Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mascot Close Up

I realize how hard it can be to really appreciate the minutes of artistic effort that go into my backgrounds, so here it is up close in its full glory.

Feel free to expand for AWESOME view.

Keep your pumpkins lit.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Costumes-GO BIG or GO CHEAP

You know how people like to say, "Go big or go home"?  Well I'm going to put this out there and just see what you think: Go big or go cheap.
What I mean by this is that you have multiple levels of costuming.  One one end you have the old school costumes I remember as a kid, vinyl jumpsuits with flimsy plastic masks held on by a rubber band.  As a small child that costume was meant to sum up the whole character for you.  On the other end you have near theatrical quality cosplay style costuming with period accurate details and real fabrics.  Very nice, but very expensive and probably only appreciated by a select few.
In the middle you have various levels and some try to look impressive but fail while others clearly don't give a giant rat's arse.
So I am putting out there the concept that if you cannot go big, aim for the lowest possible level.  Don't spend a bit more than you are comfortable with and wind up being disappointed.  Sometimes you just have to buck the system and say, "Screw it, this t-shirt and cardboard mask IS my costume" and take refuge in symbolism and audacity.
Let's take for example a werewolf.  The old Wolfman.  Classic monster, classic costume.  
Let's say you want to go big with it.
What are you in for?
Way back when I was a lad I saw a most excellent werewolf mask at Spencer's Gifts.  I knew that year that I would be a werewolf.  My mother procured some faux fur from the fabric store and with hot glue, safety pins, an old t-shirt, and some brown fabric gloves I had a full werewolf from the belt up.  I loved it.  
As an adult I volunteered to work at a local haunted house for kids and purchased one of the werewolf masks and hands as seen here:

It gets hot.  Masks are unpleasant.  What's more, the kids were not impressed.  Not a bit.
If i were going to a party I'd have that mask off in about 3 minutes so I could eat and drink.  I don't do well with make-up either.  What, if anything, does this have to do with my point?
You can really do a good werewolf costume if you put in the time and/or money.  You can get appliances, masks, faux fur, gloves, get some clothes and strategically shred them and really make a good werewolf.  
Or you can go cheap.
I know, I know, you are looking at that and saying, "Oh, Rook, isn't that the sort of thing you refer to as 'douchy'?"
Normally I'd agree with you, but the point I'm making here today is that sometimes less is more.  Less is definitely more when more is not enough.  Let's say you want to make a prime werewolf costume and you do not have any sewing or costuming skills and you definitely don't have a lot of time.  Now why you wouldn't just junk the whole idea, grab a bedsheet and be a ghost, I don't know, but for the purposes of this mental exercise, you have your heart set on being a werewolf.
Your basic bog standard werewolf costume with mask, gloves, and furry chested shirt will run you about $50.  The range is between $40 and $70, really, but let's just say $50.  Oftentimes when you are looking at the online catalogs you see a number of werewolf costumes that are similar in form, a mask, some gloves, a lumberjack shirt that is torn and has fur coming out.  Those are all good options.  Those same catalogs will sell you any number of parts to complete a werewolf look.  I've cobbled together some components for you:
If we were to take all of those pieces to make a stellar werewolf costume we'd be easily into it for $150 on the low end.  Is there an upper limit really?  Time is also a factor, as well as skill.  You see the professionally done werewolf prosthetic on the top right, which has been professionally photographed and includes fangs which are not part of the prosthetic and you think that would make a great werewolf.  And you'd be right, but do you have the time, money, and skills to make your own face into that?  You are going to need more than an appliance.  You are going to need make up, false hair/wig, adhesives, fangs, and that's just for a face.  I put the faux fur beside the commercially available werewolf chest piece because I think you go one or the other really, not both.  Also I don't like the werewolf chest piece.  Looks sad.  At $10.49 a yard faux fur is not bad, but that's going to require sewing or hot glue gun skills (or safety pins if you don't expect close inspection).  How many yards would you need?  I don't know, I'm not a tailor.  Going big means going expensive, I'm afraid.

Is it any wonder people spend 8 bucks for some plastic fangs and a dribble of blood and just dress up as a vampire?

