Monday, August 31, 2015

#RPGaDay2015: The Best Non-RPG Thing


Last one. Was it good for you?

Favorite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGs: Hrm. What, like, culturally? I think +Thomas Deeny makes a good point; what we think of as an "RPG" in video game terms probably owes a lot to tabletop RPGs. For my part, though...

I don't know. To wax loquacious for a minute, gamer culture can be really toxic. I'm watching it happen right now with the big clusterfuck over on DriveThru RPG, and what it cooks down to, I think, is: A company that's produced some pretty problematic stuff put up a really problematic game. DT has no approval process in place for products, so it just went up. The outcry was entirely justified (this was a really shitty product, guys), but, as usual, some of the specific responses were abusive and vitriolic. But at the same time, DT's response wasn't ideal. There were reasons for this (it was a weekend, people were away), but not excuses (the owner still shouldn't be engaging in slippery slope fallacies on Twitter).

What does all this mean, and why does it relate to the question? Because gamers are people. I'm around people in a lot of different contexts, and my experience has been that most people need a reason to step outside themselves. We talk a good game about walking a mile in someone else's shoes, but the truth of the matter is that most of us - any political leaning, any race, any gender presentation, any orientation - judge things from our own perspective first, and that doesn't always take the nuances of other people's lives into account.

Does that always matter? Of course not. I'm a privileged white guy, so I can afford to absorb a little more hostility because I don't get hammered with microaggressions on a daily basis. But I only know that because I pay attention. I pay attention, in part, because since I was 11 years old, I've been regularly sitting down at a table with other people and deliberately trying to communicate what's in my head. That means learning how others' biases work. That means playing to their expectations and challenging them. That means trying to know them.

Empathy is a skill, and it's one you can (and should) cultivate. I know socially liberal people who are on the right side of the issues, but are absolutely assholes about it. I know people who say really ignorant, racist/sexist shit, but are willing to listen if they're approached the right way. Yes, it's exhausting to do that, and I'm not saying it's anyone's responsibility to take that on.

What I am saying, and it's something that the games I run often emphasize, is that sometimes a job might not be yours, but it's not anybody's, really, and it still needs to get done, so who's going to stand up?

That is my favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGs.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Game Prep and #RPGaDay2015


First this:

Favorite RPG-Playing Celebrity: I dunno, never played an RPG with a celebrity. I mean, we all know Vin Diesel plays D&D, and that's pretty cool, particularly when you consider that Chronicles of Riddick feels very much like someone's D&D-in-Space game.

OK, now notes on games.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

#RPGaDay2015

We're nearly the end...


Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games Into One: Ooh, I actually had one! I wanted to merge Shattered Dreams and Don't Rest Your Head, probably starting with the former and transitioning into the latter somehow. You could probably fold Exquisite Replicas in there, too, somehow.

Favorite Game You No Longer Play: Another easy one: Classic World of Darkness. I love it, I just don't play it because I work on so much NWoD stuff and the system there is so much better, and I don't want to confuse myself. But I'm gonna have to go back to CWoD when it comes time to playtest Changeling: The Dreaming 20th.

Favorite RPG Website: RPG.Net. Sure, you get people who are bitter about being banned complaining about how the mod staff is a "junta," but seriously, it's a site with a lot of traffic where you can talk about games and not get called any number of homophobic slurs, and it's stable enough that I can put my actual plays there.

Movie #325: A Knight's Tale

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 comedy starring Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, and James Purefoy. Despite the title, it's not really based on Chaucer's work.

A young squire named William (Ledger) impulsively takes the place of his dead liege in a joust, wins, and decides to "change his stars" with the help of his two buddies Wat (Tudyk) and Roland (Addy). They pick up an impoverished and naked poet named Geoffrey Chaucer (Bettany), who forges the proper papers, and a widowed armorer (Laura Fraser), and embark on a whirlwind tour of tourneys across France, crossing lances with the diabolical Count Adamar (Sewell) and making friends with the Prince of England (Purefoy, who looks too much like Sewell in some shots).

And, of course, William falls in love with a noble lady (Sossamon), eventually gets outed as a peasant, gets knighted by Prince Ex Machina, and goes on to win it all. Yay!

The plot is simplistic, sure, but there's more to the movie than that. The chemistry between William and his friends is great, Sewell looks like he's having fun chewing scenery, and, of course, the anachronistic music ("Golden Years" at a dance, "We Will Rock You" at a joust) helps to put these scenes in context in a way that period music would not. The dialog is snappy and fun, and Tudyk and Bettany play nicely off each other.

About my only complaint is Sossamon; she's boring. She's playing Girlfriend, sure, but she doesn't have the same spark onscreen that the other actors do. As a point of interest, her lady-in-waiting is played by Bernice Bejo, who would go on to win an Oscar for The Artist.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch Value: High

Next up: Kung Fu Hustle

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#RPGaDay2015


25th: Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic: "Revolutionary" is relative, of course. I think that, for me, I have to say it's Dread and its Jenga-tower. Yes, there are some issues with accessibility, but I think the idea of having something that the players literally, physically do that heightens the tension of a horror game is awesome.

26th: Favorite Inspiration for Your Game: Song lyrics. I love taking musical inspiration for my own characters (as you may have noticed), and I do it when I run games, too. I don't have much use for purely instrumental songs; I need lyrics to help me appreciate music, and good lyrics can be very inspirational. I could (and would love to) run a whole chronicle based on an album by Hozier, Devil Makes Three, or Old Crow Medicine Show.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie #324: The Babadook

The Babadook is a much-acclaimed horror film directed by Jennifer Kent and starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Barbara West, and Hayley McElhinnhey. It's gotten a hell of a lot of buzz, and it lives up to the hype. This is a recent movie, so, spoilers ahead.

Amelia (Davis) lives with her six-year-old son Sam (Wiseman) in Australia. Sam's having trouble; he fights imaginary monsters all day, to the point of building weapons to kill them, and he's having consistent behavior problems at school. Amelia is about at her wit's end; she's still coping with the loss of her husband Oskar (Benjamin Winspear), who died in a car wreck taking Amelia to the hospital to birth Sam. Now she's sleep deprived, having trouble coping with her demanding son, and barely holding on.

Sam finds a book on his shelf called Mister Babadook, but as Amelia reads it to him, it becomes clear that "the Babadook" is a monster, depicted as hiding in the closet and pouncing on the boy in the bed. Sam flips the fuck out, and thereafter becomes obsessed with the Babadook. Amelia shreds the book, but she finds it on her doorstep, whole and with new pages added, depicting her killing their dog, Sam, and herself.

Amelia becomes possessed, Sam helps her fight off the monster, and the two of them win the day with nary a (human) fatality, which is just one of the many things that makes this movie so incredible. It's scary as hell, but the Babadook doesn't kill off the nice old lady next door (West) or Amelia's friendly co-worker Robbie (Daniel Henshall) to make the point. The action is focused on them and their relationship, and it doesn't shy away from the notion that parents can be tired by, even come to resent, their difficult children.

Meanwhile, Sam is depicted perfectly as an emotionally disturbed child. It's easy to think he's traumatized by his father's death, but he never knew his father. He's just troubled, maybe mentally ill in some way, but it's hard to know and it's not especially relevant to the movie. He also loves his mother, but he's no more easy to manage because of that, and having worked with kids with very similar issues (never quite that intense, but close), I really like the portrayal. The monster, too, and the visual and (especially) sound effects are amazing and disturbing, and I really wish I'd seen this one in theaters.

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: Medium-low

Next up: Knight's Tale, A

#RPGaDay2015


22nd: Perfect Gaming Environment: My house, at my magnificent gaming table, with a full pot of coffee and dinner and/or snacks available. And perhaps dogs sleeping beneath.

