Spooktacular: Halloween 4-6

I thought I'd make it thru the entire series, but really three were at my dosage for the day. Still have H20, Resurrection, and End. I will get back to those, obviously everything up thru Nightmare Before Christmas time is still Halloween.

  • **Halloween I-II: Previously.
  • **Halloween III: Season of the Witch: Even more previously.

  • Halloween 4: Return of Michael Myers (1988): "Jesus ain't got nothin' to do with this place. This is where society dumps its worst nightmares. (continues recapping 1-2) Welcome to Hell!" Thanks, strangely informative security guard Jones. Mikey yet again breaks out of the asylum during a transfer on a stormy night, after a decade of sedation and doing nothing, he can punch a hole in a man's skull with his thumb. Laurie (JLC having better things to do) offscreen has a daughter Jamie (not Lee Curtis) and then dies. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is back and having a great time! Despite the "burn" latex on his face & hands.

So most of the film is split as in 2 with Loomis pursuing Mikey, and Mikey pursuing a little moppet; she's cute but utterly ineffectual. Mob of grade-school bullies taunt her with "Jamie's an orphan!"; real bastard kids are more creatively evil. I do like the blatant horror tropes, flashbacks of Laurie to little Mikey, the psychopomp, crazy old preacher who talks about hunting apocalypse. New cop is surprisingly competent and ready to help, without a lot of "oh no I don't believe you". Town drunks & rednecks instantly form a posse/angry mob. But then Mikey's able to massacre multiple locations & critical infrastructure without any planning. I must say, the "guy cheats on girl so they must both die" bit, the new girl is much much hotter than Jamie's stepsister.

Best kill: The cheating girl. The setup is an offscreen kill but you think for a second Mikey's gonna shoot… nope! The rest are pretty lame.

And the chilling finale, looping back to the first film!

Like the first film, they shot it during spring, and here it's even more obvious, green lawns & Utah shrubbery instead of Midwest autumn leaves. Utterly implausible location/time. Soundtrack is lame, lite muzak imitation of Carpenter's score without the overwhelming electronic noise, but not played often, just stingers. Maybe the scariest thing in this film was, my overhead light started flickering & went out during the dark house sequence. Woo-eee-ooo.

★★☆☆☆ Adds nothing to the world.

  • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989): Recap of previous film, then a hobo in a shack with a parrot finds Mikey. Sir, Haddonfield, IL would be way too cold for a parrot to survive. Jamie is now a loonie after trying to murder her mom under Mikey's psychic control, and sees his visions… But she can't speak! Later this is dropped with no explanation. Loomis is histrionic, but has a moment of trying to talk to Mikey, with typical results.

Right off, this is gonna be a struggle. There's comic horn beeping when the cops (one is Troy Evans, more recently "Barrel" in Bosch) are in the scene. Kill off the recurring characters (stepparents are never seen, stepsister dies in minutes, "Tina" takes her place), bring in some bimbos too dumb to be valley girls on coke, imitation Fonzie, another dumb child for Jamie to sacrifice to Mikey.

Mikey is here played by a smaller actor (Don Shanks) in football pads, and he looks pathetic in shots where you can see him clearly. The same actor plays the "Man in Black" with really sweet boots that cost half the budget, but he does nothing.

The murder altar here is super out of character, more like something Jason would do. There's an impossible touching moment and unburned face.

Other than a few very short stingers, I don't even recall hearing music.

★☆☆☆☆ May be the least interesting slasher flick in history.

  • Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995): Well this is a train wreck, but trying to build a cosmology instead of the random crap of the last movie. Most of a decade was wasted trying to get a script, Tarantino and others passed it around. I'm shocked anything gets made by Hollywood. I'm watching the standard version, there's also a "Producer's Cut" with a lot more magic conspiracy stuff? Hrmn.

