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‘One D&D’ makes things more complicated

With the new movie “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” coming out in March 2023, those who love playing the tabletop role-playing game were thrilled to see new material that would soon be released. One thing that players of “Dungeons & Dragons” were waiting on was a new edition of the game, since the fifth edition was published in 2014. 

I recently got my hands on the newest edition’s playtest material for “Dungeons & Dragons” (“D&D”), since I myself am a “Dungeons & Dragons” player. The new edition is called “One D&D” and, according to Dungeons & Dragons Beyond (dndbeyond.com), is said to be an expansion of the game as a whole, which I find very problematic. Players want to be able to play new editions of the game and to see changes to most of the fifth edition’s aspects. So when Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) wants to release a brand new expansion of the game, it is very disheartening to hear that they still want to use the fifth edition, just making things more accessible with hardly any changes.  

The first part of the playtest material for “One D&D” was released back in August of this year, but I will be primarily discussing the second part, which is all about the Expert classes and some of the mechanics of “D&D” that are changing. 

If you have never played “D&D,” then it is important to know that there are officially twelve character classes that you can play while in a campaign — a continuing storyline or set of adventures that typically involve the same characters. With “One D&D,” the Bard, Ranger and Rogue classes were spotlighted and called the Expert classes, because they give Expertise to the skills that are presented on a “D&D” character sheet. The creators of “One D&D” also rewrote all three of these classes and will give insight on what is about to come with the remaining nine classes as new parts are released. 

The other main change in the new part of the playtest material is with the spells. In the past, all the spells were separated by specific classes. For example, the Bard class had its own spells, the Ranger class had its own, etc. However, “One D&D” has decided to change from spells separated by class to splitting the spells up into three different categories: Arcane, Divine and Primal. According to the document, each spell lists the level of the spell, the name and the School of Magic. Also, the document went into detail about different feats and also lists the rules glossary at the very end, which amounts to 37 pages of new material. 

I have a lot of problems with these changes. First of all, rewriting the classes is one thing, but now sorting all twelve classes into four different groups (Expert, Mage, Priest and Warrior) is going to make things more complicated. It was much easier for everyone to just pick whatever class they see fit and then be limited to the class’ rules. The feats and rules glossary were not so much a problem for me, but the one thing I do not like at all are the spells. While it may look easy to understand, this poses a problem to those classes that are spellcasters. In the document, those that are spellcasters are now going to be limited to either Arcane, Divine or Primal spells in the future, which is very restricting. In the past, anyone who takes a spellcaster class can take any spell that is within their class. 

So essentially, this has undone what fifth edition “D&D” had written in the past. But I am hoping to see most of these in action when “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” comes out in March of next year.

Contact Nicole at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu

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‘Andor’: A brave new world in that faraway galaxy

In 2016, Lucasfilm released the first of the “Star Wars” spin-off films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The film was a massive success and provided a new perspective on the Rebel Alliance. It took until this September to continue the journey “Rogue One” began into the underbelly of the famous rebellion in “Star Wars” when Disney+ aired the first three episodes of the newest “Star Wars” show, “Andor.”

This foray into the faraway galaxy stars Diego Luna as the titular Cassian Andor. In these first episodes, we meet him as an ostensibly undistinguished thief who, while searching for his missing sister, kills two officers who work for a megacorporation which essentially runs its own government upholding the Empire. This forces Andor to go on the run before company officer Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) arrests him. While trying to find a way off the planet Ferrix (which is under the jurisdiction of the company), Andor enlists the help of Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), a mechanic and black market dealer.  She tries to help Andor get enough money to get off of Ferrix by reaching out to her mysterious contact Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård). Interspersed with this thriller are flashbacks to Andor’s childhood that explore his home planet Kenari, which has become the host of an Imperial mining project.

I have very mixed feelings about this show. One of its positives is that its cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. It looked very cinematic with a film noir feel, a genre influence the showrunner (and “Jason Bourne” scribe) Tony Gilroy has publicly celebrated. This doesn’t feel like a “Star Wars” product, even though it has the name attached to it; it feels very much like a spy thriller. I also like the subtlety of the flashbacks involving Andor and his sister. It didn’t detract too much from the main plot, but it serves the purpose of looking into Andor’s childhood and why he is the way he is. 

The show, however, has a major problem with pacing. The first two episodes of the show were very slow, which made them a bit painful for me to watch. As a massive “Star Wars” fan, I was expecting them to be very flashy and action-packed, so the first two episodes just didn’t do it for me. But when I watched the third episode, I was very satisfied, as it set up the next episode well and felt much like a “Star Wars” entry. 

In conclusion, “Andor” is a decent addition to the “Star Wars” franchise and offers a look into a compelling character whom fans have been waiting to know. The show will be releasing episodes weekly all the way up to Nov. 23, 2022 on Disney+.

Title: “Andor”

Starring: Diego Luna, Stellan Skarsgård

If you liked: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Where to watch: Disney+

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Contact Nicole Bilyak at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu.

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D23 Expo announces new projects

This past weekend, the biennial D23 Expo occurred at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California from Sept. 9-11.

The event was originally planned for 2021, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed back to 2022. It was also pushed back to highlight Disney’s plans for the 100th anniversary of the company on Oct. 16. 

