Monday, March 2, 2015

Chill: Edinburgh

I posted this a while ago on RPG.Net, but I don't seem to have posted it here. So anyway, the Chill HQ for my game, which is starting tonight:

Last week, my four players and I sat down and did HQ creation of our Chill playtest (we made characters next session).

We started off with a quick summary of the Chill world and SAVE history (I was the "expert," seemed like the best choice), and then I asked folks what kinds of horror media they liked and wanted to see emulated.

One player doesn't really dig horror movies, but does enjoy the games I run, so he didn't have much to contribute on that front. He said he'd prefer antagonists other than vampires and ghosts, since we see a lot of that in other games.

Another player made a request for suspense, Hammer-film style horror. A third said that she finds creepy children especially frightening (a la Poltergeist). And Michelle (who is Chill's editor and my wife and business partner and fellow dog wrangler) is a fan of all things gothic, and prefers to avoid slasher style horror.

All the players requested a kind of black-and-white morality to the monsters; that is, the bad guys are bad guys and we don't need to try and make them sympathetic. This, of course, is easy in Chill (the Unknown is pretty much openly hostile, and while some monsters might be relatable at times, they're still jerks), but I have this habit of making villains that my players can't quite bring themselves to hate fully. I took note of all this. :)

We then talked about what city to set the game in. We've done a bunch of games in the US, so there was some request for someplace in Europe. We talked about London, but it's got some SAVE history that we didn't want to get into, so we settled on Edinburgh.

The players decided that the SAVE office in the area is traditionally the responsibility of the Earl of Perth (presently a fellow named Robert Drummond; I'm playing somewhat loose with nobility and rules thereof, so apologies to any Scottish nobles here). Drummond isn't a field agent, though, he's basically just the money and titular head of the office. The actual head of the office is a fellow named Liam McAllister, who coordinates missions and envoy cells.

Edinburgh typically has several cells of four envoys each; if circumstances conspire to give more or fewer envoys, then they either wait and train until they can be put with a cell or they get sent to another city for missions (I don't expect this to come up much in play, it's just setting detail).

Rules: Mostly autonomous, Liam gives assignments. Cells of four people, which has been the case since HQ was founded. Odd-men-out are sent out of Edinburgh. “Come back clean.” “No personal contact between cells.”

Unknown: Empty graves; ongoing for centuries. Spectral hound that no one has caught. Cyclical random killings every 25 years. Drummond family has a Beansidhe.

Aptitude: Resource friendly. Envoys don't have access to gobs of liquid cash, but they do enjoy the fruits of the Earl's position in society; they always have a nice place to stay, car service, that kind of thing.

Failing: Overly specific archive. The Earl has a rare book room with lots of very specific information, but it's highly centralized on Edinburgh, which is great when it's useful, but dangerous when it's not.

People: Quartermaster (Annabelle Blackwood — trains local envoys in combat, lots of tats), Coroner (Jordan McElroy — SAVE contact, calls Liam when something goes weird, might be romantically linked), Bradley Frye (SAVE envoy, leadership, Art instructor, older, brought in after Unknown killed sister)

Places: Manor house with large basement used as meeting/training.

Things: Grave of unknown soldier in Greyfriars Cemetery holds spooky feeling. Xmas Party for cells hosted by Earl (only time when envoys are allowed personal contact). Earl has globe from 1740s, bleeds during conflicts.

(Players stop reading here.)

So, I need a case, here, and ironically I've been too busy developing Chill to put a lot of work into it. I keep coming back to the spectral hound, the one that's probably hunting one of the characters anyway. I kind of want to make this story about chasing down and finally destroying the Hound, only to have it show up again (actually a copycat, since I think that creature's cool).

A Spectral Hound is a pretty easy creature:

EWS: 85
REF: 70
STA: 80
Injury: Superficial, Minor -10, Serious -20, Major -30, Critical -50, Lethal 
Disciplines: Control Weather (fog), Corporeal Manifestation, Deadly Attack (Serious Injury), Gnarl (Unique), Hunter's Mark, Throw Voice
Aspects: Incorporeal, Special Weakness (throat), Spectral Attack

So, as written, the Hound uses Hunter's Mark, and then calls up a fog bank, uses Gnarl to have trees grab the victim, and then mauls the poor sucker to death. Ian (Toasty's character) is already Marked, so should he be the one that gets attacked? Might be interesting to run an opening scene like that, but I don't know that I want to make it that personal right away. 

Ooh, but. Suppose the Hound kills Ian's dealer? That sounds good. We'll say that Donald McGovern was camping at Mortonhall Caravan Park, wandered off to take a leak, and got hit by the Hound. Jordan McElroy calls it in, and the envoys kind of get yanked in cold so they can look at the scene before it gets too overrun. 

