Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Promethean: Fires and Frying Pans

So! Last time, Avalon was flying around in bolt-fly form, and then got grabbed and tossed into a bag. Oh, dear.

Feather saw this happen from the apartment. Grimm told her to open the door, and he used Chimera to turn into a pigeon. He flew out, swooped up over their car, turned into a grizzly bear, and dropped on the hood of the car.

Let that image sink in.

The three men did exactly what you would do in such a situation - ran like fuck. Matt chased one of them and tackled him. Grimm charged after the other two in bear form (bears are fast!), but when they ran out into the lighted streets, he changed back to human form and tackled one.

And then, from beside him, heard, "Freeze! Put your hands up!" Grimm was arrested (which, silver lining, turned out getting arrested is a milestone for him), handcuffed, and tossed, naked, in the back of a police car.

Meanwhile, the others rocked up on the guy that Matt had tackled, but they weren't very scary...until Avalon, having rejoined her body, used her Terrify Alembic on the guy. Panicking, he revealed who'd sent them: Devon Parker. And then he ran away.

The Prometheans chatted a bit about what that meant, and then Feather realized that Grimm was missed and was a couple of miles away. They tracked his signal, and wound up at the police station.

Meanwhile, Grimm was booked (hoping his hands didn't belong to anyone too terrible or, like, known to be dead), and placed in a room. A detective asked him what had happened, and he claimed he'd been at home with his girlfriend, naked for a good reason, and had seen someone spying through the window. He'd given chase, naked, and tackled the guy. The cop didn't quite buy it, however. Grimm gave his girlfriend's name as Robin Schwartz (Feather's alternate ID), but couldn't provide a phone number.

Feather and Avalon went into the station (since girls go places together, Avalon noted), carrying Grimm's clothes. They weren't allowed to see him, but Robin was interviewed by the detective and gave a statement. She more or less aid what he did, except that she didn't offer up the "naked" bit initially, and said that there were multiple people staring in the window with binoculars. The detective took her statement, but said that Grimm (or rather, Craig Wizowski) would be booked in the morning, and they'd need to come to the courthouse.

Meanwhile, Avalon struck up a conversation with the cop on desk duty. She also saw a very well-dressed man come in, and say "Donald Shaw, attorney for My. Billings."

The Prometheans went back to the apartment, rather dejected and pissed. Avalon mentioned the expensive attorney she'd seen, and wondered if that had any connection. Enoch tried to call Parker, but left a message with his answering service. Without anything to do, the characters waited until morning.

In said morning, Feather called the JCC (she'd been working for them) and asked for a recommendation for an attorney. They gave her a number for Jacob Siegel, who quoted a price that made Feather cough a little (but in fairness, any lawyer's retainer would have), but Enoch remembered he'd stolen a bunch of money from Calogero's warehouse and volunteered it (making a milestone, share or donate something ill-gotten). They headed to the courthouse.

Meanwhile, at the jail, Grimm was shackled and loaded into a van. He heard mumbling outside, and kicked on Somatic Humour to listen in. He heard two men talking about him in a way that made it clear that he wasn't being taken to court.

At court, the characters met with Mr. Siegel. Feather told her story again, admitting (falsely) that she and Grimm had been having sex at the time of the altercation, which clearly made her uncomfortable. Siegel said something was weird about this whole thing - someone very powerful was applying pressure, and Billings (the guy Grimm had tackled, who was now pressing assault charges) was being represented by Shaw, a mob lawyer. Siegel said he'd work to untangle this, but for now, just settle in.

But Grimm wasn't even there. He got out of the van into bright lights, and his hands and feet were locked into an iron contraption. He tried to shapeshift to get away, but failed. A hand grabbed a big-ass syringe from the table next to him....and next time, we'll figure out why.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Movie #304: The Italian Job

The Italian Job is a remake of a 70s heist movie. This one stars Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green, Mos Def, and Jason Statham.