23rd: Perfect Game for You: Weird question, this; I'm not entirely sure how to answer it. I guess the way to approach this is "perfect game for me to play", or perhaps run. Hmm. I hate to reuse answers, but Misspent Youth is pretty perfect for me - it rewards action but not meticulous planning, plays nicely with improvisation, and hits themes that are near and dear to my heart. Gumshoe also does well with my style as a GM, provided I have enough time to prep.

24th: Favorite House Rule: Interestingly, a lot of my house rules don't tend to stay house rules for long, for WoD anyway, because I tend to write them into books. :) I think one of my favorites, which I've modified and included in other systems, was one that a DM I played with in Atlanta used for his Dungeons & Dragons game: Players can give each other beads for good ideas, cool bits of IC dialog, good jokes, whatever. At the end of the game, you get (# of beads) x your level in XP. D&D doesn't do much to reward roleplaying, and I thought that was a nice way to do it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

#RPGaDay2015

Here we go!

Favorite Horror Game: It's honestly a two-way tie between the new World of Darkness and Chill, with the classic World of Darkness a very close third. The only reason CWoD doesn't edge closer is because it so often wasn't a horror setting - sure, you got some very creepy, beautiful horror moments (a lot of them from Wraith), and then you got the WAAHHH-HOOOOO of Werewolf, Vampire, and Mage.

NWoD hasn't had as much wah-hoo, and has stayed pretty consistently horror. Plus, it's horror that I like, which is appropriate, since there hasn't been a lot in NWoD that I haven't worked on in some way.

And then Chill, of course, for me has always been about the people who fight the monsters. One of the thing that frustrates me about real life is that our monsters aren't the kind you can melt with salt or destroy with an incantation; our monsters are people, and people have their own struggle, even if those struggles make them monsters. It's nice to play characters who are unequivocal heroes.

Favorite RPG Setting: Hmm. Well, in the interest of not being too one-note, let's move away from WoD. I like Deadlands, but I don't know if I'd say favorite. There are some problematic elements there. But on the other hand, hucksters! Really a brilliant idea.

Oh, wait, I know: Edge of Midnight. Noir, Dark City inspired RPG with physics-magic. Very cool game.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#RPGaDay2015, also Beast


Favorite Sci-Fi RPG: It's a genre I like a little better than fantasy, but, again, not a genre I've ever really loved. I think I'm gonna be weird and go with Human Occupied Landfill. Sure, it's more "black comedy" than strictly sci-fi, but the best-kept secret about HoL is that it's completely playable - simple little 2d6 system, a perfectly workable and kinda innovative damage system, and a world that's funny and easy to get your brain around. Hard sci-fi tends to be crunchier than I like, but HoL is nicely simple.

Favorite Supers RPG: Ah, now the ball's in Farnsworth's court! I often say that I'm a fan of superheroes, if not necessarily comics (comics are complex and lumbering, and I pretty much just roll my eyes when they announce "long-running character is gonna die!" No, they aren't). My first game was Marvel Superheroes from TSR, but is that my favorite? I think I'm gonna go slightly more hipster and choose With Great Power.... It captures the feel of the comics, and it's the only game I've found that really truly could have Galactus and Aunt May in the same game, no real problem.

And now, Beast.

Sunday, May 24. Maia has a date with Ryan later in the afternoon, but first, John decides to keep everyone updated on what he saw yesterday. The brood meets up at IHOP and John explains the probable team of hunters he saw. He mentions that they seem interested in Dillon, the guy who threw a cinderblock through Tyler's shop's window, but that's still a little close for comfort.

The brood splits for the day. Tyler visit Ernest, his mage friend, to chat about Dillon. Ernest looks at his footage, and says that it's possible that Dillon is a mage (healing quickly and enhanced strength make sense in concert), and possible he's a werewolf (they also heal fast), but Ernest does wonder why, if either of those are true, that Dillon allowed himself to be set on fire. He mentions that his folks (mages) are in a bit of upheaval right now, and Tyler says that if he can be an ace in the hole, he's willing.

Miriana goes to see her friend Elle, and finds that she has died peacefully in her sleep. She calls the police, and then calls Doctor Bones, informing her that Elle is gone. Doctor Bones is unsurprised, and thanks her for looking after Elle's cats.

John goes to see Doctor Bones, and informs her about the cell of hunters apparently working in Cleveland. Bones thanks him (and he cements the Family Ties Condition on her). They chat a bit about current events, and Bones reveals that she healed Dillon - a nurse in the burn unit gave her the tip, she performed her ritual, and now he's effectively immortal for a month. John finds this terribly funny.

Maia goes on her date. She's lost a dot of Satiety (I made the offer to all of them at the beginning of the sesson; lose a dot, get a Beat), so she's hungry. She activates Heart of the Ocean and, wouldn't you know, Ryan is indeed her type - drawn to bad relationships. She immediately seduces him, looking forward to making his life hell over the next few weeks.

That evening, the characters regroup to go check out the hunters practicing. They watch as the hunters practice a tactic for surrounding and breaking the jaw/teeth of a monster - that would fuck up Tyler's firebreathing pretty good. The characters now know what to expect, but having hunters in town isn't good. They listen, and the hunters mention Dillon. One of them, Carlos, decides to drop in on Tyler's pawn shop tomorrow, and Tyler (learning the full situation from John), wonders if he can turn the hunters on to Dillon and keep himself out of it. John, for his part, admits that Leonard is not a good target for his Horror - he's not a neglectful father, he's trying to protect his kid from monsters.

Tomorrow Memorial Day!

Monday, August 17, 2015

#RPGaDay2015

Tired of these yet? They'll stop in a couple of weeks.


Favorite Fantasy RPG: Hmm. Fantasy is not a genre I love. I don't know if it's because "fantasy gaming" is largely equated, fairly or not, with D&D, and I don't much like D&D's "kill shit and take stuff" mentality (yeah, yeah, you don't have to play it that way, but that's what the mechanics want you to do) or because I fantasy fiction tends to bore me. If I'm gonna play a fantasy game, I want high fantasy, lots of magic, and I want to help build the world.

Now, I recently asked on Twitter what fantasy games involved collaborative world-building, and evidently Dungeon World and 13th Age both qualify. I own both, but have read neither (yet). Of the games I own and I've played, I think I have to go with Desolation. It's fantasy, but it's also post-apocalyptic and interesting, and deviates from a lot of the fantasy tropes that I don't care for.

If I could just play in a game that takes the themes seriously, rather than yukking about "rat cheese" and mutant cows...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Game Notes!

Well, first of all, the obligatory #RPGaDay2015 post.


Longest Game Session Played: Oh, that's easy. Check it out.

I started running World of Darkness games in 1994, when Wraith: The Oblivion came out. My Wraith game was a gateway drug into the rest of the WoD; it hadn't been my intention to bother (because the Vampire section of my FLGS was this intimidating green wall), but I wanted to know more about these worlds, so I bought and read every damn thing that came out for the World of Darkness. And I ran those games.

I mean, you gotta understand. I've mentioned that I ran Chill three or four nights a week in college, right? That was only until spring 1994 or so. And then Wraith came out that summer, and I transferred that same schedule to the World of Darkness.

We'd play games at the drop of a hat. One of us ("us" being me, my brother Jonathan, Carrie, Mikal, and later Jeff) would get a hair to run a WoD game, and boom, we'd figure out who was around and down to play, make characters, and bang, new chronicle. "One-shots" never lasted just one session, but games also rarely got finished. I had a huge binder, arranged by city, with the character sheets of the folks in that city - PCs and important NPCs (where "important" meant "Matt took the time to stat, which is pretty much everybody").

