Friday, August 31, 2018

Movie #476: Black Panther

Black Panther is a Marvel Cinematic Universe film directed by Ryan Coogler, and starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, and Winston Duke.

We first met T'Challa (Boseman) in Captain America: Civil War, and Black Panther picks up more or less right after, following a scene set in 1992 where King T'Chaka (John Kani) confronts his brother N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) about some stolen vibranium. T'Chaka has just died, and T'Challa returns home, collects his ex and current spy for Wakanda Nakia (Nyong'o) and general Okoye (Danai Gurira) and is crowned king. He endures a challenge from M'Baku (Duke), the leader of the Jabari mountain tribe, but wins and visits the spirit world and talks to his father. All is well.

And then Klaue (Serkis) pops up on their radar; remember this guy stole a bunch of vibranium (a plot point in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Now he's back raiding a museum is a mysterious and angry fellow named Eric (Jordan). After a shootout in Korea and picking up a wounded Everett Ross (Freeman), they fall back to Wakanda, where Eric, having shot Klaue, finds them...he's the son of N'Jobu and an American woman, and is therefore T'Challa's cousin and has a claim to the throne.

So, none of this should be news since everyone has seen this fucking amazing film. I'm a white guy from Ohio, I'm not remotely qualified to talk about the racial issues in play, except to say that it should be a game-changer to have a superhero movie with a nearly all-black cast that makes this kind of bank. I will say, though, that it struck when rewatching this movie that it's what Thor wanted to be - Shakespeare-level family drama (I'll give Brannagh a break, since Thor was what, the fourth MCU movie? But still).

Black Panther not only gives us a whole host of amazing supporting characters (Nakia and Okoye, but also M'Baku, and Letitia Wright as Shuri was fantastic, too) but a superhero that is rich and powerful but adds in the gravitas of being the leader of a nation. And, of course. Jordan's portrayal of Eric "Killmonger" brings us easily one of the best villains in the MCU; he's sympathetic, but IMO you still have to root for T'Challa.

I am really, really hoping that Marvel doesn't screw this up in the sequel, which is uncharacteristically grouchy of me to say, but I'm not sanguine about their handling of shit after the James Gunn debacle. But I want more from all of these characters and definitely from Coogler.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Night Watch

Blades in the Dark: Eggs, at Last

Last time, you may recall, the scoundrels decided to finally take on the job of stealing deathseeker crow eggs from the Spirit Wardens. And here we go!

Cage and Siren are up on a building across from the Belleweather Crematorium. One-Eye and Copper are at ground level, waiting. The plan is that Cage is gonna zipline across into the rookery, steal the eggs, put them in boxes with the suspension goo, attached them to another zipline, send them down to the folks on the ground, and then get out. Foolproof.

Cage is ziplining over and he sees three Spirit Wardens enter the rookery, so he lands right in front of them. They immediately draw weapons. Siren shoots one with a knockout dart from the other rooftop. One of them shoots at Cage with a sparkcraft weapon, but he moves just in time. Cage darts a second one, and the third one, carrying a cool-ass dagger than leaps into her hand from a spring-loaded thing in her sleeve, vanishes into the shadows.

Cage attunes himself to the room to try and find her, but she's sneaking up on him. She goes to stab him, but his armor absorbs it, and he tries to stab her with the dart. He misses, and he just loses his temper and smashes her face with his fist; this cracks her mask in half and he sees that she's a Skovlander, blue eyes, angry expression. She goes to run, probably to sound an alarm, and he hammer-punches her and knocks her down. She smacks her head on the edge of the roost and starts to bleed, but she's alive (Cage checks).

Cage loads up eggs into the first box and attaches it to the zipline to send it down. He does it wrong, though, and the clasp breaks. The box falls, but Copper springs into action and runs up the wall, grabbing it. Cage loads up the second one, but again does it wrong and the clasp fails midway down the line. Siren zips towards Cage, but lets go and lands on the other zipline, knocking the box loose and sliding to the ground.

At this point, the scoundrels have attracted attention. Folks are looking at them, Spirit Wardens are coming out of the Crematorium and Cage hears a high-pitched noise and notes that all of the crows are looking at him. He quickly dons his other mask and activates his ritual that turns him into a living shadow, and then slides down the zipline...

Meanwhile, the Spirit Wardens are questioning One-Eye and Siren. One-Eye convinces them that the lines are an art installation (Copper takes off running with the eggs), and Siren backs her up. Cage slides down in shadow-form, and One-Eye says "did you feel that?" Siren points out that One-Eye is very drunk (which isn't untrue), but the Spirit Wardens aren't happy. They don't know what the scoundrels are doing, but they call the Bluecoats.

The Bluecoats tell the scoundrels to take down the lines, but leave them with the Bluecoats, and they take off. Copper, meanwhile, gets to Grull in Clerk Street (she meets some Bluecoats, but claims to be a courier and they buy that). She gives the stuff to Grull and he tells them he'll be by later with the money (once he checks the eggs).

True to his word, later on at the hideout Grull drops by and pays them. One-Eye asks who Grull works for, and Grull says he's just a cabbie, but everyone knows he's lying. He takes off, and the scoundrels divvy up the loot. Their Rep also takes them to strong hold, which is good, since their relationship with the Spirit Wardens is iffy at best.

All of them indulge their vices; Cage heads to the temple of the Forgotten Gods, but isn't getting much out of it. He does learn, though, that a bunch of the cults are spouting prophecies about Doskovol crumbling into the sea, so that's a little disconcerting. He goes to Lord Penderyn and manages to get back into his good graces, and Penderyn says that he's been working on this, too - and one of the crew might be able to help.

One-Eye manages to finish her mechanical eye and get it installed. Siren starts working on forging a relationship with Goldie of the Fog Hounds. Copper finishes training Button; now he won't attack unless on command.

And the storm in the Void Sea grows ever closer...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Movie #475: Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead is a zombie horror movie (the zombie horror movie) directed by the late great George A. Romero and starring Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Russel Streiner, and Kyra Schon.

Barbara (O'Dea) and her brother Johnny (Streiner) are out putting a wreath on their father's grave when a zombie (Bill Hinzman) attacks them and kills Johnny. Barbara runs, makes it to a farmhouse, and subsequently meets Ben (Jones), who sets about fortifying the place. It turns out there are five more people in the basement - timid but good-hearted Tom (Wayne), his girlfriend Judy (Ridley, and I wish there was something more I could say about her but she doesn't have a heck of a lot of development), grouchy and unpleasant Harry (Hardman), his longsuffering wife Helen (Eastman), and their wounded daughter Karen (Schon).

