Sunday, August 24, 2014

Memes and Water

Earlier, I posted on FB: "I hate memes. Everybody stop posting them."

I expected, of course, for my friends to post a barrage of memes. I wasn't disappointed. My favorite was a picture of me from my birthday party, with the same text I'd posted. That's funny. 

Why? It's funny because it's a) topical, b) original, and c) in context. 

And that is why I tend to dislike memes. They're lazy, they' re general, and they typically don't have any respect for context. 

(I'm speaking in generalities here, obviously. I find some memes very funny. And there's something to be said for shared experience and knowledge and using that as shorthand for quick humor - I like referential humor, provided you don't wind up beating a particular reference into the ground as geeks are so wont to do.) 

I wound up deleting the post entirely, because I can't just say "no more comments" on a FB post and the memes and comments were starting to make me uncomfortable. Obviously I didn't literally mean that other people should stop posting memes; I don't have any right to demand that and it would be a stupid thing to ask even if I did. 

But, if you're interested, the genesis of my comment was that I just saw one too many people posting memes saying, in effect, "this ice water thing is bad and you should feel bad." (See what I did there?)

I was all set to post and explain why I get annoyed by people talking smack about the ice water challenge, but Forbes went and did a very nice article that covers the basics. Mostly, I was very moved by the video posted by a young man who was recently diagnosed with ALS, and that he, too, was moved to see someone paying attention to the disease, which is rare. 

Yes, there are other causes that affect more people. Yes, the ice water challenge might waste some water, so maybe use dust (like a chinchilla!) if you're in California or something. Yes, it's a stupid gimmick. You don't like the method? Fine, there are valid reasons not to.

But don't simplify down to a picture of Morpheus or something. Think about the topic and say something. 

Or, y'know, don't. TL;DR Cool story, bro. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Movie #267: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is an animated adaptation of the novel of the same name by Cressida Cowell, and stars Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and a whole bunch of other people.

The village of Berk, inhabited by "Vikings" who speak with weirdly Scottish accents, is plagued by dragons. They swoop in and kill people, burn buildings, and make off with livestock. The Vikings, in turn, have developed their whole culture around killing them. Young Hiccup (Baruchel), son of the village leader Stoick (Butler), desperately wants to kill dragons, but he's weak, clumsy, and not terribly Viking-like. What he is good at is engineering, something that neither his father nor his mentor Gobber (Ferguson) seem to value. 

On the night of a raid, Hiccup uses a device to down a Night Fury, a breed of dragon so mysterious it has never been seen. The Night Fury turns out to be small, lithe, somewhat cat-like, and terrified. Hiccup is unable to kill it, but spends his free time with it learning about dragons and helping build it a prosthetic tail-wing so it can fly again. He uses the knowledge he gains to rise to the top of his dragon-killing class (no dragons are actually killed, captives are simply used for practice). His father returns from a disastrous attempt to find the dragon's nest to find his son a celebrity, but Hiccup has learned that the dragons don't really want to hurt anyone. They're controlled by a massive "queen bee" dragon, which forces them to bring it food. 

The Night Fury, which Hiccup names Toothless, comes to Hiccup's aid in full view of the village and his father captures the dragon and forces it to lead the Vikings to the nest. Hiccup and his friends, including the previous head-of-the-class (and his crush), Astrid (Ferrera), mount dragons and swoop in to help, Hiccup eventually winning the day at the cost of his own foot. The village embraces dragons as pets. Yay! 

I like this movie a lot. Hiccup undergoes a good transformation; he starts of wanting not necessarily to kill dragons but to be useful, and in Berk, killing dragons is how you prove your worth. But he comes to identify with Toothless and realizes almost immediately that he isn't a killer, and puts his scientific mind to use. Butler is likewise good as Stoick, who so desperately wants to connect with his son but doesn't have the common ground to do it, and the support cast of young dragon-fighters (later riders), including Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and T.J. Miller, provide fun bits of characterization and humor. 

If I have a complaint, it's that Hiccup has this whiny, sarcastic American accent. But then, so do all the younger Vikings, so maybe these Vikings become Scottish as they mature, I don't know.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Hudson Hawk

Movie #266: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a film adaptation of the book by Dr. Seuss, and, of course, the classic Chuck Jones animated special. It stars Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffery Tambor, and Christine Baranski.

So, obviously, we have to have a bit more story because the book doesn't stretch to fill two hours. I accept that. What we get, then, is that the Whos down in Whoville are nuts about Xmas. Their Xmas celebration, however, is very much the white, secular, upper-middle-class celebration - it's entirely centered around decoration, buying everything in sight, and making merry.

Which...OK. I mean, I see the point they're clumsily trying to make. But one of the big problems with that version of Xmas is that it only works if you've got the money to make it work. But money is no problem in Whoville - there are no poor Whos, apparently, and most of the Whos find Xmas works just fine for them. Only Cindy Lou Who (Momsen), a lovely little blond Who-girl, finds herself unfulfilled by all the schmaltz.