Charlie (Wahlberg) leads a team of thieves, having taken over said leadership from John (Sutherland). They're in Venice stealing $35 million in gold, and the plan goes off without a hitch. But, as the team leaves the country with the gold, Steve (Norton) betrays them, murders John, and steals the gold, leaving them all for dead.

A year later, they've tracked him to Los Angeles, living under an assumed name. They recruit John's daughter Stella (Theron) to help them with the heist, and then they heist the shit out of that gold, using Mini Coopers. The end.

No, really, there's not a heck of a lot more to it. It's a heist movie and it's kind of clever in places, but the heisting is all based around car chases and physical theft, so it doesn't have the clever mind games and con artistry of, say, Ocean's 11 (we'll get to O). The action is decent, but it's one of those movies that probably should have been R-rated, but wasn't, so it winds up feeling a little watered down.

The crew is also kind of...half finished. Like, we know enough about them to know about them. We get little character sketches of Lyle the hacker (Green), Left Ear the demolitions expert (Mos Def), Handsome Rob the driver (Statham, who kind of looks uncomfortable with the fact that he's not in charge, as I watch this again). But we never learn a thing about Steve, and that makes him feel flat as a villain. Why wasn't his share of the money enough for him? Why is so he so willing to murder people for the gold? Why doesn't he have any aspirations of his own? It's kind of a clever bit that he bought what everyone else wanted, but...why? I'm sure Norton has like a 20 page bio for the character, and I'd love to see it (Edward, if you're reading, I loved you in Incredible Hulk).

Anyway, it's a fun watch, but it'd have benefited from a little more attention to story.

My grade: C
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Jacob's Ladder

Movie #303: It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life is one of the more famous films shown around Christmas; due to a copyright niggle it was public domain for a while, so it got shown on TV like whoa. It stars Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, and a bunch of other people. Fun fact: This was my first time seeing it, though of course I was aware of the premise.

Said premise: We open with God, probably, talking about this dude named George Bailey (Stewart) who's on the verge of suicide. We then see his whole freaking life, starting from when he was 12 and saved his brother Harry (Todd Karns, as an adult) from drowning, which cost him his hearing in one ear. He grows up, wanting desperately to get out of his shitty little town, but keeps staying due to, basically, being a decent guy - he stands up for people and is very self-sacrificing when he needs to be. This eventually results in him getting married and settling down, rather than leaving to see the world, and he and his wife Mary (Reed) have four kids.

And then one day his idiot uncle (Mitchell) loses $8000 from their building and loan company (which is promptly stolen by Mr. Potter (Barrymore), the evil rich guy in town). Faced with a bank fraud charge and with losing everything he's ever worked for, Bailey considers suicide. Clarence (Travers), an angel trying to get his wings, stops him, and then Bailey admits he doesn't actually want to die, he just wants to never have been born. Clarence obligingly shows him what the town would have been like without him around to stand up to Potter, and Bailey realizes that he wants his life back. Yay!

So, it's a feel-good movie and it utterly flopped at the box office, but has since become a classic. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The dialog was fun, the script is funny pretty much throughout, and since the first 2/3rds of the movie is establishing Bailey and the town, it actually has an impact when we see the characters without his influence. Stewart has a couple of really moving moments, Barrymore is appropriately nasty without actually twirling a mustache. I didn't care much for Clarence, but that's the character more than the actor.

You know me; I like films where people take care of each other, and one thing I found interesting about this one is that when Bailey talks to the people of Bedford Falls, they listen. That's a different narrative take; they're listening now because Bailey has to be the stabilizing influence in town, so his absence can be notable.

Anyway, it's fun, and it's a much happier film than, say, A Christmas Story, which has kind of become its successor in some ways. Runs a little long, but that's really my only complaint.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Italian Job

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Promethean: Translatin' Like Whoa

Not a terribly exciting title, I guess.

So, last time, the characters were heading from Enoch's place (surrounded by crazy typhoon storm) to Feather's place in Skokie. They needed juice, though, so they snuck down to the rail lines to grab the third rail.

