Thursday, April 27, 2017

Feng Shui: Ladies of Jade & Ivory

Monday was Feng Shui and now it's Thursday and arrrgh. Doin' the write-up.

The Dragons fought off a bunch of Lotus Eaters at Lord Smoke's village last time, but then Smoke got poisoned and they realized their paths had converged - they needed to find the White Serpent and their Eternal Chameleon master to prevent his resurrection and find an antidote for Smoke. They traveled hard on horseback for days, until they came up on the home of the Ladies of Jade & Ivory, two noblewomen who maintained an opulent household.

They got there and the archers pointed arrows at them, but Smoke explained who they were. A young archer leapt down to talk with them, and Bai Lin recognized him at as Tao Lin, a young man from his home village. Tao seemed concerned, but before he could explain, the Lady Ivory appeared, gliding out to meet the Dragons. She welcomed them in and offered them space to wash up, care for their horses, clean clothes, and dinner.

The Dragons came together for dinner, along with the members of the household and the Ladies themselves. Chrys, herself a student of the Chi Way, knew the Lady Jade from her studies and remembered that she was a fierce and noble warrior, happy to take the field alongside her soldiers. But tonight, Lady Jade was reserved and almost subdued. As she pondered this, Chrys noticed one of the soldiers in the corner raise a dart gun to his lip and fire!).

Chrys reached forward and caught the dart handily, but she wasn't sure who the dude had fired at, and no one else had seen what happened - all the guards saw was a stranger with a dart. Chaos broke out, with some of the guards attacking each other, some attacking the Dragons, and some just trying to guard the Ladies. The Dragons were unarmed, of course, meaning that they were at something of a disadvantage.

Smoke jumped over to one of the guards, disarmed him, and started firing arrows (but sliding the arrowheads off as he did, so he didn't kill anyone, which is a real thing that totally works). One of the guards stood back to back with him. Bai jumped over next to Tao Lin, who said he could explain what was happening, but then the Lady Ivory reached into her robes and flung daggers everywhere (and missed spectacularly, but it did mean there were daggers in the walls for folks to grab).

Celeste started punching out people shooting arrows, but a door opened and a big dude with a club lumbered in. He mixed it up with Smoke, but Smoke stepped back and put an arrow in his foot to keep him in place. The Lady Ivory stood up and entered the fight, but Melody cast a spell and wrapped her up in magic bonds. The big dude saw this, yanked the arrow out of his foot, jumped at Melody and stabbed her in the stomach. Celeste charged the dude, knocking him under a table.

Meanwhile, another lieutenant with a hooked sword arrived and fought with Bai Lin, but neither of them did much damage. Chrys moved from guard to guard, punching them out, and finally Lord Smoke managed to get to the front of the room grab the Ladies, and tell everyone to put a sock in it - no one was here to hurt them (at least, none of the Dragons).

Bai went to ask Tao Lin what was happening, but he'd caught a dagger to the throat, tragically. The dude who'd actually spit the dart plunged two darts into his neck and died rather than talk. Celeste crouched down and listened to Lady Jade, who told her "find the garden."

The characters spoke to the guards, who acknowledged that something was wrong with the Ladies of late, but they weren't sure what. Melody, whom Bai had worked healing magic on, was kept in the infirmary with some of the other wounded. The Dragons decided to search the place.

Celeste did her detective routine, looking for hallways that didn't align and so on. She found one near the Ladies' room, and opened it to find a garden with a huge spiral leading to a corpse-flower in the center...but this corpse-flower was green and white.

Meanwhile, Bai and Smoke did their own searching. Bai felt the presence of the magic in the garden, and they found it soon after Celeste and Chrys did. Bai used his healing petals, but they turned black as they fell from the sky. Something was evil and powerful here.

As they thought about this, the Gardener appeared, brandishing a tool, and scattered petals on the ground. The petals sprang up into warriors, and they attacked! The Dragons made pretty short work of the Gardener, though, between Smoke putting arrows into him and Chrys firing her big gun; he exploded and the warriors with him.

But now...Bai and Smoke looked, and saw a horrible monster with a tentacle coming from its hand, and a zombie-like creature brandishing a weapon of metal and fire! They attacked these monstrosities, which, of course, turned out to be Celeste and Chrys. Celeste managed to use her ritual disruption to free Bai, but then Smoke turned around and shot all three of them with arrows. Bai managed to leap over to him and realign his energies to free him, but now the Dragons were wounded and newly aware of the threat this garden posed.