Meanwhile, up on Mt. Crumpit (which serves as the trash dump for the whole civilization - it's just the one city, apparently) lives the Grinch (Carrey and several pounds of makeup). The Grinch hates the Whos, hates Xmas, and hates himself in equal measure. He sneaks down to the village and causes general mayhem, and in the process meets Cindy Lou, who views him as a weird kindred spirit - he's the only other being around here that doesn't like Xmas. So she has him named Holiday Cheermeister, he accepts and all goes well until the Mayor (Tambor) trolls him with painful childhood memories-

Oh, yeah. We get to see the Grinch's childhood. He was always green and hairy, and suffered for it, eventually running away to Crumpit.

Anyway, after the Cheermeister incident, he does his famous "dress up as Santa and steal Xmas" routine, has his change of heart, and returns everything, but by this point the movie has dragged on for so long and we know that part so well that it just puts you to sleep.

The movie is pretty terrible. It spends way too long letting Carrey just vamp like it's 1992 and we still liked him. He doesn't show a moment of genuine emotion; even the transformation at the end feels forced. And the story elements that were added feel like they might have somewhere to go, but the only real effect is that everyone is kind of horrible. The Whos, far from the joyous, selfless people they are in the cartoon, have a greedy, avaristic society that the white Americans among us might recognize, but there's no moment of redemption for them, really. In the book/cartoon, the Grinch brings back their presents not because the presents themselves have value, but because it's the right thing to do (the Whos don't really care about the things, they care about the love). In this movie, the Whos are devastated that the Grinch took their shit, which means the Grinch's plan worked, which means that the Whos have to undergo the same moment of epiphany...bleah. It's muddled, it's boring, and it paved the way for more terrible Seuss adaptations.

My grade: F
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: How to Train Your Dragon

Ganakagok: Dawn to Morning

Thursday we finished out Ganakagok story, The Frozen Jungle. All in all, the tone was very different than the last few times I've run this game. It still had the underpinnings of mytho-poetry, but it felt more like a roleplaying game than it usually does - the actions were more immediate, scene followed scene more tightly. I suspect that's because three of the five people playing were younger and less experienced, and so there was less of a chance to get weird with our interpretations of the cards. But for all that, it was a cool story, and a good introduction for my daughter into more narrative games. This was also the first time I've run Ganakagok where no one had a bad ending, but that was mostly down to me forgetting that there are only supposed to be two reaction rounds.

Last session here, if you want a refresher.

Cheyenne's Turn: The group walked through the forest to get to the Forbidden Tree and meet with the Old Man of the Forest, guided by Kit's magic necklace. But then Nanaka saw movement in the trees. The group came to an expanse of rushing water - a river that hadn't been there before, but remember that the jungle was thawing. Keromet tested it with his staff, and a spear flew down from the tree and lodged in the ground. The group turned and saw Kotolikituk, one of the assassins that had split off from the group after Keromet talked them all down from murder, up in a tree and wearing a mask that looked like the Old Man of the Forest. He wasn't interested in letting them go on. Nanaka and the others talked him own (Skia using her Hare's Leap to jump up into the tree and face him), and he finally agreed to come with them and see this through.

Will's Turn: But the river remained. Keromet tried to vault over it using his staff, but he missed his footing and the current swept him away. As the cold water gripped him, he saw the last few stars remaining, and tried to stay awake. The others tried to help him, but the ice beasts of the forest resisted, wanting Kit to move on. Kotolikituk, too, didn't help, because he hates Keromet anyway. Finally, though, Karget tossed him a vine and Keromet chose to come back to his people rather than floating away and becoming lost in the stars.

Al's Turn: They arrived, at last, at the entrance to the Man's lair. He came to greet them, but then Kotolikituk drew back his spear to kill the Old Man of the Forest. They kind of dogpiled him, and Kit's necklace let out a blast of energy that knocked him back, and finally they overpowered him.

Michelle's Turn: Skia turned to Kit, and showed her the geode. Kit told the Old Man that she was willing to give the necklace and the stone knife to him, but they were all she had to remember her parents by and she wanted to know what happened to them. The Old Man nodded, took the items and place them in the geode, which bloomed like an immense stone flower, saturating the area with light. The skulls fixed to the trees fell, and beings made of light stood up. The Old Man's horns fell off, too, and he looked more human. He pointed to the light and said, "Answers."

Skia walked into the light. The others tried to follow, but the Man blocked the way. In the light, Skia found a vast plain, and a barely-seen creature moving toward her. She resisted her instincts as a hunter and didn't shoot it, and it turned out to be a man - the First Man of Ganakagok, the founder of the Nitu. But now, the Man said, it was Morning, the Thaw was happening, and the Nitu would have to change.

Morning: With that, all the Stars were gone. Morning came, and we assigned Final Fates.

Ganakagok experienced a massive flood as the ice in the jungle melted. The waters rushed toward the Nitu village (more on that later), but in the aftermath, new and vibrant species arose, plants bloomed with color, and the owl from the Land of Owls flew to the trees.

The Nitu banded together to survived the flood, putting aside their stupid questions of leadership and succession and treason to the People. They learned to live in the jungle, eventually, becoming a tree-dwelling and owl-riding people.

Skia went on to marry Kotolikituk, and became a hunter and leader of the People (7 of Stars).

