Sunday, July 29, 2018

Chill: You Are Going to Jail, Kevin

Finally, we got to play Chill.

Last time, the envoys looked into evidence of a werewolf - possibly Dylan's brother - and its victims, the Caldwells.

Today, as they're getting ready to head out to investigate more, Darnell finds BB and tells him that a man was killed out by where they were investigating yesterday. The victim, one Kyle Brandt, was an employee of the saw mill (the envoys actually met him yesterday). They head back out there, minus Luther, who had something else to do and couldn't join them. They take firearms, and they discuss their strategy: Dylan raises a Sphere of Protection, Jeanie and BB shoot it.

They get to the mill and find lots of police and employees milling around. Dylan talks to the employees and learns that Brandt tends to work late. It looked to them like something grabbed him as he came down the stairs from the office, and dragged him between the buildings.

Jeanie and BB, meanwhile, walk around the building to see if they can find tracks - and lo, they can. They follow the tracks out into the field (well, BB does, Jeanie gets caught up by the cops and lectured about being around a crime scene). BB finds, weirdly, that there are wolf tracks, but then a pair of human shoe prints that just kind of appear, and walk with the wolf, and then fade out. Weird.

Jeanie joins BB, and they find the trail leads to the road, and they see a guy on his porch cleaning a shotgun. He tells them there's a bear or something around and a bunch of the locals are setting traps (so the envoys need to be careful). They decided to check back on the Caldwell's house, figuring the wolf might have fallen back there to lurk during the day (Dylan got some info about werewolves from SAVE, but they were nonspecific about what happens to lycanthropes during daylight hours).

They come up to the door and Jeanie sees that the police tape is broken. That's enough for her, she grabs her shotgun. They open the door and head in, and everything goes dead silent. Dylan raises the Sphere and they can hear again, and they see Darnell (or what looks like him) sitting on the steps. He tries to sell the deception at first, but it doesn't really work, so the thing changes into Loomis, the scarecrow. This is enough for Jeanie, again, and she levels the shotgun, but then everything outside of the Sphere goes dark. Now unable to see the target, the envoys fall back and step outside the kitchen door...whereupon their car smashes into the house at them. Jeanie barely manages (through use of her Quicken discipline) to shove the others back into the house, and Dylan reestablishes the Sphere.

Figuring that they need to make a statement, they decide to blow up the house. Jeanie pulls the over out and breaks open the gas line, while Dylan and BB head for the window in the dining room. Jeanie, once she's out of the Sphere, finds everything going dark and her body coordination going. BB tosses Dylan out the window, and then jumps back to grab Jeanie.

But outside, Dylan sees his brother staggering out of the trees. He's missing a finger, and beckons to Dylan, but Dylan holds fast. BB and Jeanie get out, and Alex starts to grow fur. BB shoots him (with some difficulty, as he's Reluctant to Harm), and Jeanie walks right up and shoots him in the head, killing him. She then grabs a flare from the car and tosses it in the house. Boom.

Of course, this brings the police, and all three of them are arrested. Dylan is breaking down, of course, babbling about werewolves, and the other two know to ask for a lawyer. They eventually wind up claiming self defense, which wouldn't work, except that the coroner's van carrying Alex's body crashes later that night. Both men in it are ripped apart, and Alex's body is gone.

Annie (the lawyer, remember) manages to plead them down to probation, which means that they'll be under the watchful eye of the law next time we have a case with them. I think that the next case, though, might involve Willa, Jordan, and Blake.

Movie #471: The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter

The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter is, as the entirely overwrought title suggests, the sequel to The Neverending Story. It stars Jonathan Brandis, Kenny Morrison, Clarissa Burt, John Wesley Shipp, Martin Umbach, Thomas Hill, and Alexandra Johnes. It's pretty bad.

So, we seem to have ignored the end of the first movie entirely. Bastian (Brandis) has gotten like 4 years older and is now blond and cute but scared of jumping off the diving board. He goes back to see Koreander (Hill), the bookseller, and steals The Neverending Story again, but this time when he starts reading it, he's physically transported into it. The Nothing is gone, but the Emptiness is hollowing everything out, and it's controlled by an evil queen named Xayide (Burt) who is trying to bring order to Fantasia.

Anyway, Bastian still has the Orin (a magic necklace) and it lets him make wishes, but every one loses him a memory. He makes a bunch, but he's really bad at it, and the wishes never really make a difference, nor do the lost memory. In the end...I think he wishes to go home and jumps off a waterfall? I was honestly pretty bored by that point.

The movie is a mess, the plot is full of holes and shit that just doesn't pass a sniff test (like, Bastian's father [Shipp] tracks down Koreander and asks where the hell Bastian is, and he smiles creepily and gives him a response that wasn't literally "he's in my basement" but might as well have been, and dad just fucks off and reads the book). The special effects are pretty weak, but they're not really any worse than other movies of the day. The performances are god-awful, but then, the dialog doesn't leave them much to work with.

All in all, glad it's done.

My Grade: F
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Night's Black Agents: Holy Shit! There Are Vampires!

I mean, we've known that for a while, but one of the characters just figured it out today. More or less.

So! Last time, the agents decided they'd extract Klobucar and then swing back and deal with Kornai. The four agents that are in the know (that is, Hanover, Parker, MacAteer, and Carlsson) decided to move without Firinci; he was new to the group and doesn't believe in vampires (and his player was late).

MacAteer and Carlsson went to Konjic and got a safe house together in an old, abandoned bank. Parker and Hanover, meanwhile, set up the meet with Mujic - Klobucar met them ("them" here meaning MacAteer and Carlsson) at the airport, and they swept him for bugs and then took him to the bank.

At this point, Parker revealed herself, but Hanover did not (he's committed to remaining dead). They interrogated Klobucar, and he revealed a few things of interest.

First, he'd run because the conspiracy had wanted to turn him, but he wasn't interested in becoming that kind of monster. They'd wanted Hanover, but since he was dead, they'd decided to "upgraded" Klobucar, and he'd dropped off the grid.

Klobucar knew that Hajnal's organization had been part of the conspiracy at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but he wasn't sure when exactly Hajnal had been turned. He knew that Hajnal, Tesla, Sas, and Koltay were all vampires, and he knew that converting someone into a vampire was an operation that took a dedicated space and some time. He told them that there was a new process for converting someone that left more of their personality and memory intact, that Thibault, Kingsilver, and "the American" (Jones) had been subjected to. The conspiracy had stopped using that, though, since the agents had used serum to make them explode, and the conspiracy seemed to feel that human emotion and experience was a weakness.

Parker asked if there were other weaknesses, but Klobucar wasn't sure - he knew they burned just fine, and that they didn't like heat, but it didn't melt them or anything. He did mention that vampires weren't great at lateral thinking, and they didn't always guess well what other people knew.

They ran down a list of people that they'd worked with and asked if they were turned or watched, but Klobucar couldn't tell them anything they didn't already know. They asked where he wanted to go, and he said Canada, so Hanover got to work on his documents.

Meanwhile, though, Firinci, back in Sarajevo, got a text message from Samir - "help." He immediately contacted the agents and asked for help, and zeroed in on Samir's location from his last text. The location was a big house with a fence around it. Firinci got there just as MacAteer and Carlsson did (Parker and Hanover stayed at the bank to keep cover intact and keep an eye on Klobucar).

The door to the house had been smashed in. The agents crept up to the door and saw two SUVs outside; MacAteer recognized them as the ones outside Kornai's apartments. As they looked around, they heard a gunshot, and that spurred them into action. They moved around the side of the house, picked the lock on the patio door, and went in (MacAteer hotwired one of the SUVs and disabled the other, and stayed out to act as getaway).

Firinci peeked into the living room, and saw Samir on the ground, bleeding, but alive. Two other guards were dead, four men with guns covered the room, and Mujic was flanked by two men with blanked expressions and blood on their faces. They were speaking in Hungarian, which Firinci doesn't speak, but it was obviously not a good situation. Firinci reported the numbers to Carlsson, but didn't mention the blank expressions or the blood, which turned out to be important.

