idea I don't know, but it made these classes some of the hardest to play in the game effectively. If you want to make your attack powers more effective, you have to upgrade both stats. But if you want your effects to be better you have to ignore one of these two attack stats and upgrade your secondary stat.

Part of the problem has to do with stat generation in standard 4th edition. You can only really get one 18 in a "main stat", on average, and that's assuming that you only play race to match with class, or if you decide you'll take the hit on overall effectiveness later on and go with 16's. As At-Will and several other char-op boards have noted, having an 18 in your main stat is vital. These were my reasons for modifying the classes in the first place, but something changed after I made these house rules.

I removed ascending math from my game, and these classes became more effective at their jobs, because they're not having to keep up with the ridiculous moving-but-not pace of standard 4th. These classes can breathe and relax, and be themselves. That should solve everything, right? Wrong. There's one last problem. These classes have a split in them thanks to the V formation. While further books have cut down on the problem, the fact is that each of these classes is essentially two halves of a class. None of the other classes have this joyful burden. I see no point in continuing this love fest. 

This is one of those classes that works really well before you modify it, and it becomes so much better after, because you're able to mix and match tactics as you wish. You can stay out of battle and buff your allies, and then switch it up and wade into battle to kick ass righteously and hand out buffs and debuffs as you wish. You don't have to do that, of course. You can play a straight ranged or straight melee cleric. But with this mod it becomes a choice, not a restriction.

Rules: Powers
All powers are now Wisdom powers. Change all Strength attack and damage lines to Wisdom. All abilities that rely upon a secondary stat in Strength powers become Constitution to bring it more into line with Essentials and to deal with the fact that clerics don't have the absolute best armor. Leave the secondary stat of Wisdom powers at Charisma.

Rules: Divine Domains
Give yourself a domain feat from Divine Power for your deity as a bonus feat. You should have this anyway, you're a cleric! 

It's no secret that paladin is my favorite class in the game. I like paladin because I get to zealously play out a religious person and be a tough-as-nail warrior, someone who genuinely believes, a symbol  of incorruptibility. Changing this class allows you to mix and match the more defender-y and striker-like aspects of this class freely. I'm also going to put in a few rules that better reflect the flavor of the paladin, without (hopefully) changing game balance that much.

Rules: Powers
All powers become Strength powers. Change the Strength power's secondary stat from Wisdom to Charisma. Leave the Charisma powers alone. 

Rules: Divine Challenge
This is probably the biggest rules change for the paladin, honestly. Change the punishment damage in Divine Challenge from Charisma+3(+6/+9) to Strength+Charisma or Wisdom+3(+6/+9). Ban Mighty Challenge in Divine Power. Change all references in all paladin powers from "marked" or "divine sanction" to "Divine Challenge". This unifies all the Paladin's marking mechanics, and makes sure that if you want to maintain those marks you make you can.

 Rules: Channel Divinity
Give yourself your Deity's Channel Divinity as a bonus feat.

Rules: Fearless
You get a +2 bonus to all defenses and saving throws against fear and charm effects.

Rules: Weapon of Faith
You may use your weapon as your holy symbol. Use all the normal rules for using a weapon as an implement.

This makes the paladin a truly formidable warrior, free to smite the enemies of his god with an abandon that should make fighters shake in their boots. To those of you who are looking at the changes and think that they're broken, please remember that most of the work done on this blog post is correcting mistakes that the game designers tried to fix in Essentials. This paladin looks broken in comparison to the old paladin, sure. But is it broken? Not really, no. When you make the comparison to the Fighter, the unabashed best defender in the game, you'll see that the paladin still doesn't do what the fighter does.

And that's the point. If a fighter gets next to you there's no escape, period. A paladin will make you wish you were next to him. There is no other class in the game that is designed to take on large groups like the paladin and walk out alive. Is a fighter better at its job then a paladin? Hell yeah. But a paladin does its job better than a fighter. You'll find in all these posts where I "fix" things that I'm not plugging holes as much as pushing the class to do what its designed to do. The paladin is the best multi-marker there is. Let's remove all the crap that keeps it from doing that.

Most people don't think of ranger as a "problem class". It's one of the most effective strikers in the game, after all. But the V-Class formation, like all the others, has to go. Besides, dual weapon rangers have the issue of being constantly stretched between Strength and Dexterity. Archers have a natural advantage over dual-wielders in that regard. Time to get rid of that.