Karget put his understanding of gathering and plants to good use, cataloging and study the new flora of the jungle and becoming a wise man and herbologist (Woman of Flames).

Keromet left the Nitu to wander the Spirit Plain, becoming a true shaman and spirit explorer (4 of Storms).

Nanaka reconciled with her father and helped the Nitu work toward a better, more functional government - the Triumvirate Council was dissolved.

Kit talked with the Man of the Forest, and he led her to the Oldest Tree. At the top was a hut, and inside were her parents, alive and well. They eventually taught the Nitu to build their tree-homes (Child of Flames).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to the Warehouse

Sure, I have a minute.

So, last time, there was this ghost ship, and we ended with a guy committing "suicide." As Blue and Blaine discovered, though, not so much. Blue talked to the coroner, and something held the poor guy underwater and then chucked in the radio after the fact. The bruising on his chest indicated an oval shape, and it didn't quite map to handprints, but Blaine opined that a ghost using telekinesis could accomplish much the same thing.

Back at HQ, Raji and Memphis did research in their own way. Figuring that the Poseidon's Due turning up in the middle of nowhere (landlocked middle of nowhere, even) probably had something to do with Blaine, Memphis rigged up a meter to link Blaine's signature to the ship. Meanwhile, Raji did some digging into actual books and found legends of a ghostly pirate crew that drowned people as a way of recruiting. This seemed a promising line of inquiry.

Blue and Blaine returned, and using a rotating dispenser of rooms (this is apparently something on Warehouse 13 that I haven't seen yet) to find a room with a bathtub. Blue got in it, with putty on her chest to hold an imprint of the TK force, and Blaine held her down (no water, obviously). Blaine was strong enough to keep her down, and the imprint on her chest looked much like the bruising on the victim's - this seemed to lend credence to the story. Memphis' device recorded Blaine's activity, and linked to an object off her scope (but her range on the gizmo was limited).

Figuring that might be the ship, we headed to the van, but then Memphis noticed her blips doing something strange - there was still a blip in the warehouse. She and Raji went back to check, while Blue and Blaine stayed by the van. Memphis found the blip by the rotating rooms, but it wasn't moving. Blue told Blaine to punch her, which he did (reluctantly), but the needle didn't move. Blaine teleported back to the room, and the blip there merged with him, which made Memphis think that she'd just been reading residue. Blaine teleported back, and Blue shot him with a Tesla, just to see if it caused any activity. It didn't - Blaine was now separate from the line.

But Blaine did mention that the Tesla had caused sensation, which prompted Memphis to ask when the last time he'd felt anything had been. Blaine mentioned the gem that made him solid, and then there was activity on Memphis' scope again. She tracked it to the gem, and Raji thought he saw something there, but then it vanished.

"I think," said Memphis, "we may have a ghost."

Monday, August 18, 2014

GenCon: Wow.

Holy cats. GenCon.

This was seriously one of the best years I've had at GenCon, both personally and professionally. I got to talk to a lot of really awesome people, I made some connections for projects that I'm really excited about, and of course, Onyx Path announced the second editions of the World of Darkness lines and that the next WoD game is going to be Beast: The Primordial, which I am, of course, developing.

Good stuff. Also we sold all the books we brought with us, which is pretty baller.

But I know, you're just here for the pictures and the GM's Report Card.

Picture first:

Seconds later, she was on the roof.
I spotted this young lady in the convention center and kind of squeed a bit, because Mirror's Edge is one of my favorite games and her cosplay is awesome. But I did want to say: It's polite to ask if you can photograph someone, even if they're in costume. Don't assume that because someone is out and about that it's OK to take their picture. I mean, it's probably not illegal in any case, so you can, but that isn't the issue. There are lots of things that you can do that it's still unpleasant to do, so have a little decorum (for the record, I asked).

Anyway, Thursday I had a game of Daedalus to run, which went pretty well. I think I want a more dynamic scenario for when next I run it, but I also have some rules tweaking to do - it's not quite as exciting as I'd like. For all that, the players enjoyed it, and I felt bad telling them the game wasn't actually out yet (but they could go to the IGDN booth and find awesome games that were!).

Cardhalla, always impressive.

And then I had a game of Dime Stories to play, after a quick stopoff for dinner at a food truck. Dime Stories is an RPG that plays a lot like Dogs in the Vineyard, insofar as you have traits and gear that add dice to your pool, though the underlying moral element isn't there. It feels a lot like Firefly with the "space" part perhaps ramped up a little, and the game revolved around us surveying for a mine and stumbling into a corrupt little town held hostage by a cruel thug. In the end, we wound up basically trying to broker a deal between the "native" folks who actually owned the land the corporation we worked for, but the nuance was a little hard to get to that late in the evening (plus one player was kind of a dick close to the end of the game, which kind of soured the mood).

I'm not terribly impressed with the game itself. Like, I don't dislike it, but it felt kind of derivative, and I didn't feel like the mechanics did anything new or special, they just kind of worked. That said, my buddy Jonathan is a good GM and kept things humming along, and didn't let us get away with the easy ending, so that was nice. My grade: B+

It's Spanish for "Tell me stories."
And then, sleep.

