Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Promethean: Meet Max (and also Max)

Last night was Promethean!

The characters were at Enoch's apartment, in the evening, planning their next move. Most of that involved rest - some of the characters were getting low on Pyros, too. Feather decided she would go into the subway and sleep there (in the earth, as it were). Grimm, likewise, was low on Pyros and had a bit of damage leftover from poison, so he went for a walk and found a substation, grabbed on, and recharged. Avalon curled up with Fluffy and had Fluffy click his tongue all night, making a rhythm, so she could regenerate Pyros.

Matt decided he'd meditate and try and force a Pyros vision (first one's not dangerous). He tapped into Azothic memory (which, mind, isn't always possible for Extempore, but the thing about Extempore is that you can't really draw parallels between them). He asked about upcoming milestones and who would play an important role (not Role) in said milestone. He saw a vision of Andrew White's throng, and saw someone in the shadows shoot at them. Legion flowed in front of the bullet and absorbed it, and Andrew reached out to Matt and asked for his help...and he knew that choice would be important.

Grimm, too, was wondering about his Pilgrimage, so meditated and asked his own question. He saw himself standing in a morgue, surrounded by bodies already conveniently dismembered. He grabbed a hand replaced his, tossing the original down into a pit...and felt a growing emptiness in his stomach. He replaced a leg and felt it again. Finally, he looked in a mirror, and realized he had no idea who he was or what he should do.

The next morning, Feather came back, bearing donuts, and told them about her experience the subway.

She'd been asleep, but had awoken to someone pawing through her stuff. She realized it was a little gargoyle thing. It grabbed her backpack and held it up, saying "Max." Feather managed to get through to it; it identified her as "Promethean." But when she tried to get the backpack back, it bolted and ran into the walls. She followed it, charging up Zephyrus to make herself faster, and caught it easily...but then Max appeared behind her.

Max was deformed, ugly, and had snaggly, sharp teeth. He talked with Feather and asked if she was like the last one like her, who had come to the Undercity to find himself. She didn't know, but appreciated the offer, and they got talking. Calogero came up in conversation, and she revealed that he'd died. Max asked if it had been natural causes, and Feather said she wasn't sure - and that made him angry. He asked her to deliver a message to Prince Maxwell Clarke, and ask what, if anything, he planned to do about this. He said he could conduct his own investigation, but people would die, and he didn't figure Calogero would have wanted that. He told her that Clarke could be found at the aquarium.

Feather went back to the tunnels and went to sleep, and woke up in the morning refreshed (but grabbed the third rail to top off). And then back to the others, after getting donuts.

The characters figured they would hit the library first; they had some research to do. Grimm called up Justine Berry, his friend in Philly who hunts vampires on occasion (thus fulfilling a milestone; call Justine for help). She told him that the vampire she'd seen (here) hadn't had much in the way of cognitive faculties, certainly not enough to exhibit the kind of planning they'd seen.

Matt called up Sebastian Licavoli, whom he'd met at a synod in Denver, and asked about the situation and vampires. Father Sebastian mentioned that his brother had told him about a deformed, vicious vampire that had appeared in Boston some time back (here). He also asked if this was something that Matt (and his friends) needed to get involved with? In the meanwhile, though, he mentioned that the Zen saying "wash the dishes to wash the dishes" might be appropriate. Focus on one thing at a time, do it well, do it completely.

Matt discovered that the actor who had once had his body had once been in a SyFy movie called Nyteflyers, about vampires. It had been wisely forgotten.

Avalon got to work memorizing books that might have been in Rivers' library, looking for the cipher to break his code. Feather did a bit of digging into weird Chicago and the Undercity, and learned that the cops didn't go there - the place is, as many such places, a haven for the homeless, lots of drugs and human trafficking, but also a story that indicates that the gargoyles of the city sneak off there at night.