But what stat do we go with?  Strength is very important to a dual-wielding ranger, but we're not looking for what's important. We're looking for what's iconic. And the plain fact of the matter is rangers are known for their dexterity, even good ole Drizzt do Urden, a dual-wielder. Other dual-wielders in every single piece of fiction I've read or watched are more acrobatic than strong. So Dexterity is the main stat.

Rules: Powers
Change all powers to Dexterity. In Strength powers change the secondary modifier from Wisdom to Strength. Now comes the tricky part, the Utility Powers. I would suggest changing most of these powers to say Wisdom or Strength. Use your best judgment, and if your player can make a good argument for why they should be able to use Strength instead of Wisdom for a modifier I suggest giving it to them. I mean, why not? You're changing the rules either way.

Rules: Inner Compass
I know this sounds silly, but I like giving my rangers the ability to find true north. For free. While there's a slight increase to their overall effectiveness it just feels right to me, so I added it in. Feel free to ignore this rule as you see fit.

You'll notice that, as with the Cleric, the Ranger becomes less about filling a specified role than being a versatile player that can do high amounts of damage in close and ranged combat, depending on what the player wants at that point. Does it make the ranger better? Yup, it does. But I have difficulty seeing as to how that's a problem. Rangers have always had a versatility that other classes simply are not supposed to have. This fix allows for that.

Warlock is my second favorite class, and narrowly behind the paladin at that. It's easily the most flavorful of the Player's Handbook 1 classes, with a story that practically screams "Play me!" It's also the worst class of the first handbook. It barely fulfills its striker role, being more of a controller than the bloody wizard of the same book. Oy, what a mess. Well, fear not, there's a way to fix it!

Rules: Powers
All powers become Charisma powers. The following pacts use Intelligence as their secondary stat: fey, dark, and star. The following pacts use Constitution as their secondary stat: infernal, sorcerer-king, and vestige. Increase all damage dice by one step, as outlined in the equipment section of the Player's Handbook. This should do more than enough to make any warlock a competitive striker, on par with the sorcerer! It doesn't look like much, but those little bumps in damage will make the warlock a force to be reckoned with. 

Constitution-Secondary Warlocks
All pacts that use Constitution as their secondary stat may use their Constitution modifier in place of their Dexterity or Intelligence when calculating AC. This is because these warlocks are so proficient at channeling raw power that could destroy a less being through their bodies they can ignore hits that could kill a normal being. A Constitution Warlock does with his bare skin what a paladin or fighter does with heavy armor. He's that badass.

Give warlocks the dagger as an implement. Use the "normal" rules for weapons as implements.

Rules: Warlock At-Wills
You get your pact's at-will, eldritch blast, and one other at-will of your liking in the warlock class. For those of you who have the Eldritch Strike, limit it to the dagger, and add 1d8 to the damage.

So, give these rules a try, and let me know what you think. These rules are tested a bit, but I won't pretend that they're exhaustive. Comment below.

Next week I'll cover other random fixes in Player's Handbook 1. For now, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the States!

Monday, November 14, 2011

4EMOD: Races, Ability Scores, and Playing

I apologize for being late this week. I didn't sleep well Thursday, and spent most of Friday recovering and playing DnD. Here's the post!

When I first started to play 4th Edition I was DMng and playing (a state of affairs I used to find myself in often), and so I needed to make a character.Oh, I knew what I wanted to play. We were re-creating our first campaign, and so I was going to re-envision my first DnD character: Xenith Amakiir, the paladin of Bahamut. I knew exactly how I wanted to do it this time around, too. I wanted Xenith to be an eladrin, because elves and teleportation together was just too cool for me to not mix. I also wanted to multiclass into warlock with a fey pact, because Xenith's former job had involved... pleasantries... with a fey that could have been called the Summer Queen from the Manual of the Planes.  Xenith was going to keep paying visits to this fey for his usual jollies, while being a faithful follower of Bahamut, right? Right.