Friday I ran some curse the darkness demos at the booth, and then sat on a panel about Kids and Gaming, which was pretty cool and reminded me I needed to pick up Little Wizards. And then I had to zip over to a game of Outbreak: Deep Space. Which turned out to be...not so great.

So, part of this is my fault. There are two zombie RPGs whose titles sound kind of similar. One is called Outlive Outdead, and I backed its Kickstarter and even have a picture of myself in the book. I've never gotten to play the game, though. The other game is called Outbreak Undead, it's a huge, pretty book, and I often pick it up at cons and then put it down after I flip through it, because it looks boring. I thought I was playing the former; turned out I was playing an offshoot of the latter.

The setup for the game was OK; we were on a prison ship, woke out of cryo-sleep early, there are zombies, argh. Simple enough. The problem was twofold.

First, the GM had never run a con game before, and was quite unfamiliar with this game in particular and this scenario for it. He understood the rules, but he was having trouble applying them in context. He called for rolls to do things like open our cryo-tubes, which would have been more silly than anything else, except that the characters in this game suck. It's a percentile system, but my character - who is a corrections officer - had nothing over a 40%. There are some modifiers that raise your target number, but not by much, and as a result I think I succeeded about...well, about 30% of the time. Which is boring and sucks and is not fun to play. (We could get into a big discussion about whether failure is fun to play and can lead to character development - I talk a little about it here - but this was pretty much a standard "roll and you miss and on we go" kind of thing.)

Plus, we didn't do any roleplaying. Not one scene. It was a minis game, except we abstracted most of the combat as well. My Grade: D

ZOMBIE FAIL. 
So then...well. Turns out Friday was my 40th birthday!

You know, I don't like parties much, unless they're mine. I know how that sounds, and it's not that I have to be the center of attention, but I like knowing the people (at least most of them) at a party, I like having a little bit of say about what's going on around me. Anyway, this was pretty awesome. There was this cake:
Don't be fooled, it's actually full of vibranium.
The cake was awesome, but I swear it weighed more than Cael. But I got it to the space, and people arrived.
People.

People.

Peeeeeeople.

Hey, it's me and Michelle!
One of the comments I made was "it's amazing how closely my 40th birthday resembles my 9th," by which I meant all the superhero stuff we use as decoration. But it was great - a lot of people, some of whom I don't see very much, coming to join me for my birthday. I didn't feel older at all. I felt loved.

LIKE AN AVENGER.
And then, sleep.

Saturday I stumbled downstairs for the Onyx Path panel, where the aforementioned announcements took place. And then following that, I had a game of A Tragedy in Five Acts to run, for which I did not snap any pictures. That was, however, one of the most absurd games of Tragedy I've seen. A giant octopus named Calamara attacked San Francisco. One of the characters became a ghost in the first act, another a squid-mutant. And in the the, there was a nuclear blast set off at the Hostess factory, and everyone died, the ghost standing there in confusion. The winner (the Parent, playing the aforementioned squid-mutant) titled it The Squid's the Thing.

Something I did note: We had one female player. When she bid on scenes, one of the things she almost always changed was her character getting kidnapped or otherwise damsel'd. Food for thought.

From there, I wandered a bit, and caught some fellow freelancers in a bar (because where else would they be).


And also some of Batman's villains:

Either Batman has a plan to escape or they've prenegotiated. 

So then a spot of dinner, and then on to Fate of the Norns with Michelle! Now, this was another game I backed on Kickstarter and never played, but it's a pretty cool game. It doesn't use dice. Instead, you have a bag of runes from which you draw, and different colors mean different actions. The characters are neck-deep in Ragnorak (which, as the author/GM pointed out, isn't a one-night deal, it lasts generations) and we wound up fighting horrible death-bears. Two of us died, but in death, you have the chance to go to Valhalla and have the whole group (of players) "level up." I don't generally hold with levels, but I do like that death has a purpose and a mechanic. I would totally run this game for my players. My grade: A-

My character was a skald. I sang "Immigrant Song" in battle. 
And then, sleep.

Finally, Sunday! Sunday, of course, means Clay-o-Rama!

Now, strangely, I had 8 people signed up but only 3 showed, and then another joined us. So the match was quick.

Construction phase.
The battle is joined!
We had some pretty cool looking monsters. One guy - the oldest combatant - zipped off to the end of the table and waited for the other three younger boys to duke it out. He won, of course, but I do want to note that just before the killing blow was struck, his last remaining opponent used Bowl and threw his doughy butt down the table, whereupon his scorpion monster fell right apart. It was pretty satisfying.

Also, this game involves hedgehogs. 
From there, shopping. Michelle and I walked around, schmoozed a bit, bought a bunch of stuff, and killed time until it was time to tear down the booth.

Also a comp. 
And then onward, home!

I'm not experiencing con drop yet, though I might; it was a really good time, and I met some new awesome people and spent time with pre-existing awesome people. Next year, of course, should be the debut of both Beast and Chill, so I'm greatly looking forward to that, as well as seeing all my con-buddies.

Loot!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ganakagok: The Frozen Jungle (Twilight to Dawn)

First session here.