This went on for five years. The games got less frequent toward the end, but I was still running them, still adding new chronicles. And then, in 1999, I got married and we moved to Cleveland. I wanted a send-off for my World of Darkness, so I invited the players to Cleveland to play the end of the world (this was, you'll notice, five full years before White Wolf did Time of Judgment).

So it was me, Sarah, Carrie, Ally, Brandyn, Jonathan, Todd, Ryan, Mike, and Kevin. We all chipped in for Ally's plane ticket, because she was in New England somewhere, but the rest were in Toledo. We played for 13 solid hours, basically five separate sessions with everyone playing old characters, and we ended the world. Everyone was fucking knackered by the end, but it was awesome.

Anyway, that's enough space. How about some game notes?

Movie #323: Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2

I could do this with two separate entries, but it's really one movie.

Kill Bill is, as the title card proudly proclaims, the 4th film by Quentin Tarantino, and stars Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, and Perla Haney-Jardine (along with a lot of other folks, though not Tarantino himself, for once).

The movie is based on the character of the Bride, which Tarantino and Thurman came up with together, and is apparently a take on Lady Snowblood; most of Tarantino's work is, of course, derivative as hell, it's just that his sources aren't always obvious unless you know what to look for. This is no exception. Kill Bill meanders through tropes from anime, spaghetti westerns, wuxia, 70s revenge flicks, American action flicks, and blaxploitation flicks.

Basic premise is dirt simple: The Bride (Thurman) was a member of an international assassination ring called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, which sounds like something I'd have made up when I was 13. She leaves when she finds out she's pregnant, gets engaged to a schlub in El Paso, and is about to get married when Bill (Carradine), her boss, mentor, father figure, and (creepily enough) her baby's father shows up with the rest of DVAS (Divas, get it?) and kill everyone at the wedding rehearsal. The Bride herself is put into a coma, from which she reawakens four years later, and goes on a multi-national tour of revenge. The first film covers her waking up, going to Japan to kill O-Ren Ishii (Liu) and then back to the states to kill Vernita Green (Fox), though it's told in the other order because Tarantino is totally in love with non-linear storytelling. It ends with the revelation that her daughter survived. The first film is largely action; the Bride taking on the Crazy 88s (Ishii's personal bodyguard) and killing them all, a brutal fight between her and Green, and so on.

The second film is much slower paced; we see her take on Budd (Madsen), Bill's brother and only male member of the DVAS - and she loses, which is...weird? Problematic? He puts her in a deathtrap that she has no business surviving, but it's the only time in either movie that she's unequivocally on the ass-end of an ass-kicking, except at her wedding rehearsal when Bill shoots her in the head (more on that in a minute). But Budd doesn't survive long; the final DVA, Elle Driver (Hannah, in what might be my favorite performance of either movie) kills him and then battles the Bride, and is left blind but alive. The Bride then goes on to, as the title suggests, kill Bill, and goes off with her daughter, as the title cards inform us that the "lioness has returned to her cub, and all is right in the jungle."

So, I really do like these movies. Say what you want about Tarantino and his propensity for ripping off other movies, filling them with weird, stilted dialog, his foot fetish, and his misogyny - all of that has merit. But his movies look slick as hell, and he's really good at making long movies that don't feel long. Likewise, the characters very rarely feel stock; the advantage to his dialog is that we get to know the characters in a very conversational sort of way, but at the same time, he doesn't apologize for them being terrible people.

For instance, take Budd. Budd feels bad about what they did to the Bride. He says, "we deserve to die, but then again, so does she." I really like that idea, because it gives Budd some motivation for continuing to fight even when he knows that, by rights, the Bride deserves to get her revenge. And then I kind of feel like the "burying the Bride alive" thing was unnecessary, but it set up the revelation of how the Bride was trained by a sadistic Chinese master (Gordon Liu), so there's that.

I have two major problems with the movie: Women and children.

First, women. The main character and most of the antagonists are women. The DVAS is obviously designed to be all women, except for Budd, who is included because he's Bill's little brother, but we get the sense that he's something of a fuckup (which is why it bugs me that he's the one that beats the Bride). But the whole "super-team of deadly women" thing is a trope in itself, and the women don't get nearly the character development that the men (Bill, Budd, Hatori) get. The Bride's character arc is pretty much "get pregnant, get shot, go on rampage" and while her final scenes with Bill are nice, Bill's very much in control of them. There's also some nice tension between the Bride and Green, but it's so early in the movie and we're reeling from the fight scene (which is beautifully choreographed) that it's hard to take in.

And then, children. There are three child characters in the movie. One is only shown in flashback (O-Ren Ishii as a young girl, watching her parents get slaughtered and then killing the Yakuza boss responsible by taking advantage of the fact that he's a pedophile EWW). And then we've got Green's daughter Nikki (Ambroisa Kelley) and B.B. (Haney-Jardine), the Bride's daughter. Nikki has almost no lines. She speaks briefly with her mother when she catches the two women fighting, and witnesses the Bride stab her mother in the chest, killing her, and then has to listen as the Bride awkwardly tells her, "hey, if you want to come kill me when you're grown up, OK, then." The other child, of course, is the Bride's daughter (both of these girls are supposed to be four; Haney-Jardine was seven at the time and Kelley was eight, and that's noticeable). Tarantino doesn't really know what to do with kids. He doesn't have kids, he doesn't make movies with or about kids, and he doesn't seem to know how they work. It felt like his direction to Kelley during her scenes was "stand there and don't move," and I'm not saying that having react more naturally (i.e., scream, cry, run, wet herself, whatever) would have been more enjoyable, but it would have been less weird. Likewise, hearing bizarre Tarantino dialog coming from a little girl at the end ("Were you a baaaad Daddy?") is kind of uncomfortable.

All in all, it's a good movie. It feels much shorter than its four hour run time, and the individual scenes are good, but the overall whole feels disjointed at times, and I can't help but compare it to John Wick in terms of world-building. That movie had a sense of history; we had an idea, even if we weren't told, how the world worked and how Wick got where he was. In Kill Bill, we get vignettes, but a lot of the interesting details (how does the Bride travel internationally? Where's her ID? Why did the DVAS break up?) get ignored, and that's kind of a shame.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low; it's good, but long

Next up: The Babadook

Saturday, August 15, 2015

#RPGaDay2015


It's my birthday! Which is apropos of nothing for this project, just letting you know so you can send me presents.

Longest campaign played: Hmm. In terms of time, that'd be my Changeling: The Lost game, Snowblind, which ran four years (monthly). In terms of game sessions, I think it'd be my Werewolf: The Forsaken game, Silence of Time, which ran for 88 sessions.

I really like long campaigns. I've found that a lot of players kinda get burned out playing the same character for too long, so what we're doing now with Promethean (play a story, play something else for a while) seems to work pretty well.

Friday, August 14, 2015

#RPGaDay2015

Missed this yesterday.


Favorite RPG Podcast: This is terrible to admit, but I don't actually listen to podcasts, really. Listening to someone without something to watch makes me fidgety, but if I try to do something while I listen I miss what they're saying.

But, with that said, there have been a couple of podcasts that have been very nice to me, including +Darker Days Radio, 16MilesToHell, and +The Gentleman Gamer, so I'll give them shout-outs and call that good.

Favorite RPG Accessory: Hmm. I'm not much for screens, really. I used to use them more, but with the advent of PDFs I don't really need them to look things up, and I don't like blocking myself off from my players. I would say the Destiny Deck, but the company that made it (Stellar Games) is long out of business. So I will instead say Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters. It's a big, meaty book of plot hooks, arranged by genre. The authors somehow managed to strike a nice balance between specific enough to be useful but general enough to be hack-able, and I find the book invaluable for one-shots and starting off stories.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Board Games: Fluxx & Zombie Fluxx

I'd completely forgotten that we played Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx a while back, and since they're pretty similar, I'm gonna combine the write up.