I'm gonna have to wing the clues, but I'll take more notes for next time. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

HEY! Go Vote for Promethean. (Also a Promethean write-up.)

So hey! There'a a Kickstarter happening right now for Dark Eras, which I worked on as a developer and project manager. Long story short: There's a poll going on, which will close when the KS hits $118K, that has a Promethean during the Year Without a Summer as an option. 

I'd sure like it if you voted for that era. 

Beyond that, I ran Promethean on Monday and then forgot to do the damn write-up again, so here we are. 

The characters had an eventful time of it last time, and were trying to figure out their next move. They went back to a diner with Andrew Write's throng, and the fact that Persephone was stuck in her Role as Envoy became more apparent. The throng figured it'd be nice to do something about that; the spirits inside Persephone were getting more unruly (this led to a discussion of Skip and some talk about whether he had been the problem, or the chaos-spirit living in his abdomen; weird kind of chicken-n-egg thing and Grimm felt a stirring of Vitriol when they talked about Skip). 

Enoch figured that, using Calogero's notes, he could put something together that would repel ectoplasm, maybe allow her to regain some control. They all headed back to Enoch's apartment, and the throng (the PC's throng, that is) got working on it. It took a few hours, but they were able to concoct the preparation, which led to two milestones. Enoch replicated one of Calogero's preparations, leading to him mastering the Scientist Role, and Feather helped a throng-mate achieve a major milestone, which fulfilled the ceratio universal milestone. The sun rose, everyone regain Pyros, it was good.

They had the salve...now they just had to apply it. They started, but Persephone (or the spirits within her, perhaps) started to fight back. Avalon, however, jumped in with her Baffle Alembic and rendered Persephone too confused to fight back, and by they her throng had put the salve in her rents (ew). This drove back the spirits, and Persephone was able to reassert control. 

She was confused for a minute, but Rusty Nail stepped in and told her to embrace the stillness (thus adopting Cuprum and getting the hell off Argentum). And then the characters heard rain...and outside, the sky was black. The wind picked up and threw a branch through a window, and the characters realized they were in some kind of weird weather system - the other throng identified it as similar to Persephone's Wasteland, but it had never picked up that fast before. Andrew's throng took their leave, figuring that they would only make it worse if Persephone stayed around. 

The characters decided to look through the coded books again while they waited for the storm to abate...but the books were missing. Suspicion initially fell on the other throng, but the characters had offered to show them the books, so there would have been no point in stealing them. Fluffy hadn't seen anything, but it's not hard to sneak by him. Avalon, of course, had read the books, so she could reproduce them - but would that help?

Well, maybe. Grimm, having mastered Cuprum, could use the Translator's Memory Alembic (now that he had access to it)...but he had no Academics. He sat and started focusing on his body, the parts that he was made of, and saw flashes of working at a computer, paging through books...and made a milestone (buy a dot of Residual Memory). 

Now, with that in mind, he can work to translate the books...which we'll do next time. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Feed the Oscars

I enjoyed the telecast on Sunday. Sure, the ceremony was notable in its whiteness, but they actually called that out more than I would have thought, and the performances from Lady Gaga and John Legend & Common were amazing.

Plus, Oscar Night is an excuse for me to make a lot of food, starting Saturday. Here's the menu:


  • Whiplash: Whiplash cocktail
  • Boyhood: Queso and chips
  • The Imitation Game: Tea & sandwiches
  • Selma: Grits with slow-cooked collard greens
  • The Theory of Everything: Curried potatoes and peas
  • American Sniper: Whiskey pulled pork
  • Birdman: Drunken chicken and barley pilaf
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: Courtesans de chocolat
So unlike years past, most of the cooking was concentrated on late Sunday. But we still had stuff to do Saturday! To wit:

Drink, little chickens!
Preparing the chicken. The marinade was brandy, wine, onions, carrots, herbs, and garlic. All that and the chicken pieces got stuffed into bags, and then put into the fridge to soak overnight. Then, the barley pilaf.

I'd never worked with pearl barely before, but it turned out really nice. We made it the day before because we could. Cook down with stock...

Soak, little barleys. 
Chopped up some dried prunes and apricots and toasted some almonds...
Chopped fruits.
And then mixed it all up, put it into a tupperware, and tossed in the fridge. 

What else to do Saturday? Well, the original recipe for the cocktail called for a habanero liquor, which we neither had nor wanted, so we figured we should try out our whiplash cocktail. 

The components.
It turned out nice - a little strong for me, but definitely a drink that gets more pleasant as it sits. 

