Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Chill: Good Dogs

So, a week after losing my dog, I decide to run a Chill case partially set at a dog kennel. I might be something of a twit.

Anyway, Sunday was Chill, so here we go.

Dylan is teaching a class and gets a visit from two detectives. He dismisses his students and the cops show him a class ring - it belonged to his brother, Alex. Alex and Dylan (and a group of students) were attacked by a monstrous wolf some years back while Alex was a student at the university; Dylan fled and Alex was never seen again. It's the incident that got Dylan into SAVE. And now here's some evidence that Alex might still be out there.

Dylan, shaken, asks where this was found. The detectives tell him it was found in a field near a dog boarding facility south of town; they found the ring near a coyote trap. Some blood, but no body. Dylan Senses the Unknown and feels it on the ring.

Dylan cancels his classes for the week and calls up the other envoys, and folks meet at the ranch - BB, Luther, and Jeanie (still injured from their last case) are in attendance. Dee has an appointment in town today and so can't help out, but approves the investigation. The envoys head out to D&D Kennels to see what they can find out.

When they get there, they meet David Vetnor, one of the owners, sitting on his porch with an old bloodhound, who gives the envoys a perfunctory "woof" as they walk up and then goes back to sleep. They explain the situation, and Dylan is pretty much directly honest with him - that and a Colossal success on an Interview check leads David to come clean. David had the traps set too close to the house, which is violation of local law, and when he checked the trap this morning he found not only the ring but a finger. He panicked and threw the finger into the trash, and moved the trap further out. Jeanie goes with him to find the finger amidst the garbage (ew) while Luther looks at the "crime scene" where the trap was actually found.

There they find some unsettling clues. There are wolf tracks, a bit of blood, and then tracks moving away from the area. Those tracks, though, are human - a man's bare feet. Jeanie, meaning, finds the find and gives it to Luther, who confirms it's a man's ring finger.

The envoys talk amongst themselves a bit. They need to be careful - they aren't sure what they're dealing with (though all signs seem to point to "werewolf"), but Dylan is understandably insistent that they keep moving. They check up the road a ways - there's a sod farm there, and they wonder if the "wolf" might have wound up near there. They meet a guy named Roman Johnson, who tells them that he's heard wolf howls lately (not coyote, he says, he can tell the difference), but only one. That's odd, normally wolves travel in packs. He hasn't seen anything, though. He doesn't mind wolves; they leave people alone, and besides, they were here first.

This leaves the envoys at something of a dead end. Jeanie notes that David has a bloodhound - maybe he's scent-trained? The envoys go back to David to ask, and he says that Digby isn't trained (and he's too old to be romping through the countryside anyway), but as it happens, there's a scent-trained dog being boarded her. David, still feeling guilty for screwing up the crime scene, goes along, bringing a German shepherd named Tammy.

The group follows the scent through the field, and out to the road, where they meet a guy in a truck. David knows this guy (Kyle); he works at the Reclaimed Lumber plant down the road to the south, and apparently has a habit of sleeping at his desk. They exchange pleasantries and Kyle heads on down the road, and the group keeps moving.

They find a hay field and some tracks, but now the tracks are wolf tracks...and one paw is missing a toe, and Tammy's lost the scent. The envoys send David and Tammy back; they're in danger here and the envoys don't want anyone getting killed. Jeanie and BB push to fall back to the ranch and do a little planning, but Dylan wants to press on. The compromise; BB and Jeanie go back to the kennel to get the car and Luther and Dylan are supposed to wait.

They don't.

Dylan, still wanting to press on, follows the tracks with Luther, and they come to a farmhouse. They note that the door is open, and they hear an animal crying from inside. Luther goes in first...and rather wishes he hadn't. There's a woman lying dead on the floor, her throat torn out and her stomach savaged. Next to her is a dog, alive but badly hurt. Luther checks the rest of the house and finds a man in the living room, also dead, his neck broken and bitten.

Jeanie and BB arrive, and Jeanie sees the carnage and is pretty bad shaken by the whole thing. They call David, figuring he'll know what to do with the dog, and he comes over, muzzles her, and puts a tourniquet on her leg. Luther calls the police, and the whole thing turns into something of a circus - the bodies of the unfortunate couple are taken out, this is all chalked up to an "animal attack" which doesn't make a lot of sense, and the dog is taken away to an emergency vet. The envoys contact Blake (fellow envoy and animal control officer) to tell him that if the dog survives and needs a home, they'll take her.

The envoys head back to the ranch - they're rattled and horrified and definitely don't want to keep poking around after dark. Dylan leads a group counseling session (he has the Crisis Counselor Edge), and they talk about what they've seen, but also about the fact that Dylan them all in danger by refusing to stay put. He won't apologize - he's looking for his brother and that's why he joined SAVE, and that's something of a sore point, but the envoys at least come out of it with a little less Trauma.