They moved through the house to the other entrance to that room, grabbed some liquor bottles on the way to make Molotovs. They got to the door, and Firinci threw a Molotov into the center of the room. Carlsson, seeing the brutes, hurled one toward them, but the brute dodged, moving entirely too fast. Firinci grabbed Samir, and Kornai yelled "shoot them!"

Carlsson shot him right in the head, and they ran. They managed to get to the window by the cars and Carlsson (on coms) yelled to MacAteer to shoot it, and they jumped out. The brutes were on their heels, still moving too fast to be real. They got in the car and MacAteer floored it, but the brutes were chasing...and keeping pace. And then Firinci noticed Kornai running across the lawn. That would be the guy that Carlsson had just shot in the forehead.

They started heading back to Sarajevo. Next time we get to see what Samir saw, and how Firinci is going to deal with this.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Character Creation: Demon: The Fallen

Got some time while the ribs cook, and a friend of mine asked for this game, so here we are.

The Game: Demon: The Fallen
The Publisher: White Wolf
Degree of Familiarity: Quite a bit. I didn't work on the core book, but I wrote some of the important systems in the Player's Guide and I worked on one or two other sourcebooks.
Books Required: Just the one, but I might grab the Player's Guide.

Ah, Demon. There's some weirdness behind the creation of this game - it was something WW said they'd never do (they said that a lot), and it was initially supposed to tie in to Hunter more, but then...I'm not entirely sure (and it's not my story to tell, it's Mike Lee's). I playtested Demon, but I can't remember if anything we said after the playtest got implemented or not. This is, after all, a long-ass time ago.

I ran Demon for about a year - it was actually my first game run on the paradigm of "let's play monthly, decide before we start playing when we're playing next month, and play for a longer session." I presently run three games that way, so it worked out nicely. That was a fun chronicle.

Anydangway, let's do this.

Step One: Concept. I've got an idea. When you're making a Demon character, you're making not only the Fallen angel that got out of Hell, but the person they've possessed, and you can play either of those personas to a greater or lesser degree. One of the things that's fun about Demon is that your angel can have been the Angel of Just About Anything before the War; unlike In Nomine, you still have your "Word" (but since you're not an angel anymore it doesn't much mater). So my demon, as an angel, helped design the mammalian nervous system, and specifically the apparatus that ties chemical responses to mood. Increase sodium here or potassium there, and the monkey feels sad or happy or horny or loved. It was all a matter of ratios and balance, and he loved humanity and made sure that means for contentment was right there in their brains all along.

He rebelled because he wanted to explain to humanity that achieving balance with biology was possible, and of course, God's rules conflicted with that, so he sided with the Morning Star, lost, and spent thousands of years in Hell. He escaped and found himself drawn to a man named Andre Summers. Andre was so deep in depression that he couldn't get out of bed, and with no health insurance and no support system, he only hadn't ended his life because he couldn't muster the energy to do it. The angel - Ymariel - took him over, and was appalled at what the world had become.

Lots of people believed that the consciousness was outside of the body, and lots more believed it was nothing but the body. The harmony he'd created was gone, probably unachievable (Ymariel had lost much of his power and knowledge through eons in Hell). He took Andre's life, largely a blank slate, and started working again, learning all he could about neuroanatomy. He put Andre through med school, at the same time studying philosophy, trying to find the secret he'd once lost. With it, he figures he could save humanity.

So, now we do the splats. House...hmm. I kinda pictured him as a Malefactor, but that might be too stuff-focused. Lemme look. Well, there's not really a life-focused House, so I think I'll play to Ymariel's focus on structure and integration and say he's a Malefactor. As for Faction, he's either a Cryptic or a Reconciler, and I think it'd be interesting to say he's a Cryptic. He doesn't think that the angels were wrong to rebel, but he does think maybe there's more to this whole thing than anyone wants to understand.

Right, so I need a Nature and Demeanor, too. OK. His Nature is Visionary; he wants to find the way to reconcile metaphysical consciousness and the fatty mystery of the brain. His Demeanor is Architect, because well, it fits.

Step Two: Attributes. Standard OWoD array, 7/5/3. I think Ymariel is pretty clearly a Mental/Social/Physical guy. I'll put two into Dexterity and one into Stamina (might raise Strength with freebies, might not).

Two into Manipulation and Charisma, one into Appearance. Andre is pretty average looking.

Four into Intelligence, one into Wits, two into Perception. Andre is hella smart (some of that is Ymariel, but Andre was always clever).

Step Three: Abilities. Again, standard OWoD, 13/9/5, can't go over 3 without spending freebies. Hey-ho. Knowledges first, obviously. Three each into Academics, Medicine, Research, Science, and then one in Occult.

Skills next, I think? Three in Technology, two each in Crafts and Security, one each in Etiquette and Stealth (BTW, "Etiquette" is one of those Abilities that pretty much doesn't need to be there - it's not like when you ask the question "what would fallen angels in a modern fantasy/horror setting be concerned with?", "being polite" would be the answer).

Finally, Talents. One into Alertness, one into Awareness (ugh, those so shouldn't be separate, and look, there's my old friend Dodge!, double ugh), three into Empathy.

Step Four: Advantages. Backgrounds first, I get 5 dots. Well, if I'm a doctor, I need some Resources. I'll take one for now. I want Paragon, Eminence, and Legacy, so I'll go 1 each, and then hell, I'll take Pacts at one dot, just to keep things even. Actually, no, you know what, I'll put that last one in Contacts.

Now Lore (our kewl powerz). I get three dots (boo), and they have to come from the three Lores available to Malefactors or the Common ones. Well, Lore of the Earth doesn't do much for me, but Lore of Paths seems pretty cool, so I'm gonna take two dots there and one dot in...lessee. I'll take one in Lore of Humanity; it's a decent dice pool, anyway. That makes Lore of Paths my primary lore, which guides my demonic form (but I'm gonna use the optional system in the Player's Guide, 'cause it's better. Fnah).

May as well do that, actually. I get 16 "form points" to build my form, and I have to take at least one from the Visage of Paths. Oh, shit, Wings, yes please. That eats 3 points. I'll take Conjuration, that's cool (5 spent). I need some high-Torment ones, so I'll take Ichor (2 points) and Relentless (1 point, so 8 spent, that's not high-Torment, though). Man, still got 8 points. Ooh, Aura of Vitality is good. 4 points, so I've spent 12. I need three more, and they all have to be high-Torment (which means if I pick one that's not normally high-Torment, it's cheaper). I'll take Affirm (high-Torment, which, and then I need two 1-point ones (or rather, 2-points if they're not high-Torment). How about Lashing Tail and Casts No Reflection? Sounds good!

I get three points in Virtues, besides the starting dot. Think maybe I'll dump 'em all into Conscience? Nah, that's too much. One into Conviction.

Faith starts at 3, Torment starts at 3 because I'm a Malefactor, and Willpower starts at the sum of my two highest Virtues, which is 5.

OK, then! 15 freebies. I need to jack up my Backgrounds. I want Eminence at 4 (3 points) and Legacy at 4 (also 3 points). That leaves me 9. I'll buy a dot of Faith, I guess, for 6, and that leaves me 3. I want Medicine 4 so I can have a Specialty in Neurology, and that leaves me 1 more point. I'll jack Resources up to 2.

That's it, then! I picture Ymariel's apocalyptic form as being slender and slight, covered in a sheen of ichor (if analyzed, it would be CSF). He has huge, membraneous wings that sit close to his body when folded, and a long, whip-like tail like a very large nerve cell. In human form, Andre is a biracial man, light skin, brown hair, green eyes, slim and not terribly fit. Andre has a practice; he tried doing pure research, but a) it pays for shit and b) his particular area of interest requires him to get close to people.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Promethean: Provocations

So! Last time, the throng (most of it) was in the jailhouse now. Avalon is incarcerated, Skip was off dealing with Donnie, and the others were in the waiting area of the jail, noting that some kind of riot had occurred.

