Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Promethean: Visitations

Finally, we get back to what this Promethean game is about: Mysterious visitations from cryptic angelic beings.

We open at the motel where the throng is settling in. Skip and Matt are rooming together, Grimm and Enoch (and Virgil), and Avalon and Feather. Grimm is ironing his pants and Enoch is watching TV when a man walks into the room and shuts the door. He's tall, lean, wearing black jeans and a blue silk shirt, and he tells Enoch he should go back to the park.

The Prometheans, of course, are a little more bemused that the dude just walked right in, but the stranger doesn't seem concerned or threatening. He doesn't tell them his name, instead insinuating that he doesn't have one (but does imply that he, like them, was created). They decide to call him "Rock," which he accepts. He tells them that he has a vested interest in helping them along on their journey, which makes them think maybe he's a qashmal, but when Grimm puts that to him, he denies it. Grimm activates his Vitreous Humour Alembic and tries to see what this guy might be, from a spiritual perspective, and notes that he's animated by something like the Divine Fire, but it's cold.

Meanwhile, in Matt & Skip's room, Matt goes to open the door and is confronted by a luminous being that slows time in the room (even on the TV screen). "YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO SAVE BRENT DALEY" it booms, and then vanishes. Matt, who can always be counted on to act on angelic visions, takes off across the parking lot, looking for an internet cafe.

(An aside: This game is set in 2008, meaning that smartphones exist but they aren't ubiquitous, and wi-fi isn't nearly as common. This spawned a bit of Googling last night to figure out what devices were available, which fits squarely into the "sorry I asked" sort of category.)

Skip goes to the Avalon/Feather room and tells them what's going on. They figure that if saving someone is at issue, they probably should check it out. They rope Virgil into watching the kittens, and all pile into the van and head off. They pick Matt up on the way to an internet cafe, and Ask Jeeves or whatever to find Brent Daley. They find a Myspace page for his old band, and from there dig up a phone number. Feather calls up and asks the woman who answers about booking the band; she says that they broke up a while ago, but that Brent will get a kick out someone asking once he gets out of the hospital.

The Prometheans call the hospitals in the area as time ticks away, and find the one that he's in. They zoom over there in the van, and Feather buys a bear at the gift shop, and then has information call up to Brent's room to let them come up. They get to the room just as a nurse goes in, and Brent is in his room, leg in a cast, kinda dinged up. He's happy for the company and for the bear (which he assumes is from his sister), and tells the Prometheans he was in a car wreck. The nurse is trying to change his bandages, and the Prometheans ask her if maybe she could do that later, but she says in rather stilted language that she can't...and they realize Brent's gone slack-jawed.

Feather shoves the nurse into Matt, who grapples her and holds her immobile. Her eyes go mirrored and Skip grabs her by the neck. Feather does some quick first aid on Brent and revives him. Matt and Skip frog-march the nurse-thing out of the room and into an empty one, but Grimm notices the nurse behind the desk sees them and speaks into a walkie talkie. He warns the others that they may have company. Avalon goes into the bathroom in Brent's room and uses The Soul in the Software, spitting out her little spy-bug to watch the room.

The others get the nurse into an empty room and Matt goes to strap her down, but she disintegrates into a metallic powder (Skip grabs a sample for later analysis). Feather leaves the room and heads to the bank of elevators, figuring that trouble is incoming. Avalon returns to her body and steps out, shuts the door, and talks with Brent, and he relates the story:

He was driving home a few days ago, near Coldstream Park, when he got t-boned by a pick-up truck and was pinned in his car. And then this really big guy - like 6'10" - ran over and ripped off the car door. He pulled Brent out, but then got a look on his face like he'd fucked up and ran away crying, and that's when the firestorm started.

Avalon takes all this in, and Brent tells her that after he was admitted, there were some government folks who came to see him. He's not sure what branch they're from, but they're concerned that the big guy might come to find him. At this point, the elevator doors open and three men (two in suits, one in camos) come out and meet the nurse with the walkie-talkie. Enoch warns Avalon, and Avalon leaves the room and hides in another bathroom, coughing up her spy-bug to watch the spooks.