The D23 Expo stems from the D23 Official Disney Fan Club, which was founded in 2009. D23 refers to “D” — which stands for Disney — and “23” for 1923, which was when Walt Disney founded the Walt Disney Company. The expo contains panels and events very much like San Diego Comic-Con as well as a ceremony for the Disney Legends, a Hall of Fame program that recognizes individuals who made an extraordinary contribution to the Walt Disney Company. 

The 2022 D23 Expo kicked off with the 2022 Disney Legends ceremony. Notable members who were inducted into the Hall of Fame include Anthony Anderson (“black-ish,” “Law & Order”), Kristen Bell (the “Frozen” films), Ellen Pompeo (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Josh Gad (also the “Frozen” films). Posthumously, Chadwick Boseman (“Black Panther”) also received an induction, which was accepted by his brother Derrick. 

Following the ceremony, Disney CEO Bob Chapek took the stage, with many people in the crowd booing him. Chapek has garnered a lot of attention in the media for making questionable changes to the Walt Disney Company; in recent news, he was called out for his commencement speech at Indiana University this past May when he switched up the nicknames of Disneyland California and Walt Disney World in Florida.

Chapek announced that many of the parks across the world are expanding and many new attractions were announced. In particular, the heavily anticipated TRON Lightcycle Run at the Magic Kingdom was announced, set to open in the spring of 2023. 

As is the case with Disney in general, the D23 Expo announced a ton of new movies and TV shows that are under the Disney mantle. One film that is especially anticipated is the live-action remake of the classic 1989 film “The Little Mermaid,” starring Halle Bailey in the main role of Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as the sea witch Ursula. The film is set to be released on May 26, 2023.

In addition to the live-action “Little Mermaid,” many interesting projects are also coming out. Because there are so many, here are just a few that are the most anticipated. One project that fans of Disney are waiting for is “Disenchanted” from Walt Disney Pictures, the sequel to the 2007 film “Enchanted.” That movie is set to be released on Nov. 24 of this year. Another Walt Disney Pictures project that has been announced to join the live-action remakes is “Snow White,” starring Rachel Zegler in the titular role and Gal Gadot as the Evil Queen. The film is set to be released sometime in 2024. 

From Pixar, the biggest project that was announced is “Inside Out 2,” set to be released on June 14, 2024. In addition to the massive list of projects from Marvel announced several months back, the biggest that is set to be released is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” With a Nov. 11, 2022 release date looming, the film should carry on the legacy that Chadwick Boseman created with the character. Marvel also announced two new “Avenger” movies that are set to be released in 2025, titled “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars.”

Overall,the D23 Expo made many announcements that should satisfy all Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel fans.

Contact Nicole Bilyak at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu

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Don’t ban books, celebrate their uniqueness

Let’s face it: nobody wants to hear that their book has been banned because of “controversial topics.” But the reality is that many of the classic novels that we were either forced to read in school or that we chose to read actually turned out to be either a challenged or banned book because of questionable content. 

Banned or challenged books are a fascinating topic when it comes to literature. In fact, banned/challenged books are so fascinating that there is an entire week in September dedicated to these books. This year, Banned Book Week will be occurring during the week of Sept. 18 and will conclude on Sept. 24. Now, this is not a national holiday. But I wish it was declared a national holiday because most of these books are classics that should be adored, but apparently the school system has to try to keep their students pure. They do not want to expose their students to sensitive topics. 

It may surprise you that many books that we all know and love are actually a part of the banned/challenged book list. Some well-known books that have been challenged and/or banned include J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and many more. According to the American Library Association’s website, there is a long list of books that have been banned and/or challenged, and most of the books have a laundry list of reasons why the book should be banned or challenged throughout the United States and in foreign countries. 

The idea of banned or challenged books really poses the question: why learn about these books in the school system? We all know many schools have strict curriculums where they have to teach certain books in an English classroom. Many of the books we are forced to read may have some of the most crude language that I cannot even say in this article, but we are still having to read them. When a teacher asks students about the language, the school is just asking for a lawsuit.

Many parents of high school and middle school students will also find some sort of excuse to say, “Well, this book has content that goes against my religious beliefs, so teachers cannot teach this material in the classroom,” or something to that effect. Take, for instance, the “Harry Potter” series. Say what you want about J.K. Rowling, but she created a truly magical (no pun intended) story for younger generations to enjoy. Some parents have gone on to challenge this book because it promotes witchcraft. This series’ main storyline is at a school of witchcraft and wizardry; it’s in the name of the school. Yet parents still want to make a big deal about how a young adult series such as “Harry Potter” is promoting witchcraft when it is an essential part of the story. 

Do I personally think that banning books is ethical? Absolutely not! If schools are banning books because most of the topics that are within the plot are very raunchy, that is extremely restrictive of not only what readers are exposed to but to the authors themselves. Sure, schools are entitled to their own opinion, whether it be a religious or an ethical reason. But that still does not detract from the fact that the author may feel discouraged to write another book because their work is considered to be controversial. 

In conclusion, banning books is highly unethical. If anyone wants to challenge a book over its contents, that’s fine. But don’t ban books because the contents are controversial. Celebrate the controversy!

Nicole Bilyak

Contact Nicole at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu.