Sunday, April 22, 2018

Character Creation: Rockalypse

I may be running a one-shot of this next week, so I should make a character, but really I want to do it because the little sticker I put on my books to note which ones I still need to make a character for won't stay on this book and it's bugging me.

See? 

The Game: Rockalypse
The Publisher: Four-in-Hand Games
Degree of Familiarity: None with this particular game, but it's Fate core and I'm pretty familiar with that.
Books Required: The Rockalypse book and Fate core.

Rockalypse is a really interesting game. It combines a post-apocalyptic game (any type will do) with the "let's battle by playing songs at each other" kind of magical realism of Scott Pilgrim. I suppose that Starchildren might be a good inspiration or companion, too.

Anyway, if I were actually playing this game, we'd start by designing our apocalypse and deciding what kind of Aspects it has, but since I can get away with not doing that and still make a character, I'll skip it.

I start out by choosing, as usual, a High Concept and a Trouble Aspect. My High Concept requires that I choose what instrument I play, if any (it's perfectly cool to be a roadie or whatever).

Now, I run into trouble here because I don't actually play any instruments. I can sing a little bit, and I took guitar lessons for a few weeks once, but I don't have the finger stamina for it. But I can probably get by playing a bassist. I like playing support characters, and being the backbone, keeping everyone steady, sounds fun. I'll take Unflappable Bassist as my High Concept.

Unflappable characters can be boring as hell, though, so I need a Trouble Aspect that pops. I think I want my bassist to be the lost prince or Chosen One of some cult; he ran away (or got lost, Lion-style) when he was very young. He's got a birthmark on his chest in the shape of a rabbit, so he's the Lost Scion of the Rabbit God.

Then I get two Group Aspects, but there are attached questions - how did you join the band, and what have you done to support the band? I'll go with Follow the Bass for the first one (there was a terrible dust storm or smoke cloud or something and my guy played the bass and led people out, and some of those people formed a band!) and Windowbox Gardener for the second (he grows herbs and other plants in the bus - because we apparently have a bus - that the group then eats).

Finally, I get a free Aspect. I'll take See the World With New Eyes. My bassist has a weird visual condition; he sees things in different colors than other people do, which means different things pop out at him.

Skills are next! I get the standard Fate core array (one at Great, two at Good, three at Fair, four at Average), but the combat Skills and Provoke have been removed and replaced by Rhyme, Rhythm, Melody, and Harmony.

Well, I know I was Rhythm to be high, but I want Harmony to be my Great (this guy smooths things over). So I'll put Rhythm at Good. I'll put Empathy at Good as well. I'll put Notice, Physique (because there's a stunt I want) and Crafts at Fair, and for my four Average Skills, I'll take Contacts, Rapport, Drive, and Will.

Stunts, then. I know I was Got the Music in Me (once per song I can clear a stress box with Physique). I like Lift Me Up (lets me clear a bandmate's consequence by taking stress, which dovetails nicely with the first one). And then I'll take Start the Groove (additional free invoke the first time I Create an Advantage during a song).

I have three Refresh, and I'm fine with that.

My bassist is slim, with long black hair that hangs in his eyes. He has sleeves tats up and down his arms, that just look like atonal color mishmash to everyone else, but he can see what they really represent (it's kinda personal, man). He favors big floppy t-shirts. His hands are always dirty from gardening and he smells loamy and earthy, but he chews peppermint leaves so his breath is minty. His name is Bean (he's got a mononym, like other famous bassists - Flea, D'arcy, etc.).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Preppin' the Games, part one

As one does. As usual, this is gonna include thought processes, plot spoilers, and general things-players-shouldn't-know, so if you're a player in one of my games, skip this post (or like, just don't read the stuff for the game(s) you're in, but that's easier for some than others. Plus I'm not even sure if anyone in my games reads my blog. Anyway. This is a long parenthetical. Send help. I can't find the exit.)

(Wait, there we go.)

I'm doing Blades and Promethean today, I'll do Chill and Night's Black Agents tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Promethean: Leaving Lexington

Monday we ended a story in Promethean. I think we may actually have lit a fire under some collective asses, but I know that I'm definitely more hype to run the next story than I was, so that's good.

Last time, there was a lot of water and some sapped Pyros and some visions. This time, we had to wrap up those visions, because recall that last time Matt and Feather didn't get to have their collective vision. So!

Matt and Feather find themselves walking in a cave. They follow a light and emerge from an archway into an immense mineshaft with gigantic gears in the walls. Feather recognizes this...she punched it at one point. From behind them, they hear a voice and turn to see a searing light.

The light speaks to them, and reveals that since Feather stood up to "the Machine" and Matt is generally into angels, the Principle is showing them something a little "behind the curtain." It tells them that the beings they've talked to haven't all been qashmallim - the skull cowboy dude that they saw waaaaay back in Tuscon was an angel, a servant of the God-Machine. The light also reveals to them something that happened in the past. It shows them a throng of Prometheans walking to the edge of the pit with the gears. One Promethean is big and deformed, and they hear him called "Cancer Boy." And then they witness another one shove Cancer Boy off into the gears. "Don't shed any tears for Cancer Boy," says the voice when Feather expresses concern.

It reveals that by greasing the gears this way, the Machine changed something. The Principle isn't sure what exactly happened, but the Machine is looking for something and the throng appears to be involved somehow. Matt and Feather ask a couple of questions, and the voice says that the Machine and the Principle have a complicated relationship and that the Machine is much more rigid. The Principle wants Prometheans to complete the Great Work, and it's flexible on how that happens - it has to be, that's the nature of the Pilgrimage. The voice tells them, too, that they'll meet a rebel angel soon, and what they do to or for him will shape their path.

The two of them come back to the present. The throng reflects on their visions (and the players make the "interpret an Elpis vision" roll), and they take their various steps. Skip (whose player got a dramatic failure on that roll) sees himself with bloodied hands and decides that he needs to continue breaking things, so he resolves to learn Cobalus from Avalon. Avalon, for her part, thinks about the universal milestones and realizes that she's not really any closer to one than the other (she's only got ceratio and multiplicatio to go), it just depends what she does next.

The throng (and Lurch) talk about the God-Machine and the vision. Enoch recalls that Hank's memoir (which, remember, is the fictionalized account of a Ramble) mentions Cancer Boy, and Avalon recites the relevant bits. The throng actually threw two Prometheans into the gears, but the first one jumped willingly (and came back from the River, as Prometheans do) while Hank pushed Cancer Boy because he was angry. And, lo and behold, one of the other Prometheans present was named...Jesse. The same Promethean who'd created the Athanor at which they were presently sitting? Probably.

Matt goes into the crypt and meditates at the Athanor, trying to get back the Pyros it had taken. He winds up learning the secrets of Phosphorum, and learning that it was about risk, passion, death, and ephemerality - life is fragile, and that fragility is beautiful. He realizes he could learn more, but only by embracing the Refinement. He does, and in so doing achieves his milestone for Explorer (find the Phosphorum Athanor).

The throng talks about what they'd experienced so far, what the various ephemeral beings they'd seen might be, and the implications of what they'd read in the Ramble. They wonder if they could find Jesse, but they aren't at all sure where he might be and the Ramble didn't give a clue. Virgil mentions that one of that throng, Marty Black, at one point created an online resource for Prometheans, so Avalon gets online and finds it.

Jesse had, in fact, logged on, and not all that long ago. See, in-game, it's June 2008, and he logged in back in May, talking about how three people were killed on the same night, in the same way, in locked rooms...in three different cities. He mentions going to investigate, but the throng doesn't know if he went to Columbus, Tulsa, or Detroit.

Detroit, of course, is where all the craziness with the God-Machine went down, but Columbus is closer, so the throng decides to pack up and head out there. Lurch, though, asks a favor - could they take him to a hospice, first?

They drive him to such a place, and Enoch asks if he wants anyone to go in with him. He says no, but maybe wait around, since he isn't sure how this is going to go. He goes in, and then a while later walks out, stops, and stares up at the sky with a strange look.

Feather, feeling the stirrings of Vitriol, gets out and approaches him and asks if he's OK. He says he is, and he understands. She asks what it's like, and he says "Someday, I think you'll know," and bursts into flames.

When the fire subsides, he's a little shorter (but still very tall), and he's dressed in scrubs. He asks if Feather is there to see someone, and she says that yes, she and her family came here in the RV to visit someone. The orderly, Larry, tells her that maybe she ought to come back a little later - they just lost someone.

Feather tells Larry it was nice to meet him, and gets back in the RV, having achieved the Pilgrim Role (Witness the New Dawn). The throng watches him go back into the hospice, where he works, apparently. They head off, and decide to get Waffle House before heading north to Columbus.

(NB: Hank, Jesse, Cancer Boy, and Marty Black were from my first Promethean chronicle, The Water of Life. The "three-murders-in-one-night" thing was the inciting incident in The Key.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Movie #454: The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol is...pretty much just like what it sounds. It stars Michael Caine, a whole fuckton of Muppets (voiced by Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, David Rudman), Steven Mackintosh, Jessica Fox, and Meredith Braun.

You know the story. Caine plays Scrooge, Kermit plays Cratchit, Robin plays Tiny Tim, Statler and Waldorf play the Marley brothers. Gonzo plays Charles Dickens as the narrator, with Rizzo the Rat as his sidekick and comic relief.

Now, for all the Muppety stuff, the movie plays it pretty straight. Scrooge is appropriately hard and doesn't make any silly asides or fourth wall breaks (Gonzo takes care of that). Kermit can be earnest and good-hearted with Piggy as his wife, and the scenes where we learn that Tiny Tim has died have some weight because the characters involved haven't been completely ridiculous previously.

The "casting" choices are pretty apt; I'm sure they used Gonzo as the narrator because Frank Oz is still around doing the voices, so Gonzo still sounds like himself, while those of us who have loved the Muppets all our lives still know that Kermit isn't Jim Henson (sadly). It works, though, because Gonzo is far too...well, gonzo to be anyone else. Likewise, Statler and Waldorf are far too fun to be consigned to minor roles, so it makes sense to split the role into two "Marley brothers."

The songs, though...hrm. They're not terribly long, but they're also not terribly interesting. "Marley & Marley" is about the best we get, and even then that includes Statler and Waldorf moaning like weirdos.

All in all, it's a good example of some of the weirdness that the Muppets got into in the 90s, and it's not a terrible interpretation of the source material. I think, though, that if I'm choosing a Muppet movie I'll choose a different one, and if I want A Christmas Carol I'll watch Scrooged.

My Grade: B-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: The Muppet Movie

Monday, April 16, 2018

Chill: Stabbings

Last time, our intrepid group of envoys were out at the Loomis home, and a car had just lurched to life on its own, hitting several of them. Something is definitely Unknown-y around here.

(Side note: Anyone ever run a game of Chill where it was a hoax? I did that once - well, it wasn't a hoax per se, just a "mundane" serial killer - and it just felt kinda wrong.)

Anyway, Dee decides that she needs to go to the hospital, and Luther gets in the jeep and drives her (this is because Luther's player was out sick and Dee's player decided she'd rather bring in Annie, her new character).

So, the three remaining envoys decide to check out the house. They go up and knock - no answer, but the door's unlocked. The enter and start looking around the place; it's homey, clean but not tidy. There are pictures of Earl Loomis and his late wife, and some spoiled food - it looks like he's been gone for a while. The calendar in the kitchen hasn't been turned in three months.

Blake checks upstairs. The first couple of doors lead to a guest room and a sewing room, both untouched for a good long while, based on the dust. But then he opens the door to the master bedroom...

...and standing there is a man in jeans and a flannel, carrying a sickle, but with no flesh on his skull. He lunges for Blake, who backpedals, screaming, trying to bring up his rifle, but the man vanishes. The other envoys run to join him, but the creature is gone.

The envoys decide that this is bad - they're up against something they can't identify and they don't know how to fight it. They text Luther to tell him not to come back or bring anyone else, figuring they'll walk down to the road and get in Blake's truck, but then Annie pulls in.

She comes into the house and advises the envoys that they probably shouldn't be in here, but since she's here as an envoy, not a lawyer, that's life. She didn't get the message about not coming, obviously. The envoys decide to head out. They go to the door, but when Willa opens it, he's standing there. He lunges out with the sickle, and Willa jumps back to shut the door, but he catches her on the forearm with the blade and slices her arm open. She shuts the door and he's gone again; the other envoys try to patch her up as best they can, but no one has medical training (or Protective disciplines, or Restorative disciplines, for that matter). The wound isn't life-threatening, just painful and messy. They check again and no creature, so they decide to head out, carefully.

But when they walk out to the driveway, they're all terrified of Annie's car, to the point that Willa and Jeanie suffer Trauma and back away. They decide to go with the original plan, walk down to the truck and take that. They start walking through the woods, mindful of the birds on the roof...

...and then they're back at the house. Horrified, they try again, walking down the driveway...

...and then they're back at the house.

Realizing that they're being trapped here, they decide to search the garage, figuring maybe they can come up with something. After several unsuccessful attempts to kick the side door in, Jeanie uses the Skeleton Key discipline, which works, but saps her Willpower entirely, leaving her overwhelmed.

They search the garage, and find a shelf with a bunch of bird-watching books, a sketchbook (which Willa grabs and gives to Annie), and a rack of tools...including a conspicuous space where a sickle would fit. Annie looks through the book and sees that it's full of notes about bird-watching and other wildlife sightings, but towards the end it mentions altercations with loggers "being rude" and a sketch of a strange-looking humanoid creature with pale skin and a round, hairless head. An alien? Loomis isn't sure in his notes. The envoys take the book, and note that they're not afraid of the pickup-truck in the garage...and actually, they're not really afraid of the car anymore, either. They pile in and start heading down the road...but then he appears on the goddamn hood.

He draws back and plunges the sickle through the windshield, and Annie slams on the brakes. He goes flying off the hood, and Annie floors it, but does not hear a satisfying bump, so they figure he rolled or teleported out of the way. She starts driving like mad toward the road...