Let's get Fluxxin!

The Game: Fluxx & Zombie Fluxx
The Publisher: Looney Labs
Time: Varies wildly
Players: Me, Al, Will, +Cheyenne+Dirty Heart+Matthew+Matthew

Game Play: Fluxx is a card game that starts out with a very simple rule: Draw one card, play one card. At the outset, it doesn't have an object. One of the four types of cards you can play, though, is a goal, which generally consists of two keepers. Keepers are just objects; you put them in front of you. If your keeps match up to the existing goal (Sleep & Dreams, for instance), you win!

The other two card types are Actions (take another turn, draw a number of cards equal to everyone in the game and distribute them) and, the real kicker, Rules. Rules, as the name implies, put new rules into the game. So you might wind up with Draw 4, Play All, meaning you draw four cards at the start of your turn, and then play them all, unless a card you play would restrict the number of cards you play.

Several rules, two goals, which can happen.
Opinions: I like Fluxx just fine, but I know people that can't stand it because you can't strategize at all. You can play a winning hand on your turn, but since the rules and the object of the game can turn so quickly, you really can't think ahead, especially in a bigger game like this. You just kind of have to go with the flow and win as you can, which is a very hippie attitude, which makes perfect sense, given who made it.

Keep? Yep.

Zombie Flux

Sarah is salty at zombies. 
The Game: Zombie Fluxx
The Publisher: Looney Labs
Time: Again, it really depends
Players: Same as above; I think Will might have sodded off

Game Play: So this works similarly to Fluxx, except that we add a new wrinkle: Creepers. 

Shoot it, man. Shoot it in the head. 
Creepers act like keepers, except you can't get rid of them easily and a lot of the goal cards say you can't win if you have a creeper on the board. Some of them require that you have a lot of creepers, so really it's a lot like Fluxx - you'll be playing and then suddenly discover you've won (or you play a card that makes someone else win because it's been 45 minutes and you'd rather play something else. 

Chey has a lot of zombies. 
Opinions: I dunno, it's cute. It adds a wrinkle, so if you've played Fluxx and you're starting to sober up, it's a good way to add some variety. 

Keep? Sure. 

Board Game: The Walking Dead

Board games forever!

The Game: The Walking Dead
The Publisher: Cryptozoic
Time: Half-hour or so
Players: Me, +Michelle, Al, Will

Atlanta, overrun.

Game Play: This is actually pretty interesting. Up to four players can play, you start off choosing a character (from the show, which I've not watched past the pilot and this rap battle, so I don't know these people, really). Each character has a special power that they can use once per game. I played Rick Grimes, and mine was that once a game I could reroll for a fight and add 2 to the result.

At the start, it's a competitive game: you've got four locations on the board, in the corners, and you need to visit them, have two encounters, and then you get a little token that gives you a special bonus or an item. Spaces on the board might be well-fortified, giving you a bonus to fight zombies, might let you draw a Scrounge card, but mostly they're blank and you draw an encounter card.

Encounter cards are usually zombie attacks, and you need to match or beat the zombies' Strength with a d6. That's awkward because I do believe 6 is the lowest Strength you find. You have to make up the difference with Scrounge cards, which are typically weapons, mostly one-use. If you lose, you lose an Ally token (you start with two and can pick up more on the board). If you have no allies, you dead.

Yep. Just like that.

Will, becoming a walker.
One the second players dies, the first two become walkers and can chase the remaining two around the board to eat them and win. If one human player gets all four location tiles and makes it back to camp, they win! Another complication: The Scrounge deck doesn't get reshuffled. Once it's out, it's out, and you're pretty much hosed.

Zombies win. 
Opinions: I like this game; it's a good attempt to make a board game that captures the brutal atmosphere of a zombie property. It'd definitely play different with fewer people because you wouldn't deplete the Scrounge deck as fast, and we'd definitely play it differently if we played it again, because there are times where you have the option to take two Scrounge cards or one from the discard pile, which would prolong things considerably.

Keep? Yep.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#RPGaDay2015


Day 12: Favorite RPG Image: This one, surprisingly, was easy. There's one image that stuck with me as the most arresting, moving, disquieting picture in an RPG book:


This was an illustration from Shoah: Charnel Houses of Europe. It's not the only book released under White Wolf's "for adults only" Black Dog imprint, but it's the only one, IMO, that earned the "for mature audiences" distinction. It's a book about the ghosts of the Holocaust, and I've seen people over the years argue that the subject shouldn't be in an RPG. I disagree. It should be in Wraith, and if that's uncomfortable, good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#RPGaDay2015


Day 11: Favorite RPG Writer: Huh. This is a tough one. It's funny, until the all-call in 1997 that led to me writing for White Wolf, I kinda didn't think of RPGs as being written by people. But then I got a job writing the, and started pay attention to voice a bit more.

The easy answer would be +Michelle Lyons-McFarland; she's done some really amazing work as a writer on RPGs (A Tragedy in Five Acts, Ex Machina, Orpheus: Shades of Grey, and Demon: The Descent spring to mind) but she's more often credited as an editor, which is its own special skillset. Plus, it does seem like a gimme, don't it? :)

I think that for this one, I have to give it to +Justin Achilli. Not only is he responsible for some game material that I found really compelling and immersive, but he also gave me my start in this industry by hiring me for Giovanni Chronicles IV. He's gone on to bigger and better things, obviously, but his work for Vampire and other WoD stuff always had an edge to it that I really loved. Also he taught me never to use the word "moist" in game writing, so there's that.

Monday, August 10, 2015

#RPGaDay2015


Today's madness is: Favorite RPG Publisher.

Wow. I know so many. I think I'll take the easy out and say Onyx Path Publishing. Part of that is because they hire me to write and develop their books, and that's neighborly of them, but also because because they're the outgrowth of White Wolf, which is the company that really gave me my start in the biz and so forth. And I love the World of Darkness, still and all. There's a depth there that only comes with multiple years in the biz, and while OPP stumbles sometimes, I really do believe that the folks behind it are good people and can help the RPG industry evolve and progress.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dragons, but no Dungeons


Day 9: Favorite Media You Wish Was an RPG: Licensed games are tricky. There are a lot more of them than you'd like; for a while it seemed like everything got a tie-in, often with WEG or Masterbook. But it wasn't until relatively recently that designers seemed to consider how the mechanics of a game might reflect the intent of the property, and when that happened, we got Smallville and its relationship maps, Leverage and its flashback mechanics, and Marvel Heroic and its Doom Pool. Good stuff.

But what hasn't been made into an RPG that I'd like to see? The easy answer is Neverwhere, but frankly that would easy, if a lot of fun (and I think would could do it with *World pretty easily).

But how about Saw?

No, hear me out. Give it a flashback mechanic, so you can play people who have already survived their traps. Make the horror about what they've seen, not what they're experiencing. Or maybe put them in a Saw II situation where there's a group of them, and each has a personal trap, but then maybe the strategy is figuring out how someone else can manage your trap.

It'd be dark and uncomfortable as shit, but y'know, maybe it would be fun.

Anyway, with that done, I also have a game report to write up: We played Epyllion yesterday! Epyllion is +Marissa Kelly's game about playing baby dragons, in the Apocalypse World system, and bearing witness to the returning Darkness. It's pretty awesome.