Crazy Jamie is now 15 (but played by 20-year-old J.C. Brandy), held prisoner, impregnated, gives birth to a baby; by the Thorn Cult, the Men in Black seen previously with the ᚦ (thorn rune) on everything. Hot librarian Kara (Marianne Hagan), her son Danny being turned into another Mikey by the cult, and bad parents/victims now live in the old Strode house. Bad choices! Laurie's old babysitting brat Tommy (Paul Stephen Rudd) is now an online Mikey conspiracy theorist. Loomis (very old Donald Pleasence with no more burn latex) lives alone in the woods because that's a good idea. But soon Jamie manages to get the band back together by prank-calling the only radio station anyone listens to.

You know what I love about Haddonfield? Their commitment to Halloween, street parties and screaming at the handful of helpless cops, even tho every few years there's a giant bloody massacre. These people love to party. They love the sacrifice and tradition.

One perfect shot: Creepy landlady telling little Danny about Samhain, then Kara about babysitting little Mikey Myers… lightning flashes… and you can see Mikey standing outside thru the window. Good job!

A few of the kills are very gruesome, maybe even too much so, just gore & splatter bags exploding. Others are completely G-rated. Kara gets strangled and has no finger marks on her neck, often there's just a splash of blood, sometimes there's no blood on weapons. Mikey rarely poses the corpses, but a couple times they're set as traps/funhouse props, like the good old days.

Lot of running around Smith's Grove asylum, now a combination hospital/prison/medieval bedlam, and being played with by the Men in Black. Remember you don't have to outrun Mikey, you just have to outrun the slower person he's going to kill. Party members in the asylum come and go, they really don't know how to keep together.

Again barely has any music, except stingers, and a short piece when Mikey's stalking. Alan Howarth from Halloween II did a soundtrack, which was largely cut in editing, and there's a few hillbilly rock songs.

Credits:

In Memory of DONALD PLEASENCE

★★★½☆ Very flawed, half-assed, confused movie, covered in the viscera of a better movie that could've been. But watchable. This has been the high point of today, for sure.

Look on my Tweets, ye Mighty, and Despair

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
—"Ozymandias", Percy Bysshe Shelley

Immediately after ElmoNusk came into shitbird central with a sink (what), he fired the old management (and claims he doesn't need to pay their bailouts), and is already "making redundant" the workforce (before having to pay off their stock vesting). Win or lose, his scam there is funny; the people who built the Torment Nexus deserve punishment, but he's likely to have to pay out more in legal fees by the time it's over.

Already the shitbird to Fediverse migration is going well, the stats account I follow shows a couple million up, which might be half the "MAU" Humans left on shitbird, the rest being bots and defunct accounts. Shitbird's stats describe anyone posting 3-5 weekly as a "heavy tweeter", which many of the actual people I know do per hour. I've got a lot of new followers, and my policy is "followbackfriday", every Friday I go thru my new follows and see who's filled in their avatar, bio, and an intro post at least. I say "a lot", but on fediverse that's <500 follows, <1000 followers, I had something like 5x as many on shitbird, but 1% of the activity and "engaaaagement" (excuse the SEO word). Anyway, I expect migration will take another week or so as frogs figure out the stove really is on.

When the Crown Prince of the Joseon Empire (defunct) bought out Freenode, it took a few weeks for everyone to get over to Libera.chat with the same or better channels (# lisp is now all LISP-family, # commonlisp is CL-specific, # scheme is for all Schemes, etc.), and get kicked off the corpse of Freenode. Nobody knows or cares what happened to the CPotJE or what used to be freenode.

So now I'm wondering how long it'll take for that to happen to shitbird. Days? ElmoNusk posted QAnon shit almost immediately. GM pulled their advertising. And this is just Halloween weekend. Next week, mostly awake and sober, is gonna be lit. And not in a good way, more "your entire city is on fire". Will there be anything but jesus-dakimakura pillow guy and (Kan't)Ye posting by next Friday?

🍿

OK, you want something more positive, actionable than my schadenfreude? Back up your tweets. I had a hell of a time getting my shitbird data out. Don't stall on this. Because when stupid companies shut down a service, they do it fast and don't care about your stuff. Remember Yahoo! paying billions for GeoCities, the greatest communal artwork of Humanity, and shuttering it with no backup or warning? That's what's gonna happen to shitbird. Don't be there when it does.

Apple Security "blog"

"It's a trick. It's not dead. Get an axe."