Which brings us back to go cheap.  Looking back at the "grab n go" wolfman we see a cheap product, but well suited for a specific purpose.  The purpose: last minute panic.  Friday morning get the word that a costume party is going on that night, grab n go.  Knew about a party but kept procrastinating, grab n go.  On your way to a party and just found out it's costume required?  I think you see my point.  Plus it's chinless so you can eat and drink and whatnot.
Go big.
Go cheap.
But don't go mediocre.  

Keep your pumpkins lit.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

My Favorite Witch Hunter

Have I mentioned the Witch Hunter thing before?  The fascination with the hats?  I don't know, maybe I haven't.  Okay, I have, here.

Just a reminder of the typical witch hunter look
The sorts of witch hunters you see in gaming and such are often of the Hopkins variety with tall hats and pistols and such.  My favorite, however, was Giles Redferne as played by Richard E. Grant in the 1989 (cult) classic Warlock.  The story should be familiar to everyone by now.  An evil warlock from the 17th century is transported to the 20th century (from Massachusetts to LA, no less) by Satan to find the Grand Grimoire, put it together and unmake creation.  Redferne is a hunter that follows him to the 20th century and with the help of a local gal named Kassandra they save the world.  Pretty normal stuff.
Our Subject

Why I like Redferne is a mixture of the costume, the writing, and the performance that Grant turns in.  The film is a bit camp, which is good in my book, and with Julian Sands doing his villainous best (Skeletor would be proud) they make an excellent dichotomy.  Part of Redferne's charm, to me at least, is that he's portrayed as a woodsman (so, ranger in essence) with a personal grudge against the Warlock (we are now capitalizing because the character has no other name).  If you can hunt wolves and bears, you can certainly hunt a man.  Redferne also displays a vast knowledge of magical lore himself, including bits of folk magic he uses to counter the evil of the Warlock.  For example using brass keys to counter and cure a spell that caused an old Mennonite farmer to bleed from the eyes.

In terms of weapons he comes to the 20th century carrying a leather whip, a dirk, and a weirdo S&M device that he uses to lock the Warlock's thumbs to his big toes to prevent him using magic.
Thumb locks...which also lock toes, but toe lock sounds like a crap wrestling move.

He also has a witch compass, which is the strange brass and wood device that points him in the general direction of his quarry when he puts his prey's blood into it.  You know, come to think of it, for a witch hunter, Redferne uses a fair bit of magic himself.
Setting up the witch compass
And then there's the weather vane.  Early in the film Redferne is astounded by Kassandra's container of salt.  "Witches loathe salt," he tells her.  However it is his adapting a fallen iron weather vane into an improvisational spear that really makes me grin.

Yes, that happened.

And that too.
I presume this kind of awesome needs no explanation.

Go, Redferne, go!
For the record, he stole the weather vane.  It was the Mennonite family's property, and he just kept it.  I'm sure grandpa didn't mind, what with the bleeding out of the eyes and all.  Maybe off screen he gifted it to Redferne, knowing the gravity of the mission.

Most witch hunters are presented as priest types, or as my previous article noted, Puritan Hat wearers.  They act like judges (okay, they are) not actual hunters.  Then along comes Giles Redferne and he actually is a fur clad hunter.  This is good stuff.
It's a way to play that ranger character you've never tried before, elf boy.  None of your Legolas bow antics and double scimitars here.  Hunting humans.
One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong...

If you've never seen the film, I urge you to check it out.

I do sometimes wonder if he was actually present at the trial as expert testimony or arresting officer.  It started off quite official.  His dialog demonstrated a respect for law and order.  He was quite willing to watch the Warlock hang for his crimes...until they got to the 20th century and then it was a witch killing free-for-all.