Dylan gets on the SAVE archives and winds up talking to a fella named Gabe out at the Den (SAVE's lycanthropy research center in Maine), who breaks down the basic types of werewolf for him. Inherents, he says, are only active on the full moon, so that's not it (it's a crescent moon right now). Infectives are active all the time, but it's very rare to just see one. He makes Dylan aware, though, that dealing with infectives means killing them - right away, no hesitation - because one scratch or bite is enough to infect. Dylan acknowledges that, but holds onto hope that maybe that's not what happened to his brother.

Dylan talks to the others and runs down what he's learned, and they pose a difficult question - if it comes down to it, can Dylan shoot his brother? Or watch as someone else does it? Dylan thinks he can.

Guess we'll see.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Character Creation: Argyle & Crew

Meant to do this yesterday, then got caught up in the whirlwind of Michelle getting her PhD woooooo!

Anyway, today, socks. No, really.

The Game: Argyle & Crew - Adventure in the Land of Skcos
The Publisher: Troll in the Corner
Degree of Familiarity: None, just read it.
Books Required: Just the one.

So, in Argyle & Crew, you're playing a sock puppet (or "Soppet"). The game is designed for kids, but of course adults can play it, and the book actually devotes some time to discussing how the game would look different for a group of children vs. a group of "old people."

In any event, there's no character sheet per se; you're making a sock puppet, so you make a damn sock puppet (you can also make a puppet out of a paper bag or just draw it, whatever works). I have a mateless sock handy, in fact. It's pretty worn out, but I can roll with that.

A Soppet waiting to be born.
OK, so the book says that all Soppets have eyes (drawn on with marker or stuck on with googly eyes) and a mouth (formed by the player's hand). I don't have any googly eyes handy, so I'll use a marker to make eyes.

Cool, OK. Now I get two Extras. Extras can things I draw on or literal objects that my Soppet carries around or has access to. Well, my Soppet has a shield that he can use to deflect incoming unpleasantness, and I'll draw eyebrows on so he's very expressive, which helps him talk with other Soppets.

There's an "advanced variant" for adding a Fact and a Flaw, so, sure, why not. My Fact is that I Always Listen to Other Soppets. My Flaw is that I Trust Everybody. (Yes, kinda Captain America-ish, but what do you want, I have this shield.)

My Soppet's name is Bub, and that's pretty much it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Promethean: LARP Shenanigans

No, I'm not LARPing Promethean. What kind of madman do you think I am?

Last time, the throng arrived in Columbus and wound up going to Origins. This time, we open with Feather, Grimm, Enoch, and Virgil checking out the Pilgrim mark they found in the service hallways in the Hyatt. They don't find any more, though, and realize that these hallways let them move around the hotel easily, although that would be harder during the day with more people.

Meanwhile, Matt is at an Angel LARP. He meets up with Jenna, the woman who was selling corsets earlier and does a bit of RP with her. He also winds up engendering some Disquiet amongst some of the other LARPers.

Avalon is drinking with her new artist friends up in their room, and one of them is flipping through the program and finds that there's an Angel LARP going on. They head downstairs and Avalon buys her way in and gets a character and starts talking with Jenna and Matt, but her artist friends are just being drunk and disruptive. Things start to get tense, and Avalon considers what to do in this situation - her "programming," as it were, would be to smooth things out.

The others emerge from the hallways into the big glass hallway between the Hyatt and the convention center, and are at something of a loss for where to go. They decide to find the others (they can feel through Azoth radiance that they're nearby), so they wind up entering the LARP as well. Feather talks to the organizer, who's on the phone with someone talking about the drunk people and wondering if he should call security. Feather, ever helpful, asks who's being a problem and the guy points out the artists and Avalon (but notes that Avalon is actually being cool and just playing, not drinking).

Feather talks to Avalon and points out that this could wind up getting unpleasant. Avalon goes over to the artists and recommends that they leave...and feels herself step backwards on the Pilgrimage. She de-escalated, which is nice, but she's already learned about that, and she's not learning anything about transgression this way. She falls into Torment, and goes stock-still, robotic. The artists leave without incident.

The throng notices what's happened, though, and they get Avalon out before something goes wrong (Matt stays to LARP). They take Avalon off upstairs into a dining-hall area where no one is hanging around, and Enoch uses the Heed the Call Alembic to pull her out of Torment. Their Radiances merge, and they're standing on a mountain looking out over the snow. They talk, and Avalon says that she doesn't think she can become human - she wants to, but she isn't sure if she has the capacity. Enoch says that just in the time he's known her, she's made progress on her Pilgrimage, and maybe it's just that this Role is hard for her? Avalon eventually agrees; this Role is hard, but she needs to figure it out. They return, and her Torment melts away.