Apple yet again unleashes "a blog" to "address the community", Apple Security this time. … I can't recall what the title of the last one was, it lasted like 2 posts a few years back. Same pattern:

  • No author names
  • No RSS
  • No comments
  • No way to send feedback at all, even to their ghost town forums.

First post is a long, rambling dissection of a new kernel malloc, maybe reducing the memory access errors that keep giving h4xx0rz 0-days into Apple gear. No actionable content; it's for them to say they're doing something, not you to improve your code.

Second is an update claiming now they're gonna actually pay out bug bounties, even tho it's been a nightmare to extract a red cent from them in the past, honest kick the ball this time for sure, Charlie Brown.

Zero trust in this meaning anything. I bet Grubs fellates this like the second coming of WWDC.

IF Worlds of Science Fiction

  • IF Worlds of Science Fiction on archive.org: I'd previously found a couple later years of this, but they've since uploaded almost the entire run. IF's heyday was earlier, then was consumed by Galaxy in '74, and had a short attempt at a relaunch in the '80s.

Some fantastic stuff in here, Fritz Leiber, James Gunn, Fred Pohl, Keith Laumer, etc. I bet there's not a single bad issue if you like classic SF. Download & read it all.

Well, there's some dated stuff, too. Happily, Poul Anderson's estate pulled all his shit (he wrote some less-than-toxic stories, but also some of the worst), but also Lester Del Rey's articles (but not all his stories) are missing. There's issues with Robert Heinlein's awful John W. Campbell jr-outlined story "Farnham's Freehold"; don't read that, but there's an A.E. Van Vogt story in the same issue, which makes up for it.

First issue, 1952-03, Howard Browne's "Twelve Times Zero": Starts with a shitty "cop beats suspect with aliens alibi" premise, then actually turns into a good mystery… then SPOILER: The implausibly Human aliens (ugh, pre-DNA aliens) who run the Galaxy and can teleport instantly say they don't have explosives or war-making, just terrene/contraterrene energy. Uh. Maybe you hadn't understood Einstein's formula, Howard. Doesn't flinch from the ending, tho. This should've been in Brian Aldiss' Galactic Empires.

Pretty smart people, the Mythoxians—in more ways than one.
And Kirk, for no apparent reason, thought of a phrase common among children during his own childhood. "Who died and left you boss?"

Spooktacular: Ginger Snaps Trilogy

  • Ginger Snaps:

Warning: Dogs die in this movie. So do people, but dogs are more sympathetic.

In a shitty suburb somewhere in Canada, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) & Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) Fitzgerald are the cutest goth sisters, in love with death and horror, staging death scenes like Chainsaw & Dave from Summer School, but with less mercy. They play a game "DOA" of ideal death staging for mean girls they hate… real or filmed. Sam the drug dealer (Kris Lemche) in his panel van (gardening/tree management, good cover for a pot grower, ha ha) is a bit cliché, but has the obvious 3rd party member look.

Dad is completely useless, and rarely present. Mom is surprisingly cool, even offers an extreme solution to what she thinks is going on. But parents, awful kids at school, school counsellors, janitors, etc. are completely useless compared to the sisters.

The problem with a movie about SFX fans is if there's "real" gore or monsters, how do you show the difference? The corpses and monster look like talented but somewhat amateur Tom Savini or Rick Baker fans made them. The monster is filmed in the shakiest of shaky cams, so it doesn't have to be American Werewolf in London or even The Howling good, but if you pause or just have fast image memory, it's kind of too obviously staged.

The girls reaction to the attack and several changes happening to Ginger are the important part, tho. It's a film about female troubles first, the monster second. Ginger turns all hot and witchy, white stripes going thru her hair, the dumb boy obvious prey. Sam and Brig hang out plotting how to hunt lycanthropes:

Let's not panic here. For one, that thing on the road,
my van did a pretty good job on it,
without the benefit of silver bullets.
So, let's just forget the Hollywood rules.
There's gotta be a cure, right?
Otherwise there'd be a hell of a lot more of them.

And Ginger:

I get this ache, and
I thought it was for sex,
but it's to tear everything into fucking pieces.

