Thursday, March 28, 2013

Belatedly Promethean Post

Belatedly Promethean? Good grief, how do I adverb?

First, dinner.

Rainbow trout, quail eggs, orange whiskey marmalade, blue potatoes.
Interesting basket. So, I cut up the taters and roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary. I hydrated some dried shitake mushrooms in stock, and then cut them up with some fresh tomatoes (diced), basil, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and stuff the fish with that, then baked it. I glazed some carrots with the marmalade, and then topped the fish with a fried quail egg. Good stuff.

Anyway, we played this game on Monday and I've had a really busy week, so I'm just now getting to this. Let's go!

Last time, the characters had discovered Pandorans at the construction site, but they were kept dormant by the workers. The characters figured that as long as they didn't go to the site at night (when there were no people around), they'd be fine. Ha.

Well, that probably would have been true...except Grimm, following Cuprum, decided he'd go sleep in the desert, a ways off from the trailer park (I love it when players do shit like that). Grimm was asleep, but felt something touching his hand. He jerked away, drawing his gun...and found himself surrounded by five blobby things. They all reared back and spit acid at him.

Several connected, dissolving his shirt and some of this flesh. Grimm was in trouble. Me, I'd have run - Grimm shot one. One of them grappled him and another showed a toothy, lamprey-like mouth out of the ooze and bit him. This got him a milestone (Lose Pyros to a Pandoran) but it was also getting him close to death.

Fortunately, Avalon and Skip both heard the shot, and they were in separate trailers. They woke the others and went sprinting out to where Grimm was sleeping. Matt got there first (Swift Feet) and attacked on with his pistol, Feather arrived thereafter and started wrestling with one, and Skip got there next and started pounding on them. Enoch and Avalon were bringing up the rear (not much Speed), but managed to use claws and thrown rocks, respectively, to do some damage. The throng managed to kill the Pandorans without Grimm getting to visit the River of Death.

Looking around a bit, Grimm noted that the Pandorans dissolved to watery sludge when killed. He used Sense Flux and noticed that the Pandoran sludge smelled a little like Enoch - not much, but when Enoch showed his disfigurements, he got that scene. Enoch theorized that might be because whoever had created these Pandorans had been trying to make an Osiran; this led to a bit of discussion about Pandorans and how they're made, in which Enoch related a story he'd heard about a Promethean creating another unintentionally (that happened here. It was five fucking years ago).

They took him back to the van, figuring they'd better get him some power before something else happened. They also considered moving on, since they weren't sure if there were more Pandorans around. They got out to a power line in the middle of the desert, and Nergal mentioned he was bored. Skip absently told him "go play," and he gleefully disappeared.

Grimm climbed the power pole to grab the wires, and Nergal tried to push him off - didn't work, Grimm was too strong. He healed himself (and topped off Pyros), and then climbed down and Matt climbed up and did the same. Enoch tried to climb up (he wasn't hurt, but was running out of juice) but couldn't quite get purchase; he wound up using Procrustean Shape to slither up the pole. Skip told Nergal off, and the characters argued a bit about Nergal and how Skip wasn't controlling him. Enoch suggested that maybe someone else should learn to talk to Nergal, and Skip said that he'd teach Enoch if Enoch would teach him the secret of Revivification.

On the way back, Nergal again said he was bored. He asked if he could go play if he promised not to hit anyone. Skip agreed, and he vanished. A ways down the road, Grimm, who was driving, suddenly felt the van lurch to the left. He steered it around an oncoming truck, and it came to rest on the side of the road, tipped over on its side.

The characters got out and yelled at Skip, kind of deservedly. He talked to Nergal, and Nergal said that he was just pointing out where to go - there was something important around here. The characters considered, and Grimm used Sense Pyros, and felt something off into the night.

Feather pushed the van back upright, but the characters weren't sure what was out there or why. Knowing only that something was out there, something that might help them on their quest, they started walking.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Movie #182: The Frighteners

The Frighteners is a horror/comedy ghost movie starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Jake Busey and Jeffrey Combs. Directed fairly early in the career by Peter Jackson.

Frank Bannister (Fox) is a con artist who claims to be psychic. Thing is, he really is psychic. He can talk to ghosts, and has three of them hanging around his half-finished house (Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe and John Astin). He has his ghosts go into folks' homes, throw things around and haunt them a bit, and leave behind one of his business cards. Then they call him up, he does a little show exorcism, and collects money.

It doesn't work as well as it might, though, because their town has been involved in a little health crisis - over the last few years, dozens of people have died of supposed heart attacks, but more like heart crushings. Bannister, apparently just now noticing this, realizes that it's being done by a figure in a hood and cloak.

Meanwhile, the new doctor in town (Alvarado) discovers that her weird patient up on the hill (Dee Wallace-Stone) is Patricia Bradley, the daughter of the hospital administrator, but also the onetime girlfriend of Johnny Barlett (Busey). The two of them went on a killing spree that took 12 lives, and then he was executed and she was sentenced to life (later commuted to house arrest).

Into this mix add FBI agent Dammers (Combs), convinced that Frank is psychically killing all these people. So what the hell?

Well, it turns out Bartlett is still killing (it just took him some time to get out of Hell), crushing people's hearts. Patricia is helping him, Dammers is just generally wrong about everything, and Frank is on the verge of falling apart from guilt and stress. It all ends up more or less OK; a lot of people die (including Frank, but he gets better in a kind of ham-fisted "it's not your time to die" sort of way, but eh) and Dr. Lucy winds up able to see ghosts, like Frank.

The movie is fast-paced and underrated, IMO. It's scary enough to be a horror movie but zany enough (in parts) to be a comedy. I think, actually, that being a gamer and being able to switch from horror to comedy quickly helps one to appreciate this movie, but I also really enjoy Michael J. Fox, and I like that the ghost "rules" are never really explained, but obviously present.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: High

Next up: From Dusk Till Dawn

Movie #181: Fright Night (2011)

Fright Night is a vampire horror movie, but with little to no camp, unlike its predecessor. It stars Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. So lots of funny names.

Now, it's a remake of 1985's Fright Night, yes, but the similarities are: The character names, the "vampire has moved in next door" trope, a few lines of dialog, and Chris Sarandon (he cameos). That's pretty much it. The characters' personalities, the overarching plot, the mood of the movie and even the characters' roles in society are completely different. And better.

To wit: The setting is now a suburb of Las Vegas, a neighborhood that's being slowly abandoned. Charlie Brewster (Yelchin) used to be an utter geek, but dropped his buddy Ed (Mintz-Plasse) for a shot at hanging out with cool kids and getting a hot girlfriend, Amy (Poots). He's kind of a douchebag now, but Ed comes to him for help (basically blackmailing him into it) and explains that Jerry (Farrell), the new neighbor, is a vampire.

Jerry is not, however, the slick, charming, friendly vampire of the original Fright Night. Ed describes him as "the fucking shark in Jaws", and it's apt. Farrell is obviously predatory. He leads with his nose, sniffs the air around him, and looks at people with barely-concealed hunger. His mother and Amy mistake it for lust, and maybe it is a little, but he only keeps the charade up as long as he needs to, and when it's obvious that Charlie has made him, he immediately goes into attack mode. He tears up the house's gas line and blows the fucker up to dodge the "can't enter uninvited" issue.

Before that, though, as in the original, Charlie goes to Peter Vincent (Tennant) for help. Vincent, though, is a Vegas stage magician with a vampire-themed show, and he's known as an occult/vampirism expert. It turns out that he is that expert because his parents were killed by a vampire right in front of him (Jerry, as it happens, which could have been lame but Farrell sells it). Vincent makes reference to tribes of vampires and how they have different habits, powers and weaknesses, which is pretty cool and always makes me want to pick up my Vampire: The Requiem game (set in Vegas, as it happens).

Anyway, as in the original, Jerry grabs Amy from a club and bites her, taking her back to his house and waiting for Charlie and Peter to save her. They do, but they actually use tactics, the situation is really creepy, and the vampires are predatory, scary and monstrous.

It's called Fright Night, but it draws more on True Blood than Dracula, which is fine with me. Good stuff. Oh, and unlike Charlie's mom in the original, who doesn't really do much but get in the way and then get out of the way as plot-necessary, Toni Colette is badass. She stands up for her son, stakes Jerry with a real estate sign...and then passes out, yes, but in fairness she'd just been in a car accident.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: The Frighteners

Movie #180: Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night is a campy 80s horror movie starring William Ragsdale (you know, the famous star of Herman's Head!), Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowell. It's a vampire movie, back when the word "vampire" didn't mean "sparkles."

But actually, the vampire in this movie is pretty charming. Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon) just moved in next to Charlie Brewster (Ragsdale), and is killing people right and left. Brewster realizes what he is after seeing a girl going into his house, and later seeing that girl's picture on the news as a murder victim (real subtle, there, vampire). Charlie's main concern used to be getting his girlfriend Amy (Bearse) to bang him, but now he's more worried that the vampire is going to come kill his mother (Dorothy Fielding).

So he enlists the help of late-night horror movie host and one-time horror movie star, Peter Vincent (McDowell), which just goes to show this is before the Internet. Vincent, incredulous but strapped for cash, agrees to check out Dandridge, but only as a set-up to calm Charlie down. This doesn't work because Charlie has already been outright attacked by Dandridge once, gone to the police and been the victim of 80s cop incompetence (seriously, I'm not a cop, but if someone comes to you and tells you, "hey, you know that girl that was found decapitated? Well, I saw her go into my neighbor's house," how does that not lead to a search warrant? Or some surveillance, at least? If the cops had watched Dandridge, they'd have known that he was killing people inside a day). But Vincent realizes his mistake, and promptly chickens the fuck out.

The vampire attacks and turns Charlie's buddy, Evil Ed (Geoffreys), and then kidnaps and bites Amy (right out of a club, during which scene he refuses to kill Charlie because there are too many witnesses, but then promptly slaughters two bouncers when they rightly try to stop an older man from leaving with a teenager). Charlie and Peter take the fight to Dandridge, kill his weird golem servant, and eventually go all Hammer-film on his ass.

The movie's not bad. It's just really, really campy, and it gets campier as it goes along. By the end, Sarandon has this overwrought diction going on in vampire form (these are the "uglier as they get hungrier/hurt" style vampires) and Amy looks like she's a completely different actress. And it's amusing to see how far attitudes about nudity have come, since there are a few breast shots but only one instance of the f-word (compare/contrast to the remake, coming next).

I like it for camp, but as a vampire horror film, the remake is worlds better. Although it is fun to say "HUMPERDINK!" when Dandridge is onscreen.

My grade: B+
Rewatch Value: Medium

Next up: Fright Night (2011)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Character Creation: Night's Black Agents

I haven't done a character in a good long while ("once a week?" Maybe if she's 5'3". Wait, what?), and I find myself in the curious position of having some free time this weekend in which to redline Demon and no particular project that I want to be working on now, in the hours before Teagan's play tonight. So.

The Game: Night's Black Agents
The Publisher: Pelgrane Press
Degree of Familiarity: I'm running it presently; scroll back a few posts and you'll see it.
Books Required: Just the one.

Night's Black Agents is a GUMSHOE game, like Mutant City Blues or Trail of Cthulhu. That means that investigate skills succeed automatically, but shooting, fighting and so on still get rolled. I really like GUMSHOE, because, as I've said in the past, it's very much like I run investigative games anyway.

Night's Black Agents, though, is much more high-action. It's a spy story with vampires, making it this weird little niche game that's actually really awesome. You could argue it's a lot like Hunter and various similar games, but this takes the notion of hunting vampires and mixes in a good healthy dose of Mission: Impossible and Bourne. A lot of attention paid to tradecraft, paranoia and spy gear, which is cool.

So, in making a character, I need to figure out what agency I worked for. The action is meant to take place in Europe, and I don't have a problem with that. The assumption is that your character is a former spy, someone who, for whatever reason, left the service of his agency and is taking freelance jobs. So I've got an idea of who I'd like to play, given that we got a brand new pope this week.

The book mentions a group called the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, possibly the intelligence-gathering arm of the Vatican. My character, originally from Spain, did some time in the military and then joined the priesthood. Rose up through the ranks faster than he would have expected, but it was because priests with EOD backgrounds aren't exactly thick on the ground. He spent years in the Vatican, disarming bombs and helping to trace explosives. And then the whole child molestation scandal hit, and he voiced some concerns to another priest. That priest, Father Emil de Clerq, was also incensed, and took it further up the chain...and wound up dead. My character (whose name is Diego de Calderon Iglesias) assumes it was because he was going to reveal molestation-scandal related things to the world, and left the order and the Church, going freelance. What he doesn't know is that there was a larger conspiracy, one involving vampires.

OK, so good start. Now I choose Backgrounds, if I wish. Background are basically packages that give me Abilities and simulate various trainings. I get 20 Investigative points (it's actually based on how many people are playing, but let's assume 5) less 6 for every Background I take, and 70 General points, less 18 for every Background I take.

Well, I do want some Backgrounds. I want Bang-and-Burner and Analyst. So that gives me:

Architecture 2
Chemistry 2
Criminology 1
Data Recovery 1
Intimidation 1
Languages 2
Research 1
Traffic Analysis 2
Conceal 4
Digital Intrusion 2
Explosive Devices 8
Infiltration 2
Mechanics 4
Network 5
Preparedness 4
Sense Trouble 5
Surveillance 3

That also eats 32 of my General points and 12 of my Investigative, which leaves me 38 and 8, respectively. OK.

Well, let's do the Investigative stuff, first. I put an extra point into Data Recovery, one into Interrogation, one into History, one into Occult Studies (priest), one into Human Terrain, one into Reassurance (priest), one into Bureaucracy (same idea) and one into Electronic Surveillance.

And then I deal with Generals. I have more points, here, and it's good to have high numbers. Well, looking at what I already have, I think I'm fine in Mechanics and I don't want to add any more in Network (I get 15 Network for free). I like the Cover rules for this game, but I think that Diego hasn't really built up a lot of spare Covers, so I'll keep the 10 I get for free. I know I want to up Explosives to 10, but no higher, so that's fine. I've got 36 left. I'll put three into Preparedness (33), 5 into Shooting (28), 4 into Conceal (24), two into Digital Intrusion (22), three into Infiltration (19), five into Sense Trouble (14), four into Shrink (10). Hmm, 10 left. My Health and Stability are pretty low. I'll put 3 into each. That leaves me 4. I'll put it into Athletics, I think. That leaves me without an option if we get into a fistfight, but at that point I think I'm rolling Preparedness to say "I set up explosives earlier."

Right, now I pick my MOS. That's "Military Occupational Specialty," and once per session I can succeed at it without rolling. Hmm. Explosive Devices would be the logical choice, but there's a school of thought that says you should take this in something low, since you won't be rolling it to use it anyway. I'm gonna put it in Digital Intrusion. Diego's not a hacker by inclination, but he's definitely got the chops for it, just not usually the patience.

Now I can pick Sources of Stability. These don't necessarily factor in - only if you're using the rules that use them - but I like them and they help flesh characters out. You get a Symbol, a Solace and a Safety.

A Symbol is exactly that. Diego's is a rosary. He's not Catholic anymore, as far as he's concerned, and he's certainly not a priest, but he prays the rosary to calm himself. He feels like something of a hypocrite when he does, but it helps him center.

His Solace is...hmm. Temptation is to make it another priest, but I don't want to be too one-note. Diego has a big family back in Spain, but he doesn't see them or communicate with them (the Church informed them that he was excommunicated, which pretty much cut off contact). I'll say that Diego met a woman in Bulgaria named Irina. She was in her 20s and ran a bakery (took over from her mother). Diego spent most of a morning there going over some data, munching on fresh baked goods and drinking coffee and make chitchat. He doesn't see her often, but they exchange emails.

His Safety is a little closer to home. That is, Rome. He owns a small villa in southern Italy. It's not on the books as being his; officially it belongs to the Church but he screwed with the paperwork when he was still part of SMOM.

That just leaves Drive. Let's see. He doesn't know that vampires exist yet, but if he does find out, his reasons for killing them are going to be very much like his reasons for leaving the Church. Basically: No, bullshit, you can deceive and prey on the world this way. That sounds like Transparency to me.

And that's it. Let's try and do this once a week, yeah?

Movie #179: Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes is a 1991 comedy/drama set in the 1980s (but mostly in the 20s through flashbacks) in Alabama, and starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker. It's not a terrible movie, but there are some issues.

OK, so. The movie opens with a woman named Evelyn Couch (Bates) and her husband (Gailard Sartain) getting lost in the back roads of Alabama and finding a ghost town called Whistle Stop, complete with an abandoned cafe. They get where they're going - nursing home, to visit Ed's aunt, who immediately throws things at Evelyn and drives her from the room. She winds up sitting down and talking with Ninny Threadgoode (Tandy), who tells her about her life in Whistle Stop just after the first World War and, especially, Idgie Threadgoode, who was always a rambunctious and tom-boyish girl.

When Idgie was little, her older brother Buddy (Chris O'Donnell) died in a train accident. The woman he was in love with, Ruth Jamison (Parker) never really got over it, but comes back to Whistle Stop (she's from Georgia) years later to try and reach out to grown-up Idgie (Masterson). Idgie's become wild, drinking and gambling and wearing men's clothes, but rather than Ruth making Idgie clean up, Idgie brings Ruth down into her world and they become friends. Put a pin in that last bit, we'll come back to it.

Ruth gets married, her husband Frank (Nick Searcy) is a wife-beating asshole, Idgie comes to visit, sees bruises, leaves when Ruth tells her to, and then gets a call back some time later because Ruth is pregnant and doesn't want to raise a baby with Frank. Idgie, her brother and her hired man go and get Ruth, and together the two women open a cafe. Frank comes for the baby some months later (based on the size of the baby, I'm gonna go with about 8), but he mysterious vanishes that night.

Idgie is later put on trial for his murder, but the case is dismissed because there's no body to be found (and honestly, even in the south with a black man to blame for it - the hired hand (Stan Shaw) - I have a hard time believing that anyone's getting brought to trial without some evidence, but what do I know). Ruth dies of cancer because of course she does. Meanwhile, in the 80s, Evelyn stops catering to her neglectful husband's TV habits and starts working out, becomes a Mary Kay consultant, and eventually brings Ninny home to live with her.

OK, so the whole thing is sweet and kind of glurgy. There are a couple of funny moments, and a couple of interesting characters, and Ruth and Idgie are both very likable and kind people. But here's the thing. In the book (by Fannie Flagg), they were lovers. It's, like, explicitly understood by the town, it's part of the story. In the movie, it's implied, kinda-sorta, but it's never really stated or implied heavily enough that you'd get it if you were clueless and straight (I sure didn't when I saw it the first time, when I was clueless and straight). Now, admittedly, that was 20-some years ago (good lord), but there were movies with same-sex couples back then, too, and I think that we could have had a kiss at least. Instead, we have a food fight standing in for a love scene. And it doesn't make a big difference except that if you know what you're looking at, it's really obvious what they're really doing. Argh.

Anyway, like I said, it's not terrible, but it's not great, either.

My Grade: C
Rewatch value: Low. It's just watchable enough that I can't rate it IINSIAIFWT.

Next up: Fright Night (1985)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Movie #178: Freaks

Freaks is an extremely freaking controversial movie, made in 1931 by none other than Todd Browning (of Dracula fame, which for some weird reason I don't own) and starring Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Henry Victor and a whole bunch of circus performers (I'm not going to link all their Wiki pages, but seriously, go here and and click a few links, it's pretty amazing). This movie was banned in a lot of places for a long time, until the 1960s when people started seeing "freak" as a good thing and it became part of the counter-culture. As it is, a lot of the footage is lost and it basically killed Browning's career.

So, trapeze artist Cleopatra (Baclanova) flirts with the midget ringmaster fellow (Harry Earles), who is, in turn, engaged to his fellow little person (Daisy Earles, Harry's real-life sister - which is why their relationship in the movie is so chaste). She also gets involved with the strongman, Hercules (Victor), who's just broken up with the animal trainer, Venus (Hyams), who's now snogging the clown, Phroso (Wallace). Whew. Yes, it's a soap opera set in a sideshow, which is fine by itself...

...but when Hans (Earles) marries Cleopatra (she's just after his money; he's actually very rich), they have a wedding feast with the other freaks. Drunk, Cleopatra insults the freaks (this is the famous "one of us" scene), and then humiliates Hans, and then tries to freaking poison him.

That doesn't, um, work real well, and the freaks wind up attacking both Hercules and Cleopatra. There's lost footage that shows all of that in more detail, but suffice to say that both wind up as freaks themselves (though you only see her in the version that's still available).

The movie is short and the sound is kind of choppy, but that makes sense; talkies were pretty new. Some of the actors don't act especially well, but some of the actors weren't actors. The movie is really incredible in its own way, though certainly not as horrifying by modern standards. It would have been interesting to see the movie that Browning intended, because it was much darker and, from what I've seen, doesn't present the non-freaks in the best light (it already doesn't as it is, but at least we get Phroso and Venus to not be utter assholes).

Definitely worth seeing. I wish that more of it were available, and I really wish Browning had done an interview about it before he died.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Fried Green Tomatoes

Game Writeups, part 3: Demon: The ???

So! On Sunday, we played a session of the forthcoming game from Onyx Path, Demon: The Leopard Gecko (OK, I'm not gonna keep doing weird names for the game. Much. Just remember it's Demon, we have a subtitle, we haven't released it yet because it might changed, move on).

Before you read any further, I want to be absolutely sodding clear about a few points:

  • THIS IS A PLAYTEST. Things might change. Names of powers might change. Names of splats might change. Names of everything might change. Some of this might be "official," some of it might be things I've done for my own game. But beware of making too many assumptions, is my point. 
  • THIS MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS for the Demon SAS, which I'm writing, and I'm using this playtest to hammer out some kinks. I did with this Gloria Mundi and Fallen is Babylon (run the game and then write it) and it works pretty well. 
  • I MIGHT NOT TELL YOU EVERYTHING. We've been pretty open so far about Demon, and the stuff we've deliberately held back is either a) stuff that has a good chance of changing (like the subtitle) or b) stuff that I'm saving for a special occasion (like the signature city). If you see something in the playtest write-up that's marked as [REDACTED], I'm not being coy, I'm just not willing or able to tell you yet, but I really want to. 
  • I'M NOT EXPLAINING EVERYTHING. If you have a look over at this thread, you'll see that we've spoiled a lot of stuff about Demon. Why there? Well, honestly, it's mostly because I like their software. It's easy to follow and I can answer people's questions easily. I'll probably do some more official releases, but for right now, you're well served to read that thread if you want a lot of the background assumptions about the game. 
Let's move on! The game is set in Seattle. Meet the characters:

  • Will Jerico (Destroyer/Saboteur): As an angel, assigned to kill a barista working at the original Starbucks. He Fell when he realized that Edgar was assigned to protect her. Definitely the combat-monster of the group. Works as a bodyguard. 
  • Jamie Stephens (Messenger/Inquisitor): One of a pair of Messengers. She Fell when the other one (Amy) did, trying to save her. Works as a bartender at a bar called Thrift Shop in Fremont. Fun note: She refers to drinks as "bar things" when she's not paying attention, but she's really good at mixing them. 
  • Saskia Ellis (Destroyer/Tempter): Sent to torch a building, but Fell when she saw a beautiful pregnant woman living there and couldn't bring herself to kill her. Now has kept her Cover as a building inspector. 
  • Dr. Luke Fear (Psychopomp/Tempter): Once in charge of taken the souls of the unborn to the Underworld (when the God-Machine needed such souls moved). He didn't object to this on moral grounds. He objected because he felt it was inefficient to give a person a soul if they were just going to die before being born. Keeps his Cover as a doctor. 
  • Amy Staley (Messenger/Inquisitor): She Fell because she realized that she was giving people messages that weren't true. Now she plays bass in the house band at Thrift Shop. 
  • Edgar Motte (Guardian/Integrator): Sent to guard the barista that Will was sent to kill. Now he performs as a street perform at Pike's Place (which is actually a pretty sweet gig, so as Covers go that's not bad). Wants to get back into the God-Machine, but he wants to fix it so that things like this don't happen. 
The characters know each other, but aren't necessarily allies or chums. Edgar and Will are, obviously, as are Amy and Jamie (yes, their names rhyme. Their stats are also all but identical), but otherwise they're just acquaintances. Still, it's good to stay friendly with the demons in your area. Never know when you might need help fighting off an angel.

We start off in Fremont, not far from the George Washington bridge (under which is the Fremont Troll, which is awesome). Saskia is drinking at the bar, Jamie is behind it, and Amy is tuning her bass. Will and Edgar are hanging out a block down (Edgar is busking in Fremont today, rather than in Pike's Place - maybe too much rain down by the water?), and Luke is on his way to the bar in his car. 

Will gets a text from another demon he knows, a fellow name Gordon. The text simply says "help." Gordon lives in an apartment just a block away. Will wonders whether it's worth the risk, but shows it to Edgar, whose Guardian instincts kick in. They head for the apartment. As they get closer, they feel a large amount of Aether, dwindling down. That's not good - demons read as more localized blobs of Aether. What reads as a large burst is an angel using its powers. 

Luke is driving by at this point and feels what they do, and sees them heading up. He joins them, but sends a text to Jamie, Amy and Saskia (since he knows that at least two of them are nearby; we fudge this a bit for the sake of getting everyone together). Will charges up the stairs, while Edgar and Luke take the fire escape. Edgar pauses a minute to activate Interference, to try and hinder any angelic attempts to find them. 

The other three demons get there a minute later (they're just across the street; evidently Fremont is demon-town) and head up the stairs. 

Will gets to the door, and sees it has been smashed in. He enters, and sees several people with weird, circuit-like tattoos on various parts of their bodies. He also sees a man in a black coat standing over Gordon's body, pointing a gun. He shoots Gordon twice, and then turns the gun on Will. 

Watching from outside the window, Luke uses Just Bruised on Will. The man shoots (and the gun expels a puff of steam, like your breath on a cold day), but the bullet just wings Will. Will, noting that he's outnumbered, decides to pull out the stops, and goes to demonic form. 

His demonic form, armor and super strong, is pretty terrifying. One of the man drops back in fear. There's a downside, though; he fails the compromise roll and loses a dot of Cover. Rather than take a Condition, he takes a glitch instead; Will can no longer drink straight water (minor glitch, but it's permanent). 

At this point, Edgar goes demonic form as well. He phases through the walls into the apartment and over to Gordon, hoping to get him out before he dies. Luke manifests a few of his demonic forms powers, but doesn't go full transformation. Neither of them fail the compromise roll, though they both pick up a Condition (Shaken and Spooked, respectively). 

The women get to the top of the stairs. Saskia stays by the elevator, figuring that with gunshots happening the police will be here soon and she can talk them down. Amy and Jamie run for the doorway. Will punches the ground in front of the man in the coat (he missed), but the cultists can do nothing to get around his armor. The man in the coat draws in a breath, and Edgar and Will both feel some of their Aether drain away as their bodies get cold. 
Luke, who has teleported near Gordon, doesn't lose any Aether but hopes to use this power against the man (probably actually an angel). He tries, but fails. Edgar picks up Gordon's body and heads for the door. Jamie and Amy are there, and see a cultist draw a pistol behind Edgar. Amy draws her own gun and takes a shot, but misses. Jamie charges in, brandishing her nightstick, and swings...but misses. The player decides to make it a dramatic failure and get a Beat out of it, and the nightstick goes out the window onto the landing of the fire escape, out of reach. 

Will rears back and punches the angel, this time he connects. The angel freezes solid and then shatters into a million snowflakes (probably just bugged out, rather than getting his ass pounded). The cultists, still there, attempt to escape. Will breaks one of their arms, and then intimidates the others into getting on the ground and shutting up. One of them pushes past Jamie and gets down the fire escape. Another fights past Edgar and lands on Gordon's body, smashing his head in with a small club. 

The demons try to stop him, but the dice weren't going their way. That one runs into the hallway...but now he's got to contend with Saskia. She manifests one of the powers of her demonic form (and picks up a minor glitch - her hair goes fiery red - instead of a Condition). She gives him the Swooning Condition, and then turns on her Addictive Presence power. Normally she'd need a few days to make this work, but because he's Swooning she can roll once per turn. It only takes two - he's addicted to just being in her presence, and that plus Swooning basically makes him a Retainer (at least for the time being). 

They go to flee, because now there are sirens out on the street, but the cultist tells her that they need to take the painting. What painting? The one on the wall in the hall of Gordon's apartment. They do, and go to flee down the fire escape with Jamie and Amy. Jamie tries to use Lucky Break to get by the cop now walking down the alley below, but fails.

Fortunately, Edgar, Luke and Will (all having teleported to a nearby rooftop) can see this. Edgar uses Ellipses to make the cop just...keep walking. The others get down the alley (and Jamie finds that her nightstick is still there on the stairs; I rolled to see if the cultist that escaped noticed it, but he didn't) and they all head back to the bar. Luke, actually, takes his human form and then goes back and tells the cops he's a doctor, and can he help? He's able to confirm that Gordon is truly dead, but his use of Synthesis doesn't reveal anything the characters don't already know - door kicked in, gunshots, blood, fight, death.

At the bar, Saskia shows them the painting. Will studies it, and realizes that (in addition to depicting a covered bridge), it means "Go bail Regina Donahue out." The characters all know Regina; she's a local fixture, known for getting arrested every few months for vandalizing one particular phone on the George Washington bridge (emergency phones, y'see, it's known as a suicide bridge). Jamie asks the bar if anyone knows where she is; someone yells back that she got arrested earlier. Someone else says that her brother jumped from the bridge at that spot; someone else yells no, she's got three sisters, not a brother. 

The cultist tells the characters that Gordon focused on that painting before they jumped him (the other demons aren't crazy about this guy, and Jamie, having read the cultists' aura earlier, knows that they're touched by the God-Machine, which makes them unsafe). But he's basically a Saskia junkie now, which means they'll at least hear him out. In the end, they decide that Jamie will stay at the bar to finish her shift. Amy, Luke and Saskia went to the bridge to see if they could learn anything. 

Edgar and Will bailed out Regina with no real problem. She gave Edgar a hug and asked for a ride back to the bar. He agreed, and she said that yes, she'd broken the phone - she'd had to. She didn't say why, however. 

At the bridge, the others found the broken phone. Synthesis told Luke that the receiver had been ripped off and used to smash the keypad, but the phone wasn't working anyway. Amy looked more closely at the phone, and realized it didn't seem to work anyway. The rest of them did, though. Odd.

They walked around down under the bridge to the troll, figuring that if Regina really did know someone that jumped, maybe they could find his ghost. Luke used Rip the Gates to open passage to the Underworld (and succeeded on the compromise roll, but gained a minor glitch - the smell of dirt - in the process), and the three demons entered, looking for a ghost that knew Regina. 

Next game in April (sorry, just a monthly group). But we're doing chargen for another game next Monday, and that's biweekly. 

Game Writeups, part 2: Truth or Prometheans?

While I'm at it, Monday night was also the first session in the third story of my Promethean chronicle, and the first since we've converted to the rules revisions from the God-Machine Chronicle.

I start off all of my stories here with a song from one of the players and one from my own. So from Matt, Enoch's player, we get "Dark Angel" by Blue Rodeo, and from me we get "Devil Song" by Beth Orton.

As the story begins, the characters have been in Truth or Consequences, NM for a couple of days. Rather, they're about 30 miles outside the city, in a makeshift trailer park that's sprung up near the construction site of what will eventually be the spaceport (not kidding, it opened in 2011). There are a couple of empty trailers, since many of the workers are undocumented (and thus have to leave in a hurry sometimes), so the characters take over two adjacent ones. I asked them for something that they found in those trailers, just for flavor's sake.

Matt found a loaded revolver.
Enoch found a chess set.
Avalon found a Chinese finger trap.
Feather found a can of instant coffee.
Skip found a knife hidden in a closet.
Grimm found a 12 pack of cheap beer.

So as we open, Grimm has gone off away from the trailer park to drink his beer and sleep in the desert (he's on Cuprum, remember, so this is appropriate). Skip is out on a lawn chair sketching plans to build a deck between the two trailers. Enoch is teaching Avalon to play chess. Feather is making coffee and watching over people. Matt, wanting to learn to shoot (he took it as an Aspiration - the players actually got to use the Aspiration system this game, and most of them liked it once they figured it out), goes to find Grimm.

He asks Grimm for a lesson, and Grimm, obligingly, set a beer can on a rock and instructs him. He shoots, and hits it. Grimm then takes a beer car and puts it on his head, telling Matt to shoot. Matt is horrified, and refuses. Grimm pushes him, saying that having something there that he'd rather not shoot would give him a good impetus to hit his target. Matt finally shoots, and hits the beer can, but then starts walking back, angry, not really wanting to shoot anymore. Grimm followed. As they walk back, a man from the trailer park approaches and dresses them down for shooting - that kind of thing would bring la 'migra, and no one wants that. Grimm apologizes and promises not to do it again, saying that he understands and just hadn't thought about that. This fulfills a milestone for him (Get a person to leave the throng alone without scaring him).

Skip keeps sketching, and a couple of kids are hanging about tossing a half-deflated football around. It flies toward Skip, but he sees it coming and catches it, tossing it back.

Avalon and Enoch play chess, and Avalon askes what the point was, beyond just playing a game. Enoch talks about strategy; Avalon only knows this in the context of battle, but comes to understand that talking with people requires strategy as well (Enoch put this in the context of getting Skip to do a chore for Avalon without actually asking him). At this point Matt and Grimm get back. Feather gives folks coffee, and the group decides that the next day, Matt and Feather will go to the construction site and see if they can find work.

That night, though, they decide to make the alchemical pact official. Feather and Enoch go off into the desert (a good mile+ away) to find a good site, and make a firepit. Matt wanders off again, and Grimm goes after him and they make up. Avalon and Skip decide to work on the alchemical brand. Avalon draws it, and fulfills a milestone (Draw something original without using her Device).

Following this, Skip decides to go break into another of the empty trailers and scrounge for scrap wood. He figures he can use it to build frames for some of Avalon's artwork, which isn't a bad idea. The trailer in question is locked, so rather than kick the door in (as that would have been uncouth), he finds a window, jimmies it open, and starts crawling in.

A man and a woman are on a sleeping bag together. As he crawls in, they jump up, and the woman runs to the bathroom. The man stands up and rebuttons his pants, but Skip obliviously finishes crawling in. The dude dresses him down for it, and the woman leaves. Skip says that he'd come in the window because the door was locked, and the guy says, "Yeah, the door was locked. What did that say to you?" And he leaves as well.

Skip, from there, takes his tools and starts working on the wood. This, I decide, is an extended action. The player fails the first roll, though, and takes the Distracted Condition (Skip is thinking about the people he disturbed). I decide he gets a -1 penalty on focus-related rolls until he finds them and follows up, maybe apologizes, but just investigates more. He also fails the second roll, though, and rather than take another Condition, he opts to make it a dramatic failure. Skip punctures the septic line and gets sprayed with shit and chemicals. Having had enough, he leaves to find the others.

Feather helps him clean off, and the others remind him that there's a construction site nearby that probably has scrap wood. He and Matt go looking, slipping under the fence and grabbing a bunch of wood from the bin. They don't go investigating the site, though, which as it turns out may have been wise.

They get back, and the throng goes into the desert.

Enoch takes lead on creating the brand, and they complete it quickly (teamwork roll with six people? Yeah). Now with the throng established, they walk back to get some rest. They also create a Mystical Mark out here, but by doing it so far from the trailer park, they manage to avoid risking a Wasteland.

Next day, Feather and Matt go to the construction site. There they meet Mike, the foreman, who asks if either of them have ID. Matt does (one dot of Alternate ID Merit), but Feather doesn't. Mike offers to just pay them under the table like he does the rest of the workers, and puts them to work. Since neither of them are skilled, they're just lifting debris and rocks into wheelbarrows and moving them.

Avalon and Enoch go to town, taking the van, so that Avalon can try and sell some of her wares. She manages to sell the first one, using her Sweet Talker Persuasion Specialty to good effect. Over the course of the day, she makes a few hundred bucks.

Skip goes and finds the girl from the night before. She's hanging up laundry. She's frightened at first, but Skip makes a Persuasion roll and comes off as mentally challenged rather than dangerous (especially when he genuinely doesn't know why the couple was there - he figures they were there to sleep). She accepts his apology and admonishes him to take "locked" for an answer in future. A couple of kids come out of the trailer and look at Skip for a minute before running off to play.

Grimm decides he'll go walkabout, and heads away from the trailer park. He uses Sense Flux, and gets a sharp sense of it - coming from the direction of the park.

Meanwhile, at the park, one of the dudes with a jackhammer calls to Matt and has him take over. Matt, not really able to argue, turns on the jackhammer and some of the ground gives way. Something is moving under there, and it splurts a liquid at him. Matt moves just in time, and the stuff hits the ground behind him. It sizzles like acid. Matt, freaked out, puts the hammer down and finds Feather. Grimm, too, is the by the fence. Grimm tells them what he sensed, and Matt tells them what he felt. The foreman yells at Feather and Matt to get back to work, and Matt mentions what happened.

The ground caving in, the foreman says, isn't really new - this area is riddled with such pockets because of all the hot springs. As for the acid, well, the stain on the ground just looked like tobacco, and nothing seemed to be moving in the hole now. (Matt, by the way, achieves a milestone: Awaken Pandorans.)

After the shift, Feather and Matt head back. Enoch, hearing their story, confirms that what they saw were probably Pandorans, but he tells them that when humans are around, Pandorans go dormant. So as long as no one goes to the construction site at night, they should be safe.

Next time, we'll find out how safe they are.

Game Writeups, part 1: Spies On Bus

No, on trains, really.

Last time, you may recall, the characters decided to get on a train and head to Switzerland. This they did, hopping a train in Sarajevo and heading north.

They got as far as the city of Osijek, and having a bit of time before the train left, decided to disembark and get a coffee. While across the street, Smith sees three people - which, with Tradecraft he recognizes as being bad news - enter the train station. The characters split up. Lockwood and Hanover go back into the train station to try and figure these guys out, while Rousseau, Smith and David go to buy some fruit to take with them on the trip.

Hanover and Lockwood make two of the men, searching the train station. One of them sees Lockwood and nudges the other one, so clearly they're looking for the characters. Lockwood pops into the ladies room to disguise herself, figuring the men won't follow her in from the crowded train station. She's wrong, as it happens.

One of the men enters. She enters a stall before he sees her. He rips the stall door off and lunges for her. She strikes at him, but it has no noticeable effect. He tosses her against the wall, displaying strength and speed far beyond what he should have. She decides to cut and run, unlocks the bathroom door (whereupon he rips a sink out of the wall and hurls it, but it misses and shatters on the wall). She runs out the door.

At this point, the other man (who was standing guard) plants his hand on her chest and pins her against the wall. The force of the blow is enough to knock the wind out of her, and she realizes that he's strong enough to crush her.

But then the other three agents (Hanover had gotten on the train, by the way, in what probably wasn't the best tactical arrangement) come back into the train station. David yells for the police, who converge on the man. Lockwood uses this opportunity to free herself and run, and the agents board the train. Rousseau, thinking quickly, takes some pictures of the men. The agents now safely on the train, and the men being pursued by armed guards, the action moves on.

Lockwood is well and truly spooked by the whole thing. She's also hurt, though not badly. She knows that they moved too fast and were too strong, and David can't think of a drug that would make a man strong enough to do what they did. They do a little research, and find the men's pictures - they're security guards at the University of Osijek's medical school, and their profiles look completely normal. No military service, no combat training, no ops, and their stances didn't look military or especially trained anyway. Lockwood also looks into the laptop information a bit more, and finds that it's a mishmash of investigations into private individuals and businesses ranging from multinational corporations down to local taxidermy shops, and the data isn't arranged in any way that makes sense. They do note, however, that the three businesses that Hanover traced the Russian mob money to aren't represented, though the medical faculty of the University of Osijek is.

The train stops before the Hungarian border and the agents watch carefully, trying to see if anyone else gets on. No one scary does, but the third man that they saw earlier gets off. Taking a picture of him and running it through their investigative abilities, they find that he is Dr. Radovan Macan, a doctor/teacher at the aforementioned university. He was hired on early in the school's history (it was founded in 1975), did some publication as a younger doctor, but recently got a big grant from a medical supply company - his work is mostly in radiology. He's in the laptop, too.

The train pulls into Budapest, and the characters get out and go to reclaim their luggage (Hanover and Smith both had checked pieces, which included Smith's Dragonov and modified AK). They're told that the luggage has been delayed (and the paperwork doctored). Rousseau advises walking away, but they don't want to leave their gear behind, so they go to get it (figuring they'll just need to bribe someone). The others go to find a hotel, but seeing as how they've been made, maybe, they skip their initial hotel choice (where Hanover has made reservations) and find a seedier one.

At customs, Hanover and Smith bribe an agent, and he tells them he was told to delay them. At this point, another agent runs. Smith catches him and grabs his arm, and Hanover goes with the first agent behind the counter to get their stuff out of storage. At this point, three men round the corner (this is basically a blind alley in the train station, ending in the customs desk; never been to Budabest Kelenfold station, had to make it up) and draw guns. He draws back, and the shooting starts.

Smith manages to make good use of his human shield, but not for long. He dives behind the counter and Hanover, having retrieved the AK from the duffel, comes out shooting (Shooting is his MOS). He downs one, Smith downs the other, and the third one runs. Figuring they don't have long, Smith (using Preparedness) puts together a quick explosive and tosses it back into the room with the baggage (killing the other customs officer that they initially bribed), and they leave.

They get back to the hotel. Smith is bleeding from a minor gunshot wound, the city is getting shut down because of the "terrorist attack" and the Heat is up. The characters decide to stay a week in Budapest, let the heat cool off, and try and figure this out. Sounds good to me.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Game notes!

I actually have several game write-ups to do (namely Nights Black Agents and Demon), but I don't have time right now, as I have to take notes for Promethean.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Night's Black Agents Game Notes

Man, why do I always wait until the last minute to take notes for this game? It's not a game I can do that with. I should have started last week so I had some time to do it in spurts.

Oh, now I remember. I've been redlining Demon all week.

Anyway, during our last session, the characters made their drop, blew up the laptop when it all went south (but they have their own copies of the data), and then tried to track the money that Rudek had paid them with (since they can't find Rudek; sources say he's in Beirut). Hanover's character got as far as the Isle of Man, but after that he couldn't trace it further. So the characters decided to head to Smith's Zurich hunting cabin. OK.

Now, notes.

Movie #177: Frailty

Frailty is a horror movie directed by Bill Paxton and starring Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Jeremy Sumpter and Matt O'leary. It's creepy as all hell and very useful if you're going to run a game of Hunter: The Reckoning or Demon: The ???.

The movie opens with a man calling himself Fenton Meeks (McConaughey) entering the office of an FBI agent (Boothe) and claiming that not only is his brother Adam a serial killer called God's Hand, but their father (Paxton) killed several people in 1979 after God instructed him to destroy demons. The rest of the movie wavers between flashbacks of those few months and the current day as Meeks takes the agent out to where his father buried the bodies. Turns out, of course, that it's actually Adam Meeks who's standing there, Fenton Meeks is a serial killer and killed Dad to stop him killing people (sorry, destroying demons), and the FBI agent is a demon what needs destroyin'.

The movie is really skillfully done, because up until the last few moments, you don't have any real reason to suspect that any of this "demon" bullshit is real. The demons are people, they look just like people, and Dad's insistence that their true forms are revealed when he lays hands on them has no basis in fact (likewise, young Adam (Sumpter) insists that he can see the demons, too, but he's enthusiastic about being a superhero for God and no one offers any real evidence). Young Fenton (O'leary) offers the very reasonable opinion that Dad might not be right in the head, and Dad explains that no, you'll come to believe, and locks his son in a cellar for two weeks with no food. This could all be chalked up to about 50 pounds of crazy in a 10 pound sack...

...but then, at the end, the truth is revealed. Adam (McConaughey, remember) really is God's Hand. He destroyed his brother (a demon, who was just killing people at random) and he destroys any demon he's told to. God blinds people to his work, and indeed, FBI agents don't recognize him and videotape gets all blurry when he's around. We see in flashbacks that the people Dad killed were, in fact, murderers (and the "demons" in this movie don't seem to know what they are - Fenton doesn't, at least not at first).

I've occasionally thought that I like to keep that ambiguity, but actually I'm thinking that I like the way it works. If you watch, you note that Adam never lies (though he dodges questions a couple of times), and the scripting is tight and smart and creepy as fuck. If I have any complaint, it's that I'd like to see a little of how Fenton developed, changing from what he was as a young boy to the scared, strung-out looking murderer that Adam destroys.

Oh, and: Fuck God, man. God knows that Fenton is a demon, and is going on to kill people, and he just makes Adam wait until six people die before he sends His Hand to take care of business? Dude. Dick move.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Freaks

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Armies of Mars: Final Chapter

Monday night we played the last session of Spirit of the Century: Armies of Mars. Good times were had by all.

The group split up again, and it was really useful that they did, because Michelle was late getting home. However, because of the way the group was split (Gar/Justin, Elitza, Reana/Xax) I could run the segments without delays.

I wish, in some ways, that we could have had a final scene with everyone together that used dice, because we kinda glossed over mechanics for the Siege of Xenon. But by that point, it was getting late, we knew what we wanted to do and I didn't see any real value in stretching it out. I have mentioned, in various other posts, that it annoys me when GMs through challenges and dice rolls and fights in just to keep things from being "too easy" for the players. I rather the story come to a satisfying conclusion. And it's not like we didn't have risk. To wit:

After the last session, the characters had split up. Justin and Gar, riding skimmers that Xax had modified to be faster, sipped after Mar'ik and his remaining troops. They caught up with him and attacked!

They engaged in some dogfighting, and things looked pretty grim for Justin at first (he doesn't have any Pilot skill to speak of). And then he started fighting like an Earth-man, jumping from skimmer to skimmer and crashing them into each other. Mar'ik, for his part, attacked Gar, and came within a single roll of killing him (he had mild, moderate and severe consequences, no Fate chips). What saved him was his ability to defend using Guns, and Justin's assistance. Mar'ik wound up plummeting to his death, like all good villains, and Gar landed his skimmer and collapsed, wounded.

Elitza went on to Xenon and took audience with the Master of Chains, engaging in a subtle dance of lies and seduction. She wound up sitting on his lap and assessing one of his Aspects (Where was he keeping THAT?, which is ever funnier in context), and finally moving the social "combat" into a contest of a very different sort.

Sex. Talking about sex. Got it? She won, and gave him the "Duped" consequence.

Xax and Reana traveled to the Sea of Tranquility with the bomb and a contingent of Green Martians, looking for a spot to set it. And then the Red Martian Air Force attacked! Xax set the bomb and jury-rigged a timer, and everyone climbed out of the trenches and made it to a minimum safe distance as the bomb blew, filling the canal with water. The water was rising far too quickly for the characters to escape it, but Reana's Crystal started to glow blue, and he dead friend Ka'Brek appeared and pointed her back toward the water. She dipped the crystal under the water, and saw the humanoid shapes - the Blue Martians were awakening

One of them swam up and spoke to Reana in an odd language, but Reana is good at such things (and has the Stunts to prove it). She pointed at the Red Martians war-ships, and the Blue Martian submerged.