But as I read through my Player's Handbook in my first two days of getting it I noticed something that was a bitter disappointment: the character wasn't going to work. For those of you who aren't familiar with 4th edition, here's why:
  1. Both classes are multi-stat, splitting the class powers cleanly between two main attack stats, and rely upon a tertiary stat for the classes abilities
  2. While eladrin do have a bonus to Intelligence, they don't have a boost to Charisma (they do now thanks to errata, but they didn't then).
In other words, a corner case. On the first try. Wasn't I excited? I took a look, and knew that I had a powergamer in my group. Now, not to rag on the guy or anything, but he was a bit.. competitive. This guy (we'll call him James) would turn anything that was cooperative into a competition to see who could contribute more. If James contributed more he would gloat, and if he didn't he'd try to prove that he was important to the team. After four years of playing with James I'd enough.  I knew I wanted to be optimized, so that way I didn't have to hear how much more awesome his character was than mine. But I truly wanted to make something cool and unique, and 4th edition as written can be a bit...restrictive. Now while you may be thinking that I'm too personally involved, I could recount all the tales of people picking a race that benefits the class and who don't think any further about it. The great majority are players let the race's stat bonuses pigeonhole each race into certain classes.

Examples: When's the last time you saw an eladrin swordmage, a class that they're practically made for? Or a dwarf bard? Or a dragonborn spellsword?

The fact that these race-class combos can be made to work is besides the point. People want to take advantage of the good math that's associated with the racial stats. It's rare to see someone work against those stat boosts. And while it does happen the fact remains: people are loathe to go against those all-important stat bonuses. Even though adding more options in Essentials was a nice gesture, it still puts the players in an imaginary straightjacket. What I want to do is remove the straightjacket and let the nuts run loose in the nut-house.

Remove all ability modifiers from all races; no races get a +2 to any stat. Ignore all stat generation rules in the rulebooks. Use these stat generation rules instead.

Stat Generation
Balanced: When generating stats you get an 18, 16, and a 10 to put where you wish. Then roll 2d6+6 "straight down the line" for the rest (see example).

Split Stats: You get two 18's  and two 10's to put where you wish. After that roll 2d6+6 and apply them wherever you like. (see example).

Example of Balanced Stats:  I decide to make a dragonborn fighter that uses hammers. I give my fighter a Strength of 18 and a Constitution of 16. I put my 10 in my Intelligence. I roll 2d6+6 three times: 13, 16, 10. The remaining stats (in order from top to bottom) are Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma. I apply them "straight down the line".  My stats are Strength 18, Constitution 16, Dexterity 13, Wisdom 16, and Charisma 10.

Example of Split Stats: I decide to pick an eladrin paladin multiclassed into warlock. A paladin's main stat is Strength (in my houserules), so I give it an 18, and a warlock's is Charisma (in my houserules) so I give it an 18 as well. I decide to put a 10 in my Intelligence, and the other 10 in my Wisdom.  I roll two more times: 14 and 13. Looking at  my character sheet, I see the rest of the stats, and they (in order of top-to-bottom): Constitution, Dexterity, and Wisdom. I apply them wherever I like: Constitution 14 and Dexterity 13. These are the final stats: Strength 18, Constitution 13, Dexterity 14, Intelligence 10, Wisdom 10, and Charisma 18.

These rules will allow any class to be combined with any race for story reasons, as opposed to game reasons. There is almost reason to not use this houserule, period. The benefits of doing this are just too good. I mean, I have a shardmind battlemind who has just as good of stats as the halfling rogue who's also in the same group. These people both picked races and classes they thought were cool, and didn't have to finagle with the character to give them something that worked well. They could both have fun. And that's what's important.

EDIT: I forgot to mention what I was covering next week. Next week will be the first installment of Player's Handbook 1: Cleric, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock, the V-Classes!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The School's Trees Announcement

I've decided to port the Top Ten Favorite Characters and my posts from The School's Trees over to this blog. They've all be inserted chronologically into this blog, so if you wanna read any of the earlier posts you need to go back to 2010, or look up The School's Trees tag. I've modified the posts slightly like removing anachronistic details, taking down broken links and pictures, things like that. If any of the other writers want me to port their posts over onto this blog, please let me know.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saint Raphael the Archangel, Part 1

Here you go, folks! As you can see, I'm experimenting with the under colors a bit. The yellow is Cadmium Yellow Medium, in case certain folks (like my lovely girlfriend) are wondering.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

4EMOD: Ascending Math

Familiar much?
A few weeks ago I helped my friend, Raphael (mentioned in an earlier post), start a Star Wars campaign. This meant that a lot of people were interested in playing, and most had never done RP in their lives. Fortunately Raphael and I were up to the task, and we started teaching 6 of the 9 people who showed up that day how to make a character. One of them got flustered after a few minutes of working, so I asked what was wrong. She pointed at the level bonuses to everything, and said:

"This is more complicated than doing my taxes."