As the survivors argue and try to make sense of the situation, the TV reveals what's going on - the recently dead are returning to life and eating the living. The TV tells them to get to a shelter, and they try, but a series of mishaps causes the truck to explode, killing Tom and Judy. Harry fixates on staying in the cellar and winds up trying to overpower Ben, who shoots him, Barbara is dragged off to be eaten by her zombified brother, and the little girl, now a zombie, kills her mother with a trowel. Ben is the sole survivor...until he's shot by a posse hunting zombies.

The movie was a game-changer for the horror genre, bringing it firmly away from kid stuff and into much more mature offerings. Night of the Living Dead wasn't meant to be a breakout film or to create a whole new genre of movie, but then, Romero also said he only cast Jones in the lead because he gave the best audition (without thinking that having a black lead with a white cast, and then having the dude get shot dead at the end by a white mob, would make any kind of statement). At the time, it provoked some comment about its violence (it's not overtly gory by today's standards, but the methodical glee with which zombies eat people is fucking disturbing).

Even with all of the zombie movies that have come after, though, Night holds up. Zombie stories are typically about creating a way for human tensions to rise, and they work perfectly for tragedy because they allow the flaws of the protagonists to doom them. The zombies in the of the Dead movies are discussed, dissected, hated, and serve as metaphors for any number of social ills or scapegoats, but at the end of the day, the message seems to be the same: take away the social contract, and we fucking eat each other.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Black Panther

Monday, August 27, 2018

Night's Black Agents: Another One Bites the Dust

(Now it's in your head.)

Saturday we played Night's Black Agents. Last time, you'll recall, the agents rescued Samir Firinci's bodyguard and assistant, from a tricky and vampire-laden situation. This time, they debrief him.

Back at Firinci's rented flat in a private hotel, Samir tells them that some men came into Mujic's house, and tore out the throats of his guards with their teeth. One of them tossed Samir against a wall and then seemingly forgot about him, and so he was able to send the text message and alert Firinci. Everything else, the agents (well, Carlsson and Firinci) had seen.

Samir goes to the bathroom to throw up, and the agents try to figure what to do. They talk to Parker and Hanover over coms to try and regroup...and then the coms go out. Firinci turns on a police scanner, and realizes that there is something going on outside the building. They look out and realize that the place is being evacuated and the cops are getting ready to go in. MacAteer, who speaks Serbian, listens to the exchange and applies Cop Talk, and realizes that the cops are planning to storm the flat and shoot them all. Probably they've been paid off. They need to go.

The four of them (MacAteer, Carlsson, Firinci, and Samir) head down the stairs...but then Firinci notices red dots on the walls and realizes they were blown. He tells Samir to put his hands up, figuring to buy their way out later...and the cops open fire.

Samir goes down with several bullets in his chest, and Carlsson takes a round to the shoulder, but Firinci manages to avoid harm entirely. They grab Samir's body and lug it through the building to the service elevator, which Firinci rewires to come to them, and they head down into a tunnel that leads across the street to an office building. Moving quickly, they avoid further police entanglement, get to a parking lot, and grab a car, which MacAteer deftly rams through a police roadblock.

Meanwhile, Parker and Hanover have figured out where they are and head over. Coms come back on, and Parker tells them to get three streets over and she'll collect them. They manage to lose the police tailing them (this is what MacAteer does, baby), switch into Parker's car, and head back to Konjic.

Firinci makes arrangements to take Samir to a mosque to have the appropriate burial rites performed, and finds his cell phone. That's how they got tracked. Hanover calls back to Parker and tells her the bank is blown, so they go to their backup safe house and arrange to get Klobucar the hell out of the country before this gets any worse. Once he's safely on a plane, they regroup and consider their options.

Firinci believes them now, and asks what he can do. The agents are back to their original issue - they can maybe make a poison or a serum, but they need more biological samples from a vampire. The only ones they know about and have a solid location on are Sas, Koltay, and Kornai. Firinci argues for getting hell out of Bosnia, but the others figure that Kornai is probably the safest bet - they have a way to bait him (Klobucar) that doesn't involve exposing the agents and doesn't compromise Firinci (who's not on the conspiracy's radar, necessarily). There's an amusing exchange where Firinci tries to mansplain this whole procedure and the risks of attachment to Parker, who's been on the run from these vampires for years and is a career spy, but at the end of the day, they decide that they'll bait Kornai to the bank and kill him.

They rig up an electric net to drop at the flip of a switch, hoping that strong current will at least slow down a vampire. MacAteer disguises himself as Klobucar and goes out for coffee, and it doesn't take long for some lowlife to spot him and report it. Two SUVs pull up, and Kornai, two brutes, and four dudes with guns get out.

A brute goes in and sniffs around, but Carlsson, MacAteer, and Firinci are hiding well. Kornai, a shooter, and the other brute go in...and Firinci drops the net.

Outside, Parker and Hanover gun down the three guards. Inside, MacAteer and Carlsson shoot at the brutes to weaken them, and the fourth guard runs, but Parker shoots him before he gets too far. They hack the brutes' heads off, take blood samples from Kornai, and then extract his tentacles before burning the whole damn place (electrical fire).

They head to a resort town in Croatia to regroup, and spend a couple of months recuperating (Carlsson, in particular, was injured, and some of the group need some time to heal mentally - lot of killing and death). Firinci makes arrangements to move his family if need be, and MacAteer eventually comes up with a serum that attacks the alien DNA directly...but of course they won't know for sure until they test it.

It's time, they decide, to go back to Budapest and take out Dr. Sas. That'll be the next op.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Character Creation: Spooktacular

Happy Sunday!

The Game: Spooktacular
The Publisher: Yaruki Zero Games
Degree of Familiarity: None, but like, I've seen Ghostbusters.
Books Required: Just the one.

