Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Unpossessed

Last night was Blades in the Dark. Last time, the crew figured that Strain, the Gondolier they were searching for, was possessed but alive, and was hiding out under a bridge near the Docks. The crew decides that this mission is occult, so they decide their arcane method - exorcism. I make the engagement roll, and off we go!

The crew finds Strain under a bridge at low tide. They flank him, but he tries to run. Copper tackles him easily, though, and Cage pulls out a ghost anchor - a great big chunk of hematite which he affixes to the rock with tar.

Problem is, that reacts badly to Strain's tattoo. The tattoo starts to sink into his flesh (though it does hold him in place), and the anchor starts pulling in ghosts from all around. Copper punches a few of them, and Siren unleashes a barrage of ectoplasm bullets, but then her guns get magnetized to the anchor and she loses them (temporarily).

One Eye figures they'd better figure this out and tries to reckon a way to alter the tattoo and de-power it, but she screws it up. Suddenly she can see (only) the ghost field - the canal water is black nothingness, the ghosts howl in the distance, and she doesn't see Strain, but instead the ghost possessing him. That ghost looks pissed at Cage.

Cage, seeing none of this, whips out his lightning anchor and yanks the ghost right out of Strain. Turns out it's Nyryx - a ghost that Cage captured back in his Spirit Warden days, and who just keeps getting free. The ghost is captured, but Strain is bleeding out (his tattoo has become a wound), and One Eye is incommunicado.

Copper slaps some healing herb on One Eye to calm her down, and One Eye stitches up Strain the best she can, but they figure they'd better get him to the Gondoliers. They load Strain into their boat and flag down the first Gondolier they see...but they aren't real welcome amongst the Gondoliers. The Gondolier opens fire on the with a cannon, and they weather several hits before finally holding up Strain and providing proof of life.

They all come ashore and give Strain over (but Cage keeps the spirit bottle with Nyryx). The Gondolier tells them that this doesn't fix things, but the Gondoliers do look after their own, so this is appreciated. When the crew gets back to their lair, they find another Gondolier waiting with a package of Coin. The score is over, and the crew did pretty well.

Downtime: Everyone heals, of course, and everyone indulges their vice. One Eye works on her false eye a bit more. Copper starts training the demon wolf, intending to eventually make it a cohort for the crew. Cage continues his studies into the Path of Echoes. They've also generated enough Heat to get a Wanted Level, so that'll be exciting, considering they're actually on OK terms with the Bluecoats.

Movie #431: Moana

Moana is an animated Disney film starring Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temeura Morrison, and Jemaine Clement.

Moana (Cravalho) is the daughter of the chieftain of her village on the island of Motunui, and though she longs to sail the seas, she adapts to being a leader and problem solver for her people. Her grandmother (House) tells her stories about the great goddess Te Fiti, whose heart was stolen by the trickster demigod Maui - that lack of heart gave rise to the fire demon Te Ka, whose influence is slowly poisoning the world. When a blight does indeed hit the island, Moana learns that her people were once voyagers, but stopped when boats stopped coming back (thanks to monsters unleashed by the blight). She vows to find Maui and force him to return Te Fiti's heart.

She does find Maui (Johnson), but he's egocentric, puffed up, and in no mood to try and face Te Ka. But Moana helps him get back his magical fishhook from Tamatoa (Clement), a giant crab channeling David Bowie, Maui teaches her to sail, and eventually they confront Te Ka only to learn that Te Ka is Te Fiti - she simply forgot who she was without her heart.

This movie is really beautiful. The music, partially written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, carries the movie without being distracting or shoehorning in a number when we don't need one. The performances are fantastic, and Moana manages to be a badass without feeling like it's unearned - she struggles with her role as the chosen of the ocean, just as Maui struggles with wanting people to love him as a hero.

This is what happens when you get a bunch of people to make a movie with some cultural underpinnings and they understand that culture. Do that more, Disney.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Money Pit

Chill: Hazing

Sunday was Chill. I don't mean it was chill. It's chilly today. Moving on.

We open on a crisp fall Idaho morning at the University of Idaho, and Dr. Dylan Reeves, anthropology professor and SAVE envoy, has learned that a student was murdered on campus last night. The body of one Shawn Mendoza was discovered near his frat house (Alpha Gamma Rho), and the rumors Dylan is hearing is that the poor young man was beaten to death.

Dylan, not necessarily suspecting the Unknown, but horrified by the event, makes his office hours as a campus counselor known, and goes out to the house. He finds a police cordon in effect, and a campus security officer who tells him that the body has already been moved and the Boise PD are handling everything.

Dylan knocks on the frat house door and talks with a couple of brothers; they mention that Shawn may have had a girlfriend named Stacy, but state that between classes and practice (Shawn was here on a football scholarship), they rarely saw him. Dylan leaves and texts Auntie Dee...and then sees her walking toward the house, carrying a couple of casseroles. Dee goes to church with the family of Charlie, the AGR chapter president, and is here to offer food, support, and the services of her "therapy dog" Sweet Baby Jesus.

She and Dylan go back into the house and talk with the boys some more, but don't learn much more than they did (though the fellows are happy to take a moment petting the pooch, though they might not admit it). Dee texts Jordan and BB and has them come out and look around a bit. Jordan does so by way of an EMT friend of hers, who worked the case. The EMT says that Shawn was definitely beaten to death by multiple assailants, probably with clubs or wood - Shawn had splinters in his hands from defending himself.

The envoys get together outside the house and BB brings up the obvious point - why would SAVE get involved? Sure, it's weird, but it's not like this kind of violence is unknown (let alone Unknown), even in Boise. Dee takes Sweet Baby Jesus over to the police cordon and Senses the Unknown. The little dog goes nuts and Dee feels it, too - "Yep, it's a SAVE case."