Enoch and Matt got to work looking at ChiTech, and after some digging (with Feather's help) figured it to be a shell company. Grimm noted that there aren't a lot of good, legal reasons to set those up, and digging might get the characters into trouble.

From there, they headed to the aquarium. It was still daytime, though, so Feather wound up talking to a manager. When she mentioned Maxwell Clarke, she was told to come back that night (but the whole experience was strangely tense).

To kill some time, the characters went to the art museum. Grimm looked at pictures of hunters and hunting dogs, while Avalon found an exhibit by a local modern artist named Emil Handley. She asked one of the docents about him, and learned he'd be doing signings there the next day.

As it grew dark, the characters headed back to the aquarium. There were no night events scheduled there that night, but there were several cars out front, drivers waiting. They tried the doors, and were met by a striking young woman in an elegant dress. They mentioned the name Maxwell Clarke, and the woman (having been informed they were coming, apparently), let them in.

Grimm, after some grousing, left his gun with a valet, and they were taken to see Prince Maxwell. Maxwell was cordial with them, and revealed that he'd known Calogero since before he became human, and had helped him set up a human identity. He knew Devon Parker by reputation - he was a benefactor of the aquarium and a very, very rich individual, but Maxwell knew nothing of alchemy and so couldn't speak to that. Upon hearing Max Maury's message, he grew thoughtful - Calogero had specifically asked that, if someone bad happened to him, no one go revenging in his name. Maury, however, was unlikely to respect that, and his brand of "justice" would leave a lot of people dead. Maxwell noted that since the Prometheans seemed to be investigating this anyway, maybe they could, like, solve this murder? They agreed, and Maxwell gave them a smartphone so they could get hold of him as necessary. They also asked about the coded documents, and why Maury's name would be attached to them. Maxwell said he didn't know, but he'd be happy to look at the documents for them.

Of note during that conversation: Feather used her alias (Robin Schwartz), but Matt referred to her as "Feather." Maxwell didn't comment; he may not have noticed.

After the visit, they were shown out by the woman (whose name was Persephone Moore, if you're interested). They walked off, and discussed this. They understand that Maxwell is using them, but they aren't opposed to the errand, at least not at the moment.

Epilogue: Maxwell Clarke on the phone. "Yes. They have it."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Movie #286: Independence Day

Independence Day is an alien invasion flick (and pretty much a remake of War of the Worlds) directed by Roland Emmerich and starring freaking everybody - Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia, Will Smith, Vivica Fox, Bill Pullman, James Rebhorn, Randy Quaid, and Adam "Gamergate" Baldwin.

(Seriously, I knew he was a conservative dickbag, but him revealing himself as a misogynist dickbag kinda spoils his performances for me.)

Anyway, aliens invade. They kill us a lot. As Eddie Izzard points out, the movie built itself up with the disaster porn angle; the White House, the Empire State Building, and so forth being lasered all to shit. The movie's perspective jumps around a lot, giving us glimpses of the principal characters: David (Goldblum) is an engineer working for a cable company who figures out that the aliens are gong to fuck us over, and who used to be married to Connie (Margaret Colin) who is now chief of staff or something to President Whitmore (Pullman). Captain Hiller (Smith) is a Marine pilot who wants to be an astronaut, about to propose to Jasmine (Fox) who is a stripper for some fucking reason. Russell Case (Quaid) is a crop duster who used to be a fighter pilot in 'Nam and was later abducted by aliens. And so on and on.

Converging plotlines put these characters together at Area 51, where David comes up with the idea (with some help from his father, played with aplomb by Judd Hirsch) of introducing a computer virus into the alien's mothership, nuking it, and then attacking the city-sized ships on Earth with a ragtag team of fighter pilots from around he world coordinated by Morse code.

The movie is absurd on the face of it. It's an action popcorn flick in a way that only the 90s could produce, and if you're too young or too cool to remember, this movie was in theaters forever. It was hugely popular and profitable.

