Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monsterhearts: Season Four

So, right off, we had to do a little retconning; we pretty much forgot that last season was senior year, but we never really addressed that at all, so we did the simplest retcon we could, and said that it was actually junior year (meaning season one was freshman, not sophomore).

With that in mind, some changes since last season.

Erika is dead, of course. Genesis went home to the ocean. Ash returned to the land of the dead. So, starting senior year, we get this lineup:

  • Briar remains the Chosen. She and Austin spent some time in Europe this summer.
  • Rook is back from his sojourn being dead, and is celebrating life like whoa; he's now the Nymph (with thanks to +Jeremy Kostiew). 
  • Cassi is overjoyed to have Rook back, and has attached herself to him as the Mortal. 
  • Skylar is still the Ghost. Still dead.
  • Miguel, whom we've seen a bit before, joins us as a PC - the Unseen. Turns out that the Unseen's sex move allows his lover to see him, and Miguel's lover for a while was Dora. But now that Dora is gone (off at college somewhere), Miguel is just...easy to miss. 
  • Romy Barnett is a transfer student. He previous high school kicked her out when she flipped out and broke a desk. She's the Shadow, and the little voice in her head is Mikaela, her twin who died at birth. 
We start off in Mrs. Law's home room class. Cassi and Rook are sickeningly sweet, Romy is confused by the inside jokes and references, and Austin and Briar are sweet but kind of low-key. Miguel sits on the radiator, since he only gets a chair when someone's absent. 

Mrs. Law is also the drama teacher, and the students talk about what play the drama club is going to put on this year. They talk about classes, and Romy gets drawn into the group. Miguel uses his she's not there move to be noticed, and joins the conversation briefly.

Austin says that they should give Romy a "Perdido 101." He tells her about Pi. Briar tells her never to go to the basement. Her Shadow, of course, immediately urges her to do exactly that. The others offer their little tidbits, mostly useful stuff about the school mixed with supernatural weirdness. 

The students go about their day. Rook, Cassi, and Romy are in an Ecology class that does field trips most of the time, so they're looking forward to that. Mr. Glick, in Drawing and Drafting (which they're all in except Briar), asks after Genesis, and Skylar sheds a tear as he says she's "gone home." 

They wind up back in Mrs. Law's class for drama, and she tells them they should be doing a musical, but they don't have the money. Rook suggests raising funds, and Cassi calls her mom and manipulates an NPC to get her to pay the rights fees. Her mom agrees, provided Cassi check in with her at night - she worries about Cassi doing too much. The students look over the list of shows that the board has already approved, and they decide on Into the Woods.

After drama, it's lunchtime. Cassi and Rook slip off to a closet near the drama room to have sex. Rook uses horny reward, giving Cassi a String on him, but then since Cassi is the Mortal, it triggers his Darkest Self...which means he wants nothing but more sex, and Cassi acquiesces (this relationship is going to doom everyone). They hear footsteps outside the room, and Rook tells Cassi to go invite whomever it is; she declines, but kisses him and distracts him. 

Miguel, meanwhile, goes into the teacher's lounge and listens to Mr. Squires (history teacher brought in from the local community college) and Mrs. Law talking about students. Mrs. Law mentions that Cassi probably wants to play Cinderella, but she has someone else in mind for that (provided her choice can sing). Miguel takes a String on Mrs. Law. 

Meanwhile, Skylar, Briar, Austin, and Romy go to lunch at Pi. They talk some more about their town and the weirdness therein. Romy finds these people friendly, but odd. Skylar and Briar get up to use the bathroom, and Romy follows, listening in. She hears them talking about her, and about someone who died. Mikaela suggests that they must have killed someone - maybe this "Genesis" person they've mentioned - and put her in the basement. She also suggests Romy his on Austin, but Romy feels it's too early for that kind of thing. 

They notice her in the bathroom and leave, but Skylar slips back in and hears her talking to Mikaela (but of course, can't hear the Shadow). He zips out and talks with the others, saying that Romy was talking to someone in there, but used plural first person pronouns ("we"). Austin points out this isn't the weirdest thing they've ever seen. When Romy gets back, Austin suggests they should all go catch a movie that night, Romy's choice. She decides on Book of Life

The students regroup, and Cassi and Rook make out in the hall in full view of everyone, resolving Rook's Darkest Self. They have study hall last period, and ask to go outside. Mrs. Law agrees, and they sit under a tree and chat. Miguel tries to use she's not there again, but fails, and becomes his Darkest Self. He sets one of the branches on fire, and though it is quickly extinguished, Mrs. Law gives him a detention. 

The school day ends, and the students head home before the movie. It's senior year, they're happy, Cassi is back to being her bubbly self, Rook is alive, and all is well. 

Don't listen to the whispers. 

End credits: "Everybody Talks," Neon Trees.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Movie #313: Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body is a teen horror movie written and produced by Diablo Cody, directed by Karyn Kusama, and starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, and Johnny Simmons.