Celeste used her knowledge of ritual magic and Bai called down healing petals, and between them, they cleansed the site of its poisoned Chi. The Ladies arrived both now invigorated, and thanked them for their help. They gave Smoke a pouched of special tea that would stave off the worst effects of the poison, but warned him that the Creeping Black poison would kill him eventually if he couldn't find the antidote. They sent a contingent of soldiers with the Dragons to find and stop the Eternal Chameleon, and the Dragons left the House of Jade and Ivory to move along in their journey.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Promethean: 22 Short Films

Not really, but it was one of those games where people split up and did stuff.

First, we had a rousing game of "do you know what your goddamn Merits do?", wherein everyone listed off their Merits and told me what they did, and I gave them a Beat for getting most of them right. This is useful, because sometimes you forget that, say, Vivid Dreams gets you two points of Willpower back for sleeping, which is important to know.

Then, into character! The throng woke up, newly refreshed, and went their separate ways for the day. Enoch went to the house where they had encountered the metal angel. Grimm went looking for Charon (what he really wanted was a dead body, but figured Charon could help). Avalon had a lunch date with Carroll, after which she was meeting Matt and Feather at Carroll's studio so that she could peek under the paint and see what the pentimento was all about. Skip stayed behind at the storefront with Sicky.

Enoch got to the building and headed downstairs, and found the carbon on the floor. Some of it was sparkling, and so he picked it up, but the floor crumbled beneath him and he fell into darkness. He landed in what looked to be a library, but all of the books were written in script he didn't understand or Pilgrim Marks that he couldn't decipher. He'd need help to understand these truths.

He stepped out of a door, and felt the ground squish under his feet as though he was in wetlands. The sun grew brighter and brighter, until he was again staring at the Bright Light, which asked him the question again - "what are the angels?" Reflecting on what he'd learned in the library-vision, he said "our predecessors," and then was back in the basement having achieved his fermentatio milestone: revise his answer to the angel.

Avalon, meanwhile, was lunching with Carroll. She told him a little about her art and that she'd started reproducing what she'd seen in nature, but that she was interested in pursuing something unique. She told him about Ysolde and how her creator had abandoned her due to Disquiet. She mentioned she was always interested in feeling things she hadn't felt before, and Carroll smiled...and suddenly Avalon felt guilt. Maybe it was her fault that Ysolde had crumbled to Disquiet. After all, there were ways to mitigate it. Feeling a bit more reserved than usual, Avalon went with Carroll back to the studio, where Matt and Feather were waiting.

Parris arrived with her painting, and Avalon used Stone to peek under the first layer of paint (we'll leave the specifics of how this worked murky). She saw Parris' Ramble, from when she was the Promethean known as Papillion. Remembering the obsidian butterfly that the characters found smashed in the garden, Avalon told Parris that it was a painting of a butterfly, and that seemed to make sense to her. Matt, meanwhile, asked her questions about her life and her art (playing his role as an art reporter), and learned that she couldn't really answer questions about her life before she arrived on the New Orleans art scene (recall, too, that Carroll described her as "broken" at that point in her life).

Parris left with her painting, and Avalon starting writing out copies of her Ramble. The Prometheans realized that Parris had attempted the New Dawn too soon - though she had succeeded, she had an incomplete understanding of it when she did, and that might account for how thin her human "life" was. They also noted her descriptions of the Promethean refugee camp, and how she claimed that though it had led to good things for the Created who stopped there, it had also led to death when the Firestorm came, so maybe she was wrong for ever trying it. Matt wondered if the guilt of this might be something that she carried even now, as Parris, and whether there might be a way to take that burden from her.

Meanwhile, Grimm was looking for Charon and not doing very well. He asked around, but the crowds and the contrast between day-New Orleans and night-New Orleans just got him confused, so he headed back to the storefront, figuring he'd find Charon at night.

Skip had been working on repairing the damage from the blackout and chatting with Sicky. Sicky talked about the camp a bit, and specifically the gator-thing in the swamp. Not the little one that Skip had fought - there was a bigger one, a man-sized one with a gator's mouth, that had also been an accidental creation of Barbara. The gator, Sicky said, ate people (though it preferred Prometheans) and it was dangerous. Skip felt a stirring of Vitriol, and a word came to his mind unbidden from the Azothic Memory: sublimatus.