So let's rewind and talk about Skip (whose player missed last session). Skip gets a text message from Grimm telling him to look in on Donnie, as Donnie was going to get see a girl and Grimm was worried about what he might do. Skip catches up with Donnie as he's walking across the street to talk to her (she's walking out of her apartment complex). He starts talking to her, and Skip notes that he's obviously, nervously professing love, but she's somewhere between putting him off nicely and reaching for her pepper spray.

Skip, on the Provocateur Role, remember, waits until Donnie pauses and then uses the Baffle Distillation on Jenny. She stops, stunned, and Donnie hangs there in limbo for a minute, and then gets angry. He rants a bit about how she could at least respond, and then his disfigurements flare. He turns and runs off, and Skip isn't sure what he did, but Jenny slumps to the ground and sits against the building.

Skip approaches and tries to make sure she's OK, but winds up with a failure-turned-to-dramatic-failure on the Presence roll, and Jenny just starts screaming. Skip, knowing when things are going from bad to worse, fucks off. He reflects that it's really easy to push humans into negative responses, and thinks that if he ever becomes human, he'll need to watch that. He feels Vitriol flood his, and achieves his milestone for the Provocateur Role: Push another Promethean into Torment.

The others are back at the jail, and they decide that there's not a lot they can do from here. They decide to fall back, though Virgil texts Grimm and says that he and Feather are going to check something out (Feather's player was out this week on a severe case of Oklahoma). They head outside, and Skip catches up with them. He tells them what happened with Donnie, and Grimm decides they'd better go find this idiot before he hurts someone.

Meanwhile, in the jail cell, Avalon is confused. She's lost time, and looking around her cell, she sees that the second bed is disturbed - but she didn't disturb it. She decides to meditate and try and get into the zen-artist headspace that the achieved with Emil (but without mescaline this time). She manages that like whoa (she got like 7 successes on the roll), and gets fragments of her time back - someone else was in the room with her, someone she'd met before, but she doesn't remember much else. She forces an Elpis vision, and finds herself floating on a boat down a river made of...Azoth? Fire? Pyros? She drinks a bit and sees her whole Pilgrimage condensed into a few seconds. Up ahead in the river, there's a huge black space, a "nothing" around which the river is flowing. She steers close to it and reaches it, and something grabs her hand. It goes numb, and her gears stop turning, so she quickly lets it go. Whatever this space is, it's anti-Pilgrimage.

She wakes up, and finds herself holding the black orb she found in the floor. Her hand is numb.

The others track down Donnie (using Matt and Enoch's proficiency with Heed the Call), and find a house sound of campus - Donnie's upstairs. They knock on the door and Grimm informs the woman who lives there that he thinks someone's in her house, and manages to be convincing enough that she comes out to call the police. Skip and Grimm go upstairs and find Donnie, and talk him into going out the window and talking with them. He does, and Enoch goes around back and uses Glimpsing the Crasis to cure his Torment. He finds himself in a vision with Donnie, and Donnie tells him that his creator didn't really tell him much - he just made Donnie and left, and then there was an Azoth flare and he was gone. Enoch surmises that this means he achieved the New Dawn, and Donnie muses that it would have been nice if he'd left a note or something.

They come out of the vision, and Donnie says he's going to skip town for a while and try and catch up with Jesse. Grimm says that Donnie should stay in touch - he might not need a throng, but he probably needs friends. Enoch asks that he give Jesse their contact info, and Donnie agrees, and walks off.

The throng hits up a power station to recharge - except Matt, who's already headed back to the exhibit hall to help Jenna tear down her booth. Before he does, he uses the Morning Star Alembic to nudge a group of people into buying stuff at her booth, which of course boosts her Sunday sales, which is always nice. They start working and flirting...and then Matt notices something strange. Everyone around them is frozen, stopped in time...and he hears claw clicks on the floor.

Jenna notices this, too, and swears. "They've found me. Shit. Wait, why aren't you frozen?" Matt, never one for guile under pressure, reveals that he's a Promethean, and Jenna has no idea what that means, but responds to the word "Pilgrimage." She tells him, "OK, this is going to be a little weird, and I'm sorry if this changes how you feel about me."

And she changes into a biomechanical nightmare. He legs and arms lengthen, her skin becomes mirrored, and electricity flows over her body. And then the dog attacks.

The dog is built about like a mastiff, but much bigger. Its eyes are LED lights cycling between 0 and 9, and when it barks, it sounds like a corrupted digital file. It also shoots glass shards when it barks; the first time, both Matt and "Jenna" spin out of the way, but then it rears up and barks ahead, and the glass shreds Matt's shirt and flesh. Jenna smacks it and Matt shoots it, and it stumbles, and Jenna grabs part of her clothes rack and rams it through the thing's chest. It disappears in a puff of digits, and Jenna turns back into herself.

"I have to go," she says. "There are probably more coming. Can you finish here?" Matt agrees, and Jenna tells him to meet her friend "Dry" (Dreyfus) later at Hound Dog. If his friends are Prometheans, hell, bring them, too. The dog-creature isn't dead, just discorporated, and if it comes back it'll bring help.

Matt asks what it was. "An angel," she says, and kisses him before running off.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Character Creation: Chosen

I don't normally stack chargen posts like this, but I haven't run any games, watched any movies (for the project), or played any board games since last time, so here we are.

(Really I should be writing, but depression is kicking my head slowly and steadily today, so I decided I needed to do something and this is better than surfing Facebook and being sad.)

The Game: Chosen
The Publisher: Clockworks Games (now defunct; their old URL is a video gambling site)
Degree of Familiarity: None, I've read it
Books Required: Just the one.

Chosen is by Aaron Rosenberg; I worked with Aaron a little on some Dark Ages books for White Wolf back in the day, and he's a good writer. I did a character for another of his games (Asylum) and I've got Spookshow kicking around as well. Chosen is...a little strange.

The intro to the game talks about mythical beasts choosing avatars in a modern-ish setting, and obviously I can get behind that. And then it's far-future interstellar exploration, and like, cool, it's fun to mix classical mythology and sci-fi. The underlying conflict of the game is the fight between Beasts (creatures of chaos and creativity and individuality) and the Wizards (more about order and regimen), but you actually play Gifted, who can become Chosen of Beasts or Wizards, I guess?

Part of the problem is that the setting and its elements aren't especially intuitive. I mean, it's not like, say, Unhallowed Metropolis where you can say "Industrial Revolution-London, zombie plague, also werewolves and vampires, and the most badass job you can have is 'undertaker' because the dead don't always stay dead" (weird setting but pretty easy to explain). That's not an indictment of the game, mind, just that it didn't really gel when I was reading it. Part of the problem is just layout; there are headers, but very little in the way of formatting on the actual page (no bold or italics) and the print is light and there's watermarking, so it's kinda hard to read.

(I admit, too, that as I was reading it I was hoping that the characters were chosen of the Beasts, but they aren't. Some of the terminology is similar to what we used for Beast: The Primordial, which is pure coincidence, obviously, but it did kind of make reading the book a little fraught for me.)

So, moving on. There are two character creation sections in the book, one in the chapter called "Character" and one in the one called "System." I suspect I shall have to do some flipping. (Doesn't help, too, that the character sheet I have is photocopied and not very good quality.)

OK, anyway, the "Character" section says to choose a place of birth first, while the "System" section says to think about age and gender and the basic shit first. Hmm.

Well, one of the places you can be from is called Solaris Minor, and it's a "resort colony." The text describes it as a cross between Las Vegas, Harvard, and Disney World (the planet has education and tourism as its main sources of revenue). I think that's an interesting mix, so I think I'll say my character is from there, and leaving for the first time, probably something to do with figuring out that he's Gifted.

Next bit is Occupation, which might help me figure a little more out. I think I'd like my character to be an Entertainer. Figure that while in our real world, aspiring to be an entertainer is chancy because there's so much competition and so little promise of a non-exploitative job, on Solaris Minor being an Entertainer is a solid choice because there's so great a need. So my character had a nice singing voice and a decent stage presence, and here we are! My Occupation Skill is (not surprisingly) Performance.