Jennifer (Fox) is a beautiful, popular, oversexed, insecure cheerleader. Her friend Anita (Seyfried), nicknamed "Needy," which is so on the nose it hurts, is mousy and a bit more reserved, but they've been friends since childhood. The nature of their friendship is interesting; it'd be tempting to say that Jennifer uses Needy to make herself look good, and maybe that's true, but Needy uses Jennifer just as much. Plus, there's very obviously some unresolved attraction between them.

And then one night, they go to a bar to see an indie band called Low Shoulder. Needy hears the band members, led by Nikolai (Brody), say that Jennifer is perfect because she's probably a virgin. Needy confronts them, confirming that she is, but Jennifer is, in fact, pretty darned sexual. The bar catches fire, multiple people die, and the band snatches the drunk Jennifer away in their van.

That night, after Needy gets home, Jennifer shows up and vomits black ichor all over the place, but the next morning all is well. It turns out that the band members sacrificed her to Satan for success in the music biz (which they promptly get), but because Jennifer was "impure," the demon stayed in her, making her hunger for the flesh of the living. She kills roughly once a month, luring boys and feeding on them. Needy figures out that she's vulnerable when hungry, but Jennifer seduces and kills Needy's boyfriend, Chip (Simmons) before Needy can kill her.

I really like this movie, and not just because I'm a fan of Monsterhearts (which owes a lot to Jennifer's Body; the final scene is transcribed in the book). It uses a lot of familiar horror tropes, but it smartens them up. Yes, Jennifer kills people, but infrequently. The town barely has enough time to get over the tragedy at the bar (which, by the way, isn't swept under the rug but becomes part of the setting for the movie) before she kills, and then almost gets over that loss before she kills again. Likewise, Jennifer's feeding cycle plays a role in the film.

There's a lot you could say about this movie with regards to teenage girl sexuality and development; I doubt very much it's a coincidence that Jennifer feeds on a monthly cycle. Likewise, it's a throwaway line, but on the way out to the sacrifice site, Nikolai offhandedly says, "Man, I hate girls." His disdain for Jennifer is palpable, and he never shows the slightest hesitation about killing her.

The characterization in the movie is pretty spot-on in general. Jennifer's first onscreen victim is a jock (Josh Emerson), but he's not a jerk; he's in tears because his best friend died in the bar. In fact, the only real character who veers into cartoon-land is, disappointingly, the teacher played by J.K. Simmons (he seems weirdly surprised by this "rock and roll" thing the kids are into).

The dialog feels weirdly snappy, but then you remember it's a Diablo Cody movie and this is how people in Juno talk, too, and then it kinda falls into place. I really would like Cody to do more horror, actually, because this one turned out well.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Jerry Maguire

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Beast: The Primordial Actual Play (Well, Setup)

Last week, my players and I sat down and...well, not made Beast characters, because they were already made, but did a bit of world-building before the chronicle actually starts. So here's what we came up with.

The game is set in Cleveland, mostly because a) we're from here and we know the city and b) I've run games set there and the supernatural scene has some definition, but isn't so locked up that there's nothing to add.

So, with that in mind, here are the PCs:

  • +Michelle Lyons-McFarland's character is Maia Wallis (Makara Ravager). Maia prefers to feed by getting into relationships with men and then slowing wrecking their lives. They're free to walk at any point, of course (she doesn't stalk them if they break up with her). She teaches the lesson that some relationships are toxic and it's better to end them. She rents a room above a junk store in Parma, but stays with John Dawson in his house (there's a lake nearby). She came from Hawai'i in 2000, but was Devoured (without help) in 1998, and taken under the wing of a local Beast (who's still living on Big Island). She has a Ventrue friend (Mikhail Rozen); they went on a couple of dates and realized they weren't really compatible, but they still hang out sometime. Lair: Currents, Flooding. 
  • +Matthew Homentoasty's character is Tyler Townsend (Eshmaki Nemesis). Tyler bought a house in Parma, near John's - a big ostentatious Tudor. He relocated from Chicago in 2003 following some Hero problems. He was Devoured in 2001; a Namtaru was trying to feed on him, but wound up awakening the Beast, as it were. As a Nemesis, he tries to teach thieves that their lives aren't worth whatever they're trying to steal (he runs an antique shop). He once contribute Dragonfire to an Obrimos mage who needed it for an enchanted item he was making. Lair: Brightly Lit, Sealed Exits. 
  • +Amanda Slanker plays Miriana Kyle (Eshmaki Predator). Mirana lives in a simple ranch house, also same neighborhood, with access to the woods. It also has a walk-in freezer complete with meathooks. Miriana is a native Clevelander, and experienced the Devouring recently, just after her mother passed. As a Predator, she seeks to remind people that their status on the food chain isn't a given - even people can be prey. She works at the Cleveland Zoo, with the wolves, and knows a pack of werewolves in the area (haven't decided what tribe yet). Lair: Poorly lit, Heavy. 
  • +Matthew Karafa plays John Dawson (Ugallu (Predator). He owns a house in the neighborhood, where he takes people (children, often), whose families are lying to one another and otherwise toxic. He lets them freak out, then returns the kid a few days later, unharmed. John is a friend Stan, the Autumn King of the Cleveland freehold. He was Devoured early (1995), by a Eshmaki Predator who killed his parents and attempted to kill him; he fought back and killed her. He bonded with Tyler over their similar origins. Lair: Darkness, Inaccessible. 
The local Apex used to be Ai'tahe, the Pride-Demon, but as that fucker was banished back here, so I let (asked, really) the players to come up with the Apex. They decided on a Sin-Eater, a fellow who was almost killed in the demonic rampage that happened in Tower City Square (back here). He became a Sin-Eater (Forgotten/Bonepicker) and is rich as hell, and wants tribute from the dead and the living. He lives downtown in an expensive apartment. Name's Gideon Rockefeller, and his influence makes the Hive Trait "Wailing." 