Al's Turn: Karget decides to venture into the jungle to investigate why the jungle is changing. Skia, the questing hunter, and Keromet, the concerned shaman-in-training accompany him, along with some of the other hunters and gatherers. Kit, the brave orphan, sneaks out of the village and follows. As they leave the village, part of the wall collapses. Karget asks some of the party to stay behind and fix it. They enter the jungle, and Karget finds what he suspects to be the spoor of a great beast. They follow, but then Katya, Skia's husky, spots something and tears off after it. Skia and Keromet follow, but Karget spots Kit sneaking along and confronts her. He picks her up to take her back (over her protests), but they look up and see an ice jaguar stalking them.

The beast attacks, but the others hear the commotion and return. Keromet sees the Man of the Forest approaching, and his hand reaching down toward Kit. Between the huskies, Skia's arrows, Karget's knife (largely ceremonial, as he doesn't hunt animals), and Karget's own pet tiger, they fell the beast. He grants the skin to Skia upon their return to the village. Kit is punished for her indiscretion.

Michelle's Turn: Skia dons her new leopard cloak and finds Karget, Keromet, and their friend Tergk. She wants to return to the jungle - she suspects that the beast they were tracking is, in fact, the Man of the Forest; she's seen the Man in her dreams and believes him to be as much beast as man. They set out and follow the tracks deep into the forest, until the reach the forbidden area. Tergk is afraid to enter, and Keromet gives cryptic advice, but finally Skia plucks up her courage and enters.

Inside, they find skulls of various beasts adorning the trees, each marked with a sigil. Keromet touches one and it starts to rattle, and then speaks to the shaman. It says they tell the story of Ganakagok, and asks if he would like to "contribute" (the implication being with his own skull). He says he would, but only if he can clear his family's name. The skull responds that this is possible. Skia says that she wishes to speak with the Man of the Forest, and all the skulls rattle.

The Man appears, and sits down to parlay with them. He reveals a massive geode gnarled in the roots of the Oldest Tree, with crystals red and black. Skia recognizes them - Kit wears one on a necklace, and her new knife is made of the black crystal. The Man agrees to help the Nitu survive the coming Thaw...if his goods are returned to him.

Teagan's Turn: Kit is doing chores as punishment, and meditating on her actions, when her necklace starts to glow and tug her toward the forest. Feeling that her destiny is at hand, she sneaks out again, but this time is observed by Nanaka, the headstrong heir. Nanaka follows her into the forest and calls her name, but Kit refuses to come back and scampers ahead. Nanaka catches up with her and tries to convince her to return, but Kit refuses - and the necklace glows.

The beasts of the forest approach and bow to Kit (or maybe the necklace). The rest of the group finds them and tries, first, to talk Kit into giving up her necklace, but the Skia says that Kit has earned her right to be here and it is her destiny to continue. The group moves deeper into the forest, toward the forbidden area, surrounded by all the beasts of the jungle.

The sky grows lighter in the east, and an eerie calm overtakes the forest. The Man awaits...but we haven't heard the last of the assassins from the village.

Next week, the exciting conclusion!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Call-Outs

Robin Williams died today, as I'm sure you already know. It looks as though he committed suicide.

This, naturally, led to an outpouring of responses on the Facebooks. Most the responses are sad, some outraged, some poignant. The "best" one I've seen so far is simply:

"...but doctor, I am Pagliacci."

But if there's a best, there's a worst. I've seen a couple of people (just a couple) being really unpleasant about, calling him weak, calling him out for killing himself when he was successful and rich. I have typed and deleted more responses to those posts than I care to mention. In the end, I un-followed someone because I don't want to hear what they have to say.

I do that a lot - the deleting of comments, not the un-following. I type a lot of things that are knee-jerk responses, but I don't really want to say them. Some of them I mean, but I don't want to say publicly, because they would read as unkind or unpleasant or mean.

I don't do that (just) to spare people's feelings. I do it because I am not the yardstick. Everyone has a struggle. Everyone has a perspective. Everybody, as the song says, hurts. And some people act like dicks (there is, at this very moment, a conversation happening on G+ in which someone whose opinion and work I used to respect is kinda going nuts and threatening to sue other people over completely spurious shit), but at the same time, there was a path that they took to get there. I don't want to judge their path. I am not entitled to. Doesn't always stop me, of course (I'm only human, and I'm as entitled as the next white dude), but I do try.

I am not going to pretend I loved all of Williams' work, or that I knew anything about his struggle beyond what I'd read, or that I have anything poignant to say about him or his passing. I will say, however, as someone who grappled with suicidal ideation for a long time, I've heard all of the "what do you have to be depressed over" and "just think positive" and "other people have it worse."

So let me tell you, if you're inclined to say those things: It is not for you to judge. Saying shit like that makes it worse. If you want to help, ask "what can I do to help?" If you want to judge, do it quietly, delete your comments, don't call out. Control your knee jerk response and try and learn something.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Movie #265: The House on the Edge of the Park

The House on the Edge of the Park is a 1980 exploitation film, made to ride the coattails of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. It stars David Hess (also of Last House on the Left), Christian Borromeo, Annie Belle, and Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

Alex (Hess) opens the movie by raping and murdering a woman, and subsequently he and his buddy Ricky (Rapice) fix a car for a rich couple (Belle and Borromeo) and get invited to a party. The "party" gets badly out of hand - the rich folks humiliate Ricky a bit and cheat at cards, whereupon Alex flips out, takes five people hostage with a straight razor (what), and spends the rest of the movie raping and terrorizing people.