There have been other Ghostbusters RPGs, sure, but I've never gotten a chance to play the official ones. Esoterrorists and Inspectres hit some of those notes, as does Orpheus, but Spooktacular really wears its heart on its sleeve. I'll show you. Here's the cover:

Cover artist not credited specifically, so I'm not sure who did the art.
Mind, there is nothing wrong with having a strong influence and being open about this (my company is publishing a game called We Used to be Friends, for crying out loud). I found, too, as I was reading the game, the writing was nice and friendly and easy, and then when I got to chargen there were random tables, so sign me up.

We start off with an Archetype. I could roll to get a normal one or a weird one. I'll stay normal, why not. I roll a 4 and get "Inventor"; I can spend 3 Awesome Points to jury-rig a single-use paratech gadget. That sounds awesome.

Next up, Quirks. It says I should have at least one, but up to three is good. Cool. I'll roll and see what that gets me...Heavy Drinker. No thanks. Roll again. Accident Prone. Perfect! Roll again? Dad jokes. Yes, please. Once more? Stoner. NO THANK YOU. Why are you trying to make me alter my brain with chemicals, random table? Long Hair. Fine, that'll work.

So then I do Stats, which are not random (well done, folks). I get 12 points to divvy up between Action, Brains, Contact, and Cool. I think my inventor, quite apart from the stoic "I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought" Egon or the "can't stop eating these salty parabolas" Holtzmann, I want my Cool to be kind of low. I'll just put two points there. I'll put 4 into Contact (he's good with people - everybody likes a good dad joke). That leaves me 6 left. Hmm. 3 and 3, 4 and 2, or am I nuts enough to go 5 and 1? I think I'll go 3 and 3, actually; it'd be interesting to have an inventor whose best feature is his ability to deal with other folks. A name springs to mind: Brennan MacCool (and you'd better believe he plays up that "my last name is MacCool" thing).

Anyway, that's Stats. Next is Talents. Each Stat gets a Talent, and when it applies I'd roll three extra dice. There are random tables, but I think I have a good enough idea of MacCool to pick them, at least the one for Contact. Action, though, I have no thoughts, so I'll roll. Get Behind Cover, yeah, that'll work. For Brains, I want Jury-Rig (MacCool might be more of an engineer than a researcher). For Contact, I'll take Lighten the Mood (Comfort the Victims also looked good, but I think this fits better). And for Cool, I'll roll again. Lay It On Thick. OK, then.

Now, Motivation. I'll roll it and see if I like it. Ooh, boxcars. That gives me Vengeance on Ghosts. I don't know, this guy feels so light-hearted. But then, that's actually an interesting backstory - he's doing this for the money, for fun, for scientific research...no. He's doing this because the Other Side fucked with him and his, and while he's still a fun-loving, jokey guy, he's is not screwing around. Yeah, I'm game.

Everything else is just gear; I get an Etheric Thrower and a Ghost Trap, and I feel like Brennan would carry some loose parts and tools so he can make stuff up on the fly. I also think that defining Brennan's backstory at the beginning isn't necessary; it's enough to know that when he was in college, there was a major paranormal incident that left a lot of destruction and death in its wake, and Brennan was the guy who saw it all happen. A lot of therapy later, he's realized that he isn't going to be able to feel right until he balances the scales, but that doesn't mean he can't be happy about doing it.

And I think that's it, actually!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Movie #474: Night of the Creeps

Night of the Creeps is a horror B-movie starring Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Tom Atkins, Jill Whitlow, Allan Kayser, David Paymer, Ken Heron, and Alice Cadogan. It's not a good movie, but it's one of my favorites.

In 1959, a zombified naked alien shoots an "experiment" into space and it crash-lands on Earth, where a young couple (Heron and Cadogan) finds it just as a recently-escaped psycho finds them. He kills her, the young swain Johnny gets a mouthful of slug, now we fast-forward to 1986.

A pair of roomies, Chris (Lively) and JC (Marshall) are wandering through campus when they see Cynthia (Whitlow). Chris immediately falls in love and they wind up getting mixed up in a whacky prank - steal a corpse from the local medical center and dump it on the steps of a frat, so that the Betas (lifted wholesale from Revenge of the Nerds, to the point that Chris asks if the initiation will involve having sex with a farm animal) will pledge them and Cynthia will like him. This, of course, is absurd, partially because Cynthia doesn't much care frats (or anything, really; see below) and partially because she's dating the lead Beta Brad (Kayser).

The boys try to steal a corpse but wind up freeing Johnny, who immediately kills a grad student (a young David Paymer), and then goes back to the sorority house where he picked up Pam before their fateful date, his head explodes, slugs fall out, and they zip around infecting whoever they can.

Long story short (too late) most of the Betas wind up dead in a tragic bus accident, reanimate, and head for the sorority house where Chris, Cynthia, and longsuffering detective Cameron (Atkins), who years ago killed the ax-wielding psycho, are now tasked with fighting off a zombie invasion and burning the slugs. The movie ends, in the theatrical version, with a slug-carrying zombie dog coming up to Cynthia as the house burns, and in the director's cut with zombie-Cameron sending slugs into a nearby cemetery while the spaceship finally arrives.

This movie is bananas. Frank Dekker (also the genius behind The Monster Squad) tried to squeeze in as many B horror and sci-fi tropes as he could, and even named all the characters after horror movie directors (Croenenberg, Cameron, Romero, Carpenter, Raimi, Cunningham, etc.). The movie is a collection of one-liners and ridiculous coincidences, and it's a thing of beauty.

The only complaints that I have are the stars. Jason Lively is whiny and boring. Jill Whitlow is somehow even more boring; she manages to seem mild and unaffected by everything, including zombies and death. Marshall is OK, given what he has to work with (it's not a great script, y'all). I think it's interesting that Marshall's JC uses crutches to walk; his impairment is never explained, nor does it need to be. The actor isn't disabled, and like, that's a shame, but 1980s, I'm not gonna get too annoyed over that.

Tom Atkins is absolutely the most entertaining person in the movie, his tortured, grizzled, cynical Det. Cameron the real "hero" of the movie and providing much of its heart. I very much enjoy the theatrical ending more than the director's cut, because it allows him to go out in a blaze of glory. Even though the end of the movie is much the same either way (the slugs are by no means gone and the horror is just getting started), giving Cameron his heroic end rather than making him a zombie seems more fitting.

There are better zombie movies, better sci-fi movies, better college horror movies, but there's only one Night of the Creeps (until Slither came out, but we'll get to the S's eventually).