Our characters:

  • Veris, the Seer: A green dragon who values Curiosity, Veris belongs to House Semscale. 
  • Azrael, the Crafter: She belongs to House Kebros. She's black and blue, and values Bravery. 
  • Nova, the Warrior: Dark violet and red, Nova belongs to House Tessith. 
  • Freja, the Nature Adept: Nova's sister, Freja is purple and green, and also belongs to House Tessith. 
I had everyone add a feature to the map of Dragonia, and then asked some questions about it. Veris' player said that he was afraid of the Ashen Swamps because his friend Zircon had flown out over them one day and never returned. That sounded like a fun thing to explore. 

So, today, the elder dragons sent this clutch of drakes out to a settlement on the shores of the Great River (which eventually drops into the ocean at White Falls, which is the site of the Feast of Dragon's Breath, by the way). This settlement has been experiencing trouble - lack of food and other abnormalities. Before they leave, Veris uses haunting visions to see what awaits, and sees Zircon's last flight from her perspective - she flies into the swamp, chokes from the dust in the air, lands, and is pulled down into the muck.

The drakes fly south a ways, and arrive in the village to see that river diverts into a dragon-made lake, which the locals use to fish. So far, so good. 

They circle the village and see the edge of the swamp. Freja speaks with a swamp rat and tries to convince it to help, but it tries to get her to follow it into the swamp. Freja wisely refuses and flies up, as more rats try to surround her.

The drakes head into the settlement and talk to a local dragon, who tells them the leader of the village, Zandyl, is out hunting. They fly out to find him, and see him and two other dragons hunting wildebeest. They swoop in and grab one each (and Zandyl has the drakes grab one likewise), and they head back to the village. 

Zandyl tells them that the rock-root that they usually eat (a crisp, filling tuber that dragons can easily "harvest" with their claws) have come up squishy and rotted, so they've been fishing and hunting to make up for it, but they don't want to overfish the lake. The drakes ask if there are any other settlements nearby, and Zandyl says there's one in the Blue Forest, a few hours' flight northwest, and that the lakeside settlement trades with them, but he hasn't seen anyone from there recently. This seems a decent lead (and it gets them away from the swamp, which Veris appreciates), so they take wing. 

They find the village in the Blue Forest, but they can see something is wrong. The treetops are barren in places, like some of the trees are blighted. They land and see that the trees have carvings indicating that the locals were House Rothscar, and they can see walkways and handholds to allow dragons to live in the treetops (Nova, being large and stocky, clings to trunks). 

Freja uses scent of a place and finds Darkness in the center of the village. The ground is covered in leaves and light debris, but no one wants to land there. They poke at it, and it's squishy, like quicksand. Veris, meanwhile, examines the walkways, and finds some of them broken and brittle - the ones near the center. Freja examines the ground and discovers it's not solid at all.

Freja calls upon the liberty moon for purification magic and, in a theme that would continue, rolls really well. The magic causes the ground to send up a geyser of dust, but then it solidifies. Azrael examines the ash that got kicked up, and realizes it's not ash, it's bone dust, and it's carrying Dark magic. Freja talks to a squirrel, who tells her that the ground swallowed up the dragons that were here before. Horrified, the characters figure they need to look into the swamp or find out if there are any other afflicted areas. 

The drakes decide to sleep here and head back to the village in the morning to report what they've found. Freja keeps a lookout, and her friend the squirrel comes to find her. He reports a tree that that vibrating and humming, as though full of something moving. Figuring it worked once, Freja calls on the liberty moon again and purifies the tree. It cracks in half and the dust blows away, but underneath she can see a tunnel. 

The others wake, and see the tunnel. They can hear rushing water. It's big enough to admit them, and Nova is interested to see what's below, so she acts despite danger and pushes her way in. She falls into an underground river and is swept along, and the others follow, but she comes to a fork in the tunnel. She goes left, but the others, unable to tell which way she went, go right. 

Nova gets dumped into a chasm, big enough to deploy her wings. She swoops low, but then something lurches up from below - it's a dragon, but skeletal! Creeped out, Nova talks to it, and it tells her it can smell Veris on her. It also makes it clear that it intends to collect her bones, and she realizes that the creature has multiple arms. She makes a battle plan and prepares to fight. 

Nova battles the Darkness, twice, and both times she trades Harm with the skeletal dragon. Realizing that it will kill her if she lets it (and having marked two Shadow Points; Anger, at which she loudly curses Veris, and Self-Doubt, at which she slams into it without thinking), she decides to flee. She calls upon the liberty moon to escape, and flies down through a tunnel, smashing the walls with her tail on the way so the monster can't follow her. 

Meanwhile, the others shoot out the underground river into the above-ground river, and into the lake. They break the surface and fly into the village to talk to Zandyl, but he doesn't want to hear about a whole village disappearing. Freja tries to stand up to an elder dragon and fails, and Zandyl storms off. Veris tries to call upon the storm moon to cause the ground to erupt like it did in the village, but he loses control of the magic and Zandyl falls into the a whole. Zandyl bursts out of the ground, grabs Veris, and flies up, summoning up a storm ("figures, the one moon he's still got left"). Azrael flies up and tries to stand up to Zandyl, but he throws lightning at her and she backs off (she missed). Veris finally finds his courage and stands up to Zandyl, telling him that something terrible really is happening and they can stop it. 

Nova appears about this time, wounded and bleeding. Freja calls upon the spirit moon to heal her, and she talks to Zandyl about the coming Darkness, which of course doesn't go over well. She stands up to an elder dragon, and impresses him - he gives her his old armor, which just about fits (Nova is stocky). 

The drakes come up with a pretty straightforward plan; they're going to go back down the tunnel and confront the skeletal dragon, whom Veris assumes is the remains of Zircon. They decide that Freja and Nova will distract her, while Azrael and Veris work magic to purify her. Azrael helps Nova work magic; she calls upon the stone moon to grant them a blessing. Nova leads them against the Darkness, and off they go!

They fly down into the tunnels, and the skeletal dragon attacks, now with more bones worked into her jaw for a bigger bite! Freja tries to help Nova, but misses and gets slammed against the wall. Nova acts despite danger to save Freja, but ends up having to choose who to protect; Azrael and Veris get lashed with the undead dragon's tail. Azrael helps Veris with his magic, and Veris calls upon the liberty moon to put his friend to rest. 

The ground bursts open, exposing the skeletal dragon to the moonlight. It flies up, then falls apart, bones raining back into the earth. The swamp begins to recede, and the land is cleansed again. 

The drakes, bloodied but victorious, head for the village. They talk about heading home to Flat Rock Mountain, but then they realize that the Feast of the Dragon's Breath is only a few short days weeks away. If they head south, they'll get there early and get a good camping spot! 

To be continued. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Day 7 & 8


Knew I was forgetting something yesterday.

7th - Favorite Free RPG: Which is funny, because for a long time, World of Darkness games were effectively free to me. :)

Hmm. Have I ever played a free RPG? You know, Fate is "pay what you want," which isn't free per se, but is close enough for my purposes, and since it's one I know I've played and I really like, I'll go with that.

8th - Favorite Appearance of RPGs in the Media: By which I assume we mean "in media," rather than "in the media," but I don't know. Hmm. Does The Gamers count? I thought that movie was a pretty good master class in how not to run an RPG, on a lot of topics.

Oh, no, wait, I've got it: "D&DD," the episode of Dexter's Laboratory where DD takes over running Dexter's D&D game and promptly ditches Dexter's rules-heavy, ham-handed GM style for a more narrative one, and everyone has a great time.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Character Creation: Mechwarrior 3rd Edition

So, I felt like making a character tonight, and +Michelle suggested everyone (that is, me, her and the boys) making Mechwarrior characters because it involves lifepaths.

I like lifepaths, so what the heck. Family chargen night.

The Game: Mechwarrior 3rd Edition
The Publisher: FASA Corp
Degree of Familiarity: None. Haven't even read it. Gonna wing it.
Books Required: None but the core, I hope.

