Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Promethean: Danger Lurks in Vans

Last night was the first session in our new Promethean story, wherein the throng heads north to Lexington on the trail of Lurch, Matt's accidental creator.

Along the way, interesting things happened (courtesy of the players):

  • Skip: Stopped by the Gibson factory in Nashville to go on a factory tour; Skip is both a woodworker and a blues fan and was interested in how the guitars were made.
  • Feather: At a gas station, the throng found box of kittens being given away. Avalon and Feather each adopted one (Feather's is Chester, Avalon's is Oscar). 
  • Grimm: While stopped for dinner and gas, Grimm recognized a bail jumper, broke off from the group to take him down using newfound grappling prowess (he's now on Ferrum).
  • Enoch: Found a place to get illegal booze; some is left over. There was a night of trying it, but of course Prometheans don't get drunk easily.
  • Avalon: Breaks part of a rocket at the Space Museum in Huntsville, AL. It was probably an accident.
  • Matt: Evening on a riverboat on the TN river, gambling and losing what little money they had. 
The throng rolls into Lexington and heads for Coldstream Park, which is where the footage of Lurch in the Firestorm was taken. They've noted, too, that the footage has been taken down since then - government interference seems to be the prevailing theory. They arrive at the park and start poking about, and quickly find the remnants of the storm. It's a big circle-ish shape in the grass, but the grass isn't burnt, it's just dead and brown. In the very center, Grimm notes, there's a small circle that does seem a bit blackened, so that's apparently the epicenter. 

Matt asks some of the folks hanging around what happened, and finds a guy who witnessed it. He says that the sky became dark and overcast almost instantly, and then fire came down in pillars, but slowly enough that people could get out of the way (no one was hurt that he knows of). He doesn't mention seeing Lurch, or indeed anyone, actually in the storm, but he says it was pretty bright so he might not have.

Pondering this, Matt looks around for Pilgrim marks and finds some - carved on trees and benches. They mean things like "death," "despair," "please help" - not uplifting messages. Some of them are carved high enough that a very tall person, such as Lurch, must have done them. 

Enoch, now following Plumbum, employs his Plumb the Fathoms Alembic to learn about the area, and discovers that the greatest danger to the throng is over in the parking lot in a van. He lets Grimm and Skip know about this, and Skip activates Ephemeral Flesh to look for spirits. He finds that the spirit of the van is awake, which is odd, and it's got some minor spirits riding around in it, which is odder. He relates this to the others (Feather and Avalon put their kittens back in the van with Virgil, figuring they might need to be ready for action), and Grimm tells him to go talk to the van-spirit. The Prometheans note a woman in the driver's seat messing with a cell phone, but no other people in evidence.

Skip approaches the van and talks to it, and it seems surprised that he can, but otherwise doesn't offer much helpful information. It does tell him to stand still a minute, and then Skip feels something scrutinizing him. At that point the woman turns around and looks into the back of the van, and then gets out and starts walking around it. 

Skip, sensing danger and playing to his new Role as Savage, uses the Wrath of the Gods Distillation and causes an earthquake. The woman tumbles to the ground, as do all of the Prometheans. Skip advances on the woman, but Avalon intervenes (not wanting Skip to assault someone in broad daylight, especially since people are already taking video of this). Skip demands to know what the woman is doing and what the van told her; the woman seems genuinely confused by the question and terrified by what just happened. Avalon takes a softer tactic and uses her Confession Distillation to force a truthful answer out of the woman - "Do you mean anyone here any harm?"

The woman answers "No, we're just here to protect people." Avalon nods and drags Skip away, and the woman gets in the van and flees. Virgil, a moment later, pulls the throng's van up and the characters pile in. They head off to a cheap motel and rent a couple of rooms. They still need to get a line on finding Lurch, but now there's a new factor in play, and they aren't sure what it is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Movie #433: Monster House

Monster House is an animated film starring Steve Buscemi, Kathleen Turner, Jon Heder, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, and Spencer Locke.