And then the ship appeared, breaking through the canal floor. The Blues gave Reana and Xax restraints to keep them in place, and the ship - which Reana identified as a "Leaping Dragon" - flew from the water with a boom, fired ion cannons at the warship and downed it. More of these ships appeared as the waters rose, and Reana brought them forth under her banner...making her, in a way, the Mother of Dragons.

Now fast forward a few weeks. Xenon has sealed itself up. The canals are full of water and the Leaping Dragons are outside the eastern gates. The White Apes, traveling with a siege engine made from a downed warship and led by Xax and General Garus, are outside the southern gate. And the Master of Chains and Elitza stand on a parapet, watching it.

Elitza tells him to open the gates to the armies, letting the battle end quickly. The Master of Chains, somewhat sadly, acquiesces, and Elitza and some of the Black Moons sneak down to the eastern gates. The Master of Chains drops his mask from the parapets, musing, "Well, it had to end."

The Black Moons open the gates, and the Greens and Blues storm the place, with the Leaping Dragons downing Red air support. The White Apes fire on the city, smashing the southern gates. The Armies of the Empire prepare to fight...but Justin calls up the spirits of the dead, asking them to force the Reds into submission. The city of Xenon falls to the Green, Blue and White armies.

Some time later, the characters have all found their places in the New Mars. A Grand Council with representatives from all the races leads the planet. Gar has taken over the Fifth District of Xenon, acting as a military leader. Xax has assumed his mantle as King of the White Apes, but spends much of his time on missions of diplomacy. Justin lives in Xenon as a spirit medium and spiritual advisor to the Council, while Elitza has taken over the Black Moons as the Mistress of Chains. And Reana still searches the ruins of the old world, learning all she can of the Red Planet's past, becoming its greatest scholar.

And somewhere in the distance, a blue planet looks up at what it thinks is a rust-covered, dead world, and wonders.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mars Game Notes!

OK, we're doing the conclusion of Spirit of the Century: The Armies of Mars tonight, so I had been taken some goddamn notes.

One thing I find kind of annoying: I run Dresden, and then I run this, and this has a slightly different system. I haven't read the Fate Core documents yet (I should, since I want to do a hack of curse the darkness with it for the Companion), but I like the way Dresden handles stress and consequences. I'm not going to import them for the last session of Mars, but I'm running an SotC game later in the month, so maybe then, I dunno (or maybe I'll just read Fate Core between now and then, ha ha).

Anyway, the collected story so far is here. Stay out, players! Read on, not-players!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dresden, Dresden, Dresden

Yesterday was our March session of Let it Ride, so let's ride. Lou changed his "Vampires are Sore Losers" aspect to "Everybody Knows Me," since he and the White Court seem to have made peace. No other shifts in Aspects...yet.

We didn't have Clive (family emergency), so as we open, Lou is asleep at home, Opal and Alice are getting drunk and watching National Velvet, and Clive and Rusty at getting drunk at the Horse & Barrel. At some point during the night, Clive leaves (but covers Rusty's tab, so that's nice). Rusty gets a cab home and winds up crashing out in his foyer.

Opal, about midnight, feels that someone in the race has died and then not-died. Concerned, she starts making phone calls. She calls Lou first, but Lou has no data and figures it can wait until morning. She calls Leroy, who's fine if dazed, doesn't try and call the Fairy Courts (because gah), calls Lucredi (fine), calls Clarence (fine but concerned and not fooled by her claims that all is well), calls Bingham and gets an employee, calls Billy Ray and gets voicemail, calls Jeannine and gets voicemail, and finally (amidst urging from Alice and a compel of I am Switzerland) calls Albert. He's also fine, but wants to know if Opal called him first or last. Opal, shyly, dodges the question.

The next day, Lou called Rusty and let him know that he couldn't come with him to check the Bingham horse, but wasn't sure why. Rusty got a little paranoid (maybe he'd killed someone close to this guy?), but couldn't come up with anything. Opal called Lou and then Rusty and let them know about the weirdness last night, and asked them to look in on Jeannine and maybe Billy Ray. They headed out to Todd Park and found a dude there wanting to buy meth, but said dude hadn't seen Billy Ray all day. Then they headed to Shady Pastures and found that Jeannine wasn't home. Her son Cody was, though, and he told them that Jeannine was working at the Love's down the street.

The silo at Shady Pastures used to be boarded up, but now it was open. Rusty wanted to go check it out; I compelled Lou's Work is For Suckers Aspect and he left to go talk to Jeannine, saying he'd be back to pick up Rusty.

Rusty went to the silo and smelled blood. He opened the door and I compelled Are You Gonna Eat That? He leaned in...and something grabbed him and yanked him in.

Rusty wasn't sure what was happening, but he knew bad shit was in the offing. Something clawed him, and he whipped around and ran for the door. He grabbed the door and yanked, but something held it closed. He got clawed up pretty badly (gaining Leg Wound as a moderate consequence, Grazed as a mild and Scalped as a severe). The next shot would have killed him; he shoved away the person holding the door and grabbed it again, but something bit him.

Now, this would have killed him, but the player decided to take an extreme consequence. He changed his Are You Gonna Eat That? Aspect to Blood Thirsty.

Meanwhile, Lou went to Love's and talked with Jeannine. She had nothing to report, just that she'd worked a double shift. Lou left to get Rusty, and when he go there, he found blood. He nudged the door open and Billy Ray called out to him.

"Why don't you come into the sun?" said Lou.

"Don't think I can," said Billy Ray. "Skin cancer, you know."

They talked a bit about why the vampires shouldn't just kill Rusty (and why Lou, as a representative of the race, shouldn't interfere). Lou said that he didn't necessarily mind getting out of town, and bringing the silo down would maybe ruin the vampires' day. Billy Ray agreed, and tossed Rusty out, after getting Lou to agree that Rusty wasn't under any special protection.

Lou loaded Rusty into his car and took him to the hospital, letting Opal know that Billy Ray had joined the Black Court (and letting Jeannine know there were vampires in the silo near her home).

Opal, meanwhile, had gone Leroy's stables and asked Joshua to check in with the Winter Lady (she was fine). Bo was there, working in the barn, and Alice went to go and "help" him. Opal, figuring there wasn't much reason to hang around, left when she got Lou's call, and met him out at Bingham's stable.

Lou used the Sight on April Showers, Bingham's horse, and noted that there was a connection between it and another being somewhere. He looked at the horse's lineage and saw it had a brother named Sleipnir somewhere. That done, he and Opal went out to see Arthur Market and his horse.

His stables were much lower rent, but serviceable. They got there and Arthur introduced his horse: Sleipnir. Lou went to use the Sight on the horse, and Opal and Arthur went inside and made awkward small talk until Lou joined them.

Arthur let Opal know that Sleipnir had been a family gift, kind of a peace offering. He got the horse and enough money to keep the horse cared for here. Lou rolled in and asked when Arthur was going to ask her out, and then left (he'd driven himself, after all). Arthur, embarrassed, said that he had in fact been planning on doing that, so...? Opal was receptive, but the problem was that Arthur was in the race and Opal was the officiate, so the "out" would have to wait until the race ended. They agreed to that, and parted ways (and Alice, BTW, was texting Opal all this while, trying to find out the dirt).

That night, Lou invited everyone over for barbecue, including most of the racers (he didn't invite the Fairy Ladies or the vampires onto his property, and that's probably just as well). They all noticed that Rusty wasn't eat his hamburger, um, cooked, but generally folks got on. Alice took Lou aside and asked if she was pregnant; Lou used the Sight and confirmed that she was (a note: I do not allow female PCs to get pregnant unless the player asks, and I probably don't need to explain why). Alice, a little abashed that she'd gotten drunk last night, eschewed beer for the party.