The envoys still aren't sure exactly how the Unknown is involved, though. They get some dinner, and then decide to try and track down Stacy, Shawn's girlfriend; rumor has it she's a Tri-Delt. The envoys go to the sorority house and Dee pulls the same trick ("here's a salad, pet my dog"), but learns that there are no sisters named Stacy. In fact, talking to one of them, Dylan learns that the only Stacy they known is Stacy Diaz, a football player and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

They look through the house a bit, and realize that behind the houses there's a kind of "alley" that leads between the houses on Greek Row, but the windows are positioned such that the alley is one long blind spot. Apparently students go there to snog or get high. While the other envoys chat with students, Dee, figuring Jesus is telling her to check this out, walks into the alley. Sweet Baby Jesus scampers off, barking at someone, and then Dee hears him yelp.

Racing up to her dog, she finds Sweet Baby Jesus lying on the ground whimpering. She yells for help and the others come running. The dog's back leg is broken; Jordan restrains it the best she can and Dylan and Dee head for an emergency vet. BB and Jordan stay to look around. In the bushes, BB finds a length of wood with some dog fur on it - the weapon used to smack poor little Sweet Baby Jesus. But who would want to do that, and where did they run off to? Jordan Senses the Unknown and winds up with a Colossal Success (which means the Unknown senses her right back), but realizes that the wood wasn't touched by a creature of the Unknown. Rather, a creature might have been influencing or guiding the wielder.

They also meet a young man smoking a joint. A really good Interview roll later, they find out that he's Stacy Diaz, and he and Shawn were involved - they even went to the same high school in LA without knowing it. Stacy isn't sure if Shawn's murder was a hate crime, but he's obviously devastated. He mentions that the other day, he and Shawn saw each other on the way to class and Stacy noticed someone watching them - someone wearing a silver frat shirt, but all the frats have them and he didn't notice the letters.

After talking to Dylan over the phone while Dee is fretting at the vet, and Dylan mentions the steam plant. There's a steam plant on campus which takes and burns scrap wood from sawmills; it heats the campus cheaply and cleanly. That might have been the source of the weapon. Jordan and BB check out the plant and scale the fence, but all they find are big bins of wood before campus security finds them. Jordan improvises a story about losing her cat and convinces the cop; he tells them that security is liable to be tight for a while.

At the vet, Dee insists on sleeping in the same room as Sweet Baby Jesus. Told this is impossible, he gets hysterical, and find says, "the real baby is gone, so Sweet Baby Jesus is my baby." The vet tech, recognizing when something is above her pay grade, has them bring a recliner into the room where the dog is recovering.

Tomorrow, the investigation continues.

Movie #430: Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible is an action/spy movie based on the TV series and starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Vanessa Redgrave, and Henry Czerny. Kristin-Scott Thomas and Emilio Estevez stop by for cameos before dying.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is a government agent in the Impossible Mission Force, under the command of Jim Phelps (Voight). After a disastrous mission to stop the sale of a NOC List (detailing the code names and real names of undercover operatives) in which all of the rest of his team is seemingly killed, Hunt goes rogue and, with fellow survivor Claire (Beart) and disavowed agents Stickell (Rhames) and Krieger (Reno), goes to steal the real NOC list for an arms dealer (Redgrave) in order to lure out the mole in the IMF. Said mole, of course, turns out to be Jim, selling out, but there's a big chase with a train and a helicopter and all the bad guys blow up.

Having never watched the TV show, I can just appreciate the movie for what it is - a fairly good spy movie without a ton of the casual misogyny that we get in Bond films. That's not to say women get treated well; most of them die, though Redgrave's Max does pretty well for herself. Cruise is the star, of course, and gets to run around a lot, which he likes. The best sequence in the movie is the heist at the CIA, and I'm a little sad there was another mission set-up like that to really show us what IMF teams are good at.

It's aged pretty well, though anything computer-related just looks laughable (need to find an arms dealer named Max - quick, search "max.com!").

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Moana

Monday, October 30, 2017

Chill Notes

Started up a new Chill case yesterday, and took all the notes right before the game started because this week, man. Anyway, I'll do the actual write-up later, but these are the notes, folks.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Movie #429: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a comedy starring Frances McDormand, Ciaran Hinds, Amy Adams, Mark Strong, Shirley Henderson, Lee Pace, and Tom Payne.

Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) is a rather conservative woman working as a governess in pre-WWII England. After getting fired (again) she lies her way into a job for an American socialite named Delysia Lafosse (Adams), who, it turns out, needs a social secretary, not a nanny. Initially horrified to find Lafosse in bed with one man (Payne) whom she's using to get a part in a West End show, involved with her boss at the club where she sings (Strong), and in love withe pianist at said club (Pace), Miss Pettigrew gets swept up in it all. Plus she really needs the work; she's in the soup lines without it.

Over the course of the day, Miss Pettigrew and Ms. Lafosse wend their way through the worlds of theater, jazz clubs, and women's fashion. During the latter they meet Joe Blomfield (Hinds), an older gent engaged to a manipulative young women (Henderson) who attempts to blackmail Pettigrew into helping her lie to Joe about her affair. At the end of the day, though, Lafosse realizes her love for Michael the pianist, Phil the theater impresario winds up snogging with the other contender for the role, Nick the club owner winds up knocked on his ass. It's a rom-com.

The poignant bits of the movie, though, are all McDormand's, and the hands-down best line in the whole thing is when during a party a bunch of bombers fly overhead. The younger folks (including Lafosse and her friends) all cheer, while Pettigrew says sadly to Blomfield (also old enough to remember the Great War), "They don't remember, do they?" It's such a sad, beautiful moment between them, and it absolutely sets them up to fall in love by the end of the movie.

Speaking of that, the movie really ends with Blomield finding Pettigrew, now poor again, sleeping in a train station, and tells her that he's in love with her and basically proposing on the spot. I have some niggling issues with the fact that she's utterly destitute and at that point he has all the power, but he doesn't come to save her and she doesn't respond with gratitude or desperation; the interplay between them seems very much as equals. I'm actually more annoyed that the whole scene seems a bit rush.

In general, though, it's a very sweet rom-com, with great performances from McDormand and Adams. Blomfield is dignified and charming, Strong is slimy as fuck, and Henderson took me forever to place as the actress who playing Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Mission Impossible

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Character Creation: Threadbare

Time to make the donuts character!