So, that's what we've got so far. I'll do a bit of GM planning later on this week. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Movie #312: Babe

Babe is a children's movie starring James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, and the voices of Miriam Margoyles, Danny Mann, Christine Cavanaugh, Hugo Weaving, and Miriam Flynn.

Babe (Cavanaugh) is a little piggie born in a factory farm, but taken to a state fair to be a prize in a "guess your weight" kind of thing. Farmer Hoggett (Cromwell) correctly guesses the weight, and takes Babe home to his farm. This is a "the animals all speak animal-ese" kind of movie, a la Charlotte's Web (to which it owes much), so Babe winds up chatting with and falling in with a sheepdog named Fly (Margoyles). Her mate, Rex (Weaving) isn't so keen on animals not knowing their place, but that's easy for him to say - his place is a favored one by the farmer, getting to herd the sheep (who, in a nice bit of world-building, refer to all dogs as "wolves" and fear and hate them).

Babe goes through various misadventures involving the other animals, especially a duck called Ferdinand (Mann) who tries to be a rooster because he feels it will make him "indispensable" and therefore immune to being eaten. Babe learns to herd sheep, and the farmer enters him in a sheepdog competition, but then loses his shit when the cat (Russi Taylor) informs him that pigs, like ducks, serve one purpose on the farm: Food for the farmer.

Said farmer nurses Babe back to health, dancing and singing for him, even, and he goes on to win the sheepdogging competition! Hurrah!

It's a cute movie, and holy shit it got nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. In fairness, it was a weak year (Braveheart won, FYI), except in Supporting Actor...anyway. I'm amazed that Babe got that many nominations. I mean, for the time, the visual effects were amazing, and it's credited with kicking off the "CGI talking animal" movie crazy (so, like, it's not all good news), but I have a hard time seeing it as a worthy Best Picture nom, let alone Screenplay.

Specifically, there's this kind of "so it goes" attitude about animals getting eaten that never quite gels. Like, Babe is told that his mother, father, and siblings were all turned to bacon, and that upsets him, but then the farmer does a little dance, and that makes it OK? We never see Babe come to grips with what that means; he is special, but it's because he can do something that other pigs can't.

George Miller (of Max Mad and Fury Road fame) wrote the screenplay and directed the sequel, which is just the cherry on the sundae of "huh" that is Babe. Me, I kinda think it's impressive for its time, but watching it 20 years after the fact, it's just cute.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Jennifer's Body

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Character Creation: Covenant

Let's do this!

The Game: Covenant
The Publisher: Realms
Degree of Familiarity: None, really. I'm reading the PDF, which I got from the Haiti relief bundle years ago.
Books Required: Just the one.

Covenant is a "game of failing conspiracies." Basically, there's this huge world-spanning Illuminati-if-it-wasn't-the-fever-dream-of-paranoid-idiots thing going on, and they were sure the world was going to end on January 1, 2000. It didn't. Now the conspiracy has schism'd, and everyone's unsure of which way to go.

The setting is deliberately loose; the schism is meant as a "kickstart" to provide some context for a game, but groups are advised to fill in whatever details they want. This book needs an editing pass, but I'm digging the core concept. Let's continue.

Ooh, so the first thing you do is define the conventions of the story, the cell's purpose (everyone is part of the same cell), and other backgroundy things. Well, you know I like that! You also know I don't have a group, so I'll be winging this.

Actually, there's a filled-out cell sheet in the book; maybe I'll use that? Oh, shit yeah. The motifs are "blood-spatted alleyways," "rotting urban slums," and "astrological motifs." I'm golden. The former purpose was "protect the society by expunging or reeducating people with deviant views." I like it.

OK, so now we actually get into character creation, so it's time to share our theme song, helpfully provided by +Rob Wieland.

That's "Beast" by Nico Vega. (It's a beastly kind of week, it seems.) It's a crunchy, angry, anti-establishment kind of song, I think, and that works.