...but then realizes she's driving back toward the garage. She realizes that too late and plows into the pickup in the garage. The airbags deploy and everyone loses some Stamina, but the real problem is that the car shuts off. He appears next to the car, walks around to Willa, and gestures. The window rolls down, and he points to the sketchbook, on the floor by her seat. She attempts to bargain with him ("I give you this, you let us go?") and he nods. She hands it over and he looks up to the crows on the roof, and they fly straight down toward the open window.

Thinking quickly, Annie kicks out the damaged windshield and helps the others out. They run for the house, and Blake and Willa get pecked a bit, but everyone gets inside more or less OK.

The envoys decide to hole up for a while, maybe wait this out until dawn. Annie checks the kitchen and finds some oatmeal, and everyone eats, rests, and regains some Stamina and Willpower (which is especially useful for Jeanie because it makes her functional again). They build a fire (figuring it'll stop any errant birds). After they've done that, they take stock.

They can't leave, obviously, and they're facing a creature that's fast, mobile, and deadly (and is toying with them). They decide to check the master bedroom and the basement, since they didn't look in either place and there might have been something they missed.

The basement doesn't tell them much - it's not furnished per se, just some loose carpet and a folded-up ping pong table. The master bedroom has some pills on the nightstand, and a safe in the closet, which Jeanie opens. Inside, they find a pistol (which Blake takes) and paperwork, including the deed to the house, marriage license, death certificate from Loomis' wife, that kind of thing. Annie takes pictures of it all and then goes to put it back, and he appears in the closet behind her.

He slams the door shut, but Annie tackles him (Colossal success!), knocking him through the sliding doors and onto his back. She then tries to hit him, but gets a Botch, so winds up on him but with a sickle aimed at her head. The others step in, though, hitting him with various pieces of fireplace end-irons (Blake shoots at him, but misses). Willa grabs his sickle and wrenches it out of his hand, and he vanishes again. He reappears a moment later on the bed, carrying a pitchfork, and moves to throw it. Willa runs over and stabs him with the sickle, ripping his guts open. Blake promptly loses his lunch, but Jeanie and Annie keep it together and strike him with blunt instruments (Jeanie had grabbed a mop because she's proficient at staff-fighting).

The creature stabs Willa in the shoulder with the pitchfork, and she goes into shock, just registering that it's happening. Jeanie, in a moment of inspiration, grabs the deed and starts heading down the stairs to the fireplace. The creature appears on the stairs, and Jeanie jumps the bannister, but it stabs her through the ankle and she crashes to the floor (Major Injury). She starts picking her way over to the fireplace, but it appears in front of her.

The others head downstairs, of course. Willa charges and pins it up against the wall, and Annie grabs the pitchfork and drives it into the thing's chest. It slumps forward and goes limp, and Blake drivers a poker into its eye-socket (not wanting to take chances). But it stays inert. Everyone kind of calms down, and Jeanie and Willa, badly injured but in shock, start feeling the effects. They take painkillers that they found around, and Annie calls Darnell to get him out there.

They have an hour or so to wait, so while Willa and Jeanie sit on the couch feeling floating, Blake and Annie drag the corpse to the firepit outside and burn it. It goes up quickly, and the crows gradually fly off.

Darnell arrives and does the treatment that he can, but he tells them that Jeanie needs a hospital and probably some pins in her ankle. They head out, and send in another team to sweep the area.

Earl's binoculars are discovered in the woods, not far from the fence separating his land from the logging company. There's a bullet hole in them, and a bloodstain on the far side of the garage. It looks like he was shot, dragged himself back to the house, and slumped against the wall. The other SAVE envoys (like, the ones that didn't get played) note that the sketch in his book looks like the description they got of "xaxog," the creature responsible for the events on the University of Idaho campus.

Annie gives the police a story about going to check in on a former client (she helped Loomis handle the estate when his wife passed) and finding the place trashed. The police look into the matter, and that includes looking into an incident three months ago where five loggers were fired on the same day.

The envoys, meanwhile, get to rest. We'll see what the next case holds.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Night's Black Agents: End of an Op (among other things)

Yesterday we ended an op in Night's Black Agents, but you know that because you read the title of this post and you're a smart person who can...know things.

(I'm tired and my ankle hurts and I'm running Chill in a few hours bear with me.)

Anyway! Last time the agents had taken over the prison transport plane that they were on. Now they're headed over the Faroe Islands, and they realize that they have just enough fuel to get to the mainland, but the pilots dumped a bunch before the agents breached the cockpit. And, of course, they're being tracked.

Gambone disables the transponder with Parker's help, and the agents talk about their options. They could do a water landing, but that leaves several hostages and of course the emergency rafts don't have oars and do have trackers. They could try and fly somewhere else and land on a highway or an open field, but the second they enter a country's airspace they're going to get noticed and probably followed.

Parker digs up their personal effects so that everything has their Symbol back (Stability was gettin' kinda low, there), and then wonders if the agents' stuff has been tagged or bugged - it's happened before. She and Hanover rig up a sweeper and check the stuff, and find that it's not bugged...but the transponder is still sending a signal. She checks the box and finds that the wires have been jiggered with, but it's still transmitting. She calls Gambone out, who protests that he just made a mistake, but she uses Bullshit Detector and, well, smells bullshit. She also remembers him tackling Hanover at the docks before they all got captured, and then figures it - he's sold them out.

Ess draws down on Gambone and they lock him into a seat. They question him a bit and he reveals that the conspiracy made him a deal - they just want Hanover and they'll let the rest of the group walk. Ess smacks him on the head, but the exertion opens his wounds and Ess passes out. This leaves MacAteer (flying the plane), Parker, and Hanover to discuss their options. They decide that Gambone is too much of a liability to leave alive - if they do, the conspiracy will turn him. Gambone opines that Hanover might be able to shoot him, but it would be too much for Parker's "British sensibilities."

Parker laughs. She used to do wetwork for MI5.

They decide, though, that Hanover is going to shoot him, but Gambone gets the drop on him (opening his bonds and snitching Ess' gun) and shoots Hanover's gun out of his hand, and then tackling him. Hanover grabs for his piece (if Hanover can get a gun, this is over because Shooting is his MOS), but then Parker comes up behind him and shoots him. Gambone is dead. Parker loses a great deal of Stability for killing a teammate; flying the plane is now pretty much up to MacAteer and Hanover, and they have about 3 points in Pilot left between them.

The group decides to cross into Sweden and find a nice farm to land on, but the second they cross into Norwegian airspace they get a jet behind them. MacAteer, fortunately, speaks Norwegian and tells the pilot that due to a mechanical error they've lost fuel pressure and need to land. The Norwegians obligingly direct them to a nearby airport and agree to help talk them down. That's no good; the second they land, they're back in custody.

They decide to do something risky - crash-land into the ocean. MacAteer puts the plane down in the surf. The pilot and co-pilot survive, as does one of the conspiracy guards, Parker, Hanover, and MacAteer. The other "clean" guard, one of the conspiracy guards, and Ess...do not. (Ess is already wounded, and the crash does just enough damage to kill him.)