Two of them go into Brent's room and talk with him, and he tells them what happened with the nurse and describes Matt and Skip. The other two start looking in the rooms; Grimm warns Skip that they're coming, and he and Matt hide in the bathroom. They watch the guy in camouflage walk in, take his own sample of the carbon dust, and head out.

Avalon listens to them talk, and she realizes that they are concerned with the big guy coming back, but that seems to be more about the guy than protecting Brent. The Prometheans split up and head out, meeting up again in the parking lot. They figure that some shadowy branch of the government is involved, and they're probably all on camera at this point. They check through the parking lot and find some cars with government plates...and that van from the day before.

Avalon and Enoch look it over, but apart from a clipboard with a map of Coldstream on it indicating the accident site, they can't see much. Avalon spits out the bug again and looks inside the works of the van, and realizes that the engine is next-gen - this is a very technologically advanced van, and it has no VINs. Also something very heavy in back. Avalon is concerned.

The Prometheans decide to go back to the park, following the advice of "Rock." Grimm notes a hot dog cart packing up, and talks to the guy. He saw the accident and basically confirms Brent's version of things, but notes also that the stoplights around the park had been malfunctioning for a while (which is consistent with a Frankenstein-created Wasteland). He also refers to the big guy as "Lurch," indicating that Lurch was here long enough to become local color, and says that he thinks he camped out in the park.

The throng decides to fan out and search the park for his camp...which we'll get to next time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Misspent Youth: The Celestial Finale, plus some notes

Yesterday was the very last session of our Misspent Youth game. I'd wax poetic about how awesome this game is, but honestly I've done it before and I'm pressed for time. So here we go!

Authority Figures:

  • Tezcatlipoca, ruler of the Smoking Mirror planet. 
  • Valkyries, the agender space cops.
  • Queztalcoatl, the feathered serpent god.
  • Xipetotec, the god of the harvest and flaying.
  • Theo, the compromised but still on the god's side fitness instructor
Friendship Questions:
  • Kshanti asked Alaska: "What do you need that you're running out of?" Her answer: "Approval."
  • Alaska asked Yasha: "Why don't you talk to me anymore?" Her answer: "You've become kind of like our de facto leader and I don't know how to feel about that."
  • Yasha asked Jacqui: "What are you planning to do with that hallucinogenic water you saved?" Her answer: "Use it to create art without killing anyone."
  • Jacqui asked Eli: "Why are you trying to repair the off-world communicator?" Their answer: "Um, Theo."
  • Eli asked Kshanti: "What did you smuggle?" Her answer: "A ghost."
Scene One: What's Up

Yasha's player sets us up and chooses Alaska's question to Yasha (about leadership). 

The YOs are in Bruce (their special tank), just kind of tooling around, trying to figure out what to do next. They're approaching a land mass, and need to make a decision about whether to avoid it or explore it. Yasha and Jacqui argue for exploration, and the others agree (they also note that Tezcatlipoca stiffed them on what he was going to pay them for killing Morpheus). 

The tank goes over a rise and starts sliding on the obsidian toward a lake - like a real lake, with water! The YOs try to right it; Jacqui stands up and wins on Eli's Wrathful Conviction, shoves the gearshift, and spins the tank so it winds up beside the lake. The YOs see a path leading out into an island in the middle of the lake, and Alaska advises they investigate. 

Kickoff: This episode is about leadership. 

Scene Two: Fighting Back

Alaska's player sets us up, and chooses the question from Kshanti to Alaska, about approval. 

The YOs take the path across the lake to the island; Alaska tries to direct them, but they wind up just walking as they will. In the island, they find a divot and a nest of sparkly, heavy eggs. As they handle them, a gigantic serpent rises out of the water. Yasha slashes at it with her sword, and Alaska stands up (Thrills) and tries to talk the snake down, starting to change into the snake as she does so. Jacqui stands up and wins on Alaska's Conviction, and holds the eggs over the water in a threatening manner. The snake backs down, and the YOs retreat, with the eggs.

First Beat: Discovery (serpent eggs). Question: Will Alaska get us killed?

Scene Three: Heating Up

Kshanti's player sets us up, and chooses Theo. 

The YOs are back on Bruce. They set up an incubator for the eggs by the engine, and then get out to discuss their next move. When they do, there's Theo!