Whiplash cocktail: More delicious than a kitten.
Before doing more cooking, we did some cleaning. 
Behold my magnificent table. 
But then +Michelle Lyons-McFarland and +Cheyenne Rae Grimes got to work making the dessert pastries, which would then be erotically pumped full of custard. 

Michelle, making tiny cream puffs. 
That was pretty much it for Saturday; made the cream puffs and got the house in order. Sunday, of course, was the main event. I got up first and got the pulled pork going. 
Cook, little piggy!
And then mixed up a pitcher of the cocktail, because a) it's one less thing to worry about and b) it's better if it has time to sit. 
Me, doing booze science. 
We wrote down our schedule on my white board, so that we have some chance of remembering everything that we were doing. 
It's a shame you can't read that, because some of it is funny. 

I then butchered a couple of cauliflower, because a) we needed another side dish and b) that was our tribute to the overwhelming whiteness this year. 

Be certain to carve out the bones. 
Michelle and Cheyenne got back to work on the desserts, stuffing them full of the chocolate custardy filling, made the colorful glaze, glazed the puffs, stacked them, and put a chocolate covered espresso bean on top like a...weird little eyestalk thing. 
Stuff!

Glaze!
Look sexy!
Color!
Stack!
So then it was time to put the sandwiches together. We had three different kinds: Cucumber and herb butter, watercress and herb utter, and curried eye salad. So here's Cheyenne cutting bread shapes. 
Circles, rectangles, and triangles, respectively. 
And Michelle buttering said bread.

And watching British TV shows, probably.
And this was the result:

Fritos optional. 
So about then, I figured it was time to get the chicken going, so I pulled it from its drunken stupor. 

Bok? Bok?
Floured it, sauteed it in butter, got it browned and ready to go into the oven. Michelle, meanwhile, got working on the little label cards. 


The collard greens took a while, so I got those boiling...

Pot o' greens.
While Cheyenne got working on the curry. 

Which only required that one pot, but it's a nice shot of my stove.

From there, it was kind of a mad rush to complete everything, and we seem to lose the camera. 

Michelle and me, rushing madly. 
But here are the results:



Not pictured: The drunken chicken [ETA: Thanks, Nicole!] or the queso, because apparently "take pictures of the food while I finish cooking" didn't translate. Maybe someone else got a shot? +Travis Scott

Anyway: The drunken chicken was definitely my favorite, but the desserts were pretty damned amazing. What thrills will next year hold!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscars: Witness the Whiteness

For many years now (and you can scroll back through previous years here and here, if you're so inclined), I've been an aficionado of the Academy Awards. Some years that means we get some really interesting movies, and some years...well, the Academy has some issues, and pointing them out isn't exactly groundbreaking.

In short: The Academy is sometimes on a delay. That means things like Pacino getting snubbed for Godfather II, but then picking up an Oscar for Scent of a Woman, which meant Denzel Washington got snubbed for Malcolm X, but then he picked one up for Training Day (in fairness, I don't think anyone that year really got robbed because Denzel got tossed a make-up Oscar, but I also didn't see Ali). But then again, sometimes they get it right. Javier Bardem, for instance, absolutely deserved his Oscar for No Country for Old Men, and Heath Ledger deserved his for The Dark Knight (would he have won if he hadn't died? That's a separate discussion).

The most relevant movie doesn't always win. Brokeback Mountain should have beaten Crash, for instance. Why didn't it? Because the Academy is homophobic? I wouldn't have thought so, but it seems that the MPAA is, indeed, composed for old, white, men, and as we're seeing in a lot of avenues these past few years - politically, culturally, etc. - there's a kind of weird burst of cultural conservatism. Or, perhaps, just a burst of nasty reaction to any kind of progressivism. We have some really awful racial stuff going on, what with the murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and then we've got the GamerGate hate group still making death threats and generally being awful. And then we've got this report of an Academy voter who basically finds it offensive that the cast members of Selma would open support Garner and want justice for him, but then she turns around and lauds American Sniper:

American Sniper is the winner of the year, whether or not it gets a single statuette, because for all of us in the movie industry — I don't care what your politics are — it is literally the answer to a prayer for a midrange budget movie directed by an 84-year-old guy [Clint Eastwood] to do this kind of business. It shows that a movie can galvanize America and shows that people will go if you put something out that they want to see. With regard to what it did or didn't leave out, it's a movie, not a documentary. I enjoyed it, I thought it was well done, and I can separate out the politics from the filmmaking.
The privilege and myopia beings shown there is kind of staggering, as is the fact that Sniper is getting the accolades it's getting, but I'll talk about that more anon. For right now, I just want to recognize that the Oscars have some issues in general, but this year in particular, it really feels like the nomination process fucked anyone darker than George Harrison out of any possibility of an award. All of the acting categories are white, the only POC to get a directing nod was Inarritu, and there sure aren't many women represented anywhere. It really feels like the Academy collectively got more conservative this year, and I'm hoping, as always, that as the old folks retire and die off, we start seeing some folks who are, well, a little more attentive.