My Grade: D (it's really not a good movie)
Rewatch Value: High (it's such a great movie)

Next up: Night of the Living Dead

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Promethean: Data and Torso

Last night was Promethean. We're approaching the end of a story, but we're not quite there yet.

Last time, we didn't have Feather, so this time, we start with her and Virgil in the jail as everyone's running. Virgil grabs her and notes that he felt something weird nearby, and leads her to a door that's bolted shut. Feather uses her Spagyria Alembic to shrink the door off its hinges, and immediately gets jumped by a torso with a pair of extra arms. She's too quick for it, though, and activates her Mutatus Aspiratus Alembic to give herself armor and then to give it a blast of Pyros to force it into Dormancy. She and Virgil then beat it to pieces with stuff they find in the room, and Feather takes a chunk with her (she's on Craftsman now).

The Prometheans meet up later that day. Feather shows Enoch the aforementioned chunk of Pandoran, which to analysis looks like organic material, but petrified. Feather had assumed that, when she had a vision of Jesse telling her about a thing he made, that he was talking about an Athanor, but maybe he meant the Pandoran? If he didn't, though, who made the Pandoran and how did it get locked in the jail?

Matt shows up at this point and gives them the rundown of his fight with the weird dog-angel thing and Jenna's transformation into a 12-foot-tall mirrored creature. They have a meeting set with "Dry" soon, so the throng heads over and meets him.

Dry is cautious, but a generally cool guy. He explains that Jenna had some questions for them - have they ever been to the southwest? Like, Tucson? How about Detroit? The throng confirms that they've been some of those places (though not Detroit), and Dry tells them that the God-Machine makes angels when it needs something, and sometimes those angels unplug or "Fall" (so call them demons). Angels that are still working for the Machine are dangerous and some of them hunt down demons to try and re-assimilate them. Jenna was an angel that was meant to transport data from Detroit to New Mexico, but she Fell along the way.

But now here's where it gets weird - the data she was transporting was the result of the destruction of a huge God-Machine thing, and that was destroyed because of interference from a throng of Prometheans (way back here). Dry reveals that Jenna can render herself down to data, and it might be possible to tease out the Promethean-related data. The throng notes that they've been getting dogged by "angels" and things that aren't angels but are more or less on their side (qashmallim) since this whole thing started, and learning the truth about the data Jenna is carrying might help.

Dry also reveals that in a way, he is Jenna - demons can take on different forms, and although at the moment Jenna doesn't exist, she will again. They agree to meet up at Polaris tomorrow, once they get Avalon out of jail. Dry takes off, and the Prometheans consider their next steps. Matt grants visions to Skip and Grimm, and then forces one himself.

In Skip's vision, the ectoplasm coming from the rents in his flesh because thin and solid, and spikes up into the sky like puppet strings. He looks up and sees Nergal working them, forcing him to punch, and he realizes that Nergal was there at his creation, and he needs to figure out why. That means going back to where he was created.

Grimm sees himself in the frozen wastes, monsters out in the dark, a ship behind him. He could go out into the dark...but there are monsters. He could go back to the ship...but everyone there hates him. And then he realizes that he could make them interact; he could protect people from the monsters or work with the people to mitigate their hatred. Feather, he realizes, is going to be important.

Matt, for his part, wonders about his current Role, and sees himself back at Origins in the exhibit hall, with folks fighting in the boffer weapons area...but with live steel. He encourages it, encourages them to face danger and take risk.

The next day, Avalon is led out of jail and meets with a court-appointed attorney. She has very little time for Avalon's questions and recommends just pleading out and paying a fine. Avalon is unconvinced, even more so when she sees so many people in more or less the same situation as her. She eventually winds up pleading no contest and then walking straight out of the jail. She achieves her milestone for the Deviant Role - be arrested and arraigned - and in so doing learns that when humans set so many rules for themselves, it's hard to avoid being a deviant.

She also realizes that the orb she was carrying is cracking and falling to pieces, and she can remember what she saw in the cell. But we'll talk about that next time.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Board Game: Cat Lady

Today, we got a new puppy.

This puppy, to be exact.
She doesn't have a name yet. We're working on that.

But yesterday, we played a game about cats!

The Game: Cat Lady
The Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Time: 15 minutes or so
Players: Me, Cael, Kai, Sarah

Game Play: I played this game at GenCon and then bought it. Unlike a lot of cute games, it's got some depth of play and some replay value.

Feasts most fancy, vittles most tender.
Those cubes there are food. The goal is to get victory points, and you get those by feeding cats, collecting sets of cat toys, collecting cat costumes (the cats in the costumes look pretty unhappy, it's kind of adorable), and having enough catnip to go around.

Cards are laid out in a 9x9 grid, and on your turn you take a row or a column. There's a cat figurine that's next to one row or column, and you can't take that one (the cat is in the way, as cats often are), but if you have a spray bottle you can shoo the cat away. Once you take a set, you replace it from the deck and the cat moves there.

Mow.
You can also get dealt lost cat cards, and can trade them in for stray cats (that's them at the bottom of the picture; there's only ever three in a game) or victory points. Play continues until the deck of cards runs out.

This game was basically made for Sarah.
Opinions: Like I said, for a cute game it's got some replay value. The strategy comes in what cats you pick up versus what food you get (you don't get points for cats you don't feed), and what lines you pick up and thus prevent other players from grabbing. It's hard to plan too far ahead, especially in a four-player game, but you can generally at least note what the people going after you need and try to prevent it. That said, in a four-player game the turns move pretty fast, and you have to be careful you don't wind up with a bunch of cats that won't eat chicken and a bunch of red cubes (which are chicken). Leftover food costs you points.

Keep? Yes.

Movie #473: Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum is a comedy directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Carla Gugino, Rami Malek, Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, Mickey Rooney, Steve Coogan, Jake Cherry and Mizuo Peck.

Larry Daley (Stiller) is an often-unemployed would-be entrepreneur who is on the verge of losing access to his son Nick (Cherry) because of his unstable living arrangements. He winds up finding a job at the museum of natural history as the new night guard, as the previous three guards Cecil (Van Dyke), Reginald (Cobbs), and Gus (Rooney) are being downsized. On the first night, though, he finds out that everything in the museum comes to life by the power of a magical tablet on display in the Egypt exhibit. The previous night guards leave Larry a list of how to deal with the exhibits, but he promptly loses it, and only restores order with the help of Teddy Roosevelt (Williams).