The Game: Threadbare
The Publisher: Stephanie Bryant
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I ran a session and I'm familiar with the underlying mechanics.
Books Required: Just the one.

Threadbare is a PbtA game where you're playing toys in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It's got a lot of knobs to fiddle with; you can play a pretty dark and angsty game, or you can do what we did and have a plush llama named Jamie who has a little tiny book about Peru around his neck and recites facts from it whenever possible. Either's good.

Making a character requires I choose my basic type: I can be a Mekka (I have plastic or metal parts), Softie (I'm a stuffed toy) or a Sock (I'm a...sock. This is more fun to play than you'd think). Then there are some sub-types, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Well, since I made Snake-Man when I did a character for Toypocalypse back here, I can't do that one. I kinda feel like making a Softie, actually. Let's do that. Softies are Bossy (basically give them a command move), but I need to pick a form.

Side note: One of the options here is "I'm Real", which is a pretty obvious Velveteen Rabbit reference, and means that the softie was loved so hard by a human that they awakened before the Collapsed. That means that this character carries the memories of the person that loved them and might very well know what happened to the world. That's a lot to carry, and is angsty as fuck, so of course that's what my daughter decided to play when I ran this. I just appreciate games that stab you in the heart a bit, so thanks for that, +Stephanie.

Anyway, for my softie, I think I'll make the Hippo of Refuge.

Ecce hippo.
I'm not sure where I got the Hippo, but I've had him for a while. He's kind of leathery and missing an eye, but he's comfy, and we pass him around at my gaming table when someone needs something to cuddle (hey, it happens).

So the Hippo of Refuge (pronouns are him/he/his, it's on the sheet) needs a form. Hmm. Well, the only real options are "Built Like a Bear" and "I'm Real", and I don't think I'm quite in the mood for the wistful sadness of the latter, so we'll go with the former. What that means is that when I gain Hold (which happens when I roll a miss), I can spend it to learn the history of an object or person. Seems pretty in keeping with the Hippo.

I need to assign my abilities. Threadbare only has three: Scrounge, Smile, and Strongarm. I get a -1, a +1, and a +2. I'm gonna put the -1 in Scrounge (the Hippo doesn't have thumbs, after all). I'll put +2 in Smile and the +1 in Strongarm; the Hippo is good with others. He's patient, understanding, and authoritative when necessary.

And then I just need to assign Parts. I get up to 8, and I can assign as many of them as I want now. So let's say: bead eyes, tuft ears, thick body, stumpy legs, floppy tail, stitched mouth, leathery hide, and heavy tread (he thumps when he walks). These things will get damaged in play, and as I replaced them the Hippo can change until he's as much a melange as anything else in this world. So it goes.

And that's the lot, actually. This game is a lot of fun, check it out. Also back my Kickstarter!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Promethean: Leavin' New Orleans

So! Last time the throng finally took Red out, and then headed back up to the surface. They stop off at the junkyard's electrical poles to top off. Sicky is swinging a car antenna around in a fencing sort of way, and Grimm offers to teach him to shoot. Sicky declines; he's afraid of the noise and he doesn't want to hurt anyone anyway. Feather, then, mentions that she's trained in unarmed defense - getting out of the way rather than striking, and that seems up Sicky's alley a bit more. She trains him a bit, and makes a milestone: teach someone self-defense

NEXT DAY. They decide that it's about time to start thinking about packing up and heading on, but there's no real hurry. Enoch heads to his workshop to finish his Athanor. Matt keeps working on his Pilgrim Mark atlas. Feather heads out to go sit on the bank of the river where she was created. Avalon goes out to be a vigilante (she isn't quite sure how). Grimm goes out to meet Anita, the Sin-Eater that they'd talked to. Skip is at home thinking about where to go next, since he's mastered Ferrum.

Enoch takes the stones he picked up from the River Lethe and fixes them as eyes on the frog that he's fashioned, and in so doing, he completes the Craftsman Role (make an Athanor using metallurgy/electronics). He forces Vitriol into it and tries to make it like the one that was smashed in the sculpture garden...and fails. The frog becomes a black hole of power, sucking in life around it. Enoch isn't sure why or what he did wrong, but he stares, trying to figure it out. Maybe he just used too much, the smashed Athanor, the stones from Lethe? He uses his Vulcanus Alembic to animate the frog and ask it what's going on.

Matt, meanwhile, is working, and Sicky asks him what's up. Matt explains the project, and Sicky looks interested - Matt realizes that he's jealous, a little, but mostly he wants a project, something to focus on. Matt invites him to help, and Sicky enthusiastically agrees, and the two of them spread out the notes and start looking at how to arrange them, how to put it all together, and so on. Matt completes his multiplicatio milestone: Mentor a Promethean on a Role or Refinement. He realizes that, as an Extempore, he might not ever be able to create a new Promethean, but he still pass along some of himself this way. Maybe he doesn't even have to finish the atlas, if he can pass it along to Sicky.

Skip feels the spiritual balance of the place shift, and goes to find Enoch. He sees the frog and activates Ephemeral Flesh, and sees that light just seems to fall into the stones, creating little black holes around its eyes. The frog starts talking to Enoch, but then Enoch asks it if it can still fulfill its original purpose (to make Pandorans Dormant) and it says it can. Skip realizes it is lying, and informs Enoch of this. Enoch figures that he'd better call an Originist in on this, and since Feather is out that leaves Matt. They call him in, and he uses the Plumb the Fathoms Alembic to try and figure this out.

What he sees chills him. That "Athanor" is more like an anti-Athanor, and it's summoning something. He isn't sure what, but they figure that can't be good, so Skip does what Skip does best and smashes the damn thing. He crushes the black eye-stones in his hands, and feels pure, powdered Torment suffuses his humour. He figures he can either succumb to it or ride, so he rides it, taking on Stannum. As it turns out, adopt the Refinement of Tin is his separatio milestone, so that works out pretty well. He isn't sure, though, if the summoning was interrupted.