Everyone juiced up...except for poor Matt. His fire was still out, and he looked a zombie having a bad day, he was so torn up. He grabbed on to Feather as she shocked herself, but it hurt, so he let go. It seemed to be helping, though, so Feather grabbed him, holding on (though he tried to get away) until he was fully healed.

Healing him, though, did nothing for his Fire. Feather held on a little longer, and this trigger an Elpis Vision. The light grew between them, but rather than fall into it and chase the vision, Matt let Feather do that.

She saw herself behind a glass screen, watching a throngmate (she wasn't sure which one) getting stalked by monsters with claws. She yelled a warning, but the throngmate ignored her. Finally, she smashed through the screen and jumped in front of the throngmate, to protect him/her.

The characters talked a bit about how to help Matt. Feather thought that she could treat Matt as a new Tammuz, burying him in mud and raising him anew, but no one was sure what that would do. The others offered to each donate a bit of their Fire to restart his, but Matt refused - he said that he would just carry on and have faith that his Fire would reignite on its own.

With that in mind, Feather let go of Matt, and the Prometheans headed above ground to Skokie. Once there, Avalon wrote out a few pages of the missing notes, and Feather used her Community of Power Distillation to make Grimm's Translator's Eye Distillation a teamwork action. They burned through the first couple of pages. The very first words were: caveat lector.

The rest, though, was a discussion about Maxwell Clarke, the vampiric Prince of Chicago. How he came to power, his methods, and so on. Then the focus shifted to Max Maury, the monster in the Undercity, and how someone ought to burn him, but doing that would be really dangerous. The characters realized they were looking at notes assembled across years dealing with the vampires of Chicago - no wonder someone had stolen it.

They figured out that there was a tag at the top of the pages they'd translated that meant "vampires." This document, then, talked about more than just the bloodsuckers. They skipped to the last page, and read an account of how Calogero had gone to the Undercity as a mortal, but had been stopped by an angel. Something, he wrote, was down there, something big that ground the bodies of the missing for its fuel.

By now it was dark, so Feather secured the place - drew the blinds, locked the windows, and so on. Everyone else went to sleep, and Grimm had a vision. He saw himself walking through a desert, and came to a place where the road forked - one way led up through the complex, rocky foothills, the other through the flat, simple riverbanks. He walked down the riverbank and saw people rafting, and a raft drifted to the shore with a lifejacket and a space for him. They offered him a lift, and he considered his first impluse: To refuse and shove the boat back into the current without him...but that'd be a very Copper thing to do, wouldn't it?

Feather, meanwhile, heard a noise at the window. She investigated, and saw, out in the parking lot, a man wearing nightsight goggles. She woke everyone up, and Avalon used her Stone Alembic to make the windows too heavy to open. Then she used The Soul in the Software to send a little bolt-fly out to investigate. She failed the Stealth roll, though, and true to form, the player took the Beat for a dramatic failure.

She buzzed close enough to hear them talking about the people inside. "Four people, maybe five. One looks dead." And then everything went black - someone had grabbed her and tossed her into a bag. "You guys need to pay more attention," said a voice.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Quick Game Notes

Business, business business, numbers.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Movie #302: Idiocracy

Idiocracy is a dark comedy directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepherd, Terry Crews, and with some cameos (Stephen Root, Thomas Hayden Church, probably some others). It's funny in places, but also problematic as shit.

Basic premise: Smart people aren't having kids to the same degree that stupid people are. This has the effect of lowering the median IQ (worldwide, apparently, which is weird, but I'll get to that), Meanwhile, a totally average, middle-of-the-road schlub named Joe (Wilson) gets assigned to an Army experiment to put him into cryogenic stasis for a year, to test the program for use with more useful people. The Army also wants a female guinea pig, but can't find an average woman in the Army. So they settle for a prostitute named Rita (Rudolph), loaned to the army by her pimp, Upgrayedd (Scarface).