Well, he's not really here; he's a hologram being beamed from Bardo. He tries to talk Eli into coming back with him; yes, they'll wind up being a meatsuit eventually, but not for a while. Eli considers it - they're not exactly happy here. Theo also notes that the gods are looking for them (they killed Morpheus, after all), and notes that some gods want them to kill other gods, others want them as meatsuits, and others just want them dead. Yasha expresses interest in being god-assassins, but that isn't something Theo can arrange. He starts to dissipate, and Kshanti grabs his Mojo and tries to absorb it. The YOs try to prevent Theo's departure, but Yasha stands up and loses, and the Mojo runs amuck. When the YOs regain vision, they've all been scattered to the winds, separated. 

Scene Four: We Won

Eli's player set this up, and chooses Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. 

Alaska realizes she's alone and runs, wailing, trying to find the others (she's afraid of being alone). She runs right off a cliff, but is saved by a flying feathered serpent (whom she mistakes as her snake-baby, all grown up, and Quetzalcoatl is very patient with her). He asks if she killed Morpheus, and she says she did, with her minions, so they go in search of the others. 

One by one, Quetzalcoatl finds them and asks if they're Alaska's minions (much eye-rolling happens), until they find Yasha and Quetz realizes that probably she did the real work. In any case, they try to convince Quetz to go back to the tank to get their snakes, but he wants to take them straight on to his brother Tezcatlipoca. In the end, Alaska stands up and wins on Kshanti's Helpless Conviction, and in exasperation, the feathered serpent agrees. 

Scene Five: We're Fucked

I set this up and chose Xipetotec, the god of the harvest and flaying. 

Quetz takes the YOs to his brother in his underground lair, and when they arrive, he's there talking with Xipetotec, wearing flayed human skin and waving around a knife. The brothers talk in a language that the YOs don't understand, but Eli uses their Mojo powers and realizes they're talking about sacrificing one of them (Xipetotec has his eye on Kshanti). Kshanti attacks, meaning to equalize the brothers' Mojo, and Yasha stands up and loses. She sells out Trusted to Believer, and realizes that all gods are equal. The only way to beat them is to be one. She helps Kshanti move Mojo, and their power is equalized, putting Quetz at a disadvantage. 

Second Beat: Reversal (Redistribution of Mojo)

Scene Six: Who Wins

Jacqui's player sets this up and chooses Tezcatlipoca (though he was mostly in the background for it). 

The YOs leave as Tezcatlipoca and Xipetotec fight for control. Quetzalcoatl follows them, and demands that they put his power back. He offers them his ship, and even summons it up. Kshanti, tired of bargaining with these people, attacks, trying to absorb Quetz. She stands up and sells out her Disorder (We Have Everything We Need Inside Us) to Emptiness. She destroys the feathered serpent, pulling out a golden serpent made of Mojo, and the YOs have won the episode...but this ends the game. They take his ship and get the hell off this planet.

Scene Seven: Aftermath

Yasha's player sets this up, and chooses the Valkyries for our last scene.

The YOs are in space, and their odd Mojo signature attracts the space cops. Rather than bargain, though, Eli just flips them off from the ship's windows (standing up with Wrathful). They engage in a dogfight and destroy a bunch of them, and then blast off into warp as Jacqui wins on Alaska's Thrills Conviction. 

Endgame

The YOs wind up with four Exploits to the Authority's five Systems of Control, so they lose: The Celestial Bureaucracy remains in the place. As powerful and determined as they were, they can't change the system. They're only human. 

They're final fates:
  • Kshanti eventually returns to Bardo and becomes the new warden, always attempting to get Alaska back and teach her the lessons she refused to learn. 
  • Eli goes back to Bardo, too, to be with Theo, and eventually winds up as the new meatsuit for Tea, Theo's sister. 
  • Jacqui descends into the weird world of body modification, trying to get rid of her scars and change herself and others, and slowly becomes less than human as she changes out everything. 
  • Yasha goes to work for the Bureaucracy, assassinating gods on contract, telling herself she's still rebelling, still fighting the system from within. 
  • Alaska marries Yasha, stays at home with their serpent babies, happy, contented, and cut off from the struggle. She remains passionate and creative, and continues designing wonderful and glittery fashions. 
And that's all you get.