I'm an optimist, of course. There are plenty of folks in my generation who are just as shitheaded as any of the old guard.

Anyway, let's do some discussions and predictions, and then tomorrow or Monday I'll post about the food.

Best Actor: Four of the five nominees are playing real people. We've got Chris Kyle, Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, and Jean du Pont, plus Michael Keaton playing an aging actor best known for playing a superhero decades ago. While we can joke about how that shouldn't be a stretch, Keaton reportedly said this was a really difficult role for him to play. Birdman is a weird movie, and I can believe that doing the long-ass takes, dealing the magical realism and just the overall strangeness of the movie was a difficult role. Plus, this is Keaton's first nomination for an Oscar, which is just weird. But what else we got?

Bradley Cooper is nominated for playing Chris Kyle in American Sniper, and from everything I've read, he brings a lot more empathy and humanity to the role than Kyle actually did. I really hated the movie, and while I can't fault Cooper, I'm kind of annoyed that it's even in here.

Eddie Redmayne did a really fantastic job as Stephen Hawking, taking him from a fresh-faced, goofy grad student to the gangsta rapper we know and love. The physicality required is really incredible, and I wouldn't be sad if he wins.

Rootypoot Fizzlesnitch is nominated for Imitation Game as Alan Turing, and while I enjoyed the movie, I can't for a minute believe that this is going to be Custardpant's winning performance. He'll get an Oscar at some point, I'm sure, but I think (hope) it's going to be after geek media stops going bazonkers for him.

And that leaves Steve Carell in Foxcatcher. I liked this movie; it was slow and pretty damn depressing at the end, but watching some old videos of the real Jean du Pont, I think Carell really nailed it. Is being buried under the makeup going to hurt him? Does uglying up help men the way it does women? I don't know.

My choice & prediction: Michael Keaton

Best Actress: So, fair cop, I haven't seen Two Days, One Night. Just didn't get around to it, so I have no idea if Marion Cotillard is going to blow it away like she did in La Vie en Rose. I think, though, that even if she turned in a really amazing performance she isn't going to overcome Julianne Moore for Still Alice or, for that matter, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl (lot of noms in this category are the only noms for their respective films, huh).

Actually, this is a pretty strong category. Reese Witherspoon really carried Wild, which I really enjoyed, and while Pike wasn't quite the driving force in Gone Girl, I thought she did a really amazing job (and I'm surprised we didn't get more noms from that movie - not even a screenplay nom? We got Sniper instead? Fuck). Felicity Jones was great and subtle in The Theory of Everything, but I think I'm hearing more buzz for Moore. And initially, I was thinking that'd be cool, but I dunno. Her portrayal of a woman coping with early onset Alzheimers is impressive and it's touching for me personally, but I think after all is said and done, I'm more impressed with Witherspoon. She really made the movie, she was a producer, and she portrayed Cheryl Strayed's struggle and life journey.

My choice: Reese Witherspoon
My prediction: Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor: It's weird how often this is a lock. I can't remember when the last time was I was surprised by this category. Maybe 2006? Anyway, J.K. Simmons has this sewn up, I think. So how about that?

His performance in Whiplash was really impressive. He's a great character and supporting actor, and to see him get to play such an important role and really strut his stuff was cool. Up against him, we have Ethan Hawke, who, like Patricia Arquette, is getting nominated for sheer tenacity; Mark Ruffalo for the doomed David Schultz; Edward Norton playing a method actor; and Robert Duvall for The Judge. I was expecting that to be a comedy, from the trailers and posters, and was surprised to find it was a much more dramatic movie (and hard to watch for me because movies about dads declining in health is a tough subject).

I think we can safely discount Ruffalo and Hawke; their performances were good (better than Common or Henry Sanders in Selma?), but they didn't have the depth or meat to upstage Simmons. I guess Duvall or Norton could pull an upset here, but Duvall is a seven-time nominee, one-time winner (for Tender Mercies, which I'd never even heard of). So is this year his "yeah, he might be dead soon" year? I doubt it.