Feather, meanwhile, is at the river, and she reflects on her path so far. She was created to be a protector, and the word in her forehead - "SISTER" - reflects that, but is that her path? Is that what she's meant to do? She decides that she needs to change it, to take a name that reflects her path since her creation. She gathers some of the mud from the river and heads back into town, now pursuing the Pilgrim Role.

Grimm contacts Anita and meets up with her. They talk about Red and the cabbie that he killed, and Anita agrees to take some money from the throng and get it to his family. She asks Grimm about the throng and their bond, and what his role in the throng is. Grimm says that he's what he needs to be, practical and protective, but he does feel like sometimes the throng doesn't work together especially well - but they're family. He feels the stirrings of Vitriol, and heads back to the storefront.

Avalon is out and about, and finds pickpockets and uses Arc to give them minor zaps. At the end of the day, she winds up in the sculpture garden, and sees Parris Mick. Parris is confused - she can't quite remember how she got here. She says she remembers hearing a familiar, low, enticing voice, but not being able to make out specific words. She remembers following the voice here, and then...nothing. Avalon spots the shadows move and, embracing her new Role, throws lightning at it.

Parris screams and runs. The shadows coalesce into an insect-like creature, so dark Avalon can barely see it, but she knows it - it's the Creeper in the Dark, the thing she saw when Carroll died. She asks it where Carroll is, but it doesn't answer, it just rushes her and claws her stomach. She shocks it again, and it slithers off.

She follows it as it approaches the street, but as she watches it changes and takes on the silhouette of Carroll. It speaks, but it isn't him. It moves to the street where some buskers are performing, and knocks their money into the street. The folks on the street start grabbing for money, and Avalon, sighing jumps in the middle, trying to talk people down. She isn't successful at first and a fight starts, so she grabs a dude and plants his ass on the ground, and then speaks much more firmly. People cool down and Avalon tosses money in the buskers' hat, and the calm down and start playing again. The Creeper, though, is gone. Avalon realizes that she might never catch it but, she's prevented it from hurting people, which fulfills her Vigilante Role. She heads back to the storefront.

The throng gets together and talks about their day, and Matt talks about Sicky and his newfound purpose. Grimm suggests that Sicky probably needs a new name, and he chooses "Virgil." In celebration, the throng goes down to the Cafe to get beignets. There, they find DeVries.

"Glad I found you," he says. He shows them a video taken in Lexington, KY. A pillar of fire lances down from the sky, and people run and scream, but then a figure walks through the frame. Matt knows that silhouette - that's "Lurch," the Promethean that created him.

The throng decides they need to head up there and investigate. DeVries agrees to buy them a van, and they take a day so that DeVries can give Avalon a crash course in Cobalus. And then they bid farewell to the Big Easy, and head north.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Game Prep!

I'm reading through AMP: Year One to make a character, but I haven't had time to really dig into it and I need to do Promethean prep, so I'm gonna do that first.

I'm doing AMP next, of course, because +Eloy Lasanta is one of the (many) game designers running Kickstarters this month. His is AMP: Year Four. (Mine, of course, is Undead.) Back them both.

Anyway, Promethean notes ahoy. Players, don't look.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Awesome Games That Are Kickstarting + A Character, Part Deux

Yeah, I'm gonna do mine now.

So, as I know I've mentioned, Undead is Kickstarting now. It's a sourcebook for Chill 3rd Ed, and I considered writing it myself, like I did Monsters. I really had a lot of fun writing Monsters - I got to research a bunch of new and interesting stuff, write in the voice of Ruby Garrett (with notes from Mafuz El-Hasham), and delve into some of the spaces in Chill that 2nd Ed never explicitly touched.

But for Undead, I decided that I needed a more diverse group of voices, precisely because of this: the undead are people (most of them). They're like ghosts with bodies, they're people with understandable motivations and needs and fears and hates and loves and rotting corpses and evil magic. So I needed some people who could write like not-me to convey that diversity.

You can check out the writers here (just look for the folks with Undead after their names), and do note that of the 12 people writing the book, 2 of them are white/straight/cis/male (I'm not straight, in case you didn't know, but sure, count me in there if you like, because that's still 2/3 of the writing crew that ain't the "default" for the hobby). I wanted women, I wanted POC, I wanted (other) queer voices, I wanted non-cis voices, because this book, like Chill as a whole, is about people.

I don't need cookies for this; if I need cookies I'll bake 'em. I just wanted to point out that for a project like this, diversity was critical, so diversity is what we got (I say "we" because I had help from my brother Jonathan and my SIL Morgan, both of who are writing parts of Undead, in assembling this crew).

Anyway, we're less than $6000 from goal, so please back us, or forward the project on to someone who might like it.


The Game: War of the Dead
The Publisher: Daring Entertainment
Degree of Familiarity: None with this game in particular, but I'm very familiar with the system and the genre.
Books Required: The War of the Dead book and the Savage Worlds core.

War of the Dead is a zombie apocalypse RPG, starting with the Rise and then...I'm not sure, actually. The book states that players should make characters and then not read any further. But I do what I waaaaaaant, of course, and I see that the initial chapter starts on a cruise ship. Groovy. I just need my character to have a reason to be on that ship.

OK, I note that there's a new Edge in the book called Scavenger that gives me a bonus to forage in urban environments. I believe I shall play a character with that Edge. His name is Charlie Finn.

Charlie was living in Miami, working in a warehouse loading boxes, when he got sick. It wasn't anything serious...well, it was, but it wasn't like a flesh-eating bacteria or like a zombie virus or anything. No, Charlie got good old fashioned influenza, spent 10 days unable to walk very well, lost his job, spent his money on food and staying alive, missed a couple of car payments, lost his car, couldn't get work, lost his apartment, and wound up homeless. Just like that. Took four months, tops. He doesn't have family in the area and they don't get along anyway, so he wasn't going to move back to Ohio. He just figured he could get back on his feet.

Cut to a year later, and he was living under a bridge, doing whatever odd jobs he could muster, drinking a little too much (though he managed to stay off anything harder). And then a buddy of his told him that if he could get on a cruise ship, he would get put to work. It was shit work, and it paid shit, but they'd feed and house you for a few weeks. Charlie figured "fuck it," stowed aboard the Pinnacle, and wound up washing dishes.