In making a character, the first thing I do is come up with a concept, which includes a style and a focus. So I'm gonna choose "penitent manhunter." My guy was a bounty hunter pre-recruitment. He wound up tracking down an escaped member of the conspiracy who had jumped bail (trumped up charges; he was going to go public), but once he had the guy in custody, the cell found him and killed the traitor. Impressed at his skillz, the conspiracy recruited my dude, and he spent years tracking down "deviant thinkers" and, if necessary, taking part in the more brutal parts of reeducation.

But then Armageddon didn't happen, and it shattered everything he'd come to believe. All he knows now is that the conspiracy was the "deviant thinkers." And maybe that means they should be reeducated.

The sheet says these guys were based in Prague; I'm gonna fudge a little and say LA, because it works better with this concept.

Ooh, now I get three "truisms." These are kind of similar to Beliefs in Spark; they're things that, by saying them, I'm asking them to be challenged.

I'll pick:

"Everyone runs, no one gets away." (His experience has been that this is true; if someone really wants to find you, they will.)

"No one's clean." (He had to tell himself this while beating people up.)

"Deus vult." (This is part of God's plan. It goddamn well better be, at least.)

Now we add characters to the center of the sheet, arranged by what part of the character they're important to. This is called the "crucible." Kind of a neat mechanic. Let's see. I have to include someone from the cell playsheet, and another PC or someone from their crucible. I can't do that last one, of course, but let's see what else we got.

Well, the sheet includes a guy called "The Jailer," to whom folks needing reeducation are sent. I think I worked for him more than once, so he goes under Faction. Outside that box, I'm supposed to write my faction's agenda for me, dramatic and urgent. I think I've been tasked with tracking down three members (an overseer and her two assistants) who rabbited right after the schism. Let's call her "Luz."

And then over under Self, I'm supposed to add someone that I care about personally. I'll add a guy named Diaz, a guy I tracked down after he jumped bail. He gave up without a fight, and I eventually said that he turned himself in and smoothed things out for him as best I could. He did his time, went straight, and is continually struggling to get his life on track. He's a friend, and he challenges my belief that no one's clean.

Society section, I'm supposed to put someone in who's my superior, like an overseer or something. Sure. I'll call my superior William Norman. Bill views me as his "ghetto dog," I go into the parts of LA he's afraid to. Right now my orders are to round up everyone still loyal to the cell and make sure they're ready for a cleansing.

Ok, then! Now, edges. These quantify the relationships that benefit me and the shit I'm good at. I get six, three have to be descriptors and one a relationship, but the other two can be either. Relationships can be left open to add in play, which I like very much.

Well, let's do descriptors, first. We'll say "knows everyone in the barrio." My guy is very hooked into the Mexican community in LA, and is as trusted as you can be when you're a bounty hunter.

"Street fighter." I want him to be good in a brawl. He can use a gun if need be, but he's not a great shot and has never really been trained.

"Expert in surveillance." Duh. Good with bugs, tracking, etc.

And then a relationship: "Grew up with Detective Monica Velez, LAPD." He and Monica are from the same neighborhood and dated briefly. She's his contact in the department. He thought about trying to recruit her; now he's glad he didn't.

I'll leave the last two open.

Now I get a consequence. This can be something immediate or something long-term. I'll take "ready to burn it all down." He's done with these fuckers, frustrated, hurt, betrayed. His faith is guttering.

Oh, wait, I need one more person, someone to go between two areas of the crucible. Um. Let's say that there's a beat cop, Officer Stephen Marks, who I suspect is hooked into the conspiracy, but I don't know for sure. He's a friend and occasional gopher for Monica, so I'm concerned for her safety if he is hooked in, but I don't have a way to verify it, especially now.

And that's actually me done. I'll have to read the rest of this more carefully, it's pretty interesting.

Oh, wait! My guy's name is Osmundo Caraballos.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Movie #311: Jeepers Creepers 2

Jeepers Creepers 2 is, of course, the sequel to Jeepers Creepers, and is also directed by creepy-ass child molester Victor Salva. This one stars Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Gariyaki Mutambirwa, Eric Nenninger, Nicki Aycox, and Travis Schiffner. Justin Long makes a cameo as his doomed character from the first movie.

So, once every 23 years, for 23 days, it gets to feed, "it" being the titular Creeper (Breck). We pick up a few days after the events of Jeepers Creepers, with the Creeper snatching a young boy (Shaun Fleming) from his family's cornfield as his father, Jack Taggart (Wise) and older brother (Luke Edwards) look on in horror. And then there's this school bus full of football players, returning from a victory at a championship game or something. The Creeper flats their tires, they get back on the road, and then it gets dark and he flats their tire again, kills the coach and the bus drivers, and then starts terrorizing the kids.

This movie ends with Taggart rolling in to the rescue (I mean, for the people who haven't been eaten already) and pinning the thing to his barn. 23 years later, we get kids rolling in driving a car that looks old and out of date for now, asking to see "it", and there's old Taggart, sitting there with a shotgun, waiting for it to wake up.