I was astounded, and quickly shut my jaw and moved on with teaching her how to fill out her tax form. I wasn't astounded by the dumbness of the girl in question, mind you. She had shown herself to be quite intelligent. I was astounded because someone had actually said something that I'd thought for a long time.

Why have ascending attack, defense, and skill bonuses? What's the point? It's so much work, and for what? Nothing! Spyder, have you lost your mind? It's because people get better at attacking and defending themselves!

I am quite sane, thank you. And we already have something for that. It's called damage and hit points. Let me explain. Hit points in Dungeons and Dragons have never been strictly health. They are a stat measuring the luck and health (physical and mental) of the character. Hit points represent the ability of an adventurer to turn a lethal strike into a graze or even a narrow miss. The only time that a real physical hit's talked about in Dungeons and Dragons is when a character is bloodied and when they drop to zero. That's it. The rest of it's narrow escapes scrapes. Damage, then is actually the measurement of not only how "damaging" the blow is, but how good the attack is to begin with. The actual attack roll only determines if you whiff so badly it's not worth notice.

But what about the whiff? Well, that's something that does change, if you keep it at that. See the houserules below on what you can do to fix that. Epic tier is epic tier for a reason, people who have achieved that level of awesomeness shouldn't be bothered by a bunch of kobolds! Hold your horses, I agree. Read the actual house-rules first.

But what about skills? Shouldn't those  go up? Yes, but not all of them at the level that 4th edition says they should. A friend of mine (we'll call him Spawn of Satan, he loves that nickname) rightfully pointed out that if a wizard's never seen water before how is he supposed to know how to swim? If he doesn't know how he just doesn't know how, and it shouldn't be a breeze for him to swim, no matter how high in level he gets. Also, the fact is this: the skill DCs increase with you at the same right as you level, meaning that nothing really changes. Can you jump farther? Oh yes! But convincing the guard that he should let you sleep with his mom still has the same chances. While most people will argue that the DC should stay the same, we all know that the numbers don't mean anything because all they do is change. Just because I've become a world class hammer swinger doesn't mean that my flexibility's increased enough to go beneath that stupid limbo pole. I'll probably still throw my back out for trying, knowing my luck (This isn't from personal experience of mine or anything, just from... a friend. Yeah. Actually a friend of a friend. On the limbo thing, not the hammer thing.).

Anyway, here's what you need to do to implement these ideas, in case you agree with me!

On the Player's Side
Take out  the half level modifier for all things that require it. Do not apply enhancement bonuses from weapons, armor, and magical items to attack and defense. To simulate that skills still develop over time, give the character a +2 to two skills every time you upgrade your stats. The skills improved in this way do not need to be trained. This means you get a +2 to two skills at  levels 4, 8, 11, 14, 18, 21, 24, and 28. Simple, right? Oh, but if you're the DM, just wait...

The DM's Side
This is where things get... painful. The DM has to remove all the ascending math so the players don't have to put up with it. While this doesn't affect the players all that much beyond their initial buy-in the workload for the DM is enormous, and really shouldn't be attempted unless you want your rule-books to be entirely written-over. Apply a half-level penalty to the monster's initiative and skill checks. But removing the half-level modifier doesn't actually make the defenses hittable, because the internal math of 4th edition doesn't operate on half-level for attacks and defenses, but on level; you have to try a different approach.

At heroic tier, apply a penalty of Monster's Level-1 to all of a monster's defenses and attacks.

At paragon tier apply a penalty of Monster's Level-2 to all of a monster's defenses and attacks.

At epic tier apply a penalty of Monster's Level-3 to all of a monster's defense and attacks.

You'll find that all the numbers you arrive at do not go higher than 25 at the very most. Most of the time a monster won't even have a defense higher than 20, which puts you at having to roll a 16 to hit a monster's defense at the very most. Crunch the numbers, see if they work. A lot of my monsters have been converted over, and honestly, it works out really well.

The last bit, to deal with fighting monsters ten levels higher?? Give the target of the attack Damage Resist 10 All for each ten levels it's above the attacker. If that attacker deals zero damage to the target then it counts as a miss. Effect lines in powers still happen as normal, as do miss lines (do NOT apply the Damage Resistance to damage from the Miss line.)