At the end, it was all a setup! Tom, the guy who was driving the car, lured Alex and Ricky there because the girl Alex raped was Tom's sister, and he just wanted and excuse to shoot and kill him. Despite having multiple opportunities to grab the gun, he doesn't do it until Alex has been slicing a girl up with a razor, while everyone stands and watches. Exploitation film, man. Not a genre I think we need to spend a lot of time revisiting. But Alex does get shot in the end, so that's good.

My Grade: F
Rewatch value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Board Game: Building an Elder God

Blog Day Post #3, dontchaknow.

The Game: Building an Elder God
The Publisher: Signal Fire Studios
Time: 20 minutes or so
Players: Me, +Michelle Lyons-McFarland, Al, Will

I backed this game on Kickstarter a while back, but hadn't pulled it out to play until last night.

The monsters are small yet.
Game Play: You start with a couple of Necronomicon cards, a Mouth, and a Body, and you try and build tentacle cards onto your body until you hit a preset number, and then you add your mouth and win. That's it!

You've also got damaged tentacle pieces, which you can play on other cultists, and some of the tentacles are immune to damage. You can heal damaged pieces with your Necronomicon cards or undamaged cards.

My monster, just before I won.

Opinions: You know, the fiction for the game is all about "you're a cultist trying to build a monster," but the monsters are all the same. This is basically the same as Monster Factory or Hisss, and those are games for children. This one is billed for older audiences and there are some rules variances, but not really anything to warrant repeated play. The mechanics are simplistic, the art is repetitive and kind of ugly, and there's really just not much to do here.

Keep? Nah.

Blog Day Post #2: Warehouse 13

This, of course, is the last story in our Warehouse 13 game. We converted the characters over to Savage Worlds, which makes surprisingly little difference in play, so far.

So! We open at the warehouse. Blaine and Raji are playing pool (Blaine is playing telekinetically, lacking a body). They get to talking about the future. Blaine asks Raji how long he's likely to hang around here; Raji figures another few decades until he looks old enough to pass as an adult. Blaine says that he'll be here as long as he has to - it's a safe haven, after all - but surely there's an artifact somewhere that lets ghosts become solid? Hell, we've already seen one, the gem.

Blue and Memphis are in the office, Blue doing paperwork, Memphis fiddling with a device. Walt calls up Blue and tells her that we got a hit near the warehouse - someone was in a car accident, but reported a four-mast galley sailing down Main Street. Memphis finds a weird purple beetle in the device and sticks it in a jar, happily.

We head into town and find the guy's house. Blue goes upstairs with Blaine while Charlotte and Memphis check the accident site. They manage to track some ghost-residue (using some ghost-detecting device that Memphis whips up) back to a point in a nearby field; the ghost ship moved along until it stopped at the railroad tracks - probably dissipated by the iron.

The guy answers the door, and Blue asks him what he saw. He says he saw a boat with a masthead of a guy with a beard and a trident - Blaine identifies this as "Poseidon." He wasn't drinking and isn't able to provide much detail otherwise. Blaine tells Blue he'll go downstairs to meet up with Raji, but hides in the apartment. When the guy goes back to bed, Blaine manifests and scares the guy into more information - the ship had the word "Poseidon's" on the side of it, and the only person he saw looked a bit like Blaine. How strange. Outside, a storm starts to brew.

We regroup and head back, and do some digging on pirates, and find the Poseidon's Due, a pirate ship operating in the 16th century and captained by one Jacob "Bloody" Blaine. The ship was notable because so many of the officers (bosun, ship's doctor, gunnery master) were female. No mention is made of the navigator, which is strange, and Blaine doesn't offer clarification.

Then the call comes in the next day: The man who saw the ship is dead. He killed himself in his bathtub. Blue and Blaine head back to town, and do some investigating. The man was held down, underwater, but by one central force rather than a pair of hands. Blaine suspects a ghost, and talks to an elderly ghost in the living room, but receives no clarification.

The storm intensifies, and the team isn't sure what happened, but wonders if Mr. Shore might be out for revenge, or if some darker forces are turning up. We shall see.

Blog Day Post #1: Monsterhearts

Sunday we played our second session of our second season. Let's see if I remember what happened!

Last time, the characters were at Pi eating pizza when they discovered that the necklace Rook bought had some winter-magic behind it. Rook revealed the voice he'd heard (and Briar confirmed it) saying "You're going to die," so that was obviously terrifying. They decided to head back to Briar's house and do some research on the necklace, and got all hopped up to do that, and then Skylar came over with their pizza. "Did you guys...want to eat this, or...?" "Oh, yeah. Got carried away."

So, after pizza, most of them headed to Briar's house to go to the books. They found a big old journal, handwritten, in German, that had a sketch of the necklace labeled Winter-Herz - "Winter's Heart." Apparently it spelled "inevitable death, loss, and solitude" for whoever owned it. This, of course, was not great news for Rook or Briar.