Ready to quit, Larry gives it another shot despite the misgivings of his irritable boss (Gervais), and tries to make the museum work, but winds up making an even bigger mess. While trying to reveal to his son the truth of the museum, he learns that the night guards intend to steal the tablet and frame him - the tablet has been prolonging their lives and keeping them strong. A rousing chase through New York ensues, Larry rallies the exhibits, Roosevelt hooks up with Sacajawea (Peck), the weirdness throughout the city gives people interest in visiting the museum, all is well.

It's a cute movie. I have questions about the rules of magic, here (does Teddy really know everything that the real Roosevelt would have? Because holy shit that's amazing). Exhibits appear capable of doing things like eating and drinking - Larry is explicitly told that the lions will eat him, but then, he's told that by the night guards who don't exactly have his best interests at heart. You forget that kind of nitpickery during the movie, though; it's quick and fun and we get to see an ordinary (if somewhat arrogant) guy like Larry find his place, and that's kind of nice.

Plus, I hadn't realized it until last night, but it's cool to see a divorced couple in a movie that doesn't hate each other. Larry's ex (Kim Raver) is perfectly fine with Larry and their relationship as it stands, but she's understandably concerned about him getting evicted repeatedly and what that kind of instability is doing to their son. She's not played as a shrew or nagging, and even Paul Rudd as her new fiancee comes off as a genuinely nice guy (look, kids, it's Ant-Man!).

Overall, it's sweet and it's watchable. I remember thinking the sequel wasn't as good, but I haven't seen it in a while I never saw the third one.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Night of the Creeps

Chill: This is Halloween, Halloween, etc.

Yesterday we started a new Chill case with some new envoys! (We changed the player lineup because some folks were having trouble making it to the game consistently, which is something that always sucks to do, but like, kinda needs to happen if you want to keep playing.)

Anyway, new envoys:

  • Beth Anne Stallard, played by Jenn. Beth Anne is an All-American farm girl, cheerleader, very "normal" through and through...except she used to go have adventures with the monster under the bed. She isn't actually sure what that means in Unknown terms, or indeed, if it even happened, but she's always been a bit attuned to the Unknown and joined SAVE after taking a sociology course with Dylan Reeves (one of the other players' envoys). Her Drive is to be free.
  • Mohammed Al-Zaid, played Jerry. Mohammed was born in the US to immigrant parents (we're still working out where his parents were from). He was recruited by the CIA to be an "interpreter," which he discovered really meant "interrogator." He saw some pretty awful things over in the Middle East, just in terms of what people will do to people, and while in Syria he met Hayat Nejem and her mentor Mafuz El-Hasham. When he went back to the States, he decided to join up with SAVE here, and found the Boise HQ (his parents live here in Boise).
So, in-game, today is October 27, 2017. Jordan Ramsey checks her Facebook and discovers a status from a friend and former coworker that concerns her:

Jordan messages Wendy and asks to meet her for coffee; Wendy says she has to pick Giles up from preschool, but then she's free. They meet up at Crepe Scott!, a local coffee and crepe joint. Jordan notes that Giles (4) is tired and fussy, but calms a bit after he eats. They don't want to talk about this in front of Giles, so they make small talk - Wendy and her wife Janet are doing fine, apart from this "haunted house" dealie. Giles is excited for Halloween, or he was, at least. They head to a playground so Giles can run around, and Wendy explains the last week.

Tuesday, the power went out - she calls it a "blackout," but as Jordan notes, it was just their house that went dark. That night, Giles and Wenday saw spiders crawl out from under the couch - hundreds of them. And then, before Janet saw them, they were gone. 

Wednesday night, the power went out again (just at their house), but nothing else weird happened. 

And then yesterday, all of the books in the house that mentioned Halloween wound up on the kitchen table opened to the page about trick-or-treating. Wendy though Giles had done it, but he was napping. That night, the power went out again, but the TV stayed on and switched over to a horror movie. 

Jordan suggests she could have a look around the house, and see if anything's obvious amiss - maybe they're being pranked. They head home (though Wendy has to talk Giles into coming out of the climber; he does not want to go home, and she reports he's been very difficult to pick up from preschool of late). When they get there, Giles immediately scampers around back to his sandbox. Jordan asks if they'd like to come out to the ranch and have dinner, get out of the house for a while, see the horses. Wendy agrees, texts Janet to make sure, and then goes inside to get some stuff for the trip. Jordan walks around back to keep an eye on Giles, and finds him building a castle in his sandbox.

Jordan shows him pictures on her phone of Sweet Baby Jesus in various sweaters and some of the other animals at the ranch to get him talking (Giles isn't talkative at the best of times, and he's pretty obviously spooked). He finally opens up enough to say that something inside is "trying to scare him", but he doesn't know what and, of course, he's four, so the kinds of questions he can answer are somewhat limited. Jordan offers him a hug and picks him up, and the wind picks up, blowing loud and chilly around the house. Jordan uses Disrupt on Giles, just in case there's something actively targeting him, but nothing happens. She Senses the Unknown, and gets a Colossal success. 

The temperature drops precipitously around her. She senses an entity in or near the house. It's very powerful, and it's very unhappy with Jordan. She takes Giles and gets back to the car. She's definitely unprepared for this.

On the way back to the ranch, she makes contact with Willa Lane, who has some expertise with ghosts. She tells her to round up some envoys, as this has the potential to be a nasty one. Maybe don't use the newbies? Willa contacts Dee, but all Dee has on offer are the newbies - Edward and BB are both in California at the moment, Dylan is teaching, and Jeanie is recovering from injuries sustained by a scarecrow (actually Willa is, too, but they're healing). That leaves Blake Wheeler, Beth Anne Stallard, and Mohammed Al-Zaid. 

They all meet up at the ranch and have a quick powwow while Dee takes Giles and Wendy out to look at horses. Willa, hearing Jordan's report, says that it definitely sounds like a ghost, and asks about Giles' situation. Jordan tells them that Janet and Wendy adopted Giles about a year ago, but doesn't know anything about his before that. 