Keep your pumpkins lit.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Interview With The Paladin-Bonus Content

As a special favor to me, Flennetar the Paladin agreed to a short interview.  My assumption that everyone would know what a paladin is might have been unwarranted, so I asked Flen if he would consent to giving us all behind the scenes details.  He was obliging, so here it is.
CP: Flennetar, thanks so much for this interview.
Flennetar: You're mighty welcome, noble scribe.  Where should we begin?
CP: Perhaps you could tell us all a little bit about yourself.  Firstly, you are a paladin.  What is that like?
Flennetar: I enjoy it.  Righting wrongs, smiting evil, delving dungeons to find lost treasures, then donating them to the local orphanages.  It's a full life.
CP: Now you are what they call an "Old School" paladin.  What does that mean, really?
Flennetar: I'd say I'm the "oldest school" paladin, if you follow.  Ha ha.  Really that means I'm a knight.  See the armor?  Knight.  None of your holy warrior business for me, laddie.  Clerics are holy warriors.  I'm a righteous stomper of evil.  Lawful Good for life!
CP: So you don't have any special evil fighting powers then?
Flennetar: Well sure, I mean, I do have a few "buffs" I believe they are called.  Never get sick.  That's quite a boon.  There you are in some fetid swamp hunting down a tribe of nefarious bullywugs and half the party comes down with dengue fever, but not old Flennetar.  Never get sick.  Ever.  Which is nice.  Then there's the whole detecting evil thing.  That's a bit tricky.
CP: So you can just detect evil?  Like a metal detector.  
Flennetar: I don't know what that is, but yes.  I detect it.  Then I smite it.
CP: You keep using that word, "smite".  Is this some sacred paladin ability?  How does it work?  Do you somehow add the force of your personality to a blow that harms evil things?
Flennetar: No.  That's stupid.  I hit it.  Hard.  With whatever I'm holding in my hand.  Preferably a sword.  
CP: So let me get this straight.  You see evil, then...
Flennetar: I smite the hell out of it.
CP: Okay, let's take another view.  Take me through your average day.
Flennetar:  Well I wake up and have a light breakfast, poached egg, some fruit, whole wheat toast, then calisthenics.  A quick bath and then I usually go into the dungeon.  Pretty standard really, find evil, smite the hell out of it, get loot.  Sometimes I find a person in need and do a quest.  Then it's supper and off to bed for a good night's sleep.  Then I wake up the next day and do it again.
CP: Doesn't that ever get boring to you?
Flennetar: We paladins have a saying, "When you are tired of smiting evil, you are tired of life."
CP: And are you?
Flennetar: Am I what?
CP: Tired of smiting evil.
Flennetar: Not on your life.  Some of your modern paladins get a bit confused about their role in life.  I've seen some of them that aren't even lawful good!  How the hell does that work?
CP: I've heard it said that paladins are good for dealing with undead, but otherwise they aren't up to even regular fighting man chores.  One person even told me that a fighter with a magic sword was much more useful and effective.  How do you feel about such claims?
Flennetar: CODSWALLOP!  These kids today wouldn't know a paladin if one of us came up and smote them on the arse.  A paladin is a fighting man, but so much more.  In my day you counted on plate armor, good steel, and smart dungeon crawling.  None of this adding light damage to your swings and taking a short rest.  Encounter power?  See this steel clad boot?  This encounters evil, right in the balls.  Faith, courage, a foot to the balls...that's how we dealt with evil.
CP: And a holy sword?
Flennetar: Well that goes without saying, but those are few and far between.  It's hard to come by a good holy sword.  You might destroy a hundred vile liches and never find one in your life, or you might be shaking down some hobgoblin bridge extortion scheme and there's a holy sword lying in a treasure pile.  Ah yes, luck of the dice and providence, that's the life of an adventurer, sir.
CP: Any final words of wisdom for the audience?
Flennetar: Drink your milk.  Strong bones are the foundation of a strong and noble body.  And when in doubt, smite.
CP: Thank you for your time.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Zombie Roundtable

Podcasts and such seem to be quite popular these days, but this is a blog with limited technical expertise, so rather than do a podcast, the Celtic Pumpkin management got a few experts together to discuss our topic of the season.  Please welcome to the Pumpkin Round Table Flennetar the paladin, all the way from the fantasy realm of Dungeon.

Thank you for having me.

And also welcome our other expert guest, you know him as the leader of the Wizards of Morcar, Cuspis the Highly Annoyed.

Hello everyone, nice to be here.