Ginger gets worse and hotter, even the little tail is cute. But fucked. In wolf form she has six teats! For a chicks-empowerment movie, it does actually a lot of pinup posing of pre-monster Ginger.

I love how the suburban house has a giant maze of unfinished walls in the basement, almost like a sound stage filled with the cheapest building material.

The movie hits a climax and then just ends, rolls over and says "done" like a shitty teenage fuck. Which is why there's a sequel.

★★★★☆

  • Ginger Snaps Back:

Brigitte is on the run, sometimes hallucinating her dead sister Ginger. And yet she uses her real name for her library card, Canadians are just that polite & orderly. A big, male werewolf is stalking her. She's shooting up with monkshood extract, and it's keeping the change at bay but not for long. And found like this, she's treated like a junkie and shoved in a semi-abandoned mental institution, played here by a real abandoned mental institution. She has maybe a month before she goes like Ginger?

The other people are annoying. Child named Ghost (Tatiana Maslany) dresses like a normie, but says spooky Emily the Strange type crap, crawls thru air ducts like Newt, immediately connects hints and badly painted comics to figure out "WEREWOLF" (where, wolf?) Asshole abusive orderly (Brendan Fletcher, scumbag/not-quite-heavy in every Canadian B-series ever) offers drugs/poison for whoring; pretty clearly you should not employ young men to control young women. Alice (Janet Kidder, somewhat upscale Canadian fill-in parts actress) as therapist, can put a guy's eyes out with her rockets, claims to be an ex-junkie who's done everything but looks way too fresh & professional for that.

Ghost eventually leads Brigitte into a dark outer world, the monster returns, running & screaming. Hmn. I've been assuming Ghost is like 12, but Tatiana Maslany is 19 in this, and the character drives a car. But then, Emily Perkins was 23 in the first one playing 15, is now 27 playing… 17? Best not to think about it, but Ghost makes it an issue at all times.

Ghost's hell-house & booby traps are the worst, only accidental victims. Of course, it's a big bad wolf attacking grandma's house thru the woods. And he's gonna huff and puff, or maybe get inside… some other way. But Ghost is no innocent Little Red Riding Hood, and Brigitte, Jeremy, & Alice aren't the Huntsmen.

I guess I like the ending, but a lot of the middle is tedious, obvious chase scene crap, minimal speaking cast unlike the first one, stock horror movie instead of a drama that happens to have monsters.

The new monster suit looks better, it sustains some longer shots. There's more Canadian alt-rock, the end song by Joydrop especially made me laugh.

★★★½☆

  • Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning

An origin story nobody asked for. The sisters are back in 19th C (but C-average history student research) Canada, wandering around the woods (oh, cheapest of Z-movie sets) for no reason, to a fort where they seem awful paranoid of outsiders.

Either I'm very tired after 3 movies, or this is a very dull, formulaic film. They have occasional gunfights against the monsters outside, there's no mystery or even suspense. Couple wandering around Colonial Williamsburg type set and pretending to see monsters. The doctor's leeches turn weird & mutant if used on an infected, ripped off from The Thing.

There's a new bullshit mythology that personally killing the one who infected you, cures your infection. Obviously nonsense, as we know from the first/good film, it's a scientific infection not magic. Indian Hunter (Nathaniel Arcand, given no character name) claims white men brought the Wendigo along with other plagues, which is unlikely since the Algonquin myth predates the invasion of North America, is widespread northwest of them too, and isn't bestial, but a hungry giant.

The hunter's magic cave is lit with like $200 (CDN$300) of candles from Bed Bath & Beyond, doing drugs tells you what you should do, but of course the Fitz girls never do anything right.

The monster suits except the main one are pretty bad, and they don't do anything except growl and get killed, no fast attacks like in the previous movies.

What I think of when watching this is Ravenous (1999), which has a slightly similar premise, but the characters are fun, especially the antagonist, the mythology is creative and more authentic to Wendigo myths, the story suspenseful and morbidly fun. Everything this isn't.

No animals or werewolves were harmed in the production of this film.

★★☆☆☆

Still Rockin' Saturday Music

Spooktacular: Corpse Bride

Another animated toy movie by Tim Burton. Seen it a couple times.