The others got back, and Skip excitedly told them about what Sicky had said. The others figured that they should track this thing down. For one thing, both Enoch and Feather wanted to investigate the camp wreckage further. For another, Skip and Grimm figured that killing the gator-monster would be a public service (and an interesting challenge to boot). Avalon worried that she wasn't a skilled combatant, but the others pointed out that with her mastery of Stone, she could play an important support role, strengthening their clothes and effectively giving them armor, or making their weapons inflict extra damage.

All of this in mind, they headed back toward the camp, back toward where Skip emerged from the Hedge. They stopped off at a power line that Sicky knew of to regenerate Pyros and heal a bit, and then into the swamps, in the dark, looking for a gator-sublimatus.

Next time, they'll find out what those eyes shimmering in the dark belong to.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Promethean Notes

Ok, gotta make this quickish.

Stop reading, players.


Movie #401: The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro is a swashbuckler/action film starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, and Matt Letscher.

Zorro, a swashbuckling, mask-wearing, champion of the people, is really Don Diego de la Vega (Hopkins). Having helped to drive the evil governor Don Rafael (Wilson) out of California and back to Spain, he looks forward to retiring with his wife (Julieta Rosen), but Rafeal shows up, Wife dies, and Diego is put in prison while Rafael leaves the country with Diego's infant daughter.

Fast forward 20 years. A young man, Alejandro Murietta who helped Zorro out on his last ride has grown up into a thief and scoundrel (Banderas). Rafael returns to California in triumph, with "his" adult daughter Elena (Zeta-Jones), and Diego promptly escapes. He finds Murietta about to pick a fight with a soldier named Love (Letscher) who killed his brother Joaquin (Victor Rivers), stops him, and trains him as the new Zorro. Along the way, of course, Murietta falls for Elena, Elena learns of her true father, Diego dies, Rafael dies, Love dies, and Murietta marries Elena and becomes a noble and the new Zorro. Yay!

So, this movie is fun. I love Banderas for any number of impure reasons, and seeing him swashbuckle is good. Hopkins, likewise, applies his mastery of being measured and slightly intimidating to Don Diego. The villains are OK, though I much prefer Love's "dedicated psycho" to Wilson's "suddenly turn gun on adopted daughter" schtick. The filmmakers went out of their way to give Elena something to do in the last battle (rescue the trapped workers, which...like, how did they get all those people into the cages? there's hundreds of them), but since it'd been established that she's a baller swordfighter, how about having the duels between Rafael/Diego and Zorro/Love involve her for a few passes? On the other hand, she doesn't spend the last few action scenes tied to something, so I suppose that's a win.

We could talk about the fact that they cast Hopkins (British, white) and Wilson (British, white) as Spaniards, though I guess maybe that's better than casting them as Mexicans? I don't know. As a side note, I thought I'd seen the sequel to this movie, but I haven't, so I might give that a look.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Matrix

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Night's Black Agents: Interrogation

Yesterday was Night's Black Agents. So!

Last time, the characters captured three people: Obrad Bugarcic, curator of the Tesla Museum in Belgrade; a woman acting as his bodyguard; and a security op who came driving up to get him. They hopped in their boat and headed away from the Isle of Man into port at Dublin (which MacAteer is familiar with).

They found a disused, though not abandoned, warehouse, and set up shop, reinforcing the offices to act as cells. They set up surveillance outside to (hopefully) avoid anyone finding them without them noticing first, and then got to work on interrogation.

Their first hurdle was that the driver, Matis Bogdonas, didn't speak English; the only language they really had in common was Russian, and his grasp of that wasn't great (he's Lithuanian). Their second was that the bodyguard had obviously been trained in resisting interrogation.

Obrad, though, only held out for a day before he started talking to Parker. He acknowledged the existence of vampires, and said that Hajnal was the first, but that he'd only been like that since the 1950s. Indeed, he didn't even like to think of these people as "vampires;" they could eat, drink, and reproduce. Hajnal even had a son.

(Ess and Hanover tried to run that lead down, but it didn't go anywhere and they had to admit there was no way to verify it.)

Obrad talked at length about his work with the Tesla museum, and clearly was a fan - he said that Tesla's work was largely theoretical, but if it could just be explored or funded better! Parker asked why he was so willing to throw in his lot with literal monsters, and Obrad gently reminded her that he was Serbian. He'd seen what people did to other people, and these "monsters" were no worse to humanity than humanity was to itself. He believed that the vampires could lead humanity into a new age...but that got Parker and Ess wondering why Hajnal, a criminal overlord, was interested in any of that? What was the connection?