Skylar, meanwhile, was walking to Briar's after being done with her shift at Pi. A car pulled up, and an older Hispanic gentleman offered her a ride. Skylar refused (this screamed "bad idea" to her), but the old man shrugged and made reference to her being dead.

Skylar asked for clarification, and the man made it clear that he understood that Skylar was a ghost, and had mistaken her for a "phantom hitchhiker." She also noticed that the man had a rose tattoo on his hand. Skylar made it to Briar's and told them about the experience, and the characters decided that the necklace of the Winter Court, combined with the weird experience Dora and Miguel had earlier, couldn't be coincidental, and decided to go out to the apartment complex.

They rang his buzzer, and a woman answered. They tried to explain what had happened, and the woman came out, but wasn't especially helpful. Skylar manipulated an NPC and learned that a show of supernatural power would open some doors, so he dissipated through a wall. The woman nodded, and said he should be home soon.

And, indeed, in a few moments the same car Skylar had seen pulled in, and the man (whom I pictured as being played by Danny Trejo) got out. The characters talked with him, but found him enigmatic; he refused to give a name or other personal details (Cassi asked), and agreed that since Rook had the necklace, he was probably going to die - they all were. He referred to himself as "the Emissary," and told Rook (whom he referred to as "the Rook") that the man who'd sold him the necklace ("the Proprietor") might be able to tell him something. He also mentioned that the necklace had been thrown into the ocean, but then had reappeared on land last year during those weird storms (that Genesis had caused). Someone asked if they all had titles; he said they did. He told them that they could come to him if they had questions, and night was better. Then he went in, and the characters were left arguing.

There were some bad feelings toward Rook for buying the necklace, and he acted a little enigmatic about whether he knew people's titles (he didn't). Dora cast a ring of lies hex on him, but that didn't really go anywhere because he didn't lie to them. Skylar wound up using unresolved trauma and giving the blamed condition to Rook and Genesis.

The group split up. Genesis went to the beach. Briar went home, tooled up, and went hunting monsters. Skylar wandered the city. Rook went home, as did Cassi and Austin (Austin had a test to study for). Dora went home and talked to her grandfather about legends of the Underworld and people who try to cheat death - the general result was "that doesn't end well."

On the beach, Genesis wrapped herself in her pelt and stared at the water, thinking of going home and seeing her family. She knew that doing so would mean she couldn't come back to her friends, but she also wondered if she brought death on them...and if she could escape death by going home, or if she would just bring it with her. She fell asleep and dreamed the sea frozen to ice and of her brother, Bastion, and he asked why she came here. She told him she wanted to make art, and he asked if she was done with that. He said, "My sister doesn't quit."

She woke up, tears in her eyes, on the beach.

Briar went out hunting monsters, and searching online showed her footage of, apparently, a ghost going through a door in an apartment building. She called Skylar (figuring he might be the culprit), but he wasn't. Skylar agreed to meet Briar at the building.

The entered, and looked for clues, but didn't find anything. Briar gazed into the abyss, but failed, and heard a menacing growl somewhere in the dark. A door opened and an older man told them to piss off, and they left...but then heard sirens. An ambulance arrived, and the crew went into the building and brought out a woman on a stretcher. Something had happened in there...

Rook, at home, also gazed into the abyss, looking for answers from the Faery King. He saw only his mirror go icy and the word "SOON" traced in the rime.

The next day at school, home room went fairly uneventfully. But in French class, Rook brought up that everyone had been pretty upset with him yesterday, but they seemed just fine today. Genesis shot back that maybe they'd needed some time to process the news that they were going to die. Cassi got up and left, manipulating an NPC on her teacher to get out of class. She sat in the principal's office, feeling unwell, and gazed into the abyss to read Austin's mind. She found that his consciousness was slipping, like he was grabbing an icicle and trying to hold it. She glanced over at the principal and, for a moment, saw Principal Miles (the guy from last season whom the Black Tanamous killed).

The characters met up at lunch, and decided that after school, they'd go to the hospital and visit Cynthia Maxwell, the woman who'd been injured at the apartment. First off, Rook went by the thrift shop and talked to the man who'd sold him the necklace...who, it turned out, had a role in all this, too (he was "the Proprietor").

Briar, Cassi, Austin, Skylar, and Rook went to the hospital and talked their way in to visit her. She had cuts on her arm, allegedly from falling into a glass table. But all she remembered was feeling suddenly cold, and then passing out.

Cassi, while at the hospital, remembered her last experience here. She wandered off by herself a little, and sees...Omar. Walking toward him, she realized it was not him, but she couldn't quite draw a bead on who it was. The figure told her that it could tell her Austin's title...if she could tell it the Emissary's true name. She agreed.

Rook, Skylar, Cassi, and Briar decided that tonight, they would go and check out that apartment again - this "cold" thing got their attention. The others did not join them.

Dora called up Miguel and her coven, turned them on, and bedded them, figuring that if she was going to die, she might as well live a bit first. She wound up with sympathetic tokens from all of them.