There's been the occasional second thought.

OK, this being your standard SW game, I start with Attributes. I need Spirit d6 or better. I think I'll go d6 across the board for right now; I don't have a feeling Charlie is any better or worse in any particular area.

Skills, then! I need Tracking d6 and Survival d6 for the Edge, so that's 4 points right there. I'll put a d4 in Driving, a d6 in Fighting, a d4 in Guts, a d6 in Notice, a d6 in Stealth, a d6 in Streetwise, and a d4 in Swimming.

Neat, now Edges & Hindrances. Well, I know I want Scavenger. Poverty would make sense, but it feels like the money-related Edges and Hindrances should be disallowed since society is about to crumble? Eh, let's assume they're not. I'll take Poverty (which is Minor, for some reason), Anemic (which is also nasty; Charlie is necessarily literally anemic, he's just kind of immocompromised), and Clueless (he's been homeless for a while and he wasn't exactly keyed into the world before that).

Oh, I get one more Edge, don't I. Um. I'll take Alertness; seems like Notice might an important thing in a zombie game.

Four points, then. I'll bump Agility to d8, and I'll pick up Throwing at d6. That'll do it.

My derived traits are all basic; Charisma 0, Pace 6, Parry and Toughness 5.

Charlie's skinny, wiry, blond hair, patchy beard, wearing dirty jeans, boots (he bought them before he lost everything; they were expensive but they've held up), carries a Bowie knife.

And that's me done, I think! Charlie either cleans up and learns to be a zombie killin' badass or he gets bitten and turned in the first chapter, I'm not sure.

Movie #428: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is, of course, the sequel to Miss Congeniality and stars Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Enrique Murciano, Diedrach Bader, Heather Burns, William Shatner, and Nick Offerman. The best part of it was watching it with Teagan, because she hated it and it was funny.

We pick up three weeks after the events of Miss Congeniality. Gracie (Bullock) has become a minor celeb - she was, after all, a finalist for Miss USA and stopped a terrorist plot - but that fame gets in the way of her career. Faced with a choice between a desk job and a new position as the "face" of the FBI, and reeling from a sudden breakup with her boyfriend Matthews (Benjamin Bratt in the first movie, but he's not in this one at all except as a way to flunk the Bechdel), Hart goes with the latter. She's teamed up with the style specialist named Joel (Bader) and at that point, I thought we were going to get a whole movie of her learning to be fabulous, which would be a retread of the first one.

But no, instead, we cut to ten months later. Hart is going on talk shows and talking about the FBI. She's (ghost)written a book about her life, and exceptionally violent co-FBI Sam Fuller (King) is pressed into service as her assistant. And then her buddy Miss USA Cheryl Frasier (Burns) and...Miss USA Pageant MC Stan Fields (Shatner) who apparently tours with Miss USA?...never mind. They're kidnapped by a pre-Parks & Rec Nick Offerman, and Hart and Fuller get assigned to press duty. Hart, though, goes off script, starts doing her real job again, and foils the bad guys.

So, the bit of this that Teagan hated was that Gracie embraced the shallow, fashion/beauty obsessed side of herself and completely lost her hard edge for most of the movie. I think this movie actually has some things going for it - it's not a complete retread of the first movie, which is always a plus. Bullock is, as usual, charming and funny. Poor Murciano is also funny as the overly-earnest agent completely in love with his (as it happens) unfaithful girlfriend (Elisabeth Rohm in one of her earliest film appearances).

I wasn't crazy about King's character. I like the notion that a comedy starring women could be a buddy movie rather than a rom-com, but Fuller is kinda one-note (seemed to be a scripting issue more than a performance issue). Plus, "angry black woman" hits some uncomfortable notes as presented (particularly since Bullock mocks her dialect a couple of times, which is Not Cool).

Anyway, it's funny in places but it's not as good as the first one and it's pretty vapid all things considered.

My Grade: C
Rewatch Value: Low

Next up: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Choices, Choices

Monday was Blades in the Dark and I want to do this writeup before tonight when I run Night's Black Agents and get too far behind on game writeups and like drown in a sea of them AAAAAAAA EGG.


Another fine "day" in Duskwall. One Eye is talking with Jul, a blood dealer. He tells her something interesting - Dundridge & Sons, the famous tailors in Nightmarket, bought some blood from him for treating the fabric of a new cloak made on commission. He's not sure who commissioned it, but it it's got alchemical treatments in it, it's for someone with money and someone with mystical or spiritual concerns. In addition, stealing said cloak would give the thieves a great deal of bargaining power or just something cool to fence. One Eye is skeptical (what's Jul getting out of this, after all?).

Meanwhile, Copper is heading to the track and hails a carriage. The driver turns out to be Grull, a known scoundrel himself. Knowing that the Widdershins gang has reputation for smuggling weird shit, he mentions that he's got a line on someone who would pay well for some eggs from the deathseeker crows that the Spirit Wardens breed. Time isn't really a factor, but they'd need to be delivered to Grull quickly after theft. He drops Copper off at the track, where her dog comes in third.

Also in a carriage is Cage, but a carriage of a different sort - the Bluecoats picked him up. Captain Vale talks to him, and says she feels kind of bad that Widdershins is on the outs with the Gondoliers. Cage presses and she admits that really, she's afraid the gang will start blowing up roads next, and she uses those roads. She tells him that a Gondolier named Strain went missing, and his boat was found washed up in the Docks. If someone were to find out what happened to Strain, probably the Gondoliers would be happy about it.

The gang meets up at the lair later on to discuss their options. They figure the cloak isn't a great choice; there's no immediate promise of money and they don't really trust that Jul isn't feeding them bad intel. The egg-theft sounds like a good heist, but it involves stealing from the Spirit Wardens (who are already not fans of the crew) and from the Belleweather Crematorium, no less - spirit guards, human security with sparkcraft weapons, plus the crew would need to keep it very quiet so they don't wind up going to war with the Wardens. Cage, in particular, isn't a fan of this - he's a former Warden and knows what they're capable of.

