Monday, July 16, 2018

Board Game: Welcome to Slaughterville

Well, we didn't play Alas for the Awful Sea yesterday, so instead...

The Game:Welcome to  
The Publisher: Rubio Games
Time: At least an hour
Players: Me, Michelle, Megan, Melissa - basically your name has to start with M

Can't have "slaughter" without "laughter."
Game Play: We actually tried playing this game a few months back, but the box didn't include the rules and we didn't feel like calling up the PDF online to parse them. This time, though, we did, and it's actually not all that difficult.

The game plays very much like Arkham Horror. The basic premise is that you're college students going to Slaughterville to combat the evil (OK, that's a little muddled, and actually most of the characters you play aren't college students, so never mind that). You choose a Villain, all of which interact with the rules a little differently, and you choose several locations, all of which have their own deck that gives you encounters while you're there.

Setting up.
We chose (randomly) the Serial Killer as our Villain. The parameters here are that you have to find and investigate the killer before 10 rounds are over, because at that point the killer fucks off and you lose. Of course, Slaughterville is full of monsters anyway, so there's lots to do even if you never see the killer.

Games involve coffee. Also Melissa went through like three characters.

Play progresses, again, a lot like Arkham - you can move, encounter a location, or trade with other players in your location. You get clues by defeating enemies in a fight, or very occasionally from other cards. In this particular scenario, you expend clues to track the killer, and every time you "fight" the killer by investigating (or by literally fighting him), you deplete his deck. You have to deplete it entirely to beat him; we lost.

But we were happy about it!
Combat works, again, a lot like Arkham; you roll against an enemy and if you roll more successes (5+) than they do, you win. Roll fewer, you lose, and take the difference in wounds.

Opinions: The general consensus was that this game would be fun to play again now that we know how it works; we didn't strategize especially well. That's normal in a game like this, and I think it's definitely got some replayability. The rules could be explained a little better in places, but again, you expect that (I suppose I could also go check out the Youtube explanation of play).

I was kind of not terribly thrilled by combat; it can stagnate, but you can spend a clue to get out, so there's that. The artwork on the game is fantastic and the card text is fun, if a little over-reliant on movie and media references.

Our Slaughterville.
Keep? Sure. Maybe we'll fight the slasher in fishnets next time.

Masks: Spectres and Swords

Well, we didn't play Alas for the Awful Sea yesterday, but we did play a Masks one-shot on Saturday, so HA, I have a game write-up to do today.

I hadn't run or played Masks before, but it went really smoothly. I like the game a whole lot. Meet the heroes!

  • The Janus is Copycat/Carlos Caballero. Carlos can mimic a substance's properties by touching them, so he wears an outfit with lots of pouches with various materials (we asked if his costume was designed by Rob Liefeld). Carlos works as a barista near La Plaza mall, and only his Judo teacher, Mr. Balfour, knows his real identity. 
  • The Outsider is Positron/Laran Naiar. Positron is from a colony ship simply called Home, and was sent as a long-range scout looking for a new planet for their displaced species. Positron is agender (their species doesn't really have "gender" as a concept). They find humanity inspiring, but also frustrating - humanity lacks tech that Positron takes for granted. They can control their personal density as well as manipulate sunlight. 
  • The Delinquent is El Cucuy/Dante Soto. Dante was given his powers by his mentor, but whereas his mentor used these powers of teleportation and illusions to be forthright and positive and a shining heroic ideal, Dante would ran be dark and scary. He ran away to Halcyon City to avoid those responsibilities, but he takes his team as intentional family. 
  • The Nova is Thunderbird/Jess Tenkiller. Jess' powers manifested in the middle of a tornado, and the spirit of Thunderbird visited her. Her powers injured her best friend Carrie, and she works now to control the vast power within. 
  • The Bull is Marta Hernandez/Wrecking Ball. In spite of her name, Wrecking Ball is actually a highly controlled individual - she knows that if she loses control, the results could be devastating. She is idealistic and positive, and a big proponent of teamwork. She also has some experience with the darker side of the system - after her parents died in a house fire, the government tried to adopt her, but her abuelita fought the system to get custody. 
This young team had their baptism of fire, as it were, during an alien invasion. The insect-like Cicadeans invaded and burrowed into the infrastructure, but their queen actually landed on the outskirts of Halcyon City. City protocol is not to fight with aliens (this happens a lot), but the team saw that bad shit was afoot and took the fight to them...which wound up destroying La Plaza Mall, but saving the life of Luz, El Cucuy's mentor. 

So on this particular day, Carlos is working at the coffee shop near the mall. It's wrecked and under construction, so the coffee shop is busy with construction workers getting their morning Joe. And then an armored car pulls up - normal - but then a beam of light cuts it in half. 

Everyone stares, but Carlos sends a quick text to Marta. He tries to make an excuse to Esteban, his boss, so he can get out there, but Esteban reminds him he's on the clock and to put his phone away, and Carlos relents, hoping his team can handle it. 

El Cucuy is up in the construction site tagging fresh walls, and sees the snafu with the truck. He teleports down and spies a figure with what looks for all the world like a light-saber stealing money from the truck. He summons up illusions of police officers, telling the figure to drop the money and come up. The illusion works, but the figure just slices open a portal in reality and steps through. The rest of the team arrives seconds later, but the figure - a woman with long black hair and a white and green outfit - is gone. The heroes look around the site a bit, but there's no sign of her, and then a helicopter comes in.

The copter is carrying government agents from AEGIS. Marta knows these folks; they tried to adopt her once upon a time, but she figures they're here to help. The agent in charge barely acknowledges the heroes, tells them to stay out of the way and let the adults handle it, and starts directly his people to load up the two halves of the truck onto a flatbed. Positron starts ranting at the agents, aghast that they don't have dimensional rift detectors, and the agents start to finger their weapons (Positron is hovering and glowing a bit), but Cucuy uses his powers to tone down Positron's rant a little...with the effect that the agent in charge takes note of him a bit more. The teens, a little disheartened, decide to retire to Positron's ship (disguised as an under-construction store at the mall) to talk this over. Carlos joins them, finally allowed to take his break. 

Positron alters a camcorder to detect and reopen dimensional rifts, and the heroes decide to wait until evening to try it. That evening, they reopen the gate, and all charge through...into a storage unit made of corrugated steel. There's a bedroll, a huge bag of money...not what they'd expected. Jess searches the bedroll and finds a photo - the woman, along with her parents and siblings. Maybe this "villain" is supporting a family? Dante teleports out of the unit and discovers that they're on a cargo ship in the middle of the damn ocean - this is going to be problematic. 

And just then, the woman appears through a dimensional rift, sword drawn. Wrecking Ball takes a swing and manages to separate her from her sword. She raises her hands in surrender and says she's just trying to help her family out, but when Jess gets closer, she closes her first and energy-blasts her against a wall. Positron jumps for her, raising their density, but the woman grabs her sword back from Marta and expertly dances around Positron, sending them crashing into Marta. Copycat, behind the swordswoman, calls out at her to stop. She fires an energy blast, but Copycat turns to steel and bounces it off the his hand, blowing open the container. This display of force sets everyone back a bit, and the heroes manage to get her talking. She says that a woman named "Dr. Spectre" has her family, and she's meant to deliver money - what she stole and then some - to her tonight. The heroes pledge to stop Spectre, and the swordswoman agrees, but she's keeping the money until then. She opens a gate and lets the money bag fall through, takes the picture of her family, and opens a gate for the heroes back to the city. Dr. Spectre, she says, is in the basement of Santa Maria Hospital (that's in the heroes' neighborhood!). 

Now with a mission, Copycat and Dante scout out the hospital and find a way in. The heroes take the elevator down (building up their Team as they do), and arrive at the bottom. The morgue still has many steel tables, but thankfully no corpses - only cryotubes at the end of the room. Jess looks over the tubes and finds that two on the end are labeled as "MUNDANE" - but the others have weird symbols and numbers that the heroes can't decipher.

Positron steps up to turns them off and free the people, and then a ghostly figure flows out of the one of them! Positron panics and unleashes their sun powers, making everything bright and steaming up the tubes, but Spectre tells them to get out, that they have nothings he needs. Marta dives in to punch her, but she laughs - she is intangible and immune to such base attacks. 

Jess, though, summons the power of Thunderbird and throws a giant bird made of lighting at Spectre. That seems to work, and Spectre flings every table in the place around in a telekinetic storm. Marta finally loses it, smashing tables and punching walls, trying to punch the storm into submission, while Dante teleports to the back of the room to avoid getting hurt. Copycat leaps from table to table and then tries something really risky - he uses his mimicry power to make himself intangible like Spectre. He goes ghost-form and grabs her, and Positron uses their density control to solidify them both. Copycat lands, back to normal, and Marta punches Spectre as hard as she can.

Spectre shatters. The heroes are horrified (they aren't killers, after all), but they quickly gather her up and put her in a tube, and Positron manages to get the tube working - Spectre is alive. They free the others from the tubes, and find that the folks on the end were hospital staff, but the other folks were heroes that Spectre was keeping prisoner. In a separate room, they find more tubes, empty, with one word etched into the glass - GRACIAS. 

AEGIS arrives and takes control of the situation (they found them by tracking Dante's powers, which they started doing after the little tiff in near the mall). Marta asks where they've been, and the agent says they got sidetracked tracking the power all the way out to the middle of the ocean...but they'll handle it from here. The heroes leave (Carlos needs to get to Judo practice!), and AEGIS loads up the tube containing Spectre...which is even now reconstituting her. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Promethean: Jailhouse Waffles

Monday was Promethean. Here we go!

Last time, Avalon got arrested and everyone else scattered. Donnie wound up tagging along with Grimm, and asked him for help in finding "Jenny". Grimm used the information that Donnie had and found the dorm where Jenny lived, and then kinda caught a weird vibe off Donnie and asked his intentions - he wasn't going to hurt this girl, right?

"No," said Donnie. "I love her." This didn't make Grimm feel any better, but he wasn't conveying his concerns to Donnie and Donnie was very grateful to him (Grimm's player bought up Repute, making the Exemplar milestone earn a third dot of Repute for Grimm). Donnie ran off toward campus, and Grimm rejoined the others. Skip, they realized, wasn't around (his player was ill), so Virgil had the idea of sending him to check on Donnie and make sure things didn't get out of hand.

(Skip is, at the moment, on Cobalus, specifically the Provocateur Role. Just sit with that for a moment.)

The others decided to go back to Origins. Enoch sprung for the corset for Avalon, figuring she'd like to have it when she got out. Matt flirted with Jessa, the woman selling corsets, a bit, and she asked if he'd like to come help her tear down her booth and then get some dinner later on. The others wandered a bit, bought Dominion, and Feather figured they should start looking for a place to stay since they'd be in town a while.

Avalon was booked and allowed a phone call. She called Emil, figuring he'd pay her bail. He said he would, but she wouldn't be arraigned until Monday anyway, so he'd find a way to get her the money. He called up Feather and explained the situation. It's good to have friends.

Feather figured she might as well find the fourth Pilgrim mark, which was near the jail. She used Heed the Call to zero in on it, and found it on a bench across from the main entrance - it said "this is the place."

So now the throng had "afraid", "jail", "this is the place", and "keep away" in a rectangle, but no idea what that meant. Enoch used Plumb the Fathoms to look into the place a bit, and realized that there was an Athanor near here, probably in the jail. Matt used his Bestowment to give Feather a vision, and she someone screaming, emitting darkness, and forcing it into a little sphere. Then the person started walking away, but turned and looked straight at Feather.

Feather talked to him, and asked if he was Jesse. He said he was, and told her that a unique quirk of him was that although she was having a dream, she was still talking to him. He told her that there was something dark and dangerous in the the jail, but as long as they stayed out cell 61A, they'd be fine.

Meanwhile, in cell 61A, Avalon got bored and analyze the cell's components with Stone. In the floor, she found a hollow, and used Transformation to open it. She found a black sphere, and picked it up...

...and then it was later, and there had been a riot, and the guard that came to check on her was injured and obviously Disquieted. What had happened?

The throng, after Feather's vision, realized that the Athanor was inside (and that meant Feather achieved her Role, Explorer, for follow the marks to the Athanor). They went into the jail to see if they could talk to Avalon and were told to sit, but then things went crazy, sirens, ambulance arrived, and Virgil said that the people running around were all infected with Disquiet. From Avalon? But how did it spread that fast?

We shall see.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Character Creation: Dungeon World

Well, I'm trying to avoid loading up my chargen project with White Wolf/WoD games and PbtA games, but those are quick and easy and sometimes you need quick and easy. I'll do something else next week.

The Game: Dungeon World
The Publisher: Sage Kobold Productions
Degree of Familiarity: None with this particular game, but quite a bit with the underlying system
Books Required: Just the one.

So, Dungeon World is a PbtA take on D&D. If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention, you know I don't care much for D&D, but I can kinda get into this because it strives to give the game something that baseline D&D doesn't really have: context. As with most PbtA games, you're asked to think about why these things are happening, even as the game itself is a dungeon crawl. Sounds good. So let's get started!

Step one: Choose a class. I think I'll make a fighter; it's a little off-brand for me (I usually go for magic users), but eh, it sounds good.

Step two: Choose a race. I think I'll be a halfling fighter (thinking of, perhaps, Large Jack from Blackadder or...Yoda, I guess).

Step three: Choose a name. The first one on the list is "Finnegan," and I like that. His friends call him "Finn."

Step four: Choose a look. For Body, I'll say "built" (he's a stacked little guy). For eyes, I'll say "angry" (he's got a temper). For hair, "wild." For skin, "calloused."

Step five: Choose stats. I assign 16, 15, 13 12, 9, 8 to my stats. Well, seems like I'll be using hack and slash a lot, so I'll put STR at 16. I'll put 15 in CON (HP, man) and 13 in WIS (gotta be at least somewhat smart). 12 in DEX, 9 in CHA, 8 in INT.

Step six: Figure out modifiers. So...I do that. And write them on the sheet. Next.

Step seven: Set maximum HP. Base 10 + 1 = 11.

Step eight: Choose starting moves. Well, I actually don't get to choose the moves, but I do have choices to make within said moves. I get a signature weapon! I'll take...a flail. I like the idea of a little guy using a weapon that can trip people. I get two enhancements, so I'll say it's versatile (I can attack at hand range as well as close) and hooks and spikes (more damage, but more weight). It's got a blade on the hilt, spikey bits on the weighted ball, and a couple of spikes on the haft. Its look is ornate - it's got gold leaf and carvings on the haft and so on. Definitely halfling made.

Step nine: Choose alignment. Ugh. I'll say Finn is good, though he blusters a lot.

Step ten: Choose gear. I have chain mail, a shield, and a couple of healing potions.

Step eleven: Introduce your character. Well, this would be to establish bonds, but y'know, it's just me, so I'll skip that.

I think Finn is kind of a classic "gruff guy with a good heart" sort of person, but I think he's also kind of a black sheep among halflings just because he's good at violence. He grew up in a society that doesn't really reward being too fighty (not that halflings can't be adventurers, but they're usually burglars!), and here's Finn, sliding between enemies' legs and spinning his damn flail and knocking people over and whacking them in the face. He's about the least subtle thing you've ever seen, a little whirling maniac, but he doesn't talk about food or home, and for a halfling that seems off somehow.