So a bland, personality-free, impoverished, moon-faced, aristocrat girl Victoria (as in "think of England", played by Emily Watson) is to marry a whiny, nervous fishmonger's son Victor (played by Johnny Depp), overly managed by their awful parents.

Sidebar: Depp used to be a fun junkie, at least at a distance, but with his repetitive creepy roles, his creepy relationships with younger women, the creepy details of his Amb-r H--rd marriage… I really don't want much more exposure to him. He's probably not quite Future Harvey Weinstein/Phil Spector/keeping bits of girls in bottles material like Leo DiCaprio is, but he grosses me out. Terrible people can make perfectly adequate actors, but too far and I only see that.

After making ill-advised vows in a forest to what is very obviously a charred skeleton, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) rises and takes him to a magic wonderland/horrific underworld. She's lovely, fun, charming, only a little bit rotted and maggoty. AND he gets his dog back. Really any guy should be so lucky.

Weirdly, the surface world is Victorian era, but rendered in very close to monochrome, but the underworld is basically 1930s New Orleans, with jazz songs and brighter colors.

Victor's a cad, a jerk, a bore, who doesn't appreciate anything good in life, and just wants a bowl of gruel and the dullest girl produced by the dullest race on Earth. I really have no sympathy for Victoria, and I don't think Emily should either, because she's just so dull.

So Lord Barkis (Richard E. Grant) shows up and lurks around, vaguely someone connected but nobody bothers to figure out who he is, and there's no other guests so you'd think they'd really focus on him. Nope. Until he turns out to be… related to Emily's backstory. But he makes no sense. If he's a thief & lady-killer, there's no money to be gained from Victoria, did he just do no research? Serial killers (as opposed to spree killers) usually obsessively study their victims first.

When Victor finally does agree to die and join the hot (but grave-cold) girl, it's out of character. Everyone in the underworld is excited, but I don't believe it possible of him.

The dead returning to the overworld is great, that's what the film should mostly be, instead of a short screamy parade. Girls dissolving into a swarm of moths don't make any sense in the cosmology shown so far; you seem to stay dead and just keep rotting away down below.

Victor & Victoria are going to have a dull, miserable life, still totally owned & controlled by their parents, nothing at all has changed except she knows he cheats with dead girls.

Such cute character designs, and Emily's great, but the plot and loser living couple all but ruin it. Danny Elfman manages to do some out-of-character music, but mostly it's Batman/Edward Scissorhands soundtrack all over again.

★★★★☆ I guess but I'm always disappointed by it.

Minetest Mapping

The MineClone2 "map" is basically just a compass, it shows a picture of the local chunks but can't be resized. So… where have I been? Where are my bases?

There's a couple cartography mods, but they seem to only make small maps for use in-game. There's a minetestmapper.py in the base game's distro, but it's python2, requires an obsolete version of PIL, 2to3 didn't fix it.

So there is this:

SIGH, C++ and libraries. I actually have libgd installed with MacPorts, gd2, but it wasn't found at first, adjusted my env vars and now:

cmake . -DENABLE_LEVELDB=1
make

Grinds for half an hour, get a full white image, because all the MineClone2 nodes are unknown, so copied colors.txt to my-colors.txt, and add this to the end:

Make a script, my-map.zsh (change mapname, worlddir to wherever yours are):

#!/bin/zsh
mapname="MineClone-2022"
worlddir="$HOME/Library/Application Support/minetest/worlds"
d=`date "+%Y%m%d_%H%M%S"`
./minetestmapper --colors my-colors.txt -i "$worlddir/$mapname" -o "$mapname-$d.png"

Repeat, half an hour… I still get 227 lines of unknown blocks, but the base map generates OK now, and looks good enough. I hate the sand color, and I dunno what the dark areas are. OOH, what's that structure at the far west? I'm planning to skyrail far west, then go there and the unexplored village W-SW next time. And I'll add more to my-colors.txt file and post that sometime.

Scaled down image:

Unearthed Experts

New Unearthed Arcana playtest document, see previously.

Characters who have levels in a Class are exceptional; most of the inhabitants of the multiverse aren’t members of a Class.