They decide that although they might not make money off it, investigating the disappearance of Strain would be a good way to mend some fences with the Gondoliers. Plus, his boat washed up by the docks, meaning the leviathan hunters probably know something and they're friendly with the crew. They head down to the Docks to ask around.

Siren talks to Noggs, a former shipmate (she's a former leviathan hunter, remember) and Noggs appears willing to talk, but not here. She arranges to meet him for a drink later. One Eye goes to Ink Lane and finds a tattoo artist who is hurting for business. She talks to him about the prospect of a hallucinogenic tattoo, and learns that he put a tattoo on a Gondolier some days back - a warding glyph - but messed it up because the Gondolier didn't tell him that he'd put blood in the ink he supplied. Apparently word had gotten out and they were blaming him. One Eye promised to trade information and try and spread the word that this hadn't been his fault, if he'd help them out, so he drew a sketch of the glyph for her.

Copper wandered through the Menagerie, and found a cage with a weird striped wolf-thing. Captain Rye, the proprietor, tells her it was given to him by a sailor, who called it a "devil wolf" - they used it to kill rats on their ship, but it's hellish fast. Copper, in love, runs off to One Eye and gets her to loan her a coin to buy it (some haggling occurs). She buys the wolf and puts it on a leash.

Siren meets with Noggs, but when he's about to talk, he glances over her shoulder, gets spooked, makes an excuse and leaves. Cage, meanwhile, goes out to where folks sell cheap goods on the Docks, and tries to attune to the spiritual madness in the area, narrowing down what might have happened to Strain. He gets lost in it, though, and winds up wading into the water as the others walk toward him. Siren notices something slithering towards him, and shoots it.

That snaps him out of the reverie and he tries to grab the thing in front of him (thinking maybe it's a ghost), but it wraps tentacles around him and tries to drag him under. Copper, struggling to control her new doggie, rips the monster off him and tosses it back into the drink, and they stagger up on land ("I thought they stayed out at sea!" says Copper. "That was a baby," says Siren. "That's why we don't go in the water.").

The crew confers, and they figure that Strain must have known something was coming. Cage looks at the sketch, but isn't sure what it means - he's a got a hookup, though. Since Strain brought blood to the tattooist, One Eye figures that she'll check in with Jul. Siren and Copper decide to look around and see if they can find out where his boat went.

One Eye heads back to Brightmarket, breaks into Jul's workshop, and rigs it up so that with a flick of a switch she can ruin his supply or spray him with toxic leviathan blood. When he gets back, she threatens him, so he talks - he didn't sell Strain the blood (he doesn't work the Docks), but he heard that a colleague did. Mixing blood into a warding glyph means that you're trying to ward of a particular person or, if the blood is alchemically treated, that some powerful magic is going on, which is what Jul suspects was happening. He has never met Strain, though, and doesn't know what happened there.

Copper and Siren find where the boat washed up, and Copper asks around (loudly) until she learns that a captain named Laudis took it to turn into a lifeboat. They find Laudis' ship and talk with the captain, who tells them that when he found the boat, it was washed up on the shore. Based on when he found it, the boat must have been out in the bay, which is too far from shore for a Gondolier's boat. He found no blood on the boat, just a bunch of broken glass (which he didn't keep). He figures something slithered up out of the sea and dragged Strain down. Laudis also reveals that he lost his left hand (now replaced with a wicked-looking pronged prosthetic) at the blade of the captain of the ship Siren used to crew, so that tenses things up a bit.

Cage talks to Flint, his buddy who traffics in spirits. Flint guesses that, based on the glyph, either Strain was trying to protect himself from something specific and personal or he was taking spirit traffic work on the side. Cage brings Flint back to the lair to have a seance - if Strain is dead, maybe they can summon him (unless he's in a bottle somewhere).

Back at the lair, Cage and Flint (and the others) call up Strain, and see him in the scrying pool, but realize he's still alive. Copper attunes herself a little more closely than she should, and hears the ocean. The shadows make her think she's under something - a bridge, maybe? Also she feels pain on her chest, like her skin is itching.

The crew figures that they know enough to go and find Strain - he got himself into some kind of trouble, and needs rescue. And if that results in a reward from the Gondoliers, well, so be it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Movie #427: Miss Congeniality

Miss Congeniality is a comedy starring Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Candace Bergen, William Shatner, Michael Caine, Ernie Hudson, and Heather Burns.

Grace Hart (Bullock) is an FBI agent who's good at the intellectual aspects of her job, but fucks up on a field assignment and gets a fellow agent shot. She's also not especially femme; she states at one point that she doesn't own a dress...or a brush. When a threat from a prolific terrorist is made against the Miss USA pageant, Hart gets sent undercover as a finalist (after the Miss New Jersey contestant drops out following the revelation that she acted in a porn film, which is awfully convenient - what if it had been the contestant from Alabama or something?) and paired up with a disgraced pageant consultant (Caine) to make her ready for primetime. The middle section of the movie is mostly Gracie bumblefucking her way through becoming beautiful and glamorous, learning Important Lessons about friendship and her own femininity, and finally discovering that the pageant head, Kathy Morningside (Bergen) is the one behind the threats.

Mostly this is your standard lightweight cop movie, made a lot funnier because it's got a good cast. Like a lot of movies of the time (late 90s/early 00s), there's some problematic stuff, but it's not nearly as bad as the Jim Carrey shit we got in the earlier 90s. Sure, Grace's coworker/buddy/crush Matthews (Bratt) is a little uncomfortable when he realizes Mellings (Caine) is gay, but it's never played against Mellings and it just winds up making Matthews look like a dork. It bugs me that the Chief (Hudson) plays into the dumb boss trope (refusing to listen to Hart even when she has points worth listening to).

Actually, as I think about it, that was probably deliberate, possibly making a point about how women in the workplace don't get listened to - McDonald asks Matthews whether there's anything to what she's saying, rather than asking her to expand on her points. Earlier, Matthews blithely takes all of Hart's ideas as his own, with her in the room, and she never even mentions it. Played for laughs, or as something the women in the audience might recognize? I don't know, but two of the credited writers are women, so, take that for what it's worth.