OK, so, Michelle's summary of this game is "interplanetary war in big fighting machines." I can't help think there's probably more to it, but here we go!

So, the first step according to the book is to come up with a concept, but Michelle says this is unnecessary if we're using the lifepaths, which we are. So! We'll skip ahead to affiliation.

I don't have much of a preference, here, so I roll a die (excluding one I don't like) and come up with the Capellan Confederation, House Liao. Looks kinda communist. I need a minimum of SOC 3 to be a citizen, whatever that means, and I get Martial Arts/Gung Fu +1, Language/Any Capellan Secondary +1 as Bonus Skills. Oops, I do have path restrictions, too. I need to be a citizen to take certain lifepaths, so I'd better make sure I have that, whenever it becomes relevant.

And now, the Life Path. We proceed in four stages: Early Childhood, Late Childhood, Higher Education, and Real Life.

So! For my Stage One, I take White Collar. That gives me SOC 4 as an Attribute Minimum, STR -1 as an Attribute Threshold, Wealth as a Trait, Skills: Academic/Any +1, and Language/Affiliation +1. And then I roll for my event. My diplomat character's parents dragged him from world to world, which gives me SOC +1 (that's handy), Contact 2, Wealth, Language/Any +2, Protocol/Any +1, Zero-G Operations +1. My choices for my next Path are High School, Prep School, or Military School. I'll do the latter, sounds fun.

Stage Two, then. I get WIL 3 as a minimum, CHA -1 and SOC +1 as Attribute Thresholds, Promotion as a Trait (if what I take next is Military Enlistment or Academy), Academic/Military History +2, Computers +1, Leadership +2, Rifles +1, Martial Arts/Military +1. For my event, I made friends with the Commandant (I get Contact). For Stage Three, I'll take Military Academy.

That gives me INT 3, WIL 3, and SOC 3 as Attribute Minimums, RFL +1, BOD +1, WIL +1, and SOC +1 as Attribute Thresholds, Promotion and Well-Equipped as Traits, Basic Training as a Field, and Academic/Military History +2, Leadership +1, Protocol/Affiliation +2, and Swimming +2 (wtf?). Then I have to take Advanced Individual Training as my next path. For my event, I spend too much time doing desk work; I get Rifles -1, Martial Arts/Military -1, Computers +1, Administration +1).

From there I go into Advanced Individual Training subpath, which takes me two years. I get Promotion, again. I get Leadership +1, and I can add 1 to three Basic Training Skills and 1 to any other Skill. I pick a Field, too. Hmm. I'll take DropShip Pilot. I have an idea about where this is going. My next Path, then, is Special Training.

Special Training takes me 3 more years, making me 22 when I get out. I add one to an Attribute Threshold of my choice, I get Leadership +1, +1 to three Basic Training Skills, +1 to half my AIT skills rounded up, and +1 to any other Skill. I get Promotion, Wealth, and Well-Equipped. I'll take JumpShip Pilot, and my next Path has to be Tour of Duty.

That's be Tour of Duty (Inner Sphere): It takes me 2 years. I get +2 to any three Skills from Military Fields, and +1 to two other Skills. For my event, I am gallant in the field! (And my superior buys it.) I get Brave, Commission (Rank 1), Good Reputation. I'll go back and do another Tour of Duty, which means I just double all that shit, and then I'm off the chart and high on life. Oh, I get an event. Uneventful garrison duty; I get a +1 to any Skill.

So now I synthesize all this crazy shit, figure out my skills, and so forth. But first, a bit of concept. My character was the child of diplomats, and got dragged around world to world when he was a kid. He wound up going to military school as a result of fascination with the military and his parents' security escorts, but wasn't really enamored of the "fighting and killing" bit, preferring to do administrative stuff and not really deal with the hard stuff. That got him in trouble, though; one of his superiors got him reassigned to DropShip duty. But then during a battle, that same superior got himself killed and my character piloted a damaged DropShip out of fire, earning himself a commission and a cushy job...up until now, when he's (hang on) 26. Pretty young to be an officer, but c'est la guerre.

Now I figure out Attributes, Traits, and Skills. I guess I figure out Minimums and Thresholds; let's see.

STR Min ; Threshold -1
BOD Min ; Threshold +1
DEX Min ; Threshold
RFL Min ; Threshold +1
INT Min 3; Threshold
WIL Min 3; Threshold +1
CHA Min ; Threshold -1
EDG Min ; Threshold
SOC Min 4; Threshold +2; +1

I also get a +1 to a Threshold of my choice. Now, what? It looks like I have to spend my 50 points to raise Attributes, but raising them past their Thresholds costs extra. My Thresholds kind of suck, though, and I'm not seeing anything that sets a starting value. Hang on. Oh, OK, I see; they all start at 6, except Edge, which starts at 8. So my Thresholds are:

STR Min 2; Threshold 5
BOD Min 2; Threshold 7
DEX Min 4; Threshold 6
RFL Min 2; Threshold 7
INT Min 5; Threshold 6
WIL Min 3; Threshold 7
CHA Min 2; Threshold 5
EDG Min 2; Threshold 8
SOC Min 4; Threshold 8

OK, so I'll put my extra point into Charisma. And then I get a free +1 in SOC, I guess. So now I get 50 points, which cover Attributes and Traits, and I have to buy up my Attributes to their minimums. OK, well, after doing that, I've spent 26 points, and most of my Attributes kind of suck. I really want 5, minimum, across the board. Can I afford that? I can, it would cost me 45. Hmm. Well, let's do this. Let's leave Strength at 2, and pump Edge up to 8, and (since I have a free point in SOC), that means I've spent 44.

So, then Traits. I better figure out what I have from the Life Path:

Wealth (3)
Contact (2)
Contact
Promotion (4)
Well-Equipped (2)
Brave
Commission (Rank 1)
Good Reputation

Man, I got no negative traits at all. Well, I'll combine my Contact traits to reflect the Commandant; he was an old friend of the family and looked after my character as much as he could. He's retired now, living off his commission and doing very well for himself, but still has a lot of pull in the military.

With all my Promotion, I was a Squad 2nd when I got a Commission, but now I'm a Lance. I have 10,000 C-Bills to start with, and Well-Equipped changes the availability of gear, but since I'm unlikely to shop I don't think that matters. Well, let's maybe take some negative traits. I'll take Poor Hearing 2 (DropShip engines are loud) and Stigma 2 (he's widely regarded as someone who lucked into his wealth and commission, which isn't entirely fair). That gives me four points back, which means I have a total of 10. I'm actually pretty happy with my Traits, I think. Well, maybe I'll take Well-Connected 2, and G-Tolerance. That leaves me 7 more points. I'll put them into Attributes. I'll pump SOC to 7 (4 points remaining), RFL and Will to 7.

Now Skills, for crying out loud. Let's total 'em up!

Martial Arts/Gung Fu 1
Language/English 2
Language/French 2
Academic/Military History 5
Protocol/Capellan 3
Computers 2
Leadership 3
Rifles 4
Swimming 2
Administration 2
Martial Arts/Military 3
Career/Soldier 4
Career/Pilot 1
Navigation/Space 1
Piloting/Aero 4
Zero-G Operations 4

Now I figure bonuses.

Martial Arts/Gung Fu +0
Language/English +0
Language/French +0
Academic/Military History +1
Protocol/Capellan +1
Computers +0
Leadership +1
Rifles +1
Swimming +0
Administration +0
Martial Arts/Military +1
Career/Soldier +1
Career/Pilot +0
Navigation/Space +0
Piloting/Aero +1
Zero-G Operations +1

I have 12 points remaining (because a score in a Skill translates to a bonus, but only at certain levels, and then you total the remainders...jesus, game design has progressed since this). Going from a +0 to a +1 costs 2 points, which means I could do that a few times. Hmm. I'll put Administration, Computers, Career/Pilot and Navigation/Space up to +1, and that leaves me with 5 points. Going from +1 to +2 costs four points, so I'll put Zero-G Operations to +2.