The envoys decide that maybe they could go check out the house while the Bliss family is here; that would keep them out of harm's way and give them a chance to learn more. Dee can definitely entertain them (that's what she does). They wait until Janet gets there, and Jordan notes that Janet is walking with a limp - she twisted her ankle the other day (but doesn't say how). Jordan talks to Wendy and Janet and offers to check out their house and make sure that no one is messing with them; Mohammed notes that he has some investigative expertise. The women agree (Janet seems a little hesitant), and hand over a key.

The envoys take a couple of cars and gear up. Willa points out that going in blind, it's better to take too much than too little. They arrive at the house and slowly approach the door. Jordan opens it, but then it slams shut and words appear on the door in blood: WHERE JILES

Beth Anne decides to approach this differently and sits on the porch, breathes deep, and uses her Leave the Body discipline. Willa, using Eyes of the Dead, sees her do it and can communicate, but the rest of the envoys can't (Mohammed puts her body in the car so that she's out of harm's way if things go south). Beth Anne pulls herself up onto the roof and peers in the window to Giles' room, but can't really see much from here. And then, suddenly, a woman's face appears in the glass - she's chalk white and has burning blue eyes. Beth Anne stumbles back and reports this to the others. Definitely a ghost.

The envoys reopen the door and enter the house, Beth Anne with them (she comes down from the roof; do note that at Beginner level at this discipline, she can neither fly nor pass through solid objects). The door slams again, shutting them in, and Willa notes that this means the ghost is telekinetic. The envoys decide to take a risky move, but one that's worked before: They'll have Willa use Voice of the Dead to summon the ghost into herself, and Jordan will use Line of Defense to keep it trapped. 

Willa summons the ghost, and Beth Anne sees her float down through the ceiling and settle into Willa. Willa, a Master at this discipline, remains conscious throughout the experience and immediately feels drugged and euphoric, as though she's on powerful painkillers. Jordan completes the circle, and Mohammed steps up to interrogate. 

He notes that the ghost's body language is deferent, yet defiant - as though she's been in this kind of situation before. He asks who she is, and she asks if he is a cop. Rolling the dice, Mohammed says he is, and she promptly refuses to talk to him and calls him "pig." She asks where Giles is.

Jordan tries to change things up a little and appeal to her obvious interest in Giles. The ghost tells her that she's "just trying to make it fun" and "show Giles how much fun Halloween is". She demands to know where Giles is, but Jordan won't tell her, and the ghost immediately gets defensive and hurts Willa. Willa feels pain start in her head and work downward, she feels trigeminal pain as one of her teeth cracks, and the others see scars begin near her ear. Jordan breaks the seal to use Disrupt and the ghost leaves Willa, but Willa collapses, badly hurt. 

Meanwhile, Beth Anne has been watching this, and realizes that the ghost is most likely what SAVE calls a poltergeist - a ghost that has, for whatever reason, attached itself to a child. She isn't likely to hurt the child deliberately, but she's very likely to do it accidentally, and worse poltergeists are powerful and impulsive. Willa, before the injury, has come to a similar conclusion - this ghost is telekinetic, but it doesn't need to throw things. It can kill by sheer Evil Way power. 

The envoys decide it's time to fall back, and she gets Willa to the car to get some medical attention. Blake and Mohammed stand by their car and wait for Beth Anne to return to her body, but Beth Anne decides to run upstairs first. She looks through Giles room and finds residue on the walls from other blood-messages, stuff that wouldn't be visible to the naked eye but that she can see as a "ghost." It's pretty innocuous on its face: "BOO! TRICK R TREAT! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!" but she does note that "Giles" is always misspelled as "Jiles." She leaves the room, and finds the ghost blocking her way. The ghost takes a swing and Beth Anne manages to duck out of the way. Beth Anne says she wants to help with Halloween, and the ghost softens, but still just demands to know where Giles is. Beth Anne says that she'll bring him back (in an attempt to placate the ghost), and the ghost says that if she doesn't, she'll burn the place down. 

Beth Anne flees to the car, and everyone heads out. Willa needs an emergency dentist and some good drugs...and she notes, once those drugs kick in, that this feels familiar. 

The envoys talk through their data. Mohammed guesses that the ghost may have become addicted to opioids following a dental incident; that might even have been how she died. Maybe she was Giles' birth mother? Mohammed does a little digging, but Botches the roll, and learns a lot about opioid addiction in Idaho, but doesn't turn up any likely candidates. Based on the ghost's clothes, she's contemporary, though, so that helps a little. 

Blake asks Darnell if there's a way to track opioid prescriptions, but Darnell says not unless you know the doctor or pharmacist in question, and even then it's iffy. The envoys figure that the ghost is fixated on Giles, not the house, and maybe burning the place down is preferable to the ghost killing someone? Not ideal, but hardly worst-case. In any case, they figure they'd better talk to the Blisses and make sure they don't go home.

When they get to the ranch, though, they learn from Dee that the women left an hour ago. They had to head home. Giles was getting sleepy. 

The envoys get back in the car and head out. Willa insists on going, though she's injured and drugged. This ghost is dangerous, and they're going to need her.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Blades in the Dark: Sssssh, We Have a Boat

Last night was Blades! No actual blades were employed. Weird.

So, last time, the crew set up a score meant to give themselves a cover operation. This time, they carried that out.

The crew of the weird surveyor boat comes ashore to eat in Nightmarket, and the scoundrels are ready. Cage and One-Eye go aboard while Siren and Copper stand lookout. I got a critical on the engagement roll, lucky fuckers, so before anyone goes aboard, they note one crew member leave after the others and sneak into a bar for a drink.

One-Eye and Cage find a map nailed to the outside wall of the cabin. They study it briefly, and note a number of markings in the canals around Doskovol, as well as three out in the bay that seem familiar - they're roughly where the crew dropped those bells. One-Eye employs an alchemical method of duplication for the map (she spreads a thick, stretchy stuff over it that holds an image), and then they slip into the cabin to try and find the papers they need.

The cabin is something of a mess - desks and paperwork. One-Eye, though, as a creative herself, knows that you don't put papers you'll need at a moment's notice with your ongoing projects, and finds the ID papers in a box nailed to the wall. She tries to use the putty trick to duplicate them, but the papers have been treated with something that starts to react to the putty, so she pulls it off.

Cage, fortunately, has brought a different method - a lantern and flash-powder arrangement that can copy written stuff onto paper. They don't need an exact copy, after all, just something with enough detail that One-Eye can fake it.