An aside, here: It also confused me that the Army couldn't find a suitable female candidate, and more to the point, I wondered what conclusion the audience was supposed to draw. That all women in the Army were exceptional and superior? That's sweet, if a little patronizing. That there aren't enough women in the Army to provide a good enough sample to work from? In-story, it's just an elaborate set-up for the female test subject to a prostitute, but that storyline never really goes anywhere. I mean, there's this running joke that Joe thinks Rita is a painter, and we get to see her freaking out about her pimp, but it doesn't really mean anything in the context of the movie aside from some hooker jokes.

This is mean, but you know what I think? I think the screenwriters (Judge and Etan Cohen, not Ethan Cohen, obviously) had no idea how to write an "average" woman. Their conception of an "average" guy is very much like Luke Wilson - white, not unattractive but not impressive, either, not dumb but not terrible educated (we'll come back to that, too). You know, just a guy. The default. But since they're both kind of hacks (sorry, Judge, I know a lot of people thought Beavis & Butthead was some kind of fucking cultural touchstone, but mostly it's what made the 90s suck), they couldn't think of a woman character, so they just wrote a stock "hooker" template. For what it's worth, Rudolph does a pretty good job with the material.

Anyway, due to the Army dude in charge being involved in a prostitution ring, the whole project gets scrapped but the people forgotten, and they wake up 500 years later. The world has gotten so dumb that the average person's intelligence is, like really dumb, right? And the world is in crisis because they water their plants with a sports drink. Anything remotely literate is decried as "faggy", and (here's my favorite) the English language has (hang on, I'll quote it) "deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner city, and various grunts."

So, Joe goes through various trials and tribulations, but winds up Secretary of Interior because an IQ test reveals him to be the smartest person alive. Appointed to the position by President Camacho (Crews), he comes up with the brilliant idea to water plants with water, which, eventually, causes them to grow, and things start to turn around. The movie ends on a bleak note; Joe and Rita marry and have three very intelligent children (you know, by comparison). Joe's lawyer and companion, Frito Pendejo (Shepherd), has 32 extremely stupid kids.

Wow. So, first off, the movie is funny in places. I'll give it that. The over-the-top depictions of the world, and some of the little touches ("St. God's Memorial Hospital") are clever, and honestly, it's easy to see the descendants of reality TV and some of the other dumb facets of our present culture. But the whole premise of the movie is...difficult. The smart people at the beginning of the movie (who aren't breeding) are obviously wealthy. The dumb people (breeding like crazy) are poor, and, based on their accents, Southern. The depictions of the idiot descendants of mankind later in the movie take a lot of their cultural cues from lower socio-economic status folks, and in particular it's hard to ignore the "deterioration" of the English language as including mostly "hillbilly" (Southern/redneck) and "inner city" (black/Hispanic). No one speak "valley girl" is ever depicted.

And where the hell is the rest of the world, here? Did everyone in the world become stupid? There's no army picture (except the Guitar Army), and the police are well armed but completely incompetent. It's easy to picture another, smarter, more civilized country (like, say, Luxembourg) rolling in and taking over.

All in all, it's got some funny bits, but it gets more uncomfortable every time I see it because it's such a white-guy understanding of concepts like "intelligence", "language" and "society." Bleah.

My grade: C-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: It's a Wonderful Life

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movie #301: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper, Vin Deisel, Dave Bautista, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and Michael Rooker. And a lot of other people getting their piece of Marvel pie.

As a little boy, Peter Quill (Pratt, played as a boy by Wyatt Olef), is present for his mother's death from cancer. He runs out into the night, and is abducted by aliens. Fast forward a couple of decades, and now Quill, calling himself Starlord, is stealing shit with a crew of Ravagers headed by blue-headed badass Yondu (Rooker). He steals a mysterious orb, just barely beating Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou) to it, but winds up getting arrested when he can't fence it alongside space-assassin Gamora (Saldana), who's after the Orb for Ronan the Accuser (Pace); Rocket (Cooper) a bounty hunter after Quill; and Groot (Diesel), Rocket's tree-buddy. In prison, they befriend Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), a warrior looking for revenge on Ronan, who killed Drax' family.