And that's all the number-crunching, unless I wish to shop, which I do not. My character's name is Chu Ziao. He's in his mid-20s, and he keeps himself in good shape, though his combat skills are mostly theoretical. He's a decent pilot, but he's mostly coasted on luck so far. That's maybe about to change.


#RPGaDay2015 Day 6

That time again!


Most Recent RPG Played: Well, that's easy. +Travis Scott came over last night and ran The Sprawl for us.

I really like this game, BTW. It's an Apocalypse World hack, cyber-punk style, and it captures a lot of the bits of Shadowrun that I like (planning jobs, getting paid, shopping for cool gear, violence) and cuts out the shit I don't like (fantasy elements, stupid slang, a million books, another million books). We've got one more session yet, and I'm looking forward to squeezing in another job. My character just bought another drone, it's pretty baller.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Movie #322: John Wick

John Wick is an action/revenge movie starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe, and Alfie Allen. It's also the name of a game designer, we know, so just get that out of your system.

The titular character (Reeves) is grieving the death of his wife (Bridget Moynahan, kind of wasted in the role, but keep reading). We don't see her except in flashbacks, and we just know she died after a battle with some kind of illness. On the evening of her funeral, Wick receives a delivery - an adorable little beagle puppy, with a note from his wife telling him that she's at peace, but he needs to learn to love something.

Wick, obviously broken up, begins to care for the doggie, but this healing process is immediately cut short when Iosef (Allen), the son of a local crime boss (Nyqvist), breaks into Wick's house with some of his droogs, steals Wick's car, and murders the puppy. And then the brutal revenge rampage starts, because it turns out that Wick isn't just some nobody, he's a former assassin (once in the employ of Iosef's father, as it happens) so terrifying that people call him "the Boogeyman."

The rest of the movie follows a pretty standard "badass murders everyone" pattern, and then at the end, Wick finds himself a new puppy, and walks off into the night, still trying to heal.

OK, so, I really like this movie. I saw it in theaters and I'm happy to own it. Here's why:

First, the movie makes the grieving process that Wick is going through feel real. Reeves isn't the most demonstrative actor on the best of days, but here it makes him look numb, which is appropriate - he's a hardened killer who has no idea how to be vulnerable, and he desperately needs to be. Also, the movie lingers on moments of vulnerability - when he receives the card from his wife, when he buries the dog, when he converses with a bartender who knows him and knows what he's feeling.

Second, OMG the world-building in this movie is fantastic. It doesn't insult us by giving us a wide-eyed assassin-in-training or something. The world is just taken as read. Everyone knows Wick, because he's that badass. Even the Nyqvist's character, Viggo, protects his son out of desperate love and obligation, but he knows, deep down, that he's fucked. The city has a hotel for the criminal underworld that has its own currency, for crying out loud, and a set of rules that are strict but that people are quite willing to break for the right reasons. Seriously, if you want to see how Vampire: The Requiem could look, watch this movie.

Third, the fight choreography. I've never seen anything quite like it. Wick is methodical, dispassionate, and precise. He double-taps. He takes deliberate head shots when fighting groups. By the end of the movie, he's beat to hell, but you believe everyone is afraid of him.

Now, there are a couple of issues with this movie. One is that I have a hard time understanding why Viggo goes after Marcus (Dafoe), Wick's friend - the stated reason that is that Marcus helped Wick when he was supposed to be killing him, but you've gotta figure that Viggo knew Wick would come for him (and yes, he was fleeing the city, but still, it felt silly, tacked on because Wick needed to kill Viggo and we needed a reason for him to do it).

And then other thing is Adrianne Palicki's character, Ms. Perkins. She's another assassin who takes the contract on Wick, breaks the rules of the Continental, and then gets executed by the shadowy...crime-police for doing it. I'm actually fine with how she's portrayed in the movie and with what happens to her, but I've seen some folks suggest sexual violence at her execution. Having watched it again, I don't buy it - it's four guys, surrounding her at compass points, each firing a single shot. You see it from a distance, she dies standing up and doesn't make a sound, and no one says a word to her that references her gender or appearance. She's treated exactly like the other badasses in the movie.

But anyway. I really enjoy this movie, and I hear there might be a sequel, but frankly if they made a prequel about Perkins and just had Wick show up in a supporting role, I'd be all about that.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Kill Bill

#RPGaDay: Day 5


Most Recent RPG Purchase: I bought several RPGs at GenCon, as one does, but I think the last purchase I made before the dealer's hall closed was at Indie Press Revolution, which mean it was probably At the Hands of an Angry God. It looks like a Fiasco like game in which the players are building a Utopia and trying to make it work where many others have failed. Very much the kind of game the group that's currently playing Epyllion (or trying; we're having trouble getting it off the ground) would enjoy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Beast: Smashed Windows and Sunk Boats

I ran the second session in my Beast: The Primordial game last night. Almost didn't; we drove in from Indy yesterday and Michelle and I were tired, but the game is just starting up and it was important to me to build some momentum.

So! The characters hung out in the bar and chatted about Doc Bones and little bit. Tyler was concerned that she might be granting people time when they shouldn't have it, cheating the Reaper, as it were, but the others felt that all she was doing was improving the lots of people who were going to die. During lunch, Tyler got a phone call from the Parma police - someone had vandalized his shop. The others in the brood asked if he wanted them to tag along, and he said no, so they tagged along anyway.

Someone had thrown a cinderblock through the window of the shop, and then sprayed something on the door and lit it (the door was scorched, but it hadn't caught). Tyler was annoyed; he'd just had that glass replaced. He checked the closed-circuit TV and identified the vandal as the guy he'd set on fire for trying to fence his stuff...and the guy didn't have so much as a scorch mark on him. How strange. He asked Miriana to look in on the woman he'd fed on the day before, just to make sure she wasn't involved.

The brood split up for the afternoon. Maia went to Lake Erie, activated her Heart of the Ocean Atavism, and went swimming around. She found a shipwreck not far off the coast, and inside, she found an unclaimed Chamber. She touched the walls and saw a vision of girl sitting on a bed in a cabin, staring in horror at her hand as her fingers twisted and elongated. And then something thumped against the side of the boat, smashing it in, and Maia saw something huge and hair slither in as the boat sank.

Maia realized if she could figure out what happened, she could add this shipwreck to her Lair. Enthused by the thought, she went to the library to check out some news stories about shipwrecks; the wreck couldn't be more than a year old.

Miriana did indeed drop by the woman's place, and found her door unlocked and her on the couch, catatonic. The place was a Chamber, and Miriana called up Tyler and told him so. Miriana then went to the park and started looking around for people jogging and not appreciating what was around them. She found a woman with a FitBit, running along, and used her You Can Never Rest Nightmare on her to scare her. The woman picked up the pace, and Miriana chased her until the woman outran her, and Miriana's Horror fed on the fear.

John, meanwhile, did some digging into his next potential mark. The guy, Leonard, had a son named Max on John's Little League team, and Leonard was very much of the "win! WIIIN!" school of parenting. John hacked his social media and found that Leonard had been a football player in his youth, but now worked for a bank and was fair uninteresting...except he had a quasi-monthly charge at a scuzzy motel over on Pearl, just into Strongsville. John, figuring he was about due for another such meeting, staked the place out, and saw Leonard arrive. He followed him around back and peeked in the window, and saw Leonard with a woman...and three other guys. No, not like that. They were talking.