The movie takes place right before Halloween in a generic American suburb. DJ (Musso) is a fairly normal kid, but he lives across the street from Mr. Nebbercracker (Buscemi), an old man who's crazily possessive of his house and lawn. Any toy or item that lands on the lawn is immediately forfeit, and Nebbercracker screams hatefully at any children that dare step on his grass.

DJ and his buddy Chowder (Lerner) wind up apparently giving poor old Nebbercracker a heart attack after Chowder's ball lands on the lawn, and immediately DJ starts getting phone calls from the supposedly empty house. The boys discover that the is alive and hostile, able to manipulate its physical structure (lawn included), and wind up recruiting a girl who comes around selling candy (Locke) when the house almost eats her.

After some investigation, including a visit with a local video game/nerd culture legend Skull (Heder), they learn that it's not Nebbercracker himself possessing the house, but his long-dead wife Constance (Turner). Nebbercracker found her working as a circus freak, married her and started to build a house with her, but she fell to her death and haunted the place for decades, attacking anyone that came near.

So, a few things about this movie that I really love. First of all, it's all done through motion capture, meaning that the actors really performed their roles rather than just voicing them (the behind the scenes videos on the DVD are pretty damn interesting). Second, there's the nice twist of Nebbercracker being such a hostile dick to protect the kids in the neighborhood; better they lose some toys and hate and fear him than wind up angering Constance. And finally, it's a perfect Chill movie (or WoD: Innocents, or Little Fears, or any of a number of games that have kids investigating spooky stuff), right down to the kids' methods of investigation and confrontation.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Monster Squad, The

Game Prep: Promethean

Haven't run anything in a while (at home, anyway; I got to run a couple of Chill games at Con on the Cob, and that was fun). Tonight we're back into Promethean after a bit of a hiatus due to schedule et al, and beginning a new story.

Most of the time we take a break after a story in this chronicle and play something else as an intermezzo; this time the players decided that the story was light enough that they didn't need the break and we should just keep on Pilgrim'ing. I must be losing my touch.

Anyway, notes below, don't read 'em if you're a player, blabbity-bloo.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Movie #432: The Money Pit

The Money Pit is a mid-80s rom-com starring Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godundov, Joe Mantegna, Carmine Caridi, with a weird little cameo from Yakov Smirnov.

Walter (Hanks) is an entertainment lawyer whose father (Douglass Watson) stole all their money and split for Brazil. He's living with his classical musician girlfriend Anna (Long), but they're living in the apartment of her ex-husband Max (Godunov) while he's in Europe. He returns, preceded by his not-at-all wacky assistant (Smirnov), who tells the couple they need to vacate. Of course, this being New York, they're hosed - they don't have any money to speak of and they have no line on a place to live.

Walter's realtor (Josh Mostel) finds him a million dollar house on sale for a fifth that; the current owner needs to flee the country (turns out her husband was Hitler's pool boy). The couple go in on the house, which immediately starts to crumble comically around them, costing them another fortune (which they don't have) to get it fixed. Meanwhile, Max continues to try to woo Anna back, even to the point of lying and saying that they had sex after getting drunk together while Walter is out of town.

This being an 80s rom-com, at the end of the movie all is well. They've fixed the house, they get married, they get back together, fine and dandy. No mention of whether their money issues have been resolved (doubt it?), but that's fine.

The movie is cute and light, for the most part. Joe Mantegna (who's really only in the one scene) aggressively comes on to Anna (she literally says he attacked her), but Walter kind of dismisses that because he's the only carpenter who'll even consider the job. This would be a lot ickier if she didn't immediately go along with him on that because the dude's brother is a plumber ("So, you think I should sleep with him, then?"). Likewise, the whole subplot with Max letting Anna believe they had sex, which then leads to Walter and Anna splitting up, feels a little much - I almost would have liked it better if Anna had (knowingly and willingly) slept with Max, but that's examining things that are a little too touchy for an 80s rom-com.

In any case, it's fun watching Tom Hanks when he was still primarily doing comedy, and this movie is more watchable than The 'burbs.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Monster House

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Unpossessed

Last night was Blades in the Dark. Last time, the crew figured that Strain, the Gondolier they were searching for, was possessed but alive, and was hiding out under a bridge near the Docks. The crew decides that this mission is occult, so they decide their arcane method - exorcism. I make the engagement roll, and off we go!