Obrad confirmed that Hajnal, Sas, and Essert were vampires, but Utkin wasn't. He mentioned that he'd gone to London and Blackpool every so often to Skype in with his people in Belgrade, but that mostly he was just biding his time out there on the Isle. Obrad also mentioned that the collars that Macan had been working on were meant to strengthen the tentacles of new vampires; immediately after creation they were weak. He confirmed how vampires were made: A person had to be specially prepared with a "cocktail" of blood, lymph, CSF, and fluid from another vampire's tentacles. A "brute", though, could be created with just a corpse and the fluid, though brutes didn't last long.

Parker took a sample of his blood (which he gave willingly) and sent it to Sedillo, who confirmed that Obrad was just human. Koltay said that he might be able to use the point of reference about the collar to make a weapon, but getting radioactive material would be hard.

Meanwhile, Matis cracked after a few days. He said that he'd gotten this job from Davor Klobucar, and that he'd almost been sent to Lithuanian (to an assignment he guessed to be kind of a shit gig) before getting sent to the Isle of Man last-minute. He didn't know much otherwise; he did mentioned he'd been briefed on the agents and told to shoot to kill.

The woman was the last to break and start talking. Her name was Sheela Smith, and she said she'd served in the army (Hanover and Ess confirmed it; she was British Special Forces, honorably discharged). She said that Klobucor had given this job, probably because she was actually from the Isle of Man. She didn't know much else, other than there was someone living in the house before her, someone she only knew as "Adam."

The agents discussed all this. Was "Adam" Hajnal's son? Or, as Gambone theorized, was Obrad his son (if Hajnal doesn't age, after all)? Parker wondered about all this; she'd had a distinct feeling she was missing something when Obrad was talking about the first vampires and Hajnal, but she wasn't sure what. And then there was the other question - what to do with these people?

The agents figured that Matis and Sheela would be in the wind if they let them go, but Obrad would call in help. Could they put him on a plane? Sure, maybe, but if they did, the situation was out of their control immediately. They could kill him, of course, but MacAteer objected (cold-blooded murder bothers him, and probably Ess, too).

The agents were six days into their stay in Dublin, with a Lead of 8 against their conspiracy, and more questions than answers. We'll see what they decide to do.

Movie #400: The Mask

The Mask is a mid-90s superhero/comedy starring Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz (in her film debut), Peter Riegert, Amy Yasbeck, Peter Greene, and Richard Jeni.

Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) is a shy, repressed, but generally good-hearted banker who has a run of shit luck, until he finds a mask that channels Loki (identified in the movie as being cast out of Valhalla, because research is super hard, you guys). Putting it on, he becomes a cartoon-come-to-life imaginatively called "the Mask." He toys with the notion of being a superhero, but would rather shove muffler pipes up the asses of the mechanics who cheated him. He also uses his new powers to hit on the girlfriend (Diaz) of mob underboss Dorian Tyrell (Greene), who winds up stealing the mask for his own purposes. He does that, by the way, because a news reporter named Peggy (Yasbeck) betrays Ipkiss to him. And then of course Ipkiss manages to become the Mask once again, kill Dorian, and get away scot free because it was illegal in the mid-90s for comedies to challenge you in any way.

I'm being flip, of course, but it's not a terrible movie. Sure, the Mask is just a tad too willing to violate consent with Tina, and sure, Diaz gets captured, smacked, and tied up (though in fairness she does outsmart Tyrell). We get Carrey's usual brand of 90s zany, but it's tempered somewhat by the fact that he plays Ipkiss so low-key to highlight the Mask's lack of inhibitions (which saves us from having to stomach one of his really hyper-annoying characters, like Ace Ventura, for a whole movie). I've also always been annoyed that Peggy just betrays Ipkiss and gets away with it - after Tyrell dons the mask, there's no further mention of her character (there's a deleted scene where he kills her, but it's clumsy and stupid).

We get to see Carrey and Diaz doing some really impressive dancing, and there are some truly funny bits (Peter Greene fixing his hair when the Mask does the Academy Award speech bit always tickles me), and of course Milo the dog is adorable. As 90s comedy goes, it's not bad.

My Grade: B
Rewatch Value: Medium

Next up: The Mask of Zorro

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Notes Right Quick For Night's Blick. Er, Black. Agents.

Yowza! Exciting session coming up, I'm sure!

(This is where players stop reading.)