OK, back in the "System" section the book says that after I determine basic conceptual stuff, I should jump right to Function (which is part of my Gift). Generators are creative and energetic, that sounds about right.

So now I select my beginning Gift. Since I'm a Generator, this is something that I can create. Were I a Matter Generator, f'rex, I could make matter from nothing. The obvious choice is Emotion Generator, since, like, as an entertainer that's my whole job. But actually I think I want Energy Generator, because I think his performance ability is all him. His Gift comes in the form of showmanship and pyrotechnics. Def Leppard for the 26th century, if you will.

Now I select my Form. This literally my body type. I think I wish to be Standard (no bonuses or penalties, Health of 10).

Now the book says I fill in Background, which is where the other section said to start. Mregh. OK. I'm from Solaris Minor. I fill in the rest of the basic stuff, too; I'm 5'10", slender, blue eyes, brown hair, named Lorin Wynn. 22 years old.

(I'm starting to remember that Asylum had similar organizational issues.)

Anyway, this is fun. I get my Occupation Skill at 5, which doesn't come out of my Skill Points. And now wheeeee we get 2 freebies, but you can get more by buying Disads, which I'm supposed to do now!

Fine, let's do that. Oh, wait, Ads and Disads affect Skills...which come later. Man what. And like, one of the Disads is "Hunted". In what way does that effect Skills? Jeez.

OK, I want Well-Connected (Entertainment) and Backing (my parents and my agency). That costs 8 points. I can balance that out with Disads, so I'll take Slow (-1 to Initiative) and Dependent (I rely on my parents for support) and then spend my 2 freebie points here. Cool.

Skills, then. I get 25, plus the 5 free in Performance. Let's also take Dodge, Acting, Dancing, Musical Instrument (Guitar), and Singing. I can only take 5 in each, so I hope that's enough. Good grief, why is Performance a separate skill when you've got Dancing, Singing, and so on?

Anyway, now appearance? This is so random. Well, I went through it a little. Lorin is always well-dressed - comfortable but stylish - because his agent insists. His teeth are perfect, his eyes clarified blue, and his nails are always manicured. His shoes come equipped with little panels that can slide into place in case he needs to tap-dance at a moment's notice.

OK, now Characteristics. There's a list and I get one to start with. I'll pick Sensual - I prefer to live in lavish surroundings.

And then (ugh) equipment. Well, there's actually a process here. I have Backing and Well-Connected, so I have tools and equipment for whatever job I do (clothes, guitar, probably) and if I have connections in a given area I pay half for relevant equipment. My starting funds as an Entertainer are 12,500. Because I grew up in a resort colony, I can...apparently buy anything. Neat! Now, do I wish to buy things? I do not, sir!

That's me done, actually. Yeah, this is kind of a jumble.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Character Creation: Cabal

Back at it! Beginning of this week had a lot going on, but now we' less going on! (whoooo)

The Game: Cabal
The Publisher: Corone Design
Degree of Familiarity: None, I've read it.
Books Required: Just the one.

In Cabal, you play a corporation. Like, the players collectively come up with the corporation, which is as shadowy and arcane as they like, and then you go on missions, creating specialist employees to play as part of that mission. It's an interesting concept, and the system is percentile-ish, which is...not jarring, exactly, but just a little strangely trad in presentation? I don't know, it's possible I've been living in PbtA too long. I haven't played this game, so I dunno, I'm sure it works perfectly well at the table. (I must say, though, that reading it, it didn't scream "run me.")

Well, enough of that. Let's get to work! Normally I would collaborate with the other players to make a corporation, but since it's just me, it's just me.

Step One: Name. What's the name of my organization? I have to admit I'm feeling influence by the Kingsman movies. The first one was better, the sequel wasn't terrible but it wasn't as tight, but I did like the kind of parody-level American portrayal in the Statesmen (yet another thing that our current political situation has ruined). I think I want my organization to be a next-level world-influencing/espionage kind of thing, although I might not have the points to be as badass as either the Kingsmen or the Statesmen. I'll call the organization Fulcrum, Inc.

Step Two: Type. Kinda already answered this; Fulcrum is "espionage/conspiracy."

Step Three: Mission Statement. I want Fulcrum to be the "shadowy conspiracy influencing world events" kind of thing. They're not malicious and they're not, like, driven by something stupid like religious faith (I mean, that might not be stupid in-setting anyway), but they probably do have a bit of self-interest going on. Their mission statement is "changing the world but keeping the balance."

Step Four: Assign Attributes. I get 300 points to split between 11 Attributes, only I get 20 free in Finances because money money money make the world go 'round. Let's see.

Well, I'd like to be Secrecy up to at least 70, but that's gonna eat a bunch of my points. Eh, fuck it. Let's do it.

I want Resources, Influence, and Specialists to be high, too. Facade and Pressures can be pretty low; I think Fulcrum is largely unknown to the mundane populace. Let's put those latter two at 5, and put the first three at 50 each. I've spent 230, meaning I have 70 to go, and I still have 5 to go. Well, crap. Let's put 5 in Prestige (65), 20 in Knowledge (45), 20 in Loyalty (25), 10 in Finances (for a total of 30) and the remaining 15 in Foundation. That's pretty weaksauce, but hey.

Step Five: Logo/Uniform. The Fulcrum logo is easy; simple line over a circle. The uniform is basic black with grey trim, but Fulcrum doesn't put a lot of emphasis on conformity of appearance.

Step Six: Detail Employees. I get 50 team points because that's my score in Specialists. Do I need to do anything with that? It looks like I would make an employee before a mission, but that the Board of Directors (the hypothetical other players and I) would make some decisions about where to spend those 50 points. I don't think I need to do that here, though?

So, I think I'd rather think about Fulcrum a little more. Fulcrum is a conspiracy, it's just not a very old one. It's probably a remnant of another intelligence agency - it's got a decent showing in terms of personnel, but they aren't especially loyal, they're mostly in it for the payday. They are, however, very good at staying off the radar. That limits Fulcrum's options for making money and staying solvent, but they can zip in, fulfill surgical-strike agendas, and zip out. That does, however, leave their agents mostly relying on their wits. I think that Fulcrum remains mysterious and aloof even from their employees, presenting the facade that they're more influential than they really are.

And I think that's me done, actually.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Blades in the Dark: Quite Literally This Time

Last night was Blades, and lo, the scoundrels completed a job that's been bedeviling them for some time.

Last time, you may remember, they took a job for Lyssa of the Crows in return for some help killing Mylera Klev, leader of the Red Sashes, and then set up their next job: Killing Gargoyle, looking and spy for said Sashes. We pick up this time as the Widdershins, already turned to shadow by Cage's magic, ambush Gargoyle outside a drug den in the Docks.

One-Eye darts him with a paralysis drug and he starts to seize up, but then Cage hits him with a dagger and manages to bleed out the potion. Gargoyle starts to run, but Siren hits him with a thrown dagger and Copper walks right up, cuts his throat, and grabs his mask. Done. He's dead.

Well, nothing's ever easy.

Siren sends her hunting raptor, Bartok, to the Crows to let them know their part of the job is done, and the crew heads back to Nightmarket. But then Siren and One-Eye arrive at the Ruby and find a Crow and Bartok waiting, with a message: "Klev escaped. Heading for Iruvian consulate."

If Klev makes it to the consulate, she'll go to ground and probably be untouchable. Plus, this will have the makings of a diplomatic incident. The scoundrels head out there lickety-split, and arrive at the consulate just before Klev does. They park the boat round the back of the building, and Siren and Cage scale the building while Copper and One-Eye flank it. And there they see Klev, wounded, coming toward the gates with two bodyguards.