The crew finds Strain under a bridge at low tide. They flank him, but he tries to run. Copper tackles him easily, though, and Cage pulls out a ghost anchor - a great big chunk of hematite which he affixes to the rock with tar.

Problem is, that reacts badly to Strain's tattoo. The tattoo starts to sink into his flesh (though it does hold him in place), and the anchor starts pulling in ghosts from all around. Copper punches a few of them, and Siren unleashes a barrage of ectoplasm bullets, but then her guns get magnetized to the anchor and she loses them (temporarily).

One Eye figures they'd better figure this out and tries to reckon a way to alter the tattoo and de-power it, but she screws it up. Suddenly she can see (only) the ghost field - the canal water is black nothingness, the ghosts howl in the distance, and she doesn't see Strain, but instead the ghost possessing him. That ghost looks pissed at Cage.

Cage, seeing none of this, whips out his lightning anchor and yanks the ghost right out of Strain. Turns out it's Nyryx - a ghost that Cage captured back in his Spirit Warden days, and who just keeps getting free. The ghost is captured, but Strain is bleeding out (his tattoo has become a wound), and One Eye is incommunicado.

Copper slaps some healing herb on One Eye to calm her down, and One Eye stitches up Strain the best she can, but they figure they'd better get him to the Gondoliers. They load Strain into their boat and flag down the first Gondolier they see...but they aren't real welcome amongst the Gondoliers. The Gondolier opens fire on the with a cannon, and they weather several hits before finally holding up Strain and providing proof of life.

They all come ashore and give Strain over (but Cage keeps the spirit bottle with Nyryx). The Gondolier tells them that this doesn't fix things, but the Gondoliers do look after their own, so this is appreciated. When the crew gets back to their lair, they find another Gondolier waiting with a package of Coin. The score is over, and the crew did pretty well.

Downtime: Everyone heals, of course, and everyone indulges their vice. One Eye works on her false a bit more. Copper starts training the demon wolf, intending to eventually make it a cohort for the crew. Cage continues his studies into the Path of Echoes. They've also generated enough Heat to get a Wanted Level, so that'll be exciting, considering they're actually on OK terms with the Bluecoats.

Movie #431: Moana

Moana is an animated Disney film starring Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temeura Morrison, and Jemaine Clement.

Moana (Cravalho) is the daughter of the chieftain of her village on the island of Motunui, and though she longs to sail the seas, she adapts to being a leader and problem solver for her people. Her grandmother (House) tells her stories about the great goddess Te Fiti, whose heart was stolen by the trickster demigod Maui - that lack of heart gave rise to the fire demon Te Ka, whose influence is slowly poisoning the world. When a blight does indeed hit the island, Moana learns that her people were once voyagers, but stopped when boats stopped coming back (thanks to monsters unleashed by the blight). She vows to find Maui and force him to return Te Fiti's heart.

She does find Maui (Johnson), but he's egocentric, puffed up, and in no mood to try and face Te Ka. But Moana helps him get back his magical fishhook from Tamatoa (Clement), a giant crab channeling David Bowie, Maui teaches her to sail, and eventually they confront Te Ka only to learn that Te Ka is Te Fiti - she simply forgot who she was without her heart.

This movie is really beautiful. The music, partially written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, carries the movie without being distracting or shoehorning in a number when we don't need one. The performances are fantastic, and Moana manages to be a badass without feeling like it's unearned - she struggles with her role as the chosen of the ocean, just as Maui struggles with wanting people to love him as a hero.

This is what happens when you get a bunch of people to make a movie with some cultural underpinnings and they understand that culture. Do that more, Disney.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Money Pit

Chill: Hazing

Sunday was Chill. I don't mean it was chill. It's chilly today. Moving on.

We open on a crisp fall Idaho morning at the University of Idaho, and Dr. Dylan Reeves, anthropology professor and SAVE envoy, has learned that a student was murdered on campus last night. The body of one Shawn Mendoza was discovered near his frat house (Alpha Gamma Rho), and the rumors Dylan is hearing is that the poor young man was beaten to death.