Outside, Siren and Copper note the flashes from the cabin and figure it must be going well. They see the guy in the bar come out and make for the boat. Copper tries to intercept him and get him chatting, but he's not interested, so she coldcocks him to put him out. Problem is, Button then assumes it's time to fight, and jumps on the guy. Copper manages to pull him off before he kills the poor sucker, and Siren drags him to an alley out of sight.

Cage and One-Eye finish making the copies and are about to head out, Cage notes some drawings that catch his eye. They appear to be connections between some of the marked points in the city, drawn into Tycherosi runes. These are the kinds of the things you might use to summon something, perhaps. He makes some copies...

...which, of course, has given the rest of the crew enough time to come back from lunch. Thinking quickly, Siren gets in their way and tries to act sick, and when that doesn't work, she loses her lunch on their shoes. This gets their attention, and one of them tosses her a coin to make her go away.

Copper, meanwhile, helps the guy in the alley back to the boat, apologizes for her dog, and pays the guy a coin for his understanding. He probably wasn't supposed to be drinking on the job anyway, so he doesn't say anything.

Cage and One-Eye take the opportunity to hop off the boat, and the crew all walks away. They head back to the hideout, and One-Eye gets to work on her forgery. Cage, of course, starts doing some research, and recruits Siren and Copper to help out.

At the end of the day, though, he's not entirely sure what's happening here. It could be that this boat is looking into the desecrated hollows in the canals, the disturbance in the Void Sea, or both. He is able to determine, though, that the Church of Ecstasy seems to be behind it.

The scoundrels do some downtime stuff; training, vice indulging, and whatnot. Cage presents his theory to Lord Penderyn to try and get back into his good graces, while One-Eye anchors her new eye with bone screws. Copper trains Button to only attack on command, since this has been a problem before. The Fog Hounds push against the crew, trying to suck up some of their clients, but they push back, not wanting to cede ground.

And then the crew decides that they going to take the job they've been avoiding for months: Stealing deathseeker crow eggs from the Spirit Wardens. They contact Grull and find that the job is still open; a couple of other crews have tried and failed, though, so security might be tight. The scoundrels do some research and figure that the best way in is directly into the rookery via zipline. One-Eye mixes up some alchemical goo to hold the eggs safely (they're no good broken, and they have to be to Grull within an hour), and they figure they'll zip in from a taller building across the street, grab the eggs, anchor the line to a lower point, zip out, and meet Grull near Clerk Street.

This is the most complicated job they've taken in a while, and they're happy to be stealin' and smugglin' again. Next time, we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Character Creation: Unsung

GenCon ate the last of my summer and now I'm back at work, and I didn't get as far ahead as I'd like, but I'm caught up, so that's nice. My plan is to keep to one character a week and use holidays and days off to try and get ahead, and then maybe jump ahead during Xmas break in December.

But for now, here's a game that was in a bundle a long time ago. I've opened the PDF before but never quite managed to make the character.

The Game: Unsung
The Publisher: Ivanhoe Unbound
Degree of Familiarity: None.
Books Required: Just the one.

Unsung is an RPG about people who have to uphold moral codes but are put in tough moral predicaments. It references the Forge a lot and mentions other games that I enjoy, like Sorcerer, and reading it, it looks like there's some interesting stuff going on. The game doesn't have a default setting, and though it promises sample settings later in the book, those "sample settings" are more like "genres." The examples of play in the book (and thank you very much for those) focus on a SWAT team, and the game seems to have the most love for cops. One of the alternatives is criminals, though; you can play members of a crime family. I kinda like that, actually. I'm in the mood for something dark.

To wit, here's my theme song:


It's a song about loving someone even though the relationship is harsh and the world is dirty. I like that. Let's have a look at chargen!

We start with Concept. My character's name is Jimmy White. Jimmy grew up in the roughest part of the city and his older brother got wrapped up in drugs and the dealing of said drugs. Jimmy's parents tried to shield him, but he looked up to his brother and his brother didn't really do much to try and keep Jimmy from all the violence, and Jimmy's parents were killed in a home invasion from a rival gang.

That's all ancient history. Jimmy and his brother (Paul) took care of that. Paul is upstate doing 8 years for manslaughter, and Jimmy is part of the gang. They pull heists, run protection, run some drugs, stuff like that. Jimmy is making his bones and paying his dues.

Jimmy is also in love, and it's weird, because Jimmy's in love with a guy. I mean, it's not weird (Jimmy doesn't much care what kind of sex you're into), but it's weird for Jimmy because he's always thought of himself as straight. But this guy, Miles, he lives in the same neighborhood, and he's definitely at least familiar with the Life, and Jimmy knows he shoots up sometimes. Jimmy and Miles spend a lot of nights together, and they don't talk much, because Jimmy doesn't know how to be a boyfriend to a guy. He just knows that being with Miles feels right, and he's not sure what that means for him or how he's gonna tell Paul.

OK, good start. Now we do Traits & Descriptors. There are 5 traits (well, 6, but I don't have to buy the sixth one). I get 55 points to spend, but I think they start at 1. Higher is better and max is 19. Also, each one gets a descriptor (kinda like an Aspect).

Starting with Savvy, which represents education and knowledge. Jimmy hasn't been to school since 8th grade. I'll give him "Learned from his Brother" as the descriptor and put 10 points in.

Sense: Mental quickness and perception. I want this to be better. "Sharp as a Whip" is the descriptor, and I'll put 13 points in, which takes me to 14. I've spent 23.

Guts: Ability to deal with gross or stressful stuff. "In the Life Since Age 12", and I'll put 10 points in.

Meat: All the physical shit. I picture Jimmy as being quick, but not beefy. Hmm. I also have 18 points left. I think we'll put 10 here, and make the descriptor "Lean & Hungry."

Responsibility: Basically my ethical compass. I only have 8 points left, so that's where they go. "Family First" is my Descriptor.

And then there's Instinct. It starts equal to 20 - Responsibility, so since my Responsibility is 9, my Instinct is 11. Descriptors here are supposed to be what the character is like when out of control, so I'll say "Looks for a Leader." Jimmy isn't self-directed at the best of times, and if shit goes down he's a follower.

I'd start a session with one Gift Point and I don't start with any Retirement Points, so...I'm done, I guess. Wow. That was easy.


Board Game: Adorable Monsters

Hey, finally one of these.