Whee, so many names. I could summarize the rest of the movie, but honestly if you're reading this you've probably seen it. Long story short: Ronan is trying to destroy planet Xandar because his race (Kree) are fuckers. He tries to acquire the Orb, which is one of the Infinity Stones (we've seen at least two in the MCU before; the Tesseract and the Aether) to do it, betrays Thanos in the process, and then lands on Xandar with Thanos' other adopted daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan) as muscle. They fail, however, because the Guardians of the Galaxy (Quill, Gamora, Drax. Rocket, and Groot) stop him, blowing him to pieces with the stone. Bam! The grateful Nova Prime (Close) gives them a new ship, and off they go to superhero!

So, it's an origin story, kinda, but it's also very space opera. It's a James Gunn movie, so it's funny and light, but also surprisingly violent and dark in places. The dialog is fun, and all of the characters get to be clever, useful, and funny, which makes me happy. The interplay between the principles is great, because Rocket and Groot especially, even though Groot only has only phrase he says ("I AM GROOT."). Standout scene for me is Rocket, drunk, railing against people calling him names, and venting the loneliness and alienation he feels; there's nothing else like him, and it eats at him. You don't expect to feel pathos from a raccoon, but here we are.

Now, some issues: Gamora and Nebula don't have much to do. I mean, they have fun stuff to do, but they don't get a hell of a lot of development. It's a busy movie anyway, but I'd have liked a standout scene for them. Also, Quill calling Ronan "bitch" and Drax calling Gamora a "green whore" are splinters, especially since Drax is literal - he has no reason to think of Gamora as a whore, and yet here we are.

Also, Ronan is a boring villain. He just kind of roars and rants, and his motives are interesting (purification), but they're never really explored. I think we could have learned a little more about him, and about the Collector (Benicio del Toro) and Knowhere, and that'd have been cool.

Generally, though? I really like this movie.

My grade: A-
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Idiocracy

Board Game: Carcassonne

The Game: Carcassonne
The Publisher: Z-Man Games
Time: 20 minutes, give or take
Players: Me, +Michelle Lyons-McFarland+Cheyenne Rae Grimes, Chris Wall

Cheyenne explains the game. 
The Game: Pretty simple. You've got a bunch of tiles, depicting a Medieval kingdom kinda thing. You take your turn by laying out a new tile (from a blind draw), and then putting a meeple on a road, a cloister, a city segment, or a meadow. Tiles have to connect; roads have to meet roads and city segments to meet other segments, so the trick is playing tiles that benefit you - growing roads that you've already placed a dude on, and so forth.

Weird, looks yellow. Like a dress or summat.
We started with the river, which is an optional system, but I like it. Anyway, you score as you go, and when you score a road, a cloister (by surrounding it with other tiles), or a city (by closing it off entirely), you get your meeple back. Farmers (the dudes in the meadows) don't score until the game ends.

City planning.
I kinda fucked up; I didn't play enough of my dudes, so I wound up with not much points. But that's OK; Chey got most of the damn cloisters anyway.

Opinions: I like this game; it's quick and pretty simple to understand. Plus, it's got the mix of strategy and chance that I like, because I can play it even if I'm tired and not completely fuck the dog.
I am not the King of France.
Keep? Yep.

Movie #300: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is an animated film loosely adapted from a Marvel comic (I think they just took the name), starring Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, Daniel Henney, Damon Wayans, Jr., James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, and Maya Rudolph. 

Young Hiro Hamada is a robotics genius, and lives with his brother Tadashi (Henney) and his aunt Cass (Rudolph) in San Fransokyo, a cool pastiche of (duh) San Francisco and Tokyo. He gets busted bot-fighting, and Tadashi, recognizing that he's been aimless and wasting his talents, takes him to "nerd school," the prestigious science university that he attends. There, he meets Wasabi (Wayans Jr.), Gogo (Chung), and Honey Lemon (Rodriguez), Tadashi's classmates and fellow scientists. They immediately embrace Hiro and show off their kickass research. Oh, also Fred (T. J. Miller), the layout superhero-obsessed slacker; not a student, but a friend of the group. Tadashi, too, shows him his project - a personal healthcare robot called Baymax (Adsit). 