Oy. So, the original movie is creepy, even if you don't know about Salva. It's nicely atmospheric and tense, and we learn just enough about the Creeper to make him scary. But we don't see much of him, and that's effective for the few moments we do get a good look. But this movie shows the Creeper in full light, again and again. And it's so damned repetitive. The Creeper yanks a coach off the ground and flies straight up, OK. That's kind of a cool shot. But then it happens two more times. The bus tire gets nailed with a throwing star made of human parts, OK, that's kind of cool and creepy. Then it happens again. Yawn.

And then there's the whole "man, a whole lotta shirtless dudes" and the fact that, with the exception of the bus driver (Diane Delano), no women are harmed. I know that women getting killed in horror movies is not something that the genre is short of, but in this particular instance, it's weird, because the Creeper is a scary guy in a long coat targeted young, cute, shirtless guys. Gah.

My Grade: D+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Jennifer's Body

Monday, June 15, 2015

Night's Black Agents: To Vienna and Back Again

Saturday was Night's Black Agents, so I should do the update. Whee!

Last time, our ragtag group of freelancers tracked Wolfgang von Hanover to Austria, but weren't sure where exactly to look. Fuchs contacted his buddy at the German tax agency and had him look through some accounts and see if Hanover had any activity in Austria, and yes indeed, he'd emptied an account in Vienna. They found that the account had been closed out - looked like run money. Checking the area, though, they found the Liechtenstein Museum was nearby, and held a collection of Baroque art. Knowing that Hanover was an art lover, they decided to investigate further.

Parker used a cover as Jessie Stephens, a Montana oil baroness, and got herself a pass to see the artwork; Gambone went along as her bodyguard. While "Jessie" distracted the guides and staff with her inane Americanism, Gambone slipped off and chatted up a guard watching security, and planted a device to let them hack in.

Later, Fuchs and the others reviewed the feed, and found, a few days ago, Hanover meeting with another man. They hugged and were obviously familiar; the characters identified the man as Fritz von Hanover, Wolfgang's brother. Wolfgang was aware of the camera and shied away from it, but Fritz didn't have enough tradecraft to know, and so the characters were able to watch his expresion some - he seemed emotional and worried. They also reviewed the security logs from the day. Hanover had used an alias (Hans Brent) to get in (the characters didn't dig into the alias, but I'll note it for later).

Wolfgang handed his brother an envelope, probably full of cash, and Fritz handed back a key fob for a car. Fuchs used Traffic Analysis and identified the car leaving the lot, and tracked the sale of it from Fritz to Hans. The video footage showed the brothers embracing before they parted, and Fritz said something about "visiting you in Berlin."

(Cue some facepalms from the characters.)

They talked it over and decided that if Hanover had run to Berlin, they didn't have much of a trail to find him. Their best bet was Fritz, since Hanover obviously had some regard for his brother. Digging into Fritz a bit, they found he was an opera lover, and Die Fladermaus was playing that night in Vienna. Parker adopted her Jessie Stephens persona again, and Benbow created one of her own (Gemma Stephens, Jessie's British cousin). Gambone went along as security again, and Fuchs set up across the street to monitor their comms and lapel cameras.

The Stephens cousins met up with Fritz and charmed him, and they wound up in his box watching the opera. Fuchs, watching the feed, noticed three people watching Fritz, but Fritz didn't seem to be aware of them...apparently the characters weren't the only team after Fritz. Gambone struck up a conversation with one of them (in Russian, as the man didn't speak Italian or English, but answered initially in Croatian), and learned that they were going to be taking Fritz for a "meeting he doesn't know he's having." The man bribed Gambone to stay out of the way, and gave him a number to call if he was looking for work.

Realizing they had a good opportunity, the ladies went with Fritz to a cafe after the opera, and then told him of the danger. He didn't believe it until they mentioned his brother, at which point he got nervous. They got him into a cab (Fuchs following in his car), and as they got into a less populated area, a car with the three unknowns pulled up. Two men got out, smashed in the driver's and rear windows, and demanded Fritz get out.

Gambone, riding shotgun, stomped on the gas and floored it. Benbow shoved Fritz down to protect him, and Parker shot out the rear window and put a bullet in engine block of the pursing car. Fuchs pulled up and the characters loaded Fritz into the other car, and paid the cabbie to drive the other way, quickly.

They headed to the train station, and convinced Fritz that they needed to find Wolfgang quickly, before these other folks did. Shaken, he agreed, and they boarded a train.

Parker contacted Davor Klubocar, the guy who gave them this job (and who, incidentally, was also Croatian). He claimed to know nothing about the second team, but admitted it was possible the job had been double-booked. He told Parker to keep him updated.

They also analyzed the number that the Croatian agent had given Gambone. It was a burner, of course, but it had made calls to...Klobucar. He had known about the other team. So what was the angle? Why double-book the job and not inform folks?

The characters are heading back to Berlin. Next session, they get to meet Wolfgang.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Origins 2015!

Origins! Woo!

Yeah, I know. GAMA doesn't do administrative stuff well, their software is weird, etc. Don't care. Still love this con, and attendance was up this year, so that's great to hear. Let's see some pictures!

This year was special because my daughter Teagan was in attendance, and ran her first con game. So we picked her up from her last day of school on Wednesday and hit the road.

