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Abigail Gruchacz

nerdy interests range from books such as Harry Potter to stage musicals like Hamilton. When she arrived at college she pursued her love of words and stories and graduated in 2015 with a BA in Literature from UNC Asheville. When she’s not at her day job, she can be found typing away at her original fantasy novel, plotting a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or ranting on her Wordpress site,


  • The Ultimate Character Backstory RPG Guide by James D’Amato
    I received a copy of The Ultimate Character Backstory RPG Guide by James D’Amato. It’s an exercise book that can be used to develop RPG characters or really any fantasy character. The book assumes that you are playing in a fantasy RPG which is kind of sad because there’s a lot of RPGs out there besides Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. Some of the exercises are broadly applicable like “Save the Cat” but the charts and suggestions for your character are based on fantasy tropes. If you are playing a fantasy RPG though, The Ultimate Character Backstory RPG Guide is a fun way to learn about your character. I’m definitely going to bring it to my next Dungeons and Dragons session for my players to flick through while I look up monsters and restock the snacks. I did some of the exercises in the book to learn more about my next Dungeons and Dragons character, Aryana Val, a Drow Arcane Archer. And I learned a surprising amount just from a couple of prompts! The first exercise I did was close to my heart; “Save the Cat.” The exercise posits that there is a cat in a tree and gives you evil, neutral and good options. I thought for sure Aryana would fit with the evil options. She’s a Drow! They’re slavers and misandrists and worship the goddess of treachery! But the neutral options fit her character better. The evil options would take effort on her part. I took from this that she’s not malicious, but rather doesn’t care about others. The next exercise I did was “Venture.” It presented several dating-app style bios for adventurers looking for a party. Aryana swiped left on almost all of them. Funnily enough, she picked two dwarves because they mentioned in their profile what they could do. The rest talked about boring stuff like backstory and interests and feelings. Ayrana wants to know how her teammates can pull their weight! I skipped ahead for the last exercise I did. The book organizes the prompt’s by levels and Ayrana’s around level 11, so I did one of those. I decided to go with the “Five Scars” Prompt since she’s been running around Faerûn for a while, she’s probably picked up some battle scars. The prompt gives you five scenarios where you got a scar. They didn’t all fit Ayrana, but the second and first prompt made me think about her childhood and how dangerous and hard it would have been to become a skilled Archer in cutthroat Drow society. If these exercises appeal to you, check out the Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide! I’ll be keeping it on hand when I start playing my firbolg barbarian, my aasimar paladin and my dwarf grave cleric!  
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    931 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 931 days ago
  • 10 Reasons Why the Book Is Always Better Than the Movie
    Image by Ginnerobot The old saying goes, “the book is always better than the movie.” But why is that the case? Sometimes the movie is just bad like in the case of A Wizard of Earthsea adaptations. But sometimes the movies are just fine, but the books still manage to be better, like in the case of the Harry Potter series. The movies can even be considered great, like The Princess Bride, and yet the book version of the story still outshines the silver screen version. Of course, there are exceptions. The Godfather movie is widely considered to be better than the book since it sticks to the story of the Corleones and doesn’t go off on side tangents like the book does. But these exceptions are so rare they prove the rule! We’re going to explore why books are considered better entertainment than the movies. The reasons range from whitewashing to time constraints to the pleasure in the physical act of reading. Here are 10 Reasons the book is always better than the movie:
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    1477 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1477 days ago
  • 10 Star Wars Comic Book Stories Every Star Wars Fan Should Read