Hiro, desperate to attend the school, develops "microbots," tiny robots that, controlled en masse with a neural link, can build or form structures and stilts and whatever else. Tadashi's mentor, Callaghan (Cromwell) is impressed and admits Hiro, though millionaire obvious bad guy Alistair Krei (Tudyk) expresses interest. All looks well. Then the building explodes and Tadashi dies trying to save Callaghan. 

Fast forward a few weeks, and Hiro, still coping with the loss of his brother, accidentally activates Baymax. He discovers, through a series of wacky mishaps, that a masked man has collected manufactured the microbots for some nefarious purpose. Realizing that the fire was deliberate, he fits Baymax with armor and tries to take down the masked man, but fails and is only saved by his friends (whom Baymax contacted to help Hiro deal with his grief). They, too, stand up for their friend, and use their inventions to become superpowered and go after the masked man! 

This movie is really, really good. For one thing, the cast isn't entirely freaking white, and neither are the actors (Ryan Potter, f'rex, is half Japanese, much as the Hamada brothers are assumed to be; Daniel Henney is half Korean). The setting is a cool mixture of its component cultures. But really, man, the script. Hiro undergoes a real character arc, and although his friends don't really get their own side stories (except, weirdly, Fred), you get a sense of their personalities. I always liked, for instance, that when Hiro flies off the handle and tries to kill the masked man, and then comes to his senses later, it's Gogo (tough, no-nonsense) who hugs and comforts him. The implication, to me at least, was that Gogo has gone to some dark places, too. 

I'm really looking forward to a sequel, and I'd love to learn a little history behind the supporting characters in the process. 

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Guardians of the Galaxy

Chill: Session One

Last night was the first session in my Edinburgh-based game of Chill 3rd Edition. Let's watch, shall we?

Our characters and their Drives:
  • Agnes George: Older lady (63) who once had to kill a possessed friend. She fights the Unknown because no one else will
  • Ian Calhoun: Former MMA fighter who moved to Scotland and was attacked by a spectral hound, which still hunts him. He fights the Unknown because he has heroic tendencies.
  • Robert MacLelland: Hunted by demons, and sadly I don't really remember his backstory offhand, and +Matthew Karafa doesn't have notes on his sheet. I know he fights the Unknown to atone for losing her, which sounds pretty cool. 
  • Victoria "Tori" Chelsingham: Med student trying to become an intern with the coroner. She once electrocuted a ghoul, and fights the Unknown because we should not be prey
  • Kitti McNamara: Goth girl and cryptozoologist. Fights the Unknown because she's endlessly curious
So! We begin our case early one Saturday morning. Tori is having tea and studying. Agnes is having breakfast with some friends. Kitti and Robert are waking up (though not together), and Ian is working out with Annabelle Blackwood, the trainer for the local SAVE HQ. They all get a text message from Liam McAllister, their HQ leader: Head to Mortonhall Caravan Park, and meet Jordan there.

"Jordan," here, refers to Jordan McElroy, an Ediburgh coroner/ME who works with SAVE. That means someone is dead. The envoys arrive, severally, at the caravan park, to find Jordan waiting. She tells them time is a factor - she beat the police, but they're on their way. 

She shows the envoys the scene. A man is hung from some trees, about six inches off the ground, the branches wound around his arms and legs like they grew that way (that ain't natural). He's dead of blood loss - he's got several bites on him; abdomen, legs, and one good chunk out of his thigh that killed him, severing the femoral artery. Some Revulsion checks later, the characters start examining the crime scene. Ian, however, recognizes this guy - his name is Donald McGovern, and he sells weed to people...Ian included. 