And that's me done, actually!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Movie #470: The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story is a fantasy movie starring Barrett Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Alan Oppenheimer, Tami Stronach, and Thomas Hill. 

Bastian (Oliver) is a young boy coping with the death of his mother and the fact that his father (Gerald McRaney) is distant and not being real helpful with the "son is being bullied" thing. Bastian, who's an avid reader, steals a book from a mysterious bookseller (Hill) and then hides in the attic of his school all day and into the night reading it. The book - the titular Neverending Story - tells the tale of the land of Fantasia, which is under attack from a mysterious force called the Nothing that is swallowing the land piece by piece. 

Most of the movie takes place in Fantasia, following the exploits of the young Atreyu (Hathway), the chosen champion of the Childlike Empress (Stronach), who is dying of an unexplained illness. Atreyu ventures across the land searching for a cure, only to have all this wrap back around to Bastian, who is, in addition to being the reader, part of the story - the "human child" who can save Fantasia by giving the Empress a name. Into all this, though, there's an interesting look at the nature of imagination and a pretty severe fourth wall break (the Empress notes that someone is experiencing this story right along with Bastian - that is, us, the viewer). 

The movie ends with Bastian riding his luck-dragon, Falkor (voiced by Oppenheimer) into the real world and swooping down on the bullies that tormented him earlier, which apparently elides the whole back half of the novel on which this movie is based. It's a good enough ending for the film, although reading the synopsis, it would have been interesting to have a "part two" that went into the rest of the novel (the sequel, which is next on my list but which I haven't seen before, apparently very loosely goes into some of that territory). 

The effects in this movie hold up, more or less; Falkor flying looks pretty silly, but the giant turtle and the rock-biter look pretty cool. The scene in the Swamp of Sadness where Atreyu loses his horse Arthax is heart-breaking, but really the one that gets me is the rock-biter waiting for the Nothing to come and take him, lamenting that he wasn't strong enough to hold on to his friends and that they were sucked away. 

(And because it's obligatory: Yes, this whole movie is superb Changeling: The Dreaming fodder.)

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Character Creation: Outlive Outdead

I'm caught up, meaning this character puts me a little ahead of myself. Who knows, or dares to dream!

The Game: Outlive Outdead
The Publisher: Happy Bishop Games
Degree of Familiarity: None, I'm reading it.
Books Required: Just the one.

I backed this game on Kickstarter a long time ago, and never got around to reading it until now, which is a shame because I'm in it.

My friend Branden was kind enough to give me a theme song, and I like it!

This is a pretty good "breakdown of society" sort of song, though it's got kind of an intimate feel that's appropriate to a zombie story.

This game starts off asking us to consider when in history the rise takes place, and just roll a d10 for it (well, really, you can agree, the GM can choose, or you can roll for it). I'd roll, but I think I want to keep it modern, or maybe late 70s/early 80s punk scene? That'd be fun.

So, we also need to consider Apocalypse stage, which tells us how far into this we are. I'm gonna pick again and say it's "just started," so we've only got a few zombies and the vector of transmission and how to kill them isn't well known yet. As such, I'll skip Vector and True Death because my character wouldn't know them.

Jumping ahead to the actual "create a character" bit, we start with name and background. My character's name is Big Joe. Big Joe is, as the name implies, a large man (6'5" and very wide). He owns a bar call The Teeth; it's rowdy, the crowd is young, and of late the punk scene in Wherever This Game Is Set has gotten big, so The Teeth is getting packed every night. Big Joe used to play drums in a band when he was younger, but this punk aesthetic speaks to him and reminds him of the 60s (figure it's now early 80s). He can't play anymore - he got stabbed in a bar fight and he can't close his hand all the way - but he's here for the younger punks wanting to break shit.

Except now there are zombies. That's...a twist.