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Night's Black Agents: Without a Hitch

So, when running games that hinge on planning and execution (which is any game that focus on spying, heists, capers, but really a lot of RPGs wind up requiring players to make and execute a plan), there's a temptation as the GM to throw a wrench into the works during the execution stage. Blades in the Dark actually takes this out of the GM's hands, more or less, by gliding right over planning and having the score start in medias res, with the trouble taken as read when things get going.

I'm of two minds. I like Blades because that kind of conflict is baked into the system, but what about more traditional set-ups where the players make and execute the plan? If the plan is solid, if it's not missing some key information that would make it untenable, shouldn't it work, all else equal? Particularly in games like Night's Black Agents where competence is assumed?

For my part, as a player, I don't mind when something goes pear-shaped because someone blew a roll (particularly if it's really a gamble, rather than something my character should really be good at), and I don't mind if things go sideways because there was information that we didn't have and missed. But I don't like it when GMs make things hard just to avoid them being easy, especially if the characters have used time and resources planning things out.

So in Night's Black Agents, my players do tend to plan things out, but they burn a lot of General Abilities and Investigative spends setting themselves up, and it seems wrong to alter things without giving them a clue or a roll or something.

All of this to say: Yesterday's game went pretty well for the players. Check it out.

The agents are in Belgrade again (last session is here). They're lying low, but they want to investigate the Tesla Museum again. They split up and hit the municipal records and the libraries (all except Ess, who goes around planting cameras to get street views of those buildings and the museum). The agents learn a few things.

First, they learn that security in all of these places has been increased, and the security folks are rough-looking individuals - not military, more like gangs. The tattoos on their hands and arms mark them as Hungarian mob...probably working for Vilmos Hajnal. The agents make liberal use of Disguise and manage to avoid their notice, and in the process, learn that there's a vault in the museum that was added in the 60s. Gambone figures he can crack it, given time, but he also doesn't know if it's been upgraded since (that's a long time, after all).

MacAteer puts on a disguise (his MOS) and scouts the museum. He sees that there's a central office that houses a staircase leading to the vault door, but it's right in the middle of the museum and requires a key-card (easy enough to spoof or steal). He also notes a new acting museum director - Mina Subotic. A quick photo with a thermal filter indicates she's not a vampire, but she's armed and capable, which makes them nervous.

Gambone contacts an old friend of his named Jonathan Waverly, a spy from MI6 back in the Cold War days, and asks about the vault. Waverly gets back to him the next day and says that based on his information, yes, the vault has indeed been updated every few years, and probably has a digital lock as well as the rather formidable mechanical security, and it's rigged with a chemical bomb to incinerate anything in it if tampered with. Gambone thanks him, and wonders if he's just gotten this guy killed.

Ess goes back to the museum (also in disguise) and finds the server room on the second floor, but has no Digital Intrusion so can't hack in. All he can do is get some data. From that, the agents learn that if the computer security is compromised, if a lock is forced, or if a key-card is spoofed, the place goes into lockdown.

The agents watch the museum for a few days, and note that none of the new security are vampires or brutes. They also note that, at night, only a half-dozen are on duty at any given time. That gives them a window. Parker goes to a diner where the men eat lunch and lifts a key-card, substituting it for a dummy (figuring it's better that one guy has a card that just doesn't work than trying to spoof or clone one). That night, after the day shifts leaves, they go in.

They enter through the employee entrance, MacAteer dressed in a uniform to give them an advance scout (the disguise won't hold up under scrutiny but it'll buy them a few seconds). They find four of the guards in the center room playing poker, but aren't sure where the last two are. They spread out around the room, hiding in the shadows, then rush the guys and hit them with tasers. They bind and gag them and stick them in the employee break room, and then find the last guy upstairs patrolling and take him out as well.

One guy left; the agents figure he's downstairs by the vault door. They open the door and immediately hear him say something in Serbian - a code phrase. Hanover, who speaks Serbian, responds correctly (it's a proverb; this is what Languages spends are for!), and they talk they guy into coming up to join the game...then zap him and bind him with the others.