My choice & prediction: J. K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress: And, of course, rather than anyone from Selma, we get Meryl frickin' Streep, again. Look, I'm impressed with her in Into the Woods; it was a demanding role physically and she did her own songs, blah blah. But I'm kinda over her, and I seriously doubt this is going to be her year (again). I think Laura Dern wasn't in enough of Wild to win it, charming though she was, and I think that Kiera Knightley was too much of an afterthought in Imitation Game. I really like Emma Stone, and I thought she was great in Birdman; that was a role she could have really chewed scenery with, but there were scenes that she packed a lot of history into a couple of expressions. But I think she's too young, and that the Academy is going to take this opportunity to reward Boyhood by giving Patricia Arquette the Oscar.

My choice: Emma Stone
My prediction: Patricia Arquette

Best Animated Feature: Again, I'm missing a movie, here. Song of the Sea didn't open anywhere near me and we couldn't get a totally legal not-a-screener, so I missed it. It's not going to beat Big Hero 6 anyway.

So, what've got? Big Hero 6 is a Disney property, it's a superhero film which are, like Hansel, so hot right now, and it's the biggest box office on the nomination list, so I suspect it'll probably win. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was good, but it opened a while ago and I think it might drag a little. Speaking of that, The Tale of Princess Kaguya was interesting, but I don't know how well American audiences are going to grok it, plus it's really long and a woman breastfeeds OMG. (This is me having a low opinion of the MPAA voters.)

And then there's the fucking Boxtrolls. This movie was nominated because it's stop-motion and the craft that goes into it is astounding. But it's not that good of a movie. Never mind accusations of transphobia; there's a discussion to be had there, for sure, and some of it is pretty uncomfortable. But the movie drags, the story is weak, and the whole premise is just odd in a not especially good way. I'm annoyed that this one was nominated over LEGO Movie.

My choice and prediction: Big Hero 6

Best Director: Four of five movies are Best Picture nominees, which probably means that Bennett Miller ain't wining for Foxcatcher. I also don't think that Morten Tyldum (who?) is taking it for Imitation Game, nor do I think that Wes Anderson is going to win it, and I'm fine with that (he just makes the same movie over and over again, and while I like Grand Budapest Hotel better than his other movies, he's still just doing the same thing he always has). Everything I'm reading has this race between Alejandro Inarritu (pardon my lack of accent marks) for Birdman and Richard Linklater for Boyhood.

So, both movies show an amazing amount of craft. Birdman is shot as though it's, like, two hugely long shots, and while it isn't really, the shots were really long and the movie is impressive and ambitious. But talk about long shots - Boydhood was filmed over 12 years, and that took balls. Any of the actors involved could have fucked off to Timbuktu or died in a car wreck, and Linklater managed to keep it together. I like Birdman better, but I think this race might go to Linklater and I'm OK with that, too.

Oh, I should say, I'm OK with that because Ava DuVernay was fucking robbed.

My choice: Alejandro Inarritu
My prediction: Richard Linklater

Best Visual Effects: Ah, now we're in my wheelhouse! At least, here's where the genre films go, since there are none of them nominated for Best Picture this year (bleah). We've got three superhero films (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past), plus Interstellar and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. All were impressive; I don't think Apes is winning it just because it's kinda what we saw with Rise of the Planet of the Apes on a bigger scale, but I don't know, the motion capture might impress people. I think, honestly, that Interstellar might take it because the movie really had a shot at some other awards, didn't get them, and this might be a way to recognize it (and it really was a technically impressive movie).

I waffle; I think that the three superhero movies didn't really do anything that other genre films haven't done before, but of the three, from an effects standpoint, I gotta go with X-Men. Better, visually, than Interstellar, though?

My choice & prediction: Interstellar

Best Adapted Screenplay: Christ, here we've got American Sniper, adapted from all the bullshit in Kyle's book to bullshit on the screen overseen by his widow. The movie didn't even show his death, which is, y'know, a pretty important detail, and as other folks have pointed out, everyone's fine with show him shooting kids and women in "battle," but god forbid we should actually attempt any introspection (the phrase "live by the sword, die by the sword" kinda comes to mind). I'll be really fucked off if this wins.

The other movies...eh. I gotta say, the one where the script really jumps out at me was Inherent Vice, but I'm a sucker for noir-is detective stories. I liked Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything well enough. The latter at least wasn't just a biopic; it focused on the time period and the work they were doing as much as anything. Whiplash is the other nominee, but I think that Sniper will probably beat it, because "patriotism."