We stopped at Grandpa's Cheese Barn on the way, because obviously. 
We got to the con and unloaded the stuff for our booth, and then I went to go fight with registration about exhibitor badges.
Michelle doing booth assembly. 
See, here's the problem. If you want an exhibitor badge, you have to wait until those become open to register. Which is great...if you don't plan to sign up for any events. I do want to sign up for events. That meant I had have them cancel my badge, cancel my events, sign me up for a new badge, and then sign me up for my events real quick. It worked, it just took a long time. But we got it sorted and the folks at registration were really nice and patient.

Back to the booth, then: We couldn't get it entirely set up, because most of the flooring hadn't been delivered. See, funny story, UPS randomly decided to deliver half of our flooring to our house in Cleveland, rather than the hotel that we'd specified as the delivery address. So...huh? But, Amazon and UPS worked with us, and got stuff shipping down to us. So we set up as much booth as we could...

 ...and fucked off to get dinner.

We got dinner at Bare Burger, a lovely little place across the street from the convention center that serves (you guessed it) burgers, many of them made from bison or wild boar. Very tasty food, though I think the staff isn't used to Origins. When I walked in, I just had Teagan with me, and the host said, "two?" And I said, "no, eight, they're just not here yet. Actually, we're both four people." He just kind of blinked. I said, "dude, it's gonna get a lot weirder than me this weekend, best be ready."

Teagan contemplates burgers.

Tim & Travis.

Cheyenne, Michelle's shirt, and half of Chris' face.
 Anyway, dinner done, we went back over the convention center. I walked Teagan around a bit so she knew the lay of the land, including the giant inflatable sheep.

You thought I was kidding?
And then she had her first game, which was Are You a Werewolf? I wound up playing, too, because I had nothing else going on and why not? AYAW is an Origins staple; we also often play it at our holiday party, though there are some differences. The Origins folks have everyone pat their legs during the night so that you can't listen to movement and try and figure out the werewolves that way (not that it mattered, as loud as the room was). I always find that weird, because it's not like there's anything else to go on, not if you don't know the people and know their tells. Ah, well. It was fun, I got eaten by werewolves, and then we headed back to the room for rest.


So, first thing was finishing booth set-up before the hall opened. We got the flooring and got the booth completed, and I think it looked pretty nice.

Buy one of each!

The booth from the other angle.
Thursday I worked the booth, and then had an afternoon Chill game that didn't happen because I didn't get players. Bummer. So I wound up wandering the dealer's room a bit. Teagan had a game earlier in the day...

I believe this would be the infamous "anime weird ninja school" game where they give out candy.
I found Tim doing demos in the booth...

 And Jerry in his booth...

Sellin' books. 

But that night, after dinner, Michelle and I went to Games on Demand, and there was a crazy line of people to get in.

Like a Cedar Point ride.

We wound up playing in a game of Feng Shui 2nd Edition, which was lots of fun. I was a magical cop named Stephen Wei, and lots of fun Jet Li-esque shenanigans were had. Michelle was a sorceress thrown forward in time to handle some Chi weirdness. We fight crime!

The games was really well-run, I think. There were a couple of moments were the GM paused to explain things for a bit too long, but it wasn't an ongoing problem, and the fight scenes (which are important to Feng Shui were evocative and quick-paced). This was run through Games on Demand, and they have yet to disappoint. My Grade: A

The GM, some sheets, my pen. Very minimalist. 
Then sleep! Then Friday!

Friday was the day that Teagan was going to run her game of Cat. I was supposed to be free until 2 so I could be with her for her first hour of the game, but Cheyenne got sick and lost her voice, so I had to run two Chill games back to back. Which was somewhat exhausting, but hey.

So the first game went fine, but it ran over a bit. I took a break close to the end to go get Teagan going, but Michelle wound tagging in. I should note Teagan did some cosplay that day:

With her friend Noe.
But she ran the game, it went well, I segued directly into my second game of Chill, which also went well. That finished up about six, and we had some time to wander. Teagan was supposed to be in a game of Mammoth Catan, but Origins fucked the schedule up, so that got cancelled.

Looks cool, though, dunnit?
We saw a "rocket ship" made of balloons.

Sometimes, a balloon is just a balloon. 
We were supposed to play The One Ring that night, but that got cancelled, so we crashed out instead.


First thing: Teagan and I played in a game of Barbarians of Lemuria retooled for Thundarr, the Barbarian!

Now, my dad used to watch Thundarr with me on Saturday mornings, and it was a show we liked. I didn't have time to show Teagan much of it, but she got a sense of how it worked. She played Princess Ariel, I played Ookla the Mok, and we beat up a bunch of evil monsters and destroyed the Moon Men and saved the world. It was pretty awesome. The GM kept things moving and moved the spotlight appropriately, and, most important, he played off the 10-year-old at his table nicely; he didn't talk down to her or just tell her what to do (which is good, because Teagan can have great ideas on her own if you give her a minute, but she'll go along with whatever folks suggest in a game otherwise). My Grade: A

Character tiles!