Knowing that if she reaches the gates, they're done, One-Eye steps out and flings a smoke bomb...but misses. The bodyguards spring into action and one closes with her, brandishing his sword. Copper rounds the corner and closes with the other bodyguard and Klev. Copper and Button face off against them. One-Eye draws a gun and fires at the other guard, who spins and vanishes into an alleyway.

Copper shoots at Klev and drops her (but it's hard to know if she's dead). Siren shoots as well, and manages to hit Copper (though not injure her, thanks to armor). Cage and Siren scale the building and get down to the bottom, but note that the place is getting more active - guards, lights, guns. Siren lays down suppressive fire and drives back the guard, but also scares away Button.

One-Eye heads for the melee, but the other guard appears and slashes her legs. Siren sends Bartok to intervene, but the guy wraps the bird up in the defensive sash around his hand and flings him off. Copper, meanwhile, tries to assess whether Klev is dead, but the guard takes the opportunity and slashes her chest, nearly killing her.

One-Eye yells for help, and Siren vaults the fence. Cage goes to follow, but realizes that the fence has been electrified, so he's forced to take it slow and let his boots insulate him. One-Eye rolls a small grenade toward the guard attacking her and it explodes, incapacitating him, while Siren shoots the other one dead. Cage walks up to Klev and shoots her in the head, figuring it's best to be sure, and then all of the scoundrels run (Siren helping Copper as she's too hurt to run on her own).

They get back to the boat and manage to get back to their headquarters without incident, and over the next couple of days meet with Pickett of the Lampblacks (who discharges their debt and thanks them; it was messy but that's no skin off the Lampblacks' backs) and Lyssa of the Crows (who apologizes for losing Klev and gives them some money, but the subtext is very much "yeah, what exactly are you going to do, file a complaint?").

The scoundrels don't get any entanglement problems, but they do have one major issue: Their wanted level is now high enough that anyone connected to their crew that goes to jail now stands to be executed. They spend some downtime actions finding a patsy, and hit upon a Ministry of Preservation worker named Arvus Keel - he's corrupt and rough, and no fan of Iruvians, which is good enough. They plant evidence on him and then Cage sends ghosts to bedevil him and get him noticed, and the Bluecoats come for him. He's convicted and executed for the murders outside the Iruvian consulate. Case closed (well, the wanted level is still high, its just not that high).

We shall see what the nights of Doskovol hold for our scoundrels next time.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Board Game: Welcome to Slaughterville

Well, we didn't play Alas for the Awful Sea yesterday, so instead...

The Game:Welcome to  
The Publisher: Rubio Games
Time: At least an hour
Players: Me, Michelle, Megan, Melissa - basically your name has to start with M

Can't have "slaughter" without "laughter."
Game Play: We actually tried playing this game a few months back, but the box didn't include the rules and we didn't feel like calling up the PDF online to parse them. This time, though, we did, and it's actually not all that difficult.

The game plays very much like Arkham Horror. The basic premise is that you're college students going to Slaughterville to combat the evil (OK, that's a little muddled, and actually most of the characters you play aren't college students, so never mind that). You choose a Villain, all of which interact with the rules a little differently, and you choose several locations, all of which have their own deck that gives you encounters while you're there.

Setting up.
We chose (randomly) the Serial Killer as our Villain. The parameters here are that you have to find and investigate the killer before 10 rounds are over, because at that point the killer fucks off and you lose. Of course, Slaughterville is full of monsters anyway, so there's lots to do even if you never see the killer.

Games involve coffee. Also Melissa went through like three characters.

Play progresses, again, a lot like Arkham - you can move, encounter a location, or trade with other players in your location. You get clues by defeating enemies in a fight, or very occasionally from other cards. In this particular scenario, you expend clues to track the killer, and every time you "fight" the killer by investigating (or by literally fighting him), you deplete his deck. You have to deplete it entirely to beat him; we lost.

But we were happy about it!
Combat works, again, a lot like Arkham; you roll against an enemy and if you roll more successes (5+) than they do, you win. Roll fewer, you lose, and take the difference in wounds.

Opinions: The general consensus was that this game would be fun to play again now that we know how it works; we didn't strategize especially well. That's normal in a game like this, and I think it's definitely got some replayability. The rules could be explained a little better in places, but again, you expect that (I suppose I could also go check out the Youtube explanation of play).

I was kind of not terribly thrilled by combat; it can stagnate, but you can spend a clue to get out, so there's that. The artwork on the game is fantastic and the card text is fun, if a little over-reliant on movie and media references.

Our Slaughterville.
Keep? Sure. Maybe we'll fight the slasher in fishnets next time.

Masks: Spectres and Swords

Well, we didn't play Alas for the Awful Sea yesterday, but we did play a Masks one-shot on Saturday, so HA, I have a game write-up to do today.

I hadn't run or played Masks before, but it went really smoothly. I like the game a whole lot. Meet the heroes!

  • The Janus is Copycat/Carlos Caballero. Carlos can mimic a substance's properties by touching them, so he wears an outfit with lots of pouches with various materials (we asked if his costume was designed by Rob Liefeld). Carlos works as a barista near La Plaza mall, and only his Judo teacher, Mr. Balfour, knows his real identity. 
  • The Outsider is Positron/Laran Naiar. Positron is from a colony ship simply called Home, and was sent as a long-range scout looking for a new planet for their displaced species. Positron is agender (their species doesn't really have "gender" as a concept). They find humanity inspiring, but also frustrating - humanity lacks tech that Positron takes for granted. They can control their personal density as well as manipulate sunlight. 
  • The Delinquent is El Cucuy/Dante Soto. Dante was given his powers by his mentor, but whereas his mentor used these powers of teleportation and illusions to be forthright and positive and a shining heroic ideal, Dante would ran be dark and scary. He ran away to Halcyon City to avoid those responsibilities, but he takes his team as intentional family. 
  • The Nova is Thunderbird/Jess Tenkiller. Jess' powers manifested in the middle of a tornado, and the spirit of Thunderbird visited her. Her powers injured her best friend Carrie, and she works now to control the vast power within. 
  • The Bull is Marta Hernandez/Wrecking Ball. In spite of her name, Wrecking Ball is actually a highly controlled individual - she knows that if she loses control, the results could be devastating. She is idealistic and positive, and a big proponent of teamwork. She also has some experience with the darker side of the system - after her parents died in a house fire, the government tried to adopt her, but her abuelita fought the system to get custody. 
This young team had their baptism of fire, as it were, during an alien invasion. The insect-like Cicadeans invaded and burrowed into the infrastructure, but their queen actually landed on the outskirts of Halcyon City. City protocol is not to fight with aliens (this happens a lot), but the team saw that bad shit was afoot and took the fight to them...which wound up destroying La Plaza Mall, but saving the life of Luz, El Cucuy's mentor. 

So on this particular day, Carlos is working at the coffee shop near the mall. It's wrecked and under construction, so the coffee shop is busy with construction workers getting their morning Joe. And then an armored car pulls up - normal - but then a beam of light cuts it in half. 

Everyone stares, but Carlos sends a quick text to Marta. He tries to make an excuse to Esteban, his boss, so he can get out there, but Esteban reminds him he's on the clock and to put his phone away, and Carlos relents, hoping his team can handle it. 

El Cucuy is up in the construction site tagging fresh walls, and sees the snafu with the truck. He teleports down and spies a figure with what looks for all the world like a light-saber stealing money from the truck. He summons up illusions of police officers, telling the figure to drop the money and come up. The illusion works, but the figure just slices open a portal in reality and steps through. The rest of the team arrives seconds later, but the figure - a woman with long black hair and a white and green outfit - is gone. The heroes look around the site a bit, but there's no sign of her, and then a helicopter comes in.

The copter is carrying government agents from AEGIS. Marta knows these folks; they tried to adopt her once upon a time, but she figures they're here to help. The agent in charge barely acknowledges the heroes, tells them to stay out of the way and let the adults handle it, and starts directly his people to load up the two halves of the truck onto a flatbed. Positron starts ranting at the agents, aghast that they don't have dimensional rift detectors, and the agents start to finger their weapons (Positron is hovering and glowing a bit), but Cucuy uses his powers to tone down Positron's rant a little...with the effect that the agent in charge takes note of him a bit more. The teens, a little disheartened, decide to retire to Positron's ship (disguised as an under-construction store at the mall) to talk this over. Carlos joins them, finally allowed to take his break. 