Ian tracks Donald's last movements. He started out from the campsite and went into the woods, but then started running and eventually wound up in the trees. There are no other footprints, nor paw prints. Ian can't help but think to the spectral hound that nearly killed him once. 

Tori checks out the tent. She finds it disheveled; animals have been through it, but nothing violent. She finds some weed (which she leaves) and a cell phone. The phone has some pictures on it of the woods - McGovern was taking pictures of a rising fog. She sends those pictures to herself and leaves the phone. 

The envoys find McGovern's campsite. His car is there, and his tent is still pitched, but there's evidence that a second car and tent were there and were hastily removed. Kitti goes to the park's office and talks with the guy, but only learns that the inhabitants of that campsite left in a hurry in the middle of the night when the office was unmanned. The office guy isn't willing to share more information with a stranger (the player failed the Interview check so only got Vital clues). 

Tori asks around with some of the other campers. They report hearing howls in the night, and seeing a weird fog spring up - it just rolled in like a wave, and then was gone before sun rose. 

By now the police are here, so the envoys leave the scene alone. Robert eavesdrops on the police, and learns that they realize how weird the scene is, that they know McGovern is a drug dealer and they're going through known associates. Kitti, seeing the police talking to the office guy, uses her Clairvoyance discipline to listen in (which is a really cool use for that power and one I didn't think of). She learns that there were a total of six people at the campsite; the one on the paperwork is Alisha Miles. They left in the middle of the night. 

The envoys leave before police presence gets too bad. Ian calls up a friend and asks about Donald, but the dude (Ron) hangs up. Ian, offended, has Agnes drive him over (on the way, they talk about the death scene; Ian has some Trauma and Anges has the Crisis Counselor Edge, so that works out). He knocks, but Ron tells him to go away, so Ian, not the most subtle of men, goes through the door. Ron runs, but Ian tackles him and goes all Interrogation on his ass. 

Ron was there, as it turns out. Him, Alisha Miles, Donald McGovern, Angus Blackburn, Karen Brown, and Peter Wilson. They were hanging out, drinking and smoking weed, and so on, but then that fog came up. Donald snapped some pictures and walked into the woods (the others didn't), but then they heard howling, barking...and screams. 

Ron said they all fled when the screaming started. Karen and Peter headed to London to stay with friends. Angus is probably drunk somewhere. Ron was about to head out of town. Ian advises that might be wise, and leaves. 

The envoys regroup at the SAVE HQ and talk over what's happening. It's pretty clearly the spectral hound that's been terrorizing Edinburgh for a long time. Research indicates that old legends say the hound kills sinners, criminals, and the like, but that might just be the take the stories took. The envoys need more data. Ian confesses that he bought from Donald the night before he died, and he knows the hound has his scent (it's one of his takeaways, in fact). So, does that mean Ian is next? Or the other people Donald was with? The envoys need to move quickly. 

Tori and Robert decide to go to visit Jordan; she has the body on her table. Maybe it can tell them something. Kitti wants to keep doing research on the hound and the fog. Ian and Agnes decide to go pub-crawling and try and find Angus...before something else does. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chill: Edinburgh

I posted this a while ago on RPG.Net, but I don't seem to have posted it here. So anyway, the Chill HQ for my game, which is starting tonight:

Last week, my four players and I sat down and did HQ creation of our Chill playtest (we made characters next session).

We started off with a quick summary of the Chill world and SAVE history (I was the "expert," seemed like the best choice), and then I asked folks what kinds of horror media they liked and wanted to see emulated.

One player doesn't really dig horror movies, but does enjoy the games I run, so he didn't have much to contribute on that front. He said he'd prefer antagonists other than vampires and ghosts, since we see a lot of that in other games.

Another player made a request for suspense, Hammer-film style horror. A third said that she finds creepy children especially frightening (a la Poltergeist). And Michelle (who is Chill's editor and my wife and business partner and fellow dog wrangler) is a fan of all things gothic, and prefers to avoid slasher style horror.