The Game: Adorable Monsters
The Publisher: Zach Weisman, I guess? I don't see a website and there's another game with the same title taking up Google hits.
Time: 15 minutes or so
Players: Me, Michelle, Jenn, JR

Rar.
Game Play: Players get a monster (draw two, pick one), and then they spend some time placing adjectives on it. Adjectives can be scary ("big," "cumbersome," "eight-legged") or cute ("bumbling," "nice"), and obviously you just want to put scary adjectives on your monsters.

Players can then either dump their hand of cards and redraw, or challenge another player to a Scare-off. During a Scare-off, everyone can play cards on either monster, but no one draws more cards, and once everyone is done the winner is the one with more scary adjectives. The winner takes the loser's monster card as victory point, the loser draws a new monster and on we go.

JR builds a monster.
Monsters have different special powers; the merman wins ties, the dragon prevents uninvolved players from interfering in a Scare-off, and so on. In general, though, it's pretty straightforward.

My beastly, swift, stealthy, big yeti.

Opinions: The game is fun to play and the art is really nice. The monsters' powers are interesting enough to warrant some replay value. I've got three main issues.

First, some editing would be good. "Bumbuling", f'rex, is on an adjective card.

Second, some of the adjectives aren't so great. Like, "blind" is a cute adjective, which strays a little far from the mission as well as being ableist.

Finally, some of the rules aren't clear. The Teenager (yes, there's a monster called the Teenager, hee hee) can redirect "attacks" to other players, but the word "attack" is never used in the instructions. I had to look up the Kickstarter and fortunately someone else had asked (she can redirect Scare-offs to other players, which makes more sense).

Generally, though, it's a fun little game and has enough depth of gameplay to be worth keeping, which isn't true of a lot of "cute" games.

Michelle and Jenn, building monsters. 

Keep? Yes.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Movie #472: The Next Karate Kid

The Next Karate Kid is the fourth movie in the series, starring Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Hillary Swank, Michael Ironside, Chris Conrad, and Michael Calivieri. It's pretty awful.

Daniel-san has departed for...well, we don't know (and I didn't see Part III so I don't know where they left it). Mr. Miyagi (Morita) travels to Boston to receive a medal for his WWII service, and winds up staying with the widow of an Army pal (Constance Towers, the widow, not the pay). He meets her orphaned teenage granddaughter Julie (Swank), who is way angry and lashing out because her parents died. Miyagi sends Louisa back to California while he stays and takes care of the house, to give them a little time apart.

Julie's high school is run by the evil Dugan (Ironside) and his evil band of evil "teens" (seriously, exactly no one in this movie passes for a high school student), and is on the verge of getting expelled because...Dugan runs this joint, I guess? She winds up getting involved with Eric (Conrad), but then gets suspended for two weeks and Miyagi takes her to a Buddhist monastery where she learns karate, and then comes home and goes to prom with Eric, but that winds up in a fight between her and Ned (Calivieri, the head evil teen, who just straight-up assaulted her earlier in the movie). She beats him handily, but then Dugan starts going nuts, so Miyagi steps in and whups his ass.

OK, where to start. First of all, Karate Kid at least established the characters and spent time on the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi, but also gave Daniel some agency and let him fuck up a bit. Here, Julie spends a lot of time getting blackmailed by everyone, and not just Ned ("come with me to the docks or I'll have you kicked out of school"), but also Eric ("say you'll miss me or I won't feed your pet hawk") and even Miyagi ("do your homework or I won't teach you karate"). Also, Julie shifts from angry and nigh-feral to calm and contemplative by spending time at the monastery and repeating Miyagi's fortune-cookie wisdom, and that's on-brand for the series, at least, but part of that shift involves wearing skirts and becoming more feminine, and that's kind of an issue?

But the thing I find strangest is Miyagi's "final battle" against Dugan. I think it's mostly because the writers figured the audience was a-hankerin' to see Miyagi kick ass, but like, not really? The series has always been about Miyagi teaching his student karate, and the application of those lessons not just in a fight, but in life. But there's none of that here, it's just Julie beating up one dude, and then Dugan refusing to let it drop, so Miyagi has to "save" her by finishing the fight.

Possible I'm giving this more analysis than it needs, but that's kind of what I do. Anyway, the script is weak, the humor is trite, the performances are kind of overwrought (even from Swank, who's actually a good actress), and the only one who seems like he's in the right place is Ironside, who's kind of made a career of playing "scenery-chewing asshole."

My Grade: D-
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Night at the Museum

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Week Ago, We Played Blades

Dammit. I really meant to do this before we left for GenCon Ah, well.

So! Last time, the scoundrels did some stabbing with their blades in the dark. This time, they kinda took it easy; we didn't start a new score, just did a bunch of prep.

Part of the issue is that the heat is very much in Saigon Doskovol; the crew's wanted level is high and they're trying to avoid spending a year in prison. They decide to take a couple of months off, spending some coin to take some downtime action. Copper lowers the Heat level a bit, while One-Eye works on installing and calibrating her new eye. Cage works to get back in Lord Penderyn's good graces, and Siren does some training.

From there, the crew starts to look at how to expand their operation. They toy with the notion of finally dealing with Cricket and getting a luxury fence, with expanding the Ruby and getting a tavern, with expanding their turf, or with finding a cover operation. Given that their exploits of late have gotten loud, they decide to pursue the latter.

They talk about muscling in on a goat-carriage operation like the one that Copper's cousin runs. They ask Grull about it (Grull is a cabbie and he works for someone, but he's tight-lipped about whom), and he mentions that taking over such an operation isn't hard, if you're willing to be mean about it. They also hear about a strange new boat that's out on the canals, that no one is messing with.

The crew spends some time following and investigating this boat, and in their information gathering they learn that it seems to be surveying - it's taking samples and readings in places in the canals where the currents are strange. The crew discusses a few options; some of them don't want to mess with it (Cage's contact Flint says that it might be a conspiracy with powerful people above it, or it might just be basic government stuff that takes years to do its study and never pans out), while others figure that having a boat that no one messes with because it's beneath their notice might be useful.

At the end of the day, they decide it's worth a look, so they decide to forge (or steal) the papers that the boat is using. They discover that the staff disembarks to eat in Nightmarket, and choose that as their point of infiltration. Next time, we'll see how that plays out.