John used Shadowed Soul and slipped in through the shadow, listening in. They talked about Dillon, a fence who'd been brought into the ER the day before claiming a guy had breathed fire on him, but now he was perfectly fine. The group decided he wasn't a "bloodsucker" since this had happened during the day, but he'd bear watching. John, funnily enough, felt the same way about these folks.

Tyler went by his victim's house and knocked, and heard a thud from within. He found the woman collapsed in the hall, so clearly she'd been up and around a bit. He realized he could turn this place into a Chamber, but didn't fancy the idea of an inhabited one, so he just called EMS to come look after the catatonic woman and went on his way.

Next time: Maia has a date with Ryan on his boat. Tyler is looking for Dillon. John continues his investigations.

#RPGaDay2015, Day 4


Yep, this again.

Most Surprising Game: Hmm. What criteria to use here? I think I'll say Misspent Youth. It's been a while since I ran it (the campaign is here). I wasn't expecting it to grab hold of me the way it did; it's an indie game about challenging the Authority, and it asks the players to create said Authority. Each session is an episode, and I find I enjoy structured games like that.

Also, Misspent Youth falls into a kind of odd category for games for me: I bought it, read it, and ran it without anyone turning me on to it or showing me how it went. That was the way of things when I was in college, but in more recent years I'm much more likely to play games I've played before or been able to at least demo. Misspent Youth is easy to run right out of the box, which is something I aspire to (and, like, pretty much failed at with curse the darkness, but I still like it).

(BTW, Misspent Youth is for sale here.)

GenCon 2015: The Sweatening

When people asked me how I was or how my con was going this year at GenCon, my go-to response was "sweaty." For the first several days, it was hot as balls and I was running around crazy-like getting and keeping the IGDN booth going.

But this was the best GenCon I've had in years. It's the first time in quite a while that, when Saturday night rolled around, I found myself thinking "aw, I'm not done yet!" rather than "OMG I WANT HOME."

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. I didn't take a lot of pictures this year, but I took a few.

Wednesday

+Michelle and I got into Indy on Wednesday afternoon after a thoroughly uneventful drive. No traffic to speak of, no construction, it was glorious. We were driving a cargo van, stuffed to the gills with material for the booth and several boxes of Chill

Wait, do vans have gills?

First order of business: Set up the IGDN booth. We had help from lots of lovely people including +Joel Sparks+Andreas Walters+Jesse Butler, and others I'm forgetting, I'm sure. We only managed to get it about 70% done, though, because folks had to scatter for the evening (including me - I had a Chill game for backers that night!). 

But before that, a quick look at Cardhalla, under construction: 




And then a quick stop at an awesome little food truck called Karma Kitchen. 


And then the game! The game went really well (this was the "Regional Coordinator: Indianapolis" backer level; folks make characters, the incomparable +Timm Henson illustrated them, the equally incomparable [see what I did there?] +Thomas Deeny laid them out, and I ran the game). I whipped up a game set in Milwaukee (their HQ of choice) involving a Spectral Remnant shoving drunk college students into the river so it could "rescue" them, and then failing miserably. They managed to get it to actually save someone, and it passed on peacefully. 

Speaking of "passing on peacefully," by that point it was late and time to sleep. 

Thursday

Thursday, we hit the booth, got the books set up, and got it lookin' pretty. 


And then I had a game to play in: World of Dew. Now, I'd run this game once, in order to review it, so I was looking forward to playing it and seeing how it worked with the creator. For the most part, it worked very much like it did when I ran it. 

The game was fun, and it was cool watching +Benjamin Woerner run it. I played a police inspector investigating a murder, but the particulars of the murder unfolded as we played (with player input). The group was...just OK. One of the players was playing a smuggler, and named him Han Solo (but, like, with different vowels so it was vaguely Asian or something). I get the feeling like the group didn't quite grok the tone that we were going for, but they came around as we played. My grade: A. 

Stabbin', shootin', noirin'. 

So then I had some time in the booth, selling books. It was pretty busy, which was nice. And then later on in the evening, I ran a game of Beast: The Primordial for some folks. It went pretty well; it was the same scenario I ran here. Some investigation followed by a short fight. No one played the vampire this time, but all five Beasts were represented. 

And then sleep. 

Friday

Friday morning, after a booth check-in, I had a Chill game to run. I ran Cold, Dark Earth again (one of my goals for this week is to get that up on the website for you, but if it doesn't happen this week it'll happen soon). We only had three players this time, so I was a little worried about them getting killed, but the players were smart, asked the right questions, did some strong research, and won the day. 

So then, I had a panel for the new World of Darkness, and some time to sign things at the Onyx Path booth, and then a game of Bluebeard's Bride

Now, I'd been looking forward to this game for while. It's an Apocalypse World hack created by +Sarah Richardson+Marissa Kelly, and +Whitney Beltr├ín. In it, you play aspects of the titular Bride's psyche, and wander Bluebeard's castle on the wedding night, opening doors and experiencing the horrors therein until you reach the final room and meet your fate. This game got under my skin like very little else has in a long time; I actually wound up playing it again Saturday night. 

Anyway, in our game, I played the Fatale, and got to revel in sensuality, which is kinda what I do anyway, so that was cool. We wound up escaping, but being rejected by our family and thrown back to Bluebeard. (I love tragic games, have I mentioned?) My grade: A

Sarah, trying to make us shudder in fear.
And then sleep!

Saturday

Holy cats, Saturday already? I got up early to play in a game called Clockwork Dominion. This is a steampunk game, but with a strong existential, Matrix-if-it-understood-subtle thing behind it. The game uses cards instead of dice, but uses a custom deck with numbers from -5 to 5 on it, so you just draw and add your relevant stats. Our characters were teenagers in a gang called the Penny Reds, and there was a West Side Story plus human traffic thing going on. It was a lot of fun, the game was really nice looking and seemed to flow well. The group was nicely cohesive and the GM played well off of us. If I have a complaint, it's that she read from a script, but she had really good delivery so it wasn't as snooze-inducing as I usually find that particular practice. I went and bought a copy of the game afterwards. My Grade: A-

Game set up when we got there? Check.
Rescuing St. James from Mr. Dandy!
After that, I had a game of curse the darkness to run. I realized as I set up that it had been a solid year since I'd run the game, and I was worried that I'd forgotten how it went, but muscle memory kicked in just fine. The characters were in Vegas and searching for water, and wound up moving their whole community to a lake out in Minnesota after a disastrous run-in with some anti-Between folks looking to trade water. +Chris Shaffer died twice!

And then dinner with the IGDN folks at Mikado, where much sushi was consumed. And then back over to the convention center for the second game of Bluebeard's Bride (with +Cheyenne Wall-Grimes+Michelle Lyons-McFarland, and Christina, whom I don't have on G+). We wound up getting killed outright this time. It was just as awesome. 

Sunday

So, for the first time in I don't know how many years, I was not ready for the con to be over. But c'est la vie. I ran my annual game of Clay-o-Rama on Sunday morning, for a table full of kids (unlike Origins, which was mostly adults). 

Claydonians-to-be.
The construction phase. 
The victor, the mighty Pretzel!
After that, a couple of hours in the booth, and then a scant hour wandering the dealer's room, and then tear-down, and then dinner at Weber's followed by some really awesome discussions with +Mark Diaz Truman+Jason Pitre+Marissa Kelly+Michelle Lyons-McFarland+Mark Richardson+Jacob Wood+John Kennedy+Eloy Lasanta and probably some other folks I'm forgetting. 

And then, then next day, Michelle and I loaded the stuff from the booth into the van and then headed home again. The dealer's room looks creepy without any dealers. 


But here is the swag pile!


 Greatly looking forward to next year!