They inflate the raft and grab Ess' body, and give the other raft to the pilots, but let the conspiracy guard sink. They quickly pull off the tracker and throw it into the surf, and then cover the raft with fire blankets to mask the color. They rig together oars and start paddling like crazy for Norway.

They hit the fjords a few hours later, blend into the countryside (they have their clothes, fortunately, so they don't have to wander around in prison garb), steal a car, and head for Sweden. They find a little tiny town and Parker contacts Sigge Carlsson, a friend of hers formerly of Swedish intelligence who's now a bit of conspiracy theorist and who can hook them up with a place to stay. She also puts in a call to a fixer and asset handler from Turkey name Polat Firinci - the agents are going to need help and the three survivors have tapped their assets pretty thoroughly.

The conspiracy thinks they're dead (their Hot Lead hit 10 when they crossed into Sweden), but they've lost two members, their science backup, all of their gear, and most of their intel. They need a plan...but that's next op.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Character Creation: Changeling: The Dreaming 20th

I mean, sure. I have some time right now, but I need to do something I'm familiar with, and people are getting their copies of Changeling in the mail so it's coming up in my various feeds.

The Game: Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition
The Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: Very yes. I developed this edition and I ran the previous ones pretty extensively. You can see other thoughts on the game and its development if you click the "changeling: the dreaming" tag on this post.
Books Required: Just the one.

OK, so! We start with Step One: Concept. I...don't know, really. I wasn't planning on this today. I think I need a theme song. Ooh, I got one.


I love this song, and it's perhaps more easily evocative of Promethean than Changeling, but I've done my two Promethean characters already and I think this would make a nice song for a sluagh. I played a childling sluagh with True Faith once upon a time, and that was lovely (Matthias was one of my favorite characters), but this time I think I want to lean more toward the romantic side of things, because love is a really fertile ground for dreams to grow in and hey, this is Changeling.

Anyway. The song, to me, is about people finding each other in strange and perhaps unpleasant circumstances and recognizing that they can have and enjoy their love even if how they got here was...maybe a bit wrong.

So I need a little more. My sluagh is pretty clearly a wilder (seeming in C20 isn't based on physical age, but even so I think wilder fits). I think I want him to be in his early or mid-20s. I also think I want him to be in love with a ghost. Sluagh can see them. His lady-love died some 80 years ago, and has only a few tethers to this mortal coil (Fetters, if we're reading Wraith), but she's found some burning Passion in this dark, whispery poet. Of course, what my sluagh doesn't know is that he reminds her of a love long dead, and sooner or later she'll either pass on or lose her last Fetter and fade away into the Shadowlands.

On the mortal side of things, my sluagh is a florist. He took the job after college (he has an associate's degree, but the experience was so Banal he barely got through it intact), and arranges bouquets and so forth for funerals and anniversaries and so forth.

He's pretty clearly Seelie. His Dominant Legacy is...hmm. I'd be tempted to take Orchid, but I did that for the character I made for Changeling 2nd Ed (who was also inspired by a Hozier song, as it happens). I think I'll say Saint. That'll be good for some angst (maybe Angst) down the road. For his Unseelie Legacy, I'll take Wretch. When this guy bottoms out, he bottoms out.

Step Two: Traits. Starting with Attributes, standard OWoD arracy, 7/5/3. Well, I know I want Physical tertiary, so I'll dump all three dots into Dexterity. Social can be primary because that's a twist for a sluagh, so I'll put three into Charisma and four into Manipulation, leaving Appearance at 1. Mental is secondary, so I'll put two each into Intelligence and Wits and one into Perception (he's a sluagh, they're pretty perceptive anyway).

Abilities! 13/9/5 is our spread and I can't take over 3 in any one trait here.

OK, Talents are primary. Two in Alertness, two in Athletics, three each in Empathy and Expression, two in Kenning and one in Subterfuge. Skills are tertiary, I just want three in Crafts, one in Drive, one in Etiquette...no actually, I'll move the one in Drive to Stealth. And then in Knowledges, I'll put two in Academics, one in Computer, and three into Enigmas and Gremayre. Cool.

Step Three: Advantages. Backgrounds, Arts, and Realms. Well, for Backgrounds, I want Resources (his job as a florist, one dot). I'll take a dot of Remembrance, and I'll take two in Dreamers (he has regulars who come in to buy flowers). One more dot. I'll take Holdings and say that the flower shop has, over time, become a tiny Freehold.

Arts, then. I just get 3 dots. Spring feels appropriate for this character, as does Oneiromancy. I'll take a dot in Autumn, too, just because he is a sluagh.

And then Realms. I have a feeling I'll be spending some freebies here, because I need Nature 3 to affect plants and Fae 4 to affect ghosts. I'll just go ahead and put 3 in Nature and 2 in Fae, for the moment.

Step Four: Tempers. This is easy. 3 Banality, 4 Glamour, 4 Willpower, and one more to spend in either of those two. I'll put it in Glamour.

Step Five: Birthrights & Frailties. These are just from my kith, so I'll just write 'em in.

Step Six: Freebie Points. I get 15 freebies, plus any I get from Flaws. Let's check those!

Well, I want Soft-Hearted (2 pt Flaw), and the True Love 1pt Merit. Those are the only ones that appeal, so that's a net of 16 freebies left. I'll put Fae up to 4 (costing me 4). I'll buy up Gremayre to 4, and then buy an extra dot of Glamour and Willpower. That puts me up to 8 spent, 8 left. I'll buy a third dot of Perception, leaving me three. I'll take a dot in Prop (my affinity Realm) and another dot in Remembrance.

Step Seven: Specialities. I get Specialties in any Attribute or Ability with 4 dots or more. I'll specialize Gremayre in Ghosts, Dexterity in Nimble, Charisma in Hopeful, and Manipulation in Florid.

Step Eight: Threshold and Antithesis. Well, my Musing Threshold is pretty obviously Create Love. My antithesis, though. I think it should tie into his Legacy somehow. "Allowing someone in love to suffer alone" triggers Banality for him.

Step Nine: Spark of Life! All the rest of the stuff.

This sluagh's name is Ashley O'Dell. He refuses to go by "Ash"; he thinks that makes him sound more masculine than he is. Ashley is pretty soft in his appearance and presentation. He's pale, his lips are so thin they barely seem to be there at all if he's not smiling...but he's often smiling, which is worse because his teeth are crooked and yellowed. His hair does not cooperate, it's black and stringy, and he basically keeps it full of product. He dresses in black most of the time, but wears a green apron at work and somehow it clashes. He hates jewelry; metal makes him itch.

Ashley's lady-love is a wraith named Lily. She died decades ago of some disease (Ashley doesn't know and Lily finds it painful to discuss it). She can meet him in dreams and they can interact there, and in dreams she looks about his age, with black hair and fair skin, except, y'know, pretty.

And I think that's it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Blades in the Dark: On a Boat (Smugglin')

Not "snugglin.'" That'd be a very different game.

Anyway, last time the crew robbed a train. This time, out and about in Duskwall, they wind up getting some job offers.