Dylan, not necessarily suspecting the Unknown, but horrified by the event, makes his office hours as a campus counselor known, and goes out to the house. He finds a police cordon in effect, and a campus security officer who tells him that the body has already been moved and the Boise PD are handling everything.

Dylan knocks on the frat house door and talks with a couple of brothers; they mention that Shawn may have had a girlfriend named Stacy, but state that between classes and practice (Shawn was here on a football scholarship), they rarely saw him. Dylan leaves and texts Auntie Dee...and then sees her walking toward the house, carrying a couple of casseroles. Dee goes to church with the family of Charlie, the AGR chapter president, and is here to offer food, support, and the services of her "therapy dog" Sweet Baby Jesus.

She and Dylan go back into the house and talk with the boys some more, but don't learn much more than they did (though the fellows are happy to take a moment petting the pooch, though they might not admit it). Dee texts Jordan and BB and has them come out and look around a bit. Jordan does so by way of an EMT friend of hers, who worked the case. The EMT says that Shawn was definitely beaten to death by multiple assailants, probably with clubs or wood - Shawn had splinters in his hands from defending himself.

The envoys get together outside the house and BB brings up the obvious point - why would SAVE get involved? Sure, it's weird, but it's not like this kind of violence is unknown (let alone Unknown), even in Boise. Dee takes Sweet Baby Jesus over to the police cordon and Senses the Unknown. The little dog goes nuts and Dee feels it, too - "Yep, it's a SAVE case."

The envoys still aren't sure exactly how the Unknown is involved, though. They get some dinner, and then decide to try and track down Stacy, Shawn's girlfriend; rumor has it she's a Tri-Delt. The envoys go to the sorority house and Dee pulls the same trick ("here's a salad, pet my dog"), but learns that there are no sisters named Stacy. In fact, talking to one of them, Dylan learns that the only Stacy they known is Stacy Diaz, a football player and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

They look through the house a bit, and realize that behind the houses there's a kind of "alley" that leads between the houses on Greek Row, but the windows are positioned such that the alley is one long blind spot. Apparently students go there to snog or get high. While the other envoys chat with students, Dee, figuring Jesus is telling her to check this out, walks into the alley. Sweet Baby Jesus scampers off, barking at someone, and then Dee hears him yelp.

Racing up to her dog, she finds Sweet Baby Jesus lying on the ground whimpering. She yells for help and the others come running. The dog's back leg is broken; Jordan restrains it the best she can and Dylan and Dee head for an emergency vet. BB and Jordan stay to look around. In the bushes, BB finds a length of wood with some dog fur on it - the weapon used to smack poor little Sweet Baby Jesus. But who would want to do that, and where did they run off to? Jordan Senses the Unknown and winds up with a Colossal Success (which means the Unknown senses her right back), but realizes that the wood wasn't touched by a creature of the Unknown. Rather, a creature might have been influencing or guiding the wielder.

They also meet a young man smoking a joint. A really good Interview roll later, they find out that he's Stacy Diaz, and he and Shawn were involved - they even went to the same high school in LA without knowing it. Stacy isn't sure if Shawn's murder was a hate crime, but he's obviously devastated. He mentions that the other day, he and Shawn saw each other on the way to class and Stacy noticed someone watching them - someone wearing a silver frat shirt, but all the frats have them and he didn't notice the letters.

After talking to Dylan over the phone while Dee is fretting at the vet, and Dylan mentions the steam plant. There's a steam plant on campus which takes and burns scrap wood from sawmills; it heats the campus cheaply and cleanly. That might have been the source of the weapon. Jordan and BB check out the plant and scale the fence, but all they find are big bins of wood before campus security finds them. Jordan improvises a story about losing her cat and convinces the cop; he tells them that security is liable to be tight for a while.

At the vet, Dee insists on sleeping in the same room as Sweet Baby Jesus. Told this is impossible, he gets hysterical, and find says, "the real baby is gone, so Sweet Baby Jesus is my baby." The vet tech, recognizing when something is above her pay grade, has them bring a recliner into the room where the dog is recovering.

Tomorrow, the investigation continues.