Hooray, 0-level NPCs are back. With no rules yet (how many HP?). This is good, in some ways, that a 1st-Level "hero" is useful for something, the town Blacksmith isn't necessarily a 15th-Level Expert who will stomp you into the ground. It's also awful, in that it leads right back to murderhoboing, squads of low- to mid-Level PCs literally being able to murder & loot hundreds of townsfolk before anyone can stop them.

There's a better balance somewhere above this. I tend to assume anywhere from 10-25% of a population are Level 1, and 10-25% of that number are higher. In tougher game areas, I make everyone at least 1st-Level, and up to 5th-Level in deadly areas; you simply don't live in northern Hyperborea if you can't wrassle a bear for breakfast.

WHAT’S AHEAD IN THE ONE D&D PLAYTEST?
Forty-eight Subclasses, including the Subclasses in this article

HOLY SHITBALLS. I'm a fan of simplifying down to 3 classes in my OD&D-based game (kind of 4), and no classes in my skill-based RPG (well, kind of 2, Magicians and Dilettantes). I didn't object to having a few more in Swords & Wizardry (equivalent to OD&D + supplements/Dragon magazine), but this is excessive. And they're in weird groupings:

Class Group OD&D Classes 5.5E Classes
Expert/Rogue Thief, Assassin, Bard Bard, Ranger, Rogue
Mage Magic-User, Illusionist Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
Priest Cleric, Druid, Monk Cleric, Druid, Paladin
Warrior Fighter, Paladin, Ranger Barbarian, Fighter, Monk

A little history. In OD&D, the classic 3 classes were Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric.

  • Thieves were in Greyhawk (Supplement I), in some ways the first super-class, every "race" could be a Thief with unlimited Level! (which often didn't make sense, why is a woodsy Elf a better Thief than Fighter/Magic-User?!), ton of weird skills. But they were well-balanced by being weak, glass cannons in combat.
  • Paladins were in Greyhawk (Supplement I), as a special bonus for Lawful Fighters, not even a separate class at this time.
  • Monks were in Blackmoor (Supplement II) as a subclass of Cleric, even tho they're much more like Thieves being weak, non-magical, skill-based, and having most Thief skills! Everyone cheated to make a Monk at some point. My character Liu Shao (named after a one-season assassin Chinese emperor) had a lot of bad-guy monk adventures, got poisoned by a shitty player (I got some revenge later, but not enough).
  • Assassins were in Blackmoor (Supplement II) (long before religious nuts scared TSR into wussing out) as a Thief subclass, but their low Thief skills made them ineffective at their job. Everyone loves Assassins even if the class sucks, mostly due to Jhereg and Shadow of the Torturer.
  • Druids were in Eldritch Wizardry (Supplement III) as a subclass of Cleric. Despite a giant pile of powers, very few people played them, they were awkward to unusable in dungeons.
  • Rangers were in The Strategic Review (TSR) V1N2, as a subclass of Fighter; grossly overpowered, with an extra hit die (!), a very few spells from Cleric & Magic-User (WEIRD!) at 8th-Level, skills everyone needs outdoors, but then useless in a dungeon. Favored enemy initially was "Giant Class (Kobolds - Giants)", which is a bizarre range. Incredibly weirdly required to be Lawful like Paladins, when Neutral is the obvious alignment for Elf-friends. It's Strider from Tolkien, you know my distaste for that guy, Ranger should never have been added and the correct version is just a Fighter with a background of Hunter.
  • Illusionists were in TSR V1N4, as a subclass of Magic-User, great spell list with no real problems. My first character in 1978, Grecal the Grey Wizard, class-changed from Magic-User to Illusionist eventually (had a high DEX to start with).
  • Bards were in TSR V2N1, as an adaptation of the Celtic bards of history with limited skills: Charm & Lore at Level x 10%, Thief skills equal to 1/2 Level, M-U spells at about 1/2 M-U table (1 Fireball at 10th-Level), and some special magic instruments. A very solid, slow-developing class, that fit well with the classic classes. That wouldn't last long.
  • Barbarians were in Dragon #63 (1982), a subclass of Fighter based explicitly on Conan, so entirely about toughness, survival, and anti-magic, and actively destroy any magic they find, won't work with Magic-Users. They were basically unusable in a normal party, but fun as solo or with a sidekick Cleric, Thief, or normal Fighter, literally as seen in Robert E. Howard's stories.