Cage, in talking with Lord Penderyn, notes various objets d'arte in Penderyn's possession. Perderyn says he's got some others he'd like to sell (or rather, fence), but it's a shame that Widdershins doesn't have anyone who can handle the high-end stuff. He'd love to kick more business their way.

Copper is gambling at the local den, and notices that it's kinda falling apart. Ulf Ironborn's crew isn't putting the same effort in, and Petyr, the guy running the place for Ulf, can't really be bothered. Copper figures that between the gambling den and the Ruby the crew could have a nice little thing going.

Siren is down by the docks and chats with an associate of hers named Myre. Myre says that he scored a couple of crates of Tycherosi demon bags out on the high seas, but he doesn't know anyone who could fence them. Demon bags are kind of like spirit bottles, but are outlawed in Duskwall (probably because the city has no official way to sell them, but folks get their palms greased buying and selling Iruvian spirit bottles). Myre says that he's happy to help the crew get them off the boat, he just wants a percentage of the sales.

And then One-Eye wakes up in a carriage (this happens a lot). The driver introduces himself as Grull, a fellow that talked to Copper once upon a time about a little job involving deathseeker crow eggs. That contract is still open (no one's really happy to take it on, evidently), but Grull has another option. There's a Spirit Warden named Bakoros who lectures at the University, and Grull knows his next lecture date and time. He wants the crew to pick the guy up and deliver him right down the road to Six Towers. One-Eye is cautious - pissing off the Wardens is iffy, since they kinda already don't like the crew.

The crew meets and talks about their options. Cage brings up that Cricket, the fence that they were considering bringing under their influence at one point, would be able to handle the stuff from Penderyn, and that's a potential moneymaker. Copper notes that the demon bag job or the kidnapping job are both time-sensitive, and Siren leans toward the former (it's very much in the crew's idiom, plus she's helping out a fellow Leviathan Hunter). The crew decides that makes the most sense, so Siren contacts Myre again and he lays out the facts: the bags are in two crates in the cargo hold of his ship, but the quartermaster, Naria, is a real hardass and won't allow anything off or on. Plus, the bags aren't cargo, they're contraband, they're just in among the cargo for now, but in a day or so all the cargo will clear customs and be unloaded and tallied. The crew has to sneak in and get it off the boat, and they have to do it soon. Stealth job, then.

They pull their boat up alongside the massive Hunter ship and sneak in through a porthole using climbing gear. They nearly get nicked when they open a door to the barracks, but Siren barks orders at the crew to go back to sleep and they move on. They sneak down onto the deck and note that while in Siren's old ship the tanks containing the demon blood were below decks, here they're on the decks and there are a bunch of people watching over them...including some with rifles to shoot parasitic scavenger birds. Siren tosses a bottle over to the other side of the deck to cause a distraction and Copper tosses a rat to the birds to distract them, and the crew sneaks below decks.

They are initially followed by a horde of rats, made creepy and hissy by demon blood, and it takes an embarrassing number of rolls to kill one. They finally do make it to the cargo hold where they find Naria, looking over stuff. She can't see them clearly, though, and Siren identifies herself as Rya, a crew member (flashback to talking with Myre and getting some crew names for exactly this purpose). She tells them to sod off, and One-Eye tries to run up and dart her.

Trouble is, Naria to perceptive. The dart misses and Naria pulls her gun and shoots One-Eye and then Copper, though their armor absorbs the worst of it. Cage runs up and pounds her on the head, downing her, but Siren is pretty sure there will be company coming. They split up and find the crates, which are bulky, though not heavy. Copper, from her days as a trader, remembers that demon bags react strangely to spirit shenanigans, and warns Cage to be careful. Siren's forehead tickles, and the crew decides probably she shouldn't be carrying these boxes.

They go back up to the deck at a different point on the ship, away from the area that's being searched but also a good long way from their ship. Copper pushes herself and runs the length of the docks, jumps off the ship and slides down the rope to their boat, nearly losing the crates but righting herself at the last minute. The others creep through the boat quickly until the reach the general area where the rope is, and then start climbing down with their own gear...but they've been spotted.

Siren takes a bullet, but her armor absorbs it and she slides down the rope. One-Eye tries and falls, but Copper pushes herself and catches her. Problem is, One-Eye exhales heavily upon landing and she now breathes black lotus poison. Copper stays awake, but it's a near thing.

Cage starts climbing down, but takes a bullet (armor saves him) and falls. Siren catches his hand, saving him but wrenching her shoulder. The crew lands on the ship and One-Eye drives it away. They sail through the poorer areas of Duskwall to Nightmarket and sell one crate of the bags to Nyelle, and the other to Flint a little further inland (both spirit traffickers). They take their Coin and head home.

This job bolsters their rep quite a bit, though it does annoy the Leviathan Hunters, which damages that relationship slightly. They're now Tier 1 with strong hold. Myre gets dragged in for questioning and doesn't hold up very well, which increases their Heat. But the crew itself is doing well - they all indulge their vices, Siren has One-Eye heal her up, Copper trains, One-Eye hires Cricket as an asset, and Cage finishes his project (tracking Gargoyle's movements). The crew feels they might be ready to move on the Red Sashes.

Ganakagok: The Fifth Cataclysm - The Meaty Conclusion


Sunday we finished up our Ganakagok story. Probably would have taken longer if the rules on using Medicine cards to add dice were consistent (at one point they say "base value," but then later they say "root value," and if you don't know Ganakagok that won't mean anything to you but it makes a very large difference in play).

Anyway! Last session is here.

Megan's Turn: Megan (Iqaatu's player) pulls the 7 of Stars for the starting card. The scene begin as she, Tegorqanuk, and Kuiqanuk come out of the ghoul maze into the meadow and up to the cliff overlooking the beach where the not-People's ship is beached. They head through the caves, figuring on using Iqaatu's knowledge of the beach-caves to get down to the bottom. The ground crumbles beneath them, though, and they wind up in a pit of filth and bones, with cannibal ghouls chittering overhead. Iqaatu recognizes that this is a trap the ghouls use, and knows there must be a way out. The twins start spoiling for a fight, but the ghouls just start dumping ice down the shaft. All three of the Nitu are trapped in the ice, and everything goes black.

Stars: Down from 30 to 27.

Michelle's Turn: Michelle (Minotingiya's player) draws the 2 of Flames. She's out hunting and sees that the ghouls are approaching the village through the maze and the tundra. She hunts them, silently, sneaking up on them and cutting their throats with her knife. The ghouls approach the village, though, and Minotingiya can't kill them all...but then the not-People row across the Unfreezing Pool on a boat she helped them get, and they fight the ghouls with the Nitu and drive them back into the Maze. The Nitu are initially skeptical of these not-People, but then Kinut, their leader, drops his cloak to reveal a constellation birthmark depicting the Bear. Minotingiya declares them a new lodge, the Lodge of the Bear.

Stars: Down from 27 to 19.