And then down to the vault. Parker finds an access port for the computer lock, and Hanover hacks through it. Gambone gets to work (he's saved all of his Infiltration for this) and gets through. Inside the vault, the agents find a dusty old medical table, a combination TV/VCR, some video tapes, and some notebooks. They pack all of it up and get the hell out. Gambone leaves behind a timed charged; it'll set off the fire-chemicals in the room, but give them time to get clear.

They head back to the safe house...and next time, we'll find out what the stole, and what the response is going to be.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Movie #435: Monsters, Inc.

Monsters, Inc., of course, is one of the early hits from Pixar and stars John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, and Jennifer Tilly. It holds up really well, I found.

The monsters-in-the-closet are real, but they're just there to make kids scream, because scream is a potent source of energy. As such, the "scarers" employed by Monsters, Inc., zip into kids' rooms and frighten them, but then duck out, because, they believe, children are highly toxic to monsters. The number one scarer for the company is a great blue fuzzy thing called Sully (Goodman), assisted by his best friend Mike (Crystal). They're close to breaking an all-time scare record, but the company in general is in trouble - kids don't scare like they used to.

One evening, as Sully retrieves some paperwork, he chances across an active door (the monsters keep doors that lead directly into the human world when powered on). Checking it, he finds an adorable little human girl (Gibbs), who follows him into the monster world. Sully and Mike take charge of her and try to figure out what to do as the Child Detection Agency swarms around the company.

Turns out, of course, that Sully's rival Randall (Buscemi) and the seemingly benign head of the company Waternoose (Coburn) are desperately trying to save it - by kidnapping children and extracting their screams directly (that whole "kids are poison" thing obviously isn't true). Sully and Mike save the day, and in the process discover that laughter is much more powerful than scream, so now the company sends funny monsters (like Mike) into kids' rooms to make them laugh.

This is a really well done film. The voice casting is spot on; Crystal manages to be funny without being obnoxious, Goodman is perfect as the big-lug Sully, and if you need someone to sound vaguely slimy you could do a lot worse than Buscemi. Jennifer Tilly has a fun role as Mike's girlfriend Celia, though watching it this time, I did wonder why Mike and Sully don't immediately include Celia in on the predicament - to protect her is the obvious reason (and because it would undercut the bonding that Mike and Sully have to do), but you know me, I always think it's better to expand the cast out a bit.

Generally, though, the movie is really awesome, the animation is amazing (watch Sully's fur ripple in the wind), and the plot holds up pretty well.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Monsters vs. Aliens

NBA Notes: New Op, Old Locale

Running Night's Black Agents later, and it's been a while both since I've run a game generally and since I've run this particular game. As such, probably it's a good idea if I take some notes. If you're a player (and let's face it, that's a pretty remote possibility) don't read further. If you're not, feel free to take this glimpse into my mind as I plan a game session (or, like, click the "gming" tag and take hundreds of such glimpses; I make these posts a lot).

Movie #434: The Monster Squad

The Monster Squad is one of a number of 80s-era "group of kids has adventures" movies (other examples include The Goonies, Explorers, and to some extent Stand By Me). It's directed by Fred Dekker, the genius who also gave us Night of the Creeps (we'll get to N eventually). It stars Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Duncan Reghr, Tom Noonan, Jonathan Gries, and Leonardo Cimino.

Sean (Gower) and Patrick (Kiger) are two buddies in white-as-fuck suburbia who have a "monster club," along with their buddy Horace (Chalem), whom they cheerfully call "Fatkid" because "Chunk" was already taken, I guess, a little kid named Eugene (Michael Faustino) whose there for reasons I can't fathom, and, reluctantly, Sean's little sister Phoebe (Bank). They recruit local tough guy Rudy (Lambert) after he protects Horace from some bullies, but this barely has a chance to solidify before the monsters arrive.

The "monsters", in this case, are the basic Universal variety: a Talbot-style werewolf (Gries), the Creature from the Black Lagoon (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), a mummy stolen from a local museum (Michael Mackay), Frankenstein's monster (Noonan), who was conveniently being transported over this particular spot in a plane, and Count Goddamn Dracula (Reghr) himself. These rather ineffectual monsters are trying to retrieve a magic amulet that, once every century, can be destroyed and shift the balance of the world towards evil or something.