The throng decides to walk down the street and see what else is going on. When they step outside, Grimm has a vision - the city as gears, locking into place, but marks in specific places with Pilgrim marks. He can only see one clearly (the one they found in the basement), but it gives him a perspective to find the others. As the gears stop and the marks form a rectangle, the gears grind and threaten to strip.

Grimm reports this to the others, and they figure they probably ought to check this out - sounds God-Machine related.

Matt, meanwhile, finishes the LARP and talks with Jenna about corsets and so forth. A security guard approaches Matt, probably directed by someone with Disquiet, but ultimately leaves him alone. Jenna makes some potentially flirty comments, but Matt doesn't follow up, and Jenna heads off to bed. Matt rejoins the throng, realizing belatedly that he probably could have gone back to her room if he'd have asked.

The Prometheans decide to head out into the city to pursue the Pilgrim marks, but someone suggests finding Skip (his player was out, so we figured he was off doing sketch-things still). And at that point, Azoth calls to Azoth - a new Promethean in the area? Or...the Machine mimicking one again? We shall see.

Movie #459: The Musketeer

The Musketeer is an adaptation of Dumas' The Three Musketeers, only this time, the acting is terrible and the fight choreography is Eastern! It stars Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Stephen Rea, Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Nick Moran, Stephen Speirs, and Jan-Gregor Kemp. It's pretty bad.

The story doesn't exactly hew close to the novel. D'artagnan (Chambers) gets his Batman origin story; his parents are murdered in front of him by Febre (Roth), an evil servant of the Church and Cardinal Richelieu (Rea). Young d'Artagnan goes on to become a badass fighter, winds up meeting up with the usual three musketeers, Aramis (Moran), Porthos (Speirs), and Athos (Kemp). He also winds up hooking up with an Italian seamstress (Suvari) with an American accent (don't fret, he speaks American, too), and then there's a lot of fighting, Febre kills a lot of people, goes off the chain, kills more people, eventually Richelieu has to ask d'Artagnan for help getting him under control, more fighting, d'Arty kills him, he gets a medal and threatens to kill the Cardinal, which to me is a short step to the Cardinal saying "shit, I'd better arrange for this jackass to get arrested and hanged toot sweet", but I'm not a church guy.

Anyway, this movie is terrible. They spent all the money on costumes and set design (which, in fairness, do look really fantastic) and on Catherine Deneuve (who is also fantastic), but that left no money for getting a d'Arty who can act or an editor who knows how to be patient. The fight choreography is interesting, especially when you take the fluid, acrobatic style of wire-fu and mix it with swashbuckling, but the unfortunate result is that no one is having any fun, which is a staple of swashbuckling.

Also, dear god, the dialog. The line delivery. Rea and Roth seem to manage to chew scenery effectively, but the scenes between Suvari and Chambers are just lifeless and embarrassing. Give me the Disney version with Chris O'Donnell any day.

My Grade: F
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: My Best Friend's Wedding

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Game Prep! (Promethean & Chill)

It's like Netflix and chill, except there's more body horror and less snoo-snoo.

Anyway! I'm running Promethean tomorrow and I'm running Chill next week, which means Blades and Night's Black can wait (I want to make a character today, too).

Think that's probably enough lead-in. On we go.

Movie #458: Murder by Death

Murder by Death is one of those movies they don't make anymore: A well done parody. It stars David Niven, Maggie Smith, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, Peter Sellers, Truman Capote, Alec Guinness, James Coco, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Richard Narita, and, in his first feature film role, James Cromwell.

This film is a send-up of the whodunit, Agatha Christie style murder mystery. Lionel Twain (Capote) invites the five greatest detectives in the world: Inspector Wang (Sellers, and we'll get to that), Milo Perrier (Coco), Sam Diamond (Falk), Jessica Marbles (Lanchester), and Dick Charleston (Niven) to his spooky-ass house to solve a murder. He tells them that at the stroke of midnight, there will be a murder, and since they won't be able to solve it, that'll make him the greatest living criminologist.

Now, that's flimsy logic on its face (and the characters point out that if he's the one orchestrating this, then he's the murderer), but stick with me, because it gets sillier. Twain is the one who seemingly gets murdered at midnight, after the blind butler Bensonmum (Guinness) has already been poisoned. The guests theorize and point out increasingly absurd preexisting connections between each other and Twain (he's Wang's father! He picked up Diamond in a gay bar!) until finally they all gather in the accusing parlor and discover that Bensonmum, very much alive, is the real killer...kinda.