Anyway, Bullock is funny and she and Bratt have some fun chemistry, and Caine is wonderful as always.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Awesome Games, and Also Character Creation and Game Prep

Hey, people who like games! Do you like games? You know you do.

So, in addition to my own Kickstarter for Undead, the third supplement to Chill 3rd Edition, which sports one hell of a writing team and is made of candy, there are a whole bunch of other awesome game products being funded on Kickstarter right now. It's like a bunch of us just independently decided "hey, October sounds good" and launched the Kick-starts!

(That is, in fact, exactly what happened.)

With that said, I know there's enough money in the world for us all to get funded. So I'm gonna use this character creation project to pimp some of them, including my own. First up is Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse, which I'm going to pimp by making a character for Big Eyes, Small Mouse because HMTM isn't actually available yet, since it's still Kickstartering.

Anyway, HMTM is a Fate-based RPG by +Derek A. Kamal in which you play mice in motorcycle clubs. I have no idea what more you'd need to convince you, but here's the Kickstarter. It's presently sitting at about $600 below goal, so it's pretty darned close. Back it, and then go back Undead in gratitude for showing you these wonderful things.

The Game: Big Eyes, Small Mouse
The Publisher: Guardians of Order
Degree of Familiarity: None with this game in particular, but I've played and run the underlying system some.
Books Required: I need Big Eyes, Small Mouth, but I have it handy.

So! Looking through this book, in the spirit of most Tri-Stat games (such as Silver Age Sentinels and Dreaming Cities), Big Eyes, Small Mouse presents a genre and some basics for setting up the game, but really the idea is that you develop your own talking-animal setting. There's a city called Mousetropolis that's pretty fleshed out, there, so I'm gonna assume my character is a citizen thereof, and that the game is going to be some kind of rollicking adventure that involves a rag-tag group of folks who have to come together to do great things.

That in mind, I think I want to play a mouse who's down on his luck and feeling like the world owes him something. I don't have much more in the way of concept yet; it'll come to me as I got. Figure on his Archetype as Mimic (that is, a mirror of human custom), Background is Urban (he lives in a city), and his Motivation as Hero (superficially he's out for number one, but he's really a good-hearted mouse).

Next step is to determine species, but I know I'm a mouse already. I start with Body, Mind, and Soul all at 3, the Diminutive (3BP) and Easily Distracted - Chese (1BP) Defects, and Stealth and Urban Survival at 1. I have spent 5 Character Points and 7 Skill Points (figure I start with 30 and 20, respectively).

Now I assign stats, which means I can raise them if I wish. I think I do; I'm below average across the board. In keeping with my idea of making my mouse with a lot of potential, I'll set his stats high and worry about Skills later or not at all. According to the BESM book, 8 is "highly capable," and if I wanted 8s across the board that'd cost me 15 points of my remaining 25. Screw it, let's see what happens.

And now, character attributes. I don't have any of these from my template, so.

I want Divine Relationship, because a) it's in concept and b) you're dumb if you don't. I'll put 5 into it. I'll take Attractive at 3 (I'm a real cute mousie), and I'll take Aura of Command at 3 (I can stand up and lead other mice, I just don't know it yet). I'll take Heightened Awareness at 1, too, which takes me to 12 points spent, which puts me 2 over, which is fine, 'cause I like Defects.

I just need two, so I'll take Marked at one (I'm mostly grey, but I have a black birthmark on my tummy; makes me look mysterious) and Phobia (birds. An owl got my mom. I don't want to talk about it).

Skills, then! I have to be thrifty; I've only got 13 points left and I don't feel like taking more Defects. Assuming the "modern military" Skill costs, I'll take Burglary at 2 (6 points), Urban Tracking at 1 (3 points), and Unarmed Attack at 1 (4 points). That's my 13.

Finally, Derived Traits. Now, this is weird. This version of the game uses Pep and Scratch instead of Health and Damage, to account for the scale, but then there are sections that talk about figuring out Pep taking into account the Diminutive Defect. So far, so good. Except as a mouse, I have Diminutive 3, as does the example character, but he's figured Pep under the Diminutive 1 header. WTF?

Well, I'll just do the same thing. That's Body + Soul (16) x 5 (80). My Energy Points, though I don't necessarily use them, are also 80. Shock is 16, Attack Value is 8, Defense Value is 6.

That just leaves a number and a background. My mouse's name is Montgomery. He lost his mother to an owl when he was young, and grew up in Mousetropolis Orphanage. Turned out when he became an adult, he does odd jobs for a living, but has never really managed to catch a break. Of late, he's turned to light burglary, but the outfit he's with (run by a spider named Desmond "Daddy" Longlegs) is getting more greedy and volatile by the day. Montgomery isn't in this to hurt anyone, and he's just decided that the last job was his last one. Daddy isn't after him, at least not now, but if Montgomery tries to go to the Swiss Cheese Guard singing any songs, well, he'll have an Itsy Bitsy Spider all up on him.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Movie #426: Misery

Misery is a horror movie based on the novel by Stephen King and starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, and Richard Farnsworth. Bates deservedly won an Oscar for her performance.

Paul Sheldon (Caan) is a bestselling author who's made his fame writing romance novels about a 19th century woman named Misery. His latest novel, though, kills her off, enabling him (he hopes) to write something else for a change. He's on his way home with his new, non-Misery manuscript when he gets caught in a blizzard and crashes his car, only to wake up in the home of a former nurse named Annie Wilkes (Bates).

Wilkes is a capable health care provider, and knows Sheldon's work and life inside and out. She's also completely nuts, and (this gets elided a lot when talking about it) a fucking serial killer; she was responsible for a spate of baby deaths in Denver before fleeing to the tiny town where Sheldon goes to write his novels. Wilkes keeps Sheldon prisoner, and things are tense enough, but then Wilkes reads the new Misery novel, realizes Misery is dead, forces Sheldon to burn the only copy of his new book, and forces him to write a new book bringing Misery back from the dead.