Positron alters a camcorder to detect and reopen dimensional rifts, and the heroes decide to wait until evening to try it. That evening, they reopen the gate, and all charge through...into a storage unit made of corrugated steel. There's a bedroll, a huge bag of money...not what they'd expected. Jess searches the bedroll and finds a photo - the woman, along with her parents and siblings. Maybe this "villain" is supporting a family? Dante teleports out of the unit and discovers that they're on a cargo ship in the middle of the damn ocean - this is going to be problematic. 

And just then, the woman appears through a dimensional rift, sword drawn. Wrecking Ball takes a swing and manages to separate her from her sword. She raises her hands in surrender and says she's just trying to help her family out, but when Jess gets closer, she closes her first and energy-blasts her against a wall. Positron jumps for her, raising their density, but the woman grabs her sword back from Marta and expertly dances around Positron, sending them crashing into Marta. Copycat, behind the swordswoman, calls out at her to stop. She fires an energy blast, but Copycat turns to steel and bounces it off the his hand, blowing open the container. This display of force sets everyone back a bit, and the heroes manage to get her talking. She says that a woman named "Dr. Spectre" has her family, and she's meant to deliver money - what she stole and then some - to her tonight. The heroes pledge to stop Spectre, and the swordswoman agrees, but she's keeping the money until then. She opens a gate and lets the money bag fall through, takes the picture of her family, and opens a gate for the heroes back to the city. Dr. Spectre, she says, is in the basement of Santa Maria Hospital (that's in the heroes' neighborhood!). 

Now with a mission, Copycat and Dante scout out the hospital and find a way in. The heroes take the elevator down (building up their Team as they do), and arrive at the bottom. The morgue still has many steel tables, but thankfully no corpses - only cryotubes at the end of the room. Jess looks over the tubes and finds that two on the end are labeled as "MUNDANE" - but the others have weird symbols and numbers that the heroes can't decipher.

Positron steps up to turns them off and free the people, and then a ghostly figure flows out of the one of them! Positron panics and unleashes their sun powers, making everything bright and steaming up the tubes, but Spectre tells them to get out, that they have nothings he needs. Marta dives in to punch her, but she laughs - she is intangible and immune to such base attacks. 

Jess, though, summons the power of Thunderbird and throws a giant bird made of lighting at Spectre. That seems to work, and Spectre flings every table in the place around in a telekinetic storm. Marta finally loses it, smashing tables and punching walls, trying to punch the storm into submission, while Dante teleports to the back of the room to avoid getting hurt. Copycat leaps from table to table and then tries something really risky - he uses his mimicry power to make himself intangible like Spectre. He goes ghost-form and grabs her, and Positron uses their density control to solidify them both. Copycat lands, back to normal, and Marta punches Spectre as hard as she can.

Spectre shatters. The heroes are horrified (they aren't killers, after all), but they quickly gather her up and put her in a tube, and Positron manages to get the tube working - Spectre is alive. They free the others from the tubes, and find that the folks on the end were hospital staff, but the other folks were heroes that Spectre was keeping prisoner. In a separate room, they find more tubes, empty, with one word etched into the glass - GRACIAS. 

AEGIS arrives and takes control of the situation (they found them by tracking Dante's powers, which they started doing after the little tiff in near the mall). Marta asks where they've been, and the agent says they got sidetracked tracking the power all the way out to the middle of the ocean...but they'll handle it from here. The heroes leave (Carlos needs to get to Judo practice!), and AEGIS loads up the tube containing Spectre...which is even now reconstituting her. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Promethean: Jailhouse Waffles

Monday was Promethean. Here we go!

Last time, Avalon got arrested and everyone else scattered. Donnie wound up tagging along with Grimm, and asked him for help in finding "Jenny". Grimm used the information that Donnie had and found the dorm where Jenny lived, and then kinda caught a weird vibe off Donnie and asked his intentions - he wasn't going to hurt this girl, right?

"No," said Donnie. "I love her." This didn't make Grimm feel any better, but he wasn't conveying his concerns to Donnie and Donnie was very grateful to him (Grimm's player bought up Repute, making the Exemplar milestone earn a third dot of Repute for Grimm). Donnie ran off toward campus, and Grimm rejoined the others. Skip, they realized, wasn't around (his player was ill), so Virgil had the idea of sending him to check on Donnie and make sure things didn't get out of hand.

(Skip is, at the moment, on Cobalus, specifically the Provocateur Role. Just sit with that for a moment.)

The others decided to go back to Origins. Enoch sprung for the corset for Avalon, figuring she'd like to have it when she got out. Matt flirted with Jessa, the woman selling corsets, a bit, and she asked if he'd like to come help her tear down her booth and then get some dinner later on. The others wandered a bit, bought Dominion, and Feather figured they should start looking for a place to stay since they'd be in town a while.

Avalon was booked and allowed a phone call. She called Emil, figuring he'd pay her bail. He said he would, but she wouldn't be arraigned until Monday anyway, so he'd find a way to get her the money. He called up Feather and explained the situation. It's good to have friends.

Feather figured she might as well find the fourth Pilgrim mark, which was near the jail. She used Heed the Call to zero in on it, and found it on a bench across from the main entrance - it said "this is the place."

So now the throng had "afraid", "jail", "this is the place", and "keep away" in a rectangle, but no idea what that meant. Enoch used Plumb the Fathoms to look into the place a bit, and realized that there was an Athanor near here, probably in the jail. Matt used his Bestowment to give Feather a vision, and she someone screaming, emitting darkness, and forcing it into a little sphere. Then the person started walking away, but turned and looked straight at Feather.

Feather talked to him, and asked if he was Jesse. He said he was, and told her that a unique quirk of him was that although she was having a dream, she was still talking to him. He told her that there was something dark and dangerous in the the jail, but as long as they stayed out cell 61A, they'd be fine.

Meanwhile, in cell 61A, Avalon got bored and analyze the cell's components with Stone. In the floor, she found a hollow, and used Transformation to open it. She found a black sphere, and picked it up...

...and then it was later, and there had been a riot, and the guard that came to check on her was injured and obviously Disquieted. What had happened?

The throng, after Feather's vision, realized that the Athanor was inside (and that meant Feather achieved her Role, Explorer, for follow the marks to the Athanor). They went into the jail to see if they could talk to Avalon and were told to sit, but then things went crazy, sirens, ambulance arrived, and Virgil said that the people running around were all infected with Disquiet. From Avalon? But how did it spread that fast?

We shall see.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Character Creation: Dungeon World

Well, I'm trying to avoid loading up my chargen project with White Wolf/WoD games and PbtA games, but those are quick and easy and sometimes you need quick and easy. I'll do something else next week.

The Game: Dungeon World
The Publisher: Sage Kobold Productions
Degree of Familiarity: None with this particular game, but quite a bit with the underlying system
Books Required: Just the one.

So, Dungeon World is a PbtA take on D&D. If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention, you know I don't care much for D&D, but I can kinda get into this because it strives to give the game something that baseline D&D doesn't really have: context. As with most PbtA games, you're asked to think about why these things are happening, even as the game itself is a dungeon crawl. Sounds good. So let's get started!

Step one: Choose a class. I think I'll make a fighter; it's a little off-brand for me (I usually go for magic users), but eh, it sounds good.

Step two: Choose a race. I think I'll be a halfling fighter (thinking of, perhaps, Large Jack from Blackadder or...Yoda, I guess).

Step three: Choose a name. The first one on the list is "Finnegan," and I like that. His friends call him "Finn."

Step four: Choose a look. For Body, I'll say "built" (he's a stacked little guy). For eyes, I'll say "angry" (he's got a temper). For hair, "wild." For skin, "calloused."