All the players requested a kind of black-and-white morality to the monsters; that is, the bad guys are bad guys and we don't need to try and make them sympathetic. This, of course, is easy in Chill (the Unknown is pretty much openly hostile, and while some monsters might be relatable at times, they're still jerks), but I have this habit of making villains that my players can't quite bring themselves to hate fully. I took note of all this. :)

We then talked about what city to set the game in. We've done a bunch of games in the US, so there was some request for someplace in Europe. We talked about London, but it's got some SAVE history that we didn't want to get into, so we settled on Edinburgh.

The players decided that the SAVE office in the area is traditionally the responsibility of the Earl of Perth (presently a fellow named Robert Drummond; I'm playing somewhat loose with nobility and rules thereof, so apologies to any Scottish nobles here). Drummond isn't a field agent, though, he's basically just the money and titular head of the office. The actual head of the office is a fellow named Liam McAllister, who coordinates missions and envoy cells.

Edinburgh typically has several cells of four envoys each; if circumstances conspire to give more or fewer envoys, then they either wait and train until they can be put with a cell or they get sent to another city for missions (I don't expect this to come up much in play, it's just setting detail).

Rules: Mostly autonomous, Liam gives assignments. Cells of four people, which has been the case since HQ was founded. Odd-men-out are sent out of Edinburgh. “Come back clean.” “No personal contact between cells.”

Unknown: Empty graves; ongoing for centuries. Spectral hound that no one has caught. Cyclical random killings every 25 years. Drummond family has a Beansidhe.

Aptitude: Resource friendly. Envoys don't have access to gobs of liquid cash, but they do enjoy the fruits of the Earl's position in society; they always have a nice place to stay, car service, that kind of thing.

Failing: Overly specific archive. The Earl has a rare book room with lots of very specific information, but it's highly centralized on Edinburgh, which is great when it's useful, but dangerous when it's not.

People: Quartermaster (Annabelle Blackwood — trains local envoys in combat, lots of tats), Coroner (Jordan McElroy — SAVE contact, calls Liam when something goes weird, might be romantically linked), Bradley Frye (SAVE envoy, leadership, Art instructor, older, brought in after Unknown killed sister)

Places: Manor house with large basement used as meeting/training.

Things: Grave of unknown soldier in Greyfriars Cemetery holds spooky feeling. Xmas Party for cells hosted by Earl (only time when envoys are allowed personal contact). Earl has globe from 1740s, bleeds during conflicts.

(Players stop reading here.)

So, I need a case, here, and ironically I've been too busy developing Chill to put a lot of work into it. I keep coming back to the spectral hound, the one that's probably hunting one of the characters anyway. I kind of want to make this story about chasing down and finally destroying the Hound, only to have it show up again (actually a copycat, since I think that creature's cool).

A Spectral Hound is a pretty easy creature:

EWS: 85
REF: 70
STA: 80
Injury: Superficial, Minor -10, Serious -20, Major -30, Critical -50, Lethal 
Disciplines: Control Weather (fog), Corporeal Manifestation, Deadly Attack (Serious Injury), Gnarl (Unique), Hunter's Mark, Throw Voice
Aspects: Incorporeal, Special Weakness (throat), Spectral Attack

So, as written, the Hound uses Hunter's Mark, and then calls up a fog bank, uses Gnarl to have trees grab the victim, and then mauls the poor sucker to death. Ian (Toasty's character) is already Marked, so should he be the one that gets attacked? Might be interesting to run an opening scene like that, but I don't know that I want to make it that personal right away. 

Ooh, but. Suppose the Hound kills Ian's dealer? That sounds good. We'll say that Donald McGovern was camping at Mortonhall Caravan Park, wandered off to take a leak, and got hit by the Hound. Jordan McElroy calls it in, and the envoys kind of get yanked in cold so they can look at the scene before it gets too overrun. 

I'm gonna have to wing the clues, but I'll take more notes for next time.