My choice: Inherent Vice
My prediction: American Sniper

Best Original Screenplay: I like this category. This tends to be where the weird stuff comes out, and lo and behold, we have another violent, noir-ish movie in Nightcrawler. I would have been happy to see Jake Gyllenhaal get the nomination over Bradley Cooper (but happier to see David Oyelowo get it), but I'm happy to see it here. It's creepy and moody and ugly, and I'm happy to see that instead of the treacle that gets into Best Picture sometimes. Of course it isn't going to win, because the other four are Best Picture noms. I don't think Foxcatcher (which...wait, was that not based on Mark Schultz' memoir?) or Boyhood (which was kind of rambly, script-wise) are taking it. I think it'll be between Grand Budapest and Birdman, and I think, again, that it'll go to Birdman rather than Anderson's usual "highly convoluted everybody speaks in deadpan" thing.

My choice & prediction: Birdman

Best Picture: Welp.

First of all, I'm annoyed there are no genre films. I mean, I couldn't expect Guardians of the Galaxy to get anything, but why not Interstellar? Why not Snowpiercer? There are more Best Pic nom slots, and the past few years, they've used them.

Ah, well.

Whiplash isn't winning. It's cool that it was nominated and all, but it doesn't have the juice or the resonance with the academy. Same thing with Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. If we're having biopics, it's nice to have them about scientists, rather than soldiers...oh, wait.

Likewise, Grand Budapest Hotel isn't taking it. It's very pretty and the story is compelling, the characters are distinct. Sure, it's an Anderson film, which means the acting is very deadpan and passionless, and no one ever laughs. I don't think it's going to win.

I don't think American Sniper will take it. I bet it'll get some votes, but I think it'll get shut out by Boyhood and Birdman (both more ambitious, neither feature fucking rubber babies - seriously, what a shitty, amateurish thing to do, and kudos to Sienna Miller for nursing the rubber baby). And deservedly so - the story is simplistic to the point of being insulting, plays merry hell with history in a way that is actively damaging to the country. Anyway, I won't rant. Just fuck this movie.

As much as it pains me, I don't think Selma will win. I think it should. I think it should have gotten more recognition than it did, and I think that we are in the middle of a struggle very much like the one depicted. I mean, think about it - we've got cops murdering black men, only it's being broadcast and show and there's very little ambiguity and they're still not facing any repercussion. So yeah, I think this movie was probably the one with the most resonance and importance, and I don't think it'll win. I also think that if by some weird chance it does win, I'll have to deal with a bunch of assholes going "oh, it only won because it's about black people," but seriously, it doesn't have a white savior, and that, I think, is why it's not winning. The mostly white Academy feels uncomfortable with the fact that when white people actually do try to do something progressive, they get shot, not lauded, but mostly they just act like assholes.

I think, again, it's between Birdman and Boyhood. And the same questions arise: Is Boyhood too much of a gimmick? Is Birdman too much of a "fuck you" to Hollywood, or just too weird in general? Going by the Academy's track record, I'm thinking it could go either way, but I think I'll go with Birdman.

My choice: Selma
My prediction: Birdman


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Promethean: All the Milestones Ever

Wow, I haven't blogged since last time I ran Promethean! Haven't been watching movies in the project (because of Oscars) or making characters (because of development of Chill) or running other games (due to scheduling foibles and unexpected babies). I should try and get something done this weekend.

Anyway, last night was Promethean, and in the interest of giving myself a little break before jumping back into IEPs and getting this done before Thursday this week, here we go!

Last time (one post back, no link necessary) Matt had gone off to a big spooky house and gotten his ass kicked. Well, truthfully, the ass-kicking was mutual, but he still wound up pretty badly injured and, more to the point, his Azoth went out. Confused and uncertain, he sat down and waited.

The others, led by Feather (who, as a Sentry, can use her Tuned In Condition to find her throng mates), got out there. Feather took a moment did some personal alchemy - she calcified the Control Alembic, meaning she'll keep it even if she switches Refinements. Calcifying an Alembic, as it happened, was a milestone for her - the universal milestone of fermentatio.

They went inside and found blood spatter across the threshold. Grimm decided to follow it, to make sure they weren't going to get attacked. He found the three dudes that he beat on Matt, still badly injured, one of them talking on a cell phone. He called the police and reported them (three suspicious looking dudes with obvious injuries), and dutifully waited until the police showed up. The dice gods were merciful and he did trip any Disquiet, so the dudes got picked up and taken off to a hospital.

Meantime, inside, the other three went downstairs and found Matt, ready to fight - he hadn't felt their Azoth coming, and they couldn't fight his. Enoch tried to send him a point of Pyros, but it just...went away. Grimm joined them, and felt something...familiar about this place. Concerned by all this, but also not wanting to get caught out here, they decided to head back to Enoch's place.