Example 1: Colin is a level 5 warlord fighting a level 11 drow. The drow is in paragon tier, so it gains Resist 10 All against all of Colin's attacks, since he's one tier higher than Colin. He rolls his damage dice and gets 12 damage. That damage is 2, instead. Whatever effects Colin wanted to happen go off, because he dealt damage.

Example 2: Martha's level 6 psion is fighting the Tarrasque, a level 30 solo. Martha shouldn't be in this fight, her character doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell. The Tarrasque receives an additional Resist 20 All (And since he has Resist 10 All already, which puts it up to a 30!), since he's two tiers above her character. She rolls 11 damage, which is reduced below zero. Normally any additional effects wouldn't happen either, but Martha used a power that has an Effect line. No damage is dealt, but the effect happens anyway.

However, if the target of an attack is 10 levels below the attacker then the target gains vulnerable 10 against that attack per every 10 levels they're below the target..

Example: Colin has advanced his warlord to level 11. Yay for Colin, he survived fighting the drow! He's attacking a kobold. Kobolds are dumb, they need to be squashed. Since the kobold's level 1, it gains vulnerable 10 to Colin's attack. Colin rolls 12 damage, which becomes 22 because of the vulnerable 10. Holy crap, if the kobold's not dead already it better run!

Example 2: Remember Martha, and how she was fighting the Tarrasque? Yeah, she's still fighting that thing. Martha goes to her happy place as the Tarrasque rolls his attack roll and hits. The Tarrasque rolls his damage. 36 damage, right? Wrong, it's 56 because Martha has vulnerable 20 to all its attacks! Martha needs to start rolling death saving throws. 

One thing that you must do is use the Monster Manual 3 damage figures for all monsters; it's the only way make them a legitimate threat. I've gone through and started writing the new figures into my MM and MM2 books, and man do they look nasty.

Other Changes
Another part that has to be changed are feats that give attack and defense bonuses that scale with level. Personally I'd get rid of all the Expertise feats; they're a pain in the butt and an unnecessary feat tax. The same is true of the defense feats pre-Essentials, and can be removed without much trouble. Scaling damage however? I'd actually encourage improving those feats by a +1 at heroic tier, a +2 at paragon, and +3 at epic tier. Speeding up combat is a good thing, particularly in 4th, and you'd be surprised how useful that +1 to damage is with every single hit. Especially if someone can tell you "Hey, fire's my specialty! See how much more damage I do with it!"

Skill DCs
Skill DC's are pretty easy to fix, actually. Keep them static. Here's the DC's I use.

Easy: 8
Medium: 12
Moderate: 19
Hard: 23
Master: 30
Heroic: 34

You may not benefit from Aid Another at Master DC and up, since that level of difficulty is so balls-hard that it's almost sheer dumb luck to achieve it, even for a god.

Since the players are only going to be truly good at one or two skills they'll have bragging rights on the ones they're good at, with holes that the rest of the team can cover, all without having to edit that damn sheet every two or three sessions. The numbers will actually mean something, since they change so little! There's an actual sense of scale and growth as characters slowly increase their abilities and get gradually better at their skills.

The last session I DMed for my level 11 rogue was proud of rolling a 34 (+12 I believe, rolled a nat 18 and was aided twice) and convincing a Pit Fiend they hadn't roughed up the criminal whose soul the thing had come to collect: the nice angels who were trying to kill him had done it instead. The rogue then excused himself as the pit fiend tore into the angels instead of him.

This is the most easily ignored part of 4EMOD, although I think it's an incredible little fix. Unlike the rest of the system, which depends on balancing the classes against each other, the ascending math house rule is modular and doesn't need to be implemented to get the effects of 4EMOD. I included it first, however, because I'm working from general to specific.This is a pretty good indication of what's to come, folks. Hope you enjoy it!

Next Thursday we'll cover races, ability scores, and how to improve role-play opportunities with both.

EDIT 1: Modified the DC's a bit, added in an additional level of difficulty. Tweaked the Aid Another Rules
EDIT 2: Changed things from tier to 10 level increments as suggested by Little J. Thanks for the input!