Rangers got toned down and up again in every edition, Illusionists were left alone until they got forgotten, Bards were mutilated badly by AD&D 1E, reverted sorta in 2E, turned into generic musician jack'O'trades in 3E and on, there's a reason everyone hates spoony Bards if all they know is 3E and 5E. Barbarians were turned into generic fighters with berserking in later editions, so you can have them with a normal party, totally discarding the only thing that made them fun.

When creating a party of adventurers, one way to form a well-rounded group is to include at least one member of each Class Group. That said, mix and match Classes to your heart’s content!

So in 5.5E there's 4 groups, 3 classes per group, 4 subclasses per class = 48 subclasses. Which lets you drill down a bit easier than just picking from 48 options, but it's still insane, they could trivially stop at the classes and have a 4x better game.

The 3 "Expert" classes are in this packet, and only one subclass for each.

In all classes, skills are listed as specific choices "or any X skills from this list". Spells are "you have these spells, or choose…", and a long list of exactly what spells are prepared at each Level, unless you change them. Equipment is a pre-chosen package, "or spend X GP". I like packages and pregens for pick-up games, so that's fine, but I don't like that it presents the package first, the actual range of options later.

  • Rogue: HP are d8, median for 5E, fine. Weapons are limited to "Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons that have the Finesse Property"; in OD&D Thieves had no weapon restrictions, but AD&D 2E has a similarly limited list. Armor is restricted to light, and looking at the glossary, that now just gives disadvantage on STR & DEX rolls, and can't cast spells, so a Thief in plate might be viable for stand-up fights.

Sneak Attack (for all Rogues) is mechanically simple to get: You need either advantage (which if you're not an idiot, you always have), or an ally adjacent, and gives +1d6 per 2 Levels(!).

The experience table gives you a specific class feature at each Level, tho many of them are "Feat", "Expertise", etc. where you pick from the lists. The Thief subclass gives you mostly the classic Thief features, the one weird part is you have to CHOOSE between Fast Hands (pickpocket) or Second-Story Work (climb walls).

  • Bard: HP are d8. Bardic Inspiration lets you magically rap, scratch, or twerk someone within 60' to boost a die or heal someone. This is beyond nonsense. Bard magic is now OP, 2 Fears at 5th-Level, double a classic Magic-User table, who knows what the actual Wizard will look like. They're limited at first to Divination, Enchantment, Illusion, Transmutation schools; but at 11th Level can take "Magical Secrets" and unlock all schools, or Divine or Primal, which is even wackier, and I would expect a "Learn one other school" Feat will be along pretty quick, so you can get Evocation and Fireballs.

At 2nd-Level and up, Bards get healing spells, only 1 use per day, but still utterly disconnected from the historical figures. Bards get no real special features, nothing to do with music or lore or prophecy here. I doubt anyone in WotC has ever read of Taliesin.

I Taliesin, chief of bards,
With a sapient Druid’s words,
Will set kind Elphin free
From haughty tyrant’s bonds.
—Mabinogion

The subclass given here is College of Lore, which at least puts a little knowledge-based skill in them, a whole proficiency bonus to a few generic skills woo. Mostly a combat-based "Cutting Words", tho, basically Sarcastro's power from The Tick. WTF does that have to do with a loremaster?

  • Ranger: HP are d10, but just one per Level. Favored Enemy is now just a free Hunter's Mark spell, usable on anyone, you don't hate Orcs or whatever else, as in Tolkien & Gygax's genocidal games. Spells start at 1st-Level, but are much slower than Bard, giving 2 Conjure Barrages at 9th-Level (they use the Primal spell list now). Some of the special abilities aren't bad, movement speed, extra attacks, temporary HP. Their 18th-Level power increases Hunter's Mark to d10 instead of d6, which is pathetic by itself, but possibly with Barrage it's a good upgrade?