In the end, of course, Sheldon turns the tables on her and escapes, but the real meat of the story is the punishment that she inflicts on him, his desperation to escape, and the dependence that he feels on her. Evidently King wrote this book with Wilkes as a stand-in for drugs, and for his own fears that he'd be chained to horror forever. This metaphor comes out a lot more strongly in the book, as does the sheer brutality of the situation (in the book Sheldon becomes hopelessly addicted to painkillers). In the movie, though, the horror is a lot less gruesome but a lot more real because it's more believable. Likewise, the small cast (basically just Caan, Bates, Bacall as Sheldon's agent and Farnsworth as the unfortunate sheriff) contributes to the claustrophobia of the situation.

All it all, it's hard to watch in places but it's one of my favorite horror movies and one of the best King adaptations.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Miss Congeniality

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Promethean: Down to the River Through a Van

Monday was Promethean, but I've been too busy redlining a Promethean and running a Kickstarter that you should totally back and share. 

Anyway! Last time Red kinda kicked some ass, and we wound up with Feather, Grimm, and Matt going to a scrapyard to track him down, Avalon and Enoch dead and at the River of Memory, and Skip hanging with Jesse at the camp. Let's start there.

Skip and Jesse get to the swamp and start looking around. Jesse's left eye goes all white and starlit, and Skip activates Ephemeral Flesh and therefore looks like a ugly Promethean. This makes Jesse stare a bit, and Skip remembers what Sicky had said about Disquiet affecting werewolves. They look about, and don't see any spiritual turbulence. They do find a place where two trees grow together forming what looks like an archway, which Jesse identifies as a gate to the Underworld. He can open it, he says, if they want to see where it goes. Skip agrees, and Jesse performs a ritual that involves biting the head off a snake, and they enter a cavern.

Following water trickling downwards, they come to a fork in the cavern. At the split is a tableau - a man strapped to a table. Other people appear, bearing hatchets and saws and machetes and hack him to pieces, and then the scene resets. Skip contemplates this, and realizes that the blood is flowing one way but the hate is flowing another. He decides that Red's focus on blood was incidental, it's his hate that's important, so heads that way. He also feels the stirrings of Vitriol, and realizes that if he could harness that hate, he could achieve a milestone.

Meanwhile, Avalon and Enoch stroll along the River of Memory and find a passage, which leads them to a cavern full of cobwebs. Enoch reaches out to pluck one, and a skeletal hand stops him. He needs to say the name of the person he's looking for, the Kerberos explains, and then he can follow the echoes...if that person is in the Underworld. They plucked a web and asked for Byron Odell Jr. (Red's youngest son, the one that committed suicide via electrocution) and followed the echoes around several corners, down some corridors, and to a frothing, raging river - Styx, the River of Hate.

Also meanwhile, up in the living world, Grimm, Matt, Feather, and Sicky checked out the Marceau Scrapyard. Matt, en route, used Vitriol to calcify the Externalize Alembic, and in so doing achieved the fermentatio milestone (fix an Alembic). Matt picked the lock on the gate, while Grimm (having reassumed Cuprum and therefore regained access to all of his previous Transmutations) turned into a rat to scout around inside. He heard from some other rats that the guy with the hatchet was in the trailer. Feather, meanwhile, dithered around trying to come up with a plan (grabbing her Beat for her Refinement Condition), and Matt looked around and found a blood trail leading back into the scrapyard.

They followed the trail (Grimm activated Bloodhound's Nose and confirmed it was Red's blood) and found a van in the back of the property. The door was open...and it was an Avernian Gate. They couldn't have missed Red by much. They checked out the trailer, but Matt noticed a wire when he started to open the door and they decide to leave it. Feather calls Mort and tells him where they area, but they don't want to wait. Into the Underworld they go.

They follow the blood trail, and everyone winds up meeting outside a cavern on the River of Hate. Skip and Avalon both drink from the river, and find that Wrath and Justice replace their Torment and Elpis, respectively. And then Feather is attacked by blood.

The blood-monster flies out of the cavern and slams into her, melting her flesh. Enoch uses Alchemicus to freeze it (and gets like 7 successes, so it's frozen), and Avalon punches it out of sheer anger. This doesn't do much, but it does fulfill her Torment, which, in turn, gets her Willpower and Pyros back, but also puts her into Torment. Skip punches the bloodsicle and cracks it in half, and then something shoots at them from the cavern.

Jesse changes into a big honkin' wolf and charges into the dark, and the Prometheans follow. There they see Red, armed with a shotgun; this ghostly son Dennis armed with a rifle; and his other son Byron chained to the wall with live wires. Enoch runs over to free Byron, figured maybe that'll help. Grimm shoots Red, and Avalon hurls lightning over Jesse's head and hits Dennis. His ghostly form explodes, but this apparently angers Jesse, who changes into giant wolf-man form and attacks Feather. Feather, far too quick for this, keeps Jesse busy.

Skip punches Red and knocks him right the fuck down, and Grimm shoots him again, killing him. The blood-thing flies back in and they see blood tendrils reaching out, but then Avalon summons up lightning again and fries it against the wall. About now, Enoch manages to free Byron, who stumbles for the entrance. Enoch helps him out, and then the cavern starts to collapse in on itself.

Feather lures Jesse out (still frenzied), and Skip tackles him and holds him down while he calms himself out of the rage. The cavern vanishes, with Red and his geist, both death, both now gone. The whole experience leads Skip to completion of a milestone (fight a non-Promethean supernatural being and survive) and mastery of the Exemplar Role, and therefore the Ferrum Refinement.

The throng (and Jesse) make their way back to the surface. Enoch and Avalon, of course, vanish and their bodies heal up a bit, but they're in the trunk. The Prometheans regroup, and Mort confirms that Red is dead. The throng heads back to town and the storefront, and Avalon, having seen justice done, calms down out of Torment. Something eats at her, though, something else that she's forgetting...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Happy Sunday! Promethean Notes

Been redlining a Promethean book today, will continue redlining said book later, am now going to take some notes for the Promethean game I'm running tomorrow, players stay out, you know the dealie.