Sarah's Turn: Sarah (Amagoruqun's player) draws the Man of Stars. She's in the pub, everyone's there, being all loud and chaotic and pushy. There's not enough room to start a brawl, though, so people start to calm down and push the elders to the front. The elders of the Lodges of Stars and Storms are definitely not in favor of this "new lodge," what with its lack of old people in leadership positions, but the Lodges of Flames and Tears are on board. Minotingiya argues for Bear people, but Amagoruqun argues that they're led by children. The youth in the room stand up with Bear-people, Amagoruqun is shouted down, and all of the youths in the Bear-tribe are initiated as Nitu. Kinut, agreed to be the leader of the Lodge of the Bear, gives Amagoruqun a glass lens, which she realizes she can use to see more clearly.

Stars: Down from 19 to 11.

Melissa's Turn: Melissa draws the 4 of Stars. The twins and Iqaatu come to in a ghoul cavern, tied with sinew, as the ghouls point at them and chitter. They seem intrigued by the star birthmark on the twins, but the twins just want to murder them. They pull at their sinews until they free themselves and Tegorqanuk leaps on a ghoul and bites its throat. Iqaatu, tired and furious of all the violence and lack of sense, jumps on Tegorqanuk's back and stabs him with her knife, killing him. The ghouls fall on the twins and slaughter them, feeding their flesh to Iqaatu and finally giving her the initiation she wanted...as a ghoul.

Stars: Down from 11 to 5. It's now Dawn. I draw the 2 of Tears. The ghouls emerge from their maze and march on the village, thousands strong.

Travis' Turn: Travis draws the 5 of Stars. The twins emerge from the ice as spirits, and then become bears, finally taking their true forms. They follow the ghoul tracks to village, where ghouls are slaughtering villagers and the dead spirits are joining Spirit-Drinker. Tegorqanuk gives a mighty bear roar and charges to battle, and he and his sister-bear force Iqaatu (who was locked in combat with Minotingiya) to the play-fields where the children normally frolic. The Lodge of Flames are first attacks the bears, but then realizes that the bears are fighting with the Nitu and switches to the ghouls.  Between the Lodge of Flames and their burning spears and the Lodge of Bears with metal weapons, the ghouls are forced back. The twin-bears kill Iqaatu, tearing her in half, and and water the Playing Fields with her blood.

Morning has come to Ganakagok. The Fifth Cataclysm has occurred, bringing with it a new Lodge...but great change to the land and the people. Both the land and the people get a happy ending, which is a first.

Ganakagok: Michelle narrates based on the 5 of Storms. The sun rises and warms the land, melting the ice, and reveals the ruins of previous settlements and matches the Lodge of Bears, meaning they are ancestors of the Forgotten Ones. The weren't intruders or newcomers, they are returning heroes.

Nitu: Sarah narrates based on the 6 of Storms. Having discovered that the Bears are part of their history, the Nitu merge their culture with the Bears and, over time, decide to keep or discard their traditions. Elders are ejected as leaders and society moves toward picking the leaders by merit and deeds, rather than seniority.

As for the characters...

Amagoraqun: Ancient of Tears. She eventually becomes somewhat friendly with Bears, lives mostly quietly in the pub, dispensing wisdom to those brave enough to approach her with a drink.

Minotingya: 7 of Flames. Has Kinut's baby. He's brought up in Lodge of Bears, which means Mino doesn't quite relate to him the way she would to another of her own lodge, but she loves her son.

Iqaatu: 9 of Stars. Becomes a spirit of nothingness and the Eyeless Prophet of the Void. She is a cautionary tale and a terrifying nightmare to the Nitu.

Tegorqanuk: 5 of Flames. Now a bear in body as well as soul, he stays in the village with the people - he has nowhere to lead the people, as the the village is now everywhere.

Kuiqanuk: 7 of Tears. As a bear as well, she moves out to the ice plains and into the new village, gets people to build bear-statues and teach the Nitu children to fight and play.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Movie #453: The Mummy Returns

The Mummy Returns is, of course, the sequel to The Mummy, and stars Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, Patricia Velazquez, Oded Fehr, John Hannah, Freddie Boath, and Dwayne Johnson.

Eight years or so after the events of The Mummy, Evy (Weisz) is a famed Egyptologist and Rick (Fraser) is her sidekick and bodyguard, tagging along on her adventures as she loots tombs. They have a young son named Alex (Boath) who gets into trouble like the little scamp he is. On one such excursion, prompted by weirdly prophetic dreams that Evy's having, we wind up learning that it's the Year of the Scorpion and that means the Scorpion King (Johnson) is about to reawaken, giving anyone who can kill him control over his dog-headed Anubis soldiers. 

Meela (Velazaquez), the reincarnatin of Anck Su Namun, resurrects Imhotep (same way they did in the first movie, just a lot faster), figuring he's badass enough to take down the King. Alex gets his hand stuck in a magical map-projector and winds up leading everyone all over Egypt until they get to a magical oasis and yes, this movie is as tedious as I'm making it sound. 

Oh, it's not bad, per se. It's got a lot of the charm of the original, and they gave Ardeth Bay (Fehr) more to do, so that's fun. The crew gets to romp all over the place in a dirigible, also nice and pulpy. But in addition to the main plot (kill the Scorpion King, etc.) we also have this subplot of everyone being a reincarnate - Evy is the incarnation of Nefertiti, the daughter of the Pharaoh (Aharon Ipale), Rick is a Medjai because he...has a tattoo? It's not terribly clear and it muddles things up. The extra complexity isn't handled well and that makes this movie more clunky than the first one. Plus while the CGI from The Mummy isn't great by today's standards, this CGI from this movie, the Scorpion King in particular, is laughable. 

All in all, it's fun but not especially memorable. 

My Grade: C
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Muppets Christmas Carol

Promethean: Visions and other st-

Last time, recall, the throng met up with Lurch and then found Virgil again, after he was talked into leaving by...a qashmal?

We open this time as the throng is finishing dinner. Lurch mentions that he'd like to get the throng's take on the Phosphorum Refinement, and the Athanor that taught it to him. Grimm says that his experience of it didn't have much to do with death, per se, it was just about burning the candle at both ends and being a daredevil. Lurch is pretty sure he was following a different Role, one that dealt with death and dying, but he can't put is finger on what he got wrong. Enoch suggests that maybe he was meant to witness death, not prevent it, and that maybe he should go and volunteer at a hospice. Lurch considers this, but the throng decides they should check out the Athanor. He directs them to the Bluegrass Memorial Gardens cemetery, and the walk through the grounds stealthily to a mausoleum. Lurch shoulders open the door, and he, Matt, Grimm, and Enoch go in.

The casket has intricate marks on it, which Matt notes were carved after the casket was placed in here. Enoch recognizes the symbol for Phosphorum, and some others indicating that this is a Refinement Mentor Athanor - a Promethean could meditate here and learn the truth of the Refinement (thus taking a Role). Matt looks around the back of it and finds the name "JESSE" carved on it - probably the Promethean that made the Athanor. But then Matt realizes that there's water seeping in from the corners and dripping from the ceiling...and then the floodwaters start.

The deluge pushes Lurch straight out of the mausoleum and knocks the other three off their pins. They taste the water - it's warm and salty, less like seawater and more like tears. The waters subside after a few minutes and the Prometheans feel a little drained. Enoch notes that this might have been a Firestorm (they don't always involve literal fire), but he's not sure what triggered it. Maybe Matt touching the casket, but why that? Figuring to test it, Enoch and Grimm go back in and Enoch touches it, and the same thing happens - deluge of water, water recedes, Prometheans lose some Pyros...but this time, they fall into visions...in pairs.