Our moderator is the original Celtic Pumpkin.
Lovely to be here.  Let's get started, shall we?
Flennetar, you are a paladin.  You smite evil and do good deeds all day long.  Cuspis, you are a wizard, in many ways the opposite end of the spectrum from Flennetar.  What we want to know is Zombies vs Ghosts.

What about them?

What do you mean, "What about them?"?

Just that.  Do you mean who would win in a fight?  My money's on the ghosts.  Sure, they are insubstantial, but zombies have no real intellect.  I think with a little creative effort the ghosts would take the zombies.  

Smite them both.  Smite the hell out of them.  When in doubt, smite.  

I have to say, Cuspis, I expected a bit more. 

Well it's not a well-defined question.  

Actually it wasn't even a question.  It was a statement.  Zombies vs Ghosts.  That's a declaration, not an interrogative.  

Aren't you a wizard?  An expert in matters arcane and such?

Yes, but I'm not a necromancer or anything.  I'm a High Mage.  If you wanted an expert you should have asked Pierre to come.

Ha!  Nice one.

He said he had a prior engagement.  Besides, what's the difference?

Oh, there's plenty of difference.  Necromancers are evil wizards that specialize in death and the undead, while Cuspis is obviously some kind of Arch-Wizard.


Thank you, Flennetar, but actually I'm a High Mage.

Which is?

I'm more of a facilitator of wizards.  It's like a management position really.  I measure the variables to synergize the disparate skills, abilities, and personalities of other wizards.  Then I engineer plans, rituals, and covens to suit the needs of the particular magical efforts in a way that maximizes outcomes while actualizing potentialities to overcome obstacles and create opportunities.

I thought you were the leader of the Wizards of Morcar, or something.

That's flattering, but heck no.  I manage the group, true, but each member is a highly valued part of the gestaltic whole that is the Wizards of Morcar.  It's an exciting occupation, I can tell you, especially with a client like Morcar.  I could tell you some stories.

I can't believe what I'm hearing right now.  So you three answered an ad in a wizard trade magazine or something?

Ha ha, not exactly, Gourd-o.  I knew Pierre from Wizard University.  We were on the wrestling team together.  Carl I had worked with on a previous job, the Goblin-Faerie War of Terrortree Forest...

I remember that war.  My adventuring party fought on the side of the faeries.  

Wait a minute.  Are you Flennetar the Flayer, Scourge of Goblinkind?  

The very same.  Wait, that would have been, say, 9 years ago...was that Carl the Lightning of Wrath, the famous stormlord?  Because that would mean you are Cuspis the Dry Toothpick to the Eye!

I haven't heard that name in a while.  How are you, Flen?  You nearly had me at the Battle of the Stump That Looks A Bit Like A Wang.  

Oh yes, that was quite a scuffle.  It was when I kicked that goblin at you...

...and you hit Flind right in the tits!  Oh, she was well pissed.  I thought she was going to burn down the forest.  Good thing she specializes in illusions and enchantments.

Flind the Fetching

Flind the Floozy, more like.  Here I have a portrait of her in my scroll case.  Hang on...

Why is she called "Flind the Fletching"?  Or for that matter, "the Floozy"?

I should think that would be obvious.  Handy to have in a battle, serves as a great distraction, but she's a real witch otherwise.  Anyway, all wizards have to have an epithet.  It's just something you do.  Usually you pick it up in school, but that's often not the most flattering.  Pierre was known as Pierre the Pantywaist in undergrad studies.  I suspect that's why he went on to specialize in necromancy.  Then he was known as "That creepy French guy that plays with dead things", but never to his face.

Kids can be cruel.  Say, how did you go from being "The Dry Toothpick to the Eye" to "the Highly Annoyed" anyway?

You've clearly never met my co-workers.

I hate to break up this whole reunion thing, but the original topic still stands: Zombies vs Ghosts.  Final thoughts?

Oh yes.  Smite them.  Smite the hell out of them.  Turn them, burn them, smite them, and when in doubt, smite again.

Ghosts all the way.  Zombies are so last decade.

Thank you both, drive safely.  And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for reading.  Until next time this is the Celtic Pumpkin saying "Keep your pumpkins lit and spay and neuter your homunculi."