Fightin' rat monsters!
And then some lunch at North Market, and then I had a game of Chill to run, which went fine (got to see people I don't get to play with often, which is always neat).

And then more Chill+Monica Valentinelli had asked me to run a game for her, so I gathered up some folks and we played a game of Chill in the Big Bar, at a Geek Chic table. I liked this game; it's quick and tense. I think maybe I will use it as a con game going forward. No PC deaths, though the monster used the Chill discipline at the end and threw everyone for a loop.

Captain America came to visit. 
Monica and Jerry review their mission. 

Bat Lord: Banished! Woo!
And then sleep? Naw, and then we sat up chatting and drinking forever. And then sleep.

And then Sunday! Sunday morning at Origins means only one thing: Clay-o-Rama! It was weird this year, though. I had eight people signed up, but only four showed, so it went really quickly.

Preparing for battle. 
So that was quick, and then back into the dealer's room to wander around for a while before it was time for tear-down.

Chill book, tokens, dice, and a character sheet. You know you wanna buy it
And then tear-down!



And that was Sunday. Monday, we were still there. We got everything packed up, and got on the road to Baltimore for a little mini-vacation, leaving the ruins of the con behind...until next year.

Wait...I still...function...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Movie #310: Jeepers Creepers

Jeepers Creepers is a 2001 monster movie starring Justin Long, Gina Philips, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Brennan, and Patricia Belcher. It's directed by Victor Salva, and that's kinda the problem. I'll get to that.

Trish (Philips) and Darry (Long) are driving across what looks like Kansas on their way home from college. They pass and are nearly run off the road by a huge, tank-like truck, and later pass it at an abandoned church - where they see a man in a coat throat what looks like two bloodied bodies down a sewer pipe. The truck chases them again and runs them off the road, and they decide to go back and see if the bodies are, in fact, dead (they're in the middle of nowhere so just zipping down to the police isn't an easy option; Darry rightly points out that if someone is hurt or dying back there it would be irresponsible to leave them).

They find, however, carnage - hundreds of bodies affixed to the walls in the basement, artfully stitched together. They find a diner and call for help, and receive a phone call from a strange women who seems to know all about them. The police arrive, but they learn that the church is burning, making it hard to confirm their story...and then the man in the coat (Breck), attacks as they're on the road, killing the cops.

The Creeper chases them through the countryside, and they finally hook up with the woman on the phone, a psychic named Jezelle (Belcher). She tells them that one of them is going to die screaming in the dark, but she doesn't know which one. The Creeper attacks the police station, killing prisoners to eat their body parts and heal its wounds, and then grabs Darry, shows its wings, and flies off to claim its prize...his eyes.

So, here's the problematic bit: The director is a sex offender who served time for oral sex with a minor. (I know, ew.) If you watch the movie and you don't know that, it's this very tight, creepy monster movie with a tragic and evocative ending. If you do know that, it's a monster sniffing a teenage boy's underwear and chasing him while his shirt is torn open. The movie is creepy either way, but the context of who the director is makes the difference between "nicely creepy and scary" to "BRAIN BLEACH NOW."

I can separate the two and appreciate the movie even know what a creep Salva is, but it takes some work. I like that it's a monster movie that doesn't delve into the monster's origins too deeply, and I love that it takes place in the span of a few hours. Everything about the movie is tight and tense, and that's fun.

So...it's hard to recommend, based on not wanting to give Salva money (I bought this DVD before I knew), but, it's a good horror movie. So maybe borrow it from me if you want to see it?

My grade: A-, as dirty as that makes me feel
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Jeepers Creeper 2

Monday, June 1, 2015

Spark: Hellfire Empire Actual Play

Tonight we played Spark, using our Hellfire Empire setting. Since it's not terribly late, I think I'll do up the write-up.

We started off answering some PC and Faction related questions (oh, and Toasty named his character Adair Arkwright).


  • What favor did you do for another PC? I arranged to have an experimental piece of demonic tech stolen and delivered to Adair.
  • Why do you trust a PC with your life? I trust Brigid because I have blackmail material on her - she's trying to break up Agamemnon and Queen Mona because he is a pacifist. I want her to get with Karakesh, Agamemnon's cousin.
  • Why did you abandon a Faction? I abandoned the Artificer's Guild because I was sickened by their hypocrisy. 
  • How did a Faction help shape a Belief? The Backalley Runners taught me that even the most powerless have strength in numbers.
  • What common friend or foe do you share with a PC? Amelia Marx and I are both friendly with Garth Zelling. 
  • What do you hope to gain from a PC? Gaining Adair as a convert would be a coup. 
  • Why do you unfailingly obey a Faction? The Queen's Demons are my family.
  • Why have I vowed to destroy a Faction? The Beelzebub Club hates me.
  • How would you suffer if another PC came to harm? Brigid would be a martyr for her cause.
  • What personal sacrifice did you make for another PC? Protected Brigid from the Beelzebub Club. 
  • How did a Faction help shape a Belief? Article from the Backalley Runners alerted me to the dangers of demon-tech.
  • Why are you afraid of a Faction? I'm afraid of the Artificer's Guild because they wield too much influence and too many artifacts.
So with that done, we launch into the preludes. I gave them the Hellfire Engine as a Catalyst - the Engine is being used to power up a new intra-city train today, and Sally Graham (a dignitary) is taking a ride on it with her entourage. The characters do preludes: Brigid is with Sally on a dirigible, landing near the train station. Adair is leaping on rooftops toward said station, taking out guards with his steamtech. Amelia is the back alleys with the Runners, waiting to sabotage the train. 