Avalon and Grimm wind up in a chalet in Switzerland, which Avalon recognizes as the home of her creator, Ysolde. The place is weirdly quiet; all the clocks have stopped. They find Ysolde's body in her workshop, a single bullet wound in her back...and Avalon's gun has a spent cartridge and there are bloody footprints in her size near the body.

They realize this must be a vision, but Grimm doesn't understand why he's there, too. And then a car pulls up outside and Rosa, Grimm's creator, enters with groceries, calling to Ysolde that she's home. She sees the Prometheans and screams, demanding to know why Avalon shot Ysolde, and then tells Grimm that she knew he'd bring death, he's made of killers, of course he's a killer. The clocks start ticking again and grow louder and louder...and then their vision clears and they're back in the cemetery.

Lurch and Enoch share a vision. They're in a...morgue? Hard to say, but bodies are definitely being processed. Lurch says that his workshop when he made a Promethean looked a little like this, and Enoch is surprised to know that Lurch, in addition to spawning Extempore, also created one the old-fashioned way. As they talk, a man in surgical scrubs enters, and pulls down his mask to reveal...Ollie, the young artist who got overly Disquieted by Avalon back in Colorado. He says that he was trying to make someone to fill the same need as Avalon, but now that Enoch was here, he could just take him to her. He stares at the mark on Enoch's arm, obsessing over the throng bond, but Enoch refuses, saying that getting near Avalon would be bad for him. Ollie responds by cutting open his own throat, and the Prometheans watch him die. Back in the cemetery, they come to standing far apart from the others, and Lurch tells Enoch that he thinks he's right about his interpretation of Phosphorum. This fulfills Enoch's Pilgrim Role milestone, help another Promethean approach the Pilgrimage.

Skip and Virgil share a vision. They're in a boxing ring, and Skip is pounding the crap out of Virgil. Virgil is wounded, his eyes are swollen shut, but he's not falling down and Skip isn't letting up. Skip finally clinches him to make the refs break it up and take them back to corners, and Skip's corner man tells him "you've got him! Finish him!" He recognizes Nergal's voice, but refuses to fight. Nergal responses by climbing inside him and forcing him into the ring, but Skip fights back, trying to call on his knowledge of Vitality to resist. They fade back into the cemetery, and Skip is punching the bark off a tree, which Virgil is standing behind. Skip apologizes, but Virgil smiles - he didn't know he could take that kind of punishment.

That leaves Feather and Matt...but Feather's player was feeling very ill suddenly so we had to call it there, HENCE THE INTERRUPTED SUBJECT LINE OOOOOH.

(Next time.)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Character Creation: Geasa

What the heck, this one's quick and I've got a little time.

The Game: Geasa
The Publisher: Firestorm Ink
Degree of Familiarity: I played it with +Michelle and +Jonathan at Origins some years back, and it was legit one of my favorite con games ever. We still talk about Michelle's turn as the motherfuckin' lion
Books Required: Just the one.

So, Geasa is totally one of those dirty hippie indie games that I love so much. It's GM-less, and everyone plays two characters: a human being and a faerie creature that exerts influence and makes deals with a human character, so if I'm playing Human X, I'm also playing Faerie Y, who is screwing with Human Z. (When we played the tone was less "European faerie" and more "spirits of nature, red in tooth and claw", but it worked just fine.) As I think about, this game is kinda an influence on Jack's Trick, the game I'm currently working on.

Anydangway, the way we start is by making up a human. If I were in a group, one of us would be the "First Player" and would start things off, but it's just me. So: Let me tell you a story.

Rick Brayker likes to joke that he's an action movie character who got lost. It's the name - RICK BRAYKER. The truth is that Rick is the farthest thing from an action movie character you can imagine, he's doughy and kinda out of shape and daydreams a lot. Rick works as the manager of a big box store, which means he works long hours and he has to deal with teenage/20-something employees and customers and returns and seminars and so on. Generally Rick is happy; he's got an apartment and a pet turtle and a fine collection of true crime books and a Netflix subscription, but he's bored and he regrets, just a little bit, that he let his youth go by without ever, like, jumping.

(He is, in other words, a perfect mark for a Fae.)

Next, Elements. The elements are Head, Heart, Life, and Loins. I get scores of 4, 3, 2, 2 to put in them.

Well, Loins gets a 2. If Rick's Loins were higher (lol) he'd have made different choices. I think I'll put this other 2 in Head - it's not that Rick isn't smart, but he's not quick and he's not clever and he's not imaginative. I'll put the 4 in Heart (Rick's a good guy and he treats people well), and that means the 3 goes in Life.

Now Goals. I can take up to three, but I don't think Rick needs three - part of his problem is that he's kind of looking for something to be passionate about. I'll put "Do Something Dangerous" as one goal and "Find a New Job" as another. (In a group, our goals would play off each other, but again, just me.)

And now, Supports! I get up to six, and they're weighted differently (3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1). They can be skills or training or people I know or whatever. Sure thing.

Well, I'll put Simon the Turtle as one. Simon doesn't say much but he's good company. I'll put Retail Management as my 3-point support - it's what Rick has the most time invested in and it's the single biggest defining point of him, but it's not something he cares about (leastways, he doesn't think he does). I'll take Card Tricks as a 2-point support. Just feels like something Rich might have learned.

I'll take Basic IT as a 1-point, Jill Who Works at the Sandwich Shop as a 2-point (she makes the best sandwiches, also her hair is short and green or red and it makes Rick think of Christmas), and a New Tablet as a 1-point (it was an impulse purchase, but Rick really likes it).

And that's Rick done. Now I make a Fae. I think Rick works in something like a Best Buy, so my Fae is a gremlin. It's humanoid, orange-red in color, has an extra thumb on each hand, wears pants made of leather but no shirt, and it carries a satchel with tools.

I have to define what the gremlin wants. That's easy, the gremlin wants chaos. It wants sparks and zaps and pops and crackles and fire and crashes and rhinos. It doesn't necessarily want people to get hurt, but that's mostly because people don't spark or catch fire when they get hurt, they just bleed and whimper. Yawn.

And then I have to define what makes the gremlin weak. The gremlin hates money. Specifically, if a coin is spun or flipped, or if two coins jingle together, the gremlin recoils and runs away. Paper money doesn't bother it the same way, but it won't touch bills.

And that's it!

Game Prep A-Go-Go

This is my last day of spring break. I had wanted to do a character a day, but then I got hit with some really shitty news on Tuesday and lost basically all of Tuesday and most of Wednesday to depression and suicidal ideation (hey, you read my blog, you take your chances). I'm much better now (I mean, I'm still depressed, I basically have been nonstop since fall), but that doesn't change the fact that I planned on making like seven characters this week and I'm gonna wind up doing four if I do one today.

But, on the other hand, I really wanted to get caught up so I could continue doing one a week all year, and as of right now I am (13 weeks into 2018, 13 characters done). So that's nice.