I...actually really like this movie. I mean, yes, millions if not billions of people die, but the disaster porn is presented in a way that makes that clear but keeps the focus on the destruction of buildings (whereas Spielberg's more recent War of the Worlds focused on individual people getting disintegrated, with the result that the movie wasn't any fun.

It's also a nice window into its time; Emmerich still makes movies where cities get leveled, but it's different when buildings in New York are being blown up, y'know? (The Twin Towers are visible in a couple of shots, and it's a little bit of a gut punch.) Will Smith is trim and young, Goldblum is doing his best "aggressively nerdy science Jewish guy" bit, and Pullman is just believable as a young president elected after being a war hero in the first Gulf War (you might not remember, but for a time, people wore buttons saying "Schwarzkopf for President: Let's Just Get It Over With."

Now, it's got its problems. Wholesale death and destruction, and the prevailing feeling after the initial wave of attacks is basically "eh." The threat never really feels too real, but then, you don't want the gravity to sink in, because then it wouldn't be fun anymore. There is no reason for Fox' character to be a stripper - not to suggest there's anything wrong with it, but it doesn't remotely mean anything in the movie and it seems to be there just to allow a couple of cheap laughs and a scene where she dances. But in general, I still like the takeaway and the conclusion I reached in my earlier review of the movie (which I linked above): Humans fight about a lot of stupid shit, and we should get it together before something really bad happens.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch Value: High

Next up: (Indiana Jones in) Raiders of the Lost Ark*

*Yes, I know the official title is Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I'm damned if I'm gonna watch Temple of Doom and Last Crusade and then wait two years to get to R.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Movie #285: The Incredibles

The Incredibles is a Pixar film starring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, and Elizabeth Pena.

The story takes place in a world where superheroes (and villains) are common, and the government has an agency that manages them. Mr. Incredible (Nelson), super-strong but also a canny combatant and decent with espionage, is about to marry Elastigirl (Hunter). But on the night of their wedding, as they're out doing some last-minute hero work (like you do), Mr. Incredible runs afoul of young Buddy (Lee), a boy who wants nothing more than to be his sidekick. Through a series of mishaps, Incredible winds up derailing a train, and the resulting fallout of that and an opportunistic lawsuit by a man attempting suicide forces the heroes to withdraw from public life entirely.

Years later, Mr. Incredible, now just Bob Parr, is working as an insurance agent, and thoroughly miserable. He has three kids; super-fast Dash (Fox); shy Violent (Vowell), who basically has the Invisible Woman's powers; and Jack-Jack, the baby, seemingly powerless. He spends his time fighting crime vigilante style with his buddy Lucius, once the ice-hero Frozone (Jackson). One day, just after getting fired for throwing his boss through a wall (dude deserved it), he receives a job offer from a mysterious woman (Pena). And suddenly, he gets to be a hero again.

Turns out, however, that his employer is none other than Buddy, now grown up and calling himself Syndrome. Thoroughly bitter over never getting to be a hero, he plans to unleash his robot on the world and then "stop" it, becoming a new and well-respected super. This, of course, does not work.

The movie is really amazing. In addition to winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, it was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay award, and deservedly so. It's a movie about superheroes, yes, but it gleefully takes for granted what we already know about superheroes (they wear masks, they fight crime, bad guys monologue) and focuses the story on Bob and his family, and how the trials of everyday life are much harder to get around than anything he's used to.

The voice performances are amazing, Holly Hunter in particular. The scene where she's trying to avoid missiles while flying the plane was supposed to involved her buddy Snug (who would die in the ensuing crash), and it's a shame to lose that beat, but it allows Hunter's character to show some real fear and to reveal herself to be a highly capable hero.

And, that's another thing - the heroes are badass. Bob and Helen (and later Lucius) work together seamlessly, and the kids come into their powers awkwardly but effectively. Their awe at seeing their parents as heroes, not just as their parents, is also really nicely done.

