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.