Step five: Choose stats. I assign 16, 15, 13 12, 9, 8 to my stats. Well, seems like I'll be using hack and slash a lot, so I'll put STR at 16. I'll put 15 in CON (HP, man) and 13 in WIS (gotta be at least somewhat smart). 12 in DEX, 9 in CHA, 8 in INT.

Step six: Figure out modifiers. So...I do that. And write them on the sheet. Next.

Step seven: Set maximum HP. Base 10 + 1 = 11.

Step eight: Choose starting moves. Well, I actually don't get to choose the moves, but I do have choices to make within said moves. I get a signature weapon! I'll take...a flail. I like the idea of a little guy using a weapon that can trip people. I get two enhancements, so I'll say it's versatile (I can attack at hand range as well as close) and hooks and spikes (more damage, but more weight). It's got a blade on the hilt, spikey bits on the weighted ball, and a couple of spikes on the haft. Its look is ornate - it's got gold leaf and carvings on the haft and so on. Definitely halfling made.

Step nine: Choose alignment. Ugh. I'll say Finn is good, though he blusters a lot.

Step ten: Choose gear. I have chain mail, a shield, and a couple of healing potions.

Step eleven: Introduce your character. Well, this would be to establish bonds, but y'know, it's just me, so I'll skip that.

I think Finn is kind of a classic "gruff guy with a good heart" sort of person, but I think he's also kind of a black sheep among halflings just because he's good at violence. He grew up in a society that doesn't really reward being too fighty (not that halflings can't be adventurers, but they're usually burglars!), and here's Finn, sliding between enemies' legs and spinning his damn flail and knocking people over and whacking them in the face. He's about the least subtle thing you've ever seen, a little whirling maniac, but he doesn't talk about food or home, and for a halfling that seems off somehow.

And that's me done, actually!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Movie #470: The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story is a fantasy movie starring Barrett Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Alan Oppenheimer, Tami Stronach, and Thomas Hill. 

Bastian (Oliver) is a young boy coping with the death of his mother and the fact that his father (Gerald McRaney) is distant and not being real helpful with the "son is being bullied" thing. Bastian, who's an avid reader, steals a book from a mysterious bookseller (Hill) and then hides in the attic of his school all day and into the night reading it. The book - the titular Neverending Story - tells the tale of the land of Fantasia, which is under attack from a mysterious force called the Nothing that is swallowing the land piece by piece. 

Most of the movie takes place in Fantasia, following the exploits of the young Atreyu (Hathway), the chosen champion of the Childlike Empress (Stronach), who is dying of an unexplained illness. Atreyu ventures across the land searching for a cure, only to have all this wrap back around to Bastian, who is, in addition to being the reader, part of the story - the "human child" who can save Fantasia by giving the Empress a name. Into all this, though, there's an interesting look at the nature of imagination and a pretty severe fourth wall break (the Empress notes that someone is experiencing this story right along with Bastian - that is, us, the viewer). 

The movie ends with Bastian riding his luck-dragon, Falkor (voiced by Oppenheimer) into the real world and swooping down on the bullies that tormented him earlier, which apparently elides the whole back half of the novel on which this movie is based. It's a good enough ending for the film, although reading the synopsis, it would have been interesting to have a "part two" that went into the rest of the novel (the sequel, which is next on my list but which I haven't seen before, apparently very loosely goes into some of that territory). 

The effects in this movie hold up, more or less; Falkor flying looks pretty silly, but the giant turtle and the rock-biter look pretty cool. The scene in the Swamp of Sadness where Atreyu loses his horse Arthax is heart-breaking, but really the one that gets me is the rock-biter waiting for the Nothing to come and take him, lamenting that he wasn't strong enough to hold on to his friends and that they were sucked away. 

(And because it's obligatory: Yes, this whole movie is superb Changeling: The Dreaming fodder.)

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Character Creation: Outlive Outdead

I'm caught up, meaning this character puts me a little ahead of myself. Who knows, or dares to dream!

The Game: Outlive Outdead
The Publisher: Happy Bishop Games
Degree of Familiarity: None, I'm reading it.
Books Required: Just the one.

I backed this game on Kickstarter a long time ago, and never got around to reading it until now, which is a shame because I'm in it.

My friend Branden was kind enough to give me a theme song, and I like it!

This is a pretty good "breakdown of society" sort of song, though it's got kind of an intimate feel that's appropriate to a zombie story.

This game starts off asking us to consider when in history the rise takes place, and just roll a d10 for it (well, really, you can agree, the GM can choose, or you can roll for it). I'd roll, but I think I want to keep it modern, or maybe late 70s/early 80s punk scene? That'd be fun.

So, we also need to consider Apocalypse stage, which tells us how far into this we are. I'm gonna pick again and say it's "just started," so we've only got a few zombies and the vector of transmission and how to kill them isn't well known yet. As such, I'll skip Vector and True Death because my character wouldn't know them.

Jumping ahead to the actual "create a character" bit, we start with name and background. My character's name is Big Joe. Big Joe is, as the name implies, a large man (6'5" and very wide). He owns a bar call The Teeth; it's rowdy, the crowd is young, and of late the punk scene in Wherever This Game Is Set has gotten big, so The Teeth is getting packed every night. Big Joe used to play drums in a band when he was younger, but this punk aesthetic speaks to him and reminds him of the 60s (figure it's now early 80s). He can't play anymore - he got stabbed in a bar fight and he can't close his hand all the way - but he's here for the younger punks wanting to break shit.

Except now there are zombies. That's...a twist.

Attributes. I have six; Control, Fight, Flee, Hide, Repair, and Scrounge. I figure Big Joe is going to be good at Scrounge, Repair, and Fight, and not so great at Flee or Hide. I start with a target number of 12 and a breaking point of 18 in each (you want low target number, but high breaking point; you want to roll over the first but under the second) and I can subtract points from one to raise another. Hokay then.

I want to drop Scrounge and Repair to 9, which means I'm subtracting 3 from each, meaning I need to raise others by 3. I'll pump Hide and Flee up by 3, just to keep the math easy (which means they're both 15). I'll knock Fight down to 11, but up Control to 14, I guess (I actually kinda think Control should be better, but eh).

OK, now breaking points. They all start at 18, but same thing applies. I'll reduce Fight to 16 (Joe has a temper), and raise Repair and Scrounge to 19. I'll reduce Hide to 16 and raise Control to 20 (he's not great at Control, but he keeps himself under control). That leaves Flee at 18, which is fine.

Talents. This is basically a stunt; it's a break on a target number in a very specific circumstance. I'll take a Control Talent in Intimidation; I get a -2 to Control to scare someone into doing something.

Serendipity: It's a big pink sea mons- no, wait. It's just a little luck-trick I can do. I get an auto-success on a given roll (I assume it's like once a session or something, but I don't see that here). I'll take Not This Time (I prevent a break regardless of the roll).

Setback: A little piece of bad luck I can cause to befall others. That's pretty meta, I think; it's nothing intrinsic to Joe so much as something that just happens. I'll take Distracted (one NPC Zombie cannot act this turn).

Motivations: What motivates Big Joe? Normally you'd have an old motivation (pre-Rise) and a new one, but since in this case the rise just started, if I were playing Joe I'd leave "new" blank or think about what it will be once the situation becomes clear. Joe's old motivation is "give the kids a place to rock out." His new one is "protect the kids." (To Big Joe, a "kid" is anyone under the age of 30.)

Starting equipment: Joe has a pistol, and some alcohol, since it's on the list and Joe owns a bar.

And that's it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blades in the Dark: Let's Punch a Ghost!

Monday was Blades. Yup!

The crew figured that they needed to get serious about this Red Sash issue, but the leader of the Crows, Lyssa, had told them last time that the Crows would maybe help them with the Mylera Klev issue if they'd take care of a little ghost problem first. To wit, Lyssa took over the Crows by murdering Roric, the previous leader, and she wanted his ghost out of the way, as it was bedeviling folks in Crow's Foot.