So, this movie is pretty ridiculous on its face, and it's got some cringe to it. There's a lot of casual homophobia thrown around ("faggot" and "homo" get used as slurs pretty freely), there's a shitload of sexism getting thrown around (the good guys' plan hinges on having a virgin read a passage, and it never once occurs to them that it doesn't have to be a virgin girl - maybe it does, but that's never stated - and then that transitions nicely into some slut-shaming for Patrick's sister (Lisa Fuller) because she isn't a virgin LOL. So that's all kinda difficult.

There are some good points, too, though. Reghr's portrayal of Dracula is nicely intense and menacing. Noonan's portrayal of Frankenstein's monster is funny and sad. There are some nice homages to the original Universal films, if you know what to look for. My favorite bit in the movie, though, is when the kids seek out their reclusive German neighbor, "Scary German Guy" (Cimino), he helpfully translates the diary of Van Helsing (don't ask), and displays his own knowledge of monster lore. When Horace comments on him knowing a lot about monsters, he agrees, and the camera pauses on his wrist, showing a concentration camp tattoo. It's never mentioned or explained or given context, but it cements the character in a way that's really better than this movie deserves.

Anyway, the problematic stuff in this movie bugs me because it's otherwise fun and campy with some solid moments, so I dunno. 80s, man.

My Grade: B
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Monsters, Inc.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Character Creation: Yesterday's Tomorrow

Haven't made a character in...well, about a month. It's been a shitty month. Anyway. I've been going through my old links on the chargen project and updating them (some of them went to my old LJ, which I've deleted, so I'm changing them so they go to my Dreamwidth account, which has the same content but isn't LJ), and it got me wanting to make a character. So here we are. I picked something quick, though.

The Game: Yesterday's Tomorrow
The Publisher: John Wick Presents (this game appears in the Big Book of Little Games)
Degree of Familiarity: None, but the system is similar to some of his other ones, and the setting/theme is basically the same as Spirit of the Century or Adventure!
Books Required: Just the one.

So, this game started as a request for a steampunk game, but it's got no discernible elements of steampunk that I can see. Instead, it's pretty based in action/pulp, which of course is awesome.

We start off by choosing an archetype, marking me as a Hero of Action, Mystery, Romance, or Science! (Note: The book says "Man of Action," but "Hero" of everything else.)

I dunno. My Adventure! character was very much a Mystery kind of guy, while Spirit of the Century was Science. I could do Action, I guess. I don't have much of a concept kicking around yet, though. It'd be interesting to try Romance, though I'm not much in the mood for that. Fuck it, let's stick with Action. We'll name my hero Winston Conway! Sounds dashing.

So now I do styles, which, coincidentally, are the same as the archetypes (Romance, Action, Mystery, Science). Why not link these two steps? WHO KNOWS. Anyway, I get 5, 4, 3 2 to put in these, and I'll obviously put 5 in Action. I'll put 4 in Romance (like I said, dashing), 3 in Science, and 2 in Mystery (not a sleuth, this guy).

Next step is Advantages! I get five advantages, or five points to spend on advantages, but they don't seem to have different point costs, so really I just get five. They can be Companions, Talents, or Reputations (or I could make one up).

One thing I do like: On the character sheet, there's a section for a Sidekick, with all the relevant slots for numbers. You know, I think I will take a sidekick for Conway. I kinda want Conway to be a driver of some kind - motorcycle, maybe? (I feel like airplanes are too limiting.) So I'll take Vehicle as an advantage, and then I'll take a Sidekick who can maintain it and add gadgets.

So my sidekick is my goddaughter Amy Lewiston, daughter of my best friend Artemus, killed in Her Majesty's service (Conway's not British, but Lewiston was). Amy gets a style at 3, one at 2, and one at 1, so clearly that's Science, Mystery, Action, respectively.

Anyway, Amy developed my motorcycle (complete with detachable sidecar and front-mounted cannons) based on her father's designs.

Right, so that's two advantages down. I'll take Talent: Dashing Smile, Fighting Style: Pistol Whip (Conway can shoot, but he'd rather crack a dude with the butt of his gun), and Talent: Driver. That's all five of those, then.

Next step is Flair! This is three descriptive facets of my character - doesn't give me a bonus, just makes me stand out. So, Conway's are: Flashy smile, aviator jacket, and silver-plated pistol.