Meanwhile, at the apartment, Skylar used dissipate to get in and let the others in. They looked around a bit, but didn't see anything. Skylar gazed into the abyss and saw the night before - a spectral, feminine figure walking through the door and touching Cynthia, whereupon she fell over. The figure gestured, and a panther-like creature appear and clawed her shoulder, marking her. The panther jumped into the reflection in the glass coffee table...

Rook, meanwhile, gazed into the abyss, staring into that same reflection. The panther jumped out at him, clawing him up. Skylar tried to attack it (lashing out physically), and it clawed her. Cassi gazed into Austin to try and find him (he arrived shortly thereafter) and Briar and Rook lashed out physically, harming the creature. Briar, in particular, was ecstatic to have something to fight.

Briar tried to manipulate an NPC to get the panther to leap at her, but failed. Skylar, however, managed to manipulate it into doing just that, and Briar stabbed it (lash out physically) making it disappear. They searched the place for jewelry, and found a stickpin with a teardrop that felt cold to the touch. Austin got towels to help staunch Rook's wounds, and one for Briar. There was some awkward tension between Cassi, Briar, and Austin, but sadly nothing came of it.

Dora, meanwhile, gazed into the abyss, but only saw a brief vision in which she saw her coven as the other characters, alone and abandoned. Erika shook her out of it and made sure she was OK with all of this. Dora said she was.

The others took Rook to the hospital (he was pretty cut up). Briar was injured as well, but not nearly as badly. They left, and split up again. Briar went back to her place to go to the books on that panther, along with Genesis and Skylar. Genesis discovered, in the same book, that the last page was now talking about that stickpin, and referred to "the Lady and the Shade Tiger," who came to mark anyone who owned the jewelry. But yesterday, that page hadn't been there.

And then they heard a growl from outside, and Briar headed for her armory.

They headed out to the Emissary's apartment, and woke him up again (maybe he doesn't sleep). They talked, but the Emissary told them that there might be more jewelry, but was generally pretty cryptic. Cassi gazed into the abyss, looking for more on the Emissary, but all she heard was a voice telling her it was dark and cold in there.

They left and headed to Briar's, and as they walked in, saw huge, feline footprints in the grass outside....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ganakagok: The Frozen Jungle - Night to Twilight

Last week we started playing Ganakagok, and got through three turns before enough stars faded to take us to Twilight. Check it out!

Teagan's Turn: Kit is sitting on the Wall staring out over the jungle, with Kun at her side. Kamukur calls her to do her chores. On the way she meets Nanaka and the two chat, but then Kit scampers home to do her chores, which she does, and then her adopted mother tells her she has a present for her. She hands Kit a wooden box. She slides the lid open to reveal a black stone knife. She picks it up, and immediately feels a rush of fear, cold, and blackness. Phantoms eat at her mind, and she struggles with the urge to hurl the knife away. Outside, clouds start to gather, blotting out the stars. Karget prays for the village, and Nanaka consults her father and the Skin-Scroll. Her father points out the Man of the Forest on the scroll...he is holding a black knife, and clouds roil behind him.

Kit eventually prevails and holds the Knife of Storms proudly. I added a Hate from the Old Man of the Forest to Kit, though; he wants his knife back, perhaps.

Cheyenne's Turn: Nanaka is sitting in the husky kennels, poring over the Skin-Scroll. Sira, Kit's best friend and the daughter of Marak, the kennelmaster, asks her what she's looking at. They talk about the unrest in the village and Sira says she knows where the assassins are, but wants to bargain with Nanaka (whereupon Cheyenne used a Medicine Card to change the current card to the Eight of Stars, "to share," which makes Sira willing to just show her). They run out onto the ice and toward the Hot Springs, where Nanaka hears young men talking about overthrowing the Triumvirate Council. She intervenes, revealing herself, and the apparent leader, Kotolikutuk, brandishes his club.

Nanaka stands her ground, and her dog Noo and Skia's dog Katya, as well as some of the other dogs from the kennel, surround her in a protective kind of way. Keromet, the concerned shaman-in-training, is there among the assassins (officially part of them? hard to say, yet). She spots him with her Soul Vision and sees him a kaleidoscope of color, but he sees her with his shaman's sight and sees her eyes as all the stars, clustered brilliantly.

Finally, Nanaka loses, and she and the dogs run for the village, Sira somewhere behind them. The assassins now Hate her, and so does Marak, because Sira is nowhere to found.

Will's Turn: Keromet sees an assassin winding up a sling to hurl at Nanaka, and he sends his owl to stop him. Kotolikutk steps to Keromet and challenges him, saying that the Nitu need to be led by the younger generation. Keromet isn't opposed, but is opposed to killing people. They face off for a while, and the owls from the Land of Owls arrive, circling the area and apparently supporting Keromet. Finally, the assassins acquiesce, and Kotolikutk takes his leave of them, swearing enmity.

It is now Twilight. I drew the Woman of Stars for the Twilight card, and Michelle interprets it as change in the forest - animals are acting strange, some hitherto unseen beasts are awakening from hibernation, and the owls settle on the Wall, watching.

We'll pick up again soon, after Cheyenne and Teagan get back from their respective trips!