Hunter subclass is OK, just extra damage and Barrage spells. Very boring and phoned-in. How about traps? Or some special tracking? An ambush bonus? Preparing extra meat from hunted game? Nope, dullness. Ranger will continue to be the most ignored class in 5.5E.

  • Feats: I'm going to ignore most of these for now. Feats were a bad idea in 2.5E, 3E, and 5E, and I'm sure they continue to be broken in 5.5E, let's just move on.

Epic Feats are new, all the class super-powers got moved down to 18th-Level, and you get an Epic Feat at 20th-Level. First, WTF kind of game is getting past 10th-Level anyway? In OD&D, my view was that you reach Lord at 9th-Level, maybe a bit higher as 10th- to 12th-Level, and that's about it. I'd rate Elric as an 8th-Level Fighter/12th-Level Magic-User (ignoring that as an Elf he's limited to 4/8), and Conan as a 10th-Level Barbarian at his heroic peak, prior to becoming fat old King Conan. B/X ended at 14th-Level, BECMI extended that to 36th and then Immortals, but that was extremely broken past 12th-Level, especially for non-Humans, AD&D simply didn't work above 10th-Level, and Gygax claimed nobody was above that in his games, except some NPCs/retired PCs. 3E routinely did push Levels higher, but then Epic 6 scaled that back down to a fun game at 1st- to 6th-Levels.

So anyway, if you are playing superheroes in Forgettable Realms or whatever, and aren't cunning enough to go play Exalted which is much more suited to this. These are very boring, and most suck:

  • Epic Boon of Combat Prowess: Auto-hit melee 1x/round. Pretty good, but high-Level characters always hit anyway.
  • Epic Boon of Dimensional Travel: Dimension Door 1x/round. Tactically interesting, especially for a mage or archer keeping range. 100% of magic foes should have Dimensional Anchor to stop this nonsense.
  • Epic Boon of Energy Resistance: Ignore one element type. Pretty obnoxious if you can do Fire when going to Hell, etc.
  • Epic Boon of Fortitude: +40 HP. That's only half a max-level Fireball, so meh.
  • Epic Boon of Irresistible Offense: Ignore target's resistance. Might be broken, you could fistfight a Tarrasque.
  • Epic Boon of Luck: Free Bardic Inspiration shit.
  • Epic Boon of Night Spirit: Invisibility 1x/action. You can literally cloak, sneak attack, cloak, sneak attack.
  • Epic Boon of Peerless Aim: Auto-hit missiles 1x/round. Pretty good, but high-Level characters always hit anyway.
  • Epic Boon of Recovery: Heal 1/2 HP, 1x/long rest. Don't you have, like, potions and Clerics and shit?
  • Epic Boon of Skill Proficiency: Bonus to all skills. "Whoah, I know BASKET WEAVING!" Lamest of the lame.
  • Epic Boon of Speed: +30' move, which is like a single Ranger bonus but less than a potion of Haste.
  • Epic Boon of Undetectability: Shitty version of Invisibility.
  • Epic Boon of Unfettered: Can ungrapple as a bonus action. Given how OP and Level-breaking grappling is, this might be a good idea.

  • Spell Lists: Now with some School of Magic changes, woo.

  • Rules Glossary, which totally replaces the previous document's:

  • Ability Checks no longer say "automatic win/lose" for DC 5 or 30. "The default DC for a check is 15, and it is rarely worth calling for an Ability Check if the DC is as low as 5, unless the potential failure is narratively interesting." They've removed crit on 20, fumble on 1, except in combat.

  • Now rolling a 1 on any "d20 Test" gives "Heroic Inspiration", and you can also get one whenever the DM says so. I don't mind Luck/Benny/Fate points, especially in heroic genres where you can "succeed forward" — jumping from a plane onto a moving train and punching a Nazi is cool so you can pay some resource to succeed at that. But Inspiration in 5E is pretty limited, and you can only have 1 point of it, and getting it by fumbling is weird.

This is definitely some kind of improvement over the origins booklet, and walking back the most controversial mechanical changes, but the classes are so heavy, make completely meaningless non-lore-based distinctions, and just make the game worse the more are added.