And finally, my Serial, which is an idea taken from Spirit of the Century (and the game text says as much). This is just a title and a summary, so the title of Conway's serial is: Onward to Victory! (Wartime propaganda, maybe?) The summary is: "Nothing can slow Winston Conway down...except maybe her!" (Her, who? Something for the GM to play with, I think.)

And that's done, in fact.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Promethean: Danger Lurks in Vans

Last night was the first session in our new Promethean story, wherein the throng heads north to Lexington on the trail of Lurch, Matt's accidental creator.

Along the way, interesting things happened (courtesy of the players):

  • Skip: Stopped by the Gibson factory in Nashville to go on a factory tour; Skip is both a woodworker and a blues fan and was interested in how the guitars were made.
  • Feather: At a gas station, the throng found box of kittens being given away. Avalon and Feather each adopted one (Feather's is Chester, Avalon's is Oscar). 
  • Grimm: While stopped for dinner and gas, Grimm recognized a bail jumper, broke off from the group to take him down using newfound grappling prowess (he's now on Ferrum).
  • Enoch: Found a place to get illegal booze; some is left over. There was a night of trying it, but of course Prometheans don't get drunk easily.
  • Avalon: Breaks part of a rocket at the Space Museum in Huntsville, AL. It was probably an accident.
  • Matt: Evening on a riverboat on the TN river, gambling and losing what little money they had. 
The throng rolls into Lexington and heads for Coldstream Park, which is where the footage of Lurch in the Firestorm was taken. They've noted, too, that the footage has been taken down since then - government interference seems to be the prevailing theory. They arrive at the park and start poking about, and quickly find the remnants of the storm. It's a big circle-ish shape in the grass, but the grass isn't burnt, it's just dead and brown. In the very center, Grimm notes, there's a small circle that does seem a bit blackened, so that's apparently the epicenter. 

Matt asks some of the folks hanging around what happened, and finds a guy who witnessed it. He says that the sky became dark and overcast almost instantly, and then fire came down in pillars, but slowly enough that people could get out of the way (no one was hurt that he knows of). He doesn't mention seeing Lurch, or indeed anyone, actually in the storm, but he says it was pretty bright so he might not have.

Pondering this, Matt looks around for Pilgrim marks and finds some - carved on trees and benches. They mean things like "death," "despair," "please help" - not uplifting messages. Some of them are carved high enough that a very tall person, such as Lurch, must have done them. 

Enoch, now following Plumbum, employs his Plumb the Fathoms Alembic to learn about the area, and discovers that the greatest danger to the throng is over in the parking lot in a van. He lets Grimm and Skip know about this, and Skip activates Ephemeral Flesh to look for spirits. He finds that the spirit of the van is awake, which is odd, and it's got some minor spirits riding around in it, which is odder. He relates this to the others (Feather and Avalon put their kittens back in the van with Virgil, figuring they might need to be ready for action), and Grimm tells him to go talk to the van-spirit. The Prometheans note a woman in the driver's seat messing with a cell phone, but no other people in evidence.

Skip approaches the van and talks to it, and it seems surprised that he can, but otherwise doesn't offer much helpful information. It does tell him to stand still a minute, and then Skip feels something scrutinizing him. At that point the woman turns around and looks into the back of the van, and then gets out and starts walking around it. 

Skip, sensing danger and playing to his new Role as Savage, uses the Wrath of the Gods Distillation and causes an earthquake. The woman tumbles to the ground, as do all of the Prometheans. Skip advances on the woman, but Avalon intervenes (not wanting Skip to assault someone in broad daylight, especially since people are already taking video of this). Skip demands to know what the woman is doing and what the van told her; the woman seems genuinely confused by the question and terrified by what just happened. Avalon takes a softer tactic and uses her Confession Distillation to force a truthful answer out of the woman - "Do you mean anyone here any harm?"

The woman answers "No, we're just here to protect people." Avalon nods and drags Skip away, and the woman gets in the van and flees. Virgil, a moment later, pulls the throng's van up and the characters pile in. They head off to a cheap motel and rent a couple of rooms. They still need to get a line on finding Lurch, but now there's a new factor in play, and they aren't sure what it is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Movie #433: Monster House

Monster House is an animated film starring Steve Buscemi, Kathleen Turner, Jon Heder, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, and Spencer Locke.