Which is how we find the crew in their boat, near a bridge, on a canal in Crow's Foot. Copper, having stolen a Crow's jacket during a friendly gambling excursion, impersonates one of the gang in order to draw the ghost's ire (and she and Siren notice that they're being watched - someone on a nearby rooftop, wearing the garb of the Lampblacks, is spying on this op).

The gambit works, though, and the ghost arrives. Cage grabs it with a hook and Copper punches it. It hurls at spectral dagger at her, which Siren tries (and fails) to shoot out of the air. Cage pulls out a bottle and tries to trap the spirit, but can't quite manage it. One-Eye coats a harpoon with ghost oil and shoots the ghost, wounding it, and Copper leaps up to the bridge and shoves the spirit bottle right into it (cutting herself on the harpoon in the process and becoming ghost-poisoned; her voice echoes and she sees glows). She yells to Siren to dominate the ghost, and Siren taps into the presence in her head.

Copper, ghost-poisoned, sees Siren take on the form of Kotar and command the ghost into the bottle. The scoundrels win, and report to Lyssa (but do not give up the bottle - they might need it someday!). She agrees to kill Mylera Klev when she gets a message from the crew, and the crew go about their preparations to hunt down and kill Gargoyle.

The decide to hit him on the Docks, as he's leaving a drug den. Cage uses his ritual, making all of the crew like living shadows; they figure they can just dart Gargoyle, kill him, and move on.

Next time, we'll see just how well this works.

Movie #469: The Net

The Net is a mid-90s thriller starring Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northram, Dennis Miller, and Wendy Gazelle. It actually holds up better than I was expecting (spoiler: it's still not good), and although the movie gets very little right about "the internet," it was oddly prescient in some ways.

So! Angela Bennett (Bullock) is a computer programmer and, as is typical of movie computer experts, a shut-in. She works from home, and has very little contact with anyone in the outside world; her mother (Diane Baker) has Alzheimer's and lives in a home, she's estranged from her father, and she has a couple of co-workers but has never met them.

This all becomes freakishly relevant when, after receiving a disk from one of said co-workers (Ray McKinnon) who is then killed in a plane crash, Angela goes away to Mexico on vacation and meets a dashing Englishman named Jack Devlin (Northram) who arranges a mugging to get the disk and then takes her out on his boat to kill her. She escapes, and gets home to find her house has been stolen out from under her, her identity stolen and impossible to verify, and no one can vouch for her - everyone relies entirely on what the computer says, and the computer says she isn't Angela Bennett.

The reasons for this are that a billionaire (Gerald Berns) is trying to take over the US government by selling them a security program that the insidious Praetorian cyber-terrorist group that he can then use as a back door, blah blah blah. The real tension in this movie comes from watching Angela try to explain to people who she is, that her friend Alan (Miller) wasn't diabetic, and having everyone confirm everything on a screen, only to have that data manipulated.

Like I said, it's kinda prescient. I think the most unrealistic thing about this movie (aside from ordering pizza from a site called "") is that everyone in the movie uncritically checks computers, and then absolutely refuses to hear anything else, when an attractive white woman is standing in front of them making a scene. With that said, though, Angela mentions that everything about us - credit reports, medical history, etc. - is in computers, "a little electronic shadow", and that data is vulnerable. And now here we are in 2018, living in a dystopia much more subtle than the ones the Praetorians cooked up.

This is early Bullock, but she's already showing signs of greatness (The Blind Side aside, she's a good actress). Northram is appropriately charming and creepy, though I wish that he hadn't gone quite so hard to creepy, because before he reveals his true intentions to Angela he looked really conflicted about having to kill her, and that would have made his character much more interesting if they'd kept it. Dennis Miller is barely annoying at all while he's on screen, which for him is an accomplishment.

All in all, it's not a terrible movie, but it's not terrific, either.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Neverending Story

Monday, July 2, 2018

Blades Prep

Thinking about moving my game-prep posts over to Scrivener or something. It's not that I don't like sharing them with y'all, but I'd kinda like to have everything in one place and the posts get a little unwieldy (suppose I could go back to doing them in notebooks, but eh, my wrist cramps easily, plus then I'd have to cope with my handwriting and a lack of a search function).


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Night's Black Agents: Slouching Towards Konjic

Well, I should be running Alas for the Awful Sea today, but Michelle was feeling sick, so we postponed, and so instead I shall listen to Chopin and do the write-up for the Night's Black game in between World Cup matches.

(My life is somewhat strange.)

Last time, the agents headed to Sarajevo to see if they could find out what had become of Davor Klobucar, the paymaster who'd set up this job to the begin with.

The agents arrive in Sarajevo and do a little digging through the criminal underworld (though not as much as they could, as Hanover is reluctant to hack computer systems as this always seems to get them caught). They learn that there's a Hungarian gangster named Attila Kornai in town, and that Kornai works for Hajnal's organization (though there are a lot of layers between the two). He's rolling deep, he's here for a specific reason, and local color has been advised to stay out of his way.

Firinci, who's basically in the same line of work as Klobucar, takes a meeting with one Ibro Mujic, an arms dealer who's a longtime friend and cohort of Klobucar. He takes Carlsson along in cover as a German underworld-type figure to act as a buyer; Carlsson gives Mujic the list of stuff he wants and then they all have dinner like civilized people. Mujic chats with them, and asks if the folks they're representing are the Hungarians in town. Leaping on this opportunity, they don't confirm that suspicion, but play along, and Mujic asks if there's anything he can do to bring their business to a close quickly "before more violence happens." They arrange to meet tomorrow to buy the gear, and the agents meet back up to do more digging.

Looking into local events, the agents learn that a couple of people have turned up dead in dumpsters, and that is a turn of events they've seen before - it means there are probably vampires in town. MacAteer and Hanover, in disguise with forged papers, go to the morgue and examine the bodies, and indeed, there are big throat wounds and extensive blood loss. This smacks of "brutes" feeding. They locate the burned-out tenement where Kornai and company are staying, and MacAteer goes in disguise to surveil a little. He makes Kornai and four other toughs, but none of them are brutes (Kornai, however, is cold and barely speaks, which leads the agents to believe that he's a "cold" master, to use the late Dr. Sedillo's terminology).

This is exciting for the agents - vampires in the city means, potentially, tissue samples that they can use to synthesize more toxins. The problem is that they need to be very careful about tipping their hand, and of course Firinci doesn't believe that these "vampires" are actually a thing at all. The agents decide to hit the tenement the next day, maybe set up some traps or case the place. They wait until Kornai leaves, and lo and behold, he leaves with the four guys and two more guys that MacAteer didn't see - brutes.

They wait a bit, and then roll up but discover that there are three more guys in the room (taking the total to six human gangsters, two brutes, and a master). Carlsson sneaks in (his MOS is Infiltration) and notes that there's a room with a couple of window air units - that's where they must be keeping the brutes. The agents decide that jumping these guys wouldn't help them, so they back off and reconsider.

The next day, Firinci and Carlsson make the buy, so now they're supplied, at least. Firinci sends his associate Samir to work for Mujic a bit, and a bit later Samir calls with a report that he heard Mujic mention Klobcuar on the phone (but didn't understand the rest of the conversation). Firinci reaches out to Mujic again, turning the conversation to Klobucar, and saying that Carlsson (rather, Carlsson's alias) had worked with Klobucar before. Hanover whips up a forged document to send along to support this, and lo and behold, Hanover gets a note in a long-disused dead drop email from his old buddy Janos Kurchef, saying that Klobucar reached out to him looking for help. Janos says in the note that he isn't sure if Hanover is really dead, but will give it 8 hours before responds, just in case.

Hanover, for his part, isn't willing to compromise his "I'm dead" advantage, but it's good to know that Klobucar is reaching out. The agents arrange with Mujic to meet with Klobucar, who requests an extraction strategy be in place. The agents decide that they'll meet and then drop back to the nearby city of Konjic with him, hopefully able to interrogate him and get back to Sarajevo before Kornai and company leave.

All in all, caution seems to be suiting them.