Saturday, February 4, 2017

Brain Drain

Ravenloft is coming.

I have always enjoyed horror movies.  Not the more modern, 'slasher' type movies like "Friday the 13th" or "Nightmare on Elm Street", but the classic Gothic-style ones.  I think that it is maybe because of the monsters one finds in them - vampires, werewolves*, mummies; strange creatures (such as "Gill-man") of all types...

Done properly, they can be some of the best date-movies.

Of course, the original movies made back in the 1930's, '40's, and '50's don't generally hold the 'horror' element today as they did back then.  Still, there is a reason they are called "classic".  They may not be as frightening to today's populous, but many still hold-up pretty well.  Despite the "radio-lines"**, I still enjoy the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" series.  Yes, I said series - there were (2) sequels† to the original 1954 film (which is the best of the three, natch').

So when I first heard of "Ravenloft", I was intrigued.  I remember picking up the book and browsing through the various monsters that one can encounter there.  It was, in essence, a listing of all the archetypal monsters one would find in the classic horror movies of old...and of course some new ones.  Obviously, there were vampires, werewolves, 'flesh-constructs' (à la "Frankenstein's Monster"††), mummies, and other undead, but there was also other, lesser-known creatures from old science-fiction sources.

One such monster was the "brain-in-a-jar".  There are several references from which the inspiration for this monster could be taken, including books, movies and TV shows.  The idea behind most of the brains-in-jars stories is that a dis-embodied head/brain, which is kept 'alive' by some 'scientific' means, will, over time, be driven mad and develop psionic abilities.  The madness can be simple derangement, but usually is a form of megalomania and the psionic abilities are usually capable of controlling regular people to do the brain's bidding (often, without their realization).

Unfortunately, I do not think this particular monster from "Ravenloft" would translate well into a video game.  Primarily because it would effectively require the brain to be able to control the Player-Characters (PCs), which is not something I think I've ever seen done.  About the closest I've ever seen for something like this would be to render the PC helpless and immobile.

Which is too bad, because in PnP, at least, the brain-in-a-jar has a lot of potential.

Still, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has decided that 'this' year's big D&D module push is "Ravenloft".  So, not only is WotC rolling out a new module, but they have also leveraged NWO into developing a "Ravenloft" update.  And I don't know if WotC had 'leverage' on DDO, but Standing Stone Games (SSG) has also announced a "Ravenloft" expansion, slated for release later this year.

I know a lot of people who are excited about this news.  Possibly even more excited about this news than they were about the coming of gnomes or the announced coming of dragonborn to DDO.   I know I am.

I just hope we get some of the more 'interesting' monsters that can be found in "Ravenloft", and not just more of the same, familiar monsters we already have.  I'd love to see a brain-in-a-jar monster, but I doubt justice could be done to it.  But I suppose an end boss brain-in-a-jar could be somewhat feasible.  I doubt it could control the PCs (other than immobilization), but 'controlling' other mobs would be 'easy'.

Regardless of what new monsters there may or may not be, I'm still looking forward to the new "Ravenloft" expansion of DDO.  And I'm not just saying that because the brain-in-a-jar I have in my laboratory told me to...

* Or the more generic term of "lycanthrope", which allows one to transform into any one of a variety of 'man-animal', as the lesser-known wereorca.

** A "radio-line" is a dialog element in a movie/TV script that helps describe the scene.  It is called such because radio-plays had to completely rely on audio to describe what was happening, unlike movies and TV shows where the audience could actually see events as they unfolded.  They are quite common in older films and TV shows.

† "The Creature Walks Among Us", the last of the trilogy, was, of course, the worst.

†† "Frankenstein" was the name of the scientist, NOT the monster.  So even though it is common to refer to the monster as "Frankenstein", it is technically incorrect.  Mary Shelly, the author of "Frankenstein", never gave the monster an actual name.  Also, while DDO (and other D&D references) essentially treat such creatures as "flesh golems", that is also technically incorrect, as a golem is magically created, while the monster was 'scientifically' created.  Hence, my use of "constructs".

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