Anyway, today I'm doing game prep. I'm finding it's useful to do a game prep post once a month-ish. Since most of the games I run are monthly, that works out nicely (the ones that aren't are bi-weekly, which might require an additional Blades in the Dark or Promethean post on occasion, but I don't suppose that's a problem).

Right, so, the point is, if you're one of my players, maybe don't click the thing here.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Movie #452: The Mummy

The Mummy is an action monster/movie starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O'Connor, and Oded Fehr.

In ancient Egypt, Imhotep (Vosloo) gets a little too frisky with Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velazquez), mistress of the Pharaoh (Aharon Impale) and winds up undergoing a really nasty cursed burial for his trouble. Fast forward to 1923, and an American member of the French Foreign Legion discovers the resting place of Imhotep, the famed city of the dead. Said American, O'Connell (Fraser) trades this knowledge to British/Egyptian librarian Evy (Weisz) and her grifter brother Jonathan (Hannah), who undertake a mission to loot the place, as is the British custom.

Of course, they do that just as O'Connell's former compatriot Beni (O'Connell, just in case you weren't confused) leads a bunch of American treasure hunters and another British Egyptologist (Jonathan Hyde) to the city of the dead, and long story short, they wind up awakening Imhotep and bad shit ensues. Eventually, O'Connell, Evy, Jonathan, and a truly yummy Medjai called Ardeth Bay (Fehr) have to team up to kill the mummy once again.

So, this is by no means high art. It's campy and schlocky and the CGI hasn't aged well. But for all that, it's one of my favorites. Fraser is a really superb comic/action performer (and what happened to his career truly saddens me). Rachel Weisz is feisty and clever and fun and just so proud of being a librarian. Jerry O'Connell steals the show as Beni, the cheerfully amoral and somewhat ghoulish toady who winds up falling victim to his own greed, and Hannah plays off the other characters perfectly. One of the reasons this movie works as well as it does is that it doesn't offload the humor onto one comic relief character - most of the characters, except maybe Imhotep, get a few laughs in. The chemistry between Weisz and Fraser works and doesn't feel forced, and Vosloo is appropriately menacing as the mummy.

The series fell off as it progressed (as we'll see), but this movie kinda occupies as special place in my heart; it's a movie that watches the way I think Savage Worlds should play.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Mummy Returns

Night's Black Agents: Agents on a Plane

Last time was a long time ago.

So! The agents pull into Reykjavik, dock their boat, and disembark...and immediately get lights in their faces and loud admonitions to drop their bags and put their hands up. They do, and the police approach to cuff them, and they decide they can get back on the boat and book it. Ess shoves a cop and runs, Parker and MacAteer get onto the deck, but Gambone trips and tackles Hanover and the two of them can't quite make it to the boat. Ess runs for it and gets shot, but still manages to make it to the boat. MacAteer pulls away from the dock (leaving Hanover and Gambone behind, but he doesn't know that; too many lights in his eyes), but police boats are already closing in. The agents have been captured.

They're in jail in Iceland for a little while, and then (once Ess has healed up enough to travel), they're put on a plane to be extradited to Budapest. They're marched onto a prison plane, shackled, and Parker notes that two of the guards are INTERPOL, but two of them aren't - probably conspiracy. She snags a key from one of the guards (Filch is her MOS), and the five of them are put into the plane.

She waits until they're out over the ocean to unlock herself; meanwhile, Hanover chats up the two INTERPOL folks (he speaks Hungarian). He learns, through judicious use of Cop Talk, that the two other guards were shuffled into the rotation last-minute, and that the guards are all carrying live ammunition - usually against protocol. The agents start to figure that they're all screwed if they make it to Hungary.

Ess twists himself and pops his stitches, and starts to bleed, luring the two conspiracy guards over to him, and he takes the opportunity to steal a key. Parker sneaks out of her seat and unlocks Gambone, and then rushes one of the INTERPOL guards, disarming him. The other guard hits the alarm. Gambone grabs the first guy's gun and points it at Hanover, telling the other guards (the conspiracy ones) that if they don't comply, he'll blow Hanover's head off.

The guard responds by shooting the other INTERPOL guard. Ess unlocks himself and grabs one of the conspiracy guards, but he shakes Ess loose and shoots at Gambone (missing). Parker and Gambone subdue the other conspiracy guard, and then draw down on the last guy, who surrenders. They chain up the guards and talk to the surviving INTERPOL guy, who's obviously a bit freaked out. He doesn't know anything of substance, though - the guards aren't told the code to get into the cockpit, for exactly this reason.

The agents, however, aren't unprepared for this. They pop the panel off the lock and do electronics to the wires (see how much I know about this shit), and take control of the plane. They shackle the pilot and co-pilot up with the other guards, and then consider their predicament.

They're over the ocean between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The pilots have undoubtedly already radioed in, so the plane is being tracked and wherever they land, there will be a heavy police or military presence waiting for them, at best. At worst, well, it's not impossible that someone with Hajnal's resources could find a way to blow them out of the sky. They could do a water landing, but that would put them on a raft in the middle of the damn ocean (and obviously every emergency bit of gear on this plane is tagged and tracked), not to mention that they have five prisoners, at least three of whom are just doing their jobs. And, they only have two members who can fly the plane at all, and neither of them have a lot of points in Pilot left to spend.

All in all, it's not a pretty picture.

Movie #451: Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie starring Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, and just, like, so many people.

In the waning years of the Viet Nam war, government researcher/kook Bill Randa (Goodman) and Hollow Earth Theory advocate Brookes (Hawkins) manage to finagle a military escort to Skull Island, ostensibly to map it before the Russians do, but mostly because they're searching for monsters (Randa was on a ship destroyed by a giant monster and it's become his obsession). They wind up accompanied by Packard (Jackson), the Army fella in charge of the mess, a former SAS tracker named Conrade (Hiddleston) and an anti-war photojournalist who figures something bigger is up (Larson). The helicopter to the island and immediately get fucking rocked by Kong (Kebbell, who also plays one of the soldiers), and wind up slowing losing members to the various monsters on the island until they find Marlow (Reilly), who's been stuck here since WWII.

So, the idea here is to make a shared universe (yes, another one), but this one might actually work because the filmmakers seem to have taken Marvel's lesson to heart. To wit, you can't make the movies about the shared universe, you have to make us care about the movies within that universe. Kong is a monster movie, sure, but it takes its time with the characters, intersperse the kick-ass action and death with some honest development (Reilly, Jackson, and Hiddleston in particular, but the subtle growing attraction between Hawkins' Brookes and Jing's San is also sweet). And, of course, the special effects are remarkable (hence the Visual Effects Oscar nom).

Now, Godzilla is the first movie in the "monsterverse" and I haven't seen that one, but I hear good things. Doing Kong as a period piece makes it kinda like the Captain America of this universe, except that it's establishing some of the necessary backstory, which I think is cool. Generally, Kong is well done, well-scripted, and a lot of fun to watch. If I have a complaint, it's that I could have used more of Larson's Weaver, and I hope we see something of her in other monsterverse movies.

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: High

Next up: The Mummy