If I have a complaint, it's that the "if everyone's super, no one is" motif never really goes anywhere. It's a repeated line, but it doesn't really mean much in the context of the movie - the larger point is that if people are really exceptional, they should be allowed to show that and shine, but even that kind of gets lost, and by the end, the whole family realizes it's not really about the recognition so much as the work. But the stronger thematic focus is on the family and what that means, and that's really where the movie shines.


My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: High

Next up: Independence Day

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Character Creation: Toypocalypse

I got this game in a bundle, and never really thought much about it, but then earlier today I asked folks on my G+ feed what game I should do, and +Jonathan Lavallee suggested this one. And I gave it a look, and y'know, it's interesting.

The Game: Toypocalpyse
The Publisher: Top Rope Games
Degree of Familiarity: Reading it now, kinda like it. It's only 18 pages long.
Books Required: Just the one.

So, Toypocalypse bills itself as like Toy Story meets Roanoke Colony meets Lord of the Flies. There's been some sort of Armageddon and the toys have come to life. The game can involve war between toys as they try and set up a society, fighting off feral dogs, and worship of the Great Crafter.

Creating a character starts with picking a type of toy, which can be just about any plaything. I have one in mind. In my closet, in fact.

I have no idea what this purple snake guy is all about. I got rid of my (really extensive) collection of action figures when I was about 13 and going into high school, because I didn't think that older kids played with such toys. I wasn't wrong, but that's beside the point, I should have boxed them up. Anyway, this guy was part of a collection of such monsters, pretty obviously He-Man knockoffs, but they made for good villains. I think I kept the first of any collection that I'd bought (the fact that I remember which was the first in any given collection says something about my brain), so I kept the snake dude. Also he stood up consistently because of the tail.

Anyway. My four Attributes are Will, Cognition, Versatility, and Intensity. I start at Normal (1d12) for each, and I get 4 points to bump them. So I could bump them all to Good (1d10+2), or I could specialize.

I want a high Intensity, so I'll use three to bump that to 1d6+6. And then for the last one, I'll bump Versatility to 1d10+2. He's a villain at heart, he doesn't have much in the way of Will.

Now I figure my Defense, which is 7 + half my Versatility or Will modifier. Since I don't have a Will modifier, it's 8 (half my Versatility modifier, with is 2). My Intuition, likewise, is 7 + the higher of my Intensity or Cognition modifier, or 10.

My Pneuma, kind of the strength of the animating force that drives me, is 7 + the lower modifier or Will or Cognition, so for me it's 7. Morale does the same thing but with the other two Attributes, so for me it starts at 8. At start of play, I'm beaten down, demoralized, and brutalized - 3 Pneuma and 4 Morale.

Now, Characteristics. I get one from each category.

Condition: I'll take Cracked. I've been out in the sun and my plastic has cracked.

Facets: I'll take Lost. The snake-man knows he should be somewhere, but he can't remember where or why.

Movement: I'll take Legs, since the toy has...legs.

Cognition: Apparently we choose a sense. Are these enhanced sense, or am I deaf if I don't take Hearing? Hmm. Well, I'll be weird and take smell, since I'm a snake-man.

And now, a Power, if I want one. I might as well. I'll take Super-Strength. He's got those rippling muscles, after all.

Now, a Social Role. I think I'll be a Contrarian. It's the closest I can get to being a villain. Basically I want to accomplish my goals using weird and subversive methods.

Finally, Goals. I have a Public Goal and a Private Goal. I think Snake-Man's Public Goal is to secure a base of operations, preferably someplace dark and moist. His Private Goal is to recover his friends, the other "villains" of his team. What then? He doesn't know, but he knows that they always followed his lead.

Personality-wise, Snake-Man is confused. He doesn't talk much, because he's not used to having to say much; he was a villain, and not one from a popular franchise. But he had a team, and now they're gone, and he knows he's missing something, something that helped define him.

It'd be interesting to see this guy - tagging along with a group because he doesn't know what else to do - reconnect with his villainous "heritage" and then either choose to reject it or redefine it. Might depend on how invested the other PCs are in being "heroes."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vampire: Fire, blood, and breaking points

Yay Vampire!

So, recall that last time, Myra got munched (not in the good way) by a Larva (ew), but escaped with minimal damage. The coterie piled into one of Heath's SUVs and headed back to the under-construction building, and crept in, being all sneaky-like.

They didn't get far in when the Larva attacked, tackling Myra (mostly by virtue of positioning) and pulling her to the ground, trying to bite her. Note, too, that the other three characters had Obfuscate and were therefore harder to notice.

Mordecai, thinking (or at least acting) quickly, lit up a Molotov cocktail and dropped it on the Larva. Now engulfed in flames, it ran, but collapsed into dust shortly thereafter. Myra wasn't far behind, but Mordecai pulled off his jacket and put her out...but she was very nearly dead (she had one box of damage that wasn't aggravated).

The characters helped Myra to the car, and headed back to Binion's. They knew how to help Myra - blood and time - but they also had heard that fire scars vampires permanently. Heath told Mordecai that as long as Myra was out of commission, he was going to cover her salary from Binion's (since she couldn't work).

The got back to Binion's, and Heath and Delphine decided to head to the hospital and find someone to pay off for a large quantity of blood. Mordecai stayed behind to watch over Myra, and to make some calls - he'd heard of a group called the Night Doctors, an offshoot of the Carthian Movement. He called up Dex, the Hound (who is Carthian-affiliated), and Dex asked if this was about the building that was burning. Mordecai confirmed it was, but said they'd destroyed a Larva and things got out of hand; Dex seemed to sympathize.

A bit later, there was a knock at the door. A well-dressed vampire stood there, and introduced himself as "Robert." He asked Mordecai what had happened, and Mordecai let him in to see Myra. Robert shut the door, and knelt down to Myra - and she recognized him as Roberto Aiza, her sire. She told him what had happened, and he got up, and walked back out into the office where Mordecai was waiting. Mordecai noticed he was furious, just on the edge of frenzy, and tried to head for the door. Roberto attacked.

They scuffled a bit; Roberto managed to throw him down and bite him, but Mordecai got free and escaped the room. Roberto went back into Myra's room and said he'd tracked down Mordecai, but Myra ordered him not to take revenge, and he agreed. He asked what he could do; she said to bring her blood. Moments later, he came back with one of the security guards. Myra drained him dry, and wound up losing two points of Humanity (one from the breaking point, one because, as a Ventrue, she lost her only Touchstone with that seventh dot, and now she has a month to find a new one before she gets Languid). She also, for the record, lost her Striking Looks Merit, but picked up Acute Senses (yay Sanctity of Merits!).

Meanwhile, at the hospital, Heath bribed and convinced a young orderly to steal him a bunch of blood. It took a couple of hours, but they left with a cooler.

Mordecai grabbed a lost tourist, fed on him (but did not kill him) and left him in an alley. He met up with Heath and Delphine and explained what was happening, and then they went upstairs and found Myra, blissed out and blood-drunk, with the dead guard next to her.

"Why is it that you can't seem to hold on to a coterie, Heath?" Mordecai asked.

Two sessions remain in this story.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monsterhearts: The Lighthouse

Last time, you may recall, the characters all went to Psychology class following the news that their teacher had died of a stroke, and met the new teacher, Mr. Baron. But Mr. Baron was...Rook, aged 20 years.

Everyone held steady (except Ash, since he never met Rook). Erica failed and started hyperventilating, and ran out. Mr. Baron asked after her, and Skylar left to go check on her. Cassi, for her part, saw recognition in Mr. Baron's eyes - he apparently knew them. Cassi and Genesis both wound up with terrified condition.

Briar questioned Mr. Baron a bit, but he didn't betray any knowledge of her or the other characters. He talked with some of the other students, all of whom, except perhaps Ash, were suitably creeped out.

Speaking of creeping, Skyler followed Erica into the bathroom to creep on her. She sat there and gazed into the abyss, looking for information on Rook. (I'm completely blanking on the vision she had, but it left her drained.) Skylar talked with her and comforted her, and used hungry ghost to eat her drained condition.

Back in the classroom, Cassi confronted Baron, but if he knew anything, he wasn't admitting it. She shut him down, and gave him the shaken condition...but he gave her hopeful.

Baron gave the class the period free to use as study hall, since, y'know, their teacher for this class had just died. Ash asked him if the syllabus would change, and he gave a reasonable and lucid answer. Class ended, and Baron caught Genesis on the way out and asked if she'd found what she was looking for in the lost and found. She said she hadn't...but that, of course, raised her suspicion (she's missing her pelt, after all).

Lunchtime! The characters talked about this strangeness, and caught Ash up on what had happened over the last couple of years. Ash said that who or whatever Baron really was, he'd never died (Ash can, apparently, recognize death - Skylar asked if he could tell her how she'd died; he said he could, but it would require some effort). The characters talked a bit about previous years, and Austin mentioned that they'd already faced one creature that could wear the faces of people they knew - the Black Tanamous. Briar gazed into the abyss to see if the Black Tamanous was still dead, but she saw the vineyard, with water filling up the holes, and the bodies of her friends around her, and felt a premonition that she would soon be standing next to the body of a dead friend. She left and went for a run.

The characters headed back to class (Lit), where they were discussing A Separate Peace. Cassi, during class, got upset and left, and went back to Baron's room and started poking through his stuff, but didn't find anything. She gazed into the abyss to learn about Baron, but saw nothing (and Baron gained a String on her, though she didn't know it). Erica called Dora and left a message for her; the group hadn't heard from her of late.

Lit class ended, and the characters split; Cassi, Erica, and Genesis went to Anatomy & Physiology, while the rest should have gone to study hall. Briar, though, caught Austin and turned him on, taking him into the girls' locker room for sex. Mr. Patrick, the A&P teacher, chatted with Genesis about the origins of the phrase "catgut" (they were dissecting cats). Mr. Patrick tried to get Cassi to name some organs, and she flipped out a bit, manipulating an NPC and getting sent to the nurse.

Meanwhile, Briar and Austin were coming (heh) out of the locker room, and who should catch them but...Mr. Baron. He was all set to write them up, but Briar manipulated an NPC to get him to let her off the hook. He agreed, but said she owed him one (and took a String on her).

Cassi, meanwhile, headed to the nurse's office, and recalled that Dora's sanctum was in the supply closet. When the nurse left to take a call, Cassi snuck in and found a few votive candles, all that remained of the sanctum. She heard a voice on her left whisper "light one", and she did, gazing into the abyss to see if Rook was still alive. She sees Rook standing in front of a mirror, and his reflection whispered that he could make it so Rook never died. Rook (real Rook) agreed, and the reflection reached into his chest and pulled out a silver/blue ball of light - his life. Cassi felt the presence to her left offer help, but she refused. The presence, by the way, called itself Chantico.

Meanwhile, Genesis had learned that Bryan Munch, one of the basketball players, had stolen the janitor's keys on a bet. She asked him, and he revealed that he and some of the basketball players had opened a few lockers looking for drugs and had seen her pelt, but hadn't moved it. During Phys Ed class, Genesis asked to use the pool (the gym teacher let her; it's a weird day), and she gazed into the abyss to see what happened, and saw Mr. Clark catch the boys and leave the keys on his desk before leaving for the night...the night he died. Mr. Baron, it seemed, had her pelt.

After school ended, Genesis tracked down Mr. Baron and found him in the nurse's office. She entered the office, and found the nurse frozen in place. Baron, dropped at least a little pretense, talked with her and admitted he had the pelt, but said he wouldn't make her do anything worse that anything she'd already done ("That's not comforting."). Genesis shut him down, and he lost a String on her (but he still has one).

Erica, Skylar, Ash, and Cassi went to Rook's house to get something belonging to Rook. Cassi, it seems, was feeling better about things - there's hope. Skylar went inside and grabbed one of Rook's hats. Erica called on her dark power and mimicked the watching hex to look at Rook. She saw from his eyes, floating submerged in cold, dark water, but alive(?). She also got the feeling that something had noticed her.

From there, the four of them headed to Cassi's house - for the first time in a while, Cassi was OK being around people. Ash used his casting the bones Move to help Cassi (gazing into the abyss to advise her). They saw a lighthouse on the water, locked, and surrounded by sharp rocks and frigid waters.

The four of them talked about the weirdness, and Erica asked if Ash was a ghost. He said he wasn't; he was more like a skeleton. He demonstrated by using his skin and bones Move to take the flesh off his hand. Erica held steady and stayed cool, but Cassi held steady and failed. She threw up, and then realized that her mother was standing outside the window.

Her mother walked in, horrified, and Ash manipulated an NPC and claimed it's a clever magic trick. She seemed to accept that, but asked for a home number for him so maybe she can verify who he is. Ash pitched a fit, got offended, and moved to leave. Cassi tried to manipulate an NPC (her mom) and failed, and she sent her to the house. Erica manipulated an NPC (mom again) and showed her a draft of the yearbook with Ash's picture, which calmed her down, but Ash was already leaving. Cassi attempted to turn him on, but only managed to get a String on him. He left, and Erica left with Skylar .

Briar and Austin, meanwhile, decided they should do a little digging on Baron. They couldn't find any record of him at Berkley (his supposed alma mater), so Briar called the others to meet up and research. Skylar, Erica, and Genesis met her, and they went to the books. They wound up finding the name Oberon, and they knew Rook had dealings with the Fae. They put the secret weakness on Baron, and Briar found some cold iron nails for them to carry (Skylar, meanwhile, used mimicry to copy to the books).

Ash got "home" to his cemetery, and found Mr. Baron waiting for him. They talked a bit - Ash pointed out that this was perhaps a bit threatening, and Baron clarified that he didn't mean to threaten; he was just curious. He asked how invested Ash is in all of this, and also Erica, since they didn't know Rook well. Ash said that the others might not want play his game; Baron seemed pleased that Ash regards it as a game at all.

Meanwhile, at home, Cassi took a call from Briar and thanked her for the invite, but she wasn't not able to leave (mom wants her to stay home). She gazed into the abyss and used her newly acquired metamorphosis Move. She saw the lighthouse again, and realized that it was too far away to reach, too dark and cold for the way she was now. But she could change herself.

Back at Briar's house, a storm had started. They stared at the lightning, and talked about what they were seeing - they didn't know if Baron was evil, if he meant them harm, or indeed, what they could do about any of this. "I wish Rook was here," Briar said. Genesis heard a haunting song on the rain, but couldn't place it.

Genesis went to the beach and sat there, staring out at the water, and used ocean's breath.

Next day, at school, the custodian brought in a desk. "Well, we have a new student," said Ms. Freese, "middle of the year, I know, it's weird."

A young man walked in, with a backpack that looked like he'd stuffed a blanket into it. Genesis gasped. "Hi," said Genesis' brother. "I'm Bastion."

End credits music: "Down By the Water," The Decemberists.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Why I Try Not To Laugh at People

Short form? I want everyone to be warm, safe, well-fed, and happy.

That's why, despite any snark that I throw around online (and I do, I admit; it's hard not to some days), really, I want people to be OK.

Now, me wanting you to be OK doesn't absolve anyone from not being abusive or hurtful. It doesn't mean I won't tell you to check your privilege (and if that phrase makes you immediately roll your eyes and start grousing about "SJWs," well, you probably need to check your privilege). It doesn't mean I won't make fun of you or be sarcastic at you.

But you know what? I will never doxx you. I will never encourage other people to hunt you down and say hurtful things. I will never stalk you, and I will never, ever, knowingly lie about you. I might be wrong about something, and if I am (and if it's brought to my attention in a factual and respectful way, obviously), I'll retract it and make steps to correct it.

'Cause you know what? I was an angry young man for a long, long time. I was pissed off at women and...well, pretty much everyone. I didn't like people, and I didn't care who knew it. I was confused and scared and not a little depressed, and that makes for a really shitty cocktail. Add into the mix that I was privileged as all fuck (I grew up male, white, and well-off; I'm a bisexual atheist, so the points at which I lose my privilege are only as visible as I make them) and you've got the recipe that, had things gone a different way, I might have been out there today championing some very unsavory hashtags. And I'd probably be just as vociferous as anyone, and I'd have plenty of reassurance that I was right. And like a lot of folks, I feed on that kind of feedback.

So, despite accusations to the contrary, I don't live in an echo chamber. I pay attention to what I hear and where I hear it. I consider sources. So if you see me saying something and you think I've been taken in by "the other side," may spare 30 seconds and think that maybe, just maybe, I might know what the hell I'm talking about.

Or not, who the hell knows. Maybe I've been thoroughly corrupted by the "SJW" movement. Tell you what: Here's my ethical framework. I'll let you be the judge:

1) People have the right to say what they want...but no one owes you a platform on which to say it.

2) People have the right to sell what they want...but no one owes them customers or a storefront.

3) People have the right to believe what they want...but no one owes those beliefs anything other than acknowledgement.

4) People have the right to exist without being attacked or threatened or silenced...but pointing out problems with someone's statements isn't silencing. Disagreeing isn't, by itself, attacking.

We could get into finer points, of course. I think it's reasonable to ask for greater representation in games, for example. I'm not interested in supporting games, video or otherwise, that make no attempt to include and accept women, POC, trans, queer, etc. people. Do those folks have a "right" to be represented? Let's say it this way: They have as much right to be represented as anyone else. Do game devs have a responsibility to strive for that kind of equal representation? I don't know about responsibility, but I certainly have a right to make their decisions affect my buying habits. And that's not silencing or censorship. I owe any given game company exactly nothing.

I also believe that people can grow up. They can change. They can learn empathy. I did it. My methods might not work for everyone; for me it took having kids, getting a job that required some humility and some service, and losing people in my life that I truly loved. It require perspective, and you can't exactly bottle that. So maybe the folks who are up in arms now about "ethics in games journalism" - the ones who really believe that that's actually a thing, that the harassment and the threats, like, didn't happen or something, that believe that their favorite video games are actually under some kind of threat, maybe what they need is a little time and a little exposure to the biomass and a little perspective.

I'll say this: I wade into threads and Twitter fests and hastags and I read, not because I'm expecting to agree with what I find, but because I want to understand. What I find makes me sad, sometimes, but that's life, and I have plenty of reasons to be happy. I type and delete a lot more comments than I post, but I fuck it up sometimes and say things that are mean or sarcastic. But I do try and learn. And I hope that folks on the other "side" do the same thing - go looking for other perspectives not with the intent of making themselves angry or finding a place to lash out, but just to learn.

The world is an interesting place. It has awesome people in it. But you lose so much if you go looking for people to hate, and you gain so much if you remember that even the people who hurt you have some humanity.

Now, that's easy for me to say. I'm not being hounded out of my home or threatened with murder or rape, and don't think for a minute that I don't recognize that. I am privileged that I can be so calm about things. That's really all I mean when I say to check one's privilege - acknowledge it. See how it might inform your position. And move on.

It's late, and I'm done rambling. Next post will probably be a character or a movie or something more typical of this blog. But maybe not...maybe I'm gonna start using it for this kind of thing.