They got back to the flat and talked this out. Matt wasn't sure what had happened, he'd just burned his Pyros fighting and then his light went out. Avalon and Enoch speculated that really understanding this would require someone of Matt's "Lineage," but he didn't really have one - but they did know someone spawned by the same force, Andrew Write. So they called him and up, and Andrew arrived with his throng (Rusty Nail, Persephone, and Legion, if you've forgotten).

Andrew and Matt recounted the story of their genesis, and Andrew said that he'd spent himself dry plenty of times, but his light had never gone out. This must be something specific to Matt...or the house. Enoch draw some of Andrew's blood to do some alchemy. Meanwhile, hearing the story of the house, Rusty mentioned that he'd been there too - and had felt what Grimm had. They speculated that was because they shared a Lineage, but then why did the house mess with Matt, who hadn't felt that odd sense of deja vu? Matt, after all, wasn't a Frankenstein.

Matt wasn't, but Lurch, his creator, was. Clearly this required some further study.

Meanwhile, Rusty talked with Grimm and Avalon about Persephone - she was in a rut, stuck in her Role as Envoy, and was having trouble shaking herself loose. They talked, too, about Residual Memory and being made of different people, and about the person that Persephone was pre-Promethean. Avalon expressed sorrow that her bits didn't have such memory, but Legion said that encoded in the craftsmanship was the first principles on which they were built. In his case, "each living thing breathes life." This whole conversation led to milestone for Avalon: witness someone stuck in a rut (also fermentatio).

The Prometheans decided they should go back to the house and investigate whatever connection it had to Matt. Enoch suggested that Andrew not go - if he shared the same problem as Matt, he might also be tapped out. He refused; burning himself out was, in fact, part of his new philosophy (as Legion wearily explained).

The group of them headed back to the house, and Grimm and Rusty gave each other knowing nods. Something was familiar, but not in a Residual Memory kind of way. Rusty was uncomfortable downstairs; it was clearly a prison, and he went back upstairs, afraid. In the basement, Grimm used Ephemeral Sight and saw a serpent coiled through the links of one of the chains. Persephone saw it, too, and identified it as a spirit. Grimm picked up the chain and the serpent moved, inviting him to stick his hand in. He did, following his new role as Sage and hoping to prod others to learn something. The clasp snapped shut, though.

Avalon used her Transformation Distillation to turn the chain to gold (much more brittle), but Grimm couldn't pull it free (got a dramatic failure), and the snake bit him. He felt his other hand trapped in a chain, and felt he'd been down here in the dark, stuck away from the sky, for decades. He started to panic.

Enoch used Firebrand on the screw holding the clasp together, and tried to get it to move. Grimm lashed out at the unfamiliar feeling, knocking Enoch down. Andrew and Legion held Grimm's hand, while Feather grabbed Grimm's wrist and broke his thumb, letting him slip his hand out. Free of the serpent, Grimm had made a milestone (express and act on fear).

Matt, meanwhile, had been drawing angelic script on the floor, trying desperately to call down an angel and get some inkling that he'd be OK. He saw a pilgrim mark above the chains - prison. He forced an Elpis vision (which had the effect of worsening the Wasteland on the house), and saw a butterfly-like light go upstairs. Grimm, now freed followed Matt, but saw Rusty upstairs. He talked with his fellow Frankenstein, and told him that the through was going to change downstairs, to take away the ambiance of confinement. Rusty went downstairs with him, Grimm helping walk, and Rusty descended into the prison and confronted his fear. He told them about how he was buried in a dump for years, buried and drinking runoff, but this Frankenstein who'd been imprisoned here had been stuck for nearly a century. This was yet another milestone for Grimm (help a Promethean make a major milestone), and he masters the Role of Sage - which, in turn, means he's mastered Cuprum and can make an Athanor if he wants.

Meanwhile, Avalon, Enoch, and Feather took down the chains and used tools they found to smash the cuffs, effectively destroying the basement's ability to confine anyone. The snake slithered off into the dark.

Upstairs, Matt followed the butterfly to a pile of ash, and an angel appeared. It asked what he wanted - he said he wanted to know that he could rekindle his fire again. The angel said he could, but also told him that looking for confirmation of faith kind of defeated the point. If he was going to have faith, he needed to have it. Matt accepted that (and made two milestones - Regain Willpower through Elpis and confront a qashmal alone).

He went back downstairs and joined the others. He still had no good idea how to get his fire back, but he believed he could. Avalon, Enoch, and Feather, having read Hank's Journal, finally recognized this house - a Frankenstein named Al had been imprisoned here for years, before escaping. Feather figured maybe they could ask Prince Maxwell to do something about this place, once they completed their little favor for the Prince.

Next time: They probably should get on that.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Promethean, late again, dammit

In my defense, I'm busy as hell this week.