Next up: Opal needs to find a race track, Lou needs to make the card...but during the party, Rusty got a call from Clive's phone. Where has he been, indeed?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Movie #176: Flubber

Flubber is a late-90s Robin Williams vehicle with too damn much CGI, starring Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Clancy Brown, Ted Levine, Christopher McDonald and (sigh) Wil Wheaton. It's pretty terrible.

Flubber is a remake of the 1961 Disney film The Absent-Minded Professor, which was a commonly rented movie when I was a lad. That one had some charm, but this one is the 90s version.

Now, I don't know if you remember the 90s (since they were 20+ years ago; this movie came out in 1997), but that was the decade of dumbing everything down and exaggerating everything. The thinking was much like Bud Frontier from "The Tick vs. Proto-Clown" - if one is funny, then a giant one is funnier. No. Fred MacMurray's character was absent-minded, but not as monumentally clueless as Williams'. The heavies in the original were out to take flubber for their own purposes, but we didn't have a tired, over-repeated gag with two henchmen getting beaned with golf/bowling balls (OMG WHY AREN'T THEY DEAD HOW DO I PHYSICS).

Oh, and I'm pretty sure there was no flying, sentient robot that sabotaged the wedding and then had a "daughter" with Williams. WTF.

The worst decision, though, was making flubber self-aware. It's not a substance, it's a character. It laughs, it shows fear, happiness and pleasure, and Williams still has no problem crystallizing it and liquefying it and putting it on shoes and balls (huh-huh) because something something physics. Everything in this movie destroys my suspension of disbelief, not least that Williams' character invented a fucking self-aware artificial intelligence capable of love and jealousy and that hasn't, like, completely changed the world already. Blargh.

The movie is terrible, and I have to figure the pitch went something like this:

"We want to do a remake of The Absent-Minded Prof-"

"Too many words."

"How about just Flubber?"

"Perfect! Sounds like farting! Is Eddie Murphy free?"

"No, he's doing his own series of fart movies."

"How about Robin Williams? He free?"

"Depends what you mean by 'free.' Like, free of cocaine? Yes."

"Family movie, then. Got it."

"Free as in of charge? No, he's very expensive."


"Nothing. Free as in available? Sure, he just got finished doing a Woody Allen movie, and then some nobody named Affleck conned him into some indie flick. He'll be hurting for cash."

"Perfect." [snoooooooooort]

My Grade: D-
Rewatch value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Frailty

Dresden Notes

So, lots of exciting stuff happening last time. I actually remembered to take some notes on not just what happened, but what I wanted to do. So in the interest of masking this all from my players:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Holy cats! The Oscar Dinner!

So! Every year since 2004, I've made a post detailing who's gonna win the Oscars and who I think should win. I generally do 10 categories (I don't see documentaries or shorts, and I wouldn't know how to call sound mixing anyway). In recent years, as you can see here, we've also done an Oscar dinner with one dish per Best Picture nominee.

Thing is, this year I didn't get to the Oscar post at all (I started it, but I was cooking all day Sunday and never finished, and my predictions were off anyway). So here's the menu and the cooking process.

  • Amour: Frisse salad with mushrooms and poached egg.
  • Argo: Maple-glazed "sitting" duck.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: Fried gator bits with remoulade and hushpuppies.
  • Django Unchained: Asparagus with tarragon vinaigrette and hazelnuts.
  • Les Miserables: "Red and black" cake (chocolate cake with raspberry filling).
  • Life of Pi: Lentil cakes with a cucumber/cumin raita.
  • Lincoln: "Emancipated" bison stew (free range, you see). 
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Crabby snacks.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: Chocolate-dipped ice cream cones.
We actually started Saturday, making what we could. First thing we did was make the raita for the lentil cakes, since that would keep overnight in the fridge. This involved chopping up cucumber, cilantro, parsley: 

Various green things.

And then toasting and grinding up cumin seeds.

Yeah, baby. You'll be cumin.

Grind, grind.
And then stirred in yogurt and lemon juice and stuff.

Note the gutted cucumber in the bowl on the bottom.
Oh, somewhere in here we roasted garlic, too. That was to top the lentil cakes. And then I also cut up a bunch of veggies and cut the bison into chunks, so as to save time with the stew the next day.

"Garlic" has less sexy wordplay than "cumin."
So Saturday morning, we got up and immediately started the stew. Since it was morning, we didn't think to grab the camera until the stew was already going, but there was a lot of dutch oven cookery going on.

God, I love slow cookers. 
And the, raspberries into the saucepan, so that Michelle could make the filling for the bleeding heart cake. Now let me tell ya: This cake was a bitch, man. The filling was fine (we cooked it forever and eventually wound up getting it to a thickness we liked).


Michelle, stirring patiently. 
But then when the cakes came out, they fell apart. Balls. So we put those, devoid of shape, into a tupperware and called it a day (and have been snacking on them randomly ever since; I also used it to make a chocolate chili sauce the other night).

Well, balls.
 Next batch looked better! I took a picture while they were cooling.

You'll come out right, right? Right?
While they cooled, I chopped up mushrooms and got them in roasting. This is notable in that I don't actually like mushrooms, but the salad sounded good from an intellectual standpoint.

Roast, little fungi, roast. 
 We popped the cakes out and...

...they mostly didn't fall apart. There was enough of a canal to fill them with sauce, so we did.

Michelle was very concerned that her cakes would not be well-received. 

But c'mon, look at that. 
Duck takes a long time to cook, if you do it right (here's the recipe I use).

Duck in its natural state.
Oh, wait, had to get the cake assembled...

If it seems like we're disorganized, holy shit, you have no idea.

Right, back to the duck.
Cutting off excess skin, which is then rendered down for fat.

Scoring the skin.

Aw, they look like...little...butchered...ducks.
Duck goes in the oven for four freaking hours, flipped every hour. Meanwhile, Michelle made a chocolate buttercream and iced the cake.

"Spackled together," "iced," what difference. 

Right, ice cream cones! Now, we could have bought cones, but y'know, fuck that. That's for wimps. So we made, basically, crepes, and I put Cheyenne to work rolling them up. They actually solidified right away.

Cheyenne, deftly rolling. 

Me, making crepes.

Cheyenne and her handiwork. 

Just her handiwork.
So then we filled the cones with Jeni's Splendid ice cream (specifically roasted pear and reisling sorbet), and put them in the freezer

Michelle, makin' cones. 
 Oh, about now the ducks came out, begging to be flipped over.

How can you refuse?
Then, a little later, we pulled the ice cream cones out so that we could chocolate dip them. Michelle had made a chocolate sauce, and I'd roasted some hazelnuts for the asparagus, so we rolled half of them in those, too.

Chocolate! Nuts! 
As they were doing that, I was assembling the mix for the lentil cakes. We'd had lentils and mung beans soaking all day, so I combined those with garlic and parsley and rice and mixed...

See? This all happens at once.
 And then What the hell was in that bowl? I don't remember now.

I seriously look like I'm about to cut somebody's face, but I'm not. 

Well, whatever. Actually that might have been the glaze for the duck. I made that - maple syrup, orange juice, honey, cooked down, then the ducks came out and I glazed 'em.

The kitchen smelled amaaaazing. 
But no rest for the wicked, no sleep till Brooklyn. Had to make alligator, too. So I cut the meat up, and put it in a bowl of buttermilk, and Cheyenne mixed flour and Cajun seasoning and dredged the gator bits. From there they were into the fryer.

Cheyenne, dredging. 
So at this point we kinda lose pictures, but the gators got fried, then I made hushpuppies (corn meal, eggs, milk), put the lentil cakes in to fry up, and other folks got working on the table. I also toasted English muffins for the crabby snacks, poached eggs for the salads (which, even with mushrooms, came out amazing), steamed and shocked and dressed the asparagus, and didn't strangle anyone.

Which is actually really hard to photograph. 

But here's one half. 

And here's the other. 

So there! Another successful Oscar dinner. Best food, for my money, was the gator bits, the salad and the ice cream cones. Everything was good, though.