Attributes. I have six; Control, Fight, Flee, Hide, Repair, and Scrounge. I figure Big Joe is going to be good at Scrounge, Repair, and Fight, and not so great at Flee or Hide. I start with a target number of 12 and a breaking point of 18 in each (you want low target number, but high breaking point; you want to roll over the first but under the second) and I can subtract points from one to raise another. Hokay then.

I want to drop Scrounge and Repair to 9, which means I'm subtracting 3 from each, meaning I need to raise others by 3. I'll pump Hide and Flee up by 3, just to keep the math easy (which means they're both 15). I'll knock Fight down to 11, but up Control to 14, I guess (I actually kinda think Control should be better, but eh).

OK, now breaking points. They all start at 18, but same thing applies. I'll reduce Fight to 16 (Joe has a temper), and raise Repair and Scrounge to 19. I'll reduce Hide to 16 and raise Control to 20 (he's not great at Control, but he keeps himself under control). That leaves Flee at 18, which is fine.

Talents. This is basically a stunt; it's a break on a target number in a very specific circumstance. I'll take a Control Talent in Intimidation; I get a -2 to Control to scare someone into doing something.

Serendipity: It's a big pink sea mons- no, wait. It's just a little luck-trick I can do. I get an auto-success on a given roll (I assume it's like once a session or something, but I don't see that here). I'll take Not This Time (I prevent a break regardless of the roll).

Setback: A little piece of bad luck I can cause to befall others. That's pretty meta, I think; it's nothing intrinsic to Joe so much as something that just happens. I'll take Distracted (one NPC Zombie cannot act this turn).

Motivations: What motivates Big Joe? Normally you'd have an old motivation (pre-Rise) and a new one, but since in this case the rise just started, if I were playing Joe I'd leave "new" blank or think about what it will be once the situation becomes clear. Joe's old motivation is "give the kids a place to rock out." His new one is "protect the kids." (To Big Joe, a "kid" is anyone under the age of 30.)

Starting equipment: Joe has a pistol, and some alcohol, since it's on the list and Joe owns a bar.

And that's it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blades in the Dark: Let's Punch a Ghost!

Monday was Blades. Yup!

The crew figured that they needed to get serious about this Red Sash issue, but the leader of the Crows, Lyssa, had told them last time that the Crows would maybe help them with the Mylera Klev issue if they'd take care of a little ghost problem first. To wit, Lyssa took over the Crows by murdering Roric, the previous leader, and she wanted his ghost out of the way, as it was bedeviling folks in Crow's Foot.

Which is how we find the crew in their boat, near a bridge, on a canal in Crow's Foot. Copper, having stolen a Crow's jacket during a friendly gambling excursion, impersonates one of the gang in order to draw the ghost's ire (and she and Siren notice that they're being watched - someone on a nearby rooftop, wearing the garb of the Lampblacks, is spying on this op).

The gambit works, though, and the ghost arrives. Cage grabs it with a hook and Copper punches it. It hurls at spectral dagger at her, which Siren tries (and fails) to shoot out of the air. Cage pulls out a bottle and tries to trap the spirit, but can't quite manage it. One-Eye coats a harpoon with ghost oil and shoots the ghost, wounding it, and Copper leaps up to the bridge and shoves the spirit bottle right into it (cutting herself on the harpoon in the process and becoming ghost-poisoned; her voice echoes and she sees glows). She yells to Siren to dominate the ghost, and Siren taps into the presence in her head.

Copper, ghost-poisoned, sees Siren take on the form of Kotar and command the ghost into the bottle. The scoundrels win, and report to Lyssa (but do not give up the bottle - they might need it someday!). She agrees to kill Mylera Klev when she gets a message from the crew, and the crew go about their preparations to hunt down and kill Gargoyle.

The decide to hit him on the Docks, as he's leaving a drug den. Cage uses his ritual, making all of the crew like living shadows; they figure they can just dart Gargoyle, kill him, and move on.

Next time, we'll see just how well this works.