The School's Trees: Jun Maeda and Allegory

... but the Clannad Fanpage had a link to something I've meant to see for a long time: an interview with Jun Maeda, one of the chief writers of Air, Kanon, Clannad, and Angel Beats:

I have to admit, I'm a remarkably jaded person. I think authority is a corrupting influence at best, people and ideals should almost never mix, and never mistake a creation for its creator. The popular series Death Note is a good example. From what I've heard from my friends the anime is a lot better than the manga it was adapted from. Why? Because apparently the writer has said the story doesn't have any symbolism beyond a boy who finds a notebook that can kill people. Now, one of these days I really will write a note about how Death Note is an allegory for the human psyche. So to say that I was disappointed by that revelation was a bit of a let-down. JRR Tolkien also stated multiple times that Lord of the Rings was not an allegory, but was just a story about at a hobbit. Now don't get me wrong, the story is very much so about a hobbit. But just consider for a moment the sheer symbolism in Lord of the Rings. It's a huge letdown. Considering how much I like Lord of the Rings and Death Note it's rather difficult to accept that the authors didn't intend a meaning beyond what they had written. It's hard to take allegories seriously when two of the strongest allegories you know of were never intended that way. So it's nice that at least one of my favorite pieces of fiction was meant to be a symbol of good, that it wasn't just a paycheck, that there's someone out there who wanted good in their stories.

Corny as it sounds, a part of me needed to hear what Jun had to say in this brief snippet. A lot goes into writing a story, and it's nice to know that someone who is not only successful but still looking pretty idealistic can believe. Maybe that's what I needed to see: Maeda's belief that he was doing good with his writing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ten Favorite TV Shows

I know I know, people make these corny lists all the time, but I'm a big sucker for reading stories. And watching stories influences the arcs of your own life, so it's important to know what a person reads and watches. Because you'll probably find out who that person is in a way that they couldn't begin to show you. These are the shows that make me laugh, cry, believe... they inspire me. I come back to them, time and time again, to enjoy and remember a little bit of what the world is really about. I hope these shows can give a good snapshot of who and what I am. Not that it matters or anything, gosh that last paragraph was corny as hell. On to the next thing!

10. Eureka Seven

Speaking of corny, here's Eureka Seven! Like most people, I started out on Fullmetal Alchemist, and liked it. My friend Marty told me that Fullmetal Alchemist was alright, but there was better. When I scoffed at him, he showed me Eureka Seven. Yeah, he was right. Don't get me wrong, I like Fullmetal, and will gladly watch any of the two shows with anyone, but it lacks a certain... passion... to be on this list (both of them). That's a different argument for a different day, anyway.

Eureka Seven is about the stereotypical whiny 14-year old, Renton, who instantly falls in love with the beautiful and distant Eureka. Of course, as a 14-year old Renton has no idea what love actually means, but that's why the show's so good.

He finds out. 

The show slowly walks you through the story of these two falling in love and what it takes to stay that way. As stated before, it gets corny at times, but damnit if this show isn't inspiring in the midst of that then you obviously don't have a soul! The things that this show puts the two kids through illustrates the  truth about love: it's a choice. You must choose to love someone, because they'll be in need of your choices one way or another. The entire reason it works out between people who are childhood sweet-hearts, a pairing that's rare at best, is that they learned this truth together. And that's why Eureka Seven is awesome, because it dares to say what we actually mean when we say "I love you": "I love you, no matter what that means."

9. Deathnote

I'm not going to lie, this is probably the darkest anime that's on the list. No one's an actual good guy, but are shades of grey and black in a depressingly limited world. But that's not why I like the show. It occurred to me that the show is an allegory of what must be done to defeat evil inside yourself. If you look at each character as an aspect of the human mind, you'll notice the show makes perfect sense. It's not the most intelligent man who defeats evil, but the most ruthless. The one who makes use of every single opportunity to defeat evil in himself is the one who will win. I think it's really the only way to watch the show and actually "get" it. Watch it again with that in mind. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

8. Gurren Lagann

Oh, I hated this show for the first seven episodes. It was cheesy, messy, fan-service-heavy crap. No, I did not enjoy Kamina, nor did I enjoy Simon's whininess. The plot was non-sensical, and for the love of all that is good and holy please stop showing me fan-service! But my friend Sunohara (name changed to protect the guilty) told me to keep with it, that this show was truly amazing. I didn't believe him. I suffered through those seven episodes.

But as of episode eight all that changed abruptly. The show started to look at what ails mankind, and how to fix it. Their answer's pretty simple: the will to love. And they show that in the most gloriously messy, irrational, and awesome display of manliness you will ever see in anything. The show tells us something that I think we forget about all too easily: loving is, at best, irrational. It's an act of will, that destroys all that doesn't agree with it or converts all that will. It goes against reason, the past, the future, whatever gets in its way, and tries for the good. Forget action Arnold, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, and all them. THIS is what manliness looks like. 