So! Last time, the characters were leaving lunch with Devon Parker. They'd made arrangements to go to a Cubs game together, mostly at Feather's prompting (Feather is all about Community, and she wanted to show the characters what she was talking about). So they got bleacher seats, and watched people a bit.

Matt saw a woman in a boxed seat that he thought he recognized. He wandered around a bit, and she spotted him, and thought he was James Canaday (the actor who previously used his body). He wasn't, of course, so they just chatted a bit, and parted ways.

Avalon noted a drunk man having a great time; dancing and otherwise being loud and exuberant. She talked with the throng about people being drunk, and wondered if that was an option for her. Feather said it might be, but ball park beer wasn't the way to find out (it was too expensive, for one).

Grimm just missed a foul ball, but it fell down into the park, a few feet away from him.

Enoch noted Avalon and Grimm on the kiss-cam, and the throng razzed them until they smooched. The crowd cheered.

Feather did the wave, and at least some of the throng participated.

When the game let out, they shuffled out of Wrigley (Feather having regained Willpower through her Elpis of Community), and split up for the night. Matt, feeling his Torment (Uncertainty) building, decided to wander. Avalon had a date with Emil Handley, the artist, in his room at the Drake. Feather decided to go down into the subway tunnels and leave a note for Max Maury, and Enoch and Grimm joined her.

Avalon's Date: Avalon got into the suite at the Drake, and found that Emil had put sheets up and was painting, messily. He was also fairly high. He invited her to put on a smock and start painting. He looked at her work, and said that while her technique was pretty amazing (there's pointillism and then there's Avalon), he said she was painting things, not feelings or ideas. She wanted to know how to get away from that. His advice; mescaline. She wound up taking a lot, and eventually it hit her all at once (she finally failed the roll and took a Beat for a dramatic failure). Avalon didn't remember much of the following couple of hours, just that everything was colors. And then she was finished, and there was a painting there, something abstract that she didn't recognize.

Emil asked her about it, and she wasn't sure what it was...and then he turned it upside down, and there was Ysolde's face. Emil asked if she would sell that painting, and Avalon said she probably wouldn't sell it, but might gift it. Selling it would cheapen it, but giving it would be love. Emil offered her the bathtub to wash off the paint.

The Subway: Grimm, Feather, and Enoch went down into the tunnels, and found a gargoyle. Feather handed him the note for Max, and he scampered off into the dark. Grimm used the Chimera Distillation to turn into a rat and followed, stealthily keeping his distance, crawling through rooms with skeletal bodies, until they reached the entrance to the Undercity. Max peeled himself out of the wall, read the note, and then touched it and sniffed it. He hissed, and thousands of rats appeared, sitting in front of him. Grimm followed suit, and watched. Max asked the assembled rats (obviously aware that one of them wasn't a rat) if someone was there, in the Undercity looking for answers in the dark. Grimm did not reveal himself, but when Max dismissed the rats, he fled back to the others, and told them what he'd seen.

This, conveniently, fulfilled the milestone of Track a target without being seen, then report back to another party, which is also his milestone for the Stalker Role. He decided to switch to the Sage Role, and finish out Cuprum (which means I need a milestone for that before next session; mental note).

Matt's Wandering: Matt went wandering, and found an old, burned-out house. He thought about going in, then went back to the shelter, then changed his mind (when the player realized that I was only going to dangle so many hooks in front of his face before I switch over to the players that were biting). He entered the house, and realized that the place had been struck by lightning multiple times. He found a stone staircase and headed down, and found chains and shackles. He also found a man in the corner, completely unresponsive. He tried to rouse the guy, and heard people coming down the stairs. "He's in the k-hole, yo" one of them said. Matt tried to ask what that meant, and the dude punched him in the face.

Matt fought back, but these guys were flying on something and of course they had him outnumbered. He considered dropping back into Stannum (and thus getting immediate access to the Arc Alembic), but chose instead to jack his Strength up with Pyros. He grabbed a length of chain, wrapped it around his hand, and punched one, bursting his nose. One of the other guys pulled a knife and stabbed him, but he's a Promethean, so it didn't slow him. He socked that guy and dislocated his jaw, and they thugs ran off. But Matt had spent all his Pyros (which is a milestone for him)...and his fire went out.

Across the city, the other characters felt Matt's fire fail. Yes, he was still alive, but his Azoth guttered. Avalon got dressed and left Emil, explaining she had something to do. She called Feather, and Feather used her Unspoken Communication Distillation to find Avalon, and then Matt.

And we left off with the four of them standing in front of that house.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Promethean Notes

Holy cats. So busy. Very frazzle.

Space, space....

....space...

OK!