The movie takes place right before Halloween in a generic American suburb. DJ (Musso) is a fairly normal kid, but he lives across the street from Mr. Nebbercracker (Buscemi), an old man who's crazily possessive of his house and lawn. Any toy or item that lands on the lawn is immediately forfeit, and Nebbercracker screams hatefully at any children that dare step on his grass.

DJ and his buddy Chowder (Lerner) wind up apparently giving poor old Nebbercracker a heart attack after Chowder's ball lands on the lawn, and immediately DJ starts getting phone calls from the supposedly empty house. The boys discover that the is alive and hostile, able to manipulate its physical structure (lawn included), and wind up recruiting a girl who comes around selling candy (Locke) when the house almost eats her.

After some investigation, including a visit with a local video game/nerd culture legend Skull (Heder), they learn that it's not Nebbercracker himself possessing the house, but his long-dead wife Constance (Turner). Nebbercracker found her working as a circus freak, married her and started to build a house with her, but she fell to her death and haunted the place for decades, attacking anyone that came near.

So, a few things about this movie that I really love. First of all, it's all done through motion capture, meaning that the actors really performed their roles rather than just voicing them (the behind the scenes videos on the DVD are pretty damn interesting). Second, there's the nice twist of Nebbercracker being such a hostile dick to protect the kids in the neighborhood; better they lose some toys and hate and fear him than wind up angering Constance. And finally, it's a perfect Chill movie (or WoD: Innocents, or Little Fears, or any of a number of games that have kids investigating spooky stuff), right down to the kids' methods of investigation and confrontation.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Monster Squad, The

Game Prep: Promethean

Haven't run anything in a while (at home, anyway; I got to run a couple of Chill games at Con on the Cob, and that was fun). Tonight we're back into Promethean after a bit of a hiatus due to schedule et al, and beginning a new story.

Most of the time we take a break after a story in this chronicle and play something else as an intermezzo; this time the players decided that the story was light enough that they didn't need the break and we should just keep on Pilgrim'ing. I must be losing my touch.

Anyway, notes below, don't read 'em if you're a player, blabbity-bloo.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Movie #432: The Money Pit

The Money Pit is a mid-80s rom-com starring Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godundov, Joe Mantegna, Carmine Caridi, with a weird little cameo from Yakov Smirnov.

Walter (Hanks) is an entertainment lawyer whose father (Douglass Watson) stole all their money and split for Brazil. He's living with his classical musician girlfriend Anna (Long), but they're living in the apartment of her ex-husband Max (Godunov) while he's in Europe. He returns, preceded by his not-at-all wacky assistant (Smirnov), who tells the couple they need to vacate. Of course, this being New York, they're hosed - they don't have any money to speak of and they have no line on a place to live.

Walter's realtor (Josh Mostel) finds him a million dollar house on sale for a fifth that; the current owner needs to flee the country (turns out her husband was Hitler's pool boy). The couple go in on the house, which immediately starts to crumble comically around them, costing them another fortune (which they don't have) to get it fixed. Meanwhile, Max continues to try to woo Anna back, even to the point of lying and saying that they had sex after getting drunk together while Walter is out of town.

This being an 80s rom-com, at the end of the movie all is well. They've fixed the house, they get married, they get back together, fine and dandy. No mention of whether their money issues have been resolved (doubt it?), but that's fine.

The movie is cute and light, for the most part. Joe Mantegna (who's really only in the one scene) aggressively comes on to Anna (she literally says he attacked her), but Walter kind of dismisses that because he's the only carpenter who'll even consider the job. This would be a lot ickier if she didn't immediately go along with him on that because the dude's brother is a plumber ("So, you think I should sleep with him, then?"). Likewise, the whole subplot with Max letting Anna believe they had sex, which then leads to Walter and Anna splitting up, feels a little much - I almost would have liked it better if Anna had (knowingly and willingly) slept with Max, but that's examining things that are a little too touchy for an 80s rom-com.

In any case, it's fun watching Tom Hanks when he was still primarily doing comedy, and this movie is more watchable than The 'burbs.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Monster House