    One of the best aspects of the Star Wars expanded canon is the comics. They’ve been opportunities to develop minor characters, fill in the gaps between movies and create new worlds for the characters to explore. Marvel was the first company to have the official license for Star Wars comics. They began releasing the comics in 1977, the year the first movie came out. Initially they just adapted the film, but soon began to branch out into their own stories. The comics sold like gangbusters, saving Marvel from financial ruin. But Marvel decided to drop the license when writer Archie Goodwin left the company on 1991. Dark Horse then picked up the license and became the main publisher of Star Wars comics until 2014. Then Disney bought Lucasfilm. Naturally, they wanted Marvel to produce the new Star Wars comics since they also owned Marvel. With the casting off of the old Expanded Universe, the writers and artists at Marvel had free reign to create new stories for the new Star Wars canon. With forty years of comics history, it was hard to pick ten comics to spotlight. So we chose the comics that would best enhance your understanding of canon and characters. Here are 10 Star Wars Comic Book Stories Every Star Wars Fan Should Read:
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    1481 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1481 days ago
  • 9 Reasons Reylo Isn't Going to Happen
    After The Force Awakens came out, fans speculated on what would happen next in the series. They wondered about the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke, the mystery of Rey’s parentage and the next step of Kylo Ren’s training. And of course, they speculated on who might become romantically involved in the next movie. The guesses ranged from Rey and Finn to Finn and Poe to all three characters coming together in a polyamorous triangle! But one out-there prediction gained popularity. People started to believe that our heroine, Rey, would get together with none other than Kylo Ren, the villain who killed our beloved Han Solo. Not only did they believe that, but fans started drawing fan art, writing fanfiction and creating cutesy headcanons about the pairing. “Reylo” as it’s called is incredibly popular. If you looked at the fan output without the context of the movies, you would think the pairing is in the bag. But we’re here to tell you, it’s not going to happen. Here are Nine Reasons Reylo Is Never Going to Happen.  
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    1511 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1511 days ago
  • IDW At Oak City Comic Con!
    This weekend, Epicstream went to Oak City Comic Con to see what the convention had in store. And we found a lot of fun stuff! Vendors, artists and writers sold their wares, cosplayers showed off their costumes and fans had a great time!   The biggest publisher present at Oak City Comic Con was IDW who were there to promote their brand and celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of their hit comic 30 Days of Night as well as the tenth anniversary of the movie adaptation. At a table at the front of the convention floor, they sold their wares. We at Epicstream had a hard time keeping our hands off a glossy collected edition of IDW’s Samurai Jack comic adaptation! One of the first events of the convention was the History of IDW panel. Publisher Ted Adams told the crowd about how IDW went from a small creative service company to the 300 million comics company it is today. The panel really drove home the importance of 30 Days of Night, as it was this comic that put IDW on the map and allowed it to compete with the big boys like Marvel and DC. Of course, IDW is now known for it’s merchandised comics like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were able to secure these properties and steal them away from Marvel and DC by assuring the merchandisers, “You’re the priority for us.” They promised to put their top talent on the books and treat the merchandised property with care. IDW selected creators who were passionate and excited to go to work on the properties licensed by IDW.  Marvel and DC, while great, were putting their top talent on their own books, not on their merchandised comics. This commitment to excellent merchandised comics allowed IDW to acquire all it’s merchandised properties.    IDW prides itself on the variety of merchandised properties they create and sell. They sell licensed cartoons like Samurai Jack and My Little Pony as well as toy properties such as GI Joe and Transformers. The late Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Parker was also extremely important to them and Cooke is missed by all. This diversity in publishing allows IDW to reach a wide audience and encourage all people to read comic books, not just die-hard fans. The members of the IDW panel encouraged the attendees to do something that won’t seem radical, but in today’s climate might be too much to ask for some. “Don’t get into petty fights on the internet,” they encouraged. This allows the building of bridges between people and companies and not the burning of them. Unfortunately, we missed the 30 Days of Night screening as we were busy covering other panels. But we couldn’t help but notice that the whitewashing panel was scheduled at the same time as the screening. Which made us laugh. 30 Days of Night the movie whitewashed the original comic by casting white people as character originally portrayed as Native American. Ultimately, it was a great experience to get to peek back behind the curtain of one of our favorite comic companies! We’ll have more to tell over the coming days!