Not literally, of course. I don't think any of us would willingly dress up like these guys on a regular basis. And I'm certain the girls would get too cold if they dressed up like Yoko. The amount of complaining that would generate would be... gah. Earplugs wouldn't be enough. 

7. Scrubs

Y'know, I doubt I have to really introduce this show to many people. It's about a hospital and a bunch of people in the hospital. There, all done. Well, not really. See, Scrubs is a really good show. Despite the fact that there's way too much sexual stuff going on and the show's views on said sexuality is a bit... messed up is a good word(!)... I really like this show. It's hilarious, thoughtful, bittersweet, and outright bitter. Every character has their hubris, something to them that, while hilarious, is treated with a certain gravity and honesty that really makes me pay attention. Yeah, it's funny to laugh at the janitor because of his troubled childhood, until they show you that they're not joking. Elliot's a nervous wreck, and later becomes a slut. But meet her mother! Gah, no wonder the woman's got issues. I could keep going, but that'd take up so much room that you'd no longer want to watch the show. Suffice to say, Scrubs has heart, which is something you won't find me saying about most shows.

6. Baka To Test Season 1
The one on the top left is a guy.

Y'know how I watch Scrubs when I desperately need to laugh? Well, if Scrubs won't this show will. The first season of this show is absolutely hilarious, for all the reasons a 13-year old would laugh and then some. It's no big secret I have a juvenile sense of humor, and I'm glad I have a show to cater to those taste. I'm sure the shows "lower" on the list are more insightful. I know they are. But damn, this show makes me laugh! Funimation just put out a dub, which I recommend avoiding, because it sounds like the people are reading their scripts and edit out the "turn the page" thing they're all saying. Watch the subs, people. Watch.

Oh, and the opening's awesome too.

5. Walking Dead, Season 1

I usually hate zombie films. They're a boring, unimaginative, gorefest. So I heard about this show and immediately brushed it off. A TV show about zombies? Please, find something more... original... please? But my brother started watching it and got hooked. My brother prides himself on having a half-way decent taste, so I started watching. I was hooked. I started reading the comics. I'm too broke to buy them, but I'm hooked on those too. I haven't seen the second season yet, because I'm waiting to watch all the episodes with my girlfriend, but the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive so far. I look forward to it.

Anyway, you're probably wondering why this hit so high on my list, aren't you? Honestly, it's the season finale that really grabbed me. As a person who had lost all zest for life for quite a number of years I can honestly say the last episode truly inspired me to get up and try again. The other five episodes are really good too, but they all culminate in episode 6.

We are the walking dead.

4. Darker than Black

Oh my gosh, this show is depressing. The main character, Hei, will probably never achieve peace in this world. His attempts to do the right thing are constantly rejected. The people he love die or turn out to be monsters that have to be put down. Nothing ever works out for him. But on he goes, trying anyway. I don't know if that's why so many people like the show, but that's why I do.

3. Lost

I recently got to re-watch Lost and man, did it bring back memories. The show still holds up, several years after all's said and done. The characters are amazing, the story sets those characters up so well, and the acting makes me believe in those characters. If you can't tell, Lost is about characters. It's the "main" reason I love the show, and it's the reason why so many people did. But for me, there's something more important: the characters finally arrive at peace. As someone who looks for peace on a daily basis, I'd be lying if I said that Lost's ending didn't hit me hard. The fact that it's a happy ending after six seasons worth of trial and turmoil for these people is far more important to me than anything else. I'm glad I gave the show a chance a few years ago, and I'm glad I gave it another chance. Definitely worth buying.

2. Firefly

Talking about these next two entries is going to be rather difficult. What can I say to add to what's been said? In Firefly's case, probably not much. Most people who read this blog know how awesome this show is, and the horrible injustice done by Fox to all humanity. All I will say about this masterpiece of a show is this: this is the show that convinced me that I wanted to write. I wanted to create something as awesome as Firefly, and I hope that one day I will.

1. Clannad/Clannad After Story

Sorry, couldn't resist.

This paragraph is rather small, but that's not because I don't have much to say. I do. I wrote about nine months of a review for this, it's called The School's Trees. Suffice to say, this is my favorite show of all time. Watch it.