So, I enjoy the detective story, and I like a good parody. The problem is that there are so few good parodies. This article from the AV Club kinda runs down how the parody genre has tanked in the last couple of decades, but Murder by Death ticks the right boxes - it requires a knowledge of the genre and it certainly helps if you've read Hammett and Christie or seen some of the film adaptations, but it's funny regardless.

Now, let's not ignore the problematic shit. Sellers is playing Wang, a sendup of Charlie Chan, and he's a white dude in yellowface speaking broken English. That said, as Michelle points out, the portrayal here isn't any worse than Warner Oland or Sidney Toller playing him, and here some of the worst bits (like Wang's broken English) actually get called out. I personally thought it would have been better to have "Wang" reveal that he's really a white guy from Fresno or whatever; wouldn't have been any more over the top than the "revelations" we actually get. Lot of ableist humor surrounding Bensonmum's blindness and the maid's (Nancy Warner) deaf/mute-ness, too, which is kinda cringey.

The central takeaway, here, I think, is the metafiction at the end, in which Twain berates them all for their novels, introducing last-minute characters and clues that don't play fair by the reader. The plot and twists of the movie are impossible to follow, you can't trust that anything that people say is true, and of course there are huge plot holes - but I think that's the point, it's all an over-the-top way to "surprise" the reader, which is itself kind of a perversion of what the genre is about.

Dated content aside, too, there are some very funny people in this movie. I love the subtle (and not-so-subtle) callouts to Nick Charles being the "real" detective while Nora ("Dora," here, played by Smith) get relegated to "wife" status. Likewise, the detectives continually one-up each other with their observations and deductions of what's going on around them, but miss some of the context. It's a smart movie with some low gags at times, which is a damn sight better than what passes for "spoof" these days.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: The Musketeer

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Today we said goodbye to Leo, my yellow lab. I want to tell you his story.

I brought Sephi (my black lab) into the vet in winter of 2005, and the staff told me about a family that had some puppies. Turns out that they had two labs, and had left them in the care of their teenager, who had locked them in a room and sodded off to go do teen things. The result was a little of nine puppies. Leo was the last one to find a home.

My parents had just bought a house in Middleburg Heights down the road from us, so they had a big living room and no furniture. We had the family bring the puppy over there; Leo (born in September) was probably about 10 weeks old. He was very shy and timid, and the family had a little boy (probably about 4) who was very concerned that we take good care of the dog.

The boy had named him "Superhero."

We took the puppy in and named him Helios, Dog of the Sun, or "Leo" for short. Right away we realized how different he was from Sephi. Sephi was confident and tough; Leo was a scaredy-cat and needed constant comfort. The first week we had him, I had to sleep on the couch with my hand over the edge so he could lick my hand from his crate if he got scared. Gradually, he let me leave the room after he fell asleep, and finally he got comfortable enough to fall asleep on his own.

He was a tiny puppy then, but of course he grew into a moose. He never had any sense of how big he really was. I think he lived his whole life thinking he still weighed about seven pounds. When he was younger he was happy to leap up on our couch and snuggle, which was fine, except that Leo had a tendency to lick whatever was within a tongue's length of his face.

He was a friend and companion to Sephi, and when Michelle moved in and brought her terrier Rosie, he bonded with her, too. When Rosie died (hit by a car), Leo mourned. He lay on the floor quietly, not sleeping, staring at where her crate used to be. I'd never seen an animal mourn before, and it was humbling to me.

When Leo was younger we'd take him into the woods and down to the creek. Like mostly labs, he loved the water and he'd happily go charging through it. He wasn't above lounging in mud puddles, too.

In 2011, we brought Si home, and Leo and Si immediately became friends. Sephi was getting older and showing it, so she couldn't really romp, but Leo could, and they'd chase things together. Leo actually managed to learn from Si and follow his cues (because whatever else can be said of Leo, he was no genius).

Just recently, Leo tore a ligament in his leg, and in trying to get around I think he made it worse. The vet thinks, too, that there was some neurological involvement, maybe a tumor on his spine. In any case, he couldn't stand or walk, and he was in constant pain. Today we made the decision to put him to sleep.

We (me, Michelle, John, Teagan, Cael, and Al) went to the vet where Leo had stayed overnight and sat around and rubbed him, told him he was a good boy, and said goodbye. Michelle and I stayed with him until the end. It was quick. "I think he was tired," the vet tech told us. I think he probably was.

Driving home, I noted that the sun wasn't shining. Well, sure.

The Dog of the Sun has gone to sleep.

Helios, Dog of the Sun, "Leo"
Sept. 2005-May 2018