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    1513 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1513 days ago
  • A Complete Guide to Canon Star Wars Books
    One of the most fun parts of the Star Wars franchise is the expanded universe novels and comics. While we love the big-budget extravaganzas that are the movies, the books can explore the galaxy far, far away in a unique way. They can establish new characters, introduce weird and exotic aliens and expand on tiny threads that the movies simply do not have the time to explore. The books don’t have to worry about budget since it doesn’t cost anything to write about epic space battles, weird aliens and strange planets which could cost millions of dollars to create on-screen. One of the saddest announcements to come out recently was the end of the old Expanded Universe. The Han Solo Trilogy, The Thrawn Saga, Mara Jade, the adventures of the next generation of Jedi were all kicked out of canon. This allowed the writers of the sequel trilogy to start creating on a blank canvas. And it opened up space for a new Expanded Universe saga of novels. Here is a complete guide to canon Star Wars books:
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    1516 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1516 days ago
  • 10 Things Wrong with Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
    John Tiffany and Jack Thorne had a tricky task when writing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rather than creating their own world, they had convey a world someone else made. Granted, they had J.K. Rowling’s help but still. They had to adopt her voice and style and ensure every single detail was down perfectly. Many critics think they succeeded. The play has been nominated for a record number of Olliver Awards including Best New Play. We wish it the best when it comes time for the winners to be announced! But despite the acclaim, the play is not perfect. Some characterization is off, the tone doesn’t feel quite right in places and even the genre isn’t what we expect from Harry Potter. The play could have been even better if these flaws had been smoothed out. Here are 10 Things Wrong with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child:
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    1518 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1518 days ago
  • 10 Books Every Dungeon Master Needs to Read
    At the heart of Dungeon Mastering is storytelling. You’re sitting at the head of a table, describing a made up scenario to a group of people. Then letting the dice and player choice decide what happens next. And in order to become a good storyteller, you need to read lots of stories! Reading gives you the tools you need to tell stories. Of course, you could read whatever you want. It probably won’t hurt your Dungeon Mastering skills. But the world of fantasy and science fiction is so wide, it’ll be a great place to look for inspiration. We’ve put this list together to be a starting place, and don’t stop your reading with this list. We couldn’t possibly cover everything and hope you continue to read. The list ranges from books that influenced Gary Gygax to informative nonfiction to newer books that look at fantasy from a different perspective. Here are Ten Book Every Dungeon Master Needs to Read:
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    1521 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1521 days ago
  • 9 Awesome Lord of the Rings Moments Left out of the Movies
    The Lord of the Rings trilogy has over 450,000 words all put together. Peter Jackson had a daunting task adapting The Lord of the Rings into film. (And some would say even more daunting task expanding The Hobbit into a trilogy). He had to condense three books worth of characters, plot, magic and awesome moments into nine hours of entertainment. Many things we loved about the books made it in. But some moments were left out, and it’s not really surprising. Jackson had to choose which scenes to prioritize, what plot points needed expansion and which characters deserved the most screentime. He recut the fabric of the books to make something that better fit the medium of film. And so some things were left on the cutting room floor. But these moments in particular are painful losses. They show the depth of Tolkien’s characters and the liveliness of his world. Here are 9 Awesome Lord of the Rings Moments Left Out of the Movies:
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    1538 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1538 days ago
  • Top 10 Things in the Harry Potter Books That Should Have Been in the ...
    The producers of the Harry Potter film series had a challenge before them. They had to condense seven books, four of which were bigger than bricks, into two hour films each. J.K. Rowling had created a complex world full of colorful characters and places. But the filmmakers had to keep the focus on Harry and his adventures. When it came time to adapt the seventh book, the filmmakers just said “screw it” and spilt the seventh film into two parts. And they still didn’t get everything in! Here are ten moments, characters and subplots’ we think should have made it into the films:
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    1546 days ago By Abigail Gruchacz By Abigail Gruchacz - 1546 days ago