Scene 1

Platform: Rooftops, guards stationed on them, watching the train station. 
Tilt: Ajax (a Queen's Demon lieutenant), is going rooftop to rooftop, checking in the with the guards.
Question: Can Ajax figure out who's plotting sabotage? 

Adair attaches ziplines with steam bursts to guards and takes them out, but as he gets to the last rooftop, Ajax catches him. Meanwhile, Amelia dispatches a Runner to plant a transmitter on the train near the engine. On the roof, Ajax strikes at Adair with a hammer on a big chain, but Adair boosts himself backwards off the roof, to safety. 

Answer: Ajax assumes that Adair is plotting to sabotage the train, when in fact it's Amelia. 

Scene 2

Platform: The train station, in the heart of the city, lots of crowds and background noise.
Tilt: An honor guard from the Queen, but including members of the Beelzebub Club, try to get Sally and the other human entourage members on the train, but exclude the demons. 
Question: Will the train depart with no further delay? 

A guard tries to shunt Brigid off to a later car on the train, but she employs her Demonic Magic and mentally manipulates him, forcing him to let her and the others pass. Meanwhile, Adair creeps aboard the roof of the train unnoticed and Amelia runs ahead to St. James Park. 

Answer: The train departs with no delay. 

Scene 3

Platform: The train in motion, coming to St. James Park. 
Tilt: The train approaches the point of sabotage!
Question: Can the receiver be removed in time to prevent the explosion?

Amelia lies in wait, and then channels her Angelic Magic toward the receiver. The mix of Angelic and Demonic magic causes an explosion, blowing the train over. 

Answer: Nope. 

Scene 4

Platform: St. James Park, immediately after the explosion. 
Tilt: Guards, Queen's Demons, and the Beelzebub Club rush in, either to help or attack. 
Question: Who died in the explosion? 

As the train exploded, Brigid tries to absorb the blast and save Sally. She succeeds in saving herself, but Sally is stabbed by shrapnel and killed. Members of the Beelzebub Club attack any demons they find, and the Queen's Demons retaliate. Some of the Beelzebub Club attack Brigid, but she releases a massive blast of magic and vaporizes them. Father Liam of the Beelzebub Club releases a massive burst of light, reminiscent of sunlight, but although it harms the demons it does not drive them away. Ajax appears behind Adair (who was not seriously injured in the crash) and runs him through with a blade, killing him. The Beelzebub Club, following Liam's outburst, are declared enemies of the state and routed. 

Answer: Sally Graham, Adair, and various other casualties. 

Scene 5

Platform: The Royal Garden, the day after the explosion; a minister is reading a prepared statement. 
Tilt: The Queen and Agamemnon are in attendance, but an unruly mob roils outside the gates.
Question: Who will win the PR war?

The minister tries his best to maintain order, but the people outside call on Queen Mona to reject the demons and truly lead her people. They shout "St. Adair!" and "Show us your Divine Right!" The hellfire torches fade, and the Queen and Agamemnon are forced inside. 

Answer: The people. 

Scene 6

Platform: A couple of days later, the protesters have not left the Park. 
Tilt: The first manifestation of St. Adair; he comes back claiming to have seen the sun. 
Question: How long will the protests remain peaceful?

The people continue to rattle the gates and scream for Mona to reject the demons. A ghostly manifestation of Adair appears, causing the hellfire lights to dim. He claims that he has seen the sun, but could not return it - it is up to the people to reclaim it. They storm the gates! Ajax steps out to confront them, but they drive him back and overpower him. 

Answer: Not long. 

Scene 7

Platform: Inside the castle; the Queen's audience chamber. The Queen, Agamemnon, and some of the Queen's Demons.
Tilt: The people teeter on the brink of open rebellion and regicide. 
Question: Can the breach the walls? 

Brigid wakes up the Royal Hospital, very confused. Amelia, outside with her people, again calls upon Mona to prove her Divine Right and cast out the demons. She does, telling Agamemnon to leave, and him being a pacifist, he doesn't resist. But his cousin, Karakesh, appears in a swirl of hellfire and throws black roses to the Queen, trying to court her. She resists, throws open the window, and publicly banishes the demons from her castle, and her ministers form a circle around her. The demons leave in disgrace, slinking back into the city, as the hellfire torches wink out. 

Answer: No need - the Queen has heard her people. 

Review on RPG.net coming soon!