I began writing fiction about thirty years ago, unless you count a couple of short novels I wrote back in fourth and sixth grades; those novels would be called fan fiction today, one being about James Bond and the other about Don Pendleton’s character The Executioner, Mack Bolan. But other than those early novels, the first real fiction I wrote was a short story called “Entering Jupiter.” I wrote that story for an astronomy class in college; the professor allowed me to do so instead of writing a paper. Continue reading Screenwriting Broke My Writer’s Block
If you’re not familiar with the Al Swearengen character, then you must not have watched much, if any, of the HBO western drama Deadwood which ran for three seasons some years back. In a show known for its coarse language, Al Swearengen as portrayed by Ian McShane, was the coarsest of the coarse. In other words, Al is pretty hard to forget, and despite his dark ways, many who come to know him also love him.
Something of an underworld boss and a political shaker and mover in the town of Deadwood, Swearengen is known as a knife fighter, though he is more brawler and assassin than a trained combatant. Often he leaves the dirty work to hirelings, but from time to time he does seem to get a weird melancholy glee out of slitting throats himself.
Recently I was behind the wheel of a car again for hours upon hours and I had to have something to think about. So, in keeping with the past when I D&Dized Forrest Gump, my mind turned this time to D&Dizing Al Swearengen.
First off, let me say that I’m pretty much ignoring the fact Al Swearengen probably knows how to use firearms, at least ones appropriate to his time period. However, even with the multitude of firearms available in Deadwood, Al sticks to using his knife for the most part, which we’ll equate to the dagger. If one wants, it would be no big deal to give him proficiency with firearms, maybe through a Feat or some such.
Second, I would like to point out that when it came to using his knife, Al seemed to operate in two different modes. More often he took the form of an assassin, killing an opponent from surprise with a simple stab to the chest or slice to the throat. But in a confrontational fight he became a brawler who appeared to have little concern for any damage he took as he long as he was dealing it out to his foe. This is why I gave him levels in rogue and barbarian, the first for his murderous skills and the second for his melee sensibilities.
Why Al Swearengen is a Barbarian
Some might argue that Al is a Fighter instead of a Barbarian, but he does not seem to have the trained capabilities of a Fighter, nor does he have the survival skills of a Ranger, and he is most definitely not a Paladin. No, Barbarian seems to fit best, in my opinion. He likely did not pick up his Barbarian abilities from any time spent in wilderness territory, but more than likely gained them from a hard life on the streets of Chicago, where an arrest warrant for murder still awaits him. For those who think the Barbarian class isn’t appropriate to learn on city streets, I would suggest then a re-skinning of the class, or perhaps Al gained such capabilities before arriving in America, as he is obviously British in origin.
About his levels, I couldn’t quite see Al with the Frenzy ability of the Berserker and definitely not those of the Totem Warrior, though the capabilities of a lower-level Barbarian seem more than appropriate, so two levels of Barbarian. Four levels of Rouge is enough to garner him the Assassinate ability, definitely a must, as well as allowing for plenty of extra talents at knife fighting and killing, plus there’s the benefit of a Feat.
Concerning his background, despite the overlap with his Rogue abilities, Criminal seemed to fit as the show did include some mention of earlier legal troubles in the East which Swearengen had apparently fled.
Alignment might be a bit of a stickler, as I could see many who love this character want him to be neutral at heart, though I don’t believe they could argue well that he is possibly good. It is true Swearengen has a soft spot for certain individuals, and he does have friendships and seems to truly like certain people, but who is to say an evil person couldn’t have those inclinations? To my thinking, someone who is more than willing to blindside a non-combative opponent with a cut to the throat, then feed that victim to the pigs, that someone has entered evil territory. And just because Al is evil doesn’t mean he is all bad. Concerning the other aspects of his alignment, I believe Swearengen would here fall into the neutral territory as he is definitely self serving but does seem to follow something of an unwritten code, mixing a little chaos with law.
Now onto his stats.
Al Swearengen is obviously fairly sturdy, him and his partner Dan having built the Gem saloon with their own hands, after all, but he’s getting along in years and probably isn’t as strong as he used to be. Plus, though he’s got a little bulk, he’s by no means a hulking brute. Thus, I felt a 14 Strength appropriate, with his Barbarian abilities giving him a little boost when needed.
As for Dexterity, Al can move a little when he has to, but he’s not going to be doing any gymnastics, so a 12 seemed appropriate; he might be a knife fighter, but he isn’t a finesse fighter, depending upon his Strength for attacks. A Constitution of 18 might seem high to some people, but keep in mind this guy can drink just about anyone under the table, and in the TV show he survives a serious illness which would have killed lesser individuals of the time period. An Intelligence of 12 shows some smarts but without being overly brainy, and a Wisdom and Charisma of 16 show where Swearengen often truly shines, in his verbal words of wisdom, as coarse as they might be.
When it comes to Feats, the Tavern Brawler seems a natural. I also gave him Observant because when I think of Al, I think of him atop his balcony outside the front of the Gem saloon, his eyes always watching the comings and goings of the town of Deadwood.
As for his skills and other abilities, I believe anyone familiar with the Swearengen character will have to admit Al probably has those talents. Though a knife fighter and brawler at heart, more often he depends upon his skills to read others and situations, plus his gift of gab, to get his way in any situation.
There you have it, the D&Dized Al Swearengen. If your campaign includes lots of swearing, you couldn’t ask for a more interesting character. If not … well, still Stay Nerdy!
Everybody knows Marvel is releasing a Dr. Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch next month, but did you know there was a Dr. Strange movie for television way back in 1978? It’s true.
Peter Hooten starred as Dr. Strange, looking more than a little like Gabe Kaplan in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter. Also, Hooten’s costume was more than a little goofy looking, at one point sporting a giant star and at another showing ancient Egyptian iconography, but it was the 1970s, so what could you expect? Just don’t get me started on that faux silky cape.
Originally appearing on CBS from 8 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, the TV movie served as a pilot for a show which never appeared. Keep in mind this was during the height of fame for The Incredible Hulk show and The Amazing Spider-Man TV series, with two Captain America made-for-TV movies coming in 1979, so there were high expectations for Dr. Strange.
Unfortunately, despite Stan Lee acting as a consultant, the Dr. Strange pilot did not get picked up for a regular television series.
The plot for the show was rather complicated and rambling, sometimes making little sense, but again, this was the ’70s. To keep it short, the evil enchantress Morgan LeFey (played by Jessica Walters) seeks to gain ultimate power by slaying the Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Lindmer, or his apprentice. LeFey possesses one Clea Lake into making an attempt on Lindmer’s life, but the sorcerer pulls through. Meanwhile, Clea is put under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange investigates Clea’s case and eventually stumbles upon the fact that he is the apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme though his memory has been wiped in order to protect him. The plot is more complex than that, much more, but I would prefer not to give anything away in case you, the reader, manages to find a copy of this TV movie on VHS or DVD, or maybe you can find it online somewhere.
I will warn, however, that you won’t find a lot of magical goings-on in the show. Much of the screen time is filled with Dr. Strange actually performing his tasks as a doctor within a hospital, though here and there a little odd magic makes an appearance.
Despite the goofiness, the TV version of Dr. Strange does have a certain campy charm to it. It’s filled with the expected 1970s overacting and dramatic moments loaded with gangly music, but that in itself can be quite charming, at least from a nostalgic point of view if not from an it’s-so-bad-it’s-good point of view. Whatever your own opinion, this TV movie does still have its own small following to this day.
Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie
And by the way, yes, the show was known as Dr. Strange, not Doctor Strange. Stay Nerdy!